August 29, 2014
An Alchemical Journal
presented by Pierre Joris
Silence as instruction. Two kinds of Silence. Negative: silence as abstention from utterance [how to teach poetry]. Positive: silence as a shape to ram down their throats. In their ears. Bodies. Eyes. Shaped silence, against time.
Harpocrates is the Aion too. Silence of Hokhma. Silence of Binah. Michael Angelo’s grieving women. Tomb of Giuliano de’ Medici, my initiation into the sphere of Binah, into the urgency of poetry. Trey of Spades. Pique-Dame. Prick this woman. Grief. Something held to the lips. Aion. Eis aiona. No time.
It’s on a hillside, & so much has been in or on or under hillsides. I mean on hillsides but the others came, in, under. I think of the raths & hills my Irishes knew, backparts of my blood, fair dark-haired red-haired men like me who spoke no language I could understand & were my fathers. What if a man desires the acquaintance of his remotest great-grandmother, and she a mere girl, in the matins of the world, walking on the dewed grass of Ireland. What does it mean if a man wants to go into that time before him (though our language says two different things with that word before: “Before Abraham was, I am” but “Before my eyes”), what does it mean if a man wants to step lightly across the Galway field, earliest morning, up to where the mother of his blood walks just as lightly, & to slip his arm around her slim waist, but with his wrist so flexed that the tips of his long fingers brush, press, & half-support the fullness of her right breast, soft loose in her dress?
Whoever that man was I would in that fashion have slightly been, whoever he was he knew the hillsides, had maybe walked inside them beyond the tradition of easy enchantments, had maybe seen those cities, worships, inconceivable entertainments, above all had maybe felt the speed of Faery. And if I say all that’s in the hill is hill-stuff, molecules & subtle motions, I have denied nothing.
De Arte Natandi_______________________
(The Art of Swimming)
published in 1587
Journal of Urban Cultural Studies
Volume 1, Number 1, 1
Félix Guattari and urban cultural studies
Stephen Luis Vilaseca
Félix Guattari’s work in ‘Drawing, Cities, Nomads’ and ‘Space and Corporeity’,
two articles published in 1992, and his final three books, Cartographies schizo-
analytiques/Schizoanalytic Cartographies), Les Trois écologies/The
Three Ecologies and Chaosmose/Chaosmosis, not only
theorize the relationship between subjectivity and the city, but also accompany
the theory with a transdisciplinary call to remodel urban life. Guattari argues
that the type of subjectivity we produce is linked to the type of cities we create,
and vice versa. The world of predatory capitalism of the late 1980s and early
1990s in which Guattari wrote the books and articles reviewed here forced
architects, urban planners, urban cultural studies theorists and activists to
make important ethical and political choices. We are confronted with those
same difficult decisions today. Will we continue to allow our subjectivity and
our cities to be invaded by capitalism? Do we want our unconscious and our
urban spaces to remain enslaved by money? If not, is there an alternative?
Is there a will to change? How do we change? The purpose of this review
article is to revisit Guattari’s analysis of subjectivity and explore its theoreti-
cal and practical relevance for urban studies in both the social sciences and
Joe Wenderoth interview
"Beautiful, stupid, dangerous, life-saving, corrupting, and perhaps all there is."
by Paola Capó-García
That line in Celan's poem, “Speak, you too,” where he basically says: speak … but keep Yes and No unsplit. Celan, unlike someone like Stevens, is not inclined to give advice about how to write poetry, but here is an exception. The artifice, Celan understands, is beautiful, stupid, dangerous, life-saving, corrupting, and perhaps all there is. I am speaking of the artifice of the poem, as that is the artifice he is speaking of. The artifice of society—its organization of bodies and their sustaining customs—is another matter altogether. The artifice of society—I think of Berryman's Henry in “Dream Song #7”: “For the rats / have moved in, mostly, and this is for real.” And of course one thinks of Marx—the means of production have become so massive, a Frankenstein etcetera. Bottom line is that the situation—in terms of the oncoming nightmare/toxic dump/simulation-trap has made the artifice of poetry obsolete, obscene, obtuse. Nevertheless it goes on, of course, and this fact is at the foundation of my own contempt for a great deal of the contemporary poetry I come across. I agree again with Celan when he suggests that the only poetry that can be taken seriously now is necessarily gray, uncertain (groping, i.e. human presence). I think Celan thought of his poetry as moments in which he was able to get free of artfulness, or art. Similar to Whitman here—proposing poetry as an act of life rather than an act of art. I would like to agree, but I suppose the poems I've been writing bear witness to a life sometimes unable to get free of art.
