Erratics

"Odd Blocks" — it's the opening poem to Kay Ryan's The Best of It: New and Selected Poems".

[...]
glacier-scattered
thousand-ton
monuments to
randomness become
fixed points in
finding home.
[...]
And why not
also in the self,
the odd blocks,
all lost and left,
become first facts
toward which later
a little town
looks back?
Self and landscape — also applicable to the elements of the poem and the poems of the book. Embedded in the middle of "Odd Blocks" is the statement that marks both a beginning and an ending: "Order is always / starting over." A set of lines that sticks out in its own way with a different lithology.

Erratic: An erratic is a boulder transported and deposited by a glacier having a lithology different than the bedrock upon which it is sitting. Erratics are useful indicators of patterns of former ice flow.

And so for day 2210
31.12.2012

Tools & Letters & Spaces

Nelson Ball has a poem "for and after bpNichol" in The Continuous Present (Coburg: Proper Tales Press, 2012). He notes that "The visual poems were written while I was editing the Coach House Books edition (2004) of bpNichol's Konfessions Of An Elizabethan Fan Dancer".

The poem is entitled "Basic Construction Materials" and consists of a single line (and twenty-six letters).

a bed e fgh i jklmn o pqrts u vwx y z
There are in Konfessions Of An Elizabethan Fan Dancer no punctuation marks. Just letters and spaces except for # sign in a few titles and one place where there is underscoring. Perfect homage.

And so for day 2209
30.12.2012

Anatomy Meets Typography

I was examining the copy in the Thomas Fischer Rare Book Library from back to front and remember seeing this page in the BookThug 2012 edition of André Alexis essay My Vagina. It struck be as a colophon. And the layout of the name appeared like a headstone given the context.

André Alexis
I was born in Trinidad, in 1957. My mother's name is Adrian Ena Borde. If, after my death, anyone should wish to reprint this essay, Would be grateful if the date of my death were added, so that my time from my mother's womb to the "great cold" (that other womb) my be known.
Turns out this was no colophon but the conclusion of the essay for the previous page introduces the segment with the words "my name is".

For readers accessing the essay via In the Flesh: Twenty Writers Explore the Body edited by Kathy Page and Lynne Van Luven there will be no such misapprehension; there is no such page break.

However, there is a palpable effect that is reproduced in both editions — thanks to the essay's position in the In the Flesh collection (in almost the middle of the book). Alexis plants a footnote midway in his essay which derives some of its charm in how the book or pamphlet falls away in two equal halves. He writes, "This, the exact centre of my essay, seems as good a place as any to talk about the clitoris." The effect is uncanny. The note flows on over the two facing pages.

And so for day 2208
29.12.2012

Bravura

There is a very swish "d" in the title on the cover of The Rose Concordance (BookThug, 2009) by Angela Carr.

rose concordance cover with swish d

Here is my own little concordance of lines from The Rose Concordance:
[22] cartilage of the reader, the book's completion is a softness
[14] existence is an aromatic crease
[14] credulous and rich secretions
small attentions to cartilage, to crease, to secretion, take on a full deployment in a poem exploring the sensation of slight syntactical turns and it happens to form a happy helix round a tour de force
still in the what happens middle of never
still in the what middle happens of never
still in the middle what happens of never
still in the middle what of happens never
still in the middle of what happens never

still in the middle of what never happens

in still the middle of what never happens
in the still middle of what never happens
in the still of middle what never happens
in the of still middle what never happens
in of the still middle what never happens
of in the still middle what never happens
"of the still middle" — of course never being still for the iris of eye or the rose of ear

And so for day 2207
28.12.2012

Reading Round the Rosebud

Yvonne Blumer. Landscapes and Home: ghazals. (Lantzville, B.C.: Leaf Press, 2011)

From the ninth, this sher stands out. It stands in the middle of the ghazal.

The neighbour wants to kill deer that come down from the woods.
They nip sweet rosebuds. Going home, a truck flattens two racoons.
And like an unfolding bloom, I propose the two adjacent sher be read now:
This child stands, legs braced against the pain in her ears.
She screams at her mother. Screams at her father.

The neighbour wants to kill deer that come down from the woods.
They nip sweet rosebuds. Going home, a truck flattens two racoons.

Think: buy a gun; kill a man with five shots. The past followed me.
Animals who are destructive have no right to love.
And now the two outer sher are added to complete the ghazal.
Africa: a word in my mouth; buried place in my memories.
A dog has to be put down. A best friend dies at sixteen.

This child stands, legs braced against the pain in her ears.
She screams at her mother. Screams at her father.

The neighbour wants to kill deer that come down from the woods.
They nip sweet rosebuds. Going home, a truck flattens two racoons.

Think: buy a gun; kill a man with five shots. The past followed me.
Animals who are destructive have no right to love.

Walking toward a funeral procession, I begin to understand things.
My letters come back unopened.
This rippling reading is like memory work or so I imagine it and a good test of the thematic carriage of any given ghazal. Inspired no doubt from having read Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life" and its explorations of Semagraphic Thought.

And so for day 2206
27.12.2012

A Chuckle of LongLugged Books

Colleen Thibaudeau. My granddaughters are combing out their long hair. "As if in code ...'

It's a poem about chucking out stuff. Jettisoning. There is a keeper — a line to keep in memory:

chuckle of longlugged books, carvings, embroidery,
It is a line that brings to mind a Japanese word I encountered in Ella Frances Sanders's book Lost in Translation

cover-saunders-lost-in-translation
The word is Tsundoku. It's a noun from the Japanese meaning "leaving a book unread after buying it, typically pile up together with other unread books."

definition of tsundoku
And this book of poems by Colleen Thibaudau sat in a pile unread. But no longer so. I read and relished the image of a "chuckle of longlugged books". And now I have sent both image and word back into the world. The book will find other hands and other piles in which to rest.

