Field

Johanna Drucker in Poetry Plastique curated by Jay Sanders and Charles Bernstein.

Any textual artifact is a contingently configured field of potential, capable of producing a reading.
To which I would like to add:
Every reading is a text.
Of necessity.

And so for day 1022
30.09.2009

Long Deep Breath

I have a bone to pick which is in keeping with the themes explored in Ceremonies for the Dead. Just what is the book designer trying to convey? The leading goes all wonky towards the end of a number of the poems in the collection: one is not sure if the last line belongs off by itself or it is part of the previous stanza, it hovers. The effect could be interesting in light of the "bottom" theme of the poems, the disposition of the lines with varying widths of leading could be a visual reminder of sedimentation: all those bands of ooze and muck laid down in layers of various tones.

Design matters for this poetry where the solvents of storytelling are in the service of reanimation. We are exploring liminal zones, places caught between sorrow and anger, sobbing and rage, and we are taught to navigate via ceremony which begins as the reader learns via attuned breath.

[...] to the long center
of the lake, the coldest point where only
deep breaths carry any chance
of touching bottom
In the same poem, one finds a subtle line: "only my breath has any answers" where the echo is present of "many" answers.

Heedless of questions the reader grows accustomed to lungs that can function in the murk of beaver ponds and other depths. The poet guides by imperatives interspersed with description. The poet exercises his teaching voice to convey ancestor visions and urge a visit the "Land of the Dead".
if you want to know where to look
for them, hoping to catch them by surprise
as they boil river water for their morning tea,
There they are already in the poem. Compressed in the image. See them haul the water, heat it, pour it, let the tea steep, pour and then drink a cup.
as they boil river water for their morning tea
Of course, Giles Benaway in Ceremonies for the Dead would plunge us into the deep long centre but there is nothing necrotic in these necropoems; the bones have been picked clean, hollowed to whistle with: animated by every release of breath — they there infusing we here.

And so for day 1021
29.09.2009

Grandsons of Dr Seuss

Mongrel Media has released on DVD three films by Michael Ondaatje. They include Sons of Captain Poetry (1970, 29 mins.) which documents the work and spirit of bpNichol (1944-88). One of the treats of the film is capturing bpNichol reciting/chanting a concrete sound poem. The viewer really gets a sense of the body grounding nature of the vocal track: it's visceral and out there.

And so I may be forgiven if I perhaps misremember the closing of the film. On the black screen there appears to appear the line

Your alphabet ends
which is then joined by a line appearing beneath
Where my alphabet begins
followed by an attribution to Dr. Seuss.

It appears my ordering is a bit off. I would have to review the film since one authority tracks down the quotation to the 1955 On Beyond Zebra!
In the places I go there are things that I see
That I never could spell if I stopped with the Z.
I'm telling you this 'cause you're one of my friends.
My alphabet starts where your alphabet ends!
Now I see that it's a single line. But I like mine! Certainly inflected by the odd memory work from the split fade-in on the screen from Sons of Captain Poetry — there is the attentive to sound repetition in the "n" in "begins" and "ends" and the other reversals — this so-called Zed version is forward thinking.
Your alphabet ends
Where my alphabet begins
I also probably have on the brain that collaboration between Jay MillAr and Stephen Cain, Double Helix, mischief for enlightened ears.

And so for day 1020
28.09.2009

A Study of Achenes

Compressed without the swathe of white space between lines and the indentations, the poem still conveys its subject: the strawberries that serve both as title and first line.

STRAWBERRIES
do not
hide their seeds

They scatter
into their own bodies

before
they find ground
And beyond this brief opening segment the poem goes on to remark about there being no need to slice one to reveal what is inside and concludes:
There are no bones
to structure its shape,

no peel
through which to plunge
Deserves to be visited in its book context along with the other poems in the collection to appreciate the spacing which results in words distributed in a controlled scatter effect spiralling down to page end and over.

Souvankham Thammavongsa. Small Arguments. "STRAWBERRIES"

And so for day 1019
27.09.2009

Anchoring Freedom

Mark Doty. Still Life With Oysters And Lemon.

I found myself resisting intimacy as portrayed in the workings of breath and keen looking. This gesture of resistance had good reason — it was imitating what the author himself had done quite earlier on. He seems later in the memoir/meditation to have forgotten the struggle. Let us recap:

But then why resist intimacy, why seem to flee it? A powerful countercurrent pulls against our drive toward connection; we also desire individuation, separateness, freedom. On one side of the balance is the need for home, for the deep solid roots of place and belonging; on the other is the desire for travel and motion, for the single separate spark of the self freely moving forward, out into time, into the great absorbing stream of the world.

