Friday, April 11, 2003

Seeing these demonstrations, all apart from any question of their political efficacy, is exciting to me, because in '80 & '84 i was involved in protests at the national conventions as a Yippie. (Warning: site takes forever to load.) Even by the Eighties, though, it had become obvious some things had changed irrevocably: the media no longer felt it necessary to pay attention to what was happening in the streets, or else they could feel free to distort it as they liked, because the streets were not a place. Only what was in front of the cameras was a place...

I didn't know Gerald Burns very well, but he lived in Dallas a long time (though he ended up going to Portland to die) & left a deep impression on the people who knew him in the 70's & 80's here. Sometimes i'll be doing something that is like the way he wrote, & then i'll think of him. I much preferred his prose, which was often brilliant, to his poetry, which was usually impenetrable. Here's something i found on the Internet without much trouble:

"So my lecture would be about Games Wlthout Rules, or games which invent
rules as they go to handle things that come up. If you write long-line
poems, where you break the llnes is like that. Why you say what you say
where. Tyrone, who plays darts well, said to me when he s reading a long
thing he always wants to ask what's the point, why don t you get to the
point? I told him my long poem on magic, A Book of Spells, was about-wanted
to render-what it's like to live in a universe in which magic occurs, or in
which it makes sense for it to occur. Writing it took ten years. I had to
wait, I said, for events to occur, perceptions to happen, and wanted it
1,776 llnes long so it really would be living in it, and that, the effect
of that, was its point.

You make up the rules as you go, and forget them as you go on. You make
them up, but you forget them. If someone asks why you did a thing that way,
you can usually say."

And i wrote this elegy:

"Un tombeau pour G.B."

Tiny fires, to carry Ark
We would build, & not three-korn bread.

Dog-in-hand. i remember,
In Austin you read lost words.

Duffers all, Bacon's mitrailleuse
Sen populo...verse toothbrush.


Ella Wheeler Wilcox tells it like it is:

'All Mad

"He is mad as a hare, poor fellow,
And should be in chains," you say.
I have n't a doubt of your statement,
But who is n't mad, I pray?
Why, the world is a great asylum,
And people are all insane,
Gone daft with pleasure or folly,
Or crazed with passion or pain.

The infant who shrieks at a shadow,
The child with his Santa Claus faith,
The woman who worships Dame Fashion,
Each man with his notions of death,
The miser who hoards up his earnings,
The spendthrift who wastes them too soon,
The scholar grown blind in his delving,
The lover who stares at the moon.

The poet who thinks life is a paean,
The cynic who thinks it a fraud,
The youth who goes seeking for pleasure,
The preacher who dares talk of God,
All priests with their creeds and their croaking,
All doubters who dare to deny,
The gay who find aught to wake laughter,
The sad who find aught worth a sigh,

Whoever is downcast or solemn,
Whoever is gleeful and glad,
Are only the dupes of delusion--
We are all of us--all of us mad.'

from Maurine and Other Poems (1888)

   Brown smudge on the
Pale cerulean dissipates.
   The militainment
Winds down. Our little Caesar
Frowns over a tattered map.

I'd seen Sylvia Plath's drawings of course, but until now i wasn't aware that she was also a Cubist painter.

It's not easy to find stuff in English on Heribert Illig, but this seems truly "phildickian" (of or relating to the works of Philip K Dick): he apparently believes that the years between 700 & 900 AD do not exist,, they lost track of the real year for awhile, & when they resumed, miscounted.

sharawadgi - beautifully asymmetrical (--Sir William Temple 1683 & 1685; used by Pope & Horace Walpole. A corruption from the Chinese. Discussed by Lovejoy in Essays in the History of Ideas; he says it expresses "an aesthetic category distinct from both the sublime and the beautiful" & equates it with another term of the same period, "picturesque". I want to resurrect this term to suggest the positive quality of a new aesthetic which i am beginning to formulate, involving several dimensions: one of which is to contain as many opposites ("perfections") as possible, e.g. red & green, fast & slow, geometric & organic...; another, tiug, might be defined as nonjudgmental referentiality, that is, invoking or appropriating a pre-existent form--be it icon, symbol, artwork, or cliche'--simply as a starting point or "hermitcrab-shell container" in which to put the new creation. See also zoomars.)

(Just off the top of my head, some works with this quality: the song "Bohemian Rhapsody"; Schwerner's The Tablets. Lessing's The Golden Notebook, "Titus" (the movie); & House of Leaves (Danielewski).