Lost in Translation is to be gifted to a friend fond of words and their textures.

frontispiece with signature of Colleen Thibaudeau author of My granddaughters are combing out their long hair
And so for day 2205
26.12.2012

Enhancing Vocabulary

SUVENDIBLY

"The Brown Family" in My granddaughters are combing out their long hair by Colleen Thibaudeau (Coach House Press, 1977).

In the same manner as her Old man: For Mr. Brown's heart was pure glossy gold
By tender handling, of all that's drossy, slowly, suvendibly, rendered down.
Not in the Oxford English Dictionary. Found it in a listing of Trillick dialect.

suvendibly [adj.] – exceedingly (with malice)

and in the American Sentinel of December 13, 1894 (a parable of attempts to force dogs to act as sheep (and eat grass) which originally appeared in 1821 as an article against compulsory Sabbath observance)
they inveigled him or compelled him into the fold, then they surrounded him and "thumped him suvendibly" until the poor dog took a few mouthfuls of grass, which sat so badly upon his stomach, he soon served an ejectment upon it.
Back to Mrs. Brown. She declares "What I can touch and take up in these two hands is what I trust." And the poet supplies a listing which leads to the concluding image of the repeated gesture: "All lovingly hers tangled. And all could be taken up, stroked, cajoled / In the same manner as her Old Man [...]". In the vicinity of "cajoled" and "stroked", "suvendibly" takes on a miserly hue...

And so for day 2204

A Visual Intertext

Sarah Dyer has lodged in Five Little Fiends a treasure for the discerning eye -- almost as if in imitation of the fiends there is a hoarding of a favourite object.

cover five little fiends

The story line...
Everyday the five little fiends stand on a hillside and marvel at the world. Then one day they decide this isn't enough. Each fiend wants to take it's favourite thing home, to look at whenever it wants. One by one the moon, sun, sky, land and sea are claimed until nothing is left. But do they pick wisely?
Their homes (and hoarding places) are within sculptures which look like versions of the work of Barbara Hepworth.

barbara-hepworth-intertext
The fiends find out they are happier without actually possessing what they treasure. So too Dyer's intertextual gifts belong to free imaginations.

And so for day 2203
24.12.2012

Two Different Allusions; Two Letterforms

The design of the cover is striking. It's by Jodi Ballet. There are two shapes for the "i". One is with its dot the same height as the "l" in "limbo". The other is capped by a round nestled just inside the crook of the "t" "just" above.

just outside limbo cover

There is in this anthology a poem by Wayne Woodman called "dangerless" which has a beginning which alludes strangely to the character of Duncan, the haunter of laundromats and watcher of the machine ballet in Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman.
strange poets in laundromats
washing clothes
watching them tumble dry
And later in the poem an allusion to Desiderata by Max Ehrmann ... like a lost sock.
going placidly
mind the noise and dirt;
There is other company in just outside of limbo Abbe Edelson, Eve-Lynn Grill, Lillian Necakov and Alan Resnick, editors. (1980). Milton Acorn, Maria Jacobs, Cary Fagan make appearances.

And so for day 2202
23.12.2012

Symmetry: He Said, I Told Him

Section 5 of "The Fausto Poems"

On Thanksgiving I took him home
to my reservation and he wanted to ride horses.

I don't know how to ride, I told him.

He said, I thought all Indians rode horses.

On Christmas, we watched ESPN surfing
and I asked him how well he rode the waves.

He said, I don't know how to surf.

I thought all Hawaiians surfed, I told him.
from Sherman Alexie The Business of Fancydancing

I neither surf nor ride but I read poetry.

And so for day 2201
22.12.2012

Egg-centric concrete found poem

From the bookstore Good Egg in Kensington Market, a receipt that provides a little graphic oval. A nice touch.

good egg receipt



And so for day 2200
21.12.2012

Fragility of the Egg : Strength of Image

Gay Allison in "How to Gather Love" dedicated to Lorna Crozier concludes an extended description of the image of a woman espoused to country living with a contemplation of what could be (and what in other circumstances will be) ...

She loves simplicity, the shape
of oval that fits neatly in her palm
an utter faith that could be crushed
in a minute and run yellow
down her arm.
from The Unravelling

Pat Bolger in Volume 16 Number 6 of CM: A Reviewing Journal of Canadian Materials for Young People comments on the cover
Allison writes that "change comes in the form of a woman / holding a raven with breasts. . .," an idea embodied in Lynne Fernie's cover art, a line drawing of a nude with a decidedly odd-looking raven. [And wryly adds] The collection's primary appeal will be to women, including those of senior high school age (although some of them would probably shy away from the cover).
unravelling cover of gay allison book


And so for day 2199
20.12.2012

Finding Echoes

Found at the end of an article on the Vitruvius Program in Pamphlet Architecture 16 Architecture as a Translation of Music (Princeton Architecture Press) edited by Elizabeth Martin is this intriguing reference to Rosen, Micahel, editor. "Ears, Eyes, Legs and Arms" [a story from Mali] in Oxfam Book of Children's Stories: South and North, East and West (Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 1992), pp. 50-52.

The reference is not explicitly connected to the article about students creating sculptural instruments. But it you look at the illustrations and read the story you see a theme: how unconnected parts come to work together. In the story from Mali the teller recounts how the separate parts of the body were counselled by a mosquito to visit a wise chief to settle how to distribute an antelope. The wise man inflicts judgement:

Then the chief spoke. "I listen to your story and decided that I would punish all of you for being so mean and selfish. First I punished you by eating all of the antelope without sharing any of it with you. Now I am going to punish you all once more by joining you together so that something like this never happens again."

