Poetry/Essay: Jamie North


Look. Look to touch. Look and touch. How to look. How to touch. Touch and subject. Touch the object. Touch the body. Touch to feel. Touch and tact. Touch with tact. Touch and contact.

Touch. To caress. To injure. A blow. To tempest. To chaos. To disarray. Touch without touch. Touch with tact. Touch and feel. Touch with you. With you. Not with you. Am I not with you. Are you not with you.

Touch to regard. Regard and touch. Look and touch. Look to subject. Touch on subject. Regard poetry. Poetry regards. Look and subject. Regard. Regard to subject. Subject to tact. Touch to subject. Subject to contact. Subject to object.

Poetry. The body. Open. To the page. To touch. To wound. Touch to wound. Touch to open. Touch the subject. To subject. Touch the I. Touch the body. Numinous words. Look. Look to touch. Look and touch.


Subject n. The theme of a literary composition; what a book, poem, etc. is about.

“Every explicit distinction takes place in an inscriptional space that the distinction itself cannot accommodate. Matter as a site of inscription cannot be explicitly thematized. And this inscriptional site or space is…a materiality that is not the same as the category of “matter” whose articulation it conditions and enables.” (Butler)


Subject v. To lay open, expose (physically).

“Materialization is never quite complete, that bodies never quite comply with the norms by which their materialization is impelled.” (Butler)


Tact n. A keen faculty of perception or discrimination. Awareness or consciousness without direct contact with. Likened to the sense of touch. The act of touching. A touch.

“No sooner has one touched it, no sooner does one believe one is touching it, than one wounds it, finds it harmed already.” (Derrida)


Contact n. With tact.

“The contact between contact and non-contact.” (Derrida)


There are moments when the body is as numinous/as words. (Hass)

A poem comes to be “only when some new cognitive element has been added to the relationship of subject and object.” (Grossman)


I remembered how, holding/her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,/I felt a vio-lent wonder at her presence. (Hass)

“Touching yields presence.” (Derrida)


Touch n. v. Usually of two things, in a reciprocal sense.


Grossman offers that a poem comes to be “only when some new cognitive element has been added to the relationship of subject and object.” The engagement by Derrida and Lacan of subjective and objective model of language forms Grossman’s “new cognitive element,” or for Hass presence. The stakes of language raised to the body, the “I” comes to know the other and through the other becomes known. The eden of language signifies the body in the poem. “There are moments when the body is as numinous/as words,” Hass asserts, “days that are the good flesh continuing,” and although the poem achieves–in the end lauds–the existence of eden or the edenic the poem recognizes, to use Wallace Stevens’s phrase, the pressure of the real. Eden in “Meditation at Lagunitas” is complicated by the realization of the real, the existence of dirt and death in the poem’s “muddy places,” “dead sculpted trunk,” and “violent” threat of “hurt.” The relationship of language becomes luminous in fracture and reforms into more than the subjective, ‘the tender’ body. “Such tenderness,” the poem concludes, “those afternoons and evenings,/saying blackberry blackberry blackberry.”

Works Cited

— Butler, Judith. Bodies that Matter. Routledge, 1993.

— Derrida, Jaques. On Touching — Jean-Luc Nancy. tr. Christine Irizarry. Standford University Press, 2005.

   Derrida quotes Arthur Rimbaud, “As soon as it [the body] is touched, sense certainty turns to chaos, to tempest, and every sense to disarray.”

— Grossman, Allen. The Sighted Singer. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.

— Hass, Robert. “Meditation at Lagunitas.” Praise. HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1979.

— Levis, Larry. “Eden and My Generation.” 1980.

   “Eden becomes truly valuable only after a fall, after an exile that changes it, irrecoverably, from what it once was.” The reconstructive imperative of loss, and the mantra that, “when we fall, we begin to know, we begin to see.”

— “Subject n, v,” “Tact n, v,” “Touch n, v.The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 4 November 2009.