Photo by Sandra Meadows

Here's an excerpt from Mike Amnasan's dissertation "Community and the Individual Talent." While this section doesn't directly name class as a particular or sole focus, in a recent email about this section Mike wrote, "I am working on a part of my dissertation at the moment which deals with similar class issues to those I wrote about in books like Liar." I find interesting the engagement with how class manifests in comfort and discomfort, an economic and an uneconomic life, and the importance of distraction. Ideology inside the body. Like the way we might think that perspective, an invention of the early modern period, is natural and mimetic of how we see, rather than something that organizes and constitutes how and what we see. If you want to read more about LIAR, click here.

Mike Amnasan was a sheet metal worker for over twenty years, working on high rises and othercommercial buildings out of Local 104 in San Francisco (and for two years out of Local 28 in New York). Before that he worked in factories, mostly garment factories in Los Angeles. He met other writers for the first time in Robert Gluck's writing workshop in San Francisco. He went back to school, coming to that decision with the psychotherapeutic help of Liz Naidoff. He presently lives in Brooklyn and is a Ph.D. student in the philosophy department at The New School. He is the author of Liar written in the early '90s and published by Ithuriel's Spear in 2007.

Pre-Reflective Attunement with Others and Intellectual Difference
~~Mike Amnasan

You normally do not look closely at a chair when you take a seat, but, as Martin Heidegger tells us, you may look closely at this chair if, while sitting in it, a leg breaks and you topple to the floor, or if you make a point by calling attention to it. There is also a third possibility that Heidegger does not consider: you may look more closely at the chair, even questioning if it is yours to sit in, if you feel out of place. This involves sensitivity to a situation you have not adjusted to, perhaps one that you will never adjust to sufficiently to put to rest an unusual awareness of your own body, and those aspects of your surroundings that, if you were at ease, would not intrude on your perception.

The following is the Beginning of Dambudzo Marechera’s story “Black Skin What Mask.” It is Marechera’s description of what his black protagonist feels like when he goes among crowds in Oxford England (1) :

My skin sticks out a mile around here. Every time I go out I feel it tensing up, hardening, torturing itself. It only relaxes when I am in shadow, when I am alone, when I wake up early in the morning, when I am doing mechanical actions, and, strangely enough, when I am angry. But it is coy and self-conscious when I draw in my chair and begin to write. (93)

Marechera’s character, probably more or less himself, is overly sensitive to white people’s attention to his skin. Given his title, Marechera was probably influenced by Franz Fanon, who in Black Skin, White Masks writes “I am overdetermined from without. I am the slave not of the ‘idea’ that others have of me but of my own appearance” (116). He is overdetermined by the stares of white people, and strives for anonymity. He is forced to reflect upon himself because he cannot forget about himself in the way someone more at ease takes for granted. In “They Diagnosed me a Schizophrenic When I Was Just a Gemini. ‘The Other Side of Madness,’” Colin King describes how his becoming overly conscious of how white people were reacting to him as a black man in England was confused with symptoms of schizophrenia and manic depression.

What Fanon is missing, when he is “over-determined from without,” is the ability to move among people and things without taking much notice, to be pre-reflectively already among people. When Marechera speaks of “doing mechanical actions” during which he no longer feels his skin torturing itself, this involves automatic behavior: more or less unconscious actions.

Josef Parnas, Pierre Bovet, and Dan Zahavi, using a “phenomenologically informed perspective,” propose that schizophrenic autism involves an inability to relate to one’s surroundings and others without close attention to what one is doing. They contrast this to “the ability to see things in the appropriate perspective, an implicit non-conceptual grip of the ‘rules of the game’, a sense of proportion….a non-conceptual and non-reflective indwelling in the intersubjective world” (133).

They defend the explanatory value of this phenomenological approach, but they do not regard it as definitive. While a phenomenologically informed account is compelling, and may offer insight into schizophrenic autism, the loss of “the ability to see things in the appropriate perspective” is not necessarily a symptom of mental illness. Becoming too aware of what most people normally take in stride, can be the result of being treated in a racist manner, or sensitivity to being regarded differently, or simply being different from the people you are among, or feeling something amiss that everyone else seems to overlook. This can involve an aggregate of symptoms that demonstrate a lack of some fundamental requirement of a normal life, the lack of a pre-reflective attunement with others we normally take for granted. But to speak of the lack of the “pre-reflective,” as Parnas, Bovet, and Zahavi occasionally do, can be deceptive. This sense of lack overlooks the competitive nature of mental processing. The pre-reflective may become overruled by mental preparedness to develop some way to get a handle on perceptions that are disturbing, personal, baffling, and uncertain. If you are aroused to the feeling that something is not right, you will pay closer attention to what is going on around you. You are likely to theorize reasons for this feeling, even if these theories are developed from insufficient evidence or a poor interpretation of evidence. You may get it wrong, even if there is something that rightfully aroused your suspicions, and it may be something that you, and anyone else for that matter, would not normally notice. You may become more conscious of the gestures and facial expressions of others (whether you accurately interpret them, or take them as too personally about you, or if you see the shared looks of others as a mutual recognition of their entitlement).

The very definition of the pre-reflective tells you that there is a good deal going on around you that you can safely and practically look past to what has been agreed upon as more important concerns. You will most likely remain unconscious of a prejudice that is immersed in every day practices, as long as you focus on the work you are responsible for performing. Since the pre-reflective involves being attuned with others in regard to “a taste for what is adequate and appropriate,” your body performs the appropriate conduct, by rote, freeing you to pay more attention to issues brought up by you or the people you are with. There is freedom and economy in the pre-reflective. Nevertheless, it is inadequate if a situation arises that calls for unusual attention.

The naturalness of the pre-reflective can be contrived. An actor will find it easier to deliver her lines naturally in front of an audience if she has a secondary focus: an activity to focus her attention on, something to occupy her hands for example. If she concentrates on her lines, her delivery will sound forced. This is why it is important for actors to concentrate on actions rather than speech, even though delivering lines is probably the most important thing they do. In this case it is ordinary behavior--an actor sets a table for example, and while doing so, she has an easier time delivering her lines naturally. This “ordinary” behavior can be consciously intended to help with speaking on a stage more naturally. This is, again, like Marechera’s ability to attain relief through the performance of mechanical actions, relief from feeling himself to be the object of white people’s stares. This relief can be artificially produced, but only where there is some activity you can perform automatically as pre-reflective knowing, like knowing how to set a table without having to give much thought to what you are doing, and as long as you are unquestionably the right person to perform this task, and that it follows from the “rules of the game” so that you do not feel conspicuous by virtue of doing something inappropriate for someone like you, in this place, among these people. Nevertheless, at other times you may be more concerned with asserting independent judgment.

