Saturday, April 24, 2004

The whole point is, there are no rewards.
"Poetry which relates to the beings of another world ought to be at once mysterious and picturesque."
--Macaulay, Essay on Milton

"Salve salvage in the spin.
Endorse the splendor splashes;
Stylize the flawed utility;
prop a malign or failing light--
but know the whirlwind is our commonwealth."

--Gwendolyn Brooks, from "The Second Sermon on the Warpland", op cit


If an eagle be imprisoned
on the back of a coin,
and the coin be tossed
into the sky,
the coin will spin,
the coin will flutter,
but the eagle will never fly."

--Henry Dumas, ibid

A palindromic tanka cited in Alpha to Omega, Humez & Humez:

"na ka ki yo no
to o no ne bu ri no
mi na me za me
na mi no ri bu ne no
o to no yo ki ka na." ('The sleeping figure's eyes open in the middle of a winter's night--can it be in anticipation of the sound of the wave-borne boat?')

" was once proposed that Groucho play the role of Dr O'Connor in a filmed Nightwood..." --Anthony Burgess

Friday, April 23, 2004

Ambergris--the Untold Story. (via Kathryn Cramer)

Ted's Head.

The eccentric blog of Toadex Hobogrammathon. (He also has a novel at Ubu Editions.)

Another Look at Pale Fire.

To expand upon my yesterday's comment ("Features, Not Tribes."), which i see now was part of a crossbloggal discussion of this, i see the present situation as one in which poets choose (for temperamental or personal-history reasons) from among several presented "dialects" of poetry (& not excluding many of the poetries of the past, or from other cultures); our eclecticism has the cross-dimension of being more pure or more mixed, but all the same it does very little to originate. And of course we choose our tribes, also, & analogously: & one of the reasons we use a certain dialect is that we think we have something in common to discuss with others who use it (see my essay on Blixen).
   But tribal divisions only map onto dialects insofar as poetic centers enforce (or fail to enforce) the dialects that correspond to their perceived canon. And one cannot talk about blixen, to return to this designation for 'dispersed groups', without recognizing that hardly anyone belongs to just one blik, nor does a large percentage exactly correspond to each other--although correlations can certainly be found.
   Further complicating this is the small fact that our animosities mostly map onto mythical entities. (The "avant garde" is only one such.)
   But if we start talking about features, how much less danger is there of falling into name-calling or reifying! For instance, here is one feature: linebreaks/ no linebreaks (="prose poetry"). That doesn't imply anything about the poet's subject matter, sexual political religious orientation, or place of origin... Other features i find interesting: wide parataxis/ limited parataxis; monolingual/polylingual; human-generated/computer-generated; persona/non-persona...
   Just the other day i invented a new form. I take a number of rhime-equivalent pairs (words whose A=1, B=2...Z=26 sums are the same number); & use them as endwords in any order. Additionally, the poems i wrote in this form counted syllables--most of them were in "snowflakes", where i use lines of 3, 5, 7, 9, & 11 in any order (then repeat). --I haven't named it yet.
   Syntax was fairly straightforward, with slight disjunctions between lines and/or stanzas; a few of the referents were esoteric, but most of the poems was intelligible, if a bit vague. I think of the basic dialect as post-Symbolist, with a smattering of Langpo. These poems, as with most of my other output, were not "addressed" as such; they refrain from the tribal. And while rhime is a procedure i have used before, i have only used it in couplets before now.
   Is this "experimental"? Is it "avant garde"? Is it "Quietudinous"? Is it "Confessional"? Is it "NeoFormalist"?
   Is it "Flarf"? Is it "Umbrist"? Is it "Xenon Mercurist"?
   "I Have Folded My Sorrows

I have folded my sorrows into the mantle of summer night,
Assigning each brief storm its allotted space in time,
Quietly pursuing catastrophic histories buried in my eyes.
And yes, the world is not some unplayed Cosmic Game,
And the sun is still ninety-three million miles from me,
And in the imaginary forest, the shingled hippo becomes the gay unicorn.
No, my traffic is not with addled keepers of yesterday's disasters,
Seekers of manifest disembowelment on shafts of yesterday's pains.
Blues come dressed like introspective echoes of a journey.
And yes, I have searched the rooms of the moon on cold summer nights.
And yes, I have refought those unfinished encounters.
   Still, they remain unfinished.
And yes, I have at times wished myself something different.

The tragedies are sung nightly at the funerals of the poet;
The revisited soul is wrapped in the aura of familiarity."

