blog,personal commentary,reflections on the human condition,ephemera,notes from the underbelly
http://web.ncf.ca/ek867/wood_s_lot.html - 04/28/15 08:21:58 - 11/28/04 07:34:47
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
April 13, 2015
mosses from an old manse
A Letter to Hammertown
The orange chestnut canopy has shredded
into a discarded hamper
of wet umber, umber-orange,
lacy amber, blood-orange
& bloody amber rags
through which tires carve calm channels in time,
neat stripes of a general widening
as the averages catch up.
I snobbishly note on Shasta’s behalf
the oddly spindly thighs
of her underemployed big city sisters
by fedora dad or leopard mom
insulting white bags
threaded through their collars
a badge of slavery–
no sniff, no FIELD, no flicker.
On the soundwalk the light
is louder than I remember,
darkest in the undertree gloom
dramatic gravel bony underfoot
until cranked across by cable car,
eighties rain filtering
through a carpentered forties porch
onto the basement suite stairwell.
Twin ghosts of my brother
pass each other at different times
& don’t look up.
wary, preoccupied, in transit.
Later I made a loop
of the pebble crunch & engine
so that they’d course
through her headphones
& make a kind of disco
that I could then loop again
& install in a top branch
under the streetlight
a kind of permanent radio.
Missing though: the persistent
sense of misdirection, the relaxation
of muscles associated
with certain vocabularies,
the slow rounding off
of matter under successive waves
of daylight & water.
The next day the microphone
was a hummingbird
extracting sugar from ink,
hovering locked sentences
breaking up in a
riot of orange lichen
& red bricks flattened under solar flares.
& in sleep
the furious forest
the ringing silence
thick fleshly endrenched
footfall & Shasta’s fast footfall
ringing antennae of sleep
along the long hillsides
always stumbling & climbing
gravity heavy feet prescient sleep
sleep coming to each limb
the will forward fall asleep
walk & fall asleep
along the long lakesides.
Run & drift awake
the stubble of vocabulary
swirls around your feet
in spouts of antique bliss
the furious forest
now suffused with a pink x-ray light
under which the bones
of the street are revealed in
arched & baroque forms
ringing byzantine brass
through coloratura speakers
interrupts the operations of sleep
along the long avenues
always always climbing
the will forward will fall asleep
& run & drift awake
along the long lakesides.
(1958-2015)His landscape is equally a product of cultural memory, real estate development, individual perception and geology. The lapsed economy of Culley’s place and its seeming insignificance in contemporary cultural and political movements ironically lend Hammer- town a potent metaphorical power. The moving filaments of Culley’s witnessing attention among the weathers and ephemera of the hinterland begin to expose the speciousness of centrist self-regard.
The lyric poem is now a very minor cultural form. But its integrity can be located in the precise and difficult description of the shape of between. Culley dares to give language to this interregnum, this morning which has used up all the verbs. It is importantly minor, what he can do.
- Lisa Robertson
Because I Am Always Talking: [pdf]
Reading Vancouver Into The Western Front
The literary reading is one of the last survivors of a once thriving oratorical culture. The decline of such other oratorical institutions as the sermon, the public lecture and the political speech, and the concomitant emergence of such new forms as sound-bite rhetoric, rap music and stand-up comedy have given the literary reading an anachronistic, genteel air, one whose demands on attention seem to speak to another time. Even the simple act of reading aloud to loved ones, one of the most intimate experiences that literature allows us, has now sadly all but disappeared beyond the confines of the nursery, replaced by the competing schmooze of Arsenio and Jay. So why then, on any given Vancouver evening, do groups of people travel various distances, often in the rain, to hear writers read aloud from their work? Work that, often enough, does not offer the simple comforts of either lyrical or narrative flow?
My point here is simply that during the act of vocal transmission, written work is subject to a variety of effects and transformations, both conscious and unconscious. Many writers ignore or underestimate such effects, acting as if their work truly 'speaks for itself', as if their larynxes and voice boxes were acting as the transparent medium of their written intentions. An insistence on inscription as the final arbiter of a text's reality makes not only an unsupportable claim on the nature of an audience's attention, but badly underestimates the demonic power of speech. Who dares assume that a listener, having heard a writer, is thereby somehow obligated to read the writer's work, or that this reading offers a necessarily deeper or more profound experience? The most successful literary readings are those that insist on their ephemerality, their manifest existence as discreet events in time. The contract between listener and writer is fulfilled within the act of listening. Vancouver audiences know this, and attend readings less as parishioners in the church of print than as wary flaneurs in search of exotic left-brain stimulation.
