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Ephemeris Archives:
Nov 2010

 

 

November 28, 2010:   Harman, with some disgust: "Do our lives justify the amount of information they generate (ostensibly for reasons of market research)?" What, is Harman getting zoological on me in the sense that humankind is just one life form among others, why all the numbers-crunching just so someone else's self-absorbed existence can make a buck off mine? She gave me a look, several, actually. The first look suggested a question: what sort of world had we gotten ourselves into? The second contained within it a hint rather dire; or that any day now, my sweet, and we might commence our long march into the boonies, never to be heard from again. Well, I confess that for a very brief, very fleeting second of time that, with this site, I might experience a frisson of thrill, a tingle at becoming a part, however small, of a vast marketplace of ideas. No such tingle ensued as, apparently, nerve-endings have dulled with age; but that they rattle about just fine - like some Cuban dance band - when I am on the couch reading Graves's Claudius the God, for instance, and I may as well be swearing allegiance not to the current Caesars but to a stone cold dead world of a realm beyond electronic octopi. Now here, and without his permission, I will quote from an electronic missive I recently received. Its author is an old friend with whom I used to drive Yellow Cab (Vancouver, the old days); and we would amiably enough exasperate one another in our off-hours, he me with his Derridas and Foucaults, and me him with my imperfect grasp of a stale canon. 'A brutally cold wind is descending upon us. Even the new ascent of religion, which is useless in its present state, is no match for the 2nd law of thermodynamics unless the Empire you describe can have an old dead science that is meant to profit its fat regime with useless, sometimes terrifying nostrums into something new and vital. Heidegger began the last century showing that the word nature came from the Greek word physis or phusis, to gather like a sheaf of wheat, and it has taken a century for science to learn that it is itself a gathering, not a process of vivisection that has broken down the world into dead elements that lack the fluxuation of a pulse from which life, organic and non-organic, and that its observations are not representations of the real that is other than us, but interventions into processes that we are a part of. And as Cicero said, the word religion comes from the word 'relegere' (to read again, to re-examine carefully, to gather). A double sense of gathering coming from the two (supposedly) most, insulated realms of the polis; their separation guaranteed by the most hallowed word of modernity: secularism - science / religion. To change the world is to change not only our understanding of it but to change ourselves. Strange enigmatic loops, folds whose supple, increasingly complex extensions, create singularities we are eternally and inextricably entangled in." Now, as then, when we used to throw words about and argue our points, I do not quite know what my friend is on about here; just that I figure he is trying to think through something in an authentic fashion and yet, he is no fat-cat academic with tithe; and, what is more, after years of silence, that these should be the first words, first head-scratchers he directs my way. I am moved. I hope I will not have spooked him into a few more years of silence.

 

November 25, 2010: I have had nothing to say for the past few days, postings on this site, in any case, intermittent. But - The Americans are at their thanksgiving meal, / heads bowed, drinks raised, the scandals rich and sumptuous. / Or are these words of mine unfair, too spiced with spite, / Didactic, meretricious, too much the cynic's?  Well, this alexandrine-breaking thing needs work. Otherwise there is the fact of the new Carcanet anthology of Canadian poetry, how it has ventured in an interesting direction but perhaps not far enough. Some mutterings arising to do with its neglect of certain pariahs and darlings; just that those born outside the country, as if in sin, are seemingly embraced.

 

November 21, 2010: A rhymester, no one I know, was heard to characterize poetry readings as halfways suicide cults, this in one of the capitals - not Montreal-NDG - of the western world; a realm that is, in any case, deeply troubled. No question the poet was being archly flip, extravagantly descriptive. For all that, and the matter of readings aside, bad poems do not constitute criminal or otherwise pathological behaviour (so relax, do your worst), as every poet, at one time or another, has written them; and then, should the poems have been published, has had to live them down, even if only in embarrassed, solitary silence, the world passing this latest victim by. It is the faux poet who seems to have no qualms whatsoever in respect to his or her productions; who seems not to know on what thin ice the act of creativity rests. That 'art' is a mere matter of declaring it so. As for unpublishable, (see the November 17 posting immediately below) here follows a mini-screed devoted to the proposition that some kinds of unpublishability have their virtues. Unpublishable because not a Booker Prize lollapalooza.Unpublishable because not more subsidized pap that purports to closure and other sterile ceremonies of the human melodrama. Unpublishable because no longer interested in celebrating 'breakthroughs' in human relations that only conduce to parodies of the same. Unpublishable because prepared to sink or swim on its own merits without reliance on any club membership and the pieties such memberships indulge. Unpublishable because______________. Yes, here is a lot of blankety-blank that one might fill with the indignity of it all—

