One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in his bed he had been changed into a banana. No … no no no. One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in his bed he had been changed into a kangaroo. No … no no no. Dammit. One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in his bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug. Ohhhhhhhkkkkkkaaaaaay. Call me F. I dusted off my ones and twos and put this mix together – it’s my sunrise in Coachella, tribute to the master dome, road trips to the middle of nowhere, dead horses on the side of the road, together as one, and nothing less than bottle service mix. A flask of nitrous & the nurse’s little shudderlaugh — until starlight drinks up enough shadow that — Toward the end of the Meridian Variorum edition the editors reprint a radio play Paul Celan wrote the same year he composed the acceptance speech for the Büchner prize. It is made up of two alternating voices telling an abbreviated version of Mandelstam’s life and a number of Mandelstam poems in Celan’s German translation. I have no Russian & have retranslated these poems directly from Celan’s German versions, without referring to any extent English translations from the Russian (unless some of the Englished versions I read over the years still ghost my memory, a possibility I cannot exclude). Here, a few extracts: first, the speakers discussing Mandelstam’s poetics, and then, one — rather well-known — poem: 1. Speaker: These poems are the poems of someone who is perceptive and attentive, someone turned toward what becomes visible, someone addressing and questioning; these poems are a conversation. In the space of this conversation the addressed constitutes itself, becomes present, gathers itself around the I that addresses and names it. But the addressed, through naming, as it were, becomes a you, brings its otherness and strangeness into this present. Yet even in the here and now of the poem, even in this immediacy and nearness it lets its distance have its say too, it guards what is most its own: its time. 2. Speaker: It is this tension of the times, between its own and the foreign, which lends that pained-mute vibrato to a Mandelstam poem by which we recognize it. (This vibrato is everywhere: in the interval between the words and the stanza, in the “courtyards” where rhymes and assonances stand, in the punctuation. All this has semantic relevance.) Things come together, yet even in this togetherness the question of their Wherefrom and Whereto resounds – a question that “remains open,” that “does not come to any conclusion,” and points to the open and cathexable, into the empty and the free. 1. Speaker: This question is realized not only in the “thematics” of the poems; it also – and that’s why it becomes a “theme” – takes on shape in the language: the word – the name! – shows a preference for noun-forms, the adjective becomes rare, the “infinitives,” the nominal forms of the verb dominate: the poem remains open to time, time can join in, time participates. … 2. Speaker: A poem from the year 1915:
Insomnia. Homer. Sails, taut.
I read the catalog of ships, did not get far:
The flight of cranes, the young brood’s trail
high above Hellas, once, before time and time again.
Like that crane wedge, driven into the most foreign –
The heads, imperial, God’s foam on top, humid –
You hover, you swim – whereto? If Helen wasn’t there,
Acheans, I ask you, what would Troy be worth to you?
Homer, the seas, both: love moves it all.
Who do I listen to, who do I hear? See – Homer falls silent.
The sea, with black eloquence beats this shore,
ahead I hear it roar, it found its way here.
1. Speaker: In 1922, five years after the October revolution, “Tristia,” Mandelstam’s second volume of poems comes out. The poet – the man for whom language is everything, origin and fate – is in exile with his language, “among the Scythians.” “He has” – and the whole cycle is tuned to this, the first line of the title poem – “he has learned to take leave – a science”. Mandelstam, like most Russian poets – like Blok, Bryusov, Bely, Khlebnikov, Mayakovsky, Esenin – welcomed the revolution. His socialism is a socialism with an ethico-religious stamp; it comes via Herzen, Mihkaylovsky, Kropotkin. It is not by chance that in the years before the revolution the poet was involved with the writings of the Chaadaevs, Leontievs, Rozanovs and Gershenzons. Politically he is close to the party of the Left Social Revolutionaries. For him – and this evinces a chiliastic character particular to Russian thought – revolution is the dawn of the other, the uprising of those below, the exaltation of the creature – an upheaval of downright cosmic proportions. It unhinges the world. 2. Speaker:
Let us praise the freedom dawning here
this great, this dawn-year.
Submerged, the great forest of creels
into waternights, as none had been.
Into darkness, deaf and dense you reel,
you, people, you: sun-and-tribunal.
The yoke of fate, brothers, sing it
which he who leads the people carries in tears.
The yoke of power and darkenings,
the burden that throws us to the ground.
Who, oh time, has a heart, hears with it, understands:
he hears your ship, time, that founders.
There, battle-ready, the phalanx – there, the swallows!
