31 jul 2007

Mistakes were made.

As Commander-In-Chief of Bemsha Swing, I accept full and total responsibility for any mistakes that might have been made on my watch. I am deeply sorry that my words were misinterpreted by those with poor reading skills and over-fragile egos.

To those who would exploit these mistakes (if indeed they were mistakes [since two independent investigations have revealed that nothing illegal occurred {though of course even the appearance of impropriety will not be tolerated under my watch}]) in order to play partisan politics, I can only say that now is the time to move forward. The errors in judgment (if in fact they occured), while my complete and utter responsibility (and I accept responsibility for this responsibility), were committed (if they were committed) without my knowledge or consent. Those responsible (though of course I am utlimately responsible) have been dismissed from the staff of Bemsha Swing (if in fact these staffers ever existed).

In sum, I am truly and deeply sorry.

30 jul 2007

Questions on "earworm."

Do you have it with poetry, or just with music?

Is it invariably with *bad* music? (For me it is not; I am as likely to get it with very good music as with bad.)

How long does it last? Was there a time of your life you had it more (or less?)

Earworm, for the purposes of these questions, is the involuntary and repetitive occurence of a phrase of music or language in one's mind. It is usually regarded as highly annoying, although I've come to accept it as just a fact of my neurology.

I often have music playing in my head that I will then notice. I don't define it as earworm until it becomes repetitive. Similarly, I often have phrases of poetry pop into my head, but they are not earworm until they reach a critical mass of repetitiveness. Most recently, it was "Two small people, without dislike or suspicion."
I had a very serious case of "ear worm" as a teenager, with the phrase "Jersey Guernsey in sombre and illustrious weather" (André Breton), and with the beginning of Pound's translation of "The Seafarer." "May I for my own self song's truth reckon / Journey's jargon..." I could just not get those phrases out of my head. There may have been others but i don't recall what they were. I must have had "sombre and illustrious weather" in my head for at least six months.

I still get phrases stuck in my head like that--along with melodies. I had "Stardust" playing in my head for about a month earlier this year. Sometimes though you want to shake those annoying melodies you also feel a compulsion to listen to them.

24 jul 2007

I hate that "Can it be a coincidence?" or "It can hardly be a coincidence that.." argument so beloved in "Cultural Studies."

If you want to argue for a correlation or a causality, just do it. Don't just assert a probable "non-coincidence."


Still hating earnestness too.

I hate it when someone on "Goodreads" gives five stars to every book they've ever read.

23 jul 2007

Gary's recent run on posts on comics is quite brilliant. I can't wait to read next installment.

19 jul 2007

I basically can't stand earnestness.
We need a theory of aesthetic pain.
Cahiers de Corey: "...your life really matters": Aesthetic Education

There is so much to say about this post, it is hard to know where to begin.

(1) The aesthetic.

Josh seems to segregate the aesthetic as some category of special knowledge that may or may not be relevant to creative writing students. The question "whether it is in fact necessary for every creative writing student to remember the aesthetic" seems to imply that a negative answer is possible. "Yes, let's teach in such a way that the 'aesthetic' is not that important." How could this possibly be? What is there in writing that is not aesthetic?

The aesthetic is part of everyone's normal, everyday life. Clothing, gastronomy, architecture and urban design, decoration of living spaces, industrial design, music and entertainment, use of language, the graphic design of computer sites... The aesthtetic is omnipresent and inescapable. Why should "creative writing," of all things, belong to a realm removed from aesthetic consciousness? Shouldn't it be a more rather than a less aesthetic enterprise? That is to say, life is aesthetic already, shouldn't art be too?

(2) Aesthetics and ethics.

It is precisely because aesthetics is a basic feature of human life that Nazis have their own aesthetics. It is impossible not to respond aesthetically to the world, so the Nazi will love his Brahms and the mobster will enjoy his cannoli. The aesthetic in itself isn't inherently ennobling, and past works of art and literature have been produced by people whose ethics we usually won't agree with.

On the other hand, denigrating aesthetics is itself an unethical stance based on a fundamental misapprehension of the problem. Making the world an uglier place is an unethical act. Promoting aesthetic dullness is a way of taking away a valuable part of life--valuable not just to writers but to everyone. The idea that only professional writers would care about aesthetics is deeply condescending.

(3) Carol Bly.

Carol Bly is not a very good writer. Why she is employed as a teacher of writing is beyond me, with her graceless, clunky prose and aesthetic puritanism. Not only employed as a teacher of writing, but writing books advising others. Ugh! I am very surprised that someone like Josh Corey would give her that much credence.

(4) The rules.

There are no rules for writing. Writing in different ways will produce different results, but there is no hidden codebook of absolute rules. The idea of learning rules before you break them is idiotic.

Now if you want a shortcut, you can teach Poundian principles. That will produce writing better than not following these principles will. And this will be perfectly compatible with a more avant-garde aesthetic, which still favors concrete visual imagery, concision, etc... Why you would want to teach conventionally bad writing produced by workshop rules!

(5) Content.

No such thing. A bad metaphor that produces muddled thinking about writing. How could you teach "content" anyway?

[UPDATE] (6) Aesthetic consciousness.

Josh implies that aesthetic consciousness can be achieved definitively, and afterwards has limited utility. Aesthetic consciousness is actually something that is constantly renewing itself.

16 jul 2007

La famille Tsuchiya-Mayhew dans le musée du Louvre.

Le tombeau de Charles Baudelaire.
Yikes. Natasha T, recent Pulitzer prize winner, uses the dreaded sing-song "poetry voice" (to read her poems on Fresh Air with Terry Gross.) She seems quite intelligent and has a wonderful "prose" speaking voice, but the minute she switches to her "poetry voice" she loses a lot of credibility with me. Why do you do that, poets? Why do you use that voice?

I discovered that I can speak French fairly well, though there is little need to in Paris for most purposes. Understanding is pretty useful, all the same. The only books I bought were Raymond Roussel's Locus Solus and Impressions d'Afrique. I can understand them at about a 95% rate if I pay attention.

4 jul 2007

A brief blog hiatus while I am in Paris for a conference of the Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas. Leaving in a few days. See you about mid-July...
You can't translate Barbara Guest into French, since her poetry is already written in French.

2 jul 2007

I am now offering private instruction in poetry. Potential students can contact me at the email address to the left.

My pedagogy is not based (primarily) on "critiques" of poems or odious "workshopping," but on development of the student's own aesthetic approach through innovative and top secret "stretching" excercises. My only bias is a hatred of stupidity and dullness.

I can also do critiques of book manuscripts or smaller batches of poems for a set fee.