A Line Made By Walking: Wandering Thinking


These fragments are my thoughts unwound. If I orbit these disparate fragments, will they eventually form a coherent whole?

Part 1

Klee talked of a line “going for a walk” as a nice metaphor for drawing. Perhaps, as we move through the world, we are literally taking the line for a walk. Robert Long literally made lines by walking, and then he documented them for galleries.

A Line Made by Walking 1967 Richard Long born 1945 Purchased 1976 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P07149

“Walking along the Poem” was written a sign in South Korea. My friend sent me a photograph of this unique translation (was it correct?). I am taken with it. I have saved it on both my phone and my computer as a curiosity I return to every so often. Sometimes, translations are just approximations of language. Sometimes the map isn’t aligned to the actuality of the world…unless one could “walk along the poem,” which I really like right now.

The map is not the territory.

Alfred Korzybski
“Walking along the Poem” Photo- Benjamin Joslin, South Korea

The map is not the territory. Even when created to reflect the exact dimensions of the territory itself, the representation is not the thing in itself.  

Maps can help move through space, but it is only in the last half of the 20th century that they could really document the movement through time. The measurement of movement through time and space has become very precise in the last few years.

When I think of lines, I don’t think of drawing. I think of moving across distance and time. I am very visual in my conceptual understanding of ideas, and I think in maps when I think of lines. Specifically, I think in the visuals provided on my Garmin watch, maps with lines, a cartography of my place in the map itself.

Race Map from Mandarin 10K, November 9, 2019
As an aside, it is extraordinary to think of map-making as a inherently pointing back to the self instead of the vastness of the world.

I keep thinking of Terry Fox, an important figure in the memories of my childhood. I never met Fox, but my parents let us watch a movie of the story of his cross-continental run through Canada on the quest to bring attention and more funding to cancer research. Having lost his leg through surgical amputation, running this ultra-ultra marathon to completion seems unlikely. Fox was undeterred, and he must have appeared superhuman. Stopping just outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario, he would not traverse the continent. Cancer cut his run short and took his life. This amazing distance (3,339 miles) over the course of 143 days of running is shown in the map below.

My parents took us to Thunder Bay, and there is a photo of me, my brother and sister sitting at the pedestal supporting a statue commemorating Fox’s run. I was not aware of how impactful this moment was for me until much later in my life, when I took up running. Fox’s deep resilience and drive are motivators for me still, beyond running. I feel like his early example influenced my need to create in all facets of my life. Creativity and movement are not strangers, as we have recently been reminded.

Me, Jennifer, and Joseph at the foot of the Terry Fox Memorial in Thunder Bay

Today, one can no longer sit at Fox’s feet. There is a fence constructed to protect the statue. I saw this while navigating Google Earth and attempting to revisit places of my past. It seemed completely out of alignment with my memories. This was akin to viewing an empty lot where once stood a childhood home. This small change in the presentation of the iconic statue changed my relationship to it. To paraphrase Heraclitus, no one can step into the same river twice. 

By Jeremy Gilbert – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3354942

The memory of this early hero inspires me. The move to try the improbable or unpopular is a deeply embedded piece of me. It should not surprise me that contextual elements of this comforting memory portrayed in the photograph should change slightly in the actual space.

Is the image the memory, or does the memory exist beyond the image now? So much time has passed, I don’t know the answer.

Google is currently mapping the globe in the attempt to capture the world in images. Won’t this vast collection just reflect a collective (and limited) memory of the world? Won’t it change by the time we view it?

I am rambling now, more of a wandering line.

Snake, St. Simons Island, GA

Our perception is limited.

Our language is limited.

Time is limited.

The river is vast and moves at extraordinary speed.


Fragments on Absence



“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” — 2 Corinthians 4:18

“My hunch is that the affective outline of what we’ve lost might bring us closer to the bodies we want still to touch than the restored illustration can. Or at least the hollow of the outline might allow us to understand more deeply why we long to hold bodies that are gone.” -Peggy Phelan (1997)


I have been thinking about presence and absence. More specifically, my attention has been drawn to the more phenomenological-oriented concepts of presence and absence, the experiencing of the absence, experiencing the more potent presence within the absence.

The death of a loved one can create an emptiness around which their daily routines and possessions continue to orbit. The hairbrush, the favorite chair, preferred groceries unopened, their own private rituals (of which only the ephemeral remain but not long), knitted blankets, books, photograph albums, medical supplies, etc. Everything that populates a world, even if that world is mostly contained in only a few rooms, remains and points to the emptiness that has taken the place of the body.

My family has experienced two deaths within as many months. We were left reeling, shocked by the loss. Still unable to fully process the loss of Anna’s mother, Linda, we were given the news of Eleanor’s dad, Austin. Everything seems to point toward the emptiness in the universe left by their departure.


In 2013, there was a sinkhole that opened up in Seffner, a small town east of Tampa, that swallowed a man, pulling him into the unending fissure. He was never found. The earth took him. One moment, he was sleeping in his bed. The next, he was lost completely. The man’s brother claimed that he heard his voice calling out to him from the chasm. Then, it went silent.

At around 8 p.m. on Good Friday, Eleanor spoke with her father on the phone. They talked about Easter plans and family. Conversations with three-year olds can be difficult when video is not involved. Disembodied voices. At approximately 11:30 p.m., her father was gone. His disembodied voice was the last communication with her. Then, silence.

Now, silence.


How do you create the foundational supports needed for a toddler to grieve? You share stories. You read to her, provide analogous situations with characters she trusts. You listen to her. She is going to move quickly from one idea to the next, and within that motion, she will say something that stops you. She’ll ask for you to draw Christmas trees that represent both her great grandmother and her father. She’ll want to see both of their names, their full names, written next to her full name. Then, she will just play.

The next day, she’ll tell you that she thinks you need to grow hair “just like daddy’s.” She’ll forget that her daddy is not picking her up from school, and you’ll have to open the wound again. You’ll reread age-appropriate books about loss and grief that have characters that are elephants, pigs, and fish. She’ll depend on these stories sometimes. Other times, she will not want to hear these at all. Most likely, this will be because she doesn’t want to stare directly at the absence. The absence is too painful. It is too painful even when it involves elephants, pigs, and fish.

How do you support your wife through her grieving? You listen to her. You share stories. You read to her. You give her space to think. You watch her heart break into pieces, knowing there is nothing you can do about it. You listen.

Even when she is silent, you try to listen.


I keep thinking of the visual, of language and story, because it is what I have that I can understand. We all need some balance for our equilibrium during times of stress, and these are my balances. However, these things are insignificant concerns when experiencing the loss of a loved one. They only serve to help put my mind on something other than the loss.

I keep thinking of works of art that famously confront the absence, like Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing (wherein the artist actually erased a drawing by Willem de Kooning in 1953). The erased work was mounted in a gold-leaf frame, its absence made iconic, an almost religious object.

I am remembering Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin(realized in 1995). The Reichstag, wrapped in a womb-like white sheet, was rendered absent but not invisible. The fact that the prominent and historically significant building was “hidden” made it more present.

I am remembering the power of the fourth photograph snuck out of Auschwitz by members of the Sonderkommando (described and analyzed by Georges Didi-Huberman), blurry with foliage and empty of the human figures of the other three photos. Yet, their absence (and the absence of the brave photographer) seems more like presence, with the knowledge of history.

Easter marked just over a month since Linda’s death. It was the first major holiday since she left us. I try to see her mother through Anna’s memories of childhood and her father’s memories shared while she was in the hospital. I want to see a true picture of her. There is a photograph of Linda and Anna walking together on Easter Sunday. Anna looks to be about Eleanor’s age and smiling, and her mother looks elated and confident. John described her as a tough lady, someone that would fight for what she loved. Linda loved her family. She loved her family more than herself.

We received the call from Anna’s brother that she had died . We had just visited her two days prior. Her brother and his wife were visiting that evening just before she died. We did not see it coming. She was making a much quicker recovery than had been anticipated.

