Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Color and Space

Bought (Friends of the Library):

Interaction of Color, by Josef Albers (Yale UP, 1971)

Is Albers doing with colors what Stein does with words? Applying pressure
to them by systematically changing the surroundings/backgrounds? Albers
writes a kind of poetry, conscious of its lines:

“In musical compositions,
so long as we hear merely single tones, we do not hear music.
Hearing music depends on the recognition of the in-between of the tones,
of their placing and of their spacing.

. . .

We are able to hear a single tone.
But we almost never . . . see a single color
unconnected and unrelated to other colors.
Colors present themselves in continuous flux, constantly related to
changing neighbors and changing conditions.

As a consequence, this proves for the reading of color
what Kandinsky often demanded for the reading of art:
what counts is not the what but the how.”

A re-formation: form counts on account of content’s no accountedness . . . ?

In Transit, an heroi-cyclic novel, by Brigid Brophy, introduction
by Christine Brooke-Rose (Dalkey Archive, 2002)

I suppose I had one eye still on the Buffalo conversation going on about
transsexuality and hermaphroditism. In Transit is described as a
“transsexual adventure” and “a literary game of hide and seek--with a
heroine who may turn out to be a hero . . .” The novel was originally
published in 1969. Brooke-Rose begins her 2002 introduction by noting that
“during the sixties, Brigid Brophy was briefly known in London literary
circles as the brainiest woman in Britain.” (And notes the tokenism, and
false complimenting of the remark.) And mentions the usual suspects
surrounding what was often call’d the “anti-novel”: self-reflexivity,
Barthes’s Qui parle?, Benveniste’s “no-one speaks, events narrate
themselves,” and Robbe-Grillet’s present tense experiments.

First sentence: “Ce qui m’étonnait c’était qu’it was my French that
disintegrated first.”



First Intensity, #18 (2003), edited by Lee Chapman (P. O. Box 665,
Lawrence, Kansas 66044, $14)

Writing by Gustaf Sobin, Carol Moldaw, Nathaniel Tarn, André Spears,
Norman Lock, Dan Beachy-Quick, Theodore Enslin, Diane di Prima, John
Moritz, Lisa Cooper, Joseph Donahue, Barry Gifford, Monica Peck, Xue Di
(translated by Hil Anderson & Forrest Gander), Theodore Kitaif, Susan
Anderson, John McKernan, Lucy Bucknell, Phillip Foss, Lisa Visendi, David
Hadbawnik, Christopher McDermott, Mark Scroggins, Tyrone Williams, Joseph
V. Milford, Catherine Imbriglio, Dallas Wiebe, Joshua McKinney, Mark
Salerno, John Taggart, Judith Roitman, Kenneth Irby, Cathleen Shattuck,
Sean Mclain Brown, Judith Serin, Michael Boughn, John Searcy.

Reviews by Kamau Brathwaite (on Leonard Schwartz), Theodore Enslin (on
Lorine Niedecker), John Perlman (on Craig Watson), Lisa Bourbeau (on
Gustaf Sobin), Elizabeth Robinson (on Paul Hoover), Peter Money (on David
Miller), Loren Miller (on W. G. Sebald), Dale Smith (on Jaime Saenz,
Gerrit Lansing, Lorine Niedecker, and Edward Dorn), and John Olson (on
Joseph Donahue, W. B. Keckler, Gad Hollander, Albert Mobilio, Sarah
Mangold, Paul Hoover, and C. D. Wright).


The Poetry Project Newsletter, No. 197 December/January
2003/2004, edited by Marcella Durand (St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, 131
East 10th St., New York, NY 10003, $5)

Again, a sense of a revivify’d newsletter: letters, reading reports
(including Bill Luoma in Novi Sad), poems by OBERIU group poet Nikolai
Zabolotsky (translated, with introduction, by Eugene Ostashevsky), Cecilia
Vicuña on Xul Solar, Marcella Durand talking with Anne Waldman, and a
fine passle of reviews, including Drew Gardner on Rodrigo Toscano’s
Platform and Jo Ann Wasserman on Laird Hunt’s Indiana,


Two of Everything, by Lisa Jarnot (Meow Press, 2000)
Selected Poems, by Benjamin Friedlander (Meow Press, 1998)
A Knot Is Not a Tangle, by Benjamin Friedlander (Meow Press,


Evening, at home.
Putting down things
In heavy-lidded

Increments. Saurian-eyed.
Sour-tongued. Crepitant
In the krill

And mote of
Dust savaging th’under-
Lamp. It pleases

Me to say.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Clutch and Hunch

Creeps in that petty place and the cock do head up for home-going, another day of not a word, o misericordia!


So long, Hugh Kenner.


Wintry. And unclenching into the cold, letting the body ferret out the clutch and hunch against the tumult and brace of it. Letting the cold in without a shiver.


Madly racing through the Dydo now, recall'd for another mad reader.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Claw Pencil

A ragged day for writing. A claw scuttling deep below a sea of tasks, clutching a notorious pencil. In the technological thick of it. Saturday I vacuum'd well the fell trembling petals. Sunday I de-leaf'd the gutter, and sew'd another gutter. Who needs enigma when all's we got is words raining down all around us like rain. I just want'd to stop by, to salute you. All.

Jordan Davis is back with a post-scrimmage sponge-down on reading out west. Drew Gardner is up with Jennifer Moxley and Robert Creeley reading at St. Mark's Church. Joshua Corey is calling Barrett Watten "Barry" and Joel Kuszai "Joel" down in Cornell's climate controll'd deep-storage rare book room attending a reading by Lee Ann Brown and Carla Harryman . . .

As we say in Michigan, "Circumspice."

Friday, November 21, 2003

Fang Socius


Black Dog Songs, by Lisa Jarnot (Flood Editions, 2003)

Another exquisitely designed Flood book. Question: what's the relationship between the milder sheepdogs that grace the cover here and that snarling, fang-exposed one of Lisa Robertson's Debbie: An Epic? "Rose I believe I've found the socius"? Pastoralism creeps in, its pretty pace. More reading.


Slacker I cannot be today.
My own spendthriftiness's made the Time-boss shifty.
Need to splint and tape and repair.

Thursday, November 20, 2003


My breakfast table reading (which may make me sound like Oliver Wendall Holmes, “whom” “I” “am” “not”) this morning was a recent issue of Smithsonian. Leafing through an article devoted mostly to the results of asking “a number of prominent Americans what they remember of JFK’s death and what they make of his legacy.” (Others asked include B. B. “I think he had most of the ladies on his side” King, 78, Blues Artist, and Tom “I mean, what did he accomplish?” Clancy, 56, Novelist.) I don’t know if the responses were deliver’d up written or transcribed down oral, that is, I don’t know if Helen Vendler wrote what follows, but I found it rather appallingly interesting.

“The day Kennedy was shot I was teaching at Swarthmore, but I was driving to Temple University for a lecture by Harold Bloom when I heard it on the radio. I was on the streets of Philadelphia. What I do recall, which was extraordinary, was between the time I entered Temple University and by the time I left, flags had manifested themselves on every building around Temple. Everything was festooned with flags. It’s only 40 years since he died, and it usually takes longer than that for an actual picture of a historical person to emerge, but I do think having a Catholic president elected did change the ‘electable ethnicities.’ I don’t vote. Never. I remember the charm of those pictures of him with his children. It was nice to have a young family in view, so to speak. They were such a handsome family.”

—Helen Vendler
70, Poetry Critic and Professor of English, Harvard University

I don’t recall ever reading much, if anything, of Vendler’s. I’m not, I think, one of those who needs to cut and slice the world up into two—probably unequal—portions (our Marjorie, their Helen). I think everything’s probably more complicated than that, though I do see the uses of us-and-them-ing it in any polemickal buckdance. But, I found the remarks above completely odd. I read a kind of hauteur and self-righteousness into the declaration “I don’t vote. Never.” I read that Vendler proceeded on to the Bloom lecture, lecture uncancell’d, Bloom (what did he say? what was the subject?) keeping to the program, Vendler keeping to the program. I find that extraordinary . . .


High pressure front bringing in cold. Clear. The sky-marks back. Orion tilting to lunge north, hung over the eastern horizon, belt a near vertical in the evening. If I think of pressure systems, I think of Robert Musil. The beginning of The Man Without Qualities. A fine paragraph of meteorological high-falutin’isms brought up to abrupt close with something like: “It was a fine day.” (I have two pesky thoughts banging like big moths around the lampshade of this vision. One is that I done writ that in the Hotel log oncet before. Two is that I got it all wrong anyhow. Such are the tribulations of the age. I don’t go “back” to what I put down here. My memory is shot, and shot through with repetitious calamities and mild indifferences.)


