wildflowers

when, instead of planting bluegrass that requires irrigation and a lawnmower and fertilizer and weedkiller, you encourage your yard to do what it adapted to on the foothill of the mountain, you find, as i did this morning, an array of wildflowers.

top row: yellow composites

second row down: red penstemons and sweet vetch

third row: wild roses and the very first open blossom of Palmer’s penstemon

fourth row: goat’s beard and flax

fifth row: paintbrush and bluebells

sixth row: death camas (the white flower) and blue penstemon

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cover

I just took down the post about the Cover design. It turns out I jumped the gun. I’ll repost when the Press Catalogue is published.

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Wildflowers, Yellow Composites

A relatively wet spring here on the foothills of the Wasatch Range, south end of Utah Valley. That means the wildflowers have been especially abundant.

First the glacier lilies, spring beauties, and Wasatch bluebells.

Then a sequence of yellow composites. The photos aren’t very good, taken with my little phone and without my reading glasses. But they still give a sense for the striking similarities between flowers growing out of distinctly different clusters of leaves.

Arrowleaf balsamroot were the first wave (you can see them loosing their petals already):

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Now two other yellow composites are flowering, neither of which I can identify (can anyone help?).

The first have low, broad, waxy wings the deer nibble on. You can see a couple of leaves here with their tops gone to feed the deer.

wax2wax

And these, with narrower leaves and growing out of bunches:

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Native plants growing naturally in their chosen ecosystems. They make their own ways. And they make me happy.

Finally, the black-headed grosbeaks have been singing their melodious heads off, and the black-headed towhees have been sending their morse-signals. And yesterday, for the first time this spring, I saw my favorite bird of all: a lazuli bunting.

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Immortal for Quite Some Time

Page proofs.

imm

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imm3

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RAINER SPLITT pourings

The German artist Rainer Splitt just sent me the catalogue of his exhibition at the Museum gegenstandsfreier Kunst. It was a remarkable exhibition, thoughtful and beautiful and surprising at every turn.

splitt

A couple of glances inside the catalogue:

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splitt1

I wrote an essay about the work that is included in the catalogue. It begins with an assessment of the work called Ruby, Colorpour, owned privately (note the paintings by Gerhard Richter and Julije Knifer on the wall to the left):

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splitt1

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Baumschattenwand

A new collection of notes and drawings from Peter Handke. The title translates as In Front of the Tree-shadow-wall at Night. Notebooks from 2007-2015.

baumschatten

Ungeduld als Frevel, Frevel des schlechten Umgangs mit den Dingen

Impatience as sacrilege, sacrilege of interacting poorly with things

triglav

Triglav / Slovenia (once the highest mountain of Yugoslavia)

. . . and from Zarko’s and my book Repetitions:

Later that night we stood on the gravel shore of an enormously still mountain lake. The silky water mirrored the bright half-moon and the surrounding mountains. Standing there in silence, Yugoslavia’s highest mountain towering three-headed (Triglav) over us in the moonlit night, Zarko and I began to talk about standing and being.

leocadie

Leocadie in the train, Dresden (5/2/2012) — My child in another train, sleeping, Germany

joseph

And my first child, Joseph, sleeping in Salzburg 1975

 

Wo ist die Dauer? Im schwankenden Gras des Gartens. Nimm es mit dir auf die Reise

Where is duration? In the swaying grass of the garden. Take it with you when you travel

 

Eine gewisse Freude, eine ungewisse Traurigkeit

A certain joy, an uncertain sadness

 

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Fences, Borders, Inequality

[notes from a paper given on Wednesday at the UVU Humanities Symposium on Migrants, Refugees, and Borders]

Control is the end promised by 19th-century barbed-wire advertisements; barbed wire is the means. “Why Barb Fencing Is Better Than Any Other,” a hyperbolic paragraph in the 1885 Glidden Barb-Fence Journal, makes this explicit:

