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If he hadn't been so tired, ... he might have seen at the start that he was setting out on a journey that would change his life forever and chosen to turn back.

Orhan Pamuk

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Monday, December 31st, 2012

🦋 Poetic process: structure and meaning

In the course of thinking about my idiot poem I came up with a metaphor that I like: Narrative structure has the function of a candle's wick. The flame of meaning will not adhere to a wick-less text. Thinking of meaning as the flame that burns in text (without consuming it), one which will dissipate if it does not have a wick, can take me in a lot of directions; one that seems especially promising is to think of song and poetry as a way of providing additional structure in which to anchor meaning so the narrative thread need not be as strong. (This ties in nicely with a take on Wittgenstein, "Whereof one cannot speak, one must sing.")

The structure of the poem as I am seeing it now is,

  1. The idiot cannot speak. His story is full of sound and fury raging unexpressed.
  2. The idiot speaks. This is represented as a mechanical process, the unwinding of a clockwork. The web of his story unravels and its meaning evaporates.
  3. The idiot sings. His sung story becomes the landscape and its meaning the universe.
  4. The idiot falls silent, sleeps. The story he told assumes divine status i.e. pure meaning in the firmament -- its structure does not persist.

posted morning of December 31st, 2012: Respond
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Saturday, December 29th, 2012

🦋 Let's listen to

Woody Allen reading his new story, "Not a Creature Was Stirring":

You're welcome.

posted evening of December 29th, 2012: Respond
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🦋 Poetic process: Mute sound and fury

genesis: I was sitting in the theater Friday afternoon with Sylvia waiting for the matinée (the spellbinding percussion ballet presentation of Mulan by the 北京红樱束打击乐团有限公司) to start -- when something struck me about Faulkner/Shakespeare's line that life is a "tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury, signifying nothing," to wit that what if the idiot has stage fright or writer's block, what if his narrative remains untold, what can it then signify? Is its meaningless anger rendered all-consuming by its silence, its unspokenness?

I came up with a pretty striking first line on the spot and (amazingly) remembered it later on when I had the pen and paper to hand; and the rough draft and revisions and the commentary seemed to flow pretty smoothly, naturally from the pen to the pad.

(and with that by way of introduction,) this is:


his story still untold, it's full of silent fury
and significance and void
mute like some magnificent android, and so
the idiot recounts, he counts
he builds up poetry and mountains
crumbling pottery
shards of steel, silent fountains
distant voices

see him stuttering and pale and seeking
shelter from the storm of sorrow
shattering, resonant, freaking out
        about the null tomorrow
and his idiotic legacy
comatose, potential
inside the eyelids snaky purple patterns weave all hectic and the
syllables shift and merge electric
inside the idiot's eyelids

posted afternoon of December 29th, 2012: 3 responses
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Friday, December 21st, 2012

🦋 An auspicious find, this first day of the long weekend!

I'm a little out of the English-lit loop I guess -- I did not even know this was in the works. Got a signed copy from Shakespeare & Co. on Lexington!

posted afternoon of December 21st, 2012: 1 response
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Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

🦋 Dream is poetry

If a dream affords the dreamer some lucidity,
some poetry, some regal slumber
why forget it then, why discard
the glittering shards of irreality
that pierce your consciousnessless repose
that hold your dreaming brane
like pushpins on the void

(from a prompt by Michael Leiris.)

posted morning of December 19th, 2012: Respond
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Monday, December 17th, 2012

🦋 From Bukowski

Some wisdom in Factotum:

“It was true that I didn’t have much ambition, but there ought to be a place for people without ambition, I mean a better place than the one usually reserved. How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?”

“If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery--isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you'll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is.”

posted evening of December 17th, 2012: Respond

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

🦋 porotos: making it up as I go

And on every one of these occasions, plus many others as well, the Christ of Elqui's response was simply to recite this verse, as boring already as the menu of a pulpería: "I'm very sorry, dear brother, my dear sister, very sorry; but the sublime art of resurrection belongs exclusively to Our Divine Master."

And that is what he said to the miners who arrived caked with dirt, carrying the cadaver of their workmate, just at the moment when he was most full of grace, preaching before the people on what diabolical influence the modern world could wreak on the spirit of even a devout Catholic, a believer in God and the Blessed Virgin Mother. The gang of calicheros broke through the midst of the crowd of worshippers carrying on their shoulders the body of the deceased; clearly dead of a heart attack, they were telling him as they laid the body with care at his feet, stretched out on the burning sand.

