blog,personal commentary,reflections on the human condition,ephemera,notes from the underbelly
http://web.ncf.ca/ek867/wood_s_lot.html - 09/05/15 07:08:01 - 11/28/04 07:34:47
September 04, 2015
Scene at Banister
b. September 4, 1888
the thirty-seventh in a series of texts and chapbooks published by Metambesen
STEPS 5: ALETHEIA
You are what is not forgotten
the opening of the first door
you are what I have not forgotten
you are what I will remember
you will be the always and the next thing and the again
opening of the second door
sometimes people remember music
sometimes people remember
sometimes the pianist forgets the keys
forgets what white means
and what does black mean
and why are they so small
and far away, or she remembers them
but forgets what’s she’s supposed to say
what is music supposed to say
what does music say
the opening of the third door
sometimes she forgets her hands
sometimes the hunter
stands in the woods at dawn
wondering why he’s there
he forgets what his business is
and why he has a shotgun in his hands
an arrow in his fingers, why
does he study the vanishing darkness
for a hint of something moving
he forgets he is the only person in the woods
the only person in the world
opening of the fourth door
when you know you’re the only person in the world
it all depends on you
this is the moral universe
that penetrates our world like a sheet of light
I am not a story
The tendency to attribute control to self is, as the American social psychologist Dan Wegner says, a personality trait, possessed by some and not others. There’s an experimentally well-attested distinction between human beings who have what he calls the ‘emotion of authorship’ with respect to their thoughts, and those who, like myself, have no such emotion, and feel that their thoughts are things that just happen. This could track the distinction between those who experience themselves as self-constituting and those who don’t but, whether it does or not, the experience of self-constituting self-authorship seems real enough. When it comes to the actual existence of self-authorship, however – the reality of some process of self-determination in or through life as life-writing – I’m skeptical.
In the past 20 years, the American philosopher Marya Schechtman has given increasingly sophisticated accounts of what it is to be Narrative and to ‘constitute one’s identity’ through self-narration. She now stresses the point that one’s self-narration can be very largely implicit and unconscious. That’s an important concession. According to her original view, one ‘must be in possession of a full and explicit narrative [of one’s life] to develop fully as a person’. The new version seems more defensible. And it puts her in a position to say that people like myself might be Narrative and just not know it or admit it.
In her most recent book, Staying Alive (2014), Schechtman maintains that ‘persons experience their lives as unified wholes’ in some way that goes far beyond their basic awareness of themselves as single finite biological individuals with a certain curriculum vitae. She still thinks that ‘we constitute ourselves as persons… by developing and operating with a (mostly implicit) autobiographical narrative which acts as the lens through which we experience the world’.
I still doubt that this is true. I doubt that it’s a universal human condition – universal among people who count as normal. I doubt this even after she writes that ‘“having an autobiographical narrative” doesn’t amount to consciously retelling one’s life story always (or ever) to oneself or to anyone else’. I don't think an ‘autobiographical narrative’ plays any significant role in how I experience the world, although I know that my present overall outlook and behaviour is deeply conditioned by my genetic inheritance and sociocultural place and time, including, in particular, my early upbringing. And I also know, on a smaller scale, that my experience of this bus journey is affected both by the talk I’ve been having with A in Notting Hill and the fact that I’m on my way to meet B in Kentish Town.
Like Schechtman, I am (to take John Locke’s definition of a person) a creature who can ‘consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing, in different times and places’. Like Schechtman, I know what it’s like when ‘anticipated trouble already tempers present joy’. In spite of my poor memory, I have a perfectly respectable degree of knowledge of many of the events of my life. I don’t live ecstatically ‘in the moment’ in any enlightened or pathological manner.
But I do, like the American novelist John Updike and many others, ‘have the persistent sensation, in my life…, that I am just beginning’. The Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa’s ‘heteronym’ Alberto Caeiro (one of 75 alter egos under which he wrote) is a strange man, but he captures an experience common to many when he says that: ‘Each moment I feel as if I’ve just been born/Into an endlessly new world.’ Some will immediately understand this. Others will be puzzled, and perhaps skeptical. The general lesson is of human difference.
The Fictions of Finance
Toral GajarawalaThis stuff is so esoteric that the only people who understand it are in the business. . . . Can you imagine the people on a march against finance? The guy on a megaphone shouting: What do we want? And everyone answering: Specific curbs on short selling in certain circumstances!What happens to culture in the age of finance capital? What happens to the fictions we create in an era when money—harnessed by a range of new, sophisticated, and increasingly abstruse financial instruments—begets money on a scale that Marx could scarcely have imagined? As the production of wealth is further and further removed from the production of things, billions of people’s lives are tied up in financial markets shrouded in a haze of mystery. It is no surprise, then, that culture in the age of finance capital is wrestling precisely with what we know but cannot always see. Fiction has become accustomed to the question of money—to the everyday dealings of credits and debts, trinkets bought and sold, the price of milk. In Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, the drama circles around $9,000 (the beautiful Lily Bart’s gambling debts); in John Updike’s “A&P,” it is 49 cents (the cost of fancy herring in a can); in Saadat Hasan Manto’s aptly named story, it is “Ten Rupees” (the price of a young girl). Beyond dollars and cents, the novel, historically, has been in turn dazzled by, and critical of, the crush of capitalism, the rapid accumulation of wealth, and the exploitation of labor, all documented and turned over by writers ranging from Balzac and Zola to Dos Passos and Dreiser. But the scale now seems vaster—not dollars and cents but hidden millions, the millions that underwrote the sugar plantations (as Edward Said writes of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park) and that now circulate farther and faster than ever but are even more difficult to see.
—In the Light of What We Know
Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews Landscapes of Communism: A History through Buildings by Owen Hatherley(....)
I’ve noticed before the strange tendency of hateful buildings to become almost lovable after the passage of decades. Not all of them, of course. Some, like the 1960s highrise clones lining Moscow’s New Arbat (Kalinin Prospekt) become more annoying as they get shabbier. But the Moscow State University building on Lenin Hills, one of Moscow’s seven late-Stalinist wedding cakes, has definitely undergone a metamorphosis in my mind. When I lived there in the late 1960s, I regarded it as an anti-people monster, guarded by dragons who, if you had lost your pass, would throw you out to die in the snow. (According to Hatherley, they now use swipe cards to protect the building against invasion.) But I noticed a while back that I had started regarding the wedding cakes with something like affection; apparently the passage of time has naturalised them.
But Hatherley is young, and so are the Poles who like the Palace of Culture; their reassessment must come from somewhere else. Actually it seems to come from two different places. One is the Western pop/youth phenomenon that might be called Soviet ruin chic – a fascination with Soviet imperial ghosts or, as Hatherley puts it, ‘tourism of the counter-revolution’. Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker, with its memorable imagery of the Zone, is a reference point here, as is real-life Chernobyl, now a tourist destination for those with a ‘ruin chic’ sensibility. Hatherley distinguishes his own position from that of the admirers of Totally Awesome Ruined Soviet Architecture, and his ideological and personal baggage is definitely not counter-revolutionary. But there’s some family – or perhaps more accurately, generational – resemblance.
