Wednesday, June 29, 2016


by kazim ali from the fortieth day

he wrote to you once, night's cold i,
storm-broken branches,

here in this room on the galaxy's edge.

he wrote to you twice, sun-yellow dusk,
midnight enameled vase,

snow-blue shelf in the sky.

he wrote to you three times,
and the nothing inside flew up,

a listless prisoner, tethered, a spy.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

state of exception

quotes from state of exception by giorgio agamben 

“what the law can never tolerate – what it feels as a threat with which it is impossible to come to terms – is the existence of a violence outside the law; and this is not because the ends of such a violence are incompatible with law, but because of 'its mere existence outside the law' (benjamin 1921, 183/239). the task of benjamin's critique is to prove the reality (bestand) of such a violence: 'if violence is also assured a reality outside the law, as pure immediate violence, this furnishes proof that revolutionary violence – which is the name for the highest manifestation of pure violence by man – is also possible' (202/252). the proper characteristic of this violence is that it neither makes nor preserves law, but deposes it (entsetzung des rechtes [202/251-52]) and thus inaugurates a new historical epoch.”

“in an extensive study published in 1980, h.s. versnel attempted to answer this question by proposing an analogy between the phenomenology of mourning – as attested to in the most diverse places by anthropological research – and periods of political crises, in which social institutions and rules seems suddenly to dissolve. Just as, during periods of anomie and crisis, normal social structures can collapse and social functions and roles break down to the point where culturally conditioned behaviors and customs are completely overturned, so are periods of mourning usually characterized by a suspension and alteration of all social relations. 'whoever characterizes the critical periods as. . . a temporary substitution of order by disorder, of culture by nature, of kosmos by chaos, of nomos by physis, of enomia by anomia, has implicitly characterized the period of mourning and its manifestations' (versnel 1980, 584-85). according to versnel, who here cites the analyses of the american sociologists berger and luckman, 'all societies are constructions in the face of chaos. the constant possibility of anomic terror is actualized whenever the legitimations that obscure the precariousness are threatened or collapse.' (585)”

Monday, June 27, 2016

quince tree

by louise gluck from the seven ages

we had, in the end, only the weather for a subject.
luckily, we lived in a world with seasons --
we felt, still, access to variety:
darkness, euphoria, various kinds of waiting.

i suppose, in the true sense, our exchanges
couldn’t be called conversation, being
dominated by accord, by repetition.

and yet it would be wrong to imagine
we had neither sense of one another nor
deep response to the world, as it would be wrong to believe
our lives were narrow, or empty.

we had great wealth.
we had, in fact, everything we could see
and while it is true we could see
neither great distance nor fine detail,
what we were able to discern we grasped
with a hunger the young can barely conceive,
as though all experience had been channeled into
these few perceptions.

channeled without memory.
because the past was lost to us as referent,
lost as image, as narrative. what had it contained?
was there love? had there been, once,
sustained labor? or fame, had there ever been
something like that?

in the end, we didn’t need to ask. because
we felt the past; it was, somehow,
in these things, the front lawn and back lawn,
suffusing them, giving the little quince tree
a weight and meaning almost beyond enduring.

utterly lost and yet strangely alive, the whole of our human existence ---
it would be wrong to think
because we never left the yard
that what we felt there was somehow shrunken or partial.
in its grandeur and splendor, the world
was finally present.

and it was always this we discussed or alluded to
when we were moved to speak.
the weather. the quince tree.
you, in your innocence, what do you know of this world?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

so this is summer

sticky, the three mile walk home tonight. reminded me of what i love, the heat in darkness, the humid damp sticking to skin, smells of flourishing green, mulberry trees, people sitting outside, laughing.

this walk was different though. fireworks on display for thirty solid minutes, echoing off downtown buildings, reflecting in tall windows, the sky an aftermath of fire.

i wanted to think of myself, i wanted to think about what this aloneness makes of me. tried calling friends instead, then family. six calls, no answer. it's saturday night but days blur. had to check the calendar to be sure.

i wanted to think of myself but i thought about her, so young. the parental inclinations rise but quickly disintegrate. i want to protect her but i am missing important identity arguments. still.

at the gathering, which was like no other i'd been invited to, intimate and emotional in a new way and i too am a participant (despite, again, the identity arguments). i too feel responsible for her care, feel responsible and so rage against the violence that put her at the center of this. i want to protect her and everyone that came before and will come after. we all know this is not the end of the story. justice near the core of this pain, what its lack does and undoes.

tonight sparks protectiveness in the older ones, the actual parents, and in this case, coincidentally those with some status, wealth, institutional sway. i am not naive, i know their struggles are so enormously different than mine. i catch another's eyes amidst the amplified exchanges, know we are hearing the same nerve pressed, though felt in our own distinct ways. respectability gets us nowhere, those politics leaning towards the system like an invitation to be swallowed. yet they too, must stay in the middle of the room, they are part of the landscape, desire. we talk daughters and granddaughters and peers. in obvious fashion, one male voice positions itself highest, talks loudest, interrupts, drones on and on.