April 10, 2015
Porthmeor BeachBen Nicholson b. April 10, 1894
Turbulent thinkingLyn Hejinianpresented by Jerome Rothenberg
A cold wind pushes against the northward progress of the occasional pedestrian, a plastic wrapper slips past a parking meter and disappears under a red car. In Minima Moralia, Adorno remarks, ‘To happiness the same applies as to truth: one does not have it, but is in it.’ But what if the truth one is in — the truth of one’s situation or of one’s entire epoch — is an untruth (a lie, a fabrication, a myth, or a lack of truth altogether; not just a figment of false consciousness but the very condition that produces it? Certainly such a truth-of-one’s-time would be an unhappiness. Adorno’s aphorism, then, with a slight adjustment (and added poignancy) would assert that to unhappiness the same applies as to untruth: one does not have it, but is in it. It’s not the wind but the sun that expands the neighborhood through which vehicles, pedestrians, pets, children, residents, bugs, birds, visitors, bacteria, move in their efforts at perfection. (....) Art historians generally seem to be better at seeing the quiddities of everyday life than literary critics, who read into depictions of it coherences that are essentially irrelevant to the everyday. Apertures expand, sprawl over the edges of a frame. Thinking generates turmoil, something entirely different from entropy, it doesn’t settle and it doesn’t resolve, unless briefly, so the thinker can take a breather. Meanwhile, in the thinking, tension builds. An excess of spirit suffuses the body, it contorts the face, which is seen to convulse, either in laughter or in grief. Some human feels it in the stomach — a tightening, reflux, pain in the solar plexus. Some cat wakes suddenly. The cat launches its mouth at its haunch, licking, nibbling (affectionately, it seems). A horse shies, bucks, veers, and drops its head to graze. Deer, reclining in a meadow, leap to their feet and flee. How do I release tension? Not very well. A glass of wine. Currently, despite my sympathy for Tolstoy’s charitable impulse, I could not readily include a policeman in any ‘prehensile web of love’ I might cast. Though we feel liberated at the conventional end of a fairy tale (‘and they lived happily ever after’), we are aware of anxiety lurking along the fraying edges of ‘ever after,’ where existence continues beyond the scope of what’s told, and perhaps beyond the scope of what can be told. Goethe’s last words were, so they say, ‘More light.’ I could imagine a variant of these: ‘More sleep.’ But those are mere words, and a translation, at that, and not even last words, as more words have followed since, including those that proclaim them ‘last.’ Mercilessly.
Le poteau indicateurAlfred Kubin b. April 10, 1877
Cartographies of the AbsoluteLandscapes of CapitalIn the context of the widespread conviction that we now inhabit the Anthropocene, an epoch in which mankind has risen to the dubious stature of ‘geological agent’, some earth scientists have cut through the periodising controversy – Did the Anthropocene begin with the human discovery of fire? With the industrial revolution? – by dating the onset of man’s geological maturity with disconcerting precision: July 16, 1945, the first test-denotation of an atomic bomb. The (unconsciously) political character of periodization as an act of representation and totalization could not be more clearly illustrated. The ‘end of nature’ (as autonomous from human agency) here coincides with the ‘end of history’ (as the inability to articulate that agency as a common project of emancipation), and postmodernity receives a kind of geological imprimatur, by the same token losing its own temporal contours. ‘We’ make nature, but recognizing this we also confront our inability to make history, as natural processes inextricable from ‘our’ historical agency threaten to make and unmake the present and the future in the absence of our agency. This is the backdrop of ongoing attempts to represent in the medium of photographic landscape a world wholly made over by capital accumulation, not so much an Anthropocene as a Capitalocene, to use the term proposed by Jason W. Moore. This is a predicament arguably crystallized in the very title of a landmark exhibition from 1975, New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-altered landscape.That show, bringing together photographic series by Lewis Baltz, Robert Adams, Joe Deal, and others, continues to inform a photographic vocabulary which tries to picture humanity’s footprint in the terrains, built forms, logistical infrastructures, energy complexes and sheer waste which simply are the landscape of an increasingly urbanized species – witness the work of the Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, but also Thomas Struth or Mitchell Epstein. There is a rich, critical literature on New Topographics and its aftermath. What I wish to ask here is a disarmingly simple question: why are photographs of manufactured landscapes so often depopulated?
