Saturday, July 30, 2005

Writing Beyond Words

Before I started this blog, Gary Norris was running an interesting discussion at the old Dagzine, where Wittgenstein's puzzlement over Kleist came up.

Kleist wrote somewhere that what the poet would most of all like to be able to do would be to convey thoughts by themselves without words. (What a strange admission.) (Culture and Value, p. 15)*

I thought of this when reading Frege's "On the Aim of the Conceptual Notation". He writes,
I did not wish to present an abstract logic in equations, but rather to bring a content more precisely and more perspicuously to expression than is possible through words. (My translation from the essay, printed as an appendix in the 1998 Georg Olms Verlag edition of Begriffsschrift, p. 97).

Consider a poetical transposition of this aim:

I did not wish to present a concrete passion in spells, but rather to bring a context more precisely and more intensely to expression than is possible through words.

I think the "modernism" of Pound and Wittgenstein lay in jettisoning precisely this sentiment. I.e., they sought to do things as precisely (whether qua perspicuity or intensity) as was possible through words. Words stopped being the enemy of expression and took their rightful place as materials.

I wonder if it is too much of a stretch to say that the way Wittgenstein moved beyond Frege's influence on Russell (the aim of a formal expression to replace words in conveying thoughts) was akin to the way Pound moved beyond Kleist's influence on Yeats (the aim of a substantial expression to replace words in conveying feelings).

I know almost nothing about the relation of Kleist to Yeats.


*Von Wright gives us the source of this remark as Kleist's "Letter from one Poet to Another", January 5, 1811. Which is confirmed by Doro Franck, here, who offers an interesting discussion of Kleist's point.

The "Letter" is a critical response to the compliments he received from another poet for the perfection of his use of poetic forms like rhythm, sound and verse. Kleist concludes from this appraisal that his colleague had not understood his intentions at all. All his (Kleist's) efforts are directed towards the one goal: to draw total attention to the thought that is expressed. Good form enables the spirit (Geist) to manifest directly, as if unmediated, or, in Pessoa's words, without the corridor between thought and word; while bad form draws attention to itself like a distorting mirror. Here we are obviously back at the theme of self-consciousness and affectation.

Obviously, Kleist and Wittgenstein have a similar stylistic ideal...

Which is not yet obvious to me.

The State of the Manuscript

In the introduction to the online catalogue of Wittgenstein's papers at Trinity College, we find the following comment.

Reducing his philosophy for the printed page was difficult for Wittgenstein, and the state of his manuscripts reflect this.

Note that there is something distinctly odd about transposing this statement for poetic purposes.

Reducing his poetry for the printed page was difficult for Pound, and the state of his manuscripts reflect this.

This is back to my old point about there being nothing quite like a "poem" in philosophy. While it does not strike us as immediately odd to hear that there is an important distinction between Wittgenstein's philosophy and his writing, saying that there is a big difference between Pound's poetry and his writing is very odd.

I know there are poets out there who claim that their written work is incidental to their poetic process, and I think this claim actually shows how much a "philosophical" sensibility has influenced modern poetry. It is now possible to distinguish between the poetry and the poems of a given poet.

In the case of Wittgenstein, however, as the rest of the quoted paragraph from Trinity College shows, the writing was exactly identical with the philosophy.

He expressed his ideas in the form of remarks, which he constantly rewrote, re-organised and repeated in manuscripts and typescripts, sometimes cutting typescripts up into individual remarks which could easily be re-arranged.

Here his process looks very much like that of a poet. Wittgenstein finished some of his work, but the unfinished nachlass probably looks a bit like the files of Ezra Pound.

What Wittgenstein's philosophy "was" beyond his most finished works (like the Philosophical Investigations and, before that, the Tractatus) was not "difficult to get down on the page" but simply not yet worked out, i.e., not yet organised and arranged as written remarks. We should really ask, where do Wittgenstein's archivists imagine Wittgenstein's "philosophy" was located before it was so imperfectly committed to his notes? I think Wittgenstein would be the first to insist on the absurdity of this question.

