Appearing in ‘Songs of the River’ ‘The Fall’ is another classic wander through some of Seranoga’s favourite territory: water and time. The religious hints can hardly be missed, not least in the title (which also has a watery allusion). More intriguing is the mention of the corvid stone which has sometimes been interpreted as the Bible (owing to the last verse), however other scholars identify it with certain very old obscure texts from South America that Seranoga was known to have been interested in. The connection in the second verse between ravine and raven seems clear; it seems this must link somehow to the stone of the penultimate verse.

The Fall

The candid hope of lofty spires,
This path winds oddly steep,
But a glamour soon has held me,
Am I so long asleep?

The bouldered ways are stirring,
With mist and ‘tween time shade,
The ravine is long cawing,
Was I so long ago made?

The river flows in florid spirals,
The ne’re return so long,
The horse wind speaks in whispers,
How lingers still this song?

I find that there’s clipped and loathsome hints,
Of something I once knew,
I sought for a stone that hid beneath boughs,
Of bold and corvid hue,

And on this tablet long described,
How clambering from the pit,
Is the blessing and the curse entwined,
For which ‘mankind is fit.

Written later on in his life, ‘Underground’ represents Seranoga’s gloomy outlook upon his existence in Europe in the mid-twentieth century. His fading (already curious) Catholicism is no doubt a factor in the unrelenting misery of the work.

Underground.

Down, down, down underground where the goblins live below, in the glow, of their cavernous ancient woe.
Drown, drown, drown in the well where you fell, you can tell to the last, life so fast now has all by past.
Die, die, die as you cry, asking ‘why?’ No you’ll never understand what was planned, not by human hands,

There’s never been a reason to knock upon the door,
There’s never been a season to live a little more more more…

Choke, choke, choke on a rope, no you didn’t break your neck, as you dangle twitch and strangle in a dark stair well,
Scream, scream, scream from the stream as the nixies drag you under, and you wonder, what these daughters or the water have in store for thee.
Flee, flee, flee from the spirits of the wood if you can, no too late, no escape now they’ve sealed your fate.

There’s never been reason to get up off the floor,
And God is out of season, so bang upon the door, door door…

Dance, dance, dance, look askance no you haven’t got a chance of romance, cold hard eyes turn and look away.
Moan, moan, moan, to the stones in the twilight turn and groan, floating things to you sing, on the night time’s wings.
Stare, stare, stare at the moon in her witching eldritch glare, shadows passed, have amassed, now for you they grasp.

There’s never been a reason to live a little more,
And God is out is of season so lie upon the stone cold floor…

photo: @bechir

Acrylic tubes of paint. I just want to paint. Everybody wants to be a YouTuber on YouTube. The things of it is: we are thingless. Americans call me Rocky Colavito. I am told he played right field for a franchise called the Cleveland Indians. My arm is so strong, I can reach Fire Island. Stefani and I throw stones across the Great South Bay. Peephole into the Cosmos. Peep into the small hole. Layer after layer. See all the laminated layers. Drill a hole through Matryoshka doll on a drill press. Sold by Russians on the Stone Bridge in Prague. Such is life. There are so many episodes inside of episodes. Everything else collapses. Only one NYC bridge left: The Hell Gate Bridge. Ruins a thousand years in the future. My paintings are post-Apocalyptic landscapes. Is coming the dream? Is the dream coming? Are we getting closer Stefani? 

Now and again, we splurge on bagels. Greek salad. Sea bass. Stefani likes to eat fish. I just want Pilsner beer & goulash. Everybody eats so much. Grocery shopping is a drag in Amerika.

Now and again, orgasms are synchronous. Pleases me. Pleases her. She gets there faster than I do. Yes! Gasping in disbelief. We moan on Sunday mornings. Stefani brings me to fruition.

I am poorly inked. A stick-figure man. Invented. I feel made-up. Creature of Uncertainty. How can I exist? I am impossible. Who am I? Who are you? Really I have no clue. I pretend to understand people. I am a pretender. Stefani has more friends than me. Artists & tavern friends. It is enough. We have a few friends. 

