30 mar 2011


"To the question, Why is Spanish theory jejune and uninfluential? a possible answer would be, paraphrasing Franz Kafka, that in Spain there is theory, plenty of theory, but not for us. "Us " here refers very generally to the ad hoc category of the postmodern cognitive subject."
--Joan Ramón Resina, "Spanish Theory and Criticism" (John Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism).

Jejune is one of those words I have to look up each time I see it. I know it's a bad thing, but what exactly does it mean?:

1 naive, simplistic, and superficial : their entirely predictable and usually jejune opinions.
2 (of ideas or writings) dry and uninteresting : the poem seems to me rather jejune.

I think the first definition is what I take it to be most often. Other definitions identify it with the puerile, the juvenile, the inane.

29 mar 2011

This Time We Are Both


*Clark Coolidge. This Time We Are Both. Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010. 93 pp.

This was written in the late 80s, so has that classic Coolidge style from that era. That explains why I like it so much. I thought he had returned to form, but no, it's because its is an older book. Well, it is new to me at least.

Which of these names is not like the others?

I received a promotional flyer for a book I've contributed to. These are the authors:

Marcos Canteli, Miguel Casado, José Manuel Cuesta Abad, Susana Díaz, Olvido García Valdés, Amalia Iglesias, Jonathan Mayhew, Eduardo Milán, Antonio Méndez Rubio, Miguel Morey, Antonio Ortega, Julio Ortega, Pedro Provencio, Ildefonso Rodríguez, Jenaro Talens


My ideas about Flamenco are taking shape. I've felt I couldn't teach it or write about it confidently because of lack of expertise, but I've been able to put a few ideas together, to at least define a few areas I know something about.

(1) I know something about the literary associations, from Machado y Álvarez to Félix Grande. The back and forth between poetry and Flamenco lyrics. I know about Flamenco lyrics as poetry, and about how cantaores interpret the works of Lorca or Juan Ramón Jiménez.

(2) I know a little something about the discourse of Flamencology itself, the debates and controversies.

(3) I've heard classic Flamenco from the age of La Niña de los Peines and Manuel Torre. I know Camarón de la Isla and artists from that period, and contemporaries like Miguel Poveda. I know the language people use to talk about Flamenco today.

(4) I know other styles of music that aren't Flamenco but that have impinged on it or influenced it in some ways, like Spanish nationalist music (Falla.)

So my knowledge is minimal but it does have some strong points.


Really, my main critical method is deconstruction. Don't tell anyone. It's not that I'm particularly a disciple of Derrida or de Man, it's just that this is how my mind works.

For me to be interested in a critical problem, it has to be a problem. It has to involve an aporia, or basic undecidability. I have to be able to argue with myself about something or it is not worth my time.

Here's an example: poets in Spain talk about pensamiento or thought as something that some poets have an others don't. This creates a binary opposition. What nags at me is that this opposition is demonstrably unstable, because thought can mean two different things: poetry that expresses abstract or discursive thought, or a more implicit mode that opposes poetic thought to other kinds. These two definitions are diametrically opposed, in some sense. What I like to do is tease out the consequences of this kind of thinking and see where it leads.

28 mar 2011

Autonomy, Relatedness, Competence

Those are three basic ingredients for human satisfaction. As a child I enjoyed the autonomy I did have. I could go where I wanted on my bike. But being a child is not an especially autonomous phase of life. I had to be in school every day. I did not have the freedom to decide on my own religious practices.

Relatedness was also a double-edge sword. I had a family and felt part of that, and friends at school, but as a child one's status is low within the family and the peer group is not freely chosen.

Competence is a another matter. I was good at some things and not at others, but as a child the world defines your competence in very specific ways: you don't have the autonomy to say you aren't interested in being competent at something.


I did not really like being a child and adolescent. My parents were great and I had a comfortable existence, but I was not allowed to be a professor, to abstain from religion. The threat of physical violence is something I haven't experienced as an adult. Walking down the street of a big city like St Louis or New York I am much less likely to be assaulted than I was walking down the hall of my junior high school. I did not enjoy have low social status because I was not particularly large or good at sports.

I did enjoy playing soccer with my friends, riding my bicycle around town, and doing things I like to do now as well, like reading.

27 mar 2011

A Form of Women


I'm resuming my series 9000 books of poetry. I just read A Form of Women, by Creeley, published in 1959. I picked up the first edition cheaply in New York. I'd read all the poems before, but there is something different about reading them in the first edition.

