Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Hôtel Coup de Poing


Clôture brusque et indéfinie.

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

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

Incipient period of private writings.

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

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


Ciao, bella.


To work.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


To work.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

visit me / And scuttle my Balloon —”


To work.

Monday, August 08, 2005

“It’s the War, Stupid”


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

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

Maybe not.

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

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

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

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

Dear Jim,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


To work.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

rounding horizon a sentence
of charcoal on birchbark

written         Oh nature
rightly read a wind-harp

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

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

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

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

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

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

from buffeting their adversary
till they had torn

him in a hundred pieces!
(Letter XLIII)

To work.

Friday, August 05, 2005



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


To work.

Thursday, August 04, 2005



“The adoration of mountains, Mr. Poe read in Alexander von Humboldt’s Cosmos, and the contemplation of flowers distinguish Chinese poetry from

that of Greece and Rome.” Guy Davenport. High yellow cirrus tresses trailing up off the cloudbank, oceanic lit spume. A photograph the “woman in tearsDora Maar made:

a paper-sail’d frigate braving waves of honey-colour’d hair, the whole mottled by a wash of light. Weaving the stresses into the sentence, binding in the sound.

Davenport again: “‘Grass nowhere out of place,’ Ezra Pound quotes a Chinese philosopher as saying.” I like the subtonic ease of the quotable. How it puts pout

to the embouchure, drives in the pegs of the stretch’d sonic tent. Whatever horse-laugh operatics one busses that thing with—a bold “laughing with her tongue out /

like a Gallic bitch” (Catullus, trans. Gregory)—th’upshot is harmonic, amp-crank’d feedback off the radical. I like, too, how word-stems’ll muss it up, to gizmo out

that first niggle of “new-seeingness.” See how the Latin gramin-, gramen grass, falls up against the Greek gramma letters, grammatikos

butting up against gramineous in a kind of billy-goat etymology. Apparently, Alexander Pope approveth not: “The wingèd courser, like a generous

horse, / Shows most true mettle when you check his course.” Oh, th’aesthetickal “stance” of an age exists only to be bust’d up good, or, stuck with

pins. Tired of constraint! I like the mash and pulp and juice and the whole shook tree crannying up into blue nothing and grubbing down into rootlet-suck and beetle!

That youngster John Keats says “Money Troubles . . . like a nettle leaf or two in your bed” and spouts off some Shakespeare soonest ’s look a pig’s shilling in

th’eye: “let determined things to destiny hold unbewailed their way.” All Long Beach hot-dub rhythm here on out: a song call’d “Grassy Cloud.” “Gets off

with a relaxed, deep groove, or suddenly changes to a hard-core sound seconds before the song ends with no explanation.” Misfit, angel, pixel.


Offering up a gratuitous chamber here at th’Hotel again to Kent Johnson, in rebuttal to Jack Kimball’s thing here. (For the record, Jack sent me a copy of that thing and I offer’d him a gratuitous chamber for it. No go.) Like Typhoid Mary, I’m just a “carrier” around here (though “I doe see wherein thine sickenesses lie.”) Owing to my one heart’s rapturous besiegement and its cacophonous counterpart, I have not “fully eye’d & digest’d the yronne booke” in question. I will, I will.


Dear Jack,

In your response to what I posted the other day at Hotel Point, you take a rather extravagant route to arrive at a rather pedestrian claim, i.e., that my piece on Charles Bernstein’s “Enough” builds its argument by quoting passages “out of context.”

But thing is, you just kind of leave things there. There is no attempt made to show how or where I supposedly misrepresent Bernstein’s “real” intent. It’s like you started to reply to me, but then you forgot to finish your reply! Maybe you got distracted by all the X’s and the Y’s, I don’t know.

So, once again: I am saying in that concluding piece to Lyric Poetry after Auschwitz: Eleven Submissions to the War that Bernstein’s self-righteous speech in 2003 was a barely veiled attack on the Poets Against the War project, and I am questioning the ethical implications of his doing that in the conjunctural context that he did it. (Silliman went after PAW around the same time, too, though he at least was perfectly candid about it.) Are you proposing the remarks I quote from CB were in no way intended by him to allude to the PAW project? If this is what you think, then you should say so. Lots of people took the allusion as obvious, and they would be interested in your reasoning, I’m sure, which is undoubtedly less “demagogic” than mine.

Still, I do kind of like it that you call me “homey.” That’s quaint. Almost as quaint as Gary Sullivan erasing in a panic yesterday the entire discussion on Lyric Poetry after Auschwitz at his blog, once he saw that people were starting to write in with thoughtful comments about the book. At first I was kind of annoyed by that. But now I think it’s kind of funny. What about you?



To work.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005



What follows is, “verbatim with tidying” an unsolicit’d note and review sent by the redoubtable editor of Wherever We Put Our Hats, Jon Leon:
John Latta,

I read your post this evening concerning Kent Johnson. I discovered said poet in The Canary and I think he’s outstanding. Last week I finished a review on his Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz which will appear in wwpoh issue 2 along with about 8 pages of his Epigramititis. The issue won’t appear until December. I thought perhaps it would be more timely to release the review now while everything’s hot. If you thought it appropriate you could post the review at Hotel Point. If not, perhaps you could recommend a place. It’s my first review.

* * *

Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz: Eleven Submissions to the War
Kent Johnson
(effing press, 2005)
703 W 11th Street, #2
Austin, TX 78701

Rat-a-tat-tat. What can one say about this book but that it is necessary. As necessary as “crispy girl,” “four little girls incinerated in a mud compound,” “head a little bit on fire,” “often-raped / kids,” “the making of bombs,” “machete’d babies in the streets,” “open eyed bodies on slow fire,” “a fifteen inch dildo down your mouth,” “torture prisons,” and “we did our best” are unnecessary. Kent Johnson gives us all the tallied brutality we can stomach but with a big-shot heart and mindful sincerity. In the Preface to Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz, a letter to Campus Watch, Johnson states in parentheses that “not everyone would judge it poetry!” It is poetry sine qua non, in the most classical and historical sense and simultaneously advanced-plus. A tendentious beach fire for the bland poetic notions so desperate in their idiotic will to persevere into the 21st century. Here, in only 40 pages, we can be scared, excited, endangered, and hopeful all together. The attention that Johnson directs to the startling details of current events could be an example in constructing a world of accountability, an integral activity lest we become like “Volvo driving academics” carpooling with “the girl . . . seemingly oblivious to the gunfire and screams.” For in that world we would not need to call these poems “exceptional” or “brave” because all poems would be nothing other than. We can sense his contempt of retreat and muted protest in “Bernstein’s ‘Enough,’” an appropriate response to Charles Bernstein’s argument in favor of “ambiguity,” “complexity,” and “skepticism” as opposed to anti-war poetry that is “overtly political and written in language that approximates the norm.” Without action and responsibility we may only lower our heads in shame and imagine the Poet mocking us into exile; perhaps returning some lucky day to enjoy “surplus time the labor of others has more or less made.” That husky labor in American Poetry is generously taken up by the efforts of Kent Johnson in his new chapbook Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz: Eleven Submissions to the War. One may have to brush away the rabble and mob from the bookshelf to accommodate such commitment.

