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This being the young person’s edition (kind of), all contributors at time of
publication are studying language in one form of another, and a number of
them actually know what they’re talking about, whether it’s Greek, Italian,
Old English or French. How that feeds into the conversation is another
matter- hopefully it will make itself known as the journal unfolds.

The idea and function of the 'theme' itself was more a guiding principle
than a set of strictures, and certainly wasn’t intended to be inhibitive in any
way. As a result the pieces here relate to the familiar (intimidating) act of
translation only partially: there are essays, poems and readings – and even
the odd drawing – dealing variously with the issue of language, but all were
born out of the same shared appreciation for the importance of words as a
means of communicating sense and meaning.

There are a number of silences too, cropping up here and there, speaking
to the importance of perhaps not quantifying everything all the time into
digestible verbal units. A number of conversations count among this
number, having been cut cruelly short by the due date— some were reined
in (but are included here nonetheless), some will be carried on outside of
the journal – either online or in the pub – and with any luck some will
attract new and interested parties keen to carry the baton further.

Needless to say (but worth saying anyway), all responses are constructive
responses, and are not intended to be taken as in any way malicious or
derisive (with the possible – probable – exception of Jaspreet’s).

Finally, thanks are due to all involved with this edition of the journal- to
Scott, for the opportunity, to the ‘silent technical wizards’ for bringing it to
our screens, and to the contributors, who deserve congratulations as well
as many thanks for living through the tyrannous reign of my editorship, rife
as it was with many changes of mood and mind.

Hopefully there is a semblance of order here, or at least organisation.


Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
A Reverie upon Translation

This is a brief essay, cryptic perhaps, but necessary. Translation asks us the fundamental
question of understanding. What it means to know in a language, and what should make
another language unknowable. It formulates itself as a question between the present
and absent, between the intelligible and the unintelligible, the foreign and the familiar. Is
this divide - formulated as a binary structure between the text we read as translated and
the text we read ‘originally’ - one of metaphysical quality or conversely pure distance? Is
there some imponderable and irretrievable horizon that prevents the translation from
discovering the original, that prevents the sign system of another tongue from
discovering the meaning of the former, or is something else at stake?

The question of authenticity in translation is the question of authenticity in every
voice, every act of language or thought in language. The void present within any work is
potentially foregrounded, given a space of safe exposition in the notion of foreignness
and linguistic otherness. The troubling thought when presented with a foreign text, that
we may not ‘know’ really, or truly, what the work is saying strikes many sensitive
readers. It is often said that one must read the book in the original language to somehow
know. What though, distinguishes the nausea of uncertainty in this text from the
intelligibility of our own, what is the determinate factor? Perhaps we are used to
assuming we know in our tongue through of charm of utility and the efficacious
instrumentality of our words. These safe and comfortable and parochial words, cloud
from us the absolute unease we suddenly now feel with the ‘imperfect’ word of the
translation. May this be the ghost of the dark repression we all make when we assure
ourselves we know in our own language, know IN language?

One cannot help but be drawn to Benjamin and the Task of the Translator. That
hushed talk of the tertiary text – the unspoken reality that sits beneath - the original
shimmering intentionality that takes place and plays within that liminal plane between
language and infinity. Benjamin talks of this third text, the real text, that hovers,
promising truth to all authors, translators and readers. It is a penumbra that cannot be
touched; perhaps here we locate the point of deserverence where the fabled logos is
sacrificed into our fallen tongue and the object once realised in the divinatory fury of the
artist is stillborn into system. This meaning then was never clear, it never had the crystal
diaphanousness that gave us truth, a transparency in language. Every work crystallises in
the moment of conception. Every word once written is swept away by différance and left
fundamentally unknowable. Haven’t you heard that the author is dead? The author is left
in the instance of creation as a reader part of all three translative functions. The author
from nothingness to words, the reader from words to intelligibility, the translator from
words to words. Perhaps though there are only ever two plays of translation, the
translator himself is merely a reader, he acts as we all do for

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
“the words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living”1

These words are engraved upon the tablets and given form that strips the force of words
and leaves their bones to bleach upon the desert of reading. Derrida writes of this force
and knows that we are left with ghosts, “haunted”. The primal terrors of chaotic natural
thought are dispelled with inscription and brought to order; it is Adorno’s dear dialectic.

Every text is the translation of that primal silence that both comprehends and
obliterates the idea of negativity and positivity as the means to posit objects. It is the
nothingness of everything, the static crepitated hum of infinity that must be violently
pared back like the sculptor hacking away at marble till he is left with the great negativity
of formal creation.

Therefore in one very real sense the translation is no different to the original.
The dual transformations of the author and reader are merely mediated by a further
difference. The system of comprehension that may not carry adequacy of expression is a
risk we always took and always take. It is impossible to know, however, and this is the
great, silent fear of language. There can be no surety of realisation, as there exist no
means of conceptualisation in either tongue. This is the dizzying act of faith that exists at
the heart of every linguistic performance. The unease of translation is its importance: it is
gives reality to the sickness at the heart of words in the defamiliarized linguistic object.

The problem is not the interactivity of sign systems; it is how the silent, wordless
objects of thought are birthed into language. When placed in a structure of intelligibility
the overlaps become clearer, the lacunae become clearer. When one has sense of
inadequacy it allows knowledge to circumscribe an absence, give form, objectify, classify,
and in the sense of Foucault, have knowledge of. The unintelligible is disarmed in this
common translation between the signs, it is the great comfort of all knowledge without
self-conscious structures of signification; even the zones of doubt or aporetic uncertainty
can be mastered by the totalising hierarchy of words. It is that miraculous moment of
godlike force that remains foreign, the point at which the author and speaker and
conscious subject places thought into the system. The true translation is that moment of
silence before the birth of the universe. The meditation in some brief instance of calm, a
deep breath before the fury of the word. It is the transformation from silence to sound,
from infinity to the infinity of presence.


1 Auden, In memory of W.B Yeats
Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
“This is a brief essay, cryptic perhaps, but necessary.” No essay is necessary, and this
one is unnecessarily cryptic. “Translation asks us the fundamental question of
understanding.” When? Not all translations are of Mallarmé, and it would take a neurotic of
exceptional tedium to argue that the translation “ARRÊT” on “STOP” signs in Québec
betrays any complex relationship between two languages, two words or anything else when
it’s painted on an octagonal red sign posted at a crossroads. If the EU demands ingredients
listed in multiple languages on chocolate bars that are sold internationally there’s no such
fundamental question involved either. Many texts can be rendered into another language
without measurable loss of meaning. This, then, is an essay on literary translation –– which
“formulates itself as a question . . .” –– does it? I wonder at the magic involved at a
collection of words that can ‘formulate itself’ as anything. The translation isn’t conscious, the
translator is, unless he happens to be Google Translate, in which case his results tend to be
unusably inept. Still, this author would have us believe in some sort of divide between
‘original’ ‘text’ and ‘translation’ (sorry about all the inverted commas, but presumably one has
to assume a pose of condescending Gallic irony in order to discuss such a matter in this way).
Why not assume that no such divide invariably exists? Those of us who can read in or speak
more than one language, or have done any serious translation, don’t always see this sort of
problem, no matter how often we suffer the misfortune of being told about it at length by
unintelligible French theorists. “Is there some imponderable and irretrievable horizon that
prevents the translation from discovering the original, that prevents the sign system of
another tongue from discovering the meaning of the former . . . ?” Since the development of
perspective in the fifteenth century, the educated consensus would seem to be: NO. My
private researches into the works of Leon Battista Alberti et al. reveal no sense in which the
horizon might in fact be a giggling mischievous imp who likes to hide things from translators,
sign systems, treasure-hunters, C. Auguste Dupin, Inspector Maigret, Inspector Clouseau,
Sergeant Colombo or any other fictional detective figure.

