blog,personal commentary,reflections on the human condition,ephemera,notes from the underbelly
http://web.ncf.ca/ek867/wood_s_lot.html - 12/01/15 14:29:12 - 11/28/04 07:34:47
December 01, 2015
b. December 1, 1884
A Walking Tour of Light
Leif Schenstead-HarrisI often become confused when faced with a text that asks me in to think about language and about struc- ture—neither an especially easy topic—and I find it helpful to walk when I’m confused, mindful of the duplicitous nature of confusion itself. Jacques Derrida, unhelpfully, offers a forked-tongue observation about the subject—or, at least, about confusion (that may be the subject of this tour): the “significance of ‘confusion’ is confused, at least double”. Two signifiers under one sign: the contending thoughts here are, at least, the confusion of tongues and the confusion of structures and communities, constructs Derrida later observes are themselves fluid. Since “no natural stability is ever given…there is only stabilization in process”. Process, movement, walking: on the subject of the Aran islanders, cartographer and writer Tim Robinson comments that his writing “will lead in their footsteps, not at their penitential trudge but at an inquiring, digressive, and wondering pace”. In similar fashion I walk and perversely do not think of how the name of confusion and the name of God are woven throughout the story of Babel. Rooney’s thoughtful Genesis raises questions of light, and I’ll follow those, or, at least, I’ll walk after them. Even though there is nothing spectacular about the present meandering of thought and feet, Derrida refuses to give me leave or peace: “Everything is done and everything happens while walking”. The worst of friends, as in Flann O’Brien’s Third Policeman: we go everywhere together, Derrida and I, since the beginning of my wandering career as a graduate student three years ago. (“And that is why John Divney and I became inseparable friends and why I never allowed him to leave my sight for three years,” O’Brien, 18.)The Word Hoard
... True thought, counterfeit thought, counterfeit true thought and truly counterfeit thought? In language these are difficult questions, and under the present light the questions become dim—the light is passing, Babel has fallen, and clamorous questions are being raised. Perhaps the sun is not gone quite yet, however. These words I offer up as counterfeit: walk towards the light; head into the darkness. Fear no censors. Their doublespeak cannot regulate silence. But watch, with Cavafy’s carefully ironic Watchman at the turn of modernity, for the Atreids’ return:The light is good; good are those en route; and all they say and do is also good. So let us pray things turn out well. And yet Argos is capable of making do without Atreids. Royal houses aren’t everlasting. People, certainly, will be saying all sorts of things. As for us, let’s listen. But we won’t be taken in by ‘the Indispensable,’ by ‘the One and Only,’ by ‘the Great.’ They always find another straightaway who’s indispensable, the one and only, the great.
Volume 1, Issue 1 (2012)
Community and Dissent
photo - mw
Lines for Winter
1934–2014Tell yourselffor Ros Krauss
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon's gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.
Russian Landscape with Sun
Climate Change and Apocalypticism: A Hope Indistinguishable from Nihilism
An Und Für SichIn the course of addressing climate change, like so many other crises, we are confronted with the demand to hope. We must hope in the future, for without the future we are lost. Refusing to hope, in the form of pessimism or resignation, is to not only abandon the myth of perpetual progress, but to throw into question the fabric of society. Against this demand for hope, I am going to argue for an apocalyptic response. In what follows, I’ll briefly outline a definition of apocalypticism, drawing primarily on the work of Jacob Taubes and Catherine Malabou, before moving on to discuss this approach as a response to climate change. I’ll conclude by discussing why this apocalyptic perspective is incompatible with the idea of the Anthropocene, an increasingly popular way of framing the issue of climate change.
Climate change exposes a fundamental antagonism between some humans and nature. This antagonism structures the reality of all humans, even those who, alongside the nonhuman, disproportionately suffer the consequences of this antagonism. Within this antagonism, we can hope, but in so doing, we hope for the destruction of one side of the antagonism. There is a potential for something new to emerge, and, following Bloch, this potential novelty is a source of hope. Yet as Malabou shows, this newness emerges from trauma. In considering that possible future, we must become apocalyptic – we can only hope with a hope indistinguishable from nihilism.
Theory for the Anthropocene
a lecture with Roy Scranton, Stephanie Wakefield, and McKenzie Wark
Culture of Cruelty: the Age of Neoliberal Authoritarianism
Henry A. Giroux(....)
Underlying the rise of the authoritarian state and the forces that hide in the shadows is a politics indebted to promoting historical and social amnesia. The new authoritarianism is strongly indebted to what Orwell once called a “protective stupidity” that negates political life and divest language of its critical content. Neoliberal authoritarianism has changed the language of politics and everyday life through a malicious public pedagogy that turns reason on its head and normalizes a culture of fear, war, surveillance, and exploitation. That is, the heavy hand of Orwellian control is evident in those dominant cultural apparatuses that extend from schools to print, audio, and screen cultures, which now serve as disimagination machines attacking any critical notion of politics that makes a claim to be educative in its attempts to enable the conditions for changing “the ways in which people might think critically.”
The discourse of possibility not only looks for productive solutions, it also is crucial in defending those public spheres in which civic values, public scholarship, and social engagement allow for a more imaginative grasp of a future that takes seriously the demands of justice, equity, and civic courage. Democracy should encourage, even require, a way of thinking critically about education, one that connects equity to excellence, learning to ethics, and agency to the imperatives of social responsibility and the public good. Casino capitalism is a toxin that has created a predatory class of unethical zombies–who are producing dead zones of the imagination that even Orwell could not have envisioned –all the while waging a fierce fight against the possibilities of a democratic future. The time has come to develop a political language in which civic values, social responsibility, and the institutions that support them become central to invigorating and fortifying a new era of civic imagination, a renewed sense of social agency, and an impassioned international social movement with a vision, organization, and set of strategies to challenge the neoliberal nightmare engulfing the planet. These may be dark times, as Hannah Arendt once warned, but they don’t have to be, and that raises serious questions about what educators, artists, youth, intellectuals, and others are going to do within the current historical climate to make sure that they do not succumb to the authoritarian forces circling American society, waiting for the resistance to stop and for the lights to go out. History is open and as James Baldwin once insisted, “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
November 30, 2015
In the Cave 1957Sidney Nolan (1917 - 1992)
The Ruination of Written Words Gastón Gordillospace and politics
... Who knows how many amazing books were eaten away by bugs simply because no monk chose to save them from their ruination? One of the books that miraculously survived in a monastery over a millennia of chance encounters with the void was Lucretius’ extraordinary philosophical treatise De rerum natura, The Nature of Things. What got me thinking about the ruination of written words is Stephen Greenblatt’s fascinating (if uneven) book The Swerve, which narrates how in 1417 a book-hunter discovered Lucretius’ The Nature of Things in a remote monastery. In my book Rubble, I examined how different forms of ruination, from the Spanish conquest to the soy boom, have created constellations of nodes of rubble in northern Argentina, many of which are perceived by locals to be haunted. I therefore read The Swerve with an eye sensitive to the destruction of places and matter and the affective materiality of their debris. The richness conveyed by Greenblatt’s story of the vanishing of Roman books reveals that the physical disintegration and afterlives of rubble also involve the written word, which in the modern world is often presented as an emblem of human endurance. The striking thing about The Nature of Things’ close encounter with its ruination is how closely it resonates with Lucretius’ ideas about matter, contingency, decay, and the void.Around the pillars of Urthona, and round thy dark limbs, On the Canadian wilds I fold, feeble my spirit folds.
- William Blake, b. November 28, 1757, America: A Prophecy
The Greatness of William Blake Richard Holmes
My Blake, the radical visionary poet of the 1960s, seems almost old-fashioned now. I realize how many other Blakes there have been, both before and since. They include the bardic mystic popularized by the poets Algernon Charles Swinburne (1868) and W.B. Yeats (1893); the Marxist protester championed by the scientist Jacob Bronowski (1944); the inspired London dreamer summoned up by the biographers Mona Wilson (1927) and especially Peter Ackroyd (1995); the great psychological mythmaker analyzed by the critics Northrop Frye (1947) and Harold Bloom (1963); the agitator and revolutionary of the political historians E.P. Thompson (Witness Against the Beast, 1995) and David Erdman (Blake: Prophet Against Empire, 1974); and the man of “minute particulars” slowly and meticulously assembled by the inexhaustible scholar-researcher G.E. Bentley Jr., the author of two editions of Blake Records (1969, 1988) and A Stranger from Paradise (2001), a monumental compilation- biography, aimed to subdue “the factual Laocoön” of the life. Add to these Blake as the protagonist of innumerable Freudian, Swedenborgian, Neoplatonist, Zen Buddhist, and, more recently, excellent feminist studies (Women Reading William Blake, 2007, including essays by Germaine Greer, Tracy Chevalier, and Helen Bruder). Nor can we overlook Marsha Keith Schuchard, the author of Why Mrs. Blake Cried (2006), with her detailed explorations (and illustrations) of Blake’s supposed excursions into ecstatic tantric sex.
