Friday, August 31, 2012

The Power of the Gaze

CIaude Levi-Strauss, The Savage Mind (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966), "The 'bricoleur' is adept at performing a large number of diverse tasks; but unlike the engineer, he does not subordinate each of them to the availability of raw materials and tools conceived and procured for the purpose of the project. His universe of instruments is closed and the rules of his game are always to make do with 'whatever is at hand,' that is to say with a set of tools and materials which is always finite and is also heterogeneous because what it contains bears no relation to the current project, or indeed to any particular project, but is the contingent result of all the occasions there have been to renew or enrich the stock or to maintain it with the remains of previous constructions or destructions."
Thanks to Doug Weichbrodt for posting that quote on FaceBook

This passage perfectly describes how I make an assemblage... and almost describes how I make a poem. Have been thinking about this--how the 'things' before me are like passing thoughts, which, in being brought together, become an "idea,' but one that exists entirely outside my head, an idea which has no need of me to think it. I experience this as being guided by the objects. The power of the gaze turned to the objects of the world is fertile and creative, brooks no stasis, assembles, dissembles and moves on.
There is a way of seeing that does not impose itself on what passes through the field of vision, but is guided by the objects themselves. If you trust in this 'envisioning,' what comes of it will never be a "waste of time--but the discipline is not ours... perhaps, not a waste, precisely because the discipline is not 'ours " ... is not 'owned.' And though the objects have been found at random--the moment they are picked up, it becomes are an act in a stream of highly determined acts--but which are unguided by any imagined future form they might take. That would ruin it... the confirmation is wonder and surprise, and leaves no room for pride... or perhaps, a pride shared with the assembled idea... it having participated in creating the creator, as much as the other way around.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Foxes Fall to St Francis (repost from 2007)

My housemate's dog sits at my feet; she watches me, seeking my attention. Her silence, I tell myself, is beyond me... her unfathomable otherness..

And then I hear what I have said without speaking--wakened by an association that accompanied this thought, the recollection of a poem by Nancy Willard.

Her unfathomable silence, I tell myself.

It is not what I have seen, but what I have told myself.

Does this mean I was wrong about the silence of the woman pouring milk? HERE

Yes and no. It is true, the silence belongs to the painting, but how is it that I recognize this--? ...having no experience of such silence, my head full of words, a never ending stream of language pouring out of me--to caress, to corrode, to seduce reality to conform to what I need from her? ... needs both acknowledged, and unacknowledged?

I look at this dog... and now at the cat who curls up on my desk, head brushing against hands engaged in turning what is happening before me into words.

And there it is again...

turning what I have already turned into words into words that others can see. Is there no escape from the deceit?

What was it about this poem that so disrupted my unacknowledged account of my perceptions? It occurs to me that what I saw, and see and experience again and again when I open myself to animals, to their presence, to listen and contemplate--that the silence I find so alien, mysterious and not theirs... it is not the animals I am seeing, but a reflection turned back on...

...I cannot say, on my self, for everything of self is fraught with language, and this is what is beyond or beneath or prior to language... it is the self as other. A convergence of my animal being, my species being, by collective, genetic biological material efflorescence into this unique moment of entropic dissolution--a convergence with an illusion whose entire reality is language bound--the illusion of a unique, conscious engagement with...


Silence... again.

That is what I found in Willard's poem. That the silence is never ours, always subverted and betrayed by language... ("he ate only his words") ... and yet, language is the guide. If not our only guide, one we cannot do without, even as it betrays, leading us, drawing us on. Is this what Blanchot was getting at? Our animal lives, ours alone in deepest sleep and death?

Let me work out the connection to these thoughts and the poem in another post.

For now, here is her poem... keep in mind, the title is a play on sports news headlines. From her book, Water Walker, Knoph, 1989

"Foxes Fall to St. Francis"

"Religion," said the foxes,
"is for the birds.

And that man in the brown gown
is a hunter. Watch out."

The sparrows watched him
bake bread and sow crumbs

and the snow kept falling.
He seemed too weak

to make a meal of sparrows
and too dumb.

No claws, no beak
a nest without young.

He trapped roots, berries,

and the snow kept faling
(also the sun).

Many birds drew near
and admired his peculiar singing,

and he kept scattering seeds,
and badgers and hares drew

themselves up
to his stone table.

He ate only his words.
The snow kept falling

on the food,
on the far-off dead,

on paths paved
with mercy.

The foxes said,
"What's good enough for birds

is good enough."
And they fell on the feast

and were saved.

Would you choose to bring children into this world?

You really can't imagine how far we've descended into what would have been an unimaginable netherworld, but for a very tiny minority--say, 40, 50 years ago... and it's happened little by little--with a huge surge backward under Reagan, so what would have brought people out on the streets--shut down the nation... goes unnoticed for the most part. A nation of wage slaves... afraid to stand up and fight back, descending ever further into real slavery. I love children... babies.. and will never regret my two sons... but were I of an age to to engender children now... I would decline. I would not want to bring children into the world I foresee for the indefinite future

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Three poems in The Madison County Crier

Check out this local Missouri paper bottomlined by Frances Madeson.

  Madison County Crier

... and a love letter to the neglected beauty of the midwest...

Ever been bored driving through Ohio? Kansas? Nebraska? Can’t get across them fast enough? Ever think—if you slowed down,  if you got off the interstate, if you opened your eyes, your senses, your imagination, you might find a world as filled with beauty and wonder—as great as any place on this planet?

