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.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Joe Brainard's Parentheses. (The Best Part.)

(with little yellow flowers)
(the movie)
(As opposed to a refrigerator.)
(Without an airplane.)
(Second floor.)
(I was afraid to look at him)
(Especially good.)
(Mostly talk.)
(A girl.)
(where all the stores are)
(Tulsa's largest department store)
(I forget exactly what)
(so noisy)
(I had very long hair which was more unusual then that it is now.)
(I was going to ask to see him anyway.)
(It was the truth.)
(And I still do!)
(A flower that closes at four.)
(back view)
(Pale peach.)
(Made in Italy.)
(I still do that.)
(They were not married.)
(It had been in the cabinet.)
(That she was half Negro.)
(wet dreams)
(100 Strings?)
(when in bed but not asleep yet)
(From a movie with Sandra Dee.)
(but old enough)
(I like small feet.)
(I like underwear.)

To Be Continued. (Maybe.)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Blog as Georgic?

As for content, Jen's blog might be a kind of 21st c. georgic. That would complicate the time thing (or does already), b/c it introduces the cyclical, which is spittin distance from the mythic. Personally, I think you can have that alongside the historical (and do). When the climate starts radically altering the seasons due to human activity? That is where the two come together and crash.

And the georgic is another of those complicated genres: is it a real farming manual that's written in poetic form? Or a poem posing as a (faux) farming manual? From the little I know, I'd say Virgil's was the former. As is Jen's, not infrequently.

But the connection between literature (literacy) and agriculture is much older. In fact, arguably writing (viz., cuneiform) was invented to keep track of agricultural commodities. Here is a bit from John Heise's Akkadian Language:

"Already from the 9th millennium onwards clay tokens (Lat. calculi) where used to depict objects and abstract numbers and was widely spread: from present day Sudan to Iran. The clay tokens in various forms and shapes were used as counters. Each type of counter represent e.g. a bull's head, a sheep, a basket, a bar of gold etc. They were, in many cases at least, pictographicallly used: that is, they depicted concrete objects. They have meaning in any language. . . .

"A diacritical mark on a three dimensional token was often not clearly copied on the outside of a clay bulla and had to be inscribed by hand. In the two dimensional writing a symbol like could stand for 'sheep', not a pictogram anymore. Further diacritical marks, like removing a segment could indicate 'ewe' (female sheep) where as removing two segments could be an indication of a sheep in gestation."

And this from Ira Spar, on the Metropolitan Museum of Art web site:

"One of the earliest written texts from Uruk provides a list of 120 officials including the leader of the city, leader of the law, leader of the plow, and leader of the lambs, as well as specialist terms for priests, metalworkers, potters, and others.

"Some of the earliest signs inscribed on the tablets picture rations that needed to be counted, such as grain, fish, and various types of animals. These pictographs could be read in any number of languages much as international road signs can easily be interpreted by drivers from many nations."

(All of which raises the obvious literary-historical question: did the Sumerians blog? . . .)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Everything that involves more than one person (even if the other is imaginary) is political. Watering your lawn is political. So is eating a cheese pizza (BGH or non-BGH cheese?). But then blogs don't necessarily accomplish the same political ends as, say, calling all of your friends on the the telephone to get them to call Corporation X about abuses by one of their contractors. Or going door-to-door to generate support for a city commission candidate. And poetry? Well, poetry makes a lot of things happen, but not the same things as phone banking or canvassing, in my experience.

Oh - I nearly forgot - HAPPY X-MAN! - I mean, X-Box -

no, seriously, Merry X-Ma$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Friday, December 25, 2009

Then there is the very fact of seriality, which opens a gap between the duration of the narrative and the time of the audience. ("Is Little Dorrit dead??") Does Twitter aim to close these two temporalities?

I do think Jen's art-blog is also a political blog, insofar as it comments on GMO crops or community-formation or women farmers. Or blogs and MFA-granting institutions, for that matter.

For more on these, and other alphabetic ruminations, see Tinfish Editor's Blog.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Blog und Zeit

If you are a FB friend of poet Mark Nowak, you are accustomed to seeing reports of mining disasters. Miners are killed every day, in every part of the world, many if not most, while mining coal (like that which is keeping me warm at this very moment).

Mark's book, Coal Mountain Elementary, contains numerous accounts of deadly coal mining accidents (preventable) in China. It also contains an extended account of the Sago Mine disaster, the worst in US history.

At one point, I commented on one of Mark's posts: "This is an extension of your book. It never ends." By which I meant that the book never ends because the subterranean carnage never ends.

Then he commented that the real extension (in time) of the book is his blog, Coal Mountain.

It was only later that this made me think about Jen H's blog, Up From the Ground - which is her MFA thesis, and in which she is theorizing the blog-as-MFA-thesis. She (and I) has been trying to work through how blog-art differs from blog-everything-else.

Obviously, any blog that announces itself as an MFA thesis, and then proceeds to theorize itself as such, has got to be art. So there's that.

But it occurs to me now that another aspect to explore is time. The web log, like other logs, is written with time in mind - and marks time's passage. So do journals and letters. In that sense, these are all reflexive forms that invite reflection on their reflexivity. And the temporality is not just backwards (in the format), it's forward (new posts).

Moreover, there is the question of the frame. Part of a frame is temporal. Once you publish your book, or sell your painting, it's out there. But what happens when you keep writing and publishing the book - daily? Then it becomes like that John Cage piece that's going to take 8,000 years or whatever. The very fact of the work's duration creates its own context by gesturing beyond itself.

So if Jen continues the blog after the MFA defense (successful), and after the thesis is enshrined in the Library (in whatever form that may be), then it has automatically transgressed the art-frame, the parergon (which has already prompted some temporal anxiety from the Library). And by self-consciously doing so, the blog as thesis-extender will behave like those works of conceptual art or pop art that work by playing off of or against the Institutions of Art, or by making an object anomalous by moving it to a new location that is not coded as "art-space." Perhaps any Blog Art (or "bloggart," in Jen's definition) that utilizes the form - as distinct from using the blog as a delivery system for art - is itself de facto conceptual art (at least at this point in time).

But by the same token, a blog's ability to exceed the covers, in addition to being an artistic act, gestures beyond the Institution - towards the Public. In a sense, a book is private - one has to physically have it; it is enclosed between covers. It costs money and a lot of time to make it. The blog opens out to a much wider audience, and invites that audience in. Immediately. Indeed, it might double-back against the Institutions of Art, or open towards activism against non-art institutions - which is what Mark Nowak's blog does, I think.

So maybe the trick is not to turn blogs into art, but rather to blur the line between the two. And I have to think that time, as well as space, is part of that process.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The New Agrarians

My dad, watching Ken Burns' Civil War series, listening to Shelby Foote hold forth: "Hmph. I wonder what Confederate general he thinks he is."

There was an article in the Dec. 11 Chronicle of Higher Education about the Abbeville Institute - named after John C. Calhoun's birthplace: "[T]he group does not endorse secession but does say the idea has moral and political validity. . . . Abbeville's scholars conend, for example, that the Civil War - or as they often refer to it, the War of Northern Aggression or the War to Prevent Southern Independence - was not about slavery (the system was on its way out anyway, they argue) and that the antebellum Southern states had every right to secede." O-Kaaaay . . .  Their web site states that one of their goals is "to explore the metaphysical image of things human and divine to which the Southern tradition bears witness." And the white folks are under attack at the secular humanist universities, don't you know. . . . Jeeeeeezus.

Apparently, this is a group of white, southern academics who embrace the vision of the Agrarians, those 1930s white southerners who yearned for an antebellum south as a kind of Jeffersonian republic (one which, in the hands of Allen Tate, blurred into an agrarian Middle Ages oozing with noblese oblige). It's pathetic enough to be nostalgic for a corn-pone version of a regime based on slavery (or serfdom). How pathetic is it to be nostalgic for a movement that was based on nostalgia? Zip-a-dee-doo-dah. They remind me of a society of eccentric elderly gentlemen who are convinced the plays of Shakespeare were not written by Shakespeare.

One "founding member," Clyde N. Wilson, emeritus historian at the U. of South Carolina, says, "The academic tendency now, because of America's preoccupation with the race question the last half-century or so, is to put the whole Southern history into a dark little cordner of American history." By "preoccupation with the race question," one assumes that Prof. Wilson is referring to what the rest of us know as "The Civil Rights Movement." Of course, a lot of that "preoccupation" (or occupation - of lunch counters, libraries, etc.) happened in the south. And most of the occupying civil rights advocates were southerners. But clearly, for Prof. Wilson, there are no black southerners.

Let me tell you something. I grew up around these clowns (not these particular ones, but ones cut from the same cloth).  And it all boils down to this: they can't admit that the difference between soul food and "southern cooking" is the difference between hog jowls and hamhocks.

If you're surprised to hear a Chinese person speaking with a Mississippi delta accent, then you don't know diddly about the south. If you pretend that such people don't exist, then you're constructing a south ("jury-rigging" one, perhaps?) based on palpable bullshit.

