“One Time” by Luis G Piedehierro

I was scrolling though some poetry on Instagram and came across this poem that I really liked. The translation is as follows:

One time

Sometimes life
Gives us things,
And you have to take them,
Catch them,
Run if necessary
To have them in your hands.

You must have
Eyes wide open
And have clarity that
There are things that only
Pass one time.

Newly Available: Free, Digitized Collection of Gabo’s Writings

Two years ago the University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center acquired  Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s works.

A grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR)  contributed to the searchable, online archive which consists of nearly 27,500 items from Garcia Marquez’s papers.

This digitalized collection, is available to the public for free.

The digital archive includes manuscript drafts of the legendary writer’s published and unpublished works, research material, photographs, scrapbooks, correspondence, clippings, notebooks, screenplays, printed material, ephemera, including an audio recording of Marquez’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982.


Review of Law in a Lawless Land: Diary of a Limpieza in Colombia

“The objective of memory is to highlight both the struggle of the dead
and the nature of the powers that silenced them.”
—Luis Carlos Restrepo

As part of my pre-visit area studies and research for Unraveling, I picked up Law in a Lawless Land: Diary of a Limpieza in Colombia by Michael Taussig prior to going to Medellin. A first person account told in a diary format over two weeks, Taussig recounts the dynamics, shares the stories of others and contextualizes the history of the region to explain the murders that once made Colombia the world’s murder capital. While conditions and the murder rates have drastically changed since then, it’s still a place where massacres of campesinos over access to land still occurs to this day.

Taussig’s journal describes in at times uncomfortable details a number of large-scale public killings, referred to as limpiezas in Spanish, as well as the backgrounds of the actors and the historical context in which they occur. Besides this, Taussig also reflects on the role of memory and accountability from a personal in reflections on the process of writing a journal as well as in the political sense, ie – through which means hegemony is formed.

Indigenes, Viciosas, Delincuentes, Traficantes, Paras, Sicarios, Guerrillas, Policia y la Ejercito Oh My!

While many of the participants in the conflict are prone to describing things in terms of good or evil, what is really going on is conflict over modes of production and access to fertile and resource rich lands. Though the quote from Karl Marx’s work Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations is one that opens Michael Taussig’s other book The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America, I think it a good one for quickly that describes the primary driver for conflict here as well.

Thus the ancient conception in which man always appears (in however narrowly national, religious or political a definition) as the aim of production, seems very much more exalted than the modern world, in which production is the aim of man and wealth the aim of production.   

While not nearly as knowledgeable as Taussig about Colombia’s past or collective psyche, my experience with various social strata in Medellin and Jerico, a pueblo in Antioquia, provided me a similar view. Those that primarily outside the capitalist mode of exchange for supplying their daily needs seemed more peaceful, calm and happy then those that depended on it.

In a long passage discussing the transformation of Cali’s agricultural lands in the 1950s and 1960s, Taussig describes how the thousands of peasants, who were outside the capitalist mode of production as the variety of plants they would grow and rotate provided them with all they needed were forcibly dispossessed so that a foreign born family could grow and export sugar. These instances of rapid proletarianization helped contribute to the problems faced within the cities – people without capital or many skills flocking to them – and were accelerated once cocaine became the crop of choice for those wanting to live beyond subsistence means.


When You Don’t Want Your Haters To Know Your Name

The immensity of the cocaine market drove traffickers to form paramilitary organizations to seize land and routes with high use value from the FARC and other large scale farmers. Unable to effectively contest such a well-financed group and still keep their scruples, the FARC got into the protection and trafficking rackets so that they could survive as an organization. Armed conflict over this left many frightened and dead , however this was not the full extent of the new dynamics influencing Colombia’s political economy. Large nuber of addicts too cropped along with a profound incentivization for “bad behavior” as la vida facil – or the drug-dealing/trafficking life – was known to be sweet, but short.

Planfleto Amenzas, or warning pamphlets, like the one above along with the graffiti signs of paras scrawled around the community are the first indication that the paramilitaries are soon coming in for a cleansing of such mala gente. Translating the above picture, it says the following:

“We will be killing all rat bastard sons of bitches, leftist communists, defenders of human rights and the process of peace and restitution of the land, student communist groups, unionists and guerillas.”

Then continues to name the people that will be killed following by the ominous entre otros, or “among others” and a warning that caught or informed upon for helping these people will also be receive lead.

Sometimes warnings are not so explicit and people must rely upon word of mouth news networks or wait until AUC graffiti was painted someplace public to know where and when the AUC was.

The Massive Scope of the Conflict

At the time of this book’s publication in 2002, Michael Taussig states that he’s been visiting Colombia to do fieldwork for 30 years. While the intensity of the civil war has halted, there are still multiple bad effects that stem from the narco-trafficking. There are neighborhoods that require thousands of police in Bogota to clear out the open air drug markets made by vendors and addicts and anyone visiting the area around El Centro in Medellin has seen the improvised encampments filled with bazuco addicts.

Taussig describes in details various encampments and characters he encounters in such places in a way the bring much needed levity to the stories he’s sharing. Behind those moment of levity, however, is the underlying fear. Fear of being seen with the wrong person. Fear of saying the wrong thing. Fear of your name showing up on a computer provided to the paras by the military. In numerous anecdotes the absolute terror felt by those in towns undergoing a cleaning is clear. Just as who is behind these, the local power elites.

¡No Tiene Sentido!

One of the recurring themes in my readings thus far on Colombia which is again reinforced here, is how distorted the reporting of the events are in Colombia. Many journalists fear intimidation, harassment, assault or death as reporting a story in the wrong way would could mean various armed groups would target them, so often they distort reporting in favor of the government or the paras or do not report on important events at all.  The result of this is a collective unreality on all sides.

