February 3rd, 2011 / 5:30 pm

Looking at the Looker and the Lookee and Thinking About the Looking and the Looking

Sometimes I see a picture of someone looking at someone else in a certain way — the tilt of the head, the position of the eyes relative to the face, the width of the pupils, the relationship of the head to the body, the proximity of one head to another head, the attention implied by the position of the eyes — and I think: I wish someone would right now be looking at me in the way that the person in the picture is looking at the other person in the picture, and that it made me feel the way I imagine it makes the object of the looking feel, and that the person doing the looking meant the looking in the way I imagine the looker in the picture means the looking, and that both of us were as attractive and therefore societally vetted as worthy of giving and receiving looks like the looks that are being given and received in the picture, and that the confidence implied in the giving and receiving of the looks was a confidence that corresponded to my ability to give and receive the looks rather than the confidence that corresponds to my ability to talk about thinking about looking at the people doing the looking.


  1. Winter News | Kyle Minor

      […] Is the More Vexing Problem? A Conversation with Deb Olin Unferth Deb Olin Unferth and the Double-I Looking at the Looker and the Lookee and Thinking about the Looking and the Looking Seminar in Sentence-Making #36: Nabokov Edition Literature as “What Survives” A […]

  2. tao


      I felt that today

      via iPhone

  3. andrew

      i thoroughly enjoyed this

  4. drew kalbach

      reminds me of a quote george oppen uses to preface his collect ‘this in which.’ it’s from a french philosopher named maritain (i believe) and it goes something like ‘at the same time we come into objects and ourselves.’ i wish i had the book with me because i know i butchered it. anyway, my point is, this makes me think that the quote could go ‘we come simultaneously into ourselves and into each other.’ seeing for oppen was a form of knowing. seeing/looking in order to know the world, the objects within the world, ourselves, each other. looking as giving yourself away.

  5. deadgod

      One of the epigraphs to The Materials is:

      We awake in the same moment to ourselves and to things.


      I think this sentence points to a phenomenological point of view basic to Oppen’s epistemological and socially critical commitments, a perspective impossible to subtract from his poems, like Route, section 8:

      Cars on the highway filled with speech,
      People talk, they talk to each other;

      Imagine a man in the ditch,
      The wheels of the overturned wreck
      Still spinning–

      I don’t mean he despairs, I mean if he does not
      He sees in the manner of poetry.

  6. drew kalbach

      thank you, i didn’t have my copy on hand. i wasn’t too far off.

  7. Madison Langston

      I really love this.

  8. Matthew Simmons
  9. Matthew Simmons