Saturday, November 29, 2014

Knocking off pieces of The Monument to Study and Use in the Making

"They are back, the angry poets. But look! They have come with hammers and little buckets, and they are knocking off pieces of The Monument to study and use in the making of their own small tombs."

—Mark Strand, The Monument, #34 (NYC: Ecco, 1978). 

Posted on learning of the author's death.  In today's NYTimes obituary, it is stated that he studied art at Yale under Josef Albers. Architectural symbolism figures in many of his poems.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Shake Loose Awake and Build the City Again

"...saw this corner with a mesh of rails, shuttling
     people, shunting cars, shaping the junk of
     the earth to a new city.
The hands of men took hold and tugged
And the breaths of men went into the junk
And the junk stood up into skyscrapers and asked:
Who am I? Am I a city? And if I am what is my name?
Early the red men gave a name to a river,
     the place of the skunk,
     the river of the wild onion smell,
Put the city up; tear the city down;
     put it up again; let us find a city...
Every day the people sleep and the city dies;
     everyday the people shake loose awake and
     build the city again.
The city is a tool chest opened every day...
The city is a balloon and a bubble plaything
     shot to the sky every evening, whistled in
     a ragtime jig down the sunset.
The city is made, forgotten, and made again...
Every day the people get up and carry the city...
     lift it and put it down."

—Carl Sandburg, excerpts from The Windy City [ca1922] 

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Door Becomes the Image

"The formula according to which both [separating and connecting] come together in human undertakings ... is something which can guide all our activity. In the immediate as well as the symbolic sense, in the physical as well as the intellectual sense, we are at any moment those who separate the connected or connect the separate. / The people who first built a path between two places performed one of the greatest human achievements... The will to connection had become a shaping of things, a shaping that was available to the will at every repetition ... This achievement reaches its zenith in the construction of a bridge... The bridge gives to the eye the same support for connecting the sides of the landscape as it does to the body for practical reality. ... The bridge confers an ultimate meaning elevated above all sensuousness ... and brings it into a visible form in the same way as a work of art does... when it puts the spiritually gained unity of the merely natural into its island-like ideal enclosedness. / Whereas in the correlation of separateness and unity, the bridge always allows the accent to fall on the latter [unity], ... the door represents in a more decisive manner how separating and connecting are only two sides of precisely the same act. The human being who first erected a hut, like the first road builder, revealed the specifically human capacity over against nature, insofar as he or she cut a portion out of the continuity and infinity of space and arranged this into a particular unity in accordance with a single meaning. [The door] transcends the separation between the inner and the outer. Precisely because it can also be opened, its closure provides the feeling of a stronger isolation... than the mere unstructured wall. The latter is mute, but the door speaks. It is absolutely essential for humanity that it set itself a boundary, but with freedom, that is, in such a way that it can also remove this boundary again, that it can place itself outside it... Thus the door becomes the image of the boundary point at which human beings actually always stand or can stand. ... [I]n the unity [of an occupied threshold], the bounded and the boundaryless adjoint one another, not in the dead geometric form of a mere separating wall, but rather as the possibility of a permanent interchange... Whereas the bridge, as the [walkable] line stretched between two points, prescribes unconditional security and direction, life flows forth out of the door from the limitation of isolated separate existence into the limitlessness of all possible directions."

—Georg Simmel, "Bridge and Door" [1909], in Simmel on Culture, David Frisby & Mike Featherstone, eds. (London: Sage, 1997) p170-173.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Always Dream and Function

"...architecture is always dream and function, expression of a utopia and instrument of a convenience."

—Roland Barthes The Eiffel Tower (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1979) p6.

Communication is Intersubjective

"Human communication is never one-way.  Always, it not only calls for response but is shaped in its very form and content by anticipated response.  ... I have to be somehow inside the mind of the other in advance ...and he or she must be inside my mind. To formulate anything I must have another person or other persons already 'in mind'. This is the paradox of human communication. Communication is intersubjective." 

— Walter J. Ong, "Some Theories" in Orality and Literacy [first 1982] (Routledge 2012) p173.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Fugitive Places

"I see home as constituted of fugitive places; it is through memory that we organize and collate these places into homes."

— Michelle Elrick, from "Salzburg," Part 3 of "Homestead: Venturing into the Poetics of Place"