A Fiery Flying Roule:

to all the inhabitants of the earth; specially to the rich ones

David Wootton
57th St under the Metra


an English-to-English translation of Shakespeare’s fortieth sonnet

Why turn a lover’s discourse into a discourse about debt? The sonnet begins with a complaint: if I’ve already given you all my money, my love, then I’ve given you my all. But sonnets and lovers depend on numbers. We tried to explain this to the credit card companies, but we were charged a late fee plus interest. Both poet and lover enumerate, count with their fingers: syllables, promises, both stressed and unstressed. We tried to explain this to the banks, but we were convicted of defiant trespassing and conspiracy. The success of writing a sonnet or of loving rests on neither being too idle about counting, nor too attached to the act of counting itself. We tried to explain this to the federal government, but our calls couldn’t get through. Such idleness might indicate a lack of ardor or insufficient intellectual engagement; over-investment in the numbers might indicate a lack of trust or insufficient imagination. We tried to explain this to the White House, but the woman on the 27 bus told us: “He thinks dick is stronger than money, but we know money is stronger than dick.” A good writer or lover knows the true value of what they’re counting, but debt begins when the beloved says, “What you have given me is not enough.” A few of us began to protest. “Poverty is something money can’t buy,” Joanne says. The sonnet’s complaint continues: I’ve given you all I had, and now you want more. What am I supposed to do? Some of us kept working three jobs and making payments on time. This is an example of what the literary critic calls “the masochism of the abjectness of love.” Some of us who later joined the occupation were taking out student loans or were still unemployed or had lost homes to foreclosure. Such theft can only be forgiven when debt is a lover’s playful fiction, an accounting that amounts to nothing spent but wit. Some of us were vets unable to get proper psychiatric care; some of us had lost access to medical treatments our health depended on. When poverty is literal and persistent, it’s an injury we learn to live with without forgiveness. The sonnet goes on to argue something like: the problem with numbers is that when we have plentitude, we tend to forget the experience of lack or find it threatening. National networks send us images of violent confrontations; from Oakland Miranda and Eirik send us images of peaceful actions; Brenda reminds us “we are agents for something greater than ourselves.” The problem with the ones obsessed with numbers above all else is that counting offers endless labor that replaces all other activities. Counting confers an illusion of value when in reality it is by itself all but worthless. On the train beneath Wall Street, a sleek pinstriped financier falls asleep with his youthful cheek pressed against my shoulder. It confers an illusion of total order when in reality the one who counts has had to forget their knowledge of everything between us that can’t be converted to currency. Under rush hour fluorescence I see beneath his jaw a patch of stubble his morning razor missed; I see his grip on his leather briefcase slowly slacken. The concluding couplet makes a concessionary gesture: because of the contradiction alive in everything, I see it will be necessary to love the ones who don’t yet know how gravely they have wounded us, if only because soon their dream will stop, the doors will open and they will wake up in our arms.


the invulnerable tide

a pair of redundancies captured in terms associated with a primary apparatus shrine or scene of technics at the center of our capacity to transact in the space of appearances: 

  1. the ATM machine
  2. the PIN number


  1. the automated teller machine machine
  2. the personal identification number number

We grow number and number, is it, in an American Express zombie marathon (“How fast can you pursue happiness”) that will tell wch person is numbest of them all, the most obsolete in tune with the machine machine, the device that reproduces itself independent of appetite or will, automated identification already a twice-told tale.

& athwart this let us pose a pair of futilities:

  1. King Canute legislating the tides to not rise &
  2. Cuchulain taking up arms himself against the sea

the one an infelicitous speech act against vertical motion, the other a horizontal hand-to-hand engagement with a medium that, like money, quoth a justice, will always find an outlet, & demands fins not digits if what you want is to thrive in it.  




[…] both “debt and the disgrace of price” are problems of the letter, of the attendant risks of offering your two cents. (My dad calling back: don’t let your mouth write a check your ass can’t cash.) One elects to get legible, to chime in or sum up (in however many words), or one elects to abstain, to keep quiet. Both are arguably just as risky, but Brazil’s book deploys a third strategy. […]
~ C.J. Martin ~

[…] both “debt and the disgrace of price” are problems of the letter, of the attendant risks of offering your two cents. (My dad calling back: don’t let your mouth write a check your ass can’t cash.) One elects to get legible, to chime in or sum up (in however many words), or one elects to abstain, to keep quiet. Both are arguably just as risky, but Brazil’s book deploys a third strategy. […]

C.J. Martin ~

I just thought this: to read [real?] poetry is to always be learning to read poetry.

Brilliant. Can we expand this as a heuristic method into “to learn is always to be learning to learn”? The root of “heuristic” is “to find,” while that of “method” is “path.”

