Some Leyendecker for Labor Day
Dear Mr Rae,I am writing to you as a concerned voter who lives in Toronto Centre. I read with dismay the news that the Federal Government has taken the position in Court that marriages of foreign nationals performed in Canada are invalid within Canada if they are not recognized in the country of residence of those foreign nationals. Also, apparently, Mr Harper's government also refuses to recognize foreign, marriage-equivalent partnerships, such as the British civil unions, making long-term, legally partnered couples legal strangers once they arrive within our borders as residents, students or tourists.These attacks on LGBTQ rights must be seen for what they are, and countered by the strongest, clearest messages by those legislators who, as you do, believe in equality. Whether or not Mr Harper and his caucus acknowledge a concerted effort on the part of their government to disenfranchise queer voters, the facts of their actions are what must be countered. The Conservatives have indicated that they may take steps to clarify existing laws in order to prevent ambiguities in the future. As my voice in Parliament, I ask that you speak in favour of the most inclusive resolutions possible. Queers all around the world, including in the United States, live under regimes that, like Canada before 2005, deny their citizens marriage equality. It is not acceptable to me as a Canadian voter that the bigotry of legislators in Florida, Uganda, or elsewhere effects the ability of Canadians to treat people equally within our own borders.Please write to me at your earliest convenience to let me know how you will be addressing this issue in Parliament.Thank you for your work.Sincerely,Andrew
"Epic, lyric and dramatic poetry succeed each other in our handbooks and our minds in easy and canonical fashion. Lyric poetry asks no explanation, or finds it instantly in our common human egotism. But we are apt to forget that from the epos, the narrative, to the drama, the enactment, is a momentous step, one, so far as we know, not taken in Greece till after centuries of epic achievement, and then taken suddenly, almost in the dark, and irrevocably. All we really know of this momentous step is that it was taken some time in the sixth century B.C. and taken in connection with the worship of Dionysos. Surely it is at least possible that the real impulse to the drama lay not wholly in 'goat-songs' and 'circular dancing places' but also in the cardinal, the essentially dramatic, conviction of the religion of Dionysos, that the worshipper can not only worship, but can become, can be, his god. Athene and Zeus and Poseidon have no drama because no one, in his wildest moments, believed he could become and be Athene or Zeus or Poseidon. It is indeed only in the orgiastic religions that these splendid moments of conviction could come, and, for Greece at least, only in an orgiastic religion did the drama take its rise."
"On the altar of his Unknown God through all the ages man pathetically offers the holocaust of his reason."
Dear Premier McGuinty,
I am an Ontarian voter who lives in the riding of Toronto Centre. I am writing to you about the bill your government introduced this week to combat bullying in Ontario schools.
I appreciate that your government is attempting to address serious issues facing LGBTQ students in Ontario. I am disappointed, though, that your bill would continue to allow publicly funded schools to censor the names of groups that would support these students.
Visibility has historically been and continues to be central to the politics of sexual minorities. To pretend to support queer students in our publicly funded schools while continuing to allow the prohibition of the language by which these students identify is not acceptable to me as a citizen, a taxpayer, and a queer voter. I urge you to consider the fact that language can be an important vehicle of identity.
It is the responsibility of all of us to ensure the safety and well-being of the young people in our communities. I do not think this can be accomplished by erasing or eliding identities, nor by addressing issues of self esteem and bullying obliquely. Please work to enfranchise queer Ontario students in all of our publicly funded schools.
Thank you for your work,
Gracious son of Pan! Around your face crowned with florets and berries your eyes, precious bowls, flicker. Stained with brown lees, your cheeks strain. Your teeth glisten. Your chest seems a cithara, tinklings circling in your blond arms. Your heart beats in this hollow where sleeps the double sex. Go walking, in the night, moving slowly this thigh, this second thigh, and this left leg.
-Arthur Rimbaud: 'Antique' from Les Illuminations, published 1874, translated by Andrew Woodrow Butcher
From my final years of high school until well past my first sally at university, French modernism - literary and musical, mostly - was an obsession of mine. Surrealism, Dada, and other Parisian ridiculousnesses between the Wars were of course appealing, but I was also really into the art from the preceding several decades: Baudelaire, Debussy, Maeterlinck, Satie.
These interests have receded over the past five years, and have been replaced by a voracious (if slapdash) study of myth and antiquity, particularly all things Dionysian. I found myself writing a poem this week that had at its conclusion a Dionysian procession, complete with satyrs and Silenoi. But as I worked on that poem I saw that I was drawing heavily on Rimbaud, particularly on his Illuminations, which I would have first read in 1996 or thereabouts. And so I went back to some of those poems this week for the first time in a few years: interests circling back on interests!
