Writing begins with forgiveness

For me, writing always begins with self-forgiveness. I don’t sit down and rush headlong into the blank page. I make coffee. I put on a song I like. I drink the coffee, listen to the song. I don’t write. Beginning with forgiveness revolutionizes the writing process, returns it being to a journey of creativity rather than an exercise in self-flagellation.  I forgive myself for not sitting down to write sooner, for taking yesterday off, for living my life. That shame? I release it. My body unclenches; a new lightness takes over once that burden has floated off. There is room, now, for story, idea, life.

I put my hands on the keyboard and begin.

Voir le texte entier.

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La beauté

I knew that grandmother when she was in her eighties and nineties, mostly. She was a down to earth, practical person and very old, arthritic, wrinkled but she would look at herself sometimes and say all she really needed was a facelift.

Later I saw a picture of her taken in her earlier seventies, before I was born. She was still old but comparatively younger, and wore a beaded crimson blouse. She had the offhand, casually beatific look of a woman who knows she is beautiful without effort.

People talked about her marvelous personal characteristics and did not say she had been a beauty but I suspect she was. It would be why she was surprised to see herself now, and said all she really needed was a facelift.

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For comment

Staff members told attendees to keep the visits discreet, she says, for fear that their interest in nonacademic careers could hurt their relationship with their faculty advisers.

That is from this article, which I feel needs deconstruction.

It is very fraught. Should degree programs be changed since not all students become professors? Is it really that dangerous to say you have other career plans? If you say it and professors look at you askance, should you quake in fear, or can you (wo)man up?

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Baltic States

It appears that Lithuanian is the closest Indo-European language to Sanskrit.

There is this Lithuanian film Vortex, very beautiful, that I would rather see in the theatre than at home because of the sadness.

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Montmartre

I dreamed I had inherited a small apartment in Paris, and had been transported to it. I went outside to find out what neighborhood I was in and it was Montmartre. I said, “Well. I did not expect to inherit an apartment in Paris, and had I chosen my own apartment in Paris, I would not necessarily have chosen this neighborhood. But I live in Montmartre now, and it is a good thing.”

I remembered the dream in the afternoon, at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. I was looking at a book illustrated by Sonia Delaunay, of Blaise Cendrars’ La Prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France. “Dis, Blaise, sommes-nous bien loin de Montmartre?” it asks.

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14 minutes

It is difficult concentrate the first time through this manuscript because each poem induces such laughter. If one expects only a few truly bad lines, as is the case with most bad poetry, one may wish to skip ahead in the hope of laughing soon again. But in this collection each line is so bad that one can profit greatly from reading slowly. What makes these poems so funny is that without mimicking any,  they quite closely resemble poems that win prizes–poems which, however middlebrow, are widely considered edifying or profound, and highly suitable for broad consumption. These are poems offering the homely Zen-like insights a grandmother more insipid than your own might have provided, poems without opium or dream visions, poems without corruption, unless youthful masturbation is that. The speaker imagines himself a highly sensitive individual, and from this vantage-point is able to offer unoriginal, yet instructive perspectives on daily life. His words make palpable the soulfulness that lies hidden under every dirty dish, and that only truly bad poetry can yet reveal. For the scholar hoping to discover the nature of poetry, an excursion into bad poetry is essential. This awful collection will be necessary reading for years to come.

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Sarmiento du jour

Ricardo Piglia once pointed out that the apocryphal quotation at the beginning of Domingo Sarmiento’s Facundo (1845) — the French sentence “on ne tue point les idées,” written by Sarmiento on a wall after being attacked by a federalist gang — can be taken as an emblem of Argentine literature in its foundational moment. Not simply in its banal content, but primarily in its form and in the discursive economy that presides over its historical inscription. By relating how Rosas’s dictatorship, “after sending a committee in charge of deciphering the hieroglyph,” (Sarmiento 5) must have wondered what in the world it could mean, Sarmiento draws the line between civilization and barbarism with a mere epigraph: barbarians are, of course, those unable to read the sentence. More than in the utopian vision it voices, “the sentence’s political content resides in the use of the French language” (Piglia 15). A voracious student of foreign languages, Sarmiento located in the transculturation of European sources a sine qua non condition for the construction of a modern civilized Argentine nation. Transculturation is, however, always already torn apart by aporias, not the least of which plagues the authorship of Sarmiento’s epigraph. Sarmiento attributes it to Fortoul, but Groussac later argued that it was in fact taken from Volney, only to be contradicted by Verdevoye, who noted that it does not appear either in Fortoul or Volney, but in Diderot. The exercise in tracking down sources naturally does not matter in itself, but as an emblem of the predicament of an entire national literature. Designed to found a nation by alienating, domesticating, and eventually transculturating that nation’s originary barbarism, the letrado’s civilizing gesture is from the beginning contaminated by a savage, barbaric relationship with its sources, emblematized in recurrent erroneous and second-hand attributions. (– I. A.)

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