N-ation N-obody N-igger

First the note on the persona

As "red nigger", the lower-class counterpart to the "mulatto", Shabine comes from the ranks of the ordinary man in Caribbean society. [Patricia Ismond, Abandoning Dead Metaphors: the Caribbean Phase of Derek Walcott's Poetry (Kingston, Jamaica : University of the West Indies Press, 2001) p. 230.
Next the celebration of the lyrics through an interview with Nalo Hopkinson quoting her in its title [‘I’ll take my chances with the 21st century’ The Globe and Mail]
Whose sentences are your favourite, and why?

[...]

You may not be allowed to print the fourth, but it’s the final four lines of the second stanza of Derek Walcott’s poem The Schooner Flight. The last line of those four brings the whole thought home in a triumphant mic drop that for me embodies the essence of the ingenuity of my birth region, the Caribbean. It gives me chills, every time.
The words of Shabine
I’m just a red nigger who love the sea,
I had a sound colonial education,
I have Dutch, nigger, and English in me,
and either I’m nobody, or I’m a nation,
The last four lines continue on into the next stanza hence the comma after "nation", which lines move on to reflect upon Maria Concepcion, object of a love-hate relationship.

And so for day 1357
31.08.2010

Slice Acceleration

In our neighbourhood there is a practice of leaving books and household articles at curbside, free for the picking. Some have turned this recycling practice into an art.

The other day, I stumbled upon a pile of books which amounted to an ingenious gag.

On top was a Signet paperback with bold colours and offering to guide the reader to Dynamic Speed Reading.

Under the speed inducing paperback was a hardcover edition of Carl Honoré In Praise of Slow with its yield sign shaped layout on the cover.

There is a quotation from Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature on the cover of the Honoré book that reads "Try reading this book one chapter a day — its is worth allowing its subversive message to sink in so it has a chance of changing your life." Now I am not a radical believer that reading, slow or otherwise, can change your life (I am of the school that discourse (writing or talking) about what is read can, maybe, along with other actions, change the world). In any event, I found in my daily reading a passage in e.e. cumminngs that is intriguing for its word-slicing speed and its injunction not to hurry, intriguing because of its echo with the book stack gag — it requires some combination of both stopping to pay attention and some acceleration to browse quickly over the offerings to pull out the gems.
is always beau

tiful and
that nobod
y beauti

ful ev
er hur

ries
The paradox being if the eye doesn't hurry over the breaks no meaning emerges.

And so for day 1356
30.08.2010

Bowel Lore

Whether it's glister or clyster it's up the keister, mister.

From the Diary of Samuel Pepys, The Joys of Excess in the Great Food series from Penguin, the entry for February 11, 1663, begins

Took a glister in the morning and rise in the afternoon.
The Penguin Pepys is based on the edition by Robert Latham and William G. Matthews (1970). The text for the Pepys Diary online is from the Henry B. Wheatley 1893 edition available through Project Gutenberg and reads
Took a clyster in the morning and rose in the afternoon.
Search engines will give a rather modern and glittering meaning for "glister" unless one looks up the complete phrase "to take a glister" which leads to an interesting set of references at the English Language and Usage Stack Exchange. Meanwhile (before thinking to look up "to take a glister"), a quick look up offline in the Oxford English Dictionary confirmed that "glister" is the equivalent of "clyster" and means "enema". The consultation of the OED occurred before examining the online Pepys for a gloss or clue which is indeed nicely supplied there and given the reading of clyster for glister led one to look at the editions at play and our dual citation here. Oh, "keester" is an alternative spelling of "keister". And "rise" is indeed emended to "rose" in Wheatley.

And so for day 1355
29.08.2010

Contentions

I contend that fundamental to human interaction is narration: attentiveness to how stories are related. Stories are for sorting and storing.

A while ago (1996), I explored recursivity and narrativity. My starting point was the ability to ask questions (and learn from one's bodily reactions).

Pedagogical situations are sensory. They are also interpersonal. Because they are sensory this makes even learning by oneself interpersonal. Egocentric speech is like a dialogue between the senses. In Vygotsky's and Luria's experiments, children placed in problem-solving situations that were slightly too difficult for them displayed egocentric speech. One could consider these as self-induced metadiscursive moments. The self in crisis will disassociate and one's questionning becomes the object of a question.

Not only is the human self as a metabeing both fracturable and affiliable in itself, it is also prone to narrativity. That is, the human self will project its self-making onto the world in order to generate stories from sequences and to break stories into recombinant sequences. Its operations on signs are material practices with consequences for world-making.

