So speaking of "I Love Mondays!", this is the text of the first time I read there, in January 2006. Attendance was mandatory. I read a poem for each person in the audience (in my twelve-minute slot). If I knew someone was going to be there, I wrote a poem specifically for them; there were several unassigned poems that turned out to have been written specifically for unexpected audience members.

I don't have much to say about the process of writing these poems. The formal idea I'm exploring should be fairly obvious. I wrote many of them in the shower, where I was unable to write anything down, in order to make them as memorable (or memorizable) as possible.

You can download a pdf of The Redundancies. Thanks to Gabriel Liston for the cover artwork. You might also want to check out the other pdfs I've posted.

After over 13 years of providing a venue for poetry of all stripes in Portland, Dan Raphael's "I Love Mondays!" series at Borders has unexpectedly ended.

For budgetary reasons, Borders let their events coordinator go, and cancelled all future events, including Dan's series.

I was one of about 270 poets who read in the series; I read there twice. They were some of my favorite readings to give. Dan had catholic booking tastes; the three poets at a typical reading would come from very different scenes. They were almost always Portland-area poets. Dan has a strong interest in getting people from different communities talking to one another; you can see clear evidence for this (if you know your Portland poets) in the scheduling for Poetland, the 80-poets-in-8-hours event that he organized a few years ago.

Borders readings also had a lot of people in the audience who didn't go to many poetry readings, or who were just wandering through the store and checking out what was going on.

Now, reading with people who aren't your peers for an audience who aren't immediately interested in what you're doing is, perhaps, a bit offputting for most poets. But I agreed with Dan's take, that this sort of outreach is important, exciting, and should serve as a challenge to poets. I went into these readings determined to make some sort of connection, even if a tentative one, to that haphazard audience, and to try to do it without completely pandering. It pushed me as a writer and stimulated my thinking about a poet's role in relationship to the community -- both the poet's obvious community of likeminded poets and readers, but also the greater community of potential readers, or of people who, haphazardly, could be exposed to a poetry reading.

Portland's poetry scene will be missing a vital and quietly characteristic element without Dan's Borders reading series, and it's a damn shame it's over. Thanks, Dan, for so many years of poetry and community organizing.

Dan's hoping to do a final event or two, and I'm sure you'll find word of it here (even though I won't be in town for it) or over at the Spare Room website.

Meanwhile, here's an article the Willamette Week did on Dan nearly a decade ago. Hopefully they'll do a follow-up now.

(Written for my recent reading. Not read exactly as written.)

I'm going to be using a lot of letters of the alphabet tonight, so I thought we should get familiar with them before we go any further. So here are a few:

A, B, C, D, E, F, J, K, L, N, V.
It's not a complete list.

It's missing the letter Z ("zee" or "zed"), which comes from the Greek letter ζ ("zeta" or "zdeta").

It's missing a few other letters as well.

It's missing the letter æ ("ash") and the letter œ ("ethel").

OK, maybe you're thinking: Those aren't letters, they're digraphs, they're ligatures.

You could argue that. But æ entered the English alphabet as a replacement for the runic letter æsc ("ash"):

...which was a single letter. So at least then, it was thought of as a single letter in the English alphabet.

S is a letter, but it's not clear that an S with a vertical line or two running through it ($) is also a letter.

But although & ("ampersand") was an abbreviation for the Latin "et" or the French "et", it was often treated like a letter early in the age of printed texts, coming after Z in alphabets made for children and printers.

So there is room for debate.

Sick of off-orange, I updated the look of the site. If you're reading this on RSS, why not swing by and take a peek?

I read last night for Spare Room.

It was my farewell reading, before I move to Toronto in a little over a week, and the house was packed. There were even a few people I didn't know, who I should have said hi to, but I had too many people to say goodbye to -- I wasn't up to meeting new people, I guess.

Sarah Mangold read first. I was filled with excitement and caffeine and it took me longer than it should have to get into the logic of her poems, which, once I clued in, seemed clever, dark, and sly, and I wondered if we should all have laughed more than we did.