We linked them together, and – you see it:
The sun – invisible. The elements, all
alive, bird-voiced, underway.
The net, the dusk: dense. Nothing glimmers.
The sun – invisible. The earth swims.
Well, we’ll try it: turn that rudder around!
It grates, it grinds, you leftists – come on, rip it around!
The earth swims. You men, take courage, once more!
We plough the seas, we break up the seas.
And to think, Lethe, even when your frost pierces us:
To us earth was worth ten heavens.
Rocket pop, Rook to Queen’s Knight Five — “When the stork stops delivering all that New York deli,” cried the Col., “then we’ll talk about how admirable each of us will be — You can simulate transparency, but behind your back an overheated network will condition your component lines. It is remarkable indeed the degree of encryption, not to mention extreme speeds and slowness, stationary null journeys: real movements — and sudden breaks, unforeseen shutdowns, severed lines. The differential logic of the signal system mutates continuously according to the functioning of a semiological machine which does not resemble what it creates, crystallizes, shatters or sets into flight.” Like none of us back then knew Faybiene’s story. You now know that her first recording “Prophesy” was banned from airplay by the Socialist Government in Jamaica around 1975. That it is considered a classic. When you meet Faybiene some years later in New York, you purchased a poster from her. In the photo, she is wearing sunglasses and swinging her locks. She wears strings of cowrie shells. Underneath the photo is the poem “This Morning.” Back then, you nailed the poster to a wall in your home. You revered the image but the poem did not resonate until another heartbreak. You ripped away old floors and painted the entire apartment Sun God. As you cleaned house, you read her words over and over … “Hey, this morning, I. Woke. Up.” “So the Nose Dwarf has to accompany an old woman home from market. He comes to an enchanted castle and there, by eating a magic meal, he is turned into a porpoise and has to serve for a number of years in this guise, being finally released with a long nose.” Which is why he is called the Nose Dwarf, maybe, eh, Otto Fenichel? Which is to say, is it not, that the differential logic of the signal system mutates continuously according to the functioning of a semiological machine which does not resemble what it creates, crystallizes, shatters or sets into flight. Expression, insofar as it frames or signs itself, is always-already conditioned and operated by a grammatical field of semiological dynamisms redoubling encounters-affects into visions and auditions, possible worlds. The receiver is symmetrically encrypted, a recursive and resonating labyrinth: translating wild variations of rhythms, interpolating approximately-decrypted sub-signals, differentiating referential opacity where it is not constitutive. A signal is always-already composed of instructions, an actively-encrypted network of orders: a volumetric control field radiating from multiple command cores, enmeshed with the transmissive and receptive apparatus. The virtual line is incorporated into the machine; actual resonating devices become attuned to the most subtle or rarefied waves. Desire, dreams, delirium are signals as real production: a construction of new senses or problems, new distributions of the interesting and uninteresting, the surprising and unsurprising, the tolerable and the intolerable... The signal communicates with a virtual substrate organizing deeply-nested or encrypted signs, conditions expressive lines which are also lived forces or affects... But while it is easy to botch their construction, only cartographies of the virtual, planes of consistency at the limit of consciousness or the common, can emancipate new images of the collective, mobilize and restructure conditions of possibility.
[Note: Sources: Franz Kafka, “The Metamorphosis” (tr. Ian Johnston), at Vancouver Island University; JBR; <Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, posted to FB by Michael Joseph, 27 Dec 013; Tommy Wong, FB post, 27 Dec 013; Joshua Marie Wilkinson, “A Song Called Shudder”, quoted in PEN, “PEN Poetry Series: Joshua Marie Wilkinson”, email rec’d 27 Dec 013 approx 7:50 AM PST; Pierre Joris, Paul Celan, Osip Mandelstam, quoted in Joris’ “75 Years Ago Osip Mandelstam died”, at Nomadics, 27 Dec 013; Paul Siegell, “*WE’VE COME FOR YOUR HOT AND BOTHERED*”, “*WE’VE COME FOR YOUR FOOD COURT SAMPLER*”, at Eat Genius, 27 Dec 013; Joseph Weissman, “Machine Fusion”, at Fractal Ontology, 27 Nov 013 (the last bit quoted in Senka Anastasova, FB post, 28 Dec 013); JBR; Latasha N Nevada Diggs, “Itations for Faybiene”, at Harriet, 27 Dec 013 (Faybiene = Faybiene Miranda; i.m.); Otto Fenichel, quoted in Jacob Bard-Rosenberg, FB post, 27 Dec 013; JBR]