31 oct 2003

Taking home more work than usual this weekend. If I can get through this one 200 page book ms. I will be happy. I am actually quite efficient at working. I can do things very fast when I want to, which is never.

The English Department that hires Kasey Mohammed will be extremely lucky. Good luck on the job search!

30 oct 2003

What I did today: Got up around 7, showered, dressed and drove to work, taking my laptop and Gajate-bracket with cowbell attached. Checked email. Message from Kent Johnson. Went downstairs for donut and coffee. Did easy crossword in student newspaper. New York Times Crossword puzzle on line is not too difficult for a Thursday. Wrote a few blog entries satirizing Laura's obsession with Robert Pinsky and Jordan's constant WSJ entries. I came up with theory of the "conservative fetish": we all need something unthreatening and dull to be attached to, whether it's the WSJ or Robert Pinsky. What is mine? Finished grading exams, recorded grades, and taught 9:30 to 11 composition class. Signed a paper for a student, ate lunch. In lunch room performed demonstration of Afro-Cuban rhythms for a handful of polite colleagues. The 4 against 5 polyrhythm! (performed ineptly).

Back in office to read some blogs. Nothing new from Lime Tree today. Xeroxed exams. A blog entry about the movie "School of Rock," which I saw yesterday. I really don't know at what exact point I wrote it, but there it is.

UPS man comes in with huge package containing materials for a tenure review. I fill out, by hand, some forms outlining all the dissertations presently being written in my department. (The email beeps at me: spam.) I realize I haven't heard of a fair number of the authors our students are working on. My 2:30 class: I am giving exam, so I take with me the fat tenure package and get through quite a bit of it while my students take exam. On the stairwell as I come back from class (4 p.m) , Ken Irby says that Gerrit Lansing (spelling?) had asked whether he (Ken) knew me. He refers to my posts on the Buffalo poetics list, which I haven't contributed to for many years. "Maybe he means my blog?" I ask. Perhaps.

After class I set the dates for the PhD exams in January. Write and print a cover letter for the article I'm sending off tomorrow. I peruse more of the fat tenure package. Although I've only read about 20% of the total I already know all the person's ideas, and pretty much anticipate the approach I'll take in my generous evaluation letter. Still no Lime Tree. I look at The Skeptic and realize that I've already seen it three times today. What sort of cheese is Henry eating? I look at Jim's Crush List. I check my stats: 85 hits so far today.

I obviously am not working any more. It's five-ten and I've been here since 7:15, so I decide to write another blog entry about my exciting day while I decide where to go out to eat dinner. It turns out to be longer than I expected. Will I return to office after dinner? That would be depressing. Staying in my apartment would be as well. I could go to BORDERS and read some more Satrapi.
The piece the students in "School of Rock" are playing in music class when "Ned" gets the idea of forming them into a rock band is Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez," which, of course, is also on Miles Davis's Sketches of Spain album. So, of course, I started to write my own movie scenario in my head. In my version, the elementary school jazz hipster, students introduce their loser rock-musician teacher [played by Robert Pinsky] to the joys of Miles, Mingus, and Monk. In the climactic battle of the bands they blow the Marsalis brothers off the stage.
In my yoga class last night, who did I see but Robert Pinsky himself!

posted by Laura and Jordan at 9:12 a.m
Story in the WSJ today: using Robert Pinsky's poetry to sell potato chips.

posted by Laura and Jordan at 8:30 a.m.

29 oct 2003

I'm not much of a flarf poet; here is my attempt at the genre:

First I call Geoffrey Dyer Geoffrey Halo, then I start a magazine and forget the
name. It's not Bad MONKEY, it's Bad MICKEY Television Sock.

.. progeny. The television is a glass paw. Overhead looms the Monkey-Puzzle
Tree. ... yea? If sloops are so bad, then what about Brown's proas?

... insensate. — bad gums — Stamping. Standing in the zone. ... matters. I found a
thong in my television tubes. ... TrackBack. The Monkey Shakespeare Simulator.

... is, the borderline can play good cop and bad cop all ... Through one thousand and one television nights, Oprah feeds herself ... me I am the money er monkey flarf is ...

.. Speak about television. ... Still debating with myself the ultimate meaning of "bad login." I see this ... I haven't knowingly read any Flarf but I'll bet you dollars ...
Duller than a Marsalis brother...
I just finished revisions on a major article on Valente, Celan, and Heidegger. What a relief. I had been avoiding it for a while. I had overestimated the time it would take me, so I put it off until I had a major block of time, yet I did it in a few hours (after twenty to thirty hours of reading and research, of course).

I was reading some Lewis Marsh last night. Marvelously inconsistent and uneven. I must work today.

28 oct 2003

A weird staccato harshness in my posts, brought out by selective quotations. Do I really sound like that?
Actually, I posted the 2nd dream to my other blog by mistake. Here is the original version:

In a second dream, I had invited a noted rap performer who happened to be around to perform in one of my classes. I can't recall the name of the rapper, but I believe he is someone real. He arrived with huge entourage of over one hundred people, who proceeded to trash the building, taking all the books from the professors' offices and laying them in piles in the hall to make room for their sound equipment. Suddenly, in my parents living room, which had somehow merged with the building on campus, a female mananger of the rapper began to criticize some cheap art-posters that were on the wall, some superimposed over others in a careless way: "That's some people's idea of what art is: cheap reproductions. I can't believe some people." I was shocked, because she was speaking directly to me and in my own house. I started to worry that the rapper expected to be paid thousands of dollars for the performance. . .
Mainstream Poetry has a banner add for "Matsuo Prism Shad Lures." A four word poem of great beauty. I think the word "stream" fooled the google robot into associating this blog with fishing.
The Gender Genie concluded that the poem pieced together by Kasey out of some blog entries from Bemsha swing was written by a female author.

Kasey sent me this poem, a cut-and-paste job from some of my recent blog entries in the Texas/New York style:


(a dream collabortation)

I am not a New York Yankees fan, I am a Texas Rangers fan.
Why? I think the term "middle-brow"
got me in trouble. I'm that jerk

who has to point out
what everyone already knows
but has the good sense not to say:
"You can't buy a book by Clark Coolidge
at BORDERS." There is no
really humane way of carrying
it out. "It would help
if I had a real drummer
to assist me." But when am I going
to do all of this? "One thing
it won't be, at least, is stalking
Comic Book Store Girl." I am paid
to be judgmental. Therefore
my poems tend to be short. Eventually
this urge will go away.

