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.
New work here from Gina Myers and Raphael Rubinstein,

UPDATE and Jess Mynes. It's already better than Little Emerson. No offense, but at least there are actual poems published in The Duplications. I'm accepting a high percentage, so now's your chance. This is easier than I thought. Only one woman has sent me poems so far, so I need some more female-authored poems. How about it, Nada Gordon, Danielle Pafunda, Alice Notley, Bernadette Mayer? You are invited to submit.
After Tony Robinson and an Image by JD

Fruit in a child's hand
Fruit from a bowl
The bowl is New Orleans
The fruit cannot be put back in the bowl

What of the cash in the vaults?
Asked the asshole,
What will keep it dry?

How can I use this against my enemies?
Asked the scumbag

Asked the village idiot:
Will this stimulate growth?

Will my knuckle hurt any less?


Here is Tony's poem:

New Orleans is shaped like a bowl
a blue bowl is shaped like a city
I've never been to this village nor seen
an orchid up close or blown apart
sideways a strip of photography a row
of houses I've seen two men in a boat
canoeing through the flood oars up
many people are dying in a war across
the big thick-skinned navel orange
we imagine on turtles on bowls my
own sins for which I will burn
in the bowels of the earth for my girl
friend is but a child for the litany
of lies told me is sung by a woman
with a washboard standing at the levee
while the tidewaters come up home
is somewhere yonder a place ungutted
just yet and when you come you never
scream my name just a whelp just shudder
while tree branches remain exactly what
they are while I am with each touch
changing you with each meal sending
you out for someone else when
the mardi gras happens our masks
are see-through when everyone stops dying.

30 ago 2005

Got testicles?. I do apparently, though the translations I did for Fascicle are of two Lesbian women.

29 ago 2005

After Michael Palmer

André Breton has been elected president.
He proclaims La République Surréaliste,

which it already was.
Mentira, mentira, mentira

mutter the jays,
If only they knew!

I've stolen your thunder.
I've stolen the milk from your coffee.


Here's the original Palmer poem. I've translated it into "Mayhew"; don't ask me why. That's what I do: create a counterdiscourse when I'm reading. Palmer's beautiful poem deserves better treatment:


The perfect half-moon
of lies over the capital

Crooks and fools in power what's new
and our search has begun for signs of spring

Maybe those two bluebirds
flashing past the hawthorn yesterday

Against that, the jangle of the spoon in a cup
and a child this day swept out to sea

MP. from "Company of Moths."

Send me your short poem and I'll translate it. I'll rewrite it the way I would have done it, and destroy it in the process.

Company of Moths. Michael Palmer, New Directions, 2005.

I was a little surprised by the James Tate/Charles Simic tone in some of the poems. Palmer comes off as a more intelligent Simic. A lot of the poems feel as though they were translated from the Spanish or Portuguese. Some, in fact, are expicitly indicated as after a particular poet. I tended to translate them "back" as I read. They would work very well in Spnaish with only minimal effort at translation.

It's a very good book. "Sonnet, after Maurice Scèves" is a fine poem. I don't care much for

"A reader writes to complain
that there are no cellphones in my poems..."

I think this tone has already been "done." It's amusing enough, of course. I think there are some lapses of intensity in this book, poems that run out of steam before they are done or that don't seem urgent enough. I'm looking for the 20 pages in the 70 pages. But those other 50 pages keep getting in the way, even though these other pages are also "good." If they were bad it would be easier to find the 20. The 20 pages keeps changing. It is not the same with every reading. Thus I'd have to say there are really 40 pages.

There is a lot that reminds me of David Shapiro. The play with translation. I like this book more than Sun, the only other book by Palmer I own. I suspect it will get better the more I read it.

27 ago 2005


I have two second best fountain pens. They are Watermans, but the kind that costs about $35 dollars. The blue one had been missing for about six months. I thought it permanently gone. Today, the green one disappeared. I thought it was probably in the car, so I went out to look under the driver seat where such things usually drop. I felt around in the dark, and there it was, my pen. But when I got into the house, I realized it was the blue pen that I had lost six months before. The green pen might be in the car, but I don't feel like going back out there right now.
Fascicle is now officially out. Tell me what you think of these poems from Lola Velasco and Amalia Iglesias, translated by me.

