31 dic. 2004

Happy new year from the staff of Bemsha Swing.

29 dic. 2004

I really should be at the MLA. Oh well, I'm not.

27 dic. 2004

I'm on vacation, standing in a mac store in San Diego. The blog will be back in a few days.

20 dic. 2004

I gave Julia Sleeping on the Wing as early Christmas present. The back cover says the book is for High School Students and beyond. Am I too pushy a parent? I told her it was also for intelligent fourth graders. It really isn't too large of a step beyond Rose, Where Did You Get That Red.

19 dic. 2004

It is not every day that I receive in the mail a book of poetry designed to fit exactly into the left hand breast pocket of a classic size 44-short blue blazer, a book, by the way, whose kevlar cover would nicely deflect bullets directed at the heart, if only the book were larger (but then it would no longer fit in the pocket!--a good example of "Silliman's paradox" if ever you wanted one.) I wonder, however, whether Nathan Cremshaw's Blue Blazer Poems satisfies the "Alexander Pope" test. That is, whether the fact that it comes with the coffee stains already on it is enough to evoke the ambience of the 18th-century coffee house. These stains were at first rather puzzling; I almost complained to the distributor about them before I realized that they were part of the intertextual game. I do wonder, however, about the gender and class politics of Cremshaw's sartorial gesture: most women readers do not wear blue blazers, in this size at least, and working class men rarely wear blue blazers.

I used to watch Cremshaw writing his poems on Telegraph Avenue, in the Café Med, so the coffee-stained effect is definitely appropriate, although perhaps too "forced." I must say that my impression that he is the American poet who mostly adeptly investigates the purely pragmatic aspects of language, while maintaining the most principled animosity toward trade presses, has not dimmed with time. In fact, it is precisely the combination of these two factors that makes him perhaps the leading poet of our time who hasn't actually made his name known, until recently, to more than exactly three people: myself, Curtis Faville, and the anonymous publisher of "sawtooth press." (note the lower caps)

18 dic. 2004

Change of address: if you want to send me anything during the rest of the academic year, please use my home address in St. Louis, not my University address, where I won't be. If you don't have my home address, and have something good to send me, let me know. I'd rather not publish it on the blog.

If you want to invite me to read, let me know. I have an open schedule for the next few months. NYC would be good, since I'm planning a trip there at some point.

17 dic. 2004

I don't know what got into me in that last post. I'll leave it up anyway.

16 dic. 2004

Dear New York Times Ethicist:

Farmer Brown often comes and takes a few of us more obese pigs for a "ride" from which no pig has ever returned. Some of us think that these pigs go to "hog heaven," a more luxurious pigsty where food is in every more plentiful supply. Others think that the missing pigs are cruelly slaughtered for human food. I myself subscribe to the "cruel slaughter" theory, but publicly advocate the "hog heaven" theory in order to encourage other pigs to gain weight faster and be taken first. Am I doing the right thing?

--Porcine Opportunist

Dear PO:

My human ethics forbid me from telling you which of these theories is "correct." I must be loyal to my species. However, you are probably familiar with "Wilbur's Bet." If you don't fatten yourself up, you will miss going to "hog heaven," if such a heaven exists. If you are wrong, you will be slaughtered and go to "hog heaven" anyway, so you can't lose either way. Publically, then, you should maintain a strictly agnostic stance.
Robert Conquest: "It might be argued that, as with the personnel of the state apparatus proper, there is now such a superfluity of the artistically and literary 'educated' class that their very number is part of the means of coping with, and employing part of, the product. "

Why someone who simply can't write feels qualified to make pronouncements on literature is incomprehensible to me. Here's the next complete paragraph from the same essay:

"There comes to a point, hard to define specifically but more or less obvious, when a regrettable general impression is unarguably convincing--well, not 'unarguably,' yet beyond serious debate. Still, an organism, or a polity, may present faults seen as lethal that are in practice comfortably contained and do not require therapy. Nor would one want there to be any implied use of power from outside institutions or individuals. "

Let's see, there is a general impression that is regrettable yet convincing, arguable yet not arguable, coming at a point in time that is obvious yet not specific. Meanwhile the patient is suffering from a lethal disease that requires no therapy! What is an "implied use of power"? And what is he talking about anyway? The words here appear to refer only to their own discursive gestures. What a platitudinous windbag! What grade would you give this in freshman comp? Maybe I can get a job as a writing coach for aging conservative cultural commentators.




The real "Blake test" would be to see whether the "platform" is integrally necessary to the reception of the poem. Sure we can read Blake without looking at his illuminated manuscripts, but we lose so much. I prefer the "Mayhew test," which is my own top secret formula for deciding the aesthetic value of any poem.

I'm trying to wrap things up today. I can't possibly anticipate what books I'm going to need for the next 8 months. I guess I'll have to make trips back here just for that.

15 dic. 2004

After coming back from my sabbatical and working the requisite period I owe the university, I need to make a decision. I cannot commute to St. Louis from here the rest of my life. I need to quit this job for my health and sanity and do something else. I no longer care as much whether I am the top specialist in modern Spanish poetry in the country, about gaining or maintaining that position. I enjoy working with graduate students, and undergraduates as well. I have great colleagues. The money is not very good, in relation to years of experience and education; I am victim of typical Associate Professor salary compression. On the other hand I couldn't get a job paying the same in another field right off the bat. Adjuncting in St. Louis area would mean taking a huge cut in pay and working conditions. The reduction in expenses would only partially offset that cut. Any suggestions?

14 dic. 2004

The poetics seminar yesterday: we had a nice discussion of my paper on Wittgenstein. David Perry was there, along with writer Deb Olin Unferth, new to the faculty here at Kansas, in the English Department. She said she had come here with her boyfriend, who turns out to be none other than famed Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead!!! Unfortunately I am leaving for sabbatical on Thursday of this week, so I won't be able to take advantage of Lawrence's increased hipness quotient until I get back next August.

11 dic. 2004

I was in Border's and saw a new edition of Bly's translations--a $30 hardbarck with a blurb from Merwin on the back. Also, large editions of critical prose and poetry by Richard Howard.

10 dic. 2004

Dear New York Times Ethicist:

I had this dream: I was in a used-bookstore and found a copy of a novel by David Shapiro, with some water damage, for $10. It was printed in a large, sans-serif type-face. I wanted to browse some more, but I kept wandering out of the store by mistake: the store was in a sort of mall/student union type building and it wasn't clear where the bookstore ended and the expresso bar and other shops began. I re-entered the bookstore several times with the book under my arm. The employees were strangely indulgent. The last time, I wandered out of the store with the book and woke up, realizing with relief that I wouldn't have to return the book because it had all been a dream. Did I do the right thing, or should I have tried to fall back asleep so that I could return the book to the store?

--Confused in Kansas

Dear CIK:

Since the book was damaged, and David Shapiro has written no novels to date, and it was all a dream anyway, you are not guilty of theft. However, you did evade your ethical obligation by not bringing this priceless book back to the waking world. You must purchase the book in your next dream and bring it back when you wake up.
tributary on Bly.
I know getting a poem published in a print journal is a fairly banal event for most of the readers of this blog, but the last time I published a poem in one, Ron Silliman was still drinking, and I was only about 12 years older than Julia is now. Jimmy Carter was president. What makes it even more special is that my daughter Julia has a poem in the same issue.

For years I did not even consider myself a "poet." It seemed embarrassing, somehow, like what if people expected me to be all sensitive and self-absorbed? I made only sporadic and unsuccessful efforts to publish. I have a few poems floating around the internet, but, call me old-fashioned, that never seemed like "real" publication to me. It's too easy. So thanks to Gabe Gudding for publishing Julia and me in the same issue. Now I feel like a real "poet."

9 dic. 2004

I got my copy of Spoon River Poetry Review today. It's got a lot of bloggers in it: Kasey, Anthony, myself, Julia!, Tony, Daniel, among many other familiar names. Somehow I manoeuvered my way to the front, though the rest of the poets appear in alphabetical order.
I don't feel very qualified to talk about J. Mac Low, who has just passed away. I've always liked his work, but have never studied his work in an obsessive way, the way I've done with other poets.
I think you can argue that Robert Bly has had a ruinous effect on American poetry. Dana Gioia, a poet and critic whom I detest with passion, wrote a devastating article called "The Successful Career of Robert Bly," in which he lays out a convincing case from the right. I remember a throw away line from Sorrentino: he is discussing John Gardner's prose and says "Maybe John Gardner simply can't write--sort of a Robert Bly of prose." That's a critique from someone who wouldn't agree with Gioia about anything else.

As a translator, Bly is simply the worst we have. That is, the worst translator in proportion to his overall stature/reputation. (There maybe some translator worse whom I've simply never heard of.) I reviewed a book for a University Press a few years ago, in which the translations were by various hands. Bly was by far the worst of any of the translators included. (I remember James Wright being one of the best in this same group.) I won't even get into the men's movement Jungian crapola.
A series of impressive testimonials to Ashbery in the comments to this post by Michael Snider; read Andrew Epstein's lengthy comment. We take Ashbery for granted, in some sense. That is, we assume that we don't have to make the case for him again and again. But this is not really the case: there will always be new readers, or old ones who just were never convinced. I remember being virtually the only one in my university/town who was into Ashbery. (This was in the late 1970s in Davis, California.) There was one sort of review that would be written repeatedly, by different hands, claiming that Ashbery made no sense, that he was essentially a fraud. This was after the triple prize book of 1975. A famous poet giving a reading told me that Ashbery had no ear. Hah! The poet telling me this was Robert Bly, surely one of the worst minds of his generation.

