All my undone actions wander
naked across the calendar,
a band of skinny hunter-gatherers,
blown snow scattered here and there,
stumbling toward a future
A Klee drawing named “Angelus Novus” shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling ruin upon ruin and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
Walter Benjamin, On the Concept of History
Image Nation 19 (the wand
I have told many things and want
to tell more in a small time to count far off,
since 'nothing distinguishes me
ontologically from a crystal, a plant,
an animal, or the order of the world'
and 'we drift together toward
the noise and the black depths
of the universe' celebrate the
sudden hang-up of our visibility,
celebrate the sudden beauty that
is not ourselves careless unwrapped
(ducis) the solar origin drifts
in the same boat
dance in this dancer was
first the difference among poppies and
white horses of advertisements,
the snow-storm and the grapes
from Africa and the smile, exactly
and repetitions, but joyous, wintering
in Sais, writing memorable letters out
of the shattered various crystals, rocks, grottoes,
leaves, insects, animals, large and
small 'plenitude and enchainment,
wings, eggshells, clouds and snows'
the infinite who belongs to this race
of many things, the gentle death,
ignorance, and innocence last
summer, the youth of it, the
violence with roses and ivy,
sensible words, laughing rose
petal or someone the inner
music has worn out—amidst broad
leaves and harbours, linked to
the observer, submerged
or proximous, exactly like that
which he loves, startling noise,
clarity and shadow, the heights
of ourselves equal to our shadows,
night and day, the miracle of
many things, the 'proliferation
d. Dec. 31, 1877
The ShipsThe Cavafy Archive
C. P. Cavafy
Translated by Edmund Keeley/Dimitri Gondicas
From Imagination to the Blank Page. A difficult crossing, the waters dangerous. At first sight the distance seems small, yet what a long voyage it is, and how injurious sometimes for the ships that undertake it.
The first injury derives from the highly fragile nature of the merchandise that the ships transport. In the marketplaces of Imagination most of the best things are made of fine glass and diaphanous tiles, and despite all the care in the world, many break on the way, and many break when unloaded on the shore. Moreover, any such injury is irreversible, because it is out of the question for the ship to turn back and take delivery of things equal in quality. There is no chance of finding the same shop that sold them. In the marketplaces of Imagination, the shops are large and luxurious but not long-lasting. Their transactions are short-lived, they dispose of their merchandise quickly and immediately liquidate. It is very rare for a returning ship to find the same exporters with the same goods.
Another injury derives from the capacity of the ships. They leave the harbors of the opulent continents fully loaded, and then, when they reach the open sea, they are forced to throw out a part of the load in order to save the whole. Thus, almost no ship manages to carry intact as many treasures as it took on. The discarded goods are of course those of the least value, but it happens sometimes that the sailors, in their great haste, make mistakes and throw precious things overboard.
And upon reaching the white paper port, additional sacrifices are necessary.
before acquiring a mind of winter
The Snow Man
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
There is a world in which the old tumult breathes its conclusions. Inside, we are purple notes and wings of doves, visibility nothing can equal, which holds us, hesitating, as if movement might break the tender chord we strike as antidote to time. Unmask me, double me, make me a tangent in your circle of radiant breath—here with you, where the said is an offering. We are reworked, the moment a measuring device and a grace note, sorrow’s window closed to the view.
The business of being
George Szirtes on Dennis O'Driscoll
To live in a world where "Dry-gulleted drains gulp down neat rain", where ageing love poets curl fingers "around the long flowing tresses of sentences" while hearing "the excited shriek of her zip", where "not a speck of moth's / dust is mislaid" and yet where death is continually moving into "newly-constructed suburbs" and a rainbow unfolds "its colour chart" precisely at the same time as "someone is dressing up for death" - to live in such a world is to inhabit a place built on infinite care and irony.
Though these quotations are mostly from different poems, the location remains the same. It is O'Driscoll land. It is a place that at first sight appears to be bordering on Larkin country, though it is not entirely contiguous with it, for while the Irish poet is avowedly an admirer of Philip Larkin, he is a more tender, more playful and distinctly less xenophobic writer.
Three Poems from The Enclosed Garden_______________________
Translation from Spanish by Donald Wellman
To better gaze upon the night,
I am standing on the shore of my life.
Oh, how many captive stars!
To better gaze upon the night,
I am standing next to the sleeping water.
Oh, how many captive stars!
To better gaze upon the night,
I am standing with my back to the wind.
Oh, how many captive stars!
To better gaze upon the night,
I am standing at the foot of a smile.