Threats of violence aren’t the only reasons why mass delusions as to the acts of the government, the paras and the guerillas are reported in a manner that later is corrected in the evidentiary findings of human rights NGOs.

Besides the stick, there is the carrot. Writing about the paradoxical viewpoint that many Colombians have, Taussig points out on page 76 the following commonplace hypocrisy of many Colombian political commentators:

“How is it that while the pandillas, or gangs of the young preoccupy everybody to the point of collective hysteria, while the bandas of the local upper class rarely get talked about? Is it because the bandas have for so long been a part of reality and that many people, or at least many influential people, get fat on them?”

The corruption in the country is notoriously endemic. In fact when asking one taxi drive in Medellin what he thought about the President Santos he want on a long rant about how all the politicians were corrupt – Liberals and Conservatives alike – and that stated that there’s no party that represents the poor and the campesinos except for the FARC, who would never come to power given so many people disliked them for the reason I said above. As a result, leading to million and billions of dollars of state money going to development projects. Maybe a few dollars goes in the pocket of a reporter, or maybe the ownerships of the new outlet gets some money out of it so exercises editorial control, or maybe a company that purchases advertising threatens to pull money if certain things are said. Either way, there are are lot of incentives to sow confusion in community by incomplete or false reporting.


Walter Benjamin Wrote Sonnets?!

Carl Skoggard is indeed correct when stating in the opening of her article Read Early Sonnets by Walter Benjamin, for the first time in English: Heatbroken, One of the Great Thinkers of the 20th Century Turned to Poetry that it is little known that Benjamin wrote poetry.

I’ve read several of major work by Benjamin and was totally clueless. Needless to say, I certainly plan on getting a copy of his book of sonnets to gain a new perspective on the man. For those that may also be interested, read the LitHub article and/or sample some of the poems in the collection below.

Sonnet 1

Disburden me of Time from which thou’rt vanished
And of thy presence free me from within
As in the twilight hours red roses free themselves
From all mere marriedness of things

The heartfelt homage and the bitter voice
I forego calmly and thy burning lips
And yet more burning brow enshaded purple
Just below the black gleam of thy hair

So may that image fail me too of praise
And ire which thou wouldst offer
Underway while very like a prince

Thou didst the banner bear its symbol to unriddle
Plant in me thy sacred Name instead
Name without image Amen without end.

Sonnet 34

I sat one night to ponder on myself
And round me thy sweet life did stir
The mirror of my mind glanced back
As hadst thou just looked out from in its depths

Then came the thought: Thou sucklest me
Into thy breath I shall my self surrender
For like grapes hanging are thy lips
Which have mute witness borne to inmost things

O friend thy presence has been wrested from me
Like one asleep whose hand looks for the wreath
In his own hair so in dark hours I for thee

Though once thy cloak did round me go
As were there dancing and from within the midnight throng
Thy look did snatch the breath out of my mouth.

Sonnet 45

My Soul why art thou always in search of the Beautiful one?
Long is he dead and the rotating globe so
Attends to its spinning that no one still misses the hero
My Soul why art thou always in search of the Beautiful one?

Why dost wake me O Lord with such weeping and groaning?
Ah I was looking to sleep and lamenting disfigures
My desolate state in which Desolate one thou dost share
Why dost wake me O Lord with such weeping and groaning?

And so one night I held in my heart a debate
Falling mute and ashamed I determined on silence
No longer my sorrow to show to my Soul

No more to wake her my griefs to assuage
Though see from her mouth sleeping she allowed to ascend
So many a sorrowful song Her tears flaring like candles.

Unknown Number Sonnet

Waking were his glances my sole light
For errant traces and the starlight
Of his eyes the only beam
Bestowed upon my sleeping places

Now such companions are no more
Mute did the mirrors of all Spirit shatter
In these heavens which their glistening laugh
More blessedly transfigured with each morrow

Even when they wept they stood as pools
Themselves to nourish by the fall of heavy drops
Whose fragrance would outlast the shower

And in the fullness of their tears
Would those things speak which yet lacked names
Much as leaves may speak in gardens.

Lectures on Hegel’s Science of Logic

When I was studying Hegel and Freud with Slavoj Žižek and Avital Ronell at New York University, we were given a vast bibliography with which to .

Science of Logic was easily one of the most difficult books that I’ve ever read, and were it not for Picturing Hegel: An Illustrated Guide to Hegel’s Logic I imagine it would have taken me much longer to grasp .

The Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) presented a one day Lecture on Hegel’s Science of Logic along with questions from the audience.

Speakers include Peter Osbourne, Catherine Malabou and Howard Caygill.

I’ve yet to listen to the lectures and questions, I’m kind of posting this here as a reminder for me to come back to this later, but suffice it to say I am very excited to listen to this as Catherine Malabou’s  The Future of Hegel: Plasticity, Temporality and Dialiectic was one of my favorite books while at NYU.

On the Book Cover for Medellin Sonnet Mixtape

While I spent a lot of time on deciding a book cover for Unraveling, the process for what would front Medellin Sonnet Mixtape was much easier. How so? Simple, I asked my muse what sort of image she’d most prefer for the cover and without skipping a beat she said: “Quiero que sea una foto desnuda de mí, pero al estilo de una pintura al óleo”. I then asked her what sort of oil painting style she wanted to go with and here’s what she chose.

What I’d like is to have a normal photo (taken with an iPhone camera) altered into something like one of these along with appropriately stylized title text, author attribution and a small description:

Medellin Sonnet Mixtape by Ariel Sheen

20 poems in English and Spanish

That’s it! If you can do this, I’ll send you the photo reference images of her for use in making it.