August 04, 2015
1921 - 1963
Three Geographical Variations
I will not let blood and I do not know
if there is any turning back upon the land
to traverse, how much
traversing now will reopen
what spaces seem nowhere
ease us together—it is not different to go past
the endless misuse of landscape
here in Berkeley or there in New Mexico, what space
is open beyond is open across the whole world
Looks past whatever salvations of individuals
realizing salvation is only to pass
into the space all people live in
There is no need to substitute any world for this one
in order to come into any wonder or more
enter the open imagination. Good and evil
seem kindness and indifference
at each footstep
At the other edge of each tree
the shade fallen on each face into the sun
Into each lit house dark street we walk home
The stories where we are all changed
beyond the wardrobes back wall
The eye is blue wonder brown opener the horizon
shines through upon the toss and fling the ring glints
head up in the air
grass goes by
iridescent in the sky
(1936 - 2015)
Kenneth Irby at EPC and PennSound
Kenneth Irby’s The Intent On
Coldish sun-slanting late March six o’clock amongst a folderol of bookish tumulus, burial “mounds.” That is, the books stack up against perennial shelflessness, lost in knee-high tightly snug’d piles. Filling a narrow corridor between the shelf itself and the table. De temps en temps I shift and uncover: redistributing, trying to determine and guide my own upcoming enthusiasms and intents. Or my dour indifferences. I keep dipping into the monstrous (glorious) anchor (or sky hook) of one pile—Kenneth Irby’s The Intent On: Collected Poems 1962-2006, edit’d by Kyle Waugh and Cyrus Console (North Atlantic Books, 2009). My remarks here inchoate, wing’d, desultory, though hardly tepid. Like all Kansas, it is something unruffled and wholly inhabitable: not a page without its magnificent thing:
Hölderlin called the lyricThat’s out of a piece call’d “Jed Smith and the Way,” though one of the things one sees with floody (oceanic, grassy) immediacy in Irby is how a writerly continuum pulls flat the fences. Is that Kansas again? Ronald Johnson construct’d an ARK out of prairie. Edward Dahlberg of Kansas City once readily recognized that Flaubert’d “said once that an artist should look long and intently at an object until he could discover some shadow or line in it that had not been seen by any other one before reproducing it”—is that “the intent on”? (There is, one hears tell, the makings of a “soi-disant Topeka School” including Ben Lerner—who begins a piece “For the distances collapsed” and editor Cyrus Console—who ends a piece “Huge, empty, he could not progress but with drifting, but in a way he had won. The air, trapped by its own weight, pushed the blimp higher into the sky.”)
“the continuous metaphor of a feeling”
the epic, “the metaphor
of an intellectual point of view”
this is the discontinuous
dendritic narrative of a journey
metaphor of pasture, anabasis and return
pastoral in that
“sluicing” meaning the juice
runs down over the head
and puddles off the fingers
proof through the night
Merveille du jour
Modern philosophers proclaimed the untimeliness of their task. Knowing things only in the dying light, observing unfashionably, philosophy settled on a grisaille palette to paint its grey in grey, and adopted a soaring perspective above the day’s influences. It turned its necessary late-coming and monochromia into epistemic insight and night vision (for approaching night). With its youth—which, as Hegel had it, did not rejuvenate but aged or overcame the timeworn—it avenged itself on the “old reality” that it failed to comprehend live.
And still it moves beneath the ragged cloak of twilight, which it throws over its bright prey. Isn’t it time, philosophy, for a hint of colour?—for contrast if the times seem drab, and otherwise for camouflage. A subtle cast of purple or green would become your grey, as it does the owlet moth that flies by night but by day mesmerizes with the beauty of its shading.
