Monday, May 28, 2007

memorial day

Jonesville, Indiana
Nobody knows; that's the thing. The sky is light and dark, and refractory, and it's inexpressible, Frank, the raw feeling that is felt by all of us who walked with you along these dirt roads. And the pigs won't eat, without you; nor the roosters brew; nor the cowboys ride; nor the tractors dance; and your laughter, without you... To say miss doesn't even touch it.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


There are also other things that feel as if they were solely constructed as obstacles. I want to say, other things in life, as if that broad category that includes death by absence would give the activity a greater actualization. But it seems to not be so. Would you die with me?, so the question goes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


""Flight"": I think might be related to the question of if there can be desire without expectation. This question was posed (I think in this form, apologies to the former, if this is distorted) late in a long day at a bar called the Rush Inn (I heard "the Russian"), and at the end of a conversation about fascism and what forms the conservative revolution takes in the contemporary world. Flighting and fighting present a limit for thinking about natural instincts. It is kind of a fun and interesting thing to consider the world as sorted into them and divided by them and accordingly governed by them or their forces, more generally--but I think that what has been getting me recently not at all that I don't think about the problems with them, or that I don't think about the other things that could replace these naturalized instincts--fright, foresight, feint--but that I haven't been thinking long enough or in enough detail about the differences that emerge between flight and fight, between any of these things--what these things are, or look like, what their universe consists of--but this might be something like the tissue-thin experientiality of the hypnosee, the fantasy of immediacy. Is that the relation to desire and expectation?

Monday, May 21, 2007

I fear that the question i have been trying to phrase--and also the question that has prevented me from quote doing what i really need to do is that of expression, and expressibility, expressiveness and all of the questions of what to do with one's own tendency towards nostalgic sentiments. And not only sentiments of nostalgia, but sentiments in general. Affect. But what that is is as enigmatic to me as certain other highly unspecified and yet robust things. Several weeks ago when going over notes that I made from reading Deleuze's book on Spinoza, I noted that it seemed that the formulation was something like affect is the turning from passivity into activity; this play and movement that is not unidirectional. But this seems to me to be my question as I write this blog that at times strikes me as being nostalgic and dripping with sentimentality. i also feel i drip nostalgia and am sentimental.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


is something that works, seemingly, because otherwise you would fall. i think that my fear of flying is related to the idea that flying is merely not falling. animal spirits of flight or fight are among the associations i am having (especially now that beatrice the kitten is, along with choco the dog, one of the inhabitants of our house). but i am also thinking of a decisive moment in the film Journey to Kafiristan in which the choice must be made to travel on to India or to return to Switzerland at the outbreak of World War II. The one journeyer (and National Geographic Society journalist) continues, and wants the other, Annemarie, to continue with her. Annemarie replies that she thinks that they should return, to where they could be useful during the war. She asks the other woman, "But what if you don't know it's you who is turning the wheel?" But flight is clearly the choice of the other woman, who doesn't want to be "useful." I often wonder about the fantasy involved in such a choice. The idea that if you don't do either you would fall is not necessarily elaborated, since flight is, in one way or another, generally synonymous with fall. But not falling presents another question. Marx, for example, in "The Secret of Primitive Accumulation" (Chapter 26 of Capital I), makes an analogy between primitive accumulation and the original sin. The fall of original sin is supposed to account for the division of the world into good and bad, in the same way that primitive accumulation is supposed to account for the division of the world into lazy rascals and the frugal elite. Marx's insight is that primitive accumulation is the point of departure for the capitalist mode of production, not its consequence. As "primitive," it is the pre-history of capital. The analogy with original sin is not played out, but Marx's critique of it implies that the myth of the fall (as with the myth of primitive accumulation) involves the type of certain uncertaintly that riddles the presentation of anything that, like flight or fight, seems necessary.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

