Not-Belonging, Chapters

I feel somewhat apologetic, but here is one more selection from my archives.  Another that when I re-read I am unable to see how I might do better, or how I ever got it done at all, yet all my work un-published or rejected, so I know it is not “good enough” per whatever the current cultural milieu would prefer.  “No matter.  Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.”  Perhaps.  In any case, it circles around for me like the tail-eating snake I am, in hopes it might engender something new, no, in hopes it might be put to rest.  For any who read it, I would be hard pressed to metaphor my astonishment, humility, gratitude and begging-of-patience, including a sheer and sharp ache of deep appreciation for your life’s time and likely unwarranted, gracious, attention.


Chapters That Don’t Belong

(please click image or title for text)

many thanks

Writing comes naturally…

For those of you intrigued by yesterday’s article about writing as a technology – here I’ll attempt to balance it with another fascinating article supposedly providing an “opposing view” to Walter Ong, et. al.

Ingold - Lines

Drawing, Writing and Calligraphy by Tim Ingold

(chapter 5: pp. 120-160)

what do you think?

Is writing “technological” artifice natural or unnatural?

I’ll tell my thoughts in time…





“What a joke it is to read or hear—as I have read or heard more times than I can count—that writers ‘see more clearly’ or ‘feel more deeply’ than non-writers. The truth of the matter is that writers hardly ‘see’ or ‘feel’ at all. The disparity between a writer’s works and the world per se is so great as to beggar comment. Writers who arrange their lives so as to ‘have experiences’ in order to reduce them to contemptible linguistic recordings of these experiences are beneath contempt.”

—Something Said, by Gilbert Sorrentino

Dalkey Archive

Via strange twists of events, connections that could only be re-constructed through fantastic imagination, I have been moved back into perusing publishers for work that inspires, raises and extends one’s ideas of what “art,” “literature,” “human” are.

While most publishers must infuse their catalogs with books that will sell, there are still a few presses that are simply committed to grandeur – to works that express and challenge what humans are capable of making, thinking, expressing, creating – works that assess and challenge our condition of being.

Two presses I’d like to promote – that continually provide works that surprise and engage (fully) and elastically foment my boundaries of concept and possibilities – with bewildering form and content – in other words, publishers from whom you might randomly purchase titles and ALWAYS be made richer, better, exponentially more humane – (THIS IS A REMARKABLE THING):


please visit them and order…ANYTHING…

your life will be BETTER.



Writing Wisdom

This turns out to be the best thing I read this week on the art of writing…

Pooh writing 2

“The friends could not agree which way to go.  Pooh looked for answers.

“Perhaps if we tell a story, the story will tell us how to get there…”

– Winnie the Pooh

struck me solidly as the way so very many of us who write

go about looking for answers.

Pooh writing

Write on…

Experience, anyway. diverted toward Empty, the space of life.

Experience, anyway.

(click above if you missed the start)

2 pages in…the new fiction meets a message….

Empty, the space of life

“My relation to others is staggered all the way to the infinite;

from the bottom up, never horizontally, the distance from here to there…

…What you call ‘distance’ is but the time of breathing in, of breathing out.

All the oxygen man needs is in his lungs.

Empty, the space of life.”

-Edmond Jabes, from A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Book

perhaps a title change, but certainly a deepening of the layers…

anyway, Experience, anyway. goes on into the encounters…

a tidbit on writing

“every thing is a parliament of lines”

I think many people sense a difference between typing, printing, and writing.  But very few, I surmise, might be able to speak clearly about what those differences are.  There’s the kinesthetic difference, the disjunction of flow between thought forming through the body into theories of letters on paper.  There’s a temporal difference, between the stenography of lightning-thought tapped like Morse code onto a keyboard, versus the individuated pacing of each writers body, hand, and facility of digits.  Some may even say there’s a personality difference between interpreting standardized typography as a communication, and the erratics and imperfections of the same terms from a writing hand.

My desk is dominated by books with titles like Chaos, Incompleteness, Complexity, Information, Emergence, Touch, Telling, Lines and Erasure.  Aspects of being human that glance across gaps or dawdle on edges – where knowledge isn’t comprehensive (and where might it be?) – are the processes and activities that fascinate my fancy.

Coupling an article I chanced upon (thank you Scholarly Kitchen) about Technology and Cursive Writing, with my current readings in Tim Ingold’s Lines: A brief history, I begin to slowly realize that how we interact with lines, with writing, is sourced far beyond and beneath our immediate experience.

Ingold begins with the consideration of what we understand by the words “song” and “music.”  How “music has become wordless; language has been silenced.”  In the past music referred to sonorous words set to harmony and rhythm, sounds alone were an embellishment to language, but not the principle purpose.  Language was the sound-filled reality, like animal chirps or barks, the human’s vocal verbality.  With inscription, language began to silence.  Sound encountered a gap with meaning, or took on meaning of a different kind.

