Saturday, October 18, 2003

"...A thousand pilgrims strain
Arm, shoulder, breast and thigh, with might and main,
To drag that sacred wain,
And scarce can draw along the enormous load.
Prone falls the frantic votaries in its road,
And calling on the God,
Their self-devoted bodies there they lay
To pave his chariot-way.
On Jaga-Naut they call,
The ponderous Car rolls on, and crushes all.
Through flesh and bone it ploughs its dreadful path.
Groans rise unheard: the dying cry,
And death and agony
Are trodden underfoot by yon mad throng,
Who follow close, and thrust the deadly wheels along."

--Robert Southey, The Curse of Kehama (1810)

   "Outsourced Epic"

This stain will not rinse out, though years may try;
Stained is our flag, our hands, & eke our art.
Like ranked sleepwalkers marching we charged the cliff,
And too much broken crowns the catafalque.
Daily i hear a tide turning, gladly i hear
Speech restored, & yet we are still astray
In a cloud that's drastic dark; & we have burned
Wheatfields of choices to play the fate-denier.

10 16 03

   "Sleep in the Mojave Desert

Out here there are no hearthstones,
Hot grains, simply. It is dry, dry.
And the air dangerous. Noonday acts queerly
On the mind's eye erecting a line
Of poplars in the middle distance, the only
Object beside the mad, straight road
One can remember men and houses by.
A cool wind should inhabit these leaves
And a dew collect on them, dearer than money,
In the blue hour before sunup.
Yet they recede, untouchable as tomorrow,
Or those glittery fictions of spilt water
That glide ahead of the very thirsty.

I think of the lizards airing their tongues
In the crevice of an extremely small shadow
And the toad guarding his heart's droplet.
The desert is white as a blind man's eye,
Comfortless as salt. Snake and bird
Doze behind the old maskss of fury.
We swelter like firedogs in the wind.
The sun puts its cinder out. Where we lie
The heat-cracked crickets congregate
In their black armorplate and cry.
The day-moon lights up like a sorry mother,
And the crickets come creeping into our hair
To fiddle the short night away."

--Sylvia Plath

Listening to: Wolff & Hennings- Tibetan Bells (1971)

Friday, October 17, 2003

Announcing the publication of a new book
of selected poems in verse by Michael Helsem,
Fungoids, available for $9.60 from:

or by clicking on "tie-ins" from my blog.

(Some of these poems have been published
in previous chapbooks, but not many of

Listening to: Trout Mask Replica.

Apparently i'm not the first painter to be influenced
by Elephant Art.

Nor is the new Mel Gibson movie the only
one that was made in Aramaic.

"There are miracles nobody survives." --Bill Knott, Becos

"How is it I'm so exhausted by what I once believed that
the things I love affront me with the effort to love them. Prison
was a good place to be tired. There I taught my conscience the
art of fatigue, as a consequence of which passion and integrity
died immediately, without protest." --Steve Erickson, Rubicon

'The difference between us and the the following:
whereas we believe lightning to be released as a result of the
collision of clouds, they believe clouds collide so as to release
lightning.' --Seneca, Quaestiones naturales II.32.2, in: Rika
Lesser, Etruscan Things (1983)

"But it was also Auden who, later in his life, told a friend that
he had never understood a word Ashbery had written." -- J D
McClatchy, White Paper (1989)

"Until well into the Middle Ages the relative values of the two noble
metals [gold & silver] was determined by the relationship of the
rotation times of the two heavenly bodies [the Sun & Moon]."
--Titus Burckhardt


If we, as we are, are dust, and dust, as it will, rises,
Then we will rise, and recongregate
In the wind, in the cloud, and be their issue,

Things in a fall in a world of fall, and slip
Through the spiked branches and snapped joints of the evergreens,
White ants, white ants and the little ribs. '

--Charles Wright

Someone i knew asked me last night if i was going to
read; i said i thought not, "--my old poems bore me & my
new ones are no good." I should stay home when i'm in that
kind of mood. It's like having the tigers in your circus act
turn on you--better in solitude, than with an audience & the

"pain passes for sunlight at some depths" --Bill Knott

    "Still ist sein Zeichen
Am donnernden Himmel. Und Einer stehet darunter
Sein Leben lang." --Holderlin ('In the thundering sky/
His sign is silent. And one/ Stands underneath it all/
His life long.')