walking home, trying to think of myself, thinking of her. then thinking of two others, spirits without bodies. i look for them everywhere: bright neon signs at the museum, booming from the southern lake, patterned shadows of fence, sleeping orange day lilies. how can i protect them? i cannot.

i entered the empty locked house, walked up the stairs, shin splints. suddenly! the lightning and thunder at once, so close. rain sweeping through windows into the rooms.

back down to the door, i yell for gus in the sudden storm. he does not come, my voice does not carry, the downpour is too loud. i cannot protect even the smallest ones, the one i am responsible to, and for. quickly i shut all east-facing windows, then the northern ones.

so i have protected myself without knowing, just barely made it inside, unaware of the weather on my heels. i am lucky this time.

* * *

the storm has blown, another day has turned with the hour. my fur-soaked cat is back, full of affection. everything outside drips in excess, the stickiness has subsided with a long cool breezy moan.

again i sit with tobacco, days beyond my self-imposed limitation. i am not yet ready to let go of certain things. this seems obvious.

on the porch, i try again to think of myself. try to write to myself. for myself.

* * *

here is what i remember:

pregnancy. my body's rejection. self turned inward, unwilling.

i remember the blood exiting me, so solid, an egg.

before that, in the bath, a metaphysical conversation. why this and why now?

two years ago, i heard it clearly. i want to think of myself. yet.

thinking of myself always points me to others, so much to offer. but not this way, not like this.

i think of myself now and am struck. urges: to shelter, guide, protect, nurture. to mentor, care, extend, grow with. it is not biological, not premised on shared blood. no, i want deeply to be of use, to stretch myself differently, to defy the conventions and expectations of notions like body or family or love.

i don't want to think of myself, really.
right there, the way out unfolds.

i want to give whatever i can, i want to foster others. i want to say the longest, biggest YES that i can imagine. i want to be a parent.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

the reason why i am afraid even though i am a fisherman

by ray a. young bear from the invisible musician

who is there
to witness the ice
as it gradually forms itself
from the cold rock-hard banks
to the middle of the river?
is the wind chill a factor?
does the water at some point
negotiate and agree to stop
moving and become frozen?
when you do not know the answers
to these immediately you are afraid,
and to even think in this inquisitive
manner is contrary to the precept
that life is in everything.
me, i am not a man;
i respect the river
for not knowing its secret,
for answers have nothing
to do with cause and occurrence.
it doesn’t matter how early
i wake to see the sun shine
through the ice-fishing hole;
only the ice along
with my foolishness
decides when
to break.

Friday, June 24, 2016


from the book of sand by jorge luis borges

i must inform the reader that the pages i translate and publish here will be sought in vain in the libellus (1615) of adam of bremen, who, as we all know, was born and died in the eleventh century. lappenberg found the text within a manuscript in the bodleian, at oxford; given its wealth of circumstantial detail, he judged it to be a late interpolation, but he did publish it as a curiosity in his analecta germanica (leipzig, 1894). the opinion of a mere argentine amateur is worth very little; readers may judge these pages as they will. my translation is not literal, but it is faithful.
     thus writes adam of bremen:

