radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
Our holiday visits are very Canadian, in that the involve repeatedly traversing enormous tracts of land and sea as though that were a reasonable thing to do with your down time.

I travel from Vancouver Island to the Sunshine Coast, a process that involves taking three busses, two ferries, and the Skytrain, not in that order, and takes between 4.5 and 7 hours. (If I am feeling flush, I can take a helicopter for the first leg of the trip, saving two to three hours, but spending the same as a plane flight.) Generally I am picked up at the final ferry terminal, although this year because of a scheduling conflict it has been suggested that I take the bus to the IGA and wait at the Tim Horton's, which lacks only a maple syrup candy cane latte and a surprise visit from Hockey Santa to make my life into a regional holiday commercial.

Then there is the "family get-together" of cousins and aunts and uncles, which is back in Vancouver just after Christmas. We all pile into the car, drive down to the ferry, take the ferry, drive into Surrey, and then come back the same night. Travel time -- two and a half hours each way, maybe?

It's perfectly possible for me to spend the holiday in transit between three distinct regions of the province. Generally no one even thinks about this, because this is how you get to see people, and, of course, lots of people travel further than that -- I think it's the frequency that seems impressive to me.

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radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
I went in to work today, but my mind was moving very slowly and each task was like slowly hewing a block of granite, or maybe being a block of granite slowly typing a course requisition.

I have lately drawn a great many little mazes or ant farms in red and green and ochre ink, but I do not know where they lead.

I took a hot bath, and I feel better.

I am not quite half-finished with David Copperfield, and I will certainly not make my reading challenge unless I read a great many nutritional pamphlets between now and New Year's.

I'm not ready to leave tomorrow to visit my family, and I an fantasizing about putting it back a day.

I have three times bought chocolates for my mother for Christmas and three times eaten them myself.

2016 somehow seems so unlikely.

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radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
You wouldn't think that veggie bacon could go bad, and yet. What's in it that is even made of food?

I'm having another moment when I think that the discipline of writing a journal here would be good for me, whether or not it goes anywhere, and despite the challenge of trying to write about teaching without treading on anyone's privacy, including my own.

When I try to journal without discussing teaching, the difficulty arises that I spend about 60% of my waking life thinking about teaching. The rest: stupid things like my hairline, alcohol consumption, weight, and risk of heart disease. Just occasionally, literature. Justice. What it might mean to be a conscious material being. Say 1%.

I do have a poem here, which makes three publications in a year, which must be a personal best. Total 2015 income from writing: $90.

This work, teaching, can be astoundingly good, and it has great potential to be meaningful. I am grateful to be doing it. It has already made a great deal more of me, I think, than I was a year ago.

Also there are other dreams, and I am not young.

A carton of eggs just turned a neat somersault out of the refrigerator and landed on its head. Not one egg broke. A miraclette.

I'm attending the second of three holiday dinners tonight, except that it's really the first of two, since although I got dressed up to go to my department party last night and even purchased a Secret Santa gift (calligraphy pen and two cartridges -- stipulation was under $10) -- I did not attend it, because a friend was having a very hard night, and in the end I went to spend time with her instead.

I want to be doing and making so much more of every kind of thing.

Here is how I run an errand. )

Here I am.
Here we are.

{rf}
radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
I sort of convulsively flung a submission at a poetry & art journal tonight. My system is to do this once every twelve to eighteen months and hope very hard for enduring notoriety.

It has not, so far, been a successful system, but that is never any bar to a gambler.

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radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
A bit of my writing will be published in an academic journal. My brief contribution is not a full-on peer-reviewed paper -- only a note. Still, this is a small pleasing thing.

I ought to be working right now, but I'm suffering from the worst brain fag. These last two weeks were a real test of... something. I'm not convinced that I passed.

If it was hard, it means I grew as a person, right? I feel more like I shrank.

Putting a class together -- not just listing readings and sorting slides and assigning assignments, but wrighting it, building something like a continous experience, trying to fit the you know Lego bricks of knowledge one into the other until they make -- whatever they make -- the steampunk Millenium Falcon of Knowledge -- there are so many things I think will fit and then they don't -- unexpected gaps where I needed a fiddly piece I didn't think of until afterwards.