And perhaps simply: the older you get, the more artificial it all seems.
Wittgenstein’s forgotten lesson
Ludwig Wittgenstein is regarded by many, including myself, as the greatest philosopher of this century. His two great works, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921) and Philosophical Investigations (published posthumously in 1953) have done much to shape subsequent developments in philosophy, especially in the analytic tradition. His charismatic personality has fascinated artists, playwrights, poets, novelists, musicians and even movie-makers, so that his fame has spread far beyond the confines of academic life.
And yet in a sense Wittgenstein’s thought has made very little impression on the intellectual life of this century. As he himself realised, his style of thinking is at odds with the style that dominates our present era. His work is opposed, as he once put it, to “the spirit which informs the vast stream of European and American civilisation in which all of us stand.” Nearly 50 years after his death, we can see, more clearly than ever, that the feeling that he was swimming against the tide was justified. If we wanted a label to describe this tide, we might call it “scientism,” the view that every intelligible question has either a scientific solution or no solution at all. It is against this view that Wittgenstein set his face.
August 27, 2014
b. August 27, 1890
The Art of Empathy [pdf]
Celebrating Literature in Translation
Our goal for this book was simple: to illuminate for the general reader the art and importance of translation through a variety of points of view. Each essay tells a different story; each story adds to our understanding of this little-known art form. And in case you read through these passionate essays and find yourself inspired to make the next book you read a work in translation, we've asked each of our contributors to recommend three books. These are not necessarily the quintessential, canonical, must-read translations from an academic point of view, but rather three books that they simply loved and wished to share.
via Center for the Art of Translation
'My lifetime dream is to be sitting at the bottom of a well'
Haruki Murakami talked writing, heroes, domestic life, dreams and how his life informs his novels at a Guardian book club at the Edinburgh international book festival – and he answered some of your questions
Phantamasgoric Capitalism: Benjamin’s Arcades Today
There seems to be only one way to approach a text like The Arcades Project, namely in the spirit in which it was written – discursively, digressively, impressionistically. Therefore, the following does not follow a conventional scheme, either of chronology or in the form of an imitation of the structure of the text, given its own organic flavour.
“A landscape haunts
Intense as opium”
Why discuss The Arcades Project now? The book, for all its chaos and eccentricity, is an attempt to provide a record of capitalist development in a particular place and time, namely 19th-century Paris. As we know, capitalism hasn’t gone away, and neither have the particularities discussed by Benjamin – the ‘phantamasgoric’ nature of a society created by an economy in which exchange and representation suppress use and experience, the power of commodity fetishism and its extension into the field of sexual relations, the bourgeois domination of inner-city space, and the voluntary nomadism of the middle-class flaneur.
There is a further reason why this is an opportune moment to critically examine the relationship between cultural studies and radical theory, and Benjamin is perhaps best placed to provide an example for discussion, given he was as much enamoured of the former as committed to the latter.
