The writer-editor, D.C., yearns to speak with Chimera, the symbol that holds her words and arranges—more or less visibly, more or less loosely—the contributions in this project. The symbol speaks back. A trick of the mind? A miracle? Prodigious and artificial, hushed and heard, the conversation takes place. Where it happens—in the reality of a room, or in the room of imaginal perception—it is not our task to find out. Abandon common sense, find another sense, the antenna which allows you to hear Chimera and D.C., and to intercept yearning and monstrosity, the ch – ch – ch (chant, cha-cha, chaconne?) rhythming their chatter.
[From the distance, a bell]
Chimera [raising her eyes from Craig Dworkin’s ‘Chimère’]: This is the chime era, the time of sounding. Can you hear a bell?
D.C.: You chime, don’t you? You confuse me: slippery, contradictory, deceiving. And, let me say it, SO DIFFICULT TO READ. Not only are you a monster: you are a monster’s dream, your constructions diabolic. Made of the stuff of Satan.
Chimera: Did you say Saturn? Surely of late, I have been melancholy. Slow and contemplative, nearly frozen at the edge of sense. And I…
D.C.: I am tired of I. Tell me instead, what is going on with these irregular sounds, that lodge in your name and unfold it?
Chimera: I was just reading this text that curiously carries my name, written by someone who has watched over me for a while, and who became absorbed with dictionary poetics, revealing how the surface of words can manifest many depths, if one is willing to read otherwise—sometimes with a glance as light as a feather and a curl on the lips, sometimes austere, always attentive to what words may emanate as signs, and at once, to what slips across them, moving from one segment to another, and between languages, listening to their noise.
D.C.: You, sonorous monster, ancient and wild, diff….
Chimera: Diffracted? Let’s not linger too long on the difficult to read. People do not even know for sure how to pronounce my name. Instead of wishing for texts like ‘Chimère’ to be read in one fixed way, they should welcome interference and instability; they should want them heard: scramble read into eard, add the h of a breath.
D.C.: H, that Daniel Heller-Roazen called the one letter of the spirit and spirit of every letter, marking a threshold as, quoting Paul Celan’s words, the trace that our breathing leaves in language and whose rhythms are those of the inevitable, if irregular expirations of our own speech.
[Chimera, tellingly, sighs]
D.C.: H, which Hélène Cixous marked as the letter silent in French, fleetingly present in English, holding a passage between two I’s, two identities in two languages which are nevertheless conjoined: a quiet mystery, a site of passage, a ladder.
Chimera: We are digressing. Back to ‘Chimère’, its ceaseless traffics between languages such as French and English as they sound, its attention to the delicate grace of a possible syntax, to the uneven rhythm of a scratched surface.
[ch – ch – ch]
Chimera: More transformations occur in Patrick Farmer’s ‘Humuskind’, between the language of soma and the language of roots, the language of flora and the language of stars, this time, another.
D.C.: Translations, trancelations, transcelations!
Chimera: So is this composite, monstrous language unfolded: from shards and interferences of words that came before, read as heard in their individual tones and in their entanglements with those of others and their worlds. ‘Chacun sa Chimère’, ‘Each their Chimera’, Charles Baudelaire titled one of his Petits Poèmes en prose, loaded with assonant obsessive refractions radiating from the Ch of his own name into a reverberating chain of chacun-chimère-chemin-chardon-charbon-chose-cheminaient.
D.C.: Each, chimera, path, thistle, coal, thing, walk.
Chimera: Aren’t you poetic.
D.C.: Chimère rhymes with Baudelaire, rhymes with mystère.
Chimera: My name is not only a title, it forms a way of assembling words and thoughts. I do not accompany these texts, it is them that yearn for me, and in doing so, they speak to me, then write the most marvellous and unpredictable constructions.
D.C.: Is this writing then? Is it a literature of yearning? Resonance inscribed?
Chimera: Words appear in me, they demand attention. When you unlock my hinges, you will hear nothing but the reverberations of a bell chime and underneath, a fastidious shuffling noise, a laconic, persistent ch – ch – ch.
