Water rumbles down the mountainside, gurgles in ditches and drainpipes, pours along the guttering that protrudes from the roof of our villa over the balconies and out across the garden, washing away in the sun an enormous icicle that hangs down the height of a half story and drips like a stalactite onto a second, planted below a tree, a freakish stalagmite overgrown with black branches. That tree is forever destined to bear its crystalline mistletoe – scarcely does one bunch melt in the sun, when another begins to grow and spread.
(Zofia Nałkowska, Choucas, 1927, tr. Ursula Phillips)
It is said that in times gone by
They formed forests and that birds
Also called dragonflies
Small creatures like singing hens
Looked down from them.
(Sarah Kirsch, Trees, from Ice Roses: Selected Poems, tr. Anne Stokes)
Sunday, December 31, 2017
Friday, December 29, 2017
Before a busy day, one wants to "get" a lot of sleep.
(Lyn Hejinian, My Life, 1980)
Underneath the broad hat is the face of the Ambassador
He rides on a white horse through hell looking two ways.
Doors open before him and shut when he has passed.
He is master of the mysteries and in the marketplace
He is known. He stole the trident, the girdle,
The sword, the sceptre and many mechanical instruments.
Thieves honour him. In the underworld he rides carelessly.
Sometimes he rises in the air and flies silently.
(Stevie Smith, The Ambassador, from the New Selected Poems of Stevie Smith, 1988)
Thursday, December 28, 2017
Here, still sequestered, Penmon's sacred dome
Recalls to mind the inmates of the tomb
Who reared with pious zeal the massy pile
And filled with notes of praise the echoing aisle;
When Idwal, born of Cambria's regal race,
Beheld with guardian eye the happy place.
Alas! what is it now? the damp abode
Of slimy snails, the spider and the toad,
Where waking owls in screaming concert call
Their prowling mates when evening's shadows fall.
(Richard Llwyd, Beaumaris Bay, 1800)
If one is not in one's motions (drops out of these, separated) – by not attending, these motions don't even occur (in one) – one has the sense of not living in that instant or at all. Terror at night of not living at that instant at that night.
(Leslie Scalapino, Dahlia's Iris: Secret Autobiography + Fiction, 2003)
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Up the hard road he chased his phantoms, neck and neck with fear. But the old mare was a stayer, and on the hill-crest day was breaking. Serpent-heads tossed in the first light; a breakaway gelding bucked, down in the skyline; but the mob came in to the whip. In the heavy stockyard the horses stood steaming, hock-deep in mud.
(David Campbell, Evening Under Lamplight: Selected Stories, 1976
The museum institutionalises the truly radical, atheistic, revolutionary violence that demonstrates the past is incurably dead. It is a purely materialistic death, without return – the aestheticized material corpse functions as a testimony to the impossibility of resurrection.
(Boris Groys, In the Flow, 2016)
Tuesday, December 26, 2017
Definition of a clown: a man who wants to be worthy of the events of the day.
(Louis Aragon, Treatise on Style, 1928, tr. Alyson Waters)
A country postman, as my 27, 000 comrades, I walked each day from Hauterives to Tersanne – in the region where there are still traces of the time when the sea was here – sometimes going through snow and ice, sometimes through flowers.
(Autobiographical statement by the artist Ferdinand 'Le Facteur' Cheval, quoted by John Berger in Landscapes: John Berger on Art, ed. Tom Overton. Translated by Berger?)
Monday, December 25, 2017
The lake's level, or the balance of branches on a tree – human beings only take advantage of orders already present. It is just that nature gives no clear priority to such orders. It is also flow and fissure. The snake is horrible above all because it has no level, no centre of gravity – it is endlessly obscene motion. The man reaches out preeminently to put an end to that.
(T.J. Clark, The Sight of Death: an Experiment in Art Writing, 2006 (The snake is the snake in Poussin's Landscape With a Man Killed by a Snake, 1648.))
The encyclopaedic nature of Ashbery's work – inextricable from the matter of attention – might best be suggested by his use of a small word, namely, all. William Empson wrote of "all" that "you could hardly parody Milton without bringing it in." This is also true of Ashbery, who, perhaps like Empson's Milton, finds "all" useful "because of its very obscurity; it provides confusion only at the deep level where it is required."
(Andrew DuBois, Ashbery's Forms of Attention, 2006)
Sunday, December 24, 2017
He left the guests alone a moment,—the lady was not yet to be seen,—Malt sat on an ottoman,—the children had satirical looks,—in short, Impudence dwelt in this house as in her temple. Ridicule had no effect upon the old man, and he only countermanded what displeased himself, not what displeased others.
At length the rosy-cheeked wife of the physician flourished into the apartment,—as preparatory course or preamble of the dinner,—with three or four esprits or feathers in her cap,—with a dapple neck-apron,—in a red ball-dress, from which waltzing had taken out the color in which she had rouged,—and with a perforated fancy-fan.
(Jean Paul Richter, Titan, 1803, tr. Charles T. Brooks)
If only every one would stop for a moment and let the thing that was always hovering there, let it settle and intensify. But the whole of life was a conspiracy to prevent it. Was there something wrong in it? It could not be a coincidence the way life always did that … she had reached the little conservatory on the half-landing, darkened with a small forest of aspidistra.
