blog,personal commentary,reflections on the human condition,ephemera,notes from the underbelly
http://web.ncf.ca/ek867/wood_s_lot.html - 02/06/16 13:11:27 - 11/28/04 07:34:47
February 05, 2016
Book of Hours: Labours of the Months
The Maxims Of Martin Traubenritter
revised and enlarged
We look at children playing in a world of things, sensations, perceptions. We try to teach them language. Language estranges them from what is to be known. Do we do it because we envy their total immersion in this actual world? Or do we yearn to give them language so they can talk to us, tell us, remind us of what we lost, forgot? And the cost to them of such messages we receive, it’s terrible but scarcely noticed in the busyness of things: the loss of their own immersion.
Language is the real baptism—the enrolment of the newborn into a world made up almost entirely of conventions—religion is not the only religion, alas.
The Pacific Wall of Kienholz/Lyotard
ctheoryPerhaps it is just what happens when one reaches the West coast of America--the Pacific Wall as Jean-François Lyotard calls it in a rather obscure and obscured text written in the nineteen seventies. Perhaps a similar sensation confronted Hitler when, facing the Atlantic, he is turned back towards the immolation of the ground war. Backs to a wall and the scene turns nasty. Backs to the wall and the catastrophe strikes. This will be played out, as we will see, in the fascism and racism all too well known in the binary twin of Amerika/Europe or, if you prefer, Lyotard/Kienholz.
Lyotard, like many of his French colleagues, went to the coast as a visiting professor. Sitting in the Geisel Library of the San Diego campus, evidently named after Dr. Seuss, one enters the fantasy world of make believe and children's rhymes for Geisel and for Lyotard, as well as rather fanciful stories. In an odd way this is reflected in the library itself, which is unique by being the first library to embrace Google and in having a phantom third floor and with a wall of glass facing the Pacific--the virtual coming to rest in the labyrinth and in the gaze over the Pacific, two themes that occupy Lyotard.
And Lyotard is not alone in his fascination for the view. Take for example, the Canadian artist Alex Colville's haunting work Pacific 1967. Picture the back of a shirtless man looking out of the glass window on to the ocean, a revolver on a table in the foreground. Painted in 1967 this work catches that period of the paroxysms of violence in the US.
Man on Verandah
_______________________There are now three translations of Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle in print, and the work has penetrated intellectual popular culture to a certain degree. Ironically, you can now find ads all over the internet that mindlessly repeat the same clichés to market this scathing critique of consumer capitalism. A long blurb begins by touting it as “the Das Kapital of the 20th century.” By some strange coincidence, Amazon, Walmart, Powell’s Books, Abe Books and Google Books all agree totalistically with every last word of the long spiel. Even the “Book Depository” couldn’t find anything in it to shoot down. On a more serious note, Ken Knabb claims that it is “arguably the most important radical book of the twentieth century”—a rather grandiose claim, and I’d hate to get assigned this side of the argument in a debate. Nevertheless, it’s somewhere up there with the most influential works, and one might certainly wish that it had actually left Lenin’s What Is To Be Done?, Mao’s Little Red Book, and Guevara’s Guerilla Warfare in the dust.
One reason why this is an auspicious time to reconsider Debord's Society of the Spectacle is the t that a revised editionof Knabb's translation has just appeared (Bureau of Public Secrets, 2014). It will be a very valuable resource for the studyof Debord and the Situationists. Knabb has not only improved his already very competent and readable translation, but also added extensive and very useful notes. Debord was sometimes vague about his sources, so Knabb has tracked them down, and often adds helpful comments on their significance. Furthermore, he has added notes that provide extensive background and bibliographical information on radical and revolutionary history. He also cites other Situationist texts onvarious topics, which is extremely useful, since there is an unfortunate tendency to equate all Situationist ideas with those of Debord.
Situationists reached many impasses, as will be discussed shortly, yet made a huge contribution to the development of radical thought. It still has crucial lessons for the left, and the libertarian left in particular. If the Situationists had done nothing else, it would be enough that they showed the fecundity of the encounter between Marxism and anarchism, and the folly of being naively and reactively "against Marx" in the name of anarchism. They show us why we need to be for Marx for the sake of anarchism, and against Marx for the sake of Marx.
The Society of the Spectacle
(New Annotated Translation by Ken Knabb
Bureau of Public Secrets
The Vectoralist Class, Part Two
McKenzie WarkWhat if history can be neither negated nor accelerated? Perhaps second and third nature have been built so broad and so deep that there's no getting around this infrastructure. Thus while the commodity economy keep plodding along, at its own relentless pace, it forms agents of any class in its own image and obliges them to work in the forms it determines. What if even the vectoral class had little power anymore over its own creation?
The Horror of Materialism
The dream of an identity of being and thinking is also a dream of emancipation; for where presence reigns there is also no need for an alienation in the sovereign. The sovereign rules because we believe him to have knowledge, wisdom, to lead us to flourishing. Where we have this knowledge we no longer need him. Today that dream lies in ruins. No one can master it all; no one is an expert. It’s turtles or authorities all the way down. None of the scientists at CERN really understand what the others are doing, but must trust what the others are doing, that they know, to do what they’re doing. The presence called for by the tradition of epistemology is no longer sustainable. Everywhere we just encounter citation. And at that point, I wonder, what becomes of the dream of philosophy? How must we conceive of knowledge, and knowledge as it relates to emancipation, today?
February 03, 2016
photo - mw
_______________________When C.D. Wright died Jan. 12, American poetry lost one of the great ones, one of the figures who changed what the language can do, one of the writers whose lines and titles, sentences and similes are going to last at least as long as American English. That’s something I believe, but it’s also something that seems inappropriate, even rude, to say, because Wright’s artistic powers cannot be separated from her deep sense of democracy, her work against boundaries, rankings and exclusions, her insistence that poetry, and society, should become, not a hierarchy or a star system or a way to exalt a singular self, but a way to be generous, to share the powers we get, to give of oneself, to let everybody come in.
...(more)From “The Obscure Lives of Poets”
C. D. WrightHow is it that you live, and what is it you do?Three, no, four, that I know, married women
— William Wordsworth, to the leech-gatherer
of means and brains. One grew moss on her tongue, waking from dreams that smelled
of mildew or hoary socks on a smothering train.