23 mar 2011

New York

Here I am in New York. Lousy weather, but I'm going to have good time here I'm certain. My Apocryphal Lorca event is at 7 at the CUNY Graduate center.

18 mar 2011

... and

here's another one. This is on Friday (a week from today) and might be of more interest to Hispanists than to the general public. I'm really looking forward to NYC.

Did I mention

this event yet? In case I haven't, here it is. Scroll down to March 23. The event about Barbara Guest also look good. I might to that also.

CUNY event

Don't miss it if you are in New York next week.

17 mar 2011

Cultural Literacy (ii)

What I'd do, following the model in the link to the post below, is choose three items per session. One literary, one artistic or musical, and one in any other category I wanted (intellectual history, film...) The idea is to explain something briefly but not superficially, not with wikipedia factoids, but with some real understanding. The topics would have to be narrow enough to explain in 15 minutes, so that I could do three in an hour.

16 mar 2011

Cultural Literacy

This sounds like a good idea. I'm going to think of how I can do something similar.

Not Philosophy

This would be useful to have in my field. You could just have rubber stamp saying "not literary criticism" and turn the paper back to the student.

15 mar 2011


I work on poetry rather than narrative because I like to put my ideas together myself by reading short texts, ruminating on them, carrying them around with me in my memory, and putting them together with other short texts and ideas of my own. When you analyze a novel, you tend to use the structure of the narrative itself to put together your ideas. Even good critics who would never resort to plot summary will often use the plot of a novel to structure their own analysis. You notice this with students who don't know how to write a paper about poetry. They can feel totally lost without a plot and some characters to discuss.

I like imposing my own narrative.

More Idioms

What is an idiom, anyway? Obviously any common use of language is idiomatic (as opposed to being non-idiomatic). A phrase like "common use" is idiomatic because it sounds natural, but it is not an idiom.

An idiom might be defined by being

(1) More than one word?

(2) Unpredictable in meaning from the primary dictionary definitions of the component words?

(3) Metaphorical or figurative in some way?

I put question marks here because I am not sure. For example, the idiom "begging the question" is not metaphorical. Nor is "echar de menos..." (missing something). Echar mean toss or throw, but missing someone does not involve throwing in the metaphorical sense. Buying the farm is a metaphor, but not all idioms are of this type.

Can an idiom be only one word? Idiomatic uses of words as exclamations or greetings might fall into that category. "¡hombre!" in Spanish can mean "of course what you're saying is true, but.... " or "what the hell" any number of other things. Calling someone "m'hijo" when they are not your son is idiomatic too, right? Or using the word "cielo" as a term of endearment.

Are one word idioms different than fixed phrases? Or are they fixed phrases that just happen to have one word in them? Like "Vaya..." meaning "would you look at that, it's pretty ridiculous."

So what we've discovered so far is that idioms are phrases whose meaning is not determined by the primary lexical definitions of the component words, which may or may not be metaphorical, which are can be words or phrases. Idiomatic words tend to be terms of endearment, exclamations, greetings, or possibly one-word metaphors. They have to be familiar parts of the language. I can say I'm under the weather but not "I'm off my garlic." That would be a perfectly acceptable idiom, but it's not because I just invented it on the spot.


It's been a while since I posted a link to my blog entry at the U of Chicago Press. Some of you might be new to the blog since then. Since I am promoting the book again at an event on March 23, I thought I would repost it.

Dissertation Topics

I have a tag where I give out free ideas for dissertations. I get so many ideas myself that I don't need them all for my own research, so any of you are welcome to them. Some of them might be very dull ideas, so caveat emptor.

Zambrano and Lorca

I'm trying to forge a link between Zambrano and Lorca. I almost have it, but not quite. She sees him as a poet of sacrificial violence, so that's my starting point.

Ramón, existentialist

The image of Ramón Gómez de la Serna as a light-hearted humorist/vanguardist conceals his existentialist obsession with death in the later "novelas de la nebulosa." The influence of Unamuno is strong. What if the least significant aspect of his work has become the most famous? Then he is a writer hidden behind his reputation.

I think I will re-read his 1947 novel Rebeca over spring break.

14 mar 2011


I told my class today that what a woman poet really wants to do is write poetry. That's the goal for anyone. Anything else is just hombres necios que acusáis.