 

November 17, 2010: Sometimes there is no getting out of a hole one has dug for oneself. Ignominy attends. Which is to say that the raised eyebrows one rates one most likely deserves. (See the November 12th posting below for the implicating evidence, in particular the quote 'Aristotle and what was in the bottle'. What was in that frickin’ jug,anyway?) A number of people have confessed that those words leave them scratching their heads for the sense, words which I lifted from my poem ‘Wintergreen Licentious’, Girls and Handsome Dogs, Porcupine’s Quill, 2002; words which I put in Our Night at Maz Bar, Part Five, Creation Myths – or prose that is as yet unpublished and more than likely unpublishable. One day, perhaps sooner than later, I will offer here why, in some respects, in certain prevailing geists, not to mention intellectual climates, ‘unpublishable’ is a virtue, not necessarily a short street to oblivion. It was pointed out, as well, that when I wrote ‘roadhouses’ I ought to have written ‘cafés’, and no amount of playfulness on my part excuses it. Ditto for Clytemnestra’s own personal warlord when I might simply have stated that Agamemnon was the high king of Mycenaean Greece, and then quit while I was ahead, playfulness having had nothing to do with with that man's demise at the hands of his wife. Then this: “Ephemeris will perhaps get more interesting as it fills out a little more.” And lest I take those words amiss, my interlocutor added that he does not mind the sermo pedestris mode of delivery, that one comes across it in Horace and Montaigne, so relax, already. A gentleman in Ontario, Windsorite but a publisher even so, considered that the apocalypse must be truly at hand if one such as myself is fooling around in virtual space, despite the problems one such as myself is having in matters of clear contextualization. No word yet from higher, more refined circles—

 

November 12, 2010: Poetics, so a friend of mine asserts, was invented in a bathhouse. Aristotle and what was in the bottle. But what about a Bordeaux garage for the derring-do? Or something American complicated by deep background and need to know? Poetics is a way of demonstrating that one knows how things stand but has not much to say, in any case. (There are exceptions. Reading Christopher Middleton on the matter allows me to broach the word 'poetics' without gagging.) Fawcett, however, considers I am a slut for style. He has told me so. Being so informed is akin to getting the worst of it in bootcamp, one's drill sergeant a high-spirited sadist. Notions of poetics aside, I do not give aesthetic possibilities much thought because, mistakenly or not, I have always assumed that the aesthetics of a thing tend to take care of themselves the better a thing is made. For all that, it is wanton hubris on the part of the writer to think that he or she is so advanced in their 'intellectuals' that they can forego all considerations of craft. I have met these sorts of authors. They are always daunting, theirs a species of crackhead universe. Now should poetry rhyme? Should poetry thumpingly and resoundingly not-rhyme? I prefer my herring pickled. (Perhaps I am getting shrill.) Morning in Nikas. Montreal-NDG. After all these years of scribbling in roadhouses, I have yet to capture the play of light just so, that sunburst, for instance, pixie-ing on the back of a chair right next to the restaurant window past which people in dull clothing meander —Well, getting it just so has little to do with who owns the senate or why Clytemnestra offed her own personal warlord; but to make it do perhaps is the point at which language starts breaking down—Style, then. Sometimes it is all that survives debacle.


