31 may 2004

The Jim Behrle Show: And This Bird You Cannot Change: "What's really being discredited in the SF Chronicle review Ron mentions today is the prevailing past paradigm of poetics, one in which one poet is placed before another poet and another. That's one way of understanding poems that we'd be better off without. That somehow we can't possibly 'make it new' because it's all been done is pretty funny."
Could there be a secret plot to make Jeff Clark into the next Robert Lowell? I think I've finally figured it out. What I was missing was that Ron Silliman is actually part of the conspiracy. There was a danger that, by being published by a big "trade" house better known for publishing Nobel Prize winners and assorted riff-raff, Clark would lose his avant-post "cred." So Silliman steps in with a strategic, pre-emptive attack. Knowing full well that this attack will provoke others to jump to Jeff's defense. It almost doesn't matter whether the book is good or not at this point. And most people don't really care about where a book is published. Shouldn't that be a secondary consideration anyway?
I invented a new concept a few days ago: the "work sleep." It is when your dreams are so strenuously work related that you are actually working while sleeping. Appropriately enough, I was asleep when I came up with this phrase.

28 may 2004

I tend to keep a lot of things in the trunk of my car. Cleaning it out the other day, I found this text. Unbelievable though it sounds, It appears to be a poem written by the trunk of my car itself! It isn't particularly good, but what do you expect from the trunk of a car?

Poem by the Trunk of my Car

I contain a set of Julia's clothes, in a plastic bag

A jack, a spare, a quart of oil, a rag

Jordan Davis's suitcase was in me recently, heavy with books from Chicago

Ron Silliman's might soon be loaded here

A copy of Wittgenstein's Tractatus has been in me a long while

Too dark in here to read!

"The world is everything that is the case"

This poem is everything that is the case

about the contents of the trunk which I happen to be

This is post #1500 to Bemsha Swing (TBFKAJMB).


How well assimilated are the Celan stylistic memes in As In Every Deafness? (Graham Foust)

"Find the un-
inevitable remainder

as the city's sleepers clamor for
a bird's worth of air."


"in manikin skin
after contrary Autumn."

The style is applied to a different "subject matter." Often it is the title that gives the referent, the key to understanding the poem. For example, "Blackout Drinking" or "Kurt Cobain." I like the book quite a bit, despite my open question about the fairly obvious stylistic debt to the German-language poet.

But I've noticed I see stylistic derivativeness where others don't see it. Maybe I'm wrong in this case too.

More on obligatory transitives here.

Here's another one for keep: Bush's tax cuts allow the rich to keep on keeping.
Looking at Music and Suicide at Border's just now. Looking at the total package, book desgin, author photo, etc... I felt they were aiming for a "tragically hip," "this is not your father's FSG," vibe. At $20 + tax, I'd rather buy it off the internet, so I didn't make my purchase yet. The opening stanza of the book, quoted by Ron a few days ago, strikes a retro, Frank O'Hara before he was Frank O'Hara chord. (I'm thinking of poems like "Easter," written in the 1950s and critically maligned by some.) The publisher is aiming for a third path between mainstream and avant-garde. And I think they are hitting the right tone in so doing. This is the book the kids will steal (to quote Jordan's review of Franz Wright). {If only there were kids any longer.) I should point out that you can't buy a book by Ron Silliman in Border's, which is really a shame. There is a kind of purity in publishing with a house that won't be able to place your book in actual book stores. Even if I buy Jeff Clark's book mail-order, I'm still glad it's reached my local Chain store.

As for the actual poetry, I haven't given the book a thorough reading. I do think it's better than some are giving it credit for. Even that first poem! I think it holds its own with the Graham Foust book (which I just purchased yesterday). More about this book later, perhaps.
Finders Keepers

I can't leave this topic alone, for some reason. I can think of a few cases where keep might be acceptable with an implicit rather than explicit direct object:

"--He borrows a lot from you, doesn't he?

--He not only borrows, he keeps."

"--How come you don't have more money in the bank?

--I have no problems earning; I just can't seem to keep."

Or imagine the author of Ecclesiastes writing:

"There is a time to give away and a time to keep."

Or if Worsworth had written:

"The world is too much with us; late or soon,
Earning and keeping, we amass a store..."

In the first two cases, the verb requires an extra stress. Part of the wit might be derived from the ungrammaticality. There is a shift in register. In the pseudo-Ecclesiastes and pseudo-Wordsworth examples, I don't see any such shift.

