A balance of faculties

John Williams
The Broken Landscape>

What brain has wrought
Tongue cannot show
Nor what tongue meant
Brain fully know.
The poem continues but these first four lines make a fine epigram.

And so for day 2133

on parting from the party

Sometimes an atheist can be holier than thou...

AN AFFECTATION IN PARTING. He who wishes to sever his connection with a party or a creed thinks it necessary for him to refute it. This is a most arrogant notion. The only thing necessary is that he should clearly see what tentacles hitherto held him to this party or creed and no longer hold him, what views impelled him to it and now impel him in some other directions. We have not joined the party or creed on strict grounds of knowledge. We should not affect this attitude on parting from it either.

Friedrich Nietzsche
Human, All-Too-Human
Disengage becomes a work of in/difference.

And so for day 2132

Praising the Damned

Tying freedom and privacy is an exhilaration that masks a fear.

If, as Freud remarks, the child's first successful lie against the parents is his first moment of independence — the moment when he proves to himself that his parents cannot read his mind, and so are not omniscient deities — then it is also the first moment in which he recognizes his abandonment. The privacy of possibility has opened up for him. If you get away with something — though, as we shall also see, it rather depends on what it is — you have done well and you have done badly. You are released but you are also unprotected. You have, at least provisionally, freed yourself from something, but then you have to deal with your new-found freedom. The ambiguity of the phrase is partly to do with the odd picture of freedom it contains. An exhilaration masks a fear.

Adam Phillips. Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life.
This for me serves as a comforting (though daunting) backdrop to a story by Michael Harris (author of Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World and The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in an Age of Constant Connection) in the Globe and Mail. The story is headlined: "Damning with praise" and subheaded: "A radical uptick in social-media use has produced an economy of accolades into which all users are drawn. Today, we are all performers and we all have to decide: Will I read the reviews?"
[Y]ou're letting those people control what you think about yourself. That's dangerous for a bunch of obvious reasons. But the harshest — the really toxic reason — is that, once you've been pumped up by the praise of others, you can be squashed by their criticism. If you were buoyed by the kudos, you'll be sunk by boos.
I am convinced that the negative valence is underwritten by the fear of exposure as outlined above by Phillips. Even if not a single critical statement is made, there is a certain anxiety. Consider the definition of social anxiety given by Ellen Hendrikson in an interview in The Guardian:
Social anxiety is often thought of as a fear of judgment or a fear of people, but that’s not accurate. Social anxiety is a perception that there is something embarrassing or deficient about us and that unless we work hard to conceal or hide it, it will be revealed and then we’ll be judged or rejected as a result.

For instance, we might have the perception that we are boring, awkward or have nothing to say, or any one of a million perceived flaws. We might avoid parties for these reasons, but we might also avoid them covertly by going to the party and only talking to the friend we arrived with, by scrolling through our smartphones or standing on the edge of groups.

So the root of social anxiety is fear of this reveal, and it is grown and maintained by avoidance.
Can we rally to a call for an economy of intrinsics? Cultivate an indifference without being indifferent?

And so for day 2131

Claim and Less

Tim Cestnick writing in The Globe and Mail provides us with a found poem. The list has enormous poetic potential (imagine for example the mere recitation of names (from an old-fashioned telephone book) — very Homeric). And this list culled from an entry about medically expenses (not) eligible for tax purposes bring us into the ambit of the body in its vulnerability.

Medical expenses. The problem here is that, while the list of eligible medical expenses is growing slowly, there’s still much that can’t be claimed – and people push the boundaries. You can’t claim the costs of practitioners not recognized by your applicable provincial authority. Nor can you claim vitamins, natural supplements or over-the-counter medications, recliners, non-hospital beds and certain supplies such as rubbing alcohol, bandages and shoe inserts.
See what happens with some lineation:
  • vitamins
  • natural supplements
  • over-the-counter medications
  • recliners
  • non-hospital beds
  • certain supplies
    • rubbing alcohol
    • bandages
    • shoe inserts
The jumble remains a jumble. But the sub-list takes on the impression of a tour of the drug store for the supplies that help the hapless suffer through the quotidian. The list is leached of its specialness. It's elements are common. Difficult to justify which as Cestnick writes is the problem here. The lasting impression is of the mock-heroic.

