Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The effect, caused,
yields a fact, which,
seen, is thought.

The affect, as is its wont,
yields to an act, which,
when done, is felt.

In this sense, the fact
is the cause of thought.
Thus motivated, the act
is the habit of feeling.

Concepts thwart causes
and let us think again.
Emotions break habits
and let us feel once more.

Emotions articulate
the habit and the affect, as
concepts articulate
the cause and the effect.

Images cut at the joints
between the fact and the act:
emotions push them through;
concepts hold them close.

We take what we're given—
the morality of what is done,
the etiology of what is seen—
and make our way forward.

Friday, December 27, 2019

A philosophy of intuition.

A poetry of institution.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Power limits knowledge,
sometimes a healthy discipline.

Knowledge releases power,
which is often how we learn.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Find wisdom
without losing compassion.

Find love
without losing your mind.

Some seek
to discover truth
and find themselves
exposing lies.

Honest ignorance
to the side,
there are coverups
and fabrications.

Some things, made,
are unmade just by
looking. Others
must be dismantled.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

We seek truth
and gain knowledge.

We seek justice
and seize power.

Put into words

what you have seen
what you have done

what you think
what you feel.

Make a picture

of the facts
of your acts

the concept
the emotion.

Use your imagination.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Forgive your parents as you would have your children forgive you.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Some understand
the statement
but refuse to obey
the command.

Some obey
the command
but fail to understand
the statement.

Friday, December 13, 2019

To understand but
not forgive

is like

obeying and
not partaking.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Believe, conscious
of your desires.

Desire, in possession
of your beliefs.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Love is as much about power
as wisdom is about knowledge.

And as little.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Friday, December 06, 2019

Scholars compose themselves after the fact.
Leaders compose themselves before the act.

Friday, November 29, 2019

The philosopher starts with a fluid, moving force and tries to seize it formally.
The poet starts with a stable form and arranges images to indicate the forces it directs.

We think of perception
as our interaction with light.

We feel our actions
as an apperception of weight.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

What happens to your soul when you die?
God takes care of it.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The birth of the body.
The origin of the world.
The suffering of the soul.
The progress of history.
The death of the body.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Art is entirely about precision.
It cuts at the joints of experience.
Or it tries to.
We ignore it at our peril.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Cowardice weakens
the heart,

as insipidity rots
the mind.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Courage is to the heart
as sapience
to the mind.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The progress of history demands
the suffering of the body;
the suffering of the body retraces
the origin of the world.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The progress of history.
The origin of the world.

Friday, November 15, 2019

A poem isn't
just wrong.
It's intense.

A philosophy isn't just
It's clear.

Poetry is normative;
emotions are normal.

Philosophy is empirical;
meaning is use.*
*I.e., concepts are deployed experimentally, tested in experience, "proven by use".

Friday, November 08, 2019

"God," I say, "I'm grateful. Sometimes you just come through. I don't know how you do it."

"Anytime," God answers. "Really. It's not so hard. Mostly, I just wait."

Sometimes her body is a statement,
sometimes, a command,
at times, something to behold,
something, sometimes, to serve.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

We lack an adequate social imaginary of the monetary system.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Metaphysical Composure

Start with a large sheet of polished glass and a naked body. The pane of glass should be monumental in size and thickness, but perfectly transparent, perfectly clean. Set it upright on the ground and pose the body next to it. Let the body stand with its back to the glass. The head should be tilted downwards and stare to the left, into the middle distance. It should comport itself toward the glass monument like the guy at the end of the scene who hears the telephone ringing.

(reposted from 22.11.2004)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

I had misgivings
about the data

on the captives.
I was mistaken.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Clarity is for concepts.
Intensity is for emotion.

Precision is for both,
and is always relative.

There are blunt objects
and delicate subjects.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Here, where the world is quiet;
Here, where the trouble starts.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The facts don't make themselves known.
Guided by method, we collect our data;
we measure things, construe them as objects.
We imagine them. We assert and deny them.

(Data is Greek for that which is given;
we need a word
for those who we take for granted.)