Who's checking my blog at 4:34 a.m.?
"Derek Walcott maybe?"
HOW I WRITE: (Who cares?) I'm sure
there is a Frank-O'Hara-cum-Language-LITE
style out there. "Powerpoint is evil!" I hope
you will consider these arguments seriously.
I am going to be a beatnik for Halloween.
For good is the life ending faithfully.

I had a fascinating dream: some writers in Texas were using techniques derived from the New York School of poetry to create a new hybrid genre, half-way between New York and Texas, the short-story and the lyric poem. Unfortunately, when I woke up I could only come up with one line from what I had dreamt:

I am not a New York Yankees fan, I am a Texas Ranger fan. Why?

This particular poem/short story seemed to end (for no very good reason) with a line from Sir Thomas Wyatt:

For good is the life ending faithfully .

27 oct 2003

A strange feeling, marking time as I think of yet another evil, judgmental purpose for this blog. The flu shot I just got doesn't help. One thing it won't be, at least, is stalking Comic Book Store Girl.

"Trovommi Amor del tutto disarmato."
Somehow I've missed linking to Mikarrhea until now. I've added a link to the left. Michaela has some reflections on the death penalty posted there.
This week I've got to finish revisions on an article due at the end of the month. Thursday I'm giving a demonstration of clave and Afro-Cuban polyrhythms, which means I have to put in some conga practice in the next few days. It would help if I had a real drummer to assist me.

I also have to start reviewing a tenure case at a prestigious East Coast University, review NEH Summer Stipend Applications. I am paid to be judgmental.

But when am I going to do all of this? I am already exhausted and it is just Monday. A mind-numbingly dull meeting today [watch those cliché epithets!], on the process for NRC ratings of graduate programs, lasting six hours, did not help. Powerpoint is evil!
Law of the adjective and adverb:

If the adjective or adverb is what you'd expect to find with the noun it's modifying, its use is lazy (or ironic). Such as: woefully inadequate, boundless skies. This would, in effect, outlaw the rhetorical figure of epithet : the ornamental or redundant use of adjectives. Wily Odysseus, owl-eyed Athena. Who can get away with this today? Derek Walcott maybe?
I'm back in Kansas after brutally short Fall break, trying to imagine what sitting through a power-point presentation by Sir Ron Silliman would be like--in a business meeting, if I were in his company and had no idea that he was a poet.

22 oct 2003

Ultimate Punishment : A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty
Why I am against the death penalty:

1. The argument from international opprobrium : I'd like to see the US be at the forefront of human rights issues. Most advanced democratic countries no longer employ the death penalty, and we shouldn't either.

2. The argument from injustice of application . It is applied in a notoriously unjust way across racial, socio-economic, and geographical lines.

3. The arguments from inefficiency and and inefficacity . It doesn't work as a deterrent (so I'm told) and is expensive and inefficient to apply. All those endless appeals that even the proponents of state execution complain about.

4. The argument from brutalization of the society as a whole and in particular those who are forced to implement the process . It coarsens the social fabric and damages those who actually have to carry out the executions.

5. The argument from irrevocability . Once you execute someone, that's it. Innocent people have been executed in the past and will in the future as well.

6. The argument from respect for life itself . The death penalty is usually applied in murder cases. Murder is frowned upon because it is the taking of a life, and the punishment should logically reflect a respect for life itself.

7. The argument from the unsatisfying nature of retribution . Retribution does not lead to a wholly satisfying feeling. Many relatives of murder victims have ultimately come out against the death penalty for this reason.

8. The argument from the advisability of limiting state power . I really don't want to give the state this ultimate power to decide life and death.

9. The argument from distortion of process . To be certified as a death-penalty juror, you have to be in favor of the death penalty. Thus the juries in such cases are more conservative and more likely to be sympathetic to the prosecution.

10. The argument from cruelty . There is no really humane way of carrying it out.

This is apropos of nothing in particular, and has nothing to do with habitual content of this blog. I was driving in my car a week ago and heard an interview with novelist/attorney Scott Turow, who has written a book against the death penalty. Since I had three or four more hours to think about this, I decided to think of as many reasons as I could to justify my own position. These are listed in no particular order, and there are probably more arguments I haven't thought of yet. None, obviously, is original with me. The only two arguments in favor are the some people are monsters argument and the if your family member were the victim you'd feel differently argument. I reject those, because I feel they are fallacious and outweighed by my arguments 1-10. If you are already against the death penalty, you've probably learned nothing new from this post. If by some chance someone reading this is in favor of it, I hope you will consider these arguments seriously.

{lime tree}on Wyatt sheds some light on the Wyatt poem I was commenting on (less expertly of course) the other day. I never wrote a dissertation on quantitative metrics in 16th century English poetry, but I did go through a period I was obsessed with metrical matters. If I had my choice, I would only work on this. The problem is that other people's eyes start to glaze over when you go on for very long about this. I can't imagine why.

My obsession re-emerged in the last few years when I started delving into 6/8 Afro-Cuban rhythms. Is any rhythm more profound than the short bell and the bembe?

1 3 56 2 4 61 3 56 24 6 etc...

21 oct 2003

A Consumer Guide to Charles Bernstein: "Without question, Charles Bernstein has emerged as the most formidable practitioner of language poetry, the one whose work provides the most substantial basis for evaluating the claims about such writing made by partisans and foes alike."

Oh really? I thought that the "received wisdom" on this was that Coolidge, Silliman, Hejinian, and the Howe sisters (and Armantrout) were the poets of this movement; Bernstein and Watten the ideologues. Whenever you begin an essay by saying "without question" you are begging the question. The article itself is worth reading, though the white-on-black hurts my eyes so I haven't been able to pull more than snippets out of it.
"Grey. Gray. Grey.
Gray. That that
employs a is blacker
than that that

employs e which is
redolent of
white whose e is silent
white. White."

More GS for HG.
For HG Poetics:

"It is my opinion as well as that of others that the word grey spelled with an e is 'greyer' than the same word spelled with an a: gray.

Can the poet be correct in assigning the color white to this letter [E]? Admitting, therefore, more light to the word so that it becomes itself lighter, creamier, if you will, on the other side of darkness. The blackness of a. Gray holds to itself more blackness than does grey ."