David introduced me with an alphabetized (and selected) list of the subject lines to emails that I've sent him over the years, which did a terrifying job of painting me as a needy and self-promoting person far too likely to bust out with a They Might Be Giants lyric when I can't think of anything else to say. Well, OK, I guess it caught more nuance than that.

And then I read: "Gravity", "The alphabet: An introduction", "These dreamer types", "Vegetables", a long and as-yet-untitled recipe-poem, "The localized alphabet", and "Illegal chain letters". I also left instructions for people to spend the next year working on pieces based on "360 rhythms for mARK oWEns", so next summer we'll get to see how that turns out.

It went well, as far as I can tell. I was happy. Well, I was a mix of many emotions, but it included happy.

Thanks to everyone who came. You will all be missed. Next year in Portland!

Maryrose lent me a copy of Paper Air, Vol. 2, No. 3 (1980), all about Jackson Mac Low, who has been a gangly influence on me as a poet. I finally sat down and read it, since I'll have to give it back soon. Here are a few notes, in case you don't have your own copy. Hopefully no one will mind that I'm copying reasonably large chunks of it -- if you do mind, let me know.

1. From an interview with Gil Ott:

GIL: To what extent do you consider your writing a political act?

JACKSON: [...cutting a bit about the langpo attitude to politics and writing...]

But I'm not clear as to how writing is a political act. If any act that involves other people is political, and thus any public use of language is political, mine must be political. However, it is more directly political when I compose performance works that give performers a great deal of freedom within a given structure and when I deal directly with political issues. [...examples of texts that use political texts as source materials...]

GIL: Is any use of language not political? Is Wordsworth nonpolitical?

JACKSON: Oh, Wordsworth was often directly political! He wrote political poems, both radical and reactionary. Early in life, he wrote several poems sympathetic to the French Revolution, but when he was older, he wrote a long sonnet sequence in praise of capital punishment!

Then again, if you mean by politics something that affects other people, working with language in ways other than the usual ones is political because it can affect people in unexpected ways, change the views of language, of thought -- even of society or of human relationships in general!
But is that what we mean by politics? When people make claims that poetry is politically effective, I suspect they mean something a little stronger than "it affects other people". They seem to mean that it's especially effective in affecting people. After all, what stimulus doesn't affect people?

(If anyone knows the name of that capital punishment sonnet cycle, let me know.) (UPDATE: Sonnets upon the Punishment of Death.)

2. There's an essay by Ron Silliman about how, with so little of Jackson's work published at that point (and much of it is still unpublished, I believe), it is difficult for people not in New York (where Jackson lived; Silliman was in the Bay Area at this point) to fully appreciate or even have a sense of the scope of Jackson's project.

There is also this:
If [some of Jackson's] texts are to be understood as scores, however, they are of a unique type. Robert Bly is equally a poet of performance, yet his presentational vocabulary is so narrow in comparison to Mac Low's, and his texts so thoroughly adequated to the imaginative life of college undergraduates, that one can approach his writing with virtually no previous contact with poetry and find something. The texts of the projectivists were likewise scores, always aimed, however, toward a model of heightened ordinary speech. Speech in Mac Low's work, on the other hand, is a tool, not a goal. It can be, and often is, substantially altered, in pace, pitch, duration and volume.

Oral manipulation (not identical with sound poetry, although certainly moving in that direction) has no major precedent in American literature. [...examples of possible but not quite good enough precedents by Jerome Rothenberg and Celia Zukofsky...]
Silliman is always already Silliman. There will always be a Silliman.

Well, it's unclear that Bly's use of a limited (constrained) vocabulary in order to have a (political?) effect on an audience (one that is not limited to the poetry-loving cognoscenti) is less of a "tool" than Jackson's use of that same vocabulary on a different audience. I also suspect that Jackson's poetry seems to employ a broad variety of strategies and vocabularies for those of us who have a taste for it; to those who don't, it probably is all one strategy and vocabulary: Noise. (Except for the Light poems, right?) Similarly, I suspect Bly's poems, so homogeneous to us Mac Lovians, seem nauced and varied to those who are knee-deep in them. This seems like the poetic equivalent of "All [people of some other ethnicity] look alike."

