Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Disgruntlement in Jersey


Empty-head’d nowheres.




Nowheresville knucklehead.


A Buddha-sized blighter.


Ex-windbag of the slippery slope.


Cauterized by senescence.


Cauterized by sentences.


No big picture.


Mr. Efficacy of Laze.


Info-blowback and cyber-crud.


Litter by litter.


General needed and abrupt me-detumescence.




Sale means “dirty.”


Numbers exhibiting misanthropy of means.


The Four Hundred Blogs


Big Daddy meaning-machine.


Rapidograph foutu’d has-been.


Les Quatre cents coupables.





~ ~ ~

Reading: Cutty, One Rock: Low Characters and Strange Places, Gently Explained, by August Kleinzahler (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004). I love Kleinzahler for’s impeccably precise and genially varied diction: on a single random page—“douche bag,” “diphthong,” “va fungule” “Buddy Hackett,” “button nose,” “Duckie Juliano,” and “cyclone fence.” I love him for’s unabashed love of drink, and perennial unassuaged restlessness. Here: a kind of memoir, or notes toward an anti-memoir. Against th’expected heartfelt and moving pieces, and pieces of pieces, is a kind of sass of exaggerates that likely finds its antecedent in magical realism. If not in the homegrown urban blue-collar munificence and propensity for the colorful and telling mendacity. Consider: “My resemblance to the dog [named “Granny”] was not my only embarrassment to the family. I had a thick Czech accent as well . . .” Consider: “In fact, so considerable was her distress at having been delivered of this curious whelp that not a week after my birth both my parents disappeared to Guatemala for a fortnight, presumably to console one another, divert themselves with Mayan figurines, rain forests, cloudy fermented beverages made from tubers . . .” What Kleinzahler knows and fiercely defends is a right to dwell lovingly amidst the American detritus, poking at it knowingly and tenderly, and to sneer at the pretentious anywhere. Too, he’s a fine (and rare) critic of poetry’s hogwash:
Me, I’d rather be in a dentist’s chair than go to one of those things where the lady poet whispers in the breathless little lady-poet voice about how come she’s so out of sorts and Granny’s moldering petticoat in the attic, this sort of drivel. But the poet-boy, he’s worse still, striking this earnest pose—probably thinks it’ll get him laid—and giving forth in these little spastic pellets about going fishing with the old man, getting things straight between them.
And elsewhere, mimicking an “anorexic woman of indeterminate age wearing a crew cut” “with all the affect of a dosed salamander” whose “followers were a grim lot . . . concerned about the business at hand, as if attending a meeting of the IMF or the Atomic Energy Commission”:
”The subject of my poem is not the Cnidaria as a living functioning organism per se. What I have done is to borrow its structure, not least its radial symmetry, for the structure of my poem, which has quite a different subject, if the term ‘subject’ is at all relevant here [more humming]. The subject of ‘Cnidaria’ is, finally, language [more appreciative humming].”


To work.

Monday, November 29, 2004

A Torpid Pot


Days without notebooks, without notes. One nigh-illegible scribble on a museum map. Peering in damn dim light into a glass case hid under muss’d-up drapes to read a 1918

letter T. S. Eliot wrote to society gadabout and collectionneuse Isabella Stewart Gardner: “I hope you keep that torpid little pot stirred up a little,” meaning

Boston, and recommending Wyndham Lewis as the “most interesting man in London society.” Which is where I was. Boston, not London. Where I try’d to trade six

greenbacks for a copy of Ronald Johnson’s North Point Press Ark: The Foundations: 1-33 only to be inform’d by the insufferable twitch that “occupies”

Grolier’s that it was, in fact, “mismark’d” (it wasn’t mark’d at all, and wasn’t list’d in the computer either) and would run me a clean twenty-five dollars. To which I said, “Fug

it, time and money both’re reprehensible cooter’s works, not of mine loathesom’st gloss to trust,” or something. As a Senegalese out near one of the marchés aux

just beyond the périphérique in Paris once said, after I’d barter’d with him over a little ebony statue, or cowrie shell necklace, or something, and,

agreement made, decided against buying it: “Ce n’est pas le commerce, ça.” Exactly right he, and I a dishonorable citizen of Bad Faith City. The Gardner is less a

museum, curated, than a monument to accumulated wealth and th’impact’d ideologies of the West, what gets vinegar-pickled long after as “taste”—subtract a couple of John Singer Sargents (I liked in particular a watercolor of a large tent pitch’d for camping

in the Rockies
, though I should admit too, for sheer max factor, a twinge at th’Uccello “Young Lady of Fashion,” with her deliciously long neck and indolent heavy-liddedness)

and what is left is mediocre Old Masters, minor works by a few contemporaries, and a large number of wholly unexceptional art-school throwaways all assembled in a hodge-

podge, and bolster’d by curios, furniture, and scraps of manuscript’d disjecta. I prefer’d the Science Museum. There, a large motorized red arrow speeds around Moebius strip

track at the merest punch of a button! And the hissing cockroaches of Madagascar do battle for king of the mountain, the males arm’d with nothing but the minuscule thoracic

bumps on they heads! Probably eighteen hundred miles of driving and the only thing I recall thinking of is nigh-inadmissable: what about a magazine call’d Pop

a pop-up thing “for men.” Such was the state of my acumen. Such was the dread louse of my brain-panick’d apnea. Such was the ungovernable sloth of travel. Such

was the release of finitude muck. I read a little Bernd Heinrich and rather long’d to ramble a winter woods elsewhere and make myself dizzy under dizzying sky.


To work.

Friday, November 19, 2004



Pre-trajectory loose ends. Departure for points east in th’offing. Packing is a matter of minutes. What I linger over is what books to put in the shoulder sling. What durable little notebook to tuck in a side pocket for scribbles whilst at the wheel. My big rig. My puny

scrawl. Out of th’Audubon book: how farmers drove hogs miles so’s they’d gorge on the leavings of a passenger pigeon slaughter. Th’idea of pigs gobbling birds is not couth for the soul. How the roosting birds’d crowd the limbs of trees to the point of breaking. The

eccentric botanist Constantine Samuel Rafinesque, polymath and nut, with a “phrenologically distinguished forehead,” long hair and beard, dressed in a “long loose coat of yellow nankeen . . . stained all over with the juice of palnts.” The entomologist

Thomas Say—the Say of Gammarus fasciatus Say, an amphipod, “freshwater shrimp,” scud, or sideswimmer, a macaroni-sized crustacean I captured in such numbers in the tiny tributary to th’Huron River, likely first described by Say. This in my

biologically-orient’d youth. Scooping up handfuls of decaying oak leaves out of the spring trickle. The brownish scuds spazzin’ amongst, segment’d, thrashing. The undersides of the females tuck’d full of orange eggs, each the size of a poppy seed.

Twenty or thirty little globules. I measured population size and density. Which required mapping th’area of the creek bottom. Estimating flow speed and volume. A world ago now and to eternity. Thinking of Audubon’s dog name’d Dash, “a slut” he call’d her.

Apparently a neutral term in the trans-Appalachian dog-world. Or of Chateaubriand, in Atala, French Romantic ga-ga noises about the lush and penetrable New World, spectacularly imprecise, transcribes “Mississippi” as “Meschacebe.” Which

transcription I prefer. So, nearly two hundred years later I cross back over th’Appalachians, blind sachem boy moi. In a vehicle, in cahoots with th’inescapable imperial past and present, grinding my teeth down to yellow stubs against it.


Back in ten days or so.


To work.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Books & Dust


Bought (Bridge Street Books):

Just the Thing: Selected Letters of James Schuyler, 1951-1991, edited by William Corbett (Turtle Point Press, 2004)

To John Ashbery from Great Spruce Head Island, July 13, 1968:
Dear Joseph Hergesheimer,
First things first: I’m afraid I can’t help you with your Sherwood Anderson query, since I spend a good deal of time sedulously avoiding his works. This is not because I dislike them, but because I don’t know much about them and prefer to keep it that way. When I was a child, back in the days of flagpole sitters, Billie Dove, the Golddust Twins and Knee-Hi Grape, a baby sitter once treated me to a read from what I’ve always fondly imagined was a novel of his, which concerned the thoughts of a man while hopping the midnight freight to get away from his wife. So I’ve always imagined that true maturity would be to read, enjoy and understand a Sherwood Anderson novel. A day I hope to postpone as long as possible.
Corbett kindly footnotes Hergesheimer: “American novelist who wrote best-sellers in the 1910s and 1920s.”


The Sweet Singer of Modernism and Other Art Writings, 1985-2003, by Bill Berkson (Qua Books, 2003)

“Looking at an early de Kooning called Summer Couch in the early ’60s, Edwin Denby told how, in the ’40s when the painting was done, de Kooning had intended “a wind blowing cross the surface” to keep the parts of his pictures off kilter while their overall compositions settled in. The painting’s furniture scheme admitted an undertow—there were sharks in that wind!—and a finely tethered, wobbly balloon. Similarly, in the teeming Woman I, an eventful composure seems the whole point of the image’s arrival ; Rudy Burckhardt’s documentary photographs of the painting at different states show that the objective was to get the elusive figure to declare herself, to sit still in an other wise uncertain space . . . Once she had plunked herself down, the woman’s eyes and smile flared accordingly. Woman I got down without style. The goddesses we know from Western culture don’t, as de Kooning said he wouldn’t want to, “sit in style.” Instead, they take up attitudes. De Kooning said of himself: “I have to have an attitude.”

“An eventful composure.” To keep a thing moving—“in the air”—whilst a composition settles in. Probably as good a definition of processual tenderings (admitting of art) as any. “Writing oneself into a condition of writing.” What’s style “up against” what’s attitude?


Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard, by Ron Padgett (Coffee House Press, 2004)

To repeat a Brainard diary piece (dated July 15, 1969) that Padgett offers, interlocking with the Berkson lines?
What I am trying for, I think, is accuracy. That is to say “the way things look.” To me. This is really very hard to do. And, I imagine, impossible. What I really hope for, I guess, is that, by just painting things the way they look, something will “happen.” That is to say, a clue. A clue as to what I want to do. In much the same way, I am writing this diary now. I am telling you simply what I see, what I am doing, and what I am thinking. I have nothing that I know of in particular to say, but I hope that, through trying to be honest and open, I will “find” something to say. Or, perhaps, what I really hope for, is that the simplicity of the writing will be interesting in itself. Whether I say anything or not. Anything, that is, of any importance.
The winsome faux-innocent (or maybe not “false”—I remember suddenly the funny line in I Remember about all the different ways one’s pronounced the words “Pouilly-Fuissé” . . .) “attitude” here is constituent finally of a winning and direct style. One that both “says” and is capable of saying “anything.”


Hammertown, by Peter Culley (New Star Books, 2003)

Little by little
the wind erodes our oeuvres
till nothing is left
but a golden bee
holding up a tapsestry,

lattices through which
content can
occasionally be glimpsed
receding in tabbyish twilight.

Had a library copy and wrote some stuff here and clamor’d for a copy of my own to hold and own.


Try’d, too, to land a copy of the Nomados-publish’d Lisa Robertson’s Rousseau’s Boat, with no luck.


Odd for me to dream, and odder still to dream of “war.” “Terror.” Airplanes coming in low over one of the Great Lakes, aiming at Detroit, or Chicago—the geography is all

wrong, pastiche and mismatch, what dreams do—and “gun emplacements” were being installed with dopey camouflage, treelike, military types bustling about. “Anti-aircraft.”

I wake up thinking something like “Is this how long it’s took to “process” “9 / 11”? A shorthand I dislike. And, puttering around, pouring the coffee, I recall how, yesterday,

mildly and briefly, I read a little of Michael Gottlieb’s poem “The Dust,” in a copy of Lost and Found I’d snatch’d off the new book shelf. And found it striking—

the fierce paratactic of the list absolutely apt in the case of “9 / 11.” Devastation lies most completely in the destruction of relation—“Thomas Kelly” = “Vine floral-printed

panty” = “Flange connection” = “Instinet Russell 1000 Reconstitution Preview - update, pdf.” Though, at one point, where relation is hint’d at—one of the items

is “Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, The Metropolitan Opera, September 26, 2001, Orchestra, AA110, AA111,” providing a heart-sore recognition and context (“9 / 11” itself

goes unnamed—cannily, one thing Gottlieb does is make the first item on the list “UHF Tower Mast A,”—that word “tower” a load’d one in recent history in these States)—where

relation is hint’d at, the “pull,” the “sentiment” of the piece outdoes itself—the strongest point in a strong piece. Smart commentary here, I note belatedly, by K. Silem Mohammad.


To work.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004




1913: a journal of forms, No. 1, 2004 ($10, 308 North Linn, No. 9, Iowa City, Iowa 52245)

“Manufactured in the oldest country in the world, the United States of America.”

The editor or editors remain somewhat coy, unidentified. As a way of avoiding the cultural capital (or collateral damage) that comes with th’editing territory, or out of some neo-Pessoan heteronymity scheme (which anonymity triggers and assuages equally, at least in the Johnsonesque manifestation), I do not know. Something refreshing there, though somebody is deserving of a huzzah of accolades—for here is a terrific new journal. The contents:

Covers by Sonia Delaunay. Epigraph by Picasso: “Cubism is an art which above all has as its purpose form—and once that form is created, then it exists and carries on its own life.” Drawings, photograph, and essay by Natalia Goncharova. Poems by Barbara Guest, Biswamit Dwibedy, Susan Maxwell, Cal Bedient, Joshua Clover, Scott Inguito, Brenda Hillman, Eric Elshtain, Cole Swenson, Louis-Georges Schwartz. Essay / talk by John Taggart. Visual poems (“doodles” according to th’accompanying Note) by Chris Chen. Prose poem by Karen Volkman. Poems by Jonathan Thirkield, Nathaniel Mackey, Sarah Riggs. Paintings by Sarah Riggs. Photographs by Leighton Pierce. Collages / notebook pages by Alan Halsey. Notebook pages by Billy Gomberg. Poems by Sarah Gridley, Cathy Park Hong. Essay by Aleš Debeljak. Poems by Graham Foust, Jed Rasula, Fernando Pessoa (Álvaro de Campos)—translated by Chris Daniels, John Taggart, Sandy Brown. A selection out of Implexures by Karen Mac Cormack, with the book itself reviewed by Stephen Cain. Visual poems by Michael Basinski. Poems by Louis Armand, Chris Chen, Geoffrey G. O’Brien, Steve Willard, Shane Book, Stephen Ratcliffe. Prose piece by Pamela Lu. Poems by James Stevens, Matthew Cooperman. Prose poems by Steve McCaffery. Poem by Cal Bedient.

A clumsy way to list the contents, assuredly. There is an alphabetickal index. What’s here, though, is derived by turning the journal’s pages. And turning the journal every “wch way.” Print’d nominally “landscape”-style, a large number of narrower, “vertical” pieces end up print’d sideways, and read as if out of a tablet, so there is a constant turning and handling of the journal. And, I wager, a slowing of approach—it’s nigh-impossible to flip through 1913.

The likely presiding orishas of 1913—Picasso, Delaunay, and Goncharova. All workers of numerous disciplines, fields. Graphic arts, painting, sculpture, poetry, photography, book design, manifesto-writing, clothing design—none of the three meticulous about what constitutes “one’s” art. Goncharova, quoted most:
In the golden age of individualism, I destroy this holy of holies and refuge of the narrow-minded as something not corresponding to the modern order of life and its future order. The individual perception can play an auxiliary role for art, and positively none for humanity.
. . .
To not fear literature, illustration or any other of the bugbears of modernity in painting, which certain modern artists wish to reject in order to raise the painterly interest absent from their work. To try and do the opposite, to express all this clearly and definitely by painterly means.
. . .
I believe what is now called philistine vulgarity to be of profound interest, because it is unbesmirched by the art of thickheads, whose sole thoughts are turned toward the summits, only because they themselves cannot reach them, and also because philistine vulgarity is prevalent in our days and this characterises modernity. There is no need to fear it; it can easily be an object for artistic concern.
Dated: August 1913. The cover verso collates and prints a number of 1913 happenings (indeed 1913 acts as a tool of aesthetic engagement—the type select’d is “Nicholas Cochin (& family), designed in 1913 by George Peignot.”):
Sonia Delaunay fashions her first simultaneous dress.
. . .
We find Picasso, at the beginning of 1913, returning to the use of paint to hurl, as it were, a series of defiant challenges at the papiers collés.
Shuffleboard is introduced into Florida by Daytona Beach hoteliers Mr. and Mrs. Robert Ball.
. . .
Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel, the first readymade.
Gestures “back” toward Modernism, clearly. Seemingly for purposes of more than another exercise in high nostalgia. Is “one” ready to regain the triggering impulses of Modernism, and to what precise end? Rattling around in my thinking: dates. There’s “on or about December 1910,” clumsy for a journal-title. Period when, according to Virginia Woolf, “human character changed.” (She continues: “The first signs of it are recorded in the books of Samuel Butler, in The Way of All Flesh in particular; the plays of Bernard Shaw continue to record it. In life one can see the change, if I may use a homely illustration, in the character of one’s cook.” One’s cook?) Though 1910’s attract’d attention enough—there’s one book about Bloomsbury doings call’d On or About December 1910: Early Bloomsbury and Its Intimate World by Peter Stansky. And one title’d 1910: The Emancipation of Dissonance, by Thomas Harrison—revolving seemingly around the character of Carlo Michelstaedter—watercolourist, nihilist, philosopher, and suicide—and one “whom” “I” “do” “not” “know.” How about American Nervousness: 1903, title of a book by Tom Lutz, “an anecdotal history,” as the subtitle’s got it, of neurasthenia and other variously compound’d nosological entities?

Straying the savage lamp that is my “topic.” Continue’d domani. In th’episode wherein “one” asks: “Who’s Shane Book? Related to Christian Bök? Is Shane Book my cook?”


To work.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

My Duty


Unaccountably lost. How is it the day slinks off, night gets up and yawns a noisy goodnight. Barely a moment to count my fingers in a day. Ten. How’s the Woodie Guthrie song go? “Dropped a finger, pick it up, pick it up.”

Periods go by wherein “one” decides just to go off about the dopey minuscules, the plangent inordinates, the rabid perfervids, just to see if “one”’s starling’s got a whinge left to it. Oftener (INSTANTER) it doth. The dogma.

“And its excuse, its usableness, in practice.” Which doesn’t “preclude” a different approach. That of the man who’s got a tiny bone to pick open the locks securing th’academy doors. That man’s astir. That man’s in stir.

Forty years for confining himself to a mode and an utterance. Me, ’druther be walking long-stamina’d mule-strides the length of the Natchez Trace, thinking how lucky I was to spend my earthly spell stuck like a spray of bachelor’s buttons

into the midst of the nineteenth century. The way any common bursar of the twentieth century miasma and collapse would long for an abeyance and a behooving. A new territory clad in unidentifiables—that’s the aim

and momentary tiny credule, bottle’d belief. Think of the reticent proud Scot Alexander Wilson meaning to walk to Chillicothe, two hundred miles of floody ruts, warn’d off. So: “he bought himself a rowboat, which he christened The Ornithologist,

waited a few days for the ice to break up and pushed off.
My stock of provisions consisted of some biscuit and cheese, and a bottle of cordial, presented me by a gentleman of Pittsburgh; my gun, trunk, and greatcoat

occupied one end of the boat; I had a small tin, occasionally to bail her, and to take my beverage from the Ohio with; and bidding adieu to the smoky confines of Pitt, I launched into the stream . . .
Later, he travel’d with a green Carolina paroquet, shoulder-perch’d and loud-squawking, to whom he fed cockleburs. An extinct species in the stupid and murderous twenty-first. Writing, I concede, writes one into a condition of writing.

What, ragpicker I be, tears at th’etymological rag: condition: related to condicere to talk a thing over together—f. con- together + dicere to declare, tell, say, etc., weak stem dic- in -dicus, dicax, etc.

(see dict) Alors, dict dikt, Obsolete or archaic. [ad. Latin dictum, a saying, a word, f. dicere to say: cf. also Old French dict, var. spelling of dit. (Old English had diht from same source.)] A saying or maxim.

Mr. William Caxton had, preternaturally enough: “He had in his dictes grete obscurete and profoundnes.” Which he did. And a mid-nineteenth century Mr. Reade: “The old dict was true after all.” Whew. That’s a wrap. And a relief. It’s easy to get

unaccountably lost in th’environs. I bicycle’d in thinking: “The condition of writing.” The “and-saying-ness” of “and-saying-ness.” Which made me resemble John Cage piling flat rock on flat rock. Fast and gleeful I peddled, an amanita spore

in the breeze, mote in the eye of God. And here I am, reluctant digitizer, foul peasant of the duty ship. Ah, the condign heights of mutability! And Claude Debussy, speaking of the personality of Proust, recognized “a bit of the concierge.” According to Markson.


To work.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Daringly Canny


Bought (Friends of the Library):

Poor Things: Episodes from the Early Life of Archibald McCandless M. D., Scottish Public Health Officer, edited by Alasdair Gray (Harcourt Brace & Co., 1994)

Scottish metafictional doings with Gray’s canny and precise pen-and-inks. Product of the Glaswegian renaissance of the 1970’s. “The doctor who wrote this account of his early experiences died in 1911, and readers who know nothing about the daringly experimental history of Scottish medicine will perhaps mistake it for a grotesque fiction. Those who examine the proofs given at the end of the introduction will not doubt that in the final week of February 1881, at 18 Park Circus, Glasgow, a surgical genius used human remains to create a twenty-five-year-old woman. The local historian Michael Donnelly disagrees with me. It was he who salvaged the text which is the biggest part of the book . . .”


Overhaul’d the bicycle—new brake pads, took the old skunk-chew’d seat off and replaced it with the leather number with the “boy parts” slot off the old red Trek. De-mud-encrust’d, polish’d, and generally made a big to-do. No shakedown ride, so I’ve put an Allen wrench in my pocket, for unforeseen minor adjustments. End’d up scooting into the library with G. in the Lumina. Drug home a Caetano Veloso CD (“Livro”), the new Audubon biography (subtitled The Making of an American) by Richard Rhodes, and the Mark Moskowitz film about Dow Mossman and The Stones of Summer, titled Stone Reader.


Which, in two sittings, I watch’d. (I’d sought out and read The Stones of Summer just over a year ago, shortly after beginning Hotel Point, and after reading about the film.) Watch’d, I’d say, with some ambivalence. Thinking, in retrospect, that the film’s structure—looking for Mossman, looking for anybody who’d read The Stones of Summer, looking for anybody who’d heard of Mossman, etc. (which seem’d, quite obviously, to follow an archetypal search chronology, one without any assured outcome)—might better’ve been scrapped. Due, precisely, to the fact of Moskowitz’s finally finding Mossman. Who is clearly the liveliest person in the film—a wide reader and completely engaging talker, capable of sudden shifts and feints of topic. Moskowitz, who obviously enjoys talking about books himself, is suddenly a little discomfit’d, open-mouth’d, rather stunned by Mossman’s performance. I just want’d to listen to Mossman—to hell with the story of looking for him. Though an interview with Leslie Fiedler copped a drollery, or two.


“Copped a drollery, or two”?


Half-finger’d gloves weather. Like a tough, like a minor Marlowe. Like a Yooper bow hunter. Scuttling up the ladder to the roof, scooping out the gutters—ice and twigs and shingle grit and decomposing leaves. One lavender badminton birdie. The C-dog thinking is a sport—grabbing mouthfuls of debris and loping in mad circles below. Red-bellied woodpecker in the shagbark. Sky insolubly blue, and cloudless. So still only the sunlight seems to move.


Collapsible dreams, one within th’other, Russian dolls. Of African lakes, and people fishing for huge slow-moving fish, by wrapping lines around the fins and hauling shoreward. Of sudden baldness, and slack skin, horrifyingly white, loose and shifting on the pate. Of an outpost for mountain-climbing, crampons and cleats neatly arranged and knock’d awry.


“He excelled in writing occasional verses.”


porrect v. [f. L. porrect-, ppl. stem of porrigere to stretch out in front of oneself, put forth, extend, offer, f. por- = pro- forth + regere to stretch, direct.]

To put forward, tender (a document, etc.); to produce or submit for examination or correction. [Obsolete except in ecclesiastical law.]

Humorously. To tender, deal out.

“Which I no sooner perceived than I porrected him a remembrance over the face.”

“Consider the porrected form of the nose.”


To work.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Tips of Things


The doctrine of browsing—nibble the available tips of things. So I learn that Lessing, in something call’d the Hamburger Dramaturgy says: “I would prefer a good comedy with a bad title.” Elsewhere, nearby, I learn that a German translation of Proust Adorno sought “in a city in the extreme south of Germany” carry’d Im Schatten junger Mädchenblüte for a title, literally, “In the Shadow of Young Maidenblossoms.” The clerk asks if Mädchen im Mai would “serve.”


“Rain, reign, rein,
English is a pain.”


Regarding the raucous Plautus playlet of a couple days back, one sharp-eye’d correspondent porrect’d: “I would fain urge you to consider that ‘For I would feign deny my fee, . . .’ should read ‘For I would fain deny my fee, . . .’” Which is well- and indomitably done. Said correspondent further noted: “Since you like Proust, I'll mention that Proust’s first translator, Scott Moncrieff, wrote to Proust offering his translation with the phrase: ‘the chaplet I would fain offer you . . .’, and he has Proust say:

‘the ‘Guermantes way’ with its river full of tadpoles, its water-lilies, and its buttercups have constituted for me for all time the picture of the land in which I fain would pass my life’


‘I, who had at first loved Gilberte, in Combray days, on account of all the unknown element in her life into which I would fain have plunged headlong,’


‘and notwithstanding the illusion by which we would fain be cheated and with which, out of love, friendship, politeness, deference, duty, we cheat other people,’

and so forth.”

“Feign, fain, fane,
Th’language is a seine.”

Or, as the “original” “author” of the piece brightly remark’d: “Sinn Fein.”


The day’s damn’d by data.
And the day’s dam of data breaks.


Proust Notes 11

Proust making Beckett Beckett: noting that same working through—obsessional, in excruciate detail, ticks against a limit’d numerical flux—some finite set of possible permutations. More “stripped down” in the Beckett (I’m thinking Watt.) Proust’s narrator, in the concoct’d likely scenarios of such and such action vis-à-vis Gilberte, succumbs to the same manner of thinking. The difference—Beckett, by stripping it to its essence, makes it farcical. Proust:
She would be writing to me, no doubt, to apologize. Even so, I would make a point of not going round to see her straight away, just to show her I could live without her . . . once I received the letter, to see her again would be something I could more easily postpone for a time, since I would be certain of being able to be with her whenever I wanted to . . . Not having received a letter . . . I awaited the postman each morning with a beating heart, a state which turned into dejection each time I found the post to consist either of letters from people who were not Gilberte or of no letters at all . . . In the future, if she ever sent me an invitation or a suggestion that we meet, I even made a point of accepting some of these, so as to prevent her from suspecting I was acting on anything like lover’s pique, and then at the last moment I wrote to cry off, with the sort of great protestations of disappointment that you send to someone you have no real desire to see.
Wads and dollops of that sort of thing, pages interminable, a man caught in the unrelenting effervescence of’s own mind, calculating.


Proust: “She’s as fly as a bunch of monkeys.” (What on earth is the French?) What on earth is the English: “Knowing, wide-awake, sharp.” (“‘I am fly’, says Jo.” Dickens, Bleak House, 1852.) And: “Of the fingers: Dexterous, nimble, skilful.” (“No dummy hunter had forks so fly.” H. Ainsworth Rookwood, 1834.) And by the late nineteenth century it gets to the U. S. as “fly cop” or “fly-flat”—a detective, a plain-clothes cop. And more hip-hop recently: “good,” “good-looking.” Which is probably why it jump’d me in the first place.


To work.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Poop Sheet


“Listening to the first time to music that is even a little complicated, one can often hear nothing in it . . . What is missing the first time is probably not understanding, but

memory. Our memory-span, relative to the complexity of the impressions which assail it as we listen, is infinitesimal . . .” (Proust) No genuine lurch to scribble my particulars

tonight, up here in the rigging of the fatigue ship. Just read aloud to G.—“The vorpal blade went snickersnack!” Recalling of late the words I heard, head atilt against

my father’s rumbling chest. “Jabberwocky” just a wash of pure sound then—a rhythmic wash. It is rhythm and timbre that remains most dearly. The memory sorting th’impressions

leaves out the words. What comes through: tactile, aural, the thump and mutter of speech. Of whom, today, would “one” claim—“no one but an American can

ever know, really know, how good he is at the bottom,” as Pound did some eighty or so years back of Henry James? American? What’s an American? Don Patterson, a man

unbearably pedantic, in a near-completely insane (and uncannily snotty—see slighting references to “Homophonic translations of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in Lithuanian” or

“poems freakishly juxtaposing archaic and contemporary registers”—or see the bizarre demeaning of “hippie generalities,” what?) talk call’d “The Dark Art of Poetry

