blog,personal commentary,reflections on the human condition,ephemera,notes from the underbelly
http://web.ncf.ca/ek867/wood_s_lot.html - 05/26/15 21:40:53 - 11/28/04 07:34:47
May 26, 2015
Dorothea Lange b. May 26, 1895
When the viewer vanishesLeena Krohn Translated by Hildi HawkinsBooks from Finland
Civilisations are not based on the intellect and rational thought to nearly the extent we wish to believe. In fact, the opposite is the case. The human world is built up of strange connections, logically impossible constructions: conjoined facts and fancies, double helices of the concrete and the illusory. I have sometimes used this idea to illustrate the concept of ‘tribar’. (This was originally the name given by the physicist Roger Penrose for a kind of triangle which can be drawn, although it cannot be constructed in three-dimensional reality.) For me, this ambivalence is one of the most important observations about the world: that our reality is never a matter of either–or, but always one of both–and. Money is an excellent example of such a tribar. In Tribar (1993) I wrote: ‘The new electronic economy has made money into an increasingly spectral phenomenon. Exchange rates and share prices are no more than digital states that jump in time to imagined futures. But how concretely these poltergeists are able to rattle our lives.’ Decades have passed, and money has increasingly little to do with the real economy. Money, which does not really exist, turns the wheels of the global economy. Money borrowed from the future has already been spent. A temporary currency supported forcibly by means of immense sacrifice, the euro, has begun to be described with the absurd concept of ‘irreversible’. In my youth I wasn’t in the least interested in financial matters or economic systems and I could not even imagine that such distant and incomprehensible things could ever influence my own work. I have subsequently been forced to abandon this ignorance, as I have so many others. Writers are not bystanders; they live as prisoners of the same delirious institutions as other citizens. They, too, live in the House of Usher.
Dorothea LangeBlame not my lute Thomas Wyatt Blame not my lute for he must sownd Of thes or that as liketh me. For lake of wytt the lutte is bownd To gyve suche tunes as plesithe me. 5Tho my songes be sume what strange And spekes such words as toche they change, Blame not my lutte. My lutte, alas, doth not ofend Tho that perfors he must agre To sownd such teunes as I entend To sing to them that hereth me; Then tho my songes be some what plain And tocheth some that vse to fayn, Blame not my lutte. My lute and strynges may not deny But as I strike they must obay;
Brake not them than soo wrongfully,
But wryeke thy selffe some wyser way;
And tho the songes whiche I endight
To qwytt thy chainge with Rightfull spight,
Blame not my lute.
.....................................................Basil Bunting’s voice is so familiar – the Briggflatts intonation, half-Santa Claus, half-priest, that hieratic tone which makes Ezra Pound reach for his kettle drum; those luxurious rolling rs. He plays wonderfully with the bathos of the sounding of the word “lute,” not pressing too hard on it, but giving it a solid /oo/ rather than /yu/ sound. His modern Northumbrian accent is not Wyatt’s Kentish early modern one, of course, and I can also hear Bunting’s age in his voice, where I think of Wyatt’s poem as that of a much younger man. Bunting sounds like he is reading Wyatt’s poem off a paper, you can almost hear the pauses as he squints – e.g. after the fourth line; so that speaks to the transition from oral cultures to print ones, a transition which interested Bunting too. And to have a performance text he also had to settle on a version of the poem, which means glossing over the worries around manuscript variants which are particularly acute in the case of the Wyatt canon.Basil Bunting's performance of Thomas Wyatt's 'Blame not my lute' [mp3]
Knowing this poem well, I’m struck by the contrast between the delivery, which is lyrical and pleasant, and my own preconceptions (or my tendentious reading of the poem for my current project on Poetry and Bondage). I fasten on the vocabulary of being “bownde” and commanded: “perforus he must agre”; “as I strike they must obay,” a violence which enforces submission, rather than a delicacy of “touch”; wreaking, rightful spite (a tautology which justifies and then immediately undermines itself). To me this is a poem not of whimsical or flirtatious banter but of violent competition, bridled by social decorum — or at least arriving at it through the often sadistic pleasures and complaints of Wyatt’s poetry makes me read it that way.
Elm Grove, Oklahoma
1936More poems by Robert Gibbons at Enduring GloucesterOn the Afternoon in the Aftermath of the Root Canal up in Lewiston
The root of the matter is crucial.
Even in as simple thing as a tooth.
Or that of the World Tree, roots reaching
deep in the realm of the underground. Heart
of the matter of language with its dirt, & clean
stones. Cistern of language I felt today, when down
by the waterfront the wind in the waves was more like weave
of a text, knowing that underneath ocean life teemed: cormorant,
seal, crab, & fish, right down to the floor of seaweed. Stood a while
taking it all in, reading the vast World, when the tanker, Leopard Moon
out of Singapore cast added daytime light on pages turning stars in the harbor.
May 25, 2015
photo - mw
Journey into the Interior
Born: May 25, 1908
In the long journey out of the self,
There are many detours, washed-out interrupted raw places
Where the shale slides dangerously
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
At the sudden veering, the moment of turning.
Better to hug close, wary of rubble and falling stones.
The arroyo cracking the road, the wind-bitten buttes, the canyons,
Creeks swollen in midsummer from the flash-flood roaring into the narrow valley.
Reeds beaten flat by wind and rain,
Grey from the long winter, burnt at the base in late summer.
-- Or the path narrowing,
Winding upward toward the stream with its sharp stones,
The upland of alder and birchtrees,
Through the swamp alive with quicksand,
The way blocked at last by a fallen fir-tree,
The thickets darkening,
The ravines ugly.
fishing on the Arno
Anarchist All The Way Down: [pdf]
Walter Benjamin’s Subversion Of Authority In Text, Thought And Action
James R. MartelIn this paper, I will be describing how Walter Benjamin is “anarchist all the way down.” By this, I mean that Benjamin is not only an anarchist by political temperament but in just about every other way possible as well. Although Benjamin tended to refer to himself as a communist, as I will try to show, his version of communism is anarchist through and through. In this paper I am going to focus on three ways in which Benjamin is anarchist: theologically, politically and linguistically. My argument throughout will be that Benjamin offers us a profoundly anarchist approach (even an anarchist method, as oxymoronic as that may sound) which encompasses not only what he says but how he says it. Theologically, Benjamin offers us a vision of God whose essential function in terrestrial matters is to destroy false notions that human beings project onto the divine. Rather than serving as a basis for the false models of political and legal authority that leads to what he calls “mythic violence,” for Benjamin God manifests the failure of these projections to be true, leaving us radically and utterly on our own. Politically speaking, such a view enables us to act in ways that are not predetermined by myths, either of the divine or secular variety. When we fight the sense of an inevitable fate that comes along with mythic violence, for Benjamin, we become aware of the ways that human beings are capable of making their own decisions both as individuals and as members of a community. As I will argue further, this is a profoundly anarchist insight insofar as it both allows and invites the politicization of vast spheres of human life that are normally considered to be already, and invariably, determined. Finally, in terms of his linguistic practices, Benjamin’s own writings perpetuate the anarchism he describes and promotes in his texts. As a writer, Benjamin is concerned above all with suspending and subverting figures of authority. This includes his own authority in his texts. For Benjamin, if an author speaks of decentering authority but retains a central authority as a writer in order to do so, he or she undercuts the inherent anarchism of that message. Benjamin avoids this problem by turning to techniques such as allegory and montage in order to make his own textual authority radically unavailable. In this way he repeats for the reader the position of the subject of divine acts of violence. As with that subject, Benjamin’s reader too is left to her own devices, shorn of any hope for rescue or redemption by any authority figure. In this way, theologically, politically and linguistically, Benjamin offers something of a seamless web of anarchistic practices; hence he is anarchist all the way down.
