30 ene 2004

It was my comment about the cymbal that Stephanie took personally. Which shows that anything can be a metaphor for anything else. Cheer up, Stephanie!

29 ene 2004

If you are worried about being self-absorbed you probably aren't. Like Nick said about narcisissism a week or so ago.
Bad Coriolis

Why I care about the fact that some people believe that water drains in a different direction in the Southern Hemisphere is a mystery to me.
I've added comments to my theory blog You are welcome to comment there even if your're not in the class.

Julia got her first poetry acceptance yesterday. In Spoon river. Thanks Gabe. She is happy, but I think her mother is more excited than she is.

28 ene 2004

The three tonal ranges of a cymbal. Upper register: sizzle or sibiliance, high-pitched overtones. The middle: ideally, at least, a clearer, bell-like tone. Lower-end: gongy undertones. For what could all this be a metaphor?
Recently found a copy of this on the internet. I can't wait to get it.

Tom Beckett has a blog now:Vanishing Points of Resemblance

Fresh perspectives are always welcome. I found the link on Nick's blog.

I'm changing my language back to Icelandic in honor of Arctic weather today.
Save me from self-absorption.

27 ene 2004

I ordered my copy of Stubborn Grew today. I really don't read poetry well on the computer screen. I need the physical book. I can't predict what my critical reaction to the entire book will be. That's what makes reading exciting.


Taught the first theory class today. I thought it went well. I feel strange teaching in English. I've only taught two courses in English in my entire life. Maybe we'll do it in Spanish on Thursday.
I'm not crazy about Sun Ra.
I had a dream last night. A grey van stopped at a stop light right in front of me flipped over for no reason. I jumped out of my car, opened the door of the van, and pulled out the driver, a woman in her 30s. Another, older woman nearby had also stopped. I asked if she had a cell-phone. She did, so I yelled for her to call 911. I had to tell her twice. The woman was still breathing and conscious. I told her not to move, in case she had any spinal injuries. The paramedics came in about a minute and put her on a stretcher.

Now I was bothered by the fact that the van had flipped over for no reason. When I woke, I figured out that my mind was the author of the narrative, but that I hadn't worked out the physics of motion sufficient to produce a convincing accident. My mind as observer of the accident was thus puzzled by something that was the product of another part of my mind. I willed the van to flip over, in some sense, but was not conscious of my having done so.

I've actually seen an interpretation of Coltrane that claimed that his aim in playing "My Favorite Things" was to destroy Richard Rodger's song. The writer was trying to make it into a racial issue. I wish I could find it and refute it point by point. I think I saw it quoted in the first chapter of a book on Baraka.

A more subtle version of this fallacy is that jazz musicians raise basically middle-brow (or low brow) music to the level of high art. The problem here is that jazz musicians don't see it in these terms. They wouldn't put themselves "above" their material in this way. Look at Ella's songbooks, for example.

This is a difficult question for me because I was raised on this dogma, so to speak, and have had to separate myself from it. I should have never read all those books by Martin Williams. (I should have read them, but rejected certain implications therein.) I still hold to my interior hierarchies of value, of course. My love for the "high-brow" jazz tradition does not prevent me from loving things that do not necessarily rise to this level.

26 ene 2004

The idea of the compositional insignificance of the "composition" in jazz arose reactively, as a way of explaining jazz to those who weren't familiar with improvisation, or of legitimizing jazz to those who saw it as an inferior brand of popular (non-serious) music.

The idea that compositions by song-writers such as Richard Rogers, Harold Arlen, Duke Ellington, and George Gershwin are of negligible or indifferent quality is clearly mistaken. The fact is that jazz improvisers gravitate toward songs that they admire and love.

Another, related idea is that the song provides only a series of chord changes, and that the original melody has no relevance. This is true of some improvisation, in which the players simply "blow" over the changes, but the melody is greatly significant to a great proportion of the more subtle improvisors. I've come to see melodic "paraphrase" as more satisfying that sheer improvisational "composition," when the latter is reduced to less structured arpeggios on the chords.

There are "ironical" treatments of standard material, it is true. Thelonious Monk playing "Lulu's Back in Town" in a campy way, for example. But "serious" treatments are in even more abundance: in Miles Davis's ballad playing, for example. Miles also plays the melody of the original song in paraphrase rather than a totally unrelated composition on the same changes.

The desire of jazz musicians to compose their own originals is also evidence in favor of my thesis. I could argue that Monk, Mingus, Ellington, Shorter, are more important as composers than as players. The traditional focus on improvisation might devalue these figures unjustly. If jazz were a pure "blower's" art, there might be no need to write new music.

