Even a blank page
can be beautiful, asking:
Who goes there? What? Where?
Even a blank page
can be beautiful, asking:
Who goes there? What? Where?
The “world,” as it were, as it ‘is’ (also, reduced, in addition) “for us.”
How it comes to be as we are – briefly. Almost incalculably miniscule. Almost ‘happenstance.’
“Our” world, as it were: all we cannot know, that we are part in, of, with.
One wonders what “world” can possibly mean.
Every meaning apparently nothing outside of this microscopic sliver of kind… EVERYthing and more, “for us.” Some ‘infinity’ or ‘void;’ ‘abyss’ or ‘chaotic complexity’ – a reference to every-thing (or not) that so far surpasses us, outstrips us, beyonds us. Some so-called…”world.”
One could turn toward all that, could ‘be-itself,’ bi-pedally, shrimpishly, speck-o-dust uprightedly, with/in ‘it’…and have a dwarfed, almost indiscernible ‘experience.’ Or “one” (were such a thing possible) could de-cide, di-vide, con-sider (?) – place oneself ‘over against’ or ‘in contrast’ (contra-di-stinction) to all that: otherness, ‘world,’ ‘uknown/unknowable,’ ‘beyond,’ ‘out-side,’ infinite… and de-term-in.
Squash it down to ‘one’s own scale, name it / call it / sign it, and ‘fit’ it in. i.e. cut it small enough to be comprehensible, digestible, sensible (according-to-one’s-own) and pre-tend, fore-tell, image-in, sign-i-fy it ACCORDING TO… ‘one,’ ‘us,’ ‘me’ (such as math, logic, language, communicable signs, etc – in-(ter)ventions on/of our own terms).
Human knowledge, inquiry, disciplines, creations, theories, etc. are EXACTLY (and perhaps ONLY, one surmises) THAT: at the scale of the human. ‘One’ is prone to automatically grant every ‘other’ (plant, material, organism, structure, system, etc) the ‘same’ ‘world’ – as Wittgenstein indicated: indecipherable, untranslatable or communicable between kinds, but most probable, no? – Umwelts – worlds upon worlds within worlds outside worlds… we (‘ones’) can have no share, understanding, con(with)cept, com(with)munication of…
To each its scale of experiencing, and all scales together…
Given the human (so-self-called) scale, this seems pertinently and poignantly most evident…
…why would we chafe against our limits… or (perhaps) every scale always is – no ‘one’ could know this… ones (and many ones) are only ones – more and less than their own possible perspectives… in- and out-looks OF. Scale. (Perhaps).
Obviously, com(with)posing in your/our language… whatever I dream is representative of my scale… i.e. is only a capacity of ‘one’(kind) … of many.
Pleasurably so… or why not?
Dreaming beyond scale (or, inventing scale and its beyond – in the de-term-in-ing) demonstrates itself as a capacity… (e.g. mythology, science, religion, fiction/fantasy, psycho-anything, spirituality, philosophy, history, and so forth) … all imagined efforts beyond-scale, that, in occurring demonstrate the possibilities/limitations of human scale…
What ‘beyond’ could ‘one’ see, think, feel, etc., that is not a demonstration of limited and actual capacity of ‘one-scale’-to-experience?
So ‘one’ has a-, con-, etc. scales… all part of one’s scale (abilities, capacities, possibilities, options, kind). Against, with, creative, reductive, but ALL and ANY activities of one kind (so-self-called ‘human’) show its locked and limited capacity. One never goes beyond.
To ‘work limits,’ and boundaries are clearly elements of our ‘limits’ and ‘boundaries’ of the scope and scale of the ‘human.’
“Gods,” cosmologies, dreams, histories, theorizing, etc., all contained within the ‘bounds’ or capacities of the ‘kind-of-thing-‘One’-is. Perhaps.
It is the ‘perhaps’ that haunts us. [but what could ‘haunt’ indicate but another human capacity – perhaps a ‘felt capacity’ of bursting or extending our capacities?]
Witchcraft. Art. Technology. Religion. Theoretical and experimental anything. Logos. Arche. Tohu. Bohu. Beginning. Universe (must needs always shrink to one’s own scale… in order to uni-anything… ‘multiverse’ simple exponents of capacities for in our microscopic self-experienced sphere… we named ‘infinity’ – is there no exponent we can’t add – within our tiny range of potential?).
