In the past I thought of myself as living into the future, as a creature of continuity moving through the present, through a succession of presents. The future was a condition of possibility that was separate from me in time, that I could imagine and bring about. It gave me space to master myself.
And now, in the present? This moment is drawing me into itself and dispersing my dreams of future selves. I’ve come from so far yet so near only to be shown the present moment as an abyss in time that can’t be bridged. A hesitation between expectation and memory. An anxiety.
To ‘live in the present’, then? A way to dress up our powerlessness, as if being in the moment were the condition of praiseworthy selfhood and not a kind of living death: a permanent impermanence that swallows us up as we try to separate ourselves from it.
But there’s a pure joy in this, somewhere. I sit myself at my desk, dispersed, waiting for it to lend itself to me.
Naming the possible, responding to the impossible. Responding does not consist in formulating an answer, in such a way as to appease the question that would obscurely come from such a region; even less in transmitting, in the manner of an oracle, a few truth contents of which the daytime world would not yet have knowledge. It is poetry’s existence, each time it is poetry, that in itself forms a response and, in this response, attends to what it addressed to us in impossibility (by turning itself away). Poetry does not express this, does not say it, does not draw it under the attraction of language. But it responds. Every beginning speech begins by responding; a response to what is not yet heard, an attentive response in which the impatient waiting for the unknown and the desiring hope for presence are affirmed.
– Blanchot, ‘How To Discover the Obscure’ (trans. S. Hanson)
Which one of us, in his moments of ambition, has not dreamed of a miracle of poetic prose, musical without rhythm and without rhyme, supple enough and rugged enough to adapt itself to the lyrical impulses of the soul, the undulations of reverie, the jibes of conscience?
– Baudelaire, Paris Spleen
‘”I” is this epiphany of absence‘. When I glanced up and saw the slanted old window in the condemned building. The space inside that seemed to recede as I looked into it. The alley itself was sunny and filled with windborne seeds. No one was around, including me. ‘I’ was thankful echoes of my surroundings.