Literarisches Events (in and around Lawrence KS)

  • PATRICIA LOCKWOOD. Lawrence. Thursday, September 11, 7:00 p.m., Spooner Hall, KU Campus.
  • PATRICIA LOCKWOOD. Lawrence. Friday, September 19, 7:00 p.m. Lawrence Public Library. Sponsored by Raven Bookstore.
  • DENNIS ETZEL, JR. & RACHEL CROSS. Lawrence. Thursday, September 25, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.
  • TONY TRIGILIO. Lawrence. Thursday, Oct. 2, 4:00 p.m., English Room, Kansas Union, KU Campus. FREE.
  • CALEB PUCKETT & JUSTIN RUNGE. Lawrence. Thursday, October 16, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.
  • BEN LERNER. Kansas City, MO. Thursday, October 23, 7:00 p.m., Epperson Auditorium, Vanderslice Hall on the KCAI campus, 4415 Warwick Blvd.
  • KRISTIN LOCKRIDGE & ROBERT DAY. Lawrence. Thursday, December 4, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Fallout from _ISSUE ONE_

Remember a few months ago, how everyone was talking about that faux PDF zine that contained several thousand randomly-generated poems attributed to people who didn't write them? Like you?

Well, I've decided we ought to make lemons out of lemonade. So - if you were one of the "victims," please contribute to VERZION TWO.

This is for real. Honest. Try it out!

Xmas? Bah, Xbox! Loden's _Hotel Imperium_? Three apposable thumbs up!

"When you spoke of the utility of suffering, I knew it was because you heard your death up on the roof like Santa's sleigh and now you wanted me to give it to you as a present."

Thus begins Rachel Loden's prose poem "Carnal Acknowledgments," from her book Hotel Imperium (U of Georgia P, 1999). I'm ashamed to say I haven't read these poems in this collected form until now, but glad I did. Makes me look forward to the next installment, Dick of the Dead (!), forthcoming from Ahsahta. Many of the poems are indeed Nixonesque, e.g., "Bride of Tricky D.," which begins with a news item about the dog Checkers being reinterred near his former owner, and ends thusly:

" . . . 'Let's
slip the Constitution, Richard,

cut red ribbon on the virgin
century. Teach me tonight . . . .' I find

his fierce beard lovely and the shadows
long. Asleep with Pat & Checkers

by his side
. . . 'We could do it,'
he'll say, 'but it would be wrong.'"

Checkers. You know, as in the Checkers Speech? Illegal campaign contributions? Red scare? Well, kids, once upon a time, there was this thing called Watergate . . . Actually, many of the poems do come with endnotes, but this one doesn't. The quote at the end, of course, is what Nixon's former Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman, tells the Senate Select Committee investigating the Watergate break-in that he (Nixon) said after agreeing to pay hush money to the burglars, now in prison, but that he never really said. Got it?

Anyway, I like these poems b/c they are a kind of shadow image or muscle memory of politics and pop culture of mid-20th c.-America, and since I already feel like an embalmed relic of that era, I like reading them. Indeed, a lot of these poems seem to be spoken from beyond the grave, or from the political unconscious (a fine distinction, nowadays). I dig the combination of gravitas and wackiness in tone - & elegance and total surprise, in terms of form. The tone and form of some poems reminds me a little of the poetry of the era they're about, but the content has a lot more in common with Peter Gizzi than Randal Jarrell. Or Underworld in verse. Only shorter.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Jethro Bodine asks, "Have YOU suffered for your art today??"

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Of Objects and Urges

"To look to the artwork for care, or gift or piety or, most simply, love, is to project a structure and an effect beyond the horizon of the artwork itself. It is to imagine an impossibly ongoing transgression of the circle - polis, oikos, both and at once - in order that those shapes remain, are preserved, to be tested. Social agency or amative connection only appear in the negative space cast by the jointed figure of work and life, and while this projects the artwork into space, it suggests a fugitive frame and directs us by saying 'Not here, not what you hold in your hands.' . . .

"This self-canceling void out of which the artwork impossibly proceeds (which is never available in the artwork itself) suggests that the act of art-making be read as the inverse, and not the expression, of the original urge."

- thus Andrew Rippeon, in P-Queue 5. I'm reading this thinking about the commemorative impulse in history-including art. And poetry shards.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The world is run by people who can subsist on four hours of sleep a night.

This is why I do not run the world.

It's the only thing that's holding me back.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

An object - an "exhibit" - presented as evidence is always overdetermined, despite the parties' attempt to narrativize it. It is the focus of a narrative that points to another narrative. Stonehenge. It's just there. But even a text is an object. That text is going its own way. It doesn't necessarily want to be part of your party.

All of which applies to any evidence. But in art, unlike law or science, rules of evidence are less codified. The gap between the thing and the narrative it is supposed to represent can open a creative (imaginative) space.

Monday, December 8, 2008


That title is kind of deceptive - it's really what I want to write about. But I'm bushed, so I'll just write about what I'm going to write about. That way I'll continue my pledge to post every day for a month.

Anyway: the status of evidence is vexed enough in a courtroom or laboratory, places where the status and narrative placement of evidence is set according to fairly inflexible rules. What, then, can one prove in a work of literature, using evidence - i.e., quotation, fact, photograph, etc. I'm very interested in those places where evidence as intractable, obdurate thing resists the narrative - or points in a different direction.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Lists 2

JforJames commented on the Dec. 1 post (which see) and directed me to one of his own: "A poem lurks in every list." I agree - tho it takes a certain eye or ear to detect it. The corollary is that a lot of poems nowadays are really lists that won't admit it. We call it "metonymy" instead. Or the "New Sentence." But it's just one damn thing after another.

I like that sort of thing, personally. But when I actually put sequential numbers next to my lines or sentences, people get weird. Like, hey - it's only a list - what's with that. But the items are only loosely related to one another. If I numbered them 1.2.3 or 3.4 like a tractatus, then it would be cool. Or at least numbered them out of sequence, like Gertrude Stein (and millions since then).

But some people dig it. Here is an example of what I mean. Click me.

Blogs are lists, too, of course. And there are many lists running in the background.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Slow Blog?(?!) 3

Dale Smith's blog turned me on to an article in the NYT about "slow blogging." There's slow everything now - it's the newest craze. But now that everyone is going to be unemployed, we can all do slow everything!

Which brings me to this article. One "slow blogger," who writes about her "walks in the Vermont countryside" has "recently left her job as a writing instructor at Middlebury College." She writes about "the icy impressions left in the snow by sleeping deer." Now, the unemployed writing instructors I know would be much more likely to shoot the damn deer for venison than blog about it. The subtext I read here is "someone else is bringing home the bacon [or already has] - enough of it to afford a place in the Vermont countryside." Well, why not do things slowly, in that case?

If you work for, say, UPS, your every movement is timed. I'm sure the same is true in most factories, bulk mail facilities, etc. And most of the employed writing instructors I know work 60-hour weeks. To be employed in this country (US) is to be fast, by necessity.

Another slow blogger gave up his blog due to lack of readership: "I called it the Robinson Crusoe feeling of blogging, and I think it's common." This guy just doesn't get it. That's the point - I call it the SETI phenomenon - broadcasting radio waves into outer space, hoping intelligent life will pick it up, perhaps, but not having any real sense that it will happen. It's a way of relating yourself to the dark energy between here and the edge of the universe.

But I've been posting LONG posts lately, and, according to this article, that makes me a SLOW blogger.

The deer lady says that slow blogging ("slogging"?) is about "not having what you write be the first thing that comes out of your head." There is certainly a danger of that, and I've skewered myself on the shit-end of that particular stick before. But I like the blog genre b/c one of the generic conventions is precisely that you do try out half-baked ideas that you'd never publish in a "real" magazine with an editor other than yourself (I'm talking blogs kept by individuals, here, of course - cf. the title, above). And even being too quick on the draw can have its benefits. Isn't the character for "danger" also the character for "creativity"? Well, not really - I just made that up. But maybe it ought to be.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Mandelstam, Vico, Kim, Amy England, Samothracians, &c.

I have vowed to post daily to this blog through Xmas (or the solstice, anyway). Today I'm going to cheat slightly, and refer you to the comments from Henry G. on yesterday's post - re: Mandelstam, etc.

I want to know more re: Vico's conception of "poetic." I think it may not be that far from the way M. M. Kim is thinking about poetry as labor - "work" in the physics sense of the term - moving objects (phonemes, lines) through physical space (the page, the brain), in order to see the relations between them (rather than to arrange them). At least I think that's where she's coming from.

Poetry does make something happen. So does driving a cab.

Is a quotation a thing? A foreign object in the poem (or essay or whatever)?

"There is nothing I would not put in this poem if I could." [Me, too!]
"Something is rather cruel about this reusing of things without regard for their original life, just as Hermes is cold-hearted to talk to the tortoise as if it were already a lyre. Inside the frame is cold. . . . It is the coolness of making the material yours, and never sparing a thought for the original owner. Is this history? I can't much care abou the Samothracians, losing their sanctuary status and falling into a lull of stones burning for lime, bleating sheep, punctuated by pirate attacks. I can only summon real passion for how I can use what they left. . . ."

- Amy England, Victory and Her Opposites: A Guide (Tupelo 2007) - a book that anyone interested in this stuff should read immediately.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Putting into/ Words

Henry Gould made the following comment on the post of two days ago, and I'm going to take the liberty of moving it (lifting it?) to visibility in the "main page" of this blog, b/c it raises an important point of view: "Poet's [sic] aren't putting history into poems because they have a special perspective on events (the underside, the inside, or...). They put history in poems because the medium, the style, the form of poetry charges the history-telling with its own kinds of intensity. The effort to seek a powerful or beautiful language-in-its-own-right, or dramatic form (plot), is a way of underlining - adding force & interest - to whatever the speaker is trying to convey."