One’s own anthropology.
Logically [though I excessively distrust that program of human-ing] – what con-cept, i-dea, imagine-ing, or object-ivity is not necessarily always paramatered by the human ex-periential capacities?
The bounds may be elastic or no – there would be no way for a kind to know – being all-ways the ‘one’ experiencing.
Macedonio Fernandez shrewdly intimated that among the difficulties of communicable perfection (language or literary wholeness, completeness) were the problems writers have, in that, among other things:
“2) They don’t know how to render the ‘unsayable’ with ‘ineffable’ style” (Museum of Eterna’s Novel, p. 11)
As if imagination must copulate with impossibility; creativity found within the non-existent; wayfinding nothing. Perhaps.
“I” (a good example of the above) often worship the symbol: ? “I’d” like to place it everywhere, upon everything, anything imaginable OR conceivable – even the unknown – as well as any compendium of ‘facts’ or apparently common-sensical / self-evident elements of being-living. As if… to draw attention or recognition (‘to render’) human limitation, finitude, fragility – PART-‘I’-CIPATION – in world (+ whatever falls beyond such an impression). A kind of belief as a participating occurrence that whatever might be indicated by such terms as “truth,” “love,” or “existence,” (or “you” or “I”) are best translated by = ?
This nettling evocation is (perhaps) a personal ‘creed’ in a singular (obviously impregnated) mark: ?
Something I might ‘live’ and ‘die’ for.
Am I trying to communicate? What am ‘I’ doing in relation to language, to shared understandings, to concepts, and so-called knowledge or knowing? Am ‘I’(s) capable of relating to anything (or nothing) beyond these indications? Unmediated ways and forms of experiencing given to ‘me’?
Experience (seeing-peering WITH outside-of) is one set of possible parameters in living-being (limitations, capacities, informed possibilities, finitudes & fragilities – necessitudes of part-‘I’-cipation).
What might we ‘name’ alternate – those in excess of experience; those far diminished via enforced-informed; ‘other’ impossibilities of ex-perience? (Bataille’s ‘Inner Experience’ – inperience?: without outer? might be an exploration) ‘mysticism’? spirituality? mystery? simply Impossibles? Unsayables? Unknowables? ANYthing beyond-limit, we might ‘say.’
Excess. Perpetual. Eternal. Infinite. Incomprehensible. Indeterminate. All ex-perceptions that would demand or require ‘ineffable’ style to be en-gaged. Out beyond (or in-beyond) outsides or othering that might be accounted for, perceived, en-countered, or ex-perienced: impossibles that must most likely (it would seem given our minimal, limited, finite, participatory living-being IN AS PART OF ‘world’ or whatever our most expansive imagining) occur. Perhaps even non-ex-is-tences, nothing and never.
These might be the description of fields or planes where I in-tend and pre-fer to operate or inquire (under the sign of ?) and therefore, lacking or failing in ‘ineffable style’ whereby to render ‘unsayables’ – simply can not.
Thus please forgive my erratic forays into production here – communication, conversation, even imaging-in (imagining) – ‘I’ simply can not. I am mostly unable to ineffably style unsayables.
I beg your forgiveness and again fall silent.
“But could I forget my ignorance for a moment? Forget that I am lost in the corridor of a cave?”
– Georges Bataille –
“How come language (or drinking) makes the pain of language (or drinking, or relationships) go away, recede, soothe…and then becomes language (drinking, relation) and its pain…again?” he asks.
I smoke. I look at him. He is examining (with obvious pretend furtivity) my pale, smoothe legs, coming out of my singular light dress. At my arms, my skin, my cheek and throat, my hair. Lasciviously thoughtful, he. Almost curious. Almost authentic in his desire.
He is trying to daydream.
I am trying to be.
We are drinking now.
I am young, he less so.
Or neither. We do not know. Anyone can be so near their end.
So the story goes…
“The world smells good,” he says, and the delectability to the nostrils clearly depended on death: burning wood, smoking pig, a nostalgia of forests…
I knew not what I felt. Mixtures. Pleasures and sorrow. Excitement and fear. Doubt. I did not respond, just masked placidly. Pleasantly, I hoped. Ambiguous. And what does he sense?
