Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A History


Hotel Point (October 2, 2003-August 11, 2005) got replaced by Rue Hazard (August 24, 2005-February 27, 2006).

Rue Hazard (August 24, 2005-February 27, 2006) got its due comeuppance, replaced by Isola di Rifiuti (May 8, 2006 and continuing).

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Hôtel Coup de Poing


Clôture brusque et indéfinie.

“Effectuating long-consider’d Hermit-dive out of Pismirey,” whatever that means.

Samuel Johnson: “That to the vulgar canst thyself apply / Treading a better path not contrary.”

Incipient period of private writings.

Valéry: “The notion of external things is a restriction on combinations.”

To the vaunt’d pukka “community,” I offer th’obligatory public “Fuck it.”


Ciao, bella.


To work.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005



A coda (cauda L. tail, see caudal, a word mostly append’d to fin, and that by ichthyologists, the fish-tail toss’d to the cat, related

to coward, turn tail and run) is what’s writ to seize up the end. Cauterize. Size up. It is engine and uncoupler to combatants and lovers, it

relinquishes gently the giant spouting claims made in the flurry, so that the world’s combatants and lovers may continue. Review of some (Benjaminian) “basic

historical concepts: Catastrophe—to have missed the opportunity. Critical moment—the status quo threatens to be preserved. Progress—the first revolutionary measure

taken.” The coda nods knowingly, mimes regret, goes clumsy with sententiousness to cover its asperity: “Art is like the heavens; it is the infinite field” (Hugo to

Baudelaire, to acknowledge receipt of Les Fleurs du Mal). Or, radiant in denial, madd’d by fury’s dry pulverized particulate dust, the coda circumvents and

blows hot lies, or recoils in disgust: “we shrink from touching mucus or dung with even the tip or our finger, how could we ever wish to embrace the sack of excrements

itself?” (Odon of Cluny) Or the coda tangles with th’unknowable, makes promissory noises. Laura Riding: “untranslatable, / Love remains / A future in brains.”

I walk’d all afternoon up the ridge, the spiny tenacious buckthorns tearing at my chaps. A lone buzzard dangled like a saddle over a thermal, working its plug-ugly

red head. My dog switchback’d the path, scenting. A leafhopper clung to my arm for a jaunt, plunged unsentimentally off. Two coppers fornicated, back to back, one

dragging the other after it, maladjustedly, o’er goldenrod empollen’d heads. The word “ovipositor” accompany’d me. Narrative stride (unh, ah), what is it good for?

(Absolutely nothing, say it again!) Truth is, we know (absolutely) nothing, chain’d for twenty-six days to a grand slab of rock, Persian-Babylonian-syncretists,

executables, Manichaeans. (Mani, kill’d by King Bahram.) Untranslatable forces wrench at my donkey-stubborn soul, abide with me. I am made of flame and blue. My

moat is green and skanky and full of hideous orange-mottled carp. One blue day I rush’d out of my writing chamber and caught a catapult’s monstrous stone full in the

temple, spurting brain-dirt out my left ear. I live now “unfetchably,” in a ramp’d up turgidity of desire. Put blunt, “though I know my brain be pointless as putty,

and in no lobe good for aught but an ant’s whim, I do nevertheless still burden it in both panels like a mule’s pack, that while it is on foot it be observed by my

neighbours as the ass of a man of no poverty.” (Oh dear, Djuna Barnes.) Or I hoof my ass out into the slack-jaw’d night, water mouths everywhere. An orange sickle-moon

hangs low to th’horizon, pulsating: carp-gill, sky-moat. My dreadlocks cutch up in brambles, kaffiyeh-fever binds my brain-glob. Keats: You know I’d sooner be

a clapping bell / To some Kamschatkan missionary church, / Than with these horrid moods be left in lurch—
One day: Laredo.


To work.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005



Dinginess and vermin, a woman in the part of Thin Anguish, guttering down. Dora Maar: “Pure as a lake boredom.” Emptiness is not boredom, emptiness is too impure

and prickly, firewheel and stickpin “of the cauteriz’d heart.” I miss everything. Milieu of frenzy. Culpable anarchy, the joy-gibbet. Rinsed linen. Poised syringe and

nylon. There is no fraught silence I will not attend to—“It will increasingly be a thump instead of a bang” (John Cage). Sound of unpredictable ken. Hazard-wrapper.

