Graphology Variorum 1-10
John Kinsella & Simon Critchley
Graphology Variorum 1
I lost the binary zeros
in quotidian aspect, why not
such a template, why harbour the rush
to associate, draw earthmovers
towards you? Because the lure
evokes vicissitudes in your eternal
negations, as if going on is belief
to trammel under, to imitate a life no one
knows or sees, editing to gloss
boycotted speech, written, patterns
in the head; Elizabethan hangnail villages
guttering pages you won’t feel, books
you’ll stop as rafts floating on the plastic-
buoyant Pacific irony, and thus empire,
artifice of translation, who’d bother indexing
codices and mirrors? So much pyrites
breaks a soil, shrivels quandongs on contra-stalks,
what-haves communify a loud ear, a chatter
tendency to develop narratives,
seer-sun, slaked to wait the drop
to point of silt and sludge,
self-declared boil order
for air to roof to tank to mouth
compromises the glare of lifestyle
publicity; to litter with news
motifs, stacked credentials, affirmations
of want, desire plethora, puce,
rectrix: all garnered from inclination
of wander, unspoken jataka, stumble
and procrastination: wake up dead,
eager to run full circle, see
what you’re not missing out on:
no, it’s not that way, vital vaquero
who passes by not knowing the slaughter house
is closed permission pending pending
in tree-ish grotto, cleft
to make idiom and/or shire and/or district.
How is this language to be deciphered? Only poetry can respond to poetry.
Poems aren’t pies, we aren’t herring.
Graphology Variorum 2
From inside there is no rustic;
to clear the peaks of hills
is to kill-off the valleys;
a mackerel sky makes serrations
to cut tableaux down to size;
that busiest no parking
time of year, McDonalds has moved
into Northam to teach
primary producers how to suck eggs —
families are flocking the length
and breadth of the valley, all walks
of life, faux deracinator marketers
would like to imagine but there’s no
meeting of minds, no common
path like those animals whose bodies
are ‘just a tube’; why do we —
by which I mean I — need so much light
when already heavily dosed — burnt —
moving house? Which pantheists
put on extra services? This sharing
stress throughout living structure,
old farm quartered — monocoque
veteran car or cow or sheep, rare
breeds I am trying to offer
to instil which is pushing it, a happiness
in time when training jets
don’t make levity and navigate Dewer’s
Pool Road and Toodyay-
Bindi Bindi Road bridge to sharpen
suddenly vertical cleft
this range-edge; Tom Bigelow, alive,
I’d tell you this somehow:
walks that add up to more than the sum
of carts, dihedral common
concern with nothing in market, not even
corn or melons or green tomatoes.
When I think of Marx, what comes to mind is not the iconic and huge-bearded impoverished titan working heroically in the British Library Reading Room and writing below his best for the American press in order to feed his wife and kids. Rather, I think of the youthful Karl Heinrich studying in Berlin and writing sonnets to his unwell love Jenny von Westphalen, ‘Love is Jenny, Jenny is love’s name’, he wrote; she called him ‘my little wild boar’. Or I think of him in his room sketching the first act of his pretty awful tragedy, Oulanem, or arranging the chapters of a sub-Sternean humoristical novel called Scorpion and Felix, complete with sub-Shakesperean puns (‘A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!’, said Richard III. ‘A husband, a husband, myself for a husband’, said Grethe), and extended jokes about constipation,
‘Grethe! How many days is it since Boniface last had a motion? Did I not instruct you to administer to him a lavement at least once every week? But I see that in future I shall have to take over such weighty matters myself! Bring oil, salt, bran, honey and a clyster!
‘Poor Boniface! You are constipated with your holo thoughts and reflections, since you can no longer relieve yourself in speech and writing!
‘O admirable victim of profundity! O pious constipation!’
Graphology Variorum 3
Cras ingens iterabimus aequor
Bunches and bunches of seedpods
attract parrots: how they cut pods
and stems is folklore: more than one
records, masses of authentics toss
it off: my father quoted when fingers
were nipped and lives lost: I tried to explain
repetition, but the self proclaimed.
Fair enough. None of us can listen.