--Gilbert Sorrentino, Splendide-Hôtel

Content analysis of this blog

15%: Insecurity and fear
10%: Promotion of my other blogs
10% Sheer nastiness
20% Judgmental bile
20% Sucking-up to other bloggers
10% Utter Triviality
25% Supremely briliant critical insight

How I write:

(Who cares?) Mostly in my head. When the poem is done, it goes right to the computer screen, sometimes directly onto the other blog. It might change a bit in the typing; before it is in material form it is not wholly fixed. If I'm not near computer, I'll scribble it with Waterman fountain pen; not a particularly expensive one, but a fountain pen nonetheless. (Disparity between relative fineness of writing instrument and wretchedness of my handwriting, duly noted). I won't revise much unless I'm transfering media (brain to paper, brain to computer, scribble to computer). I prefer to suppress.

It occurs to me that this method only works for extremely short poems. Therefore my poems tend to be short.
"They flee from me who sometime did me seek
With naked foot stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them, gentle, tame, and meek
That now are wild, and do not remember
That sometime they put themselves in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
Busily seeking in continual change."

Ok, I get it: he's not getting the babes he used to.

"Thanked be fortune it hath been otherwise / Twenty times better..."

I'm with him so far. But then the poem shifts gears: "But once in special / In thin array after a pleasant guise / When her loose robe from her shoulders did fall / And she me caught in her arms long and small." Now he's talking about one particular woman.

In the third and final stanza of the poem he lays on the irony pretty thick, with "gentleness," "goodness," "kindly." "We are both free to see other people now," in modern parlance. Now the poem has shifted into a complaint that this particular woman has left him. Was this the point all along? Then the inconstancy of which he complains makes no sense, in relation to the beginning of the poem. What he conceives of as "newfangleness" or "continual change" was always so: the illusion that the wild animals / women were tame was just that, an illusion.

Wyatt seems to like abstract nouns. I do too.

I keep thinking of writing a particularly snide post about someone, and then supressing the urge. Eventually this urge will go away.
Who's checking my blog at 4:34 a.m.? Either a European or an insomniac.
Goatee update:

I am going to be a beatnik for halloween. I have the black beret and turtleneck, am still looking for the horn-rimmed glasses. The goatee is coming in slowly, however. After a week and a half it is still scraggly. It is coming in salt-and-pepper. After halloween I will shave it off immediately.

I saw guitar deity Pat Metheny last night with his trio of bass deity Christian McBride and youngish drummer Antonio Sánchez. It had been a while since I heard any live music of note.

20 oct 2003

Interview with Kent Johnson conducted by Rodrigo Garcia Lopes, Editor, Coyote Magazine, Brazil: "Increasingly, that is, Language poetry and 'avant-garde' styles growing directly out of it (under myriad denominations, like 'post-language,' 'abstract lyric,' 'ellipticism,' 'new synthesis,' 'third generation New York school,' and so on) have come to be the zeitgeist at virtually all the elite and many of the second-tier creative writing programs-few serious younger poets with any degree of reading have an interest in writing the scenic, first-person lyric of narrative experience. What's happened is that most younger poets now want to write the fractured lyric of intellectual, self-reflexive experience, or else some theory-inflected version of the cool, campy Frank O'Hara-like poem, or some hybrid version of these styles. This 'experimental' atmosphere constitutes the ascendant period style --the poems of our climate, as one of our famous poets once put it-- and very few literary journals or presses of consequence today are truly hostile toward this fashionable 'innovative' work."

I wish this were true. I suspect it has some element of truth to it. I suppose that would depend on one's definition of phrases like "all the elite," "serious young poets with any degree of reading," "very few," "of consequence," and "truly hostile." There's a lot of wiggle room there.

I haven't seen work that answers to this description in Poetry or The New Yorker . You can't buy a book by Clark Coolidge at Border's. The New York Review of Books has never reviewed a book by Marjorie Perloff or Charles Bernstein, let alone Ron Silliman.

I'm sure there is a Frank O'Hara cum Language lite style out there: I saw some it in both of the BAPS in fact.
Compete with other poetry bloggers for marvelous honors and awards! Doesn't that sound like a wonderful idea? In fact, every blogger could have own awards meted out on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. Everyone would be a winner all year round.

17 oct 2003

Anecdote of Arnold Schönberg in Tennessee

Arnold Schönberg was four foot eleven
in Tennessee
had he lived there
which he did not

In Kansas he would have been six foot three
but that is the wrong anecdote
In Tennessee he hung out twelve tones to dry
on an anecdotal clothes line

Stravinsky was almost as short, Berg and Webern taller
Schönberg ate no peanut brittle in Tennessee
which is rigorously true
like nothing else in Tennessee

16 oct 2003

I've been reading some Thomas Wyatt and some criticism on him. His versification is a mystery, since his iambic pentameter is quite unscannable, whereas he other meters are perfectly regular. No two critics can agree on what he was doing, or whether he even knew what he was doing.
I'm that jerk who has to point out what everyone already knows but has the good sense not to say. But in what sense can what I say be said to belong to the already known if there is a taboo against actually saying it?
Poems unpublished, un-
played cymbals

The pianistic is the enemy of

15 oct 2003

People at the poetics seminar said I came off as too dogmatic. I think the term "middle-brow" got me in trouble. What other word is there for this?
Million Poems:


More than most things do I enjoy the sight of hundreds of trucks
Under sodium arcs just outside Secaucus.

In my heart there is a film festival
Where I sit next to you and whisper
Innocent, cynical remarks, fighting handily
My shame to know one as beautiful as you.
You lean over and smile and suddenly we are old."

I especially like the last line here.
Announcing a new blog:Theory With a Capital B. B is for Blanchot, Benjamin, Barthes, Bataille, Bahktin, Bernstein, Baudrillard, Bachelard, Bousoño, Bhaba, and Burke. Also: B as in Blog.
From Mainstream Poetry:

"Anecdote of the Discontinued Laminate Flooring
John F. in Tennessee
Needed some discontinued laminate flooring;
They couldn’t find it anywhere
& wrote to me.

I placed a call to Hal McClure
The first permanent white settlement
In Tennessee.

I placed a target at seven yards
And proceeded to try to shoot at it
While I baked pancakes
(Interpretation of the law in Tennessee)."

