Death By Chocolate

Long before there was a cake by that name, there was an anecdote:

It was said that a nobleman of Louis XIII's court had offended the honour of one of the ladies-in-waiting. She was so incensed that she poisoned a cup of chocolate she prepared him and just before he died, he held her in his arms and whispered, 'The chocolate would have been better if you had added a little more sugar; the poison gives it a bitter flavour. Think of this the next time you offer a gentleman chocolate.'
Reported by Jennie Reekie in The Little Chocolate Book

And so for day 1949
14.04.2012

Residues For the Colour Blind

These are from a series inspired by Fisher Price alphabet magnets.
Feel Happier in Nine Seconds by Linda Besner

glassblowers trumpet delicate lullabies

darkness worships sparklers
Translated into marked and unmarked letters:
glassblowers trumpet delicate lullabies

darkness worships sparklers
Like turning up the bass … not quite capturing the fluted subtleties of g-l-ass-b-lowers

And so for day 1948
13.04.2012

Colour Analysis

from "Our Baby"

Art irritating Life
from "Your Happy Place May Be in Need of an Undersea Princess"
she said 'caca d'oie' and I said 'war.'
she said 'cuisse de nymphe effrayé' and I said 'peace.'
All in Feel Happier in Nine Seconds by Linda Besner

And so for day 1947
12.04.2012

Hibiscus syriacus

from
James Schuyler
"Sonnet"
in The Home Book

while the trees lean in folds and the rose of Sharon blooms
and blooms at each twig and branch tip like a toy tree
the lines themselves carry over like the overburdened shrub itself — it's that repetition that crosses the enjambement — almost toppling over

And so for day 1946
11.04.2012

Grotesque Appeals

It's from a 1964 speech (The White Problem) collected in The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings. And is given this configuration by Raoul Peck in the film and book, I Am Not Your Negro compiled and edited from texts by James Baldwin:

In this country,
for a dangerously long time,
there have been two levels of experience.
One, to put it cruelly, can be summed up
in the images of Gary Cooper and Doris Day:
two of the most grotesque appeals
to innocence the world has ever seen.
And the other,
subterranean, indispensable, and denied,
can be summed up, let us say,
in the tone and the face of Ray Charles.
And there has never been any genuine confrontation
between these two levels of experience.
What was continuous prose gains a new energy and incision with the line breaks. In the best and most honest of receptions, it forces us to re-read the originating essay and its animating spirit that calls for the facing of truth in order to work through history, recognizing the price of transformation, in order to take the first awkward steps towards survival.

And so for day 1945
10.04.2012

Or Words to That Effect

The fate of a text by F.R. Scott, "W.L.M.K."

I was led to the library copy because I saw multiplied across the WWW citations containing the same error ("oderly decontrol"). The library copy netted another accidental ("conscription is necessary") which one reader corrected in the Robarts Library copy with a big fat F in blue ink which is closer to the popular conditional.

[The "is" is silently corrected to "if" in online versions that netted "oderly decontrol".]

Further research reveals that the often cited phrase "conscription if necessary but not necessarily conscription" reverses the syntax of what William Lyon Mackenzie King uttered in much more compact and clipped phrasing:
"Not necessarily conscription, but conscription if necessary"
But there is space in the popular imagination for poetic liberties.

And so for day 1944
09.04.2012

Between Bites

The main ingredient …

DINNER. A major daily activity, which can be accomplished in worthy fashion only by intelligent people. It is not enough to eat. To dine, there must be diversified, calm conversation. It should sparkle with the rubies of the wine between courses, be deliciously suave with the sweetness of dessert, and acquire true profundity with the coffee.
Alexandre Dumas Dictionary of Cuisine edited, abridged, translated by Louis Colman.

And so for day 1943
08.04.2012

Perfectly Steeped in Its Lore

Robert Finch. "A Cup of Tea" in The Grand Duke of Moscow's Favourite Solo

This begins with a description of the equipment needed and goes on to muse about labour and climate.

[…]

How many gestures till a cup of tea
Is there to drink! The kitchen tap must free
What in the kettle goes, where it must stay
Until it boils. Meanwhile a simple tray
Will come in handy, with a spotless cloth
And napkin, that the whole array be couth.
Next, cup and saucer, most important these,
Since they may make or mar the best of teas,

[…]

The hands that pick and dry and pack the leaves,
Oh, the poor pittance that their work receives

[…]

There are the gestures, too, of sun, wind, rain,
Their cultivating labours and, again,

[…]

The tea is ready. Could more gestures be
Even thinkable? Yes, one more — pour the tea
Sipping tea has rarely been so informed.

And so for day 1942
07.04.2012

Patents

Not always driven by profit motive.

'War,' said I to myself, 'is the evil genius of a time; but good food for all is a daily and a paramount necessity.' These reflections led to a further communication with Messrs. Smith and Philips, of Snow Hill. I took out a patent for the stoves. This I did not like to do before I had introduced them to the Government, as every one would have supposed that I wished to make money by the patent. The object of a patent, after such a decided success, was to secure the solidity and perfection of the article. As it was difficult to make, and certain to be badly imitated, my reputation must have suffered. Instead of being expensive, they will be sold at a reasonable price, sufficient to repay the manufacturers, and to leave a fair profit; thus placing them within the reach of all — the million as well as the millionaire.
Alexis Soyer The Chef at War

And so for day 1941
06.04.2012

No Exit: Many Entrances

Written as if in the shadow of Derrida.

Fresh air always seems freshest outside an archive. We wander down to one of the cafés on campus and sit staring over a sun-drenched lawn dotted with students out enjoying the day. And when talk turns to the Bay Area light and the way Berkeley today looks like a painting from the Sixties or Seventies by David Hockney or Richard Diebenkorn, we catch ourselves wondering whether we can ever really leave the archive.
Deaths of the Poets Paul Farley & Michael Symmons Roberts

And so for day 1940
05.04.2012

Notes on Slave Gardens

Zones…

Scholars have long understood that the slave plantation system was the model and motor for the carbon-greedy machine-based factory system that is often cited as an inflection point for the Anthropocene. Nurtured in even the harshest circumstances, slave gardens not only provided crucial human food, but also refuges for biodiverse plants, animals, fungi, and soils. Slave gardens are an underexplored world, especially compared to imperial botanical gardens, for the travels and propagations of myriad critters.
From Note 5 on "Plantationocene"
Donna Haraway "Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin"
in Environmental Humanities, vol. 6, 2015, pp. 159-165
www.environmentalhumanities.org


A debate waged among southern plantation owners about the desirability of these gardens. Some argued they encouraged domestic tranquility and tied slaves more securely to the land. Others felt the gardens, and the independence they encouraged, led to discontent and distracted slaves from labor in the fields. https://www.monticello.org/site/house-and-gardens/african-american-gardens-monticello
Babbette Block's sculpture
Brookgreen Gardens Lowcountry Trail Sculptures, Murells Inlet, South Carolina
Female Enslaved African Stainless Steel, 8 1/2' high
Male Enslaved African Stainless Steel, 9' high
There is another garden pointing to modern slavery — design by Juliet Sergeant
http://www.modernslaverygarden.com
cultivating a different kind of awareness.

And so for day 1939
04.04.2012

Observations on School for Indians

The poet bears witness.

[…]

We walked through the crowded class-rooms.
No map of Canada or the Territories,
No library or workshop,
Everywhere religious scenes,
Christ and Saints, Stations of the Cross,
Beads hanging from nails, crucifixes,
And two kinds of secular art —
Silk-screen prints of the Group of Seven,
And crayon drawings and masks
Made by the younger children,
The single visible expression
Of the soul of these broken people.

Upstairs on the second storey
Seventy little cots
Touching end to end
In a room 30 by 40
Housed the resident boys
In this firetrap mental gaol.
F.R. Scott "Fort Providence" (Section V of Letter from the Mackenzie River 1956) in The Dance Is One (McClellan and Stewart, 1973).

And so for day 1938
03.04.2012

Process is Not the Same as Flow

My Mother Was a Computer by N. Katherine Hayles.

[…] the world is not a collection of preexisting objects but a continuing stream of processes. Although we customarily assume that the world preexists the processes, from a perceptual point of view the processes come first, and the objects we take as the world emerge from them. It is precisely this flux, this ongoingness of process from which the world emerges, that the realist in effect erases by privileging the underlying forms as the essential reality.
I am moved to ponder sedimentation. "Flux" is the kernel of the concretion. A rest. Arrest.

And so for day 1937
02.04.2012

Profs and Porn Star Names

A most curious error crept into My Mother Was a Computer by N. Katherine Hayles. Montreal professor Eric Savoy appears as Ric Savoy in a discussion of a Henry James story (In the Cage). The name change takes on a deliciously twist since the passage in question is about rent boys and "Ric Savoy" sounds like a hustler. Here is the context in Hayles:

One might generalize this argument by noting that it applies to anyone occupying the subject position of woman. There is historical evidence that at the time James wrote the story he may have been aware of recent scandals involving telegraph boys and prostitution. In Ric Savoy's reading of the story, the allusions to prostitution stand in for the more scandalous prospect of male homosexual prostitution and the fear that the lower-class telegraph boys would testify against their aristocratic clients.
Google Books review function is useful for tagging such errors and generating a list of errata.