PS. It is especially the idea of a writing as "reduction" that we must be careful with when applied to poetry and philosophy.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Burlesk Investigations

In 1954, Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations was published and so was e.e. cummings' i. Wittgenstein asks, "why do we feel a grammatical joke to be deep?" and notes parenthentically that "that is what the depth of philosophy is" (PI§111). On page 64, cummings quotes himself from a 1926 foreword on the topic of technique.

I can express it in fifteen words, by quoting The Eternal Question And Immortal Answer of burlesk, viz. "Would you hit a woman with a child?--No, I'd hit her with a brick." Like the burlesk comedian, I am abnormally fond of the precision which creates movement.

Naturally, the thing to notice here is simply the way the words "with a brick" shift the meaning of the words "with a child". Such shifts are the core of poetic technique, as cummings sees it. Wittgenstein believed also that such puns were the stuff of philosophy, though I think he may have been abnormally unfond (as cummings might put it) of them. Wittgenstein would look for the precision which arrests movement (of this kind), producing sense, or at the least exposing the logic of that sense.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Mona Lisa at the Family Circus

Couple of things I got to thinking about reading Kasey's latest. First, I'm not sure there is such a thing as "neutral eclecticism". In any case, what he describes as such (liking banana splits AND creme brulees) seems just to be a matter of liking different instances of things in the same category. In order for one's tastes to be eclectic there must be tension in the things one likes. There must be a puzzle to solve.

I think "bland eclecticism" is well-captured by the slogan, "hey, whattaya want, I'm eclectic," which (normally) indicates a sensibility that is various in its tastes only because it isn't discerning. It doesn't take the problem of reconciling tastes seriously.

But I'm not sure that hot eclectism should be understood mainly (or even at all) in terms of the ability "cogently to theorize the dissonance" between tastes. I think hotly eclectic tastes must be immanent to a collection of "aesthetic predilections". Indeed, a cogent rationale risks centring one's tastes to a single source of judgment, showing that one isn't really eclectic at all. This is basically a Wittgensteinian or Poundian argument against summarizing anything as important as this in a theoretical generalization, cogent or otherwise. If someone wants to account for thinking of both the Mona Lisa and a panel from the Family Circus as art, even as good or interesting art, then no amount of argument will do. Either the person will have no sense of what art is or she will have a set of further predilections that in and of themselves indicate the artistry of Bil Keane (which I imagine is where the splaining must be done).

Someone who likes a poem of Ron Silliman's and one of Billy Collins' has either selected these poems very carefully along with the rest of the work she likes (making her possibly hotly eclectic and possibly not eclectic at all) or has not read very much poetry very carefully (making her blandly eclectic). But we can only decide which is the case by asking her to flesh out the list of poems she likes beyond the two that puzzle us.

Finally, Kasey's remarks on the relational qualities of art got me thinking about the museum and newspaper contexts, i.e., the medium in which the work is presented. I imagine the Mona Lisa works (as art) in the Louvre (though I also imagine that context to be a real trial for its aesthetic value) just as the Family Circus works (though it too can be a trying experience) in a newspaper (as entertainment). The trick is to think of a way of contextualizing the relevant panel from the Family Circus successfully in a museum. That would make it art, though much of the credit would go the artist/curator. Likewise, it is difficult to imagine that printing the Mona Lisa in a newspaper would yield an interesting aesthetic experience (in the ordinary newspaper reader). But it often proves to be "entertaining" (divertente) in the "arts and culture section" sort of way, which is by no means to da Vinci's credit.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Perspicuity and/or Intensity

Leaving the question of whether it is the business of philosophers or poets to write them on the side, consider the way in which texts may be said to be perspicuous or intense. Wittgenstein, following Frege, strove for the "perspicuous presentation" of his remarks (PI§122), while Pound looked for the "first intensity" in his presentation of details (cf. Gaudier-Brzeska). We can choose to ignore Wittgenstein's fame as a philosopher and Pound's fame as a poet. We can then look at the operations that produce perspicuity and intensity in themselves, regardless of whether they make for essentially philosophical or poetical writing. I think we will find, however, that intensity in writing is characteristic of feelings that are contained by precise emotions and that clarity is characteristic of thoughts that are informed by precise concepts. (This is note quite as rigorous as I would like it to be: it makes it look like some writing "expresses feelings" when all it can really ever do is "present emotion". It is the experience of having one's feelings contained by these exceptionally precise emotions, duly noted in a good poem, that I am here calling "intensity" or, with Burke, "enthusiasm".)