At birth we are already with other people. Consequently we normally become attuned with others long before we perceive ourselves as intellectually different from others. This consciousness of your difference can call your belonging with the others you are among into question. And there may be reasons why you would want this “belonging” called into question. In the following Zahavi describes Husserl’s account of “cultural embeddedness”:

I learn what counts as normal from others, and indeed, initially, and for the most part, from those closest to me, hence from those I grow up with, those who teach me, and those belonging to the most intimate sphere of my life. I thereby participate in a communal tradition, which through a chain of generations stretches back into a dim past. I always already find myself a member of a community. I am born into it; I grow up in it. (Subjectivity 166)

Here’s the problem. You may, as you mature, come to dislike the norms of those you grew up with. This would not be an unusual intellectual awakening to a new judgmental ability. You cannot demonstrate a new capacity for independent judgment by doing what others expect of you. Furthermore, if you grow up in a nuclear family and your parents choose to live in an intellectually bleak community the members of which tend to eagerly defend their limited interests, you may develop a terrible fear of the personal development Zahavi lays out above. This would amount to a fear of responding automatically like those who you are closest to. You may feel as if some of the ways you now do things belong to someone else which, in a sense, is an accurate judgment. You may automatically do some things in ways that do not suit your, more recently developed, self, while looking for other people who ask questions that will suit you better than the interests of those close at hand. If this is the case, you, as an intellectual being, have arrived on the scene too late, long after having acquired automatic ways of interacting with others. You do not want an understanding of “what counts as normal” from others whose taste in such matters you do not trust. But you could not intercept these norms when you acquired them early on before you were capable of judging them independently of the people you acquired them from.

And yet, that you can even make such a judgment, now, in regard to who you are, suggests that your conscious self can be surprisingly immediate, and understood through judgment that emerges from more recent exposure to ways of thinking that you did not grow up with. You may anticipate a more favorable community for you to develop your thoughts within than any you have previous experience of. And yet, due to your lack of appropriate experience, you might not expect to be immediately welcome within any community that approximates what you imagine could be more favorable to you, and this is a problem with the pre-reflective. Fitting in involves automatic attunement with others, behavior that is awkward when too consciously performed. Although you can consciously reject a life-time of personal history, or a key concept for a whole civilization in an instant of insight, adaptation to new situations involves slower changes, and may never be fully successful.

Offspring can be radically different from their parents. Siblings can be, in the biology of their brains, suited to very different lives. This difference will not fully emerge in childhood. A child may be already predisposed to ways of thinking, as the physical make-up of fundamental aspects of her brain that will largely determine who she will later become, ways of thinking that she met with no examples of early on when she acquired norms from those closest to her.

A common finding is that the effects of being brought up in a given family are sometimes detectable in childhood, but that they tend to peter out by the time the child has grown up. That is, the reach of the genes appears to get stronger as we age, not weaker. Perhaps our genes affect our environments, which in turn affect ourselves. Young children are at the mercy of parents and have to adapt to a world that is not of their choosing. As they get older, however, they can gravitate to the microenvironments that best suit their natures. (Pinker “My Genome” 5)

They “can gravitate to the microenvironments that best suit their natures” if such microenvironments are available to them—and there may be problems with assuming that there are ideal microenvironments. It may incline us toward thinking that takes ideal communities for granted. Miss-matches with communities, and impasses that result in breaks from attunement with others, may be important for developing insights, important to developing an “emerging philosophy” by creating an unusual consciousness of what we normally overlook.

Pierre Bourdieu thinks of norms, learned early on, as personal taste unconsciously embedded in our bodies:

The schemes of the habitus, the primary forms of classification, owe their specific efficacy to the fact that they function below the level of consciousness and language, beyond the reach of introspective scrutiny or control by the will. Orienting practices practically, they embed what some would mistakenly call values in the most automatic gestures or the apparently most insignificant techniques of the body—ways of walking or blowing one’s nose, ways of eating or talking—and engage the most fundamental principles of construction and evaluation of the social world, those which most directly express the division of labour (between the classes, the age groups and the sexes) or the division of the work of domination, in divisions between bodies and between relations to the body…(466)

For Bourdieu, being of a social class is pre-reflective. It concerns a direct and unconscious correspondence to a division of labor. It is not, then, something we can observe in ourselves and change according to a later developing self. This model does not include the capacity to embrace discourse incidentally encountered while turning away from early influences. I agree that a conscious refutation or reevaluation of adopted norms will not simply displace one’s unconscious repetition of “insignificant techniques of the body,” or correct poor adaptation to an unfamiliar, but desirable, microenvironment once and for all. At the same time, it is our ability to change in many respects into people who we could not anticipate that makes it so difficult to assess the potential of individuals. In the following, Bourdieu is in agreement with Husserl’s understanding of how we learn what counts as normal from others early on, but adds a social class bias:

Total, early, imperceptible learning, performed within the family from the earliest days of life and extended by a scholastic learning which presupposes and completes it, differs from belated, methodical learning not so much in the depth and durability of its effect—as the ideology of cultural ‘veneer’ would have it—as in the modality of the relationship to language and culture which it simultaneously tends to inculcate. It confers the self-certainty which accompanies the certainty of possessing cultural legitimacy, and the ease which is the touchstone of excellence; it produces the paradoxical relationship to culture made up of self-confidence amid (relative) ignorance and of casualness amid familiarity, which bourgeois families hand down to their offspring as if it were an heirloom. (66)

In contrast to this description of “casualness amid familiarity,” an arousal to that which is normally pre-reflective could result from entering a room full of people of a social class you have not adjusted to being among. This can result in a “sense of unfamiliarity of the familiar, [a] sense of being overwhelmed or captivated by perceptual details” (Parnas, Bovet, Zahavi 4). You could (assuming this arousal is not symptomatic of continuous pathology) leave this place and return home (if you have a room of your own), where you are no longer overly conscious of yourself and the place where you are. Marechera could enter the shadows, perform mechanical actions, or get angry, the latter perhaps being a refutation of the need for attunement with others.

You may be better pre-disposed toward the work being done by those people you are uncomfortable among than work more typical of someone with your past. Marechera’s great facility with English got him to Oxford, on scholarship, but it did not make for an easy adjustment there. Ideally you will discover the right “microenvironment” at an appropriate age of development to make the adjustment to a new life easily, as a natural transition to new challenges suiting your stage of personal development—and yet this more smooth transition, assuming it is possible, may amount to the loss of whatever advantage a greater sensitivity to where you are could provide.