This Space of Writing
This Space as a book, introduction by Lars Iyer, cover photo by Flowerville
What does 'literature' mean in our time? While names like Proust, Kafka and Woolf still stand for something, what that something actually is has become obscured by the claims of commerce and journalism. Perhaps a new form of attention is required. Stephen Mitchelmore began writing online in 1996 and became Britain's first book blogger soon after, developing the form so that it can respond in kind to the singular space opened by writing. Across 44 essays, he discusses among many others the novels of Richard Ford, Jeanette Winterson and Karl Ove Knausgaard, the significance for modern writers of cave paintings and the moai of Easter Island, and the enduring fallacy of 'Reality Hunger', all the while maintaining a focus on the strange nature of literary space. By listening to the echoes and resonances of writing, this book enables a unique encounter with literature that many critics habitually ignore. With an introduction by the acclaimed novelist Lars Iyer, This Space of Writing offers a renewed appreciation of the mystery and promise of writing._______________________
Irby's very own North Atlantic turbine
(....)On Kenneth Irby
The view, it is my argument here today, of Irby’s work as a simple or even complex extension of Olson’s quest seems too limiting to me, diminishing the achievement by proposing too reductive a reading. And if in my title I used a phrase that recalls Edward Dorn, it is not so much for the jaundiced eye with which Dorn gazed at that turbine (which he saw nearly exclusively as commerce moving clockwise) but as a more cultural turbine moving counterclockwise — thus making it a countercultural turbine? — and enriching the dustbowl soils of America. Or maybe this turbine is closer to Henry Adams’s “dynamo,” though then one would have to read a near-Hegelian “Aufhebung” in Irby’s version of the “Virgin and the Dynamo.” It may, in fact, appear strange that I, ex-Europeano who left the “old” continent to become a poet in America because that is where I saw the energies achieve a poetic art unequalled in Europe during the second part of the past century, that I would now want to link Irby back to what I left — or tried to leave — behind. If on this specific occasion I speak to the Europe that traverses and so splendidly marbles Irby’s American land- and mind-scape, it behooves me, however, to point out that any serious, i.e. at least partially complete, assessment of Irby’s oeuvre needs to investigate the poems’ mother lode of information concerning China and Latin America, two further constants in Irby’s vast spiderweb of cultural caches, two further decentered centers touched regularly by that turbine, or dynamo, or great rotating wheel whose hub and heart may lie below, but at the center, of the Great Plains — or, as Irby puts it: “the Great Wheel of the Plains / turns under Fort Scott.” But let’s see how Europe worms its way in and maybe breaks down and enriches the dry soils of the American West.
Edited by William J. HarrisKyle Waugh
Jacket2 special feature
July 27, 2015
Green Phosphorescent Night
Watercolors of Maximilian Voloshin
Pushkin State Museum, Moscow
thanks to flowerville
11 Poems by Maximilian Voloshin [pdf]
parallel translation by Constantine Rusanov
My bonfire on the shore was burning down.
I heard the rustling sound of streaming glass.
The acrid soul of wistful wormwood wound
Through languid darkness, swayed, and flowed past.
The granite crags resemble fractured wings.
The weight of hills bends down a spinal cord.
The no-man’s land is stiff and suffering.
The mouth of Earth has been denied the word!
A child of the inquisitive dark nights,
I am your eyes, wide-open to invite
The gaze of ancient stars, those lonesome lights
Whose prying rays reach out into the night.
I am your mouth of stone, your voiceless lyre!
By silence fettered, I have grown as mute
As extinct suns. I am the frozen fire
Of words. I am the sightless, wingless you.
O captive mother! How at night I bend
To feel your bosom – only you can see…
The bitter smoke, the wormwood’s bitter scent,
The bitterness of waves – will stay in me.
The Red Terror and Maximilian Voloshin
The twilight has imbued the hills with antique gold
And gall. The shredded, shaggy steppe, lit up bright red
And brown, flows like chestnut fur in strands aglow.
The shrubs burst into flame, the waters blaze like metal.
Eroded hollows lay bare enormous blocks of rock
And boulders piled up, mysterious, morose.
The winged dusk uncovers hints and figures…
Here are the bared teeth of jaws a-grinning, a massive paw
At rest, a dubious hill resembling a swollen rib cage.
Whose crooked spine, instead of hair, has sprouted thyme?
Who lives around here: a monster? or a titan?
It’s close and stifling where I am ... But there,
In that vast expanse, the scents of rotting grass
And iodine suffuse the air, and the weary Ocean pants.
- Maximilian Voloshin
Robert Chandler writes about one of the hidden gems in The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry
, and how the annexation of Crimea sheds light on the past struggles of poets in the Soviet Union
K. Thomas Kahn
I imagine open sky
I am always getting lost, but there are countless parables about this already that make me hesitate to add my own version of events, my own alternate history. There are the days in the desert, the deluge and the eventual rainbow, the hours spent smelling chrysanthemums in Gethsemane, the sanatorium walls overlooking the garden shuddering as yet another lost inmate surrenders to his or her fate—details unknown, for the rooms are always sanitized, the sheets changed, the floors scrubbed as if they had been scuffed by no feet at all.
Surely it was this sky.
— George Oppen
And I suppose this is my Gethsemane, of sorts; it is an attempt to get back to that place where I am unfettered by strings, cords, devices, and my tentacled existence that has unmoored me from whatever semblance of stasis I had once cultivated.
Landscape with Lanterns
1897 - 1994
The Banality of Ethics in the Anthropocene, Part 1
The Banality of Ethics in the Anthropocene, Part 2
Duty to the truth and the obligation to avoid actions that harm others are powerful principles firmly rooted in the universal framework of legal and ethical codes. Yet before the enormity of what humankind has now done, I cannot help feeling that these grand constructions are frail and almost pathetic. Let me explain why.