A fierce internal debate, between staying moored and drifting away, between holding on and letting go. Perhaps wisdom lies in our ability to negotiate between these two poles. Necessary to us, both of them — but how to live in connection without feeling suffocated, compromised, erased? We long to connect; we fear that if we do, our freedom and individuality will disappear.
The nest is a vessel. That's my answer. World and home are not always poised in opposition. Solidarity and singularity are not polar opposites. There is a different way of mapping... The urban cafe table is open to the coming and goings of patrons and yet is an oasis for the self. I think it more profitable to think in terms of calm and swirling. Intimacy itself is not always a calm, quiet experience. Its modes can be marked by the turbulence of sheer lust and the haste of sexual gratification. It's about speed and not so much about space. And it is about being attentive whatever the tempo may be working with or against the pulse of our flow.

Freedom is far closer than we fear.

And so for day 1018
26.09.2009

Seeing Voicing

Mark Doty. Still Life With Oysters And Lemon.

As is my wont, I am reading a little bit backwards. Mark Doty arrives at these reflections on the relation between portrait and still life after having written about voice and breathing life out into the world again. But first, before we turn to that, let us dwell on the comparison of still life with poem and portrait:

A still life is more like a poem than it is like a portrait. When you look at a representation of a human figure — a shepherd, a saint, a prince — that figure looks back at you; the painting is concerned with the experience of animation, with what will give soul to the figure before us. The end of our seeing is in the eyes of the figure that seems to see us, that looks back toward us, quizzical, alive, caught. It is at the eyes of a portrait, always, that our seeing stops.

But in a still life, there is no end to our looking, which has become allied with the gaze of the painter; we look in and in, to the world of things, in their ambiance of cool or warm light, in and in, as long as we can stand to look, as long as we take pleasure in looking.
And before this fount of never ending pleasure we as readers were brought to meditate on transitoriness, in particular "the poems of the dead."
Where there was a person, a voice, a range and welter of experience compressed into lines and images, now there are only lines and images. Where there was a life, now there is a form.

And the form, spoken, breathes something of that life out into the world again. It restores a human presence; hidden in the lines, if they are good lines, is the writer's breath, are the turns of thought and of phrase, the habits of saying, which make those words unmistakable. and so the result is a permanent intimacy; we are brought into relations with the perceptual character, the speaking voice, of someone we probably never knew, someone no on can know now, except in this way.
This is where the hinge happens between poem and still life. And so the act of looking is like the act of breathing.

I found myself resisting on first reading the easy identification of poem with intimacy. What of parody and mimicry? And then found myself agreeing that even the most plagiarized tissue of quotation speaks of an effort of choice and selection and so represents a unique perceptual character. I even found myself wanting to see what Doty would sound like if the words from this prose were arranged like the short lines of a Robert Creeley poem (imitation of examples found in Words or in Pieces).
a human
presence
hidden
in the lines
if they are
good
lines
is the writer's
breath
are the turns
of thought
and
of phrase
the habits
of saying
which make
those words
unmistakable
and so
the result
is a
permanent
intimacy
Caught looking. Caught dropping commas. Avoiding periods. Too close for intimacy.

And so it is verified by empirical monkeying around that giving breath is like constant pleasurable looking. But I do differ with Mr. Doty on the question of portraits. Having read Stein, portraits like landscapes, hers and those of others, also offer pretexts for continuous looking and voicing.

And so for day 1017
25.09.2009

Sampling

This piece of older news from a chili contest gives some spice to the concept of mash-up and deserves some further savouring.

Don Eastep took a sample spoonful from each of the 80 other competitors' chilis, mixed them up in a cup and offered that cup to the judges, who judged it the best.



Well, excellent blended scotches are made by judicious mixing and blends of aromatics go into the making of many a fine liqueur. And tea!

And so for day 1016
24.09.2009

Turns

John Newlove's "Brass Box. Spring. Time" in Black Night Window reminds me very much of the twists in the best of Sky Gilbert. I am not claiming influence of Newlove upon Gilbert but a kinship of theme where extravagance is allowed to bloom and then snipped with wit and a certain wryness. Newlove begins what is to become a long enumeration

I have a brass box for cigarettes and
two pair of shoes and
There follows two couplets given over to shirts and their colours and more follow with descriptions of types of paper and coloured pencils. There is in the mix "two wallets but no money" which does not stop us — two wallets even without money is in keeping with the theme of abundance as the listing continues. And our poet comes full circle and we realize the penury when abundance of a different sort drips down
and a pot to catch the ceiling's rain and
clay ashtrays and, and, and —

I have a brass box for cigarettes,
when I have cigarettes.
Now I ask is this camp?

