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Mad Speculation and Absolute Inhumanism by Ben Woodard

In academia, literature, nature, philosophy, theory, writers on October 13, 2014 at 23:28

From: Mad Speculation and Absolute Inhumanism: Lovecraft, Ligotti and the Weirding of Philosophy by Ben Woodard, Berfrois, http://www.berfrois.com

The strange trajectory is the following: Kant’s critical philosophy and much of continental philosophy which has followed, has been a defense against horror and madness. Kant’s prohibition on speculative metaphysics such as dogmatic metaphysics and transcendental realism, on thinking beyond the imposition of transcendental and moral constraints, has been challenged by numerous figures proceeding him. One of the more interesting critiques of Kant comes from the mad black Deleuzianism of Nick Land stating, “Kant’s critical philosophy is the most elaborate fit of panic in the history of the Earth.”

An absolute materialism, for Ligotti, implies an alienation of the idea which leads to a ventriloquil idealism. As Ligotti notes in an interview, “the fiasco and nightmare of existence, the particular fiasco and nightmare of human existence, the sense that people are puppets of powers they cannot comprehend, etc.” (Cardin, 2006) And then further elaborates that,“[a]ssuming that anything has to exist, my perfect world would be one in which everyone has experienced the annulment of his or her ego. That is, our consciousness of ourselves as unique individuals would entirely disappear” (Ayad, 2004). The externality of the idea leads to the unfortunate consequence of consciousness eating at itself through horror which, for Ligotti, is more real than reality and goes beyond horror-as-affect. Beyond this, taking together with the unreality of life and the ventriloquizing of subjectivity, Ligotti’s thought becomes an idealism in which thought itself is alien and ultimately horrifying. The role of human thought and the relation of non-relation of horror to thought is not completely clear in Ligotti’s The Conspiracy Against the Human Race.

Philosophy, if it can truly return to the great outdoors, if it can leave behind the dead loop of the human skull, must recognize not only the non-priority of human thought, but that thought never belongs to the brain that thinks it, thought comes from somewhere else. To return to the train image from the beginning “a locomotive rolling on the surface of the earth is the image of continuous metamorphosis” (Visions of Excess, 7) this is the problem of thought, and of thinking thought, of being no longer able to isolate thought, with only a thought-formed structure.

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Reposted with permission from: Berfrois

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The Far North of Experience by Rebecca Solnit

In books, environment, literature, nature, writers on August 19, 2014 at 03:14

From: The Far North of Experience: In Praise of Darkness (and Light) by Rebecca Solnit, TomDispatch, http://www.tomdispatch.com

The far north is an unearthly earth, where much of what those of us in temperate zones were told is universal is not true. Everyone walks on water, which is a solid. In winter, you can build palaces out of it, or houses out of snow. Ice is blue. Snow insulates. Water crystallizes into floating mountains that destroy whatever collides with them. Many other things turn hard as rock in the cold. Nothing decays, and so time stops for the dead, if not the living. Cold is stability and warmth can be treacherous.

Their opposite is the equator, where every day and every night of the year is exactly twelve hours long. The further north or south you go, the longer summer days and winter nights get. In Iceland, each day of spring was several minutes longer than the one before, so that in May the days went from nearly 17 to 20 hours long, and by June there is no true darkness, no night. The sun dipped low around midnight or after and there were spectacular sunsets that melted into sunrises, because the sun never went entirely away.

The sensuality of night had never been so clear to me, darkness descending like velvet to wrap around you and enclose you in its black cocoon, to take you to your other self and others. In darkness dreams awaken and dreamers merge, which might be how passion becomes love and how making love begets progeny of all natures and forms. Merging is dangerous, at least to the boundaries and definition of the self. Darkness is generative, and generation, biological and artistic both, requires this amorous engagement with the unknown, this entry into the realm where you do not quite know what you are doing and what will happen next.

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Reposted with permission from: TomDispatch

Brave New World, Plato’s Republic, and Our Scientific Regime by Matthew J. Franck

In government, literature, philosophy, politics, science, science fiction, sexuality, society, sociology, writers on May 18, 2014 at 08:24

From: Brave New World, Plato’s Republic, and Our Scientific Regime by Matthew J. Franck, The New Atlantis, http://www.thenewatlantis.com

 

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

“In fact,” said Mustapha Mond, “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”

“All right then,” said the Savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”

But an even more telling comparison can be made — that Brave New World is a modern counterpart to the “city in speech” built by Socrates and his young interlocutors in Plato’s Republic. Whether Huxley saw the similarities himself is far from clear. In neither the “Foreword” added to the 1946 edition nor his lengthy 1958 essay Brave New World Revisited, which is published together with the novel in some editions, does he indicate any consciousness of a parallel. Nor do his Complete Essays (published 2000 – 2002) shed light on this. His biographer Murray mentions no such connection in Huxley’s mind either; nor does his earlier biographer Sybille Bedford. Yet it may not be necessary to confirm any precise authorial intention on Huxley’s part to imitate Plato. Whereas Huxley’s other novels are largely forgotten today by the general public, and his later visits to the themes of Brave New World are those of a crank whose imaginative gifts have deserted him, in writing his greatest work he seems to have been in the grip of an idea larger than himself. Plato’s Socrates tells us in the Apology that when he “went to the poets” to “ask them thoroughly what they meant” in their greatest poems, he found to his surprise that “almost everyone present, so to speak, would have spoken better than the poets did about the poetry that they themselves had made.” For as Socrates said (not without some biting irony) in Plato’s Ion, “all the good epic poets speak all their fine poems not from art but by being inspired and possessed, and it is the same for the good lyric poets.” Perhaps during the mere four months it took Huxley to write Brave New World, he was “possessed” in this way and remained forever unconscious of his debt to Plato.

In its political teaching, the Republic is as much a dystopian poem as is Brave New World. With every step in his radical project of instituting uncompromisingly perfect justice — from the noble lie, to the abolition of the family among the guardians, to the eugenics program that brushes aside the incest taboo with a wave of the hand, to the impossible proposal that the city be ruled by philosophers, to the absurd suggestion that the city be founded by exiling all of an existing city’s residents over ten years of age — Socrates reveals humanity’s inability to overcome the limits that our nature imposes. We love the good, but we also love what is our own. Nature draws us toward other particular persons whom we embrace and love as our own; it gets in the way of our commitment to the collective good of the community, which has, in the best case, its own just yet conflicting demands on our love. Nature, or nature’s God, has made us embodied souls, or ensouled bodies. We can live neither wholly for others nor wholly for ourselves, and this is no less true for the philosopher than for others. The project of perfect justice in which each of us is a “cell in the social body” is not within our grasp.

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Reposted with permission: The New Atlantis

Poetics of Wonder: Passage to Mogador

In Africa, culture, literature, North America, writers on May 3, 2014 at 01:20

From: Poetics of Wonder: Passage to Mogador by Alberto Ruy Sánchez, Literal Magazine, http://www.literalmagazine.com

*Chapter VII: On Libraries and  Those Who Inhabit Them

Fifty-six

In Mogador, every open book is always ready to dance inside us. A blink of the eye or a brush of fingers over its pages is all it takes for it to penetrate us swiftly with joy. Once inside, each book meanders through the channels flowing within us and settles, in its own way, in unexpected regions of our flesh. In some they become discernible love handles around the waist, while in others they are converted to muscle, ready for action. And there is always someone who feels that books enhance their sex in thickness, finesse, and depth. In his indispensable Anatomy of Melancholy, the 17th century philosopher Robert Burton provides evidence that the consumption of many books may lead to reflective sadness. Their weight in the blood and the color of their ink increases black bile in avid readers, while the bile of those who limit their reading to only one book has a tendency to turn yellow, the bodily humor of anger, perhaps because they absorb more paper than ink. Quick-tempered dispositions nourish themselves exclusively with those unique books revered as sacred by certain vicious circles.