My post of yesterday may have already responded to this, in a roundabout way. I'm not willing to say poets do or should treat history all in one way or another. Ed Sanders seems to me like the sort of poet Henry describes (as I tried lamely to indicate below). There's also an interesting long poem by Daniel Hoffman, Brotherly Love, re: the founding of Pennsylvania, that assumes a rather positivist view of historical fact, and presents it in interesting language. And a lot of the "poetry of witness" does the same thing - and often lifts things into visibility that the reporters, historians, etc. wouldn't touch.

But I guess it really matters how you think about history per se. Is "it" something written in the history books already - is the "history" separable from the "telling" - so that, say, writing a poem about William Penn is an artistic presentation of something that already exists elsewhere? Or does the making of the poem change the status of the tale? When Longfellow predicts the disapperance of the natives in "Song of Hiawatha," or Cullen, in "The Prairies," the idea becomes - well, poetic. Elevated. True.

Is "Book of the Dead" or "Mediterranean" simply a different treatment of the same material Rukeyser presented in her reportage? I think that poetry can create a different point of view than that of the historian or reporter - one with a different set of effects and implications; that in other words, form/content is a false dichotomy. Or, said another way, that genres (and media) presume their own epistemologies.

Video, for instance, is truer than words nowadays. Poetry isn't true unless it tells you what you think it's reminding you that you already know.

But Henry might be getting to the heart of my idea of historical poetry as elegy, that I've mentioned before. Maybe it's only an elegy if you're not postivistic about it - that is, if you think you can never really "convey" it (or own it, perhaps). Sanders thinks that you can, and he is a happy warrior. And by the same token, maybe those other poets I mention below are just as despairing or nihilistic as the most radical dadaiste - for the opposite reason. Or just sad.

"The point is not to interpret history, the point is ----"

Aw, shoot, I forget the rest . . .

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

History, Poetry, Logos

" . . . thought may be ejaculated as Logos, or Word," writes Emerson, in his "seminal" essay, "The Poet." And that's what poetry is for him: spiritualized logocentric ejaculate. "Milton is too literary," he says, "and Homer too literal and historical." There you have the two poles: the literary and the literal; the historical and transhistorical Logos (poetry). More either or's.

There are a lot of poets who are writing "poems including history" - not in the sense of containing history (which resonates in Pound's description, IMO), but as the opposite of occluding history - which is to say, not dealing with it at all.

Ed Sanders is clearly trying to teach us, in his verse history of the US (and in his amazing 1968) - he's thinking about the form - the line, in particular - and letting the content take care of itself. But a lot of people are experimenting with form in order to question the content "history." I've mentioned a few of these in previous posts. I take "history" broadly to include any narrative of past events that the writer did not make up herself - that is, that are built around memory, testimony, evidence. Obviously there's a problem in this (what are we remembering, testifying to, or presenting evidence of except other people's memories, testimonies and texts? And what are the status of these? Me's on a beam - and about the fall off).

But that's Why Poetry. I think of Paterson as being a kind of unhistory or shadow (under- or interstitial) history. Or the first few sections of Dictee. Or Brenda Coultas' long poem at the beginning of Marvellous Bones of Time (re: her childhood and Abraham Lincoln) is an example - first person, where the speaker may or may not know the first thing about the first person, let alone the historical personage - but feels compelled to the attempt.

Ditto Mahmoud Darwish's Memory for Forgetting; Silliman's Under Albany; as well as books like Susan M. Schultz' Dementia Blog or Gabriel Gudding's Rhode Island Notebook, where "current events" in the individual life and the global life intertwine.

You can probably name some more, won't you?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

More History (& Poetry) Again

This is my 101st post! I'll drink to that.

I said in a previous post that perhaps all historical poetry today is really a form of elegy. I should have qualified that statement by adding "in North America." Clearly, if there is tear gas wafting through your neighborhood on a regular basis, then history takes on a different valence, whether in a textbook or a literary work. It can get you killed (and has). By the same token, the question of the role of historical or "documentary" literature within authoritarian regimes has a fairly obvious answer - that history doesn't seem so far from current events as it is in the USA, for instance. Still, that gives the whole thing a rather functional cast - history as a means to make a ("moving"?) statement about the present, rather than about the past per se.

If our (N.A.) historical poetry is elegy (monody might be a better term, since we don't really have any collective mourning - or anything), maybe it's b/c we (literati) have given up on any possibility of actually affecting history (or even of knowing whether or not we have). And of course we want to distance ourselves from celebratory accounts of history from Homer to the Benet brothers.

There is also a certain memorial impulse - that someone must speak for the dead. This is legit, albeit a bit grandiose. Better if you're just curious about someone who was as obscure as oneself. But those folks don't leave as many records to write about.

The reason for writing history per se (as in "history books") is a no-brainer, for me. It obviously doesn't prevent "us" from making the same mistakes over and over again. But it does make one a bit more at home in the world - gives one perspective. That still doesn't explain why historical poetry in an era of prose.

The answer may be that poets can present the underside of history - the bits of evidence and testimony that don't necessarily add up - or the ones that add up without anyone's having to be told (or needing paraphrase or superfluous analysis). Myung Mi Kim and Mark Nowak, perhaps - the one writing through the gaps and perplexing (and temporary) relations that defy speech, the other, presenting (in a fairly coherent manner) multiple narratives, and letting us decide how they relate to one another. (Nowak's editorial collaborator, David Michalski, does this latter brilliantly in the piece "Africa," in Cosmos & Damian - no author pontification inserted, and none needed or desired - check it out).

The way history feels. The way time feels.

The story + the monody for the loss of the (our) story. Hence, the prose narratives at the front of Susan Howe's books, followed by her fractured lyrics. Or that beautiful lyric elegy/eulogy at the end of "Book of the Dead."

Or, more recently, Raymond McDaniel's book Saltwater Empire. Most of the book is rather lush, neo-symboliste lyric. But running throughout are multiple poems, all with the same title: "Convention Centers of the New World." These seem to be snippets of speech, of testimony, from people trapped at the New Orleans Convention Center at the time of Katrina. So, the disorienting, impressionistic, or inward-looking lyrics find their counterpoint in a radically found poem. So, in the poem "Zombi Phenotypes": "Only flesh can masquerade mechanical./Timorous, shopworn glamour, we walkaround./ We hold hands, embrace prettily./ Amazers, all gone down, a drowned township./ Unfleshed, enchanted skeletons." Then, the first "Convention Centers of the New World" begins: "I come from all over New Orleans. What I feel needs to be said/about this is that everything was done wrong.// From what I can see, the police could not control the crime/ in New Orleans. Before the floods and the hurricane."

It really is just one damn thing after another. And if you're not writing paeans in exchange for money or gold goblets, you either get the people into the streets, or you bawl.

Monday, December 1, 2008


"Bare lists of words are found suggestive to an imaginative and excited mind, as it is related of Lord Chatham that he was accustomed to read in Bailey's Dictionary when he was preparing to speak in Parliament." (Emerson, "The Poet")

the English carrier; the short-faced tumbler; the runt; the barb; the pouter; the turbit; the Jacobin; the trumpeter; the laugher; the fantail (some of the pigeon breeds mentioned by Darwin in The Origin of Species. "The runt is a bird of great size," he reports)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

In Honor of the Collected Spicer's Finally Coming Out (so to speak)

". . . but we lose ever and anon a word or a verse and substitute something of our own, and thus miswrite the poem." (Emerson, "The Poet")

Saturday, November 29, 2008

History Today

If you haven't already, be sure to read the contributions re: poetry and history by Brian (Nov 24), Henry (Nov 26) and Samson (Nov 28) - they're good.

Yesterday was the first time in my life I have ever heard my father use the term "African American" without apparent irony or sarcasm.

This was probably for the benefit of my partner, who is from St. Louis, and therefore a "Yankee" (which is analogous to "goyim"). Later, we were at the art museum. He saw the exhibit of historic photos from the Memphis World (African-American newspaper) and said, "I'm not gonna go in there."

I got yer history - right here.

But I'd like the think the Millennium really has arrived.

Perhaps history in poetry (or poetry re: history) at the present time is necessarily a variety of elegy. Or a memento mori.

Friday, November 28, 2008


I am so thankful for blogs, for the way they reaffirm our existence back to us. I am so thankful for the internets, with all their skeins and keens and tangles. I am posting every day to my blog, so I am full of plentitude to bursting. And stuffing. But not like stuffing in a doll. A doll is not a blog. A doll can have a blog, in which case, the doll exists, but that's ALL. I've never claimed to be a doll, and nobody would accuse me of it, I assure you. A blog is not a clone, but is the next best thing. But I am a blog, whatever else I may be. QED.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Feliz Dia de los Pavos Muertos

History is the nightmare from which I try to take a break, every now and then. Poetry, too. So I'll take the occasion of an officially recognized national holiday to note the dramatic geographical feature I experienced yesterday, viz., the drop-off from the Arkansas Ozarks to the alluvial plain of the Mississippi River, in eastern Arkansas. If you've driven from the coastal range of California into the Central Valley, you have some idea of the impact. But this is even more abrupt - the "hills" a little higher, the flatland just as flat. You're up on a high ridge looking out on others one moment; then you go down a hill to the Black River, and bam - nothing but rice fields. The Mississippi Delta may start in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel, but the "Arkansas Delta" goes a lot farther north and west.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The American Poetry Antiques Road Show

What I mean is that, while "the stones hold secrets," they don't narrate those secrets. Like on the Antiques Road Show - the people don't know the history of the objects they bring in. It's the appraisers who are the storytellers.

