"New music: new listening. Not an attempt to understand something that is being said, for, if something were being said, the sounds would be given the shapes of words. Just an attention to the activity of sounds."
"The world is wide & black stretching out before you… like falling asleep in a far-away field & waking up at midnight to see nothing but statuesque darkness in every direction. The time I was swept off the rocks at the beach by what my mother called a “sneaker wave” & almost drown in less than three feet of water because my brain couldn’t register which direction was up.
I keep thinking of it as ash. The moments after the volcanic eruption in which all the noise has stopped, & the ash wafts down like blurry snow. I’ve never been in a volcanic eruption, but I’ve seen pictures: my mother standing in her prom dress on the front lawn—the sky grey above her."
“the mainstream thrust of anti-intellectualism, as it stands today, characterizes thinking itself as an elitist activity.”
I posted this on facebook. All my liberal friends liked it.
I consider myself educated & intelligent (most of the time) & my reflex was to underline this & say “yeah!” & bemoan the influence of ignorance. But I think it might actually be more complicated than just that. Something about consumerism which drives out the desire to question… which Nelson elaborates on on the following page: “Instead it promotes something more like an idiocracy, in which low-grade pleasures (such as the capacity to buy cheap goods, pay low or no taxes, carry guns into Starbucks, and maintain the right not to help one another) displace all other forms of freedom, even those of the most transformative and profound variety.” (pg. 30)
In some ways it’s kind of funny, that sentence about the freedom to “carry guns into Starbucks”. At the same time it’s a pretty terrifying idea, that this is where we’ve come. I wouldn’t say it’s ignorance or stupidity really, I think it’s rather that a society which puts so much value on physical wealth is also a society which becomes increasingly detached from compassion & human connection. This is, I think, what Nelson is getting at. It’s also the role of art, & perhaps why we don’t value art or artists… they don’t have the same capacity for physical wealth. I’m asked all the time what I’m going to do to make money with my poetry degree… people are baffled & terrified when I tell them I don’t care. That I’m not getting it to make money off of (I’d be pretty dumb if I thought a poetry degree would make me rich). It’s interesting. It’s not enough that I want to learn & think or whatever… How will I make money doing that? Thinking is not enough, it has to come with wealth otherwise it’s not worth it.
"Unable to pinpoint her discomfort with her surroundings & their expectations, Christa T. is half assimilated into happy housewife motherhood. Though she clearly loves her children, the role of doting wife & mother is a shoe just a half size too small—she never quite settles into it. These are the subversive undertones of the book. The idea that an individual in an oppressive society could want anything other than what that society has deemed appropriate, & that this individual could pursue said alternate desires. The rebelliousness of Christa T. is found in her desire for something else, & her lifelong inquisitive search for that alternative. Though as she ages she becomes resigned to the fact that her struggle isolated her from her larger culture, she still feels that there is something not quite right. This uneasiness is her rebellion."
"He had these big sharp claws on his hooves, and sometimes he'd put one up on me. I understood it as the part of our mind where art comes from. And I hoped he wouldn't scratch me with them, because that would really hurt."
I've been reading 'Uncreative Writing' for the past day or so. the most fascinating element I've come across is this notion of language permeating. Goldsmith talks about how everything we encounter digitally is language on a sub level... that code which makes your graphics run is language. there has been a terror in literature of the internet & what it means for language & the written word. Goldsmith posits that we must merely reevaluate our understanding of literature to fit in this new (digital) world.
This I have been thinking about a lot. I have been operating in my "creative life" (as pretentious as that sounds) under the etymological definition of the word 'poetry'... i.e. 'something fashioned or made'. that definition has no mention of language, or words, or line breaks, or form, or whatever else we have arbitrarily decided makes something a poem. & though I'm not particularly far along in Goldsmith's book I think it might be at the root of the idea I've been trying to hash out.
Take this for example:
I made this image using a process Goldsmith describes. I first opened a .jpg file in text edit. of course the file opened as a indecipherable series of symbols (language). I inserted randomly the text of a poem I had written. when I oped the file again in a picture viewer it had been completely changed. Goldsmith writes: "What we're experiencing for the first time is the ability of language to alter all media [...] Words are active & affective in concrete ways."
trying out audio...
all original sounds recorded & layered by moi.