Fifty-seven

Each new book is considered a metaphor of a birth in Mogador. Or the announcement of the welcome arrival of a foreigner. And the quantity of volumes preserved in the city is always a multiple of the number of its inhabitants. This is why each day one of the librarian’s greatest responsibilities is to maintain that precious proportion whose fluctuations are sensitive to increases and decreases in population, emigrations and wars, as well as euphoric reproduction and plagues.

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Reposted with permission from: Literal Magazine

Scandinavian Style by Sophie Pinkham

In art, books, culture, economics, literature, politics, review, writers on January 20, 2014 at 17:33

From: Scandinavian Style by Sophie Pinkham, N + 1 Magazine, http://nplusonemag.com

Karl Ove Knausgaard’s 3,500-page, six-volume magnum opus, My Struggle, is made from the material of the author’s daily life. The book has been described as an autobiographical novel, sometimes with “novel” in scare quotes, to indicate its excessive truthfulness. Like the author, the narrator is called Karl Ove Knausgaard, and, like the author, he is a Norwegian writer who lives in Stockholm with his second wife, the poet Linda Bostrom. As Knausgaard has explained in many interviews, his intention in writing My Struggle was to be absolutely honest, no matter how much shame this might cause. Many of his relatives have been furious, and some have cut off all contact with him. His wife relapsed into manic depression after she read the first manuscript. Knausgaard’s decision to tell the whole painful, humiliating truth has been the subject of heated debate in Norway, where My Struggle has sold about one copy for every ten residents. (To date, only the first two volumes have been released in English; the third will appear next summer.)

For American readers, Knausgaard’s writing is striking in its freedom from telling details, well-wrought similes, conspicuous fine-tuning. His sentences don’t look like they’ve been reworked for months, and they haven’t: he wrote My Struggle fast, with minimal revision. He uses well-worn phrases that we tend to identify as clichés, and that elicit, in many readers, a desire to whip out the red pencil. In an otherwise positive review of My Struggle in the New Yorker, James Wood criticized the uneven quality of the prose and the use of clichés. But these are essential parts of the method. Knausgaard rejects chiseled sentences in favor of a cumulative effect, and the flatness, the openness, the sprawl provide the space necessary for his discursive treatment of everyday life, allowing the reader to exist inside the narrator’s mind, to see as he sees.

We never see Knausgaard engaging in any kind of income-generating activity, apart from writing novels and producing the occasional reader’s report for a publishing house. He doesn’t teach creative writing classes, or literature classes. He never talks to an agent, though he occasionally does interviews or goes to writers’ conferences. He doesn’t write book reviews for magazines or newspapers. He is not enrolled in a PhD program or a funded MFA program—welfare for American intellectuals. His wife, Linda, is a poet who never seems to engage in any income-generating activity at all. And yet they have an apartment in the center of Stockholm, and Knausgaard has an office—a room of his own. The Knausgaards are always eating crab and salmon, drinking good wine and cognac. They vacation in Spain, and never seem to worry about the financial welfare of their aging parents. Most shocking of all, they have an extravagant number of children—three—in the course of just four years. They never wonder who’ll pay for their children to go to college, probably because in Sweden and Norway, university is free. When Linda gives birth, Knausgaard ponders the existential aspects of this process, rather than worrying about the hospital bill. In Stockholm, as in New York, life is full of banality; but it’s a different banality, without credit card debt or massive student loans.

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Reposted with permission from: N + 1 Magazine

Amiri Baraka: Ennobled by Coltrane

In art, audio, music, North America, poetry, writers on January 12, 2014 at 00:42

From: Amiri Baraka: Ennobled by Coltrane, Radio Open Source, http://www.radioopensource.org

Christopher Lydon talks to Amiri Baraka: Listen to the interview

barakaAmiri Baraka‘s death prompts me to repost a conversation we had about the music of John Coltrane, which inspired Baraka and ennobled the ambitions of his Black Arts movement. “Trane was our flag,” Baraka remembered back in 2007. “We could feel what he was doing. We heard our own search and travail in the opening of ‘Giant Steps.’”

In the summer of 1957 the poet then known as Leroi Jones chanced to live over the Five Spot in Manhattan when Coltrane and Thelonius Monk had a five-month learning-by-doing gig on the Bowery. Willem de Kooning and Jack Kerouac were also among the listeners and drinkers at the Five Spot. Baraka told me he missed barely a session of the music that culminated in the Monk-Coltrane Carnegie Hall concert in November, 1957 — a Blue Note best-seller only after the Library of Congress unearthed the tapes in 2005. This was early, lyrical Coltrane, at the dawn of the civil-rights era — “the rebellion” in Baraka’s phrasing, then and ever — for which Coltrane became a sort of soundtrack. For Baraka, Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” planted a bomb inside the sentimentality of Richard Rodgers and “The Sound of Music.” The hostility in Baraka’s listening had softened a lot by 2007, but Coltrane was still perhaps his highest representation of black art with social traction. Baraka follows Coltrane to the yowling last recordings — Coltrane’s ultimate showdown with self and life — with a shudder of shared pain. But if that is what Coltrane wanted us to hear, serious devotees have no choice. “You have to listen to it.”

“Ironic thing is,” Baraka said, “when I was locked up in 1967 in the rebellion in Newark, I found I was listening all the time to Coltrane’s tunes. And then late one afternoon, the jailer came by — it was July 17, 1967 — and said ‘your man Coltrane died today.’ When I was locked up. That amazed me!”

Reposted according to copyright notice from: Radio Open Source

Featured: Conviviality by Paul Walton

In Book Reviews, Featured, history, politics, psychology, review, society, sociology, technology, writers on December 26, 2013 at 14:41

Paul Walton is a journalist, editor and autodidact from Nanaimo most interested in literature and depth psychology.

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Featured: Ivan Illich: Tools For Conviviality by Paul Walton

Forty years after the publication of that cantankersome and challenging book by Ivan Illich, Tools For Conviviality has never been more inaccessible and never more vital.

There are many misunderstandings and misconceptions about Illich, and even after an interview series on the CBC in the late 1980s (later to be published as Ivan Ilich in Conversation by David Cayley, published by House of Anansi, 1992) anyone could be forgiven for remembering Illich, who died in 2002, as a man of the mind, a thinker, a philosophe, even a genius. This last perhaps comes closest if we recall the word djinn, a “tutelary spirit,” as the OED puts it. Tools For Conviviality might be termed in educational jargon “gifted,” well beyond its years, but it is more like a happy child who longs to share its joy.

This look at Tools For Conviviality began on a computer and taking a cue from Illich in the Cayley interviews migrated to a yellow pad and black pen. Writing by hand highlights a duality arising from Tools For Conviviality, The qualities of pen and paper include intimacy, a private moment of reflection and, if done well, humility. We can use tools on a human scale or be dehumanized by them. Composing on a computer makes demands very different from script, from posture to adjusting the eye to the glow of the electric monitor. The computer is also tentative, with constant attention to the save function and usurping what Illich later relished in In the Vineyard of the Text, about the 12th century abbot Hugh of St. Victor, who tasted the words during peripatetic readings in his garden.

Tools For Conviviality is arguably as close to a political prescription or ideology as Illich ever got. To Cayley he admitted that the essence of the book, the idea of inverting tools as abused by post-industrial interests, didn’t happen as he expected in 1973 — a dramatic Wall Street-style crash — but began to occur ways he did not anticipate. By 1988, he told Cayley, he was seeing more people recovering misused tools, i.e. resuming mastery over them for their own purposes.