Linda was excited to see everyone, wanted to not waste time. She kept saying that she had a second chance. When we were not able to be there with her at the rehabilitation center, she was using Facetime throughout the day with John to keep connected while recovering.

Then, Linda was gone.

Our daughter, Kendyl, and I went to the room to collect her things, photographs, Eleanor’s drawings, her clothes.

The staff had a difficult time producing her phone, which seemed inexplicable to me. She was tethered to the device. It was her connection to the world outside of her room. It carried her voice to those she loved.

The staff found the phone. Linda was still gone.


Maybe presence is more potent after the loved one has left their recognized form? In their absence, we truly see them, recognize them, miss them. The total awareness of the fact that they will not be returning stops thought.

Anna shared that she felt her mother’s absence this last weekend while at a family gathering. The feeling was intense and stayed with her the entire evening. There were no real words to convey the intensity or to define the feeling any better. There was a break in language that morning, no one knew what to say when her mother’s ashes were spread. Wittgenstein wrote, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” The limit of our known world is the end of life. When confronted with death, we can lose our ability to communicate.

“What does it mean to write what is not there. To write absence.” -Kate Zambreno, Book of Mutter (2017)

When confronted with the unknown, I grow more obsessive. It is a defense mechanism, a protection from the fear of the unknown, the chaos. It is a way to escape acknowledging the absence directly. So, my mind tries to reach for references, ones that seem to circle the trauma:

Derrida’s concept of “trace,”

Blanchot’s “always-already past,”

Or Barthes’s search for feeling/connection in a photograph of his deceased mother.

We are language. Our language, whether in image or text, creates a picture of our world. When we are very young, we begin to learn how to use language to control our environment. We ask for things, and if we use our manners, we sometimes get those things. We learn to name things. We learn our own names. We can identify things and potential things. We develop the ability to effectively predict things. Progressively, we begin to formulate our identity with language.

Sometimes, the very same language that connects us, that creates our world, fails.

I can’t truly write about Linda’s absence, just as I can’t truly write about Austin’s absence.

I can’t write about these things, because I don’t know if I can handle looking directly at them, giving words to them. So, I write their presence instead. I write their presence, and I write around the absence.


“Out of this same light, out of the central mind,

We make a dwelling in the evening air,

In which being there together is enough.”

–Wallace Stevens, Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramou

From the moment Anna introduced me to her mother, she accepted me, loved me. Linda immediately recognized something about our relationship, something she understood.

“Signs are arbitrary because language starts with a negation of loss, along with the depression occasioned by the mourning. ‘I have lost an essential object that happens to be, in the final analysis, my mother,’ is what the speaking being seems to be saying. ‘But no, I have found her again in signs, or rather since I consent to lose her I have not lost her (that is the negation), I can recover her in language.’” — Julia Kristeva, Black Sun (1992)

I remember Linda’s voice, the rhythm and dynamics of her speech. I remember her mannerisms, her countenance when she was completely engaged and when she was obviously not. Anna and her siblings have so much of her captured in their memories, a complex tapestry of their perception of their mother. I remember her joy at our wedding, during the final moments of daylight, the blue hour. In my handful of perfect moments that define and capture Linda for me, I see her and John watching me marry their daughter, listening to our vows, witnessing our commitment to one another.

I see her sitting in her chair, sharing her recipes with Anna one Christmas, written on aging paper, crumbling from touch. I can picture Linda directing the baking, John performing the action under her guidance. I didn’t actually witness this. I have only ever heard of the stories from Linda and John. But, it sits as part of my memory just as if I were there.

I remember their personal stories, their shared life. When they arrived home after their wedding, their refrigerator was full, John’s parents providing this appreciated gift. They have told me this story more than once. They both acknowledge it as one of the sweetest gestures they received.

I remember how gentle John and Linda were in the hospital when she was finally able to speak again. I remember how their hands touched and how they held one another closely. I will always remember how he whispered to her after she had left her body.

I remember the day Eleanor was born, the smile on Austin’s face. I picture his singing to Kaylla as she was in labor. I didn’t witness this either. I was in the waiting room. Anna recounted this to me more than once. She held onto this memory, maybe because it showed his true nature. Young men are difficult to understand, their actions are usually at least part mystery, even to themselves. Austin had a young man’s temper, a young man’s frustration with the world. He also had a young man’s dreams and a drive to create his world in the appearance of these dreams. He was a rich tapestry of memory, and on the night of Eleanor’s birth, he was profoundly gentle. This memory and the memory of him with Eleanor, patient and hopeful, are how I think of him.

I have no idea what I set to write here, and I don’t think it’s finished or complete.

I know I need to start thinking about presence more than absence.

I need to hold time for a little longer, be completely present.

Two Quotes, Related and Still Sadly Relevant


“This is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen, and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it.” -James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)

“History is what hurts, it is what refuses desire and sets inexorable limits to individual as well as collective praxis which its “ruses” turn into grisly and ironic reversals of their overt intention.” Frederic Jameson, The Political Unconscious (1982)


The Work Contained Within the Work


There is a note I have written to myself in one of many notebooks (that contain fragments of thought on art, learning, and experiences) wherein I have concluded that I am drawn to journals, diaries, and notebooks of writers and artists whom I admire. I believe I wrote it after devouring Susan Sontag’s second posthumous release of diaries, title As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh. There is no plot or through-line to the work as a whole, except the reader is provided a glimpse into the artist’s thinking, her development of ideas and connections. This view into her thought excited me in the way I was originally excited by the interviews of Francis Bacon conducted by David Sylvester. I must have read those interviews dozens of times.

Although I have very little in common with Bacon, his thought and the rationale for the work inspired me to reflect as a reader. As I have grown older, I have found my attraction to these fragmentary, private and unpolished thoughts has only grown. So, when I started to read Manguso’s short book on her diary, I did so expecting to read fragments of the actual diary. This was not the case, but the work was powerful nonetheless…because the work contained the spirit of the actual process involved in its creation.


A recent watercolor of mine created for Anna

Sarah Manguso’s Ongoingness: The End of a Diary does not contain any extracts from her diary but seems to fully capture the completeness of the 800,000 word document to which the title refers. Managing to explore all 23 years in which she carefully kept her diary, Manguso creates a powerful meditation on time, memory, and identity. Although this memoir- which seems like a philosophical statement built on fragments- is incredibly brief at under 100 pages, the work is intense. This feat is accomplished through the author’s precise language and pacing. At the conclusion and throughout the book, Manguso allows the reader into the planning for the final piece which becomes the book itself. I was completely transfixed by the author’s ability to do this so seamlessly and subtly. There was a plot. The plot was revealed as the intellectual and emotional growth of the author and its impact on her writing practice and on her life. She is a mother by the end of the book, and she has a vastly different perspective than she displayed in the beginning. Like an extended prose poem, this work moved quickly over long periods, and felt odyssey-like. There is a trip, but it only involves the passage of time.

This book reminded me of Maggie Nelson’s Bluets (2009), which I believe is unlike most of her published work. Nelson has written poetry and “autotheory,” but the construction of Bluets is like short bursts of detail. It feels ecstatic and beautiful in a way that few works do. It reminded me of diary entries and journals. This was not far off from her intention. Although her methodology has more to do with philosophical writing (numbered paragraphs like Wittgenstein’s Tractatus or Investigations), it is less logical and more intuitive. It is autobiographical…hence the “autotheory” as some have referred to her work. Like Manguso’s Ongoingness, Nelson’s process for creating Bluets is contained in its text, which is a curated selection of years of recorded text on 3×5 cards.

Aside from this similarity, Manguso’s book has no real connection to Nelson’s of which I am aware. But, there is something that connects these works. They both seem to reveal the author (a kind of realized Life of the Mind) within the text in similar ways. Both of these books have impacted me.

A recent watercolor of mine painted for our home 

While This Human Engine Waits


My poetry chapbook, While This Human Engine Waits, has now been released by Epigraph Magazine! 

Quite a few of poems selected have been published individually throughout the past four years, but this collection (and the sequencing) took a little time. The most impressive piece of the whole work for me was the wonderful cover photograph and design. Thank you to Lianne Guerra Jepson and Thomas Doughty for lending their amazing talents to create such a striking cover.

