The first time I was made aware of Emily Critchley was in Cambridge in 2006 or 2007 when she was, I believe, still doing her PhD. She gave a lecture to us clueless undergrads on Lyn Hejinian and Leslie Scalapino. It was a time when I was gradually becoming exposed to the poetic avant garde and the experimental and polemic potential of lyric poetry, including the New York Language school and the Cambridge school. It seemed a world away from the late nineteenth century/early twentieth century American poetry I was devouring at the time, though it actually wasn’t. I didn’t speak to Emily because I was shy and she was impressive, though I would have liked to have thanked her for her lecture, which was highly formative.
Since then, Emily has garnered over 10 years’ experience in academia and published over 12 books and chapbooks. Her book Love / All That / & OK: Selected Writing (Penned in the Margins, 2011) brought together writing from her previous shorter titles, and remained by my bedside, and in my handbag, and on my desk at work, and wherever I went for a very long time. (‘The Triumph of Misogyny’, the poem at the heart of Isabel Galleymore’s essay in this issue of Prac Crit, comes from that same collection.) I imagine Critchley’s forthcoming pamphlet-length poem, Ten Thousand Things (Boiler House Press, 2017), will lead a similarly peripatetic existence when I get my hands on it. I am honoured to have had the opportunity to get a taste of this epic, all-encompassing piece of writing before it has made its way finally to print. The opening pages of Ten Thousand Things appear here for the first time; our conversation also occasionally roamed into later, as-yet unpublished sections of the poem.
The thing that strikes me immediately about ‘Ten Thousand Things’ (‘TTT’), and indeed your previous work, is how referential it is. It’s always pointing towards other texts and, in some ways, that might push against the idea of practical criticism, because it’s forcing you to look outside of the page – would you agree?
Interesting question. I certainly came to poetry via a prac crit approach originally – somewhat in the vacuum of a very non-literary family. I think one of the most thrilling things about contemporary poetry, and certainly one of the reasons I’ve always been drawn to it above poetry of other periods, is the feeling you often get that you could be one of the first people ever to read it, the uncharted territory. I think the best poems should survive an absolutely ‘innocent’ reading. That is to say, there should be enough going on that is of interest, semantically, musically, even visually, ‘on the page’. That said, I’m also a firm believer that the more that is known about a poem, its historical context, intertextual borrowings, and so forth, the more knowing layers should be appreciable within it… So, it’s something of a cliché to say, but I believe the greatest texts work on such different levels simultaneously.
Do you have any thoughts on the political nature of references within poems? By which I simply mean that if a poet refers to certain texts which, say, some readers might not have read, is that politically problematic for you? Do they cut the text off from some readers by making it ‘harder’ or less accessible?
Well, ‘politics’ is a broad term! I guess I wouldn’t want to be too narrow in terms of saying what is or isn’t problematic either way. My (almost a decade’s worth of) experience teaching at a university where a huge proportion of the students are new to poetry, and come from very diverse backgrounds, has shown me how much literature widely considered to be ‘difficult’ or ‘inaccessible’ is actually very appreciable – if not completely intellectually graspable (the latter being, of course, impossible at any stage or level). But, to build on what I said before, my experience of teaching has also brought home to me in very immediate ways the importance of embedding the layers we’re talking about. Certainly, in my own work, I’m less interested in preaching directly to the already converted these days.
Quite! In ‘TTT’, there’s such a range of touchpoints – you get three lines in and there’s a reference to Othello (I think) but also to aphorisms like ‘leading a horse to water’, and so on. It’s very rich, but also very productive, placing these things together.
I have been told that ‘TTT’ was written in one go at 3am. Is that true and why did that come about? Is that reflective of your usual writing process?
