Monday, July 10, 2017

Working with Urs Jaeggi 1

       by John

I have worked with Urs Jaeggi on a variety of text(ual)-visual-poetry collaborations since the mid 90s when I first met him in Fremantle, Western Australia, while attending a PEN conference. When I moved to Cambridge with family, I got to see Urs every now and again as I often travelled to Germany. He and I read together in Berlin and Hamburg and created via fax machine a book of poem-visual-textualisations entitled D & G that has since been lost. There were a number of paper versions of D & G circulating around the turn of the century, but none of them seems to have survived. A section of the book was published in Chain magazine in the late 90s, and is included below. As said in the note that follows the pages, the work came out of an intense 'conversation' across and around and under and over and through the works of Deleuze and Guattari.

Since D & G, Urs and I have collaborated on a number of other works via email, with fractions and fragments being published here and there over the years (e.g. in Vlak magazine). Most recently, we have been working on 'drawings and poems', whereby I respond to series of drawings sent as attachments by Urs. This is the reverse of a process we employed in around 2006/7/8 when I sent Urs my Divine Comedy 'distractions' and he 'illustrated' and sent back. Those drawings never found their way into the English-language editions of the work (WW Norton and UQP), but a few did find their way into the selection done by the Italian publisher Raffaelli Editore with translations in Italian by Maria Cristina Biggio in 2013. I have scanned some pages and will include below.

What I have presented here are some snippets from our recent work together, and I intend to add to this over future blog postings. Collaboration has been a vital part of my creative working life, and is really what I am most interested in, and most value. As well as working with Urs for over twenty years, I have also had the good fortune to work creatively with Louis Armand, Pam Brown, Niall Lucy, Dorothy Hewett, Mona Ryder, Karl Wiebke, Thurston Moore, Kwame Dawes, Tracy Ryan, Charmaine Papertalk-Green, Susan Schultz, Frieda Hughes, James Quinton, Wendy Jenkins, Barry Phipps, Paul Kane, Alan Jenkins, John D'Alton, Gordon Kerry, Forrest Gander, and others, and I feel privileged in these interactions.

I begin with a letter and poem written quite a few years ago now in celebration of Urs's 80th birthday, and included in a primarily German-language volume celebrating the brilliance of this Swiss-born sociologist, cultural and social activist, novelist, poet, visual artist, sculptor, and much more. 


Happy birthday, Urs. I thank you for your friendship and for sharing your work with me over the years. Working with you on various collaborations, including D & G and most recently the Tractortatus texts, has been an ongoing revelation about the possibilities of art and language. You are the embodiment of the Renaissance artist and thinker — all is in your ken — but in a truly contemporary way.

Here is a poem based on a few factors: visiting your apartment in Berlin in the mid-90s; the painting used as the cover image for Salt magazine number 8 (1996); and very distantly, your wonderful poem-text ‘Miles’, published in the same issue of Salt.

I often think of our performances together in Berlin and Hamburg. You are the liberator of the word!


