Consciousness Raising Begins in Conversation

Connection. Cognition. Communication.

I do not believe that new stories will find their way into texts if they do not begin in oral exchanges among women in groups hearing and talking to one another. As long as women are isolated one from the other, not allowed to offer other women the most personal accounts of their lives, they will not be part of any narrative of their own. [...] There will be narratives of female lives only when women no longer live their lives isolated in the houses and the stories of men.
Carolyn G. Heilbrun. Writing A Woman's Life

And so for day 2306

Regular Irregularities: Temporal Dislocations

My explanation:

Clever - you caught the date stamp --- it functions more as TARDIS - makes the blog look abandoned (each entry date is more like an accession number) - my goal is to catch up - meanwhile the overall impression is of a neglected ruin in a picturesque landscape - and the odd arbitrary play with time
And in the spirit of the thing, his reply (his suspension marks):
...and the antiquated (yet penetrating) writing style adds to the feeling of dilapidation :)
And the joke spreads...

And so for day 2305

Jeux et Joutes

I have been given gifts. Twice.

A little piece I wrote about Huizinga's Homo Ludens caught the attention of Dr. Herbert Wender who has kindly kept me abreast of the developments in the reception of a forward by Umberto Eco:

Umberto Eco, another important critic of Huizinga's thesis, elaborated his view in a forward to the 1973 Italian edition of Homo Ludens, a very intriguing text that, however, has not received any attention in the Huizinga literature for a long time. According to Eco, Huizinga was unable to distinguish between game and play, because the Dutch language has just one word for both: "een spel spelen," whereas the English say "let's play a game." A game consists of a matrix of combinations and is constituted by a certain amount of rules. Basically, it offers the players a number of options to act, so the eventually one player can win the game. A play, on the other hand, is the role one plays to express the situation at a certain stage of the match. Huizinga showed interest only in the performance, as linguists say, and not in the competence, that is, the game as regulating system, in which a certain matrix of combinations is produced. According to Eco, the crux of the matter is the fact that for Huizinga the element of "play" remained, in the final analysis, an "aesthetic" category. From his aestheticizing perspective, Huizinga was unable to admit that the "decay," the wars and the "crisis," were, in fact, also moments of play in a played culture.
This is from Léon Hanssen "Games of Late Modernity: Discussing Huizinga's Legacy" in Halina Mielicka-Pawłowska (editor) Contemporary Homo Ludens.

And so for day 2304

Extant: There's the Rub

André Alexis in My Vagina has a footnote that runs across the fold to occupy the space of two pages roughly in the centre of the essay. In this extended note, Alexis repeats the claim that in Latin the names for the clitoris were so vulgar that not even Martial or Catullus ever refer to landica. Wikipedia seems to be the crib for Alexis's note. But it is worth remarking that deductions are based on extant sources. What survives may not reveal the whole picture. Consider that the Wikipedia entry reporting the indecency of the term for clitoris references the work of J.N. Adams, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary and, for me, alerts us to a possible disjunction between linguistic form and discursive function:

The function of the clitoris (landica) was "well understood". In classical Latin, landica was a highly indecorous obscenity found in graffiti and the Priapea; the clitoris was usually referred to with a metaphor, such as Juvenal's crista ("crest").
We see that frankness does not always frequent frequency. And frequency itself is open to interpretation.

And so for day 2303

Paganizing the Image: The Work of Mourning

The comparison with Christ operates through negation.

Like Christ, Goldin's friends became her superstars, but a great many of them died, and they won't be coming back. The photos she took are not an ersatz resurrection; they are the proof of disappearance. She was not in search of the perfect moment, the final photo that would be something like the return of the son of God, but a picture that would never be more than the one before the last, the one that reminds us that taking that other one is impossible and infinite. [...] The photographic series do not produce a museum version of love. Instead, they are the figures of endless work.
Martine Delvaux. Nan Goldin: The Warrior Medusa.

And so for day 2302

Coach and Coax

In the acknowledgements to Moosewood Restaurant New Classics one finds a remark applicable not only to the whole enterprise of writing cookbooks...

Like anchors, Arnold and Elise Goodman, our agents, coach us and coax us, encourage us and challenge us, laugh with us and eat with us, and never let us down.
... but also to cooking in general.

And so for day 2301

Floppy Failure

Jack Prelutsky
"I Think My Computer Is Crazy"
A Pizza the Size of the Sun

Something inside my computer
is buzzing like billions of bees,
even my mouse is affected,
it seems to be begging for cheese.
I guess I know why my computer
is addled and may not survive—
my brother inserted bologna into the floppy disk drive.
If you caught the image (by James Stevenson) of the antiquated hardware and noticed the slot, the poem's ending comes as a pleasing confirmation of the mischief that caused the chaos.

And so for day 2300

Topsy Turvey

Jack Prelutsky "I'm Drifting Through Negative Space" A Pizza the Size of the Sun

I toss my ephemeral ball
agains an impalpable wall.
It bounces and lands
in my vanishing hands—
recent planetary
inventories show
more leopard-print
blouses than leopards
CAConrad "Eating Both Sides of What's Left" While Standing in Line for Death

And so for day 2299

Retallack on Waldrop on Stein

Judicious situation of a quotation.

What exceeds anything in [Otto] Weininger's philosophically pretentious, utterly congested "deductive morphologies," as well as Stein's own reductive cataloguing, is the way she has begun to conjecture in the act of her writing that, as Keith Waldrop has put it, "the essential of 'each human being' is a rhythm ... [and] to express that rhythm expresses the person. There is actually no need to talk about the subject."
Joan Retallack is quoting from Keith Waldrop's introduction to Useful Knowledge (Barrytown, NY: Station Hill Press, 1988) in her introduction to Gertrude Stein: Selections (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008).

And so for day 2298

Downtime and the Muscle of Attention

Via Kathleen Fitzpatrick Engage. Disengage. Repeat.

Ferris Jabr
"You need more downtime than you think"

Moments of respite may even be necessary to keep one’s moral compass in working order and maintain a sense of self. [our emphasis]

Feel free to putter (North America) or potter about (England).

And so for day 2297

Timing and Tactility

Arriving at hint of decadence, the notion is retrospective, restive.

What captured me was the line-end adjective modifying two nouns.

the hour and the civilization late
and so we will smile as if engrossed
the drowsy language between
cortex and the edge of the sea
as if the whole body
was moving up the nape, and secret
from To Every Gaze translated by Jennifer Moxley in Nicole Brossard: Selections

And so for day 2296

Feeding Fashion

Another food poem in addition to the title-bearing poem in the collection by Jack Prelutsky A Pizza the Size of the Sun is the charming two stanza agricultural myth "Spaghetti Seeds" which concludes thusly

I planted them year ago . . .
that farmer is a phony.
I've not got one spaghetti tree—
just fields of macaroni.
A charming drawing by James Stevenson accompanies this little ditty which reminds me of Yankee Doodle and the feather ("Yankee Doodle went to town / A-riding on a pony, / Stuck a feather in his cap / And called it macaroni." It is the intertextual rhyme of pony and phony that cements the relation. Of course the Yankee Doodle macaroni is a statement of fashion not solely a pasta preference. There is an visual echo in the Stevenson illustration. The farmer's rake sticks out behind the figure like a feather in a hat.

james stevenson illustration macaroni
But there is no mistaking the farmer for a fop.

And so for day 2295

Recuperating a Lost World

It's an abecedarian book filled with delightful acrostics. My favourite is the opening one with its anaphoric elements that build to an acknowledgement of the generous amplitude of the small.

As flake is to blizzard, as


Near is to far, as wind is to weather, as
   feather is to flight, as light is to star, as
   kindness is to good, so acorn is to wood.
Robert Macfarlane The Lost Words: A Spell Book illustrated by Jackie Morris.