. . . of the several nations that border the wide desert which lies on the far shore of the gulf, beyond the lands where the wild horse mates, that one most worthy of mention is the nation of the urns. the imprecise or fabulous reports of merchants, the difficulty of the road, and the depredations of nomads prevented me from ever reaching its borders. i know, however, that its precarious and remote villages lie within the lowlands of the wisla river. unlike the swedes, the urns profess the true faith in christ, unsullied by the arianism and bloody worship of devils from which the royal houses of england and the other nations of the north draw their lineage. they are shepherds, ferrymen, sorcerers, swordsmiths, and ropemakers. the severity of their wars almost entirely prevents them from tilling their lands. the plains and the tribes that roam them have made the urns skillful with horse and bow. in time, one inevitably comes to resemble one's enemies. their lances are longer than ours, for theirs are made for horsemen, not for infantry.
     as one might imagine, the use of pen, inkhorn, and parchment is unknown to them. they carve their characters in stone, as our forebears carved the runes revealed to them by odin, after having hung from the ash tree - odin sacrificed to odin - for nine long nights.
     to these general bits of knowledge i will add the story of my conversation with the icelander ulf sigurdarson, a man of grave and measured speech. we had met in uppsala, near the temple. the wood fire had died; the cold and the dawn light were seeping in through the uneven chinks in the walls. outside, the gray wolves that devour the flesh of pagans sacrificed to the three gods were leaving their cautious spoor upon the snow. our talk had begun in latin, as is the habit between members of the clergy, but soon we had passed into the language of the north, known from ultima thule to the markets of asia. this is what the man told me:
     "i am of the line of skalds; the moment i learned that the poetry of the urns is a poetry of a single word, i went in quest of them, in quest of the route that would lead me to their land. not without weariness and labor did i reach it, one year later. it was night; i noticed that the men i met along my way regarded me curiously, and i could not fail to note that i was struck by an occasional stone. i saw the glow of a smith's forge, and i entered.
     "the smith offered me shelter for the night. his name, he said, was orm, and his language was more or less our own. we exchanged a few words. it was from his lips that i first heard the name of the king who then ruled over them - gunnlaug. i learned that he had fought in their last war, that he looked with suspicion upon foreigners, and that it was his custom to crucify them. in order to avoid that fate, which was more fitting for a god than for a man,i undertook to write a drapa, a laudatory composition - a sort of eulogy praising the king's victories, his fame, and his mercy. no sooner had i committed the poem to memory than two men came for me. i refused to relinquish my sword, but i allowed myself to be led away.
     "the stars were still in the sky. we traveled through a stretch of land with huts scattered here and there along the way. i had heard tales of pyramids; what i saw in the first square we came to was a stake of yellow wood. on its sharp point i could make out the black figure of a fish. orm, who had accompanied us, told me that the fish was the Word. in the next square i saw a red stake, with a disk. orm said once more that this was the Word. i asked him to tell me what word it was; he replied that he was but a simple artisan, and did not know.
     "in the third square, which was the last, i saw a stake painted black, bearing a design i no longer remember. on the far side of the square there was a long straight wall, whose ends i could not see. i later found that it was circular, roofed with clay, without interior doors, and that it girded the entire city. the horses tied to a wooden post were compact and thick-maned.
     "the smith was not allowed to enter. there were armed men inside, all standing. gunnlaug, the king, who was suffering under some great affliction, was lying with half-closed eyes upon a kind of dais; his pallet was of camel skins. he was a worn, yellow man, a sacred and almost forgotten object; long, time-blurred scars made a tracery across his chest. one of the soldiers made way for me. someone had brought a harp. i knelt and softly intoned the drapa. it was adorned with the tropes, alliterations, and accents required by the genre. i am not certain that the king understood it, but he gave me a silver ring, which i still possess. under his pillow i glimpsed the blade of a dagger. to his right there was a chessboard of a hundred or more squares and several scattered pieces.
     "the king's guards pushed me back. a man took my place, but he stood as he offered his own poem. he plucked at the harp's strings as though tuning them, and then very softly repeated the word that i wish i might have caught, but did not. someone reverently said now, meaningless.
     "i saw tears here and there. the man would raise his voice or it would grow distant; the nearly identical chords were monotonous, or, more precisely, infinite. i wished the chant could go on forever, i wished it were my life. suddenly, it ended. i heard the sound of the harp when the singer, no doubt exhausted, cast it to the floor. we made our way in disorder from the room. i was one of the last. i saw with astonishment that the light was fading.
     "i walked a few steps. a hand upon my shoulder detained me. a voice said to me:
     " 'the king's ring was a talisman bestowed upon you, yet soon your death shall come, for you have heard the Word. i, bjarni thorkelsson, will save you. i am of the lineage of the skalds. in your dithyramb you called blood "sword-drink" and battle "man-battle." i remember hearing those tropes from my father's father. you and i are poets; i shall save you. now we do not name every thing or event that fires our song; we encode it in a single word, which is the Word.'
     " 'i could not hear it,' i replied to him. 'i beg you to tell me what word it is.'
     "he hesitated for a moment, and then said:
     " 'i am sworn not to reveal it. and besides, no one can teach another anything. you must seek it on your own. we must hurry, for your life is in danger. i will hide you in my house, where they will not dare come to look for you. if the wind is with you, you shall sail tomorrow to the south.'
     "thus began the adventure that was to last for so many winters. i shall not tell its hazards, nor shall i attempt to recall the true order of its vicissitudes. i was oarsman, slave merchant, slave, woodcutter, robber of caravans, cantor, assayer of deep water and of metals. i suffered a year's captivity in the mercury mines, which loosens the teeth. i fought with men from sweden in the militia of mikligarthr - constantinople. on the banks of the azov i was loved by a woman i shall never forget; i left her, or she left me, which is the same. i betrayed and was betrayed. more than once fate made me kill. a greek soldier challenged me to fight him, and offered me the choice of two swords. one was a handspan longer than the other. i realized that he was trying to intimidate me, so i chose the shorter. he asked me why. i told him that the distance from my hand to his heart did not vary. on the shore of the black sea sits the runic epitaph i carved for my comrade leif arnarson. i have fought with the blue men of serkland, the saracens. in the course of time i have been many men, but that whirlwind of events was one long dream. the essential thing always was the Word. there were times when i did not believe in it. i would tell myself that renouncing the lovely game of combining lovely words was foolish, that there was no reason to seek the single, perhaps illusory, One. that argument failed. a missionary suggested the word god, which i rejected. one sunrise, on the banks of a river that widened into the sea, i believed that the revelation had been vouchsafed me.
     "i returned to the land of the urns, and with difficulty found the poet's house.
     "i entered and said my name. night had fallen. thorkelsson, from his place upon the ground, told me to light the candle in the bronze candelabrum. his face had aged so greatly that i could not help thinking that i myself was now old. as was the custom, i asked after the health of the king.
     " 'his name is no longer gunnlaugh,' he replied. 'now his name is other. tell me of your travels.'
     "i did so in the best order i could, and in verbose detail, which i shall here omit. before i came to the end, the poet interrupted me.
     " 'did you often sing in those lands?' he asked.
     "the question took me by surprise.
     " 'at first,' i said, 'i sang to earn my bread. then, from a fear that i do not understand, i grew distant from the singing and the harp.'
     " 'hmm.' he nodded. 'now, go on with your story.'
     "i complied. then there fell a long silence.
     " 'what were you given by the first woman you slept with?' he asked.
     " 'everything,' i answered.
     " 'i, too, have been given everything, by life. life gives all men everything, but most men do not know this. my voice is tired and my fingers weak, but listen to me. . .'
     "he spoke the word Undr, which means wonder.
     "i was overwhelmed by the song of the man who lay dying, but in his song, and in his chord, i saw my own labors, the slave girl who had given me her first love, the men i had killed, the cold dawns, the northern lights over the water, the oars. i took up the harp and sang - a different word.
     " 'hmm,' said the poet, and i had to draw close to hear him. 'you have understood me.' "