14 oct 2003

To do list:

Order Deer Head Nation

Order Jim Side Tee-shirt

Finish revision of article on Valente, Heidegger, and Celan

Grade Compositions

Think of a non-judgmental project for this blog

Start Literary Theory Blog for Spring class
(note to self: think of snazzy title for this blog)

Start my own line of Bemsha Swing gear

EPC Blog List! Thanks to Nick for putting this up.
"Si descanso un momento cerca de The Equestrian
haciendo una pausa para tomarme un bocadillo de embutido de paté de hígado en el Mayflower Shop,
ese ángel parece conducir el caballo a Bergdorf's
y yo estoy desnudo como un mantel, y mis nervios zumban... "


Frank O'Hara: "Poemas a la hora de comer," translated by Eduard Moga.
Eduard Moga: "Las horas y los labios"
Million Poems:

"This one is insulted most of all by association with that one!
But I understand what he means --
Horrible to have your name anywhere near a vicious beggar's."

Franz Wright and Billy Collins?
To teach people to be excited is in fact a valuable enterprise. How about all those teachers whose message is to be bored with everything, to be jaded, dismissive, and world-weary?
In preparation for poetics seminar tomorrow, I had better bring in some texts of things I do in fact like, rather than just leave my paper as is: a condemnation of "New Yorker" poetry.

13 oct 2003

How I did and what I learned: poetic language is relational; its value does not inhere in its words but resonates with other languages and the world itself. Sure, some poems are so luminous that it seems as though their value was intrinsic: some of the poems by Wyatt, Niedecker, the anonymous lyrics, were in this category. Dramatic or narrative verse, whether by Shakespeare, Browning, or Fletcher, cannot be fairly judged, the way LZ has things set up. The entire exercise favors lyric luminosity. Since I knew the Tempest ,I had an easier time responding to Ariel's lines, whereas with Lear, a play I haven't seen or read for years, a single speech did not resonate as much.

I performed at about a B level on identification. I got some easy ones, but placed a few excerpts in the wrong century. My grades stand up pretty well. Even the Crabbe piece that I over-rated is not all that bad. My low marks for "great poets" came only with Shakespeare's Pericles, and Browning, and a two-liner by Byron. My grading of Swinburne is wholly justified, in my mind.

I knew WCW and Browning, Swinburne. I missed Browning twice, giving him some of the lowest grades in the entire test for separate passages from Pippa. I would do the same again: now I know why I could never read this poem! I mistook Peele for Campion: at least I was within 100 years on this one. I failed to respond very well to yet another poem by Burns.

I recognized a fragment from Keats, gave an A to Herbert (though didn't put him in the right century), gave a B- to a fragment from Pericles. Knowing it's Shakespeare now, I'd give the same grade: it's not really Shakespeare at anywhere near his best. I recognized a poem of Niedecker's I knew already. I gave an A- to Wyatt and a B+ to another passage from Pericles. I ended by grading highly another anonymous lyric and 16th century 14er poem by Richard Edward, of whom I had never heard.


I graded highly an anomymous epitaph, was too harsh on Donne, giving him a B (although this not Donne at his best either), and gave a B+ to Fletcher. I can live with that. I correctly identified two well-known poems by Herrick and raved about a LZ poem I thought was by LN. I mistook Rochester for Swift, correctly got Edward Fitzgerald, and mistook Yeats for D.H. Lawrence. I over-rated Crabbe: this one should have been a solid B+. I once again gave good grade to Golding. I gave variable marks to several poems by Burns: in my defense I would say they are variable poems. I identified Wordworth and gave him a very fair B-. I gave Byron a B+ and that's about right as well.


I correctly guessed Wyatt, wavered between Wyatt and Surrey on a poem both had translated (it turned out to be Wyatt), graded some anonymous ballads about Robin Hood fairly well, correctly identified "A Mid-Summer's Night's Dream" (I called Hermia "Hermione"), failed to identify a pasage from Lear (although I thought it was Shakespeare), correctly identified "The Phoenix and the Turtle" and Samson Agonistes (duh), and part of Donne's "The Ecstasy."

I was sorry to miss this tribute to Kenneth Koch, especially since the musical director was my first cousin Michael Barrett.

I gave Chapman's Homer a C-, Hobbes a B-. 1c says "adaptation," so I am assuming it is LZ himself? I gave it an A.


I guessed 2a to be the same as 1c: it was: Mr. Adaptation, to whom I gave a B+ this time. 2b I guessed Dryden or Pope (it was Pope, to whom I gave an A). I gave an A- to W.C. Bryant for 2c. I guessed early twentieth-century and the year was 1871.


I said 3a was Drydenesque (it was Dryden). I gave it an A-, which I won't retract. I gave an A to Golding's 14er version of same passage from Ovid (I failed to name Ovid as original poet.)


I gave split grades to Golding here: A+ and B- for two passages from the same poem. I failed to recognize any similarity (aside from the being the same meter and same general period).


On A I failed to recognize Catullus, guessing Martial instead. The translation was by F. W. Cornish, to whom I assined a C+. I gave Thomas Hood a D-.


I gave Gavin Douglas an A for a sixteenth century translation of Virgil. I failed to recognize Virgil under the dialect. I correctly recognized Shakspeare for the "Tempest" (duh) and gave him an A+. So far I'm not deeply embarrased by my performance.


I gave Herrick a B and misplace the poem by about 240 years (oops). I gave Marlowe a B for a poem I also misplaced by more than a century. I stand by these grades, though.


I gave mostly high grades to these anonymous lyrics. The third is a attributed to someone, and earned a slightly lower mark.


I gave a B- to Swinburne's translation of Villon. That's about right. My C+ to Chaucer? I would contend that this is not very interesting poetry, given that it is in fact by Chaucer. For him, it is more like a D.
25a "Say, darkeys, have you seen dah massa"

I'm not touching this with a ten-foot pole. Dunbar?