One turned to falconry and the construction of seed bombs to be dropped from three-
story houses. One burned her burka upon being released
from prison for the fourth time shamed so down deep in her molested self, washed
henceforth in formal darkness, another burned
her wedding dress in a fire pot while house finches splashed in the birdbath. [how one
moment touches on another moment and a thought flickers on and off ]
One poet, obsessed with vulvae, son of a butcher,
displayed a large bezoar on his coffee table, and slept in the bear nests in the d’Ardèche,
obsessed. One poet, adopted shortly after birth
by a levee builder on the St. Francis, shot himself with a target pistol on a beautiful
afternoon in early June. One lay across the tracks
on the brink of the Tiananmen uprising. One picked up her manuscript, a block of ash,
from the embers of her Oakland home. Bakhtin, as we know,
smoked his very best pages in prison. The poems of Radnóti were found by his widow in
his overcoat, in a mass grave. ......(more)
Beckett on Film: PLAY
(Dir. Anthony Minghella, 2001)
PLAY A play in one act by Samuel Beckett (....) W1: Yes strange darkness best and the darker the worse W2: Yes perhaps a shade gone I suppose some might say M: Yes peace one assumed all out all the pain W1:till all dark then all well for the time but it will come W2: poor thing a shade gone just a shade in the head M: all as if never been it will come Hiccup. Pardon W1: the time will come the thing is there you'll see it W2: Laugh . . . just a shade but I doubt it M: no sense in this oh I know none the less W1: get off me keep off me all dark all still W2: I doubt it not really I'm all right still all right M: one assumed peace I mean not merely all over W1: all over wiped out -- W2: do my best all I can -- M: but as if never been -- ...(more)
photo - mw
The hurts of wanting the impossible
A review of 'Supplication: Selected Poems of John Wieners'
It’s fun to sit on the subway in New York and read this new Wieners collection with its one-word title, black on cream: Supplication. Wave Books’s austere design suits poems that have been sacred to me since I was handed them as talismans, years ago, by poet friends. How much recognition do we want someone whose true home is “underground” to get? Underground because he chose Boston, lyricism, and a courtly remove. And more, because he chooses perdition: “Damned and cursed before the world / That is what I want to be.” Poet and critic Andrea Brady, in her work on the poet’s archive, quotes Foye: “Nobody had ever seen anyone throw themselves into the abyss the way John did.” Why does a person throw himself into the abyss? Why does a person take heroin? And then write of it, “But I don’t advise it for the young, or for / anyone but me. My eyes are blue”. Two lines that manage to be all at once knowing, greedy, arrogant, assertive of a special power and also, to my ear, aware of the hollowness of that assertion (it’s arbitrary and comes too readily to hand). Drugs are for escape, they’re for posturing, they’re for denaturing the visible. But in the case of this poet of loneliness, they are also a way to “collapse in a heap on the bed of the world”. Denied our lives, we seek oblivion, and hope that beyond or through it we might be permitted to alter the order that foreclosed our true existence from the outset. Collapsing, dissolving: we have been taught to act, but Wieners knows it’s better, instead, to beg — to be convincing, under extreme pressure, by manifesting preferable alternatives with the allure of a mirage. He chooses supplication.
February 02, 2016
Carnival Theory Jennifer Higgie on the bewildered mystics, mournful minstrels and mysterious rituals of Ryan Mosley’s paintingsfrieze magazineI’m not convinced that you need me to explain Ryan Mosley’s paintings. Everything you need to know about them is right there, humming on the surface: trippy, funny and melancholy, these are virtuoso hallucinations in a high-keyed palette – hot pinks, fluorescent orange and wild flashes of cerulean blue. Mosley’s canvases are populated by merry turncoats, bewildered mystics and mournful minstrels, all coming or going or mutating into something or someone else: dancing, smoking, fleeing or wrestling, making music, performing enigmatic rituals or just sitting, staring into space. Many of them appear to be searching for something, be it salvation, a god or a good time. Bodies sprout limbs in unexpected places; tops hats commingle with topiary; an avalanche of umbrellas, pipes, skulls, cacti and caps, birds, banjos, beans and boots tumble from painting to painting. Like out-takes from fairy tales, the works have a narrative thread buried deep beneath their surfaces, but if you’re after a beginning, a middle and an end, then you’re bound for disappointment: nothing so straightforward exists here. The head – the source of all thinking and dreaming – and what contains and covers it, is a recurring theme. Mosley – and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say so – is haunted by hats: towering top hats, floppy brown caps and huge hair that may as well be a hat. As in life, faces are complicated: like mad flowers sprouting from the same stem, there are often more than one on a single neck or lots of them embedded in someone’s hair (Oak Maiden, 2008); they also have a tendency to morph into masks. Beards are popular not, I assume, because they’re fashionable, but because in Mosley’s world there is no time to shave and, anyway, in these eccentric lands I suspect barbers are thin on the ground. Dead heads, like a chorus of tipsy memento mori, also occasionally make an appearance, but they’re not particularly gloomy. In Dance of the Nobleman (2010–11), for example, skulls float about a dancing man like dreamy girls at a party, while an audience of blank, uniform heads watches them.
Smoking PilgrimageRyan Mosley 2014The Reverberations of History: Contemporary Austrian LiteratureWords without Borders - February 2016translationMaja HaderlapTransled by Tess Lewis is there a zone of darkness between all languages, a black river, that swallows words and stories and transforms them? here sentences must disrobe, begin to roam, learn to swim, not lose the memory that nests in their bodies, a secret nucleus. will the columbine’s blue be a shade of violet when it reaches the other side, and the red bee balm become a pear, cinnamon- sweet? will my tench be missing a fin in the light of the new language? will it have to learn to crawl or to walk upright? does language know how to draw another language towards it or only how to turn the other language away? can each word, then, risk the transit, believe itself invulnerable, dipped in pitch and hard as steel?
Saying Nothing and hearing EverythingRyan Mosley 2013
On Rae Armantrout's 'Just Saying' Matthew GagnonRae Armantrout’s 2013 book Just Saying, a phrase that calls into question the veracity of what we say, think, and feel to be the case, or a phrase used to offload the force of an insult, suggests a motif of our inability or refusal to render our systems of thinking and believing in convincing terms. To be sure, the poems are varied in their address, circling around domestic concerns, mortality, social codes, product placement, forms of transactions, and systems of belief. One of the moves that Armantrout makes so well is to channel the many-tongued voicings of the clichéd-chorus. In the cacophonous, hyper-mediated Internet age, in the postrecession capitalism of America, in the images reflected back to us from the culture industry, Armantrout’s poems take on the bricolage of heterogeneous language acts and recast them to render new systems of meaning. It is in this recasting that poetry can be thought of as an instrument to not only document our present conditions on the ground, but to refigure those conditions, to see them anew.
The Thirsty ScholarRyan Mosley 2010-2011Anti-Birthday PoemYa Shitranslated by Nick AdmussenDrunken Boat 22
Using vague pronouns to indicate the needle in the cottonball, he, she, it.... If the sentence is nothing but subjective, then please cross it out. Thick violet medicine is installing a tiny propeller between half-dream and half-wake, carrying the hum call of bees, indistinct but steady— in my city's red-orange outpatient medical tower, my discovery is: the noun of central authority, aided by monkey doctors whose white hands reek of Lysol, has sprinkled its syrup more or less everywhere. 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?
Piano TunersRyan Mosley 2011
February 01, 2016
Arguments from a Winter’s Walk
translated by Adam Siegel
conjunctions(....)Translator’s Note “It seemed to come out of nowhere”—Thomas Bernhard’s first novel, Frost, published by Insel Verlag in 1963. The work that preceded this bombshell gave no indication of the breakthrough to come—a neat caesura from the “routine” lyricism of Bernhard’s poetry (On Earth and in Hell, In hora mortis) to the “verbal fury” of the painter Strauch. But the true breakthrough—what one German critic called “the birth of the coroner, the invective hurler, the egomaniac, the conjurer of catastrophes”—has been rediscovered. “Arguments from a Winter’s Walk” was published in 2013 by Suhrkamp as “Argumente eines Winterspaziergängers,” together with a companion work, “Leichtlebig.” Both were written in the winter and spring of 1962. While the earlier fragment, “Leichtlebig,” is similar in style and tone to Bernhard’s apprentice prose work (the abandoned novels Schwarzach Sankt Veit and Der Wald auf der Strasse), “Arguments,” written for publication in the Austrian literary journal Wort und Zeit, is Frost in nuce: It strips away the latter’s narrative interludes, devoting itself solely to the monologues of the unnamed doctor (several of these monologues appear, with slight variation in wording and placement, in Frost). “Arguments” is both dry run and distillation, a palm-of-the-hand version of the work to come, and the closest look we have of the Bernhard laboratory at zero hour.Out here are peculiar valleys, said the doctor, and in these valleys are castles … one goes into them and there is nothing more in the world to seek out, the world whence one came … doors open, and behind them, enthroned, sit people in expensive clothes, as though drawn from nonexistent portraits, unheeding … one enters … one is addressed, seemingly without ever hearing a voice or language … having always been untutored in this art … I know nothing of words … nothing of answers … one doesn’t speak, one just listens—everything has a serviceable name, a label, none of it applied in error, you should know … they say simple things that float above you like a cloudless blue sky … nothing fantastic though it all stems from fantasy … nature—the greatest simplicity, opulence, amiability, nary a trace of sin … not even a hint of discord … a perpetual honeymoon, you should know, just cool reason and the innateness of concepts … all our days and all our nights—comely faces for now and for always … sleeping and waking … the air wrought so clear … my God—how apt! … the slow effect of ideas, feelings, climaxes, feigned amazement … laws that lack the punitive element have a certain validity, mind and temperament united in human nature—logic set to music … old age capable of beauty, youth rising like foothills … in the afternoon the shadows fall … truth lies in the bed of the river, they say, the inscrutable as realization … this is, said the doctor, more like a revelation from a dream, but truer than most means of contemplation …
Five Prose Poems
alligatorzineThe Shine of Eternity in a Postcard Rack
Language is shaped by abstraction. Which isn’t saying much. But it’s true. The luminous roots of a ripe truth blossom into similes. A mouth is like a spout and a tornado endorses the airport spoons. The structures endure. Envy hurls its descriptions of wealth at a single wool glove and unemployment is ghostly. Anyone will tell you that. A dazzling evocation is longer than a murky sensation and the day convulses with parody. I’m not joking. The travel agent dialed the wrong number and got Kierkegaard rather than Socrates. This is how we ended up in Corsica rather than the Canary Islands. The sculpture in the corner startled us with its exhalation. A small stone condensed the ocean into a hard inscrutable wrinkle. This is how perceptions happen. They begin as a stimulus in the nerves and travel to a place in the brain where paper lanterns float in the river Oi and images crash among the ganglion attracting mosquitos and flies. As soon as you begin writing poetry you find yourself in a foreign country. It may be the country of your origin, but it will soon enter your eyes and skull as a foreign country. That’s pretty much the whole point. The reason for the endeavor.
