blog,personal commentary,reflections on the human condition,ephemera,notes from the underbelly
http://web.ncf.ca/ek867/wood_s_lot.html - 05/06/15 10:18:12 - 11/28/04 07:34:47
May 05, 2015
Objets dans la forêtAlberto Savinio1928featured at the much missed Giornale Nuovo
Evening Will Come: Issue 53 - May 2015Canadian Featureedited by rob mclennan... poetic statements by derek beaulieu, Amanda Earl, Helen Hajnoczky, Peter Jaeger, Gil McElroy, Erín Moure, Nikki Reimer, Natalie Simpson and lary timewellSometimes I wonder what came first:My love of language, or my need to hide behind it?Gil McElroy
So there’s nothing extraordinary about being a poet. There is, on the other hand, something extraordinary about the poem, living, breathing, walking & talking all on its own. Yes, of course I’m somewhere out back there behind it (& really,I’m not hiding there – I’m just staying out of the poem’s way). In his book Scratching the Beat Surface, Michael McClure comments on Charles Olson’s monumental poem “The Kingfisher,” saying that “I am more impressed with the poem than with what it means.” My poetics, then: synonymous with “my” poem. It is a poem.
So Careful to Write For Christina So careful to write, of telling people, of making cruelties beautiful It is not in diminishment Some notions do much better to prevent breaking out in rabbles There is more than just one malignant shape in a place so organized There could be stuff about mushrooms, about the enormous weight of fantasy, about the foods of deprivation There could be wild, romantic spaces Or our jargon – it could be stupid These here books, well, they could get it all wrong, & then, voila! This could all be a perfectly reasonable way to total ruin. Given a society of writes and wrongs, insights can be plausibly surmised We were threats from the very beginning. Samples of the day were made. Systems were framed. A number were made up, even We think the ones we have are ample There was some status within our utterances, in the head-turning of our tongues We liked to clock stable forms all atick with kinds of time We could have had variants. We could have, you know We preferred lazier truths within which we connected
Gil McElroy’s cartography rob mclennanjacket2Poetic Quanta and the Terrestrial Residue of Gil McElroy Garry Thomas Morse
Anyone with any passing knowledge of McElroy’s poetry would certainly begin to notice a series of patterns, from the extended sequences, the abstract punctuations of time and geography, to poems on comets, constellations and other cosmic bodies. Also, there’s his ongoing sequence, akin to bpNichol’s mantra of the “poem as long as a life,” “Some Julian Days,” that weaves itself through the length and breadth of each of his trade collections. The sequence exists as an ongoing series of poems in a “day book” style utilizing the days of the Julian Calendar. It would seem as though, for McElroy, the concept of the “day book” is firmly placed within the abstract, given the unfamiliarity most readers would have with the system, and instead, each poem suggests a timeless quality, holding in all moments concurrently.
seven questions for Gil McElroytouch the donkey
Poetic Quanta and the Terrestrial Residue of Gil McElroy Garry Thomas Morse
An Interview with Gil McElroy by rob mclennandrunken boat
Gil McElroy at Talonbooks
Seven poemsGil McElroyjacket
Atlas 1927Alberto Saviniod. May 5, 1952
In Conversation: George Hensontranslator of Sergio Pitol's "The Art of Flight"asymptote
Vicente Huidobro, who was the founder of creacionismo, in his “Arte poética” said that the poet is a “pequeño Dios,” a “little God.” So, yes, like the poet, the translator is creative in the sense that he or she “creates” a text; but “creative” can also mean “imaginative.” Benjamin talks about the “Aufgabe,” the “job, duty, task’” of the translator; at times, that task requires that the translator be creative in how he or she solves translation problems or challenges. But I believe that translation should be at the service of the original text. As a translator, then, I can be no more creative than the author I am translating, but neither can I be any less.
I found your translation of The Art of Flight quite exceptional. You skilfully captured Pitol’s humour, self-doubt, and emotional fragility, in addition to his clear confidence as a critic. Is he as engaging to translate as to read?
First, thank you. I am filled with self-doubt. I am very hard on myself, so your words are like a tonic for me. I worked very hard at doing his prose justice. The short answer is, yes, this book was very challenging, which is perhaps one of the reasons it had not been translated. It’s written in many styles, registers, and voices. There’s lots of intertextuality, extensive quotations (often with little attribution), oblique, obscure, and arcane literary references. I wanted to be faithful to Pitol’s prose and his vocabulary, which at times borders on baroque and recondite. Many times, I would Google a phrase or a word pair (adjective/noun) to find that the only person who had used the phrase or pair was Pitol. This required that the English be as original as the Spanish. Pitol pushes the limits of language, which meant I had to do the same. I had to do lots of reading and research. I grew both as a humanist and student of literature, and hope I did him justice.
The Art of FlightSergio Pitol trans. George Hensonreviewed by Rosie Clarke
Despite the literary essays and deep readings contained within The Art of Flight, what ties the book together is the glittering thread of himself that Pitol has sewn thoughtfully throughout. Although we meet him as a grown man, it is when recollecting his youth that Pitol seems most vulnerable, and consequently most open to identification. When triggered by the memory uncovered through hypnotherapy, realizing, “many things had become coherent and explainable: everything in my life had been nothing more than a perpetual flight,” it becomes clear for both Pitol and the reader that, while his mother’s drowning may have cast darkness over his life strong enough to hide the memory for decades, once exposed it reveals what he has been running away from for so long, and allows him to stop and take stock of his life. Although this revelation lends a subtly melancholic undertone, the overall sense is not one of gloom but of vibrancy and vigor; Pitol describes the book as “an attempt to allay anxieties and cauterize wounds,” and indeed the overall feeling is celebratory, of a life fully lived. While disappointing that Pitol’s fiction currently remains unavailable in English translation, Deep Vellum is scheduled to publish the two subsequent volumes of this collection, which will hopefully serve as impetus for further translation of his work. The Art of Flight is rich with Pitol’s impassioned interrogations of others, woven into an intricate, if convoluted, web with memories, anecdotes, and confessions. Not all writers make great critics, nor the converse, but in Pitol’s case, one cannot exist without the other; to quote Borges, “we are all the past, we are our blood, we are the people we have seen die, we are the books that have made us better, we are gratefully the others.”
Le MatelotAlberto Savinio1927
From the Anthropocene to the Neo-Cybernetic Underground. A conversation with Erich Hörl.with Paul Feigelfeld#60Deterritorial Investigations Unit
We need a radical artistic, philosophic and historic approach like this to oppose the recurring oblivion of environmentality in the form of pragmatist neoliberal concepts of ecology and a simple economization and institutionalizatio of ecology. We must ask about its scope, challenge and explosiveness, again and again. If the Anthropocene is supposed to be a critical concept, it must result in a discussion of a comprehensive environmentality: the ecologization of thinking and the mind, of subjectivity, desire, power, affects and so on.
If we don’t want to completely drown in cybernetic capitalism, if the ongoing hyper industrialization and the contemporary psycho power do not colonize everything and lead it towards a complete enshrinement of Being – and there are moments when I do gravitate towards this kind of alarmism -, then I can imagine that technology and art together will advance the process of the ecologization of Being. Art and philosophy, particularly media theory, have to work through the decay of the anthropocenic illusion, and precisely not against technology, but on eye level with the contemporary technological, techno-ecological condition. Félix Guattari bet on the setting free of creativity through new media technologies in the late 1980s and early 1990s and confidently looked forward to the emergence of a new paradigm, which he called the “aesthetic paradigm”. Even though the cybernetic capitalist development has undoubtedly caught up to Guattari’s vision and especially the creative has become completely industrially exploited, I do see a certain potential there today: a radical theoretical artistic experimentation with (media) technologies still is the best form of appropriation and exploration and we cannot let anybody forbid us from doing that. I dream of a neo-cybernetic underground which grows to be the germ cell of a general ecological practice, which does not let itself be dictated the meaning of the ecologic and of technology, neither by governments, nor by industries.