And so for day 2130

Habit & Taste

I like how these opening words draw an analogy between cooking and writing and how that analogy is cemented by the recourse to habit.

Cooking is not about just joining the dots, following one recipe slavishly and then moving on to the next. It's about developing an understanding of food, a sense of assurance in the kitchen, about the simple desire to make yourself something to eat. And in cooking, as in writing, you must please your self to please others. Strangely it can take enormous confidence to trust your own palate, follow your own instincts. Without habit, which is itself is just trial and error, this can be harder than following the most elaborate of recipes. But it's what works, what's important.
Nigella Lawson, preface to How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food.

And so for day 2129

Woman Wins Praise

Joanna Trollope. The Book Boy.

Marianne at Good Reads remarks on the style and muses as to its purpose.

This novella is written in a very simplistic style: the reader might wonder if Trollope has actually written it for adults who are learning to read.
It just so happens that The Book Boy is published in the Quick Reads series which Wikipedia informs us are designed with a specific reader in mind:
Quick Reads are a series of short books by bestselling authors and celebrities. With no more than 128 pages, they are designed to encourage adults who do not read often, or find reading difficult, to discover the joy of books.
Alice, the protagonist of The Book Boy can't read and her story ends with the quietly noticed but quite remarkable triumph — she does learn to read and the book ends with a newspaper headline that is read and resonates with the plot: Woman Wins Prize. And she does so with the uncanny assistance of an adjuvant (to borrow a term of art from Greimas drawing on Propp): it is the lame Ram Chandra who observes that the boy, Scott, wants what Alice wants, that is freedom and true freedom is though unstated in the book grounded in a liberty of expression that is the ability to express:
"You don't know his home life," Ram said. "He can't say. He doesn't know how to say. He only knows how to act." He looked at Alice. "He can't say. Just like you can't read." He smiled. "That's why he picked on you."
The "opposant" becomes an "adjuvant" and saying comes via acting.

And so for day 2128

Torque Variations and Matrix Manipulations

DWR first found these and tethered I keep reeling...

And so for day 2127

Singular Praise of Reduplication

Nietzche from Human All Too Human

It is an excellent thing to express a thing consecutively in two ways, and thus provide it with a right and a left foot. Truth can stand indeed on one leg, but with two she will walk and complete her journey.
Does Truth ever crawl?

And so for day 2126

Read My Lips: Affirmations

The Very Best of Jimmy Somerville - Bronski Beat and the Communards
The liner notes begin with the following comparisons:

The first two singles by Bronski Beat, Jimmy Somerville's first band, were "Smalltown Boy" and "Why?". They are the gay equivalent of the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK" and "God Save the Queen".
Remarks published in 2001 and still resonant.

And so for day 2125

Grammar All Over the Body

David Wojnarowicz
Memories That Smell Like Gasoline
San Francisco: Artspace Books, 1992

and I realize he's one of those guys that you know absolutely that
if you'd met him twenty years earlier you both could have gone
straight to heaven but now mortality has finally marked his face. He
was really sexy though; he was like a vast swimming pool I wanted
to dive right into.
Intrigued by how this meditation surfaces to arrest and fix the reader in the midst of a description of hot sex — it's the tenses — we bring to mind in the present an experience to examine and then climb out of the past into the possibility of the conditional and then into the present touched by death through a perfect indicative which doesn't delay us from a plunge right into an infinitive

And so for day 2124

After Gardening: Quotidien Gesture

Alan Hollinghurst
poem "Mud"
appearing in the
London Review of Books
Vol. 4 No. 19 · 21 October 1982

November was always mud.
Crossing a ploughed field
our feet grew footballs of clay;
matted with leaves its crust
dropped on bootroom floors.
Its odour was sharp and cold
as rockets' nitre, cold as
gardeners' hands daubing the hot tap.
I like how one verb - daub - keeps the scene poised over the moment the mud will be washed away. The poem ends with the "grave's edge" and a close-up of how the mud "curls up / round our polished black welts" and an image of intimations of death rising with chill through the soles of feet. Still it's that hand reaching for the tap that arrests.