But that begs the question of who cares. Well, the owners of the objects care - usually b/c they think they're worth more than they are, sometimes for sentimental (family) reasons. If history is written by the victors, or by the losers writing against the victors (which is part of the same story), then it's ideology - we're all always already interpellated, etc. - so what's the point? And what difference does it make, even if you feel like you're telling the Truth, if you're not willing to do anything about it - or think that you can't?

I guess that's what I'm sensing at the present moment. Virgil was the child of the empire ascendant - he may have just been kissing ass, but odds are he really believed in Augustus. Catullus, by contrast, was watching the decadence of the Republic. (See, this is what history gets you - cornpone analogies between US and Roman history).

But, like I say, it's a compulsion - a necromantic fascination with past people (personages) - a feeling that somebody ought to write it - a desire that someone will write about us, after our demise(s). It has to break down or break up, too. As in that beautiful, final lyrical section of "Book of the Dead" (the Rukeyser, not the Ani) - we've left the stock reports and committee minutes behind, but the paean or whatever it is would seem unmotivated without it - and, I think, vice versa.

From the sublime to the absurd: i'm off to Memphis . . .

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Historical vs. History

Sure, anything is historical, if it has a carbon-14 reading. But does that mean it engages in an activity called "history"? I'm almost ready to go back and read Hayden White - tho my recollection is that he doesn't really go into what "narrative" means - which begs the question; but I think he was just trying to get those who write history to realize they were writing.

Then there's "historicism" and "historicity." Historicity : history = "governance" : government. Hence, the neoliberal desire for history to "end."

Is there any good history??

Then there's the topic of gender - and why history is his - esp. when you consider who writes it, in prose or verse. Is it that men are pompous weenies, so the Historical Sweep comes naturally? Well, you tell me.

I promise my posts on this topic will become more coherent (and continue) after El Dia de los Pavos Muertos. But I shall continue to post daily. Excelsior!

In the meantime, there is this, from Gabe Gudding's R.I. Notebook:

"The Literary Narcissist begins purposefully to conflate criticism of his social behavior into an indication of his/her literary worth. That is to say, the Narcissist will try to show that the reason others despise or are disgusted by him is in fact because he or she is a 'Rebel,' a true Literary Revolutionist - and that the statements of disgust others publicly make at his behavior is merely an indication of (a) their necessary denial of the work because they are threatened by it, or (b) their jealousy of the work."

Add butt-kissing, and you can see how this might be a problem. However, this passage also describes me and most of my friends (& former friends) at our worst. Let he who is without narcissism cast the first -

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Test of Time(s)

Poetry shards.

Under glass.

Or not.

One of my students made a poem about a recent historical event. But the poem didn't mention the event. Or the date. If a paleopoetologist found the poem 100 years from now, s/he might not know what it commemorated.

Churchill supposedly read "If We Must Die" on the floor of the Parliament during the Battle of Britain. And why not? But the predicament of the British nation at that point was rather different than that of African America in 1919 in the face of racial violence, which was McKay's occasion for the poem. But you wouldn't necessarily know it, to read it. There's lots of poetry from the 1910s like that, of course (see my chapter on Arturo Giovannitti).

But then there is "occasional" poetry - which is supposed to be fugitive, or ephemeral. To me, the specificity of the historical milieu is precisely what gives poems a punctum for those living in later years - this person, this place. Like me (see time stamp, below - or my chap. on Anna Louise Strong). I just can't get with the platonists.

This is all old hat. But why is it a perennial issue in poetry? It's Romanticism what did it, sez me.

[thanks to Ron S. for posting a link. Please add your 2 cents, y'all. I'm not kidding re: the "throw me a bone" thing - incl. citations, references, quotations, referrals]

On Wed., we go to Memphis, and I am going to try not to gloat. There's no escaping history there . . .

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Particularity vs. Generality; Epic vs. STUFF

Bill Brown gave an interesting talk here the other day - about things, of course - and objects (and Man in the High Castle). Seems to me he was circling around the general/particular opposition - which is a version of the realist/nominalist opposition. He elided the terms "binary" and "dialectic," which don't hardly seem right to me. But anyway, this issue is a propos to the whole history/theory thing I've been talking about. If you get too hegelian about it, the specifics of history disappear, and it all gets religious (cf Marx on young hegelians). But if you get too specific, then, so what? Brown pointed to W. Benjamin's obsession with examples (particularity) as such - which he characterized as an unwillingness to theorize (not a totally unique reading, but, well, a propos).

There is something utopian re: the Arcades Project - the notion that voices from the past (the Great Beyond?) can "speak for themselves." Or kabbalistic, perhaps. But if you actually read a good chunk of the AP, you fancy you get a feel for the Paris of the 19th c. Self-delusion? Maybe. I guess it's a matter of which side you want to err on - the grand recit or the stuff.

I'm reading Gabriel Gudding's Rhode Island Notebook, which is nothing if not stuff (times, dates, mileages, routes, rest-stop ratings). Interspersed with hip-pocket, driver's-side theorizing. But a torrent of particularity, in any case. And of course there are a lot of books like that. Does the whole add up to more than the sum of its parts, these books seem to dare us. I'm an afficionado of trivia, and naive enough to think that, given a fundamentally sound mind, enough trivia can be processed into something like learning - even partial understanding. And, as a nominalist by disposition, I go in for trivia - or at least, stuff. Inductive, not deductive. I'm awed (and educated) by Arendt's narration of the origins of totalitarianism, but the quotations in Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke convey many (incredilbly surprising) obdurate particulars that no overarching narrative could convey.

Maybe I want the sweep of history to feel like my workaday life.

If you have any thoughts on any of this, pls speak up.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Evidence? Paraphrase?

So much History (as in "history books") is paraphrase. If it's done well, it's turned into a gripping (absorptive) tale (I'm finishing up Master of the Senate, Robert Caro's monumental [see?] study of LBJs years as Majority Leader). It's not fictionalizing events, exactly, but it smooths out and sutures over the actors' phenomenological bumps and gaps. That's where I think poetry (or "poetry" as indeterminate, inter-generic space) comes in. Poets don't have to (and can't) get dressed up in a suit to give papers to the AHA.

A colleague of mine holds that "information is the death of art" (or was it "enemy" of art - implying a struggle, which would be more interesting?). Is evidence the same thing as information? Can something be evidence of itself? I should have this figured out by now . . . or do like the Pragmatists and just declare epistemology irrelevant. But evidence alone becomes pure context - in which case, we're back in the Giscombe, Rumble (and Robbe-Grillet) landscape.

Throw me a bone, here . . .

Friday, November 21, 2008

"History" and Poetics

I want to resume the question of poetry and history that I discussed in my post re: Cecil Giscombe and my review of Ken Rumble’s Key Bridge. I would argue that, in both of those books, the absence of detailed history signals an unwillingness to “depict,” due to a suspicion the slipperiness of narrative or representation and the tendentious (even authoritarian) closure those activities often provoke.

The flip side – that which is renounced in such a decision – is any responsibility (epistemological and ethical) for writing history – or at least responsibility for doing so on the part of poets. If there is no “subject of history,” does that take us off the hook of history? By us, I mean people who write and read literature (writing for art’s sake). This could turn into a very old, tedious, and unresolvable debate, which is what I don’t want it to do. But I do detect a couple of tendencies (unscientific perceptions, these) in recent poetics that beg the question.

The first is the apparent resurgence of lyric. In the 80s and early 90s, lyric came into disrepute, esp. amongst feminist critics – esp. those influenced by continental philosophy – suspicion of the unified speaking subject (read: Law of the Father) and of the “lyric complex” of love, beauty, and femininity. However, in the last (what?) ten years or so, a new generation of lyric poetry has emerged that presents us with a more diffused subject, in which lyric gesture, while moving and sincere and all that, is also be self-conscious about The Lyric Tradition. This development has made lyric more palatable to more people - and, perhaps, made narrative less so, especially to those with an avant-gardie self-image.

The other tendency is towards what might best be described as neodada, absurdism, scramble-systems and word-salads. I guess one could say Langpo is (was?) a manifestation of this – due to post-Althusserian suspicions of syntax and semantics per se. But today it seems less a result of political commitment than of (political, social) despair. I’m thinking of the kind of jokey, aloof, poppy irony (sorry, *post*-irony) on the part of many younger poets who are still immortal (or not yet destitute). They often hit the zeitgeist smartly on the head, but I’m left wondering So What. I wonder that after I read some of my own stuff, in fact, and I’m not even young. If you accept any version of the category "history" as valid, do you have to at least flirt with representation? Or does history represent all that passe Olson stuff?

I have to wonder to what extent it's a matter of being willing to present primary texts - to let the texts "speak for themselves," rather than the speaking persona of the poem. Reznikoff tried to do that in his Testimony poems. Flarf is an interesting contemporary example of the poetics of the primary text - of nailing the zeitgeist using other people's words. But what's the shelf life, absent the paratext - that is, the historical context - if it's not obvious from the text itself? And if the answer is "None - that's the point," then where does that leave "history"?

(you can see my problem, here . . .)

To be continued . . . [possibly much, much later]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Riddle me This

“I’ve been remiss in blogging.”
“You've been remiss in getting a life.”

But really, if these things are to work, you have to keep posting. So I’ve decided I’m going to post every day, even if it’s only one or two lines at a time. It may be a quote; it may be “how I am feeling about my writing today”; or it may be a question that I toss out to you, the Reader. You can regard these as food for thought or as actual queries, and actually answer them, under “Comments.”

For instance: "True or false? Most contemporary academic literary criticism is mostly composed of paraphrase."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Re: Facebook:

"the bales of cotton
the lamps
the trees
the barrels
weight of a package
pearly buttons
counting bricks
pearly buttons
the books
the soldiers
counting the bricks
length of a wall
weight of a package
counting contacts."

