Wednesday, June 30, 2004

some where(s)

penis hoopla at Elsewhere.

Nietzsche's never neutral concerning women at a distance, or pain for that matter.

civil disobediences

Well, I am reviewing Civil Disobediences: Poetics and Politics in Action (coffee house press), edited by Anne Waldman and Lisa Birman.

Waldman introduces the text with a call for a "poetics of engagement." I would like to hear what you think of such intermingling: mainly, Would we really want to toss poets from the republic?

Let's see: Waldman asks a question pre-wrapped in an implied "NO", a presupposed answer implied only when such a question is asked. Typically, the poet who asks and implies does nothing much to approach a pleasing answer for herself or her readers. I like that approach: it invites liberatory and transgressive pedagogical practice. In such an environment the teacher can give up authority and work with students.

Yet, I think the anthology is not as open to interpretation as first might appear. The book is meant to teach transgression and invite disobedience. I dig it; I'm down with it. But the kids will ask, "What for?" Remember that Thoreau questioned what a person in Maine might have to say at all to a person in Texas via a critique of the telegraph. If we follow Thoreau, he is travels globally only through Nature and remains steadfastly and wholeheartedly self-determined Local. Such a personality presents problems for the practice of civil disobedience. Furthermore, in Colorado, (where we have just recently tossed pig David Horowitz and his Academic Bill of Rights crap, back to California) the use of a book that suggests the need for political action in any form is seen as an attack not on oppressive ideological structures but directly at the body of each individual student: this comes with sometimes horrifying and spectacular results. I have just about had it with far-right nuts in my classroom. These folks figure out who you are ("you" being known "liberal" or "elite", thanks Scarborough Country, teachers) and enroll in your class simply to raise hell for four weeks before dropping out.


I find the anthology intriguing so far. Though, as can be expected, it is a bit Naropa-centric.

I do believe I will find trouble understanding a poetics the base of which depends upon its own effect-ive rejection in order to have a cause for becoming engaging.

Has anyone used it in their classroom yet? --very interested in the results.

But the poetics: if we must use our workshops and writing to engage political discourse, in order to practice one form of civil disobedience, then what about the poetry itself? Is poetry cause and politics effect, thereby language of such discourse a poetics? Is politics cause and poetics effect, thereby language of such discourse poetry itself? Is poetics cause and poetry effect, thereby language of such discourse a politic? There are other variations: Is politics cause and poetry effect, thereby language about such discourse a poetics? Language, in this sense, a human tool limited by its own semantics and syntax, its own vocabulary and relevance, its own pragmatic structures, all of its arbitrariness, a tool used to limit, to conform any given content to any apparently necessary systems of belief, to produce poetry, politics, poetics. In each relationship, limitations develop based in the presupposed effect. Prose and poetry written with the product in mind before being produced unwrites itself in each instance because the beginning of the project is the end necessarily. The only thing that matters is the artist's position or perspective; in other words, the form. And we know many artists, typically those who never make it beyond the local, so in-debt to a loved form, who produce the same work in-the-style-of-its-prototype over and over: artists who never will mature because of their debts. Must Ted Berrigan always be that Ted Berrigan?

Where does doing poetry fit in if we fit it in regardless?

The following comes in spite of my belief that art is political--always. But that is really only an admission that the political is never always a conscious investment. I find the spectacle of political activism a corrupting element in art. Art as activism is most visciously colonial--its work has as its first goal to colonize space whether that space exists on a stage, in a gallery, on a sheet of paper, etc. I have had to keep my political activism separate from my writing because the two compete for my time, the one madly jealous of the other at work. When we read Olson's Maximus, for example, I see this happening: the battle between his poetry and his politics. Just try reading the two at the same time. And one isn't foreground to the other's background, the two compete. Fortunately (in my opinion,) the poetry succeeds where the politics fail and the politics succeed where the poetry is weak. Doesn't always work out that way: see Pound's Cantos, often a jumbled mess of personality and politics and poetics and poetry itself, all at war, up-front, at once. I am not for a moment giving Pound's Cantos a knock. I just think the beauty in his work is its utter failure to succeed and thereby providing us, his readers, with a visual map of himself as author and cultural capital--getting way ahead of myself, though.

Back to topic: ...we often operate in modes where politics is nothing more than effect or language speaking. The American-abject response to democracy failing isn't revolutionary violence or psychic plague, it is apathy. Abject response #1: My opinion doesn't matter. And this is just as much a leftwing problem (if not moreso) than for anyone else. In those cases where poetry is political--if it ever is--we simply relegate political action to a form of public address that, as far as I am concerned, is always the first method to weaken political resolve.