25b "Lollai, lollai, litel child"

A traditional lullaby, medieval and anonymous. A

25c "In going to my naked bed as one who might have slept"

It's appropriate we end with 14ers. (I'm not going into the other sections for fear of causing Kasey and others more pain). I like this one: the language is direct and effective, the meter well handled. A


That does it. No I'm going to look to see how I did.
24a "Tagus, farewell, that westward to thy streams"

My confidence is shaken; I don't even know why I'm continuing with this at this point. This has the air of being something well known. This is stately enough, with a classic feel, but I can't seem to get my handle on the style. A-

24b "Tyre, I now look from thee then, and to Tarsus"

Dramatic verse, of similar style to 24a. Rhymed, enjambed couplets. It isn't a striking passage, although it may be effective in context. B+

10 oct 2003

Kasey points out I've given Shakespeare a B- and Browning C's and D's. Oh, well. If I knew it was Shakspeare or Browning I wouldn't have given these grades, which just goes to show the value of this exercise. I am willing to expose myself to ridicule for a good cause. I'm stopping til next week.

9 oct 2003

Bad to the Bone - An anthology of verse offers up the banal, the bathetic, the bloated. The problem is that the editor of this is Billy Collins. Shouldn't the stuffed owl INCLUDE Billy Collins?
I'm almost done with the first part of ATOATOP. I could finish tonight but I'll leave it until the morning, or, even more likely, Monday afternoon. This is not nearly as much fun as the BAP face-off. I liked comparing the Homeric versions at the beginning, but I have nothing to say off the cuff about Donne and Keats and Blake. Aside from doing this today, I taught two classes and did substantial revisions on an article due at the end of the month.
I.23a "Hedge-crickets sing"

That's it. That's the entire exhibit: two or three words from Keats' "To Autumn." A+ for the entire poem. I don't know what the point is of not quoting a whole stanza.

23b "Love, of this clearest, frailest glass"

"Love, of this clearest, frailest glass
Divide the properties, so as
In the division may appear
Clearness for me, frailty for her."

Not a nice sentiment, although nicely said. I'm not sure if this a whole poem. I don't have a good guess as to who wrote it; it doesn't seem Victorian. A

23c "Fair glass of light, I love you, and could still"

The metaphor seems too labored: "You are a fair viol and your sense the strings, / Who, fingered to make man his lawful music..." Competent verse but somewhat clunky overall. I'm thinking this is a Victorian poet named Morris? B-

23d "There's a better shine"

"There's a better shine
on the pendulum
than is on my hair
and many times

** **
I've seen it there.

This one is in fact Niedecker. The other one I thought was Niedecker before is Zukofsky himself, as has been pointed out to me by Mark DuCharme. A+

I.22a "Give her but a least excuse to love me!"

I remember when critics used to distinguish between poetry and verse. This would be verse. It's wretchedly tin-eared verse at that. I have no idea who wrote it. D

22b "Come with bows bent and with emptying of quivers"

I'm guessing Swinburne: "Bind on thy sandals, oh thou most fleet / over the splendour and speed of thy feet." It sounds like Kitsch to a contemporary ear. I guess that could be a good thing. B-

22c "Lassie wi' the lint-white locks"

Usually I like the Scottish stuff, but I'm wearying of bonnie lasses and auld lang syne. This one is bad, in any case. I don't have any idea who wrote it. C

22d "Hot sunne, coole fire, tempered with sweet aire"

I feel I ought to know who this is by; it is a familiar text. Thomas Campion? Gotta love those vowel sounds. It's got that Campion sound, even if it isn't him. We're supposed to be in the Victorian section. A

22e "You'll love me yet! -- and I can tarry"

"June reared that bunch of flowers you carry / From seeds of April's sowing." Trite and not at all impressive in any way. C-
21a "Dusk winding stairs, dim galleries got past"

I looked this one up--not now, but several months ago when leafing through books at Border's. I looked at the poems on this page and guessed, then flipped through to see if I was right. (I was.) It is Robert Browning. Rhymed couplets, but with the wondeful feel of blank verse because of the enjambments. A

21b "Thought clambers up"

This is from "Paterson." It is not WCW at his best. A-

I.20a "The tears into his eyes were brought"

This one is sort of pedestrian in a Wordsworthian way. If it is passage of a longer work it is not fair to judge it in isolation. B-

20b "O waly, waly, up the bank"

Another Scottish dialect poem; the speaker of the poem is a woman foresaken by her lover. I am out of my element here. I like the poetic use of toponyms: Glasgow toun, Saint Anton's well... A-

20c "When my mother died I was very young"

William Blake's poem about the chimney sweep. A+

20d "And thou, who tell'st me to forget, / Thy looks are wan, thine eyes are wet"

If this is the complete poem, it would get a B+. I can't judge if it is but part of something longer. I have no idea. We're in the Romantic period.
I.19a "Hear me, auld Hangie, for a wee"

A poem in Scottish dialect addressed to the devil: "Lang syne, in Eden's bonnie yard..." Burns? It is a delightful poem, in a kind of Kitschy way. Zukofksy has a lot of dialect poems in this book. A

19b "What was I, or my generation"

Another poem about eternal damnation, in more or less the same dialect as 19a. It combines effective language with some (unintentionally?) comic effects: "Yet here I am, a chosen sample / To show they grace is great and ample." No masterpiece, but with a naive charm. B

8 oct 2003

I'm fried. I thought I'd leave you with this from Creeley's intro to ATOP:

"I cannot now remember how long it took me to move out into the open water of Part I and III of the 'Comparisons.' ... When finally I ventured into Parts I and III, I still secured myself by flipping back to the index repeatedly, to see who had written what. It was as if I had to keep checking the label so as to be convinced of the goods. How many hours has one wandered in museums, squinting to read tags and identifications, so as to be reassured one's response was appropriate!"
I.18a "Lo! yonder shed; observe its garden-ground"

The neglect of "our reformers" of the plight of the humble fisherman. The language is quite vivid. Heroic couplets, suggestive of the 18th century, but the language is concrete and specific rather than abstract and universalistic. This has to be by someone like Cowper. Clare?

"That coal-dust flies along the blinding blast:
None heed the stagnant pools on either side,
Where new-launched ships of infant sailors ride."

Whoever it is, it is superb: A+ [yawn]

18b "He voyd of fear made answer thus, Acetis is my name"

Here we find, in a dialectal context, a poetic form outside of the 18th- century mainstream: fourteeners again. It is quite effective, partially because of its apparent naiveté:

"God wote he was but poor himselfe, With lyne and bayted hooke
The frisking fishes in the pooles upon the Reede he tooke."

Is LZ setting up a naive vs. sentimental opposition with these two examples? I'm not falling for it. Both poems get an A+
I.17a "Great negative! how vainly would the wise"

I'm guessing this is by someone else who shares my first name. We should be in the 18th century by now; the satirical wit, the misanthropy, are prominent:

"French truth, Dutch prowess, British policy
Hibernian learning, Scotch civility,
Spaniards' dispatch, Danes' wit, are mainly seen in thee."