‘Otherness’, ‘foreignness’, ‘authenticity’ – these all exist, as concepts as well as words,
mainly as bits of filler in bad translations of Continental literary theory. It is sad that Derrida,
Foucault and the Frankfurt School are all so poorly trained in the science of perspective that
they see any possibility of a ‘void’ in a ‘foreground’. Or maybe they like to burn holes in the
canvas with a cigarette. With most modern art it’s the only reasonable reaction, after all.
When this writer talks about ‘sensitive readers’ he likely means monoglots who didn’t do well
in their foreign-language A-levels, if they sat any. A split infinitive suggests a lack of Latin
too. Where is this ‘nausea of uncertainty’ he speaks of, except in undergraduate essay crises?
Medical marijuana eases nausea in cancer patients from California to Colorado, but this
essayist’s form of it could easily be cured if only he’d use the hand with which he rolls
cigarettes to thumb diligently through a French-English dictionary and find the words he
doesn’t know in the text he’s trying to read. German-English or Italian-English if need be ––
and single-language lexica for grown-ups can often be handy in determining finer points of
usage. Such practices render texts more intelligible, unless they have been composed by
fashionable theorists or the curators of contemporary-art galleries. In general, speculations of
the sort attempted in this essay are more successfully achieved after a rigorous training in
philosophy, along with some systematic study of foreign languages, as opposed to (say)
flicking idly through a volume of Beckett and then lighting a joint.

“One cannot help but be drawn to Benjamin and The Task of the Translator.” Well I
sure as fuck can. Benjamin was clearly a genius, otherwise he would not have been regarded
virtually as a prophet for his Arcades Project –– a set of half-assed notes for a book he couldn’t

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
be bothered to write on nineteenth-century Paris. I too was once fond of Choose Your Own
Adventure novels until puberty and a more educated taste helped change my mind. I wonder
what a ‘tertiary text’ is, and why it ‘shimmers’ with anything when it certainly doesn’t exist and
has no light shining on it. Sorry –– it’s ‘intentionality’ that ‘shimmers’ in this third paragraph
and ‘the tertiary text’ that does the talking. The reader may shift around these terms, or
replace them with new random ones without damaging the writer’s argument. There are
sentences in this essay that tax the resources of my classical training too far: ‘penumbra’ I
think I understand, and ‘logos’ shows up in some highly respectable Greek sources; but
‘deserverance’ sounds like the name of the company to which my local authority has
outsourced various public utilities (and I must say the customer service is awful). Still, the
writer of this essay must be learned indeed if he knows where to find a ‘logos’ that can be
‘sacrificed’ into anything, let alone an ‘object’ or ‘fallen tongue’, and I do wish I had the
‘divinatory fury of the artist’ so I could understand all this shit. My condolences that
something has been “stillborn into system”. “This meaning then was never clear”. No shit,
Sherlock. It may usefully be pointed here that ‘crystals’ are transparent, not ‘diaphanous’, but
why bother with meaning when you can repeatedly slam a brick against a piano keyboard,
because that’s the sort of contemporary music I’m hearing right now.

“Haven’t you heard that the author is dead?” If only, so I could piss on the grave;
the tombstone no doubt says ‘DIFFÉRANCE’. Would that gobbledygook like this could be
killed so easily. Is ‘inscription’ really “the essence of suicide”? I thought killing yourself was,
and I might try again myself if I have to read any more of this pretentious drivel. Alas, when
I jumped off the bridge I was “caught by temporality” and indeed do “forever stumble after
the fact”, not only because he caught like a girl and broke my leg, but also since I lost the will
to walk properly (or live –– again) after a few minutes of “temporality’s” dreadful
conversation. He gave me herbal tea and vegan biscuits, and that won’t be the last time he
makes me throw up. His idiotic haircut and skinny jeans are bad enough.

This writer mentions “three dances across the face of infinity” –– why can none of
them dance off a cliff yet? “The author [dances] from nothingness to words”? Not in this
essay, where he limps from nothingness to balderdash with impressive speed for a
hobbledehoy (“temporality” caught him too apparently). Yet the essayist insists “we can
telescope this further”. If he telescopes any further up his own arsehole he’s liable to damage
his tonsils. Thank Heaven he quotes W. H. Auden: it’s such a relief to see something like
readable literature again, even if these seventeen syllables are merely another ingredient in this
dog’s breakfast. Shame he goes straight back to Derrida after that.

“The primal terrors of chaotic natural thought are dispelled with inscription and
brought to order; it is Adorno’s dear dialectic, translation is the first act of enlightenment.”
Not in this essay it isn’t. The primal terrors have been finger-painted into a brownish-purple
swirl and I don’t think it’s meant to represent the sun. Whatever it is, it’s not getting posted
on my fridge door anytime soon. Whoever said any of Adorno’s dialectics were ‘dear’?
Maybe to Adorno, or to anybody else who regards the composition of obfuscatory piffle as
an act of ‘enlightenment’. Frankly I’d rather read Rousseau, and I hate Rousseau.

“Every text is the translation of that primal silence that both comprehends and
obliterates the idea of negativity and positivity as the means to posit objects.” I don’t
comprehend this ‘thought’, and nor does the author, and I wish he’d obliterate it already.
That said, ‘negativity’ is a splendid ‘idea’ when you’re confronted with a mouthful of chewed-
up crayons like this. There is nothing wrong with using metaphor and simile as shorthand for
arguments that you’re too lazy to spell out in full, or as place-holders for ideas and concepts
that might otherwise be clumsily expressed if spun out. But what sort of psycho actually
Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
believes in them, having made them up himself in the first place, and then tries to build a
teetering argument on them?

“It is the nothingness of everything, the static crepitated hum of infinity that must be
violently pared back like the sculptor hacking away at marble till he is left with the great
negativity of formal creation.” On the one hand the ‘nothingness of everything’ here may be
taken for granted (the honesty in bringing it up is admirable); but no jury in the land would
not convict you for insisting that some poor, poorly-thought-out sculptor “must be violently
pared back” for any reason when he’s only trying to do his job. The ‘static crepitated hum of
infinity’ sounds less like the Music of the Spheres than the last thing you want to hear in a
crowded lift on a hot day. Maybe all this is a demonstration of how you eventually get a job
in an English Faculty these days. Power to the people, then. In the meantime the reader of
this essay finds terms like ‘bidirectional metaphor’ and ‘equiprimordial’ flung in his face, by a
writer who talks of the ‘archaeology of translation’ (a term ripped off from some Frog)
despite evidently knowing nothing of sculpture, archaeology, translation, philosophy –– or
indeed literature. I doubt that anybody of sound formation with the slightest taste for books
or the faintest acquaintance with the achievements of English letters would dare be known in
public as the author of sentences as ugly as these, unless he hated himself bitterly, were very
perverse indeed, or else had the name J. H. Prynne (NB: ‘Rain Man’ with a lisp –– an old fool
alleged to be a poet by people who ought to know better).

