Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I took up answering my questions against my instincts, partly to see if I might surprise myself--I am more interested in questions than answers, after all -- but also because I've been having a hard time writing these past couple of months and wondered if the process might be generative, get me going on to other things. Of course, I also chose to compose in public. That adds another complicating wrinkle.

The questions were composed over the course of a couple of months with no one looking over my shoulder and were written to be performed on a very specific occasion. The composition of the answers is being performed with no particular end in mind. Other than to see if I can make something of interest to myself. It's way too early in the game to know.

Both the questions and answers are exercises in thought, exercises in subjectivity.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I'm home this week, so am trying to get a headstart on answering my questions. To date I've logged 64 responses. Miles to go before the finish line. I'm not a natural writer. I struggle with the smallest of things. Must not think about the hundreds of responses yet to be achieved. Let's take one step at a time.

The process is frustrating but interesting at the same time. On the one hand, I'm reliving a little the writing of the questions; on the other hand, I'm seeing them differently now.


Just completed reading Maggie Nelson's Bluets. It is a heartbreakingly beautiful book of 240 numbered sections, most of which are no longer than a paragraph. It is poetic and philosophical, Wittgensteinian in the way that it is organized as a long series of "propositions." It is a book about the multiple dimensions of blue. Nelson self-consciously sees the world, all aspects of her experience, through a blue filter. It is an unflinching book. I particularly enjoyed the ways in which she speaks directly about sex. For example , in this blue passage --

179. When I imagine a celibate man -- especially one who doesn't even jerk off -- I wonder how he relates to his dick: what else he does with it, how he handles it, how he regards it. At first glance, this same question for a woman might appear more "tucked away" (pussy-as-absence, pussy-as-lack: out of sight, out of mind). But I am inclined to think that anyone who thinks or talks this way has simply never felt the pulsing of a pussy in serious need of fucking -- a pulsing that communicates nothing less than the suckings and ejaculations of the heart.

I'm drawn to writing such as this which investigates subjectivity. Consciousness is a language effect. Writing is sexual (along a continuum, of course).

If I write into being a photograph of a naked male torso, cock tucked between its legs, and claim the image as my own, what then? The paradox of projecting the "tucked away"? Little Tommy Tucker?

I dunno. Much to think about.


Monday, December 27, 2010

I've set up a new, probably temporary, blog to use in the composition of the answers to my questions. The blog will consist of one steadily added to post. As I add an answer I'll delete a question.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Inspired by Crag Hill and Rebecca Loudon, but also by Maggie Nelson's Bluets and Sarah Bakewell's wonderful new biography of Montaigne, I have decided to myself answer the questions in Questions At Ohio State. I have decided, that is, to attempt responses to my own questions. Wish me luck.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


My new project is here. Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I did finally write my review of Brenda Iijima's If Not Metamorphic. It will be published in the next issue of Galatea Resurrects. Here's the first paragraph as preview:

Felix Guattari wrote in Chaosmosis that “The refoundation of politics will have to pass through the aesthetic and analytical dimensions implied in the three ecologies – the environment, the socius and the psyche.” For Guattari “Production for the sake of production – the obsession with the rate of growth, whether in the capitalist market or in planned economies – leads to monstrous absurdities. The only acceptable finality of human activity is the production of a subjectivity that is auto-enriching its relations to the world in a continuous fashion. The productive apparatuses of subjectivity can exist at the level of megapoles as easily as at the level of an individual’s language games. And to learn the intimate workings of this production, these ruptures of meaning that are auto-foundational of existence – poetry today might have more to teach us than economic science, the human sciences and psychoanalysis combined.” I’m reminded of Emerson, who wrote in Nature that “The true philosopher and the true poet are one, and a beauty, which is truth, and a truth, which is beauty, is the aim of both.”

I'm going to keep returning to and thinking about Iijima's work because I believe it is doing essential work.
"Wittgenstein's advance is to have discovered the everyday and its language themselves to be esoteric, strange to themselves, one could say, to be irreducibly philosophical, prompting us unpredictably to say too much or too little, as if we chronically fail to know what actually interests us. It is with our inheritance of language as Lacan says Freud holds of the Ego, that it continually misrecogizes or (mis)understands itself. Instead of saying we are full of mistakes about what is closest to us, we might say of ourselves that we are filled, as Thoreau might say, with misgiving."