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Featured: Miklós Radnóti: Letters to My Wife by Thomas Ország-Land

In Europe, Featured, history, literature, poetry, writers on October 31, 2013 at 02:07

Featured: Miklós Radnóti: Letters to My Wife; Translated from the Hungarian & Edited by Thomas Ország-Land

HOLOUCASTimage

Radnóti & his wife Fifi

THE AUTHOR of these pieces was perhaps the greatest poet of the Holocaust. His work will take centre place in a varied and energetic programme of literary and educational events in 2014 marking Hungary’s Holocaust Memorial Year.
This project just announced by the government in Budapest will commemorate the murder of hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilian captives including Radnóti – mostly Jews but also Roma, homosexuals and political dissidents – perpetrated by the Hungarian state in collaboration with Nazi Germany. This happened during the final and most intensive phase of the Holocaust at the close of WWII when an Allied victory was already obvious.
The first of the three poems below was written on the eve of Radnóti’s final arrest and deportation to a slave labour camp in occupied Serbia. The poem is quoted by the Hungarian prime minister’s office announcing the Holocaust memorial programme. It is also set in bronze at the site where the poet and 21 of his comrades were murdered by their guards.
And the following two – set out in careful, even handwriting, complete with printers’ instructions – were found on his body in a notebook recovered from their mass grave after the war. Radnóti died displaying a white armband that signified his Jewish birth and official (and totally sincere) conversion to Catholicism.
His poetry has been translated into many languages and taught at many universities. Today, Radnóti is a beloved national figure in Hungary despite the current rise of anti-semitism in his native land. These translations will be included in The Survivors: Holocaust Poetry for Our Time by Thomas Ország-Land, to be published by Smokestack Press in England in 2014.

I. FRAGMENT

I lived upon this earth in such an age
when man was so debased he sought to murder
for pleasure, not just to comply with orders,
his faith in falsehoods drove him to corruption,
his life was ruled by raving self-deceptions.

I lived upon this earth in such an age
that idolized the sly police informers,
whose heroes were the killers, spies, the thieves –
and the few who held their peace or only failed
to cheer were loathed like victims of the plague.

I lived upon this earth in such an age
when those who risked protest were wise to hide
and gnaw their fists in self-consuming shame –
the crazed folk grinned about their terrifying
doomed future, wild and drunk on blood and mire.

I lived upon this earth in such an age
when the mother of an infant was a curse,
when pregnant women were glad to abort,
the living envied the corpses in the graves
while on the table foamed their poisoned cup.
……………………….
……………………….
I lived upon this earth in such an age
when even the poet fell silent and waited in hope
for an ancient, terrible voice to rise again –
for no-one could utter a fitting curse of such horror
but the scholar of dreadful words, Isaiah the prophet.
……………………….

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The Past is What Matters by Edan Lepucki

In books, literature, review, society, writers on October 13, 2013 at 18:37

From: The Past is What Matters: On Margaret Atwood’s Vision of the Future by Edan Lepucki, The Millions, http://www.themillions.com

I still recall the day I started The Handmaid’s Tale. It swept me away even as I underlined sentence after sentence, convinced that the narrator’s musings on language and storytelling would be discussed later in class. ”My self is a thing I must now compose as one composes a speech,” Offred narrates early on. “What I must present is a made thing, not something born.” I haven’t since found another book that captures as well as Atwood’s does the power of language and storytelling, how our identities are made and unmade by narrative.

That first time, I read for hours: on my narrow bed, and then on the floor, in the middle of my dorm room. Later that same evening, or maybe the next, I read some of the book aloud to my roommate, who kept falling asleep as I did so. Every few minutes, she’d wake up and describe to me her dreamscape, altered by Atwood’s descriptions. ”Keep going,” she’d say and close her eyes again.

(Years later, I would dream that I was Offred, trapped on a large cruise ship, trying to escape some unseen threat. The memory of those dark, wood-paneled hallways, and my robe and wimple, still gives me the chills.)

I’ve since returned to The Handmaid’s Tale three more times, and on each read, it astonishes me. I love the novel’s insistence on back story, on Offred’s need to conjure a time when she still had her old identity, her “shining name,” when she and her best friend Moira were allowed to go to college, and smoke cigarettes, and make tasteless jokes (“It sounds like a dessert. Date rapé“). The novel imagines America as a totalitarian Christian state that has stripped the rights of women, and although it does so vividly and powerfully, the dystopian premise is never central to my reading experience. I always fixate instead on Offred’s language play, and on the way she comprehends herself — and her female body — in this new world. Stories pass the time, yes, but they’re also a lifeline to the past, and they allow Offred to function in this terrible new world: ”One detaches oneself,” she narrates, “one describes.”

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Reposted according to copyright notice from: The Millions website

Bruno Latour’s Gifford Lectures

In political science, religion, society, sociology, theory, writers on October 5, 2013 at 01:43

From: Bruno Latour’s Gifford Lectures: “Facing Gaia. A New Inquiry into Natural Religion”, Figure / Ground Communication, http://figureground.ca

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Read full PDF of  Facing Gaia

“Bruno Latour is Professor at Sciences Po Paris and has also been Professor at the Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines in Paris and visiting Professor at University of California (San Diego), at the London School of Economics and Harvard University.

After field studies in Africa and California he specialized in the analysis of scientists and engineers at work. In addition to work in philosophy, history, sociology and anthropology of science, he has collaborated on many studies in science policy and research management, producing significant works such as Laboratory Life, Science in Action, The Pasteurization of France, and more recently Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor Network Theory.

He has also published an anthology of essays, Pandora’s Hope: Essays in the Reality of Science Studies, which explore the consequences of the “science wars” and has made a valuable contribution to the political philosophy of the environment with the book Politics of Nature. In a further series of books, he has explored the consequences of science studies on religion in On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods and Rejoice (the latter to be published by Polity Press).

There could be no better theme for a lecture series on natural religion than that of Gaia, this puzzling figure that has emerged recently in public discourse from Earth science as well as from many activist and spiritual movements. The problem is that the expression of ”natural religion” is somewhat of a pleonasm, since Western definitions of nature borrow so much from theology. The set of lectures attempts to decipher the face of Gaia in order to redistribute the notions that have been packed too tightly into the composite notion of ”natural religion”.”

Reposted with permission from: Figure / Ground Communication

Thoreau’s Wild Fruits by Frances Richard

In biology, literature, nature, writers on October 5, 2013 at 01:30

From: Thoreau’s Wild Fruits by Frances Richard, Cabinet Magazine, http://cabinetmagazine.org