Thank you. In ‘TTT’ I’m aiming for a much more universalised choice of words, with the richest set of metaphorical permutations possible. Shakespeare is in there, as is lots of Heidegger, the Tao Te Ching, ‘common’ English proverbs (detourned), Borges, and so on, but hopefully you wouldn’t need to know any of these allusions directly or immediately to enjoy the poem. If anything, the poem is something of an attempt to critique ‘our knowing’ in a purely academic sense…
As I emailed Peter Middleton the other day: ‘I know what you mean about the “music of flowers”. I do tend toward a Platonic line, here, about the limits of human knowing, especially where the environment is concerned – hence the pastoral imagery. And my overwhelming concerns at the moment are environmental ones: how our species has become so clever that it is well on the way to making itself extinct (via, e.g., desertification, among other disasters), [while all ‘lesser’ species (animals, insects, plants), ‘know’ instinctively to preserve their habitat to protect the future of their line]):
I am also, here, taking my cue from the Tao Te Ching, which strongly recommends “book learning” (like desire) should be diminished: “It was when intelligence and knowledge appeared that the Great Artifice began.”1 And “The pursuit of learning is to increase day after day. The pursuit of Tao is to decrease the doing of the self day after day.”2 Heidegger is also, obviously, a big influence on my work, with his views that Enlightenment thinking have veiled over the pre-Socratic insights we once had, the kind of intuitive, poetic thinking that is the only one that can really speak to being… I guess the “spiritual” (if you want to call it that) aspect in the Heideggerian and Taoist sources also pertains to the dust, which I happen not to read as a “Christian demeaning of physical life’” so much as a crucial part of the life cycle. Much more widely than in Christianity and other religions, dust / ashes represent death, but also rebirth: fertiliser! The natural world cannot do without them.’
I’m a very perverse academic in that I believe passionately in the pros of learning and teaching and exploring a subject in depths. But I believe very seriously in its limits also, and in the risk of too much scholastic hubris. Perhaps precisely because of our ‘thrownness’ (in Heideggerian terms) into a set of culturally determined structures which, by their nature, always preclude other things.
As for the process of writing ‘TTT’. That is not my usual approach, no… I wish it were!
Was there a specific impetus, some drive or reason that prompted the poem to be written like that?
There was a concatenation of events that inspired the poem, including: a very involved chat about Heidegger with the novelist Alex Pheby at work; an ongoing dialogue I was having with a friend, Jack Wake-Walker, about feminism and his film, Ten Thousand Things (in turn, inspired by the Lao Tzu), in which certain misogynistic tropes about women are presented, and to which my poem is something of a counter-argument; personal difficulties in my own life, above all, the struggle to be a devoted mother to a small child and academic and poet and feminist etc…. All these different considerations came gushing forth one sleepless night, having been percolating, clearly, for years (the years I took off writing poems and articles to be my daughter’s primary carer). So, to answer your question, ‘TTT’ had to be written like that because that’s how it arrived, pretty fully formed, in my head!
Productive insomnia! Can you elaborate a bit more on the gender aspects – those clichéd tropes about women, for example?
Aside from these personal jumping off points, then, ‘TTT’ is a kind of working through of a more general anxiety of cultural influence, the hereditary (intertextual) ‘line’ we (all genders) have to tight-rope walk, that often tries to bind us:
But on the question of women specifically, the poem critiques the age-old clichés that women are lesser in a hierarchical binary of two: more animalistic (‘bitch is the earth’), more emotional / less able to reason; that their value comes from being objectified, ‘looked at’ and desired, rather than having desires, intellection, personhood themselves, or from being nurturers, vessels, of / to others merely. As a later section of the poem puts it:
All the stuff many feminists before me have already exploded, yet which keeps always bobbing back to the surface of daily life… For example, Hélène Cixous:
Form vs matter (Aristotle), feeling vs intellection, and so forth. ‘TTT’ strongly rejects such binaries, suggesting that both terms (and everything in between) are always in play in everyone.
It certainly does and yes, these things don’t seem to go away, this sort of Apollonian / Dionysian distinction. And while it’s binary it’s also hierarchical, as you say. Your lines, ‘It started / with she as a matter / of course’… this seems to me to do two things – one about inverting that binary gender hierarchy and two, about making women whole ‘matter’, body and intellect intact?
Exactly. So the opening of ‘TTT’ is a pointing out of the (to me) obvious: that all humans, all genders, are part animal, part ‘base’ – according to some readings – because rooted in nature, as well as culture, part descended from historical, ontological formations…
Right, and the poem as a whole for me worked in such a balanced way on both levels.
