Tuesday, October 26, 2004

why I am disturbed

What does it mean when a student rushes up to you, out of the blue so to speak, says,

"Your class fits into my schedule," flatly states it as the case?

--a statement about his schedule or the class?
--how do I figure into this fixture that more or less adequately fits?

on form

Ron Silliman and Mark Tursi in dialogue on Silliman's blog. Mark and I are colleagues at Univeristy of Denver; you know I want to jump in this conversation. --working on my own response right now...

and I am about caught up once again and getting back in touch with my Wittgenstein reading. I think I have lost touch with the old thread of Jay and Thomas's discussion. I am going back to my earlier concern with Nick Piombino's aphorism to begin again and possibly rethink a few points. Maybe Silliman's concern for form can find its way into it all. I get the feeling that form is the whole thing for him, so to read him is to read it all as to accept it for what it is--some form of impenetrability, a fortress--like a word and its ambiguities for a listener contra the word and its ambiguities for an author.


Friday, October 22, 2004

i am so tired

found: not the books i lost this summer, but three Sun City Girls' lps, more early Ahmad Jamal.

I am sad, though. My favorite used lp store has been wiped of inventory. A Korean outfit purchased all rock, jazz, classical, and pop inventory. Even the junk. Good for the business, I suppose, sad for my digging habit.

have I mentioned that it is a bad idea to teach five classes at once. i must have.

Monday, October 18, 2004

a bit of wandering to warm-up

I am considering a longer, more direct, response to Jay and Thomas. For now, I posted a response on Bad With Titles. Follow the previous link to the discussion.

I like Jay's points. Thomas's, too. We each have different approaches to knowing an event. I am closer to Jay here. I think that Wittgenstein feared giving something to poetry he felt philosophy owned. A clarity that philosophers yearn for but cannot get to. A perspective on approaching propositions, maybe, I am not really sure.

When we talk about the craft of writing, we talk about much more than propositions. Language, in this talking, excedes its object; but it would be wrong to say that literary artists merely interpret reality (as is too often the case.) Many writers workshop under such a misapprehension, as well, and reduce lines into structures to be edited for comprehension.

Writing as Poetry is Breathing:
consider breathing as a mechanism for combining sense into compressed moments to be projected somewhere at some time. This allows authors to transmit and transfer space and time in a manner independent of history and dialectics--in other words, logic and ideology. And tradition, too. It allows for improvisation, which is not based in knowledge, rather in craft and something exceding both knowledge and craft we sometimes mystify and call genius.

Knowledge of concepts in the manner of truth-making always has an agenda that itself excedes the moment written about. Knowledge, then, is not static; its moving not historical. Though, knowledge can be historicized.

Writing as Poetry is working out--expelling--the "because it is" rationalizations. Poems or stories, Epics or novels, are objects themselves, maybe even concepts. Nevertheless, they are not static. They do not mean something for all readers. Knowledge is code for a word that strips action of act. Knowledge is nominalization. From the perspective of the liminal, knowledge is racist, sexist, colonialist--Empire. It is always determined by those who have social power. From the perspective of the artist, knowledge is a limit.

Knowledge is old school. The language of ONE is dying. Thankfully.

We have come to a moment where knowledge is useful as a mechanism. Concepts are machines.

To know is not to know;
A limit is not a limit.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Reading Tomorrow

For the Denver lurker, I am reading tomorrow at Book Buffs--a happy participant in "Freedom of Expression Weekend." The entire Old South Pearl St community is involved.

Book Buffs is at 1519 S Pearl St, 5 1/2 blocks north of Evans and Pearl. My spot is at noon.

I should get the local writer news thing going again up there below the Dagzine masthead.

Friday, October 15, 2004

a little silence

been writing this week.

i like this:

from H Michaux, "A Dog's Life"
I've already said that in the street I fight with everybody...
As for books, they harass me more than anything else. I just can't leave a word with its original meaning or even its form.
I catch it and after a few tries I uproot it and lead it definitively away from the author's flock.
There may easily be thousands of sentences in a chapter and I've got to sabotage every one of them. It is absolutely essential to me.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Strange Admissions

Well, seems I have been left behind. I am going to continue my work on Wittgenstein, but I must distance myself from what is being done over at Bad With Titles. Jay and Thomas know how much I appreciate their conversation and company; with all due respect, I completely disagree and find somewhat absurd the attempt to claim that poetry is philosophy after their manner.

I published a comment to the post linked above. I see philosophy and poetry as dependent on the other and becoming the other--philosophy becomes poetry and poetry becomes philosophy. CONJUNCTIONS: Identity and Difference. The one becomes differentiated in itself...Heraclitus, Hyperion...states of being shift yet remain distinct. And the idea that it becomes differentiated in itself (not for itself) is important because of what it doesn't admit. It isn't "the one becomes differentiate in/with/through others." The and in poetry and philosophy needs to be there for poetry and philosophy to become differentiate in themselves.

If Jay and Thomas will allow me one critique, I'll take a truckload: Jay is somehow trying to work Deleuze and Guattari's concept of Concept from What is Philosophy into the mix. Neat idea, but it may not fit. Thomas, and I don't know if Jay knows, wrote his dissertation on Concept and Knowledge. Thomas uses homologies to get to the case. I am intrigued about a dialogue between poetry and philosophy in this way, but what it is one tries to know always becomes privileged--and Hamlet is not, I'll submit, the best example. In other words, the knowedge of a concept in this logic is always private. Knowledge doesn't simply point it is always becoming. Knowledge isn't a fact, it is a case always opening. One might bring Benjamin's theses on history into the mix here.

I am a bit dismayed about how an attempt to discuss poetry and its relationship to (use of) philosophy has turned into a flattening of the two together and ejected the poetry itself as a result. I posted my essay on Thoreau as an anchor in our developing constellation. It seems to have been dropped. So, I will go on my direction. In poetry, as in prose, the concept for the work, even the concept(s) in the work, is always a representation of the case of the work after the work. I am not satisfied with, to use Wittgenstein, spirit hovering above the ashes of culture. That kind of passive looking pisses me off. If it works, break it. Go under the ashes. Dig it. And cultivate from the ground up.