Rising inequality and the threat to the Canadian dream
Towards A More Equal Canada
We cannot dismiss growing inequality by pretending, as the Fraser Institute does, that all Canadians are still getting the equal chances that existed a generation ago. Gross income inequalities destroy equality of opportunity, and even the advantages of any rising incomes for the poor can be wiped out by a less progressive system of taxation or cuts in public investment. The gap between the rich and the poor, and the eating away of the middle class, are cementing the privileges of the most affluent and undermining the legitimate hopes of those who want to do much better.
Canadian values demand that we do something about rising inequality before we turn into a winner-take-all society with a permanent underclass. We are in this together, and that means we must once again care and share.
A report on canada’s economic & social inequality
part of the Broadbent Institute
's Equality Project
Silence as Resistancebefore the Subject, or Could the SubalternRemain Silent?
This text considers several case studies of subaltern silence as micro political resist-ance. Around these examples I thread a theoretical model (using ideas of suchthinkers as Spivak, Bataille, Foucault and Baudrillard) to explain how performingsilences could resist oppression without assuming an underlying well-articulated sub- jectivity. The article deals with the force of silence, its conditions of possibility, and itsposition with respect to representation.
Modify Your Dissent
Yours, Mine, but Not Ours
Why the politics of national security means that we’re all living in failed Hobbesian states.
Unlike other values — say justice or equality — the need for and definition of security is not supposed to be dependent upon our beliefs or other interests and it is not supposed to favor any one set of beliefs or interests. It is the necessary condition for the pursuit of any belief or interest, regardless of who holds that belief or has that interest. It is a good, as I’ve said, that is universal and neutral. That’s the theory.
The reality, as we have seen, is altogether different. The practice of security involves a state that is rife with diverse and competing ideologies and interests, and these ideologies and interests fundamentally help determine whether threats become a focus of attention, and how they are perceived and mobilized against. The provision of security requires resources, which are not limitless. They must be distributed according to some calculus, which, like the distribution calculus of any other resource (say income or education), will reflect controversial and contested assumption about justice and will be the subject of debate. National security is as political as Social Security, and just as we argue about the latter, so do we argue about the former.
Because the rhetoric of security is one of universality and neutrality while the reality is one of conflict and division, state officials and elites have every motivation, and justification, to suppress heterodox and dissenting definitions of security. And so they have, as Hobbes predicted they could and would. But because a neutral, universal definition of security is impossible to achieve in practice, repression for the sake of security must be necessarily selective: only certain groups or certain kinds of dissent will be targeted. The question then becomes: which groups, which dissent?
III after Giacomo Leopardi
The storm runs out of wind; nature, which
abhors a silence, fills the vacancy with birdsong.
Deserting the airless, low-ceilinged coop,
the hen repeats herself ad infinitum. Replenished
like the rain-barrels, hearts grow sanguine.
Hammering resumes. Humming. Gossip. Croons.
Sun strides down lanes that grass has repossessed,
takes a shine to the brasses at the hotel where,
by the window she thrust open, the chambermaid
is marvelling at the cleansed freshness, calm.
Balm of mind and body. Will we ever feel
more reconciled to life than now, ever
know a moment more conducive to new hopes,
eager beginnings, auspicious starts?
How easily pleased we are. Rescind
the threat of torment for the briefest
second and we blot out dark nights of the soul
when lightning flashes fanned by wind
ignited fire and brimstone visions.
Sorrow is perennial; happiness, a rare
bloom, perfumes the air - so that we breathe
with the ease of a camphor-scented chest
from which congestion has just lifted.
Lack of woe equates with rapture then,
though not till death will pain take full leave
of our senses, grant us permanent relief.
1954 – 2012
Snow has sentimentalized the world,
left it sugar-coated, a baked Alaska
conjured from the palest of vanilla ice creams,
the purest of swan's egg whites,
its mushy, too-sweet-to-be-wholesome look
topped with a confection of candied trees—
bare-branched candelabras—holly waxing
eloquent with berries in a citric winter dusk.
In denial about whatever smacks of negativity,
it stops death in its tracks, adopts a hard
line on burials, sets up road blocks, brings runways
to a standstill, placing travel plans on ice,
permitting no escape from its airbrushed vision,
plotting to frustrate communications
networks, keep bad news in abeyance, seal
the mouth of every outlet, stifle all dissent.
Its powder washes whiter than any rival's,
even the field-blanching moon's,
obliterates earth's lumpy surfaces, smoothes
its awkward bumps, insists simplicity is truth.
