Peter Porter at Poetry International Web
This page insists that I explain myself
my poems are over-structured, I am told
but I’m only making good use of my brain
the letters I send you never say
what I want to say, but does it matter
since I write to you concerning me
I let these poems fill-in the proper forms
space is tight, rectangles
for iambs, occasionally trochees
keeping rhythm steady on its feet
but somebody says to be serious
is the way to control your poems – Frost,
Edward Thomas, Elizabeth Bishop, Graves –
always out there on the track
audiences cheering them on forever
the loneliness of the long-dictioned rhymer
dining out with novelists and critics –
consider what happens when our words
become professional – literature
forgets it’s feudal, its narrow kingdom
of palaces and prayer-wheels
Peter Porter 1929-2010
Clive James on the poet who talked for posterity
If the eternal life in which Peter Porter did not believe had granted him permission to check out the action shortly after his demise, he would have been interested in his obituaries. Self-deprecation having been his characteristic mode both in art and in life, he was always reluctant to claim a victory even when weighed down by the arrival of yet another van-load of laurels. But he might have been pleased to see how, in both Britain and Australia, those deputed in the media to lament his passing nearly all hailed him not just as an Australian poet, but as a poet of the English language. A matter of contention had finally been settled, simply because he had spent so long being the man and artist that he was. His early poetry was so brilliant that the argument should have been over immediately, but sometimes the obvious answer can take a lifetime to become common wisdom.
Three Pontormos For Peter Porter
Reader in the Quarry _______________________
1885 - 1965
From the Recovery Room
There is no news, as what didn’t happen
didn’t happen. There will be news
when the world ends, which is the world
of one-and-only, and what that is
the one-and-only cannot preimagine
but only want and watch for. Yes, you are bored
by this periphrasis, something extra
to the body, a pursuit throughout the night
to the sea which may not be entailed.
To have to leave behind not just the globe
and topless towers of CCTV
but images of nothing when only nothing
may be host to images is what
a dreamless wounding is precursor of.
all ignorance toboggans into know
and trudges up to ignorance again
- e e cummings
Edward Estlin Cummings
(October 14, 1894 – September 3, 1962)
the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls
are unbeautiful and have comfortable minds
(also, with the church's protestant blessings
daughters,unscented shapeless spirited)
they believe in Christ and Longfellow, both dead,
are invariably interested in so many things—
at the present writing one still finds
delighted fingers knitting for the is it Poles?
perhaps. While permanent faces coyly bandy
scandal of Mrs. N and Professor D
.... the Cambridge ladies do not care, above
Cambridge if sometimes in its box of
sky lavender and cornerless, the
moon rattles like a fragment of angry candy
- E. E. Cummings
Shells and Fishermen
How caffeine created the modern world.
That the modern personality is synthetic is, of course, a disquieting notion. When we talk of synthetic personality--or of constructing new selves through chemical means--we think of hard drugs, not caffeine. Timothy Leary used to make such claims about LSD, and the reason his revolution never took flight was that most of us found the concept of tuning in, turning on, and dropping out to be a bit creepy. Here was this shaman, this visionary--and yet, if his consciousness was so great, why was he so intent on altering it? More important, what exactly were we supposed to be tuning in to? We were given hints, with psychedelic colors and deep readings of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," but that was never enough. If we are to re-create ourselves, we would like to know what we will become._______________________
Caffeine is the best and most useful of our drugs because in every one of its forms it can answer that question precisely. It is a stimulant that blocks the action of adenosine, and comes in a multitude of guises, each with a ready-made story attached, a mixture of history and superstition and whimsy which infuses the daily ritual of adenosine blocking with meaning and purpose. Put caffeine in a red can and it becomes refreshing fun. Brew it in a teapot and it becomes romantic and decorous. Extract it from little brown beans and, magically, it is hardheaded and potent.
Transforming Scholarly Publishing through Open Access: A Bibliography
Charles W. Bailey, Jr.
This bibliography presents over 1,100 selected English-language scholarly works useful in understanding the open access movement's efforts to provide free access to and unfettered use of scholarly literature. The bibliography primarily includes books and published journal articles.
Open Access Publishing Since 1989
In Praise of Copying
I know that people reading this book will expect to findnd here an ethics of copying—but from the outset, I would like to call such a desire into question. Can we really identify an area of human activity outside copying which would make it possible for us to choose or decide whether to copy or not? I will argue that there is no such area, that we are always entangled in the dynamics of mimesis, and I write “in praise of copying” as an affirmation of copying rather than as an ethics. The word “copyright” (nearly 3.8 billion hits on Google) itself sounds a little desperate, as though one had to actually suture the words “copy” and “right” together in order for them to associate consistently. Just to put that number in perspective, “freedom” gets only 315 million Google hits and “truth” 312 million—a factor of ten less than “copyright.” Even “sex” gets only 876 million hits, in case you’re wondering. Don’t you think that the concept of “copy- right” is a little overdetermined?
Redeeming the Almanac
Learning to Appreciate the iPhone of Early America
The almanac gets no respect. It's the whipping boy of early American literature. Few Americans today would guess that an almanac was actually the second publication to come off the first American printing press. In 1639! Every year after that up through the American Revolution, the almanac enjoyed a readership unmatched but for the Bible. It was, year in and year out, a guaranteed bestseller. We can thank Moses Coit Tyler, the nineteenth-century critic who characterized the almanac as "the very quack, clown, pack-horse, and pariah of modern literature," for sealing its demise. Nothing much has happened since to restore the almanac's reputation despite the perennial appearance of a modern-day descendent.Common - place
The Old Farmer's Almanac, introduced by Robert B. Thomas in 1792, gets credit for one of the longest publishing runs in American history, but its enduring popularity has more to do with nostalgia and its quirky weather predictions than real respect. Perusing the Table of Contents of the latest edition for 2010 may confuse more than enlighten those interested in understanding the almanac's status in early America. Among the offerings are "Maddening Mind-Manglers," "Anecdotes and Pleasantries," "Great Moments in the History of Laughter," and a "Special Report" entitled "The Old (and New) Farmer's Essential Manure Manual." Such lowbrow, if harmless, "amusements" have little to do with the almanac's raison d'źtre.
Today's audience does not know what to make of the colonial almanac because most people, historians included, have never really known how to talk about it. Was it a calendar? A collection of essays? A rudimentary calculator? A political commentator? A timepiece? A local directory? A diary? Uh-huh. It was all that and more. It could be different things to different people. The problem with Tyler's assessment, and those of many scholars thereafter, was that he categorized the almanac as literature. That placed the almanac at a real disadvantage. It simply does not belong in the same category as Moby Dick. As literature, the humble annual could never measure up. A friend recently hit on a much more appropriate analogy when he likened the almanac to an iPhone. I know, it sounds ludicrous and seriously farfetched. But give me a chance to prove just how apt a comparison it is.
Vol. 11 · No. 01 · October 2010
Meanwhile is the wordTwo Lines
Translated by John Oliver Simon
Meanwhile is the word
that ought to be wiped off the map. An expression
as ordinary as a basket of apples, red and shining
as the fresh-swept streets of Heaven, which means
not everything is ordinary. If there's a place on the map
for the word meanwhile that's an outrage, that's like
loving your murderer, the dead man's debt, the debtors
so to say the Cabbalists, the willing, the key.
Why a map? Why can't we escape from the mountains,
spirits who block the gifts with their chests? Topography,
typical word. Come and measure, bring calculators,
wink one eye, cover up with eyelashes. Get on the bus,
go down the mountain road. You can't lose.
Everyone's a winner. And all of it, absolutely all, seen from childhood.