Copyright and the Tragedy of the Common
Savage capitalism is back – and it will not tame itself
... I will describe my related tragedy of the “common” theory in the context of copyright law doctrine, in which I will illustrate a broader moral and philosophical tragedy related to the manner in which contemporary copyright scholars are discouraging and outright debasing traditional creative works of authorship while inspiring an alternate doctrinal approach which they define by using subtle and elusive terms such as “collective ownership” and “collaborative cultural production.” In this article, which examines copyright theory in a unique historical, literary, and philosophical context and contributes to the often contentious contemporary debate on the nature of creativity, I will show that viewing the process of copyright authorship and ownership of its resultant works with a collectivist or collaborative lens—or with what Søren Kierkegaard labels a “crowd mentality”—instead of continuing to reward individual authors for their creative works will invariably lead to the demoralization of the spirit of man and a culture in which common and regurgitated works will be produced rather than works of genius and individual originality, thus resulting in a decline of progress in contravention with Article I of the U.S. Constitution.
Ponzi Scheme Capitalism: An Interview with David Harvey_______________________
Departure of Summer
The Second Body and the Multiple Outside
In a visual field a thing which doesn’t coincide with itself is a blurry thing whose position cannot but be approximated. This would correspond to an epistemology based on uncertainty – unlike the Western knowledge relying on truth and certainty, on identity and fixity of laws underpinning a logical system or a scientific theory. That is perhaps why blurry images bring about fear of unknown and are associated with terrorism, forensics, criminology or disabled sight thus poor logic.
A body doesn’t coincide with itself (Massumi)
A thing which doesn’t coincide with itself is a frightful micro-cosmology. Healthy thought ceaselessly introduces a succession of time or a minimum causality in order to distance the indistinguishably different points and soften up the reasoning process. Usually, in classical philosophy time has privilege over space, so that space is created in time, one cannot think the emergence of form and space without the ticking causality of time, emergence without anteriority. Blurred thinking or better said patho-logical thinking (patho-logical is collapsing the logic of sense, of pathos and an impaired, diseased logic, a counterintuitive, stubborn and humiliating logic) can only grasp the necessity of uncertainty, of a blunt identity, of emergence without anteriority.
A diseased world from which time has been severed is a suffocating breathless world of absolute instance, of infinitesimal nowness where emergence equals eternity and events don’t happen, they just are, frozen in a snapshot of overlapping actualized potentials. It is a deaf vibrancy, a non-acoustic oscillation of matter-strings, a traumatic sensorium, an inhuman regime. It is not anymore a vibrant matter(1) which folded onto a plane produces an unstable map of forces and trajectories, but a stabile instability, a map of the untraceable, the unrepresentable only a sadistic, suicidal thought could try to think. A productive paralysis similar with the “cruel thought” of Antonin Artaud. This collapse of movement and stability, this grounding of the ungroundable would be a world at the limit of thought, without process, a world of contradiction and paradox, of despair and catastrophic reason.
Reading this essay I imagined Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire, and Emil Cioran merged in the figure of a lamentation, an almost Rilkean Angel of Annihilation. To imagine a time traveler who can see the static frames of history in stasis, frozen forever in an obscene gesture of pure clarity, the stubborn movements of reality measured not in time but in eternity, the blipscreen of a final cinematic frame that captures the moment between time and eternity just before the screen goes blank forever: a form that is both formless and frozen. Even the spirit of decay is stifled here, in a world where everything has already happened, where time stand's still and the nothingness that is and the nothing that is not cross distinct light frames into each others gaze. She talks of how in every moment we are about "…to take an intimate shape, to consolidate in a known form, to create the world around us as we know it. There is an immense "fear of being undelimited", of losing periphery, of falling through the ground. It is the fright of ungroundedness, the horror of being on the brink of the solid."