Experience is intense and clear in proportion to the precision of our suffering.

In his treatise on the sublime, Edmund Burke proposed that there is a tradeoff between these two experiences and therefore a sort of economy in the allocation of resources to the operations that produce them in writing. Clarity is the enemy of enthusiasm, he said. A text can be either perspicuous or intense; it will be obscure in the degree to which it is intense, languid to the degree to which it is clear.

But nothing of course guarantees that a languid text will be clear. Burke's argument is that the introduction of clarity to a presentation will, all things being equal, work against whatever efforts one might be making to foster enthusiasm. In fact, I think a sober assessment of Wittgenstein's work will bear this point out. His remarks are crystalline in their clarity (for the most part), but there is nothing (besides the compulsion for clarity itself) that drives your reading forward. There is an enormous amount of languor in the Investigations. That is not say that there are no moments of intensity in that work, only that these are not, as it were, its defining moments.

With equal and opposite force, the same can be said of the Cantos. These are largely an obscure, intense reading experience. There is, to be sure, a characteristically "modern" intention in them, which would make itself clear. But again and again we see it subordinated to the first intensity (as was already the case with "In a Station of the Metro").

[For those who are keeping track at home: truth is the first virtue of belief; justice is the first virtue of desire; perspicuity is the first virtue of thought; intensity is the first virtue of feeling. The precision of objects fosters (but does not guarantee) truth; the precision of subjects fosters justice; the precision of concepts fosters clarity in suffering (perspicuity); the precision of emotions foster enthusiasm in suffering (intensity).]

It is important to keep in mind that we are here working with texts and the processes that produce them. Clarity is a virtue of text, but so is intensity, and you often end up having to choose. What you are choosing is basically whether you want the text to contribute to the precision of suffering in thought or in feeling.

Maybe this still divides experience too much into heart & head for some writers. It seems obvious to me that we sometimes use our heads, and sometimes our hearts. If we don't concentrate our efforts our compositions will suffer. And that's our job: to suffer precisely. That's my hunch, anyway.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Essential Business of Texts

Wittgenstein wrote the Tractatus on the premise that "the essential business of language is to assert and deny facts" (Russell's introduction). In §23 of the Investigations he makes a list of other things we can do with words, noting how "the multiplicity of the tools in language" compares with "what logicians have said about the structure of language" (including his own earlier effort).

A craftsman is defined by his tools.

As I said last weekend, I've come to see the ridiculousness of my concern with what might be called "the essential business of poetry". The coments I have received on this idea all seem to be a variation on Wittgenstein's §23, i.e., a note to that part of the mind that wants to get its ideas in order, assigning each faculty its own tidy little task.

But I think we have remember that this rage for order is only ridiculous within the language (the form of life) as a whole. I think it does make sense to say that there are varieties of "rhetoric": scientific, political, philosophical and poetic. These target different problems of living: the problem of belief, the problem of desire, the problem of thought, and the problem of feeling. In so far as they are textual exercises, they consists in "note taking", notation, each having its own theme to be noted: objects, subjects, concepts, and emotions. Mastery of notation is mastery of a craft. Different texts emerge under the auspices of each of these crafts.

My error has been to think that there might be a "pure" form of each text, and to suggest that the handiwork of the remaining crafts should be banished from each textual form. This would deform the life of the text, is what I think I hear people saying.

More later.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Languid Listening

If Lester Bangs were alive today, he'd know exactly
why Miles Davis used to call Branford Marsalis "the police".

Ron Silliman
(Comment to Silliman's blog, May 27, 2005)

Get the fuck off the stage.
Miles Davis to Wynton Marsalis, onstage at
the Vancouver Jazz Festival, 1986

I think Kasey gets it right about the lack of any genuine "pop" version of poetry, which makes us look (both in jazz and poetry) for mass-selling aberrations to identify the true "sell out". (In popular music this is a difficult category since selling out -- namely, the show -- is a respectable activity. As Kasey points out, you can't really make sales an embarrassment for U2 or the Stones.) This is where Kenny G and Billy C come up.