“Décidant de renoncer à l’état amoureux, le sujet se voit avec tristesse exilé de son Imaginaire” (Barthes). Staccato and pith to insistence. Breakdown and re-

regaling. Post-prandial scorch. La brûlure érotique. Chemical indebtedness. Cordial semen. Heart-fluid. Sea louse in ointment. Dirty Estonian snifter. All lesions

urban. Imp lacrima manhandling the eye-cilia. Arletty poking a hole in the atmosphere in Hôtel du Nord, “un film d’ambiance.” The way a word’ll nub up an aural

crease in the lingual texture: Fucker. Fucker fucker fucker. Or foster a droop’d headedness with the bland wares of the teary-eyed. Oh, one could buck

against th’astonishment, pluck a sportive nose-gay, prepare oneself a large blue bowl of huckleberries and milk. One could read great draughts of the nimble Æsop,

and canister up some meagre self-rebukes. One could end one’s days a doting sot to expressionist foibles, calling out “Halt!” to the merest persimmon. One could

skirmish, monolithic and brood-grubby against the marvelous humdrum clog-up of an age’s ambition. The sour sun caches itself behind Kansas, insect noise trebles up to

high amping. Hind-leggedly tickling out albas and serenas and canzos and sirventes, the insectry is. No hollow groans in insect-

talk, no mute put-downs. Quince scents aloft. Tick-sized perspiration beading down the shins, pooling sock-level. Kafka, to Oskar Pollak: “I believe we should read

only those books that bite and sting us.” In John Donne’s list of possible loves: “And her who is dry cork and never cries: / And her and her and you and you

and you.” And if a word arrives into the exile, the sentinel forks it bicuspidly forth, hosannah: “I intend to straddle ben Lomond—with my Soul!—galligaskins are out

of the question—” Oh the farthing is up, the farthing is down, the farthing I lost in that fucking town. There’s Dora Maar’s claim that “Collage as everyone knows was

invented by Picasso,” some story of Picasso père, who—“in order to judge ‘the scale of values’ / in a canvas he was painting used to pin a bit of white

paper on the canvas. / That’s what gave Picasso the idea of collage.” So, a blank—“                                      ”—the lacerate unsaid, as politic as any

hole in the body. Collage’s a nod to absence, to the arm-in-arm incorrigibility of the sayable and th’unsayable. Sock’d in, suck’d down, fogged by intent and untold

furtherings of intent. A guise-value. Here, the random book-leavings index a socius, or quit-claim an absolute, or chary down a earnest, or feist up a farewell. The aim

of any excursion is never the shivery th’irredeemable, that library where date-stamps soft-nubble a hired authority and geraniums shawl the air’s pungency

about, a kind of investiture: “my soul thrills to touch the soft used meaty pages covered with avidities of reading— ” (Kerouac). Crossing the Moody Street Bridge

every Saturday. Or up the grutch-wooden stairs above the City Auditorium where you sang about the puppy in the window the day you scissor’d a baldness in your crewcut.

To make a girl laugh. Oh, one could burble a wren’s idiocy, stony cairn in hand, sinking into marshland, one could rush-bonnet th’earth in hyacinthine revelry,

one could stand cold in hard rain, a deft monkey, a sheer’d lambkin, a rut, a purse, a spigot-jot spilt on earth. Oh, I shall henceforth be a Pip-civilian, cherry-stone

hid in my meaty complexities. Keats: “If I scribble long letters I must play my vagaries.” Stand-in for a novice-person, tune-serious. “Someday, darling, in the

murmurous vestibule . . .” Think of Tom Clark off in Bolinas squandering th’O’Hara inheritance: “Some deranged jackal / might take my place tomorrow / / wudja know

the difference?” So the stage-farthing drops and rolls under the armoire. Dickinson: “I bet with every Wind that blew / Till Nature in chagrin / Employed a Fact to

visit me / And scuttle my Balloon —”


To work.

