March 31, 2015
b. March 31, 1910
Excerpts from Due North
Smoke standing over the houses in the valley below
we tempered ourselves into an ecstasy of forgetting
and farmed ourselves into the next generation
and rolled down the hillsides to the town
to set up shops, and ache with servility when the man
calls in to take away the profit. Consolation starts to slide
into counsel, tragedy into accident.
And where there was a local consolidation is now
a subsidised circus. Our old romances return
freshly laundered on the backs of migrant workers
from former colonies and recent war zones.
So the final descent into madness and death
is down a Pennine hillside, leaping small streams hung
with elder and hawthorn chest pain image pain stumbling
over tufted meadows down cinder tracks, vetch,
ragged robin, cow-parsley, dandelion, speeding
between hedgerows into the edges of the town the
garden fences the meeting places the towers, then
to slow and stagger panting and fall silently
across the threshold of the public library in all the gladness and relief
of total incomprehension.
Atomic Dome, Ceiling, Stain of Blood
from the series The Map
Works by Kikuji Kawada
A few thoughts on The Map
There is no such thing as a map in The Map. Or rather, there are lots of maps, but they aren’t the kinds of maps you would expect. They are images of the walls of Hiroshima’s Atomic Bomb Dome, which resemble maps. If you try to use these images as maps you will inevitably get lost - and therein I see their purpose.
Over the past decade we have moved ever more into a binary world, where there are two positions for everything, inevitably one being “good”, the other one being “bad” (or even “evil”). This wouldn’t necessarily be so bad if we weren’t refusing to realize that you cannot make sense of the world this way. There is an infinity of grey tones in between the black and white that we are so used to; for most problems there are no simple solutions, in fact for some problems there are no good solutions at all. Some problems will inevitably carry with them a combination of “good” and “bad”.
This is how The Map works. It takes you down a path and then lets you wander off, to arrive anywhere you will arrive. Even though the book is centered on the destruction of Hiroshima, it presents all the different aspects that had something to do with it. Everything is brought together, fused together, mashed up - not just metaphorically, but also visually: Images of the dome, photos of metal scraps, articles by kamakazi attack corps, the flag of Japan, TV sets, a Coca Cola ad, bottle caps… And everything literally unfolds before your own eyes: You open up an image by unfolding the outer two parts; and when you have taken it in, your own folding it back together (so you can turn the pages) brings the image back to its original, hidden state.
Meteorites and moon shadows:
Kikuji Kawada's brooding sky – in pictures
Kikuji Kawada The Last Cosmology
Japanese Photography in 2015: the Master List
This is a great moment for Japanese photography connoisseurs and enthusiasts. For a long while now, photographic japanophilia was an interest that had to be nursed solely with foreign book purchases, the rare North American exhibition (or the less-rare European one), and abundant, if limited, use of google translate. If you’re an English speaker for whom Shinjuku, Japan is as far away as Mars, 2015 might just be the year that Japanese photography comes to you. There is an unprecedented number of events, exhibitions, publications and unclassifiable wonderfulness related to Japanese photography that is in explosive abundance this year. While those in the European photo scene have been in-the-know for some time now, it would appear that Japanese photography is having its moment stateside.
Embodied Self: The New Causal History, Part I
Gregory Jones-Katz reviews Lynn Hunt, Writing History in the Global Era
In her compact book, Lynn Hunt—esteemed historian of the French Revolution and innovative practitioner of the “new cultural history”—considers how historians have approached their discipline and reflects on the emergence of global history, specifically the use of globalization as an explanatory historical framework. Hunt’s book, not least because of her crisp and engaging prose, has ambitions beyond an introductory text. Her text also hopes to challenge the assumptions behind the discourse of globalization, the discourse that might turn out to be the reigning orthodoxy of the historical profession during the early twenty-first century. She asks: “Is globalization the new theory that will reinvigorate history? Or will it choke off all other possible contenders, leaving in place only the inevitability of modernization of the world on the Western model?” Writing History’s persuasive answers to these timely questions will give pause to historians who are perhaps too comfortable with globalization talk. The text is a compelling ideology-critique, unearthing the presuppositions of many studies of global history in order to uncover the principles with which many of my generation learned to read and write history.