If Kleist is right: poets want to convey thought without words. We might explore the authenticity of Witggenstein's parenthetical reaction to that claim. He says it is a strange admission. W sees facts, states of being, as admissions. This is our first entry into discussion with the epitemologist. So, I ask of Jay (in particular because he writes poetry) and Thomas, for what purpose such admissions (yours, then his)?

If the concern is literary art, may I suggest ceasing to make it into an epistemological case? I think Wittgenstein is useful because his study confesses its own gaps through which we can take off or erupt/irrupt, depending on which direction we're going, into/out of the poetic...

and this is why I began almost a month ago with Nick Piombino's aphorism on thought. I saw three gaps (different interpretation for his use of the word thought) worth jumping through. Not into Concept. Not towards knowledge. But into increase.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Jacques Derrida died yesterday.

I have to think about it.

some notes from a

  • working from my office today. just finished chatting with new writing colleague about students and plagiarism. has to be some way to work the dependence on others out of young writers. some are simply cheats. most are simply deferential--a warped sense of respect and never being encouraged to be creative. You know: to create with others. my students know the preposition for.
  • I am listening to The Fiery Furnaces, Blueberry Boat (Rough Trade, 2004). saw them at the Larimer Lounge last night. originally was going to see Electric Frankenstein. good thing that fell through. The Fiery Furnaces are truly wonderful. now I have something else to obsessively listen to other than E Satie. no vinyl, boohoo; had to buy a cd. take pearls before swine, psyche folk, the nice, ELP, Patti Smith, Capt Beefheart, Velvet Underground, early Genesis, Blonde Redhead, a little Spoon, Sparks, Queen, 70s NYC DIY rock attitude: blend on high. I am not kidding: it's all there and more. they certainly do something with the music. wonderful talent, too: in other words, they produced IT on stage and added to it. I am getting sick of bands who rely on post-production to create a sound they cannot hope to produce live. thank you Fiery Furnaces.
  • coming: responses to laura carter and jay thomas. building our thought map.
  • my annual jaunt to NYC is only four weeks away. tick tock tick tock. nov11-14. andrea's b-day this trip. we're going to see Yoshimi P-We's band 00100 at the Knitting Factory on Friday night. I imagine we'll do a b-day dinner on saturday. (btw: we save up to spend on good food and wine...any suggestions? anything that's good cause its good not expensive cause it's hip, which is soo denver and manhattan right now.) Andrea's only been to the city once. her first time, I took her to do all the tourist things I did when I was a kid and my grandfather took us into the city from CT, like Empire State Building. we walked all over mid and lower Manhattan. Was right after 9.11, so very strange for me. this time we're going to the museums and spending time in the parts of town she liked most last time. if anybody wants to get together or if there's any reading to be done (I am reading a lot lately, bitten by the bug), get in touch with me: dagzine at mac dot com. Thursday and Saturday night are up in the air, as is Sunday before our late flight back to Denver. Or join us for lunch or dinner or a museum or the show at KF. We're staying blocks from Grand Central. Last time, I spent time with friends and made new friends--thanks Shanna! I missed folks, too, sad sad.
  • Reading Anne Bradstreet, Edward Taylor, Jonathan Edwards, and Fordham's series on Phenomenology and the "Theological Turn" (I am on Dominique Janicaud's contribution). Attempting an essay on the phenomenological troubling of faith and revelation using American Puritan Poetics--actually fits into discussion of late on Dagzine concerning thought and language, speaking and writing. Glaube=Faith; glaube=think. Also reading Henri Michaux, various stories & JK Huysmans' Parisian Sketches, and many student essays.
  • if you'd like to know. i really really want the john cassavetes box set from criterion and the albert ayler holy ghost box set on revenant.
  • shows i am going to see before NY: heroine sheiks, dirtbombs/dead moon, makers/brian jonestown massacre, holly golightly. now if that isn't a year's worth of shows in three weeks.
  • have been scheduled to read at Freedom of Expression Weekend 2004, on Old South Pearl St, Denver, on Sunday 10/17, 12noon, I think... I am reading a fictional essay, Free Speech Movement. it is both a critical exploration of free-speech movement and a story about its author. it is both an introduction and a conclusion: it is a beginning with a middle and an end. there are a lot of parentheses. needless to say.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Aesthetic Fascism

What is beautiful for George Bush:
1)The Homeland
2)Women as child-bearers
3)Men being tough
4)Silent Labor
5)Organic Intellectualism
6)The Guts
7)Running but not hiding
8)Ethical Binarism
9)YES or NO and nothing else
10)Pure Rhetoric

We surfed the networks after the debate. What was, in fact, an embarrassing debate for Bush--always responding to critiques as if he is always correct contrasted to Kerry's forcing issues and directing the questions; not knowing even ONE statistic or name to reference contrasted to Kerry's use of names and statistics to attempt reasonable claims; either wearing a practiced flat face or fidgeting nervously contrasted to Kerry's composed style; etc.--was instantly turned into a charming victory for the president.

Kerry and Bush stretched facts; at times both grossly exaggerated. Bush outright lied, though. Hidden in his rhetoric was justification for lying about Iraq. He promised to appoint judges who would uphold the consitution rather than an agenda; however, he campaigned that he will appoint Christian judges, conservative judges.

Kerry never once cut-off the moderator; Bush did so at will. Commentators on MSNBC actually called it Presidential. Pat Buchanan, go figure, praised Bush's manliness, calling it "presidential."

Bush was embarrassing. He was an idiot. He was too angry. He was pompous. He was misinformed. He was uncomfortable. He knew nothing. He couldn't answer a question about the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act and the 4th Ammendment. It is obvious he doesn't know what the 4th Ammendment is because he answer addressed the wrong issue. And he certainly doesn't know the Act itself--there is What He Thinks It Means and What It Actually Says. Kerry addressed the 4th Ammendment. But Kerry is doesn't know anything and Bush is Presidential? So what is Presidential? Someone who can grab their cock and piss on others apparently. A man who can say "NO!" is Presidential; not one who can mediate.

He said he had the idea for the hydrogen car. I think he said, I suggested the hydrogen car. This is not funny anymore.