I suggest Brian Eno’s “Ascent”. She is looking for the right music. Sixteen-millimeter. B&W. Grainy. Molecular. Sometimes her friend Michelle films us fucking. My life. Her life. Really, it is about life. Stefani is making a documentary film about my art.

She wants me to pick up my socks. It is very strange. We live together now. She is a filmmaker. We eat a lot of souvlaki. She is a waitress at a Greek diner. She is from Minnesota. Her name is Stefani. I have a girlfriend.

Zig pulls off her panties. She is unshaven. Her sex glistens. Zig’s cock grows fatter and longer. She reaches out a hand. She wants to touch it. Zig does not want to come in her hand. It has happened before.

We just keep blinking. The whole night. Are you there? I am.

Her buttocks presses tight against his loins. He has never been happier. Never. The wet slap. The burning candle. The possibility that somebody could walk into the kitchenette at any moment. It is a memory of a lifetime. Zig will never forget.

When I think about never seeing my father again, I think: That is just unacceptable. And in that moment I realize, I can. I will!

Jesus is a technology. If you do not think so, stop thinking.

I will pray. I will pray every night. I will read the Bible. I will read the Scriptures. I will become a becomer. 

Maggie lays me well in Prague. She is good Irish. She makes me cry out. Believe. We touch each other’s naked asses. There is no greater vulnerability. I love you Maggie. Always. Forever.

Only a handful of friends, when it comes down to it. A rare few. Count them on one hand. Two hands. No feet required.

Everybody can talk about what they want. I talk about this.

Machine boy are you feeling lonely on the highways of Long Island? Machine girl are you aware there is a machine boy with feelings for you?

What else can you do other than document an existence?

Forge ahead. Become. Steel yourself. Be plastic. Be vulnerable. Kiss. Buy flowers. Ask questions. Be curious. Explore. Experiment. Reflect. Roll the dice. Yell snake eyes! Eat a taco. Eat lo mien. Eat a chimichanga. Eat a pizza. Dance the cha-cha-cha. Buy a bus ticket to Cucamonga. Leave Ronkonkoma behind. Say goodbye. Ahoj. Sayonara. Auf Wiedersehen. Ciao. Arrivederci.

I fuck her on a green leather sofa.

John Ireland: Autofiction feeds on flesh.

We undress in the half-darkness. I cannot begin to describe the excitement. Hers and mine. 

I am erect. She gives my cock a fast suck. Her hand guides me into her pussy. I fuck her. Really she fucks me. I am the one crying. She smiles. As if she has seen me before. I am a beginner. 

Language becomes you. Takes over your existence. Replaces memory and Being. What remains?

Saturn’s big moon Titan is the place to go. Everybody says so. Get a rocket ship. Oxygen tanks.

Her bed. She leans back and lifts her buttocks. Her panties come sliding off. She spreads her legs. Her sex glistens. Her pubic hair is dark. He lowers himself onto her. The dome of his cock spreads her labia like petals.

Writing writing writing. Writing becomes you. You are writing.

Being. What is it? Am I being? Are you? Is the Zeitgeist coursing through you? 

A few people wear the masks. Most still prefer to face the world barefaced. Original face. We are prisoners of a subway machine. Breathing in each other’s breathing. Particles & atoms. Not talking. Thinking our human thoughts. 

How long can you survive?

The metropolis spins around the circumference of the planet at a thousand miles per hour. Can you feel it? How can you remain standing? How do you not fall down?

Sometimes I fall. I fail. I get up: I begin again.

Being a writer is a messy thing. You keep messing up. I keep messing up.

We are reader-writers. Make no mistake. Or do. Please do. Make mistakes. Human mistakes.

Time has made its remarks on my face. Original face. Half century of existence. I crack a smile. I laugh.

Notes are becoming you. Page after page of people. I hope we get to our destination. I hope we deliver each other from Evil. Get a little closer to Nirvana.

You might have to read-write just enough to get to here. I offer no advice. Everybody crafts her/his labyrinth. A sentence is a length of string.