Read the fine pages about “Arthur A Grammar” last night in the Dydo.

Dydo: “Grammar tries to answer the question of how perception is shaped into patterns of meaning. [Stein] does not limit herself to language but looks at grammar in innumerable fields, producing hundreds of answers, often using the word in a different sense from sentence to sentence.”

Stein: “Grammar is useless because there is nothing to say.”

How easy it is to get seduced by Stein, her rhythms! Dydo: “To speak of the two pieces for short as “Arthur” or “George,” as I do here, sounds funny. Such small verbal forms change the tone of a title and the feeling of a piece. If I say I am reading Arthur, I am reading a piece by that title, but if I say I am reading Stein, I am reading her work, identical constructions that yield different meanings.”

Dydo: ““Arthur” may be read as a repository of grammatical ruminations and exercises. Its central interest is rhetorical, but its references point to many grammars in daily life.” (My reading of Ron Silliman’s review of Dydo yesterday: accurate to what I see in the book’s first 250 pages. One quibble: the phrase “elaborate verbal flourishes,” seems imprecise, both to Stein’s style and one of Dydo’s points. Stein’s vocabulary is simple, her concerns are quotidian. She elaborates [works to a high finish and completion] less than she belabours [plies, assails, puts pressure on].)

Dydo speaks of “tiny essays.” A lovely idea.

Stein: “Grammar may not be mistaken.”

“Grammar may not be mistaken for winding along presently. This is just as it is or has become.”

. . .

“Any kind of complication is simple that is the real use of grammar. It all but says so.”

These kinds of things bear up under a terrible weight of scrutiny, and never quite resolve, no?

Stein: “Successions of words are so agreeable.”


A Contribution to a Tradition

Meaning lies in grammar.


Another Contribution to a Tradition

Grammar lies in its meanings.


And I’m reminded of A. R. Ammons’s one-liner: “Cowardice runs in my family.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

A Fit

The question of fit (Kent Johnson's "if it fits"): everything fits. Who talk'd of the poem as a bag of everything it ends up containing? Talking about Frank O'Hara, I think. When I am stymied whilst writing, I latch onto whatever's handy: say, Ronald Firbank. Say, Haussmann. Say, a fever bush. Open'd at random. At random.


"That catalog of contented cuckolds"


Callously, the
Calla lily
Calls back.


A Hunch

A hunch
Before lunch.

(I've been reading a Nancy Drew mystery to G. Call'd, I think, The Clue in the Diary. Notable, maybe, for being that one wherein Nancy first meets endlessly appeasable boyfriend Ned Nickerson. I used to flip through the pages of Nancy Drew mysteries looking for whole sentences in italics. An ungovernable thrill would subsume me, fear and delight, there, tuck'd behind the old whatnot, the material word!)


A quick rendition of Dydo notes. Apparently I fell asleep reading it. I do know that I woke up somewhere after midnight with The Language That Rises open, facedown, on my face. I'll avoid assessing the possible implications of that. Let's say there's a dreamland suite I'd rather not be permanently check'd into, albeit it's momentary excitements. Rather than continuing out along this limb ever overgrowing the processual reach of its own tree . . . I'll note:

Note: Ron Silliman's post'd a review of the Dydo today. Something he wrote for Ed Foster (for Talisman, I presume). I skimmed a few sentences of it and print'd it out to accompany my lunch.

Stein: "Writing may be made between the ear and the eye and the ear and the eye the eye will be well and the ear will be well."

That old balance: the material of word-sounding, the material of word-shaping laid up against the material of the world. Think of how puns operate: ear, eye.

Stein: "not to let the looking be predominating but to have the listening and talking be predominating but to once more denude all this of anthing in order to get back to the essence of the thing contained within itself." ("Portraits And Repetition," 1934)

Dydo, on Stein's movement in quick succession between "Finally George A Vocabulary of Thinking" (1928) and "Arthur A Grammer" (1928): "Thought is composed by moving words from vocabulary into grammatical relations."

Dydo: "The particular is discontinuous."

Hence, the problem for all writing, how not to be deform'd by itemization, the part-ing and parsing of the necessary detail, how not to lose the sense of the great relentless smeariness of the whole.

And: "Continuity is imposed on experience."

One underpinning is the stretch'd fabric of the whole, unforgivable and knit tight. To it, one pins a succession of bits, the particulars of ear, the manifestations of eye. The result is a new fabric, seemingly stretch'd, unripped.

Another unripe metaphor.

Who is Bravig Imbs, young Midwestern poet?


A post is a particular. An inchoate post. A particularly inchoate post.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Chaotickal Morning

A rain-made chaotickal morning. Out into its drench and pour with Carmen worrying the air, needing reassurance (does that flicker of wildness in what's mostly imploring say "You comin', man?" or "You fuckin' out chore mine!?"), and turning back soak'd. Deuxième fois, slicker'd up with the lightweight rain gear: inflatable boy, balloon child, Michelin man. Only the leash keeps me tied to earth. Carmen nudging and nosing me bumping along, nearly airborne, nearly aloft. So I keep the gear and bicycle in to work, playing light French farce (all farce is French, Mr. Stuff'd Shirt), or George Roy Hill kicking my feet wide and coasting gaily through huge puddles. I am a moving snub to you, Mr. Ford "Explorer"!


"And I say that tears are but the Cordials of comfort!" said Sir William Mure, ripely.




Continuing with the Dydo, Gertrude Stein: The Language That Rises, 1923-1934. Considerations of "Four Saints in Three Acts," and "Lucy Church Amiably" (1927).

The commonplace, the ordinary as source and temper of the visionary. (All art's ever been about is looking at, attending to, eyes, yes, for I's.)

Dydo: "The details are not sacred but entirely commonplace. Visions are possible for those who are willing to look at the ordinary." Or, the commonplace detail is what's sacred.

Wordsworth's "splendour in the grass" and "pigeons on the grass alas."

Saint Ignatius: systematic, austere, regular spiritual exercises, method.

Saint Theresa: illumination and ecstasy through the quotidian, dailiness, "singing praises is singing in and of the world . . ."

[One could muster a formidable list of Ignatian writers versus Theresan writers. Just as someone did, using the Faulknerian labels of Krebs and Snopes.* Or is it rather a little Ignatian to propose just that? But: Are the categorizers going to be the only ones to do the categorizing?]

*Erm, I see now that Catherine Meng's mention'd it before (in June 2003) at Porthole Redux. Richard Hugo. She says:

"Hugo . . . does say, "Not from birth and circumstance, but by virtue of how they feel about themselves and their relation with the world, as revealed in their poems, many American poets see themselves as (or really are) Krebs or Snopes."

I could've sworn I first saw such a list in a back issue of Epoch magazine, made by Baxter Hathaway, in the "Notes, Reviews, and Speculations" back matter. I think Epoch first publish'd Hugo. But: my memory probably shouldn't be trusted with dirt. Or by dirt.


—Même les ordures?
—Même les ordures.


Tell 'Em Tiny Montgomery Says Hello

Kent Johnson wrote:

Your latest post on the candle made me think, I don't know why, probably because I just wrote it, of this entry to a rengaesque poem I am now doing with Jack Kimball. Well, a world apart, as they say. May we die in aguacero, on a jueves, in Paris, I already remember it . . .



This collateral boy, the handmade kite intact, his limbs snapped off like straw, the stunned father gathering them up, calling his name... oh Poet, listen to this question in a muqtadab followed by a mujtathth: Would you forsake your poetry, all of it, all its pleasures and terrors, to make him whole again?


And, it caught me up short, with its heft and drive, play'd against my tiddlings of a Tuesday. I reply'd:


Yeah, a world apart. Mine smarmy and juvenile, and yours with some meat on its bones. Which is one of the things I appreciate about you: not letting all of us just lapse into the entropy of whiz-bang spraying our jism around (well, that's one way of putting it). And I admit: it's easier to forget about the fact that disaster and mayhem and suffering dogs our every step in these States.

Of course Mark Twain knew this, too.




Kent, again:

Well, thanks, John. But yours smarmy and juvenile??

If enough meat on bones and if you think it fits (I realize you are working yourself somewhat in "renga" form!) feel free to put it up. Maybe it would create a little curiosity about what JK and I are up to. I think it might turn out to be pretty interesting when we are done. Maybe.

(You never got a card from Tan Lin, did you?)