He was deep in a writing project he called Wild Fruits, which he envisioned as nothing less than a handbook of practical woodcraft seamlessly woven into an ars poetica of New England nature—at once a scientifically accurate study of fruiting and forestry in the North Atlantic states, and a soaring though acerbic celebration of the ecological interdependences that link plants to humans, animals, weather patterns, and topography. Thoreau the serious amateur naturalist builds a scaffold inside his hat for carrying home freshly picked specimens, makes bold to taste choke cherries and spotted water-hemlock, and notes the days in consecutive years when muskmelon, fever bush, or bayberry bloom, ripen, wither, and freeze. In his pastoral-hermit guise, he squats down to watch white-pine cones dry and open, measures the tubers of wild artichokes, and draws blown cattails and the seedpods of Asclepias cornuti in his diary. As a polemicist, however, he remains acutely aware that his compatriots are busy building railroads, harvesting old-growth timber, and arguing the legality of slavery in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. He intends his precise botanical observations to refract the moral and aesthetic life of a swiftly modernizing capitalist nation embroiled in civil war, and he seems to know that he is speaking for the conservation of undespoiled lands near a point of no return. Wild Fruits thus emerges as a kind of hands-on record of the motions of the spirit that Emerson called the “Over-Soul.” A journal of ecstatic union with the lilies of the field, the book never ceases to inquire into the biological and cultural processes whereby those lilies—or sassafras roots, nightshade berries, whortleberries, and wild grapes—are germinated, mulched, garnered by squirrels, pecked by birds, marked by rot, appreciated (or not) by farmers, sold (or not) at market, and represented in history. Thoreau’s voice in Wild Fruits, as elsewhere, can turn 
sarcastic—cranberries, he remarks grumpily, “cut the 
winter’s phlegm, and now you can swallow another year 
of this world without other sauce”6—or slides toward the 
different-drummer cadences of Walden—“If you would really take a position outside the street and daily life of men, you must have deliberately planned your course, you must have business which is not your neighbors’ business, which they cannot understand.”7 Like Emerson, he revels in cross-
referenced reading of historical sources, ranging knowledgeably from Pliny to Manasseh Cutler’s “An Account of Some of the Vegetable Productions, Naturally Growing in This Part of America, Botanically Arranged,” published in 1785. He also writes, approvingly, of Darwin. But the lonely ferocity of his earlier years has distilled to something less hotly personal, and he privileges, as kindred spirits, distinctly unlofty sources—elderly Penobscot Indians, housewives, schoolboys. Conspicuously avoiding Christian piety, he refers to Mother Nature as the “midwife”8 of uncultivated growth, and quotes delightedly the battered farmer “who always selects the right word,” when he says that wild apples “have a kind of bow-arrow tang.”9

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Reposted with permission from: Cabinet Magazine

Poetics of Wonder by Alberto Ruy Sänchez

In Africa, Europe, literature, writers on September 30, 2013 at 21:40

From: Poetics of Wonder: Passage to Mogador by Alberto Ruy Sänchez, The Literal Magazine, http://www.literalmagazine.com

In 1975, the Mexican writer Alberto Ruy Sánchez was a graduate student living in Paris, where he and his wife Margarita de Orellana were pursuing doctoral studies. The fall semester ended, and with time on their hands but little money to spare, they decided to take a trip to Morocco, a place that fit their budget and offered a warm escape from the cold winter in France. At that time, Ruy Sánchez had no way of knowing that the journey to Morocco would become a rite of passage, an initiation into a culture that would forever change his life and his future literary career. Upon seeing the Sahara for the first time, his childhood memories of the Sonoran Desert came rushing back to him, and in his imagination he began to erect un puente de arena, a bridge of sand that united Morocco and his native Mexico. In the souk, the colorful ceramic plates and tiles reminded him of the Mexican Talavera pottery, and the Berber rugs and tapestries evoked the intricate textiles of the Chiapas. But of all the intense moments he experienced in Morocco, the one that would have the most profound impact on him was his visit to Essaouira, a walled city on the Atlantic coast whose ancient name was Mogador. From the moment he first laid eyes on Essouira, this city has continued to obsess and seduce him like an inaccessible woman who extends with her gaze the invitation to explore her labyrinthine streets and enter her secret gardens.

Soon after that first journey to Morocco, he began to construct a quintet of novels that take place in Mogador and explore the many facets of desire: Los nombres del aire (1987, The Names of the Air), En los labios del agua (1996), Los jardines secretos de Mogador: Voces de tierra (2001, The Secret Gardens of Mogador: Voices of the Earth, 2009), and La mano del fuego: Un Kama Sutra involuntario (2007, The Hand of Fire: An Involuntary Kama Sutra). Like the last finger of the Jamsa, a fifth book, Nueve veces el asombro: Nueve veces nueve las cosas que dicen de Mogador (2005), serves as a companion to the other four novels and offers the reader a “Poetics of Wonder,” or a primer for approaching the inaccessible “city of desire.”

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Reposted with permission from: The Literal Magazine

Putting Your Papers in Order by Richard Burt

In ethics, literature, philology, philosophy, theory, writers on August 8, 2013 at 05:34

From: Putting Your Papers in Order: The Matter of Kierkegaard’s Writing Desk, Goethe’s Files, and Derrida’s Paper Machine, Or, the Philology and Philosophy of Publishing After Death by Richard Burt, Rhizomes, http://www.rhizomes.net

When we write “by hand” we are not in the time before technology; there is already instrumentality, regular reproduction, mechanical iterability. So it is not legitimate to contrast writing by hand and “mechanical” writing . . . . I began by writing with a pen. . . . For the texts that mattered to me, the ones I had the slightly religious feeling of “writing,” I even banished the ordinary pen. I dipped into the ink a long pen holder whose point was gently curved with a special drawing quill, producing endless drafts and preliminary versions before putting a stop to them on my first little Olivetti, with its international keyboard, that I’d bought abroad. . . . But I never concealed from myself the fact that, as in any ceremonial, there had to repetition going on, and already a sort of mechanization. . . . Then, to go on with the story, I wrote more and more “straight onto” the machine: first the mechanical typewriter; then the electric typewriter in 1979; then finally the computer, around 1986 or 1987. I can’t do without it any more now, this little Mac. . .
—Jacques Derrida, “The Word Processor,” in Paper Machine (2005e), 20.

Some questions about posthumous publication are ethical: What happens if the author insistently tried to keep the works from publication? Are an author’s efforts presumed to be an expression of what he wanted, or does publication necessarily mean positing what the author would have wanted? What constitutes evidence of a dead author’s intention? A last will and testament? Paratextual evidence left in footnotes? Are some papers so private they should remain unpublished? Or are the papers of a dead man or woman public by definition? Still other questions concern the reception of posthumous publications: do readers connect the meaning of a posthumous text to the intention of the editor? In some cases, it would appear that the story of the editor cannot be divorced from the story of the posthumous publication. For example, Ernest Hemingway’s grandson Sean Hemingway edited a “restored” edition of the posthumously published A Moveable Feast (2009), with a foreword Sean wrote. The New York Times excerpt from this version was published with a headnote explaining why this restored version was (supposedly) better than the “unrestored” edition (Rich 2009). Again, only decades after his father Vladimir Nabokov died did his son Dmitri see fit to publish his father’s novel, written on index cards, The Original of Laura (2009), against his father’s wishes. A journalist reports that “Vladimir Nabokov wrote the work on 138 index cards, which have been stored for the past 30 years in a bank vault in Switzerland, where Nabokov died in 1977” (Bloom 1999). The Original of Laura includes Dmitri’s introduction and a full-scale facsimile of each note card (which may be punched out of the book by the reader, if he or she so desires) and its transcription in black type below it on each page, followed by the reproduction of the reverse of each note card on the following page; facsimiles of two open pages of the book may be accessed in pdf files on the Amazon.com webpage for the book (see Figure 1). In both of these cases of posthumous publication, the editor’s personal motives to publish or restore a text are uncritically accorded more weight than is the usual paratextual foreword or introduction to shape the reader’s reading of the published work.

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Reposted with permission from: Rhizomes

Featured: The Holocaust & Reconciliation: An Interview with Thomas Orszag-Land

In Europe, Featured, human rights, interview, poetry, writers on June 28, 2013 at 21:28

Thomas Orszag-Land is a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent writing from London and his native Budapest. His reviews and polemics have been published by the London Magazine and The Times Literary Supplement, and his poetry by Ambit and BBC World Service.

Enjoy the interview and feel free to comment.