HecateThe Night of Enitharmon's JoyWilliam Blake1795
the secret euphoria of reading: on Cento lettere a uno sconosciuto by Roberto Calasso Daniela Cascella.3amA collection of blurbs, a hundred of them, written around other books. Written outside them and in-between them, binding them into a “perverse and polymorphous book” — a book made of words pulled, quite literally, from the margins of other books:“America is Lolita, Lolita is America.” “…a new genre of narrative which does not seek direct contact with reality, but moves through the crooked ways of philology and mystification … like in a reservoir of dreams.” “A nervous, phosphorescent mobility of style, an endless germination of images… You have no idea what modern prose is … if you don’t let this prose resonate in you, with its killer sudden jolts, hallucinatory juxtapositions, supreme and predatory use of pre-existing texts. [This book] speaks of everything. And it leaves nothing intact. … The ‘sacrilegious azure’ of [this] prose, a colour, a timbre … give us a shock of secret euphoria.”Holding these words together is the secret euphoria of reading.
Between a multiplicity of readers unknown to authors, and books unknown to readers, Calasso’s blurbs don’t connect the Adelphi publications through the logic of a plan. Instead, connections are formed through the untidier, rapturous motions of reading and of the desire to read, holding together a multitude of contingent singulars. The anti-rational quality of each encounter with a book is favoured against any rationale. Presence overrides programme, in the same manner as Adelphi’s editorial output never followed a linear path but, rather, was prompted by ardor as the path to knowledge, maintaining that books do not hold stable original meanings but prompt intermittent and changing conversations. Knowledge is mutable, knowledge is the rhythm of rapture, “America is Lolita, Lolita is America.” Many Italians of my generation will still remember this sentence, partly a distant echo of “I am Heathcliff”, partly a lightning bolt of awareness as Calasso never aims to explain the books he writes around: he thrusts the readers in amongst the very texture of language. His blurbs have no claim to introduce or contextualise: they suggest possible ways of being with books, inside them, elliptical, undone, remade in reading, incomplete, blurred — and then, again, blurbed.
How To DisappearSidney Nolan
Should I Stay in or Can I Get Out of Here? Movement, Failure, and Kafka’s Bargain Menachem FeuerberfoisFranz Kafka loved to stay on the move. He traveled and kept a travel diary. From his travel diaries, we also learn that Kafka went to spas; he liked to exercise and move his body. Like many European Jews in his generation, he wanted to be healthy and happy. But when it came to his life, his faith, and his future, Kafka didn’t feel like he was making any progress. Kafka felt he was failing to move in the right direction. Sometimes he felt he wasn’t moving at all. In order to understand whether or how he could move, Kafka turned the question of movement into parable. By way of his fiction, he encountered the possibilities of movement. Kafka wondered whether fiction would enable him to move or if it suspended movement? Was Kafka, as he says in one journal entry, “stuck to this spot,” or could fiction, as we see in a few of his parables and fictions, help him to transcend his location and go… elsewhere? These parable-based meditations on movement brought Kafka face to face with failure and the possibility of madness. They prompted him to reflect and decide on whether or not to make a “bargain,” as he says, with madness. This bargain necessarily affected his movement and prompted Kafka to, as he says in his journals, “cultivate” failure.
La VieTsuguharu Foujita 1917
'beginnings'M/C Journal, Vol. 18, No. 5 (2015)
Introduction Bjorn Nansen, Tama Leaver... The digital spaces we inhabit and experience are now highly stabilized and structured, organized through regimes of commerce and datafication, and populated by content and users whose lives began already networked in digital forms of production, distribution and consumption. Yet, at the same time, the reconfiguration of internet infrastructures, connectivity, and interfacing expressed in protocols like IPv6, projects such as internet.org, and concepts like the ‘internet of things’ or ‘natural user interface’ signal processes of digital expansion that simultaneously draw our attention to conditions of ongoing change in computational technologies, as well as the patterns of both human and machine ‘use’. This issue of M/C Journal seeks to explore the beginnings of these familiar and well established, as well as emerging and uncertain, contexts of digital cultures. By focusing on the beginnings, of life, of platforms, of theoretical concepts, of research endeavours, and so on, this issue aims to bring together scholarship around the infant and initial moments of technologies and their use, as well as the processes, relations and forces that shape and are shaped by these beginnings. Alongside critical assessments of repeated cycles of hype or peril in media pasts (Gitelman; Marvin), analyses of obsolescence, amnesia and memory produced by the conditions of the digital present (Chun; van Dijck), and concerns for the monopolisation of the Internet of the future (Wu; Zittrain), studying digital beginnings may offer a way to illuminate the varied forms of meaning, mediation, and materiality at play in configuring the familiar, or perhaps highlighting the potential for alternatives produced at such interstices. Questions of beginnings feature within research traditions and theories of technology adoption, domestication and development, and so can be understood in reference to individuals and users, but also apply to the birth of applications, technologies or enterprises, to the beginnings of concepts, theories or movements, and to the early periods of research design and investigation. Studying beginnings, therefore, raises questions about digital histories, trajectories and temporalities, and to how we as scholars go about researching such situations (Allen; Brügger). Examining and explicitly surfacing a range of beginnings both highlights the finitude of various technologies and practices while simultaneously demonstrating the historical, cultural and technical contingency of identities, platforms and practices in a wide a range of sociotechnical configurations (Leaver).
Glenrowan Sidney Nolan1957
November 26, 2015
Bords du Soupoï
Première Exposition d'Art Photographique - 1894
The Photo-Club de Paris
Translated by Adam Czerniawski
Suddenly the window will open
and Mother will call
it's time to come in
the wall will part
I will enter heaven in muddy shoes
I will come to the table
and answer questions rudely
I am all right leave me
alone. Head in hand I
sit and sit. How can I tell them
about that long
and tangled way.
Here in heaven mothers
knit green scarves
Father dozes by the stove
after six days' labour.
No--surely I can't tell them
that people are at each
For me, poetic creation was about action, not writing pretty verses. Not verses: facts. I created - it's what I thought, it's what I still think - certain facts. Not (more or less successful) lyrical bits and pieces. I reacted to events with facts - which I gave a verse form - and not with 'poetry'. That's why, even though I was a diligent student of the Masters of the Word, I was never interested in so-called 'schools of poetry' and their market-place, auctioneering rows about versification and metaphor… Speaking 'directly' was to lead to the source. To the restoration of banal faith, banal hope, banal love. Love that conquers death. Love conquered by death. Those were my concerns, those simple matters. The poems where I strained for originality, uniqueness, 'novelty', they're of secondary importance. Possibly from the point of view of 'aesthetic experience', they're better than the others. You can't have ethics alone. But avant-garde dogmatists had created so much havoc; the only remedy was to replace what people call 'poetic meaning' with ordinary meaning, common sense. I consciously began to give up the privileges of 'poetic meaning'. I turned to the banal truths. After a short trip to the land of 'poetic meaning', I go back to my rubbish heap.
Growing Stupid Together
"Reality-concealing rhetoric" and our responses to terrorism
n+1... Susan Sontag seemed tactless to many in speaking of the “sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric” of “confidence-building and grief management” that resembled the “unanimously applauded, self-congratulatory bromides of a Soviet Party Congress.” She was attacked for insisting, “Let’s by all means grieve together, but let’s not be stupid together.”
Now, as the wars of the Middle East bleed across Europe, the maniacal cries of “Allahu Akbar” are met by a louder drumbeat of “Western values” and confidence-building invocations of the West’s apparent quintessence, such as the Enlightenment. Yet again, as Sontag warned, “the public is not being asked to bear much of the burden of reality.” Many writers and journalists have chosen to man the barricades of cosmopolitan sensuousness against the barbarians. Rejecting the popular hashtag #prayforParis, a former Charlie Hebdo illustrator claimed on Instagram that “our faith goes to music! Kisses! Life! Champagne and Joy!” His old magazine later crowned the numerous odes to Parisian joie de vivre on its front page: “They have weapons. Fuck them. We have champagne.”
Not surprisingly, the pampered and intellectually neutered industry of expertise and commentary today betrays cluelessness before the spectacle of worldwide mayhem. (It is what recently facilitated the resurrection—and canonization in some quarters—of Henry Kissinger as a sage.) Only God knows how much we need some real argument and fresh thinking—the tradition of self-criticism that did indeed once distinguish and enlighten the West. For as long as avid conformists and careerists reign over an impoverished public sphere, endless war will remain the default option. And the recourse to Westernism’s self-congratulatory bromides after every new calamity will ensure that we continue to grieve together and grow stupid together.
(Polish) Poetry after Rózewicz
Edited by Marit MacArthur
a special feature at Jacket2
Nine poems by Kacper Bartczak
(b. 1972)No Time...(more)
The world functions like a cooperative
Reciprocally It trades in literally
everything It’s lonely
and it travels with one piece of luggage
without moving No matter what you say
it’s already in the bag At least there’s always
some beginning and right away
a far-sighted sequence of events
The watch runs on bacteria and frost
appears grainy like in real life
as forecast but different
you can’t see it and there’s no
condensation to give it the fullness of a dream
in which the sense of touch the conductor
cancels the ticket What remains is the feel
of foreign languages Good morning
I am from here and there I am like a Dane
in Europa Like Eskimos in Antarctica How can I get
to the nearest place and can I have
a light I’m perfecting my tenses because they thrill me
to the bone They make me hot Past continuous
Future perfect Another difficult tense
is the present simple
Translated by the author and Marit MacArthur
Sixteen Poems by Wojciech Bonowicz
Blood of the swamp brims over and fatigues the surroundings
pulling out from underground a pack of lies and sour moods.
