29 feb 2004

I heard an archbishop on the radio saying that the abuse scandal was due to the church having underestimated the influence of the "Godless world" outside the church on the church itself. That makes perfect sense: it's the 3% who don't profess belief in the deity who are to blame for the sins of the 97% who do. It is not that religion is the ultimate source of evil. That would be too easy! It is that religion is ethically inert, does not, qua religion, lend its weight more to one side than the other of any ethical issue. This might seem strange, but it is historically demonstrable. White Southerners who opposed integration were as religious as Martin Luther King.
To make up for yesterday's lapse, I've read Some Words (Bronk).


To live without solace is possible because
solace is trivial: none is enough."
Today I read The World Doesn't End (Simic), standing up for twenty minutes in the bookstore. This kind of book, amusing as it is, just doesn't offer enough resistance to easy consumption. It seems all of a piece: the same tone, the same register, in each short prose poem. The same degree of unpredictability, or rather, predictability, since the jokes are all the same.

I didn't read any complete books yesterday. My idea is to avoid repeating any poets until I've read at least 200 books. At least I won't be reading anything else by Simic in the immediate future.

28 feb 2004

Yesterday: Transmigration Solo. Today? I haven't decided yet.

27 feb 2004

Yesterday's books were Some Other Kind of Mission (Jarnot) and Ridge to Ridge (Irby). The Irby book contains his work between 1990 and 2000. He has "chops," but it's not the kind of poetry I would ever attempt writing. I like the visuals in the Jarnot book, which I've had for a few years. What is a "meticule"?

What I've read so far as part of this project:

The Harbor Master of Hong Kong, Shroud of the Gnome, Sun, The Little Door Slides Back, Teoría del miedo, Theoretical Objects, Toujours l'amour, Some Other Kind of Mission, Ridge to Ridge
McSweeney's Internet Tendency: Get To School (A Sestina)

Jullia is eight, not nine, by the way.

26 feb 2004

I should thank Joseph Duemer for answering my Wittgenstein queries.
Heathens in Heat

David's back, with this increasingly odd exchange with Dale Smith.
The grad. students ended up liking Wittgenstein. They figured out that I liked Wittgenstein too; it reminded them of this blog. I take that as high praise.

I read most of the Philosophical Investigations yesterday between about 7 and 11 p.m. Bad mistake. I had a dream of teaching Wittgenstein that lasted what felt like all night. After working hard all night teaching I have to teach the PI for real at 2:30 p.m.

25 feb 2004

Today's book, Toujours l'amour (Ron Padgett). I try to read almost all of each book, but often skip over parts. Stuck in the middle of this book, with no relation to the dominant tone, is a chilling account of Tulsa race riots. It is the second half of a poem called "Radio," but appears to bear no relation to the first half, which really is about radios.

Ron (other Ron) tells me the line "Let's alter Altieri" is from Toner. Which raises the question, where is my copy of this book? I thought that I owned it, but I haven't seen it in at least eight years. I think it had gray cover.
This poem of mine on As/Is is not particularly accomplished, but it is timely, I think.
Just post the pictures already! Get the humiliation over with.
Yesterday the book of the day was Theoretical Objects (Piombino). I also read a third of several other books, as I normally do.

I liked this more than Boundary of Blur. The writing is sharper, somehow. Less "blurry"? The automatic manifestoes are fabulously thought-provoking. There's a touch of Beckett and of Ashbery in his prose.

I don't quite understand his critique of "style." I love style. What is the opposite of style, I wonder?

24 feb 2004

I got my copy of Theoretical Objects today. A grad student I was showing it to said: Oh, it's not theory it's poetry. And I said, no it's both. That how how Nick Piombino does theory.
{lime tree}: Personal Announcements. Congratulation to Kasey! I can't imagine a better poet/Shakespearian for this job in Ashland Oregon.

23 feb 2004

Read today, Teoría del miedo (Leopoldo María Panero).
Crag Hill's poetry scorecard: Post-Avant vs. School of Quietude, First InningUm... I think I already did this with the great BAP face-off of 2003.
I am more and more interested in the kind of "creativity" (sorry, I can't think of a better word for this) that involves knowing a particular code so well that one can turn it inside out, backwards, retrograde, etc... Kind of a Coltrane or Schönberg approach to art.
The book of the day is The Little Door Slides Back (Jeff Clark). Actually I read it yesterday before I fell asleep, so maybe I'll read another one today later on.

