I finished reading my first novel, my first book of poems, my first play on the page, at the age of 23. What struck me then, as the process of an utterly private emancipation out of my own internal language was taking place, was that memory fails the written word. That it is almost unheard of for a reader to be able to recall the actual words of a novel at a certain point in its journey, though they can with films etc.. So I began, perhaps instinctively against this, or to prove to myself that I had read what I thought I had read, to lift quotations, chunks of texts, from these pages. Much of this would take place while I worked at The British Museum, having wadges of photocopied novels in my pocket, highlighting the lines I felt special somehow, and typing them up later. This became a way of reading that has stayed with me. It has its downsides but ensures close reading, careful progress, revisiting. My eventual thought, I suppose, perhaps, is to construct something like a novel entirely of these quotations, that evokes a distinct narrative or structure but only uses these discovered lines. Many of these quotes were used as epigraphs in my 2017 collection The Guide to Being Bear Aware (partially to annoy, to ironise the notion of the epigraph) and I constructed a story from them celebrating Peter Handke for the Illuminations Anthology in 2018.
In the meantime I've been urged by a few students to create a page that shares some of these quotations, as a kind of reading list, maybe a teaching aid. This is a random selection from the many thousands I've squirrelled away.
Poems amount to so little when you write them too early in your life. You ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness for a whole lifetime, and a long one if possible, and then, at the very end, you might perhaps be able to write ten good lines. For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough) - they are experiences. For the sake of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people, and Things, you must understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which small flowers make when they open in the morning. You must be able to think back to streets in unknown neighbourhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to partings you had long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still unexplained, to parents whom you had to hurt when they brought in a joy and you didn't pick it up (it was a joy meant for somebody else - ); to childhood illnesses that began so strangely with so many profound and difficult transformations, to days in quiet, restrained rooms and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, to nights of travel that rushed along high overhead and went flying with all the stars, - and that it is still not enough to be able to think of all that. You must have memories of many nights of love, each one different from all the others, memories of women screaming in labour, and of light, pale, sleeping girls who have just given birth and are closing again. But you must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and the scattered noises. And it is not yet enough to have memories. You must be able to forget them when they are many, and you must have the immense patience to wait until they return. For the memories themselves are not important. Only when they have changed into our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no longer to be distinguished from ourselves - only then can it happen that in some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them.
Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
How I envied those men of letters unquestionably predestined to superiority from birth, to sublimity from the cradle, whose minds moved perpetually towards the heights, just as if their backsides had been pricked with a pin! Serious writers who took their souls seriously, had an innate aptitude for creative suffering on the grand scale, and moved freely in a world of ideas so exalted and for ever sanctified that God himself seemed to them vulgar and devoid of majesty! Why is it not given to everybody to write yet another novel about love, or to denounce some social injustice and thus transform himself into a defender of the people? Or to write verse, become a poet, and believe in the ‘noble mission of verse’? To have talent and feed the non-talented on it? Ah! How satisfying, to oneself and others, to launch oneself, with the aid of age-old cultural institutions, with a confidence equal to that with which one puts money in the bank!
It was then that I had a simple but wonderful idea – to be neither mature nor immature, but simply myself; to express myself in my own proudly sovereign fashion, ignoring everything except my own inner truth.
Let my own shape be born of me, let me not owe my formation to anyone.
Witold Gombrowicz, Ferdydurke
I gave up before birth, it’s not possible otherwise
The more I became aware of myself, and the less I shrank back from myself, the stronger became my desire for the voice of the book to speak to me in the plainest terms and conceal nothing from me. Soon I could tell the character of the narration from the first words of a book. I wanted it to excite me straightaway, I wanted to feel its glow and inner conviction at once. Long descriptive passages made me impatient. I wanted to be drawn into the middle of things right from the very start, and to know at once what it was about.
I read poems only rarely, for here everything was too highly wrought, too much subject to a formal framework. I distrusted well rounded and perfected things and I found it tiresome to search for the hidden meaning beneath all the artistry and polish.
Often the well-planned work of art left me cold while the raw and only half-formed caught hold of me. My logical thinking was underdeveloped. When I tried to counteract this lack by reading scnieftic or philosophic works, the letters blurred before my eyes, I could not piece them toiogether into living words, I felt no breath in them. What I retained belonged less to the realm of general knowledge than to that of sensations, my knowledge was composed of picturelike experiences, of memories of sounds, voices, noises, movements, gestures, rhythms, of what I had fingered or sniffed, of glimpses into rooms, streets, courtyards, gardens, harbours, workshops, of vibrations in the air, of the play of light and shadow, of the movements of eyes, mouths, and hands. I learned that beneath logic there was another form of consistency, the consistency of inexplicable impulses; here I found my own being, here in what was apparently unorganised, in a world that did not obey the laws of the external order. My thinking allowed no particular goal, but drove me from one to the other, tolerated no superimposed guidelines, often threw me into pitfalls and abysses from which no explanations but only secret, unexpectedly discovered paths could guide me out again.
In the course of years the dialogue I sought for in books, in ever more decisive and immediate form, turned ever more deeply towards the personal sphere, and thus it became an ever rarer experience, for only a few could express some part of the things that touched the roots of being. All stages of my development have their own books.
Peter Weiss : Leavetaking
Some have been cast into exile because they could not bear calmly one insulting word, and those who had refused to bear in silence a slight wrong have been crushed with the severest misfortunes, and, indignant at any diminution of the fullest liberty, have brought upon themselves the yoke of slavery.
Seneca : On Anger
Like seeing roasted meat and other dishes in front of you and suddenly realising: This is a dead fish. A dead bird. A dead pig. Or that this noble vintage is grape juice, and the purple robes are sheep wool dyed with shellfish blood. Or making love – something rubbing against your penis, a brief seizure and a little cloudy liquid.
Marcus Aurelius : Meditations, Book Six
Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel
We get little help from others in living. What we learn from them are mostly the inessentials of life – tricks and skills. But occasionally we exchange obscure signals. They are reassurances that others face or have faced the same difficulties, problems, choices. That they react to the same stimuli, feel the same joy and anguish, make the same sort of shifts to deal with foreknowledge of mortality. We may record the past for various reasons: because we find it interesting; because by setting it down we can deal with it more easily; because we wish to escape from the prison where we face our individual problems, wrestle with our particular temptations, triumph in solitude and in solitude accept defeat and death. Autobiography is an attempted jail-break. The reader tunnels through the same dark.
I believe that the motives of human action are highly complex and allow for the coexistence of contradictory motives and sentiments; we are impaled very often on the contradictions inherent in our society and specific moments in its history.
War is a great school of casualness.
I have never known a man so intemperate, so utterly of one humour. When he spoke of the workers in the valley he spat and choked with rage. Crossed in some petty detail by his wife, he swore horribly, coupling the name of the Virgin with dog and pig and whore, while his womenfolk stopped his ears with their aprons.
What a pity – you have some of the temporal virtues but none of the cardinal ones; faith, hope and charity.
Leave him alone, Caterina, she would say, maybe he’s good in his own way.
Stuart Hood, Carlino
Proteophobia, the apprehension and vexation related not something or someone disquieting through otherness and unfamiliarity but to something or someone that does not fit the structure of the orderly world, does not fall easily into any of the established categories, emits therefore contradictory signals as to proper conduct and is behaviourally confusing; something or someone that in the result of all these foibles blurs borderlines that ought to be kept watertight and undermines the reassuringly monotonous, repetitive and predictable nature of the life-world. If all activity of spacing, ordering and structuring is aimed at making some sequences of events more probable and reducing the probability of others, so that the business of anticipation and choice be made somewhat less risky – then the stubborn presence of things or persons resistant to such manipulation uncovers the limit to those ordering intentions or hopes, thus revealing the feebleness of such ordering efforts; the ‘un-fitting’ become a fissure in the world-order through which ultimately invincible chaos is, reluctantly and depressingly, sighted.
"All the various styles are organically connected to one another. I'm an additive person—the entire storehouse of my knowledge informs everything I do. People are so obsessed with the surface that they can't see the connections, but they are there.”