And he did

The parts of the body were furious with the chief for doing this, but they were even angrier with the mosquito for bringing them to see the chief. And that's why whenever the ears hear the whine of a mosquito, the eyes search for it, and the arms try and slap it. If, as often happens, the mosquito still whines even after the arms have slapped and smacked all over the place, the legs join in the hunt.
The theme of assemblages resonates with the pictures and comments on the work of the workshop participants.
When I look through it I can see the other side of my instrument but when I blow, it echoed! Does that mean I'm hearing the other side?" (Elisabeth [Vitruvius program workshop participant])
John Cage would have been amused. Pamphlet Architecture 16 is dedicated in memoriam to Cage.

And so for day 2198
19.12.2012

The Tree Saver or a Plea for the Poui

I like how Shani Mootoo condenses history in a moment — here an exchange about not cutting down a tree which symbolizes nothing more than itself.

[...]

My father's argument
is not for sound landscaping
but a simple plea for a useless tree

Or is it something more
from the perennial opponent
of capital punishment?

           Remember that season, years back when it flowered,
           and was magnificent?


[...]

Now the damn thing stands,
none the wiser,
and surely won't flower next year.
"Poui's Hero" from The Predicament of Or.

And so for day 2197
18.12.2012

Tides: Stasis Betrayed

History dreams. Misplaced urges. Just as you think you can grasp a kernel the poem moves on in a kind of eddying reflective of the wanderings of thought and and its return to wander more. I quote at length the opening section of one set...

The Shape of Things

i

The idle days of autumn close. The planet moves itself
to a place where the thought of everything resides.

This is a place where history lies on its back and dreams.
This is a place where nature has misplaced its urge

to compose itself. The leaves tremble with the shifting earth.
The cooling wind turns itself inside and out.

We lie here beside the open window and wonder what
on earth can keep us from each other. Our sex is a shape

that finds itself taking the shape of the other. In coming
together there is no shape of things to keep in mind,

as if we knew the difference between this way and that.
First comes the hot invention of love, and then the silky stroke

of your bedclothes against me. There is the urgent need to make
sense of our inarticulate breath, our cold sweat, our absent fears.

What makes shape around us is a reflection of words, an island
of knowing one silence, pressed up, hard, agains another.
Edward Carson. from Taking Shape.

I like the skillful enjambement. Everything seems suspended for a moment before rushing on: urge / to compose ; coming / together there ; island / of knowing.

And so for day 2196
17.12.2012

Interlude

The dancing comes as a break from mystical lovemaking and encounters with a marvellous city: New York-Atlantis.

I arrive late for my African dance class at Pineapple
but the rhythm of the drums quickly seduces my feet
the obscure god takes possession of my body
I flutter my hands to heaven and earth
let my head roll
thrust out my chest and move my pelvis
the salt of my own sweat excites me
all this telluric energy tears down my anger
and I know I am savouring the pleasure of being
Yoland Villemaire. Quartz and Mica translated by Judith Cowan.

And so for day 2195
16.12.2012

Cocteau and Guest

Stan Persky. Lives of the French Symbolist Poets.

He is in a vast field of white flowers. His name is Cocteau. A white horse is grazing under a cottonwood tree. He is writing something on white paper. A message.

Cocteau gets ups & walks 17 paces to the East. In the middle of the field of white flowers he sees a porcelain shiny bathtub filled with blue water. The lovely white flowers are in the dirty boy's hair. The dirty boy has brown eyes & is washing his gangly legs. He is of course as always naked.

[...]

There is a boy sitting on the white bed scooping out chunks of red watermelon. He is getting the bed wet with the juice of the melon. Cocteau comes over & plucks a watermelon seed from where it got lodged in the boy's bellybutton.
One boy? Two boys?

And so for day 2194
15.12.2012

Apollinaire and Guest

Stan Persky. Lives of the French Symbolist Poets.

Apollinaire is in a chair outside the dentist's office. His teeth hurt. He is going to have a tooth pulled.

There are 4 chairs there. They are brown chairs. Apollinaire is waiting. Patient.

"God it hurts," he says.

In the other 3 chairs is Gertrude Stein singing her last golden opera to the hysterically giggling multitudes; Montparnasse cafe nocturne, Hummingbird smelling the Real Thing. And Modig. There are hundreds of reporters using real questions.
Modig = Anglo Saxon for brave, courageous. Descendent: moody

And so for day 2193
14.12.2012

Visual Intertext

On the left White Rabbit Press (Stan Persky, Lives of French Symbolist Poets). On the right Gallimard (standard design as illustrated by André Breton, Nadja).

Stan Persky Lives of French Symbolist Poets Andre Breton Nadja
Fittingly signifying Frenchness.

And so for day 2192
13.12.2012

Work, Carnival & the Other

W.H. Auden's essay on Loren Eiseley (The New Yorker, 1970) serves at the introduction to Eiseley's collection The Star Thrower.

After celebrating the levelling influence of Carnival, Auden muses on the balanced life.

