The instinct for thought before it finds expression. (Gillian Conoley on her recent translation of Henri Michaux.) Why privilege this? For the sake of the poem inside the poem. If I don't detect its presence the poem seems trifling, "lite," an enraging waste of time.
What can Judith Balso possibly mean by "figures of thought"?
Perhaps no connection between what one writes and the activities of one's so-called "inner life."
So, first, do no harm. (To the ineffable).
In awe of the simplicity and purity of Lisa Robertson's Cinema of the Present--its form, that is. The content as usual is philosophically sophisticated, playful, and complex. Her great subject continues to be the attempt to harmonize, or maybe lyricize, politics and aesthetics, the individual (woman) and the collective (women?).
Clear plastic bag of wind like a bubble of light tumbles by.
An image for this poetry: a sparkling jellyfish cloud in thin mental air with stinging tentacles dropping and trailing their tips on the ground. (William James, with stingers.)
It is enough, maybe, to keep company with sentences.
Balso: "a thought capable of holding together the contingency of the universe and the possibility of a collective and projected figure of humanity."
We can't seem to imagine the earth, only heaven and hell. (Stevens: "The great poems of heaven and hell have been written and the great poem of the earth remains to be written.") Easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism, etc.
False tranquility of the corpse--the extrinsic life of microbes and maggots reanimates it. Finally the false peace of bone, beginning its slow irretrievable movement into soil and rock. Writing this in the understanding that when this happens to my body, it will no longer be mine. The life of consciousness shunts onto a new track at the moment of physical death. Where that track leads no one knows, but one thing is certain: it leaves the body as we knew it behind.
Afterlife of consciousness almost irrelevant and a matter of karma. As I collapse into the isolation of the brain, I take with me all the good and evil of my life--that which I lived in the world.
Lisa Robertson: "Within the concept of the present, the figure-ground relationship effaced itself."
f a t e
prisoner of passion
contraint predicates freedom (image of thought)
From that into a definition: the present, or the experience of presence, is prior to figure-ground distinctions.
Hell as city in Dante, a parody of Florence. Heaven is also Florence.
LR: "Do these experiences of thought and reading persist and accumulate? Or is most of it lost, only to be circled back to and rediscovered?"
(Ambivalence of intellect. The arbitrary.)
(Back and forth between poetry and Walking Dead recaps.)
(A phrase that comes from nowhere: impaled flesh-plug.)
LR: "And what is the subject but a stitching?" To the object, to context.
Perpetual warring imaginations: the French conceptual with its seductive hypostases; the Anglo-Saxon embedded particulars. Verticality v. horizontality.
Latinate conceptual authority / Anglo-Saxon popular particulars
No commons of the concept. The people can never enter authority without ceasing to be themselves.
Syntax is no ontology but it functions like one. Cases of mistaken identity are common.
Always midst and muddle. I long to step out of things, to step into the sacred pause between finishing and beginning.
LR: "What's natural, what's social, what's intuitive?"
(Another phrase: fur of transience)
What you love is the white space islanding each of LR's statements, inviting the reader to fill in the significance, ramifications, and possible contexts of each.
LR's figure for lyric: "ancient ego nectar."
"the noticed friction between thinking and perceiving"
(eros of a sincere mind)
LR: "form requires of you a reticence." My contrary urges toward purity, the stripped (verse) and the prolix overthrow of prose fiction (or the fictionesque).
Libidinal investment in forms and genres--strategic.
LR: "the prosody of being misapprehended"
Philosophical difficulty, referential difficulty. My hyperliteracy and compulsion to recycle and elude. LR mostly free of that--impressive reticence. The difficulty is literally in my mind.
LR: "You think with plants and rags, with prepositional inadequacy, with improvised throat of sorrow."
(Confidence ebbs and flows. In the ebbs it's best to read. Translate a little.)
Desire to bring French into English. Stevens: "French and English constitute a single language."
Romantic isolation of a cottage or a cabin. But instead of long walks, a logpile, brilliant insights by firelight. I envision: depression, dirt in the sheets, chronic masturbation, a poor diet.
Religion inscribes the divine in dailiness. Keeping kosher keeps G-d before the mind at every meal, in every detail of the menu. It's practical. There's an intrinsic Protestant quality to secularism since the secularist deprives himself of ritual and is left with the emptiness the Protestant fills purely by faith. Empty pews, clapboard churches.
LR: "You carried the great discovery of poetry as freedom, not form."
Place in the sun. Piece of the pie. Sunny side of the street.