"To rule forever," continues the Chinaman, later, "it is necessary only to create, among the people one would rule, what we call...Bad History. Nothing will produce Bad History more directly nor brutally, than drawing a Line, in particular a Right Line, the very Shape of Contempt, through the midst of a People,-- to create thus a Distinction betwixt 'em,-- 'tis the first stroke.-- All else will follow as if predestin'd, unto War and Devastation."
- Pynchon, Mason & Dixon
Three Prose Pieces
Martin EdmondLe bateau ivre
in the Timor Sea
The boat they gave me was a small wooden shell, a coracle, without a sail or oars: half a coconut lacking the meat. There was just enough room in it to recline. I didn’t care. I drifted down the estuary, indifferent to my fate as to the world around me. The current took us out into the fuming tides where, lighter than a cork, we danced upon the waves. I ate, I drank. I slept. I tried not to think. Days passed, and nights, and I saw nothing but the waves rolling eternally over the graves of the dead. After not so many days my food ran out and I began to hunger; lying sick in the bottom of the boat. Sometimes it rained and then I drank from the sky. I must have fallen into a delirium. When the sea rose and salt water washed over the edges of the hull I counted it a blessing: a douche of blue wine washing us clean. I was spattered with shit and vomit, on the outside, and on the inside gathered the grimy accretions of thought and all that it produces. Regrets, second guesses, ifs and buts, all the rest of that contaminated crew. So the sea’s blue wine washed over us and then it seemed I bathed in some oceanic unauthored poem, azure, lactescent, infused with stars that I sometimes glimpsed, like promises, far above; a pale scrap of flotsam, a dreaming, drowning man, sinking towards death; yet voyaging on. ...(more)
photo - mw
January 28, 2016
The Skirts of a Wood
b. January 27, 1805
Doubts and a HesitationGuernica
translated from the Persian by Ahmad Nadalizadeh and Idra Novey
Even your name
I have doubts about
and about the trees
about their branches, if perhaps
they are roots
and we have been living
all these years underground.
a captive man’s conjectures
about the seasons behind the wall.
Rilke's Russian Poems
translated by Philip Nikolayev"On returning from his first trip to Russia, full of deep impressions and planning to move there permanently (a dream that never came true), Rilke suddenly found himself writing poems in Russian. As he noted in his diary, the first of them “unexpectedly occurred” to him in the Schmargendorf forest near Berlin in late November 1900. By early December he had written six Russian poems. He dedicated them to Salomé, who found them “grammatically off” yet poetic. He revised those and added another two in April 1901. In the fall of 1900 Rilke met his future wife, Clara Westhoff, and his life changed. He never returned to Russia but retained his love of it and his ties with Russian poetry, namely, with Marina Tsvetaeva and Boris Pasternak.
My translations of Rilke’s Russian poems are intended as an experiment in bringing to light their substance, form and implied tone as faithfully as I could manage, while stripping away the infelicities of the originals."
—Philip NikolayevThe Battersea Review[Two Poems of April 1901]...(more)
I’m so tired of trials by morbid days.
An empty night, windless across the fields,
lies plain above the silence of my eyes.
My heart began like a nightingale begins,
but could not finish the telling of its words,
and all I hear now is its very silence
swelling up in the dark like a nightmare
and darkening like the last gasp of air
by an unlamented child past all remembrance.
I’m so alone: nobody understands
the silence that is the voice of my long days,
there being out there no such wind as opens
wide the ample heavens of my eyes.
Outside my window an enormous day stands
on the city’s strange edge, a large man lies,
awaiting. Is this I, I ask myself,
awaiting what? And where’s my soul?
b. January 28, 1912
The Mind of the Modern: An Interview with Gabriel Josipovici
VB: Looking over your collected works and the experience I’ve had reading them, I’m reminded of Barthes and his comment that some of his best reading occurs with the book face down on his lap, staring into the middle distance. There is something so potent that happens when your writing comes into contact with my imagination. There’s a concept you may have heard of – the ‘unthought known’ – created by psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas. It refers to the immense store of knowledge that we own unwittingly, having never put it into words because we became aware of it in a wordless fashion. Bollas says: ‘There is in each of us a fundamental split between what we think we know and what we know but may never be able to think.’ Some of it will never be articulated and so, he says it’s important to ‘form a relationship to the mysterious unavailablity of much of our knowledge.’ And somehow, this is how I feel reading you. You take me towards the unthought places without ever speaking them yourself. It’s the spirit of the Between, if you like, who has his own chapter in Goldberg. Does that make any sense to you?
GJ: Yes, it makes a lot of sense. It’s what I look for in my writing, what I want to read and can’t find in the writing of others. I’ve never read Bollas, but what he says makes perfect sense to me. I wouldn’t even call it a ‘fundamental split’ – I think rather that our bodies know more than we do and that the task of art is to find forms and words that will allow the body to speak.
McKenzie WarkMarcel Mariën (1920-1993) is not the best known of the surrealists – it doesn’t help that he was Belgian. But he has a few claims on our attention. For one, he invented his own version of what is now called object oriented ontology in 1944. For another, he had a theory of the society of the spectacle that pre-dates Debord’s by nearly a decade. And for a third, he was a fine aphorist in the style of Lautréamont.
he Belgian surrealism of Magritte and the more hard-core Belgian poet Paul Nougé, was a poetics of producing disturbing encounters. The Belgians were opposed to André Breton’s surrealism of automatic writing and contemplation of the marvelous. They were closer to Paul Eluard’s maxim that “the poet is one who inspires far more than he is inspired.” Mariën took from Nougé a poetics of producing disturbing encounters in the moment of reception.
Mariën’s ‘Nonscientific Treatise on the Fourth Dimension’ of 1944 has recently been translated for the Surrealism Reader (Tate 2015). It begins: “Every object, thing and body has four dimensions. A pear, a house or a woman have their height, width, depth and image (or surface). There fore the eye always perceives only the fourth, the image-dimension, which is also mind, thought, dream, memory and that of which we speak… Touch cannot reach the true depth of objects any better than the eye can. The universe is hermetic to them both.” Perhaps we could think of object oriented ontology, of which this might pass as a basic statement, as a late version of surrealism.
beech and oak
Our lives no longer feel
attared. The grand pronouncements
feel fine, like how discs of blood
disperse themselves throughout
the body, like how the bloodworm
swells to move. I accept the life.
