Saturday, January 28, 2017



A Continuum of Force by Francesco Levato
(Moria Books / Locofo Chaps, Chicago, 2017)

This is the Author’s Note to Francesco Levato’s new chapbook, A Continuum of Force:

A Continuum of Force is a documentary poetics project that examines the material implications of Latin American otherness as constructed through U.S. policy, specifically via the erasure of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Use of Force Policy, Guidelines and Procedures Handbook—a set of policies that discursively constructs a criminalized other while authorizing physical harm to that other. “

Poetic erasure projects have quite a long and often distinguished history. These erasures can take various forms, such as pages that resemble redactions (with their huge swaths of blacked out wording) or complete white-outs of all deleted wording (leaving the remaining text scattered over the page). One of the many things I like about Levato’s erasure is that he preserves for the reader the entire original documents, faded but still visible, and bold faces the words and phrases that he wishes to foreground as his found text. In doing so, the poet literally exposes the governmental authors’ actual intent (a word that Levato keeps highlighting) pulled out from all the rhetoric, lies, and doublespeak.

An example from page 1— (please note that the version below is formatted differently from what appears in Levanto’s chapbook text)—


U.S. Customs and Border Protection is entrusted with the critical responsibility of protecting our nation's borders.  This mandate carries with it the authority to use force up to and including the use of deadly force.  The following policy provides guidance and parameters under which force may be used.  It also provides the levels of oversight when force is used and the ongoing training and demonstration of decision making and skill surrounding the use of force.

A respect for human life and the communities we serve shall guide all employees in the performance of their duties. Authorized Officers and Agents should employ enforcement tactics and techniques that effectively bring an incident under control, while minimizing the risk for injury or property damage. The use of excessive force by CBP law enforcement personnel is strictly prohibited.
As CBP employees, this Handbook serves as your authoritative reference for firearms procedures and use of force related issues.  By conforming to standard use of force policies, procedures, training, and equipment, Authorized Officers and Agents can more effectively protect themselves and the public they serve.

Authorized Officers and Agents who encounter use of force issues in the field that are not addressed in this Handbook are expected to exercise reasonable judgment.

CBP adheres to the Department of Homeland Security Policy on the Use of Deadly Force and the Department of Homeland Security Commitment to Nondiscriminatory Law Enforcement and Screening Activities policy statement, both of which are attached as appendices and referenced throughout the body of this Handbook.

“Excessive force” and “body” are among the others words/phrases that Levanto echoes throughout.

I may be reaching here, but “body,” aside from—most importantly meaning the physical body that is violated, maimed, and destroyed—might also reference the body politic that is also hurt and diminished by the actions of those in power.

Finally, the “continuum of force” could lead us to consider that the power of resistance, of compassion, of clear mind can return us to genuine sanity.


Joel Chace has published work in print and electronic magazines such as The Tip of the Knife, Counterexample Poetics, OR, Country Music, Infinity's Kitchen, and Jacket.  Most recent collections include Sharpsburg from Cy Gist Press, Blake's Tree from Blue & Yellow Dog Press, Whole Cloth from Avantacular Press, Red Power from Quarter After Press, Kansoz from Knives, Forks, and Spoons Press, Web Too from Tonerworks, War, and After, from BlazeVOX [books], and Scorpions from Unlikely Books.

1 comment:

  1. Another view is offered by Andrew Rihn in GR's April edition: