Monday, February 23, 2004



Saturday, late afternoon, first robin. A Michigander’s spring-bringer. Print-empress of the seasonal news? (Fail’d bilingual pun.) Perch’d in some scrap trees, willows and such, off behind the Greenview garden plots. And coming back saw two turkey vultures soaring low, another sign of warming, though the buzzards may be wintering around here now.


Down Spooky, by Shanna Compton (Half Empty / Half Full, 2004) Available for $3, here.

A handsome chapbook, sewn, translucent color’d end-sheets, edition of fifty. Whimsical humor, a “stance” captured, I think, by the cover design (with title acting rather like a caption) of (according to credits) “Miss Helen McCabe, a bus driver” in Beaumont, Texas, wheeling deadpanned her completely empty rig over the tops of the trees bordering a dirt logging road. “Down, spooky.”

Partial to the collection (here comes the “full disclosure”) partly because, unbeknownst to me, Shanna help’d herself to one of my “Titles Available” post’d here at the Hotel Punctum: “Hooey Subvert’d Again.” Titles borrow’d, thieved, and solicited elsewhere and everywhere apparently acting as impetus and principle for the chap. Here’s a little sample, two favorites:

Contrast Girls

One speaks in swimsuit fashion terms.
One says her name is Jane.
One reveals pitfalls of self-abuse
in the English of her day.

When the phone rings this one curses.
She has no plans for later.
Some girls have names that could be guys’.
This one’s a “freak of nature.”

This one fancy-pantsed her way
across the continent.
And this one spent large sums of cash
trust-funded by her parents.

That girl there wore stiffened stays
and laced herself with bones.
She tied herself with strings, became
a little ham of rage.

My sister & I once spent the day
walking around in Brooklyn.
We watched a capybera do
nothing, for like an hour.

(How it throws down the gauntlet of the personal only at the end, though it is creeping toward the particular—general “one” to “this” to “that” to “my sister.” How the juxtaposing of the exotic and mysterious (well, I had to look it up) “capybera” (“a tailless largely aquatic So. American rodent often exceeding four feet in length”) against the gum-snapping vacuity of “for like an hour” provides the pleasantest, and funniest contrast.)

Scholars of the Twang

On teluhvision
everbody always
talked to people
reeyul damn nahce.

(I can’t space the final three words out properly, imagine em quads in lieu of three-em spacers betwixt each. Reminds me of Tom Clark’s little poem reporting that Richard Hoggart sees the television as the sociological equivalent of the hearth, and ending: “Smart dude, that Hoggart.” Though here, as in “Contrast Girls” the largest part of the perception is ensconced in the orthography (language) itself. Damn nahce.)

Shanna is of the energies behind the fast-rising Soft Skull Press (where, lately, did I see words comparing it, in commitment, daring, and range, to the early Grove Press?), and one of th’indefatigables (bloggers).


Reading Gail Scott’s My Paris.

Which is Benjamin-haunt’d, and Stein inflect’d, and stylistically reminds me somewhat of J. P. Donleavy, that mannerist chop’d sentence affect / effect. Story of woman in Paris, sitting at window, boulevard Raspail, “already less a traveler. Than a sort of flâneur (of interior!). Though Benjamin saying flâneur already hawking observations. Like simple journalist. By time of Baudelaire.”

Mention of “flâneur. In later 19th-century sense of industriously strolling.” Is th’indefatigable blogger of the 21st-century direct descendant of that flâneur? Lost in crowds, watching crowds, crowd’d by watching?

Stein making mark in Scott’s continuous presenting: “Economy of bustle. Keeping Paris going. Axed on verb. The French-language way. Which way Gertrude Stein miming. Walking poodle Basket up windy Raspail. Trumpeting that by emphasizing predicates. She inventing the 20th.”


Bought (Friends of the Library):

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, by Henry David Thoreau. Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Walter Harding (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1963)

“Here too was another extensive desert by the side of the road in Litchfield, visible from the bank of the river. The sand was blown off in some places to the depth of ten or twelve feet, leaving small grotesque hillocks of that height, where there was a clump of bushes firmly rooted. Thirty or forty years ago, as we were told, it was a sheep-pasture, but the sheep, being worried by the fleas, began to paw the ground, till they broke the sod, and so the sand began to blow, till now it had extended over forty or fifty acres. This evil might easily have been remedied, at first, by spreading birches with their leaves on over the sand, and fastening them down with stakes, to break the wind. The fleas bit the sheep, and the sheep bit the ground, and the sore had spread to this extent. It is astonishing what a great sore a little scratch breedeth. Who knows but Sahara, where caravans and cities are buried, began with the bite of an African flea?”

The Confidence Man: His Masquerade, by Herman Melville. Edited with an Introduction and Annotation by H. Bruce Franklin (Bobb-Merrill, 1967)

“What an ugly thing wisdom must be! Give me the folly that dimples the cheek, say I, rather than the wisdom that curdles the blood.”


Explaining to Carmenita about squirrel-chatter high up in the white oaks: “All talk, no action.” And putting it into her language: “All bark, no bite.”

Explaining to Carmenita what “listening skills” are. What “listening skills” are lacking, that is.

Explaining to myself how the “come command” in combination with a chunk of cheese in a large empty room is unequal to the challenge of the “come command” with a gloveful of dry biscuits in a woodlot full of squirrel tracks and spring-runoff smells. As Carmenita disappears into the underbrush with nary a thought for my noises.

My noises. The “come command.” In two years I’ll be eighty years old with hair growing out of my ears, stoop’d into my buckler and chuckling about the “come command” if my present ratiocinatory levels are maintain’d much longer.


Off to Chicago for a few days. Adíos. Behave your selfs.


Friday, February 20, 2004

Gummed Up, or Out?


That little wad of gum
Carries a mean likeness to
Kirk Douglas in Spartacus, no?


Restless, immensely restless. Which probably means tired, not pacing the week properly—whatever that means. Not eager to “engage” anything: I’d rather tamp at the surface, spackle, add more surface to existing surface. Which is where cubist “depth” comes in, no?

The C-dog is flumfph’d in a corner, stretch’d out to afford a look in a tall skinny mirror that leans there against the wall. Fleeting images: a demolition derby fire in Trumansburg, New York, dousing the engine block with whitest foam—a Polish girl, drunk, cursing out a taxi driver in Paris: sale Arabe!—walking down the westering end of Ithaca’s State St., humming a Hues Corporation tune to the first greenery of spring, on my way to print a page of New Faces of 1952:

Our love is like a ship on the ocean
We've been sailing with a cargo full of love and devotion

So I'd like to know where, you got the notion
Said I'd like to know where, you got the notion
To rock the boat, don't rock the boat baby

A group named after the mysterious millionaire Howard, who’d a thunk it?

What did become of my sturdy little notion to write memory-images out on index cards, put ’em up in a shoebox chronologically order’d and indispensable, and so make a furtive catalogue and representation of the “immensitee of excesse and defecte” that is my life? Something to shuffle and re-do come a rainy day, oh come a rainy day . . .


Does immensity come out of mental, that is mind? That whatness what squats there a pure gray mass of becomingness? Immensitymeaning beyond, or outside of, or not, the mind? My, that is big.

And wrong: mensus past participle, a form of metric (to measure.) How about immindedness? “Trusting it’s just a cold coming on making me feel so imminded . . .”


Finish’d the Bathurst jail notes (I love the phrase referring to the prison term—“kept in durance vile”). Also the Ronald Johnson piece that Josh Corey pointed out and Guy Davenport’s elegy for Hugh Kenner (whose scoutmaster was Pierre Trudeau? Guy, Guy my man, that’s impossible! Scoutmaster’s aren’t a mere four years older than the scouts to whom they recite that Baudelaire around the campfire. Besides, it’s usually more like Philippe Djian. Something like Ça c’est un baiser, no?)


Off to Samarkand, comrades!


Thursday, February 19, 2004



Noted: Ron Silliman thrashing about trying to place Kathleen Fraser. She’s not “an ‘Iowa poet’ in the way that phrase was used in the 1970s to indicate a narrow range,” not “a New York School writer,” not “an SF Renaissance or a ‘Bolinas’ poet.” Note how categorizing (Silliman’s fondest activity, unless it be counting) a writer, even one so changeable as Fraser, is first of all accomplish’d by placing th’individual in question in a “scene.” (The problem of each of the three previous directors of the Poetry Center at San Francisco State—James Schevill, Mark Linenthal and Stan Rice—is not “personal aesthetics”—these can be dismiss’d out of hand since “the defining feature” of the three lies, for Silliman, in the fact that the poetry of each “never really connected with any existing literary community.” “None,” Silliman intones, “was ever truly part of a scene.”)

One could begin a movement out and away, out into the peripheries, the edges where things marvelous and uncommon happen, leaving the adipose clusters to the cities, fattening in the slow somber coalescence, in a congealing like hamburger grease whitening on the plate of habit whilst the pimply waiter wipes down the counter and the gangsters toss themselves out into the black cloak of night . . . One could begin it by announcing: I HATE SCENES. And go on to find oneself at the table of one, a scene of avoidance, a scene of refusal, I suppose, because it is inevitable that hoops should be thrown to corral this and this and this and the best we can do is look out for it occurring within ourselves, that ever-dangerous claiming of anything more than an honorable duty and right to speak. And, above all, oh heaven preserve us if we should start to think what we do is anything more than a gag and model, and one never quite right for the next guy or girl coming down along the pike. Sweet Betsy, no.

After all, Kathleen Fraser’s first book was called Change of Address (Kayak, 1967). That doesn’t sound like anyone willing to settle into being bound place-holder to a mere category. Kayak: the honest heart of George Hitchcock and th’American surreal. Publisher of a solid grouse and nattering of poets (with, generally, a terrific mid-section of “Correspondence”—why here in Kayak #23 alone are letters from Margaret Randall, James Tate, William Matthews, Jim Harrison, and Walter Lowenfels. Reviews include a lengthy thing by William Aiken on Creeley’s Pieces and Zukofsky’s influence.) Hitchcock: not a man to be erased. (Nor is Tom Clark a man to be erased. How, Ron, can you suggest (in footnote) Berrigan, Padgett, Berkson, Schjeldahl, and Fagin would’ve “almost certainly” “made” (my word) th’imagined “younger” Allen anthology, and avoid naming Clark?)

Here’s a Fraser statement of poetics circa 1967-8 (The Young American Poets, edited by Paul Carroll, Big Table, 1968): “I write poetry when and because I have to. The need simmers and grows to a boil and the inner struggle must be put to paper. Sometimes it is specific things that need out, need expression. Other times it is simply a pure joy sensation that wants celebration. And sometimes it is simply the need to write, not knowing what. This particular urge finds pleasure in play, many times. Play with words and syntax and arbitrary categories of edible luscious verbiage . . . this quite apart from the other thing of trying to get at that puzzle you so need to explore and discover in yourself.”

Which is akin to scads of other—primarily expressionist, rather vague, full of organic need and Romantic struggle—similar “statements” of the era. Which is dated as surely as Carroll’s description of Fraser as “a redhead married to the poet Jack Marshall.” And if it looks a little “dumb” now, do we mean “we’re smarter now,” forty short years later? (No, we’ll look plenty “dumb” in forty years. Some of us’ll look plenty dumb in four years.) I see in the (huge) new book of letters between Denise Levertov and Robert Duncan (The Letters of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov, edited by Robert J. Bertholf and Albert Gelpi, Stanford UP, 2004) that Duncan seems to be catching Williams being a little “dumb” with the times forty short years earlier. Duncan (who’s writing in 1961) says: “I’ve just come from reading Spring and All . . . Williams too, in 1922, was caught up with being ‘dada,’ with contrived ‘interesting’ displays.” Though, recognizing the way mores muddles the tempora, he lets Williams off the hook: “Well, in him, they are very much ‘being the life of the poetry.’ They are arabesques, skips and jumps about the room with a lamp on one’s head—for a crown. The thing is that Spring and All is moving, moves along a depth that is feeling and whose images are: what? Certainly nothing contrived or even imagined. We do not believe that Williams imagined the road to the contagious hospital or the flowers or the farmer—in the sense that he made them up—but he followed a melody in which those first three poems set into movement his form.”

Key word: moving. One “follow[s] a melody” and so finds oneself here or there. One does it within the poem, one does it “in life.” I’m reminded by all this “scene” talk of some remarks about “career” (“scene” / “career”--même combat?) I stumbled on in that Kayak. Jim Harrison: “In the past two years I’ve been co-editing Sumac I’ve been amazed at the number of people who want evidently a ‘career’ in poetry. When I was an ordinary weedpatch poet I didn’t know this . . . Money and recognition is much more likely, outside a silly querencia of devoted students, for the steadfast busboy.”

Fraser’s new Apogee book misewell’ve been titled Discrete Couples Forced into Categories, for all the willingness to see a changeable, and flexible, and moving individual behind it. History is first untidy. And so calls for untidiness in its accounting.

So endeth th’evening grouse and natter.


Forgotten in the cinema jaunt: the Fifth Forum, another Ann Arbor theatre (for the seventh art) now gone. And Ken Russell’s Savage Messiah (1972) there with G. G., late summer of 1973. Based on the eponymous book by H. S. “Jim” Ede, (and written, I notice, by Christopher Logue, he of the terrific Iliad versions, see All Day Permanent Red, among others) versions the story of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska meeting Sophie Brzeska in the British Library. Russell’s usual over-lush style forgiven (being “young and in love,” we did not notice it.) And visit’d Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge later, a rather empty (of people) place full of Gaudier-Brzeska: sketches of undeniable quickness and impeccable accuracy of feeling, sketches of (mostly) animals on large sheets of crummy paper in flat drawers. Years later, in a barn full of books near Harrisonburg, Virginia, I scout’d out a copy of Savage Messiah and bought it for a buck or two. I was surround’d, I recall, by Mennonites, the women in long ginghams and bonnets. The men mostly hanging around out front, yakking, thin-lipped.


Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Jurassic Coffee


Welcome to Aaron McCollough, whom I haven't had a cup of coffee with since the early Jurassic.


Giant, Boatlike


Histoire(s) du cinema

First glimpse at a drive-in, age three or four, with my parents: I think the film was The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). What I remember though is a giant picture of what I still, against all likelihood, identify as Modigliani’s “Girl in Pink (Fille en Rose),” project’d there above the late ’fifties Buicks, bathtub Mercs, and boatlike Chevies.

Godard: “To show and to show myself showing.”

In Gaylord, Michigan, pop. 2002, a movie theatre on the peter’d out end of Main Street. PT 109 (1963) with my father, Emil and the Detectives (1964) with my older sister (though I snuck off to sit—shyly holding hands?—with B. in the front row). And: A Hard Day’s Night (1964), loud, took, and solitary in my uncanny onliness (unlikely), aged ten.

MacCabe on Godard: “Montage . . . a placing together of two images, of two sounds, to make a new meaning . . . is not in fact dependent on the technology of the cinema, but it is cinema which discovered this operation—for Godard it is the discovery of the cinema.”

And: “History is always history for a particular person, and the history of the real and its fictions are not dissociable in the way that most written history assumes.”

In Ann Arbor, 1966, three movie theatres: the State (now, I think, cut up into smaller theatres, though part of it may house something like a clothing store “for the urban warrior”), the Michigan (recently renovated), the Campus (demolish’d). That era: Jerry Lewis movies (allow’d): The Disorderly Orderly (1964) and The Family Jewels (1965). James Bond movies (disallow’d): the trade in rumor, storied innuendo—the Goldfinger (1964) woman dress’d only in gold paint (which later kill’d her by “blocking her pores”), the movie that start’d with “pussy galore” (somebody told me) filling the whole impossible screen . . .

Montage and juxtapositioning: cave drawings, that (unintentional) overlap, what gets read as “modern.” Picasso’s bicycle-seat-and-handlebars bull. Where does montage begin?

Godard’s fondness for sloganeering, the recklessly (truth-seeking) axiomatic.

Mary Lea Bandy (MoMA’s Curator of Film and Media) on Godard: “I talked with Godard about the use of audio and visual clips and images, and I understood that his notion of fair use was a political and aesthetic act of appropriation: he uses them not as subjects in themselves, not as representations or copies to be studied as in catalogs; nor are they to be taken literally any more than are the extracts of texts and music. Rather, they serve to be transformed into his own audiovisual poetry and philosophy and commentary—they are but man-made elements that exist, I supposed, like words—found objects to be arranged as he desired, in a new form of literature, in chapters or exercises. Of course they are citations, quotes—they are I think the pipes and newspapers, the ropes and violins and absinthe glasses that compose early twentieth century Cubist collages.”

Interjectory: the ropes?

—Is it possible to stop montage-ing?
—Is it possible to stop language-ing?

Godard’s desire (constant) for a cinematographer who “knows something but not too much.” (“One of Godard’s bêtes noires . . . is the technician who has turned his knowledge into a set of rules . . .”) Ammons’s version (hereby repeat’d): “I think a poet ought to keep himself just a little bit stupid.”

I leaf about in two handy gatherings of language clippings and cannot discover any evidence of this word “scortatory.” A catchall, like a shaggy-dog story. (Okay, okay: I found it. As Dylan Thomas says in a letter (1966): “I hope . . . that the Monico made up . . . for the absence of one ventripotent scortatory Krut.” Emerson mentions (1860) “churches that proscribe intellect; scortatory religions,” and Swedenborg (1794) titularly evokes “the pleasures of Insanity concerning Scortatory Love.” Joyce (1922) is cited too, but one would expect Joyce to be cited now, wou’n’t they? Erm, Webster’s (1864): “Pertaining to or consisting in, fornication or lewdness.” (“I can get it on with that.”))

I come back to Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers (1965), the sound of the women trilling that high-pitched song of sorrow and defiance over the rooftops. Or I come back to the exquisite determination the dark nights hold like a robe about one, leaving, having left, vacated a seat silently after a movie watch’d solitary, the only way to see a movie.

What was the name of that theatre on the nether side of the Arc de Triomphe, down along Grande Armée where the Métro stop once call’d “Obligado” (now call’d “Argentine”) empties up? Just today thinking that must’ve been where G. G. and I went with M. to see the Nixon documentary (M. want’d to see it with Americans), since we all met under the Arch. Circa 1973-4. And later, 1980 or so, how I “took in” Pierrot le fou (1965) there, ensconced in a portable reverie of outlawry and Mediterranean succor.

“Qu’est-ce que je peux fairrre? Il n’y a rrrien à fairrre.” Anna Karina’s pout and foot-dragging.

Godard (1952): “I have no use for a writer who directs my attention to himself and to his wit instead of the people he is interpreting. I want, to quote Fénélon, ‘a sublime so familiar that each will be tempted to believe he would have discovered it easily himself, although few are capable of discovering it.’ Too much brilliance dazzles and embarrasses me: I prefer the pleasant and the true to the astonishing and the marvelous.” A familiar “plain speech” argument. How align it against a showing that shows itself?

Here (home) there’s a videocassette copy of Alphaville (1965) align’d against Weil’s Gravity and Grace. (1948) It’s sat there for ten days now. I can’t bring myself to see it. “Movies take too long.” “Movies make me nervous.” “My attention drifts and then I don’t know what I’ve seen.” “I can’t follow the story.” “I get stuck on a detail, a shade of blue in a hat, or something.”


Tuesday, February 17, 2004

How to Continue


Here's the Bill Bathurst piece in its entirety:


How to Continue

in memory of David Sandberg

Don’t sell anything inside yourself for money or whatever it controls; remember legal tender only affords temporal control of material goods & treat it like dogshit you scrape off your shoe / should lovegleam in eye of friend or lover be available as possible alternative.

When you sell the last of your integrity & find its understudy, Insomnia, is a shameless ham who won’t let the curtain come down, don’t expect solace from a house / clothes / car / woman who won’t open her legs unless you plead in conventional key of timely investment. Better have someone in bed who hears your pain before you are driven to speak of it, who turns to face you like a clear pool you can dive in & surface asleep against her back, rinsed clean of all desire for abstract ideals. No meaner offering than the effortless give & take of love innocent of earthly motive will end your aimless walking the night before you meet alternate salvation in madness like police in a prowl car ask questions have no right answers & lead up to the final flat imperative: “Get in the car.”

Should love open your heart like a feather of gentlest wind / your bedroom door left ajar, make room for the flesh, effects & whims of a recent stranger without worrying whether you take as much as you give; remember to love & to own are verbs as diametrically opposed in meaning as the nouns life & death.

Don’t sing love lyrics wrongly or more than once in public; don’t try to fan dead feelings aflame with words.

Ignore the above warnings & risk drowning in the undertow of your own rhetoric like David, who aired his blackest memories so often they lingered around his head like a hood between beauty & his eyes; finally their images took shape to parody his future in a film loop projected with no intermission but death. A tragedy the document his memory collated wasn’t the total history he took it to be; I heard a monochrome swiss cheese lie by omission that drove him backwards into a future of air he had breathed before; he slipped down a streak of yellow capsules to his grave rather than tread that melodramatic wheel of agony again.

This is your gift for reading this far, an answer to the vexing life problem How To Continue: don’t move faster than you can see. Like overdriving your brights in heavy rain on a treacherous mountain road, a show of impatience at how little the stars reveal (1) courts naught but disaster, (2) commands no man’s respect, (3) cannot be mistaken for courage.

Words. Treat them like money. Should love dance in from the wings cryin’ “Follow Me Down”, leave them like you would your wake, dive till you touch bottom.

Like all poets I pay my respects to the abyss. Listen to the blackness. Tides. Undertow. David heard Sirens there & downed the years between him & their arms the evening of January 11, 1968, a Thursday. Or so I was told. I last saw him Monday morning that week, sprawled naked under a sheet on double mattress alone & snoring beneath four or five Nembutal emptied into a spoon & injected one by one throughout the preceding night / talked away like countless others since we met in June of 1966. Nightlong copout sessions were common from the start, as if we saw our lives ablaze at both ends in each other’s eyes & took it for granted there was not enough time for the indulgence of nightly sleep if we were ever to become deep friends. Death grew into a familiar topic of conversation. A third companion.

The last time I touched him / my thumb & forefinger circled his thin left arm above the elbow, backing the blood up. To check the register. “Don’t want to get an abcess”, I warned him. His blood in the bottom of the dropper slow to rise. Black. Thick as paint. Fuck poetry.

Better to admit the truth unadorned & get it over with: that I could not love David enough to make him want to live, or would not. Nevertheless I loved him, as did nearly everyone who came to know him. I wish one of us could have shown him how small the world would be without him.

Everything is moving faster. I have never feared death, but I fear dying with the love I couldn’t give David or anyone else during my life still locked in my heart. If anyone finds a gift in any of this & feels like responding, let him pray this for me: that my Goddess grant me time to learn the direction of belief in my own advice.


I’m headed toward the ocean on a bus, Haight St. nearing Webster, just copped a balloon now in my cheek like a plug of tobacco & feeling conspicuous. A brown-skin man against a fireplug on the near sidewalk yell out the busdriver’s name, the joy of seeing a friend. Eyes on the intersection of the next stop, the friend’s gloved hand let go the wheel a second, & wave. In spite of last-ditch effort to overlook it, his memory beckons like some perfidious Siren from fog-shrouded rocks behind me. Phoebe & I couldn’t kick the habit of digging every Yellow Cab we saw (500 of ’em running), peering through weather & glass for a glimpse of the driver’s face.

It never was David.


Which makes me think how death-haunt’d the years were, conversations (half consider’d, half bravado) about “whether we’d make it to twenty-five.” O la. And how hate-swoll’d we got toward the State. Outlaws and renegades is how we act’d, and were: refusing to register for the draft, using our illicits to elicit up a quorum, some way of taking stock of who we were, who we could ever be. Which is a ramble to ascertain why the piece moves me the way it does. Still. Or is it that my middle name is “Sentimentalist.” What do we call that sentiment we harry with limber cane about the calves with a move ’long out here, muh fuh rather than the traditional oreye mush blige (Zukofsky)?

Godard: Chacun est son propre historien.


In that phase of manic emptying of shelves, clearing out for a new onslaught. Returning books, filing papers, trimming the fiery wick. A cyclic wooziness about it—it no longer startles me. Then there’ll be weeks of focus, carrying a single book about.


Monday, February 16, 2004



Bought (Shaman Drum Bookshop):

The Writing of Guillaume Apollinaire / Le Style Apollinaire, by Louis Zukofsky, edited with an Introduction by Serge Gavronsky, Foreword by Jean Daive, French Translation of Louis Zukofsky’s Text by René Taupin, English Translation of Apollinaire in René Taupin’s Text by Sasha Watson (Wesleyan University Press, 2004).

Somewhat formidable, completement formidable.

“L’orange dont la saveur est
Un merveilleux feu d’artifice

[The orange whose flavor is
A marvelous firework]

The affect of intelligence is inevitable plasticity. That is constant. It grows but it is the seed. The growth of its embrace summed up at a life’s end by these verses heralded by the title of “Les Collines” was already present in Guillaume’s earliest outgoings . . .”


Bought (Friends of the Library):

On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry, by William Gass (Godine / Nonpareil, 1976, 1999 printing)

“There are a number of difficulties with dirty words, the first of which is that there aren’t nearly enough of them; the second is that the people who use them are normally numskulls and prudes; the third is that in general they’re not at all sexy, and the main reason for this is that no one loves them enough.”

American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman, by F. O. Matthiessen (Oxford University Press, 1941, 1968 pbk. 10th printing)

“The problem of Emerson’s prose was the same as that of his philosophy, how to reconcile the individual with society, how to join his sentences into a paragraph. Since his chief preoccupation was to demonstrate identity beneath all manner of variety, his formula for an essay was an abstraction instanced by an indefinite number of embodiments.”

Stones: Their Collection, Identification, and Uses, by R. V. Dietrich (W. H. Freeman, 1980)

“Whenever I think of using a stone as a weight, I recall a line from one of Tom Lehrer’s songs: ‘She weighted her brother down with stones and sent him off to Davy Jones.’”

The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism, by T. S. Eliot (Methuen & Co. / University Paperbacks, 1967)

“I am alive to a usual objection to what is clearly part of my programme for the métier of poetry. The objection is that the doctrine requires a ridiculous amount of erudition (pedantry), a claim which can be rejected by appeal to the lives of poets in any pantheon. It will even be affirmed that much learning deadens or perverts poetic sensibility . . .”

(Mrrrp. Excuse me.)

Dawdling away a Sunday afternoon. And return’d to a gigantic need to sleep. Dozed for a half hour in a lethargy supreme. C-dog woke up early this morning, and bark’d—found signs of a raccoon jimmying open one of the garbage cans.



Notre Dame Review, No. 17 (Winter 2004), edited by John Matthias and William O’Rourke ($8, 840 Flanner Hall, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556)

John Matthias’s editing shows both multiply-inflect’d taste, and a sure-hand’d loyalty. Here: poems by Michael Anania, the late Ken Smith, John Peck, Dionisio D. Martínez, and Dennis Hinrichsen, among others. Also: Francisco Aragón on Martínez, and Peter Robinson on Weldon Kees.


Found Bill Bathurst’s (mostly) prison memoirs, a book titled How to Continue (Glide Publications, 1973) tuck’d amongst the new books Friday at the library, and snatch’d it up. I never knew much about Bathurst (and hadn’t read much—I suspect, in fact, that he didn’t write, or publish, much—the (mostly) prose of the book is apparently largely excerpt’d out of letters to Marilyn (girlfriend, or wife), and the acknowledgments noted lists little more that Keith Abbott’s Blue Suede Shoes and Hollow Orange.

It was in the fifth issue of the latter that the title piece appear’d. Jim Bertolino call’d it to my attention circa 1972, and subsequently reprint’d it, either in The Abraxas Five Anthology or in a dinky thing of reprints he did call’d something like Other Men’s Flowers.

Bathurst (according to my random, quick web-stalk) apparently recently finish’d up a fourteen year stint with Radio Prague (there are a series of photographs of him on the back cover of How to Continue—I did a little facial-aging imagery in my head and decided I’d found the right man, unmistakable chin . . .) and’s return’d to California. I am tempt’d to reproduce the whole of “How to Continue” here.