These are simply riffs spit out over coffee as I procrastinate my way through comps study. I am interested in your opinions no means am I resolved.

dispensing the spectacle

I have added Lara Glenum to my blogroll. Cool blog. Look for her work in the Fall 2004 Denver Quarterly.

Hounds of No?

Concerning Your Recent Debate on Dispensing with Children

One cannot
so easily dispense
with children.

One should learn
the complexities
of dispensation,

then stir the children
in the mess with
a sharp, greasy

One might become
disgusted. this is
only the beginning
of dispensing
the spectacle.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Bowlmor Writemore

Bowlmore Writemore is on. Thanks Shanna for organizing. And, yes, I am organizing a Denver simulcast! Check out the link to Brand New Insects at the beginning of this post and send me your contributions. We will bowl and read in August.

Anyone up for some practice at Bowlero?

Sunday, June 27, 2004

on the grape

We drink a lot of wine in our house; I never have posted anything about the special wines that we are fortunate enough to find:

First, David Coffaro wines are brilliant: last year's Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel & Cuvees are worth finding. Have to buy through him .

We know Italy well: northern regions, are our faves. When we drink French, it's special. This weekend we opened a French Cotes du Rhone Villages, Sablet, 1999. Wonderful.
  • Domaine des Espiers; Phillipe Cartoux.
  • Find this and drink now; maybe next year; we had this in our cellar for a year at least, so I don't remember the cost--20$?.
  • Open at least half-hour before drinking; an hour would work, believe it or not. We took our time with this bottle: provided intriguing discoveries from five minutes to forty-five minutes (when we poured the last glass.)
  • Needed plenty of air and encouragement to open.
  • notes, 5min: very purple, dark; (nose) bitter chocolate, prune, raisin, corriander (dried cilantro)--did take a few minutes to develop a good nose, we worried about whether it was over the hill.
  • Glad we waited.
  • notes, 10min: currant front (black or red?), not too fast finish, consistent, bitter yet tart, slightly astringent, low acid (but not a bad thing.)
  • notes, 25min: spicy nose now, bitter chocolate still, less fruit more spice (what spices?)
  • 30min: black cherry, black currant, fruit coming out, no longer tart, more flavorful, better finish.
  • notes, 45min: good finish...this wine needs time, maybe open and decant 30mins before drinking; good air before pouring first glass.

We found an 11$ Maculan Tocai blend, "Pino and Toi", 2003, from the Veneto. Great sitting and reading white. Maculan is well-known but we haven't seen this. Were informed to serve cold...don't. People think white wine should tast like candied fruits for some reason.

Put this one in fridge 1/2 hour befor serving if you must have it cold; otherwise, keep it in your cellar until opening.
  • Too cold, this wine is pale and lacks nose and fruits, is yeasty tasting.
  • Close to room temp, but slightly cold: light nose, herbal hints, green tea perhaps, yellow and green citrus; mellow, almost hidden tart (that opens out as wine approaches room temp); almost sweet and slightly sour, floral (bitter petals, again herbal); very pale (so surprising how it opens to complexity rather than remains simple); a tiny bit frizzante (doesn't distract; have to invert or swish to notice.)
    • 60% Tocai
    • 25% Pinot Bianco
    • 15% Pinot Grigio
  • A complex and well-crafted wine; chilling this wine cuts its complexity and spice, relegating the available flavors to light citrus and herbs. Allowing it to be open from slightly below room temp brings out a run of flavors from citrus to spice as you drink it.
it is all about mouthfulls
not ease or
tamed broken lines
cross read meter

the water folks just put in new tap tops; they
simply drive by the house every three weeks
and we tell them what we dripped
fast or slow it all comes to about 32 every second month.


Shanna, what do you say we have a bowlmore together:
a simulcast so to speak


cheap garage kicks

My love is stronger than dirt.

(does anyone miss the Mummies as much as I do?)

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Farenheit 9/11

Good film. I saw nothing wrong with it at all: the talk about exaggerations and lies and even over editorializing: the same thing he has been doing since Roger & Me. If anything, he was reserved; less in it himself than usual. Go see it; and as stated at the end of the credits: "do something."

Friday, June 25, 2004

The Big Let Down

Last night,
      my dream
            was kids

from elevators--

they were face down
falling into wet cement:


Used to be
my dream fall
(doors opened too soon, and
          I fell awake.)

I am

So, I write about it.


mall-shuttle doors
clothes together--similar
thoughts machined--supper ate
common spheres: warm, cold,
partial gatherings up.

