Distribution Automatique

Friday, July 15

[scroll down to Wednesday,
July 13 for *A Midsummer
Night's Masque* (A time-travel
conversation between Emily
Dickenson, Franz Kafka, Sappho,
Laura Riding, Ludwig Wittgenstein,
Walter Benjamin, Anne Sexton
and others)]

At The Mouth of a River:
a preview of Vernon Frazer's

Geof Huth, in his recent interview by Ron Silliman
and Crag Hill on e-c-h-a-n-g-e-v-a-l-u-e-s {click here}-, states:

"Visual poetry is a borderland. I often use the adjective “brackish”
to describe visual poetry; it exists at the mouths of rivers,
at the point where a plume of fresh water folds into a large
open body of salt water. Some visual poems are heavily
verbal and modestly visual; others are almost completely
visual, merely implying language..."

Visual poetry, hovering in the background
of both poetry and art for decades, is at last
coming in to its own. As with so
many other media phenomena
of late, the web, of course , has
much to do with this. Until now,
distribution of visual poetry, like film,
has remained in the more expensive
range among contemporary trends
in poetry forms.

Crag Hill's blog {click here} and his magazine
*Score* as well as
Geof Huth's blog {click here},
and bloggers such as

Jukka Pekka Kervinen {click here}

Lanny Quarles {click here}

harry k. stammer {click here}

frequently on the collaborative
blog As-Is {click here}
have greatly
helped to bring current trends in
visual poetry dramatically and
quickly into the limelight.
These efforts, as well as
Ron Silliman's {click here}
sudden interest in thisrich phenomenon are clear signals
of a dramatic shift in emphasis
in the world of poetry.

With this backdrop, the arrival of
Vernon Frazer's
monumental *Improvisations* strikes
with the sudden rumble and
clap of a thunderbolt, what Edmund
Wilson called
*the shock of recognition.*
At 8 and 3/4 inches wide,
and 10 and 3/4 inches tall,
the sprawling page layout
comfortably accomodates this
enormous 700 page tome, making
this book one of the longest
and largest work yet of visual poetry-
combining nearly every
imaginable mesh of
print layout and font styles.
One would have to go to a number
of books by Johanna Drucker to find work
of comparable typographical complexity.
The constant alternation of formats makes
-Improvisations- the most pleasurable book
to browse I've seen since Drucker's
work and my favoriate classic of
the form, Frank Kuenstler's
haunting, hard-to-find masterpiece,
*Lens*. Reading the texts themselves
is also consistently engaging,
absorbing and amusing-
Vernon Frazer is a performance
poet working with jazz groups and
has published several CD's.
As Geof Huth says in his recent
interview, there is a fascinating
overlap between the aural and
the visual in much vispo work, a
synaesthetic quality I find fascinating.
My only regret is, having to carry
some groceries home to Brooklyn
from my Manhattan office,
along with Frazer's
book (I received it very recently
and wanted to write about it
immediately) the
book is so heavy I pulled
my back out. But it was worth it!
The book is available from
*Beneath the Underground*
568 Brittany L, Delray Beach, FL, 33446

{scroll down to
Tuesday, July 12 for
*No Exit: Meaning
and Masks in
Monday, July 11,
for Process and Object [in
Wittgenstein's *Zettel*:
Literary Currents
in W and Freud];
Saturday, July 9
for:* Poetry and Thinking:
Thinking for Oneself*
in *Zettel*;}

::see archives for:
Friday, July 8,
*Love is Not A Feeling*:
love put to the test in
*Zettel*; Thursday,
July 7: *The Most
Astounding Things are
Possible*: Thought and
The Infinite in *Zettel*{{

Thursday, July 14

Spoiling The Game

"293. I give the rules of a game. The
other party makes a move, perfectly
in accord with the rules, whose
possibility I had not forerseen, and
which spoils the game, that is, as I
had wanted it to be. I now have to
say: 'i give bad rules; I must change
or add to my rules.'

So in this way have I a picture of the
game in advance? In a sense, Yes.

It was surely possible, for example, for me
not to have foreseen that a quadratic
equation need have no real root.

