Saturday, August 23, 2003

   Part One

I like the idea of Essential Titles, though my
concept of a canon changes from decade to decade.
So here's a list of mine, with the caveat that
no list can be either representative or exhaustive; it's
making such a list that's instructive...

Propertius- Elegiae (30/16 BC). I know, no one can
consider themselves educated who isn't conversant with
the Aeneid, but for me Propertius is the one essential
poet of Classical Antiquity. He takes all the tools so pain-
stakingly developed by his predecessors, & uses them in
amazingly virtuosic & personal ways. Compared with
Propertius, Catullus (his only rival in the elegy) is heavy
handed & all too direct. Propertius will always be absolutely
up to date
. [Note- I use the Loeb edition so i can
refer to the Latin. He has not been served well by trans-
lators, perhaps because they are hard put just to
capture his sense, much less his music. Pound at least
caught a little of his tone...]

Tottel's Miscellany (1557). This is the beginning of
poetry in English, & every song on the radio has its origin
somewhere in here. Shakespeare was of course the
consummate wielder of what might be called "the music
of grammar"--& his study will not be finished in a life-
time--yet this first anthology shows just what he
started with in that long ago era before dictionaries
when the poets really were the makers of speech.

Donne- Songs & Sonnets (1633). Just when the
lyric had been perfected, someone comes along with a
whole new game--combining a philosophical point of
view with the personal note lost for a thousand years--
& we are still trying to duplicate his results.

Baudelaire- Les Fleurs du Mal (1857). The modern
world, with all its alienation & dark glories, rendered
into sonorous & enduring form. There are several decent
translations available; Baudelaire loses surprisingly
little in the process; in that respect he is like Dostoevsky:
the impact of the message continues, like a Molotov
cocktail thrown through a stained glass window...
   Part Two

Housman- A Shropshire Lad (1896). You could say that
Housman is essentially a trivial writer, but in this age of
egregious untidiness it is good to remember that perfect
poems can & have been written. [More Poems & Last
also contain many necessary lyrics.]

Mallarmé- Poésies (1898). If you only learn one
foreign language & only a bit of that, do try to scope out
Mallarmé in the original. Untranslatable, the inventor of
Modernism & the culmination of the literary tradition,
what can i say? Yet he wears it very lightly... His best
poems are about little things, flickers or the wave of
a fan, & thus connect with the Japanese poetic tradition.
Weinfeld's Collected Poems (1994) is bilingual &
includes the prose poems.

Stein- Tender Buttons (1914). I can't add anything
to my Amazon review.

Stevens- Harmonium (1923). Most of Stevens's best
poems. It is worth a concentrated study to inquire how much
of French Symbolism has been captured & how much lost;
he also, without even trying, spares you the necessity of
reading any Imagism.

Jeffers- The Roan Stallion (1924). A lot of people don't
like Jeffers, but he can't be ignored. There isn't another
such vatic writer in modern times; & his eye is always on
the land--something too easily lost in 20c verse.

Auden- Poems (1930) & The Orators (1932). You'd've
thought T S Eliot had said the last word in Modernism, & suddenly
this guy drags in Anglo-Saxon meters & the best imitation of
schiz-lit this side of Finnegans Wake. He also sets the
bar for a unified collection very high with the latter work--&
people are still arguing over what it means.
   Part Three

Riding- Poems of Laura Riding (1938). The most original voice
of the 20c. She accomplishes some of the same things Mallarmé
did, without sounding anything like him. [Her cantankerous critical
writings are also essential.]

Rexroth- One Hundred Poems from the Japanese (1955). I can't
think of another book that so effortlessly teaches the essence of
another poetic tradition. A good antidote to the Eliot-Pound-Joyce

Plath- Collected Poems (1981). Forget the myth. She was the
last Symbolist, & the greatest poet of the later 20c. Only fools despise

Merwin- The Second Four Books of Poems (1993). Merwin is very
hit-or-miss, often lapses into self-pastiche, & seldom rises to the level
of great poetry. Still, when you read in these books long enough, you
realize he captures something that most other 20c writers never
even noticed--the subtragic grayness of daily life--& gives it
definitive expression.

