31 dic 2005

Zoo pictures by Julia Tsuchiya-Mayhew.
Here' that Rorem quote I was referring to earlier today:

"He made of human loneliness a subject of high camp, yet despite his virtues, he created no enjoyable characters or any real catharsis. His ultimate value will lie not so much in his own works, but in his influence. Without him there would be no Pinter or Albee, no Ionesco or Orton."

What an idiot. "Enjoyable characters"? I can think of many, but what a cretinous criterion to apply to Samuel Beckett.
I went to the MLA without really going to the MLA. I didn't go to any panels or even register for the convention. I saw very few people. Mostly, I went to the zoo and several museums / monuments with my daughter while my wife did the MLA thing. I realized I had never been in the I.M. Pei East wing of the National Gallery. Basically I hadn't been there as an adult.


My favorite Beckett text, "neither," was set to music by my favorite 20th century composer, Morton Feldman. The entire "opera" lasts close to an hour, and not one of the words is sung comprehensibly, in the one recording I have downloaded. I can't discern a single syllable. I guess I like the "fact" that this work, which I like quite a bit, bears a relation to this other text, which I also love--even though the relationship is invisible (inaudible.)


I found a quote by Ned Rorem about about Beckett, in which he says the best thing about Beckett is not his own work but his influence on Albee, Ionesco, Pinter, etc... And I thought to myself: "I wouldn't trade a page of Beckett for the entire complete works of all the playwrights Beckett has influenced." It's not that I disdain Albee & Co. It just seems a little perverse to denigrate the great original and praise those who learned from him.


I heard both Albee and Ionesco speak as an undergraduate. They both gave the exact same talk: the superiority of true, truth-telling theater to commercial Broadway / Boulevard theater. Albee complained for an hour how Neil Simon made more money than Samuel Beckett.

Although both Albee and Ionesco were entirely correct, from my perspective then and now, they both gave pretty much vacuous talks. There wasn't a single insight beyond the declaration of allegiance. Or is my memory reducing it now? No, because I remember others complaining too at the time. The University had paid Albee 10 thousand or so to complain about how playwrights like him didn't earn enough money.

25 dic 2005

Anyone going to MLA? Email me and we'll get together. I have no official responsibilities this year except taking Julia to museums.

23 dic 2005

Did I ever post one of my favorite sentences from Beckett? I'm sure I did but it was several years ago:

"Je dors peu, et le peu que je dors, je le dors le jour."
What place does Ron Silliman hold in the pantheon of modern writers, does anyone know?

Yes, I know the exact place Ron Silliman occupies in the pantheon. Contact me for details.
Long-windedness is rampant in the blogging world. Holbo, Silliman, Abramson, Bérubé, can dash off a 6,000 word squib about something, about anything, and then do the same thing the next day. Meanwhile I'm struggling to reach 5,000 on my Beckett article, after a week or so of working 3 to 4 hours day. On a good day I might add 500 words to my word count--and this is before any real polishing of the prose. Of course, this is scholarly writing where every statement must be backed-up and inserted into a pre-existing academic conversation. It is tiresome but also a good kind of discipline for me, since I like to toss off unsupported opinions, as you well know from reading this blog.

In the case of the article I am now writing, I have to take into account several pre-existing conversations:

Beckett studies
Spanish Cultural Studies and Intellectual History
Studies of Valente, the poet whose work I am studying along with Beckett
Studies of contemporary Spanish poetry
Discourses on modernism generally

I have to balance my different degrees of expertise in each of these fields. I have to anticipate objections, make sure I don't contradict myself too much, that my argument is coherent and cogent and doesn't fall to pieces.

I believe a piece of criticism must deal with a critical problem. That is, it can't just be a description or an interpretation. I like setting the bar high for myself. An article can just be a line on your c.v. Or it can be a line on your c.v. that kicks some ass. But ultimately it is just a line on your c.v.

21 dic 2005

New location for écritures bleues
We don't need to be deliberately self-destructive, because ordinary life is already ravaging enough.

20 dic 2005

Between Beckett and Koch--that is my world. These might very well be my two favorite authors, judging by how many books by both I own. What do they have in common? The English language (but it is not the same English). The French language? (Is it the same French?) Paris? Grove Press? The twentieth century? Poetry fiction and drama? Humor? (but it is not the same humor either).
Maybe the central question of Beckett studies is how much, or whether?, to recuperate negativity in positive form. If there is no recuperation, no going after a positive through a "via negativa," what is the justification, the pay off? On the other hand, aren't positive recuperations simply sentimentalized readings of uncompromisingly negative texts? No, I think it could be shown that Beckett himself invites these recuperations... The short text "neither" illustrates this aporia:

To and fro in shadow from inner to outershadow

from impenetrable self to impenetrable unself by way of neither

as between two lit refuges whose doors once neared gently close,
once turned away from gently part again

beckoned back and forth and turned away

heedless of the way, intent on the one gleam or the other

unheard footfalls only sound

till at last halt for good, absent for good from self and other

then no sound

then gently light unfading on that unheeded neither

unspeakable home
Beckett on Proust:

"The only fertile research is excavatory, immersive, a contraction of the spirit, a descent. The artist is active, but negatively, shrinking from the nullity of extra-circumferential phenomena, drawn in to the core of the eddy. "

But of course this is also Beckett on Beckett. Did I mention I am writing my first essay ever on Beckett? I think I know more than I thought I did about him. Of course, the essay is about other things as well, particularly the Spanish poet Valente. This quotation could be about Valente himself, although it was written when the latter was 2 years old.

19 dic 2005

Julia with Charles Demuth's #5.

15 dic 2005

I found a 1928 Cántico in the library stacks. (Jorge Guillén). This would be kind of like finding a first edition of Harmonium just sitting in the stacks ready to be checked out by anyone. Of course some idiot had made some pencil notes on one page. If this were in mint condition and weren't a library copy, it would probably be worth around $2,000. Of course I checked it out, a temporary rescue. "Tiempo en profundidad; está en jardines." Lorca took a line from this poem and began his own poem in Poeta en Nueva York: "Sí, tu niñez: ya fábula de fuentes."
Someone expressed the fear that this blog would become "Silliman lite" as I work on my academic work during the next year. The chances of that are small. First of all, I have always been an academic, and have seen the blog as an escape from that type of writing, not an extention of it. Second of all, Ron is not an academic and has never been one. As far as I know he doesn't spend his time trying to get into PMLA, as I once did.

I want to write one of my articles on Kenneth Koch. After I get through a few of the things in my own field. My first project is on Samuel Beckett and Spanish poetry. I'm about half way through it.

12 dic 2005

I've decided to kick it up into high gear for 2006 in writing scholarly articles. As I was working on one today I said to myself, "I know how to do this." I don't have any problems generating ideas, or in writing them, or in getting them published. I needed to take a brief break because it has gotten stale for me. Now I'm up for it again.

11 dic 2005

What is your favorite Kenneth Koch poem? Respond in comments. if you don't like Kenneth Koch get out of here. I mean that very seriously.

10 dic 2005

The corn is as high as an elephant's eye
Michelle, ma belle, sont les mots qui vont très bien ensemble, très bien ensemble
I love you as a sherrif searches for a walnut

Before my pen has gleaned my teaming brain
Secrets of Liszt and Scriabin pouring into my enormous ears
Snow has fallen into the bottle of eraser fluid

One must have a mind of winter
The back wings of the hospital where nothing will grow lie cinders
Do I dare eat a peach?

I guess I'll spend my life just catching colds and missing trains
A piano tinkling in the next apartment
You make me sick with all your talk about restraint and mature talent

Bless my homeland forever
I make a date for golf and you can bet your life it rains
I try to give a party and the guy upstairs complains

I get no kick in a plane. Flying up high with some guy in the sky is my idea of nothing to do
These lacustrine cities grew out of loathing
They flee from me who sometime did me seek

8 dic 2005

I was writing quite a bit of poetry in Spanish at one point, and then that particular faucet could no longer be turned on. I forgot how to listen to that particular form of dictation. The poetic personality I developed was quite different--more of a deliberately estranged persona or mask than my English voice is. I'm trying to get it back now. Maybe translating into Spanish might help get things started again.

6 dic 2005

All these years I've assumed the title of the work was a thousand and ONE avant-garde plays, only to realize this morning that it's actually One Thousand Avant-Garde Plays. Somehow the Arabian Nights crept in there.

When I was a kid I always heard that as 1,001 Arabian KNIGHTS.

5 dic 2005

Book Review

If America's greatest living poet dies, does he (or she) become America's 200th greatest dead poet? In the case of Kenneth Koch, I'd argue he's STILL the greatest living poet. I'm reading the Collected Poems from start to finish. I'm almost to Thank You and Other Poems. It doesn't include Ko or The Duplications, or When the Sun Tries to Go On or 1,001 Avant-Garde Plays, which I usually read as a book of poems that happens to be in dramatic form. Even so, it comes in at more than 700 pages. Koch, along with other notorious co-conspirators, created a new language for poetry in the mid-century. New Languages. Koch's is very much the language of 2005, the language of flarf, of the New Sincerity, of Anselm Berrigan or Jordan Davis. Is there a better attack on the SoQ than "Fresh Air"? From The Pleasures of Peace to Drew Gardner's "Chicks Dig War," I see an unbroken line.