Asian Figures

The Asian aphorisms that Merwin translated. Not my favorite poet (Merwin) but I love this particular book. I've used these in my refanero, cancionero, romancero class, but I'm going to use them also in my course "from idiom to proverb" in the fall. I can incorporate material from Lakoff and Turner's More than Cool Reason (where they analyze some of these proverbs in their final chapter). It is cognitive linguistics, right? So I can combine my interest in wisdom literature with my interest in clichés and idioms, putting Lakoff together with Sinclair. I'm brilliant today.

Joe Morello

Joe Morello has died. If you don't know who that is, this won't mean anything to you, but he was the drummer for Brubeck's classic quartets with Paul Desmond on alto sax. Think "Take 5" or "Blue Rondo a la Turk."

The 1930s

I've been increasingly interested in the 1930s. Zambrano's first works, the beginnings of Lezama Lima. Lorca's duende lecture and Diván del Tamarit, Unamuno's San Manuel Bueno, mártir. The 30s represents the end of historical modernism and the beginning of late modernism. The Civil war is 36-39. The years right before are fraught with ideological conflict. The historical avant-garde has its last glorious moments before dying or becoming something else.

The late modernism of the 1975-present period is steeped in the 30s and 40s, that reorientation of modernism that occurs then.

What do you do, then, with social realism of the 1950s and 60s? Speaking of Spain, I guess we could see Sartrean engagement as an influential but short-lived movement. Any good poet from about '55 on was trying to find a way out of the realist nightmare. Even before social poetry reached its high-water mark the good poets were already trying to make an end-run about it. It took a while to develop in the later work of Valente, Crespo, Gamoneda, Atencia, but it was already in early Rodríguez.

Maybe I need chapter on Atencia? It couldn't hurt.

13 mar 2011

More aphorisms

I knew that I had always been interested in aphorisms, but I just today remembered that I had written a whole mess of them in the late 80 and early 90s. Amazingly, after realizing this, my eyes rose to a bookshelf and I saw a folder of poems that I had bound up together with a spiral binding back then. It was my never published book of poems Introspectionist's Folly, which includes a section called "Parables and Aphorisms."

The funny thing is I didn't even think of these the last two times I taught parts of courses on the aphorism as a genre. Maybe because I was working mostly with the popular proverb and not the authored aphorism. Maybe because I have a bad memory for my own writing (but usually I don't.)

Anyway, I will be posting some of the old ones on twitter. Search me out at jmayhew1.

9 mar 2011


Is Zambrano's "conocimiento" the same as Valente's? I'm trying to argue that it is. If it were obviously the same, then I wouldn't have to argue it. If it is too different, then my argument is wrong. If it has must enough connections to be plausible, then my point will be interesting.

The same would go for Zambrno's "materialism" and Valente's concept of the same name. It would be too coincidental if Valente took these terms from Zambrano without thinking about her, right? It's like the detective who "doesn't believe in coincidences."


I have a twitter now. Look for Jonathan Mayhew or jmayhew1. I don't quite know how it works, but I will only publish aphorisms there. That's my plan. If someone can tell me how to use it I would be grateful.


Someone charged a few hundred to my debit card in three transactions in gas stations in Colorado, where i haven't been. My card was in my wallet at the time. I check my bank activity every day, so I caught it the minute the first transaction posted and canceled the card, filed a fraud report, and got a new card, but it is still disturbing. This has happened to a lot of people I know. Now you shouldn't make fun of me anymore for checking my account every day.


Rachel Blau DuPlessis was here for a few days. I really enjoyed meeting her. One of her aphorisms has to do with being an apprentice to yourself. At a certain point you have to be your own apprentice, not someone else's. But, as she said, you have to make sure you're ready. You don't start off as your own apprentice, but gradually grow into that role.

8 mar 2011

Silent, upon a peak in Darien

The poem "Silent, upon a peak in Darien" is different in each iteration. What you do is simply quote poetry from memory for as long as you can, and make every other line the line "Silent, upon a peak in Darien."

As the cat climbed over the top of the jamcloset

Silent, upon a peak in Darien

To soothe a time-worn man

Silent, upon a peak in Darien

Caminante, son tus huellas el camino, y nada más. Caminante, no hay camino

Silent, upon a peak in Darien

As I sd to my friend, because I am always talking, John, I sd, which was not his name

Silent, upon a peak in Darien

Stout Cortez!

Silent, upon a peak in Darien

First the right forefoot carefully

Silent, upon a peak in Darien

Yo quiero ser llorando el hortelando de la tierra que ocupas y estercolas

Silent upon a peak in Darien

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art, not in mute splendor

Silent, upon a peak in Darien...