And so for day 2294

Fricatelle Cyprin

Nicole Brossard
Sous la langue Under Tongue

Fricatelle ruisselle essentielle aime-t-elle le long de son corps la morsure, le bruit des vagues, aime-t-elle l'état du monde dans la flambée des chairs pendant que les secondes s'écoulent cyprine, lutine, marines.
In the translation by Susanne de Lobtinière-Harwood
Does she frictional she fluvial she essential does she all along her body love the bite, the sound waves, does she love the state of the world in the blaze of flesh to flesh as seconds flow by silken salty cyprin.
In the 1987 publication, under the dual imprint of L'Essentielle and Gynergy, the translator provides a note to the choice of the word cyprin: "Female sexual secretion. From the French cyprine [fr. Gk Cyprus, birth place of Aphrodite]. We are proposing cyprin for English usage."

There is an earlier translation of this text appearing in Writing 16 (1986) under the title "Sa Main Qui Prenait Appui Sur Un Livre Pendant Que Nos Corps A l'Oblique". There we learn that
Nicole Brossard wrote this text for the erotic festival held at Theatre Expérimental des Femmes (now known as Espace Go) in Montréal the week of March 8, 1986. It was a glittering Saturday evening; 15 writers' texts were read/performed by 15 actresses.
And our trio appears as "silken salty spritely". This last capturing "lutines" marvellously well. I appreciate the alliteration which captures the rhythm supplied in French by the rhymes. And it is alliteration that is carried over into the 1987 version.

In Writing 16 Susanne de Lobtinière-Harwood provides a note on fricatelle (missing in the 1987 version)
fricatelle — from fricarelle, the rubbing together of women's thighs. Thirties slang for lesbian, Nicole explains, via Marie-Jo Bonnet, Un choix sans équivoque, and Nicolas Blondeau, Le Dictionnaire Érotique Latin-Français. Blondeau's dictionary was written in the 17th century but not published until the 19th century.
The rub of language. The spark of neologism.

And so for day 2293

The Ordinary Openness to the Not Ordinary

Mary Pratt
obituary by Leah Sandals
[concluding paragraph]

"I think with my work, even things that are are ordinary are not ordinary," Ms. Pratt said in 2015. "Because I don't really believe that anything is ordinary — I think everything is complex and worthy of conjecture and worthy of a close look." She concluded: "I really believe that you could imagine the secrets of the universe by looking a pile of grapes."
Cluster. Luster.

And so for day 2292

Whimp Out

Dear Diary,

Saw Wainwright's and McIvor's Hadrian. A disappointment. Sabina's aria in Act II was the best part. The ending backed off a possible naming of the gendered nature of Hadrian's love for another man. We were treated to a tedious repetition of "He loved..." (with suspension marks) without the transitive completion of "him."

The opera is confused. Is it a love story? A tale of political intrigue? A search for immortality?

That ending! Apotheosis of the god-emperor, chorus chanting the coming rise of monotheism, the prophecy of to-be-forgotten pagan gods?

Sabina's aria "Why am waiting; what am I waiting for" (I paraphrase from memory) foreshadows the audience waiting for the recognition at the end of a man loving a man. Waiting for the word.

He was loved. But was he loved as a man? No amount of same-sex scene pantomime can substitute for the artistic exploration of the theme of reciprocation. Let alone the saying - the enunciation - that marks a coming to knowledge and action. Who did he love? Who loved him? Who had the courage to speak? Of what? To whom?

And so for day 2291

The Cut and the Cooked

Jane Byers
Steeling Effects

The extended comparison at the end of this poem stretches out a food metaphor into a celebration of the plain.

Mashed potatoes and turnip are nutrient poor from the endless boil
but love doesn't leach.
I buy starfruit when I can.
Thin cross-sections make a constellation
atop my roasted salad of parsnips and beets.
They still dazzle me,
though I've learned it's roots that sustain.
A bit of dazzle is not uncalled for. The metaphorical splendid on its base of the literal.

And so for day 2290

All Around Us

I cannot celebrate enough Jane Byers impeccable justesse in the endings to the poems in the Keen sequence in Acquired Community. Look at how poignant and yet defiant the ending of the last poem in the sequence, "Elegy", is

But I don't want to keen,
I want to live.
So did we.
If you want immortality, write a book.
Your book falls apart in my hands.
Read others, including elegies.
Damn the elegy.
It took decades for all of us to plainly say
I love you to someone who is alive.
Eventually you will love
more of the dead than the living.
Of course, those who recall Laurie Anderson's lyrics to Speak My Language ("Now that the living outnumber the dead") would have a different take on finitude and the love of the dead. And by the way Byers is spot on, Michael Lynch's book in its perfect binding falls apart in your hands. The glue dries and crumbles. There is no immortality through the book. There is also no guarantee that one will live to the point of loving more of the dead than the living. Destiny can claim the young before they age. There is some bad faith being peddled here. And if we back up to the strophes that link to this exchange we find a plurality of activities that are necessary to sustain community — and thus the poem itself betrays the privileged position of the wisdom of the ending. The end is not the end.
I love the gay community.
Our community.
What have you done to help our community?
We forged our own families of choice,
created bonds of affection not blood,
celebrated sex, helped each other die.
But I don't want to keen,
I want to live.
And so on until the end. I am not fine with that exclusionary "we" — it cannot be recuperated by a half-hearted intimation of mortality. Read others is the imperative embedded earlier. And so I will turn to Lorna Crozier The Garden Going on Without Us, "Even the Dead"
Even the dead reach for you
as you walk, so beautiful,
across the earth.


The bouquets in your room
are the hands of the dead,
transmuted. Roses.


Even the dead bless you.
Their blossoms glow
like muted lanterns

lighting your way
as you walk
green paths of sleep.
Quite a different sensibility than the Protestant-tinged guilt tripping of the ghost in Jane Byers (in an earlier poem in the sequence the ghost admits that "Religion gave me stories / and a place to put my rage"). But Crozier's transmuted dead are in keeping with that very same raging ghost's notions about transfiguration. Just needs a return to a more expansive notion of dancefloor. The end is not the end. On this I am quite keen. And a duet is not a dialogue.

And so for day 2289

Dance Craze Blaze

Elsewhere I have examined the closing scene of Queer as Folk in terms of the ongoing dance of the community. Here I cite Michael Lynch from These Waves of Dying Friends, the fifth section of "Sand"

My friends who rarely boogie never know
the telling mark of the great DJs, the sense
of everlastingness, music with without end,
of seamless mixes and 8 a.m. conclusions that
don't conclude but do go round again
one more time. When I last left
I knew when I'd return I'd have the sense

of nothing ended, nothing altered, nothing new
in the only life I count as true: the dancefloor.
Jane Byers in Acquired Community has a whole section called "Keen" which is an intergenerational dialogue between a young gay man and the ghost of Michael Lynch. The poem "Transfiguration" in the Keen sequence touches upon dance. The ghost of Michael kicks off by asking: "Tell me, when you dance / do you rage against loss?" The answer is a predictable and puzzled "no" given the exchanges to this point: "Huh? No, we just dance / in the hopes of getting laid." There follows more in this vein as the poem runs through the nature of belief and why one might make a rapprochement between dancing and Christ's transfiguration. It leads to a priceless ending (the ghost of Lynch is on the right; on the left the guy not wanting to but talking to the dead guy)
I'm a ghost.
No pallid mourning.
Just furious rage on the dance floor
that electrifies our bodies with energy,
transfers power to the living—
that could only have been his legacy.
Another dead friend.
A new Jesus
Careful, you'll go to your hell for that.
Wait, you are telling me to be reverent?
All your sex and fluid ethics,
your post-AIDS privilege.
Ah, your soapbox.
Stand down.
It's just dumb luck.
Do you think only Jesus shines with rays of light?
Do you think your energy comes from only you?
I thought ...
Not by yourself, you didn't
The whole poem deserves to be consulted to fully savour this sharp ending.

