July 14, 2014
Le passant du Pont des Arts
The BridgesTwo Poems by Ingeborg Bachmann
Translated by Peter Filkins
Lonely are all bridges,
and fame is as dangerous for them
as it is for us, yet we presume
to feel the tread of stars
upon our shoulders.
Still, over the slope of transience
no dream arches us.
It’s better to follow the riverbanks,
crossing from one to another,
and all day keep an eye out
for the official to cut the ribbon.
For when he does, he’ll seize the sun’s scissors
within the fog, and if the sun blinds him,
he’ll be swallowed by fog when he falls.
Translated by Peter Filkins
The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths
Jorge Luis Borges
It is said by men worthy of belief (though Allah’s knowledge is greater) that in the first days there was a king of the isles of Babylonia who called together his architects and his priests and bade them build him a labyrinth so confused and so subtle that the most prudent men would not venture to enter it, and those who did would lose their way.
via Mitsu Hadeishi
b. June 13, 1924
Digital Humanities and the End of (Close) Reading:
A Review of Franco Moretti’s Distant Reading
Distant Reading confirms Moretti’s penchant for playing devil’s advocate, a role that has brought him as close to notorious stardom as his discipline allows. He has been called a true innovator in literary studies, a “great iconoclast of literary criticism,” and maybe not a literary critic at all. (The first opinion is an economist’s; the other two both come from a review of Moretti’s Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary Theory.) Reading Moretti thus tends to raise a question, one that often attends the work of mavericks, about where showmanship gives way to brilliance expressed with uncommon candour. But in Distant Reading Moretti frustrates the iconoclast-charlatan binary by inhabiting both poses at once
Five poems from "Irish Poetry 600-1200"
(a work in progress)
A bank of trees overlooking me
how could I fail to mention this
a blackbird composing an ode for me
above my book the lined one
here in the glade
the chatter of birds birdsong
a clear-voiced cuckoo in a grey mantle
sings to me
making a fine speech
from the top of a bush-fort
truly the Lord is good to me
I write well in the wood
(A Walk In Wychwood Park)
The Art of Trees
no longer have
the means to say
what we believe,
when doubt and force
bring on the mind’s dis-ease
passing for the truth that is,
mouthing only lies that
catch us gazing into night),
then we, who are
the party of this dream,
this hope, begin
to know and see
by questioning the art of trees;
by walking alone, together
among the darkened leaves,
where thoughts like tears
begin to shed their fears
and follow us along the road
where children of the forest
still wander from our thoughts
like so many butterflies, free and alive.
One night as he sat at his table head on hands he saw himself rise and go. One night or day. For when his own light went out he was not left in the dark. Light of a kind came from the one high window. Under it still the stool on which till he could or would no more he used to mount to see the sky. Why he did not crane out to see what lay beneath was perhaps because the window was not made to open or because he could or would not open it. Perhaps he knew only too well what lay beneath and did not wish to see it again. So he would simply stand there high above the earth and see through the clouded pane the cloudless sky. Its faint unchanging light unlike any light he could remember from the days and nights when day followed hard on night and night on day. This outer light then when his own went out became his only light till it in its turn went out and left him in the dark. Till it in its turn went out.
One night or day then as he sat as his table head on hands he saw himself rise and go. First rise and stand clinging to the table.Then sit again. Then rise again and stand clinging to the table again. Then go. Start to go. On unseen feet start to go. So slow that only change of place to show he went. As when he disappeared only to reappear later at another place again. Then disappeared only to reappear later at another place again. So again and again disappeared again to reappear again at another place again. Another place in the place where he sat at his table head on hands. The same place and table as when Darly for example died and left him. As when others too in their turn before and since. As when others would too in their turn and leave him till he too in his turn. Head on hands half hoping when he disappeared again that he would not reappear again and half fearing that he would not. Or merely wondering. Or merely waiting. Waiting to see if he would or would not. Leave him or not alone again waiting for nothing again.
Seen always from behind withersoever he went. Same hat and coat as of old when he walked the roads. The back roads. Now as one in a strange place seeking the way out. In the dark. In a strange place blindly in the dark of night or day seeking the way out. To the roads. The back roads.
A clock afar struck the hours and half-hours. The same as when among others Darly once died and left him. Strokes now clear as if carried by a wind now faint on the still air. Cries afar now faint now clear. Head on hands half hoping when the hour struck that the half-hour would not and half fearing that it would not. Similarly when the half-hour struck. Similarly when the cries a moment ceased. Or merely wondering. Or merely waiting. Waiting to hear.
