Aphorisms XX

My guitar teacher used to say to me – learn the theory, learn the chords, learn riffs and learn songs. But try your best to forget it all when you need to write music.

The same goes for advice on writing. You can’t have all that rattling around in your head when you’re trying to get something done. When it comes up, it should pop in like a friend to remind you you need a cup of tea, or better, bring you that cup, and a biscuit.

(This fits into the probably quite voluminous category of meta-advice.)

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When you play a videogame with gestural graphics, that don’t quite add up, you bring a kind of supplement to it. A liminal space opens up on top of everything on the game and adds materiality, similar to when you’re reading a book and you bring images, material from the memory into the book-image. It fills in the gaps, making the whole painting pop. At least, it did when I was a kid.

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Aphorisms XVIII

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius – The Borges story offers quite a neat allegory for the post-truth/propaganda situation. The fake encyclopedia begins as an experiment – can we create a world in detail without the usual connections between material reality and the conceptual scheme? Can we jettison praxis altogether and have its opposite occur? In that world, the concepts begin to cause things to happen, simply by being made. The markers of this are objects that propagate themselves, but slightly changed, exaggerating some aspect – conspiracy objects. Then the completed encyclopedia begins to disturb reality – reality as a scheme begins to collapse due to the overstrong influence of the unreal.

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Aphorisms XVI

Aphorisms can be like a diary of thought, and, like a diary, shouldn’t be considered a final opinion. But there is no final opinion. We can always speak again. And even death cannot finalise our opinions, since the possibility of opinion rests on the fact that it can be revised. It remains possible that we could have changed our mind, even after we are gone. Our last opinion is not final, in that sense.

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Representation is never perfect, there is always something beyond, a possible beyondness to representation. But through representation we are placed into direct contact with this beyondness, and feel the real through it.

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Aphorisms X

The problem with a generation declaring literature to be basically over is that it deprives the following generations of the thought that their lives and thoughts might be worth novelising. It results in the experience I’ve had with Ben Lerner, Luke Kennard, Sally Rooney, suddenly recognising myself in the books, thinking – ah, so this is how novels shore us up. But then on the back cover of The Topeka School I read Sally Rooney’s comment – “To the extent that we can speak of a future at present, I think that the future of the novel is here”. And I feel strange. Does each modern novel writer think they are entourage to the last writers? Do they always feel the door shutting after them?

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The extravagance of poetry is this contention that it deserves the amount of space it takes up. If done unconsciously, it can underwhelm, but with great confidence it shines. Like a single acorn sat in the centre of an small warehouse.

I imagine a solid gold maze hung from invisible wires in a large room, undulating under the diffuse light. Although for some it is not a luxury, poetry is luxurious speech.

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Aphorisms IX

When I was what you could call ‘virulently atheist’ I remember warding off any future professions of faith with great vindictiveness. What did I expect? I imagine it was a form of self-reinforcement.

I would say… if, in the future, I profess faith, then you can know that it is truly a mistake. As if to protect and account for my future self, who would undoubtedly have gone through an incredible transformation.

I’m still atheist, I’m just a lot more materialistic about the cultus now. Now, I would say of my future self – if he professes faith, just be kind to him.

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Say NO! to hysteria

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Metre and syllable limit are machines to make beautiful language, or good poems. There are others, among them actively thwarting metre and syllable limit. These machines routinely break down, when they are not understood as machines.

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Aphorisms V

As a puzzle can have several logical solutions, so movie or a book, a system of statements and objects, can have several interpretations that ‘solve’ it satisfactorily.

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Remember – the artists you have heard about, whose names are on the lips of literary history, are for the most part those who have been promoted massively. That is the machinery of the canon.

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Types of poem – a story, an aphorism, an apology, a thank you, a celebration, a memory, a machine for – disturbing, reinforcing, calming – a cryptic object, a puzzle, an object of conspicuous reference, a song, a praise, a lament, a memoriam, a riddle, a marker of occasion, a cry of – fear, love, undetermined – a conversation with – self, other, influence, nothing – a look into the void, an evoker of images, a vault, a tissue, an ice pack, a pet, a project, a cuddly toy, an aspirant object, a thing original, a thing thought original, a mantra, a thing, a sculpture, a picture, a cry of pain, a cry, a hand, and countless more.

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Do you know any precious rhythms in those around you? Patterns that are unique to the person? Never repeated by anyone else, they define the moments of a life that have seen lonely practice; a laugh, an improvisation on guitar, a facial expression, a method of moving the conversation. Perhaps they move through us like memes, but we know them to embody our friends. Are the memes passing through us, or we through them? I know one set of improvisations, made by a loved one, which are so tied up with their personality that if they stopped, I would worry I had lost them.

