Saturday, April 19, 2003

Sahara Sunday Spain makes more money than you do.

"But when he called me traitor he meant that I had joined another side. If he had read the book he would know that there are no sides for me." --Leonard Cohen.

I have just been published in a new anthology, Above Us Only Sky: Atheist Poetry, published by Incarnate Muse (incarnatemuse at yahoo dot com) POBox 5756 Santa Barbara CA 93150.
This is one of my poems there:


I will stay,
I will learn to live and die in the body,
the body's knowing and what it doesn't know.
My armor will be that I am flesh
without appeal, in the fleetness of its perishing.
Here on this island of Easter
gull's cry flies forever among the stone faces.

Friday, April 18, 2003

some of my remarks from the Wikipedia:
--What makes something poetry?

aside from the inescapable timebound (faddish) criteria, these two seem to be permanent:

1. "yugen", or mysterious beauty; i.e. resonance with the subconscious. (in the 18c.--often called the least poetical time for english-- this was not expected nor sought.)

2. "calliditas", or concise aptness. some--a very few--good poets lack this (Whitman, Jeffers) but there will always be those who refuse them the first rank for this reason.

i would also add: "melopoeia" or phonetic coherence (for some time now, in eclipse); "phanopoeia" or visual imagery; & "logopoeia" or conceptual originality (these are Pound's coinages).

"poignancy" belongs in here somewhere, but since every age draws the line between pathos & bathos differently, i can only suggest that poetry must be about the human feelings & situations which are thought to be worth exploring at that time. nowadays bad childhoods & famous artists appear frequently, while epics on the founding of political dynasties would be a very hard sell.

having one of these excellences is sufficient; but having many of them is still better.
On this page is a sound file of one of my Lojban poems, read by Dr Jorge Llambias of Buenos Aires.

A new speculation on Salam Pax.

About ten years before the New York School "invented" Abstract Art, there was a school called CoBrA in Europe (Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam). I went to a show by one of them, Karel Appel, & i have never seen such exuberant & powerful painting. If Elephant Art belongs to any movement, it surely is this one...

A page of many links to "Outsider Art". (I remember when only psychologists & a few oddball artists like Dubuffet were into this; now, it's probably the closest modern art has to a mainstream taste. The good thing is, there's some wonderful coffeetable books out there now. The bad thing is, the old stupid accusation about abstract expressionism--that they painted that way to disguise the fact that they couldn't draw--is now a lot truer about contemporary artists growing up in a context where this sort of thing is valorized.)
"Posthumous Letter to Thomas Merton

Unlike you who discovered solitude
To be "Forerunner of the Word of God",
I search and find it no more than the soul's
Chafing against itself like any dog
Rubbing its mangy rump against a tree.
I might have asked you how to bridge the gap
Between our two alonenesses, between
Yours, self-elected, freely chosen, and
Mine blindly blundered into from the womb,
At first not even seen for what it was,
And then, once recognized, raged at, kicked at,
And cursed. Perhaps there is a gulf between them,
The gulf dividing mind to which God is
A harmony, from mind to which God seems
The discord, shattering tidy tunes of thought,
Yet no, devout monk though you were, your God
Was not a mystery emasculated,
Poked at through barbed wire meshes of the creeds,
Led out well-groomed and curried for the faithful
To adulate from their safe vantage point.
Now that your words have smoked away to silence,
I dare not put an answer on your tongue,
As though a devotee had stuffed your mouth
With speeches that you never made. I only
Write you these lines, less poem than presumption,
Addressed in care of my bewilderment.
I ask you, self-styled marginal man,
Do not we sufferers always inhabit
The edges of the world as pioneers
To prove how much humanity can bear
And still be human, experimenters in
The bloody laboratory of our lives.
Taking and testing every pain tossed from
The pulsing cosmos, fragments we reshape,
As best as the materials allow,
To buttress God's cathedrals build from chaos?"

Vassar Miller, If I Could Sleep Deeply Enough (1974)

The sum of the word "flarf" is 43, which is also the sum of "book". (This is how i figure out the meaning of undefinable words.) Also 'ghayb', the transliteration of the Arabic word for "the Invisible". Although nothing i write, alas, can be considered remotely flarfish, i think it entirely possible that this movement can become the "Angry Penguins" of the 21c...

