Au lecteur

This is modeled on the commonplace books that people used to make, in which they stored those snips of their reading and experience that they wished to keep.

A common-place book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial reason, that “great wits have short memories;” and whereas, on the other hand, poets being liars by profession, ought to have good memories. ~ Jonathan Swift, A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet.

In ancient rhetoric, commonplace is koinos topos - ''a composition which amplifies inherent evils.'' It often fit into the curriculum as a preparatory exercise for either encomium or vituperation. Which is not altogether unrelated to what seems to be going on here.*

At times it seems that the most powerful Net developments involve sharing.

Commonplaces you love are welcome here.

This new commonplace book will take time to make. So will the larger one being made, and played, willy nilly, everywhere we turn.

An additional comment on blogs can be found here.

~ Tom Matrullo


(In case you were looking for this):

Au lecteur

Stupidity, avarice, folly, and vice
Inhabit the soul while enslaving the frame —
And yet, we nurture our pleasant self-blame,
As beggars nourish their verminous lice.

Our sins cling tightly, our pangs disappear.
We charge fat fees for all our confessions,
Then smile and return to our slimy transgressions,
Believing we wash away stains with a tear.

Look there! on the pillow!--Satan Trismegist
Lulling our spirit until it lies still.
Then the precious metal of our free will
Is vaporized by that shrewd alchemist.

The strings that move us are in Satan’s control!
We find temptation in what should repel.
Each day we descend one step closer to hell,
Through darkness and stench, with calmness of soul.

Like some poor lecher who kisses and chews
The martyrized breast of a worn-out whore,
We steal, en passant, one furtive thrill more,
Which we squeeze like an orange a beast would refuse.

Swarming like maggots, a villainous team
Of demons carouses deep in our brains,
And whenever we breathe, it’s Death that drains
Into our lungs like an underground stream.

If daggers and arson, poison and rape,
Have never embroidered their elegant lines
On the dull canvas of our lives’ designs,
It’s because of our fear to give them a shape.

But along with the jackals, the panthers, the snakes,
The scorpions, vultures, monkeys, and hounds,
The beasts with their grunts and their snarling sounds
In our foul circus of vice and mistakes,

There’s one that’s filthiest, most ill-drawn.
Although his doings are not of much worth,
He’d be more than willing to mash up the earth
And swallow it down in a monstrous yawn:

It’s Boredom!—his eyelids bleary with trouble;
Smoking his hookah, he dreams of the noose.
You’ve met him, reader—no need to introduce:
Hypocrite reader—my brother—my double!

--Charles Baudelaire, To the Reader of Les Fleurs du Mal, with thanks to Peter D’Epiro, friend, translator, and author of Sprezzatura and What are the Seven Wonders of the World?


Other instances of commonplaces:

P.D. Uxov. "Commonplaces (loci communes) as a Means of Documenting Byliny." Trans. Stephen Soudakoff et al. In The Study of Russian Folklore. Ed. Felix J. Oinas and Stephen Soudakoff. The Hague: Mouton. pp. 207-17.

Studies recurrent, formulaic phrases (which he calls loci communes) in the byliny finding (1) that they are not memorized but amenable to creative manipulation by different narrators, (2) that each poet develops a personal set of formulas differing from those of other poets, (3) that the commonplaces are used consistently, that is, functionally, and (4) that slight modifications of a narrator's phrases can occur under varying narrative conditions.

...and it was terrible to each, in this dire emergency, to meet only the beautiful eyes of perfect strangers, instead of the merry, friendly, commonplace, twinkling, jolly little eyes of its own brothers and sisters. ~ Five Children and It.

...and is there anything (and I am delighted to note that you agree with me in this), anything more charming, more productive, more positively exciting, than the commonplace? ~ Baudelaire, Salon of 1859.

Commonplaces has two departments, but the current template renders their difference invisible. One is called IMproPRieTies, the other, Bifurcations. There is no reason to know this.

This might be of some relevance to the IMproPRieTies dept.:

... between two utterly different spheres, as between subject and object, there is no causality, no accuracy, no expression, but at the utmost, an aesthetic relation - I mean an allusive transposition, a stammering translation in a quite distinct foreign language, for which purpose, however, there is needed at any rate an intermediate sphere, an intermediate force, freely composing, and freely inventing. Nietzsche, cited by Ed Cohen (via Wood), who adds:

What is proper to autopoetic systems, then, like all metaphoric operators, is impropriety.

"Even before beginning his poem, the poet is ‘indebted’ to his audience…[t]here are obligations of form implicit in the norms or ‘proprieties’ of expression.” K. Burke, Thoughts on Poets’ Corner.

See also here.