Markers Sartorial

Recently, Clint Burnham has provided us with an image of Turban Turbulence in these lines from Buddyland

a hardhat over a turban
isn't anywhere so funny
as a sheet over a suit
The lines came back to mind when I came across these from "Ghazal for Hell's Morning" collected in Rob Winger's The Chimney Stone: Ghazals
Under the hijab you find follicles, not fuses.
Poison on the neighbour's lawn. The water table, spent.
After that second line, I am left pondering fertilizer bombs, drained aquifers and suburban xeriscaping. I know this is in a manner treating the ghazal couplet as a puzzle. It must be my training from reading Phyllis Webb's anti-ghazals (collected in Water and Light) where I find this concluding couplet
with poems From the Country of Eight Islands. Hokku
Haiku. Chōka, Kanshi. Kouta. Tanka. Renga. Seeds.
Clever archipelago made up of the title of a book and a set of song and poem forms. And the status of Seeds is ambiguous: another title? or simply a comment on the types of "islands" that precede? or itself an island? How far we travel in such a small space... and borrowed disguises.

And so for day 900


Schopenhauer and Buddhism by Bhikkhu Nanajivako (Kandy, Ceylon: the Buddhist Publication Society, 1970) informs the reader of English that the German philosopher drawing on I.J. Schmidt's Geschichte der Ostmongolen admires the Buddhists for starting from contemplation of 4 vices and not 4 cardinal virtues.

In consequence of their deeper ethical and metaphysical views, the Buddhists start not from the cardinal virtues, but from the cardinal vices, [...] the Buddhist cardinal vices are lust, idleness, anger and greed. [Nanajivako culls this gem from Schopenhauer's Parerga and Paralipomena Volume II (1851).]
It is an amusing exercise to try and map the Buddhist vices onto the Occidental virtues: courage, temperance, justice and prudence. I get as far as aligning "anger" and "courage" and possibly "idleness" and "temperance" and it falls apart from there.

Of course Buddhist literature names a host of virtues where they are referred to as perfections.

And so for day 899

Wendell Wisdom

This is from Wendell Piez. A little entertainment from his projects page. Tucked under the rubric "Weeds Along the Information Superhighway".

Ideas aren't property, they're currency: burdensome unless used, worthless until exchanged.
Use and exchange. Marks of the hacker class. (See McKenzie Wark, A Hacker Manifesto)
We are the hackers of abstraction. We produce new concepts, new perceptions, new sensations, hacked out of raw data. Whatever code we hack, be it programming language, poetic language, math or music, curves or colorings, we are the abstracters of new worlds. Whether we come to represent ourselves as researchers or authors, artists or biologists, chemists or musicians, philosophers or programmers, each of these subjectivities is but a fragment of a class still becoming, bit by bit, aware of itself as such.
Not quite sure about the emergence of a hacker class; certainly buying into the notion of a zeitgeist of DIY and bricolage (à la Levi-Strauss and picked up by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, in their 1972 book Anti-Oedipus: they identify bricolage as the characteristic mode of production of the schizophrenic producer).

And so the exchange goes on and

And so for day 898

Plural Players

From the conclusion to Caroline Bayard's The New Poetics in Canada and Quebec: From Concretism to Post-Modernism.

And this in itself is what distances all the avant-garde (old or new, from concretism to la modernité through futurism and constructivism) from post-modernism. History is on our threshold and it is made of many stories, hers and yours. Its threads will be woven together, by many hands, in a multi-layered process. No unitary voice speaks from its components, but the many voices and the many whispers which have long been silenced and now emerge to question the very possibility of totality and finality. Theirs is an open, in-process history: scribes at work, scribes who listen and share their voices.
Perhaps it is a fitting postmodern move to mix metaphors: weaving & speaking. It seems there is some room to consider silencing as a scribal move. Some silencing is not intentional — it amounts to questions of attention. Listening is in a sense devoting continuing attention (this is a scribal function) and it is not always one's own voice that is shared by such attention giving. The postmodern condition is also an openness to the other (this is not a by and for the other — there is a pluralism and its appropriations at work). Still having trouble moving from the work of hands to the sharing of voice. I am helped by imagining two sets of actants: weavers and speakers (and some overlap between them). Venn diagrams provide a satisfying view of the multiple possibilities of playing with the plural.

And so for day 897

Feedback Reaction

I came across a French translation of "feedback" which provided the term "rétroaction" for the English which is fine if the context is one of cybernetic systems or the feedback generated by the continuous coupling of the output from an amplifier with the input into a microphone. "Rétroaction" is not suitable for translating feedback in the case of collecting comments to a document that has been issued. In that case the preferred term would be "réactions". The use of the more technical term in such a situation is grating much like the sound of feedback from a microphone and perhaps more so.

And so for day 896

The Utility of Lullabies

We read here an echo of the last sentence of Wittgenstein's Tractatus. In his translations from the Greek of Heraclitus, Haxton provides as the last fragment (number 130) "Akea" which he renders "Silence, healing" [Brooks Haxton in Fragments: The Collected Wisdom of Heraclitus (2001)] But the ease with which one brings the two texts in each other's ambit is disturbed by the note that Haxton supplies to the effect that the one word "has several meanings: silence, calm, lulling, healing." And with some sandman dust sprinkling textual (lull and sleep) we find ourselves contemplating another Heraclitean scene of peace through the fragment (number 124) last in the series given us in Guy Davenport's Herakleitos and Diogenes (1976 rpt 1979)

Even sleeping men are doing the world's business and helping it along.
And so we can approach Wittgenstein's sentence not only as a challenge but also as an anodyne or else we will loose sleep and be robbed of rest. It is about seeing the world aright. "What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence."