(welcome to Harry Potter-fy’d English “letters”), saith: “every morning the poet should stand at the window and remember that nothing they see, not a bird or stone, has in its

possession the name they give it.” Which is (possibly) an interesting “thought-experiment” but’s got less than little to do with making a poem. In a reprise of Mallarmé’s remark

to Degas (who claim’d he’d plenty of ideas for poems)—that “poems are made with words, not ideas”—and contra Spicer’s impossible desire for a poem

as “a collage of the real” (“I would like to make poems out of real objects.”), I’d say “poems are made with words, not birds.” (Some foolish trapdoor in my head just

open’d and the Ramones’s “Surfin’ Bird” stream’d unstoppably out: “Everybody's heard about the bird / Bird bird bird / Bird is the word / Don't you know about the

bird / Well everybody knows that the bird is a word / Bird bird bird . . .” Patterson is simply being unnecessarily mystifying (and a mystification of means

always goes along with anti-populist credos, and Patterson’s capital P Poet is clearly sectarian, elitist, “expert.” I don’t know where I’m going with my words (I

ain’t got no ideas, ideas are anathema to me). I point to the talk without having study’d it carefully, put off by the prevalence of its smarm, and its

occlusion, shutting down of possibility. Oddly enough, parts of it remind’d me of Duncan, the insistence on the radical mysteries of words, that need to grub down

into the etymological earth—“The deeper our understanding of its etymology, the longer and stranger the shadow the word casts, and the more complex the patterns of

overlapping shadows become.” O frabjous day, Mr. Patterson. I ask: How oft’ hath “one” press’d one of “one”’s ears to the morel-stubbled ground like a

Potawatomi warrior only to hear how la belle dame sans merci poesy is suffering so again under the too-trod turd of poop pedantry or poop

partiality by another tyrant of the tiny turf. About the bird and the stone that do not know they be “bird” and “stone”: “ideas which leave no possibility of a

rejoinder are those which are not properly speaking ideas.” Beware (everywhere) of arguments advanced (particularly on questions of poetry) that are only “indisputable

because they are devoid of reality.” (Proust)


To work, landlubbers.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Mutual Aid



Mutual Aid, by Stacy Szymaszek (g o n g, 2004)

Finally, a chapbook I order’d some weeks back, directly ($7, Drew Kunz, Editor, 8630 NE Wardwell Road, Bainbridge Island, Washington, 98110-1589). Apparently, Puget Sound’s Bainbridge Island is a tiny vortex’d hell for mail—so I am doubly happy my copy arrived. I know Drew Kunz edit’d (with Szymaszek) a magazine out of Wisconsin call’d Traverse. The new press, g o n g, judging by th’impeccable rich design of Mutual Aid, looks like a splendid re-beginning. (Actually, Kunz and g o n g’ve also done a chapbook by Sarah Mangold (Boxer Rebellion), with additional works forthcoming—by Laynie Browne, Mark Tardi, Nico Vassilakis, Chris Pusateri, and E. Tracy Grinnell & Paul Foster Johnson.) It’s a square volume, bound with the threads outside Japanese-style, print’d in an old style type (Berkeley), restrain’d without severity, black linen-wove endpapers under a fine dark burgundy-going-to-clay cover blockprint’d with a pelican in flight.

Mutual Aid’s title is borrow’d off Kropotkin, and the writing is Szymaszek’s accompaniment, tympanum, shelter to (or against) Kropotkin. She notes:
The text was written as I read Peter Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, as a way to engage the commotion it produced in me.
One stunner: my preconceived Kropotkin (never having read him) disallows the kind of natural history that is dominant here. Various fragments concern parrot mates, the “black bear of Kamchatka,” “Casarki ducks,” “herds of horses,” “fallow deer,” and (severally) pelicans. The pieces focus less on individual within a species, and more on groups, couples, relations species-specific or not. If I detect a motion throughout the pieces, it is toward a human perspective, increasing human presence—to the point that the final four pieces carry heads: “Commune of L:,” “Commune of S:,” “Commune of R:,” and “Commune of M:,” as if a whole panoply of ways to live (from “shepherds elected” to “in tandem they repair” to “it is my turn / to serve”) were being consider’d.

Szymaszek’s pieces are spare and attuned to nuance, aware of how crucial the “weight” of any verb is:
  Numerous bands
of red-throated falcons

                       meet afternoons
     in southern Russian steppes

                                   vast flock wheels
           toward some determined point

                                      then return
     to broadcast the same flying

                           and vanish
  just before midnight
It’s the flat short a sound that carries the piece—bands, falcons, afternoons, vast, broadcast, vanish—with the pivot-word being “broadcast” in all its rambunctious meanings. To sow, scatter, seed, disseminate, disperse. To call out, radiophonically. The idea of flight, and warning. There’s a lot of activity here between the “determined point” and focus of the “flock”, and the wheeling about, and out—center and periphery. The piece’s shape is a point, an arrow, a wing, a falcon. And all that trails behind, refusing, vanishing before the vanishing. The purposeful and the drifting, the body of community and the ever-unincorporated.

Or, another:
Each wave

a duck is rocking


Casarki ducks


white trousers

pull away
Here, again, a contrariety of motions keep th’image in a state of something like “static turbulence.” The seeming specificity of a single preposition “above” works to alert one to the figure / ground slippage that keeps the scene active and indeterminate. Ducks bobbing “on” waves, or waves moving “under” ducks? “Casarki ducks / migrate” “above” the wave-riding ducks? The “white trousers / pull away” (terribly sexy)—suggesting additional activity “on shore”? Someone about to swim? Or is “white trousers” “purely” metaphorickal, the ducks peeling off the water—in the running splashy takeoff way, making whitecaps, like whitecaps. It’s a fertile confusion, one originating in Szymaszek’s care in placing the data.

In a bout of curiosity about “Casarki ducks,” I search’d the term. It turns up (Google’d) only in a full-text version of Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid. Wherein it exists in the following quote, out of “Syevettsoff’s Periodical Phenomena.” A search of “Syevettsoff” yields the same strictly limit’d result. As if, Kropotkin invent’d Syevettsoff, and Szmaszek’s re-invent’d Kropotkin and Syevettsoff both . . . in an ecology of lineage and desire. Here’s the Arcadia whence the lines get gathered:
For several hundred yards from the shore the air is filled with gulls and terns, as with snow-flakes on a winter day. Thousands of plovers and sand-coursers run over the beach, searching their food, whistling, and simply enjoying life. Further on, on almost each wave, a duck is rocking, while higher up you notice the flocks of the Casarki ducks. Exuberant life swarms everywhere.

Cold here in Treetown. Visible breath, men and women stamping like horses in a paddock, waiting for the cumbersome bus. Something near-Czarist in the air.


To work.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Box


The box arrived yesterday, parcel post, flat, the thickness of a human wrist, smelling of the domestic musk of housefly larvae, sweater pills, and trans-fatty triglycerides. Return address an inky smudge—I thought I could make out “New Harm.” Which, frankly, put me on tenterhooks, made my testicles briefly roll in my briefs, and, pulling up great folds of scrotal tissue, proceed to bunch it up and nuzzle therein, as if for warmth. The postmark, blotting a comely gallery of repeat’d Thurgood Marshall portraits (and a single odd twenty-cent bluejay), explain’d little. It look’d to read, “Buy Iraqi,” but even of that I could not be sure. I dandled my pocketknife, weighing the possibilities. Then, muttering an Anglo-Saxon explicative I’ve grown fond of, plunged in.

Inside, in tissue paper, two perfect veal cutlets greet’d me shyly, looking just a little cow’d. These I removed. Underneath, wrapped in several sheets of high-rag content stationary imprint’d with the armorial shield and earthly address of a small midwestern Classics Academy, lay a manuscript, unsign’d. What I read I read moistly, avidly, and without compunction. Nota bene:
Special to Hotel Point:

The Castle of Perseverance [Or: The Interlude of Youth]

(Adapted from Gongora’s translation of a non-surviving fragment from Plautus.)

Ronaldus Sillimaneus (naked but for loin cloth, in fashion of pre-Augustan neo-Sophists): For I would fain deny my fee, nor fail to proffer my recompense.

Johannus Mayhewneus (naked, as in fashion of their acolytes): Master, your language is mysterious to me, like some far star. Yet this I know: The buttocks were created to better the learning of Latin.

RS: Aye, Child. And the nose was made to smell the subtle odors of grammar in their secret winds.

JM: O Master, I long to reck the rod of your hermetic clues . . . Sayest thou, perchance, that the ablative is cloaked and waiting beneath parataxis? Teach me.

RS: Nay, never should I say it with my mouth, which surely was created to hate Speech for the sake of the Orchid, lest He have no soil in which His hairy roots to fairye spread.

JM: “He” being the Orchid, my Master?

RS: The Orchid. He. The Dark Gap betwixt the Sentences of Poesy. The Ultimate Mystery. The Umbrae.

JM: O Cease! For all on Riot is my mind! I pray, Master, send me there prone, sliding like a girl-boy along your horizontal axis. Stun me at every caesura with vertical pricks of your long staff . . .

RS: Shush, Youth. Be still. Show me thy buttocks and part wide thy mouth.

Chorus (The University of Pennsylvania Poetics Barbershop Quartet, wearing blank funeral masks made of onyx, repeating four times): Anon permit the basest clouds to ride with ugly rack on his panoptic face! Hey a ho and a heidy hi ho!

JM: I do so.

RS: Now look at my feet. Canst thou see they were created for the sake of thunder?

JM: Aye, for the toes are a flash and the soles make a lowing sound.

RS: Aye, Child. And this doth excite the fairye hairs of the Orchid, as I swat thee on the buttocks . . . Dunce who abuses the vocative!

(A pair of really weird-looking twins enters stage left, stops mid-stage, and shouts in unison at Sillimaneus, who continues to spank Mayhewneus in earnest.)

The Twins: O what be this comedy of errors, stolen from Plautus, who stole in his turn from the great Aristophanes? What goes on here and for what Purpose? For what End, in the end, is Poesy? Answer Post-Avantist!

(They exit, shrugging their shoulders, for no one has paid them the slightest heed. Their appearance on stage is completely uncalled for and absurd, and should be played as such by the actors.)

JM: Hard, Master! Make me a sentence! Roll me a snow and engrave it with a Slutes Button! Make me a Puffin!

RS: I will do so, but not with Nonsense, Bottom. For our poetry depends on it.

JM: Depends on Nonsense, Sir?

RS: Aye, for this is why the liver was designed. To ferret out the humours that narrative seeks to slide (he pauses here, considering, finger on chin) . . . to slide into the mouth and the nose under the disguise of the Orchid!

JM: Spank me Master!

RS: I will spank thee!

JM: Spank me verily on the Buttocks!

RS: Loose thy mind, Spider Boy!

JM: I do it! (Mayhewneus begins to speak Latin in a torrent of phrases, switching at great velocity between all manner of inflections and declensions.)

(Fairye Voice from the wings): Yoo Hoo!

RS: Wot? Hello? What bird is there?

(Figure enters naked but for black bra, red garter belt, and lavender fishnet stockings. A copy of Philosophical Investigations tied to his waist by a piece of hemp covers his penis): It is I, the Head Grammarian!

(This claim of Identity is a damnable lie, for it is plain to see [for all familiar with his various Author head shots, not to mention his films] that this is none other than the Rene Wellek Prize-winner, Amiri Baraka.)

RS (throwing Mayhewneus from his knees and genuflecting extravagantly): Great Master!

JM: (prostrate, his buttocks pushed high in the air) Great Master of my Master!

Baraka: (raises his hand, ready to address the audience. A family of Aymara peasants in brilliant dyed finery enters stage right, strolls languidly across the stage, pulling a llama laden with a towering cargo of antique stools, chairs, tables, PC monitors, and looms. They exit left, taking their awkwardly long time, and the Head Grammarian speaks at last. As he does, his voice commences to crack with feeling. It is with difficulty that he makes it through, rhythmically smacking his hand, as he goes, against the podium he stands behind.):

. . . Aye, for the limits of our Poetry are the limits of our Grammar. And the penis is created for the sake of the bunny! For without it no fur would we have in our winter! Nor be there lairs, which are gashes in the ground, hidden betwixt gnarly roots of oldest oaks! For it is by searching that we spy their mossy holes! Nay, without the penis there should be no furry bunnies, and without bunnies there should be no mossy lairs betwixt gnarly roots! Aiieeeeee! For without such lairs there should be no holes and thus no pause betwixt the period and the following letter, which shall be in the Upper Case! Aiieeeeee! For it is in this pause that the mystery happens! Death to Dreyfus!

(He lowers his hand. Barrett Watten gallops across the stage on a Caucasian stallion, swinging a pink polo mallet at a non-existent ball, a rope tied to his saddle, the half-dead body of John Ashbery lashed to the rope, he dragged flailing and moaning behind. November grief over Nancy Smith.)

JM: Master of my Master!

RS: Master who allows me to bridle my Slave!

Chorus: Abolish Christmas! Abolish Christmas!

JM: Spank me! Make me cry, Master! Make me your Beria!

RS: I shall spank thee, Spider Boy. Show me thy Belly . . .

JM: Aye, for the belly was created for [           ] (here the fragment leaves off)

More I want’d, and paw’d at the box. “New Harmony” it is in th’ink-splotch. I see it now. New Harmony astride the banks of the slow-moving Wabash, inimically aloof, preternaturally muddy. Ah, New Harmony, I spent my youth there, in the fustian hideaway and cow college of M— U—, where just across the pasturage hies the Classickal Academy . . .


To work.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Yelps and Gabbles


G. is telling me about the long sentences he is typing for The Neighborhood News, a sheet he puts together and stuffs in the mailboxes of two neighbors. So I tell him how Proust is famous for long sentences. He asks me about Proust—am I going to write a biography of Proust?—No.—Am I going to write a poem about Proust?—Oh. I don’t know. Something like that’s possible. We’re raking leaves. After a pause G. says—“If I was famous for long sentences I’d lock myself in the janitor’s closet.” Which is, if my biography of Proust is correct, sort of what Proust did to write those sentences.