Nothing in what I'm saying should be construed as a devaluation of improvisation. What I'm really saying is that that improvisation was promoted at the expense of composition, as though the two had to be put into opposition.
Some jazz myths I'd like to examine, all having a common theme but expressing themselves in forms like this:

--jazz musicians have a predominately antagonistic (or indifferent) relation to the composed material on which they improvise

--jazz musicians turn inferior musical compositions into great music

--the only "composition" relevant to jazz is improvisation itself

25 ene 2004

Another problem I have: everything new interesting thing I read I want to assign for my class, perhaps universalizing my own personal interest excessively.
I have to write some questions on a Thomas Kuhn article for day after tomorrow for the Theory blog. Humanists want to see him (mistakenly, I think) as a relativist, and this particular article aims to answer the critique from scientists and philosophers of science who accuse him more or less of the same thing. What the humanists celebrate is what the scientists fear: the idea that science is not "objective."

It (The Stucture of Scientific Revolutions) one of the books that almost everyone tends to misrepresent or oversimplify--sort of like Borges' "Pierre Menard" which I think is much more subtle than from the prevailing, "skeptical" reading would allow. What if "Pierre Menard" means the opposite of what everyone thinks it means?

My choice to start the theory class with a philosophy of science essay is quite perverse. But I think the idea of paradigm choice is fundamental no matter what the discipline.

Chris mixes it up with Henry. I actually deleted a post (before publishing) about Henry Gould yesterday. It didn't seem worth it.

23 ene 2004

I lack an essential ingredient in my poetic make-up: that utter faith in my own talent. Great poets know that they are great, at some level. On the other hand, not-so-great ones also "know" that they are great. They've made the wager. I, on the other hand, "know" that I'm not. I'm too good a critic for that.

22 ene 2004

Henry Gould's project is a deeply serious one, deserving of our respect. When you put forward such inflated claims about your own place in literary history, however, some readers will be skeptical. Maybe it's the tone of the passage I quote below that rubbed me the wrong way. If readers don't recognize me as the great poet I am, they are to blame. They haven't read me carefully enough. It couldn't possibly be that my poetry is not as great as I think it is!
HG Poetics:

"My long-poem work & poetry in general poses something of a challenge to the supposed keepers of the modernist/postmodern poetry flame. This is, I guess, at least one of the factors behind my longstanding margin-of-the-margins status, from the days of Buffalo List unto the day of Blog.

By having the chutzpa to shuffle the 'lineage' with a new long poem, and asserting its legitimacy as such; by counterbalancing the Pound/Williams/Zukofsky/Olson stream with an emphasis on Crane/Joyce/Mandelstam (Russified by a narrative which begins with a search for a lost cat named Pushkin); by insisting on rhyme, and stanza, and narrative, and character(s), & personhood, and continuity, & 'readable' (allusive) meaning (at least to a limited extent) - this stance as a whole calls into question any number of literary-historical shibboleths regarding US poetry, its sources, directions, etc.
& yet I have the funny feeling I will win this battle, because I think my poetry is more alive & complex than all their theories, mutual-aid networks & anthologies put together."

I guess someone wanting to read that sort of long poem would be more likely to turn to Derek Walcott. This alternative is hardly marginalized: Walcott has won the Nobel prize after all. And a huge mainstream of American poets and critics would agree on the importance of "personhood" (traditional subjectivity?) and readability. You've got to admire Henry's sense of self-importance, though!

A year ago today on Bemsha Swing:

vikudagur, janúar 22, 2003
Clark Coolidge, another on my top twenty list, which only includes 19 in order to leave room for error. An incredibly powerful sense of sound and rhythm, obviously. I love the way he watches himself write, examining the process of writing as he goes along. Ambivalence? There are vast stretches I haven't yet come to terms with, especially in his later and very early work. For me, he hit a peak in the late 1970s and early 1980s. "Own Face" is an extraordinary book. Likewise "The Crystal Text." I used to think he wrote too much, but then I realized that quantity, in this case, is an integral part of the entire project. You couldn't ask him to write less, anymore than you could limit Jordan to a thousand poems. I have about 100 favorite Coolidge poems. I think somewhere he calls this "the plethoric mode." I usually like short poems, hence my interest in Williams, Creeley, Niedecker, etc... Coolidge I like both short and long. I started playing drums because of him. What better inspiration? And all that cave and mineral imagery...
List of people I'm indifferent to...

Nah, I don't care enough to draw up the list.
Theory With a Capital B is up and going in preparation for the new semester. The first text is "Bewilderment" by Fanny Howe.

B is for Borges, Barthes, Barth, Barthelme, Bakhtin, Benjamin, Bemsha, Burke, Blanchot, Butor, Baudrillard, Baudelaire, Beckett, Bernstein, Boufault, Berrriba... Bhabha, Babel, Bronk, Booth, Berrigan...

Guess what? I don't really believe in theory! I don't believe one sort of writing can stand in judgment over another. For me, theory is the genre of writing by writers whose surnames begin with the letter B.
Reading The Wedding Dress: Meditations on Word and Life by Fanny Howe. UC Press, 2--3.