Acts do not proceed on their own power.
Assigned a mandate, we marshal our "capta";
we direct people, enthrall them as subjects.
We imagine them. We enjoin or denounce them.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

They were perfect
for each other. She
was a sad and beautiful
woman. He was a poet.

For years, he worked
to extricate her beauty
from the policy
that governed her face.

Resigned to the task,
he labored in love.
Every poem, a failure.
Every failure, a poem.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

"If you want to know me," I said,
"you must believe me;
if you want to believe me,
you must understand me;
and to understand me
you must use your imagination."

"If you want to master me," she answered,
"you must desire me;
if you want to desire me,
you must obey me;
and to obey me... well,
let me use your imagination."

Monday, October 14, 2019

The hardest thing
isn't always the most difficult,
just as the easiest
is not necessarily the lightest.

The heaviest burden
is not always the darkest,
nor is gravity,
always a serious business.

Sometimes the fool
just falls on his stupid ass,
and makes short work,
let's say, of your long face.

Monday, October 07, 2019

If you want to capture
the emotion,
you must not express
the feeling.

When you tell someone
how you feel,
they try to understand
what you mean.

It's no use pretending
you don't care
or feel something else.
Meaning is use.

Of friends, it is said,
"We lost touch."
I have lost the feeling
in my hands.
"He lost the use of his
legs," we say.
I'm touched. It's just a
feeling. What's the use?

Saturday, October 05, 2019

I'm going to try my hand
at poetry, to write words
that feel right. I'll try not
to care what you think.

It's possible that we had not considered
the downside. But I think you knew
what was about to take place here
and went in with a sense of adventure.

the world
of things
that are

the history
of people
to come

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

allow us to
as objects.

demand that we
as subjects.

Monday, September 30, 2019



Sunday, September 29, 2019

Satisfaction is to desire as justification, to belief. We may "want to believe" something (we may desire to hold something true) but in the absence of justification the belief will be irrational. Likewise, we may "think we need" something (we may believe we have a right to it) but as the desire is frustrated our passion for it wanes.

We are, ultimately, justified or satisfied, disappointed or frustrated, by experience. We cherish our beliefs, we sustain our desires, according to what we see around us and what we're able to do.

Of course, some desires are inextinguishable, some beliefs incorrigible. We may be frustrated in our pursuit of them and never let them go. We may be forever disappointed by the evidence of our senses and yet continue to believe. One must marvel at our stubbornness sometimes—our loyalty, our bigotry.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


The difference between ethos
and pathos is not emotion
but duration.

The difference between logos
and phallus is not conception
but erection.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The writer examines
his broken craft, gathers
the pieces, thumbs
their joints and hinges.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Hang it all, Gertrude Stein,
nothing is really "inaccrochable";

Sunday, September 08, 2019

To be wise about something is to think it has no need of you. Or, rather, wisdom is the thought that "it is what it is", sufficient unto itself. This can be taken to extremes, to be sure. You might realize that you're not needed at all. The euphoria of wisdom, we might say, is the thought that literally everything is going to be okay. You come back to the world when you feel that things might not be as they seem, and something has to be done. You find your place again.

Philosophy elucidates our thinking.
As a branch of literature, it is the art of writing concepts down.

Poetry intensifies our feeling.
As a branch of literature, it is the art of writing emotions down.

Monday, September 02, 2019

To be in love with someone is to feel you need them in order to be yourself. Or rather, love is the feeling that without the other you can't become who you are supposed to be. Of course, your love may be doomed. Many loves are not to be. The misery of lost love is, literally, the feeling that you can't become who you are. To "get over it" is to accept that you're not who you thought you were. This frees you to pursue others—other others and other selves.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Philosophy normalizes the empirical.

Poetry experiences the norm.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The poet waits
for inspiration.

The philosopher dwells
upon existence.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Philosophy is normative: it tells us
what we're doing right
when we use a concept correctly,
what we're good at when know a thing.

Poetry is empirical: it tells us
what we're really seeing
when an emotion grips us, tightly,
whose power we are subject to.

We can distinguish lyrical poetry,
simple emotional notation,
from the epic, a poem containing
history, a diagram of power,

just as we can tell a syllogism,
a mere conceptual notation,
from a phenomenology of the spirit,
a world picture of the known.

