In Service of Revolution

Sheila Rowbotham. Woman's Consciousness, Man's World

Oppression is not an abstract moral condition but a social and historical experience.
More along the same vein:
The Ruling class grows sentimental at its own convenience.
And a little factoid in need of updating:
The Chase Manhattan Bank estimated a woman's overall working hours as averaging 99.6 per week.
Brute facts sometimes point to poignant stories.

And so for day 688
31.10.2008

Unaddressed: Lament and Laceration

Tucked into a notebook a torn piece of paper with a message totally unrelated to the longish bit about narratology that was the notebook's subject at that spot...

To:

bodily fluids were banned by the CIA campaign of disinformation about AIDS and we, or at least some of us, that is gay men of a certain [long dash indicating continuation on the recto] generation and character ——— have begun are beginning and will continue with greater force to pour upon the world the acid of our banned tears and until there is not -->

And that is all there is. And the lines somehow read as the vatic voice of another. So wild. So crazy.


And so for day 687

30.10.2008

Never Leaving Home

I found these two quotations transcribed on separate index cards and am pleased to juxtapose them here.

Mothers may weep goodbye or wave their sons into manhood with patriotic fervor, but they cannot prevent them from going. No need to. No matter how far a son may travel, he will never really leave home.

Never will man find a woman as able, as willing, to give birth to him again.

[From Phyllis Chesler About Men]
And now for the almost obverse view:
But sons grow up
imaginary ones as well,
and perpetual children are tedious

[Thom Gunn, "Selves", The Passages of Joy]
Ursula K. Leguin once published a lovely book plus cassette tape entitled Always Coming Home. And we conclude that our relations are not so much about place as about process.

And so for day 686
29.10.2008

Cells, Cells, Cells

Linda Hogan. Three lines from somewhere in mid-poem. "We Will Feed You" collected in Rounding the Human Corners.


as we journey,

myself a cell of someone's body,

seeing it through their eyes,

It is, I believe, the influence of the title of this poem that reminds me of Wittig's The Lesbian Body. The feeding coming from one's very being itself. But when I return to this most visceral of texts, I am at a loss. We are far from Hogan's universe and yet the singing and the bringing into being are themes that also run through Wittig's world where as Margaret Crosland in the introduction to the English version writes "language is the clue to speech, life and the body itself." And language nourishes even as it (like the spare lines of Linda Hogan's poetry) subtracts. Take this lovely instance rendered from the French into English by David Le Vay

[...]

The first women to awaken have announced the pure and simple disappearance of the vowels. [...] Your lip your tongue modulate the new language in guttural sounds, the uttered consonants jostled one against the other produce gruntings gratings scrapings of the vocal cords, your voice untried in this pronunciation speeds up or slows down and yet you cannot stop talking. The novel effect of the movement of your cheeks and mouth the difficulty the sounds have in making their way out of your mouth are so comical that I choke with laughter, I fall over backwards, m/y tears stream, I regard you still and silent, I am increasingly overcome by laughter, suddenly you too are affected, you burst out, your cheeks colour, you fall over backwards
[...]

All is not so easily hilarious between the I and the you, as can attest a thorough reading of The Lesbian Body

I leave you alone in the room where you have spoken to m/e as to a stranger where you have not recognized m/e despite the glare of the lanterns. At m/y order the women prepare m/y severed limbs m/y arms m/y thights m/y legs whose flesh is meticulously removed and boiled for a long time, they offer it to you surrounded by different sauces on glittering plates each plate bearing a different name to please you.

There is nothing guileless about feeding. I have perhaps tainted Hogan's poem by this recollection. Perhaps, not. The poem "We Will Feed You" ends with these lines:

the man saying,

We will feed you.

We will care for you.

You may step upon our land.

At what cost are we fed? Do we feed?



And so for day 685

28.10.2008

Lunch Artist

I take issue with the characterization of Scott Burton's chairs found in James Cross Giblin's Be Seated: A Book About Chairs. (The description may be accurate but the interpretation is unjust.)

Burton's stone furniture has serious limitations. Since the pieces each weigh between eight hundred and three thousand pounds, they cannot be moved easily and usually stay wherever they are first set down. Also, their hard surfaces and sharp edges discourage sitters from remaining on them for more than a few minutes.
The illustration accompanying this commentary shows the solitary artist bundled up against a cool day with the granite tables and stools he designed for a plaza in New York City. And so is offered up as visual proof that the furniture is not people-friendly.

