discursive excursus

re:writing|s  4

my prosaic-poetic method is like dry-stone walling+, finding discrete [or rather, in my case, disjointed] blocks of words and jamming them together to make something [plausibly​/​possibly] unshakeable.

a structure, leaving a shape on the mind’s eye, built now in squares, now pagoda shaped, now throwing out wings and arches, now solidly compact and domed like the Cathedral of Saint Sofia at Constantinople.

/ Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, 1929.

Subject and object and the nature of reality.

/ Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse, 1927.

the shape [surfaces] of things [structuring] in movement [sculptural]

surfaces the shape of things

nothing was simply one thing

For it is fashioned in the shape of some fine substance, thin as glass, blown in plump curves; save that it is also as substantial as a pyramid. Perhaps that may be its beauty. […] beautiful & evanescent & enduring*

the colour burning on a framework of steel; the light of a butterfly’s wings lying upon the arches of a cathedral

Beautiful and bright it should be on the surface, feathery and evanescent, one colour melting into another like the colours on a butterfly’s wing; but beneath the fabric must be clamped together with bolts of iron. It was to be a thing you could ruffle with your breath; and a thing you could not dislodge with a team of horses.

Colour, impervious, burning on a framework of steel that has been dismantled, and cast aside.

The light of butterflys’ wings, disembodied, unalterable, lying upon the chipped and crumbling arches of what was no longer a cathedral.

Thin as glass, blown in plump curves, unruffled by our breath.

As substantial as a pyramid, dislodged with a team of horses.

we [are…] each alone […as…] the sea eats away the ground we stand on […] communing already with a sky which beholds an earth entirely at rest.

structuring the shape in movement

Nothing need be said; nothing could be said. There it was, all around them. It partook […] of eternity; […] there is a coherence in things, a stability; something […] is immune from change, and shines out ([…] the window with its ripple of reflected lights) in the face of the flowing, the fleeting, the spectral,

among the infinite series of impressions which time had laid down, leaf upon leaf, fold upon fold softly, incessantly

the whole world […] dissolved […] into a pool of thought, a deep basin of reality,

The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one. This, that, and the other; […] making of the moment something permanent […] — this was of the nature of a revelation. In the midst of chaos there was shape; this eternal passing and flowing ([…] the cloud going and the leaves shaking) was struck into stability.

beneath it is all dark, it is all spreading, it is unfathomably deep; but now and again […things] rise to the surface and that is what you see

part of the nature of things.

to choose out the elements of things and place them together and so, giving them a wholeness not theirs in life, make […] one of those globed and compacted figures over which thought lingers and love plays.

the one star and the draped branches. In the failing light […it] all looked sharp-edged and ethereal and divided by great distances.

solidity suddenly vanished, and such vast spaces lay between […that] anything might happen,

the night was now shut off by panes of glass, which, far from giving any accurate view of the outside world, rippled it so strangely that here, inside the room, seemed to be order and dry land; there, outside, a reflection in which things waved and vanished, waterily.

anything might happen, […] as if the link that usually bound things together had been cut, and they floated up here, down there, off, anyhow.

the still space that lies about the heart of things,

Subject and object and the nature of reality […] a kitchen table […] when you’re not there.

a phantom kitchen table […] grained and knotted, whose virtue seems to have been laid bare by years of muscular integrity, […] this seeing of angular essences, this reducing of lovely evenings, with all their flamingo clouds and blue and silver

The kitchen table was something visionary, austere; something bare, hard, not ornamental. There was no colour to it; it was all edges and angles; it was uncompromisingly plain. But […] never allowed […one] to be distracted or deluded, […] worn […] and ascetic […] this unornamented beauty which so deeply impressed

One wanted to be on a level with ordinary experience, to feel simply […] that’s a table, and yet at the same time – It’s a miracle, it’s an ecstasy.

(One wanted fifty pairs of eyes to see with, […f]ifty pairs of eyes were not enough to get round […] with,)

ringed round, lit up, visible to the last detail, with all before it blank and all after it blank, for miles and miles?

lovely and unfamiliar from the intensity of […] isolation and the waste of ages and the perishing of the stars,

one had constantly a sense of repetition — one thing falling where another had fallen, and so setting up an echo which chimed in the air and made it full of vibrations.