It appears the key to Auden's masterpiece The Orators is a paper by John Layard in J. Roy. Anthrop. Inst. Jul/Dec 1930 on the New Hebrides Islanders. I have not read this paper, & it may be that to do so would destroy the magic which this book posseses (& most of the rest of Auden's works lack--). But if you look at it as a case of tiug, then it is not necessary to read the paper. He painted, so to speak, on another canvas, guided by his reaction to what was already there--but the viewer doesn't have to have watched him at work.

the Need of Algebra - the effort to transcend irony

One Party Rule means never having to say you're sorry. --sayings of Asmodeus

The first rap song: "Trouble Every Day" by the Mothers of Invention (Freak Out, 1965). Not coincidentally, this is about the Watts Riots:

"You know that five in every four
Won't amount to nothing more
Than watch the rats roll 'cross the floor
And make up songs 'bout being poor..."

Wittgenstein's brother Paul, a talented pianist, lost an arm in the war; composers such as Prokofiev wrote special one-armed piano pieces for him. I think of lipograms this way...

While i'm mentioning Auden, i mustn't forget the truly extraordinary site Forgotten Ground Regained.
Paul Deane wants to revive the Old English accentual-alliterative meter, a project not quite as quixotic as it sounds. Though C.S. Lewis in an important essay explains it enough for a modern poet to try to follow the rules, i think there are some fundamental difficulties that have still to be overcome, notably the historically-lessening prominence of stress in spoken English. But it is an experiment well worth trying, if only that it makes writing so much harder.

(The essay i mentioned is: Lewis, C.S. "The Alliterative Meter." Jess B. Bessinger,
ed. Essential Articles for the study of Old English poetry. Hamden: Archon, 1968. 305-18. (Also in one of
his collections, i forget which one.))

A couple of things i liked in the current movie "Bringing Down the House": they sneak in a glimpse of the Watts Towers, & in one scene the friend of Steve Martin's character asks him to pass on a message to Queen Latifah's character: "Tell her 'The cool points are out the window. I'm all twisted up inside.'" When she hears this, she says, "That's about the nicest thing anyobne ever said to me." Later we find out this means: "I love you." And for once, a mainstream movie presents something with the essence of poetry, without grandstanding or getting it wrong.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Best Titles. Eden Burning. Eating People is Wrong. Then Came Brain Damage. Wodwo. This Tree Grows Out of Hell. Mad Empress of Callisto. Cat Ate My Gym Suit. The Screaming Dead Balloons. Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Always Is Not Forever. My Happy Days In Hell. Midnight Is A Place.

"When Burgess met Borges they chatted in Anglo-Saxon." --Martin Amis

"Did we fly to the moon too soon?" --Tasmin Archer

"John Tzetzes (c.1110-c.1180)... His principal works are...(3) The Historiae or Chiliads, a versified commentary on his letters in 12,674 15-syllable lines. ...He later composed a prose commentary on his commentary." --Penguin Companion to Classical & Byzantine, Oriental & African Literature

Whatever maps onto our cages is the world. --sayings of Asmodeus

Rock is the Hinduism of modern religions; with martyrs, mass rituals, & even heresiarchs. Its tentacular ubiquity seems such that, any attempt to establish an oppositional culture to it (e.g. punk), must become instantly incorporated into its structure; only the secret or amateur musicologist remains outside. It's no coincidence that the PoMo era coincides with the Reign of Rock...

Words for kinds of traffic, as the Eskimo (supposedly) have for kinds of snow...

"In a blank ghostly glare shone the bleak ghostly camp" --Owen Meredith

Rationalism might be called the fallacy of believing language to be a category of description, rather than that description is a special use of language.

Above all, anger is a safe response. It preserves a frozen snapshot of the victim-victimizer relationship, out of time; whereas real change can only happen in time, & through other aspects that this snapshot left out.

The terrain changes; so does the dance. What doesn't is the need to keep balance.

"And it seemed to be, while I sat there so musing, that there is a double strength in tradition. First, the strength which we all know, the strength of continued names and forms which, though they become archaic and grotesque, bind the sons to the fathers and are, therefore, most religiously to be preserved. But the second, stranger and more powerful, more full of body, is that strength in tradition which has a resurrection about it that assures a continuance of life. There is a sort of tradition which is not a form, nor a ritual, nor a name, but a surviving influence... So I mused in the cathedral of Saragossa the last time I was there." --Belloc, Towns of Destiny (1931)

the Pumpkinification - the Nineteen Eighties as a styleperiod

Deep turquoise butterfly struggling at my feet; looking closer, i discover one of its wings is half missing.

My inner necessity is not for Art per se but for Alchemy. Art is my preferred channel for this process. And some of it can never be assimilated into existing artforms...

Slang is a place for those who have no place.

Passive-Aggression is the Hero with a Thousand Faces. --sayings of Asmodeus

Beyond the things i make, either as part of my daily practice--usually in forms i already use (often my constant poem-making resembles a hen laying unfertilized eggs...)--or as milestones representative of cusps in my life--these are usually more elaborate & self-sufficient ("cairns")--there is the form evolved out of my notebooks, that i call braidtext: recurrent topics, that i add to as they occur to me; & which i think of as different colored strands of discourse. This would make a good hypertext but, not having the programming skills, i have to make do with the "unfolded" version: call it a Tesseract. --And only there does my work faithfully reflect the complexity of my experience.