How Much Capital Is Enough?

it's hard to judge how much cultural capital is enough. I have the illusion that, what I know now, I have known for a very long time, but in some cases I learned very significant things ten years ago, when I was already forty and well beyond my PhD. And, of course, there is still plenty I don't know. I've never considered sheer erudition to be my strong suit.

So how much cultural capital is enough? I think it's safe to say that if you mainly know what you've learned in courses, that is not nearly enough. What if you never happen to have taken a course in European history, I'm assuming you'd still know what the French revolution is. Let's assume you've never taken a college-level music class, but you still know what a tone-row is.

You can't give a course on general knowledge, because it's large and unsystematic, general in a word. There is too much of it, but its borders are not fixed. You can't just memorize a list like those in Hirsch's Cultural Literacy, because the idea is that some your general knowledge will have some degree of depth. You'll have read Kafka, not just have a very general idea about a guy turning into an insect. Here, too, the definition is very porous: some of my knowledge remains at the very superficial level. My knowledge of Thomas Mann, for example. If you asked about Heinrich Mann I'd know only that he is Thomas's brother, also a novelist, and had some political differences with his brother. This is getting extremely hazy, since a lot of general knowledge lies in a strange penumbra area, just on this side of total darkness.


Apocryphal Lorca at CUNY.

7 mar 2011

Semantic Prosody

More thought about the idiom principle.

The British linguist John Sinclair developed the term "semantic prosody.' This is not really prosody at all, but the connotational pattern in which a word is found. For example, the word "budge" might have a pattern for being used in situations of recalcitrant resistance. Sinclair says that the word "happen" has a semantic prosody of negative events. In other words, the word happen is more likely to be found connected to words like "accident."

What makes this kind of linguistics possible are the existence of huge corpora of language use. You don't simply ask a native speaker for her intuitions about the word budge, but instead you look at a huge corpus of authentic material and see what actually happens. Sinclair's motto was "trust the text."

I'm finding Sinclair's book Trust the Text to be very stimulating reading. My idea is to give a course for advanced language students (the highest level language course we have for undergraduates graduating with a major in Spanish) on idioms and proverbs. Students will learn idioms, increasingly their fluency, and also explore some the concepts developed by linguists like Sinclair. I think certain words in Spanish proverbs have a certain "semantic prosody." Think of the word pan or bread. The meaning of this word is its semantic prosody, its tendency to co-occur with other words or concepts. A refranero of sufficient size would then constitute a corpus in which to analyze the "co-text" of certain words.

As Barthes wrote of LaRochefoucauld, you can look at an aphorism for its individual meaning, or structurally. We can learn the meaning of dozens of individual idioms (a valuable thing to do) or we can look for patterns, the semantic prosody of idioms.

The word santo occurs in several idioms. "No es santo de mi devoción." (He is not saint to which I am particularly devoted.) Or "a santo de qué" (what the hell gives you the right?). One thing we could do, then, is look for the semantic prosody of idiomatic uses of this word.

My hypothesis is that the proverb is the idiom at the level of the sentence. You could use part of a proverb in another sentence, citing it fragmentarily or paraphrasing it. Then that part of the proverb would be an idiom or modismo.

Gnomic Twitter

Twitter might the ideal delivery system for aphorisms. I hate the idea that short bits of information are inferior to longer strings.

5 mar 2011

I Could Blog All Day

I could actually sit down and write blog post after blog post all day without interruption, if I had nothing else to do. I have enough ideas that I would not run out of things to say. Today, however, I won't do that. See you on Sunday.

4 mar 2011

Aphorisms and Paradox

The aphorism or proverb is not necessarily paradoxical. Many are not, of course. The ones I like best, however, happen to have that element of surprise. In William Blake and in Oscar Wilde this tendency reached its apogee. To lose one parent is a misfortune. To lose both begins to look like carelessness.

Doxa is belief. The words orthodox, heterodox, refer to beliefs that are in favor or out of favor with secular or religious authorities. Paradox is something against common belief (Barthes loved to cite that etymology).

So most proverbs are going to express doxa, common belief. They can nevertheless present doxa as paradoxa. Your friends are more likely to betray you than your enemies, for example. That's a common belief, if you trust the proverbs, but it is paradoxical from the naive view that friends are better than enemies. So the didacticism of the proverb goes against the naive doxa, replacing it with the cynical one.

