Antonia Pont is Senior Lecturer in Writing and Literature at Deakin University, Melbourne. She publishes poetry, short and extended fictions, and theoretical prose. Her research focuses on philosophical articulations of practice and their interface with the creative arts and everyday life. A monograph, in production, is titled: Strange Doings—a theory of practice via Deleuze. Forthcoming and recent articles and chapters include 'Keeping Secrets: Approaching Badiou’s (meta)ontology via Derrida’s three levels of violence'; 'An Exemplary Operation—Shikantaza and articulating practice via Deleuze'; and 'Pathology or intervention?—Deleuze’s masochism and its relation to parody'. She regularly reviews for Cordite, and recent and forthcoming poems are to be found in Cordite, Meanjin, Gargouille, and the international journal, Poetry and Thought

Precarious Decencies

Negotiating creative (im)mortalities, in life, together

 

This paper takes up the question of what might hinder the collaborative impulse among artists and specifically poets, and offers—as one possible answer—the complication posed by the urge of an artist for immortality, or for their (individual) name to live on. The paper begins by returning to a moment in Plato, namely that of the Symposium and its observations concerning the connection between poiesis (making) and a questing after immortality. Contrasting with what seems like Plato's broadly positive framing, the paper takes up a second reading of immortality (or the 'will-to-live') found in an early text of the Yogic canon, that of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. In this second text, written somewhat later than Plato's, the will-to-live is framed otherwise, as one of five afflictions that can be 'made thin' by practice. The paper's wager is that, viewed in this way, as an affliction, the will-to-live (or urge for immortality) deserves consideration as a hindrance to the impulse towards collaboration. Noting, however, that in the poiesis of writing poetry, where there is both the making of things and the action of making things, this creative constellation always contains the tempering solution to its own inherent lures. Writing, although providing fuel for immortal appetites (due to what it makes), also works to temper the worst of this same impulse via the contribution of practice—as dedication, craft and community-as-practice. The practice of writing, therefore, is already at play, and can be emphasised explicitly for any poet or maker who also wants to be able to want to collaborate. The practice of writing, then, and its turn away from investments in identity, works to thin out the more destructive face of an urge for a dubious eternity that can eclipse our ability to work together creatively with others in this life.