By Jim Meirose

Th’ chief bluesuit’s arm rose, silencing Pig right there; and, the words he spoke ran ‘long the arm, which by some magical means accelerated his words into, Pig and that other pal, he think’s he’s been speaking to, saying, Never mind. No more is required. It looks like everything’s in order here. There is nothing to see. We can repairback whence we came here out of and back further from that even and an’ d d na dna—so. Being far above any normal pup’s protests, the three tallboys in their blue zoots in ackrian’s whirlwind ‘bout the body swirled packing it up, sealing it down, cleaning all down and making the way out the room hall then the entire building; so—an immensely meaningful silence formed on the autopsy table, cricked out a vastly finespun blueboy of a spherical whirl, that grew sucked any stray particles of proof from the room and, the door. The knob rattled its lock being unn’d from the far side itself, and she opened full of a janitor-man that broomed itself off to the side, and in came Venisienne, all herself as they usually are, and the Chester-named Lavender Boy, saying nearly unisinion right then, eh, we thought you were tired of waiting for the janitor but—how’d you get in here? You were out here now, in? That cannot be!

No! Wait! You were in here with me, you were jabbing and slicing this, eh—wait.

Turning around, Pig ‘xpected to see, but; by our Gods—what? What? What no, can’t be, b’ yes; the vast college lab room stretched ‘ver, an’ countless empty dissection tables stretched neatly lined up left to right and front and back all together, and; it was much too bright in there; it is much too bright in here, so; and it had taken the—autopsy room, but—something pushed down, pressing its corresponding other one up, and Pig blinked, spat, coughed and yes; great God! He became once more back, in his very today, all alone, in Helmut Greene’s worldwide discreet autopsy and private twenty-four-hour emergency lawn care contracting concern; where he’d been called to expect some supposed high-level remains requiring emergency autopsy to appear, but not—and five minutes out, not; and fifty out, no; and how many hours thereafter—no. So, he went to his divan, for what reason he’d even got off it didn’t ‘ually matta’, while burrowing into the fattest book available, to wait there, inside; where way back from any far future past your fully pulled stops, there came read back to you that hazy description of an unusual event some several dozen years further back yet from the furthest yet you dare ‘tempt to probe. Beware, though; too far back will cast off your strange body and force you to know what you really are, so, no. Not interested. Keep going. There is nothing to see. Everything said here, please, folks. Let it slide slick out back past this here’s far behind. There’s still nothing to see

GA:

So by ‘real’ I had in mind the Real as I derive it from Lacan via Zizek, one definition being that which prevents language from closing on its object.

PP:

I have not been exposed to the nuances of either Lacan or Zizek. So, I operate on the basis of gleans of distillations. The idea that the Real “resists symbolization” could be easily misunderstood as suggesting some “positive entity”, external to a symbolic structure, is inimical to its functioning. But this is not the case; “basically nothing [no-thing] resists symbolization”. Zizek’s reading of Lacan’s idea is that the Real is internal, that “symbolization has an inherent obstacle caught in its own loop” In other words it is a way to account for the inherent limitations of the symbolization ‘machine’. The implication is that there are times when language fails us completely, but this is not because the objects it is tackling are ungraspable; it is because there are limits to the symbolizing capacity of the machine. [1] [2] [3] [4]

GA:

Once you’ve subtracted everything else preventing that, that you can never finally enumerate, there remains the abstract imperative of profit-enhancement at all costs that is actually determinant in the world but which we grope to locate; & remains also, part-generative of all the stories we tell of our motives, some fantasy more fundamental still, our own pathological tic, operative only through remaining inaccessible. So the Real is less “an elusive essence” than a counter-slab, a compound rebuffing pressure w/in all flexibilities of wielding the language & which those flexibilities themselves forever call up.

PP:

Yes, the Real never works in that guise, the ‘elusive essence’; it is a mistaken expectation that forever returns and is always left hanging. There is an inhibition inherent in any process of symbolization and one might apply the term ‘Real’ to register the effect. Let us go with the Zizek-Lacan formulation of this and move on.

