Blousy Blooms

Gillian Sze has an impeccable eye for the cartographies of sensuality. Take this bit from "Mapping the Garden" in Peeling Rambutan . . .

A brothel of lilacs
Four bushes of heavy-chested women.
Their embraces can last two weeks.
They jostle you between them,
their perfume solid as solder.
In my first quick glance over these lines, I carried over the "i" of "solid" and found a "soldier" under the "solder". No wonder: apply a bit of heat and it fuses.

And so for day 2152

Love of a Bookish Sort

Edmund White The Burning Library "Nabokov: Beyond Parody"

I may also seem to be saying that if Lolita, the supreme novel of love in the twentieth century, is a parody of earlier love novels, we should not be surprised, since love itself — the very love you and I experience in real life — is also a parody of earlier love novels. I have even intimated that conflicts in love, whether they are those between Onegin and Tatiana or Humbert and Charlotte or you and me, are attributable to different reading lists — that amorous dispute is really always a battle of books.
How subtle to play the you and me game of identification and place the reader (me) in parallel with the love object.

And so for day 2151

How inexhaustible is the human mind?

This passage from Northrop Frye strongly suggests the verum factum principle of Vico that links the true and the made.

Truth is always a beginning; it can never be the end of anything in this world, for there is no end it can come to except the mind in which it began. When the reason discovers a rational order in the universe; when the artist discovers that the world is beautiful, these discoveries are partly a matter of falling in love with one's own reflection, like Narcissus. Even when submarines swim under the pole and rockets circle the dark side of the moon, it is still the shadows of truth that are outside us; the substance is in ourselves. It is not the world that we contemplate but the world that we create which is important to us. The sources of creative power in the human mind are inexhaustible. If we could realize that they are infinite and eternal as well, and that the human mind is therefore linked in its nature and destiny with a divine mind, that would be the final motive for learning and the final guarantee of its value.

From By Liberal Things [his address upon his installation as Principal of Victoria College, 1959]
The tautology rests on the distinction between the created and the contemplated. A phenomenologically inclined view would be less easy with the separation. Perception is in part a power of filling in what is there. And is in part limited.

Though Frye begins and ends in the infinite and the divine, there are other ways to square the circle and find reason for human humility. Take this example offered by Charles M. Schulz in Peanuts where our characters have a different take on what constitutes a beginning.

And there is no telling which came first in my encounters: Frye or Schulz. Or in your reading.

And so for day 2150

Set and Setting: Cognitive Cogitations

A few generalizations...


Pedagogical situations are sensory. They are also interpersonal. Because they are sensory this makes even learning by oneself interpersonal. Egocentric speech is like a dialogue between the senses. In Vygotsky's and Luria's experiments, children placed in problem-solving situations that were slightly too difficult for them displayed egocentric speech. One could consider these as self-induced metadiscursive moments. The self in crisis will disassociate and one's questionning becomes the object of a question.
An encounter with similar preoccupations...
Learning Edge

When we are on the edge of our comfort zone, we often are in the best place to expand understanding, take in a new perspective, and stretch awareness. We can learn to recognize when we are on a learning edge in this course by paying attention to internal reactions to class activities and other people in the class. Being on a learning edge can be signalled by feelings of annoyance, anger, anxiety, surprise, confusion, or defensiveness. These reactions are signs that our way of seeing things is being challenged. If we retreat to our comfort zone, by dismissing whatever we encounter that does not agree with our way of seeing the world, we may lose an opportunity to expand understanding. The challenge is to recognize when we are on a learning edge and then to stay there with the discomfort we are experiencing to see what we can learn.

Source: Adams, M., Bell, L.A., Griffin, P. (2007). Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice. Second Edition. New York: Routledge Taylor & Frances Group. (p. 55)
Still there is a distinction to be drawn between discomfort and distress.

A few lessons from the past via an interview with Michael Pollan.
After decades of dormancy, psychedelic research makes a comeback
People do have bad trips on these drugs. They’re very powerful and they don’t have a set response in people. For some people, it brings up trauma they haven’t dealt with. “Set” and “setting” are really key terms, [which refer to] your mindset going in and the setting in which you take the drugs. And if these are frightening in any way, that will be exaggerated.

In a clinical setting, bad trips actually become very productive because they bring up important psychological issues.
Similar observations can be made whether sitting zazen or practicing walking meditation ...

And so for day 2149

Before Commodities

Echoes of an economy of the gift...

When I was six, my grandmother also took me with her to the newly harvested rice fields to take part in the open-air feast that fulfilled so many functions, practical and symbolic. It rewarded all the neighbours who had helped to cut, thresh and bring in the rice, for everything had to be done by hand. It "paid off" her debts of hospitality to people who had invited members of our family to their celebrations. For poorer families, not only was it a treat that provided nourishment for those who came to the feast, but it fed those left at home as well: more food was provided than the guests could possibly eat, and everyone was expected to take away a share of the unserved dishes for those who were unable to work in the harvest. This was not charity, but a reward for what the grandparents had done, and what the children would one day do, to carry on the life of the community. In a more prosaic way, the feast was a contest among the neighbourhood wives, each determined to show off her cooking skills and, if possible, those of her marriageable daughters.
Sri Owen. The Indonesian Kitchen

And so for day 2148

Intersection of Temporalities

To the writing belongs one time series.

In Wabi Sabi, a book by Mark Reibstein with art by Ed Young, there "are Japanese haiku that appear decoratively throughout the book." They are also gathered at the end with transliterations and translations. This one by by Shiki caught my eye because of its phenomenological inflections.
for me leaving
for you staying
two autumns
To the reading belongs another time series.

And so for day 2147

Pause and Tumble

from "Beds" in Can I Finish, Please? by Catherine Bowman

These lines float like a haiku in the onrush of lines...

you are enskied
         in the mockingbird's
              indwelling song
See what I mean by tumble...
you are enskied
         in the mockingbird's
              indwelling song

as it concocts
         a soporific
              of wolves apples,

and aftershave,
         gossip and flattery
              and all the daily

         salty and unmelodious—
              this scent bottle,

clouds of cosmos,
         mallow and iris
              and marigold—

[and so on]
[and so on]
[and so on]
"Enskied" and "indwelling" harken to Hopkins but the riot of flowers lead elsewhere, to Chaucer, perhaps...

And so for day 2146


Diana Vreeland in Allure

Fashion is a passing thing — a thing of fancy fantasy, and feeling. Elegance is innate. It has nothing to do with being well-dressed. It's a quality possessed by certain thoughts and certain animals. [...] Elegance [...] is refusal.
And introducing the evidence from one of her own spreads in Allure

On the left, Edith Sitwell by Cecil Beaton; on the right, Gertrude Stein by Horst P. Horst.

And so for day 2145

Continuously Coming Out

It's me. Picture taken by my friend Nella and if you look closely there's our friend Diana in the background. It was taken after a talk given by our photographer friend Rita.

Gay man. Aged 57.
My sidebar comment is inspired by Rachel Giese in the Globe and Mail, "Lose the plot: Why there’s more than one queer narrative". She observes
Coming out doesn’t guarantee a happy ending, in life or in movies. But being out affords the opportunity to exist on your own terms and, hopefully, be seen in the fullness of your humanity.
She's right. It makes a difference. Life offers constant opportunities for coming out. The mode of being out involves perpetual revelations. At any age.

And so for day 2144

Podiatry of the Poem

Catherine Bowman
"Jesus' Feet"
in notarikon

Blessed be the vulnerable heel. Blessed be the footstep, for it was our first drumbeat. Blessed be the footprint and the bird track, for it was our first alphabet. Blessed be the feet stained and tarnished by the dirt of the earth, by hard work, for the word transcendent means to climb. Blessed be the vital force of love, that rises from the earth and enters and leaves the body through the feet.
I like how through the beatitudes the picture of the feet as portal to the body is built up step by step.

And so for day 2143

Own Your Reaction

Elizabeth Hoover has a chapbook Love in the Wild in which the aestheticization of violence leaves the reader in trembling cognitive dissonance. Here is the end of "War Games" which tells the story of a rescue attempt that butts up against the ravages of body and mind that can no longer be endured.