26 ago 2005

Here's the poem in question.
I do like gazpacho, but not other "chilled soups." I like Paul Motian. I don't like Nina Simone or Woody Allen. I don't like Unamuno, though I insist on teaching him. I hate "religiosity," not the same thing as "religion."

My poem about Bill Evans is not in any sense "lightweight" . It is completely sincere and poignant and not meant to be amusing. The anecdote is totally real and the emotions on the surface. I weep whenever I read this poem. However,

the poet does not control reactions to his or her work. If Tony Robinson reads my poem as amusing and lightweight, I can only protest in vain. Plus, how could I compete with David Shapiro? I thought it was an contest for "amateurs."

Maybe there's another Spanish professor who sent in a poem, so there is the possibility that Tony is not referring to my poem at all.

25 ago 2005

I also like Kevin Killian. Larry Rivers. Michael Magee. Babaganouj. Misspellings on restaurant menus. I like Clark Coolidge. I like The Poker and Carve, Canary and The Hat, Sulfur, Temblor. I like novels written by poets that nobody else knows about. Flann O'Brian. I like sestinas and villanelles and pantoums. The Roots. Leopoldo María Panero and Concha García. I love periodical rooms in libraries. Open stacks. Josephine Miles. Frank Lima. Being the first person to check a book out of the library, when the library has owned the book for 10 years. A section of the library stacks that is difficult to find and that is usually deserted. Count Basie. Modern Drummer magazine. D.H. Lawrence and Thomas Hardy. Poets named "Ron." The Vienna Paradox. Joseph Duemer's bonsai trees. Soundtracks to Charles Bronson movies. Steve McQueen in "Bullit." Gertrude Stein. "Mexico City Blues." Bök. Bach. "Shaking the Pumkin." The Hotel Wentley Poems. 1001 Avant-Garde Plays. I like the pull of displaced quarter-note triplets against a ride cymbal swing beat. Jack DeJohnette and Tony Williams. I like people who love to debate the superiority of the Miles, Coltrane, Chambers, Garland, Jones quintet of the 50s, or the Miles, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter group of the 60s.
I have a hard time reading magazines of poetry. They fragment my attention, already too fragmented. I do like having them and dipping into them at my leisure, but I rarely read them cover to cover.
My first book of poetry
has just been published.
It is over there on the table
lying there on the table,
where is is lying. It has
a beautiful cover and design.
The publishers spent a lot of money
on it and devoted many
man- and woman-hours to it.
The bookstores are ordering copies.
Unfortunately I am a very bad poet and
the book is no good.

--Ron Padgett, "Post-Publication Blues."

24 ago 2005

Geneva Convention: August 24th is Clark Coolidge Day!

I list lists, hats, fountain pens, proper names, Kung Fu movies. I like Bob Basil, Tony Robinson, Laurel Snyder, C. Dale Young, David Shapiro, Clark Coolidge, Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Jordan Davis, Gary Sullivan. All the other bloggers too numerous to list. Clark Coolidge, Joseph Ceravolo, Billy Higgins, Papa Jo Jones, Philly Joe Jones, Philly Joe Silliman, Jess Mynes. Barbara Guest, Laura Carter, and Frank O'Hara. Rothko. Joseph Cornell. Henry Gould. French poetry (except when I don't like it). Blanca Varela. Juarroz. Vallejo. Lorca. Roethke. Clark Coolidge! Lorine Niedecker. Creeley. Kenneth Koch. David Shapiro (you knew that). Joseph Ceravolo. The New Sincerity. The Old Sincerity. Lola Velasco. Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. T'ang dynasty poetry. Basho. Wittgenstein. Joseph Duemer's paintings. Harry Mathews. Keats. Shelley. Blake. Small literary magazines. Used bookstores. Sushi. Hot peppers. Zildjian cymabls. Clark Coolidge. Snowflakes the stick to your nose and eyelashes. Alice Notley's Mysteries. Anselm Berrigan. Jim Behrle. Maurice Blanchot. Georges Perec. Venezuelan poetry. Alan Davies. Creeley. Morton Feldman. Raphael Rubinstein. Kasey Mohammad. Johnny Mercer. Jim McCrary. Expresso. Tony Towle. Lewis Warsh. Girl singers. Clark Coolidge. Dinah Washington. Tito Puente. Billy Higgins.