Yes! Thank you for noticing that. She as ‘matter’ being an old cliché (or par for the ‘course’). But also, of course she is partly matter (ashes / dust / loam). And so is he.
I play with Judeo-Christian myths of Eve’s origin in this poem – ‘bones for eyes’ – and I think elsewhere too. The references to the desert tie in with this mythic beginning: exile to a place of permanent toil.
I will have to ask you about line breaks because that line above is broken up so perfectly, but before that, could you talk through how you approach pronouns in this poem? How to deal with pronouns crops up a lot in your work, and I find it a really fascinating and difficult thing in writing too, so I’d be interested to hear how you approach them.
I guess the easiest summary of my approach to the pronoun would be that it’s an attempt to upend expectations, to undercut clichés – in and for its own sake (defamiliarization) – but also to undermine gendered preconceptions. I wrote about this at some length in an online piece for The Claudius App:
So that’s the context of a lot of the she / he / it switching I do throughout my work. Just as, in ‘TTT’, I made sure that the dog was referred to by all 3 pronouns on different occasions.
Do you see this approach as being playful as much as it is about asserting equality? There’s a certain warmth and humour to the line from ‘My Notes…’, which struck me when I read that poem.
Definitely! The line about LEGO PIECES is absurd! My essay ‘Moi aussi, Marianne’ is devoted to unpacking the humour I hope is central to much of my writing (even of the punchy kind). Humour is key to transgression and transgression is key to political change. To add to what I said before about the gendering of the dog: I possibly got this (unconsciously) from a reading I gave many years ago at Dartington with the completely wonderful poet Jow Lindsay Walton, during which he read a poem playing with the idea that most people hear the word ‘nurse’ and imagine a female. ‘Did you think the nurse was a man? You’re a disgrace if you did. The nurse was a DOG. IDIOT.’
As I wrote in ‘Moi aussi, Marianne’, I believe that ‘Poetry as a source of laughter – a pre- as well as post-cognitive process – wonder or surprise (via, for instance, ostranenie) can work against or around reason, tradition or familiarity, short-circuiting habituated thinking.’ Or perhaps it would be better to say: transgression is key to humour, which in turn, can be used to wrong-foot us out of habituated wrongness.
That’s great. And yes, humour seems central to your work. Like ‘Ain’t gonna work on our farm no more’, which I took to be a little dig at the dude-bro obsession with Dylan, set against a poem that plays off against the workaday, familiar act of working on your garden… I wonder, also, if very simply humour makes people listen because they feel they are not being lectured – it’s like a useful guerrilla tactic to get a point across?
Absolutely. And is central to the mind-control I aim at when teaching…
Did I say ‘mind-control’ I meant gentle persuasion…
Of course… Going back to the dog, if we may.
When we first meet ‘the dog’, who is our introduction to the poem, he / she / it has a definite article. Later on, it doesn’t – he’s become a character (a bit like, dare I say, Ted Hughes’ Crow). Is that a fair observation?
It’s been too many years since I read Ted Hughes’ Crow poems to compare them usefully in any detail, though I vaguely recall Hughes was aiming for a similarly ‘universal’, almost shamanistic figure in his use of the bird? In which case, yes. As far as articles or their absence are concerned in ‘TTT’, that’s all part of the general movement between the particular and the universal (and back again) that the poem aims at. That said, lines like, say, ‘stick leading dog’ and ‘the dog is part of every human’, i.e. with or without articles, are equally interpretable as particular or general.
Then the Heideggerian notion of the four-fold is hinted at, in contrast with the dog motif, drawing a distinction, in short, between humans and animals: ‘dogs do not have to bear all this being four times more grounded by earth & sky’; theirs is an existence outside the cultural realm of mortals and divinities. This obviously counteracts all the parallels between the dog and humans also drawn by the poem.
When you mentioned the playing around with Judeo-Christian narratives of creation it struck a bit of a familiar bell… I love this section: ‘Yet / in the beginning the world is all beauty / while woman sleeps through this / wanting, desiring. Dog lurks / in the background frame. Cannot lead / its way out of this paradise. Needs lying. / Needs treating as equal’. What sort of a role is dog / the dog playing here?