The picture can also be interpreted to accentuate the function of outside furniture that must resist vandalism and accommodate shifting crowds. As well it looks beautiful even when the plaza is underpopulated.

Timing is everything. A sunny day and a mid-day crowd might present a different picture. Take for example the artist's own words.
My work is often only activated at lunchtime. People don't inhabit a public space except maybe at lunch time. I feel like, you know, I'm a lunch artist. [Source: Audio Program excerpt MoMA 2008]
A chair is not only a place to sit; it is also a place to visit.

And so for day 684
27.10.2008

Daring

Towards the end of "What Matter Mind: A Theory About the Practice of Women's Studies (1973)", Catharine Stimpson comments on the open-endedness of self creation. She observes that loneliness and insecurity

[...] are transformed into humility, a recognition that the self cannot be an exemplum, only an experiment.
She goes on to link humility, tolerance and faith in reason.
Humility is a quality of the tolerance that is a consequence of reason. But then, I have faith in reason and in the benefits of rational activity. My faith reaffirms, in the teeth of an irrational educational system, the mind matters.
I am moved to ponder if a smidgen of pride is not also important for the recipe to succeed. Indeed does not the curiosity and the impetus to know stem from a feeling of one's assurance in one's right to know? A little boldness assists the gendered being in inhabiting an intellectual universe where one is sometimes cut off. It is worth experimenting with the thought (and reading Stimpson's full essay collected in Where the Meanings Are: Feminism and Cultural Spaces).

And so for day 683
26.10.2008

Round and Round

One of the best descriptions concerning the circularity of interpretation and the steps of the hermeneutical endeavour is to be found in the pages of a book by David Couzens Hoy (The Critical Circle: Literature, History, and Philosophical Hermeneutics)

Language [...] it brings certain features of each world or horizon to light, it conceals other features. Similarly, the text itself must have functioned in the same way, clarifying certain features of the actual situation that were perhaps only dim adumbrations before, at the same time concealing other features. Language is essentially entrenched in history, then, insofar as it is the same time limited to particulars and can never reveal the whole as such. At the same time language is the essence of history, for it is this process of revealing and concealing that demands further accounts and further actions. Accounts and actions are linked, for an action is taken according to the account that is believed, while accounts are themselves actions, since they structure the situation and sometimes alter it.
It is important to note that what is at play here is a gap between revealed and concealed and that ""Language" here means the way the situation is encountered, the way problems are phrased, and the way the future is anticipated." An encounter, a phrasing, an anticipation, it is not difficult to see (and hear) the moment where the gap gives rise to metadiscursivity, a reasoning about the reasons and the wherefore of action.

And so for day 682
25.10.2008

Excuse as Entry into Comedy

Sorry I will not quote an extensive swath of his prose and thereby impinge upon your attention.

Excuses betoken, we might say, the incessant, unending vulnerability of human action, its exposure to the independence of the world and the preoccupation of the mind.
And a page later we may read
Excuses mark out the region of tragedy, mark it as the beyond of the excusable, the justifiable, the explainable, (the sociable?). Who among philosophers has a theory of forgiveness, and whether it is giveable? It must be a theory of comedy.
There is far more in the context of this rift on Austin's How To Do Things with Words by Stanley Cavell in his Bucknell lectures published under the title Philosophical Passages: Wittgenstein, Emerson, Austin, Derrida. You may wish that I had quoted more. You may even be sorry that I haven't. And yet you may be happy and not sorry at all that what little is given here impels you to Cavell or to Austin or to both.

And so for day 681
24.10.2008

Limits and the Nature of Surprise

Samuel R. Delany in "Atlantis: Model 1924" astonishes the reader with an evocation of the evanescent stream of perception and the inability of recall to master every moment. What at first seems like a melancholy meditation on the passage of time becomes a means of celebrating the often untapped potential for new patterns to emerge and delight.