A satisfactory human life, individually or collectively, is possible only if proper respect is paid to all three worlds. Without Prayer and Work, the Carnival laughter turns ugly, the comic obscenities grubby and pornographic, the mock aggression into real hatred and cruelty. (The hippies, it appears to me, are trying to recover the sense of Carnival which is so conspicuously absent in this age, but so long as they reject Work they are unlikely to succeed.) Without Laughter and Work, Prayer turns Gnostic, cranky, Pharisaic, while those who try to live by Work alone, without Laughter or Prayer, turn into insane lovers of power, tyrants who would enslave Nature to their immediate desires — an attempt which can only end in utter catastrophe, shipwreck on the Isle of the Sirens.
Prayer was referenced earlier as going beyond begging.
[...] the habit of prayer, by which I mean the habit of listening. The petitionary aspect of prayer is its most trivial because it is involuntary. We cannot help asking that our wishes may be granted, though all too many of them are like wishing that two and two may make five, and cannot and should not be granted. But the serious part of prayer begins when we have got our begging over with and listen for the Voice of what I would call the Holy Spirit, though if others prefer to say the Voice of Oz or the Dreamer or Conscience, I shan't quarrel, so long as they don't call it the Voice of the Super-Ego, for that "entity" can only tell us what we know already, whereas the Voice I am talking about always says something new and unpredictable-an unexpected demand, obedience to which involves a change of self, however painful.
This attentive listening could be secularized as "attunement". "Voice" as "other". Always something new (or forgotten and then come to the fore).

And so for day 2191
12.12.2012

Respect of Not Knowing

Murmur is a novel by Will Eaves that is patterned on the life of Alan Turing. It's a plunge into the mindset of a character receiving treatments for chemical castration and in passing is a meditation on how one makes meaning and the reach of intelligent machines. This struck me:

It isn't knowing what another person thinks or feels that makes us who we are. It's the respect for not knowing.
This hard won realization is prefaced by the speaker in distress: "He breathes into a point of infinite and traceless pain. He stares hard at a carpet tile that's come unstuck and wanted to say: It isn't knowing [...]".

The respect of not knowing opens a sort of plenitude:
We are consoled by someone's efforts to conceive us, and that effort's keen shortfall. We are unreachable. A shared mind has no self-knowledge. A field awareness cannot be unique or self-conceal: it has no privacy of mind.
A nice slide from efforts to the shortfall of one. Something is happening in this passage from plurality to unicity. Something unknowable, unreachable, private.

The notion of respect is complicated.

And so for day 2190
11.12.2012

Fern Hair

It occurs in a translation of a poem by Jacques Brault by Fred Cogswell in One Hundred Poems of Modern Quebec (Fiddlehead, 1970). The text reads "headchess" [which auto-correct wants to render "headaches"] for "headdress" [?]. One can see how "dr" can be taken as "ch" since the "c" and the upright of the "h" can form a "d".

You are beautiful my country you are true with your
       headchess of ferns and that great arm of water which
       embroiders the loneliness of the islands
From "Suite fraternelle"

Tu es mon beau pays tu es vrai avec ta chevelure de fougères et ce grand
     bras d’eau qui enlace la solitude des îles

ta chevelure de fougères = head of fern hair

And so for day 2189
10.12.2012

Time & Space: chronobiopolitics

Knowledge keeper, Kim Wheatley refers to these acknowledgements as "necessities" not "niceties".

Sign acknowledging Indigenous presence

The sign reads: The TDSB Outdoor Education Schools acknowledge the land that we are situated on is the traditional territories of the Aboriginal founding Peoples of the Great Lakes region of Canada.

Toronto District School Board - Treaty Acknowledgements have two recitations: one for the Toronto Purchase area and the other for Williams Treaties area.

These necessities reorient one's sense of time and space. They perform "Indigenous Orientations" to borrow the title of the introductory chapter to Mark Rifkin's Beyond Settler Time. He writes:
Stories, then, give meaning to current and former occupancy in particular places while also conjuring the specificities of those places, producing kinds of experience and forms of relation that cross apparent temporal gulfs but do not arrive as an uncanny or spectral remainder. These connections to place exceed the terms of individual affect and transect the chronogeopolitics of settler policy and popular narratives. Everyday participation within such storying produces emotional and sensory investments in placemaking that give shape to and help animate collective processes of becoming and ways of being-in-time that can be understood as expressions of temporal sovereignty.

Conceptualized in this way, Indigenous duration operates less as a chronological sequence than as overlapping networks of affective connection (to persons, nonhuman entities, and place) that orient one's way of moving through space and time, with story as a crucial part of that process.
Not just an encounter with the past. The TDSB acknowledgements conclude with a view to the present and the future: "I also recognize the enduring presence of Aboriginal peoples on this land."

And so for day 2188
09.12.2012

Swing Shift

Annie Lowrey Smart money: Why the world should embrace universal basic income in the Globe and Mail

So easy to miss the negation

These studies - as well as many others - counter many of the most common objections to a UBI. Such policies do not turn the safety net into a hammock, for one. People still work, particularly if the payments are not too big. Indeed, one benefit is that such payments do not penalize people for working and earning more, as many other welfare programs do. [our emphasis]
Would love to conceive of a world where relaxed swinging would be valuable day dream option for all — just a wee bit of time to listen to a berceuse.

And so for day 2187
08.12.2012

Driven Diving

This set of diving exercises is set in the past. It pertains to "Our Youth" in the poem of the same name by Gilles Hénault.

like fools we dove again in seas
of grief where twist the coral spines
of our cruel philosophies
Translated by Fred Cogswell and collected in One Hundred Poems of Modern Quebec.

What strikes me is the very physicality of diving being paired with the consequences of mental activity or philosophizing. And the sound!. coral spines echoed by cruel philosophies --- the lips form the same shapes --- taking a breath and exhaling on the ascent back to the surface ---

And so for day 2186
07.12.2012

Time Tide

By happenstance of typesetting, it stands alone on the page at the top of a vast white space that figures the future.