There is no need to engage closely with the two concluding paragraphs of this piece.
It is discourteous to ignore them, but the writer has shown such ignorance of translation,
such ineptitude at literary-critical theorising and such absurd contempt for the reader that bad
manners are pardonable here, not least on the part of anybody who wishes seriously to
discuss a question and not have theory-polluted effluent spat into his eyes. Anyway the
conclusion has no point, only a lesson: never let your children read English at Cambridge.
Not if the Faculty of F. R. Leavis has deteriorated to the level of some third-rate Taliban-style
madrassah, indoctrinating its pimply, stoop-shouldered scholars with outdated pseudo-
revolutionary dogma of the variety that has wrecked universities all over the Continent and
beyond since 1968, leaving empty, ill-trained minds to be colonised in the millions by the
wisdom of such distinguished philosophers as Katy Perry, who required a mere two years to
create the lyrics for “California Girls” –– such a triumph of the artist’s craft that most
listeners fail to reflect on how if California girls do indeed ‘melt your popsicle’ then their all
efforts of energetic sluttiness must come to naught in the end, seeing as they can give no man
an erection after all. Let us thank Steve Jobs for helping to circulate such subtle, intricate
conundrums all over the civilized world, inescapably, and may he roast in Hell for eternity.
But this is the highest culture with which Cambridge English students are cultured, unless
they prefer the sort of ‘radical’ music that Bob Dylan long ago made available for sale in
Starbucks. Many of these students look like hippies and are undoubtedly fond of protest ––
so why have they not instigated an Occupation of the Faculty that wastes three years of their
lives exposing them to bollocks theory whilst teaching them nothing about English literature?
Or has nobody noticed what a malicious practical joke this education is? Can nobody in
Cambridge English speak plainly –– or think clearly?

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
Παντελής Μηχανικός, “Ονήσιλος” (Κατάθεση, 1975)

Δίπλα μου ήτανε ο Ονήσιλος
βγαλμένος απ’ την ιστορία και το θρύλο

Αρχιλεβέντης βασιλιάς αυτός
κρατούσε στο χέρι ό,τι του ΄χε απομείνει:
ένα καύκαλο
―το δικό του κρανίο―
γεμάτο μέλισσες.

Δέκα χρόνια έστελλε τις μέλισσές του ο Ονήσιλος
να μας κεντρίσουν
να μας ξυπνήσουν
να μας φέρουν ένα μήνυμα.

Δέκα χιλιάδες μέλισσες έστειλε ο Ονήσιλος
κι όλες ψοφήσανε απάνω στο παχύ μας δέρμα
χωρίς τίποτα να νιώσουμε.

Κι όταν το ποδοβολητό των βαρβάρων
έφτασε στη Σαλαμίνα
φρύαξε ο Ονήσιλος.
Άλλο δεν άντεξε.
Άρπαξε το καύκαλό του
και το θρυμμάτισε απάνω στο κεφάλι μου.
Κ’ έγυρα νεκρός.

Άδοξος, άθλιος,
καταραμένος απ’ τον Ονήσιλο.

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
King Onisilos (Testimony, 1975)

By me – Onisilos,
extracted from History and Myth
fully living, fully alive

Full of trawþe, this King
fully grasped in his hand the fullness of all he had left –
an involucre
-his own skull-
full of bees.

For ten years this Onisilos he’d mobilise and send his bees

to sting us
to wake us
to bring us a message

Ten thousand bees would Onisilos dispatch
all perishing upon our thick tired flesh
without us feeling. a thing.

And when the marching of the brutes
thundered Salamina

Onisilos became livid he
could not take it any more.
He grabbed his involucre
and shattered it over my head.

and I leaned over – dead.
Inglorious, wretched,
Damned by the King himself.

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
A brief note upon the translation of
” (King Onisilos, 1975) from Greek to the English

Taken from the historical records of Herodotus, and perchance partaking of
a Mythological nature as well, the piece chosen hereby proposes various
challenges to the reader.
The poem itself originates from Pantelis Michanikos, a Cypriot poet of the
late 20th century. The story he writes about on the other hand dates back
to around 300 BC. Indeed the greatest challenge here is the poet's duty -
insomuch as his poem works as a "Testimony" - to explore the provenance
and reliability of the historical and mythological sources. It is very possible
that during the process of translation from the historical to the poetic, the
poet might have encountered difficulties as to maintaining the poem
historically accurate.

A device used by the translator which informs the reader of the historical
background is the repetitive and exaggerated use of "fullness":

fully living, fully alive
Full of trawþe, this King
fully grasped in his hand the fullness of all he had left –an
-his own skull-
full of bees.

Perhaps this is done to emphasize the hollowness of an empty skull and
yet contrasting it with the idea of fullness, as an "involucre". The skull is
thus referred to as a sort of circumscribing fabric: we know from the myth
of Onisilos that once he was decapitated by the Armathusians his head
was hung upon the city's entrance - the skull was emptied and a beehive
settled within, "filling" it with honey. Therefore, through an apparently
involuntary means, the poem refers to the myth needless of an explicit
recount. This emptiness contrasted by the subsequent filling can be
interpreted as maintaining a balance between the strength of Onisilos and
his defeat.

It has been noted that,
"The poetry of Pantelis Michanikos delves into the depth of human
existence and the inner rhythm of the human soul. His work has left a
distinct mark on Cypriot poetry."
This "inner rhythm of the human soul" is also intensified by the repetition of
"fullness", employed several times in its divers grammatical usages. The
contrast here is explicit: the hollowness of the skull reverberates by the
insertion of "full of bees". Indeed, it might be observed that this inner rythm
is almost constrained, circumscribed - as an involucre [from Latin
involucrum, from involvere ‘roll in envelop’ ] The insertion of dashes "-his
own skull-" furthermore exemplifies this, as a constrained and perhaps
repressed area.

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
A puzzling aspect of the poem is the individuation of the speaker: the
opening reference "By me - Onisilos" is somewhat ambiguous in that it
could allude to the split persona of Onisilos: the speaker would therefore
be referring to himself in first and second person. If this were the case, the
testimony would be Onisilos himself.

The speaker informs us of another historical fact, by mentioning the city of
Salamina, thus the speaker can also be perceived as a citizen, "our"
subjected to king Onisilos' brutal ruling over Salamina during the Persian
occupation of Cyprus

Ten thousand bees would Onisilos dispatch all perishing
upon our thick tired flesh.

We are told that Salamina could not stand the Persian rule, despite their
alliance with the Ionian Greeks,

And when the marching of the brutes
thundered Salamina Onisilos became livid he could not take it
any more.

It is evident that the poem is hereby attempting to portray the power of
Onisilos rule but also his defeat.

Let us also consider the reverse psychology, which Onisilos had attempted
to work over his people,

to sting us
to wake us
to bring us a message

Ten thousand bees would Onisilos dispatch
all perishing upon our thick tired flesh
without us feeling. a thing.

Onisilos might have done this in order to warn and prepare , "to wake us",
"to bring us a message", his people for a future battle by turning them
insensitive to physical pain "without us feeling a thing". Indeed, the reader
is told that this had lasted for ten years in the third verse, and in the fifth,
the brutes arrive at Salamina overcoming them. The lapse of time clearly
suggests Onisolos' ultimately good intentions, and his peoples'
misconception. The result of this appears to be not merely their conquest
but their "damnation" and "ingloriousness", because the king himself

... grabbed his involucre
and shattered it over my head.