The fracturable affiliable self calls for reproductive models suitable to the interactions of multi-sensate beings, models that render dyads dialectical, questionable, answerable. Narrativity understood dialectically does not merely mean making sequences or strings of events into stories but also stories into things, strung together for more stories. From such an understanding, emerge non-dyadic narratives of reproduction, narratives where a thing-born transforms itself into an event, comes to understand itself as a process.

http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance/S6D.HTM
I am intrigued about how in 1996 my considerations connected a human self that could be modelled as a split subject (the fracturable self) with one modelled as an (anaclytic) subject with the potential for connections (the affiliable self). Both arose from the take on narration (and of course exposure to psychoanalytic theory) as both an engine of analysis and a motor for social relations. Yet dealing with language and feedback, I was focussed on storage and sorting (machine operations) and not at all concerned with networks, their genesis and maintenance. I failed to theorize an economy. What I gained remains to be told. Always the subject of a certain rattrapage.

And so for day 1354
28.08.2010

From A Spill Over Note

It is an observation culled from a note that carries over from one page to the next and in its spilling over displays some of the processes at work in the description.

It is perhaps worth noticing that as soon as a different text is brought into the discussion [...] it acts as an opening of the floodgates and admits a host of other related texts. This is in part testimony to certain continuing concerns in Beckett's work which almost become motifs, yet it also proses problems for the critic. If one were to follow every associative link across a large array of texts one would be closer to providing a concordance than an interpretation. As a critic, one feels that one either writes too little or too much, and never, simply, enough.
Of course associative links require interpretation to be established. Would a concordance be a simple listing of the location of markers for the interpretations? Aren't interpretations built up from concordance? The arrow may work the other way. How else to identify motifs? Never single. Always multiple. Sometimes simple.

Quotation from Paul Stewart Zone of Evaporation: Samuel Beckett's Disjunctions. Who in my reading writes simply enough to elucidate the complexities of flood control.

And so for day 1353
27.08.2010

It's All About Me or It Was

The subtleties of English usage brought to you by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

Do you mind me asking a question?
Do you mind my asking a question?
As explained:
In the first sentence, the queried objection is to me, as opposed to other members of the group, putting one of the questions. In the second example, the issue is whether a question may be asked at all.
The Elements of Style Third Edition has a most salubrious example of colon use that as a bonus reminds the reader of the tenuous nature of ritual.
But even so, there was a directness and dispatch about animal burial: there was no stopover in the undertaker's foul parlour, no wreath or spray.
Beyond animal burial, options will now include compost burial or a bit more high tech promession.

And so for day 1352
26.08.2010

Paleo-entropy

Hakim Bey. Black Fez Manifesto, &c.

I like to truncate these two lines, provide a wee bit of shade. This is how I remember

No one retires to Florida for the sun
they go for the air-conditioning
Which when once restored, lags a little
No one retires to Florida for the sun that engine of entropy
they go for the air-conditioning
Later in the book there is a set of Cro-Magnon manifestos that read like ironic screeds that take on the faddishness of paleo-diets.
Kill lamb for parchment.
And that still isn't far back enough given that the lamb is a domestic animal. There's always a further leap

And so for day 1351
25.08.2010

The Insomnia of Masters, Slaves, Others

Idolatry. Fable in fable.

Max and the Cats. Moacyr Scliar.

The third person narrator provides a short aside about a secondary character. It is an aside that is analogous to the way in which the reader-writer relationship is fashioned in this text. Due to its discomfiting nature there is a certain amount of resistance in identifying with elements of the story.

Dr. Rudolf was an extraordinary erudite man. [...] A self-taught psychoanalyst, he was well versed in the doctrines of Dr. Freud, with whom his father had worked in Vienna. He became interested in Max's accounts of Professor Kunz's researches, and he told Max about his own experiments with Brazilian Indians. He would gather the whole tribe together and tell them stories. One such story was about a young craftsman named Ego, who made marvellous dolls, and his tormentors: Id, a foulmouthed, hairy dwarf (a creature somewhat like the curupira, the bogeyman of the Brazilian forests — a mythical Indian with feet pointed backwards); and Super Ego, an aristocratic and authoritarian master. [...] One of the Indians, an imaginative sculptor, carved in wood the figures of Ego, Id, and Super Ego, which reinforced the therapeutic effect of the narratives. Young Indian males afflicted with infinite sadness, and hysterical Indian girls would heal themselves by making propitiatory offerings to those idols.
The reader, perhaps like Max "would listen to those accounts with interest mingled with a certain uneasiness." Not because of the naive account of the Indians but because "[h]e, too, regarded himself as being a kind of Ego, he, too, kept tossing and turning in bed at night, unable to fall asleep [...]" And like a dream the story and its implied analogy passes, never to surface again. Yet its wake reverberates with questions of interpretation. Stories. Figures. Offerings. The order presented in the narration also works in reverse for it is an offering to the reader of three figures (Ego, Id, Super Ego) that comes to constitute a story within a story and a somewhat dazzling set of reflections.