There had been a time he would sometimes lift his head enough to see his hands. What of them was to be seen. One laid on the table and the other on the one. At rest after all they did. Lift his past head a moment to see his past hands. Then lay it back on them to rest it too. After all it did.
The same place as when left day after day for the roads. The back roads. Returned to night after night. Paced from wall to wall in the dark. The then fleeting dark of night. Now as if strange to him seen to rise and go. Disappear and reappear at another place again. Or the same. Nothing to show not the same. No wall toward which or further from. In the same place as when paced from wall to wall all places as the same. Or in another. Nothing to show not another. Where never. Rise and go in the same place as ever. Disappear and reappear in another where never. Nothing to show not another where never. Nothing but the strokes. The cries. The same as ever.
Till so many strokes and cries since he was last seen that perhaps he would not be seen again. Then so many cries since the strokes were last heard that perhaps they would not be heard again. Then such silence since the cries were last heard that perhaps even they would not be heard again. Perhaps thus the end. Unless no more than a mere lull. Then all as before. The strokes and cries as before and he as before now there now gone now there again now gone again. Then the lull again. Then all as before again. So again and again. And patience till the one true end to time and grief and self and second self his own.
Recess time in the woods
1921 - 2007
Taking a break - the "s lot" will resume early August - mw
Your mind never active at any time is now even less than ever so. This is the type of assertion he does not question. You saw the light on such and such a day and your mind never active at any time is now even less than ever so. Yet a certain activity of mind however slight is a necessary adjunct of company. That is why the voice does not say You are on your back in the dark and have no mental activity of any kind. The voice alone is I company but not enough. Its effect on the hearer is a necessary complement. Were it only to kindle in his mind the state of faint uncertainty and embarrassment mentioned above. But company apart this effect is clearly necessary. For were he merely to hear the voice and it to have no more effect on him than speech in Bantu or in Erse then might it not as well cease? Unless its object be by mere sound to plague one in need of silence. Or of course unless as above surmised directed at an other.(....)
In another dark or in the same another devising it all for company. This at first sight seems clear. But as the eye dwells it grows obscure. Indeed the longer the eye dwells the obscurer it grows. Till the eye closes and feed from pore the mind inquires, What does this mean? What finally does this mean that at first sight semmed clear? Till it the mind too closes as it were. As the window might close of a dark empty room. The single window giving out on outer dark. Then nothing more. No. Unhappily no. Pangs of faint light and stirrings still. Unformulable gropings of the mind. Unstillable.
For why not? Why in another dark or in the same? And whose voice asking this? Who asks, whose voice asking this? And answers, His soever who devises it all. In the same dark as his creator or in another. For company. Who asks in the end, Who asks? And in the end answers as above? And adds long after to himself, Unless another still. Nowhere to be found. Nowhere to be sought. The unthinkable last of all. Unnameable. Last person. I. Quick leave him....(more)
July 11, 2014
James McNeill Whistler
a visitor in the night
Extracts from Journal of a dead man
Translated by Andrew Robert Hodgson
I can’t sleep anymore. I’ve called off the search. All evening, buried in my armchair I’ve sat and waited for the waves to take me. But as they started to reach the walls, as the eddies took up the things in my room, a frogman slowly opened the door. Green water rushed in and over his heavy form, ran over the carpet, raced up towards the ceiling. He walked towards me clumsily as if at the bottom of the ocean. Then, taking off his glove, he placed on my table a pebble. A phosphorescent pebble glinting in the shadow growing thicker. I could no longer see the diver after that. Just in the middle of the night this white pebble.
Sometimes my night-time visitor comes without his diving suit. The sight is terrifying. On such evenings he puts under my eyes a book always opened to exactly the same page. The book is a diary covered in black canvas like they use commercially and the page is that day. The last time I read it was Monday 28th April, the day of Saint Aimé. On that day I hadn’t loved anyone. Under the day’s appellation there was nothing, the page was a desert of pure white. More often than not the pages are blank like that. That night I whispered under my breath, I pleaded with him: I’m dead, I’m dead aren’t I? And as soon as I uttered these words the diver tore out the page and disappeared with the book. But his gaze, the intolerable weight of his gaze lingered before me to the end of the night.
On other nights I see on the page a mess of hieroglyphs in red ink. I look across the incomprehensible signs until they dissolve and flow together as nets of blood. The page then takes on the look of turned out skin, overly neat, clean, or a map of the rivers, waterways and canals of some unknown country.
Other times still there moving on the page like on a cinema screen but with extraordinary photographic perfection, octopi or water lilies. Sometimes simply scenes from my day; but I never recognise the beings that surround me.