Savin Rock amusement park
West Haven, CT
Knots: For an Interactivist Ontology [pdf]
Levi R. BryantA flower turns towards the moon and begins to bloom late in the night. A glass mug shifts between different shades of blue, going all the way to black, depending on whether it’s viewed under harsh fluorescent lights, natural sunlight, candlelight, or in a dark room. Our bodies swell in extreme heat and contract when it is bitter cold. A person’s helmet cracks and they scream in the unimaginably cold reaches of outer space, yet no sound is emitted for there is no air to carry the waves stirred by their vocal cords beings are beingwith, ecological, and interactive. Let us begin as if we were prisoners in Plato’s cave,; the world of common sense and ordinary language. In the cave, when we speak of objects, of things, we conceive them as discrete, individual entities composed of properties. A rock isn’t particularly interesting; at least to anyone other than the geologist or the builder. It is gray, irregularly shaped, and just sits there. We conceive of it as doing nothing until it is acted upon. Then it will move, but in a Newtonian fashion. Something else hits it and it goes flying. In this world, rock, the prisoner says, is inert. Unlike living things, it does nothing if not prompted by something else. This is generally what we signify by the term “object”; an inert clump that does nothing.
Yet cave walls and ordinary language should be no guide to ontology or questions about the being of beings. Our tendency is to conceive objects as collections of properties or qualities inhering in a substance. ...
... what if, instead of thinking beings in terms of their qualities and properties—striving to distinguish between the essential and the accidental –we instead treated beings as activities, doings, and powers? Ask not what a thing is, for that will lead you to a list of qualities or properties. Ask instead what entities do. Indeed, when discussing properties, don’t stop by simply enumerating the qualities that a substance, thing, or individual being possesses. Instead treat the quality as an event, a happening, an act, on the part of the substance. Here we wouldn’t say that the rock is grey, but rather that the rock greys. The greyness of the rock would be the result of a verb or an activity.
Certainly this is a strange way of talking about substances or entities in the world, but is there good reason for it? ...
I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils,
Neat in their boxes, dolor of pad and paper weight,
All the misery of manilla folders and mucilage,
Desolation in immaculate public places,
Lonely reception room, lavatory, switchboard,
The unalterable pathos of basin and pitcher,
Ritual of multigraph, paper-clip, comma,
Endless duplicaton of lives and objects.
And I have seen dust from the walls of institutions,
Finer than flour, alive, more dangerous than silica,
Sift, almost invisible, through long afternoons of tedium,
Dropping a fine film on nails and delicate eyebrows,
Glazing the pale hair, the duplicate grey standard faces.
b. 23 May 1910
Demonstrating Precarity: Vulnerability, Embodiment, and Resistance
Arne De Boever interviews Judith Butler(....)
... It’s true that performativity broadly understood comes from a theory of language that talks about how language makes things happen, how certain categories can bring social realities into being, or produce certain kinds of effects. It’s a theory that in some way underscores the powerful effects of discourse, but there’s a question: how is it that we embody discourses, especially the discourses of gender? And what can we do, what kind of agency do we have in relationship to the categories that inhabit us, and that we in turn inhabit.
So for me, that meant thinking about what happens when we act in common, what happens when we act in concert. Hannah Arendt’s views have been important for me as I try to think about what performative action looks like, and demonstrations are of course a key way in which that happens. And when people are demonstrating about precarity, for instance, it’s not just that they get up and say, “We’re against precarity.” They are also embodied creatures in public space who are calling attention to the embodied character of their lives: this is a body that doesn’t have shelter, or this is a body that deserves shelter, or this is a body that ought not to be hungry, or this is a body that ought to have some sense of future, about its work or possibilities for flourishing. In other words, the body is not just a vehicle for the expression of a political view, but it’s the common corporeal predicament of those who need to be supported by proper infrastructure or social services, proper economic conditions and prospects. So that struck me as another way of making this point, and one that, I guess, for obvious reasons, is as important to me as it is to many other people at this point.
The Far Field
The lost self changes,
Turning toward the sea,
A sea-shape turning around, --
An old man with his feet before the fire,
In robes of green, in garments of adieu.
A man faced with his own immensity
Wakes all the waves, all their loose wandering fire.
The murmur of the absolute, the why
Of being born falls on his naked ears.
His spirit moves like monumental wind
That gentles on a sunny blue plateau.
He is the end of things, the final man.
All finite things reveal infinitude:
The mountain with its singular bright shade
Like the blue shine on freshly frozen snow,
The after-light upon ice-burdened pines;
Odor of basswood on a mountain-slope,
A scent beloved of bees;
Silence of water above a sunken tree :
The pure serene of memory in one man, --
A ripple widening from a single stone
Winding around the waters of the world.
May 22, 2015
Heureka - GesamtansichtdetailJean Tinguely b. May 22, 1925photo by Micha L. Rieser'Maybe, it is only on Earth / that we lose the body?' Williams and the decaying body Samantha Carrick"Williams engages in the language of medicine in order to establish narratives of a nonnormative body that is crippled by the traumas of time but persists: mapping his body outward onto permanent or powerful objects and spaces."The most compelling feature of William Carlos Williams’s poetry, for me, has perhaps always been the complex tango of virility and fragility that fight it out in his deeply autobiographical poetry. The idea that man could be both potent and capable of great frailty was a fact of his work that resonated with the vigorous and clumsy youth I was when I first encountered his work. Williams traces the deterioration and ultimate betrayals of his body in his poetry, reflecting on both the particularities of his condition and the universals of aging. Despite his best attempts, Williams’s body would always betray his impermanence, and developing medical technologies only seemed to solidify his sense of its precarity. Williams was always a bodily poet — think of his famous celebration of “my arms, my face / my shoulders, flanks, buttocks” as he “dance[s] naked, grotesquely / before my mirror” in “Danse Russe” from Al Que Quiere! (1917). But late in his career, he very deliberately engaged with a poetics of the body and wrote through dozens of attempts that paralleled changes to his body that would eventually end his life. In some work, he maps a body onto the landscape; later, he traces a poetic genealogy of successors including Allen Ginsberg. In other work, he explores his own deterioration through the metaphor of the A-bomb and through the disorienting effects of his mother’s senility. As Williams aged, he attempted to redefine the bounds of his own skin through his poetry seemingly in order to reconcile himself to his own decay as well as to reflect on continued anxieties about poetic immortality. He enacted the anxieties inherent to creative types, hoping that as his body weakened around his still-sharp mind that he could somehow guarantee the gesture of immortality, even as he acknowledged the necessity of grounding himself in reality.via berfois
The Wholeness Of Disparate Parts: A Conversation With Jason NocitoThe Great Leap Sideways
"The Book as a Container of Consciousness" [pdf]William H. Gass Wilson Quarterly.via Biblioklept
Last, as if we had asked Santa for nothing yet, the adequate sentence should be resonant with relations, raise itself like Lazarus though it lies still upon the page, as if - always "as if" - it rose from "frozen life and shallow banishment" to that place where Yeats's spade has put it "back in the human mind again."
How otherwise than action each is, for even if - always "even," always "if" -I preferred to pick the parsley from my potatoes with a knife, and eat my peas before all else, I should have to remember the right words must nevertheless be placed in their proper order: that is, parsley, potatoes, and peas . . . parsley, potatoes, and peas. . . parsley, potatoes, and peas.
That is to say, the consciousness contained in any text is not an actual functioning consciousness; it is a constructed one, improved, pared, paced, enriched by endless retrospection, irrelevancies removed, so that into the ideal awareness that I imagined for the poet, who possesses passion, perception, thought, imagination, and desire, and has them present in amounts appropriate to the circumstances - just as, in the lab, we need more observation than fervor, more imagination than lust there are introduced patterns of disclosure, hierarchies of value, chains of inference, orders of images, natures of things.