Hence tonight's quick translation of 'Antique': a great poem on its own, and lovely also as set by Benjamin Britten and sung by Karina Gauvin with Les Violons du Roy below!
Every product of disgust, susceptible to becoming a negation of family, is dada; protestations with the fists of your whole being in destructive action: DADA; knowledge of all the means, rejected up to now by the chaste sex of comfy compromise and politeness: DADA; abolition of logic, dance of creation’s powerless: DADA; from every hierarchy and social equation installed for values by our valets: DADA; each object, all the objects, the sentiments and the obscurities, the apparitions and the precise shock of parallel lines, are means of combat: DADA; abolition of memory: DADA; abolition of archeology: DADA; abolition of the prophets: DADA; abolition of the future: DADA; absolute undiscussable belief in each god produced immediately out of spontaneity: DADA; elegant unprejudiced leap from one harmony to the other sphere; trajectory of a word thrown like a sound-disc-cry; respecting all individualities in their madness of the moment: serious, fearful, timid, ardent, vigorous, determined, enthusiastic; stripping your church of every accessory useless and heavy; spitting out like a luminous cascade the disobliging or amorous thought, or cherishing it – with the live satisfaction that it’s all the same either way – with the same intensity in the bush, free of insects for the well born blood, and gilded with the bodies of archangels, with your soul.
: DADA DADA DADA, howls of tense sorrows, interlacing of contraries, and of all the contradictions, of grotesques, of inconsequents: LIFE. Liberty
-Tristan Tzara: 'Dadaist Disgust', excerpted from Sept Manifestes Dada, published 1918, translated by Andrew Woodrow Butcher
In the 90s I was really interested in Surrealism and all its related movements, but at that time my main concern was Surrealism as an anti-rationalist worldview, and an aesthetic theory. This week, though, I read Aimé Césaire's Discourse on Colonialism. Césaire was a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and a Surrealist. Reading his political writing really brought to the fore for me the international socialist bent of Surrealism. I knew that Breton and his crowd were devout communists, but this was the first time I'd bothered to read anything purely political written by a declar
Césaire expresses confidence in the idea of the State, and hopes that Civilization can be put on course to enfranchise all peoples, both colonizers and colonized. I'm not personally convinced of this. What's more, Césaire disparages Silenus in the course of his argument, which doesn't sit well with me.
Which got me thinking about the politics of Dionysianism, and the politics of Dada. Both Dada and Surrealism looked back to Rimbaud and his "déreglement de tous les sens" for inspiration, but only one of them - Dadaism - seems to have understood this project as Dionysian. Not that the Surrealists were square - their art & letters are up for a good time for sure - but they seem to have been thoroughly Statist when pressed to talk about politics.
And so, from Césaire to Tzara. I got to wondering if the Dadaists - so similar in some ways to the Surrealists - were so Statist. Would they have disparaged Silenus? Were they pro-Civilization, or were they looking to break it down?
I haven't begun to answer my questions on this matter, but I checked out some Tristan Tzara - in many ways the founding voice of Dada - from the library, and I'll let you know. In the meanwhile, I ended up translating the above passage; I hope you enjoy it.
Greek writers of the fifth century B.C. have a way of speaking of, an attitude towards, religion, as though it were wholly a thing of joyful confidence, a friendly fellowship with the gods, whose service is but a high festival for man. In Homer sacrifice is but, as it were, the signal for a banquet of abundant roast flesh and sweet wine; we hear nothing of fasting, of cleansing, and atonement. This we might perhaps explain as part of the general splendid unreality of the heroic saga, but sober historians of the fifth century B.C. express the same spirit. Thucydides is assuredly by nature no reveller, yet religion is to him in the main 'a rest from toil.' He makes Pericles say: 'Moreover we have provided for our spirit very many opportunities of recreation, by the celebration of games and sacrifices throughout the year.'
"The climate of Shivaite and Dionysiac life is not purely ritual. It is a seeking after joy and pleasure, and the self-realization of the individual. Wine and other intoxicating drinks are a part of this joy of living, which is one of the basic goals of all kinds of existence, since happiness (ananda) is the nature of the divine state itself. Everything which is pleasure and joy draws us nearer to God. All Dionysiac or Shivaite festivals are an explosion of happiness. Physical drunkenness, like eroticism, is an image of, and often a preparation for, mystical drunkenness."