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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Keep Fallin’ (On My Head)


Here’s a feller I identify with: Tithonus. Got the P. D. G. Zeus-monsieur to hand him down a jangling bunch of keys, immortality-style, and forgot to ask for

the “Forever Young” number. Caught the dewy-fresh girl at the roadhouse, sympatique and blowsy, made a keen-edged double blade of a couple. Only

she’s interminably dewy-fresh—he feebles out like a bug, some desiccant exoskeletal knee-sawer. So she puts him in a tiny Hotel, where he chatters away endlessly, with

barely any strength left to move. (See the new Sapphic tag, unwrapt out a mummy’s rags.) So the days multiply, caught here in the devil’s windpipe, where winds hoot

hot choruses of sulfuric rabblement, and a colossal elephant is chain’d to the fire-plug. Stuff’d, sitting, and goo-goo-eye’d: there’s a feller I identify with. Kinship

with th’animal world is “how I got ovah”—riding a siskin up into the ridge-heights of a bristlecone pine, exactly four thousand and nine hundred years ago. Flying at

growth-speed. I’m being fatuous, of ocursse. Off course. There’s a word I like: “cussing.” Relationship to “nub” or “chum” or “nudge” unexamined. So’s you

think highly of me, even whilst I drudge in the soft u sounds, the blunt fucks, I’ll admit I also love “linen” and “rinse” and “cringe” and “syringe.” Of the

hoity-toit hoi polloi, moi. Gosh, here I am doing sixty things at a go. So, plunging out into the dogstar-fiery night-furnace, staggering with the C-dog plod-

trot, its flags adroop—humidity quotient charging the air, a semi-foul mood, up-start, un-mollifiable, rising up to meet it. The twin catalpas bare of flower now,

all the sexy spraddle-mouth ungovernables that lapped at lawn and grass, turn’d brown and tumorescent in the heat. An inky cap’s longevity is three to five days,

ungather’d it leaves a greasy smear on th’earth, untrouble’d, tar-shiny. Gather’d it’ll funk up an omlet good. Look for patches after rains, drab khaki-colour’d

colonies sprongifying up where tree stumps rot in civil yards. Elms, ash. Down the second turn two bulks emerge, exiting a house-bulk, nearing a car-bulk. Voice in the

water-drench’d air carrying limpid and unjostle’d by breeze-waver. At the car-door: “You mean that key’s not it.” A loathing-ripe negative rips out. And a high-

sibilant Jeezzizz, Jesus weild’d as lethal cutlery, a switchblade Jesus. Every word swimming out for you. To you. “My name is Pitch; I stick to what I say.”

Juan Benet: “Whoever needs to smoke in order to write must either imitate Bogart and have smoke curling around their eye (which leads to a rugged style), or else accept

that the ashtray is going to consume most of the cigarette.” Who is the Professor John Banville talks about, the one who says: “Prague . . . has the rhythm of slow,

endless mastication (like that of Gregor Samsa in The Metamorphosis for hours on end, a catatonia from which it at time awakes with a burst of energy that

immediately dies down . . . eternally pouting city.” Out in the night, the fleury snoot-fulls, the cloy-hammer of some unidentifiable perfume, dogs dog and I. I long

for a sparky heap-smell of steel-filings, ironwork and Rustoleum, the dodgy nasalic sear of ozone gone haywire, aimless electrical discharge. Not that stanky tuberose.

In an epickal twist, the epoch’s slurry’ll come down along the pipeline, every jot and tittle of it, savory to burst. Or great odiferous wallops thudding against, say,

the taut-stretch of the silk parapluie. Revel! And distend! Unhinge the doors! Hang up your hats— cette fois, and mightily, hell’s going through

us! Look, gushers, set one unshod foot in the new century, set one (in a clown’s balloon shoe) in the old century, and pee mightily at the seam! Time’s a breakaway

republic. And we here in thongs and bobbie-socks’ll cheer each parcel and peck of its undeniablity, each hush and contusion. Each ramp’d up little spittle-flower in

the long grass clinging.


To work.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Quotidian, Brew


Think I is wont to continue flailing, th’earnest perusements of books’ll wait. “Maybe it’s just melodramatic stuff.” A sentence I wrote yesterday. Another

spoke of something’s being “autobiographical sounding”—I could’ve point’d it into th’oceanic, I could’ve made “depth-charge” a metaphor for something. I

wrote “intensity, a live coal”—I did not use the word “scarred.” Borderline preciosity, wouldn’t you say? No worry. Hiatus coming up before the weekend, honest

engine. One where the Vibe jolts the road-ruts, the reveries toss’d off with the mileage charts, long ticker-tape stream of impossibles trailing out behind. Harry

Mathews’ll come avec, The Confidence Man‘ll come avec, three hombres caballeros slipping side-saddle into Long Island Sound, or

Rockville Center, and back out, three scurrilous grins stretching out to form one tremendous (scurrilous) grin across three weather-bark’d and bronze physiogs.

That’ll be my hiatus, a hat-trick. Trading stories of how Plato says Socrates “suddenly comes to a halt and stands there,” or how Xenophon says

Socrates “wore the same coat in all seasons . . . walked barefoot on the ice and on the earth warmed by the Greek sun, he danced and jumped frequently on his own, with

no motive, as if on a whim,” or how “Zeno the Epicurean nicknamed him ‘the Attic buffoon.’” Trading stories of the Kum & Go, and the sixty-nine cent guzzlers, or the

way change slips down over a man’s head like a noose, or comes up with leaf-dangle and flap like a pressure-drop’d T-storm. Vila-Matas: “Sometimes one stops writing

because one simply falls into a state of madness from which one never recovers.” Marguerite Duras: “To write is also not to speak . . . It is to howl noiselessly.”

Picchio, on not writing: “Experimental laziness. Post-human sloth. Time out for beastliness.” Bobi Bazlen, author of Note sensa testo (Notes Without a

Text), 1970: “I believe it is no longer possible to write books. That is why I no longer write books. Virtually all books are no more than footnotes, inflated until

they become volumes.” And Baudelaire, the magnificent high-cranially domed Charles: “the real hero is he who keeps himself amused.” All that is just some of

what les mecs et moi‘ll excorticate about on th’upcoming journey, shoes fill’d with chives, pockets with chervil, saddlebags with cloves. Nothing like a

horse’s ass solidly behind you to get you yakking, hein, Geoffrey? A kind of dereliction of duty, the con, yoicks and insupportable sassiness emissaries of

nowhere, of that these new literary movements come about. See Robbe-Grillet expending twenty-five pages depicting a comb and brush set. See the dissipant Francophile Mr.

Dowson, of whom it is writ: “Late nights and excessive drinking impaired a constitution already threatened by tuberculosis.” How hard we aim’d our alexandrines

(and benzadrines!) at such a mark, how lengthily we fell short, wholly embourbon’d and still, regretfully, kicking. Madder music, hah! (And just saying that, I see the

dress I sport’d then, the Hagen hand-me-down.) Repeat after me: “I would not alter thy cold eyes.” “I would not alter thy cold eyes.” I, too, after Keats, long to

become “a sort of Pip-civilian,” a scuffler against governmental bumpf of any kind, cherry-stone to knowing, practical, daft, yellow’d, disputatious, vex’d. I used to

imagine that one day I’d write myself through some plug-vanity, through dispersal-excursion, through cursory fundament gazing,

through material mayhem, and hit a clear patch, virginally attired, a truth-fierce gauntlet one could simply stride along, carrying one’s falcon hood’d on ’s

leather'd fist. Is that what aging offers? Think of de Kooning’s late paring down—waves and blocks, the ferocity and grimace gone, think of that Keats thing

“. . .Whose Name Was Writ in Water”—is that breakthrough or fatigue, muddy? Think of Beckett’s shorn little fizzles. What if one “took” aging with idiocy and overflow,

jism-splash and holler, spanking the big slap-around with addled glee? O “How like a younker or a prodigal / The scarfed bark puts from her native bay, / Hugged and

embraced by the strumpet wind! / How like the prodigal doth she return, / With over-weathered ribs and ragged sails, / Lean, rent, and beggared by the strumpet wind!”

The “strumpet wind” is constant, and we th’adaptable fearsome yonkers? Preciosity of the brainpan curdling everything into sign and mentor. “I am the least

definable of men! Boundless, discursive, counter-empirical, itchy, and un-Roman!” So I send out my runners, advance-men, freely. One report:

“The birds near the road on a rather sizable berm, the females actively foraging along the side of the berm and perching on the fence.” Dickcissel talk, it comes

down the airwaves, inhabits me freely. LaVern Baker, you come too! Nadeshda M., toi aussi! Signing up caballeros, my innocents. Riding out for the final

dustoff. You, I want that word nub, it makes my legs wobble with pleasure. Silk nubbs. Knob or protuberance. Nub of coal. “The nub of a story is the point or

gist of it.” Aye, to flop with ye against a piece of dingy ticking full of lumps and nubbles . . . I love that word, nub. In exchange: two levres, hare-

brain’d receptors, moue recidivists. Deal? And “one” can tell here exactly how one whole swath of painting’s got gesso’d out, the grand gesture extirpated for

another “work.” How, now, two littler stories remain, free to “make use” of the “white space” betwixt them, sitting catty-cornerdly, books in laps. Period of

measuring the heart, a dendrochronologist’s chore, a boring out, a piercing, a sample, a succession of annulars. Fossicking the lap-books in search of an erotics

of citation, how two writers rub a vernal succulence up out of hex-arousal, a witch-brew contingency, mutual exploratory, letter-fetish. Greil Marcus: “S. is a cold

writer . . . S. often seems to write to close subjects, not to open them . . . to have both the first and the last word.” (Sounds like?) Vila-Matas: “it suddenly

occurred to me that in fact more than ninety-nine per cent of humanity prefer . . . not to write.” Marcel Duchamp, ask’d why he stopped painting, told Naum Gabo: “What do

you expect, old fart, I’ve completely run out of ideas.” And Mark Twain, con extraordinary put it: “When the nub was sprung, the assemblage let go with a horse-laugh.”