I wonder if the inherent limitations one is trying to account for are less to do with symbolization per se and are more to do with an overarching reality-making operation that serves fitness for survival. The cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman suggests as much in The Case Against Reality ch. 4. The ‘imperative of profit-enhancement’ then would be the fitness payoffs that the organism actually perceives, i.e. it never was dealing, adequately or otherwise, with the ‘truth’ of its objects, and the ‘pathological tic’ then would be being (a process not a thing) which is that ‘reality making operation’. Reality is always ‘reality for’; everything persistently realized is so because it contributes to a reality characterized by its fitness payoffs. Consequently reality is dynamic and full of necessary illusions. If the Real applies from this perspective it does so as an inherent limitation in reality making, and kicks-in even in a pre-linguistic condition.

GA:

Your original question, then (“What happens when the reality one is trying to negotiate pushes the language to the limits of intelligibility?”), might be rephrased: In face of all this, how can we think to make aesthetic form at all? What various things can we ask of it that would make it recognizable as (satisfying, at least provisionally) form at all? How can this paragraph even end?

PP:

You draw us back to the original question suggesting a reformulation in terms of the making of “aesthetic form”. This is an excellent suggestion.

GA:

In Spring and All (1923), William Carlos Williams insists “that ‘beauty’ is related not to ‘loveliness’ but to a state in which reality plays a part.” (I quoted this line to a PhD student in the late 80s, & she answered, more or less, “None of the key words there means anything to me.”)

PP:

 ‘Beauty’, ‘loveliness’, ‘state’, and ‘reality’ … it is so easy to forget how quickly frames of reference slip. WCW had in mind a contemporary visual art which had travelled a very long way from the art Plato damned as two steps removed from the truth, i.e. the imitation of appearances, and even from that which, through reason, Plotinus thought could commune with Ideal-Forms. Plotinus might have been convinced by Analytic Cubism, but I think not by the later Synthetic Cubism of Juan Gris to which WCW refers. When he says “the illusion once dispensed with, painting has this problem before it: to replace the reality of experience with its own,” he is prefacing the central point of the Formalist future, that a painting is its own reality and that the experience of painting (and by implication, of writing poetry) takes precedence.

GA:

Once he hit his stride, Williams’s sense of reality was pretty much naturalistic & included, crucially, the imaginative shapings that made it tolerable. I’m interested, then, in your ease w/ the term ‘poetics’ & disenchantment w/ ‘aesthetics’; the former to me has always seemed a sub-set of the latter, although your noting that “The will to make poetry is bound into precedent, principle, pre-existing lines of thought” fleshes out something I’d only grazed on the way to making another point.

PP:

I have my reservations about other aspects of Formalism, particularly as it played out in the postwar period, but I do think that the painter that needs any explicit theory at all should adopt or adapt one that accounts for the experience of painting, and artists in general one that accounts for the act of making, i.e. a poetics. For the artist in full flight aesthetics is at best a luxury and at worst a distraction, something best left to the philosophers and the critics. Aesthetics at root concerns ‘sense perception’: as we know Kant tried to retrieve this classical origin after Baumgarten’s appropriation of the term to mean ‘judgment of beauty or critique of taste’. Sadly fashion went with Baumgarten for the next two-hundred years and we live with that legacy (it put belt and braces around the art market even before recent speculative capital made it fat). However, whether or not one adopts a hierarchical perspective on aesthetics and poetics, maybe we can agree on this—it is a sentiment widely expressed by artists and writers—while we work, we work to satisfy ourselves, trying to satisfy (imagined) others just gets in the way. Being aware of one’s cultural situation is important, but primarily because one is in dialogue with one’s peers and/or owes some allegiance to the dead, and not because one is directed by arbiters and audiences.

GA:

I think it’s true that both of our poetic affiliations are to writers & works having an eye & ear to location w/in some version of the supra-personal, to put it mildly. But then your other question is fundamental also: “Is the motive [for poetry] warranted and is it a genuine prospect [of what’s real to enough people to count]?” Is it simply a product of “precedent, principle, etc,” steering us into a fool’s / charlatan’s paradise of (even if only provisional) satisfaction / pleasure-giving? & if “playfulness and resistance … define the poet’s dichotomy,” what is the type of that resistance? not to mention of the play?