Monday, August 08, 2005

“It’s the War, Stupid”


If, comme on dit, it’s Monday, it must be Baghdad. Kent Johnson’s ask’d for a room hereabouts to respond to Jim Behrle’s recent review: grant’d, amigo. Though I am notably a mild bystander to debates ferocious or pussycat’d, I thought I’d—singular nonce item!—offer up my two cents, contextualizing here for poor folks.

Animosity runs deep in clowns. My favorite “instance”—one I liked to monicker the CLWN WR, after some literary journal—occur’d when the younger and funnier Gabriel Gudding went after the older and toadier Charles Bernstein over the vitality (or vitals?) of Marjorie Perloff. One could look it up. Part of me says, simply, the Behrle / Johnson tangle is more jimcrack’d CLWN WRry, two Emmett Kelly-gizmo’s in a rage of “I’m funnier than you, muh’fuh!” Maybe.

Maybe not.

What strikes me about Behrle’s piece is its complete capture by the time-standards of popular culture. As if Behrle’s historical memory didn’t extend much back beyond, oh, say, th’onslaught of “reality TV.” Repeatedly, Behrle points to the seeming “datedness” of the poems in Johnson’s book: “That speech seems like it was given a decade ago.” “Most of what he is getting at is lost on me: what’s most lost on me is the point of collecting these pieces.” “Does anyone take that outfit seriously post-February 2003?” “[The] book is old news that hasn’t stayed news.” “. . . the poem was showing its age.” “We've become completely desensitized to the images the poem represents, it no longer shocks.”

There’s something pathetic in the litany—for the upshot is, that the war itself is no longer “material,” fodder for th’inane cameo-thrill machines of popular culture that Behrle lives by. He derides the cover of Lyric Poetry after Auschwitz, claiming the Iraqi-leash image is “no longer sharp or cutting.” I suspect the slug on the cabbage leaf munching its ordinary half-moon under a half-moon’d sky (it all he know), I suspect that slug of having a greater historical sense than Jim Behrle. Jim Behrle, that war isn’t over, isn’t near over, isn’t going to be near over for, oh, another TV season, at least, and if it’s “stale,” if honorable responses to it are “dated,” that is precisely what the war-mongers and war-profiteers want. They depend on th’American populace’s inability to engage seriously with anything beyond the week or so it takes a friggin’ “crush list” to turn over.

(Thank God for me: I ain’t got no funny bone.) Here’s Kent Johnson’s piece:

A response to Jim Behrle’s review of Lyric Poetry after Auschwitz: Eleven Submissions to the War

Dear Jim,

I appreciate the review on your blog of Lyric Poetry after Auschwitz, and I don’t mean that in a facetious way at all. I fully expected the book to be attacked from some quarters, and I fully expected that some of the specific charges you make in your review would be made. (Gary Sullivan also made some harsh comments on his blog, before erasing them, along with various replies in support of the book from others.) And you make the charges clearly and with energetic style, so that’s good too, since some issues get put prominently on the table for future discussion. Thanks in advance, in the interests of more discussion, for adding a link on your blog to this response at Hotel Point.

I won’t try to answer all of the accusations you make against me. And I’m certainly not going to try to write some full-blown exposition of the book’s ethics and aesthetics. I suspect others may have things to say down the road, and they will probably be better able than I to elucidate some of the work’s contradictions and eccentricities. But I’d like to offer here just a few thoughts I think might by useful to future conversation.

First, a specific correction: You say that I “lampoon” the widely respected writer and activist Ammiel Alcalay in a “fake blurb.” The blurb, like the others on the back of the book, is perfectly real (to the extent that any blurb is ever “real”), and I encourage you to contact Ammiel should you have doubts. *[see note below]

In fact, this error on your part—seeing personal disparagement where there is none—is of a piece with your sensing that I am expressing some kind of “opinion” (your obvious assumption is that it’s a negative one) about Helen Vendler, Ange Mlinko, David Bromige, and Ted Berrigan (these being writers you name in your review). But this is wrong. There may be some gentle satire in regards to Helen Vendler in the poem “Baghdad,” which is modeled on Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon, but I have absolutely nothing at all against Vendler personally, and I have nothing at all against the other three individuals. With the rather prominent exception of myself, in fact, the only censorious opinion expressed anywhere in the book in relation to any poet identified by name is in the concluding polemic regarding statements made by Charles Bernstein—statements which (delivered, as they were, in reference to a war we are still very much in) remain much more relevant to the “politics of poetry” than you feel them to be. Furthermore, my opinions there are focused on his position and its cultural motivations and implications, not on his “person.”

