Kinks and Links
“She always says that americans can understand spaniards. That they are the only two western nations that can realise abstraction. That in americans it expresses itself by disembodiedness, in literature and machinery, in Spain by ritual so abstract that it does not connect itself with anything but ritual. …
Americans, so Gertrude Stein says, are like spaniards, they are abstract and cruel. They are not brutal they are cruel. They have no close contact with the earth such as most europeans have. Their materialism is not the materialism of existence, of possession, it is the materialism of action and abstraction. And so cubism is spanish.”
–from THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ALICE B. TOKLAS by Gertrude Stein
“That is to say: what if, as some economists have already suggested, the true economic aim of the war was not primarily control of oil resources but the strengthening of the US dollar, the prevention of the dollar’s defeat against the euro, the prevention of the collapse of a dollar which is less and less ‘covered’ by ‘real’ value (think of the immense US debt)? Today, a united Europe is the main obstacle to the New World Order the USA wants to impose.”
–from IRAQ: THE BORROWED KETTLE by Slavoj Žižek
“History is the fiction we invent to persuade ourselves that events are knowable and that life has order and direction. That’s why events are always reinterpreted when values change. We need new versions of history to allow for our current prejudices.”
Tedium buzzes bottled-up
under the unperformed moment and cane.
A parallel passes through
an ungrateful line broken with joy.
Every firmness amazes me, next to that water
that moves away, that laughs steel, cane.
Retightened thread, thread, binomial thread,
where will you snap, knot of war?
Armour this equator, Moon.
–from TRILCE by Cesar Vallejo
“Do not forget that a poem, even though it is composed in the language of information, is not used in the language game of giving information.”
–ZETTEL by Ludwig Wittgenstein
WHO WERE THE LORELEI
The question of whether what the sea brings to our feet is “artificial” or not. As in touched by the hand, as in hand-made. This tide of mussels.
We walk up the draw at a steady pace. If I say “words keep us warm” then you know I am lying, you pull your sweater tighter, your dog lunges at her leash.
At the apex it seems likewise appropriate to communicate, if not to one another, then to another. Technology vs. possession. Verso, hunger; verso, lack of paper-work translating badly into static, then silence.
There is never any cognizance in the repatriation. I give back and this seems like the most natural & appropriate gesture.
The idea that two figures cast three shadows is an old one, persuasive in some cultures. I point out the tunneling, over & over again: entrances & exits. Nothing is what it appears to be, I say. To which you reply, yes it is.
“‘How can I help it?’ he blubbered. ‘How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.’
‘Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.’”
–from 1984 by George Orwell
BY THE BOOK
This is a pewter remembrance of a watchman. We were lost in a house together for many of your hours. I have done nothing for you that you could not do for yourself. My shoelaces bind me to walking, and I walk sometimes toward your favorite picture frame. You slid the photo out through the back.
None of this has any longer a bearing on my reality. You are awkwardly ambiguous about watering the plants. I watched you sideways roll an egg down the hall. You pay special attention to the view outside the fourth story window. Six stories up and doing windowsill math. This stair turns past the music room where I will make a note about forgiving you. An excellent piano player who never made a sound.
“The obvious problem is that the poem said in any other way is not the poem.”
–ARTIFICE OF ABSOPRTION by Charles Bernstein
10 Responses to “Kinks and Links”
AMY KING View All →
Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She co-edited with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edits the anthology series, Bettering American Poetry, and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.
May 2nd, 2007 at 10:01 pm eThanks for the Vallejo. He’s one of my favorite poets and rarely seen or heard…
“Far away never came so close…”
May 3rd, 2007 at 12:27 pm eCool quotes. I think the Spaniards are more connected, but still, their
abstraction is almost hypnogogic. The American action/abtraction
observation is clever. Comes after I am still pondering my sensings
of the most vapid shopping malls in my area. The action and abstraction
seems to be an attempt to transcend the material, but it simply ends
up burning up material as a sacrifice to the abstraction. Cases in point:
distressed jeans for $120, H2 Hummer, the fetishization of a nine-foot-tall
worker on the Abercrombie+Fitch wall. As though power and posing
could make one reach escape velocity from the animal being.
