Night In (10 February, 2014)

Monday February 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

#dialogues

dialogues night in small
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16 December, 2013

Monday January 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

the lone & pristine van exits
your imagination the way it came in
banishing an ancient quietness
it is a test of your severity
the way the lights climb out
of your happiness
searching the roads
an unbreakable symbol of your reticence
I get into trouble at both ends
of my life, caught, an object
in search of a subject
without
(or unable to recognise)
the conditions to exacerbate
and refine
my wildness
tired of secret histories
there are only secrets and histories
long miles that harbour no resentment
only places & excuses
it is not joy, but one’s
capacity to receive it that is narrowed
and diminished in the
foolish sun, and the distances it opens
with what it leaves behind
on the road

Boxing Day, #Dialogues

Thursday December 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

ravaged by cold,
& the land
what of it
tired of sunrise
exhausted by nightfall
when the phone rings
if it rings
your voice is abbreviated
your mind
summarises oceans
in the way oceans contain
nothing but themselves
all noise, no signal
what it communicates
the wet, fierce pretence
of covering the earth
with equanimity

 

Salt

Sunday December 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

#dialogues

Moving in clarified grace along
the starbright concourse, only
renaming predicaments, & the
moods they broach, poached in
the night’s enclosure, don’t you
see – I’m in Baltimore! On
the sidewalk, pyramids seem
to claw the gale, an imperial
sunrise blackened on the
wind, & words wheel like the
heart, startled over the
land, and the rain-shadows
that link the city’s coral
lights. In a bar by a park
beyond the frosted awning
a giant air-vent smotes the
dead ground, in its smoky
sibilance the livid scent of
drowned linen, or a premonition
or a sleeve of O-zone sprayed
across the railings. When we
walk by later it is without
expectation, which seems to
be not unrelated to what
you’re talking about. In the
harbor, cabs wait slyly with
the persistence of jingles that
we hear escape their half-drawn
shades. Dawn is already
printed here (its morning
already in England) and in
presence of the ocean, it’s
vast, luminous, implied
presence we are surrounded
by a silence we could never
have inhabited alone. And on
the air, the faintest arrangement
of salt.

Encyclopaedic Realism, or the Post-Modern Saga

Tuesday November 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

This is another post on in an earlier post I have termed Encyclopaedic Realism, for no other reason than I have no better term. The post is occasioned by having since the last post read more texts that convince me that this is a fruitful and productive line of enquiry, and to me, quite an exciting idea. To recapitulate, this was what I wrote in my last post on the subject:

I mean ‘encyclopaedic’ in the sense of it being comprehensive, but also as a term meaning more than this, as a term describing the structure of knowledge, the way in which it is arranged, and then eventually accessed. To borrow, selectively, three differing definitions encyclopaedic that I think are particularly useful:

1) covering all branches of knowledge or, less commonly, all aspects of one subject;

2) Origin 1530, meaning “course of construction”;

3) enkyklios (ἐγκύκλιος), meaning “circular, recurrent, required regularly, general” + paideia (παιδεία), meaning “education, rearing of a child”;

There is something in each of these that I like. In (1) the comprehensiveness; in (2) the metaphor of ‘construction’, implying the necessary building of structure. And in (3) it is really this notion of it being ‘circular’ and ‘recurrent’ more than anything else.

In that post I did not provide any examples of the texts that might conform to readings informed by notions of encyclopaedic realism, but there are some I think would. First of these, and arguably the most exciting, is the body of work of Roberto Bolano. He wrote a lot, and I have not read it all by any means, not even all of The Savage Detectives, his break-out work. But I have read enough to detect what I am convinced is a larger, if incomplete (deliberately so, probably) scheme.

At the level of text, both of the key Bolano masterworks (as in, master-key, not masterpiece, necessarily) display  features that could fit within the rubric of Encyclopaedic Realism. The Savage Detectives in particular proceeds via a circuitous narration that is largely the product of the reminiscences of other characters than the ostensible main characters. Their ’talking head’ recollections and memories – sometimes directly relating to our protagonists, sometimes not, or at least not always –  make this feel more like a documentary than a conventional novel. But in this way, we are also granted insights into those characters and their stories, that might or might not revolve around the main story. In this way, to return to my definition above, we are granted sight of the excavated ground that surrounds the main story, that is contained in the allusive injunction to cover ‘all aspects of one subject’. Similarly, their accumulation and repetition gives the story a character that is ‘recurrent, circular’.

Although textually formally more straightforward, 2666 also approaches realism in a way that might be considered ‘encyclopaedic’. The novel comprises five related, but on the surface entirely separate stories. Each introduces an entirely new character, or at least one only shadowed in the preceding narrative, as a new story is added. All are united and tied together by events in Santa Teresa, the murders there, and the interlocking reasons for the various protagonist’s own reasons for going there. But what is significant is that the narrative is not linear, nor is it coherent in the conventional sense, and as with The Savage Detectives talking heads, what we are granted is a number of different perspectives, and thus more obviously, ‘all aspects of one subject’. Rather than proceeding in a straight line, the narrative almost draws backwards against its own forward momentum.