The fact is that this our era of transnational capital is a far cry from the era of primitive agribusiness that characterized the antebellum south. And this bunch differs crucially from the Agrarians. The latter were "values conservatives" before the term was coined: they were anti-capitalist racists. This new generation of apologists is a product of the era of neoconservatism - that marriage of capitalist interests and Nixonian "cultural politics." Abbeville "attracts about $30,000 in donations annually"? And is having its "Seventh Annual Scholars Conference" at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University? And attracts people like Eugene D. Genovese? Why do I detect the whiff of (corporate-backed) neocon dollars at work?

The Abbeville bozos have as much right to embarrass themselves as I do (and god knows I take every advantage of that liberty!) - it's a free country (no thanks to the white south). But you want to get Americans to stop viewing the white southerner as a caraciture? Great! Then stop acting like one!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

eclogues are about
political resentment in
the shadow
of power;
they are taking
my little plot of green.

- Rachel Blau DuPlessis, from Draft 53

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

". . . After so much 'I' to turn, to erupt into 'We'
with its peculiar shadow 'They.'"

- Rachel Blau DuPlessis, from Draft 49

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Upshot

All of which* is to say that the act of submitting a blog as an MFA thesis is perhaps the most important aspect of the project. The fact of it; the publication of that fact; and the form in which the text (and its medium) interacts with the gate-keeping institution - i.e., how it is registered and diplomaed (certified as art).

Has anyone ever written a blog as an MFA thesis? Not that I know of. Could Jen's be the first??

*(see previous several posts)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Conceptual Blogging?

Went to the Spencer Museum of Art this afternoon. Saw the Warhol Heinz tomato sauce box. It was under plexiglass. In an art museum. And that has made all the difference.

There was also an exhibit of video art from Asia. In one work, a Korean man related the story of an old love affair that revolved around trains and train tracks. In an adjacent screen, a stage curtain opens onto a video of train tracks, on a screen within the screen you're watching. As we "move forward" along these tracks, the screen is framed by computer-generated track and scenery that prefectly matches the "actual video."

It occurred to me that one could just as easily install computer monitors that only showed one blog each - or showed blogs' being updated, using time-lapse photography. Might not be very entertaining, but it would make a point.

So, let us say that any blog can be understood as art, provided it is framed or contained by the institutions or social forms of art.

One of those "social frames" would be an MFA thesis. Why not put a blog in it? Plenty of works of conceptual art have been. Of course, if this is as far as it goes, then the thesis would itself be a kind of conceptual art/writing project. For such a project, it would be precisely the (deadpan) blog about your cats (or family or hobby) that would be called for, in order for it to follow the logic of other conceptual art projects.

Conversely, Warhol's Brillo boxes would not have the same effect if they'd been printed in flourescent colors with the lettering in off-kilter, blurry black ink. Then you'd know something was up, regardless of whether they were stacked in MoMA or in the stock room at the supermarket. If it were the latter, the structure (or inherent form) of the piece would produce its own mental frame: this is not what the thing that usually goes here looks like. As opposed to: the thing that looks like this does not usually go here (see preceding paragraph).

Either way, it seems like space/place - esp. public v. private is a crucial determinant. So the fact of your blog's being an MFA thesis would need to be made public in some way - perhaps by blogging on a streetcorner. And videotaping it, and then exhibiting or publishing that video somehow (as some performance art - whether in public or private space - might be videotaped and then shown as DVD or in a gallery).

Probably the best way to do it would be to make the blog reader/viewer constantly aware of the process of writing, approving, and submitting an MFA thesis that is a blog. Culminating in the diploma as a permanent feature in the side-bar. Like the "show invisibles" command in a word-processing program. Then content wouldn't be an issue, since the form would be the explicit conceptual (and visible) "frame."

Friday, December 4, 2009

Blogs qua Art; Media and Messages

OK - let's start with this. This is a work that makes use of the medium by commenting upon it - and upon the nature of representation. And there is text in a painting (!). In the original, wasn't the frame painted onto the canvass, too? 

Also, think of those paintings in the 70s that consisted of a single color applied to a huge canvass in such an even layer that one could hardly tell the paint apart from the flat surface (and that was, of course, the point - the rejection of mimesis and the foregrounding of the physical medium). Again, the "content" of the work commented upon the physical/social nature of the work of art.

As I've said before, the only analog that I've been able to think of in the blog world is Susan M. Schultz' Dementia Blog (Singing Horse). The backwards chronology backs us into the corner of the post-9/11 imperial overstretch and collective amnesia, but it begins with the personal and the quotidian. Likewise, it seems to me that transferring the contents of a blog to a printed book does much the same thing as the revolutionary visual art works I've been talking about - questioning the framing, both textual and social, of the work of art. And raising the question of whether or not web works are backwards-compatible with print works - which may be the most important question of our day, as far as literature is concerned.

So, I'm thinking that a blog as work of art either does one of two things: either it serves as a platform or medium for a work of art that might just as well exist in print form or in a museum, OR it does unexpected, original, imaginative, and subversive things with the structure of the medium itself. Those things might begin as simple parody, but it might spread - or link - from there.

But either way, it has to look radically, fundamentally, structurally different than your mom's blog about her cats.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"So for the blog, can we judge artfulness from an excerpt alone, or only within context?"

And is the context the content? Is the very fact of presenting a blog as an MFA thesis analogous to putting a urinal - or basketballs and fish-tanks - in an art museum? A kind of anti-art art-work?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ceci n'est pas une MFA thesis.

Now, that is a true statement.

But you wouldn't know it by looking at me. And would you know that this blog is not an MFA thesis, by looking at it? Or that it is?

If I said it was, I could be lying. If I didn't, it could be true anyway. Would there be any textual markers? "Damn, your art is sooooo fine! You' a master, baby!" Back in the day, you studied under the previous master, and he (he) decided when you were a master (or journeyman). Scholasticism. Rules. Frame: parergon - which, to Derrida, is a paregoric (cf. "Economimesis").

These questions are, perhaps, more to the point than asking, "What is art (or lit)?" That is, the institutional accreditation and sanctioning as such determines it, in any given time and place. If R. Mutt brings the urinal into the academy and presents it as his MFA thesis, who's to gainsay him? Indeed, has anyone ever failed an MFA?  I mean, flunked out - if they did the work? How do we say if something is art? Or fine? Or masterful?

If you reject such categories, you can do whatever you want, without the stick of conformity or the carrot of income. God bless you!

But if you accept them - to the point of earning or dispensing MFAs - you'd better be able to define them. Right? Did Jeff Koons have an MFA? Could an MFA thesis be a blog about tatting or a Lyme disease support group? How come? Why not?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ceci n'est pas une blog post.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Please choose the work of art from the following: Level Two (this one is harder than yesterday's)

The following are recent excerpts from various blogs. Can you spot the art/literature?

[A.] “Or maybe all blogs are art. Maybe we should send out a mass-mailing with MFA diplomas as PDF attachments, and see who clicks on the link. Or maybe we [the Experts] should have an MFA Patrol, like the Publishers Clearinghouse, only you’ve already published yourself. And guess what? We've decided your blog . . . is art!”


“I'm running out of listservs to join.
Hey, where are the chinks and niggers?
They're inside already? You don't say!
You mean we're outside? That's all right.
I've always liked to eat and fuck al fresco.”

[C.] “I'm pretty sure I was always the same person, the compass needle just needed proper adjusting. Looking at this photo of the buggy outside the record store now perfectly sums me up. The only difference being my Fell pony cart will certainly have that Ramones sticker on the back, and I'll trot him back to the farm, ipod blaring. Hey ho, let's go.”



“Billy Tea & Nerada
Coles Supermarket bread mix in a box
licorice from Darrell Lea Shop
lolly aisle
violet crumble bar
veet (hair wax)


“Rye Rye Rye Rye Rye Rye Rye Rye Rye Rye
Rye Rye Rye Rye Rye Rye Rye Rye Rye Rye Rye”

[G.] “I offered his virus to the mechanized virus reader. It had many functions, among these the one that translated ‘virus’ into ‘sick room architectures.’ Thus the design specs for his recovery: a 15 x15 outdoor room with a perimeter of medium height pines, inside of these pines a hospital bed and an eight foot flat screen tv.”

[H.] “Som god Ytrebykven er eg glad i finsk folkemusikk, og fann stor fagnad i ein farsott som har herja dutuba i ujamne bølgjer dei siste åra. Det byrja, så vidt eg har kunna bringa på det reine, her, med vokalgruppa Loituma si a capella versjon av den ubegripeleg catchy "Ievan polkka" ("Evas polka"):” [the post, not the song – which is by a f*in’ great band, IMO]

[I.] “Know your meat source. Grassfed beef biggie Tallgrass Beef of Sedan, Kansas, is the latest client of IdentiGEN North America Inc., subsidiary of the Irish IdentiGEN Ltd. The company’s DNA TraceBack technology allows meat to be traced to the farm where it was raised (unlike, say, the tainted hamburger recounted recently in the NY Times). IdentiGEN Inc. is based here in Lawrence, Kansas. (IdentiGEN press release; Lawrence Journal-World).”