This might represent the stupidity of his people as his skull is being
shattered against their heads which hadn't been awakened, which King
Onisilos had failed in awakening "to wake us", before the arrival of the
Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
Missed Au Revoir

I tried with many symphonies
my love there to express
forwards as time does
endlessly in excess

I had forgotten terms, you see
the terms I once possessed
I lacked the skillful
eye and reason
you possessed too well

To say "adieu"
this is what you meant

I thought "arrivederci",
never addio
too harsh, too easy
but this is what you meant

Oh quanto è corto il dire e come fioco al mio concetto!

To translate the heart in words is like choking on stars

What I take from this piece is an in-your-face intensity. Its strength comes from the
breakdown of the speaking voice, which is at first serene, expository, and later becomes
extremely personal. The first two stanzas are personal, they tell a personal story, but it is
rooted in the universal. The really personal voice of the speaker comes in with the
obscure infinitive to say... to say adieu, and the language changes. So does the verse
form; the structure becomes more erratic with lines only one word long & any last scrap
of metrical consistency lost. Line endings, too, feel like they’re from a different poem.

But perhaps it is not so much more “personal” as it is more expressive. “Addio” tells us
of a consciousness surrounding the use of language: in real life you never say addio, you
say arrivederci. The speaker is exasperated, moving through tenses. The past is bitterly
marked by “never”, repeated words are ruined by the continuing knowledge of its
existence; the repetition of “too” is drawn out with annoyance and disbelief, and the
beginning of the next line even more so. And then

Oh quanto è corto il dire e come fioco al mio concetto!

By this point I am convinced that I am not in a film, or a fairy tale, but in real life, the
same as in 1300, the final clinching line expressing the poet’s timeless anguish not just
with love but with language.

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013

I became too fluent in your language.

I memorised the calligraphy of your body,
Learned the exact cadence of your sarcasm,
Observed as your voice sunk to its knees in sincerity.

In retrospect I acknowledge that
The nuance of a sigh is not
A thousand colours of the wind tickling
A set of chimes.

At the time, I couldn’t help it.
The commas in your sentences
Stamped themselves like footprints in my snow.

I know it should be a heavenly crime
To put an ear to someone’s lips and find,
The half distorted sound of your own voice.

(I had no choice.)

I had become too fluent in your language.

Convinced I was a native, I
Forgot my mother tongue, had begun
To conjugate my verbs in only one form
So they all started with ‘you’.

You do not do.
You never knew
That we had different words
For ‘trust’.

A lost script,
I tried to translate you
Under a gaze as unfazed
As that of ancient runes.

I am too fluent in your language.

Every day the tower I built
From the crystal of your laughter
Shall crack and shatter further.

It is unwise
To see waterfalls in eyes
Which hold only stained glass.

Now the echo of your name
Against the hollow of my brain

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
Is only a sound
Meaningful and unintelligible.

Reading your body across the room when you were a stranger was easy.
Now that I can quote you sleep talking
I don’t think I understand you at all.

All Feeble Speech (response to Babel and Missed Au Revoir)
All alone I stand in a wide field grown high with wild grass. The day is dying; the firefly
catches the cicada with its light.

But my aloneness is a revelation that strikes hot even now, more so now, when I am
forced to stop and think of nothing else, it seems that I can think of nothing else, in the
high summer heat when the world is dry, with no prospect of relief.

Music is dulled; I stand in one spot, never moving, neither forwards nor backwards nor
even looking round, for all my senses are dulled. The dull silence presses in on me, and I
am blind, or as if blind, I blink up at the heavy sky – so light! – floating in and out of this
hateful sight in my own dumb eyes, my own dumb mind, thinking of nothing else.


You, and time spent, together are a fraction. I remember days we spent climbing trees-
idly climbing and sitting in trees. Sat watching animals below, thinking how they bore no
grudge, and above all sensed what we could never sense—a kind of end coming.


But now I find myself regretting again time taken and wasted, and find myself recording
again in some way things which merit no recording, remembering the way things were
before the façade broke down.

Fragments of fanciful incantation: Words are blunt, elevating nothing they do nothing
but never cease, never stopping in their stubborn cycle, obscuring everything that in a
moment’s real pause is there to be discovered. I try to hear you speak, pushing closer
and closer until there’s nowhere else to go because I am in the same spot come full
circle, telling myself over and over things become clearer at the borders of things.


But I am some beast at the hands of myself, some other beast, constantly asking What
voice is this? Fallen prey to the natural cycle of things I cling to a dying hope that things
become clearer at the borders of things.

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
Please click here to see the full image

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013

summer trembling
weak as last breaths

out of reach-
caught no more-

plunging forward

synapsical lapse
in a darkling wood,

frozen but falling

somehow hands
come together

like leaves falling,
turning autumn air

till no more—
fallen but still stirring.

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
The verb is perhaps the most versatile part of any speech. It has the ability, in its
singularity, to state an action, to characterise its quality, and to colour its perception. It
can plunge, and it can freeze, it can fall, and it can stir. More importantly, the verb
expresses that which words without a verb may not be able to. For instance, most –if not
all – of the sentences I have just typed would be senseless without the verb. And poetry
would be immobile. Yet, is this immobility undesirable, and does the critic (or even the
poet) stand to gain something from viewing a poem ‘un-verbed’? Well, as for ‘Hands’, an
‘un-verbed’ version would read as such:

weak as last breaths

out of reach-
no more-


synapsical lapse
in a darkling wood,

frozen but

somehow hands

like leaves,
autumn air

till no more—
fallen but still.

Just from reading the above version of the poem, one may immediately question my
authority in deciding what a verb is. Have I truly understood how the poet is ‘verbifying’
his/her sentences? Have I given him/her the freedom to allow the words to take on their
own grammatical function? Of course, it appears as though I am instantly imposing my
own view on the poem. In other words, I am active. Using verbs, I am modifying the
poem, rendering it mobile. Even by reading, another tricky ‘meta-verb’, I am preventing
the poem from being immobile. Yet, assuming my intrusiveness does not affect the new
version of the poem, what critical (or otherwise) advantage have we gained?

First and foremost, by eliminating all verbs, the reader is given a condensed text of words
that may or may not exist in ‘proper’ grammatical terms. But what else? For one, the
new version allows us to focus on specific words or phrases in all their power – this is to
say, phrases where the force has not been diluted by more words or syllables:


weak as last breaths
Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
out of reach-

no more-

These four lines seem to benefit from being ‘unverbified’. The fragmented rhythm
created by the line-ends and the caesurae creates the impression of weakness, a
difficulty in breathing. The auditor participates in this difficulty by being cut off at each
line-end – he/she must pause, either to reflect or to prepare, and by doing so, he/she
mimics the imagery. Like the dying breaths of summer, the sudden jolts created by the
void of the verbs crafts a more dramatic ambiance. Specifically, the words ‘out of reach’
and ‘no more’ become more prominent. As a result, the reader gains a heightened sense
of the transitional mood of the poem, and the preoccupation with the ephemeral.