Center for the Art of Translation
Walking Down the Quay
St Ives, 1954
b. October 13, 1915
Gramsci, Walzer and the Intellectual as Social Critic
Social Science Research Network (SSRN)_______________________
This comparison of the two thinkers focuses on three central and related aspects of their theories. The first section explores the epistemological theory underlying their conception of the intellectual, and questions the coherence of a view of immanent critique that eschews any teleology. The second section develops this criticism by examining the accompanying sociological account they give of the intellectual's social role and his or her relationship to the people. The third section turns to their views on the social and political context of intellectual activity. I argue that Gramsci's difficulties stem from the fact that within the Italy of his time he felt the intellectual had to engage in what Norberto Bobbio has called 'cultural politics' - the advocacy of a particular ideological position. However, this leads to all the difficulties typically associated with intellectuals who betray their integrity when involved in politics. The way to avoid them lies in intellectuals adopting what Bobbio terms the 'politics of culture'. In other words, they must militate for the conditions necessary for social criticism to occur, rather than arguing for a particular substantive view. The latter is something the intellectual may do as a citizen acting within a social and political system that allows us all to be to some degree intellectuals, the former represents a specific intellectual duty. Walzer's problem turns out to be that he assumes the appropriate social and political pre-conditions are always present.
Never Give An Inch
The working class meets the literary class
First, Things to DiscoverFive Poems
the opening. that joinery is alarming. ulna, radius, elbow, humerus, shoulder joint that brings sight to the edge of this and other half-born worlds. the human hand. hesitation sinking, the park bench, the bus seat, the window. shadow puppets and sign language for rapture.
under a magnifying glass. tendons, politics, bone shard gaps and the grip. erasure. the grip and the hesitation before it. here-not-here. anatomy of. the slipping on and off. reality as if masks or beginnings. the phalanges, which are strangely like our own. wide arc of unhand. bastard wing thumb and thin-made metacarpal beauty. the trying on.
A point is fixed at the
intersection between the
personal and the rest
of the cosmos, and that
nexus is the source
of the flood of speech
the east anglians
Interview with Justin Partyka
Charles Bernstein (editor)
from Step Work
Writing becomes distant and portraits of hosts crowd the space. The next page becomes as
cornered and concerned as a studied artifact. Thoughts not towards anything but embodying
a lot of writing. Too many military wives are being arrested. The tiny bit of wandering
summarized by a spartan attitude of space.
Is this coercement? It becomes confused like who is doing the demanding? You
demand that he doesn't demand enough and a strikingly pertinent dream flashes clean blue.
Is this the mind turning home? Who's home? Mine? Theirs? Tribal gestures? Chants?
Automatic is a bracketed word. I'm trying to save my writing. Case histories in the mail
when I meant to say another mystery is in the mail. Certain things are allowed. Quiet the
Go into the cool clocked room and count the mysteries and not the historical plots
for death becomes a little naive active intrusion. Commas preserve the lightness as sun-visor
calls german to her dogs. The white side of the leaves shimmers, first with skin, then secrets,
and finally the secret writing. The work cracks itself open into planetary relief, whispering,
calling back the dream.
"Red foxy lady! S.W." They're tired. They've never dared dream in pictures. Prepare
that to the site where the people are leaving for the water shortage. They file past the grocery,
past all of the stores and each sits on his own individualized pad.
Icy Prospects 47_______________________
1 2 3 4
Zen and the Art of Poetry: An Interview with Jane Hirshfield
Seawater Stiffens ClothJane Hirshfield at The Poetry Foundation
Seawater stiffens cloth long after it’s dried.
As pain after it’s ended stays in the body:
A woman moves her hands oddly
because her grandfather passed through
a place he never spoke of. Making
instead the old jokes with angled fingers.
Call one thing another’s name long enough,
it will answer. Call pain seawater, tree, it will answer.
Call it a tree whose shape of branches happened.
Call what branching happened a man
whose job it was to break fingers or lose his own.
Call fingers angled like branches what peel and cut apples,
to give to a girl who eats them in silence, looking.
Call her afterward tree, call her seawater angled by silence.
by Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler
IK and KT: In Nine Gates, your book of essays, you write: “Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer.” At the same time, you talk about the need to go more deeply into the self and silence to write. How do you negotiate that dichotomy between needing to go deeply into the self and needing to be deeply connected to the world?
JH: The best answer is perhaps that of Dogen Zenji, a 13th century Zen master, who said: “To study the way is to study the self, to study the self is to forget the self, to forget the self is to awaken into the ten thousand things.” This means you don’t find intimacy with others, whether other people or wicker chairs, by jumping outside your own skin. Intimacy arises by the permeability inside your own life. We’re here, we’re in these bodies, we’re in these minds, we’re in these hearts, we’re in these spirits. You walk through the world on your own two feet, with your own tongue and your own eyes. Intimacy comes to us through this life that we are given, this ordinary life. I don’t see a dichotomy at all between going more deeply into self, into silence, and finding the permeability to see an old apple tree outside the window or a woman sitting across from you on a bus. It’s the only way we can see: with our own eyes. Anything else is some Platonic idea, which is not for me a path that holds much interest.
IK and KT: We are meaning-making animals, as you say. In your work, meaning is often conveyed through the image. Do you think of the image as an international language?
JH: Absolutely. That’s why the poetry of image is so much easier to translate than the poetry of music. I have been told that Russian poetry is hard to translate because so much of the poetry’s power and effect lies in the music. In Chinese poetry or Japanese poetry, while the music is also essential, the images are not so hard to carry across, and the translation can try to make what Octavio Paz called an equivalent music. I think of the power of Issa’s haiku: “On a branch floating downriver, a cricket singing.” The poem is entirely image, without comment. But for anyone who hears it, even if you never make this conscious, it is also a portrait of the condition of our life. We’re on some branch, carried precariously in the current. And what are we doing? We are singing. We have our lives. You can see this with bitterness or you can see it as gallantry, but you cannot stay detached from its larger meanings. This is what a good image does. And this one carries worlds of resonance along with it, so simply. A somewhat different world might be evoked in each person’s mind by Issa’s image, but the image is so solid that it can hold them all. None is wrong. Every image is a portrait of a state of soul. If you say, “door handle,” I am already passing through.
experiments in space-time
A Conversation with CPC 2010 Winner Lydia McCarthy
The Fossils of Concepts
Justin E. H. Smith
There is a widely held view that the sort of factoids I have been dredging up here have no proper place in philosophy, since philosophy is in the business of analyzing concepts, which are something quite distinct from the words we happen to use to express these concepts. On this widely held view, Heidegger, for example, was only waxing poetical, rather than thinking philosophical, when he noted the significance of the Greek word for 'truth': ale-theia, which is to say 'uncoveredness' or 'disconcealing'. The pensive woodsman concluded that the Greeks must have thought that this is what truth itself is, a disconcealing, and moreover that they were right. But of course etymology doesn't really tell you what people are thinking when they use words, let alone whether they are right to be thinking this. Words are not so much concepts as they are the fossils of concepts._______________________
It seems to me that the analysis of living concepts could be fruitfully complemented by a paleontological branch of one and the same broad endeavor: a branch that takes the analysis of etymologies seriously not because they tell you what word-users are thinking, as Heidegger seems to have supposed in his reflections on the exceptional profundity of the Greek language, but rather what they have forgotten, what must have been at least dimly present to some speaker's mind at some point, even if the idea has receded so far into the past that the word once associated with it can now be expressed without implicating the idea at all.
Often we find words for physical and spatiotemporal things fossilized in our own, living words for mental and abstract entities and events. Perhaps this is why philosophers tend not to like etymology: it reveals the humble, earthly, experiential origins of our loftiest thoughts. Many of these fossils extend back long before written records: who knows when understanding, for example, was first described in terms of standing under?
Where Compasses All Go Mad
Scott Thurston at Archive of the Now
from Internal Rhyme
internal rhyme a species of adder magic
I can feel your badge by my side
eternal flask leave out those signs
of relief at the end of withdrawal symptoms
pleasure you can't measure the hybrids
stand at the gateway the larger logic that makes
possible dynamic critical constructions
you will terribly well un-read
in visibility give me the whole without
totality the weight of me dropping down moving
my feet in a new way full flow force field
ignites a prospect of balance relation to
ground to other this searing contact
fiery remote surgery perfect platinum breaks
an encased circuit of touch without
never refusing suppressing difference
Poetic Polyphony in Scott Thurston’s Internal Rhyme
... In literature, polyphony can be suggested by the simultaneity of thoughts, dialogue, or action by characters, as in the eight voices of the fugue in Joyce’s Ulysses.
