November 28, 2014
Floating Island: A Conversation With Mike Osborne
The Great Leap Sideways
Five poems by Jules Supervielle
Translations by Ian Seed
In a Foreign Country
Have these faces come from my memory
and have these gestures touched earth, or sky?
Is this man alive as he seems to believe
with his voice, and this smoke on his lips?
Chairs, tables, unfeeling wood, you I can touch
in this snowy country whose language I do not know.
Stove, with your warmth whispering to my hands,
who is this man before you who resembles me
even in my past, knowing what I think,
touching when I touch you and filling my silence,
who then rises, opens the door, and disappears,
leaving this emptiness behind where I have no place.
The Invention of Clumsiness
One afternoon in May of 1853, the painter Eugène Delacroix went for a walk in the forest with two old friends. As they walked, the three men returned to topics they had discussed before: questions of spontaneity, how finished pictures are “always somewhat spoiled” compared to sketches. Together they admired a famous oak tree. They talked about Racine. Then they went back to Delacroix’s house for dinner. After the meal, Delacroix later recalled, “I made them try the experiment which I had done myself, without planning it, two days before.” The experiment was simple. First, he passed around a set of unusual pictures, photographic calotypes that Eugène Durieu, a pioneer in the new medium of photography, had taken at his request.1 In these small amber images, a naked man and woman appeared—sometimes alone, sometimes together; sitting, standing, or kneeling; often staring warily back at the lens. The naked couple are memorable to posterity, because they were among the first humans to be photographed without clothes. If they weren’t the Adam and Eve of photographic nakedness, they were among the earliest citizens of that now fairly populous realm. But they didn’t beguile or even impress the great painter and his companions.
The Nantglyn Pulpit Yew
Portraits of Time: Ancient Trees
Photographs and text by
via Nag on the Lake
a few still go the root of the thing, where
(inherited by trance) memory is a secret doctrine; logic works
at higher levels of consciousness
but dressed in the divine uniforms of victimhood, the pre-rational
licks yet at the edge of each battle
for paradise. Few there go to the root of things
where behaviour is an arrangement of
primitive wandering, paradoxical as cililization. ...
A Decent Interval
How long does a building stand before it falls?
How long does a contract last? How long will brothers share the inheritance before they quarrel?
How long does hatred, for that matter, last?
Time after time the river has risen and flooded.
The insect leaves the cocoon to live but a minute.
How long is the eye able to look at the sun?
From the very beginning nothing at all has lasted.
Galileo taught mathematics at the University of Pisa from 1589 to 1592, and sometime during this period he mounted a dramatic public demonstration of one of his more unorthodox notions. Clutching two lead spheres of different sizes and masses, he climbed the stairs of the campanile, the bell tower in the Piazza del Duomo, behind the cathedral. The young professor then proceeded—before an assembly of expectant onlookers, many of them faculty and students from the university—to drop the test objects simultaneously from the upper balcony. The plummeting orbs reached the ground together; with no temporal interval between their terrestrial impacts, a single resounding thump announced their coincident landing. Aristotelian physics, for ages the dominant paradigm, held that the velocities of free-falling bodies moving through the same medium vary in direct proportion to their weights. Galileo’s so-called Leaning Tower of Pisa Experiment conclusively disproved Aristotle’s doctrine of natural downward motion: heavier objects do not fall to earth faster than lighter objects, after all. In a veritable instant, the old certainties, all those dusty apriorisms of ancient and medieval inheritance, were upended. Science and knowledge had at last entered the modern era.
Contemporaries and Snobs
Edited by Laura Heffernan and Jane Malcolm
Writing just over 85 years before our own critical junctures of poetic production in an age of technological prowess, self-publishing, buy-in anthologies, digital poetics, machinic reading, reading machines, and information recycling—speaking largely to persistent anxieties about hermeneutics, authorial integrity, and textual production—Riding’s critical commentaries about poetry during her own time unsurprisingly reverberate with our own contemporary concerns.
In their introduction to Contemporaries Laura Heffernan and Jane Malcolm argue that Riding “offers a counter history of the idiosyncratic, of what the institution of modernism left (and leaves) behind […] champion[ing] the non-canonical, the ‘barbaric,’ and the under-theorized”. ...
In retrospect, Riding’s work seems to anticipate not only feminist but sociological, new historical, cultural materialist, and critical paradigms. Indeed, Riding had been attuned to the social and historical forces that were effecting poetry during her time—what she calls “historical effort”; perhaps a lone voice, yet unfortunately forgotten as modernist criticism attempted to celebrate the so-called “genius” of high modernism, which, as increasing scholarship has shown, was merely the textual products of those who knew who to know and knew how to know them. Such a paradigmatic shift in modernist studies is noted in the shift from Modernism to modernisms—attending to forgotten or lost texts, neglected texts, writers of colour, women writers, international modernisms, along with the necessary intersectional praxis of race, gender, and sexual relations within an Anglo-American and global context.