Besides this, maybe Rilke's letters & that Snyder essay.
" 'Masculine perfumery is defined negatively, by what
you don't put in it
. ...It's like that novel by Perec that
was written withot the letter e. You can still do a
good one, though that's rare.' " --Luca Turin, quoted in:
Chandler Burr, The Emperor of Scent (2002) [thanx

Friday, August 22, 2003

The three most non-phonetically spelled languages:
Irish, Tibetan, English.

Language with the most rational writing system: Korean.

Most unpronounceable language: Georgian.
Doctor Dee exerts a perennial fascination, & ever
since "The Tempest" writers have used him for
a character: Meyrink (The Angel of the West Window)
John Crowley, Mary Gentle, & now Peter Ackroyd (The
House of Doctor Dee
). And Test Department did an
album about him (The Enigma of Doctor Dee)... At
another time i mean to come back to Enochian,
one of the most legendary (if rudimentary) conlangs
of all time. Aleister, of course, meddled with it; but
perhaps the most fascinating thing for me is how
the idea that each of the letters has its own meaning,
& thus the meaning of a word can be derived from its
spelling--has migrated here out of Kabbalism,
John Steinbeck, Master of Terror.

Lit-hist progresses by redrawing the canon. For the
Ur-Flarf Progenitor, i nominate "Ern Malley". (Even
Ashbery pays tribute to him.) I can see a clear lineage* through Spicer to the
present-day epigones... Yes, Poetry ends like a rope.

Another "damned poet"--born with twelve fingers. On translating Ady into Russian. A poem translated into Esperanto. A few English translations.

*Not to mention the ersatz computer poetry reviewed here.

Not only good poetry has reverted to the "subter-
ground", so has a lot of the most interesting
horror & scifi, that corporate publishers simply
can't be bothered with. Even writers who may
have managed a "breakout" book or two, often
end up publishing subsequent works in hard
to find & expensive limited-editions. (Case in
point: Thomas Ligotti.) On the other hand,
it also means that such presses sometimes
reissue great works from the past that have
dropped out of sight. I am glad to see Robert
Aickman's stories
being reprinted lately, like
Samuel R Delany's novels... (I thought to write
this entry after trying to find out if Tibet 93 was
still doing his Durtro Press/ Ghost Story Press
stuff. Can't tell from the website. Buy something
there! Where else are you going to find Count Stenbock??)
There's suppressed books, like the L Ron exposé, which
Scientologists went everywhere to buy & destroy; then
there's ignored books, like The Sacred Mushroom and
the Cross
, that so dumbfounded the world of Biblical
scholarship that Allegro immediately became an "unperson"
--& is remembered today only by the 'Shroom Community...
I would have liked to believe that the name "Jesus" was
a code word for Amanita, but that business of Sumerian
puns was all too Saussure-like & just the way crackpot
reasoning proceeds, for me. But i think it's still a mind-
blowing book, if only because its author was who he
was (no wild-eyed hippie, he) to write it.

Incense clocks.

Free jazz is the only kind of music that when i play it
in the store, i invariably get asked to turn it off. We got
in some Albert Ayler the other day. I still haven't heard
all of it. I myself couldn't understand "A Love Supreme"
the first time i heard it. But it kept nagging at me
that there was something there i'd missed. Finally
one day i was listening to it, not really paying
attention--& i got it! (But i still don't know how
exactly to describe its meaning...) Sort of like
"averted vision" in astronomy--you look off to
the side of the object in the telescope, because
the peripheral areas are more sensitive to
faint light than the cornea. They are playing at
the edge of the music
. Not trying to get it
directly. And what is evoked by your groping into
the sound, is the true music of this.

   "Fair and Balanced"

Dreaming, in the Althusserian night,
That all our work will oneday 'scape debunking.
Driving, like a raid-marooned sad Viking
Siren from somewhere; other hands at hunt.
Sodium pink & mercury blue dispute
Pavements of the empire-builders' principle
Still i find this brillig blindness beautiful
To cross striped shadows wearing fingerprints

Envenomed darkness bring me French velvet
Acolytes... Fiesta red rodents pitch
Unopening windows, logarithmic squelch
Dreaming through the creaking of the pivot
A Volapük threnody, or part of it.

