Polis is This
Charles Olson & the Persistence of Place
in six parts
Hume's diffuse effects
David Hume was born 300 years ago this month. Prompted by the anniversary, many philosophers worldwide will be reflecting on his great works. In the UK this comes at a cost, since doing so deflects us from scrambling to find activities with more immediate and measurable "impact". We can nevertheless find a kind of justification in his writings.
Speaking of the different species of philosophy, in the first part of his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), he wrote that "though a philosopher may live remote from business, the genius of philosophy, if carefully cultivated by several, must gradually diffuse itself throughout the whole society, and bestow a similar correctness on every art and calling".
I find it interesting that it is the idea of diffusion that appealed to him here. It did so to George Eliot, too, when in the wonderful final sentence of Middlemarch (1874), she contrasted Dorothea's quiet future with the idealistic visions of doing good with which she had started life: "But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts, and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."
Incalculably diffusive processes are real enough. Education is one of them.
via Poemas del rķo Wang
The Death of the Book
(....)Los Angeles Review of Books_______________________
None of this is new of course. Nor is it new to point out that people have been diagnosing—and celebrating—the book’s imminent demise for generations. It is possible to regard much of Western avant garde poetry and prose as an extended argument with the bound pages from which literature would prefer to break free. In a 1913 manifesto, Filippo Marinetti (a futurist of the OG sort) called for “a typographic revolution directed against the idiotic and nauseating concepts of the outdated and conventional book.” His insurrectionary program may now seem quaint—“on the same page we will use three or four colors of ink, or even twenty typefaces if necessary”—but Marinetti was not alone in rebelling against the uniformity imposed on language by the standard typeset page. Similar urges ran through most of the high modernists, certainly through Stein, Joyce, and Pound, and through the iconoclastic American poet and journalist Robert Carlton Brown (better known as Bob), who, in the late 1920s, envisioned a reading machine designed to liberate words from the static confines of the page. Brown imagined something like a desk-sized microfiche reader capable of displaying spooled celluloid texts called “readies.” ”Writing has been bottled up in books since the start,” he wrote. ”It is time to pull out the stopper.”
It is perhaps a symptom of print’s decline that the current conversation about the book’s demise has forgotten all these other ones. Instead we shuttle between two equally hollow poles: goofball digital boosterism a la Negroponte on one side and on the other a helpless, anguished nostalgia for the good old days of papercuts. Call it bibilionecrophilia: the retreat of the print-faithful into a sort of autistic fetishization of the book-as-object—as if Jeff Bezos could be convinced to lay e-profits aside by recalling for a moment the soft, woody aroma of a yellow-paged Grove Press paperback; as if there were nothing more to books than paper, ink, and glue.
For the record, my own loyalties are uncomplicated. I adore few humans more than I love books. I make no promises, but I do not expect to purchase a Kindle or a Nook or any of their offspring. I hope to keep bringing home bound paper books until my shelves snap from their weight, until there is no room in my apartment for a bed or a couch or another human being, until the floorboards collapse and my eyes blur to dim. But the book, bless it, is not a simple thing.
Nor, as we know it, is it particularly venerable.
The Jivin' Ladybug
For Tristan Tzara
Translated by Clayton Eshleman
Tzara is not dead—only pretends to be, and on This
I will once more erect my eclipse.
Tombs remain the best mail slots for our fugues on
that menstrual flood where Moses drifted
between two buoyed nipples
among the reeds of the Pharaoh,
that embalmer of honeymoons and pickled egos.
The moon repeats its palatial belch
transmitting the old hieroscratched code of heliotropic
priests, sullen lickers of baby scarabs.
Quite a few Dada wars ago
a whole new gang of rich Romans attempting
to surpass the frog, trying to grow larger
than the bull’s-eye bull, suckled
she-wolf udder and deified the milk.
A Skewered Journal of the Arts
An index of everything published so far in Jacket2
Child Labor Collection LOC
Archiving Is The New Folk Art
Like quilting, archiving employs the obsessive stitching together of many small found pieces into a larger vision, a personal attempt at ordering a chaotic world. It’s not such a far leap from the quiltmaker to the stamp collector or book collector. Walter Benjamin, an obsessive collector himself, wrote about the close connection between collecting and making in his essay “Unpacking My Library”: “Among children, collecting is only one process of renewal; other processes are the painting of objects, the cutting out of figures, the application of decals — the whole range of childlike modes of acquisition, from touching things to giving them names.” In Benjaminan terms, all of these impulses — making, collecting & archiving — can be construed as folk practices.