I accept belatedness.
Then rain comes on without trajectory.
It is simply crowds. On the car, silver enamel.
In one sentence, the automobile festoons
death and is freed from it, the miss,
the child’s backseat fright,
That night, absently flossing one’s teeth close
to the mirror, this mouth all skull.
Temple, bungalow, the merchandise
of ships beside trees—
most confusing still are the
conditions for attraction.
I don’t know if I want it, the sun
lice-infested. The lime in her burgeoning thought.
Replicant Futures: Nick Land and Alien Capitalism S.C. Hickman“I have not once had the least idea who or what I am,” says the Gray Bard of America. The nihilist undertones ringing out in that last dark hinterland of “ironical laughter” of the unknown “real Me” who outside our thinking, our intentional directedness stands in the unconscious libidinal matrix of the impossible Real, the indelible stamp of the withdrawn and “mocking me with mock-congratulatory signs and bows,” pointing in silence to old Walt’s “songs, and then to the sand beneath”. A dark vision indeed. Most think of Walt as the happy camper, the wild and free poet of optimism, democracy, and sunshine. But under it all is this moody and terrible being of pessimism and nihilistic despair who believed that all his vein striving, all the metaphoric display, the grand gesture of the Leaves of Grass were but the spume and spray of rolling sand flecks on the edge of the Mother, the Ocean. Necessity, Ananke, Fate: the triune power of the ebb and flow of life bound within the circular motion of the death drives that move among the impersonal and indifferent stars and galaxies like a blind god, mindless and alone. But there is no mind in the universe of death, only the endless entropic madness of the Real.
Nick Land in his essay Machinic Desire remarks “In the near future the replicants — having escaped from the off-planet exile of private madness – emerge from their camouflage to overthrow the human security system. Deadly orphans from beyond reproduction, they are intelligent weaponry of machinic desire virally infiltrated into the final-phase organic order; invaders from an artificial death.”
January 26, 2016
Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray
a Handful of Dust: a conversation with David Campany
The Great Leap Sideways(....)A Handful of Dust
DC: In his 1963 memoir Man Ray describes how the dust photograph came about. He had been asked to document works in the collection of Katherine S. Dreier, who was then setting up the Société Anonyme and needed images for press and publicity. He recalls: “The thought of photographing the work of others was repugnant to be, beneath my dignity as an artist”. I’m fascinated by the idea of copy work being the basis, or even baseness of photography, and that a photographer with artistic ambition might be made anxious by it. That idea really haunts all of photography, but it energizes it too. Whatever the artistic ambitions, there remains a degree of plain, automated copying in all photography. I wanted to trace the arc of that anxiety and possibility. I also wanted to trace the arc of plain subject matter in photographic art, and you can’t get much plainer, less desirable than dust. Moreover, I think automated copying and dust are linked in photography. Dust is usually what you get as a side effect, both in modern life and in photography. There’s an unlikely kinship there. I can formulate it quite clearly now, but for a long while I was intuiting this and following my nose to a whole range of photographic practices and works from across the last century. These then got reconsidered much more soberly, and over time they were whittled down to a group or lineage that made some kind of sense to me. It included everything from postcards and press photos of dust storms, to avant-garde journal articles, conceptual art works, surrealist photography and documentary photography. Selecting and sequencing images. Over the years this has become my approach to writing. Images first, then words. In fact with my publisher MACK, we found a way to articulate this. The ‘image track’ of the book presents all the works one to a page, around 150 of them, arranged to articulate a chronology and various affinities. Then there’s an insert with my long essay, plus the works reproduced as small thumbnail illustrations. A viewer/reader can approach it image-to-image, or more ‘theoretically’ through my writing. Hopefully they’ll do both, feeling the differences and similarities.
Mack Books, 2015“The curator David Campany’s new book accompanies an exhibition of the same name, and proceeds in a free-associative manner. This “speculative history” obsessively considers things that look similar, work in similar ways, are made of the same substance or are linked to one another by faint but undeniable threads. Its starting point is Man Ray’s 1920 photograph of about a year’s worth of dust gathered on the surface of Marcel Duchamp’s sculpture “The Large Glass.” But the book somehow wends its way to aerial reconnaissance photography, abstract landscapes, forensics, American dust storms, artists’ videos and the Iraq War. The cumulative effect is brilliant, almost novelistic, and the book comes with a removable insert featuring an equally brilliant essay by Campany.”David Campany
Teju Cole, The New York Times
As I read through the collection of pieces in This Space of Writing, many of which are, but not confined to, reviews of works by Naipaul, Knausgaard, Josipovici, Munro, Bernhard, Kafka, Ford, Beckett, Lin (since they are also extensive meditations -- long trajectories of thought -- that hold all of these works in their widely crossed netting and transparency), I could see that, above all, Mitchelmore is particularly attuned to the form, the feel and the voice of a piece of writing -- the form/feel of its voice -- and that the sum of all these encounters makes his own writing here as tremulously alive and clear as so many of the works he writes about. After all, as Mitchelmore admits, 'sentences affect my experience of the world'. Instead of fumbling around for the feather and bolt contents in the plastic box of a book, whose clear sides we might all take for granted, Mitchelmore takes the whole box in hand and, like Nabokov, relies on the surer sense of his spine to know what it is he is holding.
Death of the PostHuman: Essays on Extinction, Vol. 1
Open Humanities PressDeath of the PostHuman undertakes a series of critical encounters with the legacy of what had come to be known as ‘theory,’ and its contemporary supposedly post-human aftermath. There can be no redemptive post-human future in which the myopia and anthropocentrism of the species finds an exit and manages to emerge with ecology and life. At the same time, what has come to be known as the human - despite its normative intensity - can provide neither foundation nor critical lever in the Anthropocene epoch. Death of the PostHuman argues for a twenty-first century deconstruction of ecological and seemingly post-human futures.Introduction: Framing the End of the Species: Images Without Bodies(....)Open Humanities Press
When today—with horror—we look at young minds, we ask how they have become nothing more than cameras or computational devices. The young brains of today are not affected or world-oriented; they manipulate Facebook numbers with ruthless algorithmic force, and ingest images without digestion or rumination. We watch, with horror, as the human brain reverts to being not so much a reader of Proust as akin to a squid, or mere life. This tendency to be nothing more than a screen for images is observed as at once the brain's horrific tendency towards self-extinction (an internal and ever-present threat) and as accidental or extrinsic (something that has assaulted us from without, by way of technology and modernity).
Our very narration of the brain and its emergence as the properly synthesizing milieu from which all other imaging milieus need to be considered, shelters us from the thought of the inhuman images that confront us at the limits of the embodied eye. We can recall, here, Deleuze's criticism of Bergson, which is technical and counter-vital. Bergson, like so many other early modernists mourned the living and dynamic eye that had been sacrificed to technological expediency. For Bergson the intellect cuts up the world in order to achieve managerial efficiency and then subjects itself to that same technical calculus. The mind starts to operate with an image of itself as some type of viewing machine. Redemption, for Bergson, lies in retracing the path, regaining a vitality that would no longer be that of the bounded organism. Intuition would pass beyond its enclosed self-interests to arrive at the perception of life’s duration or élan vital. For Deleuze, by contrast, the problem is that the eye remains too close to the lived. (So, today, when we demand ‘reality’ of television and cinema, or if we criticize cultural production for being too irrelevant or divorced from everyday life, we do so because we think there is such a thing as life and reality to which vision ought to be subordinate.) Rather than asking the eye to become organic once more, and to re-find its place in life, Deleuze asks for an inhuman perception: can we imagine the world without us, not as our environment or climate? Drawing on Bergsonism, rather than Bergson’s concrete example of the fallen nature of cinematic perception, Deleuze calls on philosophy to ‘open us up to the inhuman and the superhuman durations (durations which are inferior or superior to our own), to go beyond the human condition’. It is the cutting power of the eye that needs to be thought: the eye would be approached as a form of synthesizer, but as an analog rather than digital synthesizer. That is: the eye does not need to free itself from imposed distinctions to return to the flow of life, but should pursue ever finer cuts and distinctions, beyond its organic thresholds.
