31 ago 2004

5. Craig Arnold, "Your friend's arriving on the bus"

A diffuse but amusing-enough narrative poem. A guy trying to meet a bus in Spain almost gets mugged, has communication problems, etc... My main objection to it is that it doesn't have any sharpness to it. It's a short story, not a true POEM.

I have no idea who Craig Arnold is, and I'm avoiding the explanations in the back of the book. I'd give it a 6.
4. Rae Armantrout, "Almost"

The ideas are compelling: "Almost all the words we've said to one another are gone / and if they were retrieved, verbatim, we might not recognize them." I find the expression flat, though. This sounds like someone's desultory paraphrase of an interesting poem. The second section is better expressed. I've seen the billboard myself "showing the product / tiny, / in one corner." I like understated poetry, that doesn't necessarily call attention to its own artfulness, in the Williams, Bromige, Creeley mode, but this particular poem, from a poet I admire, doesn't make it. 6.5 out of 10.
Kent Johnson (in comment on Tony Tost's blog) has this idea that I reject narrative poetry, or poetry written in non-experimental modes. He mentions "a Cavafy, or a Parra, or a Horace, or a Bronk, or a Catullus, or a Reis, or a Rilke, or a Sor Juana." Well, I happen to be a big fan of Cavafy and Bronk, and of Catullus and Horace as well. I wouldn't call them linguistically transparent. Rilke I have my problems with, for opposite reasons. Ricardo Reis is a heteronym of the great modernist/avant-garde poet Pessoa (unless there's another Reis I'm missing?). Sor Juana, a Mexican baroque poet, would have been the avant-garde of her own day. No transparency there, either. Parra was admired and translated by WCW. There's no division here.

[An aside: I'm told Cavafy employs a mixture of different "registers," demotic Greek of his own day mixed with Hellenistic and Classical resonances. If so, I find this effect flattened out in the otherwise very good translation that I have here in my office. The linguistic surface seems quite uniform in English.]

Silliman is a narrative poet (read "Albany") in a way that Rilke is not, so I cannot quite understand the terms of this dichotomy. But at least Kent thinks I should write "Post-Avant Garde Poetry for Dummies," so I forgive him his "Leninist" crack, if directed, however indirectly, at me.


UPDATE: Kent has posted another coupla comments up there on Tony's blog. I can't seem to comment there on this computer: I get the "flickering screen" effect when I try. I should point out, as Kent himself did, that 3 of the poets in the quote that Tony quoted (from a post here at Bemsha) also figure in the list of poets that Kent himself offers as ones that people like me are likely to ignore: Rilke, Pessoa, Cavafy. I hope that sentence makes sense. I would like to know who all the dull avant-garde poets occupying creative writing positions are. It's a hard argument to make without naming names, which would convert the argument into a personal attack and thus detract from the argument.

3. Bruce Andrews, "from Dang Me"

I'm not a big admirer of Bruce Andrews, yet I'm glad this sort of writing exists. It's sort of a collage of found language, performed at a high energy level. "A self-reeducation camp award ceremony expels me." Yeah, I hate when that happens! 8.

Will Alexander, "from Solea of the Simoons"

I don't know Will Alexander either. This is an energetic, exuberant poem about a mythical character named "Soleá." (I'm putting an accent on the "a" to make it an Andalusian pronunciation of "Soledad," which is both a name and a genre of "cante jondo," "soleares.) This is the kind of poem you want to see in a "best of year" volume. Appealing and unapologetic, rhythmic and funny. 8.5.
Here's the beginning of my 2004 BAP reading.

1. Kim Addonizio, "Chicken"

This poem is a variation on the "Why did the chicken cross the road?" meme. She pulls it off nicely, in this amusing and thought-provoking narrative poem. I wasn't crazy about the premise at first, but the poem drew me in. I don't have any preconception about the name "Kim Addonizio." I know the name, but it doesn't mean anything to me. On a scale of 1-10, 7.5.

I'm dissatisfied with that response to Tony Tost. There are several factors to be considered. (1) Tone. When I say "our poetry is better than their poetry" it is something I really believe, although I am willing to express it in seemingly facetious tone, rather than with measured qualifications. I am hoping that everyone realizes I am also capable of the other mode of discourse. The tone of the original BAP face-off was totally facetious and totally earnest at the same time. (2) Self-dramatization. Just as I could earnestly point out that Zukofsky is already the the thinking man's Zukofsky, and totally miss the joke, I think my self-presentation as know-it-all Dr. Mayhew is totally over the top. (3) Knowledge as power. My point about David Shapiro and Merwin, for example. I pointed out that many of David Shapiro books were NOT IN THE LIBRARY or had not been checked out ever. So the likelihood is that a Graduate Student in English in a University of the Midwest might write one of those "one chapter one Ashbery, one chapter on Adrienne Rich, one chapter on Merwin" style dissertations, and never know that there were "better" poets out there. This has nothing to do with taste, but with breadth of knowledge. Since I'm not an English professor I have to read American poetry in my spare time, keeping up as best I can by reading Silliman's blog every day. Nothing is more satisfying than discovering new writers.

"Mayhew's fallacy" at Unquiet Grave: "simply assuming that the reason someone has fundamentally different tastes than yours is because they are less sophisticated/informed/etc..." Well, yes, I'm guilty of that. I'm flattered to have a fallacy named after me, even if I didn't personally invent snobbism. I could simply point out that my "taste" simply is better informed, more sophisticated, than most people's, but that would beg the question, wouldn't it? I think people enjoy reading my blog because I call 'em as I see 'em and because I know what I'm talking about. When Merwin and Rich can publish poems in the APR that sound just like Rod McKuen, then something is deeply wrong. If Charles Wright is not a dull New Yorker poet, then tell me what I am missing; I really want to know. Don't hide behind "taste."

The late Donald Justice really is a whole lot better than Robert Pinsky or Billy Collins. Collins is not as bad as I think, perhaps, it's just that his appearance in all these BAPS makes it seem as though he were one of our great modern masters, when actually he is just what I said, a mediocrity who's found a clever formula. He's a Kenny G, not a Coltrane.

30 ago 2004

I can't decide betweenTHE BEES and Tabios vs Tuhan. These have to be the greatest stories I've read in quite some time.

What word do you use in your interior discourse to refer to someone who is one of the true???? Like a drummer like Tony Williams or your favorite poet, or Coltrane. I use a well-known obscenity, but I'd like to find a milder substitute for it.
You shouldn't say: "this is a poetry that takes risks." You should specify what the risk is: this poet risk being arrested by the Secret Police. That poet risk her admirers abandoning her, thinking she's crazy. This other poet risks people thinking he's dull, or less intelligent than he really is.
Dullness: it's the opposite of "interest." Interest means having a stake in something, some involvement, some reason to care. Uninterested and disinterested come to mean the same thing after all!

I find Charles Wright a dull poet. I've never found a reason to be "interested" in him. I don't find his work howlingly bad; it seems to take few risks, in fact, so is unilkely to be bad.

