Intimate Spaces, Homes, Other Thoughts

by Viktor Pivovarov

W.C. Williams: “Though the eye / turns inward, the mind / has spread its embrace—in / a wind that / roughs the stiff petals—”

Dreaming. Daydreaming. Obscurity: My mind often harmoniously quakes at the thought of disappearing, re-appearing, in our own “intimate spaces” “the cosmos” of our physical spaces, the most intimate comfort zones like a house, an apartment; one’s “home.” I think that my photography has a comfort zone of its own, beyond the “audience” “viewer” “voyeur” “escapist” &c. It isn’t necessary for anyone to “understand” my photographs, as long as they are understood by me. (The same can be said for Poetics.) “Meaning” often gets lost amidst the “Act.” Should one attempt to Understand something solely by imagining that one has created it? The reader, as Wallace Stevens once framed, always reads poetry with one’s nerves. How correct he was to state that reading a poem should be an experience, like experiencing an act. Photography can be echoed in the same light. This brings me to the idea of how certain people only go places when something is on one’s mind, but in truth, “we” (the individual) are always at “some place,” whether physically or psychologically, and the daydreamer has no choice. I wrote a poem that is similar; the past, present, future (or the possibility of imagining the future, leaving it open for questioning) that (abstract or not) is a memory where I still ‘reside’ at in my mind, that goes like this:
Your face boiled
like a bright diamond
when we parted
with innocent weeping;
the glow, flaming
to a zenith.

Behind our heads,
each our own golden sky,
as strong as naked rejoicing.

You & I,
the glass of the window;
our Past,
once a sweet & gentle vision
that became our Future,
terrible & invisible,
wolves of our own domains.

And so, between us,
what we all relate:
The Villain of Parting,
nearly unearthly, on one leg
it limped,
do you not remember?

The physical appearance of an Imagination would be either catastrophic or enchanting.

Poems evoke various associations, hence reading a memory. Letters, words, sentences: the invisible spaces upon a page? Our “souls” and “spirits” are invisible. ‘We’ essentially live in a “shell,” which is our Body, which in essence is our “house.” Mary Oliver says that whatever a house is to the heart and a body of man—refuge, comfort, luxury—surely it is as much or more to the spirit. She concludes, “Think how often our dreams take place inside the houses of our imaginations!” The Physical, our bodies, are the only ‘truths’ of our existence to other human beings. The spirit, which is The Real Person, is invisible (the physical being temporal and the unseen being invisible). In the Hebrew, “house” בַּיִת refers to both the “dwelling habitation,” “shelter or abode of animals,” or an “abode of light and darkness” translates as what we refer to in a Physical sense. The same term, however, applied figuratively as “bodies,” and metaphorically as “inwards” (Inward Dwelling of the Holy Spirit). In Matthew 12:25, Jesus Christ said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or HOUSE divided against itself shall not stand…” If, as Mary Oliver says, our dreams take place inside the houses (more than one, in her view) of our imaginations, then if we, The Real Person (the spirit/soul) lives inside of our “house” (Body), then we, as Invisible Eternal creations, have houses within a house, which could therefore be consolidated down to “rooms.” Each room, our imaginations and memories exist; a combination like that of gail-force winds within the psyche’, dispersed as “floods of thought.” I sit and ‘probe’ the depths of my mind, “going in” as deeply as possible, yet what, if anything, brings forth the first memory that I ‘see’ and recall? The memory, as ungovernable, existing in its own fury. How poised, at times, is the Mind!

Jung used a multi-storied house as an analogy for the human psyche: “We have to describe and to explain a building, the upper story of which was erected in the nineteenth century; the ground-floor dates from the sixteenth century, and a careful examination of the masonry discloses the fact that it was reconstructed from a dwelling-tower of the eleventh century. In the cellar we discover Roman foundation walls, and under the cellar a filled-in cave, in the floor of which stone tools are found and remnants of glacial fauna in the layers below. That would be a sort of picture of our mental structure.” As Alton Conley notes: “Painted with a broad brush, this image opens our imagination to both the complexities of the human mind and the potentially rich associations of houses.”

