Meanderings & mawqifs of poetry, poetics, translations y mas. Travelogue too.

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May 23rd, 2015 · Israel, Jewish Culture, Uncategorized

by Uri Avnery

May 23, 2015

THE BATTLE is over. The dust has settled. A new government – partly ridiculous, partly terrifying – has been installed.

It is time to take stock.

The net result is that Israel has given up all pretense of desiring peace and that Israeli democracy has suffered a blow from which it may never recover.

ISRAELI GOVERNMENTS – with the possible exception of Yitzhak Rabin’s – have never really desired peace. The peace that is possible.

Peace, of course, means accepting fixed borders. In the founding declaration of the state, which was read out by David Ben-Gurion on May 14, 1948 in Tel Aviv, any mention of borders was deliberately omitted. Ben Gurion was not ready to accept the borders fixed by the UN partition resolution, because they provided only for a tiny Jewish state. Ben-Gurion foresaw that the Arabs would start a war, and he was determined to use this for enlarging the territory of the state.

This indeed happened. When the war ended in early 1949 with armistice agreements based on the final battle lines, Ben-Gurion could have accepted them as final borders. He refused. Israel has remained a state without borders that it recognizes itself – perhaps the only one in the world.

This is one of the reasons for the fact that Israel has no peace agreement with the Palestinian nation. It did sign official peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, based on the internationally recognized borders between the former British government of Palestine and its neighbors. No such borders are accepted by the Israeli government between Israel and the undefined Palestinian entity. All Israeli governments have always refused even to indicate where such borders should run. The much-praised Oslo agreement was no exception. Rabin, too, refused to draw a final line.

This refusal remains government policy. On the eve of the recent elections, Binyamin Netanyahu unequivocally declared that during his term of office – which for him means until his demise – no Palestinian state would come into being. Thus, the occupied territories would remain under Israeli rule.

No peace agreement will ever be signed by this government.

NO PEACE means attempting to keep the territorial status quo frozen forever, except that settlements will continue to grow and multiply.

This is not the situation concerning democracy. It is not frozen.

Israel is famously “the Only Democracy in the Middle East”. That is practically its second official name.

It is debatable how a state that dominates another people, depriving it of all human rights, not to mention citizenship, can be called a democracy. But Jewish Israelis have been used to this for 48 years, and just ignore this fact.

Now the situation inside Israel proper is about to change drastically.

Two facts attest to this.

First of all, Ayelet Shaked has been appointed Minister of Justice. One of the most extreme right-wing Israelis, she has not made a secret of the fact that she wants to destroy the independence of the Supreme Court, the last bastion of human rights.

This court has managed, throughout the years, to become a major force in Israeli life. Since Israel has no written constitution, the Supreme Court has succeeded, under strong and determined leadership, in assuming the role of the guardian of human and civil rights, even annulling democratically adopted Knesset laws that contradict the imagined constitution.

Shaked has announced that she would put an end to this impertinence.

The court has survived many onslaughts because its composition cannot be easily changed. Contrary to the practice in the US, which looks scandalous to us, judges are appointed by a committee, in which politicians are held in check by incumbent judges. Shaked wants to change this practice, stuffing the committee with politicians loyal to the government.

The court is already cowed. Lately it has made a number of ignoble decisions, such as outlawing calls for boycotting the settlements. But this is still heaven compared to what is bound to happen in the near future.

PERHAPS WORSE is Netanyahu’s decision to retain for himself the Ministry of Communication.

This ministry has always been disdained as a low-level office, reserved for political lightweights. Netanyahu’s dogged insistence on retaining it for himself is ominous.

The communication Ministry controls all TV stations, and indirectly newspapers and other media. Since all Israeli media are in very bad shape financially, this control may become deadly.

Netanyahu’s patron – some say owner – Sheldon Adelson, the would-be dictator of the US Republican party, already publishes a give-away newspaper in Israel, which has only one sole aim: to support Netanyahu personally against all enemies, including his competitors in his own Likud party. The paper – “Israel Hayom” (Israel Today) – is already Israel’s widest-circulation newspaper, with the American casino king pouring into it untold millions.

Netanyahu is determined to break all opposition in the electronic and written media. Opposition commentators are well advised to look for jobs elsewhere. Channel 10, considered slightly more critical of Netanyahu than its two competitors, is due to be closed at the end of this month.

One cannot avoid an odious analogy. One of the key terms in the Nazi lexicon was the atrocious German word Gleichschaltung  – meaning connecting all media to the same energy source. All newspapers and radio stations (TV did not yet exist) were staffed with Nazis. Every morning, a Propaganda Ministry official by the name of Dr. Dietrich convened the editors and told them what tomorrow’s headlines, editorials etc. were to be.

Netanyahu has already dismissed the chief of the TV department. We don’t yet know the name of our own Dr. Dietrich.

As a humorous counterpoint, Miri Regev has been appointment Minister of Culture. Regev is a loud-mouthed woman, whose vulgar style has become a national symbol. No one can even guess how she had become the army spokesperson. Her style, such as concluding every public utterance with the call “Applause!”, has become a joke. 

THE MOST efficient instrument of de-democratization is the education ministry (which is not efficient in anything else.)

Israel has several education systems, all of them financed – and hence controlled – by the Education Ministry.

Two systems belong to the government outright: the general “state” system and the autonomous “religious state” system.

Then there are two orthodox systems, one Ashkenazi and one Oriental. In some of these, only religious subjects are taught – no languages, no mathematics, no non-Jewish history. This makes alumni unfit for any employment. They remain dependent on their religious community’s handouts forever.

Before the state came into being, there was also a leftist system with socialist values, especially in the kibbutzim. This was abolished by David Ben-Gurion in the name of “statism”.

The last government tried in a timid way to compel the orthodox to introduce “core studies” into their schools, such as arithmetic and English. This has been abandoned now, since the orthodox have become members of the government coalition.

The real battle, which is starting now, is about the “general” state schools, which have been free to some extent. My late wife, Rachel, was a teacher in such a school for almost 30 years, and did what she wanted, trying to instill in her pupils’ minds humanist and liberal values.