And so for day 1936
01.04.2012

One Little One and Another

It was tiny in its first edition. It grew a little. Still palm sized.

Patti Smith Woolgathering

On the back of the dust jacket of the second edition: "Everything contained in this little book is true, and written just like it was. The writing of it drew me from my strange torpor and I hope that in some measure it will fill the reader with a vague and curious joy. — Patti Smith"

And so for day 1935
31.03.2012

The Voyages … The Voices

Star Trek Beyond

Captain James T. Kirk: [epilogue] Space: the final frontier.
Commander Spock: These are the voyages of the starship...
Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott: ...Enterprise. Its continuing mission...
Doctor 'Bones' McCoy: ...to explore strange new worlds...
Sulu: ...to seek out new life...
Chekov: ...and new civilizations...
Lieutenant Uhura: ...to boldly go where no one has gone before.
This coda delivered by a team rings true: I am struck by the pluralism (throughout the movie) and I like the update on the signature send off to make it more gender inclusive.

And so for day 1934
30.03.2012

Addressing Nonaddressing

David Mitchell: What my son's autism has taught me

First up, is that we stop assuming a communicative impairment denotes a cognitive one. Let’s be wary of assuming that behind autism’s speechlessness lies nothing, or nothing to speak of. Instead, let’s assume that we’re dealing with a mind as keen as our own, and act accordingly. Talk to the person. Don’t worry if there’s no evidence he or she understands. Maybe there is evidence, but you’re not recognising it as such. If the person is there, never discuss them as if they’re not, or as if they’re only there like the coat stand is there. If they don’t notice this courtesy, no harm is done; but if they do, then someone who is often treated as a part-object, part-human, total nuisance gets to feel like a real, valid, card-carrying member of society.
The Guardian

And so for day 1933
29.03.2012

Pierce, Strip, Whittle

Elizabeth McLean
The Swallows Uncaged

Ngọc climbed the pole to the thatched roof, hauling her work with her — a bin of rattan splints, which she whittled with her awl until they were thin enough to weave into baskets and fishing nets.
I was tripped up by this passage because I did not associate awls with whittling. For me, whittling is a progressive shaving off accomplished with the blade of a knife. An awl is a pointed tool for piercing. Upon further reflection I could see how a more general definition of whittling as reducing in size could accommodate envisioning the work of an awl especially if dealing with rattan. The character could pierce the rattan splints and strip off a segment thereby thinning.

Still can't quite shake off the suspicion that the selection of "awl" was influenced by the internal rhyme with "haul". A word pierced and stripped: whittled down.

And so for day 1932
28.03.2012

For What Ends Do Your Candles Burn?

From the directions to the butler

Never let the candles burn too low, but give them as a lawful perquisite to your friend the cook, to increase her kitchen-stuff, or if this not be allowed in your house, give them in charity to the poor neighbours, who often run on your errands.
Jonathan Swift Directions to Servants

And so for day 1931
27.03.2012

Degrading Service

The marker here is 'attention' which is marshalled by an implicit (and perhaps dubious) equation (more attention = better quality). This is abandoned in the second example with its stress on 'convenience'. There must be a sweet spot between attention and convenience that spells quality experience.

For some other services, the apparent higher productivity is due to the debasement of the product. A teacher can raise her apparent productivity by four times by having four times as many pupils in her classroom, but the quality of her 'product' has been diluted by the fact that she cannot pay as much individual attention as before. A lot of the increases in retail service productivity in countries such as the US and Britain has been bought by lowering the quality of the retail service itself while ostensibly offering cheaper shoes, sofas and apples: there are fewer sales assistants at shoe stores, so you wait twenty minutes instead of five; you have to wait four weeks, rather than two, for the delivery of your new sofa and probably also have to take the day off work because they will only deliver 'sometime between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.'; you spend much more time than before driving to the new supermarket and walking through the now longer aisles when you get there, because those apples are cheaper than in the old supermarket only because the new supermarket is in the middle of nowhere and thus can have more floor space.
Ha-Joon Chang 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism

And so for day 1930
26.03.2012

Rearrangements

The Politics of Aesthetics Jacques Rancière translated by Gabriel Rockhill.

The 'fictionality' specific to the aesthetic age is consequently distributed between two poles: the potential of meaning inherent in everything silent and the proliferation of modes of speech and levels of meaning.

The real must be fictionalized in order to be thought.

Politics and art, like forms of knowledge, construct 'fictions', that is to say material rearrangements of signs and images, relationships between what is seen and what is said, between what is done and what can be done.
Reminds me of the work of Nicole Brossard on fictions du réel and theory.

And so for day 1929
25.03.2012

Insertion versus Incitement

You said, "He doesn't need to ask questions." He was a senior manager going into a facilitated session with a number of experts in an area that he is not an expert in. So I pondered what you said and thought of it as being anti-intellectual. Upon further reflection I saw differing theories of change competing. I tend to favour the open-ended questioning that brings people to consider options and by consensus arrive at a course of action. The leader incites. The no-questions-asked approach is one of insertion. A strong message is conveyed and in some cases imposed. In short, the leader preaches.

Mary Daly would have had a field day characterizing it as dick-tation.

I tend to favour the optative over the imperative. Except when I'm reading John Preston I Once Had a Master

And so for day 1928
24.03.2012

The Ends of Being and Books

Paved paradise, put up a parking lot - Joni Mitchell

Books had opened in childhood imaginations of other lives in which the idea of our own lives dwelling took on depths and heights, colors and figures, a new ground beyond self or personality in the idea of Man. But this prescribed thing was different, books became materials for examinations. English Literature with its reading lists, its established texts, its inquisitions, was to map our compulsory path in what had seemed before an open country. Work by work, author by author, the right roads were paved and marked, the important sights were emphasized, the civic improvements were pointed out where the human spirit had successfully been converted to serve the self-respect of civil men and the doubtful, impulsively created areas were deplored.

If we, in turn, could be taught to appreciate, to evaluate as we read and to cultivate our sensibilities in the ground of other men's passions, to taste and to regulate, to establish the new thing in the marketplace, we were to win some standing in the ranks of college graduates, and educated middle class, urbane and professional, as our parents had done before us.
Robert Duncan The H.D. Book "We" and "us" achieved too easily — all that paved territory of tradition was a wide vista for those of us from a different class — to be fair, Duncan may not be including the reader in that "us" but simply his classmates. Still the dichotomy rankles.

It is in the pluralism of men that I locate the quotidian work that opens up the micro-spaces of "doubtful, impulsively created areas". And I say "men" because that is where my desire tends. There is a hint there in Duncan "in the ground of other men's passions." Not in some idea of a capitalized Man.

And so for day 1927
23.03.2012

Sartorial Markers

Like a master class in Bourdieu's Distinction

Gilbert, who noted the contrast with the true Washington style, in which evening clothes were as dowdy as the equivalent daytime dress, either because the important people weren't rich or were politically motivated to look frazzled, was sorry his own clothes were perfect and new. He knew that for people of position in Washington, evening clothes were working clothes, and therefore, both the men's and the women's tended to be sensible, unmemorable, and slightly worn.
Judith Martin. Gilbert

And so for day 1926
22.03.2012

On the Hob

Nigel Slater Eat: The little book of fast food

Unlike opening the oven door, grabbing a tea towel and sliding out the baking dish, you simply have to lift the lid and you are immediately in touch with your food. This is the food whose smell fills our kitchen as we cook. It brings us to the table. The joy of stirring a dish while we drink and chat with those we are feeding. Cooking on the hob allows us to get closer to our cooking than roasting or baking. It allows us a sniff, a peep, a stir, a taste. The very best sort of hands-on cooking.
Disguised as nouns, it's the verbs that create the magic: sniff, peep, stir, taste.

And so for day 1925
21.03.2012

After Yates

Our version, not quite accepting the syllable count …

Porcupine dying
Tobacco accepting
Quill decorating
She prefaces a number of poems
To a non-native that cosmic precedent, haikai, offers a medium through which to imagine and attempt to express the poetic evocations of native voices not presumptively, not as appropriation or traspassing [sic], but as validly as an harmonic echo reverberating for all times, reaching all places.
which leads to
dying porcupine
accepts tobacco for quills__
bridal moccasins!
Evelyn Catharine Yates. Karumi Moon: Probing Ancient and Modern Haiku

We pick up the gerund and make it present the steps as out of time in a type of synchrony: dying, accepting, decorating.

And so for day 1924
20.03.2012

Radiance

Marie Howe What the Living Do "A Certain Light"

[…]

He was all bones and skin, no tissue to absorb the medicine.
He couldn't walk unless two people held him.

[…]

then only in pain again — but wakened.
So wakened that late that night in one of those still blue moments

that were a kind of paradise, he finally opened his eyes wide,
and the room filled with a certain light we thought we'd never see again.

Look at you two, he said. And we did.
And Joe said, Look at you.                And John said. How do I look?

And Joe said, Handsome.
A gaze clinched.

And so for day 1923
19.03.2012

The Walk

John Edgar Wideman. Hiding Place.

The character misses the trolley. Forced to walk he turns the event into an aesthetic moment.

