An itinerant worker returns from a civil war that never quite happened, back through time to their partner, and on their way they see things in England that cause thoughts to occur. In sequence the field repeats, each one slightly differently. In each field a different voice, a different group. Maybe a village, or a city, or a bird. A chaos of significance.
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.
When the angels heard an old one wake –
a black supernova, eye crack
deep in the centre of the ‘verse,
trained on earth, and dreaming dead dreams
they made sure Dave got a guitar.
The birds stopped singing for a week,
just to listen, but he was kept
rapt by the way his fingers swept
chords it seemed from inner spaces,
unleafing. He joined a band, and
they did okay. But that was all
just celestial practice for
the time he was needed. The cloud
of darkness was drawing near – felt
in quarrels in the studio,
in breakups in the near future
and the slitherings of money.
The angels watched with bristling wings –
here it came. The moment planned for
so long ago. The room was dark.
At the first solo, the beast wept,
but ploughed the stars for earth still –
at the second, it screamed and tore
apart, raining down. Dave just smiled.
A plot or storyline can be outlined in a more or less random string of images. If you want to, you just have to massage them into shape to make them seem like they were destined to appear together.
Say a french novel was published in 1954. If you are nostalgic, or a scholar, you may want to translate it in a way that expresses the 1950s in France through a kind of amalgamated 1950s english. But, If I want to really relate with the characters, as it were, I have to go all the way, and rather than travelling back in time to put myself in their positions, I bring them forward in time, putting them in our positions, or at least positions more well known to us, living as we do. Kind of like splicing a cultural form onto our culture to see the strange things that happen with its relation to the mores of our place.
If we are going to translate a book, why not really translate it? Change it. We need both kinds of translations, and more and different still, if we are to really translate something. To do otherwise is to fetishize language, do our best to ignore who was speaking it, or at least to try and control them by confining them to the past, or to a kind of nostalgic reverie.
Good lord, listen to me, I’ve only just started translating. And I might be terrible at it. So ignore me, or don’t. It doesn’t matter.
See all the souls anchored to you
each faint and crackling golden line
like a nylon line, but neater,
each is a life you’ve saved in here.
You look like a heaven-flower
like an aurum tree. The firework
frozen in time, on the blue black
all the still-paths, the fizzing strings.
The key to self-hood is the gap
between what we would like to be
and what is. These things are all sent
to test us, see: to build us up –
without these moments we would fall
again, into the depths of hell
which is a flat, blank, pool of white
like milk. But tasteless, vigourless.
Humans need this pain to grow full.
If there was fruit hanging from each
tree, we would never need to think,
never need a revelation.
And so, these two things connect us.
These metallic wires, our trellis.
To be saviour to each other
and see what newness can encroach
When I played Spyro as a child, the world of Spyro was complete, without traces of anything, no history. No background. A world with no influences, music which was never played by anyone, a beautiful summer forest, puzzles and gems and orbs. Now, I start to think about how the soundtrack is structured and that perfect being of Spyro starts to fracture. So I stop thinking because it is not worth the value lost to question the most deep art experiences.
Isn’t there something disingenuous about a philosopher searching for arguments, as such, to prove a point? Surely they should be just looking closer at the way things work? But pragmatically a good, graspable argument is often hard to find.
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.
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.
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.
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.Continue reading
The sun makes silent
all the small planets
of inner orbits
and we only hear –
when they pass in front;
The stars have planets
which tug the belly
of their nuclear
mass explosion – soft
but more than enough;
In the lower tones,
of the dawn rise – there
the small star, has grace
for one still moment –
in the day soon lost;
The world compels us.
We are charred by void
when its emptiness
eclipses ours – but
soft glow the small stars.
Memory of Florida (Helplessness Blues)
What I used to be, and now
what I am, as we drive down
motorways through forest mass
listening closely with my voice
align like an eclipse moon
and the past blooms in present
rapture – I love this album
Old as I get, I will not
forget the forest drifting
drowsily past the window
this rain sifting tambourine –
and damp strung up on song lines
for this perfect alignment
in time and of void cultus
The vast pack turns now – howls
it echoes in the dark
locks of the valley cliffs.
The whole hive mind stiffens –
an enemy appears
and soon becomes shadow.
The light of the howlers
is a dim-burning light
not hot like communion –
cold; cold as hill mist tears
that graze clean the day’s grime
from forgotten arches
Running silently through
damp places on the hill
babbling under black clouds
and devouring, slowly.
At first, skin from your flesh.
And then, thoughts from your brain
And as poetry dies a death
or is reborn – which is
the same, until it isn’t
And the sunlight takes on a sharpness
And the world begins again to end
quite unlike a mint falling to the floor
cleanly in two upon the tiles
and the sheerness of thought stacks
so steeply –
Did not a roman slave walk
the dry paths of this split-cream coast
Does not this man hang such
washing as has never been bettered
in the warm air
Does not the mother walk a beach
as her dog exacts nothing from
as slow the waves pull down the coast
and the sun’s fog blurs horizons
and a thousand small discomforts –
there is still much to do
even on last days, which may fade
walking through a sliding glass door
as if to return shortly
but never returning (all this
in the sun)
Here, look up through the parasol
at the sun encased in black fabric
does this seem gaudy to you?
The prehistoric stands on a cliff
watching those same horizons
as the birdcalls change.
Ask for help from the sky-trails
as they spread into the blue.
Note the ferocious beautiful
of pre-bomb flares falling on the city
but note you may be thrown off the bus
by those who don’t understand
that a flower can exist in a wasteland.
Place your hands often on
warm heads of hair –
cope like this – in sunlit ripples
on some body of water
some body of air
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.
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.
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.
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.Continue reading