... Earth scientists are now writing of human impact on a geological time scale. It is a development that calls into question modernity’s understanding of history, expressed in the nineteenth century by Jacob Burckhardt, that history is “the break with nature caused by the awakening of consciousness.” In Dipesh Chakrabarty’s profound observation: Human history and geological history have now converged.
These dazzling facts force us to rethink the place of humankind in deep history. A long time after we modern Prometheans disappear, or retreat to a position where we are no longer interfering in the Earth System, the great processes that drive planetary change – orbital forcing, plate tectonics, volcanism, natural evolution and so on – will overwhelm human influence.
The attempt to frame a transformed climate by mere ethics risks normalising an event without parallel, of rendering prosaic a transition that is in fact Earth-shattering. If the imprint of humans on the functioning of the Earth system has become so large that we have initiated a new geological epoch, the recourse to law and ethics leaps over a more foundational question: What is man? What kind of being made these laws and ethical codes, and what kind of being changed the course of Earth history?
1877 - 1932
Chuckle12 Poems by David Gitin
chuckle down fear
year after year
smile like a porpoise
David Gitin at PennSound
Ron Silliman on Gitin
The passing of a poet
David Gitin (1941-2015)
David Gitin: 5 From San Francisco in the Sixties
of dead fish
at my shoes
settles in the calm of a Coltrane
you don’t know what love is
an ache away from the desperate all
or nothing at all
Light Play – Black-White-Grey
1895 - 1946
July 16, 2015
1862 - 1918
Let Out The Indian Among The Stones
Translated by Ron Hudson
Let out the Guayasamín that each of us holds within
let out the Indian among the stones, marrow to marrow
the great precipice that we are, the great equatorial wound
and that which falls from the eye to the sky, and that which wrinkles the air
and that which comes out of ourselves like a deformed rose
and that which itches most inside, let it out
let out the thunder, the gust of wind, the bolt of lightning
the furious and one-eyed thread that watches the soul bleed
and here, in this burning jail that is this mourning America
still are pending the names of those nailed hands
of those hopeless feet, of those bones of smoke
of that dream hurled into the great coffin of fear
or simply of the tree with its infinitely dry branches
Because we are not dead, we are not
and there is one who now jumps over the sabers
and there is one who drinks fire and carries wings of ash
and there is one who splinters the river with his universal cranium
and there is one who says I, I am the Indian among the stones
And all the human horror is extinguished in my body
And I have tears and misery
And my heart like a drunken moon
and my skeleton asleep, and my jaw stiff
and at my ear roars the dog of the rotting nights
and to my mouth rolls the kiss of the anguish that kills
And I paint, I paint with my voice and with my packed fingernails
I paint with my oxygen the scar of the wind
I scratch the curséd stabbing of the centuries
I submerge myself in the fatal acid of the Andean pupils
I undress the memory of the gloomy skull
and in me survive guts cut to the quick
and each scream am I, each cheek born of the scream
each fatal sigh and its needle origin
each woman, each man
each animal fallen in the dramatic spine
each and every one of them
And everywhere life like a bitter sun
and I, inflated with colors
close my wings and sleep on the sadness
The Big Poplar
Survival After Hope
For all his failures and all that remains disappointing in his work- impossible not to be disappointed- Franco Berardi remains the only leftist that speaks about anything that resonates with me. I often feel that Bifo might be saying everything I could say. Though he would doubtless reject the interpolation it feels to me that Bifo constitutes part of an ambiguous pessimist leftism…or a post-nihilist left. Along with his former student Federico Campagna, Bifo consistently works from a position that refuses to be suckered into the inane and delusional optimism of the contemporary left. They are the only two writers that seem to pay attention to the dark undercurrents and counter-flows of our metastatic present. In his discussion of the Pope’s recent big important letter he gets right to its crucial absent kernel:
striking these words Pope’s intellectual courage abandon discourse hope. doing interprets prevailing sentiment time: hopeless perception future. However, translates hopelessness terms mercy,compassion, friendship.
