March 27, 2015
M. C. Escher
Two by Ingeborg Bachmann
DM du Jour
Translated by Joan Harvey
A Kind of Loss
Shared: seasons, books, and music.
Keys, teacups, the breadbasket, linens and a bed.
A dowry of words, of gestures, carried along,
used up, spent.
House rules followed. Said. Done. And always
the extended hand.
In winter, in a Viennese septet, and in summer
I have been in love.
With maps, in a mountain hut, on a beach
and in a bed.
A cult made up of dates and irrevocable promises,
enraptured before something, reverent over nothing.
( — to the folded newspaper, the cold ashes, the note
on a piece of paper)
fearless in religion, for the church was this bed.
From the sea view came my unstoppable painting.
From my balcony I greeted the people, my neighbors, below.
By the open fire, in safety, my hair took on its deepest color.
The doorbell’s ring was the alarm for my joy.
It is not you I have lost,
but the world.
bon mots, gallimaufry, and coloratura macabrely_______________________
Still Life and Street
M. C. Escher
d. March 27, 1972
Draft 111: Arte Povera
Rachel Blau DuPlessis
Suppose after all this, one just listed
house, book, mug, window,
daughter, dogs (gone), desk, Apple ™.
Suppose it was budded tree limb, hair-thread fingers—
the baby oak in spring, rain “heavy at times,”
and the cleared branches of fall, suppose
yellow gusting in a greeny-pinkish light,
a dark red pear leaf blown into the room,
suppose a salvaged shmoo-like basil plant
eager, even in winter, to give pesto,
or a fondness, a warmth, eros
blue as the sky, could it be otherwise?
the apt healing of a wound, even with
its startling scar—
the oddly glistening, the half-started language.
The half-startled. Twisting together
choice exemplars of exquisite debris:
“a cigar label, a metal buckle, a ballpoint pen,
a bottle cap, a bolt, a hair curler,
a drafting compass, a plastic bottle,
yellow tape, aluminum foil, drinking straws,
broken blue glass.”
Would this be enough?
What would be enough?
It is never enough.
The task is unfinished,
the persons, unfinished.
The structure is unfinished.
Verso becomes a promise to turn back.
The sum total of “old furniture, planks and upside-down drawers, cardboard cutouts,
scraps of insulation board, discarded light bulbs, jelly glasses, flower vases, hollow cardboard cylinders,
mirror fragments,” with foil sheets of gold and silver covering it all.
Albert Pinkham Ryder
March 19, 1847 - March 28, 1917
Homage to Richard O. Moore (1920-2015)
Richard O. Moore
of the lights
of old age
tagged and waiting?
or light tricks
waiting in line
waiting in line
watching the horizon
seep to the brain-root
guts the ferret
in my cage
sanity puddles the floor.
In memory sickness
as last night’s boots
a glacier of light
saps the air
starts the day.
Richard Moore, Poet: Tribute and Memorial
A selection of Richard Moore's poems
with introduction and commentary by the author
Particulars Of Place
Richard O. Moore
Edited by Garrett Caples, Paul Ebenkamp, and Brenda Hillman
with an introduction by Cedar Sigo
"The last living member of the original circle of Anarcho-pacifist poets around Kenneth Rexroth, at the birth of the San Francisco Renaissance in the 1940s, Richard O. Moore published his acclaimed first book of poems, Writing the Silences (California, 2010), at age 90. Now Omnidawn presents his second book, Particulars of Place, largely comprised of work written over the ensuing five years. The title poem is an ambitious meditation on life in the twilight of American Empire, posing the question of how to live in an age of endless warfare. Other highlights include “Check Point,” an elegiac indictment of aerial bombing on behalf of its historical victims; a section of prose poems from his experimental sequence “d e l e t e”; “Apart from It,” an autobiographical tour de force ranging from his depression era orphanhood to “the climate change of old age”; and excerpts from Outcry, a poignant sonnet sequence on the poet’s recently received diagnosis of legal blindness. Throughout, his commitment to social justice mingles with his interest in Wittgenstein’s linguistic philosophy, resulting in a poetic amalgam unique to Moore himself. Reflecting a lifetime of devotion to the art of poetry, Particulars of Place confirms Moore’s paradoxical position as a newly emerging old master."