Koch himself devised several languages, expressive media, for poetry, all recognizably his. The goofball jargon of Sun Out, the mock-epic Ottava Rima of Ko. The essayistic, seemingly plain style of The Art of Love. The aphoristic style of some of his late works. He is perhaps one of the easiest poets to misunderestimate. Although his tonal range is as large as any poet's, he is usually remembered more for his comic side. (Incidentally, he changed the use of humor in poetry. Before him, humor was mostly genteel, strained wit or "light verse" of the Ogden Nash variety. After him, contemporary poetry can be funny--belly-laugh funny. I've always hated light verse.) Even when he adopts a more serious tone, he still has a light touch, a way of avoiding ponderousness. He is incapable of being oversolemn. And to the guy who said you should only use three exclamation points in your entire career as a poet, I say Kenneth Koch! That's like saying you should only have one orgasm a year.

For years I read him, he was my favorite poet, but I still tended to "misunderstimate" him, to see him somehow as not having the same "chops" as Ashbery or O'Hara. I'm thinking I was wrong in this, wrong in my theory that humor was a way of compensating for a flatter or less virtuosic poetic talent. In the first place, he does in fact possess considerable virtuosity, and is as gifted in his own way as any other poet of his time. Why place a value on, say, Ashbery's unique gift and say that it is more valuable than that of Koch's? In the second place, that's a dumb yardstick in the first place.

The physical book is impeccable. Maybe I should have waited to read the whole thing before writing this review, but in the spirit of reckless Kochian exuberance, I wanted to simply communicate the joy of having the thing.

1 dic 2005

fait accompli: The Unbearable Lightness of Berrigan.

A post like this justifies all the time we "waste" by blogging and reading blogs.
The Duplications: Thomas Fink, "You Think This Tooth"

My all-female November at TD is over. I got a few submissions, but not enough to right the overall gender balance in any significant sense.

For December, I want collaborations, faux translations, aphorisms, duplications, parodies, palinodes, the airing of grievances, list poems, ottava rima, masques, poems in Catalan, homages, centos (centi?), poems written by inanimate objects, poems by Jordan Davis--whether written by Jordan or by someone else pretending to be him--, poems by people with the last name of "Mayhew" aside from myself, poems by Katie Degentesh, poems by extremely famous poets, poems about Angie Dickinson, or any combination of the above.

30 nov 2005

I was eating some Fish and Chips the other day. The first french-fry I absent-mindedly put in my mouth was, by a large margin, the absolute worst item in this genre I have ever eaten. First of all, it was cold, as though it had just been in the refrigerator for an hour. Secondly, it was unbelievably sour, and when I bit into it it released some kind of cold, acidic juice into my mouth. Of course this particular french fry would have made an excellent wedge of lemon for my fish. In fact, it was an excellent lemon wedge. As a fry, however, it was very deficient. What this has to do with poetry I have no idea. I'm sure there's a lesson here somewhere.

28 nov 2005

To judge poets by their participation in communities of their peers is to judge a group of mostly very introverted people by a strange, alien criterion. Must poets be gregarious? Or is this compensatory, given that the actual activity of writing is so solitary, that it can in fact be done in complete isolation? I don't judge a novel by whether the novelist has lunch with other novelists. Of course I have suffered by having a mostly very attentuated sense of knowing other poets.

Of course there are extroverts too among our ranks.

26 nov 2005

So much of reading poetry--and writing it--is ruminative and fragmented. An anxious, frustrating searching through books and magazines. The attention flags. There is not that unitary 6-hour experience of reading a novel, or the novelist's feeling of writing through a certain portion of the narrative.

23 nov 2005

I got a copy of Coltsfoot Insularity by Jess Mynes and Aaron Tieger. I'd order yours fast because there are only 150 copies printed.

It's an interesting collaboration because the style of the two poets seem to meld. I can't usually tell which poems are by which poet, except when I happen to know already from having seen the poems in my capacity as editor of The Duplications.

Other recent acquisitions:

Laura Sims, "Practice, Restraint."

Kenneth Koch's Collected.

I like a few of Sims' poem quite a bit. One in particular that I'll be getting to later. As so often is the case, I find a few poems that really catch my attention rather than thinking the entire book is consistently strong from start to finish.

My plan for the Kenneth is to read it from start to finish--something I never do with a Collected Poems.
I was thinking while driving in the car today about three or four dimensions of emotion in poetry. There's the basic feeling of the poem, its mood in simplest terms. Then, the strategy of concealment or self-dramatization by which that feeling is made manifest. Is emotion let out or "contained," for example. Is it understated or histrionic?

Also there is all the emotional freight that has to do with the actual writing and reading of the poem, that isn't part of the mood "behind" the poem. This is a kind of emotion intrinsic to the act of writing, and may or may not be consonant with the original mood of the poem. For example, exuberant self-confidence (about the act of writing) might go into the writing of an expression of elegiac despair. That is a kind of "intrinsic" emotion that I haven't seen discussed very much if at all.

There is also the emotion having to do with the expression of a very particular cultural moment, a time and place. Emotion that seems very particularized in this way. To know what it was like to be alive at a particular moment, quick as foxes on the hill, as Wallace Stevens might have said.

If there are about 9 basic emotions, about 9 varieties of each of them, about 5 or 6 basic strategies of "expression," and about 35 other emotions intrinsic to the act of writing, then the permutations seem quite overwhelming. What are the main variables to be considered. I have only just begun to think about this so please don't jump all over me right away. That would make me very "emotional."
Ron, in a comment on his own blog, mentioned how I had taken a picture of Jordan on the "SUNY-Lawrence" campus. I assume that's a deliberate joke--the State University of New York, Lawrence, Kansas campus!

22 nov 2005

Mayhew's Mood (II)

To be a ritual

it must be repeated

Each hamster was buried

in a shoe-box

They were all named George

19 nov 2005

18 nov 2005

Some hands have a poetic conversation with a kite that they are flying. The poem has thirteen sections; the hands speak seven times, beginning and ending the sequence, and the kite's voice is heard in the remaining six sections. Each section consists of a few fragments written in very short lines of free verse.

Taken in its entirety, the sequence is an allegorical story of love and passion, control and freedom. The language is easy to read but difficult to understand, as one of my students put it. I translated it a few years ago but did nothing with it. Now I'm thinking of placing some of these fragments in magazines. I started with my own magazine, The Duplications, since I haven't been getting any submssions this month. It was to be the all female month there, but almost nobody submitted.

17 nov 2005

in class discussion today, a poem that sent mixed emotional signals. A description of an interior patio in an apartment building with noises of vacuum cleaners, saxophones played by children, Mingus's "Pork Pie Hat." The tone is whimsical and so some students took the mood to be basically contented. Yet there were also images of a black cat jumping into the void, babies crying, the setting sun committing suicide on the television antennas, as other students noted. There is an ominous melancholy tone but also a lightness of touch. Melancholy rather than desperation. Students tended to want to see it one way of the other, define its tone as either optimistic or pessimistic.

In another text read recently, a mayor of a town decides to start a municipal band. The town is devoted to the raising of chickens, and for some reason the chickens are averse to music; several chickens sicken and die. After a series of improbable events, all the townspeople have become musicians, but play out of town in order not to kill the chickens. The mayor lives in town alone and has become owner of the all the chickens. In the last paper I got a few readings of this story as a fairly straightforward denunciation of the abuse of political power. As if the story had been only: the mayor devises a scheme to steal all the chickens. Even many fairly good students want to read texts in a fairly literal-minded way. Of course, they may be right. That is, the capricious abuse of power is one thing brought into play here. Why music, though? Why chickens?
Why am I oriented toward feeling now whereas a few months ago I was more oriented toward thinking? Is that a pendulum swing or a permanent trend in that direction?
Academic Excercise

The articulation of affect in poetry is a rather complex subject. What are the basic questions? Not just what the underlying tonality or mood of the poem is, but the basic approach taken, the attitude toward the emotion, the strategies for articulation or evasion. If you took Plath, O'Hara, Ashbery, and Creeley, for example, you would find four separate and unequal strategies for expressing and/or evading the expression of affect. You might even find several strategies in a single poet.

Our emotions about poetry include the actual emotions of the poem as well as our feeling about poetry itself. The experience of being moved by a poem includes these secondary feelings of being moved by the very existence of poetry in such a moving form. For example, I might be moved that Bach existed and wrote this music I am now listening to, by the fact that I can emotionally respond to something written hundreds of years ago.

Explore some dimension of this topic in an essay of fewer than 300 words. You will be graded on your emotional articulateness and intelligence.

16 nov 2005

Surely nobody needs to be taught how to feel? The point is that students approach literature as any other academic subject, and are judged by their intellectual responses, their knowledge of the field, their interpretations, their mastery of critical language--everything except their emotional response. It's as though the reason for reading poetry in the first place were removed from serious discussion, made virtually unmentionable. Then we can complain that the students don't get it at a fundamental level, that they are not feeling literature as they should.
One of my favorite collections of vocal music is "Dinah Jams," with Dinah Washington and various musicians, mostly from the Max Roach / Clifford Brown group. Could Dinah be my favorite jazz singer? Yes, I think she could be. There is no confusing her with anyone else.

13 nov 2005

A poetic voice that's unafraid, fearless. That's a concept I found recently in an essay by Alice Notley, from a book of her essay which I bought in New York last weekend. I take this as, unafraid to be itself. Don't try to write other people's poems, because that is a losing game. Nobody else can write your poems as well as you can. (If they can, you are in trouble.) Imitate all you want, but even if you imitate it will end up sounding like yourself eventually, because you won't be a perfect mimic.

That's what "Mayhew's Mood" is about. Learning to be unafraid to speak with my own voice.