—Jon Leon

In Toledo, Esix Snead stole second. And Beau says: “When I studied there I had so fantastickal a brain, that like a Phelphare, frighted in winter by a

Birding-piece, I could setle no where. Here and there a little of every several Art, and away.” And the Knaves-bee must needs reply: “Now my wit, though it were more

dull, yet I went slowly on, and as divers others, when I could not prove an excellent Scholar by a plodding patience, I attain’d to be a Petty Lawyer; and I

thank my dullness for’t, you may stamp in Lead any figure, but in Oyl or Quick-silver nothing can be imprinted, for they keep no certain station.” So the night of

quiet pestilential rioting, the savage Traum of hoecakes and muenster, the trebuchet’d waddage, the flintlock, the asp. And happy to see the durable Morning

knock. Pierre Lartigue says of the Maine Indians encounter’d by Thoreau: “Leurs mots sonnent comme des coups de tonnerre” (words sounding like thunderclaps):

Aboljacarmeguscook (river), Pockadunkquaywayle (echo). Hear ye! hear ye! James Joyce of “the dewfolded song of the naughtingels.” What a smutch to

proceed so. Surely there is something essential and fierce to the morn arsenal, something artesian like a flow chart. Buncombe wins in the ninth. Stein: “You will

find that all this is true when I get through.” Getting through, one is never getting through, one is always throwing a fit in lieu of getting through. Through,

you get, (git), aye, misbegotten, a bastard, all getting through’s a bastard work, illegitimate against the ongoing big squall. No canonickal status in

such staticky stasis. I want to move. Soror Mariana Alcoforado’s predicament (1669)—woman, provincial, leading a cloister’d and cow’d existence,

abandon’d by a dash’d-dastardly French lover, and longing helplessly for the absent man and the far-off mustard-yellow country—resounds multiply and contradictorily

with “Portuguese intellectuals attempting to come to terms with the crisis of nationalist and imperial ideology brought about by progressive marginalization of

Portugal with regard to th’other European colonial powers.” Yeah. Sad Portugal of the bacalhau and bougainvillea! In Sentra where that rocker Byron holed up, I dove

into the salty brume, listen’d repeatedly to Vincenzo Bellini’s mournful Norma, drank “tawny” ports, and wrote: “I am very happy here, because I

loves oranges, and talks bad Latin to the monks, who understand it, as it is like their own,--and I goes into society (with my pocket-pistols), and I swims in the

Tagus all across at once, and I rides on an ass or a mule, and swears Portuguese, and have got a diarrhea and bites from the mosquitoes. But what of that? Comfort

must not be expected by folks that go a pleasuring.” Gookie Dawkins? He had a miserable night at the plate.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Rum & Stork


Ravish’t to a T, that’s one way of feeling. Keats, admonishing the welter of blind choristers: “you need only agravate your voices a little and mind not to speak Cues

and all—when you have said Rum-ti-ti—you must not rum any more or else another will take up the ti-ti alone and then he might be taken God shield us for little better

than a Titmouse.” Oh Keats! He “had the right,” as they say. Too many rum-ing and ti-ti-ing (variations on a noise made by Aristophanes) in solitary mawkish gear and get-

up: it doan sound good ’t all. Titmouse say Peter. Peter Peter Peter. Old, Melville’s scorn, in “Clarel”—“a metrical affair . . . eminently adopted for

unpopularity.” Old, in Spain, the sea-charts hung salty, Columbus wrote to Diego, ’s son: “I would like to receive a letter from you each hour. Reason must tell you that

I now have no other repose. Many couriers come each day, and the news is of such a nature and so abundant that in hearing it, all my hair stands on end, it is so

contrary to what my soul desires.” And: “My illness permits me to write only at night, because in the daytime my hands are deprived of strength.” (In the waiting

room, “punctual as a Bee to Clover,” a New Yorker-quartermaster’d sketch of Rauschenberg, right hand bent awry, a spasm’d hoof, result of a stroke. In Captiva

before the hurricane, Sanibel before the hurricane, looking for wood storks, the gnarly burnt look of the head, crotch and curmudgeon of the sloughs. Keats south of

London, in th’intrepid domestickal land: “lopped Trees—Cow ruminating—ditto Donkey—Man and Woman going gingerly along.” —Shit, Jack, let’s go mount some monster-

sized brick pins on the pickup and go bashin’ around wild in the backyard!


To work.

Monday, August 01, 2005



Serious stuff for a Monday morning. To be got out of the way before I begin my late routine of mouthing off like Mehitabel. Kent Johnson—the one whom Ron Silliman recently compared to Darrell Gray, “the Actualist poet who drank himself to death far too young, especially Darrell’s work under the French pseudonym Phillipe Mignon, sort of a kinder, but not gentler, Kent Johnson” is how that went—leading Kent Johnson himself to ask publickly (New Poetry listserv) something along the lines of “anybody know what the hell that’s supposed to mean?” and, natch, get no response whatsoever (other than somebody’s in a bad mood comparing Silliman’s general acumen to “a turnip”). (Un-fucking-surprisingly: see parenthetical “of course, it’s hardly news” below, the ruse subtitled, in the post-avant power dynamo handbook, “how to quash without emoting.”) Anyhow, Kent Johnson ask’d me to post the following. When I reply’d that I’d be happy to do so, Kent, a fine mimic, respond’d with an “oreye mush bilge,”a subtle noise I took for something possibly out of the mouth of Hoosier James Whitcomb Riley. Kent Johnson claims it’s Zukofsky. Here’s the philippic:


A couple of bloggers have posted quick, negative reactions to the concluding piece of Lyric Poetry after Auschwitz: Eleven Submissions to the War, which Effing Press has just released.

One person wrote:

“I find KJ’s diatribe against Charles Bernstein in the afterword of Lyric Poetry after Auschwitz absurdly reasoned and bullying. It’s offensive. I condemn it.”

“Absurdly reasoned”? Maybe the person would care to elaborate on his adverb. It’s hard to know, otherwise, what he means—assuming he does actually know what he means.

However, it is plainly absurd to characterize the piece as bullying. It would be “bullying” if its polemic were directed at people unable to fairly defend themselves. This is hardly the case. The brief essay, since its appearance on the war’s eve in March, 2003, has openly invited response for the sake of healthy, candid debate. People can draw their own conclusions as to why those being critiqued have chosen not to respond. (Of course, it’s hardly news to point out that Silence in the face of challenge is a rather routine tactic within the broader power dynamics that structure the “post-avant” community.)

And is the piece “offensive”? Well, hopefully it is to some . . . Though one wants to ask, in the case of the critic in question: If its arguments are so “absurdly reasoned,” why such offense?

And is it worthy of “condemnation”? Hopefully so, to some . . . Though one wonders, as above: Why such condemnation if its premises are so weakly argued?

Let the affronted fully speak their reason, then, I say.

—Kent Johnson


“Go mad I can not: I maintain / The perilous outpost of the sane.” So Melville, in the Holy Land, a place noted for half-barmy sentinels and scorn-drug’d maligners.