M. C. Escher
But I have not considered human beings adequately as they are here nowadays: talk-show human beings for whom all problems have to be solvable. We deny the insolubility of problems as we deny death, secretly believing that we can and must live forever. The early Christians had little trouble, dealing with the earlier pagan writers with one conspicuous exception: Lucretius, whose great poem, De Rerum Natura, undertakes the proof that there is no life after death. All the other pagan writers are at least a little vague on the subject, but Lucretius is clear about it on every page and there is no getting around him. And worse still, he thought it was good news that he was bringing. Death will bring the end of each life at last. There will be nothing, nothing to fear, no damn eternity to deal with and puzzle over.
We descendants of Christianity, we creations of that book, The Bible, can't endure Lucretius' lush relish and appreciation of the sensuous life here on earth. Everything in our abstract, celluloid-charmed, computer-driven, and, above all, money-maddened lifestyle separates us from that life on earth.
The earliest life that I remember, when I was a dyslexic little boy who liked to keep worms in his pocket, has been reopening me to forgotten pleasures. Forgetting the worth and worthlessness of things allows me to commune with them. Eggshells, for instance, though they lack economic value, are a useful ingredient of fertilizer if you let them get dry and pound them into a powder. I love lavishing my time on them because my time is worthless. It's marvelous, I find, having one's time worthless.
Temporary Academy Diploma
M. C. Escher
Try to forget.
It’s all the rage to have impatience with ambivalence, but personality is our style of getting in the way of our own aims. Sometimes I wonder, Why do I bother talking, and then I laugh: life’s a racket. The mother’s, the teacher’s, the lover’s complaint is the content of everyone’s dread. Talking converts pillar into hydrant, word into police, touch into plots, person into a plastic clown statue that rocks and rights. I said some things to them: and then I saw that I was not just about to lose a lot of world, but had already lost it.
Sitting with the loss of the world requires a supple affective infrastructure, or a religion, which I reject, as I prefer not to be triangulated. If you’re a kind of thing whose lack of fit is endemic, if you sense that the bad life is impersonal and political while also overclose, it structures living as organically as anything about you, such as having had the trunk of your own body your whole life, stretching, bloating, twisting, holding you up, taking blows, manufacturing joys in the cracks, and being outlined by fabric that discloses so little that nakedness is always jolting.
March 26, 2015
wheelbarrow and flower pots
March 27, 1879 - March 25, 1973
For Robert Lowell
In the tunnel of woods, as the road
Winds up through the freckled light, a porcupine,
Larger than life, crosses the road.
He moves with the difficulty of relics—
Possum, armadillo, horseshoe crab.
To us they seem creatures arthritic with time,
Winding joylessly down like burnt-out galaxies.
In all their slowness we see no dignity,
Only a want of scale.
Having crossed the road oblivious, he falls off
Deliberately and without grace into the ferns.
In another state are hills as choppy as lake water
And, on a hillside there,
Is a junkyard of old cars, kept for the parts—
Fenders and chassis and the engine blocks
Right there in the field, smaller parts in bins
In a shed by the side of the road. Cows graze
Put simply, we should avoid the temptation of becoming memory snobs, as any of us could find ourselves downwardly mobile so far as memory goes.
Dementia undermines all of our philosophical assumptions about the coherence of the self. But that might be a good thing
Dementia raises deeply troubling issues about our obligations to care for people whose identity might have changed in the most disturbing ways. In turn, those changes challenge us to confront our philosophical and ethical assumptions about what makes up that identity in the first place. Everyone touched by the disease goes through a crash-course in the philosophy of mind.
Dementia is the newest form of identity politics which has remade how we think of race, sexuality, gender and disability. At the core of identity politics is the claim that people deserve equal recognition, despite being different in ways that turn out to be far less significant than first thought. That same insight now needs to be applied to people with dementia: their failing memories make them different, but they are not lesser people, with fewer rights. Their ‘difference’ should not be translated into ‘difficult’. Philosophy gives us a choice about how to understand this challenge as people in their hundreds of thousands are diagnosed with this condition.