To work.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Under the Bridge


Pages accumulate, great sapient arrivals by mail, industry panning out in stacks, squared off, diabolically correct, containers for the scuffle and brush, language

beating its little empty heart out like a tom-tom. My dog croons sleeping, dream-jittery. Who recalls Plastique Bertrand, isn’t “French punk” oxymoronic, je suis

To note that a Madame Blognard inhabits one of Jacques Roubaud’s Hortense novels. To note how Freon-loss drove me out into the post-prandial swelter

and drench to buy a genuine Frigidaire, what my father’s mother, a Witkop after being a Latta, call’d a frigidaire. Brand naming gone to generic parlor-talk. Get me

a Kleenex. Any booze hereabouts? Could you read the Ashbery I just wrote? To note the conspiratorial catch in the throat of my vanity, the fifty retainer years I

hired out to prop up the current one. To note—oh, surely, readers, under the lantern-lit greatcoats you huddle in, hounds to my hounding, you mash figs against my making

myself visible, in heat’d and pardonable readiness. Yah! Pfft! Splat! A fig for the king! And sizzling down out of some neural bunker: an image of a St. Vitus’d hippie,

dirty, blonde, bespectacle’d, in Ithaca, a semi-regular at the Royal Palm Tavern. He’d cough out a loud “muy caliente” with a little squawk-leap

accompanying, and bob away, up and down, mechanickal hinge-work of knees and elbows, circling agape some unseen agon-wisp, love-terror-eye’d and magnificent like a

stork. He’d calm and talk, tiny stutters, a minute or two, and caliente, blaaat!, off he’d spin. “Heart that was big as the bowels of Vesuvius,” is how the

clumsy uncle Mr. Browning puts it, he who Pound call’d “Old Hippety-Hop o’ the accents.” Hands up. Who reads Browning? Just, umm, nobody? I’d’ve wager’d

fewer than that. Okay. Next question. The D. H. Lawrence / Robert Creeley resemblance? Something not altogether “sweet” about the browline? Okay. Just a

hunch. Or not a hunch, a propitious foamy wish! A Faustian blood-draw, a cut! And, out of th’exclamatory restlessness, el doggo walk’d, I’m off to read the

Zimmerman, who says of the old roving ballads: “You could exhaust all the combinations of your vocabulary without having to learn any vocabulary. Lyrically

they worked on some kind of supernatural level . . .” (Later he’ll talk about bluesman Robert Johnson—“sprung from the head of Zeus in full armor”—singing about

milk turning blue. Milk. Turning. Blue. And about harpist Sonny Boy Williamson remarking on Dylan’s harmonica playing: “Boy, you play too fast.” Probably

enunciated in that velvety-finicky way, precise with a hint of rollick and tease—that’s the Sonny Boy way.) Dylan drawing: “like I was putting an orderliness to the

chaos around . . . it purified the experience of my eye.” Writing to pull down the conjunctions, align the unalign’d, mess with the disorder, though “orderliness” is a

funny goal for any art, no? Dylan’s apprenticeship (a 1928 Bertolt Brecht / Kurt Weill song call’d “Pirate Jenny”: And the ship / The Black Freighter /

disappears out to sea. /And / on / it /is / me.
): “I found myself taking the song apart, trying to find out what made it tick . . . I took the song apart and

unzipped it—it was the form, the free verse association, the structure and disregard for the known certainty of melodic patterns to make it seriously matter, give it its

cutting edge.” (Why do I recall roustabout Harry Crews, whose A Childhood: A Biography of a Place rips it up, writing about the disassembly of a Graham

Greene novel, a way to figure out how to write one of the damn things.) And so (conjunction), as James Brown yells (repeatedly): “Can I take it to the

bridge?” “Can I take it to the bridge?” And Martin Heidegger (Building Dwelling Thinking) says of the bridge: “It brings stream and bank and land into each

other’s neighbourhood. The bridge gathers the earth as landscape around the stream . . . it allows a space into which earth and heaven, divinities and mortals

are admitted.” If the Hotel falls to desuetude, loses its toehold on earth, serves a watery slumgullion to watery-eyed strangers, and nose-pierced bambinos cry in its

unlaunder’d sheets, remember ye, remember ye how th’Hotel stood on Bridge Street, remember ye how Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce made speech itself indelible,

surrendering: “From where the sun now stands I will fight no more, forever.” And remember ye Faust, singed cold by a bargain: “Mephistopheles, / My blood congeals

and I can write no more.”


To work.

Thursday, June 23, 2005



How about a magazine call’d La Fourmi? Or, better, La Fourmi, Pissant! How about The Ant? How about The Pismire? Or Le Pire, or

Le Pied? I continue with my obvious disregard. I like it here. I like it most everywhere, circumference and rod. Call it a chuzzlewit’d field holler. Pointy-

head eschewment. Mental chaw. Might go, “complexity is not a crime.” Might go, “nothing is plain.” Might go, “Complexity, moreover, that has been committed to

darkness, instead of / granting itself to be the pestilence that it is, moves all a- / bout as if to bewilder us with the dismal / fallacy that insistence / is the

measure of achievement and that all / truth must be dark.” Damn, I need to stop monkeying around and do some good writing, something that’ll go bump next

to the man in the dumpster. “He disposes the world in categories, thus:” And one can hear the snarling of the dogs of complexity in the silence that follows. Or, “pause

at scurrilous words? / Poor buffo!” In the popular phraseology, call it a ticket in need of franking. In a prayerless world, prank’d by a god abscond’d and gone off in

a huff, what meaning makes is mere libretto to the flourish of big operaticks. Noise, my man, sheer charismatickal noise. “To see oursels as the ditherers see us!”

To wah like a gadfly, enormous.
                                                                   “And then went down to the shit.” Out, so, out,

into the raffish night gloaming down into its softest post-twilight black, stumping out so for a retrieval, rethreading the drawstring to my bag of scatter’d marbles,

call it a commensurate will, a standpoint, nock for an arrow that flieth by day, pestilence that walketh in darkness, o sweet terrors consumed by a lossy

inundate. And around about the third trudge of the third block the banging of my third heart heps me to an undertow of noise—something about being sprung out of

France, circa 1974, a bung’d up love-item in a world of bung’d up love-items, and flung down into the three rains a day byways of Devon, or Dorset, in

England heading out to Land’s End. Rains interrupt’d by sun-spangles. Who’s the last man in Europe to see the sun go down in the ever-westering West? I hitchhiked

aimless as a souse. Something like that is what the noise pester’d me about. And about the way I turn’d ale-brown in the sun, stay’d in hostelry-squats, supped out

of cans of rice pudding, and shortbread biscuits all up and down the day. (Man told me a story about a horse call’d Half Man Half Biscuit, up and conk’d out dead in the

first race.) Ruminant so: walking. Though some uncanny thrusts of something—Alvin Langdon Coburn, James Coburn, Rooster Cogburn, Dennis Cooper—kept getting

in, some supersaturate solution of indissolvables. Call it chafing. (—Hellcat, cockchafer, blackguard, earwig, evensong!) Call it impossible. To pursue

anything beyond its assimilable redundancy. Mash it down and its gone, new cravings ascertainable, palimpsest hoedown. And if I write it out, th’ink wet with

thinking’s rubbish and catch, thinking itself goes off in a hurry. COYOTE KIDS = DEADLY writ big in chalk. Recalls some soil’d and soporific cinematic howler: punk

bands and dog packs and runaways in the Los Angelic dystope. My name is call’d conflation in spades. Dylan: “Whatever you are saying, you are saying in a ricky-

tick way.” Call it another of the “padded and schmaltzy odes to flunky-ism,” sí señor. Still, by morning, ripping up out of my whack indentur’dry, blunt

avenger and shakedown artist, prophet on an unholy gut run ravening, whilst the birds stream by, medallions and streamers in beaks, in claws. Found a jaw-harp in

the sand. Found an abacus in a beech tree. Call it jawing and jamming, a bewitchery to dislodge an impingement, call it a distaff resolute, a chuckle and a whim.

Choctaw hierophancy. Sin-fire against the devil’s pediment. Matchless burning. My dog cocks a skeptickal eye at me: cut that shit out. Call it fawning

dyspepsia. Call it deb-epickal with burnishings of brass. If you caught that kind of fire, you’d turn monochromatic and blank, hollow-cored and clean.


To work.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A Perfeckly Wholesome Hunh?


Gathering up a hank of tulle, or lace, some fine loose weave, and letting it hang like drapery over my eyes: “I kind of like veils,” to nobody in particular.