Let’s add to that the organizing of digital materials. The advent of digital culture has turned each one of us into an unwitting archivist. From the moment we used the “save as” command when composing electronic documents, our archival impulses began. “Save as” is a command that implies replication; and replication requires more complex archival considerations: where do I store the copy? Where is the original saved? What is the relationship between the two? Do I archive them both or do I delete the original?
Moscow back yard
Places, strange and quiet
via Junk for Code
I had taken my boat out on the fiord,
I get so dreadfully morose at five,
I went in and put Nature on my hatstand
And considering the Sinking of the Eveninglands
And laughed at what translation may contrive
And worked at mathematics and was bored.
There was fire above, the sun in its descent,
There were letters there whose words seemed scarcely cooked,
There was speech and decency and utter terror,
In twice four hundred pages just one error
In everything I ever wrote - I looked
In meaning for whatever wasn't meant.
Some amateur was killing Schubert dead,
Some of the pains of the English force on me,
Somewhere with cow-bells Austria exists,
But then I saw the gods pin up their lists
But was not on them - we live stupidly
But are redeemed by what cannot be said.
Perhaps a language has been made which works,
Perhaps it's tension in the cinema,
Perhaps 'perhaps' is an inventive word,
A sort of self-intending thing, a bird,
A problem for an architect, a star,
A plan to save Vienna from the Turks.
After dinner I read myself to sleep,
After which I dreamt the Eastern Front
After an exchange of howitzers,
The Angel of Death was taking what was hers,
The finger missed me but the guns still grunt
The syntax of the real, the rules they keep.
And then I woke in my own corner bed
And turned away and cried into the wall
And cursed the world which Mozart had to leave.
I heard a voice which told me not to grieve,
I heard myself. 'Tell them', I said to all,
'I've had a wonderful life. I'm dead.'
b. April 26, 1889
rowing from Skjolden to his house
Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Biographical Sketch
"You must always be puzzled by mental illness. The thing I would dread most, if I became mentally ill, would be your adopting a common sense attitude; that you could take it for granted that I was deluded."
Tom Clark's variously illustrated Wittgenstein posts
The Honesty of the Perplexed: Derrida and Ibn 'Arabi on "Bewilderment"
Bewilderment takes place when we realize that our rational faculties are not enough to understand what is happening. That something has taken place in a language our rational faculties do not speak. In a sense, bewilderment takes place because of our rationality, because we insist on clinging to something that is blinding us to the "actual situation". What is to be examined in this study is a certain desire for bewilderment in both deconstructive and Sufi thought, a certain perception of bewilderment as a more honest possibility of truth. Words such as perplexity and bewilderment enable us to glimpse a similar vein of thought in both Derrida and the Sufi mystical thinker Ibn 'Arabi (1165 - 1240) - that is, a similar affirmation of confusion as a difficult, courageous, and desirable state.
EnglishGulf Coast Issue 23.2
From my window, I saw the stars
burning in the river brighter than a big
celebration. I waited for her return,
with my hands over my mouth.
I can’t say her name, because it was
dangerous in our house so close to the water.
Was she a boy’s make-believe friend
or a beehive breathing inside the walls?
Years later my aunts said two German soldiers
shot the girl one night beside the Vistula.
This is how I learned your language.
It was long ago. It was springtime.
In memory of Andrzei Ciecwierz
from Unusual Woods Almost Island
for Paul Celan
Your father died of typhus, they shot your mother
by by rounded lamplight as mortuary dominoes
were calling out an august winter,
your name after dark
little by little
as in a far away mirror.
We all die alone, charred as wildlife pelts.
At night, lightning flashes its teeth
over the Seine.
When the whole city is asleep,
I look over the edge
and I feel
unworthy to cultivate the tongue-black waters.