The other place this re-evaluation comes from is Eastern Europe, specifically young people who grew up in the Soviet bloc at the end of the communist era, and don’t share their parents’ bad memories. Hatherley travelled around the old Soviet empire with his Polish partner, Agata Pyzik, who in 2014 published her own take on East-West culture clashes, Poor but Sexy. Freelancers in their early thirties, they live with one foot in London and the other in Warsaw. Agata is the one with Russian and, as a reading of Poor but Sexy suggests, a penchant for film and cultural theory. Hatherley is the one with the eye, the architectural knowledge, and a childhood background in Militant Tendency. They make an entertainingly observant couple as they wander round Moscow, Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Vilnius, Kiev, Riga, Tallinn, Bucharest, Sofia and the rest, on the look-out for good cheap meals as well as striking cityscapes and ‘weird’ (a favourite word, generally approving) buildings.
September 03, 2015
Footbridge at PassyHenri Rousseau d. 02 September 1910
Poetry and the Memory of Fame On accidental anonymity. Thomas MccarthyThe Page
This high companionship of self-indulgence is hugely underrated in modern teaching. It needs to be taught again. Poetry, the best poetry, the most purposeful poetry, arises out of the fullness of the self. It is not the result of a given program, an agenda, a canon. The dynamic noise of a poetry workshop, its communal imperative, does compel young poets to be clear rather than complex, to be social rather than desolate. But the best education in the poetic art must oscillate between the two — between the need to dream fiercely and the need to communicate. Our personal temperament is an essential part of our technical equipment as poets: it is the one part of our equipment that we cannot teach to others, though many of us yearn to do so as we grow older. Our temperament is the thing that will die with us, leaving traces only in the best work. Technically — I mean from the standpoint of writing new poems — all the historic suffering of the Irish nation has no more moral weight than the anonymous cadaver on the dissecting table of Gottfried Benn. The materials available to a new poet are that simple, that open, that personal. Have courage, I would say to any new poet; have courage while your poem invites you into itself. This fullness of being — the vain clarity before a poem begins — must have been what the twenty-five-year-old André Gide meant when he wrote in his Journals:The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes. Essential to remain between the two, close to madness when you dream and close to reason when you write.In other words, the fullness of your self is available from the start: dig into it with your pen, exploit it. For poetry’s sake, keep dissecting the self until you find the infection that is interesting. Be open to technique, I advise younger poets; by all means, learn everything new that can be learned about a poetic effect, about what the phrases do when they are layered together on the page. Understand that a poetic tone shared and recognized across the English language is part of the Esperanto of our modern era — we search for a tone that reassures us of the author’s modernity. Far from avoiding new work from young writers, most editors yearn to find something new, yet something with an assured and seriously polished tone. But temperament, the personal atmosphere of your life as a poet; that is something the gods have given you at birth — throw a security cordon around it — it is yours for life, through all the fame and, more usually, the persistent absence of fame.
Our Book of Failures Lisa DonovanWe are in a middle land. In the middle land there’s no counting, no chanting. In the middle land there’s no scratching, no licking, no shuffling of feet. Here, in the middle, we talk about the breeze; this breeze, here. We are in the middle land and there’s no one here—not me, not you. Here in the middle land we change our figures out of this into sand. From sand we fall—we are falling. In the middle land we are without telling. In the middle land there are only questions. We question, here, in the middle land. In the land we are without speaking. What does it mean to speak? We are in the middle land. There’s no light. What is light? Are you in the middle land? You are in the middle land. You don’t know light, don’t know dark. You, in the middle land, don’t know speech—are without name. What name? No name. You are collapsing, no, collapsed in the question. What does it matter? In the middle land you are here. You have never arrived. You are. You are. You are. In the middle land you are sand. We can talk only of the breezes. Hush now, we haven’t yet slept, are now sleeping. That’s a lie.
Donald Trump, Countersubversive Demonologist Kurt NewmanS-Usih.Org
In so many ways a book ahead of its time, Ronald Reagan: The Movie, And Other Episodes In Political Demonology (Michael Rogin) provides the contemporary scholar with all of the tools necessary to situate Trump as a Populist. Rogin’s focus is on a certain tendency in American political theology that he calls “countersubversive demonology.” Ronald Reagan––failed movie cowboy, enthusiastic Hollywood Red hunter, relentless fantasist of latter day Central American Plans San Diego––serves as the anchor of Rogin’s text. But Rogin deftly moves from the Iran-Contra hearings to Jacksonian bloodlust, from the Frost/Nixon interviews to the anti-Catholic and anti-Masonic manias of the nineteenth century: discovering extraordinary continuities among varied efforts to weed out threats to the body politic by developing detailed knowledge about demons, monsters, and ghouls.Ronald Reagan: The Movie, And Other Episodes In Political Demonology is also a comparatively early example of a work of American historiography that takes seriously Ernst Kantorowicz’s research on the “King’s Two Bodies.” Implicit in Rogin’s discussion is the articulation of the idea of the “King’s Two Bodies” with contemporary theories of biopolitics (the various analytical projects that take their cue from Foucault’s insistence that in modern political formations, the human body tends to become the medium of state power). Countersubversive demonology feeds off of the oscillation between the two bodies with which sovereignty is concerned: the body politic and the given fleshly body of the subject. A threat to one is a threat to the other; porousness or vulnerability to pollution of my body becomes a crisis of the state’s abstract body; the unwalled border between the United States and Mexico becomes something like an anti-vaccination. Not all countersubversive demonologies are Populist. And not all Populisms are countersubversive demonologies. But Populism and countersubversive demonology work very well with one another. The process is described elegantly in the writings of Claude Lefort and Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. If we begin with the idea of the “King’s two bodies,” taking that split between abstract sovereign being, on one hand, and the ordinary reality of people, on the other, as constitutive of the political form called the state, we can identify the “problem” that Populism seeks to fix. Many experience the gap between the “King’s two bodies” as traumatic: tremendous libidinal energies can be mobilized around the project of closing the split, making “America,” for example, exactly identical to America (the complex entity in which some of us live). The work of closing this gap between the two “Americas” requires an object around which intentions may be organized. We might say that the relative virtue of different strains of Populism follows from the character of the chosen object and the choices made by Populist politicians regarding its mobilization. Countersubversive demonology is what happens when the Populist desire for a positive object-cause fails, when no suitable object can be found. The same intense will for suture, the same drive to erase all remainders, leftovers, or holes from the conflation of “America” and America are at work: but lacking the proper object, attention turns to the alien element that has settled in our midst, working in secret to frustrate the longed-for cohesion. As Rogin notes, this anxious search for the polluting or infecting agent is a will-to-knowledge (and the knowledge it produces tends to have a distinctive, repetitive, compulsive character), The countersubversive demonological imagination, Rogin further observes, is often drawn to mimesis: in order to know the enemy, one must think like the enemy. Thus the extraordinary staying power of reactionary drag in American political life. The strangest thing about this mimesis is that it yields no empathy.
