What it is

Howe, Susan. “118 Westerly Terrace.” Souls of the Labadie Tract. 2007. New York: New Directions.

“I heard myself as if you

had heard me utopically

before reflection I heard

you outside only inside

sometimes only a word

So in a particular world

as in the spiritual world



Face to the window I had

to know what ought to be

accomplished by predecessors

in the same field of labor

because beauty is what is

What is said and what this

it–it in itself insistent is”


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C.S. Giscombe’s Prairie Style

Giscombe, C. S. Prairie Style. 2008. Champaign, IL: Dalkey Archive.


To have the same sound, to be called by the same name.

Location’s what you come to; it’s the low point, it usually repeats.

To me, any value is a location to be reckoned with; I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how an event could be talked about like it was you or me being talked about.

Or location’s the reply, the obvious statement about origin; it goes without saying that pleasure’s formidable.


“The 1200 N. Road Going East”

To me, image is any value in the exchange. Pleasure’s accidental. In any event, it’s hard to measure and harder still to memorize, pleasure. Image stands in. To me, voice is that which gets stuck in the head, effected voice, or inbetween the teeth, the hiss of love. Songs, eating. Whatever love says it’s no image, no consequence. This far inland, the erotics’ only obvious from a distance. This far inland you need something more sexual than dichotomy.


“Sotto Voce”

What’s missing: my country voice, the miracle singing is, to vex and hound the speaker, to outfox him. (Originally the lyrics went, “where lived a colored boy named Johnny B. Goode.”) What’s missing’s the way into what’s visible or obvious from a distance; or a way to distinguish that from mirage, love’s floating-in-the-air door.

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Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in The Republic

Plato. The Republic. Trans. R. E. Allen, 2004, The Pennsylvania State University Press.

“Suppose they had honors and prizes for those who most acutely discern and best remember the shadows that pass–which of them usually comes before, and after, and at the same time–and from this was then best able to guess what was coming next. Do you think he would want what they have, and envy them their honors and positions of power? Or would he feel, as Homer has it, that he would much prefer to be the slave of a landless man.”

“Yes, he said, I think he would suffer anything rather than accept that life.”

“Consider this too, I replied. If such a man went down again and sat upon the same seat, would not his eyes be filed with darkness, coming suddenly from the sun?”

“Yes, indeed,” he said.

“Suppose then he had to compete again in judging those shadows with people who had always been prisoners, while his vision was dim, before his eyes settled down–and it would take some little time to get used to the darkness. Wouldn’t he be laughed at? Would it be said of him that he had journeyed upward only to return with his eyes ruined, that it wasn’t worth it even to try to go up? And if they were able somehow to lay hands on the man trying to release them and lead them up, and kill him, they would kill him.”

“Certainly,” he said.


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Cannot Be But (Holy )

Buber, Martin. I and Thou. tr. Roland Gregor Smith. New York: Scribner’s. 2000. Print

“[People] have addressed their eternal Thou with many names. In singing of [The One] who was thus named they always had the Thou in mind: the first myths were hymns of praise. Then the names took refuge in the language of It; [people] were more and more strongly moved to think of and to address their eternal Thou as an It. But all God’s names are hallowed, for in them [God] is not merely spoken about, but also spoken to.

Many [people] wish to reject the word God as a legitimate usage, because it is so misused. It is indeed the most heavily laden of all the words used by [people]. For that very reason it is the most imperishable and most indispensable. What does all mistaken talk about Gods’ being and works (though there has been, and can be, no other talk about these) matter in comparison with the one truth that all men who have addressed God had God Itself in mind? For… who[ever] speaks the word God and really has Thou in mind (whatever the illusion by which [they are] held), addresses the true Thou of [their] life, which cannot be limited by another Thou, and to which [they] stand in a relation that gathers up and includes all others.

But when [they], too, who abhor the name, and believe [themselves] to be godless, give [their] whole being to addressing the Thou of [their lives], as a Thou that cannot be limited by another, [they] address God.”

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“L’shna Tovah…

…and Good Shabbas,” he said, as he hit the “Enter” key with his right pinky finger.

Seidman, Naomi. “Fag-Hags and Bu-Jews: Toward a (Jewish) Politics of Vicarious Identity” in Insider / Outsider: American Jews and Multiculturalism ed. David Biale, Michael Galchinsky, and Susannah Heschel. 1998. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.

“In contemporary Jewish-American culture Arendt’s “hidden tradition” has not so much ended (as has been said of modernism) both dominant and dead. And as this hidden tradition increasingly becomes an open secret, its dialetical continuation is driven further underground. There are many routes out of this dissonance, but one of them has certainly been to retain in some form the legacy of Jewish marginality while seeking its “truer” expression in particularist, non-Jewish models. The price has been, for some, the awkwardness of championing particularisms while avoiding one’s own, or alternatively, to feel one’s self-identification as a Jew as somehow in bad faith.

“However untidily American-Jewish experience fits the multicultural paradigm, the problematics of Jewish participation is at the very heart of its development. If the founding moment of American multiculturalism is in the shift from the liberalism of the civil rights movement to the identity politics of Black Power in the mid- to late 1960s, then multiculturalism, from the beginning, signaled the expulsion of Jews from a comfortable home on the left. More than that, African American experience, as Michael Rogin points out, indirectly provided both the Jewish blackface vaudevillian and the [Jewish] civil rights worker with a path toward integration, a way to be white in a society where African Americans, not Jews, were the dominant Other. No wonder multiculturalism and the Jews has so often turned out to be a traumatic conjunction. For the Jews, particularism began not in a return to ethnic celebration but in a radical dislocation of what had become a not-so-hidden tradition of Jewish universalist secularism….

“To compound the Jewish/multicultural problem, what prevented the widespread Jewish adoption of Jewish ethnic particularism was, in a way, Jewishness itself, in the form of the tradition of universalism that came closest to account for the prevalence of American Jews in Western Buddhist circles, has suggested a similar etiology for Jewish rejection of Jewish practice. Kamenetz addresses the tendency of secular Jews to be more open to other religions thatn their own, acknowledging that “the Hasidim represented everything [Allen] Ginsberg’s family had run screaming from for two generations.” But Kamenetz’s most powerful insight is his recognition that the rejection of one kind of Jewish tradition is also, from another perspective, another kind of Jewish tradition: “I began to suspect that Jewish identity, as it has evolved in the West today, could be a real barrier to encountering the depths of Judaism. In other words, being Jewish could keep you from being a Jew.” Kamentez’s analysis is directed to secular Jewish interest in non-Jewish religious traditions, but the same could be said for the rejection of the politics of Jewish particularism by a certain portion of this group. In the absence of a particularist Jewish political affiliation that could also satisfy the progressive universalist agenda with which Jewish politics ahs been historically linked, adopting the particularist position of another group paradoxically becomes a distinctively Jewish act….

“Ther is something, even for unaffiliated Jews, in multiculturalism’s demand for the identification of one’s position as a subject; tactfully bracketing one’s Jewish identity in the presence of “real” marginality can lead, as it does in Sedgwick, to an unconsciousness of how even this bracketed Jewishness shapes who we are.

“But there is no easy way out of Jewish political drag either. The straight road of Jewish self-identification in the multiculutre is only apparently so….”

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