(turn) in the fast darkness of ancient forests,
shadows cross our dreaming faces (turn)
in the movies, an oak tree is always more there
after it’s gone (turn)
this way, a saw emphasizes one thing (turn)
formalwear, night fog rolling in
dressing the silver-blown accessories
(turn) in the morning,
when the rain goes to work,
the cemetery trees shade the cemetery dead
and spiders (turn) play the harps of corners
when the wind sighs, weathercocks turn
to look for a reason (turn)
Dance in Space before the Storm
Celebrating the Collected Poems of Peter Porter
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
1929 - 2010
When you have lost whatever there is to lose
You will come to the House of Tatterdemalion Proofs
Where reality is always adjacent itself
And words are at war with their subjunctives –
Alas, you recognize the mildewed Classics,
Blake’s Sunflower stranded, Cherubino’s hair on fire,
A pair of gloves for clapping the great aria.
How many of these doors have the partygoers knocked at?
Is 210, ajar, waiting to receive someone
Or is it the cupboard where the cleaners keep their dreams?
The carpet in the corridor is on Red Alert.
An official of the Surreal Inspectorate
Is interrogating guests downstairs: do you now
Or have you ever belonged to the Accumulative Party?
Life enlarges any neat Divertimento,
So things terrible and beautiful are reborn
Of their own volition; existence may become
A shabby house in a lost Chicago street,
But you cannot dream it otherwise – the lines
Are drawn and the bombardment starts:
Do not wake us yet, our rage must run.
The Best of Joe Bageant
The Reader Issue 55 April 2011 features a tribute to Joe Bageant
b. April 25, 1921
Kenneth Goldsmith interview
Ubu is terrible on every level. There should be hundreds of UbuWebs out there. Why am I the only one? Actually, I know why – because I’m not afraid of copyright and they all are.Epiphanies: Kenneth Goldsmith
It’s about divided attention as a new strategy of attention. I’m not being a cyber-futurist, every idea here can be found in the 20th century history of avant-garde art. Whether it’s concrete poetry and the web or split screens and divided attention coming from Warhol, that’s what Ubu’s all about.
All of that, which was pushed aside in favour of Picasso and the MoMA narrative of 20th-century art is now back with a revenge informing us how to interact with the web and how to be digital. It’s all there. As much as I love Picasso, Les Demoiselles D’Avignon (1907) is not going to tell us anything on how to live in the world today. The point I want to make is how prescient the ephemeral avant-garde was to the way we are today.
It’s all about quantity. Just like you, I’m drowning in my riches. I’ve got more music on my drives than I’ll ever be able to listen to in the next ten lifetimes. As a matter of fact, records that I’ve been craving for years (such as the complete recordings of Jean Cocteau, which we just posted on Ubu) are languishing unlistened-to. I’ll never get to them either, because I’m more interested in the hunt than I am in the prey. The minute I get something, I just crave more. And so something has really changed – and I think this is the real epiphany: the ways in which culture is distributed have become profoundly more intriguing than the cultural artifact itself. What we’ve experienced is an inversion of consumption, one in which we’ve come to prefer the acts of acquisition over that which we are acquiring, the bottles over the wine.
According to research (PDF) carried out by Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely of Duke University, and flagged by Paul Kedrosky at the Infectious Greed blog, 92 percent of Americans would choose to live in a society with far less income disparity than the US, choosing Sweden's model over that of the US.
What's more, the study's authors say that this applies to people of all income levels and all political leanings: The poor and the rich, Democrats and Republicans are all equally likely to choose the Swedish model.Building a Better America - One Quintile at a Time [pdf]
Alain de Botton
However powerful our technology and complex our corporations, the most remarkable feature of the modern working world may in the end be the widely held belief that our work should make us happy.
The Bookshelf: You Are What You Speak.
languagehat reviews Robert Lane Greene's You Are What You Speak: Grammar Grouches, Language Laws, and the Politics of Identity
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
Joseph Mallord William Turner
b. April 23, 1775
The Book of Equanimity VersesThe International Literary Quarterly
Richard Von Sturmer
When the Castle of Desire
a forgotten road
takes you into the mountains.
Don’t bother to look back
as you begin to ascend:
the tea houses are vacant
the border post deserted.
The blue hulled tugboat
adds its blue
to the waves.
How difficult it is
to release one’s grip.
bed pans – all receding
in the receding tide.
Rain, Steam and Speed
the great western railway
Joseph Mallord William Turner
Translated by Donald Schier
The fragmentary work-the need of the work itself to be fragmentary-then has a very different meaning depending on whether the work appears as a renunciation of the act of composition, i.e., an aggressive imitation of pre-musical language, (such as expressionism tried to achieve through refinement) or whether it appears as the pursuit of a new form of writing which makes the completed work difficult, not because it evades being finished but because -beyond the conception of the work as being unified and enclosed in itself, organizing and dominating values being transmitted by traditional skills-, this kind of writing explores the infinite space of the work with inexorable rigor yet is based on a new postulate which is that the relationship of the work will not necessarily satisfy the concepts of unity, coherence and continuity. The problem posed by the fragmented work is a problem of extreme maturity; first in artists but also in societies. Walter Benjamin remarks that, in the history of art, last works tend to be catastrophes: "With the great masters, finished works weigh less heavily than those fragments on which they worked all their lives. They draw their magic circle in the fragmentary work." Why? Because the work against which they measure themselves cannot evoke in them a total response, or rather because the artist must find a beginning when the "composition" itself is in some sense already finished; this leaves him only the pain of apparently self-defeating work, the agony of a dislocation which is meaningless only because it continues to promise meaning or is refractory to the order of meaning.
I should like with these remarks to put an end to a misunderstanding by recalling that if there is an essential difference between art and culture, it is not that art is retrograde, that is turned towards an uncultured primitiveness or that it is tempted by nostalgia for an originally natural harmony; the difference exists because art has always gone beyond all acquired forms of culture, to the point that it might better be called post-cultural. What frightens Thomas Mann in the Ars nova (and frightened the masters of the Third Reich no less, since they made haste to proscribe atonal works, preferring to atonalism an esthetic of grandeur, of monumentality and pretentious accomplishment) is indeed frightening through the unending demand which the artistic experience makes on us; and this experience can be realized in fragmentaryw orks because they are enough, by their very existence, to undermine the whole future of culture and any utopia based on happy reconciliation.
b. April 24, 1889
SCEPSI - European School of Social Imagination
Conference 20-22 May 2011, Republic of San Marino
Reinventing the autonomy of knowledge is the task of our time. It’s not only a political task. The epistemic foundation of research and learning as autonomous activities is at stake, when dogmas of profit, growth, competition take the lead in the old institutions of production and transmission of knowledge.
This is why we are calling students and researchers, artists and scientists and social activists to gather in the first conference of SCEPSI that will take place in San Marino, on May 20, 21 and 22.
Protests against the financial aggression and the destruction of the public school in the European continent are spreading, but we have to create new institutions, aimed to self organization of cognitive workers and to the reactivation of social sensibility and imagination.
The conference will be the first act of the activity of the European School of Social Imagination, that in the next year will organize seminars in San Marino, and in European cities like Helsinki, London, and Oslo.
One apparently must go to San Marino to find people talking about something worthwhile. Of course we USians gave up the autonomy of knowledge early on - was it at the time we decided that all speech should be impregnated by advertising? Or was it endemic to our method of escaping history -- making all speech, all public records, merely somebody else's marketing, to which we triumphantly suggest our counter-marketing?
If Europe is concerned for the destruction of the public school, it is now in need of referring to our history.
- Tom Matrullo
Peace - Burial at Sea
Joseph Mallord William Turner
The Angel of Destiny_______________________
1840 – 1916
Here, now, as ever, going out again
from Finis Terre, final of earth, or
“end of world” as they call it here,
all consumption left behind.
The earth fragments – first the big islands,
cannot be told from earth, then
smaller and smaller islands among
their channels, trees grabbing soil
with weaker roots, until all’s rock where
unimagination starts, where
tempests flare around the dreaded horn.
The last inhabitants’ blazing canoes
expose their nakedness to the last explorers.
This plot begins and ends with past.
But what we name the future follows on.
The earth sinks into mind
sea being mind of the earth
in constant movement, constant fretting,
endlessly jumping from thought to thought,
waves rolling in from the planet’s belt
to greet each other as far-flung kin.
Deep in each trough, thriving unseen,
beasts huge as obsessions, beasts
small as secrets; beasts with invading arms
long as your most fearsome nightmares.
Nathaniel Tarn at PennSound
A hole torn in the world (PoemTalk #42)
Nathaniel Tarn, "Unravelling / Shock"
discussed by Marcella Durand, Burt Kimmelman, Erin Gautsche, and PoemTalk's producer and host, Al Filreis.
A Multitude of One: Celebrating Nathaniel Tarn
The Embattled Lyric: essays and conversations in poetics and anthropology
Selected Poems: 1950-2000
Buddah in His Youth
Book of the Forest Path
A New Rendition of the Tao Te Ching
A path through the forest
is merely where the trees aren't:
a clearing or absence.
What is it? Where is it?
These are not exactly the right questions;
it is an absence in space
that is also the way you are going.
It is surrounded by trees;
if it had a nature, that would be it:
the stuff all around it that touches
and shapes the emptiness within it.
But that's where you move, isn't it?
That's how and where you go.
It is a useful emptiness, an effective absence.
You've never left it, even if you think you have,
and everything you've seen, you've seen from it.
I know it because here I am.
The Plot to Turn On the World:
The Leary/Ginsberg Acid Conspiracy
Steve Silberman interviews Peter Conners, author of White Hand Society: The Psychedelic Partnership of Timothy Leary & Allen Ginsberg
The spectacular rise and fall of Leary and Ginsberg’s plot to turn on the world is the subject of a new book by Peter Conners called White Hand Society, published by City Lights Books. I knew Ginsberg well for 20 years and was his teaching assistant at Naropa, a Buddhist university in Colorado, yet I learned a lot about Ginsberg’s role in helping to create Leary’s public identity by reading the book, which is based mostly on the lively correspondence between the two men. (For more detailed analysis of White Hand Society, see this insightful review [pdf] by poet, Buddhist student, and Ginsberg scholar Marc Olmsted.) I spoke with Conners when he came through San Francisco on his book tour. He is currently at work on an oral history of the jam-band scene called JAMerica.
The Master and Margarita
Bookplates by Vladimir Zuev
Canada's Military Industrial Complex
Ottawa's Complicity in the Multibillion Dollar Arms Trade
Stoking the Tsunamis of War and Repression_______________________
Finally, after years of delays and just a few hours after Japan’s horrifying earthquake on March 11, the government finally released its latest deeply-flawed report on Canada’s military exports between 2007 and 2009. This timing ensured that the latest data on Canada’s shameful role in the international weapons trade was conveniently buried beneath a tsunami of news about Japan’s natural catastrophe.
Corporate media institutions have not deigned to report on Canada’s new arms-export figures, let alone expose how the government’s report covers up far more than it reveals.
Although Canada’s top military-industry association states that Canadian companies exported $15 Billion in so-called “defence” and “security” products between 2007 and 2009, the government’s extremely-limited report accounted for less than $1.5 Billion during that period.
Despite massive loopholes in the government’s report, their data does reveal that almost all of Canada’s military exports went straight into the arsenals of about 40 belligerent nations fighting in the Iraq and/or Afghan wars, which have killed over 1.5 million people.
Although reprehensible, the highly-profitable business of fuelling war has been conducted with impunity by all Liberal and Conservative governments. And, because this trade in arms contributes to a virtual tidal wave of war, repression and environmental destruction, it is arguably even more disturbing than Japan’s natural catastrophe.
But what makes the arms-trade tsunami more horrifying than an earthquake, is that the misery it creates cannot be explained away as a natural disaster beyond human control.
On the contrary, the arms trade – as our government proudly explains – is "closely controlled" using “policy guidelines mandated by Cabinet."
This is the real horror veiled by the latest dry, statistical report from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) on Canada’s big business of war-industry exports.
But Canada’s arms trade is not just monitored, administered and controlled by DFAIT, it is applauded and promoted by our government. As DFAIT explains, with its usual penchant for euphemism, “Canada's defence industry makes a valuable contribution to the nation's prosperity.”
illustrated at Weimar
An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.
Interview: John Emerson
I don't think positive or scientistic economics is salvageable. I think that economics should intellectually be like history (i.e. eclectic), and professionally like law: a mercenary profession, but with some thinkers who are not merely doing tasks for people with money. It will never be purer than law and shouldn't be. Note that I don't understand economics: I watch what it does. I'm more knowledgeable about philosophy, in my own way, but with enormous gaps. I have no illusions that I'm a better philosopher than the average PhD. I'm just a mostly-outside critic who dislikes a lot of what they do and how they work.