There is also the expression: "It's not the having it's the keeping." So I've come up with examples using conjugated verbs, infinitives, present participles, and gerunds. As for their acceptability, you be the judge.

My conclusion: no verb in English is obligatorily transitive. If the direct object is implicit from context, we have the same situation as a verb whose object is already implicit because of the nature of the verb itself: "We eat at 7." "In this daycare center we do not bite or kick."

The normally transitive verb used this way acquires the force of a general rule (tendency) or a maxim. It has a certain apodictic charge. In my Spanish poetry I love to use transitive verbs with no object for precisely this effect.


I wasn't even thinking about the intranstive uses of the verb in sentences like "Natural peanut butter will keep best in the refrigerator." Henry reminded me of the expression: "How're you keeping?" (i.e. How are you holding up?).

And I wasn't thinking of sentences like "Keep reading my blog," in which keep has the meaning of "continue." Here it's kind of a modal verb.

27 may 2004

I can imagine saying, with reference to a card game for example: "The tricky part is learning when to hold and when to discard. " If I substituted "keep" for "hold" it would sound funny: "*The tricky part is knowing when to keep and when to discard." Is that a grammatical difference, or is it simply that that particular idiom does not exist in any known context (known to me) in English? There is not really a grammatical difference between the two verbs "hold" and "keep." I could imagine a part of the English-speaking world where keep would be idiomatic in such a sentence.

Speaking of a stock one might own: "Are you going to hold or sell?"

But: *Are you going to keep or sell.

A proverbial use?: "Those who give, gain; those who keep, lose." That almost sounds grammatical to me, but what do I know. I'm tired and I'm not a linguist.
Actually, I quoted that wrong, it's: "Them that's got shall get." You can find the lyrics here. Holiday herself is credited with the song, along with Arthur Herzog.

But the song does contain "have" without a stated direct object, a little further down:

Mama may have, papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own.

I could think of my own example to: "Those who have are under the obligation to give to those less fortunate."

I don't know why I'm so fascinated with linguistics, although with no formal training to speak of.
Language Log: Illustrating obligatory transitivity

Linguist Geoff Pullum believes that the verb "have" is one of the few verbs that are always transitive in the oligatory sense: that the object needs to be expressed (cannot be implicit). (Another one he gives is "keep.") I guess he's never heard the Billie Holiday song "God Bless the Child," which opens with the lines: "Them that's got shall have. / Them that's not shall lose. / So the Bible says / And it still is news."

I still haven't come up with a counter example for "keep."
My garage keeps flooding: twice in three days. It's very annoying when the water threatens to reach the finished portion of basement.
I got my copy of The Art of the Possible today. Kenneth Koch's comics... mostly...without pictures. Highly recommended. Thanks for your work on this Shannon, Jordan, Jennifer Gieseking, Karen Koch, and David Lehman.

Also got some books from Subterranean here in St. Louis.

The blog must be fed. But with what?

26 may 2004

I wrote this poem in Spanish yesterday evening as a way of processing the story about the murder of Kasey's brother. It's basically just details selected from his account, slightly distorted as refracted through my own mind. I'm not going to translate it into English, since its "informational" content already exists in English, in my source text. I haven't been able to get this story out of my mind since I read Kasey's account this past Saturday, shortly after he posted it.
I bought my ticket for Spain. I'm psyched about that. Ten days at the end of June. That leaves three weeks in June before I go to get some work done on various projects. Then July to prepare my seminar. Classes start again in August, and I have to be back by the 10th to advise incoming Graduate Students. The summer is way too short.

25 may 2004

Here's Joseph Duemer's new siteSharp Sand.
Today: make reservations for Spain; write some notes for my Concha García chapter. Send out some queries to publishers.

Tomorrow: finish revisions on the Valente/Celan/Heidegger article for Diacritics.

23 may 2004

Language Log: The analysis of the creature: " The sonnet is obscured by the symbolic package which is formulated not by the sonnet itself but by the media through which the sonnet is transmitted, the media which the educators believe for some reason to be transparent. The new textbook, the type, the smell of the page, the classroom, the aluminum windows and the winter sky, the personality of Miss Hawkins--these media which are supposed to transmit the sonnet may only succeed in transmitting themselves. It is only the hardiest and cleverest of students who can salvage the sonnet from this many-tissued package. It is only the rarest student who knows that the sonnet must be salvaged from the package. "

--Walker Percy, via a post by Mark Liberman at Language Log.
Julia was six-for-six from the plate yesterday, socring 5 runs, after going hitless in all the previous games. I asked her how she did it, and she said the pitching machine always pitched it to the same spot. Once she figured out where that spot was, it was easy. We have another game an hour from now.