"Soul" is generally used in a unitary way, to indicate the state of the self at its least divided. But I hear pain of division in it--"soul music"--the longing for unity that can only be achieved by opening to otherness. The soul is tragic or openness to tragedy, to a fundamental human homelessness.
I envy the achieved simplicity of form in Cinema of the Present. But it's the achievement that makes it look simple. Surely, in composition, in the middle, she must have felt moments of muddle, in spite of the perfect simplicity of the book's visible constraints--roman type alternating with italic type, the italic type proceeding more or less in alphabetical order, so that sentences recur, sometimes close to each other and sometimes at a great distance, creating a multivoiced and fugal effect. I look at my own works in progress and wish for a hill to climb high enough to catch a glimpse of their final forms. But this is impossible, as it must have been for LR: I'm in the middle and the only way out (or up, or down) is through.
LR: "You would like thought to release something other than laboratory conditions." Thought, as abstraction, reduces too much, seems all but incapable of grasping the blooming confusion of particulars in which our bodies, as opposed to our habitually Cartesian minds, are very much at home.
tragitopia - the place of goats
A strong sense of theater in LR. Poetry as mental theater in which to try out little dramas of language and thought. "You use speech to decorate duration for somebody. You stop just before it becomes a shape."
Cafe: Tall striding high-headed white pompadoured Malcolm MacDowell-ish man reading a volume of Wittgenstein's lectures, standing up at the counter.
Cafe: Young woman in a low-cut peach lacy blouse sitting erect before a textbook on organic chemistry listening to whatever's on her earbuds with great concentration.
What is "lyric obscentiy," Lisa? The unspeakability of the ipsus? "The I-speaker on your silken rupture spills into history."
Lyric research. Laboratory of the speaking I.
LR: "You're bent to a book as the uprising unfurls."
Shadows and terrors. Misdirected rage. Jews the scapegoats of modernity. When it's capitalism and unjust systems of distribution that need to be attacked.
Rilke: "Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love."
Desire to withdraw, vita contemplativa. History knocking, trying to pretend I don't hear. Europe is fading. Israel withdraws from democracy. Anti-semitism is real.
Hoffnung, wo ist?
At the Art Institute I rest for a moment in the eternal gilded age of the Sargent portraits, where human graces for a while rise to the surface of memory and all costs are hidden.
There are historical moments, anchors in time, achieved through aesthetic perception, that are my only chance at perspective, for grasping the crisis of the present. The turn of the twentieth century, the first decade after WWII, the Seventies. Romanticizing the great risk. Pasolini: Harsh / climate, sweet history. Mandelstam: "the most dangerous, intricate, and criminal century."
Needing more diverse means of registering citation in my poems. I don't like quotatio marks. But I can't use italics for everything. Small caps?
Balso asking "in what manner the past can return within the present" of Mandelstam and Dante.
As a woman LR invests in appearing, wrestles with her inability to separate from the spectacle of femininity in order to speak. "You wore the dress as payment for entrance to the symbolic order."
Getting in on the ground floor of the Logos as factory of value. Not value in itself but the means of production. Content.
LR: "To think in a bed in a hotel in an unfamiliar city is your dream."
Running out the clock of this notebook.
The Dante Sonata. When did the classical concert become infected by pain and dread? Light of unresolution.
Cafe: Man with a Slavic accent telling another about William S. Burroughs and how addiction leads to long life, struggle with the self, replacing the self--"it's like leeches." I think of Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts. "I only like nonfiction," the other guy says.
Man seeks spiritual compensation for social deficits. And the reverse.
Meant that to sound like a want ad.
A man alone makes no nomos.
Poetry as I have it from Stevens, from Ashbery, accepting nostalgia but not resting in nostalgia; resorting less to historical myths than the poet's own rough-and-ready ironized frangible myth-making--Crispin, the new spirit, et al--which are like chess pieces made of glass, acceptable for play but not in themselves final or monumental. The game has the goal of restoring the earth to the player and the player to the earth.
LR: "This is where thinking could become nature, where both are only incomplete."
Cafe: A man with a Bible behaves as I do with this copy of the Collected Poems: he doesn't read, he rereads, scrutinizes, writes in notebook, feels himself observed. He is in pursuit of his own soul. I likewise? I, forgetful of my task, face lit by sunlight on decayed piles of snow?
Mom, I’m still in space, rocking imperceptibly, systole and diastole of persisting beyond you and your death, toward my own death, toward my daughter-your-grandaughter’s frail horizon. The day she came into language remembers you.
"Even the dead will not be safe--"