Pre-reflective attunement with others sets us free from sensitivity to our usual haunts. Privilege is largely maintained through places that the appropriate members of a community will have an unconscious feel for, often corresponding to a sense of entitlement. When confident members of this community are not engaged by problems, even while located where they commonly do so, their brains can relax into a comfortable baseline neural activity (2). This allows them to engage in a richer variety of interactions. They will be relaxed enough to joke with one another, use irony, and other forms of humor, good-naturedly poke fun at one another’s minor errors of judgment, attack others propositions without fear of alienating themselves, and so on. By contrast, the person who does not belong, if he enters this institution, will become too conscious of where he is for comfort. If he is too conscious of his effort to blend in, he is not doing it very well in regard to his own phenomenological experience, and he will feel himself to be lacking in a way that he cannot correct by becoming more conscious, since it is the lack of the ability to relax.

Maybe I should be too conscious for comfort if I enter an institution in order to learn there, and contribute. Maybe I should feel embarrassed if I feel myself relaxing to the extent that I can treat a chair I am about to sit in as so "ready-to-hand" that I pay no more attention to what I am doing than if I were in my own apartment, since I will, then, express through my regard for my surroundings a certain entitlement: all this is naturally mine to be a part of and easily locate my future within. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about what Robert Sternberg calls “practical intelligence”:

To Sternberg, practical intelligence includes things like “knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect.” It is procedural: it is about knowing how to do something without necessarily knowing why you know it or being able to explain it.It’s practical in nature: that
is, its not knowledge for its own sake. It’s knowledge that helps you read situations correctly and get what you want. And, critically, it is a kind of intelligence separate from the sort of analytical ability measured by IQ. (101)

There is pleasure in the mutual confirmation that we are competent in what we do, the pleasure of “knowing one’s way around,” along with others; if you are in academia, it is like expanding your home, the place where you are comfortable, to include a whole field of study. There is a clear advantage in feeling at ease in various institutions which you can, then, more easily make use of, and more easily contribute within, and this alone may allow you to do more satisfactory work than someone without such an advantage. You can become more involved in ongoing and lively debate, involved in more interactions of various kinds with others who make more practical demands upon you, often involving duties and responsibilities, actions that become mechanical and that allow you to adjust more quickly and easily to new challenges, and so on. And this may give you more ability to have an effect on the lives of others for better or worse.

At the same time, there can be no surprises in “practical intelligence,” beyond how smoothly interactions go, which, on the positive side, can offer the same pleasure an athlete feels when he is reacting to the actions of others quicker than the time it would take to become conscious of what he is doing, an economy of movement that can be breath-taking. And yet, you can’t savor the moment, since, phenomenologically, it goes by so quickly; you do not feel the delay of conscious attention to what you are doing. “Practical intelligence” is know-how according to given rules, and as Bourdieu tells us, these practical practices operate below the level of consciousness. But such practices can be interrupted, producing the confusion of greater consciousness of the situatedness of your interactions, rousing you out of this ease of comportment. This is not the worse thing that could happen; it involves the consciousness that makes uneconomic efforts, to do something different, possible.

In order to develop insights, I should be somewhat distracted by the thought of what other people may be doing elsewhere, things that I am not able to do here and now. I should be somewhat distracted by thoughts that will detract from the economy of what I am doing here and now. I should be somewhat distracted by the thought that my body is located in one place only and that the extent to which I am tied to context is not trivial. This consciousness disrupts the economy and the pleasure of automatic response, but, along with the tension it produces, it can provide the conditions for a rationality that is based on a broader selection of information.

Kant would regard this tension as a kind mental health problem. He devotes a section in Anthropology to the problem of distraction:

DISTRACTION (distractio) is the state of diverting attention (abstraction) from certain ruling ideas by means of shifting to other dissimilar ideas. If the distraction is intentional, it is called dissipation; if it is involuntary it is absentmindedness (absentia)….To be distracted in society is impolite, and often laughable as well. Women are ordinarily not subject to this impulse, unless they devote themselves to learning. A servant who looks distracted while waiting on table is usually thinking something evil, either he is plotting something or he thinks about the possible consequences. (S 47)

While, for a woman, distraction can be a symptom of the folly of devoting herself to learning, for a servant, waiting on table, it is probably evil, which suggests that for a servant to have thoughts devoted to anything other than serving will likely involve plotting against those he serves. Distraction, other than in the case of the plotting servant, is a mental health problem. “The most wholesome means of recovering control is social conversation on various subjects, similar to playing. Such conversation must not change from one subject to another by violating the natural relationship of ideas, for then the state of mental distraction would break up the company because everything is confused and the unity of conversation is entirely lacking” (S 47). If someone makes a habit of distraction he becomes useless to society. He should use reason to reign in his attention, confining it to “the natural relationship of ideas.” Reason, in this respect, is a means of control through reducing attention. Inclination to associate remotely related information can result in an easily distractible mind.

When Kant was considering distraction he was unlikely to have considered the possibility of becoming distracted by ideas that do not fit within the “ruling ideas” of the people he is among while these ideas are nevertheless related to the subject matter being discussed. Different disciplines now often have different “ruling ideas” for dealing with the same essential subject, whether Kantians speaking of intuitions, neuroscientists speaking of sense data and mental processing, or continental philosophers speaking of a phenomenological first person experience as opposed to an empirical approach to perception. The “ruling ideas” of one discipline (as opposed to those of another) may be more useful for considering some aspects of a problem, but not others. This could give an advantage to being able to alternate between the "ruling ideas" of different communities within one’s overall efforts.

Distraction is essential to organizing your life, especially if you have varied interests that bring more information into your mental processing. For example, if you are at one event, say a talk, you may sit near the exit if you have to sneak out before it ends in order to attend another event. Thought of that second event, reminding you to check the time, must repeat occasionally. When it does, you must emotionally reinforce the importance of this other event (remember it as important) so that thought of it will return. If you think of this other event as insignificant you may forget all about it. The importance of somewhere else makes you more aware of where you are than you may like, more aware of sensory perception as opposed to comprehension of what a speaker is saying, more aware that you are in this place, only, and that you can only attend the other event if you leave this event before you may want to. You must remain somewhat intellectually removed from the people you are among. When the time to leave gets near, you must more strongly reinforce thought of the second event, the need to get up from your chair and slip out, so that it will recur more frequently closer to the time when you have to leave. Each time the thought of this other event occurs to you, you lose focus on the people you are presently among. Thoughts of the second event will be distracting, perhaps even impolite. You may feel guilty for not giving your full attention to the speaker. On the other hand you may feel excitement at negotiating a bigger world.