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Aphorisms IV

There is no compulsion to consume a particular form of media, or a piece of media. Remember this when it feels the other way – no duty to consume.

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It is slightly odd that someone’s response to a fact might be – but that’s banal, ‘that’s obvious’. How self centred! We don’t say that to teachers, or to those reminding us of things we have forgotten. This response could be translated into emotional terms as “you have underestimated me!” – well, maybe you appeared to need reminding! But then, was the statement aimed at you, if you find it obvious? Think about it.

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Philosophers have always changed the world, without realising it. Marx was wrong, to that extent. Because your interpretation will change the world, based on your philosophising, which has already changed you. People often do things for reasons they have found, new or old, after all.

With regards to Marx, obviously this only transforms his point, which was that some philosophers have justified the world from a position of power, had provided reasons for the rich, for the abusers. Had built an intellectual parallel world whilst the chartered companies and city states expanded empires, pillaged the world. Some philosophers still do.

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The myth that is the most beautiful, the ur-myth, is that there is meaning in things, not just in us. That the clouds of mustard gas are the wings of a terrible dragon. That everything will have its own moment where its particular purpose in the world-work of things becomes evident. That the unexpected family is waiting there at the end of the road. That the loss will have its redemption.

Or maybe this myth is better phrased as – the idea that what meaning there is in things is really meaning for us. And not just a kind of mostly unparsable mess.

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Aphorisms II

There is a joy of history in the fact that the totalising force and the absolutist will always be dogged by those with a voice, a blog. The might of the word, of knowledge, is similar to the might of the ocean. You may divert its force for a time, but it will flatten all land eventually. You may think you can divert it. But once something is realised, it stays realised.

You can’t stop someone being right, even if you take everything else from them. And that is beautiful. The pen is longer than the sword.

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When I hear someone exasperate about the internet, I always think – which comment annoyed you today? Which site fractured your sense of comfort in knowledge? Because of course, there is no such thing as the internet. There are only individual users, and groups… But then, that’s not quite right. The word – internet – like the word – society – has an image or sectional meaning whenever used in this way. It comes accompanied with – a comment section filled with drivel – the endless mass of opinions – lists of reviews, one to five stars, each with their set of entries… And I can’t help but think of this, whenever someone says ‘what’s wrong is the internet’ or jokes that… If it weren’t for the internet, we’d all be happy. The internet, they say, like a compulsion, their fingers itching to pick up a dustpan and brush, or an EMP device. I wonder if they know how they seem to us? We who have lived in the internet. They merely adopted the internet. We were born in it, moulded by it…

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To rehash an old philosophical kick – It is an image with a great inner weakness that is destroyed simply by the existence of difference.

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Since the old world is dead on its feet, we need only to keep living how we want, in order to push it softly into its grave. Culture is dead, long live culture.

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Aphorisms I

Often, the cry of the cynic is one of jealousy towards hope. I know this from personal experience.

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When someone gives up on a joint project, it takes on the features of glass – cold and transparent. And behind it you see the back of the one who left.

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There is something beautiful in taking something meant as an insult, and wearing it as a badge of honour. It throws light back up the arse of the insulter.

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A translation is an excuse to write something new under another authority.

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“Whatever such a mind sees is the flower, and whatever such a mind dreams of is the moon.” This is state we could strive for, so long as we remember that, not only beautiful, still, and peaceful, the flower has the nesting insect, eating it from the inside out. And the moon is bright, and hangs outside of our world, but lunar craters are cold, dead and sterile.

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In poetry it is sometimes easy to look for crunchy language, rather than a true picture, or letting one build its surface over the other. But then, capturing things is not the kind of thing language does, like a graph, or a sum, or a photograph, despite these all having their subjective aspects, or hardly capturing anything at all. Language evokes, but must evoke on the terms of the reader. But do I do any of this? Do I even think it when I’m writing?

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The writing feels right, it isn’t like what has already been said. Some of the language that comes is new, in new ways, some of it is couched in dull or dead forms, which have to be revised. But what does this feeling of ‘needing revision’ consist of? Of resentment, of defining the successful in terms of what I am not? Not old, not hackneyed, not used up? Writing a poem is equal parts what I like, or think is successful, and what I don’t like about what I have written, what is unsuccessful. It can’t just be one or the other. And it can be more. Sometimes I feel nothing about a sentence. Does that matter?

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Resentment as a concept, a superiority of approach, defining yourself against Them, ‘what they do is bad and I don’t like it’, this concept has a lot to do with how taste develops. And this is okay, so long as we realise it, and can get past it from a negativity to a creative, positive, self-related progression.