My grandfather believed the Empire flourished because it allowed so many Brits to flee the country.
Man is something to be overcome
The barrenest of all mortals is the sentimentalist.
- Thomas Carlyle
The Sentimentalist, roughly speaking, is the man who wants to eat his cake and have it. He has no sense of honor about ideas; he will not see that one must pay for an idea as well as for anything else. He will have them all at once in one wild intellectual harem, no matter how much they quarrel and contradict each other.
- Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Alarms and Discussions
The world is neither wise nor just, but it takes up for its folly and injustice by being damnably sentimental.
- Thomas Henry Huxley, in a letter to Tyndall
Experience proves that none is so cruel as the disillusioned sentimentalist.
- William Ralph Inge
Sentimentality is unearned emotion.
- James Joyce
Sentimentality is a superstructure covering brutality.
- Carl Gustav Jung
What we mean by sentimentalism is that state in which a man speaks deep and true sentiments not because he feels them strongly, but because he perceives that they are beautiful, and that it is touching and fine to say them,--things which he fain would feel, and fancies that he does feel.
- Frederick William Robertson
"A sentimentalist is one who desires to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it.
'Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel...the mask of cruelty'
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” Isaac Asimov
Since the human capacity for empathy is very small, it must be nurtured. That when it came to discovering our feelings for others we needed first to look into ourselves. Literature isn’t much help, it can only have a limited effect on us. Between one book and the next, I tend to forget much of what I’ve just read. – Heinrich Mann
I hear that you’ve done away with yourself
outwitting the butcher
eight years of exile, of watching the enemy rise up
finally forced into an impossible border crossing
they say you made your own passage
Brecht, on Benjamin
you dream of rocks
to fashion yourself a skeleton
like a dog at her feet
bliss! don’t shoot
Cold blooded, the viper will remain so till rife with death, for the want of a parish makes him a murderer to all
There was this:
You had to destroy, destroy, destroy
and you, not least of all, ancestor with the lion head
you keep this place safe from women’s laughter
the mist has concealed the mist that hides three lights on the water’s surface
do you know the country where the cartridge blooms?
On my wailing belly everyone pounds in vain
on the five thousandth evening of our love
I’m still as timid as before:
tainting my white gloves with the bluish
forget me nots plucked from the humid grass,
and awkwardly suffocating the swallow
I brought along in the pocket of my coat.
I do not know how to smile
so as to conceal my fortunate sadness
and I turn the sun around when I want to embrace you.
these pitiful demons, sprouting here in my flower pots
there is no end to poetry
now I’m off to the café christina
where there are as always some incredibly pretty girls
fresh as budding flowers
If she were dead, she might be able to protect me, but as long as she’s alive she can’t do a thing for me
Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz
when you are very old and I have died
one afternoon you will discover the special hours
the scent of setting suns
the profound darkness of the twilight air
on streets without return
you will wander eternally in search of the mirror
that restores happy moments
/ go out naked onto the balcony and piss on the world
before the closed windows execute you
Manuel Vazquez Montalban
don’t trust those
who have never considered
they are making their way step by step
blinding themselves to the abyss forever pursuing man
leave my corpse
to whomever wishes to burn it:
make an end
to the life we’ve made
warm my memory
and die gracefully
when you wish to
youth, in some way
because time is a traitor
silence is a slow cauldron
that snuffs out dwellings, one by one,
with its dress of saffroning linen
Antonio Martinez Sarrion
thy hair is one kingdom
the king whereof is darkness
thy forehead is a flight of flowers
thy head is a quick forest
filled with sleeping birds
thy breasts are swarms of white bees
upon the bough of thy body
thy body to me is april
in whose armpits is the approach of spring
thy thighs are white horses yoked to a chariot of kings
they are the striking of a good minstrel
between them is always a pleasant song
I like to feel the spine
of your body and its bone, and the trembling
firm-smooth-ness and which I will
again and again and again
kiss, I like kissing this and that of you
I like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what is it comes
over parting flesh
a pretty girl who naked is
is worth a million statues
who wields a poem huger than the grave?
the insanity of studying what goes on beyond the heavens never crossed the mind of the golden age man
it’s like when your tongue travels all the roads
of love, it enters, it bites, it uproots, a mysterious dream
Jose Maria Alvarez
the heart is not a finch (it is a muscle)
cry: because all glances entail error
Jose Miguel Ullan
Nothing is in vain
neither the grimace
not the circumlocution
finally he contemplates the broad panorama of his life
to pause in the passage of the utterly sweet years is serenity
as to the All I maintain the following …man is what all of us know
muck without a name moves our matrix
pleasure gives us power / hammers mark noon / the text emerges from its own fire
I have no doubt that the keener scent of animals must make women much more attractive to them than to men; for the gorgeous odour that but faintly fills our nostrils must be revealed to the brute creation in divine fullness. Anyhow, Adolphe sniffed as never a man did around the skirts of Venus. After the first charming interchange of affectionate delicacies was over, the unicorn lay down upon his side, and, closing his eyes, beat his stomach wildly with the mark of manhood. / Venus caught that stunning member in her hands and laid her cheek along it; but few touches were wanted to consummate the creature’s pleasure. The queen bared her left arm to the elbow, and with the soft underneath of it made amazing movements upon the tightly strung instrument. When the melody began to flow, the unicorn offered up an astonishing vocal accompaniment…/ Adolphe had been quite profuse that morning / Venus knelt where it had fallen, and lapped her little apertif.
Aubrey Beardsley (Under the Hill)
he even went to sleep without unmaking the bed
the phallus, quick as it enters
will find, where it expected virtue, a brothel
I don’t want to sweat anymore encircled by penguins
Luis Alberto de Cuenca
to lose is the most noble gesture in life
but let’s not kid ourselves. only he who had, loses
to lose is for that reason winning twice
Luis Antonio de Villena
be sweet smelling, if you love me, be foul smelling if you forget me
Juan Jose Romero-Cortes
when one has come as far as I in meaninglessness
every word becomes once more interesting
to be equal to each other
to warm each other’s corpse under chastity’s lovely curve in eternity’s white marble
gravestones whose oppressive cold forms over the dream like the smell over remains or a whisper
decay for ages together
defend each other’s corpse against damp and freedom
be two in blessedness, lie still, endure, be still
lick each other’s corpse with kisses slowly like worms creep into the hiding places
Here is the lower world’s smile
I forced the man to his knees
forced my enemy on all fours
I put his wife on his back
and I took her there
before I gave her to the wild cows
my limbs go wandering
my thoughts scatter
Aluqa, the demon who swims underwater in streams,
tries to get swallowed by someone
and to stick to small boys’ feet and to the paws of peaceful animals
the city opens its streets,
bicycles go by riderless,
a woman’s face in a window
the crowds amassed with sudden bursts of laughter and words a tumult around me traveler anxious to get home…amid smoke and urine pressing bodies of women wreathing like seaweed only grazing I will love no one but you
what can I leave in the streets, in houses, in unfertilised bellies? Words
the highest degree of presence is absence
Which is to be more prized, the name or the body?
It’s too easy doing what one likes and what one wants
You don’t do that to a girl you like.
