Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Julia Drescher : On the Hospitality of Actualities (a study)

“Theorizing, a form of experimenting, is about being in touch.”[1]


fig. 1 (a difficult charm)[2]

How hangs the hammer, my little angel? Go for the throat,

my love, already connected.[3]


The so-called problem of any art, any poem : it refuses to come alone.
Reading, a form of experimenting, is about being in touch with this.

To essay is to be continually moving in more than one place at the same time, sensing (for instance) that the angel of history and the debris are inseparable from each other. Sensing that to be flung out as if in a painful split from the heap it’s of and from (up in a cloud trying to count, to make an account) the ‘all-citing’ angel has to, too, be on the look-out for becoming a claim to, claiming, an exceptional position : that loneliness.

Hearing the song, one

thinks of fire.[4]

For “[t]he angel would like to stay”[5] where the debris already thinks and sings this contaminated catastrophe it is of and in, the heavy weight of the heap an intimacy, the brutal weathers blowing : already thinks and sings the sense that perhaps it is no accident that the storm is coming from Paradise.

I have just set my cigarette

on fire. A book just flew over.[6]

For debris also practices friendship, being in touch : an experiment, an experience : the lines of pencil alongside the lines of language[7] : “The materiality [that] helps us breathe.”[8] Perhaps, the welcome Actualities gives is to keep turning over something it never actually holds or keeps, a hospitality the ideology of home, of Paradise, would keep cutting us from.

Refusing cohesion for practices of collusion with the social, intimate detritus of the heap, conversations make here and there from leaps.[9]


I saw the magic. It was clear neither of us had ‘illustrated’ the other.[10]

In Actualities this hospitality forms and leaks.


fig. 2 (the carrying on lily)

The violet ray and then falling

down the steps backward. Nature taking over…what?[11]

“But I don’t want to make up a lot of prose about something that is perfectly clear in the poems. If you cover someone with earth and grass grows, you don’t know what they looked like anymore. Critical prose makes too much grass grow, and I don’t want to help hide my own poems, much less kill them.”[12]
Etymologies being centurial, sensual debris, the entry for clear is anything but.

Life thrives under just as well as above ground. If you cover someone with earth and grass grows, might this also be what art, what poetry does to anyone? To consist with is to conspire with the ground-up pigment, the off-trace whisper of pencil lines, the unillustrative painting, emphatically living lists of things, and in their listing becoming no things, attempts to describe but not explain.

Honey, mint and cinnamon bark, no pressure for the wild bees in

the biome. Spruce, pine, cedar, larch, alder, birch and golden fir at

the confluence of rivers approaching the tree line.[13]

Theories in ecstasis, rhetorics of grass.

heavy water, any

water, clearly no one


is talking

But who is doing it?[14]




Is a question also a description?

Does the clarity the horse declares involve misreading? Are misreading and mishearing practices for formulating what uncountrying is and might be? Where the desire for this resistance to coherence is all bound to what mis/taking could do, experiments in throwing shoes, sabotaging, those fluttering flags at the top of the tower.[16]

“What does [this] exchange of energy entail?”[17] Reading lions of France for the lords of finance[18] changing constantly the shape we’re in : exhilaration in sensing the swerve’s possibility, how it gives in being more and less than what is said, what is meant. A discomposure : the mattering of debris.

The floor is pine, the

tables fir. Think of it as a physical challenge. And another thing.[19]

A locution that’s a locomotion its rhythm is diffracting.[20]

How long have you known


“Pattern is a language that crosses borders,”[22] language is an unstable element (debris that runs, is running). An essaying the horse is holding (and figures of speech are touching). All words are vessel terms, pouring into and from one another to be with each other, a fundamental air and openhandedness[23] that gives any monumental rhetoric of meaning the slip in order to survive[24]

Tables fir


fig. 4 (books burn)

A very long time ago I had a dream where I was in a lecture hall and on the long tables that tiered up the room there were heavy, wooden stands holding big, very thick, opened books on them, and a person standing in front of each. I go and stand in front of the one that I guess was assigned to me and wait to start. I already know that what I am supposed to do is transcribe what is in the book onto the sheets of paper there on the table next to the stand. Then some kind of test begins and everyone in the room begins transcribing. I begin by reading and then transcribing the first sentence at the top of the left hand page. When I look back up to get the second sentence I see the edges at the top of the book have caught fire. I look around : everyone else’s books are on fire too. I then furiously try to keep up, keep transcribing, but the faster I write the faster the fire is burning what I am supposed to be writing.

