Archive for October 22nd, 2011

Required Reading

by jhwygirl

What Dave Budge says.

He’s right – it’s a 12-step program.

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LWPS: Coming Unglued

by lizard

When problembear recently signed off, I didn’t say anything. I knew why, but I didn’t want to admit it. I think it was the phrase my passion has been supplanted by anger that really jumped out at me. Good luck on the writing, Bill. I’m thinking the same thing.

And then there’s this: OccupyMissoula is not something I’m going to write about here. I’m conflicted in ways I can’t describe, and it’s taking a toll. One of the side-effects becomes how I escalate the prods and jabs of comment-culture here. I know I can be fucking tedious. I’m putting myself in a 7 day cold turkey timeout from the noise, including my own sometimes shrill (you’re right, pbear) voice.

Consider this weekend’s poetry selection from Czeslaw Milosz’s Road Side Dog the antidote to all that.

*

COMING UNGLUED

What I am going to say will be understood by those of us who have lived such a moment: for instance, during a historical upheaval, when the life of a human society suddenly reveals its unsuspected traits. Since there have been in this century a number of historical upheavals, many people have had the experience.

It happens that we may walk, watch, be tormented by our compasion or anger, and suddenly realize that what we are seeing, all that reality, is beyond words. That is, there is nothing about it in newspapers, books, communiques, nothing in poetry, fiction, or pictures on the screen. From reality which is homely, perceived in a most ordinary way, something else, autonomous, enclosed in language, has come unglued. Astonished, we ask ourselves: Is it a dream? A fata morgana? The fabric of signs envelops us like a cocoon and proves to be strong enough to make us doubt the testimony of our senses.

Such an experience does not incline us favorably toward literature. It compels us to ask for realism, which usually leads to pseudorealism or for a veracity nobody could bear. In the nineteenth century it was said about the novel that it should be a “mirror carried on the highwah,” but “realistic” novels lied without scruple, clearing from the field of vision subjects recognized as undesirable or forbidden. The true London of nineteenth-century capitalism hardly exists in the novel, except for a few pages of Dickens, but what that Babylon of misery and prostitution was, seen through the eyes of a foreigner in 1862, we may learn from Dostoevsky’s Winter Notes on Summer Impressions.

The twentieth century brought with it a fictitious reality fashioned by the political will. It was a screen, painted with “scenes from life” to hide what was going on in back. It was called socialist realism. Yet the orders and prohibitions of the state are only one of the possible causes of this division into the seen and the described. The fabric of language has a constant propensity to come off from reality, and our efforts to glue them together are in most cases futile—yet absolutely necessary.

—Czeslaw Milosz




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