Thursday, June 23, 2016

last days

by mary oliver

things are
     changing; things are starting to
          spin, snap, fly off into
               the blue sleeve of the long
                    afternoon. oh and ooh
come whistling out of the perished mouth
     of the grass, as things
turn soft, boil back
     into substance and hue. as everything,
          forgetting its own enchantment, whispers:
                i too love oblivion why not it is full
                      of second chances. now,
hiss the bright curls of the leaves. now!
     booms the muscle of the wind.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


quotes from between the world and me by ta nehisi-coates

"and you are still called to struggle, not because it assures you victory but because it assures you an honorable and sane life."

"my experience in this world has been that the people who believe themselves to be white are obsessed with the politics of personal exoneration."

"'to do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he's doing is good, or else that it's a well-considered act in conformity with natural law.' [Solzhenitsyn] this is the foundation of the dream - its adherents must not just believe in it but believe that it is just, believe that their possession of the dream is the natural result of grit, honor, and good works. there is some passing acknowledgment of the bad old days, which, by the way, were not so bad as to have any ongoing effect on our present. the mettle that it takes to look away from the horror of our prison system, from police forces transformed into armies, from the long war against the black body, is not forged overnight. this is the practiced habit of jabbing out one's eyes and forgetting the work of one's hands. to acknowledge these horrors means turning away from the brightly rendered version of your country as it has always declared itself and turning toward something murkier and unknown. it is still too difficult for most americans to do this. but that is your work. it must be, if only to preserve the sanctity of your mind."

"disembodiment is a kind of terrorism, and the threat of it alters the orbit of all our lives and, like terrorism, this distortion is intentional. disembodiment. the dragon that compelled the boys i knew, way back, into extravagant theater of ownership. disembodiment. the demon that pushed the middle-class black survivors into aggressive passivity, our conversation restrained in public quarters, our best manners on display, our hands never out of pockets, our whole manner ordered as if to say, 'i make no sudden moves.' disembodiment. the serpent of the school years, demanding i be twice as good, though i was but a boy."

"if my life ended today, i would tell you it was a happy life - that i drew great joy from the study, from the struggle toward which i now urge you. you have seen in this conversation that the struggle has ruptured and remade me several times over - in baltimore, at the mecca, in fatherhood, in new york. the changes have awarded me a rapture that comes only when you can no longer be lied to, when you have rejected the dream. but even more, the changes have taught me how to best exploit that singular gift of study, to question what i see, then to question what i see after that, because the questions matter as much, perhaps more than, the answers."

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


quotes from the ravickians by renee gladman

"i want to raze one city block of my mind, to open up the entire avenue for what is to come. for this purpose, i will relinquish the area i have dedicated to the study of maths, and, rather than find some cranny for the displaced information, i will let it go. yes, for about two hours - after this procedure but before i enter the performance hall - i will have an entirely empty corridor in my mind. empty. beautifully empty. of course, the danger is with the inevitable desire for more emptiness, which makes one attack other parts of one's mind. the compulsion is not unlike what follows the moment where you are conscious of the entire surface of your skin and there is one small patch over which someone has run her tongue and, above that spot, blown a bit of air. the cool of it. how you want to extend the feeling, so turn to other neighborhoods within you or beg the lover to move on with her tongue. how impossible it is, though, to make any more feeling than you already have. you run the risk of going utterly numb."