[J.] “’A strong desire seized me of visiting remote regions. My first impulse was to go and see Paris. It was a trivial objection to my aspiring mind that I did not understand a word of the language, since I certainly intend some time in my life to see Paris, and equally certainly never intend to learn the language; therefore that could be no objection.’”

[K.] “I really miss writing the blog regularly but a couple of deadlines have kept me totally busy. One of them is the preparation of the performance with Pierre Joris & Miles Joris-Peyrafitte that will happen this coming Thursday in Angoulême (France). No Thanksgiving for us! We are off tomorrow and below is the info about the show in case you are around this area. This is my first trip to the Poitou-Charente region and I am looking forward to discover their food specialties and have some of the delicious Pineau des Charentes — a mix of wine and cognac. It will be my pleasure to report if I have any time to do so. But right after, I am off to the Pyrenees for more work on Augustus Saint Gaudens. I am leaving you with a few posts from last year, and please do dig into the archives and the categories.”

[L.] “One of the aspects I appreciate about our market is the festive, celebratory air. It’s an event. People bring friends or company from out of town. They use it as a social venue and run into their neighbors. They get to know the farmers, bakers, soap-makers and even the musicians busking on Saturday mornings.”

[M.] “The door is located on the right side of the store and I guess you just habitually wander in the same direction that you arrive. Very quickly my sister spotted Hallmark ornaments on sale 50% off. I didn't think there were any she didn't have, but obviously there are a few. As she pawed her way through the basket, I meandered around, glancing here and there, seeing some lovely bric-a-brac that I knew I didn't have room for. I was making my way around the room and was now facing the wall on our left.”

[N.] “The water people have a little window and a dog. The cigarette people have a stool and an empty shop. The fishing people have buckets and folding stools and rim the canal. The fishing people are rarely women but there is a shop for lures and casters in a hidden neighborhood and this is run by a woman who knows everything. The fishing people go to her finally when their buckets are empty and she is smoking double-happinesses when she tells them which wriggle startles a bottom-feeder and which arouses its interest. The massage people have an entrance that is always occupied in neon. I don’t know what they do. I have suspicions.”

[O.] “These dreams have no portent: I don’t seek their omens or believe such things presage future events. Some other transport—some intimate communion—takes place. Even now the memory of myself in bed, the hall light flooding one side of my room, arrives in dreamlike waves that can only be partially grasped. And yet, those years of going to bed composed an eternity, too.”

Monday, November 23, 2009


This reading was a lot of fun - even if it did kind of start out like a George Jones concert, with the headliner missing in action. Rob Baumann did more than warm up the crowd, he pretty much melted them and sublimated them into a gas. Which it was. He read his brand-new chapbook Robert J. Baumann's A Man About Town, bound with a lovely wood-grain finish. The chapbook contains letter-like texts that are informed by the discursive conventionalities of text messaging and bad sitcoms. They are nasty. And very funny. And he signs every one of the "letters," so it's worth more than $5, but don't tell him that.

Hard act to follow - M. Timmons began by reading from his chapbook Lip Service, which was OK, but pretty rational and socially acceptable after the Baumann episode. But the bit he read (and showed) from his 800-page book Credit was very intriguing indeed. Seems like it's constructed of replicating memes from credit-card solicitations and other usurious come-on's. I don't know that I want to buy the book, since even the author can't afford a full-color copy of it. But I'd definitely buy between 37 and 100 pages of it. Or try to get my local library to buy it.

He (Timmons) closed by doing a blue-streak reading of an excerpt from his forthcoming poetics statement/manifest - which he turned into conceptual poetry by timing the excerpt, and turning what sounded like a fairly reasoned and comprehensive argument into a blur of verbiage. Like a Mexican d.j. reading Eric Auerbach. Which was just the thing to do.

Now what? Well, Mary Oliver is coming in March. I don't hate Mary Oliver the way that some people do (in fact, "Mary Oliver" has become a sort of floating-signifier target, the way that "Robert Pinsky" or "T.S. Eliot" did). But I've read and heard about as much of her as I want to, in one lifetime. She is very good at what she does - whence I have moved on.

So, it may be that the next reading of weird texts will be part of the next Big Tent series in January. But if you know of events in the Heart-o'-darkness-land involving post-avant/experimental/strange writing, please do let me know.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


. . . are reading in Lawrence today (see above). Then there will nothing left to see above. Or hear in Lawrence. Alas.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What Blog Is Art?

Many blogs (including this one) present themselves as commentaries upon. Upon books, farming, culture, what the kids are doing, etc. They use words to convey information or ideas.

But where are the blogs that are art? Or, said another way, are there blogs that are composed of art-writing (whether or not the author intends it)? And what is your criterion? How do you know?

I ask this question b/c I'm trying to advise an MFA thesis that is a blog. Can you tell which blog it is? Can you pick out the work of art from amongst the "blog[s] about x"?

Or maybe all blogs are art. Maybe we should send out a mass-mailing with MFA diplomas as PDF attachments, and see who clicks on the link. Or maybe we [the Experts] should have an MFA Patrol, like the Publishers Clearinghouse, only you don't get published. Surprise! We've decided your blog . . . is art!

Or one could do blog-sculpting - a mash-up of various elements of mere content-based blogs - a blog in which the blog form would itself be the content.

What if a web log were really a log? I mean a real, damn log!!! What do you think of that, Bucko?! I got yer art form - RIGHT HERE! Organic enough for you? Well, there's a lot more where this came from . . .

Seventeenth-Century Blogging, Part the Last

"I have not, as I said, that happy leisure . . . I have no such skill . . . I have no such authority . . . I must for that cause do my business myself, and was therefore enforced, as a bear doth her whelps, to bring forth this confused lump; I had not time to lick it into form as she doth her young ones, but even so to publish it as it was first written, quicquid in buccam venit [whatever came out], in an extemporanean style, as I do commonly all other exercises."

- Burtonis Blogistes

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Burton as Blogger III

". . . I have assayed, put myself upon the stage; I must abide the censure, I may not escape it. It is most true, stilus virum arguit, our style bewrays [sic] us, and as hunters find their game by the trace, so is a man’s genius descried by his works; multo melius ex sermone quam lineamentis de moribus hominum judicamus [we judge a man’s character much better from his discourse than from his features], ‘twas old Cato’s rule. I have laid myself open (I know it) in this treatise, turned mine inside outward. I shall be censured, I doubt not; for to say truth with Erasmus, nihil morosius hominum judiciis, there’s naught so peevish as men’s judgments; yet this is some comfort, ut palata, sic judicia, our censures are as various as our palates."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Robert Burton as blogger, II (a propos Tan Lin)

"No news here; that which I have is stolen from others; Dicitque mihi mea pagina, fur es [my page tells me that I am a thief]."

- Burton, Anatomy of Blogancholy

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Robert Burton as blogger

And for those other faults of barbarism, Doric dialect, extemporanean style, tautologies, apish imitation, a rhapsody of rags gathered together from several dunghills, excrements of authors, toys and fopperies confusedly tumbled out, without art, invention, judgment, wit, learning, harsh, raw, rude, fantastical, absurd, insolent, indiscreet, ill composed, indigested, vain, scurrile, idle, dull, and dry, - I confess all (‘tis partly affected); thou canst not think worse of me than I do of myself. ‘Tis not worth the reading, I yield it; I desire thee not to lose time in perusing so vain a subject. I should be peradventure loath myself to read him or thee so writing; ‘tis not operae pretium [worth the trouble].

- Robert Burton, Anatomy of Blogology

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Case for Including Flarf and Conceptual Poetry in the Next Economic Stimulus Package

“Originality today has become the diminished function of lessening production costs (‘content scraping’) i.e. there is less and less incentive today to produce original works, especially in the arts, because everyone, particularly those outside the arts, are doing so. And this creates a considerable incentive, especially among artists, to plagiarize works by others, works that already exist and were produced by those formerly considered to be non-artists. Or to put it more simply, as the price of originality has gone way down (everyone an artist), the price of plagiarism has skyrocketed – even if, in the end, plagiarism has costs that are nominal, illusory, and often gratuitous when stacked against the no-less illusory concept of ‘originality.’ . . . Such activity [uncited circulation patterns, syndication across networks] should probably be regarded as value-adding rather than either theft (removal of value) or fraud (deception), the two crimes most closely associated with plagiarism.”

- Tan Lin (plagiarism/Notes/Heath, etc.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

_plagiarism/outsource, Notes Towards the Definition of Culture, Untitled Heath Ledger Project, a history of the search engine, disco OS_, by Tan Lin, et al.

I seem to be drawn to generically ambiguous, uncut, reflexive, abecederian works. I've been reading Anatomy of Melancholy, for chrissakes.