Watching the dawnscape, still iceless, flip along, he contemplated for the thousandth time the astonishing process by which the seamless and inexorable progression of the present slipped away to pack the past with memories, like numbered stanzas in a song, like cells in a comb, like cakes in a carton, to be called back (though, he'd already ascertained, most he'd never recall) in whatever surprising, associative order.
It is worth noting that the contemplation occurs on a moving train. The passage itself offers an interesting associative order — song to honey comb to cake. For some reason there is some Homeric echo here. And the hero of other travels and the constant question about being-at-home-in-the-world.

And so for day 680
23.10.2008

Fragrant Fragments

I did a double take.

They [various techniques of avant garde poets] invite the mind to a widened sense of the possible, opening it to the fragrant [...]
I read this as an opening to the fragment. Imagine my surprise when I read on: "opening it to the fragrant, stored oils of the unconscious." Here are the two parts restored from "The Question of Originality" by Jane Hirshfield (collected in Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry)
They invite the mind to a widened sense of the possible, opening it to the fragrant, stored oils of the unconscious.
I remain amazed at the power of a comma to halt the mind that is galloping off in one direction and bring it back to a different track, slowing down to savour the fragrance.

And so for day 679
22.10.2008

Melodies of Cakes

Susan Drodge in a review covering several books of poetry by Canadian authors (Canadian Literature 165 (2000)) entices the reader with a quotation from Dream Museum by Liliane Welch. Our appetite is whetted:

She was still young,
in her late twenties
when she put on weight.
Did she simply open
the doors of her mind
to the melodies of cakes?
A choice: be satisfied with this modest morsel or engage in the practice covered by the French verb se gaver — to turn to the source and stuff oneself until full and to relish every moment of the feasting.

And so for day 678
21.10.2008

Robust Struggles

It is perhaps not particularly fair to pull out this fighting-words excerpt from one of Christopher Norris's lectures (the Bucknell Lectures in Literary Theory published under the title Spinoza & the Origins of Modern Critical Theory) — but while you read just keep in mind that the springboard for the remarks is the Rushdie case:

On the one side are those who advocate an allegiance to truths beyond reach of critical assessment or reasoned debate. On the other are those — admittedly in a state of some confusion at present — whose appeal (or whose best possible ground of appeal) is to the interests of open discussion and enquiry into the values that sustain both their own and their opponents' argumentative positions. Any hint of ethnocentric smugness here should be amply dispelled by the occasional reminder — such as Empson provides — of just how long it took for courageous free-thinkers like Erasmus, Montaigne, Spinoza, or Voltaire to knock Christianity into some kind of civilized shape.
I am very taken by the image of being knocked into some kind of civilized shape. Not a parenting style presently favoured. Still, given the context, pretty mild medicine.

And so for day 677
20.10.2008

Small Furniture Big Imaginations

For some reason, it is the mention of the furnishings of the library that capture my attention in an article about the institutional recognition of children's literature (Beverly Lyon Clark, "Kiddie Lit in Academe" in Profession 1996 published by the Modern Language Association)

As early as 1877 Minerva L. Saunders — perhaps the first librarian to allow children under twelve to use public library books — set aside a corner of the Pawtucket, Rhode Island, library for children, even providing special small chairs for them.
And this provokes the memory of being a small child in a big big armchair next to an adult as I plodded through the words beneath a set of illustrations. And at times the reading would break off into an explication of the events unfolding in the pictures and their continuation in the mind at play.

And so for day 676
19.10.2008

Ballot Bullets

Steve McCaffery in "Bill Bissett: A Writing Outside Writing" collected in North of Intention: Critical Writings 1973-1986 advocates a type of anti-reading that emphasizes concentration on the graphic and sonic elements of a poem, that is attention to the materiality of the materials. He writes: "Which is to suggest that Bissett's anti-inscriptional strategies are matchable by the reader's own anti-reading that would affirm a motion, not comprehend a sense." Instead of seeking an example in Bissett's oeuvre, allow me to draw attention to Colin Morton "Election Day Ballet" from The Merzbook: Kurt Schwitters Poems where the concrete poem progressively deforms/reforms the word "ballot" into a line of bullets, to end with this:

bulletbulletbulletbullet  bulletbulletbullet
It is not quite accurate to say that the poem deforms/reforms the words. The words appear as in a ballet. They dance in various slots and positions. It is only the last line that trips up the usual spacing between words. Nevertheless, the overall impression is one of movement from "ballot" to "bullet". However the poem can be read from bottom-up and the movement from rat-tat-tat of bullets to the measured incidence of ballots. The anti-reading is in a sense antiphonal: it turns the other way. And along the way discovers other senses.

