Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Continuing not Completing: On Heidegger, Holderlin, Marx, Creeley, Nonevents, and collecting lines

I am working through a close reading of Heidegger's Being and Time and Marx's Capital : may explain my recent silence.

Though, silence is good, though

and I get to read my friends' posts
and I get to let your words settle without settling
and I get to differentiate indifferently
and I get to consider my vocation

I have wanted to continue working on my ideas re: Silliman's anonymity and Snider's further comments on poetry and the market. Names and Markets. Systems.

For all of the vanity in the field, there is significant new work to be done as a community. Working on asking questions

How can we deformalize poetics?

When I commented that poetry has gone missing from the market, I wasn't commenting about the poetic object and/or the poem as a commodity that can and is exchanged as both use-value and value. etc. Though that is important, I am commenting on the disappearance of poetry--doing poetry--from the public sphere as other than a commodity. (Kind of like the disappearance of certain forms of ecriture.) Best American this...Best American that... and folks don't even know the work is edited. It is assumed that a method actually exists to write "the best" and the form itself for "the best" becomes the thing itself in the market. Same goes for "American".

Robert Creeley's "America"

America, you ode for reality!
Give back the people you took.

Let the sun shine again
on the four corners of the world

you thought of first but do not
own, or keep like a convenience.

People are your own word, you
invented that locus and term.

Here, you said and say, is
where we are. Give back

what we are, these people you made,
us, and nowhere but you to be.

I love the last couplet, will repeat it before continuing:

"what we are, these people you made,
us, and nowhere but you to be."

Let "People"="It"

to be it

to be being it to be
to be it being to be
to be to be it

to it to be
to it be being to it
to it being to be to it

to be being

to it it
to people people

and to recollect that one DHLawrence complained Americans don't know the meaning of IT ("A Spirit of Place")--in my comparison, the meaning of it is the meaning of people. We took America's word for it. And thus the problem: we have the tool, language, but not the thing itself. America took it by way of exchange. And this isn't some relative--timeless, arbitrary, spaceless--exchange in the neoclassical sense. This is a purposive failing to grasp IT.

Can we know what America took and takes in exchange everyday if we do not know what it is that is being taken in each exchange?


I haven't even mentioned Poets. I am addressing language itself. Poets write regardless of the market. If a writer is a writer in the world not just alongside it or with it, then that writer writes regardless. But the product and the producer: we need to carefully examine the relationship of these two distinct entities.

In our capitalist market economy, the public sphere is a market--a safe market. Poetry isn't safe. It isn't obvious. Nevermind grasping "nonevents". The poem itself is a nonevent in that it is a thing, maybe an item at times and always an object. Apparently, I can grasp a poem. But I cannot grasp writing one.


Ernesto Priego at Never Neutral is working with Holderlin. E, I am re-reading Hyperion right now. Holderlin and "grasping". I will have to write about that in the future.

Thinking of Holderlin:
The meaning of poetry may be that poetry is the one differentiated in itself indifferently. A place must exist where the poem begins to be a poem, where the poet actually differentiates subject and object, and that place may be an in itself--a one indifferently differentiated. The rest is cultivation as revision.

As a phenomenon it--the meaning of poetry (a poem?)--certainly shows itself from itself; within poetics, it certainly lets itself be seen in the manner it shows itself from itself; in the world, it is itself held out from nothing.

Drew Gardner's line, "poetry has the capacity to deal with the nonevents of life in a way that other art forms [cannot] possibly manage" is worth problematizing further. John Latta refers to Gardner's claim as "axiomatic." If Latta is correct, then the statement needs no further discussion, is for the most part self-evident. I think the line about poetry's capacity to deal with "nonevents" is a statement about events that poetry actually handles, grasps, confronts--give it the gloss you prefer for the moment. Nonevents are, in fact, known to us because of the events that concresce out from them.

1. that poetry has a "capacity" does not go without saying.
2. that poetry's capacity is finite, in that it "deals", does not go without saying.
3. that poetry's contents deal "with" life rather than "in" life or "for" life does not go without saying.
4. that nonevents are not events, historical or otherwise, needs discussion in context with the claim.
5. if capacity is taken to mean a quality or state of being, some potential energy directed towards a quality about Poetry that Gardner sees as having use, then it is not apparent what that potential is other than it is directed at something referred to as a nonevent.

I think we can move away from axioms and back towards the poem as a physical substance, a body as text, that reflects light from another physical substance, a body as poet.


Poetry irrupts into being from nothing.


What erupts out of being from poetry?

And the limits, the boundaries,
whether body or border,
are market limits to some extent.

Because the term NONEVENT sounds to me like a market term.

(Consider what Thoreau does with economy in Walden or Emerson with the individual in "Experience" & "Circles." I am thinking of these three works in context with much of what came above, not simply the last bit.)


For now, I am going to have to resort to blogging as purging myself of my reading and I will get back to the social critique later. My students, too...they are working hard with me and so I will be blogging with them at Blog of Disquiet. So much to do. Makes the Cynar go down better at the end of the day; or, lacking Cynar, Campari. mmmm...bitter.

"The wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails appears as "an immense collection of commodities."--Karl Marx, opening line of Capital

An exercise
An immense collection of lines

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,

so much depends

the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

It is remarkable how quickly they learn
But if they learn and it is very remarkable how quickly they learn
It makes not only but by and by
And they can not only be not here
But not there
Which after all makes no difference

No, hardly, but seeing he had been born
In a half-savage country, out of date;
Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn;
Capaneus; trout for factitious bait;
    nor is it valid
       to discriminate against "business documents and

school-books"; all these phenomena are important. One must make
    a distinction
  however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
    result is not poetry,

From no nowhere not near the sea
on blue field flax

The day is promising
Along comes something--launched in context
In context to pass it the flow of humanity divides and on the
    other side unites
All gazing at the stars bound in a black bow
I am among them thinking thought through the thinking
    thought to no conclusion
Context is the chance that time takes

The world is a round but
diminishing ball, a spherical

ice cube, a dusty
joke, a fading,

faint echo of its
former self but remembers,

sometimes, its past, sees
friends, places, reflections,

talks to itself in a fond,
judgemental murmur,

it goes on buzzing in her ear,
it changes the pace of her walk,
the torn posters in echoing corridors

spell it out, it
quakes and gnashes as the train comes in.

Nothing is slower than the limping days
when under the heavy weather of the years
Boredom, the fruit of glum indifference,
gains the dimension of eternity

where you
refute me,
to the letter.

I have strange power of speech;

Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the
     themes thou lovest best,
Night, sleep, death and the stars.

So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calmed--see here it is--
I hold it towards you.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Ben Franklin Air Bath

Used to take an air bath in the morning
windows and curtains open in support of his belief
what did he campaign?
though the Big Ben's guts are blown completely to hell
themselves, screaming through the scorched air,
caroming off 2 bedrooms, 1 or 2 full baths Living room
Central air conditioning
Washer/dryer in all units
Wall-to-Wall The Ben Franklin House
originally a grand hotel… Wear it at your own risk…
Ben Thornton, Benjamin Franklin took
a daily naked "air bath," while presidents John Quincy Adams,
Theodore Roosevelt… Remember the "air bath" he advocated?
Had to lead to other things, no?
SMRivera '91.
“Old lightning rod,” they called him.
new evidence about the party-down mentality of Ben Franklin.
as to these windows,
they say Franklin used to… floor windows,
taking what he called an air bath.

Mexican Indians used sauna treatments…
forcing them to drink hot water intended for bathing.
to appear at the very location of Ben Franklin’s ascent.
Do they surface to get air in the eye
Because he thought it would benefit his health
sitting naked in front of an open window
       inhaling deeply.
The next Ben Franklin could be squatting in
the sea below than to hang in the air and feed

…He is denied writing paper, clean clothes, bathing, and toilet…

So let the farmers have their goat,
the settlers their Bacctine and
Ben Franklin his wind gust exfoliating.
Guess its time for another air bath.