HG

Featured: The Holocaust & Reconciliation: Poetry may salve the wounds that have refused to heal, An Interview with Thomas Orszag-Land

The wounds inflicted by the Holocaust are still refusing to heal – but they are not the only burden of human rights abuse inherited by the 21st century. DAVID CUSCÓ I ESCUDERO, editor of the Catalan cultural magazine “El funàmbu”l (The Tightrope Walker) serving a country that endured unspeakable atrocities during the Spanish Civil War, questions THOMAS ORSZÁG-LAND, a Jewish-Hungarian poet, translator and foreign correspondent, on his attempt to look beyond the Holocaust.

David: We are about to publish some of your Holocaust poetry in Catalan translation. We are also very interested in your English translations of outstanding Hungarian Holocaust poetry. Did you write them because you thought that the Holocaust could be fathomed only through literature since the basic facts of that crime were so huge and its premises so horrible that they could be described comprehensibly only in fiction? That would be just the opposite of Theodor Adorno’s dictum that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric” – although he later qualified that, after reading Paul Celan’s poetry.

Thomas: Adorno looked at Auschwitz and despaired. But humanity must look to its future, and cannot afford to despair. I recently attended a meeting of Holocaust survivors, old people who had looked evil in the face as young adults, somehow survived and dedicated their lives to warning the world against attempting such madness ever again. They agitate, they write, they lecture, especially to the young.

But they see that the very occurrence of the Holocaust is vociferously being denied by people who would like to repeat it. These aging witnesses know that they will be silenced soon by illness and death. They fear that, when they are gone, no-one will be left to defend the world against such renewed barbarity.

I do not fear that. I believe that, as Odysseus will sail the seven seas of imagination in Homer’s hexameters for the rest of history, so the passionate warnings of the Holocaust survivors will resound through the ages in the voices of the poets of our own time.

David: In your poem “Caution,” a child summons humanity from Auschwitz. He reminds me of Hurbinek, that unforgettable child in Primo Levi’s “The Truce” who mumbles instead of talking. Despite the pain conveyed by your poem, I sense a spark of optimism here, in the dignity of the child’s response to his own suffering… Is there, to you, room for optimism after the Holocaust?

Thomas: Probably the most important thought in that poem is “hold up your head… while you’ve got it.” It radiates optimism even beyond death. I did not invent that. I found it in a surviving poetic fragment from a slave-labour camp. I’ve just managed to identify its author as Jaroslav Ježek (not the composer of that name), to whom the poem is now dedicated.

Primo Levi and Paul Celan both committed suicide after the Holocaust, perhaps because they saw no room left for decency, let alone optimism, after Auschwitz. Both turned to poetry to shout out their astounded grief and rage at their incomprehensible humiliation and abuse at the hands of the Nazis, for which they had been totally unprepared. But the subsequent generations are not unprepared. They are all survivors, and their enduring capacity for love and decency originates from within. Read the rest of this entry »

The Cure for Loneliness by Vivian Gornick

In philosophy, social sciences, sociology, writers on June 19, 2013 at 19:13

From: The Cure for Loneliness by Vivian Gornick, Boston Review, http://www.bostonreview.net

In Fromm’s view, humanity was always trading freedom for the comfort of external authority.

Fromm’s thesis in Escape from Freedom was a simple one and, like Freud before him, he did not hesitate to use the conventions of mythic storytelling to make it vivid for the educated layperson. In Freud’s case the story derived from the classics; in Fromm’s, from Genesis (don’t forget those Talmudic studies). Human beings, he argued, were at one with nature until they ate of the Tree of Knowledge, whereupon they evolved into animals endowed with the ability to consciously reason and to feel. From then on they were creatures apart, no longer at one with a universe they had long inhabited on an equal basis with other dumb animals. For the human race, the gifts of thought and emotion created both the glory of independence and the punishment of isolation; on the one hand the dichotomy made the race proud, on the other hand lonely. The loneliness proved our undoing. It so perverted our instincts that we became strangers to ourselves—the true meaning of alienation—and thus unable to feel kinship with others.

Ironically, though, for each of these thinkers, it was the exercise of the very powers that had brought about our downfall that alone could release human beings from the imprisonment of such separateness. If men and women learned to occupy their own conscious selves, fully and freely, they would find that they were no longer alone: they would have themselves for company. Once one had company one could feel benign toward others.

This, Fromm said, was the only solution to the problem of the alienated individual in relation to the modern world. The only thing that could save humanity from its own soul-destroying loneliness was the individual’s ability to inhabit what came to be known as the “authentic” self. If you achieved authenticity, you would be rewarded with the inner peace necessary to become a free agent who is happy to do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

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Reposted with permission from: Boston Review

Norway and the Prisoners of Peace by F. J. Riopelle

In Europe, government, human rights, law, politics, writers on May 27, 2013 at 18:16

From: Norway and the Prisoners of Peace by F. J. Riopelle, AGNI Online, http://www.bu.edu/agni/index.html

Imagine a country, I used to tell my students of Norwegian at Harvard, of beautiful fjords and impressive coastal scenery, of extensive petroleum reserves, natural gas, minerals, lumber, seafood and fresh water, with universal health care, subsidized higher education, a comprehensive social security system and very low unemployment rate. Imagine the world’s most well-functioning and stable country, where parents have forty-seven weeks of paid parental leave and prison cells look like budget hotel rooms. And—as a final flight of Lennonesque imagination—imagine all the people, or at least some, living life in peace in these cells—because they are pacifists.

That broke the spell, didn’t it? Norway’s great international reputation is well deserved, but a student of its language and culture should also learn about the embarrassments lurking behind this utopian image of Norway. There is, for instance, a curious lack of statistics for the number of convicted pacifists in Norway—the country that administers the Nobel Peace Prize, presumably because Alfred Nobel found it even more peaceful than Sweden—a curious lack of information, on Wikipedia and elsewhere, but I know, as John Lennon says in one of his protest songs, that I’m not the only one.

According to European Bureau for Conscientious Objection’s 2011 report, Norway is one of three European countries that “prosecute conscientious objectors repeatedly for their continued refusal to serve in the army” (the other countries are Greece and Turkey). “Each year, between one-hundred and two-hundred conscripts refuse to perform both military and substitute service,” and they are thereby penalized.

I am one of them—a conscientious objector, not only to the military service, but also to the substitute civilian service. In a report of 2002, researchers in Norway’s Ministry of Defense acknowledged that the civilian service, which is labor typically performed in healthcare institutions, retirement homes, kindergartens and schools, is little more than a “sanction of men who refuse to perform military service.” It “costs about 230 million Norwegian kroner per year,” and is “obviously unprofitable based on socio-economic considerations.”

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Reposted with permission from: AGNI Online

Ferryman by Daniel Bosch

In books, classics, poetry, writers on May 19, 2013 at 18:32

From: Ferryman by Daniel Bosch, Berfrois, http://www.berfrois.com

When his second book of poems, Strangers, came out in 1983, after a 23-year silence, and David Ferry stood on the shore of its accomplishment, the doyen of Akkadian studies at Harvard, Bill Moran, gave him an assignment: translate the epic of Gilgamesh. When the hero of the poem, a stranger, approaches Urshànabi, the ferryman without whose guidance he could never cross the waters of death, Gilgamesh must retell the ferryman the story of the grief that is written on his face and body. The story serves to establish the hero’s identity, and his need, but it is also necessary because the retelling of stories is one of the things an epic must do — one of the things a hero does.

