Friday, November 18, 2005

Meshes of the Afternoon (Quotes, Meditation)

"From the moment the first drop of blood is spilled, the martry does not feel the pains of his injury and is absolved of all his bad deeds; he sees his seat in Paradise; he is saved from the torture of the grave; he is saved from the fear of the Day of Judgment; he marries seventy-two beautiful black-eyed women; he is an advocate for seventy of his relatives to reach Paradise; he earns the Crown of Glory, whose precious stone is better than all this world and everything in
--Sheik 'Abd-Salam Abu Shukheudem quoted in Barbara Victor's *Army of Roses*

“On February 25, 2002, Dr. al-Rantisi stated in an article in the Al-Ayat newspaper, published in London and Beirut, “Suicide depends on volition. If the martyr, whether a man or a woman, intends to kill him or herself because he or she is tired of life, it is suicide. However, if he or she wants to sacrifice his or her soul in order to strike the enemy and to be rewarded by Allah, they are equally considered martyrs. We have no doubt that those carrying out these operations are martyrs.”
-- Ibid.

“Thus at the same time as reaction to traces becomes perceptible, reaction ceases to be acted. The consequences of this are immense: no longer being able to act a reaction, active forces are deprived of the material condition of their functioning, they no longer have the opportunity to do their job, they are separated from what they can do.”
-- from Gilles Deleuze’s *Nietzsche & Philosophy*

This locution may be one of the major investments of the Lebanese war. It can only issue from someone who not only is unaware that he or she is already dead even as he or she lives, but also wants to extend his or her life even into death. Thus the testimony of Bilal Fahs, who drove a car filled with 150kg of explosives into an Israeli convoy on 6/16/1985 at Zahrani, Sayda, begins with the following Qur’anic aya: “And call not those who are slain in the way of Allah ‘dead.’ Nay, they are living, only ye perceive not” (Qur’an 3:169), and Sana’ Muhaydli says in her testimony: “I am not dead, but alive amidst you…” Notwithstanding over a hundred thousand dead in the years of war and civil war, the Lebanese seem not to have learned to die. Therefore, one of the great tasks of art and writing in Lebanon for the foreseeable future is to teach this people famed for being ‘life-loving’ to die, that is that they are already dead.
-- from Jalal Toufic’s *(Vampires): an uneasy essay on the undead*

“So the camera is moving as an eater of space, or a representation of space, and it is leaping in time. And the effect is that this is an amalgam of many walks, many men.”
-- Stan Brakhage on Maya Deren in *Film at Wit’s End*

Vengeance, the indefinite par excellence, here becomes a circle, therefore contained; with the consequences that guilt is as it were done away with, since we are dealing with a series of reactions with no initial action. Yet guilt is not really addressed and mitigated through recourse to either this perfect circularity where the constitutive injustice in the realm of the dead – due to the blindness of the vengeance of the shards of the minds of the dead – is occulted; or to ignorance, which is the result of self-interest (one is guilty of one’s ignorance). Indeed, what most often occurs as a result of the attempt at expunging any trace of guilt through a perfect circularity is the eruption of an unoriginated guilt (“I was guilty, abominably, intolerably guilty, without cause and without motive:”), the constitution of a vicious circle of a guilt that “demanded punishment… [which] consisted, fittingly enough, of being guilty.” One can be truly innocent only after confronting the aforementioned two guilts and even if one cannot extricate oneself from them.
-- from Jalal Toufic’s *Forthcoming*


The Lazarus Girls Dance

In that hell that is now – in the now
that is hell –
the now that is / now
and then and after / given as such
to space and time – your patience, our urgencies / your urgencies

She didn’t see – the body she – when she walked in – arrived / and on time yet – for the wind keys

She didn’t see - she yet the / body - as a tunnel - for dreaming - accretes

Undying -
the appearance of love

A fatal grip – of flowers - flowers / have not half-heartedly - fell / to shadow

To shimmey
this key
to Paradise
a key to dreams

This key to shadow - not yet a seizure
of the person - woman, women – not yet and / often