Not Everyone Gets To Name Something They Love


The traditional text, thought impairs


That everyone was searching


That full love

found things

He was new, but entire

That full love

found entire years


I told a star

The photograph was missing

An emanation

A radiation like umbilical links


We think it

We turn words

We are abstract and possible


Forgive them, phrases

formulate a rhythm

You Can’t Go Home Again (Notes on Twin Peaks: The Return, Part 1)

*, obsession

1.1. Obsession as Fuel

David Lynch always returns to important influences in his art, as evidenced by the childhood memories found in the text and imagery of his paintings, the obsessive focus on stark contrasts of light and shadow in his photography and cinema, and a deep reservoir of knowledge of the space in which he works. As a director, for which he is arguably most known (although he is a musician, writer, painter, photographer, and more), Lynch creates what appears to be a complete vision that incorporates references as disparate as jazz (think, Fats Waller in 1977’s Eraserhead), Transcendental Meditation (Dale Cooper in the first season of Twin Peaks), and unexpected and extreme violence. He mixes many iconic but superficial images of the American Dream (Blue Velvet’s white picket fences, the cherry pies of Twin Peaks, and the factories associated with progress and drive and American innovation of another era) with actual dreaming, including a large dose of dream logic included in all of his narratives.

Note: Although Twin Peaks: The Return is essentially two creative artists in David Lynch and Mark Frost, I often refer to the elements discussed as originating with Lynch. This decision is made due to the repetitive occurrences of these elements in Lynch’s other work.


This phrase is repeated in The Return (2017) by Al Strobel as Mike.

Lynch brings beacons associated with the cultural consciousness into every work he creates. Two of the most often referenced are The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Sunset Boulevard (1950), which bookend the violence of WWII and the atomic bomb. Anyone who watched or heard anything about the newest season of Twin Peaks recognizes the influence of this example of extreme violence in Lynch’s work. Wild at Heart (1990) is a kind of fractured homage to The Wizard of Oz, and characters embody the attributes associated with the original. Echoes of Sunset Boulevard are found throughout his Mulholland Drive (2001). These cinematic obsessions are connected. Both deal with time and the loss of it. In Sunset, the main character is no longer a screen icon. She watches as time moves on without her. To console herself, she weaves a dream narrative of her own identity. In Oz, the character has lost time completely. Dorothy is transported to another world that operates with a completely different set of rules. When she eventually gets back home, she tells her family that they were all there in the dream world with her. Time moves but is also stuck. In the world of Oz, Dorothy is trapped for days. In our reality, she is just out cold for a short while.

The character and actor names of both films are used for much of the cast of Twin Peaks. Norma Desmond, the name of the aging actress of Sunset, can be found in Norma of the Double R and Agent Desmond of Fire Walk With Me (1992). The name of Dorothy Gale’s actress, Judy Garland, can be found in the Judy associated with evil and Major Garland Briggs. Even the name of Lynch’s own agent, Gordon Cole, was revealed to have been pulled from a line in Sunset Boulevard from this newest season of Twin Peaks.

kansas - wizard of oz

Both The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Twin Peaks: The Return (2017) begin in muted sepia or B&W.

Twin Peaks: The Return contains many allusions to The Wizard throughout, including the red shoes we have come to associate with Audrey being worn by many female characters, including minor players such as the waitress at Judy’s in episode 18. There is the fact that both The Wizard and Twin Peaks: The Return both begin in muted tones of sepia or B&W. This, in the 1939 film, indicates the reality that often lacks the color of our imagination. In Twin Peaks, it may indicate something similar. That means one would need to decide whether the series is taking place in a dream (as Gordon Cole would plainly express later in the series) once we see the world washed in color or if it’s taking place in reality. Maybe it’s both.


Lynch’s reference of the red shoes or ruby slippers throughout Twin Peaks: The Return (2017)

If there is one thing I have gleaned from watching Twin Peaks and the rest of his work, I don’t believe David Lynch has the ability to compartmentalize. Even if he does have this ability, he does not use it. Anything is possible, and connections are everywhere.

Time and memory are important considerations when viewing any of Lynch’s work, but I found them vital with The Return.

1.2. We Have Always Lived In the Castle


to the sounds.

It is in

our house now.

Dale Cooper listens closely to a small sound, maybe a scraping or clicking sound. This sound is repeated in the very last scene of the series, when Cooper and Laura Palmer (or Carrie Page) are at what we thought was the Palmer residence. Perhaps these scenes take place at the same point in time, separated only in our perception of the events. Perhaps it is just a foreshadowing of what will come.

Either way, the past and future are completely intertwined. Allusions to the first “version” of Twin Peaks show up in every aspect of the new series. The new characters are often distorted reflections of former characters, street names in new cities reflect important characteristics of the Twin Peaks of Seasons 1 and 2, and much of the dialogue feels out of time. The whole series is constructed in a way that that makes linear narrative hard to discern. But, it works. It moves through repetition or echo of imagery and dialogue.

Sometimes there is no action, only sound, in a frame for long stretches of time (like at the Palmer residence, where the camera stays in the living room, but the audience clearly hears some disruption off screen/out of frame). This is jarring and uncomfortable, and the director knows this. We are supposed to feel like we are losing something, like we are entering an uncertain narrative.

There is a deep sense of mystery because, as the Fireman states at the start, “it all cannot be said aloud now.” It also cannot be shown completely. The clues come in backwards speaking and hosts of visual signs. The recurring “seed” or “birth” symbols come in the forms of tiny gold spheres and larger egg-like atomic bombs. Mostly, there is no rationale or narrative conclusion for why these occur…but the mid-season episode that was just the actual dropping of an atomic bomb and the birth of evil was completely unexpected.


The atomic bomb (b. July 16, 1945, New Mexico, USA): pic.twitter.com/65SyGQPnR8
— Brandon Shimoda (@brandonshimoda) July 17, 2017

The journey back to Twin Peaks for Cooper, and later for Laura, is an impossible one. Like Homer’s Odyssey (by the way, Odessa is the feminine for Odysseus), the return home will not be easy. There are challenges.

When they return, are they really the same? Odysseus wasn’t recognized by Penelope upon return, and Laura/Carrie is only recognized by Agent Cooper. The Man from Another Place (AKA The Arm) has explained (at the end of Season 2 of the original run) that the next time we see him, it won’t be him. Not only is that true for The Arm, which came back as a tree with an amorphous head…but, all characters have changed. The new residents of the Palmer home, Alice Tremond, we have seen before. In another form, she was a resident (with her grandson) at the trailer park and the apartments in the original run of the show. She has been called “Chalfont,” but both identities have been references to the same person.

The uncertainty of reality and dream, the unreliable “main characters,” and the non-linear narrative make this run of the series hard to navigate.

There is so much to consider. That’s what art should do, propel our thinking, open our minds to critical reflection. In the examination, we may even learn something about ourselves. I can’t make sense of much of what I’ve seen in the series, but there are plenty of signs to return to for the next few months. Much of what I have shared here is rambling, and I think that is much of what I have read about the current work. But, there are some great critical essays out there. Here are a couple of places to find some help deciphering what you may have watched this summer:

Reality, Postproduced


“…if images start pouring across screens and invading subject and object matter, the major and quite overlooked consequence is that reality now widely consists of images; or rather, of things, constellations, and processes formerly evident as images. This means one cannot understand reality without understanding cinema, photography, 3-D modeling, animation, or other forms of moving or still image. The world is imbued with the shrapnel of former images, as well as images edited, photoshopped, cobbled together from spam and scrap. Reality itself is postproduced and scripted, affect rendered as after-effect.”

Hito Steyerl, “Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead?” (2012)

Looking Past the Other in Digital Communication


When reading articles via the internet, it’s probably a good idea to just steer clear of the comments section. This is especially true when reading something that is related to issues of equity or accessibility for all. Trolling in the form of racist, sexist, and other fear-fueled rants can seem like the dominant mode of communication of many participants in this space. It can seem as if individuals are talking over and past one another, and communication is not founded on true dialogue.