Upset, embarrassed, everyone talking at the same time, the rednecks were explaining to him how after they had eaten their lunch, the Thursday plate of porotos burros, the group of them had been on their way down for a drop to drink, to "wet the whistle," and that's when tragedy struck -- their fellow worker, all of a sudden he grabbed at his chest with both hands, he fell to the ground as if hit by lightning -- not even a chance to say so much as help!

The art of resurrection: Chapter 1
I have been wondering about porotos -- it seems to be a Chilean word for "beans" or maybe just for food. Still not sure what preparation porotos burros is (or is it just "stupid beans"/ "just plain beans again"?); but in the course of looking around the net today I found a couple of recipes for porotos granados, a dish which appears to consist of whatever vegetables are around plus beans and winter squash, cooked up together into a stew. I'm game, and so were Ellen and Sylvia; so I made up my own version of porotos granados for dinner tonight. It was tasty! Herewith the recipe I followed, a rough compromise between the different ones I found online and what ingredients were to hand:

Porotos granados

  1. Cook beans until tender. I used ¾ pound dry of cranberry beans. Cook with dried oregano and bay leaves. Add some salt when they get soft-but-not-tender.
  2. Peel and chop squash and veggies. I used 1 medium butternut squash and a couple of carrots as well. Fresh corn is a recommended component but is not available to me this time of year; canned or frozen corn probably would have added a lot to the dish as well.
  3. In a stock pot, saute 9 cloves of garlic, minced, and two chopped onions in a good amount of oil. Season with a tbsp. ground cumin and more oregano. Add squash, veggies, and beans. Add a little water, not enough to cover the vegetables, and cover the pot.
  4. Let simmer for about 45 minutes, adding water if it gets too dry. When everthing is falling apart, mash it together with a wooden spoon -- it should be about the consistency of lumpy mashed potatoes.
  5. Serve with a salad of bell peppers and minced cilantro; sour cream and hot sauce make good condiments.

posted evening of December 16th, 2012: Respond
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🦋 Displacement

Uno no es de ninguna parte
mientras no tenga un muerto bajo la tierra

my perception of duration and of sequence of events
is growing weaker
fading slowly into timelessness, displacement
sense memory of objects I displaced, dispersed

I rubbed against the floors I walked on
and they do my thinking now

posted morning of December 16th, 2012: 1 response

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

🦋 Eternal present/in memoriam

we mortals are present, he said: we die but once.

we mortals are present, and die but once,
I hear you say, and die a bit each day.
we mortals are present, we die but once,
and half the time it is in vain;
our ticking hours and years crawl past us
marked with Adam's stain

we mortals are present, we die but once
and God's outside of time and there's a line
between the mortal and divine, outside of time.
"God's presence" (is) our mortal past and future
which do not exist, oh let them not exist
we plead
and let us die but once
we plead
and pass outside of time
our meter, rhyme connecting memories and ashes
and our second nervous passage out of this
connective sibilance eternal disenmomented
reflected crashing echoes die
and dust and endlessness

posted morning of December 15th, 2012: 4 responses

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

🦋 Two metaphors for the sun

I'm working further on my translation of Hernán Rivera Letelier's El arte de la resurrección... Vague plans to write an interesting cover letter for the first four chapters in rough draft translation and see if I could find a publisher who'd be interested in having me work on the book.

Obviously there is a lot of sun to describe in this book, taking place as it does in the Atacama desert. I found this metaphor just gorgeous:

The Christ of Elqui left the station. The town of Sierra Gorda, nailed down here on the bottom of purgatory, seemed to be completely empty. It seemed an oasis, a mirage in the desert -- indeed its only inhabitant appeared to be the sunshine, stretched out lazy on its four dirt roads, a giant, yellow mongrel dog.
(still not certain about "sunshine" there for "sol"...) -- This came just two pages past a darker image:
Many of their dear ones -- as they themselves would say, their voices low -- had probably died in a work accident, or in a barroom brawl, or infected by one of the epidemics which regularly tore through the north, or had fallen in one of the Army’s massacres of the saltpetre workers -- most had simply vanished into thin air, like the reverberating sun of mid-day vanishes into the desert. They rode the trains in hopes of meeting up with their kin, even if it were to be in a graveyard.

posted morning of December 8th, 2012: Respond
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