Thursday, December 31, 2015

forth with lies

Sonnet 1

If ever there is anyone who reads
These my neglected poems, don't believe
In their feigned ardors; love imagined in
Their scenes I've handled with emotions false

The Muses' inspirations high I have
Set forth with lies – no less with weasel words –
When my false sorrows sometimes I bewail
Or sometimes sing my spurious delights;

And, as in theatres, in varied style,
I now have played a woman, now a man,
As nature would instruct, and art as well.

The Selected Poems of Isabella Andreini, 2005, ed. Anne MacNeil, tr. James Wyatt Cook. Andreini (1562 – 1604) was a member of the commedia dell'arte troupe I Gelosi (1569 - 1604) so she isn't writing metaphorically when she says she's played "in theatres."

It is always tempting to arrest a form. Form is discourse's temptation. It is in taking form that discourse is developed and then becomes fixed and acknowledged.

Against Architecture: the Writings of Georges Bataille, 1992, by Denis Hollier, tr. Betsy Wing

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

it was as if it came up against another substance

What arrives here, at no matter what moment, coming from fathomless spaces, and lodges itself, encrusts itself here, enlarges and pushes back even farther these infinitely extensible limits … no one can ever know how far they extend … what should have become an integral part of him, a solid, indestructible part what surrounds him too, which seemed capable of enlargement, of extending its limits farther and farther, wasn't able to penetrate there … it was as if it came up against another substance … a strange unknown substance, impenetrable by things that seem to be able to circulate freely everywhere else.

Here, 1995, by Nathalie Sarraute, tr. Barbara Wright

Such storms, called cloud-bursts by the country-folk, are not rain, rather the spillings of Thor's cup, jarred by the Thunderer. After such a one the water that comes up in the village hydrants miles away is white with forced bubbles from the wind-tormented streams.

The Land of Little Rain, 1903, by Mary Austin

a work of adjustment, not of exaggeration

Somehow I wish that man sculpted kennels, or shells, of one sort or another, things on his own scale, that he created objects differing greatly from from his own mollusk shape but proportional to it (I find African huts fairly satisfactory in this respect) instead of those enormous monuments that merely illustrate the grotesque discrepancy between his imagination and his body (or else his ignominious social and sexual mores), instead of those life-size or larger than life-size statues (I'm thinking of Michelangelo's David) that merely portray the body. I wish man would try to create, for himself and future generations, dwellings not much larger than his body, which would comprise all his imaginings and reasonings, that he would devote his genius to a work of adjustment, not of exaggeration – at the very least that genius would recognize the limits of the body that bears it.

Notes Toward a Shellfish, 1942, from Francis Ponge: Selected Poems, 2012, tr. C.K. Williams, ed. Margaret Guiton

When we were having a book printed in France we complained about the bad alignment. Ah they explained that is because they use machines now, machines are bound to be inaccurate, they have not the intelligence of human beings, naturally the human mind corrects the faults of the hand but with a machine of course there are errors.

Paris France, 1940, by Gertrude Stein

Monday, December 28, 2015

abetted by the stage lighting

Now for the wonder of wonders, – when Mrs. Thrale, in a coaxing voice, suited to a Nurse soothing a Baby, had run on for some Time, – while all the rest of us, in Laughter, joined in the request, – two Crystal Tears came into the soft Eyes of the S. S., – and rolled gently down her Cheeks! – such a sight I never saw before, nor could I have believed; – she offered not to conceal or dissipate them, – on the contrary, she really contrived to have them seen by every body. She looked, indeed, uncommonly handsome, for her pretty Face was not, like Chloes, blubbered; it was smooth and elegant, and neither her Features nor complexion were at all ruffled; – nay, indeed, she was smiling all the Time.

"Look, look!" cried Mrs. Thrale; "see if the Tears are not come already!"

Journals and Letters, 2001, by Frances Burney, ed. Lars E. Troide: from a letter to her sister Susanna, dated 12 October 1779. 'S.S.' is Sophia Streatfeild, "a noted beauty," according to Troide's footnote, "called 'the Fair Grecian,' because of her knowledge of Greek. Able to cry at will." 'Chloe' is a reference to Matthew Prior's (1664–1721) poem A Better Answer, which starts with, "Dear Chloe, how blubbered is that pretty face!"