       An elderly rider grasps
a pole nearer me and I
a well-weathered hand--
flaccid ceiling her--
sweet drying, ground flower.

       A tuber. I pull
him up and out with me--
curbside--nee recollections
unravel, choke in exhaust.


been a good day of blogging: today, set aside time to update links and blogroll, and really sit with all of your posts.

Jordan's #1176 of 1,000,000 on paradox and meaning & phrase. Apropos my reading this week.

walter b

Sabrina likes A Zed and Two Noughts and so do I. She also keeps a blog: Live Plants, Corsages.

Shanna Compton sent me there...

unquiet stomach

"The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass. The nineteenth century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass." --Oscar Wilde

Thanks Tony Tost for the kind recommendation. Tost has a good blog going himself and addresses some concerns I will no doubt re-address as soon as Josh seems to have time--me too, I guess--in this post.

It is not only disingenuous to claim "there is no money in poetry" (as Tost offers,) it takes a fact (poetry is not money; money is not poetry; neither exchange as use values) and conflates it with it with a myth (poets are scrappy; poets are ascetics; poets are mystics; poets are humble.) We would like to be set with cash. All of us, no doubt would be happier without bills, the oft-empty fridge. Poetry occupies a weird space, I think, because of something Emerson points to in his essay "The Poet" (see my post below for the exact quote.) The poet's work is a vehicle not a home. The poet is a vagabond by trade. Those who fetter themselves through indentification with a social class--poor, and all its romantic patronizations--are seeking a home, an institution, and are enemies of the evolution of poetry because--conscious or not-- they seek to freeze poetry and the poet, to place the poet and the poet's work in a social class that can be super-examined, classified, paid. Of course, this is the goal of statist poetry: the poet laureates serve this function: to find a place for poetry to be put in. We have always admired the poet's consistent and ungraspable other-ness: the poet, who releases intellect, who uplifts through defiance of form. Something about an always full stomach contradicts the dissatisfaction a poet takes with the reality of things. Nevertheless, a full stomach is desired, helpful, and good.

Poetry that comes from the stomach comes from an always affected--anemic and anorexic--poet.

Okie Pleasure Bench Blues

Visitors to Thompson's Creek County courtroom reported hearing a "swooshing" sound coming from the bench, a noise the court reporter said "sounded like a blood pressure cuff being pumped up.

unanswered question

from Lisablog:

"and the marines said/ it was a/ non-hostile incident."


fait accompli begin the day out of notebooks:

  • notebook: 8/9/87

    Exerience only apparently repeats itself. Because this is one
    of the most comforting illusions of all, that it does,
    we can so easily forget how fortunate we were that things
    came together they way they did. No doubt fate did this,
    but it also took a tremendous effort of will- or so it seemed-
    not to throw it all in the air, moments before, in total

Yesterday I read Human, all too Human. The "human, all-too-human" is Nietzsche's ordinary concept for "psychological observation." Nevermind that he often operates through paradox, seems to overturn reliance on psychological observation in later works--even in his following work, Daybreak. His paradoxes, I think are allowed signs concerning his desire never to live the same moment twice. Would be too easy to call his self-contradiction folly or play or confusion.

Re-reading Emerson with Nietzsche is a rewarding experience. Eye-opening, really. I like the notebook entry above. Something about the posts lately there; also strange associations at Never Neutral: both fitting companions to my reading.

[textual comparison to Nietzsche this weekend: Emerson's Second Series of essays were published in 1844, many existed earlier in lectures. Nietzsche's trilogy of aphoristic works--Human, All too Human, Daybreak, and The Gay Science--were published beginning in 1878.]

From Emerson's "The Poet":
  • ...umpires of taste are often persons who have acquired some knowledge of admired pictures or sculptures, and have an inclination for whatever is elegant; but if you inquire whether they are beautiful souls, and whether their own acts are like fair pictures, you learn that they are selfish and sensual. Their cultivation is local...some study of rules and particulars, or some limited judgment of color or form...excersized for amusement or for show.

  • There is no doctrine of forms in our philosophy. We were put into our bodies...

  • [E]ven the poets are contented with a civil and conformed manner of living, and to write poems from the fancy, at a safe distance from their own experience.

  • [T]he poet is representative.

  • Criticism is infested with a cant of materialism, which assumes that manual skill and activity is the first merit of all men, and disparages such as say and do not, overlooking the fact that some men, namely poets, are natural sayers, sent into the world to the end of expression, and confounds them with those whose province is action but who quit it to imitate the sayers.