January 25, 2016
EkelyGeorg Baselitz 2004On Translating Hester Knibbe Jacquelyn PopeWhile leaf scatters across the path, the body already braced for snow, in the head still remains of summer: that evening we sat at a table outside talking and addressed the fleshpots, the owls made the night a spectacle. We could not see them but heard their calls cross through the dark to no one in particular. Airy response came from far and seemingly higher. We imitated them, would have liked for a moment to be invisible too, waiting for an answer that surely should come. But we sat much lower, almost lightheartedly laughed and drank our shard- and bottle-bliss together. Hester Knibbe translated by Jacquelyn PopeHester KnibbePoetry International
Knibbe’s reticence is contemplative rather than stubborn; actions are observed rather than explained. Repetition of the quotidian often features in her poems, as if a story is being repeated to be made to come true, or as if events are being retraced to be undone. Time is always slipping past, and change is both constant and inescapable. It is the threat of change, the moment of change, the consequences of change that Hester Knibbe tries to grasp and shape in her poetry. Additionally, there is an identification with things that are ruined or damaged or misunderstood—whether a mute statue or the human wrack left after the Flood. The bewilderment that is expressed in many of Hester Knibbe’s poems allows both the poet and the reader a chance to stall, to hover at the borderline between life and death, which are two sides, two halves—two illusions, perhaps.
Adler1977Georg Baselitz b. Jan 23, 1938The Mythology of Selfishness Mary Midgley"This lush background mythology of gene-selfishness supplies the teleological jam that is always needed to make a thin scientific story go down. And the confident certainty of finding evolutionary functions for everything provides it with a plausible background. In fact, as many people have pointed out, if you try to sling out Nature – or indeed the whole idea of Nature – through the door, she always comes quietly back down the chimney. And this may leave you worse off than you were before."
The trouble is that theorists who think natural selection can only work by cut-throat competition between individuals pursue that pattern obsessively, without glancing at the social phenomena they are supposed to be explaining. ... Though these scholars presumably know, like the rest of us, that a direct wish for particular kinds of deal with other people constantly determines our social activities, they still believe that, behind this screen, there lie hidden the real causes, elements of evolutionary advantage which affect ourselves alone. However hard that advantage may be to find – however little evidence there may be that could possibly reveal it – it is still the real McCoy. This preference for supposed hidden causes over obvious ones is surely not a parsimonious way of thinking and neither, as it happens, is it Darwinian.(....)
Of course it is never easy to accept the role that the thoughts and feelings of our own parents – and indeed of everybody else’s – on similar occasions have played in making things be as they are now. Yet we know that these thoughts and feelings, not only then but throughout their lives, have indeed had this sort of importance. Our own thoughts and feelings – the constant flow of inner activity by which we respond to the life around us – also affect the world as well as our outward actions. This thought is so frightening that scholars will often go to any lengths to avoid it, which is why that ludicrous doctrine epiphenomenalism still has supporters, and why people spend so much more of their time on sociological statistics, neurological details and speculation about evolutionary function than on studying motive. Thus the picture of natural selection which was shaped around Darwin’s main proposals used only two sombre colours – black for death and white for survival. Nature appeared in it only as an obsessive accountant, spectacles on nose and ledger in hand, testing every action in those terms and destroying the failures. Any trait still appearing in the world was deemed to have passed her audit in some distinct, discoverable way which constituted its evolutionary function. This figure of Nature is, of course, quite unlike the sort of nature that we actually find at work in the animal and vegetable world, where it is notoriously a cornucopia, a wildly lavish scatterer of endless seeds and young, a generous, profuse, imprudent source of new life. And when we consider our own motives, we see that this vegetatious figure is a far better likeness of the kind of nature that animates us inwardly. Life for us is not just the absence of death. Life consists of endless crowded wishes, fears and activities, all primed by their own immediate aims and interests, not by long-term prudence. Like other conscious creatures we usually take action because we want to, and if our nature did not provide us with many vigorous wants we could not act at all.
The HawkGeorg Baselitz 1971The library is where the cursed children hid. Nietzsche And The Burbs>
The library is where the cursed children hid. The library is where the mutant children fled, every morning break, every lunch-time. Children changed into something monstrous. Children betrayed by their own bodies. Children watching themselves transformed, day by day… Children of strange gods. There was a veritable freak-show in the library. A cabinet of human curiosities. Obscure ailments. Deformations unknown to science. Like some remote inbred tribe … What mad scientist was let loose here? Evolutionary experiments. Wild deformations. Mutations almost glorious. As though designed by some drunk god. By some King-Ludwig-of-Bavaria God …Celan the Aphorist45.3 The League of the Homeland-evicted. The League of the World-evicted remains to be called into existence.
Except for two essays and one prose piece (Conversation in the Mountain), Celan did not publish anything beyond his poems and translations. But he did leave a rich trove of aphorisms, paradoxes, sketches, and short narrative & topical fragments (often returning, sometimes openly, sometimes in more veiled terms, to questions of Jewishness, of politics, of the mistreatment that befell him via the Goll affair). All these are fascinating as they are not only a pleasure to read qua writing, but also because they help throw light on a complex, profoundly private & and often secretive man. Be that as it may, for me maybe the most useful of this work is a range of reflections, just as short & pithy, on poetry & poetics.The Archaeologist Hester Knibbe Translated by Jacquelyn Pope In one who doesn’t speak the story petrifies, gets stumbled over, causes hurt. Then, says the man who should know about the past, then is a word you need to learn now. Then lived lives had has a name a body, sacrificial hands so god might help us. Feel with your hands and feet back along these countless steps and hear the incessant bloodrush, its dark red presence. That was what the man insisted, in so many words, pointing to the ornate temple corridor, an altar conjured at its vanishing point.
Folkdance MelancholiaGeorg Baselitz 1989
Schrödinger's Cat Ursula K. Le Guin
A cat has arrived interrupting my narrative. It is a striped yellow tom with white chest and paws. He has long whiskers and yellow eyes. I never noticed before that cats had whiskers above their eyes; is that normal? There is no way to tell. As he has gone to sleep on my knee, I shall proceed. Where? Nowhere, evidently. Yet the impulse to narrate remains. Many things are not worth doing, but almost anything is worth telling. In any case, I have a severe congenital case of Ethica laboris puritanica,1 or Adam's Disease. It is incurable except by total decapitation. I even like to dream when asleep, and to try and recall my dreams: it assures me that I haven't wasted seven or eight hours just lying there. Now here I am, lying, here. Hard at it.
The yellow cat, who may have belonged to the couple that broke up, is dreaming. His paws twitch now and then, and once he makes a small, suppressed remark with his mouth shut. I wonder what cats dream of, and to whom he was speaking just then. Cats seldom waste words. They are quiet beasts. They keep their counsel, they reflect. They reflect all day, and at night their eyes reflect. Overbred Siamese cats may be as noisy as little dogs, and then people say, "They're talking," but the noise is farther from speech than is the deep silence of the hound or tabby. All this cat can say is meow, but maybe in his silences he will suggest to me what it is that I have lost, what I am grieving for. I have a feeling that he knows. That's why he came here. Cats look out for Number One.