Dalí. Microsoft. Alberti. Kenny G. Losing the previous, longer version of this post when I clicked on a link in someone's email. Students in literature class who "don't like literature." Translations of poetry that don't include the original text. Poetry Magazine. The New York Times Book Review. C.D. Williams. Robert Bly. Robert Pinsky. W.S. Merwin. Billy Collins. People who like Billy Collins. Robert Lowell. Wordsworth. CK Williams. Light operas. Luis García Montero. Bonnefoy. Panels in the MLA about William Carlos Williams and ______. Theodor Adorno comparing Louis Armstrong to a eunich. Words I can never spell right. Bad Freudian criticism. Chilled soups. Poetry influenced by Juan Ramón Jiménez. Oscar Peterson. Poetry influenced by Antonio Machado. People who ask me about the duende. Biographies of more than 300 pages. Rexroth (sorry!). Jim Brodey. Bad Bossa Nova. Girl singers. Aaron Copland. People who confuse Mingus with Monk. Protestantism. Religiosity. The Boston Pops. Walmart.
It's my birthday. I turn 29 today. (Just kidding). Who's counting anyway, right? My sexual age is 26; my poetic age is 81. I still weigh 158 poounds, just like I did when I was 39. I don't look a day older than 41.

23 ago 2005

Who is this C.K. Williams person? Someone I should have heard of?
Here's a poem by Raphael Rubinstein:


Cher Reverdy

It shows a lot of something
to end a beautiful poem,
as you once did, with the line
"talent is worthless."

It reminds me of the Borgesian paradox. I must spend time in this office, reunited with my Reverdy books, but without time to read them, since I must make the schedule of peninsular classes till the year 2008.

22 ago 2005

As some of you know, I commute between Lawrence, Kansas and St. Louis, a five hour drive. I do this every weekend. I recently made a list of problems associated with the commute. Problem due either wholly or partly to the fact that I don't really "live" where I work. There were about 12 major problems, several problems I might classify as moderate, and a long list of mere inconveniences. It made me feel both better and worse to make such a list. I realize that I am fully justified in feeling the stress from what I do, so that was a good thing. Also, I realized that I could address or alleviate some of the problems. Simply by ignoring the minor ones, for example. I am not going to worry that I sometimes don't have the exact book I need at every moment, or that half of my Kenneth Koch collection is in a different state. The bad part, of course, was the inevitable self-pity and the realization that I don't have a solution for any of the really major problems.

People always ask how long the drive is, but actually the time lost driving and the tedium associated with it is only ranks a moderate. Loneliness, fragmentation, disorganization, alienation from community, strain on personal relationships, difficulty of adjustment, and fatigue are all much more serious!

Upside: I can read plenty of poetry at night on the weekdays after my 10 hour work days. I can mope for 10 hours a week in the car and thank Bush for the cheap gas I enjoy.


Got the new Poker in the mail. I also have the Ted Mathys book that Jordan is enthused about. But I left it in St. Louis and haven't read it yet. My first glance at it told me that I should wait, because I was getting that "I wouldn't do it like that" feeling.


On Wed. look for Jonathan Mayhew, version 4.5. The mature, middle-aged version.

18 ago 2005

Guest Blogger: Jean-Pierre Restif

My friend Jonathan has asked me to take over his blog for a few days since he's too busy with classes. There are many things I don't understand about him, so maybe you can help me out a bit, you who maybe know him a bit better than I do.

Why does he blog? What purpose does it serve? Whence this obsession with the New York School of Poetry? Why don't his socks match? Why, fearing to offend, does he offend anyway? Is he really a Professor of Spanish? Then why doesn't he write about that? What became of his scholarly career? Who is Henry Gould? Is there really an "International Ron Padgett Association"? Do poets have fan clubs?

Why is he angry at Gary Snyder and Clayton Eshleman? Why does stupidity drive him to tears? What is the source of his anger? What's the whole "Bemsha Swing" thing? What is a Bemsha?