- Craig Hickman, Alina Popa - Cruel Thoughts
August 26, 2014
b. August 25, 1880
translated by A. S. Kline
Autumn ill and adored
(Alcools: Automne malade)
You die when the hurricane blows in the roseries
When it has snowed
In the orchard trees
Dead in whiteness and riches
Of snow and ripe fruits
Deep in the sky
The sparrow hawks cry
Over the sprites with green hair the dwarfs
Who’ve never been loved
In the far tree-lines
the stags are groaning
And how I love O season how I love your rumbling
The falling fruits that no one gathers
The wind the forest that are tumbling
All their tears in autumn leaf by leaf
translated by A. S. Kline
Face of Liru
b. August 26, 1909
Penury by Myung Mi Kim
reviewed by John Herbert Cunningham
Kim, in a Youtube video, refers to Penury as a “mourning book”. She indicates that the period of creation was from February 2003 to February 2006 which was the period during which “America has been in Iraq.” She describes the book as proceeding
by accretion, by adumbration, moving around different elements, there is a lot of transcription which are me literally transcribing whatever it happen to be, whether it’s spoken, whether it’s document, whether it’s...something that is archival material...I’m also trying to pose the question “What is the necessary work of mourning both as bodies in social space trying to, in some sense, negotiate...the violence of militarism on human bodies, the notion of war and ecological degradation, my continuing concern about linguistic oppression or a certain attempt to address the...problematic of the ideology of monolingualism.
In an interview conducted by Yedda Morrison in December 1997 titled ‘Generosity as Method: An Interview with Myung Mi Kim’, Kim discusses poetry as liberation and the authentication of a writer’s experiences:
I think there is always some kind of invisible, constant, millisecond-by-millisecond negotiation between the form and its divestment, between the poem and the world, that you’re engaging every time you decide to write anything. However, any poem having any kind of cultural translation in the Twenty-first century – frankly, it isn’t going to happen...
It’s so problematic for writers in our historical moment. Again, I think that I would answer that concern by saying that there’s some awareness on my part, different from even five years ago, that we need two actions simultaneously. The first task is undertaking the kind of devotion and conviction towards authenticating the work you must do, the work we each must undertake, and that forms the basis for a much larger vision for a mobilizing potential for poetry...The second thing is to work out as many different models of where poetry can exist, where poetry can be inserted, can be read, experienced, performed; what are the various different ways that we can make poetry have contexts...Poetry is simply how you participate in language, and we all do that.
The End of the Road
The Capitalism of Affects
The social management of affects is not an invention of capitalism and does not, as such, characterize capitalism in a specific way. In other words, when we address the problem of affects under capitalism, we should be very careful to avoid the risk of thinking that the problem lies in the capitalist intrusion into our hearts, in an opposition between, for example, the authenticity and naturalness of our private affects and their forced and normative display or regulation dictated by capitalist social relations. On the contrary, we may even think that a robust notion of the privacy of affects as characterizing what it means to be a unique individual arises with capitalism and modernity.
If this is true, then, we need some more analytical work in order to understand what exactly is specific to the managed heart under capitalism. For this purpose, I would like to suggest at least three factors that concur to a specific capitalist form of affects management.
August 25, 2014
The Right Stuff
Brenda Wineapple reviews The Allure of the Archives by Arlette Farge
I have pitched into dusty boxes stuffed with faded green stationery and, when the day ended, I’ve stayed in musty motels overlooking busy highways, waiting anxiously for morning, when I could walk back over to the archives in the summer heat, hoping to discover something big and important and worth my sleepless while. I have wondered if I should untie the ribbon carefully knotted a century ago and read what was not meant for me. And then I have untied that ribbon and unfolded delicate sheets of writing paper. I have deciphered the script in leather-bound diaries whose covers crackle with age, and I have looked at old photographs, wondering who or what stared back.
I considered these research trips peculiar, sometimes productive, and, after I totted up my travel receipts, always expensive. But the reason I undertook them and the satisfactions they afforded seemed a private affair little understood except by weirdos like myself who rather enjoy this odd solitude and with whom I share a peculiar if not grandiose fantasy: that we’re on a mission. We root around in old stuff because we’re rescuing some person, some fact, or some event from the past and bringing them, or it, back to life.