The Thunder of Sounding Whales David Eggleton reviews Puna Wai Korero: An Anthology of Maori Poetry in English, edited by Reina Whaitiri and Robert Sullivan Landfall Reviewvia the page
Poetry is ‘news that stays news’, wrote Ezra Pound, meaning that after the elapse of time burns away the circumstances that provide the impetus for a given poem, it endures and remains alive and kicking because of its own linguistic energies. Fossicking around in the archives of little magazines, Reina Whaitiri and Robert Sullivan have found a number of poems that remain alive, while the core of the book is made up of literary establishment poets: Hinemoana Baker, Rangi Faith, Keri Hulme, J.C. Sturm, Robert Sullivan, Apirana Taylor, and of course Hone Tuwhare, whose brilliantly burnished imagist verses would soar effortlessly into the heavens in any company:On the skyline a hawk languidly typing a hunting poem with its wings. (‘Bird of prayer’)Beyond that, this anthology asserts the new Maori poets, a community of poets channelling ancestral voices for contemporary times – though some of them have been around for a while, better known for writing in other genres: Briar Grace-Smith, Witi Ihimaera, Paula Morris, Kelly Ana Morey, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku. In sum, the editors have assembled 78 poets of Maori heritage: the crew of a mighty waka rowing in unison, and mostly chanting rhythmically and in harmony – a polyphony of voices, as focused as any Maori delegation to the world. This implies a certain amount of structuring and arranging since, as Robert Sullivan has pointed out, the notion of one united tribe of Aotearoa is a recent artificial construct. Formerly, this archipelago was made up of tribal lands controlled by a variety of autonomous iwi, often warring or competing with each other. What unites the present cast is an implicit celebration of their inheritance of Maoritanga – once repressed and thought destined for museum-stuffing – and the effects of that on today’s notions of bicultural identity. These poets are by and large a stroppy bunch; not always loud or rowdy, indeed frequently they are subdued and subtle, but if gladness and self-affirmation are dominant motifs, so are iterations of historical and contemporary grievances – and a sense of previously suppressed voices busting out, bringing the news that stays news.
Heureka - GesamtansichtJean Tinguelyphoto by Micha L. Rieser
May 21, 2015
View of Malakoff Hauts de Seine
b. May 21, 1844
Bach in Autumn
Jean-Paul de Dadelsen
translated by Marilyn Hacker
Once I knew days spent walking, the elms numbered toward evening
From milestone to milestone beneath a chromatic sky;
At night the inn where liver and fresh pork dumplings were steaming.
Once on free days I would walk all the way to Hamburg to hear the old master.
Handel had gone off in a post-chaise
To amuse the king of Hanover; Scarlatti wanders through Spanish feast-days.
They are happy.
But what use are the organ’s pedals, if not
To mark the indispensable way?
On this wooden path, worn like a staircase, daily, whether
Under the Easter trumpets or the paired Christmas oboes,
Under the rainbow of heaven’s and human voices
From milestone to milestone repeating my earthly voyage, I followed
The progression of the double bass.
Above the horizontal road that merchants take, not without risk,
To bargain in the shops of Cracow
For wigs, perfumes, pelts from the stalls of Novgorod,
A lark soars alone in the holy vertical.
Before the wingspread soul in its Sun’s wake
Can spring forth beyond the tomb, the rules, the law,
This earth must be learned in all its difficulty.
b. May 21, 1897
Taking a Measure of Happiness
David Beer reviews The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold us Well-Being, by William Davies
... Put simply, the question is whether happiness should be understood as being measurable, that is to say, that it can be captured in bodily responses and brain functions, or if we should think of it as something transcendent and intangible. For Davies, neither of these is likely to very gratifying – although, given the focus of the book, he understandably seems a little less concerned by the later. The important point for Davies is that both of these approaches simply ‘flip the same dualism’. His point is that in the case of the happiness industry – an industry built to promote our happiness, to limit our sadness, and to make us more profitable – the more subjective, mystic and ethereal accounts of happiness simply exists to ‘plug’ any ‘gaps’ left by more objective, scientific or neurological accounts. Some other approach is needed, he argues, one that is based on listening and a more political and sociological understanding of happiness and the conditions that facilitate or erode it. The case he makes is compelling. The book describes, in detail, an industry that has emerged that is designed to measure, manipulate and control our emotions. The examples roll from the pages, and the scale of the reach of this kind of economic behaviourism is startling. As Davies tellingly notes, ‘the current neuromarketing frontiers of behaviourism make John B. Watson look positively innocent by comparison’.
another review, by Joanna Scutts
The Empathetic Camera: Frank Norris and the Invention of Film Editing
The Public Domain Review(....)
McTeague’s depiction of an early commercial film audience is a scene that fits queerly into the rest of the story, as a strange foreboding of things to come. In McTeague’s incredulity, his mother-in-law’s distrust of the film apparatus as a kind of trick, and his wife Trina’s enchantment at the device, the reader gets an encapsulated view of the different responses to one of the most violently modern events of the time: a trip to the cinema, to see a past reality unfold as if in real time before people who were slightly unable to believe in this reality. This is part of Norris’ grand project, throughout the small but thematically consistent body of work he produced from the age of twenty-nine to his death three years later at thirty-two: a depiction of the everyday shock of new media and industrialization, the concept of capturing time and presenting its fictional form as the truth, through the film apparatus. Even if the story of audience members fainting at the arrival of the train on-screen is, as many suspect, a fiction, the reason for its existence as lore stems from a very real disjuncture, part of the premise of the industrial age. How can the present reality hold a living document of the past? How can a unit of lost time make such a realistic reappearance in the present?
Norris grew up inside of the changing urban landscapes of Chicago and San Francisco, and made it his purpose, near the end of his life, to track these changes politically in his fiction. Yet his artistic development as a painter, a journalist, and finally a prose writer, was defined by his relationship to the visual world, and the changing ways of interpreting that world that were growing up around him during the time in which he lived.
In Norris’ 1897 essay, “Fiction is Selection”, he argues that writers are editors more than inventors. The job of “writer and mosaicist alike” is “to select and combine.” It is from the rough-hewn design in a writer’s brain that a story must be whittled, for nothing can be created that is not already, in some form, hidden in the folds of memory. “Imagination!” He writes. “There is no such thing; you can’t imagine anything that you have not already seen and observed.” Film’s greatest strength was, from the start, its ability to emotionally manipulate viewers on a mass scale. It spoke to one as easily and as powerfully as it spoke to millions, controlling viewers seamlessly and guiding them toward a forgone conclusion that he believes he has come upon naturally, by an organic, empathetic process. Filmic storytelling was, in even its earliest manifestations, a way of transforming the frighteningly unpredictable human body into a predictable set of responses. If, in the first quarter of the 20th century, the camera as mechanism stood for pure truth, editing was selection, manipulation, violence. If film as footage stood for impartiality, editing allowed for the presence of an author. Editing was the true artistic aspect of a mode of storytelling that was still too new to be considered an art form. Editing gave film what it desperately needed to become art in the eyes of its audience: a point of view.
Footbridge at Passy
May 20, 2015
Ostashevsky and Timerman's Pirating-Parroting of Language Joe MilutisBright arrogance #10, jacket2
Ostashevsky is himself an accomplished translator of Russian, but it is his original American poetry that seems ready-made to discuss the the multiple mutating filters of translation, or, to paraphrase Nabokov, the re-Englishing of Russian re-versions of an English re-telling of a Russian memory. His poetry’s battery of English sound effects—which generate surprise even from the most potentially cringe-inducing end rhymes—seem to retain with them a Russian bemusement at unnoted or ignored English assonances, while at the same time perhaps attempting to restore the “bad rhyme” principles of Alexander Vvedensky, a forgotten Russian poet who he’s translated. And the cross-cultural pollination extends to high and low culture, with signifiers of intellectual, philosophical, and mathematical erudition remolded into American vernacular idioms like rap, Dr. Seussisms, borscht-belt comedy and elephant jokes. Appropriately enough, the epigram that heads the collection Iterature, in his poem “Autobiography”—“structaque sunt nostris barbara verba modis”—is a plaint written by Ovid about his attempts (no longer extant) to write in Getic (the language of his place of exile, corresponding with present day Romania, but which may have more generalized affiliations with the “gothic”—a productive engine of translational oddities, as we’ll see in future posts.) The longer quote reads something like “What shame, that I write this little book in a Gothic tongue! What barbarous words have been built into our style!” Metamorphosis, exile, drift . . . the translational gothic creates not merely new texts, but also new beings in process, who are untranslatable, or at least untranslatable back to their origins.