Too good to last, too huge a con-job
to sustain, too false a facade
to maintain beyond one season, snow's
hour of reckoning comes, its defences
crumble like a pomegranate meringue
gateau, churning mucky sludge,
a filthy vinegar of meltwater under which
the world it wished away can be defrosted,
dust itself off, when spring's no-nonsense air
prevails: its new twig broom will sweep
all vestiges of slush before it, letting life resume
its complex, messy, necessary routines.
The Sky’s the Limit
The Demanding Gifts of 2012
As this wild year comes to an end, we return to the season of gifts. Here’s the gift you’re not going to get soon: any conventional version of Paradise. You know, the place where nothing much happens and nothing is demanded of you. The gifts you’ve already been given in 2012 include a struggle over the fate of the Earth. This is probably not exactly what you asked for, and I wish it were otherwise -- but to do good work, to be necessary, to have something to give: these are the true gifts. And at least there’s still a struggle ahead of us, not just doom and despair._______________________
Poem Beginning with a Line from Gammer Gurton’s Needle
When Diccon the Bedlam had heard by report
about the basting, and sensible replies to it
from people here and there, think first of those
looking very worried, and that will be an end to it.
Yes, and farther along the path to school
were mutterings: Some claimed the end of the world
had come, others that it was fast approaching.
Finally no one knew that anything was going on
for long, and kept their thoughts to themselves:
Why, Gammer, we had no idea something was lost
and that you had lost it, pray? I’ll teach ya a lesson.
And night flowed into the pond as though it were a lagoon.
b. December 23, 1908
Melancholia or, The Romantic Anti-Sublime
Steven Shaviro on Lars von Trier's film Melancholia (2011)
SEQUENCE eBook Publications
As one of many recent Western European and North American films to imagine the end of the world, Melancholia is a product of the “structure of feeling” that Mark Fisher calls8 capitalist realism. This is “the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it”. We have all internalized Margaret Thatcher’s dictum that “There Is No Alternative” to the reign of the so-called “free market.” Anything and everything that we can imagine is immediately recuperated by the system. It is turned into a brand, and “monetized” through financial speculation. “All that is solid melts into PR”. We are faced with continual novelty and innovation; and yet nothing ever really changes. Somehow, the future has been exhausted: as Fisher puts it, “the future harbors only reiteration and re-permutation… nothing new can ever happen”. Under such conditions, Fisher says — paraphrasing both Fredric Jameson and Slavoj ˇi˛ek — “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism”.
The allure of disaster movies, in an age of capitalist realism, is that they seem to offer us a way out — indeed, the only conceivable way out. Over the past few decades, endless rounds of privatization and austerity, not to mention widespread environmental degradation, have already deprived us of a future. The world of our hopes and dreams has in fact already ended: our day-to-day existence just needs to catch up with this fact. And so our only chance for release from the continuing soft disaster of our lives is for this disaster to become truly universal. If the world ends, then at least we will be freed from the rapacity of financial institutions, and from our ever-increasing burdens of debt. The cinematic spectacle of disaster is in itself intensely gratifying, as well: we see destroyed, before our very eyes, that “immense collection of commodities” after which we have always striven, upon which we have focused all our desires, and which has always ended up disappointing us.
Each installment in SEQUENCE Serial Studies in Media, Film and Music is sequentially and cumulatively made freely available in a variety of eReading formats following its initial web publication.
(....)Maurice Blanchot: The Space of Literature
The writer cannot abide near the work. He can only write it; he can, once it is written, only discern its approach in the abrupt Noli me legere which moves him away, which sets him apart or which obliges him to go back to that "separation" which he first entered in order to become attuned to what he had to write. So that now he finds himself as if at the beginning of his task again and discovers again the proximity, the errant intimacy of the outside from which he could not make an abode.
Perhaps this ordeal points us toward what we are seeking. The writer's solitude, that condition which is the risk he runs, seems to come from his belonging, in the work, to what always precedes the work. Through him, the work comes into being; it constitutes the resolute solidity of a beginning. But he himself belongs to a time ruled by the indecisiveness inherent in beginning over again. The obsession which ties him to a privileged theme, which obliges him to say over again what he has already said -- sometimes with the strength of an enriched talent, but sometimes with the prolixity of an extraordinarily impoverishing repetitiveness, with ever less force, more monotony -- illustrates the necessity, which apparently determines his efforts, that he always come back to the same point, pass again over the same paths, persevere in starting over what for him never starts, and that he belong to the shadow of events, not their reality, to the image, not the object, to what allows words themselves to become images, appearances -- not signs, values, the power of truth.