17 ago 2005

It reminds me of when Gary Snyder, protesting Japan's ecological policies, called Japan, in a poem, "a once great Buddhist nation." At what point in the history of Japan could this have been true? Maybe during the endless armed conflicts of the feudal period? During the Second World War? Japan has been a "great nation," and a Buddhist nation, but it seems obscene to associate Japanese nationalism with any positive sense of Buddhism. If he's saying, "The Japanese used to govern their country by Buddhist principles, and look, now they're killing whales," this is profoundly wrong in any relevant historical sense. It's not that I hate Gary Snyder: I just hate the idea that "poets" qua poets are associated with this particular kind of statement. That goes for the profound and beautiful femininity of the earth as well. Anybody can say something stupid. But poets shouldn't embarrass the guild by doing it in poems. Often a profoundly dumb statement will be found in a poem that isn't very good to begin with, so what's the point?
"It is the profound and beautiful
femininity of the earth
that is always under man attack."

---Clayton Eshleman.

Ok, it's a cheap trick to pull a few bad lines off Silliman's blog and quote them out of context. I admire Eshleman as a translator a great deal. Especially his stupendous versions of Vallejo. But these lines are a deal breaker. I think they are worse than my best (worst) attempt at deliberately bad poetry, "The Dreams of my Youth." At least that was ironic. You just can't say "profound and beautiful." It isn't allowed. And surely the earth is just as much masculine as it is feminine.
Here's a Ronald Johnson question: I have the 1980 North Point Press edition of ARK: The Foundations. What percentage of the total ARK is this?
"Are the dead permitted / to return and sing?." --David Shapiro.
My spam filter seems to create more work. I have to move items into it if they are not caught, then delete them, then empty deleted items folder. I have to rescue messages that were mistakingly put there. It was easier when I just deleted messages as they came. I hate microsoft entourage. Awkwardly designed interface.


More inefficencies. If I want to know the final exam schedule, I can google it faster than going step by step through the KU website. My class rosters are on line, but are harder to get to than googling the GNP of Bulgaria. I have to remember whether class rosters are "learning services" or "learning management" and follow a hierarchical menu down.
I didn't seem capable of very long utterances yesterday. Classes start tomorrow.

16 ago 2005

"Lower the standard, that's my motto." (Karl Shapiro).
"Part of the universe has been found. But only part!" (David Shapiro, "A Found Golf Ball.")
Back in Kansas, blogging from the Prima Tazza on Massachusets Ave.

15 ago 2005

The image came to me of the pragmatic dimension of poetic language as a sort of hazy field of connotation. That is, since the poem is not usually functioning pragmatically, all those pragmatic markers are let loose to be free radicals. I'm going to have to go back to Grice and explain what I mean more precisely.

13 ago 2005

I do enjoy Sarah Manguso's poetry very much. My remark of the other day was not meant as disparaging in any way.

My point was that much of what I enjoy does not fit within the category i was referring to.

That even a seemingly obvious statement can provoke disagreement.

I'm interested in the implicatures of statements. For example. "The window is open" can mean "Please close the window, I'm cold." When a playwright puts that sentence into a character's mouth, the playwright is also saying something about the character. She is someone who communicates like that. So a statement of "fact" becomes more and more complex the more it is embedded in the pragmatics of language. The fact that I made the character a female in that sentence implies something too. Change it to "You still haven't closed the window."

Rewrite this scene in the styles of Pinter, Mamet, Beckett, Albee, Creeley, Artaud, Roussel, Ashbery, Koch.

Suppose I talk of my biological father. I do have a biological father. But my biological father is simply my father. In other words, I am not adopted. So there is no particular reason to call my father a "biological" father. There is a redundancy here that implies something not the case, despite the accuracy of the description. I wrote this in a poem, in fact. "He spoke of his biological father. I asked if he was adopted and he said no, he just liked the sound of it, it was an accurate statement of the facts." Here the speaker seems to disavow the implicatures of his language.
The idea of just "stating the obvious" is enormously liberating. Whereas if I said, tell me something not obvious, I will be met with silence.

Have you ever had one of those days when the ideas just flowed? It is almost as though a switch had been flipped. If one could find that switch at will, one could be brilliant for ever. Usually, the switch is not accessible.

Reading Ron Padgett or Bernadette Mayer is good short-cut for me. Reading these authors I inevitably get ideas of my own.
Ron Padgett is the most influential American poet.

Especially influential on poets who have never read him.

It's better to be an influential poet than a great one. That is a form of greatness.

I like that border between the facetious and sincere. Ron is the father of the New Sincerity and the New Ironism alike.

For example when I say that Ron is the most influential poet I thought I was being facetious, but it turned out that I really believe this. Once a thought is formulated it takes on a certain "reality." Even if you entertain the idea for a few seconds, I have won.