What does that say about poetry that it is beyond mastering, unlike, for example, the law of physics?

I accept the question, but only if you permit an observation and a consequential pair of adjustments. The (pedantic) observation is that there is no singular “law of physics” — none I’m aware of anyway, tho they say string theory’s trying for that grail. So: the adjustment would require us to speak of “the laws of physics.” This leads to the second, more primitive adjustment: can we think here not only about “the laws of physics” but also about “the loss of physics”? This silly proposal is perhaps permissible given that that it derives from mispronouncing the crude physical stuff of these words — violating one law to observe another. Perhaps one way to think about the desire that’s being circled around here — mastering laws — would be to think about that in relation to mastering loss. Is there some thing implicit to the drive to command, the desire for mastery, that derives from an experience of loss? Of what? What lapse might this physical, phonetic glitch — or perhaps it’s a pulse — signal?   

That’s the point partly isn’t it, I don’t know, I don’t know, but that there are objects beyond mastering or knowing or understanding, but which yield understanding by slow engagement (and what is understanding? How various is it?) and in that way, does that make poetry like ‘nature’ in the archaic sense of the word (‘nature likes to hide’ I mean)…?

I begin with two moves. Both are citations. One from a physicist:

We always have had a great deal of difficulty in understanding the world view that quantum mechanics represents. At least I do, because I’m an old enough man that I haven’t got to the point that this stuff is obvious to me. Okay, I still get nervous with it. And therefore, some of the younger students… you know how it always is, every new idea, it takes a generation or two until it becomes obvious that there’s no real problem. It has not yet become obvious to me that there’s no real problem. I cannot define the real problem, therefore I suspect there’s no real problem, but I’m not sure there’s no real problem. (Richard Feynman)

The other from a poet:

Pray thee take care, that taks’t my book in hand

To read it well, that is: to understand.

To understand, in a crude etymological sense, is to stand beneath. The word is thus related to the word substance: that which stands under (sub). This odd relation is a very puzzling thing indeed —- hard to understand, if you will. Perhaps it means that to understand something is to be occupied by it, filled, really, in an almost subatomic sense — completely informed, wch is to say (in most cases) transformed by the object of your attention in such a way that you in fact become it, are subject to it (thrown under, to remember this rather domineering etymon).

There’s wonderful material in the new Gleick book on quantum mechanics, on the fact of “entanglement,” wch is the quantum physicist’s term of art for the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, or “the inability to observe systems without disturbing them,” as Gleick puts it.

Speaking of “quantum bits,” or “qubits,” he writes

When you measure any property of a quantum object, you thereby lose the ability to measure a complementary property. You can discover a particle’s momentum or its position but not both. […] This imperfect distinguishability is what gives quantum physics its dreamlike character: the inability to observe systems without disturbing them […]. The qubit has this dreamlike character, too. It is not just either-or. Its 0 and 1 values are represented by quantum states that can be readily distinguished — for example, horizontal and vertical polarizations — but coexisting with these are the whole continuum of intermediate states, such as diagonal polarizations, that lean toward 0 or 1 with different probabilities. So a physicist says that a qubit is a superposition of states; a combination of probability amplitudes. It is a determinate thing with a cloud of indeterminacy living inside. But the qubit is not a muddle; a superposition is not a hodgepodge but a combining of probabilistic elements according to clear elegant mathematical rules.

I would propose that “imperfect distinguishability” by another name would be “a poem” — which of course also involves a hypersignification of the smallest particles, on the one hand, and an appearance of grand design on the other — and with respect to the relationship between these scales in a poem (part and whole call it, whether that whole be a haiku or a sonnet or a tragedy or a novel or a series like The Wire) we are trained, moreover, to simultaneously admire and doubt, to trust and to test, and it is in this cloud of interaction that we achieve our experience as a reader or performer or analyst, as a thing seeking to understand whatever it is we are encountering. 

This obviously is a pretty weak analogy, and unacceptable as a conclusion. But I’m happy to run with it for a little, to see where it leads. As some physicist named Bennet puts it in Gleick’s book:

A nonrandom whole can have random parts. This is the most counterintuitive part of quantum mechanics, yet it follows from the superposition principle and is the way nature works, as far as we know. People may not like it at first, but after a while you get used to it and the alternatives are far worse.


read all about it

If we see William Blake in a vision but William Blake doesn’t see us, that’s a fiction. But if William Blake sees us in return, that is either a natural or eschatological situation.

— Allen Grossman, from his book Summa Lyrica


Ben Goldberg’s Orphic Machine - The Inferential Poem (by BAGProductionRecords)

one hell of a lot of homework for one day


can we do this

(via elkrunningfromwolves)

sur l’App