Not: quite not.
Interesting Wittgenstein, cool poets!
May 3rd, 2007 at 3:33 pm eThat Stein quote irritates me, it always has. She’s wrong. Maybe as governments she’s right, but as people, no. Besides, it might have been true for Spain in Stein’s day, but not now. American policy and invasion far surpasses any idea Stein, or anyone, could have possibly had.
And that panda with the baby in captivity is more of my irritation. I want there to be NO MORE animals in captivity! Pandas should be allowed to become extinct since we filthy, selfish humans are not interested in protecting the wild habitats. Zoos are no place for life.
Congratualtions on your blog trophy Amy.
May 3rd, 2007 at 4:45 pm eI rather disagree with Slavoj Žižek. I think attempting to interpret the course of world events in terms of “nations” now is passe. The United States government has been hijacked by corporations. Remember the great soliloquy in the movie Netword ?: “You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won’t have it. Is that clear? You think you’ve merely stopped a business deal? That is not the case. The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back. It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity. It is ecological balance. You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations; there are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems; one vast, interwoven, interacting, multivaried, multinational dominion of dollars.
What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state? Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions, just like we do.
It is the international system of currency which determines the vitality of life on this planet. THAT is the natural order of things today. THAT is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today. And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature. And YOU WILL ATONE. Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little 21-inch screen and howl about America, and democracy. There is no America; there is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.
The world is a business, Mr. Beale; it has been since man crawled out of the slime. Our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there’s no war or famine, oppression or brutality – one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock – all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you, Mr. Beale, to preach this evangel.”
I don’t know where Paddy Chayevsky got that but it rings truer and truer every day. America went into Iraq because the petroleum corporations demanded it. Why big oil wanted us to do this is less clear. My own perspective is that the “West” wanted to shoulder out China and Japan from establishing an economic beachhead on the Arabian peninsula–getting THEIR hands on that oil to fuel their burgeoning industrial plant. If the United States is the main obstacle to a so-called “New World Order” then I’d like to hear what that new order consists of. Is it Islamic? Chinese? Or does Mr. Žižek have some other vision that he hasn’t divulged? (Of course he may well have. Perhaps the blog administrator would be so kind?)
May 3rd, 2007 at 7:24 pm eLoved the one by Calvin and Hobbes. Very useful.
May 4th, 2007 at 2:47 am eI have to say the Stein and Wittgenstein are absolutely correct. And the Vallejo, beautiful. Thanks for the posts.
May 4th, 2007 at 10:19 pm eCubism was a materialist movement, not strictly an abstract one. Stein said a lot of interesting things, but her gift to future readers is not her painstaking observations of the outside world.
Trilce is the most important single book of poetry to me and imho the best book of poetry of the 20th Century.
A propos Curtis’ comments, the statement that the US gov is a proxy for US oil corporations and that the wars are over the dollar as an oil exchange currency are not mutually exclusive statements. Iran has been organizing its own oil bourse which coincides with a smear campaign against it by the US media and the threat of a nuclear attack. Saddam switched to the Euro and his fate can be seen on YouTube. Chavez threatens to and the US financed a coup. Having a stronger currency resulting from less deficit spending hurts exports and this has caused high unemployment in Europe, tho Europeans with money come over here now for bargains. I think the overall answer is that you have a group of different interests and factions that want the same thing, and they got what they wanted when the US invaded Iraq.
Fun to argue with Curtis on Amy’s blog!
May 5th, 2007 at 12:37 am eSorry, Curtis — I’m with Ian on this one. The dollar is American, all the way. Saddam sealed his fate when switched to the Euro, and once again, woke the proverbial sleeping giant – though I think we were already awake, lurking with pens and pads, anxious about that dollar, with a poised stake at the oil to boot. To separate the issues denies the complexities of the situation, as well as the American wizards working behind the curtains. Heck, even the way we’re speaking of it reduces it far too much — but talk we must.
