Sunday, August 5, 2012

see from the impression made

Then -- this is following on from the last post -- then there are instances in which two separate events draw together and seem to match one another in a mysterious way that begins in an instant and develops; the aspects that pertain to the connection become overwhelming, the pleasure of unity can become dominant or sometimes doesn't dominate but lingeringly and powerfully exists along with other thoughts, and you sit, working it out in more detail, you pick your way along, you reconstruct it yourself, might be a way to put it; every step an arrival wrote Rilke during the Duino Elegies, overflowing, in German. I was at a taiko demonstration not long ago, watching the sculptural poses of the drummers; they stretch one leg back at the right moment, bend the other knee, strike an arm branchlike back into the air, stand upright again, raise the two sticks above their heads so that the tops are level (the two flat ends like two circular eternal platforms standing next to one another, tables for flies), then one stick falls onto the drum in a certain way, and if this is done ideally then the fall of the stick doesn't seem to have any muscle behind it.

This is how people faint too: this is unconsciousness within a structure. And there are writers who seem to write transparently, even passively, so it is as if you can see through the medium of language into their intentions. Colette in translation is this way to me. Joyce in Ulysses does the other thing, he reminds you, "I wrote, and you are reading, and people before us have written and read."

All this movement is part of taiko drumming, not only the noise but the appearance of the people making the noise, necessary, like the season-word in classical haiku, without which the poem is not haiku, said a Japanese man to me once, when I asked him what you would call a haiku without a season word. "It would be nothing." But he was a traditionalist and I am not convinced that modern haiku agrees.

The season-word is the word that lets you know when the poem is taking place, the bird that suggests summer, the leaves that suggest autumn, the activity that takes place in winter: all well-known to the classically-aware audience, and potentially felt by them as well, perhaps knowing from lived experience the singing of the cicada or the call of the bird. And so this dimension which is not metre, syllable, or anything else, becomes necessary to the poetry: the poem extends deliberately into the dimension of memory in this specific way, instinctive memory, folk-memory, as blatantly taught or softly absorbed through the environment. Not haphazard and by chance as described in Proust, where accidental incidents bring back the resonant memory of masturbation in the little room at the top of the house and the blot of pearl dropping on the leaf, but in haiku aesthetically aimed.

And in other poetry as well, but in haiku a special set of Japanese references and a particular spacious sharpening.

And not personal (as in Proust again) but communal, and there is an opportunity for a short essay here on the personal memory of the author becoming a written memory that can be understood communally by a collection of readers, etc, but not right now, as it is hot and every leaf outside the window is a brilliant surface. The haiku, once it is constructed, becomes part of a body of work that forms the exterior conditions for a certain group of people and pushes their personalities in various ways or in other words tightens a cord on the unseen corsets in which their floating selves were locked at birth: Buson a fibre, Bashō a fibre, Issa a fibre.

I thought about this sculpture in the noise of the drumming, sculpture invisible if you heard the music afterwards coming out of a radio or in some sound-only online format, nothing then but the boom-boom of the drums, with no legs stretched back, no sticks evenly matched above the head, and the same with writing (I thought, bringing the two activities together, the mind a magnet), the movement of the hand above the paper or keyboard as you move from one word to the next becomes invisible when a reader sees the screen or book, that lifting and falling, the careful manipulation of the musculature, all dissolved, and the residue left behind is what on paper we call handwriting (residue in the way that a nail that fastens two planks together is the residue of hammering), and Walter Benjamin was interested in graphology. He wrote, in a review of A. y G. Mendelssohn's Der Mensch in der handschrift --

Handwriting is only apparently a surface phenomenon. We can see from the impression made in the paper during printing that there is a sculptural depth, a space behind the writing plane for the writer; on the other hand, interruptions in the flow of writing reveal the few points at which the pen is drawn back into the space in front of the writing plane, so as to describe its "immaterial curves." Could the cubic pictorial space of writing be a copy in microcosm of a clairvoyant space?

[translated by Rodney Livingstone.]

I jib my finger and there is the shape of a borderland where a thing prepares to appear.

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