(Dorothy Richardson, The Tunnel, 1919)
Saturday, December 23, 2017
Not too distant from C.'s great hall with its central pillar of rock there is a shallow chamber where stands a large wall that is more than twenty metres wide. She goes into the bathroom, finding a warmer environment there and lets the boiling water run into the bath. The cold water that was touching his body and ruffling his hair makes him shiver. After periods of eruptions drops of hard calcerous water from the mountain streams filter down through the rocks and gradually leave transparent strata on the walls or form columns of stalactites or stalagmites that hang from the vault or rise from the floor until they meet.
(Nanni Balestrini, Tristano: a Novel (#11246), 1966/2014, tr. Mike Harakis)
His nest in the season of floods is dry:
Like him let us build, let us build on high.
We may not on earth, let us build in the sky.
(John Lloyd, The Kingfisher, 1847)
Friday, December 22, 2017
"I saw the red Pacific Electric
city trains dismantled & replaced (L.A.) by
automative freeways, saw
the orange bulldozer, "Dad,
are we real?" "we slide our
barques … past burning parts, ports of
barbecues, seized women, farewell to the flesh
and fleas in a new vehicle 'driving … vast
distances to …' roadside attractions, snake
farms, jelly stands with curios outside Palm City"
(Eleni Sikelianos, The California Poem, 2004)
You have in front of you a mass suspended between life and death and entirely dependent on you. I've often had this feeling of a confrontation between something that was already there and something that was about to take its place.
(Marguerite Duras, talking about writing in Marguerite Duras: Practicalities: Marguerite Duras speaks to Jérôme Beaujour, 1990, tr. Barbara Bray)
Thursday, December 21, 2017
I'm laying together excerpts from various books I've read, as before, last year, and this might as well continue until the end of the month. Here -
Carmarthen hills are green and low
And therealong the small sheep go
Whose voices to the valley come
At eve, when all things else are dumb.
(Dudley G. Davies, Carmarthenshire, 1871 (?), from Anglo-Welsh Poetry 1480 – 1980, 1985, ed. Raymond Garlick & Roland Mathias)
In contrast to all the semantically encoded spaces discussed so far, it is possible for different characters to meet in a neutral space, even if they do not agree on its meaning. Here they need not adapt to each others' perception of lived space, since these sites are free of any semantic encoding which demands compromise. Indeed, neutral spaces differ from significant spaces precisely in that they do not allow her the sense of belonging or even of habitation. Instead they offer an ecstatic feeling of spacelessness and a momentary sensation of unity between self and world.
While Miriam views her own room as a place engendering a feeling of transcendence which heightens and accumulates impressions, i.e., the transcendence of recollection, neutral space involves an ecstatic transcendence into nowhere, which disperses and scatters thought and does not strive for transformative synthesis.
(Elisabeth Bronfen, Dorothy Richardson's Art of Memory: Space, Identity, Text, 1999, tr. Victoria Appelbe)
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Reading Scalapino's New Time, 1999, which is a straightforward poem compared to the hybrid poetry-prose of Dahlia's Iris or Defoe, I think how cleanly it accomplishes her idea of immediacy or rupture in comparison to the other two books (because poetry more naturally allows for it, see Ashbery, Trakl, etc), and then I reason that the awkwardness of the hybrids may even be a disruptive point – in fact, is, or so I assume when I hear of her affirming the importance of a "physical alteration being literal" in hmmmm, 1976, a piece of writing in which a man is imagined as a seal.* Not compared to a seal, she says: but is a seal, an impossibility that is supposed to produce "disbelief." "[D]isbelief is the action of not being duped ‘inside’ any kind of seeing either optical or conceptual." So, Brechtishly, if you are disbelieving then you are not duped, you are looking at what is going on 'outside' the words, not only taking a casual pleasure in them, and you are aware that the form here in front of you is not the only form that form can take.
(Regarding Scalapino's automatic writing – the seal/man idea coming up spontaneously, she says – I want to say something about the way that visual artists around the '60s and '70s were developing a trust in the worthiness of poured liquids, e.g., Benglis, Hesse – and I wonder if the connection that her blurb writer at Green Integer made with Breton could be directed there as well, at this faith in spewing something --)
I disbelieve more when I read the hybrids, especially when she reaches the detective-novel inserts. Meanwhile, in a normal detective novel (I am remembering Peter Temple and calling him normal, but is he?), the immediacy moves along with a personality I understand, descending inevitably into misery. Compare to Trakl. The misery is part of the Temple story's continuity. The immediate shocks are always marks on his path into that swamp pit. A Peter Temple detective story maintains this non-chaotic sense of hierarchy that Scalapino saw herself acting against.
But her kind of disruption itself is not, I think, understood (or in other words, felt) immediately, in the way that a disruption inside the hierarchy would be – David Jones, for example, pointing out that his Ancient Romans speak like Cockneys in The Anathemata, 1951, which I want to read as a riposte against T.S. Eliot's assumption that Cockneys are harbingers perhaps of degradation. Here they are at the beginning of things, a group of originators. But since Jones made a point of saying it, I think he envisioned some readers reacting to his Cockney Romans as if he was trying to make them disbelieve - in the Scalapino sense – as if he had given them the equivalent of a seal/man.