One sequence in particular stimulates the thought of something interesting:



Though these two words, one a preposition and one an adverb, a lot can be inferred
about the nature of language and its complexity. Instinctively, the reader inserts verbs of
his/her own at this point. For instance, the subject may be leaning forward, looking
uncertainly, walking uncertainly, or falling forward. What the addition of the verb
‘plunging’ does is add specificity – although every reader may anticipate a different mode
of ‘plunging’, there is no doubt that the subject is plunging forward uncertainly. Without
the verb however, the poem creates more questions, yet still manages to imply action. In
other words, even the immobile poem is mobile. The rhythm of the two words ultimately
enhances the uncertainty, almost as if the words are tip-toeing to their conclusion, one
pause at a time.

What this suggests is something that seems far too obvious to be expressed – language
operates on an intra-cellular and an extra-cellular level. Each word informs itself, and
each word informs a different word. However, what stands to be gained from
participating in such an exercise of ‘de-verbification’ or even ‘de-adjectivisation’ and ‘de-
nounisation’ is that we pay so much more attention to the intra-cellular properties of
words, in a way that we couldn’t had the word been hidden by others. In this mode of
presentation, the word itself features, and the critic’s duty to the word is to unearth the
hidden nuances that beg to be discovered. So, thanking ‘Hands’ for stimulating me to
consider stripping away as a form of enhancement, I must deduce that close reading is
good, but microscopic reading is far better.

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
How far are we willing to break down the barriers between words? It throws up
interesting readings: 'the words out of reach and no more become more prominent'; it
'crafts a more dramatic ambiance'. But we lose something, too: 'caught' shades in and
out of ambiguity in the absence of a governing force: either breathing has ceased or last
breaths are no longer caught (as in trapped). The word carries with it the possibility of
either cessation or liberation - or indeed the possibility that the two can somehow be
resolved - and in losing the verb we give over to the noun, which (in some ways) making
more of a demand on the reader allows them an even greater degree of freedom.

A similar thing occurs with 'fallen': 'fallen' as an adjective remains, but it is stripped of its
associational richness: the obsession with falling is lost, and with it a sizeable portion of
the poem's atmosphere. The poem's 'preoccupation with the ephemeral' might be
heightened on the one hand but it is by the same practice lessened on the other: the
coming together of hands is less emphatic, and the word fall, in its various incarnations -
as cliché, as figured in the form autumn, as a state of being - is displaced from the poem's
web of meaning. And yet unlike the complicating presence of 'caught', the verbs here
organise the natural chaos of

synapsical lapse
in a darkling wood,

frozen but
somehow, somehow

hands together
in the darkling wood

– the sensation of falling, hands coming together- these types of movement can be
governing forces to otherwise directionless states or events.

Leading on from this, there is much to be gained from breaking down the following
passage (taken from the ending of ‘The Dead’) into its basic units:

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He
watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had
come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was
general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, on
the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was
falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It
lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the
barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe
and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

Gabriel's soul has very recently 'approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the
dead', and upon first reading that feeling of epiphany is ineffably understood- Gabriel is
looking out of the window at the snow and somehow we think we know how Gabriel
feels. The practice of stripping a text to its bare bones can be of some use here. Strip it
down till you're left with adjectives and adverbs and this is what you get:

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
sleepily dark

obliquely vs. treeless

softly crooked

faintly barren

The self, the soul, the snow- all moving parts associated with sensitive movements and a
kind of grace. The central plain, the hills, the Bog of Allen, all the starker for having been
disentangled- more dark, more treeless, more barren. By tying them to their constituent
parts you recalibrate the picture into greater clarity (but crucially the picture remains the

So as far as I can see the benefits of microscopic reading lie in retrospect, when meaning
has been established and needs to be challenged or affirmed. What can I not put my
finger on? Whatever it is it comes from the poet, but the impetus must be with the active
voice of the poem before we can make sense of what it is saying. We can indeed ‘de-
verb’ or ‘de-noun’, because it is a useful practice, but it must lead us to places where we
would not have otherwise ended up… with this in mind I offer up the verbs of 'Hands',

come (-ing)

“Tears of Saudade;
Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
An Exploration of Melancholy and Nostalgia Viewed Through Foreign Eyes

Since the inception of the spoken word, language has been used as an expression of
emotion. Countless words and phrases have been dedicated to such ethereal
concepts as “Joy”, “Sadness”, “Anger” and “Love”, and the emotional spectrum of
language is a vast, complex quagmire of connotations and meaning.

Further confusing matters is the presence of “Untranslatable” words; words without
direct English equivalents that describe otherwise universal concepts. These words
are both fascinating and infuriating to the linguist, as they present both a method of
expression entirely foreign while simultaneously shrouding meaning in an
impenetrable manner.

Take Saudade, a Portugese term invariably expressed as “melancholy”, “nostalgia”,
“longing” or “wistfulness”. Saudade incorporates elements of all of these words and
more. In his book “In Portugal”, A.F.G Bell describes saudade as a “vague and constant
desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist” (Bell, 1912), and
another similarly poetic way of describing the concept is “the love that remains”.

While many languages have similar phrases and words to saudade (the English verb
“To Pine” has a similar meaning, for instance), none come quite as close to the sheer
intensity that this word possesses. It is present in ballads and plays, songs and
literature, and the concept haunts the lyrical poetry of Portugal and Brazil. An entire
subgenre of music, fado , dating back to the first half of the 19th century, has been
dedicated to the concept. The most beautiful and startlingly poignant use of the term,
however, can be found in the anonymous piece “Lágrimas de Saudade, taken from the
Cancioneiro de Paris (ff. 23v-24):

“Tears of Saudade come, do not linger, for by tarrying you kill me”

Used in this context it is possible to understand saudade in all of its depth and
complexity; it is as much of a state of being as it is an emotion, capable of
encompassing a heart entirely. It is the lament of Juliette, the agony of Van Gogh, and
can be reflected in the strangest of places (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds describe
their album “The Good Son” as an example of saudade, and the upbeat 2007 song Torn
on the Platform by Jack Penãte has many elements of fado). It is strange, then, that
this truly universal emotion is only portrayed in its entirety in Portuguese.

The reason for this, perhaps, lies in the culture and history of Portugal. The word
itself became a staple of Portuguese culture around the 15th and 16th century,
coinciding with an era known as the “Great Portuguese Discoveries”, a time when
explorers left their homeland to travel the length and breadth of the world. It was in
this time of discovery and colonisation that many travellers went missing, presumed
dead in one of the many misguided tours that plagued the time. This dark period in
history, scarred by unresolved disappearances and populated by grieving families, is
possibly the reason as to why what was already a nation of poets felt the need to
define and express this most unique, passionate, and indeed haunting form of

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
Station Saudade
Your train is twenty years late to the station. My hands have begun to go numb, plagued
by cold and arteritis. Upon the arrivals board, the orange letters blink blindly: ‘DELAYED’.
Carriages have gone past carrying promises, offloading memories hourly whilst hope
clambers abroad and disappears upon the tracks. At rush hour, Maybes crowd the
cabins, pressed up against the windows, looking like your silhouette from a distance;
when you do not come, the departure makes a sound violent as the tearing fabric of air.

There is a transitory breath filling my lungs. The past is a beautiful fantasy whose pages I
leaf through to pass the time. I will remember always the lost pattern of your palm; your
face seems more familiar to the backs of my eyes than when I knew you.

There are others here, sometimes. Old men with wedding rings embedded into the soft
inner flesh of their curled fists. Children whose parents will ‘be right back’. Those
breathing anachronisms, ghostly boys and girls frozen in moments they never
experienced. Mostly, however, we do not understand the mess of sounds which spill
from each other’s mouths- only the meaning of the head cradling the hand, only the
voice of the eyes looking to the horizon in hopes that the four-thousand-and-fifth train
will deliver more than disappointment. We acknowledge this common language with a
stilted nod of the head. I do not want to recognise their waiting as the same as mine. I
know it is different. You promised to return.