Carnival EveningHenri Rousseau1885
September 01, 2015
Max Peiffer Watenphul
1896 - 1976
Fernando Pessoa: A Disputed Heteronym
Beyond Another Ocean
Notes by C. Pacheco
Translated by Chris Daniels
To the memory of Alberto Caeiro
In a fevered feeling of being beyond another ocean
There were positions of a living more clear and limpid
And apparitions of a city of beings
Not unreal but livid with impossibility, sacred in purity and in nudity
I was the gateway to this null vision and the feelings were only the desire to have them
The notion of things beside themselves, each with their own inwardness
All were living in the life of remnants
And the mode of feeling was in the mode of living
But the form of those faces had the placidity of dew
Their nudity was a silence of forms without means of being
And there was wonder at all reality being only this
But life was life and it was only life
Often my thought works in silence
As smoothly as a greased machine moves without a sound
I feel good when it so moves and I immobilize
So as not to break the equilibrium that allows this to occur in me
I foresee that it is in these moments that my thought is clear
But I do not hear it and it works stealthily and in silence
Like a greased machine driven by a belt
And I can hear nothing but the serene sliding of the parts at work
Sometimes I recall that all other persons must feel the way I do
But they say it gives them a headache or causes dizziness
This recollection came to me as could any other
As for example the recollection that people do not feel the sliding
And they do not think what they do not feel
Feeling poetry is the supposed way for one to live
I do not feel poetry not because I do not know what it is
But because I cannot live supposedly
And if I managed it I would have to follow another way of conditioning myself
The condition of poetry is not to know how it is one senses it
There are beautiful things that are beautiful in themselves
But the inner beauty of feelings mirrors itself in things
And if they are beautiful we do not feel them
In the sequence of steps I cannot see more than the sequence of steps
And they follow as if I saw them really following each other
By the fact of them being so equal to each other
And since there is no sequence of steps that is not
I see no need to illude ourselves about the clear meaning of things
Otherwise we would have to believe that an inanimate body feels and sees differently from us
And by being too admissible this notion would be uncomfortable and futile
If we are able to cease movement and speech when we think
Is it necessary to suppose that things do not think
If this manner of seeing them is incoherent and easy on the wit?
We ought to suppose and this is the true way
That we think by the fact of our being able to do so without moving or speaking
As do inanimate things
My Motto Is: ‘Translation Fights Cultural Narcissism’
Chris Daniels in conversation with Kent Johnson
My Pessoa translations are just as much a heap of scraps as the contents of the famous trunk. While I certainly will be leaving out things here and there, I refuse, in the texts I do translate, to make any sweeping editorial decisions, which always distort the true nature of Pessoa’s heteronymic poetry by normalizing, condensing and cutting; I’m insisting that it be published in all its fissured confusion. Reading Pessoa in a critical edition can be maddening. He’s even more a poet of variants than Emily Dickinson. His celebrated clarity and simplicity are interspersed with false starts, incoherent marginalia, and drunken scrawl that threaten to overwhelm everything... So I allow the uneven, fragmentary odes of Campos to be uneven and fragmentary, and the unfinished poems by Caeiro to be unfinished. It’s only fair that Anglophones be able to experience Pessoa in a way that at least approaches the Lusophone experience. Until this is possible, our understanding of Pessoa will be deeply flawed and his stature as one of the truly great modernist poets will be perceived imperfectly.
Max Peiffer Watenphul
"Suffering is the sovereign common denominator":
Interview with Leon Niemoczynski, part 2(....)"‘Perceptual universes’ abounding all around of us" :
When it comes to the American pragmatists, for example, philosophical ecology, environmental aesthetics, theories of the body and sensation, theories concerning the environment, theories about habit and embodiment, are still undergoing transformation and change. A lot of what the American pragmatists (and process philosophers, and naturalists) were saying in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries helps to clarify those burgeoning contemporary areas of research happening today. Why not read, modify, and use them to new ends? I mean, just reading Peirce and then flipping to a book written by Deleuze or Meillassoux is a matter of translating the language, but a lot of the ideas and outlook are the same. What Peirce and Meillassoux cover with virtuality and contingency is nearly identical. Metaphysics in the American tradition has always been realist, naturalist, friendly to the rational and natural sciences, is process-oriented, and thus is a great lens certainly to help get clear on the issues of debate today. I would encourage anyone to just dig into some of these figures – especially Whitehead – and see what you find.
I think living with chronic pain has definitely allowed my thinking to encounter the "bleak" or darkest corners of existential – and even deeper than that, ontological – explanation about suffering itself. Well, there is no "explanation," just indifferent fact that in its own tones of address to humans, or to the living, is dark, within the realm of despair, suffering, agony, melancholy, depression, and bleakness. Just "depths" of agony and the lack of a universe answering back to an explanation for why, or how, suffering is the self-reinforcing motor for life.
I remember Hartshorne in an interview stating that unlike Schopenahauer he believed that "life in general is basically happy….[S]uffering is secondary and satisfaction primary in the lives of creatures." I disagree with this. This sort of talk, and I've heard this recently, says "Pain is good. It helps us remember we are alive." That's true but only partially true, and if you think that, then you haven't suffered severe pain. I think that this sort of thinking, what Hartshorne said, loses track of what is deeply tragic in the world. For me it directly links to the problem of evil. Pain and evil, suffering, are related.
Interview with Leon Niemoczynski, part 1
Max Peiffer Watenphul
He speaks of myriapod thoughts. Of swarming thoughts, like a disturbed ant’s nest. He speaks of thoughts crawling on a thousand legs. He speaks of thoughts rushing through him like centipedes or millipedes.
He speaks of thoughts thought by chaos inside him. Of thoughts thought by madness inside him. He speaks of thoughts that shouldn’t be. Of thoughts in continuous SOS. He speaks of thoughts of agony that are the source of agony. Thoughts of pain that are themselves pain.
And what do they want, these thoughts? What do they ask for, these thoughts? What do they ask of him, from him? Are they what he must embrace if he wants to think like a philosopher? Are these philosophical thoughts that swarm inside him? Is it philosophy itself that crawls within him?
August 31, 2015
photo - mw
from The Return
1927 - 2015
IV. The Fireflies
I have climbed blind the way down through the trees
(How faint the phosphorescence of the stones)
On nights when not a light showed on the bay
And nothing marked the line of sky and sea—
Only the beating of the heart defined
A space of being in the faceless dark,
The foot that found and won the path from blindness,
The hand, outstretched, that touched on branch and bark.
The soundless revolution of the stars
Brings back the fireflies and each constellation,
And we are here half-shielded from that height
Whose star-points feed the white lactation, far
Incandescence where the single star
Is lost to sight. This is a waiting time.
Those thirty, lived-out years were slow to rhyme
With consonances unforeseen, and, gone,
Were brief beneath the seasons and the sun.
We wait now on the absence of our dead,
Sharing the middle world of moving lights
Where fireflies taking torches to the rose
Hover at those clustered, half-lit porches,
Eyelid on closed eyelid in their glow
Flushed into flesh, then darkening as they go.
The adagio of lights is gathering
Across the sway and counter-lines as bay
And sky, contrary in motion, swerve
Against each other's patternings, while these
Tiny, travelling fires gainsay them both,
Trusting to neither empty space nor seas
The burden of their weightless circlings. We,
Knowing no more of death than other men
Who make the last submission and return,
Savour the good wine of a summer's night
Fronting the islands and the harbour bar,
Uncounted in the sum of our unknowings
How sweet the fireflies’ span to those who live it,
Equal, in their arrivals and their goings,
With the order and the beauty of star on star.
