30 ago 2003

Possum Pouch has a review of the Jaime Saenz translation by Johnson and Gander. I'm still waiting for my review copy of this book, Kent.
Pierre Poujade, Who Rallied France's Rightists, Dies at 82. This is the figure that is the object of so much of Barthes' scorn in "Mythologies." I had assumed that Poujade--mentor to Jean-Marie Le Pen--had died ages ago.

28 ago 2003

You heard it here first. Louise Gluck is new poet laureate. I liked it better when we just had a poetry consultant to the Library of Congress.
Back to the office after dinner, presumably to write my sabbatical application and print out my c.v. Can I trick myself into actually doing so?

Michaux is most interested in normal states of consciousness. Abnormal states of consciousness, whether szchizophrenic [spelling?] or drug-induced, serve to bring the NORMAL mechanisms of thought, of which we have a very incomplete idea, into sharper focus. For Michaud, consciousness cannot be immediately available to itself; it cannot be made an easy and unproblematic object of self-consciousness. ("The stomach cannot digest itself") But coming back from a "trip" allows him to discover what it means to think rationally. A surrealist revision of Descartes and Bergson? His insistence on rationality is very Cartesian. (Les grandes épreuves de l'esprit.)
Language Hat on language poetry. He's a fan of Kit Robinson.
Did Blanchot create the canon [a certain canon] of modern European poetry by linking Mallarmé and the symbolist tradition with Holderlin (as read by Heidegger)? Or did he simply represent the educated consensus of the epoch? I am inclined to believe that this canon took shape for the first time in his essays, but I don't know enough about what other critics might have influenced him at an early date. He often quotes someone named "Brice Parain" in his early essays. Maybe Brice Parain is the proto-Blanchot.

27 ago 2003

I've never liked the term creative writing because it seemed to be a romantic cliché bundled with an "English department" bureaucratic denomination. I remember (somewhat rudely I'm sure) correcting someone in an English department who referred to a mutual acquaintance as "a creative writer." I said, "No, he is a poet." I'm not sure why the phrase bothers me so much--an arbitrary prejudice, no doubt. Why not call it "writing"?
languagehat on ERROR.
The art critic Morris in Mathew's "Cigarettes" writes the phrase "The fish begins to rot at the head." I had seen this phrase recently in Roland Barthes' "Mythologies," where it is attributed to French fascist politician Poujade: a Fascist condemnation of intellectuals. A good proportion of Barthes' book is a frontal attack on Poujadisme. The reader of the English translation, though, has only 28 of the 54 original articles, and misses a good deal of that political context, perhaps without even knowing he or or she is reading an incomplete text. Did Mathew's pull the phrase from Barthes?
My Buddy - A Four Act Passion Play. Thanks to Herb Levy for this link.
A spirited defense of the Grenier "JOE / JOE" poem this morning over at Silliman's Blog. John E. had asked "Did Silliman honestly praise a two word poem yesterday, and both of those words were Joe?"

I've been working on this one-word poem for some time:






For the full effect, you must print each line on a separate page (except for the last two lines). It is thus a six-line, five page poem, but one consisting of only one *word*. If I had written this in 1955 I would be a genius. Writing it in 2003 makes me frankly derivative.
I find I need a linear narrative to concentrate on reading late at night. I am re-reading Harry Mathews' "Cigarettes," for maybe the 4th or 5th time. I am fascinated by the intricate mechanics of the plotting, but in the dark as to what Oulipean device underlies it all. The artifice laid bare is in productive tension with the "realist novel" aspect of the text. Next I will re-read "The Journalist."


I have a gift card from Border's from my mom. I just bought Roy Haynes' "Birds of a Feather" yesterday evening. I have less of a handle on Haynes, in a technical sense, than others of his cohort -- Philly Joe, Max, Art Blakey. He is poised half-way between them and the Tony/Elvin revolution.

26 ago 2003

The Rhythms on Songtrellis - African, Afro-Cuban and Swing rhythms

This is an extremely useful web site for any kind of African or Afro-Carribean rhythm. check out the "fanga" and the "comparsa."
Bemsha Swing!
"And another debt I owed to Jonathan, then I abandoned these
Servitudes and they marked off their contempt for translation.
I loved you, René, and each basket is a song."

Having been mentioned thus in these lines of a poem by David Shapiro that he sent me privately, I am now officially incorporated into the New York School of Poetry. I have a folder in my e-mail progam with 25 messages from David that I don't want to discard, because they are filled with this sort of treasure.