The ideal writer is also a reader, but the ideal reader has no time for anything else. Change in Genre tends to be driven by the boredom of its producers.

Nobody wanted to be PostModern. --sayings of Asmodeus

Poverty, like ageing, a necessary indignity. Squalor, like anger, not.

Turbulent Sixties, Mellow Seventies, Emetic Eighties, Wacky Nineties...Nacreous Oughts.

"I am very fond of poems of one line--some Roman poets wrote them--but it is difficult to understand these poems without knowing the men who wrote them." --The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin

"The Fall of Baghdad"

Dark candle, you could call me
Now or let this knife make
    Across my moon snow
Each slavish landscape void
Puts less out.

(All 14 vowels once, then again. It might be easier if schwas didn't count.)

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Of the form called "makrugh".

I wanted a form which would introduce an arbitrary
element recurringly, with a hidden significance. So
starting with a text i once created using a computer
to randomize words ("Star Grope"), i numbered the words
& created a second matrix of numbered slots. The positions
that correspond to prime numbers in the matrix, i circled.
Then, for each prime-numbered matrix position, i wrote in
the words of "Star Grope" consecutively (in green ink). The
result was a fill-in-the-blanks form with every so often
a word that had to be used. The ensuing matrix can be used
for poems of any length or structure. After i've written
a poem using one part of the matrix, the next poem i write
begins where the last one left off. And at the end of the
matrix i begin again where i started...
The first set of matrix poems i wrote were in ABAB iambic
pentameter quatrains. The next ones, however, i put in a
syllabilistic meter of my own invention called "snowflakes":
each stanza has lines of 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 syllables, in
any order. Further constraints suggested themselves: parts
of this series omit the letter E; some are composed using
only the words from a magnetic poetry set (& a few parts
use only the words from that set that lack an E). After a
single pass through the matrix, i sometimes would let words
from the previous matrix show through...

The entirety i have called "The Mothman Elegies". It is a
series that now, after three passes of "makrugh", seems not
quite at the point of changing into something else; & so i
am making these notes for closure, & to suggest further
exploration to others in search of a new way of constructing
longer poems.

You haven't read mad poets till you've read the mad poets of sci-fi: R.A.Lafferty, David R Bunch (whose Moderan explains the Bush Doctrine if nothing else can), & A. Merritt (where is the Pixar flick of The Metal Monster!!)... Clark Ashton Smith deserves a whole entry to himself; both his decadent-baroque poetry & his much better known short stories are excellent. (Later i realized i was slighting the other, non-mad, poets of scifi, so let me just mention Samuel R Delany, Cordwainer Smith, & Arthur C Clarke when he wrote Against the Fall of Night.)

The first Language Poem:

"There was an old man of Dunoon
Who always ate soup with a fork
  For he said, 'As I eat
  Neither fish, fowl, nor flesh,
I should finish my dinner too quick.'"

W. S. Gilbert

ALL the neo-formalisms: actually, there are as many ordering principles
as you want. pick any two contrastive features, & emphasize
one of them in a way that will be perceived as recurrence.
this is the figure, the rest is the ground. we are not
limited by the ones commonly collected by authors of
treatises on prosody: i have written poems, for instance,
in which all the letters of each line (A=1, B-2...Z=26)
added up to 365. or alternated lines in each of three
languages ABCABC... instead of rhyming, endwords could
be marked by reverse consonance (as a poet in the Phil-
ippines invented); or there could be a cadence of stresses
& nonstresses that repeats at irregular intervals within
a free verse poem. these are only just a few thoughts that
came to mind at the moment. but it seems to me that the
principle here is this: that you have some algorithm
which cuts across the spontaneous utterance & transforms
it, whether by compelling or prohibiting a certain element.
in a word: ASKESIS.

Reputations & the Ecology of Letters:
i won't dispute that the percentage of poestasters
surely has remained constant since the age of Homer,
but the situation has entirely altered for several
reasons: namely, the total population has increased
manyfold; the literacy rate, & especially the number
of those persuaded of writerly ambitions, has exploded;
finally, the total pool of writers in our language,
which is de facto the world's lingua franca, now
includes poetasters from Greenland to Patagonia--&
with the internet, it is all one very crowded small
pond indeed.
i'm not completely against this phenomenon, though
everything i know about literary tradition suggests
that it, like the world's ecosystems themselves, must
of necessity be irreversibly endangered by the brute
fact of overabundance. rather, i think we must start
anew from accepting these realities--& see what can
be done within an awareness of the "literary polyverse"
of almost uncountable subcultures. only that way, free
of pretending that reputation & prizes anymore reflect
anything like a true measure of what is being done of
worth (or even reviews, for that matter), can our
efforts escape the actual irrelevance of present-day
"stars" like Ashbery, Jorie Graham, et al--who in the
end (whether or not there is ever again a single literary
establishment to record it) are merely coterie idols
with the illusion of cultural clout.
I don't know if there can even be such thing as a "Good Empire", but if you ask me, only an Evil Empire uses Uranium-tipped missiles & cluster bombs. (Or torture, BTW...)