"why when i say dahar do you say 'yellow'? i know that word. the air here is not yellow. it is dahar (yellow). if you are engaged in a translation and discover that a quality you need to convey does not exist in your language, the language into which you are moving, do not pick the next best thing. sometimes you will have to put a '0' there; this will indicate a hole.

the ravickians know about this. if you do not acknowledge the ignorance you bear, then the places where you have facility in speaking will seem crowded and dull. this is not new: you need nothing to see something, which is the theory behind white space.

nevertheless, the day is beautiful for one who is returning to her intimates. i walked these same streets almost a week ago, but with my old mentality - 'without an actual boundary to cross, i will never reach you.' i did not arrive anywhere. i passed places that i thought could have been for me; i walked up to their doors, but never entered them. at the market i thought, 'this is a logical place to be.' but after visiting a few stalls, still empty-handed, i decided that i was not there. i was not at the bank to withdraw money for bills. i did not buy a hammock for my garden. jili harass did not meet me at cafe balva for an interview. the opening of the sisi sondergaard exhibit at fog gallery did not occur for me. nothing has happened for weeks, though i struggle to prove this. people will never believe you are 'without events.' and that is why decay is slow, and why it is not devastation."

"you cannot enter a place without proving to the occupants that you have a body. not just to display the limbs and skin you carry around with you, but to prove you are in a dialogue with them."

"when there is so little left you do not give it all to one; you fight to keep that thing in the mainstream. what could be worth that kind of sacrifice, literally ridding your house of its first step?"

"little has been said about ravicka's future, in whose hands it rests. if the adage is correct, then it should be with our young. but what allows one to grow old is stability and recognition. we have not had those things."

"i reach out with my mind to grab the misrepresentation before it penetrates him and remember how the outside confuses me lately. events do not unfold, as they should - the simplest, most benign gestures often ending in sadness. even when you are discussing the health benefits of tamarind you look up and find tears in the other's eyes, that person no less confused than you."

"the blinding, pent-up of trying to get a message to the next place, what we will become bas devrojalijin (after the rain). of moving so quickly from where we are that the words are erased by force of trying. stopping and changing the mode of transportation is the only way to convey the message, looking beyond matter to do so. . . i have a poem:

i was once
i was once in a movie
                                                  a great
by fire

                the heat
a voice of

                called out

but did not speak
                             the space
behind the voice

                  years before
                             i saw the imprint

cousins, when you are writing it is always the other place that haunts you. the place you just were. for most of my life i have regretted the decisions that saved me. yes, these last-minute departures have made me safer in the world, but my days pass as if i am missing something. the gossips say it's impossible to hear happy stories is ravicka. in belgium, they're saying this.

but receiving - whether it is by listening or reading - is a matter of waiting. we know this.

i have made a habit of staying in one place and looking outward, through screens and other people's books. i have tried to be ready."

"that it is there        the archive

               and fandwej        the real

         smolder inconsequently
for now
               it's now
               that worries him"

"          against
a rush of water

something broke

was going
too fast

            and nothing
            did appear
            that was not
            by the present

still the pails
going after it"

"fataki is not alone in his fever; i don't mean to isolate him. we are all doing our things more erratically, easy to attribute this to the despair. but why surrender the idea of permanence? must we lose faith in structure. . ."

 "time falls on it
and us                     differently

            we cannot stand
            the mess it makes

                                ignoring the safety
            between people

how it became its opposite"

"          standing -- is it that i'm

is it you
who are next to me

            in front of me

this food line
for individuals

            where are we going
            did i come with you

so the bell rang
and we
            congregated here

with our notebook-pails

we were moving
you said
we were

the steps
represented years

our people
fell off
entangled streets
a hand
reached out"

-hunger and thirst
-my shoes conforming around my feet
-lefits' is through the next corridor
-one should lean on another's shoulder
-to show we have been brave, amini?
-to emphasize the extravagance of our walk"

"-my thanks to the poet of architecture
-but you are trying to say
-that i want to be here more
-you and ana patova, except her ambivalence
-the place she has gone?
-away with her thoughts
-we miss her already"

"-i am always concerned for my city
-yes, if you would allow me, you walk hesistantly toward it
-you would like me to be a guerrilla, sirin cucek?
-of sorts, luswage amini. if anyone can preserve these walls it is you
-but who is our enemy?
-that which is on the other side of our walls
-is not that us?
-we are pushing against a counter force
-at least, that is what we believe we are doing. can we trace this story to its beginning? to the moment of inheritance?"