When I wake to shouting I run to the edge
of the minefield we ringed in barbed wire


Bigs holds me back and she turns and looks
at all of us, tucks her chin down and rips
the dress slowly from the collar to the hem—bones,
bruises, a bandage black with blood—
all the while singing a little song quietly,
so quietly we hear the click.
And there it ends. The imagination lies suspended before the detonation. A sound offering a freeze frame. And you admire the poet's skill and shudder at the beauty and begin to register the horror. All condensed in that one click.

In "A Celebration: Maude Oklahoma", a poem about a lynching and burning in honour of Palmer Sampson (1881-1898) and Lincoln McGeisey (1882-1898), Hoover again manages to convey eerie haunting on a pivotal word. We are invited into a mind we find repulsive. Again the tension turns on positioning of a small detail shattering any pleasure offered up by easy voyeurism. The reader is forced to resist complicity and the final statement turns into a question and sets the mind a spinning.
In the dovegray morning, a slice of yellow appeared
along the horizon. it was winer and the frost
tinged the tips of the grass white. The crowd was quiet,
sifting through the greasy ashes looking for souvenirs:
the soot-speckled link of the chain, a vertebrae twisted
from the spine, or even just a hunk of the burnt stump,
anything to hold up to the light, saying Remember,
remember when we burned those two boys
how lovely they were, bright under the dark oak,
how lovely, what a celebration.
The weight of irony is not light. "Celebration" is leached of its joy.

And so for day 2142

Oneiric Oscillations

Jay Hopler
Green Squall

You grow to expect the pattern of statement and counter-statement, a litany of contradictions. And then the series knots upon itself.

It was so loud it was so quiet we didn't sleep we slept.
We didn't dream. We dreamt of panthers and hatpins, orchids
     and ashcans.


There were no dogs; no dogs were there.
Even so, sleep was impossible —
All that howling! We dreamt of panthers and hatpins, orchids
     and ashcans.


"The Howling of the Gods"
The impossibility of sleep gives way to the waking dream of the impossible.

And so for day 2141

Taking Stock of Making Stock

Mijoter: Faire cuire ou bouillir lentement.


I'm the one working the kitchen, making stock
from chicken wing tips I'd saved in the freezer,
some bouillon cubes, the picked-over carass

of last Sunday's dinner. A gallon of spring water


I'm the one simmering, steaming, ladling soup

over wild rice in your finest kiln-fired crockery,
Chef de Cuisine of intense flavour, of this oh so
nice homemade & homely midday decadence.

John Hoppenthaler
Anticipate the Coming Reservoir
Mijoter: Mûrir, préparer avec réflexion et discrétion (une affaire, un mauvais coup, une plaisanterie).

And so for day 2140

The Fix

Ursula Le Guin

In 2014, she attacked publishers, including her own, for treating books as commodities. "The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism," she told an audience of science-fiction luminaries at the 2014 US national book awards. "Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art – the art of words."
Terry Eagleton reviewing How to Change the World: Marx and Marxism 1840-2011 by Eric Hobsbawm in the London Review of Books
Marxism is about leisure, not labour. It is a project that should be eagerly supported by all those who dislike having to work. It holds that the most precious activities are those done simply for the hell of it, and that art is in this sense the paradigm of authentic human activity. It also holds that the material resources that would make such a society possible already exist in principle, but are generated in a way that compels the great majority to work as hard as our Neolithic ancestors did. We have thus made astounding progress, and no progress at all.
The means. The end.

And so for day 2139

Archive Garden Potager

Louise Glück opens her forward to Green Squall by Jay Hopler with the following observation:

Before poetry began pitching its tents in the library and museum, before, that is, mediated experience supplanted what came to seem the naive fantasy of more direct encounter, a great many poems began in the garden.
There is of course "The Garden" by Andrew Marvell which reminds us in a fashion not dissimilar from Glück
Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness;
The mind, that ocean where each kind
Does straight its own resemblance find,
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other worlds, and other seas;
Annihilating all that’s made
To a green thought in a green shade.
It is however to an interesting experience I found in reading a poem from Catherine Bowman's The Plath Cabinet to which I turn. There is a moment in the fall and spring, before or after the snow, and before or after the effulgence of vegetation, where the garden reveals its structure. On my first reading I cruised through "The Sylvia Convention: Flower Rooms" ravished by its variations only to understand when at the end when spotting in close proximity its XYZ references that what I was reading was an abecedarian*. And nevermore can I be so innocent in the garden.
Sylvias as Amaryllis aproned
whip up cakes, creams, chicken livers.
Sylvias as fields of Baby's Breath practice
interviews for the BBC. Calla Lily
Sylvias change nappies, type Ted's poems, hope


Windflower Sylvias, Sylvias as Xeranthemum
Yarrow, and Zinnia, hundreds and hundreds
gather, write poems like lightning, each one
quicker than the last: an irresistible blaze
There goes up in smoke my naive unknowing that the letters proceeded in a well-defined order. I have moved from the hedgerow or meadow to the potager knowing the garden walks in the realm of poetry can accommodate more wild encounters over the horizon and a trip home to the orderly vegetable patch of the kitchen garden.

*She does it again in "The O Store" in notarikon -- pulled in by the pace and only retroactively taking in the ABC.

And so for day 2138

Thinking Depicting

In the Washington Post of August 12, 2011, under the heading "Reich bows to protest of 9/11 CD cover art" Anne Midgette

For the cover of the premiere recording of his searing piece “WTC 9/11” on the Nonesuch label, Steve Reich selected an image of the burning towers of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 : a stark image of horror unfolding on a beautiful day. When the cover image first appeared in July, in advance of the Sept. 20 CD release, there was a tremendous outcry from people who felt this was a disrespectful and disturbing use of the photograph — so much so that, as Reich announced Thursday in a statement on the Nonesuch Web site , the CD’s cover is being changed.
Here are the images:

and this European recording by Quatuor Tana

With these pictures in mind it is with amazement that I came across this understatement in the poetry of John Hoppenthaler:
On New Year's Eve I watched fireworks set this skyline ablaze.
I stood outside the bar in blue cold with regulars, cradled delicate
flutes of bubbles in my fingers. We were thinking of towers,
how change had come. Together we wished it meant an early spring.

Nyack, NY: 1/29/02
in Anticipate the Coming Reservoir
The figure of speech is litotes when some is more than enough.

And so for day 2137

Performing Authenticity

You gotta love the title of this paper which first appeared in New Media & Society. It quotes a Twitter user: "I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience". In the article Alice E. Marwick and danah boyd make very astute observations about performing authenticity.

This concept of 'authenticity' is a popular one. We refer to the 'real me' and authentic experiences, artifacts, and people. However, there is no such thing as universal authenticity; rather, the authentic is localized, temporally situated social construct that varies widely based on community. [my emphasis]
They continue, with a very important unpacking of the rhetoric of authenticity: "for something to be deemed authentic, something else must be inauthentic."

Their article leaves us to understand that the authentic is mediated through imagined audiences. The projected interlocutors shape the presentation of self.

I find myself wondering how do I shift mindsets and contexts: who I imagine the eavesdropper might be. See Dave Eggers The Circle.

And so for day 2136

Praise of Rural Life

Kenneth Rexroth gave this poem by Lu Yu the title "Evening in the Village". I like to call it "Retirement".

Here in the mountain village
Evening falls peacefully.
Half tipsy, I lounge in the
Doorway. The moon shines in the
Twilit sky. The breeze is so
Gentle the water is hardly
Ruffled. I have escaped from
Lies and trouble. I no longer
Have my importance. I
Do not miss my horses and
Chariots. Here at home I
Have plenty of pigs and chickens.

Translated by Kenneth Rexroth in One Hundred Poems from the Chinese
What I like about Rexroth's rendering is the stops inline. They clump words in interesting ways: doorway / twilit sky ; ruffled / lies and trouble. Just like the pigs and chickens the reader is getting plenty.

And so for day 2135

Lexical Intoxications

I've read Mary Daly's side (reaction to Audre Lorde's open letter) as captured in the introduction to the 1990 edition of Gyn/Ecology. The ground is covered by Gina Messina in a blog posting at Feminism and Religion. In addressing the belief that Daly had not responded to Lorde and presenting the recovered evidence of a letter from Daly to Lorde, Messina arrives at restating Daly's position published in the intro to the 1990 edition of Gyn/Ecology

Clearly, women who have a sincere interest in understanding and discussing this book have an obligation to read not only the statements of critics but also the book itself, and to think about it.
Not being hailed by this interpellation and not quite satisfied by the implication that the critics had not read the book, I simply point out from the same introduction these remarks about process:
Moreover, in the Shape-shifting process the writing became more and more condensed. Whole pages sometimes become one paragraph or perhaps one sentence. The Fire and Focus were intense, burning away what seemed to be unnecessary words, forcing me to create New Words.