/(He dreams of losing himself, of falling into the hands of a woman without scruples)
There is a love greater than you and me, me and you in the species, water over water
Milo de Angelis
I think of a tailor
who is his own fabric
Let’s not accept those entertainments which sadly shut people up in a dark room, keeping them awe struck and immobile in silence and inertia
Jean Jacques Rousseau
Man, birthed in shame, lives very painfully
and there is more, o lord, that you must know:
our home, this body, greedy, fleeting, bright,
heedlessly envious of the spirit’s might,
continually covets endless woe
And will they hurt us? At our first embrace
my kisses will disperse them from your face
grant me the least of courtesies
my lips will chase away those flies
then, flying from the town / that stupid child, dimpled with deep renown / came to a river banked by graceful trees / he chose a myrtle from among all these / and hanged himself. the branch above him bent / the rich cord tightened. Gold haired and innocent / his head bobbed heavy as a poppy pod
the sun will faint from sudden fear
the face of the moon will be covered with gore
thrown from heaven by foul disease
terrified stars will fall and freeze
the earth’s foundations will jerk and rocks
like sea waves, will give each other knocks
all human craft, all human deeds
will be burnt up like moorland weeds
poets rape words. With ignorant dissonance
they croak away like magpies on a fence
my wedding dress is just a winding sheet
a handful of earth my dowry when I meet
the worm, my bridegroom: the grave, my marriage bed:
my children are the tears my parents shed
the predators excuse is always good
two wolves attacked a lamb in a dark wood
it said ‘I want your legal rights defined’
you’re weak and tender, and it’s dark. They dined
I write about our hosts of cheats and liars
who’d sell their souls if such souls could find buyers
but now my bitterness is almost over
I can begin to count the minutes now
soon, at your feet, your ever constant lover
will kneel down humbly to renew his vow
of steadfast faith, and pledge himself once more
to suffer and adore
Franciszek Dionizy Kniaznin
stars, you are cold small satans made of clay
intense with disbelief. And I, half crazed
am broken by your hate
while you go off into a distant land
I’m left alone to watch my exile dribble
slowly away toward death; or pen in hand
to sit and scribble
the angel burning at my left side
harps on an old string
and then a funeral. At last no rush
let nobody weep over my grave
except my wife
your tears I easily waive
and your feigned grief
/let neither a bell croak over my pall
nor someone sing with a shriek;
but the rain may sob at my funeral
and the wind creak
/whoever wants to, may throw handful of earth
until I’m choked by the mound
the sun will shine at its fine new birth
and burn away my wound
/and then, perhaps, once more, maybe
bored with lying down
I’ll break that house enclosing me
and run to the sun
the wounded bison roars from all these walls
that christ - angelic cyclops - thunder falls
a skull in agony; a cursed despair
fury and groans, even the whimpers blare
its me. I’m weeping
the lip is the lip’s friend, the hand the hand’s
lying next to each other one understands
a numbskull writes to a numbskull, proposing
that he takes the very greatest pleasure in enclosing
Konstanty Ildefons Galczynski
and the birds, back from winter migration
bring cock and bull stories about the motherland
and where do their riches come from? All that wealth
is bound to be the result of something filthy
when you cry a whole sea
sorrow ceases to be
something caustic trickles from the eye
one teardrop as each hour goes by
/ in what ruinous places, sea
have you been
that you suddenly decided to shatter
into human tears that hardly matter?
in this system of prohibitions
we’ve lived for thousands of years!
let’s admit, I’m no spring chicken. But the seraphim too, are getting old
although the wars of frogs and mice
seems to lack continuation,
doesn’t the whisper of reeds at night
stir something in the imagination?
I will not turn around to see with horror
how quickly the dark line is lengthening
how quickly the burnt out candles multiply
alas the stair of poetry
is high, I see, most high.
from all I’ve said and all I’ve done
let no one seek to find out who I was.
My years of youth, my life of lust -
how clearly I see their meaning now
/ what futile, ah what needless repentance’s…
/ I could not see their meaning then.
for the in the dissipations of my youth
were shaped the volitions of my poetry
was laid the groundwork of my art
and therefore regrets were never firm
and resolutions to restrain myself, to change
lasted but two weeks at the very most
the ego, race, mankind, earth, theory and action, god - all these are phantasms made of loam and brain, good only for those simple hearts that live in fear, good only for those flatulent souls that imagine they are pregnant.
And victory finds you in your desolation
do not once deign to talk with the gross crowd
like a chance passer by respond with a nod
to a strange tongue you do not understand
O what black darkness, what thick blood!
All of humanity weeps and groans
no salvation exists for you alone
(for One) unless these too are saved.
but there before me, drawn
erect by the ring’s violence and the force
of mother love tormented, I could see
nothing but the majestic bear with blue
and plaited beads upon her shaggy head,
the martyred, monstrous symbol of all the world.
death for you now becomes the form of desire
so let it tower as high as its redemption
trampling on death with death!
prayer to god
for all who are unhappy
dear god, now on this mournful winter night, when all
your angels, from their countries of eternal peace,
lean down their lonely balconies to watch the earth
and slowly shower it with petals of white flowers,
the while it turns in silence in the infinite;
dear god, now on this night every fierce wind howls
like low sin laden souls rejected by the grave,
think of all those who lie her in their wretched beds
to sleep and muster their spent strength that they might bear
tomorrow also the same pains borne yesterday
dear god, take on a human heart and think tonight
of those old poets who’ve lived long in bitterness
because stern glory never once knocked on their door;
of those whose destiny, like a malignant wind,
knocks down whatever they have raised with love and toil;
those who rebelled against their lives and would not await
tomorrows, different from others, but that never came;
think of all those at whom the whole world stares and laughs,
those innocent, half looney fools that all men mock;
those who are chronically ill, who die their death each day;
those homely and shy girls who swoon away with love
though no one ever, ever comes to bring them love;
those who toil achingly that other men may rest,
the docile souls, the persecuted, and the good
who cannot shed a tear because they’ve wept so much;
dear god, think of all those who in this world are doomed
to stoop, to suffer, and to drag their heavy steps
yet in your tranquil churches find no consolation
because their wretched voices have long since been cracked
and your celestial throne looms far, far out of reach
dear god, think of all those most wrongfully unhappy,
but do not send them happiness as recompense
for this will not suffice them now for all their pain
but when today they close their weary eyes in sleep
let death come gently, softly to their wretched homes,
most gently and most softly that they may not waken,
and as a sister stooping low, not as a mother,
because a mother’s embrace is strong, her clasp despairing,
kiss them most tenderly on their closed, bitter lips
and in that kissing take away their breath forever.
Dear god, now on this mournful winter night, when all
your angels, from their countries of eternal peace,
lean down their lonely balconies to watch the earth
and slowly shower it with petals of white flowers,
do not chose by your side in paradise among
the chosen place these dead, but let them still lie buried
deep in the bowels of earth so that the foul world’s noise
might never reach their sleep. There let them lie forgotten.
The dead die only when they’re forgotten
(so when I forget the living
they die the death I wish them to die)
useless insects drunk with light
before the advent
I feel myself to be a man disgraced
great shall his reward be who without hesitation admits
the likelihood of error in every day of his existence
more wretched than the wretched hour is to measure it.
let is pass by unmeasured
and, if you find this at all possible, without leaving its traces.
food is for eating
art is for arting
women are for…
feared neither death nor pain for this beauty:
if harm, harm to ourselves
yes, these people, they are all right, they
can do everything, everything except act
sweet hour. Athens reclines and gives herself
death is the women who make love
as easily as they peel onions
/ death is the filthy, commonplace streets
I do not understand these faces I do not understand them
sometimes they imitate death and then again
they shine with the lowly life of the glowworm
after a debauch, one always feels more solitary, more abandoned
Hubert Selby Jr
He laid out little nooks of lechery in the woods and groves of the island, and had youths and girls dressed as Pan and nymphs frolic in grottoes.
I love prostitution in and for itself…In the very notion of prostitution there is such a complex convergence of lust and bitterness, such a frenzy of muscle and sound of gold, such a void in human relations, that the very sight of it makes one dizzy! And how much is learned there! And one is so sad! And one dreams so well of love!
and to comfort myself a little I think: Fally must be dead. Surely, God, you must soon - very soon - have taken her away from this earth
forgive me for having loved you because I can no longer tell you that I do
Liane de Pougy
No man sees beyond the body lying there.
In short, they will see such a variety of the animal that they cannot fail of suiting their inclinations.
Nobody knows what love is anymore. Nobody knows what happened to god (some will guess. I will guess). After midnight the lesbians and fairies sweep through the streets of old tenderloin, like spirochetes in a softening brain.
the way to be esteemd learned, is but only to have a library, and to be able to turn to the indices.
Samuel Butler I
Critics are like brushers of noblemen’s clothes.