The Jewish relationship to jazz has been remarked to me in recent (and not so recent emails) from Herb Levy and David Shapiro. It is a complex one. Herb had some good suggestions for my pseudo-Blanchotian essay on Buddy Rich.

Now that the semester has started and students will be required to read this blog for their courses . . . (but not MY students, who will be reading Yépez instead).

Teaching versification is always a bear. It is the part of poetry that is the most alive, yet also lends itself to dry technical presentation. Counting syllables on the fingers, as the students do. I'm bringing in Bud Powell to try to make a point about rhythm.
How can I let my consciousness of LANGUAGE infuse my teaching of "language"? Today I have to teach basic concepts, adverbios, adjetivos, verbos conjugados. On Thursday, the mechanics of punctuation and accentuation.

25 ago 2003

Lewis Warsh anticipates "new brutalism." I'm thinking of particular tones of voice, emotional resonances, attitudes toward poetry; the use of the simile. Of course I can't back this up because I've left the book in St. Louis where I ain't.

24 ago 2003

It's my birthday today, but I feel a vast lack of connection between my chronological age of 43 and my wisdom & competence, which are at about 27. Most of last year was spent writing this blog.

23 ago 2003

I'm reading this book by Lewis Warsh, "Information from the Surface of Venus." What fills me with joy is the sense of entering into an unexpected, almost secret work. Warsh is not exactly the most talked-about poet even in avant circles. There's this wonderful poem where the speaker enters the house of his landlord in search of a hair-dryer with which to thaw frozen pipes in New Hampshire. He finds there some pornographic magazines.

Stuck in the book, which I bought for $4.50 at Subterreneum Books, is a list of


gauge our reflections

A nice "found poem."

There's also a poem about doing laundry in the sink instead of going to a laundromat.

I am struck by his use of rhyme and meter: he will just start up a rhyme scheme half-way through the poem, or get himself into a sing-song metrical pattern.

"Much in the same way a painter's brain
is in his wrist"

21 ago 2003

We having a little discussion over here at limetree on the "Best American Poetry 2003 .
Stephanie on transparency in teaching. I am going to have a blog for my literary theory course in the spring. It will keep me honest. And if the course is dull I will have to make it not so in order not to be embarrassed in front of the other bloggers.
Even better would be Maurice Blanchot's apochryphal essay on ANGIE DICKINSON.
I was reading Blanchot while thinking about other things. My ideas about everything else started to assume a Blanchotian form. The idea popped into my head: what if Blanchot had written an essay about Buddy Rich? What paradox could he find at the core of Rich's artistic dilemma? What seems to be pure virtuosity could be seen as kind of abjectness... If I could write in French I would write this essay myself.

20 ago 2003

Mexperimental represents the return of Heriberto blogging in English. He said he wanted to revisit all of his ghosts.

On this blog I've never detailed my career as a karaoke singer, which I hope to resume tonight. My specialties are "Sittin on the dock of the bay," "I heard it on the grapevine," and "I feel good." Other things to look forward to this next few weeks: celebrating my birthday on Sunday (one I share with Borges and Herrick), beginning classes, submitting my sabbatical request, the start of the Poetics Seminar for the year under my watchful gaze, reading Blanchot in French, the one year anniversary of this blog.


I have a hard time putting together a "book" of my critical work. I lose confidence, not in the individual parts, but in the coherence of the whole. I've finally found a plan. If I can finish the two or three remaining parts of it quickly enough, before I change my mind, I will have a book. The trick is to write fast, before my concept changes again. My original concept was a look at Spanish poetry in its cultural context (almost from the outside). Now my idea is to collect all my articles and essays that do the opposite, looking at poetry from inside out rather than from outside in. I think I could get tenure (again!) just from the articles I haven't published, that are lying in my drawer or languishing on my hard-drive.

18 ago 2003

I like the icon Kasey has for my blog on his new site. I'll update my limetree link soon.
I was listening to the line-break radio program with Ron Silliman (interviewed by Bernstein). At one point Ron constrasts his audience with that of Allen Ginsberg. He says that when he gives a reading, he will know at least 50% of the audience, and that the audience will know his work as well. When Allen Ginsberg gives a poetry reading, he knows almost noone in the audience, and the audience only knows, at most, a few anthology pieces by Ginsberg. (This was when Ginsberg was still alive.) I guess that's the upside of being a coterie poet as opposed to what Ginsberg had become - a sort of pop-culture symbol.
Back in Kansas. I am graduate director of my deparment which means I should know what I'm doing here. Obviously I don't, because things are a state of confusion. The email doesn't work properly. My apartment still stinks from the sink backing up over the summer. It is about 104 outside. When do I have time to go to the doctor to get proper allergy medication? What happened to my copy of "Metaphors We Live By?" I don't know the people who will feed me. I am the least difficult of men. All I need is endless love. My heart is in my pocket, it is poems by Pierre Reverdy.