Creme Caramel

       She draws a thick yellow chalk sun. She has already drawn flowers. She begins work on a house. She talks to herself as she works. This sun here; this building here; this grass now; and this kitty out back.
       Her white hair is not yet turning brown. She brushes it behind her ears out of her eyes. Hair by hair, bangs fall back to hang in front of her face. She wrinkles her nose, squints her eyes and sings. chalk painter, chalk painter, kitty george.
       She counts everything: broken barrettes, pepper specks in scrambled eggs, cars parked on her side of the street, ants crawling about at her feet. She counts the words her mother speaks throughout the day, each one becomes more attractive than the last. She repeats them during short breaks from drawing. She sits up straight, back straight, butt on feet, and hums her song. chalk painter, chalk painter, nature’s game, neighborhood, sun, and everything.
       She repeats her mother’s words and rubs her nose blue with her small chalk hand. Darling, honestly, I don’t know, don’t worry now, don’t fuss now, sweetie, soon, sweetie, ok. She speaks in her whisper voice just loud enough for her to hear and turns her mother’s voice on inside her head. They speak together. One day we’ll go together, all of us together. She glances up quickly as if called by name. Nobody is there. Her eyes are broken brown with flecks of green, glassy and sharp. She blinks the voice away.
       She stands up and looks down the street. Trees and cars and stoops and homes and kids and parents. She looks down at her work contemplating what to draw next. She is color-limited to red, yellow and blue, green, and brown. She wants colors she can’t name, colors she hasn’t seen. A pain she is just getting to know rises from somewhere under her throat. When she can’t say something, she knows it will climb from her body and try to jump from her mouth. chalk painter, chalk painter, sing my song, hmmm, hmmm, hmmm, hmmm, all day long.
       She plays right in front of the kitchen window so her mother can see her.
       Their house is kept clean like for company—a perpetual cleaning that no longer takes time to maintain yet is always maintained.
       The kitchen is blue and white. Cornflower walls with coconut trim. Dark aqua linoleum with light swirls. Coconut cabinets with cornflower trim. It is the room they spend most time together in. The days move outward from it beginning early there in blue shadows, convening for silent midday conferences there, and ending late in opposite black shadows there.
       She is at the stove working on her daughter’s favorite dessert. Together, they made the custard last night before bed after bath. They sang a custard song about egg yolks and sugar. The songs are all simple and improvised, easy to get lost in, pleasurable to sing, hard to get rid of. Egg yolks and sugar, custard cream, bake me some custard, don’t be mean.
       She has pulled her light brown hair back into a bun for cooking. She makes one cup of caramel from two cups of sugar in a blue le Creuset saucepan. Her favorite dessert in my favorite pan. She hears her father’s blunt voice. What is it with blue? Why not yellow? She stands at the stove spatula in left hand, right hand closed and resting on hip. My kitchen, pop, and my kitchen is blue. She blows a thin wisp of bang from her face. It quickly falls back upon her nose.
       She stands contemplating the caramelizing sugar. Spots of brown push up from beneath the white and spread wet stains, pollute the sugar. The spreading soon forms a network of thick brown branches. Brown soon replaces white. The sugar submits to chemical transformation and turns liquid. She stirs for lumps and wrinkles her nose as a translucent, thick, sweet cloud escapes into the house. She pours the liquid caramel into thick ceramic ramekins and sits down at the kitchen table.
       How is my chalk painter?
       The young artist walks into the kitchen with several daisies in her hand. Using a stool, she takes a tall glass from the cabinet nearest the sink. She moves a stool, climbs it carefully, thoughtfully selects a translucent, green glass, places it on the counter, lays the flowers next to the glass, steps down from the stool, and makes her way to the sink. When she is finished, she presents the daisies to her mother holding the finished gift in both hands. She looks around the kitchen for just the right spot to put them.
       Eventually and methodically, she works and responds to her mother.
       I snuck these for you.
       She had been drawing and watching a woman drinking coffee half a block up outside the corner store. Coloring in kitty, talking to herself, and becoming the woman at the end of the block, she found she couldn’t sing about that and yawned.
       In one extended movement, she went from sitting on her feet to resting on her elbow to lying on her side above her chalk drawing. Her fine hair mingled with the sun’s thick rays. Her stomach curved above the roof of her house slowly and evenly becoming alternately more or less convex. She quietly looked for herself below and listened to her own breathing. She heard soft scraping like footsteps outside her bedroom door. She ran her finger through her flowers creating a red-yellow-blue line. She knuckled the cement.
       The strange pain beneath her throat vanished, and she began naming things when she caught the familiar smell of caramelized sugar coming from her mother’s kitchen. She quickly stood and brushed her hands off on her jeans. Scratching her cheek, she turned and walked over to Mrs. Stanch’s stoop.
       She climbs into her mother’s lap and notices that she is no longer as small as she thought she was. She remembers being smaller. She rubs her nose and rests her head on her mother’s shoulder. They fit into one another and after two or three tries are breathing together.
       Two sets of similar eyes admire first the white caramel cups, then the cooling blue saucepan, next the four daisies in green glass, and last the always empty chair pulled out slightly from the table. When the oven finds a proper, steady temperature, they will pour the custard and sing a cooking song.
       The kitchen table fits nicely into a nook in the back corner of the kitchen. A crack runs from just above the empty chair straight up towards the ceiling.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

I am planning to revise for clarity the key ideas I am airing-out on Dagzine about names and economy. I have been busier this month as a student and teacher than I am accustomed to; I must learn to say NO.

A few of my ideas below are presented a bit too awkwardly, I think, to make complete sense. So, while many of you are at AWP (and have some fun, too,) I will attempt to reflect on points I have made recently--looking back from my latest response re: Ron Silliman's ideas on anonymity to my post re: poetry as a "gift-economy".

Friday, March 19, 2004

Nick Piombino's Facade started me thinking about his ideas on narcissism and blogging; thinking about my own writing and research in psychoanalytic theory; thinking about the mouth's descent to ass level;

and so, my haiku:

Anal Looking, first iteration (49 to go)

Am I slap happy?
I see, in Facade, looking
for corn bits in pooh.
Got an idea,
if anyone is interested,

about a reading series.

poets travel between cities:
readings organized
like a band on tour,
except fewer stops.

so a group of writers from Denver
work with a group of writers from
any number of cities along the way
to figure a way to exchange poets.

we all have little money, but
the poets get to the place(s) and
are put up and fed in exchange for
the first set of hosts responding
in kind.

this costs everyone some money, but
spreads the introductions
builds the community
relies not on name

but on getting the poetry
out there.

if interested in trying to build this scheme
into a workable series of exchanges
let me know.

what harm?

On Ron Silliman's Comments 3/17/04

Once again I am going to attempt to begin a conversation. I want to begin with a gesture distancing myself from name-calling and insulting. I don't participate in ad hominen attack or flaming unless I am intending to play. Ron is correct in poking fun at such critics, but he is all too ready and willing to beg questions and make false associations in his own arguments as suits him. On with it:

Ron says:
One is that a poem without a poet's name is, in some very real sense, incomplete – that, to my eye, is the problem with projects like Anon. A second one – one that I tapped into without fully realizing its implications, I think – is that we’re in a very specific moment in American literary history.

I only know Ron Silliman through his blog and a book that had his name on it, a name I didn't recognize ten years ago, so cared not to affiliate with any critical movement (The New Sentence.) I still don't know Ron, really, but he is consistent I have to admit. His words sound like the language and ideas I associate with the name. However, I need not expect that this Ron guy continue being consistent. I would be wrong to insist that Ron sound like the Ron I know because I associate Ron with Silliman's Blog and The New Sentence, among other texts and poems. Ron Silliman insists, on the contrary, that readers should in fact associate a writer with a kind of writing that is definable and that association is even more valuable when connected to a journal or text that consistently represents that writer by name.

A poem may be incomplete without a name. I find such a claim fishy but, who knows, deep down in the workings of poetry there may be something significant to such a claim; but it begs a question Ron isn't critically considering. Granted, he is knee-deep in response to the invective aimed at him; nevertheless, What is a complete poem, Ron? And I am genuinely interested in a conversation not a vinegar spitting affair. Not only does Ron's claims beg the question of what a complete poem is but he begs other questions about poetry that involve complex issues in translation, for example. A translated poem is not only a poem with more than one name, but it is a poem that assumes an entire network of names and institutions that are purposefully hidden within the artifice of the translation process.

A poem is only incomplete without a name within a specific context. The poem as an object within a market must have a name that carries a specific value that, once determined abstractly, will be used to sell it and its meaning-in-the-market (based within a mean distribution of meaning associated with all poem-objects given that name.) A poem without a name resists abstract trade and insists on its own being because, in many ways, it remains a concrete object refusing movement. It is staid--in a manner, dignified. It is what it is. Unlike a poem by Rilke, say, who most readers are referred to (though, many readers still stumble across him). But the reference to Rilke is not a reference to a name and a translator and a press but also refers back to the reader's relationship to the person who referred to Rilke. It is far from simply name recognition.

A poem with a name, a name that is recognized and able to be associated with an institution, is a poem that can be said to be historical because it can be and has been historicized, not by its author but by its reader(s).

I don't see the point to an un-named poem or poetics project other than to resist the colonization of public space. Ron is correct about names but incorrect at the same time. In the market, we demand names--consumers demand names, that is. Producers don't demand names, they sell them. Names don't mean anything to a producer; names are abstract representations of value.

The above, concerning names and poems, is merely one context for a reading approach to poetry. We must be willing to admit that there are folks who approach poetry regardless of names assigned to poems by the poets and their presses. Folks who are genuinely engaged with poetry outside of the profession.

I am going to restate a claim I made before I took a few days vacation from blogging: Limiting reading poetry to a reading in context of the name of an author, the history of an author's affiliations, and the place that such authorial intentions and affiliations puts a poem is a process that privatizes poetry as a scholarly pursuit. The process becomes, in fact, a culture industry in itself that is concerned with controlling its own cultural production. In this way, the names become more important than the poem.

