January 23, 2015
Pont de la Concorde
d. January 23, 1947
HEART THREAD 163 & 164
Hard to read the numbers in this light
go by the feel of the machine road through water
voices in the street fear of believing
whatever they say must be wrong way round
nobody out there speaks our language
urgent children touching in the dark
who are those who move around inside me
she walks by with a woodpecker on her back
to prove that language is a function of the skin
because language is all boundary
a walled garden and a maze at the middle
and a mirror globe at the center with roses all round it.
currently unfolding at Robert Kelly's MILL OF PARTICULARS
b. January 23, 1938
Madhur Anand: Two PoemsMadhur Anand
If I Can Make It There
It’s January and in the news, white fluff, cherry
trees flowering in Brooklyn. What to make of the changed
phenology? A closet of cuttings: Pale yellow
pages. Lignin destabilized where lines are preserved.
I’ll follow greenhouse seeds, edit second editions
but need more breathing room, more literature review.
And better intentions. I must try to recycle
last year’s unread New Yorkers. I must learn all the facts.
How in the nineteenth century Croatian cherries
were bleached with sulphur dioxide, dyed a candy red,
and soaked in sugar. I must attempt a Manhattan.
Sweet vermouth, bitters, that pitless heart at the bottom.
at the University of Guelph
necessity, immensity, and crisis (many edges/seeing things)
There’s a more than critical criticism that’s like seeing things—a gift of having been given to love things and how things look and how and what things see. It’s not that you don’t see crisis—cell blocks made out of the general meadow, and all the luxurious destitution and ge(n)ocidal meanness, the theft of beauty and water, the policing of everyday people and their everyday chances. It’s just that all this always seems so small and contingent against the inescapable backdrop of constant escape—which is the other crisis, that is before the first crisis, calling it into being and question. The ones who stay in that running away study and celebrate its violently ludic authenticity, the historicity that sends us into the old-new division and collection of words and sets, passing on and through, as incessant staging and preparation. This necessity and immensity of the alternative surrounds and aerates the contained, contingent fixity of the standard.
The notion that crisis lies in the ever more brutal interdiction of our capacity to represent or be represented by the normal is as seductive, in its way, as the notion that such interdiction is the necessary response to our incapacity for such representation. Their joint power is held in the fact that whether abnormality is a function of external imposition or of internal malady it can only be understood as pathological. Such power is put in its accidental place, however, by the ones who see, who imaginatively misunderstand, the crisis as our constant disruption of the normal, whose honor is given in and protected by its representations, with the ante-representational generativity that it spurns and craves. This is the crisis that is always with us; this is the crisis that must be policed not just by the lethal physical brutality of the state and capital but also by the equally deadly production of a discourse that serially asserts that the crisis that has befallen us must overwhelm the crisis that we are; that crisis follows rather than prompts our incorporative exclusion.
A Journal of Aesthetic Experiments
At the Fence
January 22, 2015
Woodcutters in the forest
(28 May 1853 – 22 January 1919)
I sense that Facebook is about calibrating the difficulty of knowing the importance of the ordinary event. People are trying there to eventalize the mood, the inclination, the thing that just happened–the episodic nature of existence.So and so is in a mood right now.So and so likes this kind of thing right now; and just went here and there. This is how they felt about it. It’s not in the idiom of the great encounter or the great passion, it’s the lightness and play of the poke. There’s always a potential but not a demand for more.
Here is how so and so has shown up to life. Can you show up too, for a sec?
How can the “episodic now” become an event? Little mediated worlds produced by kinetic reciprocity enable accretion to become event without the drama of a disturbance. The disturbance is the exception. And that’s what makes stranger intimacy a relief from the other kind, which tips you over.
b. January 22, 1879
Clayton Eshleman: 'Wound Interrogation'
presented by Jerome Rothenberg
The frailty of being holed & rampant with closure.
Blake’s angels feast on my neck
as strapped to this fuselage of honking verbs I watch Hades:
a zyzzogeton munching on alfalfa alpha.
For that matter, what is deliverance?
To find oneself present at Pluto’s cornucopian spread & grasp
that one must not pluck a single grape?
The first Persephone, Laussel, pumped time out of her held-aloft bison horn,
& with that image phantom she impregnated herself!
Between the cracks in the time board,
to write from a double periphery, in swerve with the labrys…
“Not to subject the change,” Hades quipped,
“but what bugs you the most about America today?”
balzac’s physiology of the employee
In the war against the specific sufferings induced by office life, Herman Melville’s Bartleby is revered as saint and martyr. In the sacred literature of the office genre, his death is the office worker’s call to arms. But it’s a mistake to think that before his sacrifice, the literary universe wasn’t waging such a war against office ennui. Bartleby’s sacrifice is still honored and “I would prefer not to” remains our great rallying cry, but the more his followers understand the history of their war, even if it means recognizing how little ground has been gained, the more allies they find, the better suited they are to continue the fight. Honoré de Balzac’s The Physiology of the Employee (1841) is a guidebook, and it is not outdated. In its relevancy yet seeming strangeness, it fits with the rest of Wakefield Press’s catalog. His description of the climate in which he wrote sounds little different from the economic recession of recent years, and the lack of change since: “Personal expenses were examined with a fine-tooth comb. Benefits were chipped away at.” In its careful organization and laying out of office principles, The Physiology of the Employee serves as a work that grounds the spirit of Bartleby.