  • For poetry was all written before time was, and whenever we are so finely organized that we can penetrate into that region where the air is music, we hear those primal warblings and attempt to write them down, but we lose ever and anon a word or verse and substitute something of our own, and thus miswrite the poem.

  • For it is not metres, but a metre-making argument that makes a poem--a thought so passionate and alive that like the spirit of a plant or an animal it has an architecture of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing. The thought and the form are equal in the order of time, but in the order of genesis the thought is prior to the form.

  • Every line we can draw in the sand has expression.... All form is an effect of character; all condition, of the quality of life; all harmony of health; and for this reason a perception of beauty should be sympathetic....

  • [W]e use defects and deformities to a sacred purpose, so expressing our sense that the evils of the world are such only to the evil eye. In the old mythology, mythologists observe, defects are ascribed to divine natures, as lameness to Vulcan, blindness to Cupid, and the like--to signify exuberances.

  • The poet knows that he speaks adequately then only when he speaks wildly, or "with the flower of the mind"; not with the intellect used as an organ, but with the intellect released from all service and suffered to take its direction from its celestial life; ...not with intellect alone but with the intellect inebriated by nectar.

  • The poet did not stop at the color or the form, but read their meaning.... Here is the difference betwixt the poet and the mystic, that the last nails a symbol to one sense, which was a true sense for a moment, but soon becomes old and false. For all symbols are fluxional; all language is vehicular and transitive, and is good, as ferries and horses are, for conveyance, not as farms and houses are, for homestead.

From "Experience": "But the definition of spiritual should be, that which is its own evidence."

Nietzsche, in Human, All too Human, addresses Emerson's concerns in what can appear as a response, amplifies the tenor of Emerson's call to a more heretical pitch. The blasphemous or heretical is present in Emerson, for the poet is a divine creator, stands in for the whole of "man", but Nietzsche denies the existence of the transcendental completely. His literary craft is man-made; moreso, it is neither product of machine or nature but of a free spirit that has evolved from a traceable though always disordered past. I'll get to (what I find) interesting comparisons, when I have my text of Human, All too Human handy this weekend.

But their vocabulary is undeniably similar--Nietzsche even coins terms in German that apparently align his ideas with Emerson's speech. They are definitely, and I am well aware the point has been made, in conversation. One of my philosophy professors, Tim Gould (himself a student of Stanley Cavell), hammered this into my imagination--Ralph Waldo and Friedrich bumbing elbows in style. And I do not quite agree with Derrida on Nietzsche's style (see D's Spurs); I'll save that, too, for a future post.

Some similarities--not identicalities, nor recurrences; but uses, choices, and recognitions, possibly recollections: color, form, beautiful/ugly soul, words/deeds/actions, private/public, expression/spectacle, history, say-ing, names, concepts, spirit, put/place...

This weekend, reading along with HATH, DB, & GS:
  • The New Nietzsche, edited by David Allsion, MIT: good anthology of lasting critical work.
  • Nietzsche: Life as Literature, Alexander Nehamas, Harvard: great so far; refreshing, actually.
  • Poetry from Keats, Wordsworth, Donne, Mary Robinson, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Holderlin

I liked Nehamas right away, confronting and aptly tackling the too often and incorrectly applied definition for eternal recurrence:
  • Nietzsche, I argue, does not claim that the history of the world repeats itself in an eternal cycle, or even that it is possible that it might do so. Rather, he believes that the world and everything in it are such that if anything in the world ever occurred again (though this is in fact impossible) then everything else would also have to occur again. This is so because Nietzsche accepts the view that the connections that constitute everything in the world, and in particular the connections that constitute each person out of its experiences and actions are absolutely essential to that person.

[notebook entry from fait accompli, above, seems to apply.]

If we were ever to live our lives again, necessarily everything and all connections to everything would have to be identical to what has occured so far or we would not be justified in referring to it as our life. Eternal recurrence explains that our lives are only justified--purposeful--if we live such that we would want it to be exactly as it has been already. Eternal recurrence is an important quality for any principium individuationis.

I believe that much misunderstanding about eternal recurrence exists because important critics, like Walter Kaufmann, consistently under-value Nietzsche's work before Beyond Good and Evil.


Jordan Davis reading Ever Saskya's new book. I'll be interested to read what he thinks.

Farenheit 9/11

going tonight at eight--
new cinema house--hidden
behind too much construction--
becoming in pre-fab sub
urban park and development
--it's building,

Thursday, June 24, 2004

They got the whole world in their hands...

Supreme Court decided in favor of Dick Cheney's executive privilege. We'll wait at least a decade or two before we read about his private meetings with energy executives unless the meetings get leaked.