Often the New Words arose as a result of chases through the dictionary, which involved the uncovering of etymologies, definitions, and synonyms, which in turn led to further word-hunts and Dis-coverings.
Fire inspires the conjunction of race and rage that is highlighted in what Daly writes in Pure Lust
What I'm suggesting is that there is a race of women and that this race of women happens when there is a focused will to be free, to Name our own be-ing. We break through the obstacles that block the flow of female force. This requires being in touch with fury, rage. Female Fury is Volcanic Dragon fire. It is Elemental breathing of those who love the Earth and her kind, who rage against the erasure of our kind. Of course as dragons, since we breath [sic] fire, we are considered tasteless. When you think of race you see again that this is a multiple-edged word. It is a labrys, it is a wand, it is my broom, it is my nightmare, it is my galloping steed. Race means the act of rushing onward, run. I see women racing, running. It was actually the feminist writer Olive Schreiner seventy years ago who first spoke of the race of women. I didn't realize that when I was writing this though. Race also means a strong or rapid current of water that flows through a narrow channel. But Elemental life must often flow through narrow channels, for in the state of lechery options are narrowed. Yet under these conditions force and focus can be intense. Race means a heavy, choppy sea, especially one produced by the meeting of two tides. This definition applies, for the race of women is wild and tidal, roaring with rhythms that are Elemental, that are created in cosmic encounters.
What is missing here is the other origin story of race — "early 16th century (denoting a group with common features): via French from Italian razza, of unknown ultimate origin."

Burnt away in the rage of a ruling metaphor?

Gulping the Fire Water, I cannot Extinguish the memory of other Elements:

Here lies One / Whose Name was writ in Water [phrase found on Keats's tombstone] which Wikipedia suggests "bears an echo from Cataullus LXX"
Sed mulier cupido quod dicit amanti / in vento et rapida scribere oportet aqua (What a woman says to a passionate lover / should be written in the wind and the running water)
But passionate lovers are not the only interlocutors. There are the critics, the readers. Pyromaniacs.

And so for day 2134

A balance of faculties

John Williams
The Broken Landscape

What brain has wrought
Tongue cannot show
Nor what tongue meant
Brain fully know.
The poem continues but these first four lines make a fine epigram.

And so for day 2133

on parting from the party

Sometimes an atheist can be holier than thou...

AN AFFECTATION IN PARTING. He who wishes to sever his connection with a party or a creed thinks it necessary for him to refute it. This is a most arrogant notion. The only thing necessary is that he should clearly see what tentacles hitherto held him to this party or creed and no longer hold him, what views impelled him to it and now impel him in some other directions. We have not joined the party or creed on strict grounds of knowledge. We should not affect this attitude on parting from it either.

Friedrich Nietzsche
Human, All-Too-Human
Disengage becomes a work of in/difference.

And so for day 2132

Praising the Damned

Tying freedom and privacy is an exhilaration that masks a fear.

If, as Freud remarks, the child's first successful lie against the parents is his first moment of independence — the moment when he proves to himself that his parents cannot read his mind, and so are not omniscient deities — then it is also the first moment in which he recognizes his abandonment. The privacy of possibility has opened up for him. If you get away with something — though, as we shall also see, it rather depends on what it is — you have done well and you have done badly. You are released but you are also unprotected. You have, at least provisionally, freed yourself from something, but then you have to deal with your new-found freedom. The ambiguity of the phrase is partly to do with the odd picture of freedom it contains. An exhilaration masks a fear.

Adam Phillips. Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life.
This for me serves as a comforting (though daunting) backdrop to a story by Michael Harris (author of Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World and The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in an Age of Constant Connection) in the Globe and Mail. The story is headlined: "Damning with praise" and subheaded: "A radical uptick in social-media use has produced an economy of accolades into which all users are drawn. Today, we are all performers and we all have to decide: Will I read the reviews?"
[Y]ou're letting those people control what you think about yourself. That's dangerous for a bunch of obvious reasons. But the harshest — the really toxic reason — is that, once you've been pumped up by the praise of others, you can be squashed by their criticism. If you were buoyed by the kudos, you'll be sunk by boos.
I am convinced that the negative valence is underwritten by the fear of exposure as outlined above by Phillips. Even if not a single critical statement is made, there is a certain anxiety. Consider the definition of social anxiety given by Ellen Hendrikson in an interview in The Guardian:
Social anxiety is often thought of as a fear of judgment or a fear of people, but that’s not accurate. Social anxiety is a perception that there is something embarrassing or deficient about us and that unless we work hard to conceal or hide it, it will be revealed and then we’ll be judged or rejected as a result.

For instance, we might have the perception that we are boring, awkward or have nothing to say, or any one of a million perceived flaws. We might avoid parties for these reasons, but we might also avoid them covertly by going to the party and only talking to the friend we arrived with, by scrolling through our smartphones or standing on the edge of groups.

So the root of social anxiety is fear of this reveal, and it is grown and maintained by avoidance.
Can we rally to a call for an economy of intrinsics? Cultivate an indifference without being indifferent?

And so for day 2131

Claim and Less

Tim Cestnick writing in The Globe and Mail provides us with a found poem. The list has enormous poetic potential (imagine for example the mere recitation of names (from an old-fashioned telephone book) — very Homeric). And this list culled from an entry about medically expenses (not) eligible for tax purposes bring us into the ambit of the body in its vulnerability.

Medical expenses. The problem here is that, while the list of eligible medical expenses is growing slowly, there’s still much that can’t be claimed – and people push the boundaries. You can’t claim the costs of practitioners not recognized by your applicable provincial authority. Nor can you claim vitamins, natural supplements or over-the-counter medications, recliners, non-hospital beds and certain supplies such as rubbing alcohol, bandages and shoe inserts.
See what happens with some lineation:
  • vitamins
  • natural supplements
  • over-the-counter medications
  • recliners
  • non-hospital beds
  • certain supplies
    • rubbing alcohol
    • bandages
    • shoe inserts
The jumble remains a jumble. But the sub-list takes on the impression of a tour of the drug store for the supplies that help the hapless suffer through the quotidian. The list is leached of its specialness. It's elements are common. Difficult to justify which as Cestnick writes is the problem here. The lasting impression is of the mock-heroic.

And so for day 2130

Habit & Taste

I like how these opening words draw an analogy between cooking and writing and how that analogy is cemented by the recourse to habit.

Cooking is not about just joining the dots, following one recipe slavishly and then moving on to the next. It's about developing an understanding of food, a sense of assurance in the kitchen, about the simple desire to make yourself something to eat. And in cooking, as in writing, you must please your self to please others. Strangely it can take enormous confidence to trust your own palate, follow your own instincts. Without habit, which is itself is just trial and error, this can be harder than following the most elaborate of recipes. But it's what works, what's important.
Nigella Lawson, preface to How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food.

And so for day 2129

Woman Wins Praise

Joanna Trollope. The Book Boy.

Marianne at Good Reads remarks on the style and muses as to its purpose.

This novella is written in a very simplistic style: the reader might wonder if Trollope has actually written it for adults who are learning to read.
It just so happens that The Book Boy is published in the Quick Reads series which Wikipedia informs us are designed with a specific reader in mind:
Quick Reads are a series of short books by bestselling authors and celebrities. With no more than 128 pages, they are designed to encourage adults who do not read often, or find reading difficult, to discover the joy of books.
Alice, the protagonist of The Book Boy can't read and her story ends with the quietly noticed but quite remarkable triumph — she does learn to read and the book ends with a newspaper headline that is read and resonates with the plot: Woman Wins Prize. And she does so with the uncanny assistance of an adjuvant (to borrow a term of art from Greimas drawing on Propp): it is the lame Ram Chandra who observes that the boy, Scott, wants what Alice wants, that is freedom and true freedom is though unstated in the book grounded in a liberty of expression that is the ability to express:
"You don't know his home life," Ram said. "He can't say. He doesn't know how to say. He only knows how to act." He looked at Alice. "He can't say. Just like you can't read." He smiled. "That's why he picked on you."
The "opposant" becomes an "adjuvant" and saying comes via acting.