‘In the beginning’ is obviously a very biblical phrase. That stanza you mention is a tricky one. I don’t want / wouldn’t be able to paraphrase it, but it’s certainly a critique of the Genesis myth, which underlies so much of western culture / poetry / thinking about gender. That ‘We dream merely not to be replicas of the earliest line’ (in the stanza before) is important context.
I was going to ask you about that line – and other references to repetition and circularity: ‘we start back at the end’, and so on.
‘[T]he world being all beauty’ is a paradisial reference, as is ‘woman sleeps through this’. Traditionally, the Eve-figure is taken to be the ignorant one (who can’t appreciate what the unlucky pair has been given), yet simultaneously the cunning one, because she desires more (knowledge). It would be too simplistic to say the dog just reappears here as a cipher for the serpent, but also: why not (having established that it’s a cipher)? Dog is also representative here of the ‘baser’, more animal nature assigned to woman historically (especially by the early Church Fathers of Christianity),4 or akin to Denise Riley’s ‘Savage’ in ‘A Note On Sex And “The Reclaiming Of Language”’.
The poem as a whole seems to speak to itself, referencing itself as well as some of the outside sources mentioned above. It’s referencing the process of writing itself, would you say?
Definitely. Hence what I said at the start about my wanting to write more and more things that are self-contained (self-explanatory?), as well as highly intertextual or dialogical, part of our cultural line – with the wish to re-encounter that line tranformatively. The poem is, hopefully, a map of itself and not too challenging. Also, it’s meant to be, not circular exactly, but let’s say helical, in the tradition of the phenomenological dialectic. A kind of worrying about whether change is actually the same as progress, or whether we start back at the end each time. A gathering and expanding upon its own motifs as it goes along. The poem (language) as net trying to catch more than just itself, some answers!
I like the idea that it’s helical. When you say, ‘Line has caught up with itself / back on itself!’ it seems to fit that shape and it seems also a celebration of this reflexiveness.
Yes, though hopefully with a sense of forward motion too – a teleological or hermeneutic circle (of a Heideggerian kind) that relies upon repetitive but progressive acts of interpretation, the gathering of extra information, or at least insight, with each new attempt, however imperfect.
Or at least that’s what the poem suggests humans yearn and strive for. Whether they or the poem succeed is not resolved.
We should come back to line breaks… there are some great ones in this poem.
These were used consciously for maximal enjambment, and thus maximal ambiguity. So each meaning could go one of at least two ways.
I am personally slightly obsessed with line breaks for that very reason. They can be ludic and / or productive, in the way we were talking about earlier – making a point with humour…
Yes! And they are what distinguish poetry from every other written genre.
There are obviously some that are very considered and productive – for example, early on in the poem, ‘beauty / leading the vice / versa can also work too’… which, now that you mention it, is sort of metapoetically expressing that very issue of the turn at the end of the line…
Yes! Being placed in our line and then trying to do something different. I set out sort of at high speed to attempt as many lines as possible that might both stand alone and have their meanings changed via an enjambment, like ‘The dog is a part of every human / experience’, or ‘It is very happy on every one / of its limbs’, and so on.
Then there are these false endings / false starts such as ‘Only’ at the end of the first stanza, which is meant to draw particular attention to the end of lines as hinges which may lead forward or back depending. The same goes for ‘Man is // But what is woman therefore.’
Does that inform the way you do or do not use question marks in the poem? There are several lines that are really questions rather than statements but are presented almost as statements… Say, ‘wondering / what happened to her’ works as a statement, but ‘what happened to her’ on her own would be a question.
The thinking being to prepare the reader for some grandiose statement / definition of ‘man’ (the universal subject pronoun for human), which is then broken off or interrupted, to think about where that leaves ‘woman’.
The logic behind the question marks or not is similar. Questions are presented as statements or vice versa, so that everything is up for grabs and questionable. It is also a playing up of the influence of the Tao Te Ching with its axiomatic qualities.
Yes, and works to kick against expectation. I find reading it that even though you get into the rhythm of the interchangeability of question and statement, it still surprises you when you read the next one.