So, who is going to leak for us? We're waiting.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


I wrote: "it isn't verse because it has a recognizable count and beat":
  • recognizable in that one shouldn't first look for pattern then for detail. I often criticize theoretical defences of pattern in my prose and verse, as well as my research. Folks enjoy the tranquility in patterns without ever having to come to terms with the phenomenal moment itself experienced within the detail, in our case, of any well-crafted line. In other words, if a line makes sense and applies known patterns with alacrity (ascertains rather than apprehends,) then critics (both author-critics and reader-critics) are satisfied because they may categorize the product at will. We are taught to put the squares in a bucket with other squares and not with the triangles, and such mixing is prevented because the bucket with squares can only be entered through a well-crafted formal square through which a triangle is prevented to pass. There is a machine for language, built by a holy-few humans, that determines correctness in the same way. What follows categorization of prose and verse is a critical tradition concerned with its own self-assured pronouncements about the work itself. Both the work and its performance are significantly and beneficially ignored for tortured self-agrandizements in critical essay form. Even dissertations become a system of one-up-manship, wherein a writer pays over-long homage to a well-read tradition and then adds something "new" to it, thereby re-enforcing it in order to find a place within it that should last long enough to make a decent living. Hence, writers like to speak about being or becoming "established," which has a (w)ring to it of "published" but actually means "relatively accepted by others because I have book out there somewhere and look I can point back to it."

I wrote: "Any cute monkey can stupidly count meter, smoosh a line together, rhyme with practice, and maintain tradition--more importantly find him or herself in that tradition":
  • can stupidly count in that one can simply learn to recognize patterns in language without having any real apprehension of language working. Linguists often make ridiculous statements about other languages to justify specific privileged worldviews on behalf of cultural value systems (Ideological Structures.) Students often copy rather than recollect. My students last quarter wrote sestinas. The better sestinas, the ones we enjoyed the most, were written by authors who gave up within their confinement, those who let language find its way. (I will get to form and content below.) The students who fought to fit the form, worked hard to comprehend the sestina itself, were generally unsuccessful in pleasing themselves and their audience. Saying, "I give. What next? Tell me something," isn't easy because we're often asked to put others into the position of knowing without doing. Do the iambic pentameter (for example) is better than know iambic pentameter because doing it appears and is apprehended while knowing it simply ascertains an abstract value in its possible appearance and apprehension. Sure, there are occurrences of iambic pentameter and then there are not-occurrences of the form. Anyhow, I think the decision to be a student or an author is a political decision, a landmark for any artist. Nothing wrong with a cute monkey copying form; something wrong with authors insisting a traditional, formal approach is necessary.

I wrote: "I need only look at Joan Houlihan to see how ridiculous criticism can become--she wants a line that means something for her and is not willing to work for meaning with an author. Simply. Dumb criticism. Pointless, in the sense that pointing in criticism should intend towards something the writer, reader, and critic have in common. Houlihan, and other critics (Himmelfarb for history) simply have a too comfortable existence relying on the past to present itself in the now."
  • When I write "for her," I intend to illuminate an oppressive rhetoric, one in which the rhetor comes to a discussion with requirements that must be met before anybody is permitted to participate. Such oppressive rhetoric strips authors, specifically, and readers, secondarily, of agency. Joan Houlihan's needs must be met first. And I heard, and have heard before, in Mike's tone, such a demand. Hence my sharp disagreement, which was met with his response to exclude: Gary is ignorant.

  • When I write "pointless", I mean to illuminate that we can encounter a writer's work with each other, thus negating oppressive rhetoric through purposeful use of the conflict found in using original and present social difference to arrive at common understanding(s). Of course, this modified form of critical agency directly confronts all eruptions of teleogical dominance that Tradition promotes and tames them, assigning any traditional response merely one of many possible approaches to reading and writing. Pound may have been deranged, but herein lies a useful interpretation of his attack on the metronomal, the da de da and all its la di da made sound.

On prosody as an imposition:
  • Finding primary purpose in form is an unfortunate result of prosody studies for many, though not all, readers. I enjoy studying prosody but must admit reading poetry and reacting to the poems through writing much more beneficial to my maturation as a writer. This may be as much a reflection of how I have learned since childhood--self-taught until graduate school--as it is any significant critique of studying prosody. Nothing worse than going into a discussion about poetry where someone begins by reiterating a formal definition that, consciously or not, is an attempt to limit how a poem is read. Boring.