(For the record Kenny G=Billy Colllins.)*

I think also the idea that, on this logic, Ron Silliman is the Pat Metheny of poetry is at least an avenue to pursue. Though I'm well out of my depth here, it seems clear to me that Pat and Ron are better at their art (or "instrument") than Kenny and Billy. Ron and Pat also seem to be more technically knowledgeable, both in their real work and their online commentary (Metheny's remarks read a bit like Silliman's though they are obviously less carefully written). I have a lot to learn about how get them, however, because they're just so, well, inaccessible.

Billy and Kenny are very accessible. And I imagine much of this is about the sense in which their work makes for "easy" listening or reading. Kenny G's Classics in the Key of G (this is not made up) is what got stuck in Metheny's craw, just as Billy's 180 More got stuck in Ron's. Terry Wood's editorial review of Kenny G's efforts is polite until the last sentence. "Languid listening from start to finish." (Fast fact from Google: "languid listening" means (1) Willie Nelson and (2) Kenny G.)

Consider Collins' own compositional principle, which he offered in an inaugural interview with the Library of Congress:

I'm trying to modulate--I'm trying to mix serious poems with lighter poems. And I'm trying to create, you know, a mix of the two faucets. I don't want it to be just amusing and I don't want it to be too much gravitas. I'd say that really is a guiding principle for the way I compose poetry.

Billy Collins writes intentionally luke warm poems. I wonder if Wood meant it as a compliment? I'm sure Collins thinks he meant "standing firm in the middle" (Pound/Kung) but couldn't get his mind around a fitting image.

But there's still the Marsalis Bros. connection to think about. Let's say Robert Creeley is the Miles Davis of poetry. Whom would he call "the police"? Who would he tell to get the fuck of the stage?

Maybe this is all just barking up the wrong tree. Consider "Snow Day", "Portrait of the Reader at the Breakfast Table", "I Ask You". Billy Collins is the Bil Keane of poetry. Poems of suburban comfort. Meanwhile ...

Bono breathes into a microphone,
Outside, it's America
Outside, it's America


*For an earlier version of this equation see Paul Stephen's "An Apology for Poetry, or, Why Bother with Billy Collins" (Drunken Boat #4,Spring 2002): "He is a very bad poet. At best, he is a very mediocre humorist.//Billy Collins is to good poetry what Kenny G is to Charlie Parker; what sunset paintings at the mall are to Jackson Pollock; what Rod McKuen is to Walt Whitman; what Tori Spelling is to Lana Turner; what the burkha is to lingerie; what the Backstreet Boys are to the Beatles; what George W. Bush is to the art of extemporaneous speech; what Osama bin Laden is to women’s liberation; what Dan Quayle is to spelling; Billy Collins is to poetry what the New Age/Mysticism section in the bookstore is to the Philosophy section, assuming that those two sections haven’t been conflated yet down at your local Barnes and Noble."

Billy C

Kasey and Jonathan are really on to something. Without committing myself to any particular homologies or analogies, note what happens when we replace "Kenny G" with "Billy Collins", "music" with "poetry", and "Pat Metheny" with "Ron Silliman" in this (registration required) very funny interview piece on "Mr. Gorelick" (his detractors seem to love calling him by his real name) by Mike Zwerin at Culture Kiosk.

Millions and millions of units sold. Collins' success gets a lot of poetry people mad. [Nobody really] come[s] close in sales. Collins can't really say what's different between his style and [everyone else's], but he does hint, accompanied by expressive eye-contact, that his poetry must be better than theirs because he sells more books than they do. I am not making this up.

An angry critique of Collins by the poet Ron Silliman has recently been widely circulated on the internet*. Silliman is correct but he wastes his time and energy. The poetry isn't good enough to deserve an intelligent analysis. There's nothing new about the success of dumb poetry. The fight against vulgar and dishonest poetry is long lost. Better to spend your time reading Goethe.