I found the following paper when cleaning up our dining room table to prepare for dinner:
What I learn from the inscriptions of my freshly teenaged/screenaged daughter is this: POWERFUL WRITING CAN BE ABOUT ANYTHING. Which inspires me, and supports a potent hunch I’ve been harboring over recent years and studies: that writing that works on or in us, that gnaws at us, strikes or challenges us, perhaps even changes or ‘enlightens’ us, nourishes or crushes us (as the human species we happen to be – capable of participating, communicating, coordinating variously fabricated scales of signification from the organismal, cell-based to communal (‘personal,’ ‘social,’ ‘political’-based) tends to be concocted up out from textures and materials of authentic self-report and confusion or lack [wonder? – our ability to ‘put-into-question’?].
That we make effort, perhaps progress, are sustained or contained, constrained or extended by core curiosity (query, investigation, inquiry, desire) around perceived conundrums, or LACK.
“This in-between feeling”: self-report (authentic within constrained conventions, perception, culture) + confusion, curiosity, a questioning, experimentation, conundrum = an access to the uncertain, the open, the unknown.
“If it is true that there is (in the Chinese language) a written character that means both ‘man’ and ‘two,’ it is easy to recognize in man he who is always himself and the other, the happy duality of dialogue and the possibility of communication. But it is less easy, more important perhaps, to think ‘man,’ that is to say, also ‘two,’ as separation that lacks unity, the leap from 0 to duality, the 1 thus giving itself as the forbidden, the between-the-two [l’entre-deux]”
– Maurice Blanchot, The Step Not Beyond
Human scientists, when they’re ‘successful,’ or ‘good’ combine observation / passion / desire / perception (experiment + experience) as authentic self-reports in a conventionalized constraint PLUS putting the conundrum or confusion (joining-with beyond-certainty) into question… open… ‘What Is…?’ ‘What If…?’ WHAT MIGHT MY HUNCHES, TROUBLES, EXPERIENCE, SENSES, DESIRES indicate? Anything? No-thing?
The litterateur, artist, therapist, musician – what COM-PELS us (pushes us forward-with-world, with-being) seems to be a kind and variation, repetition and difference of this experience + experiment – attempt at authentic self-report wedded to curiosity/wonder/or the putting-into-question of it.
Some empty set.
So Cantor’s infinity. Einstein’s relativity. Godel and undecidability. Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger’s existentialism or phenomenology, Wittgenstein’s language and forms of life, Beckett, Joyce, Blanchot, Wallace proliferating or desiccating sentences – all seem to be appropriately tied, threaded and submerged in Experience + Lack, Perception + Desire, what we do not, perhaps can not, know.
When William James delivers a cumulative, culminative authentic and conventionalized self-report, a curious address called “Is Life Worth Living?”, or Socrates-Augustine-Leibniz-Nietzsche-Shakespeare-Kierkegaard [substitute names at will – Dante, Darwin, Dostoevsky, Proust, Sartre, Peirce, Melville, Dickens…] inquire “Why is there something rather than nothing?” or “Why is there anything at all?”… Why this!? We’re hovering about a lack – of understanding, apparent meaning, dissatisfaction, perhaps frustration, an emptiness, a hole in things we’re troubling, questioning.
‘Scientists,’ ‘psychologists,’ ‘poets,’ ‘lovers,’ ‘activists,’ ‘parents,’ and ‘priests’ are all pushed forward in these questions… core-conundrums, felt-vacuums, hitches, indications of LACK.
Resulting in remarkable attempts at authentic self-report coupled to curiosity / questioning / doubt.
Inquiry is effort.
In-between: knowing/experiencing and unknowing/confusion – experience and experiment.
“The center…[does] not hold”
We are not-yet-one (self-sufficient) and less-than-two (self and other). Not an observer or experiencer without something observed/experienced. Not a language or emotion without a group or felt-with or in-relation-to. Not a happening without a happening-in, a happening-here, a happening-to. Not a sound without a hearing. A cell without surround, a border and environment. No self without an other and all incomplete, undecidable, in flux and underdetermined.
ALWAYS IN-BETWEEN AND UNCERTAIN
An adolescent is able to capture and confess this…that alone tells me nothing together might do.
No “what if?” without something to work with. No awareness without awareness-of.
