October 06, 2015
Well ...15 years old today.
Once again thanks for your interest and support _______________________
- especially those of you who have been following the "s lot" since the early days —rmw
d. October 6, 1979
From narrow provinces
For Grace Bulmer Bowers
of fish and bread and tea,
home of the long tides
where the bay leaves the sea
twice a day and takes
the herrings long rides,
where if the river
enters or retreats
in a wall of brown foam
depends on if it meets
the bay coming in,
the bay not at home;
where, silted red,
sometimes the sun sets
facing a red sea,
and others, veins the flats’
lavender, rich mud
in burning rivulets;
on red, gravelly roads,
down rows of sugar maples,
past clapboard farmhouses
and neat, clapboard churches,
bleached, ridged as clamshells,
past twin silver birches,
through late afternoon
a bus journeys west,
the windshield flashing pink,
pink glancing off of metal,
brushing the dented flank
of blue, beat-up enamel;
down hollows, up rises,
and waits, patient, while
a lone traveller gives
kisses and embraces
to seven relatives
and a collie supervises.
Moonlight as we enter
the New Brunswick woods,
hairy, scratchy, splintery;
moonlight and mist
caught in them like lamb’s wool
on bushes in a pasture.
The passengers lie back.
Snores. Some long sighs.
A dreamy divagation
begins in the night,
a gentle, auditory,
the Aven River at the Bois d'Amour
The truth according to Brian Friel
... “there is no lake along that muddy road. And since there is no lake, my father and I never walked back from it in the rain with our rods across our shoulders. The fact is a fiction.”
Yet – and this is the centre of Friel’s work – this realisation that memories may be inventions does not deprive them of their force.
Friel liked a quote from Oscar Wilde about the “inalienable privilege” of the artist to “give an accurate description of what has never happened”.
Truths, for him, were not mere facts. Of this false memory he insisted, “For me it is a truth. And because I acknowledge its peculiar veracity it becomes a layer in my subsoil; it becomes part of me; ultimately it becomes me.”
In Philadelphia, that first great play, Friel’s own real memory is transported into his fictional character’s memory, and there, too, it proves illusory. Yet the very power with which it is evoked on stage lifts it into a different kind of reality. It makes its own truth. That trajectory, from reality to fiction to shattered illusion and back to a sort of heightened presence, is the journey of a Friel play.
And the journey is not just personal. Friel's great originality lay in the way he treated public history as if it were private memory - as a construct whose truth does not lie in its mere facts. Just as it did not matter to him in the end that his lovely memory of his father could not have happened, the characters in his plays turn history into words, images, stories. It is their way of not being crushed by the weight of its cruel inevitability.
After his world has imploded, at the end of Translations, the schoolmaster Hugh tells his son Owen that "it is not the literal past, the 'facts' of history that shape us, but images of the past embodied in language".
thanks (yet again) toThe Page
NO: The Translation of Ángel Escobar
Ángel Escobar, born in 1957 and deceased in 1997, has earned extraordinary respect in Cuba. This is coupled with virtual invisibility outside it, except for a few critics and poets with connections to Cuban literature. The contrast may be explained in part because Escobar lived a highly marginalized life. But I suspect another complication: the abjection of his late work is threatening. As a translator I have been thinking about how to address abjection in a highly polarized transnational context, where the US/Cuba political divide encourages the flattening of expression.Evening Will Come:
the undying machine of political standoff presupposes that writing will be useful. I speculate that many people who want to encourage respect toward Cuban culture will find literature most useful where it advances more of a YES while adopting stances both rational and advisable.
And what is not politically useful? Poetry insisting that the reader experience – and god forbid accept – abjection in all its resistance to the staples of political discourse, utility and argument. This caliber of discursive resistance is what Breach of Trust puts at stake, and as Escobar becomes better known in the future, it will emerge as a key manifestation across his poetic career. To let readers in on why I’m making this claim, I need to rewind to 1959. Resistance to politics is borne precisely of politics. Ergo it is aggravatingly indebted to politics, something that I suspect must have been at once tiresome and invigorating to Escobar, mostly because it is at once tiresome and invigorating to me as I work with his poems now.
A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Translation Issue—Issue 51, March 2015)
Angel Escobar’s awareness of motion is one of the many elements that make his poems undeniably powerful. To me, as I translate his poems, there is no doubt that Escobar (1957-1997) created multivalent, energetic work, and that a quick reading of one or two poems at least hints at his range. Other writers, at the very least other poets, must recognize the surety of his movements.
