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50-Watts
April 24, 2015

Imre Kinszki
1901 - 1945

_______________________


"New distance permits new questions. What was Canadian literature? How did it work? What did it mean? And what does it continue to mean for those of us who are Canadian and who write?"
What Was Canadian Literature?
Stephen Marche on the Decline and Fall of a National Experiment
2014 was a year of deaths and victories for Canadian literature. Alice Munro accepted the Nobel Prize for literature and promptly retired. Mavis Gallant left her Canadian body in Montparnasse cemetery, triumphantly empty of stories. A seventy-fifth birthday party for Margaret Atwood at the Four Seasons came complete with a guard of forty authors to toast her. In 2014 as well, the Canada Council hosted a National Forum on the Literary Arts, intended to address the future of literature in Canada, which broke down into “a 250-person choir in simultaneous competition to be the lone soloist” and “nothing short of a total goddamn clusterfuck,” in the memorable phrasing of Pasha Malla. It was a year with a sense of an ending, at least for Canadian literature.

Writing in Canada meanwhile continued its blessed existence. Anyone who whines about being a writer in Canada today needs a history lesson and a long vacation. It’s not just the peace and prosperity which we take so utterly for granted. Before the 1960s, Northrop Frye could describe the entire literary production of the country in a few pages in annual reports for the University of Toronto magazine, and sometimes his conclusions were as terse as “this is clearly not a banner year for Canadian poetry.”

(....)

There is no question that we are living in a great time to be a Canadian writer, perhaps the best ever. But at the same time the sense of writing as a national project is stuttering to its final end.

There is no question that we are living in a great time to be a Canadian writer, perhaps the best ever. But at the same time the sense of writing as a national project is stuttering to its final end. There is one major Canadian-owned publisher still standing, Anansi; even McClelland and Stewart belongs to the Germans. The CBC, the handmaiden to Canadian literature, is being dissolved in front of our eyes. And the academic study of Canadian literature, like all the humanities, continues its steady decline into underfunded gerontocracy. The question of “national identity” is an antique one; literary nationalism is something your grandparents did, like macramé. American Psycho or American Pastoral brandish their connection to their home country; here, any such connection is best avoided—and not just because you limit your market. Canadian writers are happy to say they’re from Canada; they just don’t want to write about what it might mean. Canadian literature, in the sense of a literature shaped by the Canadian nation and shaping the nation, is over.

_______________________


Emi Anrakuji
Untitled [#11225]
from the series O Mapa, 2013.


Emi Anrakuji: Mapping Embodiment
Jonathan Lee

(....)

What we see here is a striking confirmation of Jerry Thompson’s recent claim that the importance of photography has much to do with epistemology, with its revelation of how we know the world. Elaborating a point made by the 19th-century photographer, William Henry Fox Talbot, Thompson emphasizes that photography gives us “nothing less than a way of knowing the world that transcends our educations, our opinions, our intentions, hopes, and desires—in a word, our subjectivity. Anrakuji’s work reveals a world that includes subjectivity but is neither shaped by nor defined by the human subject.

In this respect, at least, Anrakuji is effectively in dialogue with Takuma Nakahira, who argued as early as 1973 that contemporary history has shown human beings to have no special place in the world, so that “our means of expression at this point in time should discard ‘the image,’ and address the world as it is, and rightly position the thing as the thing and myself as myself in this world. To do so, all humanizing or emotionalizing of the world according to the self must be rejected.” In a later essay, “Self-Change in the Act of Shooting,” Nakahira would insist that “when I encounter afresh the world of reality, my own self-consciousness is dismantled; the act of rebuilding the consciousness has been imposed on me endlessly. That, in a way, has been my fate as a photographer.” This fate of rebuilding a dismantled subjectivity, I now want to suggest, also governs the work of Emi Anrakuji.

_______________________


Emi Anrakuji

_______________________


Are Animals People?
Michael LaBossiere

(....)

There are at least three type of personhood: legal personhood, metaphysical personhood and moral personhood. Legal personhood is the easiest of the three. While it would seem reasonable to expect some sort of rational foundation for claims of legal personhood, it is really just a matter of how the relevant laws define “personhood.” For example, in the United States corporations are people while animals and fetuses are not. There have been numerous attempts by opponents of abortion to give fetuses the status of legal persons. There have even been some attempts to make animals into legal persons.

