24 02 2009


The letter fell from his nerveless hands. He thought long and deeply. Yes hehad memories of a neighbour’s child, of a girl, of a woman in a dancing hall–all was dim and confused, like a flickering and shapeless view of a stone in the bed of a swiftly running stream. Shadows chased one another across his mind, but would not fuse into a picture. There were stirrings of

memory in the realm of feeling, and still he could not remember. It seemed to him that he must have dreamed all these figures, must have dreamed often and vividly–and yet they had only been phantoms of a dream. His eyes wandered to the blue vase on the writing-table. It was empty. For years it had not been empty on his birthday. He shuddered, feeling as if an invisible

door had been opened, a door through which a chilled breeze was blowing into his sheltered room. An intimation of death came to him, and an intimation of deathless love. Something welled up within him; and the thought of the dead woman stirred in his mind, bodiless and passionate, like the sound of distant music.

Zweig, S. (2004) Letter from and Unknown Woman, London: Pushkin Press:. p.104. (First published in German as Bukrief einer Unbekannten in 1922).

Read the rest of this entry »


24 02 2009


The poem exists under extreme conditions in our time, taking its place in a medial and societal discourse where language has been enervated, if not exhausted, by neo-fascism, terrorism, fundamentalism, and global commerce. At the same time poetry itself, or formulaic language appropriating its name, has perhaps never been more ubiquitous, with virtual (networked) texts as well as affordable just in time, insty-printing and distribution, as well as monopolistic transnational publishing saturating every market segment.

Under such conditions it seems useful to consider the poem independent of the poet or the institutional and cultural construct of poetry. That is, to consider the poem as something of a stochastic process, fully non-deterministic and conjectural and, if not explicitly random, appearing so when encountered in the midst of overly-determined, exhausted, even hostile, regimes and discourses of the sorts mentioned above. The poem in isolation is always adaptive, mutative, generative, self-organizing. As such it shows itself to be well-posed in the mathematical sense, i.e., data-dependent and of a reasonable topology, despite what on first glance may seem its porosity.

Read the rest of this entry »