Saturday, May 03, 2003

I used to have this book--in the 1901 edition. After the looting of the museum in Baghdad, which probably included the original cuneiform, i searched "The Epic of Izdubar". It was only then that i discovered it was only an older, bad transliteration--of "Gilgamesh".

Forgot to mention the conlang Vorlin, for which i wrote several poems & even some palindromes--in what must be described now as "Middle" Vorlin. Vorlin's goal is to be concise (one or two syllable words) & easy to learn; it is also surprisingly sophisticated.


"Tell brave deeds of war."

Then they recounted tales, --
"There were stern stands
And bitter runs for glory."

Ah, I think there were braver deeds. "

--Stephen Crane

H'm, look what i found: "SPASMODIC POETICS: A 150-YEAR RETROSPECT
A special session for the 2003 MLA conference in San Diego.
Recent work in historical genre theory and the development of "Cultural
Neoformalism" make the so-called "Spasmodic" poets an appealing subject
for new scholarship. This session commemorates the 150-year anniversary of
Sydney Dobell's _Balder_ in order to encourage new discussion of the
spasmodic movement, a phenomenon that has received insufficient critical
attention despite its substantial impact on Victorian poetics. Any aspect
of the movement is welcome, including but not limited to the work of
Dobell, Alexander Smith, Philip Bailey, Elizabeth Barrett and/or Robert
Browning, Tennyson's "Maud," or _Wuthering Heights_, the so-called
"spasmodic" novel.
" --I've been interested in the Spasmodics ever since i found a 120-year-old copy of Philip James Bailey's Festus in my college library, & read (most of) it. Years later, i'd been having a recurring dream of a multi-storey bookstore, when i first ventured into one, now closed, in downtown Ft Worth. As i climbed the stairs there, i realized i'd been dreaming about this place, though i'd never before set foot in it. In the uppermost room i found not one but two copies of Festus. (I still haven't finished it--.) He has some great aphorisms sprinkled throughout, but you have to plow through acres of twaddle about angels & poetry & God & Love ktp to find them. Another Spasmodic, "Owen Meredith" (Bulwer Lytton's son), is well represented on the second hand market by his book-length poem Lucile*. (I found a webpage that attempts to catalog all the editions this book ran through...) It has its moments (i've already quoted from it, i think). And i recently acquired another of his book-length poems, Glenaveril...I'm still looking for a book of Dobell. Here's a good overview of the school. Their main characteristics were verbose subjectivity & exaggerated metaphor. I prefer to think of them as proto-Flarfists.

*footnote. I cannot resist repeating this anecdote, which i found while trying to google a decent bio of O.Meredith, poetaster & sometime Viceroy of India: "There
is a legend that every lot or library of books that has
turned up in the last eighty years was sure to have a
copy of LUCILE in it. The book is, indeed, a drug on the
market, and a story is told of how a prominent bookseller
of fifty years ago did what he could do to relegate it to
a comparatively decent obscurity. The bookseller, who
made a trip to England every year, would gather all the
copies of LUCILE from his own lots and those of other
dealers before a voyage. When he was far out on the
Atlantic he would ceremoniously dump them overboard with
an oath and add, "Here are so many copies of LUCILE that
will never enter a book store again." "