Then in moments of pause I wonder about whether the quickness of published pieces – those introductory yet central experiences of encounter with loose poems here and there, or a translator’s commentary in a journal – truly gets so much sensation across. The quickness of Escobar’s mind and life are out there, in his writing. Will readers find them?
Beyond the bounds of the poems themselves come the contexts, offering guidance to new readers. Angel Escobar’s widow, Ana María Jiménez, has pointed out that existing Spanish-language commentaries around his life and death tend to flatten his representation in their repetitions of certain themes. For example, these themes don't tend to include the happiness we see in the 1987 photograph above.
It’s a good reminder to translators – and in parallel fashion, scholars writing critical studies – to periodically pause and take the measure of all these things we create. Our renditions of literature and their paratexts (all those ubiquitous bio notes, plus the commentaries, blurbs, translations of essays by other poets on the relevance of the person or work, the scholarship and so forth that serve as companions to literature) travel in fragmented forms through the worlds of publishing. Where these write-ups successfully pursue some theme with great determination, that very pattern of emphasis causes other possibilities to fade.
This series tracks recognitions and convergences that give rise to bodies of work in translation. Emerging out of my time spent with Cuban poetry, as well as other writings from this hemisphere, most entries address some intersection between Latin America and the United States, and/or Spanish and English within the US. Some entries center on writers and works that motivate me to continue translating. Others loop outwards to envisage other translators & their translations, and test the frames mounted around translation.
The Flock in the Black Forest
Scared Yet? How Fear Hijacked Campaign 2015
"There is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on the dining room table -- and I don't mean that people will be outraged, alarmed, disgusted. That is true, but irrelevant. The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout, 'Jeez, mate, there's a dead cat on the table!' In other words, they will be talking about the dead cat -- the thing you want them to talk about -- and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief."
- Boris Johnson. mayor of London, England
Harper lobbed three 'dead cats' to make us forget the Duffy trial. It's working.
October 05, 2015
Lithographs from The Poet's Eye
Born: October 3, 1922,
In the green night there slips
A lamp in the window
Where burns times’ coordinates.
Pagan lettering on glass sleeves.
Salve there and stays in the glow.
Viewing portal positioned as if transfiguratively posed.
In solitude the antimatter world enlisted.
The story written all evening encompassing.
Rabbit the nocturnal disarrangement.
Crow the brief morning preview.
Bolded words out from the fire.
b. October 5, 1911
Back-chat, Funny Cracks
The novels of Flann O’Brien
10 Books That Wouldn't Exist Without Flann O'Brien
On the jacket the author is obscured by his dark hat and his black-rimmed glasses and his own hand at his mouth, and, to be sure, Flann/Brian/Myles, where many an author not only rejoices in his face on his jacket but sets his personal facts in the forefront of his prose, engaged in a significant effort of self-concealment, of pseudonymity lurking behind a prose greatly melodious and garrulous in its confident manner. The front flap of the same jacket states him to be “along with Joyce and Beckett . . . part of the holy trinity of modern Irish literature,” which rings strangely of one who disparaged the Holy Trinity, discounting with considerable scholarly fury in his final novel, “The Dalkey Archive,” the very notion of the Holy Ghost, as having been heedlessly foisted upon the Christian Creed by the Council of Alexandria in the year 362. The man was ingenious and learned like Jim Joyce and like Sam Beckett gave the reader a sweet dose of hopelessness but unlike either of these worthies did not arrive at what we might call artistic resolution. His novels begin with a swoop and a song but end in an uncomfortable murk and with an air of impatience.
Is it about a bicycle?
The story of Brian O'Nolan
The Lives of Brian, A Documentary About Flann O'Brien
continent. 4.3: Intangible Architectures
Blake Blake Blake
A ghostly copy of Blake sat on one edge of the couch, a second in the middle, and a third on the chair next to the bay window, typing on an invisible keyboard. The unchoreographed movements and silent utterances of these holographic reproductions had been selected at random by the See Your Crime (SYC) algorithm, upon searching through Blake’s memory archive. What each projection had in common was its geotagging: having taken place, at one point or another, in Blake's living room. Every time one of the glowing doppelgängers walked out, the algorithm jumped to a different memory, keeping at least three Blakes (sometimes four or five) inside the room at all times, and following real-time Blake from one room to the next. Blake, crumpled up on the floor, observed them from a corner—one of many locations he had appropriated to minimize what he referred to as "Blake overlaps." Next to him, a small pile of necessities—a beer bottle, crackers, a pack of tissues and a phone—ensured he wouldn't have to leave his post for a while. Blake tilted his head backwards, opened his mouth, and poured. The beer was still cool. He leaned against the wall and closed his eyes.