Bartleby is the fallen saint, and Balzac keeps the troops in the culture war self-aware and loose. He can open the eyes of the undecided and loosen the tensed shoulders of the partisans. The office is torturous, but also pathetic, something to be laughed at. Balzac’s description of the office is of a stifling place, then when it an office is moved, pulled down the street in carts, it’s absurd. The flying bits of the office may be frightening, but that is overwhelmed by the entertainment in its strangeness. Balzac is able to imagine, as I often find myself doing, that the whole of daily work is an experiment on the employee by some unnamed being. He calms us by reminding us though we are refused motivation, we get take by wasting half our work day, now time wasted on gchat, fantasy football, or editing a review.
The perfect escape, the way to truly fight against the system, to avoid simply “prefer[ring] not to” or to do so with humor, and side by side, instead of despairingly alone, may lie in Balzac’s belief that “the most beautiful things that France has accomplished were achieved before the advent of reports, when decisions were made spontaneously.” So, in protest, be spontaneous, confound the cretins, never become one, band together with those who do the same. Maybe something can be created from our oppressive office environments and our downward spiral to becoming a cretin—just don’t be delusional, don’t hold your breath.
January 21, 2015
d. January 21, 1914
from The Black Flower and Other Zapotec Poems
From Ahtna to Zapotec: Celebrating Four Years of Literature from Rare Languages
translated from the Isthmus Zapotec and the Spanish by Natalia Toledo and Clare Sullivan
Flower that Drops Its Petals
I will not die from absence.
A hummingbird pinched the eye of my flower
and my heart mourns and shivers,
does not breathe.
My wings tremble like the long-billed curlew
when he foretells the sun and the rain.
I will not die from absence, I tell myself.
A melody bows down upon the throne of my sadness,
an ocean springs from my stone of origin.
I write in Zapotec to ignore the syntax of pain,
ask the sky and its fire
to give me back my happiness.
Paper butterfly that sustains me:
why did you turn your back upon the star
that knotted your navel?
Assistant Editor Daniel Goulden on rare languages in translation and Asymptote
My experience has shown me that translators overall are a friendly, collaborative bunch. Over the course of my research I’ve had conversations with writers and translators from places as geographically dispersed and dissimilar as Afghanistan and South Africa, almost always finding people more than happy to submit work or introduce us to translators who could. Unlike the cliché about the dog-eat-dog world of New York agents, translators are in service not just to themselves but also to their languages, and are usually delighted to find a platform where they can share their work and bring more attention to those languages.
So far, we have published great works of literature from more than 25 rare or underrepresented languages, and we hope to uncover much more in 2015 and beyond.
Song for the Return of the Sun
At midwinter, an old man from Slana River burst out singing.
He kept singing a song for the sun to return.
After three days, the sun rose and shone brightly on the land.
That evening, his face burned, the old man wrung sunlight from his clothes.
translated from the Ahtna by John Smelcer
Me and My Shadow
Alanna Schubach on The Babadook
The poet Robert Bly, in his A Little Book on the Shadow, wrote about “the long bag we drag behind us.” Throughout our lives, Bly said, we excise parts of ourselves as if they were tumors, shoving them into this bag, hidden from view: perhaps, as children, a noisy ebullience that irritated our parents; or an inquisitiveness that a teacher shut down; or a sensitivity that made us targets in the cutthroat world of adolescent politics. By the time we reach adulthood, Bly wrote, the bag is stuffed, and if we attempt to peek inside, we find that all the things we secreted away have, in their long tenure in the darkness, turned sinister: “they are not only primitive in mood, they are hostile to the person who opens the bag.”_______________________
To have within oneself a rampaging monster is alarming; for a mother with children in her care, it is unacceptable. Certainly, from Medea to Mommie Dearest, we have examples in the canon of mothers who fall tragically short of being the ideal, beatific nurturers, but seldom is there a middle ground depicted between parental bliss and villainy — which makes the Australian indie The Babadook a rarity. It poses as a horror flick, but in fact is a psychological drama that chronicles one woman’s confrontation with her shadow.
Pages from My Knapsack:
A Journal from My Time in the Swiss Army, 1939
translated by Linda Frazee Baker
We had just come out of the woods that morning, a gardener’s boy and I, where we had been cutting down young ash trees. To be made into graceful little stilts under a dovecote for the municipal park. This was my first real job, newly begun, the first blueprint of mine that would become reality. Not just paper any more, not just mere lines, words, images. These slight little tree trunks were entirely real, you could touch them, half a wagon full. We were going straight to the carpenter’s shop—
And then the bells rang.
Today, on the eve of the military call-up, all the train stations and bridges are already guarded by brightly shining bayonets. Soldiers in field gray swarm everywhere as if shot out of the earth. One squats next to me in the train corridor so that we have to get up at every station and move our knapsacks. He didn’t know there were so many Swiss, he says with half a smile.
We ride through the night. The windows are all black now, as if we were riding through an endless tunnel. No one here seems really surprised. Only a certain seriousness, a certain bitterness that it has really happened, just as we thought it might. Some pretend to sleep so they can close their eyes. What a hurried leave-taking it has been. Some just sit there, elbows on their knees, and stare at their shoes. Thankfully, there is no singing, and no platitudes either.
After all, what can anyone say?
Only a young woman traveling with us loses her nerve while an old soldier takes her child on his knee. On and on she babbles about her husband, who will be in the auxiliary service. She seems to think we soldiers should melt in sympathy.