Inspired by a coalescence of Alice Oswald’sSevered Head Floating Downriver (and truly all of Falling Awake), John Ashbery‘s Three Madrigals, Herberto Helder‘s Servidões and Rilke‘s Death. Mostly an exercise in form, or trials of mathematising form. In fact, only the last of the madrigals has my formal signature. I have been finding it hard to understand creativity, lately. Signifiers and significations. Sometimes I feel claustrophobic.
There is some glory left in the fragmentary: it requires entirety and demands plenitude. Unlike the poem, which exists only in the fullness of itself, the fragmentary cannot overspill nor wound in outburst. It is a slow, percolated humiliation. It is not the Art of the Perpetual, but a manner of deconstructing the frigidity of this former form. A fragment cannot extend itself into infinity; it cannot reach all dimensions of a self it comes in contact with; it cannot kill nor turn living some sapling of aesthetic. There is no sense in the fragment but the limits of its architecture, and that palisade is the structural blade that further fragments, like a trauma, like an issue, like some uncurated motion of desistance, beyond the temperance of exaltation, beyond the exception of feeling. To say the fragmentary is “just words” is to define the fragmentary fully. The fragments exhibit the justice that poems can only dream of; the justice poems seldom dream of, because there is no justice in the realms of the full, only tolerance.
She, for many mornings since some irrecuperable point in time, would sit in her garden, looking; lost. There was exuberance in her eyes as she gazed nothingness with abandon. All of herself was in that act of looking. She would call for Clarita to bring her pen; for days on end she did this. Rarely, if at all, would she write a single word, but she wanted to be ready for that word, as that word, thick and solid, made from the most refined materials of looking, was at once a florid instance unmistakably actualised and a tombstone; a gravestone; a headstone. A word as a mark and a prayer, but also word as a sight and as a motive; the lid of something mute and irresponsible. Something selfish in this world, which is given and transformed once where it enshapes finalisation. The word as fatality and the word as constancy; and, like a spring, the word as a mystery.
She, despite her age, became reckless in autumn; entirely mad and soaked with the most arduous scents of stillness. Clarita would hold her hand and cry, since her son had died not two years prior. It was Clarita’s only son. Her only word. The art of grief that so delicately shawled Clarita was a mountain in its entirety and solitude, and the world, respiring excessively in its seasons, was feminine and obliterating and stuck in that impossible amalgamation. She, ineradicable as she was, asked once more for her pen, but was visited instead by the pure strangeness of Clarita’s absence. There was no Clarita, but a space in form of Clarita which her eyes could not penetrate fully. She sprung and surged for a pen, because now she had a word, or the shape of a word which was not yet all which it amounted to be, but a cloud as those hauling the brand of a timid sun, lambent and transient:
«My daughter, I realise now that I am not a person, and at night and other deforming times, I’m convinced that I always knew this. It is not uncommon for knowledge to stretch her wings so superbly that all life seems encompassed by their span; as if life has been this great solemn slumber of which one has continuously just awakened. I feel I have just become and am restored, and this feeling comes precisely from my certitude that I am not a person. Clarita, just the other day, asked me what a person was, for me, so that she was sure I did not qualify as one. I do not know, because I’ve never been one. She spoke of language and the qualities of a human. Language — I said — entirely exceeds me, and is rooted so far beneath and beyond what it signifies that it feels, to me, in each moment, entirely brutal, intolerable and diabolical. Perhaps it does hold the domains of the personal and I’m merely incapable of conceiving words outside the torture they must endure from such conception, but I fear for them in my abominable lovingness. I care for them as if they were wind and water, and their lives wafting and streaming in spite of me are excellent, inebriating heartbreaks which isolate me. I reject the personhood of language.
And the qualities of a human: that emboldening, that unloosening, that violence and love, they are the presence of a worldly architecture that rejects them and by which they are measured. I do not feel such rejection nor mensuration. I do not feel it because I am not a person, no, I’m new grass in spring.
I’m new grass in spring. I’m that black sun murmuring over Tønder. I’m a silent spider, a silent morning, a silent sleep. In this terrible beauty, I do not demand, but am demanded, and as I rush, like a fluid, through each atom of light I can capture, my memory too seems to expand with the most unnatural motions. I am not a person, and at dawn and other deforming times, I’m convinced that I never was…»
Clarita returned, looking bigger and bigger. Her face, otherwise territory of inchoate tears, was now smoked out and released, and her arms as she picked up the cup and the letter were fraught with the most ethereal lightness.
She, unaware of which day or what time, resumed her looking. That stoic and complicated looking of hers, like an entire horde of horrors was just at her nape.