And so for day 1350
24.08.2010

Pals and Gals

Joyous trans-figuration.

The Twitter feed devoted to a Word of the Day from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake reacquainted me with the particularities (amazing what happens when one's reading is slowed down to a word-by-word pace) of unpacking the portmanteau

alphybettyformed
Finnegans Wake 183.13

Yes it has to do with alphabets but could it not be a joining of the genders, a melding of Alfie and Betty? An Alfred in Betty form?

And so for day 1349
23.08.2010

Cameo

Sappho appears in this poem "Divine Botany" about in part a residency at Casa Valparaiso. Sometimes, the speaker sees the ancient poet; sometimes she sees you, the beloved. I like how the homage plays up a different sort of composition, with things instead of with words.

Some afternoons I see
sure-footed Sappho
clambering
up and down these hills,
collecting oregano,
composing a green lettuce
salad for her shy
linen-skirted friend, crimson
pomegranate
blossoms in her gold-
streaked hair.
From Di Brandt The Lottery of History (Radish Press, 2008).

What is intriguing about this poem ("Divine Botany") is that the beloved is addressed as amante which would do for a man or a woman. Furthermore the dedication is simply to "J". The other poems in The Lottery of History that are dedicated to individuals bear full names. Note that the oregano gathering Sappho gathers ingredients for a salad for an unnamed but gendered friend. The effect is intriguing.

And so for day 1348
22.08.2010

Sparkling Slaps

Saeed Jones.
Prelude to Bruise.

There are two ways to parse this title. One to focus on the noun — the emergence of the mark of a wound (a bruise); the other to emphasize the verb and see the prelude as the first step towards the act of bruising.

The two ways join together when we consider the reader as being the recipient of striking images. Images meant to leave a lasting impression.

Take this

fossilized night
to describe the point of eyes in "Anthracite" [high grade coal].

And from a charming poem ("Sleeping Arrangement") about relegating a (former?) lover to underneath the bed, this memorable line
Learn the lullabies of lint.
Finally, this conclusion to a poem entitled "Kudzu" after the invasive vine
         If I ever strangled sparrows,
it was only because I dreamed
of better songs.
This bears all the sensitivity of one proud to bruise.

And so for day 1347
21.08.2010

Notes on Disbursements

Antonio Porchia

I know what I have given you, I do not know what you have received.
Nick Hanauer
The most insidious thing about trickle-down economics isn't believing that if the rich get richer, it's good for the economy. It's believing that if the poor get richer, it's bad for the economy.
$$$ $$$ $$$

And so for day 1346
20.08.2010

Three Tigers and a Depiction

FIRST TIGER

Alexander McCall Smith, "The Unfortunate Fate of Kitty da Silva" in One City (in support of Edinburgh's OneCity Trust)

This fictional tiger makes its way at the end of the story into the dialogue of two characters and becomes a symbol of their mutual understanding of a story of convenience about the equally fictitious Kitty.

'How is Kitty da Silva?' she asked suddenly. 'How is she?'

He said nothing for a moment; a silence of the human heart.

'She is no more,' he said.

She looked up with a start. 'No more?'

'She went for a walk in the forest up in the hills,' he said. 'She was eaten by a tiger.'

She looked at him in astonishment, and then, understanding, she began to laugh.
SECOND TIGER

Alice Walker, Introduction to "Once" section of Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems 1965-1990 Complete

This is self-explanatory.
There is a poem from this period that I wrote when a friend pointed out to me that I could not call the first section "African Images, Glimpses from a Tiger's Back," because, he said, "There are no tigers in Africa!"

There are no tigers
   in Africa!
   You say.
   Frowning
   Yes. I say.
   Smiling.
   But they are
   very beautiful.
THIRD TIGER

Yann Martel, Life of Pi

The remarkable non-goodbye leave taking of Richard Parker, the tiger.
I was certain he would turn my way. he would look at me. He would flatten his ears. He would growl. In some such way, he would conclude our relationship. He did nothing of the sort. He only looked fixedly into the jungle. then Richard Parker, companion of my torment, awful, fierce thing that kept me alive, moved forward and disappeared forever from my life.
DEPICTION


This is located on Dupont Street near Spadina on the side of an-about-to-collapse garage (at the very list it suffers from severe curvature of the spine in the central roof beam). Studio32 is the mark of José-Gabriel [Sandoval] a painter, designer, curator, creator and a graffiti writer in Toronto.

