Just read Maggie Nelson’s Bluets which will soon be in a bookstore near you. It’s an uncategorizable piece of writing composed of numbered philosophical statements which consider the color blue, and so much else but in the aftermath of reading Maggie’s “bluets” the fascinating word Pharmikon remains in my mind.

It means drug though “the word in Greek famously refused to designate whether poison or cure.” It’s also variously described as “a recipe, a charm, a substance, a spell, artificial color and paint.”  She knocks about trying to link it to love, to fucking. But it doesn’t stick. She brings up the possibility that instead like beauty, Pharmikon radiates. It does not stay still. And finally the written word is called Pharmikon.

Originally Published: September 30th, 2009

Eileen Myles was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was educated in Catholic schools, graduated from the University of Massachusetts-Boston, and moved to New York City in 1974 to be a poet. They gave their first reading at CBGB's and then gravitated to St. Mark's church where they studied with Ted...

  1. September 30, 2009

    Maggie's a friend of mine, but even if she weren't I'd waste no time saying that this is a truly terrific book.

  2. September 30, 2009
     james stotts

    these are the roots of the 'republican' attack on poets.\r

    and the platonic beginnings of the age of reproduction, the loss of origin, and the sleight of hand replacement of teachers with texts, which is a very different kind of sex.\r

    all dirty stuff, indeed

  3. September 30, 2009
     Eileen Myles

    I'm interested in what you mean, but you have to say more. Granted I didn't say much, but I thought I would lead people to the book. But the word of course is just shimmering w possibility.

  4. September 30, 2009
     Joseph Hutchison

    Sounds like an intriguing companion to William Gass's classic On Being Blue. I'll put it on my wish list!

  5. September 30, 2009

    Makes me think of "farm icon".

  6. September 30, 2009
     Cathy Halley

    I'd been reading and loving Maggie's book too, then discovered this James Schuyler poem The Bluet\r

    It ain't quite late, late October, but the poem's apt for this time of year.

  7. September 30, 2009

    Also, obviously, if you're interested in pharmakon Derrida's essay "Plato's Pharmacy," which shimmers a lot of the word's possibilities, is the place to head next.

  8. October 1, 2009
     james stotts

    the pharmikon anecdote is socrates' concern for the corruptive power of the word, something intimate and basic to plato's ultimate vision of a perfect republic. not only does text undermine the necessity of memory, which is a vital function in the logic of poetics, it also diverges from its source infinitely and transparently. as a gift from the sun god, it relieves man of his need for direct communion. it's an invention for incest and patricide (figuratively speaking). \r
    it doesn't seem accidental to me that in our time, poetry is facing a mnemonic crisis. in fact, i think it's obvious why--artificial memory is everywhere. homer only exists as artificial memory.