This has been the best book I've read (or in this case re-read) so far.


Trying to find the origin of the line "Let's alter Altieri." Silliman or Berstein?

22 feb 2004

Silliman's Blog

"In theory, New York School poets don’t, or didn’t, make this kind of dramatic use of the ear in the poem. In addition, there were only a few instances of NY School writing that used such great leaps from image to image, thought to thought, as this – some pieces in Ashbery’s Tennis Court Oath, Koch’s process driven When the Sun Tries to Go On & Berrigan’s similarly programmatic Sonnets, none of which looked at how architecturally those gaps look when used in a small space like these eleven lines. Ceravolo was doing something completely new & at the time it was all I could do just to recognize that fact."

You can't generalize about how New York poets don't do certain things, and then give super prominent examples of how they do exactly those same things. I'm sure I could come up with other examples. In theory. Yes, nobody else has Ceravolo's exact style: he is original, but in a way deeply ensconced in NY School poetics. Completely "original" but not "completely new." I don't mean to split hairs. It is Ron, I think, who often makes these kind of over-subtle judgments that don't really stand close scrutiny: "No other American poet combines ornithological terminology with surrealism in this exact way."
I'm going to see how long I can go without repeating a poet. Maybe 200? It will also force me, eventually, to go beyond the already read.
Today was Sun (Michael Palmer). I actually started it last night. I've had the book for a while, and had probably read most of it at one time or another, but most of it hadn't stuck. I like the last poem entitled "Sun": "We have burned their villages."
hellshaw.com - flann o'brien/myles na gcopaleen - the gaelic: "Cur, g. curtha and cuirthe, m. - act of putting, sending, sowing, raining discussing, burying, vomiting, hammering into the ground, throwing through the air, rejecting, shooting, the setting or clamp in a rick of turf, selling,addressing, the crown of cast iron buttons which have been made bright by contact with cliff faces, the stench of congealing badgers suet, the luminence of glue-lice, a noise made in a house by an unauthorised person, a heron's boil, a leprachauns denture, a sheep biscuit, the act of inflating hare's offal with a bicycle pump, a leak in a spirit level, the whine of a sewage farm windmill, a corncrakes clapper, the scum on the eye of a senile ram, a dustmans dumpling, a beetles faggot, the act of loading ever rift with ore, a dumb man's curse, a blasket, a 'kur', a fiddlers occupational disease, a fairy godmothers father, a hawks vertigo, the art of predicting past events, a wooden coat, a custard-mincer, a blue-bottles 'farm', a gravy flask, a timber-mine, a toy craw, a porridge mill, a fair day donnybrook with nothing barred, a stoats stomach-pump, a broken-"

21 feb 2004

I was interested in the phrase "drive he said" as a sort of "meme." "Drive he sd" gave me 82 results in a google search. "Drive he said" gave me 9660.
Why I attempted to write heroic couplets for my discussion questions on Perloff's "Wittgenstein's Ladder," I really have no idea. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Todays book was Shroud of the Gnome (James Tate). His schtick is hard to take in such large doses. I did smile more than once, though I wish he'd vary his tone once in a while. I remember once when he used one of those adverb/adjective set phrases (you know, like "woefully inadequate") I was caught up short. I can't find it now and don't remember which one it is. I'm sure it's meant ironically, but still...


Update: I think it was "abundantly clear."
I read last night The Frequencies by Noah Eli Gordon (Tougher Disguises). It is a beautifully produced book and highly enjoyable to read. Not like one of those books you are supposed to like. The extended metaphor (radio frequencies) works better than I expected it to. I didn't think he'd be able to sustain it to the end without repeating himself.

My goal is to read one book of poetry a day for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, I skipped Thursday, the day I had a ridiculous amount of work to do.

19 feb 2004

For some reason my theory students got hung up on whether it was grammatically incorrect to end a sentence with a preposition (it is not). I was trying to explain the concept of grammar as the logical structure of the language, not as a collection of school-marm prejudices.

The rave about Strunk & White over at Language Log is hilarious. Who knew the author of Charlotte's Web could give such poor advice?
Reading, or re-reading, a book a day. Yesterday was The Harbor Master of Hong Kong. Bromige is a deceptively good poet. He doesn't seem to have a lot of chops, but he actually does. I lose him when he starts to talk about capitalism in a kind of naive language-poety way, but his work has real charm and lightness of touch.

18 feb 2004

Work intrudes on blogging the rest of the day.
Jim McCrary at the poetics seminar today. Be there or be elsewhere.