Or a statuesque blonde in a caftan sewing nearby, stretch’d out leggy on a bed. A man with the poor hygiene (tobacco-black’d teeth, stringy hair) of a German

intellectual is targeting me with some French conversation: “Something something mouffre,” I nod knowingly, agreeing, thinking “What the fuck’s that mean?”

The twisty market street Mouffetard and Chantal Mouffe. Que scais je. Another high-maintenance revery-curdle done up into clarity by Mr. Empirickal Ego,

no? Th’anniversay went off without a hitch—which is amusing to say if one considers onself “hitch’d,” and it’s that kind of anniversary. Indian food, naan and vindaloo!—

which is amusing to say if one ate lamb curry, a less fun mouthful. Mouffeful. Talking about the materiality of the word now. And got home late, and tuck’d myself

right into the Dylan Chronicles, a longish chapter that riffs unceasing on stasis and change, stasis and change, all a man’s got in the forgone world. “Always

prolific but never exact, too many distractions had turned my musical path into a jungle of vines.” “I had single-handedly shot myself in the foot too many times.”

Part of the writerly Bartleby in us all: that tearing down, tossing off, blowing out, sweeping clean—that’s the embouchure and cut of my lip lately, call it a sneer.

Call it a frown. In Enrique Vila-Matas’s Bartleby & Co., it’s a syndrome: “a disease endemic to contemporary letters, this negative impulse or

attraction towards nothingness . . . In fact the twentieth century opens with Hofmannsthal’s paradigmatic text (the “Letter of Lord Chandos” dates from 1902), in

which the Viennese author promises, in vain, never again to write a single line. Franz Kafka is forever alluding to the essential impossibility of literary matter,

in particular in his Diaries. André Gide created a character who spends an entire novel intending to write a book which he never writes (Paludes).

Robert Musil exalted and almost mythologised the idea of an “unproductive author” in The Man Without Qualities. Monsieur Teste, Valéry’s alter ego, has not only

refused to write, he has even thrown his library out of the window.” And Tycho Brahe kept an elk, poor beast, who found its way upstairs at the palatial Uraniborg,

suck’d down a left-out dish of beer and careen’d inebriated down some stairs, fracturing its neck bones. “My eyes are fixed on a point so distant that no one will

ever excuse my silly pretensions,” is what Aragon said. So, slept, drift’d in by bicycle, dismount’d next to a Sun King-color’d superball, ping-pong-sized. Got it

bouncing—keeping it aloft—off my grumpy newshound nose, right now. Lifting my veil, aiming for a clear shot at my club-foot, yes, Lord, I am.


To work.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Spooky, Too



Down Spooky, by Shanna Compton (Winnow Press, 2005) ($14, 3505 El Dorado Trail, Suite A, Austin, Texas 78739)

Lodged somewhere in a cupboard in one of the back rooms (first built) of th’Hotel is a squib about Shanna Compton’s chapbook call’d Down Spooky. I’ll skip the fuss and muss to find it. (Okay, here it is.) What I recall is exuberance and dash, a willingness to go full-tilt any which way—silly, or goopy, or mushy, or strict. Uncommon approach enough, even in these highly-ironized ’thousands. And here, now, new, is Down Spooky the book. Lots of additions to the chapbook, and, I think, too, lots of subtractions. (Let ten thousand Down Spooky’s blossom!) Select’d by Aaron McCollough for Winnow Press, a new outfit, and one kick’d off terrifically by it. Bravo.

Uncommon, notable, applaudable: it’s that old suspect, play, what’s the culprit here. If we’ve all marvel’d at Ashbery’s marveling at O’Hara’s amusing himself with “At night Chinamen jump / On Asia with a thump,” in the “academic atmosphere of the late 1940s,” we could do worse than marvel anew at Compton’s goof-around lines (against the backdrop of the post Language earnest burden’d new academosphere):
The monotony of only commas.
The autonomy of the monomaniac.
The automatic mommy.
Found in the midst of a thing call’d My Huge Napoleon, and serving no purpose beyond the sheer fun of ludic outburst. “—Attaboy, Shanna!” Or, here’s the next poem, a little more “suave” in its restraint? Hardly:
I only smile at girls I like.

Girls are one of life’s delights
and our exuberance at boobs gets
France to laugh. We could learn
to lean on less. I’ll take
the rutabaga and you the parsnip,
doll. We’ll drop sweet anchor here
at the Royalton or Hilton, whichever’s
got a king-size and a bar.
Think our planchette might be broken?
Because we really need a vowel.
Inimitable logic, and a romp of sounds. (Why ain’t nobody (to my knowledge) ever said “Exuberant boobs!” before?) There’s a sly kind of travelogue circle’d around (hint’d at) by the ten lines: how, stuck “elsewhere” we stand out, and laughably (even to the serious French); how we negotiate the foodstuffs foreign, and nattily; how the lingo adapts to lingua franca for the non-negotiables (“king-size and a bar”); how the comforts of, say, Scrabble in the hotel, and an oddball word or two’ll be what, back home, endures.


Recent review talk bouncing around the echo-y cavernous brain-space whilst I writ th’above. Is it Memorex? Is it just another coterie cupcake? I doubt it. Wouldn’t exchange a black black market nylon-stocking for a hoot if it were, neither. I think the ache for a common reader’s chimera’d and undue. Purity of that sort’s idiocy. I knew a man boast’d he’d got ’s mechanic to accept a written thing (knowing the man, I refuse to say “poem”) in exchange for a car headlight. Dandy. Ask that mechanic though to scribble out a few remarks about the latest Ashbery, though? Ennnnnh. (Game-show nasal-chirp used as “stopper.”) All bets off.


Two things to point out: a brand new spanking big Electronic Poetry Review, done up with a Marianne Moore bundle by Katherine Swiggart and D. A. Powell. And a rambling frag’d thing by Brenda Hillman “Twelve Writings toward a Poetics of Alchemy, Dread, Inconsistency, Betweenness and California Geological Syntax,” that Mark Woods cotton’d to first.


Fain I were Ophelia for Ophelia feigns not. Terrible to admit: I grow hard like a wild boar. Bored within. For tomorrow’s copulation is another tomorrow, Tom spell it

mercy. In Paris, in France, in a shallow dug pit, lies a silver-clad Métro platform named “Argentine”—all finery and new must—and for years before it got

call’d “Obligado,” a Spaniard’s word meaning N’oubliez pas, all forgetting Verboten, feed thy maw, ascertain stricklich, enumerator! A parable for

th’occasion—an occasional parable. Call it a paregoric con, a consuelo-mad emissary, an envoi. Call it a silverado’d hoofprint. Get me to a gunnery. Return address on a

Breece DJ Pancake late letter: “One Blow Out My Brains,” postmark’d Keswick, Va., or Kismet, Va., one of those horse farm outskirts to Charlottesville, where a blue-

grass shack’ll be had for a ribbon. Man wrote me a letter mark’d “Hotel Diapers,” had a good laugh. Duty runs a heady second into Despair and gets to consist of a

prophet’s thin gruel, that humdrum ordinary quotidian meat, stringy and tough, that leads to talking in tongues just to see if Babylon’ll fall, or anybody in Raleigh’ll

hear you. A red spider mite the size of a welt, or a wound, is rocketing around my alarum clock. Alarum. Call it a botch, call it a klaxon to a kind of monkey delight.

Let’s let all the glory-shirkers off the digital ship. Is that word shirker or sharker? Where fled the Luddites amongst us? Who’s willing to pluck the vine-

ripen’d sun out the sky and plunge it in a bonnet? Duchamp: “There was no essential satisfaction for me in painting ever. And then of course I just wanted to react

against what the others were doing.” Tomorrow’s tomorrow is tomorrow again. We gain naught in the tithe and expenditure of days—big-head’d in aspeckt on our only

shakedown cruise. Longing to twist a single gold doubloon out the cummerbund folds of the slumbering sun. Is that word slumbering or slobbering?

Never go back to Grasmere, hell, never go back to Great Neck.


To work.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Categorical Bah


Road to Damascus breakdown and hobo shuffle. Call it benign lethargy. A katydid stuck like a tie-tack to my brow. Call it shifty-eyed under the high pressure ridge.

Call it temporary petulance, donning the fuggits against th’expect’d. Call it jujubes bestuck in the molars, the keyboard. “Reader Number One say to Reader Number

Two, ‘If th’Hotel shut down, what we gonna do?’ Reader Number Two say to Reader Number One, ‘You ack like it’s tomorrow, & tomorrow never come.’” Stumble down the bean-

row, turn about, stumble back along the next bean row. Some call it hoein’. Son House got call’d a “master tractor driver’ in’s time. Like Dale Smith says, “Shit.”