Dialogue, Paulo Freire asserts, is an “existential necessity” that is inherently a vital part of learning (1968, p. 89). The act of participating in dialogue is an indicator of humility and the willingness to learn. It can provide participants the opportunity to recognize one another, the essential elect of identity development and respect. The willingness to think outside bias, to critically examine our biases, is at the heart of learning about the other and ourselves. It is our responsibility to one another (Buber, 1937). This may seem frightening, because it essentially places us in the unknown, the uncomfortable place of not being able too easily categorize and identify others. This identification makes life very simple. However, being uncomfortable is the only way we truly grow. The old saying reminds us that moss does not grow on a rolling stone. Stasis equates to a stillness that is not unlike death.

St. Johns River, Jacksonville, 2017


Margaret Wheatley expresses the significance of being uncomfortable: “We can’t be creative if we refuse to be confused. Change always starts with confusion; cherished interpretations must dissolve to make way for the new. Of course it’s scary to give up what we know, but the abyss is where newness lives. Great ideas and inventions miraculously appear in the space of not knowing. If we can move through the fear and enter the abyss, we are rewarded greatly. We rediscover we’re creative” (2002, p. 37). This discovery can help give meaning to our lives and enrich those with whom we interact. Basically, we learn more about ourselves through others. It sounds simple…and it is…if we are ready to be uncomfortable.

MIT Press, 2017


Byung-Chul Han’s most recent English translations, The Agony of Eros (2017a) and In the Swarm (2017b), both discuss the absolute need for our encounter with the other. He warns that the digital medium of expression “is taking us farther and farther away from the other” (2017b, p. 24). Our ability or inability to articulate ourselves is exacerbated in the digital medium, and “nonverbal forms of expression such as gestures, facial expressions, and body language” are lost almost completely (2017b, p. 21). Our inability to plan for this learning leaves us with no “other” with which we may view new perspectives and understandings of the world.The visual images are constructed for us to see ourselves (or our closest analogue), thereby making everything the same. This massive normalization ends the need for an other, and it destroys the possibility for imagination or fantasy (2017a). We must be able to perceive through another viewpoint, one that is truly the opposite of the one we hold, so that we may engage in thinking that is infinitely more complex.

Without confrontation with the other, we are doomed to live empty lives, lonely and incomplete. There is a small piece of a recent poem by Joshua Marie Wilkinson (that is part of his series of poems that begin with a line from Osip Mandelstam, The Easements) that reads:

“as I’ve found in the stars

no friend, the lake

no brother, the current

no story to live with.”


I don’t know why my thinking takes this path, but it reminds me of the other as being the source of desire, the source of a true narrative. Without the necessary encounter with the other that produces co-constructed knowledge for the benefit of both participants, our individual life stories are stillborn (Han 2017b).

Perhaps comments and social media posts are not really avenues for actual discussion. If that’s the case, I don’t understand the necessity of providing a vehicle for reader voice if it isn’t to inspire dialogue.

Embrasures at Fort Clinch, Fernandina Beach, Florida (2017)



Note- The article that prompted this brief line of though is located here. The comments section yielded some replies that were blatantly racist and sadly myopic.


How To Become Who You Already Are


“What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee;

What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage.”

    -Ezra Pound

To become who you already are, you’ll have

to go looking. Ridiculous as it sounds,

you won’t find it from there, and you won’t 

Find it alone. You’ll need to keep moving

to keep up with an ever expanding universe.

You’ll need to find an island, one

with fire still inside. You’ll know you’re there

with your fingertips. You’ll feel a

low volcanic vibration, unexpected

and elevating the earth beneath you.

Consider writing a play, one without end.

Your story should reflect like sunlight on water,

and be performed on an outdoor stage.

Create characters with storybook names, 

known only to you and your closest friend. 

Name your theatrical park after memory, and 

embellish it with angels both in flesh and 

in stone. This is where you’ll find your mirror.

Build a home that echoes your voices,

leave the windows open to a cappella birdsong. 

Finally, but most importantly

If you are going to believe in anything

               (anything at all),

believe that the rest of the world 

has changed with the both of you 

for as long as you possibly can.

(For Jason and Katrina Lewis)

A Little Slash At The Meadow


“Every creative act is first an act of destruction.” – Pablo Picasso

“I believe in a deeply ordered chaos.” -Francis Bacon, interviewed by Melvyn Bragg in 1985 (Link to Video)

I don’t write reviews in the traditional sense. I’ve learned how to critique a work of art through a proper university program. I’ve always known that art can open up one’s world, increasing connections across many facets of human activity and expression through the ages. There are times when this feeling/thought is present as I am interacting with a work. This short piece (or quasi-critique) is about one such instance and is probably an exercise in failure. Nevertheless, I wanted to write down my thoughts concerning this most recently completed book. 

To read Joshua Marie Wilkinson’s poetry from the last ten years is to take a journey with an artist that is determined to cut his own path. This all may sound cliché, but Wilkinson is a writer with a solid grasp on what has come before him. A scholar of poetic history and form, film, and philosophy, he has absorbed and synthesized his influences and has been creating an engrossing and challenging body of work for almost two decades.


Cover Art (Black Ocean, 2017)

In his most recent book and the fourth work in his No Volta pentalogy , Meadow Slasher (Black Ocean, 2017), the author performs the task of cutting into his influences. He lays bare the work that is currently moving through his mind, and he dispenses with traditional narrative completely. There is no perceivable storyline. This work is more of a well in which the reader is plunged. This imagery of being overwhelmed by it all is mirrored in the text itself. Wilkinson’s “narrator” describes water and “watery graves” and sinkholes and the “black dank earth.” He brings in imagery of trains and baseball and birds. Wilkinson is referencing all of it. Robert Frost, Donald Hall, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Carl Sandburg, Paul Celan, T. S. Eliot, and countless others. He is bringing in the entire history of poetry, of art (with a particular emphasis on what constitutes an “American” art). But it’s all overwhelming as the narrator admits several times. This passage conveys the challenge of creating anything in our current place on the timeline:

How much noise did you take in?

I crossed out so much there’s

little left to work through-

There is a great deal of noise. Noise from the past. Noise in social media and interconnectivity. Noise in the political reality around the globe. Noise that one can get lost in. Too much, too fast. Wilkinson is touching on the philosophical ideas of accelerationism (Nick Land’s Quick-And-Dirty Guide To Accelerationism) and dromology with a strong hold on the despair that can occur in these times, despair that originates in a feeling of isolation and social paralysis. Take this passage from p. 30:

I’m on the computer

just to see if anything

I don’t want to go to

invited me out

to turn down.

We have all had these moments of loneliness. We want to be part of something larger than us, but we almost have no way of actually imagining ourselves participating. The invitation is online, and therefore has no connection to a reality with which we are familiar. It is a pale, curated version of reality. Yet, it breaks into our thinking and becomes part of this great noise that fragments our thoughts.

“I can no longer think what I want to think. My thoughts have been replaced by moving images.” -Georges Duhamel (1930) as quoted in Walter Benjamin’s essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction 

Although Duhamel is describing his distaste of movies (in their beginnings), he has managed to capture how all media has the potential to break our thought process…how the noise can control your own thoughts. This is a powerful premonition of what was coming with propaganda film and the Nazi party. Is this really all that hard to imagine? Are we not overwhelmed by the quantity of information with which we confront daily? With all of this vast history and the speed of technology, we can be left with a deep loneliness. Out of this loneliness, this isolation, we become content recyclers…automatons that simply share the same memes…the same jokes…the same post-produced reality.

