An Editorial Tortière*

by Stephane Éscobigh


To view; to re-view. A second sight, as it were, and a second site. Always already, not the view but the re-view. A motion moved and seconded (or seconded): where else can we stand but at this site, in this (in)stance, on the reviewing stand? A second person (the reader), and a second second person: vous; re-vous. And before us, a pig.
     I take pen in hand (if I may be permitted to utilise a locution which has now become metaphorical, or perhaps, as Roman Jakobson would say, metonymical, to the concretely circumstantiated socio-political reality of setting digit to keyboard) in order to review (in all the senses adumbrated above) this seminal/ovarian text of Canardian literature, the edition of Mrs. Walter Buchanan’s Piggy (Canardian Poetry Press, 1991, hereinafter abbreviated as P). I find much to admire in this work, and in this edition. Indeed, I am irresistibly reminded by it of the passage in Glas (the discerning reader will doubtless recall it) in which Jacques Derrida, in his amusing Gallic fashion, writes:“This discourse on sexual difference belongs to the philosophy of nature. It concerns the natural life of differentiated animals. Silent about the lower animals and about the limit that determines them, this discourse excludes plants. There would be no sexual difference in the plants, the first ‘Potenz’ of the organic process. The Jena philosophy of nature stresses this. The tuber, for example, is undoubtedly divided (entzweit sich) into a ‘different opposition (differenten Gegensatz)’ of masculine and feminine, but the difference remains formal. . . . Hegel notes in passing that in the cryptogram in general the sexual parts are assumed to be ‘infinitely small’” (Glas 114a)—a conclusion with which Mrs Walter Buchanan would have been in full agreement with her German counterpart.
     “Silent about the lower animals”! It is this phrase, I fear, which extrudes itself, phenomenologically speaking, from the above context, and forces itself, with all the energy of the return of the repressed, into the textuality of our present intercourse. I refer, of course (if you will allow me to bracket the question of reference, and to use, or at least to refer to, the word “refer” [as it were] under erasure), to the unfortunate and marginalised “Duckies.” For Bailey and Bentley’s edition, this poem is indeed, marginalised: marginalised within marginalisation, one might say, mise en abyme, abyssed within the abyss of Canardian literature. Such is the fate of this problematic text (if you will forgive the tautology). Piggy, as this edition amply demonstrates, has long been marginalised, thrust to the outer limits, the borders, boundaries, edges, slippages, marshes, margins, gutters, parerga of our discipline. But in addressing this psycho-socio-politico-economico-literaryo devaluation of a text which is not, after all, without some interest, has not this editorialisation itself fallen into the trap [die Versenkung] of committing in its turn, as if compelled by some Nietzschean recurrence, some vastly ironic repetition complex of destiny [quelque complexe ironique du sort et du ressort], the same tragic flaw? Observe: for Piggy, magisterial as it is, an Introduction of twenty-one pages, Editorial Emendations, Explanatory Notes, the full cryptogram (as Derrida so lucidly puts it) of the scholarly apparatus. And then, as a mere afterthought, an “Appendix,” without benefit of Introduction, Editorial Emendations, or Explanatory Notes—there, neglected, shivering, on its own, marginalised, appendicised: “Duckies”.
     The process of marginalisation, as is well known, is akin to the process of repression as outlined by Freud.1 But here, at this critical juncture of editorial Saddamism and retrogressive speciesism, we must put ourselves in the position of posing ourselves the question, however uncomfortable such a pose may be, of why “Duckies” should suffer such inferioritisation? Are we to postulate some deeply unresolved neuro-sexual trauma in the editors’ remote childhood—an incident, perhaps, trivial at the time but traumatic in psychoanalytic retrospectiveness, with a rubber ducky, which would then need to be ruthlessly incorporated in the form of an Appendix? Such might well be the conclusion to which a hasty graduate student, or indeed an untenured professor, might unguardedly leap. Likely as it might be, however, in the case of a text with a sole editor, the duality of editorship in this text (its doubleness, its Entzweitung, its ménage à deux) renders this solution at least statistically improbable at this point in time. Rather, I feel (if I may be permitted such a verbal gesture of romanticised subjectivity) that the solution is not to be sought in the supposed “individuality” of the editor(s)2 but in their socio-economic stationing within the political and constitutional structures of Canarda, specifically, that is to say, with regard to and in light of the quintessentially Canardian phenomemon, brought on by constitutional excess, of the denial of the political (la negation du lac Meech) (known also as the Charlottetown Discord or la folie du Joe).
     For what is “Duckies” if not an extended political allegory, and one, moreover, which may now be read, in an extratemporal milieu of transgenerational intertextuality, as remarkably apposite to the currently appertaining political phenomenologisation of Canarda? Consider, for instanciation, “Duckies,” lines 37-38: “Long, too long, the turkey / Has held the place of state.” If that is not an allusion to Brian Mulroney, I’ll eat my Lacanian cranial covering. These lines, indeed, might well be inscribed upon the banners of marchers from coast to coast [a mari jusque ad mare], summoning to their aid the words of one of Canarda’s finest bards as they struggle against the dialectical structures of the socio-economic discourses of inequalitisation and referential disinstantiation of pseudo-capitalist neo-post-modernism.
     Indeed, once one has performed the initial hermeneutic gesture of transcoding “Duckies” into the referential set of Canardian politics, it all becomes as clear as day—as clear, even, as Jean Baudrillard. Note the obvious allusion to politicians’ propensity for accepting bribes, in lines 7-8: “And of fowls that gobble stuff / Ducks can beat them all.” Observe Mrs. Buchanan’s acerbic satire on the process of forming governments (she may have had the Italian model in mind at this point): “Paddle, paddle, paddle, / Out they go and in” (ll. 9-10). “Holding business meeting” (l. 15) may be as complimentary as the poem ever allows itself to be, but the momentary sense of political worth is immediately dispelled in the aporetic dystopia of the following line: “Or a sociable pow-wow.” The Senate, Dear Reader, the Senate!
     Having established such a Weltanschauung for the text, I need scarcely comment in detail on the implications of such lines as “Patter, patter, patter, / What are they doing now?” (ll. 19-20), “See them preen their feathers” (l. 21), or “And for all outsiders / They do not care a rap” (ll. 23-24). I must, however, note both the extreme subtlety and (I fear) the disturbing signs of American cultural imperialism which pervade the fourth stanza. This stanza sets up an elaborate subtextual mythographic diegesis, in which the annual ritual sacrifice of the birds at “Thanksgiving” is implicitly (through that wonderful absent silence which becomes, in the hands of the greatest poets, a speaking presence) compared to the election of Canardian politicians. “Off goes duckies [sic] heads,” as some candidates are defeated; “Make our feather beds” say those retired to the Senate or the C.R.T.C.; “eaten up, or sold” bewail the Opposition backbenchers. The problem, as I earlier adumbrated, is that a ritual annual (or quadrennial) election/sacrifice at Thanksgiving is an American political exemplum, not necessarily a Canardian one. Mrs Buchanan’s patriotism is here rendered subservient to the appealing (if fearful) symmetry of the putative Levi-Straussian conceit in comparative structuralist mythology.
     Within this interpretive framework (if, that is, any reading can ever be said to remain “within” a framework—frameworks, as we know too well, being always already subject to bilateral contamination and semantic transgression), it is evidentially supportable that “Duckies” is formatted as a poetico-political nexus capable of utmostly impacting Canardian text processors (and processees). Its remarginalisation in this edition is therefore all the more regrettable. It is my modest hope that the present deconstruction of the ideological sub-pinning of the text’s Althusserian discursive strata may contribute to its re-elevation into the cognitive sphere of canonical Canardian ephemera. As Derrida so pithily remarks, “In botany, erianthus designates an organism furnished with villous and fleecy flowers. Thus one can no longer decide, and that is the whole interest of writing” (Glas 70b).

*Rev. of Mrs. Walter Buchanan, Piggy, ed. Susan Bailey and D.M.R. Bentley (London: Canardian Poetry P, 1991) in Canardian Literature 666 (Winter 1991): 175-77. [back]


  1. (See especially “Resistance and Repression,” in Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, The Penguin Freud Library, Volume 1, Trans. James Strachey, Ed. James Strachey and Angela Richards [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974], 327-343). [back]
  2. All that Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault have to say about the “Death of the Author” can, indubitably and unerringly, be extended into this sphere as well. Is it not time, Editors Bailey and Bentley, for us boldly to proclaim the Death of the Editor? [back]