Nothing for it now but to walk. He had to walk that night and in the darkness over his head the cable swayed and sang long after the trolley had disappeared. He had to walk cause that's all there was to it. And still no ride of his own so he's still walking. Nothing to it. Either right or left, either up Homewood or down Homewood, walking his hip walk, making something out of the way he is walking since there is nothing else to do, no place to go so he makes something of the going, lets them see him moving in his own down way, his stylized walk which nobody could walk better if they had some place to go.
The prose has its own gait. Its own down way.

And so for day 1922
18.03.2012

latex of our lives

Kaushalya Bannerji
A New Rememberanc
(Toronto: TSAR, 1993)

"THIS IS NOT AN ELEGY"

What to say when a friend
becomes a corpse>

[…]

And what life is this?
The constant vigilance or weariness.
The latex of our lives
stretched to snapping.
There is a head note: "I wrote this poem in an attempt to come to terms with the sense of loss and homophobia that can surround the lesbian and gay communities when we are so often confronted with AIDS-related deaths."

I hear in this image all the pent up frustration of trying to get safe sex messages out in the face of attempts to muzzle the plain speaking.

And so for day 1921
17.03.2012

Reading Howe

The Kingdom of Ordinary Time "Reading Ovid" Marie Howe

The thing about the Greeks and Romans is that
   at least mythologically,

they could get mad. If the man broke your heart, if he
   fucked your sister speechless

then real true hell broke loose:
   “You know that stew you just ate for dinner, honey?—

It was your son.”
   That’s Ovid for you.

A guy who knows how to tell a story about people who
   really don’t believe in the Golden Rule.

Sometimes I fantasize saying to the man I married, “You know
   that hamburger you just

gobbled down with relish and mustard? It was
   your truck.”
And it continues though I must admit with such a strong opening one loses the appetite to carry on *sigh* but it is worth reading Howe to see what she makes of this opening and by poem's end the reader is expected to ponder the words of Jesus about the kingdom of heaven being within you. Not sure how a reader can digest it. Somehow after the beginning one would rather cook than eat.

And so for day 1920
16.03.2012

Crash Course in Tact

In a conversation with a colleague interested in the institutions of liberal democracy, I urged her to consider scribing a top ten tips for engaging in civil society. It led me to meditations of my own on the topic of relationship management and working across cultural and social differences. Here's my take on the basics.

Listen: stay tuned to repetitions and mantras. Detect patterns.

Ask questions: elicit narratives: where have you been? where are you going? (of course, actual questions have to be more specific and tailored to the circumstances [remember the point about listening]).

Adopt and adapt vocabulary. Take on the words that resonate with your interlocutors. Be prepared to explain how your organisation works and what it aims to achieve. Either way, check the translations you make in either adopting the other's vocabulary or adapting your own (remember to validate with questions).

Be open for future contact — relationship building is not instantaneous, be prepared to invest.
Seems so simple and recursive now that its laid out here. Seems a wise course for communications internal to an organisation too.

And so for day 1919
15.03.2012

Rhythm: Seen and Heard

This 1954 book by Langston Hughes with pictures by Robin King provides from its first pages evidence that there was an alternative to the eye-ear dichotomy championed by Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s - a more holistic view of the world and the senses.

The First Book of Rhythms

From the outset the reader is invited to draw and later to hear. The book ends with paean to the human place in the universe and the glory of rhythm.
But your hand controls the rhythms of the lines you make with your pencil on a paper. And your hand is related to the rhythms of the earth as it moves around the sun, and to the moon as the moon moves around the earth, and to the stars as they move in the great sky — just as all men's lives, and every living thing, are related to those vaster rhythms of time and space and wonder beyond the reach of eye or mind.

Rhythm is something we share in common, you and I, with all the plants and animals and people in the world, and with the stars and moon and sun, and all the whole vast wonderful universe beyond this wonderful earth which is our home.
/\/ /\/ /\/ /\/ /\/ /\/ /\/ /\/ /\/ /\/ /\/ /\/ !!

And so for day 1918
14.03.2012

like playing a video game: ohsoprecisely

Kaushalya Bannerji ~~ A New Remembrance ~~ "World War"

There is a headnote that gives us place and time of composition: "written during the Gulf War of winter 1991" These are the concluding lines and I note the "ohsoprecisely" accurate control of spacing

black espresso
hot and bitter
as our past passion
we're not prepared
for this Nintendo wargame
which flickers
ohsoprecisely onto satellite screen
to interface with death
has never been so easy
To this I add a Wikipedia-derived gloss: "The word Nintendo can be roughly translated from Japanese to English as "leave luck to heaven"." Takes skill to push the button. Takes skill to write the poem.

And so for day 1917
13.03.2012

Guarding Gardens

John Edgar Wideman. Hiding Place.

Late now for putting seeds in the ground. There was a time they turned the ground from the back porch all the way to the trees at the edge of the hill. Long straight furrows combed in the earth and they'd grow enough to can and get through the winter. Beans and peas and tomatoes and cucumbers and lettuce and turnips and mustard greens. Sticks marching in regular rows and strings stretched for the vines to climb. Corn and grapes and parsley. Once her brothers had shown her where sausage grew and the hole where she should lay the hambone and cover it with ash to grow a new ham. You see anything yet? Ought to be sprouting up pretty soon now. You sure you spread them ashes careful? You sure you been watering it every day? Maybe you put your ear to the ground you hear it oinking. A fence then to keep out stray dogs and cats. Raccoons still around too. Her daddy kept a shotgun in the cupboard but never got a shot at one. They thought they might catch one in their pigeon trap and baited it with bacon instead of bread but nobody was allowed to sit up all night and hold the string which was attached to the stick which held the box up in the air. None of the children could stay up all night at the window to pull the string when the raccoon went after the bacon under the box, so we never catched one either.
Corn and grapes and parsley. Nous sommes au pays de cocaigne. And the tall tales turned practical jokes trick out the ever trickling stories.

And so for day 1916
12.03.2012

Food

I just finished reading Eden Robinson, The Sasquatch at home: traditional protocols and modern storytelling. There is a passage that put me in mind of the important ongoing work on food security.

Economics

[...] mentally taking notes about the irony of food fishing in the imperial era of McDonald's. For instance, you have to [be] fairly well-off to eat traditional Haisla cuisine. Sure, the fish and game are free, but after factoring in fuel, time, equipment, and maintenance of various vehicles, it's cheaper to buy frozen fish from the grocery store than it is to physically go out and get it.
Ecology & Culture
If the oolichans don't return to our rivers, we lose more than a species. We lose a connection with our history, a thread of tradition that ties us to this particular piece of the Earth, that ties our ancestors to our children.
Spent a lovely hour with the 49 pages of these lectures/stories delivered at the University of Alberta in 2011 thanks to the non-circulating Toronto Reference Library — nice surroundings and always stocked.

And so for day 1915
11.03.2012

Sounds of the House

Kaushalya Bannerji ~~ A New Remembrance ~~ "My Dida's House"

The poem ends with a stark image of a gender divide.

My world was always one of communicative women, harsh-voiced or sweet, and silent men appearing like fullstops at the end of hurried sentences.
Strategically locating this at the end of the poem ties the telling to the told in a memorable fashion.

And so for day 1914
10.03.2012

Deep River of Song Within the Story

Sounds of congregation from Damballah by John Edgar Wideman …

I wanted to dwell on Sybela's first free morning but the chant of the Gospel Chorus wouldn't let me sit still. Lord, reach down and touch me. The chorus wailing and then Reba Love Jackson soloing. I heard May singing and heard Mother Bess telling what she remembers and what she had heard about Sybela Owens. I was thinking the way Aunt May talks. I heard her laughter, her amens, and can I get a witness, her digressions within digressions, the webs she spins and brushes away with her hands. Her stories exist because of their parts and each part is a story worth telling, worth examining to find the stories it contains. What seems to ramble begins to cohere when the listener understands the process, understands that the voice seeks to recover everything, that the voice proclaims nothing is lost, that the listener is not passive but lives like everything else within the story. Somebody shouts Tell the truth. You shout too. May is preaching and dances out between the shiny, butt-rubbed, wooden pews doing what she's been doing since the first morning somebody said Freedom. Freedom.
Improvisation within convention is what the alert listener is on the lookout for whether or not they have sat in butt-rubbed pews.

And so for day 1913
09.03.2012

Poverty of Means & Proper Nuance

Philip Stratford "Translation as Creation" in Figures in a Ground: Canadian Essays on Modern Literature Collected in Honor of Sheila Watson edited by Diane Bessai and David Jackel.

It is preferable to struggle to find the right word in your own mind and in your own vocabulary than to rely on the push-button response of thesaurus or dictionary. It may even be preferable, since dictionaries are sometimes indispensible [sic], to use a modest rather than a too extensive one, just to insure a close and personal engagement in the search.
When I first read this, I took "extensive" as "expensive". And my big two volume OED (with the magnifying glass) informed me that "indispensible" is an obsolete form for indispensable and which here serves as an indice of the Canadian pronunciation. BTW the Oxford English Dictionary in my possession was purchased at a cut rate price since "the definitive record of the English language" has migrated to a subscription service online and many persons have been offloading their old paper behemoths.