Similar worldview realities are exhibited in ways of inscribing.  “In typing and printing, the intimate link between the manual gesture and the inscriptive trace is broken.  The author conveys feeling by his choice of words, not by the expressiveness of his lines.”  And writing experienced gaps in relation to drawing, language further abstracted.  

“Yet whether encountered as a woven thread or as a written trace, the line is still perceived as one of movement and growth.  How come, then, that so many of the lines we come up against today seem so static?  Why does the very mention of the word ‘line’ or ‘linearity’, for so many contemporary thinkers conjure up an image of the alleged narrow-mindedness and sterility, as well as the single-track logic, of modern analytic thought?”

“It seems that what modern thought has done to place – fixing it to spatial locations – it has also done to people, wrapping their lives into temporal moments…If we were but to reverse this procedure, and to imagine life itself not as a fan of dotted lines – but as a manifold woven from the countless threads spun by beings of all sorts, both human and non-human, as they find their ways through the tangle of relationships in which they are enmeshed, then our entire understanding of evolution would be irrevocably altered…It would lead us to an open-ended view of the evolutionary process, and of our own history within that process, as one in which inhabitants, through their own activities, continually forge the conditions for their own and each other’s lives.  Indeed, lines have the power to change the world!”  (Ingold)

Bringing it back to the inscription of language, it is easy to see the bias of expression in the meaning of signs – but that meaning abstracted into disconnected idea-banks of terms, rather than the entire gesture of activity of inscribing.  My talent diminishing to equational finesse – the fiddling and play or arrangement of alphabets like numbers – rather than a being expressing its thought through gesture and individuated agreed-upon symbols and signs.  Perhaps our sense of difference betwixt the typescript and handwritten is that there is a little less of ourselves as individuated organism, and a lot more of standardized general practices and beliefs.  Perhaps we feel a little less in- when our scripts are preformed?  I do not know, I am foraging the questions…

“every thing is a parliament of lines”

-Tim Ingold

Spontaneous Reduction

ink and touch

Then I dropped my voice – BOOM – right onto the sidewalk.

A glitter, a spritzing, a spark.  A diffusion and ooze.  It runs out.

Watch it pour along the surface, draining toward sewage.

Voice.  A voice.  My voice.  Sploosh.


All the books I want are priceless.

Those I need – they cost too much.

I am a writer who learns.

I am a learner who writes.

I am a failure that loves.

I am a lover that fails.

It becomes apparent: Yes, I am.  A parent.

The book I am not reading –

Emotions and Understanding

caught in a withdrawal.

That is, boundaried from writing.

Between abstraction, and empathy.

There lies a void, inevitably.

You can’t trust silence.

We rush to fill.

(That distant sound).


I read for conversation.

But Writer says I’m “vague”

(don’t fulfill responsibilities)

Attention.  Integrity.  Inquiry.  Response.


I simply tripped, a clumsiness

[I dropped my voice]

but I am here.

Enmeshed in words but unable.

(metadata lacking)

I’m no librarian.

Vague because I say so.

(my human apparatus little equipped for the overwhelm of data)

Ant in a kingdom

-of words-

of signifiers.

Less than that.

I wrap my brain around it.

Waving goodbye to body.

My voice drops.

Alberto Giacometti sketch of Diego Giacometti



RE-GIFTING PRESENTS, part 1: Inhabiting the Medium We Inhabit

Juame Plensa sculpture

This post is an attempt at exploring and hopefully explicating (at least a little) a dialogue that began in a series of comments between the excellent thinker/writer Tocksin and myself.  The comment thread can be read in full here (if you wish), but I will highlight two sections for purposes of this post:

tocksin says: I am noticing we two like to wax philosophical at the expense of letting our characters speak. We are mere babes in the woods being raised by wolves. Tooth and nail we will fight to have our day. Write we must.
N Filbert says: I find that to be true – what you say about being babes in the woods. Wrestling with everything else inhabiting our medium.
tocksin says: Let me feel you more with what you mean by wrestling with everything else inhabiting our medium.

At which point I made some bumbling effort toward it, seemingly tangling into more confusion.  And was set thinking – how would I verbalize what I mean by the wrestling that using language is?  The next two (or more) posts will be my preliminary attempt to language into it.

I interpreted Tocksin’s first message (above) to concern our propensity as writers to be unable to “leave ourselves out of it” (e.g. to let plot and characters, narrative and action be), rather than to voice-in, reflect, trouble and scrutinize our place in the mix of it, the ourness in the howness of any languagings aboutness.  “Tooth and nail we will fight to have our day.  Write we must.”

All of this started rattling about in my old noggin with what darts around in there from Wittgenstein, William James, Gertrude Stein, Bakhtin, M.A.K. Halliday, J.R. Firth, Benjamin Whorf, C.S. Peirce, Edward Sapir, Peter Berger, and thousands of other voices and ideas regarding LANGUAGE, THOUGHT, BEING, PERCEPTION, etc…

As far as I can tell, these relations have concerned humans since humans have experienced concern.  Who are we?  What are we?  How are we?  When are we?  even from time to time expeditioning toward Why?


