SWERVE THIS WAY FOR A LOVELY CONVERSATION
over HERE between Barry Schwabsky and Joan Waltemath.
It's a reminder, too, to check out THIS and THIS!
But I must simply copynpaste this excerpt from Barry's and Joan Waltemath's conversation for The Brooklyn Rail--just lovely!
Rail: I want to backtrack slightly: at one point you were talking about underlying systems and questioning whether there was an underlying system to works of art. The notion of an underlying order is something that I’ve been working with for a long time. I’m aware of it all around me and I see that in the time of Bellini that they were able to create a specific and clear mathematical structure underlying their paintings. Does it reflect a social order that was simpler or more possible to idealize? Can that kind of parallel be made today, or have we reached a point where the layers of complexity can no longer be comprehended by individuals?
Schwabsky: Well, some people can apparently think that order, or at least they can think that they’re thinking it. Maybe you can. I had a friend, or better to say, an acquaintance, a friendly acquaintance, in London who passed away recently, a writer called John Michell. He was a kind of a Platonist, and he really believed there was an underlined geometrical order to the universe and everything in it, and I think that one of the things that fascinated me about him was that fact because I could never begin to believe such a thing, I don’t think that it’s in me to believe it.
Rail: Interesting. I came across his works when I was in my early twenties and then met him and knew some of the people around him, so I am familiar with his work. I could intuitively make sense of the geometry that he was talking about.
Schwabsky: What he saw as the underlying structure of things I saw as a highly specialized, rare, and fragile situation of things that was epiphenomenal.
Rail: So if you don’t see a kind of underlying structure, how do you go about making sense of the many different kinds of things that you look at as a critic? Do you have a system or set means to approach looking at work?
Schwabsky: No, I don’t have a system. I think I’m very involved with the random, not in a John Cage sense, but in some other sense. I think I’m much more—as a kind of basic way of looking at things—much more comfortable with the kind of Lucretian viewpoint which says that it’s just matter and there are just all these atoms, and he says they’re all falling and as they fall, sometimes, at some arbitrary point, they swerve, and as all these atoms kept falling and swerving, the swerving made them clump together and they start to form objects, and that’s where the world came from, and—
Rail: No attraction between certain ones that will cause them to swerve?
Schwabsky: Well, the swerve is the attraction somehow, it’s not that there’s the attraction and then there’s the swerve, and so yeah, I think that I have that swerve towards certain things and certain people and certain situations, and I try not to resist it, and I try to reason through the resulting meeting, if there is one. Sometimes there’s not a meeting, sometimes you bypass them. But the name of that swerve is Eros.
Rail: What you’re saying reminds me of your approach, or could we say non-approach, to the last line of a piece. As I read through a number of the pieces that I came in contact with I felt like each one of them had a different idea about it, each one of them was doing a different thing in terms of the writing, and that really fascinated me because it seems like you are responding to the particular circumstances of what you are creating. As somebody who’s really involved in systems, I find that fascinating.
Schwabsky: You know, I think it would be very useful to have a system, I’m not against a system, really, and I take seriously what William Blake said, “I have to have my own system or I’ll be the slave of someone else’s.”
Rail: What a beautiful line of Blake’s!
Schwabsky: But I’ve never really been able to have that system. I’ve only been able to think that at least I circumstantially evaded those of others, without being the slave of them, but still without making my own.
Rail: It’s a question I think Breton touched on in Nadja when he writes, “Perhaps I am doomed to retrace my steps under the illusion that I am exploring.”
Go HERE for whole thang! I love that notion of the swerve!