PS my edition of Lucile appears to be H M Caldwell's "Exquisite" of 1896

Friday, May 02, 2003

One of my interests that sometimes contributes to, & sometimes distracts from, my more purely literary pursuits, is constructed languages. There are an amazing number on the Net (Kennaway catalogues 310). Most have few if any speakers. A good example of the "artlang" is Taneraic, a wonderful creation by Javant Biarujia of Melbourne, who has a kept a secret diary in this language most of his life. I have learned enough of it to read some, with difficulty: it's irregular, like a "natlang", & unlike virtually every other "conlang" in existence... It also has one of the largest vocabularies; his ongoing dictionary project is being published by Nokusumo. But several are more ambitious: their avowed goal is to provide all the minority languages of the world with something simpler that other people will want to learn, an "interlang". Esperanto is well represented, & even its predecessor Volapük. (I have written poetry in both of these.) Two of the most active & interesting subcultures are Klingon & Lojban. The Klingons are, shall we say, Trekkies with an attitude, & have been so busy they've already translated "Hamlet" & "Gilgamesh" "back into the original". Lojban, devised in 1960 with the avowed purpose of testing the Sapir Whorf Hypothesis, only really got going in the late 80's, but now has many activities, from technical discussions (in this language, they can run on for years) to a translation of Alice in Wonderland (including the puns & neologisms). I have myself contributed to this one in a small way, being the author of the first 2 books of poetry in the language, as well as its first "novel". Someone who is not a linguistics geek might well ask me, what do i get out of this intense but pointless hobby? Well, at one time i might have answered, it's not often you have a chance to be a tribe's Chaucer & Shakespeare at once... Now i think it has something to do with literalizing the alienation i feel as an author. You don't want to read me? Fine: i'll write something you can't read. --And other times, in a mellower mood, i'll answer: all languages are essentially one language, & our job is to acquire as much of it as possible.
"Elegy Composed in Late March

More than the lovely who prevail?
But very love must know
By no perduring thing
Can this be known.
Though with attributes of marble,
It is a mortal beauty
Never hewn in stone.

To what they loved and destroyed,
Never had their fill of cherishing and would not save,
Even the gods fixed no star;
But more in sign
The rainbow's meltings and the reed
And the slight narcissus gave."

Léonie Adams

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Apparently a lot of the lyrics for Pink Floyd's album, "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun", were taken from A.G. Graham's Poems of the Late T'ang. (I'm always the last to find out these things.)

from STAR GROPE (1986): "Take day.-.. Left rim receive bleed: planet to have sea to ice-.. Crave star cold. They. High come never evil/. Sleepwalker day; profound crave carbonaceous I. Pungent profound of purlieu acid to did he it. Emerald rim come grow cold? Night not lungfish. Sleepwalker cold. Folk for age under bleed; to cold. Ice: grope come find did them carbonaceous it; crystal receive crave carbonaceous they??./ Puree terrible find did them terrible did avalanche rain night raucous cat never lungfish." --When done right, this sort of text lurks just beyond the range of sense, a ghostly sort of meaning. I invoke Bohm's "Theory of Implicate Order" for the combination of all these words, more in connotation than denotation, into one atmospheric quasi-story. Single-word parataxis, or "word salad" as the whitecoats refer to it, allows the stickiness of adjacent units in English to almost-work grammatically; herding not cats, but cat-ness.

A Nobel Peace Prize winner writes a letter to Dubya.
The fortunes of a painting. (via Schism Matrix)

I have always envied musicians & especially composers: poetry to me is a grubby art, mixing elixirs out of old bath water; while composers draw miracles from the aether... Besides Jerry Hunt--who was as close to a Renaissance mage as anyone in the 20c could hope to be--the only other composer i've known personally is the young Denton composer & teacher Paul Bonneau. Recently he wrote a Latin Mass for his doctorate, & an amazing piece it is. Usually when later composers try this sort of thing, they end up stylizing a hollow shell. But his is rich in feeling & drama: one movement almost sounds like it has Crime Jazz influences; another is mysteriously anguished. I've already listened to it about ten times, & each time discover new felicities. (As performed by the Flower Mound Chamber Orchestra, the CD is not commercially available, but you might try emailing him at: paul at fmco dot org to see if there are any extra copies available.)


The president of shame has his own flag
the president of lies quotes the voice
of God
as last counted
the president of loyalty recommends
blindness to the blind
oh oh
applause like the heels of the hanged
he walks on eyes
until they break
then he rides
there is no president of grief
it is a kingdom
ancient absolute with no colors
its ruler is never seen
prayers look for him
also empty flags like skins
silence the messenger runs through the vast lands
with a black mouth
silence the climber falls from the cliffs
with a black mouth like
a call
there is only one subject
but he is repeated

W S Merwin, The Carrier of Ladders (1970)

Momus's lyrical salute to photoblogs.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

I vary in my sense of what constitutes writing, between the poles of writing as a construction of words, not all that different from finding a pleasing arrangement of stones (suiseki); & writing as direct utterance, a process like dowsing in that the goal becomes apparent on the way. Sometimes for me it is both, & i like this best. But i have to have discovered something. Even if it is only, that this arrangement makes all the other possible ways seem unnecessary.