Having not grasped – her death / (yet) a woman – lifting the fatal / needle to not

Hear (the needle) / there is - no / soundtrack / no marks / of
but the fatal / Raga gravel
on this endless path of appear

And mirror
the face
is a mirror – having / (not yet)
grasped - the face
(is) a mirror – suicided

(inside) by her self / in fatal time – to leap - a breaded knife – but not yet / hurt – to repeat and combine

In fatal time - time repeat

And combine
time now – is itself – a / woman
(space) – holding
the key
on / her tongue
suicided – not yet
(by) her beloved / bereft
even – on the lips – of / consequence
her children –
call her the breaded one

A breaded – knife will / not help – your double (time) to kill –
the / key to shattering – and left alone / by these unwilled devices – what / device
left – alone will / accrete – not yet – or not any longer – multiple

Multiply a number of doubles / a number of devils

To accrete - holding the key

In clear shadow – clear shade / of mesh

What veil accomplice – of mesh what / mirror face felt – mirror this - is a song / for all – for no one – (women) suicided / by themselves – and others – binding – dynamite
turns inwardly for time itself

Reacted - and not at all - for time

To accrete

What veil accomplice – what
menace – (not) across / time – any longer
to bear
the longing - and / tears she
is –
compelled / sonambulist – rising by effort
of his limbs
why don’t you just hang / up – evidence – we are not
here – to be born across time

Not substituted – not a
mirror / face – a shattered
mirror – she / is walking
so – to swallow
to surface – what she can not / get – the key
to wind
the key – to wind is death

To Kingdom come / what don’t you get – not
your / death – born witness (martry)
unremembered time – the impossible
effort – agility
to climb – stairs and wake
a sonambulist

Waking to
your own death

as it – is not Paradise / delivered upon not arriving / having passed the chance trouble of
your doubles
the shattered mirror / of time – still waiting

Knowing less well – self-reflexive / the double – and her double – astral
or a virtual
corpse – you are not yet / Clear Light
Clear - Light
light of tunnel – back-tracking
tracking back

Tunnel knowing not well – not / recognizing (the knife) yet – not the / dynamite or key – of plastic / to Paradise – us all

No one

Not the wind - no / one yet divine – not / the staircase (yet) you will / ascend / to descend (the fatal) – Ladder – re-creation / of the whole - world unwoken / world broken

Let us be for the having missed / do for the just missed - justice
the missing
to be just - and the blink

She – can only / catch – a camera

by missing

another – universe

a camera of accretions / substitution –
of the false

face for / another – false face shatter the / mirror in transit trance

Dream entrance a state in this (trance) is he and not / you dead (dream) this (he) dream / this he again

Dream this trance he (is not) yet / dead you - are dead until the end / there must be - another
created picture / picture dynamite stacks – or (the will) we pretend / to sublime melancholy –the figure / not

(in trance) again

Again affirmed / not in trance again

Chants / chance


This is not
his will this / is not
your will not yet

To be suicided to be

Or accreted

Multiple -
this condition – our state
of health / leading you
back to you (as you) / (and you)
as him

Now ended
but not there / complete in / shattered accretion

For Maya Deren, for Eva Hesse, Wafa Idris -- 'suicided'?