Is the several strand'd, dropped stitch, piecemeal and echoickal Hotel Point rengaesque? Maybe. It's a little too early for definition and characterization. Categories gel and stiffen the categorized broth-soup. It's always too early for definition and characterization. "If they were not pigeons on the grass alas what were they. He had heard of a third and he asked about it it was a magpie in the sky." "He" being Saint Ignatius, the categorizer.

Monday, November 17, 2003


I slide open the wooden door that separates bedrooms and living room and there, sprawl’d out, back legs splay’d out flat in a way no dog’s legs should bend, is Carmen the doggo, doleful-eyed head on cross'd paws, unmoving, and I think: “Injun Joe! No! They can’t seal up the cave! Injun Joe’s livin’ in there!” and I see the candle stubs, gnaw’d to wicks and rubble, strewn about the floor . . .


Rainy, overcast, and wet all weekend. Troubled by th’absence of sky markers. No moon or stars to weigh for relief. No clouds, or, one grand coverall cloud, zipperless, stolid, bereaving. Some words just pour out splashing, lumps in the cornpone. Texture and riff-raff. Audible bites.


Poised for a saying. I don’t like that feeling. Better to smudge about and see what shapes emerge. The only way to be swift is to be swanky. Second-hand duds and hand-held camera. Avoid being cow’d by a known bucolic with a program. Avoid becoming a cow with a too-full udder. Braid in the tail. Decorating a lunchpail. Containing a sandwich spread with sandwich-spread.


Or is all beauty just th’embellishment of unsung desire? “Oh oh oh, what’s truth got to do with it?”


Call it “The Young Man’s Remembrancer and the Old Man’s Monitor, by that well-steep’d and bodacious devine . . .” Call it. Call me.


“I’m in love with Tilde, and Tilde is in love with me.” Or is it “Queen Jane Approximately”?


Monday, always late arriving, is always a voyage of reckoning. “The Unreckonable.” “The Perfervid.” “Disaster City Hoedown.” These are the names of my poems. Register and pagination are continuous. “When Others Take Me More Seriously Than I Do” is the name of my dog. Never to’ve got over that desire to run up suddenly in the face of it all, and go “Gaaaah! Ga! Ga! Ga!” before collapsing soundlessly, routinely, into tears. Tears in the fabric, that is.


An Honourable Thirst

Bought (Friends of the Library):

Wild Fruits: Thoreau’s Rediscovered Last Manuscript, by Henry David Thoreau, edited and introduced by Bradley P. Dean (W. W. Norton, 2000)

Still trying to slake that honourable thirst to read straight through the Journals, always straying, skimming, settling for the odd phrase caught casual: “clintonia or dracaena berries . . . plant grows in the shade about the edges of swamps. The berries . . . a peculiar dark, indigo blue (also like some kinds of blue china—some say “Amethystine blue”) grow in umbels of two or five on the summits, very brittle stems eight or ten inches high, which break with a snap, and on erectish stemlets . . .” Prose of the nineteenth century naturalist, precise, rhythmic relations
cut and fit.

Selected Poems and Translations, 1969-1991, by William Matthews (Houghton Mifflin, 1992)

Flipping through: about a photograph of Nabokov writing, whose face “brims with indifference to anything not on the page.”

Janis Joplin singing: “how she made her voice break out like that in hives of feeling.”

Another sentimental haul. I knew Matthews in Ithaca, New York, circa 1971-1973. Studied (1973) something probably called “Contemporary American Poetry” with him, an overflowing class, forty or fifty people piled around a big wooden seminar table, everybody smoking one cigarette after another is how I recall it. Matthews was recently divorced, living up in high country above Seneca Lake on Krums Corner Road, in an old farmhouse with fruit trees in the yard, with Underdog the German shepherd. He would come to teach with the filthiest fingernails, lank unwash’d hair, foul sneakers, slept-in clothes, and talk a spellbinding jazzy chatter, witty and up-tempo and twining, quick to reprise and lurch and circle back. Likely the finest talk I ever did hear. Though one day(besmudg’d memory) he said something like “I’ve been up all night writing some terrific stuff. . .” and I thought “braggart” and wish’d he hadn’t said that.

I recall shooting baskets (hoop over garage) with him one afternoon. I must’ve gone out there to the farmhouse with chubby Jim Bertolino, who couldn’t shoot beans, who threw up a dud that lodg’d itself in a cranny of the roof . . . Matthews had the natural grace and perfect form of a rich kid, moves that bespoke the polish of the country club, or the private school. I think now I probably would’ve hated his ass in high school, had I even encounter’d his ass.

He drove an old black slope-back Volvo. One night at an after-the-reading party it took two of us—me steering and working the petals, and another fellow shifting the clutch—to get it up the road a few miles in a snowstorm to a tavern to buy some more beer. I don’t recall what we read in that poetry class, though I remember Diane Wakoski’s early poems about George Washington, and James Tate’s things out of Absences. I recall spouting things like “breath of flugelhorn . . . Ah, Mister Jelly!” and “What are you writing now, smart-ass?” and “You look like a god sitting there. Why don’t you try writing something.” All probably inaccurate Tate lines, took and loved for the sass and snap of being suddenly able to say whatever one wants, made giddy by the mischief of being nineteen and reckless.

Tate came to read. And Frederick Buell. A jovial sedentary (plump) sort. Matthews yakking with him about how good Carlos Castaneda was. “Even if those books are fiction, what terrific fiction!” A lot of heated air was stirred up around Castaneda that year, an excess of it I’d think, and never bother’d myself with reading any of it. Toy memory, who else read that year?

I do remember seeing a bottle (La Tache 1962) that had “starred” in a poem: “Marie and I agree: this bottle of La Tache 1962 contained the finest . . .” and now typing that, it, too, seems unseemly, braggadocio‘d patter. It is not the facts that matter howsoever “true.” The bottle sat on a windowsill behind the kitchen sink, nonchalantly enough, or too casually. I remember my irritation with Matthews’s mockery of the guitar break in Joplin’s “Ball and Chain” (the Cheap Thrills album, cover by R. Crumb): it does sound like a one-string solo, but it’s still liable to make shivery inroads all down my backbone, and tear my only heart out of its cage of string. There was one whole wall of record albums, another, in an off-limits study, of poetry books.

Before I split the next year for France, Matthews wrote me a letter (he was in Andover, teaching at Emerson?) saying that Mary Feeney (co-translator with him of Jean Follain’s poems) was in Paris, look her up, and if I got to England go to the readings at Morden Tower, in Newcastle, and “I’ve heard Basil Bunting likes extremely deferential visitors”—though I’d seen the Fulcrum Collected somewhere, and had a vague notion of Bunting, I had to look up “deferential,” I was too solitary, too shy, and didn’t visit. I thumb’d around Scotland, act’d as nanny to a couple of brats in Wimbledon, went to Wales and walked footpaths along cliffs that plunged in the Atlantic, tried to see America through the fog, miss’d the whole American “field.” I did catch up with Mary Feeney in Paris, had a hurried drink before she had to meet an Irish poet (I think). I think a couple of pneumatiques may’ve follow’d, coming to naught.

It must’ve been about now (November) a couple of years back that news came that Matthew’d died. A heart attack. All dressed up to go to the opera, I think I heard.

Matthews’s obsessions: jazz, Nabokov (he’d start’d a dissertation, I think), wine, basketball, food, the body and its sad limits.

Matthews’s words: luff, blunt, scuff, snout.



Some Values of Landscape and Weather, by Peter Gizzi (Wesleyan University Press, 2003)

(“Avec tous mes remerciements très chaleureux à celui qui m’a envoyé ce bouquin très chouette” I say in diction-stress’d and mostly execrable French, with all intent to say more shortly . . .)

No: A Journal of the Arts #2, edited by Deb Klowden and Ben Lerner and printed twice yearly for Lost Roads Publishers (available for $12 to Deb Klowden, 39 West 29th Street, 11A, New York, NY 10001)

Michael Palmer, Martha Ronk, Molly Dorozenski, Peter Gizzi, Caroline Crumpacker, H. L. Hix, Sally Keith, Kristin P. Bradshaw, Aaron Kumin, Elizabeth Robinson, Cole Swenson, Will Alexander, Kenneth Irby, Tony Tost, Erin Moure, Jacques Roubaud (tranlated by Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop), Peter Cole, Chris Tysh, Eleni Sikelianos, Ann Lauterbach, Barbara Guest, art by Enrique Chagoya, Marjorie Perloff (on Yeats), and Mary Austin (on “American Rhythm,” with an introduction by C. D. Wright).

