Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The profundity of philosophy
is covered by its judicious obscurity.

The pretention of poetry
is supported by its sublime violence.

"One thinks that one is tracing the outline of the thing's nature over and over again, and one is merely tracing round the frame through which we look at it." (Wittgenstein, PI§114)

The material fact
of social acts,
the structure under
the texture.

A concept,
an emotion.
A thought
a feeling.

The calm mind,
and a heartbeat:
skull and bones,
flesh and blood.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Philosophy barely
makes sense.
A poem only just
moves you.

Therein lies
their precision:
their clarity,
their intensity.


When you have come to understand a philosophical proposition immediately, it has ceased to be philosophical for you. It has become a statement of science, a piece of knowledge. Likewise when a poem seizes you completely and forces your obedience, it is no longer a poem. It has become a policy, a locus of power. Philosophers and poets do, in fact, sometimes succumb to the temptation to seek the authority of scientists and politicians. Alternatively, they may hone a contradiction or venture a seduction, they may traffic in paradoxes or cavort with paramours. They become sages and lovers. None of this is art.

The imprecision of our
emotional lives
is not made necessary
by emotions themselves
but is made possible
by life as it is,
imprecise, all around us.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The essential thing in the poet,
said Ezra Pound,
is that he build us his world.

The correct method in philosophy,
said Ludwig Wittgenstein,
is to say only what can be said.

To write a poem about a song,
to philosophize about a painting—
is it our envy of the noisier, showier
artist, one with an actual public,
that moves us to annotate their work?

Once the culture has already committed
itself to a melody or an image,
we seize upon its intensity, its clarity
and offer our "refinement", as if
the artist's aim was just to entertain.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Let us not repeal
the rain just yet.
It has fallen for days
and I suspect
it has some purpose.

The scientist relates to nature through his method,
with which he holds his desire at a distance.

The politician relates to culture through his mandate,
with which he suspends our disbelief.

The artist relates to his nature and his culture
through suffering—through the distance between
his beliefs and his desires.

Lacking a method, the philosopher (an artist)
must suffer his detachment from desire.
Lacking a mandate, the poet
must suffer his detachment from belief.

The scientist need not suffer his detachment.
He has his apparatus. The politician need not suffer
his detachment. He has his machine.

Philosophers and poets are artists.
Unprepared. Without machination.
Only their suffering to represent them.

Monday, February 11, 2019

There may be some philosophy,
some poetry, in these lines.

But wisdom isn't like this.
Love is not like them.

There is no bone to break,
no flesh here to cut.

These frictionless planes
are only models of pain.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

I am pulled towards the "nothing",
but always find someone there.
I throw myself at "no one",
and something blocks my way.
I can escape existence
but only by way of inspiration;
I can cease to be only in becoming.

Philosophy is more than logic
as poetry is more than pathos.

Not pure reason but its application
in thinking the object of knowledge.

Not raw passion but its implications
for feeling the subject of power.

Science and ordinary sense deliver
the material basis of philosophy.

Politics and baser motives define
the social boundary of poetry.

The artist articulates experience,
thinks the object, feels the subject.

Logic: a frame
of language.
Pathos: a shift.

The structure of space,
in beams; and, in pulses,
the texture of time.

So the heart pounds
in the body
and the mind strains.

The culture,
its desires,
shapes the world
around you,
its places and things.

Call it experience.

Its people, its rhythm,
within you,
drives your history
your beliefs,
your nature.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Neither poetry
nor philosophy
can be a merely
formal exercise.

A philosophy must
express belief,
a poem must
express desire.

The formality
of the presentation
of concepts and
emotions, is not

We need a thought,
a feeling, i.e.,
some contentment.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

"This" and "these",
remember, are
within the universe
of the poem.

If I could speak in plain language
with my friends
and the women I have touched,
would I write these poems?

What you bring about
is the not the whole reason
I want you here. Leaves
have been falling for days
and these aren't why
I've been thinking of you.
There is a view, at night,
through my window,
on the neighborhood below—
the lights in the windows
when everyone's still up.
I think of them as far away,
but you, in that other city,
who have seen these lights,
from that same window,
are very close. I am here.

A poem takes
a sort of largese
with time.

Philosophy opens
a clearing,
a generosity of sorts
with space.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

The soul suffers
the predicament
of the flesh
between the seeing
and the doing.

Friday, February 01, 2019

The state of nature
conceptual order.

Cultural change
emotional discomfort.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The observable fact is to science what
the negotiable act is to politics.

Your science is not experimental (i.e., modern)
if your facts are not observable.

Your politics are not deliberative (i.e., modern)
if your acts are not negotiable.

The successful observation yields a discovery.
The successful negotiation yields a decision.

At some point you see what's true.
At some point you do what's right.

In the calm
beyond the theory,
on the path
beneath the method,
between the poem
and your philosophy,
you'll find
that things
are what they are
on their own,
and that people
become themselves
among each other.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Psychology is committed to denying the existence of the soul or to telling us how it works. To say that it is "epiphenomenal"—that it exists but does nothing—is a cop out. To say that it does nothing, but that everything happens to it, is untenable. Psychology must tell me either how my actions might damage my soul or persuade me that it does not exist at all.

There is no justice
in the world.
There's still some truth in it,
but a world
is no place
for justice.
If that's what you want,
you'll have to make history.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

"How to write: go to your nation and strive." (Barrett Watten)

* * *

Think of your nation
not as the place of your birth
but as the people
among whom you were born.

Friday, January 18, 2019

A tempo is to the now
as a locale is to the here.

Our places and the times.

The opposite of composure
is distemper. Time, dislocated.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

When the Emergency Becomes Articulate

(Reflections on Leonard Cohen's answer to a question about the line, "I am ready, my Lord.")

The poet seeks obedience, the origin
of desire, as the philosopher seeks
understanding, the end of belief.

The philosopher disentangles essences
and accidents; the poet's inspiration arrives
"when the emergency becomes articulate."

The essence of a thing is the basis of its
intelligibility. Personality
emerges from the willingness to serve.

The Poet and the Politician

(Lines written after watching Leonard Cohen and Al Gore discuss the catastrophe.)

The poet is to the politician
as the philosopher to the scientist,
the latter's dogged clarity to
the former's first intensity.

The philosopher makes us think
about what we know.
The poet makes us feel
for those we master.

The poet extricates the emotion
from the forces of history.
The philosopher extricates
the concept from the world.

The politician peddles hope
The scientist promotes the future,
while our poets and philosophers
worry our doubts and our despair.

The philosopher must address
the scientist with utmost humility.
Oh, poet, how hard it must be
to muster your politeness!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Here's what happened.
No, here's what I think happened.
No, here's how I felt at the time
that it happened. No, I saw
something happening right before
my eyes but I wasn't sure
what to make of it.
I'm still not sure what happened.
I'll tell you what. Something
happened. It happened to me.
No. Dear God. What have I done?

Monday, January 07, 2019

Perspicuity is to philosophy
as intensity to poetry.