Robert Farrell

Meditation on the Body — After Anscombe

I’ve already forgotten what I said The people
you see here are not here are ghosts and they
are here and we are not A closed door is a door
I run against I made the door from wood and run
against it I run not until it opens for it’s closed
but until I open In the absence of a door a tree
will also serve I have forgotten what I said What
I said: the people you see here is here is body
and so we are here and too are bodies that want
to run against things and so need friction

Meditation on the Body — Against Information

There are barns and there are barns and around them
there are cows There is you and there is you against
information and your eyes see past information see
beyond measure even past the Walmart greeter All
that happens in nature is transitive regardless of what
occasions it The gods help mankind in every possible
way even when hiding even today and in horror The
same uncalled for things call us face to face with an
earth that loves rain with orange trees that love sun All
things hang together even lives that meet their natural
ends

Meditation on the Body — Stoic Advice

Listen be all things to all people whatever they need
and there is need for all things for all people whether
it’s the sound of water poured into glasses or the sound
of stakeholders falling together and listen to these and
other sounds laughing at pain to the same question being
asked but know it’s not the same question and you are not
the same that heard it know to hear with new ears is to
remember what and how to forget is to remember what and
how not to forget with every game of softball with every
picnic falling more deeply into place to wander happy and
mistaken

Meditation on the Body — After Hala Mohammad

Swallow I am in your spring a vehicle into
into a vehicle into the experience of a pleasure
as agreeable as the movement toward suffering
as the movement toward a woundability that
takes up residence in the lungs that oppresses
voice like the miracle of sea air I am a vehicle
even the gods want us to be happy

Notes

Meditation on the Body — After Anscombe

“It is important to me – speaking of closeness and distance – to recall here Kierkegaard’s stress on walking as the gait of finitude; and to note that for a similar cause walking is a great topic of Thoreau’s. Wittgenstein’s passage continues in German as follows: “Wir wollen gehen; dann brauchen wir die Reibung.” Professor Anscombe translates: ‘We want to walk; so we need friction.’ I would like to suggest that our wanting to walk is as conditional – I might almost say as questionable – as our need for friction: If we want to walk, or when we find we are unable to keep our feet, then we will see our need for friction.” Stanley Cavell, This New Yet Unapproachable America, p. 55

Meditation on the Body — Against Information

“The disagreements concerning friendship are not few. Some posit friendship as being a likeness of some sort and friends to be men who are alike; hence the sayings ‘like as like’, ‘birds of a feather flock together’, and other such. Others take the contrary position and say ‘two of a trade never agree’. Still others seek causes for these things which are higher and more physical, like Euripides, who says, ‘parched earth loves rain, and lofty heaven filled with rain loves to fall to earth’…” Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, Book 8, translated by Hippocrates G. Apostle.

“All things are woven together and all things are undone again; all things are mingled together and all things combine; and all things unite and all things separate; all things are moistened and all things are dried; and all things flourish and all things fade in the bowl of the altar. For each thing comes to pass with method and in fixed measure and by exact weighing of the four elements. The weaving together of things and the undoing of all things and the whole fabric of things cannot come to pass without method. The method is a natural one, preserving due order in its inhaling and its exhaling; it brings increase and it brings decrease. And to sum up: through the harmonies of separating and combining, and if nothing of the method be neglected, all things bring forth nature. For nature applied to nature transforms nature. Such is the order of natural law throughout the whole cosmos, and thus all things hang together.” Zosimos of Panopolis, On Excellence III.i.4, quoted in Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 13: Alchemical Studies.

Meditation on the Body — After Hala Mohammad

“Oh, Swallow / As you depart our spring / slow down. / In the wood / burner’s exhaust pipe / as the firewood came inside, / you forgot your echo.” from Hala Mohammad’s “The Swallow.” Available at Writing Without Paper Poets of Protest series

Robert Farrell lives and works in the Bronx, New York. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Brooklyn Review, NOON: journal of the short poem, REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies and elsewhere. His chapbook, Meditations on the Body, is forthcoming from Ghostbird Press. Originally from Houston, Texas, he’s a librarian at Lehman College, CUNY.

Editor’s Notes (Posit 15)

 

It is a bittersweet pleasure to introduce this magnificent fifteenth issue of Posit, coming as it does in the wake of what feels like an avalanche of national and global upheaval — both natural and human-made, toxically entangled as those categories are. But also: coming out on the heels of such a great loss for anyone interested in contemporary poetry. I’m referring, of course, to the death of John Ashbery, one of the greatest and most beloved poets of the past half-century. Although his loss hits hard, I find consolation in detecting his influence on so much of the poetry I love — and publish.

This issue is a perfect case in point, notable as it is for the singularity and variety of the voices it assembles — an aesthetic capaciousness which owes no small thanks to Ashbery’s paradigm-shifting work, which demonstrated by contagious example the extent of what is possible. Which ranges, in this issue, from the sizzling imaginative fertility of Will Alexander’s monumental monologue to the analytic calm of Robert Okaji’s meditations; from the poignant crises of Louis Bourgeois’ beautifully drawn protagonists to the understated humor of David Lehman’s and Stephen Paul Miller’s riffs on Frank O’Hara’s famous Lana Turner poem; from John Beer’s tidal flow of verbal riches to Charles Borkhuis’ razor-sharp yet deadly serious wit; from Patty Seyburn’s evocative experimentalism to Aliesa Zoecklein’s equally evocative lyric odes to love and loss.