Scott Thurston’s Internal Rhyme beautifully translates the melodic and harmonic dimensions of music into poetry. The spatial division of each poem into quadrants allows both a horizontal (melodic) and a vertical (harmonic) reading of the lines. The vertical resonates with the horizontal, and the dialogue between melody and harmony opens up the semantic field. To use another musical analogy, what emerges from this dialogue is harmonic overtones, the acoustic phenomenon that enriches the experience of music.
Because the most startling aspect of this collection is its formal innovation, I’d like to focus on possible strategies for the reader.
...a sequence in four parts which continues the author's preoccupation with time and process as compositional elements. The book also explores how meaning can change when viewed from different perspectives as each poem in the book can be read vertically as well as horizontally. The subjects and themes are diverse and include poems responding to Blake, Klimt and Twombly alongside refigurings of the theoretical works of Alain Badiou.
from Separate Voices
From The Young Designers
Scott Thurston, Six Poems
Tent-Camera Image on Ground
View of Jordan Pond and The Bubble Mountains
Acadia National Park, Maine
edited by Alberto Toscano & Nina Power
These writings on Samuel Beckett by Alain Badiou, assembled here for the
first time, comprise ten years of work by one of France's leading thinkers on
one of the 20th century's most innovative and vital writers. This volume brings
together translations of 'Samuel Beckett: L'ecriture du generique' (the
concluding chapter of the collection Conditions (1992)); a short monograph
entitled Beckett. L 'increvable desir (1995); a long chapter on Worstward Ho
from the more recent Petit manuel d 'inesthetique (1998); and finally 'Ce qui
arrive' , a brief conference intervention, also from 1998. Viewed as distinct
moments in a prolonged intellectual encounter, these texts reveal a complex
and rigorous reading of Beckett, but a Beckett quite distinct from those of
other French thinkers such as Deleuze, Bataille, Blanchot or Derrida (to note
some of the most obvious of Bad iou's 'rivals' in this enterprise), as well as
from the ma jority of Anglo-American Beckett scholarship.
(10 October 1901 – 11 January 1966)
The digital Pharmakon
Cristian Ghinea, Constantin Vica
Translation by Monica Mircescu
Is social networking to blame for a lowering of inhibitions as regards to privacy, or do critics confuse voluntary and involuntary self-revelation? To what extent is the regulation of online privacy a matter for the state, and to what extent must the web community negotiate its own privacy norms? A conversation between a happy connoisseur and a doubting neophyte.
Attention, Engagement, and the Next Generation
EDUCAUSE Review Magazine, Volume 45, Number 5, September/October 2010
Attention, and Other 21st-Century Social Media Literacies
If you were the only person on earth who knew how to use a fishing rod, you would be tremendously empowered. If you were the only person on earth who knew how to read and write, you would be frustrated and empowered only in tiny ways, like writing notes to yourself. When it comes to social media, knowing how to post a video or download a podcast—technology-centric encoding and decoding skills—is not enough. Access to many media empowers only those who know how to use them. We need to go beyond skills and technologies. We need to think in terms of literacies. And we need to expand our thinking of digital skills or information literacies to include social media literacies.
View of Landscape Outside Florence
in Room with Books
The User-Driven Purchase Giveaway Library
David W. Lewis
A Thought Experiment
Let us imagine two ways a library might provide books to its users. First let us consider how a typical library today approaches this problem. Its strategy is to build a book collection. Let's say the library annually purchases 10,000 titles at an average purchase price of $35, that the cost to acquire and catalog each of these titles is $25, and that the cost of storing and circulating each title is $40 over the life of the book. Thus the total cost to add such a collection each year would be $1,000,000. Using some reasonable assumptions about book use, we could expect a collection of this sort to generate approximately 50,000 circulations over the lives of these titles.
Now let us consider the radical alternative. Rather than purchasing books, cataloging them, and putting them on shelves in anticipation of use, suppose the library purchased and produced a book only when a user wanted to use it. Rather than loaning the book to the user, the library would give the book to the user to keep. Let us assume that the library leases an Espresso Book Machine for $60,000 a year and pays an operator $40,000 a year and that, on average, books printed on the machine cost $3 (a penny per page for 300 pages). Further, let us assume that the publisher will sell the rights for a single-user version of its texts for $15 (this is 150% what Amazon currently charges for Kindle editions), that this version can be delivered to the single user either as a digital file or as a printed book, and that 25 percent of the users want the digital file. Finally, let us assume that the library has the same $1,000,000 to spend each year.
How many books could the library produce and give away annually? Using the above assumptions, the average cost per books is $17.25. Thus the answer is 52,174 books total ($900,000/$17.25): 39,131 paper and 13,043 digital books. It is thus possible to imagine that a "User-Driven Purchase Giveaway Library" model would generate as much use as the traditional library strategy. In addition, users would always find the books they are looking for. Since the user would permanently own the book, one might argue that it would be more valuable than a book borrowed from the library. The user could underline or highlight text or write in the margins.
Peat Bog on Jęren
Kitty Lange Kielland
October 8, 1843 — October 1, 1914
A Mirror of Nature:
Nordic Landscape Painting 1840-1910
Paean to Place
I grew in green
slide and slant
of shore and shade
Maples to swing from
Grew riding the river
Shelley could steer
as he read
I was the solitary plover
for a wing-bone
From the secret notes
I must tilt
upon the pressure
execute and adjust
In us sea-air rhythm
“We live by the urgent wave
of the verse”
A Conversation with CPC 2010 Winner Dalton Rooney
... using a large format camera is a slower, more methodical way to work than with a pocket camera or even medium format. I know that probably drives some people crazy, but for me it’s a benefit rather than a drawback. A field camera is a very economical device - there are no electronics to fiddle with, no zoom lenses, and I am limited to how much film I can carry. I find that those limitations actually help me focus my attention in a way I can’t with an SLR — I feel more deeply involved in the process of image-making.
Dalton Rooney blogs at
Were It a New-Made World:
Hawthorne, Melville and the Unmasking of America
Utilizing Ernest Gellner and Benedict Anderson’s definition of “nationalism,” this article concerns American nationalism and aesthetics and argues that Hawthorne and Melville were among the first American imaginative writers to challenge the myth of American Exceptionalism in terms of their aesthetic operations, insofar as Hawthorne’s sense of ambiguity and Melville’s sense of multiple perspectives challenges the validity of any single monological narrative of national identity. The article further places this argument within the context of modern and contemporary American literature, with particular references to Flannery O’Connor and Cormac McCarthy, whose most recent novel, The Road, was released on film in the Fall of 2009.
Tell em to take my bare walls down
my cement abutments
their parties thereof
and clause of claws
Leave me the land
Scratch out: the land
May prose and property both die out
and leave me peace
Lorine Niedecker: selected poems
Jos Albert _______________________
(1886 - 1981)
The Poetry of Louis Zukofsky
Felt deeply, poems like all things have the possibilities of elements whose isotopes are yet to be found. Light has travelled and so looked forward.
Poetry -- For My Son When He Can Read
Twenty-five years before he wrote these statements in behalf of poetry, Zukofsky began his long poem "A." It was strange at that moment of time and at that point in space. Many writers and readers, unless travelling at the same speed, have lost contact with "A" and some who wore dark glasses then are now beginning to see.
It is understandable that Lawrence Durrell, living in countries other than the United States and so probably unaware of "A," should be thinking now along the same lines: "Time has become . . . welded in space -- no longer the quickly flowing river of the Christian hymns moving from here to there along a marked series of stages. But an always present yet always recurring thing." "A" presents an order of succession but also of interweaving themes uniting with new and related matter, tightening often into such forms as canzones or ballades the tonality of our speech. The poet asked himself early in the poem: "Can/ The design/ Of the fugue/ Be transferred/ To poetry?"