Finally, the flow of my life changed after meeting Rich Murray. The passing of time feels different now, and I'm deeply grateful to dwell with him in the movement of that tide.
The words are Mark Rifkin's in the acknowledgements to his Beyond Settler Time: Temporal Sovereignty and Indigenous Self-Determination.

Note how the temporal sharing buoys the figure of the lover-partners. It is a formulation that neatly captures individuality-in-connection without subsuming it in relationship.

And so for day 2185
06.12.2012

Sink, Swim, Sense

Northrop Frye in By Liberal Things [his address upon his installation as Principal of Victoria College, 1959] invites us to contemplate the ingrainedness of practice. It rehearses for me the triple notions of immersion, acculturation and perception.

The kind of memory the university is interested in and tries to develop is practice memory, the skill and knowledge developed by constant application, the steady repetition that goes on in the unconscious, teaching us, as the proverb says, to skate in summer and swim in winter.
The seasonal antithesis calls to mind another.

Prior to a performance of Porch View Dances, following an acknowledgement of traditional territories and ancestral lands by Jim Adams, I witnessed [t]his invitation to the dérèglement des sens [I paraphrase from memory ommiting the pronominal references to "you" (implied as they are in the imperative mood of the verbs) and not wanting to trip up the euphony of the medial anaphora of the repeated preposition "with" so important to a world view where "all my relations" count].
hear with eyes
see with ears
feel with head
think with heart
Perfect advice for entering an aesthetic time and space. Practice.

And so for day 2184
05.12.2012

Light Motifs

Family resemblance.

Call for clarity. Clear call.

Philosophy as envisaged by the Tractatus is therefore a futile attempt to say what cannot be meaningfully said but which can only show itself. So, philosophy, insofar as it is possible at all, cannot be a body of doctrines. It must be an activity. It must aim not, like science, at truth and knowledge, but only at clarity and, with the achievement of that clarity, peace.
One difference from the earlier work is that the Philosophical Investigations gives us not a single ladder to climb. Instead it shows us the paths up a series of hills and promontories, from which we may gain different overviews of the landscape and, with luck, see the light gradually dawn.
From Ian Ground, The relentless honesty of Ludwig Wittgenstein

And so for day 2183
04.12.2012

Recouping the Aleatory

It is a challenge to decide which quotation to put first. Here they are in chronological order. Suggesting perhaps some filiation.

A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness.

      Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity
No, no. don't say where we are! Once we know where we are, then the world becomes as narrow as a map. When we don't know, the world feels unlimited.

Okay. Then let's do our best to get lost.


      Cixin Liu. The Dark Forest trans. Joel Martinsen
Thus I come to the conclusion that map is like metaphor, a structure for exploration. And there is no exploration without "getting lost" which of course means "being found" elsewhere.
“But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before.”

      Mark Twain. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

      Dorothy of no-place-like-home fame
For some Oz is the homeward direction. Navigating mapless.

And so for day 2182
03.12.2012

Precipitate (Noun)

A single line triumph. Making three look more. By way of enjambement.

The concluding lines of "Rain, Rain, Rain" by Don McKay from Apparatus

Who understands this tongue? No one.
No one and no one and no one.
... yet many.

And so for day 2181
02.12.2012

Sibling Conviviality

These were slides that periodically projected onto the wall of our house. Magic lantern show. But also upon retrospect all these years later: an oft repeated object lesson in sharing.

3 candles

Sharing the slices

Thanks to my sister who digitalized the fragile slides.

And so for day 2180
01.12.2012

Ms. Gendering Man

Making Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights a "she" reveals some of the presuppositions that structure the novel. The question arises: who follows whom where?

This calls to mind another occasion.

Ti-Grace Atkinson opens a speech she gave "On 'Violence in the Women's Movement'" (in Amazon Odyssey) with such gender unsettlement to make a point about allegiance.

I am dedicating my remarks tonight on violence to Sister Joseph Colombo. I am referring to America's latest superstar, gangster, criminal: Joseph Colombo. You may have heard about how Superstar Colombo not content with his vertical media image, backed his head up into three bullets at Columbus Circle on June 28, 1971.
She at one point in her remarks tapped a picture to the podium.

In the book the photograph covers a whole page.

It is of course a provocation. Clear-eyed. Her peroration appears in all caps and rehearses the "sister" trope.
LONG LIVE THE SPIRIT OF DIANA OUGHTON. LONG LIVE ANGELA DAVIS. LONG LIVE BERNADINE DOHRN. LONG LIVE THE SPIRIT OF VICTORIA WOODHULL. LONG LIVE THE SPIRIT OF THE VALERIE SOLANAS OF THE SCUM MANIFESTO. LONG LIVE THE STUBBORNNESS OF SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR. LONG LIVE BIG MAMA FLORYNCE KENNEDY. LONG LIVE SISTER MARK RUDD. LONG LIVE THE SPIRIT OF JONATHAN JACKSON. LONG LIVE THE SPIRITS, AND THE HOPES, AND THE BODIES OF ALL THE BEAUTIFUL, REVOLUTIONARY, FOOL, CRIMINALS, WHO ARE STUPID ENOUGH TO FIGHT FOR THE POSSIBILITY OF A HUMAN SPIRIT. LONG LIVE THE SPIRIT OF SISTER JOSEPH COLOMBO, AND HIS BODY. IF ITS CONDITION MEETS HIS TERMS, HE HAS PAID HIS DUES, AND TOO MUCH OF OURS BESIDES.

May we, the women here, make a Revolution.
Beautiful, revolutionary, fool, criminals ... <-- note the order and how is segues into the invocation of Colombo. Criminal fool. Beautiful revolutionary. He/she.