Equivalent choices are stressful because they require either an arbitrary choice or the confusion of alternating attention. And yet we could—this is what I claim--regard the confusion of more kinds of information that is related in regard to subject matter, but that is, nevertheless, unrelated in regard to the “ruling ideas” of the communities involved, as necessary for more advanced thought than would fit within a more economic life.

You can gain more confidence within a narrow-based rationality--at least, confidence of being able to handle clearly pertinent information, and probably even larger amounts of information, more easily recalled in conjunction with other similar memory, since memory is enhanced by association. In an academic setting you may worry about the prospect of becoming embarrassed in comparison to other faculty members who remember more of the information important to your profession.

When sensitive to being only here and now, there is nothing you can do to transcend the pain of your physical limitations, your largely incidental position within a particular, necessarily-limited, time and place. Without transcendence you are left with either a disappointing acceptance of your limitations, or the confusion of alternating attention, but in the latter case you can come to conclusions that you could not have otherwise reached, but to get there may require a consciousness that arouses you out of a pre-reflective attunement with others.

(1)Marechera was in England on a scholarship to Oxford. He came from poverty in Zimbabwe, the son of a lorry driver helper, someone who helped load and unload trucks.

(2) In an article concerned with insight, called “The Prepared Mind,” John Kounios and others have concluded that prior to solving problems most areas of the brain show decreased signaling “as neural activity returned to baseline” (886). In preparation to solve problems using insight, there is “increased readiness to monitor for competing responses, and to apply cognitive control mechanisms as needed to (a) suppress extraneous thoughts, (b) initially select prepotent solution spaces or strategies, and, if these prove ineffective, (c) subsequently shift attention to a nonprepotent solution or strategy. Such shifts are characteristic of insight” (887).

Works Cited
Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction; A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. Trans. Richard Nice. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1998.
Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. Trans. Charles Lam Markmann. New York: Grove, 1967.
Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers; The Story of Success. New York: Little, Brown, 2008.
Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. San Francisco: Harper, 1962.
Kant, Immanuel. Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View. Trans. Victor Lyle Dowdell. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1978.
King, Colin. "They Diagnosed Me a Schizophrenic When I Was Just a Gemini; The Other Side of Madness." Reconceiving Schizophrenia. Ed. Man Cheung Chung, K.W.M. Fulford, and George Graham. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007.
Kounios, John, et al. The Prepared Mind; Neural Activity Prior to Problem Presentation Predicts Subsequent Solution by Sudden Insight. Psychological Science. 2006. Vol.17. No.6.
Marechera, Dambudzo. "Black Skin What Mask." The House of Hunger. Oxford: Heinemann, 1993.
Parnas, Josef, Pierre Bovet, and Dan Zahavi. Schizophrenic Autism: Clinical Phenomenology and Pathogenic Implications. World Psychiatry. 2002 October; 1 (3): 131-136. [PubMed]
Pinker, Steven. My Genome, My Self. The New York Times. 2009 Jan. 11. Magazine. [nytimes.com]
Zahavi, Dan. Subjectivity and Selfhood; Investigating the First-Person Perspective. Cambridge: Bradford, 2008.


Cynthia Sailers' Introduction to Stacy Szymaszek

Julian Brolaski writes of Stacy’s Szymaszek’s Emptied of All Ships (Litmus 2005), Stacy’s work “combines the homo and the piratical to make outlaw speech in a place which has traditionally been outside the law.” Stacy’s “narrative” centers around her protagonist “James” (inspired by Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse “James”), “a robot armed sailor-siren with Protean shoulders, sailing on a bonhomie sea.” Julian continues, “Queers have always been fond of adventures “at sea”—the sea is a notoriously good place for outlaw behaviors—where kitsch, chaos and rum rule and James is inevitably “queer”—an adjective of doubtful origin but possibly in the sense of the German “quer” or “oblique”— oblique, perverse, not going straight to the point; roundabout, indirect.”

Interestingly, Julian’s review was rejected by the poetry publication it was intended for because of its quote “fun, in-the-know approach to the subject,” and because it was too “tied to a specifically queer vocabulary for our magazine, which has a readership that might find some of the references confusing.” (And he was redirected to an explicitly queer publication).

Stacy’s writing as a whole is also inevitably queer in the sense of not going “straight,” through her use of doubles, male doppelgangers, ambisexual “wonders,” masculine signifiers, and dramatis personae. She creates a fantasy, a Gay Male Pantheon out of my favorite literati: Melville, Hart Crane, Pasolini, Whitman, and Genet. Stacy says to her Pasolini: “I think how we are almost brothers Mafioso bandit homo whore.” There seems to be a continuum between male relations from fraternity to criminal to homo to whore which speaks something of her relationship to Pasolini, in this case, but also of a pivotal devolvement in differing subjective positions that splinter and multiply as constitutions of a self. I’m reminded of Roland Barthes question, “Who is the I who writes itself,” or in Stacy’s words “to be both more than I what I am or less than what I am.”

There is much to say about Stacy’s writing (and her love of the long poem!), the close attention to word, line, page, an aesthetically conscious and analytic lyric mode; however, I think one cannot ‘read’ the work without appreciation for the slippage between the invisibility of queerness and queerness as a sign/turn of visibility. Maybe in a sense, it’s one route to asking larger questions about one’s community and who are we writing for? Stacy keeps us tense, does not separate out ‘poetic / perverse’, and is extremely generous in producing frames/ content and at the same time, is able to slip in and out of them.

In Hyperglossia: we’re in the world of the anatomical text, or what I think might be the speaking phallus (over, beyond, tongue, hyperglossia, “excited tongue?). On the opening page, Eustace (“Eustace” a male given name for “steadfast”) appears immediately as the anagram “sea cute” and a subsequent pattern of anagrams appear like code. Having the phallus, being the phallus, speech itself, we also find coded the criminal, the marked one, the writer—and as we think back to her nom de plumes, the multiple and colliding subjectivities—Stacy writes, “All my work is about the itch of desire that can never be scratched,” which is both about the nature of desire and the compulsory, the blocking out, the use of persona, i.e. these longing figures who identify themselves with the criminal (but are still sane, do not hystericize the incident). She is much more straightforward about her loss: “I was once a private person before this” or “how my jaw is never to be disengaged again.”… Desire is desire.