8 dic. 2004

Seeing that Ron S has 5,000 poetry books, I thought it might be interesting to see how many I had. I have about 10 shelves in my office filled with mostly poetry books (along with books of criticism about specific poet, novels written by them etc...). Assuming and average of 70 books per shelf, that would be 700. Another 10 books in the trunk of my car. Maybe 50 in my apartment in Kansas that I haven't brought to my office yet. In St. Louis I have maybe 100 more. So anywhere from 800-1000 is my best guess. The biggest categories are: 1) Twentieth-century Spanish Poetry 2) New York School poets. 3) Other American poets 4) Latin American poetry.
For what it's worth, Chris Lott at cosmopoetica does not necessarily differ too much from me in our respective evaluations of individual poems. We both thought Carson's poem sagged in the middle, that the Bang was like a dutiful classroom assignment. We both liked the Oni Buchanan poem very much. Ditto the Kim Addonizio. It's not like I praised every "language" poem to the skies in my BAP round-up. I did come down on Collins pretty hard, it's true.

Am I allowed to be snobbish at least about this?
There is a deep human need to look down, to feel superior. I think Richard Dawkins discovered the gene for it, if I'm not mistaken.
I'm like, Dude... let's navigate the Discourses of juvenile masculinity, and he's like, dude, what are you talking about?

7 dic. 2004

Is there a slump in Ashbery in Shadow Train and April Galleons and maybe As We Know? It's an arguable point, at least. Early and Early-Mid Ashbery is consistently interesting, up through Houseboat Days, which I had virtually memorized at one point many years ago. I also like the books from Flow Chart and Hotal Lautreamont onward.

There is an 80s mailaise in some of the work of this period. Hell, we were all in a malaise, I think. I'll have to go back and read April Galleons to see what I think.
Things are winding down. The seminar on hybrid genres is drawing to a close. Highly successful from my point of view, in that it appears that I sold them on the concept of the course. What was fascinating was that the 10 papers I will receive are on 10 completely different topics, with little common ground. I am not producing 10 copies of myself. God forbid. That would be frightening. I don't even like being too influential.

6 dic. 2004

Hall Center > Faculty Development >My seminar paper. Password is "philandlit." It's a work in progress, please do not judge too harshly.
Sestinas, pantoums, prose-poems. At least one canzone and one villanelle. Short, abstract lyrics; long meditative poems. A verse translation in zany heroic couplets. Haibun. Proto-language-poetry collage poems. A poem mentioning the name of a river in each line. Maybe 20 books of poetry all together, plus: Art Criticism. Half of a novel. Gave the Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard. Has won every award except the Nobel Prize.

Biggest influence on avant-garde American poetry in past 30 years. Also biggest influence on quietudinous poetry. Championed by Perloff, Vendler, Bloom. Admired by everyone from Auden to James Tate and Bruce Andrews.

Yet fans of his are not likely to meet and spontaneously recite his verses together in a grand chorale! Imagine that!

5 dic. 2004

Memorize any Ashbery lately? As a matter of fact I have. Whenever I reread a book of his I memorize a few poems. It strikes me the memorability is a bit like specificity. It might be a good shortcut, but cannot be a decisive litmus test for quality. Some poets are more difficult to memorize than others. There are poets I don't even like very much whom I can memorize more easily than other poets I love. Emily D. is easier to memorize than Walt W, but you wouldn't use that, in and of itself, as a criterion for preferring one to the other.

"The Skaters" is a great masterpiece. "Self-Portrait" is another.

4 dic. 2004

Eagle's Wing

HOW MY DAD GOT HIS BEARD

My dad got his spiky beard
because he ran into a porcupine
some of the bristles got
stuck in his chin and now
whenever he shaves the
bristles grow back on his
chin
Could specificity be a test of writing, as Ron suggests, few days ago? At best it's a shortcut: good writing tends to be more specific than bad writing is, so if the writing is specific, it is more likely to be good. And otherwise bad writing that has some specificity to it might have something salvageable. It's similar to my conception of "conventionally good writing." Writing with strong imagery, an attention to rhythm, etc... is going to be better than writing without these things. But this is ONLY a shortcut. For example, the poem of Rukeyser quoted by Ron does not seem particularly good to me, despite the specificity of the details. It seems to me the poem has to strike us as good first. Then, if asked why, we might point to the things that make it good. A very abstract poem, that witheld its specifics, might be very good too!
How parody the master-parodist?

How humor the humorless?

"I hate people who don't wear hats"

Seriously, I get impatient sometimes.

I need to stop doing that.

3 dic. 2004

How about a graduate seminar on plagiarism? That could work...

2 dic. 2004

Someone should put together a grammar of cursing. What is the "decorum" for using certain words? When are they socially required? You could do a study of David Mamet's use these words (or better yet Elmore Leonard) and compare them to a transcript of real speech. Cursing should be

1) Casual. You don't use the word in order to use it, but as a part of an idiomatic expression. It doesn't call too much attention to itself, although it definitely is a mark of register.

2) Idiomatic. It's got to be the right idiom, in the right tone of voice, at the right time.

3) Rhythmical. It has to recur at certain intervals, punctuate speech.

4) Pragmatic. It's got to follow all the regular Gricean rules. Relevance, etc...

I'm not a particularly adept curser. It was interesting to go to Spain for the first time and learn the rules there.
Henry G: "Maybe most shifts in style depend on a new sense of decorum. That is, if there's a fitness in relation to experience or reality, then, as our general sense of reality changes, the old styles or old forms of decorum will no longer ring true. (Maybe some forms of decorum never change, though - built as they are on our direct responses to certain basic kinds of experiences. Laughter in comedy is just a special application of humor in general.)"
I went to an extremely interesting talk this afternoon about the alpaca and llama trade. I'm not being sarcastic, it really was a fascinating presentation, by my friend Marcia Stephenson of Purdue University. Issues of colonialism, race, gender, and the relation between humanity and the natural world came up in the discussion.



Piety might be a form of decorum, or a more serious way of understanding decorum. It is as much of a profanation to pray at a football game as it is to play a football game inside a church. Maybe that's what KB means by piety as a sense of "appropriateness."

I remember seeing the title of a Greenblatt book or essay, "Learning to Curse." It is a quotation from The Tempest, of course. But I was disappointed when I discovered it was not an autobiographical essay on how Stephen Greenblatt himself learned how to use "profane" language. That would have been much more interesting that what he came up with. The rules of cussing are very complex, and an introspective account of how someone acquired this system would be fascinating. No such luck.

1 dic. 2004

I am not sure why Kenneth Burke calls "piety" what I have been calling "decorum." I remembered the passage below quite well, but misremembered his terminology. I had thought he had used the word "decorum" but he doesn't:

Refined critics, of the Matthew Arnold variety, assumed that exquisiteness of taste was restricted to the "better" classes of people, those who never had names ending in "ug." Yet if we can bring ourselves to imagine Matthew Arnold loafing in the corner with the gashouse gang, we promptly realize how undiscriminating he would prove himself. Everything about him would be inappropriate: both what he said and the way in which he said it. Consider the crudeness of his perceptions as regards proper oaths, the correct way of commenting on passing women, the etiquette of spitting. Does not his very crassness here reveal the presence of a morality, a deeply felt and piously obeyed sense of the appropriate, on the part of these men, whose linkages he would outrageously violate?
The doctrine of decorum has its modern form in the fallacy of "imitative form." The form of the literary work should somehow imitate the subject-matter. Is this really a fallacy though? In its naive version, maybe. But haven't poets always believed in some version of this idea? "When Ajax strives somes rock's great weight ... " then the verse about Ajax doing this will be, if not imitative, congruent with the idea of slowness and effort. No, you can't write a limerick about the holocaust, I'm sorry. That's an obscenity.
Of course, most modern poetry flouts decorum, flaunts its lack of decorum or fittingness. Yet doesn't the ability to recognize incongruity depend on a notion of congruity in the first place? In other words, we cannot get an effect of incongruity until we notice that something seems "wrong." We also have to feel that this "wrongness" is "right" in its context, that it works and is not simply a mistake:

The right notes.
The wrong wrong notes.
The right wrong notes.

***

The problem is not "not taking poetry 'seriously.'" After all, one could take poetry very seriously indeed yet have no ear, no eye, no notion of what poetry is. Earnest but misguided. Pompous and grave. Or one could seem to take poetry more casually yet actually take the serious part of poetry more seriously. What is the opposite of serious in this case? It is not the comic nor the casual. The only word I can come up with is "Pinsky": the wrong kind of seriousness can be much worse than a sense of unseriousness.
demo to ink, Concierto animal, St. Martins, La nieve en los manzanos, Baladas del dulce Jim, Variaciones sobre un cuadro de Paul Klee, Pieces, Vanishing Points of Resemblance, The Magic Christian, What, Lit, Tjanting, Alfred and Guinevere, Never, El infarto del alma, The Age of Huts, The Country of Our Consciousness, Rayuela, Poems from Deal, Inventory, Words, Blue Book, Descripción de la mentira, Cobalto, Ladera este, The Basement of the Café Rilke, After Taxes, Underground with the Oriole, The Beautiful Focus of You, Flow Chart, Selected Prose, Narciso en el acorde último de los ecos, So we have been given time or, Unknown Man #89, Your Name Here, Stripped Tales, hello, The Sinister Pig, Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O'Hara, Oklahoma Tough, The Big Bounce, Wittgenstein's Ladder, Chinese Whispers

30 nov. 2004

I'm listening to an O'Hara recording. A couple of lines jumped out at me:

"Some people are outraged by cleanliness"

"I don't think psychoanalysis shrinks the spleen"

(from "For the Chinese New year and Bill Berkson's Birthday")
I'd go even further to say that this sense of decorum or fittingness must be present for literature to be convincing. In other words, any sense of a lack of adequation with the subject matter is fatal. Of course, there could be cases where readers disagree about whether this quality is present or not. After all, we all have our sense of what goes with what. I'm listening to Oldies on the car radio and a 50s chevy passes me. I feel that this is somehow "right" or fitting. Could Lawrence Olivier do a more convincing Barney Fyfe? I doubt it. Can we imagine a more "appropriate" style for O'Hara Lunch Poems? Doesn't Milton's style "go with" the subject matter of Paradise Lost?

