On Lists & List-Making

a list is a numbered thing, a conversion of thought to action, but in the future, always in the future

I shall read this and this and this and this and this

a list is a projected image of a future, all-knowing self, smiling in the knowledge of all that is behind her (does she have a list?)

listless (adj.) mid-15c., from Middle English liste “pleasure, joy, delight”

reading list, to-do list, packing list, christmas list, shortlist, new year’s resolutions, blacklist, hit list, 50 ways to leave your lover, 19 Cats in Exactly The Wrong Place

the Ten Commandments

list of words about lists: distil, mundane, meaningful, ordered, timetable, uncertainty, final, purpose, idealism, consolidation, stability, confusion, resolution, ownership, compulsive

Susan: List of things I like, List of things I dislike, list of where I’ve been, list of books to read, list of words, music heard, records to buy, Hindu gods, list of best films 1-228 (trails off)

Susan announces she does not believe in god or life after death in point a) of a list

lists are a form of therapy, of self-awareness, of self-definition

writing something just so you can cross it out makes you feel good about yourself

in Susan’s journals, littered with lists, she says that she “creates herself”

we want things we cannot have

control, immortality, knowledge, neatness, tidiness [classification]

finity

the list goes on

we seek to control the wild and writhing monster of all of the world, try to wrench its irrepressible body into a box, by writing bits down in numbered bullet points

I want to know all of it, I want to understand all of it

“the vertigo of lists” “the giddiness of lists” “poetics of catalogues” (Eco)

the list is hand wringing, anxious, desperate but it is also intellectual ambition, it is drive, it is purpose, it is hopeful. Resolutions, plans, the mundane mixed with the magnificent, with the seedlings of a thought or idea, a twinkle in the eye of a life. Blinking and dropping and formulating and classifying and ordering. Step by step by step a small thing becomes something larger. Step one step two step three

mind-wandering magic, a trigger to the unconscious, fruitful associations

concrete poetry

“dredged out of the lopside of your brain”                         “a fabulous mulch”

the list as delusion

we seek to capture our thoughts, to preserve a flash of juicy and crackling inspiration; we fear the loss of the mind should we neglect to write it down next to numbers or black spots

is not a great thinker merely one more…

  • able
    • practiced
      • inclined to organise a particular aspect of the world into numbered bullet points? This means this leads to this means this leads to this therefore this?

everything changes; thoughts are not immutable, they are unfixable like the world

a list is memory, trying (pointlessly?) to hold on to something fleeting

bullet point – snap(shot), the shutter clicks down and we try to freeze a fleeting instant, all around the frame disappears, it is not fixed, it looks different each time we look; unattainable, naïve, illogical, brilliant, pathetic, surreal, nonsensical, pointless, fascinating

I look wistfully at my lists


Clare Robson completed her Masters in the History of Art and Visual Culture at the University of Oxford last year. She now works and writes lists in London. She writes about art at clare-robson.co.uk and tweets @clargrob

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Valentine

Gertrude Stein didn’t write her poem ‘Idem the Same: A Valentine to Sherwood Anderson’ for Valentine’s Day. She wrote it in the winter of 1922. I have always liked this fact. Valentines don’t have to only be given in February. Nor was Sherwood Anderson Stein’s beloved. He was her friend and the author of the introduction to her collection Geography and Plays.

I love the recording (below) of Stein reading ‘A Valentine to Sherwood Anderson’. Listening to Stein read the poem you can feel the weight and texture of the words, which she speaks in a strong and clear voice as the poem changes rhythm – back and forth.

Continue reading

WANTED: Poet

If you have time for deep scientific knowledge, and want to use your poetic skills to express that knowledge to people – this post is a request for your help. I am working on a short documentary about viruses, and I would like to consult you on the script.

Some documentaries exist for rather impersonal reasons: to make people feel worried about ‘flu, guilty about HIV, or impressed by people in white coats. I don’t want to do those things – I want to give people beautiful and powerful insights into the natural world.

We have images, experiments, histories and visualizations that are going into this documentary. But I am not a poet – I’m not skilled at using diction to send shivers down people’s spines, so I worry that my script will not have the impact I hope for. That’s where you come in.