Harold Rosenberg says, “The American vanguard painter took to the white expanse of the canvas as Melville’s Ishmael took to the sea.” (Melville, in the dictionary of

received sententiousness, equals th’American sublime.) And John Wieners, who knew, says, “The hollow eyes of shock remain / Electric sockets burnt out in

the skull / / The beauty of men never disappears / But drives a blue car through the stars.” (In truth, Wal-Mart is th’American sublime.) Bah. Adorno suggesting

that “the true idyll stands out in effective relief only against the background of world-historical catastrophe.” “But when the catastrophe can no longer be relegated

to the background but rather takes in the whole of the scenery, then the idyll, where it does not prefer to disappear, is left with no other choice but to include

the catastrophe itself with in its formal law.” Call it Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday, who could hang a nail on you? Call is crass amphetamine. Call it sad to see Zukofsky

aping Pound in’s letters: “Here’s Joonyr’s lessons. Probably too long for L’Indice—but when Joonyr starts turn-of-the-screwing you can’t keep him away wif a water

pistul.” Call it John Cage playin’ a losing game: saying nothing is nothing saying and nobody, thass my poem, goo’bye. Mr. Revelator, you kin, cancel my check.


To work.

Friday, June 17, 2005

“Conelrad Adenauer”


One sore horse today. Two hours shoveling potash down into the gully’s ’nough for any man. Or throwing high white projectiles (“God is a big white baseball”) for two

hours to a scramble of kids (“—Mine.” “—I got it.”) So I hump’d home and sat dastardly in my mayhem, hummed a little tune. Here’s a thing I snatch’d off

someone: “Apophenia is the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. The term was coined in 1958 by Klaus Conrad, who defined it as

the ‘unmotivated seeing of connections’ accompanied by a ‘specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness.’” You see a lot of that hereabouts. Trying to think how to

say what Bobby “Blue” Bland’s voice does, mostly in the later recordings, sweet with maybe just a few burrs, a pebble or two for “texture”—and out of nowhere a

snarling “Oh Lord” that’s like a dog shaking a rabbit. Spooky good. Bob Dylan talks about “the early singers who sang like they were navigating burning ships.” Enough

to make one into a connoisseur of voice-styling metaphor. Or Dylan (on Roy Orbison): “He was now singing . . . compositions in three or four octaves that made

you want to drive your car over a cliff. He sang like a professional criminal.” What I did, clumb’d up out the gully, is read that Chronicles thing, writ in

Dylan’s tetchy voice—fire, brimstone, a little half-crack’d, lying is formidable fun and allows the Saviour reason to reach down and “tetch” you, var. of teachy,

teechy, tetchy, tetchie, tecchy, titchie, tichy.
Or dial. titchy, tertchy, tatchy, tachy ( ME. tecche, 16th c. tetche.) Say, short-

tempered; peevish, irritable; testy. Bonkers, touch’d. As Shakespeare saith: “Pretty foole.” (Somewhere Dylan points to Pretty Boy Floyd and Al Capone—the latter

technocrat nobody’s idea of folk-material, no scuff and devilment to him.) And: “I practiced in public and my whole life was becoming what I practiced.” Long, empty,

blue sky longings for th’ambivalent ’fifties, stand-in for everything gone, like John Weiners: “Scollay Square / should’ve stayed / there with Dillinger / ’s harlots

and squares.” The twin dancers at the Parisian club Alcatraz moving, giggling, out of the room I moved, solemn, into. Me, the tall, serious girl.


To work.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Chum Cuss Club



Xantippe, No. 3 , edited by Kristen Hanlon ($10 or 2 / $18, P. O. Box 20997, Oakland, California 94620-0997) Cover photograph by Trane DeVore.

Poems by Fanny Howe, Elizabeth Willis, Devin Johnston, Michael Sikkema, Dario Campos, Joshua Edwards, Kirsten Kaschock, Brian Strang, Kate Greenstreet, Kate Colby, Brennen Wysong, Laura Walker, and Joshua Corey.

“Free Again,” a chapbook by Joseph Lease.

“Falling Is the Safest Thing to Do: An Interview with Elizabeth Robinson” by Sarah Rosenthal.

Reviews: Erin Wilson on “Poetry and its Arts: Bay Area Interactions 1954-2004” (a California Historical Society exhibit, curated by Steve Dickison), Julie Carr on Evelyn Reilly’s Hiatus, Molly Lou Freeman on Christine Hume’s Alaskaphrenia, India Radfar on Liz Waldner’s Saving the Appearances, Elise Ficarra on Brian Strang’s Incretion, Tiff Dressen on Megan Pruiett’s To Music, Denise Nico Leto on Carol Snow’s The Seventy Prepositions, Noah Eli Gordon on Thoma Fink’s After Taxes, and Cristin Bishara on Becky Peterson’s Metropolitan Bird Culture.

Two poems. One by Brian Strang:

The naturalist has three gardenias under glass and an
unparalleled collection of teaspoons. Surely, this is reason
enough to get to the business of living. He puts his eyepiece
into the water and comes undone at the sight of the
loneliness below.

On the message boards, on the scoreboards, on the tickers
and soft screens: a running tally, a partial list of the dead and
wounded. Beasts of the pit are making off with mashy,
yeasty things. Ever polite to their assassins, pilgrims born
completely mature kneel and dip their heads and are
stitched up one at a time with the most elegant touches. A
paisley appears on my skin after the first four degrees of the
sun’s decline.
And one—out of Joseph Lease’s chapbook, wherein all the pieces carry a single, repeat’d title:
Free Again


we’re the middle class—venting

collectors really began hounding us, but luckily our mom
saw an Oprah show about non-profit debt management—
what have you seen—I can’t answer—anything—these
walls—holy garbage—words and power and blinking
lights—pieces of mirror sweep the word: each step jiggles
pink builidings—the Americans are here, drunk on their own

                    last night this wire
                    trashcan made a torch—
                    the Americans are
                            here, drunk on not
                    having to

Am I seeing more direct political engagement lately, the rictus grin and grimace of it, if nothing else? There’s, too, Fanny Howe’s “Conscription” (“The boys are leaving town”) and stray aimless violence conceded everywhere. How implicated is one in it? That is, is it that being “drunk on not / having to / respond—” that allows one the seeming grace of the empty gesture? Is the gesture empty? Is the nod to self-implicate of any use? Opposed to compliant nonchalance and “same-as-it-ever-was-ism?” Is there any use to scribble’d down anger? In consolidating that anger? Questions, lists, listing questions . . .


Up too early and skipping the rev of caloric upsuck (th’usual coffee and cereal is what I’m “talking about”), off on J.’s (tiny) bicycle after skittering a few yards down the street astride my own: flat tire mayhem. Off to “blood work.” In late, dull, duller, dullard. I did note Jordan Davis’s naming of the animal: “the club—chumminess—the circle of insiders—complicity—collusion—scratch-my-back.” And I’m not sure I see it, though I may be blind in my one good eye. What I see is more like “cussedness,” that good old American narrow-mindedness, a way of running down the opposition in order to prop oneself up, and doing it in a way that shuts off the faucet of curiosity, that is, without evidence-shred, by feat and declaration: my Coolidge beats your Simic. Or, worse: my Coolidge beats any of your old stupid “ssshhhhh” poets. Or, worst: my “after-before” crowd whoops your old stupid “ssshhhhh” poets. Narrow, petulant, dumb’d down Gumpism. Which is completely and measurably American. Where’s curiosity, omnivorism? Where’s a willingness to push against a crowd? Where’s a new thing stumbled up against and the hoot of “Hey, y’all, lookit!” A club of conformists, is it?


To work.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Carny, Barker



Wherever We Put Our Hats, No. 1, edited by Jon Leon ($5, 429 Euclid Terrace B, Atlanta, Georgia 30307)

Poems by Aaron Tieger, Kate Schapira, Alli Warren, Tim Yu, Joel Dailey, Bruce Covey, Jennifer Moxley, Eric Ambling, Jon Leon, John Latta, and Aaron McCollough

Editor’s remark: “All necessary words welcome.” Pound-pithy, terse, and just. And fits the magazine to a T. Straight, no chaser. An eight-and-a-half by eleven format, pale gray cover graced by title (a line snatch’d off Zukofsky if I recall, reminding me of the title of a Dick Gallup book, and—signal getting weaker—a John Hartford song), three-hole punch’d and bound with brad pins. And the poems print’d sans serif in Helvetica or one of its offshoots. Point.

I used to dismiss some poets with a line like: “None of those poems had to be written.” Which is why I like Jon Leon’s editorial note. It’s something I still think one’s able to sniff out: that is, when somebody’s just faking it, putting forth something that’s either habitual, or expect’d, or “this year’s model,” or whatever. It’s not so much authenticity of feeling, or bravado of idea, that comes up lacking, it’s a pulse, an undeniable push to song, something vatic, ineffable, and in barest control.

Two poems out of Wherever We Put Our Hats. One by Jennifer Moxley:

It was all promising, and all we thought about was what would happen. Now everything has happened and it seems all that is let for us to do is a lot of explaining. But there is a hinge up ahead. I can feel it. The entire book, its cumbersome cardboard pages worn on its plastic spiral makeshift binding, is slowly changing its attitude. This angle-shift is imperceptible and fear, never before a problem, is causing some static in the process. The present context is breading up and there is nothing that can stop it. We have deduced the advent of this oncoming shake-up from watching ourselves practice the abandonment of the thing we once stood for and loved.
One (a section of one, out of a longer piece call’d Diphasic Rumors) by Jon Leon:

5.1 was mostly thinking of dragging some un-
fortunate dates on board. Sugar clams, Australian
pearls, metaoysters. 4.6 schedules lost dictum.
Radio bleeds magnetic. The antenna manned by one
A. B. Litz. A desirable, but not one of 5.9.
Betrayal came like hornets on a waltz. 5.1
heard distant flutes & neon streamers. A smashing
of gall, a cylindrical shaft. 5.6 heard glass.
Chewed gum outside the spontaneous rafters.
To the beaches of San Juan.