Monday, June 20, 2016


all quotes from the ravickians by renee gladman

"her entrance into my life came at a crossing, that of the great bridge connecting cit mohaly to cit sahaly. i no longer remember from which direction each of us was walking; it is equally possible to have been either - one was always moving back and forth between these enclaves. . . i was writing my first novel at the time and would have wanted to occupy both places simultaneously. so, it is more likely that i was not actually crossing the bridge, but standing directly in its center. in any case, it was not the beauty of the person approaching me that caught my attention; rather it was the title of the book in her hand, or to be precise, its typography. it seemed to go with whatever i had been thinking, because as she passed me, some instinct took over the body: before i could stop myself i had reached out and grabbed the book from her hand.

i had been sitting here trying to recall, with no luck, who spoke to whom first. i also find nothing that explains how we made our way to the railing of the bridge, nor what we did for most of that hour we spent together. i had given her back the book. that is clear. i see her holding it. but, in that memory, there is also the sense that something had opened between us. someone had said the right thing and propelled us into this conversation. words come back to me now - 'the elongated later,' 'your rare insides' - though these words had to have occurred in a different arrangement to have made sense. approaching also is the reflexive body, the torso sweeping down and the slender arm reaching for the other's opposite side."

"no matter how clear these words are to you, they were not written for my comprehension. ana patova's intentions have never quite reached me. her words flow in a linear, progressive fashion; however, always, it seems, toward erasure. the closer i get to the end of a sentence, the less certain i am of its beginning. while this quality is potentially interesting for creative or theoretic work, it is obstructive to everyday communication. we have thirty years of this."

"meeting a person on a bridge and standing there with her, not progressing to either end, but staying put or at most drifting conscientiously over to the side, imprints upon you the sense that you are hovering with the person. i harbor little expectation that ana patova and i will ever complete our conversations."

"in choosing the term 'installation' instead of the more familiar 'chapter' to section her book, ana patova had to have contemplated destruction. well for a long time, as a thing is being made, you cannot tell whether it is growing or dying. it is possible to confuse one for the other in this life."

"thirty years ago, ana patova and i thought we could pass our lives on this bridge, held in this conversation. then, it seemed that the grip that fixed us there was beginning to loosen and something had to change. perhaps, to put a table and drinks between us. but in which place? there were reasons for choosing either: cit sahaly because it was gorgeous and ancient and from it we could watch the spectacle at the other end of the bridge, or cit mohaly because it was the spectacle. these are my divisions, in retrospect. i cannot say as clearly what i understood then. ana patova had an extraordinary face - this is one thing. she was a thinker; we had that book in common. she was not exactly ravickian. these pieces i have extracted from my soft memory. there are many more. did i dream people smiling at us? did she grab my hand?

it must have been cit sahaly that we chose. this would have provided the better adventure, since neither of us lived there, and perhaps it was felt that we needed to move away from what was familiar. but you look back and realize how strange it is to make a decision, because you know that choosing to do one thing makes it impossible to do something else. you do the thing you chose but always there is this ghost of what would have happened had you. . . that a walk toward home would have implanted the combining shape of two in your bed, or that the mohalai light would have made living apart inconceivable - unfortunately, there were no indications that the actions to which you did commit would have necessitated the opposite.

i have flattened this point with my urgency. . .

it is important that i do not just stand here."

"these remaining poems are all i have regarding our great bridges. i spent the morning worrying if i end here, right at this moment, would i leave you with enough? i don't like the idea of your emptiness. that's why we have ventured out in our sleeping city, right? it is not possible to forget the bridges. yet, daily, we insulate against the prospect. stone doesn't vanish, though: it explodes. and we are not doing that here."

"night in those
books that lay

          the city
          of the center
                    in the crumble

that voice
calling out

          that do
          not know
          other names'

                    from the center
          of that thinking
                    your book"

"-as the mind gives forth speech - schleser called it 'bandergewilden' (longing to be) - bridges are created. but they aren't beautiful; they are more like walkways. they are beautiful, but not treated as such. these bridges are the little words, the connectors, the articles, as they are called. prepositions. english users pronounce the relations between things instead of performing them as we would. in translation, i am stuck between oratory and dance."

"-what is so amazing?
-that it is still today
-has it been overlong?
-i would not have believed it possible. very much happened to me. it feels strange to ask, but if no one knows you how can you separate days?
-and amini, you feel you have not been known?
-not entirely this year
          'my ashen rooms'
-who said that?
-levric, when he was younger
-did he mean his lungs?
-i think it was for loda, his first wife
-the head cartographer?
-of so many years ago
-and you say these words now?
-the building i am always seeing through this window
-what would have happened were i not with you all this night?
-most things
-ana patrova, you have an ear this way?
-it is difficult to pretend women are not speaking
-'and do we eat with our hands'
-i have not heard that saying in years
-stays with me
-but it is too dark to see it now
-a bridge of things
-what do you want to see?
. . .
-all this night i have had intense horizontal energy
-and this table is on the verge of dissolve
-and we are
-and this is"