We know where. TO FIGHT FOR THE POSSIBILITY OF A HUMAN SPIRIT
Who follows?

And so for day 2179
30.11.2012

Bird Lore

Best single line I've seen in a while.

Don McKay. "Chickadee Encounter" in Apparatus

zippers, quicklings,
Darn smart all by itself and very intelligent in its context of the poem's conclusion that it triggers...
[...]
zippers, quicklings,
may you inherit earth, may you
perch at the edge of the shipwreck of state,
on the scragged uneconomical alders,
and chat.
Makes you want to join the party.

And so for day 2178
29.11.2012

From the Land of Motivation

This is a little mnemonic to be mindful of critique even while working in the state apparatus.

KNOWLEDGE WORKERS ...
EXPLORE: Ferret Out Information
IMPLORE: Foster a Culture of the Question
Gives new/old meaning to the term "collaboration".

And so for day 2177
28.11.2012

We Are Lucky She Wrote and Not Only Spoke

Death of a Revolutionary
By Susan Faludi
The New Yorker

The ending is about the funeral rites for Shulamith Firestone

Firestone was buried, in a traditional Orthodox funeral, in a Long Island cemetery, where her maternal grandparents are interred. Ten male relatives made up a minyan. None of her feminist comrades were invited. “At the end of the day, the old-time religion asserted itself,” Tirzah said. Ezra [her brother] gave a eulogy. He lives in Brooklyn, where he works as an insurance salesman, but he hadn’t spoken to Shulamith in years, and he broke down several times as he told how she, more than anyone else in the family, had tended to him as a child and taught him compassion. He recalled a story she told him when he was a boy, about a man on a train who realized that he had dropped a glove on the platform and, as the train left the station, dropped the other glove from the window, so that someone could have a pair. Then he lamented Shulamith’s “tragic” failure to make a “good marriage” and have children “who would be devoted to her.”

When [her sister] Tirzah’s turn came to give a eulogy, she addressed Ezra. “I said to him, ‘Excuse me, but with all due respect, Shulie was a model for Jewish women and girls everywhere, for women and girls everywhere. She had children—she influenced thousands of women to have new thoughts, to lead new lives. I am who I am, and a lot of women are who they are, because of Shulie.’ ”
"even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins" — Walter Benjamin Theses on the Philosophy of History

Faith Wilding Where is Feminism in Cyberfeminism?
"Feminism" (or more properly, "feminisms") has been understood as a historical--and contemporary--transnational movement for justice and freedom for women, which depends on women’s activist participation in networked local, national, and international groups (8). It focuses on the material, political, emotional, sexual, and psychic conditions arising from women’s differentialized social construction and gender roles.

(8) Using the term "feminism" is very different from using the term "women"--although perhaps one should consider using the term "cyberwomanism," which acknowledges the critique of racist white feminism so justly made by Audrey Lorde, Alice Walker, bell hooks, and others.
Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex
Children, then, are not freer than adults. They are burdened by a wish fantasy in direct proportion to the restraints of their narrow lives; with an unpleasant sense of their own physical inadequacy and ridiculousness; with constant shame about their dependence, economic and otherwise ("Mother, may I?"); and humiliation concerning their natural ignorance of practical affairs. Children are repressed at every waking minute. Childhood is hell.
Go read the whole book. Don't take my word for it.

And so for day 2176
27.11.2012

Knowing Making Telling

Matthew Kirschenbaum
Am I a Digital Humanist? Confessions of a Neoliberal Tool

"To the scholarly mind, every [sic] smallest datum of that inheritance has a right to make its call." In this McGann seems to follow Edward Said, who in Humanism and Democratic Criticism glosses Giambattista Vico’s famous verum factum principle — Vico is a touchstone for McGann too — as something like "We can really only know what we make" and "To know is to know how a thing is made, to see it from the point of view of its human maker." This ethos —  and the commitment to the arts of memory —  has become, as UVA’s Richard Rorty was wont to say, a part of my final vocabulary. I believe it is true, in so far as anything in this world is true, whatever epistemic frames might be thrown around it notwithstanding. It’s not that either the scholar’s art or the verum factum are sufficient on their own —  there are all sorts of considerations and contexts we want and need to bring bear — but this is where I start from. If it falls suspect to an ideological litmus test, if the space it opens for resistance or critique is insufficiently pure, then that’s it; I’ve got nothing left; I’m out of "moves." Better scholars and better players of the game than I have left it all on the field at that point. I’m off to go take a shower.

Or else I could just tell you a story.
I like the shift to simply telling a story which of course is another type of making.

And so for day 2175
26.11.2012

Unfinished Finish

The non sequitur operates less like the lone tender shoot in a vase than a klang.

The struggle of the tree to overcome the relentless forces of the environment can be found in its every fibre. Its fight for life, staged over the centuries, is clear in the grains and the knots, in the branches that have striven to catch the energy from the sun and the roots that have sought food and stability in the soil. There are trees with gnarly barks and unique shapes that represent some of nature's most engaging sculptures, for they are the perfection of imperfection.
Andrew Juniper
Wabi Sabi: the Japanese Art of Impermanence

The "perfection of imperfection" phrase is a blight. A meaningless paradox (which is perhaps the source of its meaning).

perfection: etymology - from the Latin - to complete

As such the paradox rests at the terminus of the paragraph, an apt situation. However the completion theme is discordant because of the invocation of the cycle of nature prior to its concluding appearance:
The tree grows from a seed and will eventually, move the course of a few hundred years, reach the end of its life and then return to the soil where its decay will sustain other trees. The struggle of the tree [...]
Apotheosis of the aesthetic object doesn't quite work in this setting. Perfection and completion remain but way stations. Of interest, passing.