The aphorism cannot just present an ostensibly "false belief." The paradox has to make sense on some level, to command assent. "Most people do not know their mother's first name" is not a good aphorism because the falsity just sits there and does nothing.

Vicente Núñez called his aphorisms "sofismas" or sophisms. Sophistry, of course, is a method of philosophical instruction criticized by Plato for its lack of interest in the truth. So VN was saying "don't trust what I'm saying," I'm sophistical. But also: my aphorisms are paradoxical and they might challenge your beliefs.


I believe my interest in aphorisms arose with Blake's "Proverbs of Hell." I founded an avant-garde movement when I was 15 and one of the first works produced was "The Proverbs of Schmo." I was the only member of this movement, though some of my friends knew about it. I had also read the book of Proverbs from the Bible.

There are four main genres of literature, we hear: poetry, mostly lyric poetry. Drama (plays of different kinds). Narrative fiction, short and long. Essays: literary prose that is non-fiction.

Obviously that is not quite right. Not all poetry is lyric. Epic poetry is narrative "fiction," but not prose. We also have satire, panegyric, diaries and letters that are literary prose but not "essays." Chronicles, testimonies, blogs... The tripart classification of poetry, drama, and narrative, with a huge miscellaneous category of "essay" added on is very inadequate because then everything else become a mere hybrid or exception.

The aphorism is its own animal, not a hybrid between two other genres but its own beast. I suppose you could derive it from the epigram and make it a form of short lyric poetry, but that doesn't seem historically accurate to me. We could see it as the shortest form of didactic literature, akin to the fable, the parable, the exemplum. That doesn't sit right with me either. Aphorisms are not narratives or "miscellaneous non-fiction prose of some literary value" like the letters of great writers. They are the fifth genre.

What gives an identity to this genre? I don't really know yet and I'm thinking out loud here. Maybe it is the idea of making a collection of utterances all in the same category. The aphorism always needs other aphorisms to keep it company.


I had an odd series of dreams last night. I don't remember any narratives, but I was not myself and none of the people I was involved with were known to me. I just had to interact with strangers (though in the dream reality I supposedly knew them and dwelled among them) in unfamiliar and slightly stressful situations.

So the dreams added up not to a narrative, but to a certain feeling.

3 mar 2011

La Rochefoucauld

I've always loved La Rochefoucauld. I say "always," because I know that I knew about him at least in high school (before college), because I wrote a poem in which I used his name. I might have come across his name in a poem by Ashbery, or in French class, I don't really know. Later I'm sure i studied Barthes's great essay on La R.

The idea behind the maxims is a kind of base-line cynicism. Good deeds can flow from less than noble motives, or vice-versa. Self-regard or pride (amour-propre) is the main human motivation. Humans act in a way that seems paradoxical but is not once you uncover their motives.

"Il y a des méchants qui seraient moins dangereux s'ils n'avaient aucune bonté." (There are evil people who would be less dangerous if they didn't have a little good in them.)

"La clémence des princes n'est souvent qu'une politique pour gagner l'affection des peuples." (The leniency of princes is often nothing more than a policy to win the affection of populations.)

"La vertu n'irait pas loin si la vanité ne lui tenait compagnie." (Virtue wouldn't get very far without vanity to keep it company.)

"L'intérêt parle toutes sortes de langues et joue toutes sortes de personnages, même celui de désintéressé." (Interest speaks all sorts of languages and plays all sorts of characters, including the character of "disinterested.").

I guess all this cynicism could get tiresome, were it not for the wonderful stylistic balance of the sentences:

"Tout le monde se plaint de sa mémoire, et personne ne se plaint de son jugement." (Everyone complains about their bad memory, nobody about their bad judgment."

So LaR, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Ramón Gómez de la Serna. Nick Piombino. Who are the great aphorists?

2 mar 2011

Apocryphal Lorca

My influence on Thomas Basbøll. I don't feel that comfortable with Fuller, never having forgiven him his Dover testimony, but I will take the compliment. I certainly never expected my book to have an influence on a project so disparate from mine.

(And I have finally learned how to type the ø but in the first version of the post I wrote "Bøsball.")

1 mar 2011


I came up with this aphorism in the car yesterday. "All driving is drunk driving." I have no idea what this means, even. So anyone who thinks that the author's intentions determine the meaning of an utterance--I have disproved you that easily.