Good novelists can describe personality types so exactly
i can recognize them. Does this prove typology is real,
or unnecessary?

Ego is a theory of the introvert in isolation, the extravert
in conflict.

Possession by the Shadow: the desire to punish; the Avenger.
Identification with the Shadow: the Anti-Hero; the Condemned
One. Both are wrong. You must affirm the midpoint of

"...We are alone
until the times change
and those who have been betrayed
come back like pilgrims to this moment
when we did not yield
and call the darkness poetry" --Leonard Cohen

Thursday, October 16, 2003

"Haiku, Short Verse, and French Poets", a
lecture by Yves Bonnefoy. (suggested by an entry at
Language Hat)

Bonnefoy, in turn, led me to Paul-Jean Toulet;
i found a few of his poems translated here.

...Robinson Jeffers's Medea...sort of like Howl
redone by Webster or Tourneur... I was able to understand
a little of the mental state of Plath's last days, when I realized
her emotional situation was exactly analogous to Medea's....

G--- the Communist called, too... As usual I waffled out. He
did say something which stuck in my mind: "Don't let that
illegitimist night get you down." I realized my position vis-à-vis
the Party has been (sometimes) like those 19c. dandies who
sort of maintained an aesthetic interest in Catholicism, without
ever managing to summon enough faith to want to join.

"Perhaps such secrets, the secrets of everyone, were only
expressed when the person laboriously dragged them into the light
of the world, imposed them on the world, and made them a part of the
world's experience. Without this effort, the secret place was merely
a dungeon in which the person perished; without this effort, indeed,
the entire world would be an uninhabitable darkness; and she saw,
with a dreadful reluctance, why this effort was so rare. Reluctantly,
because she then realized that Richard had bitterly disappointed her
by writing a book in which he did not believe. In that moment she
knew, and she knew that Richard would never face it, that the book
he had written to make money represented the absolute limit of his
talent. It had not really been written to make money--if only it had
been! It had been written because he was afraid, afraid of things
dark, strange, dangerous, difficult, and deep." --James Baldwin,
Another Country (1962)

"He leaned up a little and watched her face. Her face would now be,
forever, more mysterious and impenetrable than the face of any
stranger. Strangers' faces hold no secrets because the imagination
does not invest them with any. But the face of a lover is an unknown
precisely because it is invested with so much of oneself. It is a
mystery, containing, like all mysteries, the possibility of torment."

My religious roots are not so much in Christianity as in Rock--
& only the corruption of the latter fills me with a sense of betrayal.

A poem is a bug like a cricket.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

   "True Jesus Bullet Train"

Sip wine like rain
Cadmium Proxima
Whisper bright
Crinolines perturb

Comes the god
Creeping indigo
Comes the rain

Fragile athanor
In a flaking mask

10 14 03

Another "100 novels" list.

Republican congressmen can go to Iraq, but
not Democrats
. (via Eschaton)
Happened to be at a friend's house, & what do
i see? "Davey and Goliath" on DVD! I remember
watching this when i was growing up. I was
fascinated by the ambiguity between living
& nonliving that this illusion created. --A similar
ambiguity, IMHO, drives the better part of
experimental poetry: except that it's
between referential & nonreferential. But
what i can't understand, is why not all poets
(much less, all readers) are as fascinated by
this as myself...

Kawaii links. (via Metafilter) --Something else
that our poetry has mostly failed to come to
grips with. (We're still hung up on "outlaw-

Arabic terms. hikoomet dhill- shadow
government. (via Baghdad Burning)

This maze made of confusion, a thousand casual lapses.
Damnation--of the flaccid grip.

   'I honour you in dread

Since your voice like a soft vapour laps me
and my eyes, offered to the eternal scythe,
dare for you to contemplate the coffin;
since to me your red sanctuary affords
a joy half chill, half cardinalate, before
the posthumous avalanche weeps upon the vane;
since the bold cervix of the ardent skeleton,
predestined to the brand of the funeral
walnut, has hurled for you defiance to Death;
I honour you in dread of a lost alcove,
necromantic, with your rigid face
ecstatic, on a shin, as on a pillow;
and since you are my blood's harmonious chosen,
Amada, and life's convulsions seem a bridge
above an abyss, on which we tread together,
my kisses scour you devoutly serried
over a sacrilegious cloak of skulls
as over an erotic domino.'