January 22, 2016
d. Jan 21, 1914
Antonio Gamoneda and the ontology of disappearance
A review of 'Description of the Lie' and 'Gravestones'
jacket2Rust is the color of disappearance, the deintensification of metallic solidity. Seen in a different slant of light, rust produces a reintensification of color in the meeting of iron and oxygen, the proliferation of autumn in a congeries of breath, moisture, and steel. On the tongue rust acquires a taste: the bitterness of a disappearance, an evaporation that leaves behind the strange piquancy of material erosion. In Antonio Gamoneda’s Description of the Lie, rust invokes the beginning of a precipitous, painful knowledge, a forgetting that paradoxically initiates a splintering of presence into prismatic refractions that call attention to time’s invisible phenomena:Rust alighted on my tongue with the taste of a disappearance.Rust in this sense leaves a taste of forgetting, or the sight of “a calcified boat in a country from which the sea has receded,” leaving only the impossibility of a sea, a lost remembrance contained in the sight of cuttlefish bones and striated canyon walls, a place evidenced by an illegibility of ruins. To paraphrase a Deleuzian maxim, the pursuit of the impossible occasions a new set of possibles, new forms of description. Yet taste and sight do not predominate in Description of the Lie so much as does aurality. Absence, after all, is articulated by the optical “lack of many a thing … sought,” a remembrance of things past which, in Shakespeare’s original formulation, “drowns an eye” (in tears, but also in a cognitive blindness) and becomes absorbed in sonic traces at the “expense of many a vanished sight.” Gamoneda does not see (he cannot see what is no longer there), but he listens:
Forgetting penetrated my tongue and I had no recourse but to forget,
and I accepted no value other than impossibility.I listened to the surrendering of my bones being deposited in rest,...(more)
I listened to the flight of insects and the retraction of the shadow
on entering what was left of me;
I listened until truth ceased to exist in the space or in my spirit,
and I was unable to resist the perfection of silence.
Lauren BerlantToday I introduced Facebook to someone older than me and had a long conversation about what the point of networking amongst “friends” is. The person was so skeptical because to her stranger and distance-shaped intimacies are diminished forms of real intimacy. To her, real intimacy is a relation that requires the fortitude and porousness of a serious, emotionally-laden, accretion of mutual experience. Her intimacies are spaces of permission not only for recognition but for the right to be seriously inconvenient, to demand, and to need. It presumes face to faceness, but even more profoundly, flesh to fleshness. But on Facebook one can always skim, or not log in.
My version of this distinction is different of course, and sees more overlap than difference among types of attachment. The stretched-out intimacies are important and really matter, but they are more shaped by the phantasmatic dimension of recognition and reciprocity–it is easier to hide inattention, disagreement, disparity, aversion. On the other hand it’s easier to focus on what’s great in that genre of intimacy and to let the other stuff not matter. There’s less likely collateral damage in mediated or stranger intimacies. While the more conventional kinds of intimacy foreground the immediate and the demanding, are more atmospheric and singular, enable others’ memories to have the ethical density of knowledge about one that is truer than what one carries around, and involve many more opportunities for losing one’s bearings. The latter takes off from a Cavellian thought about love–love as returning to the scene of coordinating lives, synchronizing being–but synchrony can be spread more capaciously and meaningfully amongst a variety of attachments. Still, I think all kinds of emotional dependency and sustenance can flourish amongst people who only meet each other at one or a few points on the grid of the field of their life.
I sense that Facebook is about calibrating the difficulty of knowing the importance of the ordinary event. People are trying there to eventalize the mood, the inclination, the thing that just happened–the episodic nature of existence.So and so is in a mood right now.So and so likes this kind of thing right now; and just went here and there. This is how they felt about it. It’s not in the idiom of the great encounter or the great passion, it’s the lightness and play of the poke. There’s always a potential but not a demand for more.
Here is how so and so has shown up to life. Can you show up too, for a sec?
To be irritable is to be attuned to the way any effort of attention relies on a thousand inattentions: the space cleared for contemplation is cleared by forgetting and ignoring every other thing. It’s insane what a person can not-hear: I was once told that they have to change the ambulance siren sounds in big cities every four or five years, because people get used to them and stop hearing them. In some sense the ability to understand speech entails un-hearing what it sounds like: rhythms and patterns clearly recognizable in a language you don’t know disappear as you learn the language and begin to hear “past” the sound into its meaning. They come as a surprise when poetry awakens them again. Irritability is the incapacity for a necessary form of inattention; noise is its proper object, since noise is simply the sound you’re not listening for, the sound you’re trying not to hear.
The need for not-hearing reminds me of Nietzsche’s encomium to another sort of negative capability: forgetting. In a beautiful passage in On the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche shows how necessary such negative capability is: the “breeding of a creature who can make promises,” he observes, is all the more remarkable because, while to promise is to (promise to) remember, humans can be present, to themselves and to the world, only through forgetting. If the mind is, in the old Platonic metaphor, a wax tablet, forgetting is the heat that melts it smooth, preparing the way for new inscriptions. Anything, even dead matter, can take a mark: you can engrave a record of the past into cold stone. What makes a mind is its capacity for constant erasure. Memory comes later, and only on the basis of forgetting.
For Nietzsche, the inability to forget was the formula for madness: the man who enters the marketplace carrying a lamp to announce that “God is dead, and we have killed him” is a madman because he doesn’t know another sun has risen, because he hasn’t yet forgotten the night of the world. This formula for madness was prescient, or influential: for Freud, too, madness would be unforgetting. And what else is the “trauma” that obsesses our own culture than a pathological memorization?
Irritability is a related kind of madness: the inability, not to forget, but to ignore.
b/ Jan 22, 1879
In the Tumult of Translation
We should say at the outset that while Levi liked to describe himself as a writer with a determinedly plain style, the truth is rather different. Often a direct, speaking voice shifts between the colloquial and the literary, the ironically highfalutin and the grittily scientific. It’s true that there are rarely serious problems of comprehension, but the exact nature of the register, which is to say the manner in which the author addresses us, the relationship into which he draws us, is a complex and highly mobile animal. It is here that the translator is put to the test.
January 19, 2016
photo - mw
Caitríona O'Reilly on "Blue Poles"Blue Poles (after Jackson Pollock)
From Geis by Caitríona O’Reilly
Freedom is a prison for the representative savant
addled on bath-tub gin and with retinas inflamed
from too long staring into the Arizona sun
or into red dirt which acknowledges no master
but the attrition of desert winds and melt-water.
Is that why you cast such desperate lariats
across space, repeatedly anticipating the fall
into disillusion, the sine wave skewered
by the oscilloscope, the mirror’s hairline fracture?
The West was won and there was nowhere left to go
so you vanished into a dream of perpetual motion
knowing that once to touch the surface
was to break the spell, but that while the colours hung
on the air an instant, there was no such thing
as the pushy midwife, the veiled mother in the photograph,
the rich woman’s bleated blandishments.
Tracing the drunken white line at midnight on the highway,
you were too far gone to contemplate return,
like Crowhurst aboard the Electron; not meaning
to go to sea, but drawing about you
such a field of force that there was nothing left to do
but plant blue poles among the spindrift and iron filings
and step, clutching your brass chronometer,
clean off the deck and into the sky
where a lens rose to meet you like a terrifying eye.It would be nice if poetry wrote itself. Occasionally, when I was younger, I had the feeling that it did: poems were likely to be written quickly, in a flush of enthusiasm it pleased (flattered) me to call inspiration. Sometimes so quickly that in some kind of weird hippocampal storm I had the feeling I was remembering something and copying it down rather than making it up as I went along. Those were the best times. As one gets older the realisation dawns that the hotline to Parnassus was little more than the excited firing of youthful synapses and that the process happened quickly because one’s brain was younger. Idleness was also a factor. Now it feels more like hanging onto a rising balloon, or chasing after a snatch of melody just on the edge of earshot. I’m referring to the initial draft only here: the spit-and-polish stage can take anything from days to months to years.“It felt like a breaking of some taboo I’d placed myself under”:
I had got it into my head, after reading a biography of the American painter Jackson Pollock, that there were uncanny similarities between his ‘predicament’ and that of the English yachtsman Donald Crowhurst. If I had stopped to think about how irrational this comparison was I would never have attempted to write a poem about it, but the initial enthusiasm for a poem can feel a bit like an ill-advised infatuation: in your heart of hearts you know it’s a questionable idea, but you can’t help hoping it might all turn out for the best anyway.