Long Branch: A Conversation With Michael Ashkin The Great Leap Sideways
There’s a fundamental tension through these bodies of work between rigorously systematic and unpredictable forms, which mirrors a tension between human experience and the ordering of life into repetitive grids. We have made ourselves over as ‘man’ according to the logic of the urban grid, but the disassembly of communities reveals the arbitrariness of that logic, so could you talk about the relationship in your work between the systematic and the individual, or between landscape and memory? MA: This is a great question and it gets to the heart of what I am thinking about, albeit without the rigor of an urbanist or a scholar. Your quote by Robert Park reminds me of Manfredo Tafuri’s description of the grid in American cities as a pragmatic form implemented to facilitate the efficient flow of goods in a capitalistic economy. In other words, thinking of the urban grid as an instrumental form related to the functioning of the machine. And we could relate this to Marx’s observations that the transition from tool use to machine use reveals a reversal of roles: man starts by using tools for his own purposes, but, with the advent of industrialization, finds himself put in service to the machine. With the advent of the industrial machine we find all aspects of our world, including ourselves, abstracted and instrumentalized, turned into what Heidegger calls “standing reserves.” At this point I think it would be fair to say that we all find ourselves within a global apparatus that follows this logic of the technological and economic machine. Photography is a complicit and exemplary manifestation of this instrumentalized view of world. The camera is itself an apparatus, and it imposes a particular technological treatment upon space, regarding it as a uniformly gridded container in which human action is both possible or constrained. The camera is the logical technological extension of renaissance single-point perspective (assessed by the individual eye), renaissance engineering and military axonometric projections (uniformly measurable), and imperial cartography (eminently available). This idea of space as machinic, militarized, and available is based on the larger idea of capture. Photography is part of the larger apparatus that assesses the landscape in order to colonize, grid, and exploit it. In the end, the landscape has become absorbed into the same technology that spied it out. Perhaps even more crudely, we could call the camera an instrument of real estate. To me, photography feels unavoidably like surveying.
Castagnola Ben NicholsonFive Museums Colleen HollisterconjunctionsMuseum of Arctic Maps Plum. Cedar. In the center, trees grow. Tangle and reach, search downwards for sky. The floorboards lay out for you a puzzle. Language muddled like mud in the ears. So much in the way of anatomy and yet your walking still fails. Woods that shape the air for you. Moon a flower. Cast iron. Copper. Like you are being dragged to sea. Deep blue glass filled with willing poison. Your limbs drop off, rearrange themselves. Everything made of cork and porcelain. Rosemary. Honeysuckle. Cypress. Inside, the heart buzzing like innumerable insects. Imaginary irregular coastlines. Cliffs of dry grass. Reindeer lichen. A small room crowded with things made of metal. A drawing of the flowers in the body: blooming mess. Tiny winding streets. The most intricate doorways. Everyone has carved them. To watch the lightning means a search for light for what makes the trees jump. Once, you knew a house filled with paintings. From the ceiling beams the sky near the bears. Just see how the stars twist. How the lakes rust. Rooms full of women transformed into bees. How a small space makes you feel like you are dying. How the grass grows through the paper at your feet.
April 09, 2015
George H. Seeley
Manifesto For Zombie-Communism
The border between hope and despair is very subtle. There can be a moment where they are almost indiscernible, but right after this moment – when THIS is not only undesirable, but impossible, and absolutely unbearable, – in brief, when hope slips away, or rather leaps into despair – there is a point of no return. Only those who are desperate are ready to die in this struggle – not because they hope for a better future, but because they cannot stay in the present. Desperation simply means that things cannot stay like this. And here is the difference – until there is no hope, true revolutionary action is postponed.