Charles Tomlinson obituary
Poet and translator who bridged the cultural gap between old and new worlds
DH Lawrence was his witness that “all creative art must rise out of a specific soil and flicker with the spirit of place”, to which Tomlinson added: “Since we live in a time when place is threatened by the violence of change, the thought of a specific soil carries tragic implications.”
John Betjeman said: “I hold Charles Tomlinson’s poetry in high regard. His is closely wrought work, not a word wasted … ” For the American objectivist poet George Oppen, “it is [Tomlinson] and Basil Bunting who have spoken most vividly to American poets”. Tomlinson bridged the vast gulf between old and new world poetry, and was an heir equally of Dryden and Williams, Coleridge and Pound. His 16 collections of poetry, books of essays, translations and anthologies are a core resource for English writers and readers of the last half-century, yet he has been more honoured abroad than at home.
Repelled by prescriptions – formal, political, religious – he maintained an alert interest in other poetries and other arts: music, architecture, sculpture, painting. He was an accomplished graphic artist. And he never tired of travel in space and language, though he always homed to his cottage in Gloucestershire, and to an English enriched by his translations from the Russian of Fyodor Tyutchev, the Spanish of Antonio Machado, César Vallejo and Octavio Paz, the Italian of Giuseppe Ungaretti and others, and the French poets. Jacques Roubaud, Edoardo Sanguineti and Paz collaborated with him on Renga (1979), a poem in four languages. His translations represented a significant second body of poetic work.
Julian Alden Weir
Silence In The Library
berfoisNaming is powerful. A name can be a gift or a burden. Choosing or discarding a name can make you feel free. A nickname can make you feel loved or crushed. What people call you shapes how you see yourself, and teaches you how to navigate the world. But the moment you name something, you limit the possibilities of what it can be. Librarians and archivists who catalog and describe collections have the great responsibility of choosing names for things that provoke interest and further understanding. We call this “creating access points” – little lights to guide you, from whichever direction you might approach. But what if the roads were built ages ago and are no longer passable? Or what if they lead in the wrong direction? The limits of language, particularly the specialized, slow-to-evolve jargon of cataloging librarians and archivists, can create more barriers than pathways. Naming a thing with the wrong words can cut off various paths; it can silence necessary questions. In a choose-your-own-adventure text, this would be the part where you would die, have to start over again and opt for a different route next time.
I’m an accidental archivist. ...(more)
Julian Alden Weir
August 27, 2015
MexicoMan Ray b. August 27, 1890
Melancholy Carina del Valle SchorskeMelancholy is a word that has fallen out of favor for describing the condition we now call depression. The fact that our language has changed, without the earlier word disappearing completely, indicates that we are still able to make use of both. Like most synonyms, melancholy and depression are not in fact synonymous, but slips of the tongue in a language we’re still learning. We keep trying to specify our experience of mental suffering, but all our new words constellate instead of consolidate meaning. In the essay collection Under the Sign of Saturn, Susan Sontag writes about her intellectual heroes, who all suffer solitude, ill temper, existential distress and creative block. They all breathe black air. According to her diagnostic model, they are all “melancholics.” Sontag doesn’t use the word depression in the company of her role models, but elsewhere she draws what seems like an easy distinction: “Depression is melancholy minus its charms.” But what are the charms of melancholy?The Point Issue 10
Found in translation: giving voice to those who wrote ‘Hebrew Bible’ Eavan BolandIrish TimesIn the years after the second World War, a generic literary figure emerged. This was the translator. Travel and the aftermath of war had combined to turn a bright light on the necessity for cultural exchange. Texts previously shut away in foreign languages now became available. In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s a visible industry emerged. Through small presses and new publications essential writers – Eugenio Montale, Anna Akhmatova, Anna Swir, Christa Wolf and many others – were conveyed to new audiences. “Translators are the shadow heroes of literature,” wrote Paul Auster. And so it appeared. And then a strange thing happened. As the conversation about new voices in different languages grew louder the conversation about the translator fell into confusion. What was the exact definition of the role? Were translators simply vendors and sifters of words? Mediators between cultures? Something more? Something less? The questions appeared to hang in the air and then vanish. With the result that an essential figure slipped into the shadows even though what George Steiner said remained true: “Without translation, we would be living in provinces bordering on silence.” These issues and omissions are brought into focus by this book, Strong as Death is Love, Robert Alter’s latest volume of biblical translation. They are also part of what makes him such a remarkable figure.the page
Dust BreedingMan Ray1920
Green Nihilism or Cosmic Pessimism Alejandro de AcostaDesertAnonymous
This customary speed, which we share with many with whom we share little else, is what necessitates the yes-or-no operation. Whatever the response is, it has to happen quickly. (We are the best of Young-Girls when it comes to the commodities we ourselves produce.) To do something else than mechanically phagocyte Desert (or anything else worth reading) and absorb it or excrete it back out onto the bookshelf/literature table/shitpile, some of us will need to take up a far less practical, far less pragmatic attitude towards the best of what circulates in our little space of reading. In short, it is to intervene in the smooth functioning of the anarchist-identity machine, our own homegrown apparatus, which reproduces the milieu, ingesting unmarked ideas, expelling anarchist ideas. Of course all those online rants, our many little zines, our few books—the ones we write and make, and the ones that we adopt now and then—are only part of this set-up, which also includes living arrangements, political practices, anti-political projects, and so on. All together, from a few crowded metropoles to the archipelago of outward- or inward-looking towns, that array could be called the machine that makes anarchist identity, one of those awful hybrids of anachronism and ultramodernity that clutter our times. But, trivial though the role of Desert may be in the reproduction of the milieu, its small role in that reproduction is especially remarkable given that it directly addresses the limits of that reproduction, and, indirectly, of the milieu itself. Its reception is a kind of diagnostic test, a demonstration of our special obtuseness. If I am right about even some of the preceding, then the increasingly speculative nature of what follows ought to prove interesting to a few, and repulsive to the rest.
... if our rejection of society and state is as complete as we like to say it is, our project is not to create alternative micro-societies (scenes, milieus) that people can belong to, but something along the lines of becoming monsters. It is probable that anarchy has always had something to do with becoming monstrous. The monster, writes Thacker in another of his books, is unlawful life, or what cannot be controlled. It seems to me the only way to do this, as opposed to saying one is doing it and being satisfied with that, would be to unflinchingly contemplate the thing we are without trying to be, the thing we can never try to be or claim we are: the nameless thing, or unthinkable life. Which is also the solitary thing, or the lonely one. The egoist or individualist positions are like dull echoes of the inexpressible sentiment that I might be that nameless thing, translated into a common parlance for the benefit of a (resistant, yes) relation to the social mass. That the cosmos is not our natural home is a thought outside the ways in which we might survive here. To say we survive instead of living is in part to say that we have no idea what living is or ought to be (that there is probably no ought-to about living). But also that we resist any ideal of life, including our own. Becoming monstrous is therefore the goal of dismantling the milieu as anarchist identity machine. Being witness to the nameless thing, to the unthinkable life or Planet or Cosmos, is not a goal. It is not a criterion of anything, either. It is more like a state, a mystical, poetic state (though in this state I am the poem). It is the climatological mysticism Thacker describes and Desert hints at for an anarchist audience, both deriving in their own way from the weird insight that the Planet is indifferent to us. So read Desert again as an allegory of the self-destruction of the milieu, of any community that, as it runs from its norms, places new, unstated norms ahead of itself. Such is the slippage from green nihilism to cosmic pessimism, which gives us occasion to continue speaking of chaos. Well, one might say that I have merely imported some alien theory into an otherwise familiar (if not easy) discussion. Of course I have. My aim, however, was not to apply it, but to show in what sense one play that is often acted out in our spaces may be anti-politically theorized, which is to say cosmically psychoanalyzed. Our place is not to apply the theory of cosmic pessimism (or any other theory; that is not what theory is, or is for); our place is to think, to continue speaking of chaos, not being stupid enough to think we can take its side. There are no sides. We might come to realize that we, too, in our attempts to gather, organize, act, change life, and so on, were playing in the world, ignorant of the Planet, its unimaginable weirdness
How Forests Think:toward an anthropology beyond the human Eduardo KohnUniversity of California Press
from the Introduction [pdf]via synthetic zero
Footing for the unsteady, a guide for the blind, a cane mediates between a fragile mortal self and the world that spans beyond. In doing so it represents something of that world, in some way or another, to that self. Insofar as they serve to represent something of the world to someone, many entities exist that can function as canes for many kinds of selves. Not all these entities are artifacts. Nor are all these kinds of selves human. In fact, along with fi nitude, what we share with jaguars and other living selves—whether bacterial, fl oral, fungal, or animal—is the fact that how we represent the world around us is in some way or another constitutive of our being.