Autumn: The Fruit Pickers
b. October 3, 1867
Free period.Nietzsche And The Burbs
We’re frightened of time. Frightened of the long afternoon.
The sense that time is hollowing us out. The sense that time is emptying us out.
The sense that nothing will ever happen again. The sense that everything’s been done, and everything’s been said.
The fear of time. But who fears it but us? Look at our fellow pupils, sitting and chatting so calmly. Look at them, on their phones, and eating their crisps.
Who singled us out? Who chose us to feel it? Why were we the ones to which it chose to show itself?
Something is taking its course. But what? What’s happening? Something happens when nothing
happens. A rumbling. A murmuring, on the edges of sense. But who speaks? And what are they saying?
Something is taking its course. Something that happens in everything. Something that turns each
moment from itself, sets it aside. Something that undoes time, and sends it on a detour. Something
indifferent, that does not coincide with itself.
Sherry Turkle’s ‘Reclaiming Conversation’
reviewed by Jonathan franzen
Sherry Turkle is a singular voice in the discourse about technology. She’s a skeptic who was once a believer, a clinical psychologist among the industry shills and the literary hand-wringers, an empiricist among the cherry-picking anecdotalists, a moderate among the extremists, a realist among the fantasists, a humanist but not a Luddite: a grown-up.
Our rapturous submission to digital technology has led to an atrophying of human capacities like empathy and self-reflection, and the time has come to reassert ourselves, behave like adults and put technology in its place. As in “Alone Together,” Turkle’s argument derives its power from the breadth of her research and the acuity of her psychological insight. The people she interviews have adopted new technologies in pursuit of greater control, only to feel controlled by them. The likably idealized selves that they’ve created with social media leave their real selves all the more isolated. They communicate incessantly but are afraid of face-to-face conversations; they worry, often nostalgically, that they’re missing out on something fundamental.
October 02, 2015
Movement: Sky and Grey Sea
1870 - 1953
A tall-masted white sailboat works laboriously across a wave-tossed bay;
when it tilts in the swell, a porthole reflects a dot of light that darts towards me ,
skitters back to refuge in the boat, gleams out again, and timidly retreats,
like a thought that comes almost to mind but slips away into the general glare.
An inflatable tender, tethered to the stern, just skims the commotion of the wake:
within it will be oars, a miniature motor, and, tucked into a pocket, life vests.
Such reassuring redundancy: don’t we desire just such an accessory, faith perhaps,
or at a certain age to be comforted, not daunted, by knowing one will really die?
To bring all that with you, by compulsion admittedly, but on such a slender leash,
and so maneuverable it is, tractable, so nearly frictionless, no need to strain;
though it might have to rush a little to keep up, you hardly know it’s there:
that insouciant headlong scurry, that always ardent leaping forward into place.
C. K. Williams
1936 - 2015
Poetry of youth and age
C. K. Williams
Some dictator or other had gone into exile, and now reports were coming about his regime,
the usual crimes, torture, false imprisonment, cruelty and corruption, but then a detail:
that the way his henchmen had disposed of enemies was by hammering nails into their skulls.
Horror, then, what mind does after horror, after that first feeling that you’ll never catch your breath,
mind imagines—how not be annihilated by it?—the preliminary tap, feels it in the tendons of the hand,
feels the way you do with your nail when you’re fixing something, making something, shelves, a bed;
the first light tap to set the slant, and then the slightly harder tap, to em-bed the tip a little more ...
No, no more: this should be happening in myth, in stone, or paint, not in reality, not here;
it should be an emblem of itself, not itself, something that would mean, not really have to happen,
something to go out, expand in implication from that unmoved mass of matter in the breast;
as in the image of an anguished face, in grief for us, not us as us, us as in a myth, a moral tale,
a way to tell the truth that grief is limitless, a way to tell us we must always understand
it’s we who do such things, we who set the slant, embed the tip, lift the sledge and drive the nail,
drive the nail which is the axis upon which turns the brutal human world upon the world.
La Voce (The Voice)
b. October 1, 1892
Alicja, Love, Ligature
The entwined history of typography, love, and madness is well-documented: The reader will perhaps recall several typefaces named after the objects of obsessive love (such as Gills’s daughter Joanna, or, of course, Helvetica, named after that timeless beloved, Switzerland herself); reports of unrequited love and its death pact with type are universally observed in the literature, but we will not recount these well-worn anecdotes,1 proceeding instead to examine the more esoteric history of Alicja—a typeface designed by the Berthold Brothers & Sieffert Type Foundry in Chicago, in the year 1921—which, in spite of its perfection, but for reasons we will evince, remains (alas) almost perfectly disused; it is our goal to shed new light on (or, as it were, outline with new darkness) the typeface Alicja, the truncated engagement that inspired it, and the delusion that nearly struck it out.