What would constitute a risk, anyway? Writing a poem with no visual appeal, for example, like Creeley's
"Immoral Proposition." The idea of good poetry as something that can be visualized. That works in 90% of cases. That is to say, I could teach that one simple principle to someone and make him or her a better poet just by doing so. But Creeley, who loves Williams and obviously has a good visual sense, very often will write a nearly imageless poem. Why, when it would be so much easier to write "good" poems with lots of visuals? He is looking for, and finding, a more abstract language that has its own, less obvious pleasures.

So the beginning writing student, you would first show the advantage of substituting images for abstract language about "feelings." Then, once understood, show what Creeley can do even without images.

An exercise I developed for my undergraduate students: rate a poem in various dimensions, visual, linguistic, auditory, tactile, affective, intellectual. That is, how much emphasis the poet is putting in each direction (not necessarily how successful it is, but what the poet is trying to do). It can be almost an obejctive measure. It helps you to perceive poetry, say "what is it really?" For example a poet for whom sense of touch is more important than sight. That's a good thing to know. Take care of your perceptions and your "taste" will take care of itself.
Creeley seems to be looking always for some moment of pure feeling, to isolate it, save it from all the impurities. "Women and men together / again, and all was quiet." "What / love might learn from such a sight." "Be wet / with a decent happiness." "Still dancers under the moon." Where does this impulse to reread Creeley come from, all of a sudden?

29 ago 2004

Tom Beckett left a generous comment about my modest O'Hara and Creeley poem. He's a great guy in my book. I love all those interviews with Charles Bernstein he's done over the years.

If anyone were making list of significant cultural achievements of the 20th century. Jazz, abstract art, the great modern poets like Rilke, Pessoa, Stevens, Cavafy. The invention of motion pictures, a wholly new art form. The development of myriad genres of popular music (Bossa nova!) and graphic art. Who would include in this list the conservative reaction against modernism? Mid-century "academic" poetry of the 1950s? Wilbur, Nemerov, Justice... It would be hard to make a case. Surrealism, jazz, the movies, comic strips, made an impact on the culture, defined the look and feel of the century.


'Twas disheartening to go back to look at amazon's reader reviews of Creeley's 2002 BAP. Average 2 stars. I fear the Hejinian anthology will meet a similar reaction. One reader spoke of Creeley being a "surrealist"! Another purported to be from a college professor who had us'd other BAPS for instructional purposes. The 2004 volume is likely to be the most "avant-garde" poetry book that has the potential to reach a broader public--because of its packaging in the Best of Series. And why all this apology for calling itself the best? This time it's really true. Our poetry is actually better than their poetry.


Sure enough, the first "one-star" review of the 2004 BAP has appeared on the amazon page.

28 ago 2004

O'Hara and Creeley

When I was fifteen I still thought Frank O'Hara was a heterosexual
All those poems to Jane!

About this time I read Karl Shapiro's
"On Learning That Your Favorite Poet is a Homosexual"

Who was he talking about?
Whitman? Auden?

Older now, I try to slow down my thoughts
None the wiser for wear

Colllect Creeley seriously before I die
A long tiime from now

27 ago 2004

The "Metaphysicals"

"The classical maxim "ars est celare artem", often wrongly attributed to Horace, was the rhetorical poetic ideal in the Renaissance as well as in the later age of Neoclassicism. The Neoclassical critic Joseph Addison, for example, found fault with the Baroque poet's 'false wit', as apparent in "Anagrams, Chronograms, Lipograms, and Acrosticks" as well as "Poems cast into the Figures of Eggs, Axes, or Altars". 71  And the Neoclassical critic Samuel Johnson later generally pointed out that the Baroque poet perverted the doctrine of 'ars est celare artem' into its very opposite:

'The Metaphysical poets were men of learning, and to show their learning was their whole endeavour'."
Language Log: Still on the eggcorn beet.

I think these eggcorns have great poetic poe-tential. Someone should give it a whirl: a poem consisting of as many eggcorns as possible.
"These retroactive small
instances of feeling

reach out for a common
ground in the wet

first rain of a faded
winter. Along the grey

iced sidewalk revealed
piles of dogshit. papers,

bits of old clothing, are
the human pledges,

call them, "we are here and
have been all the time." I

walk quickly. The wind
drives the rain, drenching

my coat, pants, blurs
my glasses, as I pass."

Another instance of that "ars est celare artem" quality of Creeley's poet.

26 ago 2004

Henry quotes the motto ars est celare artem, which I interpret as "Art consists of concealing overt signs of artifice." That's all very well, but I don't associate this principle at all with Gould's own poetry, which seems to flaunt its artifice quite a bit:

"Loosen your reason? Hard to, feller, avast
cheskermate centred your creel, the yaksee
sweltered in a fireheaded woolfox brutee!
Around and aground like a termulating ski mast!"

An extreme example, maybe, but not at all atypical. I could have chosen many examples from various sections of Stubborn Grew, the only book of his I own. Many of HG's overt models--Joyce, Crane, Berryman--are also artifice-flaunting rather than artifice-concealing artisans. I associate "ars est celare" more with Creeley: poetry that doesn't seem difficult to write, that conceals its craft, so that someone might even say, "Why is that a poem?" ("Is that a real poem or did you just make it up?") Berryman famously pronounced Creeley "dull."

"He wants to be
a brutal old man,
an agressive old men,
as dull, as brutal
as the emptiness around him."

Not that there's anything wrong with overt artifice: I love both kinds of poetry, in fact. Stevens at his gaudiest, Williams at his sparest. It could be that Henry Gould understands the motto differently than I do. That is more plausible that thinking that he misperceives his own work.

Other poets I associate with this ideal of concealing artfulness: Bromige, O'Hara (in poems like "Hate is only one of many responses").

Poets I think belong to the opposite camp: James Merrill, Derek Walcott, Prynne, Góngora. Poets of verbal excess, verbal play. For me, Henry is in that camp, whether he realizes it or not!
Hablando del rey de Roma, por la esquina se asoma. Kent Johnson just told me about the Chicago Review issue on Dorn. Can't say I care for the cover:

I felt mildly euphoric yesterday, for no very good reason. I felt I was brilliantly intelligent, and that even the poetry I was reading was somehow a sign of this. That is, the fact that I picked up Dorn seemed to be a mark of my own brilliance.

25 ago 2004

What does the foregoing mean?
I asked. Mean?
my gunslinger laughed
Questioner, you got some strange
obsessions, you want to know
what something means after you've
seen it, after you've been there
or were you out during
that time? No.
And you want some reason.
How fast are you
by the way? No local offense
asking that is there?