And so for day 1015
23.09.2009

Made Domestic

Terence Johnson in his article on Robert Duncan in The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage (edited by Claude Summers) observes the timing of the cultivation of a certain theme. He puts it succinctly as a matter of biography.

After 1951, when Duncan began his lifelong relationship with the artist Jess Collins, the "household" becomes a major theme in his work.
It is the "house" itself that merits attention in a poem by Mark Doty. "Essay: The Love of Old Houses" upon meditating on the floorboards worn down by previous inhabitants proposes
here it's proved that time requires
a deeper, better verb than pass;
it's more like pool, and ebb, and double
back again, my history, his, yours,
My history, his, yours, doubling back to the motions of water: all the while succession demonstrates that the notion of place is indebted to words, not merely to build the description but also to mark the possession and dispossession. And we by this conjunction of pronominal play and verb crafting are reminded of Robert Duncan's opening poem to The Opening of the Field which casts these concerns in the idiom of the repeatable. "Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow" begins thus
as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but is a made place,
Duncan's poem given his concerns veers into Hermetic images. It concludes with a characterization of the place that could be attached to the old house that Doty conjures. Duncan's meadow "is a place of first permission, / everlasting omen of what is." These are two very different responses to the genius of place (Doty captured by the particularities; Duncan vaulted into Platonic spheres) and yet with both one senses the ontological pressures and history that "a made place" could permit. Doty's universe is heir to Duncan's magical permissions and dutifully is more expansive in expressing what is possible because more is possible.
subsumed into the steadying frame
of a phrase I love: a building:
both noun and verb, where we live
and what we do: fill it with ourselves
And we are left at poem's end with the image of two men tending house, sweeping, and waxing floors with rags made from their very "own old T-shirts cut / to squares and once again of use."

And so for day 1014
22.09.2009

Testing Tautologies

There is a didactic element to Kit Robinson's "Lyric Strand" in Writing 25 (1990). It sports the following few lines

Sound is an antidote to words,
meaning lies. It can be used
to show that they are used and only
exist by their use and are made of it.
It begs reworking as a reversal.
Words are an antidote to sound,
meaning rises. They can be used
to show that it is used and only
exists by its use and is made of them.
Meaning rests.

And so for day 1013
21.09.2009

Calligram II

Karl Petit. Le Dictionnaire des Citations du Monde Entier. (1960). Entertaining displays of typographic fantasy adorn the alphabetically arranged sections of the book. The "G" page offers three words

The link between gastronomy and glutton seems evident (it's an inverse relationship). The typography seems to create a great ladle when the scoop of the "gondola" registers upon the imagination that is stretching to try and hold the words in one semantic field. I dream of boatfuls of ice cream.

And so for day 1012
20.09.2009

Calligram I

The book is a collection of quotable passages. It is arranged alphabetically and each of the sections begins with a display of bravura typography. For example, take the E. Here transcribed from the French for the visually impaired:

Justified right a big lower case letter.
Next line with "enthusiasm" all in a jumble of jumping letters.
And then "eror" with a missing "r"
Next word split over two lines and in bigger point size to mark its "exageration"
And finally almost lost in the gutter in tiny type justified left is "exile".
See

And the cover of the book itself is a collage of famous heads

Karl Petit. Le Dictionnaire des Citations du Monde Entier. (1960).

And so for day 1011
19.09.2009

Alive to the Cold

Because he can encapsulate lots of complex history into smooth prose:

As the urbanization of the world gathers speed in the 1870s, what has been a solstice holiday in origin becomes a harvest holiday in realization.
We readily accept his extended metaphors for the underground city that works in a metropolis like Montreal
The multidimensional city depends on a subway to serve as its nervous system, and a series of tunnels and walkways to serve as its connective tissue. [...] when people are brought in below ground they are eager to come up above ground. You create a permeable membrane between the underworld and the overworld, all based on foot traffic — on the pedestrian, the walker, who is the city's red blood cell, without whom the city pales and sickens and dies of anemia.
We are there with him not only because of the address to a "you" but because we can picture ourselves arriving and walking, after all by this point he has made us believe that hockey is as much a mental as a physical contact sport. Winter is his season. And we are so much the warmer for having shared his experiences and musings.

Adam Gopnik. Winter: Five Windows on the Season

And so for day 1010
18.09.2009

Stasis and Flight

They are by temperament different. By métier, poets. Both attentive to detail.

Sandra Kasturi in Come Late to the Love of Birds, just before her homage to Ursula K. Le Guin, has a poem, "Bird Logic", which ends in a way that sets up marvellously the themes that follow in the poem to Le Guin which ends on a couplet ("Let pages turn as they may and locks come undone; / Let one world unravel, as another's begun.") which comes as an echo of the two concluding stanzas of the previous poem "Bird Logic"

Be careful
when birds are sleeping:
sometimes they're dreaming the universe
and you in it.