21 ene 2004

Found: an invitation to write an article by fines de febrero de 2004. I received it 11 months ago. I still have time if I can think of something to write for Studi ispanici in Milan.
This "Fistful of Soundtracks" internet station is also pretty cool.
Do just one or two things differently every day.
Cleaning my office makes me into an archeologist of my self.
I want to give up things that don't do me any good and that I do for no good reason: allowing scraps of paper to accumlate everywhere I go. My goal is to have a paper free office. Only pieces of paper that I am dealing with at the moment will be in sight.

20 ene 2004

Obviously I have nothing to say or I wouldn't be changing the langauge of my date every day and going on about the internet jazz station.

19 ene 2004

Whoever programs this radio station loves Eric Dolphy. The description of the station is "the likes of Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Er..." I was trying to figure out what the Er... stood for and it suddenly came to me. He is not only on his "own" recordings, but also playing with Max Roach, George Russell, and Coltrane himself. I'll probably hear him next with Mingus.

18 ene 2004

I'm wondering whether they have only a limited number of songs in their playlist. They've played a lot of a Chico Hamilton/Eric Dolphy group that I had never heard before. On the other hand, I have only 260 songs in my hard drive, all of which I've bought on cd, so I am more than doubling my music, even if they have only 500 which they play repeatedly.

And a version by Cecil Taylor of the Monk composition "Bemsha Swing."
I finally have a decent internet connection at home, with an airport card in my laptop. There is a wonderful internet radio station that plays only things like Coltrane, Miles, Dolphy, Shorter, Taylor, Coleman, and Shepp. DIfm modern jazz. I haven't heard anything shabby on it yet.

16 ene 2004

Date format of the day = Swedish.

15 ene 2004

The language of the day is Catalan.

Dictat pel capvespre,
dictat per l'aire fosc, el cercle s'obre
i hi habitem: transicions, espai
intermedi. No el lloc
de revelació, sinó el lloc
del retrobament. El glavi
que divideix la llum.

--Pere Gimferrer

14 ene 2004

If Jimmy Behrle can put his dates in Finnish so can I. I am guessing "kuu" means "month."
1946-1947 Fall term:

English Aa
(English Composition, Mr. Morrison and others)

German Aa
(Elementary German, Dr. Zipf and others)

Music Aa
(Elementary Harmony, Assisant Professor Fine)

Psychology 1

(Elementary Psychology, Professor Boring)
I saw the typo in last post "justificably" and decided to let it stand. I found it case of "justificable" error.

No, you cannot be Frank O'Hara "minus the gay parts." I don't remember which blogger said that.

"At this time I reread Ulysses, needing to throw up my sensibility and Joyce's art into the face of my surroundings; I found that Joyce was more than a match, I was reassured that what was important to me would always be important to me; deprived of music I wrote pieces which turned out to be something like the early Bartok, and I wrote awful poetry compounded of Donne, Whitman, and Cummings, which I later destroyed. I found that I myself was my life: it had never occured to me before; now I knew that the counters with which I dealt with my life were as valid in unsympathetic surroundings as they had been in sympathetic ones; for art is never a retreat; the person who cannot face himself enough to face the world on certain given terms may find that other terms are more suitable to his psyche: this is a matter of self-knowledge, not cowardice; there is no ivory tower; there are arrangements resulting from physical, intellectual, emotional, aesthetic sensitivities which dictate a particular way of life; but no one way of life is more valid than another; I had subconsciously felt this, and now I knew it. From that monstrous womb: a second birth."

This is a canny aestheticism, that asserts itself.

Needless to say, Frank's piece was vastly more brilliant than my paper on Flann. Albert G. thought Flann O'Brien's prose dull (and my own as well, more justificably.) I was a TA in his class with Maria Damon and Tom Lutz.

Of course, Frank was not yet "Frank O'Hara" at that point. Trying to imagine him as a Military Policeman!
Albert Guérard once gave me an A- for paper I wrote on Flann O'Brien. He gave Frank O'Hara a B+ for "Lament and Chastisement," a memoir of WW II.

13 ene 2004

I am rarely in Kansas when I am not teaching. I have a week of relative freedom, however, in which I am attempting to put together most of a book of criticism I have been working on since 1996. I finally think it has a shape flexible yet coherent enough to work. I am using three sections of three chapters each.

Dale Smith points out that I got the title of his poem wrong in the BAP face-off. It is Haniel Long not Daniel Hang. I am deeply embarrassed. It makes me wonder how many other errors are lurking there.

12 ene 2004


"I start at three machine-tanned bottle-blonded women who come together, peel to bright dresses, and perch under the lights along the bar. They get identical orange drinks, which they sip through thin straws and pretty good teeth. Outside, it's still December and we're on the old cold Baltic shore. Inside, cheap vacations are still available."

