Friday, July 15, 2022

song for the bankrupt yachtsman - Karen Chamisso


Song for the Bankrupt Yachtsman


What did you do in the deluge, Daddy

When the floods breathed together

What did you do in the deluge, Daddy

That you alone survived.


After forty days, insistently salt

We huddled in the mouth of the moneyless wind

Daddy at the wheel was faceless

More than usually blind.


A seawrack strewn island before us

A paradise of second chances!

But why was Dad chosen and not I?

I wondered, shaking out my kicks.

Monday, July 11, 2022

A good hater: canetti on eliot


A good hater – this is what Hazlitt called Cobbett. It is a wonderful phrase, worthy of a Pre-socratic sage – a good hater. The good is inimical, in any real system of the good, to hate. And yet if we admit hate as a motive – and how can we not – then we are enmeshed in a logic that distinguishes between the better and the worse. God, in Revelations, spits out the lukewarm. “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

Now, I am not the man to recommend Revelations. It is written in a bitter anti-Jesus spirit, and its acceptance by the Early Fathers as a canonical text was a dreadful mistake. I do admit, however, that it has its own poetry. In fact, in Western culture, it is perhaps the father of hatred literature, which tends to go grandly overboard and, if pursued with sufficient genius, rouses one up.

This is how I understand certain uncomfortable figures, like Elias Canetti.

In a great rant in Party in the Blitz, Canetti “spues out of his mouth”, for reasons similar to the Deity’s, T.S. Eliot himself. Eliot, in Canetti’s telling, is a veritable Fisher King, and his rise to fame and influence is a measure of the absolute decline of English culture.

I’m a great fan of Eliot’s poetry, and keep my distance from his criticism. But I also like to hear the other side rant. Canetti is a rare ranter:

“I was living in England as its intellect decayed. I was a

witness to the fame of a T. S . Eliot. Is it possible for people ever

to repent sufficiently of that? An American brings over a

Frenchman from Paris, someone who died young (Lafargue) ,

drools his self-loathing over him, lives quite literally a s a bank

clerk, while at the same time he criticises and diminishes

anything that was before, anything that has more stamina and

sap than himself, permits himself to receive presents from his

prodigal compatriot, who has the greatness and tenseness of a

lunatic, and comes up with the end result: an impotency which

he shares around with the whole country; he kowtows to any

order that's sufficiently venerable; tries to stifle any elan; a

libertine of the void, a foothill of Hegel, a desecrator of Dante

(to which Circle would Dante have banished him?); thin

lipped, cold hearted, prematurely old, unworthy of Blake or of

Goethe or of anything volcanic-his own lava cooled before it

ever warmed-neither cat nor bird nor beetle, much less mole,

godly, dispatched to England (as if I had been delegated back

to Spain) , armed with critical points instead of teeth,

tormented by a nymphomaniac of a wife-that was his only

excuse-tormented to such a degree that my Auto da Fe would

have shrivelled up if he had gone near it, drawing-room

manners in Bloomsbury, countenanced and invited by the precious Virginia, and escaped from all those who rightly chid

him, and finally exalted by a prize that-with the exception of

Yeats-was bestowed upon none of those who would have

deserved it-not Virginia, not Pound, not Dylan.


And I witnessed the fame of this miserable creature.”

Captain Ahab has nothing on Elias Canetti. But what music!

“All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event--in the living act, the undoubted deed--there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there's naught beyond. But 'tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the sun do that, then could I do the other; since there is ever a sort of fair play herein, jealousy presiding over all creations.”

What is literature but power seeking its purest, untrammeled state? Politics is nothing to it but detail work.

Southern California Death Trip

    “He was kind but he changed and I killed him,” reads the caption of the photo of a woman in an old tabloid. She was headed to ...