2011, Tokyo, Typhoon
(Theme and variations)
I shall die, César Vallejo wrote,
in Paris on a day of heavy showers,
on a day I already remember,
a Thursday, perhaps, and in the autumn.
He died in Paris, true; but in the spring—
Good Friday, April 15 1938.
As to whether or not it rained on those roads
he ceased to feel, alone, I cannot recall.
César Vallejo is dead (of a strange disease).
Everyone kept on hitting him for no good cause.
They hit him hard with a cane and hard,
as well, with a rope; his testament:
the body blows of life, the shoulder pain,
the solitude, incessant rain, the roads…
Sixteen Songs About a Ship of Fools
Ship of Fools, the Enduring Metaphor
March 30, 2015
Evening at Honfleur
d. March 29, 1891
Translations by Patty Crane
I stepped ashore one May night
into a chilly moonlight
where grass and flowers were gray
but their scent green.
I drifted up a slope
in the colorblind dark
while white stones
signaled back to the moon.
A time span
several minutes long
fifty-eight years wide.
And behind me
beyond the lead-shimmering waters
was the other coast
and those in command.
People with a future
instead of faces.
1931 - 2015
Ten poems by Tomas Tranströmer
"No poet expresses better the drift between now, then, and eternity; the sadness at the heart of nostalgia. No poet expresses better the relationship between humans and the natural world. The black and melancholy seas, the drifting seagulls, the oaks and elks, the storms, rowanberries, the moon and stars, the well, salt, and wolves are agents rather than background; they are what the world is, as much as we are. It’s dark, and thoughtful. It is, also, bleakly intelligent."
- Sigrid Rausing
translations by Robert Bly
from Where the Bird Sings Best
Translated from the Spanish by Alfred MacAdam
They forgot Hebrew and used a limited Spanish of only a hundred words. The great cats learned most of those words and in turn taught their trainers an extensive range of growls. When rehearsals or shows ended, after dinner, at midnight, in the intimacy of the great cage, humans and animals would sit face to face to stare fixedly into one another’s eyes. In those moments, the lion was the teacher. It was he who was there, present, concentrating, with no interest in the past or the future, united with totality. In his animal body, the divine essence became palpable. The lion taught the Arcavis about economy of gestures, strength in repose, the pleasure of being alive, authenticity of feeling, obedience of oneself. Finally, seeing the nobility of the beast, his majestic inner solitude, they understood why Jacob compared Judah to a lion.
The Kabbalist rabbis of Toledo understood that a new form of biblical interpretation had been born. In silence, with the greatest respect, they entered the cage protected by the miraculous touch of Salvador’s hands. They meditated, staring into the lion’s eyes. They asked permission to bring their brothers in study, and with them came handsome old Arabs dressed in white and pale Catholic monks with sunken, burning eyes. The Koran, the Torah, and the Gospels were eclipsed by those imposing beasts, capable of standing so still that fireflies fleeing from the cold dawn rested on their warm skin, transforming them into phosphorescent statues.
The mystics from the three religions continued meditating opposite the lions. The years passed. The political situation changed. Hordes of fanatics began to burn the ghettos. The mystics stopped visiting. The wagons of the lion tamers passed through cities where converted Jews, sentenced to death by the Inquisition, were burning. The thriving communities became sad streets walked by dark rabbis, as circumspect as shadows.
Delirium, Dissolution and Disaster: Heikki Kaski’s “Tranquillity”
The Great Leap Sideways
The book Tranquillity exists because of the name of the town in which the photographs it comprises were ultimately made, and because that town lay within driving distance of Los Angeles, where Heikki Kaski was living in 2012. Tranquillity exists, that is, as a pure function of random curiosity at the possible nature of a place so strictly and insufficiently defined by such a specific name. In this the work shares in the west coast conceptual history of testing nominal meanings against the matter of place, and the imaginative license of art. Moreover, in this the work reincorporates the mythical function of the state of California as the seedbed for new imaginings of the future, and the end point for migration and escape.