And so for day 2123

Embracing A Most Peculiar Aside

A Summary Account . . .

(I should say somewhere about here that when I say "he" I also mean "she": as the late President Smith used to say, man generally embraces woman.)
Northrop Frye By Liberal Things (1959). This is his address upon his installation as Principal of Victoria College.

The aside can be read as a humorous touch of heteronormativity. Tone is all. But for even the tone-deaf, it is the "generally" that once spotted works its magic. It signals exceptions. Other ways.

Indeed the context of the aside is set in the commonplace of attending university to find oneself.
Finding out why they went is something that comes much later, if it comes at all. An inscrutable Providence has decreed that they should be at university during the mating season, and for some students, going to college is partly a sexual ritual, like the ceremonial dances of the whooping crane. More thoughtful students are fond of asking themselves and each other why they came to college, and their reasons are generally [there's that keyword again] given in terms of usefulness. But the thoughtful student soon realizes that the university is not there to be useful to him; he is there to be useful to it. It does not help him to prepare for life: life will not stay around to be prepared for. [...] There is no answer to the student's question, for the only place an answer can come from is an experience that he has not yet had. [enter the aside quoted above].
How is it that I come to read "generally" as offering a sliver? By training as a reader. Training I generally received at university.

Such close reading partakes of the moves made by José Esteban Muñoz in Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (2009). He draws upon the work of Ernest Bloch (The Principle of Hope) to carve out space for the work of the experience-not-yet-had.
The point is once again to pull from the past, the no-longer-conscious, described and represented by Bloch today, to push beyond the impasse of the present.
Between the then of Frye and the then of Muñoz lies the publication of The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing: For writers, editors, and speakers was first published in 1980 by Casey Miller and Kate Swift. And after them all a challenge to recite the specificity of desire: "Every gay person has been in a situation where less specific pronouns are useful, perhaps even a safety measure [...] “you” has fallen out of favour and pop seems joyfully full of new young artists not only being candid about who their songs are lusting after, but celebrating that point of difference, too."

I remember as a youth before attending university listening to "I Don't Know How to Love Him" lifted from Jesus Christ Superstar and performed by Helen Reddy. Long before I learnt about shifters like the pronoun "I" (Émile Benveniste), long before I could claim experience of many before, long before the mysteries of incarnation shone for me, I was queering the text:
I don't know how to take this
I don't see why he moves me
He's a man he's just a man
And I've had so many men before
In very many ways he's just one more
Muñoz again:
Queerness's form is utopian. Ultimately, we must insist on a queer futurity because the present is so poisonous and insolvent. A resource that cannot be discounted to know the future is indeed the no-longer-conscious, that thing or place that may be extinguished but not yet discharged in its utopian potentiality.
insolvent - discounted - discharged
Bills come due. But who is doing the accounting? Who keeps the general ledger?

And so for day 2122

A burn deeper than a bonfire

On the afterlife of trees

First the note:

'La Quercia del Tasso' or 'Tasso's Oak' on Janiculum (Gianicolo) hill, Rome, is said to have been a place of rest and contemplation for Renaissance poet Torquato Tasso in the weeks before his death at the nearby Monastery of Sant'Onofrio. The tree is propped up by iron supports, having been struck by lightening in 1811.
Now the conclusion to the poem.
the burning starts. The time will come
when I will need to breathe for you, when we two
will crackle, our cinders' unobserved
parabolas like brief, celestial monsters, or space-
                         junk some call shooting stars.
Jaya Sevige. Surfaces of Air. "La Quercia del Tasso"

It is the tree speaking.

And so for day 2121

Anatomy Lesson

Jaya Sevige. Surfaces of Air. "Sand Island"

What cleaves each muscle of wave
from its bone of ocean?