And so for day 2288

The Almost Forgotten Fairy

Craig Claiborne in the revised edition of The New York Time Cook Book recounts the characters that characterize a fine dressing.

An old culinary chestnut states that it takes four persons to make a sauce for salads: a spendthrift for oil, a miser for vinegar, a counselor for salt and a madman to stir the ingredients.
And a fairy to sprinkle in herbs or some minced garlic or a dab of mustard.

And so for day 2287

Speak of the Hand

A celebration of all good things that can be piled on toast or crostini is prefaced by praise for the hand.

I find something intrinsically "right" about eating food while holding it in my hands. It is as if this is how food was meant to be eaten all along, with knives, forks, and chopsticks being part of a parlor game that somehow got out of hand. I certainly enjoy the feel of the food in my fingers, and no doubt aspire to the primitiveness of it all.
"Out of hand" indeed.

Nigel Slater
"Bakery Goods and Drinks"
Real Fast Food
from the American edition as you can tell by the spelling.

And so for day 2286

Invasion of the Peacemakers

"wants" is on its first appearance a verb, on its subsequent appearance a possible noun indicating a plurality of desires until enjambement forces it back to singular verb status — still an echo resides of wanting to end wants — a tendency to être comblé

anyone with
sense wants
madness to end wants
Canada to invade the
United States of
the Americas
bring us to our knees
dissolve our military
imprison our leaders
distribute our wealth
insist we live in peace
"The Nerve of Honey Must Prevail"
Ecodeviance: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness

Note the fictional state - the United States of the Americas - not to be confused with the United States of America. More play on singularity.

And so for day 2285

Post Precariat

A World Without Work from The Atlantic

Derek Thompson draws on Benjamin Hunnicutt.

The post-work proponents acknowledge that, even in the best post-work scenarios, pride and jealousy will persevere, because reputation will always be scarce, even in an economy of abundance. But with the right government provisions, they believe, the end of wage labor will allow for a golden age of well-being. [Benjamin] Hunnicutt said he thinks colleges could reemerge as cultural centers rather than job-prep institutions. The word school, he pointed out, comes from skholē, the Greek word for “leisure.” “We used to teach people to be free,” he said. “Now we teach them to work.”
Thompson goes on to note that unemployed people end up spending majority of time watching television. He makes no mention about any links between disposable income and leisure; instead he returns us to work as the source of meaning: "The unemployed theoretically have the most time to socialize, and yet studies have shown that they feel the most social isolation; it is surprisingly hard to replace the camaraderie of the water cooler." Nice sentiment but further along in the article, Thompson concedes "Less passive and more nourishing forms of mass leisure could develop. Arguably, they already are developing. The Internet, social media, and gaming offer entertainments that are as easy to slip into as is watching TV, but all are more purposeful and often less isolating. " But he raises an objection "[I]t’s hard to imagine that leisure could ever entirely fill the vacuum of accomplishment left by the demise of labor. Most people do need to achieve things through, yes, work to feel a lasting sense of purpose."

Of course, it is important to note that "wage labour" is not "work".

Intrinsically this is a problem of income insecurity or wealth inequality. Something to work on.

And so for day 2284

undotting the i-candy

Felix Gonzalez-Torres
B. 1957, GUÁIMARO, CUBA; D. 1996, MIAMI

Gonzalez-Torres invited physical as well as intellectual engagement from viewers. His sculptures of wrapped candies spilled in corners or spread on floors like carpets, such as “Untitled” (Public Opinion) (1991), defy the convention of art’s otherworldly preciousness, as viewers are asked to touch and consume the work. Beginning in 1989, he fashioned sculptures of stacks of paper, often printed with photographs or texts, and encouraged viewers to take the sheets. The impermanence of these works, which slowly disappear over time unless they are replenished, symbolizes the fragility of life. While in appearance they sometimes echo the work of Donald Judd, these pieces also belie the Minimalist tenet of aesthetic autonomy: viewers complete the works by depleting them and directly engaging with their material. The artist always wanted the viewer to use the sheets from the stacks—as posters, drawing paper, or however they desired.
Gonzalez-Torres invited physical as well as intellectual engagement from viewers. His sculptures of wrapped candies spilled in corners or spread on floors like carpets, such as “Untitled” (Public Opinion) (1991), defy the convention of art’s otherworldly preciousness, as viewers are asked to touch and consume the work. Beginning in 1989, he fashioned sculptures of stacks of paper, often printed with photographs or texts, and encouraged viewers to take the sheets. The impermanence of these works, which slowly disappear over time unless they are replenished, symbolizes the fragility of life. While in appearance they sometimes echo the work of Donald Judd, these pieces also belie the Minimalist tenet of aesthetic autonomy: viewers complete the works by depleting them and directly engaging with their material. The artist always wanted the viewer to use the sheets from the stacks—as posters, drawing paper, or however they desired.

And so for day 2283


These Waves

[T]he inner narrative of Phallos ends with Neoptolomus's rejection of the moral conflations of organized religion, and leaves Neoptolomus and his partner Nivek contemplating the Heraclitean flux of the universe, the certainty of loss, and the utter unknowability of the future — which is to say, the certainty of its novelty: the certainty of the arrival, even in the midst of loss, of new persons, new stories, new data.

Kenneth R. James "Discourse and Desire, Muddle and Need: Radical Reading In and Around Phallos essay in the enhanced and revised edition (2013) of Phallos by Samuel R. Delany.
These Waves of Dying Friends in conversation with Acquired Community. (Words from Michael Lynch as revisited in imagination through a persona created by Jane Byers)

And so for day 2282

Portrait of a Generous Genius

Robert Reid-Pharr in the afterward to Samuel R. Delany's Phallos (2013)

One of the clearest markers of genius, one of the signs that a creative intellectual has unveiled some mode of thought or action that is at once elegant, productive, disruptive, and dangerous is the presence of an abundance of generosity.
He continues
Refusing to maintain the fictions of the so-called commonsense, his practice is both deconstructive and pedagogical. Like a magician who reveals the card tucked up his sleeve or the rabbit hidden inside an old-fashioned hat's secret compartments, the genius is first and foremost an iconoclast. His work is to force us to recognize that even our most cherished structures might be (must be?) dismantled. This is why when we encounter such individuals we are often so quick to either dismiss or ridicule them. In their efforts to disclose profound insights and novel techniques they strip away the "invisibility" of established forms and practices.
The masculine gendering makes it clear we are talking about him, you know — him.

And so for day 2281

Body as Technology

Quill Christie-Peters in a posting at Tea and Bannock posits a decolonizing relationship with the body that taps into connection with ancestors. She likens the body to a technology.

My body, you have always been the ceremony to transform pain into creation, the gathering place of all our ancestors and spirit kin. My body. Our oldest Anishinaabeg technology. My body. Our oldest Anishinaabeg technology.
This may at first sound odd if one doesn't buy into Indigenous spirituality. But place it against this bit from Steven Shapiro about the discourses of the sexed body (he is contrasting Delany with Bataille).
For Delany, in contrast, sexual extremity is conceived not as a rupturing of the self, but as its continual metamorphosis — or better (to use a word from Gilbert Simondon and Bernard Stiegler) as its transindividuation, its becoming-with-others. For Delany, sex is a continual, and never-to-be-concluded, exploration of the intensities and extensities of the flesh. Sexual acts involve a whole range and series of bodily pleasures, and an activation of the body's previously unknown potentialities. These actions, and the potentialities they unleash, connect people more intensely to one another, and to the world as a whole. Far from involving a shattering of the ego, these actions help to define, and also to change, the contours of an evanescent "self" that does not pre-exist them: a self that has certain persisting efforts and obsessions, to be sure, but that is also open to the warmth and openness of contact with others, as well as to the vagaries of time and chance and Muddle.

Steven Shaviro
"Ars Vitae: Delany's Philosophical Fable"
Essay appended to Phallos by Samuel R. Delany
The space of the ancestors in decolonial theory might be likened to a "preindividuated milieu". But this is but a beginning.