So it came to be that David Ferry, who cannot read cuneiform, an English professor and a stranger in the land of Ancient Near East Studies, gave a voice, his voice, to the ferryman Urshànabi. Bill Moran and David Ferry became ever-faster friends as Ferry worked on his assignment. Like Urshànabi, whose fate it was to move back and forth across a body of water, and who became, at a crucial moment, Gilgamesh’s life-coach, Moran helped his stranger-friend to reach Utnapishtim, from whom he might seek the secret of immortality and balm for grief. And like heroic Gilgamesh, Ferry succeeded, coming across with a beautiful rendering of the Akkadian epic, one strong enough to establish his claim to the name of translator, bearer of works across waters, bearer of works across time.

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Reposted with permission from: Berfrois

Featured: Poetry of Wanda John-Kehewin

In books, Featured, literature, North America, poetry, writers on April 2, 2013 at 20:41

Cree poet Wanda John-Kehewin studied criminology, sociology, Aboriginal studies, and creative writing while attending the Writer’s Studio writing program at Simon Fraser University. She uses writing as a therapeutic medium through which to understand and to respond to the near decimation of First Nations culture, language, and tradition. She has been published in Quills, Canadian Poetry Magazine, the Aboriginal Writers Collective West Coast anthology Salish Seas, and the Writer’s Studio emerge anthology. She has shared her writing on Vancouver Co-op Radio, performed at numerous readings throughout the Lower Mainland, and read for the Writers Union of Canada. Her first book of poetry “In the Dog House” was recently published by http://talonbooks.com

Featured: One Thousand Cranes by Wanda John-Kehewin

Someone set sail one thousand cranes last night in the spirit world of amethyst dreams. Someone wished the sun to kiss your cheeks and opalescent moon beams to paint light in the darkness so you never lose your way.

Someone dreamt of a painted sea turtle, last night who knew one thousand secrets who was the keeper of the door way to the spirit world that sits on the oceans edges-he said.

Someone wished for you last night an orchard of cherry blossoms dancing gracefully in the wind reminding you to be gentle and kind to yourself and never forget to dance in the wind as cherry blossoms soar in warm winds, dance with them just be and remember me- they said.

Someone dreamt of you in the spirit world last night in a valley of fuchsia baby azaleas and a white camellia in your hair reminding you to patiently wait for the sea turtles secrets at the edge of the ocean.

Someone wished for you last night one thousand cranes to guide you to them in the twilight and astral of your sleep- They say when sorrow is too great they do not want to come too soon for you may never want to leave the dream world- And so they wait at the edge of your dreams with love resonating, encompassing you, for love has no timeline and reaches beyond the edges of the human sorrow.

Someone whispered to you last night, you will dream of them on a white Manchurian crane when you are ready to let their essence into the light and finally smile when you think of them; place blue bells in the lightest room to remind you of how grateful they were to know you and love you. Place lavender under your pillow for tender dreams where loved ones meet And we will fold one thousand cranes in a field of flowering sweet pea flowers and budding zinnia and we will let soar one thousand cranes over a thousand dreams above our temporary goodbye and we will have wished someone else peace, love, strength, light in the darkness- And one thousand cranes…

Reposted with permission from: Wanda John-Kehewin

Rediscovering Gandhi by Tridip Suhrud

In Asia, books, history, poetry, politics, religion, research, theory, writers on March 16, 2013 at 15:54

From: Rediscovering Gandhi: New insights from recent books on Gandhi by Tridip Suhrud, The Caravan, http://www.caravanmagazine.in

IN CONVERSATIONS, social theorist Ashis Nandy fondly recalls an exchange between philosopher Ramachandra Gandhi and poet Umashankar Joshi. The philosopher argued that MK Gandhi was inconceivable without his spiritual strivings, while the poet—and one suspects Ashis Nandy too—insisted that Gandhi’s significance lay in his willingness to engage and transform the “slum of politics”.

This divide between the religious, spiritual Gandhi and the political one or, more aptly, the divide between Gandhi the ashramite and Gandhi the satyagrahi has come to shape not only our academic engagement with the life and thought of Gandhi, but also our memory of the man whom we revere, revile or remain indifferent to. The dichotomy is a superficial one. Gandhi saw himself as a satyagrahi and an ashramite. His politics was imbued with spiritual strivings and his relationship with religion was a deeply political one.

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Reposted with permission from: The Caravan

The Progressive Puritan by Siobhan Phillips

In books, history, North America, poetry, writers on February 17, 2013 at 21:35

From: The Progressive Puritan: Revisiting the Poems of Marianne Moore by Siobhan Phillips, Boston Review, http://www.bostonreview.net

Marianne Moore is always hiding in plain sight. She is the paradoxical radical, either distracting the reader from her traditionalism with avant-garde trappings or concealing rebellion in prim camouflage. She picketed for women’s rights and voted for Herbert Hoover. She distrusted the “obscenities” in William Carlos Williams and encouraged the “ability” in Allen Ginsberg. She breathed horror of “a sodomite” to one lesbian friend and signed letters to another “your affectionate albino-dactyl.” Those three-corned hats and men’s polo shirts: do they reflect an old-fashioned aversion to frippery or an innovative preference for androgyny? And her resolute urban celibacy (she lived in an apartment with her mother): a species of piety or a refusal of stereotypes? Moore’s mix of puritan and progressive seems quintessentially American—alert to the virtues of brown bread and the glories of Brancusi’s sculpture, to Pilgrim’s Progress as well as Ezra Pound. Likewise her get-to-the-point distrust of dreaming: “No wonder we hate poetry,” she writes in “Armor’s Undermining Modesty,” and “stars and harps and the new moon.” When Moore ends that poem on an “imperishable wish,” she means something as solid as the “hard yron” of another of her titles. Moore was indirectly forthright, demure and definitive at once.

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Reposted with permission from: The Boston Review

Romanticism by Jane O’Grady

In art, culture, Europe, literature, writers on February 4, 2013 at 19:23

From: Romanticism; a piece composed for a concert of German Romantic Music by Jane O’Grady, openDemocracy, www.opendemocracy.net

Romanticism – lightning flashes, storms, ruined castles, the forest, hunting-horns, knights and ghosts from ancient legends; wild love and wilder despair, rugged mountains, waterfalls, the elusive, tantalising blue flower, tremulous nightingales, death.

Romanticism is a reaction against the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment had emerged in cosmopolitan Paris and London, Romanticism from the small states in Germany. It was impatient with urbanity, doubtful that the clear light of reason would enable all humans universally to converge on a common truth. Surely reason is too rigid a structure for the rich amorphousness of reality, and universalism too monolithic!    Romanticism trumpets emotion as against reason, it lauds what is natural and untamed above the constructed and artificial; relishes embodied particularity, mystery, the dark. And sings the wonders of the wild.

Where we all went wrong, said Rousseau, was when someone first enclosed a plot of ground, asserted ‘this is mine’, and persuaded others that it belonged to him (the encloser) rather than to everyone. That was the start of civilisation, yet civilisation, rather than being the nurturer of virtue, stifles it — humans began to be competitive, conformist, cunning, sham. The original sin was obedience, not disobedience. But now — out of the garden into the forest!

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Reposted with permission from: openDemocracy

Henry Miller on Art, War, and the Future of Mankind by Maria Popova

In art, civilisation, culture, history, literature, society, war, writers on February 4, 2013 at 19:16

From: Henry Miller on Art, War, and the Future of Mankind by Maria Popova, Brain Pickings, http://www.brainpickings.org

The problem of power, what to do with it, how to use it, who shall wield it or not wield it, will assume proportions heretofore unthinkable. We are moving into the realm of incalculables and imponderables in our everyday life just as for the last few generations we have been accustoming ourselves to this realm through the play of thought. Everything is coming to fruition, and the harvest will be brilliant and terrifying. To those who look upon such predictions as fantastic I have merely to point out, ask them to imagine, what would happen should we ever unlock the secret patents now hidden in the vaults of our unscrupulous exploiters. Once the present crazy system of exploitation crumbles, and it is crumbling hourly, the powers of the imagination, heretofore stifled and fettered, will run riot. The face of the earth can be changed utterly overnight one we have the courage to concretize the dreams of our inventive geniuses. Never was there such a plentitude of inventors as in this age of destruction. And there is one thing to bear in mind about the man of genius — even the inventor — usually he is on the side of humanity, not the devil. It has been the crowning shame of this age to have exploited the man of genius for sinister ends. But such a procedure always acts as a boomerang: ultimately the man of genius always has his revenge.

