Wednesday, November 30, 2011

TC: I Was Born To Speak Your Name


I knew the tune
It was my song
Even before you came along
Yet only then did I perceive its meaning

This you I wished for
This desired Other of whom
I spoke so glowingly in poems
I never knew its name

When I lifted its arms up
I noticed tiny wings
That’s all I knew
The rest was Muselike
Anonymous this “you”

So I guess those poems
Were like phonecalls to the future
I think I had your number
Knew what I was looking for
Even before I found it
In the face directory

And luckiest of all
Your human substance
Was life’s loveliest
Far as I could see

As if I’d placed
Bones and skin
Together in a dream
You were put together that way
But I wouldn’t let it go to my head if I were you

The Muse Inspiring the Poet: Henry Rousseau, 1909 (Kunstmuseum Basel)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

TC: Walter Benjamin: A Map of Hell (1938)


Paradise and Hell
: Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1510 (Museo del Prado, Madrid)

March 6. On recent nights I've had dreams that remained deeply engraved in my day. Last night I dreamed I had company. Friendly things came my way; I believe they consisted primarily in women taking an interest in me -- indeed, even commenting favorably upon my appearance. I think I remember remarking aloud that now I probably wouldn't live much longer -- as if this were the last display of friendship among people bidding one another farewell.

File:Enamel setting MNMA Cl23411d.jpg

Plique-à-jour enamel setting, cloisonné enamel on gold: Guillaume Julien [?], Paris, late 13th/early 14th century: Musée National du Moyen Age, Paris (image by Jastrow, 2006)

Later, just before I awoke, I was in the company of a lady in Adrienne Monnier's rooms. They were the setting for an exhibition of objects which I can't quite recall. Among them were books with miniatures, as well as plates and intricately wrought arabesques which were colorfully overlaid as if with enamel. The rooms were on the ground floor facing the street, from which one could look in through a large windowpane. I was on the inside. My lady had obviously already treated her teeth according to the technique that the exhibition was advertising.


Front of dental office "Next Appointment" notice, advertising Chlorodont toothpaste:
VEB Elbe-Chemie, 1969 (Archiv der Firma Dental-Kosmetik GmbH und Co KG, Nachfolgerin der Leowerke und späteren VEB Elbe-Chemie; image by Freak1972, 2010)

She had polished them to an opalescent shine. The color of her teeth ran to dull green and blue. I took pains to make her understand most politely that this was not the correct use of the product. Anticipating my thoughts, she pointed out that the inner surfaces of her teeth were inlaid in red. I had indeed meant to say that, for teeth, the brightest colors are scarcely bright enough.

Datei:Blender3D Zahnpastatube.jpg

Toothpaste with wood-texturing: Blender3D image by SoylentGreen, 2006

I've been suffering greatly from the noise in my room.

Datei:Blender3D WoodTextureBand.jpg

Wood-Texture, Band type: Blender3D image by SoylentGreen, 2006

Last night my dream recorded this.

File:Blender3D LoopingParticleFire.gif

Looping Particle Fire: Blender3D image by SoylentGreen, 2006

I found myself standing in front of a map and, simultaneously, standing in the landscape which it depicted. The landscape was terrifyingly dreary and bare; I couldn't have said whether its desolation was that of a rocky wasteland or that on an empty ground populated only by capital letters. These letters writhed and curved upon their terrain as if following mountain ranges; I knew or learned that I was in the labyrinth of my auditory canal. But the map was, at the same time, a map of hell.

File:Aerial Hollywood Sign.jpg

The Hollywood Sign, shot from an aircraft
: photo by Jelson, 2009

Walter Benjamin: Diary Entries, 1938 (excerpt), translated by Gerhard Richter and Michael W. Jennings in Selected Writings, Volume 3 (1935-1938), 2002

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

TC: Walter Benjamin: Cult


Still-life with Rarities
: Jan van der Heyden, 1712 (Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest)

A religion may be discerned in capitalism -- that is to say, capitalism serves essentially to allay the same anxieties, torments and disturbances to which the so-called religions offered answers.

We cannot draw closed the net in which we are caught...

Vanitas still-life
: Harmen Steenwijck, c. 1640 (National Gallery, London)

Capitalism is a purely cultic religion, perhaps the most extreme that ever existed. In capitalism, things have a meaning only in their relationship to the cult; capitalism has no specific body of dogma, no theology. It is from this point of view that utilitarianism acquires its religious overtones.

The Carrot: Willem Frederik van Royen, 1699 (Märkisches Museum, Berlin)

This concretization of cult is connected with a second feature of capitalism: the permanence of the cult. Capitalism is the celebration of a cult sans rêve et sans merci. There are no "weekdays." There is no day that is not a feast day, in the terrible sense that all its sacred pomp is unfolded before us; each day commands the utter fealty of each worshiper.