Thus the rule leads me to something
of which I say: 'I did not expect
this pattern: I expected a solution like

Ludwig Wittgentstein
"I'd like to say how discouraged
and disappointed I feel, but
discreetly I don't; I'd like to say
how proud I am that nonetheless
I push on, but modestly I won't.
Then the two cancel each other

from *The Boundary of Blur*
(Roof, 1993)

Wednesday, July 13

The Unbearable Lightness of Blogging:
A Mid-Summer Night’s Masque

Emily Dickenson: “Publication/-is the Auction
Of the mind of Man-“

Anne Sexton: “Language has nothing to do with
rational thought. I think that’s why I get
so horribly furious and disturbed with rational
Language is the opposite of the way a machine works.
Language is poetry, maybe? But not all language is
poetry. Nor is all poetry language….Who, me? Sailing
around like crazy in LANGUAGE whatever it is and
then brought up short by reality (what is it, really?)…”

Ludwig Wittgenstein: “359. Could a machine think?- Could
it be in pain?-Well, is the human body to be called
such a machine? It surely comes as close as possible
to being such a machine.
360. But a machine cannot think!- Is that an empirical
statement? No. We only say of a human being and what
is like one that it thinks. We also say it of dolls
and no doubt of spirits too.”

Laura Riding: “How we happen to be both human,
of the material of the machine…
The one original substance is one.
Two is two’s destruction.
But love is the single word wherein
The double murder of the machine
Is denied
In one suicide…”

Charlotte Salomon: “You’d do better to get
absorbed in the book you’re thinking
of writing.”

Walter Benjamin: “Because he is unable to
hold a vision he forces the machinist and
the decorative artist into his service.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein: “The chair is thinking
to itself…WHERE? In one of its parts? Or
outside its body; in the air around it?

Phillip K. Dick: “’There are eleven paraworlds.’”

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha: “Discard every memory. Of./
Even before they could. Surge themselves.
Forgotten so, easily,/not even as associations.”

Franz Kafka: “To avoid an error in the use of words:
What is to be deliberately destroyed must first have
been quite soundly conserved; what crumbles, crumbles,
but cannot be destroyed.”

Robert Smithson: “Cracked, broken, shattered; the
walls threatened to come crashing down. Fragmentation,
corrosion, decomposition, disintegration, rock
creep, debris slides, mid flow, avalanche were everywhere
in evidence.”

Liubov Popova: “We are breaking with the past
because we do not believe it anymore, because
its hypotheses are unacceptable…”

Phillip K. Dick: “But something..has replaced it.
Perhaps an alternate paraworld…”

Ludwig Wittgenstein: “Might it not actually happen
that a dreamer, as it were emerging from the dream,
said in his sleep, ‘I am dreaming’?”

Sappho: “The moon and the Pleides/are set.
It is midnight/and time spins away. I lie in my bed alone.”

Emily Dickenson: “The words the happy say/
Are paltry melody/But those the silent feel/
Are beautiful-“

Sappho: “Someone honored me, giving me
the secret of their craft.”

Charlotte Salomon: “For a long time I was covered
by the earth. And I woke up among corpses. And when
I miraculously came home again, and when I then-
I had partially lost my memory.”

Walter Benjamin: "Warmth is ebbing from things.
The objects of daily use gently but insistently
repel us."

Anne Sexton: “Well, nevermind. I think language
is beautiful. I even think insanity is beautiful
(surely the root of language), except that it
is painful.”

Laura Riding: “Will beauty, can beauty
allay the deficiency?/(Never quite. Never quite).”

Franz Kafka: “You have harnessed yourself
ridiculously for this world.”

Theesa Hak Kyung Cha: “If words are to
be uttered, they would be from behind
the partition. Unaccountable is distance,
time to transport from this very minute.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein: “You learned the ‘concept’
“pain” when you learned language.”

Robert Smithson: “The deeper the artist
sinks into the time stream the more
it becomes “oblivion”…

Anne Sexton: “But then I found this girl
(very crazy of course) [like me I guess]
who talked language. What a relief!”