I forgot how great Gunslinger is. I don't think I've even read the whole thing. But I'm remedying that now.
The superimposition of epochs question. The medieval period represents in the cultural imaginary a certain realm of "romance," of idealized beauty. We can see this already in Shakespeare: "When in the chronicles of wasted time / I see descriptions of the fairest wights, / And beauty making beautiful old rhyme / In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights." The word romance itself is of medieval origin. So any other period we want to idealize, must be "medievalized." "Thou swell, thou witty." Or else placed in a ambience of comparable resonance (Heian Japan, Ancient Greece).
In her recent poetry, Barbara Guest uses a sort of medievalism (knights and castles, damsels, romance) to express a nostalgia for high modernism. It is as though an equivalence were drawn: modernism is an age that can be romanticized, made into a legend. And modernism extends up to Guest and her own group of poets. Jimmy Schuyler can be made into a "king" of poetry ("The glass Mountain." This kind of superimposition of historical periods would be a fascinating thing to study: at what point did the new (modernism) become the old (medievalism)?
A new blog, polyxena.

Here's my reading of the same poem...

this is an audio post - click to play
I found this beautiful poem in my email inbox this morning:


suave hangmannecropsy thailand surgeonopprobrium clogging lexiconalameda churchyard speedboatcramer already nightclubnorthampton strait tadpoleauxiliary caress brogliestampede mastery aroundshortage breathy catkindennis console correspondentmonarch knight parleyincalculable quintet coordinaterichfield heath lizzieboom detour fascisminvestor flew laudresident drawn taffetaconspiracy clara catharsiscallous reinhold unctionfourteenth onward affectationtroposphere troglodyte oratorybackplane dissident blockbalsa onrushing merrillrevved ocular modeimpresario picture callouscigar axial bloodlineassent inapproachable washoutdebater hansom newsweekexcept creekside branconspirator thornton clutchcomplimentary lamar concomitantgaulle japanese aluminalithic davy scapulatinker appearance penancewatchful invaluable edgewisedeepen tunnel coltsfoottentacle brash appanageslump backwater stencildescartes greece legislatewhoosh
Another poet of great emotional depth, David Freakin' Shapiro.
Black Spring:

"I also think that O'Hara is one of the most remarkable poets of the human spirit the English/American language will ever know. And I believe he is also one of the most remarkably "psychologically sophisticated" and "emotionally mature" poets we will ever know. Much more so than, again, say, Creeley, who is oft-revered, and rightly so, for his "sincerity" and for his capacity for revealing depths of "vulnerability" and "honesty" and "courage" (emotional courage, I guess that would be) that are so blatantly and shamefully "covered up," repressed, pounded back down into the collective Unconscious of the nation's overall cultural "maturity." I also think that half a generation or so later, David Bromige and Rae Armantrout are O'Hara's heirs and continue to go even further (I'm talking "emotional maturity" and "psychological sophistication" here, now, NOT form, style, technique, method, etc.), though the "notes" O'Hara hits are surely singularly spectacular, no mistaking that."

That's a fascinating avenue of approach: what, for example, is the status of "sentimentality" in O'Hara and Creeley?

24 ago 2004

What counts as a "good reading" (out loud) of a text. For example, Perloff states that O'Hara was not a good reader of his own work. What would make him better? A better voice? A more standard accent? More emotional expressiveness? I agree he is not always great; he drones on a little bit in some of the longer poems. I'm just asking the question.
O'Hara reading: "Hate is only one of many responses."

this is an audio post - click to play
"There is further an art which imitates by language alone, without harmony, in prose or in verse, and if in verse, either in some one or in a plurality of metres. This form of imitation is to this day without a name."

"By language alone." I take Aristotle to mean here without accompanying music. This kind of "poetry" can be written either in prose or in verse. I think today it might be called "literature."
A tribe in Brazil doesn't have words for numbers above 3, according to recent news reports. (I've heard the results dicussed on NPR's "Science Friday" and seen commentary on Language Log) Neither does the tribe engage in counting activity. It would seem, though, that these two facts are simply two perspectives on the same basic fact: they don't count. If they counted, they would have the words to do so. If they had the words, it would mean that they counted. It doesn't tell us anything very significant about language per se. It is not that the absence of numbers determines the poor mathematical skills of this people.

Imagine a tribe that didn't cook, ate all its food raw (now that we're reviving "primitive" stereotypes.) They wouldn't have a word for "medium-rare" either. And, astoundingly, they make remarkably poor "cooks," but not because of any purely linguistic deficiency. That's what I think Mark Liberman is getting at in his post on this topic: it's not that the absence of words prevent these people from counting, but that they simply don't count. From which I draw the conclusion that all the resources that exist in a language must enter into use. Imagine the contrary case: "Yes, Mr. Anthropologist, we have a quite elaborate number system, but we never actually use it." That would not be plausible, I submit.

It's my birthday today, so I must... prepare class.

23 ago 2004

Lehman's intro is of astonishing platitudinousness: "A poem must capture the reader before it can do anything else, and to do that it must give pleasure." What if it captures the reader by giving displeasure? That is doing something to the reader too.

Analysis of the contents:

Original generation New York School Poets:

Ashbery, Koch, Guest, Mathews

Other New York School Poets (more or less):

Berrigan, Shapiro, Elmsie, Notley, Greenwald,Koethe, Lauterbach, Myles, Collom?

Language poets, more or less:

Bernstein, Silliman, Davidson, Robinson, Armantrout, Andrews, Howe (Fanny), Harryman, DuPlessis, Perelman, Day, Mackey, McCaffery

Mediocrities of the moment:

Pinsky, Collins, Dove, Stern, Wagoner, Wright


Mohammad, edwards, Stefans

St. Louis poets:

Bangs, Phillips, Seidel

Kansas poets:


Other eminent presences:

Rakosi, Hollander

... which leaves others I haven't heard of or am too lazy to make a category for.

I'm just admiring the table of contents of the new BAP 2004. This sets the record for poets I have personally met or corresponded with extensively: Kari Edwards, Ken Irby, David Shapiro, K Silem Mohammad. Plus poets I have been reading for years: Koch, Ashbery, Guest, Howe. After I savor the contents page a while I'll start reading the actual book.


I'm having a hard time coaxing the blogger dashboard to appear. I've had to post this using the "blog this" feature.

22 ago 2004

Prediction: will mop up the Komunyakaa in this year's Mayhew challenge.

I don't see the point in going through all that sad volume again. I'll still do a poem by poem reading, but I have nothing to compare it to this time. I don't have the book in hand yet (BAP 2004, ed. L.H.).

A text that seemed avant-garde and rebellious in our youth now seems didactic and sentimental. Yet our affection for it is undiminished. Its fundamental core is unchanged; the change in perspective is quite slight, although suceptible to being over-dramatized.
I feel another cento coming on...

In a naked bed, in Plato's cave, this lovely day will lengthen into evening. We'll sigh goodbye to everything we ever knew. Alone, where we have walked together, I'll remember April and be glad. I won't be afraid. I loved you once in April. Your lips were warm, and love and spring were new. So I won't be afraid of Autumn and its sorrows, cause I'll remember, April and you. April is the cruellest month. April in Paris, chestnuts in blossom. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, jack frost nipping at your nose. That one knew the eccentric to be the base of design.

