Regressions and Leaping

Helen Humphreys "Postscript" in the "Souvenirs" section of Nuns Looking Anxious Listening to Radios — these are the concluding words pointing to an event or space beyond words…

When language has abandoned us
and we can say
perhaps just one thing
that will be understood,
what do we choose
to say of ourselves?

What sound will tell
of who we are?
Let us travel beyond the border of what may be communicated with or without language to the ever present nothingness. This is the telling sound of who we are.
Ants

Nothing exists, yet fascinating
The ants scurrying in moonlight.

It is the eye deceives:
The ants—they are but moonlight.

The idea of being's impossible:
There's neither moon nor ants.
Shinkichi Takahashi Afterimages: Zen Poems translated by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto.

And so for day 1479
31.12.2010

PRODiGiOUS

BIG, BIGGER, BIGGEST.

prodigious
adjective
prodigious quantities of food: enormous, huge, colossal, immense, vast, great, massive, gigantic, mammoth, tremendous, inordinate, monumental; amazing, astonishing, astounding, staggering, stunning, remarkable, phenomenal, terrific, miraculous, impressive, striking, startling, sensational, spectacular, extraordinary, exceptional, breathtaking, incredible; informal humongous, stupendous, fantastic, fabulous, mega, awesome, ginormous; literary wondrous. ANTONYMS small, unexceptional.

from Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus
Some modesty in a well-turned epigram:
for as lavish prodigality is brutish, so miserable covetousness is hellish.
This reads as a nice and succinct motto for which to guide oneself. Our author, Gevase Markham, uses it to close an extensive period.
She must be temperate.

Next unto this sanctity and holiness of life, it is meet that our English housewife be a woman of great modesty and temperance as well inwardly as outwardly: inwardly, as in her behaviour and carriage towards her husband, wherein she shall shun all violence of rage, passion, and humour, coveting less to direct than to be directed, appearing ever unto him pleasant, amiable, and delightful; and though occasion, mishaps, or the misgovernment of his will may induce her to contrary thoughts, yet virtuously to suppress them, and with a mild sufferance rather to call him home from his error, than with the strength of anger to abate the least spark of his evil, calling into her mind that evil and uncomely language is deformed though uttered even to servants, but most monstrous and ugly when it appears before the presence of a husband: outwardly, as in her apparel and diet, both which she shall proportion according to the competency of her husband's estate and calling, making her circle rather strait than large, for it is a rule if we extend to the uttermost we take away increase, if we go a hair breadth beyond we enter into consumption, but if we preserve any part, we build strong forts against the adversities of fortune, provided that such preservation be honest and conscionable; for as lavish prodigality is brutish, so miserable covetousness is hellish.
A prodigious set of instructions from Gervase Makham The Well-Kept Kitchen Penguin Great Food series — excerpts from The English Housewife (1615)

And so for day 1478
30.12.2010

Postcolonial Posey

Take the ending of "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth

For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.
Recall the foreignness of the flower and the impositions of empire when verbally transplanted to tropical shores.

J. Edward Chamberlain "Dances with Daffodils: Wordsworth and the Postcolonial Cannon" [in Canon Vs. Culture: Reflections on the Current Debate edited by Jan Groak]
Nobody in England much liked Wordsworth's Daffodil poem (as he occasionally called it) when it first appeared, and nearly two hundred years later, nobody much likes it still, certainly nobody with post-colonial credentials, and yet there are few poems in the English language as familiar. Most people who know any poetry at all can recite some of its lines; and there are a lot of poets would love to write as unlikable a poem as that.
See how these preoccupations travel through Julie Joosten Light Light from BookThug.

the light losing our words


Once in a filed of abandoned hives.

Once with my eyes I, ghostly, felt a river dry to clay, lay quiet beneath a blank sky.

Once there was a field, a river, there were mountains. I saw reflections like phantoms, a surface of forgotten water, said take the curve of a daffodil

bending toward snow, but leave the field.