Emily Dickenson: “Her face was a bed of hair,
Like flowers in a plot-
Her hand was whiter than the sperm
That feeds the sacred light.”

Sappho: “Don’t try to bend a crazed heart.”

Walter Benjamin: "The work is a death
mask of its conception."

Franz Kafka: “Intercourse with human beings
seduces one to self contemplation.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein: “And what do I point to
by the inner activity of listening? To the sound
that comes to my ears, and to the silence when I
hear ‘nothing’?”

Emily Dickenson: “Whoever disenchants
A single human soul/By failure of irreverence/
Is guilty of the whole.”

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha: “Unlike birth, unlike
death, “this” redeemed through own memory
and presumes a separate conclusion.

Franz Kafka: “From a real antagonist, boundless
courage flows into you.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein: “We do not say that “possibly” a dog
talks to itself. Is that because we are so minutely
acquainted with its soul?”

Laura Riding: "The dogs still bark,
And something is not clear.
From ignorance dogs barked always.
How to enlighten them?
They do but bark...
Shall we seem to disappear
Until dogs stop barking?
There is no other way to explain."

Anne Sexton: “I feel, sometimes, sorry about
my poetry…not so far as the ‘literary world” is
concerned… but as far as the people in Wellesley
and the surrounding towns are concerned. It shocks
them and I can understand why…
You see, inside is the
place poems come from…”

Sappho : “The black sleep of night closes my eyes.”

Tuesday, July 12

Today: No Exit: Meanings
and Masks in Contemporary
Poetry and in Wittgenstein's
*Philosophical Investigations*

scroll down to Monday, July 11,
for Process and Object [in
Wittgenstein's *Zettel*:
Literary Currents
in W and Freud];
Saturday, July 9
for:* Poetry and Thinking:
Thinking for Oneself*
in *Zettel*; also
Limetree, Bemsha Swing
and :fait accompli: in the
Bemsha Swing comments
section; Friday, July 8,
*Love is Not A Feeling*:
love put to the test in
*Zettel*; Thursday,
July 7: *The Most
Astounding Things are
Possible*: Thought and
The Infinite in *Zettel*]

No Exit

We live in a world in which we are
deluged daily by words, ideas,
facts, accounts, images. Still,
we frequently feel utterly isolated,
why? Kafka's *Metamorphosis*
provided us with one of the best
explanations as to why. The contemporary
world is intrusive, and the final result
of this constant intrusiveness is the
squashing of any possible feeling of

Although we are drowned in meanings
every moment of our lives, our sense
of there being much significance to our
meanings or our experiences is
constantly eroding. Like Gregor
Samsa reduced to insect dimensions,
we are utterly dwarfed by forces infinitely
larger than ourselves.There are, of course,
innumerable causes for this, among
them the fact that technology has made
it possible for groups, large and small,
to eliminate our very existence quite
easily. But there are other reasons.
The expropriation of the very process
of extracting a sense of
significance from our experiences as individuals
by the marketplace of meaning-making
results in a internal feeling of powerlessness
and insignificance. We hang on every report
as to the facts and numbers supporting this;
information-gathering offers our only sense of
control- a form of control
obviously extremely ephemeral,
elusive and mostly upsetting and confusing.

One development in contemporary poetry
offers a direction out of this dilemma by
suggesting that one can play, not only
with meanings, but with the very process of
meaning-making. Poets seize on the
pleasures and powers of this process
and find a way to breathe in the open
air of poetic expression. Yet
there is no excaping the *weltenshaung*
of one's era. The poetry, once introduced
into the public arena, invites poets
back into the very social dynamics
they sought to excape in writing it.
The poet never wrote the work to
increase the sense of isolation, on
the contrary. Yet the social dynamics
that squeeze the sense of significance
out of even the most committed efforts on part of individuals
to influence such dynamics are inexorable.
Hence, the contemporary direction in poetry towards
private languages. Such languages offer
poets an entry into a circle of readers who
seek an exit from the larger social
dynamic through work which disgusts people
who enthusiastically avow the powerful, public,
"civic" forces which resemble the actions of
a game, even a "language game," but a
language game that has more resemblance a football
game, than a game of questioning and interpreting
aesthetic paradoxes.. The craving for what is no longer
possible in conventional life- a feeling of
personal significance, however, paradoxically returns
the circle of makers of private language
right back to the game-as-usual
social dynamics of team
sports. As Phillip K. Dick believed, we've
never actually exited the era of the Roman Circus.

