Posts Tagged ‘ language ’

Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Author of the Acacia Seeds. And Other Extracts from the Journal of the Association of Therolinguistics | Zeitgeist Spam



Editorial. By the President of the Therolinguistics Association

What is Language?

This question, central to the science of therolinguistics, has been answered—heuristically—by the very existence of the science. Language is communication. That is the axiom on which all our theory and research rest, and from which all our discoveries derive; and the success of the discoveries testifies to the validity of the axiom. But to the related, yet not identical question, What is Art? we have not yet given a satisfactory answer.

Tolstoy, in the book whose title is that very question, answered it firmly and clearly: Art, too, is communication. This answer has, I believe, been accepted without examination or criticism by therolinguists. For example: Why do therolinguists study only animals?

Why, because plants do not communicate.

Plants do not communicate; that is a fact. Therefore plants have no language; very well; that follows from our basic axiom. Therefore, also, plants have no art. But stay! That doesnot follow from the basic axiom, but only from the unexamined Tolstoyan corollary.

What if art is not communicative?

Or, what if some art is communicative, and some art is not?

Ourselves animals, active, predators, we look (naturally enough) for an active, predatory, communicative art; and when we find it, we recognise it. The development of this power of recognition and the skills of appreciation is a recent and glorious achievement.

But I submit that, for all the tremendous advances made by therolinguistics during the last decades, we are only at the beginning of our age of discovery. We must not become slaves to our own axioms. We have not yet lifted our eyes to the vaster horizons before us. We have not faced the almost terrifying challenge of the Plant.

If a non-communicative, vegetative art exists, we must rethink the very elements of our science, and learn a whole new set of techniques.

For it is simply not possible to bring the critical and technical skills appropriate to the study of Weasel murder mysteries, or Batrachian erotica, or the tunnel sagas of the earthworm, to bear on the art of the redwood or the zucchini.

This is proved conclusively by the failure—a noble failure—of the efforts of Dr. Srivas, in Calcutta, using time-lapse photography, to produce a lexicon of Sunflower. His attempt was daring, but doomed to failure. For his approach was kinetic—a method appropriate to the communicative arts of the tortoise, the oyster, and the sloth. He saw the extreme slowness of the kinesis of plants, and only that, as the problem to be solved.

But the problem was far greater. The art he sought, if it exists, is a non-communicative art: and probably a non-kinetic one. It is possible that Time, the essential element, matrix, and measure of all known animal art, does not enter into vegetable art at all. The plants may use the meter of eternity. We do not know.

We do not know. All we can guess is that the putative Art of the Plant isentirely different from the Art of the Animal. What it is, we cannot say; we have not yet discovered it. Yet I predict with some certainty that it exists, and that when it is found it will prove to be, not an action, but a reaction: not a communication, but a reception. It will be exactly the opposite of the art we know and recognise. It will be the first passive art known to us.

Can we in fact know it? Can we ever understand it?

It will be immensely difficult. That is clear. But we should not despair. Remember that so late as the mid-twentieth century, most scientists, and many artists, did not believe that Dolphin would ever be comprehensible to the human brain—or worth comprehending! Let another century pass, and we may seem equally laughable. “Do you realise,” the phytolinguist will say to the aesthetic critic, “that they couldn’t even read Eggplant?” And they will smile at our ignorance, as they pick up their rucksacks and hike on up to read the newly deciphered lyrics of the lichen on the north face of Pike’s Peak.

And with them, or after them, may there not come that even bolder adventurer—the first geolinguist, who, ignoring the delicate, transient lyrics of the lichen, will read beneath it the still less communicative, still more passive, wholly atemporal, cold, volcanic poetry of the rocks: each one a word spoken, how long ago, by the earth itself, in the immense solitude, the immenser community, of space.

Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Author of the Acacia Seeds. And Other Extracts from the Journal of the Association of Therolinguistics | Zeitgeist Spam

Tchaikovsky – The Seasons – October (“Autumn Song”)

Dana Gioia Poetry As Enchantment | The Dark Horse


Translating Borges into Trees: An Interview with Book Artist Katie Holten – Asymptote Blog

I’m fascinated by our understanding—and misunderstanding— of the systems around us. Man-made systems, like cities for example, mirror microscopic bacterial colonies. Yet we humans tend to see them (cities, or indeed most man-made things) as being something completely removed and separate from ‘nature’. These colonies, whether fungal, organic, man-made, microscopic, or intergalactic, all mirror each other with similar growth patterns that repeat at different scales. These clustering, branching patterns shape everything from our lungs and neural pathways to cracks in the mud, lightning, river estuaries, evolutionary paths, language development, algorithms, and the Internet. There’s something about trees that’s universal. – Katie Holten

Translating Borges into Trees: An Interview with Book Artist Katie Holten – Asymptote Blog.

SANDRA by Ariana Reines


I’m sitting in a mercy

The small mercy of an apartment I can’t afford

Where I can be alone & where the cock

Down the street still crows all afternoon & into the evening

I haven’t been able to look at

I haven’t been able to face

The news for going on three months

I’ve been stuck in my corner fighting my part of the war

And because I could not desert my post

My tongue has dried out

And all of the fights would not cohere

But put that in the future tense

Nothing will cohere or gel until I find out how to speak again

Until I find out whether I can.


I don’t know how

& something very large in me does not

Want to know how

To say the right thing

To say anything at all

It just wants sobbing

It wants the true feeling

It is time for the fall


I couldn’t avoid the word

dashcam and I wouldn’t

Even try but for some reason something within me is angry

Also at the ugliness of that word

There is something puny about it so out of proprtion

To murder to foul



& I want to train

We need our own military

That is a feeling

That is a thought

An old one for me if you want to know

& who is We & who am I to say We you will say


But first

I need to vomit


I don’t want to go past it


Stay with the vomit

The word sad is like a tinker toy that is stuck in my gullet which does not prevent me from walking or speaking but merely embitters my soul for all time


Something lurches away

The planet tilts

I worry about the other side of the camera

The other side of seeing being

It doesn’t stop them

It doesn’t stop them

It doesn’t stop them at all

An act of naked rapacity committed before the eye of God in the Fourth Century

Is recorded in the minute horror of its consequences

Generation after generation

In the lunges & lapses something Satanic

Still sucking sucking sucking at the marrow of all soul

& venereal with disgusting lust to leave nothing left alive on Earth

So as we now have every particular

Every cell of the psychotic loathing that has been rotting this country from the root since Day One