A formidable line-up, a thing of demanding beauty, but I ain’t ne’r yet broke the spine. I will. A flood of reading is suddenly in the works.


Friday, November 14, 2003


Scratchpad Dump

“bodily cloggs and impediments”


“who wills and nills, chuseth and refuseth”


Place is a thorn and moves as perilously as a fossil.

Race to suborn and thieve as viciously as possible.


Ars adulandi, the art of flattery, by Ulpian Fulwell, fl. 1586

Ars adulandi (Adulate
My arse) the
Art of flattery

(A brown flounder)
by Ulpian (“Gulp”)
Fulwell (Know-it-

All), fl. (flourishing)
1586 (Fifteen hundred
Eighty-six this . . .)

Or catalog under
“Toadyism, Early works
To 1800.” Natch’.


Diary Usual

Stein: “A diary should not be in writing.”

“Why does a narrative replace a diary. Because it does not.” (“A Diary”)

More reading in the Dydo book, after the usual Thursday routine of ferrying G. to tap dancing and to basketball, and getting back for a late dinner of meatloaf, broccoli, potatoes.

Questions of narrative. Narrative is about the continuum, about continuity—it is not about anything that happen’d. In one sense, a diary is about constant beginnings. An entry is always a new beginning. A sequence, a series, of “total present immediacy.” (Dydo). A “sense of being inside the rich heterogeneity of the here and now.” (Dydo) Fictive, though, ineluctably fictive. All tidbit, loose ends, piecemeal, interrupt’d, strands, scraps, no fabric howsoever gauzy that might stretch over the all. “Only living renders daily life.”

“A diary should be simply be.”

“A diary is as it were outstanding.” (“A Diary”)

Out-takes. Remnants. Parcels.


I see Ron Silliman is worrying about those ingrates with the audacity to call him for earnestness, or el grande malo serioso (the great serious disease), or pomposity. I’m probably one of the barkers up that tree. Or if not, I probably should be. I don’t know Ron Silliman, though I did, lately, rather on a whim, send him copies of my two books (I recently land’d a small net full of Rubbing Torsos, and what to do with them, flopping there in the glisten and shine and stench of the day to day?) I respond more to one “Ron Silliman” who, while unimpeachable in energy and heroic in a willingness to engage, fully committed to the art, strikes me occasionally as in danger of ossifying, or of going all didactic. “It is youths duty to confront the visible elders (most elders hide),” I pronounce like a loudmouth. (In truth, I am meek (though surly), and older than I should be.) When I josh and chide and needle “Ron Silliman” on occasion, I do so in an attempt to keep him out of the dogma we are all in danger of stepping in. Stuff that dries on your shoe, stuff that’ll take a terrible energy to scrape off. And to add to the story that Ron is determinedly and admirably telling.

“Let my lines be measure’d, and my prose be inappropriate, immeasurable, mal-proportion’d, unsuitable, and rash.” (Oscar de la Renta)

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Splotch Structure

Pre-dusk walk with the sky east a vibrant Maxfield Parrish blue, chased over by ominous dark splotches of clouds. Wind up and cold.


An addition to the Charles Wright comments: in a list of “approaches to the poetic line,” he names “Structure (form is a subspecies of this: form imposes, structure allows, or: form is finite, structure is infinite.”


Dydo: “Our definitions and comparisons are useless. Associative language makes nonsense of description.”

Stein: “Letting it be not what it is like.” (“An Acquaintance with Description”)

Troubling myself lately about metaphor. Is it appealing because of its “idiotic” (I called it that a few days back) reach? Is it “only natural” (nothing’s natural) to connect and liken? Is it that understanding begins in overlay and alliance, those bicycle handlebars and saddle forming the Picasso bull? The salt and pepper shakers on the table as meek and withholding as opera glasses? If Stein says “Description is relating reinstating,” is that somehow opposed to “letting it be”? Metaphor is first a relation. Any relation is the beginning of a series. It is not the thing itself that we respond to—it is its relatedness. That relatedness found in arrangement—arrangement implying a plurality. More than a single item.

“There is an arrangement as berries. There is an arrangement as loop holes. There is an arrangement as distance. There is an arrangement as by the way. There is also an arrangement as at first. There is also an arrangement as to be. There is also an arrangement as disappointed. There is also an arrangement as why and let. There is also an arrangement as poplars . . . There is also an arrangement that it can be twice chosen. There is also an arrangement which is advantageous.” (“An Acquaintance with Description”)

Dydo: “With a minimal, monotonous vocabulary and great economy of means, she arranges the world in words that are not representations but analogues. For she writes not of the order of things but of the order of composition . . . out of the objects of the world of nature, she creates arrangements that do not exist in nature and are unlike any we have ever seen.”

A Dydo flourish (this comes at the end of a long chapter mostly concerned with the 1926 “Composition As Explanation”) suddenly fraught with adipose orotundity? It’s hard to get away from “words that are not representations” for very long—maybe if one stays only in the realm of some prepositions, some connectives (“which” is a fine Steinism) (as I’m writing these words the already tiny scroll of grammatical terms’s caught fire and is burning up, unwinding itself in its burning like a reel of film in my “head”), a, an, the, but, unless, except, there, here.

The arrangement of “There is an arrangement”’s just remarked is “an arrangement of berries,” ripe, rhetorical, plump.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

The Helper

Crows in the Diag. As autumn comes down the crows roost nights in the trees there, or in the trees in the cemetery that spills off Geddes down the hill toward the Arboretum, where Frank O’Hara walk’d restless for New York City on Saturdays when everybody else was off rooting for the Wolverines, a sadly misnamed football team, for no evidence’s ever been uncover’d that that particularly vicious carnivore (Gulo gulo), “capable of bringing down prey that is five times bigger than itself,” ever lived in Michigan. Crows like large black leaves, and the ruckus of cawing. I stand in the seven o’clock fog-singe’d light and listen: there are identifiable heights suddenly diminuendo’d to near-silence to the racket. As daylight comes up they’ll drift off singly, or doubly, or, most commonly, in threes to the woods and cornfields surrounding the city. The third crow is known as a “helper.”


My son G., a third grader, is writing paragraphs—topic sentence follow’d by pertinent details—of late.


The catalpa tree limn’d, a severe pen and ink, the stringy pods hanging down, black slashes, in lines directional and wild.


Catalpa tree lim’d,
A severe pen
And ink, stringy

Pods hanging down,
Black slash lines
Directional and wild.


In the voice of Ezra Pound, to Ron Silliman: “If line be forsook, a poem hath no measure.”


Reading Silliman’s wrestling with the unpublish’d Williams essay / notes in The Poker, I recall’d that Charles Wright used to make a distinction between “form” and “structure” too, one that I paid little attention to, and never understood. (Two things inevitably related?) So I went to “Improvisations on Form and Measure,” in Wright’s “Poets on Poetry” collection of prose (1988) to see what I could see.

All kinds of things “in the scarified air” around me as it turns out:

“The line is a unit of Measure: measure is music: the line is a verbal music. Which is to say, until we start talking about poems again, and not Poetry, we are still lost. Poems are put together with words, not Language. Word by word. Theory comes after the fact, it is not the fact. The line is a fact, it is not a theory.” (Wright)

Is that the American pragmatism, the nuts and bolts, that Williams, too, points at, invoking Stein? “A poem is a use of words (as emphasized by Gertrude Stein) to raise the mind to a level of the imagination beyond that attainable by prose. It is prose plus.” (Williams) And that “raise the mind”? Is that what Dydo is talking about in The Language That Rises? “One of those fine verbal miniatures that suddenly rise from the page” (Dydo)?

More Wright:

“In poems, all considerations are considerations of form.”


“Form is nothing more than a transubstantiation of content.”


“The asyntactical endings William Carlos Williams used so brilliantly for syncopation and measure—and which Robert Creeley used so well in the poems collected in For Love—in his short-line poems have crept along gradually to the ends of longer-lined free verse poems in our time. Any thought of a jazzy syncopation is gone because of the lengthened line, and the surprises to the ear and eye that Williams created, pleasurably, are now muted or totally overwhelmed by a sense of incompletion, as though the last part of the poem, horizontally, had been torn off . . .”


