Though Genealogy of the First Person is not a translation, it takes shape out of an engagement with the Book of Genesis. The principal “source-text” for the project is the 3rd century BCE the Septuagint, though three other texts provide guidance and source(s): Hieronymos’ Latin Vulgate (late 4th c. CE), Martin Luther’s Bibel (16th c. CE), and, to a lesser extent, Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig’s Die fünf Bücher der Weisung (20th c. CE). The work is meant, ultimately, to be an extension of my work on the first two chapters of Genesis, which are titled archaeology: genesis 1 and of Beauty and Sorrow genesis 2; archaeology can be heard here.
Genealogy of the First Person is a work in progress but is fully blocked out in the following way. Each ‘book’—adopting the term used to designate parts in ancient works, to link it and conjure the removal/distance of ancient sources, which are present in Genealogy— works on, through, and, hopefully, as each of the four cases of Greek grammar: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative. These cases act as a means of articulating the heterogeneity of the ego, here meant in a broader and super-Freudian sense as the entire entity of consciousness (including ‘unconscious’ elements).
Within each “Book” a tripartite schema unfolds, drawn from ancient (Plato) and modern (Freud) images of the complex self. “Book A, Nominative: Ishmaël” is arranged around three figures whose names begin with the letter ‘I’, or iota in the Greek of the Septuagint: Ishmaël, Isaak, Israël. It seems to me that the self inherits much from each of these figures:
—from Ishmaël, the cast-out-ed-ness and alienation, the sense of temporariness and the threat of replacement and the correlative drive to create and create and create; the thrust into existence
(read: going-forth/away from; ex- ist- ence = departure; a strange and compelling way, by the way, for Medieval theology [Aquinus] to think God, pure departure, isn’t it? Departure from what? I am tirelessly fascinated by the Genesis cosmogony and the aureola of darkness and water into [and out of?] which the god sets to work);
I try to echo Melville in the opening, turning the ‘call’ of Ishmaël towards the self, a reflexive gesture of the word towards a self; the undertone in this vein is meant as: survivor, self-identified, sole witness (and so suspect);
—from Isaak, the sacrificial; the peril of self as self-assertion; the risk into which that thrust thrusts; and the latent promise, both already fulfilled in one’s very being as ex-ist-ence and in the destiny resident in the ego as potency, power, generative dynamism;
—from Isaiah the ego inherits its prophetic power, where the logos has gathered into its fullness, scoped the range of temporality and spoken through and across the three zones, linking itself to the tripartite scheme of time (before, –, after).
This latter section presents the most challenges for me to conceive because of the interplay of self-as-logos with future, with modality (subjunctive and optative moods), and, most fraught, with future perfect (which is not used in ancient Greek and, I think, not conceived, at least not in the epochal stages of the language).
Books B-D are similarly organized, i..e., by three names that help me think the self in terms of the case (genitive, dative, accusative). Some sections will take place as more recognizably poetic segments, others may work as essay-like works. The whole thing is hybrid because it works on consciousness, a kind of hybrid or monstrum itself, and certainly complex and evidently threefold, at least in the tradition.
This figure—breaking into a desert, cast out of the shelter of the father, feeling deep fidelity to the mother, wild in a wilderness, hunter, fighter—finds its crater, an original feeling of segregation, of isolation and removal from all else that I take to be a first impression of consciousness/self; different. Hopefully his call sounds like an opening towards consciousness/self, a departure and a way.
—d m spitzer
Book A: Nominative part one: Ishmaël (from Genealogy of the First Person)
i. ishmaël I call my own name against the desolation. Wilderness is my home. The one g-d listens. He bends himself from on high and strains in the direction of the one who calls. I call my own name into the wilderness and my call is a cry from the wilderness into the dust. The one g-d, bending and straining, remains within the shelter of infinite silence.
Inside the cry, rending the dark wilderness, my voice uncloses itself as a lament. It is the legend of myself. Night has settled over the wilderness and the one g-d strains to hear the song of Ishmaël.
I watched my father fall to the ground and cover his face before the one g-d, and he was changed and the one g-d renamed him. His shelter was torn. I peered through the tear and, behold, I saw the one g-d, a silver flame, hovering over the prostrate figure of a man cloaked in fire.
To hear the speech of fire I had to cover my eyes. As I drew from my forehead the woolen cloth and wound it about my face a voice alighted on my mind and everything was shining silver with no form.