May 04, 2015 _______________________
The Living Diffractions of Matter and Text:
Narrative Agency, Strategic Anthropomorphism, and how Interpretation Works
In the past years, the agentic and semiotic properties of material reality have been the focus of many areas of research, producing an exuberant “turn to the material” also in the debate about the humanities. This “material turn” is indeed a broad conversation across disciplines, combining physics and sociology, biology and anthropology, ontology and epistemology, feminist theories, archaeology, and geography, just to name a few. The paradigm emerging from this debate prompts not only fresh nonanthropocentric vistas, but also possible “ways of understanding the agency, significance, and ongoing transformative power of the world – ways that account for myriad […] phenomena that are material, discursive, human, more-than-human, corporeal and technological”. The underlying task of this discourse is that of providing an onto-epistemological framework for non-dichotomous modes to analyze language and reality, human and nonhuman life, matter and mind, nature and culture.
A crossroad of scientific and humanistic research by definition, the environmental humanities is the field in which this “turn” received foremost attention. Ecocritical theory responds to this conceptual conversation by heeding material dynamics via an enlargement of its hermeneutical field of application. A material ecocriticism, in other words, investigates matter both in texts and as a text, elaborating a reflection on the way “bodily natures and discursive forces express their interaction whether in representations or in their concrete reality”. Drawing from the philosophical and scientific insights of the new materialisms, this essay explores the main points of material ecocriticism, focusing in particular on the notion of “narrative agency” and on the way interpreting “stories of matter” becomes possible as an ecocritical practice.
Still Life. Dishes
(15 April 1886 – 4 May 1966)
Collected and Last Poems
By Wislawa Szymborska
Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak
reviewed by Richard LourieThe mass of men may “lead lives of quiet desperation,” as Thoreau wrote, but the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012) did just the opposite: She lived a life of quiet amazement, reflected in poems that are both plain-spoken and luminous. Many of them are gathered now in “Map: Collected and Last Poems.”
Ultimately, in Szymborska’s view of the world, astonishment is not some precious poetic stance, but the only sane and natural response to the onrush of life that is forever various and new. It leaves no time to rehearse; every night is opening night. “Ill-prepared for the privilege of living, / I can barely keep up with the pace that the action demands. / ... The props are surprisingly precise.... / And whatever I do / will become forever what I’ve done.”
There should be some Nobel-like prize for translators — for, without their work, how would we know Tolstoy, Kafka, García Márquez, the Bible? If there were such a prize, Szymborska’s translators Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh would have been awarded it at once. Cast your eye back up on any line quoted here. Every one seems to have been born in English.
I’m told it was the brilliance of her English — and Swedish — translators that helped win Szymborska the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature. She hated fame’s commotion. She skipped important events and gave one of the shortest acceptance speeches ever, though in it she managed to chide Ecclesiastes for saying there was nothing new under the sun. The press began calling her the Greta Garbo of world poetry, but it wasn’t aloofness that motivated Szymborska’s withdrawal. Rather, it was the need to shield her sense of amazement from the paparazzi, the fans, the parasites of celebrity culture and all those others who lead lives of noisy desperation.
McKenzie Wark reviews Alberto Toscano and Jeff Kinkle's, Cartographies of the Absolute
Public Seminar Commons(....)
The project of Alberto Toscano and Jeff Kinkle’s, Cartographies of the Absolute (Zero Books 2015) is to ask what a Marxist aesthetic might be that tries to map the social totality. It is an excellent inventory of such attempts, across a range of media and art forms. I think there are still some problems with it, but I’ll come to that after outlining the excellent work the book manages to do. ‘Mapping’ gets a bit of a bad rap these days, as certain kinds of mapping are without question tools of conquest and control. So one should think of mapping at least with a certain caution. But perhaps there are alternative ways of mapping, or different kinds of agent for whom the map create agency. Besides, maps have complicated relations to territories, as any Australian student of cartography knows. The ‘map’ of the antipodes preceded the territory. It was ‘found’ in part because in the cartographic imagination it was already there.
Cognitive mapping is still caught up in a dialectic of essence and appearances, where the phenomenal form of capital is supposed to be captured in aesthetic form in such a way as to reveal its essence, which was known in advance to theory. Aesthetics just gets to be the linkage between the ruling conceptual work and the problem of mobilizing people to action based on their ability to grasp what they need to do. Somehow this never quite works out.
T+K try to restore the honor of critical theory by appeal to Benjamin, for whom the very separation of the panorama form the world is, dialectically, the condition of possibility of its overview. But as T+K point out, this is satisfying on a literary level only. It is likely more progress can be made by abandoning the contemplative world of the spectator, and engaging with the way organizing practices and organizing worldviews form a unity. It is not that one has to see the whole first, before acting. It is that seeing and acting, while never mapping neatly onto one another, nevertheless advance – and retreat – together. The world is not waiting for us to make a total work of art about a total theory before deciding to go back to the work of making itself again – in our image. T+K assemble an impressive range of works with which to think about such problems. ......(more)
May 01, 2015
The Sitting Room 1964Frank Auerbach b. April 29, 1931Ann Lauterbach at the Poetry Foundation and EPCAfter After Nature Ann Lauterbachconjunctions 1. The unsaid strafes its enclosure. I’m in a store, a storage, among forgettings that anchor them. The pasture is all snow and its perceptions drain the day outward onto a disheveled, reckless halo unspun from a saint’s hair as if scribbled. The withheld stares back onto its insolent intention, some girl in the bridal threshold of a museum her white shoulders readied for sculpture and for the thin fingers of her groom. Tidy these ancient portals, says the Bergsonian moon, there’s more to see of the great murals whose scansion is blocked by the banquet’s black plumes and crimson napkins, fake beads of hanging ice.
5. We settle for stone even as it attracts disaster just at the welcoming hour. Now the exposed branches have turned yellow, their threads crawling out from the scripted scene. Arendt talks about metaphor enthusiastically; she honors the sign of what she calls invisibles, that which will never attach itself to thingness. The philosopher’s wonder is fraught; words charge our love with action and action blurs syntax. She thinks we can see what we hear just as it vanishes. The chickadees orchestrate the silence of the hawk’s swerve; all is readied for accounting as for abstraction.
animation by Piotr DumalaFour Franz Kafka AnimationsAnimated Shorts from Poland, Japan, Russia & Canadaopen culture
The Acquisitive Gaze Rob Horning
Pinterest has emerged as a para-retailing apparatus for “social shopping,” in which users add value for retailers by organizing consumer desire into various moods and themes on boards. Some users have been able to earn commissions through this work, but Pinterest has moved to suppress third-party marketing links in advance of its “buy button,” which will reserve commissions for that platform itself.
... it’s not that Pinterest prohibits self-expression; it limits self-expression to the surface of found images, which are organized and deployed to convey one’s aspirations or moods or desires or ingenuity. This mirrors the processes of consumerism generally, in which mass-market products are bought and consumed not merely for their use value but for what they can be seen to be saying about the sort of person you want to seem to be. Vast ideological apparatuses are employed to teach us how to read out of images the various characteristics and attributes and traits (“beauty,” “cool,” “fashionability,” “cleanliness,” “health,” etc.) we seek to embody ourselves.
Empire CinemaFrank Auerbach
New Winnipeg Poets Folioedited by Jonathan BallFour PoemsMaurice MierauFred Engels And My Teenage Uncle In Different Fields, At Different TimesMaurice Mierau (....)
Does she know when he clutches for her at night that history is a snow goddess who walks on corpses in a red, red field? * Before the fall of bourgeois snow, he feels bored, puts his hand into her cleft. They drink Château Margaux all night. The bottle open on her lap, she seals his reach with just one kiss. The left’s tedious scruples do not bother him in the dark. This sleeping French girl knows nothing about him—lying splayed in the field he sees the snow left purple with the dye of the cotton mills belching at night. The reactionary victims would not know even after the melt that dialectical materialism was a field whose crop only grew at night. For example my uncle knew they buried all the bodies after dark, after ’45. He’d never tasted Château Margaux or considered the angel of history. Digging was hard too in Siberia, in frozen earth. My uncle used a blowtorch to warm the grave. He had trained as a mechanic. Now he fixed a simpler problem— open heat on permafrost.
Shell Building Site: from the ThamesFrank Auerbach
By his death in 1996 he had translated many of his own poems into English, a language in which he had by then taught and written for nearly half his life. Coming from the hand of their author, these works fall somewhere between wholly subsidiary translation and original creation. Whether their language is poetically autonomous or too distortingly shaped by its Russian consanguinities has been debated since Brodsky first spoke up in the literary culture of his adoptive land. For Brodsky, the musical dimension of a poem was inextricably wound into its semantic heart: the forms had coloration and value, as keys do for composers and tints for painters. He often spoke of the greyness or monotony of certain feet (the amphibrach, for instance) as an antidote to poetic grandstanding: such plays of self-effacement against assertion are very important in his work. Rhyming and metrical problem-solving are also essential to the wit of his poems, which again inflects poetic authority with impishness and deeply colors the poems’ tone. He used the pacing of poetic forms contrapuntally against the plotting and logic of his poems. The forms themselves—their shading, their pathos, their modulation of energy, their inherent proportionality—were absolutely inseparable for him from the poems and from his practice as a poet.
... the legacy of that period of formal quiescence remains very much with us. Few American readers can read verse musically with any sophistication. The notion is still widespread that there is a binary division between “formal” and “free” verse—whereas much of the best of what is read as free verse is in fact deeply colored by forms (often shadows of iambic pentameter or echoes of the syllabic lines of Moore and Bishop), and there is a big difference, for example, between verse that follows a colloquial or spoken line and verse that treats language as a found object. Similarly, “formal” poetry is not just conservative poetry that adheres to old structures, but is an evolving medium that grows and develops and constantly makes new means available to the artist. The rhymes and meters of Muldoon alone should be sufficient to make the case that form can be modern. Brodsky’s effort to enliven and expand the formal repertoire in English, which met with considerable resistance at the time, can surely now be judged a success. Yet critics continue to argue that the specific musicality of Brodsky’s English verse is too infected by “foreignness.” I think this suggestion deserves more scrutiny.
April 28, 2015
Scrittore a macchina
b. April 28, 1895
We ought perhaps to admire a book deliberately deprived of all resources, one that accepts beginning at that point where no continuation is possible, obstinately clings to it, without trickery, without subterfuge, and conveys the same discontinuous movement, the progress of what never goes forward. But that is still the point of view of the detached reader, who calmly considers what seems to him an amazing feat. There is nothing admirable in an ordeal from which one cannot extricate oneself, nothing that deserves admiration in the fact of being trapped and turning in circles in a space that one can't leave, even by death, since to be in this space in the first place, one had precisely to have fallen outside of life. Aesthetic feelings are no longer appropriate here. We may be in the presence not of a book but rather something much more than a book: the pure approach of the impulse from which all books come, of that original point where the work is lost, which always ruins the work, which restores the endless pointlessness in it, but with which it must also maintain a relationship that is always beginning again, under the risk of being nothing.
Blanchot on Beckett's The Unnameable, from The Book to Come
posted at Spurious
Translating André Breton: Robert Duncan & David Antin
presented by Jerome RothenbergDreams...(more)
translated by Robert Duncan
But the light returns
the pleasure of smoking
The spider-fairy of the cinders in points of blue and red
is never content with her mansions of Mozart.
The wound heals everything uses its ingenuity to make itself
recognized I speak and beneath your face the cone of shadow
turns which from the depths of the sea has calld the pearls
the eyelids, the lips, inhale the day
the arena empties itself
one of the birds in flying away
did not think to forget the straw and the thread
hardly has a crowd thought it fit to stir
when the arrow flies
a star nothing but a star lost in the fur of the night
The contemporary neoliberal era is marked by an exponential expansion of contingent and precarious labor markets. In this context, the construct of precarity emerged to signify labor conditions of permanent insecurity and precariousness. Coming at the heels of the era of Keynesian welfare, precarity is mostly seen as an exception to the normal trajectory of capitalist formations. The basic argument of this paper is that under capitalism, for the working classes precarious existence is the norm rather than the exception. Precarity is the outcome not only of insecurities of labor markets but also of capital’s capture and colonization of life within and beyond the workplace. Commodification, the primary logic of capitalism, unavoidably engenders destruction, disruption, dislocation, insecurity, vulnerability, susceptibility to injury and exploitation. For non-capital-owning classes, precarious existence, both as condition of labor and as ontological experience, is the natural and enduring result. Precarity, like capitalism, unfolds on different spatial, temporal and embodied registers differentially. Consequently, the scope and quantum of precarity engendered by capitalism varies across space and time. This differential and variation result from differing levels of commodification, exploitation and colonization of life by capital. While precarity is an unavoidable historical and structural feature of capitalism, neoliberalism has expanded and deepened it. Along the scale of precarity in the era of neoliberal globalization, undocumented immigrant labor represents the condition of hyper-precarity.
_______________________(....)via Agent Swarm
... The idea of Quentin Meillassoux is practically that all philosophical tradition is in the space of Kant, the sense that correlationism is the only clear answer to the question of Hume. The idea of Quentin Meillassoux is that there is another possibility. We are not committed to the choice between Kant and Hume.
My project is different in that it investigates different forms of knowing and action outside empirical and transcendental norms. My vision, however, is also that we must escape two correlationisms and it is a question of the destiny of philosophy itself. In the last century we had two ends of philosophy the analytic (focusing on logic, sense and science) as a kind of new positivism. The other end was phenomenological with Heidegger. There is a strange alliance between the two in France particularly in terms of religious phenomenology (Marion, Ricour, Henry) and cognitivist analytics. They join together against French Philosophy since, as they say, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Against this the fundamental affirmation of SR is an ambitious point of view, a new possibility for philosophy. A new vision. Philosophy can continue. In this sense I am happy that it is not merely a continuation of classical metaphysics nor an end of it. In this sense I am in agreement with the word realism. We are beyond the end of metaphysics and classical metaphysics with the term realism. The question of realism as opposed to materialism is not a crucial question today. What is important is that it is not correlationist or idealist. It is a new space for philosophy, one with many internal differences but this is a positive symptom.
Drunken Boat 21The Miniaturist
Enclosed is my winter my hurt my cloud they would have no more of me
if the rebels win and the fighting is pitched in the streets horrific this morning
I saw a woman pull a cannon like a mule les communards are melting
silverware for bullets I think this war will be fought fork over knife and the hungry
will have to eat the sky I forget myself enclosed is a house for Emile you said
he has outgrown your arms he takes no mind to tennis or piano no sport in shooting
game let him have this then I’ve had no paper or ink so I stay awake
a long while remembering the house last spring and my body betrays me its noises
b. April 28,1868
April 27, 2015
Alan Reynolds b. April 27, 1926As When: A Selection by Tom Raworth published this month by CarcanetThe Moon Upoon The Waters Tom Raworth for Gordon Brotherston the green of days : the chimneys alone : the green of days and the women the whistle : the green of days : the feel of my nails the whistle of me entering the poem through the chimneys plural : i flow from the (each) fireplaces the green of days : i barely reach the sill the women’s flecked nails : the definite article i remove i and a colon from two lines above the green of days barely reach the sill i remove es from ices keep another i put the c here the green of days barely reaches the sill the beachball : dreaming ‘the’ dream the dreamball we dance on the beach
Karl Ove Knausgaard’s ‘My Struggle: Book 4’ Jeffrey Eugenides
Knausgaard doesn’t reveal the identity of the American writer he had lunch with. But I will: It was me. I may be the first reviewer of Knausgaard’s autobiographical works who has appeared in one of them. Therefore, I’m in a perfect position to judge how he uses the stuff of his life to fashion his stories. Ever since Knausgaard turned me into a minor character, I have an inside track on what he’s doing.
The reason these books feel so much like life is that there’s only one main character. For all of his gifts, Knausgaard never leaves an indelible impression of other people. I have only a limited sense of his father and mother despite having read hundreds of pages about them, and the figures Knausgaard meets in Hafjord, his teaching colleagues, the girls he falls for and his students, tend to merge. You never get inside these people. It’s impossible to be inside them without altering the focus of Knausgaard’s solipsism. This wouldn’t work with most writers. They wouldn’t be interesting enough, tormented enough, smart, noble, pitiless or self-critical enough. With Knausgaard the trade-off is more than worth it. His is such an interesting brain to inhabit that you never wish to relinquish the perspective any more than, in your own life, you wish to stop being yourself. One of the paradoxes of Knausgaard’s work is that in dwelling so intensely on his own memories he restores — and I would almost say blesses — the reader’s own.
from Where the words end and my body begins
Depression, the word, is useless. There’s no music
no romance, no reclaiming it. Neither word nor illness
can be made into bedroom play. Comedy, maybe?