“I myself am interested in a kind of structural investigation of the line, an attempt at some kind of harmonics involving new patterns and new designs using a long image-freighted line . . . that can carry information (and “sincerity”) and a lyric intensity at the same time. Not only will it sing but it will tell time too.” (Wright)

Is this nothing more than a kind of stirred up mud, a dissolution of terminology? I don’t know. Is “structure” here—in “structural investigation,” (a rather homely scientistic / avant-gardist term intending what exactly?)—the same thing as “pattern” and “design”? A musical requirement for the line, the poem, is called for, but vaguely: “some kind of harmonics,” “lyric intensity,” and “sing” (the note continues with an additional sentence using Fats Domino as examplar, a canny choice speaking to Wright’s Southern roots and American poetry’s on-again / off-again love affair with the vernacular, the outsider . . .) And the line / structure / (is it right to say “form”?) here is no longer transubstantiate with content: here it is a freightcar: able to “carry information,” along with “image” and “sincerity.” (“A poem is not a suitcase.”)

Here, mostly, I want to fall down chuckling like an idiot boy and turn to Ron Padgett’s line (it graces the back (I think) of Great Balls of Fire, something about a poem’s being “something deep and mysterious that nobody understands.”) Sure I’ve got that wrong. Idiot boy. The old story of “keeping oneself stupid.”

More Wright:

“All great art has line—painting, poetry, music, dance. Without line (and here, it’s Wright who is ventriloquizing that ghost of Pound—JL) there is no direction. Without direction there is no substance. Without substance there is nothing (which seems a terrible falling-off of the oracular, akin to ending with a whimper—JL).”

And here, what I was looking for perhaps:

“Form is finite, structure is infinite.” (Wright)

A kind of Platonism, I suppose, but seemingly reversed from what I thought I was understanding before. Here “structure,” what seem’d akin to “pattern,” “design,” the way the measure of lines might fall out into an array, a series, a group of relationships, suddenly seems posit’d as an overarching universal, and “form” becomes the tiny snippet of the grander thing.


Gotta work.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Chair the Air


Quite differently the literal string
Hangs impetuous when the seekers meet
To chair the air where a vastness accounts
For undue bounds of th’introductory.
So the contents of this history make
Opening compleat and exact, make noise
In all likelihood, most probably rude
And affiliations of regret denounced
As chimeras by the masters of voice.
For the troubles necessitate that urge
To subdue a passion glancingly, with
A look said of others to be subject
To wonder. No, we doubt it not. Not that.
We have come beyond fair reprisals and
Humid squats with papers peeling off the walls.
To resent disaster is but recipe
For a hard measurable abandon:
To such strange excess do I consider
This my last and best happiness tonnage.


A hefty selection of a Dale Smith poem titled “These Days” is up today via Chris Murray.


The Oral History Program’s interviews of the Smithsonian Institute’s Archives of American Art via Jeff Ward. Hours and hours of reading pleasure there, I'd wager.

Watty Piper

Read: The 1923 piece titled “An Elucidation,” in the Ulla Dydo edited A Stein Reader (Northwestern University Press, 1993). Consider’d with amusement the relationship between the Watty Piper author’d The Little Engine That Could (Dydo says published in 1930, but “preceded by an early version in 1910.”) and some Steinisms.

Noted lines:

“. . . If we say, Do not share he will not bestow they can meditate I am going to do so, we have organized an irregular commonplace and we have made excess return to rambling. I always like the use of these, by not particularly.

(Somehow reading these words on the heels of Ron Silliman’s ruminations about Keston Sutherland’s ruminations about the uses of, need for “vagueness,” I thought Stein was also addressing the question. As one who is also suspicious of those who tout clarity above all, though just as readily enough flabbergast’d by one academickal roister-doister in my presence who claim’d not to be saying something “with the proper difficulty,” I like the “balance” here between “organization” and “rambling,” between “excess” and “commonplace,” between “the particular” and something vaguer, of use. Question: does reduction, a “paring down,” a “whittling smooth” lead to clarity? Question: does exfoliation, a “daubing up,” an “assembling amassment” lead to vagueness?)

. . .

If in order to see incidentally incidentally I request to see extraordinarily.

. . .

If he can recall a boast of victory, I can refuse to be resolutely sure of what he and I both mean to collect.

Now do you see that this is a thing to erase and eradicate.

. . .

To explain I will explain.


Read: the chapter titled “1923 ‘An Elucidation’” in Dydo’s Gertrude Stein: The Language That Rises.


“Geography is about words in relation in the space of the composition. A piece is never simply about what the words signify, but it is the realization of a word arrangement . . . Geography explores volume in auditory construction . . .”

Stein, in “Geography”:

Immeasurably. Immeasurably and frequently. Frequently and invariably. Invariably and contentedly. Contentedly and indefatigably. Indefatigably and circumstances. Circumstances and circumstantially.

(Adverbs, the use of. Why wary we of adverbs be? I think of two things here. First up: One of David Foster Wallace’s characters in The Broom of the System working for a company called “Frequent and Vigorous.” I may be completely wrong about that. The other is, is it Frank O’Hara in a little satyrickal piece making fun of John Rechy’s City of Night and its gush of adverbial jism? I may be completely wrong about that. Such be th’indiscretions of he who’d better soonest get to work.)


“. . . hearing takes place in space, where words can be taken in free of reference as physical things that relate, resemble, rhyme, attract, and repel and do their sibling punching and punning by sound and volume.”

(What would writing that gives no information about the world look like in the glut and yammer of the age of information?)

Monday, November 10, 2003

Boyish, Celestial

Lunar eclipse Saturday. An old man interrupt’d our dinner at Metzger’s (bratwurst, spatzen, red cabbage, beer), a large man with a red face cover’d with mischief-lines, boyish. “The eclipse is perfect now,” he announce’d. And it was, or nearly so. The thinnest goblet of white tracery along the underside—and brown-shadow’d above. Somehow a little dispiriting after the man’s enthusiasm.

Sunday. Scanning the night skies, looking for auguries and wonder, post-tempest mayhem. What is it, that need to claim, say, that the Big Dipper’s caught the drip and overflow of moonlight leaking horizonward? Or that the Big Dipper’s just scoop’d up and flung high the ball of its moon in a game of celestial lacrosse? What could be more idiotic?


Found on the new book shelf:

Gertrude Stein: The Language That Rises 1923-1934, by Ulla Dydo with William Rice (Northwestern University Press, 2003)

So the reading goes. Always a bird in the brambles to point the binoculars at—even as one’s got them train’d at a finely-mark’d kestrel hovering in the air. Drop’d, at least briefly, the Paradiso. Took up with the Mr. (Stein and Toklas did refer to one another, on one occasion, as Mr. and Mrs. Reciprocal.)

Some notes:

The idea of “audience writing”—late work, to please.

“Compulsively readable”: the first few chapters. Dydo on the carnets versus the cahiers, the tinier notebooks versus the manuscript books. How the former often provide context for material “finished” (that is, stripped of its contexts) in the latter.

Sexual love and writing. “Having a cow” and “having babies.” Codework.

Juan Gris: “the composition of a painting determines its subject, and not vice-versa.”

Stein’s letting space constraints / requirements determine composition. End of notebook equals end of poem. Width of notebook equals width of poem. Ammons’s Tape for the Turn of the Year.

Stein’s handwriting (there are a number of manuscript pages and photographs reproduced in Dydo’s book). Spiky, European, p’s as elongate z’s slash’d at page. In a letter to one Hubbell, I misread “You must not observe things” as “You must not obscure things.”

Birding Books

Bought (Friends of the Library):

How to Know the Birds: An Introduction to Bird Recognition, by Roger Tory Peterson (New American Library / Signet, 1957)

The finest introduction to birding. I keep buying books my father owns, things that surround’d my youth. For G., probably. I didn’t recall, or never noticed, the color plates--paintings in environments, as opposed to the more stylized and regular (repetitions, series) “field mark” paintings Peterson did for the first Field Guide.

Animal Camouflage, by Adolf Portmann (University of Michigan Press / Ann Arbor Paperback, 1959)

Whales and Dolphins, by Evarhard J. Slijper, postscript by John E. Bardach (University of Michigan Press / Ann Arbor Paperback, 1976)

Camouflage of cetaceans, there’s a combo.



Magazine Cypress #2 (2003), edited by Dana Ward (1118 Cypress Street, #3, Cincinnati, OH 45206). $5.