(i.e., in nothingness: these things don't exist). Grade: A

17b "The Grape that can with Logic absolute"

A section of Edward Fitzgerald's translation of the Rubiaat of Omar Kahyam? (I can't spell either one, obviously) A less cycnical, lighter treatment of the Swiftian theme of nothingness. B+

17c "And God-appointed Berkeley that proved all things a dream"

The phrase "This pragmatical preposterous pig of a world" makes me think of D.H. Lawrence. If it isn't him, I haven't got a clue. Whowever wrote this, it is quite effective. A-

I.16a "Fair daffadils, we weep to see"

Herrick, with whom I share my birthday. We see the intellectual content, the wit, decline from Shakespeare and Donne, but the poem is perfect for what it is, a tour de force of versification. A+

16b "When a daffadil I see"

I don't know the poem, but I'm guessing Herrick again. The comparison is a little trite, although it has the charmingly simplistic psychology of Herrick's poetry. B+

16c "Little wrists"

It sounds like Zukofsky himself, so it is probably Lorine Niedecker. I think I do know this poem:

"Little wrists
Is your content
My sight or hold,
Or your small air
That lights and trysts?

Red alder berry
Will singly break;
But you - how slight - do:
So that even
A lover exists."

Simple yet obscure, also perfect of its type. A++
I.15a "Hic jacet John Shorthose"

A macaronic epitaph:

"Hic jacet John Shorthose
Sine hose, sine shoes, sine breeches;
Qui fuit, dum vixit
Sine goods, sine lands, sine riches."

[For those sine Latin: Here lies ... without ... who was, when he lived ... without....]

This is delightful. I'm guessing anonymous for the author. A+

15b "As lightning or a taper's light"

The speaker of this poem rejects similes, concluding with the couplet: "I must confesse, it could not choose but be / Profane to think thee anything but thee." I have no clue who wrote this. It is ok, but with a Worsdworthian diffuseness in the language I can't get down with. A poem like this needs to be sharper, wittier. B

15c "Hang all officers, we cry"

I'm missing the context that would make this meaningful: "When the subsidy's increased / We are not a penny sessed." I also lack any clue as to authorship. It's probably not John Donne! B+ for vigor of language.

This actually looks like me somewhat. Posted here by kind permission of Jim Behrle. Go Red Sox!
I.14a "When like a pillow on a bed"

Ugh. I would have to pretty dense not to get this one, by JD (the other JD). The ultimate refinement of metaphysical wit. That intellectual quality we find in Shakespeare, but intensified. The image of the eyes threaded on a string has always repulsed me. I believe this poem is titled "The Ecstasy": "this ecstasy doth unperplex." A+

14b "A single violet transplant"

A lesser Donne poem, or a poem by a lesser Donne. A tongue-twister effect: "We owe them thanks, because they thus / Did us, to us, at first convey; / Yielded their forces, sense, to us, / Nor are dross to us, but allay." Not sublime, but a solid B+. This style is enormously difficult to pull off. I think Zuke wanted us to compare these and find the second lacking.

I.13a "Here the anthem doth commence"

"The Phoenix and the Turtle" by that same British dramatist. 4-beat trochaic quatrains rhyming ABBA, quite well handled, never monotonous; intellectually complex and linguistically dense. Not my favorite Shakespeare poem, but it's got to be graded high. A

13b "But he, though blind of sight"

My first thought was that the verse was distinctly "Miltonic." Since it appears to be about the figure of Samson (not named in this passage) I'm concluding that it is a from "Samson Agonistes." It's got that powerful, though irregular rhythmic drive in its lines of variable length, frequent enjambment. The evocation of the mythological Phoenix is somewhat wordy, but there is a great kinetic force that makes up for any lack of visual imagination. A+


This is boring. I need some mediocre or bad poetry. How do you know I'm not cheating and looking in the back? Once I do, the game will be over, because it will have no point to it. Section II has the names of the authors included and LZ's own commentary. Section III is anonymous again. The eerie thing is that there are 75 sections in all, just like the 75 sections of the BAP. I'll probably skip the middle section.
Here we go: day 2 of "A Test of a Test of Poetry" (ATOATOP). I never anticipated the sheer sense of awe I would feel on coming on certain texts. As Kasey notes on his blog, it is painful to assign a grade (or see a grade assigned), even a high one, to these poems. I'm an irreverent sort of guy, and no anglophile, so I was surprised by this. How do we balance a healthy disrespect for the past with an appropriate sense of awe? That's exactly what I'm trying to do here. LZ himself has little blanks in which the student is invited to put words like "fair" or "poor."

I.12a "Dark night, that from the eye his function takes"

Some rhyming couplets, from AMSND by WS? I believe the speaker is Hermione or Helena. Here we see a new quality of "wit" that has been absent up to now in ATOP. The wit is over-the-top, a little pretentious, but this is in keeping with the comic tone of the dramatic verse. A

12b "Puppet? Why so? Ay, that way goes the game"

More lines from AMSND? This time the speaker is Helena (or Hermione) speaking to the other. There is a dramatic and kinetic force to the blank verse: "I am not so low / But that my nails can reach unto thine eyes." The actor playing this part will attempt to claw the eyes of the actor playing the part of Helena or Hermione. A+

12c "Here, take this purse, thou whom the heavens' plagues"

More dramatic verse, I would guess Shakespeare here, though from a play I don't know in detail. Hey, wait a minute: I thought Zukofsky was supposed to be an AMERICAN poet. Why does he include so much material from a certain BRITISH playwright? Didn't we fight a war of independence from the English? A+

7 oct 2003

I.11a and b

Two probably anonymous ballads about Robin Hood. What is it about these poems that makes them resistant to "criticism"? So distant that we cannot imagine them different from what they are. A- for both of them.
I.10a "They fle from me that sometyme did me seke"

An anthology-piece, extremely well-known. I'm pretty sure it's Thomas Wyatt (but if it's not it's Surrey). I can't really judge it, that would be too arrogant even for me. I'm not sure I know what he was doing metrically here, though. A+

10b "The long love that in my heart doth harbor"

A translation of a sonnet by Petrarch, by either Wyatt or Surrey. I know both of them translated the same poem. I think this is Surrey's translation but I'm not positive. (It's not as fun when I know the poems already). It's probably equal to Petrarch's poem. I can't look at the answers in the back, even for sections I've already done, through fear of accidentally seeing the answers to comparisons I've not yet done.


