Writing, reading, watching, listening.

Writing, reading, watching, listening.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Tuesday, January 11, 2022


 My second book, LIGHT REFLECTION OVER BLUES, is ready for pre-order on Ravenna press's site: 


I invite you to get a copy (the printer is at work!) and let me know what you think.



The people in Avital Gad-Cykman's stories are haunted by both the past and the future. They live in a world where everything is fluid and impermanent--geopolitical boundaries, family bonds, the self itself. Their lives are simultaneously holy and profane, joyful and heartbroken--which is another way of saying deeply, recognizably, stirringly human. Life's unspeakable mystery winds through these stories like a whisper in the dark.

Ron Currie, Jr, Addison M Metcalf Award recipient from the Academy of Arts and Letters

A stunning collection. Though I nearly inhaled Light Reflection Over Blues in one sitting, Avital Gad-Cykman’s opalescent stories had me turning over each one in my mind. With poetic, condensed language, she evokes the pains of young women growing up amidst conflict in the landscape around them—as well as deep in their own hearts. Sometimes surreal, sometimes frank, but always engaging, these stories hit like smart bombs.

Viet Dinh, O’Henry Award winning author of After Disasters

In this stunning collection, Avital Gad-Cykman's elegant prose not only shines and reflects--it resonates. Her characters are curious and wise, surprising and real, full of depth and magic. LIGHT REFLECTION OVER BLUES is colorful, brilliant, and necessary. One of the best--one I won't forget.

Kim Chinquee, recipient of two Pushcart Prizes and editor of ELJ and New World Writing

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Notes about EROS in old and older texts

From Companion to Literary Myths, Heroes and Archetypes 412-
Ann-Deborah Levy
“Eros is one of the divinities in the Greek pantheon who features most prominently in literature.” Painters and poets have developed his mythical figure. This figure has a strange duality: 1. The image of the young god of love. Imposed over: 2. The ancient abstract force of desire.
First appeared in Hesiod’s Theogony (7th century BC). He’s one of the three primordial entities that existed before the formation of the universe: Chaos, Earth (Gaia) and Love (Eros).
*He has the force of attraction necessary for reproduction (at first without tender love.)
*First union and reproduction: Gaia and her son Uranus Sky)-Uranus buried the children in their mother’s breast to prevent generation. It shows that when abused the power of Eros is capable of self-destruction.
*Orphic tradition: attributes creation to Eros. Aristophanes parodies Orphic beliefs.
*Parmenides and Empedocles-Another story: Zeus devours Eros and thus empowered creates the gods and the universe.
The breadth of Eros power extends to the elements and nature because he’s a primordial god. Aristophanes: Eros’s power is connected with outstanding beauty. Hesiod-the same.
*The association of beauty and power reflects the irresistible attraction of desire.
*Originally he was worshipped as an abstract power.
Eros and Aphrodite
He saw her being born.
Also-portrayed as her son. (According to Sappho Uranus was his father.)
5th century BC-Eros is the patron deity of ephebic love (a youth in ancient Greece who had reached the age of puberty). Personify abstract desire.
Aphrodite personified love realization and its physical pleasure.
Greek erotic poetry: the abstract influence exerted by Eros can be summed up as involving suffering.  Sappho attributes to him cruelty.
Plato’s Symposium-the dual aspects of Eros
Six speeches in honor of Eros. Can be grouped into three. Phaedrus-the most ancient god.
Agathon-the youngest god.
Pausanias and Eryximachus: Eros as double- (Aphrodite, his companion, too, is able to adopt two forms.)
He’s interested mainly in masculine love and spiritual matters.
Eryximachus extends the concept of doubleness to nature, art and science.
Aristophanes and Socrates: A “recounts the story of how men were originally double but were cut in two as a punishment for effrontery in challenging the gods and have ever since been desperately seeking reunion with their missing halves. Eros represents the instinct that enables men to rediscover happiness for an instant, along with their original wholeness” (416).
Socrates bases his theory on Eros’s nature on the teachings of Diotima, a priestess at Mantinea. Eros is a demon, a go-between linking gods and men. Poverty is his mother and Expediency his father. He procreates through heterosexual love and also creation of the soul through homosexual love. Moves from beauty to the concept of beauty.
…Western literature. Psychoanalysis.
p. 982 The first version of the love story between Psyche and Cupid can be traced to Apuleius’s The Golden Ass. It’s an allegory, a fable. Psyche means soul in Greek. Based on oral popular stories.
The story is in my essay.