Hunting still-life: Willem von Aelst, c. 1665 (private collection)

And third, the cult makes guilt pervasive. Capitalism is probably the first instance of a cult that creates guilt, not atonement. In this respect, this religious system is caught up in the headlong rush of a larger movement. A vast sense of guilt that is unable to find relief seizes on the cult, not to atone for this guilt but to make it universal, to hammer it into the conscious mind, so as once and for all to include God in the system of guilt and thereby awaken in Him an interest in the process of atonement. This atonement cannot then be expected from the cult itself, or from the reformation of this religion (which would need to be able to have recourse to some stable element in it), or even from the complete renouncement of this religion.

Vanitas still-life
: Harmen Steenwijck, c. 1640 (Stedelijk Museum de Lakenhal, Leiden)

The nature of the religious movement which is capitalism entails endurance right to the end, to the point where God, too, finally takes on the entire burden of guilt, to the point where the universe is taken over by that despair which is actually its secret hope. Capitalism is entirely without precedent, in that it is a religion which offers not the reform of existence but its complete destruction. It is the expansion of despair, until despair becomes a religious state of the world in the hope that this will lead to salvation. God's transcendence is at an end. But he is not dead; he has been incorporated into human existence. This passage of the planet "Human" through the house of despair in the absolute loneliness of his trajectory is the ethos that Nietzsche defined. This man is the superman, the first to recognize the religion of capitalism and bring it to fulfillment.

Portrait of a woman: Bartolomeo Veneto, 1520-1525 (Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt)

Its fourth feature is that its God must be hidden from it and may be addressed only when his guilt is at its zenith. This cult is celebrated before an unmatured deity; every idea, every conception of it offends against the secret of this immaturity.

The Seven Deadly Sins (detail: Superbia, or Pride): Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1480 (Museo del Prado, Madrid)

Freud's theory, too, belongs to the hegemony of the priests of this cult. Its conception is capitalist through and through. By virtue of a profound analogy, which has still to be illuminated, what has been repressed, the idea of sin, is capital itself, which pays interest on the hell of the unconscious.

Balthus, Thérèse Dreaming

Thérèse Dreaming: Balthus, 1938 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

The paradigm of capitalist religious thought is magnificently formulated in Nietzsche's philosophy. The idea of the superman transposes the apocalyptic "leap" not into conversion, atonement, purification, and penance, but into an apparently steady, though in the final analysis explosive and discontinuous intensification. For this reason, intensification and development in the sense of non facit saltum are incompatible. The superman is the man who has arrived where he is without changing his ways; he is historical man who has grown up right through the sky. This breaking open of the heavens that was and is characterized (even for Nietzsche himself) by guilt in a religious sense was anticipated by Nietzsche. Marx is a similar case: the capitalism that refuses to change course becomes socialism by means of the simple and compound interest that are functions of Schuld (consider the demonic ambiguity of this word).

Count Willem II presides over the execution of the dishonest bailiff, 1336: Nicolaes von Galen, 1657 (Town Hall, Hasselt)

Capitalism is a religion of pure cult, without dogma.

Capitalism has developed as a parasite of Christianity in the West (this must be shown not just in the case of Calvinism, but in the other orthodox Christian churches), until it reached the point where Christianity's history is essentially that of its parasite -- that is to say, of capitalism.

Count Willem II presides over the execution of the dishonest bailiff, 1336 (detail): Nicolaes von Galen, 1657 (Town Hall, Hasselt)

sans rêve et sans merci=without dream or mercy
non facit saltum=he cannot make the leap
Schuld=debt; guilt

Capitalism as Religion (fragment): Walter Benjamin, 1921, edited excerpt (translation by Rodney Livingstone in Selected Writings, Volume 1: 1913-1926, 1996)