I cannot understand how any clean hand can touch a newspaper without a shudder of disgust
they drop their maggots in the triflers brain;
that genial soil receives the fruitful store,
and there they grow, and breed a thousand more
The most important service rendered by the Press and the magazines is that of educating people to approach printed matter with distrust
Samuel Butler II
they blow themselves up with pettiness
as if they were swaying with drink
for such gentlemen what
is the sunset or the sunrise?
They swallow emptiness,
these readers of newspapers
/ Look, friends much
stronger than in these lines, do
I think this, when with
a manuscript in hand
/ I stand before the face
there is no emptier place
than before the absent
face of an editor of news
papers’ evil filth
there is no spectacle more agreeable than watching an old friend fall from a roof
I detest that dark, dismal mentality which skims over life’s pleasures but fastens on misfortunes, and feeds off them; like flies which cannot grip on smooth, polished surfaces, and so cling to rough, jagged spots, or leeches that suck off only bad blood
Michel de Montaigne
most people enjoy the inferiority of their best friends
Earl of Chesterfield
to think ill of mankind, and not wish ill to them, is perhaps the highest wisdom
those who are the most distrustful of themselves, are the most envious of others; as the most weak and cowardly are the most revengeful
envy is the most stupid of vices, for it yields nothing
society takes its revenge on happiness it does not share
Honore de Balzac
his scorn of the great is repeated too often to be real; no man thinks much of that which he despises
Ambition hath no mean, it is either upon all fours or upon tiptoes
Marquess of Halifax
What is glory? It is to have a lot of nonsense talked about you
I should be happy to enlighten the lower classes, but not to dine with them
Benjamin Robert Haydon
Let me go, mother, let me go!
It is no use crying anymore,
Because we are leaving, to protect the fatherland
Owl is my favourite /
In the reign / of the chicken owl comes like / a god
It was hard, running and buzzing,
doing the bee dance. I ached /
that in my beehood my healing had been commenced.
rat, o rat…
never in all my life have I seen
as handsome a rat as you.
Thank you for noticing my potatoes.
Let her surviving husband lead the beauty of the world,
and what is hers, away
Filth is a monument
O lancelote leaves the truth is yours!
A monument. Pink suited hellhound over it.
Yes, what about that Rib? Hows married life?
We’re poorly off, alone and celibate -
Denied the joys of sex, the married state;
Deprived of consort, starved of loving tryst:
Some heaven, this - where women don’t exist!
But too much knowledge often serves one ill.
God lets us know what seems enough to him
too bright a flash could blind the seraphim!
True wisdom keeps it goal in part concealed
to trust an army of defectors isn’t wise
Nature revived, bodies and souls made well,
Man mounts the throne from which the angels fell
Joost van den Vondel
But one there was that fired my blood.
An ancient terra cotta faun / laughs on the green: sign, probably
that something will rain woe upon / these moments of serenity
a vast black lethargy
damps my life’s fire:
sleep, sleep, all hope, and free
me of desire!
Love me for my artlessness
with neither joy nor penitence
in these lethargic times, the one
and only laugh that still makes sense
comes from a grinning skeleton
This horse dictated to me last week one of the most moving sentences in the world.
To speak would have meant death to me
Perhaps it doesn’t ask anything and doesn’t touch you. You meet it, look at it, and die of love.
She killed the devil in the shape of a horse, and in doing so she died.
We are at a party that doesn’t love us.
Deep in the forest there’s an unexpected clearing that can only be reached by someone who has lost his way…write down and forget
But impossible to forget the fifteen second struggle in the hell of oblivion, a few metres from the main road, where the traffic glides past with its lights on.
I see no sense at all / in living for the family
…no! the only sense lies / in labours weather beaten faces
in the daring and the fearsome / hearts that are burning to death!
Unless he dies of loneliness / a man may live long, long time…
oh, simplicity, a thing to bless, / oh, warm me with your happiness!
Were I a weakling, / how carefree I would live…
but I am strong / and oh the woe!
But when I catch up…ah, what nonsense, what absurdity….
What comets - merely cold embers!
His ways are very dark. It may be that the things we call evil are good, and the things we call good are evil. There is no knowledge of anything.
Oscar Wilde (Salome)
Irony is an excellent surgeon.
That a lover forsaken
a new love may get,
but a neck when once broken
can never be set.
the sad thing about worriers is that they always have reason to be worried.
Henry de Montherlant
No, no; for my virginity
when I lose that, says Rose, I’ll die:
Behind the elms, last night, cried Dick,
Rose, were you not extremely sick?
If the reader is tempted to smile, I can assure him that I smile with him.
In life you are tied to the body, and that takes precedence, I think. In life, there are no happy endings. The body gives you away. It lets you down. It betrays you. And you’re tied to mortality. And there is no escape. Age is the final betrayal.
The sky is bare. The smoke floats. The wall shines.
Oh! How I should like to think clearly!
We have been walking too long in someone else’s sleep
The only thing that burns in hell is the part of you that won’t let go of your life; your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they’re not punishing you. They’re freeing your soul. If you’re frightened of dying and holding on, you’ll see devils tearing your life away. But if you’ve made your peace then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth.
His silver fingers
are five dreamy undertakers /
No one knows where he came from;
I know where he ends up
Lord, it is time. The summer was too long.
Else there was nothing red
Rainer Maria Rilke
Water / topped by waves / topped by a boat / topped by a woman / topped by a man
Finally in a cavity below the diaphragm
a nest of young rats was discovered
One little sister lay dead.
A woman is something for a night
and if it was good, for the next night too!
I enter the deep blue hour
often I have asked myself but found no answer
where can gentleness and goodness come from
he hangs a mask of gloom / upon the white cheeked moon
and the huge devils stand about to see
now the fruit comes
the child is born without a head
through night great hordes of suicides are hurled
men seeking on their way the selves they’ve lost
why do you come white moths, so oft to me?
the storm is here, crushed dams no longer hold
the savage seas come inland with a hop
the greater part of people have a cold
Jakob van Hoddis
Cold metal stands upon my brow;
spiders seek my heart
it is a light, which goes out in my mouth
a black horse rears up violently; the girls hyacinthine locks
snatch at the ardour of its crimson nostrils
Moon, as though something dead stepped from a blue cavern
damn you, dark poisons, white sleep
alas alas alas our good kaspar is dead /
who’ll now eat with the phosphorescent rat at the lonely barefoot table
after the treatment you’ll never be able to regret anything
it is autumn. Swans devour the bread of their masters held together by tears
Only a fat man
bursts the mirror. O, it is not I!
We beg you;
do not show us an angry dog, not yet
sucking in death
Parbleu! I smell roast babies
Truly, I live in dark times!
The guileless word is folly. A smooth forehead
suggests insensitivity. The man who laughs
has simply not yet had
the terrible news.
Out of the libraries
emerge the butchers.
I, Berthold Brecht, came out of the black forest
that with the eyes / of killed horses / saw the sky in flames
I have always loved nettles
and only now learned
of their usefulness
my father the hawk
grandfather the wolf
and my forefather the rapacious fish in the sea /
I, unbearded, a fool
lurching against the fences,
my black hands strangling a lamb
in the early light
We played cards, I lost the irises of my eyes,
you lent me your hair. I lost it.
autumn eats its leaf out of my hands; we are friends
Don’t ask me how we did it
I don’t remember
Ask the dog.
Worse days are coming
I have eaten the heart of fog
When brightness says, I am darkness
It has told the truth
Her god is zero
I speak of the end of the owls
but those corpses in the cellar
are still there
don’t read odes, son, read timetables
it spreads like the puddle behind the slaughterhouse
from where on earth do they keep reemerging
this luxuriant hoards!
Hans Magnus Enzensburger
Funerals in summer. No let up now.
Years of sleep, uselessness
On the gravestone, it says she was alive.
and I like my causes lost
to every traveller
his wizened leather frog
oh to be
twenty again and it told
me to sleep
how can it be these days that were so near
are gone, forever gone, to utter death?