Hedge crickets sing. From oriole to crow, note the decline in music. Crow is realist, but then, oriole, too, might be realist. Children picking up our bones will never know that these were once as qujick as foxes on the hill. Left what must have been the look of things. One must have a mind of winter to behold stately, plump, Buck Mulligan. Si creererán estos tontos que me engañan: esto es Leganés. Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain. Anyone lived in a pretty how town, what if a much of a which of a wind. My mind's not right. Con qué seguro paso el mulo en el abismo. How to improve the world (you'll only make things worse). I contain multitudes. A formal feeling comes. The bible is an antique volume; heavenly hurt it gives us. My days have grown so lonely, I sigh for you, for you my only. I'm all for you, body and soul. A sweet disorder in the dress. In rivers north of the future I cast my nets out, which you painstakingly load with words written by the shadows. You did not come.

Tell her that's fair and scorns to have her beauty seen. Last night I dreamed the strangest dream I ever dreamed before. My Momma said not to put beans in my ear, beans in my ears, beans in my ears. My Momma done tole me, when I was in knee-pants. My Momma done tole me, "Son...." A subject and a predicate made of glass. You have entered the narrow zone, your portrait etched in glass becoming less and less until the future faces you, like the mapie you hid. Music, when soft voices die.... Softly, in the dusk... taking me down the vista of years, till I see a child sitting under the piano.

Examples and counter examples:

Apollinaire: Polish? Wrote poetry in French.

Beckett: Wrote texts of various genres in French.

Gimferrer: Began writing poetry in Spanish, then switched back to his native language (Catalan), deploying a version of lactatory fallacy.

Brodsky. Wrote poetry in English. (This example confirms lactatory hypothesis, for me, because I think his poetry in English sucks)

Conrad / Nabokov. Not "poets." How does lactation effect prose writers?

Kerouac. Native language is Quebocois French.

21 ago 2004

Here's another Barbara Guest poem I've transcribed from her voice recording. When the book comes out I'll be able to compare my lineation with the poem on the page:


Ours become young days
morning wrapped in reality
its heel turns a corner
where the game is played
sensitive to the murmur outdoors

I fold you in a warm fleece
Here is its corner
It will hide you until daybreak

smithies, ironworks, lattices to the next floor
we are climbing
The urge enters to see more
destiny peers upward into a new

resting in
nearest haywick
adding up, taking away

Of what use are
stanzas in the dark

Julia got me the New York Times Crossword Puzzle Dictionary for an early birthday present. It's nice to have. Although I can usually do most puzzles without any reference books, it is useful for finishing up a puzzle that has me stuck.

20 ago 2004

I draw almost every evening for a spell. I used to think of myself as someone who "couldn't draw." I'm still pretty inept, but I now can draw--clumsily but with a certain awkward charm. It is a cliché that the drummer's most valuable asset is not a fast right foot but a good set of ears. Similarly, the relevant cliché is that drawing is mainly about seeing, not about manipulating the pencil. I'd play the drums every night if I could. Drawing is quieter.

Looks like I started something. Look at Tony's collage here.
This is post number 1,700 for B.S.. I'm approaching my 2nd year bloggiversary (Sept 5) as well as my 44th birthday (Aug. 24). I don't really need anything, I really have everything I really need in life, but would be happy to have any extra copies of your poetry books (written by you) you have lying around. I'm such a dull person that when I have free time, I go to bookstores to look for poetry books (as opposed to when I'm working as professor of poetry and Spanish.)
I forgot to mention La voz a ti debida (Salinas). I memorized the whole book a few years back, but it only stuck in short term memory.

I memorized a poem from Guest's new book (as yet unpuiblished) off the jacket site. I don't know where the line breaks go, since I haven't seen the poem in print. This is my best approximation:


"Do not forget the sky has other

Let it rest on the embankment
Close the eyes
Lay it in the little bed
Maid of maplewood ["made" would make more sense, but I hear her saying "maid"]
Wash its sleeve with sky drops

Let there be no formal potions
a subject and a predicate
made of glass

You have entered the narrow zone
your portrait etched in glass
becoming less and less until the future
faces you

Like the magpie you hid
exchanging feathers for other feathers

In the tower you flew without wings
speaking in other tongues
to the imagined room"

19 ago 2004

this is an audio post - click to play
I've never memorized a translation of anything.
Texts I have memorized over the years:

Shakespeare sonnets. Probably 60-70 of them. I can only recite about half that number now. A few soliloquies from Hamlet. Prologues from Henry V.
Beckett's Ill Seen Ill Said. A good chunk of this text. The most prose I've ever memorized. I can't recite any of it know. Beckett's "Ohio Impromptu." A short play with only one speaking part.
Claudio Rodríguez. Probably 40-50 poems. I can relearn these quickly whenever I want.
WCW: Most of the famous shorter poems, and a few known only to a few readers. I can relearn these easily whenever I want as well. Some I've never forgotten.
Frost: Most of the better known sonnets and a few other short poems.
O'Hara: Two or three of my favarites like "To the Harbormaster."
Yeats: Maybe a dozen poems.
Keats: Some of the Odes. I have to relearn them each time.
Stevens: Quite a bit. Mostly shorter poems. I memorize them quickly but forget them again.
One or two poems a piece by numerous others, Creeley, Bécquer... a lot of anthology poems, "Go, lovely rose..." "Rose cheeked Laura, come."

Memorability is a funny thing. For example, Barbara Guest is one of my favorite poets, but I can't seem to memorize her poetry with any ease. She doesn't have that particular kind of "stickiness." With cummings I retain the rhythm but don't remember the particular words: my father moved through dooms of love / through blanks of blank, through blanks of blank / singing each morning out of each night / my father moved through blanks of blanks." My 99-year old Grandmother has plenty of texts by memory, so maybe it's genetic. Some people memorize, some don't. I can't say we memorizers are superior, but I can't imagine not doing it. I can do it quickly, but don't retain all that well...

For some reason my aud-blog posts aren't showing up...

18 ago 2004

I just ordered this:

Surely Billly Collins could have been left out of this one. But no...
I spend much energy avoiding my tendency to give offense. Yet I give in to these impulses often enough so that my reputation is as one who is free with the insults.
fait accompli:

"Her hair I said quiet, rip, tide, hearth grid
Green, greenest, time
Wet, hill, lean, learn, yearn
Barn, thistle, lark ... "


This is not a style I associate with Nick's poetry, but it is a fantastic poem in any case. Follow link above to get the rest of it.
Buffalo Bill's defunct who used to ride a watersmoothsilver stallion and break onetwothreefour pigeons just like that Jesus, for Christ's sake look out where yr going. Siempre te ven mis ojos, ciudad de mis días marinos. I'm beginning to see the light.

I make a date for golf and you can bet your life it rains. I try to throw a party and the guy upstairs complains. I guess I'll spend my life just catching colds and missing trains. Everything happens to me. You came, you saw, you conquered me. A piano tinkling in the next apartment. Those tender words that told you what my heart meant. A fairgrounds painted swings--these foolish things remind me of you. Summertime, when the living is easy. So comes love. I want to get you on a slow boat to China.