Prep Song of Roland, global moshpit,
waistcoat buttons and workmanship,
fob watch; I dare not make up
whom I read, we sully motives and pure
pitch of visuals: I see each cover
stack, artwork staccato explication
of washings and shavings, so little
water; I won’t ignore the Hebrew points,
will you within this flood of natural light?
Each vat or pit to take our offerings,
each composting to cycle our inputs,
nomadic hegemony safeguards participations:
depends whom we want to impress so lately,
hogging recognition: glitter cards its
sparkle, birth star we gather under,
believing or not in what counterclaims
the stoniness of stone and such emphatics;
it’s the wake of the header that pricks
our interest: deep within the sinuses,
blocking those tiny airsacks, so many
of them in our chests: you don’t always
need to name with scientific collusion,
so arbitrary, anyway the whim of expression
disclaiming and postponing
‘A vostre femme enveierai dous nusches…
Il les ad prises, en sa hoese les butet.’
What say? Nut out the lapses,
all parties and aspirations.
The gall of chivalrous poems
through the ages. The space
taken by cloth and feathers,
slender leaves of acacias.
What is it about the experience of emptiness, about turning your back on the world and facing nothing?
For me, this happens in front of the sea, each time I face the brightness over the sea. One looks at the sea and feels an emptiness. Facing the sea is absence regarded. It evokes a feeling that I want to call calm. The body slows and the mind lays by its trouble and adapts itself to the rhythm of the waves, where time is tide, and tide is endless to and fro, coming and going. Time becomes a circle rather than a line, a cycle endlessly renewed rather than a movement of decline or deadlines.
At times like this, I begin to think. To be honest, I don’t know what goes on in my head much of the rest of the time, or what to call what goes on in my head, but it is not thinking. Facing the emptiness of the sea, one begins to think: slowly and with a deliberate carelessness.
Cities sometimes slip into the sea, eaten alive by their thoughtfulness, like Dunwich on the Suffolk coast in East Anglia. Or the sea slips away from them, in some act of historical thoughtlessness, where tides’ time thickens into silt. Harbours get blocked with silt and clogged with mud, becoming unnavigable. The land seems to rise like the wooden top of an old school desk and the cities slip back into an inkwell of obscurity, like Ephesus and Miletos on the Ionian coast in Turkey or Istria at the mouth of the Danube. Other cities are destroyed by a vindictive violence that is the enemy of thought like Carthage, ravaged brick by brick with godless Roman arrogance. Silt sometimes slows the water, allowing malarial swamps to form, like Torcello in the Venetian lagoon, the proto-Venice with its rubble in the marshes and a few lonely Byzantine mosaics.
I sometimes dream of writing a volume on the role of silt in determining the shape of world history and I imagine whole chapters on lagoons and blocked harbours and subsections on ox-bow lakes and alluvial deposits.
I have, for as long as I can remember, been obsessed with cities prior to their settlement or at the moment of settlement. I like to think of what opposed sets of eyes were seeing and minds thinking as white sails were spotted on the horizon at what would become Jamestown or Botany Bay or off the coast of the treed vastness that would become Brazil. I think of vicious settlers, happily decimating the local populations; I also think of the broken Jesuits who landed in Brazil with the text of a Papal bull declaring that they must save the souls of the natives. I think, repeatedly, of the first European feet to tread on Manhattan, on this hilly, handsome island situated on a huge river beckoning possible passage to the Indies.
I try and think about the places I know at a point approaching emptiness and therefore, I suppose, thoughtfulness.
Emptiness – this is how the earth will be after humans have finished with it, or – more likely – it has finished with them.
Graphology Variorum 4
To be incapable of writing an ode — ironic
or not — when an eagle is overhead
and you’ve seen two species of spider
you’ve never seen in that zone before
makes fragments of paragraphs.
Collaboration leaves you high and dry — those
replies or parts thereof, stranded.
There’s always a story behind the story
of disengagement. I start again, alone,
for anyone who might listen.
Though this is not essential. They can have no
idea how much I rely on new growth. So what?
I draw attention to it, like my presumption
they once read Gramsci. Yes, yes, it’s the smell
of wood cut for fence posts that gives
That tree-shrub that name — jam tree jam tree jam tree.
But inside its body it is a red you’d forget,
clear blood feeding dark red flesh: you can never
get it right: it’s the way the sap looks
you’ll always end up saying, inexplicably.
