29 jun 2008

Frantziako Gobernuak lan denbora erreformatzeko lege proiektua aurkeztu du. Legezko lan denbora 35 orenekoa dela ziurtatu du Xavier Bertrand Frantziako Lan Ministroak. Aldi berean, gaur aurkeztu duten lege proiektuarekin, 35 orenak "indargabetzeko azken etapa" martxan dela azpimarratu du Nicolas Sarkozyk..

Here will be my first attempt to read something in Basque.

Franzia + suffix -ko. The French Government [ergative case; subject of transitive sentence]

lan is work. I'm guessing erreformatzeko lege proiektua is a not yet passed reform law. denbora is time.

oren is hour. It appears in several grammatical forms here: orenekoa / orenak. Something about the 35 hour work week, I'm guessing.

aukezstu du is the verb, past tense.

ziurtatu du made sure of...

azpimarratu du emphasized

azken the end

etapa stage, period of time.

I get the sense the French minister of labor is proposing to end the 35 hour work week. Unfortunately I don't have a good dictionary. I've only been studying Basque for 5 days.

28 jun 2008

Imagine, instead of Logan "reviewing" O'Hara, that O'Hara is "reviewing" his critic. The poetry itself is passing judgment on the inadequacy of the response to it. In other words, if we already know how good O'Hara's poetry is, the only question is how generous and insightful the response is.

So take Logan's first move, suggesting that O'Hara's death was a good "career move." What does O'Hara's poetry have to say about this response? What in Frank's work is so crass and careerist as that? In comparison with any insights O'Hara's poetry has about death and creativity and the value of life, Logan's one-liner is worthless. And so on... I actually haven't got past this first line yet. I'll let you do this yourself at home. Whatever contumely means, I feel it describes William Logan.

This came just as I was about to defend Logan, because I admire the fact that he is irritated by so much poetry. I share the idea that poetry must earn its admiration, and that the most productive relationship with any given poet might be irritation.
The Lorca copy-editing is coming back on July 7, giving me a little over a week to write as much as I can of an article on Gamoneda and thoroughly learn Basque. (Maybe just learn the conjugations of the verbs to have and to be.) Akiko is in A Coruña for a conference on Pardo Bazán. Julia is reading The Da Vinci Code of all things.

Basque (Euskara) is great for the morphemes, especially the suffixes. The way I see it a language has a certain amount of tasks it might think of doing. Indicating spacial and temporal relationships; gender, person, and number. And it has different ways it might think of doing those things. Basque likes doing many of these things by attaching morphemes to the end of words and phrases. So the make things plural it attaches -ak to the end. (But -ak is also a morpheme used to mark the singular ergative case.)

The definite article is -a attached to last word of the NP. If you take a word like neska [girl] that already ends in a, you don't need the article, it's just neska and neska in both forms, as opposed to mutil and mutila.

Basque is not big on gender. No separate pronouns for female and male subjects, [unlike nosostros /nosotras or él/ella.] Nouns don't have grammatical genders.

The verbal system marks for perfective/imperfective aspect, past, present and future. Skipping ahead of myself there are different verb forms for ergative vs. absolutive and dative? There are not tons of conjugations to memorize, though, because most of these markings are done through the auxiliary verb + one or two forms of participle.

Phonology seems close to Castilian [Spanish] in some respects. There's always the theory that Castilian is the Romance dialect of people whose first language was Basque, or at least one that developed in proximity to Basque. I've been listening to the radio a bit over the internet to get a feel for it.

70% of teachers who study Basque [in the Basque country] in order to get certified as Basque-competent teachers do not do well enough on the test to qualify. Yet somehow I am stupidly overconfident about my ability to get a reading knowlege of it. At some point I'll hit a wall, I'm sure, but I'm not going to worry about that now.