A piece of rigmarole scrawl’d a few days back and lost in the shuffle. Something about how whatever there is of me, besides me, and that “me” ’s a precarious thing (all things being so, first, and self-assessment and –remembrance a nigh impossible thing, second)—so that whatever there is of me is caught up and diffused out in the living brainpans of any who know “me.” (Call it a metaphorickal me—just so’s my rosy-cheek’d blushables subside.) Mental photograph of a “me” grinning resides in San Francisco in the head of a blonde. Way of “me” tugging my earlobe is domicile’d in Geneva, Switzerland. Voice here, nails there. Who’s got the little piece that’ll outlive all th’others—that’ll last the longest when my physical “thing” (call it a body—call it a rosy-cheek’d body) goes? Oddly enough, it could be “held” by someone “I” have “forgotten,” or someone “I” never “knew.” Just as “I” “hold” the sour pouty look of a complete stranger, you who glanced passingly at me in my troubled perplexity and lizard-eyed frown—you may’ve captured that look (or been captured by it!) That’s the kind of morass “one” gets increasingly “stuck into”—dotty sign of “my” present period? Or dangerous, our monomaniackal insipid shredding of “self”? Time for self-agency to report! “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”


Random notes. Apparently a spontaneous demonstration against the Bush “victory” broke out Saturday afternoon. One shout: “Republicans killed Socrates and tons of Iraqis.” Sign stuck to a bicycle in the public library racks: “My other bicycle is a pipe bomb.”


Trace of ammonia in the air, telltale birdlime splashes painting (sparsely for now) the sidewalks. It’s getting cold enough that the crows’re starting to roost nights in town, blowing in like big burnt curls, charcoal paper cuttings, carboniferous, hoarse.


Friday evening off to listen to the Kopelman Quartet. Mikhail Kopelman and Boris Kuschnir (violins), Igor Sulyga (viola), Mikhail Milman (cello). Mostly I watch’d Kopelman who play’d like a puppet-on-a-stick, sitting ramrod straight on a chair, with arms and legs in near-constant motion. And Kuschnir, with a large sad white comic’s physiognomy, all mouth-droop and brow-motion, with hands like big paws, too big for th’instrument. I’m a near-idiot regarding “classical” music. The first piece—by Prokofiev (“String Quartet No. 2 in F Major, Op. 92,” for the cognoscenti)—remind’d me somewhat of Gershwin. (I’d riffled the program and skimmed notes to a Prokofiev piece, something about clowns, and throughout the piece I “inwardly nodded”—oh yes, I see, that’s clownish, &c. Turns out what I’d read were notes to another Prokofiev piece (Suite from The Love for Three Oranges, Op. 33)—“the only cure is laughter . . . the Prince overcomes all obstacles and wins the three giant oranges . . . the chorus comes to the rescue with a big bucket of water”—, scheduled for performance Tuesday by the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra.

Other pieces: Nikolai Miaskovsky’s “String Quartet No. 13 in a minor, Op. 86” and Tchaikovsky’s “String Quartet No. 3 in e-flat minor, Op. 30.” The latter interrupt’d by a minuscule scrumptious snooze.


Scroogin’ (on a Sunday afternoon). Rascals G. and I lit up the starship Lumina for the (short) trajectory to the grocery planet, hoist’d the radiophonic jib and pull’d down (I say, Pull down thy sanity!) (at random) a version of early Jackson 5—“I Saw Mommy Kissin’ Santa Claus.” Turns out we’d land’d—with our prehensile knob fingers—in an audio heap right atop something like “All Holiday Radio”—“the 24 / 4 holiday hits station.” Now there’s some beefy programming for you. Sure enough (later), Luther Vandross’s sloe-gin-inflect’d voice inflict’d “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” on us. And sure enough, the grocery planet’s bedeck’d (that’s the official lingo, insidious, ain’t it) with Christmas “goods.” Here in the country of “all conspicuous consumption, all the time.” “I plead a lesion’d tooth, flag . . . to spend and spend and spend and spend.” And at the end of Michael Jackson’s pre-pubescent shrieking, the shriek of the post-atomic nightmare baby (remember “Puppy Love”? “Somebody help me, help me, help me, please . . .”) caught in the crosshairs of rampant know-nothing consumerist frenzy of the last half-century, at the end Michael Jackson’s claiming Santa’s seen doin’ the darnedest thing, and Michael yelps, “I did, I did, I really did. You just got to believe me.” To which Jermaine, in the fadeout, but clearly enough, replies: “Shut up, Michael.” Which is how it feels post-election, pre-holiday wallow, here in the “American Century.”


Proust Notes 10

The nonchalance of the Wildean life imitating art “stance” here, wholly atmospheric, and seemingly blown up out of nowhere: “On fine days, I continued to go to the Champs-Élysées, through streets of elegant pink houses which, because there were a great many exhibitions of water-colourists at that time, were washed by the subdued and variable light of pastel skies.”

And how style is a stain, a spreading all-encompassing ecliptic:
All the productions of a particular time look alike; the artists who illustrate the poems of a certain period are the same ones who are employed by its banking houses. There is nothing more evocative of certain episodes of Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris, or works by Gérard de Nerval, as I used to see them displayed outside the grocer’s shop in Combray, than the river divinities wielding the beflowered rectangle which frames a share certificate issued by the Compagnie des Eaux.
If one reads a shabby paperback copy of The Crying of Lot 49, with a its cover a ’sixties Pop item—ink and primary colors, Oedipa Maas (with drummer) looking like, say, Nancy Sinatra, how different is that compared to reading the same book with a ’nineties stylized post-horn abstract for cover? That’s one thing. The other is how the Proust lines plunge me back into a “half-bath” of my youth done up in pre-graffiti’d wallpaper—earth tones and block-letter scrawling, complete with variant handwriting for supposed exchanges (“What do you think of Western Civilization?” “I think it’d be a good idea.”)—same late-’sixties style. ’Sixties stock certificates? Aucune idée, mon pote.


Rather’n make a big gabble of Proust notes henceforth, getting up an accumulation for false-nimbic reasons of “heft,” I’ll simply toss down whatever jottings emerge in at emergence. And “clump” whatever I do (toss) under a number’d banner, just for “location” ’s sake—even if it be one sorry scribble.


To work.

Friday, November 05, 2004



On high hat tush.
Queasy high hat tush.
Homophonic translation: alphabet soup in the crucible of empire.


Bussed in. Stood in under the brow of the high pressure bulge, clear and cold, and wait’d, reading Proust. And, scoop’d up, got deposit’d downtown. Ambled up Liberty, and, passing the Christian Science reading room, remember’d to think of Joseph Cornell. Noted a big rearrangement—consolidating or doubling the periodical space?—through the windows in Borders. Usual locals slated to read at Shaman Drum: Richard Tillinghast, Charles Baxter, Nicholas Delbanco . . .


Noted: What The Labelmaker says about the memoir and the New York School, blithely predicting that a few decades “hence” the memoir’ll be consider’d “as important to the NY School as critical writing was to the Projectivists,” whilst naming the New York School “the literary tendency whose one major theoretical statement was Frank O’Hara’s tongue-in-cheek manifesto, “Personism.” Which looks like a damning with faint praise and, given the preposterous contemporary popularity of the memoir, a sly Oprahfying of the New York School by a man who, too earnest, and distrustful of the kind of heedless ebullience and fun the New Yorkers exemplify, is known to’ve lined those “French abstract lyricists” up for potshots in the past. More importantly, what is overlook’d in The Labelmaker’s tag, is th’importance and extent of art criticism (and its uses in poetics-defining) to the New York School. Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, Bill Berkson, Peter Schjeldahl, James Schuyler, Barbara Guest (see Dürer in the Window).

As to what Ashbery famously call’d “the soi-disant Tulsa School” and The Labelmaker’s report that “Padgett is the one real connection to that nexus we have left”: “we” do have Dick Gallup, too, whose Shiny Pencils at the Edge of Things (Coffee House, 2001) shows three inimitable ink’d cherries by fellow Tulsan Joe Brainard.


