Archive for May, 2020


May 11, 2020

I did a doubletake on reading this in my Ives biography. Speaking of Yale, which Ives attended, Jan Swafford writes (pp. 105)–

“Tradition ruled college life, from the weird ratcheting Greek Cheer of the football stadium, taken from Aristophanes’ The Frogs (BREK KEK KEK KEK! KOAX! KOAX!), to the structure of student-run activities, to the ceremonies of Ivy Day and graduation.”

Joyce also quotes the Frogs’ cry on first or second page of Finnegans Wake. Could he have been thinking of Yale? (Ostrygods gaggin fishy gods…) From what I can gather from the Yale Daily News, the cheer began in the 1880’s and disappeared in the 1960’s. Ives entered Yale in 1894. Listen to this glowing account of his success there (Swafford pp.104):

Yet Ives blazed through Yale as one of the most visible and popular men on campus, finally to be singled out as one of the ‘geniuses’ of his class. In his grief and emptiness [on the recent death of his father] he directed himself outward rather than inward. The system of achieving campus success was Byzantine, but Charlie mastered it, made his connections, and sailed to glory. As he had before and would time and again in the future, he would, with little overt sign of ambition, percolate to the highest rank of whatever endeavor he involved himself in.

Note, however, that this success did not extend toward academics, and grade-wise Ives was a below-average student.

L’Examen de Minuit

May 7, 2020

La pendule, sonnant minuit,
Ironiquement nous engage
À nous rappeler quel usage
Nous fîmes du jour qui s’enfuit:
— Aujourd’hui, date fatidique,
Vendredi, treize, nous avons,
Malgré tout ce que nous savons,
Mené le train d’un hérétique […]

Baudelaire, L’Examen de Minuit

The clock striking midnight
Ironically invites us
To call to mind what use we made
Of the day that is fleeing:
— Today, a fateful date,
Friday the thirteenth we have
In spite of everything we know
Lived the life of a heretic […]

May 6, 2020

Again, an issue I have with my shapes is that I want them to be like Kalligrams –words which, incapable of normalcy, are magnetized into arrangements– but feel stuck in the world (if not of designs) then of poems brut, which depend on their being, as it were, not their message for their force. Perhaps if I slapped a title on it, like “Receiver.” (Actually, that idea advances my thinking a little bit: because if this were more obviously a phone receiver then the implication is that what is coming out of the ear-end is “limbs of a horse” and what is going into the mouth end is also “limbs of a horse” — someone is saying, and another person repeating, the phrase “limbs of a horse” — which almost is something, evoking the conversation from which that phrase has been excerpted.)


…….a…O.,…..v v …………iR
.v v iR
..e a …..,,,,.v a v
hl……………..,,,,,a i
..Limbs. of the. horse
..e. c …………,,,,,.v a
.m h ……….,,,,,.i r
Bis .o. i v airvairBis
ournour. A. a Iournou
swinangines …………
ging..siron.. sand ……………
Maryof Egypthami ……………….
rrida bashitru Mar ………………..
gUAr dnnelS o-da …………………
ρ θ᾽258 259, (0) ……………….
ὕδ ((1))166(1);t ……………..
ατι 1545462it’s……………
λια (0)awhere Fsi………….
ρῷ 1we are but ………..
ῥέειnow, R but………
, ἀand whe A\ t…….
μw e ha ve b.……

6 φὶbeen fo Zr.
δὲ κfive ye .Aa
..e a …..,,,,.v a v
hl……………..,,,,,a i
..Limbs. of the. horse
..e. c …………,,,,,.v a
.m h ……….,,,,,.i r
.o. i v airvair
.. A. a I


(o — oo– or)