As it is photographed, Tranquillity, CA seems a place at once expansive and miniaturised, remote and explosive, intoxicating and arid – a satellite array rather than a stable essence, whose changeable nature is reflected in the liberal mixture of pictorial forms which characterise the book itself. The breadth of the flat desert horizon seems to distort those figures that punctuate it, even as the depth of the view miniaturises man-made effort into ultimate obsolescence. Tranquillity has the air a distant and forgotten outpost, neglected and abandoned with the dismantling of the rails: a Tombstone of pre-industrial struggles for feudal power and mercantile prosperity, or an innocuous desert mirage into which one might easily disappear.
In retracing multiple facets of the conceptual lineage from which such work flows, we might also engage a timely possibility increasingly visible in the modern photobook: that contemporary photography’s reflexive disassembly of its generic codes is of a piece with our waning sense of confidence in any unified strategy of control, and that beneath our nominal systems for distributing meaning, sensory experience and historical value lies an abyss toward which we now travel at greater and greater speed. In this sense, Tranquillity is not only a sort of Tombstone town relic of a distant pre-industrial past, it is a modern disaster movie of the type we continually see each summer writ large across the silver screen, and thus the work’s currency, its poetry and its visceral special effects are bound up with an unspoken terror at the probability of our own demise.
“The image, present behind each thing, and which is the dissolution of this thing and its subsistence in its dissolution, also has behind it that heavy sleep of death in which dreams threaten.”
— Maurice Blanchot “The Two Versions of the Imaginary” from The Space of Literature (1955)
translated by Robert Bly
We are at a party that doesn’t love us. Finally the party lets the mask fall and
shows what it is: a shunting station for freight cars. In the fog cold giants
stand on their tracks. A scribble of chalk on the car doors.
One can’t say it aloud, but there is a lot of repressed violence here.
That is why the furnishings seem so heavy. And why it is so difficult to see
the other thing present: a spot of sun that moves over the house walls and
slips over the unaware forest of flickering faces, a biblical saying never set
down: “Come unto me, for I am as full of contradictions as you.”
I work the next morning in a different town. I drive there in a hum
through the dawning hour that resembles a dark blue cylinder. Orion hangs
over the frost. Children stand in a silent clump, waiting for the school bus,
the children no one prays for. The light grows gradually as our hair.
A Programme of Texts by Tomas Tranströmer
Nobel Lecture December 7, 2011
One evening in February I came near to dying here.
The car skidded sideways on the ice, out
on the wrong side of the road. The approaching cars –
their lights – closed in.
My name, my girls, my job
broke free and were left silently behind
further and further away. I was anonymous
like a boy in a playground surrounded by enemies.
The approaching traffic had huge lights.
They shone on me while I pulled at the wheel
in a transparent terror that floated like egg white.
The seconds grew – there was space in them –
they grew as big as hospital buildings.
You could almost pause
and breathe out for a while
before being crushed.
Then something caught: a helping grain of sand
or a wonderful gust of wind. The car broke free
and scuttled smartly right over the road.
A post shot up and cracked – a sharp clang – it
flew away in the darkness.
Then – stillness. I sat back in my seat-belt
and saw someone coming through the whirling snow
to see what had become of me.
I have been walking for a long time
on the frozen Östergötland fields.
I have not seen a single person.
In other parts of the world
there are people who are born, live and die
in a perpetual crowd.
To be always visible – to live
in a swarm of eyes –
a special expression must develop.
Face coated with clay.
The murmuring rises and falls
while they divide up among themselves
the sky, the shadows, the sand grains.
I must be alone
ten minutes in the morning
and ten minutes in the evening.
– Without a programme.
Everyone is queuing at everyone's door.
March 27, 2015
M. C. Escher
Two by Ingeborg Bachmann
DM du Jour
Translated by Joan Harvey
A Kind of Loss
Shared: seasons, books, and music.
Keys, teacups, the breadbasket, linens and a bed.
A dowry of words, of gestures, carried along,
used up, spent.
House rules followed. Said. Done. And always
the extended hand.
In winter, in a Viennese septet, and in summer
I have been in love.
With maps, in a mountain hut, on a beach
and in a bed.
A cult made up of dates and irrevocable promises,
enraptured before something, reverent over nothing.
( — to the folded newspaper, the cold ashes, the note
on a piece of paper)
fearless in religion, for the church was this bed.
From the sea view came my unstoppable painting.
From my balcony I greeted the people, my neighbors, below.