They took nothing, left a memory of river, wild raspberry, and honey.
The poem seems to close in on itself with a return to the hive-honey connection. And the reader experiences an expansion of the palette through an appeal to the sense of taste and smell. Unlike the canonical press of "ten thousand dancing in the breeze" we have the minimalism of the curve of a single daffodil image jumping the stanza to bend towards snow. But the poem sequence will metaphorically stomp on…
the light gentles the daffodil upward


honours daffodils broken from the stem, daffodils frozen before
flowering, daffodils stepped on, driven over, eaten, ignored

honours days without light, ground without water, plants that flower
too early and those that flower too late, bulbs that never sprout

and light at different angles touching other grounds.
writerly ecology honoured mud-splattered trampled

And so for day 1477
29.12.2010

Forgot Begot

reconstructions: gathering sparkling lines

Julie Joosten
Light Light

A slip — an epithet binding —

I debt unsung
fragile and yet strong
life ventures on a thread of song
song cancelling out debt
I didn't know who I was or where I was. The wonderful calm of forgetfulness. Each time I recall it there is nothing to compare it to. Remembering forgetting as an incomparable delight and calm.
the incomparable but not unfulfilled

And so for day 1476
28.12.2010

Hartshorn

Penguin has a series called Great Food in which is Gervase Markham The Well-Kept Kitchen which is collection of excerpts from the The English Housewife (1615).

Advice is dispensed on keeping the kitchen garden.

In February, the new of the moon, she may sow spike, garlic, borage, bugloss, chervil, coriander, gourds, cresses, marjoram […] The moon old, sow holy thistle, cole cabbage, white cole, green cole, cucumbers, hartshorn, dyer's grain, cabbage-lettuce, melons, onions, parsnips, lark-heal, burnet, and leeks.
If the reader were to rely upon the Glossary one would be perplexed because :"hartshorn" is given as "the horn or antler of a a hart or wild deer". Used as a leavening agent as exemplified in the other instances of the occurrence of the word in the recipes. So what is this "hartshorn" that grows in the garden?

In the McGill-Queen's University Press edition, Michael R. Best gives one the following gloss:
A name given to several wild plants, most commonly Plantago coronopus, hartshorn plantain; the mystery as to why such a plant should be cultivated in the housewife's garden is solved by reference to Markham's source. In Maison Ruistique the plant is "corne de boeuf"; hartshorn is given by Cotgrave (1611) as the translation of "corne de cerf." "Corne boeuf" is translated by the more probable "herb fenugreek."
And ever faithful Wikipedia gives (bringing one away from fenugreek and back towards plantain)…
Le plantain corne de cerf (Plantago coronopus) encore appelé pied de corbeau ou plantain corne de bœuf est une plante de la famille des Plantaginacées.

Son nom lui vient de la forme de ses feuilles.
Which leaves find their way into salad: Rediscovered Salad Green: Buckshorn Plantain. By William Woys Weaver, Mother Earth News, April/May 2007.
The succulent, crunchy leaves are best when harvested young, and taste a little like parsley, spinach or kale, but sweeter and nuttier. The flavor is best before the plant begins to flower.
Does sound enticing.

And so for day 1475
27.12.2010

Homophonics

What we eat, we are... I found this one. Envious that I did not invent it.

oat of elegance
for
oath of allegiance
This intralinguistic homophonic translation reminds me of these interlinguistic examples:
Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames: The D'Antin Manuscripts
Guillaume Chequespierre and the Oise Salon
Morder Guss Reims: The Gustav Leberwurst Manuscript
N'Heures Souris Rames: The Coucy Castle Manuscript

There is in the higher brow atmosphere:
Louis et Celia Zukofsky, Catullus
bpNichol, Translating Translating Apollinaire
Robert Kelly, Celan

And other examples provided by Charles Bernstein in a listing of "experiments" on the Electronic Poetry Center WWW site, all of the utmost haute élégance..

And so for day 1474
26.12.2010

Old Words and Ancient Smells

Robert Kelly on old words: "They store the power of long attention to things in the world […]" (introduction to Thomas Meyer The Umbrella of Aesculapius)

Maybe this is a bit of what lead him to those reflections

Sun & wind
      the smell, estragon, of another country
& the field
      spread with shit
The leafy greenness of tarragon is evoked — a scent really only released in close up - gives way to the ripe earthiness of manured fields. A circle of life and decay is honoured.