People here are tough. If you punch one
you can break off a piece of an arm. But you can’t hurt them.
Though when the lord of flies pointed his finger there
they began to shake and jump through the windows.
Blood of the swamp pours into the houses. It put out the stove
and reminded people that their place can move.
You need to run away: the moon comes up
and calls to itself those who don’t believe in their own strength.
Running away is not the same as rejection.
Running away involves longing. The solemn moment, returning somewhere.
The strongest go through “a great range of mountains.”
Their hope is unfounded. That’s why it doesn’t exclude anyone.
The dry eye of the song can see movement in every valley.
The swamp never moves backward. The song of those who run away is wild, unhappy.
Translated by Marit MacArthur and Marta Pilarska
Die Kunst in der Photographie : 1899
A novel, for me, is an excuse to pin down, collect, and put together all the little things about daily life that I like writing about. A novel is an excuse to, just like a museum, preserve the details, colors, tastes, social relationships, rituals, advertisements, smells, the chaotic richness and the sentiments that that richness lends us in the city. I’m not saying these are essential attributes and details of Istanbul. All the galaxy of details that my protagonist Melvut takes us through, perhaps will pass away. It makes me preserve and write about them. The novel has an unsympathetic side to daily life in Istanbul. I am this kind of person; this is the way I am. I am happy to preserve all these details and put them in one strong story.
November 24, 2015
Léonard Misonne (1870 - 1943)
Technology and the Spaces Between Us Hira Nabi public seminar
It might be counter-intuitive, as we have been conditioned to believe that as our lifestyles become more mechanized, we lose touch with our selves, our sensory experiences, and even with our humanity. However, I have come to believe that technology in fact humanizes us, and it creates space for interaction and engagement. It creates room for inquiry and a point of interception. It allows for a node where strangers can overcome awkwardness, or norms of respect for privacy and space, and reach out to each other. Is it possible that our use of technology has become so naturalized that it has displaced our sense of comfort and familiarity with other humans? It is entirely possible. This is not entirely without context — we live in a world that is saturated with hyper-mediation. Media and its material objects contain our lives and the meanings we produce from living. We live in an age of technology, where connectedness and access to information is not anymore considered a luxury, but a basic need and right. As I write this, efforts are being made in Germany by groups of volunteers to provide access to free WiFi to refugees. We have come to anticipate technology in our midst. We expect to be surrounded by it, enmeshed in it, encircled by it, and connected to one another through it. We preempt material objects of technology and media in the everyday, such as security cameras, cell phones, smart phones, tablets, speakers, mechanized infrastructure, and platforms of social media. Our response to technology and mediated spheres is our response to modern living. It is our jaded response to a surveillance state, to hyperaware notions of time and space that can be collapsed into visual and oral bytes of information to be shared and consumed. It is our response to the making public of private lives, and the contestation of what privacy can and should be.
Sortie de la gare, NamurLéonard Misonne1938...everything is so fragile. I feel so lost. I live off secret, radiating, luminous rays that would smother me if I didn’t cover them with a heavy cloak of false certainties. God help me: I have no one to guide me and it’s dark again. When I surprise myself in the depths of the mirror I get a fright. I can hardly believe that I have limits, that I am cut out and defined. I feel scattered in the air, thinking inside other beings, living in things beyond myself. When I surprise myself at the mirror I am not frightened because I think I am ugly or beautiful. It is because I discover I am of a different nature. After not having seen myself for a while I almost forget I am human, I forget my past and I am as free from end and awareness as something merely alive. I am also surprised, eyes open at the pale mirror, that there are so many things in me besides what I know, so many things always silent. - Clarice Lispectorvia Richard Marshall
.....................................................Autumn Rhythm Gary Garvin
It’s the image that often returns and holds me, of standing next to my brother at the Metropolitan before the Pollock, Autumn Rhythm, seventeen feet of swirling black lines and streaks of white, black and white blotches, slaps of muted colors, all on unprimed canvas, the canvas itself browning with age, as if expounding the painting’s mortality, the memory, like the Pollock, a forceful dispersion where nothing settles. If you stand too close you only see disconnected lines, the splatters, the idiosyncratic blots, Rorschachs of indeterminate personality. If you stand too far you just see a mass of paint squared on the wall among other masses of paint from the other paintings in the gallery. But if you stand just far enough away the lines move, the painting engulfs and absorbs you in its patterns, in its rhythms, so that there isn’t anything else but the paint, the lines, the motion. One moment it flies apart, you are scattered in an exploding universe; the next it contracts, falling back into itself, you shrink, back into yourself, nowhere, into nothing, you are lost. When you close your eyes, an afterimage of chaos. Madness. Yet the large painting has presence and looks to point to something still larger, as if it stands at the threshold of some kind of meaning within us, without, within and without and beyond. Assumed is that art has anything to do with life....(more)
beirut 12 / 11: maurice blanchot and georges bataille3:AM culls two essential voices speaking in the shadow of the atrocities of earth…Maurice BlanchotIntellectual despair results in neither weakness nor dreams, but in violence. It is only a matter of knowing how to give vent to one’s rage; whether one only wants to wander like madmen around prisons, or whether one wants to overturn them.
To see was terrifying, and to stop seeing tore me apart from my forehead to my throat.
Whoever digs at verse must renounce all idols; he has to break with everything. He cannot have truth for his horizon, or the future as his element, for he has no right to hope. He has, on the contrary, to despair. Whoever delves into verse dies; he encounters his death as an abyss. We can never put enough distance between ourselves and what we love. To think that God is, is still to think of him as present; this is a thought according to our measure, destined only to console us. It is much more fitting to think that God is not, just as we must love him purely enough that we could be indifferent to the fact that he should not be. It is for this reason that the atheist is closer to God than the believer.
Translation without limits & the limits of translation, part one Jerome RothenbergKeynote speech, American Literary Translators Association annual meeting, October 30, 2015I would like to talk — however briefly — about the ways in which translation has served me as a form of composition and as an underpinning for much of my work as a poet and a writer. I have never thought of myself as a professional translator, since my grasp of any language other than English has been limited and has made any translation that I’ve worked on a slow and sometimes a very indirect process (often, too, in the case of languages that are exotic from our point of view, in collaboration with other translators). I have not as a rule added to or subtracted from the original when translating, but within those limits I have thought of myself as a poet using translation as a means for making poems or bringing new poems into English. Even more than that, I have had a need (I emphasize: a need) to translate and, by translating, to connect with the work and thought of other poets — a matter of singular importance to me in what I have long taken to be my “project” and the central activity of my life as a poet. I do not think of this as in any way unusual, although it has taken me a long time to recognize it for what it is. Many writers, but poets in particular, inherit and carry forward the works of those who came before them. In my own case the work I’ve done with ethnopoetics and with the construction of anthology-assemblages — along with a devotion to the “experimental” as a basis for my writing — has made such considerations still more central to my practice. Looking back at it now it seems inevitable to me that I would have gotten as engaged as I did with translation and for translation to have had the influence it did on the work I was doing.Translation without limits & the limits of translation, part two: 'The Joys of Influence' Jerome RothenbergI realize that where I am at this point is already at a considerable distance from what my more literally directed side (and yours) would recognize as translation, that it begins to touch on what I have elsewhere and persistently spoken of as “othering” (a word my spell-check refuses to recognize as legitimate). Still I would like to digress for a few minutes to speak of collaboration as it touches on translation and as a foundational part of my poetics and an antidote perhaps to those anxieties of influence that were injected into literary discourse some forty and more years ago. Translation of course is, at its best, the joyful acceptance of influence and of shared voices in the process of creation and transcreation. In that sense too it opens to an acceptance of collaboration and community (however problematic they may sometimes be) as foundations for the work at hand. And I would take translation as a metaphor for the entire poetic process.
November 23, 2015
Fin d'Automne 1903Gustave Marissiaux 1872 - 1929On Shuntaro Tanikawa’s Journey (1968) To I Myself (2007)Portrait of a poet: A translator's notesTakako LentoA Personal View Of GrayShuntaro Tanikawatranslated by Takako Lento
However white a white may be, it never is a true white. In a white without a single bit of cloudiness, invisibly miniscule black is lurking, and that is always its constitution itself. A white does not regard a black with hostility, but rather it is understood to contain a black, because a white by its nature fosters black. At the very moment of coming into existence, a white is already beginning to move toward a black. But in its long process toward a black, however many gradations of gray it passes through, a white does not cease to be white until the very moment it is totally black. Even when it is infiltrated by what are not thought to be attributes of white such as, for example, shadows, dullness, or absorption of light, a white is gleaming behind a mask of gray. A white dies in a flash. In that instant a white disperses, leaving no traces, and a total black rises up. But — However black a black may be, it never is a true black. In a black without a single speck of gleam, an invisibly miniscule white is lurking like a genome, and that is black’s constitution itself. At the very moment of coming into existence, a black is already beginning to move toward a white . . .
