Notes for David Antin's "The Stranger at the Door"

1. The attitude reflected in this statement is grounded in long held anarchist/pacifist principles embedded in some combination of Taoist and Buddhist beliefs that MacLow discusses eloquently in the essay "Reflections on the Occasion of the Dance Scope Issue" (74-75).

2. The selections were made from the eleventh book of the General History of New Spain (Florentine Codex) translated from the Aztec by Charles E. Dibble and Arthur J. O. Anderson, originally published by the University of Utah. Reprinted in some/thing, 1. No. 1: 1-7.

3. Cavell's essay "Music Discomposed" ostensibly positions itself to discuss the condition of crisis he finds in contemporary music, in which the "professionals themselves do not quite know who is and who is not rightly included among their peers, whose work counts and whose does not" but moves to a general consideration of the anxieties produced by the need for the sense of authenticity that he considers "essential to the experience of art," taking "contemporary music as only the clearest case of something common to modernism as a whole" and modernism as only an explicit manifestation of "what has always been true of art." As a consequence his requirement for pervasive compositional choice becomes a necessary feature not only for modern music but all serious music. That this judgment necessarily excludes large bodies of work - aleatoric composition of the Cage variety or procedural composition as in the case of Steve Reich - on the basis of a single indispensable feature, makes it a typical if unusually sophisticated example (Cavell, 180-212). Michael Fried's essay "Art and Objecthood," is an example of a structurally similar argument in relation to modernist art (Minimal Art, 116-47).

4. Since I am primarily concerned with the English speaker's essential reading experience of the haiku and not with any particular translation, I have taken the liberty of presenting my own versions of the famous poems. Other translations, both literal and literary can be found in Henderson, 104, 150.

5. For a selection of the Densmore translations surrounded by numerous other translations dating from the early part of the century and published at the moment of the Imagist movement, see Cronyn. For radically different kinds of English translations that emphasize the phonological structures of the Native American originals and do not belong to the conceptual tradition here being sketched out see the various issues of Alcheringa.

6. The asymmetry of this piece as well as its startling brevity make it very atypical. The pieces immediately preceding and following it in tender Buttons are both characterized by marked musical repetitions (Stein, 475).

7. Schwerner, who was a regular contributor to some/thing, published Tablets 2 and 3 of his work in the double issue No 4-5 in 1968. The explosive humor as well as the lyrical tone of Schwerner's work separates it very markedly from the precisionist language of the Brecht Gloss, but they have in common an underlying conception of the fragmentary understanding of the remains of a very ancient culture capriciously transmitted through the screen of what must be a very different language and nostalgia for a lost civilization.

8. The older Greek performance tradition is sketched out very neatly by Eric Havelock in Chapter IX of his Preface to Plato, and the transformation to a truly literate culture in his 1977 essay in New Literary History.

9. The particular passage in Wittgenstein's Zeitel has considerable application to problems associated with new moves within a recognized genre.

293 "I give the rules of a game. Someone else, in perfect accord with the rules, makes a move the possibility of which I had not foreseen, and which spoils the game, that is, the way I had intended it. I now have to say 'I have given bad rules"; I must change my rules or elaborate them.

So then did I have an image of the game in advance? In a certain sense: Yes.

It was surely possible, for example, for me not to have foreseen that some quadratic equation might not have real roots.

The rule leads me to something of which I say, "I had not expected this image, I always imagined a solution like this..." (Zeitel, 54)

It appears that a familiar genre exists in the form of the image that we have of it, and that there is a particular mode of criticism that consists of prescribing rules for the accomplishment of works conforming to it. But the application of even the same rules by people not sharing the same image can lead to surprisingly different outcomes.


Antin, David. Meditations. Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1971.
Aristotle. The Poetics. London. Trans. W. Hamilton Fyfe.
William Heinemann Ltd. and Harvard Un. Press, 1965.
Battcock, Gregory, ed. Minimal Art. A Critical Anthology. New York: E .P. Dutton, 1968.
Cage, John. Silence. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan U. Press, 1962.
Cavell, Stanley. Must We Mean What We Say. Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge Un. Press, 1976.
Cronyn, George, ed. The Path of the Rainbow. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1918.
Havelock, Eric. A Preface to Plato. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1963.
Havelock, Eric. The Preliteracy of the Greeks, New Literary History, 8, No. 3 (Spring 1977): 369-391.
Kelly, Robert. Lunes. New York: Hawk's Well Press, 1964.
Luckhardt, C. G. Wittgenstein: Sources and Perspectives.
Ithaca, New York: Cornell Un. Press, 1979.
MacLow, Jackson. The Pronouns: A Collection of Forty Dances
for the Dancers, 3 February-22 March 1964.
Barrytown, New York: Station Hill Press, 1979.
Pound, Ezra. Personae: The Collected shorter Poems of Ezra Pound. New York: New Directions, 1971.
Rothenberg, Jerome. Sightings. new York: Hawk's Well, 1964.
Schwerner, Armand. Sounds of the River Naranjara & The Tablets I-XXIV. Barrytown, New York :Station Hill Press,1983.
some/thing. Eds. David Antin and Jerome Rothenberg. Vols 1. and 2, Nos. 1-5, New York, 1965-68.
Stein, Gertrude. Selected Writings. New York: Vintage, 1972.
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations. Trans. G. E. M. Anscombe. Oxford and New York: Basil Blackwell and Macmillan, 1958.
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Tractatus Logico- philosophicus. Trans. C. K. Ogden. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983.
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Zeitel. Eds. G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. von Wright. Trans. G. E. M. Anscombe. Berkeley and Los Angeles: Un. of California Press, 1967.
Young, LaMonte and Jackson MacLow. An Anthology. New York: Young and MacLow, 1963.

David Antin's The Stranger At The Door translated by Márton Koppány

Tört és Redukált Nyelvek Intézete
(Institute of Broken and Reduced Languages)

Light and Dust

English text copyright © 1987 by David Antin

This is a cooperative project of
the Institute of Broken and Reduced Languages
and Light and Dust