expressive politics

My question is about how one can define, or understand, the latent, and also looming "political situation" that compels the need for extreme abstraction--what are the characterisitics of this political? I am thinking of an article that I read recently, which was published after the Virginia Tech shootings. The article draws a connection between the 33 people who lost their lives at Virginia Tech and the 230 people who lost their lives on that same day in Iraq. The article makes a distinction between the "instrumental" violence of American forces in Iraq and the "expressive" violence of Seung-Hui Cho, which is described as useless and as irrational. The article's insight is that the instrumental violence of Iraq might actually be, at this point, "expressive" violence. In this account, the political situation can be understood as one that has devolved into mere "expressiveness." I am suggesting that this might be one way of understanding the "depression" and the "exceptionality" of our current political situation, one which would call for the type of abstraction that you have described. On the other hand, what the article does not talk about or is not able to talk about is the idea that the Iraq war was only ever, in its mode of instrumentality, expressive violence--a violence and a politics that relies upon--and more pointedly, exploits--the consitutive confusion of instrumentality and expressivity. The "depressing" effect of the political situation in this account could be that expressivity is something that is masked by instrumentality, or to return to your work, that attraction and affect, in their negative and positive forms, is not seen to bear on the instrumental or useful purposes delimited by politics. In this case, it is the very elision of "expressivity" (or the epistemological) that is so troubling, because it seems that we would not want to or be able to talk about the instrumentality of Cho's act, and on the other hand about the expressivity of Bush's.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

plant tables

I have only ever seen two plant tables in my life, that I remember. This one is from my great aunt and uncle's house in Moab, Utah, where I visited this spring. Moab was not my original destination; I had said I was going to Montana, but anxiety about mountain driving and the idea of having someone who expected you on an otherwise unexpected road trip led me to Moab. It's funny to think that everything I thought I would see in Montana ended up on this table instead. I had never met my Aunt Toots or my Uncle Al, and in fact, the last time they both saw any of my family was for my parents wedding or perhaps some anniversary shortly after that. My Aunt Toots is my grandpa's little sister, and she had returned to Ohio when my grandma died 28 years ago. She remembered playing with my older brother, and I must have been around too. But in the 30 years since they've moved west, despite the my dad's promises of going to Moab some day (for as long as I can remember), no one from the family has ever made it out to visit them. And then there I was, 3 years to the day after my grandpa died, hoping, I think, to communicate in some way how very dear this man had been to me. We shared people, but it struck me how my whole life was a profound absence in their knowing of these people--not me, but the time of my life. I found it difficult to convey the dearness, and the sense that it seemed important to me that his life before me be as dear to them as his later life had been to me. And there were similarities--of sensibility, of gruffness, of thoughtful matter-of-factness, of sweetness--that I drew between my grandpa and his sister, but it was the uncanny plant table that stood between them. My grandpa had changed so little in his house after my grandma died; traces of her remained everywhere and mostly remained undisturbed, except a collection of porceloin animals on shelves that he moved because it became too much to dust. And so the plant table was a fixture, his perhaps filled more with pictures than with plants. None of the plants on either of the plant tables could be said to be that beautiful--and at times, I can say, I have thought that they seem dead, even, or not exactly alive. Or, I might say, they seem to be something to keep around, something that doesn't gather dust in the same way that other parts of the house do, something that needs care and implies order, like the gentle bringing of wishes to the surface, or of our dreams to our lives, or of our lives to what isn't lived.

Sunday, May 6, 2007


dear claude,
if these letters seem to be written to you or to be written about you, you are probably right for thinking so. claude is the name of person x, and also the name of the stuffed bird that lydia and becky bought for me in mexico. so claude, i must apologize if you see through the thin fiction of these postings--they were never meant for your eyes. if you have found them it is because of your own hidden desire to do so. i point this out because i know it is there; there have been times where i can see it--your hidden desire, manifest in many ways. i would not be one, as you know (if it is you i am writing to), to talk about hidden desire. but how? could? you? have?, claude? is a question. you, a silent songbird, a stuffed sexy-tailed sparrow,
yours if you can answer,