Your misunderstanding (I think the fashionable term is “misprision”), though, is at its greatest in what you intend as the most damning point of your review: that the various writings in Lyric Poetry after Auschwitz use, in your words, “. . . war victims . . . to score cheap points against poets.”

I’d argue—and it’s clear that numerous readers of the book already see it this way too—that it is really the other way around: The often cheap world of our poetry, left and right, is deployed in the work as a kind of scale-model theatrical setting for placing the starkest light this poet can shine on the fucked-up madness of this war—a war in which you, I, and all American poets can’t help but be complicit, banal and “old news” as that suggestion may seem. It’s a small gesture, yes, and most likely doomed for irrelevance. But as we wait for Godot, or whatever, prattling absurdly away as we are, having so much clever fun, blogging and partying and Googling, let’s pause every so often and listen to the screams, even let them, awkwardly, into our art.

Mind you, I’m not claiming there is an absolutely clear line between the world of poetry and the world of war in my book—or that the writing is pure of intention and heart, virtuously condemning something bad “out there.” The situation presented is admittedly blurrier than that. And that blurriness would be very much to the point. We speak from where we are; what we can see, if we’re honest, will be present in what we feel called upon to say. It’s not always pretty, what comes out in such implication, and it will hardly ever be popular. Hopefully, we’ll manage to say whatever we say with a measure of humor, even in these most dismal times . . .

Now, all of this might be boring for you, just like most of the book is, as you claim. Here, too, let me say, Jim, that I appreciate your candor about finding the book “boring.” Because if any work of art, whatever its medium, has any chance whatsoever of being remembered for a while and of making some little sound in the culture, it must be considered “boring” by some. Or at least it must be considered boring by some and unusually engaging by others. When both those qualities of estimation are simultaneously and enthusiastically present in the work’s reception, it is a hopeful sign.

Such is the case, so far, with this book. For example, the book’s title poem is “boring” for you; for someone like Ethan Paquin, editor of Slope, it is, as his blurb says, “by far the most relevant poem for / in / about this War . . . It is a poem for our time.”

Go figure. I love that disjuncture. It’s like the paradox and parataxis of good poetry proper. Even if the “avant-garde” poetry of our climate, all told, is proving to be worth shit in face of the horror before us . . .

So, I thank you again. And again, I don’t say that facetiously. Your energetic, even witty, negativity adds a dollop of trouble to a book that wears its troubles on its sleeve—much like another work I’ve had a relation to, though not as its Author: the Araki Yasusada writings, the second book of which is to appear any day now. It’s a bit strange, at least to me, that I’ve begun jotting down these thoughts on August 6th, Hiroshima Day.


* Ammiel Alcalay posted a comment to Jim Behrle’s blog on August 7th, stating the following: “I found your review of Kent’s book depressing and distressing. What makes you think I didn’t write the blurb?” Behrle wrote back, expressing skepticism, still, that Alcalay really had. Later, Behrle revised the relevant passage of his review, apparently accepting, at last, Alcalay’s insistence that the blurb had been freely written by himself.


To work.



Solenoid stuck, the shiny ball jamming off the bumpers, banging away like a sluice gate, ratcheting up the numerals, going to turn the damn machine over with no hands

on the flippers. Maybe one’s got to be of a certain Mechanickal Age to “get” that. Back when digital meant fine fingerwork. “The motives of the suspects

remains pure specule, a perfect idea hid by its mirror-idea.” Picture that. I stoop before the threshold to uncouple a June bug skin-casing, stuck to the doorframe,

slit-back’d where the adult crawl’d out. All detail resides in husk, the noun, th’inert. Everything else is flurry. Say what it is, what it is is dead, or gone. Is

it sloth keeps me here, untidily remarking, or chaos, that fear that order’ld make plain a paucity and lack? I clutter my whims with whims, ambassadors of confusion

and regret. “Rest assured, you will not simply lose me, oh no, you’ll have to chase me away, with a feather-duster!” Looking for that grandeur “uncontaminated &