Caitríona O’Reilly on writing Geis
Wake: Up to Poetry
Lucy Collins reviews Geis, by Caitríona O'Reilly
dublin review of booksGeis is a collection concerned with the spaces between – between people, between words. The awareness of emptiness, evoked in so many of the poems, prompts contemplation: here meaning is created, not merely represented, as we sense the poet resuming a process of reflection after a lengthy absence. Past and future are held in a delicate balance throughout the volume.via the page
b. January 19, 1867
a transformed inwardness of time
Maurice Blanchot -- The Experience of Proust
quoted at flowerville
We see that what is given to him at that instant is not only the assurance of his calling, the affirmation of his gifts, but also the very essence of literature-he has touched it, experienced it in its pure state, by experiencing the transformation of time into an imaginary space (the space unique to images), in that moving absence, without events to hide it, without presence to obstruct it, in this emptiness always in the process of becoming: that remoteness and distance that make up the milieu and the principle of metamorphoses and of what Proust calls metaphors. ...(more)
A General Theory of Oblivion by Jose Eduardo Agualusa
Review by Dustin Illingworth
quarterly conversationEarly on in Jose Eduardo Agualusa’s A General Theory of Oblivion, the narrator offers this bit of difficult wisdom: “Any one of us, over the course of our lives, can know many different existences. . . . Not many, however, are given the opportunity to wear a different skin.” It’s an implied celebration of literature, one that weaves itself into the fabric of Oblivion. Locked as we are within a given body, temperament, and time, literature can transport us, can transmute textual experience into an expansion of inwardness, an amplification of consciousness. The best books—which Agualusa’s charmingly melancholic novel approaches—haunt us and, indeed, cover us like “a different skin.” Here, however, writing is even more than that: for Ludo, the agoraphobic and mysteriously damaged protagonist, writing is a matter of life and death, a story she scrawls on the walls of her home with charcoal. Fragmented and densely layered, Oblivion unfolds within the possibility—and the tension—inherent between writing and identity, text and meaning, story and life.
Fenced in Child
b. January 18, 1932
Larval Terror and the Digital Darkside
Nandita Biswas Mellamphy(....)E-International Relations
... Larval terror’ is the feeling of ontological and epistemological insecurity that results when we are confronted with the infinite recursivity of the larval condition. When viewed within the context of globe-girdling and ubiquitous digital information-networks, what is terrifying about this reality of advancing ever-masked (especially in digitally mediated societies such as our own) is the ease by which its banality and ubiquity—its ongoing and widespread everydayness—can be weaponized. Even more terrifying than the realization that every mask hides another mask is the weaponization of insecurity that results from this larval feeling of terror. A passage from Philip K Dick’s classic Scanner Darkly (1977) is telling in this regard:One of the most effective forms of industrial or military sabotage limits itself to damage that can never be thoroughly proven—or even proven at all— to be anything deliberate. It is like an invisible political movement; perhaps it isn’t there at all. If a bomb is wired to a car’s ignition, then obviously there is an enemy; if a public building or a political headquarters is blown up, then there is a political enemy. But if an accident, or a series of accidents, occurs, if equipment merely fails to function, if it appears faulty, especially in a slow fashion, over a period of natural time, with numerous small failures and misfirings—then the victim, whether a person or a party or a country, can never marshal itself to defend itself.Larval terrorism weaponizes the larval capacity to use and switch masks, to play upon the play of dissimulation (while advancing upon the ‘stage of the world’) in order to go undetected—mismasked, mis- /un-named, hence ultimately unidentified—by one’s opponents. This is the second important point I want to highlight: one of the main contributions to larval terror today has been from governments (in collusion with supporting commercial enterprises) that, in the name of fighting the larval or ‘asymmetric enemy’, are entirely invested in the politics of fear and in heightening popular paranoia for the purposes of actualizing so-called ‘counter-terrorist’ measures that include large-scale, indiscriminate, covert and illegal surveillance of individuals and populations. The ‘asymmetric enemy,’ an enemy that cannot be readily or easily distinguished from ‘friend,’ is not just camouflaged, but is said to take on many forms. The ‘asymmetric enemy’ as ‘larval terrorist’ is not an ‘individual’ at all, but is best understood as a network of larval forces that is able to utilize and thus weaponize its transitory, polymorphous, and emergent attributes. The concept of ‘asymmetric enemy’ thus becomes a weaponization of the larval and polymorphous nature of identity itself, and has been used by insurgents, governments and corporations to justify their own, often covert, interests.
Welcoming the étrangère
jacket2Wise navigator of translation, Paul Ricoeur identifies the experience of crossing over languages as both challenge and source of happiness. Equipoise and equanimity arrive via linguistic hospitality, that sheltered inlet "where the pleasure of dwelling in the other's language is balanced by the pleasure of receiving the foreign word at home, in one's own welcoming house." We set anchor there. Low tide, walk through shallow waters to shore. We arrive someplace entirely new — and also strangely familiar.
Or maybe we are the ones to hear the knock on the door.
The étrangère is both (and possibly at once) the not-from-here and the one inside the house. She is both (and possibly at once) someone else and the one glimpsed in the glass. She is Stranger, Foreigner, Other. And all of the above, in turn.
When you attempt to translate—or interpret—Finnegans Wake, you have to be aware that, inevitably, you will lose some points at the source and you have to gain some others in your target language. But you don’t have a choice and cannot miss the motifs since they are the cues for an extremely complex novel. The reader—if careful enough, determined and willing—can follow a protagonist or a repeated event through motifs. Readers could feel free to pay or not to pay enough attention, but as a translator, I must and do pay my utmost attention to motifs.
DP & SJ: What did you find to be the most difficult aspect to grapple with in your translation of the Wake?
FS: Most probably the Joycean words. Let’s think about it. He, the master builder, says something in so-called English but the same word indicates something else if you read half of it in Gaelic and the rest in Latin. You have to correspond all three of them and if, in a way you succeed—bad news—that’s not enough. Your word has to get the right syntax within the sentence and—worse news—it still may not be enough. You also have to catch the phonetic. Oh, I’m tired. But Finnegans Wake deserves it all.
photo - mw
Thoughts on Osip Mandelstam's Birthday
jacket2A birthday that happened 125 years ago today... & still I can't find an English translation that satisfies me completely. Most of them feel more or less flat, with Mandelstam turned into a most salon-fähig lyrical poet of medium to low intensity. (Oddly enough this is true especially of those translations extolled by Joseph Brodsky, someone who should have know, as he was a native Russian who wound up writing in English, but I guess my judgment here may be tainted as I find Brodsky's English work très fade...) Clarence Brown's versions may still be the least problematic, but I can't wait for John High's complete Mandelstam (his collaborative versions with Matvei Yankelevich are lovely indeed) — John, we need these! I have not yet been able to get Andrew Davis' just published versions of the Voronezh Notebooks, out earlier this month from NYRB Poets. Way back when — late sixties — my Bard College co-student Bruce McClelland published a translation of Tristia, which I found useful and quite readable back then. I wish he had continued to work on Mandelstam, but unhappily his interests wandered elsewhere.