I woke a bird once
but he was from another universe
and I was from another dream
so it all worked out in the end.
I just so happens that a few days later I came across the passage from Jan Zwicky in Forge towards the end of a sequential poem "Practising Bach" (apologies for not doing the typography justice)
             This may also be thought of as the problem of metaphor: the metaphor's truth, its charge of meaning, depends on the assertion of identity and difference, on erotic coherence and referential strife, on meaning as resonance and meaning revealed through analysis.
The one describes the other. Despite their very varied ways of approaching matter, diction (you know a Kasturi poem from a Zwicky poem like you know apple from orange) and despite the different ways they unravel words and knit worlds — they let us fly and bring us by an abrupt turn to the spot where stopping seems just.

And so for day 1009
17.09.2009

Placer Epiphanies

There is an invitation to reflect in the words of "Practical Meditation" in Ash Steps by M. Travis Lane. We are invited to contemplate the similarities between our life and the firefly's brief flicker "as splendid in its vanishing / as in its blaze." This calls to mind an earlier poem from An Inch Or So Of Garden where the totem animal providing the meditative moment is a bit larger ... a bear in "The Mine" disturbs "A placer stream, slow, speckled in gold, / wrapped in warm perfectness [...] And on the perfect filmlessness / the skaters skim." All is quiet and placid until the bear bursts on the scene

Until the oaf thwacks down the bush,
breaks twigs. He comes
from grubbing worms, will mine
The waters are muddied and the fish and creatures upset. But by poem's end we are expected to imagine the bear missing the catch and that all returns to a previous state and the not previous state.
Suppose
he mines no dinner, goes again.
Then wait, not long,
all things return
beneath the sun's soft negligence --
all things, all visions, walkers, fish --
and even bears.
This is wry commentary with its wink at the folk song derived from Ecclesiastes. Travis Lane will pick up the motif of disturbed water in many images of mirrors that populate the later poetry. Take for instance the beginning of "Ash Steps"
No frog
jumped into the water bin.
But something fell, and for a while
that tepid mirror shifted, squirmed,
and shook beige shreds of floating leaf,
a pigeon feather, dust
larvae perhaps.
Further on in the collection, one encounters a whole panoply of disturbers and a most intriguing catch and release method to not restore circumstances but to trigger the meditative reflection. "Les Pêcheurs d'eau" ends with a complex figure of exhaustion and renewal:
For centuries they've caught our music,
Poets, moths, flies, frogs, dogs, cats, and lunatics.
Some years an iceberg, snagged, overturns.
So little's left, they have been fishing for so long!
Whatever they catch, they do, at least
they do throw it all back again:
but hooked, unhooked, now maimed.
The ecological scale seems vast and the focus on decline poignant but we recall other instances of disturbed mirrors and earlier in the collection the wisdom of "Practical Meditation".
Epiphanies splash up like waves on windy days
against the green edge of a pier;
you don't have to go out to look for them,
abundant, brief, like fireflies as they are.
I like how whether it be plethora or scarcity, there is opportunity with and without our ursine cousins. Exeunt pursued by a bear. And the re-citing of the stage direction from a Winter's Tale is in a sense rewritten as our pursuit. Chased and chasing. Firefly flickers. Mined and mine.

And so for day 1008
16.09.2009

Mirage Murmurs

A selection from "Sentimental Intervention" by Dorothy Trujillo Lusk appearing in Writing 25.

Plucked of a miragement of video-control systems while others murmured towards her an ill-will. He reproached himself with his devotion to/in any case. The different trees afforded a changing spectacle, however of its time. By roots in Idealist Abstraction, an itinerant astronomer.
Obviously this type of writing resists. Resists sense making. Nevertheless, there are micro-moments that provide keys. Consider the hyphenation of "video-control" and "ill-will". A parallel of negative intent. Further on the reader is oriented in/to which is holding a kind of tension with out/from as reading moves on/back. Now, consider the possibility that the changing spectacle is plucked from the condensation of mirage and management: miragement. It's the neologism, "miragement" that slows down the reading and unhitches us from whatever to/in case we might be going round and round. And by association we as readers become itinerant astronomers, voyaging through the stars/constellations of such language tracks. And by our roots we work with mirage produced by the looking at. Murmur produced by murmur. Language resisting language. Mi-rage-ment: partial affordances for the terror of more cutting approaches: m/i/ra/ge/ment. Like a signal system held on pause and reapproaching abstraction. And so we come to quote the last of these stanza/paragraphs.
He found himself offering. The actress had not a minute to spare. Mass assesses itself in a further dissolution. By day, the daily disturbance effects engineering unity in parallel with rhythmic extension as heard in some of the more mathematically restrictive musics, the joy engaged, the caress of the past.
In case we are going, we encounter disturbance and music. See La Monte Young
His Compositions 1960 includes a number of unusual actions. Some of them are un-performable, but each deliberatively examines a certain presupposition about the nature of music and art and carries ideas to an extreme. One instructs: "draw a straight line and follow it" (a directive which he has said has guided his life and work since). Another instructs the performer to build a fire. Another states that "this piece is a little whirlpool out in the middle of the ocean." Another says the performer should release a butterfly into the room. Yet another challenges the performer to push a piano through a wall. Composition 1960 #7 proved especially pertinent to his future endeavors: it consisted of a B, an F#, a perfect fifth, and the instruction: "To be held for a long time
With Trujillo Lusk: murmur and admire result. Repeat. It's like an unending line. It's miragement. It's its.