The station, incidentally, is beautiful. It is the house of eternal hope. Stagnant, radiant,
pulsing with a low hued want. The points on the left and right where the tracks meet the
sky are also the points of the sunset and sunrise. Mysteriously, the tracks seem, I think,
to meet the sea as they leave this place and approach the East. No one here has dared to
ever leave and find out if this is true, or if it is merely (surely) a trick of the eye.

Station Saudade undergoes constant refurbishment. Over the years I have marvelled at
the bright Colonial arches, bleeding into the sleek modern glass skylights. Some areas
are simpler than others. The platform upon which we wait is comfortable and plain. We
want for nothing, yet our wanting is our everything. They never tell you of the torment of
a beautiful purgatory, one where the smell of bread and the twinkle of fresh fruit all
tastes like ash in the mouth. We do not trust the artificial blind stare of the Colonial
arches and glass skylights, only the firm ground which stretches out its arms across the
world in longing for the sky.

Occasionally I exchange a few words with other inhabitants of the platform. I eventually
gave up asking them for the time. A strange thing happened recently however: a train
stopped, and, as usual, we all stared wearily at the nothingness it delivered. Then a
young woman standing not far from me slowly took five shaky steps towards the open
doors. We watched, drawn to the clap of shoes on the ground in this motionless
landscape. For hours or days she stood before the gaping doors. She cried silently- then
stopped, her expression like dust but for where the tears had left their clean fingered
traces. We waited, watching with quiet disbelief. A few people went to her side, hoping
to help guide her back, show her the arrivals board perhaps, remind her of what she had
Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
been waiting for and tell her it wouldn’t be long now- but she did not, perhaps could not,
say a word, nor draw her eyes from the open doors. I tried to study her to find out what
she was missing, but it was difficult to tell.

The others eventually dispersed, convinced of the futility of their efforts and hers. Few
people leave this destination once they arrive. There is too much comfort in reviving the
past through memories. She seemed statuesque before the mouth of the train for
several sunsets, causing unease for the other passengers. What if she was delaying the
trains? Their looks became dark and unfriendly. I watched her, wondering how to
remove her.

Then: in a gesture so slight I almost missed it, it happened. She said quite simply, quite
comprehensibly: ‘It is finished.’ With that, as if her hesitation had been only seconds
long, she casually boarded the train with the ease of an everyday commuter. The doors
hissed closed behind her like an embrace. The engine started. The train moved on. On
the platform we exchanged puzzled, curious glances, but said nothing.

I thought of envying her: instead, I knew we all only felt a sense of mild incredulity and
pity as we continued to look towards the horizon, waiting.

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
‘Quisquis amans sequitur fugitivae gaudia formae
fronde manus implet baccas seu carpit amaras’

Your finest quality to me is that
You’re so ignorant about art.
You shouldn’t be ashamed of this at all ––
Otherwise it’s unbecoming
If all you do is question what I say ––
You learn much more by listening.
Anyway I’d never bullshit you –– You’d
Instantly tell if I did that.

On your next day off, I’ll show you around.
I know you want to go shopping;
But if you’re in Rome you should see something ––
I promise you won’t be that bored.
We’ll start early, spend the day on this shit,
Then in the evening, go to dinner.
Trust me. It’ll be worth it. You will see
All that you need to see in Rome.
Afterwards, fuck it. The day after that
I’ll probably take you shopping.

I know a pasticceria nearby
Close to Largo Argentina ––
From there we’ll walk a little way beyond
Viale di Trastevere
Where there’s a church –– I know you don’t like it
When I talk about old churches ––
But this is one you have to see. If not
You’ll be missing something splendid.
In Rome there’s only one sculptor to know:
It’s Gianlorenzo Bernini.
I want you to see one of his last works,
In the Altieri Chapel ––
Blessed Ludovica Albertoni
In San Francesco a Ripa.
The sculpture’s of a nun, a young woman
Writhing on her shiny mattress ––
It’s a single bed, except the bedsheets
Might as well be made of satin.
Remember that photograph I showed you?
Of Canova’s Venus Victrix?
Where the sheets are smooth, cold and shiny as
The woman’s lovely naked arms?
Just like that, except that this one’s a nun,
So she’s wearing all of her clothes.
Still, the woman’s bedclothes are disordered.
Her eyes and mouth are barely shut ––

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
She’s had a violent spiritual struggle;
Her head’s lolling on the pillow;
Her tongue is hidden, but both of her hands
Rub at her breasts and her belly:
You feel as though her nipples might be sore.
Like her wimple, the sheet’s rumpled;
She looks like she woke up from a nightmare.
It looks like that in dirty light.
Honestly, the church is rather shabby.
When you go to see the chapel
Some idiot sacristan’s left a rug,
A dusty red Turkish carpet
Right below the bed, above the altar.
It’s the colour of the altar.
It looks like it’s thick blood-coloured marble ––
It is thick blood-coloured marble ––
Really it’s a sculpture of a carpet:
It’s Ludovica’s coverlet:
She threw it off the bed in ecstasy.
It’s all supposed to look like that.
Bernini’s fooled you: that’s how good he is.
We have to go there to see it.

There’s nothing else you’d want to see up there.
We’ll get into a taxi, then
To Piazza della Reppublica.
First we’ll stop and have a coffee
In Dagnino, the Sicilian bar ––
It’s better than it looks. Honest.
We’ll stay for a while. If it doesn’t rain
We’ll walk to another church there,
Santa Maria della Vittoria,
Where there’s another Bernini ––
Another dirty nun, Saint Theresa.
This is the Cornaro Chapel.
It’s famous, though you’ve never heard of it.
Seriously, you’ll be impressed.
You have to look at the entire chapel.
Bernini designed the whole thing:
From a painted sky, where sculpted angels
Push away clouds, heavenly light
Rains down upon tortured Saint Theresa:
Mind you it’s not really torture.
God is caressing her soul. An angel
Smiling with grubby baby face
Stabs her at the heart again and again
With a golden flaming arrow.
It puts her in such pain she screams out loud.
The pain is ‘heavenly sweetness’ ––
She wants the holy pain to never stop:
The arrow is her love of Christ.
Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
Teasingly the seraph takes her mantle
In his fingers, gently lifting:
He’ll stab her breast again, this time harder.
Now her habit’s wrinkled with sweat;
Before her limbs went numb, she had sat up;
Any minute she’ll fall back down.
Her fingers dangle like her naked foot.
Her body cannot take much more.
Her head’s thrown back; she moans; heavy-lidded
Eyes roll back in the amber light.
The seraph’s clearly mocking her. His wings
And body are strong as a swan’s.
Along the walls, the Cornaro family
Watches this like a boxing-match;
In their luxury boxes, eight old men
Casually witness the miracle.