This is the sort of writing that grabs me. The same goes for the prose-poems on "texture notes." Yet I am indifferent to the poems of bloggers x, y, and z.

Sure, Silliman is closing in on 100,000 visitors to his blog. But at least 700 of those visitors have been named Jonathan Mayhew.
Even within my own tradition of writing, I am only truly compelled by maybe about 20% of what I read. Many writers I ought to admire are forbidden to me. This is as it should be. Someone else will take care of the other 80%. (Ron Silliman, for example.) I've decided to stop worrying about my limitations as a reader. I will go to readings and applaud the poets I don't "get." I won't go out of my way to dismiss their work, usually.
Octopus Magazine - Issue 02, in case you missed the BAP face-off the first time around.
Number 1000.

11 ene 2004

Dale Smith and Kent Johnson in Beatnik Bob's café at the City Museum in St. Louis last night. In attendance were Jonathan Mayhew, David Hess, Aaron Belz (series organizer), and Gabriel Gudding, and others whose names I didn't catch. We all went down the slide to the ground floor afterwards and had a drink by a fire in the funky setting of the Cabin Inn. Kent read first, only four poems. Two about the Iraq that I had read before and a discomfiting poem dedicated to Aaron. (Discomfiting to Aaron I'm sure!) Then a piece from Yasusada. His style of reading is quite effective.

Dale read some aphorisms at the end that I especially liked. He had recently been in Lawrence with Ken Irby and Lee Chapman. Gabe snapped some pictures of readers and audience members that might appear on his blog in a bit. David told us about his operation (don't ask, don't tell).

9 ene 2004

From unpleasant event by way of equanimity:

"I too am a first-time reader of her work [Niedecker]. My first impression was of flat haiku-ish minimalism, which tends to leave me with a "so much depends" shrug."

My first impression of this sentences leaves me with a "fuck off you dilletante asshole idiot, who are you to use a William Carlos Williams line as an inflammatory, adjectival" shrug.

8 ene 2004

So the dogmatic person would be the one who says: "I happen to like Linda Pastan, but I refuse to say why or have my preferences questioned. It's just my personal taste." Like Fish's notorious "interpretive communities." Every individual ends up being a community of one. There can be no dialogue because once there is disagreement the community splits into two.

The fallacy of taste as a matter of individual preferences. Surely taste is social rather than individual! But I'm sure I've already said that on this blog.
Is it "dogmatic" to defend a particular point of view? To engage in spirited debate? I would think this the opposite of dogmatic. Yet when I want to engage others in debate, as opposed to maintaining a sort of easy-going, anything-goes posture, I am accused of this. Why should someone feel threatened when his "taste" is under question? If you can't defend your taste, you aren't "entitled" to it.

For some reason, I am also accused sometimes of looking down on popular culture. I love popular culture. I also love elite culture. I'm not too crazy about a lot in the middle range, it's true. Give me Clint Eastwood over Merchant-Ivory any day.

7 ene 2004

The phrase Le neveu de Silliman is not Spanish but French. In Spanish it would be "El sobrino de Silliman."
I mustn't forget to go see Dale Smith and Kent Johnson at the City Museum on Saturday. If you're in St. Louis I'll see you there. Then it's off to Kansas on Sunday. Then back in St. Louis. Then back in Kansas, etc...
I somehow missed running into Tim Yu at the MLA. It would have been good to meet him.
More MLA notes:

I had some high quality conversation at the MLA with Kasey and Michael (Magee). We had some coffee after the Marjorie Perloff session on metonymy was cancelled. Others I met in San Diego and might not have mentioned yet were David Larsen, Patrick Durgin, Walter Lew, and Juliana Spahr. Nick Lolordo is an intense, brilliant guy; we talked after the mega-reading and again after the Haryette Mullen reading/q and a the night after. I really enjoyed the Mullen event, by the way. She combines low-brow and high-brow sensibilities in a refreshing way that by-passes the middle.

I really liked the poem Joshua Clover read at the mega-reading at the art museum. Members of the audience, including David Larsen and Brent Cunningham, read contrapuntal voices in a totally unexpected way. Antin and Rothenberg did not impress me much in this setting. I maybe expected a more "performative" dimension to their reading.

Thankfully noone from the bloggers came to my own session. I don't think it went well at all, since the point I was trying to get across was interpreted in more simplistic terms. Not that I was saying anything all that complex! I realize my understanding of Spanish poetry is way "out there," compared to that of anyone/everyone else. I was critiquing certain aspects of the high/late modernist movement in contemporary Spain. I contextualized it by saying that I identified with the fundamental tenets of the movement. What some people came away with was this contextualization, not the imbedded critique.

6 ene 2004

Apparently what I missed was Gary and Nada's engagement. Congratulations to them.
I'm back. Happy new year to all. What have I missed?