26 jun 2008

I have a vague idea of what the word contumely means. I've looked it up many times, in fact. But it is one of those words that I have to look up each time I want to know what it means. It just doesn't stick. It is a word without adhesive, for me.
I'm trying to get a reading knowledge of Basque. The case system doesn't seem too intimidating. It has an ergative case, which means that the subject of a transitive verb has a separate case, and there's a dative for indirect objects. Direct objects and subjects of intransitive verb are in an absolutive, unmarked case.

The verbs are a little more complex. Most of the time there are two verbs, a participle form + an auxiliary form of to be or to have. The usual morphological markings for tense, aspect, person. Euskara is agglutinative and attaches determiners the the end of the noun phrase.

The lexicon will be more of a challenge, the only help being loan words from Spanish and Latin derivatives. My goal is to be able to read with a dictionary, kind of like I could do with German. I know enough German grammar to know which words are verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc... but have to look up too many words.

Of the "four skills," reading is the easiest and also the most rewarding. For example, I can read Italian more or less, but couldn't speak it, write it, or understand very much orally. My goal is to have reading knowledge of all Romance languages. That covers all of the Iberian peninsula, except for Basque, so my new goal is to have knowledge of all Iberian + Romance languages. Romanian will be a bit of a challenge; I'll have to wait until I know Italian a bit better to make that jump.

21 jun 2008


Sergio Ferrero. El ritratto della gioconda. 1993. 186 pp.

I enjoy the penunbra of incomprehension when reading Italian novels. I know basically what is happening, but am always in some doubt.

An Italian professor goes to France in his retirement. His plan is to write an essay on a nineteenth century portrait-painter (Grand) who in HIS retirement went back to his home town and painted ghostly urban landscapes reminiscent of Di Chirico--avant la lettre. The professor stays in Paris making no progress on is project until he meets "John Brown," a 25-year old American in Paris. Brown and the professor go to the hometown of the potrait/landscape painter and visit the museum--in disrepair. There is a parody of the Mona Lisa (the Gioconda of the title) that is supposed to be very meaningful to this novel--though I don't quite yet know why. They meet the "princess," devoted to the work of the local painter, and her circle of "fidelissimi." At one point John Brown goes back and disappears. The professor returns, suspecting foul play, and has unfruitful conversations with the museum guard, the princess, the hotel clerk, etc...

I don't know how it ends yet.

18 jun 2008


Nantas Salvalggio. I fuggitivi. 1989.

I learned some Italian from this, but it is a very bad novel--incompetently, almost randomly plotted, in a crude slice-of-life technique. It takes place in a prison for youths. I probably am not competent to judge the level of the prose, but even someone who doesn't know Italian can see it's not at all well-written. Salvaggio is a journalist turned novelist, and it shows.

13 jun 2008


Leonardo Sciacia. El cavaliere e la morte. 1988. 91 pp.

A detective novel... it seems. Then about 3/4 of the way in the writer seems to lose interest in the case itself. The Italian was a little more difficult than Tabucchi's, perhaps. Or maybe it was the petering out of the narrative, which simply goes nowhere.

I'll never read 100 novels this year.

11 jun 2008


I checked out a book in Italian from the library, Antonio Tabucchi's Sostiene Pereira. It takes place in Salazar Lisbon in 1938. The main character, Pereira, who directs the Culture section for newspaper, Lisboa establishes contact with a younger writer. The first article the younger man, Rossi, submits is an obituary of García Lorca, which is judged to be unpublishable, of course, in the current political climate of Portugal. Pereira, who is an older widower, cannot accept the article, but has to feed the younger writer. They go to a "literary" restaurant where only a few other sinister types are eating.

The second article submitted is an attack on Marinetti. We can guess that that will be unpublishable also.

Of course I had no idea Lorca would appear in the book when I checked it out. Honest. Lorca just sort of follows me around.

The narration is focalized through Pereira. "Sostiene Pereira" means "Pereira claims." The phrase is used over and over again, to tell us that everything we know is based on a "claim" from Pereira.

The Italian is not too difficult. I'd say I get about 85%. Enough for a plot summary.
I am a fool suffered gladly.