The recent Field has a few poems by my aunt, Lenore Mayhew. Also, a nice little cluster on Jean Valentine. I was moved by Lenore's poem "Absence," because I took it to be (possibly) about the death of my own father, her younger brother--and others in our family. This year we've lost another from this family, my aunt Martha Leigh. My father's sister, but also one of my mother's closest friends. Lenore was always my favorite aunt, probably because she wrote poetry. I remember as a child coming across a book of poetry by a writer named "Poe," and noticing that he had poems featuring names of my two literary aunts, Helen and Lenore. There seemed to be a magic in these names--Poe (as in Poet), Lenore, ahd Helen. That magical coincidence is still my earliest and strongest association with poetry. I'm pretty sure these were the first poems I read. I wondered whether Poe became a poet because of his name, or whether my aunts were writers because they had names from Poe's poetry. I'm pretty sure I was about nine or ten.


First Intensity has some Jordan Davis, Theodore Enslin, some posthumous work by Gustav Sobin. It also has some local poets like Irby and Roitman. I had a nice talk the other day with Lee Chapman, the editor and publisher of FI. She has never asked me for poems before because she did not know that I wrote poetry. It seems odd, but when I first met her I believe that I was very self-effacing about my own work. This is not the first person who didn't know I was a poet--a person I know from the poetry world, I mean.

9 nov 2005

The Poetics Seminar, which I direct here at the University of Kansas, Hall Center for the Humanities, has been going on since 1998, when I founded it. There are many Faculty Seminars, the British Seminar, the Gender Seminar, the Andean Seminar, in which faculty and sometimes graduate students present their research. We also have some money to bring in outside speakers. I have brought in people such as Marjorie Perloff, Jordan Davis, and Ron Silliman. David Shapiro is coming in the Spring.

Today Judy Roitman spoke. In attendance were Stan Lombardo, Jim McCrary, Ken Irby, Lee Chapman, Denise Low, Joe Harrington, and others. I am particularly proud of the way that the Seminar can attract an audience unaffiliated with the University. I doubt many of the other Seminars have as many people not from the University in attendance. It is a kind of bridge between the University and the poetic community at large.

We have had some less than stellar presentations in the seminar, but very few. The great thing about bad presentations is how forgettable they are. I really only remember the good moments. Irby and Silliman on Duncan, Perloff on Silliman and Howe, Davis on Koch, Roitman on Alan Davies or Maryrose Larkin. McCrary on himself. Denise Low. David Perry. I have given talks myself there on occasion.

I gave over the seminar to my colleague Jill Kuhnheim for a little while; then she passed it back to me. It really is my lifeblood. That, and the blog you are now reading. These things connect me with other people who share my passion for poetry.

6 nov 2005

There was one person I met in New York, however, who was pretty much a total asshole. It wasn't a cab driver or a waiter. Everyone was unfailingly nice--except for this one particular guy, a poet.
Drew's reading was amazing. The poetry/jazz thing can easily be cliché, but this was about as far from that particular cliché as you can get. He scored his poetry like Mike Post might score an episode of Law & Order, if Mike Post were a more free-wheeling and improvisatory musician. The music was eerie and never distracting. It was improvised on some basic motifs for each poem, yet sounded remarkably tight. I loved his bass player, whose name I cannot recall this moment.

The poems themselves are amazing, on the page, but gain a great deal from an impeccable sense of timing and pace. This is probably the best reading I've ever seen in my life. Now I know why I hate poetry readings--they are not like this, usually. There are few poets who are as equally good at writing and at the performance of their own work.

I had a good time hanging out with friends and meeting some new ones, both at the CCCP conference and at the book party and reading. New friends and acquaintances include: Kaplan. Linda. Steve and Jennifer. Sawako. Rodrigo. Nada. Marjorie Welish. Lee Ann Brown. Tim Peterson. James Sherry. Alan Davies. I also saw others I had met before. David Shapiro. Douglas. Nick and Toni. Steve. Drew, of course, and Katie. Gary. Raphael. Pierre Joris. My cousin Ann.

It's pretty intense for me to see all these people in two or three days, when my normal routine is not to see anyone at all from the poetry world if I don't happen to run into Irby at Borders or in the hallway of the building where I work.
I'm back from NYC. I lost an email submission to The Duplications sent to me over the weekend. Please, if you are the person who sent it to me (whose name I don't remember), please resend. Somehow I deleted it with all my spam, hoping to come back to it later--but it was gone.

3 nov 2005

Another question for Kasey at Limetree on Dead Kitten Poetics. Is craft an "alibi" only when we use it to dismiss a poem we don't like, or is it also a similarly suspect move when we use judgments about craft in a positive sense for what we do in fact like? It seems to be that if we don't really know what we're talking about when we talk about craft (a debatable point, which is why we're debating it), this might also apply to positive valorations of craft or technique.

That is, if you say "Jonathan doesn't like that Mary Oliver poem, so he projects his dislike onto the poem's technique, which is actually unobjectionable," could you also say, "Well, Jonathan likes that Creeley poem, and gives answers pertaining to technique or craft as his reasons, but the real reasons are elsewhere." If so, what are those other reasons? Am I deluding myself in valuing WCW or Creeley or Niedecker for their command of language and rhythm. I don't think so. Nor am I deluding myself (I think) when I affirm that Mary Oliver doesn't have that kind of command or technical competence.
I'll be in New York and away from the blog until Sunday. Away from email too. If you need to reach me in New York please use the top secret cell phone number: 314 550-4789.

2 nov 2005

Maybe that's the difference too between two different cultural approaches to poetry. One is oriented toward a sort of workshop consensus model, where tactics are discussed in detail but strategy is left unntouched. After all, the workshop can only work if there is some broad agreement first about what is acceptable and what is not. There have to be unarticulated "givens." Maybe even articulated givens.

The other is oriented toward "poetics," the idea that each poem must be judged in relation to an overarching aesthetic project. It's not a question of correcting a line-break here or there, questioning an image or line. A lot of us don't really think like that. It seems almost amateurish, though curiously it is the mark of a certain kind of "professionalism" in some quarters.

I assume I have enough poetic "technique" to do what I want to do, within my limits. That is, I assume I don't have to sign up for the line-break seminar, the simile refresher course. If I fail, it will be because my aesthetic vision fails to be convincing enough to that particular reader making the judgment. It will be a failure of connection, on the phatic level almost, not a deficient command of poetic technique. I could improve on technique or craft too, I'm sure. I'm no Ronald Johnson. But I don't see the workshop culture as producing Ronald Johnson-style technique either. That is, poems that have been workshopped to death still don't seem technically masterful to me in any way I'm at all interested in, even if they don't have obvious flaws. They just seem "beige" to me, to quote Gary Sullivan earlier today.

I'm not even sure I want to be Lorine Niedecker or Ronald Johnson. Even if I had the choice to write as well in that style as they do, that's not the model I would be interested in pursuing either. I'm using them as shorthand for a certain pared-down, technically adept poetics derived from objectivism. I lack that sort of talent, obviously, but that's not what I was meant to write anyway.
I agree with this post by Josh. I don't particularly care for that particular Chiasson poem, but I agree with the general principle that you can't discuss tactics without discussing strategy first. Do you think one of my favorite poems from Notley's Mysteries of Small House could survive a good poetry-board hashing out?

Chiasson has written some children's books that my daughter has enjoyed. (Is that the same guy?) I'm willing to give him some BOTD. The poem did seem odd to me, because I didn't know what code to read it in. Is it in the Dean Young/Albert Goldbarth mode, but aching to be Jim Behrle? The tone of voice is way out of control--I'd just bring it further out of control. Why stop at clubbing baby seals and hapless college students? The poem needs to be even wilder if it is going to go this far. Otherwise it risks cuteness.

In a culture that puts ice in all its drinks, it seemed odd to suppose that someone might prefer to become dehydrated than drink frozen water. I myself would rather drink muddy water and sleep in a hollow log, before joining one of those "poetry boards" that Jeffery describes. I didn't know such a thing existed. It's not that I can't take criticism (well, ok, I can't, but that's another discussion). It's that I would never take criticism from someone that I don't fully respect. If someone liked that Mary Oliver poem about the Cyclops poem, why would I accept that person's criticism as valid? I would only actually take criticism or advice about my poetry from a two or three people in this world. No offense to the rest of you.

1 nov 2005

The Duplications: Jenna Cardinale, "Flaws"

This poem kicks off November--all female month at The Duplications. I have no idea who Jenna Cardinale is, but I know I like this poem. So much for cronyism.
When daylight saving time ends--that's when we can begin to hoard darkness once again.

31 oct 2005

It would indeed be possible to "herd cats"--with a team of properly trained hyenas.

30 oct 2005

There's Clifford Brown all day today on my favorite internet radio station, WKCR in New York from Columbia University. Clifford is my favorite trumpet player after Miles, who is beyond category.

27 oct 2005

The Duplications: Nada Gordon, "Nugatory Wax Milk Goats"

From now until end of November will be "poetry Goddess" month on The Duplications. Of course I'd like to have women submit to the magazine all year round, but in practice it's been about a five to one ration of submissions (male to female).

26 oct 2005

I'm writing the poem below, "Mayhew's Mood," in public, as it were. Thanks to all those who have liked parts of it so far. It's going to be quite a long poem by my standards, even after I edit out some less than inspired parts.

25 oct 2005

I fear I was unclear about my earlier post on politics and poetry. My position is that teaching Proust in a purely formalist way in a small bible college is a worthwhile activity, even if is judged a mostly "conservative" activity. Or that teaching literature badly in a Marxist-Leninist educational system still has value. That there is a residue not accounted for by simply analyzing the ideological implications of 1) the literary works themselves 2) the context in which these works are taught. I am too lazy to demonstrate this. It's more of a conviction or prejudice I have than a theoretical position.