And honey’d mead sipped quick through a bamboozle of yellowjackets. Those “slumberous combustibles.” Here, I must confess, I am shamming (in the name

of the Lord), gobbing the sputum around about a monstrous spliff, hoy, looking not to the hearth’s yellow’d beckon, no, off into the mirey outlantish, and puckle’d by

an uncommon nudge to confess, I “confess / To hollow Manysidedness.” The way is grainy, the way is clumping up magnify’d jags of silver nitrates in photographickal

emulsion, or the way Stein wrote, here, on the composition of the war, 1914-1918: “the composition was not a composition in which there was one man in the

center surrounded by a lot of other men but a composition that had neither a beginning nor an end, a composition of which one corner was as important as another

corner, in fact the composition of cubism.” Sounds like Jackson Pollock to me. “All over.” Keeping th’attention prick’d up high everywhere. The surface modicum

batting. The eye-roam. What’s one to do? accustom’d to a solid inebriate giddiness and th’hardships of grog, but pluck up the courage of visionary happiness, off to

Samarkand, mes semblables! I ain’t talking office-worker insobriety in binge-city, I’m talking a radical cleaving to the most scurrilous kind of glee-

seeing imaginable, the smash wantonness of blithe-sight. What gets ask’d of Rimbaud running off to Abyssinia, could be ask’d, too, of that first charisma of acceding to fate when

he jumps a Paris-bound train, is thrown off, and tramps incessantly the Prussian-plagued woods to “alight” in Paris: did a life of action call the boy, or a life animated

by words? What is calling Stalin a cockroach? What is a declaration of the heart’s fatidic heat? What is a stone backsliding in colluvial bounds and leaps? These and other such quondam

bits of alluvial speech we must investigate.


To work.

Friday, July 29, 2005

A Color


Renegade connoisseur of blue Yves Klein, with prêt-à-porter Gaston Bachelard for backup: “the poet, living in ‘contented world-weariness amidst

oblivious tarns’, suffers from the irony of blueness. He perceives an excessively hostile blueness which strives with an indefatigable hand to ‘fill the gaping blue

holes wickedly made by birds.’” Blued blue. Van Gogh knew it too: “I paint infinity, a plain background of the richest, intensest blue that I can contrive.” And Jeff

Clark: “By abandoned prose, a nightlong tic . . .” I had to do that. For painting oneself into a blue corner? Why, it’s like going up to Hale Eddy with a recidivist.

It’s like a wild letter shrunk down apropos of nothing. The way the British bobbie’ll put an edifying fine dalliance and prim-heart’d defiance up against

any “threat perceivable,” a categorical blunder. So along about 1963—I heard it commenced with a newspaper strike—an affable slob by the name of Frederick Ted

Castle, late of Lockport, New York, stomp-land and pasturage of Joyce Carol Oates, wrote a single word “Charles.” New paragraph. “So far, as even such a phrase

implies, the course has been forward in time so that it is now later than when I began to write.” Pelfeckly Ploustian. A novel Anticipation. Durée: one

American year. I traduce the informal. That, and a letter to Edward Dorn: “During my unprincipled reading last week . . .” and, unprincipledly

pirating, “I Ching eschews the dualist without foregoing the distinction by means of the perfectly inclusive mode, what the Chinese call Tao, which

reduces all questions to one: What is appropriate to this time?” To perch in corduroys in a window nook, a ledge-standing hedger against futurity and fall

irredeemably and archingly slow into a camera lens’s round’d gape, and that whilst a bicyclist speeds off unalarm’d? Too far. That time is done and gone. (Hogarth: “Time

himself is dying.”) Doused chariots stream down out of the sky, a palette smithereen’d, a blunderbuss halved, a sheldrake gobbling its own dung. A boisterous

age run off in agony, “holdeinge uppe her gowne wile jumpeinge over thee cabbidges.” And the new age? The new age is a cloud, without trou. Or is time’s demise a

paradisickal (blue) ruse? Melville, sweet Herman: “In such an hour / Some pangs that rend might take release.” Stuck here without “a tent spread to feed lobsters / to Rexall

conventioneers,” we’ll miss the old barbarities under the blatting dispensation and load’d accrual of the new barbarities, yes. “And he who has never felt,

momentarily, what madness is has but a mouthful of brains.”


To work.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

A Sound


The Luddite that inhabits my century says, “In order to make a few cents, think of a bath concession / In some little town like Gabii,” or try auctioneering, gabbling

out the hysteria of commerce-lust over some bit of frippery, a ring, a washstand, a property. Prop: what the stagehand skids frowningly about whilst the curtains

tremble with post-inertial pomp. Wallace Stevens writes: “Be content— / Expansions, diffusions—content to be / / The unspotted imbecile revery, / The heraldic center of

the world / / Of blue, blue sleek with a hundred chins, / The amorist Adjective flame . . .” Lovely as a thrips, sturdy as a truncheon, though nobody’s doubting the

palaveral consistency, or the office languor it cost. So night thunders down, white baseballs dump’d into a duffel bag, the shin-guards the catcher toss’d off lying

like hard mollusks in the mud. Huddie Ledbetter: “She asked the sweetback man for one dime. He didn’t have no dime. And she worried about it all the time he was

gone.” And the chorus always says the same thing: “It’s too late . . .” “For what is a Chorus but a Fence for Time’s bleak Industrie, a Mountebanck, a squabbler, and a

Shill?” Another word for a word’s way of dissembling, disassembling permanence. Narrative rocketry in a letter, or a combo. Thoreau’s Ktaadn, I adduce, there where

wildness got a toehold in him, never fails to point me at Jim Kaat, a tall southpaw out of Zeeland, Michigan with a magnificent gappy-tooth’d grin. That is how

a word’ll poke holes in the real—in the only pictures I find, Kaat’s got a full set of choppers. So what accrues does so in fractional spasms, three-gaitedly like a

poor-shod horse, whilst a great slaking off occurs. Dickinson: “The Birds jocoser sung — / The Sunshine threw his Hat away —” And what Meaning apes in th’outcome is a

range, mountainous, what a clown phrenologist’d find working a bleacher’s row of sad heads at a circus. And the word, the word is skittish, and beauty-beat, temper’d in

the fires of unglazed preterite sound, ever and ineluctable pass’d over, unelect’d (by God). Juvenal (trans. Rolfe Humphries): “In every house you will find a Professor

of Obscene Matters.” Or, dropsickak morbid-seeming under the glint-light of the word, one intones: “all Matter is obscene, vnweldy, vnlusty and slo” Light. Word.

Scritch. Voice. Insectivorous pleating. In a “glut of all material arts,” John Keats’d say, “Cats are becoming more vociferous,” though it mought be he channel Lord Buckley. Valparaiso!


To work.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A Cap


Down’d a reuben and two loggy green gherkins (early mod. Dutch, gurkkiun, dim. of agurk, augurk (also shortened gurk), cucumber—the

proximate source is uncertain) at the Café Bitter, and thought about things for a spell. Smack’d into “Tykishness” (Hopkins). What is it? A too stern longing for

th’abyss? The way a man’ll bark for hours up a cottonwood thinking he’s spy’d a skirt there? Dopey malfeasances of the central nervous system. Cheek by jowl addle-

pating. “All the American spelling reformers, beginning with Noah Webster, have made the mistake of trying to cover too much ground in one operation . . . When the

Simplified Spelling Board began making its list longer and longer and wider and wider, the national midriff began to tickle and tremble and soon the whole movement

was reduced to comedy.” (Mencken). That triumph of getting a conflagrate blaze going with just a stubby pencil. Making the ham-sized fist go in loopy circles and so

barely putting the knife-sharp’d tip to a page. (The sheet sizes of writing paper: post, large post, small foolscap, small demy.) “A coffee and a small fool’s cap to

go, por favor.” (Es muy tenebroso under that thing.) That French propensity to name things ungangly good: the sheet sizes of printing paper. Pot, tellière,

couronne, écu, coquille, cavalier, raisin, jésus, soleil, colombier, journal, grand-aigle, grand-monde.
“A coffee and a sheet of big eagle, please.” “Lines Writ in

Dejection on a Sheet of Jésus.” Ah, Keats: “I think I am in too huge a Mind for study.” A storied man in a cold snap, bean-stingy and clam’d up. Chewing at a cud of

light, luminous ruminant. And the longing, always the longing, for th’essayistic frenzy, what busts out in summer to finish it. In the vex’d periphery—where the mind

makes darts, pockets, strictures, pleats, where the mind trails its sex-ropes behind, where the mind is tempt’d to flee itself—there I duck and butter. Comfy

duck. Kafka: “Every sick man has his household god, the man with lung disease has the god of suffocation.” Confit de canard. Confit de cafard. “Cuire à feu moyen,

avec un couvercle.” Blue rider. August Macke, who loved to paint American Indians, dead in WWI action at the tender age of twenty-seven. One supposes an exit’ll

disjoin out the ténébreux, some pale domed piece of gadgetry, half Star Trek, half Charles Baudelaire. A monstrous front. And, it, may.