Some time ago, I began to develop a theory of impossible objects. I began to ponder my relation to those things, qualities and places about which I had an obsessive relation. The three objects picked out at that time for special treatment were poetry, humor and music and I tried to write books about them over the years.
But I kept coming back to the realization that what unified my relation to these objects was the fact that whatever I said about these things was useless. I would never succeed in pinning them down, defining or appropriating them. I
established a taste for impossibility and my own philosophical redundancy.
Graphology Variorum 5
Exemplary the gloves that will second-skin
fortitude, to lift and graze against Toodyay stone
flaking away; what bremsstrahlung sings as keys
or rock is struck, the myopic hammer making
myth up, wasps scouting out spider to feed grubs
with, living; who assists who helps out skewed
on the hill with all belongings about to plunge
over, into the ravine? What muscle pulls the weight
of character, so defined, gearless when transmission
fluid runs riot. Each notch. Each nail. And nails? The
gap increases and only metaphors are conceits
though mobs flock the hustings: deodands, these items,
lost to the State: I am telling you, I don’t yet know
how to say ‘home’, to home in on diurnal shapes of
nocturnal species. Species. An iteration
of this telling we don’t want to listen to. Don’t I?
My friend David is an anarchist anthropologist. It is to him that I owe the true story of Gotham. It was a small village in south Nottinghamshire which, during the reign of bad King John in the early 13th Century, decided to forgo the questionable pleasure and huge expense of welcoming the King and his considerable retenue. Instead, they decided to behave like idiots. It is reported that royal messengers found the villagers engaged in ridiculous tasks, like trying to drown an eel or joining hands around a thornbush to shut in a cuckoo. King John took fright and moved on. This story of Gotham as a village of idiots or full of would-be village idiots, burbled down through history until Washington Irving picked up the legend as an appellation for New York in the early 19th Century and the name stuck, right through to Batman and beyond. It is also the name of a chic restaurant on Manhattan’s West 12th Street, between 5th Avenue and University Place, which offers an excellent and reasonably priced lunch menu, despite being full of idiots. New York is a city of idiots, a town full of crazies, some of them under medication, some of them exploring their inner truth, some of them doing both at once. One or two New Yorkers still try to scare the king.
But the idiocy of New York also has another deeper dimension evoked at the beginning of E.B. White’s wonderfully tightly written memoir, Here is New York. ‘On any person who desires such queer prizes’, he begins, ‘New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy’. Of course, this is deeply paradoxical, but completely accurate in my view. The prize of life in New York is the only privacy that is worthwhile, one that is not lived sequestered behind suburban walls but lived in the crowded exposure of the public realm, on the subway or on the street. The loneliness of which White speaks is utterly foreign to a feeling of alienation or anomie: it is the gift of idiocy. In the many idioms of New York life, idiosyncrasy and individuality can meld together. Provided, of course, that one is lucky. But, as White adds, no one should come to live in New York unless she is prepared to be lucky. The idiocy of New York can forge the strongest individuals, but it can also destroy them and drive them mad.
Graphology Variorum 6
Spectres are hymns of one kind or another;
the arrival of deadly nightshade is free trade
or other — Mrs H says, if you’re planning
on stock it’s a death sentence, Mr H pulls
them out whenever he sees them, bags em and bins em.
Nice to meet you. Tell no tales of history and nightshade.
When history ends we will stop reading poetry:
which ruins will yield fresh property? A mining magnate
demands to ‘buy’: horses, vineyards, and an unbelievable
penchant for whitewashed fences: watch the phone towers
cluster on the hills nearby. I am the other class,
apparently. Multi-directional common property
world literature (catharticised) for a good chunk
of movie goers with the Matrix trilogy. Say no more.
Louis Zukofsky played the glass harmonica,
Dorothy Hewett watched the trains go by,
I write anarchist manifestoes, ignore modes of production.
When push comes to shove the ghosts gather
at a creek as much as a river, and I’m not lulled
into thinking each gully doesn’t bloat with centralisation
of husbandry: from those houses we look out,
out: ‘exploiting and exploited’ continues
Zukofsky, or the other way round. We hold no parties.
The problem is factories. Securities. Properties.
A crossover is an expectation of The Shire: asphalt connector
between macadam and gravel driveway. No-man’s land, the verge.