          Hear the snap
of its ligaments.
Listen to the severing of tendons.
Sevige's poem is a way of making sense of Lauren Berlant's claim that the making of muscle involves the rupture of tendons:
Another way to think about your metaphor, Michael, is that in order to make a muscle you have to rip your tendons.
From a discussion held at the Banff Centre for the Arts: No One is Sovereign in Love: A Conversation Between Lauren Berlant and Michael Hardt – Heather Davis & Paige Sarlin, an excerpt from that discussion has been posted by NoMorePotlucks. Here is the remark from Michael Hardt to which Berlant was responding:
Spinoza defines love as the increase of our joy, that is, the increase of our power to act and think, with the recognition of an external cause. You can see why Spinoza says self-love is a nonsense term, since it involves no external cause. Love is thus necessarily collective and expansive in the sense that it increases our power and hence our joy. Here’s one way of thinking about the transformative character of love: we always lose ourselves in love, but we lose ourselves in love in the way that has a duration, and is not simply rupture. To use a limited metaphor, if you think about love as muscles, they require a kind of training and increase with use. Love as a social muscle has to involve a kind of askesis, a kind of training in order to increase its power, but this has to be done in cooperation with many.
And hence the notion of "ocean" and the deterioration of the body's parts ... mini-ruptures to effect a sense of duration ... wave upon wave

One way of thinking through Berlant's startling if counterfactual statement is to consider the tendon in its function of attaching muscle to bone. To sever the connection between muscle and bone induces a form of paralysis — it's experienced as a form of violation. Berlant continues:
The thing I like about love as a concept for the possibility of the social, is that love always means non-sovereignty. Love is always about violating your own attachment to your intentionality, without being anti-intentional. I like that love is greedy. You want incommensurate things and you want them now. And the now part is important.

The question of duration is also important in this regard because there are many places that one holds duration. One holds duration in one’s head, and one holds duration in relation. As a formal relation, love could have continuity, whereas, as an experiential relation it could have discontinuities.
I want this metaphor to work. I turn to wave and ocean. I am in love with the image of bone, muscle and tendon. I intuit their decomposition.

To make a muscle — to focus attention upon it — is to dissect.

And so for day 2120

Coming Between Self and Flesh: from "of" to "on"

Indigeneity: Theorized Materialised

Billy-Ray Belcourt
This Wound is a World: Poems
"The Cree Word for a Body like Mine is Weesageechak"

its final lines offering a big beginning

was once a broad-shouldered trickster who long ago fell from the
moon wearing make-up and skinny jeans
Form. Disguise. Body shifting.

It is the Epilogue that sparks further consideration of inhabiting a body or being out of one:
This Wound is a World is a book obsessed with the unbodied. It is a book that chases after a scene that can barely be spotted. It is a book that only liked to be written if I stared long enough in the direction of nowhere, which is probably more accurately everywhere. Everywhere, of course, is the space that death carves into everyday life.
Meditations on "unbodied"

Belcourt's essay on self-care and the décrochage offered by the practice of masturbation explores the ontological frontier erected by colonization. See Decolonial Love and the Thingly Future available on line thanks to the library at the University of Alberta.
Decolonial love therefore promises not only to chip away at the corporeal and emotional toll of settler colonialism as such, but also to gestate a wider set of worlds and ontologies, ones that we cannot know in advance, but ones that might make life into something more than a taxing state of survival.
Beyond survival
For me, masturbation is about a strange encounter, to evoke Sara Ahmed's term,44 between the self and the flesh whose form and outcome we cannot know in advance, but that occurs vis-à-vis but also in contrast to a prior and sometimes ghost-like history of colonial rupture that blocked and still blocks our relation to the psychic and the corporeal.

44See Sara Ahmed, Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality
On decolonialization
It is a teleology of the elsewhere whereby new strategies for survival and wanting replace the ones we have inherited in a world bent on our disappearance, literally and juridically.
"Unbodied" raises for me to the question of embodiment and the possibility of thinking sous rature of the phrase "embodiment of" — but instead of this deconstructive move I follow a substitution of prepositions: instead of "of" it is a positioning of "from/to" that recognizes the past and projects a future or should we say "futures" — and again I return to the problematic "of" implying a single source origin — needing to think the multiple plural nature of origin

embodiment: getting into the body instead of unhinging the body marked a bio-politics of my non-indigenous time and place where our models were those of autotelic structures (Maturana and Varela)

back to that "of" — there's a point of thinking the self in terms of textual stemma or the branching of the tree of life that is the self inhabiting an environment (thinking of the thinking done by Robert Bringhurst on this notion that the individual, self or text, arises from an ecosystem) — entertaining the unbodied state is potentially recognizing the boundaries being permeable and that self is not self without a whole host of others (and things) — "of" of course has a sense of belonging (to) but it can also express a relationship between a part and a whole - ecosystems again