And so for day 1007
15.09.2009

Reversals

Part of the section "Jones" from The Alphabet by Ron Silliman appearing in Writing 25.

— who knows what a fact is, solid ground ... versus, say, drip grind in the rain forest ... versus, say, verses.
I'm not sure if the ellipses mark out pieces left behind in the selection or if they are part of the piece — I/we would have to check against the published version of The Alphabet. It is so often the case that periodical publication is later revised for the book form...

In any case, complete or incomplete, it is the play on "versus" and "verses" that drew me to this passage. What kept my attention was the assonance and the repetition of sound (like the rain). "gr" [ground/grind], short vowel "i" [solid/drip], terminal "nd" [ground/grind]. And taken word by word, there emerges from a slow reading an image of the brewing of a fine cup of coffee and the verses float above it all like steam. In case you may think that the invocation of a cuppa java is a stretch consider that "Jones" is dedicated as an "Homage to Bromige" — David Bromige begins "Are You Coming or Going Through That?" with what could be interpreted as instructions for Silliman's piece:
In order to recognize it name it before you know it.

Having begun, stop before you can begin, or lose what you began.
And this as much as it is instruction is also description. It is what we do when we turn. When we compose verses. And whether Bromige's lines appear before or after Silliman's matters little — they are joined by the transversal of language... and its possibilities.

And so for day 1006
14.09.2009

A Moment Apart

This is an excerpt from a poem not particularly focused on the preparation of a good cup of coffee. But the lines and the gesture they describe are arresting. [Note: the word "steady" has a vocal echo in "steam" that follows. Intriguing as to how a coffee might be steadied and there is the evocation of "eddy" and stability in the swirl.]

I pour a cup of coffee, steady it
with milk, stir until it turns from
coal to caramel, the steam rising,
from "The Letters"
from Practicing to Walk Like a Heron
by Jack Ridl

And so for day 1005
13.09.2009

Deter Gently

For Giles who loves soap

Reading After Jack by Garry Thomas Morse, I am struck by his genius for translation and invention offering us a complex chain of chemical traces to reread Jack Spicer and beyond his "After Lorca" to reread Lorca and beyond his "Ode to Whitman", Whitman.

It is in the minimalist moment that these voices and layers (song from Lorca, catalogue from Whitman and wit from Spicer) slide into Morse's own gift for control and compression. Take "Hybridity"

Red tits of the sun
Blue tits of the moon

Part cotton
Part lycra
Part spandex
Part polyester

Part shadow

Wash separately
There is delicious ambiguity at work here. Is shadow to be separate from the fabrics? Each fabric to be separated from the others? Both of these alternatives combined? Why care so much about washing?

Turn the page and you encounter one of the letters to the predeceased poet (Spicer) in which you read that language is "naturally dirty." In one of Spicer's own letters to the predeceased poet (Lorca) you can read
Words are what sticks to the real. We use them to push the real, to drag the real into the poem. They are what we hold on with, nothing else. They are as valuable in themselves as rope with nothing to be tied to.

I repeat — the perfect poem has an infinitely small vocabulary.
Spicer's "real" puts added pressure on Morse's "naturally dirty". And Morse's response is set in the context of a dialectic between speech and silence. Here is the paragraph from that letter in which the dirtiness of language comes to the fore (mind the gaps; the periods have been washed out):
Even if we can't get together, the poem & language go on talking   Things are disclosed & revealed in places where nobody is   Language outgrows any mens rea, any evidence of intent   I didn't mean it really   That was language talking   We were both a kind of misleading question mark   Even those polite requests for reassurance do you love me don't you want to go to bed with me do you love me sound abhorrent beside the altercosm of language which is naturally dirty   The very real pause or clause is a threat to shatter that beautiful loneliness so necessary to poetry   So we go to bed together without a word while language whispers from dusty aisles & pissy alleyways & sore asses
In the poetics proposed in After Jack one move in dealing with the dirt of language (or rather the dirty altercosm of language) is not segregation but the more nuanced notion of separation. For as the voice in "Sonata for a Chair and a Table" says "Words arrange things. Make" and in the temporality of the poem the pile of laundry remains both a pile and through its closing injunction, sorted — the poem itself and its dominant image inhabit a type of hybridity. Words keep getting stuck by their sticky nature. And Morse helps us come to terms with the dirt by subtle spacing in which a deter agent can cleanse even the most minimal of vocabularies. And make magic from more than a laundry list.