Friday, August 16, 2019

There is only one thing
that ever happens.
It keeps happening.
Thank God.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Sunday, August 11, 2019

One loves her choices,
her tastes, and that she has some interest
in satisfying them.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

In the beginning, it is said, there was
the deed. Indeed, a fact is but a deed
that's done. And a deed, in fact,
is but an act that's seen and told.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

All this has been here
for a long time, and
many are now assembled
in this small space.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Machines are media:

lens, eye, focus,
lever, arm, pivot.

The wheel is real,
The circle, ideal.

Drum, ear, beat,
whip, skin, flog:

"Faith is immediate."

Thursday, July 25, 2019

The weight of ordinary objects,
the light of orderly subjects.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Friday, July 12, 2019

Best perhaps sometimes
not to understand
and yet to obey
somewhere certainly true.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Imagination intervenes
between thought and feeling.
Imagination intercedes
between the cynic and the fool.

It makes the move
available to sensation,
finds sense
beneath the motivation.

Imagination lifts
the melancholy fit.
Imagination stills
the foolish start.

The Analogy of Melancholy

Unchecked, unhinged,

reason leads
to melancholy,
passion, out
through folly.

For the pleasure
of thinking,
the pure feeling
of certainty,

passion brings
reason brings us
to despair,

senseless, unmoved.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Morality is how
people keep each
other in line.

Causality is how
things do it.

"The word [Einstein] used is: they're 'relative'. I prefer 'personal'." (Kip Thorne)

Everything is relative.
Everyone is personal.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

The Deep Lithograph

At the edge
of our field of vision
galaxies recede
at the speed of light.

This is the furthest
we can see.
Our longest view.

At the tip
of our manipulations
we arrange molecules
across a distance of a few atoms.

It is the least
we can do.
Our softest touch.

This is a juxtaposition of two allusions: one to the Hubble Deep Field and the other to A Boy and his Atom. The ideogram is in fact nicely explicated by this film from IBM about the making of the latter.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Long Baseline

At the edge
of our field of vision
galaxies recede
at the speed of light.

This is the furthest
we can see.

Within reach
of our manufacturing base
we produce neutrinos
with mass <0.120 eV/c2.*

It is the least
we can do.

*The obscurity of this stanza is the result of trying to repeat the formal pattern of the first (to make it a pangrammatical supplement.) The visible (what can be seen) must be set against the manipulable (what can be done). But, given the enticing prospect of neutrino factories, I hoped that "manufacturing" might serve instead of "manipulation". I regret that decision now and will have to write another take on this. I'm trying to get at the idea that there is a maximum limit on our seeing and a minimum limit to our doing. It seems to me that controlling a neutrino is the most precise thing we can do. It's the smallest action we can take, the smallest mass we can direct. Someone with more physics than me might come up with a better example. In both cases there must be technological mediation (a telescope, an accelerator). What we can see with the naked eye and do with our bare hands is another matter.

The image interpolates
from hand to eye,
correlates the heart
with the mind.

It is the objective
correlative of feeling,
the subjective
interstice of thought.

The image smooths out
the space of perception.
It sharpens
the time of action.

It mediates
from reason to passion
from passion to reason

In imagination, the doing
finds its point,
the seeing, its edge, our
suffering, its measure.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

So much depends upon imagination. This was really Williams's point. We must insist on imagining things—even, and perhaps especially, those things that are real, all too real. Or, to use Wittgenstein's phrase, we must insist on making, for ourselves, pictures of the facts. They do not make themselves known. Only in imagination can they be situated in a field of action; only here can they find a human measure, a sense of the possible, a glimpse of the ideal.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Philosophy begins with imaginary questions,
poetry, with imaginary decrees.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The world frames our concepts;
history shapes our emotions.

The heart has reasons
the passions don't mind.