Whaddya know?! The Vanilla Fudge are back together (after, maybe 30 years); & they have a new album out. Guess what? It sounds just like they always did! --As i said in another place: "i started collecting VF records about 10 yrs ago, after having gone through a long period when i could only stand to listen to non-western music; my ears refreshed, i gained a new appreciation of many things, including psychedelic kitsch, of which VF appears to be the most perfect & terrifying specimen... there are people who love blue cheese, & people who love ed wood movies; i love Blue Cheer & Vanilla Fudge."

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Some say Harry S Keeler is the worst writer in the world.
Some say Lionel Fanthorpe. And some say Amanda Ros. They all have their fans... (I myself am something of a partisan of Baron Corvo.) But after the merely inept, there is a kind of talent that refuses to be readable. And i wonder if someday, these writers will be preferred to ones who catered to the market.

I don't play my Fushitsusha double album very often, but i did after the war started. It was the next best thing to being in Baghdad.

On misreading: when i was a kid, i thought Grand Funk Railroad's "Closer to Home" was a song about Watergate. A few years back, i looked at the dates & discovered it couldn't have been. But for me, it will still be the song about Nixon--"I'm your captain!"--when i hear it.

Looks like Jose Garcia Villa is being rediscovered. Most famous, perhaps, for his poems in which commas separated every word, i think his most interesting invention was backwards-consonance rhyming. (Edmund Wilson wrote a poem or two that attempted truly phonetic reversal, but his vowels are all messed up.) I still think the number of possible formalisms is much greater than anyone, even versification-geeks, can imagine. But this is probably not the time for such inquiries...!

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

"Of Being Frumious"

My music takes the road
Though i refrain hejira.

Frankincense, this much fire
To satisfy the demon.

Dollars less & less gold:
No heyday is this of Rome.

Far, this Praha hajji
In search of chatoyant wine.

I lay me down in sand.
I lay me down in the dirt.

Tell me the millionth death
Will not be the death of Mars.

This site is about collecting old paperbacks; many pictures & links!

Richard Lederer's language links.

Another good politico-literary blog.

A lot of good art links here.

A site dedicated to triple homonyms.

I'm not done yet thinking about the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. When i get back to it, i'm going to read this whole site.

Awhile back, Barry N Malzberg wrote a scathing history of scifi called Engines of the Night. Recently i ran across an online essay that's kind of an update on that book (which met with more denial than defensiveness in the community). But the field has been invaded by many genuine intellectuals since then, & i think the same balkanization that happened to poetry has happened here too...

A good selection of Lovecraftian poetry.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

One usage i can't endurance is "transition" as a verb. We are rapidly transitioning, people, to a state of total barbarivity.

Monday, April 14, 2003

"The triple decadence: Decadence of the material; of the writer's language. The virgin snow where Shakespeare and Montaigne used to cut their deep furrows, is now but a slope flattened by innumerable tracks until it is unable to receive an impression. Decadence of the myth, for there is no longer a unifying belief (as in Christianity or in Renaissance Man) to permit a writer a sense of awe and of awe which he shares with the mass of humanity. And even the last myth of all, the myth of the artist's vocation, of 'l'homme c'est rien, l'oeuvre c'est tout', is destroyed by the times, by the third decadence, that of society. In our lifetime we have seen the arts advance further and further into an obscure and sterile cul-de-sac. Science has done little to help the artist, beyond contributing radio, linotype and the cinema; inventions which enormously extend his scope, but which commit him more than ever to the policy of the State and the demands of the ignorant. Disney is the tenth-rate Shakespeare of our age, forced by his universal audience to elaborate his new-world sentimentality with increasing slickness. There may arise Leonardos of the screen and microphone who will astound us but not until the other arts have declined into regional or luxury crafts, like book-binding, cabinet-making, thatching or pargetting. Today an artist must expect to write in water and to cast in sand." --Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Mind (1944)

"The Nostalgia movement began with the Art Nouveau revival; and the Art Nouveau revival began with the Mucha exhibition (May-June 1963) and the Beardsley exhibition (May-Sept 1966) at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London." --Bevis Hillier, The Style of the Century (1983)

