Dr Sarah Jackson’s work on touch examines the relationship between writing and tact, exploring the ways that the text sheds, exposes and dissolves its own limits. Reading David Wills’s discussion of the difficulty of separating an ‘apparent constative and a more obviously performative mode’ of writing, her theory of tactile poetics seeks not only to address, but also to play out, the relationship between writing and the skin (Wills 1995, p.11). Feeling its way forward and tendering a series of passageways towards thinking through an impossible tact, her writing performs the (mis)adventures of literary contact.
David Wills, Prosthesis (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995)
From ‘Dis-tanz: 29 Tangos’ [extract]
Oxford Literary Review, 33.2 (2011), pp.167-187
To tender, from the French tendre, ‘to hold out, offer’ (OED): the poem is an act of tendering, of holding out. ‘Tender, tend, extend’, for Derrida, is ‘to give what is given without giving up’ (Derrida 2000, p.94). A text of impossible intimacy, the heart of a poem is tendered to the reader with tender feeling, finding distant ways to touch, touching ways to interrupt. ‘Let us not play with words — ever’, Derrida writes; ‘Let us not place any bets on the homonymy, in French between “tendre and tendre”’ (pp.93–94). Derrida picks up, on the one hand, the connotations of the verb ‘to tend’ — to stretch, to orient oneself toward, to intend to — and ‘on the other hand the instance of the attribute tendre’, which ‘often connotes fragility, delicacy, a rather passive vulnerability that is non-intentional, exposed, and rather childlike or feminine’ (p.94). These two ‘tenders’ tend to haunt each other, to ‘visit the other’, while also touching on the sense of ‘payment, profit, or capital gain’ of tendering (p.94). And this essay, too, is both an act of tendering and an act of tenderness: this paper tenders itself, it holds itself out with tender consideration, care, concern. I offer it with tender feeling, my dear, my beloved. ‘Without any play on words, ever, it would therefore be necessary to extend an ear and tenderly attend to these words — tender, tend, extend’ (p.94). I tender this, I extend it, I draw it out. Tenderly, I tender this to you, and in return, I ask that you attend to me, that you extend your ears towards me. Take this. I tender it to you, dear, beloved.
Jacques Derrida, On Touching — Jean-Luc Nancy , translated by Christine Irizarry (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005)
Tingling Fingertips: Frostbite and Snowcandy
BBC Radio 3
from Pelt (Northumberland: Bloodaxe, 2012)
…après ma mort, il ne restera plus rien – Jacques Derrida
Today, I find I can see through my eyelids.
You are curled over yourself as if reading
but there is no book. I wait, counting the dogwood
on the curtain, listening for the telephone.
You sit in a winged armchair by my head
holding your elbows. I smell you: dirty and sweet.
I think of the way I might have said goodbye.
We tried not to speak of such things.
You turned and your hot face was bright.
I saw myself reflected in it as I left.
The room grows cold. I am not arranged in a line.
Lift me, please, from my crookedness.
We need to start again but it is always too late
and I am afraid you do not know how to begin.
Love, you surprise me: turning, dipping a cloth
in a shallow bowl, you wipe my palms in slow circles
and twist my rings so that everything is facing
one way. This is touch without touching,
as it always is. You are so quiet, sounds slip
from the ceiling. I am afraid of you, of your gentleness.
You say, nothing will remain, and I hear my bones
in your voice: At home, the dog will always be searching.
Related Works by Sarah Jackson
Tactile Poetics: Touch and Contemporary Writing (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015)
Pelt (Northumberland: Bloodaxe, 2012). Winner of the Seamus Heaney Prize; longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award
‘A Conversion Disorder’, Oxford Literary Review, 37.2 (2015), pp.217-42
‘So Close: Writing that Touches’, New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, 9.3 (2012), pp.408-418
‘Touching Freud’s Dog: H.D.’s Tactile Poetics’, Angelaki, 15.2 (2010), pp.187-201