I’m thinking of the Flint Hills in Eastern Kansas. Long rolling vistas of grassland… what the great plains looked like to the first Europeans who crossed them, & to the immigrants from Asia who proceeded them by millennia. Stand on one of those hills—only a few miles west of the 30 inch rainfall line that bisects the continent. Trees here grow only in the valleys, along the stream beds. Those tiny dark spots you see at the base of the incline where you stand… cattle. Five miles distant. And in the spring, you will see a thunderstorm coming from 40 miles away, and the grass, under the passing shadow of the clouds, changing colors as the wind sweeps over the hills.

I’ve been in the Cascades. I’ve seen the high desert in Eastern Oregon, the temperate rainforests of the pacific coast—and yes, it’s spectacular. The scale—the sublime wonder… but stand on the bank of the Mississippi in Missouri… look north and see all the way to the clear running mountain streams of the Missouri in Montana… turn your head… to the Gulf of Mexico. Stand on the Plate in Nebraska and watch Lewis and Clark passing by… and a million Sand Hill Cranes descending spring and fall.

In central Kansas, there’s a little town, still populated by descendents of Swedish immigrants. A few thousand people… a town with a museum filled with paintings and works of art by its own residents, a town which supports a symphony orchestra and puts on, in alternating years, Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s B Minor Mass. They will tell you joke… how immigrants coming to America—on first seeing the skyline of Manhattan, look at one another in wonder—and say (hear this with a Swedish lilt)… --if this is New York… what must Lindsborg, Kansas be like?

Not far from Lindsborg—the Coronado Heights of my poem. A WPA castle. Google it for images. On a summer evening, you will hear—dogs barking from 20 miles away, the clank of a pail on a farm… and rising up in stereophonic splendor, tens of thousands of meadowlark.

Oh, and the sky… the skyscape… like raised up on a stage into the heavens.

Think again when hurl yourself in your metal and plastic machines over the interstate, wondering how anyplace on earth could be so boring… maybe it’s not that you can’t pass through these places fast enough… but that you don’t slow down to see, to hear, to sense… to imagine.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

US & Hondurus --The Lesser Evil?

US & Hondurus

We need to understand that the distinction between Obama and Mitt doesn't exist for most of the the world--or for the most oppressed in our own country. When one argues about the 'lesser evil,' keep in mind the relatively few who benefit... and the many more for whom that difference is no difference at all. It might also be useful to ask whether those who will benefit will be more likely by their good fortune to be more aware of American oppression and violence, and to dedicate themselves to putting an end to it, or to be lulled into the belief that 'things are better now?'

Follow up on DJ (Danny Johnson)

DJ is now under house arrest. Here's an article from the Examiner

Chicago Bail Fund

After NATO, there were 7 felony charges against activists outside of the NATO 5
The last of the 7 still incarcerated since NATO, is Raziel. The total amount needed to get him out is $15,000. He has been incarcerated since May 20th at Cook County Jail.
Since May 20... that's more than 8 weeks, 59 days in Cook County Jail. Let's help our comrade. This is not right. Justice is up to us.

Friday, August 17, 2012

What 'law?"

When the law punishes the innocent, the law itself is subverted. When the law executes an innocent person... there is no law, and no longer any reason to respect or obey it.

Pussy Riot/ Masks

Pussy Riot's balaclavas & ski masks, Anonymous & Guy Fawkes... what is it about masks that seem to waken this deep collective psychic & emotional resonance... something here that marks our time. Have had several unrelated conversations recently about masks. Is it that with the mask you know there is more there, that the reality is only suggested? That what is most 'real' remains hidden?
Living in a world of the Spectacle--this is a powerful reminder--of the masks we assume to be real, that we have made ourselves into. Brands. Commodities. Labels. Like money--everything of value only as something to be exchanged for something else--nothing of value in itself.
We believe there is no such thing as Truth--when it's only that Truth can never be owned, or traded or sold.  
Pussy Riot exposes our duplicity, our unreality, and must be made to suffer for it. They are more free in prison than most of us in our everyday marketable so-called lives.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Challenge the voter denial laws!

Anyone interested in a direct action challenge to the voter ID law in PA? I'm convinced the electoral system is corrupted beyond repair... but no one should be denied the right to vote if that's their choice, and hundreds of thousands here in Pennsylvania are denied just that. Whatever my opinion about elections, I believe we have an obligation to defend the right to vote for those denied it by the insane photo ID laws. Go in, without ID, if denied, sit down, (not blocking anyone else from voting) refuse to leave... hold up a sign explaining why these laws have to be fought.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Get Danny Johnson out of jail!

$7,500 !!!!!  DONE!  
Thank you for your contributions!
Cook County detention center--think, guard towers, light deprivation, miles of razor wire. DJ is being held in max security--some two weeks running now. He is INNOCENT, held hostage to the attempt to criminalize all dissent. Just got back from Chicago where we visited him and worked to raise the $7,500 needed for the outrageous $75,000 bond imposed on him by the twisted injustice system. DJ is my brother and friend--PLEASE, don't let him spend another night in that place! 
Give what you can--call your friends! Share this link!Anyone you think can help. GET DJ OUT OF COOK COUNTY JAIL!

Girl on the Train--story on-line in Apiary

Girl on the Train. Published by Apiary--on line. The opening segments from my (as yet) unpublished novel, Air Figue's Cat.