And so for day 2280

Border Patterns

Pretext, a quotation from Ronald Johnson A Line of Poetry, A Row of Trees

"Four Orphic Poems & A Song"





are temporary boundaries', the moving countries

where nothing

is seen in isolation.

Intertext, some source finding thanks to John Latta
Johnson’s line “Patterns are temporary boundaries” is seemingly out of the writings of the Hungarian art theorist Gyorgy Kepes in The New Landscape in Art and Science (1956): “although we see it as an entity—unified, distinct from its surroundings—a pattern in nature is a temporary boundary that both separates and connects the past and the future of the processes that trace it. . . . Patterns are the meeting points of actions. Noun and verb must be seen as one: process in pattern, pattern in process . . .”

Witness, Four Orphic Poems appeared in Poetry July 1964; the lines that interest us are broken by a page break


[page break]

are temporary boundaries', the moving countries

where nothing
is seen in isolation.
Isolations necessary for connections.

And so for day 2279

Solar Path Tree Ring

Ronald Johnson
The Shrubberies

slice, read rings of time
ourselves slight circlet
clamped immemorial bark
growing outward into dark
set ecliptic embowered
rooted embroidered light
Note "ecliptic" appears in several instances throughout The Shrubberies. Notably: "welcome, precise ecliptic eye".

And we blink like a tree forms rings.

And so for day 2278

Mindful Mindworks

Antonin Artaud "Le théâtre et la peste" Le théâtre et son double sets up a brilliant parallel between the brain and lungs.

La seconde remarque est que les deux seuls organes réellement atteints et lésés par la peste : le cerveau et les poumons, se trouvent être tous deux sous la dépendance directe de la conscience et de la volonté. On peut s'empêcher de respirer ou de penser, on peut précipiter sa respiration, la rythmer à son gré, la rendre à volonté consciente ou inconsciente, introduire un équilibre entre les deux sortes de respirations ; l'automatique, qui est sous le commandement direct du grand sympathique, et l'autre, qui obéit aux réflexes redevenus conscients du cerveau.

On peut également précipiter, ralentir et rythmer sa pensée. On peut réglementer le jeu inconscient de l'esprit.
Speed up, slow down. Adjust the rhythm. Of thought. Regulate the play not of the unconscious but the unconscious play of the mind.

As aptly put by Mary Caroline Richards:
The second observation is that the only two organs really affected and injured by the plague, the brain and the lungs, are both directly dependent upon the consciousness and the will. We can keep ourselves from breathing or from thinking, can speed up our respiration, give it any rhythm we choose, make it conscious or unconscious at will, introduce a balance between two kinds of breathing: the automatic, which is under the direct control of the sympathetic nervous system, and the other, which is subject to those reflexes of the brain which have once again become conscious.

We can similarly accelerate, retard, and give an arbitrary rhythm to our thinking—can regulate the unconscious play of the mind.
Regulate -- not regiment.

And so for day 2277

You Them Him

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
This Accident of Being Lost
"Circles Upon Circles"

A lyrical moment reined in by reality check...

I see a couple approaching you, and I hang back and wait. I look out onto Ball Lake and disappear the cottages, the docks, the manufactured beaches and waterfront. I imagine just two people in a canoe, with un-fancy sticks from the bush, knocking rice into the boat. I imagine my arms circling, circles upon circles. I hear the grains hitting the bottom of the boat. I hear the wind. I see ducks and geese sitting and eating and smiling because they showed us this first and they remember. There is nothing more gentle than this — nothing is killed, nothing is pierced, nothing stolen, nothing is picked even. I sing the song the old one taught me, even though he can only remember the first two lines. It's repetitive and you'll get lost in the canter. I suppose that's why it is a ricing song. Actually it's the only ricing song we have left.
The attention shifts back to that couple...
You're still talking to the couple and I wonder what's taking so long. I know you hate idle chit-chat. Your people recount the weather report and the news as a way of connecting without adding a single interesting thought to their tell. It's boring as fuck for me and I wear noise-cancelling headphones in public so I can't hear it. The kids are already in the backseat, plugged into their ipods, lost in screen. I walk by and I hear, I thought only the Indians did that. The sun spotlights his camo jacket and ball cap, and her faded high-waist jeans, her perm, her tennis shoes, their pride at living rurally instead of in the city. I turn and say, "What makes you think I'm not an Indian?" and I keep walking, leaving him to deal with the aftermath.
Note the shift between "you" and "him". With everything going on in this brief passage it is easy to miss. It wrenches the reader from the position of addressee to mere interlocutor. Roman Jakobson shifters. Émile Benveniste on pronouns.

"Them" as a "then" >>> you then him

A rupture in time and community.

And so for day 2276

Gravity Levity

Ronald Johnson
A Line of Poetry, A Row of Trees
"Four Orphic Poems & A Song"

— it is said — did not show the cause of an apple falling,

only the similitude between the apple

& the stars.
Stellar — the shortening lines — a sort of free fall for the mind.

And so for day 2275





And so for day 2274

Skateboard Trail

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
This Accident of Being Lost

"caribou ghosts & untold stories" (p, 33)

caribou ghosts & untold stories
bad timing
& smashed hearts
"travel to me now" (p. 47)
tell me stories about caribou & skateboards
fill my silence with pretty words
I like how over the course of many pages skateboards come to stand in for untold stories — no knowing where that might lead — and the ghostly caribou take on flesh...

And so for day 2273

The Specifics of Universal Grammar

You gotta love the cheek.

The man asks me,
  "Do you speak Cherokee?"
But it's all I ever speak,
The end goal of several generations of a
smuggling project.
We've slipped the barriers,
Evaded border guards.
I smile,
The ending of "Smuggling Cherokee" in the book of the same title by Kim Shuck.

A take on the power of naming.

And so for day 2272

Combo Credo

The evidence is common knowledge (our tastebuds proclaim it) yet this nicely balanced sentence is a welcome reminder of the encounter at the heart of the preparation of good food.

Great food happens at the intersection of your ingredients and your imagination.
Daniel Patterson and Mandy After, The Art of Flavor.

And so for day 2271


Ronald Johnson
A Line of Poetry, A Row of Trees (1964) [Jargon 42]
"Wild Apples" ends ...

as a cow
may rust like
I like how this just creeps up on you... the cow of a generic colour becomes more specific as the short lines sink into one's attention the impression of very sedate bovines as still as stone and as brownish red ...

And so for day 2270

Routineless Ritual

Aspen Art Museum
Educator Notes
December 15, 2017–November 25, 2018

The Educator Notes list a series of probing questions. What attracted my attention was the embedding of one particular line of inquiry in this set: the difference between ritual and routine.

What do you do every day that you most look forward to?

How is ritual different from routine?

What rituals did you learn from your family? What rituals did you pick up from your friends?

What can we learn from ourselves by identifying our daily rituals?
"How is ritual different from routine?" is a question that seemed unanswerable until I came across one of the epigraphs in Catherine Bell Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. "Ritual is pure activity, without meaning or goal." [Frits Staal, "The Meaninglessness of Ritual," Numen 26, no. 1 (1975), 9].

Ritual is akin to aesthetic experience giving access to a time and space that is not tied to mundane purpose but is accessed for itself. It is thus distinguished from routine which we think of as goal-directed (e.g. brushing one's teeth). Ritual is programless. This doesn't quite seem to stick — ritual seems in my mind connected to the practice of magic which is anything but meaningless.

So we seek other definitions.

A ritual "is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to set sequence".[] Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. Rituals are characterized but not defined by formalism, traditionalism, invariance, rule-governance, sacral symbolism, and performance.[Bell, Catherine (1997). Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 138–169.]
From this I grasp two points: special space and sequence.