The point that Stratford is making is that a poverty of means induces a valuable outcome when mediated by skill (in internalizing the resources of target and source languages). The other point that he is making is that there is a personal stake in the enjeu.

And so for day 1912
08.03.2012

Suspension Before Entanglement

N. Martin Nakata, Victoria Nakata, Sarah Keech & Reuben Bolt
"Decolonial goals and pedagogies for Indigenous studies"
Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society Vol. 1 No. 1 2012

At the introductory level, we do not dispute the usefulness of presenting the Indigenous-settler relation in binary terms. Nor do we dispute, that non-Indigenous students in the course of their learning need to or will be confronted and "unsettled". But we would suggest, initially at least, teaching the practice of "suspension " viz., suspension of pre-suppositions and suspension of foregone conclusions while engaging the implications of the knowledge interface for Indigenous analysis, Indigenous resistance, Indigenous knowledge revitalization, Indigenous practices, and Indigenous futures. This is [a] disruptive but intellectualized practice of a less personalized nature which still engages students in the politics of knowledge production and ultimately the politics of their location and of social reproduction. It is not an easily mastered practice either and requires academics to think about how to manage dialogue and discussion in lecture rooms so students do not revert to resigned fence-sitting but move on to re-thinking and re-articulating more complex positions. We argue it is a worthwhile skill to develop in students who will graduate into the human service professions which engage Indigenous people and practices at the interface of ongoing knowledge entanglements.
What gains traction here with me is the questioning of binary positioning, the enumeration of analysis, resistance, revitalization, practices and futures, the characterization of the interface as a set of entanglements. There is a whole ecosystem of knowledge production and social reproduction at work here.

And so for day 1911
07.03.2012

Seduced by the Paratext

Leo Babauta Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change [2014] has a lovely cover by Lisa Class

cherry blossom branch book cover

And the design by Matt Avery on the flyleaf offers this sensitive layout of a quotation by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves — slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.
And so we read books — slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.

One bibliographic oddity. The book in its 2015 incarnation has a longer title despite touting briefness: Essential Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change, Briefly.

And so for day 1910
06.03.2012

Riposte

F.R. Scott in The Dance is One has a poem answering McLuhan's The Mechanical Bride. It is entitled "The Miniaturized Groom" and is a series of short statements about the adage the medium is the message. Scott quips that McLuhan is a "Master misunderstander!" The poem ends on salvo against technocratic triumphalism.

Message is man
not machine.
In the stanza before this terminal assertion, Scott lists a number of synonyms for what the medium does: mouthpiece, mirror, magnifying-glass, multiplier.

The letter M becomes the medium for delivering the message that "the medium is meant to massage the message / and make it more meaningful."

And so for day 1909
05.03.2012

Herbs: to crush, smell and cook

The introduction to Sauce Chivry begins

I like herb sauces. They mean summer, when so many fish are at their best — and look their best, served with a pale green sauce. I like walking down the garden — the genius of man having placed the herb patch as far away from the kitchen as possible, on the principle, I suppose, that exercise is good for cooks — past catalpa and hibiscus, to find chives, tarragon, and parsley which flourish at the foot of a most entangling rose.
The arch tone belongs to Jane Grigson (Fish Cookery) but what I particular like about this passage is the finesse with which it deploys the present and the infinitive. It lends a liveliness that propels the reader on to trust the directives that follow about judging an appropriate amount of herb to add. After a little tour of English, French and Italian geography we are urged: "So be guided by the season, and by your own taste and climate. Be prepared to use far more than I — or anyone else — suggest." By this stage we are already complicit in the imperative.

And so for day 1908
04.03.2012

High on Novels

The postmodern braiding of diegetic elements with those of the narration is accomplished with panache in Laurent Binet's La septième fonction du langage. Our hero is at a party at Cornell and reviews in picaresque terms the péripéties that have accumulated along his novelistic journey.

À Bologne, il couche avec Bianca dans un amphithéâtre du XVIIe et il échappe à un attentat à la bombe. Ici, il manque de se faire poignarder dans une bibliothèque de nuit par un philosophe du language et il assiste à une scène de levrette plus ou moins mythologique sur une photocopieuse. Il a rencontré Giscard à l'Élysée, a croisé Foucault dans un sauna gay, a participé à une poursuite en voiture à l'issue de laquelle il a été victime d'une tentative d'assassinat, a vu un homme en tuer un autre avec un parapluie empoisonné, a découvert une société secrète où on coupe les doigts des perdants, a traversé l'Atlantique pour récupérer un mystérieux document. Il a vécu en quelques mois plus d'événements extraordinaires qu'il n'aurait pensé en vivre durant tous son existence. Simon sait reconnaître du romanesque quand il en rencontre. Il repense aux surnuméraires d'Umberto Eco. Il tire sur le joint.

« What's up, man? »

[…]

« I think I'm trapped in a novel. »

[…]

« Sounds cool, man. Enjoy the trip »
And Dear Reader, you too are enjoined to enjoy the trip and its telling.

And so for day 1907
03.03.2012

Piscine Delights

From the Glossary of Fish Names in Jane Grigson Fish Cookery

Nannie Nine Eyes (sea lamprey: eel)
Nanny nose (soft clam)
Nanny shad (gizzard shad; shad)
Nassau grouper (grouper)
Native oyster (oyster grown in UK, Ostrea edulis)
Navaga (cod)
Pure Found Poetry

And so for day 1906
02.03.2012

Praising the Quilter Through the Quilt

It is the description of the objects that underwrites the discrediting of the discrediting. We are reminded of the opening lines phrased as a pointed question in Marge Piercy's "Looking at Quilts": Who decided what is useful in its beauty / means less than what has no function besides beauty / (except its weight in money)?

The patchwork quilts are rightly celebrated as objects of great beauty. Made from thousands of pieces of shaped and coloured fabric, sewn into elaborate and intricate patterns, they produced rich colouristic effects and contained symbolic meanings. They were given a variety of suggestive titles, 'Mariner's Compass', 'Jacob's Ladder', 'Star of Bethlehem' and 'Sunburst', the last superbly conveying the effect of the radiating beams of the sun and the beneficence of its golden light. But some of these names, rather than being specific titles of quilts, refer instead to categories of basic methods of putting the fabrics together. This has often, erroneously, led to a dismissal of quilt-making as mere repetitious use of pattern. But, individual quilt-makers used the basic patterns to dramatically different effect by choice of colours, size of pieces, optical illusion and intended meaning.
Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock.

And so for day 1905
01.03.2012

The Print, The Step

Two lines from #121 in Daryl Hine &: A Serial Poem

[…]

As if each moment were a monument

[…]

Not every happening qualifies as an event.
Two lines that bring to mind for me the subtle art of Jeff Hill who did the decorations and lettering for Peter Pauper Press's Cherry-Blossoms: Japanese Haiku Series III (1960)

I treasure the finesse of the block like elements of the houses or huts on the left. Some just over the window-like frame. Some overlapping red on black.

Such illustration is worthy to be called an event. It happens as if each monument were a moment.

And so for day 1904
29.02.2012

To See Anew

Alison Uttley
Grey Rabbit’s May Day

“Unwilling to steal ritual flowers, but unable to speak and explain their need, the animals leave gifts in exchange --- among them a Roman glass tear bottle, found by the mole in a tunnel and filled by the rabbit with fresh May dew. Initially bewildered, Miss Susan [the nearly blind women who tends the garden] finally rubs her eyes with that dew and finds that she can again see ‘the feathers of the birds, the petals of the flowers.’”

House and Garden
March 2000
p. 78
Also published under the title Little Grey Rabbit's May Day

And so for day 1903
28.02.2012

Versions of Form

These notes jump but it is still interesting to see how a transcription of a four-part relation is paired with musings about the thinker's limitations in regards to cross-modal sensory translations.

Nelson Goodman
Ways of Worldmaking
As meanings vanish in favor of certain relationships among terms, so facts vanish in favor of certain relationships among versions.
In proposing such a proportional analogy, does the logic of version and that of term dovetail?

meanings : term :: fact : version

comment:
Cross-modal Quotation
Goodman's sense of picture does not extend to dramatic tableaux via sculpture ∴ he cannot account well for sight-sound combos in performance art. His notion of containment equals enclosure and does not posit an encompassing frame that regulates reference in cross-modal structures.

picture can quote sound & vice versa —> replicas, inscriptions & utterances
Intriguing how my little comment reads via the contrast of "enclosure" and "frame" — almost as if I was channelling the notions of "term" and "version".

And so for day 1902
27.02.2012

Cross-stanza Sonorities

Walter de la Mare. Peacock Pie "The Cupboard"

I love the suggestiveness of rhyming "me" with "key". And I particularly am thrilled by how the rhyme is carried over the stanzas.

I know a little cupboard,
With a teeny tiny key,
And there's a jar of Lollypops
     For me, me, me.

[…]

I have a small fat grandmamma,
With a very slippery knee,
And she's Keeper of the Cupboard,
     With the key, key, key.
And thanks to the rhyme the image of the grandmamma as fat and small recedes with the prominence of the "very slippery knee".

