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


Rosamond Purcell, Lawrence Weschler, good people doing amazing things


Daniil Kharms

Matvei Yankelevich:

“…A work of art has to exist in the world as an object, as real as the sun, grass, a rock, water, and so on. It must also possess a ‘slight error’—–in other words, to be ‘right’ it has to be a little bit ‘wrong,’ a tad strange, and thereby truly real. Art, for Kharms has an ‘independent existence’…”

(p. 13, TODAY I WROTE NOTHING: THE SELECTED WRITINGS OF DANIIL KHARMS, edited and translated by Matvei Yankelevich)

This is important, this distinguishing between kinds of logics we can encounter:

“…Kharms seems to have absorbed quickly all the new ideas in the artistic air at that time, and these served as a springboard for his idiosyncratic aesthetic theories that would center on fragmentation and disruption, and the autonomy of art from logical thought, practicality and everyday meanings…”


And I can’t help myself, I am going to be typing here a lot from Matvei’s intro, it is good to think about it:

………Beckett and Ionesco didn’t  like Martin Esslin’s: “Theatre of the Absurd” label either.  But Kharms and his “school” are not around to complain, as their writings didn’t reach the West until long after most of them were dead.  The domestication may be pardonable, but it’s not subtle.  To quote The Village Voice writer on the the OBERIU poets, “Their shit is hilarious.  But it got them killed.”  We stumble on (or over) this kind of oversimplification again and again in our culture’s popularization of difficult writers in difficult times.

In fact, Kharms consistently denies us our desire to draw any moral conclusions from his work.  “What big cucumbers they sell in stores nowadays!” the writer exclaims after one of his characters beats another to death with an oversize cuke.

A series of events in which one character after another meets an accidental and senseless demise concludes with the lamentation:  “All good people, but they don’t know how to hold their ground.”………………Every fable ends with a false moral, or none at all.

By imposing a logical reading, this “translation” does violence to Kharms, for whom  chance itself is a transcendent category; error and accident, the very glue of the universe, constitute manifestations in this world of the miraculous, which is otherwise hidden in some parallel dimension behind or beyond mundane reality.


…… the chance encounter on an operating table, of a sewing machine and an umbrella………(Lautréamont?  or Rimbaud?)  (who should I think of when I think of this)

and I like to think of this, or at least two of three parts of this, however the part I prefer not to think of is necessary to the equation of all 3 together, I guess










Manufactured spontaneity, what is there about it that is not the same as spontaneous spontaneity?  Each is fine in its own way.

Bi-furcations of functional passageways lead to ever more difficult to maneuver portals.  To get to the source of a river one manages and navigates and follows ever more narrow waterways.


scale for books investigating borders of bitter cynical misanthropic points of view:

(* indicates degrees of biting/grilling evidence of evidence we can be understood to be a difficult species)

* mild




*****satisfyingly hyperbolic

tiny sample:


etc.  noticing there is no poetry there, correcting this indicatively:

C.P. Cavafy **** Emily Dickinson ****

Walt Whitman * James Tate ***

(addendum:  “scathing” on certain occasions may be exchanged for “painfully realistic”)


from an interview in a recent TINHOUSE (out of Portland, Oregon)  by Tony Perez in which he interviews Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad of Radiolab:

TP:  When do you know that it’s done, that it’s perfect?

RK:  That’s Jad.  I’ll make suggestions, but he doesn’t have to take them. It’s up to him at the end of the day where our final beauty rests.  Though, it’s interesting to me, either because he’s seduced me or because we were doppelgangers from the beginning, we often agree.  It’s one of the crucial things whether you’re making a movie or a radio show—-and maybe it’s true about writing—-to know when you’re done.  It’s sort of like flower arranging.  You have elements.  You put them in a bowl.  There are incomprehensibly large numbers of combinations that could be made, but at a certain point, you feel somehow satisfied.  It’s a mysterious feeling.  And if you feel satisfied together, it’s a doubly mysterious feeling.


At my outpost, my secret headquarters, I am always waiting for something to come along.  Waiting on the banks of a river provides this luxury, there will always be something coming.  And it may be coming from far away.

It might be coming from Minnesota (land of a thousand lakes) (and CONDUIT and RAIN TAXI and THE LOFT and Minnesota Center for the Book and The Walker Center for the Arts and The Ashbery Bridge and  Coffee House Press and Greywolf and I think, but maybe I’m remembering wrong……..Quaker Oats…, that can’t be, can it……….) and Steve Healey’s great book TEN MISSISSIPPI, for one.

I know people throw things in a river, I know weather put things on the water, I know things and people fall in the water, I know some things are meant to float by (appearing first from around a bend to the north and then disappearing eventually around a bend to the south) (one of the bends is called Jesuit Bend, this is where a little mission church sits mostly empty except for when a priest manages, often for a holiday or a holyday to come by to say a mass or something).

Driftwood’s allure.


What to do about flotsam and jetsam?  The exponential potential of all that.


Here’s Ron Padgett’s translation of Pierre Reverdy’s THE WRONG SIDE RIGHT SIDE OUT   (The Brooklyn Rail Black Square Editions,  2007)

He climbs without stopping, without even turning around, and no one but he knows where he is going.

The weight he pulls is heavy but his legs are free and he has no ears.

At each door he called out his name.  No one opened.

But when he knew that someone was expected and who it was, he knew how to change his face.  Then he went in, in place of the person who wasn’t coming.


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.