Of course, these connections are man-made, not set in stone. I can imagine an alternate literary universe where things match up differently to one another.
The Anne Winters Challenge - Should a Marxist poet be stylistically ornate? By Dan Chiasson: "The desire to assign proportional representation in poetry, to make poetry resemble, and therefore be palatable to, its subjects, has resulted in some pretty weak art, from Carl Sandburg forward. The fact of the matter is, in poetry the score is always 200-0 in favor of the poet. The poet always has the ball. The poet designed the ball, and invented the game, and can change the rules. You always lose when you're the subject matter of poetry. Attempts to make the subject a worthy competitor feel condescending, like when your tennis coach serves leftie to build up your self-esteem."

This sort of thinking seems to neglect the ancient principle of "decorum" or fittingness. Falstaff must speak as Falstaff speaks; Sandburg, for all his weakness, would not have been better if he had chosen a less populist mode: the meaning of his poetry, and whatever value it has, lies in its populist mode. "The poet always has the ball" is pretty lame reasoning. Hasn't this guy ever heard of negative capability? This game doesn't sound very fun to play, does it?

Does Elmore Leonard write like Henry James? Doesn't the "subject" dictate style in a profound sense in both cases? Leonard's language illustrates the principle of "decorum." Not that it is decorous, but that it "fits" the spirit of his books. Can we write an Elmore Leonard novel in heroic couplets? Leonard is a fantastic prose stylist, and part of his genius is for this sense of linguistic appropriateness.
Horace: Ars Poetica:

Discriptas seruare uices operumque colores
cur ego, si nequeo ignoroque, poeta salutor?
Cur nescire pudens praue quam discere malo?
Versibus exponi tragicis res comica non uult;
indignatur item priuatis ac prope socco               
dignis carminibus narrari cena Thyestae.
Singula quaeque locum teneant sortita decentem.

The concept of decorum, of course, harks back to classical poetics:

"Nor will the genius of the comic muse
Sublimer tones, or tragic numbers use;
Nor will the direful Thyestean feast
In comic phrase and language be debased.
Then let your style be suited to the scene,
And its peculiar character maintain."
After Claudio Rodríguez

Blesséd is the one who one day wakes up cold
and opens his closet, and, lo and behold
his overcoat, unused for seven months or so
and where are his gloves? Why in the pockets of course!
with some loose change, and on the car radio
"Moanin," which he mistakes for Lee Morgan's "Sidewinder" at first,
but who cares? he likes both songs,
and he gives thanks, to what or to whom?
that for once in his drunken life
things don't have to be so friggin' complicated.

29 nov. 2004

A recent review I wrote.
Another thing about the Joe LeSueur book is my own memory of reading certain Frank O'Hara poems before I knew anything about the author. One could say that I literally didn't know what I was reading, that I understood the words and the sentences but not the context or the tone. I didn't know what "camp" was. And yet I knew I liked it, that it was the most compelling poetry that had been written in the US during the period. Digressions allows me to measure my own previous lack of understanding against a deep contextualization by an inside observer. These are very personal, private poems. Do you have to now who Mike Kanemitsu is? Yes. No. Maybe.
Blogger is being temperamental today. Won't publish when I want it to.
I read Oklahoma Tough yesterday. Somehow I had missed it when it came out.

Y'a de l'espoir aux USA

28 nov. 2004

Check out Julia's dog poem over on Eagle's Wing.

***

Just finished Digressions on Some Poems of Frank O'Hara over the Thanksgiving holiday. It really should have won the National Book Award for non-fiction, and fiction too: it reads like a wonderful novel. Joe LeSueur is not a literary critic, and the structure of the book really is digressive, but there is still a clear "plot." The characters are unforgettable, especially Frank himself and the narrator. Joe knows he isn't in the same league as F O'H; he is an aspiring writer who doesn't write that much, from what we can see. His idea of what to do with his life is to be in the presence of greatness, rather than being great himself. Lest you think I'm being cruel, this is pretty much what he himself says. The relationship between Joe and Frank is at the center of the book. This relationship--a partnership and almost brotherhood rather than a passionate love affair--shifts depending on who Frank's (and Joe's) other intimate friends and lovers are at any given moment. Joe is more concerned with showing Frank in a positive light than looking good himself.

The book is hilarious, gossipy, and extremely moving. He is harsh with some figures from the period, but (with a few exceptions [LeRoi Jones]) his primary aim is not to "settle scores."


24 nov. 2004

I'm in the Denver airport between planes. My review of Sawako's book is up at "Mipoesias." I can't provide link just yet due to technical difficulties.

23 nov. 2004

Equanimity: "... the weird noise so beloved to poetry junkies is mostly screened out when people want poetry to serve this proxy function. (Incidentally, it's that noise, and the poetry junkies' love of it, that bugs the shit out of certain gatekeepers, and is almost invariably what prompts vocal hostility to poetry.)"

Yes, it's almost as though there were a frequency that some people couldn't hear, or could perceive only as an annoying "noise."

It struck me today that there are probably some people who attempt to read poetry silently to themselves, and without even "subvocalizing." People who literally aren't hearing what they are reading. Of course we are taught in school that hearing the language we are reading will only slow us down.

People who really don't like poetry and want it to serve some spurious "proxy function," in Jordan's appropriate phrase.

And those gatekeepers. We all have our favorite examples of those.
The readership of poetry in historical terms. This is my sense of things:

In the 1920s the Great Moderns had very small audiences. This poetry was not yet taught in Universities. There were a few literary magazines of small circulation. Poetry readings were rare.

This situation continued. A few poets like Eliot and Auden gained more celebrity in the 1940s, but were read mostly in intellectual circles. Dy

With the G.I bill and the New Criticism, modern poetry was taught more in the Universities after WWII. Poetry readings were still rare. The academic poets of the age (Wilbur, Shapiro) had a small, university-based audience. Dylan Thomas makes a splash.

With Allen Ginsberg and the Beats poetry began to reach a youth audience. Poetry readings became more prevalent. John Ashbery, returning to the States in the mid-1960s after a decade in Paris, noted a huge change. Lowell and Plath, with a more confessional mode, helped to popularize poetry as well. There were poetic movements associated with social movements: feminist poetry, ecological poetry, black poetry.

Creative writing program expanded in the 1970s, creating a vast supply of poetry, as well as an increased demand: students studying creative writing. (Supply increased faster than demand, but both increased.) John Ashbery's Self-Portrait sold more than 20,000 copies, a number that would have been unthinkable in the 1920s for a difficult modernist poet.

Things continued more or less along the same path. Popular, elite, and middle-brow forms of poetry co-existing. A small but vital poetry blog culture emerging in 2002. All the audiences that have emerged since the Beats have more or less kept going in some form, with new venues and audiences emerging. I'm sure even a mid-list poetic author of today has more of an audience than Wallace Stevens in the 1930s. Hell, I have more readers than William Carlos Williams in the 1920s.

Confessionalism, beat rebellion, expansion of higher education, and middle-brow media like NPR have "grown" the audience for poetry, which was relatively miniscule before Howl and Life Studies. May Million Poems have a million readers.

What if Ashbery were influenced by Tate, and not (just) the other way around? I certainly see a certain kind of Tate-like zany anecdote going on in Ashbery, but the latter lends more gravitas, as well as more sheer funiness, to these narrative scenarios. And Tate tends to make an entire poem out of a single anecdotal situation, whereas Ashbery will construct a narrative out of several such premises, linking them by some unseen metaphorical process and thus increasing the level of complexity. Two poets quite similar to each other, one relatively easy and the other relatively difficult. One could train a reader to read Ashbery by first introducing Tate, then giving incremental doses of shorter Ashbery texts until the transition is complete.
It's interesting to keep track of what I'm reading. I got Digression on some poems to read on the airplane tomorrow.

22 nov. 2004

Now seems as good a time as any to re-read Stripped Tales, by Barbara Guest and Anne Dunn. I thought of it because in the Schuyler Selected Letters I'm reading, there are quite a few written to Dunn.
I finished a review of Sawako Nakayusa's book. I won't anticipate the conclusions here. I'll let you know where to find it when I comes out. Now I have to write the Wittgenstein paper and insert some translations into the article for Diacritics.
Is there an intimidation factor in poetry? The genre itself is intimidating to many readers. That is, just knowing it's a poem makes people think "I won't understand it," even if it is the most accessible text possible. This is based on a fundamental misconception that poetry is a language of secret meanings that some readers know how to extract and others don't. It's basically a High-School English class view, but unless someone has some other meaningful encounter with poetry later on, it will likely stick.

Of course there are difficult texts, and even "hidden meanings." The problem is when even a simple text has to be read in an allegorical mode. You know, those plums in the ice-box have to be about sex, or death. The John in "I Know a Man" is John the Baptist. There is a time to be more literal-minded, or to have the sensitivity to know when an object in the poem is not a "symbol" of something else.

(Well, those plums really are about sex, at some level, but that is not their meaning. It's more like an overtone that's "there" without being there.)

Now what Billy Collins does is elicit symbol-mongering with a broad brush, insulting the reader's intelligence. People love to have their intelligence insulted, apparently. His poems explain themselves to the reader. They are like the academic poem of the 1950s (a Nemerov, say), but taken down a few educational levels (Graduate School to High School).