A cane also prompts us to ask with Gregory Bateson, “where” exactly, along its sturdy length, “do I start?” (Bateson 2000a: 465). And in thus highlighting representation’s contradictory nature—Self or world? Th ing or thought? Human or not?—it indicates how pondering the Sphinx’s question might help us arrive at a more capacious understanding of Oedipus’s answer. Th is book is an attempt to ponder the Sphinx’s riddle by attending ethnographically to a series of Amazonian other-than-human encounters. Attending to our relations with those beings that exist in some way beyond the human forces us to question our tidy answers about the human. Th e goal here is neither to do away with the human nor to reinscribe it but to open it. In rethinking the human we must also rethink the kind of anthropology that would be adequate to this task.
Horror of Philosophy Eugene ThackerAn excerpt from Tentacles Longer Than Night [Horror of Philosophy, vol. 3] (Zero Books, 2015)3amIn a world which is indeed our world, the one we know, a world without devils, sylphides, or vampires, there occurs an event which cannot be explained by the laws of this same familiar world. The person who experiences the event must opt for one of two possible solutions: either he is the victim of an illusion of the senses, of a product of the imagination – and laws of the world then remain what they are; or else the event has indeed taken place, it is an integral part of reality – but then this reality is controlled by laws unknown to us. - Tzvetan TodorovWhile Todorov is primarily concerned with analyzing the fantastic as a literary genre, we should also note the philosophical questions that the fantastic raises: the presumption of a consensual reality in which a set of natural laws govern the working of the world, the question of the reliability of the senses, the unstable relationships between the faculties of the imagination and reason, and the discrepancy between our everyday understanding of the world and the often obscure and counterintuitive descriptions provided by philosophy and the sciences. The fork in the road is not simply between something existing or not existing, it is a wavering between two types of radical uncertainty: either demons do not exist, but then my own senses are unreliable, or demons do exist, but then the world is not as I thought it was. With the fantastic – as with the horror genre itself – one is caught between two abysses, neither of which are comforting or particularly reassuring. Either I do not know the world, or I do not know myself.via
August 25, 2015
Brume apres la Pluie
_______________________(....)Nietzsche And The Burbs
Truancy. Second innocence. We will regain our innocence. We will forget language. We will un-name the world. We will wander the world in its sacred anonymity. Soon, we’ll know nothing at all.
Truancy. We wander the woods under the white sun. The air is pure. Everything, gathered to the brink. The whole Creation, as a gift to God, glorious before god. And we are as atoms of God. We are particles of the whole – the divine whole. The Vessel has not been shattered. Beauty is everywhere. Goodness is everywhere.
Truancy. Wandering without map. This is the true path, the errant path, the path that wanders through everything, and is the wandering of everything.
Truancy. God walked the world into existence, we’re sure of it. God walked, and the world was born as he walked. And we, walking, will recreate the world. We, as walkers, will re-enact the Creation.
translated by Clare Cavanagh
A few trees stand for ancient forests,
you couldn’t lose your way among them.
In the east and west,
above and below the equator --
quiet like pins dropping,
and in every black pinprick
people keep on living.
Mass graves and sudden ruins
are out of the picture.
Nations’ borders are barely visible
as if they wavered -- to be or not.
I like maps, because they lie.
Because they give no access to the vicious truth.
Because great-heartedly, good-naturedly
they spread before me a world
not of this world.
Drunken Boat 22Nick Admussen Translating Ya Shi
Of course, what I am saying, it is a kind of memory.
If you are a nurse, please cross it out with a red pen.
(the subject awakens; being collapses like an edifice of sand) Today, an early morning dripping with cicada song,
my old mother calls, says it's my lunar calendar
birthday, she will celebrate me with steamed pork.
But the isolated god sinks too deeply into his stage drama,
aloneness can be more than the last act...
Even at a play, it's no good to laugh too loud.
Pah, what I mean is: a simpler sentence
has complexity that you cannot control.
When it pierces the vein, will our vanity get crossed out too?
Three Poems by Ya Shi
translated from the Chinese by Nick Admussen
Nick Admussen on translation
New England Review(....)
NA: With these poems, I drafted the whole series as well as I was able, accumulating a long list of questions from the detailed to the general. Then I went to Sichuan in 2014 and sat down with Ya Shi for a few hours to drink tea and ask all my questions, and the answers shaped the final set of revisions. Meetings like this—this was the third one I’ve done translating Ya Shi poems—are incredibly high pressure for me, even though he’s more than patient with my errors; I’m not just listening for the answers to my questions, but the way in which his responses to my questions indicate whether I’m traveling in the right direction, and have a basic grip on the spirit of the poem. The worst answer an author can give to a translation question is always “why do you care about that?”—to me, such a response means “you do not yet understand this piece. Start again.”
In general I think my translation process requires me to come to a really clear and concrete conclusion about what I’m giving up by putting a poem into English. With Ya Shi, the number one thing that gets lost is his genius for the intercultural. The best example is that when he reads aloud, he chooses to read in rich, musical Sichuan dialect, which is separate from (and superior to, I think) the “standard” dialect that you hear on TV in the PRC. So poems like these have three layers: an inventive adaptation and translation into Chinese of the Italian sonnet form, written in modern Mandarin Chinese, and pronounced in a centuries-old local language. I’m never going to get that same layering effect, that fusion, in an English version, but I need to know it’s there, so that my sensation of its absence can influence the decisions I do get to make.