22 oct 2005

I received this email this afternoon:

"Hola, como estas, leí algo tuyo en Internet y
me gustaría saber si podemos utilizar una cita tuya
que literalmente dice: "Construyo negligencias; el
punto y coma como una araña insuflada de
insuficiencia. Según el poeta japonés, el viejo perro
pone cara de escuchar el cántico de los gusanos". Mi
nombre es Igor Villatoro, radico en Denver, Co., y
unos amigos en México están preparando un
mediometraje, yo estoy encargado del Story Line, asi
que quiero saber si podemos utilizar al principio
del vídeo tus palabras. Sin más por el momento y en
espera de una respuesta favorable, te envío un cordial
saludo. Luego te puedo mandar copia del trabajo.


Someone wants to use a poem I wrote in a short movie in Mexico. What makes this kind of neat is that I had forgotten completely about this poem, and now realize that I like it quite a bit:

"I construct negligences; the semi-colon

like a spider puffed up with insufficiency

According to the Japanese poet, the old dog makes a face

as though he were listening to the canticle of the worms."

The reference is to a haiku by Issa.

21 oct 2005

In conversation with my Latin Americanist colleagues an issue came up. They worry that literature itself is a conservative thing. That is, they view the object of study itself as somehow suspect, infused with conservative baggage that it is their task to be suspicious of. I don't feel at all this way. That is, I feel that "literature" can be positioned anywhere in political terms, depending on the circumstances, but that there is nothing inherently conservative about literature itself. I don't know whether this difference is due to the fact that I am not a Latin Americanist and don't have the ideological baggage of that particular field, or whether it is because I am a poet and cannot feel that literature is something I can hold at arm's length. Possibly it is the idea that teaching only literature, or teaching literature without the requisite socio-political contextualization, is a conservative enterprise.

Although it is only comparatively recently that I have considered myself a "career" poet, I think I do identify poetry as part of myself. There are plenty of political issues surrounding literature and poetry that are interesting to discuss, and I have all sorts of political opinions that are not far removed from those of my colleagues, but I cannot view political concerns as an acid test of the value of literature or poetry. Even a "conservative" body of work will end up having a certain value that is not confined by its ideology. If someone proved to me the Euripides was "conservative" in the context of his time, that he was on the wrong side politically, I would still stick with Euripides. I would say that that is very interesting, but that that is not the way Euripides is to be judged in the first place. By the same token, I would not admire him more if it were proven that he was "progressive" for his time. In short, I lose no sleep worrying whether teaching literature is a conservative thing to do. Creating poetic texts is something people do, have always done. It's like asking whether breathing is conservative.

What do you all think?

20 oct 2005

In my rather facetious quiz the other day I put Norman Finkelstein's name on the wrong list. I was thinking of a particular poet and Norman's name came to mind. Of course, I can't remember who I was trying to think of, because whenever I do Norman's name comes up. I am rather embarrassed because of course Norman is not at all equivalent to the other SoQ names I put there. He has written about Bronk, Ronald Johnson, and other poets I admire. I've emailed a friend with psychic abilities who can tell me who it was I was really thinking of. Stay tuned. Multiple apologies to Norman Finkestein. Not that there is any shame in being associated with other poets on this list, but simply because the association was not at all accurate.

19 oct 2005

A line I'd like to steal today: Waiting for Ezra to show up with ribs.
No: A Journal of the Arts (issue 4, 2005) is jampacked with good stuff. (Cyrus Console dropped off an issue to my office yesterday. How's that for service.) It has David Shapiro, Barbara Guest, Robin Blaser, Kenneth Irby, Cole Swensen, Clark Coolidge, Mary Jo Bang, Robert Creeley, some chapters from Lisa Jarnot's Duncan biography. It's got John Yau, Arthur Danto on Guston. It has Cyrus himself, David Perry. Not to mention Gizzi, Lauterbach, Gander, Moure, Lerner, Welish, Bernstein, Harryman, Berssenbrugge. This is about the most high-powered issue of a magazine I've seen since that Conjunctions anthology of a few years back. I've been carrying this around everywhere I go, but mostly just reading and re-reading the Creeley sequence "Caves" and the Shapiro and Guest poems.

18 oct 2005

Here are a few of my favorite small jazz groups, in no particular order. My choices aren't particularly original, I'm afraid. I'm thinking of groups that were real groups, not just people who got together just to record. These are not just collections of musicians, but organic units.

Miles Davis Quintet of the 1950s with Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe.

Miles Davis Quintet of the 1960s with Shorter, Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams.

Other permutations of Miles Davis groups with Cannonball Adderly, Bill Evans, Jimmy Cobb.

John Coltrane Quartet with Tyner and Elvin Jones. Various bass players but mostly Jimmy Garrison. Add Eric Dolphy to the group too.

Ornette Coleman Quartets with Cherry, Billy HIggins, Haden. (and other permuations with LaFaro and Blackwell).

Clifford Brown/Max Roach groups with Harold Land on tenor, Richie Cole on piano.

Early Art Blakey groups with Clifford Brown.

Parker, Dizzy, with Max Roach and various piano and bass.

Mingus groups with Danny Richmond on drums, Jackie Byard, and Dolphy. Various other players like Booker Little on trumpet.

Monk with Sonny Rollins, Max Roach.

Early Monk with Art Blakey.

Jimmy B's state capital poems having been kicking my ass recently. Sure, the cartoons remain amusing, and the WTHIUWYAP is a laugh a minute, but the poems are even better.
except... no poetry.
I can imagine an "eclecticism" that left out 90% of what was significant to me. That would ring hollow.
Theory has no value in and of itself. The avoidance of theory has no value either. Bad theory, or good theory badly understood, is worse than no theory, but no theory is usually bad theory. The theorist in the room might be the worst poet or the best poet in the room. The best theory might be disguised as anti-theory. The apparatus--the terminology, the system--is a heuristic at best.


Thesis: there is more range of stylistic variation in The Hat than in Poetry (Chicago). What would count as stylistic variation? I might think of a given list of poets as more or less the same. For me their differences simply don't count. But what is to be argued is precisely what differences are taken to be significant. I see a huge variation of tone and technique within "New York School" poetry, but can imagine someone from the outside viewing it as all the same.


I am learning a lot from my ongoing collaboration with Tom Beckett. About why I am a good and not so good collaborator. I am good at writing my parts of the collaboration, of coming up with good ideas in response to what the other person does. Why I am not so good might take longer to explain. In brief: I am uncomfortable with the loss of control.

15 oct 2005

Avoiding the Muse:

"Strange guy in steam room: "Don't I know you from somewhere?"

Me: No. I don't think so.

SGISR: Don't you have a website? A blog?

Me: No.

SGISR: Are you sure? Aren't you a poet? A doctor?

Me: No. I think you have me confused with someone else.

SGISR: Well, if you are that guy, my wife loves your blog.

Me: Sorry. No blogs here."
I was wrong. A significant number of readers don't have a strong inclination toward SoQ or postavant. There would seem to be a significant number of people who are either firmly eclectic or who prefer a sort of middle path. What I still don't know is how many people fit in this eclectic and/or middle ground--and how many are dichotomizers who see a firmer boundary. I am just an avantasaurus myself.

That being said, I don't see the point of bringing in Albert Golbarth or Dean Young to the discussion. Milk the cows that James Tate forgot to milk, what's the point?

13 oct 2005

Mipoesías, the Tom Beckett issue, is up. I have a poem there. right here I can't get the audio to play on my computer, for some reason. That's probably a good thing, because I don't think I read the poem very well.


David Perry gave a good paper at the poetics seminar yesterday. Wish you had been there.

12 oct 2005

I envisage The Duplications as an annual print anthology of 100 poems. I'll choose the best 100 from each year. That could work. Maybe it's just another of my manic ideas.
I saw "A History of Violence" last night. I went to the 10:15 show, so of course I couidn't get to sleep until 1 a.m. It's a very good movie, with a very few false notes. I liked William Hurt as the brother and Viggo/Aragorn as the main character.

I thought some of the profanit was misplaced. The wife at one point says "I can't believe what's f******* going on here!" To my ears the the place to put the effing is

"I can't f******* believe what's going on here!"

A few of the goddamns also seemed misplaced from the purely rhythmic point of view. But I'm no expert curser.
It's feast or famine. I got four or five submissions today.

As for whether you're quietude or post-avant, Laurel Snyder, a simple test is whether you prefer

Norman Dubie, C.K. Williams, Donald Hall, Mary Oliver, Sandra Gilbert, James Dickey, Howard Moss, Robert Pinsky, Irving Feldman, Charles Wright, Charles Simic...


Clark Coolidge, Susan Howe, Tony Towle, Bernadette Mayer, Ronald Johnson, Jess Mynes, Nada Gordon, Lisa Jarnot...

Most people, if they've read contemporary poetry at all, will have a strong inclination toward one or the other side. If you like poets on both lists equally, then you are a true eclectic. There is no cure, unfortunately. The symptoms can be managed to maintain a good quality of life.

What I'm suggesting is that these are more or less coherent views of the world. The person who feels comfortable in one or the otherr world will feel his or her view to be coherent, to hold together in a way that makes sense. There will be some overlap and slippage. I might like 20% of poets on a hypothetical list of quietudinous poets, and disiike 40% of poets I should like, but I am still likely to have a strong, quantifiable leaning in one direction or the other.

Would you rather inherit a complete set of Sulfur or Ploughshares?

11 oct 2005

My editorial philophy, ongoing. I must have a flow of poems to keep the The Duplications alive. I can't wait for the few great poems to come along every month or so. A blog/mag must have a daily quality like other blogs. Yet I must have a few really extraordinary poems to make the site viable and legit as a poetry mag. Of course, I'll never say which are which. Ok, if you twist my arm enough, I'll say some of the best poems so far are authored by Tony Robinson and Julia Tsuchiya-Mayhew. And a good start with Raphael and Jess.

