Issue 4


From The Totality Cantos

written by Brian Ang

The 2008 economic crisis and global backdrop of struggles by 2011 renewed possibilities for thinking totality, materializing it for apprehension. Ang wrote The Totality Cantos out of a desire to be interested in everything, sampling from discourses of history, philosophy, religion, science, and the humanities, all offering knowledges of what constitute totality. This major work is constructed along the principles of assemblage poetics, and exemplifies constructive verse: writing adequate to apprehending totality.

Asked by Creative Editor Jessica Zhou for a selection from my book The Totality Cantos (Atelos, 2022), I searched the text for the word “luck” and found it in eight of the text’s one thousand sections, assembled below. I also offer “The Totality Cantos Diagram” images by Marc Ngui (2021) which appear on The Totality Cantos’ covers and an excerpt from The Totality Cantos’ “Preface: Totality and Method”:

[The Totality Cantos is] open to the totality of discourses in one hundred cantos of one hundred lines each. Every line [is] a complete poem, a totalization, a singularity, a made thought. Every canto consist[s] of ten sections of ten lines each, each consisting of lines of one through ten words long and aligned flush left and to nine indentations in order to produce dynamic durations and spacings. Every length and alignment occur[s] before being repeated in the next section. Arrangement of lines [is] determined by random numbers. In the transition between sections, equal lengths and alignments [are] prevented from being adjacent in order to maintain dynamic consistency. Any section [can] be excerpted and connected to any other as long as equal lengths and alignments are not adjacent. A hundred cantos, a thousand sections, ten thousand lines. Every canto [is] differently constituted by fifteen vocabularies from the totality of discourses. The fifteen vocabularies... consist of five groups of three: two tertiary groups, two secondary groups, and a primary group designating the dominance of each group in the canto, each group drawn from a different set of three discourses. In the poem’s transformation across cantos, sets... emerge and ascend the hierarchy, dominate, then descend and disappear, each set getting its dominant canto in combination with subordinate sets. Three hundred discourses, one hundred sets of three, [are] drawn from in total. Proper nouns [are] suppressed in order to decenter attention toward discourses. Repetition of words in a canto [is] prevented in order to maximize heterogeneity, repetitions of words across cantos delineating dimensions of the poem traversing singular thoughts…. Verbs [are] suppressed in order to maximize connections in a smooth syntax. Repetition of word pairs [is] prevented in order to maintain singular combinations… includes the complete, searchable text in order to find words of interest and a generator that randomizes assemblages of its one thousand sections.1

From The Totality Cantos: 4-1 + 2-2 + 45-2 + 25-4 + 95-10 + 65-8 + 74-2 + 85-4

4-1          Breakthrough fact burn delusion soul pilgrims
            Disillusioned women’s cross-examined electronic shining lucky language camp production mujtahids
        Depaganized purpose lightning path goal bliss view elephant sexes
                     Nature combination singularity supply
                   Varied culture resolution text politics
           Elderly pious crucial expansion female professor contexts
                     Kin house countries
               Kosher wages
                  Established confidence innovation mouth homosexuality closeness businessman activities
2-2           Historians
                      Discipline foodstuffs
             Middle present community luck schism acts
                 Truth patience weapons
                    Transcendent tandem emancipatory election posthuman halakha love curve women boroughs
              Convex camp convention monotheism spots
           Dazzling capitalist celluloid caste gender encoding lotus teaching storage
                          New unlikable creativity rights
                     Hard great council range book theory achievements
         Solidified ordinary commercial poet healer state sociology self
45-2         Population tomb territory homeland framework
                   Long-armed victims’ unlucky online patronage machine mandolin corpse kangaroos
                          Premodern estate balance comedy contrast cross company control
                        Trinity freezer mouth component safeguard human
                Outer complicated motivation modicum self-discipline recension desktop
              New line guess
                      Developing slap advantage quotas
                          Descendant board
              Stable superman women tragedy church week love block theology sites
25-4            Applied hypocrisy linguistics community earshot anthropology behavior organization écrits
              Doctrinal rococo concept book fact security ruins
                               Nostalgia presence responses
                     Quotation architecture
                        Abuse angle science spectator vengeance betters
                            Racism confrontation collapse knowledge checks
                          Many visual inevitable plausible creative legitimacy following act zenith intensities
                      Baroque sperm mother mood plasterwork dimension diagnosis truth
                  Lucky archrival’s imperial effort
95-10                  Living strategy reserve burden experience dollar humanism symptoms
                             Direct clash capital modernism capita concern phenomenon word value
                  Unspeakable master intelligence neurosis nation fate
                                Egalitarian women control
                        New meager reusable exile descendants
              Challenged unitary palpable minorities
                      Chosen strand blood bone orbis lamina landmark evidence commitment creation
                    Unified acts
                        Unlucky pleasure performance egg fire space law
65-8           Outside atomic data death range tosses
              Crumbling lacunous target span component yawn period nucleotides
                         Vertical spore luck asylum
                      Anti-apartheid oral-fecal foreheads
                   Interested studies
                            Environmental lifestyle grandeur fashion circle republican psychoses
                               Inherited political devolved deputy hammer feather syndrome nicotine cottage caffeine
                Million same worldwide location mollusks
                    Squashed surgical hostage voorpost coffin driver dicynodont licentiousness ovaries
74-2                   Unique cookies
                        Anticipated target increase hero thinker brand entropy detail skeptics
                      Repeated crater critique millennia follow-up fossil traction amateur
                            Luckily dogmatic neoplasia apostrophe distribution caution
            Dysfunction epidemiology reforms
                   Somebody’s overall embraced appellate stock stimulus amendment land concern schools
                 Biblical homeless comfort reward evaluation emission events
               Network frequency morning healers
              Different subordinate convertible progressivism revolutions
85-4     Tiny lucky inspired medieval restoration nightfall spacecraft similarity children hypotheses
                Westward evidence inquiries
             Eminent material goal satellite existence ocean campuses
                       Perfect step folk brain breath corpus discoverer numbers
                  Semipublic battle historian women poor
               Boat bishop emperor theism
                              Meaningful muckle ammonium rebirth notebook present
                         Coming pulpit castle imagery beginning route speech time words
                           Satanic politics



  1. Brian Ang, “Preface: Totality and Method,” The Totality Cantos (Atelos, 2022), 9-11.

headshot of Brian Ang


Brian Ang

Brian Ang wrote The Totality Cantos (Atelos 2022). includes the complete text and a generator that randomizes assemblages of its one thousand sections. Prose: “Assemblage Poetics”; editor: Assemblage Sampler and ASSEMBLAGE; current poetic project: A Thousand Records, open to the totality of music.