“So a guy walks into a bar…I mean the ER,
no I mean a bar … no I mean ER.” Same difference.
Divorced from the root
depression divvies, clinically scores me
into that and this and this and this.
But sadness is bigger than my last relapse.
This sadness is bigger than B vitamins,
is bigger than the SAD lamp that brightens my desk.
Bigger than ten milligrams twice a day.
Sadness holds more than all the second-
hand coffee mugs at an AL-ANON meeting
takes more time than the self-help
workbook my poetics professor gifted me
longer than the long-distance collect call
my mother refused to accept.
Too urgent to be wait-listed, it
is not interested in working around a schedule, or
another referral from the Red Book.
Just as it is altogether too quick to see the "material affirmation of liberation" in the exploitation of basic human capacities in work, it is altogether too slow to see in the obstinacy of a Bartleby the only response to sovereign domination. Agamben plays a central role in this recent "minimizing" turn, turning to an older Aristotelian concept of "potentiality" to explore, albeit paradoxically, the primacy of inactivity. In his discussion of Bartleby, he notes: "Our ethical tradition has often sought to avoid the problem of potentiality by reducing it to the terms of will and necessity… Bartleby is capable only without wanting." Agamben shares Heidegger's distaste for 'activity' and "will," deeming such concepts insuperably metaphysical. He thus demeans, unintentionally perhaps, the real forces at work in labor; Hardt and Negri, on the other hand, see all too clearly the politically productive elements of labor but miss crucial steps and antagonisms in the relation between production and emancipation. In the case of Hardt and Negri, this is perhaps a consequence of their affirmative ontology which sees potential everywhere. Agamben's paradoxical treatments of potentiality, on the other hand, seem to leave room only for reduced or promissory subjects. "The messianic concept of the remnant" may well permit "more than one analogy to be made with the Marxian proletariat" but only as "the unredeemable that makes salvation possible," the part "with all due respect to those who govern us" that "never allows us to be reduced to a majority or a minority." There are other, far less deferential ways of conceiving of political opposition - do we need to say that all activity is necessarily metaphysical? Agamben's Aristotelian conception of potentiality entails, in the highest instance, "that potentiality constitutively be the potentiality not to (do or be)," which suggests that even if potential is realized, it is realized only by its lack of activity. Agamben may see parallels between this lack of activity and the class that exhibits the "total loss of humanity," but the "redemption" that Marx and Agamben see must be understood quite differently. "Redemption" for the early Marx is the simultaneous supersession of private property coupled with the recovery of humanity; it is not the paradox of being saved "in being unsavable" as Agamben concludes his discussion of man and animal in The Open
April 24, 2015
1901 - 1945
What Was Canadian Literature?"New distance permits new questions. What was Canadian literature? How did it work? What did it mean? And what does it continue to mean for those of us who are Canadian and who write?"
Stephen Marche on the Decline and Fall of a National Experiment
partisan2014 was a year of deaths and victories for Canadian literature. Alice Munro accepted the Nobel Prize for literature and promptly retired. Mavis Gallant left her Canadian body in Montparnasse cemetery, triumphantly empty of stories. A seventy-fifth birthday party for Margaret Atwood at the Four Seasons came complete with a guard of forty authors to toast her. In 2014 as well, the Canada Council hosted a National Forum on the Literary Arts, intended to address the future of literature in Canada, which broke down into “a 250-person choir in simultaneous competition to be the lone soloist” and “nothing short of a total goddamn clusterfuck,” in the memorable phrasing of Pasha Malla. It was a year with a sense of an ending, at least for Canadian literature.
Writing in Canada meanwhile continued its blessed existence. Anyone who whines about being a writer in Canada today needs a history lesson and a long vacation. It’s not just the peace and prosperity which we take so utterly for granted. Before the 1960s, Northrop Frye could describe the entire literary production of the country in a few pages in annual reports for the University of Toronto magazine, and sometimes his conclusions were as terse as “this is clearly not a banner year for Canadian poetry.”
There is no question that we are living in a great time to be a Canadian writer, perhaps the best ever. But at the same time the sense of writing as a national project is stuttering to its final end.
There is no question that we are living in a great time to be a Canadian writer, perhaps the best ever. But at the same time the sense of writing as a national project is stuttering to its final end. There is one major Canadian-owned publisher still standing, Anansi; even McClelland and Stewart belongs to the Germans. The CBC, the handmaiden to Canadian literature, is being dissolved in front of our eyes. And the academic study of Canadian literature, like all the humanities, continues its steady decline into underfunded gerontocracy. The question of “national identity” is an antique one; literary nationalism is something your grandparents did, like macramé. American Psycho or American Pastoral brandish their connection to their home country; here, any such connection is best avoided—and not just because you limit your market. Canadian writers are happy to say they’re from Canada; they just don’t want to write about what it might mean. Canadian literature, in the sense of a literature shaped by the Canadian nation and shaping the nation, is over.
from the series O Mapa, 2013.
Emi Anrakuji: Mapping Embodiment
The Space In Between(....)
What we see here is a striking confirmation of Jerry Thompson’s recent claim that the importance of photography has much to do with epistemology, with its revelation of how we know the world. Elaborating a point made by the 19th-century photographer, William Henry Fox Talbot, Thompson emphasizes that photography gives us “nothing less than a way of knowing the world that transcends our educations, our opinions, our intentions, hopes, and desires—in a word, our subjectivity. Anrakuji’s work reveals a world that includes subjectivity but is neither shaped by nor defined by the human subject.
In this respect, at least, Anrakuji is effectively in dialogue with Takuma Nakahira, who argued as early as 1973 that contemporary history has shown human beings to have no special place in the world, so that “our means of expression at this point in time should discard ‘the image,’ and address the world as it is, and rightly position the thing as the thing and myself as myself in this world. To do so, all humanizing or emotionalizing of the world according to the self must be rejected.” In a later essay, “Self-Change in the Act of Shooting,” Nakahira would insist that “when I encounter afresh the world of reality, my own self-consciousness is dismantled; the act of rebuilding the consciousness has been imposed on me endlessly. That, in a way, has been my fate as a photographer.” This fate of rebuilding a dismantled subjectivity, I now want to suggest, also governs the work of Emi Anrakuji.
Are Animals People?
Talking Philosophy(....)via Leon Niemoczynski
There are at least three type of personhood: legal personhood, metaphysical personhood and moral personhood. Legal personhood is the easiest of the three. While it would seem reasonable to expect some sort of rational foundation for claims of legal personhood, it is really just a matter of how the relevant laws define “personhood.” For example, in the United States corporations are people while animals and fetuses are not. There have been numerous attempts by opponents of abortion to give fetuses the status of legal persons. There have even been some attempts to make animals into legal persons.
Since corporations are legal persons, it hardly seems absurd to make animals into legal people. After all, higher animals are certainly closer to human persons than are corporate persons. These animals can think, feel and suffer—things that actual people do but corporate people cannot. So, if it is not absurd for Hobby Lobby to be a legal person, it is not absurd for my husky to be a legal person. Or perhaps I should just incorporate my husky and thus create a person.
It could be countered that although animals do have qualities that make them worthy of legal protection, there is no need to make them into legal persons. After all, this would create numerous problems. For example, if animals were legal people, they could no longer be owned, bought or sold. Because, with the inconsistent exception of corporate people, people cannot be legally bought, sold or owned.