I need to do a month of only women poets. That will be November. So if you are a poet of the male persuasion send me your poems before too long. November will feature, deo volente, poems of Nada Gordon, Sarah Manguso, Ange Mlinko, and other poetry Goddesses.

I don't stockpile poems. I publish them the moment they are accepted. Sometimes even before they are accepted! The poem might be on the site before its author checks her email.

Acceptance rates are high. But that is because people only know of this magazine if they are readers of BS. And the readers of Bemsha Swing are perhaps the most poetically aware people in the English-speaking world.

I still need quietudinous poems. That is, poems by card-carrying SoQ poets who might feel the need to write a poem that's not suited for the Iowa Review. How about it, C. Dale?
Check out new work at The Duplications. Tom King and Jack Kimball. And now Gary Sullivan as well.


Don't miss the David Perry presentation at the Poetics seminar tomorrow. Email me for details.


No brilliant poetical observations today. The well is dry. Except I'm wondering how personality gets created on the page. That's the great enigma. Is anything worse than "tone" deafness in a writer? Such as, someone sounding bombastic (or whatever) and not realizing it? That lack of self-awareness?

10 oct 2005

I'm still with the Monk marathon. The Carnegie Hall concert with Coltrane is out of this world. This group--with [NOT] Wilbur Ware and Shadow Wilson--is one of the best ever.


If poetry were only that, (whatever that is for you) you wouldn't be interested in it in the first place. Poetry that doesn't have any of what you look for in poetry. That goes beyond just saying you don't like a particular style of poetry.

9 oct 2005

Don't forget Monk's birthday tomorrow. We at Bemsha Swing take this day very seriously. I suggest listening to WKCR's all day Monk extravaganza. You can pick up the mp3 stream on the internet like I do, if you don't live in NYC.


Much of my poetry is based on cognitive distortions. I never attempt to present a "best self" as poetic persona. Rather, a self that is even more befuddled by reality than I am, angrier, more splenetic.


For example, fetishes. Investing more in some object than it's real value would suggest. I dislike the moralism that condemns fetishes and wants us to weigh everything according to its "true" value. The distortion itself has poetic value. Plus, I like the inversion of importance inherent in fetishism, its metonymic torsion.


Got a copy of Vanitas in the mail, a good publication edited by Vincent Katz. Check it out, it has Davis, Piombino, Gardner, Gordon, Sala, among others. Thanks to whoever told Vincent to send this my way.

7 oct 2005

At The Duplications there are new poems by Tony Towle, Daniel Shapiro, and Laura Carter. Your submissions are also welcome.

6 oct 2005

I am increasingly interested in language as it actually already exists rather than language as it is dressed up for various "poetic" uses. That is, I like poems that make use of the ways in which language is already alive and poetic, rather than those that view ordinary language as insufficient and attempt to remedy this situation.

I do like artificial poetic languages too. That is, languages that set themselves up deliberately in opposition to ordinary speech and would never be confused with it. But I like them exaggeratedly artificial. I don't like, so much, a poetic language that excludes the vitality of speech by being more "formal" in register, yet still pretends to a sort of "naturalness." Poetry with a lot of markers of poetic genre (similes and the like). To me that's the worst of two worlds. In other words, I like Creeley and Keats, but not so much Wordsworth.

5 oct 2005

A very charming woman named Birdie taped some poems from me this morning on the phone for Mipo radio and Mipoesías.com.
I got WKCR back, just in time for a special on Bill Dixon, a trumpet player of whom I was utterly ignorant until today. This is very humbling, but exciting too. It's nice to know you can still discover new things.

4 oct 2005

The mp3 feed for WKCR in NYC has turned to static. Just when I got addicted to this station.
A friend writes:

"Ok. I give up. I don't really like Bob Dylan at all. Not the singing. Not the invention of a whole genre of performers, the odious singer-songwriters. Not the Christianity or the whole 'voice of a generation' thing. The manufacture of a persona famous for being famous. I dislike his celebrity and his unease with being a celebrity. I dislike his sincerity and his insincerity. I dislike the fact that he is considered a 'poet' by many. Did he write some good songs? Sure, but so did a hundred other people that don't have that sort of mystic aura around them. Give me Lorenz Hart or Johnny Mercer.

This dislike is not a badge of cultural superiority. I'm sure a lot of people that like Dylan are 'superior' to me culturally, however one might measure such an absurd concept. It is simply my own private ressentiment."
The reason I resent the oppressive presence of Dylan in the poetic community is that this is just thinly disguised self-hatred. Poets hate themselves for not being more famous, being more 'important to the culture,' and they fantasize about being an innovative songwriters with props, with pomp, with proximity to Jessica Lange for god's sake. Poets don't need Dylan and they don't need to flagellate themselves with wistful longing for his career. It's sentimental.
I don't see what's gained by interpolating more distance into what is already an abstract activity: Yes, it's certainly possible to read without hearing a speaker; it's also possible to move your eyes over words you can't define.".

Exactly. Moreover, the relations between speaker and addressee can have enormous complexity, with the addition of an implied eavesdropper, the reader. The poem written to be overheard. A poem that doesn't have this triangulated relationship will not possess this particular kind of complexity. I'm sure it's just one kind of complexity among others, but it's one I happen to value quite a bit. At the very least, I would argue that you don't gain in sophistication or complexity by eliminating the speaking voice and its communicative function.
Of all kinds of "authenticity" the inauthentic type is the hardest to bear. That is, inauthentiticy that stakes a claim to being authentic.


You can't be an academic and disavow that part of yourself. That is who you are, authentically. It's not that you just happen to be in academia, but have no truck with what goes on there. You have internalized those rules. You can't not have.


The rage of the Associate Professor is of a peculiar kind.
I'm staying at the airport at LaGuardia unless I get a better offer. I'd love to sleep on your NYC sofa if you have no cats, to which I'm allergic.

3 oct 2005

I'm starting a novel. Details forthcoming.


Gary and Nada are the Gold Standard in collaboration. Lola and Amalia. Frank and Larry. I don't want it to be something inferior to what either party would do separately, or a mere game.


Stuart, your Fox of Gold is in the mail.

30 sept 2005

I'd rather write a long poem that ends up being something significant through sheer accumulation or accident.

I have no wish to do a project that starts up as a long pretentious plan of action, of which I have to fill in the parts.

Is there any difference between these two things? Why do I reject willfulness? Poems that proclaim their own importance?

I hate the idea of having an "obras completas." Yet not having an oeuvre is as worse than having one. You must shoulder your own narcisissm, take responsibility for it. Do people dream of being part of the Library of America? Is that Rachel Blau du Plessis' ambition?

Can you imagine someone kept up at night by the doubt of whether he is a major poet or not? That sort of willful canonicity doesn't bother me in some poets, but does in others. Why is that?

I'd love to do a medium-length poem in collaboration with someone else. Why is collaboration impossible. The narcissism of poets? Who is my poetic soul-mate? Whom can I trust?

29 sept 2005

I got the new chapbook by Kate Greenstreet, "Learning the Language." The first poem in there is the one I published over at The Duplications. Thanks for the book Kate.


New York trip November 2. How am I going to get a hotel? It's the week of the New York Marathon.

28 sept 2005

My confession: I'm not interested in Bob Dylan in the slightest. I can't force myself to watch more than five minutes of a documentary about BD. I don't even dislike him that strongly. Me tiene sin cuidado. I don't even lament the fact that he is significant to a lot of people, of which I am not one. He has cultural significance galore. I'm not interested in things that have cultural significance in this way, I guess. There is a lot of music influenced by Dylan too, and I'm not interested in any of this either, I'm sorry to say.

27 sept 2005


Juuiac, huuacc, mqqrsty, svvnehy!

Grryystc um grymmtc, drrvvwwp.

Hooxxk crck?

Smbbdmm, lsstm.

26 sept 2005

Take Kenneth Koch's "The Art of Poetry." Most of the advice he gives is actually quite sincere and heart-felt, but the tone is "mock-earnest." He is parodying at least two genres at once (self-help and how-to literature along with the classical ars poetica), but he actually means what he says. The miscellaneous organization of the advice comes right from Horace, I imagine, but results in odd shifts of tone in the "postmodern" context. That is, the meaning of the disjunctions is different for Horace and Koch. The poem woudn't work without this ironic dimension--the prosaic language he falls into at times would be seen as simply prosaic, not prosaic-ironic. So he feints in the direction of irony in order to achieve a sincerity that cannot be got at "straight." It must be told slant, on the bias.

When he tries to do a similar thing in Making Your Own Days in straight-ahead prose, there is an element missing. The flatness of the instruction manual at times threatens to make this book difficult to swallow without imagining a different audience: one that would not feel condescended to by it.
Here's my stab at irony, discussed over at limetree.

Irony is about contradiction. There is a contradiction between two perspectives, and this contradiction is manifested as some sort of dissonance. It is not surprising that people use "irony" to refer simply to something unexpected or incongruous. Situational irony is simply the gap in perspective between expectations and results.

