[Unrecounted, W.G.Sebald & Jan Peter Tripp (New Directions, 2004) ]
I lent a copy of this book to a cohort member a couple years ago, and I realized how darkly perfect a text it is for the current landscape. There’s no theory I wish to apply or a great philosopher to attach onto this text or reading; it appeared to me again as a certain and all-too familiar phenomenon. Unrecounted, a collaboration of W.G. Sebald’s “micropoems'' and Jan Peter Tripp’s lithographs, perfectly encapsulates living within a pandemic moment: a pair of eyes coupled with a sudden clarity. The translator’s note by Michael Hamburger is similar to most introductory pieces, in that it is made mostly of anecdotes, names, dates, and the tribulations of publishing a collaborative text. It does however, include those lovelier details that experimental writers find so exquisite; inner turmoil hinted in the exchange of letters and journal corners, the budding of a once-thought dead fruit tree, the author’s practice of carrying around a book of haikus in his travels. The archival footage can rarely be outdone in the writing world.
Certainly, this small ritualistic book is a comfort, in these days of searching for familiar faces in a sea of scarves and masks and plastic shielding. There are the eyes of the two authors, of other prominent historical figures, of someone’s dog. I know of people who, just to make tense workplace interactions feel more human, have started intentionally raising their eyebrows or squinting to make themselves seem more emotive. Maintaining our daily patterns is the heaviest anchor to bear.
So I think of writers-turned-photographers and vice versa, who are not “just” documenting but need to look like they are “just” taking a picture of Woolf’s bed, of the band at the regular venue before a couple’s cross country drive. Because it is never “just” any of those things. Projection and detachment have never been more significant. And of course; as I flip through the book for a passage, I land on the painted stare of a countess by Ingres (43), which naturally reminds me of Portrait of a Lady on Fire, (the film I mentioned in my promotional video for my workshop, it being the last movie I saw in a theater) doesn’t it just.
her eyelids still
she says she has dreamed
of a carpet
all in shreds, in tatters”
Though finding connections across mediums and realities is where I most often find solace, these days I’m usually left laughing in disbelief. Discovery when I am cramped, cold, and marooned in the northeast is about as great a gift as I can muster. If you don’t already, I sincerely hope you start carrying one small book around with you or leave underneath your pillow. You might find a line like this, to leave on a park bench or receipt, like I even might.
about the author:
Drew Dean (MFA) is an experimental poet and cinephile who suspends his disbelief as often as he can, or in Barabara Dilley’s words: “Let a soft gaze roam around in the space without naming.” In both his work and instruction, he seeks out the obscure, the double-takes, and the dialogues within. He wears a specific sweater for cloud-gazing.
I write to you today from the town that raised me. A town of dirt fields, distant snow-capped mountain ranges, and vast altars built to the gods of petrol. The town where generations of my family have chosen to live and die. I broke this pattern long ago, deciding to build life in different places around the world. And now the place and partner I call home are thousands of miles from this valley, this city, built on Tübatulabal and Yokut land.
And each time I arrive here, I am simultaneously settled and overwhelmed. As grateful as I am for the home I’ve built at the base of mountains far away from here, I am equally filled with guilt for choosing a life that takes me away from those who love me most. Imbued with fear at the fact that, each time I return, everyone is a little older, including myself. Overflowing with appreciation for the moments I do get to share with my family, under the quiet hum of a radio playing old country songs.
It’s an ache I know many of you are also familiar with; those of us that have chosen to wander to uproot; those of us that have chosen to live life outside of the status quo. And it’s an ache that this week’s astrology, paired with tomorrow’s Imbolc celebration, is holding up to the light.
Last Thursday’s full moon in Leo asked us to look at the ways we strive and thrive as individuals. Leos are the cardinal fire sign and are very good at creative action. And though they are intensely loyal and loving creatures, they aren’t always comfortable with blending into the background or working behind the scenes. This full Leo moon asked us to contemplate on, and decipher, our true desires and our inflated egos.