Did anybody hear Bush revise "the axis of evil" to "the nexus of the haters"? The words were spread out through an answer, but "the haters" is a supremely vague concept that easily can fit folks who support Planned Parenthood, for example, as well as "the terrorists." This idiot believes that YOU can simply answer YES or NO to moral questions WITHOUT reflection. Abraham, according to Kierkegaard, listened to a voice that told him to sacrifice his son. Blind Faith. But that voice Bush listens to is not a sign of his faith, it is a sign of Ralph Redd, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, his father, et. al.

I hope folks don't buy the masculinist ball-grabbing postures the president used last night. If they were impressed by his posturing and toughness, his anger and swagger, he will win in November.

On the positive side, I was surprised to hear Kerry actually attempt to make points based on reasoned evidence. He elided how he would cut the deficit; but the deficit is a red herring anyway. The issue is who Kerry will represent: the silent majority or the very vocal minority. Kerry will get closer to listening to the silent majority than Bush. This is the case. For now he will have to do.

I have revised this...what I posted this morning was a bit incoherent.

Friday, October 08, 2004

on passive production

I wrote, on 10/3:
On the other hand, the most offensive writers passively produce experimental texts that neither approach the theory which their work attempts to sound like nor make the sort of attempts at the new experimentalists are supposed to be tempted [to attempt]...

Nada asks, "How can anyone produce a text "passively"? Isn't all writing an act of will, even so-called "automatic writing"?


I like the questions. First, Production and Action are different states altogether. I agree with your definition of writing. It seems to be: writing is a willful act.

But what that act produces is not necessarily active. A writer can passively produce: Bartleby actively copies but passively produces the ideas on the cases he copies.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Henry, I am pulling your comments from an older post up onto the stage, because I like your worry, and I couldn't find out if you had a blog where I could leave a reply. Eventually, the older threads of this discussion are going to be sucked into my archives inthe sidebar. I don't know how many folks actually dig in there...

Henry writes:
Enjoying this discussion, thank you, even though much of it is over my head. I guess my comment is a cautionary one. In trying to articulate the character of poetry's picture-logic - how it manages to present something real or coherent or telling - there's a danger of imposing some kind of determinism. For me what primarily differentiates poetry from science & philosophy is its contingent quality - something you touched on in comments about the writer/reader relationship, but I think it needs to be underlined. Poetry (or creativity in general) occupies a contingent Now which escapes ordinary notions of causality. Ironically, this activity may present the most accurate "picture" of reality.
I think Henry's concern about determining the beheld is proper. I am more inclined to discuss the object of poetry as revealed much in the way Edward Taylor and Anne Bradstreet address it. What I behold in the world, in nature, is approach by me in many ways. Regardless, the phenomenon must give itself up to show itself. Like the loon in my discussion of below, the poetic object calls out to announce itself. We may not hear it, we may not hear it at the right time, we may mistake it for something else, etc., but we certainly do not determine it. We can attempt to over-see it, but that will come out in the wash.

I haven't read Glazov-Corrigan's Mandlestam's Poetics. I understand the urge to write a humanist poetics, one that addresses a poetics for the human encounter. I just don't think such worries are important for the poet--they are fine ones to have--but I think they are much more vital to the critic who uses them. We find ourselves in poetry. We aren't necessarily working anything out. Maybe we are simply there, enjoying the difference between subject (of the world) and object (of the word) through revelation. I don't know.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Lines of flight

I posted a comment on the continuing conversation over at Jay Thomas's blog.

it is good to see this going on elsewhere.

Laura Carter is writing quite a bit as well; I have a response in the works to her wonderfully frank response to my critique of workshops and our generation of writers.

This from Ron Silliman seems apropos.

and I bet Tony Tost would add things if he had time.

Constellations: Point 5, part one

Ok, so here goes. Awhile back I believe I posted an essay in progress on this subject. But it works for our discussion; it belongs on our map. Part One is in this post; part two in the next.

The essay should bring out points worth applying to or exploring with Wittgenstein's concerns. I am bothered by his statement in Culture and Value:
[T]here is a way of capturing the world sub specie aeterni other than through the work of the artist. Thought has such a way--so I believe--it is as though it flies above the world and leaves it as it is--observing it from above, in flight.
(5e, U of Chicago edition)
I am quite satisfied that there should be a way of capturing the world other than through art. But that thought is the way is very sly--we shouldn't trust it. I think this attempt to see thought flying above the world illustrates the function of thought in a way similar to how he illustrates the function of spirit--"but spirits will hover over the ashes [of culture]" (3e). Though the German verbs are distinctly different in kind and sense, we may ask what distinction we can make between the two--thought and spirit, flying and hovering. I believe literary artists purposefully perform this function--should perform, since we are talking oughts.

This is where Emerson's "Circles" sits on our map:
Literature is a point outside of our hodiernal circle through which a new one may be described. The use of literature is to afford us a platform whence we may command a view of our present life, a purchase by which we may move it.

Therefore we value the poet. All the argument and all the wisdom is not in the encyclopedia, or the treatise on metaphysics, of the Body of Divinity, but in the sonnet or play....[The poet] smites or arouses me with his shrill tones, breaks up my whole chain of habits, and I open my eye on my own possibilities. He claps his wings to the sides of all the solid old lumber of the world, and I am capable once more of choosing a straight path in theory and practice.
So, a beef with Wittgenstein. The literary artists take their place in society as folks whose labor is useful because it refurbishes all that is the case and re-presents the world allowing us to get it straight. I think Wittgenstein wanted to keep that for philosophy.

From the Tractatus:
5.6 The limits of language are the limits of my world.
If so, then my world is limited similarly to Wittgenstein's only because we share a limit of language.
5.631 There is no such thing as the subject that thinks or entertains ideas.
If I wrote a book called The World as I found it, I should have to include a report on my body, and should have to say which parts were subordinate to my will, and which were not, etc., this being a method of isolating the subject, or rather of showing that in an important sense there is no subject; for it alone could not be mentioned in that book.—
5.632 The subject does not belong to the world: rather, it is a limit of the world.

5.634 ...Whatever we see could be other than it is.
Whatever we can describe at all could be other than it is.
There is no a priori order of things.
I am confused about how to approach such limits. I think that my essay below addresses ideas of beholding phenomena that trouble Wittgenstein's point of view.

From Culture and Value:
Kleist wrote somewhere that what the poet would most of all like to be able to do would be to convey thoughts by themselves without words. (What a strange admission.)
I like this thought. for some reason.