Official Communist critics, however, immediately branded Chekhov's interpretation as decadent and reactionary. Evidently, they could not endure the "suffering and deathly horror in his eyes" as he moved "with nervous, wavering steps to meet his doom." Although he emphasized his duty of revenge, "he appeared so crushed with grief and despair for himself and mankind that his consciousness seemed to disintegrate." After an outburst of activity in the last scene, culminating in the killing of Claudius, Hamlet accepted his own death peacefully, with a lucid mind, "as if laying carefully his body by." "The more impotent Hamlet's body became, the brighter and more all-consuming became his inner life, which was abetted by the stage lighting."

Shakespeare and Eastern Europe, 2000, by Zdeněk Stříbrný. 'Chekhov' is the actor Michael Chekhov (1891 - 1955).

Sunday, December 27, 2015

miniature brooks | in parallel currents

So that, after size and weight, the Power of architecture may be said to depend on the quantity (whether measured in space or intenseness) of its shadow; and it seems to me, that the reality of its works, and the use and influence they have in the daily life of men (as opposed to those works of art with which we have nothing to do but in times of rest or of pleasure) require of it that it should express a kind of human sympathy, by a measure of darkness as great as there is in human life: and that as the great poem and great fiction generally affect us most by the majesty of their masses of shade, and cannot take hold upon us if they affect a continuance of lyric sprightliness, but must be serious often, and sometimes melancholy, else they do not express the truth of this wild world of ours; so there must be, in this magnificently human art of architecture, some equivalent expression for the trouble and wrath of life, for its sorrow and its mystery: and this it can only give by depth or diffusion of gloom, by the frown upon its front, and the shadow of its recess.

Seven Lamps of Architecture, 1849, by John Ruskin


is not a mixture of tones,
the proposition is articulate;
it isn't a bridge aloft from
river but miniature brooks
in parallel currents – we
see here between solid
facts the mind of fragile
beings, sensibility unfurled
to crystal sound – this
perhaps is where we learn
fine architecture from a
rock, momentarily sensing
what's impermeable as
porous – for facts are the
world's deposits, beyond
them we seek anonymous
liberty, sparing in the air.

sophos symposium from trespasses, 2006, by Padcha Tuntha-obas

[edit: changed "brings" to "beings"]

Saturday, December 26, 2015

to myself, happy

I often keep to myself, happy, yet anxious, knowing that I find contentment in things too easily.

Laure: the Collected Writings, 1995, from a letter to her sister-in-law Suzanne Peignot, tr. Jeanine Herman

I like my slip-shod style, I deliberately use it

Petrushka and the dancer: the diaries of John Cowper Powys, 1929-1939, 1995, ed. Morine Krissdóttir

Friday, December 25, 2015

the animal subjects

Damien Hirst’s Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991, appealed to nationalistic taste with the same reassuringly Victorian ponderousness it treasured in the animal subjects of Edwin Landseer.

Marx to Sharks: Thomas Crow on the Art-historical ‘80s, by Thomas Crow, Artforum, April 2003.

He forgot his own personality by immersing it in that of others – which is perhaps the only way to avoid suffering from it.

Sentimental Education, 1869, by Gustave Flaubert, tr. Robert Baldrick

Thursday, December 24, 2015

wind that flew above the sea

While the tow-boat, in which Christophe now embarked floated, impelled by a light east wind, down the river Loire the famous cardinal de Lorraine, and his brother the second Duc de Guise, one of the greatest warriors of those days, were contemplating, like eagles perched on a rocky summit, their present situation, and looking prudently about them before striking the great blow by which they intended to kill the Reform in France at Amboise – an attempt recorded twelve years later in Paris, August 24, 1572, on the feast of Saint-Bartholemew.

Catherine de' Medici: the Calvinist Martyr, 1828, by Honoré de Balzac, tr. Katharine Prescott Wormeley

Yes, that was what he was looking at, the wind. The wind that had escaped to the sea, an entire shore of wind that flew above the sea.

Yann Andréa Steiner, 1992, by Marguerite Duras, tr. Barbara Bray

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

intensely she had gazed at it from the deck

The Doson Peninsula, with its white lighthouse on the top of a cliff and the green woods on the island made her recall, as in a dream, how intensely she had gazed at it from the deck of the boat, thinking she would never see the sight again in her life. But now, while she sat alone forlornly, all the views that had once enchanted her so much appeared to have almost faded away, dim and colorless, almost forgotten, merely to bore her.