John Emerson blogs at Haquelebac
Jack Gilbert, The Art of Poetry No. 91
Foraging for Wood on the Mountainvia arsvitaest
The wild up here is not creatures, wooded,
tangled wild. It is absence wild.
Barren, empty, stone wild. Worn-away wild.
Only the smell of weeds and hot air.
But a place where differences are clear.
Between the mind’s severity and its harshness.
Between honesty and the failure of belief.
A man said no person is educated who knows
only one language, for he cannot distinguish
between his thought and the English version.
Up here he is translated to a place where it is
possible to discriminate between age and sorrow.
Interviewed by Sarah Fay
Jack Gilbert at the Poetry Foundation
In the Shadow's Light
translated by John Naughton
Poems from Gramina. Marginalia to Horace, Virgil and Dante
Translated by David McDuff
Coolness and warmth
A man walks through the wood
one day of shifting light.
Encounters few people,
stops, considers the autumn sky.
He is making for the graveyard
and no one is following him.
Michel Ekman on Bo Carpelan
In Gramina Carpelan derives inspiration from Horace, Virgil and Dante, and he comments on their work in lyrical form. ‘Gramina’ is Latin for grass, and it can be interpreted in various ways: as the poet’s own poems, sprouting among the tall classics of antiquity; or as the vitality which in Carpelan’s poetry always survives, beyond the passage of time and great events:
The grass passes over the earth,
For Carpelan the classics are at once contemporary, timeless and the way to a distant past. This is reflected in his poetic approach, which may equally adopt the baneful social criticism of Horace, the brutality of Virgil’s battle scenes, or the basic existential questions of Dante.
over the gentle hills,
over the silent graves,
stops at the sea and sees
waves, as if they stood still.
Gramina is a commentary on some of the greatest poets of world literature, and it provokes a desire to return to them. But the collection is much more than this: the numerous short poems, many of them consisting of only a few lines, gradually grow into a mighty whole. Most of Bo Carpelan’s major themes – time, memory, perception, the ‘you’ addressed in the poem – undergo further variation here, and acquire new life in language. In a fleeting world Carpelan helps us – just as Horace did two thousand years ago – to preserve something of what is essential.
Ralph Eugene Meatyard_______________________
Yves Bonnefoy at Poetry International Web
‘A way among the words’:
The House Where I Was Born
Translated by John T. Naughton
In the same dream
I am lying in the hollow of a boat,
My forehead and eyes against the curved planks
Where I can hear the undercurrents
Striking the bottom of the boat.
All at once, the prow rises up,
And I think that we’ve come to the estuary,
But I keep my eyes against the wood
That smells of tar and glue.
Too vast, too luminous the images
That I have gathered in my sleep.
Why rediscover, outside,
The things that words tell me of,
But without convincing me,
I desire a higher or less somber shore.
And yet I give up this ground that stirs
Beneath the body waking to itself, I get up,
I go from room to room in the house,
They are endless now,
I can hear the cries of voices behind doors,
I am seized by these sorrows that knock
Against the ruined casings, I hurry on,
The lingering night is too heavy for me,
Frightened, I go into a room cluttered with desks,
Look, I’m told, this was your classroom,
See on the walls the first images you looked at,
Look, the tree, look, there, the yelping dog,
And the geography map on the yellow wall,
This fading of names and forms,
This effacing of mountains and rivers
By the whiteness that freezes language.
Look, this was your only book. The Isis of the plaster
On the wall of this room, which is pealing away,
Never had, nor ever will have anything other
To open for you, to close on you.
intimacy, desire and communication in the poetics and poetry of Yves Bonnefoy
Yves Bonnefoy, The Art of Poetry No. 69
Interviewed by Shusha Guppy
A Selection of Poems in Translation
Translated by Mark Daniel Cohen
In the Vestibule, in the Barn, in the Hayloft, in the Forest with the PlanetesimalsNational Poetry Month at the Boston Review
We give one another things to do.
We give one another thoughts to think.
Thinking About Things‚ Telling You About Them
The dark side of story telling began in 1806 with an elk hunting party gone bad.