And so for day 2269

On the Menu

Kate Young. The Little Library Cookbook "On Reading"

Whenever I've neglected them, books have sat, waiting patiently, always ready for me to come back. They are the true constant in my life, the grounding force, the comfort when I am homesick, anxious or lonely, a true joy when I am not. With them, I can travel in space and time, around the world and to places that don't exist, except on the page.
And have conversations with the other neglecters, the others affected by true constants, and the fellow travellers.

And so for day 2268

And the Steam Also Rises

Elizabeth David
French Country Cooking
Escalopes de Veau en Papillotes

The recipe ends with a paean to these parcels.

The nicest way to serve them, if your guests don't mind getting their fingers messy, is piled up in the dish in their paper bags, so that none of the aromas have a chance to evaporate until the food is ready to be eaten.
I once had success in charming guests with a presentation of salmon topped with slivers of ginger and wrapped in individual packets of parchment paper. Not quite the messy pile but offering nonetheless a mouth-watering aroma.

And so for day 2267

Eschatology Eschewed

Gary Thomas Morse
Safety Sand
The "Safe Spaces" sequence

In the opening section, where we are asked to "admit difficulty" from line one, there is a comment that is almost a metacommentary: "when cognitive / tinkering went rogue with / baroque treatment". A few pages later in the second section, we cross a reference to a "chiaroscuro peep show", another sort of metacommentary. Section 21 splits slaughter into an s-curve and laughter or sutures an "s" to "laughter" — we can be difficult about which direction to read the flow. See:

scenes of familial bondage
with accidental
judgments & casual s-
laughter on a bigger screen
around the throat of an
albatross underdog
at the base
        of the great orgy
Elsewhere in the Safe Spaces sequence, there is reference to an "estranged methodology" and taking on this alien method, I venture once again to this minimal unit: this s- conjures for me Hogarth's Analysis of Beauty and the serpentine line. Interesting that this curve is cast in relief by a straight dash. Not an ending. Another metacommentary.

And so for day 2266

Telling Tools

Patricio Dávila
Curator Diagrams of Power

Maps, diagrams and visualizations are both artifacts and processes. They are tools that tell a story, and create ways of bringing people and things together in the telling of that story. The outcomes are often visualized so that they can be viewed and inspected, but also performed so that they can be heard and felt.
Interesting appeal to the dual senses of seeing and hearing — the rational eye and the emotional ear — to provoke a holistic experience. Still puzzled by the persistence of this mapping of faculties and senses. For does not the ear follow argument and does not the eye thrill to colour, shape and form?

And so for day 2265

Affinities Infinities Protestations

Two resistances.

Ronald Johnson's last line in ARK 88 is "flying the marble kite" which I am prone to mis-remember as "flying the marble flag" — a form of protest.

Tom Crewe reviewing a number of books about AIDS (and protests) ends his review thus:

'As I sweat it out in the early hours, a "guilty victim" of the scourge,' Jarman wrote in his diary in September 1989, 'I want to bear witness how happy I am, and will be until the day I die, that I was part of the hated sexual revolution; and that I don't regret a single step or encounter I made in that time; and if I write in future with regret, it will be a reflection of a temporary indisposition.'
Modern Nature: The Journals of Derek Jarman, 1989-90 by Derek Jarman
Smiling in Slow Motion: The Journals of Derek Jarman, 1991-94 by Derek Jarman
The Ward by Gideon Mendel
Patient Zero and the Making of the Aids Epidemic by Richard A. McKay
How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed Aids by David France

And so for day 2264

Do You Believe in Magic?

Philip Pullman in The Guardian presents the case for a way of seeing connectedness.

I’m relying on poetry to make this point because I think that poetry itself is a kind of enchantment. The effect that certain lines and images can have on us can’t be explained by translating them into simple modern English. The very form is part of the meaning, and the sound the poem makes works like a spell on our senses and not only on our minds. But it’s not just true of poetry. Everything that touches human life is surrounded by a penumbra of associations, memories, echoes and correspondences that extend far into the unknown. In this way of seeing things, the world is full of tenuous filaments of meaning, and the very worst way of trying to see these shadowy existences is to shine a light on them.
Reminds me that "the real" extends to "the imaginary".

And so for day 2263

Blue Jay Marker

Little borough. Big library stamp (4 in. x 4 in.)

East York Library stamp

East York was amalgamated into the City of Toronto. This trace of the previous municipal structure survives in one of the holdings of the Toronto Public Library. A charming crest.

And so for day 2262

Wanting Pell Mell

J.D. McClatchy
Division of Spoils
"Tea with the Local Saint"

The pull of desire is nicely captured in this anaphora.

I wanted to feel the stalk rise and the blade fall.
I wanted my life's arithmetic glazed and fired.
I wanted the hush, the wingstroke, the shudder.
Despite the repetition there is something jagged in these lines, like life itself.

And so for day 2261

Pun: Hook, Line and Sinker

Madhur Anand
New Index for Predicting Catastrophes
"Nature Morte with Zoological Professor"

The poem ends on a delightful jeux de mots invoking the homonymic possibilities of the bated/baited pair: "1 man / is going fishing today to forget about brains, / casting bated lines". So tiny a shift easy to miss. Like bran for brains.

And so for day 2260

Madhur Anand's Science of Words: Cycling and Recycling

"Moving On" — its beginning and end...

I'm on a stationary bike looking at numbers.
Heart rate, calories consumed, distance travelled, time spent,
instantaneous speed. Each motivates, differently.
By half the year's end I'm not where I thought I would be.
This meditation finds a neat echo in the last line of the next poem ("Type One Error"): "One deterministic seed, the mind recounting when / counting is not enough, though where many poems begin." including of course the preceding poem — "Moving On".

Madhur Anand also demonstrates a knack for recontextualizing by lifting lines from scientific papers and laying out the results in intriguing and suggestive poems collected in A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes. There is here an ecological sensibility. Or should we say echo-logical?

And so for day 2259

The Ineffable in Autumn

John Williams
The Necessary Lie
"For My Students, Returning to College”

Now splintered grass encrusts the yard
And crisp leaves slant the brittle air;
Impassive, close, the neutral sky
Engages buildings lean and spare,
           The day is lean and hard.

Within these rooms the truth must lie.
Immortal, of the mortal brain,
It burns inert in cold black print
And warms the lifeless grasp to gain:
           The concept does not die.

Here we have come to search the gray
And sullen stubbor[n]ness of fact:
To learn that we can never sense
Or know what we can never act
           Or what we cannot say.
Like coal - condensed to burn bright - action hooked to speech.

And so for day 2258

Protean Position: Sitting

I admire her self-possession and her imagination and, as the poet stresses, her ability to sit very still. Here are the concluding stanzas to her portrait. We are captivated by her swift transformations.


First she is an ancient queen
In pomp and purple veil.
Soon she is a signing wind,
and, next, a nightingale.

How fine to be Narcissa,
A-changing like all that!
While sitting still, as still, as still
As anyone ever sat!
Gwendolyn Brooks Bronzeville Boys and Girls

And so for day 2257

Sketch as Stretch

I admire his sequencing. Alain de Botton in The Art of Travel provides a lovely set up to his discussion of de Maistre's Travel around My Bedroom (found in the chapter "On Habit" in the section "Return") by in the previous chapter ("On Possessing Beauty") introducing Ruskin's reccomendation to sketch or word-paint in order to implant one's experience of a place into memory. de Botton stresses along with Ruskin that aesthetic attainment is not the point; the practice is.

And, as he had pointed out when presented with a series of misshapen drawings that a group of his pupils had produced on their travels through the English countryside: 'I believe that the sight is a more important thing than the drawing; and I would rather teach drawing that my pupils may learn to love nature, than teach the looking at nature that they may learn to draw.'
It's all about paying attention wherever one's steps may lead.