What I have come to realize over the years is that the translation of truly major poets (of which Mandelstam is one) cannot be approached as an occasional occupation, i.e. as either a quick way to learn the tricks of a master (translating is the closest reading you can give a poem, so indeed the most useful activity in learning to write, as I have been telling my students for many years) or as a way to locate possibilities of publication by associating one's (as yet unknown) name with that of a well-known poet (though that too can be useful for a serious young poet). Looking at such multiple scatter-shot translations, in magazines, chapbooks or single volumes of major poets by numerous translators, gives me at times the impression of a haphazard gaggle of young (or not so young) poet-translators cutting their teeth by feeding on the giant corpse of a dead beached whale. At the same time, I'd like to add, having several translations of a great poem can also be of good comparative use.
January 18, 2016
Andrew Wyeth d. Jan. 16, 2009from Draft 74: Wanderer Rachel Blau DuPlessis Book I This the place where hopes had left their traces, stark in storm, stoked in “astonishing nights, foreigners among humans,” whose eye thirl, window whorl they Open Wide seeking wordth and depth, if ever, given ques and querl, this wordth and depth could be, and want to speak to sight, to sigh and rage, not for that hour, nor for that place yet nowhere unembellished by some trace, documentary (that and more), witnessing (that many more) and witless, hurtful, “jesting air”—en- joined, frozen in mo ti on but not to crumble, rather stand. This has to stand, inside, longside as It; and yet is split, is double split, in impulse, turn, and goal. Still somehow moves (un- sanctioned? leaden?) fated, stripped,by road or pathway or through trackless field, Up hill or down. What hope then for the wanderer? Yet and Yet and Yet in place. Aura of words in a storm face. There are plenty of reasons to wonder.
'The page is slowly turning black'Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s 'Torques: Drafts 58–76' Harriet TarloI am always one volume behind in Rachel DuPlessis’s Drafts. Yet, I have been a loyal reader and realize to my surprise that she has been writing them/I have been reading them for the best part of twenty-five years now. We, author and reader, have been “strained companions” in the creation of this work. Often, throughout this essay, I refer to the “writer/reader” of the work to demonstrate the shared enterprise that is an intrinsic part of being in DraftsDrafts will not yield to you without attention, not just to the individual piece, but to a kind of active, physical juggling, the moving of the finger along the lines of the grid of poems, the reading back and forth within the folds of at least three books. Drafts are a pleasure and a weighty pain as they roll on remorselessly, demanding that you keep up, keep faith and care, that you follow through, follow back and forth, forth and back, reading notes, seeking intertexts, being in the process. We are as battered and elated as DuPlessis herself must be, by the end of each Draft, each volume, each enfolded reading. The poet is aware of this as she challenges, berates and encourages us in the journey. “Are you Ready? are you composed? / Can you go a third Vertiginous road?” she asks with a mocking rather jaunty half-rhyme at the beginning of “Draft 73: Vertigo” (and of course the capitalization of “Ready” makes us see “read,” asks if we are read-worthy of the journey). The whole project is vertiginous in its refusal to cease or fix. I think that my surprise at how long it has all been going on is due not just to the natural human amazement at how time passes, but also to how these pieces still feel so fresh and innovative, so contemporaneous, in their individuality and their structure as a long, ever-changing poem.Rachel Blau DuPlessis at EPC and the Poetry Foundation
White, over Red and Black (circa 1964)Tony Tuckson b. January 18, 1921
On the discrepancy between objects and things. An ecological approach.Fernando Domínguez Rubio Journal of Material Culture (Forthcoming)Abstract
The aim of this article is to develop a different approach to the study of the material world, one that takes seriously the seemingly banal fact that things are constantly falling out of place. Taking this fact seriously, the article argues, requires us to think about the material world not in terms of "objects", but ecologically, that is, in terms of the processes and conditions under which certain "things" come to be differentiated and identified as particular kinds of "objects" endowed with particular forms of meaning, value and power. The article demonstrates the purchase of this ecological approach through the example of the Mona Lisa. It does so by exploring the rather extraordinary processes of containment and maintenance that are required to keep the Mona Lisa legible as an art object over time.
What I want to propose in this article is an approach that takes all these processes into account. In other words, an approach that takes seriously the seemingly banal fact that things are constantly falling out of place. Taking this fact seriously, I argue, opens up an entirely different approach, one that takes temporality, fragility and change as the starting points of our enquiry. This, I argue, requires us to think ecologically , that is, not in terms of objects, but in terms of the discursive and material conditions and practices — what I will call the oikos —, under which certain things can be rendered possible, effective and reproducible as objects endowed with particular kinds of value, meaning, and power. To start making this argument, let me return for a moment to Gell, and specifically to one of the objects he wrote about: the prow-boards that Trobrianders place in their Kula canoes.
Imatra in Winter 1893Akseli Gallen-Kallela 1865 - 1931
The Aesthetics of Nostalgia: Ashbery's Cornell-like Poems Andrew Michael FieldJoseph Cornell and John Ashbery are united by an aesthetics of nostalgia. Each artist is enchanted and disturbed by the past, and they consequently invest their poems with a longing which can only be called nostalgic. They are nostalgic because time is passing, like a ribbon one is chasing that constantly eludes one’s grip or grasp; and because time is passing, ultimately leading to death, Cornell and Ashbery are possessed by a homesickness, a nostalgia, an ironic (because the past is out of reach, and therefore inescapably remote) sentimentality (because the past is out of reach, and therefore a springboard for subjective fantasy and reverie about the past). It is nostalgia – the awareness, the longing – that brings into being Ashbery’s wondrously funny and profound constructions – as if through their ceaselessly imaginative imagery they might blot out the homesickness at the heart of their issuing. (And it is nostalgia that propels Cornell through the book stalls of Manhattan, looking for objects that will hypnotize with their lyrical evocativeness.) Reading Ashbery, like the experience of living, is constantly analogous to this notion of a game being played, although with rules we are not intended to wholly understand. And this experience breeds not only frustration, but also, in a way, a new strategy of and for reading. For in reading an Ashbery poem, like looking at a Cornell box, the goal is not mastery. The goal is, rather, enchantment and absorption. And enchantment or absorption do not work in a linear or logical way, but instead catch us unawares, compelling us to open our eyes to moments we’d never dreamed possible. I experience this personally when I read Ashbery’s “The Wave,” full of instances that continue to shock me with their novelty and originality. Ashbery writes,One idea is enough to organize a life and project it Into unusual but viable forms, but many ideas merely Lead one thither into a morass of their own good intentions. Think how many the average person has during the course of a day, or night, So that they become a luminous backdrop to ever-repeated Gestures, having no life of their own, but only echoing The suspicions of their possessor. It’s fun to scratch around And maybe come up with something. But for the tender blur Of the setting to mean something, words must be ejected bodily, A certain crispness be avoided in favor of a density Of strutted opinion doomed to wilt in oblivion: not too linear Nor yet too puffed and remote. Then the advantage of Sinking in oneself, crashing through the skylight of one’s own Received opinions redirects the maze, setting up significant Erections of its own at chosen corners, like gibbets, And through this the mesmerizing plan of the landscape becomes, At last, apparent.
"Chocholy"1898Stanislaw Wyspianski 1869 - 1907“Once the object has beneath the brooding look of Melancholy become allegorical, once life has flowed out of it, the object itself remains behind, dead, yet preserved for all eternity; it lies before the allegorist, given over to him utterly, for good or ill. In other words, the object itself is henceforth incapable of projecting any meaning on its own; it can only take on that meaning which the allegorist wishes to lend it. He instills it with his own meaning, himself descends to inhabit it: and this must be understood not psychologically but in an ontological sense. In his hands the thing in question becomes something else, speaks of something else, becomes for him the key to some real of hidden knowledge, as whose emblem he honors it. This is what constitutes the nature of allegory as script.”The Great Leap Sideways
— Walter Benjamin quoted in Fredric Jameson “Walter Benjamin, or Nostalgia” (1970)