Since I am a philosopher rather than a lawyer, my own view is that legal personhood should rest on moral or metaphysical personhood. I will leave the legal bickering to the lawyers, since that is what they are paid to do.
d. April 24, 1976
Death and Self in the Incomprehensible Zhuangzi
in draftThe ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi defies interpretation. This is an inextricable part of the beauty and power of his work. The text – by which I mean the “Inner Chapters” of the text traditionally attributed to him, the authentic core of the book – is incomprehensible as a whole. It consists of shards, in a distinctive voice – a voice distinctive enough that its absence is plain in most or all of the “Outer” and “Miscellaneous” Chapters, and which I will treat as the voice of a single author. Despite repeating imagery, ideas, style, and tone, these shards cannot be pieced together into a self-consistent philosophy. This lack of self-consistency is a positive feature of Zhuangzi. It is part of what makes him the great and unusual philosopher he is, defying reduction and summary.
One idea that seems to shine through the Inner Chapters, especially Chapter 2, is the inadequacy of philosophical theorizing. Words, Zhuangzi suggests, lack fixed meanings, distinctions fail, and well-intentioned philosophical efforts end up collapsing into logical paradoxes and the conflicting rights and wrongs of the Confucians and the Mohists (esp. p. 11-12).
If Zhuangzi does indeed think that philosophical theorizing is always inadequate to capture the complexity of the world, or at least always inadequate in our small human hands, then he might not wish to put together a text that advances a single philosophical theory. He might choose, instead, to philosophize in a fragmented, shard-like way, expressing a variety of different, conflicting perspectives on the world – perspectives that need not fit together as a coherent whole. He might wish to frustrate, rather than encourage, our attempts to make neat sense of him, inviting us to mature as philosophers not by discovering the proper set of right and wrong views, but rather by offering us his hand as he takes his smiling plunge into wonder and doubt.
That delightfully inconsistent Zhuangzi is the one I love – the Zhuangzi who openly shares his shifting ideas and confusions, rather than the Zhuangzi that most others seem to see, who has some stable, consistent theory underneath that for some reason he chooses not to display in plain language on the surface of the text.
April 23, 2015
Redwoods Ansel Adams d. April 22, 1984From the Poplars Cecily NicholsonTalon BooksReview of Cecily Nicholson’s From The Poplars rob mclennanSmall Press Book Reviewfrom From The PoplarsCecily Nicholsonlemon hound _____ endowed by forces of nature, forces such as forest fire darkened save the plumed out stack bowed-out steam system evaporation microanatomy adhesion, stumps of cell walls end-to-end fibre forms under the niddle of machine streaming silver-blue roofs trains below trains above upper tacking texture lines cracked floor of a dry river tracks trace along side nation majorities idyllic sense of security minorities pauseless respect picking berries on the side f the road; an assertion of sovereignty _____ dead tree standing sunned and whipped dry firewood lichen curls kindle tree taken downtown dragged carcass across forest floor to blackened pit dredge spoils battle, an extreme form of dialogue pain embraced by a loud river ideality acts public out of order wrested, returnsthe mill turns around of its own free will _____
Leaves, Frost, StumpAnsel Adams
'Active solidarity with directly impacted communities'A conversation with Cecily Nicholsonjacket2
For the text to be grounded it necessarily contains my everyday life, including paid work and organizing. I prefer poetry that documents, witnesses, reveals structure, talks back and raises questions in ways that are not closed or irrelevant to my friends, family, allies. I’ve learned to reference cultural production with a specific interest in its process and public, and not simply the object/outcome. I relate best to work being produced under hard conditions and in active solidarity with directly impacted communities. If my poetry is relevant to the work of organizing then that’s a fortunate convergence. Poetry is necessary work for me – I don’t wish for it to be easily absorbed. The use of the cultural front in furthering causes of capital, colonialism and ultimately violence and poverty is difficult to get out from under. This was evident in the olympic moment. The poetry collective I work with are all organizers in different areas. We formed in anticipation of the olympics and choose to publish work that was anonymous and felt free to be moderately (and justly) seditious. In support of various actions we performed individually and collectively. At that time the deliberate influx of capital into arts production was glossing civic and national identity – this happening prior to a period of wider retrenchment of arts funding – the backdrop being long decades of dismantling and disregarding social supports. These issues are at play in the processes of gentrification that continue to be resisted in the downtown eastside of Vancouver and elsewhere. Relative to the downtown eastside I have a lot of privilege, most significantly as a paid worker, over the years. Now the area is being dominantly constructed as an arts district, so the problematic of cultural capital and producing work from this location is even more fraught. Acknowledging this, Triage is my best attempt so far to speak alongside a community of women in struggle – who are politically astute, resilient organizers and active cultural producers in ways that refuse to be co-opted. My work at DEWC enters into Triage as a jumbled series of narratives and samplings. I wrestle with the language of bureaucracy. In “SERVICE” I consider migration into the core and the daily grind of the service industry in a place that also cares for movements and uprising.
Roots 1948Ansel Adams
Pale/ontology: The Dinosaurian Critique of Philosophy Sam Krissfull stop
The thing about the repressed is that it always does come back. It’s in a different form, but no number of asteroid impacts can blot out the central law of the psyche. The primal analytic scene is this: a patient, squirming on a couch, saying this and that thing about the problems in her life, trying to avoid the central issue in a constant swerving series of linguistic loops, unavoidably centripetal — suddenly she seizes up. A cough. One hand darts into the air, seized, contorted; already the polished and manicured nails are looking somehow claw-like. When she tries to speak again her mouth opens into a long slit running to the corners of her jaw, revealing the rows of tiny sharp teeth behind. Her face lengthens to a snouty point, her hair frills into soft downy feathers, her ankle travels halfway up her leg. There’s a dinosaur on the couch. Then it speaks — something ultimately quite banal about its parents or its childhood; the point is that it’s something ancestral and inhuman, from the old dark wordless prehistory of the mind. Memory is everywhere a form of bioengineering; the bringing back of a dinosaur. Faulkner understood it: The past is never dead. It’s not even past. Reintroducing the dinosaurs isn’t a matter of temporal but spatial rearrangement. ...
Philosophers don’t want to consider dinosaurs because in any epistemology or ontology that follows Kant in featuring a distinction between human experience and the non-human world, dinosaurs represent the ultimate point of the non-human world’s unknowability. God is an indeterminate quantity; the real Absolute Other is twenty-three meters from end to end, with broad flat teeth for slicing up vegetable matter and a long tapering tail that draws lazy circles in the heavy Tithonian air. Levinas and Derrida speak of the unfathomable void of an animal’s eyes, and in a way they’re right; there’s sometimes something briefly terrifying in there. But it’s only a punctum, a sudden pin-prick: we know animals, we see them in the park, we grew up with them in fables and nursery stories. It’s a wound that quickly heals. Dinosaurs are too big to fit in any of our conceptual categories. If we’re to conceive of a noumenon, a real world as it really is, outside our experience, the previous existence of dinosaurs on the earth is the most important single fact about that world. They stand for the sheer unimportance of human subjectivity: reality was around for millions of years before we arrived to ponder its nature, and it did fine; even without a human subject to give meaning to its objectivity it was still full of life and danger. In this light, the strange refusal to talk about dinosaurs is so pervasive and so consistent that it can only be read as a neurotic symptom. If we don’t discuss them, maybe they won’t come back to claw our fragile distinction from the world of objects into shreds. It’s not just our finely wrought society that the dinosaurs threaten; it’s the idea that human subjectivities and the world beyond them can face each other as two equal halves, evenly matched. It’s the fantasy of an inert world, one without gargantuan teeth. It’s the idea that humans are subjects, always subjects, and always humans.