Which is interesting, but there is however, a scheme that is bigger than either of these texts, and this is what is really exciting, I think. For reading both of these books alongside the rest of his output, it becomes clear that all of these works exist on a larger, unified universe. Characters and situations recur, events described in one book, are referred to in another, and places and locations are commonly referred to and visited. Most often that place is Santa Teresa, Sonoroa, and events in Mexico, that spill out of the character’s experiences there.

It is almost as if, just as in 2666 a number of narratives that comprise a total story, so each of the novels (or a lot of them –  not all appear part of the scheme) are simply chapters in the capitulation of an entire fictional world.

Of course, there is sufficient ambiguity, mystique and playfulness to mean that although this bigger world has some coherence, sufficient to be recognised, it remains the case that its presentation does still allow for multiple interpretations, and allows room for some dissonance and creative disharmony. In short, it is not a rigid, fixed world that is being elaborated, rather a recognisable, navigable but ultimately irreconcilable and unpossessable world, not unlike our own.

Such a world also corresponds to the example I gave in the first post, of the childhood games that spawn their own back-story and histories, and also the allusions I made to sites such as Wikipedia, and the way we increasingly interpret information and data. These are acts of mapping, as much as they are narratives, and in their richness, and digressive character they allow us to enter more fully, in my opinion, the universes they contain. In the case of Bolano, Woes of the True Policeman is the next instalment.

25 October, 2013

Monday October 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

driving latitudinally
under our own lights,
behind the blue movement
our contribution to the
scene measured in an average
speed-check
or the prescriptive way the headlamps
check the bitumen sunset
scattered on the droll hills,
tight as mountains in the rain
that aren’t mountains
or their absence
lacking interiors for
a moment
when the lights change
you don’t, and I can’t
we remain, you in
the passenger seat,
unfinished

24 October, 2013

Monday October 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

london circles
today
in the grip of red memory
mannequins stand in for construction
at lightless barricades
dam the drawling city’s pale signature
in the crabby sun its
the tall limbless casing
under trees or
a smile rides like a tide
& the blanched mirror blooms
inside its own light
in the street where we are placed
we miss each other
in windows
to dreams of simple malice
the scholar tuned like a radio
the corkscrew frequencies of the gut
the heart-wave
transmitted in the restaurant’s
apricot heat
later
in your stray climbing
the pinnacle of euston is reached
under trees
under light
under streets
under the tireless quarry
under rails
in the shade of
your departure
love leaves unveiled
the loose, quiet century
and your cruelty
with it

10 September, 2013

Wednesday September 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

watching England    mogwai
serenading the empty kitchen
outside the window             
         an evening without light 
the rain has carried
away    fit to drown in an inch
of water
running into traffic
and the smooth embrace    sometimes
its ok to say
          thats not how it was supposed
to pan out       assume your period of leverage
                                 has lapsed
   accept the close of your imperial phase

(Sunday) 18 August, 2013

Tuesday August 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

today has been one of endless transactions
without ever becoming fully complex, only growing
less lucid in it’s precisions –

not the same thing, at all.

& even now, at a little after seven, the day’s
persistent low heat is reserved in the same senses,
received like one explanation too far, the soul having made
explicit what before felt only

a gentle (& non-binding) agreement between confederates.

& later, how strange, she sd,

that the heart (I’m paraphrasing) could be
so muffled by traffic, so much as our fictions
mute as the dawn
& I replied, and today of all days, on this, the historically
most religious of all days, I meant

those deceptions, & she stopped, & the traffic continued

& I imagined her saying the same words I imagined her saying,
only without me
& found I could not, though not because it can have been difficult,
if I’d tried, if she had

 

Oxford Sonnets

Tuesday August 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

I   On Circus Street

Stopping, rhetorically:
A prey to diets and invention
Rippling along the line of traffic
The muggy August confidences, &
The nagging September ambulance
Jostled, naked in the static

The scene unfolds like asphalt
The imagined mystery, arctic in its surprise
Underscoring the gravity of the situation
Listless between parked cars the
rundown of unlikely images
Outlasts the reality

Dense at the centre the bus moving off rolling downhill

against all expectations.

II   The Interview

A crystal shard of the
Evening remains, suspended,
As if not quite the sum of its parts;

The differences here are secularised
& I can still hear your last ringing endorsement:
– any fool can go to Mexico!
I hadn’t gone so far only arriving in Oxford is like walking in
On someone else’s dream

the last question out of all proportion with its answer
like Lilliput gone to seed
& seen from a long way down

so that you wouldn’t think the sun could be setting
anywhere else at this particular moment.

 

III   Near The Randolph
For Dan

Pacing hopefully along St. Giles
there is a dignified silence, save for the
dozen or so seagulls perched perilously out of reach

the shapes are at once historical a less fluid canvas

routinely confident behind the scenes

an old friendship, itself perched somewhere
between realisation and an extended prologue:

you finish your phone call
and I suggest dinner –
now tending towards the latter, though
no less precariously for all that.