And so for day 2128

Torque Variations and Matrix Manipulations

DWR first found these and tethered I keep reeling...

And so for day 2127

Singular Praise of Reduplication

Nietzche from Human All Too Human

It is an excellent thing to express a thing consecutively in two ways, and thus provide it with a right and a left foot. Truth can stand indeed on one leg, but with two she will walk and complete her journey.
Does Truth ever crawl?

And so for day 2126

Read My Lips: Affirmations

The Very Best of Jimmy Somerville - Bronski Beat and the Communards
The liner notes begin with the following comparisons:

The first two singles by Bronski Beat, Jimmy Somerville's first band, were "Smalltown Boy" and "Why?". They are the gay equivalent of the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK" and "God Save the Queen".
Remarks published in 2001 and still resonant.

And so for day 2125

Grammar All Over the Body

David Wojnarowicz
Memories That Smell Like Gasoline
San Francisco: Artspace Books, 1992

and I realize he's one of those guys that you know absolutely that
if you'd met him twenty years earlier you both could have gone
straight to heaven but now mortality has finally marked his face. He
was really sexy though; he was like a vast swimming pool I wanted
to dive right into.
Intrigued by how this meditation surfaces to arrest and fix the reader in the midst of a description of hot sex — it's the tenses — we bring to mind in the present an experience to examine and then climb out of the past into the possibility of the conditional and then into the present touched by death through a perfect indicative which doesn't delay us from a plunge right into an infinitive

And so for day 2124

After Gardening: Quotidien Gesture

Alan Hollinghurst
poem "Mud"
appearing in the
London Review of Books
Vol. 4 No. 19 · 21 October 1982

November was always mud.
Crossing a ploughed field
our feet grew footballs of clay;
matted with leaves its crust
dropped on bootroom floors.
Its odour was sharp and cold
as rockets' nitre, cold as
gardeners' hands daubing the hot tap.
I like how one verb - daub - keeps the scene poised over the moment the mud will be washed away. The poem ends with the "grave's edge" and a close-up of how the mud "curls up / round our polished black welts" and an image of intimations of death rising with chill through the soles of feet. Still it's that hand reaching for the tap that arrests.

And so for day 2123

Embracing A Most Peculiar Aside

A Summary Account . . .

(I should say somewhere about here that when I say "he" I also mean "she": as the late President Smith used to say, man generally embraces woman.)
Northrop Frye By Liberal Things (1959). This is his address upon his installation as Principal of Victoria College.

The aside can be read as a humorous touch of heteronormativity. Tone is all. But for even the tone-deaf, it is the "generally" that once spotted works its magic. It signals exceptions. Other ways.

Indeed the context of the aside is set in the commonplace of attending university to find oneself.
Finding out why they went is something that comes much later, if it comes at all. An inscrutable Providence has decreed that they should be at university during the mating season, and for some students, going to college is partly a sexual ritual, like the ceremonial dances of the whooping crane. More thoughtful students are fond of asking themselves and each other why they came to college, and their reasons are generally [there's that keyword again] given in terms of usefulness. But the thoughtful student soon realizes that the university is not there to be useful to him; he is there to be useful to it. It does not help him to prepare for life: life will not stay around to be prepared for. [...] There is no answer to the student's question, for the only place an answer can come from is an experience that he has not yet had. [enter the aside quoted above].
How is it that I come to read "generally" as offering a sliver? By training as a reader. Training I generally received at university.

Such close reading partakes of the moves made by José Esteban Muñoz in Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (2009). He draws upon the work of Ernest Bloch (The Principle of Hope) to carve out space for the work of the experience-not-yet-had.
The point is once again to pull from the past, the no-longer-conscious, described and represented by Bloch today, to push beyond the impasse of the present.
Between the then of Frye and the then of Muñoz lies the publication of The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing: For writers, editors, and speakers was first published in 1980 by Casey Miller and Kate Swift. And after them all a challenge to recite the specificity of desire: "Every gay person has been in a situation where less specific pronouns are useful, perhaps even a safety measure [...] “you” has fallen out of favour and pop seems joyfully full of new young artists not only being candid about who their songs are lusting after, but celebrating that point of difference, too."

I remember as a youth before attending university listening to "I Don't Know How to Love Him" lifted from Jesus Christ Superstar and performed by Helen Reddy. Long before I learnt about shifters like the pronoun "I" (Émile Benveniste), long before I could claim experience of many before, long before the mysteries of incarnation shone for me, I was queering the text:
I don't know how to take this
I don't see why he moves me
He's a man he's just a man
And I've had so many men before
In very many ways he's just one more
Muñoz again:
Queerness's form is utopian. Ultimately, we must insist on a queer futurity because the present is so poisonous and insolvent. A resource that cannot be discounted to know the future is indeed the no-longer-conscious, that thing or place that may be extinguished but not yet discharged in its utopian potentiality.
insolvent - discounted - discharged
Bills come due. But who is doing the accounting? Who keeps the general ledger?

And so for day 2122

A burn deeper than a bonfire

On the afterlife of trees

First the note:

'La Quercia del Tasso' or 'Tasso's Oak' on Janiculum (Gianicolo) hill, Rome, is said to have been a place of rest and contemplation for Renaissance poet Torquato Tasso in the weeks before his death at the nearby Monastery of Sant'Onofrio. The tree is propped up by iron supports, having been struck by lightening in 1811.
Now the conclusion to the poem.
the burning starts. The time will come
when I will need to breathe for you, when we two
will crackle, our cinders' unobserved
parabolas like brief, celestial monsters, or space-
                         junk some call shooting stars.
Jaya Sevige. Surfaces of Air. "La Quercia del Tasso"

It is the tree speaking.

And so for day 2121

Anatomy Lesson

Jaya Sevige. Surfaces of Air. "Sand Island"

What cleaves each muscle of wave
from its bone of ocean?

          Hear the snap
of its ligaments.
Listen to the severing of tendons.
Sevige's poem is a way of making sense of Lauren Berlant's claim that the making of muscle involves the rupture of tendons:
Another way to think about your metaphor, Michael, is that in order to make a muscle you have to rip your tendons.
From a discussion held at the Banff Centre for the Arts: No One is Sovereign in Love: A Conversation Between Lauren Berlant and Michael Hardt – Heather Davis & Paige Sarlin, an excerpt from that discussion has been posted by NoMorePotlucks. Here is the remark from Michael Hardt to which Berlant was responding:
Spinoza defines love as the increase of our joy, that is, the increase of our power to act and think, with the recognition of an external cause. You can see why Spinoza says self-love is a nonsense term, since it involves no external cause. Love is thus necessarily collective and expansive in the sense that it increases our power and hence our joy. Here’s one way of thinking about the transformative character of love: we always lose ourselves in love, but we lose ourselves in love in the way that has a duration, and is not simply rupture. To use a limited metaphor, if you think about love as muscles, they require a kind of training and increase with use. Love as a social muscle has to involve a kind of askesis, a kind of training in order to increase its power, but this has to be done in cooperation with many.
And hence the notion of "ocean" and the deterioration of the body's parts ... mini-ruptures to effect a sense of duration ... wave upon wave

One way of thinking through Berlant's startling if counterfactual statement is to consider the tendon in its function of attaching muscle to bone. To sever the connection between muscle and bone induces a form of paralysis — it's experienced as a form of violation. Berlant continues:
The thing I like about love as a concept for the possibility of the social, is that love always means non-sovereignty. Love is always about violating your own attachment to your intentionality, without being anti-intentional. I like that love is greedy. You want incommensurate things and you want them now. And the now part is important.

The question of duration is also important in this regard because there are many places that one holds duration. One holds duration in one’s head, and one holds duration in relation. As a formal relation, love could have continuity, whereas, as an experiential relation it could have discontinuities.
I want this metaphor to work. I turn to wave and ocean. I am in love with the image of bone, muscle and tendon. I intuit their decomposition.

To make a muscle — to focus attention upon it — is to dissect.

And so for day 2120

Coming Between Self and Flesh: from "of" to "on"

Indigeneity: Theorized Materialised

Billy-Ray Belcourt
This Wound is a World: Poems
"The Cree Word for a Body like Mine is Weesageechak"

its final lines offering a big beginning

was once a broad-shouldered trickster who long ago fell from the
moon wearing make-up and skinny jeans
Form. Disguise. Body shifting.