Michel Foucault, The History of sexuality vol. II
p.187 A problematic Relation
“The use of pleasure in the Relationship with boys was a theme of anxiety for Greek thought-which is paradoxical in a society that is believed to have ‘tolerated’ what we call ‘homosexuality.’”
Their boundaries were different. More between men addicted to pleasure (the tyrant Eros) with boys and women and those moderate, self-possessed, those who had morals.  (Plato).
Can we say the Greeks were bisexual? They had a dual practice but they didn’t recognize it as two different or competing desires/pleasures.
“What made it possible to desire a man or a woman was simply the appetite that nature had implanted in man’s heart for ‘beautiful’ human beings, whatever their sex might be” (188).
Made a young boy and a young girl dance and play lovers-the prize was for someone to have sex with a young boy.
To love boys was a free practice-permitted by law and accepted by opinion. It had religious guarantees and basis in literature.
Mixed with it there were other attitudes: contempt for young men who were easy or too self-interested, a disqualification of effeminate men and disallowance of shameful behaviors.
p.191 “it would be more worthwhile [than the question of tolerance and homosexuality] to ask how and in what form the pleasure enjoyed between men was problematic.”
We tend to think nowadays that practice aimed for pleasure between two partners of the same sex [gender] are governed by a particular structure of desire.
The Greeks thought differently. Appetite was nobler if inclined toward the more beautiful and the more honorable.
Desire called for a particular mode of behavior between two males. An ethical form. There’s the love directed at boys. (Why) this practice gave rise to an extraordinary complex problematization.
There was special concern for this relationships that implied an age difference, and status difference.
Passivity was always disliked.
In this type of relationships there was much at stake.
Homer: one was stronger the other more intelligent. (195.)
There was certain ritualization that gave it form, value and interest.  A reward etc etc etc
Matrimonial life:
Open to a certain point.
In economics and household there was a binary spatial structure: the exterior for the man, the interior for the woman.
Boy/man: common space.
The man could not exercise authority over the boy as long as he wasn’t slave born.
Strategies to allow for the other’s freedom, ability to refuse, and consent.
Timing. (p199)
This bond of love was doomed to disappear and become friendship.
Matrimonial morality and the sexual ethics of the married man did not depend of the existence of erotic relation in order to constitute itself and its rules.
            Sappho, Foucault; and Women’s Erotics
Hellen Green
“Feminist theorists have criticized Foucault on two main points: 1) his omission of the historical construction of sexuality as gender-specific and 2) his use of masculine forms of erotic practice as his model for ancient sexuality in general. “
These forms are not transferable to feminine behavior. His is a phallic mode of representation.
Teresa de Lauretis: gender blindness validates sexual oppression of women. To deny gender is to remain in “ideology” that’s self-serving.
Foucault shows the boy’s situation as the object of pleasure that can become a subject-could be understood as honorable. The boy received knowledge.
It’s erotic domination-and it has implications for women.
What’s the alternative?
Sappho expressed an alternative representation of desire. There’s not enough information so we can’t draw conclusions. However, she offers an alternative erotic practice and discourse, with mutuality.
Marylyn Skinner analyses it p.4-5
Fragment 94 by Sappho-a vivid illustration of Sappho’s poetry of mutuality, outside male assumptions. She doesn’t observe the lover but makes her a part of her own interior world. Punctuation is an instrument of poetic erotica. There is a dissolution between the self and the other. The woman is also described as independent-outside the narrator’s love for her.
p.11 Foucault fails to see the structures of domination and the discourses that produce sexuality as gender reflects a male-centered perspective. Isaac Balbus: Thus he implies that male has the meaning of a generically human orientation.
His text denies female subjectivity.
Marilyn Skinner: It’s the missing half of the Greco-Roman gender dialectic. Sappho’s poems circulated because they offered something not only to females but to males as well. It was an opportunity to enact a woman’s part. And yet, Foucault omitted her.
The Greatest Cryptographer of Contemporary Myths
Talks about Love
Philippe Roger interviews Roland Barthes
(Here is something that explains the cliché of reading Playboy for the articles-this one would have made me buy an issue.)
Barthes sees himself as a semiologist, critic and essayist.
Barthes wrote the book A Lover’s Discourse—about love. It’s a personal book, but there’s a major reference to Goethe’s Werther (1774).
Barthes: Love is out of date in the intellectual milieu. The popular attitude too is expressed in denigrating the lover as lunatic, a madman in jokes and remarks. Love as passion is almost frowned upon. It’s considered an illness from which the lover should recover. (He wants letters from the readers to prove himself wrong…)
In modern urban life there’s no place for the poses of the pathetic lover. In the 19th century there were paintings, lithographs and other forms to represent the lover. Now we cannot recognize him on the street.