Notes on reviewing poetry (a helter-skelter provoked by Mr. Equanimity and Mr. Pantaloons, mainly).


And I go off to read about the Vermicious Knids attacking the Great Glass Elevator and, coming back, I think: what do I mean by “notes on reviewing poetry”? I, who turn’d down every offer / request to write reviews? (No, not quite right, I did, at the tag end of 1991, write a review of a biography / memoir of Neruda, writ by one Volodia Teitelboim, the stunning kind of name one stumbles into only in South America, and had it publish’d in the Los Angeles Times, who paid me handsomely. All a fluke. J., who did write unsign’d reviews for one of the high-clout trade rags, was supposed to do the job, and something something she pass’d it along. I end’d it with something bonehead like: “We’re lucky to have it.” Meaning the book. And got roundly mock’d by J. for it—post-cinema, post-whatever, J.’d say solemnly: “Well, we’re lucky to have that.


Johnny No-Help I am, with the “review dilemma.” I think I start’d writing th’Hotel in order to put a word in—here and there—for and against things others were talking about. “Join the conversation.” I don’t see anything ethical (or not) about saying what one likes (or dislikes), and the notion of “no zing-zing,” wouldn’t that accrue a lethal somnolence, a Pollyanna-land nod-off? There’re probably some natural (honor) “codes” here about not picking on somebody smaller’n you are, or not pecking at the same (bald) head all time. Common sense. However, if somebody’s all puff’d up and be-stogie’d, a cultural capitalist fat cat boss out of ’thirties-era Wobblie cartoons—well, it’s fair and deserving to puncture him (or her) with a sharp pencil, no?


The thesis burden: who needs the thesis burden. Shouldn’t review-writing be a kind of elegant chatter? Organickal grousing with th’intermiscibles of “daily life”? “I read the new Ashbery whilst washing my socks, and . . .” All tumble and rush and plenty-plenty excerpts—at the very least they’ll come across as antithetical to whatever “point” one’s thinking to make in the chatter, no? I’m not convinced by Lessing: “Lessing will tell you, pastiche will never kick through-composition’s ass.” Ain’t part of th’animosity that thesis-grinder Silliman incites due to the high-mount-sermonesque style, result of said “through-composition”? Yes, and no.


And, of course, the writing should be up to the level of the poetry under consideration—or higher. Who wants to read a dullard-piece on a terrific poet? Me, I’d rather the reviewing outshined the plenary “subject”—think of Guy Davenport on Charles Olson—I get excited enough by Davenport that I go off to try Big Chas. once again. Besides, what would one do, cache away the “good” writing for a poem? I say, spray the whole territory, riddle it.


Or suddenly I think: er, I rarely read reviews anyhow, why should I care about any big Schmeerkunst of a review sheet that’d gobble down the poetry books and set—pleasantly (or unpleasantly)—to burping out dicta. I read “code red writing,” and if I find a “code red writer” who presumes to write reviews I’ll seek out and read all the reviews I find. Right now: Ross Feld. “Code red writing.” Oh, “good,” “essential,” “witty,” “nimble”—I try to avoid excess superlative-mongering, it makes one look like a ninny.


“Service to poetryland.” Um, isn’t writing “a few good poems” (inescapable frickin’ military) service enough? Yes, and no. One must needs be present at the beheading, too. (Gots to tuck my off-key singing head into my arm-crook now—like a football—and “with my one good arm” swim off down the river now . . .)


In the morning walk: the twin catalpa trees in full-flower, holding the frilly torches aloft. If one peers into the gaping soft bedraggle, one sees high arching anthers tuck’d up out of sight, a faint ruby trail inward, and two piercingly intense splashes (brush-load’d daubs) of yellow. As if a pollen-cover’d bumblebee’d dropped its load.


Am I against a perfect review space? Yes, and no. Yes, because centralized anything’s a diminution of available autonomous energies. I keep two (romantic) models in the scorch’d out brainpan “area”: one of the countless newspaper of pre-Civil War Brooklyn (see Whitman) and elsewhere. (And post-Civil War going west, all those newspaper-sodden outposts of the high plains where people engaged the press—think of all the letters sign’d “A Farmer.”) The other model: the mimeo rag “revolution” of the ’sixties. A carnivalesque atmosphere is still possible in Blogland—let it flourish. No premature drifts toward consolidation. (There’s a somewhat inspiring book about some of what I say here, point’d more at composition / rhetoric studies: Textual Carnivals: the Politics of Composition, by Susan Miller. I read it so I could be a professor someday.)


The big however is: it’s difficult to “track” current activity. If Ron Silliman’s got five hundred and fifty poet-bloggers link’d, that’s about five hundred and twenty-five more than anybody can “get to” with any regularity. Good to know they’re there, impractical for the daily browse. I usually camp at Steve Evans’s Third Factory links, a good selection (though I skip a few, add a few). I keep trying to get my own Hotel Hotel page of links up and reasonably “complete”—but, oh, you know, excess administrative-makeovering, it makes one look like a ninny.


To work.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005



Semi-alarming temptation to say “Bah!” and be done with it. Season of Etta James and constricting tempers. Season of “Brooks Run Into the Ocean.” Reading David Antin (i never knew what time it was) for lack. And the occasional nugatory:
because time is measured by change         and change destabilizes all things         especially human things         because we are all temporary steady state systems who like to         have to         think of ourselves as stable in order to imagine ourselves as selves at all
Which extemporized contemporary sense of time and the self I rather “liked.” And, too, I appreciated the Antin claim to an exploratory (opposed to the lack of exploratory “vigor” of a bowler: “a bowling alley is all intention         how often have you seen a bowler pick up the ball and roll it in another direction”):
now as an artist ive never felt so purposive that it seemed i was looking down an alley at a bunch of ideas i wanted to knock down         sometimes i felt like ideas were running in all directions         and some of them were running by me         and i was tempted to stick out my foot to see what might happen
Which is dandy, and right-thinking, and, “comme on dit,” “exploratory,” except that “when the pigs get the slop, and the bats crowd the rafters,” what Antin’s got to say is often sententious, commonplace, intent commodified by use into the kind of moralizing shrug that “gets” “one” “nowhere” and merely repeats back the lugubrious song of the American “tribe”:
if youre lost in a forest and you have no idea which way to go         go for it straight ahead         because its not likely to be any worse than anything else
Which ends the first piece. Or, at the end of a piece call’d “california—the nervous camel” and talking about the light of dead stars in a high icky metaphorickal way as a ringer for remembering the dead:
where it looks so bright to us while so many of them must be already dead and may have been dead for millions of years         but their light is still with us and could stay with us for many more thousands of years
        we have to think about our lives that way
Or—after attending an international conference in Romania and being shown (privately, with other conferees) in a “big bucharest museum” a “special exhibition” of paintings and sculptures of th’ex-tyrants Ceaucesu and wife:
no one else was allowed to see it         looking at all these ceaucescus side by side and arm in arm and always holding the iconic lily in statues running in size from dwarf lawn jockey s to public park monuments         i figured that somehow in spite of everything         in romania         it would be all right


To work.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Pigment, Period


Bought (50¢ Yard Sale):

Their Ancient Glittering Eyes: Remembering Poets and More Poets, by Donald Hall (Ticknor & Fields, 1992)

Hall on Marianne Moore, who’s tired of “branding”: “My last communication from her was bewildering. On a postcard . . . she mentioned that she would probably have nothing to contribute, “except that I don’t write Syllabic Verse although of course words have syllables. M. M.” With the reminder that words have syllables, we ceased our correspondence.”

And Moore on how a poem begins: “A felicitous phrase springs to mind—a word or two, say—simultaneous usually with some thought or object of equal attraction: “Its leaps should be set / to the flageolet”; “Katydid-wing subdivided by sun / till the nettings are legion.” I like light rhymes and unpompous conspicuous rhymes: Gilbert and Sullivan: . . . I have a passion for rhythm and accent, so blundered into versifying.”

The other poets (the book’s a revision of an earlier, similarly-titled, one): Frost, Dylan Thomas, Eliot, Archibald MacLeish, Yvor Winters, Pound.


Sensual Math, by Alice Fulton (W. W. Norton, 1995)

Language gussy’d up flirts with imprecision. There’s an admirable beauty to the unadvised recklessness. There’s an underlying annoyance at the way “wrongs,” too, get deliver’d with the slurry:
Driving home these bitterly Michigan nights,
I often pass the silver bins of pigs
en route to the packing house. Four tiers to a trailer.
A massive physical wish to live
blasts out the slits
as the intimate winter streams in.
A dumb mammal groan pours out and December pours in
freezing the vestments of their skin
to the metal sides, riddling me
with bleakness as I see it.