But such significance is only relevant for the scholarly community that promotes it. Poetry, as a way to communicate, is easily sacrificed to formal scholarship by the majority of potential readers because poetry makes powerful demands on its readers. What is wrong with folks reading a poem in a way that is not authorized by scholarship? I'll tell you: Such an allowance would also require poets to give up much of their claims on language.

Poetry is language at work and reading poetry is working at language, as writing it is. Many honored poets in the community forget this fact: the author of a poem must be able to relinquish meaning of the poem because meaning in poetry is often worked out over the history of its many readings. So little of the importance of a poem is signified in its writing. Poets signify difference, but then a conversation opens into a discourse. So many great poems go unread probably because their authors are more concerned with the writing than what follows. Much tantalizing power in writing.

In a society that praises efficient approaches to language and over-rationalized approaches to daily life, people find it practical to ignore poetry. Practical ignorance in the market is fostered by a poetry community that prides itself on its own self-referentiality as the complex relationship to its own work. Consequently, a poem needs a spectacular name in order to function properly within the conversation and marketplace of poetry.

Most readers approach poetry as poems not as poets. Reading poetry doesn't insist on my relationship to the poet but to the poem itself. If I study poetry, then I learn about the poets of course. That most poets cannot handle their own insignificance in the regard of language and the relationship readers have to language without a poet's presence is an issue for individual poets to work out but not important to poetics proper. It is a side-bar, significant only because poets enjoy cultivating a cult of personality.

I heard this one the other day:
"Gary, I really like Green Integer." We were talking about small presses and chapbooks. I expected my colleague to go into the kind of texts they publish; we were also addressing Dalkey Archive.

To my astonishment, his admiration for Green Integer is not so much the texts, but that they promote the author. "They place the author's photo on front of each edition and many pose. I think it is great because it is their work, why not put their face on it?"

Bullshit. It is my work when I buy it because I have to read it. And therefore, it is our work together. Your face may help me picture you, but it is a face-less face, meaningless in spite of its gesture of representation. In fact, such a photo is less than vanity, it isn't even narcissistic, it inverts a key aspect of photography. A photograph, as Stanley Cavell and others have argued, is of the world. But these staged author photos are so cropped and flat that they deconstruct the worldliness of photography and descend to text. They are literal signs.

We may write with an ideal reader or readers in mind, but we cannot invent the manner in which readers read a poem. We affect, sure, but we don't demand. Inference need not be a bitter confrontation for authors. Inference continuously opens an infinite number of possible networks and directions for discourse(s) because it introduces contingency into any poetics. Authors like to claim that their name produces an association and that's all. But their wish is really a demand for a specific association to a pre-determined and always intended reading of their work as well as to a specific writing community.

Therefore, Ron claims quite reasonably, though he suggests an imperative:
When you see a poem in journal by a poet whose name you don’t know, the only instant association you can make is predicated on the journal itself.

The imperative: You (shall/should) only associate poems with a poet's name or a specific journal.

First, this is a false statement that begs the reader to accept a truth based merely upon association. Whereas a reader may know the intent of the producers of a journal, the reader need not heed the producers' wishes. Inference is not necessarily contingent upon the speaker or the promotion of the speech. The market, the value of the product, is not determined by the producers but the consumers. Market influences are more complex than the ideal relationship between a consumer/reader and producer/editor and author based on demand and supply respectively. Nevertheless, the majority of readers do not align themselves with the aesthetics the editors wish upon their journal. Readers, thankfully, are much more likely to go where they are likely to go.

The concept that names and institutional affiliations are important for folks not involved in academia is false: wishful thinking at best, snobbery at worst. While I will always claim that a person cannot approach a poem without knowledge of what is being approached and that knowledge need be nothing more than personal experience with language, I refuse to invest in any ideological apparatus that insists readers must be affiliated with the name(s) and intent(s) of the work(s) they read. Such an ideological stance is a purchase into mass marketing principles that utterly de-emphasize the need for a poetics to exist outside of the market. In other words, if readers approach poetry only through publicized names and successful journals and texts, then poetry is not an aspect of language we use like a tool to express ourselves, but it becomes merely a use of language in the market. No wonder many folks leave poetry to Academia; many poets and academics are requiring pre-knowledge of poetics that the majority of readers don't have everyday access to because of the demands put on them just to earn a living. Such demands allow the majority of readers to excuse themselves from participation in poetry, which suits Academics just fine because it makes the competition less intense. And on, and on.

But such specialization is a big problem for the cultivation of poetry and the implementation and utilization of a vital poetics because it participates in the principles of mass marketing. Folks don't buy a Stephen King work because of its intellectualism, its aesthetics, even its author's name, they buy his books because they know what is inside. They know what they will get and how it will be given to them, just like they know what the chicken fried steak at any Black-Eyed Pea Restaurant is going to taste like before they order it. Many writers are marketed this way: TS Eliot, Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor, Mark Twain, Jane Austen, William Wordsworth, Joyce Carol Oates, to name a few. All poetry is popularly marketed this way. But to associate these authors and their practices to their names and institutional affiliations is to purposefully misrepresent their work.

Second, the other kind of "instant association" Ron may be addressing is the kind of association we make, instantly, as we look at some thing. But such an association obliterates the name of the author for the pleasure of the reader. Therefore, I think it is safe to say that Ron is not purposefully addressing such seeing when talking about poetry.

Ron continues:
So Larry’s dream of the unpolluted text is exactly that, a myth. I can post poems anonymously on my blog, but it’s still my blog. Or your blog. Or it’s Larry bringing you a sheaf of poems he typed up & copied. There’s always a context.

The unpolluted text is a dream. But not because of a name or an affiliation to other names or to a place a text should have in history because a specific school insists upon its place. The unpolluted text is a dream because a text is always contingent upon a reader. If we are to get it: The reader's name is a big other and a powerfully loud utterance that often overpowers, at least dampens, the ability to hear the author's name spoken by the author. Or, to step out of the ideal: The market silences all names and references to other names in affiliation overdubbing in place its own brand that needs no voice. Brand names are mute abstractions.

"Oh, you were in Fence." The silence of the fallacy in association. What can an author say to such a simplistic, such a dumb, recognition.

But that dumb statement is inverted into a positive claim that strives impotently for radicality:
"I would never publish in a University Press."
"I only publish with small presses."
"If it is written after the nineteenth century, I don't look at it."
"I am into high-modernism; I read Stevens."

All dumb statements that say nothing. All sound and fury...

Names may be the simplest shorthand we have for so many of the diverse external pressures on the poem.

Once again, yes: but in reference to the self only. Your claim is reasonable when we consider our own relationship to our own work. Otherwise the claim begs too many questions about what names truly refer to for the hearer.

Ron gets to the crux, here, takes on his critics:
That, in fact, is why Silliman’s Blog isn’t called something terminally cute, like so many other weblogs. Who, for pity’s sake, is sodaddictionary? Whether he’s a poet I love or hate – and I do presume it’s a he, based on internal textual details – there is nothing about that blognym that will ever cause me to pick up one of his books, simply because I wouldn’t know how to associate it.

I sympathize, Ron, but disagree. If you are purchasing books only by authors whose names you recognize as names, then what are you actually cultivating with your purchases? My claim or rebuttal: you accomplish valuing work based on name recognition alone and encourage the practice you claim to dismiss. So, a self-fulfilling prophecy, then.

Many of us attempt to write a poem and participate in a poetics that refuses to colonize public space. If and when we do, we must be prepared to de-emphasize our names. We must act rather than point. Names are referential, and always aim to close discourse like nailing a coffin shut kind of closing; names perform as placeholders for potential interpretations based on any number of relevant explications, implications or inferences. Whoever has the control of publication gets to represent, first, meaning, then the reader, then the author. I would hope we can try to work our way out of a poetics based on a teleological power structure.

Saying to your peers and to the younger authors entering your community that you wouldn't read anything without a recognizable name attached to it is a confession that you only read the well-heard, those tagged with signification by a market the purpose of which is to prohibit access from the majority of writers.

Yours may be a crass admission in light of your aesthetics because such a claim limits any access to "the new" to those folks already writing "the old". In other words, an author must repeatedly utter his or her name consistently in a consistent venue in order to for you to begin to care. Unless you are willing to admit that names aren't meaningful in any way other than to mark a past historical affiliation that may or may not mean anything significant for the present moment.

I have a problem with your claim because I have heard more than once in the last two years of my doctoral work from authors, who claim to be politically radical or at least claim a desire to embrace radical being through writing, that they would only publish with specific presses because of the association such publication would bring them to others. Such self-limitations refuse to admit, apparently, that the practice of niche publishing purposefully limits readership to a narrowly and conservatively defined audience (I claim this is an empty wish) and limits the interpretation and valuation of the writing to a pre-determined set of aesthetic goals that resists growth because they are part of a mission statement that promises subscribers similar product with each subsequent volume. Reading poems becomes like ordering value-meals.

