The Concept Is Interesting

The concept is interesting: to see, as though reflected

In streaming windowpanes, the look of others through
Their own eyes. A digest of their correct impressions of
Their self-analytical attitudes overlaid by your
Ghostly transparent face.
—“Wet Casements,” John Ashbery

Exophonic literature has been defined as writing in a second language, a language always other than one’s own. As, perhaps most famously, Beckett writing in French. Beyond exophonism?

The concept is interesting: to reflect, as though streaming through their own eyes, the words of others in their own windowpanes. A ghostly transparent impression of their correctly digested attitudes, overlaid by your self-analytical face.

The concept is interesting: to write the thoughts of others with their own words. As in Zukofsky objectivising the Old Testament:

“He neigh ha lie low h’who y’he gall mood” – “A-15”

“…הנה הלילה ההוא יהי גלמוד” – Job 3:7

“Behold, let that night be solitary…”

The concept is interesting. Given the time, patience, and levity this sort of exercise is infinitely repeatable. The donnée is transparent and simple.

A real translation is transparent; it does not cover the original, does not block its light, but allows the pure language, as though reinforced by its own medium, to shine upon the original all the more fully. This may be achieved, above all, by a literal rendering of the syntax which proves words rather than sentences to be the primary element of the translator. For if the sentence is the wall before the language of the original, literalness is the arcade.

Thus Benjamin on the translator’s task. Done in its own language, it can release iridescent desire Ideas. It can open up abysses, devour Platonic Forms:

Gloire du long désir, Idées
Tout en moi s’exaltait de voir
La famille des iridées
Surgir à ce nouveau devoir.

The concept is interesting. “Form gulping after formlessness.”

To carry over the syntax and cadences of another language. Putting the cart upon the oxen of the sun. The Joycean maieutic method:

Universally that person’s acumen is esteemed very little perceptive concerning whatsoever matters are being held as most profitable by mortals with sapience endowed to be studied who is ignorant of that which the most in doctrine erudite and certainly by reason of that in them high mind’s ornament deserving of veneration constantly maintain when by general consent they affirm that other circumstances being equal by no exterior splendour is the prosperity of a nation more efficaciously asserted than by the measure of how far forward may have progressed the tribute of its solicitude for that proliferent continuance which of evils the original if it be absent when fortunately present constitutes the certain sign of omnipollent nature’s incorrupted benefaction.

And resistance thereof. Pound hammering Milton’s chock-a-block latinity (τίνα δ᾽ ἄνδρα…); Robinson Jeffers projecting Thoor Ballyleean screeds against Mallarmé and Góngora from Mt. Carmel. Who is Robinson Jeffers?

Him who disobeys, Góngorismo disobeys. This is the forest primeval.

The ghostly transparent windowpane is interesting to face: as though a streaming digest of their own self-analytical eyes, the correct impressions of other reflected overlays.

The concept is interesting. Is it appropriate?


It’s not stealing if it’s everything. In a recent essay titled “I Love Speech,” Kenneth Goldsmith, the Pierre Menard of the internet, drops an invisible bomb on nothing. He presents his paper in English, “a language,” he writes, “that I have never spoken or written”:

Most likely, you can’t read a word I’m saying, even though it’s your native language. So, we’re even: We’re both in a situation of not understanding. All we can possibly do is see to the way that the words look instead of what they mean. And by doing so we are all entering into a new relationship to language that permits us to reframe the mundane in the language of the mundane.

For years, I’ve been working toward a situation like the one we find ourselves in now: one where language is purely formal and concrete; like language itself, this piece is both meaningful and meaningless at the same time. This web page is now thick with sound posing as language.

The concept is interesting. A mundane, nutritionless ratio:

Radical clarity:DIY::translation:word-processor

Do inspect yourself. First I was a sculptor, then a poet, then a writer, now I’m a word-processor. Push word-processing beyond the grave and you enter the epistolary/ouija mode, whose eldritch ratio is:

Spicer: Lorca::Hawkey:Trakl


Yeats:O Presences!::James Merrill:Yeats

The concept is interesting. I have come to give you metaphors for poetry.

The windowpanes are correct: their eyes digest impressions reflected through your self-concept face, analytical, ghostly, transparent, though interesting.

What happens when a poet writes a language in another language? What happens when a poet writes English in Chinese? What happens when you make …

…a move toward a kind of depurated, fractal rigor, like in Chinese prosody, actually, where one has a complex grid of semantic couplings, aural interlockings, intertextual allusions, and so forth, and the reader moves around and wanders, guided not so much by syntagmatic sequence as by attention to the multiplicity of non-linear textuyres that the excisions of normative grammar afforde. The controlling code gets smashed, information flows go a bit crazey, discursive frames bleed each into each and out beyond what we would have them mean when within the mirage of our controle.

So Kent Johnson, in faux-Elizabethan parodic earnest, on the Chinese prosody of Prynne’s To Pollen. What happens when you can’t read Chinese in English? Drop an invisible bomb on the internet.

More to pollen ascript for elated finish, above scale
at draw tact elicit did both clamber all in fused
aloud. Shoot quickly now. It hurt so much. As to
submit engraver likeness mirror from terror alto style
lifted at furnish to a stroke.


More pollen, the script happily completed, large-scale
Neither draw the wit in all of causing fusion of Pan
Out loud. Now fast shooting. It hurt so much. As
Portrait image carving style terrorist submitted Alto
Submitted to cancel the trip.

The concept is interesting. “It hurt so much.”

A correct digest is reflected: to own, as though transparent eyes laid over others others look through, streaming, ghostly, an analytical correction of your attitude face.

The concept is interesting: immature languages translate; mature languages steal. Helen DeWitt on the prospect of depurated fractal rigor in English, Finnish, and Chinese. From The Last Samurai:

If you say that in a book the Italians should speak Italian because in the actual world they speak Italian and the Chinese should speak Chinese because Chinese speak Chinese it is a rather naive way of thinking of a work of art, it’s as if you thought this was the way to make a painting: The sky is blue. I will paint the sky blue. The sun is yellow. I will paint the sun yellow. A tree is green. I will paint the tree green. And what color is the trunk? Brown. So what color do you use? Ridiculous. Even leaving abstract painting out of the question it is closer to the truth that a painter would think of the surface that he wanted in a painting and the kind of light and the lines and the relations of colors and be attracted to painting objects that could be represented in a painting with those properties. In the same way a composer does not for the most part think that he would like to imitate this or that sound—he thinks that he wants the texture of a piano with a violin, or a piano with a cello, or four stringed instruments or six, or a symphony orchestra; he thinks of relations of notes.


An idea has only to be something you have not thought of before to take over the mind, and all afternoon I kept hearing in my mind snatches of books which might exist in three or four hundred years. There was one with the characters Hakkinen, Hintikka and Yu, set provisionally in Helsinki—against the background of snow with a mass of black firs, a black sky & brilliant stars a narrative or perhaps dialogue with nominative genitive partitive essive inessive adessive illative ablative allative & translative, people would come on saying Hyvää päivää for good day there might be a traffic accident so that the word tieliikenneonnettomuus could make an appearance, and then in the mind of Yu Chinese characters, as it might be Black Fir White Snow, this was absolutely ravishing.

The concept is interesting. Konsepti on mielenkiintoinen.

Concept Aeon: million King-Toy men.

Conception: mille y ont qui nettoient amant.

黑杉 白雪.