November 27, 2014
b. November 27, 1886
Cinema of the Present by Lisa Robertson
reviewed by Ella Longpre
Lisa Robertson’s works inhabit the charged space between poetic intricacy and essayistic inquiry. A slight shuddering movement between forms can be tracked from work to work, from the hybrid-creature Xeclogue, to the poetry collection Magenta Soul Whip, and then up to the essays—the aporias—of Nilling. This characteristic oscillation of form can be distilled, too, from line to line: a statement questions while it revives; it can be read as a note on the archaeology of address, or recited as an ode. But if the ode wore velvet, or some other provocative material, such as resin._______________________
Robertson’s most recent book, Cinema of the Present, is a collection of such statements, donned in a satin cape.
Roger de La Fresnaye
d. 27 November 1925
Amish Trivedi: 'A Thousand Years of Staring I – VIII,' with a note on permutational art
We imagine death as God looking back at us
from an abyss we’ve reached into, but nerves
don’t stop firing right at the last signal: they
fire as they degrade into soil or immolation
clears us. These sensations are just body
fighting evolutionary return. As we begin
again, we see adoration and want it to be
every day, but you end up nostalgic for
Roger de La Fresnaye
Your Relationship to Motion Has Changed
Having nowhere to go
is the best place to be: I
don’t care if crosswalk signals
never let me pass or if rivers
continue to flood. After all terrors,
settled moments have left to
head towards nothing. Welcome to
mediocrity: we’ve had a table
with a broken leg for you
all along. As another immolation
passes, we see renewed faith in
saints who died normal deaths, poets
who had heart attacks
in their 80s
surrounded by their families. Ev-
entually you have to accept
that things you knew
about motion are long since
debunked and re-mystified
in new ways. ...
Roger de La Fresnaye
The Medium of the English Language
The satisfaction of art may consequently be found in a poached egg or a child’s speech, but I suspect that we’re most often moved to call a work of art great when we feel the full capacity of the medium at play, nothing suppressed, as if the artist’s command of the medium and the long history of the medium’s deployment by previous artists were coterminous — which, in a sense, they are.
It is for Shakespeare’s power of constitutive speech quite as if he had swum into our ken with it from another planet, gathering it up there, in its wealth, as something antecedent to the occasion and the need, and if possible quite in excess of them; something that was to make of our poor world a great flat table for receiving the glitter and clink of outpoured treasure. The idea and the motive are more often than not so smothered in it that they scarce know themselves, and the resources of such a style, the provision of images, emblems, energies of every sort, laid up in advance, affects us as the storehouse of a kind before a famine or a siege?—?which not only, by its scale, braves depletion or exhaustion, but bursts, through mere excess of quantity or presence, out of all doors and windows.
These two sentences by Henry James enact the Shakespearean work they describe: they overwhelm us with a feeling of an unstoppable excess that’s registered in rhythm, sonic echo, syntax, and, most fundamentally, diction. The strategic juxtaposition of Germanic and Latinate words is as immediately apparent here (“constitutive speech,” “great flat table,” “the occasion and the need”) as it is in Shakespeare, and at the end of each sentence this strategy is raised to virtuosic heights with phrases that revel in the collision of Germanic bluntness and Latinate elaboration: “the glitter and clink of outpoured treasure,” the “mere excess of quantity or presence, out of all doors and windows.”
These sentences sound like James, but by performing the action, they describe, the sentences also imply that linguistic virtuosity in Modern English is in some indelible way Shakespearean, and the implication, though easily abused, is not merely sentimental. Shakespeare was a powerful writer who in his lifetime was poised at exactly the right moment to take advantage of the medium that the English language had only recently become. He could reach for effects that had been unavailable to the poets of both “The Seafarer” and The Canterbury Tales, and because of the particular power with which he did so, poems we think of as great, poems that harness the full capacity of the medium, tend to sound to us Shakespearean. But what we are really hearing in such poems is the medium at work; what we are hearing is the effort of a particular writer to reach for the effects that Modern English most vigorously enables. The polyglot diction of a phrase like John Ashbery’s “traditional surprise banquet of braised goat” feels idiosyncratic because it is also conventional, empowered by its author’s intimacy with his medium.
via the page
November 25, 2014
Clearings, Iceholes, Other Abodes: Dorothea Grünzweig
translated from the German by Derk Wynand
The way that jets, tempests, or fireworks, captured on paper by an adult child I know, get the fear of them off his back, arrest it—so do the words of poetry act as detention centres, repositories into which fear is thrust, to serve time there.
So if the adult child is distraught, one needs to recite poems to him, make up melodies in which they are wrapped and sing them. He sings along, grows calm, just as he grows calm after wild, erratic joy once the joyrousers slip into small shapes on the page, or laugh out and beckon from a poem.
When I think about poems, that’s the first thing which occurs to me: Writing, reciting them is a way to dispel anxiety. Freefloating anxiety is put in chains–that is, protectively–is temporarily housed in verbal abodes. The same could be said of grief, pain or giddy enthusiasm.
