like a box

December 10, 2019

There are, you see, two ways of reading a book: you either see it as a box with something inside and start looking for what it signifies, and then if you’re even more perverse or depraved you set off after signifiers. And you treat the next book like a box contained in the first or containing it. And you annotate and interpret and question, and write a book about the book, and so on and on.

Or there’s the other way: you see the book as a little non-signifying machine, and the only question is “Does it work, and how does it work?” How does it work for you? If it doesn’t work, if nothing comes through, you try another book. This second way of reading’s intensive: something comes through or it doesn’t. There’s nothing to explain, nothing to understand, nothing to interpret.  It’s like plugging in to an electric circuit. I know people who’ve read nothing who immediately saw what bodies without organs were given their own “habits,” their own way of being one. This second way of reading’s quite different from the first, because it relates a book directly to what’s Outside.  A book is a little cog in much more complicated external machinery. Writing is one flow among others, with no special place in relation to the others, that comes into relations of current, countercurrent, and eddy with other flows – flows of shit, sperm, words, action, eroticism, money, politics, and so on.

Gilles Deleuze
Negotiations

Art is born and takes hold wherever there is a timeless and insatiable longing for the spiritual, for the ideal: that longing which draws people to art. Modern art has taken the wrong turn in abandoning the search for the meaning of existence in order to affirm the value of the individual for his own sake.

Andrei Tarkovksy
Sculpting in Time

meaning in our lives

October 9, 2019

Stories have endings; that’s why we tell them, for reassurance that there is meaning in our lives. But like a diagnosis, a story can become a prison, a straight road mapped out by the people who went before. Stories are not the truth.

Sarah Moss
The Tidal Zone

when I finally had the words

September 21, 2019

Poetry as an infinite series of veils. Poetry as gender in transition. Poetry as the years I spent not knowing myself and poetry as the years when I finally had the words. Poetry as the row of palm trees you drive past going anywhere on this coast: to home or school or church, to the border bridge or the island bridge. Poetry as the ocean or the family refusing to wrap its arms around you. Poetry as not knowing how someone will respond upon seeing you, as the moment your voice is heard, how intensely you are interrogated: whether an insult or a question or a gaze. I ask myself often, What have I done? and Have I lived a full life?

Jamie Berrout
Postcard Poems

Meaning

September 12, 2019

Religion, mysticism and magic all spring from the same basic ‘feeling’ about the universe: a sudden feeling of meaning, which human beings sometimes ‘pick up’ accidentally, as your radio might pick up some unknown station. Poets feel that we are cut off from meaning by a thick, lead wall, and that sometimes for no reason we can understand the wall seems to vanish and we are suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of the infinite interestingness of things.

Colin Wilson
The Occult

consider a book

August 20, 2019

Books are not made to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry. When we consider a book, we mustn’t ask ourselves what it says but what it means…

Umberto Eco
The Name of the Rose

something we once knew

March 28, 2019

It was language I loved, not meaning. I liked poetry better when I wasn’t sure what it meant. Eliot has said that the meaning of the poem is provided to keep the mind busy while the poem gets on with its work — like the bone thrown to the dog by the robber so he can get on with his work…Is beauty a reminder of something we once knew, with poetry one of its vehicles? Does it give us a brief vision of that ‘rarely glimpsed bright face behind / the apparency of things’? Here, I suppose,  we ought to try the impossible task of defining poetry. No one definition will do. But I must admit to a liking for the words of Thomas Fuller, who said: ‘Poetry is a dangerous honey. I advise thee only to taste it with the Tip of thy finger and not to live upon it.  If thou do’st, it will disorder thy Head and give thee dangerous Vertigos.

P.K. Page
The Filled Pen: Selected Non-Fiction

I’m talking about language, the literal lexicon of narcissism that poets often seem to come up against, in this or that assigned guise — be it ‘confessional’ or ‘objectivist’ or ‘language’ poetries — in the attempt to make something fresh and ‘original’ from the tones and conclusions threaded inside an inherited language we admire and take for granted — the drama of self-consciousness, pitting the presumed “self” against history and in company with one’s contemporaries. Seeking or doubting one’s place in the reconfiguration of meaning as it is carried forward in alphabet and syntax — perhaps we allow too powerful a klieg light to be trained on our most private moments of privilege.

Kathleen Fraser
Letters to Poets: Kathleen Fraser and Patrick Pritchett

the meaning of books

March 2, 2019

The written word has taught me to listen to the human voice, much as the great unchanging statues have taught me to appreciate bodily motions. On the other hand, but more slowly, life has thrown light for me on the meaning of books.

Marguerite Yourcenar
Memoirs of Hadrian

Difficult poetry

February 12, 2019

What happens when we read so called ‘difficult’ poetry – poetry that does not readily ‘make sense’ – is not unlike what happens to us when we look at abstract art. What is being represented is not the concrete aspects of our lives – landscape, portrait, objects – so much as the internal responses we have to them. This is why I find the experience of abstract art – and of nonlinear poetry – to be so valuable. We as viewers and readers do not receive answers; instead we are implicated as accomplices in the conspiratorial search for meaning.

Alice Fogel
Strange Terrain