Not any more. Israel’s most extreme nationalist-religious leader, Naftali Bennett, has now been installed as Minister of Education. He has already announced that his main objective is to imbue the young with a nationalist-Zionist spirit, raising a generation of real Israeli patriots. No mention of humanism, liberalism, human rights, social values or any other such nonsense.

Netanyahu has also retained the Foreign Ministry in his own hands. Many of its functions have been dispersed between six other ministries. The pretext is that Netanyahu is keeping the prestigious ministry open for Labor Party leader Yitzhak Herzog, who he is pretending to invite into the government. Herzog has already loudly refused. (I suppose that the real owner of the government, Sheldon Adelson, would not allow him in anyway.)

Netanyahu’s real aim is to prevent any potential competitor from gaining international and national prestige in this position. He does conduct foreign policy alone anyhow.

ALTOGETHER, A deeply troubling picture for anyone who loves Israel.

It is not so much that the balance of power in Israel has changed (it has not) but that the worst elements of the Right have taken over, pushing out almost all right-wing moderates. Until now, these extreme elements had been subdued, talking loudly but carrying a small stick. This has now changed. The extreme right has found its self-assurance, and is determined to use its power.

The Israeli Left (timidly calling itself “center-left”) has lost its spirit. Its only hope is “foreign pressure”. Especially from the White House. Barack Obama hates Netanyahu. Any time now, American pressure will be applied and save Israel from itself.

That’s a comfortable thought. We don’t have to do anything. Salvation will come from the outside, deus ex machina. Halleluja.

Unfortunately, I am a non-believer. What I see is the US increasing its support of the Netanyahu regime, offering huge new arms deliveries as “compensation” for the budding Iran nuclear deal. John Kerry, humiliated by Netanyahu and treated with open contempt, is groveling somewhere at our feet. Obama boasts that he has done more for “Israel” (meaning the Israeli Right) than any other president.

Salvation will not come from that direction. God will remain in the machine.

THERE IS only one kind of salvation: the one we carry inside us.

Some hope for a catastrophe that will cause people to open their eyes. I don’t wish for catastrophes.

I don’t want Israel to become a replica of al-Sisi’s Egypt, Erdogan’s Turkey or Putin’s Russia.

I believe we can save Israel – but only if we get up from the couch and play our part.

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An Appeal to Planet Earth from the Cloud House for a New Place to Breathe In.

May 22nd, 2015 · Archives, Poetry, Poetry readings, Poets

by KUSH:

The Cloud House Poetry Archives are looking for a storefront, warehouse or even an accessible floor of a building, where we can share our cultural treasures and multimedia installations/theatre with the public. We plan to establish a new Cloud House in proximity to a wide range of small East Coast colleges. The primary objective is to interact with the surrounding community and be enriched by the participation of the people in the community.

The Cloud House is a legendary San Francisco center for the literary arts with an internationally recognized audiovisual archive of historic poetry performances. What sets this work apart from other media collections, beyond its vast breadth and depth, is the quality of our videographic and stereophonic field recordings that convey the living presence of the poet/artist.

Serving the community as an active educational, literary and cultural resource, the Cloud House draws from its extensive library archive of historic documents, manuscripts, broadsides, posters, paintings, photographs, art/artifacts, and books, many of which are signed by the authors. We bring with us a multifaceted and collaborative program of live events, theatre productions, screenings, performances, classes/workshops and installations/exhibitions encompassing the planet’s modern and indigenous cultures.

The Cloud House is a research destination for the definitive study of the New American Poetry and its East and West Coast innovators and sources. The Cloud’s unmatched multimedia archives of all the San Francisco Poetry Renaissances from the 1930s to the present constitute its ongoing genome project of counter-cultural archaeology. Crucial to this constellated treasury of recordings, art/artifacts, texts and ephemera is the quintessential media archive of the great poet Gary Snyder & his cultural community. 

The Cloud House has an educational mission that will accommodate all ages and levels of interest including serious scholarship/research with an emphasis on ecological consciousness and cultural engagement. We have many letters of reference from renowned writers endorsing the continued development of the Cloud House Poetry Archives that we will share with prospective supporters upon request.

Thank You!

Kush   Cloud House

To reach us simply utilize our e-mail or direct line 415-292-5554.

To view a sample of our historic video work, please visit PennSound/Cloud House Poetry Archives.

John Skarstad/UC Davis Special Collections who visited the Cloud House with Gary Snyder in the 1980s is the spokesperson for these archives and its future development. He can be reached at or directly at 916-442-1684.

Peter Coyote will willingly talk to anyone about serious support for the Cloud House Poetry Archives going forward, or leave messages at his office/415-381-4656 (see attached letter).

Allen Ginsberg Cloud House Kush004

Gary Snyder Cloud House Kush004

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A Memoir of Graham Mackintosh (1935-2015)

May 21st, 2015 · Uncategorized

The great printer Graham Mackintosh has left us. On Poltroon Press’ site Alastair M. Johnston has published a memorial piece worth reading for anyone interested in Bay Area poetry & poetics — and the days when books were actually typeset. I am reproducing the opening paras below, for the full article (& examples of Mackintosh’s work) click here.

Mackintosh on press. Photo by Ann Charters, San Francisco, 1968. From OYEZ The Authorized Checklist

Mackintosh on press. Photo by Ann Charters, San Francisco, 1968. From OYEZ The Authorized Checklist

Pity the writer or artist with a Bad Boswell. I am thinking of someone like Lord Byron who left his reputation in the hands of his friend Thomas Moore. Moore’s first act as trustee was to burn Byron’s journals so there would be no challenging Moore’s own account of the poet’s life. Then he mixed in some salaciousness, rehashing some of the well-known scandals of Byron’s life but adding asterisks instead of people’s names. One of the more egregious examples occurs in a footnote on page 558: “P.S. Oh! the anecdote! ****************.” For 200 years the world has looked at this passage and shook its head, saying “What a prat!”