And so for day 1901
26.02.2012

Beginning at the End

I remember playing the role of Rumplestiltskin in a school play back in grade one or grade two. The tune and lines of the little man's song have been with me since. "Rumplestiltskin, one two, three." I thought that this was the beginning of the song and the rest constantly escaped me. I retrieved the mimeographed script from a trunk and found that it was the end — no wonder I couldn't recall la suite!

Rumplestiltskin, little and old,
Rumplestiltskin, spinning gold
Can she guess the name for me
Rumplestiltskin, one two, three
I now note that the script was printed in a child's hand — good for memorization.

And the stage directions are in cursive.

And so for day 1900
25.02.2012

Caveats as Expansions

As the veneer of democracy starts to fade… on Paolo Virno by McKenzie Wark in its peroration opens up the field:

Here I would like to just mention some caveats. Firstly, it seems rather old fashioned to speak only of the human and not the multi-species muddle we actually exist in and as. And rather than language I would prefer to open up some other categories that define the human as indefinable, whether it be play (Huizinga), ornament (Jorn), or the passions (Fourier). Moreover in its lack of definition, the human might not be a unique species, but one of many that plays and is open to the world. That world might be less eternal and unchanging were Virno to think about natural history a bit more broadly than Chomsky naturalistic materialism of a universal grammar. The Anthropocene makes even nature historical and temporary.
I like the implicit form ("Yes but") that brings us into the domain of general semiosis. That raises the question not only of signification but also that of signifiance. Modes Reception. Modalities of Readership. What's on your radar?

And so for day 1899
24.02.2012

Alcorn's Tale of Miss Agnes B. and Ivy Lee

John Alcorn — last song on Haunted is a ballad of two women loved by the same sailor who in the course of the song comes and goes leaving our protagonists to their routines. It begins enchantingly …

Miss Agnes B. and Ivy Lee
They are two floors below
They eat Peek Freans and toast at tea
And watch their violets grow.
And the sailer having come and gone, the song ends …
Miss Agnes B. and Ivy Lee
They live two floors below
They look at pictures of the sea
And know they'll never go.
And aptly the song is called "Pictures of the Sea". The sailor is incidental.

And so for day 1898
23.02.2012

Hope Against Hopefully

This is perhaps my favourite entry in The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

Hopefully. This once-useful adverb meaning "with hope" has been distorted and is now widely used to mean "I hope" or "it is to be hoped." Such use is not merely wrong it is silly. To say, "Hopefully I'll leave on the noon plane" is to talk nonsense. Do you mean you'll leave on the noon plane in a hopeful frame of mind? Or do you mean you hope you'll leave on the noon plane? Whichever you mean, you haven't said it clearly. Although the word in its new, free-floating capacity may be pleasurable and even useful to many, it offends the ear of many others, who do not like to see words dulled or eroded, particularly when the erosion leads to ambiguity, softness, or nonsense.
We live in hope.

And so for day 1897
22.02.2012

Erudite Attributions of Quality

The Quotable Oscar Wilde by Sheridan Morley renders this with two instances of "very"

I have very simple tastes, I am always satisfied with the very best.
I have seen a similar sentiment attributed to Winston Churchill: "I am easily satisfied with the best."

Apparently the source for the Wilde text doesn't have the double (or any) "very". 1917, Oscar Wilde: An Idler’s Impression by Edgar Saltus, Quote Page 20, Brothers of the Book, Chicago. To wit: "I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best."

I derive this information from the ever resourceful Quote Investigator (Garson O’Toole). http://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/12/03/simplest-tastes/#note-4945-1 who also enlightens us on the matter of the reference to (not by) Churchill: "Winston Churchill was associated with a similar statement, but he did not say the words himself. Instead, the comment was reportedly made by the British statesman F. E. Smith who used it when describing Churchill’s tastes."

Our thanks for the very best of investigations. [And the opportunity to snidely correct those that would impute to the great Oscar the double "very" which so cheapens the sentiment not to mention the marks of taste.]

And so for day 1896
21.02.2012

BTW Lullabies

Reading Daryl Hine &: A Serial Poem I came across a passage that echoed in my mind with a reading of Gjertrud Schnackenberg Heavenly Questions.

First #60 from the Hine book

Immured in a single-occupancy cell,
Each day indistinguishable from the next,
& nearly inextinguishable, perplexed
How all manner of things shall nevertheless be well,
With a celibate selfish as a shellfish spell
[…]
I was the line "How all manner of things shall nevertheless be well" that put me in mind of Schanckenberg's poems and the shellfish reference added another piece of evidence to the perceived intertextual relation since she has a poem "Fusiturricula Lullaby". But it is the opening sequence of the book, "Archimedes Lullaby," that I quote here in the hope that you too will hear the reverberations.
A visit to the shores of lullabies,
Where Archimedes, counting grains of sand,
Is seated in his half-filled universe
And sorting out the grains of shape and size.
Above his head a water-ceiling sways,
Beneath his feet the ancient magma-flows
Of metamorphic, underneath plateaus
Are moving in slow motion, all in play,
And all is give-and-take, all comes and goes,
And hush now, all is well now, close your eyes
Like the magma-flows beneath tectonic plates, the line about hushing returns in variations: And close your eyes now, hush now, all is well (from Fusiturricula Lullaby").

And so for day 1895
20.02.2012

seeing as apparent memories but occurring only as speaking

Leslie Scalapino
The Weatherman Turns Himself In

Spectacle floats location.
And in the mode of locating flotation here is a set transcribed with some lineation.
Landscape is event,
as if
one's action
were seen
outside one.
"Landscape is event, as if one's action were seen outside one."

which appears to me a simple version of what precedes
The visible construction of landscape inseparable from action, seeing as apparent memories but occurring only as speaking, is the 'viewer' observing only one's present mind.
The key of landscape as event turns the visible construction into this observation: "The viewer doesn't have the illusion of creating action."

And so for day 1894
19.02.2012

Cabbage Baggage

in the mode of bpNicol i came across this translation while in the dentist's chair and looking up at the television which featured a news feed which was accompanied by a screen scroll of closed captions while an anchor was reading out the news (on mute) and the effect was like one of the homophonic translations within the same language as opposed to homophonic translation across different languages

cole experts
for "coal exports" evident from the context.

And so for day 1893
18.02.2012

Craft Witnessed

Phoebe Wang is a consummate artist in the selections she makes in the construction of a poem's small and large features. Take for example some lines from "Custom Design" as published in a chapbook, Hanging Exhibitions from The Emergency Response Unit.

See what one word changes. "A childhood shared / with a cacophony of brothers and cousins, hungry for half, / a quarter, a sliver of adventure." are the lines in Hanging Exhibitions. The version published in Admission Requirements replaces "cacophony" with "riptide". "A childhood shared / with a riptide of brothers and cousins, hungry for half, / a quarter, a sliver of adventure." The second version pulls whereas the first merely resounds.

The final stanza's "practiced hand" is substituted by "emboldened hand" and the layout of the cascading lines is different — inversed.

          as if against a phantom wind until they crawl
     foolishly out of closets to obey the commands
of the eye, the line and the practiced hand.
as if against a phantom wind until they crawl
     foolishly out of closets to obey the commands
          of the eye, the line, and the emboldened hand.

I first twigged to Phoebe Wang's gift of precision when I heard her read "The Cartographer" where she evokes the young map maker:
I conjure you drawing in the margins
of your schoolbooks — spice caravans, camels, men made

of embroidery with black pepper beards. […]
The embroidery befits a marginal sketch and the colour of "black pepper" chafes against the cliche of "salt and pepper" and the enjambement not only over line but also over stanza signals implicitly the extent of the marginalia running away down the side of the page and away in imagination.

All because of a careful attention to detail. Important for any conjurer or map maker.

And so for day 1892
17.02.2012

Spreading the Joy: Map-o-Spread

Yolande Villemaire
La Vie en prose
Montreal: Les Herbes Rouges, 1980
p. 19-20

Il y a trois quarts d'heure d'attente au El Paradiso, mais comme on veut fêter ça en grande, on donne nos noms et on s'en va boire un pitcher de margarita au bar du restaurant japonais d'à côté. On revient juste à temps pour entendre appeler notre «party of three». Je commence à être pas mal saoule, mais on boit encore, à trois, deux litres de rosé Grenache, le moins cher. Ça me rappelle les déjeuners caramelo de mon enfance et j'essaie de le leur expliquer, sans grand succès. Ils en comprennent juste assez pour que j'aie droit à leurs premier pablums et shredded wheats subséquents, mais ils ne saisissent pas le rapport avec le vin. On enchaîne sur le map-o-spread au coconut pour finir ben cheap dans le [pb n="20"] beurre de peanut smoothy ou crunchy, vu qu'on revient au présent. Quand on était petits c'était pas si subtil.
A nice neat account of cross-cultural culinary exchanges.

And so for day 1891
16.02.2012

I could have danced all night…

Saw My Fair Lady the other evening. My viewing companion hated it but sat through it. He loved the hats. Nothing else.

I was intrigued but how Cukor makes the ensemble numbers into depictions of a vibrant social space.

Of course given some Movie Club discussions I was keen on observing the ending.

Does Eliza truly come back to Higgins?