By the open fire, in safety, my hair took on its deepest color.
The doorbell’s ring was the alarm for my joy.
It is not you I have lost,
but the world.
bon mots, gallimaufry, and coloratura macabrely_______________________
Still Life and Street
M. C. Escher
d. March 27, 1972
Draft 111: Arte Povera
Rachel Blau DuPlessis
Suppose after all this, one just listed
house, book, mug, window,
daughter, dogs (gone), desk, Apple ™.
Suppose it was budded tree limb, hair-thread fingers—
the baby oak in spring, rain “heavy at times,”
and the cleared branches of fall, suppose
yellow gusting in a greeny-pinkish light,
a dark red pear leaf blown into the room,
suppose a salvaged shmoo-like basil plant
eager, even in winter, to give pesto,
or a fondness, a warmth, eros
blue as the sky, could it be otherwise?
the apt healing of a wound, even with
its startling scar—
the oddly glistening, the half-started language.
The half-startled. Twisting together
choice exemplars of exquisite debris:
“a cigar label, a metal buckle, a ballpoint pen,
a bottle cap, a bolt, a hair curler,
a drafting compass, a plastic bottle,
yellow tape, aluminum foil, drinking straws,
broken blue glass.”
Would this be enough?
What would be enough?
It is never enough.
The task is unfinished,
the persons, unfinished.
The structure is unfinished.
Verso becomes a promise to turn back.
The sum total of “old furniture, planks and upside-down drawers, cardboard cutouts,
scraps of insulation board, discarded light bulbs, jelly glasses, flower vases, hollow cardboard cylinders,
mirror fragments,” with foil sheets of gold and silver covering it all.
Albert Pinkham Ryder
March 19, 1847 - March 28, 1917
Homage to Richard O. Moore (1920-2015)
Richard O. Moore
of the lights
of old age
tagged and waiting?
or light tricks
waiting in line
waiting in line
watching the horizon
seep to the brain-root
guts the ferret
in my cage
sanity puddles the floor.
In memory sickness
as last night’s boots
a glacier of light
saps the air
starts the day.
Particulars Of Place
Richard O. Moore
Edited by Garrett Caples, Paul Ebenkamp, and Brenda Hillman
with an introduction by Cedar Sigo
"The last living member of the original circle of Anarcho-pacifist poets around Kenneth Rexroth, at the birth of the San Francisco Renaissance in the 1940s, Richard O. Moore published his acclaimed first book of poems, Writing the Silences (California, 2010), at age 90. Now Omnidawn presents his second book, Particulars of Place, largely comprised of work written over the ensuing five years. The title poem is an ambitious meditation on life in the twilight of American Empire, posing the question of how to live in an age of endless warfare. Other highlights include “Check Point,” an elegiac indictment of aerial bombing on behalf of its historical victims; a section of prose poems from his experimental sequence “d e l e t e”; “Apart from It,” an autobiographical tour de force ranging from his depression era orphanhood to “the climate change of old age”; and excerpts from Outcry, a poignant sonnet sequence on the poet’s recently received diagnosis of legal blindness. Throughout, his commitment to social justice mingles with his interest in Wittgenstein’s linguistic philosophy, resulting in a poetic amalgam unique to Moore himself. Reflecting a lifetime of devotion to the art of poetry, Particulars of Place confirms Moore’s paradoxical position as a newly emerging old master."
M. C. Escher
Richard (Thomas) Moore
1927 - 2009
But I have not considered human beings adequately as they are here nowadays: talk-show human beings for whom all problems have to be solvable. We deny the insolubility of problems as we deny death, secretly believing that we can and must live forever. The early Christians had little trouble, dealing with the earlier pagan writers with one conspicuous exception: Lucretius, whose great poem, De Rerum Natura, undertakes the proof that there is no life after death. All the other pagan writers are at least a little vague on the subject, but Lucretius is clear about it on every page and there is no getting around him. And worse still, he thought it was good news that he was bringing. Death will bring the end of each life at last. There will be nothing, nothing to fear, no damn eternity to deal with and puzzle over.
We descendants of Christianity, we creations of that book, The Bible, can't endure Lucretius' lush relish and appreciation of the sensuous life here on earth. Everything in our abstract, celluloid-charmed, computer-driven, and, above all, money-maddened lifestyle separates us from that life on earth.