Reading Fairfield Porter’s selected letters in Material Witness. A terrifically clear expression of what “painting” is (opposed to concerns about the artist’s “social” role: the “what” of painting rather than the “how” of it):
“American-type” painting . . . starts from painting as a way of manipulating pigment with a brush: that is, it starts very radically from the implied proposition that a painting is the result of moving pigment over a surface. It starts from nature—the nature of work done with paint. You start from this: if you are an artist, you make art from this. . . . American-type painting starts . . . with the notion that a painting is, after all, this: just paint, and not illusion. It does not express ideas often as European painting, and in this sense is “purer.”
Though, too, Porter notes:
(To speak of a literary content in a painting is not to disparage its painterliness.)
Think of John Singer Sargeant.


One reason for reading Porter—any artist who writes impeccably about art—is one I try to keep a wallop of skepticism about: applying the dicta to poetry. Is there use in thinking of poetry in terms of “a way of manipulating words . . . moving words together and separate on the page”? Porter points directly to such analogy-making, providing ’s own:
. . . what I like in painting and in writing is sensitiveness for the innate value of colors (concrete colors, the ones that are actually used in a painting) and for the innate value of words, of course the concrete ones that are used. In writing, there must be enough space, or perhaps I should say interval, between the nouns, adjectives and verbs; and in painting enough space (or interval between the colors, so that each one is in the appropriate place, and can breathe there.
Which is finely put, though I ain’t completely in on the altogether of what it could possibly mean.

“Innate value”—that’s kind of a costly intangible material. Without which the whole structure goes down. It’s not “meaning,” it’s not “sound,” or “look” or “heft,” (we’re talkin’ just words now)—par contre, I do know, inexpressibly, what Porter’s “saying.” Elsewhere, I talk’d of the “weight” of words—my example, that “idiot” and “of” weigh essentially the same. Why? (How’s Richard Hugo put it, “Don’t ask why? You have to be a nut to be writing poetry to begin with.)


Other Porter pleasures do abound. He’s capable of ferociously funny paragraphs like the following (to John Ashbery, undated):
I think your moustache must look awful, but then I dislike the current fashion, seen mostly among clerks of fancy haberdashery stores to imitate the gay nineties. There is a clerk in Town and Country on Lexington Ave near fifty first street who grew an enormous one, that looks like nothing so much as a turd across his upper lip. Also it look as though it had sapped his strength, but that is the way the heroes of H. G. Wells novels all seemed to look, as though their moustaches contained all their strength, and that was why they had so little vitality, and could just about wheel themselves around in their tight knickers on bicycle trips. Maybe it also makes me think of my father who once had a moustache of this nature, which I thought of as an inadequate disguise for his fundamental weakness that came out as petulance. If you look English (you already look Scottish) now it should be rather H. G. Wellsish, especially the sandiness of it.
Wellsish! I admit to a long-standing (I didn’t say perverse) interest in Ashbery’s moustache. For I recall—vividly!—a thumbnail-sized picture of J.A., just a bust, just next to a similar sketch of Edgar A. Poe. I am nigh-adamantly certain the two were align’d so in the New York Times Book Review, in, oh, th’early- to mid-’seventies, a burgeoning period for such hirsute growths. And the point: an adequate ’boss’d resemblance! Wasn’t it my intent to get a “cut” made of the pair and a print it horribly enlarged (two American monsters!) on the cover of Chiaroscuro, the magazine I edited? It was. I didn’t even clip it. Or I did and misplaced it. Or I didn’t bother to research it. Or I did and discover’d I ’s dead wrong. Or some unabated mess of life intervened and spoil’d it all, my chronology, my career, my perfectly astringent control over, yea, even the titles of my books, took, took, all took by aimless sundering rife forces . . .


Another sticky day in a string of sticky days. Rain that cleanses nothing. Puts water into water-laded air. Sam Cooke lining up. Peter Guralnick noting how Cooke thought r & b was “heading in a direction that more and more was ‘almost all sound. It used to be that sound brought attention to the lyric,’ he explained—but what you needed to do now was to find sounds that could ‘emotionally move’ an audience, ‘inject [the kind of] fervor that makes people want to dance.’ Ah, reveries of pure sound sufficiency trouble my sticky sleep. “Shake.”


To work.

Friday, June 10, 2005



Reading a Hugh Kenner lecture on Gerard Manley Hopkins that Mark Woods point’d at a few days back, I find what needs repeating: “To generalize is to be an idiot, wrote William Blake in the margin of one celebration of high-minded generality, the Discourses of Sir Joshua Reynolds.” Kenner’s talking about Hopkins’s brave insistence on particulars (along with that of W. S. Gilbert—of “and Sullivan,” and Hopkins’s contemporary—whom Kenner honors as “the century’s champion packer of detail into verse, the only English writer who ever found (or needed) a rhyme for square on the hypotenuse.” (It’s “About binomial theorem I’m teeming with a lot o’ news / And interesting facts about the square on the hypotenuse . . .”) What I find notable, or ponderable, in Kenner’s piece: how he points to Wordsworth as “another wrestler with particularity” (against the legacy of Pope, a half-century earlier, who seem’d to be adherent to a dictum of, apparently, Samuel Johnson about the necessity of poetry’s being “in thrall to the Grandeur of Generality,” a fine phrase.) (Also, Johnsoniana: something about it not being the poet’s business “to be numbering the streaks of the tulip,” a canny and wonderful phrase.) (Truthfully, whew, I don’t know who said what—the lines may be Kennerisms for all I know.) Kenner cites a famed Wordsworth title: “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798,” and a note append’d to “Elegiac Verses in Memory of My Brother, John Wordsworth” that points to the line “Here we did stop” and reads: “The point is two or three yards below the outlet of Grisdale tarn, on a foot-road by which a horse may pass to Paterdale—a ridge of Helvellyn on the left, and the summit of Fairfield on the right.” Um, “yards”?

Some years back I recall making a plaint about particular material in poems that seem’d gratuitous, merely true. A funny way to put it. A lot of it brand-naming—the Volvo, and you just know that Joe Academic who wrote the damn thing drives one. That’s one thing. The other is—to tend to my tipsy model of a “speech” / “writing” teeter-totter in American poetic letters—is: is there a similar suasion and drift towards (and away out of) the general (or the particular)? All those clotted bits of retold myth detritus that one finds in, say, the Hall / Pack / Simpson anthology: aren’t they claiming a generality (a universal) no matter the myth “at hand.” Opposing: gritty particulars of, say, Gary Snyder, tool-naming. Lorine Niedecker’s pipsissewa (wintergreen). Question is: where are “we” “now”? Are fragments always “particulars,” or is it possible to push forth a style that is one of “general-pointing fragment-muck”? Which is saying—one supposes—that the form’s become the thing, the particular content of the pieces is subservient to the piecèdness.


Vibe’d out and—after plowing through a wash of blog-print-outs (I accumulate these with alarming swiftness, and regularity—though I should note the pleasure I found in Tim Peterson’s recent Mappemunde reader-catalogues)—I turn’d attention to David Antin’s new collection i never knew what time it was (University of California, 2005).

and read         one whole tedious shindig         its called         “a manifesto”         in the book itself         about going to a         “mattress warehouse”         that is         david and elly         or sometimes it is eleanor         go to a mattress warehouse         to         naturally         select a new mattress         thats right and thats exactly what i thought to myself too         sitting in the hot vechicle         a fucking mattress!?         and halfway through         because im not enjoying it much i start giggling         and the reason i am giggling is because ive just thought of something thats not         giggle-material at all         its anger-material         but the unpleasant absurdity of how david antins book begins with a talk about buying a mattress         in encinitas or miramar         and how it rather winkingly titles itself         the theory and practice of postmodernism         as if that explained or even allowed         it to be so vacuous         all that is making me kind of mad and im getting the idea         im giggling with the idea that         i think the book should come equipped with an index         and the reason for an index         or my desire for an antin i never knew what time it was index in the new book         is so that i can look up the word “mice”         and see if david antin related any self-satisfied and vaguely humorous “talks” about how he used that word         “mice”         to identify by analogy osama bin laden         and osama bin ladens recruits         this in the post-september eleventh hysteria         and this in the buffalo poetics list discussion         a discussion that i think i recall someone calling         its finest hour         as if we american poets were fat little churchills with cigars or roosevelts with natty cigarette-holders         what david i never knew what time it was antin said was         “either we kill them off or they will continue to produce intermittent havoc” and what he also said is “when your house is infested with mice         you kill off as many as you can” and “when they reappear you go after them again” which is the kind of thing one says         if one can talk for an hour or so         about an expedition with his wife to fetch home         an eight hundred dollar mattress         from encinitas or miramar         and transcribe it artily sans majescules and put it out in a book         for a man to write about         or giggle in anger about         here in mice-free america         that is to say the usa


To work.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Blue, Sopping


Didn’t I used to collect phrases for the moon? Insect racket and neighborhood scents, that hardy cut grass laminate sealing down a sub-nasality of exhaust fume and barbecue dreg? So, tonight—the moon a crescent dent, mark of a hammer-blow just glanced off the sky’s low matte finish. And a peculiar blood-in-the-urine pinkish tinge veering to orange.


Baseball practice with G. First year of kid’s pitch. Watching the clover grow in right field, impatient to bat, G. is. Me, vertigo under the highest vault of sky, cirrus horse-tailing out as tracery into th’imperceptible. Longing to be absorb’d faultlessly up into that sopping blue.


Second nigh-iridescent green beetle in two days. Found crawling determinedly “oon me oown ’maculate person.”


