28 July 2010

Julio Cortázar

[from Julio Cortázar’s Diary of Andrés Fava, tr. Anne Mclean, Archipelago, 2005]

Before understanding with sufficient dialectic clarity the irruption of poetry in any contemporary verbal genre, and by extension the eradication of “genres” as such, I felt its obscure work present in my prose, in what up till then had been prose. I wrote a novel where, without excessive effort, I managed to express well a clearly a repertoire of ideas and a set of sensations and sentiments. Later, amusing myself with a few short stories, I noticed the first signs of rot in that prose; fear of the “emphatic” period, the “fortissimo” end of chapter. Every proposition that contains a whole development of its object, is like a tiny chapter, and ergo should finish “roundly”; a discourse — and my prose was always discourse, like this that I write now effortlessly, because its content is rigorously transmissible — is composed of dozens of propositions, each one of which has its progression, its peripeteia, its know and its final crash, that artistic order that masters emotion and moves to applause, a gesture that consists of hitting the hands together to see if one can trap in them the je ne sais quoi that provokes enthusiasm.

When I realized I could no longer write like before, that language had turned its back on me, that the rhythms were demanding otherwise, and that on the whole what I was now writing (because I didn’t for a single minute decline the entreaty from within) was less valuable as meaning than as object, I had the first suspicion of the contemporary phenomenon. That was when I read Ulysses, with a South American delay. And I confirmed what was happening when I accidentally stumbled upon The Death of Virgil.

. . . liberty, won by the putrefaction of my excellent former prose, lies in getting as close as possible to the material to be expressed, the physical or fictitious material I want (or I'm obliged) to express. For this I escape from adequate language (which it isn't anyway, more like adequating) and I accept, provoke, invent and try out a way of saying things that — me keeping quite still in the middle — is a self-asserting of all that surrounds me, interests me, and awakens me. There you are, memory of a night on Congreso, an adolescent weeping on a bench. You are there, it's you. Well, now it's your turn because I want it to be, or because I accept that you want it: come, say yourself. This is a hand, this is a sheet of paper. Pass through me like light through a stained-glass window: make yourself word, be here. The order of the elements doesn't matter, it doesn't matter if you're really stained glass and the word illuminates you, making you be, or if you are the light itself and my word (yours, yes, but mine) will be little by little the stained glass that gives you meaning forever.

For others, which is the miracle.

26 July 2010

Christine Hume

[from Christine Hume’s Alaskaphrenia, Green Rose, 2004]

No Less Remarkable Is the Metamorphosis of the Mastodon

Shimmer with mites
            minutes in the clear

Cliff-dripped blinking

Bully the fat-hung cold
By teaching it gongs

Your heads are full of it
            the grass you eat

A dream of being eaten
                        by wind
                        hues of the field

Causes such twisting

And stars orbiting a faint sun
            unproven as it is infinite

The headache you’ll grow into
Suggests all organisms are in the grips
                        of spiral urges

Under these circulations
You could not wear cirrus the way cows do

Always your mange meant to be smoke
            molting, moonglow

You own the smoke, its slow muzzle
Involuntary growl
            in sheep’s clothing

Do you know yet how
To metabolize that magnitude

Ear listening to blank spheres

Ever since incest has been dying out
All your organs redeem rock

Yea, one falls down
Then you fall and unyarn yes sir
            yes sir

&c then centre
is everywhere & then
circumference no where

Aimless and space-shot
You took some doing

Body-beard sweeps
Circles in the dirt

One winter hunger weirds your mind-wires

Curls your backwards

Infant air hardens like a cranium

Shut inside a cranium dark
Everything goes to prospect

25 July 2010

C. D. Wright

Every year the poem I most want to write, the poem that would in effect allow me to stop writing, changes shapes, changes directions. It refuses to come forward, to stand still while I move to meet it, embrace and coax it to sit on the porch with me and watch the lightning bugs steal behind the fog’s heavy veil, listen for the drag of johnboats through the orchestra of locusts and frogs. An old handplow supports the mailbox, a split-rail fence borders the front lot. Hollyhocks and sunflowers loom there. At the end of the lot the road forks off to the left toward the river, to the right toward the old chicken slaughterhouse. The poem hangs back, wraithlike, yet impenetrable as briar. The porch is more impressive than the rest of the house. A moth as big as a girl’s hand spreads itself out on the screendoor. The house smells like beets. For in this poem it is always Arkansas, summer, evening. But in truth, the poem never sleeps unless I do, for if I were to come upon it sleeping, I would net it. And that would be that, my splendid catch.