I had a 45-year friendship with Graham Mackintosh, printer and publisher of White Rabbit Press, and while his death on May 10th at age 80 was not a surprise (he had been in declining health since the death of his wife Janet a year ago), I didn’t have a potted obituary in my “morgue” of papers, just a few notes from him, some photos, and three archival boxes stuffed with the productions of his creativity as a printer and book designer. I had an email exchange with fellow printer Eric Holub and between us we put together some biographical facts in an ad hoc way.


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Towards a new industrial revolution: studying societies’ metabolism

May 19th, 2015 · Climate Change

Press Release by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research


To achieve a lasting transition towards sustainability, large-scale conversion of our built environment – cities, transport systems, power generation – is key. This is an outcome of a special feature investigating advances in the research on industrial ecology, to be published in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and coordinated by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). Studies cover topics from the urbanization effects to the material basis of modern societies, fundamental research that informs decision-makers.

“Studying the metabolism of today’s societies reveals that small-scale short-term plumbing will not suffice to substantially reduce risks that paradoxically arise from the success of industrialization,” says lead editor Helga Weisz, co-chair of PIK’s research domain Transdiciplinary Concepts and Methods. “Our greenhouse-gas emissions and the resulting climate change illustrate this. It turns out that, if sustainability is the aim, a new industrial and indeed social revolution would be needed. While the industrial revolution of the 19th century was based on fossil fuel and large material throughput, the one of the 21st century would move away from these and towards zero-carbon energy systems and closed material cycles.” The world climate summit in Paris later this year needs to provide a robust foundation for this transition, she adds.

Infrastructure built today determines tomorrow’s burdens

The research shows that infrastructure that is being built today determines energy and material use for decades. For instance, a spread-out city design creates long distances and renders efficient public transport systems economically unattainable. “Hence we need to change the systems of urbanization, mobility and energy,” explains Weisz. For instance a global switch to renewable electricity, one study shows, could yield twice the present-day power output at stabilized or reduced environmental impacts. However, the requirements for cement or aluminum would increase.

One of the special issue’s studies shows that the amount of energy used in cities by 2050 could be reduced by more than 25 percent. Cities in developing countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East have by far the highest potential for energy savings. For cities in industrialized countries, higher gasoline prices combined with a compact urban form would do the job of increasing efficiency, while in developing countries urban form and transport planning are projected to be more important. In fact, by modelling 274 cities worldwide, from Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania to Hamburg, Germany, the researchers identified eight different types of urbanisation each of which needs different mitigation policies to maximize their impact. Cities are key for tackling the climate challenge since they consume about three quarters of global energy.

“We need to redraw the material picture of our economy”

“The large scale transformation of the energy infrastructure to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be no walk in the park,” says Sangwon Suh of the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California in Santa Barbara, co-editor of the special feature. “It would entail a fundamental change in material flows. Ramping up renewable energy production capacity, for instance, leads to much larger flux of specialty metals than today. In order to achieve a smooth transition toward a low-carbon energy future, therefore, we need to fundamentally redraw the material picture of our economy.”

It is more than twenty years since PNAS published a similar roundup of insights in this area of research. At that time, the analysis was largely devoid of data and sometimes rather conceptual in nature, whereas the studies now published assess societies’ metabolism in a quantitative way. Also, this strand of research has moved from case-studies to analyses of global material systems and their interaction with society and the environment. Thus the PNAS special feature for the first time outlines industrial ecology as frontier science.

“Understanding and quantifying the physical basis of modern society is a key component of sustainability” says Thomas E. Graedel of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, the third co-editor of the special feature. “Addressing this challenge is a central focus of industrial ecology.”

Article: Weisz, H., Suh, S., Graedel, T.E. (2015): Industrial Ecology: The role of manufactured capital in sustainability. Special Feature: Introduction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [doi: 10.1073/pnas.1506532112]

Weblink to the article:

Article: Creutzig, F., Baiocchi, G., Bierkandt, R., Pichler, P.-P., Seto, K. (2015): A Global Typology of Urban Energy Use and Potentials for an Urbanization Mitigation Wedge. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [doi: 10.1073/pnas.1315545112]

Weblink to the article:

Media contact:

PIK press office

Phone: +49 331 288 25 07


Twitter: @PIK_Climate

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Summer Schedule for NP & PJ

May 14th, 2015 · Performances, Poetry readings, Reading

via Nicole’s blog:

Série Jaune_08

Lots of exciting events here in France & elsewhere.

Opening of the exhibition


Saturday May 16th :


Exposition collective du 07 mai au 24 juin 2015
Samedi 16 mai 2015 inauguration sur réservation de 11h à 13h
Plus d’informations sur la galerie privée :
OÙ Galerie Paradis
152 rue Paradis 13006 Marseille

L’Association OÙ programme dans sa nouvelle galerie privée OÙ Galerie Paradis
Denis Brun commissaire de “Galerie ÉdOÙard Paradis” (nom donné par D. B.)
et Axelle Galtier directrice de la Galerie vous proposent
Ouvert tous les jours même le dimanche. Passez directement, sonnez à Association OÙ 1er étg, ou téléphonez…T : 06 98 89 03 26

Hacke Le Pac

Saturday May 16 4:00PM- LATE!
ASILE 404 @ 135 rue d’Aubagne, 13006 Marseille, France:
Charlotte Phan – Saturne pas rond #1/Mathias Richard / Juliette Grimaldi / Kino Positive / Nat Yot / L’Armoire Normande
& PJ & NP as guests.