Thus ends a chapter and here ends the last chapter of the book...
There are some who have crossed deserts, floated on ice caps and cut their way through jungles but whose souls we would search in vain for evidence of what they have witnessed. Dressed in pink-and-blue pyjamas, satisfied within the confines of his own bedroom, Xavier de Maistre was gently nudging us to try, before taking off for distant hemispheres, to notice what we have already seen
Off to sketch.

And so for day 2256

Good Technique Pays

A sample from The Beggar's Handbook: A Guide To Successful Panhandling by M.T. Pockets (Loompanics Unlimited, 1989).

To be a successful panhandler you must lead the intended giver to believe that you will be slightly improved by the gift, however small. When you make your approach, be fearful, be distressed, be upset, even be a little disoriented, but be coherent. Lead the intended giver to believe that his or her gift will restore your equilibrium. This will lead the giver to believe that he or she will feel good about this transaction afterward. Of course, when you get what you want, look relieved. The giver will feel every bit as good about the transaction as you do. There is no sense doing it the other way; all that does is engender hostility and — just possibly — problems with the authorities in and around your chosen place of work. Once you are marked as a troublemaker, you will be forced to move n and that can mean giving up a goldmine for a tin quarry. I do not need to further belabor the implications in terms of dollars received for effort made.
cover of Beggar's Handbook
Good tips on how to gather those tokens of appreciation and relieve apprehension.

And so for day 2255

Dignity Not Cheap

The poverty of means...

Exercises for Ear
(The Ferry Press, 1968)
Stephen Jonas

in america
          the rich
are poor &
          the poor
        since no

peasant tra-
to lend

nity to cheap-
... the riches of reading.

The rich are cheap and lacking in dignity because their efforts require no sacrifice. That's one way to toss the coin.

And so for day 2254

Two Examples of Attunement

Exercises for Ear
(The Ferry Press, 1968)
Stephen Jonas

A fine pitch, an idiom in key:


        we ain't got
but ghee'tars
Sure to send you back to Ovid:
Echo, a beautiful nymph
   loved the woodland sports

         tho' favored of Diana,
she had one fault:
                  she talked
too much

     the rest
needs no repeating
Half the fun is in the layout upon the page — sends you grappling.

And so for day 2253

Terminus Tact

I love how the title page of Exercises for Ear (The Ferry Press, 1968) characterizes its author as "Stephen Jonas / Gentleman". And it is the touch of the gentle man that concludes the book with a wry aside to Jack [Spicer?].

             strange abt women
when they discover you

on to their secret; they never
trust you

         again   alone
w/ their husbands
The full title (Exercises for Ear being a Primer for the Beginner in the American Idiom) explains some of the abbreviations deployed and the ellipsis of "are". Also explains the use of the expression "on to someone" — be on to someone: be close to discovering the truth about an illegal or undesirable activity that someone is engaging in. We never quite know the secret but we do get a vivid picture of the reaction to coming close.

And so for day 2252

Yellow Mellow Waves

I got to see this broadside at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. It was issued by Karyl Klopp's Pomegranate Press in 1973. It's a concrete poem by Ronald Johnson. Bright yellow with inventive use of letter forms and negative space.

That section to the right above the signature block serves as an epigraph and is a quotation from Nijinsky.
The earth is the head of God. God is the fire in the head. I am alive as long as there is fire in my head. My pulse is like an earthquake.
On the verticals one reads Maze, Mane, Wane. On the horizontals, MMW, AAA, ZNN, EEE.

And so for day 2251

Food in Time

Rooting food in temporality.

This is not a manual of cookery but a book about enjoying food. Few of the recipes in it will contribute much to the repertoire of those who like to produced dinner for six in thirty minutes flat. I think food, its quality, its origins, its preparation, is something to be thought about in the same way as any other aspect of human existence.


When one thinks of the civilization implied in the development of peaches from the wild fruit or of apricots, grapes, pears, plums, when one thinks of those millions of gardeners from ancient China right across Asia and the Middle East to Rome, then across the Alps north to France, Holland and England of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, how can we so crassly, so brutishly, reduce the exquisite results of their labour to cans full of syrup and cardboard-wrapped blocks of ice?

Cooking something delicious is really much more satisfactory than painting pictures or making pottery. At least for most of us. Food has the tact to disappear, leaving room and opportunity for masterpieces to come. The mistakes don't hang on the walls or stand on the shelves to reproach you forever.
Jane Grigson, introduction to Good Things

And so for day 2250


Stein's line has its own Wikipedia entry Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose

Ronald Johnson in ARK 60 Fireworks I reconstructs the visual impact by a bit of clever homophony:

arose a battleground:
rows on rows of roses
wound round and round
And so arises great delight.

And so for day 2249


ARK 34, Spire on the Death of L.Z.

to say then head wedded nail and hammer to the
work of vision
of the word
at hand
that is paradise,
this is called spine of white cypress
roughly cylindrical
on the principle
of the intervals between cuckoos
and molecules, and molecules
The spine of cypress in this poem by Ronald Johnson caught my attention in part because it reminded me of having recently read Alain de Botton on the cypresses in the paintings of Van Gogh and how the painting reorganized de Botton's sense of the landscape of Provence (and his general argument that good writing and innovative painting allow us to see anew):
It was a clear day, with a mistral blowing that ruffled the heads of the wheat in the adjacent field. I had sat in this same spot the day before, but only now did I notice that there were two large cypresses growing at the end of the garden, a discovery that was not unconnected to the chapter I had read the night before on van Gogh's treatment of the tree. He had sketched a series of cypresses in 1888 and 1889. 'They are constantly occupying my thoughts,' he told his brother. 'It astonishes me that they have not yet been done as I see them. The cypress is as beautiful in line and proportion as an Egyptian obelisk. and the green has a quality of such distinction. It is a splash of black in a sunny landscape, but it is one of the most interesting black notes, and the most difficult to get exactly right.'

Alain de Botton, "On Eye-Opening Art" in The Art of Travel
It is with great joy that I came across another cypress later in ARK. It occurs suitably in a poem (ARK 75, Arches IX (from Van Gogh's Letters)) that stitches together quotations from the painter's letters.
a terrace with two cypresses
a nameless black
charged with electricity
Charged like a conducting spine.

And so for day 2248

Square Composition

The typewriter not only provided space for recording breathings, it has also been an instrument for pattern making.

                        COILED STANZAS


         Home                            Heart

               Ohm is where the Art is

       Heart                           Home

                  Resist Stances

A "corner" poem from my Juvenilia similar in structure to Ronald Johnson's "Puss-in-the-Corner" except his is more spare.


        Whisker                         Paw


        Claw                            Pounce

in Sports and Divertissments ([Ian Hamilton Finlay's] Wild Hawthorn Press, 1965)

Almost like recognizing a kindred spirit. Most like.

And so for day 2247

More Than Fruit Storage

Charles Olson comparing and contrasting the Maya and Americans in his essay "Human Universe"

And when a people are so disposed, it should come as no surprise that, long before any of these accomplishments, the same people did an improvement on nature — the domestication of maize — which remains one of the world's wonders, even to a nation of Burbanks, and that long after all their accomplishments, they still carry their bodies with some of the savor and flavor that the bodies of the Americans are as missing in as is their irrigated lettuce and their green-picked refrigerator-ripened fruit. For the truth is, that the management of external nature so that none of its virtu is lost, in vegetables or in art, is as much a delicate juggling of her content as is the same juggling by any one of us of our own.
Refrigerator Cakes. Refrigerator Poems.

And so for day 2246

Palm and Sole

Ronald Johnson ARK (Albuquerque: Living Batch Press, 1996)

You are immersed in a sequence of poems, you turn the page and face

ronald johnson beam 18

A hand print.

Sends me back to my first imprints. Recording weight and length and even the name of the "accoucheur". Tag (with the metadata) and footprint have been kept together by a pretty pink ribbon.

birth info - lachance
baby footprint
My Signature Reply to Beam 18 by Ronald Johnson
RJ: ARK is a all a strumming of the lyre.
Now accompanied by a stomping (estampe) of the foot — a different beat.

