Susan Howe Talks about her book "Singularities" at KWH, March 2010



before I open it up to questions from the audience have one more question and it takes us out of the libraries into into the Adirondacks I really I loved reading in Thoreau these little passages a verse where you are I'm almost I almost want to say it's a kind of your modernist moment in the William Carlos Williams spring and all everything is fresh and the languages new naked and and all and I and all and I wondered if if if I if we could if you could read a couple of passages so that we can talk about it and let's see it's in singularities the two passages I had in mind were ones that we were crowing about yesterday one is the they wonderful eating nothing but hominy which is on 47 just those lines and the other is the famous the snow is still here har do you mind reading those two okay but I want let me read the first one go ahead um because this one I comedy enough go in the Scout they say they will go near swim ouchie um and then I'll read in here saying though these are all passages from the first section Thoreau you weren't eating nothing Bahamas yes okay great okay um but the one I love it's the first one go on the scout they say they will go near Sioux agachi I have snowshoes and Indian shoes idea of my present not my silence surprise is not so much hurried and tossed about that I have not had time from the fort but the snow falling very deep remained a fortnight to to view the fort and get a scalp domain of transcendental subjectivity etymology the this present in the past now so many thread okay sorry I'm all marked up there but well she's seeing my marching to Lake Superior to view that time the Shanna's and alaways home and I hope passage begun about the middle next to Kittanning eating nothing but harmony scribbling the ineffable see only the tracks of rabbit a mouse nest of grass the snow is still here wood enfield all covered with ice seemed world anew only step as surveyor of the would only step thank you so you know the reason I mentioned this is your modernist moment is this idea of the world anew you know going going to Lake George seeing the kitchen crap and then kitsch and crap and then and then and then having that experience of winter overwhelming experience of winter and then seeing the world anew and and and then finding that spare language well you know how I saw the world anew was I mean there I was in this little cabin by the lake freezing cold why did I come here I'm terrified right and and what would it be right well what and I didn't know I knew the guy who got me there you know to teach in this workshop but I the one thing was a tiny little local library and in the local library it was like a one-room library was these this collection they had you know proudly a bear area of this william johnson who had been an Irishman who had come to New York and become the great sort of interpreter for the Indians in that area and involved in the French and Indian Wars and the great thing and that volume was that they left the old of his of his journals and letters from the war the French and Anu Morris they'd left the old spelling so that the violence that is in the play in the area and I mean because the mystery is why how could Lake George which is so beautiful have such a history of not real violence and then in the end ugliness way but um the the it was my reaction too and so a lot of those words like sue gachi and things like that their place names spelled weirdly it was just like the violence in the landscape came alive in the tiny little library in this not new historicist version right a local version with the old spelling and it's almost as if in one of those passages you're trying to teach yourself to see plainly to see to see only the track of rapid but I but somehow through words the landscape enters through words right I mean literally words have the power to represent what was once what what is gone now in the landscape but it was there somehow I can't know you did it

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