The Chimera Principle
An Anthropology of Memory and Imagination
Translated by Janet Lloyd
Foreword by David Graeber
Full Text - HAU BooksAvailable in English for the first time, anthropologist Carlo Severi’s The Chimera Principle breaks new theoretical ground for the study of ritual, iconographic technologies, and oral traditions among non-literate peoples. Setting himself against a tradition that has long seen the memory of people “without writing”—which relies on such ephemeral records as ornaments, body painting, and masks—as fundamentally disordered or doomed to failure, he argues strenuously that ritual actions in these societies pragmatically produce religious meaning and that they demonstrate what he calls a “chimeric” imagination.via Monoskop Log
Deploying philosophical and ethnographic theory, Severi unfolds new approaches to research in the anthropology of ritual and memory, ultimately building a new theory of imagination and an original anthropology of thought. This English-language edition, beautifully translated by Janet Lloyd and complete with a foreword by David Graeber, will spark widespread debate and be heralded as an instant classic for anthropologists, historians, and philosophers.
August 24, 2015
The Octopus1978-9Graham Sutherland b. August 24, 1903Two Poems Anne-Marie Albiach1937 - 2012 translated by Peter RileyShearsman BooksThe line the loss the account would be blind the spasms of the oracle structure in the working of colours the margin constrains the circle the evidence on the ground in a perfect liquidity where the language goes back on its word the heart in the rhythm of denial the light rejoins weakness in the former declaration the facts of the case withdraw to the horizon a term found wanting driving accusation of the air full of gestures dedicated to the embrace the subject shrinks sleep bears them into the clearing In scarlet draperies they presided on the theme of an absence Delineation of desire Discourse, relapsed murmuring the representation: soundless expanse of vocabulary space, a morning datum the cold imprints the contours the witness gives out the theme facing discredit this coolness troubling to the eye The simulacrum opens the wound heaviness disavowal, bestiary the partition where childhood’s alphabet watched by a stranger the numerical parallels their connections it transpires of the word a notch an attentive duplicity the fall of a body is lacking genre adjustment the random displacement interval : the objects flood onto the table at low tide
Bird over SandGraham Sutherland 1975
The Weatherproof CapeThomas BernhardTranslation by Douglas Robertson... as we were climbing the stairs it became clear to me that "you have been seeing this person for two full decades, always the same person, always the same aging individual in the Saggengasse, at around midday in this weatherproof cape, in this quite ordinary but quite definitely worn-out weatherproof cape"; still, as we were climbing the stairs it was not yet clear to me why the weatherproof cape in particular was arousing my attention; suddenly, at close proximity, the weatherproof cape was arousing my undivided attention…but it really is quite an ordinary weatherproof cape, I thought; there are tens of thousands of such weatherproof capes in these mountains, there are tens of thousands of such weatherproof capes; tens of thousands of such weatherproof capes are worn by the Tyrolians…no matter who these people are, no matter what they do, when they come here they wear all these weatherproof capes, some of them gray, some of them green; because they wear all these weatherproof capes, the numerous loden factories in the valleys keep flourishing;biblioklept
Pecken WoodGraham Sutherland 1925
Kant’s Depression Eugene ThackerAn excerpt from Starry Speculative Corpse [Horror of Philosophy, vol. 2] (Zero Books, 2015)
What Kant doesn’t consider is that reason might actually be connected to depression, rather than stand as its opposite. What if depression – reason’s failure to achieve self-mastery – is not the failure of reason but instead the result of reason? What if human reason works “too well,” and brings us to conclusions that are anathema to the existence of human beings? What we would have is a “cold rationalism,” shoring up the anthropocentric conceits of the philosophical endeavor, showing us an anonymous, faceless world impervious to our hopes and desires. And, in spite of Kant’s life-long dedication to philosophy and the Enlightenment project, in several of his writings he allows himself to give voice to this cold rationalism. In his essay on Leibniz’s optimism he questions the rationale of an all-knowing God that is at once beneficent towards humanity but also allows human beings to destroy each other. And in his essay “The End of All Things” Kant not only questions humanity’s dominion over the world, but he also questions our presumption to know that – and if – the world will end at all: “But why do human beings expect an end to the world at all? And if this is conceded to them, why must it be a terrible end?”
PastoralGraham Sutherland 1930March Ample LifeStephen Rodefer (November 20, 1940 – August 22, 2015) Methought I saw my late live-in theory crossing the fireplace like a train For the Headless Horseman is bald in the grave where the hair grows long And Maud was the androgyne without a club on the path to Willy Beach Dear George, the attitude was glued myopic and is a myopic clue Dear Lesbia, dyslexia lives The schizophrenics clap for their sunup But what is the name of your parrot? We’ll call it Carriage for Two Squeak, dear parrot, sing etcetera, a number of songs etc. Illusory Town where Mad Tom lives whose lungs are fucked by God and such Where signal fires code Aurora referring to just another ducking Lake at the edge of sleep the deathless equestrienne sees Her namesake singing his hunger as one spouse signs for another Sorting out this endless fragment of sky the curtain has hung on our roots
August 21, 2015
d. Aug. 21, 1930
Katherine Hedeen interview
For me, translation is a political act. It’s obviously always so, but being highly conscious that I am making a political intervention as a translator is the real difference. This makes itself known in two ways: whom I choose to translate and how I choose to go about it. The vast majority of poets I work with are unknown to English-speaking readers (and I also consider opting for poetry over prose a political choice). They fall outside the idea of what a poet in Spanish “should” sound like.
For American readers there are basically two, Pablo Neruda and the Federico García Lorca, who are widely available in print. And, I don’t think this is a coincidence. They write the way an American audience thinks poets from these regions should write. In my experience, it’s this idea of Spanish being more in tune with sensuality, feeling, the body, earthy almost; not complex, cerebral, intellectual, experimental. It almost mimics the sexist dichotomies between masculine/feminine. The South is sensual; let’s leave the thinking to the North. And I don’t think American readers of poetry question why certain writers are translated; why, for example, there always seem to be so many editions of Neruda’s work with commercial presses (and they keep bringing out more!) and yet the work of the other great Latin American poet of the 20th century, Peruvian César Vallejo, is published with university presses, and much lesser known among general readers.
As a specialist in Hispanic poetry, I want to contest that small canon (and not because I have anything against Neruda or García Lorca; these are amazing poets!), which is built on culturally imperialist notions of what the South is. How I go about all this is also an explicitly political act in my mind. And the first thing I would have to clarify is that it’s not “I”; it’s “we”. On many of these projects I co-translate with the Cuban poet, Víctor Rodríguez Núñez (and we translate from English into Spanish as well). Though I do the bulk of the work from Spanish into English, his help is indispensable. He provides a crucial, insider perspective that undoubtedly makes the translation better.
The truth of the matter is that no intellectual endeavor happens in a vacuum, it is in constant dialogue with other voices, with other traditions, with readers, with editors. And translation is no exception. ...(more)
Anemones in a Cornish Window
Those Obscure Objects of Desire
Andrew Cole on the uses and abuses of object-oriented ontology and speculative realism
Ours is a time when schools of interpretation ask us to personify and caricature objects as autonomous and alive—whether they are the objects who “speak” in the new so-called vibrant materialism, or objects who fuss and act up in actor-network theory, or objects with “primitive psyches” in object-oriented ontology. Is this really the way to think at this moment? For Marx, at least, this way of thinking about objects is what keeps capitalism ticking. To adopt such a philosophy, no questions asked, is fantasy—commodity fetishism in academic form. To identify such philosophy as the metaphysics of capitalism is theory, ever attentive to history’s impress on our imaginations, whatever we may dream.