  • Finding primary purpose in form is an unproductive way to experience verse because it pre-limits and authorizes readings to verse forms that have no necessary relationship to the way a reader is predisposed to encounter verse; therefore producing inauthentic readings and reading experiences. I always found stunting learning how to read poetry. I found it useful only after I learned how to put the "how to" aside to use as a method for critical reading other readings. But I had to put it into perspective. Being told--you cannot scan properly--hampers folks desire to work at cultivating poetry itself. Andrea says to me all the time: "Gary, I don't know how to read poetry." Really! Poetry itself is accessible without knowing scansion, without knowing its history. It is immediately accessible through reading or listening. Writing "good" poetry, is not limited to those who can expertly craft a poem that produces, first, a recognizable and accepted, traditional line. What is productive about a poetry that is simply recognizable as poetry?

  • Finding primary purpose in form is elitist and purposefully, though not necessarily consciously, excludes consideration of social/cultural difference(s). Simply put, by first demanding that a reader and possible writer knows a specialized jargon before he or she can participate in reading and writing properly, we simply cut poetry off from any inclusive participation. Criticizing a critic for scanning improperly, counting in a strange manner, is fine and well; modifying such creative attempts as "ignorant" is ridiculous. Actually, Mike refers to Language Poets as lower life forms (vis. phlogistons.) We should be able to disagree about how to listen, hear, read, write, versify, scan, et al, without fear of condemnation from the white guys who know best. I get offended when the limits, the poles, of interpretation get set by the Frost and The Pound, two jackass white men who certainly fail horribly to represent the majority of poetry being written now and then. Important though they may be to our heritage as writers, I want to know why never a woman mentioned as the ground for tradition? Why typically a white American quoted? I am not ignorantly querying with these questions. This is from fifteen years straight scholarship: white guys get the call because tradition is the bedrock of white masculinity. Unless we wish to argue for a natural order, the answer points to one of many problems in traditional approaches to answering the questions "What is Poetry?" and "What is a Poet?"

  • I think that we need to move the primary purpose away from form. But this is an old discussion we all enjoy concerning Form and Content. And I often find myself walking into a field and discovering, sometimes accidentally and others carelessly or recklessly, a form ready to use, all content thereby falling into place and time with line. If I were to return to the same place more than once, I may enter it differently or notice something "new." Of course, nothing there is new. Hence, I find it hard to argue for any concrete, always recognizable form. A linguistic approach might consider features of relevance in verse. For instance: How can we determine what may be inferred from the rhythm in a series of lines? Or: How can I know what is explicitly there if FIRE, a one-syllable word, can be pronounced in different ways. I have many students who speak English as a second language. They experience lines in verse in many self-found, creative ways and produce useful meanings that are productive for the entire class--or poetry community. Their misrecognitions or mispronounciations (notice that we merely have pejorative ways to describe such learning experiences--accidents, mistakes--rather than finding productive vocabulary for such instances?) break all the rules, but uncover incredibly rich meaning simply through experience with a poem.

  • I am not trying to sentimentalize such readings, or even praise in a strange way naivete. I am trying to find a way to say that prosody is a technical field that may be important but is always somehow secondary to poetry.

reading before Nietzsche:

Tony Tost's poem, "Imaginary Synonyms" for Kim Sun-il.

Josh Corey has me reading Pisan Cantos.

Dalton Conley's Honky with my Upward Bound students.

and this: everyone who can should give a look at Chatelaine's.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Paul Valery, from fait accompli on poetry as thought machine and pure poetry.

Apropos the post below.

I am going to be in Nietzsche mode until July 8th

__I see Snider, at his sonnetarium, is busy trashing those who don't read meter in the traditional sense.

__Poetry is not written for the meter; it isn't verse because it has a recognizable count and beat; the meter comes from the poetry. No poetry without language. Why not screw with it; trip it up; find out what comes about when language speaks? A good sestina conforms as does a haiku; the excellent examples simply occur in that manner excellently.

__There is also no such thing as free verse. No matter how hard we push, language speaks. We're drivers.

__Any cute monkey can stupidly count meter, smoosh a line together, rhyme with practice, and maintain tradition--more importantly find him or herself in that tradition. In fact, any cuter monkey can name verse "verse" through recognition. Possibly a really intuitive border collie.

__And the aesthetics that derive from such dependent practices create a hierarchy of talent based not in any individual effort or experience, but in who can make a string of words in a line sound good. I need only look at Joan Houlihan to see how ridiculous criticism can become--she wants a line that means something for her and is not willing to work for meaning with an author. Simply. Dumb criticism. Pointless, in the sense that pointing in criticism should intend towards something the writer, reader, and critic have in common. Houlihan, and other critics (Himmelfarb for history) simply have a too comfortable existence relying on the past to present itself in the now.