In the final scene we see Higgins listening to a recording of Eliza when she first came to him seeking lessons. Eliza shut off the playback and intones in her own voice her reply to Higgins that is she washed her face and hands before she came. This is delivered in her voice as a flower girl and not in the lady-like strains that she acquired by training. In a sense, she is reclaiming an authentic voice — a voice that connected her to her father and her social circle. Do recall the ensemble numbers of street scenes: those with Eliza and those with her father. Also worth noting is that Eliza doesn't cross the threshold to enter the room where Higgins is listening to a recording (doing exactly what Eliza had earlier suggested he do if he had need to recall her presence). She is a liminal creature. It is important to note that although she is in the house, she has not traversed fully into his space.

Higgins's final line asking about his slippers is wondrously ambiguous. "Eliza, where the devil are my slippers?" He quickly hides behind his hat as if to mask a grin. The last time his slippers appeared in the film they were being hurled at his head. It was Eliza doing the hurling. The rapprochement between the characters is in delicate balance.

I discovered doing a little research that the question of endings also plagued productions of the play, Pygmalion. See http://www.syaross.org/writings/nonfiction/pygmalion.html

And so for day 1890
15.02.2012

Phenomenological Parsing

after Leslie Scalapino

observe experience

2 verbs
verb + noun
in one case there is a caesura between two equal injunctions; in the other, the object anneals any gap

And so for day 1889
14.02.2012

Promiscuous Circulation

The opening of this poem reminds me of the liaison element in a play by Sky Gilbert, The Dressing Gown which Rick Bébout sums up beautifully: "The title named its key prop, perhaps even prime character: a robe passed from one man to the next, central player in a series of tricks."

Here is Stephen J. Williams from Out of the Box: Contemporary Australian Gay and Lesbian Poets edited by Michael Farrell and Jill Jones

the dear departed
     lovers that have gone

angels that once terrified us
     — threatening to bring death

so near as love —
     sometimes return.

these lost lovers,
     whose provenance and history

is harder than a coin
     passing hand to hand

through all the dull business
     of the commonwealth,

arrive at our aching arms
     unexpected.
There is more to the poem. See "the dear departed [lovers that have gone]"

And so for day 1888
13.02.2012

Saline Steam

Lee Cataldi gives us a Sapphic moment in the lyric "tears" — and by Sapphic we mean not only the content but also the manner…

your tears
are warm upon my face
would be
warmer on my thighs
your tears
the smoldering is from Out of the Box: Contemporary Australian Gay and Lesbian Poets edited by Michael Farrell and Jill Jones.

And so for day 1887
12.02.2012

Flower Sacrifice

My favourite passage in The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzo is an anecdote about the appreciation of flowers.

Flower stories are endless. We shall recount but one more. In the sixteenth-century the morning-glory was as yet a rare plant with us. Rikiu had an entire garden planted with it, which he cultivated with assiduous care. The fame of his convolvuli reached the ear of the Taiko,and he expressed a desire to see them, in consequence of which Rikiu invited him to a morning tea at his house. On the appointed day the Taiko walked through the garden, but nowhere could he see any vestige of the convulvus. The ground had been leveled and strewn with fine pebbles and sand. With sullen anger the despot entered the tea-room, but a sight waited him there which completely restored his humour. On the tokonoma, in a rare bronze of Sung workmanship, lay a single morning-glory — the queen of the whole garden!
I have fondly traded in paraphrases of this excellent story. However, it is only upon copying it out here that I realized that the generic "flower" of my tellings is actually species-specific. It adds a note of poignancy to realize that the morning-glory does not flourish as a cut flower. As Okakura continues: "In such instances we see the full significance of the Flower Sacrifice."

And so for day 1886
11.02.2012

Luck-trampled Clover

She's a difficult poet. Not because she is inaccessible. But because of the delight we take in examining the stitching dangerously makes us miss the hang of the garment. But not quite, we can and are expected to reread — the lyric or sequence is short enough to accommodate attention to both the fine detail and the overarching construction.

Who is she? What drives her art? Let's listen in to Phoebe Wang in an interview published in the Brockton Writers Series blog.

Essentially I’m a lyric landscape poet, if I really wanted to put labels on myself. I like to write about things as a distance, and I tend to have an abstract, impersonal view of the world. But I think the most thrilling poems come out when I feel like I’m being backed into a corner. When I finished this series, this experiment, I did see that the “ekphrastic” label didn’t really fit. I had been writing in a very personal way all along, but suffered from a kind of myopia. So now when I’m writing a poem about fog or about a long walk in the neighborhood, I’m conscious of it being a very internal, private poem and not something separate from my psyche. Conversely, the harder I tried to represent my family as who they really are, they more archetypal they became.

BWS 14.09.16: Phoebe Wang
https://brocktonwritersseries.wordpress.com/2016/08/31/bws-14-09-16-phoebe-wang/
And let us juxtapose that with a blurb by David O'Meara to Phoebe Wang's chapbook Occasional Emergencies
Phoebe Wang's ekphrastic poems remind me that art is not just an object to be viewed passively but is an interaction, worth climbing inside and inhabiting.
Here, dwell upon these for a while.
We build so one of us
     might levitate

"The Tower" after Louis Gréaud [I], Centre Pompidou
Occasional Emergencies
The parliament of voices no longer sovereign
rehearses its next course of action

builds consensus by semitones and minor intervals.

"Feedback Loop" after Janet Cardiff, The Forty-Part Motet Occasional Emergencies
This haiku-like kenning has been purloined as our title:
luck-trampled clover

from "Manhunt" after Charlotte Posenenske, Prototype for a Revolving Vane
Occasional Emergencies
The poem in part about school children's games becomes by its end a meditation on chance and the aleatory.
The bell collected us like a deck of cards
     face-up on the yard's blank baize.
See what I mean by difficult? Doesn't let you, dear reader, off the hook for your "connivence" as the French would say or simply complicity as the English might.

Take two lines (from "Guiding Lights" in Admission Requirements), precious in themselves by their working over a repetition to induce wave-action:
and waves worked toward the tideline
and the tideline aspired to its high water mark.
Which remembered stretch us into the mode of striving. Which reread in their context become so much more
as missed opportunities. My path swerves
around keeled dinghies, stroller tires, debris
of a bounteous season, when we made waves
and waves worked toward the tideline
and the tideline aspired to its high water mark.
Over the peaks and valleys — see it?
Someone's left the stovelight on.
Dear Poet, thank you for leaving lights on and guiding us.

And so for day 1885
10.02.2012

Fromage: Tasting Notes

Nancy's Cheese distributes little blurbs on small slips with the cheese you purchase. It's a way of educating our palate and making us more articulate in expressing our tastes.

This one for LE MAMIROLLE (Fromagerie Eco Délices, Plessisville, QC) caught my attention as one of the best in the fine art of combining description and direction with tantalizing suggestion.

If you are looking for a "stinky" cheese, Le Mamirolle is for you. This semi-firm washed rind is made from cow milk. Like most washed rind cheeses the aroma is quite pronounced but the actual flavour is more subdued. Le Mamirolle has a wonderful balance of fruity and meaty flavours. The rind is edible. The supple texture also makes it a great choice for grilled cheese sandwiches. Storage: parchment paper then plastic wrap.

www.nancyscheese.com
Oh, by the way, it is superb with pears.

And so for day 1884
09.02.2012

Mutabilities

Different lighting. Different forms of evanescence.

from "Moonlight"

Thus are moths
the cloth of dreams
from "Another Dawn"
Falling maple keys
so many doors to the windy mansion
and no one home
Roo Borson Cardinal in the Easter White Cedar

And so for day 1883
08.02.2012

Passing Show

Exhibit A
From Leslie Scalapino The Public World / Syntactically Impermanence

'Not perceiving impermanence' itself becomes an action, an intention.
Exhibit B
From "See also" listing from Wikipedia entry "mono no aware"
  • Lacrimae rerum
  • Memento mori
  • Mottainai
  • Nine Changes
  • Wabi-sabi
  • Ubi sunt
  • Weltschmerz
  • Sehnsucht
  • Saudade
Exhibit C
The conjunction of Exhibit A with Exhibit B.

And so for day 1882
07.02.2012

Rinse and Repeat

"Dear Living Person" John Russell in Blast Counterblast edited by Anthony Elms and Steve Reinke. (First appeared in Mute Feb 16, 2011)

It has a put down that functions by way of repetition.

In this context the curator is the key performer — as organiser, collector, cataloguer, archaeologist, manger and guardian. And for instance, Rancière is the philosopher par-excellence, as the philosopher of aesthetics-in-general and the generalised interdisciplinary. In a world where there are no categories, we are left to experiment with the senses. A meta-politics and framing of a common sensorium, rearticulating freedom and equality in relation to new relationships between thought and the sensory world, between bodies and the social distribution of bodies. Rancière is the writer of this position, an extra-institutional relational aesthetics. He's not very good, but then this is not a very good position. With the dissolution of genre he offers us a generalised reorganisation of senses in general in general in general in general.
In general, it works as polemic. Less so as persuasion.