“But if images start pouring across screens and invading subject and object matter, the major and quite overlooked consequence is that reality now widely consists of images; or rather, of things, constellations, and processes formerly evident as images. This means one cannot understand reality without understanding cinema, photography, 3-D modeling, animation, or other forms of moving or still image. The world is imbued with the shrapnel of former images, as well as images edited, photoshopped, cobbled together from spam and scrap. Reality itself is postproduced and scripted, affect rendered as after-effect.” – Hito Steyerl, “Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead?” (2012)

I don’t want to dwell too long here in the depths of what may be depressing to some. This context is key to understanding the situation of the poem. The poem is celebratory and exciting, fast-paced and funny. Throughout the text, there are echoes of seminal poetic works, re-envisioned in new language (not without some self-deprecation and irony). For example, the beginning few lines seems to revise the beginning of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922) as a fast pitch, or a dash as Wilkinson puts it.

Here are Eliot’s lines:

April is the cruelest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

Here are Wilkinson’s lines:

Do your friends know you well enough to pull you through your past?

I cut my face in looking.

Dogs on a hunt for what may come.

I am a looked-through garage window where a cat furred an oil stain.

A bright April dashing us to the curb.

The author reimagines so much while still referencing the three previous books in this series so effortlessly, I almost didn’t see them in the text during my first reading. Selenography (2010), Swamp Isthmus (2013), and The Courier’s Archive & Hymnal (2014) all appear either directly or descriptively. This helps to contextualize this particular poem and link it to-separate it from the others. One example is the line, “This isn’t for a book of polaroids” (p. 13).

My immediate thought upon reading this was that the author (by way of the narrator) was being incredibly honest up front. The narrator seems to exam his or her own ability to reflect on the past and shares with the reader a lack of confidence in their ability to create anything better than that which influenced them. The next sequence of lines includes the Celan-like phrase, bruisecuts, which perfectly captures those specific wounds that boxers get in the ring.

These are just the references on the first page (and I left out some). These are also the references outside the direct lines pulled and mentioned on the acknowledgment page, which include Marvell, Mandelstam, Catullus, O’Brien, and Shakespeare. He also pulls in references and descriptions of everything from the Illiad to Jay-Z and RZA, from Akira Kurosawa to Roberto Bolaño, from Faulkner to Tammy Wynette. Additionally, Wilkinson often refers to contemporary poets by name or by work. A few examples include Zachary Schomberg’s Scary, No Scary (p.44), Kazim Ali (p.56), Philip Jenks (p. 31), and John Cleary (p.51). Is that Dana Ward mentioned on p. 12?

The world as it is presented is a complex one, not the hollow dystopia of Eliot’s poem, but a more nuanced reality that includes both horror and beauty. The stage that Wilkinson sets is populated by loved ones, icons and friends.

This is a love poem, an ecstatic and challenging love poem to poetry and to life.

The world of Meadow Slasher radiates with love, gratitude, memory, and honesty.

Although there is much to cause dismay, we can still have agency of our lives. We can still create beauty from all of the noise. What are we waiting for? It’s not the air conditioning and geysers needed, but it’s something. We should follow Wilkinson’s lead on this:

Let’s stroll down to Hades & turn the box fans on. 


Purchase Meadow Slasher here.

Poem Beginning and Ending with Lines from The Doobie Brothers


Somewhere back in her long ago

Every station moves to create

Time not made of now leaves life

She’s everywhere and nowhere

Swells sing above the static

Of pop songs misremembered

As oracles   dream lovers   dis

Associated       disappeared

She doesn’t identify us apart

From viscid evenings spent

Outside of one another again

Echo rises to her apology

A Partial Record of My Education


“Those who love wisdom must investigate many things.” – Heraclitus

“I write-and talk-in order to find out what I think.” – Susan Sontag

In 2014, I graduated with my doctorate in education, and this seemed miraculous to me. A sustained focus, logical arguments, and the synthesis of an area of literature were inherent in the task of writing a dissertation, and I didn’t feel like I’d ever be able to live up to this challenge. As a child, I felt most comfortable with image and sound based communication. Music and visual art are such a large foundation for my thinking. I’m pretty certain this had to do with my mother taking me to museums and libraries, playing records in the living room regularly, and encouraging my growing interest in drawing.

Images could convey ideas that were both at the surface of my thinking and buried in my subconscious. Painting or creating something visually interesting and potentially communicative was something that came naturally. The imagery did not have to mirror reality. It could be completely conceptual. I was driven by the need to play with things that had an uncertain end. Not being driven to an actual destination, instead being propelled forward with intuition and curiosity, liberated me from having to make any sense of what I might be feeling in a way that would communicate to another. It was a drive to create.

This drive has pulled me in many directions at once. I have obsessively composed with sound, painted primarily textural (if not always aesthetically pleasing) images, and sometimes incorporated sound with paintings. Notes and small drafts of “diary” or journal entries have always been included as well. The outcome of these experiments was a amalgam of forms. I’m never quite certain how a thing may turn out…what form or hybrid it may take finally. I don’t even know if the outcome is the final version of a thing.

My default thinking is in fragments. If there are connections between the ideas or works, I have no knowledge of it during the process. It is always a dive into the unknown.

The past two months have included more than a few occurrences of fragmented thinking and organization that has not yet solidified into a coherent statement or group of thoughts. My regular lists of reading, listening, and watching have increased. I have rapid and incomplete connections between ideas and forms (text, image, sound, memory, etc.).

notebook march 2017

March-April 2017 Notebook, Thinking in Lists (more)

Recently, I have been reading Sloterdijk’s Spheres trilogy (Bubbles, Globes, and Foams) that have finally been translated, Hito Steyerl’s The Wretched of the Screen (2013), Kate Zambreno’s Book of Mutter (2017), Kafka’s late writings, Wittgenstein’s late writings on culture and aesthetics, Kadinsky, Susan Sontag, a biography on Eric Dolphy, so many disparate essays, and massive amounts of poetry.

Lately, I have been awed by the visual artwork of Rosy Keyser, Titus Kaphar, Fernando Zobel, Hito Steyerl, Julie Mehretu, Rebecca Horn, and Agnes Martin.

As I have written before, my sister told me once that whatever I put into my head must eventually come out. In what form will it arrive?

It eases my mind to know that others seem to have the same attraction to this process of discovery (like Sontag’s diary entry below).

From Sontag’s As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980 (with my scribbles)

Probably due to the Sloterdijk, the fact that Eleanor is beginning to trace the letter O, and my attraction to the simplicity of the ensō, circles and spheres have dominated my visual thinking. I seem to find them everywhere. From the Book of Genesis to NASA’s documentation of space trash, I seem to collide with imagery that represents a circular/spherical containment or a cyclical process.


Day 5 of Creation (Book of Genesis Illustration, 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle)

From Alberto Manguel’s Curiosity (2015)

Iannis Xenakis- from Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition (1992)

Iannis Xenakis- from Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition (1992)

Quotes re: Phenomenology, Body, & Language


“Saying that I have a body is thus a way of saying that I can be seen as an object and that I try to be seen as a subject, that another can be my master or my slave.” – Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception (1962)

“This is why I write: to unfold the electrical mat of my nervous system.” – Bhanu Kapil, Ban En Banlieue (2015)

“The enlightened man says: I am body entirely and nothing beside.” -Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883)

“Our own physical body possesses a wisdom that we who inhabit the body lack. We give it orders which make no sense.” -Henry Miller, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch (1957)

“My favorite arts are the ones that can move your body or make a new world.” -Anne Boyer, Garments Against Women (2015)

“Writers…were out there creating a new language, one that I intuitively understood, to analyze our art, our world. This was, in and of itself, an argument for the weight and beauty of our culture and thus of our bodies.” -Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (2015)

“The fluidity of the injured body’s referential direction is here manifest in the verbal habit of evoking all casualties as a single phenomenon once the war is over.” -Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain (1985)

“There is only one antidote to mental suffering, and that is physical pain.” -Karl Marx

Education within the context of oppression includes “teachers talking about reality as if it were motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable. Or else he expounds on a topic completely alien to the existential experience of the students. His task is to “fill” the students with the contents of his narration-contents which are detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that engendered them and could give them significance. Words are emptied of their concreteness and become a hollow, alienated, and alienating verbosity…Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which for the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiqués and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the “banking” concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits. They do, it is true, have the opportunity to become collectors or cataloguers of the things they store. But in the last analysis, it is the people themselves that are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system. For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot truly be human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” -Paulo Freire, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970)