To work.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Line


Cadenza or glissando, either way I’d need to add a ledger line to hang some notes on. So big the number of notes. And in the morning mizzling showers, a viceroy flaps

three flaps and dares no more—descends to dogwood leaf, all demimonde faded glory. A fado’d insect, the way the clang of an I-bean on concrete is a fado. Or a toothsome

yip at midnight stirring out of the depths of a two-dimensional dog. Melville, after the bouquets and vases of salt water extend’d up to the sun, call’d

Pierre “a rural bowl of milk.” (—Or, “the Ambiguities.” —Beautiful.) (Finest sous-titre in an ass’s age.) I think the word for all beauty

is “tend.” (The man in a homburg who scrawl’d “Beauty-tender” under “current employ.”) Contemporary review of Pierre: “The sooner this author is put in

a ward the better.” To ward off th’incidence of musicogenic epilepsy: “Fits could not be induced by pure tones . . . Different kinds of music were invariably followed

by a fit within five minutes.” In Paris, in the ’seventies, I recall meeting a young man who experienced such symptoms—increase of blood pressure, heart rate, and

respiration, accompany’d by dizziness and fainting spells—in front of certain paintings. We had to run precipitously “like the smoke in a hurricane whirl’d”

out of a Beaubourg chamber thick with Matisses. Melville: “we mortals ourselves spring all naked and scabbardless into the world,” a decidedly masculine

image, that: skawberc, skawberk, skabrek, skaberke, scaberge, scabridge, Scarbridge, schawbert, skawburne. (Although in Middleton’s treatise, Famous

there is evidence of a scabbardly feminine usage: “Since he has strooke with the sword, strike you with the Scabbard: in plaine termes Cuckold him.”) No more

etymologickal mayhem, there’s mayhem enow, and how shouldst one ever touch even “the skirts of so celestial a place”? That viceroy (false monarch)’d better get in out of the rain.


To work.

Monday, July 25, 2005

A Fit


Admirable the way fate places the down’d tree limb in the path of the cross-burden’d pilgrim, causing him to pitch headlong into the graffiti’d boulder, acceding the

troublesome journey to another, and getting him to heaven scot-free. Or so saith the sophist. I’m rendering obliquely things best render’d oblique. Caesar dug that. If

Keats—poor child!—can so gently lift the metaphorick’d earthworm out the crevice of basalt and say “luxuriously / He chews the honied cud of fair spring thoughts” (he’s

talking about what a seasonal “fit” a man’s life is, throughout), then when the goldfinch stabs up off the goldenrod I’ll ever exult. Mete and profuse as a

ligature, I’ll always love that. And, by accident, fossicking the cellar bookshelves in salvage of a poor illustrated history of musickings gone by, to come up suddenly

with Notley’s How Spring Comes, a tiger of a book. Alice N. says: “Purchase a copy of The Sophist. Collect some Gracie Allen jokes.” She says: “Emily

Brontë walks out to copulate with a storm.” Collectionneuse de mots. Demo. Demob’d. Why did Paul Auster keep saying “Therefore Raleigh,” and that in 1975?

And: “No work remains unfinished, even the one that has been abandoned.” Tailwind of existentialism blowing hard alee there, into those “white spaces”—that’s so

French. Mostly I am here to convince you that Marguerite Young is the great unsung chanteuse of the season and beyond, a soldier for the poor, the maim’d, the

sufferer, her in her blunt bangs and ebullient skirts. “There was, for example, a pale duchess who lived quietly in the country, noted for her care of forty dogs,

many monkeys, many parrots, her ideal community—and rarely did she go to bed, for she was suffering from a fatal illness. Many a sunburned widow, renting a pigsty for

sixpence a year, might think the duchess fortunate—but many a poor widow, with her apron full of chestnuts, would survive her. No use making matters worse than they

were, by putting the duchess into a pigsty, and putting the widow into a monkey cage.” Now tell me, should the mask for the face ever be doff'd? And I shall

reply: “The mask for the face is fetter’d and undoffable, that is its nature, cow’d. Extricable (and bovine) as a joke! (I’ll always love that.) We must not forget that

tomorrow is th’incorrigible Wolfgang Mozart’s birthday! (Not the one you think, not he of whom that temporary Iowan Dvorak so yellowly claim’d: “Mozart is

sunshine.” Another, a “son of Mozart.”) And I shall appropriate my own memory of Mozart père as a little acorn, “brow darken’d with intent,” playing

scherzos for the emperor’s nephews. He was a monstrous boy. Indiscreet, puckish, a songbird, a disgorger. That’s the way things swerve off, fate-song’d and absolute.

César Vallejo dug that. See—“The girl . . . puts her forefinger / on her tongue which starts spelling / the tangles of the tangles of the tangles . . .” (Eshleman’s

Trilce) O oft I permit myself to become a stooge for sludge, whatever snakes its loudening way down the pike, and just for the few mayapples that’ll go

bobbing there. Plausible disturbances, lasso'd thunderheads, to market with a hinny or a hen. O for a drastickal book of private writings, a “quibble over the

Floridas.” “Issuing out of the Great Issues of the period, one of ironickal mastery and mummers adroit, he drew a roundabout blank.” Melville: “It is impossible to talk

or to write without apparently throwing oneself helplessly open . . .” And if the two Eies in Yr Head point distinctly and opposably? With a vasty corruscate Head

and Brains betwixt like a Whale’s? What then? Yea, what Pilgrim’d summon a Synthesis?
In a town call’d Mon Idée, in France, there is a little street call’d rue Noeud.


To work.

Friday, July 22, 2005



Ice-cube settling in a tumbler, a chink in the sultry night. A hinge into th’alert. Whereas prior: kraal’d soporific nodding. Kef-dreamy. “As if divinity had catched /

The itch on purpose to be scratched.” How things is hid right up surfacewards! Think of Christopher Columbus, constantly on duty, he who one period went thirty-two days

without sleep! Pestilential incendiary walkingstick man he became. (I want to say thirty-two years.) And Melville, in a letter: “For my part, I love sleepy

fellows, and the more ignorant the better. Damn your wideawake and knowing chaps. As for sleepiness, it is one of the noblest qualities of humanity. There is something

sociable about it, too. Think of those sensible and sociable millions of good fellows all taking a good long snooze together, under the sod . . .” (Paul Metcalf

told me that.) So we nod, and resume, we toss on our pallets, we sleep like dogs, thumping. Or some mornings, I duck out from under the overhanging lip of the

culvert’s foul mouth, set out for a patio spell. Oh, to pin myself wriggling there, just to gaze up at the full blue vault of the sky, the

hale and hearty sky! Or to the moiety of it, that curvature and lave unhinder’d by arboreal deckling or th’all too human towers that reach up as if to itch at the

sheer burden of sky. I like how the sky-vault centers me—magnifying my centrality for one brief moment, and how it proceeds to spall off my me, chip by

tinkling chip. David Jones: “Unwise it is to distract the sentinel.” Under the wheels of all excesses lies a minion. Clockwork spectacle, “slightly boring /

Eighteenth-century way,” &c. Sky’s minion, so shameless a stare, &c. A Plenteous matter it is. “Exegetes of various stripes . . .” is like talking about skunks.


