25 February 2014

Thoughts // Walt Whitman


OF the visages of things--And of piercing through to the accepted hells beneath;
Of ugliness--To me there is just as much in it as there is in beauty--And now the ugliness of human
beings is acceptable to me;
Of detected persons--To me, detected persons are not, in any respect, worse than undetected
persons--and are not in any respect worse than I am myself;
Of criminals--To me, any judge, or any juror, is equally criminal--and any reputable person is also--
and the President is also.


OF waters, forests, hills;
Of the earth at large, whispering through medium of me;
Of vista--Suppose some sight in arriere, through the formative chaos, presuming the growth,
fulness, life, now attain'd on the journey;
(But I see the road continued, and the journey ever continued;)
Of what was once lacking on earth, and in due time has become supplied--And of what will yet be
Because all I see and know, I believe to have purport in what will yet be supplied.


OF persons arrived at high positions, ceremonies, wealth, scholarships, and the like;
To me, all that those persons have arrived at, sinks away from them, except as it results to their
Bodies and Souls,
So that often to me they appear gaunt and naked;
And often, to me, each one mocks the others, and mocks himself or herself,
And of each one, the core of life, namely happiness, is full of the rotten excrement of maggots,
And often, to me, those men and women pass unwittingly the true realities of life, and go toward
false realities,
And often, to me, they are alive after what custom has served them, but nothing more,
And often, to me, they are sad, hasty, unwaked sonnambules, walking the dusk.


OF ownership--As if one fit to own things could not at pleasure enter upon all, and incorporate them
into himself or herself;
Of Equality--As if it harm'd me, giving others the same chances and rights as myself--As if it were
not indispensable to my own rights that others possess the same;
Of Justice--As if Justice could be anything but the same ample law, expounded by natural judges and
As if it might be this thing or that thing, according to decisions.


As I sit with others, at a great feast, suddenly, while the music is playing,
To my mind, (whence it comes I know not,) spectral, in mist, of a wreck at sea,
Of the flower of the marine science of fifty generations, founder'd off the Northeast coast, and going
down--Of the steamship Arctic going down,
Of the veil'd tableau--Women gather'd together on deck, pale, heroic, waiting the moment that draws
so close--O the moment!
O the huge sob--A few bubbles--the white foam spirting up--And then the women gone,
Sinking there, while the passionless wet flows on--And I now pondering, Are those women indeed
Are Souls drown'd and destroy'd so?
Is only matter triumphant?


OF what I write from myself--As if that were not the resumé;
Of Histories--As if such, however complete, were not less complete than my poems;
As if the shreds, the records of nations, could possibly be as lasting as my poems;
As if here were not the amount of all nations, and of all the lives of heroes.


OF obedience, faith, adhesiveness;
As I stand aloof and look, there is to me something profoundly affecting in large masses of men,
following the lead of those who do not believe in men.

13 February 2014

Three excerpts from an interview with Lisa Robertson

I think there is a strong relation between emotion and form, just as there is between emotion and bodies. In fact, they’re not different. It is my body that is angry, and that thinks, and that cuts through certain conventions to find ways of working with language that feel direct, liberatory. What we’re talking about here is bodies, their imperative to act. We can’t free bodies without listening to bodies, including our own.

But I want to say too that it has been crucial to continue to seek out, craft a balance, between solitude and social visibility. Retreat is also an economy. As well as developing social and political critiques, we need to nourish our inner lives. This is also something we can help each other with. The neo-liberal economy has put financial and institutional survival at the foreground of nearly every intellectual’s life. And as women we are conditioned to serve others. We can’t let this exigency obscure the parallel need to be improductive, to locate value otherwise. I am more and more Epicurean as time passes. I’m referring to the school of philosophy as examined living, not the popular myth of gourmandise. We need to form communities that help us live outside the general economy, to cultivate resistant paths of thought. I’m interested in exploring the notion of a feminist solitude. I’m interested in experimenting with time.

I believe that thinking is emancipatory. That is why it is frightening, to individuals and to political regimes and institutions. Thinking is a form of acting, an acting within the space of language. I don’t mean language in any autonomous sense. Language is already historical, it’s never not political and historical. To act within language is always to act among others, and in the temporality of others. We change language itself by thinking and writing. Other people’s thinking and writing has given me the space and the will to work. I hope to contribute to this quorum, however modestly, because this is what it means to live in history and in politics. It is already a world, already a utopia. I want to insist that creative and intellectual activity is real, although it’s situated outside the mainstream of the economy. The neo-liberal political economy is not real. It is violent, and aggressive because it wants to claim the space of reality in order to quantify it. What we are doing, speaking together, reading and publishing and critiquing one another’s texts, eating at tables and arguing, loving each other, giving life to one another, is already embodied utopia. That doesn’t mean it’s simple. It has to be reinhabited at each turn. This ongoing reinhabitation is the necessary amazement. It’s politics, it’s the future, and it’s happening in kitchens and in online spaces and classrooms and gardens right now. It’s a resistance.

Full text here.