And so for day 1881
06.02.2012

Delicate Tensility

Recalling the toughness of the body by invoking its frailties.

the incessant waves seize me, my hands
on my head in my hair, I don't forget how
fragile the brain is under the bone of the
cranium, how friable the bones beneath the
skin, tender the flesh, thin the nerves, the
veins.
Chantal Neveu A Spectacular Influence translated by Nathanaël.

I don't forget that every step is a falling.

And so for day 1880
05.02.2012

Appellation d'origine controlée

Waters Remembered begins with a catalogue of streams Taddle Creek, GarrisonCreek, Burke Brook, Castle Frank Brook, etc. All buried watercourses in Toronto.

It is not quite an epic catalogue. Their mention is a lyric impulse to anchor the poem in place.

This beginning tying name to place suffers a displacement when it comes to portraits. The subject is not named by a kind of divergent ekphrasis. "Royal Street Diamond" begins as a description of a bronze bull created by Joe Fafard and poised outside the Mira Godard Gallery in Yorkville and then the poem turns to the speaker's companion, a friend "who is losing memory and language". The poem is full of details and apt anecdote that allow me to identify its subject. And I ponder why his name isn't invoked.

He points to the anatomically correct
scrotum dangling between the bull's sturdy
back legs, giggles, waves his hands and says

needs something … at his neck … He reaches
for words and finds them: a sign … waiting
for the girls!
We laugh and walk on past

high-end clothing shops. His words flow now
remembering his cousin's dairy barn smelling
of straw and shit, its din of bawling calves.
He was a professor of English and an admirer of pretty boys from way back. The creator of Stonyground, a very special farm garden on the Bruce.

But I understand the poet's reticence. This is not a poem for. It is a poem about.

But naming is important for the the full presence of the genius of the place to carry on. Our friend's name is Douglas (never Doug) Chambers. He has since that walk with Maureen Scott Harris lost more of his memories and has less of his exquisite mastery of language to work with. He still giggles on occasion.

Maureen Scott Harris Waters Remembered

And so for day 1879
04.02.2012

Craft, Cookery and the Good

Simon Hopkinson. Introduction to Roast Chicken and Other Stories

Good cooking, in the final analysis, depends on two things: common sense and good taste. It is also something that you naturally have to want to do well in the first place, as with any craft. It is a craft, after all, like anything that is produced with the hands and senses to put together an attractive and complete picture. By "picture," I do not mean "picturesque": good food is to be eaten because it tastes good and smells enticing.
Look at how the adjective circulates in the paragraph — like a fine soupçon of garlic — echoing like a chiasmus: good taste tastes good.

And so for day 1878
03.02.2012

Nodes, Lists, Pants

Leslie Scalapino "Footnoting" in The Public World / Syntactically Impermanence in her own abstract way supplies me with an epigraph to my indulging in

To produce this impermanence by iterating dissimilarities until they become something else—is the opposite movement of (converse of) obsession or imitation.
serves nicely as an epigraph to this selection of quotations from the catalogue for works by Kai Chan Rainbow Lakes with essays by Stuart Reid and Robin Metcalfe

Robin Metcalfe "Synaesthesia" leads us on an etymological run
The word 'node' derives from an Indo-European root, gen-, which means 'to compress into a ball.' It gives us the words, 'knit,' 'connect' and 'nettle,' and once named several plants of closely related genera, such as the ever-useful hemp, that were anciently employed as sources of fibre. The same root provides sailors with the words 'net' and 'lanyard,' the name of that peculiarly nautical accessory, the knotted cord sailors wear around their necks.
Stuart Reid has constructed his essay around the theme of lists. Down the side of Metcalfe's and Reid's essays are a set of lists of which this is the first:
1. Synonyms for pants
Drawers
Underwear
Trousers
Dungarees
Pedal Pushers
Capri Pants
Bell Bottoms
Knickers
Cords
Bloomers
Pantaloons
Slacks
Flares
I first encountered his work at a 2011 show at the Textile Museum of Canada. I like that now I can think of "node" and "list" as elements of the work and know that what is at work here is neither obsession nor imitation.

And so for day 1877
02.02.2012

Process and Progress

From the lyrics to Annie Lennox 'Primitive' (on the album Diva)

[…]

For time will catch us in both hands
To blow away like grains of sand
Ashes to ashes rust to dust
This is what becomes of us

[…]
One distinctly hears on the audio the "rust to dust" — a line providing a variation of "earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust" phrase from the funeral service in the Book of Common Prayer — which variation leads me to propose another: "ashes to ashes rush to dust".

And so for day 1876
01.02.2012

Artefact, Recursiveness, Focus

Anne Carson in Eros, the bittersweet draws on the work of Eric Havelock postulating a shift in the Greek mind with the coming of literacy. She evokes this line of thought in the following terms:

At the same time, a more private revolution is set in process by the phenomenon of alphabetization. As the audio-tactile world of the oral culture is transformed into a world of words on paper where vision is the principal conveyor of information, a reorientation of perceptual abilities begins to take place within the individual.

An individual who lives in an oral culture uses his senses differently than one who lives in a literate culture, and with that different sensual deployment comes a different way of conceiving his own relations with his environment, a different conception of his body and a different conception of his self. The difference revolves around the physiological and psychological phenomenon of individual self-control. Self-control is minimally stressed in an oral milieu where most of the data important for survival and understanding are channelled into the individual through the open conduits of his senses, particularly his sense of sound, in a continuous interaction linking him with the world outside him. Complete openness to the environment is a condition of optimum awareness and alertness for such a person, and a continual fluent interchange of sensual impressions and responses between the environment and himself is the proper condition of his physical and mental life. To close his sense off from the outside world would be counter-productive to life and to thought.
I quote at length to make a few points: self-control is not alien to an oral culture, indeed regulation of information received is important for sorting out life and thought. Carson's individual could be a tool maker or a creator of artefacts — and would there not be need for periods of introspection to build and create?

Substitute tool-making for reading and writing in the continuation of her account to see that all that is ascribed to the power of reading and writing can and does exist in prior oral cultures.
When people begin to learn reading and writing, a different scenario develops. Reading and writing require focusing the mental attention upon a text by means of the visual sense. As an individual reads and writes he gradually learns to close or inhibit the input of his senses, to inhibit or control the responses of his body, so as to train energy and thought upon the written words. He resists the environment outside him by distinguishing and controlling the one inside him. This constitutes at first a laborious and painful effort for the individual, psychologists and sociologists tell us. In making the effort he becomes aware of the interior self as a entity separable from the environment and its input, controllable by his own mental action. The recognition that such controlling action is possible, and perhaps necessary, marks an important stage in ontogenic as in phylogenetic development, a stage at which the individual personality gathers itself to resist disintegration.
What I do grant is that reading and writing permit affordances that enhance recursivity. It is easier in writing to inscribe the writing moment into itself. And easier for the reader to be aware of his or her own reading. But self-relexivity is not alien to an oral culture.

Instead of a historiography of rupture between literate and oral eras, one can following Carson's own triangulation of beloved, lover and the distance between the two, propose a schema between environment, interior self and the distance between them. The structure may vary from historical instance to historical instance but it is not totally absent from any given formation. I still maintain that storytelling in an oral culture demands self-control and writing as a practice can lead the self to disintegrate along lines of flight. In either situation, one can take on or resist voices. Voice-distance-self.

And so for day 1875
31.01.2012

"wild starlight"

It is no wonder that in a book of poems entitled Light-crossing Michael Redhill makes us attentive to starlight.

starblown night, scattered salt thrown for good luck over a shoulder
That was from "Night Driving"
This is from "Mahoney Point"
But the Milky Way is a chalk mark
erased against blackness
And the title to this blog entry is derived from the final words of "Allen's Hill": wild starlight.

What is remarkable for me in these examples is the pairing of a celestial figure with a human gesture. In some ways, one would expect such treatment to result in a domestication of the phenomenon. However, the impulsiveness of the gesture releases a sort of sublimity.

And so for day 1874
30.01.2012

Semagraphic Thought

Ted Chiang "Story of Your Life" — the linguist Louise explaining her acquisition of the writing system of the Heptapods …

As I grew more fluent, semagraphic designs would appear fully formed, articulating even complex ideas all at once. My thought processes weren't moving any faster as a result, though. Instead of racing forward, my mind hung balanced on the symmetry underlying the semagrams. The semagrams seemed to be something more than language; they were almost like mandalas. I found myself in a meditative state, contemplating the way in which premises and conclusions were interchangeable. There was no direction inherent in the way propositions were connected, no "train of thought" moving along a particular route; all the components in an act of reasoning were equally powerful, all having identical precedence.
once. though. semagrams. mandalas. interchangeable. precedence.

These are the terminal words of the sentences in the paragraph. They enact the very thing/event that is described. They work as a syntagm either forwards or backwards. All-at-once time is given.

And so for day 1873
29.01.2012

Codeword Repetition

Way earlier in the sequences

between kisses
now no one can clearly recall
the colour of silence
before the alphabets intersected
A long ways toward the end, in fact the last words to the last of the last
it will have been
an idea of flight and passion
light in breaking waves of time
sea as volume
in the alphabet and the present
Nicole Brossard Ardour translated by Angela Carr

The word "alphabet" seems to stand in for the world of language but we are none too sure of this metonymic interpretation. It could all be a set of letters before coalescing into words.

