Sunday, December 28, 2014
Hold this poem and rub it with space. Ingest it with your eyes. Enkindle it with needs. Drip abstraction. It just happens. Abstraction happens. You feel alive and blaze in the snow of Iceland, a carnival of thought and emotion with a head like a sack of helium. Piercing sounds of creosote serve the fertility of experience. The map amplifies the disconnect between reality and an implied geography whose mountains and rivers exhibit the gum of time as it occupies a schematized space. Incidents of rubber absorb the shock of monotony. The repetitive rhythm of walking. Headlights shining through words of granite. The human mind is smeared with sexual metaphor, the teased agreements of audacity and steep relation, the incentive to suck and sparkle, the courage to pin a passion to a fold of fingers. The light is swollen. It indulges the walls. A sharp wind hangs from a highway sign. The grease at the center of the world allows everything to turn without squeaking, its axle is wet as veins. And so useful it is to consult consciousness that consciousness strains to find meaning in hockey. Words, thumbs, glances, glass, glans, baptisms and powwows. And sometimes we taste the heat of thought in a balloon of dizzying lucidity, rising into the sky like a cabana with a checkered past. Possession can also mean inglenook. Or mulberry. It takes a friend, naturally, to confirm the thickening thoughts on a piece of paper, each word clear as an ice cube and each sentence a wading pool for the eyes. Symbolism is nothing more than a bag of groceries, items arranged by weight and density. The lettuce goes on top, and symbolizes courage. The jelly is upside down but if the cap is on tight it should remain true to the image of kings. We feel the full impact of reality at the checkstand. Here is where being water gets a little messy and hanging words upside-down doesn’t help the situation. It’s better to stand there being quiet and dream of returning to the sea as an albatross on a long glide of delectation over dinner.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Experience is what happens when blood circulates, the heart pumps, and life pops out of the box. Everything goes Technicolor. The room glows. Pronouns assume the private pain of impulse. Various dimensions simmer in space sweetening the nerves with saffron and juxtaposition. Is there anything prettier than a jackknife? Escalators percolate in my skin causing action and growth. I ride up. I ride down. I move sideways to let people pass. I’m polite, a courteous person. This is my attempt to hold the society together. Poetry is my way to blow culture up. Smash capitalism to smithereens. This is misleading. You can’t smash capitalism, but it will certainly smash you. You’ve got to find an antidote. Poetry is that antidote. It’s useless as tits on a hammer. I love that image. A hammer with tits on it. Wrenches and screwdrivers suckling at its underside in the toolbox of life.
Movement deepens my comprehension of soup. Sparrows are brusque but powerfully themselves. I feel incidental and ghostly, but also a little like asphalt, as if I cried on the inside to be a highway joining Nevada to Arizona and poured distance and velocity into the long Nevada night. Here comes Walt Whitman driving a Nissan Stanza. He’s got gravy in his beard and a twinkle in his eye. The stars awaken the thrill of a palpable yearning. It takes some time for the imagination to slide into another form of being, but once that happens, one can excel at adhesion and act like a flap in the flag at the borders of noumenal being. Punches flicker beside the anthology of contemporary poetry. The nightclub bursts into streams of consciousness. Leopold Bloom admires the cutlery. Feeling feels wintery as a paper airport for paper airplanes. Swimming is incongruous and therefore delightful. The mind is but a shadow. Speed bumps are annotations. All of my memories have been cooked in reminiscence. Baby you can drive my car. And maybe I love you. Beep beep yeah.
It’s hard to build a house when the lumber is alive. But you can bungle it like comedy and find something much fuller than a house. You can take all the silence of out of a poem and put it to use as something blonde and geographic. Sprinkle adjectives on it. Jingle it. Put it in the freezer until it turns hard and pragmatic. Cold to the fingers. Like a tool.
Painting is instinctive and reckless. A pile of rags flirt with a harmonica. The plywood conveys vividness. The oak screams in the ban saw. I savor the gumption of construction. Even my nerves bubble their opinions in a slow simmer of being. Sunlight slices through the air like a knife of singing light.
I slide cinnamon into my intestine and digest the world. I accommodate seclusion well. Fingernails rely on time to grow into themselves. The black cord of the hair dryer curls in the humidity.