An illusion like mining rights. Good, common good.
Spectre of heavy metals in tar babies, in type-
castings. What drawn filament along wandoo-crested hills
we see from our different philology, phenotype? Jam tree,
York gum orthography. So I pulled the deadly nightshade,
noxious potato-related weed, and bagged and binned it:
Mr and Mrs H will drive past and check out
and approve of my civic responsibility, as
entire peace is; no names no references no citations
no indexes no search engines that struggle less or torture
‘some might claim’: claim might torture
epidemic ‘barbarians’, appropriate
to frustrate to despair over — the heat makes rough trees
smooth, shed bark. Here, in the valley, how many of us
believers and non-believers fence-sitters bought Christmas
presents and will ritualistically read that New York
hoodwink The Night Before Christmas
to offspring with the best intentions.
We call our household a family commune. It defers
to guilds though it won’t name them. The eagle’s whistle
is nasal and the pair frequent the great trees at the top
of the block frequently: I believe they will nest there,
possibly having lost their yearly life-bonded
feudal nest site. My hoping is a welcome.
Heavy-handed ants have appeared under the doors and scour
the tiles. Bits of hair and skin always falling. Self-interest.
And so, tax and tackle the records we keep, lazy
journal entries or zippy comments on the calendar,
a dipping of the lid to mythology, Kulture,
wherever, stretching out for items
like spice in Dune, or a soul concisely; the traffic
in body parts knows no boundaries, limb for limb,
a shudder, a walking over your grave as you reduce
expression to single syllables = pick one, any one =
but can’t help humming a tune, a neume —
those inevitable grave-digger victories
whether THEY know what’s good for them or not.
Someone known by someone I know called the other CLASS
‘the big eaters’: if you can’t wait for dinner, fill
up on bread. Ring a bell? Oh, yes, those ‘estranging
consequences’ and big country houses
in which we cluster to read our verse,
as positive a function of our clique as might express
my eremitic bent; education counting impulses: check it out.
No, no, the spectre didn’t in truth drive Pound
to make those wartime broadcasts. Those touts.
In Book 8 of the Confessions, Augustine describes himself as ‘still tightly bound by the love of women’, which he describes as his ‘old will’, his carnal desire. This will conflicts with his ‘new will’, namely his spiritual desire to turn to God. Alluding to and extending St Paul’s line of thought in Romans, Augustine describes himself as having ‘two wills’, the law of sin in the flesh and the law of spirit turned towards God. Paralyzed by this conflict and unable to commit himself completely to God, these two wills lay waste Augustine’s soul. He waits, hesitates, and hates himself. Seeing himself from outside himself, from the standpoint of God, Augustine is brought face-to-face with his self and sees how foul he is, ‘how covered with stains and sores’. He continues, ‘I looked, and I was filled with horror, but there was no place for me to flee away from myself’.
Such is the fatal circuit of what Michel Foucault calls the Christian hermeneutics of desire opposed to the pagan aesthetics of existence. In a seminar at New York University in 1980, Foucault is reported to have said that the difference between late antiquity and early Christianity might be reduced to the following questions: the patrician pagan asks, “Given that I am who I am, who can I fuck?” The Christian asks, “Given that I can fuck no one, who am I?” Foucault’s insight is profound, but let me state categorically and without a trace of irony that, as a committed atheist, I side with the deep hermeneutics of Christian subjectivity against the superficial pagan aesthetics of existence. The question of the being of being human – who am I? – that begins with Paul and is profoundly deepened by Augustine arises in the sight of God. The problem is how that question survives God’s death. This is Rousseau’s question in his Confessions, it is Nietzsche’s question in Ecce Homo, and it is Heidegger’s question in Being and Time. In my less humble moments, I think of it as my question as well. Whether or not he exists, we are slaves to God.
Graphology Variorum 7
Cadre hula-hoop stick-fast residue
circulates or distributes, a colloquy
of furrows and bales: flour
is the measure for measure
of each committee, each organisation, each cup
or tessitura, each flail of wattle severed
like a fancy hand that’s done its time
waving to a blank crowd, indifferent
to all but the altar
of sport: disport a clutch
of different soiltypes, yellow sand
excavated, cliffs to crumble over toys
into the mixer with sand, cement and blue metal:
concrete. The monk who was a ‘networker’.