Le lilas blancJean Fautrier 1927
Slavoj Zizek: The Order of the Real S.C. HickmanReading Zizek is like floating around in a vacuum of endless repetitions that seem to never find a resting place. I sometimes shift from Zizek to Wallace Stevens to remind myself that “the imperfect is our paradise” (from The Poems of our Climate):III There would still remain the never-resting mind, So that one would want to escape, come back To what had been so long composed. The imperfect is our paradise. Note that, in this bitterness, delight, Since the imperfect is so hot in us, Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.The last stanza exemplifies the work of Slavoj Zizek who admits that words alone are uncertain good – not as in William Butler Yeats. When Zizek introduces his concept of the Gap we should understand that it is not what we might think it is: a Void between us (For-itself) and the proverbial Thing-in-itself. Which is the Idealist prognosis and Kant and his tradition as received in most academic scholarship of the last two hundred years. A move Quentin Meillassoux in his book After Finitude has marked by the appellation of correlationism, etc. No. For Zizek the Gap is the Real, the screen that distorts all our views onto reality.…the Real is a gap in the order of Being (reality) and a gap in the symbolic order? The reason there is no contradiction is that “reality” is transcendentally constituted by the symbolic order, so that “the limits of my language are the limits of my world” (Wittgenstein). In the common transcendental view, there is some kind of Real-in-itself (like the Kantian Ding an sich) which is then formed or “constituted” into reality by the subject; due to the subject’s finitude, we cannot totalize reality, reality is irreducibly inconsistent, “antinomic,” and so forth— we cannot gain access to the Real, which remains transcendent. The gap or inconsistency thus concerns only our symbolically constituted reality, not the Real in itself.So the gap concerns not the Real as it is in itself, but with our symbolic order of language that tries to constitute our universe of meaning we call reality. Yet, against any Idealist reading of this, of the notion of the subject’s performativity and creativity (““symbolic construction of reality”), Zizek will rather expose another truth of the ontological “collateral damage” of symbolic operations: the process of symbolization is inherently thwarted, doomed to fail, and the Real is this immanent failure of the symbolic.
Someone is writing a poem. Words are being set down in a force field. It’s as if the words themselves have magnetic charges; they veer together or in polarity, they swerve against each other. Part of the force field, the charge, is the working history of the words themselves, how someone has known them, used them, doubted and relied on them in a life. Part of the movement among the words belongs to sound—the guttural, the liquid, the choppy, the drawn-out, the breathy, the visceral, the downlight. The theater of any poem is a collection of decisions about space and time—how are these words to lie on the page, with what pauses, what headlong motion, what phrasing, how can they meet the breath of the someone who comes along to read them? And in part the field is charged by the way images swim into the brain through written language: swan, kettle, icicle, ashes, scab, tamarack, tractor, veil, slime, teeth, freckle.
- Adrienne Rich, Someone is Writing a Poem
Trouble SongsA musicological poetics Jeff T. Johnsonjaket2Trouble Songs: An invocation
Language is not only a means for saying, language is what we are saying. Record, we say, and we mean album, or we mean vinyl, or we mean history. Let the record show. That we say record and not CD, tape, album, or document is integral to what we are saying. We place ourselves in history, and we place history in ourselves when we use particular language. History exists as Trouble Song and is troubled by its representation. Distinctions between Trouble Songs collapse into versions, iterations, variations, and interpretations. Just so, trouble is inescapable, and can be only partially elaborated. To speak the word “trouble” is to invoke trouble. The “Trouble Songs” project is such an invocation and elaboration. When we say “trouble,” we refer to the history of trouble whether or not we have it in mind. When we sing trouble, we sing (with) history. We sing history here; we summon trouble. A Trouble Song is a complaint, a grievance, an aside, a come-on, a confession, an admission, a resignation, a plea. It’s an invitation — to sorrow, frustration, darkness. It’s part of a conversation, or it’s a soliloquy, and it’s often an apostrophe. The listener overhears the song, with sympathy. The song is meant for someone else, someone dead or gone. The singer doesn’t care who hears, and the song is a dare. Or it’s a false wager — to speak trouble is to summon trouble, but it’s already here. Trouble is loss — or the threat of loss, which is the appearance of loss. A Trouble Song is impossible speech; it speaks about the inability to speak. Trouble is a lack of what once was possessed, a desire in absence, an absence in desire. Trouble is the presence of absence, a present of loss. It is impotence and despair, but a Trouble Song is not a negation or a denial. Its admission is its invitation. Trouble is spoken not only in resignation and exasperation, but also in defiance. Trouble is spoken as a challenge to death and defeat. In a Trouble Song, there is history, but there is no past — trouble is here and now. Which is to say, there is history, but it is not (the) past.
Plage de la Vignassa 1891Henri-Edmond Cross b. May 20, 1856
Philosophical PercolationsAll the philosophy that's not fit to print
“Philosophy that’s not fit to print” denotes philosophical insights that do not fit easily into contemporary units of printed philosophy: the chapter, the article, the presentation. One of the exciting things about blogs is the way they add a new medium to the cocktail napkin, dinner conversation, and posted letter. The ideas expressed in good blog posts (as well as cocktail napkins, dinner conversation, and posted letters) sometimes do end up repackaged as chapters and journal articles. But their value doesn’t rest on that. You might have an interesting idea from teaching a class, reading a book, trying to make sense of something in popular culture, or from reading another blog, and it might not fit well with existing print dialectic for a variety of reasons. It may just concern topics that don’ t mesh well. It might not be weighty enough. Or it might shade into other discursive practices such as criticism (in the sense Noel Carroll describes), satire, raw appreciation, literary excursion, or a little pithy insight the defense of which would be short by the standards of Analysis. The insight might concern history, art, sports, music, food, leisure, trains, death, heartache, decline, enrichment, moral rot and recovery, the fact that nobody much uses the word “akimbo” any more, the sad fate of animals in various space programs, etc. etc. etc. etc.
May 15, 2015
Sun in an Empty Room 1963Edward Hopper d, May 15, 1967
Lost in Translation: Proust and Scott Moncrieff William C. CarterberfroisAlthough Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff’s translation of À la recherche du temps perdu is considered by many journalists and writers to be the best translation of any foreign work into the English language, his choice of Remembrance of Things Past as the general title alarmed the seriously ill Proust and misled generations of readers as to the novelist’s true intent. It wasn’t until 1992 that the title was finally changed to In Search of Lost Time. “Remembrance of Things Past” is a beautiful line from William Shakespeare’s sonnet 30, but it conveys an idea that is really the opposite of Proust’s own. When Scott Moncrieff chose this title, he did not know, of course, where Proust was going with the story and did not correctly interpret the title, which might indeed be taken to indicate a rather passive attempt by an elderly person to recollect days gone by. Proust’s theory of memory rejects the notion that we can simply sit and quietly resurrect the past in its true vividness through what he called voluntary memory. When we attempt to do this, we find that it doesn’t work very well. We remember very little and often only in a haphazard and rather bland way. On the other hand, Proust’s title should be taken to suggest a different approach: the Narrator’s search (recherche means both search and research in French) is an active, arduous quest in which the past must be rediscovered—largely through what Proust called involuntary memory, as demonstrated in the famous madeleine scene—then analyzed and understood, and finally, if your ambition is to preserve it in writing, transposed and recreated in a book....