Tipping PointA slag heapGustave Marissiaux
One Life Only: Biological Resistance, Political Resistance Catherine Malaboutranslated by Carolyn Shreadcritical inquiry—synthetic zero
Symbolic life is that which exceeds biological life, conferring meaning on it. If refers to spiritual life, life as a “work of art,” life as care for the self and the shaping of being, peeling our presence in the world away from its solely obscure, natural dimension. Foucault’s concept of body and Agamben’s concept of bare life bear witness to this unquestioned splitting of the concept of life. Paradoxically, they expel the biological that is supposed to constitute their core—and it thereby becomes their unthinkable residue.
... As Agamben writes, “Bare life . . . now dwells in the biological body of every living being” (HS, p. 140). Once again, therefore, there is space for something other than bare life in the biological body. And in what, then, does that which is not in the bare life of this body consist? More precisely, we come to see, bare life is that which lives in the biological body without being reducible to it—its symbol. It must be said, the biologists are of little help with this problem. Not one has deemed it necessary to respond to the philosophers or to efface the assimilation of biology to biologism. It seems inconceivable that they do not know Foucault, that they have never encountered the word biopolitical. Fixated on the two poles of ethics and evolutionism, they do not think through the way in which the science of the living being could—and from this point on should—unsettle the equation between biological determination and political normalization. The ethical shield with which biological discourse is surrounded today does not suffice to define the space of a theoretical disobedience to accusations of complicity among the science of the living being, capitalism, and the technological manipulation of life.
The Wood GathererGustave Marissiaux 1897
Hawthorne: Science, Progress, and Human Nature A series of critical essays accompanied by annotated storiesThe New Atlantis
Hawthorne was not himself acquainted with active scientists and inventors and did not closely follow their work as it unfolded, and so his stories have only an indirect connection to the specific discoveries and advances of his day. His interest instead was scientific technique as a means of power, and what people might want to do with it. Words such as “symbol,” “type,” and “emblem” appear throughout his work, suggesting connections to eternal temptations. Several of his most famous stories depict fantastical potions that even now do not exist — but the aspirations driving their creation are as old as man; these stories envision powers we have always wanted but might not wisely know how to wield. Others among his tales reveal the sphere in which technology has no dominion, and how forgetful we are that it cannot help us there. Beginning with the essay on the facing page, The New Atlantis inaugurates a series devoted to Hawthorne’s thinking about science, technology, and progress. Over the course of the next several issues, we will take up his short fiction one story at a time, offering close readings and thoughtful commentary. The selections will range from familiar favorites to buried treasures. Each essay will be accompanied by an illustration by the marvelous Elliott Banfield. And with the publication of each essay, we will simultaneously publish a critical edition of the corresponding story on our website, TheNewAtlantis.com/Hawthorne. Please join us in recognizing and learning from the wisdom of this giant of American letters.
Gustave MarissiauxShuntaro Tanikawapoetry internationalShuntaro Tanikawa poemsContinuing To WriteShuntaro Tanikawa Translated by Takako Lento
A train runs on a single line along the gorge monkeys have given up on evolution familiar bagpipe sounds are receding and I have no choice but to continue writing poetry A mother sits on a sofa, nursing her baby a sudden explosion surprises a midday street corner opinions are noisily voiced in a new morning a youth is sulky, reading comics so what do they matter? An official history lines up only heroes projecting old scarred images and I have no choice but to continue writing poetry I cannot find the end because I don’t know the beginning Day after day I live with doubts about believing Only the sky is limitless, like salvation I live with refuse that has no place to go to forgetting the names of missing persons pawning off offerings to the altar unable to distinguish nanometers from light years Asked about pros and cons in rapid succession I dodge my swaying moods I seek supreme bliss deeper than meaning I have no choice but to continue writing poetry
from I Myself
New Selected Poems Shuntaro Tanikawa (trans. by William I. Elliot and Kazuo Kawamura) reviewed by Simon Haworth
Crepuscule d'Hiver Gustave Marissiaux 1908Turn to history - excerptLinn HansénBlackbox Manifold 14 Special section:
Literature supports the idea that many people have suffered.
By turns suffered and done other things.
What is it like to be human is it safe or is it hard.
One says that something terrible is going to happen then something terrible happens that is bad luck.
Someone falls off a swing or a war comes that is not back luck that is history.
The Bible is a footnote to Plato.
The Finnish ferry is a footnote to the kayak and the irritation is a footnote to the real fury.
The lamb is a footnote to a dodo’s child.
Memory is poorer but more trustworthy than an anecdote.
A déjà vu is shorter but more surprising than a memory.
The nobility is historical as well as the monarchy while a déjà vu is the opposite of history.
The following things have burnt throughout history parliaments buildings forests hearts common people’s houses whole cities.
Just after the telescope came the night sky.
Corals: Poems Heard In Europe - curated by Michael Farrell
November 19, 2015
Woman on a Breakwater 1880James Ensor d. November 19, 1949
Pale Tradescantia Maria Arambula
A field full of resilient weeds can be a source of hope. I often look upon untended land and think, life finds a way; wishing in the expanse that a home is being made for other, more fragile beings. Yet year after year, the same plants expand their territory, almost mimicking human monocultures. Here in the deep south, late winter is awash with the warm golden red of sour dock singly occupying the fallow cotton fields. The famed, now almost beloved kudzu, is still found in vast stretches along roadsides, creating sculptural representations of the trees they have swallowed. In the shallow swamps, whorled tangles of invasive hydrilla dominate the homes of the native American water lily. Today, Pfeiffer’s warning to listen to weeds is even more stark as hydrilla is now proving to be a vector for a never-before-seen bacteria dubbed ‘the eagle killer’. In the endless heat of the American South, these plants are adapting rapidly with uncanny intelligence. What are they trying to tell us? Humans tend to believe nature sends us messages. I, too, search for secrets in rustling breezes or thoughtfulness in the bowing head of a mockingbird. Yet, I feel more grounded when I decide there are no hidden messages intended for me; to instead experience a communion, a call away from the self, and into the living community. In order to stop echoing my own anthropocentrism, I must resist the idea that nature is there to tell me anything.
James EnsorFive PoemsG.C. WaldrepTypo Magazine 3IV. Santa Monica, California, 1988 Therefore rest (the idea of). When one reaches an opposite coast it's either sink or swim or else stake out one's God on the illuminate sand. Turning back is not an option, one can never hope to turn one's back, the text is in the turning, this is the logic of the boustrephedon, every text turns from next to next. Call this narrative. I think it is crucial to know who, precisely, is being excluded from the garden. A respite from the text, a respite from the next, any Buick could serve as the vehicle for a Sunday nap, any le Corbusier cube. And the sea waits like a small rickety chair in its musty room, almost forgotten. Note to the architects of languor: The dead do not approach the camera with the hesitation we suppose. Rest, too, is a concept realized consistently in one direction. Rest is the common currency of a charming detail.
body - November 2015The Czech IssuePoems from Instruction Manual Jirí Kolár (1914 - 2002) Translated by Ryan ScottNever Again Board a tram or bus and become acutely aware of the vibration beneath your feet the sounds inside and out the life all around the presence of those others recall how many times you went somewhere to and from and with whom guess what everyone is thinking what’s his job how he has lived what he reads what dream he had somewhere in the memory keep enough space for what you would like to befall you what distresses you what you forget about and meanwhile keep listening to the voice in your head asking what you would do if you knew you will never return home again
Bad thoughts can’t make you sick, that’s just magical thinking Angela Kennedyaeon
It might seem counter-intuitive to adopt a skeptical position against such culturally and medically entrenched ideas. But my research suggests that psychogenic explanations for physical conditions can be dangerous. They contain numerous confused ideas, flaws in reasoning, and fundamental problems in methodology, often making a mockery of claims to be ‘scientific’. Such explanations constitute a ‘God of the gaps’ theory, whereby fictional, sometimes magical narratives slip into medical reasoning whenever there is a vacuum of knowledge. They contain prejudicial assumptions about people and how they experience their ill-health. Yet the assertion that physical illness is due to psychosocial stress is absurdly common, in both the popular media and the medical literature.November 18, 2015
La Conversation 1968Jean Paul Lemieux b. November 18, 1904
The thinker's dogNietzsche And The BurbsEvery thinker should have a dog, Nietzsche says. A melancholic dog. A dog of great sadness, which intuits sadness. The thinker's dog is a scrap of sadness, he says. The shadow of sadness, walking beside its master. The thinker’s dog is really the Void as a dog, he says. The Deep as a dog. The thinker's dog is dark - so dark that it seems like a hole in the world, a kind of gap. The thinker's dog is a bit of the night , he says. A bit of black sun. A sample of the eternal night. The thinker's dog is a companion in pain, he says. In world-pain, in life-pain. The thinker’s dog serves its master, and serves thought. The thinker's dog is there, silent, when the thinker thinks, he says. He is there, a familiar, on the threshold of thought. The thinker's dog serves in muteness, he says. In calmness. The thinker's dog watches over the thinker, over the frenzy of thinking. Mutely, calmly. There, silent, as the thinker thinks. There, knowing that it is part of something larger. There, knowing that it serves, and serves its master, who likewise serves.
