23/6/2004

I went again to try to see the Lichtenstein exhibit, but I once I got there I saw that it begins on June 29. Which is the Tuesday. Before I leave. And the museum is closed on Tuesday. So why do they announce that the exhibit begins on June 29. Where is the question mark on this keyboard. I´ll have to conclude that the period is the new question mark.

···

So Marjorie Perloff cannot recognize iambic pentameter. (Mike Snider) Neither can Charles Berstein. This disqualifies Language Poetry. Yet I was the one who first put these examples up on my blog (at least the Berstein one, I don´t remember if I put the Perloff example up, although I had noticed it myself). And I love language poetry. So obviously things are not so simple. I´m sure Marjorie does ¨know¨ that the example she gives is not in iambic pentameter. It´s called a ¨mistake.¨ Yes, a very embarrassing mistake, but does that mean we have to throw out her entire critical opus. No more than we should disqualify Timothy Steele for writing some incompetent poems. Maybe Steele is a competent critic, a lousy poet. Although from what I´ve seen he´s neither.

Bernstein´s mistake is more serious, because his argument (in that particular section of his essay) depends on it. What is more remarkable is that his essay was given orally to several audiences, and appeared in print more than once, without anyone noticing. So the editors of Harvard University Press don´t know their iambic pentameter either. When someone is making a critical argument, noone really focusses on the examples. It is as though that shift of attention from the critical argument to the text being examined were too difficult to make. That´s not to excuse Bernstein (or Perloff) but just to say that such mistakes can be hard to catch once they are made.

22/6/2004

Ok. Here I am blogging from Spain. All I had was a one euro coin, which gave me 45 minutes on the internet, much longer than I needed to check email and read a few Jim Behrle cartoons.

I saw the Almodovar movie La mala educacion last night. Very intricately plotted tale of clerical sexual abuse and consquent revenge. There are some deliberate nods to Hitchcock. I walked down to see the Lichtenstein exhibition at the Reina Sofia, only to discover that it is closed on Tuesdays. I saw a woman walking down the street with a tightfitting Lichtenstein sun dress. The effect was quite striking and taught me something about the painter I wouldn´t have learned from the exhibition alone.

18/6/2004

Bemsha Swing is going on vacation while I am in España the rest fo the month. I'll be back at the beginning of July. Wish me buen viaje. While I will have internet access, I don't intend to spend a lot of time on the computer.

17/6/2004

Raindrops on a Briar

I, a writer at one time hipped on
painting, did not consider
the effects, painting,
for that reason, static, on

the contrary the stillness of
the objects--the flowers, the gloves--
freed them precisely by that
from a necessity merely to move

in space as if they had been--
not children! but the thinking male
or the charged and deliver-
ing female frantic with ecstasies;

served rather to present, for me,
a more pregnant notion: a
series of varying leaves
clinging still, let us say, to

the cat-briar after last night's
storm, its waterdrops
ranged upon the arching stem
irregularly as an accompaniment.

There is much to be learned from a less well-known poem by a famous poet, in this case William Carlos Williams. This one is buried in the Collected Later Poems.

It might be one of the earliest uses in American poetry of the word "hipped" in this slang sense, at least in a White poet. The poem is almost Creeleyesque in its semi-articulate groping after an idea. The first idea, "the stillness... freed them from a necessity to move" is quite striking, but seems needlessly complicated by the next few lines. I don't get the sexual metaphor here. And the visual example given at the end,--why is it seen as a contrast to this first idea, "served rather to present..." and not an example of this idea? The argumentative structure of the poem is confused, phrases like "for that reason," "on the contrary," "let us say," are used awkwardly. Stanze 3-4 are difficult to get through. All this is fairly obvious. Yet there is something salvageable, perhaps, in the halting movement of the lines and in the final visual image. Certainly any attempt at revision, at making the poem ostensibly better, would destroy whatever value there is in this text, which is not among Williams' 100 best short poems.

