eau et gaz

“And the problem, suddenly, was that I’d been trying to be eau et gaz for all my life, that was the kind of game I was trying to play, that was the way I read the lesson I learned from Duchamp, it was a way of liberating yourself from just about everything, and it’s a very dangerous lesson to learn, the idea was to be always and totally available, even more than schizophrenic. The idea of living in a state where the mind has just simply exploded, scattered itself everywhere, and the psyche, the animus, the capacity for feeling is exploded and vaporized too, the idea of belonging to everybody, the idea then too of needing a container. I found myself deciding that I’d had enough of that and that I didn’t want to be eau et gaz any more because being a fluid in a container is a very difficult state to live in. All somebody has to do is to punch a little hole in it, and here I was suddenly full of holes. It suddenly became clear that I had to transform my whole way of being. It seemed that I couldn’t any longer be pure eroticism always at the disposal of others, just as my work couldn’t continue to be, well, so open, so open to investigation. There’s a secretiveness in Agricola Cornelia too. There’s a point where everything you’re dependent on can turn against you, and being eau et gaz is like being an irritated mucous membrane, it involves a sensibility where you can be very easily hurt by even the very slightest slight, and I decided that I’d had enough of that and that in addition to being eau et gaz, that instead of being eau et gaz I had to be something else.”

(Gianfranco Baruchello & Henry Martin, How to Imagine: a narrative on art and agriculture, pp. 52–53)

the poems of our climate

     I

Clear water in a brilliant bowl,
Pink and white carnations. The light
In the room more like a snowy air,
Reflecting snow. A newly-fallen snow
At the end of winter when afternoons return.
Pink and white carnations — one desires
So much more than that. The day itself
Is simplified: a bowl of white,
Cold, a cold porcelain, low and round,
With nothing more than the carnations there.

     II

Say even that this complete simplicity
Stripped one of all one’s torments, concealed
The evilly compounded, vital I
And made it fresh in a world of white,
A world of clear water, brilliant-edged,
Still one would want more, one would need more,
More than a world of white and snowy scents.

     III

There would still remain the never-resting mind,
So that one would want to escape, come back
To what had been so long composed.
The imperfect is our paradise.
Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
Since the imperfect is so hot in us,
Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.

(Wallace Stevens)

bochner on borges on wells

Mel Bochner: (Laughs) I’ll tell you my Borges story. Dore [Ashton] invited him to give a talk at the School of Visual Arts in 1966, or ‘67, and every hip artist in New York was in the audience. Everyone was expecting to hear him talk about his own work, but instead, he delivered a talk on an obscure topic in Old Norse literature. It was so erudite that no one there had a clue what he was talking about. It was clearly deliberate on his part and a great piece of Surrealist theater. Anyway, there was a reception for him afterwards to which I was invited. As I was sitting in the living room he sat down on the sofa right next to me. I thought, here I am sitting next to Borges, this is probably the only chance I’ll ever have to meet him, I have to try to engage him in a conversation. Across the room from us was sitting a man who looked exactly like Claude Rains, the old English actor. Desperate to think of something, anything, to say, I turned to Borges and said, “That man over there looks very much like Claude Rains.” Borges replied disinterestedly, “Oh, really.” I forged ahead anyway, “It’s interesting because Claude Rains became a famous movie actor without ever having been seen, because the first movie he starred in was H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man.” To which Borges responded, “Hmm.” But I was in too deep to turn around, so I continued, “Well, I know how much you admire H.G. Wells.” “No, I don’t,” he replied. Confused by his response, I said, “But I’ve read your writings on Wells, and I remember how much you admired Wells’ great short story “In the Valley of the Blind, the One-Eyed Man is King.” To which he replied, “Wells was a failure.” Totally baffled, I asked, “Why?” “For one example,” he said, “in the novel The Time Machine, the time machine is such a clumsy metaphor. It would have been so much more elegant if it had been a magic ring. If he had rubbed a magic ring and been transported through time.” “But,” I anwered, “a magic ring doesn’t make any sense in the context of a parable about the politics of technology.” “Oh no, a magic ring would have been much better,” Borges said, and with that he stood up and walked away.

Rail: So he got annoyed.

Bochner: I have no idea what it was about, because early on he had written so brilliantly, and so positively, about Wells. But the mystery, and what I still don’t understand to this day, was how he was able to just stand up and walk away, because, as you know, he was totally blind.

(From an interview with Mel Bochner by Phong Bui in the Brooklyn Rail.)

the shoulder

The shoulder of a man is shaped like a baby pig.
It terrifies and it bores the observer, the shoulder.
The Greeks, who had slaves, were able to hitch back and rig
The shoulder, so the eye is flattered and feels bolder.

But that’s not the case in New York, where a roomer
Stands around day and night stupefied with his clothes on
The shoulder, hung from his neck (half orchid, half tumor)
Hangs publicly with a metabolism of its own.

After it has been observed a million times or more
A man hunches it against a pole, a jamb, a bench,
Parasite he takes no responsibility for.
He becomes used to it, like to the exhaust stench.

It takes the corrupt, ectoplasmic shape of a prayer
Or money, that connects with a government somewhere.

(Edwin Denby, from In Public, In Private, 1948.)

things, things, things

  • Clayton Eshleman is giving a reading of his translations of Cesar Vallejo at the Cervantes Institute (211–215 East 49th Street) at 6 pm on 14 November. Also reading: Mónica de la Torre. Pierre Joris has details.
  • Noah Eli Gordon has an interesting forthcoming project (described by Ron Silliman, with attendant debate) which I should probably write about for if:book.
  • A nice interview with designer/theorist Robin Kinross.
  • in the beginning

    There was the famous photographer, Walker Evans,
    who started by photographing old signs and ended
    by filling his bathtub with them and washing
    himself in the kitchen sink. There was the Harlem
    man whose pet tiger cub grew so big that first
    his family and finally he himself fled
    the 12th-floor, three-bedroom apartment in the housing
    project, returning every day to fling raw chickens
    through a crack in the front door. Love displaces

    everything. All over the city the signs peer
    from beneath modern facades, fade in the sun and rain
    high up on sides of buildings: BEST QUALITY TWINE. Ghosts
    on brick, cockeyed atop demolition dumpsters, tin
    worn delicate as paper, pale lettered – mint,
    red, black: ELEVATOR APARTMENTS AVAILABLE:
    INQUIRE ON PREMISES. If you stare at them words
    are faces; everyone who ever spelled them out,
    ever debated whether to buy twine or rent
    an apartment fades up into view wearing shadowy
    Homburgs, black veils, parcels in their arms, the winter
    air freshening for snow. Or imagine the face
    of a tiger waiting behind a thin metal door,
    your furniture demolished, your family living
    on friends’ floors, your neighbors smelling urine and fur
    and losing their tolerance, a policeman
    rappelling outside your windows with a dart gun.

    Imagine a hunger for the invisible world
    so deep it must have existed before you were born.

    (Anne Pierson Wiese, from Floating City.)