Wittgenstein's ideas offer much to think
about in this realm. While ostensibly
he supports the parameters of conventional
reality -creation through supporting traditional
behavioristic modes of language iinterpretation,
he weaves into his work an underlying series of
paradoxes, underlining the ambiguities,
ambivalences, debates
and paradoxes that
pervade the very fabric of the social reality
of language.

"243. A human being can encourage himself,
give himself orders and obey, blame and punish
himself; he can ask himself a question and answer
it. We could even imagine human beings who
spoke only in monologue; who accompanied
their activities by talking to themselves.- An
explorer who watched them and listened to
their talk might succeed in translating their
language into ours. (This would enable him to
predict these people's actions correctly, for
he also hears them making resolutions and
But could we also imagine a language in which
a person could write down or give social
expression to his inner experiences- his feelings,
moods, and the rest- for his private use?- Well,
can't we do so in our ordinary language?-
But that is not what I mean. The individual
words of this language are to refer to what can only
be known to the person speaking; to his
immediate private sensations. So another
person cannot understand the language."

(*Philosophical Investigations*-
Ludwig Wittgenstein)

Wittgenstein plays with the concept of private
language only to finally try to overrule it.
But the perpetual flirting with the notion, finally,
makes it even more attractive. This is often when
he turns to his fascination with music.

Like Kafka, Wittgenstein's
obsessions become our
own because of his scrupulous
loyalty to discovering
the truth through self and
social confrontations. This is
the other side of the
contemporary poet's dedication
to authenticity by uncovering and revealing
experience through a paradoxial
dedication to seeking
modes of camoflage.

A Queer Process

"196. In our failure to understand the use
of a word we take it as the expression
of a queer "process." (As we think of time
as a queer medium, of the mnd as a queer
kind of being.)

"197. 'It's as if we could grasp the whole use
of a word in a flash.'- And that is just
what we say we do. That is to say: we
sometimes describe what we do in these
words. But there is nothing astonishing,
nothing queer, about what happens. It becomes
queer when we are led to think that the
future development must in some way already
be present in the act of grasping the use and
yet isn't present....."

As discussed below, Wittgenstein here
elucidates his discomfort with some of the concepts
employed in developmental psychology.

Understanding a Poem

"531. We speak of understanding a sentence
in the sense in which it can be replaced by
another which says the same; but also in the
sense in which it cannot be replaced by any
other. (Any more than one musical theme
can be replaced by another).

In the one case the thought in the sentence is
something common to different sentences;
in the other, something that is expressed only
by these words in these positions. (Understanding
a poem)."

"532. Then has 'understanding' two different meanings here?-
I would rather say that these kinds of use of 'understanding'
make up its meaning, make up my *concept* of understanding.
For I want to apply the word 'understanding' to all this."

"533. But in the second case, how can one explain the
expression, transmit one's comprehension? Ask yourself:
How does one *lead* anyone to comprehension of a poem
or of a theme? The answer to this tells us how
meaning is explained here."

Wittgenstein makes it clear in the above aphorisms that he
has a firm grasp about what how poetry wants to be and should be understood.
But in many of the following sections he comes back to a behavioristic,
descriptive approach.

Wittgenstein is scrupulous- that is a good part of the fascination.
He has his approach- but he recognizes and confronts all the
the other approaches he can learn and find out about, having to do
with his themes, continually
applying his rigorous rules of logical thinking. He is a logician,
but one with a keen sense of and interest in how people think and feel
and explain how they think and feel to themselves and each other.
And now and then, in the midst of a logical exposition,
there are sudden moments of intense lyric
compression: These are all the more moving because of the
rigorous, dry, logical approach he generally employs.