Since corporations are legal persons, it hardly seems absurd to make animals into legal people. After all, higher animals are certainly closer to human persons than are corporate persons. These animals can think, feel and suffer—things that actual people do but corporate people cannot. So, if it is not absurd for Hobby Lobby to be a legal person, it is not absurd for my husky to be a legal person. Or perhaps I should just incorporate my husky and thus create a person.

It could be countered that although animals do have qualities that make them worthy of legal protection, there is no need to make them into legal persons. After all, this would create numerous problems. For example, if animals were legal people, they could no longer be owned, bought or sold. Because, with the inconsistent exception of corporate people, people cannot be legally bought, sold or owned.

Since I am a philosopher rather than a lawyer, my own view is that legal personhood should rest on moral or metaphysical personhood. I will leave the legal bickering to the lawyers, since that is what they are paid to do.

via Leon Niemoczynski
_______________________


Sin título
1957
Mark Tobey
d. April 24, 1976

_______________________


Death and Self in the Incomprehensible Zhuangzi
Eric Schwitzgebel

The ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi defies interpretation. This is an inextricable part of the beauty and power of his work. The text – by which I mean the “Inner Chapters” of the text traditionally attributed to him, the authentic core of the book – is incomprehensible as a whole. It consists of shards, in a distinctive voice – a voice distinctive enough that its absence is plain in most or all of the “Outer” and “Miscellaneous” Chapters, and which I will treat as the voice of a single author. Despite repeating imagery, ideas, style, and tone, these shards cannot be pieced together into a self-consistent philosophy. This lack of self-consistency is a positive feature of Zhuangzi. It is part of what makes him the great and unusual philosopher he is, defying reduction and summary.

(....)

One idea that seems to shine through the Inner Chapters, especially Chapter 2, is the inadequacy of philosophical theorizing. Words, Zhuangzi suggests, lack fixed meanings, distinctions fail, and well-intentioned philosophical efforts end up collapsing into logical paradoxes and the conflicting rights and wrongs of the Confucians and the Mohists (esp. p. 11-12).

If Zhuangzi does indeed think that philosophical theorizing is always inadequate to capture the complexity of the world, or at least always inadequate in our small human hands, then he might not wish to put together a text that advances a single philosophical theory. He might choose, instead, to philosophize in a fragmented, shard-like way, expressing a variety of different, conflicting perspectives on the world – perspectives that need not fit together as a coherent whole. He might wish to frustrate, rather than encourage, our attempts to make neat sense of him, inviting us to mature as philosophers not by discovering the proper set of right and wrong views, but rather by offering us his hand as he takes his smiling plunge into wonder and doubt.

That delightfully inconsistent Zhuangzi is the one I love – the Zhuangzi who openly shares his shifting ideas and confusions, rather than the Zhuangzi that most others seem to see, who has some stable, consistent theory underneath that for some reason he chooses not to display in plain language on the surface of the text.

_______________________


Imre Kinszki



April 23, 2015

Redwoods
Ansel Adams
d. April 22, 1984

_______________________


from From The Poplars
Cecily Nicholson


_____

endowed by forces of nature, forces such as forest fire

darkened save the plumed out stack
bowed-out steam
system

evaporation microanatomy
adhesion, stumps

of cell walls end-to-end fibre forms
under the niddle of machine

streaming silver-blue roofs
trains below trains above

upper tacking texture lines
cracked floor of a dry river tracks

trace along side

nation majorities

idyllic sense of security

minorities             pauseless

respect
picking berries on the side f the road; an assertion of sovereignty

_____

dead tree standing sunned and whipped dry
firewood lichen curls kindle

tree taken downtown
dragged carcass
across forest floor to blackened pit

dredge spoils

battle, an extreme form of dialogue
pain embraced by a loud river

ideality acts public out of order
wrested, returns
      the mill turns around of its own free will

_____
From the Poplars
Cecily Nicholson
Talon Books

Review of Cecily Nicholson’s From The Poplars
rob mclennan

_______________________


Leaves, Frost, Stump
Ansel Adams

_______________________


'Active solidarity with directly impacted communities'
A conversation with Cecily Nicholson

(....)

