transformed by orgasm

October 26, 2019

When I see a woman’s face transformed by the orgasm we have reached together, then I know we’ve met. Anything else is fiction. That’s the vocabulary we speak in today. It’s the only language left.

Leonard Cohen
The Favourite Game

Language is my home. It is alive other than in speech. It is beyond a thing to be carried with me. It is ineluctable, variegated and muscular. A flicker and drag emanates from the very idea of it. Language seems capable of girding the oceanic earth, like the world-serpent of Norse legend. It is as if language places a shaping pressure upon our territories of habitation and voyage; thrashing, independent, threatening to drive our known world apart.

Yet thought is not bounded by language. At least, my experience of thinking does not appear so bound.

Vahni Capildeo
Five Measures of Expatriation

no word in my language

October 5, 2019

if i have a name,
let it be the sound his lips make.
there is no word in my language for this.

Billy-Ray Belcourt
Gay Incantations

Wolf Woman

October 1, 2019

I’m trying to evolve into all wolf all the time. It seems possible if I let go of the idea of my body, if I fall into my dream headfirst, if I accept words as signals more than language, if my love sounds like a howl in the forest – doesn’t it already?

Chelsea Hodson,

Artist Statement, Tonight I’m Someone Else: Essays

We inhabit a deeply imagined world that exists alongside the real physical world. Even the crudest utterance, or the simplest, contains the fundamental poetry by which we live. This mind fabric, woven of images and illusions, shields us. In a sense, or rather, in all senses, it’s a shock absorber. As harsh as life seems to us now, it would feel even worse — hopelessly, irredeemably harsh — if we didn’t veil it, order it, relate familiar things, create mental cushions. One of the most surprising facts about human beings is that we seem to require a poetic version of life. It’s not just that some of us enjoy reading or writing poetically, or that many people wax poetic in emotional situations, but that all human beings of all ages in all cultures all over the world automatically tell their story in a poetic way, using the elemental poetry concealed in everyday language to solve problems, communicate desires and needs, even talk to themselves. When people invent new words, they do so playfully, metaphorically — computers have viruses, one can surf the internet, a naïve person is clueless. In time, people forget the etymology or choose to disregard it. We dine at chic restaurants from porcelain dinner plates without realizing that when the smooth, glistening porcelain was invented in France a long time ago, someone with a sense of humour thought it looked as smooth as the vulva of a pig, which is indeed what porcelain means. When we stand by our scruples, we don’t think of our feet, but the word comes from the Latin scrupulus, a tiny stone that was the smallest unit of weight. Thus a scrupulous person is so sensitive he’s irritated by the smallest stone in his shoe. For the most part, we are all unwitting poets.

Diane Ackerman
Language at Play

Wars

September 3, 2019

The worst thing about wars is that they reduce the enemy to a single characteristic. The country ceases to be history, language, architecture, theatre, gardens, and legends;  a heritage of love stories, philosophy and science; shared ancestral dreams and uncountable varieties of human striving along the roads of the universe. Instead, everything becomes a mere label, blot, field of battle. This is what war has done to the names Palestine, Vietnam, Lebanon, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. These are no longer multifaceted countries and their names are mentioned in news bulletins not as such but as ‘fields’ – fields from which the numbers of the dead and wounded are garnered daily like the output of a canned goods factory.  The whole of history is now  ‘today’  and today has become a reduction of every ‘yesterday’ that has passed over the face of this earth, a reduction of all history. As though al-Mutanabbi had never walked the markets of al-Kufa hugging himself with joy at a nation that would be singing his verses for a thousand years.  As though the Abbasids had never built their libraries on the banks of the Tigris and Abu Nuwas never maintained his pinnacle of shamelessness and flagrant sexual indulgence through to the pinnacle of day,  after first exhausting the night with poetry and lovely depravities that spared neither male nor female. As though al-Hallaj had never been crucified defending what he had seen with the eye of the imagination and the eye of the mind. As though Hammurabi had never written his code on tablets of burnt clay before Coca-Cola and McDonald’s had been transformed into a religion for all mankind, while Gilgamesh,  who achieved immortality but not finding the plant of immortality on the steppes of his everlasting legend, is treated as though he were not of the land of Iraq. Bush and Rumsfeld reduced all of this to the word ‘enemy.’

Mourid Barghouti
I Was Born There, I Was Born Here

Feelings

July 30, 2019

I cannot tell you. It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language that is chiefly made by men to express theirs.

Thomas Hardy
Far From The Madding Crowd

I don’t relate to standard psychologizing in novels. I don’t really believe that the backstory is the story you need. And I don’t believe it’s more like life to get it — the buildup of “character” through psychological and family history, the whole idea of “knowing what the character wants.” People in real life so often do not know what they want. People trick themselves, lie to themselves, fool themselves. It’s called survival, and self-mythology. I wanted to create a person who felt in her thinking how I think a person might actually think, but through literary language, mine, not stream of consciousness (with all due respect for those experiments), and maybe that’s one trick of it. I don’t do the big hand of God placing people around the Kriegspiel board and claiming to see into their deeper motivations. Even Freud would not do that. He would probably just listen to what they are saying, and let the reader interpret.

I do study Proust, for multiple technical virtuosities but also his swerve, as you say, between characters and in scenes. Certain films can help for that, too, in terms of understanding how multiple conversations at a table, or in a room, can take place and remain separate, and dissonant, and also gather themselves, accidentally, into a collective rhythm and an affect. Altman is very good at that, for instance. So is Jean Renoir. I compared her voice to water above but really it’s about neutrality, as you say. About the tone of the whole, every part has to kind of vibrate on the same internal register. It’s impossible to describe or name that register but I know when something is off from it.

Rachel Kushner
Interview in Guernica 17th February 2014

become a language

June 27, 2019

I want us to become a language for euphoria, an alphabet of limbs

Adonis
Beginnings of the Body, Ends of the Sea
trans. Khaled Mattawa

trying to write

June 20, 2019

You should always be trying to write a poem you are unable to write, a poem you lack the technique, the language, the courage to achieve. Otherwise you’re merely imitating yourself, going nowhere, because that’s always easiest.

John Berryman
Why I’m the poet I’ve become: John Berryman and the lucky thirteen
Article by Philip Levine in New York Times 26th December 1993