Les EAUDITIVES 2015 / Poésies à la frontale

May 29 @ 4:00 pm6:00 pm
Musée des Gueules Rouges,
Avenue de La Libération, Tourves, 83170 France
+ Google Map
Dominique MASSAUT Belgique Nicole PEYRAFITTE USA, Patrick SIROT
Find out more »

Les EAUDITIVES 2015 / Lectures

May 30 @ 5:00 pm7:00 pm
Parvis de l’Abbaye,
Place des Ormeaux, La Celle, 83170
+ Google Map
LA CELLES- Parvis de l’abbaye 17h Lectures Pauline CATHERINOT Sylvie NÈVE Nicole PEYRAFITTE, USA
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Les EAUDITIVES 2015 / Débat littéraire

May 31 @ 3:00 pm5:00 pm
Parvis du Centre d’Art Contemporain,
Chemin de La Réparade, Chateauvert, 83670 France
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Parvis du Centre d’Art Contemporain 15h Débat littéraire animé par Maryvonne COLOMBANI, Journaliste à Zibeline Cécile RICHARD, Grand-Arbre Antoine SIMON, Des Finitions Nicole PEYRAFITTE, Bi-Valve Cédric LERIBLE, Giratoires
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Jardin des 5 Sens & des Formes Premières

June 7 @ 7:00 pm11:00 pm
Sunday, June 7    7PM Jardin des 5 Sens & des Formes Premières  Saint-Marc-Jaumegarde  13100 NP Perfdinatoire! Guest artists: Denis Brun & Pierre Joris
RSVP obligatoire!
Find out more »

PJ & NP reading/performance

forParis Poets Live 

June 9 @ 7:00 pm11:00 pm
Berkeley Books of Paris,
8 Rue Casimir-Delavigne, Paris, 75006 France
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PJ & NP reading/performance for Paris Poets Live Series at
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NP & PJ Reading at Paris Lit Up Series

June 11 @ 8:00 pm10:00 pm
Culture Rapide,
108 rue Julian Lacroix, Paris, 75020
+ Google Map
Find out more »

Chez Lily : Centre de Montagne de Germ  

Vendredi June 26 2015 19H
Avec Pierre Joris/ Nicole Peyrafitte & d’autres invités qui seront annoncés très bientot.
Rencontre Performance Surprise

NP & PJ @ Durango, Mexico, Poetry Festival

July 7-11
Durango, Mexico

Champs/Songs at Cornelia Café w/ Michael Bisio

July 18 @ 6:00 pm7:30 pm
Cornelia Café,
29 Cornelia Street, New York, United States
+ Google Map
Champs/Songs Nicole Peyrafitte w/ Michael Bisio Poetry/Chansons/ Improvisations accross continents & languages with Nicole Peyrafitte nourishing, sensual, campy and scintillating multi-layered vocal range & texts & Michael Bisio extraordinary tonal beauty and intensity of the very personal musical language of his double bass ($15 includes a drink)
Find out more »

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Picasso’s Expensive Disappearing Women

May 13th, 2015 · Art, Capitalism

Have a last look at this great 1955 Pablo Picasso painting from 1955 called “The Women of Algiers:”


The painting was just sold at auction for $ 180 million, & will disappear into the safe vault of the anonymous private owner, where, as Nicola Kuhn writes in the Tagesspiegel “it will serve as a blue chip, as guarantor of value appreciation in times of an overheated market. How great the current greediness is, was shown by the next world record established the same evening at Christie’s: this time for sculpture.  Alberto Giacometti’s ‘Man Drawing’ reached $141,3 million.”

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Glasfryn Seminar: Two Angles on Modernism

May 12th, 2015 · Cultural Studies, Uncategorized

These materials via Junction Box, where you can find the continuation of these two takes & a range of other fascinating materials.


On March 28th 2015 a seminar was held at Glasfryn in Llangattock, Powys, on the subject of modernism. There were two presenters: Allen Fisher and Anthony Mellors. Fisher discussed developments in art dating from around 1850 with reference to the evolution of a recognisably modernist aesthetic, whilst Mellors concentrated in particular on questions of the nature of the image in modernist poetry, both in terms of theory and practice, referencing Marjorie Perloff’s critique, and looking particularly at poems by William Carlos Williams, Lorine Niedecker and George Oppen. The documents gathered here include, on Fisher’s part a prose extract and a kind of diagrammatical schedule from which he developed his presentation on the day. Mellors’ essay represents a step beyond the material he based his presentation on, but should be considered as a work in progress.

To Read Modernism in Three Parts (For the Glasfryn Seminar), by Allen Fisher:  Click Here


Allen Fisher: Extract from Collage and Simultaneity.

The following is an extract, taken from the third part of a talk given at the Glasfryn Seminars, 28 March 2015. The extract uses a painting by George Braque titled Soda (see above), a work factured in 1911 and now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The painting is oil on canvas and is a tondo (circular) with a 36cm (14”) diameter.

George Braque’s painting Soda is a collage of shapes derived from the perception of drinking glasses, cups, smokers’ pipes, letters, music-scores and an advertisement for soda. In short, perception that could have been made in Braque’s studio or in a café. The painting plane presents these shapes as a variety of intersecting and overlapping planes without any overt suggestion of a counterfeit spacetime. Whilst all the elements could be inferred by the viewer to be fragments from reports of perceptions of objects on a round table, a table with a glass top. Braque has not made any attempt to persuade the viewer that this may be so. On the contrary, his presentation as much implies a verticality as if the perception report was of objects fixed to a wall and prepared to provide a trompe l’oeil by a painter such as John F. Peto. (The example given was of Peto’s Fish House Door, 1905, in the Dallas Museum o f Art.)

To the right of the centre the bowl of a smoker’s pipe is suggested and a use of colour contrast implies the bowl’s depth. The remainder of the picture plane consists of lines and curves which balance and counter-balance the pattern of the smoker’s pipe bowl.

In many places on the plane a music-score is signified using Braque’s characteristic bar lines (usually less than five, but nevertheless signifying musical scores) which become ambiguous with the suggestion that perhaps the strings of a musical instrument are implied. The part circles sometimes appear as marks left by drinking-cups or glasses and sometimes appear as fragments from perception reports of those vessels. This pattern is shifted by the repeated inclusion of Bas Clefs. Other lines on the plane suggest parts of smokers’ pipes, edges of planes and, particularly the more vertical and wavy lines, strips of wallpaper in Braque’s now recognisable faux-bois (imitation wood). On some parts of the plane a depth perspective is hinted at through the use of angled cornered lines with shading. At one place, on the lower right, the word SODA has been painted and part of the “S” has been intersected and cut off by a white line which implies an overlapping plane. The overall picture plane is full and some of the lines approach the plane edges (particularly at the top and bottom and left hand side) which has the effect of controlling the array of shapes, of containing them into a pattern of connectedness. It is a pattern that connects intrinsically shape against shape and referent against referent; and because of the report of commonplace objects implied and particularly the “SODA” advertisement, connect extrinsically to everyday life in the society Braque participates in.