__I have always enjoyed practicing with restrictions, but what good is a sonnet really? Who needs another poem in that form? Simply. Nobody but the author. Moreover, it is the common occurrence of the iamb, not the naming it at the correct time that is interesting, (as always imo not humble at all.) What does a formal prosody represent but an image that isn't based in reality, not even the everyday, but the tranquil tarrying along that theory does with the everyday? The minute prosody becomes for the verse, some lazy critic-fancied-a-poet made the simple switch that prescribes: now we hear quite a bit, especially from those opposed to the challenges that experimentations (Language, et al) bring, that verse is for prosody. The instant we give in to such reading strategies, poetry starves.


[comps reading, continues.]
I am finishing Birth of Tragedy today. Each time I read this book, I think Nietzsche was too harsh a self-critic. I like it; though he does not spend too much time legitimizing claims, he does make points worth exploring on our own. I'll do that on the 'zine later today or tonight with some of my favorites.

For this quote, I will insert PATRIOT for GREEK and AMERICA for NATURE; one might argue for UNITED STATES in place of AMERICA, but the US continues to co-opt and sell the former.

  • For now in every exuberant joy there is heard an undertone of terror, or else a wistful lament over an irrecoverable loss. It is as though in these PATRIOT festivals a sentimental trait of AMERICA were coming to the fore, as though AMERICA were bemoaning the fact of her fragmentation, her decomposition into separate individuals.
    (Golffing translation, 27)

Nietzsche's argument in Birth of Tragedy as an explanation of the US attack, from the right, on individual attempts to apprehend, access, and cultivate a principium individuationis after its conservative government instituted The P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, for example. Everything for the majority...A recreation of Good and Evil.

Heck, why not look at N informing US culture? Althusser did it with Hegel, Lenin & Freud. Anything is better than another William Saffire column.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Double Room #4 up

Double Room #4, is up. Work from Eleni Sikelianos, Aase Berg, Laird Hunt, GC Waldrep, Rikki Ducornet, Richard Garcia, et al. Mark Tursi includes his e-mail interview with Russell Edson. And they kindly printed my review of Fanny Howe's Tis of Thee, too. (Reads in a couple of places like words were rearranged and/or cut when formatted; makes for three or four confusing sentences; happens.)

Thursday, June 17, 2004


reading Steve Evans' po-blog travelogue at Third Factory,
he quotes Silliman on Waldman: "Anne Waldman makes James Brown seem slothful & Charles Bernstein positively indolent. She’s not only paid her dues, but yours, mine & that of more than a few other people as well."

What I found agreeable in Silliman's Waldman review was that her presence can get in the way of her verse. You bet, Ron.

I have an unwashable Waldman memory: Anne singing erotic poetry on-stage at the Fox Theatre, Boulder, many years ago. The worst singing, horrific conceptions of erotism, and many women erotizing following her in pukey-suit. Like one of those awful almost embarrassing American Idol auditions. The erotic is great...whatever it is...but nothing daring, nor even interesting about singing it. I am sure it was gross when Whitman did it, if he did at all, you know, sing the body electric.

It was bad. But not as bad as Ginsburg getting up on stage to sing "Don't Smoke" with earnest political vigor and then shmoozing the youth.

double yuck. I have a better memory, to be honest. I was introduced to Cole Swensen and Anne at the Cruise Room in Denver a year before I was accepted at University of Denver; Cole left the following year. They were both wonderfully there and not-singing but chatting with genuine interest.

coupla few things

I am going to continue my discussion with Josh real soon. Andrea's parents are in town for father's day; so I'll be occupied. Lots and lots of good wine and food.

I do have a question for those in the computer know: I have noticed that my links section on my sidebar to the right appears appropriately, correctly, on Netscape and Safari. However, if I bring up Dagzine with Internet Explorer, the first letters are sliced off. I cannot figure out the simple code adjustment I need to make to fix this. Do any of you know what I should do? I am completely self-taught, so I hit snags like this every once in a while.

------Last night, we celebrated Bloomsday with dinner in a snug.

On the news this morning, conservative think-tank decries Michael Moore's new film, Farenheit 9/11, because it is not a real documentary but a thinly veiled political statement intended to sway voter opinion. Imagine, folks, a documentary in which a filmmaker makes a political statement!

Check out MooreWatch. Maybe Moore has reason to fear for his life. These folks are nuts. We all know that pundits tend to stretch "the truth". But that's what debate and interpretation, the bedrock of inquiry, are all about. As if our president and his cabinet do not twist fact each day to motivate millions of Americans to peacefully accept the United States behavior in the world.

