When the trance-script writes itself, it writes the following:
More must be said, too, of Devin’s book, Precipitations: Contemporary American Poetry as Occult Practice. ‘Tis a book of criticism prepared by Devin based on a dissertation he wrote under the supervision of Robert von Hallberg and Saree Makdisi at the University of Chicago. I am grateful Devin wrote it — for with its overview of prior acts of trance-scription by the likes of poets Robert Duncan, James Merrill, and H.D. comes the potential to retell the backstory of what I’ve done. It sits with me here as I write.
The Narrator admits that it wasn’t until well after the end of his stay on Shady that he first came to think of the place as haunted.
“Drug-induced trances revived my writing practice during the years of my tenancy,” confesses the Narrator. “It was as if a voice spoke to me,” he says, “telling me what to write.”
“The Text I produced during those years,” exclaims the Narrator, “was in all sincerity written by the home itself, was it not?”
“I should think so,” opines the Traveler, “though I know neither the how nor the why, neither the here nor the there of it. It was written by the home…or by the spirits who dwell therein.”
“Spirits, then, if you must,” nods the Narrator, with what may in hindsight seem a touch too much vigor. “Yes, perhaps! The one explanation makes near as much sense as the other. Let us see!”
Suffice to say, we had some weird occurrences there at the home we rented on Shady. None of it seemed malevolent in intent — just a bit weird. I developed a writing practice during my time there involving self-induced trance states, similar to the surrealist practice of “automatic writing.” I experienced auditory hallucinations, where it felt like I was hearing voices. Some of this was admittedly disconcerting at first. I realized almost immediately, however, that I could write some of it down. I could take notes like a kind of sleuth. And so, a Text began to germinate — one I transcribed gratefully, in a state of silent absorption as I listened.
Hence these trance-scripts.
As for the house, Frank sold it when we moved out — and from what I’ve heard, he tempered the decor when preparing to put the place on the market. Thankfully, however, I have some photos of how it looked when I was there.
I have the photos…and I have the Text.
Instrumentalization of consciousness. That’s the problem, isn’t it? Rule-based ideology imposed upon the many by the few. Where might we apply agency? How might we change the game or rewrite the narrative? Perhaps Surrealism contains the doorway out of this purblind, disaster-bent assemblage. Described by Roger Shattuck as “a sustained artistic adventure extending from 1885 to 1939 and reaching a paroxysm of public demonstration in the Twenties,” Surrealism warded off instrumental reason by juxtaposing amid the latter’s prison reality dream materials, chance as compositional technique, nostalgic reimaginings of childhood, and “acknowledgement of the essential ambiguity of experience” (The History of Surrealism, p. 13). I read with awe Shattuck’s distinction between “two contrasting ways of grasping experience”: one as a realm of continuity and significance, parts held in place by “lines crossing and interweaving’; the other a mere mechanical temporal sequence, where “any effort at insight or sympathy ends in despair” (19). Surely these are the poles between which we vacillate, “blind chance dogging conscious effort at every turn” (20). Between these poles, the Surrealists charted a middle passage into the hidden order of what they called “objective chance.” Shattuck characterizes this latter as “the most reticent of creatures” (21). Yet out it came, with Breton and crew at the peak of their powers juggling “chance and destiny, passive automatism and active revolution, optimistic faith in man’s future and pessimistic doubt over the disasters of civilization, the conviction that ‘life lies right here’ and the conviction that ‘life lies elsewhere,’ the marvelous and the absurd” (22). In juggling these, Shattuck concludes, the Surrealists succeeded where most of their contemporaries failed. They preserved within life a capacity for love and laughter.