But it was hard for me to get started on Tan Lin’s book plagiarism/outsource, &c.(zasterle) – I re-read the first few pages a few times before I had my sea-legs – but the farther I got into it, the smarter it seemed. Call it conceptual poetry or performance art, verily, it enacts the problems with “intellectual property” and the culture it creates. For starters, it’s really authored by Lin and eight other people (seven workshop participants and a graphic designer). Secondly, it’s copylefted, not copyrighted. Thirdly, it takes the liberty of reproducing large chunks of (theoretically) open-source text (about Samuel Pepys), along with chunks of (theoretically) copyrighted text and images (about Heath Ledger, amongst others).

Hey, take it to the Supreme Court . . .

There is also a fair amount of source code/html mark-up – and google search results, etc.

“As Pepys and Heath and Helena and Mike and Jean, and Ina, and Soo-Young and Jennifer, and Tamiko noted, because ‘anything that can be entered into a computer can be reproduced indefinitely

“each morning at the Pickwick was narrowly descriptive and ‘as inert as possible,’ subject to erasure or re-distribution

“i.e. her feelings like his were hand-written or like everything else approximate or obstreperous and narrow like an itinerary post(ed) opposite the reception desk

"i.e. their (their) writing (writing) was like (like) an elevator opening

"as a result

"Heath: or Samuel: was not ‘ something inserted into the video: they were watching on You Tube ‘ ‘ (i.e. storage) but something taken away or outsourced (dissemination), i.e. the process was more like erasing each other (plagiarism) rather than viewing.”

This from section (?) 1, “unread novel.” The “Notes Towards the Definition of Culture” part of the title of the book, is a sho-nuff treatise:

“likewise, with a book she was carrying around all that week Heath died,

“you shouldn’t have to read it because everything in it has already been read by her,

“in this sense, the death is what intellectual property lawyers term ‘derivative;’ [sic] it encourages no detrimental reliance i.e. it would not render or caused you not to read something else since it is, technically, ‘something else’ subject to non-writers who are readers and any future non-readers who are writers working in a domain of what relaxed copyright advocates call @copyleft and so they decided because everything is plainly beautiful and

“indiscriminately ugly in unlimited distribution,

“the non-logocentric, non-literary project shares much with what George C. Williams, the evolutionary biologist, describes as the principal functioning of the gene: ‘that which segregates and recombines with appreciable frequency’ . . .”

And the blocks of project Gutenberg text (not least the “small print” copyright instructions and disclaimers). And the “Entertainment Story” is a damn good imitation of an entertainment RSS feed, if it isn’t really one.

they or the texts they are writing can be [mythical] like a [tourist] destination

they can be [programmatic] without being confined to a single practice,

< XTRA GREEN Green Tea Beverage Mix >

notice the lack of quotation marks

This is a heady blurring of authorial authority and ownership. So when I say:

genre = brands,

you don’t know if Tan said it or Michael or Ina or Sooyoung or Jennifer or Helena or Tamiko or Jean or Danielle or Heath or Samuel or Joe. Or all or none.

[“I,” for one, definitely believe it to be true]

"In this system, creating content is less useful than passing on existing content or re-creating a context for re-use. Plagiarism, despite its 'contested normative significance' is one parameter to define this recontextualizing mode. Ditto with outsourcing or image defamiliarization. Having sex changes the group dynamic."

– “Emily,” from Historia de mi Vida Triste

I’m glad I wrote that in my blog, b/c what better place for matter of uncertain authorship. Yo, originality is the last remaining waste product of creative practices and remains to be eliminated within aesthetic production and/or distribution systems.

What he said.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Maybe there's something to this "collective action" thing after all . . .

FROM: Charles Kernaghan, National Labor Committee

RE: Under Pressure, Wal-Mart Changes Policy on Swine Flu

It is not enough, but it is a first step.
Last Friday, November 6, on Good Morning America, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman said no Wal-Mart employee would be fired for having swine flu. Still under pressure, on Monday (November 9), a senior vice president told the Washington Post that workers needing to stay home due to the flu will not receive a demerit or be docked their wages. Workers can use the sick leave they have accrued to pay for their first day out.
It is no small thing that popular pressure can force the largest employer in the U.S. to change its punitive policies.
Wal-Mart employees quickly point out that these policy changes should also cover workers who most stay home to take care of children or other family members who are sick with the flu.
This should be just the first step in ending Wal-Mart's punitive demerit system and the docking of wages when their employees are out sick, no matter if it is for swine flu or seasonal flu, strep throat, a 24-hour virus, conjunctivitis or taking care of a sick child. This would be the right thing to do. It would protect both Wal-Mart employees and customers from the spread of their illnesses.
Wal-Mart must now immediately review all cases where employees were fired, directly or indirectly because they contracted swine flu. We do not believe that the attached account of Tricia, a worker who was recently fired from the Wal-Mart supercenter in Nampa, Idaho for having swine flu, is an isolated case.
Wal-Mart employers who have been fired for having the swine flu should contact the NLC. We will help. Please spread the word.
Tricia worked 3 ½ years at Wal-Mart, Before being fired for having Swine flu.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Down with the fomenters of discord and divisiveness! Ostracise them at once!

[honestly, tho, R.D. Laing is much better at writing these things than I am - and he had more first-hand experience with them. See Knots (1970)]

Monday, November 9, 2009

Your insight is really blindness. That is my insight - which you can't see, b/c you're blind.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Isn't it Just Like People to have such a dim view of human nature.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Now, isn't it just like them to be so prejudiced against us?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Remember: If it's bad, and it happens to you, then someone is to blame. And that someone ISN'T YOU.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

We love one another because we are not them.
They hate us, and it's OK
to hate the haters . . .

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

every love has to find its corresponding enemy

Friday, October 30, 2009

from _Joe's Marginalia_ : _A Selection of the Poems of Laura Riding_



- lyric cluster -

i.e., she's bigger than love


*     *     *

fuck-you poem  -  Millay

v. alienation

soul-retrieval -

a type -
a fantasy > what she tends towards herself

de-corporeal --> anorexic?

* * *


yikes       beautiful dead woman?

multiple but one

no possession possible

rather than vice-versa

having v. seeing 

* * *

past life?

cut off
from past -
hi modernist topos

- portrait
- degraded saint

- Cf. Loy's Bowery poems

Apology of Genius

Eve as apple?
knowledge of good
& evil - or Ultimate Knowledge?


Veiled goddess.

* * *

the anti-Beatrice?

the Ultimate as
dark & female -
that can't be named

love &/as death


woman as lack/gap?

not an aporia


* * *

aphrodite from the spume

so, antipodes -


for herself

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Kansas Blotter Interviews

Here's an intriguing new project by poet/sci-fi writer Ben Cartwright - The Kansas Blotter - an interview series of writers in Lawrence KS. Lawrence KS?? you might ask. And the answer is Yes. I still wish someone would do a literary history of this town - what a fascinating core-sample of US literary history that would be!

Anyhow, here's Ben's description of the site:

"The Kansas Blotter interviews are conducted by me, in Lawrence, KS, with a variety of writers and artists. The purpose of these interviews is to investigate creative practice in my community, and the world at large, and to foster a feeling of connection and understanding between working artists. I hope these interviews will be listened to by everyone. Barring that, I hope they will be listened to by people for whom they have some use. Please don't give these interviews new lives, in other contexts, without first contacting me for permission."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What I Saw at the Wetlands

1. Canada geese

2. Red-winged blackbirds

3. The sun (briefly)

4. Switchgrass and big bluestem taller than me

5. smeared old racoon

6. fat, splayed new racoon

7. Lincoln's sparrow

8. song sparrow

9. black-capped chickadee

10. American coot

11. A figure about twice as large as a large man, emerging from the water covered with a film of scummy green paint, who said, "I am DUCKWEED MAN! - I am the asshole who's taking over the world! I've got you by the balls - you're MINE and you are TOAST!" "But," I objected,"You are the smallest multicellular plant on the planet." Then I noticed he had no genitals.

12. Franklin's gulls (kettling)

13. crows (lots)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

From the Privileged - and Patronizing

". . . we should view the privilege of a higher education much as we did the privileges that we enjoyed as children. We knew we couldn't get ice cream if we didn't help wash the dishes - we worked for the privileges that we enjoyed, and we shared in the responsibility of earning them. Those special activities were available to us, but we did not enjoy them as a 'right.' We were expected to contribute.
     ". . . We need to break down expectations based on entitlement and focus on educational productivity and outcomes. Institutions should review redundancies, rethink staffing models, and streamline business practices. Productivity measures should be applied in all areas. . . .
     "For example, we should re-evaluate the notion that large classes are inherently pedagogically unsound.  . . . Although no one would advocate for large classes in every discipline or instance, we should review what we do in light of new financial contingencies . . ."

- Hamid Shirvani, president of Calif. State Stanislaus, writing in the Oct. 23 Chronicle of Higher Eduction.