English, trans. Ann Smock
pdf available at Monoskop
Michael Davidson: Five New Poems
presented by Jerome Rothenberg
While billeted among participials
and other progressive forms
frames of indiscretion recombine into plausible
stories of origin
so that upon becoming grammar
one hypothetically strikes one’s forehead
on a sentence striving to form itself
into the subject, capital ‘S,’
the residue of tower, noodles, and ceremonial
song to explain these barriers to terminus
recur intermittently during the day
such that upon meeting him halfway home
one would never know what bullets
penetrate the memory theater, striking
a patron as inconceivable to the plot
and necessary to language, whereupon
he concludes this little tale
of our first parents, burnished in grace.
Michael Davidson at EPC
and Penn Sound
b. Dec. 23, 1870
John Marin (December 23, 1870
But often, in the world's most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;
— Matthew Arnold (24 December 1822 - 15 April 1888), The Buried Life_______________________
'Quick Question' is classic John Ashbery
What is consistently parsable in late Ashbery are the melancholy specter of approaching death ("As I was saying it's a never-ending getting / closer if you will") and the persistence of humor in the demented twilight ("We serve two masters: haddock and bream"). Surrealism isn't the word for Ashbery's conjurations: His are the materials of the conscious mind, "the fatal tarnish of the everyday." What other poet his age is so alive to the kitsch ceramics of the vernacular? "Quick Question," indeed.
In a brief prose poem entitled "Homeless Heart," he writes as poignantly as he ever has of this yearning for meaning, which is ever on the horizon, over the next rise, and connects it, as he often does, to his own never-quite-arrived-at end:
When I think of finishing the work, when I think of the finished work, a great sadness overtakes me, a sadness paradoxically like joy. The circumstances of doing put away, the being of it takes possession, like a tenant in a rented house. Where are you now, homeless heart? Caught in a hinge, or secreted behind drywall, like your nameless predecessors now that they have been given names?
"We live in a place / That is not our own," Wallace Stevens wrote, "and, much more, not ourselves." When Ashbery gets serious, it is often in response to such a hard truth. By the light of "the hoary corporate logo that defines / our monstrosity for some," he rejects the usual consolations as he prepares to be "return(ed) to sender": "Keep your ornaments, / if that's what they are."
After all these decades, John Ashbery remains our great singer of homelessness, our alienation in this rented house. "(F)orgive our trespasses," he asks someone, "for trespassing against us." Amen.
The Imaged Word
Eric Ormsby reviews
Aisha's Cushion: Religious Art, Perception, and Practice in Islam by Jamal J Elias
In 'Among School Children', W B Yeats wrote that 'Both nuns and mothers worship images', a line calculated to send shudders of outrage down the spine of any zealous dogmatist, whether Christian, Jew or Muslim. To worship an image is to engage in idolatry; it is to see a divine presence embodied in an object made by human hands. Nevertheless, as Jamal J Elias shows in considerable detail in Aisha's Cushion, his engrossing study of figural representation in the Islamic tradition, the issue is far more ambiguous and nuanced than Biblical or Koranic condemnations of idolatry might suggest. In fact, even these condemnations are not always what they seem to be. Are idols to be smashed because they are false gods or because they are the 'wrong' gods - that is, gods in competition with the 'right' god? With regard to the subtler and more intricate subject of icons, are these to be seen as spiritual 'windows' opening onto a transcendent realm, and to be venerated as such, or are they idols in camouflage, worshipped for their own sakes (and not only by 'nuns and mothers')? As Elias rightly notes, in the end, and perhaps perversely, it is the iconoclasts themselves who 'are the ultimate affirmers of the power of images'.
Far HarborMaggy 4, Dec. 2012
To become lost amid underperforming texts
the stranger won’t answer. By which time
it was nosebleed territory anyway. The geese
had put away their young, then fled; all that remained
to be determined was local angst, over who cares what
by sitters in a landscape. I say: how is this remote?
Yellow wine will rinse it away, and how many of us
are there? Is it my imagination or must one foregather
to bring stuff in?
Long before that, the tocsin
had sounded in the autumn dell. Toxins were released.
One’s by-now crystallized antipathy to daring new
solutions swamped local perennial borders.
Because at least getting too serious had reputable
antecedents. Being in the way didn’t matter,
nor should it, yet who knows what embarrassment can leak
this way, foreground moony entertainments? Just a clench
suffices when their guard is up. The horse pilots,
sleeping rough in their thousands,
announced commodious outcomes contradicting too-prompt
displays of local affection. The broad petals of language
are stiff and may get very bad.
They make it very bad
in our language tutoring.