--Ramon Lopez Velarde (1888-1921), in: Octavio Paz's
anthology Mexican Poetry


To warm life passing singing with the grace
of a woman without wile or veil,
to unconquered beauty, enamouring, saving,
responds, amid the magic hour's elation,
a rancour of ants in my voracious veins.

The pit of silence and the swarm of sound,
the flour cloven like a double trophy
on fertile busts, the Hell of my belief,
the rattle of death and prelude to the nest,
chastise the ceaseless truant formication.

But soon my ants will deny me their embrace
and from my poor and diligent fingers fly
as a cold bagasse is forgotten on the sand;
and your mouth, cypher of erotic prowess,
your mouth that is my rubric, food, adornment,
your mouth that in its flaunting tongue vibrates
like a reprobate flame escaping from a kiln
into a throng of bitter howling gales
where the moon prowls intent to ravish you,
your mouth will smell of shroud and crushed grass,
of opiate and respond, wick and wax.

Before my ants abandon me, Amada,
let them journey the journey of your mouth
to gorge viatica of the sanguinary fruit
provoking me from Saracen oases.

Before your lips die for my sorrow give
them to me on the graveyard's critical threshold,
their bread and perfume, venom and cautery.'


[RLV is my favorite Spanish-language poet.]

"I...did not stop to think whether the verses...would find a
reader. Nor have I ever considered whether they deserved
to find one." --Jeffers

"More common than the flarfer working a day job
in a marketing agency in Manhattan is the central
Asian nomad." --Silliman's Blog

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

How do you know you're in a Mystery: it codifies your

'But there are excavations of excavations.' --The Book of
Concealed Mystery
(Mathers tr)

"One must sense the dark is occupied." --Jeffrey Gburek.

"Wittgenstein said of his [Trakl's] poems: 'I do not under-
stand them, but their tone delights me. It is the tone of a man of real genius.' " --Selected Poems ed C Middleton*

Alternative self-histories are more futile than most.

"Spinnen suchen mein Herz." ('Spiders look for my heart.')

"Poetry confines itself more and more to what only poetry can
do: but this turns out to be something which not many people
want done." --C S Lewis

"I'm wearing/ windows for walls,/ and the street keeps coming
through." --Michelle Shocked, "Disoriented" (from her hard-to-find

   'Casida of the Rose

  The rose
was not searching for the sunrise:
almost eternal on its branch,
it was searching for something else.

  The rose
was not searching for darkness or science:
borderland of flesh and dream,
it was searching for something else.

  The rose
was not searching for the rose.
Motionless in the sky
it was searching for something else.' --Lorca (tr Bly)

Contraries: truth & Mystery. Their opposites: lies &

Banality--a cancer with its own health & its own antibodies.

What techniques are to problems, initiations are to

I like a cop car parked beside me. I don't like a cop car
driving beside me.

Holidays spread, like a stain, into whole seasons.

   '181. [A veces, siento]

At times I feel
like the rose
that I shall be, like the wing
that I shall be;
and a perfume shrouds me, alien and mine,
mine and a rose's;
and a wanderlust grips me, alien and mine,
mine and a bird's.'

--tr Eloise Roach, Juan Ramon Jiménez Three Hundred Poems

*   "A Waltz in Old Vienna"

Once Wittgenstein gifted Georg Trakl
Though quipping, "His verse boasts a lock'll
   Withstands the best key;
   It's yet poetry."
And Trakl pushed back his debacle.


Monday, October 13, 2003

Interesting set of "France-in-a-nutshell"
i found while looking for mot de
; here's a word (& an attitude)
we need: laicite'.

The Rats of Alpha Centauri.

Listening to: Dead Can Dance- Into the Labyrinth.

New French observations of Alpha Centauri
make it almost the same age as the Sun,
instead of a couple of billion years older
as previously thought.

Waiting for the Taikonauts.

You can find a David Hardy painting of "Proxima's
Planet" (which is now not thought to exist)*--here.
Clicking on his name leads to a small site for the
great space artist himself...

Clicking on this, however, takes you to a site
about "diapered furries", & if you have to ask,
you don't want to know.

*but you can still sing the song. (How appropriate--
Black Metal about a Ghost Planet.)

A somewhat more lyrical picture of the star.

--Curiously, though the "planet" would have orbited at
about Venus's distance, because of the smaller mass of
Proxima its revolution period would be more like 600
days. [And if you reduce the mass of Proxima to
something like 8.9% of the Sun's--not at all an
unlikely number--it produces a revolution period of
666 days...]