How do I love you, let me count the ways. I love you as a sherrif searches for a walnut. I love you as an eggplant absorbs oil, and you must always add more to the pan. I gave away the money you were planning to live on next year. And again falls this quiet persistent rain. One and one two three. St. Louis woman, with her diamond ring. Give me a pig-foot, and a bottle of beer. As freedom is a breakfast food and truth can live with right and wrong. Jersey Guernsey in somber and illustrious weather.

Standing and watching, through the drizzle, how the mist and further edge of pond merge. Leaves litter the lawn, books the bed. Nel mezzo del camí de nostra vita. Silent, upon a peak in Darien.


I'm trying to get the rhythm and tone to work in these collages. I must balance several factors: length of quotations. Longer quotes are more effective in themselves, but then we lose the collage-like effect. Familiarity versus unfamiliarity. The shock of recognition versus the "where does this come from" effect. Randomness versus connectedness.

Quotations from tinpanalley songs stand up pretty well with canonical poetry in this context.
Back in the office. I got off easy from my weekend disasters: the plumbers charged three figures instead of four; the Bosnian mechanics fixed my car radio for a few bucks. Allergy attack subsided. I requisitioned a bookcase from the hallway to hold my overflow, so my office is approaching order.

17 ago 2004

In Jacket 25, aside from some good Barbara Guest and Rakosi material, is a Bolivian travelogue by Kent J. and Forrest G., which I am slowly reading in my spare time. Jacket, for me, is the most consistently valuable internet journal for contemporary poetry.
Homage to Milosz

The annals of my idiocy would require multiple volumes--
my symphonic flatulence, not to mention I was a fucking commie for a spell.

And that's just volume I (and half of II.) Like a moth to the flame--
if you'll permit me that cliché--I sinned against self-awareness.

Even if I'd known, I'd have done it the same way.
I encouraged leaden-footed translators

named Bob, for Nobel dreams, and all because of desire.
The same desire you have, hypocrite lecteur,

mon semblable, mon frère. Actually I won't write this
prologue to a 20-volume suicide note.

The plumbers are here, destroying my house to save it.
It's late and I'm tired. And what good would it do anyway?

16 ago 2004

Here's a Milosz poem I rather like:

The history of my stupidity would fill many volumes.

Some would be devoted to acting against consciousness,
Like the flight of a moth which, had it known,
Would have tended nevertheless toward the candle's flame.

Others would deal with ways to silence anxiety,
The little whisper which, though it is a warning, is ignored.

I would deal separately with satisfaction and pride,
The time when I was among their adherents
Who strut victoriously, unsuspecting.

But all of them would have one subject, desire,
If only my own -- but no, not at all; alas,
I was driven because I wanted to be like others.
I was afraid of what was wild and indecent in me.

The history of my stupidity will not be written.
For one thing, it's late. And the truth is laborious.

Berkeley, 1980.

Trans. Robert Hass and Robert Pinsky

Yet I have to say that the translation is crap. It's rhythmically inert; the diction is stiff and awkward. The poetic voice that comes through is "slow and stolid" (Henry Gould's words). "I would deal separately with satisfaction and pride." I might re-write this line as "My smugness and arrogance deserve a separate treatment." "devoted to acting against consciousness." That's frightful. I'm not sure if this is meant to be a witty poem, because the wit doesn't come through at all. The translation is over-solemn, "alas." Why do I like the poem then? I'm imagining it in my own, snazzier version. A version in which the speaker really does think he's been stupid, not a version in which he thinks of himself as a wise man, making a show of his humility.

My inability to read translations is simply that--a personal defect. It has nothing to do with the poor quality of some translations, although that doesn't help much. Translations simply exclude 80-90 percent of what I care about in the poets that I most care about. The poet's particular feel for language, tone, rhythm, etc... I have had the experience of not recognizing a translation of a text that I know well. I can compare the two texts and find that, yes, the translator has done a good job, but I still stubbornly refuse to recognize, to acknowledge any but the crudest relationship between the two texts.

Take the famous example of Beckett's Ill seen Ill said (Mal vu mal dit). This is a translation by Beckett himself, the author of the French original, into English, but, as Marjorie Perloff shows in a classic essay, Beckett's relationship to the French language is totally distinct from his relationship to the English language. So one of the most fundamental aspects of the text--the writer's relationship to the language itself--is radically different in the two texts. Milosz's American translators I'm sure have done well by him, but I just don't feel any tension in their language. I just can't give myself over to the text.

If you don't feel as hostile to translation as I do you will never be a good translator.
The eager note on my door said "call me." Anyone lived in a pretty how town. My father moved through dooms of love through haves of am. My father in downtown red walked around through shadows of ink black, with hat, nodding, in the immemorial lights of my dreams. And I have since dreamt of Lowell. Remember our lists of birds? Voces de muerte sonaron, cerca del Guadalquivir. Silent, upon a peak in Darien. The flashy female with her mother gets it, the Jew gets it straight. It is the inquisition, the revolution. It is beauty itself that lives in them daily. Over the flower sharp pasture's edge. Was there another Troy for her to burn? Who will go drive with Fergus now, the young in one another's arms, birds in the trees, were nine and fifty swans. The nineteenth Autumn has come upon me since I first made my count. I saw, before I had well finished, all suddenly mount. The small yellow grass onion, precursor to Manhattan's pavements, when, cooked as it comes, in bunches, though inclined to be a little slimy... The descent beckoned as the ascent beckoned. That they have flowers also in hell. Of asphodel, that greeny flower, I come. Silent upon a peak. Much have I travelled in the realms of gold. Good fences make good neighbors, then took the other, just as fair, and having perhaps the better claim because it was grassy and wanted wear. Though as for that the passing there had worn them really about the same. And both that morning equally lay. Hiram, she said, the sump backed up, a little bird, I think, has wandered through the pipes, and all's gone wrong. These little children singing in stone. All in green when my love riding, on a great horse of gold, into the silver dawn. Semi-articulate flakes. Silent. Drive he sd. Like the ingredients of a witches brew. And the best part of it is they grow everywhere. Conspiring with him how to load. Marsh-crickets sing. Why should I blame her that she turned my days to misery? A peak in Darien. Stout Cortez. Drive he sd.

15 ago 2004

I'm adding some links to the blog for my graduate course:Géneros híbridos. Warning: using a "foreign" language.
To clarify that last post: I'm sure CM is a great poet in Polish, but you don't know that from what you're getting in English. You have to take it on faith.


Three misfortunes of varying degree of annoyance yesterday:

car radio and tape deck stopped working

allergy attack of great severity made me take benadryl, after which I slept for 12 hours; I am still groggy

meanwhile, a plumbing disaster: a line under the basement is broken, soaking a section of carpet in my home office. We cannot use kitchen sink or dishwasher until this is fixed

Classes start on Thursday in Kansas.
What does it mean for a poet to be known mostly through translation? I am incapable of reading translations of poetry, so Milosz for me is a complete unknown. I don't know how someone who's never read him in the Polish can say that he comes through successfully into English. After all, there are at least two distinct possibilities: that Milosz is a masterful poet in Polish, and the reader of translation is losing a great deal (in the relatively flat versions I have seen). Or, Milosz in Polish is quite flat and uninteresting, and therefore the reader of translation is not missing anything!