/ and that my forbears, under grass and root,
are mine, as close to me as my own hair
Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Should foreignness begin / where the iron thrust of machines /does not thrust?
a wise eyed gentleman floats madly, full of night
an ailing god, within this scene…which he forgot
of failed to notice, mutters something. Dies. And laughs.
Dreams of a cerebral stroke, paralysis, bone rot
She’s gone! Now in the street I choke back tears
I look around myself in wonderment
for even tears don’t say that which we mean
a man is dumb
you peoples worldwide, I feel moved
by the lasting things you have proved
but I, without people or land
now bury my head in my hand
so you leave all things there alone in loving and unanswered humbleness,
solitary yourself, for whom a town is waiting
where in your cheap hotel you’ll the long night through
in age old lakes
the dreary fish are dwelling
with their eyes full of fear
and the quiet splendour of her deep, expectant eyes
and a breath, a gentle, welling murmur of her mouth -
a fountain in the night
where do the words come from?
Like cracks in the wall like wood lice.
From the shrubs of may like blossoms
from the fire like whistling
whatever chances upon me, I take it.
Marie Luise Kaschnitz
in a voice the colour of sleep
the moon murmurs
her aureole /
in the gray sea
in the city of worms, there lived a…
Unwittingly, I tumble down / being thrown to the bones of foxes
and anyhow: give up
I wanted to be the banner of my time
or a shred of its banner
sick of the mask he slips into every morning
weary of the decal of hollow security
weary of standing his ground, of putting his shoulder
to the wheel, of getting into trouble and bubble
weary of warming up, bridling up
showing off and, over and over again, of adapting
adjusting himself correctly, neatly, adroitly, collectedly
staidly, engagingly, shrewdly, astutely
/ and crushing them, and, satisfied
licked the blood off his fists
It keeps us awake. We learn how to live without consolation; to be prepared for the worst; to laugh through our tears at the fetters we’ve forged for ourselves; at the opportunities we simply miss; at the path that disappears; at whatever we can no longer cope with
Walter Helmut Fritz
All nonsense; whoever has looked the world too straight in the eye
to be willing to suffer from it any longer
won’t take so personally the lack of service here
Finally, all the migrants are dead
and to rest have come the songs of the distracted
Medea, you beautiful person, don’t turn around
The ghost is right. One’s sense of dignity is also important: it must be kept up.
With my head under my arm, here I sit. Now the moon covers her face. And now she uncovers it. But still she has nothing to tell me. I must get back to my den.
days and ways come running
the non-poet lives in a dream
Yves de Bayser
and so he stands back bowed on a narrow strip of land
as a beast digs a hole, he will make of it his grave
Louis-Rene des Forets
you can die of love at any age
for so it says on the floor
the burrowing owl can subsist a whole season without drinking, by eating juicy spiders.
I have learnt that whatever I embark upon I shall never do anything but persevere
a book growing in the distance, like the star in its avowals.
A book that does not come often.
and we must take this into account and welcome it, as if it has crossed an immense space to reach us
Somehow or other they have managed to loop an invisible cord round your feet
/and yet they will never make you take the oh so brief obscurity of the trap for the immensity of night, But that cannot be transmitted.
Franck Andre Jamme
she covers out dead with her sugared tongue
malaxing those who yesterday still yes only yesterday
were speaking out loud and walking straight
the question is a violation
and so is the answer - and not least for me, for I shall not, I cannot tell all.
/ the fashion today, in the most popular media, is to consider poetry obsolete, in other words deader than dead / it is easy to show that in the 20th century, in all European languages - the languages in which poetry is more especially thought to be dead - it is on the contrary the most vital survivor now that time has made its choice / the media can only rule by ignoring all opposition, and poetry by the mere fact of existing opposes them because it represents quality when they care for nothing but quantity. The media are the news, all that is new, and poetry has no respect for this time bound rhythm. / Because of this, poetry is the core of resistance of the living language to digested, shrivelled and univocal language. Poetry is this vitality of language without needing to affirm it: it is so naturally, intrinsically, through its situation, for it is constantly reactivated by what gives it life, and which is source, which is origin.
for the speech of early morning
and its muscular taste of rebirth
even if daylight arriving should choke it
I would open the flowers of poison unaided
and let the last day dawn
I function, fertile
cannot offer oblivion
its gone way beyond tears
where are the flowery phrases of yesteryear?
the world is finally fleshed out, with breath, becomes a bestiary and cries. Both more blood and more sense, a material complicity uniting air and ether, water, earth and fire.
You are uncertain
of the crest-line or the margins of time
we recount the whitened epic
caravan of caravans
They look at me
so probably I have a face
/ I am not
therefore I do not doubt
I imagined you’d get bored with me sometime
but still still
I wait .You come
peace be with you said the blood to the fat flies
is there a heaven, asked a leg lying on the field after the battle
is there a heaven fill of shoemakers, winged orderlies,
or will I simply decay?
Sometimes I stand this way
in broad daylight
in a white street
and I cover my mouth with my hands
/ so I will not scream
and a malicious feeling of satisfaction brings some relief
(if you can feel relief
while having your brain drilled)
I wanted to bend the day
like a branch in a strangers orchard /
but the day bent me like its own branch
how fortunate spring, that you can manage without me
until, fluttering like eagles, hurling thunderbolts with dignity
they trip on their beards in the struggle, and never hit the clever man
I am warning you about yourself
don’t trust yourself
you can shoot yourself in the back of the head
at any time
it is easier to fascinate little boys with bright feathers than to remember
that the house is blind
Yes my lady I’ve been waiting for a coffee for half an hour…that ‘ober’ is simply…
he’s left, sir, gone off duty…would you like something with your coffee? An apfelstrudel?
I’m afraid there’s only strudel. Penguins is off.
But without god everything is permitted. Murder, pillage, rape or eating dog.
to confront desire
I insist on the evil of writing
but I don’t know if the goddess comes up to the surface
or if she just punishes me with her howls
from the bulwarks of this boat
how I long for mermaid’s breasts
Ana Cristina Cesar
is worthy of note
/ supreme dignity
of a wondering
the furious animal swallows its own halos
behind the taxidermist, there’s the straw
No smoke implies memory, since things are lost in smoke which cannot thus become a monument
if my heart is larger than the world, why then do these ventricles close down into ridiculous points when no oxygen at all replies to the needs of the flesh
It was july
stones were blooming
Age de Carvalho
severe and strange course leads us to the purest pleasure
Jesus, though carrying nothing, perspired heavily
who has seen a toad crossing the street? It’s a tiny man: a doll could not be smaller
The fish head sneers
In the midst of the digs of the dead cat that is beginning to swell - green or mauve? - its fur, the colour of tortoiseshell is miserable and sticky
We shall not dwell forever in these yellow lands, our pleasance…
Saint John Perse
won’t it ever be possible for me
to know that kind woman, down there in the ukraine,
and those two friends in rotterdam
and the young andalusian beggar
and for me to be joined with them
by an indissoluble friendship?
(Alas they will not read these poems)
a shower of drizzling rain
making the flags hang wet
I have dreamed of you so long that you become unreal
Lend me your arm
to replace my leg
the rats ate it for me
Sometimes, when I’m feeling very low and still alone too, in bed, I have my left hand make obeisance to me. It raises itself up on its forearm, turns toward me, and salutes me.
They give us the same presumptuous, profoundly conniving smile. They talk to us in the singular language that likewise presumes to be self-evident, with the same staggering force of conviction, the same postures, the same zoom
if you will learn to playe the vice, to swear, teare, and blaspheme both heaven and earth: if you will learn to become a bawde, uncleane, and to deverginat Mayds, to deflour honest Wyves: if you will learne to murther, slaie, kill, picke, steal, robbe, and rove.
god spoke once in the dark: dead sound
the stranger walks into the dark room where the two men sit at the table and talk of travel. The stranger joins in the conversation, saying ‘I have also traveled’
My legs will be little steel rods,
which will continue trotting after I am dead
My arms are two useless limbs
when I stand on my head (which I never do)
My mouth, too often open,
will be my despair -
in nine decades
a mad queen will be born
signs with a swastika on the visitors’ book
for her the sewers shrieked their way through London
and pigeons ate each other in the air
millions have had no accident today
all wars have come to an end
an honest politician
in another country
wants to become a plumber
all men will be equal, next year
volcano vomits ice-cream
a silent poem has been invented
The band played a little bit louder
It was all very British
Bur do not put your hand down to see, because in the stumps of old trees, where the hearts have rotted out, there are holes the length of a man’s arm.