Rushing Water, Merced RiverAnsel Adams
April 21, 2015
Precariousness, Literature, and the Humanities Today Simon During
A Garden of Wandering: A Response to Simon During Eileen A. Joy
Of necessity, ‘academic freedom’ requires peripatetic practices—we can’t be bound any longer to this or that (institutional) place and its increasingly top--down protocols, in terms of developing certain knowledge practices, especially at a time when institutions of higher learning are becoming more and more inhospitable, for faculty and students alike. For many, you just can’t live here any more (perhaps you’ve already been shut out in advance, with graduate degree in hand, massive amounts of debt, and no job), and it’s time to depart, taking this valuable work with us like so many contraband diamonds, while insisting that we will now be ‘rooted in the absence of place’ . It may thus be time to decentralize the Humanities through various para--academic practices, such as has already been accomplished via the Open Access (OA) movement, for example. Here, I take to heart During’s advice to the Humanities to attune and adapt itself to ‘an emergent global social order whose conditions are not under our control’ and to the ‘social and metaphysical precariousness’ that emerges therefrom, but not through literary--historical analysis of that situation only. Rather, I would urge us to actually inhabit that precariousness more fully—to get Outside, stand in the rain, and see what can be done there. I myself resigned a tenured professorship in 2013 in order to run punctum books and the BABEL Working Group full--time—both of these entities exist to work on new modes for knowledge creation, exchange, and dissemination, as well as to ‘build shelters for intellectual vagabonds,’ both within and beyond the University proper. It’s about those of us within the Humanities perhaps attending to things on more structural levels and devoting more of our time to developing new spaces within which the Humanities might flourish in unexpected (and non--traditional) ways, which is different than continuing to either defend or reboot what we do in here.
So, power has left the streets and buildings and become nomadic (and maybe even post--human), and we—the critics? the interpreters?—may also need to depart, to disappear into the ether, while also squatting in the abandoned real estate (such as the University ), in order to engage in tactical maneuvers that would not amount to critique as much as to creative intervention, even creative scrambling, of the sort discussed by Rita Raley in her book Tactical Media. Here, criticism would become (or morph into) tactical disruptions of ‘dominant semiotic regimes’ as well as ‘the temporary creation of a situation in which signs, messages, and narratives are set into play and critical thinking becomes possible’—especially important in a post-- industrial era where the ‘field of the symbolic’ has become a ‘primary site of power’ (Raley 6).
Personally, I work on behalf of Derrida’s ‘university without condition,’ which Derrida believed would ‘remain an ultimate place of critical resistance—and more than critical—to all the powers of dogmatic and unjust appropriation,’ and which has special safekeeping by way of the Humanities, entailing the ‘principal right to say everything, whether it be under the heading of fiction and the experimentation of knowledge, and the right to say it publicly, to publish it’. As the University has become more and more inhospitable to the sorts of non-- calculable events of learning ‘without condition,’ we must make our way elsewhere, cultivating alternative and radicant Gardens of Thought.
Spring Time in the Dust BowlRobert HarimanBAGnewsNotes
Both roadway and the lone individual are directed toward the vanishing point of the photograph: a place in this image of pure obliteration. Sight, distinction, every separate thing is consumed by the storm, converted into total meaninglessness like a last, uniform expanse of cosmic dust at the far end of time. Against the hubris that comes with building beautiful structures and complex civilizations, we see instead a trajectory toward a common dissolution. This photograph doesn’t tell us anything important that we don’t know, but it does provide the means to think about what we would rather ignore. When it comes to living on this planet, just who are we kidding, and what do we think will save us? There have been dust storms for a very long time, and they have buried more than one civilization, but now the stakes are higher still. Human beings are able to alter the climate, but not control it. What had been local problems or long term patterns can be tipped into catastrophic changes. And if hope springs eternal, then there will be reason to believe that one day we’ll all be there, walking along a beautifully engineered roadway into oblivion.
Rockaway Beach with Pier 1901Alfred Henry Maurer b. April 21, 1868
Pound’s MetroA deeper look into In a Station of the Metro William Logan
The minor vogue and rapid extinction of Imagism, a movement whose influence we still feel, has been hashed over by literary critics for a century. Its rehearsal here is merely to bring the poem into focus within the slow progress toward the densities of language, the images like copperplate engraving, that made Pound Pound.
“In a Station of the Metro” is the rare instance of a poem whose drafts, had they survived, might retain the fossil traces of a complete change of manner, from gaslit poeticism to the world of electric lighting and underground rail. “Contemporania” showed Pound’s first acquaintance with the modern age, with the deft gliding of registers, the slither between centuries of diction, that made virtue of vice: “Dawn enters with little feet/ like a gilded Pavlova,” “Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall/ She walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens,” “Go to the bourgeoise who is dying of her ennuis,/ Go to the women in suburbs.” (In American poetry, it has never hurt to knock the suburbs.) His embrace of the modern is not a rupture with the past (there is antiquarian fussiness enough), but an acknowledgment that the past underlies the present, that present and past live in sharp and troubled relation. “In a Station of the Metro” is the final poem of the group.
anenomes in a Cornish window Christopher Wood
Vernacularists!Bright arrogance #6Of the “three grades of evil . . . in the queer world of verbal transmigration,” Nabokov places vernacularism at the lowest circle of Hell. “The third, and worst, degree of turpitude is reached when a masterpiece is planished and patted into such a shape, vilely beautified in such a fashion as to conform to the notions and prejudices of a given public.” In another place, he says that “A schoolboy’s boner mocks the ancient masterpiece less” than work that attempts to create a more “readable” version than the original. Since this column explores, and indeed celebrates versions that are wildly discrepant from the original, we should perhaps forget Nabokov’s contempt, and embrace the vernacularist translator—even espousing the No Fear Shakespeare series and its ilk as a harbinger of fearless literary experimentation to come, in its promise to translate the works of Shakespeare into “the kind of English people actually speak today.” We need not, however, perhaps go that far. "How many poetic works, reduced to prose, that is, to their simple meaning, become literally nonexistent! They are anatomical specimens, dead birds!" Paul Valéry's plaint echoes the concerns of Joan Retallack; if the popularity of her (much mistranslated) “poethics” is any indication, many are still invested, as was Benjamin, in keeping the poetic “uncommunicative,” or at least formally and syntactically difficult, eluding easy definition. And this would imply a kind constant work of translation at the very core of any poetic project. “In times of rampant fundamentalism complex thought is a political act. . . . the necessarily inefficient, methodically haphazard inquiry characteristic of actually living with ideas.” In other words, egghead shaming and hippy punching get you easy points amongst literary conservatives and presumed populists alike, but that doesn’t make it right (although it does make it kind of right-wing). However, we could say that there is a brand of translator who takes on the intralingual warping of complexities into “plain speaking,” or navigates the complexity of the plain, as a kind of conceptual challenge.
April 20, 2015
The Ghosts Disparate number 18 Between 1815 and 1823Francisco de GoyaGabriel BlackwellThe Before Unapprehended Gabriel Blackwell
Somehow, though, this seems awfully familiar.
No, I’m not less bothered by his absence than you, brother. How could I be? We were eleven and now we are ten, and yet there is no body, none of us can name the one who’s missing, and what must all of that mean? This silence worries us equally. Or, no, not quite equally: I think we all now agree my verses were next. If anyone should want this lonesome rest to break, it’s me; I mean, if I can’t claim a deeper anguish at brother’s disappearance, I can add to it the anxiety of not knowing what to say. The bodies of our departed brothers will only get heavier the more steps we take, and though we all share that burden, how many steps we all take under it—at least for the moment—is up to me. Glass houses, brother.
I agree: We probably ought to go back to the beginning. At least then we would know where we were. But the first verses escape me. I think I have them right in my mind, but when I try to speak them out loud, my throat dries up and then my mind looses them from their tether. Every time! Let someone else speak them. No? Surely someone still remembers the beginning? I mean the very first verse? Not even the brother who recited it back when we started out this season? No? No one. Then, please, let me speak a while. If, somewhere along the way, any of you remembers that verse, let him recite it, but until then, bear with me. At worst, we’ll keep climbing until someone remembers the words, and then we’ll end up where we end up every season, at the opening, on the plain. A little worse for wear, true, a little more exhausted, but such is life. At best, we’ll follow the one who’s missing to some other place.
