Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Weighted close to silence, I grew heavy with anxiety and the ceaseless pain of a neuronal disorder whose name — fibromyalgia — is as unwieldy as it is boring.

Fibromyalgia refers to a body that has become a network for pain. Conveyed by malfunctioning neurotransmitters, normal sensations pick up junk information as they travel to the brain, which, in response, activates pain. By and by, competing pains congeal into a total nausea of the flesh, stern and inexhaustible. There is no clear treatment, no cure; sleep is sleepless, rest is restless.

‘And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.’[1]

*

Light leak over succulents and a metal bench

We bathe curves of correspondence in visions.
We form fluidity at the same time as cohesion.
We say that all form is held between bodies,
Where drops of matter resolve and fall
Over lines and surfaces and contours,
Momentary centres of the world.

Drops of Form

We struggle from the port of catastrophe
Across the underside of presence,
Returning to seek affinity in the world
Like the overflowing dead
Who lay out their affairs
In the zone of pre-life memory.

We bathe curves of correspondence in visions.
We form fluidity at the same time as cohesion.
We say that all form is held between bodies,
Where drops of matter resolve and fall
Over lines and surfaces and contours,
Momentary centres of the world.

[Close]

*

As in days past, in order to live I assembled a new face from old expressions. With misguided hope I depended on work to obsess me and distract me from the pain: I set out to write another novel.

Earthship

Serinthean metropolis Aphrinea is in the grip of a violent coup. Mercenaries roam the streets killing Earthlings and claiming their bounties from the tyrannical new government. Lasja Zertov, genetically human but born in the interstellar slipstream and raised on Serinthea, flees the mayhem with Aux, her sentient neural implant. Aux, long-lived and many times transplanted, is reshaping her Earthling consciousness, folding memories of its former hosts through her, including her parents Satu Zertov and Jack Clune, and Marieta Escriva, the famous musician, Dream addict, and thief. Bahar Neiris, Satu’s former pilot and lover, joins Lasja to escape Serinthea aboard the family starfighter Morningcrow. Meanwhile, lelk, a life form native to the slipstream, assert themselves in Lasja, making passages through her body and mind. Aux and lelk compete to claim her as their own. Pursued by a mercenary crew who want Morningcrow in payment of a long overdue debt, Lasja flees with Bahar through the slipstream, fighting to survive both the journey to Earth and the coming-of-age of her consciousness.

[Close]

Seeking a pragmatics of poetic communication, I also sought to stammer out a pragmatics of presence sufficient to keep me working. I oriented myself to poetic attention, attention paid in sympathy with poetic sensations: figural beings that are living, mobile, and whole in themselves.

Poetic sensations are, in a sense, pre-language, though this implies a false material hierarchy: language is insufficient material to represent the figural specifically. What matters is what can be encountered in sympathetic motion with poetic sensations, en route with them. How close can language come to what passes between a body of poetic sensations and the body of the poet?

Harassed by gain and success, / Poetry above all goes the way of poets. / They dream aside from imagination, from the things of life / According to the course of their essential, incompatible nature.

Harassed by gain and success,
Poetry above all goes the way of poets.
They dream aside from imagination, from the things of life
According to the course of their essential, incompatible nature.

Where it is heading comes soberly in their eyes.
A dimension is spanned when the lines block radiance
To grasp for the interplay, the perplexing, palpable unknown,
Yes and No, gathered.

The alien sky courses and calls, rises and comes,
Silent, and sights the earth as sheer light,
Earth light, image of images, the element of God,
Our name for the appearances.

Radiance of the unknown is the measuring map,
Each foreign shade of substance, seasons
Fleet with life and spectacle, the claim of the heart
Emptied in abundance.

[Close]

*

The Mandelbrot set

Raw with dreams, I hunted presence. I posed a poem’s question: What difference can language make?

A poem is not a way of knowing; poetic writing does not order or direct. Allegorical language stabilises sympathetic encounters with poetic sensations. An allegorical practice of writing favours variable, participatory attention over fixing knowledge and claiming meaning. Sensations vary and move and differentiate, swerving toward silence, swerving toward matter; poetic writing encounters, and encounters, and encounters...

As an allegorical practice, poetic writing is a way to stabilise, temporarily, language-routes toward encounters and participation with poetic sensations in themselves. Poetic writing ventures with them, close to silence, over the infinite, unknowable, ungraspable face.

‘For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.’[2]

1Job 1:7, The Holy Bible, King James Version. [^]
21 Corinthians 13:12, The Holy Bible, King James Version. [^]
3Happy Birthday, Eleanor



Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The country westward folds into the ocean. Goldgrey light is shining on the waves. Erin and I married in San Francisco two days earlier.

Erin standing on low cliffs at Sea Ranch, California

Figures of memory come to circle round again, thin memories of other lives, and sometimes variations of my own poor body, and alongside them come figures of future, separate in their special bodies.

‘Memories lie slumbering within us for months and years, quietly proliferating, until they are woken by some trifle and in some strange way blind us to life.’[1]After two long stretches of work, which produced While We’re Young and Earthship, I have begun to feel competent to write the novel I thought I might write when I started the first. Between novels I succumbed to the depression that the work had kept at bay; enthralled in the labours of writing, I do indeed seem to have lost reality to the precise degree that I have created it for myself. Figures of memory come now, once again before matter and long before words. ‘It is a kind of triumph / To see them and to put them down / As what they are.’[2]

Whose attention am I paying? Yet a little while is the light with you. We must cast a figure from us / Over the high crest of obscurity, / Though what form can be recognised?

Drops of Form

We must cast a figure from us
Over the high crest of obscurity,
Though what form can be recognised?

Veil of being, ceramic wave,
Canvas both open and cloaked.
The curvature bobbing in space
Becomes a body adorned with drops of form
Capable of setting it billowing before us.

With reason but without conclusion,
Our mind drapes the form in matter
To render how it combines and participates,
The way it reaches itself from near and far,
How it transforms the obscure relationship

Into the particular figure, curved to presence,
Collapsed to the cast,
And through.

[Close]

1W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn, trans. M Hulse, Vintage, London, 2002. [^]
2W.S. Graham, New Collected Poems, M Francis (ed.), Faber and Faber, London, 2005, p. 178. [^]