“Fleeing in the face of”: Fugitive Laughter and Unanswered Questions on Walden Pond

“Everyone asks me what I ‘think’ of everything,” said Spencer Brydon; “and I make answer as I can—begging or dodging the question, putting them off with any nonsense. It wouldn’t matter to any of them really,” he went on, “for, even were it possible to meet in that stand-and-deliver way so silly a demand on so big a subject, my ‘thoughts’ would still be almost altogether about something that concerns only myself.”
—Henry James, “The Jolly Corner”

“When seen correctly, however, this interpretation is only a fleeing in the face of the conscience—a way for Dasein to escape by slinking away from that thin wall by which the ‘they’ is separated, as it were, from the uncanniness of its Being.”
—Martin Heidegger, Being and Time

Can we separate the man from the living picture?
—Emerson, “Nature”

Part One: Three Methods for Beholding in “Brute Neighbors”

At the beginning of “Brute Neighbors,” Thoreau asks, “Why do precisely these objects which we behold make a world?” In a concise but detailed manner that conceals as much as uncovers its complex philosophy, Thoreau explores three ways beholding phenomena in the world happens. Each reflection is based on a different form of interaction with the natural world and each uses different narrative structures to relate claims about the act of beholding itself.

He begins with a simple claim: “You only need sit still long enough in some attractive spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns” (153). A few significant concepts are dropped into this line gleaned from cliché to make a complex claim seem more ordinary. Beholding changes in mood and intellect with each subsequent form explored; one kind need not be considered more valuable than the other, though each does build on the other in levels of complexity through increased involvement of both the beholder and the beheld—henceforth referred to as the observer and observed, respectively.

Method 1: The observer who beholds the world while tranquilly tarrying alongside what-will-be, is-desired-to-be, or is-already-being observed beholds while sitting still for a long time. Through patient observation, the natural world shows itself to the observer. Hence, this beholding is an involved patience that allows the world to show itself for what it is at the time it is observed, each time it is observed. Thoreau implicitly characterizes this beholding as an active passivity. In this engaged, yet passive state of mind, and observer is likely to wander about aimlessly if not encouraged to sit still.
Let me see; where was I? Methinks I was nearly in this frame of mind; the world lay about at this angle. Shall I go to heaven or a-fishing? If I should bring this meditation to an end, would another so sweet occasion be likely to offer? I was as near to being resolved into the essence of things as ever I was in my life.
Thoreau utilizes an active passivity that needs, or calls out for, some phenomenon to show itself for him to look towards. He worries, “my thoughts have left no track, and I [will not be able to] find the path again” (150). Only after he expresses this anxiety does he query “precisely these objects” that make “a world.” The emphasis on “these” is significant. The objects beheld are exactly the phenomena that must always have a prior being so they may be observed as if they were waiting for and expecting the presence of the observer to behold them.

To reference our conversation about Wittgenstein: The objects are the case in this case and Thoreau offers us, his readers, a picture of the case. The picture is not a proposition; it is a precise concept. (Thomas?) Thoreau adds precision to the beholding of “these objects” because it is important for him to note that they, in this case, can not be any other objects but those precise objects that make his world at Walden what it is.

Method 2: If the first method for beholding the world through nature is an active passivity that involves sitting still long enough to allow all things to be observed, the second method requires a two-fold form for the observer to begin to leave active passivity behind.

Method 2a: The first form is a means to actively engage and involves being startled or awakened from passive engagement.
Method 2b: The second involves active accounting of what is being observed.

The first form of this two-fold method involves observation that happens suddenly. The observer becomes an eyewitness to an event. In Thoreau’s example, he also becomes a kind of reluctant over-seer to the event as it unfolds; unlike the first form of beholding, such observation is not tranquil at all.
I was witness to events of a less peaceful character. One day when I went out to my wood-pile, or rather my pile of stumps, I observed two large ants…fiercely contending with one another. Having once got hold they never let go, but struggled…on the chips incessantly. Looking farther, I was surprised to find that the chips were covered with such combatants, that is was…a bellum, a war between two races of ants….
The observer witnesses above (remember Wittgenstein on thought and spirit) an event not able to be seen with a patient stillness. Such observation over-comes the observer as he over-takes the observed. Both observer and observed are, therefore, taken by surprise. In other words, Thoreau did not plan to behold ants-at-war. Nevertheless, once Thoreau becomes an observer, he stays to look on; in a significant manner, he fulfills an obligation. It is the case that the ants are at war but it is also the case that Thoreau stumbles across the ants at war.

In the first form of beholding, the observer’s seeing is withdrawn not because thinking recedes from its matter, as Heidegger puts it in Identity and Difference (50), he is withdrawn because he waits passively and it passes him by or it doesn’t. Thinking comes after beholding. This second method of beholding, discovering the ants at war, occurs after an engaged recognition of the state of things (t)here.

Thoreau's decision to remain and observe what he finds as over-seer or eyewitness, no matter how reluctant, distinguishes this form of beholding from the first. Unlike the first kind of observing, though the ants do exhibit themselves for the observer, he is not in any manner prepared to observe the show. He must stop in his tracks, make a choice to pause his day’s work, to “look farther,” to see better what is there to be seen. The observer might ask, at this time, What is there to be seen? in a much different sense than in the first kind of beholding. According to the first kind of beholding, the question asked takes the form, What is there-to-be-seen? Actually, this may even be too much for such passive looking; whatever chooses to exhibit itself may not appear long enough to be considered an “is there.” The Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, or the winged-cat of “Brute Neighbors” that is “gone a-hunting in the woods, as was her wont” are examples of such mystifying creatures to behold that may not actually “be there” at all. Instead, the observer at this time asks What is there (to be seen)? Such a question engages an observer as an observer and encourages a taking account of his surroundings. Thoreau explicitly refers to himself, for the first time in “Brute Neighbors,” as an observer when he discusses the ants.

The second form of the two-fold method of beholding involves accounts taken in observation. Within the first form of beholding, Thoreau provides concise narratives of immediacy and familiarity. This happens and then this happens; and the writer relates what happened. He holds mice in the palm of his hand because they crawl into it. For unknown reasons, a phoebe builds a nest in his shed, and a robin makes nest in the tree against his house. A partridge, the shyest of birds, leads her brood past his windowsill. The first method of beholding is always at the level of fortunate occurrence. Always immediate and familiar because we depend on an informal relationship to everyday events happening without our encouragement or without needing our recognition at all.