And so for day 895

Tracking A Phrase

Brooks Haxton in Fragments: The Collected Wisdom of Heraclitus (2001) translates number 121 in his arrangement thus

One's bearing
shapes one's fate.
And feels compelled to add a note
This fragment is often translated; "Character is fate." More literally, a man's ethos is his daimon. A person's customary ways of being and acting, in other words are that person's guiding genius. I prefer the crisper phrasing, "Character is fate," because the Greek is crisp, but meanings lost in the pithier version seem worth keeping.
And so we can compare with the introduction to Guy Davenport's Herakleitos and Diogenes (1976 rpt 1979)
In Fragment 69 I have departed from literalness and accepted the elegant paraphrase of Novalis, "Character is fate." The Greek says that ethos is man's daimon: the moral climate of a man's cultural complex (strickly, his psychological weather) is what we mean when we say daimon, or guardian angle. As the daimons inspire and guide, character is the cooperation between psyche and daimon. The daimon has foresight, the psyche is blind and timebound. A thousand things happen to us daily which we sidestep or do not even notice. we follow the events which we are characteristically predisposed to cooperate with, designing what happens to us: character is fate.
And so I went searching for Novalis's German. And found The Thread of Connection: Aspect of Fate in the Novels of Jane Austen and Others (Rodopi, 1982) by C. C. Barfoot, on page 192, note 8
'"Character," says Novalis, in one of his questionable aphorisms, "character is destiny". But not the whole of our destiny.' (The Mill on the Floss, VI, vi, Clarendon Edition, ed. Gordon S. Haight, Oxford, 1980, p. 353.) George Eliot goes on to suggest how circumstances affect the destiny of a character. Although George Eliot's translation of the aphorism takes the usual form of English versions of Heraclitus's famous saying, what Novalis has his hero say is that 'Schicksal und Gemüt Namen Eines Begriffes sind' (literally: 'Fate and disposition are the name of one conception') in Heinrich von Ofterdingen (Novalis, Schriften, eds Paul Kluckholn and Richard Samuel, Stuttgart, 1960, I, 328).
I have a hunch that George Eliot is quoting and not translating. Further searching also reveals that the phrase "Character is Fate, said Novalis." appears in Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge. This leads me to believe that there is an English translation of Novalis that may be the source for Eliot and for Hardy. This could be the 1827 translation by Thomas Carlyle [The bibliographic reference appears in the acknowledgements to Alteza, The Metairie Saga, Book One, by Linda Hines] ... so off to the library to consult The Complete Works of Thomas Carlyle since there is a dearth of articles on the WWW about 19th century English translations of German romance (and at present no digital edition of Carlyle freely available).

And so for day 894

Music Animation Machine

I first saw this demonstrated at the Textile Museum. It accompanied an exhibit exploring pattern. Very pleased to see the endeavour still alive. And the incorporation at the Textile Museum well documented. There's a picture of the gallery set-up. There's the thank-you letter.

Dear Mr. Malinowski,

I am writing to thank you for your kind permission to use the Music Animation Machine in Dance of Pattern, and to send you images and a review from the July issue of the British magazine, Selvedge, which mentions the MAM as an important component of the exhibition. Our visitors really enjoyed it - rarely were the stools and headphones in front of it unoccupied during the long run (Sept 05, 2005 - June 06, 2006) - indeed it was a great opportunity for me to let the MAM do the talking, as it were, in my discourse about patterns in music and patterns in art.

All the best, and thank you again,

Patricia Bentley
Education Curator
Textile Museum of Canada
And the review from the magazine, Selvedge, is reproduced in full, not just the passage mentioning the Music Animation Machine.
In the textile world we tend to take patterns for granted and rarely stop to ask why they look like they do. The starting point for this exhibition was the question what is a pattern? It might sound simple, even banal, but the answer is harder to pin down than you might think. Bentley's initial definition — 'an element — a sound, an image or a movement — that is repeated according to a set of rules that govern proportion and juxtaposition' — sounds a little dry. But then she picks up and expands the musical analogy, bringing the concept alive. 'The basic pattern made by a visual motif," she says, 'is like a melody that can be played in many different ways.' To illustrate this point, on display alongside the American quilts, Peruvian shawls and Indonesian ceremonial skirts was an intriguing device called a Music Animation Machine. Devised by Stephen Malinowski, a musician and inventor from Berkeley, California, it transforms music into colourful abstract animated patterns; chords swell and rhythms jump as you listen.
From Selvedge, excerpt from review by Lesley Jackson.

And so for day 893


I am arrested by two words.

toy river
The juxtaposition creates this tension between the small and the vast for it is not a stream nor a creek but something larger, a river. And "toy" brings one to the miniature and a rereading of the whole line to try and grasp the contraries in context:
A toy river running the wrong way,
Some disaster threatens to flood and so we return to the lines on either side:
As in a block of ice, and time is at once
A toy river running the wrong way,
And a little rain that sends us into the house,
Ah ha, time figured as a river — that's familiar but it is falling from the sky! We need a whole stanza (and we suspect it will leak).
The garden where the humus begins
Is shorn away, embedded in my memory
As in a block of ice, and time is at once
A toy river running the wrong way,
And a little rain that sends us into the house,
Spelling a cul-de-sac.
And then there is the greater context of the poem and that of the collection and that of the works and the life in a tradition. All coming to the same point of no exit, a simple cul-de-sac, however it is avoided by taking shelter from the rain, twin to the wrong way toy river, the one that induces us to come in and read the words and listen for the notes.

From Medbh McGuckian "East of Mozart" collected in Marconi's Cottage.

And so for day 892

Fully Not There

Stephen Cain in the introduction to an issue of Open Letter dedicated to Steve McCaffery "Breakthrough Nostalgia: Reading Steve McCaffery Then and Now" (Fourteenth Series, Number 7) references Clint Burnham's monograph Steve McCaffery and His Works (ECW, 1996) and points out that the book is "notable for the first queer reading of McCaffery's poetry." Curious?