Floating Clouds, 1965, by Hayashi Fumiko, tr. Y. Koitabashi and M.C. Collcutt

(life is grotesque when we catch
it in quick perceptions –
at full vent – history
shaping itself)

Notes on a visit to the Le Tuc d’Audoubert, 1982, Clayton Eshleman, in Postmodern American Poetry, 1994, ed. Paul Hoover

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

my development involving the beetles

But for every person who has fallen asleep on his estate, another is willing to renovate it and bring it back into shape. As his own property, mind you, but what does that mean, except for that age-old and ever-present truth: that nature has made a pact with the mighty of this earth?

The Girl, from The Country Road, 1921, by Regina Ullman, tr. Kurt Beals

The shimmering ceiling at the Royal Palace is the apotheosis of my development involving the beetles. That is why I am currently conducting research on the body, that strange laboratory we wake up with every morning.

Jan Fabre, interviewed by Michael Amy in Conversations on Sculpture, 2007, ed Glenn Harper and Twylene Moyer

Monday, December 21, 2015

scattered with the relics of the sculptor’s trade

I ended last year with sets of quotes from books that I had read over the preceding twelve months -- so --

If the history of sculpture is liberally scattered with the relics of the sculptor’s trade – small maquettes, esquisses, models, small sculptures, sculptures to be held in the hand and so on – there is a subtly different kind of object that comes into view in the mid-twentieth century. It is through the medium of photography that the cult of enchantment with the debris of the studio reaches a climax in the 1940s and 1950s, perhaps most vividly staged in photographs of Alberto Giacometti’s famous Montmartre studio in Paris.

Eva Hesse: Studiowork, 2009, by Briony Ger

the Red breast frequently builds on the ground under the shelter of a knoll or stulp and its nest is often taken for that of the nightingales but it is easily distinguished from it as the robins is built with dead grass and moss on the out side while the Nightingale never forgets her dead oak leaves and this is so peculiar to her taste that I never saw a nest of theirs without them nor are they used by any other bird for their nests –

The Selected Poetry and Prose of John Clare, 1987, ed. Merryn and Raymond Williams

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

to disappear beneath slow sea-water

Put the point at the end of the sentence, said Dorothy Richardson. It is one of the writing precepts that she gives to Miriam in Pilgrimage, and she offered it genuinely, not fictionally, to someone in a letter, following her own advice more and more as the books go on, or so I think now as I'm rereading them, and up to volume twelve, Dimple Hill, the sentences becoming more Proustian in this structural sense, the winding roam that ends with a cap that expands into suggestiveness because it is exact and surprising: "Returned from their first glance at the scene as it showed from the house which before had been part of it and now, itself only a window, left it empty, a vast expanse ending in a wedge-shaped ridge low against the low sky, her eyes sped once more across the flats, now beginning to disappear beneath slow sea-water, and reached the misty ridge and found trees there, looking across at her from their far distance so intently that she was moved to set down the little old spoon raised to crack the shell of the egg whose surface, in the unimpeded light, wore so soft a bloom." Not the same observations as Proust, or for the same reason, but still the sentence-weight placed on the "soft bloom," on a little thing, the capper is aimed at tininess and faintness, a passing object: a flower, in him, a slick of sperm, or a yellow spot that no one else can find, though it revived him when he was dying, said Jean-Louis Vaudoyer, who allowed the other man to lean upon his arm at the Jeu de Palme where Vermeer's View of Delft, 1660-61, was on display in an exhibition "the profits of which were to go to areas of Flanders that had been laid waste by the war." Marcel Proust: a Life, Jean-Yves Tadié, tr. Euan Cameron, 2000. "Several times he came back to sit down on that 'circular settee' which Bergotte rolls off to die," said Vaudoyer. "But," writes Tadié, Proust "did not die in front of the View of Delft." It is strange that this sentence is there in the biography when everybody knows that Proust did not die in front of the View of Delft. Logically we know it, because Bergotte would not have been able to roll away in the same place if his creator had done so first. It is odd to imagine myself as someone who was desiring, sighing, longing to be informed very clearly that Proust did not suffer a fatal attack in the Jeu de Palme before he had written the word "end" in his manuscript, which, according to Céleste Albaret, was an event that occurred in the following year. And what does she mean, asks Tadié, when there are at least four versions of the final paragraph, none of which can be singled out as the one that ended with Fin? "[I]n which version was the word Fin placed at the end? Certainly before the fourth but after the third. It was when Proust had succeeded in inserting the image of giants, which may have taken the place of the 'êtres monstrueux,' that he stopped; it was both because he had achieved a rhythmical fullness, and also because of the effect, not dissimilar to silence in musical tempo, of the single dash (not a pair, as in the Clarac-Ferré edition) which precedes 'dans le temps.'"

