Tags: poetry

cass, can you not

The City of Dreadful Night (James Thomson, 1874)

One of the most Thomas Ligotti things I've ever read, and that's counting Ligotti's actual writings. Based on London, but you fear (and know) it's the other way around. It merits reading in full: longish narrative poems aren't a format I usually enjoy, but some of the scenes read like versified versions of shorts written by a nearly suicidal Borges during a bad opium dream.

All in all, one of the best (and therefore worst) semi-allegorical-but-not-really depictions of depression I know of.

Project Gutenberg version
cass, can you not

To my taste, Eliot is a poet of impossibly perfect phrases embedded in forgettable poems

Although sometimes, e.g. in The Hollow Men, the poem is short enough to be practically built up on those phrases. And, alright, Four Quartets isn't a short poem by any means, yet most of it reads as elegantly unfolded haikus. But you know what I mean.

Anyway, here's in one from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
of insidious intent.

"Tedious argument of insidious intent" is one of those phrases that, by precisely describing something, defines in your mind a new concept that slightly changes how you perceive the world; it gives a label to something, and hence (subjectively speaking) creates something new. That's the magic trick of poetry, mathematics, and pretty much all conceptual work in science.
cass, can you not

The common experience of post-disaster civil engineering

I think I will learn some beautiful language, useless for commercial
Purposes, work hard at that.
I think I will learn the Latin name of every songbird, not only in
America but wherever they sing.
(Shun meditation, though; invite the controversial:
Is the world flat? Do bats eat cats?) By digging hard I might
deflect that river, my mind, that uncontrollable thing,
Turgid and yellow, strong to overflow its banks in spring,
carrying away bridges
A bed of pebbles now, through which there trickles one clear
narrow stream, following a course henceforth nefast—

Dig, dig; and if I come to ledges, blast.

Intention To Escape From Him,
Edna St. Vincent Millay
cass, can you not

Well, of course.

Paradise Lost, Book ii, line 666 (where else?). Behold Death.

[...] The other shape,
If shape it might be call'd that shape had none
Distinguishable in member, joynt, or limb,
Or substance might be call'd that shadow seem'd,
For each seem'd either; black it stood as Night,
Fierce as ten Furies, terrible as Hell,
And shook a dreadful Dart; what seem'd his head
The likeness of a Kingly Crown had on.

Appropriately Lovecraftian, I'd say. But note that Satan (so call him now, his former name is heard no more in Heav'n) was, to say the least, unimpressed.
cass, can you not

Some fragments from Rilke's Duino Elegies

(Admittedly, probably more representative of my own preferences than of their overall tone.)

And if I cried, who'd listen to me in those angelic
orders? Even if one of them suddenly held me
to his heart, I'd vanish in his overwhelming
presence. Because beauty's nothing
but the start of terror we can hardly bear,
and we adore it because of the serene scom
it could kill us with. Every angel's terrifying.
[First Elegy]

And the night, oh the night when the wind
full of outer space gnaws at our faces;
[First Elegy]

Like dew on new grass,
like heat from a steaming dish, everything we are rises
away from us. 0 smile, where are you going?
o upturned look: new, wann, the heart's receding wave-
it hurts me, but that's what we are. Does the cosmic
space we dissolve into taste of us, then? Do angels
really absorb only what poured out of them,
or sometimes, as if by mistake, is there a trace
of us, too? Do the contours of their features bear
as much of us as that vague look on a pregnant woman's
face? Unnoticed by them in their whirling back
into themselves. (Why should they notice.)
[Second Elegy]

Everything conspires to ignore us, half out of shame,
perhaps, half out of some speechless hope.
[Second Elegy]

Free from death,
we only see it; the free animal
always has its destruction behind
and god ahead, and when it moves,
it moves toward eternity like running springs.

Not for a single day, no, never have we had
that pure space ahead of us, in which flowers
endlessly open. It is always World
and never Nowhere without No:
that pure, unguarded space we breathe,
always know, and never crave. As a child,
one may lose himself in silence and be
shaken out of it. Or one dies and is it.
Once near death, one can't see death anymore
and stares out, maybe with the wide eyes of animals.
[Eight Elegy]
cass, can you not

Sometimes I wonder if physicists just sit and stare at what they just wrote

Physicists these days: Let's try to build computers encoding information in a Platonic non-local space built out of events that could've happened but we don't know if they did.

No, really:

If there are N distinct fusion channels in the presence of a pair of particles, the system exhibits N-fold
degeneracy spanned by these states. We refer to this non-local space shared by the non-Abelian
anyons, regardless of where they are located, as the fusion space. Under the assumption that all
microscopics of the system giving rise to the anyons are decoupled from the low-energy physics, the
states in the fusion space are perfectly degenerate. As it is a collective non-local property of the
anyons, no local perturbation can act on it and it is hence a decoherence-free subspace. As such it is
an ideal place to non-locally encode quantum information. We stress that the fusion space arises from
the distinct ways anyons can be fused over how they are fused. If two anyons are actually fused and the
outcome of the fusion is detected, this would correspond to performing a projective measurement in the
fusion space

"Introduction to Topological Quantum Computation"

Leveraging the stories you can tell about the particles in your system as a computational substrate built out of nothing but mathematics and a delicately engineered suspension of both belief and disbelief is something people are working towards building primitive prototypes of, right now, as I type this.

What an absurdly beautiful universe.
jamie moriarty

An Emily Dickinson poem

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My Mind was going numb –

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race
Wrecked, solitary, here –

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –

The language is of course Dickinson's, but take it literally, make it much wordier and overwrought, and you could have a typical tale from Poe. The Hammer horror film practically shoots itself.

(It's more interesting as psychology — Dickinson's descriptions of grief, e.g. After great pain, a formal feeling comes, are perhaps the most perceptive, not to mention beautiful, I've read — but, being a shallow person, I also enjoyed the literal imagery, particularly what would be a baffling but visually impressive ending to the movie.)
cass, can you not

A funny quote, and a terrifying one

From The Royal Hunt in Eurasian History, on the training of cheetahs for hunting. After finding the prey, they unleash the cheetah (very funny fact: the cheetah rode on the same horse as his handler, sitting on the back) and set their

head toward the Prey; if he sees it, he gives a shriek, leaps down, falls on the Beast, and pulls it down; if he missed it he is commonly discouraged, and stops; the Master goes to him, comforts him, makes much of him, and tells him it is not his Fault, and that he had not been set directly before the Beast. They say he [the cat] understands that Excuse, and is satisfied with it.

Anybody who ever owned a cat will recognize the situation.

And from Eliot's The Dry Salvages:

The bone's prayer to Death its God. Only the hardly, barely prayable
Prayer of the one Annunciation.

As usual, Eliot's theology is terrifying (and insane for any self-professed Catholic). Death its God is bleak in a relatively naive way, but Prayer of the one Annunciation in that context is starkly existentialist, even and more so because it's not secular.

The more I reread Four Quartets, the more interesting I find it.