Burnham's ruminations occur in a section on "Lyric and Postlyric". Queerness is an answer to a question.

What are we to make, then, of apparently "lyric" books by McCaffrey such as Intimate Distortions, Evoba, In England Now That Spring, and Knowledge Newer Knew? Significantly, what unites these various forays into the maligned poetic form is their continuing attention to a maligned social form: that is, these texts are concerned with queerness. Intimate Distortions is a mistranslation of the great lesbian poet Sappho's lyrics; Evoba takes the homosexual philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's texts and reappropriates them; even In England Now That Spring, cowritten with Nichol, deals tangentially with the gay erotics of literary collaboration. (The Four Horseman were misrepresented over the years as a gay group.)
The Four Horsemen were a Canadian sound-poetry group consisting of bpNichol, Paul Dutton, Steve McCaffery and Rafael Barreto-Rivera, active from 1970 to 1988. I believe the dates reflect a certain historical moment important to the contexts of the parenthetical disavowal registered by Burnham.

I want to foreground the coming out move by Burnham which appears later in the piece and functions as a kind of undressing to McCaffery's cross-dressing. Note its expression is triggered by the uttering of a question:
But in identifying certain formal strategies in McCaffery's work, am I merely doing for poetry what Elaine Showalter claims Terry Eagleton and Jonathan Culler do for theory: cross-dressing to gain some political authority as it is being denied to straight, white, male authors?

But the semiotic cross-dressing rehearsed in McCaffery's book, instead of gaining authority for the author or the text, calls into question sexual difference, seeing it as a textual effect in much the same way that the subject itself is an effect of "shifters."
Earlier in the piece, Burnham presented an explication of a passage from McCaffery's chapbook Shifters. It is worth examining at length for its play of before and after reordering of quotations (something i do myself) and how the passage and its explication plug into material from a review which takes the form of a set of quotations filled with lacunae. Watch for the holes.
As McCaffery notes in "A Note," "shifters shift within a topography and topology of text where every 'i' is an 'here' every 'you' a 'there'. poems then of openness and closure. semiotic bars and semiotic centres unfolding as tests of their own meanings" (n. pag.). But just before this is the sentence "a true subject is a barred subject." What does this mean? Barred in the Saussurean sense, in which S/s is the doxological code for a century of linguistics and theory? Barred as in kept out — which also means kept in (within bars)? This last potential meaning is supported elsewhere in the text by lines such as "instants out of discourse" and "but you're always outside / of what i'm in."

In light of the consistent attention that McCaffery pays to the visual, the "bar" also brings to mind how the signifier (S) and signified (s) are separated. As Davies notes in "Steve/steve" (the title, of course, plays with the Saussurean diagram), "It's troubling to me that the Signifier and signified have been made to assume the missionary position. ... [M]eaning is inherent in discernible differences. ... [T]he thesis seems homophobic in extremis" (57). He charges that the bar is that of conventional heterosexuality, which schematic is reproduced in Saussurean linguistics; Shifters, then, while formally akin to the gay strategies that Chadwick identifies, is still complicit with compulsory heterosexuality. Although the lyric is being deconstructed, the lyre is still powerful.

Burnham will go on in his career to explore Lacan (and not be so mystified by the references to barred subjects).

Alan Davies "Steve/steve" Review of McCaffrey's Panopticon and North of Intention: Critical Writings 1973-1986. Writing 25 (1990) pp. 49-59.

Joseph Chadwick "Toward Gay Reading: Robert Glück's 'Reader'" in Easthope and Thompson Contemporary Poetry Meets Modern Theory (1991) pp. 40-52.

And thanks to Stephen Cain for pointing out the site of queer content and in some regards queer style.

And so for day 891

Enlightened Ears

Miriam Nichols in "Deep Convention and Radical Chance: The Two Postmodernisms of Robert Duncan and Robin Blaser" in W [dix] a Duncan Delirium published by the Kootenay School of Writing invites her reader to identify with humanism and become attuned to noise

As well, a 21st century humanism must grow ears for noise: by definition, there is no accommodating of incommensurability, there is only the listening for it, a willingness to suspend immediate judgement and to share planetary space despite unresolvable differences.
And a few days later I found myself engaged in reading the jointly published work of Stephen Cain and Jay MillAr Double Helix which is a book formed along the lines of an ABC with one strand going from A to Z and the other Z, Y, X and so on to A. The strands appear on facing pages until you hit upside down print: the helix is doubled for if you turn the book around and start at the other end you get the other author's helix. Of course this poses interesting choices for reading, let alone for adequately quoting and attributing. It's a version of formalist noise.

So back to listening for noise. In what I think is the Jay MillAr portion on page 11 at the entry "Distraction" I find this sentence: "The sound was of letters striking each other in that horrifying way we became so used to in the end." This is a meditation on habituation for throughout the "Distractions" entry we have been treated to sounds appearing in reduplicated words: water striking water, stone striking stone, air striking air ... laughter against laughter, leaf against leaf ... paper striking paper. And if we pause, we become aware of the sound of page turning page and other noises that surround us. The text is maddening but not mad ("we became" is in the past and perhaps overcome — it's not "we have become" continuing into the present). And it evokes for me some of what Nichols wants to evoke by the figure of "ears for noise". I am of course making a link between noise and madness and literature. They call, each after their own fashion, for a suspending, for a time, judgement (that horrifying way we become used to it in the end foreclosed).