La plageJean Paul Lemieux
The Death of the Cyberflâneur by Evgeny Morozovsynthetic zeroTHE other day, while I was rummaging through a stack of oldish articles on the future of the Internet, an obscure little essay from 1998 — published, of all places, on a Web site called Ceramics Today — caught my eye. Celebrating the rise of the “cyberflâneur,” it painted a bright digital future, brimming with playfulness, intrigue and serendipity, that awaited this mysterious online type. This vision of tomorrow seemed all but inevitable at a time when “what the city and the street were to the Flâneur, the Internet and the Superhighway have become to the Cyberflâneur.” Intrigued, I set out to discover what happened to the cyberflâneur. While I quickly found other contemporaneous commentators who believed that flânerie would flourish online, the sad state of today’s Internet suggests that they couldn’t have been more wrong. Cyberflâneurs are few and far between, while the very practice of cyberflânerie seems at odds with the world of social media. What went wrong? And should we worry?
Online communities like GeoCities and Tripod were the true digital arcades of that period, trading in the most obscure and the most peculiar, without any sort of hierarchy ranking them by popularity or commercial value. Back then eBay was weirder than most flea markets; strolling through its virtual stands was far more pleasurable than buying any of the items. For a brief moment in the mid-1990s, it did seem that the Internet might trigger an unexpected renaissance of flânerie. However, anyone entertaining such dreams of the Internet as a refuge for the bohemian, the hedonistic and the idiosyncratic probably didn’t know the reasons behind the disappearance of the original flâneur.
... if today’s Internet has a Baron Haussmann, it is Facebook. Everything that makes cyberflânerie possible — solitude and individuality, anonymity and opacity, mystery and ambivalence, curiosity and risk-taking — is under assault by that company. And it’s not just any company: with 845 million active users worldwide, where Facebook goes, arguably, so goes the Internet. It’s easy to blame Facebook’s business model (e.g., the loss of online anonymity allows it to make more money from advertising), but the problem resides much deeper. Facebook seems to believe that the quirky ingredients that make flânerie possible need to go. “We want everything to be social,” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said on “Charlie Rose” a few months ago.
As the popular technology blogger Robert Scoble explained in a recent post defending frictionless sharing, “The new world is you just open up Facebook and everything you care about will be streaming down the screen.” This is the very stance that is killing cyberflânerie: the whole point of the flâneur’s wanderings is that he does not know what he cares about. As the German writer Franz Hessel, an occasional collaborator with Walter Benjamin, put it, “in order to engage in flânerie, one must not have anything too definite in mind.” Compared with Facebook’s highly deterministic universe, even Microsoft’s unimaginative slogan from the 1990s — “Where do you want to go today?” — sounds excitingly subversive. Who asks that silly question in the age of Facebook? According to Benjamin, the sad figure of the sandwich board man was the last incarnation of the flâneur. In a way, we have all become such sandwich board men, walking the cyber-streets of Facebook with invisible advertisements hanging off our online selves. The only difference is that the digital nature of information has allowed us to merrily consume songs, films and books even as we advertise them, obliviously.
La PrairieJean-Paul Lemieux 1964
Legal hacking and space Dubravka Sekulic eurozine
The notion of commons in (urban) space is often complicated by archaic models of organization and management – "the pasture we knew how to share". There is a tendency to give the impression that the solution is in reverting to the past models. In the realm of digital though, there is no "pasture" from the Middle Ages to fall back on. Digital commons had to start from scratch and define its own protocols of production and reproduction (caring and sharing). Therefore, the digital commons and free software community can be the one to turn to, not only for inspiration and advice, but also as a partner when addressing questions of urban commons. Or, as Marcell Mars would put it "if we could start again with (regulating and defining) land, knowing what we know now about digital networks, we could come up with something much better and appropriate for today's world. That property wouldn't be private, maybe not even property, but something else. Only then can we say we have learned something from the digital" (2013).
Le visiteur du soirJean Paul Lemieux1956
Suddenly Sontag Puja Sen Muse IndiaReborn: Early Diaries 1947-1963Susan Sontagedited by David Rieff
Sontag's breathtaking clarity, lucid prose and rigour of thought made her the standard bearer in American intellectual life in the post Eisenhower era, of the search for aesthetic shifts in taste. Her attempt was to "delineate the modern sensibility from as many angles as possible." Having advocated influentially for the breaking down of the boundaries of high and low art, Sontag would later bemoan culture's turn away from "seriousness" and high modernism that was characteristic of American essays and literary criticism until the 1950s. She wrote in a preface to a 1996 edition of Against interpretation that "some of the more transgressive art I was enjoying would reinforce frivolous, merely consumerist transgressions. Thirty years later, the undermining of standards of seriousness is almost complete, with the ascendancy of a culture whose most intelligible, persuasive values are drawn from the entertainment industries." In her early essays, it is easy to discern her exercise of reason, moral caution and political commitments, so that we are able to understand what drove her as a public intellectual and an engaged writer in the world. What she kept at arm's length however, was the public scrutiny of her private life. Her style, aphoristic and self-assured rather than subjective and stylized, makes her seem perhaps remote especially compared to the preponderance of the 'I' in literary essays of our times. "My mother was not in any way a self-revealing person", wrote her son David Rieff. Her refusal to be identified by her gender and sexual orientation frequently put her at odds with a world that was moving fast towards identity politics, and the reorganisation of social and political movements along these lines in the latter half of the twentieth century.
According to American writer and essayist Joan Didion, "Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss." Much of Sontag's diaries are lists and catalogues – of words, of her social meetings, books she wanted to read, life goals, aspirations and syllogisms. The form of the diary or private journal is fluid. It is not necessarily tied to any formal constraints: it need not have control or literary merit. Better described as the writing of the self, it is fragmentary, containing "bits of the mind string too short to use" as Didion wrote, not structured for public consumption, but a way to anchor or lock down fleeting thoughts, personal epiphanies, despair and anguish. Sontag's diaries, however, are not simply a pure and embarrassing record of emotions, humiliations, failed ambitions, envy or despair as most of our diaries (mine anyway) may be limited to. They have an active sense of shaping one's identity instead of merely archiving it, a kind of vigilant recordkeeping, tallying to see if one's stated philosophical goals are being met. Sontag wrote these with her eye trained outward, at art, philosophy and literature, all with an aim towards relentless self-improvement. She displayed an investment in producing the self as shaped by metaphysics: "how to make my sadness more than a lament for feeling? How to feel? How to burn? How to make my anguish metaphysical". Her brilliant panaromic vision of culture, her aphoristic style are present along with admissions of self-consciousness about lying and talking too much, her inability to say no, of seeming false and performative, humiliating sex and the terrible knowledge of being disliked by her lover. But mostly it shows how her personality was so powerfully shaped by wanting to be a writer. "This is a journal where art is seen as a matter of life and death, where irony is assumed to be a vice, not a virtue, and where seriousness is the greatest good.", wrote David Reiff.
November 16, 2015
Horsetails and Log 1957 Wynn Bullock d. Nov 16, 1975
Memory for ForgetfulnessMahmoud Darwish Translated, with an Introduction by Ibrahim MuhawiPierre Joris
Coffee is the morning silence, early and unhurried, the only silence in which you can be at peace with self and things, creative, standing alone with some water that you reach for in lazy solitude and pour into a small copper pot with a mysterious shine—yellow turning to brown—that you place over a low fire. Oh, that it were a wood fire!
Stand back from the fire a little and observe a street that has been rising to search for its bread ever since the ape disentangled himself from the trees and walked on two feet. A street borne along on carts loaded with fruits and vegetables, and vendors’ cries notable for faint praise that turns produce into a mere attribute of price. Stand back a little and breathe air sent by the cool night. Then return to your low fire—If only it were a wood fire!—and watch with love and patience the contact between the two elements, fire colored green and blue and water roiling and breathing out tiny white granules that turn into a fine film and grow. Slowly they expand, then quickly swell into bubbles that grow bigger and bigger, and break. Swelling and breaking, they’re thirsty and ready to swallow two spoonfuls of coarse sugar, which no sooner penetrates than the bubbles calm down to a quiet hiss, only to sizzle again in a cry for a substance that is none other than the coffee itself—a flashy rooster of aroma and Eastern masculinity.
Remove the pot from the low fire to carry on the dialogue of a hand, free of the smell of tobacco and ink, with its first creation, which as of this moment will determine the flavor of your day and the arc of your fortune: whether you’re to work or avoid contact with anyone for the day. What emerges from this first motion and its rhythm, from what shakes it out of a world of sleep rising from the previous day, and from whatever mystery it will uncover in you, will form the identity of your new day. Because coffee, the first cup of coffee, is the mirror of the hand. And the hand that makes the coffee reveals the person that stirs it. Therefore, coffee is the public reading of the open book of the soul. And it is the enchantress that reveals whatever secrets the day will bring.