In the second method for beholding, the first form of the two-fold structure involves immediate yet unfamiliar and not necessarily fortunate occurrences. The second form is less concerned with the “is” objectified and the “there” showing itself. Such beholding is more concerned with the “there” not known in which something is occurring now. The second form of the two-fold method finds an explanation for any event itself and involves making up for the lack of waiting for the event to let itself be shown. Thoreau explains,
I was myself excited somewhat even as if they had been men. The more you think of it, the less the difference. And certainly there is not the fight recorded in Concord history, at least, if in the history of America, that will bear a moment’s comparison with this….

I took up the chip on which the three I have particularly described were struggling, carried it into my house, and placed it onto my window-sill, in order to see the issue. Holding a microscope to the first-mentioned red ant, I saw that…his own breast was all torn away; and the dark carbuncles of the sufferer’s eyes shone with ferocity such as war only could excite.
Taken by surprise, Thoreau carries off a few ants to home “in order to [better] see the issue.” Before his encounter with the ant war, Thoreau has seen “the issue” without needing further investigation. The difference in this scene, with this form of beholding, is that he is not waiting, not tarrying alongside, for the moment to be. Thoreau uses a microscope to estimate the physical damage done to the ants in battle.

Within the second form, the observer abandons any given setting, time, and place to achieve a distance from the occurrence of the event, a distance from which specific observations can be made that are always extracted from the prior exhibition. Once again, to apply this to our discussion of Wittgenstein. If the facts in this beholding are at stake, the they are not the case. The second form of the two-fold method isolates specifically chosen objects for further examination. Like the first method for beholding, the second method relies on observed phenomenon giving itself up to being observed always before showing itself to the observer. The ant war happens regardless of Thoreau’s observation or interruption, just like the mouse scurries across Thoreau’s floor whether or not he is there waiting for it to appear. In both methods, regardless of different points of view and technologies for seeing implemented, the observed phenomena must give in order to show.

In the first method of beholding, seeing absolutely and in every case relies on a phenomenon giving itself in order to show itself. Thoreau’s careful description of watching the young partridges wait for their mother’s distant commands, not only foreshadows the call of the loon, therefore a more complex form of beholding, but shows his concern for the animals themselves as delicate creatures--how the partridge’s presence is a gift first and showing second.
In June the partridge…which is so shy a bird, led her brood past my windows, from the woods in the rear to the front of my house, clucking and calling to them like a hen, and in all her behavior proving herself the hen of the woods. The young so suddenly disperse upon your approach, at a signal from the mother, as if a whirlwind swept them away….
Thoreau knows what a partridge should look like. He knows when partridges seasonally appear. He knows their virtues—character and habits. Consequently, he skillfully anticipates their appearance with more or less accuracy. He admires similar skill in fishermen: their ability to find worms in frozen, wintry woods. They know where to look without knowing what they will find. Like the fishermen, he can look out for the partridges. He can certainly wait for their appearance for he will know them when he sees them. But he must wait for the event to happen (to give itself.)

Though anticipated, what we are looking for can only be seen properly through a showing itself that gives itself. Thoreau comments on this anamorphosis, “All intelligence seems reflected in them…Such an eye was not born when the bird was, but is coeval with the sky it reflects” (152).
By waiting patiently for the possible return of partridges, his waiting anticipates appearance. But when actively engaged with beholding an event such as the ant war, one must come to terms with the anamorphosis itself. A comportment must be reached towards being in front of one another in order to be shown at all. For Thoreau to fully understand the ant war, he has to remove himself from the site (sight-ing) where the war took place. He had to find in himself a recollection of an idea that would help ground the present event. He is taken by surprise yet taken by some phenomenon he nonetheless anticipates. For he knows how to see it show itself. He knows how to “look farther.”

So far, Thoreau’s “Brute Neighbors” has illustrated two methods of beholding in nature. The first, not necessarily the simplest, involves the least work and the least engagement. It is an active (in that one looks) passivity (in that one sits still) that covers a substantial duration of time (in that one is still for a long time.) In this manner of beholding, we have seeing at a primary level, possibly akin to the kind of seeing described in Plato’s Republic that occurs deep within the cave. Not that such beholding is at all like the shadows on the wall but that such seeing requires restraint. The second method for beholding is a two-fold method that involves surprise and accounting for the surprise. The first form involves an over-sight, a kind of looking that allows an observer to behold as much as possible of the observed in one sitting. Once the observer is satisfied with having seen it all, then accounts are made of what was observed. If possible, technology might be implemented in order to find a way to explain the phenomenon from a distance.

Method 3: The third method for beholding is whole-heartedly engaged participation in the showing itself that phenomenon gives itself. The benchmark of such beholding is the use of literary craft to relate what was observed. The observer is typically a major character, usually in the role of a pursuer while the object of the occurrence itself plays the role of a pursued. Before explaining anything else, it should be noted that such beholding does have waiting or anticipating even though the observer may not intend to anticipate and may desire to wait. This troubles the observer because he or she must participate in creating a place for an event to happen. In whatever order moments take place within an event and its subsequent retelling, the author recognizes the phenomenon and interprets its meaning. This picture of the world is always fictive.

“Brute Neighbors” closes with a story about Thoreau pursuing a loon. It begins in the “once upon a time” fashion many authors use to immerse readers in a world where patient waiting can allow observed phenomenon to show itself. The story of the loon is preceded with a concise anecdote about a winged cat. Thoreau never sees the mysterious cat, although he is given a pair of its “wings”—strips of matted fur. He jokes, “this would have been the right kind of cat for me to keep, if I had kept any; for...a poet’s cat [can] be winged as well as his horse” (156). Thoreau is no longer an observer of nature in different states of quiet observation; at the beginning of the pursuit of the loon, he gives himself to the reader as poet.