unobtrusive.” I think Keats is talking about that notion of an invisible tongue, words without any dirt clinging. Would you love a writing what

never show’d its rapturous half, its material grouse and ding? “I couldn’t love a woman without a mole.” Or Keats: “If I ever start a rueful subject in a Letter to

you—blow me!” Or Williams: “Pluck the florets from / a clover head / and suck the honey, sweet.” Sun’s severe delineates, squarish, on th’Hopper bed, grim “scraps &

patches” of desire. The dog nosing out its regular notice—walk me! So off we go, tramping, we’ll boost a couple potatoes out the Tuckahoe’s garden, lay a small fire

down along Mallett’s, and throw ’em in it, for lunch. “Air of a Clarity up above the Ridge call’d Leap’s Distinction.” Predominant wildflower: the thistle, and going

to seed, the little lavender frillies shedding down to skirts. Queen Anne’s lace drowsing, listless, its spotty plenitude black-heart’d. A boy of eight found a four-

leaf’d clover in the yard, in minutes! Waved gleeful arms, explain’d the workings of a door. My dull head, pseudo-fed. My heart’s ache, pseudo-rake. Goldenrod coming

into its own. Keats: “we talk of the immense numbers of Books, the Volumes ranged thousands by thousands—but perhaps more goes through the human intelligence in 12

days than ever was written.” I shudder to think where words go—all the irreproachables, the desirous, the bounty’d—scald’d off into tear-stain and defeat.

And “Poetry should surprise by a fine excess.” Why the stir out into indefatigable cross-wits of dust and desuetude? Think of Sam Shepard: “—I’m walking.” “—Wait a

minute. I’ll walk with you.” “—I’m walking alone.” And girls singing around a smoldering campfire at midnight, perilous voices like wires in the wind, that Snag

City shapelessness resolving itself quick, depixellating a drab download of a mound. O John Berryman, I am with you in Minnesota! “Surely the galaxy will scratch my

itch / Augustinian,” though one did scratch one’s head at that youngster in Carthage, where the “cauldron of lust” turn’d out a mere morbidly repentant pear-

snatcher, oy. Oy and okay: I’ll put a snood to my head, I’ll net my wildest hairs, I’ll desist and return, I’ll quit-claim and run, I’ll snow and ruse and fandango and

bust like a hellion-cat. And off and away and startle’d to recall, I’ll pen mosey-words to postcards that’ll not mean a thing:
“at present I am just arrived at Dorking to change the Scene—”

Keats on Silliman: “It may be said that we ought to read our Contemporaries, that Watten &c should have their due from us. but for the sake of a few fine imaginative or domestic passages, are we to be bullied into a certain Philosophy engendered in the whims of an Egotist—Every man has his speculations, but every man does not brood and peacock over them till he makes a false coinage and deceives himself—”



Color and Its Antecedents, by Brenda Iijima (Yen Agat Books, Bangkok, Thailand, 2004)

Lyrical prose with apt quotable layering, and impeccable presented. “Color is the lure toward polyphony . . . is the élan of the actual.” O’Hara, Ronald Johnson, Merleau-Ponty, Hejinian, Li Po, James Schuyler, Jalal Toufic, Joseph Ceravolo, and author B.I., all evoked, amongst others.
Color constantly resuscitates the texts from a death-like oblivion of blanched pages and words, literally. Color, the continuum fold. Shards of histories that matter, ensanguined. Thrusting mayhem of the power principal claims to be crimson, is instead vapid, colorless greed.
Her light green size.
A drab, colorless situation is punitive to poetry.

Cadastral Map, by Jill Magi (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, 596 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, New York, 11238, 2005) $6 ppd.