22 may 2004

My heart goes out to Kasey on the loss of his brother under difficult circumstances, detailed in his most recent post. I'm not going to email him right away about this because I'm sure he has better things to do right now than sort through a hundred messages on his email. So sorry, Kasey! My deepest condolences.
Philip "The Jury's Still Out On" Metres suggested that this would be a good title for a poem. I hope he writes one too, although he has the disadvantage of not being named "Jonathan Mayhew." ("Metres" is a great name for a poet, though.)


The people at the Chinese restaurant touch my back and shoulders after seating me; I must eat there a lot.

I am myself because my little dog knows me; but I do not have a little dog.

I am not the Jonathan Mayhew who wrote "A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers."

Yet this statement is no longer true; now I have in fact written "A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers"; I am part-way through it at least!

Twenty years from now, I can write, "I remember when I wrote 'A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers";

my wife was in Madrid for the marriage of Prince Philip and Letizia."

Who was it that distinguished between "the author of Waverly" and "Sir Walter Scott"? Bertrand Russell, maybe?

Can we now tell the difference between "Jonathan Mayhew" and "the author of 'A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers'"?

Can the proposition "Jonathan Mayhew did not write 'A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers' be proven true or false?

What does it all mean anyway?

For some reason amazon cannot find me a copy of Kenneth Koch's book of comics. They cancelled my order! I'll have to try another source.

21 may 2004

I found a copy of Beckett's Poems in French and English and a book by Lisa Jarnot in Subterranean books. I tried to go to Wash U library, but could not park: graduation day. I'll have to wait until Monday.

20 may 2004

I'm home with Julia this week. Akiko is in Spain. I'm hitting the gym pretty hard. Which is surprising since I hate to sweat. Hitting the drums too. Grading the graduate papers still as they trickle in.

I cleared out my "sent message" file in my email account. I must have sent 150 to Jordan Davis in the past 5 months. Mostly involving the organization of his visit to Kansas. Signifiant, but nowhere near as many to David Shapiro, Kent Johnson, and Ron Silliman.

19 may 2004

Elvin no exige exégetas

Las extrañas bestias de Blake andan desamparadas

hasta que Harold les ofrece cobijo

¿en pastoral albergue mal cubierto?

¿Quién si no?


A poet should never explicate own work, unless the explication is better than the poem. Which should be easy with this poem.

"Elvin no exige exégetas" [Elvin needs no exegetes; no exigent exegetes for Elvin! ]: A literary critic used to exegesis of difficult texts has no tools to deal with Elvin Jones' drumming. Note the snazzy alliteration.

"Las extrañas bestias de Blake andan desamparadas / hasta que Harold les ofrece cobijo" [Blake's strange beasts wander around unsheltered / unitl Harold offers them sanctuary]: William Blake's poetry does seem to require exegesis, someone like Harold Bloom to explain it. However, the tone here is ironic. The speaker prefers Elvin to Blake, in the Blake requires you to buy into a system. More snazzy alliteration.

"'en pastoral albergue mal cubierto'" [in a badly covered rustic retreat]. This line is taken from a famous Góngora sonnet. The shelter offered Blake's beasts will be inadequate.

"¿Quién si no?" [If not {him} then who?]. The speaker continues to ironize at Harold Bloom's expense!

Farewell to Elvin Jones. I rarely have emotional reaction to the death of a celebrity. However, this news hits home with me.
Writing involves, first of all, listening to an internal "speech." Not everyone's internal speech is equally interesting. Most people, in fact, are like myself: the flow of consciousness is mostly trivial. The trick is to be able to recognize and extend significant fragments, make them into something more. What makes this tricky is that significant fragments might seem merely trivial. In a way, it's not that different from writing flarf poems off google searches. Most of what turns up is seemingly without any poetic value. The poetic talent comes from recognizing it, not from producing it. What I'm calling the internal speech is itself structured, influenced, by a multitude of discourses. This is what is called "influence," in fact. I am especially susceptible to these voices. (Like Frank O'Hara's line, "So many voices in my head.") Form can be considered a sort of validation / legitimization of this internal speech. Look how Berrigan used the sonnet form to organize / legimitate the fragments. Or it can actually structure the internal speech itself, in the sense that one thinks "in" the sonnet form rather than imposing it on a previously inchoate stream. Revision is another step similar to the first: it involves listening to one's own work, selecting, eliminating, judging, negotiating with form and structure.

