Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Oh to feel that peasant (out of F. peser, to weigh, Melusine, ‘I shall gyue hym hys pesaunnt or weyght of syluer.’) veerage toward little & ungaud’d nothings. A desire to slot words into a tiny armature, care-burden’d. No more frivolous slinging.

See Lorine Niedecker:
Asa Gray wrote Increase Lapham:
pay particular attention
to my pets, the grasses.
(In New Goose.) Why? Because it makes me happy, a small kernel of delerium fire’d by a banderole of short a’s. Because it raises the minuscule up to the eyes of a man call’d Increase.

See Vuillard (Lady of Fashion, c. 1891-1892)

Rhyming with Rothko (Red, Orange, Tan, and Purple, 1949)

(Vuillard + Malevich = Rothko)

When the community wants to fix infinity, or trace its frontiers, it has recourse to conventions. That is why life takes on the aspect of . . . a huge nursery in which children play every possible sort of game, full of imagined rules; and in these games they live reality, build towers, castles, forts and towns, then demolish them, then rebuild them all over again . . .” (Kasimir Malevich, God Is Not Cast Down, quoted in T. J. Clark’s Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism)

Is today’s conventional fix un-undoable: the rules no longer imaginary? Infinity fix’d for an infinity. “We swivel benign in seats of mildew.”

La Sontag notes:

“The Cavaliere has returned to his study and reads, trying not to think about what is going on around him—one of the principal uses of a book.”

“Although no revolutionary voices were yet audible, the look of fellow travelers had already arrived: shorter hair for women, longer hair for men. Watch the evolution of hair styles among the educated class!”

“Who, other than the naïve or benighted, felt they must put into practice what they had enjoyed in a book . . . No, to read was precisely to enter another world, which was not the reader’s own, and come back refreshed, ready to bear with equanimity the injustices and frustrations of this one. Reading was balm, amusement—not incitement.”

“. . . the hero is a romantic: that is, his vanity was matched by an inordinate capacity for humility when his affections were engaged.”

“. . . the Romantics inaugurated the modern cult of thinness . . .”

A castello in Sicily: “. . . the horse with human hands, the Bactrian camel with two women’s heads for humps, the goose with a horse’s head, the man whose face sprouted an elephant’s trunk and whose hands were vulture’s claws.”

“. . . the impression of the grotesque was replaced by the impression of an immense sarcasm . . . the prince’s temperament was a demented variant of the collector’s . . . To piece together fragments of costly porcelain with chunks of kitchenware—was this not merely a mocking echo of the democracy of objects . . . [The objects] did not say . . . look at all the beauty and interest there is in the world. They said: the world is mad. Ordinary life is ridiculous . . . Anything can turn into anything else . . . An ordinary object can be made from . . . anything. Any shape can be deformed. Any common purpose served by objects balked.”

“The prince had taken the curiosity and avidity of the collector to its terminal state, where the attachment to objects releases an ungovernable spirit of raillery.”

Or the attachment to words.

How come vocabulary’s always got semantics—that tagalong!—nipping its heels, juicing it for all its worth? I say vocabulary’s like a blab, a bitten off, behove’d, unthawable, and barnacle’d stench. Singe’d with ball-heyday’d monkeydom. Scorch’d with excrudescence & damascene’d with twang. Go sing a ruthless meaning if you’d ruther. Meaning’s anybody’s guess. It rides a tippy sidecar, is lucky to make it home.