This goes back again to the Tao Te Ching. The lack of grammatical clarity in the Tao is such that varied, even contradictory interpretations are possible, even desirable. And since (the internet tells me) there are no punctuation marks in Classical Chinese, it can be difficult to conclusively determine where one sentence ends and the next begins. I loved this idea and ran with it in ‘TTT’.
I also jumped at the suggestion of my publisher, Nathan Hamilton, to divide the poem out over separate pages in its printed form. This would reflect the way the Tao Te Ching has come down to us in fragments, as hundreds of different slips of bamboo – possibly written by one author, possibly several – but has been reconfigured as different chapters afterwards.
It both draws the ambiguities out even further and makes the poem look more axiomatic. I’d like to think that it will encourage a reader to pause at certain key moments too: to think beyond ‘the line’.
You say ‘Arrogance of man – / that he contain woman / & world in a pattern like music, / disinterested meaning!’ Do you think of rigid form as being a masculine demand?
I don’t, although the repressive qualities of phallogocentrism and misogyny are equated persuasively and challenged by the work of the second wave French feminists. I’d like to think the questions asked by and manifested in my poem are more open-ended and ambivalent: what is ‘a pattern like music’ meant to mean anyway? ‘Music’ could hardly be said to equate to ‘rigid form’…
I am, however, interested in how the ‘containment’ of meaning (as well as of women) has occurred and been critiqued, historically, in a variety of ways, especially by phenomenological thought, which allows a feminist to challenge phallogocentrism not simply via a gendered ‘opposite’ – écriture féminine – but by a Heideggerian understanding of the non-logocentricism already inherent in logos (as the Pre-Socratics recognised); logos as, not simply logic, but a letting-something-be-seen, whether present or absent, which does not reduce absence to a lack. (I have written about this in detail elsewhere.)
That Heideggerian thought has much in common with the Tao Te Ching is hugely interesting to me and I’m only at the beginning of working out how much East Asian thought Heidegger actively borrowed. We know he was friends with a number of Japanese intellectuals, including members of the Kyoto School, and his ‘A Dialogue on Language: between a Japanese and an Inquirer’ in On the Way to Language is a clue to the intellectual parallels. The academic Reinhard May has suggested that ‘in particular instances Heidegger even appropriated wholesale and almost verbatim major ideas from the German translations of Daoist and Zen Buddhist classics’.5 My own suspicions were raised when writing my PhD about the intersections between Language poetry, European phenomenology and poststructuralism, feminist thought, transnational (anti-colonial) thinking and Zen Buddhism – specifically in the work of Leslie Scalapino, Rosmarie Waldrop and Lyn Hejinian.
So to return to ‘TTT’, the fact that I position non-cognitive (usually pastoral) elements, such as ‘the eyes / of flowers’ or ‘the water of all our / myth-making’ or ‘the birds to follow our meaning / seed’ besides lots of references to human knowing or ‘sense’ (as well as feeling) is my attempt to draw attention to the kinds of sensing that are pre-conceptual or non-logical. That words (logos) are obviously central to so many of our theories, myths, stories – including the most misogynistic ones – and other attempts to pin down reflective thought, yet remain risibly insufficient, and indeed can often magnify error via what they leave out and scatter meaning as much as reflect it (‘mirrors-for-eyes’) is one of the poem’s motifs:
Yet and hence words, logos, might also be used to escape stuckness, fossilized thinking, in the general scattering…
Picking up one of the words that’s repeated a lot – techne – how far do you see the poem as an account of process or craft rather than a ‘made thing’?
‘TTT’ is certainly written in a self-reflexive mode. That is to say, I set out with the concept of techne in mind, the intent of which is making or doing as opposed to disinterested or purely theoretical understanding. But I also set out with a generally anti-dualistic approach (as we’ve already discussed) to collapse binaries, such as the ancient oppositions posited between knowing and doing. The ancient Greeks thought techne, which pertained to all the mechanic arts – including music! – to be primarily limited to the domestic sphere, rather than the free realm of the Greek polis, which of course excluded women and slaves. Hence, partly, my ‘Arrogance of man – / that he contain woman / & world in a pattern like music, / disinterested meaning’. Yet, to simplify hugely, in our modern era a kind of technical, mechanized instrumentality is privileged above all other approaches to being. For Heidegger, poetry (from the Greek poeisis) is a bringing-forth ‘out of unconcealment’ the truth of things (aletheia), while modern technology is a challenging-forth which reduces everything to a ‘standing reserve’. Hence, sort of, my poem’s repeated questions as to what things are for: ‘But what were we / saying for.’ Not including question marks after questions is also, partly, an attempt to not limit the process of questioning to its most obvious, instrumental manifestation.