08 20 03

"I have a dream" in Lojban.

Listening to: Sven Vath.

Shadow of the Dolls ecards.
[Not anymore, but still.]

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Dogs playing poker. Everyone's seem them.
Why isn't C M Coolidge a household name?

We will bury you.

I've got this great idea for a technothriller: you know
these "worm" viruses that're all over the Internet?
What if one got into a nuclear power plant's computer?
--Well, i can't sell that one, 'cause it already happened.
(via slashdot)
Remembering: The Silver Eggheads by Fritz Leiber (1961),
a rollicking satire about a future where "wordwooze" is written by
the operators of writing-machines, who still pride themselves on
the glamour of authorship. (Maybe that term ought to displace
"quietude" in our critical vocabulary--since "quietude" sounds
like it's good for something.)

French Symbolisme left its seeds in many other literatures
(though barely in English--Stevens? Plath??)--none more
gaudily than Russia's; & the strangest of the Russian
Symbolists has to be Sologub. He writes like he can't
make up his mind to be a mystic or a Satanist, an aesthete
or a terrorist... Very little of his poetry has been trans-
, but a couple of the novels are available. Here's The
Created Legend
on pdf.

Years ago another poet tried to flimflam me by a word,
"Althusserian", of great beauty but very little significance,
so far as i could discover. Maybe now it has one.

It has always bothered me that the division in sonnets
between the octave & the sestet, comes about six
syllables short of dividing this 140 syllable form into
the Golden Section. E.g. 86 + 53 = 139 for a much
more numerologically satisfying arrangement. Or 137
= 85 + 52, which i have sometimes lineated as 13-11-13-
11-13-11-13 & 11-9-7-9-7-9. For a long time i only wrote
thirteen line sonnets ("treizains"), & the same numbers
i mentioned above for 137 syllables total can easily be
lineated into 11-10-11-10-11-10-11-11 & 10-10-11-10-11.

The trouble with Magnetic Poetry for me always has been
that its vocabulary, while perhaps "poetical" enough for
the non-poet, makes saying anything new & interesting
virtually impossible. However, with Shakespeare Magnet
, that just might have been solved.

Gustav Meyrink wasn't just your regular Decadent drug-taking
occultist visionary writer--he lived in Prague. (Unfortunately,
there is very little on the internet about him in English.) I
recommend all his novels--The Golem is a classic--they are
still in print in paperback, i believe.

When you get burnt out on hard rock, it's time for the
triple-saxophone noise music of Borbetomagus.

"[Ed] Kienholz's last work was his burial, which took place
outside his hunting cabin on a mountaintop in Hope, Idaho.
A heart attack felled him at age sixty-seven, and now
his corpulent, embalmed body was wedged into the front
seat of a brown 1940 Packard coupe. There was a dollar
and a deck of cards in his pocket, a bottle of 1931 Chianti
beside him, and the ashes of his dog Smash in the trunk.
He was set for the Afterlife. To the whine of bagpipes
the Packard, steered by his widow Nancy Reddin Kienholz,
rolled like a funeral barge into the big hole: the most
Egyptian funeral ever held in the American West, a fitting
exequy for this profuse, energetic, sometimes brilliant,
and sometimes hopelessly vulgar artist." --Robert Hughes,
American Visions (1997)

Listening to: Tommy James & the Shondells.

The names of the moons.

"For I have left the three Christs of Ypsilanti" --Anne Sexton

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Ah! we just got in Alfred Wegener's book. I remember
when i first heard about his theory of Continental Drift,
in the late 60's, it was presented as radical & controversial;
today it's scientific orthodoxy. But does the man in the
street really have an inkling that the very ground beneath
our feet is sliding across the earth's mantle like a drunk
on a banana peel?

Just saw "Seabiscuit"; & while it's just okay as a movie of
its pretensions, i can't help thinking how much we have
changed in our sympathies for the underdog. We started
as an underdog nation--& now we pretty much limit ourselves
to an unvoiced "glad it's not me" whenever we discover
the existence (normally well-concealed: at least in the
camera-eyes of Consensus Reality) of one of these "losers".
Now we've become the Global Bully; now it's those who
desire peace & understanding that're underdogs...