And so for day 1473
25.12.2010

Nostalgic Risks

Having been taught long ago to live in the present, I find fondness for nostalgia puzzling. It has always been seen by me as a benign appreciation of the past. Or so it was until I read a story by Kim Stanley Robinson "The Lucky Strike" in The Best Alternate History Stories of the 20th Century edited by Harry Turtledove. The protagonist, a reluctant soldier, looks upon the future of men whose most vital experiences were honed by war.

His mind spun forward and he saw what these young men would grow up to be like as clearly as if they stood before him in businessmen's suits, prosperous and balding. They would be tough and capable and thoughtless, and as the years passed and the great war receded in time they would look back on it with ever-increasing nostalgia, for they would be the survivors and not the dead. Every year of this war would feel like ten in their memories, so that the war would always remain the central experience of their lives — a time when history lay palpable in their hands, when each of their daily acts affected it, when moral issues were simple, and others told them what to do — so that as more years passed and the survivors aged, bodies falling apart, lives in one rut or another, they would unconsciously push harder and harder to thrust the world into war again, thinking somewhere inside themselves that if they could only return to world war then they would magically be again as they were in the last one — young, and free, and happy. And by that time they would hold the positions of power, they would be capable of doing it. […] And to what end? To what end? So that the old men could hope to become magically young again. Nothing more sane than that.
Ah, sanity. I think I will stick with my present madness for the present.

And so for day 1472
24.12.2010

To Keep a Diary

Thomas Meyer. "Isis' Memory" in The Umbrella of Aesculapius

Practice attunes one.

At first the diary of day &/or dream does no more than record, but in its persistence & dullness it instills the keeper with a certain & previously unknown link to matter or hyle. These elements, fundamental matters, are oddly enough not par of personal perception; they come upon us unawares. They are sought indirectly by the heart.
*
Ears, thoughts, words & the day echoes
Shakespeare by way of T.S. Eliot "This music crept by me upon the waters"

Why now? Why here? A fil conducteur … the bare thread of a connection in the simple preposition "upon" and the souffle of a constant "w".

always upon us unawares

And so for day 1471
23.12.2010

Who?

Thomas Meyer is a master of the epigrammatic form. His condensations open up and waft like honeysuckle.

Ghost stories have all the facts
& none of the
                   answers.
from The Bang Book

And so for day 1470
22.12.2010

Con Stellations

Souvankham Thammavongsa in Small Arguments has a number of portraits of fruit. This one is not there. It shines in another galaxy. It comes from an earlier chapbook Still Life and provides a lovely coda to the suite of poems gathered therein.

"A Starfruit" has an epigraph from Nietzsche: "One must still have chaos within oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star."

Its constellation is bounded / to ground / where you can reach / without the earn of sky // When you do this / time will be no birds / who will lose their navigation, / no boat will run off course, / no light lost to some farmer // There is no consequence / when you offer to plate / the stars / that do not come / from sky, from a chaos within

The "earn of sky" — one yearns for it. Like a debt balanced out.

And so for day 1469
21.12.2010

Pet Metaphors

Robert Kelly introduction to Thomas Meyer The Umbrella of Aesculapius.

Each age of poetry seems to have a pet metaphor drawn from other arts for an inward vision of its own nature; so in the sixteenth the stage, seventeenth the choir, eighteenth the senate or the coffee-house, so in our century [20th] we seem to have toyed with the image of ourselves as dancers and our shared work as a most complex dance. […] Writing the poem, then, is discovery, trobar, finding the music and cooperating with the linguistic event — a dance sometimes of standing aside. [dated Feb. 1974]
And would the informing metaphor for this our 21st century be the network? Link to link, node to node.

To borrow and extrapolate Jane Gregory's blurb to Julie Joosten's Light Light, poetic practice involves putting
the hive back in archive, the source in the resource
Net Work - the great task of knitting the knots. That is poetry for our time.