Do you see Bernini’s genius yet?
We’ll see Villa Borghese first.
Forget about that pasticceria.
Pluto and Proserpine’s my favourite.
The God of Hell, with Cerberus at his feet
Hoists Proserpine to his side;
She struggles away, pawing at his head
And almost pokes him in the eye.
She’s less scared than distracted. Look at her eyes.
She’s squirming for the sake of form.
He’s too strong. Her eyes show she’s given up;
Her toes are flexed coquettishly.
Obviously she’s playing hard to get.
His brow’s relaxed. He knows he’s won.
This is why they both look a little bored.
The three-headed dog is, also.
One head droops, one’s yawning, one looks away:
Nobody’s in any danger.
You can ignore Pluto’s rippling muscles.
Any sculptor can do all that.
Look at Proserpine’s naked flesh, though:
Where he holds her thigh and torso
Pluto’s giant veiny hands are relaxed;
Clearly she’s not trying to kick.
You see where his fingers leave soft dimples
In the plumpest part of her thigh?
The skin on her side –– his hand on her thigh ––
No other artist could do this.
Notice how tender is Pluto’s embrace
In Proserpine’s so-called rape.
She’ll turn to face him, press him with her breasts;
Then she’ll end up the Queen of Hell.
There’s a flaw in the marble, so it looks
Like there are two tears on her cheek.

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
Before we go to dinner, first we’ll stop
At the Palazzo Massimo.
There’s no Bernini in this museum,
Only my favourite ancient work,
A squatting Aphrodite in the bath
From the villa at Tivoli.
There are two, mirroring each other, but
The one on the right’s less broken.
She hasn’t got arms, or most of her head,
Though most of the face is still there.
Venus is pouring water on her back.
On her back, you can see a hand ––
Cupid’s greedy hand (though most of him’s lost);
Alas he leaves no dimple there,
Holding her dangerously close to her ass.
It’s almost as good as Bernini.
She’s turned her head and poised one knee,
Ready to rise from the bathtub,
Dry the water from her steaming body.
Look Aphrodite in the eye:
She’s inviting you to watch her. Her teeth
Bite on her open lower lip.
Her breasts, her nipples, aren’t as nice as yours;
She’s fuller in the body.
She’s no goddess, she’s a real woman;
The best part is those little folds,
Those little rolls of flab on her belly,
And that pimple by her navel.
I have to show her to you, so you know
Why I stare at her for hours.
The tourists get distracted when I’m there.
They think I might attack the girl.
In ancient Greece, another Aphrodite
Probably as good as this one
Had to be protected in the temple:
At night-time, gormless single men
Would try to rape it. The floor underneath
Must have been like a school shower.

Once you’ve seen these statues, there’s nothing else
You’ll really want to see in Rome.
You’ll be exhausted and hungry by then;
We’ll have to go somewhere to eat.
I know the sort of restaurant you’d like ––
I’ll make the reservation now.
We can chill out, drink a bottle of wine ––
I promise I won’t discuss art.
Or maybe we can skip dinner? Because
I want to taste your cunt again.

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
I’m sure that to many people the closest one could get to equating the art of sculpture and the art of
Sade is a vague notion involving a particularly depraved misuse of a Neolithic dildo. It is possibly of
great advantage to myself that I am presently not particularly in possession of the faculties required
to imagine how this vision would unfold. Luckily, this poem saves me the trouble of having to
persevere too strenuously down the initial line of thought. This work sets out a far more nuanced
possibility of marmoreal misuse. I suppose beforehand, however, we all knew how close the
criticism of art was to perversion.

I see it as fairly basic within the concept of emotional abuse or emotional violence that one
arrogates the faculties of meaning and does violence primarily upon these. Hermeneutics are tainted
with the ambivalence of the whole world; they give us both the chance to liberate and subjugate. By
taking control of the medium of thought we can impose ourselves and our world upon the other.
How profound could this violence though? Perhaps it is not just good enough to seize hold of the
linguistic structure and force the other to bide by your rules of sense. Wouldn’t it be far greater still
to make the mute rock speak and weave a binding translation out of the flex of silent forms? You see
if one can make mute materiality human in a most significant sense - if one strips even marble of its
salvific opacity - then one can do anything to anyone. I’m sure Barberini, patron of the arts, knew
well of his own performance in their appropriation.

Our own voice of depraved Cardinale here, marching his poor victim around Rome, knows well the
power of art in this sense. He demands a mute silence from his poor belle as much as Bellini needs
his stone to stay perfectly still as it is hacked away, yielding into the desired form. The voice carves
away at her as she stares, dominated, at these carvings. He reflects emotionally the bankruptcy of
this particular aesthetic ideal in the interpersonal sphere.

Domination. The imposition that freezes the other into pure materiality to be shaped and
coerced and figured by words and thoughts till mere contortions of rock – dumb and supple to the
mercy of the meaning of the other - are left. He, though, rushed on himself, less and less able to
converse with the works or the world around him; left to snap judgements, the laziness of his own
whims. He just wants to hurry onwards back to that nice warm welcoming cunt. It is profoundly
difficult to really engage with art in the monologic form. You just want to end up appropriating the
centre of your own pleasure manifested in the figure of the other. You rush strait for the cunt and
forget dinner. You forget to listen to the tremble of the voice or the litheness of the arms postured
gracefully. He shapes his poor lady as Bellini shaped the medium of formal domination he
appropriates. He fundamentally misses the point of art and life somewhat. It is only if the primal
question remains intact (that which he finds unbecoming, the doubt that shatters the quality of
ignorance), that the realm of beauty is birthed. This is what separates the connoisseur from the
boorish sex-pest, the sensitive critic from a dilettantish domestic abuser. The poem is really very
good, but I hope to god there isn’t too much biography in it.

J. R. W. S

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013

The Cambridge English Faculty is famous for ‘Practical Criticism’, a method of commentary in
which students are given a short text and asked to say as much about, around, over or behind it as they
can in the space of an hour; the response to which I respond here is an example of the fruit generated by
this critical discipline.

I am grateful to the respondent for his praise of my poem; however his comments demand some
correction in a few places. I’m assuming the respondent to be male because most women, at least in my
acquaintance, might have been quicker to see the point of this poem. More on that below.

First, the opening sentence: “I’m sure that to many people the closest one could get to equating
the art of sculpture and the art of Sade is a vague notion involving a particularly depraved use of a
Neolithic dildo.” Perhaps not: cf. the Cent-vingt journées de Sodome, and the rest of the divin marquis’s
writings passim: there are many dildoes to be encountered, all of more recent make. I am not aware of
any Neolithic examples, in the British Museum or elsewhere; the respondent may be thinking of an awl
that has been miscatalogued. What, though, would a ‘particularly depraved use’ be with respect to a
dildo? I am innocent of more half a dozen at the utmost, all of which are variations on the two basic
ones anyway. It’s only in the twentieth century that the notion of skullfucking attained any kind of
currency; this seems exclusively verbal though, and one wonders whether it has ever been practised. To
use a miscatalogued awl might be to defeat the purpose of this brutally degrading (and likely fictional)

“It is possibly of great advantage to myself that I am presently not particularly in possession of
the faculties required to imagine how this vision would unfold.” The reader must sweep away dust and
cobwebs with an elbow before looking closely at this prose; though as it seems to be filler (expressed in a
clumsily bureaucratic English) there is no need for hard scrutiny. This was put it merely to get the word
count up on this Prac. Crit. once the respondent ran out of things to say. “Luckily this poem saves me
the trouble of having to persevere too strenuously down the initial line of thought.” Of course, the poem
suggests nothing of the sort, except to a reader who hasn’t been reading closely –– not the route to a First
on a Prac. Crit. I wonder how the respondent got here, unless he has a vague and inaccurate memory of
certain passages in Bataille, Barthes and Deleuze, which he has fused together, mistaken for Sade and
then tried to force violently into this poem. You don’t need violence to make Play-Doh stick, though.
Anyway, this reading is already so distant from the text that the respondent might not be in English
Literature at all, as only an Anthropologist could write like this without embarrassment. Not a student of
Arch. & Anth. of course, as then he would have seen how inaccurate he was with his unfunny Neolithic
dildo in the first place.