- Jean-Michel Espitallier, Espitallier's Theorem

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I do think that one feature of modernism that we have not gone beyond is its impersonism. Whether it's the diffused, contingent subject of much recent lyric, the nouveau-cutup (camp) of flarf, or various aleatory practices, it does seem that we're still keen on proving our skepticism about subjectivity. (implications for representing history/agency - subject for future post). But is that just boring repetition, or a pose, or simply the continuation of a fundamental shift dating from c. Dec. 1910 through the present? In any case, obviously a lot of people haven't got the message and are still writing soulful memoirsitic narratives about returning to the small towns where they grew up, etc. - so naturally that creates an equal and opposite reaction. And vice versa. Hence red poets/blue poets.

Impersonism is also an impersonation. But only those with impersonalities know what it means to do a good impersonation, as Eliot once said, in the voice of Rich Little.

Really, it may be that blogs will become the new (acceptable) "personal" genre for Poets who Think. That is, even those who gravitate towards snickering weltschmerzy pop-po write very personal (self-representational, ex-pressive) things on their blogs. So, blogging is the new Romanticism. You heard it here first.

Of course, snippets of your blog might end up in someone else's arch & ironical poem . . .

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oh, and for all you folks back in Memphis . . .

. . . who used to call me a N-lover and who heckled me when I canvassed for black candidates? . . .

kisses, sweeties! [wink]

Further Thoughts Re: Goldilocks

Or, another way to think about it:

I think at some level I still take for granted the notion that one's writing is an expression of one's personality. Hence, I've been writing jokey, somewhat cynical/ironical/satirical lyrical poems (see below). But it occurs to me that those things are also distancing devices. So, either (a.) these poems in fact hide my True Self, or (b.) my True Personality is really a distancing device. Or "Personality" is a distancing device. Or something.

What the hell! - let's take a vote! Are you for (a.) or (b.)?

I heard an interview the other day with a woman who had been obsessively checking election web sites for the last year. "What will you do when it's over?" the interviewer asked. Answer: "Well, I guess I'll go back to my reality TV shows."

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Reason to Concelebrate(?)

Here (yes, there) is proof positive that you should be careful about what you "publish" on your blog.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

My Goldilocks Problem

“People are exasperated by poetry which they do not understand, and contemptuous of poetry which they understand without effort. (Eliot)” (Markson). Whoever said it, it’s true for most Americans, anyway. If you teach poetry in a public educational institution in the US, you probably know what I mean. Give students challenging poetry, and they glower (“What the hell is that?”). If you give them “accessible” or popular poetry, they roll their eyes (“Oh, please – why are you making us read this trash?”). At the height of the 80s Culture Wars, the right embodied this split in an extreme form. If you taught difficult material (like, oh, say, Homer, Milton, John Donne), and you expected your students to actually read it (if they wanted a good grade), you were an elitist. If you taught pop culture, then you were a radical who was intent on dumbing down the curriculum and destroying western civilization.

The quotation is true of people who don’t read much literature. But even people who do so embody this dichotomy. For all the talk of post-avant, it seems to me that, when push comes to shove, people fall back on either the “post” (as in “thank god all that elitist jerking off is over with”) or the “avant” (as in “oh, my god – who reads this [tired, stupid, corny] shit??”). That is another instantiation the Coke/Pepsi, GOP/Dem, black/white mentality that characterizes American life.

I’ve held forth on this theme before, and, yes, as a matter of fact, I do have an axe to grind. See, I have this manuscript ("quick! hide!") . . . Well, it’s part biography, part history, with a little memoir thrown in for bad measure. That means that it’s representing things, events, people, even emotions (hurrah! go the posties, literature is supposed to be mimetic and expressive; undertheorized and tepid, go the avantes). But, formally, it’s a scrapped-up, fragmentary, montage/bricolage that relies heavily on problematic "evidence" (now we’re talking, go the avantes; WTF?? go the posties).

So – is it possible to be both heavy-handed and coldly detached? To be both schmaltzy and cryptic? Well, it’s certainly possible to press on (and maybe disrupt) the marketing and institutional categories we rely upon to navigate texts (incl. genre). But maybe one can narrate and represent without being overly naive or smug about subjectivity and language. We'll see.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Your atomic number is directly proportional to the number of new posts on your blog. I'm made of hydrogen.

But seriously, folks. One of my students today said that some of Frank O'Hara's lunch poems sound like blog entries. I did not prompt him. This is big news for me, as it brings together the two genres with which this blog is concerned.

In the meantime, I have begun my Facebook experience. I think it should be Namebook. I mean, you don't have to show your face - and even if you do, it's tiny. It's really Who's friends with Whom, isn't it? And that's the whole point of life under conditions of Universal Competition, isn't it?

Did you know that the original investors in Lloyd's of London were called The Names? They may still be, for all I know. Or maybe now they are The Numbers.

Anyway, Facebook, a "social networking site," is a weird medium. (or weird museum) Some people mainly post links to their blogs or to on-line publications. You're aware of others only by the friends they acquire (or who acquire them). I find myself thinking, "Damn! That person has 10x as many 'friends' as I do - I better get cracking!"

Will everyone still be friends if Obama loses the election?

Speaking of which, if you're on Facebook, join "Irish-Americans for Barry O'Bama." You don't have to be Irish to join, since neither is he, exactly.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Maverick (and other tired ideas)

"Several tags . . . have been attached to me during my political career. One of these is 'maverick,' and if one likes labels, this in some ways is an apt description." - Sen. Albert Gore, Sr., ca. 1972

"I do not want college professors around. They believe in the greatest good for the greatest number, and I do not believe in that." - Prentice Cooper, Gore's unsuccessful opponent in 1958.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Readings Last Weekend

Why do we update our blogs? Because our public awaits us? Because we are sending signals out into the void, like SETI? Maybe we like to hear ourselves talk.

I like to hear Hadara Bar-Nadav talk - and read her stuff, which I did, Friday night. Good crowd at the Writer's Place in Kansas City (70 or so). She started out with a fanciful poem involving her recently-flooded basement, which, in the poem, she's navigating in a paper boat, with the entire family. But then she went into some weirder, darker stuff - such as the series of poems that begin with Dickinson lines (and smuggle other D lines in later, if I understand aright). Much more bodily grotesquerie than in ED, I'd say. Longer lines, too, I'm guessing. Like if Dickinson could write free-verse and had to watch Holocaust documentaries as an adolescent. But the weird part is, it gorgeous. The cross-sectioning of the body is done in such a lyrical way that it leaves you wanting more. Damn I wish I could do that.

But I can't, and I didn't, on Saturday night. Instead, I read some of my cartoony twisted little faux-rhetorical nature poems, as the warm-up act for Cyrus Console's serious poetry. CC read from his MS in progress (which, unlike Brief Under Water, appears to be in verse) - faux-vatic symbolist pronouncements interwoven by a character named Anthony, who is part ex-con, part 19th c. dandy, part schlep, and part *Saint* Anthony, as far as I can tell. The poems I hadn't heard had a distinctly scrambled-biblical air (Miltonic, as it turns out) - funny and scary both (to me).

And that was my weekend trip to KC and Topeka. I hope to return some day!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Joe on Godot

Hey, they spelled the name right . . . AND they put me right before Adrienne Rich!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

New NO

I just got the new copy of NO: A Journal of the Arts. Like the previous issues, it's very swish - high production values and quality writing. It seems like NO started by publishing a few famous poets alongside "emerging" ones (and some who were a little of both). Then they started publishing more famous people, but also including much more visually adventurous poetry than in previous issues(poetry including pictures, even stitching; poetry demanding different typefaces; or a "landscape" page orientation).

This issue is pretty much composed of really famous poets (mostly over 60). And, while there's some dandy reproductions of visual art works, there's not as much of a visual sensibility to the poems (certainly not much use of the graphic possibilities possessed by a well-funded journal).

This is not to say that it's boring - it's not, by any means. There's a lot of really exciting, interesting writing by those really famous poets. But I do hope they continue to make room for some less-well-known, off-the-wall stuff - especially from poets who include pictures or push the spatial and graphic potential of the art nowadays.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Joe (me) Reads Ken (Rumble)

Here is my review, posted this week in Tarpaulin Sky, of Ken Rumble's Key Bridge.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dumber Than Quayle?

That's a serious question - weigh in!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Crock Blogic

So, let's say your co-worker writes something on her blog along the lines of: "Today was a bad day. My husband beat me again, and my tests came back positive." You see her at work the next day. You say, "Gee, Mary, I was sorry to hear about the bad news. Is there anything I can do to help?" and Mary says, "Fuck off! Mind your own business."

An hypothetical, to be sure, but similar things have happened to me. How are you supposed to react when people post things on their blog that are intimate, unflattering, or seem like cries for help?

This is clearly an instance of lack of any meaningful distinction between public and private. But what is it? The Blogic Sphere? A space in which, in effect, people can gossip about themselves, in which private (intimate) self becomes public (textual) persona - though not necessarily the same persona as in the blogger's other texts. A space in which one is invited to sympathy with a virtual subject who may or may not exist "in the flesh." In which desire for publicity (or attention), or even a distancing irony, may coexist with painful but apparently sincere (or at least sententious) self-representation?

I'm getting dizzy and have to stop now.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Election Forecast

. . . Green is the path we take
Between chimeras, and garlanded the way,
The down descent into November's void.

- Wallace Stevens, "Owl's Clover" (quoted, probably inaccurately, from memory)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Politics Makes Nothing (New) Happen

"'. . . He who can write now, let him write now! And he who can write later, let him write later! And if you'll permit me to say what I think - without accusing anybody - I say the wounded, the thirsty, and those in search of water, bread, or shelter are not asking for poetry. And the fighters pay no heed to your lyrics. Sing if you wish, or hold your tongue if you want: we're marginal in war. But it is within our power to offer the people other services: a twenty-liter can of water is worth the Valley of Genius itself. . . .'