Out of Jill Magi’s “Key or Sources”:
The cadastral map is . . . composed by surveyors to determine land ownership for the purpose of taxation. The cadastral map does not indicate where the land is fertile, swampy, or rocky. It does not indicate knolls, forests, valleys. Nor does it express the collaboration and exchange between farmers or those who move through the land. Its lines respect one purpose: state-sponsored commoditization.
A tramp through some source texts by th’usual suspects—Gilbert White, Crèvecœur, Cotton Mather, Mary Rowlandson, Emerson, Thoreau, John Muir, &c.—and some that “possibly disturb this literary map and its accompanying erasure”—including the “unruly brambles” of Dorothy Wordsworth’s diary entries, the “loping anti-expertise,” going “against the texture of taxonomy” in Whitman’s Specimen Days and Collect, “narratives of Olaudah Equiano [seaman, trader, and author of the bestselling abolitionist autobiography The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African (1789)] and Frederick Douglass” and, “crucially,” Elizabeth Cook-Lynn’s Why I Can’t Read Wallace Stegner. A piece:
prairie big enough to carry
my eye clear to the sinking

rounding horizon a sentence
of charcoal on birchbark

written         Oh nature
rightly read a wind-harp

& we’ll go nutting once more!
bird-while the loon laughed

long and loud         as the poet
must from time to time travel

the logger’s path
and Indian trail
And another, one of the several “Dear Sir” letters, number’d, that punctuate the chapbook, providing hooks for the stretching of the more expansive fabric:
Dear Sir,

He therefore clipped the
hawk’s wings, cut off his

talons, and, fixing a cork
on his bill, threw him down

among the brood-hens.
In a word, they never desisted

from buffeting their adversary
till they had torn

him in a hundred pieces!
(Letter XLIII)

To work.

Friday, August 05, 2005



Nietzsche names cynicism “the highest thing achievable on earth,” surely a statement in flagrante delicto with itself. Not unlike the dog slavering up

its own genitalia, in solace perpetuum under greedy points of incisoral light. What things’ll exclude the corpulent reader of the madman’s books? Nietzsche

lists—next to cowardice and uncleanliness—“the nook air of a soul.” Tactical, that. A nod to the cranny, the slit, the hid, the frail—it is, indubitably, woman

Nietzsche hates, he who claims that “to know women . . . is part of my Dionysian dowry.” To use a William James expletive (he lamenting “the gray-plaster

temperament of our bald-headed young Ph.D.’s”): “Faugh!” Tints and gradations in the phalanstery tonight. The sour milk-colour’d moon. If one is stuck, seeing a morbid

casuistry in every sentence, or the breakup of the faculty’s oblongata’d bedrock, why wouldn’t one throw a lyric fit? Boot the laggard shinguard’s off that

tempestuous ruffian Time? Or walk a petulant swagger into “the bulging bouillon, harnessed jelly of the stars”? Superabundant, that. A jaw-hauling theatre, only max-

adequate, nobody’s head fills a whole hat. Rubbernecking at one’s own dissolution at a speed that bumps one up into stratospheric inconsistency. A cranial habitat, and I

ain’t talking about Hart. Global noise, a rai-haunt’d hoedown, Cheb Mami, calabash hookups. One learns to tussle with whatever mayhem one abducts, or is abduct’d by.

Dorothea Lange, off “to see if I can grab a hunk of lightning” (May Day, 1933, unemploy’d workers in San Francisco). “Mobs”—plausibly list’d by Emerson as one

of “several coarser or finer quasi-mechanical substitutes for the true nectar,” what one’s intellect wants in inebriate company. “Ravishment of the

intellect by coming nearer to the fact.” That perennial reverie-maiden the nose and where it will go, just to sniff out the unfactory’d stench and effluent, and name

the innards “numbles.” Oh reader! My stakeout, my turncoat, my pedigree, my quip. How I long that you be gone, high-stepping the taiga in boreal gloam, cachet in

hand. I am undiploma’d and big-head’d and what I want is my only own delirium, unassuming, inassimilable and communal! What I want is the bitter’st

amerciament, hobble to a runaway nag, “a pecuniary penalty imposed upon a person who is in misericordia,” a clear unbetided space to stretch out with only horizon for

comfort! An un-jackdaw’d heaven! For the writing grows monstrously people’d, grows a fatty buckler (“a warder to catch the blow of an adversary”), and an unmoveable

Head. Diderot, a fussy man: “continually we be push’d to declare a thing is thus-and-so, almost never obliged to determine what it is to be thus-and-so.”

So the thongum droops after th’outburst, and, like Keats’s Mrs. Humphrey, one ends “spoiling the corners of the mouth, and making the nose quite a piminy.” Heigh-ho.


To work.