When I write poems they rely heavily on the visual, I think of them more as tiny sculptures. Now in my experiments with audio I'm trying to figure out how sound can be involved. How sound works & how garage band works! Somehow, the auditory is more accessible to me right now.
"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?"
earlier this week I ventured to the wilds of uptown to visit the vermeers at the met for my birthday. unfortunately the vermeer gallery was closed (tragic circumstance), but I was still glad to make a stop by the sargents in the american wing. sargent's portraits are incredible for me because of the life he somehow manages to paint under his subject's skin. there's a dimension to their flesh which is hard to explain. my new favourite painting is the incredible mrs hugh hammersley:
sargent's brush strokes are clearly influenced by the impressionist movement here, their shape becomes more irregular & free formed. I just love the vivacity in this woman's face. the motion in her pose. the whole painting is just full of life. the space surrounding her eyes is stunning, the shades of peach, pink, & red in her skin makes you feel her blood flowing. she's radiant.
she's also sargent's sister. which I think explains her lively air & tenacious pose.
In putting together my final MFA packet of this semester I was tasked with writing an annotation of Clarice Lispector's Near to the Wild Heart. The novel is influenced by James Joyce & is written almost entirely in an introspective dialogue. There is very little, if any, physical action. Reading the book felt like being lost in a blue waterworld, with no direction & no footholds to grasp at. Needless to say, I wasn't sure how to write about it.
So I put together this audio/visual piece called lispector blue as a kind of response/exploration of the process of reading the book.
in an act of exceptional procrastination yesterday I decided I would make some use out of one of the canvases I've had in my closet for a million years. my obsession with the virgin mary served as my inspiration...
pink madonna of the rocks, mixed media, 11x14.
this picture is both brighter & darker than my original... not sure how that happened.
mini video of said painting after the jump.
I don't really write poems outside whatever current project I'm working on. I have a research based approach to making poetry, which means that when I'm working on a manuscript I'm working on it all the time & not burning energies (& words) on unrelated poetry side stuff. I don't think I'll ever be the kind of poet who publishes a "collected poems" at any point... there just aren't enough to "collect".
When I'm working on something I cut away all the fat & focus my energies on that something. I don't have the stamina to be writing prolific amounts of poems on wide ranges of concepts.
All that being said, I was in oregon last week... my first visit since burying my grandmother. & though the hybrid memoir I'm working on now (see: missoula.) doesn't involve her, I found myself jotting out a little missive on staying in her house now that she's gone:
Natalie Raymond (°1988, Portland, United States) is an artist who works in a variety of media. By choosing mainly formal solutions, Raymond creates work in which a fascination with the clarity of content and an uncompromising attitude towards conceptual and minimal art can be found. The work is aloof and systematic and a cool and neutral imagery is used.
Her collected, altered and own artworks are being confronted as aesthetically resilient, thematically interrelated material for memory and projection. The possible seems true and the truth exists, but it has many faces, as Hanna Arendt cites from Franz Kafka. By demonstrating the omnipresent lingering of a ‘corporate world’, she tries to develop forms that do not follow logical criteria, but are based only on subjective associations and formal parallels, which incite the viewer to make new personal associations.
Her works focus on the inability of communication which is used to visualise reality, the attempt of dialogue, the dissonance between form and content and the dysfunctions of language. In short, the lack of clear references are key elements in the work. With a subtle minimalistic approach, she absorbs the tradition of remembrance art into daily practice. This personal follow-up and revival of a past tradition is important as an act of meditation.
as mentioned, I'm experimenting with maps & images & thinking on ways to incorporate them into the structure of my graduate thesis memoir... I did some interesting things with illustrator this evening, this basic digital collage being one of them:
The US Geological Survey awesomely allows you to download some of their incredible collection of cartography. This particular map is an 1897 rendition of Portland, which I combined with a digital scan of my hands. I was testing out opacity levels, & overlay techniques (I'm still very much an illustrator novice).