Critics describe his poetry as bland, sappy, shallow, soporific, and boring. Some people call it "yuppie poetry." Billy does not believe that yuppie is meant in a flattering way. It's not something he'd like to see on his tombstone. But it doesn't really bother him. Yuppies are people who are better educated getting those accounting firm jobs, the advertising firms and the lawyers. He's not saying they're better people, but they need to relax more than blue-collar people. It's fine either way. Nobody's better than anybody or anything but if it's true that yuppies are under more pressure, then his kind of poetry seems to relax them. It's just a theory he has. Might be 100 percent wrong. Probably is.

More later.


* It is actually interesting to read Metheny's remarks about Kenny G. There are two longish statements to supplement his early formula "Kenny G sucks". It seems that the first came on Kenny G's 44th birthday on Metheny's own message board. Metheny spends a lot of time arguing for why hating G is actually a significant aesthetic stance, even a duty, and offers the following succinct critique of his style of playing: "lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up". In a follow up to this statement he takes up the "It's only Kenny G" objection to even talking about it, and puts it in perspective:

people's words and opinions about music, mine included ("stature" be damned), especially when jotted down, are largely for the pleasure of the language, they mostly have less to do with the music in question than the cultural point of view that they are offered in and usually intrinsically designed to illuminate/ castigate/ defend/ whatever.
Mutadis mutandis?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Way of the Place (a callisthenic)

for Jay Thomas

The place we meet is the way we part. We find the place as we lose our way, losing our place as we find the way. This is because the way departs from the real just as the place recedes from the ideal. (The place has its horizon and the way its direction.) The way is always to come, is everywhere up ahead (that is what "now" means), just as the place never passes, is forever under foot (what "here" means). A place is an interrelation of things that determines an objective space. (Things themselves are in their places, occupying the space constituted by correlated objects.) A way is a personal disposition that determines a subjective time. (People themselves are on their way, passing the time constituted by situated subjects.) "It" is "thus" in space just as "I" become "myself" through time. The place is the "this" of spatial relation, just as the way is the "my" of temporal position. "Baby, I love your way (when you mind your place)." Suffering is the long space in the meantime (that is what "mean" means). The place disposes of the way (hides my tracks), relays time (now and then, the way passes through the place) and the way interpolates the place (finds its feet), poses space (here and there, the place gives way).

I am now on my way. Later, then I will rest.
It is here in this place. Elsewhere, there it will go.

Good morning.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Poetry and/or Philosophy

Kasey says,

The poetry/philosophy distinction, like most such distinctions, dissolves at various points along a spectrum of overlapping objectives and methodologies. Wittgenstein is perhaps an exemplary case of someone who exhibits considerably equally balanced traits of both species. Various language poets and objectivists and William Wordsworth and Lucretius carry mixed bags as well.

Jonathan says,"I'm not that interested in this particular distinction. That is to say, I'm interested mainly in texts in which this distinction isn't so easy to make."

Taken along with the comments from Jay, Stower and Laura on the post I made just before I took that break, I've got something to think about this week and I'll report back on the weekend.

There is no doubt that I would prefer for there to be two distinct systems of notation, two distinct textual operations, what have you, one called poetry, the other philosophy, and that each would set out specific tasks, define specific professional specialties, etc. I feel the same way about science and politics, for example. It is both a normative and an empirical issue for me. I think people should specialize and I think people largely do specialize. There really are poets and philosophers, politicians and scientists, and there also should be. Individual people may of course do a variety of things, but they do and should do this quite specifically and intentionally. Or that's what I have believed up til now, or thought I was assuming.

I'll be thinking about it, like I say.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Paraphrase III

Jonathan Mayhew got us started on this question of what Kasey has been calling "the meaning of poetry". Mayhew asked us to consider "the idea that poetry is a distinctive kind of thinking, that cannot be replaced by paraphrase." That's his emphasis, but I would have added it if he hadn't. Regulars will know what I'm about to say. No it's not. Poetry is a distinctive kind of writing, and in so far as it involves a spiritual operation, it is not thinking but feeling.

Poems are 'about' feelings, but the problem is that nothing can be about feelings properly speaking. You can represent a body as a person (as lawyers do) or as things (as doctors do) but you can't represent their feelings. The closest we come is to notice an emotion and poetry is the distinctive form of writing that helps us to do this. It is emotional notation.

