4.30.2016

Times

De mim não escondeu Deus nada
Em mim infligiu o seu rosto.

Mostrou-me o Tudo e o Nada.
Como se abraçam!
Pulverizou o pó
Divinizou os deuses
Tudo isso fez
E eu, amando,
Com a mão sobre a dele.

Vi-o recitar as gerações das estrelas, ou
Vi como as sílabas longas se alternam às sílabas breves.

Tens medo. Mas o Senhor está contigo
Mesmo quando as grutas não ecoam
Mesmo até na dor dos justos
Louvado seja o nome do Senhor.

4.26.2016

Paradoxo de Newcomb


in Robert Nozick, Reflections on Newcomb's Paradox. 1986

poema a partir de uma linha de Píndaro*

Deus,
maior em força que o patriarca dos ursos
maior em tamanho que a grande baleia
maior em poder que o imperador dos Romanos
com esforço derrotou-os a todos
com esforço esculpiu os teus ombros.

Deus é até mais brilhante do que muitas das estrelas.
Se o vês com a alma não dormes,
se o vês com os olhos cegaste,
e perigo é que seja para sempre.

Que mais há de perigoso no mundo?
Quando lançou a Tifão seus relâmpagos,
quando a maldição o pendurou duma árvore,
ou quando lutou contra o poderoso Israel
tememos que nunca voltasse.

E nós, terríveis humanos mortais,
caçámo-lo quase até à extinção.

Refugiou-se nos bosques
nos ermos das montanhas
no coração e na virtude.


*
θεὸς ἅπαν ἐπὶ ἐλπίδεσσι τέκμαρ ἀνύεται,
θεός, ὃ καὶ πτερόεντ' αἰετὸν κίχε, καὶ θαλασ-
σαῖον παραμείβεται
δελφῖνα, καὶ ὑψιφρόνων τιν' ἔκαμψε βροτῶν,
ἑτέροισι δὲ κῦδος ἀγήραον παρέδωκε.

4.23.2016

Autotomy
Halinæ Poświatowskæ in memoriam

In danger, the holothurian splits itself in two:
it offers one self to be devoured by the world
and, in its second self, escapes. 
Violently it divides itself into a doom and a salvation,
into a penalty and a recompense, into what was and what
will be. 
In the middle of the holothurian's body a chasm opens
and its edges immediately become alien to each other. 
On the one edge, death, on the other, life.
Here despair, there hope. 
If there is balance, the scales do not move.
If there is justice, here it is. 
To die as much as necessary, without overstepping the bounds.
To grow again from a salvaged remnant. 
We, too, know how to split ourselves
but only into the flesh and a broken whisper.
Into the flesh and poetry. 
On one side the throat, on the other, laughter,
slight, quickly dying down. 
Here a heavy heart, there non omnis moriar,
Three little words, like three little plumes of light. 
We are not cut in two by a chasm.
A chasm surrounds us.

Wisława Szymborska. Czeslaw Milosz (trad.)