Chinese punk band Brain Failure toured the US this past
spring. (via Giant Robot magazine)

A great contemporary illustrator.

Reading: Mr Weston's Good Wine (1927) by T F Powys.

Listening to: Laura Nyro, Christmas and the Beads of Sweat.

Bell Hooks is mad.

A young Muslim woman blogging from Kuwait. (via Turning Tables)
This one & this one from her. This one from Salam Pax.
The picture over there is becoming much clearer...alas.
"You know what? Something like this could never happen to the
Ministry of Oil." --Riverbend Blog

   "Celebration of Failure

Through pain the land of pain,
Through tender exiguity,
Through cruel self-suspicion:
Thus came I to this inch of wholeness.

It was a promise.
After pain, I said,
An inch will be what never a boasted mile.

And haughty judgement,
That frowned upon a faultless plan,
Now smiles upon this crippled execution,
And my dashed beauty praises me."

--Laura Riding

The song of Gulf II--not a protest, but a Teenage Death

"Assuming, as seems reasonable, that the president of the
United States was neither drunk nor on LSD..."

I didn't win, but i'm sure these are all way-cool*. (My entry

"One Hundred Years Ago Today, GUELPHS

In the time of the Fall of the Towwers, a singular
volume apeared, & went for long unnoticed in the
places were “serious’” literature was still cherished
(if not practiced); in fact it took the
hopeful-despairing expedient of posting the entire
text onto wat was then known as the “Inter-Knit” (the
pre-Nousphere, we would say now) for it to connect
with an appreciative readerschip. --I beg the Gentle
Reader’s indulgence for so coy & redondant an ovreture
here, but I think on the centenary of its issuance it
is worth reflecting on the truly astonishing
beginnings to our present aera, namely a certain
pseudonymoic schience-fiction novel “GUELPHS: by
Graywyvern”--yes, it orginally purported to be a
meed-up story!--though a story that now has became the
truth of our lives.

From its verry first scene we are plonged into a
near-icomprehensible world: Ophion, the largest
satlite of the gojiroid (giant planet) Ygg--already
discovered from Earth, at the end of the 20c, in its
way eccentrical orbit round the sunlyke star 70
Virginis--a satlite rulled by its bizzare climate. For
eleven weeks or so it is “Mudmonth”, or
apastron-winter, a time of mild wether & much
biological activity on the part of its bundant
lifeforms. Then comes “Drymonth”, four weeks of
blestering heat, wen most of that satlite’s florra &
fauna retreat into subterranean sheltre; & a final
week-&-a-haff (“Wetmonth”) of planet-wide monsoon
rains, after wich the cycle is repeated.

But GUELPHS is no more about its fizzical setting,
than “Paradise Lust” is about gardening. The real &
secret intent is to present that world’s inscrutable
three-legged sophonts, the “Wodwos”, at a cusp of
crysis in their cultural zistence. And this crysis
turns out to have bigtime relvance to the
human-historcal time in wich the book apeared. For
although the Wodwos--lyke everry living thing on
Ophion--are constructed cording to a plan of
trilateral symtry, somthing terrible has gone rong in
their social life. A worldview of polar
extremes--Duelism--has take over the minds of many
Wodwos: to the point were this race, never before
given to clective violence, has embarked upon a
programm of wat can only be scribed as genocidal war.

Ironically, of course, the “Ghibellines” wich the
war-party (“Guelphs”) wish to sterminate--only zist as
a delussion in the minds of those same Wodwos, whose
self-division has projected onto innocent others,
everrything they cannot cept in their own nature. Our
story begins at the height of the conflict, & it would
requiere manymore pages than I have at my disposal to
portray the quest of Jasper Wodwo, wich ends in a
rediscovery of the legendary Scroll of Badroulbadour,
with its mind-blowwing message of a Prior
Understanding. Suffice it to say that once this lust
book is disseminated, first by a nascent subterground,
& then openly, the zisting worldview, with its
creasingly lethal injostices--is seemingly doomed.