It is the cheapest; it is the most indestructible; it is proof against wind; proof against flood; proof against fire; proof against snow drifts; proof against vermin. It casts no shade; it does not exhaust the soil. It is not stolen for fuel. It does not decay; boys cannot crawl through or over it; nor dogs; nor cats; nor any other animal; it watches with argus eyes the inside and outside, up, down and lengthwise; it prevents the “ins” from being “outs;” and the “outs” from being “ins;” watches at day-break, at noontide, at sunset and all night long; it is the lightest to handle; the strongest when erected; the easiest to transport. It saves lumber, nails, labor, vexation, time, patience, profanity and the crops. It answers all requirements of a perfect fence; it is in fact the only perfect fence.

At the heart of this almost poetic declaration is the fencing in of the Same and the fencing out of the Other (or vice versa). The barbs become the all-surveilling eyes of mythological Argus, whose epithet “Panoptes” or “all eyes” has entered contemporary usage through Jeremy Bentham’s “panopticon” and Michel Foucault’s analysis of “panopticism.” “Is it surprising,” Foucault asks, “that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?” (228). And, we might add, is it surprising that these controlling institutions resemble the agricultural and battlefield spaces dominated physically and psychologically by twisted-wire fences bristling with sharp-eyed barbs?

Reviel Netz’ emphasizes the violence required for effective control: “as iron (and, most important, steel) became increasingly inexpensive and widespread, it was used to control motion and space, on a massive scale, exploiting its capacity for mass production and its power of violence over flesh” (xii). Netz points out that the invention and manufacture of barbed wire for the voracious agricultural market made possible its use in the trenches of World War I and the concentration camps of the Boer War and World War II. All these events, Netz writes, “involved, on a mass scale, control over space, which is tantamount to the prevention of motion, which is tantamount to violence” (Barbed Wire, 233).

 

Barbed wire played a 19th-century role in violent control of Native Americans, as this incident reveals:

In 1890 John P. McGlinn, United States Indian Agent, sent his “Report of Neah Bay Agency” to Washington D.C. After mentioning an influenza epidemic, a severe winter during which cattle and horses died in large numbers, on the reservation farm, and his experience with the Quillayute Indians, he notes that in 1889 President Cleveland had set aside more than 800 acres as a reservation for the Quillayutes, “provided that this withdrawal shall not affect any existing valid rights of any party.” Unfortunately, the agent continues, the 800 acres had already

been taken up previously by whites under the homestead and preemption laws. Not an acre that is worth anything to them is left. Their village, their homes, and what has been the homes of their fathers for generations, as the immense shell mounds prove, has been homesteaded by a white man, who has erected his dwelling-house in the center of this village.

Shortly after the Quillayute Indians left their village last September, on their annual pilgrimage to the hop-fields of the Puyallup Valley, twenty-six of their houses were destroyed by fire, with all they contained, consisting of whale and fur-sealing outfits, canoes, oil, etc. After the fire Mr. Pullen, the settler, sowed grass-seed on the site of the burned homes, inclosed it with a barbed-wire fence, and not satisfied with doing this, fenced them off from every other available location by five strands of barbed wire. . . . Being fenced off from the hill, they were compelled to erect their new houses on the beach, where they are very much exposed to the fury of the ocean. . . .

I do not care to enter into the rights or wrongs in this case, but I do claim that it would be heartless and cruel to evict those inoffensive Indians from their homes, the resting place of their forefathers, and the dearest place on earth to them. If Mr. Pullen has legal rights, which I presume he has, in justice to these poor, defenseless Indians, this right should be condemned by the Government, and Mr. Pullen paid a fair valuation for it. (223)

Sympathetic to the Indians’ plight, McGlinn reveals the ability of barbed wire—coupled, he says, with homestead and preemption laws—to exclude the Natives from their ancestral homeland. The five-strand fence stands as a marker of property. It enforces the rights given by law. And given what follows in the report, a reader understands that there are several kinds of property rights being asserted here, mental ones as well as physical ones.

