glances

Last night Guy Brett gave a lecture titled ‘Words come after’ at Vic and he quoted the artist Robert Smithson hinting that ‘glances’ have something to do with how paradoxes can inhabit the same artwork and contribute to its vitality. Glances are pretty juicy things right? Taking liberties with ones eyes, falling over a look, wishing you were in the line of sight or out of it, if you’re lucky, well, blushing a little.

In this context glances emphasise a coming and going that contributes to enjoying a work of art. Much like you would say we come and go from the revolution, on paper and with our bodies and in some songs. We are light and mobile. We are social and immaculate. We digest the latest news. We act on liberties. We are somehow political in reverie.

While looks are being exchanged something else goes down. Our habits exude glances that grant skills or social interactions that we thought impossible to come and go from so simply, all while enjoying some artwork.


Reading through a collection of Fernando Pessoa’s poetry, who as Bill mentioned on Wed wrote as Alberto Caeiro, Alvaro de Campos and Ricardo Reis as well, these notes accumulated:

– He was known in his own voice for open-ended dramatic monologue
– He wrote in 1910 ‘my intellect has attained a pliancy and a reach that enable me to assume any emotion I desire and enter at will into any state of mind. For that which it is ever an anguish and an effect to strive for, completeness, no book at all can be an aid’
– Do different readers identify habitually with certain pronouns? In which could I draw the most identification from a reader, as I, or her or him, she or they? I think some readers have habits, though all, like me, are potential opportunists – eager ‘glancists’?
– Doris Lessing in Time Bites quote Goethe in the chapter on Writing Autobiography. “At the very end of his life Goethe said that he had only just learned how to read”. She then goes on to suggest that to read well means to read what is there in front of you, not to impose yourself between what is written by the author and what you think should be written. She advocated a kind of ‘passive’ reading. And a writing of autobiography that strives to articulate what is there, to let the contradictions and lack of memory on occasions speak for itself I think. This is perhaps what Pessoa meant when he said no books could help him now. The moment when his other writers evolved and were compelled to diverge and write. This momentous shift from reading to writing, or more specifically a commitment to coming and going is what I’d like to take from it. Gertrude Steins ‘emotional’ writing could be relevant here as it is not the readers role to embellish ‘details’ with emotion but read emotion as contradictions of behaviour and memory organised within a subject.
– This could be quite exciting to consider for my own process when writing and considering the voices or subjects that speak. Dave Hickey in Air Guitar talks about Chet Baker and how the musician assumes the memory of the song and carries it forward alongside, in accompaniment to, his rendition or voice. In this sense the original memory is intact and companionable. This starting point allows the memory to resolve itself to a new context, perhaps isolate itself or adapt, in either case not insist that the starting point depart from a station of displacement or sentimental reflection.

Pessoa quotes continue from the Translator Jonathan Griffin in his forward to the collection:

– ‘Pessoa, like Pound, made theories first, then exemplified them in poems’
– Pessoa had to find ‘a consolation for the failure of his consolation’ suggesting one of his voices was a salve for the shortcomings of another, and on a more personal note, disappointment that his own personal idea of peace, going to the country for example, did not resolve his enjoyment of urban restlessness.
– ‘The more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the man who creates’ – this is Pessoa’s negative capability
– ‘Pessoa’s negative capability enables him to leave intact all the ‘uncertainties, mysteries, doubts’, all the ambivalences on which the whole truth of experience depends’

How will I navigate the writing of experience and the fabrication of the immediate in the poems I’m writing? How do you maintain essential ambivalences while at the same time giving credit to what your basic material is?

Dave Hickey described this moment in Floubert’s Shining Heart in which two women, incabable of bonding along a standard continuum of time, i.e. in the narrative in which their everyday worlds converge, embrace. In a single moment the dignity of their own habits and sense of time comes undone and they realise to their own astonishment a basis for humanity. The women do something each never knew they were capable of, that they had not prepared for or intended. The joy of it is without skill, rather the experience negates habit, or ones immediate ability to identify internally and externally through ones habits alone, and makes habit possible again towards…living with the knowledge of unutterable peace…a moment of joy, a connection with another human being…

this is an extreme example of the contradiction of writing experience…in this attempt you almost have to assume a truth that has no negative – the moment simply exists, unprovoked, as joy and sadness in its coming and going from the immediate scene. In the extreme it illustrates, or hints that ‘all social interactions lead to non-linearities’ (Art Meets Science and Spirituality in a Changing Economy, The Chaotic Universe, Mystic Fire Video) or whatever the equivalent of this is in literature or art…glances maybe between impossibilities…coming and going.

Now to do some writing!