by Justin Taylor

Thoughts on Erasure

A killer stares into the eyes of his dying victim, watching the light fail. What does he see? Is it the thing he came to find, or something he himself put there--and if it is the second thing, does this mean it cannot also be the first? Erasure is a delving into the depths of a text to see what can be found there. But what you find deep in the text will exist because you have willed it to exist. It has no reality independent of your searching for it, and your searching is what makes it real. Imagine defacing your favorite statue in order to create a smaller statue of your very own, which you will then offer in homage to the original work, whose death you required in order for yours to be born. These acts are of course inspired by a desire for connection, an extraordinary learning, a yearning to express Love physically, somehow. No matter. Violence is nothing but these same feelings, soured and made intolerable by seething need. We are very lucky, because the nature of texts--unlike bodies--allows them to survive their own dismemberment. They remain whole, and original, after all, apart from their mutilated versions--and so a finished erasure can never overthrow its original, but instead becomes its servant. If an erasure hopes to achieve existence independent of its origins, then it must never reveal or admit its true nature. It must endlessly attempt to "pass" as an original poem, and will never be certain to what degree it is succeeding, if at all. It must conduct an erasure, in other words, of its own history, and it does this because it doesn't know that all poems, all the time, are plagued by that same uncertainty, because they too are engaged in that same endless and endlessly vain attempt to pass.


Kierkegaard: Three Erasures of the Same Paragraph




As for myself personally a little

explanation may betray such genuine suffering


I am yet very far from

the true virtue of fault—


I have become mysteries

and also certainly have no existence.


I boast honestly to illuminate the attention

something no man can end







Possibly I betray here and there

such knowledge of hidden self


possibly one

of those rare strange persons


certainly no boast, my virtue

I endeavor to


if possible

comprehend this relationship.







I betray inwardness

I am of that ilk, one of


those true not

precisely by reason


I have become

thoroughly acquainted


I do not endeavor

And I use it again


I constantly comprehend,

and entirely comprehend


No one knows as well as I

what I incur But there are many


who understand as they

have done away.


Original Text, Unerased

"As for myself personally who am endeavoring to present this subject, a little explanation may perhaps be due to the reader. Possibly I betray here and there such a knowledge of hidden inwardness, of the genuine suffering of self-denial, that possibly it might occur to someone that, though such a “natural” man, I am yet of that ilk, one of those rare noble souls. This is very far from the truth. It is true that in a strange way—and not that precisely by reason of my virtue, but rather of my fault—I have become very thoroughly acquainted with the mysteries of “existence,” and also with its mysteriousness, which for many persons certainly have no existence. Of this I do no boast, for it was not due to my virtue. But I endeavor honestly to use this knowledge to illuminate the humanly True and the humanly Good. And I use it again to draw attention if possible to the Holy—concerning which, however, I constantly adjoin that this is something no man can comprehend, that in this relationship the beginning and the end is worship. For even if one were to comprehend, and entirely comprehend, the purely human; such understanding is nevertheless misunderstanding in relation to the God-Man. No one knows as well as I what responsibility I incur [in thus using my knowledge]. Let no one be at pains to affright me with it, for I stand in a relationship of fear and trembling to Him who can affright me on quite a different scale. But also there certainly are not many who understand as I do that in Christendom they have done away with Christianity."

—S.K., Training in Christianity (123-4)



Justin Taylor is the author of a collection of poems, More Perfect Depictions of Noise, and is co-editor of The Agriculture Reader, an arts annual. His first book of fiction, a story collection entitled Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever, will be published by Harper Perennial in 2010.



All Material © 2009 The New Yinzer and its respective authors