"Seeing what's happening is a form of change"
Editors: Leslie Scalapino & Rick London
O Books, 2003

by Rusty Morrison

To say "Enough" is to enunciate complete refusal, to cry out against intolerable conditions, to express a defiance which will stomach no more--be
it misery, inequity, cruelty, lack. Of course, the word also is used to express sufficiency, to say succinctly that my desires are met, my serving
is adequate, I need no more--an awareness which seems to be beyond the comprehension of our current government with respect to natural resources, military might, world hegemony. The ease with which this modifier might express appropriate response to very different, even opposite conditions makes it a fitting title for Leslie Scalapino and Rick London's collection, which not only ranges in content and context and formal approach across wide social, political, and geographic expanses, but also exposes to its readers the complex often contradictory ways that people frame similar experiences.

And, as a subtle Rorschach, this title, when coupled with the diversity of the writing in this collection, asks the reader to consider not only each
writers' different framing devices and methods for engaging with these crises, but her own as well.

On the back cover of enough, Scalapino explains that she and London began collecting this work "following 9/11 at the start of the US war on
Afghanistan." Her choice of the word "following," which suggests chronology rather than cause, is aptly expressive of a project that intends neither a unified response to a single act nor acceptance of any proscriptive position. In fact the only position the editors take is to propose that this
anthology's "writings are interactive with the current time." Scalapino explains that what these contributorsæfrom Britain, the US, Palestine, Iraq,
Israelæshare is the willingness to "tak[e] on being in that moment/event (of an exchange unknown until it is a book, as well as being in those real-time events)." And, as Rick London suggests, these writers also share a willingness to "contradict the fanfare of established power," though they do
so without denying the complexity of competing values that such a position can unearth. With respect to individual pieces and to the aggregate of those pieces, enough might be described as a collection that questions with juxtaposition rather than answers with amalgamation. In reading through this collection a reader will find many illuminating, surprising connections. But with many of their decisions about order, the editors of enough allow works to rub hard against each other, exposing the edginess of experiences that will not coalesce into an easily summarized whole.

Contributions range in subject, scope, and referentiality, and include: direct reportage of atrocity:
"the resulting vaccum sucking the building down and turning it into a
buried graveyard. "
(Darwish 18);
metaphoric reflection, here, upon the inevitable insularities of subjectivity:
"a drop flees the ocean, becomes ocean" (El Janabi 75);
discursive analysis of event:
So this act was impossible to understand from any coherent point of view. It can only be
understood as a religious act, an act that strikes to the heart of religion's essence - the
sacrifice of like, the hurling it into the abyss of timelessness, toward
God." (Fischer 111);
critical study, here exposing the insurmountable impediments to objectively expressing event:
"Karmel walks doubt into a furnace of gestural and physical details and
leaves it there"
(Howe 115);
as well as many other means of expressing personal and political, as well as mimetic and non-mimetic forms of witness.

Despite this enormous diversity, this text constellates as text, perhaps because each of these pieces is held to the others by the gravity of their
similarly courageous and irrepressible need to speak, to be heard in and among others. But their places in such a constellation are not fixed, and a
reader will, in her active engagement with these writings, feel the constantly shifting movement as meanings re-order in relation to each next
work read. The potential created by such diversity cannot be limited, and neither can a simple, comforting purpose be assigned to it.

As contributor Judith Goldman writes in her poem "The Real Devotion of Events": "no help whatever,/ which you take in hand to them/ you cannot be and are.// we are broken of the winged forms/ from which you have been gone/......the traps laid betray the traps you lay./ if we dreamed in the
company/ of others and our dreams happen/ to agree. small// change. you/ can exceed it" (81-85).

The formal and contextual means used by these writers to address the present offer none of the comfort of uniformity. Instead, the reader is given a
constantly reconstituting apprehension of event and an appreciation for the possibility that when "our dreams happen/ to agree. small// change. you/ can exceed it." Rather than comfort, one can take heart in the implicit suggestion that future isn't necessarily what we perceive from our limited
vantage, but is more what Wittgenstein, in Culture and Value describes as: "a curve, constantly changing direction." Or, to quote Lyn Hejinian's "The Fatalist" from the pages of this collection, "The presences that constitute life do so by entering life/ and they do so infinitely" (55).

Though, for some readers, such a view of future may be more frightening than heartening. Of course, much was said in the popular media, immediately following 9/11, about the need for writing that would salve our dismay and unite us in our present experience and future purpose. Unfortunately, we have seen how difficult it is to cherish unity without demanding uniformity. Ed Friedman suggested in a talk given in '94 at St. Mark's Poetry Project, later published in Paradise & Method--which is also a collection of essays united primarily by respect for difference and disruption--that we must stay attentive to the ways we are drawn into compliant accord with currently accepted views, and that the very act of reading can have this effect upon us: "We're supposed to be pulled in by literature, just like we're supposed to be absorbed in the social status quo... magnetism trains you. A worshipful, forgetful, unwitting magnetizing... we're up against a glamorizing of the already."

By bringing together these contributors' various, even contradictory means of addressing and disrupting the "already," the editors of enough not only demonstrate the aliveness of such alternative, but also offer readers ample opportunity to consider the ways that we each frame our relationship to these works, and our relationship to the "real-time" events which the authors of these works have witnessed. To use Friedman's terms, such awareness is essential in that it allows us to continually re-assess where we have unwittingly become magnetized, worshipful.
As George Lakoff, explains it, we can only make sense of our experiences by creating frames, holistic structures that we use to hold those experience. Of course, many of these framing devices come from our sense of kinship with the communities, cultures, political systems in which we have become invested. And it is indeed an apt definition of crisis to say that we suffer it when our most intimately accepted frames are disruptedæbe they the frames with which we shape and feel safe within our environment, our social group, our ideologies, our constitution of self. Thus, it is exactly in periods of crisis that it is essential to heighten our sensitivity to, and awareness of, these frames that we operate within--questioning which ones remain useful and which must be discarded because events, experiences, newly evolved awarenesses have made them uninhabitable.

Rather than mesmerizing forgetfulness, London and Scalapino's enough offers active, even uncomfortable attention to its readers, different but
distinctly relatedæand essentialæto the active engagement that the contributors have brought to the act of writing. As Scalapino tells us "the
editorial basis of enough is that these poets' art is not separate from their being in the world--and that: Seeing what's happening is a form of
change." Implicit in this statement is a respect for what such seeing can change within a reader as she attends to what is happening in and among the works in this collection, and how that impacts her own changing relationship to our changing world.


Rusty Morrison's work is published in Boston Review, New American Writing, Colorado Review. She is a winner of the PSA Robert H. Winner Award, the co-publisher of Omnidawn Publishing, and one of the five editors for 26.