Wynn BullockSoonest Mended John Ashbery Alas, the summer’s energy wanes quickly, A moment and it is gone. And no longer May we make the necessary arrangements, simple as they are. Our star was brighter perhaps when it had water in it. Now there is no question even of that, but only Of holding on to the hard earth so as not to get thrown off, With an occasional dream, a vision: a robin flies across The upper corner of the window, you brush your hair away And cannot quite see, or a wound will flash Against the sweet faces of the others, something like: This is what you wanted to hear, so why Did you think of listening to something else? We are all talkers It is true, but underneath the talk lies The moving and not wanting to be moved, the loose Meaning, untidy and simple like a threshing floor.
... These were moments, years, Solid with reality, faces, namable events, kisses, heroic acts, But like the friendly beginning of a geometrical progression Not too reassuring, as though meaning could be cast aside some day When it had been outgrown. Better, you said, to stay cowering Like this in the early lessons, since the promise of learning Is a delusion, and I agreed, adding that Tomorrow would alter the sense of what had already been learned, That the learning process is extended in this way, so that from this standpoint None of us ever graduates from college, For time is an emulsion, and probably thinking not to grow up Is the brightest kind of maturity for us, right now at any rate. And you see, both of us were right, though nothing Has somehow come to nothing; the avatars Of our conforming to the rules and living Around the home have made—well, in a sense, “good citizens” of us, Brushing the teeth and all that, and learning to accept The charity of the hard moments as they are doled out, For this is action, this not being sure, this careless Preparing, sowing the seeds crooked in the furrow, Making ready to forget, and always coming back To the mooring of starting out, that day so long ago....(more)
Old TypewriterWynn Bullock 1951
The story trapPhilip Ballaeon
... the question remains: where does this narrative impulse come from? Why and how do we construct these stories? What kinds of stories do we impose on events? And should we?
What is leading us astray? I would argue that it is our instinct for story, albeit in a very abstract form. The putative ‘gay gene’ or ‘criminality gene’ or whatever becomes a character whose motive is to make the organism gay or criminal – even though, when such candidate genes are examined, they might turn out to encode digestive enzymes or something. This storifying crops up in Richard Dawkins’ notion of genes as autonomous replicators struggling (just like us!) for reproductive success: it’s a narrative we understand, even though no gene is (or probably ever has been) a replicator in that sense at all. It seems likely, says the literary scholar Richard Walsh of the University of York, that complexity in general ‘resists the tendentiousness of narrative representation’ – and that in such cases ‘there is an important gap between our narrative talk of what a system does and how the system actually does it’. Here stories surely help us make sense of a complicated universe, but sometimes they are just that: comforting tales, not genuine accounts of why things are the way they are.(....)
... We need narrative not because it is a valid epistemological description of the world but because of its cognitive role. It’s how we make sense of things. An inability to render life experiences into a coherent narrative is characteristic of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Text that fails to deliver narrative coherence, for example in terms of relating cause to effect and honouring the expectations of readers, is harder to understand. So identifying narratives in abstract activities such as music and sport seems inevitable: if they lacked the properties that make this possible, they wouldn’t catch on, because they would seem pointless and unintelligible. Looked at this way, we might wonder if the ultimate intelligibility of the universe will be determined not so much by the capacity of our minds to formulate the appropriate concepts and equations, but by whether we can find a meaningful story to tell about it.
Stark TreeWynn Bullock 1956
Let Me Tell You a Story: Heroes and Events of PragmatismHilary Putnam interview
Symposia. The Pragmatist Method: New Challenge for the Social and Human SciencesEuropean Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy Volume 7, Number 1, 2015
The Physics of Sorrow Georgi Gospodinov Review by Jordan Andersonquarterly conversation
By the standard of an author’s handling of complex thematic ideas, Georgi Gospodinov’s The Physics of Sorrow, beautifully translated by Angela Rodel,is an excellent book. Gospodinov takes the conceptual framework within his novel as the ability of literature to overcome the restrictions of memory. Taking major cues about this subject from both Borges and Sebald (see Gospodinov’s extensive use of diagrams and photographs throughout the text), the author explores memory through a tightly woven set of fantastic experiences among the ever-changing society of Bulgaria in the 20th and early 21st centuries, and does so profoundly.
At its core, The Physics of Sorrow is filled with these illuminating treatises on memory. Indeed, casual asides and strange explorations of cultural oddities begin to take on greater import when the reader considers that Gospodinov is actually addressing his own concepts of the way in which human culture defines itself. Exploring the trend in the years 1999 and 2000 for creating “time capsules,” for example, Gospodinov’s narrator is fascinated by the degree to which human beings grapple with their own limited memories and lifespans. What is a time capsule, the narrator seems to suggest, except a will to extend our memories beyond our lifetime? Is the artist’s desire for posterity driven by the same desire for an understanding by a future age? Is Gospodinov’s novel itself merely a time capsule to convey the author’s memories? These questions are, rightly, left open-ended, and it is to the author’s credit that he does not condescend to try to answer these queries to his readers.
November 13, 2015
Chestnut Orchard in WinterCamille Pissarro1872
Vagrancy in the ParkThe essence of Wallace Stevens: Roses, roses. Fable and dream. The pilgrim sun.Susan Howethe nation
“The river motion, the drowsy motion of the river R.” There are numerous interpretations of the last poem in his Collected, which he titled “Not Ideas About the Thing but the Thing Itself”; far less attention has been paid to the first:An Old Man Asleep The two worlds are asleep, are sleeping, now. A dumb sense possesses them in a kind of solemnity. The self and the earth—your thoughts, your feelings, Your beliefs and disbeliefs, your whole peculiar plot; The redness of your reddish chestnut trees, The river motion, the drowsy motion of the river R.What two worlds? When is now? Old Man River, are you the reader, or are you the sleeping author your readers read inside ourselves? Your beliefs and disbeliefs, your whole peculiar plot; self and soil, a blaze of artifice reflected in earthly elements composing it. R as redness read or any other color in the spectrum coming to us through oscillating phonemes. Possibly those little mirror ‘r’s on folded scraps of paper represent time passing. The way certain autumn leaves change colors—bright but not green, neither green nor bright—Now we see through a glass. But Dumbfounder. Day is done. You rest it at that.
Spinoza, I skidded on ice-encrusted roads to our local post-office to get your letter from Europe. You should know [thimble finger turning] I am also reading Emerson, and Hawthorne. Each author’s posthumous name is a label attached to a cardboard mask for communal sharing of two realities. Random connections between public parks as rustic meta-historical archetypes. Ringing round, while performing somersaults in a cage of common purpose we obey the pages turning. Revolving beyond forgetfulness until they reach the rocks around New Quarry Road as they were thousands of years before a working quarry was wrenched from chaos and nothingness. Composed as rustic landscapes public parks are partly dreamscapes set off for communal sharing. A common curriculum waving purple floraisons of imagery.
Revelation in its first pulses is extravagant.
Chemin Dans Les Arbres
d. Nov 13, 1943
Undigesting DeleuzeBrian Massumi
The uptake of Deleuze’s work in the world of English-speaking academia was remarkably slow. A first flurry of interest was occasioned by two key publications in 1977: the translation of Anti-Oedipus, co-written with Félix Guattari, and an eponymous special issue about that two-headed book from the renegade journal Semiotext(e). The excitement these two publications inspired was for the most part felt outside the academy. Where it registered was on the political and artistic fringe (remember that this was a time before the internet, and the recuperative powers of neoliberalism’s data-mining and niche-marketing of all aspects of emergent existence, had robbed that concept of its force). Within the academy, the least amenable corner was Deleuze’s own home discipline of philosophy. A tentative welcome was extended by literature departments, the traditional landfall site of the successive waves of European thought that swept through the late-20th-century Anglo-American intellectual landscape. Deleuze’s thought did not sweep so much as drizzle. Sweeping were the Foucault power wave, and Baudrillard simulation wave, the Derrida deconstruction wave, the Lyotard postmodern wave, waving to Deleuze as they passed him by.
To illustrate part of the reason for the pass-by, imagine what epitomizing qualifier could have been inserted between “Deleuze” and “wave.” The candidates that come to mind — micropolitical, rhizomatic, virtual, singular, becoming, superior-empirical, asignifying-semiotic, anorganic-vitalist, affirmative — seem more apt to have sealed his marginal position than transform it into swell. This was not so much because these keywords were more jargony than others (any new term is jargon before it becomes a new term). It was due more to the fact that the theoretical and political stakes they carry were not immediately readable, for the simple reason that the background against which they figured was unfamiliar. Deleuze was working at crosscurrents to the dominant tendencies of the time. He chose nondialectical Spinoza over Hegel; spurned the all-powerful “linguistic imperialism” of structuralism and its semiotic inheritors; aligned with the forgotten anti-Durkheim of early sociology, Gabriel Tarde; championed a nonstandard reading of Nietzsche with as yet little currency outside of France; critiqued both the French Freudianism of Lacan and its nemesis, American ego psychology; remained in constant dialogue, implicit or explicit, throughout all of his works with such then-unknowns as philosophers of science Gilbert Simondon and Raymond Ruyer; throughout carried the strongest affinities with the then seriously out-of-fashion A.N. Whitehead; and perhaps worst of all, proudly wore the badge of his everlasting love of metaphysics, in the face of many a solemn declaration of its death. His dedication to drawing on “minor” figures to forge his own unique philosophical synthesis, and the sheer diversity of these largely unknown antecedents, rendered his positioning uncomputable.