It is the Epilogue that sparks further consideration of inhabiting a body or being out of one:
This Wound is a World is a book obsessed with the unbodied. It is a book that chases after a scene that can barely be spotted. It is a book that only liked to be written if I stared long enough in the direction of nowhere, which is probably more accurately everywhere. Everywhere, of course, is the space that death carves into everyday life.
Meditations on "unbodied"

Belcourt's essay on self-care and the décrochage offered by the practice of masturbation explores the ontological frontier erected by colonization. See Decolonial Love and the Thingly Future available on line thanks to the library at the University of Alberta.
Decolonial love therefore promises not only to chip away at the corporeal and emotional toll of settler colonialism as such, but also to gestate a wider set of worlds and ontologies, ones that we cannot know in advance, but ones that might make life into something more than a taxing state of survival.
Beyond survival
For me, masturbation is about a strange encounter, to evoke Sara Ahmed's term,44 between the self and the flesh whose form and outcome we cannot know in advance, but that occurs vis-à-vis but also in contrast to a prior and sometimes ghost-like history of colonial rupture that blocked and still blocks our relation to the psychic and the corporeal.

44See Sara Ahmed, Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality
On decolonialization
It is a teleology of the elsewhere whereby new strategies for survival and wanting replace the ones we have inherited in a world bent on our disappearance, literally and juridically.
"Unbodied" raises for me to the question of embodiment and the possibility of thinking sous rature of the phrase "embodiment of" — but instead of this deconstructive move I follow a substitution of prepositions: instead of "of" it is a positioning of "from/to" that recognizes the past and projects a future or should we say "futures" — and again I return to the problematic "of" implying a single source origin — needing to think the multiple plural nature of origin

embodiment: getting into the body instead of unhinging the body marked a bio-politics of my non-indigenous time and place where our models were those of autotelic structures (Maturana and Varela)

back to that "of" — there's a point of thinking the self in terms of textual stemma or the branching of the tree of life that is the self inhabiting an environment (thinking of the thinking done by Robert Bringhurst on this notion that the individual, self or text, arises from an ecosystem) — entertaining the unbodied state is potentially recognizing the boundaries being permeable and that self is not self without a whole host of others (and things) — "of" of course has a sense of belonging (to) but it can also express a relationship between a part and a whole - ecosystems again

[Note the common "mistake" of using "of" instead of "have" in constructions such as "you should have asked" (not you should of asked).] In my reading, this is the grammatical pressure point of "of" - depossession, self-possession, possession - that "unbodied" circles like a strange attractor: a systemic stepping out of the self to repossess a future decolonized self or a set of possiblities of becoming . . .

Last word to Belcourt (last words of the Epilogue): "It [This Wound is a World] insists that loneliness is endemic to the affective life of settler colonialism, but that it is also an affective commons of sorts that demonstrates that there is something about this world that isn't quite right, that loneliness in fact evinces a new world on the horizon.

of on the horizon

And so for day 2119

Spin and Rinse

Jaya Savige. latecomers. "West end".

I want it to stop here where it began.

this gentle aphasia
washes over us like fabric softener.
I don't want to follow the simile into a full-blown conceit. But I read on implanting the two lines like senyru in the laundry like coins forgotten in a pocket. Like the glitch of language tumbled dry. It never shrinks.

And so for day 2118

Repetition Inversion Inversion Repetition

Jay Hopler in "The Coast Road", the last poem in The Abridged History of Rain, invites us to pay attention:

It's not what one listens to that matters,
But what one listens for
I listen for repetition. I listen for inversion.

Take for instance the repetitions in "Umbrian Anecdotes". They unroll like school exercises. In one instance "east" is replaced by "west" and the parakeets in both instances "fly chattering, pieces of ripe fig falling from their orange beaks." These lines from the second stanza provide the bridge between the opening stanza and the third.
Every evening, at sunset, a company of green parakeets leaves the
     fig trees in the garden


Every evening, at sunset, these parakeets fly, pieces of ripe fig
     falling in the garden
Look what he does with dogs in the eighth section of "The Rooster King"
Dogs pass no laws against you and knock not they your
      daughters up and do not to Manhattan go with your last two
      hundred dollars so, in general
Dogs are A-OK with me.
Later in section thirteen ("So Many Birds to Kill and So Few Stones") we read "one / cannot help but flattened be by the persistence of the beautiful thing" where we almost read presence for persistence.

And so for day 2117

This nor This is not That and not I

Amazing syntactic twist unfolds round a series of negations marking transitoriness and ending with endurance of the self...

This is not the moon,
Nor is this the spring,
Of other springs,
And I alone
Am still the same
Translated by Kenneth Rexroth from Ariwawa No Narihira, collected in One Hundred Poems from the Japanese.

And so for day 2116


Michele Leggott
Milk & Honey
"festival junction"

string of events
string of memories
string I bring
into the labyrinth
I like how the poet brings the reader in bit by bit until resting on the present tense we are there in the middle of it all.

There is a neat little trick of progressions in the list and a neat trick of arresting motion in the use of the present tense.

And so for day 2115

Not Far From The Tree

Trees are sometimes consigned to fire: Tree Destiny. Here Gracian provides a choice between two options (and of course is speaking metaphorically as well).

There are trees and there are trees. Some bear fruit, while others are barren. Know well the use for both — one for provision and profit — the other for timber.

Translated by Thomas G. Corvan.
This is of course offered as a way of judging people: but are we not all firewood in the end (unless we sink and rot, enriching the soil)?

And so for day 2114

Story and Self and State

Richard Ronan in the introduction to his collection of poems Narratives from America opens with the observation:

A story houses us. Often more utterly than does our flesh.
But this is not left at the level of the individual, the perspective expands:
I've come to understand this: that one's voice and story, the myth and history of one's country and culture are of a piece — and that if one does not regularly find meaning in some part of this large process, then it is pointless and, at last, hugely dangerous.
And so the function of narrative is to give point (and the function of narration is to avoid the dangers of such pointedness). At least that's a Canadian (ironic) perspective.

And so for day 2113

A Sort of Onomatopoeia

To be taken away

When I went out
In the Spring meadows
To gather violets
I enjoyed myself
So much that I stayed all night.

translated by Kenneth Rexroth in One Hundred Poems from the Japanese
There is a visual delight that is as subtle as the flavouring of violets in sugar or in liqueur: all those consonants that hang below the line like the stems of flowers ... p g j y

Visible if you chose to linger...

And so for day 2112

Enough to Live Inside

An example from painting applicable to poetry.

There’s a legend about a Chinese painter who was asked by the emperor to paint a landscape so pristine that the emperor can enter it. He didn’t do a good job, so the emperor was preparing to assassinate him. But because it was his painting, legend goes, he stepped inside and vanished, saving himself. I always loved that little allegory as an artist. Even when it is not enough for others, if it is enough for you, you can live inside it.
Ocean Vong interviewed by Zoë Hitzig at Prac Crit

And so for day 2111

Terms - Plucked and Gathered

DWR trawling through John Williams's Augustus recorded these on a slip

The image is particularly haunting because it communicates with a certain eloquence a certain lack of facility with language — a palpable tension.

And so for day 2110

Hollinghurst on White: figurative exuberance

Alan Hollinghurst writing in The Guardian on Edmund White's novel, A Boy’s Own Story

Anyone who reads A Boy’s Own Story will be struck by the contrast between a plain, brisk, clear-eyed language in which any boy’s story might be told, and the luxuriance of its similes, which open up beyond the mundane world a shimmer of secret reference and private value. Even when White writes of suppressing his urges, the metaphor he uses, of a candle snuffed out, multiplies with an unsuppressible life of its own – “a candle, two candles, a row of 20, until the lens pulled back to reveal an entire votive stand exhaling a hundred thin lines of smoke as a terraced offering before the shrine”. These unfurling images seem to translate libido into style, the unstoppable expressions of a hidden life. Adolescent experience is both intense and incommunicable; being so much discovery it also seems, to the accustomed adult eye, disproportionate: “it’s the particular curse of adolescence that its events are never adequate to the feelings they inspire, that no unadorned retelling of those events can suggest the feelings”. A kind of figurative exuberance (which will never be lost from White’s writing, and remains one of its pleasures) is therefore especially marked in this book, where it not only gives body to adolescent reverie and conjecture, but subtly recreates the frame of reference of a receptive child whose sense of the world comes through reading and music as much as through direct experience.
Such a vital and key phrase : translate libido into style.