I regard Heidegger’s views on technology and enframing (Gestell) as extremely prescient, given our age of technologized, environmental disaster. I’ve also been preoccupied for a while now by his concerns that poetry’s mode of disclosive saying (Dichtung) embodies the ontological dynamic of aletheia, because its ‘saying’ is simultaneously a ‘showing’ – a causing of what is spoken to come to presence, or appear in time:
An open-ended question – could you talk through your thinking around how you use the word ‘debase’ and its cognates in ‘TTT’?
In its simplest form, the word appears in connection with a depreciation of value: to call a human ‘base’ might be to lower her value to the status of say an animal (such as a dog) or commodity in the general economy of things – though, as already discussed, my poem is not so sure about such nature / culture, knowing / sensing oppositions. I was provoked by certain misogynistic strains in the film, Ten Thousand Things, mentioned before, one of the final lines of which is:
This film put me in mind of the essay by Freud, ‘On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love’ and post-Freudian, Lacanian psychoanalytic schools of phallocentric sexuation, in which woman has been defined, traditionally, by lack.6 Yet there have been contemporary moves to rescue Lacanian thought from such essentialist readings, such as in an essay by Krzysztof Ziarek, ‘Love and the Debasement of Being: Irigaray’s Revisions of Lacan and Heidegger’. In this essay, Ziarek attempts to heal the divisions between Lacanian and Irigarayan thinking from the perspective of their common Heideggerian heritage: ‘The critique of love as a certain debasement of being, as a veiling of the temporality and finitude of existence, is obviously at the heart of [Lacan’s] Encore’, yet is reworked by Irigaray who ‘reformulates the relation to the other outside the logic of both recognition and desire’ in a move that goes beyond both love and desire and into wider ethical terrain.7
It would be fair to say that all these different arguments were lurking somewhere in the back of my subconscious while writing ‘TTT’, and that a similar desire to shift ‘the discussion of love and sexual relation away from [metaphysical] negation and lack to temporality and embodiment’ lay behind the piece,8 as well as, other corollary cultural determinations, such as ethics, labour, heredity and the bringing up of children. Hence its focus on temporality, reoccurrence, but also change. To ask how we got to ‘this time’ as well as whether or how ‘this time’ things could unfold differently (again, this is an extract from later on in the poem):
To finish, going back to the question of understanding poetry on different levels as you mentioned earlier on, would you say that poetry should affect the reader in a muscular way as well as an intellectual way?
If by muscular, you mean the kind of intuitive, affective ways we’ve been considering, then absolutely, yes! A poem isn’t a purely intellectual exercise, though a lot of its pleasure might come from working out its meanings, echoes, significance. But just as poetry defies paraphrasing, even translating (to some extent), because of the border territory it shares with music and the visual arts (not to mention performance, film, documentary and other media), so there is more going on in a poem than can be reasonably understood or quantified: ‘singing and thinking are the stems / neighbour to poetry’ as Heidegger put it in ‘The Thinker as Poet’.
Hence the inherent contradictions which seam through most of my work, defying laws of traditional (Aristotelian) logic, but which hope to ‘rend, as a separating that gathers […] like the pen-drawing of a plan or sketch, draws and joins together what is held apart in separation.’9
1 Tao Te Ching, trans. Arthur Waley, Chap. 18.
2 Tao Te Ching, trans. W. T. Chan, Chap. 48.
3 Hélène Cixous, ‘Sorties: Out and Out: Attacks/Ways Out/Forays,’ The Newly Born Woman, trans. Betsy Wing (University of Minnesota Press, 1986), 62-63.