Kazimir Malevichfrom The Purification Festival in AprilInrasara with translation from Cham/Vietnamese & note by Alec Schachnerpresented by Jerome Rothenberg
Life no longer hesitates, no more wavering swift, swifter but slow too slow as if no possible way to be slower. He feels the language of the hymns spill into millions of millions of cells living or dead overflow and stir them awake never to let them sleep again all the millions and millions of sprouts are stretching their shoulders to raise their heads. Steps stomping more sturdily. I see – more firmly the world fragmented and rejoined by an urgent breath the fire at its last gasp. He is cast out freed from the flames – his body covered with wounds all the world wounded – only the smile untouched the bliss untouched millions of millions of water drops fly down to extinguish a surviving spark straining to flicker one last time extinguish misery, hopelessness on the faces. I see. On the far side of elation Resilience untouched they begin to take root once again.
Lady on a Tram StationKazimir Malevich d. May 15, 1935
Frye Revived Scott McLemee
If you spend much time in libraries these days -- wandering the stacks, that is, rather than sitting at a terminal -- you might have seen other long rows of dark green books with gold lettering, published by the University of Toronto Press and bearing the name of Frye. The resemblance between The Collected Works of Northrop Frye (in 30 volumes) and the Frazerian monolith is almost certainly intentional, though not the questions such a parallel implies: What do we do with a pioneer whose role is acknowledged and honored, but whose work may be several degrees of separation away from where much of the contemporary intellectual action is? Who visits the monument now? And in search of what?
Frye’s relative decline as a force to be reckoned with in literary theory was already evident toward the end of his life; at this point the defense of Frygian doctrine may seem like a hopelessly arrière-garde action. (“Frygian” is the preferred term, by the way, at least among the Frygians themselves.) But the waning of his influence at the research-university seminar level is only part of the story, and by no means the most interesting part. The continuing pedagogical value of the Anatomy is suggested by how many of Frye’s ideas and taxonomies have made their way into Advanced Placement training materials. Anyone trying to find a way around in William Blake’s poetic universe can still do no better than to start with Frye’s first book, Fearful Symmetry (1947). Before going to see Shakespeare on stage, I’ve found it worthwhile to see what Frye had to say about the play. Bloggers periodically report reading the Anatomy, or Frye’s two books about the Bible and literature, and having their minds blown
Feel Beauty Supply: post 1 Magdalena Zurawskijacket2At first I thought I would use this Commentary space to read through an online archive, but in the end such a gesture felt adjacent to my current preoccupations. What I hope to do instead is to elucidate a narrative of my own search for an adequate poetics, one that begins and ends with two very different theories, though each proposes “freedom” as the ultimate aim of poetic production. I want to attempt to rehearse an evolution of thinking around poetics that begins with Immanuel Kant’s The Critique of Judgment and ends with Hurston’s Mules and Men, though I’ll make some detours.
For the last twenty-five years of my life, or, since I left high school, I’ve struggled to find an adequate definition of POETRY. Not being able to get on with it, so to speak, is in many ways due to my own shortcomings as a person and thinker. Nevertheless not being able to get on with it, I think, had a lot to do with being a young person in the shadows of certain avant-gardes. I’m hoping that the story of getting from Immanuel to Zora will also be in part the story of coming out of those shadows. So this is just to say I am here for a little while and this is what I’ll be doing while I’m here. See you in a few days.
Rooms By The SeaEdward Hopper 1951
Pioneers in the Digital Snow Mark MordueberfroisYeah, yeah, no time to think. Gimme gimme now! Thumbs up, thumbs down. Should I buy it or not? These appear to be the essential frames for modern criticism to function in today. Just serve the ever-shrinking moment and get the hell out of the way of the pleasure stampede. And please don’t bore us with an idea, let alone an essay disguised as a review. Please don’t bore us, period. (....)
Tweets, blogs, social networking sites… if it can’t fit in your smartphone window and be grasped at a glance it ain’t worth your time of day. The trend perceptions on this electronic revolution have leant towards the obvious – more communication on every front, a greater necessity for speed in every act, the compression of information to match that speed, and with all that rapid-fire pressure a corresponding desire to find some alleviating air-space for the mind whenever and wherever possible. Zero sum game: triviality, gossip, and porn are king. Not to mention the brilliant sub-editor who can keep story titles like “Headless woman in a topless bar” rolling across the news breaks when you log out of your email. Click. It works. It can seem like our culture is being ferried on its own electronic light all the way into hell. The digital equivalent to Aldous Huxley’s “soma” in Brave New World, where we become prisoners to our own desires, and raptured out of consciousness. But is that really all that is happening for those who worry about such things rather than just indulge and enjoy? I feel more positive even as the house of the modern mind appears to be atomizing around me.
May 14, 2015
d. May 14, 1912
on academic bewilderment
Richard Hall(....)via Forgottenness
And we can see that those governing networks that enforce learning gain, and the national student survey, and the research excellence framework, and the higher education achievement record, and the future earnings and employability records, and performance management, and new public management techniques and methodologies, and internationalisation strategies, and precarious labour rights, cannot care about all the ands. They cannot care that as well as teaching and assessing and administrating and researching and scholarship, that this is too much.
They cannot care that this reduces the capability of people and relationships to withstand stress.
They cannot care that this is too much.
They cannot care that this makes us anxious.
And this anxiety is driven by the need for us to live two half-lives. In one we try to be partners in a social construction; in social sustainability; in a willingness to address those global issues that will fuck our world over. Partners in trying to find solutions that are not beholden to the structuring logic of the market. Yet this half-life decays quicker than the other half-life – the demands made of us to treat our lives as services that can be commodified and exchanged. Our whole lives now reproduced as labour-power. Lost to us.
And in making sense of the loss our cognitive dissonance places the use-value and the exchange-value of our work in screaming tension. And how can we survive this?
National Library of Sweden
The Celestographs of August Strindberg
cabinet... what is remarkable, and what makes these images so "modern," is that they also concrete examples of a kind of chemical naturalism (as in the work of Polke, Kiefer, and many other recent artists). Strindberg insisted that art should try to "imitate […] nature's way of creating," and in these celestographs the image and the world have approached each other to the extent that they more or less merge. Whatever the coincidences were that created these pictures, the subject matter appears less as a photographic image than as a "work" by nature itself.
_______________________AbstractA brief history of Facebook as a media text: The development of an empty structure
Maps and messages, notes and news, photography and fitness, streams and shopping: the litany of apps through which we live our mobile data lives and through which state and corporate agents survey our data positions, set in motion a form of everyday remix. This affective cultural practice choreographed between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is deeply governmental, establishing subject positions and relationships. Drawing on the work of Timothy Morton, Levi Bryant, Ian Bogost and Graham Harman, this paper argues that this governmental remix mesh is best addressed as a matter of material objects and hyperobjects rather than as an assemblage or network.
This paper tells a history of Facebook from 2004 to 2013. It presents the big picture by focusing on Facebook as it presented itself to a user, that is the available semiotic and interactional elements (e.g., profile, wall, feed, commercials, etc.) as well as the functions and useforms which these elements made possible for a variety of actor types (profile owners, groups, companies, software developers, etc.). In addition, Facebook’s development is inscribed in a longer Web historical perspective with a view to identifying a general mechanism for Internet development.
Houses at Estaque
b. May 13, 1882
The Internet Imaginary: Between Technology and Technique
Nicole Pepperell, Duncan Law(....)
Political contestation over which of these potentials will be realised is ongoing and by no means finally decided. The recent trend, however, has been toward the realisation of potentials favoured by powerful social actors - governments and large corporations - at the expense of potentials favoured by less powerful agents.