Once the mind is invaded, all hope of maintaining a memory-based identity goes, and with that goes everything we value about the idea of independence and self-fulfilment. Living with dementia then becomes a long process of mourning someone who is no longer there. But if we understand our identity as something held by relationships, expressed through feelings, reflected by our environment and enacted bodily, dementia instead becomes a daily puzzle to find common ground with people different from us, and to find new, often non-verbal forms of communication and communion that make people feel good about themselves without necessarily knowing why.
America Politica Historia, in Spontaneity
b. March 26, 1930
O this political air so heavy with the bells
and motors of a slow night, and no place to rest
but rain to walk—How it rings the Washington streets!
The umbrella’d congressmen; the rapping tires
of big black cars, the shoulders of lobbyists
caught under canopies and in doorways,
and it rains, it will not let up,
and meanwhile lame futurists weep into Spengler’s
prophecy, will the world be over before the races blend color?
a response to Jodi Dean, Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive
How can we even write books in the era of Snapchat and Twitter? Perhaps the book could be something like the tactic of slowing down the pace of work. Still, books are a problem for the era of communicative capitalism, which resists recombination into longer threads of argument. The contours of Dean’s argument are of a piece with this media strategy.
Dean offers “an avowedly political assessment of the present” rather than a technical one. The political – a term greatly expanded in scope and connotation across a half-century of political theory – becomes the language within which to critique the seeming naturalness and inevitability of the technical. But perhaps this now calls for a kind of ‘dialectical’ compliment, a critical scrutiny of the expanded category of the political, perhaps even from the point of view of techne itself. We intellectuals do love the political, perhaps on the assumption that it is the same kind of discourse as our own.
If industrial capitalism exploited labor; communicative capitalism exploits communication. It is where “reflexivity captures creativity.” Iterative loops of communication did not really lead to a realization of democratic ideals of access, inclusion, participation. On the contrary, it is an era of capture, of desire caught in a net and reduced to mere drive.
A voice comes to one in the dark. Imagine.
A voice comes to one in the dark. Imagine.
To one on his back in the dark. This he can tell by the pressure on his hind parts and by how the dark changes when he shuts his eyes and again when he opens them again. Only a small part of what is said can be verified. As for example when he hears, You are on your back in the dark. Then he must acknowledge the truth of what is said. But by far the greater part of what is said cannot be verified. As for example when he hears, You first saw the light on such and such a day. Sometimes the two are combined as for example, You first saw the light on such and such a day and now you are on your back in the dark. A device perhaps from the incontrovertibility of the one to win credence for the other. That then is the proposition. To one on his back in the dark a voice tells of a past. With occasional allusion to a present and more rarely to a future as for example, You will end as you now are. And in another dark or in the same another devising it all for company. Quick leave him.
Use of the second person marks the voice. That of the third that cankerous other. Could he speak to and of whom the voice speaks there would be a first. But he cannot. He shall not. You cannot. You shall not.
Apart from the voice and the faint sound of his breath there is no sound. None at least that he can hear. This he can tell by the faint sound of his breath. Though now even less than ever given to wonder he cannot but sometimes wonder if it is indeed to and of him the voice is speaking. May not there be another with him in the dark to and of whom the voice is speaking? Is he not perhaps overhearing a communication not intended for him? If he is alone on his back in the dark why does the voice not say so? Why does it never say for example, You saw the light on such and such a day and now you are alone on your back in the dark? Why? Perhaps for no other reason than to kindle in his mind this faint uncertainty and embarrassment.
From Jeff Fort, The Imperative to Write
In this way, Company foregrounds equally the two dimensions of Beckett’s writing which make up the paradox I would like to discuss – formalizing abstraction and obtrusive affect, the ‘timeless void’, with its indeterminate blanks, and the time of life on earth – and it shows how these dimensions are inextricably linked in the language issuing from a narrative voice. And Beckett’s voices, despite their attenuation, are committed to being narrative voices: voices that tell stories and posit worlds in which events are said, however equivocally and indefinitely, to unfold in time. The repulsion of the subject and of a past thus draws into fictions that would be absolute, but that continually meet with the stuff of a singular time, on a scrambled border that divides ‘my own’ from the pure forms that make it possible.
