Posts Tagged ‘ excerpts ’

Felix Bernstein Notes on Post-conceptual Poetry [excerpts] | Evening Will Come, May 2014

pic-fbernsteinFelix Bernstein

Felix Bernstein Notes on Post-conceptual Poetry | Evening Will Come, The Volta

Felix Bernstein debuted on YouTube with his real and satirical Coming Out Video in 2008. Since then he’s embodied characters ranging from Amy Winehouse to Lamb Chop to Leopold (peter) Brant. He performed in George Kuchar’s late diary films; Synonym for Untitled (Andrew Lampert’s multimedia piece for the Whitney restaurant); and Red Krayola’s opera Victorine (which he co-directed at the 2012 Whitney Biennial). His criticism has been published, or is forthcoming, in The Brooklyn RailHtmlgiant, and The Boston Review. With Gabe Rubin, he sang Jellicle Cats for nearly four hours on GaussPDF and directed the movies Boyland and Unchained Melody; together they front the punk band Tender Cousins. – Evening Will Come: Bio | The Volta, May 2014

Adrienne Rich on Love, Loss, Creative Process, and Public vs. Private Happiness / Brain Pickings

Adrienne Rich on Love, Loss, Creative Process, and Public vs. Private Happiness | Brain Pickings.

Robert Walser (in miniature) / NY Review of Books, Esquire, Powell’s Books &

In the following “about 40%” a prose piece by Robert Walser (gleaned from  Esquire’s/”Swiss Writer Robert Walser . . . /”), Walser writes of the color green:

It’s incomprehensible, mind boggling, terrifying. It’s uncanny, almost overpowering. “What the point,” one asks. It’s almost pointless. It’s deadening, makes one dizzy. It hurts ones eyes, one’s heart, leaves one’s soul distressed and dismayed. Color, color. No other color has as much color, perhaps. None is as dazzling. Green, green. Wherever one looks, green.
Blue is decorous and gentle. Fall and winter can be blue, too. But green? Why green? Why, why so terribly, so exquisitely, so splendidly green? It’s on fire. Green: on fire. The world in spring is a blaze of green.
Green pilfers our energy; Napoleon feared spring, did he not? He didn’t? Well, maybe that’s just my imagination.
Indeed, there’s something insane about green, too; and as for that blossoming, isn’t that also a kind of insanity?
Indeed, green is — to be alive, green is to love. It’s often displeasing. It’s charming and at the same time horrifying, and it becomes wilder and more luxuriant with each passing day. Gradually, as summer approaches, it loses its depth. One gets used to it and strolls about under the leafy roof of those rich, whispering trees.

Read more of and on Robert Walser at the following links:

The Genius of Robert Waltzer by J. M. Coetzee / NY Review of Books

The Microscripts by Robert Walser & From the Pencil Zone: Robert Walser\’s Masterworklets: A review by Rivka Galchen / Powell\’s Books (from Harper\’s)

Finally, I have copied and pasted the following essay entitled “Kafka & Walser Are Chinese” from a broken or inactive link at (& I bemoan the loss of this unique and brightly written site):

Robert Walser’s novel, The Assistant, translated by Susan Bernofsky, has been recently published after decades of neglect by the good people at New Directions. The unlikely amount of press he’s been getting should be at least one more heartening sign for the state of literature. For those who have not read him yet, he is a Swiss writer best known for his slim novel, Jakob von Gunten, and beguiling short-shorts that are elegantly simple and maddeningly elliptical at once.

Walser was perhaps one of the only great writers to truly disdain literary “greatness.” Many of the recent essays concerning Walser begin with a quote from Jakob von Gunten – “To be small and to stay small” – to sum up the writer’s personal and aesthetic credo. Yet the quote is misleading, as it conjures up a sense of pastoral contentedness rather than the sense of the negative kind of “smallness” that Walser’s art conveyed. There is a disruptive element in his writing which comes from a force that is more disturbing and radical: the self-destructive desire to vanish completely from society. From “Helbling’s Story” —

I ought really to be quite alone in the world, me, Helbling, and not a single living being besides me. No sun, no culture, me, naked on a high rock, no storms, not even a wave, no water, no wind, no streets, no banks, no money, no time, and no breath. Then, at least, I should not be afraid any more.