How to Continue

in memory of David Sandberg

Don’t sell anything inside yourself for money or whatever it controls; remember legal tender only affords temporal control of material goods & treat it like dogshit you scrape off your shoe / should lovegleam in eye of friend or lover be available as possible alternative . . .


The merest commencement.

Other cabbage fields to hoe, other motley plaice to bake. I’ll get back to it.

Walking along in the cold night air under the sickle moon hanging like a big C in the sky, a C note in the sky, I thought about one thing the near-daily writing measures, or makes me notice: how much gets away. The fleeting liquid of thinking arrest’d too seldom. To say nothing of whole chapters and volumes buzz-sawn and cut, victims of th’unstoppable gangs of event and interruption.

Too much work, heading next week for a couple days with la famiglia to Chi-town, hog-butcher to the South Side rib joints. Find me briefly park’d in front of the Rembrandts at the Art Institute, before I sit myself down inside one of the Joseph Cornell boxes. I hate it that La Grande Jatte is cover’d with glass now, and, like the Czar, will likely weep anew.


Note to myself: outlaw, draft-dodger, drugs.


Friday, February 13, 2004

Melodeon Moan


G. and J. off to see Hillary Hahn (with Natalie Zhu on piano) in the newly redone Hill Auditorium, an apparently knockout refurbishing, detail work work’d up in original colors, &c. I remember paying one dollar to see Allen Ginsberg read there, doing “Howl” and, accompanying himself on the melotron (why does that name pursue me like the ghost of Donovan? I think in fact I mean the “melodeon,” or maybe the “concertina”—a bellows-type blow-box with (a few) keys, which wheez’d out sporadically to Ginsberg’s mantric moans . . .), sing William Blake songs. One of the moratoria days it was (I think October 15th, 1969, though I wouldn’t swear to it.) After, I sat with K. on a stone bench near the Triton fountain in front of the League and review’d the forlorn thoughts of a fifteen-year-old for the umpteenth. “O love, when shall our lives begin . . .”

For the umpteenth. Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen play’d there (and J. W. ask’d me to go). Home movies of truckers and the hitchhiking girl who climb’d up in the cab of the big Peterbilt and proceed’d to remove her clothes, curling out along the dashboard like a python. The women in the audience wouldn’t countenance any of that, and took the stage. Initial defensiveness and minor altercations (I remember Andy Stein blowing a big Bronx cheer’d tenor sax note at one speaker), follow’d by protestations of innocence (“We didn’t choose the movie”), follow’d by relenting, no movie, back to the music. Sitting late in the car park’d in the library lot with J. W. Nowhere to go. Home.

Huge stacks of books around here. Home. The hazard of the library. Biting off more than anybody can chew. That Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres suddenly looks like a curiosity, somebody else’s acquisition. I track a thing ferociously and then grow suddenly indifferent. Not exactly right: there’s much I circle around, narrowing in on, grabbing a sinewy chunk and rushing off to covet and savor, sucking at the marrow of—a hyena’s reading style, a jackal’s. Carmen el doggo is pacing around the room, casting up doleful glances, saying: “John, I have to say it, and it hurts me to say it: you’re disappointing me tonight.” Jabber, jabber, jabber.

Think I’ll go boke my nose in a pook. Here’s Godard (early Cahiers writing, as quoted in the Colin MacCabe):

“If contemporary American poetry no longer existed, Jennifer Moxley alone gives the impression of being capable of reinventing it, and what is more, of wanting to. While it is easy to imagine Ron Silliman as an admiral, Bob Perelman on Wall Street, David Antin on the trail of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or Robert Creeley as a latter day Henry Morgan under Caribbean skies, it is difficult to see the author of The Sense Record doing anything but writing poems. A Charles Bernstein or a Billy Collins, for instance might make good in the theatre or music hall, James Tate as a jazz flautist, Bruce Andrews as a school crossing guard, Mark Strand as a politician, Barrett Watten as a press agent—but not Jennifer Moxley. Were contemporary poetry suddenly to cease to exist, most poets would be in no way at a loss . . .”


Thursday, February 12, 2004



Bay Psalter Fragments

(The first book print’d (1640) in British Colonial America. Proofing a sample today a sober voice with a monumental clarity sprang forth as if borne by a manifest immateriality, a signifier’s reverie, and saying the very words I read. I suspect Emily Dickinson.)

As water I am poured-out,
and all my bones sundred:
my heart in midst of my bowels,
is like to wax melted.

My strength like a potsherd is dryde;
and my tongue fast-cleaveth
unto my jawes, & thou hast brought
me to the dust of death.


Have mercy upon mee, o Lord,
for in distresse am I,
with grief mine eye consumed is,
my soule & my belly.

For day & night thy hand on mee,
heavily did indure:
into the drought of Summer time
turned is my moisture. Selah.


O GOD, doe not thou silence keep:
o doe not thou refraine
thy selfe from speaking, & o God.
doe not thou dumb remaine.


As thou didst to the Middianites,
so to them be it done:
as unto Sisera & Iabin
at the Brook of Kison

Who neere to Endor suddenly
were quite discomfited:
who also did become as dung
that on the earth is spred.


My God, thou like a wheel, like straw
before the winde them make.
As fire doth burne a wood, & as
the flame sets hills on fire:

So with thy tempest them pursue,
& fright them in thine ire.


Moab my wash-pot, I will cast
over Edom my shoo:
I'le make a shout triumphantly
over Philistia too.


Few let his dayes bee: & let his
office another take.


Like falling shade I passe, I'me tost
Locust-like to & fro.


Greenback Dollar


My puttering morning (yesterday) spent largely in considering whether I could make an argument about poetic change as somehow mimicking the workings of the fashion industry. Noted in a couple of years of living mostly in Paris, in the ’eighties. There (in France, in fashion)—I’ve long nurtured the theory—stylistic change percolates up out of the outlaw- (and other “under-”) classes—the prostitutes, say, in the shabbier quarters (rue St. Denis) wear the boots the gentry’ll covet in a year or so. Here, what urban blacks mostly begin’ll gets diluted and toned down and cash’d in on—any signifyin’ meaning a baseball cap turn’d sideways had—gone in a flurry of greenbacks and earnest and the perennial slumming tendencies of the “over-” classes.

Language, too, makes its way “up.” Def. Bling-bling. Philly blunt. Thinking now about too many things: some of Lisa Jarnot’s recent poems and what relationship the rhymes and rhythms may have with rap, with hip-hop (my “active listening” to such end’d with, say, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, or the Sugar Hill Gang, enjoy’d after midnight out of Ithaca, spell’d out by the sultry-voiced Special K, early ’eighties), how orality and the body (jazz) is at the heart of the New American Poetries (loosely defined by the Allen anthology) storming the dry-syllable’d citadels in reaction to the New Criticism’s writing (something wholly dis-embodied as irony and ambiguity always must be). And whatever got learn’d by us all via that change (“organic,” open form, breadth of line matching breath of line, lyric I, &c.) come jump-down turn-around under assault by the “writerly” language poetries up to that point where, again, orality is forced to make its intervention, to revivify a moribund beast. Which is to say: perhaps we’re at a point akin to that of 1960, now. (Ay chinga! I say it comes as no surprise that Richard Wilbur’s 1947 (height of burgeoning New Criticism) collection The Beautiful Changes would’ve served well as an early ’eighties Langpo title. Is that “Changes” a verb or a noun? Is that “Beautiful” an adjective or a noun? Damn untrustworthy graphemes!)

At my son’s elementary school a few day’s ago, a group call’d Jazzistry play’d. An energetic hour-long history of jazz (and related cultural contributions by, mostly, African-Americans) was present’d. Part of a day labell’d National African-American Parental Involvement Day. Mostly older musicians, they play’d tight tiny arrangements of various styles and signature pieces, they demonstrated a variety of instruments and techniques, they show’d slides of performers, they kept the kids involv’d with call and response, or rhythmic clapping. At the end of the program, a high school kid join’d the others and recited a poem to accompaniment (a high-rhyming, palate poppin’ piece of assonantal purity, a sure-articulated and paced thing—half Gil Scott-Heron, half (and here my pop cultural referencing limitations’re exceed’d . . .)). I thought it was terrific, and want’d to see it “on the page.” (Sure sign of an academic.)

Am I playing this right? Is rambling sincerity (with hijinx, and Special K effects) enough? Back to Lisa Jarnot. Reading her, and reading Dale Smith’s review of her Black Dog Songs, I got to thinking maybe it wasn’t Gertrude Stein so much as Bob Dylan (of “Subterranean Homesick Blues”) behind lines like these (part of “Dumb Duke Death” with the dedication “for Dick Cheney”):

down dire
death day
dim dale
ding dong
dip down
dame chase
cheap date
dance dodge
do dive
dull duck
do doze
dork deal
door dirge
chip cheer
dusk dew
duke duel
dab dash
chin chink
. . .

(I can hear “Try hard, get barred, get back, write braille, / Get jailed, jump bail, join the Army if you fail” rhythm-copping. And that kid, I think the name’s Adam Faulkner, brisk-speaking it, with a bounce-lilt and a little sass.) Nothing writerly there. Compare:

My One Voice

At the sound of my voice
I spoke and, egged on
By the discrepancy, wrote
The rest out as poetry.

Read the books, duets
From nowhere say they speak;
Why not let them. Habitual stares
Leave trees in rearview mirrors.
. . .