"543. Can I not say: a cry, a laugh are full of meaning?
And that means, roughly: much can be gathered from them."


Wittgenstein's intense earnestness, concern and
trust in his pursuit of truth contribute to a powerful, inexorable
poetic undercurrent throughout much of his writing.

quotations are from:
Ludwig Wittgenstein, *Philosophical
translated by G.E,M. Anscombe
Blackwell Publishing
2001, first edition 1953

More strumming by Kasey to *Zettel* under the

Limetree {click here}

3 "Drop Dead Beautiful" Aphorisms About Love

from David Hess (Orpheus in Boxers) {click here}

Monday, July 11

Process and Object

"It somehow worries us that the thought
in a sentence is not wholly present
at any one moment. We regard it as an
object which we are making and have
never got all there, for no sooner does
one part appear than another vanishes."

from *Zettel* by Ludwig Wittgenstein
University of California Press, 1967

Wittgenstein was fascinated by Freud
and much has been written about the
differences between the two theorists.
Again and again, W seems to be on the
verge of embracing the developmental
aspect of psychoanalytic thinking; then
he ever more staunchly
returns to the behavioristic model.

As W acknowledges above, anyone
fascinated with the process
aspect of thinking
and experience comes to
question the behavioristic
approach with chooses to focus on
object over subject. But the two are
inevitably intertwined.

There is a longing in Wittgenstein for
a clear-cut distinction between what
is correct and what is incorrect, a
mathematician's understandable
yearning for answers.
Pyschoanalysis shows that
the rational element in experience is
never permanently distinguishable
from the irrational element, though
mental health depends on a
continual effort to distinguish them,
especially in times of conflict.

Both Wittgenstein and Freud
were drawn to literary insights
and examples. Both recognized
the irrational element in poetry
and art, but each in their own
way were driven to discover methods
enabling their work to counter
their, you might say, literary
tendencies, with logic and science.
But an argument could be made
that their most durable contributions
remain essentially literary.
It appears now that one of Freud's
enduring contributions was to
transpose literary methods, processes
and insights into a form of psychological
therapy he called psychoanalysis.
Although he acknowledged that the poets
preceded him, he grounded his psychoanalystic
system and organization on scientific models.
Wittgenstein also likened his philosophical work
to a kind of therapy, applicable, he said, to
"philosophical cramps."

Again and again attempts on the
part of philosophers, such as Wittgenstein
and Freud to incorporate
and submerge the successes
of literary processes and
contributions to culture
into an overarching system
of cultural intervention
have faded in time.
What does appear to happen is that
the literary domain grows ever
larger and more complex. Freud
helped to bring literary thinking into the
psychiatric domain; Wittgenstein,
like Derrida, helped to return its
energies and powers into the

Repeatedly, and cyclically,
the literary strain in culture
turns around and absorbs
and encompasses such lasting,
powerful contributions
helping to insure their permanency.
Nietzche is certainly another
striking example of such an effort;
Derrida another. In other words,
philosophy and psychology's
cultural territory expands; only
to be absorbed, historically,
into the annals of literature.
Might this be partly because the
literary river continually gains
in momentum over time due
to its essentially individualistic
international, and time-
defying character?

Of course, during fascist eras
like ours, this ultimate cultural
supremacy appears eclipsed
by the warlike character of
the ruling classes.Yet everyone
suspects the pen is mightier
than the sword- and systems-
but sadly, it appears,
only in the long run.
The Emperor of Ice Cream: What Does It All Mean?

the Limetree (KSM) {click here}
riffs a long, cool, soulful solo on themes
developed on Bemsha Swing
and here of late, including some of our
own wistful whistling of melodies out
of Ludwig W's *Zettel*; Kasey's the
second blogger to jam on

Jonathan Mayhew's theme on
poetic thinking {click here}

until exhaustion. Whose next?

Sunday, July 10

Virtual Flaneurs in the Cyber-Arcades

Jonathan Mayhew (Bemsha Swing} and ::fait accompli:: chat about:
poetry publishing, poetry careers, and more.