Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

juliejoosten's blog

On Blogging, Accompaniment, and Gratitude

This has been an interesting April of blogging for me. While I read blogs, I’ve never myself blogged before. It was more difficult than I’d anticipated, and more enjoyable. What I so value in the blogs I read is their writers’ openness, their generosity with thinking in public, their invitation to their readers to accompany them in the experiences and thoughts they write about. It’s the offer to accompany, and, obliquely, to be accompanied, that I find most moving. It’s one of the solaces writing offers, a thinking with and feeling with that extends across space and time. Which can, in an instant, alter the texture and dimension of solitude. I read to inhabit others writers’ thoughts and modes of thinking.

"A Place in the Sun"

Jane Gregory’s poem articulates exactly my feeling of being in the late afternoon, late April sun today on April 29, 2015:


In the dumb mud of attention, dear Judge, mood was everything, up to a certain
point, a bunch of what there was. And on the lawn the least of what was known
of the bird was not the feather it left behind where everyone was using the word
labor against the rubble rubble thunder rubble and aspired to the condition of the
music of the condition that aspired to destroy you through music. But I have found
a place in the sun, I said, inaccurate place inaccurate besides, sitting here is no way
a place in the sun, a product of chance overheard as chants over our heads, above

Anna Karenina, Dance, and Relief

Last week, I saw the Eifman St. Petersburg Ballet perform Anna Karenina. Before the performance, Julia Zarankin gave a lecture on the novel to ballet-goers. She said that Tolstoy was deeply interested in exploring what the body knows that the mind does not, which makes interpreting Anna Karenina as dance an exciting choice. This thought stayed with me during the performance, which was always beautiful to watch and, in particular sequences, thrilling. In an interview with Globe and Mail writer Martha Schabas, Boris Eifman, founder and artistic director of the Eifman Ballet, said, “I’m not trying to illustrate the plot of the novel.

Geology, Thinking, and a Tent

As Jan Zwicky’s Wittgensteinian “The Geology of Norway” kept and keeps circling through my mind and body, I remembered Liz Howard’s gorgeous poem, “Thinktent,” which also works with, among other things, thinking from/about/with Wittgenstein. “Thinktent” is from Howard’s debut book Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent (McClelland and Stewart, 2015).

So today, more admiration and gratitude for writing with and of bodies, Wittgenstein, ferality, beauty, outrage, and focus, and all with a startlingly wild exactitude.

Here is the first section of “Thinktent” (it will make you want to read more and more, again and again—)


I am my world. (The microcosm).
-- Ludwig Wittgenstein

Hospitality: the first demand
what is your name?

On Being Led by a Poem

Yesterday evening, a friend emailed me a copy of Jan Zwicky’s “The Geology of Norway” from the collection Songs for Relinquishing the Earth (Brick Books, 1998). I’d never read the poem before, and I can’t stop rereading it now. I keep returning to it in fierce swoops or languorously or in bed or with the company of an orchid and two sleeping dogs, but always insistently . . .

Here is a link to “The Geology of Norway” in its entirety, with a beautiful introduction to the poem by Zwicky:

These are some of the lines that followed me through last night and are leading me through today:

“You know, it isn’t
what I came for, this bewilderment
by beauty. I came
to find a word, the perfect
syllable, to make it reach up,

Thinking the Future through the Present

To begin with: many thanks if you made it through yesterday’s post; you have my gratitude for sitting with uncertainty and/or dwelling in possibility.

To continue: I’ll now try to offer an account of what I find so compelling about José Muñoz’s and Lauren Berlant’s writings in relation to some of the things I’ve been posting about this month.

Otherwiseness: Thinking with José Muñoz and Lauren Berlant

About seven years ago, I wrote a series of terrible poems, each of which was trying to work out in my own head and writing how to think about “otherwise” as a process of perceiving and thinking. I was trying to make sense of the fact that things could have been and can be otherwise, a possibility I kept encountering, both directly and indirectly, in the reading I was doing at the time about history, politics, thought, and affect (this thought also emerges in Sedgwick’s essay that I cited in an earlier post). The writers who most memorably influenced my thinking on this were Susan Howe, Kamau Brathwaite, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and Gayatri Spivak.

On the Otherwise of a Shipwrecked Singularity

In these posts, I keep gesturing towards a transformable/transformed future, one that with different modes of attention, care, action, and responsibility, could emerge. A future that draws on the activities currently at play in our present: organizing bodies to resist oppression, reimagining how bodies signify, and altering the devastating experiences many bodies, because of their particular forms, are made to internalize. As I’ve written in earlier posts, M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong!, a book of generosity and listening, offers ways of thinking through and living after these violences. While thinking about Zong! over the past week, George Oppen’s lines in “Of Being Numerous” kept coming into my mind:

Obsessed, bewildered

By the shipwreck
Of the singular

Spring in Elsinore

In the beginning of Spring I often think of the very beginning of Hamlet:

SCENE I. Elsinore. A platform before the castle.

FRANCISCO at his post. Enter to him BERNARDO

Who's there?

Nay, answer me: stand, and unfold yourself.

Thinking (again and more) with M. NourbeSe Philip's Zong!

In returning to thinking about Zong!, I’m also returning to the idea of neuro-plasticity, the forming and deforming inscriptions experience leaves on the brain. When reading Zong! or when listening to it being performed, something perceptible happens in my body, a vibration, an inhabitation, a resonance, each of which is deeply material. If events and experiences are transcribed in the brain and have the capacity to alter or reframe the inscriptions that have preceded them in an individual brain and also, by extension, in several brains in a community that experience together, how might Zong! quite literally influence our neurology? How might this crucial work be engaged in an affective labor that returns to the slaves their voices through the circuitry of our brains?

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