Which is the beginning of the first poem in Bob Perelman’s Primer (This, 1981). My point being (back to Jarnot) lost in the Dylan echoes—it’s this: here’s what’ll drive (is driving) a resurgence, rap, slam, hip-hop, orality, an embodied poetic, speech-based and elastic, a vocalizing, a spell—all furnishings truck’d in off the “under-” class’s bargain basement showroom floor . . . And so it goes. That’ll drift and repeat, and writing’ll butt its way (again) through the door . . .


Inchoate, poorly argued. Pushing against a snakebed of thoughts.


Paucity of half-
Arguments writ against
Sleep. ‘The montage

Has too much
Work to do.’
—No doubt, chief.


Walking up Liberty Street and passing the Christian Science Reading Room. Invariably I think of Joseph Cornell. And think of my thinking of Joseph Cornell.


Cheb Mami. My black leather jacket in Charlottesville, the one S. brought back from Ecuador. Zipper’d pockets full of Marlboro packs (several) and Cheb Mami cassettes.


The Anarchists want’d to make a Western (script’d, traditional story’d form). The Maoists want’d to decompose the very trappings of the cinematic, exemplarily busting the connection, say, between sound and image.


At the point of the camera’s zooming in on the discussions taking place amongst Czech factory workers, in lieu of a voice-over translation, one gets: “You’d better start learning Czech, and fast!”


Noted: Shanna Compton’s got a different (friendlier) report of the David Lehman / John Ashbery “forum” (apparently a regular New School format and series). A little chagrin hot on the heels of sass? A little.


Wednesday, February 11, 2004



A dutified night of radical parenting—meaning, I spent nearly two hours listening to a Suzuki extravaganza at Pease Auditorium at Eastern. Suzuki flautists, guitarists, bassists, cellists, and, oh, say, nine hundred violinists mobbing the stage to play that deadly Mozart ditty about the star, G. amongst them. There were some terrific moments: four bassists doing Lalo Schifrin’s theme to “Mission Impossible,” and the most-learned violinists doing pieces titled “Czardas” (by Vittorio Monti) and “Boy Paganini” (by Edward Mollenhauer). (I’m just copying off the program, being a musical idiot in the classical tradition.) (Strains of the first part of the “Czardas” slid into the French movie unreeling in the empty auditorium of my head, briefly, as I skimmed the Godard.) (Classical music never asks the body to climb up out of itself, and step off limber and echolaliackally bothering itself the way some other, meaner, musicks do . . .)


Learn’d lately of one of the jazz names for a double bass: the doghouse.
A doghouse in Congo Square.


Found comments by Jordan Davis and Franklin Bruno at Sasha Frere-Jones knockout S/FJ zone (I have begun “seeing” abstract photographs “after the manière of the stylish oeil de boeuf eye of SF/J” everywhere lately: blue ice on sidewalk, blacken’d staples in telephone pole, rust-fleck’d manhole cover’s waffle’d iron, &c.), along with a funny (range-ing) purview of a reading report of John Ashbery (introduced and, apparently, sychophantically “grill’d” by David Lehman) at the New School.

A territorial chuckle. (“A Terrestrial Cuckoo.” Isn’t that the early O’Hara title?) Jordan’s recognition of (some) laughter at poetry readings as defining territoriality, in-crowdedness, “I’m with the band.”

I think that’s brilliant. The knowing head-bob, the too-lengthy guffaw. Versus the irrepressible snort. The bubbly overflow of internal delight. I recall mirth firing all its pistons in some small handful, whilst a stone-faced stillness reign’d throughout the (humorless, estupido, bourgeois) majority.

Truth is, I get to (have gotten to) on average one poetry reading every three years in the last decade. If I think back, invariably I see Archie Ammons hunch’d over in a chair that seem’d to be steadily shrinking under him: he is holding head in hands and grimacing in a horrible rictus.

I do remember David Lehman reading at Cornell circa 1972. He was, I think, at Colgate, in Hamilton, nearby. He wore a jacket and tie, he sat down at a table, he act’d pompous, and he read boring poems. “We” hated him. Somewhat later he lived in Ludlowville, outside of Ithaca, writing for Newsweek I think, though nobody saw him much, or I didn’t. In the bookstore at Ithaca House one day though he took the trouble to tell me he’d enjoy’d the title of a longish thing I’d publish’d in a recent Epoch, call’d “Poem Beginning with a Line by John Latta.” After that I thought (naturally) more highly of him. (Though I did mostly dismiss Signs of the Times and The Last Avant-Garde as, politely put, the work of a journalist.)


Walking in under a high-ceiling’d blue, sun pouring down. Oddly enough, thinking about day-long hikes in Ithaca, in Virginia, casually birding. A smallish brown hawk dives off to my left and rolls, drops (presumably on a sparrow) down behind some low conifers. Maybe a sharpie, maybe a Cooper’s, is what I’m thinking. Out of practice with hawks. Meaning: I’s never much good with hawks.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Consumptive, Fit


Bought (Shaman Drum Bookshop)

In a fit of consumption, clearing the gift certificate decks (I tend to hoard, and then charivari it all out in a moment of blind excess), stopp’d in after work yesterday and walk’d out with:

The Seasons, by Merrill Gilfillan (Adventures in Poetry, 2002)

Notational, precise, and the man knows the warblers.

“Reservoir ice pings, pops and moans—

Suburban imitation of
the great Minnesota master,
Lac Qui Parle.

Deer look up and listen at first,
then dismiss it unanimously
as a conversation
way over their heads.”


Vanishing Point, by David Markson (Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004)

Is, it occur’d to me just now, Markson the poor man’s Davenport? The lackadaisical factoidal perfect’d in Wittgenstein’s Mistress seems to continue here. Is it too deft, the muttering? Lacking Davenport’s range?

“Schmucks with Underwoods, Jack Warner called writers.

Four different horses were shot out from under Ney at Waterloo.

I do not write for the public.
Said Hopkins.

I am not a poet by trade; I am a professor of Latin.
Said Houseman.

A seminonfictional semifiction.

Obstinately cross-referential and of cryptic interconnective syntax.
Probably by this point more than apparent—or surely for the attentive reader.

As should be Author’s experiment to see how little of his own presence he can get away with throughout.”


Whale! by K. L. Evans (University of Minnesota Press, 2003)

Looks to be one Nantucket sleigh ride of a book, stumbled on, ferret’d out, drug home, and now lying in wait for its reader.

The “seminonfictional semifiction” (I think) of a “Preface” begins: “I had a odd bedfellow once, a Melville scholar (or sculler, she liked to say). I was in the Antipodes, chasing ice. When the weather didn’t turn me back I hitched rides on a Hercules Transport out of New Zealand—cavernous, no seats, mesh webbing to strap oneself into—down to Beardmore Glacier, Antarctica. Oxford had recently accepted my doctorate on glaciology, but most people found the occupation amusing. Not the Melville scholar, though. She kept asking me about friction, and the blinding white, and how to read snow. Her questions crabbed sideways: often my explanations seemed to turn up some scuttling fancy, so that she provisioned herself with material I didn’t quite believe but had somehow myself supplied. She was a queer fish among critics; her curiosity was all for ideas . . . Her connections smelled of inaccuracy and invention, but they were pleasing—they pleased me and so provided their own legitimacy. This immodest manner of measurement reminded me of how temperature at the Pole could drop down and pass beyond the weather. Who’s to say what cold is.”

Which I find completely breathtaking. If I understand the “project” here (nosing blunt-nosedly into the upcoming “text”), it reads Moby Dick “against” Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, or, more plausibly, the latter as somehow “akin to” the former. Evans:

“I understand Philosophical Investigations to be a mariner’s manual: taking the leaky boat of language as its subject, it explains, how we think the boat leaks because it is badly built or somehow lacks the tools necessary for repair, but in fact the boat leaks because it is a boat, and the seeping intrusion of our surroundings does not get in the way of our navigation but makes navigation possible.

By placing more trust in the ocean—a system of support that Wittgenstein comes to call ‘grammar’—he takes pressure off the need to fix his boat.”

Also, appearances by: Charles Bernstein, Nicholas Mosley’s Hopeful Monsters, Hobbes’s Leviathan, and Jack Spicer’s “low ghosts,” among others. (Evans apparently did work at Buffalo, mentor’d by one Kenneth Dauber, and clearly fortified by the Poetics program.)

I did (searching for more about Evans) see her (Kim Leilani) mention’d by K. Silem Mohammad as being part of an MLA panel (with Charles Altieri and Jena Osman, with Joel Bettridge presiding) titled “Poetry as a Philosophical Practice,” scheduled for San Diego. I’d love to hear somebody’s report on that.


Note, head-scratchingly mystify’d: “Tracy Thompson”?


Do I seem to descend into blurbmeisterdom?
Do I seem to drop a lot of stitches, and so sew an irregular cloak?
If I seem overly enigmatic, trust it’s mostly sign of a commitment to privacy.


Monday, February 09, 2004

Immortal Guy



The Death of Picasso: New & Selected Writing, by Guy Davenport (Shoemaker & Hoard, 2003)

Largely a select’d, but Davenport is one of the immortals. Publisher Jack Shoemaker (of North Point Press, and Counterpoint)’s new imprint. Davenport’s fond of th’axiomatic, and sees modernism largely in making new uses of the old. “Sculpture should be a verb not a noun.” “Reality is the most effective mask of reality.” Exquisitely smart fictions made of the detritus of history, its “factoids.”

“One of the things Hooke said at Garroway’s was that he suspected insects of being the husbands of flowers. Fourier was capable of believing that as fact.” So starts an entry in the title piece, and goes on to mention Gaudier-Brzeska, Roger de la Fresnaye, Delaunay, Lurçat, Braque, Defoe’s Crusoe and Friday, and le douanier Rousseau.