And so “I,” her progenitor-father, study NOTHING. The “what if nots?” Incomprehensible, inexistent, perhaps inconceivable questions… indeterminable, indecipherable, perhaps unexperiencable and irrational.
At breakfast we speak of it. Curiously, we authentically self-report our wonder, confusion and conundrums – our LACK – of understanding, of method, of language, of expression, experience… our limitations we might call ‘impossibility…’
That nothing is only possible when nothing is NOT. That if we are able in relation to nothing… ‘we’ can not be there, or ‘be’ at all. Nothing not even itself, not even an absence… to speak or think of it is to rush it away…
These are things I learn from my children – that our questions go unanswered, are (perhaps) unanswerable, that attempting authentic reportage (communicating) experience coupled to wonder, and putting-it-to-question, with humility, then, in doubt… perhaps drives our systems, our logics, our literatures, arts, sciences, and love… LACK that we do not know, can not (perhaps) know, are participants-at-scale – finite and fragile – and have our limits, open and undecided…
Thank you dear children.
I am comforted almost to imagine you might be driven on…
…by your lack, your honest confusion, unsettledness, and authenticity.
Funny enough, the following short piece arrived in my email the same day…
“The sky would have to be inside me for my words to have the brilliance of stars”
– Edmond Jabes, “A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Book”
“Dasein means: being held out into the nothing”
– Peter Sloterdijk, “The Art of Philosophy”
“Even when nothing / replaced the gifts, it was a kind of seeing”
– Jack Gilbert, “Collected Poems”
I was driving in the dust of this planet while wondering how I knew the sky was not inside me.
After all, there are theories.
But my words do not have “the brilliance of stars.”
Hugo Mercier & Dan Sperber concocted The Enigma of Reason… and I want to say …of Reasons.
For after all.
After all (i.e. “in the beginning”), where we set out from seems to be an enigma of reasons. The proffering of theories (the art? of fabricating reasons?). The urgency to describe or define, explicate or explain, ‘make sense’ of things like her glance, or my illness; the weather, or wear (time), something felt or imagined, desired. Each engendering theories.
We call that engendering the imagination. Using language and sensing, others and other, an-experience-in-the-world to … give reasons. And why?
There are theories.
Haven’t we begun everywhere? With urges and instincts, desire and relation, observation and interpretation, and so on… and yet it’s only ever ‘mine’ or ‘ours,’ – a giving of reasons and investigation that is human – no, not quite. Not even that.
We incorporate ‘earth’ in it. And many things nobody owns or created. Language and sense, and earthy-othery tools: microscopes, telescopes, instruments, numerals, metals and plastics and paper. Electricities. Motion.
Anything to wrap ourselves in and around… and give reasons.
That experiencing: when one aches for a knot or a kernel, a key or a gem.
Mine might be the Texts for Nothing. A nothing I never can reach (and I knew it). Don’t we all begin once we discover we can’t? After it’s all already begun? In the midst of?
Mystic-scientists propose an only-what. Eschew reasons. The lock of the rational derive. Sense or no, this is what we observe in conditions. Phenomenology. The human (“observer”) limited experiencing. Only that. Being-there.
But the tekne collaborates and alters. There never is only.
Reportage. Disinterested. Impersonal. Facts and accuracies.
I pursue nothing because I know I can’t find it. Will not find it until I am not.
So I err at desire.
Like a theory.
A digression. Transgression. Omission-emission.
A longing for order? For sense transcribed into reason? For nothing to give rise to all and these everythings to foment continuing?
But we know don’t we? Deeper down, without bottom? Don’t we know we’re a tiniest book? Carried in the arm of a world-without-end? Of further reaches?
No, we don’t.
We don’t know. We make ‘knowing’ or ‘knowledge’ – a description – a typification (a logic, a rationality, i.e. a reason, a theory). Floating in infinite perhaps.
They say we share common elements we’ve devised observationally. So the sky might be inside of me. But words aren’t stars, are they? Theories. Experience. Ours.
We’ve come to experience not-knowing as a kind of ‘humility’, ‘valor’, and ‘honesty.’ But why? We don’t know. If that’s so, we can’t know we don’t know. And life is a loop of inquiry, perception… that leads to the giving of reasons and the making of sense. Beginning ourselves from began.
Things ‘ring true,’ resonate, and we follow… on… seeking reasons, making sense (where there is none?).
