Thursday, December 03, 2020

The body coordinates
the hand and eye,
the heart and mind.

See also "The image interpolates..."

Sunday, November 29, 2020

"Literature is equipment for living."
Kenneth Burke

An education consists in the arrangement of lenses and levers around an individual. It establishes the perspective from which we view the world and the apparatus through which we make our history. It lays out the manifold paths through which all light comes to us, and all weight bears upon us. It focuses our thinking and locates our feeling. It establishes the place we inhabit. It engenders the way we proceed.

The eye is a lens,
the arm, a lever.

To the focus of vision,
the body joins
a locus of motion,

a perspective, to
an apparatus.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A poem has a subject,
      some private sorrow or
      distant woman,
but it is not about her
and is not involved
in anybody's grief.
Not even yours, dear reader,
who are so smugly certain
      that she won't come back.
The poem doesn't touch you.
It just lays out
      the private distance
      between men and women
and their broken hearts.

Likewise, though philosophy sometimes has an object, it is neither here nor there. You don't care about a solitary thing. It's the thinghood of the thing, its likeness to every other blasted thing, that draws your metaphysic in. But not hers. "If you've seen one thing, you've seen them all," she said. I have been of two minds about her ever since.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

A poem extricates itself
from history, frees its subject
from the policies
that govern her face.

A philosophy implicates itself
in the world, binds its object
to the sciences
that study her smile.

Those who demand a culture to
nurture their natural
creativity and curiosity
must grant a place for those who
cultivate their innate
ambition and avarice.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Between existence and institution,
the body stands.

Between inspiration and intuition,
the body breathes.

Between the nuance and the act,
the body stares.

Between the impulse and the fact,
the body falls.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

We are distracted.
We are pulled apart
by our reasons and passions,
our concepts and emotions straining
at the joints
of imagination.

We gather these images
in the arts. Marshaling
our thoughts and feelings,
our beliefs and our desires,
we get it together.
We find our composure.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

"Ideology is the 'faith' of progressives. Conservative 'ideology' is always religion." Discuss.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Belief is
to knowledge
as desire
to power.

Hunches are
to wisdom
as crushes
to love.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

All knowledge is objective:
it refers to something.

All power is subjective:
it defers to someone.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Objects are things
construed as possibitities,
as facts that may be,
ways they might be seen.

Subjects are people
delegated as necessities,
as acts that must happen,
deeds that must be done.

Concepts determine the ways
things can be seen
(even if they go unnoticed.)

Emotions determine the deeds
people must do
(even if they lack the courage.)

Objects are what you must think
of things, like it
or not. Thus, they are understood
or misunderstood.

Subjects are what people feel
they may become, whatever
they believe. They obey
or disobey accordingly.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

We see the world—
the things in it.

But history is done.
All those people!

Sunday, October 11, 2020

The universe is a distribution
of light
        and weight,
of shimmering pleasures
and awkward burdens.

We carry them, and ourselves,
graciously, sometimes
Enthralled, forgiving,
we carry each other.

Friday, October 09, 2020

"It" is
to philosophy


"you" are
to poetry.

But note:

Philosophy clarifies
how you think.

And poetry intensifies
how it feels.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Prose is language taken for granted.
Verse is language turned for pleasure.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Sometimes, we can't repress what reason affords us. Sometimes, we must.

Sometimes, we can't afford
to repress a passion. Sometimes,
we can't afford not to.

Friday, October 02, 2020

The hero is no hypocrite.
He courts the danger openly.
When he falls, the coward
must not say,"I told you so."

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The aphorism plumbs a depth it cannot fathom. It hangs its light in darkness.

If you feel like the whole world
is against you,
then your real enemy
is probably your own self.

If you think all of history
must be denounced,
remember your friends,
your place among your people.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Thursday, September 10, 2020

We live among people
who haven't yet forgotten
what we have done.

If only I could remember
what I have become,
            what it is they see.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Likeness, Imagination

         Art's the joint
between science and
politics, like beauty,
between truth and
justice, like experience,
between belief and
desire, like the image
between the thought
         and the feeling.

Poetry is like music.
You'll often find that the
composer isn't the best
performer of the work.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

When it rains
I water the plants
in the window.

It seems the least
I can do.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The mind is smarter
but the heart is stronger.

For all that the mind knows
the heart holds the power.

The lucid mind, friends.
But the beating heart.

If it were a contest,
it would long be over.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Light is the shortest path
between two points.
Massless, unrestrained,
all virtue and motion,
it longs for nothing.
It thinks it's already there.

