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A collection of quotes
as a self portrait

Georgette Berger and her future husband René Magritte met as teenagers in 1913 at the annual Charleroi fair. I can’t find any info about that fair but it was probably similar to some degree to the world’s fair held in Ghent that same year, which they probably both also attended. “Civilized society” still had “human zoo” exhibits back then... Georgette and René didn’t see each other again until after the war when they met (I think by chance, not planned) in the Botanic Garden in Brussels in 1920.


Here are some photos I took of a man at the Botanic Garden in Brussels in 2018. He was pretending to conduct a symphony with two yellow umbrellas. I imagined he was waiting for someone he hadn’t met in person before, like a blind date, and he told that person that he’d be holding two yellow umbrellas, one for him and one for them, since there was a chance of rain.


And this is a photograph of a dramatic flower I took right after I took the far-away pics of the man and his two yellow umbrellas.


I then sat down on a wet bench to eat a pear that a grocery store clerk gave to me for free without exchanging words, just polite smiles, which made me feel better because I was unhinged by being alone in a European city, not knowing the language and feeling very shy about communicating with store clerks, which is already hard for me in my own town in my own first language.


Recently I came across this archive of Women in Concrete Poetry. I was very excited by Punctuation Poems by Nye Ffarrabas (formerly Bici Forbes and Bici Forbes Hendricks). She has so many former names as part of her artist name which itself seems to be a kind of concrete poem.


She co-founded Black Thumb Press in 1965 with her then husband, Geoffrey Hendricks; they were both associated with Fluxus, an international community of artists, and on their 10th wedding anniversary, they decided to turn their divorce (they were both gay) into performance art, the Flux Divorce:

“It was a public art ritual they created to symbolize an end of their marriage as it had been and the beginning of a new chapter that would include a non-monogamous, open relationship that made space for same-sex partners,” their daughter, Tyche Hendricks, said. “They strung barbed wire through the kitchen. They sawed their bed in half. They donned a pair of overcoats, sewed together back to back; then the women pulled my mother and the men pulled my father until the coats tore asunder.” (The New York Times)

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Fluxus manifesto


My friend Pete told me to read Sweet Days of Discipline by Fleur Jaeggy and I’m glad he did. It is now one of my favorite books and I haven’t even finished it yet. Here are some of my favorite self-reflective lines so far:

...obsessively her was a strategy for not attracting attention, for hiding, for not mixing with the others, or simply keeping her distance.

...her scorn for everything was an aesthete's scorn.

...she was more interested in ideas than in human beings.

...people tell me I have beautiful, interesting handwriting. They don't know how hard I worked at it.


I didn’t write a poem this time, but I do have this rough sketch of an idea 100% influenced by The Last Novel by David Markson which is an unconventional novel told in the form of quotes but still successfully develops character and situation: “The story of an aging author, who may or may not be writing his last novel, slowly emerges through the fragments.”(Wikipedia)

Walter Benjamin collected quotes in little black notebooks that he carried everywhere. “On occasion he read from them aloud, showed them around like items from a choice and precious collection.” (Hannah Arendt) According to Susan Sontag in On Photography, Walter Benjamin’s ideal project was “a work of literary criticism that was to consist entirely of quotation, and would thereby be devoid of anything that might betray empathy.”

Susan Sontag ends On Photography with an homage to Walter Benjamin, a quotes-only piece of her own, saying “though collecting quotations could be considered as merely an ironic mimetism...the collector becomes someone engaged in a pious work of salvage.”

I have wanted to explore this format for a self portrait. Here’s an unedited version of some of the quotes I’ve collected for this self portrait:

[she] could never keep up her end of the dialogue with hairdressers. —Joan Didion, Play It As It Lays

She looked forward to being an old woman and wearing strange clothes. —Lydia Davis, Break it Down

Looking at my reflection really did soothe me, though I hated my face with a passion. —Ottessa Moshfegh, Eileen

A person reading in a room with other people can make those people feel lonely and slightly terrified of whatever secret conversation is going on between a book and the person reading it. —Anne Boyer, A Handbook of Disappointed Fate

All day the clock answers my questions about the time very well, and so, wondering what the title of that book was, I look at the face of the clock for an answer. —Lydia Davis, Examples of Confusion

...she loved to read, and she took good notes on what she read, on the ideas that came to her from what she read, since she did have some ideas of her own, and even on her ideas about these ideas. —Lydia Davis, Almost No Memory

The trouble with life is, just when you think you're having a happy ending, things are changing, because there are no endings except death. —Eve Babitz, Black Swans

Let him be fifty feet away, let him not even speak to you, let him not even see you, he permeated, he prevailed, he imposed himself. —Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse

The most humorless are usually those who have most invested in the existing order, and humor has always been a pleasure, a tool, and a weapon of those who see that gap. —Rebecca Solnit, A Book of Migrations

...the laughter at serious things, the unlaughing member in the audience of a comedian… —Renata Adler, Pitch Dark

I was thinking today that I have spent my whole life trying to be a man. —Eileen Myles, Inferno

Based on how easily people who once loved me seem to be able to cut me off, and based on how easy it is for me to accept it, I can only assume that love is a temporary indulgence, never to be trusted. —Chelsea Martin, Mickey

As soon as a human being is left alone, she tips into unreason...nothing keeps her from her sudden emergence of her personal delirium. —Marguerite Duras, Writing

She came from nothing—and left jaded about everything! —Sophie Calle, True Stories’re sitting there in your pajamas, thinking how virtuous you are for being home. —Eve Babitz, Slow Days, Fast Company

She never would leave her apartment unless she was pushed from behind.  She got a headache at the mere mention of a party. —Eve Babitz, Slow Days, Fast Company

What do I care about anything when I can lie on the bed and pull the past over me like a blanket? —Jean Rhys, Good Morning, Midnight

I only remember my failings, failures and slights and refusals. —Joan Didion, South and West

...monsieur et madame, mister, misses, and miss, I am trying so hard to be like you. I know I don't succeed, but look how hard I try...every morning an hour and a half trying to make myself look like everybody else. —Jean Rhys, Good Morning, Midnight

It is oppressive to have an invisible father. —Susan Sontag, Debriefing

I'd been on my own since I turned seventeen and that early independence made me old. —Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Sometimes I find myself walking down the street or through Scarves and Handbags thinking about absolutely nothing, my mind worrying its own emptiness. I think: Everyone is thinking bigger thoughts than I, everyone is thinking thoughts. Sometimes it scares me, this bone box of a head of mine, this clean, shiny ashtray. —Lorrie Moore, Self-Help

She has the habits of those who are solitary, whether by choice or by circumstance — changing plans to indulge the mood of the moment, making and breaking contingency arrangements. —Penelope Lively, Heat Wave

I thought about how there were things in the soda that were slowly killing me and I drank it down and said, “Delicious.” —Scott McClanahan, The Sarah Book

How can anybody be a person of quality if they wash away their ghosts with common sense? —Leonora Carrington, Waiting

...after days of drugging myself with reading… —Anaïs Nin, A Spy in the House of Love

Her body suffered from [...] indulgence. —Djuna Barnes, Nightwood

The words that fell from her mouth seemed to have been lent to her; had she been forced to invent a vocabulary for herself, it would have been a vocabulary of two words… —Djuna Barnes, Nightwood

She sticks her middle finger into the air as far as she can. —Kathy Acker, New York City in 1979

thanks for reading