Genius was originally the genius of a place (genius loci), a protective spirit distinctive to a particular place. For Alexander Pope, the relevant category would have been "wit," not genius, but the French for wit is "esprit" which is a cognate of spirit or sprite. The genius who inspires the poet eventually became the poet as genius, the fusion of poet and muse. From there it is a short step to the genius of Ray Charles or Albert Einstein: any extraordinary talent or intelligence, or even the narrow upper edge of the distribution of a standardized test.

Lorca's duende is a kind of local spirit, like a leprechaun, generalized to a principle of cultural authenticity or exceptionalism. Spain is the country of the duende. So this involves a return to the idea of a genius loci, a local habitation and a name.

So the question would be: what is involved in separating or re-combining the poet and the genius or spirit standing outside of the poet. Does inspiration come from me, or from outside, as Jack Spicer argued?

Don't Know Much About Henry James

What always bothered me about Henry James was the sheer emptiness of the minds of the characters. The narrator is always telling us how smart a character is, but we never see them have any actual idea. I love his short stories though, especially those that feature the life of the writer. He forbade narrative intrusions in the novel, the "dear reader" sort of thing. It's hard to forgive him that, which set back metafiction a generation. On the other hand, these stories are practically Borgesian: the writer who spends all his time socializing while his ghostly-alter ego writes the actual works. "The Figure in the Carpet" would be another one in this genre.

While I don't like James's prohibition of intrusive meta-commentary from the narrator, I don't like Wayne Booth's objection to this prohibition on moralistic grounds in The Rhetoric of Fiction.. Everyone remembers Booth's book for the coinage of term "the implied reader," but his real agenda was a moralistic one: he wanted the narrator to a be an ethical guide telling the reader what to think. I much prefer James's moral ambiguity.

There is a rather odd novel by HJ about a quasi-Lesbian couple broken up by a supposedly "noble" Southern Gentleman who seduces the younger partner. I think it's called The Bostonians. I don't know what's supposed to be so noble about owning slaves and almost destroying the nation in an attempt to keep on owning them.

I hate the stupid Freudian interpretations of "The Turn of the Screw" that were popular mid-century, but I like Sedgwick's reading of "The Beast in the Jungle."

Sad to say, I don't like James's actual prose style. It is vague and verbose. A novelist born in the same year that I much prefer is Galdós. While James is a kind of early modernist, Galdós is realist, but Galdós is actually more modern in his narrative technique. The plot of El amigo Manso anticipates that of Niebla by almost thirty years.

I took a senior-level English course on HJ in 1980 or 81. I still remember a lot, including the topics of my papers, and I still hate The Wings of the Dove with a passion.

What I Am Reading Now

I am reading the work of María Zambrano quite intensely, since she is the Spanish thinker most closely linkable to my scholarly agenda of explaining late modernism in Spanish poetry. Her work also brings up significant issues of the possibilities of resistant reading, in other words, the deep appreciation for perspectives that are attractive to me on some level but very repellent on others.

I am also reading Vicente Núñez's aphorisms. I am very interested in the aphorism as a literary genre and want to dedicate some thought to the relation between proverbs and idiomatic expressions for a course I want to teach in the fall. I'd like to investigate the idea of "wisdom literature" from a perspective different from that of Harold Bloom, who just sits back and admires its wisdom. If a really brilliant person studied this (like a younger Bloom maybe) it could be a real field instead of a marginal genre. I'm also reading Francisco Brines and Jaime Gil de Biedma for my Graduate Course.


I feel a bit manic today, so if you want me to post my absolutely brilliant thoughts on some subject of your choice, I will.

William Carlos Williams

My first published article was on WCW. A paper I wrote during the first quarter of Graduate School on the same poet (a different paper) argued that his poems were rhetorical speech acts of a certain urgency. I contrasted some poems with a fairly hectoring, didactic tone, ("Let me tell you, my townsfolk, how to do things right") with the implicit rhetoric of the poem "The Jungle." I was contesting the standard view that Williams just presented static, motionless visual images, a view that I had never agreed with even when I was 14-years old. It bugged the hell out of me that people read Williams in the Selected Poems rather than in the Collected.

I could still write this paper now. I remember the main points and even some of the bibliography I used. I remember going to the library and looking in the rare book room at the original periodical publication of "The Jungle." It was different! I felt like a a real scholar, knowing the poem had variants.

I think this paper might have been actually better than the one I published, which was written a year later.

[This pretty much duplicates another post I wrote a while back. Oh well.]