Category Archives: Poetry

The news in Oceania

There are large screen televisions everywhere and they report incessantly on the mass shooting of the day. I am reminded of the constant war reporting in 1984.

By electronic mail on the home front, we are warned daily about a black man with an automatic pistol who has attempted an armed robbery at the edge of campus.

The shootings happen daily elsewhere and are reported upon in great detail. The attempted armed robbery always takes place between midnight and dawn and the message about him varies slightly but is essentially always the same.

Axé.

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Vignette

The student said the school mascot was wimpy. “It is not a local symbol, and it is not even an animal, it is just a piece of fruit. What can a piece of fruit intimidate? Nothing.” The university spends money on such things, he went on, “but not on education.” The new sculpture in the quad is “tacky, which together with the expense it surely incurred, embodies everything that is wrong with the university.¨

I said that at my university those statements would become an editorial cartoon in the student newspaper, that would go viral.  He said that could never happen here, as everything is so controlled, and reprisal for disrespect is so certain.

What fascinated me was that at every point he saw things so much more clearly than I. I would not say such trenchant things about the school and its purposes, nor am I as aware and also accepting as he is of the dangers that inhere in expressing such perceptions.

Axé.

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Paris Spleen 48

Vallejo read Baudelaire more assiduously than we even realize, and did this before getting to Paris although he refers to him most obviously there.

“Anywhere out of the world”

Cette vie est un hôpital où chaque malade est possédé du désir de changer de lit. Celui-ci voudrait souffrir en face du poêle, et celui-là croit qu’il guérirait à côté de la fenêtre.

Il me semble que je serais toujours bien là où je ne suis pas, et cette question de déménagement en est une que je discute sans cesse avec mon âme.

«Dis-moi, mon âme, pauvre âme refroidie, que penserais-tu d’aller d’habiter Lisbonne? Il doit y faire chaud, et tu t’y ragaillardirais comme un lézard. Cette ville est au bord de l’eau; on dit qu’elle est bâtie en marbre, et que le peuple y a une telle haine du végétal, qu’il arrache tous les arbres. Voilà un paysage selon ton goût; un paysage fait avec la lumière et le minéral, et le liquide pour les réfléchir!»

Mon âme ne répond pas.

«Puisque tu aimes tant le repos, avec le spectacle du mouvement, veux-tu venir habiter la Hollande, cette terre béatifiante? Peut-être te divertiras-tu dans cette contrée dont tu as souvent admiré l’image dans les musées. Que penserais-tu de Rotterdam, toi qui aimes les forêts de mâts, et les navires amarrés au pied des maisons?»

Mon âme reste muette.

«Batavia te sourirait peut-être davantage? Nous y trouverions d’ailleurs l’esprit de l’Europe marié à la beauté tropicale.»

Pas un mot. — Mon âme serait-elle morte?

En es-tu donc venue à ce point d’engourdissement que tu ne te plaises que dans ton mal? S’il en est ainsi, fuyons vers les pays qui sont les analogies de la Mort. — Je tiens notre affaire, pauvre âme! Nous ferons nos malles pour Tornéo. Allons plus loin encore, à l’extrême bout de la Baltique; encore plus loin de la vie, si c’est possible; installons-nous au pôle. Là le soleil ne frise qu’obliquement la terre, et les lentes alternatives de la lumière et de la nuit suppriment la variété et augmentent la monotonie, cette moitié du néant. Là, nous pourrons prendre de longs bains de ténèbres, cependant que, pour nous divertir, les aurores boréales nous enverront de temps en temps leurs gerbes roses, comme des reflets d’un feu d’artifice de l’Enfer!»

Enfin, mon âme fait explosion, et sagement elle me crie: «N’importe où! n’importe où! pourvu que ce soit hors de ce monde!»

Axé.

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Trois jours de beauté

Et une semaine de bonté, peut-être.

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.

Axé.

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Primaveral

¡Cima de la delicia!
Todo en el aire es pájaro.
Se cierne lo inmediato
Resuelto en lejanía.

¡Hueste de esbeltas fuerzas!
¡Qué alacridad de mozo
En el espacio airoso,
Henchido de presencia!

El mundo tiene cándida
Profundidad de espejo.
Las más claras distancias
Sueñan lo verdadero.

¡Dulzura de los años
Irreparables! ¡Bodas
Tardías con la historia
Que desamé a diario!