Maybe that's why most of my poems are so short. Going on too long seems willful to me. I am "writing" rather than "listening."

It seems inappropriate to use the word "craft" for this process. Does carving a bowl out of wood involve the same process of "listening"? Maybe it does! But in this case, the important thing is not the "craft" aspect of the process at all. In other words, we would redefine the word "craft " itself, or speak of the poetics of carving the bowl.

18 may 2004

Poetics Seminar Schedule. Fall 2004.

Wednesday, September 15, 3:30 p.m. Denise Low, Department of English, Haskell Indian Nations University: "The Persistence of American Indian/Alaskan Native Poetics in Great Plains Writing" [Of interest to Indigenous Seminar]

Monday, October 4, 1:30 p.m. Ron Silliman, author of The Alphabet and editor of In the American Tree "Robert Duncan's Blog & My Own"

[I will also arrange poetry reading for Ron for the evening of October 4]

Wednesday, November 17, 3:30 p.m. Leslie Bayers, Spanish and Portuguese: "Inscribing Texture: Visual Performance in the Poetry of Manuel Pantigoso and Marcial Molina Richter." [Also of interest to Indigenous Seminar and Andean Seminar]

Monday, December 13, 2004, 3:30 p.m. Jonathan Mayhew, Spanish and Portuguese: "Wittgenstein and Contemporary Poetics: A Productive Misunderstanding?" [joint session with Philosophy & Literature Seminar]

All sessions will be held in the Hall Center Conference Room (University of Kansas). For more information contact Jonathan Mayhew.

He would declare and could himself believe
That the birds there in all the garden round
From having heard the daylong voice of Eve
Had added to their own an oversound,
Her tone of meaning but without the words.
Admittedly an eloquence so soft
Could only have had an influence on birds
If call or laughter carried it aloft.
Be that as may be, she was in their song.
Moreover, her voice upon their voices crossed
Had now persisted in the woods so long
That probably it never would be lost.
Never again would the birds' song be the same.
And to do this to brids was way she came

This is my second-favorite Frost poem, Never Again Would the Birds' Song be the same. It is a poem in the subjunctive mood, so to speak, the affirmation of an argument through a secondary speaker. The poetic speaker, that is to say, paraphrases the argument made by the "he" of the first line. It is a "just-so" story, explaining how the birds got their song. In keeping with this, it advances its case tentatively. Hence the importance of the meta-discursive markers and modal verbs:

"He would declare and could himself believe that... Admittedly... Could only have had ... If... Be that as may be... Moreover..."

The "just-so" story is actually a sort of piropo (elaborate poetic compliment) in disguise: "Your voice is so beautiful that..." The third-person narrative voice distances the poem from the "implied poet," making the emotion more poignant.

Prosodically, the poem is a marvel, those long, balanced sentences that cross over the boundaries of the 4-4-4-2 structure of the Shakesperian sonnet! Notice how lightly punctuated the poem is. The tone lies somewhere between the conversational and the elevated. The prosaic dimension of the poem arises from its argumentative structure, and serves to temper the fanciful lyrical conceit.

The reader of the poem hears the "oversound" (overtones?) of the woman's voice in the bird calls. Exquisite! Frost's own overtone series.

It's a poem that hasn't been spoiled by overexposure and ill-use, unlike "The Road Not Taken," "Stopping by Woods," or "Mending Wall." It's been anthologized, but not as much as these.

17 may 2004

Another flarf poem on Eagle's Wing.
Language Log: Modification as social anxiety
I like what Kasey is doing with his close-readings, so I'll try my own for a while, see how it works out.

A poem by Clark Coolidge, from Solution Passage, one of my three or four favorite Coolidge books:


Those streets were not his
so he kept them in the dark to himself
knowing age for a solid pent in mind
he turned out volumes of locked domed hills

Penciled purples in the daylit dreams
wore wool humid and apology bright
letters in the doorway, arabic at the edges
the colors of science turned jagged at his cease

He was not Poe, he lived on a hill
dreamed afternoon and woke to write
icecream from ivory, an undersea
crystallized Providence cats broke
out of the past and Fomalhaut speaking

Fomalhaut, as everyone with google can discover in 10 seconds, is the 17th brightest star in the sky, in Southern Pisces. The name means "mouth of the fish" in Arabic, which perhaps explains the word "arabic" in this poem. I don't know who HPL is. An astronomer at Brown University? Nocturnal writer?