Schlesinger's "To" / Conative Verse

Receiving Kyle Schlesinger’s poem “To” by e-mail, a work the poet composed after watching Scorsese’s Dylan documentary on television (Kyle BTW has long been a Dylan fan), I am reminded of the possibilities for conative, affecting verse through the use of recurrent syntactical patterns and serialist word combination on-the-fly. Here is the poem:


Mind to tend
Mind to mind
Mind to mend
Mind to mine

Tend to mind
Tend to tend
Tend to mend
Tend to mine

Mend to mine
Mend to mend
Mend to tend
Mend to mind

Mine to tend
Mine to mine
Mine to mend
Mine to mind

To tend mind
To tend tend
To tend mend
To tend mine

Mind to time
Tend to time
Mend to time
Mine to time

To to time
To to mind
To to tend
To to mine

Time to mine
Time to mind
Time to tend
Time to mend

Time to time
Time to tone
Tone to time
Time to tone

To tone mind
To mind tone
To tend mine
To mind tone

Tone to hurt
Tone to mind
Tone to tone
Tone to mine

Hurt to hold
Hold to hurt
To hurt tone
To hold hurt

Such a work puts Schlesinger in the company of some of my favorite and most valued recent and contemporary poets, reminding one, perhaps, of many of Louis Zukofsky’s experiments in verse, and his insistence in *Bottom* and elsewhere on “recurrent” words and word-patterns as bearing evidence to the major tendencies, ideas, if not obsessions of a writer’s “lifework”; I am also reminded of that poet very much after Zukofsky, and particularly the rigorous serialisms of “Come shadow come and take this shadow up” and “Songs of Degrees”, John Taggart; as well as Charles Bernstein, in whose recent *Shadowtime* we find the harrowing and pulsating homage to Celan, “Dew and die”. To quote the first few lines:

“can dew and die can and die can tie his sin tap and
the war dew hoe and die has him and her and tar the
pry and […]”**

Truncating Bernstein’s poem as I have just done seems an inappropriate thing, the poem compelling the reader beyond itself to keep chanting the rhythms of the poem, if not the particular words themselves, taken up into a kind of perpetual motion machine of lyric. Not a small (or large) machine made of words, but a simple machine achieving maximum effect (and affect) by monosyllabic and conjunctive insisting.

One constantly asks (and should of course continue to ask) what a poem can do? That is, what words can effect, how they can move, inspire, enlarge or intensify experience, how can they produce consciousness, and how they can exist as practical objects -- not so much functionally (in what sense could a poem be a function?) or instrumentally, as being pragmatically towards actions taken in the world: towards actual bodies, interactions, things. Such a question is a practical one, but it is also one of what Spinoza called “conatus” -- the co-striving of beings for continued existence. Literalizing Spinoza’s term (and allegorizing "our" letters) I wonder if words don’t also exist conatively?

Spinoza’s term conatus is grounding of his Ethics, insofar as ethics can no longer be founded on ‘truth’ but, to paraphrase Deleuze, upon ‘what bodies can do’ – an evaluating akin Nietzsche. And not only what bodies can do, but what they do by the fact of what they are necessarily -- by their ontological tendencies. Therefore what is ‘evil’ is only that which will not cooperate with a given body by its chemical, biological or (problematically, as the heads of social Darwinism rear) cultural composition. The problems of human good and evil, an ethics of human animals, is a problem of to what extent bodies affect one another in ways given to cultural production, and cooperation within social interaction and affiliation.

A means for this costriving as an ethics of cultural production is, I would argue, the poem itself. The poem, as much as it is an intellectual thing, a thing of consciousness raised and made complex, is also a site where mind and body engage each other, and, perhaps more importantly, ARE for and of each other. Perhaps what we feel before we think, what we feel as we think the words we are reading (just as we might also hear them reverberate by voices in the air), are both emotions the stirrings of ideas and ideas the stirrings of emotions -- simultaneously, and inextricably. Or says Blake (and notably Bernstein quoting him in his essay “Words and Pictures” and his address to Bernadette Mayer, “The Only Utopia is Now”): “The tear is an intellectual thing.”

Or as Schlesinger writes to me, giving me permission to publish his poem "virtually" and comment on it:
"If you’re inclined to stomp on the chorus pedal, by all means, reverberate with vertebrae."