Now back to the instruction manual on the use of new metals.

21 nov. 2004

Two (or three) ideas for books to write.

Culture 1960. Everything that happened in the years 1959-1961. A giant contextualization around the year of my birth. Not to be egocentric about it; my own birth carries no weight at all. I just happened to be born when Ray Charles, Sinatra, Beckett, Ornette, Frank O'Hara, Claudio Rodríguez, Joseph Cornell, were all alive and at the height of their powers.

Cuarenta libros. I would write five pages each on my favorite forty books of Spanish poetry published between 1953 and 2003.

How I Didn't Write Certain of My Books. A book consisting entirely of 200 outlines for book projects, each one a page long. I am much better at thinking up ideas than completing them.

20 nov. 2004

I'm stuck in Kansas for the weekend. We have a three-hour meeting this morning.

I read a good bit more of Flow Chart last night. I'm reading it aloud to myself, so it's taking an hour to get through a 35-page chunk of it.

19 nov. 2004

Three graduate students from my Department, Laura, Erin, and Kirsten, have started Venceremos Wear, from where you can order politically activist tee-shirts for the other 49% of us. I like the "Raise hell Kansas" design. Order yours today.
I got a copy of Ashbery's Selected Prose last night and read most of it. He is very good on Marianne Moore, whom others of his generation (Sorrentino for example) tend to dismiss. Border's does not have Joe, so I'm going to have to order it. What are Robert Grenier's picks for the best books of the year?

JOE
JOE
JOE
JOE...

18 nov. 2004

Dealing with a lot of Graduate Director matters today. It's not a difficult job, but I don't get along very well with chronological time so I have a hard time keeping up.
Two wonderful presentations yesterday. Leslie Bayers, our own graduate student, gave a talk in the Poetics Seminar about visuality in contemporary Peruvian poetry. She has trained herself to read this poetry, which draws on everthing from Borges and Charles Olson to Inca traditions.

Then Laura Freixas gave a talk about how the Spanish press reviews novels written by women. The semiotic code is a very simple one: "masculine = good; feminine bad."

Thus a favorable review of a woman's novel will say: "it's not like those other, bad books that we normally associate with women's writing."

An unfavorable review of a book written by a man will say "it appeals to the female reader."

A positive review of a man's book will make no mention of gender.

A negative review of a woman's novel will associate the badness of the book with the author's femininity.

It could be one of the Greimasian squares--if I only remembered how to do them.

Josh Corey's remarks about James Tate this morning are extremely astute. He sums up what I have often felt about Tate: the repetitiousness, the sameness of tone, balanced by the genuine pleasure one can still get out of Tate, in small doses. The Lost Pilot was (and still is) a very good book, and I continued to enjoy Tate quite a bit up to a point sometime in the mid-1970s. Absences was a disappointing book for me. The lack of intellectual depth hurt Tate; he didn't develop enough as a poet. Contrast him with Ashbery, who in separate decades came out with works like Self-Portrait, A Wave, and Flow Chart that took his work in new directions. It's also curious that Tate has become so derivative of Ashbery. After all, The Lost Pilot was published before the late Ashbery style was developed, so Tate was already an original poet in his own right. Why the need to be Ashbery-lite? Ashbery is a powerful influence on many poets, to be sure. Everyone from Tate and Albert Goldbarth to John Ash, John Koethe, Lyn Hejinian, Anne Lauterbach, and Susan Schultz.

Now maybe you'll say that Ashbery repeats himself too. I won't be reluctant not to deny it. But just when it seems that he has nothing left to say, he'll come out with a fine and surprising work.

Reading Flow Chart my level attention is variable. Some passages seem simply superb, and others less so. I don't know how much of this variation is due the variability in my own attention, and how much is due to the ebb and flow of Ashbery's attention.

17 nov. 2004

I took Laura to the Diane Arbus exhibit at the Spenser museum. I had a good time interpreting certain aspects of American culture to her. Debutantes, Ozzy and Harriet, Madalyn O'Hare. Some strange photos of Lee Harvey Oswald's mother.
This is an acrostic about how horrible Bush is for the world.
I'm reading Flow Chart. What a magnificent lexicon Ashbery has. He rarely repeats a substantive, colorful word.

I'm meeting the Spanish writer Laura Freixas today. She's here to give a talk and meet with some classes.


16 nov. 2004

Another translation of "amour-propre" would be "ego"; that covers a lot of ground, about as much as "amour-propre," although I'm not sure it's the same ground exactly.
The Reading Experience: Vulgarians. This was the point I was trying to make on Sunday morning about Laura Miller's obnoxious column. It is interesting how "poetry" gets coded in discussions of fiction.
Equanimity - if not a poetics, then what?: "Reading La Rochefoucauld I realize I have no idea what he means by 'amour-propre' -- is that supposed to cover the entire spectrum from gluttonous vanity to self-preservation, or what?"

... just when I was about to observe that nobody reads La Rochefoucauld anymore. There is a high level of generality in his maximes. I understand amour-propre as basic self-regard/pride/dignity. La Roch seems to view it as a basic part of everybody's personality, but at the same time as something to be criticized generically. That is, he cannot imagine human personality without this factor, yet finds much to criticize in it. All other apparent motives seem to boil down to the attempt to preserve a basic image of oneself (for oneself and in the eyes of others as well.) The target of his satire is just about everyone, not merely those whose flaws are obvious.



HOW TREE TRUNKS BECAME BROWN

There used to be
only one tree.
There was a storm.
It was so muddy the
water was brown
and the tree drank
it and it turned
brown because of
the muddy water.

15 nov. 2004

Unprotected Texts has a new contest up. It's quite a provocative one.
Beads threaded along a single string, but with no logical reason, other than mere contiguity, that explains why one bead follows another. That is, the order of the elements seems arbitrary. Yet the more one studies or devotes oneself to the text, the more the ordering of the elements emerges as inexplicably but powerfully inevitable. Is this an effect of reading? In other words, another order of the same elements, to another reader, would seem equally inevitable.

14 nov. 2004

Eagle's Wing is back in action. Julia is writing again.

I'm a little tired of those gripes about the National Book Award nominees in fiction. The New York Times Book Review has yet another article this morning about it. The novels, according to Laura Miller, are too similar to prose poems. The good thing about poetry, according to Miller, is that it doesn't go on too long. What crap.

11 nov. 2004

We discussed blogs in my Graduate Seminar today. At least one subject on which I am an expert. We looked at two Mexican writers: Heriberto Yépez and Cristina Rivera Garza.
Maybe lots of folks are reading Berryman et al and I just don't know it. I was basing my perception on my reading of both mainstream literary media and blogging circles. Certain names just don't come up as much nowadays. The NYRB will never tire of Larkin and Lowell, but when was the last time you saw a reference to Karl Shapiro in its pages?
I studied with Karl Shapiro, whom Nick mentions today, with a link over to the Mark Wood's fabulously informative blog. Shapiro has one of the best "homosexual panic" poems, "On Learning that your Favorite Poet is a Homosexual." He used to infuriate people by giving public lectures against the very idea of creative writing programs, while teaching in a creative writing program. He was basically telling his own MFA students to go to hell. Not a particularly nice man. His prose poems of The Bourgeois Poet are expressive of a cultural moment in the 1960s when the literary establishment had to react to the Beat Generation and its youth-culture aftermath. Shapiro championed Henry Miller and WCW, wrote the hilarious prose-poem "Lower the Standards, That's My Motto." He attacked Pound and McKuen. A double-voiced discourse in books like In Defense of Ignorance. Defending "ignorance" against the culture-poems of Eliot and Pound, yet wanting to defend the barriers against the barbarians.

There was a notorious lawsuit, when someone reported mistakenly that KS was dead when he wasn't.

He was part of that Lowell/Jarrell/Berryman/Schwartz generation. Nobody reads these poets anymore, except for Lowell. Schwartz survives in biographies and novelizations (Atlas, Bellow), and his connection to the New York intellectuals. Jarrell is known for his criticism. Berryman survives in Henry Gould's echoes, almost nowhere else.

He gave me my first and only B in college.

10 nov. 2004

A colleague lent me an examination copy of Poetry in Theory: An Anthology 1900-2000 edited by Jon Cook. (Blackwell, 2004). It sports a blurb by Terry Eagleton and contains more than 600 pages of text. Aimed obviously at the textbook morket, I can imagine it will be adopted by some instructors. It is resolutely Anglo-centric, with only token representation of anything outside the English Language. It contains only one text originally written in Spanish: predictably enough, Lorca's duende essay! So Borges, Lezama, Paz, have no place here. Of course, there are a few French poets and theorists (Lacan, Barthes, Kristeva, etc...), slightly fewer Germans, and a handful of Russians. So the poetic map constructed is US + England at the center, the major nations of Western Europe (France + Germany) at the periphery, and the rest of the world represented by "tokens" (Lorca, Césaire). Since this is pretty much the way the English professor sees the world, these choices make a lot of sense in market terms.

Celan does not appear in the index. No mention of Rothenberg or ethnopoetics either. But hey, you couldn't leave out Edward Thomas and Randall Jarrell, figures of no international trascendence at all.
Theory of Negativity. (via Language Log). A significant poetic principle.
Should I read Brodey today? I've had this book for a while, The Art of the Breath, but I haven't delved into it. There always seemed to be too much there, as though the book should have been a fourth the size and left the reader asking for more.



9 nov. 2004

It also could be meaningful that the last post contained two obvious typos, which I won't bother to correct.


My backchannel communications are getting richer, although they can be more time-consuming that the blog.