George Tice: Platinum/Palladium Photographs
Nailya Alexander Gallery
1 2 3
Philosophical Delusion and its Therapy:
Outline of a Philosophical Revolution
Reviewed by Anat Biletzki,
Putting the words "philosophy" and "therapy" together immediately brings to mind Wittgenstein. And, indeed, it is the therapeutic reading of Wittgenstein's later philosophy -- but also, according to a leading brand of therapeutic readers, the early Wittgenstein's -- that has become a mainstay in the interpretative industry surrounding Wittgenstein. It is a mainstay as in being popular almost to the point of consensus, but also as leading to vigorous disagreement and debate. What is clear, it seems, to all on both sides of the interpretative domain, is that "therapy" is used metaphorically, even if earnestly: philosophy -- traditional, classical philosophy -- is an ailment, and good philosophy -- revolutionary philosophy as Wittgenstein would have us do it -- is therapy for the ailment. In no sense does one believe that medical, scientific, or even clinical psychological therapy is in play here. Rather, interpreters of Wittgenstein engage themselves in locating what might go wrong (what would be a "sickness") in the doing of philosophy and how it could be set aright (after "therapy") with the right kind of philosophy._______________________
The book under review takes therapy seriously, refusing to think of it as a metaphor for anything. (It does, however, take metaphor itself to task as one of the main causes of philosophical illness. I'll get to that shortly.) Quite astoundingly, we encounter here the idea (and its meticulous working out) that both therapy and illness are scientifically recognizable; that, therefore, there is a type of philosophical illness -- literally -- that can be diagnosed; and that therapeutic philosophy is then to be discovered and implemented -- literally -- in order to cure the disease. In a completely original move, Eugen Fischer puts together, causally and logically, the sciences of cognitive linguistics, cognitive and social psychology, and even clinical psychology on the one hand, and philosophy on the other.
Norway. His Norwegian year.
... he dreamt of his frozen notebooks, full of truth. He dreamt of his indecipherable writing, full of truth. He dreamt of the path he had trailed that none could follow. He dreamt that he had died of truth, of terrible truth. That truth had thrown his spear through him. That truth’s tears had frozen on his cheeks.
Bibliolatry and Its Discontents
Paradoxically, it’s ancient literatures that may be best positioned to accommodate whatever replaces the conventional book. Having survived transitions from oral to written, from scroll to codex, and from manuscript to print, classical texts can appear indifferent to the particular forms they have taken over time, always ready to move on to something new. Yet it is striking that from the start, the ur-epic Gilgamesh (geographically, the Uruk epic) is thoroughly self-conscious about its material underpinnings. After telling us to look beyond the present to “see” the wall of Eanna, “view its parapet,” and “take the stairway of a bygone era,” it asks us also to look through the object in our hands and
See the tablet-box of cedar,
A poem that first circulated orally, and only survived because of the durability of cuneiformed clay before coming comparatively recently to the alphabet and print, begins by insisting on a particular and particularly pompous instantiation. So doing, it prepares the reader with the Penguin edition in hand for a story that, like Gilgamesh, has come “a far road.” Crawling across millennia, some texts don’t so much slough off their earlier carapaces as accumulate fragments to help them and us move along.
Release its clasp of bronze!
Lift the lid of its secret,
Pick up the tablet of lapis lazuli and read out
The travails of Gilgamesh
—The Epic of Gilgamesh
(tr. Andrew George)
Pierre Puvis de Chavannes
Parasites -- Fragments of the Non-Human
A parasite is a mascot animal for materialism, of which a narrowly understood, scientific physics and idealistic human-centeredness have been weeded out. It is a form of life of a language which no longer gives priority to the busyness of denotations, to communicative reason and the usefulness of words. Instead, it is mutterings and slips of the tongue, pre-conceptual lack of intentionality, rude grunt. Let language descend into its night and rest in that which has no words. Let it be composted, eaten in the dark, transformed into soil. Let it be decomposed into something else.
The unconscious in language that encounters an experience like this does not reside in the individual or in the inter-individual. Its place is in soil circulation, with nameless forms of life. Parasites favour this soil and are of it, they are living parts of the soil.
To be a parasite is to hide oneself in the corners of the centre, in the nooks of the house, in the scalp, as a prefix to a word. No more fleeing to the periphery, positioning in the prescribed margin, but persistent sticking to an inner enmity, an open conspiracy.
Let thinking form a union with the non-human invisible and bare life, or let it be eaten up.
And so they laid their eggs in the eyes of the monster.