It Is Sometimes the Case that the Difficulty Is What Is Alluring
When we say all is right with the world‚ when we say we are one with the world‚ when
we are lost in the words‚ when we lose ourselves‚ when we casually stand around in air
we feel or don’t feel but know is the seamless same fabric of being that is skimming the
top of water and unbrokenly there is nowhere where nothing is & nowhere where the
removing of something doesn’t rearrange everything; partly it is the difficulty of this that
is so alluring; knowing while we are conscious there is no way or where to disappear into
a fracture or fissure or crack or rent or slash or canyon of otherwise being part of the
whole of it all which is everything and everything there is.
O bittersweet black sheep:
rob mclennan on Camille Martin's Sonnets
Proud New Future
via ordinary finds
Going Up, Falling Down
The Death and Life of Great New York Novels
Gertrude Stein said the United States is the oldest country in the world because it was the first to enter the twentieth century, the modern age. In their disorienting scale and hybrid complexity, cities were postmodern before postmodernism. Cities defamiliarize, provide cognitive dissonance, furnish new information and resist interpretation of that information. If a city is too easy or too familiar, we lose interest. The city becomes a simple story or a strip map. Or, to use Jacobs' phrase, the city suffers the "Great Blight of Dullness."
It has been my argument that the best individual novels should have the postmodern qualities of cities, should be cities of words. Lethem and O'Neill are just not adequate to the complexity of their subjects. DeLillo's two novels are intentionally self-limiting. Although The Intuitionist and Let the Great World Spin are historical novels, in their information and methods they do the best at imitating the distinctive space and specifying the diverse demographics of New York City.
And yet I think these two novels fall short of the master works of the 70s and 80s with which I began.(....)
More disturbing than the well-known situation of commercial publishing is the possibility that the cost of living in New York discourages resident novelists from risking lengthy, time-consuming projects. The future of intellectually and aesthetically ambitious fiction is a huge and complex subject involving conglomerate publishing, new media, text technology, literary education, and literacy itself. That future is global, but I've come to believe that New York may well be the representative leading - and double - edge. New York nourishes home-grown writers such as Lethem and Whitehead, attracts writers from abroad such as O'Neill and McCann, and honors its elder, DeLillo. New York offers the eight million stories of the naked city and makes a few writers millions, but I fear that New York also tamps down novelists' aesthetic ambitions, turns them into careerists of modest, consumable art - not minimalism or maximalism but medianism - that will allow them to continue publishing in and maybe living in Cosmopolis.
Brooklyn resident Paul Auster, with his bi-annual turning of the crank, is probably the best-known representative of this market-savvy medianism.
The King’s Jester
b. April 20, 1893
Signs and Symptoms
translated from the Slovak by Charles Sabatos
In the reflection of the water-mirror the surface of translucence points to its hidden elemental nature. Memory is in the trace of reflections which we conceal like one and the same jewel. Its strangeness is a boomerang.
We blush with the truths, which -- like the bitter spit of defiance -- we expel from our mouths. What relation does the truth of pain have to the truth of logical legalities? And who is the arbiter to pass judgment on our argument? (Who actually judges whom, and on what grounds? To what extent is it acceptable for us to consider an argument incomparable?)
A sketch of an answer: the truth of pain is the truth of time. All other truths are timeless truths, thus from the standpoint of everyday life, they are insubstantial.
We explore this first truth in pain; its measure is the measure of feeling it, while those others are mostly bounded by a system of artificial criteria, created by humankind in a state of undisturbed contemplation.
This is, of course, a schema. Nothing is as far from contemplation as plainness is from physiological laws. Nothing is further from pain than the ignorance of various ideas about its "worth" or "value" . . .
Actually, only a single truth goes through time untainted: the truth of which time itself has not even brushed in passing.
b. April 20, 1894
The Mood of Agoraphobia
... Turning back to [composer Allen] Shawn’s account of walking down an empty road, then what we find is that a particular localised part of the body—in this case, the legs—becomes the focal point of an existential struggle: “I couldn’t seem to get past the point at which I would be closer to the destination than to the point of origin …. I was convinced that when I reached the midpoint, my legs would not move at all and that I would be trapped in place there. I had a vivid picture of myself standing at the centre of emptiness, screaming”. This focused intentionality—what Merleau-Ponty calls “pain-infested space”—is only possible against a larger backdrop, of which mood is the foundation. Mood is the context in which the phobic’s bodily sensations are able to take place, and those sensations spring from the pervasive grip the mood has upon lived experience.