All the work I didn't do last week with election hangover now demands to be down today.

8 nov. 2004

I got my copy of Underground with the Oriole. (Frank Lima. New York: Dutton, 1971). Not a terribly expensive book on the used market, but a valuable edition to my collection of NY Poets. I need to have these books because of my love for the paratext. The blurb by Allen Ginsberg and the dedication to Kenneth Koch. The epigraph from Picasso. The title poem is dedicated to Joe and Rosemary (Ceravolo I assume).
One of those stretches of minor inconveniences. A trumpet mouthpiece that gets stuck on a Sunday with no music store open. I notice my socks are soaking after walking on the carpet in the basement. Waited around for the plumber and left late, getting to my office at 5:30 rather than 2. And then I had to write that instruction manual on the use of new metals. Meeting of the committee on polyrhythmic perversion must be postponed.

6 nov. 2004

I actually identified this language correctly as Somali. Not bad for a strictly amateur linguist.


Here's a newish poetry and politics blog, Oracular vagina takes her place.
David Shapiro joins Sunday boycott:

"I now willingly forfeit all Sundays in honor of the poetics of polyrhythm. I am even willing to forego Saturday as part of a strategy to desecrate the false religions--true religions being invisible at this or other times and having to do with thet ruth of loving the stranger, the poor, and the other first..."

4 nov. 2004

UNACKNOWLEDGED LEGISLATOR OF THE WORD ELMINATES SUNDAY

November 4, 2004
LAWRENCE, KS REUTERS

In a shocking move against the religious-military-NFL complex, unacknowledged legislator of the world Jonathan Mayhew has excised Sunday from the days of the week, sowing panic in the fundamentalist and sporting communities. Other poetic experts, including Kasey S. Mohammad of Ashland Oregon, have pointed out that such a move is purely symbolic, and that no poet has the actual power to shorten the week in such fashion. Mayhew clarified his proposal in the following addendum:

"From now on, time will elapse in a complex and fascinating polyrhythm of '6 against 7.' Those who observe the traditional seven day week will lag behind the progressive 6-day-week community, ulimately causing a rhythmic hiccup in the music of the spheres. The end result will be the defeat and humiliation of the Bush administration, since the religious fundamentalists that support this incompetent and criminal regime will be unable to 'keep up' with the passage of time. I was inspired by Kasey's own abolishing of Christmas, Nick Piombino's innovations in poetic time travel, and Gary Sullivan's reaction to Kerry's concession speech.

Poetic officials are studying Mayhew's proposal. Ron Silliman and Henry Gould are expected to rule on the matter before next Sunday. Dick Cheney could not be reached for comment.

EEL CHORD

Enough
fluid hokum,
molten dweeb.
Atop berg,
vine diva

davens

steam:

rusting fronds,
sweat lines
on sky
level. Stunned
mica blush.

--Thomas Fink (from After Taxes)

The sheer hilarity of this illustrates the Kenneth Koch motto I have in my blog description immediately to your left. Comedy is as cathartic, as cleansing, as tragedy. That such poetry should exist at all should fill us with wonder and awe and make us laugh out loud. ("Daven" means "to pray" in Yiddish, by the way. I had to look it up.) A little bit of Fink's poetry goes a long way. "Motel / with permanent no- / vacancy scowl: chipped latex." The exactitude of that, corrosive. A benchmark. Measure it against poets who subtract rather than add to the language. It's an ethical imperative for me. There is truth in my exaggerations.
I still don't have Joe or Digressions on Some Poems. I'm way behind on my collection of New York School Poets.
The prejudice against Gay and Lesbian people is the last one that is not only socially acceptable in many parts of the country but is actively sanctioned by the state in the name of "morality."

3 nov. 2004

I got my copy of the selected letters of Schuyler, today. I've been on book buying spree. In fact, I didn't even remember ordering the book. I'm sure I did, but I had forgotten it was coming.
I'm having a hilarious and absurd email conversation about a fine point of grammar, in order to get some relief from this post-election hangover.

***

Appreciative email this morning from Frank Lima, who promises to send some poems to me.

2 nov. 2004

I was listening to the "Diane Rehm Show" yesterday. She had a panel of people talking about the Supreme Court. The woman on the panel said that the Supreme Court only mattered to those at either "extreme." At one "extreme," she explained, were people who cared about civil liberties. Now when I was brought up, civil liberties were seen as essential to democracy, not the concern of some fringe group on the left. It's going to take a while just to get the discourse back so that those of us who take fairly mainstream postures (we shouldn't practice torture) will be considered centrists rather than extremists.

Allen Bramhall rediscovers For Love. Robert Creeley could not be reached for comment.
Goal of the day: throw axis of evil out of power. (GWB, Cheney, etc...).

I do not use the word evil lightly.

1 nov. 2004

I wish I'd said:

"The truth about poetry is how often the 'readers' don't stay in the dark with the book long enough." --David Shapiro.
I'm putting this up again since some newer readers might not know what "Bemsha Swing" means:

All poetry is narrative poetry.

Some of it is "plotless narrative," however.

I re-read Descripción de la mentira, by the great Antonio Gamoneda. Such magnificent rhetoric and rhythm. Also reading Cobalto, by Esther Zarraluki. I'll tell you about it soon.

***

A reader objects to my "unfortunate" remark on Merwin. To say Merwin is not a poet is obviously hyperbole. Look at this poem to see what I mean. The rhymes and flaccid language are downright embarrassing, as should become abundantly clear. You can also check out my Rod McKuen/Merwin quiz of a few months back. A tone of solemn high-seriousness does not make you a poet. It is a shtick as bad as any other.

31 oct. 2004

I'm reading Steve Benson's Blue Book, not systematically, just opening it to a random page and reading some lines. "Skip 50 / pages to see what he had to say. / Read every word." It's funny how the book seems to invite/anticipate this mode of reading. I got the book used and someone has outlined a few passages toward the end of the book.

30 oct. 2004

I'm collecting adverb + adjective set phrases:

refreshingly honest 37.000
fabulously rich 61,200
impossibly difficult 73,300
ridiculously ugly 85,000
woefully inadequate: 89,000
amazingly calm 91,100
tragically hip 116,000
strikingly beautiful 132,000
sadly mistaken 141.000
aggressively intelligent 145,000
abundantly clear 192,000
strangely happy 272,000
overwhelmingly powerful 345,000
incredibly stupid 376,000
desperately poor 444,000
obviously drunk 486,000
happily married 664,000

(indireclty responsible 1,100,000
directly responsible 6,180,000)

easily available 8,800,000

The numbers are approximate google hits. I'm not interested in ones with fewer than fifty thousand or so, since there would be too many of them. "Impeccably dressed" didn't quite make the cut. It strikes me that part of what counts as "knowing a language" is recognizing and being able to use and understand such combinations of words. Yet "good writing" must either avoid or ironize such clichés whenever possible.

One of the most frequent one I've found actually is meaningful, since there is a distinction between being direclty and indirectly responsible for something. When a phrase is extremely common, we know longer even recognize it as a cliché: witness "easily available." These don't seem as interesting to me as the mid-range ones like "sadly mistaken." I suppose if both words are very common then the significance of their combination would be much diminished.

I'm pretty much just reading the same thousand books over and over again. That's what if feels like anyway.

Lima approaches "deep image" poetics from a unique angle. At first glance this aspect of his poetry--the "Latin American surrealism"-- was the least appealing to me, yet I have to acknowledge it as one facet of the whole. Unlike much of Merwin or Strand, the images really are surprising and arresting. Who else could have written an Ode to Julia Child?

29 oct. 2004

"like a shotgun full of ice" --Frank Lima

If Merwin saw that line he would have to issue an apology for trying to pass himself off as a poet all these years.
Next book I'll be reading: Sawako Nakayusa, So we have been gven time or. Along with the Frank Lima.
The Frank Lima book, Inventory (New and Selected Poems), resonates with my prior readings of Ceravolo and of David Shapiro, who wrote a nice prologue. This is an extraordinary life work. The richness of the "New York School" that can include un poeta puertorriqueño extraordinariamente desconocido.

"Iron
Iron

I
have
burned
down
the
sky."

28 oct. 2004

"Viven del Cariño" 1994
Went to a panel discussion about Cuba. María Velasco, of the art department here, showed some striking images of Marta Maria Perez Bravo, which reminded me of Man Ray's surrealist photography.


The composition book I'm using uses the word "interactuar," which I don't think is a "real" Spanish word.
Here's a beautiful poem David Shapiro sent me this morning by email, and kindly gave me permission to post. Remember: you read it here first:

Lag Solo

There's a sign in my basement  Private Road.

There's a sign on my garage door: Self Closing Door.

Between the two we don't exactly live,

exactly die.

In one pocket, dust and ashes, and in the other

pocket, images.

We wear out.

And on the gifted machine a dance-mix

Or the shadow of a dance-mix:

Dance, She Cried.

Equanimity - if not a poetics, then what?..."am I just giving up a need for fuddy-duddy encyclopedism?"
Why do some people irritate me so much, even people I ostensibly "like"? Could it be that these people resemble me to a degree that feels uncomfortable?

I wrote poem below more-or-less in the style of Creeley. That's how it came out, at least.

***

I'm less and less interested in fictionality, creation of imaginary worlds so little different from our own. Reality seems much richer.
This five-foot stretch of
ninety-nine-year-old
lucidity, beating us at scrabble

all these years,
grandchildren, great-grandchildren,
lifeless now

Aunt Fae found her
yet how could this be?
so little short of the century.