Thoreau begins “as I was paddling along the north shore one very calm October afternoon” and describes how he “pursued with a paddle” and the loon “maneuvered so cunningly” diving into the water and reappearing always “where there was the widest expanse of water and at the greatest distance from the boat.” He works hard to give us the image of him in pursuit of the loon, of the intelligence of the loon itself, and a metaphor for something left unstated in the text itself.
The loon first appears through its uncanny laughter; Thoreau uses “unearthly.” After its laughter is heard, and only after, do folks pursue the loon. All the emotion of pursuit is detailed in Thoreau’s telling and such telling exhausts anything that might be considered excessive in the loon’s uncanny appearance.
He led me at once to the widest part of the pond, and could not be driven from it. While he was thinking one thing in his brain, I was endeavoring to divine his thought in mine. It was a pretty game, played on the smooth surface of the pond, a man against a loon.
Therefore, the loon’s appearance is indelibly tied to Thoreau’s looking as if the two expected to find each other in each moment. What appears is unique and it is the one thing at stake and nothing else:
I found that it was as well for me to rest on my oars and wait his reappearing as to endeavor to calculate where he would rise; for again and again, when I was straining my eyes over the surface one way, I would suddenly be startled by his unearthly laugh behind me.
While the first method for beholding requires an active passivity in engaged looking at the world as it passes one by who sits still for a long period of time, the second method moves the location to a suitable place for scientific observation that has a method tailored to the specific observer. Finally, the third method for beholding is giving up science for letting something be in narrative, to allow the one thing at stake in the phenomenon to appear for others as it is in pursuit of givenness.

First, the third method for beholding requires an author to give up close and personal observation and to take a purposeful step back towards the quality of the first method. Second, this transforms thinking's stepping back from its matter into a moving ahead of itself. I think it is safe to say that such beholding can possibly move through what Heidegger calls the oblivion of difference. We are given something to identify with regardless of experience and clearing from which to be given the phenomenon described. (This is why I find ethics such an important topic for discussion in workshop.) Thoreau leaves a story for others who have yet to see the loon for themselves in the form of an unanswered question that is meant to haunt the reader much the same way a loon’s laughter haunts a lake at daybreak. He asks, “But why, after displaying so much cunning, did he invariably betray himself the moment he came up by that loud laugh?” And he leaves the loon “disappearing far away on the tumultuous surface [of the pond.]” aspect of the third method for beholding involves the retreat of the pursuer from the pursued.

Third, the third method of beholding incorporates aspects of the prior two methods and implicates both the observer and observed in a given phenomenon of their own appearance that an outside reader or listener beholds for himself. The image of Thoreau pursuing the loon appears for what it is worth. Nothing more of the pursuit remains after he retreats from it. The story itself is given. Nevertheless, a lingering unanswered question is there. And that unanswered question marks the call for participation with an audience—a reader or readers—who will use up any significance and behold or interpret the meaning of the event itself—Thoreau and the loon together. Reader and writer absorb anything abundant or excessive that the phenomenon gives up.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

On my critique of workshops:

I hope my concerns about workshops and writers are clear. Josh and Laura seem to gather my point; my classmates may not.

May this serve to concretize the entry without reference to RC:

We should be able to answer the question, "What purpose does this piece of writing serve?" when addressing our own work in any setting. First, I feel that if I were to ask such a question, most authors would feel insulted. And I believe this reaction is a bad sign: that many young authors are more engaged with fashion--form as window dressing--than they are engaged with the social consequences as a result of writing's activity.

Second, the meaning of the text itself as a poem or story, etc., and the intent of its structures are only usefully discussed after the question of purpose is explored. Otherwise, a critique is simply con-textual babble. If I start with the second, I can simply say whatever I want about a text and the author can do with my saying whatever she wants. Nothing vital in such work; nothing useful.

Therefore, I am dismayed each time I listen to a writer talk about his or her writing who cannot talk about what has been written except by addressing a conceptual structure. B/C? Well, such structures are ephemeral and haunt a text in a way that purposefully perplexes a common reading. If reading has an objective, I believe it involves building community. If writing presents readers with readerly moments, then author's are engaged in creating moments from which readers with writers share the vital interpretation of life out of which community is formed. In other words, writers don't do things for us, they do things with us.

Therefore, and finally for now, I feel that any other writing, though it may be engaging for the author, is not useful, necessary, and worth the effort because it merely addresses the author's desire to see himself as he expects. [Of course, writing without a purpose is purposeful. If such a task is possible, we could discuss the purposelessness of that purposeless text.]

I'll get to form tonight; but concentration on form is not a thinking about the matter but a thinking about the language of the matter. Hence, two steps removed from its object. We must keep this in mind; and this is why our discussion is so important and engaging (for its participants, and for Wittgenstein...) If Heidegger is correct that "thinking recedes from its matter," then we must approach thinking about writing itself, not merely approach the writing itself.

There is so much concern for the performance in politics that seeps into the cracks of writerly craft. How can I address an audience in a way that will best sell my point? This is obviously a typical question that many authors actively attempt to answer. But then there is writing that is simply a response to the representation of culture as a series of formal objects. We are tempted to populate our texts with representations instead of moments. I argue this is wrong-minded; I think we write to cultivate X, Y, or Z, not simply to point IT out.

As Hamlet discovered, knowing is not about watching and retelling what was seen but watching the watching and describing the state of things. What is it you see in there? that is the question.

Constellations, part three: Point 6

I am going to address Nietzsche's gripe with "backward inference" in Gay Science.

Finally, blogger seems to be working properly; I will sit down tonight and type; will work out Points 4,5,6; though, possibly not in that order.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Constellations, part two: outlining points 4 & 5

I need to open up my discussion.
Settle down,

Point 4

I think. How do we see thinking?

I will address Heidegger's exploration of Thinking and Speaking and Poetry. Maybe even Faith. Writing is believing and doubting: it becomes as readers make decisions after the style of writers. The German "Glaube" is belief or faith, but if I use it in the everyday sense as a verb, "Ich glaube," it is "I think."

Our active condition of being as thinking beings is "We faith things":

Spirit hovers over the ashes of culture.
Q: How does it go from cities to rubble to ashes?
--I use cities because it sounds ludicrous to apply this to Nature.
A: Possibly, as a result of the Ordered paces of bodies at work;


Manifest Destiny;

Bodies that trample;
Bodies construct to destroy;
Planned Obsolescence;
Consistent .03% growth rate within limited space.