The Song of Time
b. Dec.20, 1858
Blinded by Thrift Store Irony
To start making sense of the slippery delusions lurking beneath our exhausted cultural stylings is to recognize, at last, that what we now call irony is the self-chosen entertainment of the powerless.
... what’s most striking about our periodic jeremiads against the ironic style is the persistent misstatement of the key terms of debate. For one thing, it makes very little sense to characterize irony, strictly speaking, as a matter of self-presentation. Irony isn’t about individual motives or this or that gestural conceit—which are subject to some measure of personal control—so much as external outcomes, which by definition do not concern the self.
Les Calvinistes de Catwijck
We’re drunk with critique, cynicism, and skepticism. And in this way, all critique has come to be neutralized. We now know, a priori, that everything we speak of– including our own critiques! –will contain illegitimate assumptions, illicit interests on behalf of the powerful and dominant classes, and unfounded decisions. It is all neutralized in advance. In the culture industry of the academy– and, in particular, the academy that calls itself radical –we will always be able to show that some scandalous desire, ideology, or interest is at work. As a consequence, we become paralyzed. We can say well enough what is wrong with any positive knowledge claim and how any ethical or political proposal conceals hidden interests and despicable forms of oppression and inequality, we can show, like the theologians, how everything is stained by sin, yet we can make no positive proposals. Our sole and single ethical prescription becomes “make no claim, make no proposal, judge no thing.” Our business– and it is a business, a tenure business –comes to consist in showing that everything is stained and dirty.
In a strange way, we thus become the mirror image of the theologians, yet with the caveat that where they can commit by virtue of their belief in a transcendent term– a horrific God that would condemn trillions to eternal suffering –we can say nothing. Like the theologians we find sin in everything, seeing all as fallen. Like the theologians or the fundamentalist freaks of today, we discard all science as really being masked strategems of power, of interest, that are ultimately constructed and without any truth. We thus strangely find ourselves in the same camp as the climate change denialists, the creationists who use their skepticism as a tool to dismiss evolutionary theory, and those that would treat economic theories as mere theories in the pejorative sense and continue to hold to their neoliberal economics despite the existence of any evidence supporting its claims. We critique everything and yet leave everything intact.
Gentle, Juliana Spahr
We came into the world at the edge of a stream.
The stream had no name but it began from a spring and flowed
down a hill into the Scioto that then flowed into the Ohio that
then flowed into the Mississippi that then flowed into the Gulf
The stream was a part of us and we were a part of the stream and
we were thus part of the rivers and thus part of the gulfs and
And we began to learn the stream.
We looked under stones for the caddisfly larvae and its adhesive.
We counted the creek chub and we counted the slenderhead darter.
We learned to recognize the large, upright, dense, candle-like
clusters of yellowish flowers at the branch ends of the
horsechestnut and we appreciated the feathery gracefulness
of the drooping, but upturning, branchlets of the larch.
We mimicked the catlike meow, the soft quirrt or kwut, and the
louder, grating ratchet calls of the gray catbird.
We put our heads together.
We put our heads together with all these things, with the caddisfly
larva, with the creek chub and the slenderhead darter, with
the horsechestnut and the larch, with the gray catbird.
We put our heads together on a narrow pillow, on a stone, on a
narrow stone pillow, and we talked to each other all day long
because we loved.
We loved the stream.
And we were of the stream.
And we couldn’t help this love because we arrived at the bank of the
stream and began breathing and the stream was various and
full of information and it changed our bodies with its rotten
with its cold with its clean with its mucky with fallen leaves
with its things that bite the edges of the skin with its leaves
with its sand and dirt with its pungent at moments with its
dry and prickly with its warmth with its mushy and moist
with its hard flat stones on the bottom with its horizon lines
of gently rolling hills with its darkness with its dappled light
with its cicadas buzz with its trills of birds.
Nature, what is nature? What is eco? What is eco-poetics? What is nature-eco-poetics? How does feminism fit into nature eco poetics? What would a Vendana Shiva/Donna Haraway hybrid look like? Tim Lilburn and Juliana Spahr? I can’t help but wonder what, how, nature, or what we think of nature differs east, west, developed, undeveloped, with and without money, never mind north or south of our border, and more locally here, block by block, pulse by pulse, how we describe the leaf fluttering on our buffed shoulders as we raise our lattes and our poetic expectations.
“Our hearts took on the shape of the stream,” Spahr writes, they “took on the shape of whirligigs swirling across the water,” our “hearts took on many things.” And poetry is perhaps how we carry that.