What I'm trying to say, in a way only slightly more articulate than the poem itself, is that being able to see why this poem "kicks ass," despite its flaws, is more crucial for me today than pointing out these flaws. Any good reader could come up with reasons to dismiss this poem. But it still offers more than most poems published by American poets in 1948. (I hope that doesn't sound too Sillimanesque).

There are poems devoid of obvious flaws that are also devoid of interest. I'm constantly reading a book of poetry that seems "pretty good" as I read it, but has no staying power, no resonance in the memory.
The Unquiet Grave. The Thinking Man's Zukofsky

No offense, Tony, but wouldn't "the thinking man's Zukofsky" be, um... Zukofsky himself? Unless I am misunderstanding the logic of this particular "snow-clone." Doesn't it imply that people who think don't normally go in for Zukofsky? Forgive me if I'm missing the joke.

"Koethe" and "street cred" do not belong in the same sentence either. This is as absurd as the recent claim that Bill Knott is some kind of poetic "rebel." (Bill wrote me, by the way, to say that he in fact belongs squarely within the "School of Quietude." This might be one of the first times anyone has made this claim about his or her self.) Koethe, whose poetry I don't at all dislike, basically imitates a single facet of Ashbery's more complex work in a skillful but ultimately, to my mind, limited way. Next we'll be talking about Albert Goldbarths' "street cred"! The term used about any poet, in fact, is ridiculous.

Language Log: Under God an Idiom?: "It seems to me that there are only two possibilities here. One is that under God is compositional and has one of the several meanings in which it presupposes the existence of a single deity. In this case, it is unconstitutional. The alternative is that it is an idiom, created at the time it was added to the Pledge, whose meaning we really don't know. I find that highly implausible, because it means either that the people who proposed the addition and the legislators who voted for it didn't know what it meant or that they knew but have somehow failed to pass this information on to us. Furthermore, it's hard to believe that so many people would care so much about retaining it if it had no meaning. Indeed, if its meaning is really unknown, given that the campaign to insert it was led by the Knights of Columbus, we wouldn't expect such strong support from evangelical Protestants for retaining it. Instead, I would expect indifference from some and support for removing it from others, who would see it as a Papist plot, probably with a Satanic meaning. In any case, if it really is an idiom of unknown meaning, it may not be unconstitional, but it has no place in the Pledge because it is meaningless."

Suppose the Iranian Constitution contained the phrases "One nation, under Allah." Would anyone be arguing about what that meant? Nunberg's argument that it is an idiom or a phrase of indeterminate meaning seems implausible on its face, so I agree with post by Bill Poser from which I just quoted.


The Drummer's Brain

Although I still can't draw well at all, my ability to visualize has increased: images I see with my eyes closed are much sharper, visual memory is much better (subjectively judged). It is very similar to what happened to me when I began to play the drums a few years back. The mature brain can actually be rewired, can expand its capacity, suggests recent research.

16/6/2004

I've spent my whole professional career devoted to the study of elite culture. I owe my position and my livelihood to my knowledge of this culture, to my "cultural capital" if you'd like. Yet the official position of "The Profession" is that this cultural capital is something to be ashamed of. It gets you the jobs, the prestige, but an investment in it is supposed to be a bad thing, because it is, by its very nature, "elitist." "The Profession" is deeply ambivalent, then. It depends on a knowledge and a power that it wants to disavow.
Equanimity - if not a poetics, then what? "It separates partisans of 'almost successfully' from those of 'but be' like nothing else in Tennessee."

