another vague of Michaux (by csperez collected by Bjorn from Up There Somewhere)

Drugs bore us with their paradises.

Let them give us a little knowledge instead.

This is not a century for paradise.

Henri Michaux

from A CERTAIN PLUME (Un certain Plume, 1930, with additions in 1936)


Stretching his hands out from the bed, Plume was surprised not to encounter the wall. “Hmm,” he thought, “the ants must have eaten it…”

and he went back to sleep.

A bit later his wife caught him by the arm and shook him: “Look,” she said, “you good-for-nothing! While you were busy sleeping, they stole our house from us.” And in fact, sky stretched out uninterrupted on every side. “Oh well, it’s over and done with,” he thought.

A bit later they heard a noise. It was a train hurtling right at them.

“Judging by the rush it seems to be in, it will surely get there before us,” and he went back to sleep.

Next the cold woke him up. He was all soaked in blood. A few pieces of his wife were lying next to him. “When there’s blood,” he thought, “there is always so much unpleasantness; if only that train hadn’t gone by, I would have been delighted. But since it has gone by already…” and he went back to sleep.

“Come now,” the judge was saying, “how can you explain the fact that your wife was so badly wounded she was found chopped into eight pieces, whereas you, who were lying next to her, could not make a move to stop it, and did not even realize it? That is the mystery. That is the whole question.”

“I cannot help him in this line of inquiry,” thought Plume, and he went back to sleep.

“The execution will take place tomorrow. Does the prisoner have a statement to make?”

“I’m sorry,” he said, “I haven’t been following the affair.” And he went back to sleep.



blogging of the dust – :

“all gardens are hard for trees”

in the collection “A Certain Plume,” (1930, 36) is a collection of surreal vignettes about a character named “Plume”:

“Stretching his hands out from the beds, Plume was suprised not to encounter the wall. ‘Hmm,’ he thought, ’the ants must have eaten it…’ and he went back to sleep.”

anyways, i’m much more interested in the afterword he wrote to this collection than the poems themselves. it traces Michaux’s ideas about the self and representation:

“[…] For too many thousands of years, he has been occupied by conquerors.

Self is made out of everything. A certain inflection in a sentence — is this another me tryiny to appear? if the YES is mine, is the NO a second me?

‘Me’ is never anything but provisional […] and pregnant with a new character who will be set free by an accident, an emotion, a blow on the head — excluding the preceding character, and to everyone’s astonishment, formed instantly. So he was already fully formed.

Perhaps we are not made for just one self. We are wrong to cling to it. The prejudice in favor of unity. (Here as elsewhere, the will:

impoverishing and sacrificing).

In a double, triple, quintuple life, we would be more comfortable, less gnawed and paralyzed by a subconsious hostile to the conscious mind (hostility of the other, deprived ‘selves’).

The greatest fatigue of the day and of a life may be caused by the effort, the tension necessary to keep the same self through the continual temptations to change it.

We want too much to be someone.

There is not one self. There are not ten selves. There is no self. ME is only a position in equilibrium. (one among a thousand others, continually possible and always at the ready.) An average of ‘me’s,’ a movement in the crowd. In the name of many, I sign this book.


Each tendency in me had its own will, as each thought, as soon as it appears and is organized, has its own will. Was it mine? This man has his will in me, that one — a friend, a great man of the past, the Gautuma Buddha, many others, lesser ones: Pascal, Ernest Hello? Who knows?

The will of the greatest number? The will of the most coherent group?

I did not want to want. I wanted, it seems to me, against myself, because I had no desire to want and nonetheless I wanted.

…As a crowd, I found my way around my moving crowd. As every thing is crowd, every though, every instant. Every past, every uninterruption, every transformation, every thing is something else.

Nothing ever definitely circumscribed, capable of being circumscribed,

everything: relations, mathematics, symbols, or music. Nothing fixed.

Nothing is property.

My images? Relations.

My thoughts? But perhaps thoughts are precisely only annoyances of the self, losses of equilibrium (phase 2), or regaining equilibrium (phase

3) of the thinker’s motion. The phase 1 (equilibrium) remains unknown, unconscious.

The true, deep, thinking flux no doubt happens without conscious thought, without images. […] Let us avoid following an author’s thought; rather, let’s look at what he has in the back of his mind, what he’s getting at, the imprint that his desire to dominate and influence — although well hidden — tries to make on us.


His intentions, his passions, his libido dominandi, his compulsive lying, his nervousness, his desire to be right, to win, to seduce, to surprise, to believe and have others believe what he wishes, to fool people, to hide — his appetites and his disgusts, his complexes and his whole life harmonizing, unbeknowst to him, with the organs, the glands, the hidden life of his body, his physical deficiencies, everything is unknown to him.

His ‘logical’ thought? But it circulates in a casting of paralogical and analogical ideas, a straight rode cutting through circular paths, seizing (you can only seize by cutting) bleeding sections of this so richly vascularized world. (All gardens are hard for trees.) False simplicity of first truths (in metaphysics) followed by extreme multiplicity — that’s what he’s trying to get accepted.