Also, I never expected to be defending Bly against Silliman. I feel really old all of a sudden. But I own almost all of Silliman's books and none of Bly's: But you can't make statements like that based only on your taste, right?

Later in the essay:
Here is the man who demonstrated, fifteen years ahead of Clark Coolidge, that content is texture.
"Content is texture" is a nice angle on Jackson (or writing in general), and puts content in its place. But -- oh yes, it was Clark Coolidge who was the only other person to use content as texture! That was who we thought first came up with that idea! Not Gertrude Stein, not Laurence Sterne, not whoever came up with lorem ipsum... Semper Silliman.

3. In the middle of all these densely typeset pieces that run far longer than any blog post would, there's a small and typical Larry Eigner poem. It is slight and touching, like most of his work, and an enormous breath of fresh air after the density of what surrounds it. Remind me to employ that strategy more often.

4. Armand Schwerner's essay is perhaps my favorite of the the lot, though I'm not sure how much additional light it sheds on Jackson -- really, I'm not sure how much light any of this sheds on him, for those of us who have lived with his work for a decade or so, though it probably shed a good deal of light when it first came out. But in Schwerner's essay there is a simplicity, a clarity, and a hesitance to make any too-broad statements, or pin too much down on his own sense of the world, that I like. There is a humility.

"The poet's not a literary historian, not primarily in any case." Which is true enough, although they often do a better job of it than the professional literary historians. But poets can get bogged down -- not to pick on Silliman too much (though I suspect he relishes it), but his recent look at the conceptual vs. flarf kerfuffle, with its zealous attempts to align this current movement with that historical movement and to fully flesh out the mapping, is a good example of the problem -- a possibly helpful historical analogy gets overdeveloped past the point of usefulness, to where odd statements are made:
Like Personism, [Conceptual Poetry is] not about individual works of great art. It doesn’t overvalue personal creativity. It opts for fun. And it’s nostalgic for traditional forms – Kenny Goldsmith & Christian Bök, to name two, are deeply retro in terms of the projects they choose. Their relationship to fluxus & dada are as direct as Ashbery’s are to Stevens & Auden. All they’ve done is to switch the nameplates.
So remind me which of those qualities is not true for flarf? Silliman, like many poets, can't pass up a ludicrously extended metaphor, because it makes for good and fun writing, even if it makes for terrible and implausible historical analysis.

Annnnyway. More Schwerner, on a topic I've broached here before:
I have often enough experienced -- what? boredom? at poetry readings. No that's not exactly it. It was a vague guilt at the fact that my attention would wander and I'd go in and out, guilt because I was supposed to 'pay attention', be fair, give myself to the work. I've talked about the situation with a number of poets recently, Chuck Stein comes to mind, and Maureen Owen, and of course I find I'm not alone. Some comfort? For two minutes. But what if the 'poem' is of such a nature as not to require implicitly the kind of attention we, most of us, assume is demanded of us? Suzuki Roshi says, in a discussion of concentration in a Zen context, 'To concentrate your mind on something is not the true purpose of Zen. The true purpose of Zen is to see things as they are, to observe things as they are, and to let everything go as it goes...' Now if are members of an audience listening to a string of sentences connected through rational essayistic modes, we know how to listen an drefer ourselves to the minor sub-system of logic, and stay with it. The listening to poetry however sets up a field of vaster potential occurrences, closer in their nature to the swinging door of consciousness which process itself clarifies the illusory nature of an apparently solid 'I'. In addition we are animals which react more powerfully to the mantric particularities of hearing words and sounds than to the processes of reading them? Poetry's originally chant or song; writing comes late, and reading. So to David Abell's comment, 'Why do I find the STANZAS FOR IRIS LEZAK electrifying when Jackson reads them and why are tehy more inert on the page? Is it their nature or our experience of them? Perhaps what they do is bring you to yourself more.' And in fact the STANZAS are explosively telling at suddenly experienced nexuses, persistent in their overtones, which surface in the memory unexpecedly like dream fragments without keys. 'Tuberous begonias...'
So, that is nice, and might be worth keeping in mind when you come hear me read tomorrow -- not that I'll read anything as effective as the Stanzas. But he throws out David Abell's name there as if we'd know who he was. But, of course, those of us in Portland do know David Abel very well, and we know how to spell his last name...