Okay, so, what really happened was that today a student gave me some advice on how to organize the class he's in. This was the same advice another instructor had given me before the class started. I had chosen not to take this advice but to do something else instead. And they were both right -- I should have done it their way.

What is the name for that feeling? Dumb Decision Feeling. I like it not.

{rf}

*Lego Steampunk Millenium Falcon is, of course, actually a thing. Everything is a thing.
radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)

"Autumn Day"
Rilke
Trans. Stephen Mitchell

Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
and on the meadows let the wind go free.

Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;
grant them a few more warm transparent days,
urge them on to fulfillment then, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now, will never have one.
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
Will sit, read, write long letters through the evening,
and wander on the boulevards, up and down,
restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.

radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
I was generously given some leads on the podcast idea. Now, naturally, I am having a crisis of faith in the whole concept, or at least the title.

In teaching news, I must remember for next term that although you don't teach in the week after classes, you really are still at work in a dozen ways. It's not a break. Once I have my head in that space, it's all right -- I just had to get over the fantasy of free time.

Be well, ye three or four readers. I have not forgotten you.

{rf}
radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
I am maybe finally chasing down a podcast / re-reading idea I've had for a long while.

I'm in search of a scholarly book (or even better, an actual scholar) concerning the subject of prefaces -- their history, use, qualities as a genre.

In fact, it doesn't have to be a scholarly book -- a popular one would be fine. I just need something or someone giving sustained attention to prefaces.

So far, I've found very little via academic or Google search, which leads me to wonder if I am thinking in the wrong terms.

[Searches a bit more]

Pairing "preface" and "genre" seems to help.

... Okay, I now have one article: "Towards a Taxonomy of the Preface" by a Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek. Let's chase him down, datawise.

Oo, he's at Purdue, home of the famous and invaluable OWL. And a member of HASTAC, apparently. Good credentials.

(It must be awesome for you to be able to follow my search in realtime. What Will Happen Next?)

Anyway, thoughts? Other leads?

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radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
So the trouble is that most of what's on my mind right now concerns teaching -- and man, do I have a lot of thoughts of all kinds about teaching -- torrents -- but it seems indiscreet, at best, to post about them here, under this increasingly thinly veiled pseudonym. There are locked posts, of course, but that only allows for so much sense of having desteamed. I need another journal to journal about the things I can't journal about in this journal -- a common, yet very historically recent, plaint.

-- Actually, no, double-bookkeeping of journals has a solid lineage. Anais Nin, for a recent case. I wonder about Pepys. Yet I can barely keep up one outdated unread backwater-of-the-Internet journal.

I will say I have met more people in the last nine months than in the previous nine years. I've already been moved and fascinated and delighted and startled several times.

I love grammar even more now. I certainly understand it much better, and it keeps yielding little mysteries to me. Lately, my knowledge of depdendent clauses has become richer. I've always been an instictive rather than an architectural poet, but the lessons I teach make me curious to test the joints of language, to flex and rotate its limbs.

I do suffer from all kinds of anxieties around both teaching and thinking about teaching, so that sometimes I have to compartmentalize ideas I'd like to explore further, lest they drag anxiety into too many other parts of my life. This is an oddly consuming, even invasive, profession. (Is that your experience, reader?)

Anyway, it's a sunny morning in grammarland, so I am going to flex my physical joints, and save the marking for the evening (which is increasingly difficult to tell apart from the day. (O summer.))

{rf}
radfrac_archive: (writing)
The supermarket must have had millions.
Why was it so hard to find flowers that day?
I walked everywhere, a one-man Internet
Crawling the city for gerbera
Iris, tulips, anything – why is there
Only one kind of iris for sale?
Gardens are rivered with foaming dragonfaces.

I was a bad gardener. Is that why
Flowers eluded me when I wanted to say
Whatever it was I wanted to say? Welcome home.
Don’t leave me. Hyacinths mean naming
Transience is not the same thing
As lacking faith. What year was that?
It must have been the last.

Here on my desk, gerbera, something local
And the one whose name sounds like falsehood
But I can never remember. Oh, Disbuds.
In the purple vase. I do buy myself flowers
Sometimes. Sometimes I pretend
They are for other people.

These ones I meant for a friend but then
Never brought to her. I hope she forgives me.
radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
And today's effort. So only seven more poems to write in order to catch up.