Walking takes longer,
driven by hunger,
heavy with memory.
So much passion.
So many reasons.
It's better to travel light.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Everything belongs to existence.
Everyone longs for inspiration.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Philosophy, like poetry,
seeks an extraordinary precision
in ordinary language.
Sometimes, in frustration,
it invents a new jargon.
Sometimes in desperation,
and sometimes out of pity,
the vernacular adopts it.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

When reality finally sank in
he had run out of ideas.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Robertson, Paterson

"The effects we call 'poetic' occur when speech is made under two conditions: urgency and shortness of time. When the former is 'inspiration' and the latter is 'form', the result is the cultural convention known as 'the poem'." (Don Paterson, The Poem, p. 12)

"Here my use of the word poem parts from the conventions of aesthetic autonomy that have resulted from commodity culture’s limits and heroisms, to propose that the poem is the shapely urgency that emerges in language whenever the subject’s desiring vernacular innovates its receivers. The poem is the speech of citizenship." (Lisa Robertson, "Prosody of the Citizen")

Update (15/7/20): I had originally cropped and arranged these quotations differently, putting Robertson first, and leaving out her departure from "the conventions of aesthetic autonomy". I was emphasising the affinities between the poets as I saw them. I think those affinities are real, but by eliding the tension between them, I think I went too far, distorting Robertson's meaning. The juxtaposition still gives me hope, however.

Saturday, July 11, 2020


Your heart has had enough
long before your liver
and your kidneys tap out.

You lose your mind
before your sight
and hearing go.

That explains the drinking,
the loud music,
the antic disposition.

It does not explain
the addled brain
or the broken heart.

These things take time.
They destroy you slowly
from the inside,

and all around you
the pain and pleasure
circle round,

an administration of
bruises and memories, like
your breath on my skin.

Monday, July 06, 2020

These things will fall apart.
Do not dismantle your self.

Be as articulate about who you master
as you are about what you know.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The philosopher makes a vocation
of reason. The poet, of passion.

One must suspend belief in order
to think, the other, desire,

in order to feel. One seeks clarity in
the concept, the other, intensity in

the emotion. Both are called to suffer
the terrible precision of the craft.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Dressed as a servant
she'd go down to the sea

as if to return a stone
the land once stole.

In the moonlight, she'd let
her garment fall, and step

into the soft, black waves,
her servitude complete.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Cordial feelings. Mental thoughts.

Mental states. Cordial moves.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

A Totality for Adults

with apologies to Raoul Vaneigem

"A basic social arrangement in modern society is that the individual tends to sleep, play and work in different places with different co-participants, under different authorities, and without an over-all rational plan. The central feature of total institutions can be described as a breakdown of the barriers ordinarily separating these three spheres of life." (Erving Goffman)

"How do you react to our slogan 'Total Everybody Always'? Have you at last understood that your miserable failure as an individual is proof that you pursue a lost cause?" (Cyril Connolly)

The modern arrangement, we might say, institutes a kind of social immediacy. It gives us different roles in different spheres, and in order to play them we merely have to show up there. This gives us a here and now, unconcerned, for the moment, with everywhere and everyone else. Our words and actions mean something to the others that are present; their effectiveness does not depend on those who are absent.

Our social media, as the name suggests, undo this immediacy, breaking down the ordinary barriers and making our significance in one sphere of life contingent on our actions in the others. For all intents and purposes, we now sleep, work, and play in the same place. "We live in a society," as the saying goes. While we're still physically situated in time and space, we are always "virtually" connected to the same people, subject to the same authority, following the same plan. Total Everybody Always.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Poetry is the art of freeing your emotions from your opinions — philosophy, of concepts from caprice.

Biographical Sex

"Biology is not destiny. But it is half of it." (Norman Mailer)

Gender is the way
we have sex.
It is an element
of style, the way we

carry our selves.
My pronouns are "I/me"
in the autobiography
of my biology.

Sex engenders
the difficulty
of being a man,
of being a woman.

Your body is your
problem to solve.
To be human is
to become a man

or a woman. And everyone
fails in some way,
always on their own terms.
Sex isn't everything.

Monday, June 08, 2020

Knowledge is to power
as intelligence,
                   to allegiance.

In your composure you find
you are as articulate
about your power as you are
about your knowledge.

Begin with the silence
of your ignorance,
of your impotence.

Now find in your mind
an honest belief, in your
heart, a decent desire.
Hold them forth together.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Pictures are to the world
as epochs, to history.

Hence, a "world picture"
a "historical epoch".

"The Age of the World Picture" (Heidegger)
"The age demanded an image" (Pound)

We look for pictures.
We grab the handle.