For the text to be grounded it necessarily contains my everyday life, including paid work and organizing. I prefer poetry that documents, witnesses, reveals structure, talks back and raises questions in ways that are not closed or irrelevant to my friends, family, allies. I’ve learned to reference cultural production with a specific interest in its process and public, and not simply the object/outcome. I relate best to work being produced under hard conditions and in active solidarity with directly impacted communities. If my poetry is relevant to the work of organizing then that’s a fortunate convergence.

Poetry is necessary work for me – I don’t wish for it to be easily absorbed. The use of the cultural front in furthering causes of capital, colonialism and ultimately violence and poverty is difficult to get out from under. This was evident in the olympic moment. The poetry collective I work with are all organizers in different areas. We formed in anticipation of the olympics and choose to publish work that was anonymous and felt free to be moderately (and justly) seditious. In support of various actions we performed individually and collectively. At that time the deliberate influx of capital into arts production was glossing civic and national identity – this happening prior to a period of wider retrenchment of arts funding – the backdrop being long decades of dismantling and disregarding social supports. These issues are at play in the processes of gentrification that continue to be resisted in the downtown eastside of Vancouver and elsewhere.

Relative to the downtown eastside I have a lot of privilege, most significantly as a paid worker, over the years. Now the area is being dominantly constructed as an arts district, so the problematic of cultural capital and producing work from this location is even more fraught. Acknowledging this, Triage is my best attempt so far to speak alongside a community of women in struggle – who are politically astute, resilient organizers and active cultural producers in ways that refuse to be co-opted. My work at DEWC enters into Triage as a jumbled series of narratives and samplings. I wrestle with the language of bureaucracy. In “SERVICE” I consider migration into the core and the daily grind of the service industry in a place that also cares for movements and uprising.

_______________________


Roots
1948
Ansel Adams

_______________________


Pale/ontology: The Dinosaurian Critique of Philosophy
Sam Kriss

(....)

The thing about the repressed is that it always does come back. It’s in a different form, but no number of asteroid impacts can blot out the central law of the psyche. The primal analytic scene is this: a patient, squirming on a couch, saying this and that thing about the problems in her life, trying to avoid the central issue in a constant swerving series of linguistic loops, unavoidably centripetal — suddenly she seizes up. A cough. One hand darts into the air, seized, contorted; already the polished and manicured nails are looking somehow claw-like. When she tries to speak again her mouth opens into a long slit running to the corners of her jaw, revealing the rows of tiny sharp teeth behind. Her face lengthens to a snouty point, her hair frills into soft downy feathers, her ankle travels halfway up her leg. There’s a dinosaur on the couch. Then it speaks — something ultimately quite banal about its parents or its childhood; the point is that it’s something ancestral and inhuman, from the old dark wordless prehistory of the mind. Memory is everywhere a form of bioengineering; the bringing back of a dinosaur.

Faulkner understood it: The past is never dead. It’s not even past. Reintroducing the dinosaurs isn’t a matter of temporal but spatial rearrangement. ...

(....)

Philosophers don’t want to consider dinosaurs because in any epistemology or ontology that follows Kant in featuring a distinction between human experience and the non-human world, dinosaurs represent the ultimate point of the non-human world’s unknowability. God is an indeterminate quantity; the real Absolute Other is twenty-three meters from end to end, with broad flat teeth for slicing up vegetable matter and a long tapering tail that draws lazy circles in the heavy Tithonian air. Levinas and Derrida speak of the unfathomable void of an animal’s eyes, and in a way they’re right; there’s sometimes something briefly terrifying in there. But it’s only a punctum, a sudden pin-prick: we know animals, we see them in the park, we grew up with them in fables and nursery stories. It’s a wound that quickly heals.

Dinosaurs are too big to fit in any of our conceptual categories. If we’re to conceive of a noumenon, a real world as it really is, outside our experience, the previous existence of dinosaurs on the earth is the most important single fact about that world. They stand for the sheer unimportance of human subjectivity: reality was around for millions of years before we arrived to ponder its nature, and it did fine; even without a human subject to give meaning to its objectivity it was still full of life and danger. In this light, the strange refusal to talk about dinosaurs is so pervasive and so consistent that it can only be read as a neurotic symptom. If we don’t discuss them, maybe they won’t come back to claw our fragile distinction from the world of objects into shreds. It’s not just our finely wrought society that the dinosaurs threaten; it’s the idea that human subjectivities and the world beyond them can face each other as two equal halves, evenly matched. It’s the fantasy of an inert world, one without gargantuan teeth. It’s the idea that humans are subjects, always subjects, and always humans.