Collage, preeminently the mode of the 20c, in poetry takes the form of parataxis. Usually one leaps from image to image, phrase to phrase, or sentence to sentence, "connecting the dots" of what’s left out. But the leaping itself remains arbitrary. In the Japanese form of renga, each "link" must be related to the previous & yet send those two parts in a contrasting direction from that of the gestalt formed by the previous & the next-to-previous links. These leaps have long been codified as, in chess, you can move any one of several pieces, & each piece moves in a different way. --I see bringing an awareness of "possible renga move-types" to conventional parataxis, as one means of revitalizing this rather faded modernist technique. Not that it always need be rule-bound. But there is a higher music, in the succession of one kind of leap after another. --I also feel this secondary effect in the sequence of rhyme-sounds, or in the case of "rhime", in rhime-numbers. (Nowadays i invariably alternate odd & even pairs.) --It is not inconceivable that readers may eventually learn to perceive, & prize, such rarefied frissons.
In the future there will not be race, age, gender, religion or national identities: there will only be the totems of Sanrio. This is Vonnegut's dream of a society of "granfalloons", realized. Mine is Badtz Maru; & wherever i exhibit his emblems, those who are in the know feel compelled to smile & acknowledge him.

Monday, April 28, 2003

"Nobody Knows it but Me

There's a place that I travel
With my Humvees & Bradleys
When I want to roam
With some kick-ass firepower
And nobody knows it but me.

The roads don't go there
Like a good old Interstate
And the signs stay home
In some alphabet I can't read
And nobody knows it but me.

It's far far away
From the nearest Starbucks
And way way afar
From the last ATM for sure
It's over the moon and the sea

And wherever you're going
To kill a bunch of strangers
That's wherever you are
With the blood on your hands & your feet
And nobody knows it but me

And six billion other humans."

--Victor Vermis

Saw a nice Modigliani show in Ft Worth. Unfortunately, they didn't have my favorite picture of his... "Here," i said a bit grandiosely, "are two of the three good Nudes painted in the Twentieth Century." (The third is also by Modigliani.) But seriously, once art-ideology had taken over Painting, & photography captured the erotica market, the field was left to illustrators like Vargas & Vallejo, kitsch masters like Leeteg, & amateurs. Much as i want to recommend the nudes in the paintings of Giger & Fuchs, i'm afraid only a space alien would find them...erotic. --And, perhaps, this is not unrelated to the fact that most of the good love poetry written in the 20c, was in the form of song lyrics.

Some people just read H P Lovecraft like any other author they like, & some are fans. Then there are those who take it a little more seriously.

Useful Arabic terms. safqua ('secret deal'). al-ithara wa al-faza: "shock and awe" (via Salam Pax). taqiyya 'concealment of faith' --a term which may enter the American lexicon with a slightly different meaning, should the Thought Police come to brass tacks.

While waiting for Salam Pax to reappear, i ran across another blogger in Iraq: Lt Smash. He's not as funny as Salam but then, he's an American soldier. And straight.

Before the end everything
falls into delirium.
Remembrance rouses the eyelids
in combat with heavy sleep.
You had hands and arms of wood
up to the breast, which was of gold.
You walk wordless on streets filled
with antennae of monsters.
You were revolted by the skein of worms
writhing one above the other,
killed by every innocent glance.

Tonight before you journey
let the wings of angels fall
from your shoulders to earth;
their substance is required for other things.'

Martin Camaj, Selected Poetry (tr. from the Albanian by Leonard Fox, 1990)

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Conlon Nancarrow wrote piano music that no one could play. The only way he could hear it was to put it on the roll of a player piano; & that's what he did for all his works...Two other maverick 20c composers i like are: Harry Partch, who invented his own musical scale--& the instruments to play it--; & Olivier Messiaen, who turned for inspiration to Eastern music & birdsong, for some of the weirdest (or most sharawadgi) church music ever written. One of his works, "Turangalila", must be the only symphony that uses a theremin (another of my pet obsessions).