D. E. Steward
Freeze Framed

A long year in the hills between Paju-ri and the Yellow Sea, off the Seoul-Kaesong Pyongyang Road, as ancient a road as there is anywhere

A long fire season on Josephine Lookout in the San Gabriels that burned on its stilts when the Big Tujunga Fire came over the top

A conversation with two savvy Sicilian women in a Praça de Giraldo café along the arcades in Évora who had never heard of Elena Ferrante

With Syriac and her other languages, Cleopatra also knew Hebrew and Aramaic

With Ceasar she probably spoke Greek

His leap-year reform of the solar calendar and his plans to create public libraries in Rome were her ideas

The leap-year solution came to her from Sosigenes, her court astronomer

Libraries of course were always the Alexandrian way

That tingling feeling entering libraries as they open, the awareness that most is not only knowable but absolutely approachable there and then

It’s all there

Grasp things as they are

“August and the dry breeze // stirring the leaves in the dust of morning ” (W. S. Merwin)

India is full of birds, no one kills them and India’s cat population is low with cats generally deemed manhoos, inauspicious

Clamshells gull-flayed open, dropped from on high onto concrete, stone and asphalt

Original writing proceeds in the dark, has nothing to lean on

But within all literate awareness comes that ancient, ochereous gleam

It was Walter Benjamin’s idea for a book of citations and aphorisms only, perhaps quoted in part or altered and even melded

Obviously he knew Georg Christoph Lichtenberg’s, d. 1799, Sudelbücher

Benjamin’s idea was in homage too to Coleridge’s Notebooks, and in anticipation of Borges to come

Benjamin might have written in such manner more extensively himself had he not died at forty-eight in Portbou expecting to be strong-armed back to the Germans in the morning

In the hours before dawn on September 26, 1940 his mysterious suicide was a vivid incident of, in his terms, Stillstellung

Events fostering broken continuities


Sontag said that in Benjamin’s later writing his sentences did not originate ordinarily, did not progress into one another and delineate an obvious line of reasoning, that his was a “freeze-frame baroque” manner of writing and insight

“Fascinated by notions of reference and constellation, his goal in later works was to use intertexts to reveal aspects of the past that cannot, and should not, be understood within greater, monolithic constructs of historical understanding” (The Wikipedia entry for Benjamin on October 31, 2016)

Full flush in his Arcades project, the Passagen-Werk

Intertext, intertext

As seminal as the universal airiness of vélolibre

It is 2016, enough of writing more Dick and Jane went up the hill to fetch a pail of water

As post and lintel architecture matter-of-factly does the job, and has since before the Assyrians, just so functions conventional expository writing

Then Architecture has changed and fluoresced since the Sydney Opera House, 1973

Something has opened

From an enduring age of squared-up logic and reason into one of other

With control and sophistication of material and engineering allowing structures of flaring curves, full-light open spaces, and color marshaled as never before, extreme cantilevering (the IGA in Boston and new buildings everywhere)

There are massive banks of topological savvy arrayed now abetting building design with computer projection by the numbers

Where things were done on trial and error, myth, seniority, hunches and faith, now there is empirical data

Molecular genetics, astronomy, even archeology responds

And change in that degree goes as well for writing

Proceed syndetically and writing becomes sequential and copulative since syndesis moves by cumulative assemblage and coherence, by proliferation and association

Especially now with electronic text manipulation

And scrolling

Scrolling down, scrolling through, scrolling up, scanning rapidly and then correcting throughout the text instantly

Instant recall, search functions, instantaneous information searches, parallel files, graphics, photo uploads

It’s all on the screen

The carbon paper, onionskin, typewriter erasure, mimeograph machine past nearly as unimaginable as scratch pens, inkwells and ledger-entries

So we go

Always the draw, the pull, “the curve of the lane // the place of parting and of returning” (W. S. Merwin)

Into intertextuality