To work.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Greeks


The solace of the Greeks, that mead-clear gaze at human foibles and mistakes—it seems all that is “available” to me today. Rainy despair tinged with anger. Tinged with something like thanks at th’incorrigibility and diversity of the natural world, those sticklers against the human insane—in a morning report of a Townsend’s solitaire, a thrush, located near Muskegon. “In the leafless top of an aspen shrub.” Which reminds me of Camus’s painter who leaves behind the painting inscribed with one smudged word: solitaire or solidaire.


[        ] loved pitiful war. (Anakreon, tr. Guy Davenport)


Bigotry is the disease of the religious. (Herakleitos, tr. Guy Davenport)


The dead body is useless even as manure. (Herakleitos, tr. Guy Davenport)


Will, lost in a sea of trouble,
Rise, save yourself from the whirlpool
Of the enemies of willing.
Courage exposes ambushes.
Steadfastness destroys enemies.
Keep your victories hidden.
Do not sulk over defeat.
Accept good. Bend before evil.
Learn the rhythm which binds all men. (Archilochos, tr. Kenneth Rexroth)


I have sworn ten thousand times
To make no more epigrams.
Every ass is my enemy now.
But when I look at your face,
The old sickness overcomes me. (Palladas, tr. Kenneth Rexroth)


Rivers level granite mountains,
Rains wash the figures from the sundial,
The plowshare wears thin in the furrow;
And on the fingers of the mighty
The gold of authority is bright
With the glitter of attrition. (Sulpicius Lupercus Servasius, Jr., tr. Kenneth Rexroth)


To work.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004





How is it a whole friggin’ country could be “at the stage when the sane man has not quite realized that the man he is chatting with is insane”? (Proust)

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Bushless, adj. Devoid of bushes.


For Election Day, a small snarling contribution toward (hope against hope) a downfall:


You, yond thing, one of

The ‘sowdgers that fyghte’ whilst

Us ‘Civill swaines groe savedge,

Rude, and wilde,’ for that

Is what a foreign war

Bringeth, not more struttle (fish),

Nor pooties (snails), nor goods

To rattle th’unhusband’d sad nation.

And you, fucker, Texas pecker-

Wood: more moral a clod

Of sun-blast’d earth is,

More credulous an Asse hauling

A cloud behind. If only

That Asse’d chose you, smirker,

Jug-ear’d contemptuous jerk, to

Haul off into the burn.


(Why—in an attempt to “stir up” the electorate for what he rightly sees as a “hinge election,” in large part by arguing that John Kerry is capable of thinking with complexity about complex issues, whereas George W. Bush is lacking in nuance (for one) and incapable of admitting a mistake (for two)—why would Ron Silliman resort to the same egregious simple-mindedness and priggish insinuation by bringing up the daft split, sorrily named, he relishes and hammers home relentlessly: “post-avant” versus School of Quietude? Where’s the complexity in that? Where’s the complexity in claiming the “election pits those who can cope with complexity against those who would rather deny it”? And to hint at the “distressing” existence of “anti-intellectual post-avants”—why, sir, I suspect there are 57 varieties of ’em, hiding in your bedclothes! The washrooms breed ’em!)


Vote’d. Long lines, well-organized, lots of observers. Heady sense of suppress’d anxiety / giddiness / hope in the “air.” Or is that just th’upshot of any change in routine, not sign of change in regime. Let’s send the little bully—and’s cutthroat lackeys— packing.


To work.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Lufe makis man myndy of his god . . .


Bought (Friends of the Library):

Mistress Spirit by Clayton Eshleman (Arundel Press, 1989)

“I so much want no meaning as part of / composition, / / I’ve stayed with imagination in darkness / to watch it swerve / against unrelenting fall / / even as abyss / seeks its own meaning, so do I fall into the need of meaning . . .” (“Untitled”) That duality, that ambivalence, maker and destroyer, the “warring opposites,” the sense of getting to paradise in pieces: Eshleman’s complicated “no punches pull’d” psychology rustling up, and “mussing up” and birthing a complicated cosmology. In “Outtakes”:

“He wanted the synthesis and the melee,
wanted to eat himself, to be utterly outside himself, to keep on perishing,
he wanted the kinks in the muss, the stuff stuck to the brush,
what clings to the elevator in the drain, the hair, the spit-out toothpaste,
all the rejected passengers, plus their progeny.
He wanted to be the equatorial line stammering with the input of warring opposites.”


Trying to shrug off th’impulse to move into territory open’d by the Rasula book (the “natural” way to read), I retrace the thread through the labyrinth, pick up the dropped paperback Proust, readjust, resume. New translator for the second volume (In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower): James Grieve, an Australian (the “old chap” lingo in the first few pages rings oddly against the Lydia Davis “American” Proust) who’s apparently also translated and publish’d the first part (Swann’s Way, 1982) and written two novels “for young adults.” I find rather odd (and off-putting) Grieve’s tone in the short introduction, where he writes:
Proust’s book is much more about the power of covert sexual transgressiveness to undermine a social order founded on class, snobbery, and money. True, his characters include duchesses and scullery-maids, ambassadors and liftboys. But there is little in between. And they are all seen from a perspective which likens them to one another. Proust needed little evidence in support of his generalization. He certainly professes a sort of Balzacian expertise in diagnosing the ills of the social body; but his sociology is hampered by the shallowness of his sample and by his prizing of introspection over observation of externals. This should surprise no one: he was a cosseted Parisian whose Right-bank world was narrow, who preferred to live in the past, in bed, in a cork-lined room, who rarely traveled and never did a day’s work.
I’m not sure it’s the best “arrangement” for a translator to be so sneeringly contemptuous of the writer he’s translating. I’m not sure that the novel, in spite of supposed middle-class “roots,” need tend so strictly to a sociology of the middle class, or tend to a “sociology” at all.


Out with G. trick-or-treating. Just a few blocks, the C-girl, leash’d, accompanying. G. is Sherlock Holmes, judging by th’hat, or Nate the Great, judging by the trench coat.


Excavating the desk-rubble, that monstrous pile of print-outs. Odd how quickly what looks significant, of use, grows a dull pallor, an impenetrable furze of jargon’d malarkey—why these

Barrett Watten Zukofsky tracts simply creep me out! A contextual thing, surely. Maybe it’s that the tiniest of rosebuds array the home “study.” How impatient I am surround’d by flowers! There’s an answer

to my fragility here: Rasula on Jerome Rothenberg and how he’s “remained acutely aware of the provisionality of every effort, less concerned to achieve “the whole” than to muster a symposium in the old platonic

(erotic) sense: a banquet of aspirations.” How, in “challenging the old canon,” he’s “sought . . . to overcome its drone with carnival heckles . . .” Ah, to stand in baggy trousers in Hyde Park

at the speaker’s corner and shout out witticisms at th’earnest Marxists, that’s the life for me! “You silly little man!” Maybe trading routine lines with a confederate, someone in a porkpie hat, and spats.

Rashomon occurrence. Wherein G. on scooter cuts in front of me with C-dog, and topples. Causing me to go ass over teakettle and catch my full-flungness on spindly wrist. Whilst doggo goes hauling ass

Outta there. With spry boy in pursuit. And big me in the puddles of fell’d mulberries, staining. Eventually collar’d the dog, straighten’d the shirts, hobble’d home. “Big” wrist today. And too many chores.


To Mork.