17 feb 2004

Bemsha Swing:

I found this poem on my blog from about a year ago. I recognize that I wrote it, but have no actual memory of most of it. I know it was inspired by Eluard.

"Some Words I Have Been Using Incorrectly Up To This Point In My Life

Arugula mythological serpent
Fedora surrealist breakfast salad green
Bereft free from rodents
Brogue unconscious slip
Aspersions small scuffs on windshield "
Stephen Burt: Their Kind of Town. A nice review of Jordan Davis and a few other poets as well.
Eagle's Wing:

"10. I can hear Thelonious
Monk play Bemsha Swing
and that is the name of my dad's blog"
::: wood s lot :

"from 19 Ways Of Hearing A Piano Play
Julia Mayhew
Eagle's Wing

19. Last of all is when
all the music is played together
to make a sad and happy or mad
song together "
I never make predictions, especially about the future, but I can say honestly that I predicted the Alex Rodríguez obsession at Jim Behrle's Famous Monkey.
A corresondent writes:



ᇠÔÓ‰?Ó·ÌÓÈ ËÌÙÓ?χˆËÂÈ Ó· ÛÒÎÛ„Â Ô?ÓÒ¸·‡ Ó·?‡‡Ú¸Òfl ÔÓ ÚÂÎÂÙÓÌÛ: 263-1719, 263-2435, 8-901-710-9443 ëÂ?„ÂÈ ëÂ?ÍÓ‚, ÄÎÂÍ҇̉? ìÎfl¯Â‚.
äÓÏÔ‡ÌËfl «ëÓ?Á- ?‡ÒÔ?ÓÒÚ?‡ÌÂÌË».
"To understand it [literature] does not mean primarily to reason one's way back into the past, but to have a present involvement with what is said." --Gadamer.

16 feb 2004

The Brutal Kittens quotes a student saying this:

"It seems as though The Idea of Order at Key West is a poem meant to be read, read again, and eventually understood. . . I guess it got me thinking about where Wallace Stevens comes into the current discussions we are engaged in. . .I want to read The Idea of Order at Key West and appreciate it wholly, but there is this underlying question or gnawing that says: That’s not a poem that anyone now would ever think or dare to write. What can it teach me then? I guess the question I’m getting at- how does one use those old poets as teachers? When someone asks me, “Who are your influences?” how come replying “Wallace Stevens,” feels absurd to me? I feel as though the real teachers, the real influences for me can only be people who are writing now, and in such a way that it forces me to constantly re-examine how to read, why to read etc."

I agree completely with what James says about this. How could you not be influenced by everyone who ever wrote? It would never occur to me to think an "old poet" was less relevant than a contemporary.

Corey has passed the dreaded doctoral exams and will now start the dreaded dissertation.
If there be nothing new, but that which is
Hath been before, how are our brains beguiled,
Which, laboring for invention, bear amiss
The second burden of a former child.
O that record could with a backward look,
Even of five hundred courses of the sun
Show me your image in some antique book,
Since mind at first in character was done:
Then I might see what the old world could say
To this composed wonder of your frame;
Whether we are mended, or whe'er better they,
Or whether revolution be the same.
O, sure I am the wits of former days
To subjects worse have given admiring praise. (Sonnet 59)

This poem proposes a solution to an unsolvable equation, unsolvable because there are two (maybe 4?) unknown variables: w is to y as x is to z. W is William Shakespeare, y the young man he is praising in the sonnets. The relation between them is parallel to that of x, a poet in the olden days to the objects of his panegyrics, z. In order to solve the problem we have to know how y would appear transported back in time 500 years, Piombino style, into a poem by x. Then we would also know how good a poet w is, in comparison to x. The other variables have to do with the worth of the objects being praised. "To subjects worse" implies that there is some doubt about the worthiness of the person WS himself is praising.

I am constantly thinking that I had a keener mind a year or so ago. Yet I know things now I didn't then. What I know is exchanging places with what I don't know.
I am getting ready to teach Gadamer in a few days, and suddenly realized I haven't ever actually read the text I've assigned. I just assume it says what other commentators say that it says. I will find out tonight if I am correct.

15 feb 2004

I found an interesting example of "time travel" in Shakespeare's sonnets. I'll try to explain on Monday. I left the text in Kansas.