Posit ‘God.’ Posit ‘Method.’ And we’re caught in the crevice of crafting for reasons.
“Even when nothing / replaced the gifts, it was a kind of seeing.”
I remember that I am falling
That I am the reason
And that my words are the garment of what I shall never be
Like the tucked sleeve of a one-armed boy
– W.S. Merwin, “When You Go Away”
Time keeps accumulating on my inability to write, to find time to write, to process living with language. Simply to keep this space alive, I am posting a journal-like entry so as not to give up.
Recent weeks have been dominated by readings of Doug Rice, Laurie Sheck, Jon Fosse, Georges Bataille, Larry Levis, Maurice Blanchot, Samuel Beckett, Franco Berardi, Robert Bringhurst, Jeremy Fernando, Elfriede Jelinek and others…
What a traversal, passage, the past couple of months have been…
…like following the draw of the moon through dire straits
in dark, tumultuous seas…
…a feeling that everything is at its limit (Bataille, l’extreme) – EXPERIENCE.
…a teetering balance…
Mind you, this is how it feels in me, not how it is.
I miss everything that is/was good
There is a certain uncertain sorrow to things
(presence of melancholia, moon-draw)
Georges Bataille’s certainties:
THE UNKNOWN THE UNSOLVABLE THE POSSIBLE
Lynda Barry & the “Underground Skateboard” – how we draw from others work what we need to survive
Lemony Snicket & the autographing instruction that I should “read something else”
immersion (doom, closure) held in levity
– 1st Tarot reading –
(processual journey mythical)
Jacob recommends Homer – The Odyssey
doubling letting go – holding together The Devil/The Chariot
dark surfaces / surfaces of darkness (The Fool)
The Moon (dark journey) crossed by the Queen of Swords (wounding love)
THE UNKNOWN THE UNSOLVABLE THE POSSIBLE
The King of Wands – leaders, pole vaulters, utilizing tension toward propulsion
leap over? through? on?
Pas sage – not wisdom FRAUGHT JOURNEY
– Odyssey –
BATAILLE: “nothing is final…”
– “what is not there, which, once it is seen, often in literature, tells us what is” (Fosse)
“the suffering of the disintoxicated” (Bataille)
“Experience reveals nothing and cannot found belief nor set out from it” – Bataille
“The hand moves forward, the tragedy begins” – Bataille
“no one grieves with you for what you are unable to say”
“life itself…always swerves away from my mouth”
– Elfriede Jelinek –
“how I’m owned by that which will not answer” – Sheck
“What you are will be spelled by whatever
lies trapped in your hand” – Robert Bringhurst
– emptiness is also empty –
“what is the part of us… feels…unnamed…
…i must live at some distance from convinced” – Sheck
“When I say you to what isn’t there – I mean me” (Larry Levis)
“you won’t find me in me” (Jelinek)
Experience eludes understanding ( Bataille)
– nor can I compute the possible (Sheck)
is just one
to move through
FIRST AND FOREMOST YOU WRITE (Fosse)
“From an abandoned myth
(I write to you)” (D. Rice)
– wanting them to mean nothing –
– and suggest everything (L Levis)
It would have to be fragmentary, partial
perhaps pointing, with hope,
like us, living things,
at any given moment:
saying things, not yet said,
ever in the midst of acts,
if there happens to be a real
it must be incomplete and full
of undoing and becoming,
of perhapses and oops
I had started out
at some point,
taking up this pen
and applying it to this
open screen, unknowable unknown,
had started out toward
in order to write
“I had started out”
but all is different now
and now again,
assertions and insertions
of possible reals or facts,
some happenings of actuals
be-fore (in face of, in lieu)
words or some expression
It stares out, staring in,
fractured and non-finished,
fetishized with objects
that stand for something else,
always something else
than what “is” or which has been,
unfinished and hardly calculable,
and inexhaustibly exhaustible
and without beginning
(or we would ‘start’)
on a way then, in
doing toward undone,
The light is good. I’m confused.
What “good”? “Good” for what, and in relation to? Diffuse, azure atmosphere of oncoming dusk. Chilly, not cold. Nearly pleasant, yet crisp enough for shiver and grip. Unsteady, trembling grasp of pen, a striving for control mated to its lack.
Hardly daylight. Liminal.
