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.