". . . The political conception of poetry has become confused with the notion of event, regardless of historical context."

- Mahmoud Darwish, Memory for Forgetfulness, trans. Ibrahim Muhawi

Friday, September 12, 2008

Slow Blog? 2

All this talk about slowness is making me sleepy.

Nonetheless, since it's happening in the blogosphere, it got me to thinking about how we (I) spend our time. A lot of us read blogs b/c we're avoiding more unpleasant tasks. Sometimes blogging is that unpleasant "task." In other words, as with most labor-saving devices, blogs may be beefing up our to-do lists - making us busier, more frazzled, etc. Or they may (can) be a relief or time-out from those tasks. (You can see where I'm going with this, right? If so, please tell me, b/c I don't)

But seriously, folks - what if we all agreed to blog no more than 100 words per day - that's 3000 words per month, 36,000 words per year. That's a lot of words - to write or to read. On top of all the others we're writing and reading. Blog bites.

A reflection: going slowly shows you how fast you have to go to keep from falling farther and farther behind.

Less word - be happy yes!

This post is 183 words, including these words.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Same Only WRO-ong!

At the end of July, I posted an entry entitled “The Same – Only Different,” a response to Robert Archambeau’s comments on unacknowledged similarities between the poetics of supposedly competing “camps” in Poetryland. It drew a couple of comments, and since I don’t have anything new to say, I thought I’d return to it. First of all, I referred to Allen Tate’s statement that “poetry finds its usefulness in its perfect inutility,” and blithely continued:

“All of which might be an interesting angle on Dale Smith’s SloPo. The purpose of slow poetry is to sever poetry from any vestigial links to the market economy – and to help its devotees to move in that direction. This is, however, not a desire to destroy poetry’s use value; quite the contrary, since the point is to produce an improved quality of life.”

To which, Dale Smith:

“I don't think there's anyway to isolate one's self from the global economy. That's not the point of slo poetry. . . . Slow Poetry like the other slow movements brings attention to the lines of transport and exchange, thereby giving people ways to reflect more accurately on how the exchange takes place.”

Point taken, Dale. I just wish it actually were going to make everything slow down. Can’t you do something about that?? I’m tired of reflecting. But I want somebody else to do it.

Reflecting is what I get paid to do, in part. That’s so “intellectuals” don’t do anything stupid, like political organizing.

The second comment came from Robert A. himself, who wanted clarification on this rather sententious utterance: “However, this is not the result of some Hegelian self-identity inherent in (or emerging from) the nature of things. It is the material genealogy of an idea – an idea that should be considered within the specifics of particular moments in the history of liberal-democratic/capitalist society.”

Here’s what I wrote him in an e-mail (for better or worse):

“About that last paragraph from the post: looking at it between quotation marks makes it seem like a really bad parody of early Marx. There was that bit at the beginning of your post re: your reading Hegel in grad school, over-against poststructuralism (or something like that), and since I was in part agreeing with what you had to say, I guess I felt the need to distinguish my position from an Hegelian one.

“I'm sure you know lots more about him than I do (it's been a long time since I've read Mr. H.), but I do recall a lot of talk re: reconciliation and unification of contradictions in the Absolute Idea - ‘the reunion of what has been parted’ - or differences' being like the flower, fruit, and leaves of the same tree (i.e., unimportant, when compared with the fundamental underlying sameness). Which means similarities represent the really real and the truly true. Or something like that.

“Anyway, I reckon I take a rather more pedestrian view of things than H. I'm looking for causal connections in discourse via specific people and words (and the interests they express). Hegel would probably say that this is the (apparent) victory of Understanding over Reason. I don't know. In any event, it seems to me that it's the result of specific people reading particular books in a given time and place (and, perhaps, identifying with the same social class or even clique). Whatever else a particular similarity may express - any wider-angle, metaphysical, or bird's-eye speculative view - I pass over in silence. That's all.”

All of which is rehashing an old hat, to be sure. But that’s what blogs are for, nays paw?

Speaking of which, I love the way that, when you mention someone in your blog, they get in touch. So if I were to mention the name “Monica Bellucci,” say . . .

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Does This Kind of Stuff Happen to You?

For instance, you're mailing manuscripts or submissions in manila envelopes. You turn up those little metal tabs, lick the flap real good, then press down the flap to make sure it sticks. But your finger hits the little metal tabs, which turn out to be sharp as knives. Ouch. But then there's this red shit on your envelope. Uh oh. So you spend the next 30 minutes with a ice cube in a washcloth pressed tightly to your finger. In the meantime, somehow, you try to wipe away the blood, not expecting very good results (but you don't want the editor to think you're putting the juju on him/her), and amazingly, it wipes away, clean as a whistle! You manage to put a band aid on the finger (tightly) with one hand, and the bleeding stops. So now, no matter how many rejection letters you get (or no letters at all), you can still say, "Well at least I have my health!" And if that's not a happy ending I don't know what is.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Tentative Thumbs Up for Lisk's List

Eat your heart out, Variety . . . But seriously, folks, I have to say I like Thomas David Lisk's chapbook tentative list (a) [Kitchen Press, 2008], if for no other reason than he's thinking of poems as visual art - space of the page, blah blah, sure, but also fonts, boxes, pictures, characters, colors. AND: it's also a score for voice (if you bother to read it aloud). There is some serious stuff going on in terms of content/theme - a la DuPlessis' Drafts, maybe - but it's much more scattered. I don't know if that makes me feel more or less stupid than DuP does. Anyway, it's only seven bucks, and it's worth it.

Also: URLs imbedded in the body of the poem, which of course opens it out into the virtual world (and makes it an historical record, when that world crashes).

If Baumann is the poet of tic tac's, Lisk is the poet of tick tacks.

"deus et homunculus, Dorothy Gale and the Wiz, the wizard and the traveling salesman, uninterested in the farmer's daughter, the traveling salesman and the actor [Frank Morgan] who played several parts (thespian wizadry), so there was no hot air balloon in Kansas or Oz. Kansas and Oz: false oppositions dissolve false dissolve repetition and screens temporarily closed owing to a small quantity . . ."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Abraham Lincoln 3

No, not some bad cyborg movie, but a poetry journal. The third issue branches out to include non-Flarfistas (non-card-carrying, anyway) such as Lyn Hejinian, Dodie Bellamy, Jim McCrary. And a superb longish poem by Robert J. Baumann - a sexy tic-tac poem, in fact.

I esp. like Bill Luoma's piece in same. It starts w/a reflection on William Gibson, but degenerates into a programming protocol - like the back of Susan Wheeler's Source Codes (by far the most interesting part of that book), but with more of a sense of the boredom of actually doing the work of writing code. As if to say, "you think computers are so cool? Well, you don't work in a cubicle . . ."

MariaAna: Whoa - that's a really freaky cover.
Joe: That's the idea.
MariaAna: Well, they cinched it.

Anyway, see the link to LIME TREE at right, to track it down.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The New "Description"

I recently posted a new "description" for this blog (under the title). It's what the linguists came up with to warn people 10K yrs. in the future that there is a nuclear waste dump underfoot. Yes, it's in English (hey, people were speaking English 10,000 years ago, so why shouldn't they - oh - wait . . . never mind . . . ).

Harry Shearer imagines what those people will be thinking: "Yep. There's gold down there."

But it's a pretty good description of this blog and its place in the blogosphere, and it's a much better poem than any you're likely to read here. So - enjoy! But don't dig too deep . . .

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Parental Descent (Prevallet and Schultz)

I recently read two books about lost parents - Kristin Prevallet's I, Afterlife, and Susan Schultz' Dementia Blog. The Prevallet is an interesting combination of elegy (for her father, who committed suicide) & reflections on elegy (writ large - as mourning in the strict sense, vs. after-death sequels). The Schultz is, of course, in the form of a blog: backwards narration, dates, offhanded diaristic style (largely about her mother's Alzheimer's). I, Afterlife is much tighter - shorter, more concise, more focused. Dementia Blog is about three times as long, and seems intentionally looser, less wrought - as thought S. is determined to let whatever interactions or misprisions occur, occur. And, of course, it's about dementia, which isn't esp. tidy. The narrative of the loss of memory of her mother is bound up with the narrative of loss of historical memory as evidenced by US foreign policy. Sometimes the latter seems to get more play than the former, in the book; and who can blame her, given recent events in both the nation and her family.

I,A emphasizes spatial distance; DB emphasizes temporal displacement (too simplistic?).

As someone engaged in a similar memorialistic/(anti)memoiristic writing, I find this pairing fascinating for the different models it suggests. But they have different emphases - the one to mourn, the other, to narrate. Both do both. Both seem very aphoristic to me, as well as lyrical and narrative. What I like about both is their refusal to hew to any particular genre or sub-genre; even elegy and blog are subverted, in interesting and productive ways. Which is as much as to say that they refuse to hew to any particular way of reacting to losing a parent (or country, or self).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ye Gadd!