Everybody knows there's a haiku underground, & some of us are into tanka, but did you know a bunch of poets have been exploring the Korean mini-form sijo? (Disliking the variable syllable count of the direct imitation, i have sometimes opted for a "neo-sijo" of 7-8-7-8-8-5 syllables.)

Then there's 20-Consonant Poetry, in which you have to use them all before using the same one a second time (although there is the "Mississippi rule"--two in a row allowed). More beautiful to me, its alternative "14-Vowel Poetry"...Thank you, William Gillespie.

One stop shopping for all your esoteric classic needs. Trithemius, anyone?

This smart, literate weblog is by someone i used to be in a language APA with, once upon a time.

Lotta ebooks here, if you have a zipdrive--& it's not Bartleby.

One of these days i'm going to finish my translations of Delmira Agustini, an unaccountably overlooked Uruguayan poetess of the early 20c--passionate, paradoxical, & way ahead of her time--, but in the meantime, here's a taste.

M.P.Shiel has his cult, of course, & there are still a few freaks like me who collect Cabell because people used to, but here's someone who's also a fan of Bulwer-Lytton... Just about any weird old writer you can think of can be found at Violet Books, as well as some excellent essays on them.

When you get tired of your old ecards, send an anime one, or a musical tanka.

If your mind isn't blown yet, see what Jack Chick has to say about Sept 11.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Bitterness would be nothing without the conceit of its reasons. Unfortunately they exist. But not as reasons for bitterness.

“In the tank-churned black slime of Tunisia” --Dylan Thomas

“Dearer to the red jackals shall thou be.” --Sohrab and Rustum

It is necessary to imagine the existence of other aesthetics.

solax - to browse in a foreign dictionary

pyramidology - an obsession with certain masterworks (e.g. with me, Zanoni...)

I am very confucian in my veneration of the past. But my mysticism consists in this, that i feel its living presence, & cannot connect with any future, except by becoming in my mind a great ancestor. --How different this is from vanity, & yet how similar! To act as if there were hope. I prepare my great-ancestorness like a spider laying eggs.

Ruin is a story. (What happens is more complicated.) One first conceives of an Age as a structure... Epics of building, epics of ruin. Epics of building, epics of ruin. Epics of building have unity, epics of ruin have fragmentariness.

penrose - metaphor sobriety

nashwood - the tradition of setting stories on an already discovered extrasolar planet (Mission of Gravity: 61 Cygni C--van de Kamp's planet)

‘To think by different lights. The unreadable philosophers do not submit to any changes in their light.’ --Elias Canetti

If an ikon is the Name, then the name of an ikon is the name of the Name. Artcrit = games played with the name of a Name.

kenwood - the tradition of using impossible settings in scifi

The most precious sentiment is gratitude without the desire to possess.

TIME, the great commodity of the 21c. Is it not already worth paying more for so many things, if they be done quicker? Soon, this scarcity will rule every decision; & no aspect of our lives will escape its bullying consideration. But how puny a subject for art! (As, --Money seemed, yet Balzac made its epic. And since.) A tiny protest poem about being too busy: no one bothers to read to the end of it. --And more: the disorder of our days, & its very inhumanity, is also the product of not having the time to put things in order, or do them right. I don’t have time to pursue this meditation further; where could it lead, but to utopias of clocklessness?

“At some point in the next century the number of invented languages will probably overtake the number of surviving natural languages.” Cullen Murphy in "Atlantic Monthly", Oct ‘95

“It is needful to have night in one’s body.” --Robinson Jeffers

“’Ask me to do anything, ask me to rob a bank with you,’ I pleaded. ‘But don’t ask me to go to a movie theater and get arrested watching “Citizen Kane”.’” --Every Secret Thing

New Mythic Question: How did all the time get used up?

“Baroque art is largely camp about religion. The ballet is camp about love.” --Christopher Isherwood
In this life we are lost like one who has gone into the far corner of the garage to look for something, & the light then gets turned off; & we have to fight our way back out through collision with half-remembered forms. More annoying than wounding, yet it is more painful still to contemplate the futility of wishing for a space that contains straight lines.

dumbly stenographic - fidelity to an aesthetic

“Indeed, the difficulty in human communication lies not in withholding thoughts but in exposing them.” --Fletcher Pratt, Invaders from Rigel (1960)

Petaja: “Van Vogt adapted by Disney”

David Slavitt uses scraps of Shakespeare to render Ausonius’s Nuptial Cento (of Vergil).