Now that would be a good crossword puzzle clue.
I'm teaching myself to draw this summer. I enjoy making obvious beginner mistakes. That's the fun thing about learning something like scratch. I can draw Dick Tracy's square jaw and jus realized that if you round it off and add some wrinkles you get Ronald Reagan. I can draw a Magritte Bowler Hat pretty well too. A copy of a drawing of a Japanese poet I did a few months ago is pretty good, but for some reason I cannot even come close to that any more. I remember I worked on it quite a while with eraser fixing everything that was wrong. I shouldn't expect to do as well when I don't put in that kind of effort. At least now I sort of know what it is I am trying to learn. My early idea of learning to draw was quite vague. I'm still not sure what I want to do with it once I learn. I'm vaguely intuiting a book of poem-pictures.
Nick notices summer slump too. Please check his always excellent blog if you are still stuck at your desk.
The summer slump in stats might be due to the academic component of readership. I'm averaging 70 hits a day for June, down from my normal 90-100 during the Academic Year. Attacks on Formalism can get me temporarily up to 80, if I can sucker someone into responding. Did you see that poem that Wilbur wrote for Hecht's 80th birthday on the Formalist website? It's embarrassing. But seriously, it's good that people have something better to do during the summer than sit at desk and read Bemsha Swing. I'm certainly not going to be spending my time in Spain next week reading people's blogs.

15/6/2004

My plan to get in shape has been derailed by a resurgence of asthma. I usually just ignore symptoms, but after sweeping out my garage of debris after a recent flood I could not catch my breath. I assumed I would recuperate in a few days, but the wheezing has persisted. I finally saw the doctor today. According to the peak flow meter I have the lung capacity of a 75-year old, 5-foot tall man. Not good.
A window: a time when you can actually see the possibility of getting something accomplished, rather than merely puttering around at the edges of various projects.

13/6/2004

"This world brings in the summer syntax of the real.

Each flight divining his birds, one augury at an art.

The envelope of sound."

These lines are from the poem by Sir Ron Silliman that a certain neo-formalist blogger sees fit to mock. ("I am Marion Delgado"). To me it is self-evident that the author of these lines has a very fine ear indeed. Just as it is self-evident that Timothy Steele has a very poor ear for both rhythm and language itself.. To me it's De Kooning vs. shopping-mall art. It's a wholly different category. I'm not going to offer any arguments right now, no explanation of the subtle use of sound and rhythm. If you can't hear it, it's your loss.
Her Memory of the Picnic - Timothy Steele - Poem:

"This idyll will be, she intuits, brief;
The fabric of the family will tear.
Yet this can't change the bittersweet belief
That pleasure's no less true for being rare;
Nor can it wholly undermine her sense
That though well-muscled follies hound and press,
What counts most is her own intelligence,
However cramped by grief and loneliness."

I know, I should quote the whole poem! I don't really need to: the reader can follow my link to the complete text. I'm not even getting into the metrics here; what I find incredible is the failure of voice. The poet is imagining a teenage girl at a family picnic, but the language is not what she would use. "This idyll will be brief" "This pleasure is not less true for being rare." Or "these well-muscled follies are really hounding me today." "What counts most is my intelligence, however much it is cramped by grief and lonliness." I'm just not buying it.

***

Update: Yes, I know it's an omnisicent narrator. That's the point: the narrative voice doesn't work here. It's a sort of "nobody voice" that doesn't get into the head of the character and make us believe she is really having these thoughts. We wouldn't accept this from a student in a fiction-writing workshop, why accept it from a poet? Let me invoke that "as well-written as prose" adage. This is not as well-written as a Joyce Carol Oates or Margaret Atwood novel. I personally think that Pound meant that poetry should be better written than prose. There really should be a higher standard, not a lower one. I'm still trying to picture those "well-muscled follies."

***

New formalism tends toward a sort of sententiousness: abstract thoughts like "pleasure's no less true for being rare." Obviously if you like that sort of sententiousness, you will have no objections. I don't see why my dislike for it should be construed as an "inability to read metrical poetry" written after a certain date. It's not like there's some special decoder ring you have to get. I understand what Steele is trying to do: use standard devices of realistic fiction in a metrical context. I just think the entire sensibility is wretched. Not so much a failure of meter as of the "meter making argument."

