Tentative Steps

Francois Lachance in garden at King Street, Kingston ON - early 1980s

This is a place holder. I am migrating content from the Berneval blog at Google’s Blogspot. Thrilled to be swimming in the Humanities Commons ecosystem.

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Flow and Fold

Not a wonder that my reading stumbles and sees “loss” for “less” in these lines from Suzanne Buffam’s Past Imperfect from the sequence entitled “Inklings”: “to retrieve it you’d think / we’d be gifted with less.”

Earlier we encountered this in “Sire Gromore Somyr Joure” which builds upon delicate repetition that becomes slowly attenuated.

Knees were for kneeling. Lashes were for looking
at the sun. The river was slow and it hurried.

And later the notion of loss bites again in the conclusion of a poem called “What is Called Déjà Vu”

like a dream inside which a crouched
animal is awaiting
release, recognition.
Its little teeth glisten.

Same familiar facility with repetitions and alliterations and the zest of the zinger.

And so for day 1844

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Putting and Retrieving

This in response to a call issued in Humanist 30.757 hands on


I want to add some remarks about the relation of craft to orchestration.

You characterize Tim Ingold’s take on the implements of writing:

But he also comes down rather hard on modern interfaces for writing — the typewriter and its digital imitation — which do rather badly in comparison with pen and paper. He does not mention the mouse.

You wonder “what would be a persuasive answer to his objection”.

I think it begins by noting how pen and hand like typewriter can display in space a many-voiced text. Ingold [in Making] cites Heidegger to the effect that ‘modern man writes “with” the typewriter’ and emphasizes that “with” is placed under quotation marks by Heidegger. This invites also thinking about writing “with” pen. A direction that Ingold does not take.

Pen and paper can involve many inks, many pieces of paper and many scripts (cursive, blockprinting, etc). Typewriting can involve carriage returns, spacing, backspacing, strikeouts of various sorts and on some models different colours. A word processor provides a full symphony of typographic effects.

I stress the similarities here to raise the question of telos. If the end is to capture the many voices in one’s head then the putative superiority of one mode over another strikes a rather strange note.

Of course in an entirely oral situation we can imagine the assignment of various parts to various groupings of people in a choral round. Thus in certain ways the pen wielder is akin to a conductor.

Following Heidegger, Ingold asserts that the hand can hold and the fingertip can merely touch. But what of counting with one’s fingers or committing to memory a list with places reserved for each item on each finger? “With” indeed.

We place an idea or a voice in a certain locale in the world and then retrieve.

I would venture that placing is akin to craft and retrieval involves orchestration.

In any event, I find it difficult to sustain the narrative of decay that Ingold invokes (“The drift of technological enhancement has been to substitute touch sensitivity at the fingertips for the sentient correspondence of telling by hand.”) as I key in the words that were written by hand out of print in the library copy of the book. The line breaks shift. Migration is the standard.

In the fingertips is the charm of voice.

Intriguing interplay between rest and migration — the words are always already reconstellating.

And so for day 1843

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Nothing and Essence

This takes its force from being set in a parenthesis.

George once again eschews experience as having nothing to do with the present moment. (Isherwood himself, it should be observed, “formed” fairly early in life into the person he would forevermore be. He was an emotional prodigy; and to a prodigy, experience is indeed nothing.)

From 50 Gay and Lesbian Books Everybody Must Read edited by Richard Canning — Patrick Ryan on A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood.

And so for day 1842

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Not a Nautical Term

I thought the “veronica” in Eamon Grennan’s “oystercatchers in flight” (There Now) was a word capturing the manoeuvres of the birds.

        a band of oystercatchers faces all one way
into a nor’wester so shafts of windlight
        ignite each orange beak in this abiding
tribe of black till you clap and their risen black
        turns white as they veronica on wind and

But what was an effect of wind was also an effect of light. The pattern of the birds — black turning to white — is likened to a sweat-stained shroud but perhaps more aptly to this definition of veronica: in bullfighting, a slow movement of the cape away from a charging bull by the matador, who stands in place. [said to be by association of the attitude of the matador with the depiction of St. Veronica holding out a cloth to Jesus] (New Oxford American Dictionary).

Not a nautical term. No.

And so for day 1841

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Time-Space and Story Curves

Paul Ricoeur Temps et récit I

Ce qui fait énigme, c’est la structure même d’une image qui vaut tantôt comme empreinte du passé, tantôt comme signe du future

Trace and sign take on some ample wings in the context of verbal constructions.

See Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics

Text-time is thus inescapably linear, and therefore cannot correspond to the multilinearity of ‘real’ story-time.(2)

(2) One should note, however, two factors which tone down the irreversibility of text-time: (a) the fact of writing and hence the possibility of re-reading; (b) the existence of quasi-spatial patterns which establish supra-linear links, e.g. analogy.

And so for day 1840

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Make Space for the Girl

Found poem.

I’ve come from him
and how close to me
he remains.

someone, somewhere,
will look for me and
I will be found

From trans poet, Gwen Benaway Passage.
First stanza is the last stanza of “Nightfall” p. 69
Last stanza is the last stanza of “What’s Wild in Wild” p. 21

What is ostensibly a “him” referring to the lost (“divorced”) lover is inscribed in such a way to reveal an intriguing (unconscious) introversion of the mourned object: “in cold light, a marker for how far // I’ve come from him / and how close to me / he remains” — that gap produces a displacement if not condensation of the signifier — another him may be lost.

Thomas Pavel, Fictional Worlds

[T]here is no guarantee that all sentences of the text can be traced back to one and the same world, or to the same universe.

And as we learn here, pronoun reference can shift. Pavel reminds us “referential behavior includes a creative, risk-taking aspect, as well as a tendency to settle down into conventional patterns.”

And so for day 1839

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Golden Dragon Dining Guidelines

In case you don’t know how much to order:

ephemera golden dragon restaurant menu


All our foods to take out are put in paper pails of pint and quart measure of standard size and will stay hot for an hour but may be reheated, if necessary, in double boiler or saucepan over a slow fire only.

In this era pre-microwave oven, there are also recommendations as to when to order.


We recommend calling for your food after your table is set for serving, to give you the most Delicious Hot Meal.

No eating from the carton, eh.

And so for day 1838

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On the Temporal Nature of Coming Out

A digression from an essay on the various versions of Adrienne Rich’s “Heterosexism and Lesbian Existence” [said essay about the shifting valence attached to gay men as characterized in its various emendations of the footnotes] …

For every impasse, a digression. Coming out stories are narratives of separation, passage — risk taking — into uncharted territory. But not always against the grain of connecting with our past. For our coming out stories also reflect how we found the resources to step out of time. Through the telling we become our own models experiencing history not as then but as now.

The temporalities of “coming out” would involve a recuperation of the past. Though not always.

And so for day 1837

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Mere Pattern

Wendy Steiner. The Colors of Rhetoric

It is the norms of pictorial realism that allow us to see process in pictures; without them we see mere pattern.

This takes on a certain coloration when one considers the earlier considerations on chance and its psychological dimensions:

If we accept pure randomness we risk appearing as bewildered ignoramuses; if we insist on finding the allegorical system behind it all we become dreary pedants […] The double threat of exhaustion and boredom continually stalks the reader of nonsense.

Voilà – the connoisseur of nonsense like the fancier of pictures is at home in mere pattern and in process.

And so for day 1836

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