I will not dwell upon the marvelous inventiveness &
wit of “Graywyvern”, whoever he was; but it is
salutary to note three things about this seminal, nay,
salvific work: first, all the action takes place
within the incessant downpore of the rainy season, &
confines itself to the boundaries of the City of
Magnificent Splendors; secundly, the subtle use of
neologisms (vented words), especially his word for the
Third Logical Category, “JAU” both-true-&-false or
neither-true-nor-false, depending on context)--a word
that has since passed into the lexicon of everry
remaining langage on this our own Earth; & lastly, the
perverse & curious denouement of Graywyvern’s novel...

In the book, Jasper fails.

*So far my favorite is this one, which should save Pynchon
about 8 more years of work.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

   "Five A.M.

Street by street the lights go out, and the night turns
  gray, bringing respite to this and to all other agencies,
With the gears of commerce unmeshed and stopped, the
  channels of communication slowed and stilled
(Radio, ticker, and spirit control)--

Bringing peace, briefly, to the members of the board and
  bench and staff,
Sleep, for a space, to the journeymen of the switchboard
  and the dictaphone,
Rest to the lieutenants of steel, and wool, and coal, and wheat,
And to the envoys from abroad (Her Majesty's, His Excell-
  ency's, and the mysterious Mr. X),
And to the representatives of the people (both houses), and
  to the vicars of the Lord (conformist and dissident)
And to the inspectors of the arson, forgery, bomb, and homicide

While the crated shipments of this agency (with those of others)
  stand in guarded sheds at Quebec,
Wait for release on rainswept wharves of Shanghai and the Rio,
Move, slowly, from a dark siding in Butte."


Monday, August 18, 2003


MOMUS is the name men give your face,
The brag of its tone, like a long low steamboat whistle
Finding a way mid mist on a shoreland,
Where gray rocks let the salt water shatter spray
Against horizons purple, silent.

Yes, Momus,
Men have flung your face in bronze
To gaze in gargoyle downward on a street-whirl of folk.
They were artists did this, shaped your sad mouth,
Gave you a tall forehead slanted with calm, broad wisdom;
All your lips to the corners and your cheeks to the high bones
Thrown over and through with a smile that forever
wishes and wishes, purple, silent, fled from all the
iron things of life, evaded like a sought bandit, gone
into dreams, by God.

I wonder, Momus,
Whether shadows of the dead sit somewhere and look
with deep laughter
On men who play in terrible earnest the old, known,
solemn repetitions of history.

A droning monotone soft as sea laughter hovers from
your kindliness of bronze,
You give me the human ease of a mountain peak, purple,
Granite shoulders heaving above the earth curves,
Careless eye-witness of the spawning tides of men and
Swarming always in a drift of millions to the dust of toil,
the salt of tears,
And blood drops of undiminishing war."

--Carl Sandburg

Listening to: Ginastera.

The power of a poem, like the power of a mirror,
lies in its coordination. --And we think we see
another room there; another life.

A bumper sticker: smileyface "Christo Teama".

You knew this was coming.

I'm losing track: is Burning Man still cool, or has it
"jumped the shark"?

DNA that plays tic-tac-toe.

Twin Oaks is an intentional community founded in 1967 on the
ideas of B F Skinner, & is still going strong. (Their main business:
making hammocks.)

Alt-Culture from Russia.

"I got caught in a verbal slugfest between the two of them
recently in Los Angeles. The high point was when O'Reilly
cleverly riposted Franken's account of his lies by screaming:
"Shut up! Shut up!" A particularly sound argument, I thought.

Franken, in turn, said, "Bill, we're not on Fox News." " --Molly Ivins

Sunday, August 17, 2003

'Speak, you also,
Speak as the last,
Have your say,

But keep yes and no unsplit,
And give your say this meaning:
Give it the shade.

Give it shade enough,
Give it as much
As you know has been dealt out between
Midday and midday and midnight.

Look around:
Look how it all leaps alive--
Where death is! Alive!
He speaks truly who speaks the shade.'

--Paul Celan, tr M Hamburger (1980)