Notes reading “To”

In affectivity mind and body are bound mutually to the nervous system – and centrally, the discs of the vertebrae as those portals of mind / body, sense / non-sense. To move is to weave mind and body intensely, by sense in duration. To rest to act and act to rest. To find “perfect rest” - in Zukofsky’s Spinozan parlance – as a means to action.

To be ‘to’… the poem is an address, a speech act with an indefinite addressee; ‘to’ also intends an action virtual not yet or no longer made actual. A preposition = virtual action. Pre-position. One doesn’t “do” but one is ‘to’: about ‘to’, doing “this” ‘to’ do “that”. Equi-vocating?

Equivocalizing as affecting.

The first 4 stanzas establish a cross-bred equation / equivocalizing of the words 'mind' 'tend' and 'mend' and of the phonemes “m” “t” “i” “e” “n” “d”.

The spell / accumulated effect of these textual units becomes broken at the 5th stanza where the insistent pattern “x” 'to' “x” / “do this” 'to' “do that” turns to what I read as declarations of virtual action: 'To tend mind', etc. However we must shift our attention between two ways of reading the statements, to 'tend mind' inviting a reading of 'mind' as a verb and a noun, and this flickering between verb and noun slowing and speeding the reading of the poem -- noun delaying, verb accelerating.

Stanza 6 is a jumbling coda of the first 4 stanzas.

Stanza 7 I immediately read after the early “Phase” pieces of Steve Reich, 'to' first doubled in my reading attention – an echo of attention. But then I realize the 1st 'to' is not so much a stutter double-timing, but an activating word (for lack of a better term). A word highlighted in what it enacts and therefore is. ‘To to time’ as in “Use the word / the preposition 'to' to time” or “'To' is to / for time / timing”. By using the preposition 'to' (as I’m using it) I position myself to / towards time, I act within it while being acted upon, affected. The time of the poem / poem as time as inter-action. The attending of my being affected in a duration the partaking with the words comprising the poem.

“To” to affect being always duration. A matter of how the words are read in their ambivalent arrangement.

Reading throughout the poem, but especially in the final stanzas as words are recombined quicker, more intensely, the ambivalence of the words, not to mention their "abstraction", wear the attention down – attenuate consciousness. Like prayer? Chanting, meditation, incantation. Sense or meaning giving way to "pure" sense of sound – the sonority of words woven, recurrent, held (and 'hurt') in my reading attention. The poem stares /sounds back at us, echoes, reflecting as it enacts, enacting as it attends, as we attend it and it us – 'to'. Positioned 'to' and we 'to' us...

Finding rest (not "perpetual peace") to perhaps 'hold hurt' (index), to 'tone' down (chill out), to 'mend' 'time' (heal), to 'mind' what is 'mine' and what is Mind (shared).

Since I can’t remember an appropriate Dylan line right now, Steve Reich will have to do:
“While performing and listening to gradual musical processes, one can participate in a particular liberating and impersonal kind of ritual. Focusing in on the musical process makes possible the shift of attention away from *he* and *she* and *you* and *me* outward toward *it*.”***

*"To" as received by Schlesinger in e-mail attachment is centered on the page, in Helvetica 12 pt.
**There should be regular tabs between all the discrete words of this excerpt from "Dew and die", however I have yet to learn how to re-code the Blog format. Please forgive!
I emphasize the absence of the tabs because they are crucial to the reading of the poem in its propelling and plosive energy. An energy where the breath picks up the energy it leaves behind wherever it left off. What occurs to me reading the poem to myself and aloud is how the absence of grammar (other than of course tabs) doesn't matter, so long as you keep articulating the words, keep pace and tendential rhythms.
***From Reich's "Music as a Gradual Process"

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"Karbala on Their Lips"