I was looking at Stacy’s photographs this week on flickr and found one of my favorites. It’s a cardboard cutout of Stacy, I think with a woman with her arm around her, and the title is “[Stacy] makes an excellent transference device! I don’t think I could say it any better.

And so I am very excited to have Stacy here and Hyperglossia soon in my (criminal) hands.

Hyperglossia is forthcoming in 2009 from Litmus Press.


Craig Santos Perez & Stacy Szymaszek

Jim Brashear, on hiatus from New York for a week & I (not masked) attended Small Press Traffic's offering of Craig Santos Perez and Stacy Szymaszek reading from their work on Friday the 13th.

Craig Santos Perez was up first and read from new work. He offered us his version of an inauguration day poem. I can't remember if "Senator Kennedy we love you get up" is the title or if this is a line from within the poem itself. But there it is.

Craig offered us villanelles, haiku and other work. His haiku were part of a series or a poem in sections entitled "All with Ocean Views" which explored, in part, the construction of Guam as a tourist destination and site of U.S. military bases. Both Chamoru culture and the resources of the island itself have been devastated from colonization, war and occupation.

In his statement to the U.N. in 2008, copies of which Craig offered us, he writes:

During and immediately after World War II, brown tree snakes invaded Guam as stowaways on U.S. naval cargo ships. By 1968, the snakes colonized the entire island, their population reaching a density of 13,000 per square mile. As a result, Guam's seabirds, 10 of 13 endemic species of forest birds, 2 of 3 native mammals, and 6 of 10 native species of lizards have all gone extinct.

The U.S. plans to introduce--this time intentionally--a more familiar breed of predators to Guam: an estimated 19,000 military personnel and 20,000 of their dependents, along with numerous overseas businesses and 20,000 contract workers to support the military build-up. Add this to the 14,000 military personnel already on Guam, and that's a combined total of 73,000--outnumbering the entire Chamoru population on Guam, which is roughly 62,900.

Perez's poetry explores this history. One of his poems from his second book featured the recurring line "sheet water," and then a Chamorro phrase that I can't reproduce here. I also jotted down, "let there be no
beginning to what this can bear."

It is a pleasure to listen to Craig read. Here is a review by Jake Kennedy of Santos Perez's Unincorporated Territory.

And here's Craig's bio from SPT:

Craig Santos Perez, a native Chamoru from the Pacific Island of Guahan (Guam), is a co-founder of Achiote Press and author of from unincorporated territory [hacha] (Tinfish Press, 2008). His poetry, essays, reviews, and translations have appeared (or are forthcoming) in New American Writing, Pleiades, The Denver Quarterly, The Colorado Review, and ZYZZYVA, among others.

Next up was Stacy Szymaszek. I wasn't familiar with Stacy's work, though there is no excuse for that. I was happy to have the opportunity to hear her read and I brought home with me a copy of her chapbook, Orizaba: A Voyage with Hart Crane. It was pricey, 10 bucks, but worth it. Cynthia Sailers provided a smart introduction to Stacy's work, explaining its queer,perverse trajectory. Loved it!

Here's a tiny tidbit of what Stacy read from Orizaba:

"In all the argosy of your bright hair I dreamed
Nothing so flagless as this piracy."--HC

My interest in Hart Crane began as purely physical. I saw a picture of him when I was a young boy that gave my confused desires a focus. He was wearing a Marseilles sailor suite, leaning against a tree in Mexico with a dark-haired woman named Peggy Cowley. None of this mattered at the time. It was his hair, which was cropped close on the sides and combed up in front. I acquired this hairstyle slowly, each cut coming closer to resemblance. In my mind, something forbidden was happening. When I asked my mother to buy me striped shirts from the mall, she seemed pleased that I was showing any interest in fashion. Not knowing what else to do, I copied what I liked about him. It is remarkable that a hart Crane biography ever made it to our little public library. Voyager was being discharged and sold for a dime. Its 831 pages, including the index, was written by a man named John Unterecker and published by Liveright, the same press that issued the trade edition of Crane's magnum opus The Bridge. A previous reader had underlined a sentence on page 656, "Then in front of Orizaba everything suddenly begins to change." Hart Crane had originally written this on a postcard.

With this piece, Stacy left us in medias res and wanting more.

From one of her poems, I jotted down:

she localizes words
forms fibroblasts
uses a fibroblaster

There is something precise and sleeper wave-like about Szymaszeck's poetry. It rolls up and suddenly knocks you down.

Read a review of Stacy's Some Mariners by Jake Kennedy here.

Check out the work of these writers both.

Here's Stacy's bio, again, from Small Press Traffic:

Stacy Szymaszek is the author of Emptied of All Ships (Litmus, 2005) as well as many chapbooks, most recently Orizaba: A Voyage With Hart Crane (Faux, 2008), and from Hyperglossia (Hot Whiskey, 2008). Stacy S: Autoportraits which features her self-portraits with texts written in response by Lisa Jarnot, Renee Gladman, Kevin Killian and others was also published in 2008 by OMG!. The complete Hyperglossia will be published by Litmus Press in spring of 2009. She is the editor of Gam and the Artistic Director of the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church.


Goings On and Tisa Bryant's Unexplained Presence

There has been so much going on in the Bay Area of late--Rae Armantrout and Laura Sims at Small Press Traffic and then Rae and Lisa Robertson in Berkeley on Saturday the 7th. Erica Kaufman & Brandon Brown will read at David Buuck's house on March 12th. This Friday the 13th, Small Press Traffic hosts Stacy Szymaszek and Craig Santos Perez. Ariana Reines and Barret Watten will be reading at 21 Grand Gallery in Oakland on Sunday March 15th.

But, Dear Readers, deadlines and the frantic pace of life keep intervening with my attendance......

Here's what I have to offer you today. I have been enjoying dipping into Tisa Bryant's Unexplained Presence published in 2007 by Leon Works. Her sentences are elastic. You'll want to follow them and her everywhere. Tisa will take you on a tour of engravings, illustrations and paintings (by S.H. Grimm and Willliam Hogarth among others), tv (Regency House Party), texts (work by Gaston Bachelar, Giorgio de Chirico, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Claire de Duras, Trin T. Minh-ha, Virginia Woolf, Emile Zola and others).

from the PREFACE:

Black figures in Eurocentric literature, film, and visual art are rarely presented without being given a distinct, racialized function, the import of which often goes largely undisputed, if not wholly unacknowledged, simply because the power of saying, of naming and describing it, has been withheld. The explanation for their presence and their function is hidden in plain sight, a double-sided sleight of hand between the maker and the subconscious, and between the maker and the receiver of the work. This sleight of hand intrigues me. Like watching two people (lovers? spies?) silently mouthing words to each other from across a crowded room, my comprehension of the message occurs surreptitiously. I know things I'm not supposed to know. I see without seeing, and witness an open secret, in a roomful of people where I am not the only one with such eyes.