***

That abstract sententiousness has its roots in a particular view of human life. We might call it universalist kitsch. The idea that the Moslems, Jews, and Sikhs will appreciate his kitschy Xmas decorations because, after all, we all need some way of marking the Winter Solstice! According to this view, the most abstract formulation of the idea will be the most universally acceptable. Why, then, do I feel excluded from this universalism? It's not because I'm a marginal subject. I'm white, heterosexual, middle-class, and of Protestant origin.
Julia's birthday tomorrow. She'll be nine. We had her party yesterday. I'm taking her to see the cardinals play on Wed. Then Spain on Saturday.

12/6/2004

More Gloss for the Gipper: The Myth of Reagan's 'Enormous Popularity': "Reagan's 52% average approval rating for his entire presidency was topped by Kennedy's 70% average, Eisenhower's 66%, Roosevelt's 68%, and even by Johnson (54%), who eschewed running for reelection because of the unpopularity of his Vietnam policy. In short, about half-- and sometimes more than half-- of the US public did not approve of Reagan's presidential performance. His approval index was not much better than the lowest modern presidential averages: Truman's and Ford's, each at 46%; Carter's at 47%; and 48% for Nixon. "

11/6/2004

The meme spreads... HG Poetics:

"...local poet and home dishwasher Henry Gould, an unacknowledged legislator of the world, signed new legislation making himself an official acknowledged legislator of the world."
In honor of the Westchester Conference going on right now, I'd like to post this stanza from this particularly accompished poem,"Toward the Winter Solstice," by Timothy Steele :

"Friends, passing home from work or shopping, pause
And call up commendations or critiques.
I make adjustments. Though a potpourri
Of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Sikhs,
We all are conscious of the time of year;
We all enjoy its colorful displays
And keep some festival that mitigates
The dwindling warmth and compass of the days."

It's a classic! It's a good thing we have Steele to rescue us from the metrical "mistakes" of Pound and Williams.


Mikarrhea: "Michaela Cooper, unacknowledged legislator of the world from Massachusetts, supports Mayhew's move, saying breathily, 'The cultivation of poetry is never more to be desired than at periods when, from an excess of the selfish and calculating principle, the accumulation of the materials of external life exceed the quantity of the power of assimilating them to the internal laws of human nature.' "

10/6/2004

UNACKNOWLEDGED LEGISLATOR DECLARES REAGAN ADMINISTRATION "NOT TO HAVE HAPPENED"

LAWRENCE, KS. In a surprising development, local Lawrence, Kansas poet Jonathan Mayhew, an unacknowledged legislator of the world, declared "non-existent" the entire Reagan administration. Evoking a rarely-used form of poetic license, Mayhew re-wrote the entire history of 1980s to make the Iran-Contra scandal, the devastation of the environment, and similar historical catastrophes "not to have happened." Although Mayhew is only the 25th best poet in Kansas, and ranks number 33,021 on the national scale, his act has been deemed legitimate by many experts in the field. Robert Pinsky, an expert on poetic legislation despite the fact that his poetic rank is only 444,342 out of 500,000 legislator poets, was quoted as saying, "I wish I had thought of that. Although Mayhew is virtually unknown as a poet, the act follows proper protocol."

In view of this almost unprecedented poetic act, the Bush White House has declared tomorrow's funeral services to be "fictitious." "We're going on with the ceremony as planned," stated an anonymous source. "Since poetry is the supreme fiction, there is no need to change any of the plans."


I never thought Reagan was "likeable" in the least. Sorry. A superficial geniality that was so obviously faked. The first kitsch president, inaugurating an era of falsity. I also don't remember this degree of pageantry for other deceased presidents in my life-time: LBJ and Nixon. Did we have a national day of mourning for Ike? I don't even know when he died.

9/6/2004

Back to serious academic work today. It makes me realize how easily I can write academic prose which is pleasing to me and gets the job done.

8/6/2004

Writing a poem in Spanish first and then translating it into English is like making an etching rather than working directly on the surface of a canvas.
Language Log: What do wine tasting notes communicate?