Many of my peers complain about journals that don't put out consistent work. They are also my peers who complain of the limitations of the market. To quote Fugazi, they are living "puzzles all wrapped-up in solutions."

I have yet to be honestly engaged by Ron or other literati concerning this topic. I know why, too: this is all tongue-in-cheek self-referentiality--vanity talk--for the writer with a name. I have a name yet associated; therefore, through practice, I have no right to access. My name isn't associated with a sparkly idea yet. Too bad; or not.

As I mentioned in my critique of poetry as a gift-economy: Good writing need not associate itself with a resistance to for or against a name or names. Poetry is participation in language--it is always unnamable.

Sunday, March 14, 2004


A grid. Josh Corey's (3/12/04). Aaron McCollough's (3/14/04).


I wrote last post, concerning Mike Snider's comments: "I wonder about the value and purpose of such statements about the other readers of poetry. The uneducated masses who approach a poem 'naked'".

I feel moved to note that Snider did not write a directly classist or elitist post. One may be disposed to read my critique as saying as much.

Nevertheless, Silliman's game/test does have its use: it illustrates and pre-figures Mike's response. (Mike as a stand-in for what the literati does with such attempts to de-emphasize the spectacle of authority.)

That many writers feel there is an OTHER approach to reading that "normal folk" apply when coming to a poem, an other approach different from the educated or literate approach assumes much about propriety and naming. For example, a person may pick up a copy of Fence from a cafe and browse the writing within completely unaware of the debates concerning how the journal fits into the writing community and how it addresses a poetics. What of it? is my point. Those debates are not the necessary condition for the writing anthologized within to exist as such in that journal at that time. We conveniently forget this. Millions of solitary, wandering writers whose names we will never now; why are the ones published so needy for a category in which to go on being published? My personal opinion is that authors are all too willing to play the market. And in small-press-land, the market has to be a niche--name is everything or nothing.

I read Fence too aware of the debates and do my best to ignore them. I approached reading the test differently than most, I guess--I could and can care less for names. That was my initial criticism of the test. A new one: why not use poetry not affiliated with a known name?

My desire not to name gets me into trouble. I am just as likely to compare a line in a poem by Mary Robinson to a line written by Fanny Howe. History compresses moments of reading in this way; I figure I should use the fortunate instersection of a Dela Cruscan and a 21st Century author. Nevertheless, when I use what I call Mary Robinson's "poetry of fancy-at-work" as a contrast to the Wordsworthian pose of the distant poet who writes above Tintern Abbey to discuss contemporary poetics and poets, I hear from editors that I am not writing contemporary poetics.

I wonder what that makes Perloff as a critic, then, what with all her Eliot, Rimbaud and Duchamp? Do we really believe we have entered a new world and that these discussions aren't in many ways similar to the market-concerned discussions in the 17th, 18th & 19th centuries? I know what is different, though; from then to now, poetry has gone missing from the market. Capitalist publishing houses, publishing as an investment, as well as niche marketing are to blame. Poetry has become an object for a specific kind of human not for all.

In addition, journal editors have compartmentalized the poetics community to corner a specific market based typically in history, geography and/or rhetoric. This fixation on locale and nepotism works against a key characteristic of Poetry, capital P: Poetry is populist. (You're aware I hope that I am not addressing the Conservative political movement that usurped the term I hope.)

Whereas poems are local, the community is not. Paterson is Paterson, USA and Paterson by WCW no matter who reads it or where they read it from. In this manner, we learn an important reason, the primary reason I argue, that readers cannot approach a poem naked nor can they approach a naked poem.

The desire to separate readers into groups based on familiarity of language (hard-won tools of scholarly discourse) is a front (store-front) for the unconscious or conscious desire to limit access to particular communities of participation. Well-schooled readers who may or may not be writers as well may approach a test like Silliman's with a list of names and categories and, hence, expose a flaw in such a test. More engaging, though, is that an untutored reader would still want to name the writing and may still attempt to imagine a, not "the", poet. Poems, unlike much of prose writing, are considered for their craft upon first-reading by the untutored and tutored alike. Readers recognize (try to determine) craft--line, stanzas, meter, sound, words--regardless of their ability to defend their schooling in the craft. Readers don't get lost in a poem like they might a novel or story where they are encouraged to not look at what makes the novel a novel. The artifice in poetry is always examined because a poem is considered a discrete object within an indiscrete community. In this way, poems are obscene (to use the archaic sense of the word as the artifice of a poem is "out there" for everybody to see.)

Consider the typical reason untutored readers of poetry choose not to buy poetry: "I don't know how to read it." Pitiful they are encouraged to continue believing so; pity we allow it to be taught.

Poetry is a way of using language that we all use in everyday speech, the majority of its occurrences found in orality, the residue of which is never recorded or written. Novel form is not a way to use ordinary language--to provide one distinction. The tools for such manners of using language in poetry are there for use by anyone and through use we become more familiar with the manners. They aren't hard-won tools; they are "there" and there-for-the-taking.

Snider's comments, in my opinion, expose a particular position in critical approach to literary texts that limits how folks can approach a text based on their institutional affiliation. As if poetry were a trade. I am, in fact, explicitly stating that poetry is not a trade but available to all because it is an aspect of language not merely a use of language.

As I waded through my philosophy BA, I was often reminded by a particular professor that I had nothing to say about Kant because I hadn't spent enough years reading him in German. Well, I may have only been learning how to read Kant, but, (the sucker punch in the critique,) is that I didn't and don't know German. My approach to Kant is always naive because of the limitations of my training. Most folks, after being so informed, would stop reading Kant. The Big Guy, Dr So and So, points out that you have to kow German; so, why try.

I may not be able to read Kant in the German--but I am able to think about Kant's claims reasonably nonetheless. Those scholars who find it important to point out their hard-won tools on their flashy tool-belts are not to be trusted.

I was very frustrated last quarter. Second year into doctoral work and I was just introduced to Charles Olson. I knew the name, but never really read anythign other than Kingfisher...Maximus was so large; I never picked it up for my own work. Man! What an eye-opening experience for me. I needed Olson when I was 23, though, not now at 33. And all those years trying to read Stevens and Williams w/o reading Olson. All of the work I could have been doing--

I was limited by professors, writers and critics in-the-field, who decided I couldn't handle it. Attempting to read Maximus is enough to help a reader decide whether or not to read it. Why limit prosepective students if not for market considerations?

A patronizing presence exists in scholarship: like from a vantage point upon a hill, scholars like to scan the lower landscapes below and beyond the foothills and claim higher ground based on what amounts typically to little more than reading experience. Not to use a trite reference or oversimplify a complex process, but Plato had it right memorializing Socrates' arguments concerning education in Meno. And there is a reason that we often teach that dialogue in Intro to Philosophy. Philosophy is not about shoring it all up into correct points of view, it is about calling out into the public conversation incomprehensibility (as I was recently reminded by a colleague observing the upper-division ethics course I teach).

When we argue about "everyone else", we are assuming the role of Patron. After all, it is likely that all the pandering, meandering, criticizing, and categorizing poet- and lit- critics accomplish is spectacular nonsense and/or frail attempts to locate and fix a historical lineage that is always represented to be in a state of ruins because it never existed in the first place. (Benjamin insists that history persists unordered in spite of the attempts. May be we should work out why we try?)

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Mike Snider on Ron Silliman's Poetry Test:

For almost everyone, a poem in a textbook or a magazine or an anthology or a website is naked. The normal encounter with a poem is what Ron tried to approximate with his experiment. And though readers of his blog are likely to have more sophisticated tools for recognizing poetic strategies, those of us who care about ionic minors or the referentiality of language also encounter a new poet or a new style in this same way—we use our hard-won tools, of course, but only what is in the bare poem can teach us whether to seek out or to avoid others of its kind.

Greg Perry supports the Snider-take.


I wonder about the value and purpose of such statements about the other readers of poetry. The uneducated masses who approach a poem "naked". Talking of readers not schooled in poetics and their potential reading experiences is at best guess-work and at worst a fetish exercise creating an object-place for an ideal class of people who do not exist in relation to a group of poetry-folk who supposedly do.

I often write poetry naked but I do not read naked poetry.

Any reader knows a poem is a poem by sight (site, too, nowadays) regardless of his or her ability to call the thing a poem. All readers approach the project of reading a poem with a perspective on poetry that is in some manner educated and experienced.

I'll quote Drew Gardner again, from March 10: "Poetry has the capacity to deal with the nonevents of life in a way that other art forms couldn't possibly manage."

If so, poetry is not ordinary; it should always be unique and engaged in some manner. One aspect of the unique relationship of poetry to art and community is that it isn't capable of being normalized. I am thinking back to what I wrote re: Catherine Daly's Course Descriptions recently. I don't see good writing as necessarily resistance because I see resistance as a vascilating between active and passive states of being in the world. I see poetry as always actively being with, not in, the world--as a differentiating mechanism at its most minimal and as a means to socio-politically dominating languages and discourses. Whether a poem or poetics emerges as eruption or irruption, that emergence is active going-over or going-under; such active writing does not betray a resistance.