And so for day 1345
19.08.2010

Three Business Cards (Redux)

Reading the ephemera.

As their business gets more complicated (more stores; more products), their business cards become simplified. As befits the era of search engines combing the World Wide Web, the URL is no longer inscribed. Indeed the oldest card has a long URL (http://www.pathcom.com/~cumbraes/cumbraes.htm) with the domain name of the hosting company (pathcom). Now it's simply http://www.cumbraes.com/ and as befits the 21st century not on their card.

The middle card still sports an address and the last one in the series is out-of-date since on its verso it lists two locations (the butcher shop now has four locations). From the web site comes this latest harnessing of communication technologies:
PICK UP SERVICE

Because our stores are on busy streets where parking is difficult, we’ve created an easier way for you to shop.

01
Call in your order ahead of time. Give us enough time to cut and package it up.

02
Just before you arrive, call us from your car. We’ll meet you out front with your bags ready to go, and process the order on the spot with our wireless terminal. You can pay by debit, Visa or Mastercard.

03
Drive away. No hassles and no tickets!
Technology aside, it's still nice to walk in the shop and view the selection. Best way to keep up-to-date on what's fresh, seasoned, and aged.

And so for day 1344
18.08.2010

Three Business Cards

ecosystem
diversity
second-hand book trade

different naming strategies: one after a short-story, one after song lyrics*, one after Peter Sellers and David Newel who run the shop**

*It came from the first song from the second album by the one of the best bands in the world, ever: All-Time Queen of the World by Fifth Column "She Said, 'Boom'" lyric and title by Caroline Azar. (from She Said Boom! web page).

**Wonderful tag line (not on their card but on one version of the web site): "We have words for people like you."

There's always a bit of humour in the book business

And so for day 1343
17.08.2010

City, Sea, Traffic

One of the memorable conceits offered in Life of Pi is the description of the ocean-view that Yann Martel begins with analogies to city vehicular traffic and ends with a slow cruise as best speed to enjoy the scene.

With just one glance I discovered that the sea is a city. Just below me, all around, unsuspected by me, were highways, boulevards, streets and roundabouts bustling with submarine traffic. In water that was dense, glassy and flecked by millions of lit-up specks of plankton, fish like trucks and buses and cars and bicycles and pedestrians were madly racing about, no doubt honking and hollering at each other. [...] You are as likely to see sea life from a ship as you are to see wildlife in a forest from a car on a highway. Dolphins, very fast swimmers, play about boats and ships much like dogs chase cars: they race along until they can no longer keep up. If you want to see wildlife, it is on foot, and quietly, that you must explore a forest. It is the same with the sea. You must stroll through the Pacific at a walking pace, so to speak, to see the wealth and abundance that it holds.
It is with these thoughts that our hero settles in and falls asleep for the first time in five days, having taken through the narration a virtual psychogeographic tour.

In my mind, Martel's prose plays with seven minutes of Moby's "God Moving Over the Face of the Waters" from the Everything Is Wrong album. That sounds just right.

And so for day 1342
16.08.2010

The Infallible Ineffable

Proust quotation (found in red ink on an index filing card):

[...] and bodily desire has the marvellous faculty of restoring its value to intelligence and a solid base to the moral life.
Beckett on Proust:
So that no amount of voluntary manipulation can reconstitute in its integrity an impression that the will has — so to speak — buckled into incoherence. But if, by accident, and given favourable circumstances (a relaxation of the subject's habit of thought and a reduction of the radius of his memory, a generally diminished tension of consciousness following upon a phase of extreme discouragement), if by some miracle of analogy the central impression of a past sensation recurs as an immediate stimulus which can be instinctively identified by the subject with the model of duplication (whose integral purity has been retained because it has been forgotten), then the total past sensation, not its echo nor its copy, but the sensation itself, annihilating every spatial and temporal restriction, comes in a rush to engulf the subject in all the beauty of its infallible proportion.
A little ways on, Beckett provides us with the image of the mechanism via the work of vases:
The most trivial experience — he [Proust] says in effect — is encrusted with elements that logically are not related to it and have consequently been rejected by our intelligence: it is imprisoned in a vase filled with a certain perfume and a certain colour and raised to a certain temperature. These vases are suspended along the height of our years, and, not being accessible to our intelligent memory, are in a sense immune, the purity of their climatic content is guaranteed by forgetfulness, each one is kept at its distance, at its date. So that when the imprisoned microcosm is besieged in the manner described, we are flooded by a new air and a new perfume (new precisely because already experienced), and we breathe the true air of Paradise, of the only Paradise that is not the dream of a madman, the Paradise that has been lost.
And so a return to transcribing that index card:
Proust
... and bodily desire has the marvellous
   faculty of restoring its value to
   intelligence and a solid base to the
   moral life.
Nice how the marvellous balances out there on the edge.