And maybe language poetry, whatever or however one might try to contain that, is a similar place of wild, a place of things not immediately named, a place of remaining open. And when the lyric impulse, that honest voice, that vulnerable stretto meshes with language, with intention, with procedure—then whatever side of the border or gender, or political spectrum the project may originate, it knocks this reader out.
presented by John Latta
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 desperate polyphony
of conflicting meanings
empties continually into,
all signs condensed into
a single line leading
out from this dust mote size
fraction of the history of
a very tiny star into the
silence everywhere around it
— Tom Clark, “A point is fixed . . .”
Caul Gate, Farewell, that hath me bound
And with an ointment laved my teethe
Until mine own voice tired, the sound
A quiet wasting summer’s breath
Babylon his flood is stilled
Babel her tower doeth tie my tongue
In the willow path there it hath swilled
My spirit, His case, and young.
— Louis Zukofsky, out of “Michtam (‘Lese-Wiat, from Caul Gate’)”
Jake Adam York
for Dave Smith
The moss never falls.
it hangs like shirts
left to weather and rag
over the road
and the dead-end rail
and in all the branches
from there to the shore
and then as far upriver
as you can see.
Here it's only open water,
two ends of road no one uses,
landfill on one side, thicket
on the other,
the story of a bridge between.
Some things are beyond us.
The moss never falls.
The river won't say a thing.
I lean, clouding
its reflected night.
And now I can't tell you
how I got here
or what I'd hoped to see,
what face would rise
if light swept from the channel
or the opposite shore.
The sky is empty,
and the river's bent
like a question too close
or too far away to read.
Jake Adam York
(1972 – 2012)
Jake Adam York, poet who chronicled Civil Rights movement, dies at 40
The Crowd He Becomes
September 15, 1963 – Birmingham
Jake Adam York
The mayor says all of us are victims, innocent victims.
The lawyer kills his radio. Later folks are asking
who did it and the lawyer says I'll tell you who.
Who is everyone who talks of niggers. Who is everyone
who slurs to his neighbors and his sons. Everyone
who jokes about niggers and everyone
who laughs at the jokes. Everyone who's quiet,
who lets it happen. Now his voice flaps in the rafters
of the meeting hall, and everyone is quiet.
I'll tell you who did it, he says. We all did.
The photographer keeps his beat, past the crater
in the church foundation, through the park,
into the mid-day rush, just where he lost him.
In the darkroom, he kept arriving, his face
framed between elbows, caught in the thrall,
or his crewcut, his smile cropped by arms.
Now his haircut, half-rolled sleeve, cigarette lip,
his eye pass by a dozen times, and more,
he could be anyone, could be everyone
wandering the storefronts, spying behind his News.
The photographer follows every one, cocked
and ready to shoot, but his lens can't catch them all
so he just stands, tracing their paths,
he just stands, lost in the crowd he becomes.
Jake Adam York reads
poems in and near Montgomery and Anniston, Alabama, in January 2010.
The Morning After the Deluge
Joseph Mallord William Turner
December 19, 1851
"If I could find anything blacker than black, I'd use it."
in the Writings of Judith Butler, Katherine Hayles, and Donna Haraway
Peter Maravelis (City Lights) in conversation with Arthur Kroker
Like all truly premonitory thought, the critical feminism of Butler, Hayles and Haraway provides an evocative account of body drift as the emblematic sign of contemporary culture.
Body Drift is written at the trajectory of two opposing possibilities in contemporary culture. On the one hand, we are living in the shadows of a gathering political and social crisis in which technologies of abjection, disappearance, inertia, and substitution increasingly triumph. The evidence for this is pervasive: disappeared bodies, excluded ethnicities, prohibited sexualities, undocumented subjects, disavowed forms of imagination, hopes, and democratic aspirations. At the same time, the multiplicity of bodies that we are and the multiplicity of hopes that we engender begin to dream again of counter-trajectories of resistance, hope and solidarity. This moment of body drift is definitely global, pronounced, and truly enigmatic in its eventual outcomes. Indeed, the language of body drift in all its complexity, contingency, and hybridity has now come to define the key trajectories of posthuman culture.