[Note the common "mistake" of using "of" instead of "have" in constructions such as "you should have asked" (not you should of asked).] In my reading, this is the grammatical pressure point of "of" - depossession, self-possession, possession - that "unbodied" circles like a strange attractor: a systemic stepping out of the self to repossess a future decolonized self or a set of possiblities of becoming . . .

Last word to Belcourt (last words of the Epilogue): "It [This Wound is World] insists that loneliness is endemic to the affective life of settler colonialism, but that it is also an affective commons of sorts that demonstrates that there is something about this world that isn't quite right, that loneliness in fact evinces a new world on the horizon.

of on the horizon

And so for day 2119

Spin and Rinse

Jaya Savige. latecomers. "West end".

I want it to stop here where it began.

this gentle aphasia
washes over us like fabric softener.
I don't want to follow the simile into a full-blown conceit. But I read on implanting the two lines like senyru in the laundry like coins forgotten in a pocket. Like the glitch of language tumbled dry. It never shrinks.

And so for day 2118

Repetition Inversion Inversion Repetition

Jay Hopler in "The Coast Road", the last poem in The Abridged History of Rain, invites us to pay attention:

It's not what one listens to that matters,
But what one listens for
I listen for repetition. I listen for inversion.

Take for instance the repetitions in "Umbrian Anecdotes". They unroll like school exercises. In one instance "east" is replaced by "west" and the parakeets in both instances "fly chattering, pieces of ripe fig falling from their orange beaks." These lines from the second stanza provide the bridge between the opening stanza and the third.
Every evening, at sunset, a company of green parakeets leaves the
     fig trees in the garden


Every evening, at sunset, these parakeets fly, pieces of ripe fig
     falling in the garden
Look what he does with dogs in the eighth section of "The Rooster King"
Dogs pass no laws against you and knock not they your
      daughters up and do not to Manhattan go with your last two
      hundred dollars so, in general
Dogs are A-OK with me.
Later in section thirteen ("So Many Birds to Kill and So Few Stones") we read "one / cannot help but flattened be by the persistence of the beautiful thing" where we almost read presence for persistence.

And so for day 2117

This nor This is not That and not I

Amazing syntactic twist unfolds round a series of negations marking transitoriness and ending with endurance of the self...

This is not the moon,
Nor is this the spring,
Of other springs,
And I alone
Am still the same
Translated by Kenneth Rexroth from Ariwawa No Narihira, collected in One Hundred Poems from the Japanese.

And so for day 2116


Michele Leggott
Milk & Honey
"festival junction"

string of events
string of memories
string I bring
into the labyrinth
I like how the poet brings the reader in bit by bit until resting on the present tense we are there in the middle of it all.

There is a neat little trick of progressions in the list and a neat trick of arresting motion in the use of the present tense.

And so for day 2115

Not Far From The Tree

Trees are sometimes consigned to fire: Tree Destiny. Here Gracian provides a choice between two options (and of course is speaking metaphorically as well).

There are trees and there are trees. Some bear fruit, while others are barren. Know well the use for both — one for provision and profit — the other for timber.

Translated by Thomas G. Corvan.
This is of course offered as a way of judging people: but are we not all firewood in the end (unless we sink and rot, enriching the soil)?

And so for day 2114

Story and Self and State

Richard Ronan in the introduction to his collection of poems Narratives from America opens with the observation:

A story houses us. Often more utterly than does our flesh.
But this is not left at the level of the individual, the perspective expands:
I've come to understand this: that one's voice and story, the myth and history of one's country and culture are of a piece — and that if one does not regularly find meaning in some part of this large process, then it is pointless and, at last, hugely dangerous.
And so the function of narrative is to give point (and the function of narration is to avoid the dangers of such pointedness). At least that's a Canadian (ironic) perspective.

And so for day 2113