As I say, I thought most of this rather eccentric until I read Arlette Farge’s unique, lyrical paean to historical research, The Allure of the Archives, about the historian’s never-sated passion for archival research, no matter how sepulchral the archive or arcane (and potentially fruitless) the quest. Originally published as Le Goût de l’Archive in France in 1989 and now superbly translated into English, this is the only book I know that in one hundred or so eloquent pages captures the essence of what it means to travel to an archive, to lose oneself in it, and even to argue silently with fellow researchers about how much noise they make or whether they, or you, have the best seat in the chilly room. (Library archives typically keep the temperature down to preserve documents. Even in summer, I bring a sweater.)
A Man with a Movie Camera
soundtrack by Alloy Orchestra
Alloy Orchestra - The New Sound of Silent Films
Four poemsLeevi Lehto
The Chasm Is Here, The Chasm Is Nowhere
call a screw in for interrogation, and you will see
thru the meat grinder and couldn’t think of putting anyone else thru such
keeps in the wall
isn’t gaining any goodwill points here where baseball bats and
the purpose of its threads will ask you to
confess you are a rabbit
the shame of you: you will see at once
but be refused to take up a crusade to get
torture out of Norway. Take the screw back and ask
her to read once about sensory deprivation being the most effective form of
weather, and it will need stars. Keep the execution squad hidden
to survive this. He was going
behind a curtain disguised as the starry sky
not only to put up with this
somewhere. A wall collapses. That alone would be reason enough to
dream the Escape Dream, the toss all you
execute to screw reason, which leads the entire complex
promising that Dershowitz would advocate
the rebellion. The screw falls silent. And perhaps you, too,
which is why we’re not going to the Billy Bob Thornton concert at the El Rey
having learned something this very morning: you cannot give orders
to constant attention, and besides,
before speech gives permission
no one (else) can come
Passy, passage des Eaux
My Finnish Poetries
Let me say in passing that by giving you these examples, I am not implying that there would be some fundamental difference between thinking in these two languages. The idea of language conditioning and determining thought is of course prevalent in what is known as postmodern theory; likewise, you sometimes hear that theory criticized for claiming that, somehow, “everything is language”. Though I’ve been much influenced by this kind of thinking, in both my intellectual and poetic development, I now tend to see the things the other way round. To say that everything is language would imply, fundamentally, that the reality is transparent, explainable, if only with difficulty (and those believing in this, I think, ultimately do think that everything is language.) For me, the centrality of language comes, on the contrary, from the fact that it is not everything, does not come to us naturally, is something to be learned, and for this reason always insufficient and unfinished, never capable of explaining everything. (and I’m tempted to make the equation: what, in philosophy, is known as the real = that which stays outside the language, resisting its power to explain). The job of poetry is sometimes said to be to make reality seem strange (or new.). To me the more urgent job is to reveal the strangeness of language. And here, there is no fundamental difference between the strangeness of my own language, and that of those learned later, and thus less in my command. This is one of the reasons I am more and more interested in writing in English, of which more later.
Scandinavian Journal of Intercultural Theory and practice
Vol 1 (2014) Tolerance
Guest Editors Introduction
Karina Hestad Skeie, Line Alice Ytrehus
The first two issues of FLEKS explore the notion of tolerance in theory and praxis. Tolerance is a rather appropriate point of departure for a journal on intercultural communication and interaction. In the intercultural context, mutual tolerance and/or respect are seen as basic requirements whether the objective is the reciprocal exchange of ideas (in a dialogue), or effective communication for informational, political or commercial purposes. In addition, politicians and theorists involved in debates about multi-ethnic societies frequently describe tolerance as a basic human virtue that is required for peaceful coexistence.
Tolerance is a complex and multifaceted concept, and accordingly is not easy to grasp or study in a precise, coherent and non-reductive way. Usually the exercise of tolerance involves the making of a moral judgment, thus requiring knowledge, whether real or imagined, as well as reasoning and emotions. Tolerance may encompass anything from an acceptance and acknowledgement of something or somebody to an act of endurance that is undertaken with varying degrees of disapproval. In everyday life, the need for tolerance is most strongly felt when one is confronted by its opposite: hate speech, violence, contempt and exclusion. In everyday speech, we also hear calls for "zero tolerance" in certain multicultural settings. Sometimes these calls represent a firm adherence to basic values. Sometimes they represent a desire to defend what are considered to be vital interests. At other times, they are reactions based on fear, mistrust and misunderstandings. How can we determine what is what?
