November 25, 2015

Startle Yourself

Advice to poets:

"Your poem [essay or memoir] effectively begins at the first moment you’ve startled yourself. Throw everything away that proceeded that moment."

 —Stephen Dunn

November 22, 2015

The Baltics by Tomas Tranströmer

The poem "The Baltics" by Tomas Tranströmer has been translated by Patty Crane from Swedish into English.  This is just a small excerpt of the three part long poem:


Wind enters the pine forest. It sighs heavily and lightly.
Likewise the Baltic sighs in the island’s interior; deep in the forest you’re out on the open sea.
A new breath of wind and the place is desolate and still again.
A new breath of wind, murmuring about other shores.
It has to do with the war.
It has to do with places where citizens are under control,
where thoughts are built with emergency exits,
where a conversation between friends is really a test of what friendship means.
And when you’re together with those you don’t know so well. Control. A certain candor is all right just don’t take your eyes off whatever’s wandering the edges of the conversation: something dark, a dark stain.
Something that can drift in
and destroy everything. Don’t take your eyes off it!

 Read the poem in its entirety at

November 19, 2015

And We Who Move Away: Nelly Sachs

Nelly Sachs

Nelly Sachs won a Nobel Prize in 1966.  She was born in Germany, a Jew. With the help of a Swedish friend, she escaped Nazi Germany a week just before she was due to enter a concentration camp. As a refugee, she moved to Sweden. Her writing is about the Holocaust. She was a friend of Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann. 

"Writing is my mute outcry; I only wrote because I had to free myself."  --Nelly Sachs

And we who move away

And we who move away
beyond all leaves of the windrose
heavy inheritance into the distance.

Myself here,
where earth is losing its lineaments
the Pole,
death's white dead nettle
falls in the stillness of white leaves

the elk,
peering through blue curtains
between his antlers bears
a sun-egg hatched pale─

Here, where ocean time
camouflages itself with iceberg masks
under the last star's
frozen stigma

here at this place
I expose the coral,
the one that bleeds
with your message.

An excerpt of Bewitched is Half of Everything

Solace lives far
behind the homesickness scar.
where a different green speaks with tongues
and the seas abandon themselves timelessly.

(─Translated from the German by Michael Roloff from Und neimand weiss weiter, 1957)

see more english translations at

Nelly Sachs and the Hubris of Pain:

November 13, 2015

The Endotic

Narrative Machine by Lorenzo Sandoval

In the search for literary trends or possibilities, I've come across the word "endotic," the opposite of "exotic."  The endotic is an artistic or literary practice to focus on the ordinary as opposed to the extraordinary. First, I've excerpted a blurb from a workshop recently taught by artist Lorenzo Sandoval, and then I did some exploration of his source, Georges Peres. I've collected excerpts (and their sources) here. Sandoval has created narrative machines. Peres was an experimental fiction writer. These ideas intrigue me. 

Exploring the Endotic
by Lorenzo Sandoval

Contrary to the exotic, the endotic is a very subtle but powerful tool to generate a situated practice from. It is subtle because it looks to the imperceptible of the everyday life, to the visible but hidden details of the space and gestures of the bodies around us. It rescues the astonishment from the forgotten and obvious, trapped by its naturalization. The endotic is a powerful tool because it leads us to read and listen to our surroundings, always looking from unexplored stances. From this immanent display, the very local traces a priceless threshold from where to approach the complex global. The second element we aim to work with in this workshop is microhistory. This methodological branch of history changed the scale and direction of the historical devices to instead look at smaller events and to listen to the relevance of the unwritten voices of dismissed subjects from hegemonic history.
Sandoval's 2015 workshop:
Review of Sandoval's art:
Narrative Machines:

Information regarding Sandoval's source, Georges Perec:
Georges Perec (March 7, 1936 in Paris - March 3, 1982 in Ivry-sur-Seine) was a French novelist, filmmaker, documentalist, and essayist. He was a member of the Oulipo group. His father died as a soldier early in the Second World War and his mother was killed in the Holocaust, and many of his works deal with absence, loss, and identity, often through word play. 
Many of Perec's novels and essays abound with experimental word play, lists and attempts at classification, and they are usually tinged with melancholy. 
Perec is noted for his constrained writing. His 300-page novel La disparition (1969) is a lipogram, written without ever using the letter "e". It has been translated into English by Gilbert Adair under the title A Void (1994). The silent disappearance of the letter might be considered a metaphor for the Jewish experience during the Second World War. Since the name "Georges Perec" is full of "e"s, the disappearance of the letter also ensures the author's own "disappearance". His novella Les revenentes (1972) is a complementary univocalic piece in which the letter "e" is the only vowel used. This constraint affects even the title, which would conventionally be spelt Revenantes. An English translation by Ian Monk was published in 1996 as The Exeter Text: Jewels, Secrets, Sex in the collection Three. It has been remarked by Jacques Roubaud that these two novels draw words from two disjoint sets of the French language, and that a third novel would be possible, made from the words not used so far (those containing both "e" and a vowel other than "e").

Here are some excerpts of writing by Georges Perec
What’s needed perhaps is finally to found our own anthropology, one that will speak about us, will look in ourselves for what for so long we’ve been pillaging from others. Not the exotic anymore, but the endotic. (The Infraordinary)
“Question your tea spoons.”  (Species of Spaces and Other Pieces)
“What we need to question is bricks, concrete, glass, our table manners, our utensils, our tools, the way we spend our time, our rhythms. To question that which seems to have ceased forever to astonish us. We live, true, we breathe, true; we walk, we go downstairs, we sit at a table in order to eat, we lie down on a bed on order to sleep. How? Where? When? Why? 
Describe your street. Describe another. Compare.”  (The Infraordinary)
Also, a recent essay regarding Perec's creative work and a celebration of Paris: