Determiners and Indeterminacy: Andy Weaver’s this

It’s a neat glimpse into what Weaver is doing with this, a book that seems to take its cue from the nature of the title pronoun. The meaning of a pronoun is immanent because it depends on a substitution of the pronoun for its antecedent in the mind of the reader, and its meaning is incomplete without that antecedent. As a demonstrative pronoun, “this” also indicates proximity and specificity. These lines reach back to the quotation from Jean-Luc Nancy that begins the book – almost like the sketching of territory in an academic paper: “the book…[is], above all else, communication and commerce of itself with itself.” Nancy shuts down what we usually think of in terms of reference and signification entirely in suggesting the book is a closed system independent of a world outside it.

If this makes you think something like “disappearing into your own navel,” you may as well stop here. I would call this academic, and mean nothing pejorative, because it is so conscious of a philosophical and poetic context in which it works; the first six pages are mostly quotations, including lines from poetic precursors Creeley, Silliman and McCaffery. Many conference papers are less conscientious. If that doesn’t turn you off, you’ll probably enjoy the book and what Weaver does with structure and progression, including the question of whether any part is meant to stand alone or to be a building block of that self-referential whole book.

this is structured around a few main modes or forms that weave together and repeat, each making a different demand on your attention, and disrupting different conventions. One is a twenty-six-line form where each line is one word, and where the first letters of the lines recite the alphabet (in alphabetical sequence but not always starting at “A”). These are playful but slippery, and they put pressure on your expectation of syntax; it’s a surprise when full phrases emerge from the list-like presentations. Another repeating form is the full-justified prose poem with a loose logic of association holding the disparate elements together. Phrases are complete, but the logical links typical of a prose paragraph are undercut. The most conventional verses are all titled “Politics”. These are short and discursive “lyrics” that share some of the same associational progression as the prose paragraphs. Weaver also sprinkles in a number of concrete poems.

With few words left, I’ve said very little about what the poems are about. The very conscious disruption of paraphrasable content is part of Weaver’s point. The book trends toward coherence but in the context of a poetics that makes meaning a consequence that’s only ever near and never present. What there is of it takes place only in the mind and in a context. It’s the context that makes the reflexive statement “this is the imminence in the immanence” the clearest descriptive sentence in the book.


Chris Jennings is the author of Vacancies (Nightwood, 2011). He’s written about a variety of Canadian poets for different publications including Anne Carson, Steve McCaffery, Eli Mandel, and Margaret Avison. He was the first person to hold the title of Prose Editor at ARC. A native Calgarian, he has now spent equal parts of his life in Alberta and Ontario. He lives in Ottawa.



Skip to content