The earliest life that I remember, when I was a dyslexic little boy who liked to keep worms in his pocket, has been reopening me to forgotten pleasures. Forgetting the worth and worthlessness of things allows me to commune with them. Eggshells, for instance, though they lack economic value, are a useful ingredient of fertilizer if you let them get dry and pound them into a powder. I love lavishing my time on them because my time is worthless. It's marvelous, I find, having one's time worthless.
Richard Moore, Poet: Tribute and Memorial
A selection of Richard Moore's poems_______________________
with introduction and commentary by the author
Temporary Academy Diploma
M. C. Escher
Try to forget.
It’s all the rage to have impatience with ambivalence, but personality is our style of getting in the way of our own aims. Sometimes I wonder, Why do I bother talking, and then I laugh: life’s a racket. The mother’s, the teacher’s, the lover’s complaint is the content of everyone’s dread. Talking converts pillar into hydrant, word into police, touch into plots, person into a plastic clown statue that rocks and rights. I said some things to them: and then I saw that I was not just about to lose a lot of world, but had already lost it.
Sitting with the loss of the world requires a supple affective infrastructure, or a religion, which I reject, as I prefer not to be triangulated. If you’re a kind of thing whose lack of fit is endemic, if you sense that the bad life is impersonal and political while also overclose, it structures living as organically as anything about you, such as having had the trunk of your own body your whole life, stretching, bloating, twisting, holding you up, taking blows, manufacturing joys in the cracks, and being outlined by fabric that discloses so little that nakedness is always jolting.
March 26, 2015
wheelbarrow and flower pots
March 27, 1879 - March 25, 1973
For Robert Lowell
In the tunnel of woods, as the road
Winds up through the freckled light, a porcupine,
Larger than life, crosses the road.
He moves with the difficulty of relics—
Possum, armadillo, horseshoe crab.
To us they seem creatures arthritic with time,
Winding joylessly down like burnt-out galaxies.
In all their slowness we see no dignity,
Only a want of scale.
Having crossed the road oblivious, he falls off
Deliberately and without grace into the ferns.
In another state are hills as choppy as lake water
And, on a hillside there,
Is a junkyard of old cars, kept for the parts—
Fenders and chassis and the engine blocks
Right there in the field, smaller parts in bins
In a shed by the side of the road. Cows graze
Put simply, we should avoid the temptation of becoming memory snobs, as any of us could find ourselves downwardly mobile so far as memory goes.
Dementia undermines all of our philosophical assumptions about the coherence of the self. But that might be a good thing
Dementia raises deeply troubling issues about our obligations to care for people whose identity might have changed in the most disturbing ways. In turn, those changes challenge us to confront our philosophical and ethical assumptions about what makes up that identity in the first place. Everyone touched by the disease goes through a crash-course in the philosophy of mind.
Dementia is the newest form of identity politics which has remade how we think of race, sexuality, gender and disability. At the core of identity politics is the claim that people deserve equal recognition, despite being different in ways that turn out to be far less significant than first thought. That same insight now needs to be applied to people with dementia: their failing memories make them different, but they are not lesser people, with fewer rights. Their ‘difference’ should not be translated into ‘difficult’. Philosophy gives us a choice about how to understand this challenge as people in their hundreds of thousands are diagnosed with this condition.
Once the mind is invaded, all hope of maintaining a memory-based identity goes, and with that goes everything we value about the idea of independence and self-fulfilment. Living with dementia then becomes a long process of mourning someone who is no longer there. But if we understand our identity as something held by relationships, expressed through feelings, reflected by our environment and enacted bodily, dementia instead becomes a daily puzzle to find common ground with people different from us, and to find new, often non-verbal forms of communication and communion that make people feel good about themselves without necessarily knowing why.
America Politica Historia, in Spontaneity
b. March 26, 1930
O this political air so heavy with the bells
and motors of a slow night, and no place to rest
but rain to walk—How it rings the Washington streets!