Sonnet (ish) for B.

The ultraviolet gloom of bluebells
veiling the empty lots and medians
along the walk between our houses
reminds me (always) of cigarettes.

You know, when the poor man In Howard’s End
walks all night for beauty with nothing
but tobacco to feed on, and wins only
well-meaning sex and money, bad advice

and (spoilers) death. Much more difficult
to hand over beauty. Here, take these awful
bluebells, their ugly stalks and ghostly
always retreating indigo

Use them to colour in the peeling
lilac porch where we smoked and ate waffles
and promised ourselves to beauty
a long time ago, unless that was someone else

or unless I really meant sex and money.
Anyway, I don’t mean that now.

radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
Hm, it took me even less time than I expected to drop off on the daily poems. I got to Day 2. In my defense: family visit.

Here's the second one:

The way heat persists
In the smell of these cedar
Blocks, about the size
Of a deck of cards,
Meant to keep moths away
Lights, in memoriam,
Gas fixtures in soft cages
And most of a moon.

That was a bad year
Despite the teapot full of gin
And a little tonic --
A cold summer full of strife.

Another year
He put juniper in his mouth
And asked: was that the meaning
Of my life?

The yellow moth wheels
Counterclockwise
The brown moths, whorled
Like wood grain, press
Themselves against the screen
Until it sags

If the taste changes,
If it turns sweet,
The answer is yes.

radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
[eta] Now that I am sober, fact-checking confirms that the old new year was actually March 25th, and even the Gregorian shift (12 days) doesn't add up to April 1st, so I'll have to account for that somehow. March 25th happens to be exactly a week before April Fool's Day, so maybe I can do something with that.

I really ought to stop writing poems that require even desultory scholarship and just talk about my feelings.

[eta] Okay, here is a revised draft. Must go on to Day 2.

Running the cuckoo

It is the old new year.
Let’s be fools together –
Drink too much wine
And cross against the lights
At midnight on a Wednesday
When no one cares.

What have you stolen?
What misplaced
Forever? What
Have you borrowed
And ruined?
What broken and hidden?

I, nobody, absolve you.
It is the new year
Of broken dishes.
This year only
The crazed faces
Of shattered pottery
Will be blessed.

How have you bruised, bloodied,
battered yourself
This year, stumbling home
in sorrow and sublime
Wednesdayness?

I, nobody, will receive your muffled
Confessions.
Your lost emeralds,
Your brain tumour,
Your forged translations

Your desperate and your cheerful
Deceptions, your ecstatic missteps
And triumphant catastrophes.

It is a week since
The old new year
And we are still fools
Who cannot read calendars.
Still Wednesday. Good enough.

Salt the sugar bowls
Short-sheet the beds
Stretch saran wrap
under the toilet seat
I will balance
a bucket of water
over the door

It is the old new year
And your face and your hair
Are so clean

radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
I admit I have difficulty telling whether Melville is being sarcastic.

(Sargasso, I almost typed. Are you sincere, sir, or are you being sargasso?)


Nor, considered aright, does it seem any argument in favour of the gradual extinction of the sperm-whale, for example, that in former years (the latter part of the last century, say) these Leviathans, in small pods, were encountered much oftener than at present .... because, as has been elsewhere noticed, these whales, influenced by some views to safety, now swim the seas in immense caravans, so that to a large degree the scattered solitaries, yokes, and pods, and schools of other days are now aggregated into vast by widely separated, unfrequent armies (472).


I wonder if this is true. It is an enormously tragic image -- yes, ha, whale, enormous, but then yes, again, enormous, ocean-spanning, a tragedy on a scale above the human and therefore difficult for us to imagine clearly. These pods, families, civilizations (because they are, if we admit it, civilizations, aren't they? Monuments or no monuments) huddling together in the sea for safety -- but there was no safety. And Melville's hubris is a different kind of hubris from the arrogance of kings -- the hubris of the small creature who thinks "I cannot possibly damage this enormous world." Utter confidence in your inability to do harm.

Melancholy reading, this novel, in itself and in retrospect. Not what I expected. The plot is almost irrelevant -- Ahab appears on maybe eight pages in each hundred? It's all about the attempt to calculate the incalculable whale.

