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Swans song, mongoose monsters, snow goat, earplugs, meaty reflexes, carnal conjunctivitis & the doubling of connotation


Dear Internet,                                                                           June 19, 2013

In the early 80s, Swans topped our list as the best live band .. with the exception maybe of Bad Brains. Then, pretty much coinciding with Jarboe joining the band (nothing against her), we stopped paying much attention to them .... but now, since 2010, they have come full circle .. back at the top of their game & then some. Saw them the other night at Warsaw, for the first time since the 80s .. nothing in our experience matches the intensity & sheer force of Swans. Can't find much footage from the show online (despite all the people annoyingly holding their iPhones & cameras in your face), but here's a sort of dance number they did: [xx]

Besides 'The Seer', they played all new material .. how Swans usually roll .... they tour to try out & refine new material before going into the studio .. which apparently they are set to do soon. Here's the setlist from a few weeks ago in Spain .. pretty much the same set we saw.

Strange crowd .. don't think half the people knew what they were in for & backed away once the first chords hit like a freight train, clutching their ears or guts (enabling us to skinny to the front) .. even the fratboys with gelled hair (who were selling earplugs for $5) ran away looking like they were going to puke or poop their pants (seemed the only reason they were there was as a dare). We seemed to be the only ones (besides Gira himself) not wearing earplugs .. can never understand why people wear earplugs to listen to music? Doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

We don't want to use the word 'loudest' because there's more to it than that .. beyond just sheer 'volume' .. unless you think of volume as space .. & sound as meat. Swans is stripped down of any frills .. fills space with pure substance .. where meat is the hook & end product.

Bomarzo sheep

she shepherds in the garden of monsters of Bomarzo

Read Mouth of Hell by María Negroni .. a poetic text sort of based on the novel Bomarzo, by Manuel Mujica Láinez ... which in turn takes its title from a town in Italy where there is some garden of monsters that some hunchback duke, Orsini, created (see photo above). Even after spending almost three years in Rome (Bomarzo is just 68 km north, near Viterbo) we still discover things that we never saw during our time there .... though we are going back in November, so maybe we'll check it out then ....

And we're not familiar with the book Bomarzo, either .. so we went into the experience sort of blind. We read it first in english .. to get the jist of it content-wise .. but since the book is poetry .. about language—essentially a language emanating from the bowels of hell, spoken thru a monstrous mouth—it makes more sense to read it in its original tongue .. which is spanish (as is the novel Bomarzo .. both Láinez & Negroni being Argentinean .. where hopefully we will be going in December).

Language obviously alters your experience of the work .. for starters, take the word hell .. or 'infierno' in spanish. In english, we have a unique word for hell, whereas in spanish (& italian) they only have 'infierno,' which doubles both as hell & an inferno .. so we imagine in spanish, the idea of hell is tethered to notions of it being a hot & fiery place. Similarly for heaven .. they don't have specific words but use paradise ('paradiso' in italian) or sky ('cielo' in spanish). Needless to say, there are also echoes of Dante burping from this monstrous grotto that is La boca del infierno.

Or the word carnal .. in english there are sexual underpinnings to it .. in spanish (& italian) there's probably meaty undertones (since 'carne' is meat) .... & 'carnival' .. while in engilsh seems a festive word .. in spanish literally means a shedding of flesh.

This doubling of connotation is what is usually lost in translation .... take this line for example, first in spanish:

Desde la altura de sus nichos, los hombres catalogan la nada como quien llena las hojas de un árbol ilustre.

.. which in english translates (by the book translator, Michelle Gil-Montero) to:

High in recessed tombs, men classify nothingness, as if scribbling leaves on a mystic tree.

It sounds much better in spanish .. 'hoja' means both 'page' & 'leaf' & with 'mystic', you don't get the luster or luminous quality. Perhaps this sentence would've been better translated as:

From the heights of their niches, men catalog nothingness like those filling pages of an illuminated tree.

Or take the word muñeca .. one of our favorite words in spanish just for the sound of it .. muñeca means both 'puppet' & 'wrist' .. so with this doubling of language, when you think or refer to someone's wrists, the image of puppet comes to mind .. at least in ours.