Maybe I should assign On Certainty instead of the PI?
In retrospect very few projects seem as dull as that proposed by Culler in Structuralist Poetics, to devise a stuctural model of literary competence using a Chomskyean model. To describe what it is an English professor ca. 1976 knows.
Bemsha Swing:

Almost a year ago I wrote:

"Nick Piombino has a blog, 'fait accompli,' link to your left. When I started mine I only knew Silliman's, so I didn't think of some clever name for it like 'Free Space Comix' or 'Elsewhere.' I feel it's too late to rename it now, and I like its prosaic quality and google searchability. I discovered also that if you do a google search for 'Ron Silliman' 'Jordan Davis' you will get 'Jonathan Mayhew's Blog' as the number one choice. Does that mean I'm the third point of a triangle? Probably not. I had to explain to my graduate course today what solipsism meant: no one had ever heard the term. "

13 feb 2004

An unlocatable anxiety, associated not with any particular event, but with a cluster of worries.

12 feb 2004

What I meant about Warsh not being inferior to other, better-known novelists. It was a kind of back-handed way of expressing myself. What I meant to say is that the idea that the Jonathan Franzens, Joyce Carol Oates, Don DeLillos, Doris Lessings, of the world are prominent novelists seems quite arbitrary to me. I'm not criticizing their work, I'm just saying that an obscure novel by Warsh or Fanny Howe or Michael Brownstein is likely to be just as rewarding. (And that's making the weakest possible case.) Of course, my snobbish pleasure in reading things off the beaten course is part of why I enjoy finding novels by poets more than by "novelists." This isn't even about the avant-garde vs. quietude distinction, since the poets' novels can be quite conventional at times.

11 feb 2004

A year ago on this blog I wrote:

Saintsbury's prose is extraordinary. Ungainly and elegant, redundant and pithy by turns. This is the conclusion of his remarks on Edward Bysshe, an early 18th-century prosodist:

"I think he was utterly wrong--wrong most of all in discarding feet; wrong in dwelling too much on accent; wrong in countenancing 'elision'; wrong in his estimate of various metres; wrong everywhere and every way except in some points of rhyme. But he was wrong with a fascinating and logical sequaciousness; and he was wrong, as a theorist, in the manner of a real and eminent heresiarch."

Earlier he talks of how Bysshe is either "immediately above or immediately below nullity." Try to picture that.

I finished A Free Man (Warsh). What strikes me is that it is not in any way inferior to novels written by writers known for their novels.

I got my copy of Stubborn Grew (Gould) yesterday as well. I've only read the first poem of the first section of Book I. I'm not going to comment extensively until I've read the entire book, but I have to say that the first line is arrestingly beautiful: "Time flowers on the lips of whispered clay."

10 feb 2004

John Kerry's remarks on gay marriage last night disgusted me (NPR interview). If it's a religious matter, well, lots of clergy already sanction same-sex unions. No one is forcing any particular church to go along. It's the state that's saying no, as far as extending equal benefits/rights. Is it some sort of fetish with the word itself? Casarse means "set up house."
I read about half of the Warsh novel last night. I hadn't read a novel in so long I was out of practice. This technique of grouping a series of personality traits, a personal history, etc... around a proper noun seemed strange to me. I had to remember who the characters were. I had to prevent myself from skipping over paragraphs where the information content seemed comparatively "poor." It is an excellent novel, one that I never would have read were it not for the name of the author and the Sun & Moon imprint. I like Warsh's poems that are a series of aphorisms/observations:

"You could say the characters in The Bible were obsessed with hiding their nakedness."

9 feb 2004

Kent Johnson's architecture quiz. Brilliant as it is. Why I would never take it. The answers are already implicit in the questions. The only question should be: "Write an elaborate quiz about the relations between poetry and architecture." But that's already been done! I'd rather design the game than play it.
I'm reading, about to read, A Free Man by Lewis Warsh. I've also checked out from Avenue of Escape. The first is a novel, the second book of poems. The rare book room has many other items by Warsh.

HG Poetics:

" It's as if we were supposed to be a devoted fan club for some obscure chess association, and required to be up to speed on the personal lives, gossip, awards ceremonies, funeral orations, etc., and that this somehow was the substance of the way of life. . ."
"See the black bird
in that tree
trying out the branches, puzzled.
I am up here with you
puzzled against the rain
blinking my eyes."

--Ceravolo, title poem from Transmigration Solo.

"Mira el pájaro negro
en ese árbol
probando las ramas, perplejo.
Estoy contigo aquí arriba
perplejo contra la lluvia

7 feb 2004

Why do people write like this?