“Neither perception nor possession is the poetry.”[25]

Bare and charred : a clarity

fig. 5 (a reader a repeater)

“I didn’t sort of take to poetry because it’s pretty. I took to poetry because it was terrifying. And I particularly liked the kind of terror that gave you that awe of things, that awe of life.”[26]

Most of the poems in Actualities are full of fire : so many things burn, are burning or can burn so that any mention of “light” then becomes obscure in terms of what is helpful, what is dangerous : the sharpness of possibilities blur the air there, to veer. [B]rushing away flies with my thoughts the size of postcards burning.[27] Indeed, an “actual” is a heated instrument for cauterizing wounds. What then is an “actuality” in this regard, what might hospitality have to do with burning?

If you can imagine it, like phases of the moon, juice of a lemon, or

new milk, by Jupiter. Memory in the luxuriant grass, the buckling

and folding of the plate as it slides, forcing moisture from the

air. Umbrella with a candle on the handle. A cap of wind, a cup.

Happiness without end is the name of that flower, special sugars,

ancient murmur, no man’s land. The alarm sounds, then stops.[28]

Which brings me to thinking about Paradise. The references to Paradise in the poems throughout the book, whether direct or not, are often troubled, troubling that inherited paradisical itch for (pure) origins, a home (a walled enclosure) to get back in/to, and what a desire for this might have to do with, for instance, environmental disaster ([t]he Romans also had central heating).[29]

In the poem SIBERIAN HONEY, for example, an awe of things, of life, as a list lived-with, of listing in all its senses, also includes the terror of the cosmic disaster-that-could-have-been-larger (the Cheliabinsk meteor) and the brutal fact of the Human disaster (Siberia’s boreal forests will not/survive climate change).

Both Paradise and Hell are here. In this regard, what might a radical practice of hospitality have to do with burning down, burning off, an attachment to Paradise in service to hospitalities where all are welcome to collude?

I think in Actualities it might be called PLANETUDE.



fig. 6 (second horse)

To consist in conspiring with the un-citable in all its moments, a heretical flourishing. In the [c]onversation between me and my horse[30] sentences are ears of augmented perception.

Here, the “I” is continual misplacement as it fluctuates in relation to the horse’s body. Poetry becomes the running off from between possessive pronoun-ing and articles of dispossession. There is a doubled-up attention through which affectability, the incoherence of touching and being touched, disfigures.

(Sequences of pouring, thickening blues gulping green con/text : text in blocks making time  provisional, unsolidified, con/tent. The box around it rots to consist with vernacular architectures of acoustical use: horse skulls buried beneath houses.)[31]

like words

skin absorbs[32]

“Some recent findings suggest that physiological variables (e.g., heart rate variability) of humans and horses can show a sort of coupling process that is modulated by the kind and time duration of the contact interaction they engage in.”[33]

So by the time I read I came, I saw, I want to go home,[34] I am generatively detached from that habit of thinking that speaking and listening are singular, are singularly human, acts.

Hearing, too, how I want to go home can’t help but absorb and be absorbed by “I conquered.”

So that I am left wondering : what would be home to a horse? What on earth could it mean?


fig. 7 (Latet anguis in herba.)[35]


In the beginning, appearing in the field, once upon

a time[36]

How does the ideology of home, with all its coercive sentiment, come to keep violently re-placing, regulating, what feelings of hospitality might be?

The problem with the past. Splitting the atom at home. Our

favorite. It becomes something.[37]

The atomistic distraction by way of a categorical extraction, its economics an oil, refining.[38]

As soon as she said thank you she knew that it was no gift. What did

she mean by that? By saying thank you or by knowing?[39]

Is the act of splitting related to the act of familiarizing? Home is where the atom’s split—that nuclearity. Where “who you are” in this (his)story is placed as what someone means : host or guest or stranger is friend or enemy.

                               When we consider history—be quiet! Redeemable, we will
                               get you a new dream. My memories, I leave them to you.[40]

Where pronouns coagulate and also bleed. I mean, the we of the first line seems to be silenced by the (different?) we of the second line, a silencing for which there is a promise of an eventual disbursement of a new (historical) dream. In the third line, the pronouns announce a further split, but one that, paradoxically, seems to indicate a kind of dispossessive sharing.