At Port Royal, by Christopher Edgar (Adventures in Poetry, 2003)

Love of words (“If we trade in this grisaille world, can we get something celadon . . .”), and exotica (“Just as cedars are known to kill snakes with their odors . . .”), and humor (“Show us St. Jerome in a real ‘cabinet’”). Edgar keeps the surface razzle-dazzle up, and so delivers himself of the enormously moving truth that poetry is being allow’d (cf. Duncan’s “permission”) to say anything (which, of course, is how so much of American verse falls to suffer meekly at us, bearing (and baring) the utterly conventional (and “plainly” spoke) as news). Edgar:

“I have always wanted to be consigned to oblivion.
It is my expression of our great cultural death wish,
And, contrary to popular belief,
Oblivion is not an island whose chief port is Encomia
(Or formerly, in Roman times, Encomium),
It is a place where one can do and say as one pleases,
Where one can “move freely”
And sometimes put on airs,
Just sit around and digress all day,
Taking the scenic route,
Stand on ceremony or step down from it
Into the realm of plain talk,
Every once in a while, when needed,
Casually interjecting phrases
Like torpid obloquy and pellucid freshet.
Here you can use the royal We with impunity
And sometimes be a real ass . . .”

Adventures in Poetry is designing (I see Edgar did the design here) terrifically handsome books, judging by At Port Royal, Jacqueline Waters’s A Minute without Danger, and Merrill Gilfillan’s The Seasons, and the Ashbery pamphlet. (Others I haven’t seen.)


Search Party: Collected Poems of William Matthews edited by Sebastian Matthews and Stanley Plumly (Houghton Mifflin, 2004)

Wit, and quick. How many countless writers’ve compared Matthews’s facility (humor) and delectation (felicity) in talking to jazz, which he loved? He apparently started writing seriously in graduate school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where he’d intend’d to write a dissertation on Nabokov. Is that right? An utterance enough fraught with truth to be nearly so. I think that talk carried into the poems, stripped down moreso. Matthews:

The Memo

I want this up and running, the office
bully wrote, next Monday, and I insist
blah blah blah blah.
Each blah stands for three
or four moronic insistences, because
a poem honors the non-reading hours
in its readers’ lives by brevity, just
as grace uses far less time than dinner.

And this poem, presto, replaces the memo.
Gentle reader, you didn’t need that shit.
You work hard, right? You wanna be the screen
on which some bozo you don’t know projects
his lurid drama, Bozo: the Lean Years?
Or do you want to control your leisure?
If so you’ll want to take this simple test.

Which, unraveled, could be shown to question a number of cultural assumptions and beliefs about poetry, about work and play, about the “confessional,” and about the daftness of any too earnest seriousness about the “enterprise.”


The Poethical Wager, by Joan Retallack (University of California Press, 2003)

The exploratory essay: discovery by trial. Retallack offers four essays on John Cage, one on Gertrude Stein, one on Rosmarie Waldrop, three pointedly feminist (on feminism), others on “inserting an H in poetics,” including a self-interview (with Quinta Slef)

“The contained, but squirming, matrix of habitual, value-laden, self-perpetuating practices, all but invisible until something dramatic goes awry, is in fact the continuous present of our experience of history . . . The logics and values of aesthetic genres are in conversation with that experience, but, to the extent that they are independent of ideology, they enact an alternative language game. That language game can be analyzed, however tentatively, for its poethical consequences.”


Harsh white sunlight off the snow-glazed field, the snow with a crust, breaking through in my rubber boots I’m aware of the sharpness of the splinters. Leash’d Carmen on a sprint across the community garden fields and back through the neighborhood. Cross’d paths with a distant neighbor and experienced that lag and overlap in the neurons (the synapses) that seems often to result in a simultaneity (a singularity) springing forth: “Hlo-dy.” (Trying to say “Hello there,” (an unusual piece of barkery out of my mouth) against the interference of another internal command trying to get out “Howdy” (my usual faux-‘hale-fellow-well-met’ (believe me, I’m anything but) greeting.)


Note to self: check out André Bazin.

I’m reading Colin MacCabe’s Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at 70 as a result of having come across it display’d in Shaman Drum Bookshop after having read mention of it in Steve Evans’s Third Factory doings. Between the Godard and the Jean Frémon of early December, my certainty of a sure instinct there “springs eternal.” (Sudden ironic flourish the result of thumbing through Evans and Moxley’s The Impercipient Lecture Series Dictionary of Received Ideas in search of an entry for “instinct.” No, but I had a feeling. I did note Godard: “A genius. A visionary. Film maker to the Revolution. Affect a French accent when speaking of him.” And Truffaut: “‘The white crest on the Nouvelle Vague.’ Excepting The 400 Blows, prefer Godard. (See Sentiment.)”


Friday, February 06, 2004




Or, as Mr. Cent’d say it:


(Mr. Cen’.)



I Can’t Stop, by Al Green (Blue Note Records, 2003)

The Reverend’s back. I can’t listen to Al Green without recalling Nathaniel Mackey’s remark (in one of the Angel of Dust letters, mostly likely in Bedouin Hornbook): something about how Green’s strangulated and shriller squeals hark’d back to noises made by one being lynch’d, quoted a history of lynchings . . .

Complete Poems, by Basil Bunting, edited by Richard Caddel (New Directions, 2003)


The kind of fact I like: Jean-Luc Godard’s father, Paul, a doctor, with whom Godard did not particularly get along, own’d a small boat by means of which he crossed Lac Léman—Nyon to Anthy—to visit the summering famille. The name of the boat: Trait d’union, French for Hyphen.


A recent exchange with Irish poet Trevor Joyce, author of with the first dream of fire they hunt the cold: A Body of Work 1966-2000 (NWP & Shearsman Books, 2003, originally publish’d by th’indefatigable Tony Frazer’s Shearsman Books, in 2001) concerning lists, and list-makers:

Hi John,

List-masters? Surely you must include Rabelais, especially as
Englished by Urquhart who, with the help of Cotgrave’s dictionary,
amplified all lists in the original considerably. And Borges? Notably
in Funes, which is a sort of listing ad absurdum. Plenty more, but
it’s late and I’m tired.

How many ways are there to construct a list? Something I’ve been
playing with recently, but I’m sure there are whole continents of
them I’ve missed . . .




To which I reply’d:


Thanks for writing. Rabelais is somebody I start’d reading only in the
past year (in Burton Raffel’s translation, no guidance in the choice), but
my ambition flagged. Maybe I’ll get back to it. Borges, of course. When I
tried to assemble a list of listmakers I got the same feeling of
helplessness and vertigo I get in bookstores (“I know there’s dozens of
books I’m looking for, and I can’t remember a single title.”)

I did do a tiny mention of you and with the first dream of fire they hunt
the cold,
back on 24 October, (hard even for me to find anything in those
“archives”—and I think I’d be surprised at what’s there, I put it up and
forget about it mostly). And enjoy the British and Irish list, even though
I never “say” anything.

Do you mind me adding your remarks to the welter of Hotel Point? I like
the notion of a list of ways to make a list. I’ll have to think about




Trevor wrote back with:


I reckon Urquhart’s is the Rabelais in English. Apart from that,
he’s famous for having died of an apoplexy from laughter on hearing
that the monarchy had been restored in England after the Protectorate.

Borges’ ‘list from a Chinese Encyclopaedia’ is another fine example.
Also, maybe, look at Flann O’Brien (writing as Myles na gCopaleen),
and Nabokov.

Hah! Missed your mention of ‘first dream’; must go see if I need to
call my lawyer. Hadn’t realized you were on BritPo. You’re too quiet.
It’s all bloody quiet there right now; I think I’ve too many of them
preoccupied with the collaborative composition project.

Quote me anyhow you want. I’m always attention-seeking.

Speaking of which, I pointed Gary (who I only discovered from your
reference) to some list-based work I’ve been doing recently. There’s
a couple on the new issue, 8, of Masthead. Only the verse has been
constructed from lists, using a spreadsheet, and based on the factors
of the number 12.

One of them, though, has a nice list as it’s backbone, I think. It’s

The 12-item list is constructed renga-style by ubiquitous punning:
each word links to the previous in one definition, and to its
successor via a different one. So it goes (with the linking sense in

(equal score)
(make fast)
(keep safe)
(bring up)
(teach by practice)

The distinction between ordered list like this, and non-ordered, such
as a list of birds (non-alphabetized), say, is interesting. the cover
of one of the recent chapbooks that Nate Dorward brought out,
‘Undone, Say’, consists entirely of wordlists, along with the
matrices used to organize them.

Enough already.




Late, and I need to point myself elsewhere, but several procedures (list-like) occur to me. One is some work I did with a deck of playing cards, assigning (at random, quickly) a word to each card. What follow’d were constructions within a limit’d vocabulary (what tribe is it whose language consists of an essential vocabulary of roughly fifty words?) made arbitrarily: shuffle and deal, shuffle and deal.

Another is work done by cobbing arbitrary (first glance) sentences off a certain page (I used p. 25, it being—recalling my youth as a shelver at the Ann Arbor Public Library (first job, minimum wage at $1.40 per hour, thirty-five years back, there’s a notch on the stick of how little improved such wages be)—the page mark’d (rubber-stamp’d) by the library to indicate provenance.) Out of book after book I’d snatch a p. 25 sentence, and assemble something thus.