"It's nicer to think of a message being composed, sent, received, understood, evaluated, and acted on," says Mark.

"I put a message in the envelope, I give it to you, you take it out" does not seem a very rich model. It's precisely the poetic function of language that's missing from this communicative model.

"...we might value winetalk for the same reason that we value a lot of other writing: not because the writer's perceptions are the same as our own, but because they're different."

Yes, exactly, but why is that a "bleak view of communication"?

True communication only occurs when one realizes that the other person is not just some other version of one's self.

Implications for Wittgenstein's "private language" argument: if human beings actually do perceive sensory data differently, then there are things that are not, strictly speaking, communicable. I'd love to think the color blue was actually a different color for each person.

There could be an affinity between the language of wine-tasting and that used to describe cymbals in equipment reviews. (Some recent comments on "language log" by Mark Liberman have noted that wine-speak had begun to infiltrate itself into descriptions of coffee.)

The cymbal terminology doesn't have quite the "pretentiousness" of the wine language--not yet at least. It's a similar problem, though, of describing something that does have some precision (say, the relation between "stick definition" and "wash"), but with a sort of metaphorical excess. You wouldn't want the relation described in a numerical ration; you'd rather have a somewhat subjective description by an expert, but a description that sitll has a sort of "objective" validity in terms to the general characteristics of the cymbal. I suppose, at a higher level of complexity, this is the problem in reviewing poetry.

7/6/2004

martialis (via Language hat).


Here's one of those Guston/McKim poem pictures I was talking about this morning.


Hausmann's "Eutopia." An early poem-painting.

ROYAL CANADIAN AIRFORCE EXERCISE PLAN


You can't found a bureaucracy on Rimbaud
There are no bureaucracies in the poetics of Jack Spicer
Ray Brown's walking bass-lines, though, might do nicely

Pound loved bureaucracies, Fascist and Confucian
He wouldn't have made a good bureaucrat though
(Never learned how to look up Chinese radicals in the dictionary)

The Royal Canadian Airforce Exercise Plan works pretty well
No expensive equipment to buy
You need a space slightly larger than a phone-booth

***

This is a found poem, basically, pieced together from comments from Tony Tost's blog and my own reactions. The title comes from Jordan Davis, the idea of not being able to found a bureaucracy on Rimbaud from a quote that Tony included in his post, commented on subsequently by David Hess. The notion that Pound did not know enough Chinese to look up the radicals of characters comes from his wife, Dorothy Shakepear. I read it recently in an essay. The ideas that you need a space bigger than a phone booth to do the exercises, and that you don't need to buy anything, come from customer reviews at amazon. My parents used to have this book (The Royal Canadian Airforce Exercise Plan) in the mid 1960s.

U B U W E B :: Philip Guston

Check out the poem-pictures,specially those Guston did with his wife, Musa McKim, and with Clark Coolidge.
Union Mundial pro Interlingua

"Interlingua es un lingua international facile e de aspecto natural elaborate per linguistas professional como un denominator commun del linguas le plus diffundite in le mundo in le dominios del scientia, cultura, commercio, etc. Un texto in interlingua es immediatemente intelligibile a milliones de personas in tote le mundo, sin necessitate de studio previe."

This is amazing: a language that I instantly understand without having studied it! Yet I doubt the monolingual English speaker could understand it quite so easily. It seems like it's really just Italian with some simplification of grammar and some words from other Romance languages thrown into the mix.

5/6/2004

More on Wine Tasting Language

"It's still a rather bleak view of communication: either the text we read is just pumping some energy into resonances of our own neuronal system, in a way that is only accidentally connected to the pattern originally expressed; or the text overshadows our own reactions, affecting them only by partly replacing them with an echo of the expert's views, disconnected from our own sensory experience. It's nicer to think of a message being composed, sent, received, understood, evaluated, and acted on."

A helpful suggestion: abolish comment boxes.