To work.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Day Late, Dollar Short


Baseball under a roiling sky of a myriad shades of blue-gray palette, a featherbed of a sky. And downpour, and resumption. And a muddy late walk with the dog, no moon

along to hobnob with. The snatch and turn mode: these notes, deflecting the real, or swooping it up into its embrasure. Embouchure. Melville says human affairs

are “sustained by a sort of half-disciplined chaos,” and continues: “he who in great things seeks success must never wait for smooth water, which never was and never

will be, but, with what straggling method he can, dash with all his derangements at his object.” In the Russian language, the word for obscurantism is

“mrakobesie.” I like to think it means “fat text”—a poids lourds of signifying finally dumping its cargo on itself. The first line of Kafka’s diary,

isolated, set apart: “The bystanders stiffen when the train goes past.” Dramaturgy and nominalism. Rain all night in the backyard. Rain all night in the yards.


My tardy eleven nominees to Steve Evans’s “Attention Span” compilation:

Alan Halsey | Marginalien: poems / sequences / prose texts / graphics 1988-2004 | Five Seasons Press | 2005

Ben Lerner | The Lichtenberg Figures | Copper Canyon, 2004

Caroline Knox | He Paves the Road with Iron Bars | Verse | 2004

Christopher Nealon | The Joyous Age | Black Square Editions | 2004

Devin Johnson | Aversions | Omnidawn | 2004

Keith Waldrop | The Real Subject: Queries and Conjectures of Jacob Delafon, with Sample Poems | Omnidawn | 2004

Lisa Robertson | Rousseau’s Boat | Nomados | 2004

Merrill Gilfillan | Small Weathers | Qua Books | 2004

Philip Jenks | My first painting will be “The Accuser” | Zephyr | 2005

Rosmarie Waldrop | Blindsight | New Directions | 2003

Stacy Szymaszek | Emptied of All Ships | Litmus | 2005

Some of the foregoing I talk’d about here at th’Hotel of an evening’s grouse and mumble, others I intend to talk about. (Intention is a road paved with iron bars.) If I’d start’d my homework earlier I’d’ve done a defense and wrap-up, commentary and justificatory for what’s mostly intuitive bent. No such luck.

What’s missing? Jonathan Williams’s Jubilant Thicket: New & Selected Poems, Copper Canyon, 2005. Merrill Gilfillan’s Undanceable, Flood Editions, 2005.

And some extraordinary manuscripts, hints of manuscripts, upcoming wonders, gleamings in the blog pits where some fine souls are doing genuinely processual work in public.


To work.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005



Pitch’d resolve to sit out a few rounds, rather than to continue the cage-rattling obfuscatory one’s in danger of making a trademark hereabouts. Thinking I’d board up

the place, notify the village authority a grand sell-off’d commence at sundown, bibelots and dust-catchers, perfectly plant’d impatiens, phloxes, hostas,

snapdragons! And then, inevitalbly, the turpentiney-sour resolutions cark away in globs, the myriad words—no, that stick-whack’d termitary of words!—

it hustles up with new ones, words breeding words all floody with intent, rasps to hone the world to calculable bits! For if one’s world goes smeary and

unindividuated, a gob and wrapper of cranial grease, no edges to things, what then? What then but to bead up the smudge, pile up a ticklish inventory? Melville: “which

of the severed sections of a ten times severed worm, is the worm proper?” Is every Big Question cardiac at bottom? The heart, that terrifying and terrified “custodian

of love’s slumbering germ”? The ten-heart’d worm? Big Two-Hearted River? I random, and intersperse, thin with the vagrant night. I talk a dead man’s tongue. I

discharge a bad mixture of humors, discrazed by such undoing. I shield, I seize, I sad, I sit. Dryden on Jonson: “he delighted most to represent mechanic people . . .”

I is a mechanic people. (“Mirabell, I is a reformed rake.”) So goeth the cautionary days, plaintive folios of sunlight and shade in alternance. “It’s the idea of the

municipal regatta that pleases me now. A boatload of ribbon-bewry’d waifs and nannies, all slender and impecunious. It is there that I’ll go, hunker to a bridge

abutment and cast my one dark eye at the racers. (They will speak in whispers.)” And so a summer noses into a summer founder’d decades back, collapsed under the mud-

ravish’d walls of bathos, sheer peripatetic bathos, that stranger in the cloak, a soul-mongerer, a bridge. What could be more ordinary, like installing a shortcut to

the dock off which a mere diver dives for, oh, the pleasure of mere diving. Which is one way to squabble up an ordinary sheet of white paper and toss it hindwards to

where an ordinary hind is waiting, mouthing the hinder tit. Et puis, coup de poudre! the massive power outage stripped my words off me like clothes, a

single shred clung to me, writ: “A confederate says ‘Wow.’” Nothing to do but continue, blind. “Entering BLANK SLATE. Pop. 1.” Diet of loaves and fishes. John

Ashbery, who made us so jangle-y-hospitable and retrospective, tells us that Pierre Bonnard scribbled a good post canvas scrubdown saying in a tiny notebook

wherein he record’d weather mots and other painterly debris: “The minute one says one is happy, one isn’t anymore.” How that pulls at the dewlap-dragging

dogs of one’s heart tonight, all asnuffle for a trace, a scent. How it does and doesn’t, for that is the nature of words, and hearts, and happinesses. If “reducing

complexity is” one “ruse” (Kitaj), embroidering it up into a mean stitchery is only another, middle name “Gussy.” “Keep that under your bib ’n’ tucker.” How then draw

the continuum to one, how set it down on paper, a camaraderie of shapes, a squirm and gestion, unmanageable mossy executions, unfiligree’d, unboss’d? Period

of unmitigated confusion, brain-spikes cauterized inky-black like a cuttlefish. Period of moan and dove, “waterproof white” in the rain-plank’d air. Period of Shaw-

affliction, he who notes there are people “convinced that the world is only held together by the force of unanimous, strenuous, eloquent, trumpet-tongued lying.”

And, well, it mought be, “I doan know, I only know what I heerd up th’airshaft. Or what me and my country kin did.” Like the sockeye salmon in pursuit of its natal origin,

its source and compulsion and its disfiguring death, that horrifyingly monstrous return, humpback’d, with jaw elongate, and snout hooking, a fish-wreck, baleful, red as a wound.


To work.

Monday, July 18, 2005



“Brain-caking hiatus.”

           —Paul Metcalf, on Melville’s “stuck” birth.