Ashbery's influence is not "useable." Poets of America, stop writing Ashberyese!

I'd have to back up the statement about Padgett. I think I could back it up. I have no interest in doing this or winning an argument about it.

If you challenge the statement I'll back down right away. Doesn't mean I'm not right. There're statements that are true but not literally true. In other words, their exaggeration is part of their truth.

12 ago 2005


What's obvious to one person might not be obvious to another.

"Of course" only introduces a non-obvious statement. It is a way of disguising the obvious as the non-obvious.

Even when we're not fooled by something totally fallacious, and when we reject it outright, we might still end up being fooled by it, simply by accepting the terms that it presupposes.

Sarah Manguso is not a radically avant-garde poet.

A review copy does not have the same value as a copy purchased. I can resent its presence in my house, even though I would never give it away or sell it.

Ezra Pound couldn't speak Chinese. That is a fact but stating the fact makes it into an opinion. That is true of all facts. No statement of a fact is simply a fact: it becomes a speech act. Stating the obvious is an agressive gesture.

An exaggeration can be truer than an accurate statement, because what the statement is about is the speaker, not the facts of the case. It is irritating when someone corrects an exaggeration, because the corrector has not correctly discerned the rhetoric of the statement.

Everything used a mark of superiority is by definition spurious. "I'm better than you because I'm not a snob." That's just as spurious as any other.

Kasey Mohammad is brilliant.

That statement must be understood as referring to an opinion of the speaker of the statement. It's not a statement about the world, but a speaker-centered statement. What it is really saying is, "you should agree with me that Kasey is brilliant." He is, actually.

You might learn Spanish to get at the duende of Spanish poetry. But what you will learn about Spanish poetry will be, precisely, the non-duende of it all. That is, you will learn that duende is essentially a translation-effect, an illusion. That doesn't make it any less meaningful to those who don't know Spanish, and you will never be able to convince these non Spanish-speaking people that the duende does not exist, or get them to shut up about the damned duende.

I am seeing the balcony scene from Romeo & Juliet today. Guess who's playing Juliet? The lines for her are not cliché, but rather are utterly fresh and exciting. And watching the scene will be totally thrilling to me.

Paul Auster left out Roussel from the Random House Book of French Poetry. This is a fact. But to mention this fact makes it into an opinion.

Gary Sullivan is brilliant too.

When people you think are brilliant treat you as an equal, and find you interesting too, that means you are brilliant too. That's the best kind of brilliance, the shared kind.

Jordan is completely right about Robert Duncan. That is, I agree with him completely. I can't "take" Duncan. Yet the poetics seminar I set up in Kansas is practically a shrine to Duncan (Silliman, Irby have spoken about him there). I thought about inviting Lisa Jarnot, but then thought, nah, she'll probably talk about Duncan. All these people who see Duncan as central know much more about American poetry than I do. I cannot put forward my inability to appreciate as a universal principle.

Some of these statements are more "obvious" than others. This game is fun to play. Dress up an utterly controversial statement as an axiom, see what happens.

Time for Shakespeare.

11 ago 2005

You can have read a lot of poetry and have nearly infallible taste, like myself, and still come up short: wanting to like a new book of poetry, but failing, or distrusting the sense in the gut that something is too facile for its own good. When it leaves me cold, is it me or is it him? Or her? Yet that space of uncertainty is where the real critical reflection must come in. That's the only challenge left. I had infallible taste until yesterday, when I got a book of poetry in the mail that doesn't respond to my infallible judgment. it doesn't fit. Despite the fact it draws on 100 writers that are easily identifiable that I have also read, it's not clear whether this embededness in tradition is a good thing or a bad, in this particular context. I can't love 2,000 writers of today, like Silliman. Each one is a conquest and a struggle.