(Miriam Telford Ellsworth, February 14, 2004-October 26, 2004)

27 oct. 2004

If I didn't have so many blogs already I would start a new one devoted to my translations from Spanish and Latin American poetry.
My Grandmother, Miriam Telford Ellsworth, died in her sleep the night before last in her home in Sacramento. She was 99-years old.
I re-read Enslin's The Country of Our Consciousness last night. I love that book--I mean the book itself as physical object as well as the poems in it.

26 oct. 2004

Today we're reading El infarto del alma, by Diamela Eltit, in my Graduate Seminar. It's a book of photos taken by Paz Errazuriz in a rural mental institution in Chile, with accompanying text by Eltit. It is a fascinating and brilliant work.

25 oct. 2004

Good poetics seminar today: we got together with some people from the "Life Writing Workshop," faculty members writing autobiographies and biographies, to compare notes in the intersection between poetics and
"Life Writing."
Here's a relativley new blog: The Lovely Arc
Is anger a possibility?

24 oct. 2004

My concept of the "poet's novel." It's got to be written by a poet, and appeal mostly to readers of this poet or of poetry generally. It can't be a novelistic novel written by a novelist who is also a poet. It can be very good for what it is, but cannot simply be a novel standing apart from the poet's work. it helps if it is obscure, unknown to non-poetic readers. In other words, James Dickey or Thomas Hardy don't count as writers of "poet's novels." So it is partly about the social identity of the writer? Partly about the work itself? Its readers?

Alfred and Guenevere. I had never read it before. A hilarious novel. Preface of John Ashbery is very illuminating. I must re-read A Nest of Ninnies.

23 oct. 2004

My objections to Jorie are that she's

humorless
garrulous
too self-consciously elegant
no sense of "voice," or of a speaker one would want to listen to
not very many memorable lines or pasages
a little bit dull

On the positive side of the ledger, she has

a serious and sustained "project"
a deep sense of seriousness

and she takes herself very seriously

So I cannot simply dismiss her. When I'm not reading her, I think of her as a poet I really should read more of. Yet every time I attempt the reading I fail to connect with her work. It's not crap, it's just well-written and somewhat pretentious verbiage. Once in a while I find a passage that I like, but the poetic energy is rarely sustained. Maybe some day the light bulb will go off in my head and I'll get why others thinks she is great.

This is the article in question:"THE ELDER PRESENCES:"
Henry's getting a long run out of the schtick schtick. I haven't looked at Berryman's black-face recently enough to have an informed opinion about it. Whether it's justifiable or not I don't know, although to me it's not particularly appealing. I found a pretty thoughtful essay about the subject on the web by googling "Berryman minstrel show."
I just finished Tjanting. I am reading The Age of Huts. I checked out a Jorie Graham book from the public libary: Never. I wanted to see her work it has some redeeming value I've never been able to discern before. I'll let you know.

***

I live in St. Louis but was born in Boston and grew up on stories of Yastremski. I have divided loyalties, but at least one team I like will win World Series this year.

21 oct. 2004

Ben Friedlander back-channel. (We had been discussing Joe Brainard and Edmond Jabès. Could the fake rabbi bit in the latter be considered a "schtick?"):

"I think of Brainard as genuine too. Does that rule out the possibility of schtick? That's a real question, by the way, not a rhetorical one: when I wrote you last night I was thinking of Emily Dickinson's neuroses as an example of schtick, in jest of course. But maybe a misreading of genuineness as schtick is itself a schtick rising to the level of poetics. Or maybe not..."
More HG Poetics on schtick, written, appropriately in this case, with a good deal of schtick.

Like all great aphorism, rigorously false.
Kansas Spleen (A la recherche de Ron Silliman

My urine smells of coffee, warm on a cold day. Ron makes his way through Flow Chart, I through Tjanting. "Days to merely cross the page." Apparently I need Baudelaire's permission to drop flowerpot down on dull panes of glass. Page numbers in brackets! Palatino! Others more garrulous than I, what, if anything, do I leave unstated? The world is everything that is the. I offend easily. If you construed that verb as intransitive you win the prize. From Stein to Beckett to Silliman, the semi-colon is suppressed.

My father learned to drive stick shift in the Berkeley hills. Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion doze off in poppy fields of Afghanistan. Bert Lahr played Estragon, or was it Vladimir, or Lucky?, in New York production. Chapbooks bound in sandpaper eat their way through my bookshelves, until only the 1,000 chosen ones are left.

20 oct. 2004

And this post back in July is right on the money...The Reading Experience: Communication Skills.
Daniel Green's blog The Reading Experience is truly worth reading.
tributary on the schtick question.
Ok, guys, I take it back. A poetics is nothing but a schtick.
Braque said it better: "La personnalité de l'artiste n'est pas faite de l'ensemble de ses tics." (The personalty of the artist does not consist of the sum of his tics.)
Henry Gould objects to aphorism below. I can see how Henry is attracted to Berryman's minstrel-show schtick, for example. (To me, personally, this is one of the least attractive aspects of Berryman.) I'm moving myself toward the opposite end of the scale. I should have said a schtick is not sufficient for a poetics. Poets often do their best work when they put down the mask for a moment.

Readers of this blog: Name a poet who, in your opinion, is all schtick. I'll collate the results and get back to you.
A schtick is not a poetics.
I spoke too soon. El matasellos "no está en existencias." I don't know how I'm going to get ahold of it.

19 oct. 2004

A "matasellos," by the way, is a postmark. Literally, "stamp-killer." It is one of those invariant nouns formed with verb+plural noun, like sacacorchos (corkscrew), abrelatas (can-opener), paraguas (umbrella).
I've also ordered El matasellos, a novel by Heriberto Yépez that is getting a lot of positive ink in Mexico. I'll be the first to write about it in English, most probably.
I've deleted some posts from yesterday and before, so if you've come here looking for some pointless rhetorical violence you'll be disappointed. Yet I feel the urge to do more of same. I am prone to these attacks of spleen, you see. That would be a good title, Kansas Spleen. That's a book I'll write tonight if I hold up.

***

I re-read What last night. It holds up well. I'm halfway through Tjanting. I ordered a Frank Lima book with intro by David Shapiro, which should be arriving in a few days.
The guy across the hallway from me, Ernest in the History Department, said, "I saw Wittgenstein and he said he enjoyed talking to you on his recent visit here."
I said, "Who?" (thinking I'd heard wrong).
"Raphael Rubinstein."

18 oct. 2004

I'm also reading Creeley's Pieces. Why do these poems work so well in sans serif font?
One of today's books read is Vanishing Points of Resemblance, kind compliments of the author, Tom Beckett, even though I didn't place in his erotic poetry contest.
How can one read everything? For one thing, it's a mistake to only read American poetry published in the last 5 years. You wonder why everyone's poetry sounds the same! That might be why. I'm sure there are worthy poets I'm skipping over, but I don't believe there's thousands of truly interesting ones that I'm not reading. Probably the absolute worst is to edit a magazine and only read submissions. All of a sudden one is publishing crap that seems good against a backdrop of worse crap. If you aren't reading in a foreign language, or poetry from the past, you lose perspective very fast. Silliman should only read Beckett and Celan for a year, then come back and see how contemporary poetry of US stacks up. Or how about only Canadian poetry for a year? That would narrow it down.

17 oct. 2004

Recently read:

demo to ink, Concierto animal, St. Martins, La nieve en los manzanos, Baladas del dulce Jim.

16 oct. 2004

A Thom Gunn Moment, with a little bit of Creeley

I remember we were given an assignment to observe an animal and write a poem about it. (We had read Rilke's "Panther.") Not the kind of excercise that I was (or am) any good at. I remember writing about birds flying from branch to branch in "short / uninteresting curves" ! ?! I wasn't trying to sabotage the exercise, this was just my honest observation. What I had observed yielded no epiphany. Yes, the poem itself was a little drab (ok, more than little), as was obvious to Gunn and everyone else, but I tried to argue that my observation had a sort of "Creeley" quality to it. Amazingly enough, Gunn bought this argument. It didn't make the poem any good, but he had to admit that if Creeley had signed these lines he would have accepted them more readily. I admired this flexibiity, this willingness to take a point from a 17-year old kid.

So what is dullness in poetry, really? My act of attention was perfunctory, and the adjective "uninteresting" was the self-conscious result. The word doesn't appear too much in poetry, and for very good reasons. Follow the assignment, but don't write as though you are following an assignment. An impossible double-bind. Yet, Creeley-like, I was attentive to my own inadequacy, the poverty of that sort of anti-epiphanic moment. To write endlessly, like Creeley, about something that he wasn't very good at for a very long stretch of his life: human relationships, impossibly painful domestic situations. There's a sort of aporia there too, a productive tension if you will. If he were psychologically wise about his experience, he wouldn't have had the experience in the first place, he would have been "spared the agony of human relation/ships."

Berryman famously found Creeley dull, probably because of the lack of a certain sort of theatricalization, at which Berryman was very good at.
I got hold of this book, Emily Dickinson and Contemporary Art. It's a catalogue from an exhibition they had at Amherst a few years back. Fairly interesting visually, but verbally flat, both in the porfolio of poems they drew together (Richard Wilbur,great!) and in the essays. There is a kind of "art-speak" I don't identify with at all. if I were to write about art I wouldn't write like that. I don't know what I'd do, but it wouldn't be that... The art was postmodern but the poetry was anti-modern. A familiar story.

15 oct. 2004

Ron's argument that Robert Duncan created the "reading list" for us today, that his reading list is ours, is probably valid from where he sits. I know that my reading list was formed from Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery, and also that this list doesn't correspond exactly to Duncan's list. I took my cue from Ashbery's introduction to the Collected Poems of F O'H. Gertrude Stein plus the more canonical modernists, French surrealism, Roussel, Flann O'Brien, Lorca, Beckett, Joseph Cornell, John Cage, Auden. That's as good a starting point as any. Duncan's West Coast canon is not entirely different, but there is a difference in emphasis. The New York poets are more oriented toward France. They are less interested in theosophy and in neo-Romantic constructions of the poetic self.