And so for day 1468
20.12.2010

Matériel

Monique Wittig on the challenge from "One is not born a woman" (1981) in The Straight Mind and Other Essays

This operation of understanding reality has to be undertaken by every one of us: call it a subjective, cognitive practice. The movement back and forth between the levels of reality (the conceptual reality and the material reality of oppression, which are both social realities) is accomplished through language.
Which va-et-vient leads me to Claude Beausoleil Promenade Modern Style (Montréal: Éditions Cul-Q, 1975) — the text is gathered on cards in a small portfolio, each card carrying handwriting and on the verso a different picture of Marlene Dietrich. The elements of course in good modernist style can be shuffled and read in any order.

l'épiderme le rose toujours en murmures dans la voix rauque du décor artificiel des alliances temporaires ces coalitions de chair the devil is a woman au flanc de l'écriture qui se déplace comme seule profondeur de l'extériorité élaborée sans utopie en travaillant le support ténu des lèvres
an attempt to transfer the works
epidermal pink always murmuring in the husky voice set in an artificial decor of temporary alliances and carnal coalitions - the devil is a woman - flanked by writing displacing itself as the only depth (response) to the elaborated exteriority without utopiques while working the thin frame of the lips
it deserves another reworking, perhaps softer lighting

And in case you are wondering about the pairing of Beausoleil and Witting, Promenade Modern Style has an epigraph from Rose poussière by Jean Jacques Schuhl which reads "Marlène Dietrich notre seule déesse avec Karl Marx". Simply nowhere but in the coming and going of language.

And so for day 1467
19.12.2010

In the Mode of Overheard

John Adams on the meaning of transmigration [from an interview was originally posted on the New York Philharmonic web site in September of 2002], a meaning the matches well with his intent to create a "mind space" for meditation.

And I don’t just mean the transition from living to dead, but also the change that takes place within the souls of those that stay behind, of those who suffer pain and loss and then themselves come away from that experience transformed.

http://www.earbox.com/on-the-transmigration-of-souls/
His goes on to caution against a simple reception.
I am always nervous with the term “healing” as it applies to a work of art. I am reminded that we Americans can find a lot of things “healing”. These days a criminal sentenced to death is executed and then we speak of “healing”. It’s perplexing. So it’s not my intention to attempt “healing” in this piece. The event will always be there in memory, and the lives of those who suffered will forever remain burdened by the violence and the pain. Time might make the emotions and the grief gradually less acute, but nothing, least of all a work of art, is going to heal a wound of this sort. Instead, the best I can hope for is to create something that has both serenity and the kind of “gravitas” that those old cathedrals possess.
Perhaps the gravitas is also related to scale. As David Schiff writes in the liner notes to the CD [On the Transmigration of Souls] reprinted from an essay that appeared in the April 2003 issue of The Atlantic Monthly
In the months that followed the catastrophe, 9/11 became a source more of civic pride than of nationalism. The heroes were policemen and firemen, not soldiers; a mayor, not a president. The names read on television and the short biographies in the Times reminded New Yorkers of their diversity and their commonality. […] He has created a music the mirrors and exalts the public wisdom.
In an NPR interview Adams likens the naming of names in his piece to the AIDS quilt (The Names Project). This lead be back to a "mind space" of my own and finding the Canadian quilt online and remembering Chris Ingold "chemist, leatherman, dead by his own hand, fighting" and I now learn that there is a bursary in his honour at Queen's. And Tubular Bells just came into my sound stream - Chris would have loved that.

And the recitation of names as a form dates back to long ago…
A calendar, or obituary register, was maintained, in which the names of all those entitled to commemoration were entered on the appropriate day. As the years went by the number of anniversaries naturally multiplied, but it was enormously increased by agreements between monastic communities for mutual commemoration, and one of the attractions of such great confederations as the Order of Cluny was precisely the interchange of names for commemorative purposes. The result was that by the twelfth century some of the registers of names contained thousands of entries, ranging from kings and bishops to ordinary monks and laity. (p. 152) [With a marked impact on the distribution of food to the poor that was the custom to mark these anniversaries…] By the middle of the twelfth century the great abbey of Cluny itself was overwhelmed by its cumulative obligations to the dead and was obliged not only to abandon the attempt to commemorate every monk and benefactor individually, but also drastically to cut down its distribution of food to the poor. (p. 153)

Howard Colvin, Architecture and the After-Life
Of mourning there shall be no end… Mark 14:7 "For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always."

