Monthly Archives: June 2011

What is there to say?

We sit beside each other, like two uncomfortable men on a couch. It’s the end of the day, dusk is settling. We can’t talk like women can, there’s an empty space between us, all around us. It’s up to us. What’s up to us? To make contact, to make life bearable, to give the evening, as they say, some semblance of meaning. You start. No, you start. But what is there to say?

As if what was greatest about these artists (and there are others — Duras, say) is a kind of asceticism that leads them through their art as though it preceded it; as though writing (or painting, or filmmaking) was only a means, just as Zen can combine with both the art of archery and that of flower arranging. A kind of asceticism, a great sobriety that can lead a right-wing monarchist Catholic like Blanchot, young and privileged, very far from himself. Who is he, become writer? Who does he become?

Vague questions poorly posed. But I wonder in my foolishness whether there is not a kind of ethics in writing, in filmmaking, in painting… an art of life from the perspective of which (from its great heights) one would not laugh at Giacometti’s prose. This question, though: are we (this ‘we’ again — how laughable!) not too late for that, too late altogether? That asceticism must also be combined with a terrible self-mockery, an unsparing suspicion as the importance of writing, of painting, of filmmaking disappears altogether (only an idiot would call himself a poet; only a fool an artist. And who could call themselves a philosopher? Laughable, all laughable).

Spurious

The fact that I am a woman clearly shapes my writing: thematically, in attitude, in awareness of social conditioning, marginality—but does not determine it exclusively. The writer, male or female, is only one partner in the process of writing. Language, in its full range, is the other, and is beyond gender […] The language a poet enters into belongs as much to the mothers as to the fathers.

– Waldrop, via here

Seventeen

He was seventeen. An age with wide margins. And then one night, a little before day. And then one day, and then one night, and then nights, and days which were nights, the confrontation with death, the confrontation with the dawn and dusk of death, the confrontation with himself, with no one.

Jabés, The Book of Questions (tr. Waldrop)

Conversations of the end

Don’t you have anything to say? Shall I say it for you? You’ve had plenty to say recently, haven’t you, in conversations with the people you’ve sought out, the friends you’ve had to make, the people you gratefully meet to make it sane though another evening, to escape from me, from yourself… Conversations tinged with the sense of an ending, with the sense that everything is coming to an end… Increasingly drunken conversations full of sarcasm, laughter… Conversations full of goodwill and confusion and fragile hope… Helplessness… Conversations overshadowed by the sense of a coming catastrophe, by the catastrophe that’s already happening… Stoned conversations in which you say too much, in which you go on about the End, about the necessity of the End, losing yourself in your words even as you shame yourself… Mad monologues in different voices in which you free yourself of me and the others free themselves of whomever they carry on their backs, free at last, in the end of time, the end of conversation, the end of sense… An endless confused monologue resembling the End, enacting the End as you get beyond me, beyond yourself, and everyone yawns and makes a move, goes to bed, bikes home, just as you’re getting started, just as the End is finally coming…

Rules

Ordinarily, in times of idleness, he would stroll into town. But when concentrating on his work, he usually went to the outskirts – out into the wilderness; thus far, he had adhered to this rule. But did he actually have any rules? Weren’t the few that he had tried to impose on himself constantly giving way to something else – a mood, an accident, a sudden inspiration – that seemed to indicate the better choice? True, his life had been oriented for almost twenty years toward his literary goal; but reliable ways and means were still unknown to him. Everything about him was still as temporary as it had been in the child, as later in the schoolboy, and still later in the novice writer.

– Handke, The Afternoon of a Writer (tr. Manheim)

The only poem

This is the only poem
I can read
I am the only one
can write it
I didn’t kill myself
when things went wrong
I didn’t turn
to drugs or teaching
I tried to sleep
but when I couldn’t sleep
I learned to write
I learned to write
what might be read
on nights like this
by one like me

– Leonard Cohen