To work.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Art of Sculling


“It is the nature of sculpture to be there.” So saith Frank O’Hara about the husky-flamboyant David Smith, and he ain’t kidding. Achieved mass: no finicky script, no

negligible twitter, no brokedown-radio-lambency: that’s why poets avoid the sculptural, it’s that inconsolable presence that terrifies and beleaguers

so. They’d all druther be tootin’ around the hearth-flicker—“I love no roast but a nut-brown toast, and a crab laid in the fire, oh . . .” (Cho. “Backside, go

bare, go bare, backside, go bare.” ) That, or laying down a neat stitchery of imitant-tied caddis fly (of hackle, of shaft, of red-bellied woodpecker quill) into

the cross-braid seam a toss’d-down willow bumps up in a stream rolling out across a prairie state. That’s a pleasurable chore. So one walks “lik a restelees caitiff”

and “falls to” at the merest husk of wisdom. Roberto Calasso: “Knowledge triumphs as soon as all wisdom has foundered along with taste, which was its last, discreet, and

volatile heir.” That distillate, gone. And which is where we find ourselves now, jamming up the corridors in discomfiture, sticky with factoids, humans hung in dry

ochre curls like fly-strips. Hundreds of dying flies with dying fly accompaniment, that prolong’d dying buzz a chink, a channel, a meatus to what? Some heaven

foretold? The nature of music is its scoot and linger-y, its inscription fleet and not there on the rolltop’s secretarial brainpan. Burin-curl of the

sculler’s wake re-sutured. (One approach to the “issue” of music’s ever-frangible tine, the way it breaks off mid-mouthful—in 1943, Williams-the-blunt re: Zukofsky’s

musical huggle-muggle: “What the hell do you know about music?” And “Don’t for God’s sake imitate the Poundian stupidity in that Pound who can’t know music and

therefore keeps dragging it in.”) So the silt drifting downwards through the barred slats of sunlight in deepest lake trough or shallowest, it, too, is a

music considerable. Thrum of misfits, angelic dirt. An expenditure, untimely and timed. Like a finger snapped off a thumb to fillip a goblet, “to make it cry

Twango,” an ungovernable horny sound. There, gone.


To work.

Thursday, July 14, 2005



Bastille Day, &
our hero’s

smush’d up
against th’alarmist

& alarming
temps réel,

no palais

by Postman
Horse visible.

Sous les

plage, literal
littoral, or

belittle’d litter
of th’unviable,

curiously wet.
To vie

unconstrainedly is
the point,

unharnessable, of
swimming and

most other
calisthenickal or

revolutionary callings.


Read: What Ever Happened, by Tim Reynolds (If Publishing, 2000) (2605 Via Campesina, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274)

Tiny memoirs. In a short prefatorial interview:
Q. You were a practicing poet. Many of the people in the pieces are poets—Frost, cummings, Pound, Rexroth, Cid Corman. Now you say you only read poetry “in homeopathic doses,” rarely write it, and are engaged in the academic untangling of early Christianity. What is your current relation to poetry?

A. I’ve never stopped being a poet. I’m glad I had it when I was young. But I don’t learn from it anymore.

Q. When did you start writing?

A. I was 17, a freshman at Antioch. I submitted two poems to the literary mag, one free verse and one a sonnet, and they took the sonnet.

Q. Mark Strand was a classmate.

A. Yes. He came into my room in the Barracks and showed me a piece and asked if this structure was a poem. It went:
The eyes of the pebbles on the shore
Close their lids
And look like more pebbles than before.
I forget if the lines were initial caps.

What could I say? It was a poem.

“In 1965, in Harper’s, Kenneth Rexroth asked “a dozen poets of unquestioned ability of the most disparate tastes” to name poets under thirty-five whom they considered the best. ‘The names that occurred most often were Gary Snyder, Tim Reynolds, Adrienne Rich and Thom Gunn.’”


Out of a piece call’d “Sanders”:
In front of the Metro Ed Sanders showed Blackburn his latest acquisition for the literary collection he was developing for Brown University, a jar of Vaseline on which Allen had written something like “I use this love jelly to penetrate the rosy ass of Peter Orlovsky” et seq. He was carrying this stuff around in an attaché case. He said he was going to ask a lot for it, it had the latest impression still in it.

At a poetry conference at Stony Brook I heard a strange repeated crashing whoosh in the middle of the night. It was Anselm Hollo shooting an airpistol into the toilet, he was having a fight with his girlfriend. After a while he cooled off and went back to their room. Then there was a big crash, he’d thrown his typewriter across the room. The next day he told me Sanders had been at his door first thing in the morning with his checkbook out to buy the typewriter. It still had an unfinished poem in the carriage. Did that stuff every really get to Brown?
Oh the books of misbehaviors! The misbehaving books!


To work.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005



Here’s a rictus grin to summer’s waywardness, lost focus, the teeth jumbled in haphazard lean, incised with dates and duties. Or, say, otherly focus, the

timothy grasses plump’d with pollen, all the monocotyledonous sheaths upright and bluewintry-color’d, hue of Appaloosa and dogpatch, realm of Kentucky canine and clay

scoop’d out of streambeds, a coprophagous treat. Harry Mathews says: “The events have left me feeling like a fragment by H. D.” And: “I’m going to have a banana and

a swallow of Epsom salts then get into bed and weep sore.” There’s a bonanza for you. Though rather “literary.” Content-valent stuff is what one is looking for—

meaning “What’s up?” Content-volatile. Form-labial. Form-radical. Content-voleur. High disavowals of decadence. Two nineteenth century scriveners

elbowing oonce, twicet, thricet, fop, being an eighteenth century drinking game (requiring the wearing of high Renaissance duds). Egypt: soul-weight a feather.

Lichtenberg: “I think that a poem about empty space would be sublime.” Needing the insert-universe. Do the rest of you out there ever get wan-tongue’d and slavering by

the lily-stank ill-malady’d maidens of deathly “poetry”? I do. Frank Stanford: “all of you with your teeth full of beeshit don’t tell me”—attaboy, Frank! We need a foul-

mouth’d burger with a bear cub on a rope to bust up some of th’egg-candlers around here. What Paul Metcalf calls that “shared narcissism,” nudging the ebony tokens of

our little “cultural referents” at each other. We need something vernal and fiery, a colossus, a leviathan, a putsch—a rapturist foundling in a red osier basket, a

doorstep rapturist to bait the throng. Metcalf: “in a cardboard box in his private experimental lab, they found a test tube, tightly sealed and neatly

labeled: “Edison’s last breath.” Ash-voiced prophets talking down the sun. What the chorus sings opening the Van Morrison concert: “inarticulate speech, inarticulate

speech, inarticulate speech.” McGuffey’s Eclectic Fourth Reader: “Questions, which cannot be answered by yes or no, . . . generally require a falling inflection . . .”


Boulot ridicule.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005



tendsindintendsindintendsindintendsindintendsindintendsindintendsindintendsindin tendsindintendsindintendsindintendsindintendsindintendsindintendsindintendsindin


C’est idiot, le travail.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Portrait sans Propriétaire

"Moins de travail, plus de rêves." --- Anne Boyer
John Latta is off paying a call to

Friday, July 08, 2005



Neck-tickle leads
to palpable ear-
wig larva, softly
green—judging by
the fore-pincers—
one millimeter, long
reaching for you.


A fine drizzle
wets down every-
thing and one
notes the “inherently
geometric structure of
the landscape.” Cézanne
scrawls a letter:
The sun is
so startling it
makes it look
as if objects
could be lifted
off their outlines . . .

I put myself
into the hard
chalk perimeter of
a body sidewalk’d.
—Sun, lift me.