Three small feathers — chest
down — I’ve seen on the block
today: galah, ring-neck, galah; don’t doubt
my emotional latitude because images
are lacking or under-determined. In fact, I don’t
use images or spectres. Any more than my use
of ‘reception theory’ had to do
with antecedents: I want no idea
of them, it’s just the word lends itself to
theory; reception, not ‘theory’. Those agents,
those bullants I see out alone — them, me —
testing surfaces, waving antennae, ignorant
of cartoons — me, I don’t know
about them — individuals, all
of us. Curriculum? Holy holy holy. Ex-
ercise, excise, each prayer I secrete,
secret waterways one hundred and fifty feet
into the rock of this hill — one flows slightly salty — brackish —
the other fresh enough to drink
with all septics filtered through
to join the flow: irrevocable, to feed
the market, cost-cut, free trade free selling
free buying: I barter this, footnote a trace,
to raise ire in saying that some of my best mates
are Cambridge Marxists, stone-watchers,
walkers, collators, exemplars;
I trace birdfeet and reptile swathes on the fine dust
of the gravel driveway: the impetus of slope.
In the Philosophy of Right, Hegel writes, ‘No people ever suffered wrong. What it suffered, it merited’. This is wrong.
Hegel’s idea is that suffering is justified historically. That is, suffering is suffering for the sake of world history, for the sake of what he sees as Spirit’s relentless forward movement, that culminates in the Germany of the early 19th Century or, indeed, in the Fukuyama-esque delusions of the so-called ‘New American Century’ into which we are slowly crawling. Such is the secular theodicy of Hegelianism and related progressivist conceptions of history.
This is what Hegel means when he speaks gnomically at the end of the Phenomenology of Spirit of ‘the Calvary of Absolute Spirit’. Calvary is Golgotha, a field of skulls. History is a field of skulls, a cemetery. There’s no denying it. But is it the case that, as Aeschylus’ characters repeat in the Oresteia, we suffer into truth, and that such truth finds expression in the world we inhabit?
Such is perhaps the truth of the Hegelian dialectics of history. But in saying this most of the world’s inhabitants, both human and animal, are condemned to suffer in falsehood.
But life is not dialectics. It is joyfully ridiculous and it is best conveyed not in a philosophical system, but in a joke, a paradox, a fragment.
Graphology Variorum 8
Evening orb weavers catch you out
like mosquitoes — why at such times
do I imbue Central Ohio,
a fetish, like notebooks
value-added after a big splash and death,
a sulphurous smell you must attribute?
The middle man reads Sherwood Anderson’s
Winesburg Ohio in a thrift edition and wonders
who profits how; China is an edifice
to mention in the favoured trade stakes,
as if language isn’t enough to tell where
the text is coming from. Red rag to a bull.
After they’ve gone the oil marks in sand
remain: a sign of their car’s struggle: old
and worn it’s a ‘gas guzzler’
though they wish for a hybrid.
Ghosts rush from their exhaust, the pages.
Ownership of the problem. Stress for new
renews diminishment — ‘eco-friendly’, they say, no
longer a spectre engulfing the environment: that’s
advertising lexical difference,
an atheist cathedral, loaded
as meat ants carrying away the berries
of deadly nightshade, piercing black skins
to release roe-like seeds; yesterday a raft
of glistening insect eggs on the firebreak — triumph
of design and market targeting:
words we praise in demographics,
loaded as they come; ordinary summer night toss
and turn just enough, and no, not too much.
I remember my first trip to America, the continent and not just the country. It was in 1991, I was 31 years old. Flying, eyes wide shut, somewhat bewildered, from St Louis to Memphis, I was reading Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, the opening pages to be precise where he famously declares, ‘In the beginning, all the world was America’. I glanced out of the window at the treed vastness of the undulating landscape beneath me. This big, strange country. The act of violent settlement, however many centuries have passed since the original expropriation, seems to confirm for me a sheer contingency of life, the layering of a savage domesticity over a vast and alien nature.