4/6/2004

Marjorie Perloff: Pound Ascendant

But Pound's own poetry contains little of such concrete thing-language and a great deal of verse that looks like this:

Dark eyed,
O woman of my dreams,
Ivory sandaled,
There is none like thee among the dancers,
None with swift feet.

This is the opening stanza of "Dance Figure," which appears, not as we might suppose, in one of the poet's early volumes, but in the post-Cathay, post-Vorticism volume, Lustra. Indeed, such aggressively "modern" epigrams as "The Bath Tub" or "Papyrus," together with those great "Vorticist" poems?"The Game of Chess," "The Coming of War: Acteon," and "Provincia Deserta"?occupy relatively little space in an edition that includes the whole corpus of Pound's poems and translations. After 1917, Pound?s lyric production, most of it translation or adaption, whether of the Noh drama, Cavalcanti, Confucius, or Sophocles, oddly becomes less rather than more imagistic, Vorticist, or ideogrammatic. And this corpus takes up approximately three quarters of the Library of America volume.
I posted this comment to this post in Silliman's Blog this morning:

"The young person here seems confused about what and why s/he wants to write. You don't go to Graduate School to find this out; you use School to help you achieve your aims.

I was also confused by what s/he was saying: there are no other Gay or Lesbian writers? The other pool of "peers" are too young but, s/he is 27?! Isn't everyone in grad school 27? (except for ones who are 26 or 28). The other writers are in another tax bracket? So is this a wealthy person who can't relate to poor people or a working class person who can't relate to middle-class people, or what? S/he was "encouraged to write fiction"; is that what s/he wants to write?

What kind of advice does Mr./Ms. Anonymous want from RS? How to have a community when you don't want to form a community? How to be Emily Dickinson? I'm not trying to be mean, but my advice would be to decide what it is you really want to do. Then the "how to" will fall more easily into place."

A Month of Sundays

Like an Updike housewife willing to have sex with the amorphous Protestant Pastor or unpleasant dentist

And willing to have her sex-acts described in purple prose

It's the permissive 70s; it's ok to covet thy neighbor's wife and bomb Vietnam

Guilt is good for the soul; therefore a certain quantity of sin needs first to be committed

The Pastor's wife is screwing the hippy Assistant -Pastor, who is against the noble war in Vietnam

(I'm a teenager reading this for its unsatisfactory Protestant pornography

A few years later I'll read an explanation of Updike's ugly theology in the New York Review of Books

And a memoir by Updike on why he thought the war was so noble.)

The Pastor who narrates this novel is sent to a re-education camp for sex-offending ministers; really more like a spa

Where he can write up his sexual experiences in florid New Yorker-style prose

He'll be re-assigned to another congregation, I suppose

A bad air quality day; I can't catch my breath all evening

At five in the morning I stil can't breathe so I start to compose this unpleasant memoir of reading Updike novels in the 1970s. . .

3/6/2004

We finally have a portion of our creek named after Wm Burroughs. This was very controversial in Lawrence.


One more thing: one of the respondents on the Pound question, Daniel Someone-Or-Other, quotes as his source a book by Eustace Mullins on Pound. Now Mullins was someone attracted to Pound because of his anti-Semitism and Fascism--not in spite of it. Mullins was or is a notorious neo-Nazi conspiracy theorist who would rant on and on about the Rothchilds and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. So when Mullins argues that Pound was not anti-Semitic, what exactly is going on? I can see how someone could pick up Mullins' book and not know who the author is, and not read carefully enough to realize what the real agenda is here.

2/6/2004

That Ezra Pound question. The *right* answer would be to say that the question is lame. People have hashed out the question of Pound's fascism ad nauseum. It's refreshing to say that it's simply not relevant after a certain point. Pound is important to me, sure, because he's important to other poets I care about, like Creeley, and because I've invested too much time myself in worrying the whole fascism connection from every possible angle. And because certain implicitly "Poundian" criteria still seem to determine what's considered good and bad poetry by many people. It's still a convenient short hand. I tend to like poetry with a lot of concrete particulars, etc... Too bad Pound's own poetry fails to conform to those very same criteria most of the time. He's still a fascinating figure in many ways, but if he fails to fascinate you, that doesn't doom you as a poet.