And so for day 675

18.10.2008

Hum Along

Speaking to oneself is cured by singing
As if the sad soul were stammering ...

Found in a notebook entry dated October 16, 2004, an entry on interior monologue (its displacement by "vocalization of a mesmerizing tune"). And a year later (2005) there is this thought

Time in its rhythmic dimension is a way of parsing experience to manage having the desired actions match the desired space. Time as duration and time as punctuation.
Synchronization seems to be psychological in nature — its fitness is marked by an interior justness.

And so for day 674
17.10.2008

Sneeze Response

Louis Zukofsky honours the atheist's heart with a poem entitled "To Friends, for Good Health" collected in selected poems edited by Charles Bernstein. There is a wonderful play between "best" and "blest". It reads "And the / best / To / you / too". And its display on the page captures nicely the explosive return of a sneeze. See

And so for day 673
16.10.2008

The Further Adventures of e

Lola Lemire Tostevin in an essay on Canadian poet bp Nichol ("Is This Where the Poem Begins?" collected in Subject to Criticism: Essays) suggests that "[w]hat bp Nichol wrote of Marshall McLuhan could easily apply to his own writing:"

There is a lightness of touch to McLuhan's writing, an airiness, that has often been mistaken for a lack of depth. But the wonderful thing in reading McLuhan is precisely that he was using language to take off, using it to soar free of an artificial notion of what constitutes profound thinking, utilizing instead the mind's ability to leap, to follow fictional highways to real destinations ...
Odd, when I find myself reading the twists and turns of the oeuvre of bp Nichol I am more inclined to plunk myself down and mine the text rather than soar (i.e. use the text as a springboard). Recall my being caught up in cogitating about the spacing "no is e" culled from "Coda: Mid-Initial Sequence" from The Martyrology: Book III reprinted in As Elected. I plod along sensitive to the sense making machinery. Later in that particular sequence one comes across the following line:
i (n) am e
The poetic subject "names" and negates. And the non-soaring reader is attentive to the echo with the earlier line "no is e". On offer is the negation of an "h".
11 years since i first conceived myself a writer
took up the task to earn the name
& now i see
i (n) am e
Now it is possible to also read, slowly, a different parsing "in am e". I see the enemy. And 'e is us. Or not entirely since the slow reader can resist easy identification with the shifter "i". I guess I am a sore reader prone to scratching...

And so for day 672
15.10.2008

Shine

Robert Haas ends "Songs to Survive the Summer" which itself ends Praise with the following set of verses:

all things lustered
by the steady thoughtlessness
of human use.
Through the polish of use the objects in our daily lives develop a patina. Repetition adds a depth and a charm to the objects.

The process can also apply to the tales we tell and the lines of poetry we read. In the re-telling and the re-reading the objects not only furnish our minds but also acquire a lustre. Hass himself might include in "all things lustered" the passages in his poem about the making of onion soup (simply sumptuous from the cutting of the onions to the ladling and eating) or those about the grandfather-carved wooden nickel.

Of course there is a place in human experience for the enjoyment of the fresh and the new — the before-patina effects.

And so for day 671
14.10.2008

Together Alone

John Bayley in his memoir about life with Iris Murdoch, Elegy for Iris provides remarks on "the best part of love and marriage" and exemplifies for us the kind appreciation for the partner's distinction that is a hallmark of affection.

We were together because we were comforted and reassured by the solitariness each saw and was aware of in the other.
That these remarks are to be found in a chapter devoted in large part to recounting the viewing of pictures and the impact of specific paintings gives an aesthetic dimension to these existentialist ponderings. There is something about picture viewing that suits the sentiment being expressed and becomes a fine figure to carry over into quotidian experience. And so the chapter ends with these musings:
So married life began. And the joys of solitude. No contradiction was involved. The one went perfectly with with the other. To feel oneself held and cherished and accompanied, and yet to be alone. To be closely and physically entwined, and yet feel solitude's friendly presence, as warm and undesolating as contiguity itself.
And it is only in the slowed down reading accompanying the transcription that I realize that he wrote "contiguity" and not "contingency".