Technically, a recurring thing, for all but the apathetic student, is never the same -- though the idea of recurrence is useful to establish relationships, to reveal kinship. There were journeys through past hells, heavens -- flowing rivers still navigable by degrees. Zukofsky's hell is today's and the good he finds is today's. From the incident of a performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion at Carnegie Hall the poem moves to make the singing, living machine of our time. Now with some 200 pages of "A" -- twelve movements -- we see that here is one who has always been coming to where he is and who wants to know what he has to live through to get further. Whether he writes of live or inanimate objects or cities or minds, our usual notion of poem is bound to be upset a little by the constant electronic interaction. "Three or four things occur at the same time making the difference between Aristotelian expansive unities and the concentrated locus which is the mind acting creatively upon the facts." --Z. in his preface to An Objectivists Anthology.
Jean Paul Riopelle _______________________
(7 October 1923 - 12 March 2002)
William James [pdf]
An ethics of thought?
Translated by Andrew Goffey
William James’s pragmatism, and in particular the thesis according to which the sole truth of ideas is the difference that they make, and therefore also the interest that they create, has often been felt to be an offence by those who consider themselves to be engaged ‘for’ thought. Shouldn’t ideas be disinterested, supremely indifferent to the interest that they create? I will try to show here that – at once both thematically, that is to say in a declared manner, and practically, that is to say immanently – there is an ethics of thought at work in James’s uvre. This ethics is pragmatic, certainly, because the question is posed at the level of effects, not at the level of what authorizes. But it will be a matter here, we will see, of a pragmatic constraint, a constraint which confers on the refusal of certain effects, accepted as perfectly legitimate by many ‘ethical’ philosophers, the power to put thinking to the test, to oblige it to expose itself to the violence of the world. If my attempt succeeds, it should lead to wonder about the tranquil and consensual judgement like this one: ‘history is lit by the deeds of men and women for whom ideas were things other than instruments of adjustment. Pragmatism explains everything about ideas except why a person would be willing to die for one.’ (Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club)
The car that brought you here still runs
Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg
You might come here Sunday on a whim.
Say your life broke down. The last good kiss
you had was years ago. You walk these streets
laid out by the insane, past hotels
that didn’t last, bars that did, the tortured try
of local drivers to accelerate their lives.
Only churches are kept up. The jail
turned 70 this year. The only prisoner
is always in, not knowing what he’s done.
There may be no more beautiful place to see or explore. Yet growing up there, the shape of that place manifested internally, discretely: economic hardship, stifling family secrets, deprivations and depressions, a festering sense of failure. Hugo, like myself, was eventually able to move on and out - asked to teach poetry in Montana, and then Iowa. He was able to find other views, a wider sky; still he could never shake the narrow readings of the Sound. The hope of the hopeless a tight knot to undo.
Ebb Tide, Rye
Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson
d. October 7, 1946
Mahmoud Darwish’s “Journal of an Ordinary Grief”
Reviewed by Andre Naffis-Sahely
As Flowers Turn towards the Sun: [pdf]
Walter Benjamin’s Bergsonian Image of the Past
The generation of a concept of history that resists the realized unreason of contingency and counterfactual historiography will require a metaphysical armature in order to put the crucial question to the eternalized present of governmental administration. Adorno, in his most Benjaminian moment, wrote: 'beside the demand thus placed on thought, the question of the reality or unreality of redemption itself hardly matters.'63 If we wager that thought, beyond its ability to record, can contribute to stripping the future of its cruel wonders, its barbaric magic, then Benjamin lies ahead of us as more than an attenuated emblem of melancholy.
Central Experimental Farm
This is the 10th Anniversary edition of the "s lot". Thank you all again for your warm support and encouragement over the years. Particular thanks to those longtime readers who have found in my (almost) daily collages an expression of 'voice' that, for reasons various, is often the only one I can muster. - mw
Essay On Style
For Steve Benson & Kit Robinson
Getting up in the morning and looking down through a long ghastly rusty gate, I talked
to the old guy down the street who was always watering his obsessional theories. Scuh!
Now that I've broken the lock, I put my face down and enjoy it for a minute.(....)
Only if one has travelled in America does one realize that sublime beauty of landscape,
far from being a spontaneous manifestation of nature, is the result of a agreements
painstakingly evolved during a long collaboration between man and his surroundings.
Man naively admires the effects of his past achievements. Fortified by numerous
examples of virtue, judicious remarks, and copious visions of the whole system, he
wants fortunes, length of time, posterity, and tulips the preceding year.
How shall I then tell of the days we were too ill to stretch to the horizon. For food we
chewed the food of mosses. For the rest, we waited.
So I wrote down four bars of a minuet and said to her: "See what an ass I am! I have
begun a minuet and can't even finish the melody. Please be so kind as to finish it for
me." She was positive she couldn't, but at last with great difficulty – something came,
and indeed I was only too glad to see something come for once.
So memorable for its features, the eye at sudden death occurs to itself as a solitary spectator. The juice is cruelly violated by the dark in the darkness.
Courage is the strength to endure a clump of trees.
(1924 – 2010)
Le philosophe Claude Lefort est mort
Writing, The Political Test
translated by David Ames Curtis
David Ames Curtis
... it is perhaps surprising that the works of Claude Lefort, while exceptionally influential for many people in France, remain almost unknown in Germany. It seems to me that this obscurity has to do with three characteristics of the German intellectual landscape of the last thirty years: (1) The deep-seated resistance against the critical analysis of totalitarianism, which plays a central role for Hannah Arendt as well as for Lefort. (2) The attempt by political and moral theorists to develop a certain ‘guarantee’ of democracy that would avoid the tragedies of the recent German past. (3) The dominance of a so-called ‘sociological mode of thought in the German intellectual atmosphere,’ an intellectual atmosphere which cannot stand the Lefortian concept of the political. I will talk about this last point more closely later on, but for now one can point simply to the influence of the systems-theoretical approach of Niklas Luhmann among German political thinkers. As for the first two, the German experience of fascism, coupled with a strong post-war anti-communism that reserved the concept of totalitarianism for the Soviet Union, explains the refusal to take seriously this aspect of Lefort’s work. And, of course, the restored democracy of the post-war West, and then the unification with the former East, did not encourage a critical attitude toward the potentially self-destructive aspects of democracy.
Introducing Claude Lefort:
From the Critique of Totalitarianism to the Politics of Democracy
The Philosophy of Claude Lefort: interpreting the political
The Contradiction of Trotsky
Claude Lefort and the Illegitimacy of Modernity
b. October 6, 1887
Journal of Ecocriticism
Vol 1, No 2 (2009)
Introduction: "Eleven Windows into Post-Pastoral Exploration"
Franca Anik Bellarsi
Convened by the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures of the Université Libre de Bruxelles and held in Brussels from 14 to 17 May 2008, the “Poetic Ecologies” Conference was the first ecocritical/ecopoetic conference to be ever held in Belgium. This four-day international gathering, without privileging any bioregion or poetic tradition in particular, aimed to include poetic voices from all over the Anglophone world, from Canada to Australasia. However, in keeping with its title, the “Poetic Ecologies” forum also resolutely sought to place the genre of poetry--from its more conventional to more experimental forms—at the forefront, be it through the voices of poetry scholars or currently active poets. Within the framework of an ecocritical paradigm that is still very much a work in progress, the Conference thus strove to give as much attention to the “poetry/poetics” component as to the “ecological/ecocritical” one in its exploration of the multiple and changing forms of ecological and ecocritical consciousness in English-language verse. In the process, the participants not only repeatedly interrogated the complex concept of ecology as such, exploring what actually constitutes ecologically-engaged poetic practice; besides, they also engaged with the equally complicated issue of “Text as Nature versus Nature as Text” and sought to shed light on the dynamic, shifting--and therefore also ever elusive—interrelationships between ecological texts and textual ecologies, between the systems of Nature and those of Culture.