Harry Mathews pegged by a “sour-faced” French Communist agent (in My Life in CIA):
”Monsieur Matiouze is a member of something called the Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, or Oulipo. The Oulipo is a gang of cynical formalists. They claim to be materialist, but they utterly disregard the dialectic of history. Their materialism is nothing but a degraded manifestation of bourgeois idealism. Naturally the Oulipo is opposed to any kind of literature that puts itself at the service of historical progress, especially socialist realism. No Oulipian, and certainly not an American one, is a man whose opinions are worth listening to. Monsieur Matiouze, you are informed that you will no longer be welcome among us.”
The Mathews reminding me of nothing so much as Jean Echenoz, quick, stylish, international, a spy caper. (Question use of “caper” in the context. It makes me think of Claudia Cardinale and David Niven and, as such, is misleading.)


In the cellar
checking for leakage,
I spy a
fat black beetle
tussling with a
wadded up towel.
Lift it off
its outline, march
it a finger-
length, devastating is
its pinpoint shine.


House of the Hanged Man, Auvers-sur-Oise: where “yellow . . . compromised the future of Monsieur Cézanne.” Yellow of squash blossoms. Yellow of the constructivist brushstroke. Yellow of influenza. (See Cézanne’s implacable fear of le grapin, that someone’ld sway him, swallow him, get him in an “influential” grip.) Yellow of a shirt rarely worn. Yellow of bruise-fade and melancholy.


Who is Lito Latta of Savona, Italy, a maker of soap? A printer? Bad-ass book in a MoMA cabinet: F. T. Marinetti: Parole in libertà futuriste olfattive tattilli termiche (Roma, Edizioni Futuriste di Poesia, 1932 Stampa : Savona, Lito-Latta, 4 Novembre 1932-XI. A smug (and sly) muh’fuh’, emplacarding LITO LATTA in high-stylizables partout. Odd “sighting” and heel’d by Mathews recollections of the fascist thugs of ’seventies Paris, rue d’Assas (Law Faculty), a street one didn’t easily, long-hair’d, walk down.


“I know the Wire-Puller intimately”
Out slogging my Oxfords in ankle-
deep braid-rivulets of storm-wash,
the C-dog worrying the verge.
A. B. C. what a sumptuous
cladding for a take-off, for
take off we must. I am
plenty aware of not coming back
into my usual mawk and assessment,
though inching thataway by unreputable degrees.
Nobody can write code all her
Life—think I’d soonest skip mine.


Life with Perec:
Wednesday I found a note from Georges in my mailbox: “Urgent. The victor of the nearby computational street summons you to return to the same fishy troop when a first point has been scored by his racket.” (Le vainqueur d’une rue à calcul voisine vous somme de rejoinder la même troupe poissonnière dès que sa raquette marquera le premier point.)

. . .

I reread Georges’s message. He was a professional inventor of crossword puzzles, and these phrases sounded like crossword definitions; so I set to work solving them. My first clue came with “fishy troop”: that was what would ordinarily be called a school of fish. The French word for a school of fish is banc; and a banc is also a bench. If “the same fishy troop” translated as “the same bench,” it must mean the one where Georges and I had sat together a few days before. Then “the nearby computational street” was Rue de Fleurus: because calcul means not only computation but “stone” (as in kidney-stone); and Rue de Fleurus had been home to Gertrude Stone, aka Stein. (Later my Petit Larousse taught me that the battle of Fleurus was one of Marshal de Luxembourg’s greatest victories.) As for “a first point scored by his racket,” in tennis the first point is called as “fifteen”; and 15 hours is 3 P.M. by the twenty-four-hour clock.

Sorcière, sorcière,
Regards ton derrière.



dries and o
her o-
ther i-
tems teeming.


“unrequired roseate doodling”


“unrequited roseate doodling”

“A dish of puddles Hempstead, and a cigar, Sir.”


Somewhere Herodotus says: “There is
found in that desert a
kind of ant of great
size—bigger than a fox,
though not so big as
a dog. These creatures as
they burrow underground throw up
the sand in heaps, just
as our own ants throw
up the earth.” And elsewhere:
“There is no need for
me to describe the camel,
for Greeks are familiar with
what it looks like, one
thing, however, I will mention:
the camel in its hind
legs has four thighs and
four knees and its genitals
point backwards toward its tail.”


Apollinaire: “I don’t want to work. I want to smoke.”


Je m’en fous de travailler.

Thursday, June 30, 2005



Off tomorrow for a week or so, points in the cluttery east, meaning the usual incognito namelessness of the shy man with a burden of books, a bookish man with a

shy binocular’d look, ordinary company to keep, unkempt, with songs for a far off songstress bare-audible under the city hum o. Meaning I doubt I’ll get to knocking

down any doors, or at any doors, or upturning any governmental Hummers in acts of state-mayhem, though the temptation nearing the corridors of the power-mad:

always big. Open’d a long unused file in my cabbage row, a file hid in a cabbage, something to bust out with, and found:
The boy
Mutters letters

Aloud, spelling
It out,

Whatever word
He’s stuck

With, something
To do

With secret
Agency between

States, that
Shit, it

Comes down
The pike

And pikers
Just out

Of college
Get suck’d

Off into
‘Intelligence opportunities.’

End up
Garrot’d in

Gabarone, or
Slightly angst-

Rid in
Newfangle’d Berlin.
A perfect kind of send-off for Harry M. and me, hein? Is it the smelling like an old towel, the mildew’d effleurescene shiny surface

of things gone cloudy? Is it the way the night blooms up so seriously, recalling one to one’s own? Badass syntax takes me down. Cerberus nosing the dogfruit’d remains. I

hardly know what I mean, and now I’m ask’d to name the flowers? Uh, Echinacea subspecies, uh, widower’s cowlick, Joe Pye weed, pied type

clover, false-blooming ambergris, um, Ridick of Ridick’s Hall weed. I nosed in the newspaper’s fish-smell and found: “social conformity showed up in the brain as

activity in regions that are entirely devoted to perception.” Complete in points east rag. Meaning Keats is right: the chameleon poet, c’est nous tous et

“is everything and nothing—It has no character—it enjoys light and shade . . . What shocks the virtuous philosopher delights the chameleon poet . . . a

poet is the most unpoetical of anything in existence, because he has no Identity—he is continually in for and filling some other body.” Or John Keats is wrong, there is

no “unchangeable attribute,” one gapes out at the world through the lowest common denominator of one’s fellow low common denominator, all deceived and deceiving,

blaat: “The Sun, the Moon, the Sea, and men and women, who are creatures of impulse, are poetical, and have about them an unchangeable attribute; the poet has none, no

identity—he is certainly the most unpoetical of all God’s creatures.” Hang it all, Marguerite Duras, “To write is to attempt to know what we would write were we to

write.” And, finally, there is that story of Petronius, repeat’d in Vila-Matas:
One day, at the age of thirty, Petronius decided to write down the tales prompted by his incursions into his city’s underworld. He filled sixteen books

by his invention and when he had finished them, he read them aloud to Syrus, who laughed like crazy and clapped the whole time. Then Syrus and Petronius came up with

the plan of undertaking the adventures the latter had composed, of transferring them from parchment to reality. Petronius and Syrus dressed up and fled the city, took to

roaming the paths and living out the adventures written by Petronius, who gave up writing for good as soon as he started living out the life he had previously imagined.