There is widespread tonal irony in contemporary literature that is characterized by a more diffuse or multidirectional clash in perspectives. This is known as postmodern irony and can take many forms. For example, I might not just say the opposite of what I mean (classic verbal irony) but rather

take a tone that is incongruous with the subject matter, treating it less seriously or more seriously than it deserves

pretend to invest affect in something that I don't actually care about that much, or adopt a "cool" affect in relation to something I do care about

take a "knowing" tone toward something I know nothing about: faux sophistication

take an "unknowing" tone toward something I do know about

adopt a tone that does not reveal what I really think about what I am saying, or mix several tones together

satirize something I really love, with the understanding that everyone understands that I love it and that the irony is directed against myself

parody "blankly," without any affect that reveals how I really feel about what I am parodying

parody so viciously that it becomes a parody of someone with a parodic attitude

use a tradition parodically, showing that I don't really respect its conventions, but adhering to these conventions enough so as to create doubt in the reader's mind as to what my true attitude is

The forms of insincerity are multiple. Nobody could list them all. Postmodern irony is metaliterary, in that it makes references to the literary discourses and traditions used. There is always some ambiguity about which direction the irony is pointed in. And it usually involves a particular tonal modulation that is more subtle than rank sarcasm.
The Duplications

I have David S. at The Duplications today. If all goes well I'll have Tony T. (Towle not Tost) soon. (Of course, Tost is quite welcome too.)

I need some quietudinous work too. Something that has cross-over appeal and that you think I might like.

25 sept 2005

Pope bans "sexuals" from ordination as priests

Applicants with "sexual' tendencies won't be admitted to seminaries

Pope Benedict XVI has given his approval to a new Vatican policy document that bans men with sexual tendencies from being ordained as priests, reports Catholic World News. Henceforward, only completely asexual men--men evincing no sexual urges at all--will be eligible for the priesthood.

The policy statement is a direct result of the pope's concern about the pedophilia scandal in the church ? especially in the U.S.

The text, approved by Benedict at the end of August, says that sexual men should not be admitted to seminaries even if they are celibate and refrain from spanking the monkey, because their condition suggests a serious personality disorder that detracts from their ability to serve as ministers. "We are not discrinating againt homosexuals or heterosexuals per se," clarified Pope Razzi, "but against sexuality itself. There is a a disturbing 'culture of heterosexuality' in contemporary culture that is perhaps even more pervasive than the traditional 'culture of homosexuality' that we as a church have traditionally promoted. The church will henceforward be a haven for asexuality. Only truly asexual men can be expected to understand the church's teachings on sexuality, rooted as they are in the darkest period of the 'dark ages.' In retrospect, it was probably a mistake for us to allow sexuals in the church in the first place."

As a symbolic gesture, the Pontiff is donating his personal copies of "Penthouse Forum" and "Leather Boys" to the International Red Cross. He also promised that from this point forward he would be "master of [his] own domain."

Priests who have already been ordained, if they suffer from sexual impulses, are strongly urged to renew their dedication to chastity and a manner of life appropriate to the priesthood.

23 sept 2005

The reading went very well. Sitting on the floor room only at the Raven Bookstore, this tiny little store that sells a lot of mystery novels, and has stayed in business despite being across the street from Borders. There must have been 100 people crammed in there. David Perry came in from KC. Monica Peck flew in from San Francisco to read.

My Monk material went over well. It's interesting how presenting material to an audience changes your perception of it. My poetry depends a lot on tone of voice, so the transition from page to voice wasn't too hard. I got a few laughs, no sighs.
Slogans to live by:

Cada loco con su tema.

La loca en su casa sabe más que la cuerda en casa ajena.

No good deed goes unpunished.

De mortuis, nihil nisi bonum dicendum est.
Come through the torrential rain to see me read at the Raven Bookstore tonight at 7:30. (With a few other co-conspirators: Irby, McCrary, Roitman.) I promise not to do all those embarrassing poet things: explain my poems, ask if I have time for one more, fumble through pages, clear my throat, sit on a shelf, use the "poet voice," refer to myself as a "poet," not know my poems, read for too long. (Good thing I read Mairead's little essay last night.) I will not bore you, preach to you, evoke those little poetry reading "sighs."

Especially not those little sighs. Anyone who sighs like that will be ejected from the reading. They are like these little annoying sighing semi-orgasmic grunts really, when there's some poignant moment in the poem. Don't you hate that? No wonder people have contempt for poetry.

There will be no poignancy. I promise not to use the words "lucent" or "opalescent." No "poetry words." I will not be sincere, or insincere. I will not sing coloratura. I will not bring my conga drum. You will not weep during my reading. You will go away happy from it. You won't feel compelled to stand up and say "You make me sick with all your talk about restraint and mature talent."

I will, on the other hand, read a part of my major new medium-length poem The Thelonious Monk Fake Book.

And, of course, there's Ken Irby. It's intimidating to follow him.

22 sept 2005

Jordan mentioned "A Cloud in Trousers." Here are poems "of a certain length" that I like:

Ill Seen Ill Said [not a poem maybe? but who cares?]
The Morning of the Poem [and all the rest of JS' longer poems]
Don de la ebriedad
A Handbook of Surfing
Piedra del sol
Radi os
Paisaje con pájaros amarillos
Many poems by Kenneth Koch in this category, too numerous to name
All of Basho's renga sequences

I like the "long poem" that's actually fairly short. Something you can read in an hour. In other words, not the Cantos or the Canterbury Tales or Paradise Lost or the Iliad. But not a poem that fits on one or two pages and can be read in five minutes. They are not long poems but poems "of a certain length." 20 or 30 pages is ideal. Read these and you will be happy. Very very happy. Just thinking that these poems exist makes me happy. If you read these and are still not happy I will buy you a beer at the AWP.
Sonny Clark. Check it out. Very straightforward post-bebop with clean lines derived from Bud Powell. His trio work with Philly Joe Jones and Paul Chambers. Chambers is my favorite bass player, and, reportedly, Coltrane's favorite as well. Philly Joe is perhaps the best drummer imaginable for this particular group. Basically anything Rudy Van Gelder recorded for Blue Note in this period is golden. I looked at my cd collection the other day and realized it was ninety percent Blue Note.

It's not transcendent music like Coltrane. It's a different kind of thing.

My favorite Coltrane album is "Coltrane's Sound." I'm finding I'm preferring this straightforward jazz "blowing" to the bombastic spirituality of "A Love Supreme" and "Crescent." Maybe it's because I've been listening to "A Love Supreme" every day for two weeks.

And Morton Feldman's string quartet with piano, recently released, from the Kronos Quartet. I can't get enough of that either. If you like loud, fast, bombastic music only, you won't like this one. It's slow, soft, long, and repetitive--and utterly captivating.
I need some more poems.

Send them to me.

I won't name names this time.

It did work--I got poems from people I named.

But it felt a little weird. For me and for you.

If I asked you for poems before, and you haven't sent them to me, you can still send them to me.

It's a good time, because I haven't been getting anything this week.

When this (The Duplications) becomes a famous journal, it will be harder to get into it. I will accept .0001%. Right now it is relatively easy. I can accept 50% and come up with four or five good poems a week. The best five I've published so far could be in the BAP next year. I won't tell you which five though. I'd like to award a prize to the best poem of the month not written by my daughter. You can put that on your c.v. The Duplications prize. However, I probably won't, on the "no good deed goes unpunished" principle.
What I'm most interested in--and this will come out in my talk Im giving 7 minutes from now--is how mutually contradictory and warring perspecties can exist. We call this "un diálogo de sordos" in Spanish. That is, how two groups of people can look at the same thing and come to radically distinct conclusions. I'm interested in the reasons people give, the style of argument deployed, on either side. The ideological presuppositions.

People on both sides of the debate can be well-meaning, intelligent, and talented. I'm more interested in seeing how the conflict arises than in winning the debate against the other side. Though I don't mind scoring a few points once in a while.
9:30-10:50 Spanish Grammar. Explain all 7 or 8 uses of the word "se" in Spanish.
11-12 Meeting of Graduate Council of the College of Liberal Arts
12-1-Give an informal talk on my own recently completed book on Spanish poetry in my own department.
1-2:30. Lunch. Prepare second class on Nada. Maybe write a blog entry.
2:30-3:50. Teach literature class.

Go home and rest for a while. Read some blogs. Prepare for Friday poetry reading.

6:30. Dinner with outside evaluator of the Latin American studies program.

21 sept 2005

Maybe we should go back to calling it Official Verse Culture. OVC. Or my favorite, the "period style."
Seth responds below to my comment about "invsibility." It's comment 7 and worth reading. He has some excellent points to which I try valiantly to respond.

20 sept 2005

There's still room at the Hilton as of half hour ago. I've never been to Austin before, or to an AWP meeting.

November NYC for the CCCP. I hope they accept my proposal.

MLA in Washington. Will someone let me know backchannel if any readings are being organized?
One characteristic of the customary way of doing things is its invisibility. That's why the SoQ doesn't exist, because it is simply a name for what normally goes without a name. It's only visible to those who don't belong to it. It's not that we don't LIKE it. I could like or dislike a poem whether it belongs to the SoQ or not.

Put another way--someone who claims to like poetry of all different types but in the end as an editor only publishes what I would consider SoQ. The claim rings hollow. Of course, this SoQ editor is an urban legend, like the cat in the microwave or the Community College narcissist-hoaxter-sociopath. We know these people don't exist. All resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

19 sept 2005

Still trying to figure out what any of this has to do with protective tarrifs on British grain. And tomorrow I won't even know what this sentence refers to.
Every dud poem in a magazine.... That's the way I think of it too, but it raises another question: did the editor know she was putting a dud poem in there? Or does he really think that the dud is a firecracker? Dull editors are nothing if not "sincere" in thinking they're putting on a quality show. They're just people with a dull attitude toward poetry.
We're reading on Friday to celebrate the Lawrence issue of Black Spring. At the Raven Book Store on 7th St. That's Lawrence, Kansas.