D.C.: Chimeric Charles! He was briefly but significantly evoked after the end of ‘Humuskind’ in connection to a book where, beyond the blazing walls of the world, seemingly contrasting natures correspond, like spectral hieroglyphs in the obscurity of things. Not perfection of form, but sensibility… To proceed through a multiplicity of levels, signs, images, without any guarantee of the starting point… or the end point. This was La folie Baudelaire. Significantly, the same author called the hieroglyphs of Sir Thomas Browne broken signs to produce ruin, knots to bind, open characters to free and release.
C.: I no longer know who you are quoting from.
D.C.: Because I am csiting in.
C.: Craig, csiting across dictionaries and hearing words slide on the surfaces of language. Patrick, incsiting a persistent yearning to yield, to that point where words become tacit…
D.C.: …urn, taciturn, Urn burial: not a text, but a sumptuous and hollow resonance.
C.: The subtle noise of prose?
D.C.: Is it necessary, as breath? H is the beginning of ‘Humuskind’, threshold where words become tacit, opening into a prose which morphs into the tone of the state of mind it writes in, to the point where it is no longer clear whose voice or form or cadence we are hearing, and can only be entangled. What to do with this prose, again, how to read? You cannot treat its charged vaporous threads as if it was a technical dissertation. Similarly, you cannot read ‘Humuskind’ as if it was…
Chimera: Folie? But… what do you mean? What does such writing do?
D.C.: Remember, I am not here to provide introductions, contextualisation, interpretation. I am here backward, reverberant.
Chimera: A giant switchboard of literature. Sometimes it gets jammed.
D.C.: Like ‘Chimère’, ‘Humuskind’ made me dizzy. Both exist in vortexes of connections, though in different substances—lexical the former, alchemical the latter, one the inner lining of the other. They made me dizzy in reading, vortex-like, offering so many thoughts that had nested in me for some time, although neither named, nor written. You will recognise that unsettling euphoria when reading something and you feel that it is calling you, it has found you out, even though it does not name you.
Chimera: That dizziness is the resonance heard in reading, your distinctive frequency heard beating with others, the way in which a substance elusive and present reverberates, seeps into thinking-feeling, to the point where you no longer know where your words come from, who pronounced and pronounces them. This chimes in me.
D.C.: Weren’t we discussing the surface of words?
Chimera: We were. And it is time to stop your digressions. Remember, depth must be hidden.
Chimera: On the surface.
Daniela Cascella is the editor of A Year of Carte Blanche and Other Chimeras, a new series at MAP. Her books articulate tensions and points of contact between the literary and the sonic: Nothing As We Need It (Punctum Books / Risking Education, forthcoming 2022), Chimeras: A Deranged Essay, An Imaginary Conversation, A Transcelation (Sublunary Editions, forthcoming 2022), 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).
Voices Heard in Reading
Craig Dworkin, ‘Chimère’, MAP Magazine, 26 January 2022
Raymond Klibansky, Erwin Panofsky, Fritz Saxl, Saturno e la melanconia, Torino: Giulio Einaudi Editore, 2002 (1964)
Daniel Heller-Roazen, ‘H & Co.’, in Echolalias: On the Forgetting of Language, New York: Zone Books, 2005
Hélène Cixous, Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing, trans. by Sarah Cornell and Susan Sellers, New York: Columbia University Press, 1993
Patrick Farmer, ‘Humuskind’, MAP Magazine, 27 January 2022
Charles Baudelaire, ‘Chacun sa Chimère’, in Piccoli Poemi in Prosa, Milano: Rizzoli, 1990
Roberto Calasso, La Folie Baudelaire, trans. by Alistair McEwen, London: Penguin, 2013 (2008)
— I geroglifici di Sir Thomas Browne, Milano: Adelphi, 2018 (1965)
Sir Thomas Browne, ‘Hydriotaphia: Urn Burial’, in Religio Medici and Other Writings, London and New York: Dent and Dutton / Everyman’s Library, 1969 (1658)