—Once set down on paper, each fragment of memory . . . becomes, in fact, inaccessible to me. This probably doesn’t mean that the record of memory, located under my skull, in the neurons, has disappeared, but everything happens as if a transference had occurred, something in the nature of a translation, with the result that ever since, the words composing the black lines of my transcription interpose themselves between the record of memory and myself, and in the long run completely supplant it. Simultaneously, my recollections grow dull. To conceptualize this fact, I use the image of evaporation, of ink drying; or else water on a pebble from the sea, the sun leaving behind its dulling mark, the salt film. The recollection’s emotion has disappeared. Occasionally, if what I have written in explanation satisfies me (later, on rereading), a second induced emotion, whose origin is the lines themselves in their minute, black succession, their visible thinness, procures for me a semblance of a simulacrum of the original emotion, now grown remote, unapproachable. But this emotion does not recur, even in lesser form. Jacques Roubaud, The Great Fire of London quoted in from madeleine e. Gabriel Blackwell 3am
Die Alaunstraße in Dresden1914Ludwig Meidner b. April 18, 1884Gabriel Blackwell and the Legacy of Metafiction Joe Milazzo reads Gabriel Blackwell's Critique of Pure ReasonentropyBlackwell's larger point, it seems, is that, at a structural level, all narrative is a kind of paranoia.
... surely Blackwell, who is much more meticulous in his playfulness, knows that the post-modern moment has passed? Post-modernism is now just another commodity in the nostalgia market; it has depreciated into an image that cycles through countless Tumblr feeds for its quaintness value. Post-modernism is now nothing more or less than decor, a reference to a collective memory of the falsity of collective experience nooked and crannied into our so-called intellectual life like the Stratocasters and “Run Forrest Run” bumper stickers and velvet paintings and dazzlingly crappy Americana hodge-podged on the walls of a TGIFridays. So why care about the post-modern triumphs of metafiction, and why revive it? These questions, as well as the question of what Critique of Pure Reason does differently with the tropes of metafiction, cannot be separated from the question of why we take our entertainment so seriously, and why we declare—and not without some Gollum-like voracity; witness the live-Tweet apocalypse that was the minutes following Game of Thrones‘ infamous “Red Wedding” episode—ownership of what can never be our exclusive property. In its day, metafiction was viewed as an elitist enterprise, one that required a certain class of reader, and, in all fairness, it was and it did. Metafiction was elitist in the way that the generation that came of age in the late 60s and early 70s remains elite: by means of a supremely confident, consistent and inflexible exercise of their narcissism. The metafictions produced by DeLillo, Pynchon, Gass (who coined the term) et al. aimed to separate the dross and shibboleths of a previous generation’s definitions of orderly life from new ideas of lasting value via stories that were Baroque with a hipped-up self-awareness. Metafiction’s vogue was as much an expression of that Boomer pursuit of higher consciousness as it was of reflective of the opening up of the American novel to Continental influences. Metafiction was also therapeutic, in its own way, its mechanics serving as an exorcism of that Conspiracy that through multiple assassinations and Vietnam and Watergate had posited itself as the Maxwell’s Demon of recent history. Readers of metafiction could indulge in a double appreciation. First, readers could entertain and be entertained by an articulation of their own doubts about the reliability of any reality whose apparency was confirmed via mediation. Secondly, by outlasting the convolutions of metafiction and assuming a position from which they could substitute one’s own convolutions within the story, readers could, in effect, narrate to themselves, “Now I see what I am not to believe, and how.” Not without reason was some of the best metafiction written during its period of ascendance overtly political.
Like the other persons we encounter in this book’s pages, and whether we belong there in those pages or not, we exist in a realm suspended between fiction and reality. Yet neither is home for us. It doesn’t really matter, either, if the domains of fiction and reality overlap or dissolve into each other or create a million new Big Bangs every time their proximities cross their streams. Their between-ness and ours is never annulled, only sustained by its weirdly boundless singularity. Far from debunking metafiction by aping it, Critique of Pure Reason seeks to turn the engine of its perspicacities on that sense of exception it cultivated, then allowed to grow out-of-control. The volume’s final words come from, or are attributed to, Pauline Kael’s review of a pre-Blue Velvet Dino De Laurentis’ 1976 instant-punchline remake of King Kong—as mythic a movie as has ever been made. “It’s a joke that can make you cry.” The same can be said for what metafiction, at one time, could have been. Happily, rather than lament, this Critique of Pure Reason goes about its work, and its possibilities are still possible.
Nighttime, Enigma and NostalgiaArshile Gorky b. April 15, 1904Childhood Triptych Karen Soliepartisan
Whether I’d seen them with, so to speak, my own eyes,
was not the point. I may have filed some false reports,
but I’d seen plenty. Many nights they summoned me
in their fraudulent Rapture, discriminating not between
creatures and objects lifted equally into unbelonging
and returned with forms, that is, spirits,
broken. Before the world destroys us, it confirms
our suspicions. And so I kept my incredulity at the irreparable
local disdain for storm cellars to myself, investing instead
in quasi-religious superstition and my firstborn birthright
of being consistently wrong. As atmospheric hydraulics
once more engaged and the home acre prepared to revolve
like a sickening restaurant, as the grain’s hairs stood
on end and rope ladders descended from the gospels’
green windows, my mother, in the manner of someone
who believes wholeheartedly in God’s love and its profound
uselessness, said we’d take our chances in the basement.
The Road In Is Not the Same Road Out Karen SolieanansiFor decades, John Ashbery has shown us how to be non-heroic (which hasn’t stopped us from pedestalizing him…). There is something both Ashberian and non-Ashberian about Solie. Like him, she writes sentences in motley registers that accrete into poems with unpredictable logopoieic shapes. Their sentences are similarly centrifugal, though hers are never taken to the dissociative extremes his are. He sounds like a radio on scan; she sounds like she’s talking and driving ...
ALL THAT IS CERTAIN IS NIGHT LASTS LONGER THAN THE DAYKaren Solie at Poetry International
Look at your past, how it’s grown.
You’ve known it since it was yea high. Still, you,
as you stand now, have never been there. Parts worn out,
renewed, replaced. Though you may bear the same name.
You’re like the joke about the axe.
In time you’ve learned that to behave badly isn’t
necessarily to behave out of character. To thine own self
be true. In script above the nation’s chalkboards,
the nation’s talkshows. And not a great idea,
depending. It’s too much for you, I know.
One day your life will be a lake in the high country
no one will ever see, and it will also be the animals
of that place. Its figures indistinguishable from ground.
All of time will flow into it.
Leave the child you were alone. The wish to comfort her
is a desire to be comforted. Would you have
her recognize herself buried alive
in the memories of a stranger? Avoideth the backroads,
doublewides of friends, and friends of friends. . . .
Some of what you would warn against
has not yet entered her vernacular.
She travels unerringly toward you, as if you are the North.
Between you, a valley has opened.
In this valley a river,
on this river an obscuring mist.
A mist not unlike it walks the morning streets, comments on
the distinction of Ottawa from Hull, Buda
from Pest, what used to be Estuary from what used to be
Empress and the ferry that once ran between them.
The Poetic World of Karen Solie Jon Eben Field
Solie knows that language is not adequate to experience and perception. This lack between experience and articulation creates a “mourning in the use of language.” Although this mourning can emphasize the inadequacy of words, for her, this gap is fruitful as a source of inspiration. Using this inspiration grounds her poems in the precision of naming; naming the complexity and intensity of experience creates a generative power. For Solie, “there's a poetry to the names that people give things” largely because “we are metaphorical creatures.”
Solie uses her words to point out the representational crisis at the limit of language. She is acutely aware of language's fey shadow, that unnameable space where the poet exists with and without words. Poetry reviews, revitalizes and recreates the world. We can learn to see the world differently, time and time again through poems. She understands that poetry “allows us to notice things and to think about their complications and their implications.”
Solie is fascinated with the intersections of probability, determinism and fate. She sculpts the waves of determined reactions that arise from action and choice into poetic friezes. She is intuitively, spiritually and mathematically engaged with the “old split, which is sort of artificial to [her] mind, between free will and determinism.” We are both drawn to and thrown into this poetic world. We are free to explore our lives and thrown like flotsam and jetsam into the vast ocean of life's consequences.
Solie's uses language to point out what is passed over, forgotten and lost. And in that gesture we become aware of the abundance that is and is not on the page. Reading poetry requires a type of double-vision. If we are lucky, the words of the poem open up a space for us to inhabit a verbal texture. But this interior world of the poem only makes sense when understood next to the world within which we live, breathe, eat, sleep, drink, speak and write. But how can she accomplish this? In her words, the gesture is completed by “throwing one's mind outside the page.”