Through these relationships, both intrinsically and extrinsically, Braque presents an æsthetic complex that moves and delights the viewer and in addition signifies the manners of the society he appears to be in contemplation of: drinking and smoking his pipe in the presence of music. The mode of facture, however, adds to these considerations. All of the patterns of connectedness so far described might, hypothetically at least, have been derived from a variety of painting practices such as Realist, or naturalistic, Still-life, or even from Idealist trompe l’oeil. Braque’s decision to facture in the mode of image-collage therefore ramifies the manners first extrapolated from the patterning.

The image-college, that this painting exemplifies, derives its patterning, the shapes made by Braque’s facture with oil paint on canvas, from perceptions made in Braque’s daily life. The depiction of these perceptions have been deliberately fractured and fragmented. Such fragmentation can partly be understood as an activity of pattern-selection, in which Braque partly insists on his referents (for example the parts of the smoking-pipe) and partly insists only on the shapes necessary to carry out the overall pattern of his chosen circular canvas. But a much broader concern must now be considered. Braque’s facture offers the implied depictions of many planes and also presents these implications as overlapping and intersecting, adding to the fragmentation already apparent from the selected parts of depicted objects. This intersecting and overlapping has the effect of fracturing the spacetime into many spacetimes, offering hints of counterfeit spacetime and immediately breaking any expectation from the hinting. It is an expectancy, perhaps, a viewer may have from having encountered other paintings, but it can never be naturalised. The frequent tendency in viewers to give anecdotal referentiality to picture planes as if they depicted natural spacetimes is prevented here by Braque’s facture. The realism of the painting is the painting itself. The frequency of breakage, of broken expectations, of ambiguities in spacetimes, also leads to comprehending the work as part of an explicit programme of discovery. At the same time the presentation is not about discovery, but what has been found. It becomes an appraisal, and even in part a homage to, earlier paintings in that its innovation relies on the paradigmatic constellation of earlier art in order to break part of those paradigms and innovate into the production of a new paradigm. This innovation is in fact concomitant with parallel phase shifts in western humankind’s comprehension of the world.

Image-collage of the kind described above is not George Braque’s only mode of painting practice. If it was the above description would not alter. Because it is only one mode among others it may be worth considering the ramifications of this here. Many commentators view Braque’s work of this period (which they usually label Cubist) as part of a progression such that each innovation presents a step towards a linear expansion. What works like Braque’s Soda presents, however, need not be so considered. Soda is one of very many works in which Braque and Picasso are in conversation. Daily they exchange viewings and views in the period up until October 1914. Each new work presented what Braque or Picasso had found. In this sense they were innovating continually, but, as any viewer comparing the works of the period will soon comprehend, many of their innovations are lateral, or double-back on work already factured in order to comment again, but anew, on innovations previously made. In short, their work of the period can be considered as contributions to a discourse on æsthetics which both painters continue, differently and divergently to some extent, after their collaborations together, in the larger studio of the world. Their works from this collaborative period are intense exchanges, sometimes in contemplation and sometimes in exuberance, between two sensitive thinkers aware of their presence in a unique phase of European understanding that has shifted the subsequent attentions so radically that no one (presumably) would dare suggest whether humankind will ever recover. Viewing works by these collaborators from this period can be continual pleasure, but as importantly, a learning process that appears to be without exhaustion.

ALLEN FISHER is a poet, painter and art historian, website: He has authored many publications of poetry, graphic work and commentary; recently: SPUTTOR, a book of the poetry, commentary and visual work (Veer Books 2014); The Marvels of Lambeth. Interviews & Statements, 1973-2005, edited by Andrew Duncan (Shearsman Books 2013); a collection of essays is forthcoming from the University of Alabama Press (2015). His visual work is in many collections in America, Britain and the UAE. In autumn 2014, Spanner Editions published TIP REGARD, a set of extracts from poetry in four projects. Allen is currently Emeritus Professor of Poetry & Art at Manchester Metropolitan University, one of Key poets at Voiceworks, Birkbeck College, University of London and Visiting Fellow at Northumbria University.


Anthony Mellors: The Image.

I gave my first poetry reading at the age of eighteen with Gael Turnbull in a folk club in Great Malvern. I must have the poems somewhere, but I daren’t look at them. All I can remember is that a sequence of three were subsequently rejected by The London Magazine, which was not surprising since I misspelled the title and the pieces were full of wistful gestures and words like ‘chiaroscuro’. After the reading, a member of the audience came up and told me that she ‘really liked my imagery’. This pleased me, even though I was sceptical about the quality of my imagery, because I had read that imagery and the image were the essence of poetry itself. The notion of the ‘image’ has become so definitive of twentieth century poetry and beyond that we hardly question it. But what does it mean exactly? A trawl through dictionaries, encyclopedias, and internet poetry sites is as confusing as it is helpful: the image is a verbal representation of objects; it is literal and/or figurative language, the transfer of experience into sensual representation, ‘a compromise for a language of intuition which would hand over sensations bodily’ (T. E. Hulme), the transformation of real things into imaginative ones, the ‘res itself’ (Wallace Stevens); it is a kind of ekphrasis, it aspires to the condition of music; it is subjective, it is objective; it is direct and precise, or indirect and imprecise; it is things; it is ideas. Where does it come from? A frequent answer is ‘Nobody knows’. Yet, for all this conceptual vagueness, literary critic Frank Kermode argued in the 1950s that the ‘doctrine of the image’ is the single most pernicious influence on poetry since the Romantic period. And, more recently, Marjorie Perloff can argue that the Modernist image is redundant in an age of mass media. I will come back to these points. But to begin with I’m going to look at a specifically modernist approach to the problem.

