Blog post about Cosmos

Hi Everyone,

This morning I posted a blog post about Cosmos. I have really enjoyed my experience so far participating here, so I thought I would attempt a kind of definition, at least in terms of how I understand Cosmos: IC, Cosmos Cafe, Reader’s Underground, Metapsychosis, etc.

This is not intended as a final statement but a provocation for conversation. I would love love love to hear what other people think, about the post but also how they envision and imagine Cosmos, as it is now, but also as it might be.

Thank you,



Thanks for writing and posting that, Andrew! I will share publicly the feedback I already gave privately:

I love the piece on Cosmos. It’s like you said a whole beautiful bunch of things I couldn’t or wouldn’t say myself, but better—even the critique; my heart breaks for all the closer readings that never were, yet springs in joy for those yet to come. I often would prefer more rigorous readings but I think these require a discussion leader setting that context and tone.

One might just have to be explicit: What I would like to have happen is a close reading of X, Y, or Z. Then we make it so.

I would only add that I really enjoy our performative readings, too (see, e.g.), and feel there’s something vital about having multiple modes and forms of expression all in one place, though they can sometimes step on each other’s toes. Such are the occupational hazards (among others) when learning to dance with the infinite.

I pray your shard of vision is shared and re-shared and read far and wide! I would love to hear more feedback, and others’ stories too. What’s the Cosmos you want to see happen? Write it!

Is there a collective, mosaic, fluid, fractal, quixotic, integral, post-trans-hyper-surreal beautiful meta-vision that might emerge from many people with ‘visionary tendencies’ getting together, sharing skills, building capacities, and amplifying their dreams? Curious minds want to know…


Amen, Marco!! Amen.

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I like your post, Andrew, expect I think Close reading is highly overated. It works well for short lyrics or short stories you can do in a 45 minute class but is inadequate for epic or drama or big novels or crossing over between genres, with alternate ways of knowing, during a turbulent culture war and ecological crisis. You need, in my partial view, a wide angle, to zoom out, into history, cognitive linguistics, movies. I prefer phenomenology, the comparative, and a capacity for modeling in the moment. I like the open frames, the paranormal, the queer. I also prefer the aesthetics of relationships rather than student-teacher dynamics.

Close reading and rigour can leave us stuck in the Ivory Tower without a way to get down. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. This is my only objection to what I consider a very good description. Thanks for posting and sharing your objections openly as I have shared mine. These are differences that make a difference!


Thanks, John, for reading the post and sharing your thoughts. For whatever it is worth, and this is probably predictable, I have to say that I disagree with your characterization of close reading. In a way, I wonder what exactly you are proposing instead of it? I think, actually, that for epic, drama and novels, close reading is absolutely crucial, because of the overwhelming sweep of such things. Those genres, to me at least, practically beg for close readings, as temporary anchors for getting close to what is happening. In other words, close reading is not really distinct from good phenomenology, queer readings, comparative approaches. I would argue that it is actually the methodology that leads to robust, helpful readings within these orientations.

I wrote a lyric essay once about Ashbery where I argued that literary criticism needed to catch up to JA, and that often when I read essays about his poetry, it was like reading a sort of “paradigm” placed onto a different paradigm and the fit was wrong. My analogy was like using representational criteria to discuss an abstract painting. I don’t know if this is what you are saying, in terms of close reading larger, long texts?

But even in that lyric essay, I practiced close reading. Close reading is not just an academic thing, or at least I’d hope it isn’t. I think it’s really a quality of attention. If we don’t close read, what exactly are we reading? The answer is probably our own impressions, our own thoughts. But behind or before the impressions and thoughts - a sort of ideational smoke screen - is an actual text. I think a good analogy to close reading is close looking, or a form of perception that is not distorted overly much by conceptual detritus. If we look at a painting, a tree, a loved one’s face, a poem, are we seeing the painting, tree, loved one’s face, poem? If yes, how and what are we seeing? If not, why not - what are we seeing instead?

This is not an argument for objectivity. We will always close read through the lens of our quixotic subjectivities. But it is an argument for a form of rigor, a responsibility to the text/painting etc., which I don’t think is or should be exclusive to student-teacher relationships, though it can and should be modeled there, too. In a way, close reading is an attempt to stop thinking. If we can stop thinking, we are better able to attend to what is around us - sound, noise, silence, what we see, what we read. A text that is not close read, to me at least, is a reflection of this inability to stop thinking non-stop. A text that is close read, again to me at least, shows me that the reader/interpreter had for a time stopped thinking, turned off their Buddhist “monkey mind,” and therefore experienced the text, painting, composition, ,song, at a deeper, clearer level. In that sense, close reading could be likened to a pause, during or within which a reader’s “horizon” gets closer to the horizon of the text.