And so for day 2174
25.11.2012

G*ssip

Quentin Crisp
Manners from Heaven

So if you are determined to speak evil of people you must do so behind their backs. You just have to hope that what you say isn't reported. In any case the breach of manners then passes to the person who repeats what you have said.
Interesting attribution of responsibility.
Now don't tell.

And so for day 2173
24.11.2012

French Frogs

Tour de force. Forceful turn.

Gillian Sze
"Sound No 5"
Panicle

Humans, too, imitated the frogs — koa koa! — and begin to ask questions, Quoi? Quoi? We turned to each other and hands groped, demanded, Que sexe est? or Qu'est-ce que c'est? Years and years, the room croaked without tails or answers. Even now everyone is still screaming up into the black air — What! Now and then, a game of echo. Now and then, a new sound.
Puts me in mind of another homophonic treatment: aid loan = alone

Unique, eh!

And so for day 2172
23.11.2012

Crying Foul on the F word

Quentin Crisp
Manners from Heaven

People are more likely to forgive you for uttering expletives under stress than for decorating an ordinary conversation with obscenities. A steady diet of the shortest-words-for-the-longest-things is never a very good idea for you may give offence, which is bad manners, and you will certainly make your conversation monotonous, which is bad style.
The occasional F*bomb is forgiven.

And so for day 2171
22.11.2012

once more more

Gillian Sze
From "Panicle" in Panicle

What do you see?
Fog lurking along the street.

What does it bring?
A sudden surge of birds from around the corner.

What do you hear?
Shrapnel of wings.

What do you call this?
An encore
Brava!

And so for day 2170
21.11.2012

Skill and Rhetorical Finesse

Basil Johnston Ojibway Heritage
Daebaudjimod - the Raconteur

So skilled was [he] that he could hold an audience in his hand for an evening and even for a winter. Daebaudjimod knew hundreds of stories, but even more marvellous, he could make up stories. He told real stories, he told stories that could not possibly be true. Still, people listened. He could, with stories, make people laugh and cry; he could make them wonder and think; he could make them proud by remembrance and fearful by his tales of the future.
Johnston displays lots of the same skill.

And so for day 2169
20.11.2012

Almost a Sales Pitch

Ian Brown "A Biography of Cannabis" in the Globe and Mail

Cannabis makes it impossible to remember all the details that threaten to drown us, and lets us concentrate on the one after the other, laterally and forgetfully. It impairs us, but in doing so allows us to experience the world not as masters of the entire universe but as liberated goofball bystanders, freed from the world's and our own blinding compulsions and expectations.
Of course there are relaxation techniques that operate on the body's innate chemical basis. It happens that "Cannabis does the same thing, just harder and faster."

And so for day 2168
19.11.2012

Intergenerational Cultural Touchstones

Richard Sanger
Dark Woods

One of the pieces in this collection features the figure of a tree planter as recalled within the recollection of a father driving a son home...

[...]
the song I used to listen to at his age,
for him now, I imagine how he first heard it
in someone's tent, perhaps, and the whole next day
humming it as he stomps through the clear-cut,
sinks his shovel, twists the handle, plops a seedling in,
tamps down the soil with his toe, takes two steps
and does it all again, the same five actions
[...]
The hummed tune, the repetitive action ... tree planting as a meditative art?

The song btw is a Joni Mitchell tune.

And so for day 2167
18.11.2012

Parsing Network Effects

Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter Organization After Social Media

In the information society passivity rules. Browsing, watching, reading, waiting, thinking, deleting, chatting, skipping, and surfing are the default conditions of online life. Total involvement implies madness to the highest degree. What characterizes networks is a shared sense of a potentiality that does not have to be realized. Millions of replies from all to all would cause every network, no matter what architecture, to implode. Within every network there are prolonged periods of interpassivity, interrupted by outbursts of interactivity. Networks foster and reproduce loose relationships - and it's better to face this fact straight in the eye. They are hedonistic machines of promiscuous contacts. Networked multitudes create temporary and voluntary forms of collaboration that transcend but do not necessarily disrupt the Age of Disengagement.
Disengagement is associated with aging. Here the "Age of Disengagement" means something else.

Multitude: The multitude is a concept of a population that has not entered into a social contract with a sovereign political body, such that individuals retain the capacity for political self-determination.

Transcend vs disrupt. Involuntary collaboration? Possible in scenes of occupation.

Unoccupied networks... Partial noninvolvement...

default conditions of online life
custom conditions of offline death

Partial noninvolvement...
default conditions of offline life
disruption without transcendence

And so for day 2166
17.11.2012

Sun & Moon: West & East

Gillian Sze
"Blood Sign #2"
The Anatomy of Clay

How many of us have fallen
into water while trying to catch the moon
or during a waxen flight sunwards?
Allusion to Icarus and the Zen trope of moonlight in a puddle.
Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water.
The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken.
Although its light is wide and great,
The moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide.
The whole moon and the entire sky
Are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass.

Dogen
I'd fall for the beauty of the conjunction, every time. Fall for proximity of the notion of striving and adequate perception.