A thought i have had is to write nothing new, unless it can fit into a preexisting Apocryphal slot; e.g. imaginary works mentioned in real ones (my version of “The King in Yellow”; & i have long wanted to finish the pseudo-Jacobean play given piecemeal in Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 ) or works believed to exist which never did (Machen wrote a book for the notorious title The Book of the Three Impostors). Call them zoomars. -There is an exhaustive site of Apocryphal works: the Invisible Library.

“For the monotheist, bigotry is mandatory; for the polytheist, it is merely a delightful option.” --Isaac Bonewits

“...As lornly down the wan rim of the west...” -- Hubbard-Kiernan, “Ulric”, Flaming Meteor (1892)

“A writer in the middle of the last century said he could count over one hundred different schools of flower-arrangement.” --Okakura

Sometimes i think the only real philosophizing is in the form of music.

Differentia. Bookpoet & stage poet.
Liking a style & liking its individual artists.
Liking an artist & liking zer separate works.
Acceptance Vs Resignation.
Vernacular Vs Folkish.

A postcard of Mao’s tomb. The tomb of the mightiest emperor who ever lived (if sheer number of subjects be any measure), looks a whole lot like the Richardson Public Library. They were probably both built in the same decade...

“Transgressors are the lab rats of consensus.” --Momus (Nick Currie)

At the end of his rope is where a poet shines. --sayings of Asmodeus

Monday, April 07, 2003

Just in case you ever have a hankering for a computer-generated haiku...& just by refreshing, you can have as many as you want.

What's the most censored song on radio? On "What It's Like", a great song by Everlast, they even bleep "chrome .45".
What's the least censored song on radio? On Free's "All Right Now", the best song the Rolling Stones never wrote, they allow this chestnut: "Let's move before they raise the fuckin' rent!" --& no one is offended.
Go figure.

Awhile back i gave a talk locally on Sylvia Plath as a Symboliste poet. If i ever run across my notes i will try to reconstitute what i said, but it just goes to show the stupidity of received opinion, that Plath will be forever bracketed with Anne Sexton, whose poetry had virtually nothing in common with hers in term of craft, vision, or profundity: simply because of the manner of their deaths.

"Aside of the Torturer"

theres no need now for secrecy he says
everyone thinks as i do

4 7 85

"There is nothing you can show on your face that can match the horror of this time. Do not even try. You will only hold yourself up to the scorn of those who have felt things deeply." --Leonard Cohen, Death of a Lady's Man (1978)

'I admire tinsel as much as gold: indeed, the poetry of tinsel is even greater, because it is sadder.' --letters of Flaubert

My one-minute antidote to binary thinking: else also. Whenever you think you have exhausted the alternatives, say to yourself: "There must be something else, also."... 'Each being cries in silence to be read otherwise. Not to be deaf to these cries.' --notebooks of Simone Weil

Five good things about America: its highway system, its postal system, the openness of its society, the Great Western Desert, & its musical heritage.
Four bad things about America: its prison system, its regressive taxation, its militarism, & television.
Things that are both good & bad about America: its movies, its rowdiness, its artists, & the American language.

The question of whether anti-war poetry is any use is really the question of public poetry at all. In fact so engrained is the idea of the lyric, so necessary even to the simple business of sitting down to write, that it isn't easy to grasp (though you may know it as a book-datum) how poetry has started, in every place & time, as only public poetry. But now it just seems rude, or deranged: like someone who stands on a streetcorner & yells at the passing crowd. We think rather: press conference, cameras & microphones. Or at least a representative of the media (to make sure the dumb questions get asked). Michael Moore at the Oscars: it wasn't that people didn't agree with his views, they were embarassed by the way he said them. (How much more embarassing, if they had been in verse!) --I think of Jimi Hendrix's rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" at Woodstock, as not only a key moment in 20c art (i wrote a term paper on it in college) but also a touchstone for art as public speech. By using his virtuosity to paint a sonic picture of the Vietnam War at the largest corroborree yet of the nascent counterculture, he was at once affirming the power of the people (even if defined by somewhat arbitrary criteria such as hair-length) & the right of Rock as their chosen artform to address that power in a meaningful way. (I can't think of Woodstock without that other fateful & symmetrical juxtaposition: the Moon Landing--.)