And so for day 1004
12.09.2009

Roaming The Discussion Starter

OMEP - Organisation mondiale pour l'éducation préscolaire

From the front section of a pamphlet (French and English vocabulary list with definitions) printed in Britain.

Discussions are a most valuable part of OMEP World Assemblies. For the 1961 VIIIth World Assembly in Zagreb a vocabulary for use in discussions about child development was printed in OMEP News Letter No. 4. National Committees then made suggestions which have been incorporated in this vocabulary for the 1962 IXth World Assembly in London.

No on has to accept any definition given here. But if in discussion another meaning is given to a word, then the different meaning should be defined.
The front cover illustrated by Gillian, age 7.



And now the found poem:
Temper tantrum
Self-discipline
Rêverie

Daydreaming
Auto-discipline
Accèss de colère
Mais si, dans la discussion, on désire donner à un terme un sens autre que celui du lexique, il y aura lieu de le préciser.

And so for day 1003
11.09.2009

The Age of Reading

I love the ecological turn of mind. And in the recapitulation the earthworms are left behind. And in so being taken on an aura of their own.

A nonmaterial definition of the book comes hand in hand, it seems to me, with a nonmaterial definition of reading. In the widest sense, I think the term simply means paying attention to what's in front of you and trying to make sense of it. Fish do this as they swim through the water. Birds do it as they fly through the air or sit in the trees or on lamp posts waiting for breakfast. Earthworms do it as they poke through the sod, and I do it, not only in the library but also when I'm listening to those birds or looking at the water and thinking about those fish. This foundational kind of reading is much older than the oldest protoliterate inscriptions, older than human language, older than the first, nameless primates, climbing around in the trees of northern Africa some sixty million years ago.

from Robert Bringhurst What is Reading for? (RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press, 2011)
And so the earthworms continue to produce casings just as they did eons before I or any of my ancestors learned to read. But we are relatives, "Earthworms ... and I..." and it is a profound type of kinship.

And so for day 1002
10.09.2009

Unfolding

From the best lines one can construct a found poem only to entice reader (using the best bait) to find from where these morsels have been captured and gathered.

dry as dream-water

Its last sound folds
into the origami air

Home hooks in our ribs
and hurts when we breathe
from Lyn King Walking into the Night Sky whose poems are paced very much like pulses she places in the figure of the travelogue body and its metaphorical comings and goings. One is tempted to uncrease, to rewind, and travel backwards.
Home hooks in our ribs
and hurts when we breathe

Its last sound folds
into the origami air

dry as dream-water
The poems appear to have a sequence and then when read in reverse order seem to call again to the reader to the moment poised when a universe opens up from a slight stem of words. She has captivated us from the italicized proem which both invokes and describes: "Awake, what unfolds from earth / brown veins bleeding green is / called a tree". And many of the poems offer a migration as transformation and in most one finds some dendrological dream matter to condense into our own transmutations and to adopt via metaphor a peculiar way of seeing and sensing the world and words. Like leaves set free.

And so for day 1001
09.09.2009

Never Speaking of Worldly Matters

Martin Buber Tales of the Hasidim: The Early Masters translated by Olga Marx (New York: Schocken Books, 1947) pp. 216-217

When Rabbi Levi Yitsak came to Nikolsburg to visit Rabbi Shmelke who had taught him the way of fervor when he was young, and whom he had not seen in a long time, he went into the kitchen, covered with his prayer shawl and with double phylacteries on his forehead, and asked Rabbi Shmelke's wife -- on this very first morning -- what dishes were being prepared for the noonday meal. His question, though rather surprising, was answered. Then he went on to ask whether the cooks had really mastered their art, and other things of the same sort. Rabi Shmelke's disciples, who heard of this, took him for a veritable glutton. He, however, now entered the House of Prayer and -- while the congregation prayed -- began to talk to an utterly insignificant man, despised by all, on quite unimportant worldly subjects, as those standing near could determine. One of the disciples could not bear to observe such behavior any longer and said roughly to the stranger: "Silence! Idle chatter is forbidden here!" But the rabbi of Berditchev paid no attention to him and continued his conversation.