Just two. Minidump. We'll see if this becomes a habit.

Further adventures in Neo-Benshi.

The medieval stanza-wrangler.

Also, seriously, don't forget my reading on Saturday. There's a house show/farewell party afterwards, which you should attend. See you there!

"Head Over Heels", Tears for Fears, 1985.

For whatever reason, I've been listening to Tears for Fears' Songs From The Big Chair a lot (well, more than necessary, at least) in the last few months. And, in particular, whenever I listen to "Head Over Heels", I feel a bit frustrated, because there are things going on in that song which cannot be replicated in poetry. (It doesn't frustrate me at all as a songwriter.)

There are plenty of things poetry can do that pop songs can't do, and I never feel frustrated that my songs can't take advantage of elements that formally work well in poems. There are plenty of other aspects of other genres of art that I don't try to fit into yet other genres. I don't worry about how to capture brushstrokes in a poem, for instance. (Though, how would you?)

"Head Over Heels" has a vocal line that engages with the rest of the song's interlocking instrumental contraption but stands apart and disguises how simple, complex, strange, or overly familiar it is. Something about that particular set of relationships would be very nice to capture in a linear stream of wordlikethings. (But if you want to recreate such an effect in a different medium, you can't just try and recreate each of its parts -- you have to recreate it in its entirety.)

Get Fuzzy, 8 June 2008, by Darby Conley.

Welcome to what will perhaps be a new and efficient series called "Three Nice Poety Things". In it, we look at something and point out three nice poety things about it. Today's is a recent Get Fuzzy strip.

1. Puns are the most obvious form of poetry. And Get Fuzzy revels in them, often packing several in a strip. But while "Wake up and smell the kvas" is nice, "You're behind the iron curve" is terrific. "Curve" and "curtain" are connected by sound rather than meaning, but the pun conjures up the iron curve that you cannot get out from behind.

2. "Runin' nyet biblioteca": The /n/ with /i/-related sounds, switching to /b/ with /i/-related sounds, is well done. It should be "biblioteku" there (I'm told), but of course Bucky wouldn't know that, so it seems he has switched to Spanish for a moment, because all foreign languages are equivalent inasmuch as they are foreign; it is a nice moment of confusion/conflation, which is one of my favorite forms of poetry.

3. That t-shirt. I guess it's an Obama t-shirt? But the O with the stars in the third panel has a little line in it that makes it look like a Q. What is that indeterminate lettershape? Ah, for a world in which indeterminate lettershapes were the most obvious form of poetry! With Geof Huth as poet laureate!

Write a sentence (in the comments) in which all the letters are in alphabetical order.

Donato Mancini, “The Sorrows of Young Werther (Goth Phase)”, in Æthel, swiped from dbqp.

All of which leads us, naturally, to Donato Mancini's work. The above poem, "The Sorrows of Young Werther (Goth Phase)", is an elaboration of Blackletter Gothic scripts. But if The Simpsons' elaboration on cold war Eastern European text is a quick scherzo, Donato's piece is a fugue. It pushes its elaboration as far as it can go, and it gives an abstract sense of the totality of Gothic script. It feels as though there is no curve or ligature that could appear in Blackletter that doesn't appear here, although no specific letters appear in the poem. Some of the shapes suggest letters that ought to be possible within Blackletter sensibilities but that, for whatever reason, are missing from the actual alphabet. Perhaps the overall shape of the text suggests something of the balance and baroque qualities that Blackletter letters provide? Not to mention how easy it is for the eye to get lost following the lines and curves of the piece, how labyrinthine and navigable it is.

