Category Archives: Poetry

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:


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.”


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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)


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.


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Soberanía y transgresión: César Moro by Mariela Dreyfus

I will get hold of it.


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“The ‘grain’ is the voice in the body as it sings”

Roland Barthes in Image–Music–Text, here. I was reminded of it because of a piece on Stuart Hall by Homi Bhabha in Critical Inquiry, and I miss reading Critical Inquiry and some other things.

The grain is the voice in the body as it sings, and this is one more road leading to or from Vallejo. Bhabha talks about semiotics, locus of enunciation, intersubjectivity and language.

(Once again I want to say I do not like this behaviorist psychotherapy, that is all about setting little goals, containing yourself, and being good … and where the assumption is that without such containment, you will be incredibly small minded and self serving. I do not know that that is what this psychotherapist intends to do, but when I arrive in late afternoon he is tired and does not need to be sitting any longer, he needs to be stretching, there is pain in his every sinew, and he says formulaic things. He was not like this before and I had been thinking he was getting older but now I wonder: perhaps he is just impatient, tired of me.)

Transference. I do amateur psychoanalysis on myself on the blog because I do not seem to get, or do not think I can get it elsewhere. I claim psychotherapy is about containing oneself, saying the things one is allowed to say so that one can appear deserving of some glimmerings of useful insight or care. Is that, then, what I actually think about people and life? I am myself considered a good and inspiring advisor because I tell people to take what they need and do what they will (and I trust them to be ethical about this). I say it to everyone as a matter of course, but I do not say it to myself, and I probably mistrust myself.

Evidence suggests I am a courageous person.



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Alphonse Daudet’s house of pain

Every evening, a hideously painful spasm in the ribs. I read, for a long time, sitting up in bed – the only position I can endure. I’m a poor old wounded Don Quixote, sitting on his arse in his armour at the foot of a tree.

Armour is exactly what it feels like, a hoop of steel cruelly crushing my lower back. Hot coals, stabs of pain as sharp as needles. Then chloral, the tin-tin of my spoon in the glass, and peace at last.

This breastplate has had me in its grip for months. I can’t undo the straps; I can’t breathe…

Since learning that I’ve got it for ever – and my God, what a short “for ever” that is going to be – I’ve readjusted myself and started taking these notes. I’m making them by dipping the point of a nail in my own blood and scratching on the walls of my carcere duro [punitive imprisonment].

All I ask is not to have to change cell, not to have to descend into an in pace, down there where everything’s black, and thought no longer exists…

The clever way death cuts us down, but makes it look like just a thinning-out. Generations never fall with one blow – that would be too sad and too obvious. Death prefers to do it piecemeal. The meadow is attacked from several sides at the same time. One of us goes one day; another some time afterwards; you have to stand back and look around you to take in what’s missing, to grasp the vast slaughter of your generation…

From time to time, a memory of the active life, of happier times. For instance, those Neapolitan coral-fishermen among the rocks, in the evening. The epitome of physical well-being…

Return to childhood. To reach that distant chair, to cross that waxed corridor, requires as much effort and ingenuity as Stanley deploys in the African jungle…

I only know one thing, and that is to shout to my children, “Long live Life!’ But it’s so hard to do, while I am ripped apart by pain.

This was first published in 1930, although Daudet died in 1897. Here is a related article, and here is the one in which I am finding my Daudet quotations. Here is more.



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Juan Sánchez Peláez

Our tenacious baroque vocation —the American tendency of looking at words as if they were carnal objects as recent and astonishing as the world they needed to name— and a certain epic spirit in the cultivation of the 20th century aesthetic Left favored that great impetus of the movement founded by Breton. A chapter that opens in 1928, just four years after the publication of the first “Surrealist Manifesto,” when the magazine Qué appears in Buenos Aires, founded by Aldo Pellegrini. At that time Neruda was in Rangoon writing his first Residence on Earth and a few years later Lezama Lima, in Havana, was announcing the “Death of Narcissus”: “The hand or the the lip or the bird were snowing.”

The word, streaked with divergent senses, strips its own materiality. If the accent in the Surrealism of the Americas is markedly erotic, as for example with the Chilean Rosamel del Valle (an explicit influence on Sánchez Peláez), it is, in the first place, because of that visibility of the word as an unsettling object, dislocated from its reference: “The words sound like gold animals,” writes Sánchez Peláez.

Now I know about both this poet and the blog Venepoetics, and its mysterious author.


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Viaje hacia la noche

A documentary on César Moro.


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