He approached Sabros and felt an inexplicably nervous density. It was sadness, he was sure of it, but not any sadness. This sadness, such is the nature of its absolute absence, cannot chill nor hold by virtue of its forms, and one feels instead in some aeropause by it created, like orbiting a body of subtle force but oppressive mass. The only manner in which to live despite the divinity of this sadness was to deposit it in some voiceless space, such as a fir caddy or a glove compartment, and always walk, breathe or eat or do any matters of life not ten metres from it.
His former home was the basin for the most asperous dreams. The blue and teal enamel of the flowerpots was itself spiny-skinned was he to think of them, and in a sense, his certainty that such sensation was to be produced from his touch was enough to echo some domestic disgust within him; but seldom logical are the thoughts of home, and how scrambled they become, palely scattered and labyrinthine and exhibitive of the most retorted expressions. The entrance has this mandarine tree which his father had planted somewhen; and it never bore fruit, no matter the richness of her green nor the cast of her health. His father said — he was reminded — that it had to do with her being planted after the first light of June, «an inch too late», he said, or perhaps «seeded an inch too deep», or the sun, an «inch too angled», and this was the particular aperture for the world and its numinous aspects of error. The tree, now, with her inhuman halo, bore torrents of mandarines every year since father died, insofar as the ground of her shadow is a russet membrane of rot, but heavenly rot, celestial rot. He thought at first that it could be confouded with something primordial and living, as if himself, his bones, his thoughts, his memories, and perhaps all bones and thoughts and memories were at one point spoil from a series of springs vengeful of that inch-borne error. It will not be possible for him to look at himself again after the mandarine tree, as he has been transfigured completely in that poem which was the mandarine tree. He was now in her and he was simultaneously an ear in search of winter. All of the times in which he moved were fabrications in swift dissolution. He could not be moved; but his rot was not heavenly; rather radical and repugnant.
Most magnetic was the flower. Neither him nor I know which flower it is, nor are we in any way able to describe it. He doesn’t quite remember it, but it is not forgotten. I hold no memories of the flower, but I understand the flower, because the flower isn’t and I am not. Her petals waft but their substance is so overcome with barbarous beauty that they are at once insulting and impossible in their magnitude of perfection, but in this description I acquiesce my understanding of the flower: now she is and I am. He assumes that the flower is and isn’t concomitantly, perhaps atrociously. It is a bellicose silence too big and spaced and sad to be entirely present at any given moment. Thinking himself made of something else, he fails to truly see the beingness and unbeingness of the flower. He accepts it. He does not enter the house. He leaves.
When a poem can’t quite make it as a poem, and does not become, is not renewed in a clash too pertinent to the veins at which it tugs, well, it becomes a fragment. A fragment is not a poem. A fragment is a non-poem in place of an object in need to be left alone. A fragment is a not a wound and not a scar, and while a poem becomes brutally and permits itself to remain becoming, a fragment haunts us in its stillness, in its mockery, in its disinterest. A fragment thus is not a lesser poem, but rather a crack in a lesser heart that lacks the poetry of becoming.
It has been an odd year for me and most, and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have met many wonderful figures here and shared Art that I love with you along with Art that I love making. I’ve never been too fond of writing about writing, as it often feels infatilising and dulled by harmless cynicism, but I’m afraid this year has worked me into a creative halt; a stagnation of sorts. I do not like to write now as I would yesterday nor do I expect to write in this manner five days from now. I will only create, albeit perhaps wrong in my approach and albeit perhaps faulted by my attrition, while I feel movement, since movement is to words what colour is to a painting or a photograph. I’m unsure of what the future holds for my writing — be it that anything is being held — but I am wriggling myself out of my entanglement slowly and I do hope 2021 will fair as well if not better than 2020 did, and I do genuinely adore all of those still patient enough to read me. Even silent, I often read many of you, but for those that do know me, you know that I cannot comment without absolute substance and artfulness in my contributions, and that is something that I’ve been desperately lacking.
Thank you so much and a have gleeful new year, João-Maria.
I hope you’re doing well. School has recommenced for me and I’ve been tasked with an unprecedented flurry of obligatory readings, from books to papers to papers on books and books on papers. COVID-19 severely shortened the semester and one must toil to fit so much voluminous theory in such a thin amount of time. Among these readings is the Iliad, which I’ve read before in its entirety when I was fifteen but have now returned to what seems to be an entirely different work. The Epopee is remarkable for its many poetic subtleties that run as gutters between the branched type-scenes and cloned verses; once in a while, a descent mirrors nightfall, a spring is ripe with darkness or a tree punctuates a weakness or is a weakness and a tree. Perhaps the quality of things so vast and dense is that they will strike brilliancy if only by insistence. Ílion still slumbers in the fabric of our songs, as intact as it is besieged, as standing as it is fallen, and in all of its many echoes, Andromache first and last saw Troy for what it was, and no other account of it ever equaled hers. I found it a rather charming interpretation. João-Maria.