It is a well-known fact that Robert Walser spent the last decades of his life in a mental institution. And that, on the Christmas of 1956, some kids in a town called Herisau found his frozen body in a field thickly crusted with snow.

Benjamin Kunkel, in a recent New Yorker essay, makes a tantalizing connection between Walser and Kafka. He notes that in Walser’s epistolary story, “Job Application” (which reads like a wry progenitor of George Saunders’ send-ups of bureaucratic systems), the applicant Wenzel, who is a proxy for Walser, claims that he is, “to put it frankly, a Chinese.” Kunkel points out that Kafka, in one of his letters, had also made the same curious declaration in one of his letters: “Indeed I am a Chinese.” Kunkel claims that both Kafka and Walser were attracted to the notion of being “infinitely small” (Kafka) in a “human traffic… like an ocean” (Walser). “For both writers,” writes Kunkel, “smallness implied a drastic aversion to power, the exercise of it as well as submission to it.”

Kunkel makes an inspired point, but his point starts to track subtly (but crucially) off-target. He correctly notes that both Kafka and Walser admired the Chinese for their appreciation of modesty and smallness. But in interpreting this Chinese metaphor, Kunkel takes Wenzel’s statement from the story “Job Application” – everything small and modest is pleasing – at a crudely simplistic face value. Kunkel himself mentions that in “Job Application,” Walser adroitly switches back and forth from sweetness to sarcasm, and vice versa, but even after mentioning this, Kunkel completely fails to register the ambiguity and sarcasm inherent in Wenzel’s voice. Without hesitation, Kunkel literally concludes that Walser’s credo (and in extension, Kafka’s) is also: everything small and modest is pleasing. Through this critical misreading, the more subversive and consequential implication in Kafka and Walser’s Chinese metaphor is wholly lost – that being infinitely small provides a means by which one can achieve a state of restive invisibility. This subtext is, perhaps, the direct opposite of Kunkel’s literal interpretation of “everything small is pleasing,” and closer in principle to Kafka and Walser’s aesthetic concerns.

In the story “The Great Wall of China,” Kafka retells a Chinese legend to an unnamed “you.” He says that the dying Emperor has sent “you” a message via a messenger. In a gesture that mirrors K.’s oral recitation of a message to Barnabas that is to be relayed to the Castle (in fact, the short legend seems like The Castle condensed, reincarnated into an enigmatic parable), the dying king whispers his message into his messenger’s ear. Being a Kafka tale, of course, the messenger is mired in the infinite folds of the palace’s chambers and courtyards; he will never deliver the message. Thousands of years would pass. “But,” Kafka writes, “you sit at your window and dream [the message] to yourself when evening comes.”

Walter Benjamin tells us that it is not difficult to intuit that the unnamed “you” in the story is Kafka himself. And that Kafka has done everything in his power to make himself unknowable by making himself small. But unlike Kunkel, Benjamin recognizes that Kafka’s smallness is not a contented smallness of a pleasing kind, but a reductive maneuver by which a writer can vanish, become invisible:

It is impossible to overlook the fact that [Kafka] stands at the center of his novels, but what happens to him there is designed to reduce to insignificance the person who experiences it, to render him invisible by concealing him at the heart of banality. And the cipher K., which designates the protagonist of his novel The Castle… is certainly not enough to enable us to recognize the person who has disappeared. The most we can do is weave a legend around this man Kafka.

In an essay discussing Adorno’s book about Kierkegaard’s aesthetic philosophy, Benjamin crystallizes the “Chinese” metaphor even further:

[Adorno] discerns the ultimate statement of [Kierkegaard’s] philosophy in the image of (a painter’s) vanishing in a picture (painted by himself) – an image borrowed from the tradition of Chinese folktales. The self is “something vanishing that is rescued by a process of reduction.” This entry into and dissolution in the image is not redemption but consolation – the consolation whose source is the imagination.

Such an aesthetic sensibility belongs to Kafka, also; after all, the original title of the novel Amerika is Der Verschollene – The Man Who Disappeared. It is well-documented that Kafka made his fondness for Walser’s The Assistant known to Max Brod, and often read aloud Walser’s shorter pieces to him. He must have sensed a kindred spirit in the older writer, who was quixotically persistent about striving toward the “infinite smallness” so that he might notice the natural world unmediated, with more plenitude of feeling. Walser writes near the end of Jakob von Gunten:

And if I am smashed to pieces and go to ruin, what is being smashed and ruined A zero. The individual me is only a zero. But now I’ll throw away my pen! Away with the life of thought!… I just want to see if one can live and breathe and be in the wilderness too, willing good things and doing them, and sleeping and dreaming at night.

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Livingdying ~ Roland Barthes’s “Mourning Diary” / A Longhouse Birdhouse (12.15.10)


"The day after his mother's death in October 1977, Roland Barthes began a diary of mourning."

(October 26, 1977-September 15, 1979)

October 27

Who knows? Maybe something valuable in these notes?

November 5th

Sad afternoon. Shopping. Purchase (frivolity) of a tea cake at the bakery. Taking care of the customer ahead of me, the girl behind the counter says Voilà. The expression I used when I brought maman something, when I was taking care of her. Once, toward the end, half-conscious, she repeated, faintly, Voilà (I’m here, a word we used with each other all our lives).
The word spoken by the girl at the bakery brought tears to my eyes. I kept on crying quite a while back in the silent apartment.
That’s how I can grasp my mourning. 

Not directly in solitude, empirically, etc.; I seem to have a kind of ease, of control that makes people think I’m suffering less than they would have imagined. But it comes over me when our love for each other is torn apart once again. The most painful point at the most abstract moment… Continue reading

H. F. Noyes Has Died: 1918 – 2010

H. F. Noyes

H. F. Noyes (Tom to his friends) died in April of this year, in Athens, Greece, where he had been living since 1970 in semi-retirement as a Gestalt and Jungian psychotherapist. The American poet and editor wrote prolifically all of his life until his death sometime this April.

I feel that his poems of the  last eight years have been exceptional in vision, tone, diction, originality, and subject matter. His work will prove that he was one of a handful of great poets writing in English, in our time. As a consistent reader of several haiku periodicals, I would thrill coming to one of his poems or essays, as I would discovering a flower, a temperature, a sudden rain, in an unexpected place at an unexpected time.

He once wrote: “Let us on our haiku journeys, in the words of the great Persian poet, Rumi, wash ourselves of ourselves. And through this ego-cleansing we can then hope to experience Nature’s wholeness through the wholeness of our own nature.”

In Modern Haiku (2008, 39:1 p125) H. F. Noyes wrote: “Re definitions of haiku, I honor Basho’s, ‘Do not follow in the footsteps of the ancients. Seek what they sought.’ If they could speak from beyond the grave, Basho, Buson and Issa would caution that a haiku is not a product of mind, but of heartmind. The most precious ingredient in a haiku that ingratiates itself with us is likely to be spontaneity . . . an unselfconscious catching of the haiku spirit as it flies. The depth reflected is chiefly through afterthought in readers’ minds. The writer is content to convey a sense of wonder.”

In Presence (#28, January 2006, p12), the British haiku journal edited by the eminent poet, Martin Lucas, in an essay entitled “Haiku and Reality” Noyes wrote: “It is simple down-to-earth everyday reality that more than anything else makes us aware of  the goodness and truth of life. The very briefness of  a haiku gives it the highest potential in all poetry of non-interference with the spring of our being through unalive ideation.”

Difficult to choose, nevertheless these are two of my favorite haiku (published in Presence 2007 and Modern Haiku 2007, respectively) written by H. F. Noyes ~

children playing at tennis        the net gets in the way

moonlit snowflakes
floating into the cage
of the silver fox


~ yours truly, df

For more information on his life and an excerpt from his 1981 Autobiography, please visit the American Haiku Archives.