--Bob Kaufman, op cit

'Subversion is perhaps only a rotation of crops.' --Jabès

"War that shatters her slain,
And peace that grinds them as grain,
And eyes fixed ever in vain
On the pitiless eyes of fate." --Rossetti

"Their only labor was to kill the time;
And labor dire it is, and weary woe..." --Thomson

"...for no man lives in the external truth, among salts and acids, but in the warm, phantasmagoric chamber of his brain, with the painted windows and the storied walls." --R L Stevenson

Thursday, April 22, 2004

"...I was Lee Marvin watching a grain combine
eat a Cadillac in an open field..." --Michael Atkinson

Lazuri. More.

Features, Not Tribes.

Momus hears a Tatar pop song, & decides to make an album called "Songs from Imaginary Central Asian Republics".
I had a great thought as i looked at the Seattle Art Museum's African collection: NARRATIVE IS A MASK. Narrative is to what happens, as a mask is to the face. The mask dances; the mask in repose. It is story because we live in time & all that we perceive we perceive in time. Description becomes animated as much as characters are. Symbols are only: inanimate characters. And the Africans knew this...

   "A Black Man Talks of Reaping

I have sown beside all waters in my day,
I planted deep, within my heart the fear
That wind or fowl would take the grain away.
I planted safe against this stark, lean year.

I scattered seed enough to plant the land
In rows from Canada to Mexico
But for my reaping only what the hand
Can hold at once is all that I can show.

Yet what I sowed and what the orchard yields
My brother's sons are gathering stalk and root,
Small wonder then my children glean in fields
They have not sown, and feed on bitter fruit."

--Arna Bontemps, op cit

'God is saved by the void.' --Jabès

"Values are vowels." --Ron Silliman, "The Chinese Notebooks"

"We anew view swart waves' flowing wilderness..." --C M Doughty, Mansoul

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

I've forgotten how to be an artist without publicity.
Paraplegic afternoon, with the dogs standing around as puzzled as i.


This is the surest death
Of all the deaths I know.
The one that halts the breath,
The one that falls with snow
And nothing but a peace
Before the second zone,
For Aprils never cease
To resurrect their own,
And in my very veins
Flows blood as old as Eve.
The smallest cell contains
Its privileged reprieve,
But vultures recognize
This single mortal thing
And watch with hungry eyes
When hope starts staggering."

--Naomi Long Madgett, in The Poetry of Black America ed Arnold Adoff (1973)

'The honor bestowed upon the icon is bestowed upon the prototype.' --Basil the Patriarch

'The I is not the stake, but the game.' --Jabès

   'Distant Howling

In Alsace,
on 6th July 1885,
a rabid dog knocked down
the nine-year-old Joseph Meister
and bit him fourteen times.

Meister was the first patient
saved by Pasteur
with his vaccine, in thirteen
progressive doses
of the attenuated virus.

Pasteur died of ictus
ten years later.
The janitor Meister
fifty-five years later
committed suicide
when the Germans occupied
his Pasteur Institute
with all those poor dogs.

Only the virus
remained above it all.'

--Miroslav Holub (tr Ewald Osers) in: Poetry With an Edge (ed Neil Astley 1988)

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

   "Lament for the Chapbook-Makers"

  The world of zines,
hobbyist prophets.
Not an underground
but an attic. We bank
on future collectibility,
though the paper blizzard
shows no sign of tapering off.

Declasse distress
& sleight of hand
meet on the xox'd pages
a Babel of aesthetics,
reflecting the war
only in its equal disorder.
But we're forced to do it.

Prestige beyond numbers
still, in the big leagues
of the publishers' minor markets.
More reviews than books are read.

Believers in the great Victorian novel public,
or in the Beat Thing,
teachers or would-be freelancers,
a lot of misfits
with no other axe to grind...
despised amateurs
with cosmic visions.

No center for this cult
than the discovery of the cult itself.
A poet with a vocation
is a menace to others.

History consoles,
especially the biographies
of latterly deified saints.
Much more than looking at each other,
much more than truth-telling.

O this balloon i keep almost letting go of!
Crutch of my life & its blighting.
Ethical enigmas give way to verbal
& i still don't, like Akhmatova,
find it helps one bit.

How beauty of the fleeting moment
produces this compulsion
is not a genre.
There are so few drugs that work.
The city, an addict.
Some with eyes on the red sky.

So i labor at this renegade accumulation
mindful of present dangers
like a figurehead carver
on a ship in a storm.
My version of tradition
not hawked in the thoroughfares
but whispered at midnight.
This is a public poem.

  If the bridge i am building collapses
there may be reasons,
there may not.
If the bridge i am building begins
to look like a web full of caught bugs,
it may still be a bridge
but a bridge to a diff'rent place.

  The watchers,
a tribe of aliens
with a tribe's beliefs.
But many fewer.