And so for day 1341
15.08.2010

Long Series of Negations to Not Express

In three dialogues with Georges Duthuit in Transition '49 no. 5 Samuel Beckett takes up three painters (Tal Coat, Masson, Bram van Velde) in light of a problematic of expression. In the first dialogue on Tal Coat this is expressed in an apophatic fashion:

The expression that there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing from which to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the obligation to express.
The impossibility alongside the obligation. Or rather a host of impossiblities bundled together before the obligation. It loses its rhetorical force if the order is inverted. The culmination is in obligation. It's not a starting point. But it is not not one either.

And so for day 1340
14.08.2010

O.U.T.

In the "The Fall of 1992" in Poetry April 2010 we find Randall Mann's poetic voice pointing to something so dreadful it is hardly named.

[...] And the gin-soaked dread
that an acronym was festering inside.
This particular issue of Poetry has not only poems but also explanations by the poets.
The fall of 1992 was an Ecstasy — and booze-fueled, boy-crazy time for me, the season I "came out," as if I needed to make it official (I didn't unlock the closet door so much as push back the beads). [...] Sex equaled death then, or so I imagined (the "acronym" mentioned in the poem is AIDS); in the fall of 1992, I was oversexed, and I don't remember the half of it; as a consequence when I wasn't numb, I was often pretty terrified.
And for some reason (sexiness quotient?) my mind turns to Napoleon Solo and other acroynms: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. where U.N.C.L.E. was an acronym for the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement which was intended to be ambiguous and invoke either "Uncle Sam" or the "United Nations". That was a different season. Less deadly.

And so for day 1339
13.08.2010

Flash in the Pan

The words are almost good to eat.

I put the bacon into the pan.
It lies there, lank and perfectly relaxed.
After a few minutes, though, a marvellous transformation
starts: the bacon begins to whisper, then hiss,
sinks down, becomes transparent, bubbles and snaps,
and babbles to itself, turning crinkled and brown and stiff.
As good as this description is from Tom Waymman's Free Time it is not followed by a description of the eating of the bacon. The "Kitchen Poem" does go on to describe the making of a salad and the partaking of a crisp stalk of celery. But what I remember most is the beginning and the implicit analogy between cooked bacon and old age.

And so for day 1338
12.08.2010

In The Flesh

I dreamt that Toronto hosted a Lesbian and Gay Book Fair. There was the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives and Art Metropole (a non-profit artist-run centre incorporated in 1974) and big publishing houses. There were of course readings and sessions on curating, collecting and marketing. I also dreamt that I won the lottery to underwrite the fair and keep entry fees low. It wasn't quite as big as the Frankfurt Buchmesse but it was big. (It was a dream after all.)

In doing some homework I came across a venerable New York City institution: Rainbow Book Fair. A perusal of the exhibitors lead me to renew acquaintance with RFD and its really farout designs and the most amusing expansions of its namesake acronym. It was fun to discover that there was a Canadian presence at the Rainbow Book Fair — the ever rad Arsenal Pulp Press.

With the World Wide Web, one can dream out loud. :) And frolic

And so for day 1337
11.08.2010

Negative Space For Filing

Fulfilling.

I recently came into possession of a micro puzzle from Wentworth Wooden Jigsaw Company (On the Terrace by Auguste Renoir).

The trick to assembling is recognizing pattern through negative space.

Very close in time I encountered a re-modelled supermarket. Gone were the stashes of magazines at checkout. Cleaner sight lines. Product was still available for impulsive purchase. But in a shallow side bin where you would pick up the item and inspect it — a bit more committal than a visual scan of a rack. I really don't care if it is the ubiquitous digital device that has driven the change. I like the new aesthetic.

Visual clutter is vile.

But then again I need to reassess the negative space on my desk top — it would be vile pile of visual clutter by some standards and a fortuitous terrain for the random collisions that all the shuffling sparks by an other standard. But it is easy to make negative space





with filing and coding practices (tucking, grouping, piling).

How like a checkout line is the key board ... a filtering mechanism, a temporary focus in the ongoing stream of product offered for purchase on our attention.

