To begin, not with a theme or structure but a core, felt in heartbeats heard in reading, in rhythms, a cadence, another, lifting words off the page, another. A core heard and read, together and slightly out of sync, heard, read where a writer takes psychic being, takes fire from the words of another, as Robert Duncan did, and wrote with H.D.. Ways of wording and of worlding formed in kinship, with the words and the atmospheres of others, by sympathy and slightly unsettling affinities, necessary rhythmic and arrhythmic arrangements instead of theoretical frameworks, csiting (citing, siting), arising from entanglements and their specific qualities.
Specific qualities of entanglements are meticulous in the attention given. Michel Leiris wrote of a tangency felt in certain encounters, revealing qualities normally obscured though profound and meaningful. What did a specific book, site, song, sound, artwork, voice say to you, and you, and you? An encounter strikes as stirring and affecting, necessary and singular: this, not that. To commission a year-long series is to make these encounters present, not as the result of simple transactions or strictly regulated exchanges, but by leaving the impression of tangencies, enmeshments that began long before, even if only imagined in reading, something more and something else than words Alejandra Pizarnik once wrote.
Pizarnik also wrote, I do not speak with my voice, but I speak with my voices: voices, languages, accents, inflections are read and heard in, with, before, despite translations. They merge and interfere. To give them space, carte blanche could be considered, to begin with.
Begin, and it is soon understood the space of the carte is never blanche, it is streaked with ongoing conversations, even when subterranean or less audible, perceived in non-official sites and unnumbered times. Isak Dinesen’s tale ‘The Blank Page’ reveals the weavings which make a bare canvas materially present despite looking blank and loaded with apparent silence, as well as the invisible gestures that nonetheless affect the nature and aura of the weave. The blank carte blanche is in fact full of signals and signs, perceived when tuning into other frequencies and dealing with less common currencies, whose quality lies beyond rules of value or expectations of topical interest. Heartbeats have a steady presence, they mark time and are out of time. A heartbeat would never be called timely, or topical: it is vital, it is.
Carte blanche yields trust and surprise in conversations, listening. It is not a topic, it holds ways of hearing in reading that are formed in the disposition to be surprised, interrupted or led astray, as in any conversation that has no purpose other than the fact that it takes place, takes time, and the desire to be there. Composite and yearning, carte blanche is a chimera.
To rebegin. Chimera is a composite, a monstrous creature made of different parts. It is also the object of a yearning deemed unattainable, impossible in theory but real in that sphere named by Henry Corbin imaginal: a present though invisible dimension, disclosed by modes of perception and poetic functions which seek resonance instead of reference, and move by sympathy instead of argument. Chimeric yearning takes what is deemed impossible as a prompt and invites (sometimes provokes) to perceive it differently through imaginal inflections of writing-speaking-reading-thinking that only the space and the rhythms of yearning can make actual: in hearing, in conversations, in csites of gaps and presence, resonance and interference.
Monstrous, entangled, the parts speak to each other, uneven and together in their voices, rhythms, arrhythmias. They exceed written text simply taken as evidence and ignite sonorous readings with thought-material heard beyond words.
Chimera can be plural: it is they and are sometimes we. They, we are many-voiced and charged with what is heard and cannot be held in words yet shapes them. Sometimes we drift.
Chimera, monster, is not afraid of beauty. We linger on the aesthetic encounter, on its importance as depth, as aisthesis: the taking in of the world that scrutinises detail and pays attention, not reassuring but fiery, unsettling, daimonic. The aesthetic encounter interrupts and reminds us of something profound and again, asynchronous and again, together: beauty and monstrosity, ephemerality and presence, Belinda and the rose in the snow, the impossible manifested in a telling.
Chimera breathes fire. Chimeric yearning has the monstrous force of a burning. Chimeric yearning grounds. It is axis mundi, the axis of the world, even when the world collapses and it is necessary to build it once more across reinvented mythologies, psychic knots, symbolic thinking, voices written in remote times heard and told again, sung again.
This year you will read and hear the composite, the yearning, the uneven, beauty, beasts, impossible voices, arrhythmic movements, myths, wild combinations, unruly readings, imaginary conversations. Or, with Roberto Calasso, you will hear not the thing, but the resonance of the thing. With Marguerite Yourcenar, you will read the mysticism of matter that listens to unconscious alphabets. With Roger Caillois, writing of Gérard de Nerval’s Chimeras, you will perceive a subterranean coherence […] based on weavings of concordances […], multiple interferences, parallel correspondences which make perceivable […] the impalpable substance that eludes sign or vocabulary. Not that the enterprise guarantees anything. It is never pure and sometimes it may lead nowhere other than itself, with, with, with. But the yearning that moves it. But the yearning.
Daniela Cascella is an Italian-British writer and editor. Her books articulate tensions and points of contact between the literary and the sonic: Singed. Muted Voice-Transmissions, After The Fire (Equus Press, 2017), F.M.R.L. Footnotes, Mirages, Refrains and Leftovers of Writing Sound (Zer0 Books, 2015), En Abîme: Listening, Reading, Writing. An Archival Fiction (Zer0 Books, 2012), Nothing As We Need It (Punctum Books / Risking Education, forthcoming 2022), Chimeras: A Deranged Essay. An Imaginary Conversation. A Transcelation (Sublunary Editions, forthcoming 2022).
Voices Heard in Reading
Robert Duncan, The H.D. Book, Berkeley, Los Angeles, CA and London: University of California Press, 2011
Alejandra Pizarnik, Extracting the Stone of Madness: Poems 1962–1972, trans. by Yvette Siegert, New York: New Directions, 2016
Isak Dinesen, ‘The Blank Page’, in Last Tales, London: Putnam, 1957
Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in The Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi, trans. by Ralph Manheim, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997 (1958)
–– ‘Mundus Imaginalis or the Imaginary and the Imaginal’, trans. by Ruth Horine, in Spring, 1972, pp. 1-13 (1964)
Roberto Calasso, Literature and the Gods, trans. by Tim Parks, London: Vintage, 2001
Marguerite Yourcenar, ‘Introduction’, in Roger Caillois, The Writing of Stones, trans. by Barbara Bray, Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1985 (1970)
Michel Leiris, ‘The Bullfight as Mirror’, trans. by Ann Smock, October, Vol. 63, Winter 1993, pp. 21-40 https://www.jstor.org/stable/778863 (1938)
Roger Caillois, Nel cuore del fantastico, trans. by Laura Guarino, Milano: Abscondita, 2004 (1965)
Gérard de Nerval, ‘The Chimeras: Golden Lines’, trans. by Robert Duncan, in Aurelia and Other Writings, Boston, MA: Exact Change, 1996 (1854)