I return to listening to Tubular Bells and remembering Chris.

And so for day 1466
18.12.2010

Wink Wink

The limitations of flirtation.

IX

our winks
waste a good thing
Thomas Meyer, from "Ten love notes"
in The Umbrella of Aesculapius

The flirtations of limitations.

And so for day 1465
17.12.2010

A Viral N

Jim Smith.
Virus
Underwich Editions, 1983

A truncated alphabet (each section being labelled with a letter and the series ending at O)

N is distinguished by its line breaks (the others have run on prose).

You wake up one morning and you've never seen the colour blue. No one told
you. You realize they all felt sad.
One hundred years of solitude sits on your beside table.
Blake lies on the floor by your bed.
The Spicer book is beside the bottle of Canadian Club.
It is still life. With or without blue.
Your penis was larger last night.
Technological terrorism.
This reads like a set piece that could be updated with a pastiche swapping out the authors and titles but not the Canadian Club. The one book presiding but unmentioned is William H. Gass On Being Blue.

And so for day 1464
16.12.2010

States of Denial

This seems to be a call against stringent skepticism.

Science can no more deny that there is something to "know" and that knowledge stands for a worth, than can religion deny that there is something to worship.
from Robert Duncan, As Testimony (San Francisco: White Rabbit Press, 1964)

But it seems to invoke for this reader Francis Bacon's categorization of Idols (and hints at a serpentine return of skepticism were is not for the divine idols).
According to Aphorism XXIII of the First Book, Bacon makes a distinction between the Idols of the human mind and the Ideas of the divine mind: whereas the former are for him nothing more than “certain empty dogmas”, the latter show “the true signatures and marks set upon the works of creation as they are found in nature” (Bacon IV [1901], 51).

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/francis-bacon/#NatTheIdoSysSci
Could it be that two senses of "deny" cover different domains? Deny: contradict. Deny: reject, rebuff. The one action belonging to science and the other to religion, respectively.

And so for day 1463
15.12.2010

Small Argument with Small Arguments

There are two versions of "Water"

2001 - Still Life
2003 - Small Arguments


takes shape / uncertain of its own / in the palm, in glass / lifting to drain

and takes shape / uncertain of its own: // in the palm of a hand / a glass lifted to drain

I like the version better from the chapbook Still Life which was

Distributed in Canada by the author
Published without assistance
Typeset Book Antiqua, 6 point, photocopied
in the palm, glass

is succinct and evocative — an envious combo
the version in Small Argument seems by contrast cluttered
the version in Still Life wavers on the theme of uncertainty and succeeds in conveying stillness in the midst of movement; an accomplishment

In 2002 "Water" won the Lina Chartrand Award. One wonders in which version. in palm, in glass

And so for day 1462
14.12.2010

Thermometer Metrics

It's been animated by Kat Burns.
http://souvankham-thammavongsa.com/thermometer.html

What I miss in viewing the animation is the columnar display of the poem on the page.

Thermometer, A Diagram of


The human body
is marked

between
two points

The point
water boils

The point
water freezes

This
is where

it lives
and how

Somewhere
between two points
Who & Where: Souvankham Thammavongsa. Residual (2006, Greenboathouse Books, Victoria, B.C.)

What I admire in this poem is the restraint and the ghosting of "where". See the two points. These stanzas omit the expected "where": The point/ water freezes. Its omission here gives added strength to its appearance later: This / is where. Its an effect trained by attentive staring at a thermometer and the meniscus of the mercury. And how.