Of note: it’s always someone who isn’t shackled to this soil who points at the real deal behind the cards at work … many months ago, possibly even a year, Linh Dinh steered me towards an understanding (complete with links on the issue) of how the dollar’s hold on the world is precarious, and a motivating factor for much of the “business” American government engages in … whether it be war business or “rebuilding” a country …
May 5th, 2007 at 12:38 am eSorry, Curtis — I’m with Ian on this one. The dollar is American, all the way. Saddam sealed his fate when he switched to the Euro, and once again, woke the proverbial sleeping giant – though I think we were already awake, lurking with pens and pads, anxious about that dollar, with a poised stake at the oil to boot. To separate the issues denies the complexities of the situation, as well as ignores the American wizards working behind the curtains. Heck, even the way we’re speaking of it reduces it far too much — but talk we must.
Of note: it’s always someone who isn’t shackled to this soil who points at the real deal behind the cards at work … many months ago, possibly even a year, Linh Dinh steered me towards an understanding (complete with links on the issue) of how the dollar’s hold on the world is precarious, and a motivating factor for much of the “business” American government initiates and engages in … whether it be war business or “rebuilding” a country …
May 7th, 2007 at 2:29 pm eAmy: I think “currency” theories are like the Fed rate. They’re an index of many things, not all of which point to the same reality. The American dollar as an index of the health of the so-called American economy, is a limited gauge. In fact, America dropped its metals standards decades ago, and the “float” is based on the perceived political influence which big capital wields over our political behavior. While it is true to say America is still a big, rich country, we surrendered our prerogative to international petro-dollars a long while back. Watching currency is like watching balance of payments, or watching the price of oil. It will get you so far, but it’s not even that big a part of the picture.
Every part of the American economy now is mortgaged. The only remaining “net worth” is in exploitabile resources. The Japanese and Chinese buy all our (and Canada’s) lumber; what they don’t use themselves is ground up into chipboard and veneered and sold back to us at huge profits. In other words, our forests are being sold to us at a big premium, as if we were a “third world country.” It takes two wage-earners per household to achieve the same degree of prosperity it did for one wage-earner in the 1950’s. I attended Berkeley in the 1960’s essentially for free; now it costs tens of thousands of dollars for the same four years of instruction. Our roads and bridges and utilities are all nearing the end of their cycle, but there’s no money to fix or rebuild them. The middle class is under extraordinary pressure, etc. The National Debt is jerking up again, and our balance of payments is beyond remedy.
Capital is flowing out of America, into China and international corporate interests and the oil producing nations. We produce nothing, we make nothing. Hamburgers and motels won’t bring us back. Nor will some shrewd artitrage trading in Switzerland.
My vision of the future is of a devastated landscape in which the rich have walled themselves into huge fortresses, as in Medieval times, with small armies of mercenaries marauding the bombed-out countryside, 90 percent of the population subsisting in endless shantytowns, no sewers, no water, no social order, roaming bands. Rather like much of Africa seems to be today.
I don’t think Iraq’s behavior vis-a-vis the West had anything to do with our decision to occupy it. That decision was certainly made over 20 years ago in the Pentagon, as a contingency in response to opportunity and timing: 9/11 provided that pretext. Tenet’s recent book provides a little more detail about how the Cheney team established its own “CIA within the CIA” (as the character in the movie Three Days of the Condor says); then, after their work was done, this was disbanded so the “mistaken” evidence could be blamed on the agency as a whole. Neat trick. Tenet looks so bad in all this, you almost wonder what else is being withheld, of which this is only the “cover” story. There was nothing “mistaken” about any of the evidence–it was all manufactured to get us in. Now the “unfinished” mission will keep us in. The message was/is clear: To the Chinese and the Russians: We own the Arabian Peninsula, keep your mitts off. Unfortunately that “we” isn’t the American peoople, it’s the shareholders of Exxon and Chevron. Look at the profit margin of those corporations. Do you honestly believe there’s any limit to what influence they can buy? Dear Senator, would you like three vacation homes? Four? European private school? A new diamond ring? A yacht? 20 new suits? Not a problem. The Bush-Cheney team aren’t even politicians in the usual sense of the term: They’re public relations specialists for industry. Reagan was too, as slick as they come. Same as the Governator.