"I have tried to make a sketch or a model in several dimensions of the potency of Arendt’s idea of invisibility, the necessary inconspicuousness of thinking and reading, and the ambivalently joyous and knotted agency to be found there. Just beneath the surface of the phonemes, a gendered name rhythmically explodes into a founding variousness. And then the strictures of the text assert again themselves. I want to claim for this inconspicuousness a transformational agency that runs counter to the teleology of readerly intention. Syllables might call to gods who do and don’t exist. That is, they appear in the text’s absences and densities as a motile graphic and phonemic force that abnegates its own necessity. Overwhelmingly in my submission to reading’s supple snare, I feel love."
Nilling is a sequence of 6 loosely linked prose essays about noise, pornography, the codex, melancholy, Lucretius, folds, cities and related aporias: in short, these are essays on reading. Lisa Robertson applies an acute eye to the subject of reading and writing—two elemental forces that, she suggests, cannot be separated.
For Robertson, a book is an intimacy, and with keen and insightful language, Nilling’s essays build into a lively yet close conversation with Robertson’s “masters”: past writers, philosophers, and idealists who have guided her reading (and writing) practice to this point.
If "a reader is a beginner," then even regular readers of Robertson’s kind of deep thinking will delight in the infinite folding together of concepts—the codex, pornography, melancholy, cities—that on their own may seem banal, but in their twisting intertextuality, make for a scintillating study of reading as a deep engagement.
About the author
Lisa Robertson is a Canadian poet and essayist currently living in France. Born in Toronto in 1961, she was a longtime resident of Vancouver, where in the early 90s she began writing, publishing and collaborating in a community of artists and poets that included Artspeak Gallery and The Kootenay School of Writing. She has continued these activities for 30 years, publishing books, leaflets and posters, translating poetry and linguistics from French, lecturing and teaching internationally, and continuing her ongoing study into the political constitution of lyric voice. In 2017 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Letters by Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and in 2018, the Foundation for the Contemporary Arts in NY awarded her the inaugural CD Wright Award in Poetry. She has taught at Cambridge University, Princeton, UC Berkeley, California College of the Arts, Piet Zwart Institute, Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and American University of Paris, as well as holding research and residency positions at institutions across Canada, the US, and Europe.
"Scan the pages and your vocabulary puffs up with delight. You realize how pale poetry can be. You realize you are starved. You remember too that to create you need to be inspired. You need to have ideas. You need to tap in to the thrum of intellectual desires as much as experience the physical, note the bodily sensations … It represents a possible future. It offers a deep respect for the present. It honours me with doubt." —The Poetry Foundation
"It is poetry where there is still the possibility of imagining language differently, and it is by reading that we bring the possibility of that freedom into our lives. The practice of reading she has spent the book developing, sometimes subtly, indirectly and sometimes overtly, finds its reason here… In these pages it becomes a practice of profound openness. It is, first of all, a disciplined putting aside of the self, and the act of reading a way of allowing something else to settle into its place. This is the openness. It is an intimacy, an act of allowing another’s language to settle deep inside you, to mingle with your most delicate parts." —Lemon Hound
"As we've come to expect, Robertson's language is luxuriously lyrical and a pure pleasure to read, regardless of what she has to say … But there are real depths of thought here—form and content never leave each other for too long in this dance—and there is a wonderfully idiosyncratic drift in the direction of Robertson's argument that does indeed read more like a novel than most essays we are used to now." —Jacket 2
Other titles by Lisa Robertson
The Baudelaire Fractal
Orbiting Inner and Outer Experience