Poetry does, nevertheless, resist the nominal, the banal, no matter what the writer intends. A banal event so once named "banal" itself becomes a spectacle; hence, shrugs off its banality in one extraordinary gesture of being named or naming itself.

Everyone confesses in poetry. "Subject is different than object" is the formula or the feul or the rule, the propaganda.

By the way, what are these "hard-won tools" that "we" bring to the "bare" poem that Snider mentions? Did I miss the handing out of the kits? Also: Doesn't the statement imply that poems aren't bare? I am thinking of the hint of excavation in approaching or reading a poem that in Snider's mention of tools. The old way of approaching a poem as if it did in fact have a singular meaning, like the soon to be old joke about there ever having been a search for the singular modernity.

Friday, March 12, 2004

From Awake on Someone's Couch, I gleaned the following link to Catherine Daly's blog. Scrolled down to entry for 3.1.2004 and found these "Course Descriptions":

Course Description

The act of writing is an act of resistance against silence, meaninglessness or meanings imposed from outside the writer. More positively, by writing, writers can seek to establish or control contexts for the reception of their writings, for the understanding of their writings, or for the way writers mediate reality itself. During this course, by examining politically and theoretically charged writings, we will explore the ways that readers and writers are activists, that readers and writers alike are challenged by the legacies of colonialism, and that readers and writers, by their acts, resist or oppose various power structures in favor of others.

Course Description

Conservative and liberal critics alike have referred to poetry as a "gift economy." Poets do not pursue this art by merely writing verse; they must read, review, research, criticize, perform, publish, teach, and otherwise passionately engage the entire range of poetry being written in order to participate in it. In this class, exchange attention and develop faculties and practices through experience with the ways poetry is made and read. This understanding is poetry's gift.

On poetry as a "gift economy" and the act of writing as an act of resistance:
As a means to share my angle or take on Daly's pedagogy; such an exchange refers to Mauss through Bataille: The Gift through The Accursed Share. Since Daly appears to aproach rhetoric via Aristotelian Way, I will follow suit here.

I don't quite agree, maybe understand is a better way to put it, how the two points of view, Daly's dual description of writing, a description of closure, work to create good critical writing and purposive and useful poetry as well as writing-about-poetry. In a gift-economy, gifts are exchanged as signs of wealth. Virtue is displayed in spectacular moments of giving that increase in magnitude of sacrifice and macho utterance with each subsequent exchange of gifts. Significant for such exchange, moreover, is that a return is demanded; for the giving of the initial gift is a form of public humiliation that feuls any further public exchange. The gift-economy depends upon an ever-increasing value of the objects exchanged. For poetry to be such an economy--we must consider where we locate value for the object-poem? Is it in the poet, and hence the poet's sacrifice? Is it in the poem itself, and hence an abstract linguistic sacrifice, maybe of meaning or of form? Is it in the reader, and hence a use value--reader as consumer?

When we critically consider an engaging public issue, we do so as individuals in front of the community in particular instances. In other words, out of original social difference we work towards common understanding. Or, the only way to see universality is through virtuous and critical exchanges within the public sphere. Consistency of action is important; but do we wish to be defined by resistance to, for or against?

For writing itself to be in itself always an act of resistance represents the act of discourse as a series of possible irruptions and eruptions but never irrupting or erupting itself. In other words, resistance as a mode of being depends upon always almost bursting in or breaking out--a continuous series of knocking against or pushing without. It is futile and begs the question of spectacle of resistance in the market.

Hence, the possibility in such a requirement for the act of writing, that it be an act of resistance, may lead to the fetishization of a particular market for writers. Small press publishing, for example, becomes a fetish object rather than anything actually motivated regardless of the intent for, by and with small press contributors and publishers.

Moving from writing as an act resistance to writing poetry as a manner of participating in a gift-economy is a form of closure. Closure itself, as opposed to aperture (a nod to Bernstein), is counter-intuitive to a rhetorical process that requires the participation of individuals who comprise a civil body constructed out of a population of distince individuals. Closure restricts multiplicity not by bleaching difference or by making it invisible, thereby creating a semblance of sameness; closure restricts multiplicity by proscribing difference within public discourse. Teaching students good critical writing resists and poetry participates in the economy through gift-ing proscribes writing that refuses to practice resistance or gifting--not as writing but as good or valuable writing. This rhetoric of closure limits how a writer should write as well as introduces a particular vantage point to offer an initial critique based upon the needs of the market not necessarily of the community of writers and their community of readers and ultimately the literary needs of state itself as a community. For example, How does writer X resist? is a question I would predict a student of mine would ask if I provided the above course descriptions because I would be demanding students see writing that way. Such proscription limits important social movements to explicit reactionary politics.

Feminism, for example, would be closed into a space of a voice resisting anything not supported by the popular form of feminist rhetoric being applied by the writer. Feminist discourse, in this case, is not a critical practice but an authorized form of productive speech within the public sphere used to define a specific type of reactionary feminism. Social critics like Ann Coulter and Christina Hoff Sommers come to mind here. They use the pedagogy Daly describes quite effectively; and, their consumer base and pundit supporters praise their writing as good because of it limitations, its focus, its closure, its resistance towards or against meanings opposed from outside the writer. This quality is valued very useful as a sign of self-legitamizing power. In a gift-economy, seen as a powerful display of public speech that must be met and overcome in order to live up to the demands of such exchange. The problem is that their writing is awful and full of lies and attempts to distort democratic practice; it is misrepresentational by definition. (If I was writing about the rhetoric of resistance I would address the need to inform students in the following manner of speech: "Conservative and Liberal critics alike..." Such deferrence to a limited representation of American culture is already flawed and, I would argue, does nothing but limit the perspectives to two from which a student could address important questions-at-issue in any community.)

A lot going on above, but I have opened the discussion by presenting three concrete problems with the pedagogy Daly describes above:

1. Daly implies that good writing is activist and positivist. May be so. I counter that writing need not be considered positive in this way; good writing need not colonize public space; good writing can go under not go over.

2. Describing the rhetoric of writing to students only just learning rhetoric and critical theory as first, "writing is an active form of resistance", and second, "poetry is a gift-economy", is problematic. Many (good/successful/valuable) writers do not desire to nor ever have participated in the discourse of writing, in the critical practice of poetics. And this isn't reducible to a form of resistance--that's another topic, though. In addition, teaching students that good writing must always be the most informed writing seriously limits the democratic potential for a writerly community to those who have the best education and better accessibility to the community. Nevermind language issues, so important to the discussion of who is permitted to speak in the US presently, such a requirement reeks of elitism.

3. Daly's description of writing implies a heirarchy within the market. (If writing must be an act of resistance, then it is likely that there must always be an oppressive hierarchy to resist...other questions are begged as well.) From writing about writing to writing poetry, a specific closure is distinctly stated. I submit that from Aristotle, though his rhetoric and ethics benefits the wealthiest white men when read literally, to present (writers like Bernstein, Perloff, Andrews, McCafferey, Irigaray, Kristeva, et al) a key to rhetoric is the ability to crank open the available space to allow individuals access to produce more space--such production of space in literature is the result, then, not of merely a resistance to a number of factors we face within the marketplace, therefore, a result of the instances our bodies experience irruption; we erupt, rather, into the market through love, solitude, absence, presence, abjection, hate, apathy, activism, refusal, acceptance, obeyance, etc. This may sound obvious--so apparent it ain't a worthwhile mention.

I am not attacking Catherine Daly, she most likely is a good and succesful teacher, but criticizing a prevailing method for implementing radical pedagogy in the writing classroom on college campuses nationwide. Paolo Friere was quite clear that a true radical pedagogy is not possible until a teacher is willing to give up power and truly enter a classroom and be in media res. To teach, then, is not to instruct how to look, to provide for students; to teach should be to work with students to ask questions about the communities we share. Radical pedagogy challenges teachers to resist presentation and ideologically defined ways of life as ways to live, instead living together with students as part of a community. Teachers making pronouncements and stating concrete themes as necessary elements in classrooms directly and indirectly refuse radical presence in the classroom because they pre-defined its space and impose demands for active participation.

A poem below, for your critique...

stuck mantra for a radical poetics

say it to
see it to
write it to

form it to
do it to
use it to

produce it to
publish it to
exchange it to

value it to
consume it to
destroy it to

replace it to
construct it to
restore it to

demand it to
practice it to
instruct it to

belove it to
believe it to

pass it      .

Thursday, March 11, 2004

A                        poem
Nominally American Boy


We learned a whole list of conjunctions,
and he asked if we should use them—
small introductions to better points on average
as if everybody knew what he meant.

damn if I haven’t written this all/ready
begin it with a breathless cry
for the woman who taught me how to collect at all.