I just read Subway Under Byzantium, by Vancouver poet Maxine Gadd. Pretty weird. In a good way. The long poem "Loon," which opens the book, is pretty amazing - a visionary dream (or shroom) journey with some gender-bending archetypal characters. Descent of Alette meets Gunslinger. The shorter poems in the book are choppier - sometimes to the point of seeming like inside jokes - but there's a lot of amazing stuff, sometimes funny (a la bpNichol, maybe?), sometimes creepy or schizy. "no sex magic in the next hexagon" - or pentagon - but plenty of spells - and full utilization of page-space and graphical resources. Worth checking out.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Arendt on Brecht (and boffo avant-garde box office)

The avant-garde did not know they were running their heads not against walls but against open doors, that a unanimous success would belie their claim to being a revolutionary minority, and would prove that they were about to express a new mass spirit or the spirit of the time. Particularly significant in this respect was the reception given Brecht's Dreigroschenoper in pre-Hitler Germany. The play presented gangsters as respectable businessmen and respectable businessmen as gangsters. The irony was somewhat lost when respectable businessmen in the audience considered this a deep insight into the ways of the world and when the mob welcomed it as an artistic sanction of gangsterism. The theme song of the play, "Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral," was greeted with frantic applause by exactly everybody, though for different reasons. The mob applauded because it took the statement literally; the bourgeoisie applauded because it had been fooled by its own hypocrisy for so long that it had grown tired of the tension and found deep wisdom in the expression of the banality by which it lived; the elite applauded because the unveiling of hypocrisy was such superior and wonderful fun. The effect of the work was exactly the opposite of what Brecht had sought by it. The bourgeoisie could no longer be shocked; it welcomed the exposure of its hidden philosophy, whose popularity proved they had been right all along . . .

- from The Origins of Totalitarianism, Part II

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Slow Blog?

True or False?: "Blogs are a gift economy."

Be sure to explain your reasoning.

["To give" = To bestow.
["To gift" = To bestow something that the recipient is supposed to want.]

Saturday, August 2, 2008


“Creepy” used to refer to B-horror movies and centipedes. Now, it seems like it means something different:

- psychologically disturbed or disturbing
- _______ sex with _______ [fill in with an adjective and noun that you find – well, creepy]
- hidden ominous conspiratorial actions and people
- sexually disturbed or disturbing
- Dancing Animals Dog Creepy Mask Weird Illusion
- Funny-looking persons
- more “repugnance” than “horror”
- anything having to do with death
- all cultural beliefs or practices one is unfamiliar with or disapproves of
- all males over 40
- Creep Bagdad soften beggar Galatia
- sexual activity that one is not familiar with
- people over 40
- ugly dead people
- people from other cultures having sex one is repelled by or disapproves of
- people over 40 having sex
- dead people one disapproves of
- people who blog about the word “creepy”

Friday, August 1, 2008

Ism du jour

"____________ism rapidly turned into a reformism of the spectacle, a critique of a certain form of the reigning spectacle that was carried out from within the dominant organization of that spectacle. The __________ists seem to have overlooked the fact that every internal improvement or modernization of the spectacle is translated by power into its own encoded language, to which it alone holds the key."

[Insert your favorite "ism." Repeat as necessary.]

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Same - Only Different . . .

I was intrigued by Robert Archambeau's comments about continuity/sameness in US poetry – and have been thinking about it since July 9. His premise is that seemingly opposed “camps” often use the same lexicon to describe and discuss poetics. I’m a big fan of tracing similarities as well as differences in literary history (capitalism loves novelty loves difference masks similarity). He points to some rather suggestive similarities between the way that IA Richards and Paul Blackburn talked about poetry. The old-timey “godfather of New Criticism” (hmm . . . well, sort of) and the New American young turk are speaking the same language, as Archambeau sees it. Check out the much more articulate original.

While this comparison risks anachronism (Principles of Criticism was published in the 20s, “Statement,” in the 1950s), there is certainly more than a little truth in these observations, especially when Blackburn speaks of poetry’s power to help one “stand a better/chance of being a whole man,” juxtaposed to Richard’s desire for poetry to aid in (what would later be called) self-actualization. Both writers are interested in counter-acting instrumental rationalism (which, as children of modernism, both associate with modernity). Archabeau does us a service by linking this notion of literature-as-self-cultivation to Schiller’s – it is indeed an idea that grows out of late Enlightenment/early Romantic thought (esp. in Germany). A’s apologies for these men’s use of male pronouns is part and parcel of the formal individualist philosophy implied in their writings.

But for every similarity, there’s a difference. Richards desires a psychological “balance” within the personality; in “Science and Poetry,” he speaks of poetry’s power to act as “a League of Nations for the moral ordering of the impulses – a new order based on conciliation, not on attempted suppression.” While Blackburn has no truck with suppression, he is also suspicious of orders; he embraces, not conciliation but confrontation – hence his language about “the materialistic pig of a technological world” as the enemy. This is late Romanticism rebelling against early Romanticism – Shelley vs. Wordsworth.

Of course, both Richards and Blackburn locate poetry’s usefulness in its not being a means to an end. This may appear to some (like me) to be a bit of a contradiction. Richards wants us to see things “as they really are . . . apart from any one particular interest which they may have for us.” He is quick to concede, however, that “[o]f course without some interest, we should not see them at all, but the less any one particular interest is indispensable, the more detached our attitude becomes.” Our interest in poetry is its ability to render us disinterested – detached. This is a far cry from Blackburn’s cry for poets to “sing something from their guts.” But Blackburn also wants poets do so as a means to an end: that of “being a whole man.” Both writers thus echo Allen Tate’s claim that “poetry finds its usefulness in its perfect inutility.”

All of which might be an interesting angle on Dale Smith’s SloPo. The purpose of slow poetry is to sever poetry from any vestigial links to the market economy – and to help its devotees to move in that direction. This is, however, not a desire to destroy poetry’s use value; quite the contrary, since the point is to produce an improved quality of life.

Which brings us back to the family resemblances between all the writers from Schiller to Smith who are fundamentally anti-capitalist – whether they are Romantics or paleo-conservatives or anarchists. The enemy is really exchange value, not use value. Despite the opposition to instrumentalism, they embrace utility. However, this is not the result of some Hegelian self-identity inherent in (or emerging from) the nature of things. It is the material genealogy of an idea – an idea that should be considered within the specifics of particular moments in the history of liberal-democratic/capitalist society.

If you have read this far, you should probably just go ahead and buy my book and read it (above, at right).

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Teach the Starlings

Who says you can't teach an old vermin new tricks? If you are looking for a mission in life, this one is as good as any and better than most. Be sure to turn your speakers on, and run your cursor over the word "Schieffelin" on the graphic.

Maybe we can teach them to compose and recite poetry, so human poets can spend more time blogging.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Buzz-Words of the Avant-Garde

This one is tougher than the one below, since it’s more like the fish describing the water, given how I read nowadays. But here are some cues that the book of poetry being blurbed is “avant-garde” or “experimental” or “edgy” or unconventional, or whatever buzz-label you will:

- [blurb concentrates on the form of the poetry while giving little indication of the poet’s tone, concerns, etc.]
- [blurb lists a series of concerns and topics that are wildly disparate, to the point of goofiness]
- between _______ and ______: the prose poem and the sacred incantation; the villanelle and the pasquinade; part _____, part _______. ________ meets ______.
- disjunctive [as implicit compliment]; problematize; construct; configures; manipulates; appropriates; displacement
- provocative; idiosyncratic
- vectors; processes; investigations; conceptual
- provocative vectors; conceptual idiosyncracies
- “political” [as implicit compliment; or, even more question-begging:] “social” or “cultural” [or, worse:] “a political intervention”; radical ______; intersections [better yet, interstices] between poetry and politics [or] private and public space
- the nature of language [or nature – or thinking, or any other abstract category that has a “nature”]

That’s the best I could come up with. Like I say, these are all things I like or am interested in, so who am I to say. But has this vocabulary (or the one in the previous post) changed much in the last 30 years? Sometimes I think everyone in the U.S. is too busy to have an aesthetic idea. I know I am . . .

Resolved: “In America, there will always be avant-gardes, b/c America will always be a country town,” vs.
Resolved: “In America, there will always be avant-gardes, b/c America will always be a market society that demands innovation as the only way to distinguish between the relative desirability of cultural products” –
Or: number two b/c of number one? Help me out, here . . .

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Buzz Words

I recently told a poet friend that there are certain tip-offs or buzz-words in poetry book blurbs that lead me to think that I probably will not like the books. But I couldn't say what those words/phrases were, at the time. Well, I went looking for some in a recent catalog, and here is some blurbese that set off my alarm bells:

- [if the blurb consists entirely of the author's publications and prizes]
- [blurbs that only address the subject-matter, not the form/style]
- 'the [abstract noun] of [abstract noun]': largeness of heart; compass points of the human landscape
- '[abstract noun or adjective] & (yet) [abstract noun or adjective]': meaning & beauty; tender & tough; timeless & particular; wit & wisdom; uncertainty & insight; mystery & acceptance; haunting & buoyant; fresh language & vivid images
- anything about bearing witness
- life-affirming or soul-infused
- any version of the verb 'to celebrate'
- authentic(ity); honest(y); visceral
- ordinary miracles
- insightful, meditative, philosophical, haunting, riveting, exhilarating, heartbreaking.

These are all real examples; and it may be that the authors of these books were wincing at the blurbs long before I was. All of which may simply be saying that I am the ungrateful whelp of the middlebrow-humanist culture that nurtured whatever interest I possess in poetry or learning today. As my Aunt Frances used to say, "If you can't think of anything good to say about something, just say, 'I don't know enough about it to appreciate it.'" But then, I don't go to Mass anymore, either, precisely b/c I know more about Catholicism than I care to recall.

Next time: Buzz-words of the Avant-Garde

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

SloPo Is Born

Check out "Possum Ego" (Dale Smith's blog - see link below right). He's been on a fine tear recently about "Slow Poetry." He even calls it "SloPo" and calls it a movement. I hope so. Anyway, check it out.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Poem Including History as What?

I just re-read and re-re-read C.S. Giscombe’s Giscome Road, trying, once again, to come to terms with what it’s doing. As someone writing a biographical/historical “poem” (or whatever you want to call it), I thought it would be good to re-acquaint myself with this one. It is “about the constellation of places in northern British Columbia that were named, directly or indirectly, for John Robert Giscome” (n.p.), an Afro-Caribbean prospector who came to that country in 1858. But in what sense is it “about” Giscome or about the places that bear his name? Or maybe the question should be what does it mean to be “about” history – not to mention to “include” (subsume?) it.