*The expression “The beloved object” is one of principle: being in love is a unisex situation. In French “The Beloved object” doesn’t take sides (fem/masc.)
*The beloved is never a subject. An object indicates the depersonalization of the beloved. (unlike Sappho in the previous text). The beloved is the unique object (psychoanalysis).
*One is never in love with anything but an image. Love at first sight, ravishment, happens through an image. The ravishing image is alive, in action.
*Barthes’s lover would say yes to true love, but a “lifelong love” requires optimism. The expression has no meaning, because the lover is within a temporal absolute and doesn’t parcel time.
*He assumes and accepts suffering and unhappiness as a kind of value, but not in the Christian sense. It’s completely blameless. One would cease being in love? The books come to a halt here.
*Common sense says that some time being in love will split from loving. One puts aside being in love with its traps, illusions tyrannies, scenes…Become less possessive, less dialectical and jealous.
*There’s little jealous in the book, because there wasn’t anything original he felt he could say about it. Jealousy is a phenomenon of anthropological breadths. Everyone knows it.
*He’s skeptical about the attempt of “unpossessive” love. His young friends try it-he’s amazed at their shared sexuality, sensuality, property, but it’s always only the first impression. There’s much jealousy involved. An unjealous lover would be a saint.
*Loving several at once is delicious but it’s spreading oneself thinly and it can’t last long. That’s the end of flirting with others.
*The lover may struggle but will discover he’s completely enthralled. He suffers from the enslavement of the other, tries not to be tyrannical.
*Ideally-non-will-to-possess-borrowed from oriental philosophies Let desire circulate freely-not to possess-to master desire in order not to master the other.
*Successful eroticism is with the beloved and it can be transcendent. Sexuality remains within the experience-eroticism makes it stronger. It’s a sentimental value.
The film The Realm of the Senses is about love.
*The lover is the contrary to a cruiser-he’s imprisoned with the image. Some cruisers do it to find someone with whom to fall in love. Don Juan is the model cruiser.
*The POV is of a lover who isn’t loved.
*The lover is silly because he is situated in a dis-reality. His personal reality is his relation to the beloved. He’s asocial, apolitical because he’s much less invested in anything other than love. (Dionne Brand and Adrienne Rich disagree)
*The lover is a marginal being. There’s no need to place him in society through works that put him there because they are society.
*The lover is a natural semiologist-he reads signs all the time.
Adrienne Rich
Compulsory heterosexuality and Lesbian Experience, 1980.
Compulsory heterosexuality challenges the lesbian existence. Feminists need to examine heterosexuality as a political institution.
The world is hetero-centered and lesbians are marginalized.
Violence against women within the home especially grew while this political take strengthened.
There is a maintenance of inequality through many strategies.
Like Dionne Brand-politics interfere in love. They weigh on the lovers.
(Much more.)
The Double Flame/Octavio Paz
“The original primordial fire, sexuality, raises the red flame of eroticism, and this in tur raises and feeds another flame, tremulous and blue: the flame of love. Eroticism ad love: the double flame of life” (p.x).
Poetry lets us touch the impalpable, hear the silence (of insomnia)-Elizabeth Bishop’s silences.
Poetry is a bridge between seeing and believing. Relationships between eroticism and poetry: eroticism is the poetry of the body and poetry is the eroticism of the language.
Eroticism is sex in action while sexuality/pleasure is a tool of procreation. Poetry too diverts from its natural end.
8 Love should be distinguished from eroticism and sexuality.
Sex is the primordial source while eroticism and love derive from sexual instinct. Proust -for Swann and Odette the erotic love is detached from the sex act. Each of them feels it differently.
Sexuality is within the animate matter, shared with animals and plants.
Eroticism is exclusively human (Anthropocene studies would object here.) it’s an invention, imagination, a ma-made world.
Eroticism takes sex and places it in society-without sex there won’t be no society-b/c of no procreation.
Sex also threatens society like the god Pan. It’s creation and destruction.
Eroticism has a double face: fascination with life and death. Erotic metaphors are ambiguous. 913)license and repression, sublimation and perversion, ascetic and libertine.
Libertine communities are quite secretive. 14.
There are erotic religious practices. Tantric sects of India and other groups in China, Mediterranean -collective ritual copulation. Sin of Onan from the bible-perhas stopping in the middle.
Both emblematic and libertine eroticism reproduction is rejected. Both want salvation (16), both are social-individuals confronting society.
Chastity both in west and east is a test to strengthen us spiritually and allow us to leap from the human to super human. There are other paths too.
Song of Solomon -collection of beautiful poems about profane love.  It’s also read as a religious allegory. (Come on.) 19
Libertine splits between religion and eroticism. Sade. 20. Libertinism is a expression of desire and imagination, timeless. For them it is black light that speaks. 24.
Fertility is the luminous side of eroticism, its radiant approval of life. 26.