Poetry matters. There are songs I've always believed poets could hear above, below, beyond or, perhaps more accurately, within the din of ordinary life. In that belief, I've looked for poetry that hears and responds to what would otherwise lie hidden in the world. Karen Solie's poetry matters because it sings an eloquent version of this song about life, landscape and language.
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April 14, 2015
Eduardo Galeano1940 - 2015photo - Alberto Estévez“My great fear is that we are all suffering from amnesia. I wrote to recover the memory of the human rainbow, which is in danger of being mutilated.”
Eduardo Galeano’s Words Walk the Streets of a Continent Benjamin Dangl
During Argentina’s 2001-2002 economic crisis, Galeano’s words walked down the streets with a life of their own, accompanying every protest and activist meeting. Factories were occupied by workers, neighborhood assemblies rose up, and, for a time, revolutionary talk and action replaced a rotten neoliberal system. Galeano’s upside-down view of the world blew fresh dreams into the tear gas-filled air. In the streets of La Paz, Bolivia, pirated copies of Galeano’s classic Open Veins of Latin America are still sold at nearly every book stall. There too, Galeano’s historical alchemy added to the fire of many movements and uprisings, where miners of the country’s open veins tossed dynamite at right-wing politicians, and the 500-year-old memory of colonialism lives on.
With the small mountain of books and articles he left behind, Galeano gives us a language of hope, a way feel to feel rage toward the world while also loving it, a way to understand the past while carving out a better possible future. “She’s on the horizon,” Galeano once wrote of utopia. “I go two steps, she moves two steps away. I walk ten steps and the horizon runs ten steps ahead. No matter how much I walk, I’ll never reach her. What good is utopia? That’s what: it’s good for walking.”
Bror Julius Olsson Nordfeldtb. April 13, 1878
'Extraordinary experience will not be locatable'Bright arrogance #5jacket2Emily Dickinson’s poetry is perhaps the closest thing canonical American literature has to a “sacred language.” In Robert Duncan’s lectures on Dickinson, we could say that he posits her as the ultimate untranslatable poet, even within her own language. In her poems she “bring[s] us to the line where everything is so fraught with meaning that we can’t find the meaning.” And so, even in a casual reading of her there is a dogged engagement with the translational sublime, performed with more or less sensitivity, because she is meaning something (Duncan is at pains to distinguish her gnomic utterances from the more postmodern disjunctions of language poetry), even if that something is a nothing that is legible. If the possibility of translation is assured by some structure of commonalities that all languages negotiate, these commonplaces are confounded in her Amherst garden. “Extraordinary experience will not be locatable,” Duncan says, and in particular extends the enigma of Dickinson’s work and its untranslatability to her sexual experiences with other women, which only could have been experienced through clear, positivistic, and communicative language in a cultural context that could readily explain them, or explain them away.
Carlo Carrà d. April 13, 1966
Texts for Nothing #4 Samuel Beckettb. April 13, 1906... What am I doing, talking, having my figments talk, it can only be me. Spells of silence too, when I listen, and hear the local sounds, the world sounds, see what an effort I make, to be reasonable. There's my life, why not, it is one, if you like, if you must, I don't say no, this evening. There has to be one, it seems, once there is speech, no need of a story, a story is not compulsory, just a life, that's the mistake I made, one of the mistakes, to have wanted a story for myself, whereas life alone is enough. I'm making progress, it was time, I'll learn to keep my foul mouth shut before I'm done, if nothing foreseen crops up. ... To breathe is all that is required, there is no obligation to ramble, or receive company, you may even believe yourself dead on condition you make no bones about it, what more liberal regimen could be imagined, I don't know, I don't imagine. No pomt under such circumstances in saying I am somewhere else, someone else, such as I am I have all I need to hand, for to do what, I don't know, all I have to do, there I am on my own again at last, what a relief that must be. Yes, there are moments, like this moment, when I seem almost restored to the feasible. Then it goes, all goes, and I'm far again, with a far story again, I wait for me afar for my story to begin, to end, and again this voice cannot be mine. That's where I'd go, if I could go, that's who I'd be, if I could be. ... No pomt under such circumstances in saying I am somewhere else, someone else, such as I am I have all I need to hand, for to do what, I don't know, all I have to do, there I am on my own again at last, what a relief that must be. Yes, there are moments, like this moment, when I seem almost restored to the feasible. Then it goes, all goes, and I'm far again, with a far story again, I wait for me afar for my story to begin, to end, and again this voice cannot be mine. That's where I'd go, if I could go, that's who I'd be, if I could be. ...
Samuel Beckett1988b. April 13, 1906
Stirrings stillSamuel Beckett
2 As one in his right mind when at last out again he knew not how he was not long out again when he began to wonder if he was in his right mind. For could one not in his right mind be reasonably said to wonder if he was in his right mind and bring what is more his remains of reason to bear on this perplexity in the way he must be said to do if he is to be said at all? It was therefore in the guise of a more or less reasonable being that he emerged at last he knew not how into the outer world and had not been there for more than six or seven hours by the clock when he could not but begin to wonder if he was in his right mind. By the same clock whose strokes were heard times without number in his confinement as it struck the hours and half-hours and so in a sense at first a source of reassurance till finally one of alarm as being no clearer now than when in principle muffled by his four walls. Then he sought help in the thought of one hastening westward at sundown to obtain a better view of Venus and found it of none. Of the sole other sound that of cries enlivener of his solitude as lost to suffering he sat at his table head on hands the same was true. Of their whenceabouts that is of clock and cries the same was true that is no more to be determined now than as was only natural then. Bringing to bear on all this his remains of reason he sought help in the thought that his memory of indoors was perhaps at fault and found it of none. Further to his disarray his soundless tread as when barefoot he trod the floor. So all ears from bad to worse till in the end he ceased if not to hear to listen and set out to look about him. Result finally he was in a field of grass which went some way if nothing else to explain his tread and then a little later as if to make up for this some way to increase his trouble. For he could recall no field of grass from even the very heart of which no limit of any kind was to be discovered but always in some quarter or another some end in sight such as a fence or other manner of bourne from which to return. Nor on his looking more closely to make matters worse was this the short green grass he seemed to remember eaten down by flocks and herds but long and light grey in colour verging here and there on white. Then he sought help in the thought that his memory of outdoors was perhaps at fault and found it of none. So all eyes from bad to worse till in the end he ceased if not to see to look (about him or more closely) and set out to take thought. To this end for want of a stone on which to sit like Walther and cross his legs the best he could do was stop dead and stand stock still which after a moments hesitation he did and of course sink his head as one deep in meditation which after another moment of hesitation he did also. But soon weary of vainly delving in those remains he moved on through the long hoar grass resigned to not knowing where he was or how he got there or where he was going or how we was going to get back to whence he knew not how he came. So on unknowing and no end in sight. Unknowing and what is more no wish to know nor indeed any wish of any kind nor therefore any sorrow save that he would have wished the strokes to cease and the cries for good and was sorry that they did not. The strokes now faint now clear as if carried by the wind but not a breath and the cries now faint now clear. 3 So on till stayed when to his ears from deep within oh how and here a word he could not catch it were to end where never till then. Rest then before again from not long to so long that perhaps never again and then faint from deep within oh how and here that missing word again it were to end where never till then. In any case whatever it might be to end and so on was he not already as he stood there all bowed down and to his ears faint from deep within again and again oh how something and so on was he not so far as he could see already there where never till then? For how could even such a one as he having once found himself in such a place not shudder to find himself in it again which he had not done nor having shuddered seek help in vain in the thought so-called that having somehow got out of it then he could somehow get out of it again which he had not done either. There then all this time where never till then and so far as he could see in every direction when he raised his head and opened his eyes no danger or hope as the case might be of his ever getting out of it. Was he then now to press on regardless now in one direction and now in another or on the other hand stir no more as the case might be that is as that missing word might be which if to warn such as sad or bad for example then of course in spite of all the one and if the reverse then of course the other that is stir no more. Such and much more such the hubbub in his mind so-called till nothing left from deep within but only ever fainter oh to end. No matter how no matter where. Time and grief and self so-called. Oh all to end.
photo - mw