I. “We are gathering interior circumference.”
“No longer a phantasm and not yet a sign, the unreal object of melancholy introjection opens a space that is neither the hallucinated oneiric scene of the phantasms nor the indifferent world of natural objects…. The topology of the unreal that melancholy designs in its immobile dialectic is, at the same time, a topology of culture.” – Giorgio Agamben, Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture
Virtualis is a dense and lyrical book mediated by visionary and philosophical language, commemorating “the vibratory distances between dreams.” Dowker and Stewart use exquisitely ornamental language to exalt the majesty of the senses in poems I found to be radically potent. This book weaves a kind of lexical magic as threads of stunning lyricism and metaphysical fantasia so vibrant it feels like a synesthetic dream. These poems appear as phantasms from the depths of the imaginal – bridging philosophy, musical language, at once odd and angular yet exquisitely crafted, like Brancusi’s Bird in Space. This book includes a reading list of philosophy books that are quoted, including works by Agamben, Deleuze, Benjamin and others.
Virtualis functions as a voyage into pure consciousness. The text’s mindfulness is a rich ore of ekphrastic palingenesis. The mix of some pretty heady philosophical language with soaring lyrical fantasia is something I find totally stimulating: “Our vocabularies maintain subjective principles not immediately apparent as the (inexplicable) lure of verdure.” The book’s philosophical language gives weight to its ethereal fantasia, grounding the book’s assemblage point in a preternatural realm of euphoric convergence weighted in the shells of some spectral egg, creating layers upon layers through which these poems can be enjoyed.
“Genus is dissolute. Vagrant is its range. It is the logical effluvium of some proto-binomial urge. Brute geogeny overwhelms ontology. Basic array of itinerant fragrance and mute fruition.
Spaces are their own bloom. A gauge of any and several congenital avowals. This rate brain interpretation lichen aligned phosphorous chorus to appall us (o rhodopsin bop voluptuary).
To divulge is lysergic (time-section light-thought in lilt). It is febrile nostalgia. Rapt state. Atavistic splendour of that chymical epoch.
There are silences, mania . . . convalescence.
Distractions avalanche here. See selah –– a shapely cadence. The converted word installed in perfect retrograde.”
This is pretty ethereal stuff, and these abstractions generate a vortex of ideation that moves me as a reader into a realm of ideas for which there are no words. Imaginal texts can lure us to a state of the royal art, Raja-Yoga, where the mind is a kind of kaleidoscope fluctuating between realities all condensed into a multilayered assemblage.
Virtualis is a confluence of worlds in the sense that this book is a meeting place of ideas, of forms, of Beauty. The condensation of vertical space here is so utterly ripe with alchemical gold, forever “in the process of disassembling the semblance / of an open space.” Virtualis exemplifies the rajasic qualities of energy, movement, generation and animation. These are poems of “a mostly ghostly trace” that move through a luminous realm of alternative perceptions toward an aphasic state devoid of all mediocrity and ugliness. Its singular bravado is a daring exploration of sonic beauty and the integrated psyche. I commend the authors for their generosity of vision, and for willing to look “along the fringes of consciousness.”