As you may have noticed, highly attuned as you are, that the piece I quoted from Nichols earlier comes from an enumerative context and now I deposit another quotation from just before the "as well" remark about growing sensitive ears:
We need a new humanism that expands and renovates enlightenment ideas of the free, rational, centered and responsible subject as a limit concept for what is an acceptable mode of human life.
It is a way that I believe must exhibit toleration to explore benign madness as a means to renovate free and rational subjects, especially as careful readers attuned to noise. And I'm mindful here of a tweet by Jim Bartley @bartleybabica who wrote "The mentally ill exist in and act within the preoccupations and structures of their society, with all its strengths & prejudices." His context was in regards to an exchange about mass murders. But the statement is far more acute for me in the context of benign madness which calls upon society to be humane and to exhibit the tolerant virtues of a robust civic humanism. To listen.

And so for day 890

OED versus OCR

Paul Dutton, "Solitude," from Horse d'oeuvres: Four Horsemen (Toronto: General Publishing 1975) is reproduced in Caroline Bayard's The New Poetics in Canada and Quebec: From Concretism to Post-Modernism. It is a concrete poem that functions by substraction. [First line, middle, and last line are composed of the word "solitude" typed four times without breaks; the reader is invited to reassemble words from the spaces and letters that comprise the lines in between; only letters that occur in "solitude" are used.] I am intrigued by Bayard's encounter with the poem. She writes:

All nouns, verbs, and adjectives in the poem are rigourously derived by subtraction from the original set of letters; nothing is added. The totality is self-contained, with the kernel term opening a wealth of signifieds and permutations to the initially sceptical eye of the viewer [...] Those signifieds operate either as complete units ('toil' / 'destitute' / 'old' / 'dust' / 'elude' / 'sole' / 'stud' / 'lust' / 'ode' / 'to' / 'dilute') or as unfinished ones ('desult' calling forth desultory one can presume — and 'dolus' impossible for me to complete let alone identify). With the exception of 'lit' they are all identifiable within one language.
So a hunting we will go. "Desult" — could it lie in an other bed like "lit" which can be illuminated by either French or English? First "dolus" which is Latin for trick or ruse. Appropriate for this puzzle composed of jumping letters.

Could the "Desult" incorporate a leap? The spacing leaves room for such a possibility: des-u-lt [an "i" could be dropped in between the "des" and the "u"] So we go in search of "desiult" and it appears that it may be a legal term. And we find it in A General Abridgment Able Modern Determinations in the Courts of Law and Equity Being a Supplement to Viner's Abridgement. By Several Gentlemen in the Respective Branches of the Law. Volume the Fourth. 1801. or a facsimile thereof. Because what through OCR (Optical Character Recognition) has been picked up as "desiult" is default [with a broken "a" to give the "i" and the "f" is interpreted as a long "s"]. We are far too clever. And are saved by the scan.

We move off-line to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) and find the form "desult" !! [Yes the OED is online but search engines cannot penetrate its solitude.]

"Dolus" is not in the OED, alas.

And all this close reading reveals that /solidus/ could with wider spacing come out of the 4 times repeated "solitudesolitudesolitudesolitude". And other jumps are prompted / / / / skipping along letters and sense.

And so for day 889

Foot Work

For a certain generation of gay men, we read with recollected pleasure set pieces that describe the collective and ecstatic experience of a night of dancing. Set pieces like the one below:

Twice so far that evening I'd arrived at that specific and desirable point in a night of hard dancing which I named "stepping into the box." This was how Jeffrey and I had come to express that almost magical, seamingly impossible moment we'd both experienced and in search of which we drove ourselves onto the dance floor week after week. In laymen's physics, it was that precisely perfect output of physical energy required to sustain a high degree of complex rhythm and motion without any apparent effort. In more Zen terms, it was the attaining of a certain point of mental and emotional abstraction and physical enervation in which our bodies ego-lessly, will-lessly, danced by themselves! Were danced! The effects were exhilarating, the intricate cross rhythms virtually levitating our bodies off the dance floor for periods of nine or ten seconds at a time. A friend had once filmed from the sidelines while we were in "stepping into the box," and he reported that our feet did touch the dance floor, but only once for every six or seven times anyone else around us touched down.
From Felice Picano Like People in History (New York: Viking, 1995) pp. 338-339. I am totally with the Zen zone description where however the realism gives me pause is the levitation. Certainly the sense of soaring, of lifting and flying is resonant. But the never touching the floor for ten seconds at a time — trick of the film!? The aerial lightness just doesn't jive for me with (the undescribed) pounding tramping beat. Still I want to believe that gravity somewhere is overcome even for a brief moment.

In another world (in a text published in 1982), a different, less exceptional view, makes the power of dance available to the reader — one that plays with the intertext of a children's song ("Sur le pont d'Avignon").
Dans un tel silence, on voit les ponts. C'est de nouveau relié: on sait que lire, c'est lier. On lit mieux encore: on voit que le pont est une trame de cordons infernaux. On voit la chaine aussi. On peut choisir de sauter, sauter, toujours plus haut, sur le pont, pour le défoncer.

Et quand ça défonce, on rit zen, on rit comme avant d'avoir oublié ce qu'est le rire. On tombe dans un autre étage du réel. On tourne, derviche tourneur, dans un autre monde.
From Yolland Villemaire Adrénaline as cited in Caroline Bayard The New Poetics in Canada and Quebec: From Concretism to Post-Modernism p. 92.

We are bound to the text by reading which in the French is related to binding (the anagrams "lier" and "lire" serve to underscore the point) and also to the simple notion (via etymology from the Latin lego) to a bringing together, a gathering, a collecting. So together we can jump ever higher ("sauter, toujours plus haut") and once the bridge has been smashed we can accede to Zen laughter and twirl like dervishes.