15 ago 2003

This unfortunate pork loin has undergone a lot in the last few days. It should have been eaten at one dinner party that was cancelled due to illness. Then marinated for a group of James Joycian carnivores. Put in the oven--which loses power in the black-out. Finally finished on the grill and eaten by Joycians, who then forgot to discuss Finnegans Wake!

14 ago 2003

To "spare someone's life" in Spanish (perdonarle la vida a alguien) is, idiomatically, to make a condescending gesture. I recently read that a Spanish critic "perdona la vida a Borges." Not a good thing. "Perdonavidas" means bully, someone who walks around with the attitude that if he isn't killing you he COULD do so if he wanted. What I like about the idiom is that it only has an ironical meaning. It makes no sense at all if not understood ironically.
I came home to a half flooded apartment: the kitchen sink had backed up, leaving the carpet wet and a horrible stench. Then I woke up at 1 in the morning with a hay fever/asthma attack. A "wal-itin" didn't seem to do much for me. Luckily I had a a "wal-dryl" on hand. Trying to concentrate on work here now. The fact that this computer is fast means that I waste more time, because I can check more blogs than at home with dial up service.
That should have been Peter Davison, not Davidson. Oh well.

13 ago 2003

Here's a nice review of Million Poems. Congratulations, Jordan, you've been sillimaned.
I find myself back in Kansas, of a sudden. How did this happen? I know, I drove here in my car, but why? Yes, to begin the new academic year, but why?

12 ago 2003

I realized that in a poem I posted recently to "Poemas con nombres propios" I confused theodicy (what I meant to say) with theosophy. Apologies to all theosophists out there! What I meant to say was that I hate "theodicy."
I'm described here as a lovely guy.
Peter Davidson pans Edward Hirsch in the New York Times Book Review, for slackness of language and earnest prosiness. Which begs the question: isn't this the problem of a certain sector of "mainstream" poetry generally? If so, why doesn't the New York Times pay attention to other sorts of poetry that does not suffer from this malaise? Why pretend that this is the only poetry that exists?


I'm reading a book by Ann Lauterbach, "Clamor." It is quite good, obviously. I am struck by the Ashberian "poetic diction," however. A certain uniformity of tone. Very elevated, genteel if not quietidinous. Maybe it's Ashbery purified of colloquialism. Am I exaggerating the influence of Ashbery here? Am I deaf to the tones that are distinctly hers? It would take a very discerning reader to be able to distinguish this style from his on a "blindfold" test. Is there anything wrong with imitating the style of a contemporary master? Honestly we would have to say that most poetry is written in some sort of period style, that few poets actually find their own way, and that this fine discernment is precisely what is called for. But the blurb from Ashbery on the back could just as easily be a description of his OWN poetry: "Ann Lauterbach's landscapes and people come to us as strangely as they do in real life. . . " I'd say she shares about 90% of Ashbery's poetic DNA.

Do I want to read poems written in this style by someone other than him? I keep getting bothered by this as I try to read. Maybe because Ashbery himself writes so much, he doesn't leave a lot of room for his imitators. I can quench my thirst easily enough in the originals. Maybe the sense that Blanchot has when he affirms that imitations kill the original. God knows I am a highly derivative poet myself, to the extent that I am a poet at all.

10 ago 2003

Gudding and Hess read at the City Museum yesterday, competing with pinball machines. Gudding is a serious mid-westerner. He reads in a monotone, trying to fit as many syllables in a phrase as possible without raising or lowering his pitch. David is more like an awkward kid than the fire-breathing loudmouth he plays on his blog. His English teacher from St. Louis University High School was there. Gabe said he didn't like the poems in "A Defense of Poetry" very much any more, or anything he was now writing. He seemed to be distancing himself from his poems by his style of reading. The feedback from the microphone and the pinball machines didn't help any. David stumbled a bit over his texts and dropped off his voice before finishing the last lines of his poems. He did not exactly project self-confidence or comfort in his own skin. I would have rather just sat there and talked to the poets than listen to a formal reading. It seemed an artificial situation, especially given the poets' seeming lack of conviction for what they were doing. It was nice to meet two other bloggers (finally). Neither was anything like what I had expected. The City Museum itself is a bizarre place to have a reading--a run-down indoor amusement park/arcade/birthday party rental joint.