"Bedlam is the lodestone of every man who thinks and shakes mountains with a book." --Edward Dahlberg

Things have changed radically in the last few decades in America; changes which can only be understood through the introduction of new concepts. For instance, the Vietnam War was experienced (by noncombatants) through photos in Life magazine, & secondarily through television & newspapers. (What differed then was how you responded to the same images.) By the time of the first Gulf War, though CNN appeared to have subsumed that role, the images of war were already being filtered through a variety of subcultural exegetes, whether right-wing talk radio or left-wing small press; & quite divergent views of reality, each kept in purdah-ish seclusion from any alternative, had taken hold. In sum, what you believed depended on whom you listened to. (I call this infaith.) This is still more true with the internet. I miself almost completely disregard television, for instance; & along with a million other Westerners, find myself looking at things like the Arab News website, when i want to know what's really going on over there. (But what does this do to democracy --as if we had it!--when consensus reality dissolves?)

All this is preliminary to a consideration of my own particular involvement, viz. (as "graywyvern"): "100 Poets Against the War". I deliberately wrote as plainly as possible, because i knew very well that those who are progressive in politics are by no means guaranteed to be likewise in literary tastes. As it turned out, the book was downloaded some 48,000 times (though scant numbers of the hardcopy edition have sold); the war happened anyway.

But what i didn't expect (in hindsight i should have--) was that this phenomenon, along with Sam Hamill's collection (which garnered most of the offline press), should become the object of bilious vituperation from certain reviewers & even a smattering of poets: as if the real crime were not war but to object to war. Poetry from being a Stealth subculture (Hollywood could say what it liked about Poetry, as in "Dead Poets Society", & no one knew the difference) had entered the realm of public discourse; this having been dared, some people immediately tried to shout it down.

I saw this at first hand on the NeoFormalist poetry board at Ablemuse. Poets whose opinions i respected on matters of scansion, suddenly uncloseted themselves as moral Neanderthals on a subject outside their area of expertise: & it was really brought home to me how, if only you pick your conduits of "infaith" with enough prejudice, it is entirely possible for an intelligent person to be persuaded that our president is a brave leader & a paragon of statesmanship.

Quel horreur! And i think i was most disturbed when a leading NeoFormalist & scholar of some note, Dr Frederick Turner (whom i had met & exchanged friendly views with, once upon a time), attacked the anti-war poets in a dreadfully spluttering "Reply to the Five Thousand" (sic--it soon swelled to 13,000), in the March edition of Expansive Poetry & Music Online.

I could only do one thing: reply with a poem of my own (which you can find on Hamill's page under my real name, or at Ablemuse--where NOT ONE PERSON dared comment on it--here).

But what was my dismay when, not long after, he replied with a further poem on that site: "Basic Training Graduation Day, Fort Leonard Wood, 7/11/02 (on my son's graduation from Army Basic Training)". I had to admit, we were just not in it for the same stakes...

And in large part the poetic dialogue--had reverted to an unpublic mode.

I lost all taste for our wager
On how this war would go,
Reading his poem that day
Of his son, the fledgling soldier.

Differentia. Between "Christians", who believe in some way in their Bible, & wish in some way to emulate Jesus; & "Bible Fascists", who fixate on the transgressions of others. As my favorite Blake quote goes: "Those who believe in a God of punishment & repression, worship the Devil in the name of God."

Whenever Republicans are in power, i start hearing from the sort of people i know or who think like me, the word "fascist". Now, i absolutely despise these guys & deplore their depredations their hijacking of public discourse their selfrighteousness & even their sense of style, but i would like to keep that word a term with definable limits if not precise denotation, & not let it carelessly melt into a general pejorative. So (i ask), how will i know that America, which has never been nearly as free a place as it likes to believe, & which always has been a bully & a hothead among nations,-- is truly "fascist"? When "Saturday Night Live" no longer is able to make fun of the current incumbent (--& don't tell me "repressive tolerance" as long as the skits are as cruelly accurate as they've been during this past year). When the ACLU is put out of business, & not just disparaged. When Counterpunch disappears. When actors are not just criticized in the tabloids but actually blacklisted, for their political stance. When mob violence & lynchings (by the state or approved by the state) become a matter of course. --You know, i don't think with our prisons already so overcrowded (many of their guests, for victimless crimes BTW), we're going to get to the point of being able to slam a large proportion of--let's see, the (215) millions who didn't vote for Dubya?-- in the clink. Nor even, a million of the most vociferous "liberals", methinks. But that doesn't make things okay right now. I should define a second class of ambiguous signs (censorship of news, radio playlists, bookstores) which are still worrisome, not least because they can be implemented without overt violence, & accepted as natural regardless of whether we are still on a wartime footing or not. And these are the things we should watch out for.


In anguish we uplight
A new unhallowed song:
The race is to the swift;
The battle to the strong.

Of old it was ordained
That we, in packs like curs,
Some thirty million trained
And licensed murderers,

In crime should live and act,
If cunning folk say sooth
Who flay the naked fact
And carve the heart of truth.