Literary Activism, Poetry Riots, and Other Deliriums:
Notes from the Launch The Aircraft Carrier, a Poetry Collection by Roy Chicky Arad
Perhaps it’s every poet’s secret fantasy to have a minor riot break out at their reading, demonstrating once and for all how poetry makes things happen – how poetry matters in the gritty world, not just in the closed, air-conditioned reading room, hermetically sealed from outside forces._______________________
My first week back in Israel/Palestine after fifteen years in the Bay Area and Toronto included a bike accident, an apocalyptic dust storm, intensely sweet purple-red tomatoes, a poetry riot. A week between countries in a dream-like delirium, and the poetry-reading riot in the middle of it, which I keep coming back to especially in relation to recent American discussions about literary activism, such as Amy King’s panel and critiques such as this. The distinction between “literary activism” and “activism activism” got especially muddled for me this week when poets and activists blurred together, switched identities.
Many of the responses and counter-responses to Amy King’s panel were premised on the idea that activism is the right thing to do (“marches, counter marches, clinic defenses, and on the ground actions” in King’s words) that a supportive community is good, that we are singing the right battle cry. But the poetry riot I witnessed in Tel-Aviv made me consider how hard it is to have certainty about our poetry activism; perhaps we sometimes sing the battle cry out of tune, despite our good intentions?
d. October 2, 1968
The Neuroscience of Despair
Michael W. Begun
Together with the popular success of psychoactive medications like Prozac and Xanax, the change in the commitments of psychiatry has created ways of talking about mental illness that would have seemed outrageous or even nonsensical less than a century ago. Many of us now blithely accept that depression results from an imbalance of neurotransmitters. While the neurobiological understanding of mental disorders is still at a rudimentary stage, drugs that alter brain chemistry have definite palliative effects, and we increasingly look for and accept explanations of mental illness in neuroscientific terms. We might still take older explanations drawn from psychoanalysis or social psychiatry to hold some value, but we tend to assume that they can be reduced to neurobiology.
We generally think that this counts as progress — that science has uncovered or will uncover the real causes of mental disorders like depression and schizophrenia, and will yield therapies that cure these illnesses at their neurobiological roots. But as more and more mental experiences get swept within the purview of neuroscience — from mental disorders like schizophrenia to everyday decisions like “Should I buy Coke or Pepsi?” — we ought to think about how this came about, what it means for our self-understanding, and whether the new outlook can give an adequate account of mental disorders. How did we come to think of some forms of melancholy as a disorder called depression that is ultimately caused by chemical processes and properly treated by drugs that act on these processes? A look back at the historical developments that have led to this situation may offer some insight into the broader trend of uncritically embracing neuroscientific ways of describing our selves and our society.
Calle de Milán
C. K. Williams
Another drought morning after a too brief dawn downpour,
uncountable silvery glitterings on the leaves of the withering maples -
I think of a troop of the blissful blessed approaching Dante,
"a hundred spheres shining," he rhapsodizes, "the purest pearls..."
then of the frightening brilliant myriad gleam in my lamp
of the eyes of the vast swarm of bats I found once in a cave,
a chamber whose walls seethed with a spaceless carpet of creatures,
their cacophonous, keen, insistent, incessant squeakings and squealings
churning the warm, rank, cloying air; of how one,
perfectly still among all the fitfully twitching others,
was looking straight at me, gazing solemnly, thoughtfully up
from beneath the intricate furl of its leathery wings
as though it couldn't believe I was there, or was trying to place me,
to situate me in the gnarl we'd evolved from, and now,
the trees still heartrendingly asparkle, Dante again,
this time the way he'll refer to a figure he meets as "the life of..."
not the soul, or person, the life, and once more the bat, and I,
our lives in that moment together, our lives, our lives,
his with no vision of celestial splendor, no poem,
mine with no flight, no unblundering dash through the dark,
his without realizing it would, so soon, no longer exist,
mine having to know for us both that everything ends,
world, after-world, even their memory, steamed away
like the film of uncertain vapor of the last of the luscious rain.
September 29, 2015
William Blake’s Radicalism
Iain Sinclair walks William Blakes “London“
“The Human Abstract”via biblioklept
Pity would be no more,
If we did not make somebody Poor:
And Mercy no more could be,
If all were as happy as we;
And mutual fear brings peace;
Till the selfish loves increase.