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Reposted with permission from: Maria Popova

Featured Essay: Rooted in Poetry by Thomas Orszag-Land

In Book Reviews, books, Europe, Featured, history, literature, poetry, writers on January 12, 2013 at 22:22

I have a special post for you today. Thomas Orszag-Land is a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent writing from London and his native Budapest. His reviews and polemics have been published by the London Magazine and The Times Literary Supplement, and his poetry by Ambit and BBC World Service.

Enjoy the essay and feel free to comment.

HG

Featured Essay: Rooted in Poetry – Kops Returns to Russia to Assassinate the Tsar by Thomas Orszag-Land

In 1881, the St. Petersburg cell of the notorious anarchist organization Narodnaya Volya (The People’s Will) assassinates the tyrannical anti-Semite Tsar Alexander II of All Russia, the flames of murderous pogroms sweep through the abused Pale of Settlements and a Jewish boy from Muswell Hill in 21st century London is rescued by the banned Yiddish Jericho Players company of Latvia… What?

Bernard Kops, the doyen of European poetry, has issued a great new Holocaust novel steeped in rhythms and rhyme. It tells a fantastic and entirely believable tale with warmth, humour, empathy and depth reminiscent of the Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem. Its text pulsates like some pieces from the immortal pen of the Jewish-Soviet master Isaac Babel. But Kops gives us more even than his towering antecedents because he is also, quintessentially, a poet.

His story is about the present. Its characters are those among us whose forebears struggled through the great European migrations since the expulsion of Jews from Spain at the dawn modern European literature as well as the giants whose explosive imaginations came to formulate the self-image of much of the world in our own time.

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Zen and the Art of Poetry: An Interview with Jane Hirshfield by Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler

In art, books, Europe, interview, literature, North America, poetry, religion, theory, writers on January 1, 2013 at 19:48

From: Zen and the Art of Poetry: An Interview with Jane Hirshfield by Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler, AGNI online, http://www.bu.edu/agni/index.html

IK and KT: Were you a Buddhist first and then a poet, or a poet first and then a Buddhist?

JH: If I think about this, the question begins to feel constrictive. At any moment is a person “this” or “that?” To label oneself is to close off the possibilities of being. But in the sense you are asking, the ordinary, narrative sense, poetry came first. I began to write poems as soon as I learned to write. After my first book came out, when I was 29, my mother pulled out of a bottom dresser drawer a big piece of paper I was given, probably around second grade, on which was written: “I want to be a writer when I grow up.” I have no idea where that came from. But writing was the way for me to craft a self I could unfold on my own, in private, and to find a life that was mine, one that didn’t belong to others.

Still, the two paths have intertwined for me from the beginning—the first book of poetry I bought, from a stationary store on East 20th Street, was a one dollar Peter Pauper Press book of Japanese haiku. I was maybe eight years old. I don’t know what drew me so strongly to those poems or what I could have seen in them at that age, but I recognized something that I absolutely knew I had to have in my life. The path has also been circular. Poetry brought me to Zen, and Zen returned me to poetry. In 1985, I took on the co-translation that became The Ink Dark Moon, a collection of poems by the two great women poets of classical-era Japan, whose work I had first read in a handful of English translations when I was 17. Their poetry, steeped in both eros and Buddhist views, was part of what turned me toward Zen as well as part of what shaped my sense of poems—how they move, what work they do. I had no idea then that I would work further on these women’s poems; if anything I thought that a path not taken. I did know that I wanted the book to exist, and I waited 15 years for someone else to translate it, before suddenly finding the chance to do it myself after all. So you see, each mode—poetry, Zen—has always returned me to the other. Thus far, they have been the left foot and the right foot of my life. It may, I suppose, look exotic. But from the inside, this life has felt like the most ordinary course possible, one choice simply following another.

IK and KT: In your essay, “The Question of Originality,” you write: “Originality requires the aptitude for exile.” Can you talk about any experiences of exile you may have had, and how they may have fed your work?

JH: I think the sense of exile I have always felt led me to practice Zen. I should add that Zen is what was congenial to me, but I certainly don’t believe there’s only one correct spiritual path—there are as many spiritual paths as there are people, and probably sparrows and frogs and pebbles as well. Still, for me, the not uncommon sense of being exiled from presence in the world brought me to both Zen and poetry. Perhaps urban, contemporary life is already an exile of a kind, perhaps it was more familial, perhaps it was spiritual. There is a Taoist poet in Women in Praise of the Sacred, Yu Xuanji, who said at the end of one poem, “Everywhere the wind carries me is home.” That was not something I felt as a child.

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Reposted with permission from: AGNI

Wine and Spirits: Baudelaire’s Orgy and Attention by Michael Kinnucan

In art, education, philosophy, poetry, religion, society, writers on December 21, 2012 at 18:06

From: Wine and Spirits: Baudelaire’s Orgy and Attention by Michael Kinnucan, Hypocrite Reader, http://hypocritereader.com

Weil’s description of efforts of attention is an attempt to silence the future by turning us away from the objects of attention and toward attention as such. No time is wasted so long as it is spent attentively; to the question “what should I attend to?” Weil answers that the question itself is always a mistake, that it is sufficient simply to attend. The suspicion that one may be attending to the wrong thing is precisely what will prevent you from ever attending; let the question go, let your moments go, find your way out of time for a while.

In Baudelaire’s formalized conception of drunkenness, one can get drunk on almost anything: wine, poetry or virtue, it doesn’t matter at all. Drunkenness is defined by its opposite, and its opposite is consciousness of time as a ticking clock. We are temporary, temporal beings, and all the clocks tick us away; we have only so much time to spend. How shall we spend it? By forgetting that. If Weil tells us: always attend, because there’s only one thing to attend to, Baudelaire tells us: always get drunk, because there’s only one thing to forget.

Baudelaire’s endless fascination with the figure of the poet can be read as an inquiry into the question: What does it take to “marry the crowd”? Baudelaire’s poet is “accursed,” loathed by his family, misunderstood by his readers, absolutely alone; all this is not evidence of despair but a prerequisite for intoxication. The proud bourgeois cannot marry the crowd because he is too full of himself, too busy; he has too much to lose. He does not have a free and arbitrary will, only petty interests. The poet, to plunge at every movement, must have nothing to lose in the fall. Even Baudelaire’s famous irony, most vicious when turned against himself, reflects not world-weary bitterness but the pleasure of crowds. Irony serves the poet as self-flagellation serves the monk: it humbles the flesh to free the spirit. The poet lacerates his ego because his ego is what holds him back from the crowd.

