Friday, 3 December 2010

The Inkwell of Stéphane Mallarmé, or Why Write

L’ encrier, cristal comme une conscience,

avec sa goutte, au fond, de ténèbres
relative à ce quelque chose soit:
puis, écarte la lampe.

Tu remarquas, on n’écrit pas, lumineusement
sur champ obscure, l’ alphabet des astres,
seul, ainsi, s’ indique, ébauché ou
interrompu; l’ home poursuit noir
sur blanc.

The inkwell, crystalline like consciousness
with its drop, at bottom, of shadows
relative to letting something be:
then, take the lamp away.

You noted, one does not write, luminously,
on a dark field; the alphabet of stars
alone does that, sketched or
interrupted; man pursues black
upon white.

Stéphane Mallarmé is credited for giving “a signifying function to the materiality – the blanks, the typefaces, the placement on the page, the punctuation – of writing.” He has written that the act of writing in its materiality, in its movement confirms the writer’s existence. The act of writing applied on paper sends a “force in some direction, any direction, which, when encountered, gives you immunity from having no result.”

Why write? Why not keep silent? Captain Nemo and I had had a small exchange regarding the reason – the necessity, or the inevitability – of writing. One writes to leave a trace, even if it is not a trace of clarity, even if it’s a trace of ignorance, says Mallarmé. “Your act is always applied to paper, for meditating without a trace is evanescent, nor is the exalting of an instinct in some vehement, lost gesture what you were seeking.”

Stumbled upon the Mallarmé analysis while looking for his inkwell in Jackson Pollock: Interviews, Articles and Reviews, 1943-1993 edited by Pepe Karmel (Museum of Modern Art 2000). Translation from whitneyannetrettien blog.

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