(Epoch - epi-ekhein:
something to hold onto?)

A picture of it all.
A handle on it.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

The trouble with wisdom
is that everyone already gets it.
Wise words are never new.
We feel foolish hearing them.

Now, the trouble with love...

Friday, May 29, 2020

What the atheist forgets:
it is easy to prove there is no God.

Everyone does it. The logic of devotion
demands it. God cannot be

and yet must be believed. What is hard,
as hard as life ever gets,

even when there is no light, is to doubt
the existence of your soul.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Kindred Spirits

The man who desires
to write a poem
is like the man who believes
in a philosophy.

They are both fools.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Some struggle and learn.
Others suffer and learn.
The poet struggles and suffers
and doesn't learn a thing,
except that to live is to labor
in ignorance and longing.

Monday, May 11, 2020

" which I attribute the empire of passion and dreams..." (Mallarmé)

Reason is
to experience

as passion,
to an empire.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Doubt comes
from fear,
which tears
   the mind
      in two.

   is of unknown

Monday, May 04, 2020

BM: Why do you want to get your ideas in order?
EP: For my poem.
XX: Why do you refuse to accept reality?
YY: It's my philosophy.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Study your existence
to become
good at being.

To be good at
heed your inspiration.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Words aren't just the names
of concepts. Emotions
            give them personality.

Wisdom is the object as it is
            and its subject too.
Love isn't just a feeling
but a state of mind.

We use the names of things
            to think about them.
And some names break our hearts.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

It is not their righteousness
                    that gets you.
It's their intensity.

It's not their truthfulness
but their clarity
                    that holds you.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Philosophy thinks
the structure of our intuitions,
                    tries to understand
the wisdom of the statement.

Its goal is not truth
                    but clarity.

Poetry feels
the texture of our institutions,
                    tries to obey
the love in the command.

It seeks intensity,
                    not justice.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

"A wisdom beyond concepts."

"A love without emotion."

The ability to think conceptually

is like

the obligation
to feel

Monday, April 20, 2020

It is tempting to suppose that philosophy is a theory of language, while poetry is a practice. The philosopher is driven to understand what the poet is bound to obey—the Word.

Is doubt
to philosophy
as praise
to poetry?

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The poet's desire
neither the world
nor the self,

just as

the philosopher's beliefs
both our history
and our things


Saturday, April 18, 2020

"True knowledge" is a pleonasm.
If it is knowledge, not merely
belief, then it is true.

What then of "just power"?
Is power, not merely desire,
but desire justly felt?

At the heart of knowing is the ability to imagine a fact.

The obligation
to imagine
an act

the mind
of power.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

They say his kindness lay
in keeping to himself,
            in holding
his contempt at bay.

Thus, a half truth covered
            a broken whole.
He held himself together,
and he was getting old.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Kant's object was the thing,
Heidegger's subject, existence.
We cannot know the true names
of things. But Dasein's pronouns
are personal,
        "in each case,
                always already,

Sunday, April 12, 2020

To lose a friend
is tragic.
To cling to one
is farcical.

To see a friend
without fear
of loss or shame
is glorious.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

One woman taught me
how to scoop out
an avocado, another,
how to singe
the curry. One woman
taught me how to
bake. I think of them
when I cook. I loved
them all, including
the one who plucked dead
leaves from the basil
plant in the window I
still forget to water.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

A poem may begin with an idea
and arrive at a feeling,
or begin with a feeling,
and arrive at an idea,

but it must never begin
and end with an idea,
nor be satisfied
with feeling all alone.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Thinghood remains
in our ignorance of things,
their opacity.

Personality is a lack
of mastery over our selves,
our temerity.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The philosopher helps us
to decide
what to believe,

the poet,
to discover
who to desire.

It is dishonest
to make someone believe
something you think
is not true.

It is indecent
to make someone desire
something you feel
is not right.

And to prevent someone
from believing,
from desiring,
what you think is true,
what you feel good about?

This, too, is dishonest.
Indecent. Be kinder.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Art is too important to be left to the virtuous.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

If you cannot understand it
don't believe it.
Don't desire it.
if you will not obey it.

Begin with
and obedience.

Proceed to your beliefs,
with honesty;
with decency,
proceed to your desires.

Balance your discoveries
and your decisions;
maintain your clarity and
your intensity.

Know things
according to their measure.
"Master thyself
then others shall ye bear."

Friday, March 20, 2020

Solitude* is to knowledge
as friendship, to power.