--Stanley Cavell, Little Did I Know: Excerpts from Memory (Standford University Press, 2010)

Cavell nails it for me in that passage. He was one of Charles Bernstein's professors at Harvard. There's an interesting lineage operating here... Austin's philosophy of speech acts, Wittgenstein, Hollywood screwball comedies, etc.

But the idea of misrecognition, the idea of generative mistakes...that's my takeaway.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I'm spending too much time with snow shovels lately. Moved and moved through way too much snow today. Walked and slipped and fell. Drove through whiteouts too with corresponding white knuckles. We had high winds and over a foot of snowfall throughout the day on top of what we already had and more is coming. Am running out of places to put it. It's exhausting to deal with.

This evening I started writing a review of Brenda Iijima's If Not Metamorphic which I have been procrastinating about for months, not knowing how to get started. I'm 200 words in, so have something to build on now.

Poetry eludes me these days.

In today's mail The Preparation of the Novel by Roland Barthes (his final lectures) just out from Columbia University Press. There's always something of use in Barthes' work.

I no longer know why I blog.

My shoulder hurts, my knee hurts, my back hurts, my head aches and I can barely keep my eyes open. I'm in a lousy mood. Goodnight.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Four Philosophy Books I've Most Admired This Year

Genesis by Michel Serres (University of Michigan Press, 1995).

Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari: Intersecting Lives by Francois Dosse (Columbia University Press, 2010).

For Derrida by J. Hillis Miller (Fordham University Press, 2009).

On Leaving: A Reading in Emerson by Branka Arsic (Harvard, 2010).

Each of these volumes presented opportunities for true engagement. Each of them made me cry.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Six Poetry Books I've Most Admired This Year

Squeezed Light: Collected Poems 1994-2005 by Lissa Wolsak (Station Hill, 2010).

I-Formation, Book 1 by Anne Gorrick (Shearsman Books, 2010).

If Not Metamorphic by Brenda Iijima (Ahsahta Press, 2010).

petals, emblems by Lynn Behrendt (Lunar Chandelier, 2010).

At Trotsky's Funeral by Mark Young (Kilmog Press, 2010).

Toccatas in the Key of D by Sheila E. Murphy (Blue Lion Books, 2010).

I've been privileged not just to have read and enjoyed each of these unique volumes, I've also interviewed each of the authors (except, I now realize, Brenda Iijima, who I've only dreamed I've interviewed). I say without hesitation that these are some of the most vital and engaging poets of our time.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Negation won't
Actuate desire

One can't
Compel an
Other's love


I've been meditating on friendship, literary friendships in particular. Why? Well, on the one hand, an important friendship with a poet whose name would be recognized here recently ended. And, on the proverbial other hand, I just this morning finished reading the last installment of The Grand Piano.

There's a section of the Ohio Basic Building Code which maintains that the tenant of a building must have access to his disconnect. In the parlance of the Building Code "disconnect" means fuse box or breaker box. It is, like they say, a term of art.

I've from an early age been a socially ill-at-ease person. This always seems to contribute to making friendships somewhat problematic.

A lot of things are swirling in me now. Dark constellations. Don't know if any of this will out intelligibly. Feeling compelled to quote this passage from Stanley Cavell's recent memoir:

"Learning by drowning was something I was familiar with when the river of hours was somewhat balanced out by an active contribution of performance and analysis and discussion. Here the drowning felt unprotectedly like gorging bears filling themselves for a time of unconsciousness, of exhausted expressiveness and impressionableness, except perhaps for the talent of dreaming.

I had already found that there are things to be learned only in this way of random extravagance, of being overwhelmed by the knowledge of what there is to know, of what cannot be mastered, of the necessity of developing an instinct and memory for reserves and hints and fragments of tendency, for trusting something like those glimpses or flashes of light across the mind so dear to Emerson. But allowing the inscape to be populated and colored by the impressions and expressions of countless crossing lights, exacts the wager that when the time comes you will find your directions of attraction and repugnance among and across those that are so far, some perhaps forever, sourceless and nameless."
I am required to have access to my disconnect keeps looping through my sore head.