Hugh Sykes Davies
across the square where crowds are dying in thousands
a man is walking a tightrope covered with moths
consequently the lion is a diamond
the blue eagle and the demon of the steppes
in the last cab in berlin
morning trickles over the bruised vegetables
so when they would give me candy or sugar
the foot of my verse is the knell of their hearse
the most beautiful young girl of all,
who was only dressed in cellophane
a lynching held in one of the parks?
the small man suffers the indignities of childhood
the birds of tin
we cannot eat
Dragomir Stanescu wants to see you.
He has got the ice with eggs painted
on it, made specially for the peasants.
But he knows that we shall not need
it nor anything else. It will be dark
these crops grow in human blood they
are the finest in Europe
the drips surprise. They talk too
loud about death
he is a sensation for newspapers and headaches. He is exploded
it is a world so free that it has become empty
irony, the self surmounting of a subjectivity that has gone as far as it was possible to go, is the highest freedom that can be achieved in a world with god
all the fluids of his body are irritant
then balls of ennui burst one by one
with the forks of flowers I eat the meat of morning
Charles Henri Ford
show europe’s laugh! Europe’s pearl rope of death
I, in my intricate image, stride on two levels
the wood is full of shining eyes
the wood is full of creeping feet
the wood is full of tiny cries
you must not go to the wood at night!
a little onion lay by the fireplace
it had a burning mansion painted on one side
on the other it had a rat and a pair of whiskers
I said, my love, this reminds me of you
but she put out the candle and said, go to bed
I cannot remember, said the madman
sky’s prophetic chickens weave their cloth of awe
and love’s inscrutable skeleton sings
his hatred of self
to answer -
I do not know their language!
How wonderful in the new eye the world will appear!
oh there are marvels in the souls of children
prophetic insects, stones that grow
he knew all about her
with one hand he unzipped his fly
with the other he
cut her throat
this honey is delicious
though it burns the throat
we could make a whole plain white with skulls in the moonlight!
It so happens I am sick of being a man
I have a terrible fear of being an animal
the dolphin with a revolver in its teeth
it occurs to me that the greatest gentleness would put a bullet into his bright eye. And when I look in his eye, it is not his eye that I see
the lion backed off whining
I cough. I spit. I jump up and down
and I run around like a headless rooster
me too. I am not lonesome. I am gregarious
I make friends with the curbstone even
they spent my life plotting against me
with nothing to do but cultivate themselves
I will sleep
in my little cup
I want a magnifying glass and a knowledge of coptic
and a box in the british museum for the last performance of hamlet
annabella, such a ridiculous name for a breakfast cereal
I sat in the cold limbs of a tree
sooner or later
they will glove their mouths
with the fangs of the rain running to china
the sleep of those who can’t sleep and the sleep
of great animals who lie wounded
and unable to sleep
THERE IS NO FORM BUT SHAPE!
/ I am the animal seraph that I know I am!
sadness of illiterates in the shadows of bottles
I do not banter with pigs
man flees suffocation
a full day, and not unrewarding
night fell at the usual seasonal hour
she drew the curtains, switched on the electric fire
washed her hair and read until it was dry
then went to bed; where, for the hours of darkness
she lay pierced by thirty black spears
and felt her limbs numb, her eyes burning
and dark rust carried along her blood
man is a creature who walks on two legs and is ungrateful
Now, you perfectly know you are looking at things as they do not necessarily have to be looked at
but after some moments of comparison I saw quite clearly that my smile did not resemble that of humans: the fact is, I was not laughing.
hypocrite sea, image of my heart; earth with mysterious womb; inhabitants of the spheres; the whole universe; god who grandly created it, you I invoke: Show me one honest man!
one dies at less
I used to sit in my little black hole and carve soap, I used to get the neighbours cat and feel its pelt for fleas to snap. I used to dip some wax on flies and burn their wings off
School days are the unhappiest in the whole span of human existence. They are full of dull, unintelligible tasks, new and unpleasant ordinances, brutal violations of common sense and common decency
always I have to think of the pharoah forests
and kiss the images of my stars
already my lips are luminous
and speak far things
a river called magpie
remembers its true shape
and one evening simply
the sun laughs!
night. O face against my face
dissolved into deepness
god or goddess of the sleep of cats
Rainer Maria Rilke
the wall cat founds herself
as a monument, gapes into yellowness
I see the february moon lie down
I wanted no thrill, no surprise
when I saw an advertisement
that clawed into my eyes
and left my memory bent
as slimming tablets at that session
my duped wife swallows them whole
a hallowed peace has taken possession
of the drawingroom of my soul
Why does this one keep silent, gagged?
Because his conscience yelled!
Whose had leapt to realms befogged?
His whose gullet retched with disgust
look at the drunk Silenus: through his beard
from his loud blood for ever drowned in roars,
shivered by alien music and unique,
wine drips into his sex!
The brain eats dust. Our feet devour the dust
if but the eye were round and self-contained
then through the lids sweet night would enter in
brushwood and love
from you, the sweetly bestial
from out your shadows, sleep and hair
I must bestride my brain
all loops and turns
the ultimate duologue
How sad this evening
limbs made for love
to the machine and grudging drudgery
look into the tender light
Jakob Van Hoddis
O thou beloved of my twenty seven senses, I love thou!
thee thine thou, me thou, thee I - we?
lovers stand / in doorways / without a word
hold out a cold hand / in token of parting / and one more time
look back in the dark
only yesterday powdered and lustful I walked
in this various and resonant world
today how long ago the lot was drowned
the whores, the theatre and the city moon
the streets, the laundered shirtfronts and the smells
a wise eyed gentleman floats madly, full of night
an ailing god
Open your thighs to fate and (if you can
withholding nothing) World, conceive a man
how lucky lovers are (whose selves abide
under whatever shall discovered be)
whose ignorant each breathing dares to hide
more than most fabulous wisdom fears to see
up the eiffel tower’s ladder climbs the blue machinist
and savage the ankles of my fleeting angels
the moon like a winter animal licks the salt of your hands
yet your hair foams violet like a lilac bush
in which experienced the little owl calls
a dust tree grows
a dust wood everywhere we walked
and this dust hand, oh, do not touch it
/around us towers of oblivion rise
towers that collapse inwards
but still lit by your orange beams
a dust birds flies off
/ I’ll have the legend of our love preserved in quartz
the gold of our dreams buried in a desert
the dust wood grows darker and darker
oh, do not touch this dust rose! (1951)
how strenuous it is to be evil
the only point of living is to die
to be a so - a soldier - oh what bliss!
Only a chap who’s seen his own self lie
in bed and smile would get the point of this
I, the breton
my shoes soaked in sea water
in a shirt of fog over my diaphragm
the soothsayers of the forest
the foxes with bad teeth
sit in the dark, apart,
staring into the fire
With any water to hand
Marie Luise Kaschnitz
I ceased to breathe, grew deaf and blind
noticed how immediately I became
one with dung beetles, bogland, one and the same
I smiled. And then I was red dust
we shall never again be glad our days
but perhaps we shall be glad of our nights
I envy forgetful people
here where the bloodstained game track ends
the huntsman lies bound and his dog eats snow
a black dog
my eyes have the power to see crystals in the air
think of departure…
the motionless octopus moved
time: something that makes your pockets
moist with blood
no fine weather alters a cancer
nothing can still or staunch
throw earth into my mouth
and I’ll sing you grass
the worm will win
and the arm is losing
he had sold a northern light he was rich
I am polar planet I cost a hundred dollars
a polar bear gave birth to me glittering one winter night
/ I buy my furs in the best shops of alaska
I say good frost to the shopgirl she gives it to me
Hans Carl Artmann
the ugly are slaughtered
the world grows beautiful
/ the foolish are slaughtered
the world grows wise
filth with the tongues of rats that dances over the ruins
that have put the suspicion of madness into my mind
a half dead fish
trying to scream
that’s a funny sight
a dusty assortment of holy monkeys
Gunter Bruno Fuchs
I was deaf
because I despised wrapping paper
Lions, they’ll put you in museums, stuffed.