May I have my ice cream now, please?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

That was a question (and a good one)

"Why is the perfect reestablishment practiced and prized, why is it composed."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Anthology or Notlogy?

As I prepare to order books for my poetry workshop next semester, I’m confronted by the perennial issue of whether or not to order an anthology. Marianne Moore argues in favor of anthologies thusly: “Academic feeling, or prejudice possibly, in favor of continuity and completeness is opposed to miscellany – to music programs, composite picture exhibitions, newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. Any zoo, aquarium, library, garden, or volume of letters, however, is an anthology and certain of these selected findings are highly satisfactory.” Just so. But likewise, “However expressive the content of an anthology, one notes that a yet more distinct unity is afforded in the unintentional portrait given, of the mind which brought the assembled integers together.” And, one might add, the historical moment in which that mind operated. The auteur and his/her times.

So, should I order an anthology? And if so, which? I’m seriously asking – that’s what the comments box is for.

To my mind, the contenders:
- American Poets of the 21st Century (Claudia Rankine and Lisa Sewell, eds.)
- American Hybrid (Cole Swenson and David St. John, eds.).
- Lyric Postmodernism (Reginald Shepherd, ed.)
- Postmodern American Poetry (Paul Hoover, ed.)

Each has its flaws, as has been pointed out in the BlogPoSphere. The first only covers 7 poets (but does so in gratifying detail – poems, poetic statement, essay by another poet/critic). American Hybrid – only 7 pages per poet – and lots of them – and lots of them are boring – and some less-good poems by the poets that aren’t. But it’s cheaper than the late R. Shepherd’s anthology – which had the misfortune to come out from an independent press the year before the A.H./W.W. Norton juggernaut appeared. And it does largely the same thing, in a little more detail – something between the previous two. It’s about 2/3 the size of A.H., but costs a couple of bucks more. Pomo Am. Poetry is great, but pretty dated at this point.

I also want to order books by individual authors. Here the problem is to avoid foisting my current reading habits (experimental multi-genre narratives, mostly; often large) on my students, who will be intermediate-level. But that’s another issue . . .

Monday, October 5, 2009

“Academic feeling, or prejudice possibly, in favor of continuity and completeness is opposed to miscellany” - Marianne Moore, 1927

Sunday, October 4, 2009

"It is . . . the utterance of clever people in despair, or hovering upon the brink of that precipice. . . . [T]heir lamentation [is] . . . 'In the midst of this desolation, give me at least one intelligence to converse with.'"

- Ezra Pound, on the poetry of Marianne Moore and Mina Loy, 1918

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Why I Like Marianne Moore

- I like lists, esp. lists of stuff and of species

- I am an inductive, rather than deductive, thinker

- Whoever says Moore’s stuff is not musical has a tin ear. I like the sound, shape, pacing, connotations of her words and lines more than the “message.” It’s complex music – which is so much better than the metronome.

- There is something about seeing nature as art and art as nature that appeals to me

- And the ethos of resilience

- Grammatically Correct sentences that leave one off-balance. Parataxis within and between them. Precursor of the “new sentence”??

- Bits of found material - citational - a research-based poetry

- Bits of found material sutured together into the same sentence. (Precursor of flarf??)

- She purposely evaded the either/or, "er ye fer it or agin it," coke/pepsi configuration of US poetic politics (despite Pound's best efforts)

- The rarely unbrilliant Ben Friedlander: "[M]ediation becomes at once more complex and more pervasive: more complex because, as Moore's work shows, one can be aware of mediations while negotiating them with ease; more pervasive, because their introduction into a poem can be coordinated with the sharing of meaning rather than treated as antagonistic to it. . . . Indeed, Moore's most precise and informative descriptions are often those places where the mediation of representational language is highlighted." What he said.

- Part of this phenomenon is due to the way she makes her syntax do Advanced Yoga.

- In fact, the topic of mimesis comes up in a lot of her poems - never unproblematically. We're always aware of looking at language describing looking at a representation. The poem is an object about objects.

- her "collage textures of poetry and discursive slides by which I definitely feel influenced." (Rachel Blau DuPlessis)

- I reserve the right to add to this list at any time.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Blog Lit? - easier to define "blog"

. . . than "literature," that is. Which is another backwash of the "what is art?" question. It's taken on more importance for me lately, since I volunteered to be the thesis "advisor" to an MFA thesis that is, in fact, a blog (viz., Jen Humphrey's Up From the Ground).

Now, I've found all of her posts interesting. They're about life on her farm, Kansas, weather, animals, and occasionally blogs (and lit). Since I know Jen, and b/c I live in Kansas, all of these things are de facto interesting to me.

"But is it ART?" the John Housman character intones from the back of the room. On one level, who cares. On another level, this blog is being produced within one of the Institutions of Literature (university English Dept. MFA program) in order to achieve that institution's official seal of approval (a sheepskin that has "art" written on it somewhere).

So, either one has to destroy (or leave) the institution, or one has to start thinking about what constitutes art.

Now, once somebody puts a urinal in an art museum, it's pretty pointless for anyone else to do that. A more interesting instance is the "Claude glass." Claude glasses are named for Claude Lorraine, the famous French landscape painter. The nobility would sally forth for picnics, and, when they saw a particularly beautiful scene, would tell their servants to hold up the Claude glass. This device consisted of a large picture frame, with poles attached. In other words, the scene would be framed, as it would in a Claude Lorraine painting. Voila! (Today we call this a "camera").

Derrida has a thing or two to say about the frame - the parergon - and what it does and does not contain (cf. his essay "Economimesis"), so I am leery of framing generally, esp. unselfconscious framing. But it seems to me that the process that Jen describes is a process of striving to fit into the frame - that is, the accepted (orthodox, canonical - pick your adj.) model of what a blog post should be - which, in this case, sounds a lot like pretty old-fashioned notions of what an essay should be.

She puts the problem thusly:

"I typically think of blog posts as having an arc, of telling a story, whether by word or image or both, but I also am drawn to blogs that are mere snippets of thoughts and information. I have resisted writing the latter here, for concern that it is not artful enough. If I go off on tangents or write unedited, on impulse, unimpeded by these rules I have made up for art in the thesis sense, what would I create? This means letting go of the idea that if it isn’t artful enough, then perhaps it doesn’t count as the art of an MFA thesis. I haven’t given myself the permission to do anything outside of what I think is acceptable for a thesis. Time to break that rule."

Indeed so. Blogs do a lot of different things. An environmentalist blog may have education - information sharing or consciousness-raising - as its goal, for instance. But what's the goal of blog-lit? Well, here's my comment to Jen's post:

"Tangents, impulse, unimpeded, letting go: right on. Personally, to me, those sorts of things lead to art more surely than all the rules in the rule book of writing."

So we have The Spectator on the one hand, and Keats' letters, on the other. But even Addison and Steele had fun with it - with Will Honeycomb and the cast of characters.

In more practical terms, here is a possible lit-mus (ha ha) test: Would someone who has no interest in farming (and who doesn't know Jen) read this blog? Would someone who is looking for "literature" turn to it? Or someone who could care less about either?

A couple of posts down from this one, you'll find me questioning Gertrude Stein's (and her critics) use of the term "exactitude" (and its synonyms). Well, Anonymous put it well in her (?) response:

"How commensurate is 'exactitude' with Stein's experimental bent? I'm not expert on the topic, but Stein fascinates me precisely for her hell-bent inexactitude and seeming devil-may-care pursuit of this quality. It is a very emboldening stance that frees up one's thinking, thawing one's inner snow woman and relaxing creative fears."

Does that mean we're not in Kansas any more? . . .

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mark Cunningham and Cyrus Console

I heard them read last night - great reading. Good crowd, too.

Anyway, I don't agree with Kenny Goldsmith that the fragment is dead, but there sure is a lot of hypotactic poetry going on. Mark Cunningham's prose pieces are really built around the sound and ideational patterns of the sentence. And the sentences are grammatically correct sentences:

Metallic Wood-boring Beetle
Leaf eaten into lace: lingerie calls forth the death drive. Not only could philosophy not prevent any of the 20th century holocausts, it couldn't stop the Archies' "Sugar, Sugar" from running through my head all last Tuesday. It must really be Spring: the cherry tree is blooming for the third time.

The abrupt veering from high to low subjects and registers, and the (short) "new sentence" feel of a piece like this really came forth as Mark read them with his (Alfred E.) Newmanesque insouciance. And the comedy; and the social commentary. Always a red-headed ash borer in the ointment. I guess this is pretty paratactic after all.

The pieces in Body Language started from the body part/function or letter/number of the title. However, it turns out the beetles and the leaves were titled after the pieces were written. You make the connection.

Cyrus Console read bits of his w.i.p. "The Odyssey," which makes some superficial structural nods towards the Odyssey, but pitches away from it quickly. It sounds a little like a hash-smoking Old Testament prophet trying to chant the story of the hero while reading Noam Chomsky (or Al Krebs). Or something like that. Lots of incantatory dependent clauses - you just gotta go with it. But still: hypotaxis + complete sentences (long ones).