I don't particularly like a few books I got in the mail recently. At every gesture, every move, I cringe and think "that's not the way to do it." I hate the wordiness, the similes, the forced jokes, of one. The other seems glib and has ideas I have had too but wouldn't have used because they seem too obvious. Yet this seems to be more of a case of the narcissism of small differences. In both cases I can imagine writing the same poems but just a little bit *better.* That's fatal for me: when I want to take the pencil to the poem and write it over again the way it should have been written. I never get this sense with poets I really like.
Titles (for Gary Sullivan)

Slim Volume of Poetry
How I Wrote Certain of My Books
The Morton Feldman Fake Book
Minor Poets of the New York School
Title to be Announced
Poems Retrieved from Bemsha Swing
The Oblviion Ha-Ha
Claudio Rodríguez and the Language of Poetic Vision
Poetry After Jim Behrle
Don't Steal This Title
Recently downloaded for 99 cents a track, Morton Feldman's "Rothko Chapel." Who says modern art eschews beauty?
Ironically, I get the most review copies from the two presses that turned down my book proposal, Minor Poets of the New York School, Coffee House and Soft Skull. Both, obviously, are excellent publishers, or I wouldn't have tried them in the first place. I've never entered a contest and have no plans to do so. Entering a contest means you are a pathetic loser with no community of friends to publish your book for you (rough paraphrase of Silliman). Either way, I don't have a book, though to be fair to myself I've only started bombarding journals with my poetry in May of 2005. I need journal publications to give myself a little more credibility.


I have published two books, of course. They are not books of poetry, though, they are books about poetry. I've even published in PMLA and MLN.

10 ago 2005

I don't even know why I bother trying. Nobody's going to thank me for it.
Could we maybe just end the latest Behrle/Johnson battle right now? I'm a little weary of it. I'm sure there are quicker ways to Anne Boyer's heart. In fact, the quickest way to her heart might be to simply end it here. Yes, Kent Johnson is a highly annoying person. I try to get along with him as best I can, but he usually annoys the bejeezus out of me, and I almost always disagree with him and almost instinctively want to take the other side. Other than that I like him fine! Maybe ignoring him is the best way to stop the annoyance. And ignoring Jim Behrle is also the best way of getting him to stop, since any further response is just more grist for his mill. Maybe my peace-making impulse is misplaced. Maybe Kent enjoys his succès de scandale as much as Jimmy enjoys feeding the flames. I certainly don't want to spoil anybody's fun!

The Random House Book of Twentieth Century French Poetry. Paul Auster, ed. 1984.

French poetry is dull. All that conservative neo-classicisim. Who can tell one French surrealist poet from another? None of them is as good as Neruda or Aleixandre. I love the idea of French poetry. I love American and Spanish poetry influenced by French poetry. But French poetry itself is not as great as it should be. Pessoa is more interesting than Apollinaire. Sorry. Jabès doesn't have a bigger vocabulary than Racine.

I'll save Ponge and Reverdy, though. Along with parts of Michaux, Artaud... Someday I'll "get" Char. And where are the women? There's only one here. There must be others.

9 ago 2005

My position on most "blog wars" is that the fewer people who pile on, the better. I have never regretted *not* getting involved in a conflict that didn't really concern me. On the other hand, I have regretted doing the opposite a couple of times. Once the participants have calmed down, they're not going to fondly remember the fact that you helped to keep things inflamed a little longer. This post is not an intervention in a blog war now going on at other venues.
First Book of Poetry. by Bright Young Thing. Berkeley. MOFO Press, 2005. 66 pp. $14.95

These poems have appeared in Alaska Review, Alabama Review, Review of Alabama Farms, Are We There Yet?, Fenceposts, Incunabuli, Squid, Imprecations, Poetry Midwest, Poetry Mideast, Poetry Northsouth, Coastal Review, Tidepowers, Imaginary Qualities of Real Things, Colorado Quarterly, The New Jerseyan, Umph, California Review, California Poetry Review, California Quarterly, California Quarterly Review, California and elsewhere. In fact, there is no journal where these poems have not appeared. If I had one criticism of this otherwise fresh and vibrant voice it would be that it is not fresh and vibrant at all. It all seems rather "generic." The undigested Ashbery influence evident on pages 1, 5, 6, 9, 10, 14, 17, 18, 25, 33, 44, 50, and 60. The jokes that don't quite work on pages 2, 7, 8, 10, 15, 30, 44, and 66. The forced alliteration on pages 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 44, and 55. The cliché on page 7. Yet it seems churlish to criticize the work of a poet who is likely to be the next Cole Swensen.