*Not, as I had previously suggested, loneliness.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Friday, March 13, 2020

Saturday, March 07, 2020

"The effects we call 'poetic' occur when speech is made under two conditions: urgency and shortness of time. When the former is 'inspiration' and the latter is 'form', the result is the cultural convention known as 'the poem'." (Don Paterson, The Poem, p. 12)

A pangrammatical supplement: What we call 'philosophical' issues arise, as William James pointed out, "in the unlimited leisure of the wilderness," where there is no urgency and a nutshell bounds a kingdom of infinite space. Under these conditions, when talk turns to 'existence' and the mood is 'informal', the result is the altogether natural entertainment known as 'a philosophy'.

Friday, March 06, 2020

A change of
is to power

as a firm
is to knowledge.


(As caprice is
to tenure.)

Monday, February 24, 2020

" coheres all right
                               even if my notes do not cohere..."

(Ezra Pound, Canto CXVI)

Sunday, February 23, 2020

We can't decide
what is true;
we must discover it.

Justice is not
a discovery
but a decision.

We cannot know
of power. We must
defer to it
in our ignorance.

We cannot master
knowledge, but
refer to it
in our impotence.

Much of life is wasted
seeking things
that must be made,
doing things
that must be seen.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

"when Americans stop being themselves they start behaving each other" (e.e. cummings)

We are governed
by narratives.
Our inquiries
are statistical.

We model
our behaviors.
We act
on stories.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Ideology is the appearance of ethnopathy in institutions.
Autopathy is the surface of ontology in intuition.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

The mistake is to think
about society. We're meant to feel
the people we are with.

Once made, the error
compounds. Emotion yields
to conceptual rigor,

incorrigible, passion
hides, bides its time, erupts
into the space of reason.

Now we experience
the material world, naked
before the very thing

we had so long believed
ourselves too rational to desire.
Hilarity ensues.

Friday, February 14, 2020

How is poetry possible?
How is philosophy necessary?

What can we feel?
What must we think?

Write the emotion,
write the concept, down.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

"...all beauty is in the long run only fineness of truth..." (Walter Pater, Appreciations, p. 10)

"Justice is fairness." (John Rawls)

Justice is equity.
Truth is accuracy.
Beauty is precision.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Concepts are to space
as emotions to time.


conceptual frames,
emotional lapses.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Wisdom is not
a competence,
as love is not
          a suspicion.

Philosophy is the love
of wisdom.

Poetry is the hatred
of language.

There are lies
so subtle
you need poems
to expose.

There are iniquities
so brazen
you need philosophy
to accept.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

"Man is not a rational animal, he's a dull-witted animal who loves to torture. ... Poetry, by giving dignity and utterance to our distress, enables us to hope, makes compassion reasonable." (Irving Layton, 1959, foreword to A Red Carpet for the Sun, reprinted in Engagements, p. 83)

Note: reason : common sense :: passion : compassion.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

The philosopher studies

The poet masters

We know of their work
through their failures.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

In science,
a fact
must be verified.

In politics,
an act
must be justified.

Philosophy does not
speak the truth. It
sheds light into darkness.

Poetry doesn't tell
us what is just. It
tells us where it hurts.

(Cf. "The Cramp")

Friday, January 24, 2020

The truth is discovered
in perception.
It does not decide.

Justice can't make discoveries.
It is decided
                       in action.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Observation is to knowledge as negotiation, to power.

"What is it?" is a scientific question.
"Who are we?" is a political question.

We observe things in search of truth.
We negotiate with people for justice.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020


"It's raining."
This is an observation.

"Let's dance."
This is a negotiation.

Cf. Quine 1993.

Friday, January 17, 2020

A man is a boy
who has come of age.

A boy is a child
who is to be a man.

A child is a being
who is newly born.

A being is open
to becoming old.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Your receptivity to poetry.
Your capacity for philosophy.
Your facility with words.

the intuition
under an institution
rules adrift on waves

See also, "A Drift" and "Getting my Own Drift"

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Philosophy seeks a clear thought.
Poetry seeks an intense feeling.

Both aim to be precise.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

I've long sought the pangrammatical analogue for "rationality". For reason, it's passion. For logic, it's pathos. Reasonable, passionate. Logical, yes, pathetic. But what's on the other side of "rational"?

I owe the answer to Louis C.K. Rationality is to knowledge as hilarity, to power. Philosophy is rational as poetry is hilarious. Wittgenstein hoped that his thoughts might "shed some light into one mind or another"; Pound described poetry as "an art to make light the heart of man". Indeed, "the very existence of poetry should make you laugh," said Kenneth Koch, "what is it all about, what is it all for?"

As for philosophy ... It makes you think, doesn't it?