New work by: Anselm Berrigan / Joel Bettridge / Sean Cole / CA Conrad / Jordan Davis / Tsering Wangmo Dhompa / Brandon Downing / kari edwards / Greg Fuchs / E. Tracy Grinnell / Aaron Kiely / Susan Landers / John Latta / Dan Machlin / Christopher Martin / Anna Moschovakis / Sawako Nakayasu / Standard Schaefer / Mark Tardi

Lime green cover, near square format, simple smart design. Of particular interest: Anselm Berrigan’s three poems (“Some Assembly Required--11/23,” “Coaxed to Vapor and Dusk,” and “Poem for Ryan’s Irish Pub”), Jordan Davis’s two poems (“Poem” (Because it has a furnishing . . .) and “Poem” (Moving across the top of the stack . . .)), and Greg Fuchs’s “Charles” (I’m not sure I’m “in it” enough to know who Charles is: Borkhuis?), a longish thing cobble’d together of lines from documents and love-letters left in a mysterious blue suitcase in, apparently, Berrigan’s and Fuchs’s apartment, and of Springsteen lines (“My only rule to writing this poem was to listen to Bruce Springsteen during its composition.”) (Bringing me to the question: why do I wake up every morning with some line about “the bright elusive butterfly of love” running madly through the limit’d space of my cranium?) Fuchs:

“My diet at 26 is coffee, two cigarettes, burrito,
one donut, seven cigarettes. July 7, 1999
no breakfast, one coffee, a slice bought by Dave,
another slice bought by Mathilde.
Later Dave bought me an ice-pop. Then I crashed
at his place. Smoked three cigarettes. Fell asleep.”

Something affecting about the un-romanticized rather drab quotidian here, aligned often enough against funnier lines:

“The runaway Ameican dream. At work I furrow
and hiccup all day. I need to pee.”


Borders’s original store is striking here. Begun Saturday. Apparently only one store in Minneapolis and now the “downtown” store in Ann Arbor are unionized. At issue: a living wage, affordable health care, less use of part-time (that is, completely benefit-less) employees, recognition of the quality of the workers. One thing I’ve noticed recently (since the new CEO, a man whose previous experience was mostly in groceries): rearranging the “merchandise.” A particularly annoying way of increasing sales: in the attempt to find the olives, the customer’ll stumble into the canned cream’d corn, and exit with both. In the attempt to find the new Guy Davenport, the customer’ll bark her shin on the stack of the new Patricia Cornwell’s, and blow it all flying out with, um, both . . . G. and I a few weeks ago were notify’d that the children’s fiction was now arranged by topic, what? As somebody was quoted as saying: “Retail’s the new blue collar.”

I would encourage others to support the strikers here by avoiding Borders stores altogether. (Having work’d briefly for Borders's major competitor, Barnes & Noble, who were, in the early nineties, engaging in many of the same foul practices, I would encourage all to stay away from them too.)

Friday, November 07, 2003

Jealous Trout

Scratchpad Dump

Collect’d by a Person of Quality


The jealous Trout that low did lie,
Rose at a well-dissembled Flie.


These following are to be understood two ways:

I Saw a Peacock, with a fiery tail
I saw a blazing Comet, drop down hail
I saw a Cloud, with Ivy circled round
I saw a sturdy Oak, creep on the ground
I saw a Pismire, swallow up a Whale
I saw a raging Sea, brim full of Ale
I saw a Venice Glass, sixteen foot deep
I saw a Well, full of mens tears that weep
I saw their Eyes, all in a flame of fire
I saw a House, as big as the Moon and higher
I saw the Sun, even in the midst of night
I saw the Man that saw this wondrous sight.


Ione takes her neat rub'd Pail, and now
She trips to meet the Sand-red Cow,
Where for some sturdy Foot-ball Swain
Ione stroaks a Syllabub or twain.


On a FART.

I Sing the praises of a Fart,
That I may doo't by terms of Art;
I will invoke no deitie,
But butter'd Pease and Furmetie;
And think their help sufficient
To fit and furnish my intent;
When Virgils gnat, and Ovids flea,
And Homers frog strove for the day;
There is no reason in my mind,
Why a Fart should come behind,
Since that we may it paralel,
With any thing that doth excell;
Musick is but a Fart that is sent,
From the guts of an Instrument;
The Scholler Farts, when he gains
Learning with cracking of his Brains,
And when he hath spent much pain and oyl,
Thomas and others to reconcile,
For to learn the distracting art.
What doth he get by it? not a Fart;
The thunder that does roar so loud
Is but the Farting of a Cloud;
And if withall the wind do stirr up
Rain, then 'tis a Farting Sirrup;
The Soldier makes his foes to run,
With but the farting of a Gun,
That's if he make the Bullets whistle,
Else 'tis no better then a sizle;
Fine boats that by the times about,
Are but Farts several Docks let out;
They are but Farts, the words we say,
Words are but words, and so are they;
Farts are as good as Land, for both
We hold in Tail, and let 'em both;
As soon as born they by and by
Fart-like but only sing and dye;
Applause is but a Fart, the rude
Blast of the whole multitude;
And what is working Ale I pray;
But Farting Barme, which makes a way
Out at the bunghole, by farting noise,
When we do hear it's sputtring voice;
And when new drank, and without hopps,
It makes us fart, and seldom stops.
I more of Farts would write I vow;
But for my gutts I cannot now,
For now they wonderfully rumble,
And my stomack begins to grumble,
Which makes me think that Farts e're long
Will at my nock there find a Tongue,
And there sing out their own praises,
In thundring and in choaking Phrases;
Where I leave them, and them to you,
And so I bid you all adieu.
What I have said take in good part,
If not, I do not care a Fart.

Hole Morning

Cold night. Drop’d to twenty-eight degrees F. Near full moon piercing th’heavens, a drill’d out hole. And this morning hoarfrost outlining the oak leaves’ ribbing and veinage, sharp white coruscate. Glint and hodge-podge to the spikiness.

G. left a poem-draft on the table for me when I got back with C. Bonzo Dog.

Daddy and Carmen
went out for a walk.
Now I’ll never see them
or get to talk.


Dale Smith, at the Possum Pouch, in announcing a new column at Bookslut, mentions getting an admonishment for “straying into a deformed bickering modus,” a phrase I love. Though I think bickering’s got a place. Roiling the placid waters. Seeing what’s settled out that might, risen, too, be of use.


I was reading the selection of Smith’s poem (titled “Notes No Answers”) that graces the pages of the new issue of The Poker this morning. I think it’s difficult to pull off writing anything as a string of questions: the interrogative sustain’d always begins to sound querulous, whiny, shrill, pleading. To me. Thus it’s either a measure of my inattention or of Dale’s ability that I didn’t note (in spite of title-prod) until well into the third page that the poem consists of all questions. Partly due to the asterisks fragmenting it, slowing the onslaught of it and limiting the voice’s attempt to scale the ever higher wall of its asking.

All the leaves
in your voice, the pink
flesh church where
you kneel, that lovely
can’t we run on for-
ever in these meat


Do you think
there’s a way

. . .

Shall we dance
abandoned to quick
chance, kick out stiff
legs to the standard


If the forces of
nature can be
harnessed or
tamed, can the ass-
umptions of mod-
ernism be far

The pacing here is impeccable. The short lineations turn one’s attention to small discernible language-events within each question, and slow down the reading. Rhymes and consonances: dance, abandoned, chance, standard. Quick, kick, stiff. Harnessed, ass-. Mod-, behind. The forced hyphenations quarry the words for bury’d connexions, cross-fertilizing: the gumption and fashion-sense of modernism, the mod ass (the modest?) kicking still stiff to its standard numbers. Now that (perhaps) chance is itself a “standard number,” I think Dale is looking for a change of terms (“a way out”), an untaming that could allow (again?) for beauty, for all of us running on “for- / ever in the meat / folds.”


Unpacking a poem. A poem is not a suitcase. Language always betrays our intent. Nothing in that suitcase. Except us. We are in the suitcase of language.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Tan Tremendous

Subject: Re: Tan Lin

On Wednesday, November 5, 2003, Kent Johnson wrote, responding to my remarks (Friday, October 31, 2003) on reading Tan Lin’s “Ambient Stylistics”:

I was on a panel with Tan Lin once and he was a very unpleasant man. Had his mind made up about me before we even said hello. Of course, since he had already called me a racist in print, I suppose I couldn't have expected anything else!

A true asshole, he struck me as, not all that different from most tremendous writers.



I reply’d immediately on reading Kent’s letter this morning, Thursday, November 6, 2003:


Shall I publish your remarks on “Hotel Point”? Complete with half-assed snappy rebuke like “Which is why I refuse to meet
any writers.”?

My biggest giggle of late was “Rex”commenting on Silliman's gush about blogger precedents—Pepys, Thoreau, Whitman. “Rex” says: “You fuss too much.”