And so for day 670
13.10.2008

Proportions and Centuries

From an email signature block in use in 2001

20th : Machine Age :: 21st : Era of Reparation
Long views help us act locally; global perspectives help us act again and again.

And so for day 669
12.10.2008

No Easy Noise


In a poetic sequence playing with the negation by spacing and elimination (a "now" becomes a "no w here" and simply a "no") [though not presented explicitly as such in the text nor in this particular order], one is immersed in a text of phantom letters and sounds. And so one comes across this configuration:



no  is
      e
against the silent sleep


bp Nichol from The Martyrology: Book III as collected in As Elected (Talonbooks, 1980).

Of course there is the evident play with "noise" by introducing some noise in the usual linguistic processing. What is perhaps not so evident is the echo of the McIntosh "eep" — the sign under the classic operating system that indicates error or a "no, no". bp Nichol worked on the McIntosh and I believe his machine is housed at Simon Fraser University. [I know computer disks form part of the bp Nichol fonds ] It is likely the verbal echo crept into the poem through the reader's anachronistic interpretation — the piece is dated 1971-1973 a little before the entry of the McIntosh onto the market. The first Macintosh was introduced on January 24, 1984. Eep! eep!

Interesting that in Morse code the letter "e" is represented by a single dot.

Interested parties with a mathematical inclination may want to look up the history and applications of the number e. One of my favourite pieces of information about the number e — Leonhard Euler started to use the letter e for the constant in 1727 or 1728, in an unpublished paper on explosive forces in cannons. Bang!

And so for day 668
11.10.2008

Witnessing

In my paper files I came across a course description from I believe the 97-98 academic year. It was being offered at the Centre for Comparative Literature (University of Toronto) by Ross Chambers, visiting as the Northrop Frye Chair. The seminar was about "the witnessing of historically traumatic events". Chambers proposes a hypothesis:


My hypothesis is that cultures reserve the category I call obscene (etymologically "off-stage" for events and experiences that are historically real but which cannot be represented under existing genre-dispensations which correspond, so to speak, the cultural on-stage. [...] witnessing, then, is the process by which obscenity is brought to cultural attention and the unspeakable comes to be discursively acknowledged through being brought on-stage. In that sense it is an oppositional practise because the obscene is subject to cultural denial, which witnessing resists.


The parenthesis opened at the adverb "etymologically" does not get closed...

Leads me to thinking about the status of sound generated off-stage and carried from the wings and the rafters to the audience out there.

The genre shifting sometimes results in the removing of brackets, fences, barriers. And leaving an open chamber )))

And so for day 667
10.10.2008

Seeding the Long Tail


It's an active form of writing that honours the art of contemplation. In a way it is living a mandarin style in the open. The genre is the familiar common place book. A gathering.

The gesture is simple (and thereby difficult in its simplicity). It is very much a product of collecting and annotating. Adding one's own stamp to a scroll and by implication inviting others to think about how they read and view.

So it is a little like geocaching. Or perhaps more like tree planting. A geocacher might be around to hear the hoots and hollers of the treasure hunters experiencing the find. A tree planter works for a future further out than the human lifetime.

So it is like leaving traces. Accumulating a treasure trove. And letting the guardian dragon slumber eternally. The pieces are free for the taking and the encounter is fortuitous.

Traffic is generated by "word of mouth" or the vagaries of search engines. Self-promotion is almost eschewed. Almost. For a whisper of personality is tucked in around the edges.

Samuel R. Delany's descriptions of micro-theatre in Triton provide an analogy for the shape of the process of offering that is at the heart of seeding the long tail. The performance draws on the Renaissance genre of the dialogue of the dead and augments it with a twist of ancestor worship. It is like enshrining with irreverence at times but always with meaningful and provocative engagement. Like all good theatre it rehearses patterns and suggests shifts.

It tends to avoid addressing the crowd. It constructs its reader as singular and its constructions as singularities. Even as it will playfully run through a series of "we" and on occasion inflect "you" towards the threesome or more.

The effect is cumulative. The writing self is the first reader and each entry is published as an engagement with a way of reading and living. There is an ethical dimension to this absorbing and assembling of words. One begins to intuit one's style and tweak it now and then.  Like good practice the writer as first reader is attentive.