In another essay Jung credits a dream, containing an image of a house, with one of his important psychoanalytic discoveries: “One [dream] in particular was important to me, for it led me for the first time to the concept of the collective unconscious . . . This was the dream. I was in a house I did not know, which had two stories. It was my house.” Our houses, in the physical sense, are as Conley again notes, “the protected environments that we dream in, and through our dreams find evidence of ourselves.” Bachelard said that “all really inhabited space bears the essence of the notion of home,” where the imagination “comfort[s] itself with the illusion of protection.”

In another section from Bachelard’s Poetics of Space, this is a perfect example of my own emotions/thoughts about former childhood homes:

“If we have retained an element of dream in our memories, if we have gone beyond merely assembling exact recollections, bit by bit the house that was lost in the mists of time will appear from out the shadow. We do nothing to reorganize it; with intimacy it recovers its entity, in the mellowness and imprecision of the inner life. It is as though something fluid had collected our memories and we ourselves were dissolved in this fluid of the past. Rilke, who experienced this intimacy of fusion, speaks of the fusion of being with the lost house: ‘I never saw this strange dwelling again. Indeed, as I see it now, the way it appeared to my child's eye, it is not a building, but is quite dissolved and distributed inside me: here one room, there another, and here a bit of corridor which, however, does not connect the two rooms, but is conserved in me in fragmentary form. Thus the whole thing is scattered about inside me, the rooms, the stairs that descended with such ceremonious slowness, others, narrow cages that mounted in a spiral movement, in the darkness of which we advanced like the blood in our veins.’”

The Body σμα (“soma”), again, is our “house” that we, as spirit beings, live in. The Physical. In Matthew 6:22, Christ says, “The light of the BODY is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” The eye-gates are important in what we ‘let in’ our bodies, which gets down into the spirit, which produces fruits, depending on what one has allowed to enter one’s eye-gates. The ear-gate has the same effect. Edmond Jabes once said that, at times, an individual is reduced to the ear and the eye, like one sitting in a theater watching a film. Or, “Through the ear, we shall enter the invisibility of things.” In a rebuttal, I say that the individual cannot be reduced to the ear and the eye, if one understands that The Real Person is living inside of a body (“house”), therefore to “reduce” an Individual would be to reduce Creation, which therefore would reduce God, the Ultimate Maestro.


Barthes: “I may know better a photograph I remember, than a photograph I am looking at, as if direct vision oriented its language wrongly, engaging it in an effort of description which will always miss its point of effect, the punctum. Ultimately—or at the limit—in order to see a photograph well, it is best to look away or close your eyes. 'The necessary condition for an image is sight,' Janouch told Kafka; and Kafka smiled and replied: 'We photograph things in order to drive them out of our minds. My stories are a way of shutting my eyes.'”

I think that the photographer should have a brain in each eye.

 Deserving looks:


I heard the sleet outside of the window, and then a poem came:

Sleet falling, ticking
like a clock
on the crispy leaves.

Jean Echenoz: “A bird goes by . . . I follow it. This enables me to go wherever I like in the narrative.”

In a dream, the front door was rotting away (metamorphing/slowly disappearing?). The bottom half was all but gone, save for a few soft spots that clung by a thread. The door was large and had “insides.” I was looking through the door and could see the outside. I felt very worried. Thoughts of locking the door at night came rapidly. Even though the door would be locked at night, someone could easily reach upward and unlock the door, or easily break through and enter. I stood in front of the door, gazing at the door for a long period of time; many thoughts rushing through my head. Worried thoughts. The light on the outside was bright. I thought to myself that the door needed to be replaced. As I looked closer, I noticed that on the inside of the door at the bottom, there were many books perfectly placed, side-by-side, in similar fashion as they would be positioned on a shelf in a library.

In another dream, I was standing in a murderously bright white hospital, a fusillade of blinking whiteness, and in a specific room was an unspecified 3,000 year-old man, on his “death bed,” the final furrow. I was hovering around the room, as if like a guardian angel, floating/walking around the room and all about the hallways and spaces of the hospital, but all with no individuality of movement.