At the midday meal, Rabbi Shmelke greeted him joyfully, bade him sit at his side, and ate from the same bowl as he. His disciples, who had heard of the curious manners of the visitor, marked these signs of favor and friendship with sullen surprise. When the meal was over, one of them could no longer suppress his annoyance and asked his master why he showered honors on so empty-headed and impudent a man who had behaved in such and such a way. The zaddik replied: "In the Gemara we read: 'Rab (Abba Areka), for all the days of his life never spoke of worldly matters.' Is this praise not strange? Does it indicate that the other masters spent their time in wordly talk? Can nothing worthier be told of Rab? The meaning is this: Whatever worldly affairs he discussed with people in the course of the day, each of his words was, in reality, filled with secret significance and a secret purpose, and made itself felt in the higher world; and his spirit remained steadfast in such service all day long. That is why our sages have accorded him praise of which none other was found worthy. what others could do for only three hours, after which they sank from this level, he could do throughout the day. And the same is true of Rabbi Levi Yitzak. what I can do for only three hours, he can do the whole day through: concentrate his spirit, so that it makes itself felt in the world of Heaven, even with talk which men consider idle."
Being neither devout nor agnostic, I still find this story enlightening. It shows a path of being present in the delivery of words and equally attentive in the hearing.

And so for day 1000
08.09.200

Think Forget Replay

I first came across his critical writing (a review of sorts of books by Steve McCaffery). And then I went cruising. And found this nugget.

Again. Writing is an aid to forgetting.

For those of us fastidious about words writing is
a way of getting some of them out of the head in
order to make way for new experiences.

Without writing we'd hold on to words at the
expense of those experiences which happily (at
times) give rise to them.

Writing is letting go.

To write is to let go.

Writing is a way of getting younger.

(It's a way of getting younger so that we can
age.

Gracefully.

Gracelessly.

Or otherwise.)
from Alan Davies This Is Thinking
http://www.fauxpress.com/e/davies/p5.htm

I do like that elegant degradation at the end — it almost looks like repetition and then you see it is a way of making a plurality of possibilities emerge from a stark dichotomy. It's a trick worth remembering even it it is in the service of forgetting.

And so for day 999
07.09.2009

Hyacinth Scent and Sense Making

from a while back, a letter full of speculations and musings...

Dear Friend,

Very last day of the month: time to sneak in under the wire a report some disjecta and let you know that I have continued to meditate on the theme of experience and expression.

First, the hyacinth is blooming and the smell of the six or so plants in the garden is heady. It is a temporary phenomenon all the richer because of its transiance.

Second, I found myself considering what I am inclined to call the forgetting of narration. I have observed in some examples of critical discourse that there is a tendency to speak in terms of many narrations and a single narrative. If a phenomenological perspective is introduced then narrative is not seen as a single and unique object of thought (or experience) but as the product of agreement between subjects. The diagram of a diegesis is no less a narration than the many words or images that also give access to similar constructions.

It is by agreement that we produce the same story, an agreement renegotiated at every telling.

The same story is always a new agreement. Recall children wanting to hear a favourite story with all the noises and gestures that produce the sense of the familiar. It is a language trap to insist that what returns is the same. It is familiar.

No two cups of tea taste the same yet they are recognized as cups of tea and even tea of the same flavour (but with a wee difference in the intensity due to slight shifts in steeping time).

I have been propelled to this nominalist realization of the instability of any given entity called a "narrative" by recalling a question that Professor Fitch asked at my defence so very many years ago. His question was about Ingarden's notion of concretization. My answer then makes more sense now: a rereading produces a different concretization. Of course some readers would set concretization on the side of narration and a narrative on the side of some unchanging structure. But the structure itself is malleable. Its stability, a function of our agreements.

In Saussure's Cours there is an illustration (referenced by Barthes in Elements of Semiology) where there are two flows and samplings from each. Below is a typographic transcription

===== < ==== > =====

.......... < .......... > ........

The famous aribitrariness of the sign is a relation between samplings. The signified is as much an incision into a flow of matter as is the signifier. All this seems rather obvious to anyone that understands the semantic field to be dynamic. If the pair narration/narrative is isomorphic with the pair signifier/signified, the slippage that is perceived in expression/experience is built in to how humans process the relations between language and reality.

And language is a part of reality.

Third of the disjecta, all these musings on the intersubjectivie nature of the stability of narrative as object of thought or experience came after a lecture by Martin Lefebvre to the Toronto Semiotic Circle where he quoted Peirce to the effect that "every fine argument is a poem or a symphony" and outlined a scheme where habit mediates between chance/origin and necessity/telos. This is getting long and convoluted. The following is very sketchy.

involution is not equivalent to self-reflexivity

involution produces a copy of the world in a given state which becomes the base state to compare subsequent states [This is similar to how a computer’s central processing unit keeps a copy in active memory to work upon -- the model can be applied to the act of reading. In my thesis way back when I briefly touched upon the notion of involution in a quick look at the similarities between the semiotic square and the mathematical object called a Klein group. This in the context of positing the semiotic square as a machine...]

