September 02, 2014
Coming to School
Vernon Everett Duroc
Pictorial Photography in America 1920
Susan Briante : THE PHYSICISTS SAY THE UNIVERSE MIGHT BETuesday poem #42 in DUSIE
a projection on the edge of a screen shadows by the door
or the boundary between the Muskogee and Cherokee nations
more nothing than anything else
smash the smallest parts to see if nothingness breaks
but there must be another way there’s no reason
in the cosmic order to necessitate human existence
no equation to explain the little arrows
at the end of my fingers—a plate glass above all that I do
and you hold the grease pencil and you move the shipping containers
across the horizon like a sentence about to be said: this morning
I saw the word “dog” in a hair left in the bathtub
and no matter how I turned could not get it to read “god”
Interview with Susan Briante
When I was writing my first book, Pioneers in the Study of Motion, I was really interested in the fragment. After six years in Mexico, there were many stories I wanted to tell, but I knew I was writing in the complicated wake of many other traveler/writers. Instead of trying to tell a story—to offer a version of Mexico—I found myself thinking about the field note: non-linear, observation-based, provisional and speculative—much like the best poems. Rosmarie Waldrop writes: “The glint of light on the cut, this spark given off by the edges is what I am after.” In many of the poems of Pioneers in the Study of Motion, I wanted to use juxtaposition to create sparks like those you see in the contact between two metals—the conquers’ sword and warriors’ shield—or the smoke sometimes observed when the wheels of a plane touch down on the runway. I hoped juxtaposition would draw the reader’s attention to the poem’s surface lest they be fooled into believing they might actually be seeing Mexico rather than a glimpse of my mind.
Before I started writing the poems that would become Utopia Minus, I was reading WG Sebald’s Rings of Saturn. In that book, Sebald proposes to take readers on walks through the English countryside, but actually he creates a journey through syntax and thought and history. Likewise, I wanted my poems to start from a fixed place—a building (often abandoned), a batholith in the Texas Hill Country—but I wanted to challenge myself as to the intellectual distance I could traverse without resorting to collage. I wanted to walk through these thoughts. I love falling asleep somewhere over Kansas and waking up on the tarmac in San Francisco. But I also relish the process of taking things mile by mile, word by word, to notice every historical marker, strip mall, roadside curiosity, to savor every preposition, verb, clause.
Bopping At Birdland
b. September 2, 1911
Nigun Poems & PoeticsJake Marmer's Bop Apocalypse
Nigun Au Rebours
this song is not an act but erasure
the way other songs reach into you
this one retreats,
taking with it stuff that seemed nailed to the floor
this song is cinematic in its reel
you may find yourself humming its residue
you may wonder who you’re
through the song’s straw that ascends
to the pouting mouth
of the vanishing point
Poetry, Philosophy, Existential Rants
It’s a question of questions, first:
The nuts-and-bolts kind you know you can answer
And the impersonal ones you answer almost without meaning to:
“My greatest regret.” “What keeps the world from falling down.”
And then the results are brilliant:
Someone is summoned to a name, and soon
A roomful of people becomes dense and contoured
And words come out of the wall
To batter the rhythm of generation following on generation.
And I see once more how everything
Must be up to me: here a calamity to be smoothed away
Like ringlets, there the luck of uncoding
This singular cipher of primary
And secondary colors, and the animals
With us in the ark, happy to be there as it settles
Into an always more violent sea.
- in Ashbery's A Wave: Poems
Ashbery, Proust and Time
September 01, 2014
Readers under the Lamp
d. August 31, 1955
after revolution: a review of antoine volodine’s writers
“I hate reading ‘difficult authors.’” In this interview filmed in 2011, French writer Antoine Volodine looks pained when asked why he dislikes hearing his books called “difficult.” He counters that his books are only difficult to summarize, not to read. It’s true: the ramifying narrative strands of Volodine’s novels fascinate, but they are almost impossible to describe. Like the fictitious novels penned by one of his writer-characters in the newly translated Writers (Dalkey, 2014; Éditions du Seuil, 2010), Volodine’s books consist of “dark scenes, oscillation between political and mystical spheres, biting humor, nested story lines, tangled interior worlds, portrayal of the drift towards madness or death.” And Volodine’s books present a further difficulty for summary: they belong to a fictional-yet-real literary movement named (by Volodine) “post-exoticism.”
In a “post-exotic” novel, the plot usually begins long after the defeat of an unnarrated “world revolution”; the characters are often revengers or revolutionaries, now imprisoned, or mad, or dead; and the narrative voice shifts among narrators and “surnarrators,” in books-within-books ascribed to various heteronyms—these last are fictional post-exotic writers who sometimes also publish books in our world. (Volodine’s heteronyms with autonomous literary careers include Manuela Draeger and Lutz Bassmann.) Their battle lost, these fictional post-exotics have not conceded defeat or renounced their beliefs; instead, they’ve taken up writing—but post-exotic writing is a lowly, risible act, often consisting merely of tapping on pipes in prison cells, or murmuring or sighing or coughing out words that come to nothing in the end.
Given this complexity, Volodine’s books may sound difficult, to a degree that belies the rapt experience of reading them. And in Writers, the writer-characters struggle with a Beckettian difficulty: how to come to the end of writing. However, even as they try to reach silence, the writers in Writers go on writing—in gripping, poetic, hallucinatory images—after the end of revolution, after defeat or betrayal.
Poems from Altered State - The New Polish Poetry
Translated by Tadeusz Pióro
Shake themselves off trees so violently
that drifts rise along curbs
in alleys and under building walls.
Trams plod through strewn streets
lose sight of their tracks and you see them
later roaming the greens
snouts down by the cold earth. The sky
looks at itself in a shop window and everything
is written in a thin, lined notebook. My
well is full of twigs and dust, the tap chokes
on an ice-cube: who sent
these tight clothes to get me?
An Alchemical Journal (2)
presented by Pierre Joris
Only now is it clear that I was walking on that hillside. Midway up the woods there is a fence, & by it a black wet tree. We stopped & planted seeds there, in the middle of the air. There was such silence in the woods, in the wood, & that’s what I’m trying to get away from now. No need for all that silence, no need for all this secrecy, as far as I can see. And there are houses where women sleep. Were we sad because we were silent, & silent because all the secrets had told themselves into the listening rain? Anybody seeing me would have known what was on my mind.
Words without Borders September 2014: Writing Exile
The Poet Cannot Stand Aside: Arabic Literature and Exile
M. Lynx Qualey
Migration, banishment, and estrangement have long been themes of Arabic letters. The trope of collective exile, or collective loss of a homeland, has been a separate but overlapping part of the shared imaginative landscape. It took on new force after the 1492 fall of Grenada, after which waves of Jews, Muslims, and others were forced to flee what had been a powerful, diverse caliphate, populated by some of Arabic literature’s most important writers.
These two overlapping threads—personal and collective exile—have been leitmotifs throughout the last several hundred years of Arabic literature. But in the last century, they have moved from the periphery to the center of literary discussion.
d. August 31, 1963
Democracy and the Spectacle
On Rousseau's homeopathic strategy
In this talk, delivered as 2013 Cassirer Lecture of the University of Gothenburg, I argue that this striking remark must be understood within the more general framework of a critique of the spectacular nature of modern society. If the spectacle is not simply an occasional form of entertainment, but a social relationship that pervades modern society as a whole, how can we escape from it? Rousseau's homeopathic strategy, according to which we should fight an evil through small doses of that very same evil, offers a solution that is crucial for grasping the scope of Rousseau's critique of the spectacle as well as for rethinking the possibility of democracy.
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.