The rulers cry aloud,
'We cannot cancel war,
The end and bloody shroud
Of wrongs the worst abhor,
And order's swaddling band:
Know that relentless strife
Remains by sea and land
The holiest law of life.
From fear in every guise,
From sloth, from lust of pelf,
By war's great sacrifice
The world redeems itself.
War is the source, the theme
Of art; the goal, the bent
And brilliant academe
Of noble sentiment;
The augury, the dawn
Of golden times of grace;
The true catholicon,
And blood-bath of the race.'

We thirty million trained
And licensed murderers,
Like zanies rigged, and chained
By drill and scourge and curse
In shackles of despair
We know not how to break--
What do we victims care
For art, what interest take
In things unseen, unheard?
Some diplomat no doubt
Will launch a heedless word,
And lurking war leap out!

We spell-bound armies then,
Huge brutes in dumb distress,
Machines compact of men
Who once had consciences,
Must trample harvests down--
Vineyard, and corn and oil;
Dismantle town by town,
Hamlet and homestead spoil
Of each appointed path,
Till lust of havoc light
A blood-red blaze of wrath
In every frenzied sight.

In many a mountain-pass,
Or meadow green and fresh,
Mass shall encounter mass
Of shuddering human flesh;
Opposing ordnance roar
Across the swaths of slain,
And blood in torrents pour
In vain--always in vain,
For war breeds war again!"

--& i (m.h.) prefer it without the last stanza--

"The shameful dream is past,
The subtle maze untrod:
We recognize at last
That war is not of God.
Wherefore we now uplift
Our new unhallowed song:
The race is to the swift,
The battle to the strong."

John Davidson, The Last Ballad (1899)
There was a time when only traditional music was listened to; then a time when only contemporary. Now we live in another kind of time, when not only every past era, but also every other culture, presents its version of music (& they even mingle). --But our literature, & even moreso our poetry, remains mired in the contemporary paradigm. This is its doom, & also its charm: to be unlike our music.

'To be brief is the supreme morality of art.' --Juan Ramón Jiménez

Roman à clef in Ligotti :"Medusa" is clearly about a philosopher like E.M. Cioran.
The mythic "Long Beach" in the movie "City by the Sea": a landscape out of J. G. Ballard.

I said "the Folsom Prison Blues" should be our national anthem--it says more about America, with its guns, its prisons, & its loneliness of highways, than any other single song. But to be the country of "This Land is Your Land" (including the often-omitted verses)--that is something to aspire to.

The illusion that everything is sayable comes from having dwelt too long among the things that have been said.

The Jungian "shadow" concept can be perhaps extended in a political sense; i.e. mokita (Swahili), 'what everyone knows but cannot say'. Historically, we see that around 0 AD it would have been slavery; in 1900 AD, the violence of industrial society; by 2000 it had become: the environmental toll of consumerism. For each age, the unveiling of this public secret will be the dialectic governing both overt politics, & the dream-life of the masses...

In America, the ending of the denial of the Vietnam War gave rise to the new repression of the Reaganite Eighties; & "9-11" caused a new crisis & a second repression, which i don't know if i will see the end of, but which has already become the grounds for all our thinking...

No better proof exists that this is an age of collectivity, not individuals, than in our art: the cinema, which for a solitary to attempt is nearly unthinkable (--though with digital cams this is about to change); & in the other artforms, which have all succumbed to the joys & despairs of genre--once again, the product of a collective sensibility. Our "individualism", in fact, is simply one more myth & mask of the collectivity. Why do we so prize the art of outsiders? Because theirs alone does not even aspire to genre.

"' is black coffee, pure but strong, that fortifies against the powers of darkness with which the world is filled.'" --Robert Aickman, "Into the Wood", The Wine Dark Sea (1988)

Redefinition. Wiglomeration (Dickens)- style intolerance

"...You know, patience must be the only one of the virtues
This world invariably punishes
The absence of."

Sebastian Horson, "A Paragraph Without Spell-Check"

Definition. izhvoll -misunderstanding what one lacks

Handedness is a homeland. --sayings of Asmodeus

Things That It Is Not Possible To Improve. Paint. Plain bagels. Bicycle, LP, manual typewriter. Books.

advantasmal- to be in denial about the weather
hiccupant- a job that makes people angry
jumperous- a mixture of resentment & fear
nostralitic- the moment in traffic when you realize the other drivers are never going to let you do what you intended, & you have to figure out something else to do instead

"He lookes upon the mightiest Monarchs Warres
But onely as on stately robberies."

--Samuel Daniel
'(The philosopher is not a citizen of any community of ideas. That is what makes him a philosopher.)'

Wittgenstein, Zettel, 455.