And so for day 2109

Trails of Structure and Tales of Self

First the indication of a long sweep in the reading:

The Stubborn Structure: Essays on Criticism and Society (London: Methuen, 1970). Fyre was rightly known for his long attention span and would not mind, I hope, that in shaping this quotation I have taken one sentence from page 3 of his book and the other from page 82.
Next the selection:
the knowledge of most worth, whatever it may be, is not something one has: it is something one is . . . The end of criticism and teaching, in any case, is not an aesthetic but an ethical and participating end: for it, ultimately, works of literature are not things to be contemplated but powers to be absorbed.
Robert Bringhurst. What Is Reading for? (Cary Graphic Arts Press: Rochester, New York).

And so for day 2108

Enduring Virtues

If I may, a mapping (inspired by the virtuous and public work of Kathleen Fitzgerald in Generous Thinking) and inspired by some thoughts on the cardinal and digital virtues . . . a foray into the Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity.

Faith is about bringing the best of the past to the listening situation (we trust there is some value in what has gone on before, it's a belief that grounds our commitment) and hope is about taking the best from the listening situation and projecting it into the future (we expect that good will follow). Caritas (charity or love) is being mindful of the power dynamics in each listening situation. Care is of the present.

Faith and hope belong to the world of affect. Care is of the intellect. It requires judgment and assessment. It weighs. It is the judicious application of critique.

In the context of the discussion in Generous Thinking the question arises as to the alignment of empathy with these orientations to the communication situation. Inspired by the work of Paul Bloom (see Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion for his take on the good of parenting as being outside the realm of empathy) and mindful of his discussion of "cognitive empathy," I would suggest that empathetic understanding or care involves a temporal folding: bringing into the present space both a historical sensitivity (being attuned to what people value in the past) and a teleological bent (a watchfulness of what desires propel communicative encounters). Care is not so much being open to the feelings of other people in sense of the Adam Smith's sympathy, a type of empathy which Bloom argues against (and he distinguishes this from "cognitive empathy"). Care or "cognitive empathy" is a receptivity to the fault lines between hope and faith that run through any sense of self and more so in the relations of self and other. Care understands story as story: the past (barbaric or edenic) as abandoned by progress; the apocalyptic future ushering in utopia or nightmares. Care or "cognitive empathy" would thus recognize and acknowledge affect and attempt to trace its origins and where it might lead.

1 Corinthians 13:13
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

And so for day 2107

Culinary Layering

The eight steps in how Anna Jones puts a recipe together:

Hero Ingredient
How Shall I Cook It?
Supporting Role?
Add an Accent
Add a Flavour
Add a Herb
Add Some Crunch
Season and Finish
from a modern way to eat

It calls for a well-stocked larder and a source of fresh ingredients. And an easy hand with variety.

And so for day 2106

Meet the Wort Family

Anna Pavord in the preface to the Herbology section of Harry Potter - A History of Magic: The Book of the Exhibition (At the British Library) waxes eloquently on plant names and the very special magic contained in etymology.

She explains that plant names ending in "wort" were (as the OED says): "in combination Used in names of plants and herbs, especially those used formerly as food or medicinally, e.g. butterwort, lungwort, woundwort."

The variety of *wort names is astounding
  • Barrenwort - Epimedium, especially Epimedium alpinum
  • Lungwort - A plant of the genus Mertensia, the lungworts. Also, a boraginaceous plant of the genus Pulmonaria
  • Motherwort - A herb, Leonurus cardiaca, of the mint family, Lamiaceae
  • Mugwort - Artemisia vulgaris
  • Sneezewort - Achillea ptarmica. Goosetongue; Bastard pellitory
  • Spleenwort
  • St. John's Wort - Can refer to any species of Hypericum
Exercise your imagination, invent some new *worts
  • phonewort
  • blogwort
  • googlewort
  • txtwrt
Fun, eh?

And so for day 2105

Way to Eat - Way to Live

Anna Jones in the introduction to a modern way to eat [never capitalized throughout] makes a series of claims.

I'd like to make a few promises about the food in this book:
  • It is indulgent and delicious
  • It will make you feel good and look good
  • It will leave you feeling light yet satisfied
  • It will help you lighten your footprint on the planet
  • It is quick and easy to make and won't cost the earth
  • And it'll impress your family and friends
There is the delight in the anaphora. There is the balance. And a move from the food to the conviviality surrounding its preparation and consumption.

A feast.

And so for day 2104

Empathy and the Place of Reason

I have been reading through the comment-available publication of Kathleen Fitzpatrick's Generous Thinking and have been led to observe:

Are there two empathies? Empathy of feeling and empathy of imagination. And is not reason and critique that which allows the participant in a communicative situation to ferry between the focus on the self (how do I feel?) and a focus on the other (what is the other feeling?). Inserted into this space is judgement which of course is open to inspection. Empathy invites a sort of mapping  and a consideration of the rightness of that mapping.

Such a tripartite view of empathy is rooted in a belief that all communication is mediated. It addresses Paul Bloom’s reductio ad absurdum: “The necessity of feeling exactly the same things as another person makes empathetic connection, especially with those whose life experiences and personal values may be quite different from our own, all but impossible.” Empathy actually operates in the gap, in difference, and in an awareness that the map is not the territory. It doesn’t flatten or transfer affect. It brings the mind to bear on emotion.

Comments I made before engaging with Paul Bloom, Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion.

Inspired by Fitzpatrick, I picked up Bloom's book.

The library catalogue I consulted gave an abstract of Bloom's book based on the paratext (the dust jacket):
"We often think of our capacity to experience the suffering of others as the ultimate source of goodness. Many of our wisest policy-makers, activists, scientists, and philosophers agree that the only problem with empathy is that we don't have enough of it. Nothing could be farther from the truth, argues Yale researcher Paul Bloom. In [this book], Bloom [posits that] empathy [is] one of the leading motivators of inequality and immorality in society. Far from helping us to improve the lives of others, empathy is a capricious and irrational emotion that appeals to our narrow prejudices"--Dust jacket flap.
Within the book, the case is made in a less outlandish fashion (see page 35). For one, Bloom has a highly focused target: "I've been focusing here on empathy in the Adam Smith sense, of feeling what others feel and, in particular, feeling their pain." This reminder comes after a paragraph outlining the argument and the marshalling of examples:
The issues here go beyond policy. I'll argue that what really matters for kindness in our everyday interactions is not empathy but capacities such as self-control and intelligence and a more diffuse compassion. Indeed, those who are high in empathy can be too caught up in the suffering of other people. If you absorb the suffering of others, then you're less able to help them in the long run because achieving long-term goals often requires inflicting short-term pain. Any good parent, for instance, often has to make a child do something, or stop doing something, in a way that causes the child immediate unhappiness but is better for him or her in the future. Do your homework, eat your vegetables, go to bed at a reasonable hour, sit still for this vaccination, go to the dentist. Making children suffer temporarily for their own good is made possible by love, intelligence, and compassion, but yet again, it can be impeded by empathy.
How odd to arrive in the same place; one of us using a bulldozer and the other tweezers.

And so for day 2103

Self as Experiment

Plethora leads ...