_______________________Under the hood of capitalism flows another world, a dark world of economic counter-insurgents. A realm of noirpreneurs who slip the electronic seeds of an anarchic future of pure freedom beyond the capture systems of global governance. A cryptosociety of dark capitalists who live in the shadow markets outside the global eye. This darker world of the bitcoin and blockchain revolution is unleashing the teeth of a global systemic exit, a techno-secessionism that seeks not only to forget capital’s fractured End Game but to undercut its all too human roots in transparency with utter opaqueness and anonymity.
Yet, as I began researching this post this morning, reading through subjects as various as bitcoin, blockchains, dark markets, dark wallets, etc. I also began to see the trail leading back out of the darkness and into the treadmill of advanced capital itself. Already the signs of larger corporate initiatives are under proof-of-concept to integrate many of the new technologies of these global anarchic techno-commercialists into the mainstream. ...(more)
Illegality Regimes: Mapping the Law of Irregular Migration
Edited by Juan M. Amaya-Castro and Bas Schotel
AmeriQuests Vol 11, No 2 (2014)"Recent years have seen the development of increasingly sophisticated legal and policy approaches to address the phenomenon of irregular immigration. Many states have moved beyond traditional means of law enforcement, such as criminalization, without necessarily abandoning them. In addition, they have begun to employ other areas of law (such as administrative law and labor law) in pursuit of controlling irregular immigration. For example, the verification of legal residence status, by means of ID-controls, has become increasingly necessary in the day to day life of all people: citizens and non-citizens alike. Private citizens, and not government agents, are evolving into the primary enforcers of these policies, as they have been made legally responsible for the control of legal residence status, for example in the case of employment.
These legal and policy instruments have sometimes been justified with reference to economic theories, such as 'attrition through enforcement', the broken window theory, and most recently 'self-deportation', a term that ironically originated in a stand-up sketch performed by two Hispanic comedians in the mid '90s, and has since then been promoted to a major policy proposal in the Romney campaign for the US presidential elections. Among economic scholars, a debate about the (lack of) effectiveness of these policies has been growing the last couple of years. What is still absent, however, is a more rigorous analysis by legal and other social science scholars. This special issue aims to explore the more systemic dimensions of these responses to irregular migration."
links assembled at Omnivore
Herring Fisher’s Goodbye
The Closing of the Canadian Mind
The early polls show Mr. Harper trailing, but he’s beaten bad polls before. He has been prime minister for nearly a decade for a reason: He promised a steady and quiet life, undisturbed by painful facts. The Harper years have not been terrible; they’ve just been bland and purposeless. Mr. Harper represents the politics of willful ignorance. It has its attractions.
Whether or not he loses, he will leave Canada more ignorant than he found it. The real question for the coming election is a simple but grand one: Do Canadians like their country like that?
August 20, 2015
from a wearing of light
Felino A. Soriano
A breath stretched its skeletal sound.
Its corporeal state, altered, renaming.
Man does this, developing ideology of selective façade.
Something becomes altered following the
hand’s evil speculation.
designs beyond what
delves into gradating an eventual improvisation
of sound and mobile dexterity.
I’ve seen dragonflies examine blur as thesis confirmation.
The good eye researches factual alphabets confirming
duality of already splayed and unorganized plurals. Tiredness
of static smallness portends a trend furthering the baseline
behavior of why aloneness leads to remembering.
Of the poetry this jazz portends
Felino A. Soriano: poet of cooccurrences
some Asemics & Langrids
otoliths issue thirty-eight
southern winter, 2015
We Dance On: On Reading Roethke
It’s as if the entire critical apparatus used to deal with a writer whose work grapples explicitly, aggressively with the Eternal has disappeared. Aside from Annie Dillard, whose work (both creative and critical) certainly soars with a transcendentalist, eternity-haunted uplift, there have been few recent writers willing to wade out into the mouth of the river and seek the God-who-dwells-in-the-depths. What’s a contemporary critic to do with a writer who pleads, Hopkins-like, near the end of his final book of poems:Lord, hear me out, and hear me out this day: / From me to Thee’s a long and terrible way?(....)
There are two kinds of reading. The first involves sucking up a writer’s body of work vacuum-style, like a construction worker eats his lunch, quickly and efficiently. This style of reading is not without its merits, being that there is more out there to read than one could ever hope to finish, and to have a solid breadth of reading is essential for any writer. Yet the dark side of this kind of reading is that while one may scoop up the general concepts, subject matter, and style of any particular author, as one blazes through their collected poems, one runs the risk of missing the real depth of the author in question (if there is any). The second kind of reading is exactly the opposite of the first. It’s the kind of reading proceeds solely — and, typically, slowly — for nourishment’s sake, and it’s the kind of reading I gave to Roethke’s final book of poems, The Far Field. For months I went nowhere without my library copy of it. When I finally, reluctantly, had to turn the copy back in I bought my own. I read and reread the massive, expansive poems of the “North American Sequence,” and the apocalyptic, God-beyond-God obsessed “Sequence, Sometimes Metaphysical,” sometimes lingering with those poems the way one lingers in bed on a Saturday morning, sometimes shaking in the dark, repeating:The right thing happens to the happy man....(more)
Page 26 from About Trees,
2015. Tacita Dean’s essay “Michael Hamburger” translated into Trees.(....)
Katie Holten: About Trees is a book about trees written in trees. It’s a collection of texts about trees, about the notion of trees, and a constellation of tangential tree-related things. Everything is translated into Trees, a new typeface that I made especially for the project. At the core of the book is a Tree Alphabet with trees replacing each of the 26 letters of the standard English/Latin alphabet. These characters were transformed into a font, the typeface called Trees.
I think of the book as an archive of human knowledge filtered through branches of thought. It traces a shift in consciousness from anthropocentric thinking to a contemporary realization that our way of life has probably created a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. The book maps the move from Darwin’s “I think,” written beside his sketch of the tree-of-life illustrating human consciousness as the highest step on the evolutionary tree, to Eduardo Kohn’s “How Forests Think,” an anthropology beyond the human. The writings of Bruno Latour and Timothy Morton have been useful for me to understand my own work and current thinking around object-oriented ontology, which puts things at the center of the study of existence.
_______________________Perhaps it is time for us to open our ears and to hear the world anew. Every issue our politicians discuss; every campaign our activists wage; every environmental catastrophe we bear witness to; every historical event that has shaped our world; every relationship; every love affair; every birth; every death; everything on this little planet, since it came into existence 4.54 billion years ago, has either created a sound or has a sound associated with it. Sound is important and we ignore it at our peril.
August 19, 2015
Memory and Distance1992 Etching and woodcutMichael Mazur 1935 - 2009War VariationsAmelia Rosselli1930 - 1996 Translated from the Italian by Lucia Re and Paul Vangelisti
the god who burns everything between pickup truck and pity, the grand salami the grand universe oh you are one being with such a keen point that I change color solely considering you but the man with his variegated multicolored pains (o grand variety of the whole!) traps me in a relationship so increasing and so hard to bear so extraordinarily guilty, that I delay any customary custom because my customary senses have seen too much of the world spread like a lot of flour, between mountains, beaches, trees, peaches, every kind of saliva at your feet, and you who understand nothing and cannot (and cannot ever) connect the variegated vicissitudes in a single going in a single one of god’s plagues because he hides behind the shadows. and what did that crowd want from my senses other than my scorched defeat, or I who begged to play with the gods and stumbled like a poor whore up and down the dark corridor— oh! wash my feet, take the fierce accusations from my bent head, bend your accusations and undo all my cowardice!: it wasn’t my wish to break the delicate layer of ice not my wish to break the mounting battle, no, I swear, it wasn’t my wish to break through your laughable laughter!— but the hail has other reasons than serving and the wet eastern wind of evening does not dream of standing watch by my disenchanted lion sobs: no longer will I run after every passage of beauty,— beauty is defeated, never again at attention will I snuff out that fire now glimmering like an old tree trunk in which hollow swallows make nonsensical nests, child’s play, unreckoning misery, unreckoning misery of sympathy.