But, as with lovers and spies and secret codes, we're conditioned not to look too long or too closely at how or why these figures do what they do, how they might perpetuate or debunk myths around race, sexuality, storytelling. We simply minimize, as needed, their effect on the environment (narrative), and on us, by shielding them, hand to eye, from our view.

The writings in this collection reflect the shifting landscape of racialized narratives, and interrogate this silent contract between maker and reader/viewer.
--Tisa Bryant

In prose highly attuned to the resonances of language, Bryant exposes these figures and their effects on the environment, on narrative, on us as participants in and co-creators of this environment.

Here are a couple of short pieces from the book. I encourage you to get a copy of the book for your own. You can, at Small Press Distribution, here.

S.H. grimm, Drolleries
June 14, 1771
Print Collection
Lewis Walpole Library
Yale University

An old woman in a humble cloak stops, thunderstruck, at the sight of a euphemisitic "lady of fashion," emerging from an avenue of lindens.

Behind her trails a black page in ornate suiting, a plumed turban on his head, her lapdog tucked in his arms. He, too, is the mark of fashion among such of the period, who promoted their charms within sight of the well-heeled.

The lady's hair is teased to an exaggerated height that rises into the trees. At the summit of her coiffure sits a ribboned hat. The old woman must lean back and scope with her hand cupped around her eye in order to take it all in. Her wrinkled hand reaches for her heart in dismay. Her mouth drops open.

"Heyday!" reads the caption. "Is this my daughter Anne?"


Negress Clock Case
Paris, CA. 1785
Bronze, Marble
Hillwood Gardens And Museum,
Washington, DC

"The bust-size figure of the negress is elegantly dressed with a feathered turban and bejeweled with earrings that would have activated an ingenious clock mechanism. In pulling the right earring, the hour would have appeared in the right eye. A pull to the left earring would have indicated the minutes in the left eye. A model of this clock made by the clockmaker Furet was delivered to Queen Marie Antoinette at Versailles. Before its delivery, the clock was exhibited in Furet's window shop where flocks of passersby stopped to contemplate it in awe."

Here's what a San Francisco Bay Guardian Reviewer had to say about Unexplained Presence:

Investigating the symbolic construction of identity and myth from the angle of art, Tisa Bryant's Unexplained Presence takes up "black presences in European literature, visual art, and film." Fusing criticism, film theory, and fiction with a keenly poetic ear, Bryant reenters cultural artifacts to open up these symbolically loaded but structurally silenced or backgrounded characters and motifs. Her stories trace the ways in which black subjectivity is distributed or denied within pictures and plots, between viewers and artworks and artists, and in acts of conversation and debate, of queer identification or refusal to see. What is most remarkable is how Bryant transforms these elisions into acts of imagination, restoring or reconfiguring partially glimpsed subjects via fleet and surprising sentences that traverse the distance between representation and meaning.


Worldstruck, with an instrument

[photo courtesy of Clay Banes of Small Press Distribution]

An Interview with Norma Cole

Robin: You were born in Canada Norma. I understand that you lived in France for a time. What made you leave, and how did you find your way to San Francisco?

Norma: Actually my husband wanted to go back to Toronto, so we did, and eventually split up. The West Coast looked very interesting to me, especially San Francisco, culturally, politically; so we (my son and I) came out here. At that time he was just about to start first grade, and I wanted to be in a place where we would want to stay—for a while, at least. Thirty years later, we’re still here.

Robin: In “A Tonalist Thinking,” Laura Moriarty writes about “a creation of a poetics in a poem” and about wanting “to make explicit the world of writing Norma and I (and Jerry [Estrin] and others) occupied together.” She discusses the absurd beauty of the Central Coast of California and writes,

“about the work of painters whose sense of the light in California I had always admired. I thought they were called Tonalists.”

Moriarty describes how she and her husband Nick Robinson stopped to see you in the hospital (you had had a stroke) and that to her description of “tonalist,” you replied “yes.” She goes on to compare the conception of A Tonalist to the pre-modernist group of painters from around the turn of the century and says that, “the movement was said to be characteristically American.” Laura also links A Tonalist to atonalism or atonality in music such as Schoenberg. Can you talk a bit about what your “yes” meant then and how you see A Tonalist in relation to your own work?

Norma: My “yes” then meant I could muse about something that was not involved with my having a stroke. I was in the hospital, couldn’t talk, walk or use the right side of my body. It was such a relief to see Laura, hear what she was thinking about—and I am always interested in the armatures people think about or towards.

I had been involved with thinking about Schoenberg, listening to his work. Reading about Schoenberg’s “Pierrot lunaire,” and also about the Committee of Mothers of Russian Soldiers, I then wrote a little “song,” a passacaglia to/for both:

I saw shells…
… that were bigger than I was.”
Journalist, Chechnya, 8 March, 1995

Rhythms are precise, the
intervals approximate

Night, passacaglia
black butterflies
in front of the sun
killing memory

Night is scored for
Soldiers mothers
Come in trains to take
Them home

Worldstruck, with an instrument
Night, gift and theft

(Contrafact, Potes & Poets Press, 1996).

Possibly it’s an “a tonalist” poem avant la lettre.

Robin: Two other things about a tonalism as an aesthetic practice or framework that interest me: 1) What is your sense of the importance of a group categorization or a named poetics for the work of individual writers and for a body of work? What work does such a label do or what advantages and perhaps disadvantages might adhere to it?

Norma: Because I don’t imagine myself adhering to a label, and can’t quite even imagine myself, I can’t say what works or doesn’t. I link to people, their writing, some dead, some living. Affinities. As Laura would say, and I would concur, a tonalism is about friendship, love, not style or label.

Robin:2) I’m also interested in the link to nation that Laura cites with regard to the Tonalist painters. Some contemporary Bay Area writers are very much interested in subverting or interrogating the category of the nation. For example, while there were anthologies in the 1980s such as In the American Tree that make explicit reference to nation, there are other writers, such as Nathaniel Mackey, whose editing of Hambone articulates a project that might be said to explicitly refuse nation as an organizing category for poetics. As a transplanted Canadian with close ties to both American, Canadian and French poets, what’s your take on all this?