          (Don’t got any friends
kick dirt      don’t mope      take $2.50:
took money each week and went to the movies.
Walked from E 17th to E 22nd
through holy fences yellow yards
chased by dogs

growl        leap : roll        growl

by the Abandoned Field just past all the homes
a mattress with her name on it,
left cold: underwear
aluminum tabs
roller rink
and movies.

An action musical [    turn : buster taking flour:
taking sacks for real : now    ] A studied carnival


          I think I am;
          I am not.

    Song I wear on my Jeans

crawdads clip onto fingers when put to them
looks painful but is high comedy true laughs
gritty sand in my pockets after I fake fall
into the creek splash back crawdaddy hang
my names

and I got no pants without holes
start to talk like them real long, rude,
drawn out sentences lose my rs and gs
and tag along rather than lead
my names

I called Jimmy Sammy fr two weeks before
he slapped me upside my head fr mishearin
cause I liked callin him Sammy like from the movies
and its just that theres so many Jimmys
my names


          he hit me for watching him pee.
          squat when you do it.
          like a frog.

             An American syllogism

          A father guts a fish;
          A mother cooks a fish;

          I hate fish.

    On Returning

the most consistent phrase in a wooded cove is

          \trees in breeze blown back/

words in formation
sounds tailored responses not sponsored tales
unhinged boys run shirtless fast as possible
jump out over the gaping craw of the creek
and make way      FFFLASHHH
to the tunnels where a family of four were swept away
in the night-wake of the Arkansas River drowned dead
with the clerk from the QT all ignorant about
these flash flood events; they clinch fists
fingers pressed into palms—grinning or



lights out and more
seat of the pants move
guts in the belly run
cycling hands out up above
screaming and laughing

screaming that looks like laughing

and running        out into from
SAY IT: -- ----- --- -- -----

Make it new.      Each time.

Four of boys sit in silence.
Jimmy lights one match after the other.
Fast bursts of sulfur flame speak
      for the huddled group
      in proper English
      fulfill their desire
      to get IT all back.
                      A song by Bill S passed to DHL, Ca Ca Caliban…

Are you going to stay or run away?

Light and Dark battle it over against
a curve in flitting young shadows
until all the matches are spent—
all bursts, final gasps, sound our names.

    This boy’s wish, nominally American

            —dropped only a few lines from the title
I ran home
I am running home.
I am always running home.
I run home, then.

(I’ll just be quiet for awhile. I’ll wait a bit.)

I think about you. And I think of a new day.
I think about a morning sun coming up to wipe the cool from my face.
I think of blue skies that don’t end and a short breeze that makes me shiver.
I think about a tree I used to climb and a moon that sings to me.

I think of you, running with me
out over the creek and into those tunnels
where we might find a way
to never come back.
Drew Gardner writes:

Poetry has the capacity to deal with the nonevents of life in a way that other art forms couldn't possibly manage.


Poetry has the capacity to deal with the nonevents of life in a way that other art forms couldn't possibly [imagine].


Drew, now I am much fun.

What is it that makes the sense of these statements so different by changing "manage" to "imagine"?

What does poetry manage that "other art forms" cannot? This is the question that suggested to me the replacement of imagine for manage--just to see. And then a basic problem is presented in this way,

How does poetry manage?

Many other questions worth asking, but this is a beginning nonetheless.

I like very much what Nick Piombino has been posting lately from Debord and his notebooks, but especially this small note I am sure will go purposefully over-looked by the fury of namers-who-resist-naming in spectacular moments of being new, which is all spectacle, really.

I have been putting it punningly, concretely and irately, myself, both on Dagzine and in comments on Crony and Dooflow, but Nick is succinct and to the point. I appreciate that quality in his blog and his writing.


Although some folks may not be yet, I am sick of authors who use easy market rhetoric, puked-up on demand really, to stand in for a subjecthood that never has nor ever will exist outside of a relationship with an other infinitely more possessive and powerful than we can ever be; we live in its regard.

Such behavior is a sign of a lack of care and quite possibly a lack of desire to learn about the function of language in creating public forums for discussing such things as poetics, politics, social functions, et al

I was informed that this argument is stale. Fine. I am not claiming to be the point at which all discussions of the spectacle of naming are genidentically focused; further, I am not making an argument, merely withstanding the fashion of naming names.

We read each other for recognition of ourselves. Any claim to originality, any public claim to freedom--to freely talk, to freely write, to invent--is possibly a flawed claim because it is a grasping attempt at self-generation. A person, a poet especially, cannot exist in the new, the original, and should resist the spectacle of such purchase. Poets are umbilically tied to the City.


ME: When I read William Carlos Williams I hear my voice.

Silliman's poetry test is engaging and flawed, as he is well aware, only in his consideration that readers would read without using names. Current trend alert: Visit the Crony blog and one finds a catalog of naming: names, pseudonyms, institutions, intentions, poetry, movements, dates, geographies all exchanged for a sign of some deserved comeUPpance. All blogging in many ways is such a spectacle; I use Crony because I am in conversation with them.

But naming and naming names turns the project of poetics into a catalog of spectacular moments we are encouraged to share in stuttered-steps of bursting into the public sphere and scampering back out. The process is the sign of participating in discussion but a refusal to actually submit to conversation.

Also, Silliman's test assumes there is something to learn in a poem that can be named by comparing and contrasting a survey of possible answers. This process begs many questions about poetics itself, though these three stand out for me (again I am sure he is aware of these and more): What are you implementing to sort through the answers? Who has access to providing an answer that will be considered? How do the answers have anything to do with the poems themselves as poetic objects rather than the readers themselves as differently educated objects?

My questions focus on utility, implementation, historicity, accessibility, and psychology.

The labor I put into my writing is unnamable, is so for many authors I argue, because we all refuse to submit our vocation to an exchange the purpose of which is to abstractly quantify all labor into a numerical representation that has a pre-determined equivalency in the public market. We sell our poems and stories and critical texts on the market for the spectacle, however, in many different ways. The labor, though, that is what we discuss within poetics--not only the object often outside of market considerations but the "work" itself. Hints of Heidegger, German Romanticism, Coleridge, Fichte.

The need for a poet to name names of action as acts in public is a sign of worthless and meaningless spectacle; it is a sign of performance lacking production. It is a historic marker for the poet literal purchase of a seat on the market floor. And not the seats occupied by the masses, but the box seats that allow a snobbish dis-regard of the others the poet so terribly depends on for nutrition. Such behavior is a rejection of the quotidian and, consequently, a rejection of a self in the face of the extraordinary potential of ordinary events--events that are self-making. In such a manner of living, a person lives only in and for, not with, the spectacle. A likely statement might be a condemnation in the following form: "YOU are doing this and are free to do so but I AM doing the other." No, you are never the other, never doing the other, always determined by the other. In other words, better to work in regards to and with the other.

We need to make these distinctions as writers. Are you arguing for clout within a trade hall, purposefully entering into the realm of market rituals where signs like image and seniority, place and time, define work and labor is romanticized after-hours in a public house; or, are you busy cultivating space for yourself in regard of the other and all others in the field--learning and cultivating, digging deep down, going under--speaking what you mean to speak and yearning for the undeserved yet needed response?

The spectacle of names and the desire to move beyond simply naming and exchanging through a revolution of the everyday is not a stale arguement as I was informed, it is a vital position of intentioned daily life.

Monday, March 08, 2004

On Takashi Miike's Bizita Q (Visitor Q)

Taking a detour from poetry to film, though I don't think that poetics and film theory are necessarily that different...

It isn't that I am at all surprised folks don't groove to Takashi Miike's work. His work is purposefully and purposively disturbing. I want to address a common thread of talk about his films--folks look at his work as inconsistent, meaningless, unintelligent, too excessive. But a lot of folks don't read or don't remember what they read. And we, as a culture, are so genre-focused. We want rules to judge by and for.

Bizita Q, 2001, reminds me of the great outsider, modernist classics of literature from Ducasse to Bataille. It illustrates in grotesque detail, the process of going under to get over. Beginning with a horrofying scene of incest-rape as a form of prostitution, the story focuses on people who are not only depraved but completely unaware of their depravity. Because the father character in the movie attempts to produce a completely unique reality TV show, many folks focus on Miike's film as a critique of that genre--its participants and audience. Wrong move. Reality TV is but a symptom in Bizita Q. If you watch the film strictly as a satire of that genre, you are in for a rude awakening. Bizita Q is reality TV.

I am going to write just a few things about the film and my experience with it; we can chat about it and others if there is a pulse towards such discussion. I am going to address many things below in a very short space:

When I was in London a couple of years ago, the BFI screened Godard's Weekend. A crummy translation, from what I could tell, severely limited the sexual dialogue, and the sound turned down real low to lessened the overall jarring effect of the film. It was warmly received. Go figure. Last year in Denver, the Denver International Film Fest. folks screened a better translation at proper volume. The movie radically disturbed the entire audience--loud crashing cars, screams, pornography, cannibalism, clashing ideologies, trash, shock: and the art of cinema--its utter destruction. I can only imagine what a large screening must have been like in the late sixties.