Children playing on the roof_______________________
of a Unite d 'Habitation
The clear sentence the world ends
The clear sound the water made
Once the noise vocabulary
The sentence is an obstacle to noise
Ponderous forethought enables the sound to read its own mind
Clever of the world to rise crest fall white noise
Edit the end once again
Dries clear and won't give birth
Blue over once one more noise
Hear it say itself to what I see
Water before the sound until the sentence fills
I made the noise of its mind
The world end the sentence ends
On edge the water thought touching noise
Once again the sentence ends
One sense to a vocabulary
Line up in order of birth
Each time of course the sentence completes
I make the noise of vocabulary
After it was a sentence it's a sound
Water roll sense make blue
Do one to the end
The clear blue birth of green
Touching itself the sentence learns its loop
Learning will make the noise edge
The end makes birth once
Blue course no noise in this sentence
No noise in this sentence
The sentence goes over itself
Gave a loop to clear dried water
Ponderous water the end of noise
Leaning over each death edge complete
The world enables the water to end
Blue and noise at each edge of the sound
The sense against the water
The sentence ends when made
The noise rolls when the water's ready
While it's before through to when I hear it
Vocabulary enables forethought to end
Roll over watery noise the sentence says to
The clear noise the sentence makes
Blue water at the sense's edge
This sentence learned to roll over
At the end of sense there is no death
Each time the end says itself
Noise makes sense at every edge
It's up to blue to say
The vocabulary learns to lean
Each vocabulary contains its own blue
The clearer the world the nearer the edge
more in 7 Works
my regular spot in the Dublin Poetry Review
At this time of year
when voles, moles and mice and shrews
make their way indoors
the black water backs into the basement
surprising us with all that was withheld, for years
just on the brink of us
just out of sight
the vice of autumn, the views too
veer from clay earth, root cellars
antiquated aqueducts and sewage pipes
to the clean wet world without
a long look and a longer breath, north
from the high southern porch
a lingering walk in the garden
soaked in memories and lightly scented
a warm and central person
free of the radiant lines of relatedness
and all of the consequences of relatedness
for one moment, catching sight
of crow and cloud and poetry
amidst a new season of damp and
for Jamie with thanks to Sandra
Flock of Sheep
Ephraim Burt Trimpey
'Photo Artist' from Baraboo
1878 - 1948
10 Reading Revolutions Before E-Books
10. My favorite reading revolution, though, isn't very famous, even though it was conceived by the very famous media theorist Walter Benjamin. It's the shift from vertical to horizontal writing, and then back to vertical again. He lays it out in his 1928 book One-Way Street:
If centuries ago [writing] began gradually to lie down, passing from the upright inscription to the manuscript resting on sloping desks before finally taking itself to bed in the printed book, it now begins just as slowly to rise again from the ground. The newspaper is read more in the vertical than in the horizontal plane, while film and advertisements force the printed word entirely into the dictatorial perpendicular.
This is a revolution that encompasses the entire history of the book, from manuscript scrolls on papyrus to industrial paperbacks. It also takes the broadest field of reading possible, from graffiti on the walls of ancient cities to silent movies and children's scrawls on a chalkboard. It sets aside all of the inside baseball about technological achievements and the inherent properties of the medium.
The Metaphysics of Youth
Selected Writings Vol.1, 1913-1926. Ed. Marcus Bullock, Michael W. Jennings
Conversation strives toward silence, and the listener is really the silent partner. The speaker receives meaning from him; the silent one is the unappropriated source of meaning. The conversation raises words to his lips as do vessels, jugs. The speaker immerses the memory of his strength in words and seeks forms in which the listener can reveal himself. For the speaker speaks in order to let himself be converted. He understands the listener despite the flow of his own speech; he realizes that he is addressing someone whose features are inexhaustibly earnest and good, whereas he, the speaker, blasphemes against language.
But even if he revives an empty past through orgiastic excitement, the listener hears not words but the silence of the present. For despite the flight of spirit and the emptiness of words, the speaker is present; his face is open to the listener, and the efforts made by his lips are visible. The listener holds true language in readiness; the words enter him, and at the same time he sees the speaker.
Whoever speaks enters the listener. Silence, then, is born from the conversation. Every great man has only one conversation, at whose margins a silent greatness waits. In the silence, energy was renewed; the listener led the conversation to the edge of language, and the speaker creates the silence of a new language, he, its first auditor.
Silence is the internal frontier of conversation..............
A Wave of Dreams [PDF]
Louis Aragon (1924)
Translated by Susan de Muth
Sometimes I quite suddenly lose the whole thread of my life: sitting in some corner of the universe, near a smoky dark café, polished bits of metal set out before me, tall, mild-mannered women ebbing and flowing around me, I wonder how I finally washed up here beneath this arch that is really the bridge they have named sky. This is the moment of oblivion, the moment when vast fissures in the Palace of the World widen into daylight: I would give up the rest of my life - a paltry sum - if only it could endure. For then the mind detaches a little from the human machine and I am no longer the bicycle of my senses, a grindstone honing memories and encounters.
Papers of Surrealism_______________________
Beginning of Excerpt: Footnote (1)
From chapter 8 of The Third Policeman
As in many other of de Selby's concepts, it is difficult to get to grips with his process of reasoning or to refute his curious conclusions. The 'volcanic eruptions', which we may for convenience compare to the infra-visual activity of such substances as radium, take place usually in the 'evening' are stimulated by the smoke and industrial combustions of the 'day' and are intensified in certain places which may, for the want of a better term, be called 'dark places'. One difficulty is precisely this question of terms. A 'dark place' is dark merely because it is a place where darkness 'germinates' and 'evening' is a time of twilight merely because the 'day' deteriorates owing to the stimulating effect of smuts on the volcanic processes. De Selby makes no attempt to explain why a 'dark place' such as a cellar need be dark and does not define the atmospheric, physical or mineral conditions which must prevail uniformly in all such places if the theory is to stand. The 'only straw offered', to use Bassett's wry phrase, is the statement that 'black air' is highly combustible, enormous masses of it being instantly consumed by the smallest flame, even an electrical luminance isolated in a vacuum. 'This,' Bassett observes, 'seems to be an attempt to protect the theory from the shock it can be dealt by simply striking matches and may be taken as the final proof that the great brain was out of gear.'
the no-bicycle page: Flann O'Brien/Myles na gCopaleen/Brian O'Nolan
(5 October 1911 – 1 April 1966)
There is scarcely a single word in the Irish…that is simple and explicit… Here is an example copied from Dinneen and from more authentic sources known only to my little self:
Reading Flann Brian O’Brien O’Nolan
Cur, g. curtha and cuirthe, m. – act of putting, sending, sowing, raining, discussing, burying, vomiting, hammering into the ground, throwing through the air, rejecting, shooting…the act of inflating hare’s offal with a bicycle pump…a hawk’s vertigo…a wooden coat, a custard mincer…a stoat’s stomach-pump…
In Donegal there are native speakers who know so many million words that it is a matter of pride with them never to use the same word twice in a life-time.
- quoted in Flann O'Brien: A Postmodernist When It Was Neither Profitable Nor Popular
Flann O’Brien is one of the half-dozen or so greatest comic writers in the English language of this or any other century, the equal of such geniuses of comedy as Sterne, Joyce, Beckett, Waugh, and Firbank. His mastery of comedic prose, its nuances, tropes, and subversions, is of such high degree that the merest gesture of his stylistic hand can turn a sentence or phrase from its course as sober conveyor of information to sabotager and ridiculer of that same information. Done the right way (and O’Brien invariably does it the right way), such writing can virtually collapse referential material and transform it into brilliant constellations of devastating hilarity. Little can stand before comedy of such purity, comedy so intensely focused and authorative that it rises above ideology, factionalism, religion, and the bloated niceties of propaganda and "right thinking." Inventors, or if you please, marshals of such anarchic laughter are dangerous people indeed, informed, as they are, by love, hatred, and, above all, perhaps, a salutary shame for the human species and its ridiculous pettinesses and pretensions.
From: The Pen of.... Myles Na Gopaleen
Quotations from Elder Boyd K Packer_______________________
from Jesus' General by Gen. JC Christian, Patriot
I have a hard time with historians, because historians idolize the truth. The truth is not uplifting. The truth destroys. And historians should tell only that part of the truth that is uplifting, and if it's religious history, that's faith-promoting. Historians don't like doing that, and that's why I have a hard time with historians.
