May 22, 2015
Heureka - Gesamtansicht
b. May 22, 1925
'Maybe, it is only on Earth / that we lose the body?'
"Williams engages in the language of medicine in order to establish narratives of a nonnormative body that is crippled by the traumas of time but persists: mapping his body outward onto permanent or powerful objects and spaces."
Williams and the decaying body
The most compelling feature of William Carlos Williams’s poetry, for me, has perhaps always been the complex tango of virility and fragility that fight it out in his deeply autobiographical poetry. The idea that man could be both potent and capable of great frailty was a fact of his work that resonated with the vigorous and clumsy youth I was when I first encountered his work. Williams traces the deterioration and ultimate betrayals of his body in his poetry, reflecting on both the particularities of his condition and the universals of aging. Despite his best attempts, Williams’s body would always betray his impermanence, and developing medical technologies only seemed to solidify his sense of its precarity.
Williams was always a bodily poet — think of his famous celebration of “my arms, my face / my shoulders, flanks, buttocks” as he “dance[s] naked, grotesquely / before my mirror” in “Danse Russe” from Al Que Quiere! (1917). But late in his career, he very deliberately engaged with a poetics of the body and wrote through dozens of attempts that paralleled changes to his body that would eventually end his life. In some work, he maps a body onto the landscape; later, he traces a poetic genealogy of successors including Allen Ginsberg. In other work, he explores his own deterioration through the metaphor of the A-bomb and through the disorienting effects of his mother’s senility.
As Williams aged, he attempted to redefine the bounds of his own skin through his poetry seemingly in order to reconcile himself to his own decay as well as to reflect on continued anxieties about poetic immortality. He enacted the anxieties inherent to creative types, hoping that as his body weakened around his still-sharp mind that he could somehow guarantee the gesture of immortality, even as he acknowledged the necessity of grounding himself in reality.
The Wholeness Of Disparate Parts: A Conversation With Jason Nocito
The Great Leap Sideways
"The Book as a Container of Consciousness" [pdf]
William H. Gass
Last, as if we had asked Santa for nothing yet, the adequate sentence should be resonant with relations, raise itself like Lazarus though it lies still upon the page, as if - always "as if" - it rose from "frozen life and shallow banishment" to that place where Yeats's spade has put it "back in the human mind again."
How otherwise than action each is, for even if - always "even," always "if" -I preferred to pick the parsley from my potatoes with a knife, and eat my peas before all else, I should have to remember the right words must nevertheless be placed in their proper order: that is, parsley, potatoes, and peas . . . parsley, potatoes, and peas. . . parsley, potatoes, and peas.
That is to say, the consciousness contained in any text is not an actual functioning consciousness; it is a constructed one, improved, pared, paced, enriched by endless retrospection, irrelevancies removed, so that into the ideal awareness that I imagined for the poet, who possesses passion, perception, thought, imagination, and desire, and has them present in amounts appropriate to the circumstances - just as, in the lab, we need more observation than fervor, more imagination than lust there are introduced patterns of disclosure, hierarchies of value, chains of inference, orders of images, natures of things.
The Thunder of Sounding Whales
David Eggleton reviews Puna Wai Korero: An Anthology of Maori Poetry in English, edited by Reina Whaitiri and Robert Sullivan
Poetry is ‘news that stays news’, wrote Ezra Pound, meaning that after the elapse of time burns away the circumstances that provide the impetus for a given poem, it endures and remains alive and kicking because of its own linguistic energies. Fossicking around in the archives of little magazines, Reina Whaitiri and Robert Sullivan have found a number of poems that remain alive, while the core of the book is made up of literary establishment poets: Hinemoana Baker, Rangi Faith, Keri Hulme, J.C. Sturm, Robert Sullivan, Apirana Taylor, and of course Hone Tuwhare, whose brilliantly burnished imagist verses would soar effortlessly into the heavens in any company:
On the skyline
Beyond that, this anthology asserts the new Maori poets, a community of poets channelling ancestral voices for contemporary times – though some of them have been around for a while, better known for writing in other genres: Briar Grace-Smith, Witi Ihimaera, Paula Morris, Kelly Ana Morey, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku. In sum, the editors have assembled 78 poets of Maori heritage: the crew of a mighty waka rowing in unison, and mostly chanting rhythmically and in harmony – a polyphony of voices, as focused as any Maori delegation to the world.
a hunting poem
with its wings.