Más, todavía más.
Hacia el sol, en volandas
La plenitud se escapa.
¡Ya sólo sé cantar!

–Jorge Guillén, 1928

Axé.

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On subjectivity, language and the body

I am plagiarizing this post from the Facebook page of a colleague, and hope that is all right. Look:

Correspondences:

Adorno on Benjamin:
“Despite extreme individuation […] Benjamin seems empirically hardly to have been a person at all, rather an arena of movement in which content forced its way, through him, into language.”

Jim Siegel on Clifford Geertz:
“Geertz lectured with an intensity I had never before seen…Geertz to me was not a person but an image of the flow of words through a human body…Geertz, more than anyone else I met as a student, showed me that words need not stay inside the head even if one has no method. All you had to do was connect the parts of your body with them.”

Axé.

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Vallejo Lorca Spicer Stein Pessoa Drummond

From my dialogues elsewhere.

Person A, quoting Pessoa:

Whether we write or speak or do but look

Whether we write or speak or do but look
We are ever unapparent. What we are
Cannot be transfused into word or book.
Our soul from us is infinitely far.
However much we give our thoughts the will
To be our soul and gesture it abroad,
Our hearts are incommunicable still.
In what we show ourselves we are ignored.
The abyss from soul to soul cannot be bridged
By any skill or thought or trick of seeming.
Unto our very selves we are abridged
When we would utter to our thought our being.
We are our dreams of ourselves, souls by gleams,
And each to each other dreams of others’ dreams.

(«35 Sonnets», in Poemas Inglêses)

Z:

SMT, I meant to say this long ago. The other great poetry class, comparable to the Lorca-Vallejo-Stein-Spicer combination, is Lorca-Vallejo-Pessoa-Drummond. I will surely never be allowed to do this so you should. Also, I was originally going to run my benighted Vallejo dissertation through the lines of Drummond, Pessoa, Valéry, Borges, Bergson, people like this, and did not get to because it was seen as too conservative — neither postcolonial and hip nor poststructuralist and hip. I continue to believe that this was only because these professors I was dealing with were very concerned about fashion and “productivity” and also had not read the people I was talking about very carefully. All of this has to do with fractured subjects, empty signs, and centers that are either absent or fall away, but it isn’t “anti-humanist” in the slapdash and flashy manner people used to take on when exerpting and patching with Foucault.

Person A:

By chance I also came across these lines from Jack Spicer, riffing off Benjamin (and Baudelaire): “As things decay they bring their equivalents into being […] That is what makes it possible for a poet to translate real objects, to bring them across language as easily as he can bring them across time. Things do not connect; they correspond. That is how we dead men write to each other.”

In the meantime, someone entirely different told me this:

Concerning holographic projections, e.g., smart phones, “holographic protests”, etc., the phenomenon is not quite as mysterious as it first appears. Once one realizes that the hologram is not actually a physical image, floating in intersubjective space, but is merely a subjective, virtual image, that is, *virtual* in merely the sense of Newton’s Opticks (1704) and not so much that of Tim Berners Lee (1989), for example, and that through careful monitoring with lasers that provide continuously updated feedback of information on the focal length vector of each of the observer’s two eyes, a virtual image in the above sense can be easily made to appear and persist anywhere in the observer’s visual projective space – not just hovering above the plane of the smart phone’s screen or on the city street that one’s body is physically facing. One fascinating fact, that holography points up in a somewhat different though related way than perhaps “virtual” reality technology has been doing now for quite a few years, is that our notion of “virtual” is very powerful in this sense: its context is paradoxical in being at once unified and open-ended. Currently, the term, “virtual”, appears to possess three distinct senses, i.e., of “virtual” (optics), “virtual” (virtual reality) and “virtual” (virtual particle/field). With the further advancements in the disciplines of quantum computing, holography and quantum gravity theory, which are expected over the next 30 years or so, these three distinct acceptations of “virtual” will be understood to be just different perspectives on the same underlying process, and this new understanding shall forever more fundamentally blur the boundaries between physical reality, virtual reality and mind.

And this:

The mothership checked in for a moment there.

And I laughed. The idea of the mothership checking in, “souls by gleams,” as Pessoa would have said, sunbeams, slices of blue sky.

This is what it is, today, to feel whole as one once did.

Axé.

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