_______________________


Rushing Water, Merced River
Ansel Adams



April 21, 2015

Irma Haselberger

Irma Haselberger's Photostream

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Precariousness,  Literature,  and  the  Humanities  Today
Simon During

A  Garden  of  Wandering:  A  Response  to  Simon  During
Eileen  A.  Joy

(....)

Of  necessity,  ‘academic  freedom’  requires  peripatetic  practices—we  can’t  be bound  any  longer  to  this  or  that  (institutional)  place  and  its  increasingly  top-­-down protocols,  in  terms  of  developing  certain  knowledge  practices,  especially  at  a  time when  institutions  of  higher  learning  are  becoming  more  and  more  inhospitable,  for faculty  and  students  alike.  For  many,  you  just  can’t  live  here  any  more  (perhaps you’ve  already  been  shut  out  in  advance,  with  graduate  degree  in  hand,  massive amounts  of  debt,  and  no  job),  and  it’s  time  to  depart,  taking  this  valuable  work  with us  like  so  many  contraband  diamonds,  while  insisting  that  we  will  now  be  ‘rooted  in the  absence  of  place’ .  It  may  thus  be  time  to  decentralize  the  Humanities through  various  para-­-academic  practices,  such  as  has  already  been  accomplished  via the  Open  Access  (OA)  movement,  for  example.  Here,  I  take  to  heart  During’s  advice to  the  Humanities  to  attune  and  adapt  itself  to  ‘an  emergent  global  social  order whose  conditions  are  not  under  our  control’  and  to  the  ‘social  and  metaphysical precariousness’  that  emerges  therefrom,  but  not  through  literary-­-historical  analysis of  that  situation  only.  Rather,  I  would  urge  us  to  actually  inhabit  that  precariousness more  fully—to  get  Outside,  stand  in  the  rain,  and  see  what  can  be  done  there. I myself  resigned  a  tenured  professorship  in  2013  in  order  to  run  punctum  books  and the  BABEL  Working  Group  full-­-time—both  of  these  entities  exist  to  work  on  new modes  for  knowledge  creation,  exchange,  and  dissemination,  as  well  as  to  ‘build shelters  for  intellectual  vagabonds,’  both  within  and  beyond  the  University  proper. It’s  about  those  of  us  within  the  Humanities  perhaps  attending  to  things  on  more structural  levels  and  devoting  more  of  our  time  to  developing  new  spaces  within which  the  Humanities  might  flourish  in  unexpected  (and  non-­-traditional)  ways, which  is  different  than  continuing  to  either  defend  or  reboot  what  we  do  in  here.

(....)

So,  power  has  left  the  streets  and  buildings  and  become  nomadic  (and  maybe even  post-­-human),  and  we—the  critics?  the  interpreters?—may  also  need  to  depart, to  disappear  into  the  ether,  while  also  squatting  in  the  abandoned  real  estate  (such as  the  University ),  in  order  to  engage  in  tactical  maneuvers  that  would  not  amount to  critique  as  much  as  to  creative  intervention,  even  creative  scrambling,  of  the  sort discussed  by  Rita  Raley  in  her  book  Tactical  Media.  Here,  criticism  would  become (or  morph  into)  tactical  disruptions  of  ‘dominant  semiotic  regimes’  as  well  as  ‘the temporary  creation  of  a  situation  in  which  signs,  messages,  and  narratives  are  set into  play  and  critical  thinking  becomes  possible’—especially  important  in  a  post-­- industrial  era  where  the  ‘field  of  the  symbolic’  has  become  a  ‘primary  site  of  power’ (Raley  6).

(....)

Personally,  I  work  on  behalf  of  Derrida’s  ‘university  without  condition,’ which  Derrida  believed  would  ‘remain  an  ultimate  place  of  critical  resistance—and more  than  critical—to  all  the  powers  of  dogmatic  and  unjust  appropriation,’  and which  has  special  safekeeping  by  way  of  the  Humanities,  entailing  the  ‘principal right  to  say  everything,  whether  it  be  under  the  heading  of  fiction  and  the experimentation  of  knowledge,  and  the  right  to  say  it  publicly,  to  publish  it’.  As  the  University  has  become  more  and  more  inhospitable  to  the  sorts  of  non-­- calculable  events  of  learning  ‘without  condition,’  we  must  make  our  way  elsewhere, cultivating  alternative  and  radicant  Gardens  of  Thought.