However, last Friday's "Actual Kansas" reading by Stacy Szymaszek made the case for the fragment. Her long poem "Heart Island" sounded like a white-out poem - glimpses and overheard bits, rather than fragments in the Sappho sense. And an affecting picture of the destitute of NYC - and their final resting place on the eponymous isle - came through distinctly - the emotional geography of it. I've been teaching Mina Loy lately. "Heart Island" was kind of like "Hot Cross Bum" with the abstract nouns (and a lot of the other words) erased.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

MARK CUNNINGHAM & CYRUS CONSOLE read in Lawrence tomorrow!

Well, it’s the Fourth Thursday this week, which means it’s time for another BIG TENT reading, at the Raven Bookstore, 8 E. 7th St, Lawrence, on Thursday, Sept. 24, at 7:00 p.m.

The readers are:

Cyrus Console, KU creative-writing doctoral student and author of Brief Under Water (Burning Deck)

Mark Cunningham, nationally-known writer of short prose, author of Body Language (Tarpaulin Sky), 80 Beetles (Otoliths), 71 Leaves (BlazeVox), amongst other titles. His new chapbook, Nachträglichkeit (Beard of Bees), is available for download here:

The third “act” is Nancy Hubble, long-time Lawrence poet and artist, author of the chapbook Dharma Dog.

For more information on all the poets, see:

Hope very much you can make it!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gertrude Stein; Blogging; &c.

I post a lot in the summer, less in the fall, and hardly at all in the spring. I am a seasonal worker.

But this is a pure existential activity, this blogging, this posting. Have you ever sent a letter to an address you knew didn't exist - and with no return address? That is purity.

If I wrote about my personal life, it would be so fucking fascinating, your head would explode.

Not really. Don't worry. It doesn't matter.

Soon this planet will be like all the others.

* * *

Is Gertrude Stein for real when she talks about "exactitude"? As in "exactitude in the description of inner and outer reality"? That begs the question, no? Like Pound directly treating "the 'thing,' whether subjective or objective." Like, I'm going to be able to verify your subjective reality, Ez. . . . Pls.

I once asked Walter Benn Michaels if it was possible to have an intention that one was unaware of. He responded that it was possible to have unconscious intentions. OK. And maybe the martians are channeling their intentions through me.

Now that I think of it, I think the martians are in fact channeling their intentions through me. And I haven't been taking notes!

Virgil Thomson, in his note on "Patriarchal Poetry," claims that the poem is all about emotion - that it is a neo-romantic text. "It is hermetic writing; direct communication of ideas is not its purpose. Its purpose is the description of emotion . . . " And "'Patriarchal Poetry' is not cubistic at all . . . It is rounded, romantic viscreal . . ." Hmm. Well, neither I nor my students got that. But maybe we're all fools - entirely possible. Or maybe Virg is pulling our leg.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Canadian Feral Bunnies - the three cutest words in the English language

You may know that the feral bunnies of the University of Victoria (B.C.) campus have at times made an appearance on this blog. Well, now you can take them home. I have no idea how hard it would be to take them across borders. I do know you want to keep them away from electrical cords - they like to chew.

Friday, September 11, 2009

closure never closes

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Conceptual Poem of Quietude


Monday, September 7, 2009

Blog Lit Redux

I just read a really interesting post on Susan Schultz' Tinfish Editor's Blog. It's about "blog lit," and what might consitute some characteristics thereof.

I think I may be ambivalent re: the notion of blog lit. On the one hand, I love the idea of using the medium in the message - of exploiting the form, both textual and social, that blogs enable (and require) - not least of all the collaborative, and sometimes a(nta)gonistic, comments. On the other hand, I sure don't want to create another genre, with its own generic (or genetic) characteristics.

Fortunately, I think that the Blog Form (even in the rather narrow window of Blogger) provides for enough latitude that there is very little danger of that happening. Or at least the parameters of the genre are so capacious as to be meaningless. For one thing, one can incorporate multiple media. And if you do even a little html, Word Press lets you expand your repetoire (and, as Susan points out, refers you to other posts - based on content, not style or form, unfortunately).

However, as I've mentioned before, I can't think of many examples of books or blogs that utilize the protocols of blogging (whether structural or stylistic).

I like the idea of Spring and All's being a model for blog lit. Not to mention Descent of Winter. I'm "teaching" Gertrude Stein's early poetry right now. I have absolutely no doubt that she'd be a blogger, in today's world. She'd link to prepositions.

* * *

What is the relation of this blog to my real job (postsecondary eduction)? Is it siphoning off and diluting any real aesthetic or pedagogical ideas I might have? Or is it providing a proving ground for them? Certainly, the tone is much breezier and offhand than that I'd use in an article (there are those generic parameters, again - with a vengeance).

Occasionally, I post poems that I assume noone would ever want to publish. To my surprise, one day I found out that some of them had been re-published - to a blogzine, of course. That's good, I guess. The tenured have less fear of being dooced than the genl. population, to be sure. But you sure can lose face and embarrass yourself. Particularly by aimless posts with no real point.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

It's not so amazing to me how soon Obama's most enthusiastic supporters have soured on him, but rather how suddenly. It seems like it happened all at once, about two or three weeks ago (or at least that's how it appeared in the media, and as the man said, "I only know what I read in the newspapers"). This is largely b/c of the difficulty he's having with health care reform.

That's unfortunate, b/c O. is doing about as much to advance public health care as anybody since Truman (remember him? he didn't win reelection - but that was because of an unpopular war).

If you want to know why significant health care reform is not going to clear the Senate, look here, here, and here. Note especially the shift in percentages between the last election cycle and this one. Nothing succeeds like success, esp. when it comes to political fundraising.

It's useful to compare this round with that of 1993. In that year, Clinton and Gore pulled out all the stops to get NAFTA passed - promising anything - new air force bases to freshman representatives - to get it through. C & G did an LBJ number on the Congress, and, despite the majority of Americans' opposition to NAFTA, got it through. Just barely. But that's all it takes, in our System. And passing NAFTA and GATT was what Clinton was hired to do.

Then came health care, and Gentleman Bill in effect said, "You handle it, Honey."

Sorry - I've worked in politics too much to be idealistic about "The Process" (as pols unironically term it), but not enough to be cynical enough to pretend it works for anyone who's not at the top.

Friday, September 4, 2009

"A 'Maybe' Is a Double, Triple 'No'"

Earlier this year, I wrote a post in re: the growing tendency of literary journals to simply not respond to submissions they don't intend to publish. That is, instead of sending a cute little rejection slip or email ("sorry!"), they just blow you off.

Now part of that phenomenon is undoubtedly due to the geometric fecundity of MFA programs and other poet-procreators, & to the overworked, don't-give-up-your-day-job status of editors. I lose track of emails, so why shouldn't they lose track of submissions?

But now it seems like it's becoming a standard response to any request. Don't want to write that letter of recommendation? Don't answer the email! Don't want to serve on that committee? Blow off the request. And so on. If they call you on it, say "sorry - I lose track of emails."

Part of the problem is undoubtedly email itself, and this is a good argument for the good ol fashioned phone call. Sometimes you need to put someone on the spot. But not if they don't want to help you - you don't want them to say yes if they're not going to do it, or do a half-assed job of it. But if the answer is No, and if you're facing a deadline or time crunch, you need to know No.

Part of it may also be a creeping nicey-niceness in US culture - a way of papering over the thoroughgoing instrumentality of many if not post human relationships in this country, or compensating for conditions of universal competition in a "down" economy. This is a particular problem in the Midwest (tho Califas has this problem too; in the South, you just think up a sweet and clever way to say No).

Then again, maybe I'm just being a sucker. I actually write the person back and say things like "I don't know your work well enough" or "I'd love to, but I'm swamped." Those phrases seem so quaint, as I write them now. But I get sentimental, don't you know.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

This partial liberty renders the ethical sense
a joke. What self-flattery to think
all destiny can lie at a fork in the road.

In the end, nothing is certain
except that those who seek their own
salvation will betray their brethren.

- from "The Quest," by Jennifer Moxley. In Clampdown (Flood 2009)

That book is a weird - I mean interesting - combination of relaxed, representational, confessional narrative and high sentaunce and Big Statements. I happen to agree with most of the Big Statements, but (as with Lisa Robertson, sometimes) I balk at the imprecision of abstract nouns. I expect this is more my problem than theirs.

* * *

Irony: The new Chancellor and the Athletics Commissar at my institution jointly announce the expansion of the football stadium by 3,000 seats on the same week the Chronicle runs a front-page story about the disproportionate growth of athletics spending vis-a-vis academics, in the US. And the same week as the controversy over Budweiser's college-team-color "Fan Cans." The fact that the new Chancellor is an African American woman, and the Athletics Director is an aging bald white guy - and one who earns more money than she does - doesn't help matters.