And so for day 1336
10.08.2010

Wet Stones Whet Colour

Barry Lopez in "The Passing Wisdom of Birds" in Crossing Open Ground makes a fine distinction.

[T]hough it is possible to write precisely about something, this does not automatically mean one is accurate.
Which is a sentiment/observation that plays in the back of my mind as I recall an earlier passage ("Yukon-Charley: The Shape of Wilderness") where water magic is at work.
I am drawn later to the water's edge, a primal attraction. Bent over like a heron I start upriver, searching for stones, lured by the sparkling quartzes and smooth bits of glistening debris: maroon and blue, wheat colors, speckled birds' eggs colors, purple, coal — I can settle twenty on the back of my hand, each one a different shade. I could poke here until I dropped of old age. My pockets slowly fill with stones, each tied vaguely to pleasure. It's ten-thirty at night. The sun, low on the northwest horizon, throws light across to a full moon in the southeast sky.
Recalling my own engagement in collecting as a child, I fix vividly upon dry stones bereft of the shine offered by wetness and now at this late remove I remember sucking stones to restore colour. And such sucking reminds me of Beckett's Malloy in the novel of the same name and the rotations of a set of stones through pockets and mouth ... and a passage both precise and accurate.

And so for day 1335
09.08.2010

People Falling Apart Moving On

Coarse. Very course.

It's poetry full of drinking and fucking. Scenes from an urban wasteland. Tales of a company town.

But yet there is poetry here.

A suicide on Friday and damn awkward water
cooler moments Monday
Someone jokes that they should have done it
Thursday
Might have got a long weekend
Someone calls him a bastard and you
were thinking the same thing. Big tragedies.
Bastards.
And it's all going to be reasoned away.
Stress. Home trouble. Something.
No excuses for small things.
Can't blame stress on stress the wife on the wife
something
Won't hold water. Adds up
Fractions like splinters like sharp halves quarters
Adding adding crying jags
Ritual masturbation suicide drinking gambling
something
Other than goddam concrete.
Sales meetings production lines
Company lines assumed like hobby
Obsession
Sidewalks nooses melodrama.
Explainable. Excusable. I'm from Windsor.
They make cars there.
Fractions like splinters this is what we get from the pieces in Jon R. Flieger Never Sleep With Anyone From Windsor (Black Moss Press) and something more. There is a rhythm. It's a wreck but smashed in such a way that to name the city is almost like saying "Stop, stop." and concluding some sort of exorcism. But we are not in the land of demons — it's all reasoned away, even if only by a simple recitation in a mode as relentless as an assembly line. All done to a sound track from Neo Geo "Risky" by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

And so for day 1334
08.08.2010

Sound Sources Sound Quoting

And so it begins... The Gift to be Simple: Songs, Dances and Rituals of the American Shakers (1940) by Edward Deming Andrews

The first Shaker "songs" were wordless tunes. In their meetings at Manchester, on board the ship "Mariah" which took them to America, and at the early preaching stations in the new world, the Believers had n hymns, anthems or spiritual songs expressive of their new-born faith. Taboo were the songs they were accustomed to sing: the anthems of the established sects, the "carnal" verses of British marches, hunting songs, popular ballads and other secular compositions. Singing was either a droning of fragments from the psalms, a babble of "unknown tongues," shouts and outcries of "ho, ho," "halleluiah," etc., or such random sing-song as "do, do, diddle, do" and "too-ral-loo." [p.9]
It is from this book that Jerome Rothenberg selects a piece to include in his 1985 updated edition of Technicians of the Sacred. He adds to the "sounds" section an 1847 Shaker song (Ah pe-an t-as ke t-an te loo) composed of non-English vocables. Rothenberg sets the Shaker song next to songs with Navajo and an Australian Aborigine origins. Fair enough in the context of cross-cultural ethnopoetics. In the commentary he doesn't quite lead us astray but neither does he elaborate at any length on the actual origins of the Shaker song, gift of Indian spirits. He begins by taking Andrews's first sentence (drops by the way the quotation marks around "songs") on page 9 and threads to it a passage from page 29. He does indicate the ellipsis in his quotation from Andrews:
"The first Shaker songs were wordless tunes ... [&] were received from Indian spirits or from the shades of Eskimos, Negroes, Abyssinians, Hottentots, Chinese and other races in search of salvation. Squaw songs, and occasionally a papoose song, were common. When Indian spirits came into the Shaker Church, the instruments would become so 'possessed' that they sang Indian songs, whooped, danced and behaved generally in the manner of 'savages'" (Andrews, p. 29).
It is Rothenberg who places quotation marks around 'savages'. They are absent in Andrews.
During the period of the so-called "manifestations" many "native" songs were received from Indian spirits or from the shades of Eskimos, Negroes, Abyssinians, Hottentots, Chinese and other races in search of salvation (note 49). Squaw songs, and occasionally a papoose song, were common. When Indian spirits came into the Shaker Church, the instruments would become so "possessed" that they sang Indian songs, whooped, danced and behaved generally in the manner of savages.
Note 49 reads:
The Shakers believed that the souls of the dead wandered about until they were converted and entered the Shaker heaven, a celestial community of stately spiritual buildings, gardens of delicious fruits and beautiful trees and flowers. The spirits of departed Believers held intimate communion with mortals who were already traveling the way of regeneration or resurrection. Through such psychic attunement, heavenly songs, melodies and messages could be imparted, and sensitive Shaker instruments could in turn envisage, and hear the voices of, the heavenly saints.
Rothenberg appends the following comment to his quotation from Andrews: "As such, they [these gift songs from Indian spirits] show the kind of connection between ideological & formal innovation that has characterized many movements-of-recovery, past & present." To which we append this observation from Andrews:
Usually, at the beginning of the meeting, the rounds and marches were ceremoniously performed; but as we shall see, orderly services sometimes turned into what was called "a quick meeting," or "Shaker high," when dancing would return to its earlier, the "back" or "promiscuous" form, and the singing, regardless of spectators, partake of a substance and quality not provided for in the printed hymnals.
From one collector, Rothenberg, to another, Andrews, we receive gifts when we track the sources through their material spaces, spirits notwithstanding. It is our own sort of salvation through sound.