Another advantage of spanish over english (that we forgot to mention when reading Negro Marfil a few weeks ago) is the use of reflexive verbs. In english, the language gets encumbered with words like itself or themselves, whereas in romance languages this is implicit in verb conjugation. And how much is the self-obsession of anglo society attributed to these subtleties of language rubbing off?

Negroni Mouth of Hell

Anyway, here's a page from Mouth of Hell that sounds good in both languages:

Surrounded by deep night, after hurrying through the earthly day, they falter. Place and date have fallen back quietly. Of their private fictions, nothing remains but an almost-island, the saga of a labyrinth with no outcome. Omen belongs to this funereal rhetoric. And meaning that builds in direct proportion to the incomprehensible. A deaf music falls, circle inside circles. The enamored splinter refuses to surrender.

A passage that also acutely summarizes how we feel about Swans.

We also read Goat in the Snow by Emily Pettit .... we seem to be on a poetry kick lately .. though it's not intentional. Normally we are not crazy about poetry but we like Pettit's stuff, not so 'poetic' & pretentious, but raw & to the point .. odd, yet insightful reportorial narrative .. reminiscent some of James Tate (who is one of a few contemporary 'poets' we can stomach). Interesting language play & juxtaposition of objects & attributes (like 'a field of black telephones ringing' or '100 dishonest chickens') in the form of head-scratching 'how to' hypotheticals. And yes, given our goat fetish, we couldn't resist based on the title alone ....

Goat in the Snow

Goat in the Snow against our shower curtain

Speaking of the doubling of language & Swans:

I myself would not recognize a mongoose,
but I know the word mongoose and I know it refers
to an animal, a mammal. I imagined it to be

Before reading this stanza, we never bothered to stop to wonder what a mongoose has to do with a goose. And are a few mongeese?


What else .. in the real world, Nadal won his 8th on French clay & Heat-Spurs are tied 3-3 .. in the aftermath of Snowden's leak (which dominated our thinking last week) he was fired from Booze Blah Blah .. & his ex-co-worker complained that «we’ll probably have to take three extra ethics training courses because of this douche» .. boo fucking hoo .. it's been raining a lot, but today is nice .. a bunch of people went swimming by in the Hudson one day ..  some Filipino mongrel lost its snout to a motorcycle .. some Colombian poet is trying to sell his testicles for $20,000 to support his book tour .. some girl got into Turkey using her stuffed unicorn's passport & the Turks are still occupying Gezi park .. Vice pulled its photospread of sexy literary suicides (we're convinced it's all calculated to get people to buy the print issue) .. a Nigerian tugboat cook survived the capsizing of his boat by crouching in an air bubble .. some G8 protester tried to throw himself off the roof a building but was stopped last second by 'total policing' .. the likes of Lin & Calloway are getting tons of press, but funny how no one critiques or even mentions their actual writing .. saw Lin at a reading at KGB (to launch Ken Baumann's Soilp which we talked about here) & he was so medicated he couldn't even formulate a complete thought .. the last remaining telegraph service is shutting down .. the U.S. Navy is no longer requiring THE USE OF ALL CAPS IN OFFICIAL COMMUNICATIONS .. looking forward to the new Pynchon novel .. the hot new trend of eyeball licking is causing pinkeye in Japanese pre-teens .. duh .. some woman learned the hard way (after starving herself for 6 weeks) that humans can't photosynthesize .. 'tweet,' 'e-reader' and 'crowdsourcing' officially entered the Oxford lexicon .. 6 squirrels were born fused at the tail in Saskatchewan & a 2-headed cat was born in Amity, Oregon .... what's this world coming to?


Sleepingfish 12 is press-ready, but we're delaying some since we'll be gone most of the next month (in Nepal). We finished final edits for The Becoming .. but will also not send that to printers until later this summer .. made a few more sub-sectional interstitials for it (some scattered throughout this post). Subtracted more than we added in our edits .. the book went from 142 pages to 132 (also despite the addition of a bunch of images).

The river keeps coming & going.

  >> NEXT: Pre-flight notes, al mojo de ajo, or in Equivalents: Crawford, Baran & our brother's ashes

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