(‘Bird of prayer’)
This implies a certain amount of structuring and arranging since, as Robert Sullivan has pointed out, the notion of one united tribe of Aotearoa is a recent artificial construct. Formerly, this archipelago was made up of tribal lands controlled by a variety of autonomous iwi, often warring or competing with each other.
What unites the present cast is an implicit celebration of their inheritance of Maoritanga – once repressed and thought destined for museum-stuffing – and the effects of that on today’s notions of bicultural identity. These poets are by and large a stroppy bunch; not always loud or rowdy, indeed frequently they are subdued and subtle, but if gladness and self-affirmation are dominant motifs, so are iterations of historical and contemporary grievances – and a sense of previously suppressed voices busting out, bringing the news that stays news.
via the page_______________________
Heureka - Gesamtansicht
May 21, 2015
View of Malakoff Hauts de Seine_______________________
b. May 21, 1844
Bach in Autumn
Jean-Paul de Dadelsen
translated by Marilyn Hacker
Once I knew days spent walking, the elms numbered toward evening
From milestone to milestone beneath a chromatic sky;
At night the inn where liver and fresh pork dumplings were steaming.
Once on free days I would walk all the way to Hamburg to hear the old master.
Handel had gone off in a post-chaise
To amuse the king of Hanover; Scarlatti wanders through Spanish feast-days.
They are happy.
But what use are the organ’s pedals, if not
To mark the indispensable way?
On this wooden path, worn like a staircase, daily, whether
Under the Easter trumpets or the paired Christmas oboes,
Under the rainbow of heaven’s and human voices
From milestone to milestone repeating my earthly voyage, I followed
The progression of the double bass.
Above the horizontal road that merchants take, not without risk,
To bargain in the shops of Cracow
For wigs, perfumes, pelts from the stalls of Novgorod,
A lark soars alone in the holy vertical.
Before the wingspread soul in its Sun’s wake
Can spring forth beyond the tomb, the rules, the law,
This earth must be learned in all its difficulty.
b. May 21, 1897
Taking a Measure of Happiness
David Beer reviews The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold us Well-Being, by William Davies
... Put simply, the question is whether happiness should be understood as being measurable, that is to say, that it can be captured in bodily responses and brain functions, or if we should think of it as something transcendent and intangible. For Davies, neither of these is likely to very gratifying – although, given the focus of the book, he understandably seems a little less concerned by the later. The important point for Davies is that both of these approaches simply ‘flip the same dualism’. His point is that in the case of the happiness industry – an industry built to promote our happiness, to limit our sadness, and to make us more profitable – the more subjective, mystic and ethereal accounts of happiness simply exists to ‘plug’ any ‘gaps’ left by more objective, scientific or neurological accounts. Some other approach is needed, he argues, one that is based on listening and a more political and sociological understanding of happiness and the conditions that facilitate or erode it. The case he makes is compelling. The book describes, in detail, an industry that has emerged that is designed to measure, manipulate and control our emotions. The examples roll from the pages, and the scale of the reach of this kind of economic behaviourism is startling. As Davies tellingly notes, ‘the current neuromarketing frontiers of behaviourism make John B. Watson look positively innocent by comparison’.
, by Joanna Scutts
The Empathetic Camera: Frank Norris and the Invention of Film Editing
McTeague’s depiction of an early commercial film audience is a scene that fits queerly into the rest of the story, as a strange foreboding of things to come. In McTeague’s incredulity, his mother-in-law’s distrust of the film apparatus as a kind of trick, and his wife Trina’s enchantment at the device, the reader gets an encapsulated view of the different responses to one of the most violently modern events of the time: a trip to the cinema, to see a past reality unfold as if in real time before people who were slightly unable to believe in this reality. This is part of Norris’ grand project, throughout the small but thematically consistent body of work he produced from the age of twenty-nine to his death three years later at thirty-two: a depiction of the everyday shock of new media and industrialization, the concept of capturing time and presenting its fictional form as the truth, through the film apparatus. Even if the story of audience members fainting at the arrival of the train on-screen is, as many suspect, a fiction, the reason for its existence as lore stems from a very real disjuncture, part of the premise of the industrial age. How can the present reality hold a living document of the past? How can a unit of lost time make such a realistic reappearance in the present?