And whirl we do... Almost like making the perfect liaison to thicken a sauce... It is reading as binding that brings me back to Picano remarking on a place in time.
None of us in the media, none of us in the so-called gay community that had developed in the decade since the Stonewall riot, seemed to have any real program for what we were doing. Naturally we had a public agenda: sodomy laws were to be repealed, discrimination was to be ended, all that. But in other, less defined, more ordinary, more social areas, we were experimenting with different things. This entire "gay" business was still so new, so unprecedented, how could we know what we were doing? We were just trying to do things right. Which meant not as heterosexuals did them, or perhaps not as our parents and teachers did them, and that sometimes meant being outrageous and sometimes meant being merely true to ourselves.
And now? Do we dance differently? Do we prepare sauces the traditional way? How is it that we are to read stomping and twirling and jumping and levitating? Beating and whisking?

And so for day 888


As I was reading The Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje I was struck by how one particular passage of hallucinated anatomical rendering was like the viscerally-inflected passages that one finds in Monique Wittig's The Lesbian Body. The one was published in 1970 and the translation of the other appeared in 1975. There is no question of influence. Confluence, perhaps.

Ondaatje remarks in a 2008 afterward that

one day I walked into Coach House Press and found some of the printers and designers there listening to a tape that the Vancouver artist Roy Kiyooka had made of himself reading one of the prose sections in the book. As I listened I was for the first time shocked at the violence of it, almost scared of it.
Part of the impact is the use of first person pronouns — creates an identificatory mechannism. Consider the scene recounted by Billy where after days of riding chained to a horse this happens — a hand is plunged through the body:
Down the long cool hand went scratching the freckles and warts in my throat breaking through veins like pieces of long glass tubing, touched my heart with his wrist, down he went the liquid yellow from my busted brain finally vanishing as it passed through soft warm stomach like a luscious blood wet oasis, weaving in and out of the red yellow blue green nerves moving uncertainly through wrong fissures ending pausing at cul de sacs of bone then retreating slow leaving the pain of suctions then down the proper path through pyramids of bone that were there when I was born, through grooves the fingers spanning the merging paths of medians of blue matter, the long cool hand going down brushing cobwebs of nerves the horizontal pain pits, lobules gyres notches arcs tracts fissures roots' white insulation of dead seven year cells clinging things rubbing them off on the tracts of spine down the cool precise fingers went into the cistern of bladder down the last hundred miles in a jerk breaking through my sacs of sperm got my cock in the cool fingers pulled it back up and carried it pulling pulling flabby as smoke up the path his arm had rested in and widened.
And it goes on and our hero can claim, and does, to have been truly fucked.

And the Wittig, you wonder?

There are scenes of entrails wreathed around necks, devourings, flayings. But what I wanted to draw attention to here is the sections written out in all caps just like an ancient Roman inscription. These are made up of anatomical lists. Though all that they are is lists, the pilling on conveys the muchness of the body. Take this listing:
Anatomy becomes geography; territory conquered.

And so for day 887

Paratexts Entries Replicas Epitaphs

No reprise. From the back of the box that houses a folding fan of text:

I place the paratext from Anne Carson's Nox alongside this excerpt from Paul Monette's preface to Love Alone: Eighteen Elegies for Rog.
In the summer of 1984 Roger and I were in Greece together, and for both of us it was a peak experience that left us dazed and slightly giddy. We'd been together for ten years, and life was very sweet. On the high bluff of ancient Thera, looking out across the southern Aegean toward Africa, my hand grazed a white marble block covered edge to edge with Greek characters, line after precise line. The marble was tilted face up to the weather, its message slowly eroding in the rain. "I hope somebody's recorded all this," I said, realizing with a dull thrill of helplessness that this was the record, right here on the stone.
A kind of reprise. Another pointer to an attempt at translating some of the words from that preface. Displacements.

And move on to quote from Carson on the nature of translation. From Nox [no pagination]
No one (even in Latin) can approximate Catullan diction, which at its most sorrowful has an air of deep festivity, like one of those trees that turns all its leaves over, silver, in the wind. I never arrived at the translation [...] Prowling the meanings of a word, prowling the history of a person, no use expecting a flood of light. Human words have no main switch. But all those little kidnaps in the dark. And then the luminous, big, shivering, discandied, unrepentant, barking web of them that hangs in your mind when you turn back to the page you were trying to translate.
There follows this which is also a comment on the form of the folded/screen text:
And a few leaves latter it all returns to play with the thought that there is no exit from entries: "In one sense it is a room I can never leave, perhaps dreadful for that. At the same time, a place composed entirely of entries." And what an appropriate image for a replica of an epitaph.

And so for day 886


Reprise from my tripping over the gap between teaching and l earning:

What is shown is open to imitation. What is sown without coercion is adopted without compunction. And sometimes not immediately. And sometimes not at all. It's the difference between teaching and learning.
And to connect this take on teaching-learning gap I bring this description from an article by Fadi Abou-Rihan (appearing in Canadian Review of Comparative Literature Special Issue on "Deleuze, Guattari, and the Philosophy of Expression" Volume XXIV, Number 3, September 1997):
it must require a shift away from the customary archaeological model of knowledge as an endless pursuit of depths, precedents, fixed itineraries, and hierarchical truths to a geographical or topographical one emphasizing surfaces, movements, disguises, production, and play.
Of course, I have cheated a little — the referent of "it" in the above quotation is not a gap between teaching and learning but "queer theory". But I found it difficult to resist the appropriation because of the appeal to disguise and to play found in this article ("Queer Sites: Tools, Terrains, Theories"). The "it" kind of floats on the page.

However inappropriate the rapprochement, I do think the appeal to Deleuze is useful in thinking about the teacher-learner gap (yes, I have refigured it as a distance between persons or actants). The teacher is never quite sure how much or what has been conveyed to the learner; conversely the learner is never sure on just how much there is to receive from a given teacher — if all there is has indeed been received. The communication between persons is imperfect; there is always a residue which is here figured as a gap.