In most of this book-length poem, history as narrative only appears within brief interludes of (gorgeous) lyrical meditation. There are certainly Olsonian moments:

“’To further his ends,’ Fr. Morice sd, of Dunlevy, ‘he established a post at Giscome Portage, a section of land named after a man he had for some time in his employ as cook.’

“But Rev. Runnalls gets to the point: ‘To further his trade w/the natives he established a number of outposts, one of wch was at Giscome Portage, a place wch was named for a negro cook in Dunlevy’s employ.’” (33)

However, the next page/section, “(Northern Road)” departs from that mold, and dives back into the stream:

“The arrival at the edge of water

some little end of the water come to & breached

(in a stretch forward or as though in a gesture
from, typically, one of so many edges),

a hiatus in the travel by water, the build

of negatives and switchbacks along the same old bank

the edge of a story” (34)

This passage seems to me more typical of the book as a whole: it is really an extended reflection on the process/nature of hi/story than a history. If it is “about” anything, it’s about fluid doublings-back, traces [in a decidedly Derridean sense], centers and peripheries (“You never know what name the periphery’s going to start with,” the poem ends). Moreover, the geographically and historically specific landscape invariably ends up becoming a metaphorical landscape; nouns like source, mouth, head, interior sit uneasily (and unreferentially) next to pieces (one a “centerfold”) of detailed topo maps. All space ends up being centerless, if you’re always on a periphery.

One suspects that, on a practical level, this may be a response to the apparent lack of information about Giscombe’s Giscome forebear (“the name’s the last thing to disappear”). But more than that, or perhaps because of that, G. seems to have a profound mistrust of “description” – the presumption that one can picture or represent anything at all. He also mistrusts narrative, which is probably not hard to do if you are African-American:

“or a staged show –

the endless old story footlit, the same old story

endlessly leaping from river to river but just ahead of the words

& without narration to give itself quantity -,” (49)

Giscombe manages to pull off that most difficult of poetic feats, the long lyric poem. But it left me feeling nostalgic for the de Man affair. That is, I don’t think G. would say that he has given up on history; in fact, he’d probably say that this is the only narrative that works – at least for his book. And that’s probably right – it’s definitely more complex than I know.

I have to wonder, though, if one can grapple with history via abstractions or even via trope. There’s something obdurate, even Special, about specificity; about physicality; maybe we need a special language for it – or need to give language “about” history an epistemological “pass.”

But, no – that just surrenders historical narrative to those who don’t wonder about such things. That’s the strength of Giscome Road – the wondering as it wanders. I certainly don’t think I’ve ever conceived of history as in any meaningful sense “knowable” (there are too many people doing too many things at the same time – each of which is meaningful in multiple ways). But I still feel a need to jump into the current and name the bubbles as I sink in it. Or some such trope.

Does skepticism about representation mean giving up on history (even as we gesture towards it – whatever it is)? And if so, is that a surrender? Or are these questions hopelessly late 80s?

Monday, June 30, 2008

Poetical Correctness

"[Kenneth] Koch was on the attack; he cut down any sign of high seriousness or emotional vulnerability, in the person or the poem. . . . we were taught a certain skepticism towards sentimental poetic retreads. That was healthy. But I watched uneasily as he divided us into male poets and female sex objects who wrote poetry."

- Kathleen Fraser, "The Tradition of Marginality"

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"The Avant-Garde Tradition"

This is one of my favorite phrases. Who coined it? Ron Silliman? Marjorie Perloff? Anyway, I trust s/he had tongue at least partially in cheek. But I think both would agree that some versions of the "Old" avant-garde are still alive, if not well. Which I guess is not avant or arriere, but more like being a subculture, like the Rainbow Nation or Society for Creative Anachronism. Which is fine with me, as long as you don't really think it's 1967 or 1215.

Three addenda to the list in the previous post:
- self-image as intellectually/ethically superior (if not salvific) remnant community (read: classing off)
- heroically nihilistic irony; deadly serious levity
- you gotta have the right clothes.

Of course, this is the worst of the self-conscious worst. There are some young'uns doing unconventional work with a self-deprecating humor about it. Or who don't worry about being original or unique when they write or paint (I can't help but like Brenda Coultas). But, paradoxically, it does seem as though being avant is "in" - that is, it is indeed becoming institutionalized, which is what always happens. It's not a matter simply of the "poets of quietude" defecting (or passing), but of younger poets choosing to specialize as Experimentalist.

Then there is the inevitable populist backlash; if you don't believe me, come to Kansas. [for an account of the previous cycle, in the early part of the last century, see Poetry and the Public]

BTW, it's "soi-disant," Joe, NOT "soi-dit" (tho personally, I like that version better).

And, yes, the implication is indeed that I am a capitalist running-dog. Anyone who owns their own home (read: mortgage), and is not about to be foreclosed upon, is now officially a capitalist running-dog - at least until the economy starts looking up.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"The Avant-Garde Is Neither"

Is it just my imagination, or is the soi-dit avant-garde of today replicating all the cliches?

- artist as heroic, suffering outsider
- military metaphors
- epater les bourgeois (Fr., "freak the squares")
- fetishization of the new
- imagining they're doing something new
- liberal artistic use of bodily fluids
- apolitical politics (a.k.a., "speaking out")
- political metaphors
- anti-academism (Lat., "too cool for school" - advanced degrees notwithstanding)
- creeping academization & institutionalization (in it, but not of it, of course)
- radical formal claims
- drawing within the old generic lines anyway

Or, said another way, how elderly am I, really? I'm not avant or arriere, I just run alongside, nipping everyone's heels. And chasing my tail. And occasionally licking my balls. Being invisible has its advantages.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Speaking of Texas . . .

. . . isn't it about time the Canadians launched a giant banana into orbit above it?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Non blogito ergo nil?

That's pig Latin for "if you don't update your blog for over a week, to you begin to become insubstantial?" That is, if "blogito ergo sum," as I have elsewhere proposed in these pages, then, if you begin a blog but don't maintain it, do you lose whatever ontological credit you have accrued? No - that's far too Catholic. Really, it's more that the simulacrum "Joseph Harrington" is losing its hyperreality. Or some such. In any event, I can't help but notice that I can see right through myself. And probably so can you.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lest We Regret . . .

Memorial Day got me to thinking. I recently spent the night across the street from the 4000th American service member killed in the Iraq War (remember him?)*. He was a kid from Mission, Texas, in the lower Rio Grande Valley, one of the poorest areas of the US. He is buried in the large and finely-manicured Lower Rio Grande Valley Veteran’s Cemetery. This is a new cemetery, until recently one of the last remaining tracks of thorn-scrub and live-oak forest along the Rio Grande. But now the sprinklers spit constantly over the graves of the fallen (or soon-to-be fallen).

It seems to me that The Grave of the 4000th Fatality should replace The Tomb of the Unknown. This newer burial captures it all. The US won’t - or can’t - provide jobs or housing for poor people, so it sends them off to be killed in foreign wars (cynics would add “for oil”). The US won’t preserve endangered ecosystems, but it will plow them under so that the poor dead people will have a place to be buried - a place which will then be turfed and watered until the Rio Grande runs out (the river that became the US-Mexico border after a big war back in 1848 - the place where a big wall is being built this month to keep out all the brown people on the other side).

Add a “0” to the number of fatalities and you’ll get something close to the number of horribly maimed service members (remember them?). Add a “0” to that, and you’ll be closer to the number of dead Iraqi people.

I heard a story about a gravedigger at a military cemetery. He found relief from PTSD by digging graves for his fallen comrades. If you were to speak to the family of the latest entered service member, what would you say? He responded: I’d tell them, Don’t worry, I’ll take care of him now.

* More accurately, one of fatalities numbers 3,997 - 4,000 - 4 soldiers were exploded at the same time.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Back from Jungles of South Texas

South Texas is still there, but drier than ever. And they're about to build a wall through it. Not only will this make "America" look a lot like Berlin, but it will also greatly add to the incomes of coyotes and drogeros (and cut off some of the best wildlife habitat in the USA - without giving it back to Mexico).

All of which left me wishing for a bunny photo from the west coast of Canada, which is what this is.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

And Now, For a Brief Interlude

What with grading and all, I'm going to take the next week off from this blog. I mean, it's just too stressful. So between May 6 and 17, I will cease to exist. Over and out for now.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Aesthetics of Abjection

When Ms. Hathaway spies “Perfesser” Bodine hitting his head with a board, he says, with genuine dismay, “We artists have to suffer for our art, and I haven’t done my sufferin today!” He would not look at the milk scum but, during the performance, ate (or drank) it and thereby produced involuntary dis-gust on the part of the onlookers: not de gustibus but ex gustibus; not economics but economimesis. Having never brushed his teeth, he complained that Society scorned “its” poets, allowing their teeth to fall out. You don’t know what it’s like to be down and out in Paris and London and New York and San Francisco if you haven’t, like St. Francis or the Buddha, voluntarily set aside suburban parents in Omaha or nouveau riche in Beverly Hills to eat ramens among roaches, when young (the “you,” not the roaches). Yo, so how can you call yourself a 'sthete? For this reason, even while dribbling subjectivity across the page, Jethro nailed his palms, yelling, “Ecce Corpus! Et tu corpus? Eat your coprus. Hey! Over here! I fall upon the nails of life, I BLEED, already!” Thereupon he ripped up his diploma into equal and equivalent democratic bits to paste together a collage that was “down” with “The People,” to “stick it” to “The Man,” whom, one suspects, was Fr. Drysdale, sub specie aeternitatis. Or he became a fry-cook or a street-car conductor. But anyway, people, the least you can do is to LOOK, even if you don’t buy nothin. 

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Poem a Day? . . . Why Bother?