Friday, June 21, 2019

"[T.S. Eliot and Vivienne Haigh-Wood] were married at Hampstead Register Office on 26 June 1915. 'To her, the marriage brought no happiness. To me, it brought the state of mind out of which came The Waste Land,' [wrote Eliot]."*


"In March 1916, [Wittgenstein] was posted to a fighting unit on the front line of the Russian front ... [where he] directed the fire of his own artillery from an observation post in no-man's land against Allied troops ... In August 1918 ... he completed the Tractatus."**


"Even the wreckage of Europe is tempting to the young, creative, contrary, and restless. One American writer stays put, finishes school, starts a medical practice. One American writer sticks around to catch the babies." (C. D. Wright, 2011, introduction to William Carlos Williams' Spring and All)

Monday, June 17, 2019

"The world is everything that is the case," said Wittgenstein. Later on, he thought it might have been better to start with a lamp or a tree. Perhaps a red wheelbarrow would have done the trick? We make ourselves pictures of such facts, he said. Indeed, much depends on them, said Williams. "Without imagination life cannot go on, for we are left staring at the empty casings where truth lived yesterday* while the creature itself has escaped behind us." The world is made of facts, not things. Or things, but glazed with rain.

*These should remind us of the "nonsensical" propositions of philosophers, or the rungs of Wittgenstein's ladder. "The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the problem" (T6.521). We were never supposed to transcend them, we were supposed to inhabit them. The immanence of imagination. This lamp. That tree.

Philosophy is the use of language
to clarify our thoughts.

Poetry is the use of language
to intensify our feelings.

As arts, they make a common cause
of precision in experience.

They articulate our concepts and
emotions in imagination.

"A thought which, quartered, hath but one part wisdom, and ever three parts coward." (Hamlet)

And a feeling, quartered, has but one part love, and ever three parts scoundrel.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Genius and Despair

Wittgenstein: "...one must always ask oneself: is the word ever actually used in this way in the language-game which is its original home? — What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use." (§116)

Williams: "If not definitely a culture new in every part, at least a satisfaction. He wants to have the feet of his understanding on the ground, his ground, the ground, the only ground that he knows, that which is under his feet." (213)

Wittgenstein: "Where does our investigation get its importance from, since it seems only to destroy everything interesting, that is, all that is great and important? (As it were all the buildings, leaving behind only bits of stone and rubble.) What we are destroying is nothing but houses of cards and we are clearing up the ground of language on which they stand." (§118)

Williams: "There is nothing for a man but genius or despair. We cannot answer in the smart language, certainly it would be a bastardization of our own talents to waste time to learn the language they use. ... However hopeless it may seem, we have no other choice: we must go back to the beginning; it must all be done over; everything that is must be destroyed." (215)

Williams, WC. 1925. "Descent". In the American Grain.
Wittgenstein, L. 1953. Philosophical Investigations.

Monday, June 10, 2019

You cannot know
what you cannot understand.
You cannot understand
what you cannot imagine.

What you cannot imagine
you cannot obey.
What you cannot obey
you cannot master.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

The mind establishes
the intuitions of the body
as an order of concepts.

The heart challenges
the institution of the soul
with emotional turmoil.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

The heart leads the mind
out of melancholy
through folly.

Truth is not an element,
but a relation between parts.

Justice is not a totality,
but a position within the whole.

We don't find the truth,
so much as arrange it.

We don't strive for justice.
We submit to it.

Friday, June 07, 2019

To get from the heart
to the mind
you have to slow down
a little bit.

To get from the mind
to the heart
you really have to get
your shit together.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

A tree is a fact
of nature, rooted
in the ground, bending
in the wind, turning
light into sugar
         and water into air.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

I was the dam that longed for the flood;
now I can't see the wound for the blood.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019


This lady is a woman
of beauty, poised
by wisdom, moved
by love, graceful
in her candor
             and her shade.

Monday, June 03, 2019

The image is a picture
of suffering, framed
by a concept, steeled
by emotion, composed
of a reason
             and a passion.

Beware of sages who tell you the truth is deep
or that the arc of justice is long. Be precise.

Think clearly about appearances.
Feel the tension of the surface.

The truth isn't far below, it's here.
Justice isn't far from now. Nor's infamy.

Profundity sinks the truth into darkness.
Enthusiasm leads the just to violence.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

We make
what we can't find
in the world,

and in history
we find who we can't make
of ourselves.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Most of it is unnecessary.
Some of it is possible.