It was inevitable that these new versions of nature would complicate traditional moralities. Conflict, chance, survival, reproduction, the family, sexual satisfaction and death were newly minted words in these stories, quickly shedding some of their more familiar associations. Darwin and Freud had produced scientific and quasi-scientific redescriptions of nature as continual flux. There was no longer such a thing as a relatively fixed and consistent person — a person with a recognizable identity — confronting a potentially predictable world, but rather two turbulences enmeshed with each other. If through increasingly sophisticated scientific experiments a new nature was emerging, the new nature was revealing that lives themselves were more like experiments than anything else.
Adam Phillips. Darwin's Worms: On Life Stories and Death Stories

And so for day 2102

Random Pairing

Seduced by its alliteration on the sound of "s" we here lay down the last line of "Sherbourne Morning" by Pier Giorgio Di Cicco in The Tough Romance

sun above them spins halos for angels gone beserk
Coupling this selection with a plucking from Camille Paglia Break, Blow, Burn, selected in a sort of Sortes Vergilianae fashion we come upon her comments on William Blake's London:
Wandering through London's hell, Blake follows the model of Dante as poet-quester cataloguing the horrors of the Inferno. A visitor to the storied British capital in 1793 would have seen a grand, expanding city in economic boom. But the poet, with telepathic hearing and merciless X-ray eyes, homes in on the suffering, dislocation, and hidden spiritual costs of rapid social transformation. The Industrial Revolution, which began in England in the 1770s and would spread globally over the next two centuries, profoundly altered community, personal identity, and basic values in ways we are still sorting out.
Muddling through the themes of angels and Dante, we learn that Di Cicco published a book under the title The Dark Side of Angels and that critics note
There is a marked difference between Di Cicco's early personal poems, which deal with ethnic identity, social conflict and family relationships, and his later poems about philosophical questions, spiritual ideas and broader global problems.
But those questions, we see, are there from the beginning in a kind of Blakean fashion (thanks to the uncanny juxtaposition with Paglia).

you want to get rid of these
little harpies

you want to confess they aren't yours
take the one called song
the way it turns everything you say
into gold
take the one called love
the way it brings out the best in you

get rid of them
there is the real you, ugly and taloned
with eyes like an angel
ready to eat the world
for the first time

from in The Tough Romance
Of course "aquila" translates as "eagle". And "paglia" as "straw". And hence our Rumplestiltskin moment. A rough romance.

And so for day 2101

Play: Wonder, Delight, Choice

Like being open to randomness...

Indeed, bringing play into a central role in a school entails creating a culture that values the core tenets of play: taking risks, making mistakes, exploring new ideas, and experiencing joy.


what is emerging is a model of playful learning with indicators in three overlapping categories: delight, wonder, and choice.
from Towards a Pedagogy of Play: A Project Zero Working Paper by the Pedagogy of Play Research Team [Ben Mardell, Daniel Wilson, Jen Ryan, Katie Ertel, Mara Krechevsky and Megina Baker].

And so for day 2100

Myth Marking

A feminine figurine fighter is graces the cover of the 1992 edition

The 1994 edition is of flag and Mount Rushmore

It's the back cover that attracted by attention with its encounter with the theme of myth-making

Here transcribed
A triumph, transcending the usual pot-pourri of anthologies, and offering us an analysis of North America itself — land of mythology and contradiction.

The Faber Book of America resembles the country it celebrates: a big fat grab-bag filled with brilliance, junk, dizzying contrarieties, fast dreams and rich comforts.
Times Educational Supplement

There are black, Spanish, Chinese, Indian Americas; there are gendered and religiously divided Americas; there are Americans with and without homes. It is a great virtue of Rick's and Vance's anthology that it represents all these strands in American life without losing the thread of the country's hopeful myth about itself.

Ricks and Vance have a lively sense of the troubles that tend to accompany American virtues.
Times Literary Supplement
The Faber Book of America edited by Christopher Ricks and William L. Vance.

And so for day 2099


Some history and some speculation...

The saga of Jefferson and his favorite herb, tarragon, is a typically exasperating story of failure and futility. Jefferson likely encountered tarragon, or estragon, while in Paris as minister to France. After returning home in 1793 he wrote his French neighbor Peter Derieux that it "is little known in America." Perhaps because of tarragon's noticeable absence from the French cuisine at the President's House, Jefferson in 1805 asked J.P. Reibelt, a Swiss book dealer in New Orleans, to procure him seed. The genuine tarragon used for cooking and vinegar rarely produces seed but is easily propagated from root divisions. Jefferson never realized this, and his fervent search for the seeds is a key reason tarragon may never have been established in the garden. By 1813, after various plantings of roots, plants, and seeds, Jefferson reported tarragon in both square XVII and in the submural beds below the garden wall. These were seed-propagated plants from steamy New Orleans and were more likely what is today called Russian tarragon, an inferior sort that mimics but fails to match the sweet, liquorice-like flavor of the genuine article.
Peter J. Hatch. A Rich Spot of Earth: Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello

And so for day 2098


Michele Leggott
Milk & Honey
"tourbillon 1"

I am arrested by a line and a reduplication of sound across meaning

almost the lobe of l'aube
a sliver of morning light comes to mind and the "lobe" becomes breast-like
almost the lobe of l'aube
or the painted nipples sucked hard
and squirting rosewater
full of pectin full of petals, the parallel
world is a mouth mapping
It reminds one of an aubade, a morning love song filled with a serene eros...

And so for day 2097

Ecce Ecco

Look here!

I was intrigued by the "half" anaphora in these opening lines by Pier Giorgio Di Cicco.

Love breaks where no light shines,
this is the dark heaven;
the real thumbnail;
the rain of sadness
Just itching to re-imagine a fulsome anaphora
this is the dark heaven;
this is the real thumbnail;
this is the rain of sadness
But later in the poem I understand the appeal of the "half" anaphora for we come upon a "full" anaphora:
this song is made up of three terrors;
one is the terror of self;
one is the terror of others,
one is the terror of having loved and missed it;
For the life of me I can't follow the punctuation at the end of the lines. It seems as capricious as the terrors — half broken as love.

The unadulterated lines are from "Ecco" in The Tough Romance.

Ecce = Latin for "look"
Ecco = Italian for "here"

And so for day 2096

how sweetly flows that liquefaction

Michael Lavers
from The Burden of Humans in New Ohio Review

The frost tattoos its sermon on the rose,
but in a language only you can read;
Calls to mind poems by Lorna Crozier in The Garden Going On Without Us

Artichokes never
take off their clothes.
They want seduction,
melted butter, a touch
of wild garlic
It is the implied notion of stitch in the frost tattoos that puts me in mind of the clothes in the poem of the vegetable which is gathered under the title "From The Sex Lives of Vegetables". And yet there is a distance between the lightheartedness of Crozier and the pathos of Lavers whose lines continue as the subject continues to regard what is read
The frost tattoos its sermon on the rose,
but in a language only you can read;
you have to know that all things pass and perish,
and that what you’ve said is finite, but continue—
as if grand exceptions might be made—
raking the leaves, stacking the wood, hoping
the child falls asleep against your chest,
hoping the blizzard swerves, knowing the wreckage
of the present will be gathered but
not soon, and not by you, because you’re in it,
there somewhere, under the sheet of snow.
And we are out of it licking the butter-soaked artichokes reading Herrick.

And so for day 2095

The Secret to Dip and Sip

Naomi Duguid
Taste of Persia: A Cook's Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan

Occasionally an older person in Iran will dip a sugar cube into the tea and then take a bite of it. This is the story I was told to explain the practice: Sometime long ago (in the late 1800s it seems), there was a dispute between the authorities and some of the foreign (mostly English) sugar merchants about pricing. The authorities wanted the price to stay down, the merchants wanted a higher price. The authorities played hardball by having the mullahs at the mosques declare that sugar was haram, or unclean. Suddenly no one would buy sugar. This forced the merchants back to the negotiating table and eventually a deal was reached. But how to change the decree about sugar being haram? Simple: The mullahs declared that dipping sugar into tea made it clean.
Graham Plaster gives a another take on the story
This came about because in the late 1800s, the Shah of Iran gave a sugar cube concession to a Belgium monopoly which resulted in the bazaari merchants and clergy protesting and issuing a fatwa declaring the Belgian sugar cube as "haram". The royal court swiftly had another mullah issue a rebuttal fatwa declaring that because the Iranian tea was pure and "halal", all Iranians had to do was to dip the sugar cube into the tea and purify it before drinking the tea. To this very day some Iranians do this ritual, many of them not knowing why they do it.
Looks like Plaster drew upon Dariush Gilani
When the bazaari merchants protested against sugar cube concession given to Belgium a clergy gave a fatwa declaring the Belgian sugar cube as “haram”. The royal court swiftly had another mullah issue a rebuttal fatwa declaring that because the Iranian tea was pure and “halal”, all Iranians had to do was to dip the sugar cube into the tea and purify it before drinking the tea. To this very day some Iranians do this ritual, many of them not knowing why they do it.
A good story is worth copying but a note to the source would be nice. One more variation offered by Arron Merat [asked what team is he rooting for and offered tea on the basis of the response]:
"You are for Esteghlal?" one man asks me pointedly. I nod, hoping to guess right. "Then you are my friend." From under his chair he pulls out a little bag from which emerge several tiny glasses, saucers, a flask of tea and a silver dish containing jagged sugar cubes. He pops one between his front teeth as he sips his tea.