Philosophy is conceptual notation in the same sense, i.e., thoughts cannot be represented. They can be given presence, and this will always involve noticing a concept or set of concepts. Philosophy is the form of writing that occasions such awareness.

It is because paraphrase represents the text that is being paraphrased that it is incapable of doing philosophy, though it may have something to say "about" a philosopher.

Consider Wittgenstein's "private language argument". These three words name a whole series of famous paraphrases of (normally) §244-271 of the Philosophical Investigations. But none of these accomplish what Wittgenstein did, and all make the mistake of supposing that Wittgenstein was simply "dressing up" some of his philosophical opinions.

But Wittgenstein is really (just?) giving us an occasion to do "a distinctive kind of thinking", namely, philosophizing, and this activity is never represented in a paraphrase of his theses (which he explicitly said he didn't have, cf. §128). The urge to think otherwise depends on believing that we know what Wittgenstein "means", or that the relevant struggle is to "get his meaning". Like poetry, I think philosophy makes different demands of us when reading.

This is one way of understanding what Wittgenstein meant when he said, "I should not like my writing to spare other people the trouble of thinking. But, if possible, to stimulate someone to thoughts of his own" (PI, preface). One can almost imagine T. S. Eliot saying "I should not like my writing to spare other people the trouble of feeling." This is actually debatable, but he certainly would not want to do so by having readers replace their feelings with his.

Philosophy provides us with texts that occasion conceptual awareness and therefore not only stimulate thought, but makes our thinking more effective. Poetry makes us aware of our emotions, stimulating feeling . . . and making us "feel better" (i.e., more effectively, more efficiently). Both mean nada.

Paraphrase II

The idea that poetry cannot be paraphrased is, to my mind, a sound one. I think Kasey has been doing a good job of showing us what is at stake. I especially like his point that something can of course be learned by paraphrasing. Getting students to paraphrase Shakespeare is a perfectly respectable critical activity.

Paraphrasing, Kasey says, is somehow related to the 'propositional content' of a poem. This leads me to the following suggestion: poetry cannot be paraphrased, but poems can. I take 'paraphrasing' always to be a matter of writing a series of prose sentences that say 'what the poem says' in other words (prosaicly rather than poetically). One thing that is necessarily lost in paraphrase (or only accidentally retained) is the prosody of the poem, and I would add that along with this (but not just because of this) its poetry is also lost.

Poems do have propositional content but that is not what poems are essentially 'about'. In fact, the problem here is that poems are not essentially (only accidentally) about anything. They find themselves willy-nilly representing things and people along the way, but that is not what they are trying to do. They are acts of pure presentation.

A paraphrase can summarize the presentational 'effects' of a poem. Pound's suggestion to read for 'phanopoeia' (imagery), 'melopoeia' (sound), and 'logopoeia' (argument) is one useful example. So you can image a paraphrasing that amounts to a catalogue of effects presented as a series of propositions.

Suppose a poem casts a red wheelbarrow on your visual imagination. Well, a paraphrase might describe the wheelbarrow in greater detail, indicating how it works, how many wheels it has (one), the handles, the principle of the lever it is based on, etc. This paraphrase may also cast a red wheelbarrow onto the visual imagination. But it will be a different wheelbarrow. It will also have been less efficiently projected into your imagination, i.e., it will have been less poetic.

The paraphrase is about the poem and about a wheelbarrow. But the poem is not about the wheelbarrow. Indeed, much talk about the wheelbarrow may actually be an interpretational error, for "this is not the thing. In the galvanic category of-- The same things exist, but in a different condition when energized by the imagination," as Williams says. Nothing depends on the wheelbarrow or the chickens; what is at stake is the image.

A paraphrase is like the map that is never the territory, except when it stops being a map. It will often have too little of one kind of detail and too much of another. Paraphrasers often wonder whether they shouldn't just quote the whole poem, but then remember that they are trying to draw attention to parts of it for specific reasons.

A paraphrase says what a poem does, but it does not do it. And only ever partly.

The next step is to show that this holds also for philosophy.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Kasey has been writing some very interesting posts lately about the value of paraphrasing poetry. I'll try to comment on them in detail on the weekend, and pick up again on the related question of the difference between poetry and philosophy. As a prelude to that, here's a reprise of something I did back in November.