The Blog as Mask and Gravestone
Justin E. H. Smith
I have confusedly tumbled over divers authors in our libraries, with small profit for want of art, order, memory, judgment. I never travelled but in map or card, in which my unconfined thoughts have freely expatiated, as having ever been especially delighted with the study of cosmography… A mere spectator of other men’s fortunes and adventures, and how they act their parts, which methinks are diversely presented unto me, as from a common theatre or scene.
Burton loved the world, though he knew it almost entirely through the books he kept in his cell. While at nearly the same moment in European history, Burton’s contemporaries, such as René Descartes, were denouncing ‘book learning’ as inauthentic, as an impediment to true knowledge, Burton reminds us, as Gass so well understands of his predecessor, that whether out in the world or locked in our cell, it is the human mind that is doing most of the work of experience anyway; a rich, full life may be led with only the most two-dimensional of stimuli to carry it along. The Anatomy of Melancholy is proof of this.
Today, too, the Internet can seem an impediment to many of what are thought to be our more authentic experiences. But it may also be facilitating the sort of experience we have always had, qua human beings, experience based in love, and that can be had just as intensely in virtual form (letters from friends, books about nature, the Internet), as in ‘reality’ (seeing friends face-to-face, going camping). Sometimes I imagine I am feeling a love of the world as strong as Burton’s when I click, say, on a link from the Wikipedia entry on the Finno-Ugric languages to the entry on the Samoyed people of the Russian Arctic, and from there to the entry, written in Samoyed, on reindeer. There is so much out there, and it’s all in here!
True enough, in here, in this hyperlinked, screen-shaped reproduction of the world, what we find for the most part is a great mess “of barbarism, Doric dialect, extemporanean style, tautologies, apish imitation, a rhapsody of rags gathered together from several dung-hills, excrements of authors, toys and fopperies confusedly tumbled out, wihout art, invention, judgment, wit, learning, harsh, indigested, vain, scurrile, idle, dull, and dry.” But this is nothing new, and as Burton shows, it is the variety stacked upon variety, and the detail squeezed between details, the inexhaustible proliferation of adjectives, that makes this whole mess a mirror of human ingenium.
An identity in relation
Anne Tardos on absence
Grief is the most deeply personal condition, and yet it is also the most universal, extending even beyond human experience to the animal kingdom. To write out of grief is equally to find a way out of it. In the curious case of Anne Tardos’s I Am You, it is also to affirm loss as foundational, or rather to affirm that there is no foundation, to affirm that the removal of the other by whom one’s life has been shaped and sustained reveals an emptiness at the very root of existence.
As the Buddhists say, there is no foundation, but something is always given. Or as Anne Tardos writes: “I try and make good use of what life throws at me”.
I Am You is not so much a tale of grief as it is a record of the process of emergence from grief into new life. Tardos writes:
At first it’s the death you need to deal with
In a series of outbursts — cantankerous, humorous, loving, detached, foolish — Tardos delineates her experience of a return to life three years after the death of her husband, the poet Jackson Mac Low. Each statement is surrounded by white space — on the page, in time, of the mind — a blankness that gives birth to the occasion of the present moment and then withdraws it just as fast as the eye follows, the voice changes, and the hand turns the page.
That incomprehensible act
It’s all fine and good for you to be dead, but how am I going to carry you about?
Pragmatist Doubt, Dogmatism and Bullshit
Vol. 14, No. 1 (2011)
with photographs by Gonzalo Echeverria
A Plea for Doubt in the Subjectivity of Method
Doubt has been my closest companion for several years as I struggle to make sense of certain hidden events from within my family's history. The actual nature of such events, although now lost to us, can nevertheless be explored through the distorting lens of memory and academic research. I base such explorations in part on my intuition and sensitivity to emotional experience, which are inevitably riddled with doubt. I write from the position of a psychoanalytic psychologist who is also a creative writer and my doubts increase further when I use the autobiographical impulse as a driving force.
I am not alone with such uncertainties.
Elisabeth Hanscombe's blog
One Day Poem Pavilion
via Poets and Writers Picnic
Nohow On: Company, Ill Seen Ill Said, Worstward Ho