These ruminations call to mind for me, the characterization given by Richard Fleming of Stanley Cavell (as part of an afterward to Cavell's Bucknell Lectures). It amounts to a not finding the philosopher in the words:
Hence a problem encountered in continuing to read and search for Cavell is that the text's thoughts and voices are neither exactly Cavell's nor not Cavell's. In their state of, say, repressed thoughts, they represent his further, next, unattained but attainable, self. To think otherwise, is to attribute the origin of his thoughts simply to the other, thoughts which are then, as it were, implanted in him by let us say some Wittgenstein or Emerson or Thoreau, which is to lose the self, lose Cavell, not acknowledge the confession he is making. [...] All my words are someone else's. What but philosophy, of a certain kind, would tolerate the thought?
It is a nice way to think about the teaching-learning gap: to place the figure of an "attainable self" at the centre of the pedagogical enterprise. And around it all the play of disguise and production.

And so for day 885


Reprise from my own meditations on quotations:

Quotations, too, participate in various genres. Some are illustrative, some are authoritative, some are epigraphs. And like drawings, quotations often need to be accompanied by words.
This leads me to an example. For the longest time, I resisted A.S. Neill's contention in Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing that manners could not be taught. This opening to the chapter on "Manners" buckled against my experience and the wise practice of my parents who inculcated in me not only a sympathy for etiquette but also a moral value in treating everyone with dignity and respect. I sincerely thought that I was taught this. Neill tells it otherwise:
To have good manners means to think of others, no — to feel for others. One must be group-conscious, have the gift of putting oneself in the other man's shoes. Manners prohibit the wounding of anyone. To be mannerly is to have genuine good taste. Manners cannot be taught, for they belong to the unconscious.
Well. For ages, I just thought this was wrong. Until it dawned upon me that we have different meanings of "to teach". I now recall from the movies the line that proceed a wallop of a whipping: "I'm gonna teach ya a lesson." Teaching for me is less about pounding points into some one as seducing through mimesis: modelling discrete elements that are readily imitated and encouraging repetition with variation to make what is acquired innate.

Most ironically, in my copy of Summerhill I had copied onto a yellow sticky a listing of virtues from the foreword by Eric Fromm and remarked how they aligned with the traditional cardinal virtues (prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude). And marvellously when I returned to the context, I found the important characterization of teaching as non-violent. See:
Neill shows uncompromising respect for life and freedom and a radical negation of the use of force. Children reared by such methods will develop within themselves the qualities of reason, love, integrity, and courage, which are the goals of Western humanistic tradition.
What is shown is open to imitation. What is sown without coercion is adopted without compunction. And sometimes not immediately. And sometimes not at all. It's the difference between teaching and learning.

And so for day 884


Reprise from Clint Burnham The only poetry that matters: reading the Kootenay School of Writing:

[T]he work we do as critics, as teachers, as readers, turns out to have implications for our everyday lives, as well as for the social world that we inhabit.
And in his poetry we come across this:
a hardhat over a turban
isn't anywhere so funny
as a sheet over a suit
Quite apart from the content which gives an "odd" inflection to the meaning of "funny", there is something here akin to a sketch, a drawing awaiting some further elaboration (these three lines are set off in their own stanza before the poem "Betty" appearing in Buddyland resumes).

This is the type of poetry that suggests (here a human rights case over Sikh headgear above a hint of Klansman drapery) and this is why I want to bring this type of verbal manifestation into the orbit of "drawing", especially drawing considered as a "vehicle for exploration and invention". I am quoting Peter Campbell on a show at the British Museum (London Review of Books, 27.05.2010).
If this were an exhibition of paintings, they would be easier to label. With drawings you need words to describe uses and degrees of finish: 'scribble', 'sketch', 'cartoon', 'study', 'design', 'contract drawing'. Some drawings, made as ends in themselves, can be called 'presentation drawings', others may have been made as part of a painter's education. Some seem to have no purpose other than to please the maker. In Leonardo's red chalk profiles of an old and a young man, young beauty and crumpled age are so well represented in the young man's ringlets and the old man's wrinkled skin that pleasure in mastery is reason enough for their existence.
Notice how genre is key in approaching drawing. Similarly the verbal artefact and its reception are imbricated in questions of genre. It is of course interesting to extend these meditations on genre to the matter of citation. Quotations, too, participate in various genres. Some are illustrative, some are authoritative, some are epigraphs. And like drawings, quotations often need to be accompanied by words.

And so for day 883


Reprise from Touch by Gabriel Josipovici:

For it is never possible to tell in advance where the boundaries will be or even if they exist.
Which resonates nicely with this opening line from "The Surprises of the Superhuman" by Wallace Stevens:
The palais de justice of the chambermaids
The straining after sense is a habit hard to break; it keeps one reading even in the allusive style but elusive syntax offered up by Clint Burnham in this excerpt from Buddyland which frustrates as much as it rewards:
under each when man gut daschshund
Handel man, he's the greatest
take the money and run has an approval
I sit known no emerald city
This is writing that is enticing and stand offish — it's whorish. The delivery depends on what you pay: sit city become sin city or arisen out of it. Similarly counting Stevens among the whorish poets may seem like a rebuke but it is not — it is an acknowledgement of its reeling you in to make you pay more: attention to what has been cast off or what would be valued less (but not valueless). [JUST try and make sense of the two stanzas that compose the classic "The Emperor of Ice-Cream" — see how the lines from the first ("Let be the finale of seem.") comment in some sort of foreshadowing upon the corresponding line in the second ("Let the lamp affix its beam").]

If poetry resists understanding it is for a purpose. Or so the critic leads us to believe. Even if that purpose is a Kantian repurposing of the purposeless. Ends for themselves.

And to conclude with prose! And a paean to work...
If the canon turns out to be subversive, and a slogan turns out to be literature, then the work we do as critics, as teachers, as readers, turns out to have implications for our everyday lives, as well as for the social world that we inhabit.
From Clint Burnham The only poetry that matters: reading the Kootenay School of Writing.