And toute de suite got Señor Johnson’s reply:


I’d be delighted if you printed my e-mail. I’m sure Tan Lin would too. The poetry world is too boring and needs more loving insults. Of course, the great thing about this is that I will never get any more reading invitations, so won’t have to deal with my social anxiety issue in that regard . . .

Could you maybe say something to frame it so that people take it in the right spirit? Something like, I wish people would write e-mails like this about me . . . or something such?

[Here I snipped out some regalia about the terrific calamari to be had in Freeport . . . Gee, I do wish somebody would say something nasty about me. Or about Kent Johnson. Trouble is, I probably wouldn’t notice . . . nothing ever “registers” with us poets, you know, up to and including “that final flat imperative: ‘Get in the car!’” of the men in blue . . . (A line I’ve always remember’d, Bill Bathurst, I think, or was it for Bill Bathurst . . . ? Oh dear.]

Gracias, amigo.



I’m not one for quizzes, or polls. I am, however, fond of sniggering imbecilia and sophomorics. So when I see someone (“Rex,” I think) ’s sqwawkbox’d Ron Silliman against the claims for blogger precedents (Pepys, Thoreau, Robert Duncan) that Silliman’s briefly made, and I see “Rex” say, “You fuss too much,” I nearly chortle in my soup. And think: wouldn’t that be a terrific title for a book of Silliman’s criticism. You Fuss Too Much: Collected Critical Writings. Or would “Literally”: Collected Criticism do it? How about Grrrr (No Owl): Dogged Prose? Or . . .


I read some more of Lezama Lima’s Paradiso last night, chin collapsing against collar, battling for a spate of wakefulness in the finally slumbering house. Thought of García Márquez’s Cien Años de Soledad. Thought of Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror. The García Márquez and the Lezama Lima seem to’ve been written nearly simultaneously. I’ve seen two dates for first publication of Paradiso: 1965 (in Cuba?), and 1968 (Buenos Aires). One Hundred Years of Solitude appear’d in Buenos Aires in 1967. That old “in the air” thing.

I must’ve read One Hundred Years of Solitude about thirty years ago. What I remember of the “magical realism” is that it is painted in the broad strokes of the situational: one of the old Aureliano’s (is that the name?) tied out in front of the house in Macondo like a dog, the warming milk boiling up to worms at the instant of another Aureliano’s birth, the big old house filling up with moths? Or dust? Oh my raddled memory. Shot full of, not exactly holes, but plausible and implausible patches for what holes we’ve got there. My sense, however, is that the truth in One Hundred Years of Solitude lies in the odd event, the storm’d dream-bulwarks, rather than in the language itself. It is, essentially, an allegorical book.

Paradiso in its first fifty pages—how slowly I read!—seems to proceed with a bounding insouciance regarding event, a moseying and dallying (it may be, of course, that I am just not seeing its proper contours yet), but with a ferocious attention to the careerings of the language itself.


“‘[X] . . . is happier than a goat in the breeze.’ He liked to choose a phrase that was wittily vulgar, or a proverb, to insert slight modifications in meaning or onomatopoeia. That expression ‘goat in the breeze,’ as could be seen, had been born in him more out of vigor than because of any boldness in language. Sometimes he would say, joining the start of a proverb with a mathematical axiom: ‘The eye of the owner fattens the horse, therefore one takes as the multiplier the one with the fewest digits.’”


“[Y] . . . short, taciturn, who by speaking very rarely lent extraordinary weight to all the vacuous things that occurred to him.”


“The square in Taxco was filling up with masked people who exploded verbal labyrinths or made ferocious stabs at the extra-dry air with their small knifes, as if numberless noses had come to blow into a jar which would concentrate that breath like a preserve.”


I want to read the new memoir / autobiography by García Márquez, Living to Tell the Tale, translated by Edith Grossman (Knopf, 2003).

I think I recall reading a piece of such in the New Yorker umpteen hazy yesteryears ago. All about quitting cigarettes. Burying a pack like a little coffin in the ground. And how, most horribly (because most accurately), García Márquez admitted how he “missed the little fuckers.”

Maybe it wasn’t the New Yorker. Mr. John Keats’s got them tiny hands of his’n on my throat this morning.


Misreading: “the overwhelming Mayness of the world.”

Wednesday, November 05, 2003


Why do the heathen rage, and the people puff up a vane thing?


You don't need a weathervane to know which way the wind blows?


Mr. Vain has left the building. To you.

I'm sorry?

Gallop, Public, Gossip

Received: The Poker #3, edited by Daniel Bouchard (P.O. Box 390408, Cambridge, MA 02139). Poems by Fanny Howe, James Thomas Stevens, Dale Smith, Daniel Bouchard, Jacqueline Waters, Alan Davies, Gleb Shulpyakov, Andrew Schelling, Jules Boykoff, Bruce Holsapple. Interview with Kevin Davies (by Marcella Durand). Essays by William Carlos Williams, Fanny Howe, Aaron Kunin. Review of Anselm Berrigan’s Zero Star Hotel (by Noah Eli Gordon).

I went galloping through the Durand / Davies conversation, compulsively over-reading it (like over-driving one’s brights on a back country road), skipping every other line in my eagerness (like the way Carmen the doggo goes at her chow, blind gulping voracity) to get at the veracity of the lives of the poets in New York . . . I’ll go back to it, more slowly, but it’s fun, witty—two jokers in The Poker—and’s got gobs of names and a kind of public version of gossip (Marcella’s cat named Perdita after H.D.’s daughter, Kevin’s digs with Douglas Rothschild and, briefly, Bill Luoma—the “Disgraced Boys Club,” or “Displaced”?) Of the poems, a sustain’d look’s due Waters, Davies, Smith, and Bouchard (all, I notice, parts of longer pieces, as is Howe). I think The Poker’s on its way to becoming one of the era’s defining vehicles. (Another candidate would be Ben Lerner’s No: A Journal of the Arts.) (But now I’m talking in heroickal measures of hyperbole, something I try to avoid.) Bouchard says (in an insert) that he’s got “a goal to publish at least 12 issues, 3 per year if possible.” Put a Jackson or two in the mail and subscribe.


Reading: Paradiso, by José Lezama Lima, translated by Gregory Rabassa (Dalkey Archive, 2000)

I’ve had Paradiso sitting next to my bed for a month or so, along with items too numerous to mention. Working in a library I tend to “heap up . . . a Cumulus” of books, those aery nebulosity’s of haruspicall divinations ever-awaiting a Peruser . . . (Oh yeah I do.) I had been intending to move to Berryman’s Shakespeare: Essays, Letters, and Other Writings by John Berryman, edited by John Haffenden. And start’d it breezily enough before getting stymied by th’impedimenta of Berryman’s penetralia. Meaning, I suppose, I thought it’d be smarter to read Shakespeare’s Henry IV before Berryman’s undeniably smart rehash and commentary. Moved to Dream Song: The Life of John Berryman by Paul Mariani (Oh, my biographical fetish . . .) Here, cut short by a prose style with all the finesse and panache of a slumlord’s eviction notice. A sample:

“The leech-gatherer symbolized the poet, gathering his poems by dint of long labor where he could in a time of diminishment. ‘That’s the way I must be!’ Berryman shouted. ‘That’s the way I will be.’” (Okay, already.) I note that James Laughlin admits in jacket copy that Mariani “has done his usual competent job on Berryman.” Done a job on. Competent. I’d call that damn’d fine feinting with the praise, Jay.

Paradiso. “. . . sleep thick as marzipan.” “. . . with the puffy face and mussed-up hair of a bass-viol player.”

Leaf report. Shagbarks and ash nearly bare. Maples ranging between the thin wash and the merest freckling. Oaks gone to Coppertone’d sheeny browns. The most muscular of the bunch, they’ll retain a good percentage of leaves through winter, leaves push’d off and out and into the aery funk and crepitus of the surround by next year’s new growth. Disjecta membra.

Fire bushes a dismal caked-blood black-red matting the annuals below. Raked and piled in the streets and wheel’d over in rain, a leaf slurry forms, pooling tannins Adirondack in color.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Midwest, Sod

Walk’d a book off to be mail’d. Getting hot out there. Look in the crevices of the bricks and one sees Asian lady beetles galloping about. Not the old fly away home variety. New and import’d. I read it in the news. These beetles like to bite off a minuscule chunk of one’s finger as a way to say hello.


And thought about “the Midwest sod.” Being one, I get to talk like that. Though, truthfully, I allus prefer’d my father’s “Jack pine savage.” When I was a northern tyke in upper lower Michigan. Finished the Mossman. I like how he goes after Eastern (and Western) provincials:

One character mocks the Californian known as “Henry bastard”: “he’s not up on too much east of the San Bernardino Mountains.”