August 24, 2014
The Night Has Gone
Jack Butler Yeats
b. August 29, 1871
The Poetics of Spaces: Inyo National Forest & Outward
Here is the thing. In a place like this, your perspective changes, widens. Remember single frames of your life back there and realize what it means out here. Recall gestures of comfort, words spoken, feelings. Here: presence. Here: it all.
Here is the thing. Happiness is difficult. Not just to obtain it, but to be consumed by it. For seconds, moments, hours at a time. It is a privileged part of life to be able to be joyous, even for just a few seconds, to be in love, to be content, to at least once breathe a sigh of relief. But it is also necessary to mourn, to lament, to be disappointed, to be angry, to regret.
It is crucial that we fail. And it is crucial that we succeed.
When you see the half-empty lake, imagine what it would look, you replace the word would with should, replace should with would again, see snapshots of lives that intertwine and scenes that seem to belong on postcards, exist in nature, away from that other stuff. You think about the weather. You are ambushed by a group of deer, fleeting, hopping. You think about life as privilege. As burden. You think about the scale of things. Large. Small. Full of holes. Weather-worn. A breeze that rises up behind your back and cools the sweat on your back.
b. August 24, 1903
It is here that it translates, "this madness," that it comes back to us as the impossible need. Translating especially the untranslatable: when the text does not only carry an autonomous meaning which alone would be important, but when the sound, the image, the voice (phonological) and especially the principality of rhythm are predominant compared to the meaning or making good sense, so that the meaning is always in action, in formation, or "the nascent state" cannot be dissociated by what by itself is not stored in the semantics. And this, this is the poem. Certainly, no translator, no translation will not pass it, intact, from one language to another, and will not permit it to be read or heard as if it were transparent. And I would add: happily. The poem in its original language, is always already different from the language, whether it restores or establishes it; and it is this difference, the otherness, where the translator grabbed it or where it is grabbed, modifying in its turn its own language, making it dangerously moving, removing its identity and transparency to the "common sense," as Valéry says.
Opacity? Opacity of sense? Opacity as meaning? Neither one nor the other. The opacity has multiple layers of language through which they walk and form what eventually - in infinity - mean: strata that simultaneously flicker or darken by the significance, moments by themselves neglected in common parlance, transforming then just to make comprehensible another another form of agreement, the unlimited agreement that breaks the ordinary trade. Hence, perhaps, the poetic loneliness (has anyone been there to understand it? It is infinitely enough to hear it?); hence also the poetic fraternity ("sovereign conversation"), since which, by the poem, we are called to the urgency of interminable ration where the "I" has always faded away to the other, and where speech, writing, and sign collapse without constantly pursuing anticipation that dissolves them and mysteriously remains there by a frightening dispersion.
Maurice Blanchot, The Rising Speech, Translated by Wanyoung Kim
Jack Butler Yeats
Alice Oswald - Poems in the Guardian
now the sound of the trees is
and I'm still here
staring when I should be bathing
it's late, the bike's asleep on its feet.
the fields hang to the sun by
when the grass breathes, things fall.
the luminous underneath of a moth.
and a blackbird
mouth to the glow of the hour in
who left the light on the step?
what is the pace of a glance?
the man at the wheel signs his speed
on the ringroad
right here in my reach, time is as
thick as stone
and as thin as a flying strand
it's night and somebody's
pushing his mower home
to the moon
Alice Oswald at Poetry International and the Poetry Foundation
European Voices: A Reading and Conversation with British Poet Alice Oswald
Alice Oswald's nature columns in the New Statesman
The Struggle Against Silence — Interview with Alice Oswald
Interview With Alice Oswald
Ashbery always sounds as if he’s thinking, even when you can’t quite get at the thoughts. Jorie Graham uses those expanding and compressing lines, which defeat the eyes and jumble the body’s rhythms so that your mind sort of breaks open. Dickinson actually exposes the pauses in the brain. They all seem to articulate indecision, as if the poem was writing itself in an unfinished moment. I find that quite invigorating.