13 ago 2004

Here's another of my collages. The only rule is that I have to work entirely from memory:

Ah, que la chair est triste, et j'ai lu tous les livres! Fuir, la-bàs fuir, when over the flowery sharp pasture's edge, unseen, the salt ocean lifts its form, chicory and daisies, tied, released, seem hardly flowers alone, but color, and the shape perhaps, of restlessness, whereas the sea is circled and sways peacefully upon its plantlike stem. It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing, dah dah dah dah, dah dah dah dah, dah dah dah dah daaaah. It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that abstract weightlessness like a rock, missing your head, barely, like sardines on a bed: who put them there and why? When to the sessions of sweet silent thought, I summon up remembrance of things past, and suddenly, I saw you standing there. Who'd have thought that snow falls. It always circled, whirling like a thought in glass bowl around me and my bear. Then it was beautiful containment. Snow whirled, nothing every fell. Nature's first green is gold. Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf's a flower, but only so an hour. As I sd to my friend because I am always talking, John, I sd, which was not his name, the darkness surrounds us, music when soft voices die, vibrates in the memory. Yo sé un himno gigante y extraño que anuncia en la noche del alma una aurora. T estas páginas son de ese himno cadencias que el aire dilata en las sombras. La luna vino a la fragua con su polizón de nardos. In the back yard of the hospital where nothing will grow, there's a certain slant of light, winter afternoon, that oppresses, like the weight of cathedral tunes. Never again would the bird's song be the same, and to do that to birds was why she came. I get no kick from champaigne. Mere alcohol doesn't thrill me at all, so tell me why it should be true, that I get a kick out of you? I get a thrill every time I see you standing there before me. The way you wear your hat, the way you sip your tea, the memory of all that, no, no, they can't take that away from me. Hit the road, Jack and never come back no more no more no more no more. She being brand new. I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix. Ah sunflower, weary of time, who countest the steps of the sun, seeking after that sweet golden clime where the traveler's journey is done. Sweep, sweep, sweep! Break, break, break. I fall upon the thorns of life, I bleed. I am, but what I am none knows or cares, silent, upon a peak in Darien. Orpheus liked the glad, personal quality of the things beneath the sky. Euridice was a part of all of this. There I could never be a boy. All things are tragic when a mother watches.

12 ago 2004

Equanimity - if not a poetics, then what?

"'We all found it hard to imagine a system of poetic value not grounded in scarcity.' C'mon guys, you can do it."

Is this from the poet's or the reader's perspective? From the reader's perspective, any scarcity is highly artificial. What's scarce is not good poetry to read, but discernment, time, and knowledge of foreign languages. From the poet's point of view, the problem is finding readers, and hence the illusion of a certain scarcity is useful. That is to say, if a given poet is only one of two thousand equally worthwhile poets, why should any particular reader choose to read him or her? How can one distinguish oneself from the thousands?

Reading these back issues (of Diacritics) brought me back to a debate about style in literary criticism. Certain theorists were admired for their rhetorically wrought prose: Bloom and Jameson especially. Eagleton, writing on Jameson, says he cannot imagine anyone not deriving intense aesthetic pleasure from Jameson's style. (To which I would say: "Your imagination is very limited, Terry.") He reaches for Jameson instead of a book of poetry, etc... Another, related idea that was circulating in this period was that we were living in an age of criticism, in which the Blooms and Jamesons were producing more compelling work than the poets and novelists du jour.

You know where I'm going with this, don't you? Accomplished style was identified with a clotted, overwrought academic manner. English professors praising other English professors for their fine style seem never to ask themselves whether this is the only variety of style that might be aesthetically pleasing--and to whom? I simply don't agree that Jameson's style is exquisite. I'm all for blurring the boundaries between theory and poetry, but doesn't this imply, also, that we hold the theorists to a higher standard of writing? That is, if Harold Bloom is a poet, a creative figure, by virtue of his writing, shouldn't we say he is a very, very bad poet?

Drinks with McCrary and Irby yesterday evening.


I got a complete set of Diacritics from the hallway. Gee, lucky, me. I really want to read 10 reviews of The Political Unconscious and ten more of Is There a text in This Class?. I'm sure there's some hidden treasure here I just haven't found yet.

11 ago 2004

Speaking of Aaron Belz, here's a selection of his poems at meaningless.com.

10 ago 2004

Readings @ The Contemporary

Another St. Louis reading series. It looks very promising.
The Poetics - 3 (Aristotle on the Art of Poetry): "A third difference in these arts is in the manner in which each kind of object is represented. Given both the same means and the same kind of object for imitation, one may either (1) speak at one moment in narrative and at another in an assumed character, as Homer does; or (2) one may remain the same throughout, without any such change; or (3) the imitators may represent the whole story dramatically, as though they were actually doing the things described."

This is the origin of the narrative/lyric/drama classification, yet Aristotle does not use the word "lyric" in this context! Lyric would presumably be (2), a literary mode in which there is only one speaker. It should be noted that a short story with no reported dialogue would be a case of (2), not (1), but all three modes are "poetic."
A colleague gave me an issue of Poetry from 1963, with a lot of material on Spanish poetry. Henry Rago was the editor. It sure looks a lot more interesting than the magazine nowadays. And it's regretable that translation from modern Spanish poetry has hardly gotten anywhere in 40 years.

9 ago 2004

I'm back in Kansas. Saw Irby (a voice behind calling me, "Jonathan"). He's reading with Grenier at a Zukofsky conference at Columbia next month.

8 ago 2004

Ask Dr. Mayhew

Dr. Mayhew,

I am a student at Concordia University in Nebraska, and over the summer, I have had
the opportunity to begin writing my own poetry in Spanish and read the poetry of
others.  As I read more poetry, I found myself wondering, "What is poetry?"  I know how
Sidney and other poets defined it in the past, but the poetry that is written today is
different from that of the past.  Can we distinguish poetry from prose or prose from
poetry?  Should we draw a definitive line between the two?  One of my English
professors at Concordia repeatedly told my Psychological and Sociological Analysis of
Modern Literature class (a verbose title for a class that studied novels written during
the Modern era) that the best pieces of prose are held together by poetic devices.  I
agree with his statement for the most part, but some writers seem to blur the lines
between the two.  Should we look at literature in its entirety?

I am not expecting a response to all of my questions because it would be lengthy. 
Since you are a professor of Modern Spanish poetry, I thought that you would be able
to give me some insight or at least suggest some authors who would enable me to
formulate my own thoughts on the topic.