I.9a "Have pity, friends, have pity on me"

I'm not sure what this meter is supposed to be. Not quite skeltonics. It starts off anapestic with four beat liines and then morphs into IP. It has a rollicky, careless feel to it:

"Rhymes of lays and roundels sung and read
Ye'll brew him broth too late when he lies dead"


9b "Sometime this world was so stedfast and stable"

A poem about steadfastness: is the dogged steadiness of the meter supposed to be an iconic sign?

"Fro right to wrong, fro trouthe to fikelnesse,
Then al is lost, for lak of stedfastenesse"


I'd guess we're in the 15th century by now, since I glimpse Wyatt and Surrey coming 'round the bend.


A traditional lyric, probably anonymous:

"This ae night, this ae nighte
Every nighte and alle
Fire and sleet and candle-lighte
And Christe receive thy saule."

This kind of thing is beyond judgment: to survive at all, an anonymous lyric would have had to be in the top 1%. Plus, anything with the aura of the "classic" about it seems hard to take apart critically. A


"I sing of a maiden / That is makéles. / King of all kings / To her sone sche ches."

Another anonymous medieval lyric, also beyond judgment, but even more so: A+


"Erthe out of erthe is wondirly wrogthe"

I get it. We started with the classics and now are into the medieval period. Duh[slaps forehead]. This is a rather plodding didactic poem, also probably anonymous. B+


It sounds like Housman or someone else from the '90s. "Come, I will drink a tun / to my Propertius." A clever little poem in iambic trimeter rhyming ABAB. B


I think LZ wanted us to judge 7a superior to 7b, which is loaded with 18th century "poetic diction." Both poems evoke the "more lasting than bronze" topos: "Therefore when Flint and Iron wear away / Verse is immortal, and shall nere decay." A rather trite treatment of a trite them, in any case. B


I sense this one is very good, although I cannot understand most of it:

"The takillis graffilis cabillis can frate and frais."

It gains in logopeia indirectly, by the fact that is written in a dialect:

"Derknes as nycht beset the see about,
The firmament gan rumyllyng rare and rout."

This gets an A for vyvyd language.


The speaker appears to be Ariel, from the Tempest, explaining how he frightened the bejeezus out of the people on Ferdinand's ship. How can I sit in judgment of Shakespeare? A+


It appears to be an early twentieth century translation of an epigram by Martial, vaguely Poundian:

"Mentula has something like thirty acres of grazing
land, forty of plough land: the rest is salt-water."

An epigram has to "snap," and this poem lacks this quality. It appears to be making fun of Mentula for having such a high opinion of his estate: "not a man like the rest of us, but a monstruous menacing Mentula." I don't understand the enjambment of the first line when all the other lines are end-stopped. The rhythms are basically prose rhythms. C+


"Tradition said he feathered his nest
Through an agricultural interest
In the Golden Age of farming... "

Gilbert and Sullivan? I really have no idea. It is doggerel, trying to force itself to be clever. D-

I. 4a

I love fourteeners!:

"The flouds at random where they list through all the fields did stray,
Men, beasts, trees, corne, and with their Gods, were Churches washed away.
If any house were built so strong, against their force to stonde,
Yet did the water hide the top: and turrets in that ponde
Were over whelmde: no difference was between the sea and ground;
For all was sea..."

These are not lilting or monotonous, as fourteeners often are, and the poet's sense of language is extraordinary. I have no idea who it is, but it is more or less the same period as 3b. A+


The Narcissus myth, adopted or translated from Ovid:

"For when I stretch mine arms to thee, thou stretchest thine likewise."

The same meter, used to a very different effect. Not wholly successful, since one feels the poet straining to fulfill the requirements of the meter. B-

Pound, as quoted by Creeley in intro to LZ's ATOP: "Damn your taste! I want if possible to sharpen your perceptions after which your taste can take care of itself."

A translation of someone (Hesiod?): the myth of the ages of history in heroic couplets (and triplets):

"The golden age was first; when man, yet new,
No rule but uncorrupted reason knew;
And with a native bent, did good pursue.
Unforced by punishment, unawed by fear
His words were simple, and his soul sincere."

Man is the 18th century universal "Man." I find this rather glib: a projection of neo-classical values of reason and mankind onto the Classics. Ideological objections aside, it is quite well done in that Drydenesque, epigrammatic way. B+


The same passage in delightful "fourteeners":

Then sprang up first the golden age, which of itself maintainde
The truth and right of everything unforst and unconstrainde.
There was no fear of punishment, there was no threatning lawe
In brazen tables nayled up, to keep the folkes in awe.

Charming and naive. Fourteeners sound kind of "dumb" to the modern ear, but here there have a folksy appeal. The language is more vivid than in the neo-classical version. Late 16th century? Or whenever it was these fourteeners were in vogue. A


Another translation from Homer (or Virgil). This time we begin with the contemporary translation, which, like 1c, is pared-down in style:

"And then the dead flowed--crowds from below,
Brides, virgin boys, old men tried in hardship,
Little girls hurt,
Slain soldiers, the wounded armed--
All clamoring--
My blood paled."

Is it the same translator as 1c? It is awfully close. For me, the effect is too staccato: I think there has to be more of a metrical constant. B+


The same passage translated by 18th century poet. Dryden or Pope translating Virgil or Homer. The language is more florid:

"Fair pensive youths, and soft enamour'd maids;
And withered elders, pale and wrinkled shades;
Ghastly with wounds the form of warriors slain
Stalk'd with majestic port, a martial train."

This is superb translation by 18th century standards. Redundant expansiveness can be wonderful: A


A blank verse translation of the same passage. A plainer, less ornamental, and quite serviceable style. Early twentieth century? "Clad / in bloody armor" is more vivid than "the wounded armed" or "ghastly with wounds." The blank verse is rhythmically varied yet forceful, and works well. A-
Zukofsky's "Test of Poetry"

I. 1 a

Heroic couplet translation of the Odyssey. Definitely not Pope. The meter is quite pedestrian, with an overabundance of monosyllables:

"Arrived now at our ship, we launched, and set
Our mast up, put forth sail, and in did get
Our late-got cattle. Up our sails, we went..."

