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Verge 2013: Becoming

FOREWORD: ‘BECOMING’

Peter Dawncy and Camille Eckhaus

What is it to be human? Is it a permanent condition or an inessential state we can pass beyond? Of course there exist countless passages of life through which we move and we are always on the verge of becoming something different to what we are now. We pass from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, from school to university, from unemployment to employment, from ‘single’ to ‘in a relationship’ to ‘married’. We become mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends, associates, rivals, strangers. Sometimes we are the consoler and the consoled, the glad and the disgruntled, the writer and the reader, the lover and the loather. Yet these denote passages between such neat human spaces—they don’t so much tell us how we physically exist, but how we can think about ourselves within a rational system, thus, in a way, reducing ourselves to that system and confining ourselves to something human.

But what if we could explore non-human states of existence? What if rather than translate our environments into “meanings” and into an essential human experience, we could become with those environments through perceiving and being affected by their raw materiality? As French Post-Structuralist thinkers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari remark, ‘We are not in the world, we become with the world…. Everything is vision, becoming. We become universes. Becoming animal, plant, molecular, becoming zero’ (What is Philosophy? 169). From this perspective, the human is not confined to an essential humanness or transcendental self distinct from her non-human environments, but through experiencing those environments becomes with them and thus leads a nomadic existence in which she continually passes between different states.

For Deleuze and Guattari, the task of the writer is therefore not to communicate opinions or try to structure the world with signifiers, but to imbue her language with the transformative intensities—the sensations, affects and percepts—of her non-human becomings. ‘Writing is a question of becoming,’ notes Deleuze, ‘always incomplete, always in the midst of being formed, and goes beyond the matter of any liveable or lived experience…. [I]n writing, one becomes-woman, becomes-animal or vegetable, becomes-molecule to the point of becoming-imperceptible’ (Essays Critical and Clinical 1). And through reading and experiencing this intensive landscape of signifiers, you, the reader, can become with its non-human elements and be physically reinvented.

In the fiction and poetry of Verge 2013, the ninth edition of the anthology, you will find passages between various human spaces as understandings and “meanings” are re-wrought; yet you will also find various non-human sensations, affects and percepts that can transform you. Laura Elizabeth Woollett’s short story ‘Fireflowers’ (the winner of The Verge 2013 Fiction Prize) presents a wayward female narrator, Tasha, entering puberty in the Australian bush: a narrator whose indistinct self and lack of principles leads on the one hand to imprudence and promiscuity, yet also leaves her susceptible to radical becomings with the Australian landscape—becomings that she subsequently renders in her use of language. As Deleuze states, ‘Everyone can talk about memories, invent stories, [and] state opinions in language,’ but ‘it is a matter of digging under the stories, cracking open the opinions, and reaching regions without memories, when the self must be destroyed’ (Essays Critical and Clinical 113).

Sally-Anne Jovic’s poem ‘Anger, and the Regeneration of Self: Becoming a Fire, Becoming a Garden’ (the winner of The Verge 2013 Poetry Prize) on the other hand involves a more overt non-human transformation and presents a conception of its narrator’s “self” not as essentially human or transcendental and not as something ‘destroyed’ when they become-other, but as a raging and organic non-human materiality that is attained. In Samuel Robertson’s whimsical story ‘The Small Postman’, a young girl is said to be ‘easy to describe but difficult to define’, for she ‘has no name, no age, no memory’ (p. 38)—possessing, one might say, no self, and thus existing only as her present perceptions and experiences—until, that is, a stranger appears and she becomes concerned with human relations.

A reflection of the zones of indiscernibility produced between the human and the non-human in these pieces and throughout this anthology is also wonderfully rendered in Katrina Young’s cover image of a mysterious being becoming a forest of fireflowers, acacias, geraniums, dandelions and gum trees.

In a sense, Verge itself tells a story of becoming. Of change, renewal and rebirth. People become writers, words become narratives and individual pieces come together to form a whole. Those published here are all on the verge of becoming something new. It has been one of the greatest privileges to participate in that process. We hope you enjoy Verge 2013.

REFERENCES

Deleuze, Gilles. Essays Critical and Clinical. Trans. Daniel Smith. Michael Greco. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. Print.

Deleuze, Gilles. Félix Guattari. What is Philosophy? Trans. Hugh Tomlinson. Graham Burchell. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. Print.

Verge 2013: Becoming

   by Peter Dawncy and Camille Eckhaus