As we have consistently maintained at syntheticzero we live in the age of realized nihilism. The catastrophe has already occurred and we are living within the duration of the slow violence of collapse. The psychodramatic rituals of sacredness surrounding the elevations, defamations and tearing down of Syrizia are evidence enough of the psychoaffective bipolarity of the leftist/anarchist in response. The leftist and the anarchist swing wildly from deluded hope to utter despair, occasionally crossing into that mixed state of masochistic purity that predicts and celebrates defeat: we want to fail, we want to be fucked over, it’s more exciting and more pleasurable than any partial victory. Within this catastrophic time unfold the multiple catastrophes that few of us are quite prepared to face up to: what face would be left after confronting them?
via —synthetic zero
Race, Thick and Thin
The convergence of What Was African American Literature? with profound disillusionment over the presidency of Barack Obama has created conditions whereby the rise of “the new modesty in literary criticism” has passed by those of us in African American literary studies. In fact, I would say that over the past decade I have seen bolder claims, deeper symptomatologies, and thus more robust critique advanced in articles, monographs, and online forums. In this war of positions (to riff on Gramsci), the critical trend is to say: Show me where you think race is subsumed under class or co-opted by state power, and I will show you where it stubbornly isn’t.
Race has assumed exponentially thicker significance in a discipline where the general trend is to thin things out. So while experiments in surface reading, distant reading, and other postcritical methods have recast core assumptions in many fields—not only what to study but how to study it—there has been a noticeable doubling down on critique in African American literary studies. For some, the stakes (outside the academy) are too high to not persist with critique. For others, the idea of postcritique is incompatible with the advocacy work of minority discourse. And for many others besides, the pragmatism of postcritical dialogue is just downright unsatisfying compared to the passion of politicized exchange in fields such as black studies and American studies—that is, the new front for critique in the age of Obama.
But that’s not the whole story, really. Because in my estimation postcritique is thriving in less-recognized work in the field: namely, scholarship that is oriented around empirical analysis of textual objects and that is animated by theoretical and practical reflection on archival research.
1871 – 1956
translated by Ron Hudson
The Boat Of Farewells
I am the child who plays with the foam of the hopeless seas
On this beach garlanded with gulls I stretch my arms like lazy nets
while the waves pinch my dreams and a single tear breaks against the rocks
The cliffs loom over the shore they come barefooted to dance on my soul
and their lips bring seaweed and coral the yeast of the sea converted into a kiss
I move my feet then like two old oars
my heart is an ocean of faces and hands
and I enter there unwittingly with my luggage of sand
clutching the wind’s rudder at the prow of the years
where a voice that is not my voice
raises the anchor of this small boat that slips away with my childhood on board
The Poetry of Pedestrians
There’s something charmingly twentieth century about the dérive, of a piece with Surrealist Exquisite Corpse and Jarry’s ‘Pataphysical work. Never before or since have games been integrated into intellectual and aesthetic action with such disruptive intent. And though we may be a long way removed from the roiling midcentury moment when art seemed like it might reshape the world, I believe there is still much remaining in the dormant practice of the dérive to rattle and instigate in 2015. A new kind of dérivist is needed, one aware of both the implicit organization of space as a funnel to consumption, and the more recent development Debord probably couldn’t have imagined in 1955: that of infinite surveillance, tracked movement repackaged as data currency, and a disturbingly effective brand of predictive analytics.
In light of these developments within the urban panopticon, it would seem psychogeography is in need of a new theoretical model wherein space and our relation to it takes on a virtual dimension, one capable of articulating a subversion of surveilled space. And however that subversion ends up manifesting, the body will necessarily play an integral role in the process. After all, it is the body that is captured in endless grainy hours of footage, the body that is herded into tidy pens of consumption, the body that carries and acts out the data collected with regard to its own behavior. The dérive is interesting to me then, first and foremost, as a way of reconstituting the body as a site of destabilized meanings and radical aesthetic and political potential. With this in mind, where can we turn for inspiration and solidarity, to say nothing of new excursions, dreams, adventures, and maps?
The dangerous passivities of space surround us, more or less constantly. Signs, arrows, hedges, painted lines, paths, rails, blockades, gates, turnstiles, barbed wire — each a reduction of oneself, one of a billion tiny resignations that comprise a collective and largely unconscious numbness. To live, here and now, is to be corralled. But in daring to apply the psychogeographic ideal — in embracing the potential of the dérive — drifting becomes a form of beautiful resistance: the pedestrian recast as physical poem.
It strikes me, at least, that this idleness is connected with simultaneity, the temporal mode that characterizes modernity. Simultaneity is of industrial manufacture – it was produced as an effect of the steam driven printing press, the railroad, and the system of manufacture that came about in the nineteenth century, which has resulted in the fact that you can get strawberries all the year round in your local grocery store and that you can, if you want, breathlessly follow the crisis in Greece on computer and tv screens in ‘real time”.
Idleness is falling out of the zone of the simultaneousness.
Outside of the zone of the simultaneous, to which all our tasks and habits seem to attach themselves, I have to move forward in a dreamier space-time, the older, slower modes of past, present and future.
Editorial Note: postings here will remain more sporatic than usual until August 1st.