Graphology Variorum 9
The seeds of the vulnerable sedge —
Keighery’s elecharis — are falling
and falling finally now, even malingering
alongside creeks and brooks that have all
but dried up, those pans of clay fringed
by activity. It is close, humid today
drawing moisture from the trough: what’s not watered
sets deep taproots of trees less vulnerable but as vulnerable
individually as anything; losing speech it’s how I write it:
the signature at the base of the typed page,
for my records. Only living makes things seem endless;
the parrots are ecstatic among the seedpods
of acacias — ecstatic — disturbed, they’ll move
to a neighbouring wattle then back again, rearranging
the furniture; in essence, they are less flighty;
we gift are gifted the subjunctive: each player
throws the die until a ‘6’ be obtained, such
are classic games, such are losses we replay
to intensify absences; whose to celebrate,
whose to template our works and days upon.
What is closer to me than myself? Nothing. Yet, how does one say this? How to express this closeness as closeness, i.e. closely? It is enormously difficult, as when Heidegger says that what is closest to me in everyday life is furthest from being understood, where he quotes Augustine saying that I have become to myself a terra difficultatis, a land of toil where I labor and sweat. It seems to me that the only way of expressing the closeness of self to itself is indirectly, through other voices and personae, through anonyms, pseudonyms and Pessoa’s ‘heteronyms’. These heteronyms are the names of strangers, they are ways of estranging the self so as to approach it, to approximate it, in closeness.
This closeness to self and to world and of self to world is so close that one cannot separate them, divide and sunder them. Self and world are of a piece, they are one piece of a garment that should not be broken down into pieces like mind and reality or subject and object. They are the one piece of which I am made and which I have made. We are thrown into a world that appears ready-made, yet the world is what you make of it. That is to say, self and world are a fiction, a fiction that we take to be true and in which we have faith. The difficulty is making that faith explicit.
All one can try and do in a book is to tell the truth. One can only do this in a fiction, by putting on a mask, by naming oneself with a heteronym. If truth is a fiction, or truth has to be related in a fiction because it cannot be articulated directly, then this raises the question: is there what Wallace Stevens, after Santayana, calls a supreme fiction, a fiction in which we could believe, where it is a question of final faith in final fact, the fiction of an absolute? Stevens insists that the latter, ‘is possible, possible, possible. It must be possible’. It is at the very least unclear whether the repetition of the word ‘possible’ is a symptom of strength or weakness. It is telling that a poet of the supreme caliber of Stevens only felt that he could write ‘Notes Towards a Supreme Fiction’.
Graphology Variorum 10
Arcade layer cake balcony soliloquy
extension of basement or attic machinery,
the lift shafts or elevators toothy to eat
children who slip from mother’s grasp you can truly
say a patriarchy of slavery and less wages for the recently
discharged from school scuttlebutt phone speed diallers
incoherent as diamond chips blaze on their spangled
fingers; voices rustle up the valley, a static spiritualism
that makes us nervous with the hot northerly
blowing in and division on division
of leisure hours to extend the pleasure
of being machined in waves that shape tissue
and soldiers pleasing their officers and sergeants;
that’s why I read and reread Dunwich horrors
which could just as easily be refashioned
winery or barn or stables down the road: it takes
money as the stop-go man signals us to pass on the sideroad
the shire is widening, not a worker of big machinery
but done a training course all the same — we know,
as a family member goes out in the excoriating sun
to do just that when he gets the call-up: configure
that in your comfort zone, wankers, historically changing
property to suit the bandwagon, or the commission spent
on kids when a recently divorced saleswoman who
couldn’t give a damn about the environment but was on
the bones of her bum, excited to feed the kids (food and quad bikes),
excited to step outside her ex’s shadow says, it’s complex,
this ‘some property’ being okay and other property not;
this term we bandy about like puns, knowing what we mean
when we want someone off our space, or to wait until
called down the driveway or invited through the door:
mere figures, this speech, like publishing, like the army camp
twenty clicks from here; through the long dry grass
of the reserve next to this property scramble-bike riders
making leisure can ignite via ‘self-earned’
two-strokes. Be wary the gunfire of revs.
As night falls in the mountains, the sounds of birds and the buzzing of insects slip away to near silence, as the first frogs are heard and their huge broad bass begins to spread across the valley floor. Then, from nowhere in particular, growing like a great slow swell in the ocean, the crickets add their pulsating treble. The all-encompassing twilight vibrates with sound. I can no longer hear myself. I shut my eyes in the hammock and await the appearance of stars.
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