4 Woman Defamed and Woman Defended is a wonderful text, collating the misogynistic writings of medieval European antifeminism, and had a big, early influence on me. It ‘introduces us to four areas of discussion […] indict[ing] women on traditional counts. She is ‘animal’ (bestia), ‘snake’, or other venomous creature; she is inveterately jealous of rivals; she nags in abrasive language (virulentis sermonibus); she presumes to offer her ‘counsel’, but her counsel is one long shopping list […] and the Word is beyond the scope of her limited understanding in any case’ [ed. Alcuin Blamires (Oxford University Press, 1996), 1]. This anthology of medieval texts tracks the sources of such thinking back to ancient Judaic law, early Greek physiology and even English proverbs, such as: ‘Dogs keep on pissing, and women keep on weeping.’ The latter half of the book is devoted to the first European feminist responses to such thinking.
5 Reinhard May, Heidegger’s Hidden Sources: East Asian Influences on his Work (Routledge, 1996), xv.
6 ‘This gloomy prognosis rests […] on the single conjecture that the non-satisfaction that goes with civilisation is the necessary consequence of certain peculiarities that the sexual instinct has assumed under the pressure of culture.’ [Freud, ‘On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love’ (1912), 259.]
9 Heidegger, ‘Language’, in Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter (Harper and Row, 1971), 204.
The dog is a part of every human
experience. It is very happy on every one
of its limbs. It bites / does not bite
the hand that mocks it.
Besides which, leading a dog
to water means only one thing. River
’s a mouth, the dog is endless. She cannot
change what she does not
The stick is a thing to beat the human
with. The dog deserves this. Trailing
its tail in the dirt. Meanwhile we miss
beauty in all its small places. Have not
the patience nor courage to please the dog.
To not lead the dog. Intentionally.
What is the body for
if not this thing to beat us
with. But what is it for
now? Where is
our knowing when
it becomes nothing but
blind dust leading
We have this thing. Isn’t any
kind of complexity. Doesn’t howl
when it’s called. Human flowing
through dust. Basin of time.
Unsupportable howling. Man is
But what is woman therefore. In the scene
where he enters. And where,
the dog. Narration
that figures is closing. The net is it
tightening. When he will settle
/forget. Her into the discourse.
When he will cut a line
into it, like a poem.
We have this thing
is it intentional.
Some think it is stick leading
dog. But is it the will leading
the moments, or beauty
leading the vice
versa can also work too. But of course
When you follow the time
is all backwards, is it all or apart.
When you follow this
had to add up to itself before
its presentment. And we who have time
at hand, as our stick, as our
eye leading the eye. Hand
held open to mock
What is that we are doing:
tradition, childhood, that wild
& whirring. That faux seeing.
Words are a net closing in
on the subject
of guilt, purpose, love
or presentment, swearing
they are mirrors-for-
eyes. Either way dogs
do not have to bear all this
being four times more
grounded by earth &
But what is he doing now.
And what she is following
before him, leading him on
to the story of eyes.
It was older than that. It started
with she as matter
of course. No as he
as bones for eyes.
Taken as closing or doing
or wanting. Ha
he is – uh ah – she has
started the game where
the dog is meaning
is unknown. No but how
known the dog is the she-wolf,
bitch is the earth. We come
after that meaning, suddenly
coming to life in this dangerous line
that does us no obvious good.
The thread is that too. But what were we
saying for. Dog is a dreamer who needs
to survive in the beauty’s glow. Walking
that line is a line of much weight.
Many centuries flowing & pressing
on her but on him. And we dreamt
while we were awake.
Was this a terror of things. And we work
for that. Noiselessly toiling,
trailing our hopes in the dust
for the birds to follow our meaning
seed. Loam in our heart.
Sky is untouched, but the river
follows the bends of our meaning
obviously. Jumps ahead to the place
– we will be when we come
down to earth
for a final time. Before the beginning.
We have that terror, that hook
at the end of the line. Knowing always.
Dog does not have to bear so much
freedom or pain. Is mere cipher
of line, hook
for this story that’s leading. Until
we start back at the end.
First Published by Prac Crit.