The Imperative to Write:
Another way to pose this problem is to point out that, regarding the apparently forced synthesis of abstraction and affect in the preceding passage, for example, it is impossible to determine which of these two terms has priority – that is, which one was forced on the other. The passage suggests, as does most of Company, that an impersonal language drones on in a void and nowhere’ space, blankly and indifferently, determined more by a machinelike grammar than by anything like ‘experience’, injecting its tales with a perfunctory and artificial pathos.
But the fact that this droning language drones from a voice, and that each time it speaks it has a given source in a singular instance of language, entails its own inevitable structural implications.
Destitutions of the Sublime in Kafka, Blanchot and Beckett
Spring New York
What simple profundities
What profound simplicities
To sit down among the trees
and breathe with them
in murmur brool and breeze —
And how can I trust them
who pollute the sky
the below with hells
I’m part of you
and so my son
but neither of us
your big sad lie
March 24, 2015
Reading Ingeborg Bachmann
John Taylor looks at Malina, translated by Philip Boehm
... I daresay that few novels are further removed in style, narrative structure and philosophical scope from mainstream American fiction._______________________
Reading Malina is like wandering deeper and deeper into a dark, pathless forest. With every step, the temptation is to turn back, yet something invisible and magnetic draws one relentlessly forward at the risk of getting hopelessly lost. And this is the point. As Bachmann explores the origins, manifestations, and consequences of the artistic urge and amorous attraction (in Malina, they are sometimes antagonistic, sometimes intertwined), she depicts a labyrinthine sensibility at once exalted and depressed, desperate and resolved. Yet all along, the nameless “I” (as the narrator soberly designates herself) intends to emerge reunified from what can be likened to a mapless journey through an inferno, both inner and outer.
... herein lies another paradox. This principal, most significant activity of the narrator’s life cannot be observed; the novel can only attempt to help us see what cannot be seen. In her acceptance speech for the Anton-Wildgans-Preis, received in 1972, Bachmann pointedly commented: “I exist only when I am writing. I am nothing when I am not writing. I am fully a stranger to myself, when I am not writing. Yet when I am writing, you cannot see me. No one can see me. You can watch a director directing, a singer singing, an actor acting, but no one can see what writing is.” In this sense, the narrator and perhaps also Malina are “nothing,” “no one,” in the novel. At best, they are apparitions or strangers. They exist authentically only in what is unstated, in what cannot be told. Bachmann leaves us with the redoubtable task of grasping their essence “behind the novel,” as vital sources that can be intuited yet not named.
Plastic Bodies: Rebuilding Sensation After Phenomenology
"Sensation is a concept with a conflicted philosophical history. It has found as many allies as enemies in nearly every camp from empiricism to poststructuralism. Polyvalent, with an uncertain referent, and often overshadowed by intuition, perception, or cognition, sensation invites as much metaphysical speculation as it does dismissive criticism.
The promise of sensation has certainly not been lost on the phenomenologists who have sought to 'rehabilitate' the concept. In Plastic Bodies, Tom Sparrow argues that the phenomenologists have not gone far enough, however. Alongside close readings of Merleau-Ponty and Levinas, he digs into an array of ancient, modern, and contemporary texts in search of the resources needed to rebuild the concept of sensation after phenomenology. He begins to assemble a speculative aesthetics that is at once a realist theory of sensation and a philosophy of embodiment that breaks the form of the 'lived' body. Maintaining that the body is fundamentally plastic and that corporeal identity is constituted by a conspiracy of sensations, he pursues the question of how the body fits into/fails to fit into its aesthetic environment and what must be done to increase the body’s power to act and exist."
Proletarierfrau Junge Menschen Or.Holzschnitt
d. March 24, 1977
A stammer that passes for language and Other Poems
but these days the big men chase
after their own words as if
they were soap bubbles, as if
they were the children playing,
harmlessly, in sun
and now between them and us
is a line of backs, in blue, in uniform,
who themselves seem to be looking
over our heads somewhere
at someone else.
Yes. The cadavers dress in suits,
step over one another and over us
in their haste. To us they describe
a dawn that we shall never see
and the wind shouts and shouts again
but we are silent as the grave
The Traduttoreador Tradition
It’s enough to make one wonder at what’s so screwed up with our linguistic entropy, its clinamen, its spin, given the sheer vanilla abstractions of these word roots compared to the monstrosities they’ve become.