“Shifting how we think about language and how we use it necessarily alters how we know what we know.” -Bell Hooks, Teaching to Transgress (1994)

“We take the oppressor’s language and turn it against itself. We make our words a counter-hegemonic speech, liberating ourselves in language.” -Bell Hooks, Teaching to Transgress (1994)

“We reconstruct for ourselves the order of the world in an image, starting from limited, countable, and strictly defined data. We work out a system for ourselves, establishing connections and conceiving of relationships between terms that are abstract and for that reason possible for us to deal with.” -Simone Weil, “Forms of the Implicit Love of God” (from Waiting for God, 1951)

“This is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen, and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it.” -James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)

“Let us keep in mind the speech of the depressed- repetitive and monotonous. Faced with the impossibility of concatenating, they utter sentences that are interrupted, exhausted, come to a standstill. Even phrases they cannot formulate. A repetitive rhythm, a monotonous melody emerge and dominate the broken logical sequences, changing them into recurring, obsessive litanies. Finally, when that frugal musicality becomes established on account of the pressure of silence, the melancholy person appears to stop cognizing as well as uttering, sinking into the blankness of asymbolia or the excess of an unorderable cognitive chaos.” – Julia Kristeva, Black Sun (1989)

Endless Rabbits

Covering rabbits with shapes is only one way to change the landscape of our refrigerator. There may be infinite solutions constructed by moving the magnetic shapes. I often wonder if intentionality plays a role, magnetic or otherwise. Shapes are named while rabbits remain mysterious. Less of life seems within control despite the disproportionate number of shapes. Today, I saw a sign that read Little Rain Lake. My mind wandered awhile, though I can’t recall where. These three words were the most beautiful thing I saw today.

My Rambling On Photography & Fragmented Memory (or I Put My Ear To The Glossy Image But No Sound Comes Out)


PicMonkey Collage

“We never remember the moments our pictures are taken. We think we do, but we don’t. Photographs do not reflect the turbulence underneath.” – Kate Zambreno (The Book of Mutter, Semiotext(e), 2017)

Can We Trust Our Memories If They Are Photographs?

I compulsively take photos of life events, recording experiences both rich and trivial. I may photograph book passages (for referencing later or sharing on social media) as a way of remembering the ideas. I often take photos of family, like this past weekend, when two family members graduated from their respective degree programs. I somehow believe intuitively that this will help me to recall these events later. But, I am reminded of Barthes and Sontag’s discussions of memory of photographs themselves as being the end result. We don’t remember the moment as much as the photo itself. The photograph allows the individual to construct a memory around it. The photograph becomes a way of seeing the world and collecting it for our own reconstruction. In this way, taking photos isn’t experiencing the moment as much as it is a cataloguing of it. We are shutting our eyes and allowing the camera to see for us.

This compulsive photography is not uniquely associated with my own personal relationship with the world. At this point in history, it seems that most phone apps are photography-based. Instagram and Snapchat are the touchstones for many, but even Facebook is based in the personal profile, which is essentially photography. Facebook has even leveraged, like so many others, the live video feature so that users can broadcast whatever they like whenever they like. We are enveloped in image-based media. I would add that all of us, in trying to explain what we have viewed (ekphrasis in its simplest form), reduce the complexity of imagery to language that fails to accurately capture the intellectual, emotional, or aesthetic dynamics at play. Thus, we resort to simplified images with simplified descriptions, like memes. We become disconnected from one another and unable to imagine our own ending and resurrection in the other. This is one of the foundational pieces of Byung-Chul Han’s (The Agony of Eros, The MIT Press, 2017) essay. In this work, he presents a compelling case for how and why this world of images only helps to disconnect us from one another.


If We Don’t See The Other, We Can’t Love The Other

Han describes the act of photography as “the inner music of things sounds only when you close your eyes. Roland Barthes quotes Kafka in this context: ‘We photograph things in order to drive them out of our minds. My stories are a way of shutting my eyes.’ Today, faced with the sheer volume of hypervisual images, we can no longer shut our eyes.” Due to this “excessive openness and unlimitedness,” our imaginations have suffered, and we have no way of conceptualizing an other. Han assures us that to love would mean to lose ourselves in the perspective of the other. This allows us to conceptualize the other through our relationships. This seems to be true. There are thousands of examples in the humanities, but the centennial of the birth of poet Gwendolyn Brooks is coming soon…so, here is this. However, Han is arguing that we are instead losing ourselves in ourselves. This narcissism is supported and rewarded in our world.

The images we are seeing all around us seem to be based mostly around data and economics, and this leaves us with no “other” with which we may view new perspectives and understandings of the world. The visual images are constructed for us to see ourselves (or our closest analogue), thereby making everything the same. This massive normalization ends the need for an other, and it destroys the possibility for imagination or fantasy. The other disappears completely in Han’s line of thought. Han describes this impact (in social and artistic arenas) as the agony of eros. On an individual level, one that is submerged in this narcissistic and empty reality is bound to never reach conclusion on anything. (There is a link in my mind here to Julia Kristeva. In Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia, Kristeva echoes this idea of depression- as one unable to bring anything to conclusion- as the loss of language and identity. The language is repetitive. The actions are repetitive. There is no breaking the cycle, leading to an existential crisis. The images fragment us, leaving language and imagery as disparate chunks of information that resemble the detritus of life, the leftovers.)

Is this all we have? Is this what life has become? Is this new form of “capturing images” doomed to create a stronger separation between individuals?

house rain 1

Norman Hall, 2013

Memory and Photography

I can’t help but consider Guibert’s own failed photography of his mother. His essay, Ghost Image (1996), reconstructs the act of taking these photos, only later to learn that it had failed to capture any of the images. Guibert still has this remembrance of his mother, her freedom away from his domineering father, her smile and happiness. He viewed it all from behind the camera lens, separated by the lens from the subject. The emotional engagement and intellectual stimulation persists. I think of this as a counter argument to Han’s conceptualization. I know that Han is speaking mostly of photography in the social media age, but is it all based in the ego? Does there exist a version of this image capture that actually brings people together? Like most things, it must be both. The same activity and ancillary activities (sharing, posting, etc) can have positive and negative impacts on individual minds. Is memory always negatively impacted? I think Guibert describes his failure to capture this moment with his mother as the negative, and he is growing through the reconstruction of the events in his mind.

Maybe the speed at which information is moving (see Paul Virilio for theorist interested in image sharing, speed, and its impact on our understanding), our ability to process memories may not be able to keep up, leaving us to move from thought to thought. This fragmentation may be the real issue with which we are faced.

I Have Only What I Remember

In Latin, the term loci means places. Method of loci was a means of creating a spatial “place” in one’s mind to catalogue and retain memory. Memories could be organized like rooms with furnishings. In this manner, one could create an entire palace of rooms with all of the knowledge they had acquired throughout their life. In Han’s description of photography above, it only serves to divorce one from their memory-making by letting the camera/phone do the work. This is light years away from Kaja Silverman’s (The Miracle of Analogy, 2015) conceptualization of photography as the discovery that expanded our language, forever including captured images as part of the grand dialogue.

This deep vocabulary of image and text is best captured by the relatively new word, multiliteracies (The New London Group, 1996). The multiliteracies are familiar to any educator as a cornerstone of most learning standards, including the Common Core Standards. Perhaps, these varied visual-textual communication activities are more positive in their ability to connect us organically.

Either way, there is something to the idea of being in the moment that is lost in the speed of modern communication, and there is something we may be losing from not building our memories through experiences. The reliance on apps for instant communication may let our minds rest a little too much. Only time will tell if this new visual-rich culture will make us all empty narcissists with no memories.

