Entropy and rest: Louis Zukofsky and the futures of poetry
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In Entropy and Rest: Louis Zukofsky and the Futures of Poetry, I argue that Louis Zukofsky’s initial poetic claim—that poetry should attain a state of “perfect rest”—becomes the linchpin of his writing practice, and as a result, greatly influences the poetry writing of the second half of the twentieth century. By reading Zukofsky’s essay “Sincerity and Objectification” through the lens of both Ezra Pound and Henry Adams, I track how an interest in thermodynamics offers the tools to think through questions of equilibrium, disequilbrium, entropy, and potential as they relate to contemporary poetry. Further, I argue that the additional influence of Spinoza offers a lens to reconsider “intellectual love” as “process,” an extension of “rested totality” fleshed out in Le Style Apollinaire and Bottom: On Shakespeare. Finally, by reconsidering Aristotle’s theory of potential as read through the lens of the contemporary philosopher Giorgio Agamben, I hope to reactivate Zukofsky’s work in order to trouble the “predatory intent” of use value as it relates to the potential of poetry. I argue here that Zukofsky’s writing is a poetry of infinite potential, and that “perfect rest” is a practice of availability and interface in which the poet “reads” while writing and the reader “writes” while reading. His poetry then is a practice of pure significance ; rather than mimic the sovereign power of the free market and its “democratic” steersmen, Zukofsky sees poetry as the deactivation of power, what I call significance without force.