A: Like the neutron bomb--
We don't destroy that which we construct,
We don't destroy being-at-work, in the sense of bodies-at-labor--
minimum wage or otherwise--we destroy the body itself;
We destroy a body's ability to cultivate the landscape;
We now cultivate space.

Qualification: This morning, MSNBC, 14 year old boy,
the one who has already invested $1000 on making a trip
into Space says about space exploration:
"How could anyone not be interested in exploring something that is infinite?"

This much is certain: no one heard the boy slip from Space to space.
And with this grand allowance, he has lost his body.

I almost dropped my spoon.

His interest is not Spirit or Thought;
His father and mother--though she was not there--sold the boy as Capital.
He was exchanged. And
While he is thinking about nothing, they will hurl his body into space.
It will be one giant chucking. And if he is lucky, he will survive.

All to lose the weight of his body in space. B/C he isn't going nowhere,
which is where he is thinking about.

Point 4A

A boy is a body with a silent d.
This d is often masculinized:
danger, destruction, dismemberment, denature.
This gender-ing is a function of culture.
Wittgenstein tells us what we pass over in silence;
If we allow him his claim, then the silent d is
the slip from Space to space: a hollowing out of a nothing
we use to hold being out into. And we--Society, we are all
guilty--toss boys into space and sit girls in corners.

Take me to mars was a flaming lips song, a reference to a trip,
you know the kind, and now it is A Political Platform that turns
the desire to get outta this place into a conservative pipe dream.

Everything and Everyone is reconstituted on the playground:
Bo(d)ies--say it--in motion. All the rest is excess:

recess and exploration.

Point 5

I will address Thoreau's "Brute Neighbors" from Walden.

The warring ants;
The Loon and the Hunter.

Sound; Calling; Shooting; Giving our Selves away...calling; a calling.

Is there private experience or is it only private after it is shared--pointed to or witnessed--or simply shot down?

I will be able to address some of Jay's and Thomas's concerns--specifically, the world as picture. And I may feel obliged to bring into the discussion Nietzsche (you knew I would) and Heidegger's essay on the world as picture. I like what Stanley Cavell might bring from The World Viewed.

I don't know. Gotta teach. Will add.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Constellations, part one: The Spur, The Map, Three Points

To Jay and Thomas and Laura and Nick and all others reading along,

I have gone obsessed or simply mad about this all and it has really become a constellation for me which I feel I must map; not that it's a bad thing, misleading me into nothing useful--it is all useful--but I am supposed to be working on two reviews (which I need to get to) and am mired in Phenomenology and Theology: Husserl and Heidegger, Otto and Breton, and others to come all before Thanksgiving. My last class, and then the dissertation, which this all works within so...

The experience is of convergence FOR ME, as Wittgenstein would insist. But also FOR ALL as we have progressed in certain particulars beyond what has already been said along similar lines concerning the possible poetics in the Tractatus. In the days to come I will post, for example, from Charles Altieri, Marjorie Perloff, Bin Ramke: all who address the Tractatus in their work.


Robert Creeley read at the University of Denver last night. I am humbled frankly; he has the quality of an individual thinking about being-at-work and death. The latter in itself is engaging. His discussion of ethics was moving. His conversation was frank and welcome. But he was not well received. I must admit that when I read Creeley first years ago I heard in his work and WCWilliam's too the possibility for my writing. I am probably sensitive in this matter, therefore, but I have spent the entire day reflecting and reading. I have decided the following is just.

I am becoming less inclined to find my colleagues' company as writers desireable. Does this happen when study becomes significant rather than merely instrumental? My learning is useful to me in a way that it cannot possibly be for others, yet I need friendship. I see this as part of the overall problem we have been addressing. What is it with language and thought--the speech act and the image--my experience and your version? I yearn for social contact but despise the affected posture of many young writers. The fashion of the whole thing; the desire to spit on everything writing does for the spirit. And I will get to spirit below and in the days to come. It seems I am surrounded by a few writers, who like myself hide away in their homes seeking and dozens for whom the new banana republic styles and purposefully messed up hair--but they are all so scrubbed clean--are as significant as the lines they type on the page. This complaint may sound bitter, therefore, common. But they know not of what they write. And I am not supposed to address that fact in workshop and at public events. The sighs during Creeley's performance--oh, I have heard these sighs before, well, at every guest performance--during his more sentimental moments last night, the large slouch that is silently heard throughout a room--really, AFFECTATION at its worst--were embarrassing. For Creeley, I am sure he could care less. But for me, I sat behind my classmates, writers of my generation--if there is such a thing...what's the use.

The issue is the spirit. Formality was once a problem, but it has been overcome and only the talentless artist relies on a recollection of formal shape to craft each piece of writing. Fear of the loss of formality has many formalists looking back for a time when form wasn't a problem for itself as a formalist practice. The destructive spirit in writing is useful when used appropriately. This is where ethics comes in to play. What is the point of workshop, for example, when a writer can simply find a line or two to critique in the other's work, according to ANY practice and achieve a further sense of private fulfillment in knowing the self as only the self can approach itself? In other words, when can we pick up the pieces and move forward together to discuss use and spirit in writing prose and verse? When can we realize that we are not alone regardless of private experience and the limits that Subjects present reliability of intepretation.

Creeley is no longer hip; I learned this last night. I learned it from him. His awareness of his project left us in the audience behind. In this manner we all follow him. I admire this human quality--I mean, to keep us on the Wittgenstein track, I admire this hovering that I see in him and wish to attain.

Now. Wittgenstein addresses the problems with such limits. Does anyone see what I am getting at? My field of sight privatized itself last night in an instructive manner. A manner that much of Creeley's verse actually handles, I think. That sort of "So There" quality, how does it go, Let's do it, while we can, let's have fun. A yearning for community and through that yearning a purposeful--and by this I mean active--exploration of spirit: the spirit of private experience in culture and the spirit of the poet seeing the world privately. An experience that is at once closed to public sharing, for lack of a better word--maybe utterance would fit--but open to understanding--what Heidegger might refer to as The Same.

I might be babbling and poorly introducing my thoughts. Give me enough rope to...Whatever YOU think blame my classmates. Ha! They roll in their Master's shit.


I'll map my constellation through the reading I have completed since last I wrote. And I intend this to develop as an exploration; do not expect linearity. Expect transversal moves. In a day or so, I will publish a bibliogrpahy of what I have re-read over the last two weeks. I expect to get to each text in some manner eventually.