According to Ezra Pound, Basil Bunting’s great contribution to poetics is his neat formulation


‘That did NOT mean’, says Pound in his ABC of Reading, it was something more wafty and imbecile than prose, but something charged to a higher potential.’ In less condensed terms, this means that poetic saying is fundamentally a matter of compressing or packing words and concepts closely together. But Bunting, like Pound, means words and concepts when they take on the attributes of what he calls the ‘image’. While neither poet was particularly interested in the work of Freud, the choice of the term condensare inevitably connects with the discussion of condensation and displacement in The Interpretation of Dreams. Freud’s term for what Strachey translates as ‘condensation’ is Verdichtung, which means to compact. In the dream-work, Freud argues, repression takes two forms: displacement (Verschiebung, to shift, move), which means that new aims and objects are substituted for unpleasant ideas and feelings, and condensation, which means that the impulses behind a dream become translated into a jumble of images forcing together different impressions of the dream-thought at the level of similitude. The coincidental nature of these images is best described as symbolic. In linguistic terms, displacement corresponds with metonymy and condensation with metaphor. following this, we might observe that Pound and Bunting break their own rule. If poetic discipline is to avoid tautology, it fails here: since the word Verdichtung contains both ‘poetry’ and ‘compression’ in one, that is all we need to write. Except, as Pound says of this formulation, ‘Dichten’ is the German verb corresponding to the noun “Dichtung” meaning poetry, and the lexicographer has rendered it by the Italian verb meaning “to condense”.’ (ABC of Reading, 36) Verbal force is better than a noun: to poetize is to condense.

[ctd. here]

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Wellman on Celan/Joris

May 11th, 2015 · Uncategorized

On his blog “immanent occasions: Mental excursions into poetics and cultural anthropology,” Donald Wellman has started to speak to my Celan translations. Much appreciated! Below the opening para; read the rest here:

Celan Joris

In the case of Paul Celan, more so than other poets with the possible exception of Louis Zukofsky, the reader is confronted by the slipperiness and multivalency of individual words. This phenomenon of innovation and concentration, this cast of mind often increases with age. Edward Said wrote a fabulous book on the topic of age and its relation to poetic innovation. A flinty disposition may then engender a hard-edged poetry of inflexible compactness, but yet also a poetry that demolishes borders, fusing memories. One suspects that individual words and phrases come to hold private meanings as well as etymological associations that map the whole of literary history.


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eL Seed: Playing with the Arabic Letters

May 10th, 2015 · Arab Culture, Art

via the always excellent Arabic Literature (in English):

On Thursday, May 7, Tunisian-French artist eL Seed joined artist-publisher Don Karl at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair to talk about his work in Calligraffiti:


Among all the painting work that eL Seed did in a recent tour around Tunis, Don Karl said, the most controversial piece had nothing to do with religious or political authorities. It was in the now-famous village of Tatouine.

“Because some Star Wars fans were not happy,” Don Karl said.

After traveling around the area, and discovering an ancient Roman city nearby, eL Seed said he grew frustrated with the “cultural heritage” status of the Star Wars set, which seemed to dwarf the status of all other — much older — heritage sites. He said he thought: “‘You know what, I’m going to go to the film set, and I’m just going to kill it.’

“I wanted to do a real vandal piece.”

When he arrived, he was given permission to paint on the walls of the abandoned film set, but “I think that was the fastest wall that I ever did in my life, because I thought he was going to change his mind.”

The message he wrote on the Tatouine wall means: “I will never be your son.”

The Tunisian artist, who grew up in France, said that it was his distance from Arabic that allowed him to play with the shapes of the letters.

“If I had known Arabic since I was five or six, I wouldn’t be able to break the rules.” He learned to read and write when he was eighteen “to escape my French identity,” as some in France had made him feel he wasn’t French. But the process of embracing his Tunisian identity, and inventing his own ways of doing calligraphy, also brought him back to embracing his French-ness, about which he spoke about in more depth with Olivia Snaije, below.

eL Seed clarified in his Abu Dhabi talk that he doesn’t do the “correct” sort of calligraphy: “I’m not a calligrapher. I’m just a graffiti artist painting in Arabic.”

Olivia Snaije also interviewed eL Seed in a piece that originally appeared in the Show Daily and on Publishing Perspectives:

By Olivia Snaije

“In the end, painting is simply a pretext to meet the other. The curves that I paint in the street are an invitation to passersby to talk and share,” writes Franco-Tunisian street artist eL Seed, in his book Lost Walls, a Calligraffiti journey through Tunisia.

lost_walls_300eL Seed, whose nom de plume was inspired by Pierre Corneille’s 17th-century play Le Cid, and the Arabic word el sayed, was born and raised in Paris by parents who had emigrated from Tunisia. He grew up speaking Tunisian Arabic but it wasn’t until he was 19 and examining the perplexing condition of being bi-cultural, that he took up studying literary Arabic in search of his identity. It was in the beauty of the curves of Arabic script and the poetry of the language that eL Seed slowly found his calling, first using it in street art in France, later in New York and Montreal.

He had always drawn as a child, but art classes were too expensive and it was not a field that was particularly acceptable to an immigrant family working hard to get ahead.

Armed with a business degree from a prestigious French institution, eL Seed was hired by a firm in New York in 2006.

“It kills you, but it helped me because I prayed to get out of this kind of work,” he said, referring to the corporate milieu. He began painting on weekends as relief from his relentless office work hours and eventually left the business world behind to concentrate on his painting. In 2007 social media was gaining importance and eL Seed said his work would not have had the same impact so quickly 20 years ago: social media played an important role in promoting his painting. (Today, the additional platforms of Instagram or YouTube provide street art with even more visibility.)

Developing a technique that New York art dealer Jeffrey Deitch coined in the 1980s as “Calligraffiti,” eL Seed was even closer to this concept than Deitch could have imagined at the time, because of the use of Arabic calligraphy in all his work, whether it was painting a verse from “At the Top of a Hill” by Brazilian poet Gabriela Torres Barbosa on a favela wall in Rio or a quotation by Nelson Mandela on a wall in Cape Town.

“At first, in Rio, people didn’t understand — they had never seen Arabic calligraphy before. Then when I explained, they were pleased,” said eL Seed. “In Cape Town they were intrigued. The fact that I paint in Arabic creates a dialogue, not a clash. It invites an opening. This is what makes this script magical.”