Ne travaillez jamais.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Lyrical I, the Lyre’s Sigh, and the Liar’s Eye


Big haul in the mail, The Poker, and new Flood Gilfillan, and Friedlander pamphlets, (joining the Gam, the new New American Writing, the

Szymaszek Emptied of All Ships) and my resolve (is it resolve?) to tarry a little, to stay the habit so easily glommed to, falters a little—whence all the

fleury fandango and rev anyhow? The urge to subvert th’expect’d up to the point of re-becoming (expect’d)? The urge to pitch a tent in a clearing and torch it at the

merest sign of a crowd? Hermit-talk. Baggy nonsense of the hermit cairn, a cunning lot. Gypsy-caravaner, trust nobody. Or something fiercer cutting the strings that

keep the puppet jerking—a sleeper in a cornfield, a chigger-bit kid lying under leaf-flicker, odd combo revery-stings. Beebalm in a far-off monastery, unreachable. What

would slew one around into the ever-exonerable quotidian. Isn’t that the definition of daily life—that it exonerates one’s existence, that it

welcomes one merely for acceding to its (terrifying) demands? Call it “Why I Must Return to the Lyrical I?” Yes, yes, yes, call it that. If I turn

away a minute (“where that horse is entering Bergdorf’s . . . terribly late” isn’t th’unstoppable literary tic a flaw in the ointment of saying? isn’t it a plosive in

the churchyard of sentiment? Avoidance chow? Yes, yes, call it that!)—if I turn away a minute, it’s to think something through, it’s to see onslaught without miff or

impermeable, without composure or “stance.” Truth is, I don’t know either. (Where is it writ: “I ‘eschew’ knowing”? Yes, yes, —oh stop that.) The noctambulist’s nightly

(I used to know a man who smoked a single solitary cigarette per diem, a post-prandial “nightly” he call’d it, smoked with huge discipline and utmost (though

skint) ritual. With such intensity it kibosh’d all talk. Alors: out into the pre-brew and avowel (is that word “avowal” or “arousal”?) of thunderstorm

recklessness, breezes mounting, rumble-ships and toss-galleons bucking riderless (like hearts, oh so like hearts!) Lightning bugs zing about crazy in the nether

grasses, and lightning drives its golden spikes into the severe distant promontory, point’dly and splaying. El doggo’s skittish, trotting and checking,

checking and trotting, a regular trapline runner. Borges on the poetic function: “the vehement and solitary practice of combining words that startle

whoever hears them.” Is “limpidness and trembling” what’s need’d nowadays in order to flee “the bellicose prestige of controversy?” Or that one’s “own dexterity may

cause him to spurn literature as a game that is too easy”? Ah, Vila-Matas, you are too nugatory for a nut like me. Monsieur Teste: “Monsieur Teste was not a

philosopher or anything like it. He was not even a man of letters. For this reason, he thought a lot. The more one writes, the less one thinks.” Morning. Sleepless

obeisance to the blood-drub of thinking, and rainwater—wet earth, big psalter—gushing in the eave-troughs, wicking up a conflagration, water-made. So the morning

head bobs loggily, swole up with unutterables, dull ache of carnal buffoonery in squelch mode: Here is my poem:

Why I Must Return to the Lyrical I

“(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man,” “(I Got You) I Feel Good (Live),” “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons,” “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want To Do Right,” “Am I

Wrong,” “I Pity the Fool (Live),” “I’d Rather Go Blind, I’d Still Choose You,” “I’d Write A Letter,” “I Can’t Stop,” “I Believe,” “I’ll Always Be In Love With

You,” “I’ll Be Around,” “I’ll Be Doggone,” “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You,” “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” “I’ll Change My Style,” “I Was A

Fool,” “I’ll Come Back Someday,” “I’ll Get Along Somehow,” “I’ll Take Care Of You,” “I’ll Understand,” “I’ll Wait for You,” “I’m A Love You,” “I’m About To Lose

My Mind,” “I’m Back,” “I’m Bad Like Jesse James,” “I’m Creepin’,” “I’m Drifting,” “I’m From Mississippi,” “I Want To Groove With You,” “I’m Gonna Be A

Wheel Some Day,” “I’m Hanging Up My Heart For You,” “I’m In Love Again,” “I’m In The Mood,” “I’m Into Something Good,” “I’m King,” “I’m Leaving Chicago,” “I’m Mr.

Luck,” “I’m Not Ashamed,” “I’m Not Ashamed,” “I’m On Fire,” “I’m Ready,” “I’m So Glad,” “I’m So Proud,” “I’m Still In Love With You,” “I’m Walkin’,” “I’ve Been Buked

& Scorned,” “I’ve Been Thinkin’ Bout You,” “I Can’t Stop,” “I’ve Been Waitin’ On You,” “I’ve Been Wrong So Long,” “I’ve Been Your Doggie Since I Been Your

Man,” “I’ve Fallen In Love With You,” “I’ve Got To Forget You,” “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination,” “I Ain’t Gonna Be Your Monkey Man,” “I Ain’t Got You,” “I Always Get

My Man,” “I Am A Lonesome Hobo,” “I Believe In You,” “I Believe In You,” “I Brought The Rain,” “I Can’t Hear a Word You Say,” “I Can’t Help It,” “I Can’t Help Myself

(Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),” “I Can’t Hold Out,” “I Can’t Love You Enough,” “I Can’t Put You Down Baby,” “I Can’t Stand Myself (When You Touch Me),” “I Can’t

Stand Myself (When You Touch Me), Pts. 1 & 2,” “I Can’t Stop,” “I Can’t Understand,” “I Can See Everybody’s Baby,” “I Could Deal With It,” “I Cried A

Tear,” “I Cry And Sing The Blues,” “I Didn’t Mean To Hurt Your Feelings,” “I Don’t Believe,” “I Don’t Believe You,” “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have

Met),” “I Don’t Know,” “I Don’t Want No Woman,” “I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing,” “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine,” “I Envy The Wind,” “I Found A True

Love,” “I Get So Weary,” “I Got A Strange Feeling,” “I Was Walking Through The Woods,” “I Got It,” “I Got Love If You Want It,” “I Got The Blues,” “I Got The Blues

Again,” “I Got The Feelin’,” “I Got The Feeling,” “I Got The Feeling (Reprise),” “I Got The Will,” “I Got What It Takes,” “I Got You (I Feel Good),” “I Gotta Have

You,” “I Gotta Keep On Moving,” “I Gotta Try You Girl,” “I Guess I’ll Have To Cry, Cry, Cry,” “I Had A Dream,” “I Hate To See You Go,” “I Heard Somebody Call,” “I Just

Want To Make Love To You,” “I Just Want To Make Love To You—Born To Be Wild,” “I Know,” “I Learned My Lesson,” “I Live The Life I Love,” “I Lost It,” “I Lost Sight

Of The World,” “I Miss You Baby,” “I Need Some Money,” “I Need You So,” “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) (Live),” “I Owe You One,” “I Pity The Fool,” “I

Pity The Poor Immigrant,” “I Say A Little Prayer,” “I Shall Be Free No. 10,” “I Shall Be Released,” “I Shall Be Released (Live),” “I Smell Trouble,” “I Smell

Trouble,” “I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say,” “I Waited Too Long,” “I Walk On Guilded Splinters,” “I Walked Away,” “I Wanna Be,” “I Wanna Do More,” “I Want A

Little Girl,” “I Want To Be Your Spy,” “I Want To Groove With You,” “I Want To Shout About It,” “I Want To Ta-Ta You, Baby,” “I Want You,” “I Was Fooled,” “I Was Made

To Love Her,” “I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free),” “I Wish You Could See Me Now,” “I Wonder,” “I Work Up Screaming,” “I’d Rather Go Blind,” “I’ll Come

Running Back to You,” “I Believe In You”


To work.