There is quite a bit of redundancy, partly in the use of epithets ("deep Oceanus," "the cheerful sun"). The translator has not a particularly good ear for IP. His phrasing is not particularly felicitous: "Circe (the excellent utterer of her mind)." I can't place it in time: maybe early to mid 17th century? It remind me of some of the inept blank verse quoted by Saintsbury, although it is not blank verse. C-

1 b

Another translation of the same passage, this time in ABAB rhyme scheme. The same predominance of monosyllables. The meter seems to pound: "To winds and steerage we our way commend / And careless sit from morning till 'twas dark / Then found ourselves at th'Ocean's farthest end / Where up to land the wind had forc'd our bark." This translator has a better sense of language: "with fears in mind / And tears in eye," and avoids the redundancy that I'm sure Zuke hated in 1a. This one has to be within fifty to a hundred years of 1a. B-

1 c

A "Poundian" version of the same passage. Probably not Pound himself. Pared-down and modern, with a minimum of Pound's usual archaisms:

"Then the dark: a deep river--alien
To our world--where the Cimmerii live:
In cloud and fog no sun ever
Broke, or a star. Beached in pitch-dark..."

A lot of spondees. It could have been written yesterday by Stan Lombardo, although "A Test of Poetry" (hithertoo ATOP) was published in 1948, when Stan was yet a babe or perhaps not even that. A

6 oct 2003

Fishblog has a weird correspondence between Aaron Tieger and Franz Wright, a poet singled out for praise by J. Houlihan. Aaron's crime: mentioning Wright in the same sentence as BILLY COLLINS! I thought I hated Collins, but Wright brings billiiaphobia this to a whole new level.
As I was leaving St. Louis this morning, there was a recording on the jazz station (WSIE) of Lester Young, late in his career. His phrasing and rhythm made me think so strongly of Parker that I formulated the aphorism: "No Prez, no Bird." Of course, by then (1956) he had been able to hear Bird himself. But I didn't get the sense he was imitating either.
Dr. Johnson's definition of a popular poetic form:: "sonnet: A short poem consisting of fourteen lines ... It is not very suitable to the English language."
Of course, "A Test of Poetry" is missing from the library. It should have been down in the basement with the Dewey decimal books of New Criticism--multiple copies of I.A. Richards and René Wellek. How much better Zukofsky has aged than the academic criticism of his age.

I'm going to be going through Zukofsky's "Test of Poetry" soon. As a way of sharpening my critical faculties. I've was always fascinated by I.A. Richards' experiment of giving students texts without the names of authors. (Of course, he proved they could not read at all.) Nowadays the fashionable thing to say is that, since we always read in a context, this sort of "cold" reading proves nothing at all. It appeals to me, though, in a perverse sort of way. Of course, there is plenty of context either way: I know what Zukofsky is about, the way he is following the example of Pound's ABC of Reading, etc...

2 oct 2003

Here's a paper I'm going to give in a few weeks. Very simplistic, I'm sorry to say, but I'm dealing with an audience that won't necessarily know very much about what I'm talking about. I can't use shorthand and assume everyone knows what I'm talking about, as I do on the blog. It should be provocative. To download the PDF file of the paper you will have to put in the password "poetics" when prompted. Top secret! Don't tell anyone. You didn't hear if from me.

If you have gone from a traditional taste to a more avant-garde taste I'd appreciate you sending me a brief statement that I can quote when people challenge my fool-hardy assertion that this is a common and irreversible path. If you've gone the other direction, or there and back, I'd also like to hear from you. Don't write more than a sentence or two.

I'm loving this sort of thing to be found on ~~ululations~~ recently:

"I have heard what the logarithmic Daedalus was talking, the talk of the
heterosexual osprey and the tsarina sailfish,
But I do not talk of the heterosexual osprey or the tsarina sailfish.

There was never any more entendre than there is now,
Nor any more nectareous cupidity or goldfinch furniture than there is now,
And will never be any more turpentine lubricity than there is now,
Nor any more limbo nibs or angelic emporiums than there is now.

Urge and urge and urge,
Always the tsunami urge of the world. "

The anti-Nobel prize. I have nothing against Coetzee, but I have decided every time they give out a prize I am going to award the anti-prize: for the person they should have given it to, if they were smart enough to listen to me. The anti-Nobel this year goes to Spanish poet

Antonio Gamoneda.

1 oct 2003

Gary is turning into ... me. A frightening thought, for sure.
On E l s e w h e r e Gary is doing his own face-off, related to the issue of Chain on translation.
I have until Monday to write an undergraduate course description for next semester. I can do any topic I want related to 20th-century Spain. I don't want to do exclusively poetry. I don't want a "theme." The continuity of the avant-garde tradition? The problem is that the students cannot read avant-garde texts very easily in a foreign language. I'm stymied. It can't be a course in Jonathanese, but it can't be something that's going to bore me before I even start. Women writers? That would work. I could do poets, essayists, and writers of short-stories in rapid alternation. My problem is that I'd rather learn than teach. I could do a course on short-forms: short-stories, poems, and essays. Everything but novels and longer plays, allow the "theme" to emerge by chance. This would work but would sound dumb in the course description itself.


I laughed out loud at some lines from J. Williams:

I saw a bank of red clay integrate with Jesuits.
I saw Bob Jones Bible University used to make baked flamingoes.

I saw the governer of Alabama join the NAACP.
I saw a black gum tree refuse to leaf and go to jail.


I saw "THE INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS" at the Tyger drive in.
I saw William Blake grow like a virus in the sun.

The poem I've extracted these lines for is called "Dealer's Choice and Dealer's Shufflle" and is dedicated to Burroughs. It's brilliant in a flarf (avant-la-lettre) way.
I got myself a used LP conga yesterday evening. Fiberglass, about 11 1/2 " in diameter. It has a nice ringing sound (but not too ringy) on the open tones. I'm not really sure if it is supposed to be a conga or a quinto. I can't get enough hours in on drumset to acquire any decent chops. Conga is quiet enough to practice anywhere. I should get a Gajate bracket so I can play cowbell with my foot.


Ron is going to have me reading Jonathan Williams today; the king of Southern logopeia. I've owned his selected pomes for I don't now how long. One of those books I was barely conscious of owning, but there it was, on my shelf.