The book that this poem comes from, Æthel, is filled with elaborations of different kinds of alphabets, typefaces, and scripts. Arabic, Latin, ASL, and Cyrillic all make their appearances, as well as Cooper Black (I'm pretty sure -- I've already packed the book to take with me to Toronto) and all are given as thorough a treatment as Blackletter. It's one of those books that I enjoy showing off to people who visit my library -- accessible, strange, well-wrought, funny, and mesmerizing.

* * *

"Ligature" is a long poem from Donato's book Ligatures. Here's the gimmick: Each word begins with the last few letters of the word before it. On the version I linked to, the words are all run together, which allows you to fish for the words. So that version starts "a d a m e n r a p t u r e e n t e r t a i n", which I suppose is unpacked something like "adam amen enrapture reenter entertain". When Donato read for Spare Room a few months ago, he read the unpacked version, in a measured, quiet, deadpan voice, going for what felt like fifteen or twenty minutes with this chain of linked words. Sometimes the words linked in what felt like significant ways -- as here, "adam amen enrapture reenter" has a Christian eschatological weight to it -- but mostly it was a stream of words, connected in ways that might have been clear from their spelling but were masked in their pronunciation. It was, in other words, a classic example of a furniture text.

I have to admit -- I had always wished, in my six years of co-organizing Spare Room readings, that someone would read a text that functioned like this one did, a piece that completely succeeded as furniture text. A few came close (Jesse Seldess's reading did something that might seem similar but was ultimately quite different, and is probably worth a separate post), but Donato nailed it.

* * *

I had been thinking about reviewing Æthel. But reviewing books is a tricky and irksome thing. Nicholas Manning wrote an blog post recently that captures some of my reservations about book reviewing, but I guess I should point out the two big ones.

1. I could rave about Donato's book (I don't have a copy of Ligatures yet!) but there are all those other books I could also rave about, or books that I think highly of but probably wouldn't rave per se about, or books that are probably very good but just aren't for me, or etc., etc. So I'd almost rather not rave about any books than have the raves I do write appear somehow representative or match up to what books I like, or what books I have more complicated feelings towards, or... etc. Reviewing seems like it is always already a misrepresentation of my thoughts.

2. And anyway, who cares? The urge to review something often comes from the urge to talk about how awesometastic something is. But that's the last thing I want to read in a review. I don't care whether you liked the work or not, I just want you to tell me about it, ideally to give me some insight into how to read it, or at bare minimum to let me know that it exists and what it is that exists. But that you like it? Or even that you think it's important? Who cares?! Liking is a fickle thing, and if we meet in some critical space, I want it to be on terms other than what we, you know, like. Often enough I'm not interested in whether I like something. "Mureau" is probably not my favorite John Cage furniture text. But it seemed like the clearest (or cleverest?) example to get at what I wanted to say in that post.

I decided to use these two works by Donato to talk about two different ways of reading/listening/appreciating. My secret agenda is that I think these works are awesome and I want people to know about them, but by not just coming out and saying that, I ended up talking about a painting of Jerome. And that strikes me as more interesting. Because perhaps we can agree that we like to make connections between things, no matter what our take on those things might be.

(Finis. Also, I really need to get to writing for my reading on June 21st. So there might not be so many posts in the near future...)

"Krusty Gets Kancelled", The Simpsons episode 9F19 (still), 1993.

In "Krusty Gets Kancelled", "The Itchy And Scratchy Show" jumps ship to a more popular show. Krusty replaces it with Eastern Europe's favorite cat-and-mouse team, "Worker and Parasite". The title credit reads:
Вфхуи ZоРиᴇ m:


Снᴇbzon фt Уmeztoix ©1959 zᴇm
(That took far too much effort to try to transcribe, and it might not properly render on your browser. But it taught me that backwards-P is, for some reason, not really used as a variant letter in any familiar alphabet; I nearly used ¶ for it.)