And so for day 2165
16.11.2012

Reconstructing (de)Colonial Deconstruction

First deconstruction: love in hand

be a jack-of[F]-all-ndns
Second deconstruction: rebooting
i have made a life of s[c]ham[e]
[ctrl]definesshame: a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness
of wrong or foolish behaviour
[alt]definescham: etymologically shame comes from an indo-euro word which referred to
covering the face
[del]definesham: falsely present something as the truth; bogus; false; a pillow sham
Third deconstruction: re(pair)
so i've decided to break it
in - dig - e - nous
nóein, nóēsis, niyanán
niyanán - we/us (excluding you); kiyánaw (incl.) = we/us (including you)

First Reconstruction: the setting
instead i dance in pool halls to rihanna
"bitch better have my money"
wait for the sharks to get horny
get them off for another beer
reassure them that everyones a little gay
honey-boo-boo even told me so
channel app to exoticate myself
be a jack-of[F]-all-ndns
"thank you, come again"
tell him, "hey bo'
this is treaty 1 territory
so you may as well treat yourself too"
Second Reconstruction: the set
I'm not sure i like the word "indigenous"
when it simply divides, crippled, dying
by fighting each other to hold its hand
so I've decided to break it
in - dig - e- nous
nóein, nóēsis, niyanán
bound by the wounds that tell our stories
feeling love & pain together
indigeniety can encompass so much more
if we interject, intersect, interlay
not compete or compare
share, grow together, sideways
woven together like kokums hair
braided, queer & punk
channelling our minds
like a honeycomb
to bind, break, reclaim
reject the greed fingers
of settler colonialism
Third Reconstruction: ctrl+alt+del - transforms from

Joshua Whitehead
Full-Metal Indigiqueer

First Deconstruction - "april 5: pass[hang]over"
Second Deconstruction - "to my mister going to bed"
Third Deconstruction - "the hive"
First Reconstruction - "april 5: pass[hang]over"
Second Reconstruction - "the hive"

And so for day 2164
15.11.2012

Reading Conditions

I love the camp tone of this opening... at least camp to me.

The Perfect Library

Imagine, if you will, a perfect library
where the reading room is lit by the soft
pulsing lights of fireflies & the wood that furnishes it
is from exquisite trees felled by mountain men
with bulging biceps.
"The Perfect Library" in If The World Were To Stop Spinning by David Clink.

And so for day 2163
14.11.2012

Tumbling Tops and Bottoms

This wee bit of ekphrasis is short. And these two lines from it operate in a way similar to the point at the waist where grain follows grain. Form reflecting description.

Glass is your horizon, your world where
wood is both a ceiling and a floor.
"Hourglass" in If The World Were To Stop Spinning by David Clink.

And so for day 2162
13.11.2012

Libraries of Tears

Time passes. Pain does not. And upon rapid reading, book with tear is stained.

Accept, thou shrine of my dead saint,
Instead of dirges this complaint;
And for sweet flowers to crown thy hearse,
Receive a strew of weeping verse
From thy grieved friend, whom thou might'st see
Quite melted into tears for thee.
Dear loss! since thy untimely fate
My task hath been to meditate
On thee, on thee; thou art the book,
The library whereon I look,
Though almost blind. For thee (loved clay)
I languish out, not live, the day,
Using no other exercise
But what I practice with mine eyes;
By which wet glasses I find out
How lazily time creeps about
To one that mourns; this, only this,
My exercise and business is.
So I compute the weary hours
With sighs dissolvèd into showers.
Henry King. "The Exequy" in Seventeenth Century English Minor Poets edited by Anne Ferry.

And so for day 2161
12.11.2012

Circle: Book, Hand, Book

As the light fades, no attempt to bring on artificial lighting. This is how "A Happy Birthday" ends — on the image of the hand.

I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride this day down into night,
to sit alone and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of a hand.
This is the last poem in the collection and the "ghost hand" merges with that of the reader who has the leisure afforded by (artificial) light to resume reading at the beginning which is indeed a kind of ending...
This evening, I sat by an open window
and read till the light was gone and the book
was no more than a part of the darkness.
The descriptive opening in the past indicative has great serenity compared with the optative of the closing lines — the hand trembles at what is intimated. And so we move the hand and close the book, for now, on this selection from Ted Kooser's Delights and Shadows.

And so for day 2160
11.11.2012

Lines & Lives

"Stop. Start Again."
from Richard Sanger
Dark Woods

On the last day of the year, in the last year
of the century I was born in,
I went into the woods with my brothers.
It was cold, there was a wind,
and we skied to warm ourselves
and harder still as we raced, testing each other
the way we did when we were boys.

[...]

We stood, the creaking stopped,
and then we started off again,
our skis imprinting their lines
in the uncomplaining snow, lines
that would be there, or gone, in the morning.
I like how the temporal determinations of mortality are abridged, for a while, until morning be past or the traces gone.

And so for day 2159
10.11.2012

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 2158
09.11.2012

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 2157
08.11.2012

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 2156
07.11.2012

Set and Setting: Cognitive Cogitations

A few generalizations...

5.32

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.

http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance/S6.HTM
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 2155
06.11.2012

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 2154
05.11.2012

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 2153
04.11.2012

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

contradictions,
         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 2152
03.11.2012

elegance

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 2151
02.11.2012

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 2150
01.11.2012

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 2149
31.10.2012

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 2148
30.10.2012

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 2147
29.10.2012

Taking Stock of Making Stock

Mijoter: Faire cuire ou bouillir lentement.

Recipe

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 2146
28.10.2012

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."

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/feb/03/ursula-le-guin-rebuts-charge-that-science-fiction-is-alternative-fact
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.

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n05/terry-eagleton/indomitable
The means. The end.

And so for day 2145
27.10.2012

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 2144
26.10.2012

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 2143
25.10.2012

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 2142
24.10.2012

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 2141
23.10.2012

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 2140
22.10.2012

A balance of faculties

John Williams
The Broken Landscape
"Bookplate"

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 2139
21.10.2012

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 2138
20.10.2012

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 2137
19.10.2012

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 2136
18.10.2012

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 2135
17.10.2012

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 2134
16.10.2012