Yet the question that refuses to leave (home) seems to be : who or what is redeemable?[41] If redemption’s root, its route, is to “buy back, pay back” (i.e. the language of possession), then what is the condition that keeps returning an investment in redemption?

                             Money is not a balloon. I am not sure
                             how to carry it.[42]

“Wages, compensation”: these are some antonyms for gift. In this regard, I am wondering if redemption is one of those “gifts” that compels gratitude while being recognized as no-such-thing from those compelled (nor from those who are said to “give” it). Is the investment in a (his)story of redemption the means by which those who would be redeemed keep buying back the means to keep doing the things that then necessitates redeeming?

But maybe it’s more vital to ask: what kind of hospitality keeps surviving the interdictions against its existence, against its being practiced?

Is the so-called problem of any art, any poem that it resists redemption, being redeemed, as a way to keep touching, being in touch?

With a resistance to a coherence that would attempt to reduce hospitality to the one (familiar) figure to whom it’s owed, stranger host guest friend enemy are basic contaminations the words are together with + to touch, “to deteriorate (something) by mingling.”[43]

Here, in the poem, [t]here is no story is some kindling, the unfamiliar mattering. [44] So that if there is something like a hearth here it is perhaps in the sense of the hard and heard of debris,[45] the conspiring that catches your breath in a livingness that is not about transcendence, redemptive or otherwise : a heap you can sometimes breathe in.

The crackling of flames, the cracking of frames, the meteor the lightning, the reality of a laugh cackling I’d like to die laughing.[46] The lengthening of notes, of lines paintings and lists : in this intimate sense the collation like a collaboration like a conflagration the unsettling sense of welcome comes in.



fig. 8 (an intraludic)

Let’s have a big hand. A big band.[47]

A broad stripe of color, ray of colored light, a range of frequencies or wavelengths : anarchic musics. Or, how etymologically “host” and “guest” refuse to be split, to separate into coherent definitions, bound together to bend rhythms with, blowing things up is a close-up making contra/dictions visible, an opening that practices “we’re all guests of experience”[48] to perform it.


clearly no one


is talking

But who is doing it? A cigar band, or the drawing of an elegant round temple by

Vitruvius. Cinnamon, rose and wild oregano from Mount Olympus near Mount Auburn

Cemetery, near the intersection of Orchid and Tulip, violets growing up the Trefoil Path

(tiny snapdragons, blue bells, snow-white flowering pear trees and a red-tailed hawk)[49]

No one has the propriety of welcome here between guest and guest. Shifting formulations figuring through the ground, from the ground up, the ground-up in shifts : What, then, is an invitation in this regard, what would it mean to go visiting?

“Eruption of the river and a bridge. Exhaustively

shaping everything. There. A thing needing no explanation.”[50]


Go like sing.[51]



fig. 9 (“Coming Thru Strange”)[52]


Water streaming

on stone. I want to be


each one.[53]

Planet: “late Old English planete, in old astronomy, ‘star other than a fixed star; star revolving in an orbit,’ from Old French planete…and directly from Late Latin planeta, from Greek planētēs, from (asteres) planētai ‘wandering (stars),’ from planasthai ‘to wander,’ a word of uncertain etymology.”

Etude: “a composition having musical value but primarily intended to exercise the pupil in technical difficulties…from French étude, literally ‘study’ (12c., Old French estudie), from Latin studium (see study (n.))…. ‘care, attention, skill, thought; study, school’ (Modern French étude)… Also from c. 1300 as ‘a state of deep thought or contemplation; a state of mental perplexity, doubt, anxiety; state of amazement or wonder.’”

Plenitude: an abundance.

The paintings that accompany, that are accompanied by, the poems in the book are ones wherein the color body bends into the eyes to have something to see through, a gaze that means to gape: open to pouring, touching, they circulate like a constant phase transition, lavic heavy water, languid like the moon through the plantlife they’re made from and continue.[54]

What is starting to tremble because it wants to be released?[55] Opaque with water and glue, this might be another way of asking : what is the formulation art&poetry keeps leaving to continue making?

Is what feels welcoming in what is called art actually a resistance to any (final) theory as a making way for theorizing continually, experiments of and with touching (differently)?

I mean, Actualities has me thinking to also ask: could what is called art be part of this hospitable planetude we sometimes lose touch with when the words “artist” & “poet” are used?