Thank you,

Mark Bajus


Dear Mark:

The concept of "literature" is a relatively recent one, dating more or less to the 18th century. What Ancient Writers like Aristotle called "poetry" included many genres: tragedy, comedy, epic, panegyric, satire, etc... We cannot accurately call poetry itself a "genre" of literature, then. The verse/prose distinction, unfortunately for those who desire a simple explanation, does not line up with the poetry/literature distinction, since prose can use any poetic device--short of meter and lineation--and modern poets often write in prose or free verse. I feel we are now approaching, again, the Aristotelian definition of poetry: a kind of writing that can be found in any form or genre. The French poet Mallarmé affirmed that prose has rhythm as well: hence the distinction he drew was between legitimately poetic writing (whether in verse or prose) and "the newspaper." However, the newspaper could also be poetic, if it employed techniques of montage or collage in "poetic" fashion. The Spanish poet Antonio Gamoneda defines the genres of "literature" as "poesía, diversamente preparada." Another way of approaching the problem is to see what ideological purpose is served by defining poetry as separate from prose. Does this lower our expectation of what prose can do? Does it preserve poetry as a separate realm in which nothing of importance happens? What is the significance of the fact that most narrative and theater in the past 200 years is written in prose rather than verse? Why is poetry now identified with "the lyric"?


Jonathan Mayhew

7 ago 2004

fait accompli: "'...I agree that the American poetry scene is dominated by 'false reputations.'" --Charles North, quoted by Nick Piombino.

I've been thinking about this topic quite a bit. There are relatively modest local poets I know, poets who wouldn't make inflated claims for themselves, yet whose poetry causes no "vergüenza ajena" [second-hand embarrassment?] in the reader. I figure if I know one or two or three of these people in Lawrence, Kansas, there must be hundreds of poets in this category whom I've never heard of. Almost any poet of this type is better than, say, than __________ [fill in your choice for most overrated famous poet here].

This paradox might be explained, in part, by shifting horizons of expectation. We find it hard to believe that a poet THAT HORRIBLE could be so famous, but if we were told that the same poet was completely unknown, we would judge the same work to be not half bad. Yet I am not convinced that this is an adequate explanation. That is to say, I sincerely think Jim McCrary is a whole lot better than Mr. or Ms. False Reputation. I'll have to think about this a little more...

Count like this:

ONE and TWO and THREE and FOUR and... etc...

Now count like this:

ONE and two AND three and ONE and two AND three and...

Either way, there are four beats, so why does the second way feel so different? Because of the implied polyrhythm (two against three):

a) ONE and TWO and THREE and ....

b) ONE and two AND three and ...

Try tapping a with your left hand and b with your right hand.

6 ago 2004

Needless to the say, the "poem" posted below contains no lines that I wrote myself--although I did manage to mangle a few lines by others.
fait accompli

"I cannot let write like who cannot leave the alcoholism. I have tried the love and the academy, the Gestalt psycotherapy and the Tecate beer, the aphorism and zen, the photography and the bicycle, but nothing. I always return, I add more text to a work that it wanted to consist of one joint done of pure pieces of silence. But I cannot. Whenever I write a word comes an intermediate silence, it is certain, but soon other words come, too many. If somebody observes and listens to well this text it can give account of this. But also extrañ can be given account of something enough: in all text there are many words but also much silence, many empty syllables, syllables of silence that they avoid that all the language becomes a single word and, simultaneously, that silence is a secret triumph. But that triumph is not mine, because whenever I want to write an empty syllable leaves a word to me. To write is a lost battle."

Here is a better translation:

"I can't stop writing--the same way a drinker cannot stop being an alcholic. I've tried love, academia, Gestalt psychotherapy, Tecate, aphorisms, zen, photography, and bicycle riding, but it's no good. I always come back. I add more text to a work that wants to remain a joining together of sections of pure silence. But I can't do it. Every time I write a word there is an intervening silence, it's true, but then an excessive number of words intrude. Someone observing and listening carefully to this text will notice this. But he will also notice something rather strange. In every text there are many words but also a lot of silence, many empty syllables, syllables of silence that prevent all language from becoming a single word. And, at the same time, this silence is secret triumph. But this triumph is not mine, because every time I try to write an empty syllable a whole word comes out. To write is a lost battle." --Heriberto Yépez.
The Third Sound (via dumbfoundry).
Tel qu'en lui-même, en fin, l'éternité le change, silent, upon a peak in Darien, I found a dimpled spider, fat and white: little Joe Gould has lost his teeth, and doesn't know where to find them, and found a second-hand set that clacked. School is over, it is too hot to walk at ease. At ease in light frocks they walk the streets, to while the time away. They have grown tall. In summer the song sings itself above the muffled words. O wild west wind, thou breath of Autumn's being, sucede que me canso de ser hombre. When you are old and grey and full of sleep, and nodding by the fire, take down this book, and slowly read, and dream of the soft look your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep. Ronsard te chantait. Fair seed-time had my soul, Milton though shouldst be living at this hour. Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit of that forbidden tree. O rose, thou art sick, the invisible worm that flies in the night in the howling storm has found out thy bed of crimson joy, and his dark secret love doth thy life destroy. I was angry with my friend. When my bangs were cut straight across my forehead. Hay golpes en la vida, tan fuertes, yo no sé. Mizu no oto. Arma virumque cano. Hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frere, mon enfant, ma soeur. Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs always wrong to the light, so never seeing deeper down in the well than where the water gives me back in a shining surface picture, me myself in a summer heaven, god-like, looking out of a wreath of ferns and cloud puffs. A suit of shoes. Blue windows, blue rooftops, and the blue light of the rain. These contiguous phrases of Rachmoninoff pouring into my enormous ears, and the tears falling into my blindness. The only way to be quiet is to be quick, so I scare you clumsily or surprise you with a stab. A praying mantis knows time more intimately than I and is more casual. Crickets use time for the accompaniment of innocent fidgeting. A zebra races counterclockwise. All this I desire. My quietness has a man in it. So many echoes in my head. You were wearing... I love you as a sherrif searches for a walnut. These are amazing, each joining a neighbor, as though speech were a still performance. They feed they lion. Arranging by chance to meet as far from the morning as agreeing with it, you and I suddenly are what the trees try to tell us we are. That their merely being there means something, that soon we may love, touch, explain. As I walked out one evening. The cold had made a poet. Oh for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention. A kingdom for a stage, princes to act, and monarchs to behold the swelling scene. Then should the war-llke Harry, like himself, assume the port of Mars, and at this feet, hemmed in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire crouch for employment. I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast. Forgive me. They were delicious, so sweet and so cold. They taste good to her. Do not go gentle into that good night. I knew a woman, lovely in her bones. The whisky on your breath would make a young boy dizzy. My dog lay three days dead without a grave. Siempre la claridad viene del cielo. Es un don. No se halla entre las cosas sino muy por encima, y las ocupa, haciendo de ello vida y labor propias. Las ascuas de un crepúsculo morado. When Dick like a discus hurler throws his wood against the sky. When I have fears. When in the chronicle of wasted time I see descriptions of the fairest wights, and beauty making beautiful old rhymes in praise of ladies dead and lovely knights. Then of thy beauty do I question make, that thou among the wastes of time must go, since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake, and die as fast as they see others grow. A salesman is an it that stinks excuse me. The Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls. Jesus told him, he didn't believe it. Lao Tse told him, he didn't believe it. I like my body when it is with your body. In just spring. So much depends upon a red wheel barrow, the apparition of these faces in the crowd. Come, let us feast our eyes. Noone listens to poetry. Guillaume Apollinaire is dead. In that November off Tehuantepec, the slopping of the sea grew dark one night and made me think of rancid umbrellas and flatulent chocolate. Complacencies of the peignoir, and late coffee and oranges in a sunny chair, and the blue freedom of a cockatoo upon the rug mingle to dissipate the holy hush of ancient sacrifice. She dreams a little and she feels the pears are not viols, nudes. They resemble nothing else. He mistook the shadow of his equipage for blackbirds. If you can't eat you got to smoke and we ain't got nothing to smoke. Come on kid, let's go to sleep. I sing of Olaf. Odi et amo. Caeli, Lesbia nostra, Lesbia illa, illa Lesbia quam Catullus plus quam se et suos amavit omnes, nunc in quadraviis et angiportis glubit magnamani Remi nepotes. She walk in beauty, like a lake: season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. There where she sits she sees Venus rise. On. Men come out of fields and put coats on and become businessmen and die stale. The same loathsome, stale death they might of died in countryside hills of dung.