I work at a bookstore, & one of my tasks is to select, out of the quantities of books brought to us by customers, which ones to take, either for cash or for store credit. It occurred to me the other day, as i was going through a boxful rapidly picking & rejecting, that the proper function of binary thinking is just this: to sort, when circumstances mandate an abrupt result. But how did this become, so to say, the default-philosophy of all humanity? It must be that in times of change (& the impact of globalizing-modernism upon all of us, in whichever of the numbered "worlds", is crushing & inescapable--) the temptation toward Manichaean habits of thought, & especially in the realm of public discourse, is felt, not so much as the easier path, as the only one.

In practice, i have two different criteria for choosing books: those i know are likely to sell, & those i know are good but might sell someday (okay, maybe not, but they should). So even at this task i leave myself the space for a slightly more considered judgment. Yet, when the pace or the volume increases, it becomes much harder to maintain even this degree of discrimination. So i conclude, i probably am vastly overestimating the amount of free choice involved, when i condemn the masses & the elites alike, for their "stupidity". That in itself partakes of the binary thoughtplague.

"For athwart our thinking the threat looms,
Huge and awful as the hump of Saturn
Over modest Mimas, of more deaths
And worse wars, a winter of distaste
To last a lifetime."

Auden, "The Age of Anxiety" (1946)

"It was better to be alone to listen to the monkeys that chattered without offending; to watch them occupied with the unserious business of their lives. With that luxuriant, tropical nature, its green clouds and illusive aerial spaces full of mystery. They harmonized well in language, appearance and motions;--mountebank angels, living their fantastic lives far above earth in a half-way heaven of their own."

W. H. Hudson, Green Mansions (1916)

Attending a poetry reading today is like going to a Latin church service; attending a slam, like going to a service that's been painfully rendered into the vernacular. The ritual stands for its own defiant persistence. Which is not, however, the same as transcendence: we've given up hoping for the same thrill we might find in dancing, say, or a really good movie. But it is not nothing that some of us still feel pious toward a dead culture. And in fact its deadness becomes ever more relevant, as the tricks of the moment begin to pall on us. For dead things never get any deader, & that, in a world of violently gyrating meaninglessness, can be something to hold onto.

"the occiput which rolls is ecstatic" --Javant Biarujia

"the silken skilled transmemberment of song" --Hart Crane

"A major function of the mass media is to deflect envy away from those with power to those with ability. The way most people use the word ELITIST shows how well it's working."

Arthur Hlavaty, Derogatory Reference 100

Faith in disaster, is religion that works. --sayings of Asmodeus

A genealogy of dada-rock: Zappa, Faust, Mr Bungle.

Music for drottkvaett: Sly & the Family Stone's "Thank You For Lettin' Me (Be Myself Again)"; the Beatles's "Come Together".

"It's the job of the poem to find names for all these noises." --Rae Armantrout. Exactly. More than communication, more than self-expression, i think the true role of the poet is to name things. And it is a measure of how disenfranchised our poets are, & how unprofessionally they take their job, that we are surrounded almost entirely by things that are badly named, whether that be stores, movies, rock groups,--or the peculiar phenomena of what passes for public life.

'Instead of a heart, a hornet drones in vain.' --Radovan Karadzic

"the frail, illegal fire balloons appear" --Elizabeth Bishop

"  returning
with the memory of smoke
  the ocean air
of the gull-colored village
sacred with my history"

Jane Reichhold
We fall into selforthodoxies so easily. Small wonder then, if the illusion of a pseudo-career proceeds from that first temptation, the pressure to have a style. (The alternative would be to make your anxiety part of the subject matter.) But having rejected the idea of pseudocareer (one which exists only in your own mind, & that of your friends), whatever postproduction chances start to shape up, you are bothered as if by intrusions into an essentially solitary meditation. Bewilderment of the artist among his peers.

Differentia. Sensibility Vs Asthetics.
Music as ritual & as product. (Call them--hoedown, & pablum.)
Globesploitation Vs True Pluralism (Reciprocity+).
Merit society Vs Credential society.

My aesthetics are designed to make poetry impossible.
My failure is that i continue to write.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

Why unreality is balm to the alienated. As the "opposite" of the realm where they find themselves dispossessed, there is nothing more at home in it than them; & though they cannot belong in it, they can at least have the power to return to it more or less at will.

"deal, infidel, the night is indeed difficult" --Gwendolyn MacEwen

Like it or not, selfpity is close to the heart of Poetry.

"All advertizing aspires to the condition of porn..." --Mary Gaitskill

The only fated love on earth is that of the abuser & the codependent one. --sayings of Asmodeus

"I think Gooberz may be the Necronomicon of bad poetry." --Erich Vogel

The gods are not dead, but have become crows, whose jadedness is absolute.

"In cultural time, A.D. 1999 is closer to 1699 than to 1899 or 1799." --Michael Lind

Art is the only place our dreams cannot fail the test of reality. Not because Art is so strong, but because our conception of Art is usually so feeble that we ask nothing of it that self-deception cannot deliver.