Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sub cortice

A Wall

“Radical sluggishness” and cold rain. That, and a propensity of late to rummage unconcludingly, a Capability Brown amongst the severer enclosures of books. Reading like the dainty-lip’d foraging of a hoof’d bovine: n’oubliez pas que the word “graze” descends out of the Old English grasian, akin to græs, “grass.” The garden, claims Lisa Robertson, is “a canvas for reverie.” And (out of “Playing House: A Brief Account of the Idea of the Shack”):
The landscape includes the material detritus of previous inhabitations and economies. Typically the shack reuses or regroups things with humour and frugality. The boughs of a tree might become a roof. A shack almost always reuses windows, so that looking into or out of the shack is already part of a series, or an ecology, of looking. In this sense a shack is itself a theory: it sees through other eyes. This aspect of the shack’s politics prevents shack nostalgia from becoming mere inert propaganda. The layering or abutment of historically contingent economies frames a diction or pressure that is political, political in the sense that the shack dweller is never a pure product of the independent present, he sees himself though other eyes.
And, following a summary of Thoreau’s “four dollars and twenty-five cents” worth of Irish shanty boards, &c.—“the currency of the minimum, the currency of detritus”—Robertson says: “The economy of the shack enumerates necessity, or more exactly it enumerates a dream of necessity, using what’s at hand. The improvisatory ethos is modern. It is proportioned by the utopia of improvised necessity rather than by tradition. How much would we need? The shack is always conditional. The disposition of things is an economy in time. The shack is in flux.” Meaning, skedaddling out the door (“Doll said heck,” as Clark Coolidge puts it somewhere), one pockets the “at hand”—shack materials—intending to combat the derangements of sluggard’s remorse, impiety’s sullenness, and anomie—all that—with a sheltering lean-to of cob’d and coupled. Reading the letters in the structures. See Gerard Manley Hopkins (1872):
Stepped into a barn of ours, a great shadowy barn, where the hay had been stacked on either side, and looking at the great rudely arched timberframe—principals (?) and tie-beams, which make them look like bold big A’s with the cross-bar high up—I thought how sadly beauty of inscape was unknown and buried away from simple people and yet how near at hand it was if they had eyes to see it and it could be called out everywhere again . . .
“Called out everywhere again”—prelapsarian longings in combo with a note of “singing the world into existence.” (And “inscape” here akin to the unspoilt mediæval “book of nature”—see Julian of Toledo’s “the whole world is sort of like a book written by the finger of God . . . and the various creations are sort of figures, not invented by human agreement . . . to signify the invisible things of God.” Or see Bonaventura’s Ideo sub cortice litterae aperte occultatur mystica et profunda intelligentia—“Thus under the bark of the open letter is hidden mystical and profounder meaning.”)

I like to pursue a thing into its whelp-incongruity (and my own impenetrability, a thing that steals along furtively, never too distant). I like to try to “know” things by pretence. Clark Coolidge (At Egypt):
Green birds on a wire, selenites from the jar
in a branch collection, oils there to never brush air
hold the dust to the limbs, a color not a bother precious
clams of time or packet cherts in or out of the limes
matrix the sand outbacks to a bandit circuitry
looking into the dead-eye brick for words to surface . . .
                                                            It’s this nature
                                                            His store horn turning

Things that lurk always watch
as if be seen be sure
the passage always ends in a death wall
beyond which holes in substance cannot take you
beyond which substance, that perfect, how particular
that plan to eat out the center of this earth
for a candy armadillo and his action stickfigures
the men are red as the women are white
and the further you go the more the snakes go out
till the herald cobra stitched to the sun disc dims
simply the notion that I was counting on
you remembering the names
Is Clark Coolidge “our” Gerard Manley Hopkins? There’s the slam-bang “noise” of the two constituents, and the “radical looking.” Hopkins: “A windpuff-bonnet of fawn-froth / Turns and twindles over the broth / Of a pool so pitchblack, fell-frowning . . .” Coolidge, who talks of Kerouac’s “second to second matter transformation of world into mind”—or “language”—an assessment applicable to Coolidge himself: reading Kerouac is “like being handed another mind, myriad-filled and ceaselessly sending.” What the two share: a demand that art go beyond mere “idea” and be that “matter transformation.” Clement Greenberg: “Art as Idea is for those who don’t ask enough from art, don’t ask enough of art, don’t ask for truly aesthetic experience for rather for something classifiable, identifiable as new, and new on the instant.”

Clark Coolidge