We do what must be done.
The rest remains to be seen.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Use your eyes, Man.
Your fate is no longer
in your hands;
it is in your tools.

The equipment IS
the predicament.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Composure is not a balance
but a tension
between intuitions and institutions,
the media of our immediacy,
our disposition to experience
the presence of reason and passion
amid distraction.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The concept is the presence
of past perception in the thought.

Emotion is the presence
of past* action in the feeling.

*Or is it future action? Is an emotion perhaps the "promise" associated with a feeling. Hope and fear would be the classic examples.

Thought is what remains
unseen beyond perception.

Feeling is what remains
undone in action.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Belief is what your experience has.
Desire is what your experience wants.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

A box is a machine made of wood,
a thing to put other things in.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

When we oppose the passions
with our reasons
or our concepts
with our emotions

we must remember that each
has it own rightness
and none is righteous
on its own.

It is tempting to surrender
our wills to
our beliefs, our intellect
to our desire,

but our composure depends
neither on the purity
of our deference, nor the piety
of our references.

It is easy to choose one
over the other;
the difficulty
is keeping it together.

Friday, May 03, 2019

From Being and Time, H. 136:

"...the falsification of the phenomena [of mood], which banishes them to the sanctuary of the irrational..."

"Dasein factically can, should, and must master its mood with knowledge and will"

"we never master a mood by being free of a mood, but always through a counter mood."

"...attunement discloses Dasein in its thrownness and, initially and for the most part, in the mode of an evasive turning away."

To this, we should add:

Deference is to power what reference is to knowledge.

Mood is to deference what ________ is to reference.

Note: mood = courage = mind?

Perhaps mood is to deference what mood is to reference. The tension out of which both emerge?

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

(I often get this one wrong.)

What is to knowledge
as courage to power?

Courage is of the heart,
to encourage is to hearten,
______ is of the mind,
to ________ is to mind,
to make or become mindful,
perhaps, to remind.

Courage allows us to do
things despite our fears.
What allows us to see
things despite remorse?

Courage shapes our future
_______ shapes our past.
Or does _______ make a world
as courage makes our history?

Note: mood = courage = mind?
suggsting link to

Also, courage must be to daring what
________ is to caring.

See: "Daring"

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The child imagines the tree
as a field of action,
explores its emptiness,
occupies its branches,

while the adult suffers the tree
as an object of perception,
its negative spaces,
and the shade at its feet.

The child's body
reaches right up to reality;
the facts impinge
upon its surface,

while the adult's body
longs for a proper ideal,
and the act recedes
to mere appearances.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The philosopher seeks
the purpose of existence
as the poet seeks
the source of inspiration.

The canon is a history
of their failures.
Would it undo the world
should they succeed?

Emotions make no sense.
Concepts provide no motive.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The arts bring precision
to our suffering.

Philosophy clarifies
our thinking.
Poetry intensifies
our feeling.

These crafts are joined
in imagination.

The difference between knowledge and power
can be neither known nor mastered.

It must be suffered.

Nor can the unity of knowledge and power
be known or mastered,

but it can be imagined.

It is the task

of the scientist
to make us see better,
of the politician
to make us do better,
of the philosopher
to make us think better,
of the poet
to make us feel better.
No one says these are easy. But when the politician tries to get us to see something, or the scientist, to do something, or when the poet would have us think, or the philosopher would have us feel, they are, whatever higher goal they may be trying to accomplish, not staying on task. They are invoking an authority beyond their mandate, beyond their method, beyond the limits of their style.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The remark is the unit of philosophical expression.

A strophe is a unit of
poetic composition.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Philosophers are to existence
what poets are to inspiration.

Scientists are to curiosity
what politicians are to ambition.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Doing social science
without the humanities
is like imagining a society
without people.

Without things
you can imagine matter all you like
but without biology
your politics are immaterial.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Nothing matters.
Nobody cares.

Everyone's social.
Everything dares.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Our skepticism is not particularly aroused when we learn that scientists have satisfied their own curiosity in the pursuit of knowledge. Why are we suspicious of politicians who satisfy their personal ambition in the pursuit of power? Should we not expect those who seek power to be ambitious, just as we expect those who seek knowledge to be curious?