McGill continues: “all these coast Indians are as superstitious as the natives of Central Africa. . . . The adult Indian knows comparatively nothing regarding religion or morality.” (223) As a result, McGill writes that he has rescinded previous practice that sent children home from the boarding school for weekends and is keeping under close supervision so they won’t be influenced by the “heathenish and barbarous practices” of their elders. As Brian Evenson’s story “Contagion” puts it: “’There is the physical wire and the spiritual wire.’”

Thinking about these obscene injustices, I turned to Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality, No 2 (1755). His thoughts on the origin of inequality seem apropos:

The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying “This is mine,” and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. Humanity would have been spared infinite crimes, wars, homicides, murders, if only someone had ripped up the fences or filled in the ditches and said, “Do not listen to this pretender! You are eternally lost if you do not remember that the fruits of the earth are everyone’s property and that the land is no-one’s property!”

About the same time I saw this photo in the New York Times, a massive enclosure built to control the flood of refugees from Syria and other troubled parts of the world to Greece and then through Macedonia to other parts of Europe.

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For our barbed-wire book I’ve been reading Thomas Oles’ thoughtful book on walls. Oles thinks about Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” and notes that although the poem ends with the famous phrase “Good fences make good neighbors,” it begins with the contrary phrase “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”

What kinds of walls don’t I love? I wondered.

 

Wendy Brown’s fine book Walled States, Waning Sovereignty investigates the paradox that a “globalized world harbors fundamental tensions between opening and barricading. . . . [with] increasingly liberalized borders, on the one hand, and the devotion of unprecedented funds, energies, and technologies to border fortification, on the other.” She points to the wall being built on the U.S.-Mexico border, to the Israeli-built wall snaking through the West Bank, to new walls in South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India, Uzbekistan, Kuwait, and on and on.

In the end, all such walls will be failed walls. They deal with symptoms rather than causes. The causes are all related to inequalities, inequalities of safety or opportunity or economy. Until those inequalities are lessened, until the tension is eased, people will migrate. Unfortunately, when large numbers of people are on the move in response to war or famine or economic disaster, they unsettle the citizens of potential host countries and those citizens inevitably turn to demagogues like Donald Trump.

“I would build a great wall,” Trump says repeatedly, “and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”

Hours after praying for Mexican migrants who died trying to reach the United States, Pope Francis singled out Donald Trump, telling reporters aboard the papal plane that anybody who wants to build border walls “is not Christian.”

“A person who thinks only about building walls — wherever they may be — and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Francis said. “This is not in the Gospel.” Washington Post

It’s not Jewish either. When the Abraham occupied the promised land he lived their like a stranger, like a foreigner.

As occupiers of wealthy lands, we should also live like strangers and foreigners. There is no difference between us and refugees other than the walls we build.

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Between Winter and Spring

arrowleaf2arrowleaf3bluebelldeerscatsnowgrassvalleystorm2

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Morning Light (before the storm)

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Translating the Untranslatable

Last summer I visited my friend Zarko Radakovic in Cologne, Germany. I brought with me a gift for Zarko from my friend Alex Caldiero—Alex’s newest book:

Some-love 2

Zarko wanted to reciprocate, but when I suggested that he send Alex a copy of one of his books he noted that Alex couldn’t read Serbo-Croatian. He’ll find a way, I argued, and so Zarko sent his book Strah od Emigracija (Fear of Emigration) home with me:

strah

Some months later Alex read Zarko’s book aloud and wrote this letter:

Zarko,  holograph letter to Z3

A second page continues this invocation of a language beyond languages, between the languages Zarko and Alex don’t share (Alex knows neither Serbo-Croatian nor German and Zarko knows neither Sicilian nor English—although his understanding of written English never ceases to amaze me).