A Quarrel with Classicism

[…] The audience expects no surprises from the poet, since it knows from The Iliad what occurs after the curtain goes down. The audience expects only good poetic craft in a work on a given topic. 
A given topic, and topoi polished by long use like pebbles in a stream: that’s what both fascinates and irritates twentieth-century poets. For us classicism is a paradise lost, for it implies a community of beliefs which unite poet and audience. No doubt the poet was not then separated from the “human family,” though obviously that was a family of a modest size since the illiterate rural population, comprising the vast majority of the inhabitants of Poland and Europe as a whole, was perfectly indifferent to that system of allusions to Homer and Horace. But even if we take the small number into account, there was still a sense of belonging — thus a situation radically different from the loneliness of the bohemians, who could at best find readers among their peers and whose descendant and heir is the poet of today. Perhaps there is a good craftsman concealed in every poet who dreams about a material already ordered, with ready-made comparisons and metaphors endowed with nearly archetypal effectiveness and, for that reason, universally accepted; what remains then is to work on chiseling the language. Were classicism only a thing of the past, none of this would merit attention. In fact, it constantly returns as a temptation to surrender to merely graceful writing. For, after all, one can reason as follows: all attempts at enclosing the world in words are and will be futile; there is a basic incompatibility between language and reality, as demonstrated by the desperate pursuit practiced by those who wanted to capture it even through “le dérèglement de tous sense”, or by the use of drugs. If this is so, then let us respect the rules of the game as adopted by consensus and appropriate to a given historical period, and let us not advance a rook as if it were a knight. In other words, let us make use of conventions, aware that they are conventions and no more of that. 
[…] I have not permitted myself to introduce into my lecture a tragic and harsh element, seemingly ill adapted to a literary discussion, to belittle the importance of such charming poets as Kochanowski or La Pléiade. Whoever invokes genocide, starvation, or the physical suffering of our fellow men in order to attack poems or paintings practices demagoguery. It is doubtful whether mankind would gain anything if poets stopped writing idyllic poems or painters stopped painting brightly colored pictures just because there is too much suffering on the earth, in the belief that there is no place for such detached occupations. No, all I want is to make clear to myself and to my listeners is that, roughly described, a quarrel exists between classicism and realism. This is a clash of two tendencies independent of the literary fashions of a given period and of the shifting meaning of those two terms. These two opposed tendencies usually also coexist within one person. It must be said that the conflict will never end and that the first tendency is always, in one variety of another, dominant, while the second is always a voice of protest. When thinking of what is beautiful in the literature and painting of the past, what we admire and what fills us with joy simply because it exists, we must wonder at the power of nonrealistic art. Mankind appears to be dreaming a fantastic dream about itself, giving ever new but always bizarre shapes to the simplest relations between people or between man and Nature. This occurs because of Form, which has its own exigencies only partially dependent upon human intentions. Form favors a penchant for the hieratic and the classical; it resists attempts to introduce realistic detail, for instance, in painting, the black top hat and the frock coat that so incenses the critics of Courbet or, in poetry, such words as “telephone” and “train”. This makes for a long history of skirmishes around existing forms which are overcome but then immediately coagulate into forms just as “artificial” as the preceding ones. 
[…] A glass wall of conventions rises between a poet and reality, conventions never visible until they recede into the past, there to reveal their strangeness. One may also ask whether the melancholy tone of today’s poetry will not be recognized at some point as the veneer of a certain mandatory style. Not unlike ancient mythology and the Trojan War for the poets of the Renaissance, a vision deprived of hope may often be just a cliché common to the poetry of our time. And other habits limited freedom of movement. When it is not the perfection of a work that is important but expression itself, “a broken whisper”, everything becomes, as it has been called, écriture. At the same time, a sensitivity to the surface stimuli of each minute and hours changes that écriture into a kind of diary of sore epidemics. To talk about anything, just to talk, becomes an operation in itself, a means of assuaging fear. It is as if the maxim “It’s not we who speak the lgnauge, but the language that speaks us” were taking its revenge. For it is true that not every poet who speaks of real things necessarily gives them the tangibility indispensable to their existence in a work of art. He may as well make them unreal.
Czeslaw Milosz. A Quarrel with Classicism in The Witness of Poetry. HUP (1983)

Quando não se tem nada para dizer

What I am maintaining is, that the first effort of the poet should be to achieve clarity for himself, to assure himself that the poem is the right outcome of the process that has taken place. The most bungling form of obscurity is that of the poet who has not been able to express himself to himself; the shoddiest form is found when the poet is trying to persuade himself that he has something to say when he hasn't.
T. S. Eliot. The Three Voices of Poetry. CUP (1954)

4.21.2016

une philosophie serait dès lors toujours «platonicienne»

Devrait-on dès lors s'interdire de parler de la philosophie de Platon, de l'ontologie de Platon, voire du platonisme? Nullement et il n'y aurait sans doute aucune erreur de principe à le faire, seulement une inévitable abstraction. Platonisme voudrait dire, dans ces conditions, la thèse ou le thème qu'on aura par artifice, méconnaissance et abstraction, extrait du texte, arraché à la fiction écrite de «Platon». Cette abstraction une fois surinvestie et déployée, on l'étendra au-dessus de tous les plis du texte, de ses ruses, surdéterminations, réserves qu'elle viendra recouvrir et dissimuler. On appellera cela platonisme ou philosophie de Platon, ce qui n'est ni arbitraire ni illégitime puisqu'on se recommande ainsi d'une certaine force d'abstraction thétique à l'œvre, déjà, dans le texte hétérogène de Platon. Elle travaille et se présente justement sous le nom de philosophie. S'il n'est pas illégitime et arbitraire de l'appeler comme elle s'appele, c'est que sa violence arbitraire, son abstraction consiste à faire la loi, jusqu'à un certain point et pendant un certain temps, à dominer, selon un mode qui est justement toute la philosophie, d'autres motifs de pensée qui sont aussi à l'œvre dans le texte: par example ceux qui nous intéressent ici par privilège, et à partir d'une autre situation — disons pour faire vite une autre situation historique, bien que l'histoire dépende le plus souvent dans son concept de cet héritage philosophique. Le «platonisme» est dont certainement un des effets du texte signé de Platon, pendant longtemps l'effet dominant et pour des raisons nécessaires, mais cet effet se trouve touhours retorné contre le texte. 
[...] La réversion violente dont nous venons de parler est toujours intéressée et intéressante. Elle se trouve naturellement à l'œvre dans cet ensemble sans limite que nous appelons ici le texte. En se construisant, en se posant sous sa forme dominante à un moment donné (ici la thèse platonicienne, la philosophie ou l'ontologie), le texte s'y neutralise, engourdit, auto-détruit ou dissimule: inégalement, partiellement, provisoirement. Les forces ainsi inhibées continuent d'entretenir un certain désordre, de l'incohérence potentielle et de l'hetérogénéité dans l'organisation des thèses. Elles y introduisent du parasitage, de la clandestinité, de la ventriloquie et surtout un ton général de dénégation qu'on peut apprendre à percevoir en y exerçant son oreille ou sa vue. Le «platonisme» n'est pas seulement un exemple de ce mouvement, le premier «dans» toute l'histoire de la philosophie. Il le commande, il commande toute cette histoire. Mais le «tout» de cette histoire est conflictuel, hétérogène, il ne donne lieu qu'à des hégémonies relativement stabilisables. Il ne se totalise donc jamais. En tant que telle, effet d'hégémonie, une philosophie serait dès lors toujours «platonicienne». D'où la nécessité de continuer à tenter de penser ce qui a lieu chez Platon, avec Platon, ce qui s'y montre, ce qui s'y cache, pour y gagner ou pour y perdre.
Jacques Derrida. Khôra. Gallilée (1993)