            for Urs Jaeggi’s 80th Birthday

In the room the room
you offered the staying
place the rocking-horse
room where night-fright
made no horror and no
shadows just the zoo-light
carried in from wanderings
about the wall machine
down ergo silence of cabinet
of sketches expressing
shudders and stillness
an ergonomics of presence
where comfort allies
with friendship and intensity
with sincerity and circles
wavering circles and souls
stepping down and out
through window and image-bank
in book-frame and covering
voices with plausible trance
or entrance — thankyou
for the cover the glint
and gleaning of salt
and movie-time rescue
like risk like announcement
overtalking to echo
through theatre and audience,
failsafe nor forget-me-not rhizomes
tunnelling streetworks
cloistered or blossoming in window
of multilingual fruitfulness,
no imprisonment in artifice
or maybe freedom in artifice
but not ‘officialese’ (you made
your escape! you sculpted
plastic form office throne
choke of narrative, storyline
fame left on the altar),
degrees of ranks blown
in by Peter the Great
and no notice taken
or left freehold resurrection
poem of provinces — dead
souls — no, no estates
made from transfer or silence:
third persons telling their tales,
folk tales and heritages,
red and blue witches,
sagas   epics   prophecies
I heard Khlebnikov asleep
reciting asleep I was awake
asleep near the rocking-horse
childhood recognition of apocrypha
I was part of we all were you’d think
or you were too and I detailed
the twists and scrunches
of paper that made up
your eternal poem your
challenge to rock the horse
to rock the boat
to rock the monastery
of learning and blight,
chronicle   recital   ode
paint hunger form
of inner-city apartment
as generous as caverns
and sky, ‘(dritte Lektion)’
in the mineshafts of wonder,
investigation, breakthroughs,
loyalty of palette is body
of palette is opening colour
outside its spectrum
without the inducements
of colour, refraction, spectra,
prism analogies, dispersion,
diffractions the clamour
for laws we never want,
we pass without pause:
sharing is silence and noise
and the joy of knowing.
Bonding and making,
rooms to fill and empty,
all made in the shades
of living contrapposto.

            with very best wishes,
            from John Kinsella

And some drawings and poems (i.e. Urs Jaeggi's drawings followed by my poem-responses):


Confrontation (after Urs Jaeggi’s IMG-888a4.jpg)

When the boomers
confront each other
on the second tier
below the house,
we described it as a dance. None of us have danced recently,
nor attended a dance, or thought much about dance,
but it’s inherent, isn’t it? We pluck memories
like fur from the coats
of rivals we don’t have, or don’t want. We are not
violent. But the old boomer — scarred, dominant —
hangs on to his mob for another season —
three rivals, almost but not quite
as large, wrestling for supremacy.
All lived to tell tails
they balanced on, ‘boxing’
and tipping opponents
until first and second round losers demurred
to watch from down low
the final tilt, the pas de deux
that defines the sociology
of the present, and what will be
for a time, a cycle.

And from earlier in the latest collaborative cycle:



I intend to travel beyond the spectrum.
I intend to recast lines and mergings.
I intend to open the doors and windows when it's storming.
I intend to let language escape into geography.
I intend to let geography escape into language.
I intend to wake the sleeping.
I intend to wind the chronometer backwards.
I intend to stir the wind against gravity.
I intend to colour all reproductive parts of the flower.

Closing Bell

Paso doble shock to casternet
Psyche's blastdoors, to confront
a mirrorcall, a despicable wall
of Self stretched to profit ideology.

We see into your pas de deux,
your rough riding aubades
to make a myth fit phrenology.
We sense a universal and tranquil pool

beyond your aqueous humour,
beyond the closing bell.



Repossessions of peace
counts empire-standard,
clauses claws & shadows
philology of body type
facing departures.
Nip the randomness.
Take the chance.
Reading & expression =
stones hauled so far

Struggling over the ruins
as a black rain swirled,
they wiped their eyes
to better see the spirits
rising from spent palaces,
granaries, and tombs.

Greetings from Mexico Received

'Froto mis párpados:
el cielo anda en la tierra'

    Octavia Paz, 'Madrugada Al Raso'

My brother-in-law
travels frequently to Mexico.
He sees the dawn over mountains,
he sees fresh light silhouetting
timeless ghosts in the streets, the trees.
He sees far beyond any wall,
and on The Day of the Dead
he sends us greetings
and we share, too.

 And now some pages from the Italian edition/selection of my Divine Comedy: Journeys Through a Regional Geography... Urs did numerous drawings but only three could be used in this edition — one for each canticle:

And finally, here is the short section from the lost D & G (if anyone out there has a copy of the full manuscript, please let me know!), as published in Chain 5: Different Languages (eds. Jena Osman and Juliana Spahr, Summer 1998). As I mention in the epilogue/afterword, we envisaged it as a kind of radical eclogue, with English, French, German and Latin stretched and fed into the collapsing pastoral (fax) machine:


So, that's a sampler... more to follow in future posts. Thanks for twenty-one years of sharing, Urs.

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