I would like to express. What I do not know, perhaps am even unable to.
This is why I approach a page – blank, blind, lined, empty – in “good” light and confusion.
Fusion-with, what? Chemistry, alchemy, biosphere, organism, complexity, surround. Others’ emotions, experience. Possibilities not actualized, each swarming potential of vocabulary, gesture, signification – line, sign, mark, motion – converging formulation, conveying contrivance / re-cognition. What is not, hovering about each “is.” To write. To write (only) this. When…
Once begun. Light, terms, cursive. Blue Bic ball-pointed pen. Moleskine substitution and human and language and in- and ex- perience and some =, some theorized equation of functions and results.
January 29, 2017. Nathan Wayne Filbert. 5:44 pm according to a Centrally Standardized Timepiece, an Apple product, arranged amidst pages from many centuries and sources, composed music sounding from the last, temperatures…”actualities”?…amid vast, incomputable com-possibilities.
If Nathan had not been “this one,” had not begun with a “T” or a “T + h + e” in this light, in this almost comfortable, discomfiting condition, in this notebook, with this pen and its ink at this time on this bastardized quality of paper, among such circumstances and scenarios, amid these relations as a father, a student, librarian, scholar, male – of this certain (arbitrarily standardized mandatory and countable) age, intimately (accordingly – to strata not set by either) coupled to- caring for-, concerned with-, worried by-, wishing for-, happy about-, and so on…
this word or letter at this time in this space with these extremely idiosyncratic and unlikely determinate positions and scenes in a surround incrementally rare and unreckonably accidental…
“The light is good. I am confused” leading itself its own very peculiar particular wave way toward each next and next co-dependent with innumerable constituents and counterparts yet occurring here, now, 5:54 pm CST in Wichita, Kansas in United (are they?) States of America (wha-? why? how? when?) 2017 (by what calendar and whose and wherefore?) at an intersection outside of a centuries-old and decrepit “house” it calls “home” (why? wherefore? from whence toward and…?)…
Indeterminate. Indecipherable. Unreasonable and incalculable. Not accountable or even conceivable…but IS (apparently). Simply IS, what is written, at this time, in this place, by this organism, of these relations, in this surround, at this moment, occasion, “actuality”…
…as it happens… as if
“The light is good. I am confused.”
..does the pleasure of writing exist? I don’t know. One thing I feel certain of is that there’s a tremendous obligation to write. This obligation to write, I don’t really know where it comes from. As long as we haven’t started writing, it seems to be the most gratuitous, the most improbable thing, almost the most impossible, and one to which, in any case, we’ll never feel bound. Then, at some point – is it the first page, the thousandth, the middle of the first book, or later? I have no idea – we realize that we’re absolutely obligated to write. This obligation is revealed to you, indicated in various ways. For example, by the fact that we experience so much anxiety, so much tension if we haven’t finished that little page of writing, as we do each day. By writing that page, you give yourself, you give to your existence, a form of absolution. That absolution is essential for the day’s happiness. It’s not the writing that’s happy, it’s the joy of existing that’s attached to writing, which is slightly different. This is very paradoxical, very enigmatic, because how is it that the gesture – so vain, so fictive, so narcissistic, so self-involved – of sitting down at a table in the morning and covering a certain number of blank pages can have this effect of benediction for the remainder of the day? How is the reality of things – our concerns, hunger, desire, love, sexuality, work – transfigured because we did that in the morning, or because we were able to do it during the day? That’s very enigmatic. For me, in any case, it’s one of the ways the obligation to write is manifested.
This obligation is also indicated by something else. Ultimately, we always write not only to write the last book we will write, but, in some truly frenzied way – and this frenzy is present even in the most minimal gesture of writing – to write the last book in the world. In truth, what we write at the moment of writing, the final sentence of the work we’re completing, is also the final sentence of the world, in that, afterward, there’s nothing more to say. There’s a paroxysmal intent to exhaust language in the most insignificant sentence. No doubt this is associated with the disequilibrium that exists between speech and language. Language is what we use to construct an absolutely infinite number of sentences and utterances. Speech, on the contrary, no matter how long or how diffuse, how supple, how atmospheric, how protoplasmic, how tethered to its future, is always finite, always limited. We can never reach the end of language through speech, no matter how long we imagine it to be. This inexhaustibility of language, which always holds speech in suspense in terms of a future that will never be completed, is another way of experiencing the obligation to write. We write to reach the end of language, to reach the end of any possible language, to finally encompass the empty infinity of language through the plenitude of speech.