And so for day 1333
07.08.2010

Surplus Surplus

From the collector of definitions.

Flâneur: dandy, stroller, person at ease in a kaleidoscope of turns.
From the philosopher-poet.
In the paradise of ceaseless commerce and consumption, where nothing can ever be lacking, some things are nonetheless impossible to find. One of them is cumulative thought; another is the unhurried privacy on which all thought depends. It is curious that mental independence should wither away in the face of constant surplus — but in the shopping mall, that is what occurs.
Robert Bringhurst. "A Poet and A War" in Everywhere Being Is Dancing
From the satirist, two anecdotes. Related here in reverse order of their appearance. Both hilariously funny.
But I really think this has gone too far, this worship of choice. I take my mum out for a cup of coffee and I say, "What would you like?" and I get quite impatient if she says, with surprise, "Um, a cup of coffee?" I want her to specify what size, what type, whipped cream or no whipped cream, choice of sprinkle, type of receptacle, type of milk, type of sugar — not because either of us cares about how such stuff, but because I'm expecting all these questions at the counter, and you look daff if you dither.

"I would have whole-heartedly agreed with you, Ms Truss, if you had not fatally undermined your authority by committing a howler of considerable dimensions quite early in the book, on page 19. I refer, of course, to the phrase 'bow of elfin gold'. Were you to consult The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981), you would find in letter 236 that Professor Tolkien preferred the term 'elven' to 'elfin', but was persuaded by his editors to change it. Also, it was the dwarves who worked with gold, of course; not the elves. Finally as any student of metallurgy would instantly confirm, gold is not a suitable element from which to fashion a bow, being at once too heavy and too malleable. With all good wishes, enjoyed your book immensely, keep up the good work, your fan."
Lynne Truss. Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door
For me Bringhurst's images bring to mind the figure of the forager who also encounters a cornucopia and makes a judicious choice in harvesting: it is not so much that the surplus is the cause of all the trouble but our attitude to the surplus.

Truss is splendid when these disparate passages are connected to bring to mind the relation between abundant offerings and the art of the connoisseur. The link between choices on offer and the making of choices is tenuous. Imagine if you will riffling through pages of a book (sadly missing an index: no "Tolkien", no "coffee") to track down the appropriate anecdote and compare that to a leisurely amble through its pages. Different ways of consuming.

In both of these instances, I am reminded of the work of Jane Jacobs and the evolution of city neighbourhoods and would like to emphasize that the choices on offer may disappear.