Coolidgisms in the poem: "a solid pent in mind" (adjective used as noun); "locked domed hills." (accented monosyllabic sequence). "turned jagged at his cease" (adj. as noun). A peculiar way of using prepositional phrases; syntactic hiccups that can eventually be scanned without too much trouble. A peculiar, wistful tone that I cannot locate in any particular device: the some of the parts.

Discursive coherence is relatively high: all the statements seem to refer to a single individual, the HPL of the title. A few phrases are more difficult to relate to the portrait that emerges: "icecream from ivory." Are we supposed to take this phrase as direct object of the verb "write" in previous line? Generally the lines have semantic/prosodic coherence. Sound is dense; metaphors rich and suggestive. Should they be interpreted? Should we translate, for example, "the colors of science turned jagged at his cease " as "At his death, science lost one its most subtle, colorful thinkers..." I think not, since this is only one possible construal of this line.


Update, five minutes later: I've got it: H.P. Lovecraft! He was interested in astronomy and used the Ladd observatory in Providence as a child.

15 may 2004

The Jim Behrle Show: The Jim Side: "From Experimental to Mainstream in 5 Easy Steps"
Here's a poem I wrote in the car driving back home to St. Louis. I transcribed today from memory, changing it as I went along.

The kid who comes to fix the plumbing is very likely a drummer in a metal band

He'll be more erudite than the professor whose plumbing he's come to fix

But who nevertheless transcribes Max Roach solos in his spare time

The translator of Homer is zen master (of a Korean school), an aficionado of billiards

The Arts-Administrator is a comic-book artist

He collects Bollywood movies and only listens to Lebanese and Egyptian pop-stars

Although he studied classical composition in his youth

He's married to Nada, a belly-dancer and extravagant poet

The car salesman, nevertheless, is only that: a car saleman

The same can be said for the lawyer, the cardiologist, the novelist

And myself? I am the waiter apiring to movie stardom, the shoe-shine boy sonero

The hit-man/professor, the psychologist golf-pro

14 may 2004

I'm adding some content toPoemas con nombres propios, neglected for a very long time. My poetry in Spanish seemed to dry up suddenly. Now I've turned on the faucet again, with mixed results.
A goofy analysis of goofy WS poem "Jumbo". I remember looking at a book by Harold Bloom on Wallace Stevens when I was in highschool. I wanted to see what Bloom would say about one of my favorite poems, "Sea Surface Filled with Clouds." Of course, Bloom dismissed the poem as rather unworthy of consideration, and I dismissed Bloom.
I'm in somewhat of a panic trying to decide which books I need to bring back with me for the summer--today on my last day in Kansas until early August. I don't know which books I'll need next week, let alone in late July.

Highlights of the academic year: the poetics seminar, featuring local and international luminairies like Jim McCrary, Jordan Davis, Jill Kuhnheim, and Joe Harrington. Jordan's visit: I had a dream last night I was visiting him in New York: I had to leave (wake up) before going to the Strand. The graduate theory course, in which I learned a great deal from teaching a wonderful group of students. The continual dialogue with my fifty closest blogger friends, whom I can't name for fear of leaving someone out. "What, I'm not one of your 50 closest friends!*&(+!!"

Meeting other bloggers in San Diego for the MLA. Especially Kasey, Bill Marsh.

Poetry readings at the City Museum, organized by Aaron Belz, where I got to meet Gabriel Gudding, David Hess, Susan Schultz, Kari Edwards, and the formidable Kent Johnson.

13 may 2004

A writing experiment. Do you want to publish in a given magazine? Why not just write your poems in the margins of the magazine, with no possibility of rejection?

Written in the margins of Poetry, for no very good reason

A Heian novel
such as I usually like
yet it dulls me...


Wrinkle in that shirt

device for extracting ink
from ink well

later intelligible


graduating from Waterman to Mont Blanc


what font is that
to impose its will
over the landscape?