And so for day 882

Structure Strictures

That's page 130 in Touch by Gabriel Josipovici (Yale University Press, 1996)
—— and this is what I quoted:

The structure consists of a series of gestures in a certain order which satisfies.

The structure is never final. As soon as it has been completed satisfactorily it ceases to matter. The search for boundaries begins again. It will always begin again. Not as Sisyphus rolls his stone up the hill again and again, but as the sun rises each morning, as one breathes in and out and then in again and again.

Yet it is not as natural as breathing. Not even as natural as swimming or kicking a ball. For it is never possible to tell in advance where the boundaries will be or even if they exist.

There is no end to it. But ends no longer matter.
One thinks or imagines a mudra or a pose in ballet — that certain order that satisfies. And one realizes that all gesture is in flight. And translates. Aware of interdependence.

And so for day 881

Burning Bush

Janice Wells in The Gin and Tonic Gardener most often provides advice about hardscaping — getting the structural elements in place — but every once in a while she waxes eloquently about the beauties of a given plant. Take for instance

After much deliberation, I couldn't resist a burning bush [...] Its growing habit is sometimes a bit neat for my taste, but the scarlet of the papery thin leaves in the fall makes up for its being prissy. A bonus is the ridged wing-like effect on its branches, ethereal when lightly frosted with snow.
Even here there is the attention to structure. And to the turning of the seasons.

And so for day 880

Appreciation Once More

Mary Helen Kolisnyk's interest in film theory prompted this description of my project in May '95.

the new paradigm cannot be located in a single sensory modality. it's more abstract. at least that is what i argue in my thesis. if the new like the old info environoments or virtual realities are interactive, then the question is one of translation between modalities and verbal semiotic systems, as Benveniste has taught, are very powerful metalanguages. i think non-verbal narrative structure ie. the casting, ordering and maniupulating of sequences, can best explain intersemiotic relations and cognitive processing accross sensory modalities without privileging sight or hearing or touch. I arrive at this position through a critique of the assumption in much occident epistemological and aesthetic discourse that the fundemental human unit of interaction is the dyad. you can imagine that psychoanalysis with the mother-child dyad gets a bit of a grilling but it is psychoanalysis and its theory of drives & body mapping [i'm thinking particularly of the work of Kaja Silverman] that offers a way out of stiffling duos & dichotomies.

more later
Amazing that some sense carries through in that long run on. I note that the "occident" trope got carried into the subtitle: Ideological dimensions of select twentieth-century occidental texts devoted to technology, perception and reproduction.

So many conversations, so many details.

And so for day 879

Encore Merci

Found another message to one of my treasured interlocutors. This to Bridget Keegan in September of 1994. Very interesting to see this stuff in its "primitive" form before it got worked up in Sense in the chapter on "Storing and Sorting". It appears that the reference to Genette via Lodge was a stepping stone &mdash never made it in the chapter's discussion of memory work, body and narrative.

found the reference in lodge's anthology p. 68

genette still makes a difference in kind between narrative and description. for him narrative and description are two different systems that one can study at a higher level of generality.

this has help me understand that my notion of description like that of narrative must also have a non-verbal set. i guess the notion that i hope to deploy is that of "notation"

both verbal descriptions and narratives can be phenomena that arise out of the general activity of notation. i know this sounds awfully abstract without the anthropological examples like Nancy Munn's work on Walbiri iconographic systems. the example that i give is of teaching a child how to count. one sets down tracks, acoustic (the voicing of the names of the numbers), visual (good number teachers make eye contact with the child and then direct their gaze to the finger) and tactile (the actual touching of the fingers) my contention is that complex concepts and activity like predication arise in multisensory settings because the body is thinking or rather more of the body is used as a site to store information and hence is easier to recall. now what did all this have to do with literary theory????!!!

thank you thank you
And again thanks. After all these years.

And so for day 878

English Vistas

From a piece of ephemera. The flyer announcing Stonyground Press publication in 1987 of Groves by Thomas Traherne (1637-1674). Edited by D.D.C. Chambers.

The Civil War in the middle of the 17th century destroyed many of the forests of England, but it also helped to create the landscape garden. The destruction of the old fortifications that enclosed the walled garden opened vistas into the surrounding parkland and suggested that groves of trees might form part of this new landscape garden.
Chambers is also the author of The Planters of the English Landscape Garden: Botany, Trees, and the Georgics where another part of the story is the importation of plant materials from the colonies which "led to the availability of a vast new repertory of trees and shrubs" — a quotation from the publicity provided by the Yale University Press where one can also find this view:

And so for day 877

Found Poem

Interesting how adding line breaks assists the assimilation of information.

We search for a link between who we are and what we have made,
between who we are and what we might create,
between who we are and what,
through our intimacy with our own creations,
we might become.

Sherry Turkle
The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit
I like how Turkle opens up the old question of humans being shaped by the tools they employ.

And so for day 876

Alien Positions

I here repeat a gesture of acknowledgement. I thank Marie-Michelle Strah for the exchange of words and ideas, via e-mail, via post and in person. This snippet (without diacritical marks) gives you a small impression of what thinking in two languages does to the modalities of the process of expressing what one is thinking about.