Sometimes I work late at night juggling giant handshakes. This is what I experience when experience turns experimental. Any language will do, but English is particularly supple. Not enough has been said about that. A mind draws parables out of life. The sound of it is sweet and seditious. Ocher is a friendly color. But yellow, well yellow is yellow. It shouts joy from the bathroom wall. I think of myself as an occurrence of meat. This feeling widens and rivals Wisconsin. A wild energy crashes through the symmetries of science resulting in the experience of birds. Dirt. Obsidian shining out of a mountain.
Is there life on Mars? André Breton arrives in a flying saucer. His eyes murmur oranges. Why is there something rather than nothing? We all wonder that. But André seems especially obsessed. His premonitions seep through the words murdering distance and chattering fictions that are actual whales. Wheels. Weather. Bakeries and postulation. A patisserie filled with maps. Lips. Promontories of frosting. Pythagorean sensations serving the fertility of experience abstractions of invisible empires, the sublime appeal of concertinas and chaos and string theory.
I like words in strings. And when the strings run out there is still a trace of Paris, kitchen lights edged with gold. And down below a kangaroo leaps over a turnstile and catches the M4 to Versaille. Daylight marries the vowels of night and the wedding is twilight and the twilight is a delicate thing. Twilight is what happens when I feel open to everything. Even meaning.
Monday, December 1, 2014
Each and every way that I position my regard provides a plurality of relations and samplings from a mass of pure sensation. Each perspective insinuates its own incendiary geometry. Expectation acquires a piquant lucidity. The light penetrates the basement window. A chisel gleams. A ban saw screams like a banshee. Sawdust accumulates on the floor. It smells of pine and oak. A nearby gravel road articulates the convulsions of impeccable clouds. A furious awakening flashes on the horizon. The weight of the sky thrills the bones and unpacks its provisions in a dialogue of thunder. The light is perforated with silver. If I choose to read the world like a book it puzzles me with snow. It dazzles me with pearls. It threads the mind with correlation.
The desk emphasizes its existence in a determination of wood. I sit down and open Ulysses to page 305: “A monkey puzzle rocket burst, spluttering in darting crackles. Zrads and zrads, zrads, zrads, zrads. And Cissy and Tommy and Jacky ran out to see and Edy after with the pushcar and then Gerty beyond the curve of the rocks. Will she? Watch! Watch! See! Looked round. She smelt an onion. Darling, I saw, your. I saw all. Lord!”
Even the rain dripping from the black rungs and curls of the wrought-iron patio furniture in front of Molena’s Taco Shop bear some relation to the rest of the universe. Rain collects in a river which powers the turbines of Grand Coulee Dam which feeds electricity to the arc welder welding the patio furniture. The shell on display in the window was made from proteins and minerals that were created when the planet formed and life first appeared out of a jelly-like glop of lipids and carbohydrates. The rain dripping from the patio furniture was once a wave in the ocean that made the shell that housed the snail that crawled ashore and died on a rock molded by the gusts and pounding surf of a windy shore.
Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven / Is thick inlaid with patens of bright gold. / There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st / But in his motion like an angel sings, / Still choiring to the young-eyed cherubins. / Such harmony is in immortal souls, / But whilst this muddy vesture of decay / Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.
Declares Lorenzo in The Merchant of Venice. That harmony that is in immortal souls is consciousness of the unity of interrelation that is the juice and savor of pure experience. But this would be an experience without the adornment of words. Words are a filtering membrane through which experience percolates before it dances on the nerves.
The urge to arrive at a pure experience is a journey of bone and skin, muscle and blood. It comes down to the body. Toes, hands, hair, eyes, knees, everything in this envelope of flesh that connects my being in the world with that world as immediate as possible. Sensation is a product of nerves. It gets to the brain in electrical impulse where it’s translated into lettuce, a woman’s touch, a man’s voice, a slice of bread popping up in the toaster, the electric smell of the air in Kansas before a tornado droops from the clouds and begins spinning debris in a whirl of radical energy.