And so for day 1461
13.12.2010

Genetic Litterbug

If you find yourself referring to babies as sperm sculptures, you might like section four ("The First-Born") in James Merrill's Peter where you can find a beautiful line about the subject of the poem who is no slouch in the paternity department. "Fact is, you've children everywhere." The subject is not inclined to muster ongoing support for the products of procreation. "But figure you help them more in the long run / By not helping now." The poet late in the poem exclaims "Genetic litterbug!" Apt turn of phrase for the man uninterested in curating his output.

And so for day 1460
12.12.2010

Cadence

Robert Creeley in conversation with Ekbert Faas (Towards a New American Poetics: Essays & Interviews) reminisces about Beckett — his voice and his way of speaking, selecting words while moving along with pauses etc.

He spoke in this very, not tentative way, but at times there'd be pauses, he'd begin to say something and then he'd sort of test it in his mind, then return to its continuance, say a little more, check it out, you see. He spoke, not haltingly as though he were impeded in some physical way, but constantly checking what he was saying so that I had no idea what time it was. I mean I realized finally it was six in the morning, so the thing I most specifically remember is that extraordinary creation of a word that should have no other cause but itself.
A passage in Thomas Meyer "Isis' Memory" in The Umbrella of Aesculapius captures a similar pitch…
& the most astonishing fact on which poetry thrives is that every sentence (or projected unit of utterance) once begun CAN stop, not complete itself & begin again as a new sentence related or unrelated to its own initial impulse or sound. No where else in the cosmos is this aspect of will & magic so clearly & precisely manifest.
Intriguing to note that the option of carrying on depends totally on the ability to not carry on. Leave off.

And so for day 1459
11.12.2010

Precision Proofing

Billy Bragg "Rotting on Remand" on Workers Playtime 1988

I said there is no justice
As they led me out of the door
And the judge said, "This isn't a court of justice son
This a court of law."
Interesting that the liner to the CD elides the "is" in "This a court of law" but it pops up again in the lyrics available all over the World Wide Web. The missing copula is indeed pronounced on the sound track. I kind of relish the magistrate swallowing a word. But it would spoil the beat. And that would not be doing justice to the song.

And so for day 1458
10.12.2010

Feline Escapades

The Peripheral. William Gibson.

Voice being piped from within. A bone voice.

It made dragging your fingernails across a chalkboard seem like stroking a kitten.
A kitten with claws of course. And this test run of a cognitive bundle implant that produces art world jargon.
West's oeuvre obliquely propels the viewer through an elaborately finite set of iterations, skeins of carnal memory manifesting an exquisite tenderness, but delimited by our mythologies of the real, of body. It isn't about who we are now, but about who we would be, the other.
Designed to make you want to scratch — and fitting for describing an artist who gets tattoos and collects flayed epidermis to exhibit the narratives captured by those very tattoos. Quite the coup to produce the discursive inflections of a neoprimitivist curator with just the right dose of bafflement and believability.

I have been quoting these in reverse order from their appearance in the novel. All the better to sharpen a set of claws on this take on periodization and historical awareness.
Eras are conveniences, particularly for those who never experienced them. We carve history from totalities beyond our grasp. Bolt labels on the the result. Handles. Then speak of the handles as though they were things in themselves.
Of course the character listening to this states having no idea how anything could be otherwise. The kitten has grown into a Cheshire cat.

And so for day 1457
09.12.2010

Reader as Camera

George Steiner expresses with beautiful precision "At their finest, the criteria of orality and the cinematographic fuse perfectly" in his review of Christopher Logue's War Music [Times Literary Supplement 15 February 2002]. The directions emerge from the action.

[Achilles has just made his speech about withdrawing his forces.]

Silence.

Reverse the shot.

Go close.

Hear Agamemnon […]
That first "silence" could be a description of the reaction to the speech of Achilles. It comes to assume the force of an injunction to be quiet on set as the directions unfold.

The deliciousness of the passage is underscored by the fact that what is being exchanged are shots albeit verbal.

And so for day 1456
08.12.2010

Go Little Book

Zines are even more ephemeral than chapbooks. I wonder how this from Jes Walsh made its way from Berlin to Toronto. Jes uses Etsy to get product out — this may be a route for these small [approximated 4 inches by 5 1/2 inches ] creations to have reached our shores.