But it's OK, b/c KU Athletics, Inc. is a separate entity from the University. And it has graciously deigned to bestow $40 million on the University - over ten years (possession = 9/10 of law). Soon we'll be going hat-in-hand to KU Athletics, not the legislature.

* * *

From the Yes-I'm-a-Philistine Dept.: I'm becoming addicted to Tilly and the Wall. A folk-punk/flower-power-pop band with a tap-dancer for a percussionist, six people singing the same melody at once, sounds like a harmonium, kickstand, paintbucket etc. - what's not to like? And they're SO much more sincere than most of the stuff I listen to (or read) - it's good for me. "Poor Man's Ice Cream" is about all that needs to be said about the Alien Other in (or out) America. And "Chandelier Lake" is the creepiest ballad since Tam Lin (not Tan Lin - tho I just got his new book, and it looks pretty outre, too).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Objectives considered to be essential or very important by US undergraduates

Being very well off financially 76.8%
Raising a family 75.5%
Helping others who are in difficulty 69.7%
Develping a meaningful philosophy of life 51.4%
Influencing social values 44.7%
Becoming a community leader 36.2%
Becoming involved in programs to clearn up the environment 29.5%
Influencing the political structure 22.3%
Writing original works 16.6%

(Source: Chronicle of Higher Education, Almanac Issue, Aug. 28, 2009)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

From the Diary of Lib Peoples

Fri. 19 39. Had family picnic tonite. Went to scavenger hunt with B. tonite. Fannie and Foots, too.
Dark clouds over all.
Every body lisning to war news.

Sat. 19 39. Frances came last nite.

Sun. 19 39. England has declared war – France, too. Everybody hangs on radio for news. All family together – first time in ages.

[I haven't heard anybody in the media mention this anniversary. Maybe I don't listen to/read/watch enough media. I bet I would have heard about it if I lived in Europe.]

Monday, August 31, 2009

"But the green nuts are falling on my heart."

(a real line of poetry - by Marjorie L. C. Pickthall. From Marguerite Wilkinson's New Voices, 1924.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

God Forgives, We Don't

The flap over the release of the Pan-Am/Lockerby bomber, Abdel Al-Magrahi, has gotten me to thinking about the American national character.

I saw interviews with victims' families from the UK. One wasn't convinced by the evidence that the guy was involved in the plot. Another one didn't care b/c it wouldn't bring back her daughter. Another said the guy's spent the rest of his life in prison already, who cares where he dies.

I saw interviews with victims' families from the US. To a person, they opposed releasing the guy. He should die in prison. He should rot in jail. He should rot in hell - in prison. He didn't show compassion to the victims, why should he receive any compassion. (It goes without saying that he was guilty of the crime; it has to be the work of some one, so it might as well be him)

This made me realize something: Americans never forgive. Sure, some of them do, in some cases. But by and large, it's not part of our make-up. There are no mitigating circumstances, no desire to move on. If you stole that candy bar when you were 12, then three strikes and you're out - you should have the rest of your life to think about it behind bars. If you fuck up and lose your job, then you deserve to be homeless and hungry. Those people wouldn't have AIDS if they hadn't brought it on themselves. Right?

Even in more personal, piddling situations, people here hold grudges for an extraordinary amount of time - usually their whole lives. I guess they do that in Sicily, too. But if you posted that injudicious photo on facebook, or said something stupid in front of a microphone, or are a politician who has an affair, then bam - it's going to haunt you for the rest of your career (if you have one). It seems like the French shrug off shit like that. Life is too short. And it's going to happen anyway.

Even in the realm of criminal justice (the absence of the death penalty in EU countries is the most obvious example), there isn't the same kind of thirst for vengeance you see here. Prosecutors say that the accused should be executed so the victim's family can have "closure." Capital punishment as therapy. As though that was going to close anything. After that, you move on to suing the perp's family, then city where the crime happened, then you get more draconian laws passed, etc. It never ends.

This is all kind of ironic, since closure is big in America - in our juridical discourse, but also pop psychology, best-selling novels, religion, poetry, etc. I once was lost, but now am found. Period. Epiphany. End of story. No second acts. It's a wrap.

(Cf. Lyn Hejinian's brilliant essay linking the "closure" discourse in capital punishment to the desire for discursive closure)

Why the discrepancy? Well, closure never closes, for one thing - you have to keep tamping down the lid, b/c something is always bubbling up. That takes a lot of rage and resentment.

Then there's religion. In a country founded by religious fanatics, you'd expect this sort of thing. US Protestantism centers around the Old Testament (irrational, vindictive father-god) and the epistles (Christian unity, discipline, hierarchy - vs. the Other people). Forget the gospels - Jesus says crazy shit like "forgive your enemies." And killing him sure didn't produce closure.

Tocqueville understood that Americans embraced religion not in spite of, but because of their acquisitive materialism - it was a way of convincing themselves that they really are good people, even though they stab each other in the back from 9 to 5. Maybe the same is true for American desire for the happy ending (whether it's the guy getting the girl, or the perp frying) - we never have closure, b/c we never unclench our jaws from the rag we're shaking and growling at. There's always something else that needs closing - except in the movies.

Why are we thus? In a society where capitalism is the air you breathe, and where that social arrangement results in a lot of pain and resentment, then nothing ever gets resolved. Even if it occurs to you to, say, blame the corporations instead of the government or the immigrants for your bankruptcy, you know you can't do anything about it. So that anger and resentment is always festering, always looking for objects to cathect upon.

All speculations, of course. If anyone has figured this out, pls let me know.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

En Ponge

I've been looking for blog lit - or for pre-blog lit that might suggest models for blog lit (esp. w/Jen Humphrey's Up From the Ground in mind). There's serialized novels. And syndicated newspaper poetry. There's diaristic books, like WC Williams' Descent of Winter - which also meanders in an unmanaged way, which blog entries do tend to do.

I also thought of Francis Ponge, and his mini-essays in The Voice of Things (Parti Pris des Choses). For instance, here's an excerpt from "Flora and Fauna":

The time of plants: they always seem fixed, immobile. One ignores them for a few days, a week, and their pose is all the sharper, their limbs have multiplied. Their identity raises no doubts, yet their form goes on elaborating itself.

* * *

The time of plants is conditioned by their space, the space they gradually occupy filling in a canvas doubtless determined forevermore. Once finished, weariness overtakes them, and it is the drama of a certain season.
Like the development of crystals: a will to formation, and the impossibility of forming any other way.

* * *

Their poses or "tableaux vivants": mute entreaties, supplications, unshakable calm, triumphs.

* * *

None of their gestures has any effect outside themselves.

* * *

A body of the most excessively complex laws (pure chance, in other words) presides over the birth and distribution of plants across the globe.
The law of undetermined determinants.

(trans. Beth Archer)

I'm skipping around here, but these are complete sections, separated by (centered) asterisks in the original. Whatever one thinks of the content, the form does, I think, open possibilities for blog lit, esp. for authors who are heavily invested in (shackled by?) the form of the traditional essay - a form which does not, in my view, lend itself to the Blog Form. And there's even pieces on goats. And manure.

(the fact that Ponge could write this stuff while the Nazis occupied his country raises some other interesting questions, which I won't attempt to address - not in a blog post)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Image + Text

a propos the last post (below):

"Many . . . literary journals [of the early 20th c.] . . . printed photographs of paintings and sculpture, thereby invoking a general revolution in the arts and urging us to mark similarities and difference between the literary and visual avant-garde. It is, however, very difficult for academics [and apparently non-academic poets, too, one could add] to read this way, since it works against the way they are trained in traditional disciplines. The counter-reaction is also apparent. The Fugitive aimed to have almost no physical presence; anticipating the aesthetic that would dominate conservative magazines in the 1950s, its neutral typography and layout was designed to project the poetry it printed directly into the imagination. Poetry, for The Fugitive, was a spiritual not a material phenomenon.

"The cumulative evidence of the illustrations in this book should demonstrate that the material presentation of texts can significantly increase the kinds of meaning they can be used to produce."

- Cary Nelson, Repression and Recovery, p. 218.

I would only add that in some of the poems he presents, it is difficult to distinguish between "the literary and the visual" - for instance, the collaborations between Marius De Zayas and Agnes Ernst Meyer - or Walter Steinhilber collaboration with Langston Hughes in "Advertisement for the Waldorf Astoria."

I guess if The Fugitive wanted to be disembodied, the web would be a good place for them today - tho since they were conservatives, they'd probably be fetishizing print. There certainly is a lot of "neutral typography and layout" amongst literary web journals. And sure, things have progressed - many journals include visual art. And literature. But rarely mixed.

Bob Brown, Stevie Smith, Robert Grenier, Kenneth Patchen, Eleni Sikelianos, Cecilia Vicuna, Anne Waldman, Anne Tardos, Stephanie Strickland, Roberto Tejada, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Jenny Gough, Jena Osman, Debra DiBlasi, Mark Nowak, Tan Lin - et alia - you can add to the list. So it's not such a weird thing anymore. And it's not that image-text writing/composing is being suppressed. It's that not many people are doing it. I would like to encourage it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Prison-House of Genre

Why is it that so many "avant-garde" or "experimental" or whatever journals are divided into sections for Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction, etc.? And why don't more poets use pictures (except for vizpo - which seems to be segregated into its own journals)?