The trick is to cultivate the rarefied art of Sprezzatura: "well-practiced naturalness" or "rehearsed spontaneity," a trait possessed by the most gifted conversationists, debaters, politicians, intellectuals, teachers, socialites, and even Trappist monks.
http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance/pedagogy/blogcraft.htm


When it really works it creates intimacy. What it is is a meta-erotics to live in the world automagically. It constantly models a giving of oneself over to the mind and the body. Totally at ease with process. Being in the world not of words by means of words.

And so for day 666
09.10.2008

Liminal Delight


Sutherland, the voice of the aesthetic arbitrator, in Andrew Holleran's Dancer from the Dance reminds me at times in some of his baroque formulations of the passage in Edmund White's Forgetting Elena about the possible permutations of the pronunciations of "dah-ling". Here is an excerpt from a stupendous soliloquy invoking a particular right of passage.



He squeezed his hand and smiled. "There are three lies in life," Sutherland said to his young companion, whose first night this was in the realm of homosexuality and whose introduction to it Sutherland had taken upon himself to supervise. "One, the check is in the mail. Two, I will not come in your mouth. And three, all Puerto Ricans have big cocks," he said. And with that he leaned forward and cupped the young man's hand in his long black gloves and said to him in that low, breathless voice: "You are beginning a journey, far more bizarre than any excursion up the Nile. You have set foot tonight on a vast, uncharted continent. Do let me take you as far as I can. I shall hold your hand as far as we can go together, and point out to you the more interesting flora and fauna. I will help you avoid the quicksand in which you can drown, or at least waste a great deal of time, the thorn-thickets, the false vistas — ah," he sighed. "We have many of those, we have much trompe l'oeil in this very room!" he said ecstatically, cocking his cigarette holder at a sprightly angle. "So let us go upriver together as far as we may," he resumed, once more cupping his charge's white, slim hand, "and remember to ask questions, and notice everything, the orchids and the fruit flies, the children rummaging for food in piles of shit, and the ibis that flies across the moon at dusk. Let us go at least as far as the falls. What a journey! If only I can help you avoid the detours, culs-de-sac, fevers, and false raptures that I have suffered." He squeezed the fellow's hand and said, echoing the signal phrase of a Bar Mitzvah he had once attended in the guise of a Jewish matron from Flatbush: "For tonight, my dear, you are a homosexual!"


Glorious use of register. Fabulous initiation.

And so for day 665
08.10.2008

Lovely Ending


Last sentences from The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery translated by Alison Anderson.



Because from now on, for you, I'll be searching for those moments of always within never.

Beauty, in this world.


Given the earlier remarks in the novel about commas, one needs to pay particular attention to the pause signalled in the last sentence. Just what thought occupies the space?

And so for day 664
07.10.2008

Retracing Sequence and Series


From "Cartouches" the 11 December 1977 entry (p. 215) in Derrida's The Truth in Painting translated by Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod.



Retrace one's steps, always, again, narrative/series [récit/série].


I am grateful to the translators for recording the assonance that marks the play of the terms in French.

Makes me harken back to my own mediation on narration, narrative and sequence: Storing and Storing http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance/S6.HTM which after all these years I would like to revisit and suggest the addition of "Shuffling".

And so for day 663
06.10.2008

Florilegium

Some of the epigraphs to various sections from H.L. Hix Chromatic

Spinoza (Ethics)
Desire is the very nature or essence of every single individual.

Wittgenstein (Remarks on Colour)
How must we look at this problem in order for it to become solvable?

Bach (The Well-Tempered Clavier)
For the use and practice of young musicians who desire.

I love the way the theme of desire and individuality makes its resurgence.

And so for day 662
05.10.2008

Blossom

From a friend who upon completing a reading of A Lover's Cock [poems by Verlaine and Rimbaud translated by J. Murat and W. Gunn (Gay Sunshine Press, 1979) made the wry comment on the pronunciation of the French poet's name:


Rim Bud


And so for day 661
04.10.2008

Belonging and Place

Visual artist, Guillermo Gòmez-Peña writes in "Documented/Undocumented" (The Graywolf Annual Five: Multi-Cultural Literacy [1988]) about displaced Latin Americans:


Our generation belongs to the world's biggest floating population: the weary travelers, the dislocated, those of us who left because we didn't fit anymore, those of us who still haven't arrived because we don't know where to arrive at, or because we can't go back anymore.