What has always bothered me about Duncan--who is a great poet in all respects--is the insistence on his own authority as a poet, his setting himself up in relation to a tradition of "poesy." All that Victorian medievalism in his diction seems to have that purpose. As though he could only be a "poet" if he were heir to some notion of poetic authority. The H.D. book recently parsed expertly by Silliman in the intimidating presence of Ken Irby, (who was personally much closer to Duncan than Silliman was, who was even a proofreader of the HD book itself) is about this process of poetic authorization vis-a-vis a poetic predecessor. Now when I say some of this bothers me, this does not mean I don't find it endlessly fascinating, only that I find myself asking why it is necessary to claim this sort of poetic authority in the first place. I prefer other models of "becoming" a poet.
Aaron Tieger on judging people by what they read rather than what they write. I agree, in that you can't blame someone for not being a very good poet. Few people are, after all. On the other hand, what you read is your own choice. . . An anecdote about the Bush family mansion containing no books at all. It came up in recent conversation with Ron S. and David P.
I wrote two posts ago ".... demand far outpaced demand." Was that what I meant to write? No, but I didn't correct error because I liked its absurdism.
There are two ways of reading Creeley. One is to isolate the top 10% of his poems and read them over and over again. The other is to wade through everything, the poems apparently too slight or too diffuse, to realize that the other 90% has real value. I've been preferring the second approach lately.

***

I had an idea for a project: writing a book about 15 poems that I would select by the following criteria:

maximum of 10 could be American
" " could be written originally in English
" " could be written by men
" " could be written in 20th century etc...

in order to counteract my own 20th century, male, English-speaking, American bias, yet still have things weighted toward my own sensibility.

I would write 15 pages about each poem. I thought of something Ron said on recent Kansan visit: he's more interested in poetry than in the poem. For me it depends on what side of the bed I get up on. Sometimes I'm much more interested in the poem than in poetry. We need a counterweight to anthologies like One Hundred Old Chestnuts You Ought to Have Already Read

So far my list:

Frost "The Silken Tent"
Coolidge. something from
My Face
?
Frank O'Hara, "Poetry"
James Schuyler "Standing and Watching"

Basho, et al. "Through the Town..."
Guest "Gravel"
Catullus ????
Claudio Rodríguez "La encina... ."
Blanca Varela ????
Emily "We Grow Accostumed to the Dark"

14 oct. 2004

CRITICAL SHORTAGE OF ASHBERY POEMS PROJECTED

UPI, New York, NY

John Ashbery has not published a book of poetry in slightly over two years. The normally prolific New York City poet published his last book of poetry, Chinese Whispers, in May of 2002. It has been reported that most of his regular readers have already finished the book, and are growing increasingly restive while waiting for the next book to come out. While this might not seem to be cause for concern, many experts believe that the days of cheap, plentiful Ashbery poems are past.. "The stockpile of poems from collections of the 1980s and 1990s once seemed inexhaustible," stated Ashbery expert Garbo Suleiman, "but most of us have re-read these volumes to the point of exhaustion. If Ashbery continues to withold his poems from the market, we could see a return to the day of the early 1970s, when demand far outpaced demand." Ashbery could not be reached for comment.
The Leiter Reports: Editorials, News, Updates: Derrida: "one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century"...: "Not a single philosopher of any note in the English-speaking world--or from Europe--is represented on the list of signatories to the letter, by the way. There is a reason."

There's an interesting slippage in this post between "faculty who teach in philosophy departments" and "... philosopher of note." Are Zizek, Butler, Caputo, not philosophers of note? Is Leiter himself a professor of philosophy or a "philosopher"? If someone in a philosophy department admires Derrida, is s/he automatically demoted from philosopher to "faculty teaching in a philosophy department"?

Rorty, Habermas, and other philosophical heavyweights take Derrida seriously, although they did not sign this letter to the Times. Barry Watten, Charles Bernstein, Marjorie Perloff did, along with a thousand other folks.

Derrida

"Just as many of Marx's critics scarcely recognize the degree to which Marx produced much of the common social and historical frame of reference and vocabulary that the critics themselves use, so too do many of Derrida's critics fail to recognize how much Derrida and his associated [sic] helped to normalize certain propositions about interpretation and communication that we do not specifically attribute any longer to them. Almost all of us take for granted now the permanent imperfection of representation and communicative action, the inevitability of a profound and important slippage between signifier and sign, reader and text, but this wasn't always a given in humanistic writing."

Now that I'm finished with the BAP I'm going to start keeping track again of my reading. I've just finished a few books. Creeley's Memory Gardens, Julia Otxoa's La nieve en los manzanos.
I saw the new issue of Poetry (October) at Borders. They have this "antagonisms" section, asking various people for names of poets they don't care for. As though we should really care whether some mediocre or obscure poet doesn't like Marianne Moore or H.D. or Frost or Rilke! Something is out of alignment here. It doesn't compute. There's a lack of perspective. It might be meaningful if Rilke hated Milton; it's meaningless that William Logan doesn't appreciate Hopkins, because Logan is pure nothingness.

13 oct. 2004

Teaching the seminar is pure joy. The key to happiness is total absorption in the task at hand. When I am in class I am attentive to everything, the ideas being discussed in relation to the overall "lessons" I want us to come away with, the body language and level of attentiveness of each of the 10 students, their own level of engagement. When the majority of them are also engaged, are here in class with me, when the seminar is clicking, the students feeding off of one another's level of engagement, I can sit back and enjoy it. It is effortless, even though I am working very, very hard, keeping track of the time elapsing in relation to the rhythm of the discussion, intervening or deliberately remaining quiet to allow for more space. And the students too seem to have an idea of the beginning, middle, and end of the class, its particular rhythm.

The joy is retroactive too, in that it takes its full effect a day or so later, when I reflect on it, as I am doing now, travelling back in time a day and idealizing what was probably an imperfect class in many respects. As Asbhery notes, happiness can be anticipatory or retrospective, yet is always related to some idea of a presence, even if it is two moments superimposed the one over the other.

***

A striking dream: I was climbing a steep hill; on my left was a formation of rock that resembled a cemetery: tombstones irregularly pointing up at the sky. Yet is was a natural formation, as I discovered as I drew nearer. The ambiguity (human or natural?) contributed to the effect of striking beauty. I felt that I had never seen anything so beautiful in my life. This feeling was a sensation of physical elation such that I had never felt. At the top of the hill were some Roman ruins carved out of similar stone. I wondered whether they had been carved out of rock or whether the rock had been hauled to the top of the hill by slave laborers. I thought of the Egptians pyramids. A well preserved Roman-style building, looking much like one of those pseudo-classical banks, had the word VICTORIA carved above its columns. I associated the building with Rome's victory over Carthage in the Punic wars.

My Fall break starts today. I'll be reading La nieve en los manzanos by Julia Otxoa, Baladas del dulce Jim, by Ana María Moix, and Concierto animal by Blanca Varela, along with some Creeley, Silliman.

12 oct. 2004

Another, related mistake is seeing Derrida outside of the context in which he was writing, basically the avant-garde of his day--Blanchot, Sollers, Barthes. If one transposes him to an English department with a fairly conservative canon, what happens? Deconstruction becomes a way of reading Romantic and Victorian poetry: Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Browning. I'm thinking mostly of G. Hartman, Hillis Miller, Cynthia Chase, that Lyric Poetry After New Criticism book. Harold Bloom, though not a deconstructionist, also reinforced the same canon.

My first book was vaguely deconstructionist, in that it was structured around a central aporia. However, I avoided a Derridean vocabulary.

11 oct. 2004

Like Barrett Watten, I am not a Derridean, yet feel the need to defend against rather simplisitic definitions--whether coming from detractors or admirers. I remember when Searle demolished Culler's book on Derrida in the NYRB. Culler's defense of his book, and of Derrida, was weak, and Searle demolished him again in the letters to the editor exchange. Deconstruction turned out to be useless in the hands of anyone but Derrida, its flaw being that any simplification or clarification or even "application" of it made it seem entirely moronic if not outright wrong. I once reviewed a book by someone trying to "apply" Derrida to a particular Spanish poet. I think that was my most negative review of all time.
We don't formally know the rules of English grammar, unless we are linguists. For example, if I had to explain the use of definite and indefinite articles in this stanza

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree...

to someone learning English, who didn't have articles at all in her native language, I couldn't do it without great effort, and I'd probably be wrong. Instead, what we usually do is say, "listen enough to how these articles are used until you get the hang of it." In other words, develop "native speaker intuitions" of your own. Even if I were a great explainer of grammar, the person I explain the rules to might not be capable of both 1) Understanding a set of abstract rules, and 2) Applying these rules consistently the way a native speaker would. If I substitute an "easier" rule, one that accounts for many but not all cases, the rule will be easier to understand and apply, but will likely lead to errors. In fact, the student is likely to simplify the rule on his own.

Frost could have written

The way the crow
Shook down on me
A dust of snow
From the hemlock tree...

but not "A way a crow..." I have no idea why. Just sounds wrong.

People who are not linguists, but who think they know grammar, are the worst, for they will tell you it's a grammatical mistake to say "smarter than her."
Charles Wright, "In Praise of Han Shan"

This is the last poem in the 2004 BAP, which I'm sick of by now, despite the several good poems it includes. Wright has always bored me to tears. It's not that he's bad, but that he doesn't write for any reason. As he himself says, this is "art for nothing's sake."

