Thursday, April 17, 2008

Elka Krajewska in Filmslash

Check out Elka Krajewska, whose *Plany Mela* I reviewed last spring, interviewed by Nancy Rhodes in Filmslash:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dirt Eaters

for Brenda and Conrad

No one was the wiser
How much blood
There would be

No one seemed to care
Given to stenches
They can’t see

Offshore we must find
A means that is
Pure to gather again

We must shove dirt
In our mouth until
We taste blood

That blood occulted
Like the 5% who
Took all the wealth

In the meantime
There will be new
Uses in this eating

Of dirt this new re
membering which must
Remain our meaning.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

All This is Discourse (Statement)*

Reading Oppen’s Daybooks and selected prose recently I was struck again by the diversity of Oppen’s philosophical sources, which include Neoplatonism, Jacques Maritain, Aquinas, Leibnitz, (William) James, Karl Jung, and of course Martin Heidegger. While there is no denying Oppen was invested in philosophical problems and discourse, he also realized philosophy’s limitations as they relate to poesis. For Oppen philosophy could never be anything more than a stimulus for the work at hand, if not also another object to be incorporated into the work, another set of words to be tested as things with which to think, to generate, to know as much as anyone knows. I wonder in fact if some damage has not been done to the reception of Oppen’s work by the focus on philosophy, as well as by such self-mythologizing accounts as Oppen’s own letters concerning his suspected “plagiarism” of Heidegger. Eschewing any rigorous analogization of Oppen’s poetry and philosophical concepts and systems, it seems more important that we, as scholars and poets, put to use our own experience about how philosophy and theory infiltrates our work, potentializes the imagination, and lends itself to poetry’s toolbox, if only to the ends of inoperativity (those tools breaking). For it seems, as Zukofsky notes in *Bottom: on Shakespeare*, that poetry and philosophy do not usually get along, and yet at the same time would jealously put on the mask of the other. Oppen’s work for me is proof that the poet may be every bit as rigorous as the philosopher in thinking one’s existence in relation, however the thing philosophy does not often do which Oppen’s poetry does is enact. Philosophy lacks action. And where philosophy becomes active, when it does the thing it would otherwise propose and systemetize, it broaches poetry. Poetry’s enaction (what Stein famously called “composition as explanation”) proves Spinoza correct when he writes “the eyes are demonstrations of the mind.” However I would extend this proposition to the poem’s movement. To read the poem as a kind of field of meaning a la “composition by field,” but also the wonderful event horizons of Oppen’s late-work, is to move with the line and into lines as lines intend meaning in their motions, the measure and sound and consequence of those motions. This “saying of saying” or “pure expression” exceeds conceptualization embodying what is perhaps most ethical about the poem as an act of meaning: that the poem exceeds what can be said and thus thought about it beyond its own reenactment. The way we make it active by reading it and thinking with it beyond any convenient recourse to criticism or theory per se.

*presented as an opening statement for The Shape of Disclosure George Oppen Centennial Symposium panel, "The Literary-Philosophical Spectrum," organized by Poets House April 8th, 2008 at Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Two Inconsequentials (Deadpan)

with Dorothea Lasky

"Two inconsequential things can come together to form a consequence."
--Jack Spicer

Everything is important

Everything is so important now
The lilac flower growing up
From what seems to be a washbasin
The clouds
I remember the old leper’s lips in this moment
I remember the odd man in California
Who did not love his wife
But could not stop talking about her either
And so, maybe he loved her slightly
But yet had something like hate, not the full thing, his complaints
Echoed in me
They were complaints about me somehow
And what about the boy
Who was left for dead under the airplane?
What about him?
I cannot remember his name, although I want to
These poems are essays
Important ones
And everything else became important when I met you
Everything became important again
I had been called elitist by those closest to me
For trying to think that we had a shot
To come on and make this world right
I had my voice made fun of
I had died inside a million times by
The lack of anything, infinite resignation
Infinite resignation, Kierkegaard says
Is the last stage before faith
And you can’t have anything
Like a belief in the moon
Without seeing your own black night in front of you
Like some tempting ghoul, its ferocious eyes
Darling, we are the ghouls, but we are also tender
And when act upon the world in this way
The world cannot help but be happy at our choice
To not give up
I will not give up!
I will not give up anything til
They lay my dead head upon the ground
And smash it, take pictures of it
Do all the horrible things they had always wanted to do to it
Before they do all those horrible things
I will make one choice to be good with you
Let us be good, iced-bright one
The purest thing empties out of you
And I can hear it
The sweetest bird-like thing
Is what it is, is what you are
Its acid-yellow head
Infinitely tender upon us all
Otherworldly, tenderly enacting
The kind of actions that make the saint
But not a bad saint, a good saint
In front of me in these symptoms
In this age of doom
All my dying ideas
Alive again
Because you breathed the air that you did
Important air
That swirls around you
Every piece of air important
Because it feeds us and you
And our brothers and sisters
And the other people we love
Because they are living with us
In this important moment, this time of being us
So that we cannot help but rejoice that we are one thing
So God?
Yes God
We are all one thing in this God
We have infinite resignation to be God
Because God is the thing
After you have all but given up
The most important everything
But everything
My love
And yours
The children’s love
To breathe this air
The air of health
Which is in and of itself
With the black clanging in the distance
A version of a saint

That heart slowed by glass
That heart that is not mine
Not yours that heart outside
Which I can see no longer

Works floats there and is a
Resin for what once was li
ved what twice-dying breath

Slows within this resin there
Is a sense of effect in glass
How one got here to be so red
And not somewhere for the
Heart to stop time would be

Like this we will begin in
Allegory again demonstrati
ons will be a medicine for

Thinking and doing what we
Do the cause of all glass to
Frame this and exhibit a case
Of us encasement of our fact.

You’re dying O you’re dying
Into the stage lights and second
Lives reflections that are the

Lives of adult children not sure
What age they are yet living
Against that light of day what

Hardens us against it once ag
ain made the face soft you are
Talking and I am always tired

But two inconsequential things
Can become a consequence ba
cked by what life was impend

ing a stage happening at every
Moment we died of our dying
What women what men are we

What result of this that some
Time passes how the face beca
me hardened in this knowing.

How the people we are become
Us actually exponential powers
We became action before that

Light as a kind of action those
Lights feel hard we knew we we
re dying before we knew what

Hit us exactly some images of
Us seem to be more real for the
Fact that there are others we hold

Inside us other women other men
For the fact that we make pictures
We are “not me” we are them th

ese eyes blinking through us all
The identities we had to kill did
We really have to kill them to be

Any one and the curtain and the
Stage and the audience that is
Never one hearing these lines.

I think of Henry
James the way
his characters mo

ve like animals
with memories
remembering wh

at they did not do
what they could
not become be

cause truly time
is their master
and what we can

not imagine our
deaths as the stage
lights pour down

on our faces and
the sunlight pours
down like it were

this real light of
dying O we are
dying to meet ea

ch other there you
talk while I am al
ways tired resig

ned infinitely res
igned to touching
you in these dis

tances in them
fear almost seemed
like our friend.