It might be tempting to extrapolate the description and apply it to gay people who have migrated to cities. However the passage continues and it is not so clear as to how the description would or could apply to other groups.


Our deepest generational emotion is that of loss, which comes from our having left. Our loss is total and occurs at multiple levels: loss of our country (culture and national rituals) and our class (the "illustrious" middle class and upper middle). Progressive loss of language and literary culture in our native tongue (those of us who live in non-Spanish-speaking countries); loss of ideological meta-horizons (the repression against and division of the left) and of metaphysical certainty.


But if the loss is specific, the gain is translatable to other contexts.


In exchange, what we won was a vision of a more experimental culture, that is to say, a multi-focal and tolerant one. [...] new options in social, sexual, spiritual, and aesthetic behavior.


Read on, in the translation by Rubén Martinez, and discover that any mappings of new options arising out of a tolerant culture are achieved at a price, that of challenging artworld "mechanisms of mythification" and working at "true intercultural dialogue". A simple reading off of a queer context leaves too much behind (ironic in the context of a discourse about loss). Collaboration is offered as an alternative to simple appropriation.


Together, we can collaborate in surprising cultural projects but without forgetting that both should retain control of the product, from the planning stages up through to distribution. If this doesn't occur, then intercultural collaboration isn't authentic. We shouldn't confuse true collaboration with political paternalism, culture vampirism, voyeurism, economic opportunism, and demogogic multiculutralism.


Gòmez-Peña is writing about Latino and Anglo cultures. Could it be collaboration be done in the context of hetero and homo relations?

And so for day 660
03.10.2008

Libraries, Gardens and Arabian Nights

I have always thought of gardens as libraries — housing genetic material to be read and recombined. Cameron Smith in the Toronto Star (June 14, 2003) in "The army in our gardens" makes a similar point.


A garden, then is a storybook of life. You can read as much, or as little, as you like. It is so full of stories, you will never come to the end. And, as in The Arabian Nights, each story so fascinates, you end up longing for the next one.


Smith goes on to review a book. A Breath of Fresh Air: Celebrating Nature and School Gardens by Elise Houghton with photographs by Robert Christie. He writes:


The book has 129 colour photographs of ponds, gardens, rehabilitated areas, and — the ones I like the most — of children, and their expressions of wonder.


If I can't find the book in my local library, I might settle for a World Wide Web search for "children AND gardens".

And so for day 659
02.10.2008

Reductions

Colm Tóibín in a review of the poetry and prose of Thom Gunn collected in Love in a Dark Time concludes


[...] we must acknowledge that his talent, his seriousness, his intelligence and his generosity, if they can be separated from it, have been as important as his homosexuality in the making of his poems.


Following these words, it perhaps unfair to characterize Sky Gilbert's contributions to new holes in the wall (York Poetry Workshop, 1975) and much of his oeuvre as being composed under the sign of competition. From that 1975 anthology I take as emblematic the lines from "Men" that assert that men must do battle "And view each other with suspicion" and even sexual intimacy is a site of struggle ("Heaven help us if we were to embrace"). In so many ways all that follows after these early poems is cast in an agonistic style. A perpetual edge. Keen measurement against the oppressor. Assessments always either implied or explicit. There is no end to judgement. All rests in arbitration.

It is not so much that values are enunciated for in any event to present words to the world is to mark and honour as valuable some experience, event or thing. It's the pitch of the take-it-or-leave-it kind that makes me circle back to the keyword "suspicion". It is as if our poet doesn't trust the reader. And yet the petulance is set aside with a joyously juvenile

P.P.P.P.S. I love you.


at the end of the 2003 Temptations For A Juvenile Delinquent.

At our age we are usually in the mode of overhearing and it is an effort to see myself as that "you" (especially in the last line of a poem giving ever more complicated instructions in "How to Take Care of My Cat").

I want to drop out of the competition. But I read on. I even re-read. Aware of other games — the dizziness offered by multiplied post-scriptums. Finding it odd that I can keep up. Remembering that skipping rope and multiplying verbal complexity, piling words upon words, is both a competition and a delirious, delicious, inducement of vertigo. A gone again.

And so for day 658
01.10.2008