9 jun. 2005

Top most frequent things to say about Clark Coolidge:

[courtesy of Ron, John Latta, Gary, Steven Burt etc...]

1. He's a jazz drummer, man. A trained jazz drummer. So *percussive.*

2. You have to hear him read aloud.

3. "I didn't get him when I first read him..."

4. "I'm [well-known mainstream poet, editor, critic, professor] and I've read maybe two or three poems by him. I'll have to check him out!"

5. I liked him from the moment I knew who he was!

6. Doesn't offer what we're looking for in poetry: plot, character, description, sentiment.

Give me the other 4 Coolidge clichés in the comments box.

15 comentarios:

Henry Gould dijo...

I think he's related to Calvin Coolidge. Calvin's poems were shorter, though : he was a proto-langpo. "The business of America is business."

K. Silem Mohammad dijo...

"How incredible that a major publishing house like Harpers would release a book like _Space_ in 1969!"

David dijo...

"A student of geology at Brown University, Coolidge's work displays a spelunker's fascination with the sedimentary and mineral qualities of words, their sheer inhuman materiality.... proving once again, contra Collins, that to write poetry is to make a thing. As those Greeks first said: 'poeisoius'!"


Mike H dijo...

if tan a hag
he must be a
siv a
dig on
tool than gain for
ramp balsite
if then tin
soda tincture
of clark a
harp former

Ange M dijo...

Not a cliche perhaps, but Philip Guston collaborated with Coolidge (painted some of his poems onto canvas) ... painters perhaps look for something painterly in poets as poets often look for something poetic in painting.

Ernesto dijo...

That "jazz drummer" thing has to be the most embarrassing cliché, about Coolidge or any poet. (And it was Silliman himself who fell for that one!).

I am a deep house dj. Does that make my poetry mellow and danceable?


Jonathan dijo...


I don't know, Ernesto, I think all these "clichés" are things that are true and relevant also. I don't think it's particularly embarrassing to mention that Coolidge is a drummer. When you read him talking about drummers and how they stretch time you can't help thinking of the rhythms of his own poetry. This is an aspect that has to be explored at a deep level, not simply dismissed. For example, a cliché of Dickinson might be that her meters are based on the hymnal. That doesn't make it untrue or irrelevant. Or, with Whtiman, that his rhythms are "biblical." With any such idea one has to distinguish between the superficial topos (Frank O'Hara wrote his poems on his lunch hour!) and the deeper implications.

Nick Piombino dijo...

Coolidge's poetry itself is
a kind of drumming. I 'm sure
this is why I read it so often for
so many years-
reading his stuff would
put me in the mood to write.
I was a total Coolidge junky
until the early 90's when I went
cold turkey so I could see what
life was like without reading his stuff.
I think his beat is in my bones now.

Jonathan dijo...


Yeah, what Nick said.

Nada dijo...

Mmm hmm, me 2.

Coolidge is, like, totally uncompromising, maaaan.

Ain't no shit like dat shit! I never felt free till I read it.

When I first opened a book of Coolidge's (I think it was MINE: The One that [who?] Enters the Stories) IT WAS LIKE LIGHT WAS EXPLODING IN MY HANDS!

That's why I recently suggested to David Larsen that he take Solution Passage (which Kim Lyons calls Pollution Sausage -- don't you love it?) to the Greek islands. I used to take it with me to Thailand...

Ernesto dijo...

Jonathan, Nick, agreed. I guess what I wanted to say is that his poetry may be percussive, but not precisely because he is a jazz drummer. Dave McKean is a graphic designer, graphic storyteller and illustrator, and a jazz drummer, but because of this his style is not precisely "percussive".

Trying to explain someone's poetics by their "non-literary" activities or skills is, at best, merely trivial.

Jonathan dijo...


There are no "extra-literary" preoccupations. All the arts are one. I guess Coolidge's interest in exploring caves has nothing to do with the cave imagery in his poetry, either! When I started playing drums I was trying to do something non-poetic as a hobby. But I soon found that it was all about "the articulation of sound forms in time." Forget about the "percussive" cliché for a moment and think of the deeper connections. Is it coincidental that so many poets are serious painters or musicians? That Fairfield Porter could write a mean sestina?

Ernesto dijo...

Yes, I know. That is why I also enjoy deejaying so much: it's all about taste, style, meter, rhythm, time, tempo, pertinence. Nevertheless, I still think one thing is writing a poem and something different is playing a dj set in a party. Most of the deejays I admire have never written a poem in their lives, and many of the poets whose work I enjoy do not know a thing about music. There are also cases of poets/artists/writers who practice different means of expression (say, painting and music) and still there is no clear stylistic or formal relation between the work they produce in either field. Obviously, one does not live one's own life separated into "departments", they all feed into each other. I just keep thinking, somehow, that even if in some particular case "playing drums" and "writing poetry" may be inextricably related, this connection is not necessarily transparent and unquestionable. I do believe in what Eileen Tabios calls "living poetically", and I do strongly believe that poetry is a way of life, a way of interpreting and being in the world, rather than something one only does for a living or in a certain situation (bent over the desk, for example). In brief, is his poetry "percussive" because he plays drums? Maybe, but not necessarily. There is "percussive" poetry written by people who have never even touched a drum kit in their lives. The phenomenon of a certain poetics, I think, cannot be single-handedly explained by referring to the poet's empyrical knowledge or skills. His poetry is "percussive" because of a certain use of words and syntax, maybe because of an attempt to translate a certain experience into a formal reality composed of words on the page/screen. If he plays the drums or not, well, that's interesting to know, it may make us go "oh", but it does not explain, logically and irevocably, why his poetry is "percussive".

Please apologize my compulsion to repeat.

My best regards.

Jonathan dijo...


Fair enuf, Ernesto. I see where you're coming from here. What makes it a cliché is precisely the falsely explanatory nature of it. I could teach someone to play the drums and she wouldn't write poetry like Clark Coolidge.

Ernesto dijo...

Exactly. I guess what bothers me of the cliché is the "So" part.

Thank you for offering such an interesting space with your blog, Jonathan.