November 10, 2010: A student waitress highly esteemed here in the neighbourhood, a certain Miss Robertson beloved of a software entrepreneur and a few wine drinkers in Nikas; not to mention the blind, the infirm, the loopy; pimps, hosers, druggies and Albanian football fanatics; refugees from family units as well as all the familial coteries from the area such as remain intact; the Mamselles Maynoo, too; when asked what the words modernism and post-modernism mean to her, if anything, replied: "Ummmmm, well, modernism is the period between the Industrial Revolution and the Second World War. And post-modernism is the period that follows, that's us pretty much, the promise of modernity and progress discredited. How's everything? Shall I pour?" There it is then - your halfways charming but basic, perfunctory response. We, that is, some of us, part and parcel of her extensive clientele, genuflect. But what then of the great Italian poet Leopardi who seems to have beat battalions of theorists past and present to the punch nearly two centuries ago, who held his nose while progressives touted and positivists burbled? Leopardi the hunchback eating his ices in some Neopolitan piazza, one eye on Vesuvius. For a fuller treatment of the man and his cast of mind, you may wish to consult Marius Kociejowski's poem 'Giacomo Leopardi in Naples', Doctor Honoris Causa, Anvil Press Poetry, 1993. Also So Dance the Lords of Language, The Porcupine's Quill, 2003. Then again, to such esoterica you may prefer the spectacle of the Leafs and another subpar year; or Letterman mincing for the camera, his gringos tickled to death. A Parliament of Canaries. A coven on excursionary leave. Our Gang having time-travelled future-wards. Or this even: Pssst, I've got some Sibum. No? Ormsby the Floridian?

Snippets at Random

CM: "—what poetry ought to do instead of having this boring grey mumble, the ego-mumble that goes on, that lacks splendour and lacks traction. It doesn't strike any sparks whereas the poems one likes are ones in which, for one reason or another, though the vocabulary may be quite everyday, there is something in the tempo, something in the phrasing, something in interactivity of word and phrase, phrase and sentence, sentence and the entire text, that really is animated and that is the secret of the animation of the whole text."

- from Palavers & A Nocturnal Journal, Christopher Middleton interviewed by Marius Kociejowski, Shearsman Books, Exeter, 2004


And the following, from the above book:

MK: "I think that's where the poets who followed Pound so completely misunderstood him. I think to some extent Pound did create a flawed vision of history whereas with the others they created a history of themselves."

CM: "What else could they do, without being Gibbon or Spengler? It's got to be subjective, it's got to have that individual stamp on it, but I think that's prose. You get much more of the sense of the real thing coming from the victims of history, like Mandelstam or Montale, who didn't pretend to any major vision at all."

more...

MK: "We are given licence in everything, it seems, except in matters of God. The question I've been asking myself, not because I'm a believer or disbeliever, is whether it is possible to operate or create in a Godless universe."

CM: “What is it Jabès says? ‘God is a metaphor for all the problems that we cannot solve for ourselves,’—something like that, or a metaphor for everything we can’t bear to think about or haven’t got the capacity for thinking about. I think it is necessary to presuppose some kind of transcendental spirit, the invisible, which is in the air all around us, in order to behave adequately and amiably to one’s fellow man. So I think God is a very important concept to bear in mind when you are thinking about ethics. Also, of course, it is like the discs between the vertebrae. Going around without any sense of the transcendental makes the vertebrae grind very painfully, one against the other, and one develops all kinds of grudges and hatreds that can’t express themselves, which fester in one’s bosom and worsen one’s outlook on life. And then, of course, if you can presuppose this transcendental, invisible, pervasive being who includes non-being, then you begin to notice there are some things that are quite wonderful, the transient expression, for example. There was a little girl in the tube coming home in the tube yesterday, a beautiful child of about eight or nine. An expression passed across her face—she was leaning back with her head towards her mother’s arm—that was just celestial. It was complete and adoring wonder. There she was, late—it was already eleven o’clock—it must have been a thrill to be up so late with these adults around, and she was happy. It is a very human thing too, the look of wonder and complete receptivity that comes across the faces of children sometimes. Now, is this a sign? So one learns to perceive the signs and maybe it is an aesthetic thing and so I think the presupposition—I don’t say ‘belief in’ because it is very volatile—the presupposition that there is another being out there secures the supports of one’s life as regards both ethical and aesthetic domains. Once God disappears from the machine, then, I mean you do get an awful lot of really bad, really rotten and corrupt art, which isn’t art at all. It is just taken to be so because the newspapers have something to say about it. Then you get the philistines drifting in, who are the presumers. When I say ‘presupposition’ I don’t mean presumption. There is a great difference—“

 

November 8, 2010: It seems I have taken leave of my senses and entered the 21st century, starting a website. I will let you know in a year's time, when my sharecropper's fee is due on this thing, whether I can still consider myself an honest poet.

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