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radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
...remarkable that they exist at all, is what I'm saying. As opposed to remarkable in themselves. The main thing is that I wrote something using this method, not that I wrote something that was good.

Anyway. I'll just give you the highlights.


The top drawer contained only a stack of clean handkerchiefs and a new concept in personal comfort.

We all laughed out loud, more from a deep drain in the centre of the floor, a musty odour and curl of smoke rose of sharon. Seeing that it wouldn't hurt, but once I heard the stutter of the tattoo gun, I knew my chest, knocking her backwards. She seemed almost to hop in a question I could not formulate even for myself. "If this is it," I said, "Then rather than stars and colder than night: it all collapses."


This process works better with more than one person, clearly. Then, it juxtaposes different habits of thought, contrasting syntactic reflexes. Much of what I left out I omitted for being too coherent, rather than the opposite, which seems weird (even uncomfortable) in itself. Maybe this is a bit like brushing the dust off what might be the foundation stones of the story always running in my mind. Or maybe it's February.

{rf}
radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
I've been struggling to write this winter. Eventually I broke down and started creating little apparatus* to generate writing independently of my shivering ego.

On the kitchen counter, I have a pile of yellow notepaper with the top folded over and cellotaped into an increasingly tight and sticky roll. In the morning (when I remember) I write a line on each of four sheets, finishing with the first word of the next line, which is always the same word, so that I have four more or less identical sheets. Then I scramble them and try (usually with success, I am faintly alarmed to admit) to forget what I wrote. The next day I take up with a line of something completely different, ending on a new word.

I had no conscious sense of creating continuity -- tried actively to disrupt the possibility of picking up the same story from line to line on the same sheet. Still, order manifests, or my preoccupations do.

I thought it might be time to open one. The tape gave me some trouble, but here is a vaguely gothic fragment from January:

The young man rolled his ghostly eyes and blew out an intricate latticework of smoke. Should I tremble feverishly as he opened the envelope -- so badly that the paper slipped from the government. I turned it over in my hands. I knew I should open it, but someow doing that I mean what I say -- or else what is left for me?" He struck himself violently in the chest bound in brass sitting in the middle of the floor. Its lock was shaped like a crescent moon. A sudden panic gripped the dog -- some sort of wordless existential horror. He barked, but rather than enough time to discover what you feel. What is your answer? My God, what is it you want?"

But he was silent.


{rf}

*I wanted to put apparati, but apparently that is bad Latin and the plural of apparatus is apparatus, or apparatuses.
radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
This morning I listened to CBC's Writers & Company -- an interview with British author Samantha Harvey, whose newest novel, Dear Thief, sprouted from Leonard Cohen's song "Famous Blue Raincoat." I went back and forth beween interest and annoyance that Harvey had changed the genders -- made the protagonist and the rival female, the beloved male. There's nothing objectively wrong with this; subjectively, it moves the story out of my zone of preoccupation into someone else's territory.

(Puts Jennifer Warnes' cover of FBR on)

FBR seems emblematic of that preoccupation in Cohen's earlier writing with not only the beloved but also the rival -- the admired, superior, even also beloved and desired rival (see Beautiful Losers). Maybe it's born in the family romance; wanting both to love the father and to defeat him. [ETA] In Cohen this love seems to be a kind of submission, a desire to be subsumed, to merge with the more powerful rival.

It doesn't seem to come in to Cohen's work lately, does it? There's a beloved but no rival -- and the love has a different quality -- more abstract, absolute -- less ego-driven. Rivalry implies ego, I guess. Maybe his rivals are all dead.

Anyway, the novel sounds interesting in its own right -- written in the form of a letter, deliberately ambiguous. I'd read it if I could finally get through Moby Dick. I'm bogged down in the whale's skeleton.

From there I thought about interviews and discrepancies and accidental self-revelations and short stories in the form of transcripts, and made some notes; however, it's now time to mark and prep.

Oh, and maybe shower. The world might thank me for that.

{rf}
radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
Poetry group today was partly discussion and partly writing. I found the discussion tiring -- different expectations in the group for the time spent on analysis vs. writing -- but I did get a sonnet out of it. (We all wrote sonnets entitled Winter).

Winter

Last gold, red, gold leaf-lenses blinking
Flashing the small signals of the rain
The storm-weight drops around the house, sinking
Dead leaves into the muddy concrete drain.