Poetry has this close relationship with tradition, so it’s interesting that the English language has two poetries, one of which (the American) is determined to escape its tradition. It’s like an open window in the work-room. Whenever I sit down to write, I have to think through certain questions about form – am I or am I not going to write a sonnet? If I don’t count syllables how do I communicate a tune? If I rhyme, whose voice am I putting on? And sometimes the whiff of America through the window gives me permission to ignore those questions. And then sometimes that permission can become a tyranny. Ginsberg and Frank O’Hara for example are quite pressurising and impatient with their invitations to freedom.
It’s always been my feeling that one mind isn’t enough for a poem. I like to talk about ideas with people. And I really do regard my poems as not my own. That’s not just a false modesty. They come from working with other people. I’ve worked with gardeners. I’ve worked with a trumpeter. He taught me a lot about the gaps in poems and what they are doing. I like that tension between silence and music, or words. And the person I most collaborate with is a typographer who lives near here, called Kevin Mount. He’s a really interesting person, a hidden genius. He’s brilliant at understanding how a poem wants to be set on a page.
I feel a poem needs not to assume it will be read. It has to have the energy to create its own necessity. Poems shouldn’t operate within an expectation of poems being passed around. So I get very stuck on the question: why should a poem begin? Why should anything ever start speaking when silence is always more appropriate? This makes me suspicious of the impulse to write themed collections, because I think they dishonestly do away with the struggle against silence.
Jack Butler Yeats
Poetic Thought for the Day (8/24/2014): The Quest for Meaning
What is an idea? What is a thing? What is poetry that ideas and things can suddenly come together? ...
—Say it, no ideas but in things—
nothing but the blank faces of the houses
and cylindrical trees
bent, forked by preconception and accident—
split, furrowed, creased, mottled, stained—
secret—into the body of the light!
– William Carlos Williams, Paterson
For the new breed of poets following the Speculative Realists there is a need to break out of Kant’s circle and the Sublime and go back out into the real, or what Meillassoux would term the “Great Outdoors” of Being. Now poets following such notions so far realize that what this entails is a reframing of the way ideas and things interact. No longer bound to Kant’s schemas and categories of thought, we are now exploring through the senses again. Instead of representations in the mind, we are turned toward the anti-representational worlds of the senses themselves. The trick is not to confuse the two. Idealism as far back as Parmenides is based on just such a notion of Ideas = Things; or Ideas and Being are one, so that it is through Ideas that we are in touch with the Real. This is the Platonic Cave all over again, the idea that this world is illusion, vanity, a surfeit of unreality. But is it? Why have we been tied to such anti-realistic notions of rocks, trees, mountains, rivers, etc. for two thousand years? Obviously I simplify to the point of a cartoon. I can’t in such a short note begin to unload the whole conceptual history of Idealism or Materialism and their antecedents in one post. Madness, that.
My greatest point is that confessional poetry was still keyed into representational or expressive thinking; and, we seem to be moving into a new time of speculative and anti-representational modes which is about how we frame ideas or things, people or places. It’s almost a cross between the older modes of the metaphysical poets merging with the Renaissance core of naturalism… as if turning inside out. As if we’d pushed the realist and anti-realist modes of the last century based on understanding language or the “Linguistic Turn” and have like the Chinese sense of I Ching switched over from the masculine to feminine modes of thinking and feeling. More concretely William Carlos Williams a century ago said: “No ideas but in things.” Now we would say “No things but in ideas.” A grand reversal, but one that takes into account that the world is not “for us” but that we are all on equal footing. That things have their own ideas and can now express them, and it is up to us to absorb or receive them from the objects rather than imposing them as in Williams.