                               Because. To give something
                               (you don’t want). Dark.

                               Becomes clear. No comparable
                               thing. Timing, shooting. Collapsing.[56]

“The site of the Red Forest [near Chernobyl] remains one of the most contaminated areas in the world. However, it has proved to be an astonishingly fertile habitat…the evacuation of the area [of human beings] surrounding the nuclear reactor has created a lush and unique wildlife refuge…though the long term effects on flora and fauna are unknown.”[57]

Or, how the earth keeps practicing an anarchist architecture too. The flourishing a heretical technique silver birch trees keep growing as and through. Collusions from collisions, a horse that leads to water, to (dis)figure how touching, how thoughts, might meet. Flourishing the heretical technique silver birch trees keep growing as and through the debris of house and home.[58]

Here’s no-place like poems.

                                         like words
                             skin absorbs
                                         (barrier reef)[59]

Contaminated with the brutalities of continuing historical and environmental degradations, poetry lives and dies, composes decomposes and recomposes dying into an astonishingly fertile habitat, exchanging abandonment for abandon.

With a single note, I agree to be


In real life, there is no country but there is a Barbary Ghost: “the flesh of a poem, even as a painting has flesh, the vibrancy,”[61] where Barbary Coasts[62] and Barbara Guests fail to appear as separable from each other, as separated “subjects” or “objects” categorically. Which is perhaps how they are present, how they presence, how they pour.

In this book I keep reading, collaboration keeps practicing an opening, an openness to contamination wherein we mingle with each other to deteriorate “each other,” theorizing in and with what being together might mean.

Gifting in actuality.[63]




[1] Karen Barad. “When two hands touch, how close are they?: On Touching – The Inhuman That Therefore I Am (v1.1)” https://www.diaphanes.com/titel/when-two-hands-touch--how-close-are-they-3075. Other texts crucial to this essay are: Norma Cole’s To Be At Music: Essays & Talks (Omnidawn Publishing, 2010), María Rosa Menocal’s. Shards of Love: Exile and the Origins of the Lyric (Duke UP, 1994) and Susan Gevirtz’s essay "Outer Event" in Coming Events (Collected Writings) (Nightboat Books, 2013). There is also an abundant use of Etymology Online and/or the OED.