Elder Packer on The Study of History
The vital center and the sage
This may well be the story of the liberalism of the vital center. The alliance with the working class, welded in the New Deal; the alliance with civil rights movements, welded in the sixties and seventies; and the alliance with the new class of academics and symbol workers, welded in the eighties, has entered the age of extremes with the desire to find half measures not because these half measures work – who thinks, for instance, that Obama’s preservation of the complex system of medical insurance company rents would work better than raw socialized medicine? But because the solutions are “politically real.” Politics, for the once vital center, is now a fearful domain, populated by extremist lunatics, and it is best to tranquilize them by demi-measures. We no longer end wars – for to end a war is to operate fully and decisively, it is extreme – but we let them sink softly under the headlines. In the same way, huge bankrupt banks don’t go bankrupt, nor do shadow financial sectors, chock full of bad bets, go to the window and expose their losing tickets.
Economic Inequity, Manufactured Populism, and the Bigot-Whisperers of the Right
My childhood, in Birmingham, bestowed the knowledge: do not underestimate the danger of ignorant, angry people in large groups.
... as a rule, the right’s lies and displacements are most effective when liberals offer working people only bromides, platitudes, and lectures on propriety and good taste. Obama and the Democrats, time and time again, present demagogues with an opening the size of the cracks in Glen Beck’s gray matter. Hence, the bigot-whisperers of the right are provided with a void that they can seed with false narratives; wherein, they are given free reign to cloud the air and clog the airwaves with palaver about fifth columnist threats from terrorist-toady mosque builders and gays in uniform undermining moral in the ranks by belting out show tunes in foxholes and impromptu shower stall instruction on the art of hand to hand sodomy. (....)
Cultures are organic in nature. Combine the elements of the scorched earth policies of neoliberal capitalism, its austerity cuts and downsizing, plus the hybrid seeds of the consumer age — and what alien foliage will rise from the degraded soil — fields of right-wing astroturf. Add: industrial strength fertilizer. And see how our garden grows, with: Glen Beck and Sarah Palin — the mutant seed sprouted Chia Pets of corporate oligarchy.
The loud, cartoonish blood sport that’s engorged MSNBC, exhausted CNN—and is making our body politic delirious.
our own Vestigial language_______________________
shuddering toward obscurity
textual artifacts XIV
The Threshold of the Forest
In the march
come a time
Mark Young Interview
Sheila E. Murphy
... it may seem we have opposing points of view, you wanting to bring more people, me saying there are already too many. But I think we both have caveats attached, qualifiers perhaps; & what we're both moving towards is how do we attract more people—whether already in the macrocosm or still to come—to the type of poetry we care about, to that part of it we both adhere to.
Let me step outside the sphere of poetics for a moment & quote from a book that is a cornerstone of my library, Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In it Kuhn puts forward his beliefs as to why certain bodies of thought, often exemplified by specific texts, provided the impetus to change the way particular fields of science were pursued, the way what he called "paradigm shifts" came about:
They were able to do so because they shared two essential characteristics. Their achievement was sufficiently unprecedented to attract an enduring group of adherents away from competing modes of scientific activity. Simultaneously, it was sufficiently open-ended to leave all sorts of problems for the redefined group of practitioners to resolve.
I'll explain why I think Kuhn is relevant. To me, poetics, like politics, has a reasonably revolutionary left wing & a conservative right. &, again like politics, it is the left that is full of schisms. Yet the left wing has a history as strong as that that the right professes to. But these days its impact is diminished because it's splintered. I have fairly eclectic & wide-ranging tastes, but when I came back to poetry I found that if I wanted to read one group of poets I liked I had to go here, & if I wanted to read another group I had to go there, & another elsewhere, & if I wanted to see/read vispo, then I had to go searching in 100 places. & yet they're all essentially related even though sometimes the bloodlines are denied.
Back to Kuhn. We have the "enduring group of adherents"; we have the open-endedness; what we don't have is a sense of the commonality that actually does exist even though many practitioners spend a deal of time turning the minor differences into unbridgeable chasms. Somehow we have to bring things back together again, to show the breadth & the strength of the left even if the house has many mansions. I think that by doing that we will attract a wider & better-informed audience. It's what I've tried to do with Otoliths.
is the editor of Otoliths
Angus & Robertson booksellers_______________________
Charles Olson: Language As Physical Fact
A Panel, Reading, and Exhibition
Olson & The Projective
For much of Olson’s career, his over-arching concern was what he perceived to be the bankruptcy of western civilization, a bankruptcy rooted in the Greco-Roman tradition of discourse, which he felt made language into a shield against actual experience. And experience, participation in the actual, was his goal. From there stemmed his emphasis on immanence, and from there, on breath, which anchored poetry’s effects in physiology. His famous essay “Projective Verse” clearly lays out the poem as a field of action, as an event in process, as opposed to the model epitomized by Wordsworth’s “emotions recollected in tranquility.” It was, of course, the re of recollected that Olson opposed; poetry for him would always be presentational, not representational.
Olson Now: Lang/guishing Notes for a Speech
But though Olson did have a healthy disdain for western culture, it wasn’t categorical; he found aspects of it quite useful, even hopeful, particularly aspects of the sciences. To advances in late-19th century physics, for instance, Olson attributed the fact that man was “suddenly possessed or repossessed of a character of being, a thing among things, which I shall call his physicality”. And his concept of “field” is not based on the common noun, but on the Einsteinian understanding of the term as “the domain or environment in which the real or potential action of a force can be described mathematically at each point in space”. Another useful concept came to him from mathematics in the form of projective geometry, which he saw as the unifying element among a number of practices that marked the emergent art of the 1950s, such as action painting, and chance-based music. He stated that he took the title of his famous essay “Projective Verse” from the work of H.M.S. Coxeter on projective geometry, and Alfred North Whitehead, who was a major influence on The Maximus Poems, wrote a book titled The Axioms of Projective Geometry in 1906, though it seems that Olson didn’t encounter his work until much later. Regardless of where he found the idea, he used a fairly loose definition of it. In Muthologos, he defines it as “that movement of force as wave and particle and particles dissolving into vibration,” which has nothing to do with geometry at all. He’s using metaphors based vaguely on the physics of light, the “particles” of which certainly don’t dissolve—which he knew perfectly well.
Such “misuse” of scientific terminology has often been taken by scientists as an affront, but I’d like to suggest a different angle on it, one in which, in fact the poet reaches out to scientific language for its precision, and takes it from there as a raw material to be worked through metaphor, metonymy, and ambiguity until it expresses something that he can’t express otherwise.
d. October 4, 1999
The Content Of History Will Be Poetry
I do go in circles, in fact [I] believe that only if one does does one finally
During the last few weeks I've swerved from here to there within Olson's The Special View of History. Find out for yourself Find out for yourself Find out Find out for yourself Find out for yourself for yourself for yourself Find out for yourself Find out for yourself Find out find out Find out yourself Yourself yourself Find yourself Where ever you are Where ever you are.
suck up the vertu in anything.
If it's true as the tantrics believe that "sound, as a vibration of undifferentiated intelligence, is the catalyst that sets into motion the unfolding of the manifest cosmos" then most certainly as poets we are participating in the creation and destruction with every word we write and speak. Olson lectures to his classes at Black Mountain: "Suddenly, kosmos is history," is "mythology" is "inside a human being" is "personal experience" is "discrete and continuous" "and . . each one of us, a conceivable creator." It's easy enough. With all the circles and multiples, we just "lean in a direction which produces a result which is called success."
We begin leaning through our breath, in our body, in our place. Olson writes in "Projective Verse." "If he stays inside himself, if he is contained within his nature as he is participant in the larger force, he will be able to listen, and his hearing through himself will give him secrets objects share." Participant in the larger force. Participant in the larger field. Participant with the secrets objects share. Here I begin thinking of the Yoga Sutras, the Gita, the Upanishads. Stillness. Witness. Presence. Breathing as part of the whole breathing. Poetry as mythology as history as the story of the “I” in the larger field.
Olson had no need for the armor of a unitary, diachronic, rational history. We poets are historians. "Then he, if he chooses to speak from these roots, works in that area where nature has given him size, projective size." Whitman size. Maximus mythic Olson. If we begin here, Olson implies, many changes will occur in the poem and in the lived life. Robert Duncan in the introduction of The Special View: "I don't mean he wanted things to happen in his classes. He wanted things to happen in them spiritually. . . Charles wanted to produce a new and redeemed man. This is actually Charles' alchemy." That's clear when I re-read his essays. Even though Olson didn't wear zen loafers or formally practice yoga, he was a-leaning-into yogi-zen-poet teacher.