4.20.2016

T. S. Eliot: The Last Classic

Happy Birthday, Kamile.
The ideas of the city and of the province are inseparable, and while provinciality is clearly a version of exile, that condition can also exist in the city, just as traces, imitations, relics, parodies of metropolitan culture are to be found in the province. Within the limes or boundaries of empire there will be simulacra of Rome that are not Rome, that do not speak its language or even a derivative language. They are associated with the Ovidian tristia as well as the Virgilian imperium. Hugh Kenner, in a fine essay on the manuscripts, has stressed the Virgilian elements in The Waste Land, saying that Eliot, impressed by Joyce's use of Homer, "may well have had in mind at one time a kind of modern Aeneid." And it has been pointed out that the Virgil of the early poems is not quite the figure represented in Eliot's later essays about him, with their emphasis on his relation to Dante and the Christian world. Aeneas was an exile, and he never did found a city. The cities in which we see him, Troy and Carthage, are cities famous not for the manner of their foundation but for the completeness of their destruction, just as those cataloged in Eliot's poem have been or will be; so that Augustan Rome is an example not solely of a glory to which other capitals may aspire, or with which their ignominy may be contrasted, but also of the apocalyptic terrors Virgil associated with the eternal city and its empire.
It may be that after his conversation Eliot read Virgil by the light of Dante, and in a long tradition of interpretation which included the pax Augusta and the idea of Christian Empire. He developed his rich and complicated idea of the classic on this basis; he settled for a vernacular and provincial Catholicism (the Reformation, too, was a sort of exile) as the world had settled for vernacular versions oft he classic. But in so doing he did not forget the metropolitan terrors, nor that what the province took from the metropolis — images of the center entertained at the periphery, pride in partaking of the values of the urbs antiqua, and the classic authority — it repaid with the inescapable idea of exile; the more so now that the modern metropolis was itself deviant from the central image of Rome, and so itself an exile.
The sense of perpetual exile, doubtless in its orgin origin very personal, is thus associated with a religion and with a theory of history and culture; and we can see that the St. Louis and Boston, the Paris and London of the poetry ar logically connected with the idea of the classic, and of the more or less perpetual exile of literature from the classic. It would be hard to discover a poet or critic now living who shared these views, or held to any that even slightly resembled them; they are more likely to say to the classic "I banish you." And that is why we may think of Eliot as the last classic, at any rate until some new civilization should construct its own idea of the classic, and its own canon.

So here we confront yet another form of exile. Eliot was conscious of it, so often meditating the classic, so suspicious of its apparent opposite, the romantic, with which he nevertheless had such interesting relations. The more extreme modernisms were programmatically anticlassical, and Eliot knew and was affected by them. Later varieties assumed some connection between classicism and oppressive political prescription, in short, between classical and fascist order. With many aspects of these modernisms, though of course not with all, the early Eliot had a wary sympathy; they coexisted with a classicism he would not abandon, however its political implications might be deplored. The times seemed to insist on so many conflicting tendencies: the reconstruction of the past, the destruction of the past; the modernism of Dada that destroyed, or of Surrealism, associated with psychoanalysis, with what Hulme called "split religion", and a classicism that deplored everything that had happened in the world since the Renaissance. Both were of the city, the city of the political emblem of civility and the classic, but also the immonde cité of Baudelaire; a spiritual desert, yet the symbol of the urbs aeterna. In consciously holding together, as metoikos, these diverse ideas of an ideal eternity and a decadence in time, Eliot was unique among modern poets — and again an outsider, an exile from easy opinion, banished and banishing, honored and deplored.

Frank Kermode. T. S. Eliot: The Last Classic. in An Appetite for Poetry. HUP (1989)