I just pick’d up a (1990) Burning Deck book call’d 99: The New Meaning, by Walter Abish, after somebody’d mention’d his novel Alphabetical Africa in the same breath as Christian Bök’s Eunoia. And found therein a similar project making use of sentences thieved off pp. 99’s the world (or library) over, or, as Abish says:

“I wanted to probe certain familiar emotional configurations afresh, and arrive at an emotional content that is not mine by design. The title piece . . . consisting of no less that 99 segments by as many authors, each line, sentence or paragraph appropriated from a page bearing that sme, to me, mystically significant number 99. . .”

(Alphabetical Africa proceeds by patient alphabetical agglomeration, section by section: the first section using only words beginning with A, the second section using only words beginning with A or B, and so forth.)



Thursday, February 05, 2004



Thinking stirred by reading Silliman on Creeley, among other things. Is this: how explain two completely differing styles as both being the result of something like tracking (recording) the “sensuality of thinking.” Leslie Scalapino’s work (messy, stutter-y, its syntactical waves and troughs, its elliptic and shifts, as Silliman puts it: “Hers is a commitment to telling it true quite apart from any distractions of that mask, clarity”) gets talk’d of in such a way, as does Jorie Graham’s, and here, now, Creeley’s leaner, “clean,” spare verses, showing “the elimination of any extraneous matter” get accord’d the honorific. Do thinking styles differ to such a degree?

I’ve long latch’d hold of a remark of Paul Hoover’s (in a letter, if I recall, back in the days when my letterpress’d magazine Chiaroscuro was a going concern). Hoover wrote something along the lines of a poem being (merely) the record of “an interesting mind in motion.” (Probably not the exact words, filter’d now through some years of grimy poetic buildup . . .) And of course, nobody gets those movements down correctly, that is to say, with any kind of accuracy. (Frankly, I find myself less interest’d—which is to say, rather annoy’d—by the more tremulous and clutter’d versions (Scalapino, Graham), all that obsessive churn and rehash. Th’obverse though (Creeley) risks a whittling down of the mind’s plenitude and spell to a degree that makes you want to poke him with a stick: “Erm, Dean Creeley? Can’t you think of anything more than that?” And the limits of each show up in the offspring of each—remember the days when Iowa was full of miniature Creeleys, all putting together modular, link’d serial poems, or, increasingly, settling for the tiniest aperçu, immediate and mildly (or stupidly) epiphanic. See:


six divinely
white bras
rent the world

—Ray DiPalma

Or see:



—Curtis Faville

Or see:

drinking the
beer I brought

—Robert Grenier

And though there are lovely things in each of these poems, each is Creeley-daub’d, and somewhat limit’d in ambition and perception.)

I went scrambling off like a sidewinder. What I want’d to say is that the “practice” of capturing the mind’s curling out of itself, the activity itself, and not just its leavings (“curls,” “grunts,” and “debris” all being part of this thinking (sentence) as I’m trying to trace its trajectory), is, simply put, impossible. The editing mechanism is too swift. It edits either by reaching back to pick up a dropp’d thread and carry it forward a row, or by letting go, unraveling back to a tangible point, somewhere to latch hold of.

So: at what point does it become a less than useful way of describing the work of somebody?

Hadn’t intend’d such an extend’d muchness: jamming. The Creeley stanza Silliman quotes, the beginning of the Ginsberg elegy, struck me as reaching after (mimicking) the highly repetitive rhyme-clusters of the Provençal troubadours (see Blackburn’s Proensa, all of Pound’s buddies, Arnaut Daniel, Bertran de Born, Bjorn Borg, etcheddara.)


Department of Letters Charg’d with Light

I received the following after my short review of the new Fence:

From: Roberto Paredez
Subject: Heteronym

'Robert Paredez (I’m thinking probably another
friggin’ heteronym, but then, I spend half my day
thinking "another friggin’ etc." about one thing or

I guess that you're using heteronym as Pessoa meant. I
assure you that the air I breathe is non-fictive.
Aside from that I am young, handsome and talented.
Also, I'm a ruffian. If a man in a bar called me a
friggin' heteronym I would probably set him on fire.
In your case I forgive you.

And reply’d:


I'm thinking you're an invention of Rae Armantrout. That "veil"
your e-mail address gives it all away. Or perhaps Fanny Howe, who's
"completely took" by Simone Weil. In any case, you're a woman.

I once called Gabe Gudding a "friggin' heteronym" in the Chanticleer in
Ithaca, New York. I admit: I was cross-eyed with bourbon. He fled
barking out the door. There's a man for you.



Something about that “set him on fire” rings a gong in my mostly empty head.


Books I Need to Return to the Library

The pushcart war /
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's farm /


Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Pyxidium Nul Pnyx


Something about the new DagZine (“Dag-pickin’ all day long”) by Gary Norris caught me: I like the near-obsessive returning to one word (“still”) and the list-mania he is on the verge of displaying. Who are the great list-makers in literature? My list start’d with Ted Berrigan and Gilbert Sorrentino, then James Joyce, then Charles Wright (I had the feeling I was limping a little listlessly now, but I’ve always liked Wright’s Black Sonnet:

0. Psittacosis
1. Cuckoopint
2. Reliquary
3. Pyxidium
4. Entelechy
5. Wyvern
6. White byrony
7. Zymotic
8. Contrapposto
9. Typolysis
10. Syzygy
11. Anti-matter
12. X
13. Carthago delenda est

Materiality or preciosity or precision, I don’t rightly know. In The Grave of the Right Hand) Then, listing, Gustave Flaubert (particularly in the Dictionnaire des idées reçues and in Bouvard and Pécuchet.) How often I think of the thousands of pages of notes Flaubert assembled for that novel, and of Tim Reynolds remark (early ’eighties) “Just think of what Flaubert could’ve done with a computer!” Surely I am neglecting many major list-makers—O’Hara in something like “To the Film Industry in Crisis,” Ammons in “Shit List.” Grrrmph, others?


Note to self: Niggle not with mud already thrown against a wall. It, too, caked there, shall serve a purpose.


Finish’d Fanny Howe’s The Wedding Dress. Collecting stray notes: Howe’s concern for labor, alienation, and learning, and how these relate. “What does a free person do except take the time to create a problem and solve it simultaneously?” (Close to John Cage’s task of “giving myself instructions and then carrying them out.”)

And on hierarchy (top-dog blindness): “. . . it is the least noticed person in the hierarchy who has the best knowledge of what is wrong with the hierarchy.

And it is the person who resists it all by being disreputable and elusive who doesn’t get paid for anything and is more invisible than those who have power.”

And what will send me back to Henry Adams story of thirteenth century “unity” still, to learn more about Aquinas. Howe in a piece called “Catholic”:

“Aquinas walked until he banged into a tree, and then he collapsed and died soon after. He didn’t want to write another line anyway. Modest and bewildered until the end. He never stopped equating joy with truth.”

(And if one sees falsehoods at every turning, is that a sign of joylessness? No falsehoods in nature.)

Howe: “Peripatetic effusions.”

And: Aquinas “didn’t have much truck with morose delectation, that kind of morbid indulgence in painful thoughts. Why, because they really undermine hope.”

Note incomprehensible to myself: “overlook’d and overcook’d and overbook’d (hypergraphia)” I’m not at all sure what plumb-line I was about to run down and swing off there, seeking, no doubt, a splash into the midst of some rhubarb. One could ask for lists: of most overlook’d writers, &c.


Tuesday, February 03, 2004



Here’s a hoot and a half just in (Kent “this is exactly what's wrong with your critical writing” Johnson’s excellent handiwork):

Helen Vendler and Strom Thurmond Cook Up a Post-Avant:
A Micro Play in One Act

—Inspired by Ron Silliman’s 2/2/04 likening of the post-avant with the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement and the “School of Quietude” with the post-bellum segregationist South.

(Scene: A dimly-lit, dungeon-like room of the Academy of American Poets building in New York. A huge painting of Marianne Moore with a tri-cornered pointed hood hangs on the wall. Beneath it, the skulls of Language and post-Language poets are piled in a mound about twenty feet high. Torture implements dating from 160 years ago are bolted to the floor around the room.)

Helen Vendler (wearing ca. 1963 Alabama State Trooper gear): No, Strom, don’t put the paprika on yet!! The roast has just now started to turn tender!

Strom Thurmond (wearing tall white hood and white tunic): Why, Helen dear, you can never put good ol’ Mississippi paprikash on a post-avant piglet too soon: Shiiiiiet, our paprikash don’t fade—it gets hotter with the cookin’! Here, looky here, I’m a puttin’ on some more, see?? Hee, hee. That commie poet boy turnin’ all red-like. Ain’t it pureety? Mmmm-mm!!! Boys, I’m talkin’ ’bout somethin’ good!

Vendler: Yes, OK, fine, but could we put some parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme in the orifices, please? I love Milosz, but I don’t want the dish to taste too “Eastern European,” or something!

Thurmond: Helen, darling, you go right ahead and add all the spice you care, ya hear? We’re gonna cook this boy up good now and make him taste prime. Now I’ll stuff some parsley in the mouth and ears, see, and you stuff some thyme in the nostrils there. But you best let me stuff the sage in the butt-hole, now, ‘cause that’s a man’s job.

Vendler (cooing): Ooooh, Strom, you certainly know how to use your fist, you S of Q stud, you.

Thurmond: Now, Helen, you get hold of yourself, child, don’t you go making those sounds and getting’ me all excited and stuff, sweet butterball, y’ hear?

(Slowly revolving on the spit and barely conscious, Ron Silliman moans as Thurmond stuffs the sage deep into his body . . .)