House rain 2

Norman Hall, 2013

After thought- Fragment As Thought / Fragment as Compositional Element

In my view, something about this fragmentary existence can be see as a positive. Assemblages can be a kind of superstructure for the craft of storytelling when we want to bring in the complexity of multiple perspectives. Autotheory, a hybrid of autobiography and critical theory, has proven to be well adept to capturing the language of the moment. Some recent examples include Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts (2015) and Kate Zambreno’s The Book of Mutter (2017). Nelson adapts Barthes’s citation method, pulling the actual citations out of the text itself and allowing the reader to become immersed in the actual story. Zambreno works with the fragment in an organic and effective way, also bringing in photos from film and her mother’s past. There is probably no other writer doing this as effectively today. Other touchstones for this methodology include Bhanu Kapil (specifically Ban en Banlieue, 2015) and Jenny Offill (Dept. of Speculation, 2014). The works that are constructed from image and text are the most powerful for me, like Camera Lucida (Barthes, 1981).

In these, the authors are always reaching for what is unable to be effectively described using traditional narrative forms. The fragment becomes the tool for analysis of memory and understanding. I eventually always end up discussing the unknown and the importance of the embrace of the unknown. Many times, this is based on my interest in fragments. From Hadrian’s only written work to endless revisions collected for viewing to Sapho to Decasia and broken thought or erasure, I am interested in fragment (and the fragmenting of the whole) as compositional style.

Even this post was improvised and completely a surprise. I had no idea where it was going, but I have been thinking about all of this and so much more. There is little time and so much to consider. These are just transparent notes that may find themselves into something else, in another form.

This evening, I took a photo of Eleanor having a pretend tea party. I shared this, knowing her parents and my parents would see it and smile. I suppose I shared it, because I wanted that connection…to nurture our love for one another.


Note- The alternative title of this post is taken from Zambreno’s The Book of Mutter, 2017. The phrase, I have only what I remember, is from W. S. Merwin’s poem, “A Likeness” (The Shadow of Sirius, 2008). The image is a photograph of my brother, sister, and me from 1980. The televisions, stacked in the background, were apparently equal subjects to capture.

Comfort in Temporary Confusion


“We can’t be creative if we refuse to be confused. Change always starts with confusion; cherished interpretations must dissolve to make way for the new. Of course it’s scary to give up what we know, but the abyss is where newness lives. Great ideas and inventions miraculously appear in the space of not knowing. If we can move through the fear and enter the abyss, we are rewarded greatly. We rediscover we’re creative.” – Margaret J. Wheatley, Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future (2002)

Our Ruins


Our Ruins 


A charred earth snaps awake

with each step backwards

against smoldering underbrush.


Look through these temporary angels.

Forget your given name.


From the sky,

cut paper petals return

as ash grey butterflies.


Descending figures,

briefly visible, vanish

without warning.


To a home silhouetted by fire

follow torn lines

through blackened trees.



as evening breathes.


Open albums,

dreaming leaves-

only fragments remain.


We belong to a lifetime

of letting go.



(Originally published earlier in 2016 at Dead Snakes)

Freire on “Banking” Concept of Education


Education within the context of oppression includes “teachers talking about reality as if it were motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable. Or else he expounds on a topic completely alien to the existential experience of the students. His task is to “fill” the students with the contents of his narration-contents which are detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that engendered them and could give them significance. Words are emptied of their concreteness and become a hollow, alienated, and alienating verbosity…Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which for the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiqués and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the “banking” concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits. They do, it is true, have the opportunity to become collectors or cataloguers of the things they store. But in the last analysis, it is the people themselves that are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system. For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot truly be human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” -Paulo Freire, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970)

Adrienne Rich on Politics and Art (1998)


“From 1980 on, as Reaganomics opened the way to out-of-control corporate power, I began turning to history and to Marx’s writings for a different grasp on events. At a time when Marx was considered a dead letter, I was finding his words very much alive. The sixties were declared buried, the women’s movement pronounced dead, then the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain were hailed as the ultimate victory of democracy. Yet I saw democracy–in the sense of that participatory spirit, which to survive must always become more inclusive–shrinking visibly here in the US: the richest becoming richer and the poor poorer, access to resources accumulating in fewer and fewer hands. This has influenced how I see both my art and my life.

The arts, a crucial human resource, are hated and mistrusted by capital unless they can be commoditized. The past two decades have been a hostile, demoralizing time in this country for anyone who wants to participate in building a more inclusive and hopeful social order, an artistic life fueled by anything but money. These, too, have been important political lessons.”

-Adrienne Rich, interviewed by Ruth E. C. Prince for Harvard’s Radcliffe Quarterly (1998)

Synthesis, Revision, and Creating Art


My sister used to tell me that “whatever you put into your head, must eventually come out.” She was speaking of exposing oneself to questionable cultural experiences, such as watching violent movies and placing oneself in unsafe places. These things, she had figured, would eventually emerge as we interacted with the world. However, as I grow older, I think this statement applies more and more to the artworks to which I find myself drawn: drafts and sketches of ideas as they are forming, usually founded on earlier works and other art forms.

This morning, as I reviewed the paintings on which I worked last night, I was remembering Robert Smithson’s sketches and notes (included in the first major retrospective of his art held at MOCA/California in 2004). There is an essay in that catalogue (written by Alexander Alberro) that focuses on Smithson’s library, including his records and ephemeral collections. Alberro explains that the artist’s library, whether it was all consumed by the artist or not, “provides a glimpse of his cultural landscape.” Smithson’s library and his archive allow us to view an artist always in the making, always becoming, a synthesis of the work he put into his head.
Smithson’s “strong affinity toward modernist literature” and his voracious appetite for books of all types are see in his ideas and finalized artworks. From asphalt pours to partially buried woodsheds to the Spiral Jetty, it is easy to see the texts of biological, spiritual, historical origins next to texts of more aesthetic theory.
Last night, as Anna and I discussed these ideas, I brought up the synthesis of what created the “smoke painting” in our living room. I shared that I saw an article as a middle school student that detailed the start of the long cleaning/restoration of the Sistine Chapel murals created by Michelangelo. The authors (long forgotten if I ever knew) explained that hundreds of years of candles and atmospheric changes caused the dark residue that made the ceiling’s colors dark and rich. A few years later, I had seen images of burned paper used in artworks. It made me excited to see how non-traditional tools could change a work or create something completely new. I had started working with matches and watercolor paper in the mid-90s but became bored with the technique after a few years. I had exhausted the use of negative space to present superficial shapes of things in front of the residue and painting/writing within the smoke composition.
When we moved into the home where we currently live, I decided to create a canvas that just captured the residue…but also worked with the framing, the sense of depth and movement, and worked as a finalized concept. The result felt right finally. It only took 15-20 years of sketches, trials, and inexplicably “unfinished” works.
Over the last 8 years, I have increasingly become more inspired with text as a visual compositional element of paintings and more ephemeral works, such as the Jacksonville Museum of Contemporary Art performance realized in 2010. That performance included 8 musicians or readers that performed a lightly composed/mostly improvised piece I titled Unrecognizable Beauty (after a line in Franz Wright’s early poetry and with his permission). The words derived from influences (Artaud, for example) and my own poems dedicated to Anna. Without fellow artists and collaborators (Clark Lunberry, Pat Greene, SLOTT, Jamison Williams, and Anna), this work would have inevitably failed. With prerecorded samples of the read pieces played and integrated with the live recording/processing of readings, the number of voices and the depth of the sound grew.
-4“Unrecognizable Beauty” (2010)- Video from this event- https://vimeo.com/10778058 & Photos-https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1378654499391.54037.1022733565&type=1&l=e2cfba9dcd


Very near this event, I decided to create a visual artwork that collected more text and visually dynamic interplay. The resulting piece, the subject of a Draft: The Journal of Process interview (found here), was the first attempt at this culmination. Although not my text (e.e. cummings, 1919 Dial Poems, which I shared with Anna during our courtship), I felt like the work captured the expression of making a mark on history, a violent swell of paint thrown over the visual grid of organized text.


Dial Poems (1919) as canvas.