I felt this while watching Bizita Q: that Miike concretely addresses conventional ideological content of gender race and class through a specific genre that he purposefully deconstructs. Hence, all the exploitation genre buffs scream bloody murder about the film lacking intelligence and making no sense and the film literati complaining about excess and meaninglessness.

The film is spectacular exploitation from beginning to end--from incest, rape, lactation, sexual hysteria to death. Not everybody's idea of cinematic pleasure. But it isn't the violence, sex and carnival that is exploitation in Miike's film; instead, he turns the everyday into exploitation. His family, in Q, is a real family. They feel authentic. The actors may be hysterical as they interact with the world and each other, but their glances towards one another, their time in each scene, their expressions are each and every time authentic. Good acting; good directing.

And lots of death in Miike's films. Unfortunately and suspiciously, most critics fail to mention what the film appears to be about: REBIRTH.

After the excretions and releases, the pained recognitions of deprevation and decadence, the honest presentations of what we really do to each other, and a humorous yet fashionable fool (Q) who visits, squats is more apt, there is a moderate rebirth, a coming together. And it isn't excessive either. The rebirth at the end of the film is seriously attenuated in contrast to the noise of what precedes it--the scene is quiet. Mother's breasts painfully lactate from non-use, from lack of care, from ignorance, from abuse: self and other. When the whole family gets it right in the end, when they come together, get over themselves, her breasts don't spurt uncontrollably; rather, she provides lovingly and is herself loved.

I was moved. One might see in this a stereotype of motherhood or a representation of the importance for an ideological use of mothering; and a viewer couldn'tbe blamed for such an idea. Miike often focuses on mothers and motherless-ness. But, really, the family in Q is reborn and nourished through one another. SUPERethical moment: the city, the body, the family and all comes together in a moment of courage and generosity. After a long trudge through the grotesque, I felt rewarded with a moment that combined sentimenality, nostalgia for a lost mother, and virtue. Finally, a family who learned the relationship between the city, the body, friends, circumstances, equipment and life itself.

I didn't know what to expect with this film as it went on--how it would end. I was overcome at times, disgusted, laughing at my disgust, at Miike's nerve, dismayed...(some people think this is accidental, that the film is pointless...) The path through Q is chaotic, its narrative resists being colonized by authorized and well-practiced and meaningless conventions. Nevertheless, when I watch a film by a director concerned with art, appearance, representation, culture, architecture, design--well, I give it a chance.

With Q, I was taken to a strange and unexpected ending point. It is quiet and inviting and infantile and innocent, yet it makes the statement I have understood from youth and always find in my favorite books: you have to go under to get over. It also, as does Ichi, the Killer, also critiques Fulfillment as does Mishima in Temple of the Golden Pavilion.

Q begins in the depths of despair and depravation and, when a stanger enters the picture, a person from outside of the sick culture being filmed, he begins (albeit in his own grotesque and violent manner) to get folks to see themselves for who they are, and then and only then after each individual begins to accept responsibility for his and her actions do they begin to get better, to heal, to forgive, to come together.

A society cannot erase its wrongs, states are not actually ever undone, psychoses linger, but there is respite. Miike gives us that in his films in strange doses.

The only aspect of the film I thought served no purposed, either narratively or symbolically, was the length of the necro scene. The necrophilia seems logical, though arrives at a point in the film when you may have had enough to withstand it: a representation of sex and death at the moment of what could become death not only for a woman but an entire culture. Nevertheless, I thought it over-hysterical. It tried too hard; the artifice was too apparent. But that is a critic's statement, isn't it? I see the artifice.

The hysteria--many critics call it weirdness or senselessness or stupidity--is supposed to be there. Hysteria is real--it beats down ideology; It disrupts order; It produces its own space.

But the father rapes his associate's lifeless body into defecation. I thought, well, you know, I didn't need to see that "all"--we all know that dead bodies excrete but... Nothing much else in the film produced that reaction. Reminds me of the rape in Once Were Warriors. We know the family friend is going into the daughter's room to rape her: a cut from him entering and pulling back the sheets and taking her to her in the tub trying to clean herself would have been more powerful because of the cut. That cut is as violent as the rape--it refuses her witnesses, it victimizes her, yet opens the door on her privacy as she tries to clean up the mess. But the graphic rape is not pornographic, not really violent. We have seen it before. It becomes conventional--a spectacle.

Last House on the Left, a film I think deserves more attention than cult status, lingers excrutiatingly long on the utter degredation and lack of care for human dignity in its killers psyche's and we all get to watch them make a victim urinate on herself before she is killed as if such excess-excess is proof of that degredation. The director and producer say to us, slyly, it isn't us it's them; or it isn't us, though it's in each of us nevertheless. When I watch the film, I say: We know guys, get on with it.

When the artifice of the grotesque becomes apparent--when an artists explicitly shows us the thought, "Well how far can I take it before I go too far?"--then any such depicted event is likely to become nothing more than a meaningless spectacle.

Hats off to Miike. I enjoy, get a right flutter actually, all the whining from the exploitation crowd about his films--from the sexist pigs who use the "shock" genre (for lack of an all-inclusive word) as a front for their pornography fetishes--the T&A crowd, the snuff diarists, the racist pimps: straight guys who are offended by homosexuality yet visit gloryholes in porn arcades and their girlfriends who put up with it because they too are pigs yet discrete about it. They are offended that rules are broken. And, these are the people who populate a lot of the contemporary world, the peripherary, in Miike's Bizita Q: the bullies, the pigs, the voyeurs. These kinds of folks are in many of his films, watching. Powerful statement and indictment, in my opinion.

Miike doesn't try to moralize nor is he an exploiter.

By the way, saw the boring Tarrantino Kill Bill. I know why his film received so much critical attention. In the US market, we just don't get to see the films he is now riffing off. He is talented; I wish he'd improvise a little. And he's certainly been studying Miike. In Ichi, the Killer a prostitute that the "super-hero" (who's not a hero at all and not super either) visits a prostitute whose pimp brutally beats and rapes her each evening. The interaction between the whore and her pimp--she cries but likes the beatings but hates the whoring--is similar to how Uma Thurman is treated in Kill Bill: raped, beaten, recovers in a "Pussy Wagon": she is our heroine but is not a great woman either. But Tarrantino's characterization is all stlyized and commodity fetishism; and he cleans her up a great deal. Their is nothing cute in Miike's film(s). And the western film market always cleans up and makes cute the already fetishized-cuteness from Asia. In Ichi when the woman is beaten, she is beaten--and brutally so. No apologies; it happens. No excuses; he does it to her. In Tarrantino's violence there exists a cuteness that winks that it is all artificial and therefore art--that he participates in a genre-building exercise so is cultivating a craft. What nonsense. He is a scrivener. Miike creates unabashedly.

Well enough now.

Sunday, March 07, 2004


Monsieur Ibrahim: continuity contra contiguity;
Ichi, the Killer: and the walls ran red around me, a warm arterial spray;
Bizita Q: MOTHER!; death of reality cinema;
The Last Detail: Nicholson made a few guy in despair movies in the early to mid seventies: this one and Five Easy Pieces are my favorites.


Saturday, March 06, 2004

Lyn Hejinian, in "Continuing Against Closure", writes (my comments follow):

      Reality precedes us. It was here before we were and it will be here after we are gone.
      Although reality, by and large, doesn’t reciprocate our interest in it, our interest in it is very great — it being, after all, all that we have.
      Of course. What reality includes is all that there is. Can we say, then, that reality exhibits closure? that reality is self-contained?
      Like any biologist, we have to answer in the affirmative: “No.”
      It is the fate of logic to undo closure infinitely.
      Fate produces chances. As a result, we are faced with choices. Exercising them leaves containment (including the inner sanctum of romantic introspection) in ruins.
      If one equates fate with what happens, or even with all that happens, one can’t help but realize that one has an improviser’s experience of it.
      Improvisation has to do with being in time. And it has to do with taking one’s chances.
      In fact, one can’t take a chance outside of time; the whole concept of chance puts one inside a temporal framework. Improvisation consists of taking chances, i.e., entering the moment in relation to it — it’s about getting in time, being with it.
      To enter a moment in relation to it, one has to enter it with something. One is having a time with something — something one is in time with.
      That something is something that has come to be, it has occurred. Improvisation begins at the moment when something has just happened, which is to say, it doesn’t begin at the beginning. Nonetheless, it is always involved with the process of beginning — that is, of setting things in motion.
      My intention here is to link fate with incipience, or to suffuse the limiting condition known as fate with the limiting condition known as beginning in such a way as to allow the limits to cancel each other.
      We witness sequiturs without transition and non-sequiturs with them.
      Logic inserts itself everywhere and narrative follows as fast as it can though often it can’t keep up with events since they advance in leaps that leave logicians behind.