To quote Mr. Ashbery, all of the work in this issue offers “what we need now:” these “unlikely / Challenger[s] pounding on the gates of an amazed / Castle” (“Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror”). So I hope you’ll honor his passing by reading, or re-reading, his work — and theirs:

the revolutionary heat and devastating light of this fragment from Will Alexander’s tome, The Ganges, the “supreme toil” of its “treasonous instruction” in the voice of an Untouchable, that “remnant outside a palace of hoaxes” banned “to exclusion voiced through tainted opinion,” with its grim echoes of the meanness and menace in our contemporary political landscape;

the rhythmic fluidity of John Beer’s “The Fictive Hour,” “split[ting] the feast of [its] intentions” in wave after melodic wave, enacting the sensitive pursuit of meaning embedded in the quiddity of the moment becoming “the mother of itself;”

Charles Borkhuis’ grave yet bemused invitations to puzzle over “the truth . . . which withdraws from the slightest observation,” deploying the insights of meta-and particle physics in his signature precise yet playful demotic idiom to “thread the eye through an ear / and . . . wing it outward on a word;”

the tragicomedy of Louis Bourgeois’ Salingeresque tale of the clash of integrity with pragmatism under the pressure of social reality and, especially, of time;

Lauren Camp’s evocative lyrics lifting off from the springboard of the personal to touch the universal, rising from the “rant in my inbox” which “is many / fresh-fallen failures /masquerading as failures” to the desert clouds over a party which “plump / then conjugate / all the pleasure for hours;”

Robert Farrell’s aphoristic, incantatory meditations delving, like “a vehicle into a vehicle,” into works by Anscombe, Aristotle, Zosimus, and Hala Mohammed to propose that “[a]ll / things hang together even lives that meet their natural / ends;”

the sensitivity of Cal Freeman’s meditations on literary and personal heritage in which “no one knows / what to measure or how” in light of “the terrible affront and tacit / threat [our] presence constitutes / for every seen and unseen creature;”

David Lehman’s tribute to Stephen Paul Miller’s variation on Frank O’Hara’s “Poem [Lana Turner Has Collapsed!]” — each as wryly gentle in their counsel as the charming original — Miller’s version literally raising the stakes on O’Hara’s by virtue of the weight of what’s at stake (“oh Hillary Clinton you’re going to lose get up!”)— while Lehman’s version hovers with understated complexity between empathetic optimism and doubt of a candidate who might or might not share the social ease of the kind of gregarious narrator who “want[s] to meet you / whoever you are;”

The contemplative focus of Robert Okaji’s koan-like meditations on perception filtered through the metaphorical and philosophical implications of abstraction, in which “[t]he images consume no space but the effect is of distance;”

Patty Seyburn’s richly elliptical and compelling investigations into the vulnerability of the human body and the mythography of swans, entailing “something about anomaly” and “mimesis overload;”

Devon Wootten’s delicious excerpt from Gimme the Pretty, enlisting the reader to partner its probing of the nature and value of its own endeavor (yes, poetry, but not only), achieving any number of “truly epic volta[s]” as it delivers “what [we] came for— / realer done right,”

and Aliesa Zoecklein’s elegant explorations of the grief and hazard embedded in the paraphernalia of the ordinary: the sequin dress of a former lover, the sustenance of a grieving survivor, the “convincing curve” of a swimming pool beyond which “there’s a gate-latch moment when the stranger arrives.”

Thank you for honoring these artists with your time and attention.

Susan Lewis

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Welcome to the visual art of Posit 15!

Jodi Colella uses traditional needlework skills to create artworks that are referential to the great traditions she is working within while also building a commentary on her travels throughout the world. Her work speaks to the evolving roles of women in Western and Non-Western cultures as well her experiences of the natural world.

Brandon Graving, a master printmaker, uses paper in interesting and innovative ways. She casts it, creating three-dimensional sculptures that seem to defy gravity. Her mastery of printmaking technique enables her to push the medium past its known limits until the results defy categorization.

There is a palpable visual rhythm and rhyme in the graphic work of Francis Pavy. His visual interpretations of the music of his native Louisiana dance and jump off the page. His ties to Southern American folklore and culture are deep, and he expresses them in a distinctly contemporary way.

The complex sculptures of Lina Puerta present a delicate and beautifully crafted view of the confluence of the natural and manmade worlds. Her great sensitivity to the found objects she often uses and her skills in combining them creates a universe that is simultaneously natural and artificial—as well as beautiful to look at.

Umar Rashid has created a new history of the American Empire. Through his brilliant and subversive series of faux-historical painting and writings he imagines a national history quite different from that taught in school. His pictorial style riffs on many historic sources and the result is something completely original. A self-taught artist, Rashid has combined his keen intellect with a sly sense of humor and political outrage.

Enjoy!
Melissa Stern