And so for day 1872
28.01.2012

Syntactical Tactics

The ending of "Not Without" in Mark Doty's Deep Lane stretches the word order so that the reader is invited to linger and puzzle over the word order and the linkages between the elements.

Even that. Endless gratitude,
for the thing I would without be no one I know.
It is the absence of commas that intrigues. It reminds me of a passage in Robert Lowell's "Skunk Hour" where commas and assorted punctuation abound.
And now our fairy
decorator brightens his shop for fall;
his fishnet’s filled with orange cork,
orange, his cobbler’s bench and awl;
there is no money in his work,
he’d rather marry.
It took me a while but that second "orange" finally registered in my brain as a proleptic positioning of the adjective to modify the cobbler's bench and awl. Marry for money? Marry rather than burn? All we readers are left with is a character without — no money, no marriage, but a nicely decorated shop.

And so for day 1871
27.01.2012

Two Portraits From Miller

George Miller. 30 (some odd) poems. Toronto: Three Tree Press, 1977.

"Padraig O'Broin"

[…]
In the tundra between the lines
we eye each other guardedly
"John of Glasgow"
[…]
There is still among the dying
more life than among the dead

[…]
star blood
         earth bone
part light
         part stone

[…]
Our breath hangs in the air
like evidence for the soul
and there are countries we
have not seen which will taste
like crisp apples
when we go to them
in the morning
Ever alert to the traces of life and its enjoyments in a land of cold.

And so for day 1870
26.01.2012

Even A Few More From Miller

George Miller. 30 (some odd) poems. Toronto: Three Tree Press, 1977.

Conclusion to "Gambit"

[…]
He practised madness
in front of his mirror
and when the mirror broke
he found he had perfected it.
A male version of "The Lady of Shallot" and its "mirror crack'd from side to side"?

And so for day 1869
25.01.2012

A Few More From Miller

George Miller. 30 (some odd) poems. Toronto: Three Tree Press, 1977.

"Back to Back — LSD"

[…]

A flower is a lesson in celestial
geometry
I smell its colour
The flower and my vision of it
cross-pollinate
in an obscure but marvellous
act of procreation
A dog is running
and I become its motion

[…]
The poem races off and we are left with the marvellous obscurity of colour and scent mingling.

And so for day 1868
24.01.2012

Even More From Miller

George Miller. 30 (some odd) poems. Toronto: Three Tree Press, 1977.

One of the thirty odd is a poem entitled "30th Birthday Testament"

[…]
a gaggle of friends
who rejected the dance
in favour of
learning how to limp
[…]
Remark how the enjambement ("in favour of / learning how to limp") reproduces that very limp.

And so for day 1867
23.01.2012

More From Miller

George Miller. 30 (some odd) poems. Toronto: Three Tree Press, 1977.

Has the most glorious cover: a cheque (remember those?) made out to "whomever" is written out in the currency of "poems" in the amount of 30 (some odd) signed by the poet.

In those some odd thirty is "Poem for My Daoughters 2" which plays with symmetry
Run away with me

we will forget
what we thought we had
to remember

[…]

Run away with me

we will remember
what we thought we had
forgotten

[…]

We will hold each other
's hands when we cross the street
and maybe we will hold each other
's hands when we do not cross the street

[…]
That splitting of "other's" over the line break is a mark of virtuosity and silliness combined to great effect in a poem we deem addressed to children. It's a cheque we can endorse.

And so for day 1866
22.01.2012

Catching the Allusion

First I came across a book with a long title:
Oats, Peas, Beans & Barley Cookbook by Edyth Young Cottrell

Which I later encountered as a song
Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow,
Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow,
Can you or I or anyone know
How oats, peas, beans, and barley grow?
And the song takes you through the sowing of seed, watering, weeding and harvesting. Apparently there are actions to accompany the lyrics.

And so for day 1865
21.01.2012

Tastes of Years Past

Denied my Proustian moment by the vagaries of the marketing machine that displaces product lines…

Memories of

  • Twinings Prince of Wales tea — no longer available in Canada
  • Zoubrovka (buffalo grass scented black tea) from Kousmichoff (now Kusmi Tea)
  • Black Cat Bubble Gum
  • Toronto's Clafouti produced an excellent buttery croissant — the shop has closed its Queen Street location — coffee and croissant at Clafouti before proceeding to Type to browse and buy books had become a ritual …
I'm lucky to have a nephew who can approximate his grandmother's sugar pie. He has the touch.

I can still tuck into fish tacos at Tacos El Asador or halloumi döner at Otto Berliner and I do have the grand city of Toronto to pursue other culinary adventures: markets, grocers, butchers, restaurants, bars and cafes, food trucks. Some adventures are unique and others repeatable pleasures. And the great conversations centred on pure hedonism whether recalled or anticipated.

And so for day 1864
20.01.2012

Elegance of Wit - Safe Sex Messaging

Back in the 90s.

I think this guy looks like the Planter's Peanut Man. Put out by the Scarborough Health Department in association with others across Metro Toronto (before the city was amalgamated), its rhymes underscore that practising safe sex is a class act: Evening Wear for Lovers Who Care.

Our next example hails from Ottawa and is bilingual. And as with all good campaigns eschews clunky translations for two totally different was of expressing a similar message. All in one dual purpose pamphlet.

IT'S
RAINING
MEN!

DO YOU
HAVE
YOUR
RUBBERS
ON?
NE
"CAPOTEZ"
PAS …

PORTEZ
DES
CONDOMS!


I do particularly like the appropriation of the popular disco tune... And in French note the savvy wordplay on loosing one's head which shares the same signifier for the slang for condom.

And so for day 1863
19.01.2012

Not So Long Ago

First a description of the product and its cross-cultural appeal.

Known as croccante to the Italians, praline to the French and turrón to the Spanish, such a golden nutty sweetmeat is better known here in Britain as brittle or, occasionally, cracknel. Although methods and results differ slightly from country to country, the marriage of warm, freshly roasted nuts and glistening caramel lives up to its name. The nuts are cracked, then snap and spit in the caramel. The brittle will crackle as it cools and then shatter as you break it into shards for crunching between the teeth.

Nigel Slater Real Good Food, 1995
Given Slater's praise of the nut and caramel confection, it is no surprise that I was attracted to a little pamphlet from the Green Orchid in New Orleans presenting the "Story of the Praline". Its cover should have alerted me but I thought it was similar to pancake mix from Aunt Jemima.

A search for "Green Orchid + New Orleans" led me to the blog of Dave DeCaro who was tempted then put off:
Anyone care to sample Ma-Lou's Pralines? I wouldn't mind some crumbled over vanilla ice cream. This one is from June 1962

My inner sign-geek is telling me to get a closer look at the signage of the Green Orchid:
See

In case, you may wonder about judging by covers, consider this from Creating the Big Easy: New Orleans and the Emergence of Modern Tourism, 1918-1945 by Anthony J. Stanonis
New Orleans businesses capitalized on the mammy image. The Green Orchid, a prominent French Quarter store, offered tourists a booklet that explained how the "outstanding candy of the old Negro mammies, has become synonymous with New Orleans." Delicious pralines, loyal mammies and the Crescent City were tightly bound together. Léda Plauché, who operated the Green Orchid, named the confections "Ma-Lou Pralines," an abbreviation for "my old Negro mammy, Marie-Louise." The shortened version, done for "commercial purposes," not only stripped the black figure of a name suggestive of her Creole roots — and possibly mixed bloodline — but also presented her as motherly. Playing on tourists' curiosity, Plauché had cooks don costumes and opened the kitchen to the public, providing "the only place in New Orleans where you may see mammy making pralines." The Green Orchid was not alone in manipulating the mammy image for financial gain.
We learn more about Ms Plauché from Omnivore Books and their catalogue
(New Orleans) Plauché, Léda. Ma-Lou's Creole Recipes.

  46 pp. Pictorial wrappers. First Edition. New Orleans: Green Orchid Gift Shop, c.1940's. Inscribed & SIGNED by the author on front free endpaper. Léda Hincks Plauché (Mrs. Henry Plauché) was born in New Orleans in 1886. She designed her first Carnival ball for the Krewe of Nereus in 1916 and, over the next forty years, she included the krewes of Rex, Proteus, Comus, and Momus among her clients. Mrs. Plauché was also the proprietor of the Green Orchid gift shop in the French Quarter. She died in New Orleans in 1980. In 1958, Léda Plauché donated a large collection of Mardi Gras costume and float designs and a smaller collection of photographs to the Louisiana Department (now Division) of New Orleans Public Library. Fine. $65

http://www.omnivorebooks.com/antiquarian_archive01.html

So the little pamphlet on pralines originates somewhere between the 1940s and the 1960s. But parts of its text still sting (well beyond the appropriation signalled by Stanonis). This for me is simply eye-popping:
These faithful old darkies loved to adopt family names and to mimic what the "Boss" did so mammy named her candy Praline, feeling quite sure that if what came from Paris was good enough for her "Missus", it was good enough for her. So the Praline, outstanding candy of the old Negro mammies, has become synonymous with New Orleans!
Having explored the discourse surrounding this sweet I have a greater appreciation for what "normalizing" means in an American context.

And so for day 1862
18.01.2012