Thomas Eakins (quoted in Fairfield Porter’s 1959 monograph, part of the series that includes O’Hara’s Jackson Pollock): “The big artist does not sit down monkey-like and copy a coal scuttle . . . but he keeps a sharp eye on Nature and steals her tools. He learns what she does with light, the big tool, and then color, then form. . . . The big artists . . . had the greatest confidence in nature, and when they made an unnatural thing they made it as nature would have made it, and thus they are really closer to nature than the coal-scuttle painters ever suspect.” Which bangs one right up against Williams’s “the perfection of new forms as additions to nature” that Spring and All adds to the vocabulary. Though Eakins confuses th’issue: “If a man makes a hot day he makes it like a hot day he once saw or is seeing; if a sweet face, a face he once saw or which he imagines from old memories and his knowledge, and he combines, never creates—but at the very first combination no man, and least of all himself could ever disentangle the feelings that animated him just then, and refer each one to its right place.” Relation, rearrangement contre invention.


Fairfield Porter (by reports, an abrupt man) reports Walt Whitman’s admiration for Thomas Eakins’s refusal to indulge in “social graces.” Whitman:
Eakins does wear well, he is a good comrade. What are social gifts? The parlor puts quite its own measure upon social gifts. I should say, Tom Eakins lacks them as, for instance, it would be said that I lack them: not that they are forgotten, despised, but that they enter secondarily upon the affairs of my life. Eakins might put it this way: first there is this thing to do, then this other thing, then maybe a third thing or this fourth: these done, got out of the way, now the social graces . . . he does not dismiss them but puts them in their place.
And, muddying the sense of the presumed allure of perfecting “additions to nature,” Whitman says “I never knew but one artist, and that’s Tom Eakins, who could resist the temptation to see what they think ought to be rather than what is.”


Morning fatigue bringing up a slew of titular muck out of th’immediate slough, uncontrollably: “Daisy l’Arriviste,” “The Little Behemoth,” “Proportional Ironies,” “Period Steel,” (“Period Steal”), “The Ballad of Hittie Two-Fists,” “Scratch Thad,” “Submersible Leica,” “Red Eft in Lycopodia.”


Fairfield Porter: “What counts is what is made, not what is used.”


To work.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Waylaid, Ambrosial


Proposed addition to th’Evans / Moxley Flaubertian Dictionary of Received Ideas:
Clark Coolidge: Always use the word “percussive” when referring to Clark Coolidge’s “difficult” poetry. Note knowingly: “He’s a trained jazz drummer.”

Received (Bridge Street Books):

Rousseau’s Boat, by Lisa Robertson (Nomados, 2004) ($10, P.O. Box 4031, 349 West Georgia Street, Vancouver, B.C. Canada V6B 3Z4)

How severely and assuredly the sentences proceed, with a kind of deft ridicule to the notion that they, or anything, could be any different. And what solace is there in that:
Twilight is like mercury on queer moss.

The day in the rooms passes.

If what I held was a small yellow lamp, its gentle light would not penetrate the intelligible.

I noticed the viscosity of dimness.

I felt my arms love.

A man is shouting into a civic silence—please help me, please.

A distant thin ribbon of cirrus ebbs into space.

It was very early in the morning.

Like radios, opiates, the groin’s endless currency and surreptitious edge, buildings torn out of earth and forgotten

Light could be tasted, had an odour like a tin can.

Girlhood is a landscape.

Across the morning earth, the pangs of a dying economy.
Out of a section call’d “Utopia /” Towards the end, announcement in larger type: “This is the beginning of Utopia / Its material is time.” Periodic time-markers (“It was 1993.” “It was the spring of my thirty-fifth year.”) Declaration: th’utopic resides in style. Is attainable through “the negligent fall of a scarf,” the “marriage of accident and need.” A kind of bravado that is utterly convincing and revives, under no little duress, a lyric sensibility. A lyric capable of containing anonymity, which is to say, everything. Steve Evans writes about Rousseau’s Boat in Jacket 27.


American Whatever, by Tim Davis (Edge, 2004) ($12.50, P.O. Box 25642, Georgetown Station, Washington, D.C. 20007) Cover painting—The Legend of Creve Coeur by Lisa Sanditz. Cover design by Dirk Rowntree.

Long piece call’d “The Missing Month.” (Individual titles like “allfallsday,” “endofmeday,” “nicefalsiesday,” “aspicparataxisday.”) Manic prose paragraphs, high glut of “product placement,” sound pursuant to sound, pun, jokey aside, “poor” “taste” “rules.” One:

How might a heart-shaped vomit pile feel fated as preemies in a breeze? Recall the reborn October bees feeding on hair extensions outside said Soul-Saving Station back when the money still had people and animals on it. Propositions are princes and the poem is a kiss. Do the blind nod and say “I see . . .”? Absurd breeders! Sometimes I feel I’m farming a crop of flack from the freeway to the sea. The Symphonia shuttled in to play some embarrassing Sibelius on a fold-out stage off Chapel. Nearby boys wish there weren’t whiffle ball and trudge through antique failed urban renewal corridors to avoid “The Fertile Crescendo.” Back at the vomit pile we’re talking final movement. The three-point line has grown a beard of burrs while boys throw dice for copies of “Mad” and “Cracked.” The street seems overanxious to show off its collection of our skeevy leavings.
Dystopia, unlimited? There is, too, a kind of Biercean dictionary sequence—“In the Details, a Deviled Dictionary”—with entries alphabetickal for “Bourbon Street,” “Customer,” “Founding Fathers,” “Lobbyist,” “National Security,” “Porno,” “Safe Sex,” among others. Sudden intuitive punch that the “focus” (and somewhat shorter room to manoeuvre in) allows Davis a steadier hand, a more lethal fist. Here’s one definition:
Vote: What, when not in mosh pit, cigarette-broke brinksmen think of trigger fingers. A penitent pimientoist at Blimpie won’t. Like an open invitation from different bosses to show up on time and mop. Who has ever said “I move to?” My Conscience for Comptroller. Ballottement. Home Shopping Network on every band. Sing for your supposition. Then back to the woodwork with you.
A whole nation’s “American whatever,” its vainglorious and foolhardy hubris found uncheck’d, even in its debris.


Two Notes Snatch’d Off the Hands of Rackstraw Downes (Porteriana)

Be wary of getting “waylaid in anybody else’s dialectic.”

Be wary of “categories of style,” that they not replace “the works they were intended to clarify.”


To work.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Tuckahoe Road


Ben Friedlander sent me a fatten’d envelope of perusables (and listenables) and I my own ornery self drug home a collection of Fairfield Porter books and it’s vaguely tornado weather and I twist in ineffable circles, not knowing how to proceed.


World War II Radio Speeches: Draft Text / Prototype CDs, by Ezra Pound.

“Historic recordings of nine speeches housed at the National Archives II, College Park, Maryland. Copied, digitized and transcribed by Benjamin Friedlander, with assistance from Stefani Bardin and Carla Billitteri.”

Out of a talk broadcast 22 May 1942 (record’d by the Federal Communications Commission), and titled “E. E. Cummings.” A thing difficult to pull down a sequence out of for all its swerve and clatter. Pound attempts to line up Joyce’s Ulysses (“It cooked up and served the unmitigated goddamn stink of the dying usury era”) and Wyndham Lewis’s Apes of God (“portrays the boil on old England’s neck”) and Cummings’s Eimi as three novels “of thought-out writing by live men,” sign of (forward) movement:
Cummings has a been a carrying on old Henry James, measuring up to him, raised by another, Cummings carrying on from Thoreau, nature, wild nature, all that silver lake background. Three books by three painters. No, Joyce is not a painter, not a bohemian, a small bourgeois to the utmost.
One sees the difficulty. Elsewhere:
America never gets more than half, if that, of the living picture of Europe’s mind. Picture of Europe’s book writing. Like as not, Europe never hears of America’s real mind till twenty or forty years later as America does not serve her writers. Does not make use of her writers. Whitman was oppos . . . imposed from abroad. . . .
A kind of high-speed blither, with high abbreviation. (I think Hugh Kenner’s made the point about the Cantos, particularly the later Cantos: how (earlier) incidents and passages get reduced to key words, phrases, little echoes to set the whole back-structure tintinnabulating again. Maybe. So much of what gets took for innovation is a “fault” or “lack”—I always thought Spicer’s peculiar spelling, puncta, capitals, &c. just the (forgivable) messes of a terminal drunk. Which is what I found “appealing.”)

And out of “Violence” (16 June 1942):
The American has the head, evidently of a chicken. He is incapable of political reverie. The existence of a secret and irresponsible government does not worry him.

The Saló Cantos by Ezra Pound. With a preface by Kimberly Filbee. LXXII translated by Ezra Pound. LXXIII translated by Shinaz Giusti. (Ferrum Wheel, 2004)

Being a miniature book, roughly two by three inches, present’d in a tiny rubber-stamp’d manila specimen envelope, the size good for collecting butterflies. Or dung beetles. Out of LXXII (Filippo Tomaso = F. T. Marinetti, futurist and Fascist):
If one begins to remember the dung war
certain facts will well up again.
                                                     In the beginning God
the great aesthete having created heaven and earth
& after the volcanic sunset, had painted
the rocks with lichen in Japanese manner
Exuded the great usurer Geryon, prototype
of Churchill’s bankers. And there came singing
Filippo Tomaso in rough dialect, with h for c
All right, I am dead, but do not want to go to heaven,
                                            I want to go on fighting
& I want your body to go on with the struggle.
And I answered: “my body is already old,
I need it, where wd. I go?
But I will give you a place in a Canto
giving you voice. But if you want to go fighting
go take some young chap, flaccid and a half-wit
to give him a bit of courage and some brains
to give Italy another hero among so many

Rhyme Scheme, by Benjamin Friedlander (porci con le ali, 2003) “A Subpoetics “self-publish or perish” project.”