21 July 2010

Robin Blaser

[from Robin Blaser's The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser, University of California, 2008]

An Appearance

Okay    A nightingale
does sing
             outside this window

A mirror of leaves and noise

                           This monument
has torn to pieces our guide book
of facts
                           This startles

A nightingale,
                    the bird so ancient
he ( anybody )
                      falls back
on his dusty shoes, pointing

The event darkens     So like
our trembling,
                    we caught at it
breaking the skin

20 July 2010

Robin Blaser

[from Robin Blaser's “The Stadium of the Mirror” in The Fire: Collected Essays of Robin Blaser, University of California, 2006]

The movement back of the great poets is not to a tradition — a golden time or wisdom behind us that places thought in the past and kills it — but it is toward a reopening of words — toward the violence and dynamism of Language — the work of it is in Pound’s return to Homer, Egypt, Na-Khi and in Olson’s ultimate return to Pleistocene, — his curriculum. A beginning again with everything. This reopening of words lets us see their solidifications — the crystals FORMing in the work — (a crust, akin to cruror — blood, Kryos — icy-cold, a coagulation that is the “external expression of a definite internal structure.” An open language is not a wise-doom. I have come to know how unpleasant it is to reveal the limitations and necessities of a practice in language where one is used to seeing . . . the expression of genius and freedom in all its transparency  (Foucault). I would not take it away from you, if it had not become the mirror of our deadness. Half under its breath, amid the murmuring of things, all experience is interiorized language. I (we) lose the words because the structure of what I (we) thought closed. There is nonetheless a speaking that lodges within my own speech. I would not give you the malicious grace of an esprit libre,  if the interior life were not an interiorized language (Lacan). The mind is only the body’s invisibility (Merleau-Ponty). The language regards the guilty man as he who it was (Curtius). . . .

Through the arrangement of words (parataxis), there is a speech alongside my speech, which allows a double speech. A placement. The Other is present and primary to our speaking. There is no public realm without such polarity of language. The operation of its duplicity is the poetic job. A peril and an ecstasy. The traffic around a heart that is heartless. The characters do not speak only of themselves, since they are images of an action. Transcendence is not a position somewhere else, but the manner of our being to any other (Merleau-Ponty). A co-existence

So, an operational Language — just where I (we) had thought to find the stable forms, the recognition that it is only ourselves. These closed words stop and become empty. They are then, where we were thinking, unstable and invaded, as if the known and thought had by a metamorphosis become the unknown and unthought. Just there, the visibility of men died. Against this, the operational Language begins again — allowing very little anthropomorphism. There where he does not think he is thinking. The astonishment of these reopened shapes in lives and poems. But then I (we) move back, for I (we) have been taught there is no operation in language. The poetic language is said to be apart — a wisdom — transcendent to it and not its composing intelligence. Is it in order to protect our eyes from some terrible finitude that has already happened? Or is it simply a mistake that takes on the proportions of the species? — as it is true to say that the buffalo still doesn’t know what a gun is. And I (we) have been taught always to translate the field of Language into a highwire — creative, transcendent, fictive to the terror the culture has been speaking. It is comforting to love nitrogen balloons. A discourse must return without transparency, but it cannot compose itself of closed words — the “spatial capture” of our words — in the stadium of the mirror (Lacan’s le stade du miroir, translated for the metaphor). . . .

The last syllable, silent and golden, always belongs to another poet. The duplicity of my (our) language blends a child’s thought with the risks of the “perilous act” thought is — and permits no luxurious ownership of language or of a consequent knowledge. All true language is thought and so reverses into experience. A breath-boundary, where it is a natural art. The dictation is natural. Things and words are not separate. Such language is not representational of a meaning backward or forward, occulted, lost or unfound, secret to a beginning of an end. It is not a manipulation of words, as in discourse, to refer transparently to a real significance. The operational language reposes the profound kinship of language with the world (Foucault). The dissolution of that binding and entangling has turned out to be ourselves and our discourse. The poetic left to an ideality or transcendence is not a poetic at all — but merely a substitute for the limitation my (our) thought has become. The operational language is conjunctive and reties the heart. The retied heart is an Other Heart. Who is speaking? — (Nietzsche’s profound and original question, asked again by Foucault) — reopens the language into its natural speech, — a double voice of a projective real whose harmony and disharmony are my (our) job. The Other Language.

14 July 2010

Herman Melville

[from Herman Melville's Moby Dick, 1851]

Physiognomically regarded, the Sperm Whale is an anomalous creature. He has no proper nose. And since the nose is the central and most conspicuous of the features; and since it perhaps most modifies and finally controls their combined expression; hence it would seem that its entire absence, as an external appendage, must very largely affect the countenance of the whale. For as in landscape gardening, a spire, cupola, monument, or tower of some sort, is deemed almost indispensable to the completion of the scene; so no face can be physiognomically in keeping without the elevated open-work belfry of the nose. Dash the nose from Phidias's marble Jove, and what a sorry remainder! Nevertheless, Leviathan is of so mighty a magnitude, all his proportions so stately, that the same deficiency which in the sculptured Jove were hideous, in him is no blemish at all. Nay, it is an added grandeur. A nose to the whale would have been impertinent. As on your physiognomical voyage you sail round his vast head in your jolly-boat, your noble conceptions of him are never insulted by the reflection that he has a nose to be pulled. A pestilent conceit, which so often will insist upon obtruding even when beholding the mightiest royal beadle on his throne.