Here are some comments from a poet friend who gave me permission to "publish this as [I] desire." Since I have nothing to say, why not! Here 'tis:

"...writing a poem a day in april seems somehow, to me, using time and space for words best left unsaid. maybe too, that is why my 'collected' poems would be somewhat slim. So fewer good and fewer bad poems for the world to ignore.

"Lang po discussions, unless you are academically attached i.e. a phd or something...are to me a dead end and same for flarf which will be the lang po of the 2020's in academia. there is no other 'school' today to kick there...vispo or graffitipo or school of quietudepo or poetrymagpo are equally invisible."

[full disclosure: I have in fact been writing a poem each day this month (some of which have appeared in these e-pages), and I too think it's pretty silly. But a fun game. So let a thousand flowers gustibus! Oh - and I realized that, for the rest of my life, I never will know what it's like not to have a Ph.D., which is kinda scary.]

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Still Alive

I haven't written anything on this blog lately, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm dead. I am recovering from stomach flu, however, which is the next best thing. I was at least going to show you another one of my canadian rabbits before I crawl back into bed, but Bloogle won't allow it today, for some reason. So how about a found poem instead?

“We sight cast to tailing reds
a 25-inch west-side

caught on a popper. Waters
support double digit days,

vast unpressured flats,
thick seagrass meadows.”

Monday, April 14, 2008

Today felt like the first day of spring of the rest of your life.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Essay on the Allegorical Uses of Syntax

for bpNichol (and others)

The capitalization of Gneiss
Exiled from the capital
Capitol the capital of Speedy

Plot more than scheme
Story more than plot
History more read than blue

Poetry being at a dead
End time being til no
One listens to poetry save

Golden crowned sparrow
Spavined fools gold
Arrow downed having

Running while spitting
Pissing altogether winds
Digging remember hind

Objects known by shadow
Play deep reality plow
Down use values fucked

Up rock chuck hawk chalks
Up subject verbs object
To capitalize on plot schemes

Poems than none other is
looks at it when reading
Don’t say jay nay pa stop

An H say

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Of Rabbit Ideologues

Fig. 3: Robbe-Grillet returns to the scene of his Breton childhood en forme de pooka.
He rises on haunches and speaks the following:

"Ideology, always masked, changes its face with ease. It's a hydra-headed mirror: whenever one head is cut off it soon springs up again, presenting the adversary with his true face in the mirror, which he believed he had defeated. Have a nice day."

Friday, April 4, 2008

Personal Poem

Every day I become more like me.
I’m about to be killed, right?

damaged persons never forgive(n) - ?
More on this theme later.

Your money will run out before
your life, making suicide

unnecessary. In the mean time,
don’t touch me I’m radioactive

with a half-ass life
60 million years.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Poetry as an Instrument of Social Change

"Socialist Kate Richards O’Hare, speaking in North Dakota in July of 1917, said, it was reported, that ‘the women of the United States were nothing more nor less than brood sows, to raise children to get into the army and be made into fertilizer.’ She was arrested [under the Espionage Act – still in force, BTW], tried, found guilty, and sentenced to five years in the Missouri state penitentiary. In prison she continued to fight. When she and fellow [sic] prisoners protested the lack of air, because the window above the cell block was kept shut, she was pulled out in the corridor by guards for punishment. In her hand she was carrying a book of poems, and as she was dragged out she flung the book up at the window and broke it, the fresh air streaming in, her fellow prisoners cheering.” [H. Zinn, A People’s History of the United States]

Monday, March 31, 2008

Prima della rivoluzione

“The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage laborers.

Toujours, Lapins . . .

. . . Note symbiotic relationship with other mammalian species.

(I was kidding about the homeless people - they're welcome to visit the campus, if they can afford the bus fare to the suburbs.)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I will think only beautiful thoughts.
I will think only beautiful thoughts.

I will post pictures of rabbits.
I will post only lovely things.

The key is in the sunlight by the window.
The key is in the sunlight by the window.

I will avoid human conflict at all costs.
I will avoid human contact at all costs.

I will destroy my karma.
That’s the very worst kind.

I will not escape my karma.
No, you will not.

My beautiful thoughts escape me.
No thoughts are beautiful.

I will drive myself away.
Through the bars in the window.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Bunnies in Heaven

I think now is the time to start adding photos. Especially these photos, taken at the University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, in September of 2006. At the University of Victoria, the lawns are perfectly manicured and green, everyone is well-fed, and there are feral bunnies everywhere. Men and women in silver lamé togas and plexiglass sandals stroll the knolls saying things like, "What, then, Phaedras, shall we not grant the Outer Planets the secret of the happy gas?" Friendly Public Health employees at the gates stop homeless persons from gaining ingress, and the music of the spheres is on the PA system. I feel a sudden need for utopia.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

forced march

And now, an entirely pastoral interlude, entitled, "Spring Comes to Kansastan."

daffodils! -- /
an easter egg under-
no fool a dirty golfball

* * *
jonquils! -- /
here they call them daffodils /
back home
this happened weeks ago

* * *
all poetry books --> quietude
save those
used to break things /

took care of that

* * *

Doctoral Student
Dedicated Family Advocate

July 20, 1918-Nov. 9, 1979
"A Man with Great Integrity
and a Friend to All"


Thursday, March 20, 2008

More from the Er Ye Fer It Er Agin It Dept.

Click on the link below to go to Kansas Poet Laureate Denise Low's forum at the Academy of American Poets web page. Denise is unique, in that she is really trying to represent the rather broad range of poets and poetries in the state (and nation), rather than to promote a particular school/clique/form/style. It's well worth a look-see.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Next Blog

It's getting harder to find good ones. They're either "our 18-month old Tyler [or McKenzie or Brooke] eating grass in our yard" or something in Portuguese with cheesy c.g. flowers. But there are things that are still important:

"Didn't think we'd be talking about thunderstorms already on the prairies did you? Well, the potential exists for a few convective cells to form in Southern and Central Alberta during the afternoon hours on Thursday."

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ice Age Spring Break

When than spring April
draft of age hath
parsed to the root
value of all glaciers,
retreat man far south,
caves of Iraqi Qum
beach of South Padre
longen folk goon wild,
pills grim ages wrack
shiny faces every races
have got a friend in
Coke ’s the real / god
can’t see the folks
beneath the new faces:
breakers make white foam
(“semen of the gods”),
be excellent to each
another party on dudes.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Blog Hole

Instead of reading and writing blogs, I could be reading and writing _______. But really, I wonder how much imagination and thought are funneled into this form that formerly was expended on things like essays, poems, books, &c. There are writers who do some of their best writing for their blogs. And there are others who read everything (or appear to do so), including blogs. And what does happen when nobody can afford the utility bills any more? The missing link is the link after the last.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Actually, in the sonnet below, I meant to write "Thier not watching me." I know perfectly well that They're watching me. I just didn't think it was because of this. I apologize for any inconvenience caused by this error.

Indeed, the ham-fistedness of this little incident seems designed to remind one that his mail is being read by someone else. But it may well be an esp. zealous postal worker at the KC PO.

Abe Lincoln #2 is swell, btw. More varied than the first, if anything. But that'll teach 'em to name it after that negro-lovin, corporation-insultin doofus of a sixteenth president.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I'M NOT PARANOID! (I just don't like having my mail opened)

I just got the new issue of Abraham Lincoln from K. Silem Mohammad (thanks, Kasey!). Only weird thing was, the envelope had been opened. And stapled back together - through the pages of the magazine. On the outside of the envelope was the stamp "RECEIVED/2600//MAR 10 2008// INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE/KANSAS CITY, MO." So my mail was opened and delayed. I opened it, and there was another staple just through the mag. Oh (I thought) maybe there's a nice little note inside, like when they search your luggage. No note. The return address, on an address label with the Southern Oregon University logo, reads: "Mohammad/Lang. Lit. & Phil."

Now, I know I have a reputation for being paranoid about American paranoia, and I know I say things like No one ever went broke overestimating the racism and xenophobia of the American peckerwoods, and I recognize the threat posed to the fatherland by the individuals known as "Lang," "Lit," and "Phil." So I promise I'm not going to read too much into this. I promise. I really do. Honest. No, for real.

But it did inspire me to pen the following petrarchan sonnet (ahem):

They’re not watching me
They’re not watching me
They’re not watching me
They’re not watching me
They’re not watching me
They’re not watching me
They’re not watching me
They’re not watching me
Nothing in that file
Nothing in that file
Nothing in that file
Nothing in that file
Nothing in that file
Nothing in that file

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


. . . or start times - or performance reviews - or assignments - or money - or terminal degrees (cancer or education) - or titles - or salaries - or expectations (except respect, of course) - no exceptions - no publishorperish - no grades - no rejection letters - no peer review - no dates of publications - no publications - no meetings - or jobs - or job interviews - or tax withholding - or tax - or Republicans (except small "r") - no meat

no airport security - no stoplights - no roll bars - no helmets - no gas - no cars - no commute - no fellowship deadlines, esp. - or fellowships, I guess - or jobs - or salaries - or incompletes - or so-called good academic standing - or so-called graduate assistantships - or so-called careers or so-called life or so-called anything -

no apples from california - no zirconium from australia - no boundaries - no nothing - no income disparities - no income - no to no - go to countdown - go to no.

congratulations you're free *

* warning: taking the preceding too literarlly or often can lead to the following uncommon side-effects: homelessness, obscurity, disease, unemployment, bad grades, bad breath, incarceration, late busses, no busses, stupid professors (stupid professors! Trix are for kidz!), disasters, permanent injury, immanent penury, giving what you have to the poor and following hippie-looking prophets, vitamin deficiency, incompletely-assembled nuclear warheads, aporias, race war, continued penury, madness, non-entity, lack of blogs.