Textual Communities: Nancy, Blanchot, Derrida.
You find yourself in a dark room with a table, a chair, and a small circle of candlelight. On the table lies an open book. You are facing the text, and nothing but the text. Everything else in the room disappears in the shadows. There is nothing but the text and you, encountering each other in the, so it seems, eternal presence of Midnight._______________________
This is the scene that we find at the beginning of Stephane Mallarmé's Igitur, a scene that we could call the primal scene of pure textual encounter. This is our phantasmatic image of reading: a moment of perfect communication, where we find the textual other waiting for us, lying on the table, always ready and willing to give itself to us; and the textual other finds us alone, in perfect solitude where we are ready to yield ourselves completely to it, with nothing that could disturb the pure ecstasy of encounter, in the presence that is Midnight, the end of time. In this scene, I find myself totally outside myself, in the text, the text being totally outside itself, in me. There is nothing that could put an end to the pure, never-ending circle of reflection between me and the text, this exchange where all thirds are at least temporarily excluded.
From "My Intuitive Theater"
An Obsessive Combination Of Onotological Inscape, Trickery And Love
d. October 4, 1974
Busy, with an idea for a code, I write
signals hurrying from left to right,
or right to left, by obscure routes,
for my own reasons; taking a word like “writes”
down tiers of tries until its secret rites
make sense; or until, suddenly, RATS
can amazingly and funnily become STAR
and right to left that small star
is mine, for my own liking, to stare
its five lucky pins inside out, to store
forever kindly, as if it were a star
I touched and a miracle I really wrote.
The Human and his Spectacular Autumn, or, Informatics after Philosophy
The search for another form of politics has to begin with a critique of the aphasic, self-conscious navel-gazing of the North Atlantic intellectual, who approaches a state of stupefied entropy on looking at a monstrous military-informatic-financial assemblage which has reduced the great modernist projects of culture and ideology to incidental arrangements that can be only locally applied. To restrict an understanding of the political that is emergent to a set of cognitive phenomenological tasks of the human subject, who, as Foucault points out, is an empirico-transcendental fiction of the West very much in the twilight of his career, would be, in the last instance, subscribing to a transcendental stupidity not dissimilar from that of informatics itself. That is, the assumption that today everything and everybody is already spoken for, evaluated, and ordered by the hidden tongue of the market, instead of by the king or the philosopher of yore. This is why, when all of us are irremediably tinged with the curse of money, a caricature of liberal political action, conducted through conservative channels of human conscience and morality, becomes part of an overall shareholding of neo-imperial "guilt."
Giovanni Battista Piranesi
(4 October 1720 – 9 November 1778)
Déjį: There’s no last judgment
Translated by Sylvia A. Manning
My love at the end of the world
That at least my voice answers you
Dreams dulled romances murdered
Everything some ancient Roman ruin
In this appalling act of man
Where we kill at the street corner
Camps fooled by fake conquest
Where the heart suffered paralysis
Where are you Light oh where
Déjį no summer nor winter
Neither the blue sky nor green woods
Promised future betrayed
Everything the color of ashes
And singers ignore my passionate
Long sigh, oh, my people, say
Such abandoned fear and bitterly
Beauty masks misery
In these false days of Pompeii
b. October 3, 1897
I’ll Reinvent the Rose for You_______________________
Translated by Michael Benedikt
courtesy of Zoė Brigley Thompson at The Midnight Heart
Translated Kim M. Hastings
I don’t know when she discovered that I could no longer see. Not even I had completely discerned this; I would look at books and judged that I could still see the pages, read them, understand them. She, knowing the truth, was already devising her plan.
The process of distancing myself from books lasted many years. And yet I felt closer and closer to them. I read less each day, but since I worked in a library, I could feel them, smell them, leaf through them daily. My subordinates wondered at the long hours of my shift, but if day and night were blurred in the twilight that was coming over me, it didn’t matter whether it was dawn or dusk. I allowed myself to remain in the company of my friends and would delight in their luxurious leather bindings, or be moved by the simplicity of their soft covers, which encased sublime treasures. I believe I had known them forever. After I learned to read, there was a recognition. The introduction had already been made, perhaps in a past life, perhaps in the original Limbo. I thought I shared stories with them; and the ones found there already written were sisters of those still contained in my ideas. The published words clamored for their sisters, begged them to organize into an invincible army and leave the narrowness of my mind, to go do battle, once written, in the world. The aphorism “publish or perish” took on new meaning and a new urgency.
Words Without Borders
October 2010: Beyond Borges: Argentina Now_______________________
Pentinfinite Time Spiral_______________________
David C. Pearson, M.D.
What Ever Happened to Modernism by Gabriel Josipovici
For cultural gatekeepers, accommodating doubt and confusion rather than quelling their disruptive presence is anachronistic, the stuff of romantic legend or, worse, against the spirited positivity of modern culture. Peter Aspden says Modernism has "found its dancing shoes and lightened up". Surely literature is here to bring clarity and sense, to reveal the world in all its variety, intensity and, above all, reality?
Perhaps. But this is an understanding from a watchtower, from outside of writing. When a novel, good or bad, is complete, it creates and embodies unity – even if it relies for this impression on stories of the ultimate rupture of terror, violence and death – and gratitude is expressed by the reader. For someone then to come along to point out that it is an artificial and constructed unity, we are bound to be irritated; yes, we know it is only a novel. Except, however commonsensical this statement may be, it has always to elide the uncanny experience of reading; the sense that it is only within the ideal space of the greatest novels that we feel most engaged with the world, where the doubts and confusions of our lives abate and we become able, for the time of reading at least, to maintain understanding and equilibrium. This is our gratitude but also our guilty secret. We know it is only a novel and the world has thereby been distorted and we need more art to maintain the illusion. Bad faith kindles doublethink.
The problem for the critic is that this essential experience of reading cannot be easily discussed outside the special conditions bestowed by reading itself, removed from the pressures of commerce and fashion. The concealed problem explains why literary debate is dominated by personalities and political issues rather than an engagement with books themselves and why, as a consequence, attention turns to forms more congenial to disposable debate. Perhaps only a practising artist willing to analyse what's hidden can elaborate on the enduring presence of the forces of doubt and confusion. Josipovici's book certainly suggests this is the case and that only by recognising and embracing their urgency for each one of us – and not just as artists but as readers – can literary fiction renew itself both on the public and personal level.
So, the book's purblind reception in England is really a symptom of an institutionalised instinct to repress and deny doubt and confusion. This is why in what follows I intend to address occasional misrepresentations of the book. Anyone who has read What Ever Happened to Modernism? cannot but be amazed at how some reviewers have deceived their readers in summarising the book as an attack on contemporary English novelists in favour of difficult, joyless avant-garde texts, while failing to mention the central theme of the book: the disenchantment of the world. For this reason, as best I can I shall summarise Josipovici's definition of Modernism before ending with a description of the quality or qualities of the art it seeks to encourage.
interviewed by Mark Thwaite
via Riley Dog
My Name is Brad, & I Love Modernist Literature
... a list that is perhaps less my favorite novels, and more what I hope are my favorite novels.