In one point, too, will and thought converge, inseparable, and become false thought-will.

In one point, too, the examination of false thought — thought like, in microphysics, the observation of light (the path of the photon) — falsifies it.

And progess, every new observation, every thought, every creation, seems to create (at the same time as light) a zone of darkness.

All knowledge creates new ignorance.

All consciousness, a new consiousness.

Every new contribution creates new nothingness.

So, reader, you’re holding in your hands, as often happens, a book the author did not write, although a world participated in it. And what does it matter?

Signs, symbols, impulses, falls, departures, relations, discords, everything is there to bounce up, to seek, for further on, for something else.

Between them, without settling down, the author grew his life.

Perhaps you could try, too?”

posted by csperez @ 11:48 AM 2 comments

just a short bio of Michaux clipped from the web:

Henri Michaux was born May 24, 1899 in the small Belgian town of Namur, the second child of Octave Michaux, a shopkeeper, and his wife Jeanne. The family moved to Brussels when Henri was two years old.

Henri attended a countryside boarding school where he was an indifferent student and felt alienated from the other students.

He returned home to Brussels in 1910 to attend a Jesuit high school, where he studied Latin and developed an interest in Christian mystics.

He also had passion for Chinese writing and the study of insects.

Michaux’s university education was delayed two years by the Nazi occupation of Belgium. Michaux spent this period devouring a variety of eccentric literature, everything from the lives of saints to avant garde poets. Henri considered entering the priesthood, but eventually acquiesced to his father’s wishes to study medicine. Michaux enrolled in the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 1919 as a medical student.

Tired of medicine, Michaux dropped out after one year and joined the crew of a merchant ship in 1920.

Michaux traveled to various ports throughout North and South American and left the ship a year later, only days before it was involved in a fatal shipwreck. Back in Belgium, Michaux was forced into the military for a mandatory one-year term, but was released early due a heart condition. In 1922, while convalescing in the military hospital from his heart condition, Michaux discovered the works of Lautreament.

Michaux worked a number of miserable jobs while working on his writing and considered himself a total failure. It was difficult for Michaux to find a satisfactory poetic style and he flirted with several pseudonyms, feeling that putting his own name on the poem would be like stamping it ‘inferior quality.’ Michaux occasionally received some encouragement for his poetic efforts and had his first poem published in 1922 in the Le Disque Vert, the literary journal of Franz Hellens, who became an early supporter of Michaux. Shortly thereafter, Hellens hired Michaux as co-director of Le Disque Vert, where Henri edited the journal and several poetry collections by the authors who had appeared in the journal.

In 1924, Michaux left Belgium and moved to Paris to become a delivery person for Simon Kra’s publishing house. While there, the influential writer Jules Supervielle met Michaux and hired him as a personal secretary. Henri quickly became acquainted with the Parisian literati, including Jean Paulhaun who also encouraged Michaux. During this period Michaux discovered painting through the imaginative works of Klee, Ernst and Chirico.

In 1927, Michaux negotiated a semi-exclusive publishing deal with Gallimard and published his first book, Qui je fus, a stylistically varied collection of previously published poetry. Michaux later disowned the work and barred its republication during his lifetime.

Later that year, Michaux traveled with fellow poet Alfredo Gangotena to South America, a journey that lasted over a year and gave raise to Michaux’s next book, Ecuador, a poetic anti-travel journal published in 1929.

After his parents death in 1929, Michaux traveled through North Africa, Turkey, Italy; ’traveling against’ to free himself from the vestiges of European culture that confined him. Henri found the sort of freedom he sought when he traveled to Asia in 1932. He traveled through India, Nepal, Ceylon, China, Japan, and Indonesia for eight months taking impressionistic notes on the people and culture of each country. These notes were published in 1933 under the title A Barbarian in Asia and would later become controversial for its racist overtones.

With Night Moves, published in 1935, Michaux began to develop his mature style, characterized by an odd mix of horror, cruelty and humor, a preoccupation with the body, and an intense, introspective look into the workings of human consciousness to the complete exclusion of external reality.

Michaux also continued to travel in the mid-1930’s, visiting Spain, the Canary Islands, and Portugal. In 1935, Henri Michaux met Marie-Louise Ferdière, a married woman, and the couple carried on an affair for several years. Michaux traveled to South America in 1936 to attend a PEN Colloquium in Buenos Aires where he met Jorge Luis Borges, who introduced Michaux’s work to Latin America.

He had his first solo art show in 1937 at the Galerie Pierre in Paris.

Henri enjoyed his first popular literary success with the publication of Plume in 1938, a sly, absurdly humorous work that solidified his growing literary reputation. Michaux’s increasing interest in art was evident in the 1939 publication of Peintures, a work that coupled his poems with his own abstract illustrations.

Later that year the Nazis invaded and occupied Paris. Michaux, being a Belgian citizen and unable to travel, holed himself in his house at Le Lavandou and worked on his writing and painting during the occupation.