I was able to build a few more interesting pieces, but I think I'll keep those to myself for now... best to retain some mystery.
found this interesting & brightly coloured map of the scablands caused by the Missoula Floods... part of my research surrounding my graduate thesis. I think it's quite beautiful.
I'm also fairly stoked to have discovered that the US Geological Survey allows you to view &/or order historical maps online. I'm currently working out how to use cartography within my project, & how to expand/juxtapose the uses of image & text in my work.
Since the text of a memoir is a map in another (more esoteric) way, I'm curious how I can add physical maps, & physical landscapes to a text largely about the interior landscape. As I mentioned in my blurb, the missoula project is about shaping. Shaping of children into adulthood & shaping of geography by catastrophe. I'm wondering how cartography can play a role in the shaping of the project.
Experiments to follow I'm sure. I've already tried a few things with anatomical drawings... another increased interest of mine is the idea of the physical body as receptacle of language. & really, anatomical drawings are merely maps of another kind.
Listening to Studio360 on this new common core curricula which some have feared would significantly reduce the role of literary fiction in high school classrooms.
Forgive me if my thoughts aren't completely sorted, I've just listened to the podcast & I have recently found myself thinking more & more about the importance of literature in juxtaposition with its consistent devaluation.
The statement from David Coleman, one of the primary authors of the new curricula, on the podcast reassured me. He states that the new standards are meant to ensure literary non-fiction is addressed with the same strict attention to author choice as fiction, & that the new core steps up the intensity of the expected reading in high schools. These are both good things from my seat in Brooklyn.
While I was in high school, my English classes were often (always) reading the abridged versions of the literary canon. This is clearly problematic. Dumbing down course material doesn't help students learn. As Mr. Coleman says in the interview, the only way to learn how to read a difficult text is to read that difficult text. It's also disturbing that American high school students are reading about four grade levels below where they need to be to succeed in college/the world. Obviously, this is incredibly disappointing. The entire education system in America seems to have been reduced to the lowest common denominator, & for what?
There are obviously also many other issues at play when it comes to the reading comprehension of our students. Institutionalized discrimination based on race, economic status, geography etc... play a large role. But perhaps part of the answer is toughening up standards... or at least requiring students to read the actual texts & not some sanitized, dumbed down version. Critical thinking is more than reading, it's discussion too. If students can't have a common core on which to base the discussions needed to achieve real education, then we have a serious problem. This is why I think the three kinds of reading are so important. They facilitate this critical & analytical thought.
The Poetry of Sappho, translated by Willis Barnstone and Anne Carson
These two volumes actually cover the same expanse of work by Sappho (namely all of it that is left), but they have very different approaches. Whereas Carson emphasizes the fragmentary nature of the surviving texts by structuring them on the page with their missing lines displayed as blank space, Barnestone writes out each piece as if it had been completed, as if Sappho had structured them the way that we have them now. Both are important for my poetics. I cannot think of a poet who has inspired me more than Sappho. Fragments have a power that so called “complete” poems do not. Their words hang in the air, and you are forced to think about their language from every conceivable direction and angle. Take Sappho fragment six, as translated by Anne Carson for example:
so we may see
of gold arms
Each word lives within itself as well as within the poem. Each word must be digested by the reader on its own. What does “doom” mean here? Is the lady of gold arms doom incarnate? Does she foretell some kind of impending doom? There are possibilities in each word and line, which is something I actively try to bring over to my own work. When a word is by itself, but still in a larger context endless possibilities spring up.
After a week in the wild frozen tundra of northern Vermont, it takes a little gettin' used to to be in the wild dank city again. My second residency at Goddard was all I could have hoped. It wasn't even that cold.
I jumped in a snow bank, exchanged energy with classmates, listened to poems, chilled wine in snow drifts, ate my weight in tofu scramble & home fries, talked about ethics & equality in education, explored creating a hybrid from the body, was blessed with rose water, told & listened to ghost stories, sifted through library books, lost an earring, read poems, wrote poems, submitted some things to a magazine, & talked talked talked. A good way to spend several days.