Then Cruelty knits a snare,
And spreads his baits with care.
He sits down with holy fears,
And waters the ground with tears:
Then Humility takes its root
Underneath his foot.
Soon spreads the dismal shade
Of Mystery over his head;
And the Catterpillar and Fly,
Feed on the Mystery.
And it bears the fruit of Deceit,
Ruddy and sweet to eat;
And the Raven his nest has made
In its thickest shade.
The Gods of the earth and sea
Sought thro’ Nature to find this Tree
But their search was all in vain:
There grows one in the Human Brain.
1923 - 2002
Every philosophy is populated by a conceptual persona that functions as its transcendental unity of apperception or the principle by which it is struck by questions and problems and through which it forges and links concepts and grasps phenomena.
A Beacon In The Sand
We might begin with the image of American history as a great tidal wave of progress. A wave launched with the appearance of the colonists; a wave rolling with greater and greater momentum westward across the continent. It brushed aside everything that resisted it. It used covered wagons and steamships, homesteads and railroads, guns and axes; it used laws and politics, noble speeches and the rhetoric of free enterprise; it used corporate charters and city charters and civic pride. It remade everything it touched._______________________
This is a rather unreconstructed metaphor – we are, for example, bypassing the question of what this wave might look like to a Native American standing in its way – but it is at the same time a useful one. It captures something of the old notion of Manifest Destiny, and a bit of the American view of its own history as one of an inevitable, necessary advancement. It captures something of the feeling of propulsion that can seem at times to occupy the heart of the so-called American experiment. But it is also useful because of the questions it raises. If our history is to be seen, metaphorically, as a wave of progress sweeping across the continent, what happens when that wave collides with the western wall of the Pacific Ocean? That is, what happens when the wave runs out of land?
Andreas Achenbach _______________________
The Precariat [pdf]
The New Dangerous Class
from the preface
This book is about a new group in the world, a class-in-the-making. It sets out to answer fiveve questions: What is it? Why should we care about its growth? Why is it growing? Who is entering it? And where is the precariat taking us?The Provisional University
That last question is crucial. There is a danger that, unless the precariat is understood, its emergence could lead society towards a politics of inferno. This is not a prediction. It is a disturbing possibility. It will only be avoided if the precariat can become a class-for-itself, with effective agency, and a force for forging a new ‘politics of paradise’, a mildly utopian agenda and strategy to be taken up by politicians and by what is euphemistically called ‘civil society’, including the multitude of non-governmental organisations that too often flirt with becoming quasi-government organisations.
We need to wake up to the global precariat urgently. There is a lot of anger out there and a lot of anxiety. But although this book highlights the victim side of the precariat more than the liberating side, it is worth stating at the outset that it is wrong to see the precariat in purely suffering terms. Many drawn into it are looking for something better than what was offered in industrial society and by twentieth century labourism. They may no more deserve the name of Hero than Victim. But they are beginning to show why the precariat can be a harbinger of the Good Society of the twenty-first century.
... an autonomous research project that emerges in response to the precarious conditions we find ourselves living and working in and a desire to transform them. For us this has meant developing research practices that are situated within the crises of our everyday lives. In this context, research is not a privileged, academic pursuit tied to pre-existing goals, but a constructive process that we enter into with other people who share our problems. Through this process we can help to create the tools, forms of articulation, actions and ways of organizing that are necessary to expand our social power now.
The Privatization of Childhood
Childhood has become a period of high-stakes preparation for life in a stratified economy.
Never has pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps been more plainly a cruel action than when prescribed as a policy regime for large swaths of the population.
Poverty pathologizes people who are losing in capitalism rather than concrete economic sources: “There are victims, but no victimizers.” The language of “poverty” keeps us from questioning and critiquing our economic system in a way that “wealth inequality” and “class disparity” — or class war — does not.
But it is a class war in which we find ourselves, involving not just men and not just women, but children. Researchers at the Russell Sage Foundation have documented a shift in the way American children are raised that parallels the political-economic context in which they grow up.
What is at stake when some American children go to school hungry and others go to school in $1,000 Bugaboo strollers? Under the “do what you love” ethos of neoliberal capitalism, life paths prescribed by class but framed as parental choices — Public or private? Gifted and talented, general, or special education? — segregate American children from birth through adolescence and into adulthood as never before, reformulating their upbringings into private family projects and education as a competitive “hunger games” for the material resources and social connections required to secure economic success.
Newly available photograph of Maurice Blanchot