And so for day 1332
06.08.2010

Once, Out of Night, Unbidden

She has a cycle of poems under the rubric "Home: A Calendar" in which "March thaw, March snow" features a descriptions of crocuses.

their white tongues poking
unbidden from the loam:
pale children, tentative and lean,
summer's hope a linen napkin
held to the lips, once, softly
I recall that another species of crocus (Colchicum autumnale) blooms in the fall and although its presence is not evident in "October" which ends the home/calendar sequence — the poem, indeed the book, is spacious enough to admit the reader's wandering — and the March image of the crocuses as napkins held, once, to the lips is part of the whole catalogue of "these moments of luminous grace" holding beauty and grief and set as a sign "here" indicating "this is the way to come home". These moments call out beyond the immediate sequence to the preceding sequence in honour of Bronwen Wallace who died of cancer of the mouth. That sequence is called "The Sound of the Birds". There the last poem of the sequence ends with the line "the dark heart of a night without song". That is the beginning point of the calendar, the round of time, that is a route to a final resting. This is the way of Carolyn Smart in The Way to Come Home. Or to read softly, it once was, because home may become a night without song and initiate another journey.

And so for day 1331
05.08.2010

Held Hold A Hearing

Lisa Gordon offers poems constructed out of a series of couplets almost like ghazals in Moving in with the Dalai Lama. Often they, the couplets, float off and dissipate with the onrush of the next set. This one is an exception from the title poem.

The oak sawed away at this morning never held a tree house.
I could love a leaf.
I regularly misremember the line about the tree house. I invariably have the oak personified and never "hearing about a tree house".

And so for day 1330
04.08.2010

Reordering: Crossing Open Ground

I once copied out and added line endings to a passage from Crossing Open Ground — Barry Lopez writes in "Landscape and Narrative"

Inherent in story is the power to
reorder a state of psychological
confusion through contact with
the pervasive truth of those
relationships we call "the land."
From these newly disposed lines, I went on to ponder the mechanism of story.
Story as a means of sorting. What strikes me here in this discourse of balance and harmony is the equivalent role of story as disturbing — confusing perception to arrive at greater psychological order; l'épreuve. I think of this especially since Lopez invokes the song/ritual ways of the Navaho which I've encountered textually in Rothenberg's anthology. What I recall from that reading, is the great mass or repetition with very careful and minute repetition that plays upon symmetry — remembering longer patterns esp. The Enemy Way.

19/02/98
Not only the power to reorder but also the reordering of power.

And so for day 1329
03.08.2010

Halting Point & Tetrahedron Spin

e.e. cummings
"no then of winter equals now of spring"

Helen Guri
"It is hard to know the difference between body / and story, even though I have one" ("Some Containers and Ways to Make Them Spill" in Here Come the Waterworks)

These aperçu of the passage of time and the intertwining of body and story are worth keeping in mind when reading this bit about the Narcissus-themed approach to subjectivity in T.S. Eliot.

As Narcissus knows, to love oneself is to dream oneself away: "I would that my love were absent from me." To write is to inscribe one's absence from oneself: temporal division, for the self that was eludes the self that is, while the written and the writing selves can never coincide; spatial division, for writing externalizes memory and halts the flux of subjectivity.
Maud Ellman. "The spider and the weevil: self and writing in Eliot's early poetry" in Post-structuralist Readings of English Poetry edited by Richard Machin and Christopher Norris.
I am intrigued here by the punctuation. A colon before the temporal division and a semi-colon before the spatial division. A typographical trick sitting along different borders that hints at different temporalities and dimensions at play in these divisions along the writing/written axis. And so we turn to the editors in their introduction to recall the very malleable notion that is subjectivity.
And just as the developmental history of the subject is defined by developmental changes in what the subject knows, so our notion of subjectivity is itself produced, and threatened, by what we know and by how we account for our knowledge. In a subject-centred universe knowledge, understanding and personal identity are held in a disconcertingly fine balance. This is perhaps why it seems so important for us to maintain a coherent picture of literary history, with a firm if diffuse basis in the past and a sharp relevance in the present. Take away that coherence, and we are in danger of falling off the top of the pyramid.
I am puzzled by the figure of the pyramid. It stems from the three sides that are understanding, personal identity and knowledge. I am more of the mind that one holds the pyramid in hand and turns it to view its facets. It is not so much a question of being on top but one of vis-a-vis. In the tetrahedron under question I can make out three sides (personal identity, knowledge, understanding) and one unnamed side. I risk to venture that that unnamed side is accounting or the telling or the narration. How then to turn to the question of halting and externalizing memory except to bring into conjunction this externalizing of memory with narration? We have here something more complex than a written-writing pair. There is at play on these surfaces signified-signifier relations. Halting and coherence are temporary site-specific moments.

And so for day 1328
02.08.2010

Book Mark Gateway

A while back Doug Miller Books in Toronto put out some lovely book markers that depict characters from among the bookseller's favourite works.

From left to right I must admit to having misidentified Lyle as Barney the Dinosaur and (with help) succeeded in correctly matching names to faces and in presenting the cast to you. Human search engines can be so nice.

And so for day 1327
01.08.2010