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Saturday, 25 August 2012

J. V. Cunningham: Consolatio Nova


The Auto Junkyard: photo by Walker Evans, from Fortune, April 1962 (via full table)

To speak of death is to deny it, is
To give unpredicated substance phrase
And being. So the discontinuous,
The present instant absent finally
Without future or past, is yet in time
For we are time, monads of purposes
Beyond ourselves that are not purposes,
A causeless all of momentary somes.
And in such fiction we can think of death.


J.V. Cunningham: Consolatio Nova (1967), from The Collected Poems and Epigrams, 1971


Anonymous said...

I love this. Especially how it moves beyond the romantic acceptance of death, which still leaves us, the ones who die, in some semblance of power. There is, I suppose, some element of power in composing our fictions -- less so in their reading, since so few actually do.

TC said...


There's certainly an irony at work in the title. This poet's embrace of the modern being at all times so tentative -- reluctant, lukewarm, grudging at best -- it's not surprising that his version of a Modern Consolation would seem so bleak and unconsoling, even cold.

But it's the honesty of the admission, concession that our apparent freedom conceals the unappealing fact that we remain "monads of purposes/ Beyond ourselves that are not purposes", that wins an odd sort of trust, here, for this reader anyway.

Hazen said...

To talk about death is to talk about consciousness and its transformation, n’es pas? What is it that “dies,” anyway? Linear thought leads to the conclusion that death’s the end of the line. Lights out. Game over. Consciousness winks out forever. But, said Velikovsky, “There is nothing that does not change its form. Everything is transitory and immortal.” The Tibetan Book of The Dead calls the dying person’s attention to perhaps the biggest transition, the dissolution of consciousness, and expressly to the sound of this happening: the sound of earth slipping into water. Then come the bardo follies, forty-nine days of The Big In-Between, one’s life re-played on the screen of the bardo-mind, with the shock and awe of all that, and of trying to glimpse the Clear Light. Then birth again, and coherent consciousness, and once more into the loop of transitions, the Mobius strip we call life. Repeat.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

The auto junkyard

a lot

up to


possibly volcanic
what happens
in Raymondville

Pie Town
easily Poe Town

& whether it is
beside the Mississippi
or another long place
time is not enough
for life living

it was not stormy
at the graveyard
or the junkyard

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Here lies my white '81 VW Rabbit
rusting just a little bit more
after all that hullaballoo
over the oil
I will join it soon
my rabbity teeth
lost under some tires
or that cheap jack
in the back under
the heavy hatch
everyone slammed too hard
like it was an old pickup
and not the European auto
it was never dying
how it did my youth

Susan Kay Anderson said...

"A causeless all of momentary somes."

J.V. Cunningham
proposes noise
creates all.
the body the bones
look time
in the face,
then erase
this memory.

This might take
some thinking
then forgetting about
the thinking. I got lost
at purposes.
Normally, I should last
until fiction then
want to sneak a peek
at death
towards the very end
without actually
ending up there.

Susan Kay Anderson said...



J. V. Cunningham, such a master, who also noted (in "For My Contemporaries") --

How time reverses
The proud in heart!
I now make verses
Who aimed at art.

But I sleep well.
Ambitious boys
Whose big lines swell
With spiritual noise,

Despise me not,
And be not queasy
To praise somewhat:
Verse is not easy.

But rage who will.
Time that procured me
Good sense and skill
Of madness cured me.


grey whiteness of fog against invisible
ridge, bird calling from cypress branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

present followed by another
present, that one and

that “object” both the same,
whether or not, there

grey white of fog against top of ridge,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

TC said...

So I'm like Wow, Daddy-O x 365 light years.

When Francis Bacon said Let my death come from Spain, he meant Let it be in no great hurry. But to say Let My Death Come From Tibet could be an even better bet. The sound of earth slipping into water, bliss that would be really. But the 49 days of the Big I-B, Oh my. And then, OMG, birth again and the whole kit and caboodle to do all over. Yegads.

The Na-Khi tribespeople of the Tibetan-Chinese borderlands have a tradition involving tragic lovers slung in hammock-type body bags, swaying in the winds...

One can't help appreciating the hygienic aspects of that, clean air at least if not Clear Light. But maybe Clear Light too.

Susan's Cure vids are way otherworldly. I would almost be tempted to say I remember the day, but with the Cure it was always Night. And boys don't cry, even so.

"Pictures of You". "Some kind of lost love...?"

Well, I should say so! Cargo cult eyeliner, undernourished teen boys wearing pancake makeup in the Antarctic, frozen palm trees, Hollywood permafrost, snowball Tiki -- what more could one ask of Death, Sweet Death?

....Well, just off hand... practically everything.

My own recent near death experience had almost no bangs or whistles, no cute Esquimaux meter maids in bikinis and earmuffs, no surfing polar bears, & c.

All became very very quiet, time stretched out, very elastic, bending in and out of the conscious world...

I'm told I was in confusion about a shoe. A witness later said he'd seen a shoe rolling down the street. Small world.

Steve, great to hear from someone who gets the Cunningham picture.

I love that he says this (though as an inveterate insomniac, I'm always forced by such a statement to fight off the inner doubting Thomas):

But I sleep well.

Ron said...

Ah, yes, I like the idea of you reading JV Cunningham. Wish I felt as optimistic about him reading you.

larry white said...

Ah, thanks. Cunningham makes great art.

Fed-Ex Truck

I'm glad when the Fed-Ex truck appears,
just as glad as I am when it's gone.
Then the black cat pauses under a tree
while the red chases over the lawn.
The leaves are turning all different colors
but the sky is nothing but blue
with a lot of whiteness mixed in too,
more white in the west, the east is blue.
I can't separate the two.
But if you sit in a room with a dark white ceiling
with windows to the east and the west,
you can see two skies if you look both ways
but you can't see both at once.
I wouldn't tell a living soul about it,
what the Fed-Ex man told me.
He didn't say a word but that's what I heard
when he drove off silently.

larry white said...

re Fed-Ex Truck: "But if you sit"
change to "But sit"