Speaking of the Lawerence poetic community, I suddenly realized today that I doubt if Ken Irby has ever read a poem I've written. At most, he's seen what I published in this issue of Black Spring. A combination of me not being the person to thrust my work at other people, and Ken not being the kind of person who asks to see what one has written. (If I've thrust my work at you on email in the last year that is uncharacteristic behavior on my part. I always feel weird about it. What is the ettiqutte here? I never know whether I know anybody well enough, even my best internet buddies.) I've never published in First Intensity either. Never submitted there. Never given a reading in Lawrence. Maybe because I'm a zombie when I'm here? Maybe that we don't do much as a "community" unless someone gets off their ass to do something. Lately it's been me bringing people like Ron Silliman and Jordan Davis in. Earlier it was Judy Roitman and others bringing in the likes of Bromige and Tills. Now it's McCrary organizing this event.

18 sept 2005

"Generic voices, formulaic poetry, and poems which adhere too narrowly to a single school are unlikely to appeal to the editors."

Unless, of course, it is the School of Q. The school which is not a "school," but simply the normal way of doing things. They are all very nice professional-sounding poems, but with a certain "sameness" to them. Indeed, it all sounds extremely "narrow," "generic," and "formulaic" to my ears. One cannot object to any of the poems, but simply to the (implied) claim that together they represent a broad spectrum of poetic styles and voices. The exclusion of "schools" is the classic ideological move, as one realizes once one starts thinking of what these other schools might be. There can be no allegiances, no affiliations--except to the mainstream, the normalized practice--whether "formal" or "free." I'm even sorry to have to repeat this same tired argument. Maybe someone will find it here for the first time.

17 sept 2005

New work by Murphy and Tsuchiya-Mayhew at The Duplications.
How do you pronounce the name of the city that was lost on Bush's watch?

1. NAW-luhns.
2. New-or-LEENS.
3. New OR-lee-uhns.
4. New OR-luhns.

I've always used 2 or 4. 1 sounds faux-Southern. 3 is NPR newscaster and responsible public official. I know there are more urgent issues to consider in times like these.
Since a favorite poem is by definition one that hasn't been written yet, here is my favorite poem. I will now write it. Then it won't be my favorite anymore, after it has been written. But it is my favorite now, as I am about to write it:


I have lost the ability to weep. Formerly I could weep quite easily--up to the age of thirty or so. Gradually, however, I lost the habit and the knack. I haven't wept since my cousin's wife died in 2001. I didn't know her well.

I hear they are offering classes. At the YMCA. Classes in weeping. In sweating and bleeding. Classes in godamn punctuation, for chrissake. In cursing and bleating.

But the classes in weeping are full! The laughter classes are full!

For weeping, now, special prophylactic devices are required. Weeping cannot be responsibly depicted without mention of these devices. You must sign a release form--before taking the class. Who is the Professor of Weeping? It could easily be me! Except that, despite my thirty years experience, I know longer know how to weep.

Who will take my class? Or should I be a mere disciple, study with some master weeper? At the godamn Y, for chrissake.

I hear they are offering classes. Classes at the YMCA. Classes in weeping...


There, it is no longer my favorite poem. It is now my fifth favorite poem.

15 sept 2005

I would never post a poem I had written and say "that one's my best." My reaction to others who have done so is, why would you want to do that? If someone didn't happen to like it, they wouldn't have to bother with the rest of your opus. After all, if "that" is the best you can do... Maybe I'm thinking about it perversely. Maybe it's the depression talking. Not wanting to open myself up to derision at this particular point in time. I'd rather say, "here's a poem, of course I've written much better ones..." When in doubt, reach for the false modesty.
The poetry we have is the poetry we deserve. It fulfills the functions we demand of it. It would not do a better job of meeting these needs and social functions if it were somehow "better."

Or is it that what we ask it to do makes it worse, acting a corrupting influence? We use it to credential teachers of writing, for example. For social intercourse and mutual gratification between friends. It is the basis of many narcissistic friendships. (I hope I don't have to explain that one.) It bears all sorts of ideological alibis.

I've always maintained (actually I haven't: I came up with this idea today) that you can't get rid of these secondary functions and just have a poetry free of all these burdens placed on it. The poetry that resulted would not only not be "better," but it simply wouldn't exist. You can't just have lipstick without lips.
Value Village Is Booby-Trapped!!

14 sept 2005

A few things I know how to do:

Make a perfect caldo gallego. Make a "tortilla española." Teach children to write poetry. Complete the Saturday NY Times Crossword in 40 minutes. Do sukoku puzzles. Recognize any jazz standard. Make C. Dale Young laugh out loud. Play a four-against-five polyrhythm. Memorize a sonnet in 15 minutes. Memorize the names of all my students the first week of class. Translate poetry from the Spanish. Irritate Tony Tost. Get academic articles published in specialized journals in my field. Write the perfect "tenure review letter." Speak in blank verse. Read French and Catalan. Play a "tumbao" on the congas. Write academic prose in Spanish. Explain the subjunctive for three hours straight without using any notes. Bore you to tears with my lecture on Thelonious Monk. Speak in public in either Spanish or English. Ride a bicycle. Make amusing lists. Write pantoums. Write parodies. Curse. Babysit a three-year-old child. Juggle. Juggle a soccer ball with my feet for 4 seconds. Make a copy of a drawing.

A few things I cannot do:

Fix anything mechanical. Play the piano. Tell a joke. Tolerate a poem by C.K Williams. Teach adults to write poetry (I never tried!). Keep my desk free of clutter. Act. Sing. Complete everything on a "to-do list." Listen to "books on tape." Sell anything to anyone. Tell anyone to do anything. Meet a deadline. Grade more than three papers in a row without my brain rebelling. Learn html code for indenting a line. Remember my students names a week after the semester is over. Get a book of poetry published. Make hollandaise sauce. Shoot a basket. "Turn" a double play. Play tennis. Understand hockey. Watch an entire football game from beginnning to end. Cut hair. Shave without cutting myself. Go a day without reading poetry. Relax. Give up my blog for a week. Publish in APR. Beat people up. Write a sonnet. Get a job at a "liberal arts institution." Surf. Make small talk with someone cutting my hair. Remember whether it's "Crouching Dragon, Hidden Tiger," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "Hidden Tiger, Crouching Dragon," or "Hidden Dragon, Crouching Tiger."

I guess I'll call it even, although somehow I think the things I know how to do are pretty useless--except for the caldo gallego of course, and a few things I cannot mention here. Tomorrow: things to do before I die.
There's a general problem with the poems originally in English in the New England Review -- they all have that strained wispy poetry aroma to them, like we're supposed to get excited about ordinary events observed ordinarily by not particularly excited people.

Just thought I'd take note of this, since the post is going to self-destruct in 3 hours.

[UPDATE] And in fact already has self-destructed.
At The Duplications I've got kari edwards, Noah Eli Gordon, and T-Rob. Plus, going back a few more days, E-Tab and T-Beck, KSM, and Kate Greenstreet. Read these poems while the ink is still wet.

In other news, I will be going to AWP in Austin to participate in a panel on Kenneth K, along with some people who know a lot more about Kenneth's work that I do. Though in devotion to KK I am second to almost nobody.
There are those whose fatuous self-regard
Provokes tears of anger in their compatriots:
One such is I; the texture of my nights
Leaves behind ravaged limps and lips.

13 sept 2005

Blog Heaven

I wake up and check Silliman's blog. It is about me, about how I am the best poet to do whatever it is I do: exactly that thing that I do, nobody does better. Nine poets who are also bloggers have accepted my poems today. Nine others write in agreeing with Silliman. Curtis loves my work and Mike Snider wants to give me a hug. I will be in Shampoo, Octopus, No Tell Motel, CWHOBB, and the Canary. I am on all the crush lists. I will be in the 2006 BAP, edited by David Lehman and Gary Sullivan. I play a minor but flattering role in a Jim Behrle Cartoon. Latta's blog has disappeared. Gabe Gudding can no longer stand Kent Johnson. I am going to NYC in November.

Well, at least some of this is true.
Of course, CCCP is the Soviet Union in cyrllic script. I guess you knew that. isn't that cute. Not really.
I'm going to the CCCP thing in New York in November, if they accept me and if my school forks up the cash.
The BAP 05 doesn't look good. Not that I've looked at it for very long, but surely the format itself is due a revision. What's so sacred about 75 poems in alphabetical order? I'm sure there are some worthy poems by my blogging buddies, a little essay about the very act of choosing these poems and what it means for The State of Poetry Today. I'm just bored with the very idea of buying the BAP and discussing the poems. I'll let Behrle do it this year. His idea of crossing out most of the poems and scanning the results is brilliant, even though I am generally in the pro-pantoum crowd.
Why is it that I want to resist all pretentiousness, all unnecessary verbiage, in critical response? Maybe because I am an academic and am reacting against my own ambience. I already own this pretentious language, I don't need to acquire it for professional legitimacy, so I can afford to run away from it. Someone else looking at it from the outside in might see at as an object of desire, a way of being taken more seriously perhaps.

I hate handwringing and apologizing for my critical reactions. My reactions are my own. I own them. I don't need to examine their provenance or situate myself in an anguished or supercomplicated way.


I got rejected from a few SoQ Venues recently, like the New England Review. My experiment was to see whether I had crossover appeal. Apparently I don't. But more importantly, I am not sure I have appeal even within the anti-SoQ camp. That is, I have also been rejected by journals where I might fit in stylistically quite well. The difference is between batting .000 in the SoQ and about .400 in the non SoQ. I am Ted Williams against left-handed pitchers but hitless against righties.