In fact, there is a blurb on the back from Swensen herself, along with others by John Ashbery, Robert Creeley, Fanny Howe, Susan Howe, Susan Stewart, Marjorie Perloff, Bunny Berrigan, Miguel Hernández, Gilbert Sorrentino, Paul Auster, John Ashbery, Georges Perec, Morton Feldman, David Antin, John Ashbery, Samuel Beckett, Meghan Cleary, Mark Ford, Gary Snyder, Stephen Reich, Larry Rivers, Antonio Gamoneda, Harry Mathews, Anne Lauterbach, Richard Rorty, Joe Montana, Elmore Leonard, Stephen King, John Koethe, Franz Wright, Mary Jo Bang, Bob Perelman, C. Dale Young, Robin Blaser, Ornette Coleman, Steve Benson, Nick Piombino, Joe Morelli, Julio Cortázar, John Ashbery, Elvin Jones, Nada Gordon, Lyn Hejinian, Stephen Sondheim, Shadow Wilson, Lorenz Hart, John Asbhery, Jack Derrière, Judith Butler, and John Ash--not to mention John Ashbery.

8 ago 2005


Morton Feldman. Give My Regards to 8th Street

These essays are fascinating even if you don't know anything about Feldman's music. The guy's a genius. The way he needs painting to describe what he's doing in composition. Reflections on Guston and Frank O'Hara.
What if there really were interchangeable poets? Would that be such a bad thing?
Mini Reviews

Ange Mlinko. Starred Wire. Coffee House Press. 2005

"Back when maps were dangerous it was seditious / to give one to a foreigner." I like this book. Read it and buy it--not necessarily in that order.

Myung Mi Kim. Under Flag. Kelsey St. Press. 1998.

It feels a little ponderous to me, despite its brevity. I'm going to have to return to it when I'm "in the mood."

Kenneth Koch. The Complete Fiction. Coffee House Press, 2005. [uncorrected galleys]

I'm going to have to re-read The Red Robins, a book I own but never really read, probably because I was too young to appreciate it when I first got it. This book also contains all of KK's short stories. Ably edited and introduced by Jordan Davis. I'm sure by now he's caught all those typos I found. This book, along with the complete poetry, will continue to keep Koch's name out there.

5 ago 2005

I just picked up this amazing book, The Scarlet Tanager, by Bernadette Mayer.
I'm going to start selling my titles to Gary rather than giving them away free.


The proportion between part and whole changes depending on the length of the whole. A very short poem puts more weight on each word. Compression of language (or prolixity )changes, however, depending on the scale taken as the comparison. 500 haiku can be prolix. Or even one short poem can be a waste of words.


I dreamt I was reconstructing a very complex musical work in my mind. Basically playing it to myself. I am glad to have this ability, at least in dreams, since I lack it in real life. Suppose I wanted to write a poem about this. The poem would have to be at least as interesting as this observation. The explanation for a poem cannot be more interesting than the poem itself.

4 ago 2005

We all have some unexamined idea of "good poetry." For me it's concrete imagery, emotional directness, and lyricism. Yet I feel that "good poetry" cannot be approached directly. It must be tricked into being, to quote Clark Coolidge. There are no short-cuts. For example, I don't believe in using too many "poetry words." You know, words like "shimmer." The "colorful" words that New York Times reporters put into the reportage. I don't believe any poem should have more than one "poetry word."
Increasingly I'm writing in suites or sequences of short poems. The original model for this (in my case at least) is certain medium-length poems by Kenneth Koch. "The Aesthetics of ......" But I want the individual poems to be more differentiated in style and voice and genre. The first poem I wrote in this style was "Sunday Morning," published in The Hat. The next was The Thelonious Monk Fake Book, which was much longer. I'm envisaging a book containing three or four of these mini-books. The next is going to be composed of more lyrical poems, without the prose or the centos mixed in. A little more uniformity of tone, perhaps.

(Come to think of it, I've done this more in the past than realize. I just never thought of it as the organizing principle. And there are other models besides Koch. Spicer and David Shapiro come to mind. However, Kenneth Koch is the number 1 influence on my poetry and always has been. It's not that I think of him as the greatest poet of our period--that might be Frank O'Hara, but Koch is the one I feel closest too myself. Maybe it's the anxious heterosexuality, I don't know. Because I'm most interested in Koch, I don't tend to write poetry that's "difficult." In fact, I think "mainstream" readers would like my work if I could get it out to them, and they could stop reading their damned Louise Gluck for a moment and pay attention. That's why I send poems off to "mainstream" publications. I believe in a sort of immediate emotional pay-off. The intellectuality has to be there too, but mainly in the form of "smartness," sharpness of attitude. I hate versified "ideas.")