If the question were about Frank O'Hara and someone said, "I don't care about about Frank O'Hara" I wouldn't have a heart attack, even though I think someone ignoring Frank O'Hara is unlikely to write poetry I'm interested in. Even this reaction is premature: Someone ignoring Frank O'Hara might come up with something wonderful and fresh, simply because she or he has traveled a different route to get there.

My point is that there should be no indispensable figures. Not even F O'H. Now I reserve the right to secretly think that a person dismissing my heroes is an idiot. But isn't even that a way of dismissing certain people? If someone said "Coltrane does nothing for me," I would think, instinctively, "idiot., I don't have to deal with this person. Aesthetically, this person is a nullity." I've learned to correct this reaction in a split second and am better for it. After all, someone might "disqualify" me in the same way for my indifference to Olson, Cage, or Andy Warhol.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, please see Tony Tost's blog or the Jimmy Show from today.


Another image by Mestre:

Juan Carlos Mestre




Some images by Juan Carlos Mestre, a poet and artist. I almost said "visual artist" but I hate that redundancy. You have to be visual to be an artist.
Really Bad Movies:

"...but I wonder what's next from FSG, should they go ahead and publish Knott, who is next? Knott proudly wears the cloak of an underground misfit, but he has been well-published these past thirty-odd years, the most recent is Laugh at the End of the World (Collected Comic Poems 1969-1999) BOA Editions, 2000. the book is a brilliant collection of caustic poems from a writer who does not neatly fit into any categories."

I would have thought Bill Knott fit fairly neatly in the 1970s zany surrealism school. He was popular about the same era as Russell Edson. I just saw some poems of Knott's in Poetry. Maybe I'm wrong, but I can't see him as some "underground misfit." He might try to wear that cloak, but it's a very mainstream, conventionally Romantic idea of being a poet. I don't know much about why Knott seemed to disappear and then re-emerge much later. Or maybe he never really went away, but was just not on my radar screen. He may be eccentric personally (or not!) but his poetry is fairly tame.

The "does not fit into any category" trope is always used for writers who fit very neatly into categories. Why is that?
El señor apodíctico que duerme en mi cabeza
Discute con el gato verde que da saltos perezosos por ese mismo espacio.
Es un viejo vanguardista aguerrido, endurecido y enfurecido por las batallas de antaño,
Que siente nostalgia de todas las dictaduras caídas
Pronuncia (al despertarse) teoremas, apotegmas absurdos e irrefutables.

El gato verde nunca se da por convencido.
Apenas si escucha, cambia de color
Aunque sigue siendo el gato verde de siempre.
Se muestra tan absurdo como el otro, en su silencio aforístico.
La ventaja que lleva al señor apodíctico es que simplemente no se toma en serio.

***

The apodictic man who sleeps in my head
Argues with the green cat who leaps lazily in that same space
He is a battle-weary vanguardist, hardened and enraged by battles of yesteryear
Who feels nostalgic for fallen dictatorships
He pronounces (upon awakening) absurd, irrefutable theorems

The cat is never convinced
He hardly listens, he changes color
Although he's always the "green cat"
He's as absurd as the other one, in his gnomic silence
His advantage is that he simply doesn't take himself seriously

1/6/2004

Language Log: The child or the savage orator...: " an amazing combination of sensible observation, invented prescription and incoherent fantasy, all presented at an extraordinary level of analytic detail."
Wheat Germ Donut Receipt
Cahiers de Corey on Kent Johnson's torture poem. I tended to recoil, as Josh did, at that self-conscious move in the last paragraph of the poem. Although I'm sure that's the exact part that some readers will applaud the most. All of us are supposed to be complicit in everything, yes, I'm familiar with that line of thought. The poem as a whole seemed contrived to me.