7 jun 2008


*Silliman. Demo to Ink. 1992. 125 pp.

Here's some vintage Silliman, a big middle chunk of the Alphabet. I was struck on rereading this how much attuned he was to the aesthetics of everyday life. The "E" section is a collaboration with Armantrout.
Here's an interview with me in the Opinión de Tenerife. If you can't read Spanish you can look at the pictures of me, I guess.

5 jun 2008

More photos from the Luis Feria conference.

3 jun 2008

I hereby name this phenomenon: "bicephalous metonymy," a close cousin of hendiadys.

*Luis Feria. Dinde. 1983. 2001. 146 pp.

Another book by the Tenerife poet Luis Feria. Poems in prose or brief poetic sketches of childhood.

Eduardo Milán. De este modo se llena un vacío. 2006. 156 pp.

I met Milán in Tenerife and he gave me a few books. I'm not convinced by him--yet. It's as though i hadn't learned to read him yet.

*Chantal Maiilard. Hilos. 2007. 189 pp.

After winning the Premio nacional for her previous book, Maillard does not take the easy way out. The refusal of rhythmic fluidity makes the book difficult to process.

2 jun 2008

Both my books are going into production at the same time. Outside readers should be getting my material soon for my promotion. At some point around the beginning of 2006 I decided I wasn't going to stand in the way of myself any more. It wasn't a question of working harder but of working smarter and assuming the responsibility of being who I really am. Those two books together give me a clam to some expertise in three separate fields: Lorca, Spanish poetry of the last two decades of the 20th century, and American poetry of the post-war era (the New American Poetry and all that). That's not even counting my first two books.

By standing in my own way I mean procrastination, mostly. That's the easiest form of self-sabotage. You don't even have to do anything, just stand by. The Twilight of the Avant-Garde book took a while to come together, and sat in the melancholy drawer for quite some time. The Lorca came together quite quickly and had no melancholy drawer time at all. There's a lesson here: even the same person can produce work in different patterns. There's no one way to write a book, but the quick and easy way is preferable.

Elsa López. Travesía. 2006. 78 pp.

I found this book pleasant and a little conventional.

1 jun 2008

Is there a name for the kind of metonymy which designates its referent with a doubled construction?

of the type--

flesh and blood (carne y hueso) = the body in its physical presence

milk and honey = abundant alimentary resources

brick and mortar = as opposed to a store with only an electronic presence

rivers and mountains = i.e. all of nature, in Chinese poetry

hammer and sickle, slings and arrows, etc...

There ought to be a name for this if there is not. These are the only examples I can think of right now, but there are many more I'm sure. Give me your examples and or the actual name for this phenomena in the comments. This will also show me if anyone's reading the blog in the summer.

*Isidro Hernández. El ciego del alba. 2007. 66 pp.

Following the thread of Canary Island poets... Isidro gave me his book, which evokes the landscape of Bretagne in France.

Manuel Padorno. Edenia. 2007. 154 pp.

I picked this one up in the Canary Islands too. I haven't really read Padorno before, but this posthumously published book is ponderous and willful. Feria is far superior.

*Luis Feria. Calendas. 1981. 12 pp.

A poetic calendar from January to December, with a short poem for every month. I am fortunate to have a first edition of this work.

Enero / January

No insistas más, zampoña, que no acierto / Don't insist any longer, pan-pipes, I have no way
a preferir tu esquirla de agua clara / of preferring your splinter of clear water
al son del viento y a su turba oscura / to the sound of the wind and its dark host
que me saca a la vida: sal, Luis Feria. / that takes me out into life: come out, Luis Feria.

A.A. Ammons. Garbage. 1993. 121 pp.

There are individual flashes of something more interesting that stand out from the undistinguished, garrulous whole. The work is definitely less than the sum of its parts. It's not quite funny enough to make the Rilkean parody work, nor serioius enough to be a Rilkean peaon in its own right.