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Thursday, February 27, 2014

The secret sits in the middle

The Secret Sits

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows." 

Robert Frost, first published as "Ring Around" in the journal Poetry (April 1936)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Every phantasy has the value of a possibility

"Naturally, it is self-evident that there cannot be nothing. But a mere 'tumult of sensations,' a chaos, which elapses in the pre-empirical procession of time so irrationally that no apprehension of things could be found and maintained, a mere maelstrom of sensations, I say, is indeed not absolute nothingness. It is only nothing that can in itself constitute a world of things. .... Thus we arrive at the possibility of a phenomenological maelstrom... All in all, the world - in its existence and in what it is - is an irrational fact, and its facticity resides uniquely and exclusively in the strictness of the motivational nexuses... Experience is the force which guarantees the existence of the world... in the perceptual nexus every perception is augmented by every other one, corresponding to all the series of fulfillments which interweave into a manifold braid, unitarily and harmoniously... possibilities are not empty possible thoughts but are possibilities grounded in motivation. ...actual perception in a harmonious perceptual nexus refers to these or those possible perceptions that are in accord with the elapsing perceptual nexus... Every phantasy has the value of a possibility... The appearances occurring at any time are appearances under motivating circumstances." 

 — Husserl, Final Considerations, in Thing and Space: Lectures of 1907 (Kluwer, 1973) p249-53.

The talent for transformation

"The talent for transformation which has given man so much power over all other creatures has as yet scarcely been considered or begun to be understood. Though everyone possesses it, uses it and takes it for granted, it is one of the great mysteries and few are aware that to it they owe what is best in themselves. It is extremely difficult to understand the true nature of transformation. The most hopeful course is to approach it from several different angles."

Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power [first 1960] (Penguin, 1984), p389.

The craft of building prisons

"architecture is mainly the craft of
building prisons
   some more elaborate
      some more humane

simple arched shelters we know
   and always knew
      as trees..." 

— Andrei Codrescu, from the poem "Bridge Work" 

The situation constituted by its relation

 "As grass is food in the situation constituted by its relation to the ox and is not food in the situation constituted by the tiger, so the distant object is colored in the perceptual situation constituted by its relation to an individual with our [sensing/acting] apparatus but is not colored over against an angleworm." 

George Herbert Mead, Consciousness and the Unquestioned (Essay 4), in The Philosophy of the Act (Chicago, 1938) p76-77.

The creation of durational spaces

"The creation of durational spaces in a poem – great but empty halls, narrow corridors, closets, enclosed pools, formal picture galleries, off and on ramps, pulleys and trap doors between levels – produces an internal or negative (in the sense of inverted or inner) architecture. – You are entering a building through a dark and musty subbasement; proceeding a few steps, you trip onto an elevator platform and are whisked to what is something like the 23rd floor, where you are stepping out into an abandoned soundstage... sighting a ladder, you climb up a flight onto a floor filled with hundreds of irregularly shaped cubicles populated by women dressed as Matadors..." 

Charles BernsteinThe Book as Architecture (essay), 
in My Way: Speeches and Poems (Chicago, 1999) p56.

The madness of space

"How should you walk in that space and know
Nothing of the madness of space,
Nothing of its jocular procreations?
Throw the lights away. Nothing must stand
Between you and shapes you take
when crust of shape has been destroyed.
You as you are? You are yourself.
The blue guitar surprises you."

— Wallace Stevens (from Blue Guitar)

The event to which one is subjected is visualized in a symbol

"There is a kind of law of the shortest distance to the image, a psychological law by which the event to which one is subjected is visualized in a symbol that represents its swiftest summing up: I was a man who, carrying a pile of plates, had slipped on a waxed floor and let his scaffolding of porcelain crash. ... Horizon? There was no longer a horizon. I was in the wings of a theatre cluttered up with bits of scenery. Vertical, oblique, horizontal, all of plane geometry was a whirl.

                                      ...   There is nothing dramatic in the world, nothing pathetic, except in human relations." 

Antoine de Saint Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1939) p83, 93.

Poetry is in everything

"Poetry is in everything—in land and in sea, in lake and in riverside.  It is in the city too... it is evident to me here as I sit: there is poetry in this table, in this paper, in this inkstand... in the rattling of cars on the streets, in each minute, common, ridiculous motion of a workman, who the other side of the street is painting the sign of a butcher's shop."

Fernando Pessoa: Always Astonished (San Francisco: City Lights, 1988) p1.

The gesture explains things in a breath

", though largely, is not entirely carried on by literature. We are subject to physical passions and contortions; the voice breaks and changes, and speaks by unconscious and winning inflections; we have legible countenances, like an open book; things that cannot be said look eloquently through the eyes; and the soul, not locked into the body as a dungeon, dwells ever on the threshold with appealing signals. Groans and tears, looks and gestures, a flush or a paleness, are often the most clear reporters of the heart, and speak more directly to the hearts of others. The message flies by these interpreters in the least space of time, and the misunderstanding is averted in the moment of its birth. To explain in words takes time and a just and patient hearing; and in the critical epochs of a close relation, patience and justice are not qualities on which we can rely. But the look or the gesture explains things in a breath; they tell their message without ambiguity; unlike speech, they cannot stumble, by the way, on a reproach or an allusion that should steel your friend against the truth; and then they have a higher authority, for they are the direct expression of the heart, not yet transmitted through the unfaithful and sophisticating brain." 

— Robert Louis Stevenson, "Truth of Intercourse" in Essays: English and American.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Om In a Landscape

"Om In a Landscape may be performed as they see fit by any number of people who have enough good will to listen intently to each other and to everything else they hear while they perform it and to relate with what they hear by speaking or singing or both and observing plenty of silence from time to time. Please don't make your Oms too holy-holy."

Jackson Mac Low, from Instructions [2002] to Om In a Landscape [1961 drawing], in Doings (NYC: Granary, 2005), p64.

Make a place made where they need land

"Make a place made where they need land
It is a curious spot that they are alike
For them to have hold of which in need of plainly
Can be suddenly hot with and without these or either
For themselves they can change no one in any way
They can be often placid as they mean they can force it
Or wilder than without having thought..."


Gertrude Stein, Part I, Stanza VII, Stanzas in Meditation [ca1932]
(LA: Sun & Moon Press, 1994) p23.

re. Sun & Moon press:

Distant objects please

"Distant objects please, because in the first place, they imply an idea of space and magnitude, and because, not being obtruded too close upon the eye, we clothe them with the indistinct and airy colours of fancy.  In looking at the misty mountain-tops that bound the horizon, the mind is as it were conscious of all the conceivable objects and interests that lie between; we imagine all sorts of adventures in the interim; strain our hopes and wishes to reach the air-drawn circle, or to 'descry new lands, rivers, and mountains,' stretching far beyond it: our feelings, carried out of themselves, lose their grossness and their husk, are rarefied, expanded, melt into softness and brighten into beauty, turning to ethereal mould, sky-tinctured. We drink the air before us, and borrow a more refined existence from objects that hover on the brink of nothing. Where the landscape fades from the dull sight, we fill the thin, viewless space with shapes of unknown good, and tinge the hazy prospect with hopes and wishes and more charming fears."

William Hazlitt on Why Distant Objects Please, Essay XXVI in Table-Talk [ca1778-1830] (London: George Bell & Sons, 1902) p356.
see also