ADDENDUM: Ronald Johnson's "Still Life" in A Line of Poetry, A Row of Trees lists a number of objects and in the last position is headed by an ampersand ("eye")
& the palm of a hand with an eye the Indians made.
The poem ends:
What hand will reach out to see the world?
And leave its prints for others to see?

And so for day 2245

Fantasia on a Materialist Epiphany

Unfolding the mind of one youthful version of Alan Turing

To his great surprise is materialism is not so sad. He moves with greater ease and resilience and less fear. It is as though his eyes have suddenly come into focus from a nauseating blue and the whole world looks brilliant. All of his senses have sharpened so that colors and sounds and smells and textures are splendid and vibrant, his experience of them a heart-soaring joy. Every blade of grass glistens. The hard Cambridge wind batters respect out of him. The barren twist of every branch of every tree, even the week fog of light, the whole of the world sings out to him as though he has never seen or heard anything before. With the sheer pleasure of this tactile awakening, his love of nature intensifies as though he has finally given over to her, wholly and without inhibition. Within days his spiritualism is no more than a mildly embarrassing, childish memory. In its place is calm, impervious materialism — nothing like the sad, bleak emptiness he feared. He would have a bad time trying to put it into words. No single world could mean this thing. He would have to write something lengthy with many caveats and tangents and even then he knows he would not successfully express the immediacy or the splendor of the visceral experience. Maybe in another's mind better words would come, but not in his. And so his mind offers him something simple. only one world comes to him over and again, and it could be only this — a word he doesn't often think to use: "beautiful." It is beautiful.
Janna Levin. A madman dreams of Turing machines

And so for day 2244

Wall of Brass Keys

The character, Kurt Gödel, is in Paris, stop-over on his way back to Vienna, and is in some distress. Out of this unease peers a cinematic eye.

He hid in a small hotel of single rooms near the train station, terrified of the girl behind the desk, of her silhouette against the hanging keys, a frozen rainfall of brass.
Janna Levin. A madman dreams of Turing machines

The image is arresting for is control of stasis that hinges on "silhouette" and "frozen" while the movement is present in "hanging" and "rainfall". All constructed by nimble use of parallelism.

And so for day 2243

Light and Its Aftereffects

Lux fiat. Verbum est.

Stepping out of the tradition into a displacement of sorts.

this account of light
as an acquired characteristic
became propositional

just as every forest
would come to speak to us
as a verb
"North by South" Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent Liz Howard

Other instances of illumination gave us a blood moon & plenum and another moon caught in gutter water. All emanating from that peculiar poetic direction: north by south.

And so for day 2242

Radius of Radiance

We set here as a prelude to a page from Ronald Johnson Radi Os (Berkeley: Sand Dollar, 1977) what are the concluding lines of T.S. Eliot's "Little Gidding", the last of the Four Quartets.

Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
I have always thought that the rose and fire become one in the rose window of a cathedral whatever architectural splendours lie at Little Gidding. Regardless of my adolescent imagination, the lines serve me well here for not only the conjunction of fire and rose but also for the half-heard in the stillness.

Radi Os is a poem produce by erasure of the 1892 (Crowell) edition of Milton's Paradise Lost. Some gentle soul has nicely paginated the library copy and on page 31, in a tiny hand, refers the reader to the front page. A transcription does not do justice to the spatial dynamics produced by the erasure:

in the shape / as of / above the / rose / through / rose / rising / the radiant sun

rose page from Radi Os
And so to the front page: where "rose" is a verb: tree / into the World. / Man / the chosen / Rose out of Chaos: / song,

first page of Radi Os by Ronald Johnson
The kind reader's linking of the front to the rose page echoes some of the observations observed in Guy Davenport's afterward
From book to book he has grown more responsive to light and pattern in nature; he believes that light evolved the eye to see itself [...] These pages at first glance look haphazard (as a Cubist painting seemed to first viewers to be an accident). They are not. There is a page that has the word man at the top, flower in the middle, and star at the bottom. There are other words on the page, and they help us see the relationship between man, flower, and star. One order of word gives: man passed through fire / His temple right against The black. It is, for instance, electro-chemical energy in brain cells derived from photosynthetic sugars in vegetables whereby we can see a star at all, and the fire of the star we call the sun thus arranged that it could be seen and thought of by nourishing the brain. Is that system closed? Did the sun grow the tree the made the paper you are holding, and the ink on it, so that it can read this book through your eyes?
With a bit of rearranging the cycle fits the stream on screen.

And so for day 2241

The Fullness of Words

Adrienne Rich
The Heyeck Press, Woodside, 1983

The poem ends with the expressed desire to rest "among the beautiful and common weeds" but recognizes there is no such rest.

A phrase has occurred at intervals throughout the sequence: an end to suffering. We are informed in a note as to its origins:

The phrase an end to suffering was evoked by a sentence in Nadine Gordimer's Burger's Daughter: "No one knows where the end of suffering will begin."
We come back to Rich's conclusion: "When I speak of an end to suffering I don't mean anesthesia." She turns to the specificity of place and identity, themes she has carried throughout.
When I speak of an end to suffering I don't mean anesthesia. I mean knowing the world, and my place in it, not in order to stare with bitterness or detachment, but as a powerful and womanly series of choices:    and here I
write the words, in their fullness:
powerful;        womanly.
image of last section of Sources by Adrienne Rich
A block of prose gives way to poetry. A line break falls on "I" and spacing between "powerful" and "womanly" return us to the typography of the preceding sections to conclude that the speaking self is powerful and mediated through the fullness of words.

Meditating on the spaces between words, I came back to Olsen's 1950 observations in "Projective Verse" on breath (and spirit) and the place of the typewriter in the disposition of the words on the page.
What we have suffered from, is manuscript, press, the removal of verse from its producer and its reproducer, the voice, a removal by one, by two removes from its place of origin and its destination. For the breath has a double meaning which [L]atin had not yet lost.

The irony is, from the machine has come one gain not yet sufficiently observed or used, but which leads directly on toward projective verse and its consequences. It is the advantage of the typewriter that, due to its rigidity and its space precision, it can, for a poet, indicate exactly the breath, the pauses, the suspensions even of syllables, the juxtapositions even of parts of phrases, which he intends. For the first time he can, without the convention of rime and meter, record the listening he has done to his own speech and by that one act indicate how he would want any reader, silently or otherwise, to voice his work.
Time is what Rich chooses to mark. Dates we take to be the span of composition — a year. There is in these poetics no place without time. No words without a fullness of history.

And so for day 2240


If there is any doubt about the technical term "bearing down" it would be dispelled by one look at the cover of Penny Chalmers (Penn Kemp) Bearing Down (Coach House Press, 1972).

cover of bearing down

It is of course about the joys and tribulations of giving birth. But it is birthing in a particular space: the institution of the hospital. At the end of the book, there is a reproduction of a menu. It is obviously Easter time.

menu bearing down
In the upper right corner are some thoughts of the season (unattributed)
Easter is no time for argument.
Lilies don't argue; they bloom.
Springtime doesn't argue; it comes.
Music doesn't argue; it sings.
Beauty doesn't argue; it beckons and points.
Love doesn't argue; it outlives our griefs.
Which thanks to the World Wide Web we can ascribe to Frederick B. Speakman, author of sermons, in fine fettle for presenting an argument ("Easter is no time for argument" is itself an argument).

Down the right margin in landscape orientation is the a comment (we are uncertain in whose voice) it appears elsewhere as attributed to Patsy Gray (Age 9) from a piece about grandmothers:
They don't talk baby talk like visitors do because it is hard to understand.
When they read to us, they don't skip or mind if it is the same story again.
There are are more reproductions of hospital literature from the chaplain this time in which are interpolated other bits of unattributed sentimental poetry. For example
Said the Robin to the Sparrow:
"I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.["]

[which we trace to Elizabeth Cheney]
Both the hospital literature and the interpolations are in Courier, the ubiquitous typewriter typeface. We are faced with the question: did the poet place these in the spaces or were they found there? The one clue, layout of the interpolations in a perpendicular position, doesn't apply to all the space cramming instances. All do share a crowding effect. There is quoting going on. Who is doing it remains uncertain. I vouch for ironic insertions by the author given the wry wit exhibited in a number of the birth poems all the while bearing down.