Alex appended another letter to Zarko:

Dear Zarko, hope this letter finds you well. Want not only to thank you for the book you gave me via Scott….but to tell you that it had a profound effect on me. This is a lot, considering the fact that it is written in a language I do not understand. After I read about 20 pages out-loud, i began to hear your voice and, continuing to lissen to what i was reading, i stopped reading and began to write. I have been at work with an approach to language I call “reading as writing” and so it was no accident that this shift in mode took place. I send you my writing of my reading of some of your book and what that deep lissening opend up for me. Is it translation? Is it original writing? Is it a genre of language all its own? No matter. It is my response and deeply held conviction that the field of language is vaster than our tongues can know. I hope that some time Scott can translate this and  the attached holograph letter. iN any event, It is a record of an exchange for which I AM all the more.

 

I send you a hug, as ever your friend and brother, Alex

 

POST SCRIPT:

Dear friend Zarko, the gift of your book in a language I don’t understand brings me again to a familiar place. It is a testimony to a fact that never ends for me: that I am and will ever remain, in one-way or another, illiterate. This fact first struck me in 1967, when I was in Rizzoli bookstore in Manhattan. As I was looking thru the poetry section, I ran into a book I could scarcely read. It was only when I mouthed the words several times that my tongue hit on their meaning and I knew suddenly that this was the language I had first drunk at my mother’s breast and spoken all my life but which until that moment that it could be wittiness and t had never read, nor even dreamed that it could be read, no less written, or that it was a door to a whole culture, and the history of a people.  I was illiterate, and could not

read my native language. This was a true moment of enlightenment and joy and beginning of a quest that to this day has given me more sorrow and pain than I could have imagined, given how happy I had been at the start of this piece of knowledge.

 

from exile to exile, I MAKE LANGUAGE. is language translation? language is translation. language desires to bring across from one side to another, over a bridge, across a sea, from one shore onto another, to transport us.

 

translator….put me into a trance later…..

 

The status quo of every reading-interpretation-translation is that we put together what makes sense, out of what we know, what we already understand; and no writing is completely unknown to us, even written in another language, we read and nothing makes sense, and then, out of nowhere, we recognize something, a particle, a section of a word, a phase, a cognate, and so it occurred to me, because I couldn’t do anything about the words I didn’t understand or even hope to approach, that I would ferret out those words or phrases that bore any resemblance to what I already knew. this, as I said, is no different that what is normally done. so there’s nothing strange about doing it under these, at first, unusual circumstances. There is no book that

we cannot read. there is no language that we cannot understand. We create meaning for ourselves constantly. so there we are and here I am, before this book I another language not known to me. and with the above concept in mind, I gain the confidence to read the unintelligible, and make it mean, able to in tell me what there is to tell. this kind of telling is another instance of

reading as writing. Making sense is something we cannot stop. oh if only we could! we are built to create and spawn and generate meaning. the existential loss of meaning is a misnomer or an outright illusion or perhaps a lie. If we suffer, we suffer from too much meaning. One way to curb this penchant for sense is to delve into nonsense and there, at last, we can act out of meanings in relative peace of creation. and realize that in the beginning was the word, and the word moved over the chaos and stirred the shapeless mass of being and therein the word began to speak and be in and bring forth each thing and every thing and it was all so very good.

 

Zarko responded quickly with an email he asked me to translate for Alex:

Lieber Scott, 

Deine Worte sind mir ganz nah und so wichtig. Und Alex, dieser Mensch, ist mir wie eine Gottheit aus den besten Antikenzeiten. Nie werde ich in vergessen, wie wir an einem Morgen in deinem Haus so innerlich gesprochen haben,als ob wir uns 5000 Jahre kennen. 

Ich grüße euch beide. Liebste Grüße

Zarko

Dear Scott,

Your words are so important to me, so near. And Alex, this human being, is for me like a god-figure from the best ancient times. I will never forget how, that morning in your house, we spoke so intimately, as if we had known one another for 5000 years.

I greet you both. Dearest greetings

Zarko

And I ask myself: how is it that friendships last over decades, that they span the ocean and bridge languages, that they are the precious stuff of life? There is no answer. Only gratitude.

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