Norris grew up inside of the changing urban landscapes of Chicago and San Francisco, and made it his purpose, near the end of his life, to track these changes politically in his fiction. Yet his artistic development as a painter, a journalist, and finally a prose writer, was defined by his relationship to the visual world, and the changing ways of interpreting that world that were growing up around him during the time in which he lived.
In Norris’ 1897 essay, “Fiction is Selection”, he argues that writers are editors more than inventors. The job of “writer and mosaicist alike” is “to select and combine.” It is from the rough-hewn design in a writer’s brain that a story must be whittled, for nothing can be created that is not already, in some form, hidden in the folds of memory. “Imagination!” He writes. “There is no such thing; you can’t imagine anything that you have not already seen and observed.”
Film’s greatest strength was, from the start, its ability to emotionally manipulate viewers on a mass scale. It spoke to one as easily and as powerfully as it spoke to millions, controlling viewers seamlessly and guiding them toward a forgone conclusion that he believes he has come upon naturally, by an organic, empathetic process. Filmic storytelling was, in even its earliest manifestations, a way of transforming the frighteningly unpredictable human body into a predictable set of responses.
If, in the first quarter of the 20th century, the camera as mechanism stood for pure truth, editing was selection, manipulation, violence. If film as footage stood for impartiality, editing allowed for the presence of an author. Editing was the true artistic aspect of a mode of storytelling that was still too new to be considered an art form. Editing gave film what it desperately needed to become art in the eyes of its audience: a point of view.
Footbridge at Passy
May 20, 2015
Ostashevsky and Timerman's Pirating-Parroting of Language
Ostashevsky is himself an accomplished translator of Russian, but it is his original American poetry that seems ready-made to discuss the the multiple mutating filters of translation, or, to paraphrase Nabokov, the re-Englishing of Russian re-versions of an English re-telling of a Russian memory. His poetry’s battery of English sound effects—which generate surprise even from the most potentially cringe-inducing end rhymes—seem to retain with them a Russian bemusement at unnoted or ignored English assonances, while at the same time perhaps attempting to restore the “bad rhyme” principles of Alexander Vvedensky, a forgotten Russian poet who he’s translated. And the cross-cultural pollination extends to high and low culture, with signifiers of intellectual, philosophical, and mathematical erudition remolded into American vernacular idioms like rap, Dr. Seussisms, borscht-belt comedy and elephant jokes. Appropriately enough, the epigram that heads the collection Iterature, in his poem “Autobiography”—“structaque sunt nostris barbara verba modis”—is a plaint written by Ovid about his attempts (no longer extant) to write in Getic (the language of his place of exile, corresponding with present day Romania, but which may have more generalized affiliations with the “gothic”—a productive engine of translational oddities, as we’ll see in future posts.) The longer quote reads something like “What shame, that I write this little book in a Gothic tongue! What barbarous words have been built into our style!” Metamorphosis, exile, drift . . . the translational gothic creates not merely new texts, but also new beings in process, who are untranslatable, or at least untranslatable back to their origins.
Le lilas blanc
Slavoj Zizek: The Order of the Real
Reading Zizek is like floating around in a vacuum of endless repetitions that seem to never find a resting place. I sometimes shift from Zizek to Wallace Stevens to remind myself that “the imperfect is our paradise” (from The Poems of our Climate):
The last stanza exemplifies the work of Slavoj Zizek who admits that words alone are uncertain good – not as in William Butler Yeats. When Zizek introduces his concept of the Gap we should understand that it is not what we might think it is: a Void between us (For-itself) and the proverbial Thing-in-itself. Which is the Idealist prognosis and Kant and his tradition as received in most academic scholarship of the last two hundred years. A move Quentin Meillassoux in his book After Finitude has marked by the appellation of correlationism, etc. No. For Zizek the Gap is the Real, the screen that distorts all our views onto reality.
There would still remain the never-resting mind,
So that one would want to escape, come back
To what had been so long composed.
The imperfect is our paradise.
Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
Since the imperfect is so hot in us,
Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.
…the Real is a gap in the order of Being (reality) and a gap in the symbolic order? The reason there is no contradiction is that “reality” is transcendentally constituted by the symbolic order, so that “the limits of my language are the limits of my world” (Wittgenstein). In the common transcendental view, there is some kind of Real-in-itself (like the Kantian Ding an sich) which is then formed or “constituted” into reality by the subject; due to the subject’s finitude, we cannot totalize reality, reality is irreducibly inconsistent, “antinomic,” and so forth— we cannot gain access to the Real, which remains transcendent. The gap or inconsistency thus concerns only our symbolically constituted reality, not the Real in itself.