Simon Perchik: New Poems
Simon Perchik1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Not yet certain, half stone
half held back -wave after wave
rattles it, makes it start over
louder, distracted by the sound
that is not your shoulders
gathering around this grave
no longer facing the fragrance
riverbeds become once they dry
by calling out to each other
clog your mouth with salt and nearby
-what you hear is edging closer
has doubts, lost count
the way these rocks are winded
and one by one broken up
as flowers and your arms.
Sea and Rain
James McNeill Whistler
b. July 10, 1834
More Chicks and Dicks
Echo's Bones cannot be read alone. A massive in-joke for anyone who's read More Pricks Than Kicks, the slim volume's best concordance is not the notes that decipher the text's extensive references, but the preceding collection; don't attempt Echo's Bones without it.
The first time I read More Pricks Than Kicks I was assailed by terrible cramps that rippled up and down the front of my torso until I stopped reading. It seemed appropriate. Echo’s Bones is a long short story originally intended as the ‘recessional’ to More Pricks Than Kicks, Beckett’s 1934 collection of stories about Belacqua – Dubliner, eternal student, abject sufferer from his own body: goitre, hammer toe, sexual dysfunction and moral turpitude. Although Beckett had to be persuaded to write the story in order to flesh out the collection, Echo’s Bones gave Shatton & Windup “the jim-jams” and it was rejected. Now here it is, resurrected and larger-than-life, bulked-out by an introduction and notes longer than the text itself._______________________
The beautiful new Faber edition (taking notes, my pencil sunk into what must truly be the Andrex of paper stock) is annotated almost out of existence, making the task of reading nearly as great a labour as digging up your own coffin, as Belacqua (now deceased), finds.
There is much to annotate.
Simon Perchik : eight poems_______________________
To calibrate this stone
you break the sun just so
part shoreline, part darkness
where the Earth survives
by holding on to your shadow
as if it had no mouth
and what you hear are seabirds
covered with cries that circle
as rain and dust and nightfall
—it's an ancient gesture
half salt, half waves
and nothing inside the stone
that can reach so far
yet you let it drop
with an undisguised precision
that blows open your fingers
and one stone toward another
that is not the sea
not the grass among these flowers
nothing, not the overcast all night
falling from some woman's dress
and you can't hear it raining.
Village at the Water's Edge
Roger de La Fresnaye
b. July 11, 1885
On “Translating the Untranslatable”:
I write poetry when I cannot make sense of my present predicament. The process is one of clinging to scarce fragments floating around me and tying them together to avoid drowning.
Conversations with French Poets Anne Portugal and Pierre Alferi
Participating in translating my work with my translators has always been a wonderful and funny linguistic adventure. Of the many examples, consider the way Rosmarie Waldrop translated the poem “Voyer en l’air” in Quisite Moment. In French, this book is already composed as a sort of riddle, where cutting a banal word begets a new one. So the trick is to simultaneously keep the joke in French and re-create it in English. Here are some titles, for example: “den gust of fresh air,” “mantic evening,” “mendous news,” or “able legs.” I also remember Jean-Jacques Poucel’s difficulty in translating the pronouns and possessive adjectives in Formula Flirt from the very long and complex French syntax and to distinguish those designating “he” and “she” (the two lovers in the book) from those that were more deictic. From one language to another, the major difference is always in the designation of plants and flowers. For example, in La formule flirt, one poem is about the notion of being constrained, as in a jail, so un if in French is perfect for its slimness and idea of sorrow, but in English the choice between “cypress” and a “yee” and other sorts of conifers leads to interminable hesitations. Finally, I can’t forget my experience when, at the Hakiyoshidai International Center in Japan, a group translating “Le plus simple appareil” into Japanese had to find an equivalent of the French word “magnolia,” then ten Japanese poets around the table proposed forty sorts of colors and shapes of magnolia to me.
Landscape of the Vernal Equinox
d. July 11, 1946
string theory and post-empiricism
Richard Dawid interviewed by Richard Marshall.
Richard Dawid is always wondering about philosophical issues arising from physics and string theory, in particular the problem that string theory hasn’t been empirically tested, that it looks like it won’t be in the near future and that fundamental physics is entering a phase when empirical testing is increasingly difficult. He thinks about why physicists trust their theories, why some think this is no better than theology, why he doesn’t, why nuance in understanding underdetermination is required, about how a theory can be scientific without empirical testing, about whether such theories are strictly true, about why this doesn’t result in a constructivist, anti-realist position, about the status of string theory, about how physicists think about what they’re doing, about reliability, about the relevance of the discovery of the Higgs-boson, about how we’re entering a Kuhnian paradigm shift but only in physics and why reliance on non-empirical theory assessment is not a deficiency of soft sciences but integral to all scientific reasoning. Bazinga!