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a series of fragments & notes about Chance, Fate, and Context by Dara Wier

Noah Saterstrom, a founder and curator for TRICKHOUSE, in a recent interview on Flying Object’s feature:  THE MACHINATIONS OF, says as he says, also others say:

we need a stable form to hold unstable content


Most likely growing up beside the Mississippi River shaped my mind’s measures.

One cannot watch a river for hours, days, weeks, months, years without having it determine some things about how one thinks.  One can’t tell how much water, currents, light on water, sunlight, moonlight, starlight, the lights of a seaplane nearly on the water, the shadows of seaplanes on the water’s surface, the lights of a passing ship,  waves, wake, what floats by, what boats by, what will come, what is coming, what might come, what went where, one can’t tell what a river will do as it enters one’s mind.


Here’s something from something written by Jeremy Denk (New Yorker, FLIGHT OF THE CONCORD,  February 6th, 2012).  He is writing about among other things how when he was 20 and at a music camp at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts he came to understand how to play a certain piece of music (Charles Ives’ Piano Trio):

one afternoon, the violinist of the group and I were driving off campus and happened to cross the Connecticut River.  Looking out the window, he said, “You should play it like that.”  From the bridge the river seemed impossibly wide, and instead of a single current there seemed to be a million intersecting currents—–urgent and lazy rivers within the river, magical pockets of no motion at all.  The late-afternoon light colored the water pink and orange and gold.  It was the most beautiful, patient, meandering multiplicity.

Instantly I knew how to play the passage.  Even better, Ive’s music made me see rivers differently………….cross-currents, dirt, haze—-the disorder of a zillion particles crawling downstream. {Ives} rivers aren’t constrained by human desires and stories; they sing the beauty of their own randomness and drift.


Remember when I told you, that phrase, remember when I told you I had a Memory Bank, no– and, a Title Bank, storehouses that get bigger and grow bigger, and to which I add a Word Bank, a small neighborhood branch of the OED.  Any of which might bifurcate at any moment, there goes the Syntax Bank, there goes the Preposition Bank, here comes the Color and Black and White Bank, the Line Bank, the Bank of Tones, the I Wish I’d Said That Bank, the Bank of  Everything Lost, the Bank to Come, the Bank of Fire in Every Kind of Light, Bank of Explosions, Conjunctions Bank, Bank of No Return.  I could see this another way, too.

Maybe all the banks should be boats, and added could be tributaries and false rivers, and channels, and levees, and battures, and banks (oh, that kind of bank, not that other kind) and driftwoods and flotsam and jetsam and some boats could be skiffs and some barge boats with tug boats, and some ponderous ocean going ships, and some keen battleships, and there will be a ferry, a houseboat and a few might be canoes and one could be a pirogue.


Sebald writing about writing that is out of portion to its subject.  This is perhaps related to Prufer’s writing about what has sometimes been called sentimental.

And so back to sentences………more about elaborations of style which is not at all to call into question any particular elements of all materials one might find useful and good and at hand at any given time.

It has been making me a little crazy to listen to the SENTENCE-fetish police treat the rest of us (as if any writer worth her salt knows and loves as many kinds of sentences as she can encounter and or invent, shape-wise, content-full, combination-wise, sonic-wise, etc.) really—-it kills me when anyone acts as if he owns (and knows who else owns) THE SENTENCE, that is laughably narrow-minded, foolish.  It’s a joke, right?

Now I am in the midst of risking making a very good fool of myself while I labor away in the fields of didacticism, ambiguity, all things epi and aphoristic, motto-like, manifesto, too, mission statements, rules, laws, truisms, definitions, faux definitions, definition as genre, encapsulations, summaries, tendencies within many of these forms.  As it seems so always, once you start looking it’s everywhere, once it’s on your mind, permutations and hints of it surround you.  There is a roomful of us doing this on a weekly basis here in Flying Object.


Here is Rosamond Purcell:

(here is her bio note from flap of DICE, her collaboration with Ricky Jay:  it says:

ROSAMOND PURCELL works as a photographer in the back rooms of old museums.  She is the author of Special Cases: Natural Anomalies and Historical Monsters. Photographic monographs include A Matter of Time and Half-Life. Other books include three collaborative works with the late Stephen Jay Gould, including Finders Keepers: Treasures and Oddities from Peter the Great to Louis Agassiz.)

(her photographs of Jay’s decaying and disintegrating dice are out of this world, try to find these and look at the them, you may love them)

Here is something she writes:

I have seized upon it in a fit of appreciation for the ambiguity of windows and mirrors that neither protect nor reveal but suggest.

And because she is amazing here she is again:

……………..still I had not seen so much stuff to which so much had happened. 

Fraying, tattered, cracked, flattened, swollen, dried, scrawny, collapsed, shredded,

peeling, torn, warped, weathered, faded, bristling, moldy, clenched, tangled, punctured,

battered, bashed-in, scooped-out, withered, engorged, trampled, toppled, crushed, bald, listing, leaning, twisting, hanging, buried, wedged, skinned, docked, gnawed, entrenched.


Rosamond Purcell is instinctively obsessed with something so thoroughly she finds all she needs through her carefully defined, shaped, inherited (she says so when she’s telling about eating the corners of books that her mother also ate library glue and various book-related materials), refined, blissfully rich as she searches with her particular eyes and sifts through the material world as it changes.  Her book OWLS HEAD is amazing.  If you haven’t encountered it, see if you can find it.  If you have, you know what I’m saying already.


Some notes about emotional extortion:

It is most often not a good thing.

Kevin Prufer, poet, essayist, teacher, he writes about “sentimentality” and combines in his contemplating many excellently presented examples concerning what we sometimes call sentimental.  Knowing and feeling being entwined with little possibility of escaping one another, at least in our heads.

Once anything or something appear outside of our heads:  on a page, in print, in a book, in a chapbook, on a broadside, on film, by any means of any kind that we can see or hear or use our senses to approach, once outside of our heads we can at least pretend we can know many things in semi-isolation in order not to distort these but to experience these in various ways.

Things that exist outside of my head are what I live for.  I think.  I’m pretty sure of this.

I’m pretty sure this is what poems can be for.


ECHOPRAXIA OR ECHOPRAXIS or Echolalia, which do you prefer?


Go here to listen to Jeremy Denk’s version of  Prokofiev’s Visions Fugitives, Op 22.  Above you see Jacqueline DuPre.


Dara Wier is the author of eleven books of poetry, including Selected Poems, Remnants of HannahReverse Rapture, and Hat on a Pond. She teaches in the University of Massachusetts MFA Program for Poets and Writers. Her awards include the Poetry Center and Archives Book of the Year Award, a Pushcart Prize, the American Poetry Review’s Jerome Shestack Prize, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. She edits Factory Hollow Press. Visit her author page at Wave Books or read an interview.