Sunday, April 07, 2019

A Portrait of Two Women

I was right about us.
She was wrong about him.

We were wrong about him.
She was right about me.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Philosophy is to poetry
as the unspoken belief
to the illicit desire.

Thursday, April 04, 2019



(No. Not
the other
way round.)

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Both my happiness and my unhappiness I owe to the love of pleasure; of sex, travel, reading, conversation (hearing oneself talk), food, drink, cigars and lying in warm water.

Reality is what remains when these pleasures, together with hope for the future, regret for the past, vanity of the present, and all that composes the aroma of the self are pumped out of the air-bubble in which I shelter. (Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave

"It is the actions of men, not their sentiments, that make history," said Norman Mailer.

Borges said our opinions are the most trivial things about us.

Nabokov said that "desire and decision [are] the two things that create a live world." Subtract the vital ("live") component, and you are left with pure perception. Not trivial--pure.

"The poet must build us his world," said Pound.

"The subject shrinks to an extentionless point," said Wittgenstein, "and there remains the reality coordinated with it."

It is the perceptions of men, not their opinions, that make a world.

Friday, March 29, 2019

I get the insight.
I just can't take
the outrage.

Understanding is to knowledge as obedience is to power. Knowledge is to insight as power, to obedience. "Get" = understand. "Take" = obey.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Secrets are one thing.
They are as you keep them.

But some things can be known
simply by comparing notes.

To obstruct this discourse
is folly. We learn nothing.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Properly speaking,
we understand (or misunderstand) reasons
but we obey (or disobey) passions.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

I am not a mind-body dualist. I am, perhaps, a mind-heart dualist, but in a sense that does not involve mind-brain identity. I think it is as silly to think of the physical brain as the "seat of thinking" as it is to think of the physical heart as, say, "the seat of feeling".

The meaning of "mind" predates the discovery of lobes and cortices. The meaning of "heart" predates the discovery of chambers and ventricles. One must grant our feelings a "location" beneath the skin, however, just as our thinking does appear to go on "in the head". That is, I'm happy to maintain a distinction between visceral and cerebral experience. But these are just surfaces and appearances, not substances.

I believe that I have a soul, that I am "animated". But I do not think there is some place within the body that my soul can be said to inhabit. Rather, I believe that my body is my real location and that my soul is my ideal temperament. I live in a place and have a rhythm. My body, we might say, is where I'm at; my soul is what time it is.

Friday, March 22, 2019

He pursued a line of thinking
that only a fictional character
could plausibly follow, while
building a structure of feeling
no living person could inhabit.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Why do we feel
for the world?
Why do we think
about history?

Why let our emotional
lives be overwhelmed?
Why let our conceptual
framework collapse?

Isn't it enough to feel
for friends and kin?
Isn't it enough to think
about the house?

The world distracts us.
History concerns us.
But our hearts and minds
are here. In our bodies.

Darkness is to the mind
as pain to the heart.

Fear is an emotion.
What is its conceptual analogue?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Some are considered reasonable, though
this reveals little about their minds.
It's not that they are able to reason;
they have to. Their hearts are broken.

Others are famously passionate. But
nor is this a testament to their hearts.
They are not driven by passion; it is
all they can do. Their minds are shattered.

What life has done to break and shatter them
is of little importance now.
What life might do to mend them, however,
is of no small moment.

Some must feel their way back to thinking.
Some must think their way back to feeling.
Some must gather their wits about them.
Some must wait for the pulse to quicken.

Monday, March 18, 2019

I understand how feelings work
but understanding doesn't cut it.
Thoughts need to be understood.
Our feelings demand obedience.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

What sort of desire is like
an irrational belief?
Is belief without reasons like
desire without passions?

Let's see.

An unreasonable belief
is not grounded
in other beliefs, nor,
ultimately, in facts.

A dispassionate desire
is not bounded
by other desires, nor,
finally, by acts.

And what of experience?

Experience can disabuse you
of even an irrational belief.
It's just that its correction
does not affect other beliefs.

A desire unbounded by passion
can be thwarted by experience.
But it's a disappointment without
suffering, without learning.

So there you have it.

To desire without having done,
to believe without having seen,
is to form your experience without
courage and without curiosity.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Leaving aside those who are born
to toil or to suffer,
some, it seems, are born to enjoy it,
others, to figure it out.

To be hurt,
or to be the one who hurts,
to be in darkness,
or cast another into it...

Are these choices we have?
Are they destinies we forge?

Is my pleasure
always another's pain?
Must my light
cast a shadow?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

When an inexpressible belief
meets an insatiable desire.
When an irrepressible desire
meets an incorrigible belief.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

For most people, time is duration.
Space is a tension between things.

But when I consider my own body
and when I consider yours, I'm struck

by the durability of the space
around us, the tenacity of time.

Monday, March 11, 2019

The moral is to the social as the causal to the material.

Material is the "what" of things. Causes are the why and the how.
Society is the "who" of a people. Morals are the how and the why.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

How everything makes you feel.
How everyone makes you think.

How you feel about everyone.
How you think about things.

The concept tells you what it is.
The emotion tells you who they are.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Wittgenstein said that the depth of philosophy is like the depth of a grammatical joke.

Eliot said that poetry is a superior amusement.

Wittgenstein said that philosophy ought to be composed like poetry.

Pound said the poet should build us his world.

Wittgenstein said the world is everything that is the case.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Consider the detachment of philosophers. They detach the concept from the emotion and let us experience the thought itself, separate from the feeling it is implicated in.

Do poets do something similar? Do they remove the emotion from the concept, so that we may experience the feeling in its pure form, without the intrusion of thought?

When your space gets you down,
Frank, remember
that time lets you out.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Ever disciplined,
my body stands
before you,
breathing calmly.

Often punished,
my soul flutters
within me
and sighs.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Philosophers will not believe what they cannot understand. Poets, though they are often less conscious of it, follow a similar principle. They cannot desire what they will not obey.

In the everyday, the artist is merely a being who feels a range of life's difficulties more acutely than the rest of us. There is no particular nobility in the difficulty; which is to say, the artist is not ennobled simply by doing the requisite suffering. Nor does the artist win our admiration by solving the problem. After all, we solve it matter-of-factly in our own lives every day. Rather, the artist contributes by articulating the suffering we all do, less intensely, less perspicuously, in our comings and goings, our doings and occasional undoings. The artist makes this suffering available to us in the work and we can then face our difficulties more precisely. Whether the artist is finally destroyed by the effort is of little importance to us on a purely technical or, let us say, aesthetic level. Morally, we may care or not care as our empathy permits, or as it demands. What matters is that the work be articulate.

Beyond the social media
there are material facts.

Between the body and the tribe,
in essence and in accident,
life emerges and then thrives,

and dies, and rots, and grows
and thrives again, immediately.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

It is said that marriage is an unreliable method for the production of human happiness. But it must also be said that it is hard to imagine a truly unhappy human being in a truly happy marriage. Now, half of all marriages are said to end in divorce. Let us grant the cynics that only half of all the marriages that last are truly happy ones. That still leaves us with hundreds of millions of individuals who we cannot really imagine are truly unhappy. Does that not, I ask you, in itself justify the entire institution?

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

These are sketches,
of thoughts,
of feelings,
of the images
they occasion.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

If the sociologists
would stop leaning on
our hearts,

if the psychologists
would stop prying up
our souls,

our poets
could work again and lift
our spirits.

Outrage does to the heart what
insight does to the mind.

The mob overwhelms the institution—
an intuition, undermined in a flash.

But emotions keep our feelings tight.
Concepts keep our thinking clear.

May we extricate ourselves
from this history,
and implicate these things
in the world.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

In ordinary life,
when expressing your thoughts,
be honest;
when expressing your feelings,
be decent.

In your science,
strive for truth, and
in your politics,
strive for justice.

Your poetry, however,
can take some license.
And your philosophy?
Let them howl.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Structure is to existence
as texture to inspiration.

Standing is to space
as breathing to time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The profundity of philosophy
is covered by its judicious obscurity.

The pretensions of poetry
are 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.