The Poetics of Continuous Partial Attention

The drift of flesh in those cloud-tides floating – An Affinity For Flying Things

I’ve been vainly trying to keep up with Craig Hickman at dark ecologies. My failure to do so has now become part of the experience. Hickman writes in tremendous bursts of volume, bursts I’m not currently willing to let surge up and overwhelm my other reading.

This is not an unfamiliar feeling to us today, indeed people are forever whining about the stress of too much information, which in another time would sound like complaining about the stress of too much ice cream falling from the sky. If God is dead someone sure has forgetten to cancel the interplanar unlimited manna subscription.

It is unusual to get so much volume of fair quality from one person though, and seeing such a stream of material being published feels a bit like trying to follow Alexander Hamilton as he’s live tweeting the Federalist Papers. The writing tends to be broad rather than deep, and it is a breadth crossing traditions in a way that often triggers the peripheral vision of my mind’s eye. The poetry is not difficult language-wise; it’s not a high modernist riddle that has to be head butted into submission, and the vocabulary is not obscure. The essays and criticism range widely and impressionistically, blog like, they are lecture notes or philosophical travel diaries rather than arguments for an idea. Most posts are accompanied by the convention of a well chosen image.

I usually read blogs on my phone, and over the last few years that tactile experience of swiping through to a new Feedly article has intertwined with reading the internet, the same way seeking the edge and then turning the page of a book is intertwined with the muscle memory of novels. Swiping, glancing, being caught by a phrase, seeing an image and jumping past. Hickman has written that he is trying to invent a poetry of the twenty-first century. I’m not sure if the volume of posts is part of it deliberately or accidentally, but this is a very twenty-first century feeling. That sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it is not meant that way. This is a poetic intensification of our motorbike ride through everyone else’s signal, trying not to make it into white noise by the act of reading. It is terzanelle roadsigns on the information superhighway, it is a mandatory, subjective, editorialism as survival strategy, it is swimming in a world-wide slush pile when more than ever there is too much good stuff to read.

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