If Tadié wants to tell me that Proust did not die in front of a Vermeer then he has an idea of me that does not fit my actual existence, or perhaps that information resolved an imbalanced feeling there in the paragraph for him and he assumed that I, too, would have been arrested by that imbalance and clumsiness, desiring, in its place, a "musical fullness," and so, to get us both through the experience safely, he installed that phrase even though we are on page seven hundred and forty-four in a book where the section titled 'Death' does not come until page seven hundred and seventy-five. Between the two pages Proust nearly has a bucket and a chicken thrown at his head and he goes to the Ritz for dinner more than once.

Why, in that sentence, did I take the word "ice" away from the front of "bucket" and "hot" from the front of "chicken," which would have given them a clearer placement in the Ritz dining room? There must have been a reason. Now, as it is, the bucket might be a manure bucket and the chicken might be alive. The dying Proust is visiting a farm (how, with his asthma?); he is standing on the floor of a barn while a farm person, not looking where he is aiming, is cleaning buckets and chickens off the rafters. Probably there was straw as well but Tadié has not mentioned it. The owner of the farm sees the near miss and loses his temper at the farm person but Proust is charming, as he always was, a quality that Miriam analyses whenever she comes across it in another character during Pilgrimage. What does it mean, to say charming things? she considers. Why is it different in a man and in a woman? Chrisman never praises Ruskin for his charmingness* and nor was Laure charming. She was "pure, dissolute, dark, luminous." "I drank, I bathed in her radiant purity," wrote Jean Bernier, tr Jeanine Herman. L'amour de Laure, 1978. Do I ever know what to do with words? The difference between a live chicken and a cooked one lies between the words "warm" and "hot."

*"The ability to coo as gently as a dove was not a notable characteristic of Ruskin."

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

girls with names like stars were absorbed by the powerful current of magnetic doors

The separation of the two Joan Londons is my own invention but the separation between the words "wine flag" and a meaning in the Cantos is, I believe, the deliberate invention of Pound. The first one seems trivial to the rest of the world, but the second one has been mentioned at some other time in a work of scholarship -- maybe -- I can imagine it -- but not the Joans, and this reminds me obliquely of Colette Laure Lucienne Peignot, 1903 - 1938, who burnt almost everything she wrote because, according to her boyfriend Georges Bataille, "she had the greatest conceivable concern not to confide what seemed heartrending to her to those who cannot be moved," a diagnosis that seems to be confirmed by her own surviving prose, which was published in 1977 under the title Encrits de Laure and translated, twenty years later, into English, by Jeanine Herman. In the 'Correspondence' section of the book she tells her sister-in-law that she wants to communicate distress to her without mutilating it. It is a matter of self-respect, in her, not to reconcile herself to the fact that a writer is a person who commands a nugget of calm. The form of distress is incoherence or things-apart. Grammar will compel it together. I read her Story of a Little Girl and see coherence. "I know it well; it is not a city but an octopus. All parallel and diagonal streets converge toward a liquid, swollen center. Each tentacle of the beast has a single line of houses with two facades, one with small windowpanes, the other with heavy curtains. It is there that, from the mouth of Vérax, I heard the good news of Notre-Dame-de-Cléry, there that I saw Violette's beautiful eyes injected with the blackest ink, there finally that Justus and Bételgeuse, Vérax and La Chevelure and all the girls with names like stars were absorbed by the powerful current of magnetic doors." Liking her a lot, I think, "Maybe she is sabotaged by her own medium." In the library I open a book of essays by an American named Lewis Herbert Chrisman, 1893 - 1965, who is praising Ruskin by crushing him into a shape. "For over twenty years he was preeminently a critic of art. But he was no dilettante defender of that pictorial putrescence which is sometimes foisted upon a gullible public by depraved purveyors of vileness which they miscall art. Ruskin was the unfailing champion of the things which are honest and …" When this writer hands himself the satisfaction of two alliterations you know he is happy to realise that the words "critic of art," if he left them alone, would not tell the public what he wanted to say. If he could have put his point into the words "critic of art," without the addendum, would he have been even happier? John Ruskin, Preacher, and Other Essays, 1921.