May 5, 2020

“Bear’s ears” “Bears, elks, deer.” Did “deer” sound different when you said “bears, elks, deer” than when you said “bears, elk, deer” sort of thing. Something confusing me (spinning the brain) “polished by ice” (actually planed by ice) — Aveolar: Aveoli were sockets, were the teeth’s sockets, and ‘n’ was (was it an ‘n’ that was?) an aveolar consonant. Tongue against them. “R” I pronounced strangely, an unusual pitch, an unnaturally long duration “r r r r r –” in fact, a falsetto then ‘s’ which he pronounced with such emphasis –“ess”– it sounded much like “hess”, (which, whence the aspiration?) and he repeated it several times in a whisper “hess hess hess” then said (falsetto again) “r r r r r –” Trying to “feel” which parts of his mouth he was using. Or trying not to feel but be aware of what he was feeling? Which, or which? Had he used his vocal chords or not (was the consonant ‘voiced’ or ‘unvoiced’?) Had this tongue touched any part of his mouth to form the sound –and which part? Had his lips met? Kind of shocking what went on with his body to make a vowel a consonant, he thought (that is, to make a vowel sound a consonant sound) though what he was doing was also a little more complex and weirder than that, not just changing the long ‘o’ to ‘r’ but elevating the pitch as he did so — elevating, too, his lips and chin as the pitch went up, so that his head was now in a howling-at-the-moon position (o — oo– or). “Doing things Aristophanes might not have deemed alright,” was how he put it. Idea occurring: that memorizing the poem has given him a “trapdoor to reality.” There could be no true experience of reality without this kind of familiarity and knowledge of some part of it. Idea growing rapidly confusing: “but what one knew was not the poem but was knowing.” One now perceived the world with “the crown of knowing and what it is to know” on one’s head, felt the nobility one needs to see what’s real? What gave a specialist such insight was not that the whole world was contained in the one thing he had made the subject of his study, but because he knew what was demanded in truly knowing something, knew what it was to truly know something, limits of knowledge and all? Anyway, for a brief while, the words of this poem seemed like bricks of a wall he was picking up and beyond which and through which he was seeing the real world. (Though the wall reformed, the bricks snapped back quickly and sternly in space.)

Bravery an affect of fear?

May 4, 2020

La Rochefoucauld [21] —

Those who are condemned to the scaffold sometimes affect a constancy and contempt of death which is in effect the fear of facing it. So that it might be said this constancy and contempt are to their minds what the bandage is to their eyes.

“Ceux qu’on condamne au supplice affectent quelquefois une constance et un mépris de la mort qui n’est en effet que la crainte de l’envisager. De sorte qu’on peut dire que cette constance et ce mépris sont à leur esprit ce que le bandeau est à leurs yeux.”

THE GOALIE’S ANXIETY AT THE PENALTY KICK (Peter Handke) — first paragraph

May 2, 2020

Starting to take a close look at this book (translation Michael Roloff). Here is the interesting first paragraph, with observations:

When Joseph Bloch, a construction worker who had been a well-known soccer goalie, reported for work that morning, he was told that he was fired. At least that was how he interpreted the fact that no one except the foreman looked up from his coffee break when he appeared at the door of the construction shack, where the workers happened to be at that moment, and Blck left the building site. Out on the street he raised his arm, but the car that drove past — even though Block hadn’t been hailing a cab– was not a cab. Then he heard the sound of brakes in front of him. Bloch looked around: behind him there was a cab; its driver started swearing. Blach turned around, got in, and told the driver to take him to the Naschmarkt.

First & Second Sentences

(a.) The narrator tells us, first sentence, Bloch “was told” he was fired — doesn’t say “he learned” or “suspected” he was fired, but that he “was told” as a statement of fact.

The narrator tells us, second sentence, this was at least how Bloch had “interpreted” the situation, in which, in fact, no one had “told” him anything.

It appears, then, that what Bloch merely infers he experiences as something actually said.

(b.) The fact that Bloch’s co-workers are taking a break implies they have already been working and that Bloch has arrived late for work.

(c.) For comparison, this is the first sentence of The Trial: “Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for one morning, without having done anything wrong, he was arrested.”

Final Four Sentences

In the paragraph’s final four sentences a lot happens in short order: (i) Bloch raises his arm as if to hail a cab, but the car moving past is not a cab and he had not been hailing one; (ii) he hears braking in front of him, looks around, and discovers behind him a cab with a swearing driver. (iii) Bloch turns around, gets in the cab, tells the driver to take him to the Naschmarkt.

Q: Why did Bloch raise his arm if he wasn’t hailing a cab?
Q: Why, hearing the sound of brakes in front of him, does Bloch look around behind him? (Is Bloch in the street?)
Q: Who is the cab driver swearing at? At the source of the braking sound? At Bloch?
Q: What are we to make of the fact that Bloch’s raising his arm — not to hail a cab– in the presence of a car that was not a cab — resulted in him stopping and getting into a cab?
Q: Is there any parallel with soccer here?

Inanimate whose

May 1, 2020

Inanimate whose:

The inanimate whose refers to the use in English of the relative pronoun whose with non-personal antecedents, as in: “That’s the car whose alarm keeps waking us up at night.” The construction is also known as the whose inanimate, non-personal whose, and neuter whose.

The use of the inanimate whose dates from the 15th century, but since the 18th century has drawn criticism from those who consider whose to be the genitive (possessive) only of the relative pronoun who and therefore believe it should be restricted to personal antecedents. Critics of inanimate whose prefer constructions such as those using of which the, which others find clumsy or overly formal.