Date: Mon, 16 May 1994 14:32:31 -0400 (EDT)
In-Reply-To: from "Marie-Michelle Strah" at May 15, 94 07:24:16 pm

Tu est des plus lucides. Tu me dis :

le partage sensoriel que tu travailles n'est ni accessoire ni etranger a la problematique de la texto-subjectivite, mais une partie intrinseque de toute meditation hermeneutico/semiologique, une _vocation_, quoi.

et cela me rejouit. Le francais semble beaucoup plus elegant [...] Tu t'imagines l'anglais?

the sensory division upon which you are working is to be situated neither in an accessory nor alien position in relation to the text-subjectivity problematic. on the contrary it is an intrinsic part of any hermeneutiqe or semiotic meditation, a *vocation* in other words.
And in November 1994, I was writing to her in Paris a message that was sent with the following header: "Subject: high abstraction".
while in Paris at some cafe you might have fun with what i am struggling with:

the specularity of the subject in relation to continuity and reversibility arising out of the nature/culture split mapped onto opposed (male-female) genders

"women make babies; men, culture" it is what Donna Haraway calls a "regulatory fiction"

somehow i have managed to state that reading the gendered nature/culture split back into theorizing about ideology one can make the trivial claim that Althusser's specular subject is a compensation mechanism for the uncertainty of paternity....[big deal]

the more interesting claim is that in reading an ideological construct (gendered nature-culture dichotomy) back into theorizing about ideology one can also claim that reproduction as formulated in Western discourse implies a relation between continuity and reversibility

i am lost at this point. maybe spinning off into verbiage but somehow i keep coming back obsessively to some kind of relation between continuity and reversibility. does this twig with anything you've read. i know that reversibility is linked to non-newtonian physics and the mathematics of catastrophe theory. reversibility is of course connected with dyads and this may be my hook up with reproduction and continuity. the anthropological literature provides cases where theories of reproduction allow for multiple genitors. i have to unpack the notion of reversibility, any ideas even the most silly might unravel why this pair "continuity and reversibility" is so attractive to my writing/thinking self
There is no underestimating the importance of interlocutors, especially those willing to be indulgent in the face of raw ramblings.

And so for day 875


I like this bit from "Places of Memory" by D.G. Jones appearing in Phrases from Orpheus (1967).

Not far is a barn
And a pump where the water comes splashing
Over the boards

The spirit is thirsty, drinks
When we least are aware
What I admire in these stanzas is the juxtaposition of the very concrete scene of pumping water (which indeed does splash when using a hand pump) and the more abstract musings of quenching the spirit of thirst. And then the element of surprise contained in the line "When we least are aware". It somehow all flows like the water.

And so for day 874


"The Studio (Homage to Alice Neel)" by Alicia Ostriker appears in The Crack in Everything and has one stanza begin with a listing of colours: "Pallette knife jabs, carnation, ochre, viridian." The next stanza also begins with a listing but not before our colour stanza ends with a wry observation:

The thing about life in the bughouse, says Alice Neal,
Is it's better than killing yourself. And you get some rest.
And next follows the listing which the poet applies like colours:
Insane asylum, bughouse, madhouse, loony bin,
Snake pit, it's like the Eskimo words for snow.
The poem goes on but I am arrested by the legend of the names, trying to find something fitting, obsessed.

If you were to read on with me you would find by poem's end that you behave sanely and leave "And you're back in the basement studio."

Still in the studio, still obsessed. Tempting to run that list through a translation machine... just to see what craziness can emerge.

And so for day 873

Novels, Films, Time Sense

Susan Sontag in "A note on novels and films" collected in Against Interpretation remarks

The cinema has its own methods and logic of representation, which one does not exhaust by saying that they are primarily visual. The cinema presents us with a new language, a way of talking about emotion through the direct experience of the language of faces and gestures. Nevertheless, there are useful analogies which may be drawn between the cinema and the novel — far more, it seems to me, than between the cinema and the theater. [...] When the camera moves we move, when it remains still we are still. In a similar way the novel presents a selection of the thoughts and descriptions which are relevant t the writer's conception, and we must follow these serially, as the author leads us; they are not spread out, as a background, for us to contemplate in the order we choose, as in painting or the theater.
Makes one think of the remote control as a camera. Rewind.

And so for day 872

The Corruptibility of Images

Recently, I sat in on a photojournalism class. Out of the discussion of images from a conflict zone and the process of editing and the delicate art of captioning, I began to wonder about how images work. It is evident that words can be used to describe, explicate and judge. And an image can be a description and an explication. I'm not sure how confident I am in staking out the claim that images also produce judgements.

The discussion of the images presented in that photojournalism class seemed to me to call out for a theory of genre: each of the images seemed to be read through the filter of a more or less conscious intertext — similar images in other situations. The judgement passed by the image itself dependent upon the recognition of a genre and the viewer's attitude to that genre shaped the judgement that was read. Words, by way of contrast, stand alone when issuing a judgement.

Images depend upon context to be read yet is part of the vocation of photojournalism to try and find the image that transcends context and can speak on its own? Barthes's punctum? Or is the contribution of photojournalism to add to the store of the genre and thereby shift a little its boundaries?

A line comes to mind from Medbh McGuckian's "Marconi's Cottage" found in the collection of the same name.

Forever, the deeper opposite of a picture,
which being a quotation is like an image lifted out of context and yet still resonant.

And so for day 871

Names and Memorialization

Marilyn Hacker. "Tectonic Shifts Alicia Ostriker's The Crack in Everything" collected in Unauthorized Voices.

One section of "The Mastectomy Poems" has an epigraph — referring to "ordinary women" — from a poem by Lucille Clifton. Not at all parenthetically, Clifton too was treated for breast cancer, a few years after Ostriker. Some, only some, of the other contemporary American women writers who are living with, or who have succumbed to breast cancer are, in no particular order: Pat Parker, Audre Lorde, Susan Sontag, Maxine Kumin, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Judith Moffett, Penelope Austin, Edith Konecky, Hilda Raz, Patricia Goedicke, June Jordan, Grace Paley, myself: black, white, Jewish; fat, thin, and middling; lesbian, straight (and middling); childless and multiparous — to borrow the title of a poem by Melvin Dixon about friends lost to AIDS, "And These Are Just a Few."
I am after all these years still amazed at the simple power of recitation. Each name an individual and together more than a generation.

And so for day 870