...this faith in the power of the Internet as a technology helped obscure the need to develop other kinds of techniques - rhetorical, social and political - to ensure that the desired technological potentials were in fact realised. Over the longer run, these alternative techniques have proven decisive for selecting which technological potentials would be developed, and which would be suppressed. Individuals and movements captivated by faith in the technology, found themselves blindsided when the technological “base” proved more adaptable to the existing “superstructure” than expected.
In the sections below, we explore how this process unfolded. We first examine the rhetorical techniques that primed early analysts to perceive the Internet as an intrinsically progressive technology. Next, we explore how the research and development of Internet technologies shifted in response to dramatic social transformations in later decades of the 20th century. These shifts illustrate the plasticity of technological potentials, and suggest how a network of social techniques help determine which technological potentials are primed for further development. Finally, we examine the role of political techniques in selecting the technological potentials that are successfully realised in practice, and we suggest that faith in technological determinism helped discourage the development of effective political techniques oriented to achieving more progressive technological potentials.
Vol. 18, No. 2 (2015)
The Wave VII
conjunctionsThose You Live Among
I have no camera
no game no tent, no word no mon-
strance no belt, no vent no succor,
no assuage no guilt, no music
The boarders they play games with you
those whose stomachs are full
of steaks they toy with you, the house
is full of toys
And each day, crime is easier, those
I live among, those I live among let me have my
speech, I can
not speak rocks in oil flounder
in oil and window pane almond al-
mond who is fragrant enough to live
among? Who is fair enough to be set beside?
My days are broken
and more truthful
Night of Jealousy
Speculations: new Irish poetry
a series by Walt Hunter
It is unsurprising that the Irish poetic imagination might dramatize the emergent experiences of contemporary survival as modes of setting out, casting off, or wintering away. Lyric, dramatic, and epic poetries have always used questions of travel to explore states of being. The poems I've been reading over the past five months also make their world travel the catalyst for visiting havoc upon their poetic worlds: this brings them into close relation with the contemporary globality of Ireland.
Far from being sentimental ballads of the emigrant gaze, Irish poems of travel, place, landscape, and tourism undertake elaborate interventions within lyric modes of elegy, myth, and dream vision. These genres, pressed into charting historical experiences of debt, surplus labor, opportunistic religious nationalisms, and, recently, immigration to Ireland, open up to reveal certain distinct poetic contradictions: going backward in time, speaking for the collective dead, suspending the processes of linguistic reference. This series has pointed to a few of those moments as they became visible to me.
Violin and Glass
The Artist in Real and Virtual Company 6
The river at night
Robert Graves said he composed best when in a mild trance well supplied with coffee and cigarettes. Let us say our poet is in a similar mild trance that allows him or her to advance an idea as if in a dream, with the assurance of dream where things happen according to rules of their own. Whatever had been contemplated or impinged on the consciousness at some other point in time has now been distilled into its own trace material and is capable of working by association, of undergoing metamorphoses. Chance and impulse are its friends and associates, the visrtual voices of the river become a form of company of whom little can be presumed except their flickering presence.
So we return to presence. All the while I write at night I am aware that people read what I write as I write it, that it is a form of nakedness. But I began with the notion of the listening presence, with Dylan Thomas’s lovers, with Li Po’s drunken companions, with Jean Valentine’s other solitary.There are also the travellers on trains and one’s elective masters whose ears are keen and minds most critical. Out in the night that is not night everywhere, the words flow by much like my life flows. Other eyes register them and may respond. But theirs too are on the stream.
May 12, 2015
Martinique 1972André Kertész 1894 - 1985
Weird Solidarities Karen GregorydisWhereas past generations longed to know if there is an afterlife, today we face a living hauntology in the form of our data presences. We live on not only past death, as the recent Facebook end-of-year debacles have poignantly demonstrated, but we live beyond ourselves in and through black-boxed algorithms and their architectures of capture and deployment. While we might understand this as a form of posthumanism or by using the framework of human/machine relations, I suggest we think of it this way: as a form of “weird” solidarity not only with one another but with the very environments that are being made to be “expressive” (Thrift 2012) along with us. As value grows increasingly speculative, being drawn from the dual promise of data aggregation and its parsing—for data are only as valuable as the novel emergent patterns it can produce—such value is already predicated on a social body and the generative connections that can be forged among its constituent elements. These elements do not necessarily have to reduce to “the human.” Additionally, this is a laboring and productive body whether it “works” or not. In this way, this economy does not need “you,” but it is fully composed of “us.” Rentier Assets We are slowly coming to realize that the “sharing economy” is less about sharing than it is about creating new terrains of rent. Such terrains are innovative and disruptive not because they are necessarily creative, unique, generous, or helpful to the overall project of human life but because they attempt at all costs to circumvent production costs (including labor) and therefore reconfigure the relationship between production and value. Guy Standing (2014) writes, “Rental income enables people to make money simply through the possession of scarce assets. Sometimes assets may be ‘naturally’ scarce: if fertile land is owned by a few landlords, they need not work themselves but can rent it out to others for a high price. This income is rent, not profits from a productive activity, as the landlords do nothing to earn it aside from owning the land.” While we can point to platforms such as Uber and Airbnb as examples of such rentierism, the project of opening the commodity form to new forms of “tenancy” (Thrift 2012) is only beginning to find its true home as a form of governance via a hierarchical, rigid political/economic social structure. Rather than sell itself as an aristocracy in the making, enabling a few to own much, the sharing economy does quite the opposite. It suggests that participation in this economy is a form of peer-to-peer collaboration and cooperation, which leads to greater choice and flexibility. The key figure here is the enterprising, entrepreneurial individual—a savvy prosumer or, in Toffler’s words, a “proactive consumer”—who privileges access to goods and services over ownership. Bear in mind, this is an individual who already does own something—that is, has something to “share.” That something can be their home, their car, their pets, their time, their talents, or their attention, and that individual is often invited to share through the most practical of all invitations—the creation of passive income, or rent.Dis Magazine’s “Data Issue” via —synthetic zero
Mario Sironi b. May 12, 1885
In the beginningCosmology has been on a long, hot streak, racking up one imaginative and scientific triumph after another. Is it over? Ross Andersenaeon
The science of cosmology has achieved wonders in recent centuries. It has enlarged the world we can see and think about by ontological orders of magnitude. Cosmology wrenched the Earth from the centre of the Universe, and heaved it, like a discus, into its whirling orbit around one unremarkable star among the billions that speed around the black-hole centre of our galaxy, a galaxy that floats in deep space with billions of others, all of them colliding and combining, before they fly apart from each other for all eternity. Art, literature, religion and philosophy ignore cosmology at their peril. But cosmology’s hot streak has stalled. ...
As I walked out of Steinhardt’s office for the last time, it occurred to me that our cosmos is once again a sphere. Our Earth has been demoted in recent centuries. It no longer enjoys its former status as the still centre of all that is. But it does sit in the middle of our observable cosmos, the sphere of light that we can detect with our telescopes. Gaze into this sphere’s reaches from any point on Earth’s surface, and you can see light coming toward you in layers, from stars and the planets that circle them, from the billions of galaxies beyond, and the final layer of light, the afterglow of the Big Bang. We might be trapped in this snow globe of photons forever. The expansion of the Universe is pulling light away from us at a furious pace. And even if it weren’t, not everything that exists can be observed. There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies. There always will be. Science has limits. One day, we might feel ourselves pressing up against those limits, and at that point, it might be necessary to retreat into the realm of ideas. It might be necessary to ‘dispense with the starry heavens’, as Plato suggested. It might be necessary to settle for untestable theories. But not yet. Not when we have just begun to build telescopes. Not when we have just awakened into this cosmos, as from a dream.