Norma: Affinities. Nationless. Here I’d like to refer to Giorgio Agamben’s quote which I’ve made use of before:

“What the State cannot tolerate in any way, however, is that the singularities form a community without affirming an identity, that human beings co-belong without any representable condition of belonging….” (Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, Trans. Michael Hardt )

Robin:While we are on the subject of A Tonalist, Norma, I also want to ask you about your visual art work. You both write and paint. Much of your poetry is attentive to the space of the page, the array of visual elements–words and typographic or diacritical marks (in “Rosetta” in the book Moira or the poem “Spinoza in Her Youth” from the book of the same title, for example). The poems often reference painting and color. What is the relationship of one to the other for you?

Norma: From my earliest years, I always drew and painted, and I always wrote, mostly poetry. And after studying French, started translating poetry. When I began to be in touch with poets, I started to write more, paint less, a question of time. I didn’t lose my interest in painting, I came at it differently, still drawing, sometimes painting, taking photographs, involving my writing with visual work, whether with others (e.g. Jess, Amy Trachtenberg, Ben Watkins) or with myself (e.g. Scout, Collective Memory, etc. and the typographic or diacritical marks you mention). I think about color, space, placement and so on, using diction, space, moves from the visual artists’ palette. The cross-border writing/painting “interferences” or references are paramount. At times, I still begin a work not knowing whether I will draw or write, starting from the same “nowhere.”

Robin: You’ve worked collaboratively with a variety of writers and artists including Michael Palmer, Jess, Amy Trachtenberg and others. What is pleasing and generative about this process?

Norma: You become startlingly aware of your “habits,” your practice. You can then try to change course, follow different tracks, traces. At times, you become one with the other person for the duration of the work; so you become another being, a dyad.

Robin: You were close friends with Robert Duncan and Jess, and also Fran Herndon, the artist whose collages accompanied Jack Spicer’s Golem. At the same time, you’ve maintained friendships with Claude Royet-Journoud and Anne-Marie Albiach, whose work is very different from the San Francisco Renaissance writers. How have you been influenced by these disparate traditions? And what is the relationship, for you, between one’s social community and one’s poetics?

Norma: Although one’s social community is a different map from the poetics map, with overlap, one might take on other experiences, incorporating them into one’s poetics. I am not always aware of influences, but I’m sure they are there.

Robin: How important is community for you now as a writer?

Norma: The community of poets is very important for me. I did not know how important it was until I went to Montreal to live in 1994. My husband, Rob (Kaufman) had gotten a job teaching at McGill University, and we didn’t know how long we would be living there. Much of the chapbook Desire & Its Double (later becoming a section of Spinoza in Her Youth) was written at that time, including the sonnet “Portuguese rose, winter’s rose,” (another “song”-like figure that will be part of my Where Shadows Will: Selected Poems 1988—2008, City Lights). The poem starts,

I want a heart-shaped coffin, said
the song, a guitar shape how it
happens a person comes to the door
and says work makes the space where

we live a contraction of time
not to be seen is to be dead…

I would go, in the afternoons, by myself, to a little repertory cinema near the University. I remember seeing a few times the Wim Wenders film, Lisbon Story, which, with the gorgeous soundtrack by Madredeus, its fado, becomes a part of the fabric of the poem. Another a tonalist move. Or movie.

As it happened, we stayed in Montreal for nine months and moved back to San Francisco.

Robin: You were in the San Francisco Bay Area during the “poetry wars” and after them. What was that time period like for you? How were you involved or not in these contestations?

Norma: I watched some of it from the sidelines. Because I didn’t become involved with “the scene” here or there—I came to San Francisco a little too late for that—I was not really engaged with “contestations.” I was reading, writing, and above all taking care of my son, Jesse. Once I became involved with folks at New College (1980 on), I felt at home.

Robin: You’ve also done a fair amount of translation work from French to English. How do you approach the project of translation?

Norma: With particularity. By that I mean I approach each work differently. Sometimes I come to the work, sometimes it comes to me. When I talked informally about translation at Suzanne Stein’s a few years ago (“Why I Am Not A translator”), and then talked more formally at AWP (“Why I Am Not A Translator, Take 2”), I stated that I was not a translator, that I dealt with translation from the perspective of poetics, as a subset of poetics.

Robin: Can you talk about your recent site-specific gallery installation, Collective Memory, at the California Historical Society in San Francisco, which was part of The Poetry Center & American Poetry Archives fiftieth anniversary and very much about community. Collective Memory opened on December 11, 2004 and ran through April 16, 2005. I loved your “House of Hope, in memoriam Montien Boonma 1953-2000.” This three-dimensional piece consisted of 426 quotations from a variety of writers, artists, philosophers, filmmakers, etc that were printed on something that felt and looked like canvas. Each strip was suspended from above and created a kind of “house” of floating text that visitors could walk through or slip their hands into. It was very moving. Boonma was an artist from Thailand. Did you know him? Could you also talk a bit about his art?

Norma:Boonma died in 2002. I became aware of his work when Laura and Nick brought me the catalogue for his retrospective in New York, which then came to the Asian Museum in San Francisco, where we went to see it. As well as being attracted to the materials he chose to use, I felt his compassion and mindfulness in the sculpture, in the drawings. When Steve Dickison, Director of the Poetry Center at SFSU, invited me to do “an installation,” I wanted to make a book you could walk inside of, a book you could feel, touch. Where the human scale changed. I decided to make a tribute to Boonma, patterning my “House of Hope” somewhat after his. His “strips” were strands of prayer beads made of small variegated herbal medicine balls. Mine were quotes from an assortment of people (poets, philosophers, things I’d read, overheard conversations) from twenty years of keeping notebooks.

The other parts of the installation, both engaged with the nature of memory, the future-past, were “Living Room circa 1950s,” another place one could settle, and “Archive Tableau,” a wall-mounted piece. The living room was defined by two periods of time: one, putting the room together from scratch, from an imagined version; and then seeing what would happen in it, to it, involving myself as “the working poet,” being in that room every day. The living room appeared, it was a place to which many people came for 5 months, and then, in a day we shut it down, it disappeared.

Robin: I want to ask you about two life experiences or circumstances and their relationship to your art. For many years, you were, I think, a single parent, raising your son. What challenges and rewards did this situation provide for you as you sought to produce both visual art and poetry? Then, in 2002, you had a stroke. What impact has that experience had on your work?