“That’s west all right. Reminds me of some of some Eastern provincials I know. Don’t know cows from raisins. I guess I was just stuck in the middle out there, you know, Aristotelian, riding the Golden Mean.”

But we’s all hermits out here anyhow. And just funnin’ ya. Just.


In the barbershop on Saturday with G. I thumb’d a crumpled National Geographic

“to see what the poets of the lost
tribes of the Amazon are doing these days . . .”

Got an eyeful of a man daubing and dripping some milky plant sap into the eye of another. (Not in the barbershop. In a picture in the magazine. An “exceedingly painful” way of making the jungle canopy appear multi-dimensional, making it easier to locate gray monkeys in the foliage.


Picking up my proofreading: “the whole frame of the Universe, shall . . . turn to its Mother-nothing . . .” What the?

And “improved . . . to a Culmen . . .”


Mossman. Final notes.

“She was a tall, nervous woman who looked as if she often chewed her fingers late at night after sneaking volumes of Conrad Aiken in the bathroom.”

Attttsssss Mossman.

Evidence of Pynchon’s caricaturing of character through name: girlfriend Summer Letch, earlier girlfriend Becky Thatcher, pal Ratshit Rawlings. Cf. Benny Profane.

Evidence of Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano. The Dow Mossman character (Dawes Williams) sitting in the Rio Grande tearing pages out of his notebooks. (We get the pages, reproduced somewhat tediously in near-agate type.) Somewhere the ex-Consul Geoffrey Firmin gets mention. Mythic drinking and death in Mexico, vaguely “Jungian.” Mess of whore versus Great Mother imagery.


“The first time he had noticed it, language, was in the fourth grade when Miss Norman Jean Thompson, his teacher, turned against the whole class and said:

‘All Americans eventually go to heaven.’

‘By sweet Jesus,’ Ronnie Crown had said that afternoon, sitting on Dunchee’s wall, waiting for Dawes Williams to come tell him about it, ‘that’s about the God Damn dunbet thing I ever heard.’

Dawes Williams had agreed immediately that the message was insipid, but he thought for years that the syntax was inspired. In fact, the first time Norma Jean Thompson had said, ALL AMERICANS EVENTUALLY GO TO HEAVEN, was also the first time Dawes Williams had ever noticed the English sentence.
. . .

But language . . . was not even remotely related to anything else. It was a narrow extent, a jar without water. It kept no flowers living, dancing, breathing in sunlight. To possess a word . . . was to be possessed by nothing at all.
. . .

But tonals faded . . . and you made images; but images faded and you made words; but words failed and you made nothing. Then nothing bloomed and you made words again; finally you had only sentences left which had rooms within windows, and houses within rooms.”

Attttsssss Mossman.

Actualist Disco

A higgle and a piggle of an aggravated morning. I’ll try to keep my growl-y sounds to myself.


I have to register a strong protest against the removal of all means and manner of printing from a diskette (floppy disc) for Macs at the computing center in Angel Hall. I have regularly (for the past six years) gone there to print research documents prepared at home on my circa 1992 Quantum 605. I do not have an Internet connection at home.

The fact of the matter is that the University, by ignoring past technologies like the floppy disk, is encouraging the planned obsolescence of products, in the rush to purchase ever newer, bigger things. I would be grateful if just one adjustment could be made for those of us who believe an adequate, useable technology suffices.

One floppy disc reader attached to a Mac somewhere on campus shouldn't be too much to ask for.



Insect scritch and niggle dying out with the weather. Too cold, too rainy. So what’s that rhythmic weet-weet, weet-weet-weet, loudening somewhat in the catastrophes of light? There. Astraddle a horizontal, one plump squirrel, tail tuck’d up in a stately S, buck-toothing a husk’d walnut, that’s what, Mulligan. Like a fur-cover’d water pitcher. Incising. Rejoyce.


In the sonnet number’d CXXI, Shakespeare writes: “I am that I am.” What does Popeye mutter? “I yam what I yam”? Toot-toot.


I noticed that August Kleinzahler used these lines of William Carlos Williams’s “January Morning” for one epigraph:

I have discovered that most of
the beauties of travel are due to
the strange hours we keep to see them

I think Darrell Gray used the same lines for the stapled mimeo’d book titled The Beauties of Travel. Published by Doones Press (Ray DiPalma, right?) in Bowling Green, Ohio in 1971. I’d been thinking Toothpaste Press, but that was the later (1974) Scattered Brains. I think I still have a copy of The Beauties of Travel that Jim Bertolino may’ve “laid” on me (such was the lingo then, right?), but it must, spineless, be in a stack somewhere, hard to eye quickly. What I did find last night, perusing, were two copies of David Morice’s (I’d been thinking Curtis Favile, wrong!) Gum (Ah, those teethy Iowans of yesteryear! There was also Toothpaste’s by-product, the letterpress’d Dental Floss).


Gum is a little (about four by five-and-a-half inches) little mag. Mimeo’d. “Stencil’d” is probably the closer term. Single copy: 25¢. No. 6 (September 1971) quotes “5 issues for $1.” By No. 7 (March 1972) that’s gone up “5 issues for $1.50 for people.”

Contributors (No. 6): Raymond (sic) DiPalma, Allan Appel, Darrell Gray, Tony Towle, Jim Preston, Michael Waltuch, Judson Crews, James Schuyler, Robert Grenier, Tim Hildebrand, Paul Carroll, Clark Coolidge, Jim Bateman, Lee Larcomb, Larry Fagin, Terence Anderson, George Mattingly, Tom Veitch, John Batki, Aram Saroyan, Anselm Hollo, Elizabeth Marraffino, Ira Steingroot, Gerard Malanga, Allan Kornblum, Ron Padgett, Dick Gallup, John Sjoberg, Anne Waldman, Dave Morice, Kathy Friedman, Andrei Codrescu.

First thought typing: what a boy’s club! Would it be instructive to study a similar issue of, say, The Lamp in the Spine, edited “just across town” (or did it begin elsewhere? It had, at some point, a St. Paul, Minnesota address . . .) by James Moore and Patricia Hampl, title via Virginia Woolf? Here’s a mix of cut-ups and clowns, equal parts Creeley and second generation New York School, all heap’d up on some poor Midwest sods (not Allan Kornblum. A New Yorker, he’d work’d for Bill Graham at the Fillmore East avant the Iowa stint. All part of that “I’d rather be a rock star” come-down, pervasive in poetry circles.) Oh dear.


Darrell Gray:


The many senses like little open doors
Into one huge room full of colored fumes
Speeding across the sky
My hand touches yours
Yours mine
A spine-tingling actuality
Born and raised on a pin-head
In the fraction of time it takes
Gloom to glisten
The faucet to drip
As you enter the room and are seized
By the information


And so the Actualists arrive? No, that came a little later. It should be noted (in my ongoing search for precedents to Robert Grenier’s Sentences and Ron Silliman’s New Sentence) that both issues of Gum that I have at my disposal (odd phrase, but I’m hungry for lunch and hurrying) are chock’d full of Grenierisms, one-liners, caught speech, repetitions with variations. And many are present’d “landscape”-style on the page, offering the size and look of a stack of three-by-five cards.

Monday, November 03, 2003


New embers.
Silence clutter’d with bigger silences.


Late to work (in circa one o’clock). Half day at the elementary school, so G. and I go grocery shopping. And xeroxing copies of G.’s drawings.

He’s been working out of a library book—Fifty Famous Heads and How to Draw Them. (That can’t be it.) Henry VIII, Sitting Bull, Charlie Chaplin, Harriet Tubman, Yvonne Goolagong.

—Dad? Who’s Yvonne Goolagong?! (Clearly a book published in the seventies.)


Bought: The Strange Hours Travelers Keep, by August Kleinzahler (FSG, 2003)


Weekend gone in a frenzy of violin recital, basketball game, rain, vacuuming, uncluttering the desk. Read nearly to the end of Mossman.


Woke in the middle of the night doing what I think of as Heriberto Yepez Variations:

—There is no theory. There is only practice that exhausts itself and makes such practice impractical.

—Practice is always untheoretical. That is the meaning of practice.

—Unruly practice revenges theory’s tidy emissaries of thinking.

—Thinking itself is never ruly, it is theory that makes it so.

—Whenever practice waxeth ydle, Hell lacketh Guests, and Theory on earth waxeth ruly.

—If theory is ruly and regular, let practice be rueful, pitiable, pitiful, and woe’d.