I will number my points. But they should be a set of points with no particular order for you or me, and therefore, the first is not primary. We merely begin here today. Others will surely bubble up in primacy as I go under to get over. And any order only hearkens disorder.


Creeley writes to Olson on 5/18/50:
Prose: I cd quote you this for example from a rejection slip. 'Shows brilliance in many passages but does not have the formality of art...' That wd be the Tiger's Eye. It gives the game away, I.e., no one willing to risk INformal art these days, except yrs truly, and I am conducting a nation-wide search. Etc. INformal: on the 'anti-etc.' What is meant: no one willing to do more than fill forms, which they don't, god knows, even have a grip on. Take it: as it might bear: it has pained me to see the passage of the method of Dostoyevsky into the hands of Leslie Fiedler. I don't think he wd have wanted it anyway. ... Of course, in the popular head, imperfectly filled, now, with echoes of Rimbaud, even, they wd miss the simple sense of that 'disordering' of the senses, or, later, wd miss the what the Dr. calls the necessity of destruction: that we have to tear down, destroy, even before we have any idea as to what might go up to replace, etc. (but never replace, etc.)

It is the case that the majority of contemporary writers do not know about that which they write. For some FORM is the solution to an inability to deal with their own self-cultivated ignorance. A strict reliance on form exhibits artisanship, practice, supposedly virtue and spirit, and allows a writer to leave standing all Order. Such writers are the least offensive, b/c we can neither blame nor forgive them. It is suggested that language means something only after it is mastered and the market does reward such mastery. At least these writers are active participants in their culture; they are aware of some demand. On the other hand, the most offensive writers passively produce "experimental" texts that neither approach the theory which their work attempts to sound like nor make the sort of attempts at the new that experimentalists are supposed to be tempted by. These are, what I call, Affected Authors. They not only miss their opportunity as Creely puts it, they seem to purposefully avoid opportunity altogether.

Three years ago I called this anti-intellectualism. Now, I call it what it is: cowardice.

I am interested in the possible poetics that Wittgenstein's work maps not b/c he explicitly worked out a Poetics, like say Charles Bernstein attempts, but b/c I am interested in what I see there.

Am I justified in cutting and pasting into my constellation that which "I see there" to fill a void that has been left there after the destruction of Order? To begin: I answer with a quote from Wittgenstein himself, for I don't know where my map is leading me yet. In Culture and Value, W writes: "I once said, perhaps rightly: The earlier culture will become a heap of rubble and finally a heap of ashes, but spirits wil hover over the ashes" (3e). Isn't it strange, this occurrence of my colon and then his--how the two work to refine my view and his through conjunction? I write W writes who says he once said, perhaps rightly. This colon-ization is exactly the problem W announces in his recollection. What does it mean to share an experience? What does it mean to have my experiment as a writer? Especially, since when I say it belongs to me, I really insist that it belongs ONLY to me in some metaphysical manner that is tough to examine.


Later W confesses: "It is a great temptation to try to make the spirit explicit" (8e).


Well. This is all a bit Nietzschean. In Beyond Good and Evil N discusses the possible arrival--he is hopeful--of "new philosophers" who will be experimenters or attempters, who will be tempted to experiment (the play on the German Versuch, Section 42). Whereas I hear literary artists claim W did not address a poetics, I am tempted to see in statements as the one above (1A) a desire for the company of New Philosophers. And whereas poetry is not philosophy, each practice in fact intersects and within each intersection is a transversion of the other's purpose through which the poet becomes philosopher and the philosopher becomes poet--and by poet I do intend all literary artists. All of this may be momentary and shifting; nevertheless, it describes a basic state of permanent transition in our new poetics. There simply is no solid ground upon which A Philosopher or A Poet stands. Everything is always possible.

The use of theory but the rejection of getting a grip on it, as Creeley laments (Point 1), is a problem because it is an implicit refusal to experiment but an immature demand to hide in experimental language, to play with it and themselves. In other words, such writers play with language and have nothing to do with thought...

Maybe, I am trying to equate thought and spirit? Possibly I desire an authentic use of language--the USE would accept tradition for what it is and anticipate participation in a community spirit itself shapes; and through the authentic use of language, spirit could then become manifest and simply destroy FORM for itself and work from itself with others. The formality of public discourse that claims for itself democratic rhetoric and the like but actually hides behind it in hopes of addressing its audience in an authoritarian manner...back to the colons...maybe something to work on with Woolf someday, and the Modernist Naming Game...but colonization as a tool for inserting the self into conversation so as to participate or as a tool to force oneself into a position of author-ity. Again, our poetics converges with ethics here.

Need any of this be said?


Dante opens his La Vita Nuova:
In the book of my memory, after the first pages, which are almost blank, there is a section headed 'Incipit vita nova.' Beneath this heading I find the words which it is my intention to copy into this smaller book, or if not all, at least their meaning.

Isn't Dante's first book, a book of his memory, the destruction of all that came before it? It must be so. He shows us a book not filled with Master's ink but a book with its earliest pages mostly blank. Dante's use of the phrase "vita nova" that troubles translators. Its meaning is uncertain--like FORM is uncertain, we might add. Nevertheless, the Latin "novus" means not only "new" but "first," "inexperienced" as in novice, but also "wonderful" or "marvellous" or "unheard of" like Dante himself at the time of this book. Dante clears himself space, makes room for himself at the table. And he doesn't formalize IT, he constructs it from the rubble of what has been made. And his book is written as an argument supporting the slight (radical, really) revisions he makes to the verse forms he implements in the narrative--poems and arguments--to tell us of his obsession with Beatrice. He is the spirit hovering over the ashes of tradition, yet he depends on the formal community. He needs to be recognized. His text serves two functions, some might say, one opposed to the other. But some would be wrong, I think.

I have mapped out three points and will continue to work into my constellation the ideas we have worked on since 9/17. All additions are welcome. I must say, I cannot wait to address the issue of the mystical and Laura's concerns. I will begin getting hyperlinks published in this account. I just don't have the time tonight. Back to reading.

Friday, October 01, 2004

free speech movement

"For the poet there is in fact no time passing."
--Edward Dahlberg, "Beautiful Failures"