Norma:I can only say, about raising a child, having a stroke, teaching, being in a community, having colleagues and friends, that I’m affected by experience, my experience, your experience—my writing is affected by experience at every moment. It will be layered, sutured written experience.

Robin: You also teach as part of the University of San Francisco’s Master of Fine Arts Writing Program. This semester you are teaching a course on Visionary Poetics. How does teaching impact or not your own creative process?

Norma: I like the lively interaction I have with students as well as the effort I put into the class. Any interaction or reading produces energy that will go into the making of my work.

This interview was conducted from January to February 2009 via email.

Why I am Not a Translator--Take 2

by Norma Cole

I was going to talk about why I am not a translator but I’m not. I do translations, I’ve done many, mostly from French to English, but I still don’t think of myself as a translator.

I had given a talk on translation at Suzanne Stein’s sublet in San Francisco a year and a half ago, to friends that had gathered around her dining table, a talk titled “Why I Am Not A Translator” that began with a list of subordinate clauses I handed out, starting with “what,” as in “What Rosmarie Waldrop has to do with it,” “What Claude Royet-Journoud has to do with it,” “What Stacy Doris has to do with it,” “What Etel Adnan & Simone Fattal have to do with it,” etc. Every one of them had gotten me to translate any number of books, but it was always so much more than what one thinks of as translating. Sure, it was pretty much straight-ahead translation—if you can say “straight-ahead” for the kind of experimental poetry I work on, but it was more exciting, more irritating, more crooked. More about editing than you’d think. But mostly I thought—and think—about it in terms of poetics.

At the same time as I was thinking about translation, about AWP, and about this 10-minute talk I am actually starting to give right now, I was reading René Daumal’s Rasa or Knowledge of the Self, particularly an essay called “To Approach the Hindu Poetic Art.” As some of you know, René Daumal was a French writer born in 1908 in Charleville, the same town where Arthur Rimbaud had been born in 1854. Daumal, a writer of the avant-garde, who penned, among his many essays, poems and novels, the acclaimed unfinished novel Mount Analogue, at sixteen taught himself Sanskrit, wrote a Sanskrit grammar and translated some very important texts including the Chandyoga Upanishad and the Bhagavad Gita. With failing health, hiding out in Paris during the Occupation with his wife, who was part Jewish, he died of tuberculosis in May 1944, just two weeks before the Allies landed in France.

I was reading Daumal’s essay and thinking about my class at the University of San Francisco, and about the course in “Visionary Poetics” I’m teaching, and about the things I wanted to make sure to discuss with my students, and I ran across these sentences:

“ The existence of thought without words but not without forms is nevertheless necessary, for example, to all translation work. Every good translator does his utmost, without actually realizing it, to translate his text first into sphota, in order to translate into the second language; but he would be an even better translator if he were consciously aware of this process.”

I’d obviously run across these sentences many a time before, but suddenly I started to think about them in a more concentrated way.

First, the word sphota, what does it mean? We have to go back a paragraph: “ Is there, between words and things, a rapport of simple convention or an eternal appropriateness?” In other words, the rapport of simple convention means the normal words syntax depends upon, like prepositions, or “sonorous words” (dhvani), the onomatopoeic and alliterative, as in

Hark! Hark!
The dogs do bark!
whereas the eternal appropriateness means ideas that preexist words and objects. Word-seeds. Sphota.

Ideas that preexist words and objects. A test case in neurobiology: when I had my stroke 4 years ago, two areas of language were affected. One was a motor problem. Speech production was knocked out in the brain. Therefore I couldn’t talk at all. And I’ve had to refigure, little by little, how to make speech occur with mouth, teeth, tongue. Think of Christopher Reeves in the swimming pool, trying to make his legs function. And then, for many people who’ve had strokes, the brain swells, doesn’t settle for a while (perhaps 2 or 3 months) so we have aphasia and can’t think of words: the words for up or down, the simply conventional words; and the words that stand for ideas. I am here to tell you that one has ideas even before one has the words to say them. Ideas, or images. No tabula rasa.

So, that being the case, “every good translator does his utmost, without actually realizing it, to translate his text first into sphota, in order to retranslate it into the second language….”

I am not altogether happy with this. I mean, why shouldn’t one pass from the word in the first language straight to the word in the second language, without even thinking about ideas?

“I’ll reveal for you, in words as simple as mooing,” says Mayakovsky.

“I would like
to live
and die in Paris”
he wrote, translated by Stephen Rudy.

“I would like
to live
and die in Paris
if there weren’t
such a land
as Moscow”

and you can’t change that line, Mayakovsky said. It would not be the same if you were to write “Berlin” and “Warsaw,” for instance.

Or Dixie. To live and die in Dixie.

Roman Jakobson, the genius of structural linguistics, among whose great works are Verbal Art, Verbal Sign, Verbal Time, has written, “…the speaker selects words and combines them into sentences according to the syntactic system of the language he is using; sentences in their turn are combined into utterances. But the speaker is by no means a completely free agent in his choice of words: his selection (except for the rare case of actual neology) must be made from the lexical storehouse which he and his addressee possess in common.” This is from his essay, “Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances,” Language in Literature, p.97.

Paris and Moscow, Berlin and Warsaw, both dyads would be available from the lexical storehouse, but, as we know, one expresses Mayakovsky’s idea, the other does not. “The ‘body’ of the poem is created from ‘sounds and meanings’,” (Jakobson) whether it is a translation or not. But it’s all translation anyhow. Crooked translation.

Why I am not a Translator

by Norma Cole

What the State cannot tolerate in any way, however, is that the singularities form a community without affirming an identity, that human beings co-belong without any representable condition of belonging….

Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community
Trans. Michael Hardt

Why we are at Suzanne Stein’s house today.

What “French Feminists” have to do with it.

What HOW(ever)/Kathleen Fraser, Frances Jaffer & Susan Gevirtz have to do with it.

What Claude Royet-Journoud has to do with it.

What Acts/David Levi Strauss has to do with it.

What Royaumont has to do with it.

What Rosmarie Waldrop has to do with it.

What Avec/Cydney Chadwick has to do with it.

What Bureau sur l’Atlantique/Emmanuel Hocquard/Format américain/Juliette Valéry have to do with it.

What Stacy Doris has to do with it.

What Rosmarie Waldrop has to do with it.

What Aufgabe/Tracy Grinnell & Peter Neufeld have to do with it.

What Etel Adnan & Simone Fattal have to do with it.

What do you have to do with it?