Tag Archives: poetics

“It is equally vain,” she thought, “for you to think you can protect me, or for me to think I can worship you. The light of truth beats upon us without shadow, and the light of truth is damnably unbecoming to us both.”

Virginia Woolf, Orlando

I can’t stop reading the news. I can’t stop reading the news.
It travels, I travel from my optic nerve, through unmoving vocal chords,
past the lump, gut deep.
Can’t stop reading the news and.
It wants to travel back out as vomit and rage.

Hillary tweets in Spanish.
Trump tweets in grunts.
I watch Father Obama while
I make a salad.
The wind is raging.

Think of his affect after Sandy Hook.
(I don’t want to think about it.)
(I can’t stop thinking about it.)

I know what’s coming, as a U.S.–Ameri-kan:

As Americans…
Brutal murder…
Pray for families…
We know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate…
All the facts…

No definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer…
As an act of terror…
What, if any…

Filled with hatred…
We will go wherever the facts lead us…
This could have been any one of our communities…

As a country…
Law enforcement…

Sacrifice, courage…

Especially heartbreaking for all of our friends, our fellow Americans who are

or transgender…

A nightclub…
Be with friends, to dance, to sing, to live…
More than a nightclub…
Solidarity, empowerment, awareness, civil rights…

Sobering reminder…

Attacks on any American…
an attack on all of us…

Dignity, equality…


The most deadly shooting in American history…
Assault rifle…

Further reminder…

School, house of worship, movie theater, nightclub…

We have to decide…
To do nothing is a decision…


Who they were…
Joy to families, friends…

Difference to this world…
Prayer for family…

Bear the un-bearable…
Strength and courage to change…

As a country…
Heroic, selfless…

Friends who helped friends…
Hate violence…

United as Americans, protect our people, defend our nation, take action against threats…
This country.

God, this country.

This fucked up

Living in ellipses:
“No definitive judgment…”

Living for ellipses:
“This could have been any one of our communities…”

Thinking of ellipses:
The only way to slow down,
what is said too fast,
what is said is not enough,
Also all wrong, too much.
Can’t speak out every meaning.

Thinking with ellipses:
Going in circles.
On a Sunday.

How is it supposed to make you feel?
Don’t care
How you feel.

Can you feel any other way than wrong?
Don’t care
How you feel.

What are you supposed to do?
Just you wait.

[For Lauren Berlant, “to live elliptically” is to ask a question rather than formulate an answer; a “shrug” is a rhetorical response to a non-rhetorical question of the body – an embodied letting go of future promises in favor of life in the durative present. Revisiting a conceptual grammar drawn from psychoanalysis, Berlant is using “dissociation” to understand it not as a symptom of an underlying abnormality but as a practice of attaching to life. Berlant is dialing back the multiple intersections of subjectivities and pondering what doesn’t add up in social worlds. She is thinking about the content of “being proximate” but not “in community.”

In “Culture@Large,” the Society for Cultural Anthropology’s signature event at the 2012 AAA meetings,  Berlant and her interlocutors thought through the sensorium which overcomes “affective stuckness” but does not jump immediately (as is our social science instinct) to discursive symbolization. For these scholars, this is work that is trained at scenes of social abandonment and lostness, the precariousness of life at large. Drawing from Claudia Rankine’s poem Don’t Let Me Be Lonely and the film based on Christopher Isherwood’s novel A Single Man, Berlant spoke of the way that quick and slow death by racism and homophobia inspires a sociality of not caring, of deciding to be stubborn.


Thanks to the beautiful and brilliant Todd Shalom of Elastic City for this lovely audio-poetic response to the last post. It’s lovely and challenging and it captures some of my anxieties and my reflections/diffractions of those anxieties expressed in the last post.

Does it speak to you too? Let it!

I know this isn’t free of
bull shit.
I mean, I’m coming from somewhat of a
It’s a kind of stacking.
I mean
The ideas just pile up but aren’t
They are not connected or
It’s a thought at least.
Disembodied ideas being thrown against a
But that isn’t fair
That isn’t fair for me or
That really kind of
And that’s not my intention.
I can assure you of that
I want you to be with me.

There are no ruins without the triumph of vegetal life over that
which one day proudly rose over the earth. Clearly, everything that is
built on the earth in a certain way humiliates the earth. And so, it was
an ancient rite to make sacrifices to the gods of the place – each place
had an owner – in order to placate them so that they would permit the
rising of the fabric built by human hands. The act of setting up an
edifice shows the triumph of man over nature, as well as over history,
the historic work that would be so strange to a non-human beholder,
if there were one. And in the ruins, the human has been laid waste
but not erased. From that triumph – and all human triumph brings or
takes away pride–there remains something, which already entwines
with triumphant vegetal life, which freely runs, budding among the
broken columns and the torn-down walls. A fusion between nature
and history takes place; a pacification, a reconciliation that gives birth
to a special beauty that is dispensed by Greek Tragedy, brings with it
‘catharsis’. The contemplation of ruins cures, purifies, and expands
the spirit, making it approach the fluctuations of history, like an
immense tragedy without an author. Ruins are really a metaphor that
has reached the category of a Tragedy without an author. Its author is
simply time.
And tragedy springs from hope in an exaggerated fight with the
fatal limitations of destiny, of circumstances. Hope, the most human as
well as the most divine element in the life of man, remains free and
exposed, freed from its fights, in ruins. It is the pure transcendence of
To be sure, all ‘culture’ is the realisation of a dream–or rather
the attempt to realise it; one of those dreams that inexorably pursues
man and from which it is impossible to escape because it is born in the
indestructible depths of hope searching for its plot and at the same
time its realisation [la esperanza que busca su argumento, y al par su
realización]. Not all dreams ask to be realised, but there are some
that are so endowed with this request that they do not permit human
consciousness to rest, that they will throw man into any adventure.
Realisation is always a frustration. To that extent all history, even the
most splendid, is a failure. A failure that carries within also its triumph:
the incessant rebirth of human hope symbolised by ivy. Ivy is the
metaphor of a life that is born out of death, of the transcendence
that arrives each time something is finished [el trascender que sigue
a todo acabamiento]. It comes after the cessation of something that
went far on hope and into it [algo que fue lejos en la esperanza]. And if
Calderón exhorted us ‘to do good [obrar bien], because good is not lost
even in dreams’, it would be possible to understand this by thinking
that from all reality the only thing that may remain will be a dream.
To dream up the good [soñar bien] because good is not lost even in
María Zambrano, “Ruins: A Metaphor for Hope” [trans. José Mª Rodríguez García]
Originally published in 1951, written by the author while she was living in Havana in exile from Spain.
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