The umbrella’d congressmen; the rapping tires
of big black cars, the shoulders of lobbyists
caught under canopies and in doorways,
and it rains, it will not let up,
and meanwhile lame futurists weep into Spengler’s
prophecy, will the world be over before the races blend color?
a response to Jodi Dean, Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive
How can we even write books in the era of Snapchat and Twitter? Perhaps the book could be something like the tactic of slowing down the pace of work. Still, books are a problem for the era of communicative capitalism, which resists recombination into longer threads of argument. The contours of Dean’s argument are of a piece with this media strategy.
Dean offers “an avowedly political assessment of the present” rather than a technical one. The political – a term greatly expanded in scope and connotation across a half-century of political theory – becomes the language within which to critique the seeming naturalness and inevitability of the technical. But perhaps this now calls for a kind of ‘dialectical’ compliment, a critical scrutiny of the expanded category of the political, perhaps even from the point of view of techne itself. We intellectuals do love the political, perhaps on the assumption that it is the same kind of discourse as our own.
If industrial capitalism exploited labor; communicative capitalism exploits communication. It is where “reflexivity captures creativity.” Iterative loops of communication did not really lead to a realization of democratic ideals of access, inclusion, participation. On the contrary, it is an era of capture, of desire caught in a net and reduced to mere drive.
A voice comes to one in the dark. Imagine.
A voice comes to one in the dark. Imagine.
To one on his back in the dark. This he can tell by the pressure on his hind parts and by how the dark changes when he shuts his eyes and again when he opens them again. Only a small part of what is said can be verified. As for example when he hears, You are on your back in the dark. Then he must acknowledge the truth of what is said. But by far the greater part of what is said cannot be verified. As for example when he hears, You first saw the light on such and such a day. Sometimes the two are combined as for example, You first saw the light on such and such a day and now you are on your back in the dark. A device perhaps from the incontrovertibility of the one to win credence for the other. That then is the proposition. To one on his back in the dark a voice tells of a past. With occasional allusion to a present and more rarely to a future as for example, You will end as you now are. And in another dark or in the same another devising it all for company. Quick leave him.
Use of the second person marks the voice. That of the third that cankerous other. Could he speak to and of whom the voice speaks there would be a first. But he cannot. He shall not. You cannot. You shall not.
Apart from the voice and the faint sound of his breath there is no sound. None at least that he can hear. This he can tell by the faint sound of his breath. Though now even less than ever given to wonder he cannot but sometimes wonder if it is indeed to and of him the voice is speaking. May not there be another with him in the dark to and of whom the voice is speaking? Is he not perhaps overhearing a communication not intended for him? If he is alone on his back in the dark why does the voice not say so? Why does it never say for example, You saw the light on such and such a day and now you are alone on your back in the dark? Why? Perhaps for no other reason than to kindle in his mind this faint uncertainty and embarrassment.
From Jeff Fort, The Imperative to Write
In this way, Company foregrounds equally the two dimensions of Beckett’s writing which make up the paradox I would like to discuss – formalizing abstraction and obtrusive affect, the ‘timeless void’, with its indeterminate blanks, and the time of life on earth – and it shows how these dimensions are inextricably linked in the language issuing from a narrative voice. And Beckett’s voices, despite their attenuation, are committed to being narrative voices: voices that tell stories and posit worlds in which events are said, however equivocally and indefinitely, to unfold in time. The repulsion of the subject and of a past thus draws into fictions that would be absolute, but that continually meet with the stuff of a singular time, on a scrambled border that divides ‘my own’ from the pure forms that make it possible.
The Imperative to Write:
Another way to pose this problem is to point out that, regarding the apparently forced synthesis of abstraction and affect in the preceding passage, for example, it is impossible to determine which of these two terms has priority – that is, which one was forced on the other. The passage suggests, as does most of Company, that an impersonal language drones on in a void and nowhere’ space, blankly and indifferently, determined more by a machinelike grammar than by anything like ‘experience’, injecting its tales with a perfunctory and artificial pathos.
But the fact that this droning language drones from a voice, and that each time it speaks it has a given source in a singular instance of language, entails its own inevitable structural implications.
Destitutions of the Sublime in Kafka, Blanchot and Beckett
Spring New York
What simple profundities
What profound simplicities
To sit down among the trees
and breathe with them
in murmur brool and breeze —
And how can I trust them
who pollute the sky
the below with hells
I’m part of you
and so my son
but neither of us
your big sad lie