Environmental Humanities, vol. 7, 2015Invasive Narratives and the Inverse of Slow Violence: Alien Species in Science and Society [pdf]Susanna Lidström, Simon West, Tania Katzschner, M. Isabel Pérez-Ramos and Hedley TwidleAbstract Environmental narratives have become an increasingly important area of study in the environmental humanities. Rob Nixon has drawn attention to the difficulties of representing the complex processes of environmental change that inflict ‘slow violence’ on vulnerable human (and non-human) populations. Nixon argues that a lack of “arresting stories, images and symbols” reduces the visibility of gradual problems such as biodiversity loss, climate change and chemical pollution in cultural imaginations and on political agendas. We agree with Nixon that addressing this representational imbalance is an important mission for the environmental humanities. However, we argue that another aspect of the same imbalance, or representational bias, suggests the inverse of this is also needed—to unpack the ways that complicated and multifaceted environmental phenomena can be reduced to fast, simple, evocative, invasive narratives that percolate through science, legislation, policy and civic action, and to examine how these narratives can drown out rather than open up possibilities for novel social-ecological engagements. In this article we demonstrate the idea of invasive narratives through a case study of the ‘invasive alien species’ (IAS) narrative in South Africa. We suggest that IAS reduces complex webs of ecological, biological, economic, and cultural relations to a simple ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ battle between easily discernible ‘natural’ and ‘nonnatural’ identities. We argue that this narrative obstructs the options available to citizens, land managers and policy-makers and prevents a more nuanced understanding of the dynamics and implications of biodiversity change, in South Africa and beyond.
d. Nov 13, 1903The Guardian Angel Of The Private Life
All this was written on the next day's list.
On which the busyness unfurled its cursive roots,
pale but effective,
and the long stem of the necessary, the sum of events,
built-up its tiniest cathedral...
(Or is it the sum of what takes place? )
If I lean down, to whisper, to them,
down into their gravitational field, there where they head busily on
into the woods, laying the gifts out one by one, onto the path,
hoping to be on the air,
hoping to please the children --
(and some gifts overwrapped and some not wrapped at all) -- if
I stir the wintered ground-leaves
up from the paths, nimbly, into a sheet of sun,
into an escape-route-width of sun, mildly gelatinous where wet, though
fluffing them up a bit, and up, as if to choke the singularity of sun
with this jubilation of manyness, all through and round these passers-by --
just leaves, nothing that can vaporize into a thought,
no, a burning bush's worth of spidery, up-ratcheting, tender-cling leaves,
oh if -- the list gripped hard by the left hand of one,
the busyness buried so deep into the puffed-up greenish mind of one,
the hurried mind hovering over its rankings,
the heart -- there at the core of the drafting leaves -- wet and warm at the
the bright mock-stairwaying-up of the posthumous leaves -- the heart,
formulating its alleyways of discovery,
fussing about the integrity of the whole,
the heart trying to make time and place seem small,
sliding its slim tears into the deep wallet of each new event
on the list
then checking it off -- oh the satisfaction -- each check a small kiss,
an echo of the previous one, off off it goes the dry high-ceilinged
checked-off by the fingertips, by the small gust called done that swipes
the unfinishable's gold hem aside, revealing
what might have been, peeling away what should . . .
November 12, 2015
Cold Mountains and Withered Trees
d. Nov 11, 1939
Translating Longing : A Novice Translator’s First Transgressions
asymptote"In the text the girl sings: This earth cell is old—I am full of longing. She is under the oak. There is ambiguity. "I’m translating “The Wife’s Lament,” from the Anglo-Saxon (among other poems), and—though I am in the habit of calling my drafts “transgressions”—there is a palpable sense of longing breaking through which I think may be possible to understand. What I mean by “even now,” has to do with the ideas of immediacy prevalent (one could say saturated) in the current collective consciousness.
More on the texture of longing: it creates its own language—even the length of the L enacts the length of longing. I’m wondering now if language didn’t come from longing, from its length—an internal space for all manner of things, mainly love, friendship, and pain:Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire. The emotion derives from a double contact: on the one hand, a whole activity of discourse discreetly, indirectly focuses upon a single signified, which is ‘I desire you’, and releases, nourishes, ramifies it to the point of explosion (language experiences orgasm upon touching itself); on the other hand, I enwrap the other in my words, I caress, brush against, talk up this contact, I extend myself to make the commentary to which I submit the relation endure (Bataille,Visions of Excess, Selected Writings, 1927-1939 p.79).The Old English word for oak tree is actreo. The letters not much changed in over two thousand years. The oldest living tree is a Bristlecone Pine in the White Mountains of California. It’s over five thousand years old.
The Ecology of Language
The Dark Mountain Blog(....)
Language is more than functional; it is an essential tool in the gardening shed of the soul.
But maybe it isn’t a word-hoard at all. Word hoard conjures to mind some sort of pantry or chest — quite possibly very old and wooden and filled with bio dynamic, organic apples, but cut off and not-living nonetheless. And language is living; it is a constantly evolving ecosystem — a word-wood.Language is a living thing. We can feel it changing. Parts of it become old: they drop off and are forgotten. New pieces bud out, spread into leaves, and become big branches, proliferating. — Gilbert HighetAs we grow, our word-wood grows. If we are lucky, the earth beneath our word-wood is made fertile by those around us. If we are unlucky, the earth is grey and cold; in that scrubland, bramble words grow, filling our mouths with dry, spiky, withered attempts to express the fire within. We swear, scream and hit because we have nothing else. These are the children who lash out in frustration because they don’t have the words to help us understand how they are feeling — the force of the absent word rises like a tsunami of the soul.
b. Nov 11, 1868
1878 - 1914
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
.....................................................28 cinquains from Adelaide Crapsey's VerseTrapped
If day on day
Follows, and weary year
On year. . and ever days and years. .
Learning to walk the Cinquain 1:
Soft Lyric, Hard Lyric
George SzirtesLooking for short forms other than the haiku I returned to a forgotten one, the cinquain, as patented by Adelaide Crapsey (1878-1914). The cinquain is a five line poem with a fixed syllable count in which the order is 2-4-6-8-2, that is to say not so much a dying fall as a sheer drop. As with the haiku the strict syllable count may be ignored but it is interesting what may be done with it.
Here are two examples of what Crapsey did with it.NiagaraIt does seem to prefigure, and is contemporary with, the Imagism of Pound, T E Hulme, AE and so on. Mostly she writes about nature and how it affects the senses, but also about time and loss. The effect is always lyrical, of a single first-person figure situated in nature, observing it but slightly ill at ease in it. She doesn't try to place it in a world beyond the self the way William Carlos Williams did. World and self are mutual experiences. ...(more)
Above the bulk
Of crashing water hangs,
Autumnal, evanescent, wan,
Out of the strange
Still dusk…as strange, as still…
A white moth flew. Why am I grown So cold?
Pathologies of Affect: European Superiority and the Production of the Others
Today, Europe’s relationship with former colonies remains difficult: flows of migrants make ineffective the European claim of ‘close identity’; that it is not sufficient for the peaceful coexistence of diversity. There is a need to return to Frantz Fanon and Edward Said to understand current identity conflicts.