We will always close read through the lens of our quixotic subjectivities.

And what kind of we is that when through our quixotic subjectivities?

And where abouts is that we?

And does we have a size of a shape?

And where does that we come from?

And when we will always close read through the lens of our quixotic subjectivities…how close? And always? And is there anything else about always?

And from a meta-perspective, Andrew, knowing that you appreciate quixotic subjectivities…perhaps perceptual learners who demonstrate other kinds of quixotic subjectivities…and different arrangements of the senses…and radically different models…and rhythmic responses…can work together as an ensemble in a public forum on line?

As a student of complex systems I am all for close reading well when close reading is useful…and I drop it when it is not…and am aware of patterns that connect and disconnect in self-organizing systems under stress…and there is reading and dancing and singing and drawing…which may be alternate ways of reading…other than auditory digital.

And many of those other quixotic subjectivities may have a perceptual space that seems alien to yours…there are many neuro atypical persons among us who organize themselves differently.

I ask open ended questions about the language that other’s actually use ( as I have been doing with your communications) and recognize that there are gestures, tones, affectivities that others are bringing to each event that is not recognized…

So I appreciate that you are not arguing for objectivity…and I am not trying to rank your argument…What I do want to have happen is an increased capacity to learn from ambiguity and we can be close or far or somewhere in between…

Please continue to close read at your best…and do more of it…and do it better!


Could we talk a little more about “rigor”? It is a curious word.

I like rigor in the sense of attention to detail… performative mastery… thoroughness of process.

I don’t like rigor mortis!

In some past thread, the image of holding a bird came up, maybe from a dream. How do you hold a living bird in your hands? (Maybe this metaphor arose in discussion of meditation, or conversation, or poetry…)

How does one hold a living bird? I believe the consensus (reasonable) answer was: Not too tight, not too loose…

With rigor? Care? Mindfulness? Presence?

And what about letting the bird go? Will it fly? What does the bird need from us?


Marco a very visceral Response-Ability for this practice of rigor ; as a Father of two children & Uncle of nieces & nephews which I Care- Gave ;Holding when they are hurt,or sick at 2:00 in the morning. A willingness of Feeling into the tension of the excluded Middle of What Is.



I think we could do a Cafe on the Bird Kingdom. What kind of wisdom do they have? How can we support them?

And when rigour…what kind of rigour?

And what happens right before rigour?

And what happens after rigour?

If you want to shut down the Dreamer demand that she be rigorous?

How can we enter the delicate weave of the relational with the rigour of the Critic and yet without scaring away the little birds?

I would suggest that we need to be aware of sequence. It is all in the timing.

And how do you spell it? Is there a preferred spelling? I think there may be variations.


Point well taken, @madrush. There is rigor (:grinning:), and there is rigor (:skull:) - a difference between intense, inspiring thought, (Steiner can be like that), and enervated, dry, sickly, pedantic, hair-splitting, dusty thought (aka thought from a Moldy Fig, or Edward Causabon).

The right amount of rigor (maybe there is a better word for it/this - capacious one-pointedness?) can channel it, give it compelling form and shape. The difference between the right amount of revision (capacious one-pointedness), not enough revision, and too much revision:

the artful artlessness/cunning Quixotics of the New York School of poets, (good amount)

versus the artless artfulness/innocent Quixotics of the Beats, (not enough)

versus the artful artfulness/rational Quixotics of late Wordsworth (too much)


[quote=“AndrewField81, post:10, topic:3594”]
the artful artlessness/cunning Quixotics of the New York School of poets, (good amount)

versus the artful artlessness/cunning of the San Francisco renaissance ( Robin Blaser, Jack Spicer, Robert Duncan)

And versus…where does that versus come from?

And is there anything else about a school of poetry? Or schools of criticism? Where do they come from?And where do they go? Do we always define ourselves in opposition?
Blake suggests that true friendship begins in opposition.


Hey All,

Today I published the first installment of a newsletter I am experimenting with, called “Wanderings and Loafings.” I talk about the topics of temperament (in Latin, “correct mingling mixture”), and revision. Is there a connection between who we are and how we revise? The ideas were prompted in many ways through our discussions in this thread. If you are interested, check it out! And if you enjoy it, feel free to sign up.