PP:

The strange thing that often occurs to me is how unpredictable are the vibrations out there that cause me to resonate. I know why I do it, but not why particular things catch me. The first ‘why’ is a question of so-called ‘neurodiverse’ constitution: I have a surfeit of sympathetic and hardly any empathetic channels. If you cry I cry, but without the ‘emotional intelligence’ to read a situation I have no idea what is at the time the right thing to say or do. That is putting it simplistically, of course, but not exaggerating. So the motive for poetry in my case has a lot to do with compensating for the anachronistic, the dislocated, and the alienated qualities of for me ‘ordinary’ experience. And I think that carries across all modes and media in my work. The second why … that defeats me; I just go with the flow and hope for the best. And this does give rise to play and to resistance. Can we characterize them? If we can, maybe the business of ‘negotiating realities resistant to intelligible expositions’ or ‘thinking to make properly aesthetic forms’ might become clearer. This will be speculative of course.

On resistance: perhaps in line with the Real and standing in for all ungraspables, the poet is constant in prising the lids off things, refusing a focus on one facet or another of the intriguing, the serendipitous, the bothersome, the emotionally confusing, etc. This ‘opening-up’ is a conscious display of resistance to the artificial closure that the prosaic presents through the “distilling trajectory of traditional ‘clearing’ strategies” (as I put it in post #1). If the clarity of something is suspect it provides one motive for poetic in(ter)vention: a display of resistance that mirrors the Real (and potentially staring dangerously into its abyss—William S Burroughs was only too aware of this danger.)

On play: for me playfulness is manifest in an openness to and facility with the materials to hand, whatever they may be—words, sounds, colours, images, gestures—and the great purpose in that—invention, the ‘coming-upon’—is best served ironically through initial purposelessness. Initially at least it has little to do with symbolization as already in process, of the semantic/pragmatic closure or otherwise of the material selected. In the ‘selecting’ I venture that an ‘aesthetic-of-the-one’ may come into play, neither rational nor irrational decision (both acts in relation to conscious thought), but rather a non-rational gesture (more akin to the compulsive, involuntary, and autonomic.) Play does not only manipulate and reconfigure materials, it uses them up, extracts anything and everything from them, including semantic/pragmatic possibility, and as play wastes its materials it similarly wastes its time.

GA:

This is a fairly familiar vexing. But before pushing further into it let me ask if you sense some pressure there toward martyrdom, given Judeo-Christianity is burrowed into the habitus & the poet shorn of broad social relevance. Conceptual poetry, surely the century’s most challenging of genres / factions, at its most extreme posits poetic pleasure, including (especially) that generated by a sense of critique or resistance, as culpably delusional sop to the urban complacency its exponents share; performances are staged as savvy annihilation into public or institutional discourse. Is the call of the bleak, something that’s taken multiple forms over the centuries, currently real & virulent? If so, does it lead to the bracing or debilitating? Or is it simply an outlier?

PP:

According to Burgess, Joyce’s prose “often looks odd when its intelligibility is not in doubt” (Preface to his: Here Comes Everybody). This conforms to age-old poetic expectations: it serves aesthetic ends without sacrificing sense. The real trick (kick) comes however when intelligibility is most in doubt and the ‘prose’ ordinary-looking. From the outset this is an attack on complacency toward contemporary mythologies (Allen Fisher does this brilliantly in sections of Gravity…) But you are quite right, the danger is that, especially in more extreme and vehement manifestations, ‘conceptual poetry’ becomes an incestuous orgy of cosmopolitan mesmerism. I am not so concerned about this, on a personal level, because I don’t really participate in the circus and, on a critical level, because I believe that rage and outrage—virtuous anger and convention busting—tend to shine above the sympathetic impotency of the delusional and to influence institutions for the better, even if their inertia means the effect is belated and somewhat dampened. But then from this ‘political’ perspective, no-one would argue that conceptual poetry, conceptual art of any sort, was in the ‘front-line’ … ‘avant-garde’ perhaps, if you don’t mind the modernist connotations, but never ‘front-line’.


Post #3 forthcoming