All the odds and ends of the day stuck to this magnet; […a]nd then there it was, suddenly entire shaped in her hands, beautiful and reasonable, clear and complete, the essence sucked out of life and held rounded here — the sonnet.

the words became symbols, wrote themselves all over the […] walls. If only […one] could put them together, […] write them out in some sentence, then […one] would have got at the truth of things. (this truth, this reality, which suddenly […] emerged stark at the back of appearances […in the…] uncompromising white stare; […of] the canvas).

loneliness which was […] the truth about things. […] There it loomed up, stark and straight, glaring white and black, and one could see the waves breaking in white splinters like smashed glass upon the rocks. One could see lines and creases in the rocks.

sculptural the shape of things in movement

the words sounded as if they were floating like flowers on water […] as if […] they had come into existence of themselves, and in their darkness, in their intricacy, the words became symbols, wrote themselves all over the dimensions of things,

if only […one] could put them together, […] write them out in some sentence, find the places that they held, a sense of their belonging, a sense of their being, in the sift and the shift of spaces, in the radiance and in the resonance, in the shadows and in silence, and within emptiness — and this thin hope taking substance from the ambient darkness, the opaque intricacy, suddenly emerges, very white and staring,

it is the first pulse of the full-throbbing star, and tentatively, lingeringly, every detail is awash with that light, each irradiating its precise austerity, its terminal inextricability, with all before it blank and all after it blank, for miles and miles.

light turned, like a flower reflected in water, its clear sharp image […] on the shadows of the trees, and in its flickering, and in the flickering of sight, where light and shade so chequer each other that all shape is distorted, the table and its still space is shards and splinters

— angles and edges and planes that are odds and ends […] stuck to this magnet; swept away on wave after wave, one thing falling where another had fallen, drifting and gliding and overlapping — not matter, but its shade and its echo — streaming in the air, reverberating, filling it with reflections to move and float and sink in, in the seamlessness of things, the vastness, the perfection;

and then there it was, suddenly entire shaped, […] and held rounded here, in the mind — bringing the night to order and making the world reflect the compass of the soul.

this was the shape in the midst of chaos, the stability; grained and knotted, hard and bare and unornamental; the uncompromising substance of it, the whole shape of the thing, plain and worn and ascetic, in which clouds for ever turn and shadows form;

and now, and always, it changed, it shaped itself differently; it had become […] already the past, become odds and ends of time that flowered softly, quietly;

and in the climbing backwards, upwards, […] up under petals that curved over, it would remain, between things, beyond things […] unfathomably deep.

the muscular integrity of sculpture, the cadences structured; beautiful and […] clear and complete; all the tonality distilled from the world, from the multiplicity of things and there, within the shaft which ran from the sunlight to the depths, is made concrete —

curled and whole like a wave which bore one up with it

— in its angular essences; in the sheer solidness of its edges; in shadow and light on the long, level sweep of its surfaces — lambent and clear as the space which the clouds at last uncover —

breathtaking, heartbreaking, this riveted sea, this reflective sky; it is, it remains, single, hard, bright, like a diamond in the sand, while, miraculous, the butterflies burst from the chrysalis and pattered their life out; as, ecstatic, the voice of the beauty of the world came murmuring, too softly to hear exactly what it said — but what mattered if the meaning were plain?

heartbreaking, breathtaking, these angular essences; this sheer solidity of these edges; this long, level sweep of these surfaces; the[se] [un]wavering line[s] of sea and sky; the shadows lustrous, luminescent, illuminated — and within, hesitating, trembling, the shapes of a world not realised but turning in their darkness, catching here and there, a spark of light;

a world hollowed out held in its muscular integrity, in its clarity and its completeness, drawing the senses together along the lines and through appearances, across space and time, in the momentum of the wave, the movement of particles, flesh turned to atoms, […] stars flashing in the heart […] the scattered parts of the vision within, distractions and delusions stripped away, to ever compose from their fragments a perfect whole or read in the littered pieces the clear words of truth;

all of existence stark and uncompromising like the white stare […of] the canvas, where all things ran shapelessly together, where the stillness and the brightness of the day were as strange as the chaos and tumult of night, with the trees standing there, and the flowers standing there, looking before them, looking up, yet beholding nothing, eyeless, and so terrible.

from the intensity of […] isolation the still spaces of the table unfold starkly through illumination and butterfly wing, in the long wastes of the ages, in the perishing of the stars.

the water washes away the sediment we stand on, communing already with the air which beholds a rock entirely at rest.

surfaces the shape of things

*Virginia Stephen writing about Santa Sophia, in her diary of 1906, on her visit to Constantinople.


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