Desert sand, you’ll find yourself under glass, labelled
Hans Jurgen Heise
in the quietness one can smell death
it is the music one can no longer hear
and when we had finished off the earth
we put down poison for the sky
do I lay it on too thick?
Do I live too much on the overcrowded air
and do I need too many others
I do not open my eyes, but my eyes open me
Man is attached to Eloim by a thread. If his sins break the thread, Eloim then takes the two ends and ties them together in a big knot. This shortens the thread so that the man is brought still closer to Eloim
One day christian soldiers came down from the mountains up there and into our village. One of them took away my daughter and tied her to this tree and raped her, raped her and killed her. The man started to cry. Markus put a hand on his shoulder and thought: I know. It was me.
the water turned black as soon as it touched me
European culture is the only one in the world in which even intimacy must be odorless
a boy caught a dolphin in a brook and laughed
is there still any rebelliousness left?
By the seashore / I see poor octopuses hung on wooden racks / I too am hung in the air
is someone waiting
A white horse walks, hanging its head low
by the evening seashore
where not a souyl is seen
across its bare back, the horse carries
a prostrate man in a prison uniform
His dangling hands are tied
almost reaching the ground
the blood dripping along his fingers
falls, dotting the sand
I know not where the horse is going
it just keeps walking down the long, long deserted beach
fighting cocks are always hungry for blood
exorcism, a reaction in force, with a battering ram, is the true poem of the prisoner
in the very space of suffering and obsession, you introduce such exaltation, such magnificent biolence, welded to the hammering of words, that the evil is progressively dissolved, replaced by an airy demonic sphere – a marvelous state!
Henri Michaux – preface to ordeals, exorcisms 1945
whoever rejects his demons badgers us to death with angels
dwarves are born continually
It soon became clear (from adolescence on) that I had been born to live among monsters
Despite so many efforts in somany directions all through his life to change himself, his bones, without paying any attention to him, blindly follow their familial, racial, Nordic evolution
I met an oaktree: as tall as my finger, and it was suffering.
The fight was over, at least for the day
Then I put myself inside an apple. What peace!..
When I arrived in the apple, I was ice-cold
in this country, they do not use women. when they want pleasure, they go into the water, and then toward them comes a creature rather like an otter, but bigger, even more supple (and have you ever seen an otter go into the water? it slips in like a hand), toward him come these animals and fight over him.
and what if the poor were given pies of stewed ball-bearings?
and your bread turns into a bear demanding its share and ready to kill
People who dream have always seemed to me superficial sleepers. Probably afraid to ‘lose their man.’
Mediocrities, boring women, some brute I could have gotten rid of a hundred time over – I kept them around for the session with the sack.
But the Nonese are patient. God will not stand for this indefinitely, they say. He is waiting for his time to come.
Of course he’s waiting.
The god Mna is the deafest and the greatest. They are sure that is he could only hear them, it would be the end of all their miseries – which are countless
‘do come in,’ said the shark, and he ate him. The shark was a man-eater, but the era was polite.
In Siam they use the tiger’s docility in following his cruel instincts to lure him on to a bleating lamb over a deep ditch in which he will then perish, fuming with rage at having stupidly let himself be found out by little cowardly bastards so inferior to him in every way.
In this century, the phallus is becoming dogmatic.
He who sings in a group will put his brother in prison when asked.
To understand, the intelligence must get itself dirty. Above all, before it even gets dirty, it has to get hurt.
(omne animal, always
situation, such outrageous
Jonathan C Williams
But look now, in this room, see the moon-children
Wolf, bear, and otter, dragon, dove.
A nock on the door, a cat walks in, behind her the Zoo’s baby
elephant demanding pancaks – I cant stand hallucinations
this is the herb called wergulu
it crossed the ocean on the back of a seal
why hurry, life, why chivvy on the hour?
you’ll soon have time to sew my mouth right up,
stitching with iron threads
- O Yahweh!
their killer dogs looked us over with curiosity
- O levi baaram batzi Tzion
in a strange land!
for a single lost elephant is always worth more than the two moving breasts of a girl
the moon toad swims in the river
and does not drown. The moon rabbit
pounds the bitter herbs of the
elixir of eternal life
Tu Fu (Kenneth Rexroth)
Flies and blood.
A small goat skips
in Kali’s court.
A halal axe falls on anaemic chickens
(The Fox is heavy)
Vapour forth flamed
shut & digested to mucus
in swan’s belly
fish of sky
who was it saying – I remember now – that there was no forest, no jays probably or was it woodpeckers, and no dogs?
It is imperative to write invulnerable sentences. Sentences that withstand all irony.
One must give up lyrical feelings. It is tactless to flaunt feelings at such a time. The plainest decency, the simplest politeness, demands that you keep your sentiments to yourself.
If language really makes us kings of our nation, then without doubt it is we, the poets and thinkers, who are to blame for this blood bath and who have to atone for it.
It is necessary for me to drop all respect for tradition, opinion, and judgement. It is necessary for me to erase the rambling text that others have written.
for a man of culture it is the worst immorality to accept the standards of his time.
Remove yourself as far as possible from the times in order to assess them. But do not lean so far out of the window that you fall out.
The activity of any art (painting, writing, composing) will do them good, providing that they do not pursue any purpose in their subjects, but follow the course of a free, unfettered imagination… In an age like ours, when people are assaulted daily by the most monstrous things without being able to keep account of their impressions, in such an age aesthetic production becomes a prescribed course. But all living art will be irrational, primitive and complex; it will speak a secret language and leave behind documents not of edification but of paradox.
It can probably be said that for us art is not an end in itself – more pure naivete is necessary for that – but it an opportunity for true perception and criticism of the times we live in, both of which are essential for an unstriking but characteristic style. The latter does not seem to us such a simple matter as one is often inclined to think. What can a beautiful, harmonious poem say if nobody reads it because it has nothing to do with the feelings of the times? And what can a novel have to say when it is read for culture but ir eeally a long way from even touching on culture? Our debates are a burning search, more blatant every day, for the specific rhythm and the buried face of this age – for its foundation and essence; for the possibility of its being stirred, its awakening. Art is only an occasion for that, a method.
Perfect scepticism makes perfect freedom possible. When no definite conclusions can, must, or may be reached about the inner contour of an object, then it is handed over to its opposite, and it is only a question of whether the new order of the elements, made by the artist, scholar or theologian, can gain recognition. The recognition is tantamount to the fact that the interpreter has succeeded in enriching the world with a new phenomenon. One can almost say when belief in an object or a cause comes to an end, this object or cause returns to chaos and become common property. But perhaps it is necessary t have resolutely, forcibly produced chaos and thus a complete withdrawal of faith before an entirely new edifice can be built up on a changed basis of belief. The elemental and demonic come to the fore first; the old names and words are dropped.
Huelsenbeck speaks against “organisation"; people have had enough of it, he says. I think so too. One should not turn a whim into an artistic school.
The Dadaist loves the extraordinary and the absurd. He knows that life asserts itself in contradiction, and that his age aims at the destruction of generosity as no age has ever done before. He therefore welcomes any kind of mask. Any game of hide-and-seek, with its inherent power to deceive. In the midst of the enormous unnaturalness, the direct and the primitive seem incredible to him. As the bankruptcy of ideas has stripped the image down to its innermost layers, instincts and backgrounds are emerging in a pathological way. As not art, politics, or knowledge seems able to hold back this flood, the only thing left is the joke and bloody pose.
The Dadaist pus more trust in the honesty of events than in the wit of people. He can get people cheaply, himself included. He no longer believes in the comprehension of things from one point of view, and yet he is still so convinced of the unity of all beings, of the totality of all things, that he suffers from the dissonances to the point of self-disintegration.