What is to be done? On Chto Delat
e-flux conversationsRussian artist collective Chto Delat's exhibition, “Time Capsule. Artistic Report on Catastrophe and Utopia,” at KOW in Berlin, is a must see. Whereas most Europeans are mired in controversies over what forms the coming catastrophes might take, to Chto Delat, the apocalypse has already transpired. We are past the tipping point; the “revolution” already happened--it was however not a progressive one. “We lost,” they state in their press release. ...via Jodi Dean
In the diffuse world of the post-Fordian economy, calls for acceleration feel a bit quaint: the infrastructure is still standing, but capitalism as we knew it is a thing of the past. Under the twin blades of financialization and what is called “the sharing economy,” capital has emancipated itself from the social––which is not to say it did away with work, just the need to pay formal salaries. As for the State, at the moment, its main function is simply to guarantee that credit is converted back onto cash payments, no matter how much misery such conversion elicits. Ironically, as the new Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis put it, it became the Left’s task to arrest capitalism’s free-fall in order to buy time to formulate an alternative––since at the moment the Left remains “squarely defeated,” any upheaval would end up in fascism.
b. April 8, 1867
Maxine ChernoffThe sentimental is a rumor,“Daylight disbanded the phantom crew.”
of cottonwood seed
left in its husk, of
a grief spent down to dust.
No question arched
towards lucidity, its quivers
oil- and water-worked.
How we land is
called the drowning.
We launch paper boats
into reluctant space,
speak of containment
as if it were a plan.
Your last avowal
has left the station.
There you stand,
without a witness,
consigned to speak as
words lift off the page.
Reading Topographies of Post-Postmodernism:
Review of Post-Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Just-in-Time Capitalism by Jeffrey T. Nealon
electronic book review(....)
Post-Postmodernism joins other recent attempts to reflect back on Jameson’s Marxist project and historical materialisms, more broadly, as a means to look forward and more effectively unfold new kinds of reading more responsive to the present, somewhat altered historical situation and its forceful, biopolitical modes of power. It introjects and creatively recombines Jameson’s reading practices with those that Christopher Nealon, Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Michel Foucault, Jane Tompkins, Alain Badiou, Catherine Malabou, Theodor Adorno, and Friedrich Nietzsche, respectively, recommend and/or practice. Its analyses selectively draw upon a remarkably eclectic, broad-ranging grouping of leftist theorists, including those featured in the collection rethinking A Leftist Ontology: Beyond Relativism and Identity Politics (in which an earlier version of the first chapter of the book appeared).
Importantly, its diagnosis of an emergent post-postmodernism, which it adeptly locates in and across cultural and economic practices as varied as “classic rock,” literary studies, Las Vegas, Don DeLillo novels, the corporate university, and conceptual poetry, serves as a productive, open-ended provocation to rethink literature, literary studies, and poetics—in their current relationships to capitalism, their abilities to re-engage the present terrain, and what that might do for the left. Post-Postmodernism tracks the “material links between literary works and their institutional and commercial context,” pursuing “the networks within which writing is located,” the places, purposes, and operations of literature and literary and cultural studies in their complex relations to emergent media, social, and economic systems, a preoccupation Daniel Punday suggests is a “condition of this post-postmodern moment” (“Looking for Writing After Postmodernism”). With this emphasis in mind, I recommend engaging Post-Postmodernism as a much-needed provocation, taking up, even taking liberties with Nealon’s invitation to participate in “periodizing the present, a collective molecular project that we might call post-postmodernism”.
What we Talked About At ISA:
Embracing Indecision – Free Improvisation and Ethics as Action
Elke Schwarz“Art is sort of an experimental station in which one tries out living”, John Cage once famously quipped. I hadn’t really given this line much thought until I watched a friend perform with his ensemble of free improvisationalists and began to understand – rather late, admittedly, – the creative interconnectivity of musical improvisation with aspects of political and ethical life. Encapsulated in Cage’s comment is the close enmeshment of creation and performance, fabrication and action, production and interaction, set against a modernist ontology of profound uncertainty, pertinent beyond disciplinary analytical divides. Simultaneously embracing and resisting the scientifically and technologically mediated quest for certainty in his time, John Cage, along with other experimental musicians and artists, perpetually sought to challenge a reliance on that which can be decided, by finding different disruptive and unfamiliar techniques.The Disorder Of Things
These techniques are not merely aesthetic choices or practices, but rather, as forms of encounters, have also ethical and political relevance. ...
In this third and final paper, I try to rethink ethics in trans-disciplinary ways and turn to an unlikely source: free improvisation in music. Drawing on the principles of free improvisation, I suggest, allows us to conceptualise ethics as action rather than an applied abstract concept or epithet. In other words, to overcome the shortcomings of traditional modes of theorizing ethics in political theory, I look to free improvisation in music to rethink ethics and politics in less familiar ways, through the modes of sonic and corporeal interaction. ...(more)
George H. Seeley