[2] In this essay all quotes in italics are from text in Actualities (Litmus Press, 2015). 
[5] Walter Benjamin, et al. “Theses on the Philosophy of History.” Illuminations. Reprint ed. New York: Schocken Books, 2007.
[6] “a green wine I love” p7
[7]Actualities: The Collaboration” p64
[8] Fernando Zalamea in In the Sign of Jonah: Around Moby-Dick Arika, Episode 10: A Means Without End. Laura Harris and Fernando Zalamea. November 2019 http://arika.org.uk/archive/items/episode-10-means-without-end/sign-jonah-around-moby-dick. See also : THE FERMATA*, in Actualities, p38.
[9] Karen Barad. “When two hands touch, how close are they?”
[10]Actualities: The Collaboration” p64. To illustrate: “decorate & explain”;  to explain: “flatten to make intelligible and clear,” to explain [it] away.
[12] Frank O’Hara. “Statement for Paterson Society.” The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara ed. Donald Allen Berkeley: UC Press, 1995. p510
[14] ROGER ONE p17
[15] p15
[17] Karen Barad. “When two hands touch, how close are they?”
[20] “Diffraction patterns record the history of interaction, interference, reinforcement, difference. Diffraction is about heterogeneous history, not about originals…” Donna Haraway, Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan_Meets_OncoMouse. See also : THE FERMATA*, p38 (“the game of origins”).
[22] Marina Adams. Interview with Alex Bacon, The Brooklyn Rail, May 2019. https://brooklynrail.org/2019/05/art/MARINA-ADAMS-with-Alex-Bacon.
[23] This “openhandedness” of language and misreading/mishearing it, an invitation to a sensing that shifts attention to the multiplicities/materialities presencing there, & the multiple ways to read a phrase etc., is a practice found throughout much of Norma Cole’s poetry. In Actualities, for a small example, many of the titles of poems are such invitations: THE DREAM I HAD ENDED, DESSERT ISLAND, TO BE IS NOT TO BE, BARBARY GHOST, PARADISE LEAST.
[24] APPROACH p13
[25] Norma Cole. “A Minimum of Matter.” To be at Music: Essays & Talks. Omnidawn Publishing, 2010. p102.
[26] Ed Roberson. Reading for Heatstrings, Reading and Presentation of the Stephen Henderson Award for Literature by the African American Literature and Culture Society, Boston, May 27, 2011. (https://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Roberson.php)
[27] Here too is another horse. THE DREAM I HAD ENDED p9
[28] PLANETUDE p47
[29] “The body /// is to lose one’s mind” p33
[31] Barry O'Reilly. "Hearth and Home: The Vernacular House in Ireland from C. 1800." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature 111C.1 (2011): 193-215. This practice of putting horse skulls (“an ideal sound-box”) beneath floorboards eventually also migrated to the United States.
[32] ROGER ONE p17. The “con/text” and “con/tent” italicized in the prior passage are also from ROGER ONE, the first placed on top of the second, and both inside a box.
[33] Paul Baragli & Elisa Demuru, Chiara Scopa & Elisabetta Palagi. “Are Horses Capable of Mirror Self-Recognition? A Pilot Study.” PLoS One: v.12(5); 2017.
[35] “The body /// is to lose one’s mind” p33
[36] : THE FERMATA*, p38
[38] See also “a green wine I love”, p7 and APPROACH p13.
[40] “we’re all guests of experience” p63
[41] We or you or I? History or dream or memories?
[43] Entry for “contaminate,” Etymology Online
[44] BARBARY GHOST p32. Also, “matter is never a settled matter” (Barad, “When two hands touch, how close are they?”)
[45] “…from Proto-Germanic *hertha- ‘burning place’ (source also of Old Saxon and Old Frisian herth, Middle Dutch hert, Dutch haard, German Herd ‘floor, ground, fireplace’).” From the entry for “hearth,” Etymology Online.
[46] “the reality of a laugh” is in the poem “Let’s spit on Hegel” p23; “I’d like to die laughing” is in BARBARY GHOST p32.
[48] p63
[49] ROGER ONE p17
[50] Norma Cole. “Conjunctions.” Spinoza in Her Youth. Omnidawn Publishing, 2002. p108.
[52] Marina Adams: Coming Thru Strange. Hionas Gallery, February 21 to March 24, 2013.
[54] See also: “She was sending me photos of paintings, sequences that kept pouring into newer sequences” (“Actualities: The Collaboration,” p64), the book The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird (HarperCollins, 1989), and “Marina Adams-Being There: Tuesday Evenings with The Modern” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AJuI81hlK0).
[55] This is a revision of a Willem de Kooning quote via Barbara Guest in her lecture “How I Got Out of Poetry and Into Prose” (SUNY-Buffalo lecture, April 2, 1992. https://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Guest.php)
[57] The entry for “Red Forest,” Wikipedia.
[58] “When will a silver birch tree grow in the kitchen*?” with the note “*This birch tree is already growing. Cf. Wormwood Forest, Mary Mycio” is in the poem “Let’s spit on Hegel” p20.
[59] ROGER ONE p17
[61] Barbara Guest “How I Got Out of Poetry and Into Prose” (SUNY-Buffalo lecture, April 2, 1992. https://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Guest.php)
[62] “The Barbary Coast was a red-light district during the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries in San Francisco that featured dance halls, concert saloons, bars, jazz clubs, variety shows, and brothels…Miners, sailors, and sojourners hungry for female companionship and bawdy entertainment continued to stream into San Francisco in the 1850s and 1860s, becoming the Barbary Coast's primary clientele. During its early days, San Francisco had become a "wide" open city where police had little to no control in stopping the activities of gambling, drinking, drugs, drag, and prostitution. The fact that San Francisco functioned as a port city meant that it was able to sustain large transient populations that were less likely to conform to social rules and regulations… The term Barbary Coast is borrowed from the Barbary Coast of North Africa where local pirates and slave traders launched raids on nearby coastal towns and vessels…” (Wikipedia).
[63] See also: Moira (O Books 1995, Litmus Press 2020), “In Our Own Backyard” (Tolling Elves 36, May 2006), “New Alphabet” (BOMB Magazine Issue 114, January 1, 2011), and Marina Adams (Salon 94, 2019).



Julia Drescher has one full-length collection from Delete Press (OPEN EPIC, 2017) & has three chapbooks from above/ground press : BLATTA, Metastatic Flower, & "Almost Alive." She lives in Colorado.

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