Edited or not edited

Since Day Zero

Since there is more & more on film & as black blood soaks the sore wad

Of cotton stuffed high into me & my head & world conjeal in TV snow

That is a blue grey mist of headachey dots & incidentally no longer exists

I am swollen & angry with my unsayable burden

& I do not know what I’m saying

I’m saying it’s hard to live & everyone I know is tired & scared


Of rationalizing tales that’re thin, only good enough to get one through half

Maybe a quarter of a day in this particular world

It’s chemicals that make us go & stop, usually the kind you can buy

& obligations, in other words money, which masquerade as form & choice

It makes me sick

The ambient dread

& the dread my endocrine machinery manufactures for me daily

& the words like a superfluity

Bitter confetti

Sprinkled over obscene reality

Bludgeoning every being I see

& intelligence itself too looks mighty flimsy

& also vain & self-deluding, like cardboard in rain

Or like the wrong fashions or an off tweet or like your resolve

Like your softening resolve

Like just getting tired

Like exhaustion as a way of life


I’d like to talk strategy

But you have too many feelings

& everybody has too many feelings

& when you’re done having your feelings it’s time for me to have mine

I too

Have too many

I have too many too

They’re my only possessions

They are my wealth

They are my invisible splendor

I’m like everybody else

& also today I’m too tired

& my terribly humble dreadfully solitary honesty

Which I have missed

Which I have missed

I have missed the roominess of telling this

To nobody



But you


& I have missed that in poetry one must be wrong

I have missed the only liberty I’ve ever known

Which is, In poetry one need never commit the sly indignity

Of trying to be right

I’m turning myself in

To turn myself over to all that is unimpressive in sadness

I’m here to deflower all eloquence

To tear at the hair of my eloquence like a mourner

To shred my raiment & smear myself in ash

But I really loathe these figures of speech

& I really loathe their preening sincerities

For the angrier I get at the possibility language might not fail

To carry to you something of the feeling I cannot express

The prettier the lithe little rhythms want to go

To speak badly

To quiver

To quiver in public

Not enough.

To start.

To turn myself over to the feeling that says

There is who we wish we were & there is the hideous fact of what we are

& the exhausting exhausting exhausting knowledge

& the feeling of being very alone with this responsibility

& of knowing that the hordes & hordes of us who are sad at this world

Feel alone with this responsibility

Of remaking it all stone by stone by yourself, of having to sort it out all fucking ready

Because this is not who you thought we were

It is not who I wanted to be

And who is going to share your bed tonight

And who will you break bread with

And who will you give the secrets of your day to

And to whom will you tell the little things of your day

Do your mother and your father know you at all

Would you like to be a mother or a father ever

Would you like to be another

& has love recently surprised, enlarged your world, maddened your heart

& foamed the blood of your heart til you thought something good & proud might yet

Come of us

Do your job

Assimilate this filth

& take responsibility for these murders

It’s a misery but not half what the fear is

Metallic in the mouth & souring the guts

That your hide means any second any second

They’ll do it to you, camera

Or no camera


I gassed the Jews said Sarah Kane

A true feeling

& one, not that you asked, of mine

One of my worst

The guilt of time having carried me away from the horror

& vouchsafed to me also the demoralizing protection

Offered by true & gleeful oblivion



Bad skin

Stupid skin

One of the horrors of surviving

One of the ways they end life & leave us nothing but survival

Is the enforced passivity of having watched, having seen, with your blood boiling

No matter what you also do

Just having watched, having seen

Does something weird in the mind that makes you forget your own flayings

Yes it enrages yes it so to speak radicalizes

But it also stupefies


& that is the part I’m alone with now


What if I had a nightmare that I was the inventor

Of the American religion whose God demands constant food

Whose abcess mouth must be stuffed with living black bodies at all times lest his

Diseased tool his carbuncular engine ever end its bland bland bland dominion

I’m just a dumb asymmetrical bitch standing here on this corner getting catcalled

& cretinizing before your very eyes

Growing more & more dumbfounded

At all that can happen while I watch

& all that will happen whether I watch or not

& how speech true speech sometimes seems the highest magic

The only one

But, watching, I also

No longer even notice what they’re doing to me

For to watch is to become an accessory

To murder & my empty arm is an accessory to the blue arm of the killer

To watch is to be

The accessory

& then come shame & horror

Torn apart by fruitless empathy

Foundering in all your pits, paralyzed

Empathy without ideology

Filled with rage & disgust you’re too disorganized

To direct at any thing or anyone but yourself

Or god help us all

At a Work


& even so I’m curious.

I’d like to recover my voice.

I miss the sound of yours.

I miss it very much.

I wonder about it.

My only possession that goes out of my body not as waste.

I wonder what it would feel like.

To hear it

I’d like to do a language purge & see

If God grant me the peace enough to see it thru

I’d like to see

When it’s over if it ever ends it there’s anything left

Of the power in frailty

Or the truly rare grace of just force


a.rawlings: Ecopoetic intersubjectivity | Jacket2

a.rawlings at Swartifoss, Iceland.

a.rawlings: Ecopoetic intersubjectivity | Jacket2.

What It Takes To Be Violent: An Appreciation of Marie Darrieussecq’s Pig Tales | Full Stop

What It Takes To Be Violent: An Appreciation of Marie Darrieussecq’s Pig Tales | Full Stop.