I write extremely short poems anyway, but have needed to find a structure intermediate between the very short poem and the 70-page "Book-Length Manuscript." In fact, maybe my next mini-sequence should be called "Book-length Manuscript." NOBODY STEAL THIS TITLE PLEASE: I thought of it first. It's sort of a joke in academia. I don't have a book yet, we say, but I am working on a "book-length manuscript."

3 ago 2005

David's reading is getting good reviews, for example here. I'm glad I'm not the only member of the fan club.
My daughter's trumpet teacher is qujite wonderful. He recently retired from the St. Louis Symphony. Anyway, Julia felt so comfortable with him that she gave him a copy of her book of poetry Fox of Gold. (She would never give it to her normal school teachers.) When I took her to her lesson yesterday, we found him setting one of the poems to music for her. Later on, she said: "He can turn anything into music."
My new poems were arguing with my old poems this morning:

--We're older; we've stood the "test of time." We were written when the author was younger and smarter and better-looking. And look, the author has still not thrown us away!

--No, WE are the ones who have stood the test of time. If it weren't for us, the precious "author" would not even be a poet anymore. We are both younger AND older than you. The author barely knew what he was doing when he wrote you. Sure, he keeps YOU around for sentimental reasons, but one by one he abandons you. Haven 't you been rejected many times? And he's still not bad looking either!

--We're still around, some of us. One day you'll be the old poems--those of you who were admired in the first blush of enthusiasm will be rejected in turn.

2 ago 2005

All David Shapiro all the time! via equanimity...
I might be an asshole and a great poet.
I might be a great guy and and a great poet.
I might be an asshole and a lousy poet.
I might be a great guy and a lousy poet.

Or any combination in between. In most cases there will be flawed human beings writing flawed poetry, not monster genuises or saintly genuises or talentless saints. There is really no inherent correlation between my general worth as a human being and how good my poetry is. The work is not me. I'm thnking of how Gary Sullivan responded to various reviews of his comic book recently. Some got what he was trying to do and gave him high marks. Others were not as comprehending and criticized various aspects of it. Obviously one is happier with good reviews than bad, but I didn't see Gary claiming that the less complimentary reviews were done by evil hypocritical snobs. That's how I would like to respond to criticism of my work, if I am mature enough by the time any book of mine appears. If someone doesn't like it or get it, ultimately they can't be bullied into it. And this bullying creates a climate in which no discussion is possible.

UPDATE: Kent Johnson asks me to clarify. I wasn't talking about Kent's reactions to reviews of his own work, but solely about Chris Daniel's review, which I took to be bullying, as did Gary S. I took the position that anyone should be embarrassed to be writen about like that. Kent, while not embarrassed by the review, does not subscribe to any view I might have imputed to him in the post above, by implication.

1 ago 2005

I read review of Kent's new book....
How about waiting until Fascicle is out before dismissing the project? I for one welcome a new editorial project that won't simply duplicate what others are currenlty doing. People seem to be "reading into" the editor's intention rather than simply waiting to see what the product actually looks like. Of course, I'm an interested party since I'm going to have some translations and a review in the first issue.
I came up with some theories while completing the Monk Fake Book. (Yes, it's done!) One is that references or allusions can be obscure so long as the underlying feeling is clear. Another, proper names can give a particular texture to writing. A third: although I had no idea when I started what any of the texts would be about, I ended up using material that I already had, that was already available to me. Thus the process of writing was one of realizing that I had certain phrases, images, what have you, already at my disposal. Finally, writing for me is gathering up clusters of feeling.


I was reading a Harukami novel on the plane to SF in which none of the characters had proper names. Nevertheless, there were many proper names in the novel itself--names of writers and actors and musicians, pop culture references galore. This displacement of the referential had a peculiar effect. An effect, precisely, of displacement. The world of cultural references seemed real in a way that the world of the characters themselves was not. It's like a painting of library shelves in which the titles of the books on the shelves are legible. One could go out and get these same books and acquire the "contents" of the painting. Yet one can't meet the girl in the painting, or know what she's thinking as she reads a book on the chair.