Even "experimental" is a brand-name, I suppose. But if you're serious about challenging literary inertia, surely generic expectations are the place to start - the genesis of generational gentility.

How about having a grid, instead of sections? For instance:

more words ------------------------more picture

more print-------------------------more sound

So that most journals would be flush against the left margin, here. Concrete poetry would be in the middle of the top edge; vizpo, considerably to the right of that. Flash/animated work would be on the right (vertical) edge. And variations in between.

As to sub-divisions of printed words, maybe:



These are hackneyed terms - but the idea is to make it a map, instead of a series of cells (or even a "spectrum"). Nightwood would be towards the top right corner, maybe. "Mainstream" fiction, over on the left.

Obviously, I haven't thought through all the permutations - what the "directions" should be, or in what configuration. But I'm with B. Croce about each work of art being an irreducible "aesthetic fact." Family resemblances, sure. But genealogy, not genre.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

even the zephyrs act out,
need a hard refresh,

control, alternate, delete:
everyone orders me around!

You can buy whatever you want
inside a security zone:

always a fly at the ointment
always a duck at the soup –

invention of writing caused dyslexia
in the mad-lib machine

on auto-pilot
pardon our progress pls

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dick as the Death

I don't usually include pictures with posts, as you may know. I even just recommended that Jen Humphrey (Up From the Ground, see below right) try doing a post without pictures. People usually use pictures, in blog posts. Sometimes they're illustrations. Sometimes they substitute for words. Sometimes they compensate for words.

Be that as it may, I'm inspired by having watched Frost/Nixon last night. Now, my admitting it's taken me months to see this movie is kind of like Howard Ringbaum's admitting he hadn't read Hamlet. I mean, I've written a book with Nixon as a character (in effect - see links at right).

What struck me last night is that Nixon is Death. It's as simple as that. He kept looming more and more during the Watergate saga. And when my mother died a few hours before he resigned, she didn't have Death to kick around anymore - & vice versa. As a kid, Nixon was a fixture - there all the time, like Death and taxes (or tax cuts, as the case may be). And our family was against him, because he was BAD. Then, in the space of 24 hours, neither my family nor Nixon were there. Weird.

I can't picture my mom on a rocky beach playing chess with Richard Nixon. But that's closer to my version of Thanatotic Dick than Rachel Loden's dead Nixon (in Dick of the Dead and Hotel Imperium), who seems like more like a revenant (and in her family, Nixon was Death in a much more literal sense).

But as far as the Imago of Nixon, in the kid brain, that's the missing link, I think.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

_P-QUEUE_ 6, Described

Well, I got and read my copy of P-Queue, issue 6. Andrew Rippeon does such great work with this journal – both with the editorial selections and with the production. It’s a really beautifully designed and printed little book. I think that’s why this is the first time I’ve ever seen something of mine in print and been happy with it.

But there is other good stuff in there, e.g.:

- figetoglyphs
- talking body parts
- word grids
- ovidian torture poetry
- a poem written on a typewriter (really!)

- a beautiful lyric sequence by Rob Halpern:

To make the other sky this
Sky being a thing we’ve failed
To do having survived our own

Survival of the one failing sky
The dead this time will bury
Themselves & their graves

- a beautiful & politically uneasy lyric sequence by Stephen Collis:

The overwhelming need to do something
Is this poem helping at all
Brick after brick the
Wall of contracts rising between us

- A terrific and graphically adventurous sequence by Juliette Lee – reflecting on nationhood, (in)visibility, selves:

The “nation” as a furtive
heterogeneity we want
to read as flat

And it casts back
an arbitrary stasis of

[imagine that last side-by-side, about twenty spaces apart]

- Perhaps the most ambitious piece - for the editor and writer/artist - is the reproduction of a letterpress book/imagetext by Emily McVarish, called The Square (Granary Books). The original is 10 ½ x 8 3/8” – but in the journal, it’s more like 3 x 2 ½ - with the text reproduced underneath. Sometimes the printing in the original is so light as to be invisible – which is a shame, b/c on the pages where you can match the text in the original to the text below it, you really see how McVarish is using space and graphic placement to full effect.

- Oh – and all the back issues have sold out. To order, send twelve dollar to:

c/o Andrew Rippeon
306 Clemens Hall
English Department
SUNY Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14260 USA

Monday, August 17, 2009

Blog Lit?

One of the earliest posts to this blog raised the (to me) disturbing possibility of the future existence of a book called The Collected Blog Posts of Joseph Harrington. Well, that frightening prospect is not as outlandish as it may first appear. Aside from the obvious growth of blogzines in recent years, there is the additional possibility for blog books. There are already examples of books that originally appeared as/on blogs - from Caleb Crain's The Wreck of the Henry Clay to Michael Magee's My Angie Dickinson.

But how many books have made use of the blog form itself - the reverse chronology, informal voice, comments, links, etc.? There's Susan Schultz' Dementia Blog, but beyond that, I come up short. I mean, sure, it's a new medium, but c'mon! How many new writers are born every minute? It's a geometrical curve, for sure, that's all I know.

This issue is of importance to me for two reasons. First, this blog is mostly about blogs. And literature. So, finding a latter that uses the former as an organizing principle is an exciting prospect. Two, I'm trying to advise an MFA student who is writing an MFA thesis en forme du blog. What should she read??

So, dear reader: Where is the BlogPo? Or Blog lit, writ large? Give me titles - or leads - anything!

Thank you for your attention.

Friday, August 14, 2009

On Literary (and Political) Consensus

“I have written of a cult of ‘American consensus’ that rose up among the punditocracy [in the 1940s and 50s] . . . their fervent imagining . . . that America was united and at peace and would forever be, if only ‘extremists’ stopped stirring up the pot. And I have written about the kind of intellectual self-repression it took to believe this . . . America is divided and will always be. It is not too much to suggest that the rages that accompanied the crumbling of this myth of consensus, as the furies of the 1960s advanced, would not have been so rageful – would not have been so literally murderous – had the false rhetoric of American unity not been so glibly enforced in the years that preceded it: that some of the 1960s anger and violence was a return of what America had repressed.”

- Perlstein, Rick. Nixonland. NY: Scribner, 2008. 747.

“What does it mean to break down the traditional-experimental split [in poetics]? What are the implications of a traditional and experimental hybrid that claims to overcome division and speak with one voice?

“. . . If, as Filreis writes, ‘rhetoric about poetic form was often unacknowledged Cold War politics,’ then what sort of unacknowledged politics is the rhetoric of the hybrid?”

- Ehlers, Sarah. “US Poetry and the Politics of Form” [rev. of Counter-revolution of the Word, by Alan Filreis]. Against the Current, May/June 2009, p. 40.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Lack-of-Food Network

My vieja spends a fair amount of time watching the Food Network. Which gave me an idea for a new reality show: The Lack-of-Food Network (or call it the Food Scarcity Network). Anyway, the idea would be a cable channel that would broadcast nothing but shows about people who are chronically hungry and malnourished - preferably shows hosted by people who are chronically hungry and malnourished (and under military attack, as that seems to go with the territory). And it would be the only cable channel anyone could receive between the hours of 5 and 7 pm. "Iron Non-Chef: Darfur." "Ace of Let-them-Eat-Cake." "Body Flay."

Doesn't the BBC News have their own cable network in the US? I guess that would pre-empt this idea.

All the food is to make you forget about all the people without food. All the war is to make you forget about your weight.

All of which makes me want to listen to Lily Allen. Non apetit!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Mark Nowak on KKFI in KCMO

Just wanted to call your attention to the interview with poet-organizer Mark Nowak on this week's Heartland Labor Forum, Thursday, August 13, on KKFI-FM, 90.1. His segment runs at 6:30 pm apparently (the show is 6-7) - it's a show on new labor lit (esp. related to coal mining, such as Mark's new book of poetry/mixed-genre writing and photos, Coal Mountain Elementary, Coffee House Press - which you should check out, if you haven't already). You can also listen on your computer - and apparently, they rebroadcast the show on Friday.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Poets on Modernist Women Poets?

Here's what I want to know, poetry fans: What is your favorite essay, by a poet, written in the last 15 years, on any of the following poets: Stein; Millay; Loy; Moore; HD; (Riding) Jackson; Boyle; Rukeyser; Bennett; or H. Johnson?

Winners will be featured on the front page of this site.
The buzz now is all about whether or not Barrry O. wants to raise taxes on persons earning under $250K/yr. (thereby breaking a campaign promise).

What I want to know is whether or not Barry O. wants to raise taxes on persons (artificial and natural) earning more than $250K/yr. - esp. those earning more than $250 million/yr. - you know, the kind of persons who bundle $100K's in campaign contributions to politicians.

Actually, scratch that. I don't want to know.