What needs are really speaking when you roar for attention?
The Leo moon’s individualism reverberates in Aquarius season, a fixed air sign that is deeply concerned with the collective. Aquarius is the philosopher and the humanitarian, often asking us to put our own needs aside for the greater good. Needless to say, this can cause some serious tension between what I want and what I should do for others. Pair this dilemma with this week’s Mercury Retrograde, and it can feel debilitating. Café Astrology explains further:
The Leo-Aquarius polarity deals with the balance between all that is personal (Leo) and all that is impersonal (Aquarius). The energy of the Leo Moon is creative self-expression and the boost to the individual ego that we receive through pleasure and romance, while the Aquarius Sun rules the group, more impersonal friendships, and objectivity. This Full Moon urges us to strike a balance between romance and friendship, and between expressing ourselves in personal and impersonal ways.
Thankfully, Imbolc arrives tomorrow, offering some rays of sunshine on the emotional mistiness and tension of this moon. Imbolc is an ancient Celtic holiday celebrating the Goddess of Poets, Brigid, as well as the mid-point of winter and the first sightings of spring life. It has been translated from old Irish to mean “in the belly.” Traditionally, Imbolc is a time when we lift ourselves out of the deep inner/spiritual hibernation we created in the winter. As The Seasonal Soul writes:
Like the groundhog that makes headlines this time of year, we’re also beginning to poke our heads out from our own inner worlds. This is the time to begin to bring your own inner work, those dreams & changes you’ve been dreaming about, out into the world.
What a beautiful message to receive, in the midst of all this chaos, in the midst of the splitting—between families we have and the ones we create, between wants and duties, between desires and responsibilities. What an incredible gift to remember that, like poetry, we can communicate our passion in new ways. We can learn structures in order to break them. We can share the deepest parts of ourselves while still keeping boundaries. And most importantly, we can pursue what fills us, what feeds us like the mighty lion, while still being connected to the community in Aquarian love.
Because is poetry not love?
Is spring not poetry?
And do you not feel love in the warmth of the sun?
This Imbolc, create space for yourself to let the old ways die. Old tools for control, like guilt and shame. Communicate honestly with yourself about how you can show up, not just for others, but for yourself. And then prioritize it. If Leo teaches us anything, it’s that we are worth it, and if Aquarius teaches us anything, it’s that we are in this together.
Tarot reading | The Sun
[ Mary El Tarot ]
One of Leo’s tarot cards, the Sun speaks to awakening and wisdom. As Rachel Pollack writes:
The spring sun brings forth life out of the dead winter ground. In many places, it was believed that the sun impregnates not only the soil, but all women…The sunstruck person sees everything, each person, each animal, all the plants and rocks, even the very air, alive, and holy, united through the light that fills all existence.
Pollack goes on to explain that, while we perceive this unification in Trump 19, it isn’t until we reach The World in Trump 21 that it is truly embodied. I believe this card appears for us today, in this Imbolc offering, to tell us to not only open our eyes to the opportunities and passions being presented (Leo energy), but to go deep “in the belly,” into our deep sacred feminine, and create ways to truly embody this wisdom in the world (Aquarian energy).
What is waiting there, in your gut? What light shines there? How can you let it roar? How can you help others find their call?
I roar with you, dear ones, now and forever.
Bibliomancy | Pages 18-19 from Shifting the Silence by Etel Adnan
We’re witnessing the last days of this civilization as we know it. Through the glass panels of the apartment I observe the ocean. Then something stirs. Things appear, we say, transcending themselves. You call it Being, you call it this wave. It could be people, too.
I didn’t sleep last night. Right now the ocean is a flat metallic sheet running from east to west. The reverberation hurts my eyes, but I am happy.
Days go by, but bring surprises. Friends come, and they’re messengers, birds of good omen. They lift the sky, and we need it. I do my best to walk by this edge of the town, by the tide. One step at a time. One hour goes by after another. Then the sun launches new rays.
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