In the end, though, “traduttore, traditore,” is taken out of historical context—and like most clichés the impact of its original referent has been dulled or lost altogether. Once meant to imply the dangers of transmitting religious or cult secrets (and thus an anxious holdout from when more local, oral experience of transmitted authority came to be replaced by the written), it has outworn its stay in a more global, secularized context. The most correct translation, and also the most wrong, would be not to translate at all. If you don’t want to be traitorous (or transmittorous), you can just say “I don’t speak Italian,” and shore up your national identity—a choice which has serious implications, merely reinforcing monocultural xenophobia. So we can just stop translating in a jingoistic paroxysm of pride—or misguided overconcern for the fictional purity of our cultural partners—or we can more guiltlessly go with the twist of language as our inevitable condition and across to bear as “unrevealers, unravelers,” “lyre liars,” or perhaps, more simply, traduttoreadors.
Interieur Paysage - Russie
What The Sea Brings
Don’t trust any harbour. Already
those reflections that match each boat
turn restless, yearn to fracture:
each wave beyond the quay dishevels.
I who have no instinct for bad weather
—scudding wind, nor gale—turn
to watch a late evening ditching sun
that gasps lunges out to drown
in tides of creels lost, and plastic bottles.
You contrive strong, dark fingers
through your hair. Time to head home:
Kelwyn Sole at Poetry International
Kelwyn Sole: Dreaming the everyday
The Dye Hard Interviews
March 23, 2015
b. March 23, 1887
George Mackay Brown
Therefore he no more troubled the pool of silence
But put on mask and cloak,
Strung a guitar
And moved among the folk.
Dancing they cried,
'Ah, how our sober islands
Are gay again, since this blind lyrical tramp
Invaded the Fair.'
Under the last dead lamp
When all the dancers and masks had gone inside
His cold stare
Returned to its true task, the interrogation of silence.
For a Non-Ideal Metaphysics
There are dimensions of difference undreamt of in non-ideal political theory. These are discovered, among other places, in ethnographic field work, in listening to people who do not set themselves up in society as theorists, who not only do not oppose the preeminence of Rawls but have no idea who he is, as they tell you their conception of the nature and sources of power or community. Those who are opening up political philosophy to include non-ideal theory still expect that we will be getting all of our ideas about the political from theorists of some sort or other, and that as such it is theory rather than expressions of culture that is of final interest to us.
Justin E. H. Smith
It is not that I want us to apprehend the world in this way, and am wistful about what philosophy has moved away from. It is that we in fact do apprehend the world this way– perhaps not exactly in the way I’ve explained, but still in some way that is comparable. We are in fact constrained to apprehend the world as an inhabited, enchanted whorl of beings and forces and vibes good and bad, surely as a result of the way our cognitive apparatus has evolved, but surely no less vividly for that. Yet for the most part philosophy doesn’t care.
It is worth noting en passant that philosophers today are only prepared to scrap those products of evolved hyperactivity that it is socially feasible and morally expedient to scrap: out with the angels and poltergeists and God; but don’t worry, no one is going to come for your selfhood, or your private property, or your mid-sized physical objects, or your love. Of course these can be analyzed away too, if the mood hits us, but for the most part we will agree to keep them around, and even to theorize about them. One era’s specters to be shooed away are another era’s indispensable building blocks of social reality.
Cognitive science, and the philosophy influenced by it, has taken into account the richness I’ve been trying to evoke– that we are not just essentially thinking things, but also thinking things with, for example, a special evolved capacity to notice faces that appear in our natural landscape, and to have stronger reactions to them than to lumps of dirt. But cognitive science by itself is ill-equipped to draw out the full significance of the ineliminable features of human cognition that it registers and describes. Philosophers in other areas of specialization need to join the project.
The Packet of Coffee
Potentiality or Capacity?
Agamben's Missing Subjects
The last line of Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street may be "Ah, Bartleby!
Ah humanity!" but this is more like a sigh of despair than a radical loss presaging redemption,
political or otherwise. Is this all we can hope for? It is arguable that transformations in work and
the composition of labor have made older, classically Marxist analysis seem outmoded, or at least
in need of radical overhaul, but contemporary thought seems to have opted for two extreme
responses: the radically pessimistic (or minimalist) or the baselessly optimistic. If Agamben falls
into the former camp, then Hardt and Negri represent the latter with their concept of the multitude:
The contemporary cooperative productive capacities through which the anthropological
characteristics of the multitude are continually transcribed and reformulated, cannot help revealing
a telos, a material affirmation of liberation.