Although eL Seed had been on a search for his own identity, and certainly his book, which follows street art that he created throughout Tunisia is deeply personal; his work is determinedly universal as well.

“At first, there wasn’t a real thought process involved. Today, it’s a process of sharing. My messages are always sensitive to the local environment, but they all have a universal dimension to them.”

In 2013, when eL Seed was invited to paint the side of La Tour 13, an apartment building slated to be torn down which became the site for an ephemeral exhibition of international street art, he used a line from a poem by Baudelaire, ‘The shape of the city changes faster than people’s heart’, which he translated into Arabic.

“It almost sounded better in Arabic,” said eL Seed. “There’s dimension, power and beauty in Arabic, and a liberty and dynamic in the script that touches the eye before you even read what is written. When people tell me that they don’t understand what is written, I say you have to appreciate it like you would appreciate music in a foreign language — as a universal language.”

The catalyst for the Lost Walls project began following the 2012 riots at an art exhibition near Tunis, which Islamists deemed insulting. “This event sparked numerous debates concerning freedom of expression and the place of the artist in Tunisian society,” wrote eL Seed in Lost Walls. He asked the imam of the Jara mosque in Gabès, where his family is from, whether he could decorate the nearly 50-meter minaret. Several months later he painted a verse from the Koran on it, which he hoped was a message of tolerance and acceptance of others: “O mankind, we have created you from male and female, and have made you into people and tribes so that you may know each other.”

“I wanted to show the different facets of Tunisia,” said eL Seed, concerning his book. He painted on a white clay dome above a café on the island of Djerba, where he researched the Jewish and Berber communities, he decorated an ephemeral wall in Raf Raf, in northern Tunisia, and on a rock in the arid Tatouine village, which lent its name to a fictional planet in Star Wars.

Although street art became an important means of expression throughout the Arab Spring, eL Seed does not consider himself to be political and has no intention of being put in a box or being used for one cause or another. “Just because I am Tunisian and paint in Arabic, people like to put a label on me. I have absolutely no agenda,” he says. “I am here to bring people and communities together.”

In Dubai he has been experimenting with another medium, this time in 3D — sculptural calligraphy in fiberglass. Taking inspiration from a poem by Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, which describes the beauty of a lover despite her age, eL Seed used the poem to declare his love for the art of ancient calligraphy.

Besides developing his sculpture and creating installations, he also writes poetry (in French) and enjoys writing in general.

After his challenging search for his identity, and the difficulty of learning Arabic, he sees the wealth in being multicultural. “Going back to my roots allowed me to be French as well. I understood this when I recently bought my football jersey for the French national team.”

The artist was interviewed for the Fair’s Show Daily, and the piece also appeared in Publishing PerspectivesOlivia Snaije is a journalist, editor, writer and occasional translator based in Paris.

You can find more of the artist’s work at and more about the books Don Karl publishes at

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PEN Gala: Political Correctness Gone Viral

May 5th, 2015 · Cultural Studies, European History, Intellectuals, Islamic Fundamentalists


That a half-dozen writers would counter the PEN proposal to correctly honor Charlie Hebdo with the Toni & James Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award & absent themselves from the Gala is explainable. As indeed Salman Rusdhie did explain their actions, despite the use of one inaccurate word. That nearly two hundred more (PEN-members? writers? fellow-travelers of what?) would jump on the bandwagon of this “boycott” via the net is a bit more surprising & in fact profoundly irritating. Why? Obviously the vast majority of these signers do not know French, have thus not ever read Charlie Hebdo — except possibly for minor excerpts & a few rare cartoons, given that most of the anglo news media treated the whole affair back to its origins with a sense of, how to say, Victorian prissiness. A sort of Protestant puritan white-gloves-on tight-ass-ness (I can already see the Charlie cartoon!) confronted with Gallic-Rabelaisian bravado & excess. They are thus basing their judgments on pure hearsay.

Certainly these signers-on will not have followed Charlie over the years, probably most of them will never have held a single issue in their hands. Would they thus know that (as laid out below) “of the last 500 covers of the paper, no more than 30 took aim at religion? And that, of those 30, just seven—seven!—took issue with Islam? And that the two most problematic cartoons, those that unleashed, in 2006 and 2015, the worldwide explosion of criminal violence of which the massacre of January 7 was the apogee, did not attack Islam as such but rather that distortion of Islam, that insult to and caricature of Islam that is radical Islam?” Of course not — so they and the seven instigators should shut up and first do their home-work to find out what Charlie Hebdo actually is and does. They’ve all been claiming Charlie Heddo as racist, most often quoting a cover on which Christiane Taubira, minister of Justice, a woman of color, is shown as a monkey: the problem is that that image comes from…Minute, a extreme right-wing neo-fascist paper & that Charlie Hebdo was reacting against the racism of the cartoon with a drawing by Charb (one of those killed).

It’s not my favorite magazine, by a far cry, but I have seen & read a large number of issues since its inception (the founders & continuers of the mag are more or less of my generation in that we belong to the “génération ’68.”) Where I am in total agreement with the magazine is that all organized religions, & more specifically the three monotheisms, need to be caricatured, attacked, shown up for the ideological con jobs  & strangleholds they are. The right to blaspheme is essential for our mental health. 

To show that the emperor has no clothes is important: just think of the core regions where our world is going up in flames, or where someone is holding or selling the flamethrowers that do this job — & centrally present & involved in them you’ll find the 3 core religions, misused of course, you may say, but that misuse is the direct and logical outcome of the underlying righteousness any & all religions claim: radical Islam, gone-awry Zionism, evangelical Christianity.

Are there other ways of being critical? Yes indeed — & I may prefer them, as, in relation to radical fascistoid  Islam, my translation & dissemination (on this blog) of Abdelwahab Meddeb’s book The Malady of Islam shows. Today, maybe for the first time ever, I agree with Bernard-Henri Lévy, and now take the liberty to reproduce his current column as Englished by the Daily Beast. (But if you have French also go and check out Pierre Assouline’s blogpost on the same subject. Or check Katha Pollitt’s piece in The Nation, the most accurate piece, in my judgment, on this whole affair in our press.)