“This work sets out a far more nuanced possibility of marmoreal misuse.” I hope that that
alliteration isn’t a stylistic flourish –– it’s even worse that two ‘that’s in a row. But at least he’s almost got
back to the text, with an allusion to a later passage in the poem about a statue of Venus (if he’s referring
to anything else then he should take a cold shower and re-read the poem). Sexual assaults on the famous
Cnidian Venus were something of a commonplace in antiquity; the anecdotes seem apocryphal though at
least they might have some oblique or indirect relation to Ovid’s version of the Pygmalion story. Has the
respondent heard of Ovid, I wonder.

“I see it as fairly basic within the concept of emotional abuse or emotional violence that one
arrogates the faculties of meaning and does violence primarily upon these.” Tell that to the victims. Just
try. You won’t be the most popular visitor at the Battered Women’s Shelter but you’ll certainly get a
Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
response, and it’s not gonna be a hug. Or else go find people who’ve been in an abusive relationship.
French theory didn’t help them and it’s not going to help you either. “Hermeneutics are tainted with the
ambivalence of the whole world; they give us both the chance to liberate and to subjugate.” The
respondent has taken the latter option and sadistically strapped Meaning into a painful harness in order to
provide piggy-back rides for the swollen, monstrous, hideously overweight figure of Critical Theory,
whose only purpose here is to abuse Meaning for a series of ill-defined and hazily thought-out ends. That
doesn’t make it any better no matter what your expensive barrister tries to argue.

Let’s skip ahead a few sentences: the respondent has set a noble precedent in not bothering to
read the whole thing, for which we offer qualified thanks. “If one strips even marble of its salvific
opacity –– then one can do anything to anyone.” Formal logic isn’t widely studied at Cambridge, is it?
How exactly does one strip marble of ‘salvific opacity’, whatever that is? My dim memories of chemistry
suggest that turning marble into glass would be a bit of an effort even for a fictional alchemist. It’s much
easier to burn down marble into lime, as generations of barbaric Roman entrepreneurs discovered during
the Dark Ages. “I’m sure Barberini, patron of the arts, knew well of his own performance in their
appropriation.” Quod non fecerunt barbari fecerunt Barberini as the Renaissance sgraffito goes; I hope Pope
Urban VIII wasn’t so perpetually drunk as to be unconscious of his own activities in any sphere, though
he was a shrewd man, especially if he could understand the point the respondent is trying to make here.

The style of this response is curious. It’s never wise to aim for allusive mandarin-style prose
when you lack the languages and requisite common knowledge: no doubt ‘Cardinale’ here refers to the
actress Claudia Cardinale, who (as far as its author can make out) does not appear in this poem. Nor,
directly, does any Prince of the Church, who will be referred to in conversation as ‘Your Eminence’,
‘Eminenza’ or ‘Cardinal’ –– ‘Cardinale’ is best used in Italian, if you speak Italian, and a cardinal has
anything to do with what you’re talking about in the first place. More serious is the respondent’s
reference to ‘Bellini’. ‘Bernini’, surely. Gianlorenzo Bernini was the most talented sculptor in sixteenth-
century Rome; ‘Bellini’ is either the quattrocento Venetian master Giovanni Bellini, brother-in-law of
Andrea Mantegna, or else a sweet cocktail that I have never tasted but is often associated with Samantha
from ‘Sex and the City’. There is no reference anywhere in this work to Giovanni Bellini, Andrea
Mantegna or Samantha from ‘Sex and the City’. Wikipedia can’t be that hard to use, can it? Practical
Criticism fails again.

“The voice carves away at her as she stares, dominated, at these carvings.” What a captivating, if
nauseatingly creepy, fantasy. If only it had something to do with anything in this poem. Actually, thank
Heaven it doesn’t. Let me point out in passing that a ‘carving’ and a ‘sculpture’ are two very different
things. “He reflects emotionally the bankruptcy of this particular aesthetic ideal in the interpersonal
sphere.” I wonder what this aesthetic idea is, since nobody has mentioned it, though one of the fatter
American critics has developed a tiresome notion of ‘creative misreading’. Maybe this is an example. Of
course there is also such a thing as being sloppy and missing the point. Without it we would be deprived
of so much modern journalism. A little further below, the respondent mentions “snap judgements” and
“the laziness of his own whims”.

“He just wants to hurry onwards back to that warm, welcoming cunt.” And which of us doesn’t,
except for roughly half of the population, and between eleven and fifteen percent of the remainder. Still,
let’s show a little sensitivity to minorities here, as long as we don’t have recourse to more fatuous critical-
theory language.

The respondent has spectacularly, absurdly, ludicrously missed the point of this poem. Criticism
has many functions; let’s hope a primary one isn’t to show off how much tedious secondary literature you

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
have read. It clearly hasn’t helped the respondent form anything like a valid notion of how to look at a
literary work. A more sensible reader will rapidly pick up that the speaker of this poem is one of those
sad figures who can’t afford a Maserati and so fall back on their educations in their attempts to impress
girls. This one’s experience can’t be that of a successful Don Juan, if the poem is anything to go by.
More a balding coffee-house Romeo, who probably wears a fedora in an attempt to cut a dash. I don’t
know many women stupid enough even to think of giving a phone number to some pedant whose idea of
a date involves a guided tour of rapey Bernini statues –– four hours during which she would be unlikely
to get a word in edgeways. Especially if he’s wearing a fedora. “He fundamentally misses the point of art
and life somewhat.” A bit rich coming from this respondent, especially if he fails to notice how the
speaker of this poem has zero chance of success in fulfilling his masturbatory art-historical fantasies. But
let’s not make biographical insinuations. “The poem is really very good, but I hope to God there isn’t too
much biography in it.” Alas there is: Bernini’s biography as well as his work (which the author of the
poem finds seedy and vulgar), and the life of the sociopathic art collector Scipione Borghese, one of
Bernini’s patrons. It’s much easier, and fairer, to make accurate insinuations about the respondent’s
education, and ability to read.

Overall mark: 52. This student is advised to see the Dean immediately; I recommend that he de-
grade before final exams lest he disgrace the College with his results.

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
Response to ‘King Onisilos’
Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013
A Reverie Upon Translation – John Stowell
King Onisilos - Pantelis Mihanikos, trans. Michael Payani
Missed Au Revoir – Margherita Colaceci
Babel – Meena Qureshi|
Hands – Callum Wayne
Tears of Saudade – Liam Mills
A Guided Tour of Rome – Jaspreet S. Bopari

to A Reverie Upon Translation – Jaspreet
to King Onisilos – Margherita; Jamaal Raoof (image)
to Missed Au Revoir and Babel – Liam
to Liam’s response – Jamaal Raoof
to Hands – Michael
to Michael’s response – Callum Wayne
to Tears of Saudade – Meena Qureshi
to A Guided Tour of Rome – John Stowell
to John’s response – Jaspreet S. Bopari

Gadabout Press, October ed., 2013