And when I think about poems, a hole appears in the winter lake’s ice. Diving into the icehole. With a despondent or overheated mind down into the water. Whatever works against stability is surrendered to it. It stays there, even as one rises to the surface oneself, tensed and light.
via the page
Poetry - I too dislike translating it.
Toward a poetics of versioneering.
Don Paterson's Orpheus – a version of Rilke (2006) is an English-language text which transmutes Rilke's original Die Sonette an Orpheus (1922); this is a text which sets up exemplary modes of production for poet-versioneers. Re-reading Marianne Moore's poem, 'Poetry', as enshrining affectivity as no less than categorical and generic, this paper agrees with Paterson's impulse to abandon the imperative for equivalence when translating poems by instead seeking to transmute (as Paterson puts it) the 'spirit of the original' source text. Re-reading sound as the echo of a poem's spirit, I speculate that versioneering requires close listening paired to a range of creative strategies (ekphrasis, techne, poeisis). This paper explores these processes through an examination of my own English-language versions of poems by Italian poet Alda Merini – versions which seek to capture and transmute the implication-filled sounds of the source texts.
Helen and Hula-Hoop
Lynemouth, Tyneside, UK
Whoever has no house now will never have one.
Its stain is everywhere.
Whoever is alone will stay alone
Will sit, read, write long letters through the evening
And wander on the boulevards, up and down...
Rainer Maria Rilke
The sharpening air
of late afternoon
is now the colour of tea.
Once-glycerined green leaves
burned by a summer sun
are brittle and ochre.
Night enters day like a thief.
And children fear that the beautiful daylight has gone.
Whoever has no house now will never have one.
Even though there is bounty, a full harvest
that sharp sweetness in the tea-stained air
is reserved for those who have made a straw
fine as a hair to suck it through-
fine as a golden hair.
Wearing a smile or a frown
God's face is always there.
It is up to you
if you take your wintry restlessness into the town
and wander on the boulevards, up and down.
Crabs and People _______________________
Skinningrove, North Yorkshire
P. K. Page
Remembering you and reviewing
our structural love
the past re-arises alive
from its smothering dust.
For memory, which is only decadent
in hands like a miser’s
loving the thing for its thingness,
or in the eyes of collectors who assess
the size, the incredible size, of their collection,
can, in the living head, create and make
new the sometimes appallingly ancient present
and sting the sleeping thing
to a sudden seeing.
And as a tree with all its leaves relaxed
can shiver at the memory of wind
or the still waters of a pool recall
their springing origin and rise and fall
suddenly over the encircling basin’s lip—
so I, remembering from now to then,
can know and see and feel again, as jewels
must when held in a brilliant branch of sun.
Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page
Reviewed by Tina Northrup
In her Life of P.K. Page, Djwa represents the young Pat Page as “a new type — not a suffragette, not a twenties flapper, but a modern woman in embryo.” Page appears, in other words, as a sharp, sensible, and sensitive New Woman, prepared to launch herself into the unknown. In her preface to the book, Djwa notes that, “[f]or a woman born near the start of the twentieth century, life was a journey with no maps because so much changed during her lifetime — the right to vote, to gain higher education, to pursue a career or to marry, and, if married, to choose whether to have children.” Accordingly, this biography emphasizes its subject’s curiosity and openness to the world. The woman who emerges from its pages is one who was willing to follow her life wherever it led — perhaps a bit passively, even — but who travelled with a rooted commitment to her craft.
P. K. Page (1916 - 2010) at the Poetry Foundation
Still Waters: The Poetry of P.K. Page
Excerpt from Journey With No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page
Art Without Relations
Relationality has long had a good press well beyond the arts. Widespread sympathy for dynamic relations over dreary substances marks the general intellectual mood of our time. In recent Continental philosophy, figures from Jacques Derrida and Gilles Deleuze to Isabelle Stengers, Bruno Latour and Jane Bennett are all cited as admirable champions of process and relation over static autonomous things. Yet the claim of object-oriented philosophy, which I advocate, is that the primacy of relations over things is no longer a liberating idea (since it reduces things to their pragmatic impact on humans and on each other).
... for the arts, as for the social sciences, the greater danger is the upward reduction that paraphrases objects in terms of their effects rather than their parts. For it is dubious to claim that objects are utterly defined by their context, without any unexpressed private surplus. To defend this view is to commit oneself to a world in which everything is already all that it can be. Change would be impossible if this melon, that city or I myself were nothing more than our current relations with everything else.
The two reductions differ only in the direction in which they propose to destroy objects: pulverising them into sawdust, or elevating them into an all-devouring context. Admittedly, these are the two basic kinds of knowledge about what something is: either we explain what something is made of, or we describe its effects. But philosophy was never meant to be a form of knowledge. The Greek word philosophia, which means love of wisdom rather than wisdom itself, incorporates a basic ignorance into its etymology.