So this is not an actual Eastern European language, one that uses an odd mix of Cyrillic, Latin, and, you know, a backwards P that is hard to replicate. But on the other hand, Eastern Europe in the 1950s, taken as a whole, did use a mix of Cyrillic and Latin alphabets. So perhaps this is an elaboration on what a pan–Eastern European language would look like.

The soundtrack, which I am too lazy to try to post here (and any YouTube links would surely not last long), is delightful -- the cat and mouse make a mix of strange backwards-sounding "yeeps" mixed with the occasional vaguely Russian (to American ears) words. I should check with my Russian-speaking friends to see if any of the words actually are Russian, but I doubt it.

"ФЯХИСБ", or something like that, reads the podium. Why do certain letters (Ф, И, Я, Ж, С) seem more "Eastern European" or "Soviet" than others (Ю, Г, Д, Л, Э, Щ)? And yet why use "Et.", which seems French or Latin, for what is surely the "and" in "Worker and Parasite"?

Ten seconds later, the cartoon is over: "Endut! Hoch Hech!", a very Germanish ending to a very Russiany cartoon -- but then, that's Cold War Eastern Europe for you. The substitution isn't as disorienting when you watch the cartoon as it becomes when you think about it.

I guess I haven't properly concluded this, but I've got another cold and the NyQuil is kicking in and I should get to sleep. So I'll end with this: Elaboration, as in, working something out, working out what makes something look like proper text without it being proper text, or working out what makes it look like Eastern European writing, despite there being a wide variety of languages that fall under the category of "Eastern Europe".

(To be continued. Only one more part!)

"Mureau" (first page), John Cage, from M: Writings ’67–’72

I've been throwing around this term "furniture text" as if it means something. (Results 1 - 10 of about 2,080 for "furniture text"; result 19 is this blog, none of the rest seem relevant.) It's loosely based on Erik Satie's concept of "musique d'ameublement", translated as "furniture music", his concept of background or ambient music, to be, at best, half-listened to.

But I'm drawing on my own experiences with furniture music. I think of it as music to be grazed, music which rewards active but inattentive listening, where moments of sense or clarity or beauty, moments of interest, might occasionally bubble up. But furniture music prevents you from fully immersing yourself in it. It encourages floating, rather than swimming (or drowning). And by preventing you from total immersion in it, it retains its status as something that is there, a piece of furniture, rather than fooling you into thinking you're being "transported to another world". It becomes a form of meditation, but one that keeps you grounded in your present situation.

This is, I assume, not quite how Erik Satie thought of it. That's OK.

It might be a bit closer to how John Cage thought of it, though. He was a Satie booster; he organized the first public performance of "Vexations" and reworked Satie's "Socrate" into his own "Cheap Imitation".

Cage was a great producer of what I'd consider furniture texts. "Mureau", above, is a piece written through writings of Henry David Thoreau. (I'm not going to the specifics of the process because discussion of these types of pieces always get bogged down with the specifics of the process, as if it's a strategy to avoid reading the works!) You can graze over the text for snippets of sensible fragments, mixed in with a hum of less sensible fragments.

The title is a portmanteau of "music" and "Thoreau"; the piece is a mix of Cage's and Thoreau's sensibilities. As you might expect from Cage, the text is intended to also work as a score for performance. You can listen to Cage read a sample of "Mureau" at Ubu (mp3). Sensible bits, nearly-sensible bits, and not-at-all sensible bits carry you along as you float.

If I felt up to it, I'd talk about "active but inattentive" listening (or reading), the kind that furniture music (or text) encourages, and how it problematizes the suspicious binary of "active" and "passive", or maybe I'd tie it in with some half-understood Buddhist precepts, or even with advanced channel-surfing techniques. But all that seems, I dunno, obvious.