One even comes with a seed packet taped in with instructions to plan indoors Mar-Jul accompanied by a wish of Good Luck!

Myra Phan proves more illusive. Some online presence relating to OCAD. The URL artfully inscribed by hand on a small piece of tape on the cover her zine sketchbook is now defunct. The WayBackMachine at the Internet Archive records a posting from Dec 10 (2008) presenting and promising "Another anatomically incorrect drawing: I’m going to make a series of them and bind them all together". Myra's zine comes with a strip of paper wrapping round the covers providing the only words to accompanying photoreproduced sketches inside.

drawing has taught me that rewards come after
persistency and patience.

repetition has taught me to appreciate
the most subtle differences in everything.

The fate of small books let loose into the world has inspired poets since at least Martial to apostrophize and wish them well. One of my favourites is Byron at the end of Canto 1 of Don Juan quoting Southey [and satirizing him by the way].
'Go, little book, from this my solitude!
I cast thee on the waters—go thy ways!
And if, as I believe, thy vein be good,
The world will find thee after many days.'
Little books have a long history. See the online exhibition Go, Little Book: Portable Medieval Manuscripts from the Beinecke Library which nicely puts hands in the picture to give a sense of scale.

And so for day 1455
07.12.2010

Global Joke

Play on an expression figée nets an interesting double take.

GAME VS. REAL

There are typos
all over the word.
Jason Christie. Canada Post. (Snare Books, 2006)

And so for day 1454
06.12.2010

Deictic Delights

It's a typographic joy with all its whitespace and judicious mix of fonts.

Sparrow 66
Black Sparrow Press, March 1978

It features a poem by Gerard Malanga "This Will Kill That". As with many paratextual matters, not sure if the frontispiece is meant to be part of the poem. It can certainly stand alone.

The triangle, hemicircle and the square remind me of the three base shapes of kindergarten gifts. [See Inventing Kindergarten by Norman Brosterman: sphere, cylinder, cube].

The last page turns from architecture to mirrors. Floating on the page are two simple but forceful lines:
This will kill that.
You are that.
Challenging to evade the threat. Not however impossible. Casuistry to the rescue.

The "you" is part of the "that" if one takes as referent of "that" to be the two lines on the page. The day will arrive when this is indeed the case. And on that day "this" will die. Of course the dead this may be made more lethal by its dying.

And so for day 1453
05.12.2010

GMO Enviro

Next entry will be devoted to translation as trafficking

This is the next entry.

In her Translator's Preface, Catherine Porter indicates that Avital Ronell had a hand in revising the English-language draft. She "frequently made small changes in the language." I thought these were limited to her part in the interviews collected in Fighting Theory. Turns out that she also tampered with the rendering of the interventions by Anne Dufourmantelle.

It took me a long time to understand why such prohibitions were established, for genetically modified plants, for example. Beyond the fact that they are tampered with (but everything is tampered with, and this has been true for a very long time — in antiquity plants were already being tampered with), why does this cause such anxiety all of a sudden? I finally understood that, if transgenic corn is planted in ordinary soil, the harvest is twice as resistant, and it's certain that no disease will attack it, but the seeds don't reproduce themselves, and the next crop has to be started from newly purchased seed. The plant exhausts the soil and doesn't reproduce itself. Something may be gained, but at what price? When one begins to think about it philosophically, it seems completely terrifying.
"Tampered" is a strange, somewhat mutant, rendering for "trafiquer" which means to trade in. Commerce is the target. Its short-sightedness particularly.
Il m'a fallu longtemps avant de comprendre pourquoi, par exemple pour les plantes transgéniques, de telles interdictions étaient posées. Outre le fait qu'elles soient trafiquées (mais on trafique tout et depuis très longtemps, depuis l'Antiquité on trafique les plantes), pourquoi tout à coup cela soulève une telle angoisse? J'ai fini par comprendre que, si on plante du maïs transgénique dans une terre normale,la récolte est deux fois plus résistante, on est sûr qu'aucune maladie ne l'attaquera, mais les graines ne se reproduisent pas, et on est obligé de tout replanter. La plante épuise le sol et ne se reproduit pas. Si on y gagne quelque chose, c'est à quel prix? Quand on se met à y penser philosophiquement, cela semble tout à fait effrayant.
"Effrayant" also means "dreadful" which in its etymology is indeed close to "terrifying" but also connotes an aesthetic reaction as in "extremely bad, unpleasant, or ugly".