The Artist in Real and Virtual Company George Szirtesedited text of keynote delivered at Inonu University, Turkey
It is not only poets who value solitude of course. Most tasks that require concentration involve a shutting out of distractions. Dylan Thomas’s lovers are elsewhere, Li Po leaves his drunken companions asleep and the very purpose of Jean Valentine’s studying of silence, or what she calls “learning braille” is to communicate with other solitudes elsewhere. The rages of the moon in Thomas isolate the individual, affirm his solitude. Everything is ‘elsewhere’. Nevertheless the others involved in this act of concentration - the lovers, the drunken sleeping companions, the other solitudes - constitute a presence-in-absence, or, as my title has it, virtual presence. These figures are imagined and, usually, unspecific or, if specific, unaware of the condition of the poet. In one of the most beautiful poems of solitude, Coleridge’s Frost at Midnight, Coleridge is alone with his sleeping infant, conjuring solitude at the side of a precious unspeking other, his infant son..Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side, Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm, Fill up the intersperséd vacancies And momentary pauses of the thought!The poem ends with the fanous “secret ministry of frost” and, once again, the moon, We might argue that this vision of writing alone, by moonlight, with a sense of sleeping or absent others is a specifically Romantic trope and there may be something in that, but it is not only the poets of the Romantic period who employ it. Li Po and Jean Valentine are not Romantic poets, neither is Alexander Pope who writes an early Ode to Solitude, nor for that matter are T S Eliot or Michael Hofmann who also write about and out of the condition of being alone.
an ostentation of solitariness: looking for the wilderness in abney park cemetery Bridget Penney3am‘a multitude of thick bushes and trees, affecting an ostentation of solitariness in the midst of worldly pleasures’ Michael Jermin: A Commentary on the Whole Booke of Ecclesiastes, 1639
‘Close by [Clissold Park] is Abney Park Cemetery, which is now so crammed with corpses as to make it reasonable to indulge the hope that before long it will be closed as a burial place, only to be re-opened as a breathing space for the living. And as the distance which separates these two spaces is not great, let us indulge the further hope that it may be found possible to open a way between them to make them one park of not less than about a hundred acres.’ W.H. Hudson: Birds in London, 1898
The seventeenth century garden wilderness, like the ‘managed wilderness’ which fills Abney Park today, embodies various ideas about people and nature, organised in a way that is no less deliberate for not being aggressively overt. Jermin’s rather disapproving ‘ostentation of solitariness’ touches some relevant points about quite what people might be looking for in the wilderness. Ostentation and solitude should be mutually incompatible because if you’re physically alone there is no one around to show off to. Logically extended, this reaches a peak of absurdity with the living folly of the garden hermit whose whole job is to demonstrate the fact that he lives by himself: a far cry from what Jermin might have regarded as the unostentatiously solitary Desert Fathers, deliberately locating themselves so far beyond areas of settlement and cultivation that their privacy was unlikely to be disturbed. But where there is no ready access to vast tracts of uncultivated and uninhabited space, it can be difficult to be alone, when you would like to be, without someone seeing you. This may be why, ‘in the midst of worldly pleasures’ the wilderness of the English seventeenth century garden developed as a planned, and sometimes even as an enclosed, space. A brief article on the National Trust website describes them thus ‘Wildernesses, not exactly wild, but a woody place for intrigue and exercise.’
Celan / Joris Donald Wellman on Paul Celan, Breathturn into Timestead: the Collected Later Poetry, translated by Pierre Jorisimmanent occasionsIn the case of Paul Celan, more so than other poets with the possible exception of Louis Zukofsky, the reader is confronted by the slipperiness and multivalency of individual words. This phenomenon of innovation and concentration, this cast of mind often increases with age. Edward Said wrote a fabulous book on the topic of age and its relation to poetic innovation. A flinty disposition may then engender a hard-edged poetry of inflexible compactness, but yet also a poetry that demolishes borders, fusing memories. One suspects that individual words and phrases come to hold private meanings as well as etymological associations that map the whole of literary history.
May 11, 2015
b. May 11, 1889
Dwelling with Place: Lorine Niedecker’s Ecopoetics
edge effects(....)via The Page
One of the most compelling parts of Niedecker’s thought is the almost complete absence of egotism. At several points in her correspondence with urban male contemporaries, she adopts self-effacing epithets that critics usually read as some combination of modesty, timidity, or gendered deference. For instance, she jokes with her longtime mentor Louis Zukofsky that in place of an author photo like the one that has appeared in his most recent book, “They can put a creeping mint for me when I have a book—the ditches along the road are full of it this spring here, a bright blue flower and leaves smelling very strong of mint—a wonderful ground cover, no grass gets thru it.” She also refers to herself in her letters and poems as “just a sandpiper in a marshy region”; “a little bunch of marshland violets offered to the crooked lawyer”; “the solitary plover / a pencil / for a wing-bone” and “the lowland leek—of the lily family, tho.”1 Rather than being purely self-abnegating, I find her claims of affinity with these small plants and birds delightfully humble, democratic, and ecological. “Plain member and citizen,” indeed!
Niedecker’s sense of kinship and identification with other biotic elements is woven throughout her poetry. Her remarkable long poem “Lake Superior” begins with the insistence thatIn every part of every living thingand she writes wryly in her poem “Wintergreen Ridge”:
is stuff that once was rock
In blood the minerals
of the rockIt all comes downInstead of fretting over how such a finite parentage might threaten our “humaniqueness,” Niedecker welcomes our bond with nonhuman life and seeks instead to endow us, as she writes in “Paean to Place,” with a deeper appreciation for the “sea water running / in [our] veins.”
to the family
‘We have a lovely
b. May 10, 1899
Undead Letters and Archaeologies of the Imagination:
Review of Michael Joyce’s Foucault, in Winter, in the Linnaeus Garden Dave Ciccoricco(....)
At the end of that interview segment, in contextualizing his comments about the “end of man,” Foucault adds, “I don’t say the things I say because they are what I think, I say them as a way to make sure they are no longer what I think. […] To be really certain that from now on, outside of me, they are going to live a life or die in such a way that I will not have to recognize myself in them” (Claris). In this gesture, one gives life to one’s thoughts in language so that such thoughts may live on (or die), in effect, separate from and even unrecognizable to their thinker (an added irony here of course is that the sentiments in question are themselves, after decades, newly undead).
There is perhaps, however, an inverse case—a genre no less—that involves employing language expressly not to give life to one’s thoughts in the first place: the unsent letter. An unsent letter is the paradoxical message par excellence, as I quite literally address another and yet communicate only to myself. In effect: I have said what I do not or no longer wish to say, and I have not given life to my thoughts in order to make sure that I will never, to your mind, believe them. Interrogating the status and resonance of unsent letters is one of the tantalizing tasks of Michael Joyce’s latest novel, Foucault, in Winter, in the Linnaeus Garden.
Even more seductive is the novel's framing conceit, an imagined life of Foucault spanning several weeks of his dark Swedish winter in Uppsala, in 1956, at the end of his relationship with the composer Jean Barraqué, and at the beginning of the project that would become his first major work, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. ...(more)
Waywords & Meansigns—Composing with the Explosion of Language
How do you "understand" James Joyce to translate him? Rebecca Hanssens-Reed in conversation with Mariana Lanari, musical translator of the "Wake"
The text is never going to be accessible. It’s about changing the approach towards the text. I know a lot about Finnegans Wake because I’ve read and studied it for five years, but everything that I studied brought me to the conclusion that I first had when I read the first four pages of the book. Which is: this anxious pleasure of not understanding something that you should understand. In my case as well—I’d read Ulysses before, and I’d studied Ulysses before—and I can consume English literature a lot, but suddenly you get a book that you cannot understand. To me this is fascinating. What is there—and why, what, how, how do you go on with it?
I’m Brazilian and was educated in a German school, so I always felt foreign, in a way, in my environment. I was sent to Germany in an exchange, and I almost didn’t speak any German then. So I discovered many words in a very severe and strange way that had this kind of stomach-pleasure-anxiety about them. And even today, I live in the Netherlands, and still speaking German—it’s a difficult language. So I find it interesting to inhabit a text where you feel foreign, and you catch twenty or fifty percent of it. You find a way around the not knowing everything.