William James coined the phrase “radical empiricism” to describe his notion of pure experience:
I give the name of 'radical empiricism' to my Weltanschauung. Empiricism is known as the opposite of rationalism. Rationalism tends to emphasize universals and to make wholes prior to parts in the order of logic as well as in that of being. Empiricism, on the contrary, lays the explanatory stress upon the part, the element, the individual, and treats the whole as a collection and the universal as an abstraction. My description of things, accordingly, starts with the parts and makes of the whole a being of the second order. It is essentially a mosaic philosophy, a philosophy of plural facts, like that of Hume and his descendants, who refer these facts neither to Substances in which they inhere nor to an Absolute Mind that creates them as its objects. But it differs from the Humian type of empiricism in one particular which makes me add the epithet radical.
To be radical, an empiricism must neither admit into its constructions any element that is not directly experienced, nor exclude from them any element that is directly experienced. For such a philosophy, the relations that connect experiences must themselves be experienced relations, and any kind of relation experienced must be accounted as 'real' as any thing else in the system. Elements may indeed be redistributed, the original placing of things getting corrected, but a real place must be found for every kind of thing experienced, whether term or relation, in the final philosophic arrangement.
Now, ordinary empiricism, in spite of the fact that conjunctive and disjunctive relations present themselves as being fully co-ordinate parts of experience, has always shown a tendency to do away with the connections of things, and to insist most on the disjunctions. Berkeley's nominalism, Hume's statement that whatever things we distinguish are as 'loose and separate' as if they had 'no manner of connection.' James Mill's denial that similars have anything 'really' in common, the resolution of the causal tie into habitual sequence, John Mill's account of both physical things and selves as composed of discontinuous possibilities, and the general pulverization of all Experience by association and the mind-dust theory, are examples of what I mean.
- from A World of Pure Experience, 1904
The pulverization of experience occurs as soon as we begin to classify, label, identify, analyze and organize our experience according to a model that we cultivate over time to give meaning to our perceptions. What we lose in pure experience we gain in cognition. All the sensations that comprised that experience lose their acuity but it would be wrong to say they’re lost. The process is similar to the refinement of ore. A mass of unrecognizable dirt and rock becomes a dinner set or a bridge, a car or an Eiffel Tower, a surgical instrument or French horn. It’s a process of metamorphosis. Of transformation. A sequence of events that never culminate in a single definitive end but keep metamorphosing in a network of balances and instabilities, attractions and repulsions.
A simple example will serve: I have a cut on the inside of my right middle finger. I got it from playing with Toby, our cat. He likes to chase a piece of ribbon, particularly that type of narrow ribbon with the little grooves in it so that you can run it over a sharp edge to make it curl. I swing it over his head, run it over the floor, hide it behind my back as he attempts to catch it with his mouth or claw. He leaps, pivots, lunges. He loves to play with this thing. He got me on the inside of my middle finger with a claw. This isn’t unusual. My right hand is generally constellated with little cuts where he has bit me or nabbed me with a set of claws. They usually don’t hurt. I’m often surprised to find myself bleeding. But the one on the inside of my middle finger really hurts. It feels like a paper cut. Maybe it’s because the skin has greater sensitivity in this area. It also seems slower to heal. The pain has a purity that resists artful assassination by analysis. It persists in exquisite particularity. It resists the attentions of intellect. There’s no meaning to it, no lesson in it, no symbolism or parable. It just hurts.
Meanwhile I use my index finger to tap the surface of the tablet that brings up the rue du Fauborg-Montmartre, no 7, Paris, France, where it is said that Isidore Ducasse, the author of Les Chants du Maldoror, passed away at the age of twenty-four, November 24th, 1870. I get a street view: the buildings appear to date from the nineteenth century and may be the ones in existence when he lived there. There’s a restaurant at street level called La Rose de Tunis serving Pizza, Panini, Crêpes, and Grilades. Next to it, on the corner, is a shop called Minelli which features shoes and women’s accessories. How much has changed since Isidore Ducasse, a.k.a. Le comte de Lautréamont, lived there and labored at his strange, magnificent book?
I tap Pandora and get an instrumental song by Johann Johannsson titled, in Icelandic, “Ég Átti Erfiða Æsku,” which appears to mean something like “I struggled in my youth.” The music is simple, strings, bells, drum, a sad, wistful, languishing melody punctuated by the rhythms of bells and drums.