I could explain and
make you understand


I understand that fissure
I'd like to say I could reproduce it


If voice, no whisper
that's what I want to argue
if whisper, no voice.
How wrong I can be.


a suit of clothes designed to
function in absence of
its wearer


pass your eyes over and
rest them on these words


what now feels
cheap and plastic
in my hands

Language Log: A verbless post
Language Log: To post verblessly is so jejune!

12 may 2004

I've just emailed everything I need to work on over the summer to myself. My last few days in Kansas. Trying to get the poetics seminar schedule done for the Fall semester. I've written a zillion emails today.
Read most of the Seidenstricker translation of the Monogatari Genji last night. I'm not sure I why I had never read this before.

11 may 2004

So I've deleted comments.
I've added comments, although they don't seem to work.
A new course and a new blog: Prosa de poeta. Which reminds me I haven't ordered books for this yet. . .
Nick writes to say he has posted 1,458 times on his blog. Amazingly close to my 1,456 (including this post).
If you don't like my Shapiro/Merwin example, substitute your own, by all means. A well-known poet whom you consider mediocre vs. a poet only known to yourself and a few hundred (or thousand?) readers as brilliantly discerning as yourself. Please, be as snobbish as you like, that's the whole point.

10 may 2004

Do readers actually prefer poets like W.S. Merwin to really good poets like David Shapiro? Or is it that they haven't actually read Shapiro? My University library doesn't have Lateness, one of David's best books. I doubt a single member of the English department in Kansas (aside from Ken Irby) has ever read a poem by David Shapiro. Accessibility of the texts remains a problem. I mean getting one's hand on them, not accesssibilty as "easiness" of reading.


I mean readers who have actually read both poets. It is only by suppressing good poetry that mediocre poetry can survive.
I've made 1,454 posts to this blog since September 5, 2002.

9 may 2004

Zildjian Online

Apparently a rumor was going around that Elvin had died. Luckily, that is not so.

8 may 2004

Then, after thinking I was getting good at those NYT crosswords, whole chunks of the Saturday puzzle humbled me until this morning, when I had to do a few google searches to complete it. I'm not a big Paul Gallico reader, I guess. In case you don't know, the puzzles are incrementally more difficult from Monday to Saturday.

7 may 2004

I should explain about my Diacritics fetish. When I was a grad student, it was the age of Theory. Diacritics was where you might find interviews with or essays by Derrida, and super-involved theoretical critiques of the most recent books by all the big name theorists of the time, written by all the other big name theorists. (It is edited by Cornell University's Romance Language Department, and I actually lived in Ithaca for a few years in the mid 80s.) So the academic side of me has always desired to be published in Diacritics the way the poetic side of me might want to have a book published by New Directions or Coffee House Press.
Just got word I had an article accepted by Diacritics. Just when things weren't going so well I have had a few nice ego boosts lately. Why I need such boosts constantly to keep going is another issue I have to work on.
Crossword mania

I did the Friday NYT crossword on line in about 14 minutes just now. This is putting me almost in the scary position of having only one truly challenging puzzle a week--the dreaded but wonderful Saturday. I'm convinced learned puzzle solving skill is more significant than inherent knowledge of esoteric words or names in solving these things. I get better the more I do, but I still didn't know who "Irish revolutionary Robert" was, in today's puzzle. This means that the way to get better at puzzles is to do more of them, rather than to memorize lists of words.

How much of puzzle solving skill, as opposed to intrinsic knowledge, is based on knowledge of a specific code, of "crosswordese"? I'm glad you asked. I think this is about 30% of it. You have to know that words with a lot of vowels are going to appear ("eerie"). And that words with the vowel consonant vowel consonant pattern are going to be overused as well ("elal"), since they fit in grids nicely with the more common consonant-vowel pattern ("Riga"). Another part of it is instinct. For example, I no longer think, "six letters." Usually I just look at the blank and know whether a word will fit there. The ability to think horizontally and vertically at the same time also helps to solve more difficult parts of the grid.

I never use any reference book or dictionary. Not because it is "cheating" but because I rarely need help. The only exception is with a Friday or Saturday puzzle when I am down to a few clues and come across proper names that are unfamiliar to me. The name of a Nevada county crossed with that of a sitcom actress I've never heard of. In this case I will just use google to find the answer.

I would like to go the crossword puzzle tourney next year, though I am not that good at solving with pencil and paper. It was only when I started doing them on line, a few years ago, that I developed a real skill at it.


McKuen: a, d

Merwin, b, c, e, f

Winner: Aaron Tieger of fish blog with 4 for 6 correct answers.

