Imagining a Future without the Sun

Sueyeun Juliette Lee’s poetry puts language in dialogue with light

Luminous and resonant, like the light that this book embodies so vigilantly, the writing in Solar Maximum moves within and without, through one’s own compromised relationship with all that surrounds us, and inaugurates a new dimension of soul-seeking and being.

I’m reminded of the psychic resonances of Will Alexander’s writing, language that magenetizes, ascends as “transdimensional movement” and neurological transcendence, here in focus, the distance between bodies and the space and light that hold us.

Lee asks, “How does light arrive?”

As the language builds up, we build up a world in particular dialogue with itself. Our own trajectories come into tension with our concept of the real, of how we consciously relate to the world.

At the end of the book, Lee reveals to us:

“This collection represents my efforts to sketch out a speculative poetics — one that explores the various moods of imagined (future) spaces and their implications for human emotional and psychological being. Despite writing ‘towards” these imagined futures, my aim is hardly predictive, but reflective. I hope to invite us to meditate more intelligently upon our present — its circumstances, relations, and structures–and envision whether we desire to continue along our current trajectories.”

Though she uses “intelligently” to describe the mode in which she invites us to meditate, what seems obvious to me is that this is not an intelligence of the mind, but of the heart, a soulful dialogue that humans rarely have with the world. We can only imagine spaces the way they are, they way we see them in our memory, and often overlook how we ourselves reside in those spaces, change those spaces, picture what those spaces might become.

Pierre-Jean Jouve writes that “[p]oetry, especially in its present endeavors, (can) only correspond to attentive thought that is enamored of something unknown, and essentially receptive to becoming.”

The writing in Solar Maximum arrives out of a labored interaction of reading not language, but light, and the world around us, an interaction that acknowledges that memories are motionless, that duration is permeable, and, as Gaston Bachelard writes, “localization in the spaces of our intimacy is more urgent than determination of dates.”

Bachelard also declares, in his seminal book The Poetics of Space, “The poet speaks on the threshold of being.” Lee is this poet.

In the book, Lee writes:

“A feeling is like the natural production of rain, I remind myself. There are causes that result in the downpour, and to trace them is to understand, to take hold of one’s autonomy and ability to decide appropriately one’s reactions. There are cycles and rhythms as well, and often a good night’s rest can dispel the sudden force with which such things appear. I must push through to continue.

This particular feeling is so strictly disembodied that pinpointing its initial causes is hard. A cavalcade of desires — like a bright light behind my eye–threatens to sweep away my sense of stasis. The pull is strong, towards something, but no object sensation in sight. Go, go, go, these feelings say, but not where or towards what. Outside, a dog barks aggressively.”

Indeed, everything is increasingly too much and not enough. Life is a series of breaths: to see a perspective only when the seer and the seen are aligned. How then, are position and perception related? How do the orbit, movement, and alignment of bodies relate to how we see? How do gravitational effects manifest in the spaces between us, create and shrink distance, allow us to see colors, connect bodies and break them? Indeed how does light arrive, yet too, how does language arrive? How is language ultimately given and received?

Ernst Bloch uses the term novum to describe “a moment of newness in lived history that refreshes human collective consciousness, awakening it from the trancelike sense of history as fated and empty, into awareness that it can be changed… the unexpectedly new, which pushes humanity out of its present toward the not yet realized,”… towards a “blankness of horizon of consciousness… formed not by the past but by the future… a not yet conscious ontological pull of the future, of a tidal influence exerted upon by that which lies out of sight below the horizon, an unconscious of what is yet to come.” Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr. expands, “Each instance of the Novum is a hypostatized moment of apocalyptic cognition; and each such moment of cognition is a recognition.”

Lee writes:

“We give into a generous blindness that rises like decanted myrrh, a holy perfume. A childish pleasure emerges from this unlikely abeyance. The ‘sun’ spins indeterminately before our dazzled gaze.”

The eyes spin, in infinitude and reverie. My body teeters with the balance of the earth and the sun sends its light aggressively into my eyes and my skin. The sunlight is bright. I know it is bright because my eyes squint and refuse to stay open, because my skin starts to sear and because the tint on the asphalt is reflective and greenish.

We might construe Solar Maximum as a work of speculative or science fiction. Indeed, it purports to imagine, to write towards imagined futures. And yet the duration of time is not structured, as we know, as a block, the ebb and flow of tides is not purely a linear effect of gravitational pull, and so the compromised body, that of the reader, here and now, becomes reconciled into a variant and simultaneous space. I don’t believe the world will end, a singular moment which we anticipate, rather, the apocalypse becomes a state of waiting, today and yesterday, “the horizon stutters to converge” and the world is ending, time is pulling, the distance manifests in simultaneity and when I read the final words “((when the sun disappears” I know that the sun has already and will never disappear.

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