The Dadaist fights against the agony and the death throes of this age. Averse to all clever reticence, he cultivates the curiosity of one who feels joy even at the most questionable forms of rebellion. He knows that the world of systems has fallen apart, and that this age, with its insistence on cash payment, has opened a jumble sale of godless philosophies. Where fear and a bad conscience begin for the shopkeeper, hearty laughter and gentle encouragement begin for the Dadaist.
The word and the image are one. Painter and poet belong together.
We have now driven the plasticity of the word to the point where it can scarcely be equalled. We achieved this at the expanse of the rational, logically constructed sentence, and also by abandoning documentary work (which is possible only by means of a time-consuming grouping of sentences in logically ordered syntax.) Some things assisted us in our efforts: first of all, the special circumstances of these times, which do not allow real talent either to rest or mature and so put its capabilities to the test. Then there was the emphastic energy of our group; one member was always trying to surpass the other by intensifying demands and stresses. You may laugh; language will one day reward us for our zeal.
In these phonetic poems we totally renounce the language that journalism has abused and corrupted. We must return to the innermost alchemy of the word, we must even give up the word to, to keep for poetry its last and holiest refuge. We must give up writing secondhand: that is, accepting words (to say nothing of sentences) that are not newly invented for our own use. Poetic effects can no longer be obtained in ways that are merely reflected ideas or arrangements of furtively offered witticisms and images.
In its fantasising art is indebted to total scepticism. Consequently, artists, inasmuch as they are sceptics, flow into the stream of the fantastic age; they belong to destruction and are its emissaries and blood relatives.
The academy itself is fantastic and irrational. Its belief in ‘objective science’ is the basis of all phantasms. The future will, therefore, probably not sacrifice the intellect, but oppose it to the fantast cult of science in a formative way.
In a world that has been supplanted and buried beyond recognition, a world that is liberated in art by unrestrained enthusiasm, bt in the lunatic asylum is freed by a disease. The revolutionaries I mean are to be sought there, rather than in the mechanised literature and politics of today.
we had to be independent of any morality and yet proceed from the one moral premise that the whole man could be elevated (and not only a part of the man who is agreeable to being educated; who advances society; or who fits into the existing system).
It is just a noise. It makes no difference if it is with cannons or debates.
The only thing we can put our hopes in is unconditional honesty, even if it cuts into our own flesh.
Art cannot have any respect for the existing view of the world unless it renounces itself. Art enlarges the world by negating the aspects that were known and in operation up to now, and putting new ones in their place. That is the power of modern aesthetics; one cannot be an artist and believe in history.
The faults one discovers in others are often only one’s own. Anyone who is familiar with this idea drives great benefit from it.
Sexual abstention is defined by the Fathers as a Christian innovation, and they see it as a supernatural virtue; it seems to me to be a result of the experience of death. “I die every day” says Paul. The dying man is not interested in sexual intercourse.
Hugo Ball, Flight out of Time
Thus they let their anger and fury take from them the sense of humanity, and demonstrated that no beast is more savage than man when possessed with power answerable to his rage.
These are the materials for reflection which history affords to those who choose to make use of them.
Perseverance is more prevailing than violence; and many things which cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little.
Good fortune will elevate even petty minds, and give them the appearance of a certain greatness and stateliness, as from their high place they look down upon the world; but the truly noble and resolved spirit raises itself, and becomes more conspicuous in times of disaster and ill fortune.
Medicine, to produce health, has to examine disease; and music, to create harmony, must investigate discord.
"Wealth and poverty are the oldest and most deadly ailments of all republics"
Be ruled by time, the wisest counsellor of all.
Rest gives relish to labour.
According to the proverb, the best things are the most difficult.
Democritus said, words are but the shadows of actions.
The whole life of man is but a point of time; let us enjoy it, therefore, while it lasts, and not spend it to no purpose.
You ask of me then for what reason it was that Pythagoras abstained from eating of flesh. I for my part do much admire in what humor, with what soul or reason, the first man with his mouth touched slaughter, and reached to his lips the flesh of a dead animal, and having set before people courses of ghastly corpses and ghosts, could give those parts the names of meat and victuals, that but a little before lowed, cried, moved, and saw; how his sight could endure the blood of slaughtered, flayed, and mangled bodies; how his smell could bear their scent; and how the very nastiness happened not to offend the taste, while it chewed the sores of others, and participated of the saps and juices of deadly wounds.
For the sake of some little mouthful of flesh, we deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy. And then we fancy that the voices it utters and screams forth to us are nothing else but certain inarticulate sounds and noises, and not the several deprecations, entreaties, and pleadings of each of them.
What meal is not expensive? That for which no animal is put to death. … one participating of feeling, of seeing, of hearing, of imagination, and of intellection; which each animal hath received from Nature for the acquiring of what is agreeable to it, and the avoiding what is disagreeable.
He is a fool who leaves things close at hand to follow what is out of reach.
All men whilst they are awake are in one common world; but each of them, when he is asleep, is in a world of his own.
When the candles are out all women are fair.
A prating barber asked Archelaus how he would be trimmed. He answered, "In silence."
When Darius offered him ten thousand talents, and to divide Asia equally with him, "I would accept it," said Parmenio, "were I Alexander." "And so truly would I," said Alexander, "if I were Parmenio." But he answered Darius that the earth could not bear two suns, nor Asia two kings.
Themistocles being asked whether he would rather be Achilles or Homer, said, "Which would you rather be,—a conqueror in the Olympic games, or the crier that proclaims who are conquerors?"
Alcibiades had a very handsome dog, that cost him seven thousand drachmas; and he cut off his tail, "that," said he, "the Athenians may have this story to tell of me, and may concern themselves no further with me."
Lysander said, "Where the lion's skin will not reach, it must be pieced with the fox's."
Socrates thought that if all our misfortunes were laid in one common heap, whence every one must take an equal portion, most persons would be contented to take their own and depart.
Diogenes the Cynic, when a little before his death he fell into a slumber, and his physician rousing him out of it asked him whether anything ailed him, wisely answered, "Nothing, sir; only one brother anticipates another,—Sleep before Death."
There are two sentences inscribed upon the Delphic oracle, hugely accommodated to the usages of man's life: "Know thyself," 68 and "Nothing too much;" and upon these all other precepts depend.
The most perfect soul, says Heraclitus, is a dry light, which flies out of the body as lightning breaks from a cloud.
To conduct great matters and never commit a fault is above the force of human nature.
Knowledge of divine things for the most part, as Heraclitus says, is lost to us by incredulity.
Cato used to assert that wise men profited more by fools than fools by wise men; for that wise men avoided the faults of fools, but that fools would not imitate the good examples of wise men.
Marius said, "I see the cure is not worth the pain."
The old proverb was now made good, "the mountain had brought forth a mouse."
When Alexander asked Diogenes whether he wanted anything, "Yes," said he, "I would have you stand from between me and the sun."
Even a nod from a person who is esteemed is of more force than a thousand arguments or studied sentences from others.
Pythias once, scoffing at Demosthenes, said that his arguments smelt of the lamp.
Alexander wept when he heard from Anaxarchus that there was an infinite number of worlds; and his friends asking him if any accident had befallen him, he returns this answer: "Do you not think it a matter worthy of lamentation that when there is such a vast multitude of them, we have not yet conquered one?"
Remember what Simonides said,—that he never repented that he had held his tongue, but often that he had spoken.
What is bigger than an elephant? But this also is become man's plaything, and a spectacle at public solemnities; and it learns to skip, dance, and kneel.
Alexander was wont to say, "Were I not Alexander, I would be Diogenes."
The great god Pan is dead.
It is a difficult thing for a man to resist the natural necessity of mortal passions.
He is a fool who lets slip a bird in the hand for a bird in the bush.
Xenophon says that there is no sound more pleasing than one's own praises.
Simonides calls painting silent poetry, and poetry speaking painting.
Pythagoras, when he was asked what time was, answered that it was the soul of this world.