6 may 2004

I just got my copy of Marjorie's memoir, The Vienna Paradox. It looks quite fascinating.
I got the Cramer Research award from my department. $5,000 before taxes. This means I can go to Spain and NYC during the summer. Whoopee!

5 may 2004

To assume that narcissississism of having a work of one's own. Two books of poetry, one in Spanish and the other in English, recently put together out of several years of writing. It feels quite different from having one's work in the academic sense ("my work"). Validation for a scholarly career came rather easily to me, and didn't feel particularly narcissist. What a different emotion it is to send poems to a publisher. The only tone I could adopt was apologetic!
I must read Pasternak. What a huge gap in my education. At least I've read Soseki.

Julia's glasses are missing again. Of course, I can't look for them because I am not at home.


Update: glasses are found, underneath the couch.

4 may 2004

This war is radicalizing me beyond where I thought I would go. I've never been one to preach politics: my politics are those of my professional class: by default and upbringing, academic liberal. Surely torture-gate is worse than watergate. (Not to say Nixon didn't have torture on his record too.) Mercenary. What a chilling word, even if called independent contractor.

Just found this for $6 at the Dusty Bookshelf here in Lawrence, KS.
I got this book Ordinary Language Criticism. Inspired by Cavell and Wittgenstein. Part of the claim of the book is that it is written in something called "ordinary language," though I noticed a lot of English-Deparment-speak in some of the contributions. There's not enough here to start a new critical movement. Sure, I enjoy jargon-free prose, but I also enjoy theoretical inventiveness and jargon-heavy prose. I haven't read the articles by Bruns and Altieri yet.

I don't enjoy Cavell's writing very much, and an article about him in this volume didn't help. Too much of the "Aren't Emerson and Thoreau great" tone without anything specific about what we can learn from them. We should just worship at their altar, apparently.
The Burning Mystery of Anna in 1951 is a great title, for example. Who could forget that? The Age of Huts. Epistemology of the Closet. The Harbormaster of Hong Kong. Are there advantages to more forgettable titles?

Another genre of titles: those that are deliberately misleading. Like The Art and Craft of Playwriting, if it were the title of a book of poems.
As I look through the list of books I read during my recent reading frenzy, I notice some titles that are eminently forgettable. Not that the books themselves are forgettable, but the titles do not stick. One word titles like Sun or Noon, for example.

3 may 2004

I had a nice conversation yesterday afternoon with David Shapiro about my book Minor Poets of the New York School. We debated whether I should keep the title or not.


Did some work recently for Northwestern UP. Today I got my books that I ordered in lieu of money. Mostly from their Modernisn & Avant-Garde Series. McCaffery, Lazer, Bok, Waldrop, Andrews.

2 may 2004

Congratulations to Corey on his second book prize. This one from Spineless Press.

1 may 2004

Elizabeth Bishop: from coterie to canon by Dana Gioia

"The mid-century generation includes at least a dozen figures besides Bishop for whom one might claim major status—Theodore Roethke, Robert Lowell, Robert Hayden, Weldon Kees, Randall Jarrell, Gwendolyn Brooks, John Berryman, William Stafford, Robert Duncan, Charles Olson, Kenneth Rexroth, and Thomas McGrath. To this list others might add Karl Shapiro, Delmore Schwartz, Muriel Rukeyser, John Ciardi, Josephine Miles, William Jay Smith, May Swenson, and William Everson. Among such worthy company, how did Bishop come to her current preeminence?"

I hate the idea of "major" poets. It almost always sounds ridiculous. Writers whom noone in her right mind would call major (McGrath), or writers with vastly inflated reputations (Roethke) or wonderful poets who are only done a disservice by the "major" label (Kees). Who are those "others" who would add William Jay Smith to the list of major poets? Doesn't a list like this damage the truly talented poets, like Robert Hayden, included here?

Overlap: Drew Gardner's Blog: "My most cynical read on this is the possibility that this kind of statement is intentionally picking out some Iowa workshop / Jorie Graham imitators (work which actually IS confessional poetry with spray-on coating of Language Poetry) and ingenuously saying _look the kids aren't any good, we're the real deal_ as a generational PR move, ignoring the interesting younger writers. Lazer may actually not know about the existence of much writing by poets 20-40. "

I love that "spray-on coating" crack. That is hilarious.
Here's a new Kansas poetry blog: particle spin.