"-ana patova, you shocked me by meeting someone
-fifteen years ago
-then you stopped coming to the bridge
-it was moved
-and that person took your life
-it was mohaly that ravaged me
-never. i met someone today, but i could not keep her
-her name?
-that neither
-how can you be sure, then?
-sure of what?
-that anyone was there
-this time i was fortunate. she touched me
-unlike us, you're thinking
-we did not touch and your disappearance undid our meeting
-i was thinking
-of architecture, i know. but as a result i lost everything
-luswage amini, you are the great ravickian novelist. is that not enough?
-i am not complaining, ana patova. i want to say something, yet all i have are your words
-from so many years ago?
-'it is impossible on this bridge alone'
-the 'most', i think it was
-we have been at this thirty years
-the ravickian night is long, ana patova, it will not end
-that day the water looked like skin
-how luswage? don't change it
-i am not
-then how?
-in that distance, the rippling made layers and textured the surface somehow, a leather effect
-but why didn't you ever say this?
-i am saying it now
-after so long?
-it was only yesterday"

"and also sirin cucek you have transformed us with your translations. you have given us the first sketches of a new bridge, a transcendental shape, a way to re-conceive motion. you will tell me it is the poet of architecture who has done this. yes, in part. but it is not just the words of 'the exactitude and the ocean beside it'; it is also the figuring of that line through a language that has not relations to the exact, that has barely known water, it is the combination of these forces that has 'the neighbor pouring over my mouth.'

your mouth, sirindeska, looks right now as if it has been open for years, as if all it knows is open. i want to write that"

"-this bridge
-it is not possible that we are here again
-in thirty years we have stood at this mouth
-or the other mouth
-so many times that it's pointless to announce it
-we say goodbye again. i have overgrown this exchange
-yet you are the reason we must repeat it
-if you could enter the city with me
-to inhabit together?
-we have thirty years of this
-but you are city, already built
-no, awaiting structure
-the person i met did not know me
-to suggest otherwise is
-after all this we are still alone
-they say even of ravicka
-still, we fill this night with reported sirens
-i wonder who will hear them
-zaoter will be first
-if he does not give in to sleep, some shadowed steps
-he will not go there before the sun is up
-where will he go, then?
-we are all walking this line and may or may not integrate
-as with the traffic confusion of three years ago; you were stuck in the middle of it. i could only half-see; tomas bello said he could only a quarter move. what happens after full exposure? have you become more a person?
-not yet, ana patova. and you. . . are you whole?
-no. i have completed only present tense
-the sky is grayer in that direction
-i do not see it
-so, the event begins
-for some of us
-sirin cucek's mother is a pianist. did you hear that?
-imagine it
-i have been trying
-and the black streak there. . . do you see it
-that i have seen; it has been there since early night. before sofia even, when we were still vonzy
-the self-same
-most. . . passageway
-that is, if you want the other side
-and the mist is new
-let's cross now
-aren't we waiting? sometimes one just wants to hold here
-never to move, never to see
-i am working, luswage amini
-as am i
-city matter?
-you are back to the busses
-but someone else's route
-they are right then. . . you have found a lover
-no, i have waited
-we have to cross it
-this is true. again we will part
-the bifurcated bridge
-we will remain
-and regroup on the other side
-where the books meet
-and leaning structures"

"'many languages of this region share the same word for bridge. that word is most.' -ayse buldu"

Sunday, June 19, 2016


 all quotes from the cultural politics of emotion by sara ahmed

"it is through sensual experiences such as pain that we come to have a sense of our skin as a bodily surface, as something that keeps us apart from others, and as something that 'mediates' the relationship between internal or external, or inside and outside."

"it is through such painful encounters between this body and other objects, including other bodies, that 'surfaces' are felt as 'being there' in the first place. to be more precise the impression of a surface is an effect of such intensifications of feeling."

"the contradictory function of skin begins to make sense if we unlearn the assumption that the skin is simply already there, and begin to think of the skin as a surface that is felt only in the event of being 'impressed upon' in the encounters we have with others."

"i am not saying here that emotions are the same thing as sensations, but that the very intensity of perception often means a slide from one to another, as a slide that does follow as a sequence in time. hence whilst sensation and emotion are irreducible, they cannot simply be separated at the level of lived experience."

"[Drew Leder] suggests that 'the body is 'absent' only because it is perpetually outside itself, caught up in a multitude of involvements with other people'. and so, experiences of dysfunction (such as pain) become lived as a return to the body. . . pain can often lead to a body that turns in on itself, while pleasure tends to open up bodies to other bodies."

"i would not use the terms 'absent' and 'present' to describe embodiment as leder does, as it implies the possibility that bodies can simply appear or disappear. rather, i would point to the economic nature of intensification, and suggest that one is more or less aware of bodily surfaces depending on the range and intensities of bodily experiences. . . such intensity may impress upon the surfaces of bodies through negation: the surface is felt when something is felt 'against' it."

Friday, June 17, 2016


all quotes from the essay "space place and atmosphere: emotion and peripheral perception in architectural experience” by juhani pallasmaa

"An atmospheric perception also involves judgements beyond the five Aristotelian senses, such as sensations of orientation, gravity, balance, stability, motion, duration, continuity, scale and illumination. Indeed, the immediate judgement of the character of space calls for our entire embodied and existential sense, and it is perceived in a diffuse, peripheral and unconscious manner rather than through precise, focused and conscious observation."