IRAN 1979 (The Necessary)*

The ‘human wave


the most

and gruesome

of mass self-



memory comparable

only to

at Flanders during

the First World War
in which

tens of thousands

of men were hounded

their trenches


the firing range of the newly

developed machine guns in

the seventy
years since

no officers

or army leaders had been
willing to pay

such an

for such tiny territorial

the most striking
thing about

the Iranian
wave attacks’

was the degree

of readiness to die
it caused

Iraqi machine

gunners to flee

not only because
they ran out


but also because they were driven

almost mad because

they could no longer bear

to shoot children
the same

age as their own

until the 1979

these children

grew up just

else poor

perhaps not
entirely happy but

all the same

with a profound
sense that it was better

to be alive

dead now


rushing to

their deaths as if
the world

had been

turned upside


and it was always
the same
word Karbala


on their lips


on their flags.

*all words from Christopher Reuter's *My Life is a Weapon* (2004)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Smithson’s Katrina (Notes)


‘Non-site’ as ‘mediation’ (Adorno) enfolding the ‘real’ / ‘site’.

Katrina photos – as ‘dialectics at a standstill’ (Benjamin) where ‘site’ / ‘non-site’ produces a lightning of reason and imaginative blindness at a nexus of the culturally antagonistic.

Attending the Whitney’s Smithson retro. with Jane Lea and Brandon Stosuy and looking at New York Times photos of New Orleans afterwards, Brandon comments how the photos remind him of Smithson’s non-sites.

“Before / After” from space (aerial photo) = the mark of ‘occurrence’, ‘there is’, ‘now time’.

‘Natural’ – as neutral terror.

Problem: to aestheticize natural disaster. But what if aestheticized (graphed) natural disaster leads back to our ‘anthropocentrism’ / ‘Humanisms’. A floodgate of the particular, of the lived-intuited.

From outer space ‘we’ is the ultimate abstraction, like money or art. Apropos Stein’s writing on ‘human mind’ in *Geographical History*, money, masterpieces, etc. But abstract must lead us back to ‘real’ in its eruptions.

Imagine: a Smithson non-site not w/ rocks and typical geological contents, but with the objects of the dead and survived – articles of clothing, water bottles, objects describing race / class conflict. A recuperation of Smithson as political, the play ‘abstract’ / 'particular' as unavoidably political.

Or could water simply evoke such contents now?

The artist must be mediator between industrialist / environmentalist (Smithson’s late dicta).

The artist must be mediator between
FEMA / people ‘on the ground’,
State / Inhabitant-Citizen,
Environmental / State–designed terror (the conditions which make for terror)?

The tears of this grid become the tears of real people. The tears of this grid broken, the tears of force.

Reduced to the animal, the ideal / abstract presents itself in its fragility, its lack of support.

The tears of our abstractions, our plans, our projects.
The tears of non-sense.

A fragile word: “tears”

Conveyed in pictures (reproducible) more than the eye. Words vs. pictures. Non-sense and sense.

Our plans, our projects.

Which is more particular?

Fragile newsprint, and collage of newsprint that will both decay.

Despite reversing our steps in the sandbox, playing the film backwards.

Benjamin’s storm made literal. Geo-graph-crit-ical.

Composed c. 9/26/05

Nevelson, Again

Colorless guilt
This self-fashioned

Of the shipyards
Shore grey

Presence of an after
Math after
An aftermath

Wood assumes
Number to not forget
This distance

Beyond the pale
Of settlement

The arms of this shadow now
An uncolored
World we sing

Pogram’s program
A more
Immediate Kiev

They destroy destroy
For the 29th

Time to ruin
Ruins affix stack
This not world

On seen things

Words and wood
What definition

Of the present
To measure slivers
Through the city scraping

The eye
Fresh it seemed
Pure conscious, pure

Sense pirch
On rocks for thousands
Of years we stand

In this night-

As they fall
From earth

Composed 9/12/05
after extended time w/ Louise Nevelson’s
catalogues, JPEG's of *Black Garden Wall III* courtesy
Anne Grady, & Nevelson's biography, *A Passionate Life*