The eye/s in our dreams are like retinal circuses. Always the feeling of pre-sensations, pre-awareness, pre-knowingness--being told what is and what isn’t before coming to a conclusion, but running into them, truths, contradictions, a circular horizon, a feeling of unfeeling, but beyond feeling. The metaphor that “the body doesn’t do what the mind tells it to do” (this reference, often to an ageing body) is often what occurs in a dream, and at times vice-versa.

by Viktor Pivovarov


Senses and Nerve-endings

Victor Oliva, The Absinthe Drinker, 1890, Cafe' Slavia in Prague

Nothing to say, or avoiding inaccuracy? —Brancusi: “I am far from myself, I am no longer a part of my own person. I am within the essence of things themselves” —is what I think that some people think that I am thinking when Silence beats to its own drum, rather than beating around the bush, as if Silence took its little coins and left. Loyalty. My friend, L.M., says that I am quite the Loyalist, perhaps one of the most loyal persons he has ever known, and for this I am very thankful. Some subjects are too rosy to overlook, words just slipping out, but often times as deceiving as Appearance. Silence: an apple-core for your thoughts? And...?

Gass: “‘And’ is produced initially with an open mouth, the breath flowing out, but then that breath is driven up against the roof, toward the nose, even invading it before the sound is stoppered by the tongue against the teeth.” 

Pondering the Whiteness of a Wall, I think then of someone coming along and painting the wall, and then that bright white wall feels disguised; now, a mask of color, a masquerade of emptiness inside the mask with air-holes to breathe through, save for those that have been termite-inated, all within the inner ear of the wall. And the heartbeat of a home? Those that reside within the walls or the walls themselves? Technically speaking, the walls. Sentimentally, or perhaps living within walls of a home and keeping it alive takes at least one human being? An apartment has many hearts; the connection is like that of a gathering of nerves, a consistent beating (a lack of privacy?).  The Old goes on, without invention, indeed, the same heartbeat being carved by naturesque enveloping or the whiteness of walls. The whiteness of walls not strong enough to hold color? yet strong enough to weaken families?

Philip Whalen:  “A poem is a picture or graph of the mind moving” or: “A continuous fabric (nerve movie?) exactly as wide as these lines”

I often feel shrouded in a mutilated layer of shadows, like undiscovered speech traveling through a drain-pipe. It sounds brutal, but the so-called “best parts” are hardly considered. WINTER, why are you not sporting what you regularly attract? Unseasonably mild winter, as if saying, “So long,” but it's all in the teaser, in the drain-pipe? (being silent is an active verb), and soon, how I long for a colder-than-normal winter season, where a sky and snow are all aglow in a self-generated winter light like some astral body, immobile in the broad scope of the gaping universe. Swoon of snow appearing like dreams behind the eyelids, maneuvers, sweepers appearing, frozen: inside and out; frosted glass in access parading across the visuals, across the brain, dazzling with its chilled vibrancy.

From THE FIFTH NEED OF A MAN, writes J.R. Platt (written in 1960):

