Going On and the Art of Following

The art of composition is the art of following. A work of art results from following one mark or phrase with another. The grammar is inherent in the following and inseparable from it — that’s what makes composition an art. Transitions are where the rubber hits the road. Wittgenstein and Beckett explicitly name the process ‘going on,’ (I can’t go on, I’ll go on).

As suggested in their compositions, going on becomes foregrounded when the always already established concepts are compromised by the between. It’s what’s between the series that now constitutes the rule! And at some point, going on becomes impossible as such because there is no determinative map to follow. That’s when metaxyturn goes outside the grammatical box of tools; the following self releases the composition from its will (gives UP) when the space of the composition replaces the linear autonomous steps of following with community of being. The fullness of the work is an over-fullness.

On the Metaxy and the Conceptual Mind

The ‘between,’ metaxy, foregrounds the way the conceptual mind charts experience in terms of extremes like life and death. Conceptual dependence on immanent wholes is dissolved by metaxical mindfulness. The extremes are conventions and the between is living space shaped around openness toward transcendent others. The whole is not the whole. The pantheistic immanentism of Romanticism breaks away from these counterfeit wholes in the between, where all is passage.

The Welling


Michael Longley, The Stairwell.

Naming the birds calling from the pages of “the huge sadness of the Iliad” is an essential act of poetry. Longley’s poems, however short, often funnel this wild energy from between his lifelong fidelity to Ancient Greek forms of the imagination and the contemporary occasion. The between flows in several directions here. The welling is between the emptiness of death and the deathless origins of his love. Characteristic of metaxical orientation toward what exceeds finite mind, this poem is overflowing with communication of purpose: “Honking, settling in front of one another,/ Proud of their feather-power”—-the last phrase expressing the paradoxical power of feathers, evocative of the double as in winged words.