And other tribes the powerful.
That rankling, though a lesser
stigma than some. Invisibles.

This is the true love.
Sometimes it bursts through
the bounds of the rituals.
Lives can be transformed
if you're young enough.

Love in the margins
of our machine lives.
In spite of parasitic
I'm amazed it's at all

but seldom grateful.

  Masterpieces in obscure media
as a protest obscurer still,
he conceived the chief aim
of his leisure moments.

But the beauty of the project
soon palled,
so much work it takes!
(to say Damn the Competition);

might as well go on strike.

  Too amateur a venue
for one so published,
this billboard i deface.
I resort to leatherbound editions.

Rumors of intimacy
rebound from the hard walls
void of bookshelves
or, indeed, posters.

And hist'ry, that debunked debunker,
comes to the rescue
in the wrong way for the wrong reasons.

02 13 92

'I believe that if the geometrician were to be conscious of this hopeless and desperate striving of the hyperbola to unite with its asymptotes, he would represent the hyperbola to us as a living being and a tragic one!'

Everything after the Gulf War seems both empty & sinister.

"Animo qui aegrobat videmus corpore hunc signum dare;
tum doloribus confectum corpus animo obsistere." --Lucilius ('A sickness of mind, we see, makes its mark on flesh; racked with pains, that flesh then ravages the mind.' tr Janet Lembke in: Bronze and Iron (1973))

Monday, April 19, 2004

"As their APC's and tanks keep getting blown up, the Americans have to take any face-hardened steel plating available and start welding. ...Now you see these improvised fighting machines all over Iraq. Once painted with that solid olive drab color, they are now patchworks of red, black and green, with random pieces of metal sticking off everywhere, bristling with guns. They look incredibly bizarre. I call it the Mad Max Rolling Sideshow." --Christopher Deliso
The 27-Letter Alphabet.

Second Thoughts.
"Another thing that generally cheers me up is "banking" my finished works. All my adult life, I've had this non-rational belief that my main function in life was to get as many works into my Final Account as possible. I actually have a physical feeling of contentment when I imagine myself inserting a new finished work into the slot in the building that holds The World's Cultural Works. It's exactly as in Monopoly as one accumulates properties, hotels and money!" --Bob Grumman
   (With me, it's more like, as Leonard Cohen once replied to an interviewer who contested his self-description as 'mediocre': "The evidence accumulates.")

"There is no bad or even good Iraqi poet. ALL of them are excellent and superior. This has been the rule since God created the poets and allowed them to produce poetry. Every country had a time in its history when there was no great poet alive. It never happened in Iraq, nor will it happen." --Calling It like It Is

The Unbearable Lightness of Blogging.
"We had no way to talk about any of this. We were at the same time terribly intimate and terribly aloof. We could work shoulder to shoulder for days on end, on what we knew for sure were battle lines; we knew the smell and taste of each other's breath and sweat, but we never stopped, we never paused long enough to look each other in the eye.
   And we had no vocabulary for these things. No
concepts, really, for what was happening. Another world was breaking through to ours, and we were awash in it. We had in fact invited it and here it was, and mostly we saw it as good. We set blind boundaries, changed them, made impromptu rules, forgot them, quarreled, worked together. While some of us drifted out of reach on hard drugs, or the pure chemistry of denial and need.
   But we had no words, not even the thought to look for
words to speak what was happening. OR
  before we identified he weather pattern, the storm had
already broken.

You could put it like that." --Diane DiPrima, Recollections of My
Life as a Woman
' "What I have received as my inheritance," he said, "is the hope for a book. Poisoned legacy! with each of my works, a little more of this hope fades away." ' --Edmond Jabès, The Book of Shares (1987) tr Rosemarie Waldrop

There is something poetic about the planned but unwritten novel that a written one lacks. I must beware of loving too much this aura.
  The discovery of self-modulation, of varying one's style, is the basis for most contemporary art careers. Sometimes it is most baseless; sometimes truly independent of scrutiny. I have almost loved this more than the medium itself. It has lured me from truth when truth was unavailing. I have considered it the mystery of myself. --Though it is not even the central mystery of art.

"Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the deposed president of Haiti, is represented with his attribute, a rooster, and the name of his party written in sequins. He may be finished as president, but he is well on his way to becoming a voodoo spirit figure." --Regina Hackett in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer 2-15-92

"I am the son of the future but she shows me only her mourning veil" --W S Merwin

...the intensity i feel at being rejected is a direct measure of my degree of egotism. [Wherefore it is a good thing to happen once in awhile?]

It was parental supervision that made Americans want to live anonymously. To compensate, they devise lifestyles.