Vagabond Couplets

The talk didn't begin with me;
it is all I have.

I don't know nothing else other than what I know;
the door is always ajar.

The double negative is an affirmative;
logic makes any thing possible.

If fate, then chance;
if chance, then choice.

My choice defies containment;
My choices are improvisations.

I improvise in time;
I steal chances.

For my choice to be a chance,
I have to take, at some time, a chance.

It isn't: Take a Chance on Me;
It is: Take with me a chance.

I only ever took chances;
I am never only about to take a chance.

Fate is always ready to be beginning;
Beginnings always begin regardless.

Time waits for no poet.


Hejinian's article is knee-deep in Aristotelian ethics--all sequitors, the following: life itself, the city, friends, the body, circumstances, equipment. A problem with this kind of Happiness is that you must have the best city, the healthiest body, the most virtuous friends who look and think like you, wealth and magnanimity, no legal hassles, and all the right moves. IT ain't achievable for the masses. Only for a few.

Consequently, I think it should stick in the craw all of this "TAKE" chances business. Making (appropriate) choices out of the chances we take that fate offers begs the question of power and the power to make, take, offer and/or accept.

Hejinian's ethics sounds like the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" variety. Though, I must admit that isn't the explicit purpose for writing the piece--that much is clear--the problem lingers beneath the surface of the rhetoric. If this is a false inferrence, then needed is much more concrete and visible discussion illustrating just how a person is supposed to attain a solid social position to continue against closure if the doors presented are always already closed. I am in favor of taking a hatchet to the door not in favor of working choice, chance and fate through logic and right reason.

If a fellow is disposed to TAKE a chance, then is a chance supposedly there to be taken? No. Not necessarily.

The circumstances of a fellow's position in the community, I'll use American Society--race, gender, class, education, geography, etc--restrict the potential or degree to which a limit can be reached. Radically linking fate with incipience, limiting it to an always acknowledgable beginning, to a linguistic marker more than an actual presence that bodily limits a person, is a rhetorical gesture that works only for people who have overcome a supposed, concretely defined fate.

I wasn't supposed to live through the year because of my physical ailment, yet I am living and it is two years since the declaration of my fate.

compared to:

He walked across the street and was killed instantly when a rock fell from the sky and crushed his skull.

The incipience of fate is a proposition limited to a specific view of history...or, of things having happened at some time and in a particular manner. In the first example, the survivor can claim to have made choices concerning treatment of his ailment that ultimately led to a liberation from illness, a happiness of sorts, and the chance to live a fuller, more complete life. The man in the second example is just shit out of luck in spite of his choice to cross the street.

I use these examples, not because I think they are the best, but because they plainly show the fault of using intention to define a subject's relationship to choice, chance and fate in time.

Intention may be ideologically representable as a series of subsequent and always occuring moments of here and now that concresce at such a rapid rate we can never notice an end to beginning; nevertheless, folks punch the clock and measure days in moments contrasting concrete and abstract demands on their labor. What we have in common, as a folk, is a confrontation, not with fate, but with a schedule that demands a specific, rational response to circumstance and opportunity. Folks must "earn a living" in order to live. This is not a choice nor a chance nor fate but a real relationship to our individual existence. In other words, it is a non-ideological claim.

Nothing romantic here
Nothing happy now

Happiness in contemplation
not my words

Not the body
Not the education
Not the city
Not the market
Not the gender
Not the color
Not the family
Not the account

(two moments in idealist time)
The individual
The individual
The here and now
The individual
The individual
The here and now
The individual
The individual

(two moments in real time)
at this time
at this time

Writing--medieval poetry, on the binding of "heart" and "mind" in the "The Wanderer" and "The Wife's Lament"
Reading--everything I touch
Grading--oh...a lot of you know
Creating syllabus--undergrad creative writing class in two weeks
Hockey--avs and habs
Evans & Moxley--excellent visit, thanks.

next post Sunday...

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

If you're able to tune in to Freakbeat tonight (two hours left)...I am free-forming it tonight, which means noise and strange-ness and fun.

A kind of verse.

My internet radio clog-blog.
Oh, the jump cut, a poem

spectacle of the day:
human suffering;
independent spirit.

and that's too bad,
because I need you
to see me looking at you--

a brittle barbed wire.
rust-caked wrapped
top two by fours
between a receding horizon

a master editor wouldn't
know where to cut
because you never look
back over you shoulder.


Another question for the "umbrists":

Malibu, why would you ask for folks to send poems
to your worksheet/worskshop as "non-umbrists"?

If you are calling Umbrists, the group of folks who live
and play in the same locale, why not call the group after
the location and open the practice to all who wish to play?

This is important, I think, because referring to people
as non-people is offensive and pointless and quite possibly
only a sign of a meaningless spectacle to come.


Nick Piombino doesn't know this about me,
but I read the situationist and Lefebvrean literature
voraciously. He has been quoting Debord. Has me thinking.


For the Umbrists:
It is the practice of boredom to name and non-name
and it only works to differentiate.

To tag: in our capitalist market, folks strive to raise the price of boredom.
And the sign of value--exchange value--is a sign of abstract quantity,
a brand name.

And use value? Quality? Doesn't matter, when names
and associations and networks are more important.


A Prevelant Whine: Blogs are destroying the listserv. Good!

It's about time we slow down,
author our own thoughts,
cultivate some place,
produce some space.

Together, In solitude.

Exchange abstracts labor. My work is real work.
I want you to see it: the blog allows it to be visible.
Not the typing and such but it is what I make it.

Unlike the listserv which has a protocol that exists
to mask my work...and, be careful Umbrists, blogs aren't listservs.

R Lope is correct to get on Gunther for his posted forward.


When exchange is all that matters even shit loses its stink.


John Latta's recent ire directed at Ron Silliman (3/2/04) is, in part,
if he will allow my interpretation, directed in this way:
He says "a scene is not a community." He is correct!
One of the most concise, coherent, precise, and spot-on statements
I have read out here since falling in.


A scene is boring.


I have to repeat myself.
I wrote a week or so ago that a valued professor advised me
and my fellow doc candidates that what we do out here is
at best a waste of time at worst not doing the work of literature.
That only print is truly valuable. Problem:

The object is not the thing.

Holding a poem doesn't make a poem poetry.


Even among the older generation of writers who fully embrace the online community,
there is a nostalgia for the past that is projected onto PRINT or THE BOOK.
That is a lie. A delusion. A never-never land fetish for the past ordered
according to a hierarchy that those of us coming into our own cannot


John, Ron may wish to reconsider what Emerson really was saying in "Experience".


I read with interest many chap book series that come out now. Every publishing venture
is so pre-limited that getting read in print is whim, speculation, spectacle. 700 copies, hand-picking a few authors. The attempt to create not only encasement but a garret is pathetic.


But, I sympathize. I try to write letters--no response. I value ecriture, which this is not. My fascination with many writers is in the diaries, journals, correspondence, rather than their public work. I admire authors who have found the power to publish series of books that focus on a singularly defined aesthetic.


So much for a poetics of indeterminacy, though.


Nevermind. San Francisco, Chicago, NYC, Chapel Hill, Black Mountain, Ithaca, Buffalo, Providence. All the little its. "IT" ain't there. "IT" ain't in Denver. IT ain't a location.

Where it was never was.


This is what I think the modernists got us to get wrong.
It is a misreading of imagism.
The misreading: a desire to see a thing rather than a desire to write concrete scene:

A desire to locate a scene rather than a desire to cultivate a community.

IT is here. Which is nowhere.

And if that offends, I understand, but I insist.
Either we open the market we claim doesn't exist
include every hack as well as genius
or cease to discuss community as if we care.


When my mentors inform me that I need to get my priorities straight
and those priorities are implied to be print-oriented, well...
I know what that means.

Get in line. At the back. Wait your turn.


And like many of you, I am sick of that lingering patronage.
We don't need it.

A community takes work and a throwing off ego and ownership.


Back to my umbrist discussion:
The Umbrist site "owning" a name.

I have a problem with that.

Ownership is a form of claim;

when we make a claim about ourselves,
we necessarily make claims on others.

Hence, Malibu, honest grrrl, says it like it is:
if "non-umbrists" want to participate...blah. blah. blah.
Why go public, kids? Why?

Please don't take this the wrong way, as some base insult directed at YOU,
but as a request to examine the mechanism of exchange.

One doesn't make a community like one makes a scene.

The powerful few in any locale may have the gumption to make a scene.
Children often throw their bodies onto the floor and make a scene.
Hysterics often play up their symptooms to make a scene.
Neurotics and Paranoiacs often cease med routines or
purposefully work themselves into frenzies to create scenes.


We know a scene when we make it
We feel a community when it is present.


The contrast shows how scenes are forms of oppression
no matter what their content while communities enhance
experience because of the form of presence regardless of content.

All of us together make a community. That's one thing better in blogosphere than


and Boredom...Boredom is counter-revolutionary.