So the gap concerns not the Real as it is in itself, but with our symbolic order of language that tries to constitute our universe of meaning we call reality. Yet, against any Idealist reading of this, of the notion of the subject’s performativity and creativity (““symbolic construction of reality”), Zizek will rather expose another truth of the ontological “collateral damage” of symbolic operations: the process of symbolization is inherently thwarted, doomed to fail, and the Real is this immanent failure of the symbolic.
Someone is writing a poem. Words are being set down in a force field. It’s as if the words themselves have magnetic charges; they veer together or in polarity, they swerve against each other. Part of the force field, the charge, is the working history of the words themselves, how someone has known them, used them, doubted and relied on them in a life. Part of the movement among the words belongs to sound—the guttural, the liquid, the choppy, the drawn-out, the breathy, the visceral, the downlight. The theater of any poem is a collection of decisions about space and time—how are these words to lie on the page, with what pauses, what headlong motion, what phrasing, how can they meet the breath of the someone who comes along to read them? And in part the field is charged by the way images swim into the brain through written language: swan, kettle, icicle, ashes, scab, tamarack, tractor, veil, slime, teeth, freckle.
Adrienne Rich, Someone is Writing a Poem
A musicological poetics
Jeff T. Johnson
Trouble Songs: An invocation
Language is not only a means for saying, language is what we are saying. Record, we say, and we mean album, or we mean vinyl, or we mean history. Let the record show. That we say record and not CD, tape, album, or document is integral to what we are saying. We place ourselves in history, and we place history in ourselves when we use particular language.
History exists as Trouble Song and is troubled by its representation. Distinctions between Trouble Songs collapse into versions, iterations, variations, and interpretations. Just so, trouble is inescapable, and can be only partially elaborated. To speak the word “trouble” is to invoke trouble. The “Trouble Songs” project is such an invocation and elaboration. When we say “trouble,” we refer to the history of trouble whether or not we have it in mind. When we sing trouble, we sing (with) history. We sing history here; we summon trouble.
A Trouble Song is a complaint, a grievance, an aside, a come-on, a confession, an admission, a resignation, a plea. It’s an invitation — to sorrow, frustration, darkness. It’s part of a conversation, or it’s a soliloquy, and it’s often an apostrophe. The listener overhears the song, with sympathy. The song is meant for someone else, someone dead or gone. The singer doesn’t care who hears, and the song is a dare. Or it’s a false wager — to speak trouble is to summon trouble, but it’s already here.
Trouble is loss — or the threat of loss, which is the appearance of loss. A Trouble Song is impossible speech; it speaks about the inability to speak. Trouble is a lack of what once was possessed, a desire in absence, an absence in desire. Trouble is the presence of absence, a present of loss. It is impotence and despair, but a Trouble Song is not a negation or a denial. Its admission is its invitation. Trouble is spoken not only in resignation and exasperation, but also in defiance. Trouble is spoken as a challenge to death and defeat. In a Trouble Song, there is history, but there is no past — trouble is here and now. Which is to say, there is history, but it is not (the) past.
Plage de la Vignassa
b. May 20, 1856
All the philosophy that's not fit to print
“Philosophy that’s not fit to print” denotes philosophical insights that do not fit easily into contemporary units of printed philosophy: the chapter, the article, the presentation. One of the exciting things about blogs is the way they add a new medium to the cocktail napkin, dinner conversation, and posted letter. The ideas expressed in good blog posts (as well as cocktail napkins, dinner conversation, and posted letters) sometimes do end up repackaged as chapters and journal articles. But their value doesn’t rest on that. You might have an interesting idea from teaching a class, reading a book, trying to make sense of something in popular culture, or from reading another blog, and it might not fit well with existing print dialectic for a variety of reasons. It may just concern topics that don’ t mesh well. It might not be weighty enough. Or it might shade into other discursive practices such as criticism (in the sense Noel Carroll describes), satire, raw appreciation, literary excursion, or a little pithy insight the defense of which would be short by the standards of Analysis. The insight might concern history, art, sports, music, food, leisure, trains, death, heartache, decline, enrichment, moral rot and recovery, the fact that nobody much uses the word “akimbo” any more, the sad fate of animals in various space programs, etc. etc. etc. etc.