But also: I suspect a lot of people who don't regularly attend poetry readings think that this kind of listening is not appropriate for such a lofty art form, or find it too similar to "being bored", or feel intimidated because they couldn't "make sense" of "everything". Which is a shame, because it's a mode of paying attention that I really enjoy, and I appreciate poetry that encourages it.

(To be continued. Also, sorry for the atrocious title.)

Saint Jerome in his Study, Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1480

There's an old anthology of medieval Latin called Millennium. The cover has the above painting on it, in a black and white reproduction. I showed it to a friend. "He's looking... chipper", he said. Well... Then I tried to figure out who the guy sitting at his desk was. He has a halo, he's a writer: Was it Augustine? Jerome? I checked inside; it was Jerome. Then I looked again at it and realized I had checked the answer too soon; it had to be Jerome.


It's not terribly clear in this jpg, and only slightly clearer on the book's cover, but this particular scroll is written in Hebrew. And there's only one sainted post-Classical Latin writer likely to have Hebrew text hanging around: Jerome, translator of the Bible into Latin from Hebrew, Greek, and [presumably] Aramaic, creator of the Vulgate Bible, the standard Latin bible for well over a millennium.

I don't read Hebrew, which puts me in a terrific position to think about this aspect of the painting.

1. It might not be in Hebrew. Both reproductions are too small to make out this scrap of text, and I haven't seen the original painting. But it's Jerome, so you'd expect some Hebrew, and it looks like Hebrew.

2. It might be a relevant quotation from the Bible, maybe something punchy about writers. Certainly, painters often try to be clever like that.

3. It might be a random quotation from the Bible, or from some other Hebrew source. That way, it could be a legit sample of Hebrew.

4. It might be a poorly transcribed sample of either relevant or random Hebrew. Consider the lorem ipsum dummy text, mangled in the copying by people who probably didn't know Latin, and whose main concern was coming up with something that looked like text. This could be Hebrew furniture text.

5. It might not be real Hebrew at all, just an elaboration on what Hebrew looks like. Something like fake Cyrillic fonts (except not so tied to the English/Latin alphabet -- after all there are fake Hebrew fonts as well, and the Hebrew in the painting is probably not Hebrewized Latin), or perhaps even more, like fake Chinese tattoos.

Any of these are possible. The audience only needs to recognize the text as Hebrew and make the connection between Hebrew and Jerome; it's unlikely that the painter knew Hebrew or expected his audience to. I'd like to think (I think I'd like to think) that the artist made the effort to find an appropriate bit of Hebrew and copied it accurately. But then, I'd also be curious to see what shapes the artist thought were "Hebrewish", just like how it's fascinating when, say, British people try to imitate an American accent. They usually get it painfully wrong (and I'm sure we get British accents painfully wrong as well), but it reveals the contours of the American accent described, exaggerated, and contorted through the expectations of another, and helps you see how one cultural artifact is heard through another (not that you're not recontorting it through your own set of expectations, but that's as maybe).

One last small detail: The scroll in the painting seems to be written with the text going from one edge of the scroll to the other edge, whereas typically (I believe -- I'm not an expert on this sort of thing, so there might be a whole class of exceptions that I don't know about) the text on a scroll goes from one roll to the other. Scrolls were no longer commonly in use by Christians in Europe in the fifteenth century, when the painting was made, though I believe the Torah would still have been painstakingly written on a scroll.

(To be continued.)

Lorem ipsum

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.
The lorem ipsum dummy text is an elaboration on what text looks like, a variation on fragments of Latin text that carries the shape of text while shucking most of its meaning, an aggressive misspelling in a language half-forgotten, but retaining a flavor of latinity, the shape of Latin, without the understandability, which is of no matter, since it is used in a non-Latin context, and is not meant to signify.

This is furniture text, meant not to be noticed, but some sense pokes through every so often. How much sense do you like in your text?

(To be continued.)


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