Now, I find myself revisiting my own poems (written and revised/ marked up on the printed pages) as new compositional pieces that can be organized to create a whole. The pieces are being affixed and painted on/over and sometimes texturally buried (or “partially buried” like Smithson’s woodshed). They seem to either be unfinished or complete in their minor organization and treatment. This wouldn’t be completely out of place for me, as my library includes several examples of this negation-as-art aesthetic. In visual arts, I have Ana Mendieta, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Antoni Tapies (all hugely influential on my aesthetic development). There are books by Ronald Johnson (Radios, the erasure poems composed of Milton’s Paradise Lost), Jen Bervin’s Nets (poems composed by the erasure of sonnets by Shakespeare), and Mary Ruefle’s work. Musical examples include Taku Sugimoto (guitar or absence of guitar), Keith Rowe (ditto plus radio), and Axel Dorner’s solo trumpet (think air compressor and static). I have spent years putting this stuff and an innumerable examples of this type of work in my head, and it was bound to become synthesized and emerge in the things I create.
Maybe, I am carefully reworking the writing I’ve completed over a number of years and undergoing a kind of redaction of my language. I am not completely certain of everything that is happening in my poetry or in any other art I create. Partly, the art is about the process of figuring it all out. As I change, these creations seem to change. They become memories that have been obscured over time or viewed through a partially blurred lens.





Used Book Ephemera & Marginalia

*, Used Book Ephemera & Marginalia

I am, by nature, very curious and can lose myself while reading. However, I am always reading several things at once, and I can vary my selection wildly in a given sitting. Today, I moved from poetry to philosophy to essays, picking up Thomas Merton, Christian Wiman, William Bronk, Roland Barthes, Georg Trakl, and William Gass. Between books, I read older essays online, including a great one by John Yau on Christopher Middleton at the Brooklyn Rail from 2010. However, the only reason I was reading this specific essay was the fact that I became interested in the editor/translator (Middleton) of the Trakl collection, a small, gorgeous green book from 1968.


Sometimes, I find notes in these books after searching for them or happening upon them in used bookstores. The notes can sometimes refer to small stories in themselves, pointing to emotional and psychological connections or just seemingly mysterious notes jotted by strangers. The note below, found in the Merton book, is almost not a note at all. It is simply hotel notepad paper with a phone number of a woman named Rebeca.

merton note

Mysterious only due to the lack of any context, this note does provide a place to seek out for the curious. Hotel Mora does look beautiful, situated right next to a botanical gardens and a few yards from the Atocha Station of John Ashbery’s poem from his second collection, The Tennis Court Oath (1962), and Ben Lerner’s novel of the same name (2011).

ben lerner

Some of the notes I find are more fleshed out with references and names that are recognizeable. Take the one I found within the pages of William Bronk‘s Life Supports. It is written on stationary with the title of some oddly titled journal (that doesn’t sound like it’s real…and there is no finding it on the internet), Corona Mundi: International Journal of Comparative Mysticism, Visionary Poetics & Conceptual Book Arts. The journal calls Maine home, which is interesting to me only that it reminds me of Stephen King. It is dated as originating during May 1996 and refers to the poet, Joel Oppenheimer. Apparently, after Oppenheimer died, his library was up for sale. That would have been a pretty amazing collection, and the Bronk title was only a small element of the whole. The note seems like a friend sharing a nice find with another.

bronk note

Not all of the books I acquire have these little details tucked within their pages, but I am always happy to find one. I don’t discard these small treasures. They become part of the book’s hidden story, the continuing tale of its owners as it travels from reader to reader. The book becomes kind of a communication device/time machine that allows each new owner to discover something new about another place at another time. I’m thankful that “Greg” in the note above “passed ’em on” to eventually end up at Chamblin’s Bookmine in Jacksonville, Florida.

PicMonkey Collage

Brief Improvisational Thinking Regarding Organic Art and the Joris Translations of Paul Celan


These thoughts are written without much preconcieved idea of the end product. Therefore, this post is kind of improvisational and completely reflects the basic start of my thinking regarding art as a living creation that reflects the changes of its creators. I have been creating things, whether they be poetry or paintings or music, for much of my life. In that time, I have had many friends and acquaintances that also created things. What I’ve learned is that artists generally want to be free from external defined notions of what constitutes their art, free from societal definition. Artists wish to allow their art to define and grow with their growth. According to Fred Moten, CA Conrad expressed that he wanted “to be poetry.” Conrad seems to echo Rilke’s quest to “align every fiber of his being with the great ideal” of poetry (Baer, 2004). The poetry (or other form of art) that these artists wish to be is organic, ever-changing with changes in their lives and the world in which they live.


The 100 year old steps of Norman Hall at the University of Florida

Art that documents and mirrors life’s temporal quality has become more abundant. Some relatively recent examples include Basinski’s Disintegration Loops, which deteriorated as it was recorded, creating a documentation of actual disintegration as it was occuring; Kara Walker’s A Subtlety, which included statues made of sugar that started to melt and breakdown over the duration of the show; Andy Goldsworthy’s temporary sculptures made of ice, which recall the landart of another decade; or Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo, which has been in flux since its initial release earlier this spring. West’s record company has even released a statement that asserts that the album is “an innovative, continuous process, the album will be a living, evolving art project.”

A more potent (and perhaps more relevant) example of this kind of artistic document that lives and breathes the changes of society through text is Claudia Rankine’s Citizen. More specifically, pages 134 and 135. Here is a description of these changes with dates of new printings of the book. As time progresses, each new printing seems to add to the growing list of black lives that have been cut short at the hands of the police. More interesting reading about Citizen can be found in Nick Laird’s wonderful New York Review of Books article.


There are innumerable examples of this type of work. These are but a few small examples that have been more present in recent media than others.

Translations, albiet rigorously and creatively challenging like the artworks listed above, are temporal as well. These changing texts are more subtle than those referenced above. Translators that return to their previous translations can change their thinking based on their own personal relationship with the text, their experiences in life (and translating), and their reflections.

If there could be an author that exemplifies the idea of becoming poetry, Paul Celan is as qualified a candidate as one could hope. Most of Celan’s poetry is originally composed in German, so I come to the work solely through translation.

Joris Covers 05 & 16

Joris translations of Paul Celan from 2005 (left) and 2014 (right)


Pierre Joris’s translations capture the idea of growth and change over time in art. He captures a musical quality, minimal but powerfully resonant, in his translations. Joris includes captivating introductions that contextualize the work, and it seems like he is challenging himself in a way that makes me, as a reader, feel like I am in a trusted relationship. Joris is the guide, but he’s open to new ways of looking at the same path. An example of this is the subtle and gorgeous variation of lines from Joris’s translation of Celan’s Lightduress, from 2005 and 2014 respectively.

In Joris’s translated text over time, one can read subtle shifts in his reading of Celan. Below is one example of this revisioning. The differences between “bond” and “band” may not seem significant to some…but, compare the change in “knots it anew” to the more easily read “tied it anew.” The phrasing changes the tense and the entire feeling of the line. Equally interesting is the change from a proper name of Gehugnis to the uncapitalized version. There is a shift, and I am definitely not an acute enough mind to understand the ramifications on the entire text. However, I am transfixed by this. Although this translation does not indicate anything as radical as Merwin’s Hadrian examples from my earlier post, these are compelling.


You Be Like You 05 & 16

Joris translation of Lightduress from 2005 (left) and 2014 (2014)


Again, we see this subtle change in language throughout Joris’s work. Check out the lines below. “Economical ignition points/in the sky” is changed to “dotted pilotlights line/the sky.” This completely changes the interpretation of the line for this reader. The compound word “pilotlights” captures something of Celan’s own creative use of German, the limitations and illuminations that can come from working with language so closely.

Unasylumed 05 & 16

Joris translation of Lightduress from 2005 (left) and 2014 (right)


The translations of Celan’s late work are hard to uncouple from the facts of his biography. As I read these translations and their continued refinement, I can’t help but to consider Celan’s own deep commitment and challenges in using the tool of language to create his art. He has noted (again, in a Joris translation of Breathturn from 2004) that he would like to compose his poetry “even without/ language.” There are some engaging Joris conversations out there around the translations and the biography of Celan, including this one with writer, Paul Auster.

The revisioning of artistic works reflects our learning, deepens as we accommodate and assimilate more and more new information.