9 ago 2003

Also, I found I introduced something into the English translation that I hadn't written in the original. "Sálvese quien pueda" is an idiomatic translation. I couldn't very well say "it's every man for himself," so I wrote, "it's every flower for herself." I guess I could have translated "you're on your own now," or what I had first: "let anyone who can save himself do so."
a lability
made for another's hands.
It's every flower for herself
in the diminutive
labyrinth of odors.

That's my try at reproducing the effects of Lola Velasco's poetry. The Spanish version is better, perhaps. I don't know that Lola would use a word like "labilidad"!

8 ago 2003

Friday's crossword gave itself up easily (20 minutes). Am I getting faster, or are the puzzles getting easier? Maximum enjoyment involves a level of difficulty exactly pitched between Blanchot's prose and Celan's poetry.
Hess and Gudding are reading tomorrow at the City Museum.


An interview with DeJohnette in the issue of Modern Drummer that came yesterday. He is suitably vague (abstract?) about most everything of importance. He doesn't play "licks" according to the interviewer. I could spend all day thinking about that.

7 ago 2003

On the jazz radio station: a version of Clifford Brown's "Joy Spring." It happens to be one of my favorite tunes, so I listen closely. The rhythm section sounds a little stiff, but that's ok, because the trumpet player has a nice warm, dark tone, not dissimilar to Clifford's. So he starts his solo, and . . . it's a note for note reproduction of Clifford's Brown's solo! I could have sung along if I hadn't been so shocked. It turned out it was Arturo Sandoval, and the name of the album implies that he is paying tribute to all the classic trumpet players. I'd hate to hear him try to play a Miles Davis solo note for note. Why not just go back to listen to the originals? I listen to that Clifford Brown solo everyday on my computer.


The crossword clue it took me all day to get: "Isn't just theoretical" -- and the answer is supposed to be "exists." I guess I just don't think of theory as something non-existent.

Then there's the possibility of getting stuck, as I did on the Northwest corner of today's crossword puzzle. A mental block, something within my own head. I'm sure the answers will seem obvious in retrospect. Air force Chief of Staff in the 1960s? It calls on more dictionary knowledge than encyclopeidia knowledge, to evoke Eco's distinction.


The degree to which Blanchot established one version of the canon of modernism, still influential in Spain. I notice that the translator of The Work of Fire (Charlotte Mandell) acknowledges her husband, "Robert Kelly." I'm wondering if this is THE Robert Kelly. I assume it is, because she also thanks Pierre Joris.

6 ago 2003

I do the New York Times crossword puzzles on line every day. They get progressively harder from Monday to Saturday. For me, the dividing line is between Wed. and Thurs. Wed. is transparently easy, whereas Thursday takes a little while. Friday and Saturday are becoming a little easier now I've been doing them religiously for more than a year. I can get Saturday's (usually) in 45 minutes to an hour. Part of the trick is to approach it with just the right amount of confidence. Too confident, and I become frustrated. Not confident enough, and I don't guess wildly enough. I don't fill in answers even if I *know* them at some level of consciousness. The next day's puzzle comes out at about 9:20 p.m. (central time). Here I go...
I'm trying to get into this Char (La parole en archipel). It's not that I don't like it; I'm just trying to cut through the hagiography of the translator's introduction, the dignified rhetoric of the poetry itself. There's always that *resistance* in me to reading anything new. That's what reading is, struggling with that resistance and suspicion. I have another academic book on Char that's written in a horrible style (this one in English). I can't get anything out of it.

5 ago 2003

Back from Chicago. I neglected my conference to take Julia to Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Art Institute. . . One of my boxes of books came back from Spain. I had Char (in bilingual French / Spanish edition), Valente, Varela, Riechmann, and others that I did not remember buying. I nice present for my future self.

1 ago 2003

I never let my students use the word "theme" in writing about poetry.
I'm going to Chicago tomorrow to give a talk at the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese convention. I'm trying to demonstrate ideological homology between official verse culture and Spanish poetry of experience.

I should continue to translate that Char poem:

"Here and there the memory of a force carressed the flight of the peasant grass. I governed myself without doctrines, with a serene vehemence. I was the equal of things whose secret might fit under the radius of a wing. For the majority, the essential has never been born, and those who do possess it cannot exchange it without doing damage to themselves. Noone consents to losing what he has gained at the cost of his own suffering! Otherwise it would mean that beauty and grace, source and delta, would have the same purity.

I found myself in one of those forests where the sun has no access, but where, at night, the stars penetrate for implacable hostilities."

I am working from a Spanish translation (by Jorge Riechmann) along with the original French.