I really love this tension of being very close to knowledge and not reaching it. It mimics reality in a way. You don’t know the person you’re sleeping next to, you know?
Critical Cartography is therefore, in the first instance, interested with theoretical critique of the social relevance, politics and ethics of mapping. The assumption that this is even a possibility – that maps are not simply neutral tools but rather strategic weapons that express power – leads to a second, practical, aspect of critical cartography. Groups and individuals at a grassroots level can also use mapping for a variety of purposes. Maps can be used to make counter-claims, to express competing interests, to make visible otherwise marginal experiences and hidden histories, to make practical plans for social change or to imagine utopian worlds.
It is important to note that maps are expressions not only of power, but of desire. Maps themselves can be objects of desire – some people enjoy looking at maps, or collecting historical ones. Maps also project our desires onto the landscape, they can map our hopes for the future, what we desire to see and that which we wish to ignore or hide. The process of mapping can also bring new ways of being and relating into the world, for example, we might experiment with new ways of organising and making decisions, such as non-hierarchy and consensus.
May 08, 2015
“Shaker Barn”Charles Sheeler 1934new england irrelevancies Andrew K. Peterson3am After Charles Sheeler
Curving matter felt A bustle foliage, a dream a cause a windfall farm seeking foliage. The mom and pop got driven. Pan creak apple. I was only thinking and what I’m driving at is town line counting empty leases. Counting chains with prepped meals. Staying warm in a windfall. A pop or mom apple pan creeks off the catch-and-release. The case for the lease empty. Management teems an experiment for empty palette waste managements. Riding to the factory dream rain into foliage, the management dreams of rain. Drive waste to pan apple creek. Booked the motel and curving matter felt a hustle into foliage // apostle ape hustle apropos: impossible muscle why pun the punk via Petron or soft skating pink purloined protractions with interloper’s purpose hear the walrus singing in her cave for those who can’t listen for there I sing
"Shadows and Substance"Charles Sheeler 1883 - 1965
Rilke and Things Idris Parry
Although Rilke doesn’t say so, there’s no doubt he is conscious of the difference between his own hesitant production so far and the evidence of colossal activity he now sees before him. Rodin’s achievement, he tells his wife, is like the labour of a century, an army of work. As the two men were sitting in the garden, a little girl came up – Rilke assumed she must be Rodin’s daughter. In her hand she had a tiny snail, picked up from the gravel, and she now brought it for the sculptor’s inspection. He looked at it with great interest, then remarked to Rilke that this minute shell reminded him of the surface of Greek masterpieces. Rilke never forgot this lesson in vision, how the fabulous can emerge from the fact observed without prejudice. The trivial is no more than a personal opinion, a category invented to make us feel important. In the work of Rodin, he notes the utter absence of self, an open commitment, patience. ‘There is in Rodin,’ he said some time later, ‘a dark patience which makes him almost anonymous, a quiet superior forbearance, something of the great purity and patience of nature.’ In that letter to his wife about his first meeting in the garden, Rilke reports that Rodin’s advice to him as a poet was concentrated in these words: ‘You must work, do nothing but work. And you must have patience’. The meaning of the word ‘patience’, as Rodin used it and as Rilke was to use it evermore, is unhurried and uncommitted exposure to experience, to all experience without exception, as the earth is constantly exposed to sky and elements, a natural process. According to Kafka, it is because of impatience we were expelled from Paradise; it is because of impatience we do not return there. This, according to him, is the main human sin. He starts off with two, so we must perhaps be grateful when he eventually says there is only one. Bearing in mind Rodin’s advice to work and to have patience, it is worth noting that Kafka’s two sins are the exact negatives: indolence and impatience. That he settles on impatience suggests a dreadful certainty that there is no other obstacle to understanding. This impatience is not mere irritability of temper but the imposition of opinion on fact, making up your mind before the event instead of letting the event shape your mind and dictate the next move.
Rilke once said there is nothing wiser than the cycle. He is fond of the image of the tree as a cyclic construction, the fountain too, which is a kind of liquid tree. Or is the tree a frozen fountain? Leaves grow, fruit ripens, falls, rots, feeds the roots, and nourishment ascends into the branches, leaves grow, fruit ripens… In the fountain water falls into the basin, which Rilke calls in one of these sonnets an ear of the earth: if you put a jug there to catch water, he says, you interrupt a conversation. The tree must be one of the earliest objects of human worship, the golden bough, and fountains seem to have a habit of becoming holy wells. These cyclic images affirm the unity of existence. And, in a unified world, can there be separate senses? Or are these human accidents, indications of our limited perceptions? That our perceptions are limited must be obvious to anyone who has tried unaided to hear the whisperings of bats or has seen the wonders of the enlarged world revealed by the microscope. Where would the extended senses stop? Would they stop? Rilke speculates about this in an essay called ‘Primal Sound’. The five senses spread out like a five-fingered hand. What lies between the fingers? Can we be sure that the five sectors, taken together, cover the whole of possible experience? Rilke declares his hand (if you will excuse the pun) in the opening lines of the first sonnet of the sequence, and here we come across a characteristic which makes these poems so puzzling at a first reading. Or even a second reading. The audible song is transformed into something visible. There are people who claim to see colours in music. Rilke now sees a tree, and in a peculiar place:There a tree ascended. O pure transcension! O Orpheus sings! O tall tree in the ear!We are invited to see the song of Orpheus.
Interior with Stove Charles Sheeler
Bataille on Lascaux and the Origins of Art [pdf] Richard Whitejanus head
As the editors of The Cave of Lascaux: The Final Photographs put it: “[Bataille’s] text is of debatable interest in the eyes of the prehistorian.” With the recent translation and publication of Bataille’s other essays on prehistoric art, however, it is now clear that Bataille’s interest in prehistory began early on and remained a constant theme from the early 1930s until the end of his life. Lascaux became a focus for his own self-understanding, and it offers us a key to his intellectual project.
In this essay, I want to reevaluate Bataille’s discussion of Lascaux as a significant work which has been unfairly neglected. To this end, I consider three distinct but related lines of inquiry: First, I look at Bataille’s account of art in the Lascaux book: does Bataille subscribe uncritically to a particular view of what art is; or does he offer a coherent argument concerning the nature of art which would be helpful to artists, philosophers or scholars of prehistory? Second, I examine Bataille’s account of transgression, which is a central category in most of his writings: does Bataille show the significance of transgression in helping us to understand prehistoric people; or is his account more strained and theoretical than his own experience of Lascaux might warrant? Finally, I look at Bataille’s account of the origin—in Lascaux, the origin of art and the origin of human beings: does he unfairly privilege the origin, as opposed to the end, as the moment at which everything is supposed to be clear and given? Or does his attempt to recover the origin help to illuminate the trajectory of human history which follows from this point?
Bataille visited Lascaux many times and he was clearly amazed by what he saw: “Directly we enter the Lascaux cave, “ he comments, “we are gripped by a strong feeling we never have when standing in a museum, before the glassed cases displaying the oldest petrified remains of men or neat rows of their stone instruments. In underground Lascaux, we are assailed by that same feeling of presence—of clear and burning presence—which works of art from no matter what period have always excited in us. Whatever it may seem, it is to tenderness, it is to the generous kindliness which binds up souls in friendly brotherhood that the beauty in man-made things appeals. Is it not beauty we love? And is it not that high friendship the passion, the forever repeated question to which beauty alone is the only possible reply?” Reading passages like this one, we may wonder whether Bataille’s enthusiasm sometimes got the better of him; although it should be pointed out that even the soberest scholars describe Lascaux in equally rapturous terms.6 Here we must ask whether Bataille’s work on Lascaux really helps us to understand prehistory and what it means to be human. And in what respect does the Lascaux book help us to understand Bataille?
View of New YorkCharles Sheeler