Last winter, wishing desperately for snow
We peeled back layer by layer the days of rain
Scraping for the cold kernel lodged below
The murky plastic wrappers on our brains.

Last longer. Last the winter, or tonight
With supplements and therapeutic steam
Douse yourself with brute full-spectrum light
And dredge your mind up from its nine-hour dream.

Wake and know the morning by its quiet;
Lie back beneath the winter's rising stream.


(And stuff).

I cheated the couplet and made an eccentric sestet instead, and it hasn't really got a turn, just various flickerings, but I like bits of it.

Cooler than this is that me and Belfast made a spoken word track tonight -- something he's wanted to do for a while but I was too nervous to try. He sent me a couple of atmospheric musical passages he wrote, just modulations (or um whatever I don't know what music things are called) -- and I set spoken word overtop -- some overheard dialogue I'd copied out and adjusted and put through a filter. We both really liked the result, even with my crappy staticky recording. So that's a thing we do now, maybe.

Oh, Belfast. Yes, Belfast. I didn't explain about him. No. I did not. Well.

{rf}
radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
This November, finest of any year I can remember -- close pale-blue days with furry frost filaments embedded in the grass and roses still blooming in the public gardens (scraggly latecomer roses, but roses) -- feels like a long birthday present, except that then I suppose I'd have to perceive everything else that's happened in November everywhere in the world as a present, and I probably don't want that.

The good weather means solitary walks are possible and also pleasurable. I've been pointing my head south a lot this season, walking into Oak Bay.

I feel about these walks that they are research, but research into what? A certain mobile emotion, experienced through perambulation -- through stopping and starting, choosing between routes, doubling back to look at some Thing -- imagining, choosing, reaching a destination and then departing from it -- acheiving some end, usually fairly trivial and beside the point of most of the main goals of life maintenance -- acquisition of some library books I thought I wanted to read, or some harvest-gold flowers that look like, but are not, dahlias.

The walks are like the methodology for accomplishing a task cut loose from the task itself. A line with no hook, slithering through the air, dragging the water, casting again.

The imagination, fleeting, of lives lived in certain houses or gardens, views of the sea at the end of a road, unpursued. A gentle sense of questing.

I worry that they're a waste of time. They feel like my method for something, but do they achieve that thing? Or are they a diversion -- play-acting at investigations that would take much more focus?

The difference between the feeling of something and the thing itself.

I told a friend of mine I believed in something like authenticity -- not as an absolute statement of your True Being -- but in the form of honesty about whether a thing feels good to you or it doesn't. Yet this feeling about the thing, of course, is not actually evidence of the thing's value, and that's been troubling me ever since.

I was thinking in particular about gender identity and how weird and off it feels to me when someone gives a social reason for adopting an identity, rather than an internally felt one -- saying, for example, that they owed it to other people to perform a particular gender identity -- and I know, gender is constructed, it's a surface we believe to be an interior, etc., I know all that -- yet still my impulse is that identity should be about the feeling and not about an abstract social goal, however laudable the goal -- but maybe I am wrong. The feeling is not more true than the goal. Just more concrete -- and I guess inasmuch as I trust anything, I trust this organism that I am to send me signals about what is good for me, more than I trust other people, or even social movements whose goals I generally believe in, to do that. I feel like I owe my actions to the world, but not my sense of self -- wherever it came from, however constructed, it's mine now.

I believe that somatic/emotional experience has content, or rather I feel that I believe that somatic/emotional experience has content.

All of this from a conversation we had after the conference, before she had to travel home. I was tired by then and crashing post-paper.

I should write out the story of delivering the paper -- it's funny -- but I'm trying to work out how to do it thoughtfully.

{rf}
radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
1

There would be a map here
Fold-line at Vancouver
And when the creased pages met
Whitehorse would kiss California

2

There would be a map here
A digital crystal of snow
Spinning over Calgary
Like a page that can't load

Secret feature: tap the edge
And the map flips over
the underside red
As the raw country under skin
The legend says: hellfire

* * * * * *

For context, the first poem comes above my analysis of Ivan Coyote's regional poetics and the second above my analysis of Rae Spoon's same, which include a violent evangelical home life.

{rf}

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