12 sept 2005

What interests me in Ange Mlinko's poetry--one of the things that interests me--is the effect of emotional distancing. There's an indirection, a reticence, reminiscent of early John Ashbery. It's not an absence of emotion, but rather a certain coolness. For example, the poem "The Girl With the Black Square Hair":

It was a more sensuous oppression back then.
Now summer is a long illness; confined to the room

was the air-conditioning unit, notebook my birdbath
(come, invisible birds) where are my special

solar eclipse sunglasses? Left in the long grasses
of the Île de Batz. One cannot close a park;

I am reassured of its longueurs extending into the night,
for I have seen its gaslamps on past noon

but also great liberal jurisprudence.
The adult sibling finds it unremarkable

there used to be jacqueries and fires and demi-vierges.
It's currently the year Contemplative is overrated.

You should still be able to appreciate the Maleviches;
it is usually the middle child who is supersititious.

It has that cultivated NY School feel to it, for sure. Surely the poetic "charge" comes not from the inventive use of vocabulary alone but from the implied emotional tonalities in these words. The wistfulness of "special / solar eclipse sunglasses" or "adult sibling." The irony is not overdone, because it's not a matter of words saying the opposite of what they mean, but of simply leaving behind a certain residue of dissatisfaction (or muted satisfaction) with life. Needless to say, the title is brilliant for this poem, and the poem is perfect for the mood I'm in today. I am the middle child.

10 sept 2005

Isn't satire supposed to be funny and intelligent? Otherwise it's just crap.
Conchology: Literary Narcissism and the Manufacture of Scandal

Bravo, GG.

9 sept 2005

Submissions for TD have died down a bit, so I need to reiterate the fact that I need your poems. Especially if your name is

Bob Basil, Tony Towle, Jordan Davis, Lisa Jarnot, Danielle Pafunda, Barbara Guest, Nada Gordon, Rachel Loden, Tony Robinson, Laura Carter, Gary Sullivan, Ron Silliman, Juliana Spahr, Sarah Manguso, Douglas Rothschild, David Shapiro, Frank O'Hara, Eileen Tabios, Cecil Taylor, Henry Gould, John Ashbery, or Tom Beckett, That's just off the top of my head, so don't worry if your name is not on this list.

I know you might have more "important" magazine to submit to. Don't let me get in the way of your Nobel prize. Seriously, though, I think TD has the potential for gaining a certain following. It already has published more worthwhile poems than the entire Sept. Poetry.

8 sept 2005

I sometimes post nasty stuff and then delete it soon after. So if you read this blog right now you might be getting something that might not be here later.
Certain people are simply toxic. They are narcissistic and passive-aggressive, with delusions of grandeur. Everything is about "them." They will waste your time and energy in pointless and trivial squabbles, and imagine that other people spend all their time plotting their downfall. They will accuse you of all their own worst flaws. Disloyal, they will demand loyalty from their friends, who are called upon to take their side in some other pointless squabble. They will do small "favors" for you to create a sense of endebtedness. They are no respecters of boundaries. They will beg you to tell them what you think of their work, then use whatever you say as ammunition against you. They will pretend that they welcome negative criticism "in the spirit of open dialogue," then scream bloody murder when anything negative is actually said. They will say, no, I really enjoy it when people make fun of me. I have a sense of humor, I can laugh at myself. I am humble and am the first to poke fun at myself. But of of course they don't really mean one word of this. They wonder why people don't always like them. Maybe it's because they are so virtuous that they threaten the corrupt status quo. Yes, that must be it. People who don't like them are by definition motivated by base instincts. They are an evil cabal organized to persecute such unworldly virtue. It couldn't be that these people are former "friends" who have gotten sick of this toxic behavior!

They think they are Laura Friggin Jackson and will write letters of rectification or correction to magazines, or, even worse, get their friends to do the same. They claim credit for the ideas of Roland Barthes. If you wrote a poem with a particular idea, they anticipated this idea in a poem they wrote a year before. They will say, I liked your poem, it reminds me of a poem I wrote, in fact. Everything is about them, you see.

Their friendliness is but a ruse, a way of getting into your good graces so that they can start their toxic behavior all over again. If you let them insinuate themselves into your life again, watch out!

Fortunately, I have to say, I don't know anybody like this. I imagine people like this must exist somewhere, but maybe this is just an urban legend, like the cat in the microwave.
They are Spanish majors. They don't like grammar, particularly. Don't bother them with the fine points of linguistic analysis. They can't be bothered with writing a correct sentence. They're not in it for the literature. "No me gusta la literatura." Maybe they like "culture." What did you like about your study abroad experience?--"the bars." Imbibing alcohol in a foreign country, that is so different from imbibing alcohol in Lawrence KS. What a wonderful cultural experience.

Of course, the top 20% of the majors do like literature, at least enough to keep class discussion from dying; they do want to learn to write a sentence without an error every other word.

7 sept 2005

Up at the top, Ricardo Aleixo, trans. KSM,

Jim Behrle's blog today has a the phrase: "Our Safeword: 'Mayhew'!" upfront. I have no idea what this means. I've only received 2% of the vote in the recent poll. Obviously you don't know what I look like--or I would have received even less. Don't even ask why I have blazer thrown over my zildjian tee-shirt. It was not a good wardrobe day. I usually don't dress like that. (Well, actually I do...)

6 sept 2005

A succint summary of Fence's brazen market strategy here from "Jane Dark".
A couple of people have commented that I make blogging about poetry seem "natural." I never thought about it like that myself, but I'll gladly accept the compliment.


A nice poem by Kate Greenstreet added over the holiday weekend to The Duplications. I've probably rejected a few I could easily have accepted. Editor's remorse.

5 sept 2005

Today is the third anniversary of this blog, founded on Sept. 5, 2002. Around the same time Jordan Davis, Gary Sullivan, and Henry Gould started theirs, shortly after Silliman. This was the real beginning of the blog phenomenon in poetry land, although Duemer had his for a year or so before.

3 sept 2005

I'm translating another collaborative work, "Tensó" by Claudio Rizzo and Leopoldo María Panero. I'm drawn to collaborations as a translator because then I can be the third collaborator. The authorship of the text seems more open when it is already a collaboration. I just realized this. I haven't heard from Lola and Amalia yet about Fascicle. Of course August is vacation month in Spain and nobody checks email.


Looking for a naked woman for the cover of The Duplications. (Just kidding). What I really want is for women to submit to it. I'm getting a lot of guy-type people and not so many women.


A hint on comment spam in blogger. Turn on word verification in the comment preferences under "settings." Then anyone will have to type a word in to leave a comment, avoiding systems that automatically put out spam-comments for internet gambling, prescriptions, irrelevant websites generally.

You can also see if the comment spammer has a blogger profile and go to his/her blog and leave nasty comments there. Little good that will do, but it feels good. I've done it following links from Tony's and C. Dale's blogs, in between translating these weird poems.


Last but not least, if I've amused or edified you this week, give to the Red Cross Katrina relief. Even if I've merely annoyed you, give to the Red Cross.

The Duplications.

I'm starting this magazine [today.] Send me your submissions if you think I'd like your poetry. I'm only publishing poems I like, not necessarily poets I like. That is, I might like you as a poet, but not like the particular poems you send me. Think of it as Little Emerson, but you don't have to please 9 editors, just satisfy the 9 outrageous exigencies of JM. In searching for a title, I looked over at my bookshelves and saw a copy of The Duplications. That's it! I said. This publication will duplicate the efforts of other existing magazines that I like.

I'm especially interested in poems that "duplicate" other poems in some way. Counter-discursive poems, faux-translations. I won't publish my own poetry, except for my own translations. No critical work or reviews.

Take your Journal Envy elsewhere. There is no way this is going to be better than Little Emerson, Fascicle, The Canary, The Hat, The Tiny, The Poker, Notell Motel, Call:Review, Shampoo, or Can We Have Our Ball Back?.

I tend to like short poems, and I tend to like poems that I would like to have written.

Publication in "The Duplications" carries no prestige whatever. You can publish here and then publish the same poem in a print journal later. I'll even delete it for you if the print editors care about such things.

I'll do it for as long as it works. Maybe 6 months, maybe 5 years.

2 sept 2005

Some guy I never heard of in APR, a former Creative Writing Bureaucrat apparently, is dissing language poetry for its lack of emotion. His poems, on the other hand, try hard for emotional effect but have no linguistic energy to make this emotion meaningful or truly "felt." There's nothing in the LANGUAGE.

And I just acquired a complete set of The Poker. An interview with Ange Mlinko in which she talks about reading mainistream journals as a kid, Poetry and so forth, and knowing that it wasn't "poetry," that it was mediocre and "middle-brow." Then picking up Creeley and knowing contemporary poetry was still possible.

1 sept 2005

I'm wondering if I should go to the AWP. Anyone have a panel with space for me. How is this done? I'm not even a member but I'm thinking this might be a way of meeting some old and new friends. Back-channel please.
I hate poignancy.

31 ago 2005

After Michael Palmer II

The future will have sharper edges
It will kick the present's butt

It'll have
"one night cheap hotels / and sawdust restaurants with oyster shells"

André Breton will be studying The Commandments of R&B Drumming
Anything's possible, right?

Jimmy Carter and Jesse Jackson
will get in on the action.


Michael Palmer: "Soon"

Soon the present will arrive
at the end of its long voyage

from the Future-Past to Now
weary of the endless nights in cheap motels

in distant nebulae
Will the usual host

of politicians and celebrities
show up for the occasion

or will they huddle out of sight
in confusion and fear


This Palmer poem is a little weaker than the other one. I don't like the redundancy of "long voyage" or "distant nebulae." I like the concept of the poem, but not the execution, the actual language. I felt it needed "sharper edges" and something a little more specfiic and astringent. Which politicians would be inserting themselves into the event? I thought immediately of Carter and Jackson, and of course André Breton. I decided to make the T.S. Eliot allusion more explicit. I'm not sure it's really there in the Palmer poem.