Thursday, August 21, 2008


The word "thought" does nothing to define task of philosophy. The philosopher's task is not "to think". For, in that case, the philosopher would necessarily be thinking for others, and that is an absurdity.

We think for ourselves or not at all.

The philosopher brings us from the thought to the concept.

Likewise, it is not the task of the poet to feel. The poet brings us from the feeling to the emotion.

Thinking and feeling are not goals; they are experiences to be avoided. We are often forced to think and made to feel, that is true. But this is evidence only of the darkness of the world and the cruelty of history, our own confusion and the viciousness of others.

If our concepts and emotions were more precise, our thoughts would be clear and our feelings intense—at the limit, invisible, impalpable.

Feeling is a blockage in action, thought an obstruction in perception.

When you feel happy, your happiness is at an end.

When you think you are wise, you are not.

These are platitudes.

It is the task of philosophy, not to think for us, but to free us from thinking. It is the task of poetry, not to feel for us, but to free us from feeling.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Marcus and Zizek

Kasey has drawn our attention to this somewhat silly interview with Slavoj Zizek. At the Toronto airport, I picked this issue of Harper's off the shelf, initially for the cover story. I bought it, however, because of this piece by Ben Marcus, which I think is worth reading alongside the Zizek interview. As an added bonus, we have Gabriel Gudding's poem about time pieces.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Emotional Notation

Tearing your shirt open, you drew my attention to three dogs in a knot. This served to show how something general can be recorded in unpedigreed notation. I pointed to a bench by a willow, from which we could see the gas tanks across the river, because I thought a bench was a simple possibility: one could sit on it.

Rosmarie Waldrop

"Philosophie dürfte man eigentlich nur dichten," said Wittgenstein. The German verb "dichten" means "to make a poem" (as Pound and Bunting noted, it also means "to condense"). One ought really to concentrate philosophy, to thicken it.

I think my distinction between "conceptual notation" (philosophy) and "emotional notation" (poetry) is very clearly exemplified by the difference between Wittgenstein and Waldrop. There is so much they do that is similar (not surprisingly, of course, since Waldrop used Wittgenstein as a model), and the difference is simply that Wittgenstein was noting concepts, while Waldrop is noting emotions. Writing them down.

"Philosophy ought really to be written only as a poetic composition," renders Peter Winch. Well, perhaps poetry ought really to be written only as a philosophical composition. But what is the verb? A verb like "dichten". See, that's the struggle. Because what was it ever to "make" a poem? Poiesis. To make as such.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

New Prose and Poetry

Returning from Canada's bookstores, I'm looking forward to my reading as the days get shorter. I now finally own a copy of The Pound Era and, on Ben Lerner's recommendation, Rosmarie Waldrop's Curves to the Apple. I've already enjoyed several pages of these books very much.

I also found an old copy of Irving Layton's prose collection Taking Sides, which allows me to tell a story from a few years back, when I was first looking for it. I had forgotten the title, but found (I think) Fortunate Exile in an online catalogue, which I thought sounded like a likely title for a book of Layton's prose. I called the bookstore to ask whether it was prose work. The girl on the phone asked me to hold on, she would check.

"Yes," she came back saying. "Great," said I, "I'll be right down to pick it up." And off I went. When I arrived I discovered to my surprise that Fortunate Exile is an ordinary book of ordinary poems. "Excuse me," I said, "but didn't you say that this was a book of prose?" "It isn't?" "No, it's a collection of poems." "Yeah? What's the difference?" she asked cheerfully.

Her colleague, standing beside her, now chuckled. When she looked at him imploringly he said, "You're on your own here, babe." I did my best to explain what prose is. Citing examples and saying, as I recall, something about the writing reaching all the way out to the right hand margin.