(....)

_______________________


Spring Time in the Dust Bowl
Robert Hariman

(....)

Both roadway and the lone individual are directed toward the vanishing point of the photograph: a place in this image of pure obliteration. Sight, distinction, every separate thing is consumed by the storm, converted into total meaninglessness like a last, uniform expanse of cosmic dust at the far end of time. Against the hubris that comes with building beautiful structures and complex civilizations, we see instead a trajectory toward a common dissolution.

This photograph doesn’t tell us anything important that we don’t know, but it does provide the means to think about what we would rather ignore. When it comes to living on this planet, just who are we kidding, and what do we think will save us? There have been dust storms for a very long time, and they have buried more than one civilization, but now the stakes are higher still. Human beings are able to alter the climate, but not control it. What had been local problems or long term patterns can be tipped into catastrophic changes. And if hope springs eternal, then there will be reason to believe that one day we’ll all be there, walking along a beautifully engineered roadway into oblivion.

_______________________


Rockaway Beach with Pier
1901
Alfred Henry Maurer
b. April 21, 1868

_______________________


Pound’s Metro
A deeper look into In a Station of the Metro
William Logan

(....)

The minor vogue and rapid extinction of Imagism, a movement whose influence we still feel, has been hashed over by literary critics for a century. Its rehearsal here is merely to bring the poem into focus within the slow progress toward the densities of language, the images like copperplate engraving, that made Pound Pound.

(....)

“In a Station of the Metro” is the rare instance of a poem whose drafts, had they survived, might retain the fossil traces of a complete change of manner, from gaslit poeticism to the world of electric lighting and underground rail. “Contemporania” showed Pound’s first acquaintance with the modern age, with the deft gliding of registers, the slither between centuries of diction, that made virtue of vice: “Dawn enters with little feet/ like a gilded Pavlova,” “Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall/ She walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens,” “Go to the bourgeoise who is dying of her ennuis,/ Go to the women in suburbs.” (In American poetry, it has never hurt to knock the suburbs.) His embrace of the modern is not a rupture with the past (there is antiquarian fussiness enough), but an acknowledgment that the past underlies the present, that present and past live in sharp and troubled relation. “In a Station of the Metro” is the final poem of the group.

_______________________


anenomes in a Cornish window
Christopher Wood

_______________________


Vernacularists!
Joe Milutis

Of the “three grades of evil . . . in the queer world of verbal transmigration,” Nabokov places vernacularism at the lowest circle of Hell. “The third, and worst, degree of turpitude is reached when a masterpiece is planished and patted into such a shape, vilely beautified in such a fashion as to conform to the notions and prejudices of a given public.” In another place, he says that “A schoolboy’s boner mocks the ancient masterpiece less” than work that attempts to create a more “readable” version than the original. Since this column explores, and indeed celebrates versions that are wildly discrepant from the original, we should perhaps forget Nabokov’s contempt, and embrace the vernacularist translator—even espousing the No Fear Shakespeare series and its ilk as a harbinger of fearless literary experimentation to come, in its promise to translate the works of Shakespeare into “the kind of English people actually speak today.”

We need not, however, perhaps go that far. "How many poetic works, reduced to prose, that is, to their simple meaning, become literally nonexistent! They are anatomical specimens, dead birds!" Paul Valéry's plaint echoes the concerns of Joan Retallack; if the popularity of her (much mistranslated) “poethics” is any indication, many are still invested, as was Benjamin, in keeping the poetic “uncommunicative,” or at least formally and syntactically difficult, eluding easy definition. And this would imply a kind constant work of translation at the very core of any poetic project. “In times of rampant fundamentalism complex thought is a political act. . . . the necessarily inefficient, methodically haphazard inquiry characteristic of actually living with ideas.” In other words, egghead shaming and hippy punching get you easy points amongst literary conservatives and presumed populists alike, but that doesn’t make it right (although it does make it kind of right-wing).

However, we could say that there is a brand of translator who takes on the intralingual warping of complexities into “plain speaking,” or navigates the complexity of the plain, as a kind of conceptual challenge.