Bernard-Henri Lévy:

The PEN Gala and the Gall of the Boycott

Blinding ignorance is what really lies behind the statements of those PEN members who’ve attacked the decision to honor Charlie Hebdo.

The writers who have decided to boycott the PEN American Center’s annual gala in New York on Tuesday, an event at which the courage of Charlie Hebdo is to be honored, rely on five arguments.

The dissenters cannot, they say, endorse the editorial line of a publication that specializes in “criticizing Islam.”

This argument fails on two counts. It fails first because paying tribute to the courage of a team that fought to the death to defend and embody the values of freedom of expression for which PEN is supposed to stand has, by definition, nothing whatsoever to do with whether one approves or disapproves of its editorial line.

And second it fails because characterizing Charlie Hebdo as a newspaper obsessed with some strain of Islamophobia is an error that the most basic fact-checking could have dispelled: is it really necessary to point out that, of the last 500 covers of the paper, no more than 30 took aim at religion? And that, of those 30, just seven—seven!—took issue with Islam? And that the two most problematic cartoons, those that unleashed, in 2006 and 2015, the worldwide explosion of criminal violence of which the massacre of January 7 was the apogee, did not attack Islam as such but rather that distortion of Islam, that insult to and caricature of Islam that is radical Islam? That is a fact.

Nevertheless, insist 35-odd writers who believe that Charlie Hebdo has already had, as Joyce Carol Oates had the gall to utter, enough publicity, seven, even two, are too many. Especially when we are dealing with caricatures inspired (sic) by “hate” and “racism.”

This argument reveals complete ignorance about the history of a paper that has always been in the forefront of the struggle against racism, as expressed in its support for SOS Racisme in the 1990s, its organization of large democratic rallies in the early Sarkozy years, and its firing of the cartoonist Siné for anti-Semitism. It also attests to a misunderstanding of freedom of thought and of the First Amendment, as well as of the boundary that divides criticism of an idea from hostility to those who hold it; the deconstruction of dogma from calls to murder those who follow that dogma; and the gentle Cabu, who poked fun at all systems of belief and all forms of bigotry, from the former actor Dieudonné, who misses the days when the Jewish journalists he doesn’t like could be marched off to a gas chamber.

Argument number three: We accept the boundary, they say. But it is tenuous, fragile. And when you’re dealing with a community that is itself fragile and vulnerable because it still bears wounds from the humiliations of the colonial era, prudence is called for. Let us skip over this vision, itself exquisitely humiliating, of a community reduced to a bunch of simple-minded individuals punch-drunk from poverty and incapable of understanding that the famous drawing of a benevolent human prophet, an apostle of kindness and tolerance, who was frustrated that it was “hard to be loved by idiots,” did not stigmatize the prophet’s message but amplified and saved it.

I’m sorry, American friends, but it was by the same reasoning that many Europeans hesitated, on September 11, 2001, to take the side of the 2,958 victims of the attacks carried out by 19 representatives of the “party of the humiliated” against the world capital of “imperialism.”

This habit of consigning Muslims to the colonial past of their grandparents, of declaring that a certain segment of the French population of which “a large percentage” are “devout Muslims” (how much do the boycotters really know about this?) were “shaped by the legacy of France’s various colonial enterprises” and that this is the source of their suffering today, has one effect and one only: to distract us from the other possible causes of that suffering; to divert the attention of those sufferers from the abuses of power of, for example, imams trained in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, or Yemen; and, along the way, to ignore the very real humiliation represented by the spectacle of assassins executing courageous journalists in the name of the Quran.

The fourth argument is no less than shameful. It is the argument of arrogance. Yes, you read that right. The word was indeed spoken. As if this little newspaper, penniless from its origins, libertarian by temperament and doctrine, hostile to all forms of power and  self-importance, somehow falls on the dark side of power because only one of the 12 victims (copyeditor Moustapha Ourrad) was from the community “marginalized and victimized” by the neocolonial arrogance of France. As if, in a mirror image, the assassins were somehow on the side of resistance against that power, on the side of the victimized and humiliated.

I’m sorry, American friends, but it was by the same reasoning that many Europeans hesitated, on September 11, 2001, to take the side of the 2,958 victims of the attacks carried out by 19 representatives of the “party of the humiliated” against the world capital of “imperialism.” And it is the same reasoning that I myself confronted when, the following year, I carried out my investigation into the death of Daniel Pearl, that other young hero who, like the editor of Charlie Hebdo, preferred to die on his feet rather than live on his knees but who made the mistake, in the eyes of the French equivalents of Francine Prose, Rachel Kushner, and Teju Cole, of being (i) Jewish, (ii) American, and (iii) a correspondent for a newspaper that they saw as a symbol of the reigning power.

And now for the last argument, which would be laughable if the situation were not so tragic. According to Australian novelist Peter Carey, two-time winner of the Booker Prize, PEN is called upon to defend a writer only when he or she is a victim of censorship … by a government!

By that standard, so much for essayist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is threatened not by the Dutch government but by the killer of Theo Van Gogh and his followers from the red mosque of Islamabad. By the same standard, must we abandon Taslima Nasreen, who has lived for 20 years under threat, not from the now secular government of Bangladesh, but from the fundamentalists hordes of the entire Indian subcontinent? And how should the writers of the United States and world have reacted if Salman Rushdie, once the Iranian government lifted its fatwa, had been seriously threatened by nongovernmental jihadists affiliated, for example, with Al Qaeda or the so-called Islamic State?

I think back to PEN’s timidity in the face of the Stalinist terror of the 1930s and the post-Stalinist terror of the 1950s.

And to the deplorable Congress of Dubrovnik of 1933, at which the predecessors of Peter Carey refused to take a position against the book-burnings in Germany.

The truth, the sad and terrible truth, is that we are once again in the midst of one of those episodes of collective blindness—or fear—of which the intellectual history of the last century gave us so many examples.

The differences are that, this time, the scene is not Europe but the United States and that the party of courage, honor, and decency seems, for the moment, to have won out.

But for how long?

Translated from the French by Steven B. Kennedy.

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