On Translating Amelia Rosselli Jennifer ScappettoneLocomotrix Selected Poetry and Prose of Amelia Rosselli, a Bilingual Edition Edited and Translated by Jennifer Scappettoneuniversity of chicago press
Certainly discovering the poetry of Amelia Rosselli poetry gave me a new purchase on the languages present in my childhood and a new understanding of the hybridity of my Italian background. Even though her background was nothing like mine. I learned through Rosselli how tradition gets carried along, gets distressed, tattered, and reemerges in pieces.
The way in which Rosselli addresses history in her poems is much more indirect than people might imagine at first. In other words it is not the writing of witness. You almost never find an autobiographical trace except in a fragment that is quoted all the time. “Nata a Parigi travagliata nell’epopea della nostra generazione fallace…” (Born in Paris Labored in the epic of our fallacious / generation…). Instead history is kaleidoscopically refracted in her works; it is processed in the everyday. There is never a meta-historical analysis, never the arrogance of history with a capital H —history already understood— but rather history as processed almost in a corporeal way, as encountered in the low things. She was so attached to the low things. AC History confronted through language… JS Yes. You can read history in the fractured logic of her work. In the syntax that is so tortured, in the neologisms… that is where you find history. The English language meeting the French language meeting the Italian language: that is the history she addresses. And of course there is literary history, from Dante, the Dolce Stil Novo, from the metaphysical poets… It’s an experimental approach to history, never a historical narration.
P.Z. 11'Alfred Wallisb. August 18, 1855
Rising Speech: Are We Still Worthy of Poetry? [pdf]Maurice Blanchot Translated by Wanyoung Kim
It is here that it translates, "this madness," that it comes back to us as the impossible need. Translating especially the untranslatable: when the text does not only carry an autonomous meaning which alone would be important, but when the sound, the image, the voice (phonological) and especially the principality of rhythm are predominant compared to the meaning or making good sense, so that the meaning is always in action, in formation, or "the nascent state" cannot be dissociated by what by itself is not stored in the semantics. And this, this is the poem. Certainly, no translator, no translation will not pass it, intact, from one language to another, and will not permit it to be read or heard as if it were transparent. And I would add: happily. The poem in its original language, is always already different from the language, whether it restores or establishes it; and it is this difference, the otherness, where the translator grabbed it or where it is grabbed, modifying in its turn its own language, making it dangerously moving, removing its identity and transparency to the "common sense," as Valéry says. Opacity? Opacity of sense? Opacity as meaning? Neither one nor the other. The opacity has multiple layers of language through which they walk and form what eventually - in infinity - mean: strata that simultaneously flicker or darken by the significance, moments by themselves neglected in common parlance, transforming then just to make comprehensible another another form of agreement, the unlimited agreement that breaks the ordinary trade. Hence, perhaps, the poetic loneliness (has anyone been there to understand it? It is infinitely enough to hear it?); hence also the poetic fraternity ("sovereign conversation"), since which, by the poem, we are called to the urgency of interminable ration where the "I" has always faded away to the other, and where speech, writing, and sign collapse without constantly pursuing anticipation that dissolves them and mysteriously remains there by a frightening dispersion.Poems By Amelia Rosselli And A Conversation With Rosselli Translator Diana ThowFrom Serie Ospedaliera Amelia Rosselli Translated by Diana Thowjubilat * You don't remember my golden shores, as if I think obnoxious you lean out the balcony, without seeing anything beyond your mind, which struggles to write beautiful things. Otherwise with every gust of wind you'd be there, at the hanging, enriched by your richly metaphored foundations. And then you'll see the blue sky, coloring itself with your spite which leans out too, assisting you, attending you as you embroider other small artifices, or shipwreck, with your muse. And how sweet to shipwreck in this wild sleep, and how sweet to not think beyond the mania of seeing, touching, feeling smelling your full repose. Then you touch the foot, you spill it into the olifactory, you take it by the hand and approach it, the sign on the segment that pops up between the rocks, which covering you the houses become fortresses, for your small town, that amuses itself almost innocently, you raised the bull so much. And you push it, the foot, to an open door, and you greet the ladies (to the man you don't offer your hand). And then you descend again, through naked piazzas through no-man's land, alleys swollen with the rain, which you don't see so much now that it's dry the sky unsheathed you descend again, the hour accompanies you, it's a mix of fate and your habit of making every sob into one more life.*via The Page
Women in the Avant-Garde Rosselli & revolutions of content Sandra Simonds & Catherine Wagnerlana turnerPoems from Locomotrix: Selected Poetry and Prose of Amelia RossellisibiaNomadic Translations: (G)hosting in Amelia Rosselli’s Variazioni belliche Aarón Lacayo
A native speaker of several languages, Rosselli committed herself to writing mostly in her father’s tongue while working against its formal and cognitive limitations. Some of her poems critique the interdependence of aesthetic and capitalist formations, and in this they resemble the writing of Eduardo Sanguineti and his fellows in the neo-avant-garde, though Rosselli and other women remained “a tiny and marginalized minority” in the movement (Re). Suspicious of avant-gardism and its tendency to reify hierarchical and exclusionary practices in its efforts to resist, even more suspicious of mainstream confessionalism’s “self-exceptionalizing” gestures, Rosselli wrote a radically anti-egoistic poetry, “choral” and macaronic, that integrates rigorous formal invention with a irreverent and strategic melding of her several native languages in order to “address afflictions shared” (Scappettone).
Michael Mazur"But how many daydreams we should have to analyze under the simple heading of Doors. For the door is an entire cosmos of the Half-open. In fact, it is one of its primal images, the very origin of a daydream that accumulates desires and temptations: the temptation to open up the ultimate depths of being, and the desire to conquer all reticent beings. The door schematizes two strong possibilities, which sharply classify two types of daydream. At times, it is closed, bolted, padlocked. At others, it is open, that is to say, wide open. And what of all the doors of mere curiosity, that have tempted being for nothing, for emptiness, for an unknown that is not even imagined? Is there one of us who hasn't in his memories a Bluebeard chamber that should not have been opened, even halfway? Or which is the same thing for a philosophy that believes in the primacy of the imagination, that should not even have been imagined open, or capable of opening half-way? How concrete everything becomes in the world of the spirit when an object, a mere door, can give images of hesitation, temptation, desire, security, welcome and respect. If one were to give an account of all the doors one has closed and opened, of all the doors one would like to reopen, one would have to tell the story of one's entire life. But is he who opens a door and he who closes it the same being?" - - Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, translated by Maria Jolosreposted from Whiskey River