The last sentence of Heidegger’s essay “The Turning” as it appears in William Lovitt’s translation from The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays (p. 49) reads

"May world in its worlding be the nearest of all nearing that nears, as it brings the truth of Being near to man’s essence, and so gives man to belong to the disclosing bringing-to-pass that is a bringing into its own."

When I first started this blog I offered what I thought of as a "reading" of this sentence, but which is really a kind of paraphrase, a series of paraphrases, a serial paraphrase. The trick is to try to replace bits of the sentence one at a time with less metaphysical and more ordinary formulations more or less in accordance with Heidegger's terminology in Being and Time.

Watch what happens. Is this what Heidegger "meant"?

May the world in its worlding be the nearest of all nearing that nears, as it brings the truth of Being near to man’s essence, and so gives man to belong to the disclosing bringing-to-pass that is a bringing into its own.

May things be the nearest of all nearing that nears, as they bring the truth of Being near to man’s essence, and so give man to belong to the disclosing bringing-to-pass that is a bringing into its own.

May things be in hand as they bring the truth of Being near to man’s essence, and so give man to belong to the disclosing bringing-to-pass that is a bringing into its own.

May things be in hand as they bring disclosure near to man’s essence, and so give man to belong to the disclosing bringing-to-pass that is a bringing into its own.

May things be in hand as they bring disclosure near to man’s accomplishments, and so give man to belong to the disclosing bringing-to-pass that is a bringing into its own.

May things be in hand as they bring disclosure near to man’s accomplishments, and so allow man to appropriate the disclosing bringing-to-pass that is a bringing into its own.

May things be in hand as they bring disclosure near to man’s accomplishments, and so allow man to appropriate the open accomplishment that is a bringing into its own.

May things be in hand as they bring disclosure near to man’s accomplishments, and so allow man to appropriate the open accomplishment that is an acquisition.

May there be equipment that brings disclosure near to man’s accomplishments and so allows man to appropriate the open accomplishment that is an acquisition.

May there be equipment that works and so allows man to appropriate the open accomplishment that is an acquisition.

May there be equipment that works and so allows man to acquire that which is in each case his.

May real things be given and so allow man to acquire that which is in each case his.

May real things be given so man may acquire that which is in each case his.

May real things be given so man may take what is his own.

May man take of the real things that are given what are his own.

May man do things that are his own.

Do your own thing, man.

This is a slightly retouched version of my original attempt. You can see it here along with some attempts to explain each step. I may return to this soon an clean those notes up as well.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

In and Out of the Blue

I'm going on vacation tonight and I should be packing. The Pangrammaticon will be resting for two weeks (should be back with something on the 16th). I have a lot of things still to deal with.

Phil and Kasey have gently tested some recent posts of mine, which I can see now could have been much more precise.

I have said that poetry, in principle, answers the question "Who am I?", which is to say, it presents an unambiguous moment of pure subjectivity (more or less successfully). If the subjectivity presented is ambiguous, as it often is, that is part of the poem and the moment of presention remains an unambiguous presentation of the ambiguous subject. (This kind of sentence calls for a vacation.)

Kasey responds that "poetry, it seems to me, is different: poetry's job seems to be to create such questions, sometimes out of the blue and for no real reason (though the reason may emerge after the fact)."

I think it is too much to demand of poetry that it "create questions". Kasey characterizes my view of philosophy as "analytic" and this may have something to do with my hesitation in the face of people who say that philosophy "creates concepts" (as Deleuze argues). I think the questions are there and that philosophers and poets can only hope to deal with them. Philosophers note concepts down in order to deal with the perpetual presence of the question, "What is it?" Poets deal with the question "Who am I?" by noting down the emotions that organize specific passages of desire into feeling. They do not produce desire or need, they note the structural contingencies of their passage into and out of the problems of living.

Also, the idea that poems come "out of the blue", strikes me as too naive to be useful to us, while "for no real reason" is right only because poems are generated by ideal passions (real reasons are the generative stuff of philosophy).

Finally, I want to emphasize that I see myself as a friend of both philosophy and poetry, not as one who hopes to expose poetry through philosophy. And with that I will go on vacation.