And so for day 1452
04.12.2010

Moon Sun Owl Crowing

Avital Ronell first brought this Wordsworth poem to my attention in a conversation with Anne Dufourmantelle (Fighting Theory].

[T]his corrosive "thing" that was not legible before and then abruptly emerges or is provoked out of its hiding place. Wordsworth's texts on idiocy are a perfect example. In his time, these were marginal texts that distressed his friend Coleridge, the eminent drug addict. The later, the great philosophical erectus, tried to convince Wordsworth not to write such indigestible texts; he said that such writing was pure regression, and he was sincerely horrified by poems like "Idiot Boy," the one of which Wordsworth was fondest and which those around him found altogether disgraceful. […] However, one day, something in them is going to become readable, for all sorts of reasons and historical availabilities. And Wordsworth for his part adored his own poem on idiocy, though we don't know why. He could never let it go; he never regretted having written it. Worse still, he chose to publish it.
The Idiot Boy ends with in the voice of boy himself relating what he heard and saw after spending the night outdoors amid owls and moonlight. The addressee is the boy's mother.
(His very words I give to you,)
"The cocks did crow to-whoo, to-whoo,
And the sun did shine so cold!"
— Thus answered Johnny in his glory,
And that was all his travel's story,
Inversion. At play. Nocturnal transmissions. Daylight images. What's the potential for corrosion? Finding poetry?

And so for day 1451
03.12.2010

Auden on Audacity

From one experience, an astute set of observations on college life.

AJA: I didn't know that you had taught a Bennington

WHA: Yes, for one term, while someone else was away on a Guggenheim fellowship. Bennington is positively a brothel, you know. Around eleven o'clock one night I heard a knock on my door. A girl came in and simply refused to leave — insisted on staying the night. Oh, they're nice girls, all right. But they talk. The next morning they rush to the telephone and tell everyone all about their night. It used to be that people were more reluctant to tell than to do. Now it's the other way round.

At this point I rose to take leave.
From The Table Talk of W.H. Auden by Alan Ansen.

And so for day 1450
02.12.2010

after life traces

Four Ages of Man: The Classical Myths by Jay Macpherson is a tour through Greek and Roman mythology for high school students. The last chapter is devoted to "The Passing and Afterlife of the Gods" and ends thus — almost as an invitation to study nursery rhymes.

The Pied Piper who can draw rats by his piping is ony one of many magical musicians whose gifts recall those of Orpheus. Psyche's task of sorting a heap of seeds occurs in many familiar stories, and she herself and her mysterious lover meet us again in the tale of Beauty and the Beast. And where was it that we first met Endymion, the sleeping shepherd?
Little boy blue, come blow your horn,
The sheep's in the meadow, the cow's in the corn.
Where is the boy who looks after the sheep?
He's under the haystack, fast asleep.
Will you wake him? No, not I;
For if I do, he's sure to cry.
The disposition of the lines is a bit different in the example collected by Iona and Peter Opie in The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book illustrated by Joan Hassall.

With a magnifying glass one can make our the cow on the right in the corn (grain) and on the left foreground the sheep and behind on the left the little boy asleep near a haystack.

Jay Macpherson chose an illustration that proves her point about longevity and transmutation of stories.

In her notes she explains: "The sleeping shepherd (illustration): this is actually a French mediaeval illustration to the tale of Hermes and Argus. Both are dressed as peasants, and Hermes plays, instead of the classical shepherd's pipe, a simple form of bagpipe." These two different visual treatments of the same poem remind me of emblem books where there is also much borrowing and lasting life.

And so for day 1449
01.12.2010