The needs of man, if life is to survive, are usually said to be four: air, water, food, and, in the severe climates, protection. But it is becoming clear today that the human organism has another absolute necessity. It is one that has not been emphasized in the past, for we have not often been entirely deprived of it or compelled to appreciate the subtle and numerous ways in which it contributes to our well-being. This fifth need is the need for noveltythe need, throughout our waking life, for continuous variety in the external stimulation of our eyes, ears, organs, and all our nervous network. 
In a general way it has always been known that men need change. Put a man in a box and he goes crazy. But recent laboratory experiments on sensory deprivation has nevertheless been rather startling in their revelation of just how this happens.
Volunteers with softly bandaged heads and hands were put in isolation rooms or were floated in warm swimming pools were they could touch nothing and could only see dimness and hear only a low hum. It was not a vacation, as some might think! The men used for the experiments found they lost the sense of time, could not remember things or concentrate, had wild hallucinations, and finally, could never add or subtract. These were healthy, normal men, comfortable, and with no alcohol or drugs, yet they saw little yellow demons marching across the desert carrying enormous sacks. If the loudspeaker in the room finally asked a question or made a statement, it was the happiest of sounds. Yes, of course, two and two make seven, if the loudspeaker thought so. There was deeper truth in that, touching all philosophy.
After a few days of this every one of the man came staggering out, having thought about nothing they had planned to think about, unable to answer simple questions, and refusing to go back at any price. Stir crazy. And four hours after the bandages were removed, the walls seemed to weave in and out. Dreams were strange and it was days before perception and problem-solving returned to normal.
These experiments seem to prove, if proof is needed, that our bodies are not made to operate in a vacuum. Our brains organize, and exist in order to organize, a great variety of incoming sensory messages every waking second, and can become not only emotionally upset but seriously deranged if these messages cease or even if they cease to be new. The fifth need of man is the need for what can be called--in a mathematical sense“information,” for a continuous, novel, unpredictable, nonredundant, and surprising flow of stimuli. I do not mean just a series of flickering lights or a madmans chatter. This might be infinitely surprising but it would not interest us for long. Our sense impressions obviously must be organized into meaningful patterns if they are to bring us much information. But the most important pattern of all is the pattern of change.
In many ways the demand for novelty is like the demand for food. There can be a level of starvation and a level of gluttony. At the jail level, men wolf down their bread or soup, but they sometimes sacrifice even a little of that for a glimpse of the sky or a crumb of gossip. At higher and more normal levels of information flow, the need is relaxed and we can afford discrimination and rich creative enjoyment, becoming gourmets of mental fare. It is no accident that we speak of intellectual preferences as “taste.” And, as with food, we may also overload our networks with stimulation until we get mental bellyaches and can absorb no more.
But to call this a need for informationIs this not just dressing up the obvious in fashionable pedantry? Information theory, so-called, has been developed during the past decade from work in the mathematics of communication by Claude Shannon, Norbert Wiener, and others; and the term has taken on the technical overtones which it does not have in common usage. Yet even in this sense, information as Warren Weaver defines it, is “a measure of one's freedom of choice when one selects a message. . . . Thus greater freedom of choice, greater uncertainty, greater information go hand in hand.” The ideas of novelty and of intelligible information are bound up, and it is surprising what a bright light the motion of our need for them throws into many strange corners of human behavior. It brings out the nature of boredom, and of humor, of gambling and of learning, of our aesthetic judgments and of creative behavior in art and music, and of the driving force behind social revolutions.
Take aesthetic criticism. My colleague Professor Leonard Meyer of the Department of Music at the University of Chicago has recently a book entitled Emotion and Meaning in Music, in which he puts forward the theory that music or any other symbolic art may have two kinds of “meaning” for the hearer or the observer. One is its denotative meaning, where the music refers to some experience outside itself, either by obvious imitation or by accepted convention. The Domestic Symphony amuses us because of its household noises, and minor keys are thought to be poignant in the Western world because we sing sad songs to them. But formal music is dominated by an inherent meaningthat is, by a meaning which is a purely musical one; and this is what his theory is concerned with.
We all know that we can and do enjoy certain sequences of quite abstract sounds, patterns of pulsations of the air that are almost devoid of human content. What makes them enjoyable? Meyer says that when we listen to music “We are, in a sense, constantly expecting. Under certain conditions, we expect change, under others continuity, and under still others repetition; until finally, we expect the conclusion of the piece. Thus in a very general way expectation is always ahead of the music, creating a background of diffuse tension against which particularly delays articulate the affective curve and create meaning. Formal expectation is constantly active on several architectonic levels as a sort of generalized aesthetic tension which is shaped and particularized in the course of listening.”
Meyer suggests that the inherent musical meaning, the emotional as well as the intellectual satisfaction, lies just in this expectation and in the composers manipulation of our tensions, by turns subtly thwarted or subtly satisfied as the music develops.

The sense of freshness, apparently, with old and new objects? (as Coleridge once said).


 by Rogelio Manzo