He explains that a hundred years ago a cleric issued a fatwa to boycott sugar because the Shah had permitted Belgium an official monopoly on Iran's sugar. Iranians duly followed the fatwa but deemed it highly inconvenient and were relieved when another mullah decreed that it was OK, religiously, to consume sugar with tea as long as it is not mixed in the glass but held in the mouth. Even now, almost all Iranians take their sugar this way.
Now off to put the kettle on...

And so for day 2094

The Human Element: Modern Business Managment

At the beginning of Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook one finds the business principles that guide their philosophy and practice. They are called "Seven Crowns" and they are:

  • Love, respect, and serve family and community
  • Master your craft
  • Make everything delicious
  • Waste nothing
  • Connect customers to the source
  • Innovate through simplicity
  • Be honest and transparent
I want to focus in particular on connecting customers to source. The Mast brothers describe this as
We are nothing without our farmers. In every way possible, we must pay tribute to them and share their work. Connect the dots.
For me, this sets the stage for blockchain technology to be used in the service of source verification. It also speaks to the need for human relations in supply chain management. No technology will suffice on its own.

I like how the crowns interlock. And if one fails, the whole edifice topples.

And so for day 2093

Charm Bibbles Over and Over

I had seen the title many times offered by various booksellers over the years. It was Ruby Tandoh's savouring of the mean aunts that tipped me into actually reading James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. And indeed Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge are as Tandoh's says "really quite funny".

Who is your favourite literary hero or heroine? Antihero or villain?

This is terrible and deeply childish, but Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker in James and the Giant Peach. They’re so cruel and awful and I kind of love them. They feed James burnt crumbs from the oven and make him run around after them all day and chop wood. They’re always bickering between themselves – you’re too thin, you’re too fat, you’re too lazy – I think they’re really quite funny. Merged together, I see something of myself in them.
Quentin Blake captures their essence

And now to the words of Dahl to see how captivating indeed is their description.
Their names were Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker, and I am sorry to say that they were both really horrible people. They were selfish and lazy and cruel, and right from the beginning they started beating poor James for almost no reason at all. They never called him by his real name, but always referred to him as "you disgusting little beast" or "you filthy nuisance" or "you miserable creature," and they certainly never gave him any toys to play with or any picture books to look at. His room was as bare as a prison cell.
All that in one paragraph. Dahl is a prose master — rhythms build inside sentences and among them and occasionally an uncommon word sparkles. Take for instance this description of the bobbing peach:
And indeed they were. A strong current and a high wind had carried the peach so quickly away from the shore that already the land was out of sight. All around them lay the vast black ocean, deep and hungry. Little waves were bibbling against the sides of the peach.
To bibble: the OED informs us is like the dabbling of ducks.

Perfect word in the perfect place and likewise the virtuoso performance of course is at play when describing a virtuoso, the Old-Green-Grasshopper:
He was using only the top of his back leg (the thigh), and he was stroking this up and down against the edge of his wing with incredible skill, sometimes slowly, sometimes fast, but always with the same easy flowing action. It was precisely the way a clever violinist would have used his bow; and the music came pouring out and filled the whole blue sky around them with magic melodies.
Apt self-description of the words on the page!

And so for day 2092

What is a Godlfish?

Pier Giorgio Di Cicco
"Aunt Margaret" from The Tough Romance
1979 rpt Guernica Editions, 1990

There was a marshy patch behind her house. When Sundays
brought the family to her rooms, I'd hunt the
puddled grass for frogs and drown them in a jar, fling them
walls, singe ants with glasses. Inside the house
I drowned the goldfish, choked the parakeets, and made
a paraphernalia of hell the size of those too big to kill.
In Shapeshifter "The Last Breath of One Such As Us", David Livingstone Clink writes a glossa based on this passage and introduces some accidentals (single for singe and godlfish for goldfish) and the lineation is off.
… I'd hunt the puddled grass for frogs
and drown them in a jar, fling them at walls,
single aunts with glasses. Inside the house
I drowned the godlfish, choked the parakeets
A trip to the library to check against the 1979 edition by McClelland and Stewart. The lineation is closer to Clink's quotation.
There was a marshy patch behind her house. When Sundays
brought the family to her rooms, I'd hunt the
puddled grass for frogs and drown them in a jar, fling them at
walls, singe ants with glasses. Inside the house
I drowned the goldfish, choked the parakeets, and made
a paraphernalia of hell the size of those too big to kill
Almost made a transcription error of my own. Reading "puddle grass" for "puddled grass". Such is the power of shapeshifting letters...

Believe Your Own Press, 2004

And so for day 2091

Bundle Magic

I have thought about the similarities of carrying a bundle and having ready-at-hand a smartphone. Both are portable and both offer access to a phenomenological experience that lifts one out of the now into a future-to-be-built-on-the-past. As Beth Cuthand says about bundles

And where he walks, his bundle walks
humming softly old sounds in new time.

     Closing lines of "His Bundle" in Voices in the Waterfall (Lazara Press, 1989)
The affinities came to mind again in reading this piece from the Globe & Mail.

Can we ever kick our smartphone addiction? Jim Balsillie and Norman Doidge discuss
Privacy and mental health are inextricably linked, especially for young people. You need periods of privacy to form a self and an identity, a task not completed until at least the late teens. Having an autonomous, spontaneous self is the result of a long psychological process where you have time to "step back" from the crowd, and from your parents, to reflect. It requires time to let that self – your true feelings, your own quirky, uncurated reactions – emerge, spontaneously.
Time alone with the objects of one's bundle.

But the smartphone in their account falls short. A note of caution is sounded — one of the technologies delivered by a smartphone is a net to capture attention:
The new phones foster enmeshment with parents, and the world, and hamper individuation, the process of becoming a unique individual, because kids are overconnected. And peer groups at that age can be Lord of the Flies cruel – and often love to mercilessly hunt down, expose and denounce the eccentricities of emerging individuals.
Still, even in that enmeshment there must be uncurated moments where one uncrates history. Still.
Louis David, to you
   I transfer my bundle.
It is small and humble
   wrapping little things,
   a bone
   from the last buffalo,
   a stone
   from the Assiniboine,
   a small pipe and
   tobacco pouch
   a feather
   from the broken wing
   of one
   who flew too low.

From Beth Cuthand "He Told Me" in Voice in the Waterfall
On being tracked (and not being located)...
In Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS), communicators functioned as a plot device, stranding characters in challenging situations when they malfunctioned, were lost or stolen, or went out of range. (Otherwise, the transporter could have allowed characters to return to the ship at the first sign of trouble, ending the storyline prematurely.[1])
On carrying (and being carried)...
In many Indigenous cultures, bundles play an important role in health and well-being. Physical bundles (i.e. a collection of sacred items that are important to a given person, such as eagle feathers, medicines, a pipe, etc.) are often carried by Indigenous peoples attending ceremony. Similarly, some Indigenous cultures believe that when a child is born they come into the world with a spiritual bundle which holds all of the gifts the Creator gave to them. Both physical and spiritual bundles serve the purpose of helping a person to engage with creation in a healthy and balanced way.

Working with Indigenous families: An engagement bundle for child and youth mental health agencies published by Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health.
Exploring the techne analogies further one comes to appreciate the temporality of use which leads to either interrupted stories or disruptions for stories? Breaks in time to produce the privacy necessary for a strong sense of self.

And so for day 2090

Name Game Dream

A lexically-inflected oneiric moment...

I had a dream about the Indigenization of the [Ontario] civil service.

The Ministry of Education would be known as the Ministry of Human Development. And the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development would be known as the Ministry of Later Human Development (and Seniors Affairs and Long-Term Care would now fall under its purview). Cabinet Office would be known as “All My Relations”. Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation got oddly but aptly renamed “Indigenous Interfaces”.

I woke up before the changes could be ratified.
I truly grok the interfaces piece.

And so for day 2089

Lines, Designs, Reflections

Robbie Robertson "Unbound"

Oh nothing is forgotten
Only left behind
And I open the CD envelope for this production doesn't come in a jewel case.

The eye traverses the space; the mind mends the breach. So like the themes of many of the songs on the album.

Sound is Like Sweetgrass It Tr        avels in Between Worlds

The cover complicates contact by reversing the "C" and other letters — ʇɔɐʇuoɔ brought to life here by the mirror generator  

Finding a way to lost tools.

And so for day 2088