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Reposted with permission from: Hypocrite Reader

The Dark and Starry Eyes of Ray Bradbury by Lauren Weiner

In art, books, literature, writers on December 16, 2012 at 17:25

From: The Dark and Starry Eyes of Ray Bradbury by Lauren Weiner, The New Atlansis, http://www.thenewatlantis.com

The youthful experiences that made Bradbury into a writer preoccupied him throughout his life. Bradbury’s much-beloved novel Dandelion Wine is a thinly veiled fictionalization of many of his sweeter reminiscences — but even these could take an odd turn. “I loved to watch my grandmother eviscerate the turkey,” he once said, a memory that sums up his most characteristic literary trait: taking homey Americana and bending it in a violent or grotesque direction. His most seminal stories wrung terror out of common occurrences, such as going into a ravine that ran through the residential section of his native Waukegan, Illinois at nighttime. In the story “The Night,” an eight-year-old boy — the author’s alter-ego — simply scares himself. There is no ghost or criminal lurking, only the panic that wells up in all of us when we get lost in a dark, damp place and know we are alone in the universe, in the “vast swelling loneliness,” feeling the presence of “an ogre called Death.”

Bradbury spent his childhood goosing his imagination with the outlandish. Whenever mundane Waukegan was visited by the strange or the offbeat, young Ray was on hand. The vaudevillian magician Harry Blackstone came through the industrial port on Lake Michigan’s shore in the late 1920s. Seeing Blackstone’s show over and over again marked Bradbury deeply, as did going to carnivals and circuses, and watching Hollywood’s earliest horror offerings like Dracula and The Phantom of the Opera. He read heavily in Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Edgar Allan Poe, H. G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, L. Frank Baum, and Edgar Rice Burroughs; the latter’s inspirational and romantic children’s adventure tales earned him Bradbury’s hyperbolic designation as “probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world.”

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Reposted with permission from: The New Atlantis

Sloterdijk’s Moment by David Beer

In books, civilisation, culture, media, philosophy, science, technology, theory, writers on December 16, 2012 at 16:44

From: Sloterdijk’s Moment by David Beer, berfrois, http://www.berfrois.com

Bubbles: Spheres I
by Peter Sloterdijk, translated by Wieland Hoban,
Semiotext(e), Los Angeles, 663 pp.

This weighty text is the first part of what is seen as Sloterdijk’s defining and most important intellectual contribution. In this particular text the focus is upon small-scale microsphereology. Volumes two and three build upon this foundational text through a focus upon the macrospherology of globes and the plural spherology of foam (see Couture, 2009). The book itself highlights a genuine openness, resourcefulness and creativity in Sloterdijk’s thinking. He pulls together wide-ranging points of reference in his writing, many of which are unexpected and revealing. His use of art in particular opens up a visual imagination that sits alongside a set of knowing encounters with a number of important philosophical figures. Soterdijk carves a way through the tangential possibilities of bubbles by drawing upon this type of intellectual eclecticism. Actually this is something of an understatement, this book runs-riot as it lurches across the major issues of our time. These issues include globalisation on a small scale, the understanding of the divergence of nature into culture, how history shapes the now, how the individual becomes isolated into social connections, and so on. There is a rhythm at work here, with long takes interspersed with short cuts. There are slowly argued explorations of all-sorts of references juxtaposed with sudden, and sometimes disoientating, blasts of philosophical proclamation.

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Reposted with permission from: berfrois

Cormac McCarthy’s Paradox of Choice by Scott Esposito

In aesthetics, books, literature, North America, philosophy, society, writers on December 8, 2012 at 21:50

From: Cormac McCarthy’s Paradox of Choice: One Writer, Ten Novels, and a Career-Long Obsession by Scott Esposito, The Quarterly Conversation, http://quarterlyconversation.com

McCarthy has given new shades to the English language, and that should be enough. Were he a painter or a composer, or perhaps even a poet, it probably would be, but Cormac McCarthy is a fiction writer, and fiction is generally construed to carry burdens above and beyond anything so frivolous as mere style. Stories must mean something. They must appear to argue for or against moral systems—or at least interrogate them. They must be a little less inconstant than dreams.

It is strange to charge McCarthy with not caring about anything more than surfaces, as his single most famous public utterance indicates otherwise. This is the author who declared “I don’t understand [Proust and Henry James]. To me, that’s not literature” because real literature “deals with issues of life and death.”

Here McCarthy reveals his great interest in the choices his characters make. True, he may not realize that, to Proust and James, Swann’s choice to court Odette or Isabel Archer’s choice to marry Osmond are issues just as “life and death” as any murder or tryst found in McCarthy, but the quote still flatly contradicts the claim that McCarthy is a pure formalist. And does McCarthy’s work itself back up his claim? Yes. In fact, in each of his ten novels McCarthy has showed an obsession with the rare, crucial moments when people make the decisions that will define their lives forever.

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Reposted with permission from: The Quarterly Conversation

Brilliantly Bad Books by David Bentley Hart

In art, books, literature, uncategorized, writers on November 23, 2012 at 22:57

From: Brilliantly Bad Books. The Back Page. by David Bentley Hart, First Things, http://www.firstthings.com/

Best to begin in medias res, says Horace, so let me start with two exemplary excerpts from the works of the inimitable Irish writer Amanda McKittrick Ros (1860–1939). The first opens the fourth chapter of her debut novel of 1897, Irene Iddesleigh:

When on the eve of glory, whilst brooding over the prospects of a bright and happy future, whilst meditating upon the risky right of justice, there we remain, wanderers on the cloudy surface of mental woe, disappointment and danger, inhabitants of the grim sphere of anticipated imagery, partakers of the poisonous dregs of concocted injustice. Yet such is life.

There has never been another literary figure remotely comparable to “the divine Amanda” (whose real name was Anna Margaret Ross, née McKittrick). She was, many discriminating readers believe, at once the single most atrocious writer who ever lived and also one of the most mesmerizingly delightful. She was supremely talentless—she was wholly incapable of producing a single intelligent or well-formed sentence—and yet her incompetence was so sui generis that it constituted a kind of genius.

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Reposted with permission from: First Things

Gaza, Goats, and the Art of Patience: A Conversation with Jeff Talarigo by Jennifer De Leon

In humanities, interview, literature, writers on November 8, 2012 at 03:24

From:  Gaza, Goats, and the Art of Patience: A Conversation with Jeff Talarigo by Jennifer De Leon, AGNI Online, http://www.bu.edu/agni

Jennifer De Leon: Your story “The Night Guardian of the Goat” (AGNI 74) is set in the Gaza Strip. What was your impetus for building a fictional world in this location?

Jeff Talarigo: On my second trip to the Gaza Strip, back in 1993, I went with the mindset of a journalist, but I returned with the desire to be a novelist.  What happened was, one May afternoon, I was sitting outside along School Street in Jabaliya camp, where I was living with a Palestinian family, and I saw two boys with an injured bird and a piece of string tied around its neck. The boys would toss the bird into the air and the bird would flap its wings and fly a few feet until the string ran out and the bird would be yanked back.  Watching this, I thought that it was a striking, almost prophetic image.  As a journalist I could write about it just as I have told you, but by a novelist, so much more could be done.  I jotted in my notebook—Bird on a string—and I carried this image with me for nearly a year before I wrote a story about it.  This was my first published piece of fiction.

JD: The story’s narrator is responsible for taking care of Ghassan Abu Majed’s last remaining goat every night during curfew. Ghassan calls his precious goat “the last link to the land.” Yet Ghassan’s wife says, “the link has long been severed.” In what ways are they both right?

JT: For the most part the refugees in the Gaza Strip have been there since 1948.  Most, and for many years, believed that someday they would return to the over 400 towns and villages that they fled in 1948. I believe that the large majority of those in the Gaza Strip have become resigned to the fact that this “return,” which they have held onto so dearly, will never happen; that Gaza is where they will die.  Still, the Palestinians, like all of us really, cling to these “links” or “connections” to the past.  Many Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza still have the keys to their homes, the deeds to their land, and in my story, a goat.

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Reposted with permission from: AGNI Online

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