... the modern colonial state was an identity in contradiction: of the modern and the non-modern. Julia Kristeva’s concept of abjection and narcissism can help us to understand the Western process of exclusion based on a self-referential identity (Euro-centrism) that involves not only society but also individuality divided in itself. As such as Fanon has conceived the psychology, the behavior and the ‘pathologies of affect’ of the colonized as the basic political level of conflict. The ego is the ego of dominating society, its image of brightness, rationality, beauty and its ability to assimilate the other in order to confirm itself: differences are only a moment, a step of the adventure of western subject while, in case of resistance, it represents something baseless, that has no legitimacy and must be eliminated to restore the identity of the West that has a civilizing role in the world. Julia Kristeva reminds us that, after Plato (Timeus, 48-53), khôra is the receptacle of the refused.For the benefit of the ego or its detriment, drives, whether life drives or death drives, serve to correlate that “not yet” ego with an “object” in order to establish both of them. Such a process, while dichotomous (inside/outside, ego/not ego) and repetitive, has nevertheless something centripetal about it: it aims to settle the ego as center of a solar system of objects. If, by dint of coming back towards the center, the drive’s motion should eventually become centrifugal, hence fasten on the Other and come into being as sign so as to produce meaning—that is, literally speaking, exorbitant. But from that moment on, while I recognize my image as sign and change in order to signify, another economy is instituted. The sign represses the khôra and its eternal return. Desire alone will henceforth be witness to that “primal” pulsation. But desire expatriates the ego toward another subject and accepts the exactness of the ego only as narcissistic. Narcissism then appears as a regression to a position set back from the other, a return to a self-contemplative, conservative, self-sufficient haven. Abjection is therefore a kind of narcissistic crisis. Too much strictness on the part of the Other, confused with the One and the Law. The lapse of the Other, which shows through the breakdown of objects of desire. In both instances, the abject appears in order to uphold “I” within the Other. The abject is the violence of mourning for an “object” that has always already been lost.” Ego, other, narcissism, refuse, and mourning: all terms that tell the western impossibility to relate its culture to differences.[...(more)
Anthropocene Denial Bingo
public seminar“We’re fucked. The only question is how soon and how badly.” This is the refreshingly candid way Roy Scranton starts his small, intense book, Learning to Die in the Anthropocene (City Lights Books, 2015). For Scranton, the first and last job of critical thought is to interrupt habits of non-thought and to insist on what is essential. And that he does.
It is going to take all kinds of reflective thought about all kinds of experience to endure the Anthropocene, and so I welcome Scranton's distillation of a zone of thought and experience that was never mine. Perhaps the vivid dwelling in a capricious time, which as I wrote elsewhere so fascinated Guy Debord as the lot of the soldier, might not be a bad way to think about the problem of living in a civilization that is already dead.
Tyler Malone, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Scofield
interviewed by David Burr Gerrard
3amThe Scofield is the Ian Malcolm of lit mags, and it suffers from that Jurassic Park protagonist’s “deplorable excess of personality.” It’s a quarterly literary journal available as a free PDF download from our site. Though we are an “online magazine,” in that our issues are available online rather than in print (at least for now), we’re trying to move away from the more blog-oriented daily content of most current lit mags and go for the classic approach of 1920s journals like The Dial. Each issue is a curated bricolage of art, literature, and criticism which focuses on a spotlighted author and an explored theme (some concept the writer wrestled with throughout his or her career). These two subjects—author and theme—act as the twin stars that the issue’s content orbits around. We published our first issue a couple months ago on David Markson & Solitude. We are about to release our second issue on Kay Boyle & Love.The Scofield
In the first issue’s letter from the editor, I wrote, “We want to create a place for dialogue, for nuance, for ambiguity, for negative capability, where various voices can come together in harmony and in cacophony. We aren’t looking to give you answers, but we hope to echo your questions, and to open up and out the world. Each issue will be an ordered chaos or a chaotic order. Each issue will hopefully work as some sort of patchwork quilt, made of various fabrics, and, most importantly, fraying a bit at the edges.”
b. Nov 11, 1911
November 10, 2015 photo - mwJorie Graham at the Poetry FoundationPrayerJorie Graham Over a dock railing, I watch the minnows, thousands, swirl themselves, each a minuscule muscle, but also, without the way to create current, making of their unison (turning, re- infolding, entering and exiting their own unison in unison) making of themselves a visual current, one that cannot freight or sway by minutest fractions the water’s downdrafts and upswirls, the dockside cycles of finally-arriving boat-wakes, there where they hit deeper resistance, water that seems to burst into itself (it has those layers) a real current though mostly invisible sending into the visible (minnows) arrowing motion that forces change-- this is freedom. This is the force of faith. Nobody gets what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing is to be pure. What you get is to be changed. More and more by each glistening minute, through which infinity threads itself, also oblivion, of course, the aftershocks of something at sea. Here, hands full of sand, letting it sift through in the wind, I look in and say take this, this is what I have saved, take this, hurry. And if I listen now? Listen, I was not saying anything. It was only something I did. I could not choose words. I am free to go. I cannot of course come back. Not to this. Never. It is a ghost posed on my lips. Here: never.
From Never by Jorie Graham, published by HarperCollins, 2002
Jorie Graham, The Art of Poetry No. 85paris reviewFrom the New World: Poems 1976-2014 Jorie GrahamModernist Poetry in a Crowdsourcing Age Jorie Graham resists classic pleasures like closure, a concept anathema to the poet and her country. Ange MlinkoThe PageImage and the Arc of Feeling Poet Jorie Graham gives form to the thrumming of "final questions." Craig Lambert
In the essay “Jorie Graham’s Big Hunger,” James Longenbach proclaims her to be “as frustrating and problematic a poet—I mean this as the highest compliment—as Eliot or Frost.” Born in 1950 in the United States, raised in Italy, educated in France, and only returning to her native country as a young adult, Graham is, along with John Ashbery and Frederick Seidel, one of the very few living American poets to have advanced a worldly, Modernist model of the poem into the 21st century. She has seized for her own uses a patrimony rich with philosophical and linguistic experimentation, bypassing the sort of small-scale, homegrown free verse that has come to dominate the journals and university programs and public-radio stations of our time. ...(....)... Having been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her first Selected Poems, she is now seeing the publication of her second. From the New World expands on the nearly 200-page The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974–1994, which spanned her first five books; the new Selected covers the six books she has written since then, and presents four new poems as well. To remain a “frustrating and problematic” public figure for 40 years is a hard labor: Everything in the television and Internet age militates against it. To mine the legacy of the Modernists—specifically Eliot, Wallace Stevens, and Marianne Moore—while making apt references to Pascal and Heidegger and Rimbaud and Rilke, at a time when the field of American poetry is becoming an adjunct of pop culture, is also a feat of integrity requiring an antisocial streak in our crowdsourcing age. And Graham has been warily celebrated for—or is it despite?—resisting expectations of speed, amusement, and digestibility. This also means resisting some of the classical pleasures of poetry: epigrammatic wit (or the “memorable line”), phrase-making, and metaphor—the Apollonian qualities, you might say, of contour, line, and limit, and hence closure, a concept that is anathema to Graham and perhaps her country. There is a certain irony in Graham’s resistance and Americanness: Her long-lined long poems expand into time like a lyric version of manifest destiny.
photo - mw
On Noise and RacketArthur SchopenhauerTranslated by Aaron Kerner Context N°23dallkey archive pressIn 1937, a 31-year-old Samuel Beckett, convalescing from a spell of “gastric flu (so called)” and his first completed novel, Murphy, wrote to Thomas McGreevy: “When I was ill I found the only thing I could read was Schopenhauer. Everything else I tried only confirmed the feeling of sickness. It was very curious. Like suddenly a window opened on a fug. I always knew he was one of the ones that mattered most to me . . . a philosopher that can be read like a poet, with an entire indifference to the a priori forms of verification. Although it is a fact that judged by them his generalisation shows fewer cracks than most generalisations.” The following mass of cracked and flagrant generalization is excerpted from the great post-Kantian pessimist’s 1851 collection of essays, Parerga and Paralipomena—two volumes much concerned with human suffering and its sources, among them: women, bad poetry, and noise.
photo - mwThe Scofield Issue 1.1 [pdf]David Markson & Solitude"Was it really some other person I was so anxious to discover, when I did all of that looking, or was it only my own solitude that I could not abide?" David Markson, Wittgenstein's MistressWe’ve populated our first issue with a diverse set of writers, artists, and thinkers. In that way, we hope to be a literary journal in the vein of the Dial. We even took our name, the Scofield, from Scofield Thayer, the Dial’s publisher and editor from 1920 to 1926. photo - mw
Stealing Fire for His Own Furnaces: Clayton Eshleman on Translation
Both Vallejo and Césaire struck me as not simply accomplished and moving poets, but as unique sensibilities. As I have written elsewhere concerning the key difference between a poet translating a poet and a scholar translating a poet:While both engage the myth of Prometheus, seeking to steal some fire from one of the gods to bestow on readers, the poet is also involved in a sub-plot that may, as it were, chain him to a wall. That is, besides making an offering to the reader, the poet-translator is also making an offering to himself—he is stealing fire for his own furnaces at the risk of being overwhelmed—stalemated—by the power he has inducted into his own workings.
Tell me a little about your process of translation. Where do you begin? How do you know when you’re done? Simple: one sketches out a first draft, and follows up with as many drafts are needed to get the translation as accurate as possible as well as up to the performance level of the original. A cohesive tonality is also very important so the translation does not read as if it were done by a machine. Tonality is hard to describe: it is like infusing a translation with a sense of personality, of making it vivid in the second language—while at the same time not distorting meaning. A difficult dance. I sometimes work with cotranslators who are scholars who know much more about the original language than I do (while I took a few French classes in late 1960s and mid-1970s I am mainly a self-taught reader in both French and Spanish, neither of which do I speak or write fluently). Since my cotranslator knows more about the language than I do, she or he does the first draft, which I then go over, and query. I guess we think we are done with a translation when we can’t figure out any more questions to prod it with. We really don’t complete it; we abandon it. And of course, with both of the poets discussed here, I have returned to completed translations decades later and redone them—several times in Vallejo’s case.