My father was speaking a tongue of golden flame:
Ishmaël lives as opposition before you, against you in all his life.
Yea, let Ishmaël live.
And then the divine fire of silver filled every syllable of my father’s words and of my thought:
Ishmaël has been heard and seen.
All opposition is gathered into the one g-d and it is blessed.
Let it multiply itself through him and upbuild itself beyond measure—
twelve tribes arise from him, collected into one mighty nation.
As if remembering something distant, the first words of the one g-d returned to my memory out of the hidden-ness of their sudden fire:
A new genesis begins out of Sara and Abraham. Call it Isaak. Through
everything set down upon the teeming earth an aeon will be stretched;
from his name and his voice and his seed—which is also the seed of
Abraham—will spread a new moment of creation.
What other thoughts were spoken the flame in my burning mind devoured. I opened my eyes and all fire had extinguished and through the small hole in the tabernacle’s fabric I saw my father’s figure restored out of the embers of divine speech.
Darkness pursued me. I did not know if the night fell sharp and dark as obsidian from the hand of the one g-d or if a dense gloom covered only me, but the darkness was profound and complete. I fell to my knees and my voice spilled black as ink onto the night’s dark pages.
I was born of bondage. Servitude winds itself around my wrists and throat. A black serpent, a chain of collied iron, a cord of another’s will and desire.
Concubine was placed over my mother. A cage. A grave. Servitude drew her into the master’s tent and thrust her down by his side. She was hollowed for him until his seed had filled her. Into her eyes the master’s wife poured scorn and then fury grew in her own face when the scorn flashed between them, seeming to come from my mother’s face. To the wife, my mother was nothing but a walking tomb.
The father and his wife drove her away to the wilderness. It was the water beneath the desert that carried off her anguish into the one g-d, whose mind is a shadow over swift and ancient waters.
The master told Sarai, the wife, This girl belongs to you, she is in your hands. Do as you like. Wickedness flew from the wife into the girl and she ran from that wrath which consumed the wife’s face.
At a desert spring on the pass to S’our a messenger of the lord, the one g-d, found the girl. And the lord’s angel spoke:
Hagar, slave of Sarai, do you know the origin and destination of your path?
The slave-girl spoke to g-d’s angel and her words were touched with sparks like light on the desert spring:
The woman’s face blazes wickedness and bruises my own face
and I fly from her wrath.
From the mouth of the messenger the one g-d’s command blared, a silver trumpet in the desert air:
Turn back to the face of scorn and bow your neck before her hands.
And the messenger of the one g-d was transformed before her and, behold, he was a silver flame and the destiny of slave and child smoldered into human speech:
a son— call him Ishmaël
………………………………………………….the one g-d has heard
………………………………….”’…………….a cry from the threshing floor
Ishmaël—one who is heard by the holy fire
scalded and burns his whole life
a wild fire on brittle grasslands.
His arms against all others
the arms of all against him.
He will dwell face to face with a band of hunters
a tent village of great abundance
in the heart of the vast wilderness.
And my mother cried out and the name of the one Master whose speech is fire of pure silver was a conflagration over the desert spring and at once and for an eternal moment the whole desert burned in flames of gold reaching for heaven. My mother’s words, a tongue of fire:
Thou one g-d— thine face unspeakable fire
…………………….. ……..mine face of earth and dust
gathered by thine greatness into a single gaze.
There I am nothing but thou.
The legend of my own birth came with me out of darkness into the world of light. My own legend and I roared out of the desert from the deep spring, a great, dark storm into the destiny that went before us. A host of twelve legions beneath a standard of black, an emblem of a tree of gold, its twelve branches touched with silver flame. My own legend, my destiny—a fire in the wilderness.
—d m spitzer
After undertaking graduate studies in liberal arts, philosophy, and classics (each at different institutions), D. M. Spitzer completed a Master of Fine Arts in writing (poetry) at Vermont College of Fine Arts. He is currently working on a number of poetic projects: eurydike relapse, a performance-poetry event that will incorporate choreography, large-scale mask/puppetry, and transfigurations of poems by Rilke, Goethe, and Ovid; a hybrid literary work tentatively titled Genealogy of the First Person; and another performance-poetry piece that transfigures the ancient philosophical poem of Parmenides. In addition, Mr. Spitzer is developing an essay that explores the use of hyphenation in the work of the late American poet Gustaf Sobin. Some of his work can be heard at exaudes.wordpress.com. Mr. Spitzer lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and their three children.