In 1941, the influential writer Andre Gide published Discovering Henri Michaux after the Nazis banned a Gide organized conference on Michaux earlier in the year.

Michaux married Marie-Louise in 1943. Unfortunately, due to the strict food rationing near the end of the war, his wife was diagnosed with tuberculosis, which forced her into a long period of convalescence.

Henri, perhaps in response to his emerging public profile, published a collection of excerpts from his previous works in 1944 under the title The Space Within. Tragedy struck again, when Michaux’s brother died in 1944. The following year he published Ordeals, Exorcisms, an abstract, allegorical evocation of his war times experiences.

In 1948, a year after Michaux’s wife recovered from her illness, she died from atrocious burns suffered when her robe caught fire. Michaux was devastated and began painting and writing at a furious pace. In 1948, he published Still Us Two about his relation with his wife and the aftermath of her death. The same year Michaux published Elsewhere, a collection of previously published imaginary travelogues. In 1949, Michaux published another work that combined his writing and illustration, Life in the Folds, about the Meidosems, imaginary fragile filament-like creatures that have ‘lost all consistency.’

Michaux had his first art retrospective held in 1951 at the Rive Gauche gallery in Paris. For reasons not entirely clear, Michaux became a French citizen in 1955. During the same period, he began to experiment with various drugs, primarily mescaline, as another means to explore the mechanisms of human consciousness. Rather than escape to an ‘artificial paradise,’ Michaux sought to clinically observe and record his first hand experiences with chemically induced anguish and ecstasy. His experimentation lasted 10 years until he tired of the experience, concluding that drugs were unreliable and he had ‘no gift for addiction.’

He wrote about his drug experiences in the books Miserable Miracle:Mescaline, Infinite Turbulence, Light Through Darkness and The Major Ordeals of the Mind, and Countless Minor Ones. Michaux became a minor celebrity in the counterculture when the Beats discovered these drug influenced works in the 1960’s.

Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s Michaux became known throughout the world as one of the preeminent writers in France, partly with the help of his admirers among the Surrealists, the Nouvelle Vague and the American Beats. In 1970’s, Michaux wrote about his dreams, composed aphorisms (a favorite literary form of his), produced some oblique art criticism on the art of mental patients and delved deeper into Eastern Mysticism.

When Michaux broke his right arm in the early 1970’s, he was forced into a new orientation with his body and life itself, an experience he details in Broken Arm, published in 1973. Near the end of his life, Michaux turned toward Eastern contemplation more and more, yet he did so to celebrate his own spirit rather than examine it, as he done most of his life. Henri Michaux suffered a heart attack and died on October 18, 1984.

posted by csperez @ 11:12 AM 0 comments

Friday, April 07, 2006

“a display of light”

three poems by Michaux from “My Properties” (1927-29) and this painting by Michaux


And aller, aller et allero

And bitch!

Sarcospell on Sarico,

Andorn for talico,

Or’ll andora your adogo,


Crass, crass like Chicago,

And ass-kicks to poverty.

Death of a Page

Unbornished, vunished and already more raggled than rigged.

. . . A little thing and dying.

Alogol! Alopertius! Alogol! Help, I beg of you. . .

There is a druin, fuin, sen sen lom.

There is a luin, suin, sen sen lom.

. . . A little thing and dying.

But he’s as upright, nyah! swaggerom,

As all chivalry or Cardinal of France.


As I went further west, I saw nine-segmented insects with huge eyes like graters and latticework corselets like miners’ lamps, others with murmuring antennae; some with twenty-odd pairs of legs that looked more like staples; other of black lacquer and mother-of-pearl that crunched underfoot like shells; still others high legged like daddy longlegs with little pin-eyes as red as the eyes of albino mice, veritable glowing coals on stems with an expression of ineffable panic; still others with an ivory head — surprisingly bald, so that suddenly one had the most fraternal feelings for them — so close, their legs kicking forward like piston rods zigzagging in the air.

Finally, there were transparent ones, bottles with hairy spots,

perhaps: they came forward by the thousands — glassware, a display of light and sun so bright that afterward everything seemed ash and product of dark night.

posted by csperez @ 10:19 PM 0 comments

‘from my nerves’

finished reading “Darkness Moves: An Henri Michaux Anthology:

1927-1984″ translated by David Ball. a collection full of wonders that i will have to post on little by little since there is such rich diversity throughout the work.

strangely, I wanted to start with the “Afterword: How I wrote ‘My Properties’…” (1934) (I will post on “My Properties” tomorrow).

“None of the willed imagination of the professionals. No themes, developments, construction, or method. On the contrary, only the imagination that comes from the inability to conform.

These pieces, without preconceived connections, were written lazily from day to day, following my needs, the way it came, without pushing, following the wave, always attending to what was most pressing, in a slight wavering of truth — never to construct, simply to preserve.


Anybody can write My Properties.

Even the invented words, even the invented animals in this book were invented ‘from my nerves,’ and not constructed according to what I think about language and animals.”


what do you think?

posted by csperez @ 1:38 AM

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