"The quality of a space or place is not merely a visual perceptual quality as it is usually assumed. The judgement of environmental character is a complex multi-sensory fusion of countless factors which are immediately and synthetically grasped as an overall atmosphere, ambience, feeling or mood."

"In his book, The experience of place, Tony Hiss uses the notion 'simultaneous perception' – the system we use to experience our surroundings. . .Atmosphere is similarly an exchange between material or existent properties of the place and the immaterial realm of human perception and imagination. Yet, they are not physical ‘things’ or facts, as they are human experiential ‘creations’.

Paradoxically, we grasp the atmosphere before we identify its details or understand it intellectually. In fact, we may be completely unable to say anything meaningful about the characteristics of a situation, yet have a firm image, emotive attitude, and recall of it. In the same way, although we do not consciously analyse or understand the interaction of meteorological facts, we grasp the essence of weather at a glance, and it inevitably conditions our mood and intentionality. As we enter a new city, we grasp its overall character similarly, without having consciously analysed a single one of its countless material, geometric, or dimensional properties."

"Theater relies heavily on atmosphere which supports the integrity and continuity of the story regardless of the often abstracted and vaguely hinted features of the place or space. The ambience can be so suggestive and dominating that very few cues of the setting are needed."

"Music creates atmospheric interior spaces, ephemeral and dynamic experiential fields, rather than distant shapes, structures or objects. Atmosphere emphasizes a sustained being in a situation rather than a singular moment of perception. The fact that music can move us to tears is a convincing proof of the emotive power of art as well as of our innate capacity to simulate and internalise abstract experiential structures, or more precisely, to project our emotions on abstractly symbolic structures."

"Once we have assessed a space inviting and pleasant, or uninviting and depressing, we can hardly alter that first-hand judgement. We become attached to certain settings and remain alienated in other kinds of settings, and both intuitive choices are equally difficult to analyse verbally or alter as experiential realities."

"We have traditionally underestimated the roles and cognitive capacities of emotions in comparison with our conceptual, intellectual and verbal understanding. Yet, emotional reactions are often the most comprehensive and synthetic judgements that we can produce, although we are hardly able to identify the constituents of these assessments. When we fear or love something, there is not much scope or need for rationalization."

"The all-encompassing and instantaneous perception of atmospheres calls for a specific manner of perception – unconscious and unfocused peripheral perception. This fragmented perception of the world is actually our normal reality, although we believe that we perceive everything with precision. Our image of our world of perceptual fragments is held together by constant active scanning by the senses, movement and a creative fusion and interpretation of these inherently dissociated percepts through memory.

The historic development of the representational techniques depicting space and form is closely tied to the development of architecture itself. The perspectival understanding of space gave rise to an architecture of vision, whereas the quest to liberate the eye from its perspectival fixation enables the conception of multi- perspectival, simultaneous, and atmospheric space. Perspectival space leaves us as outside observers, whereas multi-perspectival and atmospheric space and peripheral vision enclose and enfold us in their embrace. This is the perceptual and psychological essence of Impressionist, Cubist, and Abstract Expressionist space; we are pulled into the space and made to experience it as a fully embodied sensation and a thick atmosphere. The special reality of a Cézanne landscape, Jackson Pollock painting, as well as of engaging architecture and cityscapes, derives from the way these experiential situations engage our perceptual and psychological mechanisms. As Merleau-Ponty argues, 'we come to see not the work of art, but the world according to the work'.

While the hectic eye of the camera captures a momentary situation, a passing condition of light, or an isolated, framed and focused fragment, the real experience of architectural reality depends fundamentally on peripheral and anticipated vision; the mere experience of interiority implies peripheral perception. The perceptual realm that we sense beyond the sphere of focused vision is as important as the focused image that can be frozen by the camera. In fact, there is evidence that peripheral and unconscious perception is more important for our perceptual and mental system than focused perception."

"This assumption suggests that one reason why contemporary spaces often alienate us – compared with historical and natural settings that elicit powerful emotional engagement – has to do with the poverty of our peripheral vision, and the consequent weakness of the atmospheric quality. Focused vision makes us mere outside observers; whereas peripheral perception transforms retinal images into a spatial and bodily involvement and gives rise to the sense of an engaging atmosphere and personal participation. Peripheral perception is the perceptive mode through which we grasp atmospheres. The importance of the senses of hearing, smell, and touch (temperature, moisture, air movement) for the atmospheric perception arises from their essence as non-directional and embracing experiences. The role of peripheral and unconscious perception explains why a photographic image is usually an unreliable witness of true architectural quality; what is outside of the focused frame, and even behind the observer, has as much significance as what is consciously viewed. Indeed, architects would do better if they were less concerned with the photogenic qualities of their works. As neurological understanding suggests, meaning is always contextually grounded."