And so for day 2239

Expansive Minimalism

Ronald Johnson
Eyes & Objects (Catalogue for an Exhibition: 1970-72)
Jargon Society, 1976

The beginning from "The Inside-out Sphere"

I offer this sphere I found,
like water held
in a rind of light.
And an ending from the end of "Windwindow"
ascent descent and accident
Eye and ear are pleased and the mind set adrift.

And so for day 2238

Joy is Not Happiness; It is Happy - A Matter of Luck

George Johnston in "Convocation Address: Queen's University, 29/5/71" distinguishes between happiness and joy.

Love is very dear.
getting our own way
and so forth
cost the Earth.

But joy
     is free,
unasked-for, unexpected, undeserved
     as an honorary degree.
These are the last rhymes this morning
     from me.
And a joy it is to mark the occasion with such mirth.

George Johnston. Endeared by Dark: The Collected Poems.

And so for day 2237


At the end, on the last page of A Poem As Long As The Highway by Douglas Barbour there is a set of lines that mark the ongoing nature of the poem as an act of cognition (learning). Set off-centre close to the right margin, the lines look like a ribbon of highway, with plenty of room for passing that is if you drive on the right.

Learning is not

in ratio to distance

we cannot learn

too far.

On the road again always.

And so for day 2236

In the Earth's Shadow

Eclipse. Iris.

All night the blood moon measures the dilation
of your pupil, pinprick or dinner plate
in this plenum where our attention fails to die.
A stanza from one of the poems (there are many) entitled "Standard Time" in Liz Howard Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent. This one occurs on page 9.

And so for day 2235

Leaf by Leaf by Colour

It could have been laid out as a pair with a caesura:

bronze by bronze, crimson by reft crimson

or stacked via line breaks:

bronze by bronze,
crimson by reft crimson

but instead we have a stress on "reft" resulting from a "cut" enjambement:

bronze by bronze, crimson by reft
"Swept Sky" in George Johnston's Endeared by Dark: The Collected Poems.

And so for day 2234

Majestic Is Often Used

Words are insufficient: the mountains "remain to be described" And yet the poet establishes a sort of grandeur "in whatever mode":

They wait to be described [...]
geologist, surveyor, artist:
crowsfeet on a map, the heavy
colours cut and carved, numbers
and weight, percentages, all
methods to paraphrase
certain immensity.
They remain
to be seen:
Douglas Barbour A Poem As Long As The Highway

It's the waiting and the remaining that get stressed as they hug the left margin.

And so for day 2233

Granite and Glaciers

In memory one puts a period.

All we have in this country is landscape,
Granite shivering with light[.]
That is where memory stops.

But there is more (always more):
All we have in this country is landscape,
Granite shivering with light,
Winter sun, brightness that never
hints of the dark.
This place is inhabited by dreams,
The movement of glaciers.
Good to remember what exposed all that granite.

M.T. Kelly. "All We Have" Country You Can't Walk In

And so for day 2232

Stigmata of the Poet: Sensitive Reactions

Phil Hall The Oak Hunch ends with a sequence called "Index of First Lines" which opens with a discourse on missionaries, islands and the nature of words which leads to an image of the poet manifesting stigmata in a very visceral fashion.

I am the one with these stinking wounds in the
palms of my hands—these gifts?—my articulate
hands that can not make straight arrows
I like the ambiguity of "articulate" meaning both jointed and enjoining.

The coda takes on the aura of an homage to James Merrill with a most striking image.
I hold the blunt end of my pen in my mouth,
and put my palms together so the stinking holes
in my hands make one hole I can see through.

Bowing my head, I shove the pen through the
hole in my hands—planchette!
Before you run to the nearest Ouija board and instigate a series of Ideomotor moves, consider that Hall identifies as nodes to this sequence two other poets: Ronald Johnson Ark: The Foundations 1—33 and George Open Of Being Numerous (where we find Oppen quoting Whitehead (believing it to be from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin) "In these explanations it is presumed that an experiencing subject is one occasion of a sensitive reaction to an actual world." which sensitive reaction brings us back to our reading Hall who ends his sequence with little faith in any way back: "SAYING A LOST PATH BACK, as of old . . ."). A bendy arrow.

And so for day 2231

Figure of a Skater Tending to Move Towards a Centre

The contrast is set up between those seeking warmth, a multitude, and the skater, a lone figure.

Coffee drinkers fill the hut with steam;
They warm themselves within against the cold
That creaks without and circumvents the light,
While Mr. Murple, in a cloud of frost
Turns on his pivot skates the captive sky.
And the crowded alliteration binds the turning figure to the elements: cloud/frost/centripetal and skates/captive/sky. Apt for the creaking cold.

"Ice At Last" in Endeared by Dark: The Collected Poems of George Johnston.

And so for day 2230

Guttural From the Throat

From a villanelle by Liz Howard ("A Wake" in Infinite Citizen fo the Shaking Tent) come these lines which remind one of a wholly erotic power.

If I moan from an animal throat it is in hope you
will return to me what I lost learning to speak.
From Phil Hall two lines out of An Oak Hunch:
a ravine of call & response
Return. Gap.

And so for day 2229

Praise Poem & Occasional Poetry

Every wonder how best to celebrate the character and accomplishments of a great literary figure?

Here is a praise poem for Northrop Frye found in Endeared by Dark: The Collected Poems of George Johnston. It was written on the occasion of a conference in Moncton. Its title: "A Celebration For Northrop Frye, May 28, 1980". And here are its concluding stanzas:

How do we honour one
already in the fane
    of honour,
    how bear

our messages of praise
before his critic's eyes?
    Well, anyhow,
    we do

confident of his smile
and knowing that we dwell
    this hour
    in Eden's bower.
Ending thus on an image of conviviality is superlative not only praised the man but also marks the occasion with fine wit.

And so for day 2228

Two Views of Tipping Fountain

First an observation on space

Scrivener Public Square

Designed by Toronto architect Stephen Teeple and named after the late MPP Margaret Scrivener, it includes a 'tipping fountain' by artist Robert Fones and a series of small, angular streams and ponds that are refreshingly free of the unnecessary safety barriers that too often ruin good urban design.

Shawn Micallef
Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto
Second an observation on time
Working with public artist Robert Fones, the team proposed to install a Japanese Tipping Fountain that relates directly to the original clock tower on the station building. The result is a physical representation of passing time.

From the Teeple website
tipping fountain

And so for day 2227

Cognitive Decline and the Beauty of Delay

I would perhaps not have been so sensitive to these lines by George Johnston if I was not aware of the work of Marlene Goldman on dementia and stigma, Forgotten: Narratives of Age-Related Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease in Canada.


we come to our beauty,
     terrified or serene
or beyond both, more likely,
     knowing even as also we are known.

I guess I shall not again
     see him, as we leave his room;
his wits are gone
     and he is as though at home

yonder. He smiles from a distance;
     and he is, as you say, beautiful
for all his ambience
     of tubes and bottles, the whole

apparatus of delay
     that keeps some good things on,
his courtesy, and the play
     of his Irish sense of fun

George Johnston "Goodbye Margaret" in Endeared by Dark: The Collected Poems

And so for day 2226

Another Puddle, Another Moon

Moon in puddle Zen trope is here at play, I believe, in the very reflective white space between stanzas. But here the moon is pluralized — each moment of perception offering its own.

I will not refuse the moons
you show me

caught in the gutter water
Liz Howard "Bingo Riot" in Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent

And so for day 2225