***

Best of the Best:

Alexander, Ashbery, Berrigan, Buchanan, Davis, Dinh, Elmslie, Fogel, Greenberg, Guest, Howe, Irby, Koch, Mathews, McCaffery, Mohammad, Moure, Myles, Rakosi, Shapiro, Silliman, Stefans, Sze, Tate, Toscano.

Worst of the Worst:

Collins, Hollander, Phillips, Pinsky, Seidel, Stern, Wagoner.
David Wagoner, "Trying to Make Music"

Some poets actually make music in their poetry, not merely talk about it in a dull way. It's a poem that denounces its own inadequacy from the first line. I sympathize with him. It is hard. Wagoner is one of those mediocrities that Kenneth Koch's strangler somehow missed years ago.
Julia scored her first ever goal on Sunday. From about 40 feet away, the ball came to her and she blasted it into the net. The goalie got a hand on it but there was no way she could have stopped it. A thing of beauty. How can someone 4'2" and sixty lbs generate that kind of power, I don't know.
Paul Violi, "Appeal to the Grammarians"

A rather ordinary but charming poem. It has its moments; I like the weird interpretation of the Spanish inverted exclamation point, which has nothing to do with disappointment.
Rodrigo Toscano, "Meditatio Lectoris"

Here's a strongly rhythmic poem much to my liking. It is a rhythm of thought as a well as a sound-structure. I wish I had more to say about it. The BAP is not really conducive to the way I like to read, with a book by single author in particular publishing context.

9 oct. 2004

The problem with Derrida was seeing him as a literary theorist / authority figure rather than as a writer. The reception of Blanchot never had that problem, since there was no school of Blanchot in the US academy. ( A writer doesn't need to make falsifiable claims. ) Of course, Derrida is to blame for encouraging a school of Derrida. It is not reasonable to expect him to have said "don't imitate me, don't be influenced by me," but he could have done a little more to mark his distance.

French theory is officially dead now.
Jacques Derrida has died...
I'm not sure why some journalists want to see last night's debate as a draw. If it had been a prize fight, it would have been stopped by the referee in the 4th round. Bush thinks the original U.S. Constitution disallowed slavery, as he made clear in his rambling discussion of the Dred Scott decision! Of course, I was watching the debate at the Kerry rally, which greeted Bush's responses with hoots of derision. Kerry showed up at the rally about 10:35, quite exultant. The idea of Bush as out of touch with reality is a winning theme for him, I think. I've never actually seen a presidential candidate before, if you don't count Jerry Brown. I was never impressed with Kerry until tonight. He finally seemed substantial to me, not a mere Bush alternative. Seeing him in the flesh, albeit from a distance, I sensed some charisma.

Others observing said that Bush was not scowling, but I thought his facial expression was moronic throughout. Why can't Daniel Schorr simply say that Bush looked like a cretin? I'm sure he's thinking that.

8 oct. 2004

We're going to the Kerry rally tonight in St. Louis.

7 oct. 2004

Koch as Jerry Lewis's stunt double.

Edwin Torres, "Robert Pinsky Has No Samba"

This is a fun poem. (That's not the real title, by the way, I'm making a joke.) It kind of reminds me of the invention of movements like "The New Brutalism" in late-night email exchanges.
Ron noticed David Perry's height, and that I look ten years younger than I claim to be. I wonder why he didn't notice the supermodel who was our waitress?
d'oh, that should be Austrian novelist, not Australian.
The Nobel prize can be conceived as a way of publicizing a work in need of publicity, rather than recognizing a work that is already famous and influential. I've never heard of this Australian novelist they've given it to, Jelinik, so I can't say it's a good or bad choice. I don't read much so-called "fiction." It's supposed to be more major form nowadays, yet I think that's shortsighted and mistaken.

6 oct. 2004

James Tate, "Bounden Duty"

This is one of the spookiest and best Tate poems I've read in years. I think it is about Bush, but Tate claims that it is about Clinton, which shows that a poet can misunderstand his own work. The flaws in Tate's recent poetry actually work in this poem. If it were better written the dramatic monologue wouldn't be as convincing. As it is it's spot on. No fine writing here.

Arthur Sze, "Acanthus"

Sze is another one for "fine writing." "Green powdered henna / in a box beside white mulberries." Petals on a white, black bough. Come let us feast our eyes. Sze is really good, actually. I would recommend anyone read his poetry for a year and imitate it, then try to write in the opposite style: no keenly observed sensory detail. That would be an interesting experiment. "saffron / cardomom, frankincense, cinnamon, ginger, / galingale, thyme, star anise, fennel." I can smell the galingale in this poem and I don't even know what it is!
Virgil Suárez, "La Florida"

I actually enjoy poetry with a luxuriant lexicon: "Lugubrious days pass with the amplitude of manatees, / hibiscus unfold their smiling vortex to confused bees." This is a Florida you have to pronounce "florEEda." He shouldn't have published it in the New England Review, that's a geographical faux pas. If you're going to do "fine writing," do it well, as VS does.
Gerald Stern, "Dog That I am"

Stern is a perfectly middling poet. Never actually wrote a poem anyone remembers, yet persists in anthologies like this one. My main objection to this poem is that the line has no integrity. Five out of sixteen lines--nearly a third--end in prepositions, but there is no syncopation, since the line is never established in the first place as a unit worth paying attention to. There are no memorable phrases, nothing of real poetic value here that I can see. The poem only makes sense if you read his explanation in the back, hence it is a poem made to be read at a poetry reading, where the explanation does the real work. Not even the explanation is a solid piece of writing.
A lot of work was done today in this office, most of it having to do with my actual work and not the blog or poetry, etc...

I've been stuck on the Bruce Smith poem in the BAP for a while.

Bruce Smith, "Song of the Ransom of the Dark"

It's an interesting poem that almost makes it. The technique of interspersing two voices has been used by Creeley and Williams, most notably. I don't quite see the formal invention to justify the technique in this case. It's like the poem you read and immediately think of another poem that uses the technique better. Not quite fair, since Smith's poem is not horrible either, just kind of middling.

Brian Kim Stefans, "They're putting a new door in"

Yes they are. I love the casualness of this poem, which includes the only other poems written in 2001, such "If there are no animals on Mars, is there anything that could classify as 'shit.'" It makes me want to translate it into Japanese. Good job, Brian.
I got a note from Spanish poet Julia Otxoa, who had noticed I was teaching some of here texts in my graduate seminar. One thing I've been able to do this semester is to have the students ask questions directly from some of the authors we have been reading.

5 oct. 2004

Ron Silliman, "Compliance Engineering" from VOG

There are two possible readings: to isolate typical Silliman sentences as appreciate them as aphorisms/observations, and to put all of these lines together to see what the combination does. There are the small things Ron notices that no other poet does:

"One drawer in the kitchen
just for rubber bands."

"Small fluorescent night-light for the bathroom
my son calls 'rectangular moon.'"

Put them all together you get a plotless narrative similar to a renga written by Bashô and Boncho.
David Shapiro, "A Burning Interior"

A major poem by a major poet. The version printed here doesn't have the dedications and titles that appear in A Burning Interior (the book), and which enrich the poem considerably.

"When a poet is weak,
like a broken microphone,
he still has some power,
indicated by a red light."

For me that describes David himself, a poet who knows he's immensely powerful as a poet even when he feels discouraged.

"Who but he
Would talk to a teapot."

Frederick Seidel, "Love Song"

It's a pleasant enough piece of doggerel. Not quite funny enough to get a thumbs up.
Jennifer Scappettone, "III"

Here is poem in three irregularly jagged columns. A second shorter section is in a regular stanzaic shape. They've had to use a smaller font than for the rest of the book. I don't really have any strong feelings about this poem one or another yet. I'll have to come back to it.
Hearing Ron made me want to revisit Duncan, who was never santo de mi devoción, although looking at my shelves I do have quite a few books of his.
Carly Sachs, "the story"

The poem is in six sections of eight lines each. It is a fractured narrative of a sexual assault, or at least that's what I think it's about: "was a we the my big / terrible voice no saying and fast." Or: "to he vagina straddled loving love / what I be after under Kent / on I trouble raped." I'm giving it a thumbs up: it's trying to do something new and pulling it off.

Ron's gone. He read from four sections of the Alphabet last night to small and appreciative crowd. What struck me from the reading is how accesssible Silliman's poetry is. It's not difficult in the least. Later we had drinks with David Perry, who is now living in Kansas City.

4 oct. 2004

A guy even drove up from Arkansas to see Ron. That's a loong drive. He was told to say hi to Ron and me from Jim Behrle.
Ron's talk on Duncan and H.D, punctuated by Ken Irby's observations, was very illuminating. Just as Duncan's HD book at least as much about Duncan as about HD herself, Silliman's talk told us a lot about Silliman. The retracing of the textual history of this book showed an attention to detail that has little to do with how must people think about the publication of poetry. Is it an accident that Silliman published The Alphabet with so many different publishers? The publication history is part of the development of the work itself.

Another blog I've noticed recently is: Blindheit: clarity is overrated. Most of it is in Spanish.
Ron Silliman is just an ordinary guy. He is not some scary poetry dictator. Not that I ever thought he was, but it's nice to know.

1 oct. 2004

Writing this bog is "hard work." I mean really hard. Anyone saying otherwise is sending "mixed messages" to the American people and our Polish allies and does not deserve to be commander-in-chief of this blog. I don't understand what this "international test" is. It's hard work.

I met Raphael Rubinstein for breakfast this morning. He is a regular reader of this blog, a poet and Art Critic from NYC, but born in Lawrence, Kansas. His book has blurbs from David Shapiro, David Bromige, and Harry Mathews. That's a powerful combination.