"A calligraphic inscription unfolds sequentially as characters are traditionally written down a surface in vertical columns and aligned across in horizontal rows from right to left or left to right. An implied vertical axis at the center of each column serves as a coherence-generating constraint for the spatio-temporal structuring of the individual written characters."

The idea is a good one, but the expression is clumsy. I don't know whether the "as" in the first sentence means "while" or "since." The word "traditionally" would imply that it means "since." I also don't understand "constraint" in this context.
How much do you want for your copy of Fits of Dawn? I'm as geeky about this as Gary is about his books on Bollywood.

6 feb 2004

I just saw this exhibit at the Spencer Art Museum:

It is quite extraordinary.
fait accompli

I'm jealous Nick found Fits of Dawn
I never knew Gil Ott. His was one of those names in the penumbra of my consciousness. I had seen the name quite a bit, but never read the poetry. Now I will read his poetry, because of his untimely death. Ron's tribute today is well worth reading.
Stephanie, quoting Julia.
Of course, no one called me. What did I expect? That was a dumb idea.


Update: David Shapiro called me a day later to talk about Ceravolo's spelling of the word "millennium."

5 feb 2004

I checked out a copy of Millenium Dust from the library. I just noticed that it is not Millennium Dust as it perhaps should be. This has very little interest, except that I myself only learned that the word had two "n"s very recently, when I put a grant proposal through a spell-checker.
Call me, let's talk. 785 864-0287. Before 11 a.m. central.


Make that until 3 p.m central. Or 4-6. Classes are cancelled today because of the blizzard.

4 feb 2004

Eagle's Wing:

"What's the big
fuss about how I look? I always
wonder about that question."


Language Hat has always been a big fan of Julia's poems. He posts this one today.

3 feb 2004

I was visitor number 100,002 on Silliman's Blog. I came that close to hitting the magic number.

I was also visitor 99.372.

Have some Breakfast on me.

Eagle's Wing: "I WISH I HAD WINGS (Sestina)".

I didn't even know Julia had written this. Her mom most have typed it in last night. I think it is one of her best sestinas so far.
The urge to collect additional Ceravolo books... Some are quite difficult to find, but the internet makes it all too easy.

2 feb 2004

My pristine copy of Transmigration Solo has arrived. Thanks Wonderland Books for the meticulous wrapping job!
HG Poetics: " An establishment in which poetry actually plays no part whatsoever. This may sound like zen but it's just basic literary criticism."

I agree completely. What I've come to conclude about literary theory: the real subject of literary theory is the academic institution itself in which this theory takes place. After all, why would anyone care about whether the meaning of the poem is inherent in the text, is the product of the author's intention, is created in the reader, or is the product of a Fishian "interpretive community" - unless there was some institutional context in which any of this mattered?

So yes, Silliman's opposition to SoQ has to do mostly with the institutional powers that influence public discussion of poetry. If only the New York Times Book Review contained more reviews of interesting books, people would be reading better poetry! This has nothing to do with poetry itself, but everything to do with access to it. I don't think you should have to be already hooked into the avant-garde system to even know this kind of writing exists. I know it's a tired argument, but it needs to be repeated as long as the conditions haven't changed.

I remember a time when you could find Gilbert Sorrentino discussing William Bronk in the NYTBR, so this is not an impossible goal. We should also have reviews of Henry Gould and numerous other poets in places where the mainstream reader, whoever she is, can find them.

Imagine the students at a particular university on the West Coast start up a widget club. They develop their own tradition of making widgets, and have internalized certain standards. They all pretty much agree, in other words, on what makes a good widget and who the best widget makers are.

A student from another university on the East Coast transfers to West Coast University in her junior year and notices that they have a widget club. She joins, but finds herself at odds with the other members of the club, since on the East Coast there is a quite different idea of what makes a good widget. She starts her own rival club, "Eastern Style Widgeting for the continentally displaced."

Members of the two clubs pretty much ignored each other. There was always that one guy who, even though he practiced the West Coast style, insisted on joining the East Coast club (or vice-versa). The idea was that you should be able to practice whatever form of widgeting you wanted, in whichever of the two clubs you chose. The other perspective was expressed by the proverb: "If you want to practice East Coast Widgeting, move to the East Coast."

Some students tried to get a third club going, for those who wanted to fuse the two styles. The problem was that there were always tensions between those who were "really" more Eastern or Western.