Nobel Prize in Literature speculation: the other contenders
the Literary Saloon
Dreamer in Landscape
(3 October 1922 - 17 November 2009)
I say the peace
Translation by Sylvia Manning
I say the peace pale and sudden
Like a happiness long dreamt of
Like a happiness you barely
Believe you’ve found
I say the peace like a woman
I’d open the door then all at once
Her two arms around my soul and
Around my neck
I say the peace an old window
That rattles on a fine morning
When the whole world has only the
Fragrance of thyme
I say the peace so it can light
Your steps during this new season
But like an ordinary thing
In any home
For the birds and for the brushes
Green and black above the waters
And for the busy little fish
In the rushes
I say the peace for all the stars
For every hour of the day
Every roof tile and for you
Shadow and love
Five Poems from “Mouth of Hell”_______________________
Translated from SpanishSpanish by Michelle Gil-Montero
Stunning idiocy of some men. In meticulous rabbit holes,
they shelter under sails, and so, collect a thin contentment,
a grim tapestry stitched with acts of greed. Fine machine,
that nest. Not far away, muddled with a backdrop of
pointless games, absolute music. The last body. Water not
The park, a spectacle mingling the latest fashions,
vulgarities, and platitudes, the supposed needs of sons-of-
bitches and militants—even the tense silence of the
reflected city, cornered by water. Otherwise, it is still
morning. Hummingbird calls traverse the sky, sculpting,
with eerie sensuality, the flower of the world. The poem:
sad inexpert beauty, delayed sapience.
Scillonian Sea Wall_______________________
Stephen Harper – the last Straussian?
One can see the appeal of Canada to Straussians. The U.S. always had so much fevered religiosity, hypernationalism and paranoid individualism, you hardly needed to seed them there by stealth. Here, though, we still have liberals, Liberals, even social democrats. We may be Straussianism’s happy hunting ground.
A Dreadful ClaimFree Space Comix: the blog
I have fled as Niagara, I’ve fled as a fishtail.
I have fled as a magpie sporting only a necktie.
I have fled omnivorously, on a chafing dish.
I have fled as a scent from the Orient.
I have fled as a crystal. I have fled as a wiz.
I have fled as a quail, to no avail.
I have fled as a squint that sorely hides.
I have fled as a fossil, as a riptide.
I have fled as a bulimic, starving bitterly
As will she who dines with me.
I have fled with my nose in a book.
Brian Kim Stefans
1949 – 2010
Michael Gizzi and Craig Watson in conversation with Stan Mir
Michael Gizzi at Big Bridge
Chimes at Midnight
The father in exile
stripped of his sundial
borrows the equator for a belt
the son in translation
misrules on a run-through
noon would love to behave
rides out of houses
green with red breath
only the billowing overcoat
is left everything else
is made up
9 June 2006 _______________________
“El śltimo Lobo”
Translated from HungarianHungarian by George Szirtes
There he was, laughing, but in trying to laugh in a more abandoned manner he had become preoccupied with the question of whether there was any difference at all between the burden of futility on the one hand and the burden of scorn on the other as well as with what he was laughing about anyway, because the subject was, uniquely, everything, arising from an everything that was everywhere, and, what was more, if indeed it was everything, arising out of everywhere, it would be difficult enough to decide what it was at, arising out of what, and in any case it wouldn't be full-hearted laughter, because futility and scorn were what continually oppressed him, and he was doing nothing, not a damn thing, simply drifting, spending hours sitting in the Sparschwein with his first glass of Sternburg at his side, while everything around him positively dripped with futility, not to mention scorn, though there was an occasional drop in the intensity of this feeling, moments in which he actually forgot about it and stared quite blankly ahead, staring for interminable minutes at a time at a crack or a stain on the wooden floor of the bar, since this was the simplest thing to do, that is after having dropped round the corner, immediately after waking, to start there and end there, ...
The Melancholy of Resistance
Translated from HungarianHungarian by George Szirtes
based on The Melancholy of Resistance
The Mythology of Lįszló Krasznahorkai
Essay by David Auerbach
Lįszló Krasznahorkai and Max Neumann: Animalinside
reviewed by David Auerbach
The beast is beyond imagination, beyond containment, beyond conception…but not beyond language. At first, his rantings about chaos and the destruction of anything and everything call to mind The Prince, from The Melancholy of Resistance. But The Prince himself spoke gibberish which was then translated by a Factotum. (In the movie version, however, he speaks Slovak! Thanks to Gwenyth Jones for pointing this out to me.) Our beast here speaks for himself, and in doing so he reveals a weak spot. When the beast faces infinity in the picture accompanying the ninth text, he must rail against it too:
I hate all that is infinite, there burns within me an unspeakable hatred towards the infinite…the infinite is a deception, the infinite is a deception in space, the infinite is a deception in measuring, and every aspiration to the infinite is a trap, but the kind of trap that has to be walked into again and again by him who, just like myself, is searching for the end of a direction, for I have no other aspirations.
Is the beast railing at the infinite itself, the inadequacy of the concept of the infinite, or the representation of the infinite (as in this picture)? I’m not sure. This tension is the same one that occurred in Krasznahorkai’s earlier From the North by Hill, from the South by Lake, from the West by Roads, from the East by River, which contained a book by a mad Frenchman ranting against Cantor’s mathematical conception of infinity. Perhaps the idea is that the conception traps us while simultaneously facing us with its inadequacy, and this is unbearable because, as with the ideas of mortality and immortality, neither side is a conceivable solution.
Because the text is more rarefied and abstract than Kraznahorkai’s other work, it seems to resemble Beckett at times. But Beckett never portrayed such a vicious antagonism. His personae always collapse into themselves. Even their assertions of antagonism are hopeful but futile gestures against solipsistic nightmares. That is not the case in Krasznahorkai. I do not think it ever is. His characters and voices are always struggling within a larger cosmos of forces and others.
Lįszló Krasznahorkai & Max Neumann
The Cahiers Series is published in association with The Center for Writers & Translators at the American University of Paris. The goal of this series is to make available new explorations in writing, in translating, and in the areas linking these two activities.
Beauty is momentary in the mind --
The fitful tracing of a portal;
But in the flesh it is immortal.
Wallace Stevens, Peter Quince at the Clavier
October 2, 1879 - August 2, 1955
Six Significant Landscapes
an old man sits
in the shadow of a pine tree
he sees larkspur,
blue and white,
at the edge of the shadow,
move in the wind.
his beard moves in the wind.
the pine tree moves in the wind.
thus water flows
the night is of the color
of a woman’s arm:
night, the female,
fragrant and supple,
a pool shines,
like a bracelet
shaken in a dance.
I measure myself
against a tall tree.
I find that I am much taller,
for I reach right up to the sun,
with my eye;
and I reach to the shore of the sea
with my ear.
nevertheless, I dislike
the way the ants crawl
in and out of my shadow.
when my dream was near the moon,
the white folds of its gown
filled with yellow light.
the soles of its feet
its hair filled
with certain blue crystallizations
not far off.
not all the knives of the lamp-posts,
nor the chisels of the long streets,
nor the mallets of the domes
and high towers,
what one star can carve,
shining through the grape-leaves.
rationalists, wearing square hats,
think , in square rooms,
looking at the floor,
looking at the ceiling.
they confine themselves
to right-angled triangles.
if they tried rhomboids,
cones, waving lines, ellipses —
as for example, the ellipse of the half moon —
rationalists would wear sombreros.
Movement: Sky and Grey Sea_______________________
d. October 2, 1953
On the Manner of Addressing Clouds
Gloomy grammarians in golden gowns,
Meekly you keep the mortal rendezvous,
Eliciting the still sustaining pomps
Of speech which are like music so profound
They seem an exaltation without sound.
Funest philosophers and ponderers,
Their evocations are the speech of clouds.
So speech of your processionals returns
In the casual evocations of your tread
Across the stale, mysterious seasons. These
Are the music of meet resignation; these
The responsive, still sustaining pomps for you
To magnify, if in that drifting waste
You are to be accompanied by more
Than mute bare splendors of the sun and moon.
The Lobster Fisherman_______________________
XIV. In the Namewakes
Ur Popeye out of stir sub rosa
with Liquid Santa windswept and
by nothing less than the ionosphere
like Ben Bulben on climatology
the Lay of the Last Whammy
"keep them mince pies off me"
Lumberjack the Sailor
splits his face in half of quartz
"Morning Mr Greengreen
two small everythings"
why Sargasso Sea are you so geek
nature's pencil point light years away
to a tiny repeated molecular bigtop
"What other planet features this?"
eight and a half freaks nine
high-diving dogs a horse drunk
and up his fetlock an American ace
of big blue sawdust connects
radar lariats at the snap of bees jazzed
off as mendacity by Jesus, Telemetry
you really got me going!
Movement: Boat and Sea in Greys