I’m Hamish Todd, and I made this:

I work on simulations of biological things, and I care about profundity. I like maths a lot, for example, but only when it is profound. Continue reading

What We Talk About When We Talk About Death

Sarah Boulton Correspondence with JM

Correspondence between Sarah Boulton and James Morland

This text was written as part of The Still Point’s ‘Creative Exchange’ which paired artists, from the Slade, with PhD researchers, from UCL and King’s College London, for an exhibition of visual art work and live readings at FAT RELIC. More details can be found onthe blog and photographs from the evening are on our Facebook page

I am the supposed translator of conversations spanning centuries,
Witnessing poets combatting poets:

A first century exclamation responded to from an eighteenth-century graveyard:

[…] death to us, and deaths anxiety,
Is less than nothing, is a less could be.
For then our Atoms, which in order lay,
Are scatter’d from their heap, and puff’d away,
And never can return into their place,
When once the pause of Life has left an empty space. [Lucretius]

………………

If death were nothing, and nought after death,
If when men died, at once they ceas’d to be,
Returning to the barren womb of nothing,
Whence first they sprung!  Then might the debauchee
Untrembling mouth the Heavens; then might the drunkard
Reel over his full bowl, and when ‘tis drain’d
Fill up another to the brim, and laugh
At the poor bugbear Death [Blair]

I decode this ‘death-talk’:
This is a language game congregating around nothing,
Writing on the timeless and unresolvable.

In attempts to make something, I separate my clauses with the trusty colon:
Conning myself into thinking I have some sort of order:

DEATH-TALK: PHILOSOPHICAL DISCUSSIONS

THE DARKNESS OF THE GRAVE: NIGHT AND THE SENSES IN THE GRAVEYARD

SHUDDERING ON THE BRINK: THE EXTREMES OF NOTHING

But thinking of this nothing, it is me, not the poet, who shudders on the brink:

Procrastination is the thief of time;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves
The vast concerns of an eternal scene. [Young]

The poets mock my academic practice,
Instead of leading to a solution, they taunt me, as together:

We sigh; and while
We sigh, we sink; and are what we deplored;
Lamenting, or Lamented all our Lot! [Young]

all the magnanimity of Thought
Resolves; and re-resolves; then dies the same [Young]

This is my death song:
To write of death is the thief of life,
Hours spent writing nothing about ‘nothing’.

My writing is about the poetry and emulates its futile ambitions;
The poets’ straining to see around the corner to their own death mimics my academic composition,
Our words are like the first century atoms that caused this whole project to arise:
An endless cycle of regeneration, a stream of chance encounters where some hit and many miss.

In writing on a nocturne darkness where men ‘see not all clear’ [Vaughan],
I instead quote the camera obscura, as a ‘darkened room’,
Referring to the stanza, as a ‘capacious dwelling, a receptacle’.
Returning to semantics to interpret a physical something from their poetic nothingness.

In thinking of death, then, we must relate it to something. It becomes images and myth:

The knell, the shroud, the mattock, and the grave;
The deep damp vault, the darkness, and the worm;
These are the bugbears of a winter’s eve,
The terrors of the living, not the dead.
Imagination’s fool, and error’s wretch,
Man makes a death, which nature never made;
Then on the point of his own fancy falls;
And feels a thousand deaths, in fearing one. [Young]

So in talking about death, I must document this cycle of centuries:
death has become something from a sublime sense of nothing through the fool and error of an imagination. It should instead be seen as nothing by the dissolution of something:

Therefore death is nothing to us, it matters not one jot, since the nature of the mind is understood to be mortal.  [Lucretius]

When I talk about death I resolve, and re-resolve about the vast concerns of something and nothing.

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‘Spiderboy’ videowork by Sarah Boulton installed at FAT RELIC, photo by Giulia Legora

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James reading his piece at the Creative Exchange, photo by Giulia Legora

James Morland is a first year PhD student in the English department at KCL, researching the changing interactions with Lucretius and Epicurean philosophy in eighteenth-century poetry. After spending a year in art school, James has spent the past few years studying English literature, though constantly tries to find ways to tie together the academic and visually creative sides of his thinking. Follow him @jameswmorland

Sarah Boulton is a student at the Slade. She is currently working with [including]: diamond doves, relationships, verbs, internal parts, live editing, light videos, friends and words (talking). http://saraboulton.tumblr.com/

Simone

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It began among female student intellectuals

seeking to appropriate the Other.

Only a body can touch another body.

She took great pleasure in urinating in the country.

Becoming prey,

the housewife knows little

of the discovery of treasure.

She locks up the parlour to save the Pope;

does it for a definite reason.

Where are the women?

It is not enough to have a

woman’s body,

exactly symmetrical,

the domains of thought

and art

and the suicide of Lucretia.

But in fact there is no question.

I read between the lines –

you see how it is. Become Kafka,

justify our existence.

The free woman is just being born,

Will be poet!

 –

Each night I said a little farewell

and put the cap on my fountain pen.

Thus she appeared in her childish distress.

This poem is made up of lines from the writings of Simone de Beauvoir.

Sophie Peacock is a poet and designer living and working in London, she is interested in gender, sexuality and collage. Follow her @saudadesophie