NEW Publication. Afterword to Jean-Luc Nancy’s poem, ‘Stoma: A Hymn’ in his book, Corpus III.

I am excited to announce that Corpus III, the third volume in Jean-Luc Nancy’s writing on the body, has just been published by Fordham University Press. The book features an eleven-part poem by Nancy, titled, “Stoma: A Hymn.”

It is a poem that he wrote in response to an inquiry that I and Andrea Gyenge made to him, regarding a comment that he had made in his Preface to the English edition of his early book on Descartes, Ego Sum. There he said that he has always wanted to write an “epic of the mouth.”

In a series of email exchanges back in late-autumn 2020, we asked him what such an “epic” would look like. Just a few weeks later, we received the poem, the hymn to stoma (small corporeal opening such as a mouth).

It is an extraordinary work of poetic philosophy and philosophical poetics; a meditation on the origin of the mouth as the originary opening that is the origin of human being. There are three places in the poem where “the mouth responds” to the ode that is being sung to it in the other parts of the poem.

In the final words of the mouth’s third response—which are also the words with which the poem ends—the mouth says:

It is me who alternates you

Me who shakes you

Me who agitates you

Me who troubles you

Stirs you opens you and closes you

It is me who rocks you and cradles

It is me who rhythms you and who thinks you

As we write in our commentary: “the subject, ego, or I, does not preexist the mouth’s opening, including in the form of enunciation, constative or performative speech, or even breath, but instead is born from out of this abyss and its rhythmic gaping. Indeed by the eleventh and last song, which joyously opens: ‘Stoma, it is you who swallows us! Stoma, it is you who speaks us!’ we arrive at the insight that the mouth makes us, and realize that Nancy’s poem has been, all along, a hymn to stoma in praise of and gratitude for what of us is stomatic.”

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