A few posts ago I quoted Judith Butler from her Excitable Speech to the tune of:

 “language is not a tool that merely allows meaning to happen.  Rather, the relation between language and its users represents a complex ‘matrix of intelligibility’ that makes us readable to one another.  Language, in other words, represents a framework that constitutes both the ‘doing’ and the ‘doer’ alike: the subject always exists in a condition of relation to language that implicates the person using it, as much as the addressee – ‘we do things with language…produce effects with language, and…do things to language’ because ‘language is the thing that we do.’ (from Christina Milletti).

Much greater minds than mine have attempted to tackle this – in language, with language, to language, as well as in painting and music, film and image and architecture and dance: Who are we?  What are we?  How are we?  When?  What is?  Happening?  Basic problems of being as faced by our particular type of organism’s means of awareness: senses, perceptive apparatus, and largish brain – all inputting and outputting, inter- intra- extra- extro-putting simultaneously.

Due to our conditions, one of the stickiest problems seems insurmountable – the ability to experience (consciously) BEING.  Or NOW.  The Present.  IS-ness.

In our splendiferous operations of surviving/existing, the mechanisms and processes of doing so (predictive, inductive, deductive, collaborative, receptive, perceptive, oscillatory, responsive, reactive, self-generated, externally infringed, incited, and so on – AMAZING processes!) TAKE TIME, if only nanoseconds…all to say that our perception and/or sensation of being and existing NECESSARILY are not simultaneous to its occurrence, and yet also ARE, because the organizing and perceiving of our activity also constitutes our experiences AS they occur.

This is one of the reasons William James insists on the metaphor of “stream” for our being.

Here he writes on introspection (self-reflection, becoming conscious of consciousness, or perceiving perception – what language and symbols, signs allow, enable, concoct):

“introspecting the contents of that stream, more precisely, a particular item floating along it, interrupts the streaming, arrests the item (or objectifies), detaches and isolates it.  Let anyone try to cut a thought across in the middle and get a look at its section, and he will see how difficult the introspective observation of the transitive tracts is…As a snow-flake crystal caught in the warm hand is no longer a crystal but a drop, so, instead of catching the feeling of relation moving to its term, we find we have caught some substantive thing, usually the last word we were pronouncing, statically taken, and with its function, tendency, and particular meaning in the sentence quite evaporated.  The attempt at introspective analysis in these cases is in fact like seizing a spinning top to catch its motion, or trying to turn up the gas quickly enough to see how the darkness looks.”


And is also experience, experience becoming.

As I am considering language, that is – assigning description, value, reality using symbol/sign/or index to something in human experiences – I am presenting a coming-to-terms (languaging) for myself of what I attempted (languaging) to “mean” (communicate, share, RELATE) in my off-handed comment to Tocksin regarding “wrestling with everything inhabiting our medium,” as well as an hypothesis that has been haunting me since.

“Wrestling with our medium/habitat – language” means for me in this way: As I conceive (language) the being or existence of the human organism, I interpret an organism of proactive and retroactive complex processes organizing and imputing value to its environment, selectively perceiving and constructing a context or situation in which it can get what it needs to survive.  In the scheme of things (or, its organismal specificities IN RELATION TO other organisms and contexts) the human has developed metaphoric and metonymic signification capacities for purposes of more efficient and productive navigation / survival.

Language, (or humans as semiotic beings) then is a medium in the sense of a manipulator of gaps, or a “thing” insofar as it operates between, RELATIONALLY.  Signs are always IN RELATION TO.  Inner experience, outer experience, communication, description, definition, etc…a SHARED HABITAT, an activity, indeed a primary thinking process – signing experience is a composition, exploration, examination and organizing (improvisational and purposive) of our world and our perceptual relations within experience of it.

Signing – languaging world – is for us our activity of finding out, making sense, interpreting, composing and exploring being/existing.

So when we go with purpose to the page to write language – all of this is inherent to the medium – we make our world (as we experience it) inhabit language so that we can experience it and also we inhabit language in order to experience (perceive our perceiving, become conscious of our awareness).  Language is the “stuff”(?) – the medium – the lubricant of passage between ourselves and our senses and perceptions; and everything beyond those individual sensings and perceptions.  Thinking organizes and determines experience.

So self-consciously involving ourselves in language opens up all our experience (known and unknown, much like dreams) to be wrestled with in attempting to make a poem, a story, a report, or a conversation, or, even, a thought.

That is part of what I was trying to say, Tocksin.  Part two will be the idea that has haunted me since…

Immediate sources referenced:

Lyn Hejinian, The Language of Inquiry.  U. of California Press, 2000.

R.M. Berry & Jeffrey Di Leo, editors. Fiction’s Present:Situating Contemporary Narrative Innovation. SUNY Press, 2008.

Gyorgy Buzsaki.  Rhythms of the Brain.  Oxford, 2011.

Rudolfo Llinas.  I of the vortex.  MIT Press, 2002.

William James.  Principles of Psychology.  Cambridge, 1981.