Someone somewhere may have already introduced the notion of states into possible world semantics. This might just give access to a poetics of impossible worlds. Impossible worlds are games (considered as moves between states). A focus that might interest those in searching to bridge the ludology versus narratology in gaming studies.

Of course I’m left with questions to ponder: How does, if it does, the pair world-state map onto the pair narrative-narration?

And so I take time to breathe and smell the fleeting hyacinth.

30.04.07
I am still intrigued as to how far one can push the world-state mapping.

And so for day 998
06.09.2009

T Fused to R

A specimen book from Gaspereau Press.



Pure genius in how Poety and Poery swim out of sight of Poetry.

And so for day 997
05.09.2009

Monument to Ritual via TV Dinners

I hope I am setting this up appropriately for you to enjoy the splendid moment. The narrator in Robert Glück's "Everyman" anthologized in Men on Men 4 receives from the widow of a neighbour a stack of frozen dinners which were destined for the now deceased neighbour. They sit as a stack in the narrator's freezer for a while. Until ...

Every night the monument turned into a ritual by entering my body. I consumed his distinctions where before I had seen none, just an unknown expanse of bright utopian images to appeal to the stranger passing the frozen food compartment. To make wild assertions: to say I prefer Stouffer's Pizza Chips to Birdseye's Pizza Wraps. To eat Mac's food which was anyone's food — a generic confrontation with salt, oil, too sweet, pumped up with flavor, empty and exciting, a little sensational. I was not anguished. Perhaps I ate his food with greater awareness of the moment, a curiosity that floated on the moment, an expectation that deepened the silence (I say silence although the TV was on, was on, was on). In that way I mourned for Mac.
This is a tour de force mixing the commercialism of brand names with personal anecdote. It could be anyone. Everyone. Yet it is no one. They are gone.

And so for day 996
04.09.2009

Hearing, Emotion and Multimedia

First a little text to consider:

Anthony Storr, in Music and the Mind, talks about the close link between hearing and emotions. He points out that hearing is much more closely related to emotions than vision is. If we see a wounded animal or person, he says, we are never as moved as we are if we hear the animal or person's anguished screams with our ears. He theorizes that the strong link between hearing and feeling may be related to the fact that we can hear before we can see, as the sense of hearing is developed in the womb early, before the sense of vision is formed.

from Beverly Biderman, Wired for Sound (Toronto: Trifolium Books, 1998), pp. 25-26.
Next, a couple of questions for multimedia students:
  • Consider your use of sound and images in an opening sequence. How much of your design is currently affected by your training and technical know-how?
  • What is the role of ambient sound in your project?
  • Is the relation between moving and still images similar to the relation between sound and images?
And so for day 995
03.09.2009

Whose Idea of Who?

The Edward Curtis Project: A Modern Picture Story. Marie Clements and Rita Leistner.

In the play by Marie Clements there is a moment when two women are conversing. They are sisters from a mixed marriage; one is brown skinned and the other looks white. The two characters are looking at a family portrait of one of the sister's children and her estranged husband.

Dr. Clara
I'm finally going to ask him for a divorce.

Angeline
I'm sorry ...

She backs away slightly and looks at her children.

Dr. Clara
It's time ... we haven't lived together in years ...

Angeline
You still love him? ... Or just the idea of him?

She looks at Angenline

Dr Clara
Maybe I still love the idea of us.

Pause. They both look out into the darkness.
I like the ambiguity of reference - she backs away. Angeline? or Clara? Context would in a realist reading ascribe the action to Clara. But the "idea of us" complicates theatrical realism. "Us" could refer to one family unit (husband and children), another (the two sisters) or both. In all cases a certain solidarity is tested.

And so for day 994
02.09.2009

Boys and Gossips

Images of mixed bodily fluids. Networks of desire.

Viscous boy gossip, so demure so classy.
From Jessica Grim "Is The Body Talking Sense Now?" in Writing 25 (1990).

I like how the expected "vicious" is tamed. If you read fast you miss it. All those esses make me in my rapid reading pluralize gossips. I think she is talking about the persons who do the gossiping. Turns out they are the subjects of another sort. Can't imagine a lone gossip though it could be the case — gossiping seems to be a mutual affair and demand at least a pair. In my rewrite "gossip" is an adjective.
Viscous gossip boys
And so for day 993
01.09.2009