There, I just had to get some poetry out of my system this morning...

5 ago 2004

News: "President Bush offered up a new entry for his catalog of ``Bushisms'' on Thursday, declaring that his administration will ``never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people.'' "

I think you've done enough already.
Black Spring: "I and some we need to completely separate 'identity' from all consciousness of my/our poetic(s) community. To write such that no self-conscious, and also no more 'unconscious,' writing engagement is directed at, directed for, 'poets' we have in our mind's eye and ears at all junctures of the process."

I'm so far away from accomplishing such a separation, or even imagining or desiring it, that I have to admire Steve for thinking so far outside the box. I've always wanted to write as a poet for other poets, in some kind of giant allusive conversation.


Email is down. Which doesn't stop me from checking it obsessively every 10 minutes to see whether it's up yet. The whole University of Kansas server seems to be down, in fact.
Of course we both know that's crap. I'm not going to read Hayden Carruth or A. R. Ammons and decide it's my fault for not appreciating him.
And many others in the same category. I never saw the point of Ammons, for example, but was never interested in him enough to satisfy myself that it was his fault and not mine.
I ought to like Hayden Carruth's poetry. He's into jazz. I have no reason to dislike anything about him. Yet I cannot find a poem of his that I genuinely like. At the same time, I haven't read enough of him to know whether it's my fault or his.
This Spanish composition text I ordered. It seems to be written with the intention of indoctrinating the students into dullness. My first order of business will be to tell the students, "Don't write like the textbook." I'd rather them write like Heriberto Yépez.
Imagine a poet struggling to find a solution to a particular problem. One day the solution is found. Eureka! Years later readers looking at the poet's work are faced with a tragic enigma: why did the poet stop producing compelling work after a given date? It is as though the poet "lost it" just about the time that the aesthetic "problem" was "resolved."

That's where many go wrong: seeing things as solutions that are really only problems.

4 ago 2004

If I don't have a link to your blog here yet, or if the link is out of date or incorrect, let me know.

3 ago 2004

if you can't eat you got to

smoke and we aint got
nothing to smoke:come on kid

let's go to sleep
if you can't smoke you got to

Sing and we aint got

nothing to sing;come on kid
let's go to sleep

if you can't sing you got to
die and we aint got

Nothing to die,come on kid

let's go to sleep
if you can't die you got to

dream and we aint got
nothing to dream(come on kid

Let's go to sleep)

Here is a poem my little brother used to like. I liked it too, and still do. This will compensate for my earlier un-apology/apology for Cummings.

I'm updating my links, which are in disarray. I'm trying to have perfect reciprocity, in other words, link to all 106 sources that link to me. It's going to take me a few days. I had outdated links to many blogs.
While looking at my links on technorati.com a few weeks, I noticed a post from my own blog. The text there seemed strikinlgy beautiful, but I had no memory of writing it. What could it be? Closer examination revealed it to be a translation from a Spanish poem.
People with as much interest in film as I do in poetry. A frightening thought. The differences: everyone has seen film, not everyone has read poetry. Everyone with a keen interest in poetry has written or will write poetry. Not everyone will make a film.

2 ago 2004

fait accompli on Serendipity Books.

I spent many hours there as an adolescent. It used to be on Shattuck Ave. I got my dad to drop me off there and come get me several hours later. I bought books by Tony Towle, Joseph Ceravolo, John Koethe, Kenneth Koch, and others I probably don't remember. That was the germ of my New York School collection, although some books got misplaced over the years.

What books did I own when I was 17 and beginning college? I know I owend about 100 books of poetry, although I cannot reconstruct the entire collection in my memory.

Berryman, The Dreams Songs. I had both the original 77 and the expanded version.

Lowell. Life Studies.

Cummings. I had the Collected Poems. [no apologies]

Josephine Miles. Selected Poems. [this is still at my mom's house]

Ashbery. Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. I wish I had this edition; it would be worth a lot of money.

Koch. The Pleasures of Peace. Ko. Sleeping with Women. Maybe a few others.

O'Hara. Selected Poems.

Gary Snyder. Turtle Island. This came out and won the Pulitzer when I was about 16.

Williams. Pictures from Brueghel.

Ginsberg. Howl. Reality Sandwiches.

A few books by James Tate.

I had some Richard Eberhardt, some Karl Shapiro, who lived a few blocks away. Stevens? Some "Minor Poets of the New York School." Towle.

Possibly A Coney Island of the Mind. A selected Neruda in translation; I didn't know Spanish yet. I might have had some books by poets that no longer interest me, like Bly. I know I had never heard of Jack Spicer, for example.


Later: also Pound and Eliot. Blake. A decent edition of Herrick. Breton, Young Cherry Trees...
But of course Wittgenstein minus the creative genius is nothing. A few mental habits or mannerisms.
I've been reading Wittgenstein on Culture and Value. My mind works in a very similar way to his (minus the brilliant intelligence of course) so I find his ideas greatly stimulating, even one that might seem relatively banal to someone of another habit of mind. I think I know *why* he says what he does, even if I'm not at all sure I'm right.
The Boston Massacre sounded like a lot of fun. Next year I'm definitely going.


I've been getting more than the usual number emails about the blog. Keep 'em coming. I answer them all. Two people have have guessed the answers to the McKuen/Rich quiz. Chris Lott got them all right, in fact.

1 ago 2004

The tediousness of so much poetry. The fear of contributing to this tediousness. All the Asbhery imitators. The longwinded, the dull, the pretentious and portentous.