“Composed from the end rhymes in Shakespeare’s sonnets.” And proceeding under the aegis of a Miltonic epigraph: “the troublesome and modern bondage of rhyming.” Which sounds like Milton gearing up for a “first heave” well prior to Pound’s (anti-Milton) “first heave.” Here’s “Been”:
Seen everywhere
Increase prime, decrease me,

Fruit thee
Mute cheer near spring,
Trim everything him,
Smell hue, tell.
The other lord o’erlooking the book: Ronald Johnson. What one immediately grasps in reading Rhyme Scheme: how narrow any version of th’experimental is that doesn’t allow the tradition’s tools full consort.


A Knot Is Not a Tangle, by Benjamin Friedlander “Edited by Kimberly Filbee.” (Krupskaya, 2000) Cover photograph by Norma Cole. Cover design by Frank Mueller.

A couple random samples:

Intertextual intestinal track
that the matter of this
musing augurs

Public life, which in Hobbes’s
spelling becomes

All us street kids
Followin’ our bellies
Lookin’ for a li’l meat to feed on
A way of attending that moves one strictly via language (reading): reading entrails all the way over to the “meat” of the matter. Another:
The Tracks of My Tears

Junky vets
from Vietnam
handicap the race

where stunted giants
man the glands
of horse-drawn cares of state

A spoon of sand
weighs down the hand
pulling up their reins

to keep the chain
of strict command
from vein to shining vein
A kind of sound barrier, so sonically tight it is. The flat-a “an” (“nam” “handicap” “giants” “man” “glands” &c.) commanding the noise, with the long-a interrupting (“race” “state” “reins” “chain” “vein”) with a vengeance (the words wherein the long-a sounds being “loaded” terms—the disproportionate numbers of “racial” ’Nam vets, “bringing the war home” with “smash the state” polemickals, My Lai, incidents (cover’d up) of fragging officers, and Papaver somniferum poppy-opiates drug home to meet the kids, sea to shining . . .

There is, to A Knot Is Not a Tangle, a lengthy “Editor’s Envoi” complete with apparatus of “Partial Objects” (poems with lacunae), “Unused Titles,” and “Facsimile Chapbook Attributed to Bernie Fox,” and a Kimberly Filbee “Afterword” (I catch the words—“McClure-Lamantia nexus” and “poetics of heightened confusion”). Promises of celestial hijinks and terrestrial nourriture in the offing.


Note: “a high spiderish rectitude.” “Spider-rich.”


Note on the intangibility of style (heteronymickal or no) and the unswerving and unavoidable “entrance” of the artist (author) into th’art (piece). Fairfield Porter’s remark: “If you are vain it is vain to sign your pictures and vain not to sign them. If you are not vain it is not vain to sign them and not vain not to sign them.”


Collecting (slowly) all the essays I can locate by Ross Feld. In one omnibus review (Rodefer, Hejinian, I forget who, though not O’Hara) out of Parnassus, Feld throws off: “For Frank O’Hara, style served as the pedometer by which he recorded how far his intelligence was in front of his impatience, and vice versa.” Which is why I am collecting Feld.


Note: Crise sonore in Elsinore.


To work.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Faith Gum


Read: Memoir: 1960-1963, by Tony Towle (Faux Press, 2001)

“Jane was the painter Jane Freilicher, in fact the “Jane” I had encountered in several of O’Hara’s and Koch’s poems. I had once thought she was a shared rhetorical device (‘Exactly, Jane . . .’) . . .”


The purely plodding in America crave to get going.


Roundabout trial and error of selecting the “next” book. Flow Chart, no. “The force / of meaning never extrudes.” Danilo Kiŝ’s Homo Poeticus, no. “My ideal has always been a work that, after the first time round, can be read as an encyclopedia (the favorite reading material of Baudelaire and many others), by which I mean that it can be read for its sudden, giddy whirl of topics on the basis of chance and alphabetical (or some other) order. . .” Calasso’s The Forty-nine Steps, no. “And so nothing was left but the comical, a category elastic enough to absorb the parade of catastrophes.” Longing to elaborate the theory of timely reading: knowing (one knows) exactly when it is the moment to begin a reading. Corollary need for monstrous tilting piles of “possibles.”


Reading Material Witness: The Selected Letters of Fairfield Porter. Ted Leigh, the editor, quotes Porter’s combative Nation review of a 1959 MoMA exhibit call’d “New Images of Man”:
. . . if one takes as his subject matter the pit of Buchenwald . . . one takes for subject matter something safely remote from the smallness of daily-life experience . . . . The violent image of man has the purpose of making a creation acceptable to critics, it gives an easy subject matter to critical writing, for these paintings and sculptures seem to mean something profound in proportion to the amount of distortion and the violence of their appearance, and in this way the artist clears himself from a conscience made uneasy by his choice to be only an artist. . . . The artists . . . may seem to be courageously facing the human predicament, but this courage saves [them] from the harder necessity of accepting the difficulties of art.
Which is a complicated kind of thing, and most immediately calls down the recent book by Jorie Graham, Overlord, with, God forbid, a “pensive” (read, near-stuttering) Graham at the D-Day landings. I suspect the “courage” required for undertaking the long poem, or th’heroickally-scaled painting is apt to function similarly. I suspect “distortion” and “violence”—syntactic or semantic—offer up a temporary solution and critical “meat” for a number of foolish works poorly-construct’d. Contrarily: I don’t think anyone—even a “fake” (dishonesty’s got it’s own pulchritudinous weathers in storage for the malfeasant)—need apologize or suffer a troubled “conscience” for any “choice to be only an artist.” I suspect something like Porter’s noblesse oblige is talking there.


Found in David Lehman’s introduction: a handy mnemonic “that helped gallery-goers learn who was who in abstract art”: “Rothko . . . pulled down the shades, Newman closed the door, and Reinhardt shut off the lights.” Second reference in a period of months to Rothko = window. Incroyable. Isn’t it the case, now, fifty years after the heyday of heroickal abstract-expressionism, that one is provided pre-natally with Rothko / Newman distinctions? Reinhardt = all black paintings. I suppose they all do, now, bump around in a room somewheres.

Note to myself (ironic nasal delivery): “You never did ferret out and sniff that newly dug up Rothko manuscript, didja, big boy.”


Porter on the refusal to impose order, preferring to “discover” form in an existing arrangement:
Often in still lifes—almost always in still lifes—I don’t arrange them. Usually it’s just that the way the dishes are on the table at the end of the meal strikes me suddenly. And so I paint it. Part of my idea or my feeling about form that’s interesting is that it is discovered—that it’s the effect of something unconscious like, you know, the dishes are in a certain arrangement at the end of meal because people without thinking have moved things and they have gone away. And I think it’s impossible not to get some sort of form if you don’t think about it. If you do think about it you can get chaos. But if you don’t think about it you get form.
Is that a nigh-mystickal belief (“impossible . . . if you don’t think about it”) or the result of an extraordinarily train’d eye for seeing what’s there? Mystic = seer. Erm, no. If one goes—following th’O.E.D.—to “mytes” for the root: “[L., a. Gr. mu sthj, agent-n. f. *mu s-, root of mu ein to close (the lips or eyes): the primary sense is prob. ‘one vowed to keep silence’. Cf. Gr. muei n (mue ein) to initiate into mysteries.] One initiated into mysteries.” My mystery: Work quick and junk nothing.

A word immediately gummed up with “faith”: Caxton: “To rendre theym from theyr lacyuyte, in-to pudike, mystike, and shamefaste chastyte.” Lacyuyte = lascivity. Now that don’t sound like no fun at all. My mystickal stench: work quick, junk nothing, make lacyuyty loud.

“Toto, I don’t think we’re on Great Spruce Head Island anymore . . .”


The danger of a position that would subordinate aesthetics to art history. [The danger of a position that would subordinate aesthetics to literary history, to some imaginary “progression” made by the avant-garde, that’s “left behind” or “used up” certain methods, narrative, “realism,” &c.] Against Greenberg’s position of the “historical inevitability” of abstract-expressionism. [Against the claims of “right” lineage, and the obfuscate slinging of misnomers like “diachronic” and “post-avant” in an attempt to conceal one’s belief in a martial “historical inevitability”. . .] Porter to Kenneth Koch: “Illusion is what the American avant garde thinks they don’t like.”


G. slap-plucking a guitar stood upright like a bass, and shouting out: “I once knew a genie with a ten-foot wienie / And he show’d it to the girl next door. / She yell’d ‘I see a snake’ and grabbed up a rake / And now it’s only five-foot-four.” Not one out of my repertoire. I recall how, a few days into pre-school, he mention’d John Philip Sousa, and it suddenly struck me that J. and I were no longer the sole source of knowledge.


To work.