Best montage. Melanie reminded me of
the one in "Grace of My Heart" where they intercut
the song being written, what prompted the song,
& the song being recorded , for "Unwanted Number".

In an alternate universe... (via Buzz Flash)

Got a letter from someone who used to be
a poetry publisher & now runs the "Ganjah
Baptist Church of America". (It's about what
you'd think from the name.) Me, i'm waiting
for the Ganja Pentecostalists.

   "Nightly Phone-Charging Ritual"

Nebulize the wrixled mortal day
Loin railgun bible
Dogging... Flowers of evil for Algernon
Waihopai viridian
Sleep mimics

Immensely climbs dictated
Slag off is
The fury of the matador we
Indigo fraud lurch

The big bad ballasted oblong sprockets stilb
Flaking squib bullion
Elephantine froglegs illegible bleed
Stilb silver

Alcove under crinoline take. Call
Back facets
Pungent equivalence: love

10 13 03

"This evening, to London for a party to celebrate 40 years
of the NYRB. All the usual suspects were there; I talked to
a former colleague about the war. 'They did have the most
extraordinary hubris about the power of their army', he said:
'I was talking to Dick Cheney in December last year, and I
asked him, how did he see the war on terror ending. He said-
"with the elimination of all the terrorists"!' We looked at
each other with complete British understanding, and both
thought of the Duke of Wellington. 'They may not frighten the
enemy', I said, 'But, damme, sir, they frighten me!' he finished."

Then he said that the man to quote now, six months into the
occupation, was Kipling: 'We have had no end of a lesson and it has done us no end of good.' "--Andrew Brown

Ego as a lawnmower engine each of us carries on our
backs from birth. The noise, the stinks which obscure
our selfhood. And some have engines so large, whole
nations are required to hold them up... And we think we'd
die without them

'Largeness is the mortal enemy of the infinite.' --Henri Michaux, The Turbulent Infinite

All poetry readings should be held by candlelight; it activates
a deeper level of listening than fluorescent.

"on rune-height by the garbaged rill
      the scree-fall answers the cawed madrigals"
--The Anathemata

"To a poet, nothing can be useless." --Rasselas

   'Do you fall Elevator?

Do you fall elevator? Where? In
  the hottest waiting room
  a rattlesnake creeps
  along a crack. And hisses.

So do I know that the Earth,
  littered with bark and gnarls,
is a truly worm-eaten tree.

Oh, all of you above ground,
  who doubt with Thomas,
  saw the earth through
  and be convinced.' --Kristinn Reyr, in: The Post-War
Poetry of Iceland
tr S Magnusson (1982)

"by the brumous numen drawn on" --The Anathemata

"All of physics and chemistry is in a candle flame." --Michael Faraday

...Dr Krasinski's Secret by M P Shiel--sorta like Robert Louis
Stevenson on acid.

...[I] use my [chap-] book as if it were a hologram calling-card
of the real me...

Hearts & minds.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Surely the greatest hindrance to human freedom
is the fact that not everyone wants it, needs it, or
knows what it is when they have it... But if i contemplate
this too long, i become speechless.
   I'll side with any libel at 2 p.m.

Even so in significant an object as a paperclip, i cannot
help but regard with the same insistent awe that a preindustrial
human would at its precision of form & absolute symmetry.

"Dry facts, like biscuits..." --Sacheverell Sitwell

"...warring dualities..." --Ruth Pitter

Poets can still feel like they're taking part in a grand collective
enterprise: the denial of our extremity.

...the Albigensian Crusade (which would have discredited the
Christian Church forever if men had memories)...

"...why should the gracious fountain of life give us passions,
and the power of reflecting, only to imbitter our days and inspire
us with mistaken notions of dignity?" --Wollstonecraft

Fairness is a duty enjoined by the existence of typological
differentiation. But objectivity is a despicable pretence.

...eclecticism itself has a significance (cultural dispossession,
Late-Empire-style) which no act of appropriation can transcend.
That is, being uncultured, we approach past (& exotic present)
cultures in an inescapably superficial way--as COSTUME. And
the more we realize this, the more desperately we grasp at the
attainments of others.

"...Hume had stuck in a bog and an old woman rescued him on
condition he said the Lord's Prayer..." --Virginia Woolf, To the