Monday, November 14, 2011

TC: A Meditation Outside the Fertile Grounds Cafe


Ayman just came back from his family
Home in the West Bank. How's the spirit there?
I asked. "Good. Nobody's giving up."
Ayman paused, wiping down the spotless glass top
Of the pastry case one more careful time
Without looking up. Thinking to himself.
"After all, all they want's a little justice."
On the map of the West Bank, that blank space
Just to the left of the town of Bhiddu
Is the village where Ayman's father, one
Of twenty children, was born and raised.
The name of the village means House of Stones
"Because there's a quarry there," but still
It's too small to rate a spot on the map in
The Economist, alongside this story
On the fresh welling up of blood and anger
In my friend's home land, that blank space
Filled with blood and stones. Ayman loves
His trade; in six years he's built from nothing
The coolest little coffee shop on the street;
People like him, he likes them; he makes
Great coffee, his sandwiches are famed, justly;
It's the old American Horatio
Alger Dream, and America's his country.
Every day he gets hundreds of calls
On his cell phone. "But know how many
Calls from people here I take when I'm back
Home?" he smiles. "None. I talk to people
There." And when he goes back home to Beit
Duqqu, America feels far away.
That's the way it feels to me too, but I have
No other home. The photo of the olive tree,
Its roots exposed from the bulldozer cut,
That was up on Ayman's wall last autumn --
Is that a photo of a broken home
Or is it that one's home's always intact
In one's mind as long as one's heart is
Full? I wouldn't begin to know. Tacked
On a phone pole out front of Fertile Grounds
In drifting night mist, a tattered poster
With a picture of a cat's face on it, lost
Near Delaware and Shattuck. It's Momo.
And what's become of poor Momo, now a week
Gone? Tonight, caning into the fog,
I hallucinated a Momo
Sighting downtown. No, just another feral.
Over ferals few sentimental
Tears are shed. A shelter's not a home.
A sanctuary's what everybody needs
These days -- the ferals, the street and doorway
People, the drifters in the mist, the bums.
On my way back, as I passed, I saw that
A young Arab girl in headscarf sat weeping
At a table outside Fertile Grounds. Ayman
In his counterman's apron, spick and span,
And Mohamed stood huddled in conference,
Mo holding a cell phone. "She's just lost
Her family, everything," Mo said softly.
"She doesn't have people here. I am
Going to help her." Ayman was talking
To the girl in Arabic, serious, hushed.
Then too Mo, in Arabic, reassuring.
"Don't worry, it will be okay," said Mo --
Switching back to Shattuck Avenue English
For me, the infidel. God is great. May
God bring Momo home if it is His will,
And everybody else along with him,
Whomever that may include -- we, living --
And we'll abide in that, and till then hope
That Momo too, pilfering out of the trash
Bins behind the Shattuck eateries,
Will abide likewise. He'll not lack competition.

from TC: The New World (Libellum, 2009)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

TC: Penmanship


File:Spencerian example.jpg

If I were Sophocles, brave with truth

I would play my old fiddle a sharp tune or two

And then withdraw into the uniqueness of rock

Which your special penmanship changes into lock

For your l’s are special, as in Elgin Penitentiary

Where you have never been, my expressive farmer

Preferring liberty to freedom or a penitentiary

File:Pelikan-Kolbenfüller u. Tintenglas 2006-07-26.jpg

The baroque swoop in your l’s is for enhancing liking

I like you because I am mad at you

Often you are mad at me too

All very spectacular

But it’s awful when the other person isn’t breathing


Friendship tempts you to essay the r in rock while breathing

Your friend Rock likes you







And people

Like that

Like you

Goya is a tremendous painter

Goya is dead

But the poetry of penmanship is never dead

While you are writing

We survive for a while, and then we die

And this is but the beginning

Your d pirouettes then later you die

But there is no reason for you to care about any of that

For you have become the virtuoso of capital F

Even if tomorrow we die

I am still free to go on choosing whomever I like

File:Dip Pen.jpg

I go on choosing you

And you go on choosing me

Over and over again

Irrespective of merit

Spencerian script: D.L. Musselman, 1884
Classic Pelikan fountain pen with inkwell: Lothar Spurzem, 2006
German class-book, manufactured by Langenkämper-Verlag: photo by Moritz Hector, 2009
Dip pen with nib, 1925: image by EraserGirl, 2008
Cursive script, 1894: image by Arpingstone, 2005

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

TC: James Schuyler: Salute


Unidentified Asteraceae, Death Valley National Park: photo by Mila Zinkova, 2005

Past is past, and if one
remembers what one meant
to do and never did, is
not to have thought to do
enough? Like that gather-
ing of one of each I
planned, to gather one
of each kind of clover,
daisy, paintbrush that
grew in that field
the cabin stood in and
study them one afternoon
before they wilted. Past
is past. I salute
that various field.

James Schuyler: from Salute, 1960

Wildflowers, Death Valley National Park: photo by Mila Zinkova, 2005

Monday, November 7, 2011

TC: Boats


Ralston Crawford - Boat and Grain Elevators No.2 - 1942 - The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.

All the inconsequential memoria
Seeping into the monody: voyages,
Purposes, cargos, ports of call whose names,

Long since forgot, returned to him in dreams
Only to be forgot again by morning --
Supposing those were really dreams, and this morning.

Boat and Grain Elevators No. 2: Ralston Crawford, 1942 (The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.)