Life is beautiful
presented at Poemas del rķo Wang
Whelm lessons (PoemTalk #60)
Blues for Alice
It’s insane to remain a trope, of a rinsing out
or a ringing whatever, it’s those bells that . . .
and other riskier small day and fain would be
of the soap a sky dares
but we remand,
that we a clasp of the silence you and I, all of
tiny sphering rates back, I say to told wall, back
and back and leave my edge, and add an L
Night is so enclosed we’ll never turn its page
its eye, can be mine will be yours, to see all the people
the underneath livid reaching part and past of the lying buildings
the overreacher stops and starts, at in his head, in
in her rhythm
that knowledge is past all of us, so we flare and tap
and top it right up, constant engage and flap in on
keeping pace, our whelming rift, and soil and gleam
and give back the voice, like those eary dead
Clark Coolidge, "Blues for Alice"
Clark Coolidge at EPC
, the Poetry Foundation
A Handbook of Protocols for Literary Listening [pdf]
ed. Craig Dworkin (2012)
The following handbook catalogues a repertoire of techniques for literary listening. It seeks to identify some of the specific tools with which poets have gauged and transformed the sonic effects of their linguistic environment. Suggestive rather than exhaustive, this guide is not an encyclopedia of practices. Indeed, the hope is that it will serve as a reminder of other examples, an inspiration for further writing, a provocation to further listening, and a locus of surprise (a word which derives in turn from the French surprendre: to overhear).
Ad Marginem / Men and Women
Of entangling interrelation
Between human beings
Meaning absolutely nothing
To two cats walking on snow
(11 December 1904 – 2 August 1944)
EVERYONE CARRIES a room about inside, him. This. fact can even
be proved by means of the sense of hearing. If some one walks fast
and one pricks up one's ears and listens, say in the night, when
everything round about is quiet, one hears, for instance, the rattling of a mirror not quite firmly fastened to the wall.
Is it possible to think something unconsoling? Or, rather, something unconsoling without the breath of consolation? A way out would seem to lie in the fact that recognition as such is consolation. And so one might well think: You must put yourself aside, and yet one might maintain oneself, without falsifying this recognition, by the consciousness of having recognized it. That, then, really means having pulled oneself out of the swamp by one's own pigtail. What is ridiculous in the physical world is possible in the spiritual world. There is no law of gravity (the angels do not fly, they have not overcome any force of gravity, it is only we observers in the terrestrial world who cannot imagine it in any better way than that), which is, of course, beyond our power of conception, or at any rate, conceivable only on a very high level. How pathetically scanty my self-knowledge is compared with, say, my knowledge of my room. (Evening.) Why? There is no such thing as observation of the inner world, as there is of the outer world. At least descriptive is probably, taken as a whole, a form of anthropomorphism, a nibbling at our own limits. The inner world can only be experienced, not described. -- Psychology is the description of the reflection of the terrestrial world in the heavenly plane, or, more correctly, the description of a reflection such as we, soaked as we are in our terrestrial nature, imagine it, for no reflection actually occurs, only we see earth wherever we turn.
The Blue Octavo Notebooks
18 December 18, 1879
from in field latin_______________________
translated from the German by Alexander Booth
the new empire
telephonerustle, birdcough: first you go
through everything again in your thoughts; the
blue waffle-tiles were there before, chest-high
the brown pedestal, oil &
shrubbery motif: shedding, almost
trickling forth of voices from
out of the ball lamps. no
labyrinth & no chandos-hysteria, just
the smell of words & fake carnations: in
the past this window wasn't barred, wasn't
marked this script come in
to the research park they say is dead — herringbonetrim
Translated by Steve Bradbury
if we are to presuppose that every single person is the best possible
casting choice to play the lead in his or her own story
along with our dependence on the form and fear thereof
discover we are actually rather fond of fear though equally
or less to quietly
talk this through (how the words carry us forward)
even though I claim to be waiting I’m also apt to claim
that I could pick up and leave at any time
she said we haven’t changed a bit we’re simply
more serious that’s all we are
getting down to basics don’t you think
we’ve drifted rather far from the sea the situation’s hazy
and fraught with complications
please stop me if I let this turn abstract
Heidegger’s Mom and the Joke of Democracy:
Fictional Notes on the Political
Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
According to Lacoue-Labarthe, the production of fiction is an essential part of any political system. Through a close reading of Heidegger’s involvement with the Nazi regime, an involvement that I will touch upon in this lecture, Lacoue-Labarthe arrives at a twofold observation. On the one hand, “Nazism is the Nazi myth, i.e. the Aryan type, as absolute subject, pure will (of the self) willing itself,” on the other hand, and here he quotes Maurice Blanchot, “the Jews embody […] the rejection of myths, the eschewing of idols, the recognition of an ethical order which manifests itself in respect for the law. What Hitler is attempting to annihilate in annihilating the Jew, and the ‘myth of the Jew’, is precisely man liberated from myths.”
In response to the kind invitation of Mihnea Mircan and WHW to speak here today, I would like to explore these observations in a fictional mode, doubling Lacoue-Labarthe’s discourse on itself, dealing with the fiction of the political within a fiction of the political.