Friday, May 4, 2007

the last resort

has always seemed like a place, somewhere you could go, at least in your mind, if all other options seemed exhausted. i once met this very sad woman when i was selling my jewelry in ohio. she was not sad to the world; there she saw beauty, but the sadness was a tenor, red wine, wildly inexpressible. she told me she had gone to oberlin's bead paradise, not buying a thing. she said she wanted to wait for when she really needed it, when she didn't have anything left to go to. i don't remember her name. the earrings i made yesterday, three lines of batiked shell, are a part of the last resort. she told me not to change. i was 15 then. the earrings changed inevitably, but i think yesterday's she would like. the prescription not to change is perhaps part of the last resort, as is the sense that you can't choose to find yourself there. and it seems to remain to be a question about the illusion of choice, since once you're there, the sense is that you don't want to leave, even if it's the contradiction imposed by the situation that keeps you--the overwhelming sense that any choice you do make would be not the right one. As the title of one of Indian Jewelry's albums reads, "I hate it hear; i never want to leave." Deleuze (Expressionism in Philosophy), thinking about Spinoza, says it more dogmatically: "Individuals rarely "decide" in the strong sense of the term. What they mistake for their will is most often only ignorance of the passions which lead them to prefer certain actions to others."

the dream of the totalitarian mind

"The traumatic neuroses and the war neuroses may proclaim too loudly the effects of mortal danger and may be silent or speak only in muffled tones of the effects of frustration in love."
--Freud, "Introduction to Psychoanalysis and the War Neurosis"

Addressing the fifth annual Psychoanalytic Congress in Budapest in 1918, Freud argued that the work that had been done by psychoanalysis on treating peace-time neurosis could be extended to the treatment of war-time neurosis. Through this timely discussion of war neurosis before "official representatives from the highest quarters of the Central European Powers," Freud defended psychoanalysis against its dissenters, and also attempted to put the techniques of psychoanalysis to use in a larger social context. The paper, "The Psychoanalysis of War Neuroses" was later revised as the introduction to a collection of papers on war neurosis given at the Congress by Sandor Ferenczi, Karl Abraham, and Ernst Simmel. Freud "laments," in his introduction, that the ending of war resulted in the collapse of state organizations that were interested in the problem of mental illness. In the following year, Freud testified to the Austrian War Commission against the use of electric shock therapy as a treatment for war neurosis, concluding that the cause of war neurosis was without doubt "psychical," and recommended the use of psychoanalytic therapy instead of corrective electrical treatment. Freud acknowledges the operative logic of war that justified the treatment of war neurotics "as maligners," but ends up condemning medical professionals who "may have forgotten that the patient whom he was seeking to treat as a maligner was, after all, not one." His sensitivity to this confusion alludes to a violence that is measured in the slightest degree, by "the strength of the current." Drawing a parallel between degrees of "curative" violence and the extreme external violence of war, Freud addresses the complicated issue of treatment in Brechtian "dark times." He writes, "the insoluable conflict between the claims of humanity, which normally carry decisive weight for a physician, and the demands of a national war was bound to confuse his activity." The activity that Freud here testifies against revolves around the question of what it means to continue "care" for the recovery of a patient even when a time seems to demand that the "cure" of a patient be "the restoration of his fitness for service." My work on the strange silence of postwar poetry begins with the problem of complicity in the activity of war, and involves the implicit parallel between the autonomy of therapeutic care and artistic practices of estrangement and obscurity.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

the project

where does a strange silence begin? some have suggested that it is in the forest, the sound that a falling tree makes when no one is around to hear. at times, for brecht, it's the talked-about tree that is the strange silence. A Strange Silence is the title of the project, my dissertation, the thing that everything here is a footnote to, especially the poems, since they are the leaves, what is left over.

from 4/4/07//:

and the green fall to unsafe water:
welcome to the 21st century
let not many other things be spared--save your
happiness; this was Brecht's nightmare.
Humanity, the human dog, wants to let go
to forget, dismiss, judge, pee wherever it wants.
a condition remiss, or a saying unheard.
in the woods, we are all quiet; it is solace.
and save to other things, too, save to find yourself
alone. the distance is unmarked. cross-hatches
are what i saw in the desert and didn't draw.
the things nightmares are made of
leave you with the distance
of their unmarkings.
becky's dreams are about writing (ask me
how i felt when my mom died. it's a feeling
i can't think of). i watch her grow.
communism is short-lived. the brown notebooks
are filled. you are always thinking of brecht.
his return is unsettling, a time
when autonomy in writing is needed.