Just as it is altogether too quick to see the "material affirmation of liberation" in the exploitation
of basic human capacities in work, it is altogether too slow to see in the obstinacy of a Bartleby
the only response to sovereign domination. Agamben plays a central role in this recent
"minimizing" turn, turning to an older Aristotelian concept of "potentiality" to explore, albeit
paradoxically, the primacy of inactivity.
Whilst Agamben's position could be easily criticized from the standpoint of a more orthodox Marxism that would stress the historically conditioned nature of human potential and the necessity to think through forms of organization from within shifts in the nature of work, this is not the primary route this paper will take. In order to stay closer to Agamben's Aristotelianism, it is more productive to compare him to a thinker for whom questions of linguistic capacity and politics are also central, and also stem from a certain complex relation to naturalism, namely Paolo Virno. The paper will, via a reading of Agamben's Aristotelian conception of praxis and potentiality alongside Virno's work on the relation between language and labour, indicate the constitutive reasons why Agamben's notion of the subject as potentiality can only gesture towards collectivity and organisation, and why Virno's more nuanced conception of "capacity", which draws upon both rationalist and naturalist theories of the subject might form a more relevant alternative. It is by identifying the exploitation of those universal features of mankind, "the collective, social character which belongs to intellectual activity" as Virno puts it, that we can identify the possibilities for struggle inherent, yet not obvious, in the common. The struggle is no longer that of sovereign and subject, but of a different "constitutional principle": "the multitude does not converge into a volonté génerale for one simple reason: because it already has access to a general intellect." What Virno posits is a rethinking of human nature on the basis of "the history of capitalism." Agamben cannot fully perform this, despite gestures here and there towards an understanding of the historically specific nature of changes in exploitation of basic human capacities, because he cannot allow himself to admit any form of collective nature, however minimal, due to his Heideggarian suspicion of anything that looks like a philosophical anthropology, a humanism or a Marxism comprised of a theory of activity. Agamben's subjects are therefore 'missing' because he neither sees what it is in the human that is currently exploited, nor does he get beyond the Aristotelian-Heideggerian belief that inactivity is more important than action.
b. March 21, 1880
George Mackay Brown
At Burnmouth the door hangs from a broken hinge
And the fire is out.
The windows of Shore empty sockets
And the hearth coldness.
At Bunertoon the small drains are choked.
Thrushes sing in the chimney.
Stars shine through the roofbeams of Scar.
No flame is needed
To warn ghost and nettle and rat.
Greenhill is sunk in a new bog.
No bending woman
Blows russet wind through squares of ancient turf.
The Moss is a tumble of stones.
That one black stone
Is the stone where the hearth fire was rooted.
In Crawnest the sunken hearth
Lit many a story-tranced mouth,
Old seamen from the clippers with silken beards.
The three-toed pot at the wall of Park
Is lost to woman’s cunning.
A slow fire of rust eats the cold iron.
The sheep drift through Reumin all winter.
Sheep and snow
Blanch fleetingly the black stone.
From that good stone the children of the valley
And out of labour to the lettered kirkyard stone.
The fire beat like a heart in each house
From the first cornerstone
Till they led through a sagged lintel the last old one.
The poor and the good fires are all quenched.
Now, cold angel, keep the valley
From the bedlam and cinders of a Black Pentecost.
The Open Window_______________________
'Foreign to the resources of literature'
The shock is a minor one and this is not a post to complain of its omission or to speculate on the competence of the judges – in 2013 the prize didn't go to Vila-Matas' sublimely light Dublinesque, so hope has long flown – and instead to wonder if the failure of such novels to walk away with such a title is a sign of the necessity and vitality of non-genre writing, in which form and content struggle into existence on their own merit rather than rushing to adopt a generic mould for safe passage, and that it is only committed amateurs on the sidelines, those not on a career path or with corporate sponsors to appease, who are able to subject themselves to the full force of writing as a presence in itself.