Another reason why writing is different from speaking is that we write to hide our face, to bury ourselves in our own writing. We write so that the life around us, alongside us, outside, far from the sheet of paper, this life that’s not very funny but tiresome and filled with worry, exposed to others, is absorbed in that small rectangle of paper before our eyes and which we control. Writing is a way of trying to evacuate, through the mysterious channels of pen and ink, the substance, not just of existence, but of the body, in those minuscule marks we make on paper. To be nothing more, in terms of life, than this dead and jabbering scribbling that we’ve put on the white sheet of paper is what we dream about when we write. But we never succeed in absorbing all that teeming life in the motionless swarm of letters. Life always goes on outside the sheet of paper, continues to proliferate, keeps going, and is never pinned down to that small rectangle; the heavy volume of the body never succeeds in spreading itself across the surface of paper, we can never pass into that two-dimensional universe, that pure line of speech; we never succeed in becoming thin enough or adroit enough to be nothing more than the linearity of a text, and yet that’s what we hope to achieve. So we keep trying, we continue to restrain ourselves, to take control of ourselves, to slip into the funnel of pen and ink, an infinite task, but the task to which we’ve dedicated ourselves. We would feel justified if we no longer existed except in that minuscule shudder, that infinitesimal scratching that grows still and becomes, between the tip of the pen and the white surface of the paper, the point, the fragile site, the immediately vanished moment when a stationary mark appears once and for all, definitively established, legible only for others and which has lost any possibility of being aware of itself. This type of suppression, of self-mortification in the transition to signs is, I believe, what also gives writing its character of obligation. It’s an obligation without pleasure, you see, but, after all, when escaping an obligation leads to anxiety, when breaking the law leaves you so apprehensive and in such great disarray, isn’t obeying the law the greatest form of pleasure? To obey an obligation whose origin is unknown, and the source of whose authority over us is equally unknown, to obey that – certainly narcissistic – law that weighs down on you, that hangs over you wherever you are, that, I think, is the pleasure of writing…
…I’m not an author. First of all, I have no imagination. I’m completely uninventive. I’ve never even been able to conceive of something like the subject of a novel…I place myself resolutely on the side of the writers [in distinction – Roland Barthes – from authors] those for whom writing is transitive. By that I mean those for whom writing is intended to designate, to show, to manifest outside itself something that, without it, would have remained if not hidden at least invisible. For me, that’s where, in spite of everything, the enchantment of writing lies…I’m simply trying to make apparent what is very immediately present and at the same time invisible…I’d like to reveal something that’s too close for us to see, something right here, alongside us, but which we look through to something else…to define the proximity around us that orients the general field of our gaze and our knowledge…
So, for me, the role of writing is essentially one of distancing and of measuring distance. To write is to position oneself in that distance that separates us from death and from what is dead…I’m in the distance between the speech of others and my own…In exercising my language, I’m measuring the difference with what we are not, and that’s why I said to you earlier that writing means losing one’s own face, one’s own existence. I don’t write to give my existence the solidity of a monument. I’m trying to absorb my own existence into the distance that separates it from death and, probably, by that same gesture, guides it toward death…
I’dd add that, in one sense, my head is empty when I begin to write, even though my mind is always directed toward a specific object. Obviously, that means that, for me, writing is an exhausting activity, very difficult, filled with anxiety. I’m always afraid of messing up; naturally, I mess up, I fail all the time. This means that what encourages me to write isn’t so much the discovery or certainty of a certain relationship, of a certain truth, but rather the feeling I have of a certain kind of writing, a certain mode of operation of my writing, a certain style that will bring that distance into focus…
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"As for me I reduce everything to a tumult of words" - Clarice Lispector
"As for me I reduce everything to a tumult of words" - Clarice Lispector
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A writer and her reading.
Daily thoughts and experiences expressed through poetry and prose
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A celebration of writers who have achieved some measure of literary failure. Each week a short biography will be posted. After one year, they will all be deleted.
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Poetry International is a world class literary magazine based on the campus of San Diego State University which caters to an international community of poets.