Thurmond: Oh, watsa matter boy? Huh?? You done thought you could come down here and fuck with us? Huh? Watsa matter? Got too much seasoning in that big fat mouth, carpetbagger? THIS IS OUR LAND, YOU JABBERWOCKY FRENCHY LOVIN’ AVANT BOY. You keep moanin’ now, ’cause I’m a-gonna EAT YOU, HEAR??!!

Vendler (hitching up her holster bearing mahogany riot stick): You know, it just boggles my mind how these Language-type Freedom Riders never seem to learn. One would surmise they’d be satisfied and leave us be after their Yank fathers won their war of aggression in the 60’s! But no, they march and march through all the Ivy League presses, do the sit-in thing at all the elite MFA grad program lunch counters, keep yelling on MLA panels and in all the big-time academic journals about being ignored and kept down, lobby to have whole college courses devoted to their kind, demand to sit at the front of the Norton, and on and on, I mean, really, Strom, how do you figure it? These people . . . We raise them, give them schooling, jobs, government funding, technology, you name it, and what do we get? A bunch of “Civil Rights” ingrates who want our Culture Industry’s praise and promotion. Unbelievable! . . . Anyway, I just hope Jorie stops flirting around with these uppity folks up there and comes back to Vanderbilt. She’s basically promoting miscegenation, when you get right down to it.

Thurmond (peeling off a strip of meat from the bottom of Silliman’s browned, bubbling foot): Club ’em with an axe handle and stick ’em on the spit, my pappy Jim Crowe Ransom used to say!! . . . Yeah . . . Mmmm. MMM! Hoooooee! That’s tasty-hasty! Oh, boy, lemme tell ya, Bill Merwin and Tony Hecht ain’t never cooked up a paratactic pig like this . . .

Vendler (bending down to inhale deeply): Ahhh, yes . . . sublime. What should we call it on the menu? I hear we’re having a big crowd tonight. And that John Ashbery is coming . . .

Thurmond: John Ashbery? You mean the John Ashbery Secret Grand Wizard, or the John Ashbery of The Tennis Court Oath?

Vendler: Oh, Strom, you are such a stitch! . . . No, really, what should we call this succulent dish?

Thurmond: Well, I say we call it “Avant on the Syntagmatic Axis, with Roast Potatoes For.” Git it, honeyhocks?

Vendler: (taking a clump of hot sage from the martyred carcass and poking it into her mouth): Ooooooh, Strom . . . Oh! Ouch! No, not now, you naughty bad bard you!


Stokely Got Him a Hoagie


Honestly, I can’t decide whether it’s more appropriate to refer to Silliman (see the asinine footnote there) henceforth by the name Stokely, or Hoagie. One of the Carmichaels. He fancies himself, apparently, a young blood, snicker-snack, ready to upset the big applecart. The pathetic analogy attempt of yesterday’s entry—how’d it go? Billy Collins is the Bull Connor of American poetry? Well, as Kent Johnson and several others call’d Silliman on it, the analogy is both horribly self-inflating, an aggrandizement of the shrillest and most desperate kind, and, worse, in its inappropriateness (starting simply, just with the difference in the stakes involved) a terrible insult to the many honorable workers in the Civil Rights movement.

—Stokely, lemme lay it on yo’ ass easy, the brothers ain’t sayin’ “dig,” when they talkin’ at chew—they callin’ yo’ quietude line and you “infra dig.”

(Though I’m tempt’d to stick to Hoagie Silliman, “closest you can get to being a hotdog, etc., etc.,” n’est-ce pas? Just keep smilin’ and playin’ that song, Hoagie.)

—Play it again, (and again, and again, and again), Sam. You know the one I mean, the one about the thuggery of the quietudinous. The one about the muggery of the slur gratitudinous? The one about the pitiful ordinary hierarchickal jealousies of the old farts? The one about the upped rhetorickal skullduggery for the numerical bottom line?

—Stokely, lemme tell it to yo’ brokedown ass this way: you can count and count and count up a big heap, but don’t you never count me in. Funny, Stokerman, ain’t it. You’d a thunk the New Formalists’ld be the countin’ types.

Probably best to let that thing alone. I’m sure Stokely would say (if’n he deign’d step into a ring wherein he’d get his ass hand’d to him on a platter, to borrow a Pynchonism): “It’s a Stokely thing” or “It’s a L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E thing” or “It’s a post-avant thing” and have us believe there’s some comparable struggle to it, beyond the ken and gumption of folks like me.


Reading (nearly finish’d with) Fanny Howe’s The Wedding Dress and rather than beginning to feel exhaust’d by it (the case with many a book), I long for it to lengthen, to slow, to allow me to spend more of myself against its cadences. The cadences are those of the fragmentary glimpse, the short paragraph, the curtail’d narrative, the syllables weigh’d out on the scale of the tongue. Near-axioms. Simone Weil is certainly one backdrop, Beckett another. Howe:

“I have read [Weil] for so long, and so intensely, I often don’t remember what she believed, stated, or knew. In a sense my stupidity is a sign that I have incorporated her work into myself.

The more information I have, the less I can remember.

Someone said that because Blake was self-educated, he was smart one moment and childish the next. And also that he acted as if no one else had ever thought the same things he did.”

(Which, of course, can be endearing if worn lightly, or obnoxious if present’d as Law.)

Whereas Weil’s long appear’d to me as scary, extreme, too unforgiving, a dogmatist (and a nihilist?) (essentially, though, I’ve not read her), Howe’s writing is human, humane, wide-ranging, comfortably “Catholic,” meaning, I suppose, questioningly so.

Weil: “Activity has to be constant. It has to continue each day and for many hours each day. Motives for our activity are therefore needed which shall be independent of our thoughts, hence of our relationships: idols.” (Gravity and Grace)

Whereas, Howe: “One definition of the lyric might be that it is a method of searching for something that can’t be found. It is an air that blows and buoys and settles. It says, “Not this, not this,” instead of, “I have it.” That lightness, a tentative (trial, testing) touch.

Elsewhere: “No monolithic answers that are not soon disproved are allowed into a bewildered poetry or life.” (In “Bewilderment,” which sends out various runners towards something like a poetics . . .)

Startle’d to read of Howe remembering something “as a child during the Second World War”: I’d thought her younger.

She writes of Thomas Hardy here, calling attention to Hardy’s professed attempt in the novels “to give shape and coherence to a series of seemings, or personal impressions.” Howe latches hold of the word “seemings” and spins out a lovely riff:

“Seeming is a word applied to chance—What seems to be a chance occasion is an event that is only partially traceable through a larger evaporating scheme.

A chance meeting is a meeting that seems to exist with a great probability of not meeting circling around it.

As we all know, almost everything doesn’t happen.

So the chance occurrence must actually be everything that does happen.”

I find that almost unbearably moving.


Winter seems to’ve eased its big hairy paw off the gas pedal, briefly, at least. Snow melting, oddly pockmark’d, as if a great gritty rain’d pour’d down. Walking La Carmencita this morning at dawn, I overheard a cardinal announcing its “Cheer, cheer, cheer” to its neighbors. Though inserting, every so often, a querulous burry hook before some several of those optimisms: “What cheer? What cheer?”


Monday, February 02, 2004

Nod Mode



The Poetry Project Newsletter, edited by Marcella Durand (No. 198, February/March 2004, $5, St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, 131 East 10th Street, New York, NY 10003)

Lisa Robertson (I read every word I see by Lisa Robertson) writes about Niedecker: “‘In Phonographic Deep Song’: Sounding Niedecker”—“I’m interested in the presence of listening in Niedecker’s work, listening as a shaped, material practice of reception. Specifically, I’d like to consider listening not as a mode of consumption, but as a compositional practice—the listener devises tactics of receiving in order to turn sound towards shapeliness.” Marcella Durand interviews Edwin Torres: “I lived in a little studio apartment and I didn’t throw anything away for years. . . . I lived in this situation that was totally claustrophobic and it was like a womb. Everything I wanted was there. . . . In hindsight, I realize it fueled a lot of my writing. That the sense of holding onto things and the tangents I love so much in poetry come from this idea of collecting and holding on and seeing if it will work. This hodgepodge mentality.” Reviews, including Tom Devaney on Joanne Kyger’s As Ever: Selected Poems 1964-2001, Ange Mlinko on Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art, edited by Vincent Katz, Chris McCreary on Lyn Hejinian’s The Fatalist and My Life in the Nineties, and a bouquet (terrific idea) of small reviews by Noah Eli Gordon. Reading reports and letters.

Director Anselm Berrigan reports that the NEA “will not be funding the Poetry Project for the 2004-05 season.” Which is, as Gertrude Stein would say “inaccrochable,” unforgiveably bête, the stupid doings of a bestial bunch. Apparently, the lost monies represent “approximately 10 to 12 percent” of the Projects annual income. I’ve been receiving the Newsletter free for the last couple of years (I think since responding to a sample issue offer on the Poetics list), but think I’ll put the $25 subscription price in the mail. And urge others to do so too.


A weekend gone to the dogs: the usual chores and movements, inane or amusing, among the bipeds. Little chance to read, no chance to write. A neighbor built a perfect igloo, sizeable enough, I’d suppose, for three or four to sit in comfortably, complete with extend’d half-cylinder’d entryway. I keep walking by it trying to figure out how the damn thing’s construct’d. It looks rather seamless, though igloos usually get fitted together with blocks. The snow is mostly too soft for cutting blocks, and not “packy” enough for making blocks (way too cold). Und zo? Mystère.


Reading rather indifferently Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy. The English view of the French is a tiresome one.