'Our age has no impress of its own. We have impressed the seal of our time neither on our houses nor our gardens, nor on anything that is ours. On the street may be seen men who have their beards trimmed as in the time of Henry III, others who are clean-shaven, others who have their hair arranged as in the time of Raphael, others as in the time of Christ. So the homes of the rich are cabinets of curiosities: the antique, the gothic, the style of the Renaissance, that of Louis XIII, all pell-mell. In short, we have every century except our own--a thing which has never been seen at any other epoch: eclecticism is our taste; we take everything we find, this for beauty, that for utility, another for antiquity, still another for its ugliness even, so that we live surrounded by d├ębris, as if the end of the world were at hand.' --Alfred de Musset, Confessions of a Child of the Century (1896) [soon to be a movie?!]

One of these days i'll get around to writing a History of Archaïcizing. Vergil did it; & there was a full-blown movement in the time of Fronto & Apuleius. If i recall correctly, the Late Tang also saw something of the sort; & of course the people of the time we now know as the Renaissance, thought that THEY were returning to the Good Old Days... Beddoes in the 19c, & Doughty & Eddison in the early 20c, wanted to write like Elizabethans; later on, Barth & Jong wrote novels in pseudo-18c English...

"...the Japanese of the Heian epoch tended to treat each element of their imported [from China] culture as if it were something integral and perfected. Yet, while they did not question the perfection of the whole, for they were acute observers rather than restless critics, their temper and their circumstances modified its parts and changed its very essence. This is why much of the Heian culture seems to us thin and unreal. It was a product of literature rather than of life. So the terms of Indian metaphysics became a kind of fashionable jargon, Buddhist rites a spectacle, Chinese poetry an intellectual game. We might almost summarise by saying that religion became an art and art a religion. Certainly what most occupied the thoughts of the Heian courtiers were ceremonies, costumes, elegant pastimes like verse-making and amorous intrigue conducted according to rules. Perhaps most important of all, because it entered into all, was the art of penmanship. have a good hand was to have breeding and taste." --G B Sansom, Japan: A Short Cultural History (1931/1952)

'Mandelstam...[uses] words of various contradictory associations: magnificent and obsolete archaism and words of everyday occurrence hardly naturalized in poetry. His syntax especially is curiously mixed--rhetorical periods tussle with purely colloquial turns of phrase. And the construction of his poems is also such as to accentuate the difficulty, the ruggedness of his form: it is a broken line that changes its direction at every turn of the stanza. His flashes of majestic eloquence sound especially grand in this bizarre and unexpected setting.' --D S Mirsky, History of Russian Literature

Cf "blixen": "...a trend that's been going on for a long time: the subdivision of culture along nonethnic, nongeographic lines. Call it the specialization or the niche-marketization of culture. Long ago, you were born into a culture, today you choose your culture. [I call this volitional ethnicity. --m.] ...Whatever niche you're in has it's [sic] own set of shared knowledge, but there's less we share with everybody in our geographic community. ...It's more than trivial issues of what music you like, it's what you know." --Karl Widerquist writing in Cake (The Book Issue, 1997?)

' The Northern Cold

The sky glows one side black, three sides purple.
The Yellow River's ice closes, fish and dragons die,
Bark three inches thick cracks across the grain,
Carts a hundred piculs heavy mount the river's water.
Flowers of frost on the grass are as big as coins,
Brandished swords will not pierce the foggy sky,
Crashing ice flies in the swirling seas,
And cascades hang noiseless in the mountains, rainbows of jade.' --Li Ho [Li He] in: Poems of the Late T'ang, tr. A G Graham

Not only were the Late T'ang poets reviving the Palace Style of three centuries earlier (their enemies called it "insect carving"--!), some of them (especially the greatest of them, Li Shangyin) were producing what can only be described as an anticipation of Surrealism--twelve hundred years ago. (Fusheng Wu, The Poetics of Decadence: Chinese Poetry of the Southern Dynasties and Late Tang Periods, 1998)

Sunday, April 13, 2003

"Here dead lie we because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;
But young men think it is, and we were young."

A.E. Housman, More Poems

(The English tutor in me wants to change this to: "we'd sprung"...)