Many right wing think tanks are funding anti-Michael Moore campaigns. Whatever I think of his act, I admire his continuing efforts. Speaking publicly: this is what you get. Targeted; Attacked; Threatened. Very democratic behavior from the Right.

This MoveOn site wants us to pledge to see the film. I like the idea and kind of cringe at the thought of it as well.

The next election is conretizing public debate and bringing diverse communities together. As it should be thinks me.

----Yo la Tengo's Painful excellent record.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

rant response

Josh quickly addressed my concerns, quite respectfully; yet I didn't make myself clear on one issue.

Josh remarks:
  • One thing I can't sufficiently address is the "something" that was given to Richard (and by implication me) "not given to others and that something which many may deserve is only available to a few, not because of talent but because of resources." I take this something to be publication? Publication of a book? What exactly is the nature of the limited "resources"?

Maybe you'll be able to after the following.

When I mention something given to Richard and you, I am not concerned with the book. In fact, I don't see the book as given. The book is manufactured and not, as I am well aware of, always an accurate facsimile of the writing itself--esp in verse, the lines must at times be altered for the book. Just as the writing itself is never accurately portrayed through the performance of the act of writing.

I am more concerned with the thing you didn't respond to, namely the conflation of the act of writing with writing itself. The act of writing calls for an author to say, "I wrote it all by myself," like the old Dr Seuss byline "I read it all by myself." Such a response is the dumb response, in the sense that it is without quality and speaks literally of nothing. When I met Aaron McCollough in Shanna Compton's apartment in Brooklyn, NY, after a long evening, he gave me a copy of his book. That is a form of the given, just as Shanna's hospitality is a form of the given. In the sense that the book or the hospitality is there to give. If I give a student an 'A' who only earned a 'B' because I feel like it, that is a form of the given. In the sense that the grade is there to be given. What Richard was given has nothing to do with the given aspects of his writing itself, rather it is his work to align the product with opportunity to publish that could possibly be given to him but only always on somebody else's behalf. Relative similarity between the perceived shrinking poetry market and the shrinking number of agents for prose authors...all writers who wish to publish sell not only their writing but themselves.

By resources I mean editors, readers, time: like the title of my 'zine, positions. The number of positions is limited and which position is available is never a choice made by a person, entity, or thing that fills it; rather, a position is filled by a person, entity, or thing on behalf of a requst from another already filled position. By filled position I mean a position taken or assumed through any number of given qualities and quantities. Resources are limited. So are positions. So are readings.

Apparently, Josh, you don't buy that reading knowledge should be tied to the quantity one reads. I agree. However, if you choose readings by their quality, by their use, then you are inherently limiting their practical use as worthwhile readings to your position somewhere for a given duration of time. For example, a class you teach. You pick the texts. Sixteen or ten weeks later that qualification becomes moot on an important level. Just as only a limited fortunate AND worthy number of authors are published due to economics, a limited number of readings can be accomplished due to time.

So, we argue about how to have a worthwhile and beneficial, possibly pleasurable, conversation about theory and reading and writing. Yet, we do not do much to change the function of how we make available participation. Everyday folks feel this squeeze and don't read further, canon or Canon notwithstanding.

I agree wih you that I left out from my equation the living in relative poverty. But I purposefully left it out; I find such inclusion a mark of privilege. I live in a West Denver neighborhood called Barnum. The majority of my neighbors are Mexican or Central American immigrants. Even the folks in my community who refer to themselve publicly as "Hispanics" distinguish themselves from most of my neighbors. At this time, these folks have no choice but to live in poverty. They must and they endure that must. I choose it. And for me to claim poverty as a value-marker for my vocation is truly disgusting. I know it's a strong word, Josh, and I mean it not to reflect on your opinion or your character. But I am just about ready to explode at the University of Denver--except for a few, the majority of my fellow writers embrace their poverty as if it were given to them and is undesirable while at the same time use it as a necessary element to the equation of being who they can only hope to become. In other words, they are romanticly oppressed yet need not struggle to be relieved from their oppression. This is problematic: writing is work, is labor. But we have to, in addition, earn a living. No other choice. It isn't a factor in the equation expect as a constant that must be applied on both sides and as such, as a marker of privilege not oppression, it can be canceled out. But the claim: "I am poor doing this!" That is a sign of privilege, a sign too often self-sewn onto the clothes and bike bags of scholarly, white men and women.

I have experienced a tug to write and teach since I was a tiny kid--and I was a runt--who spent most of his days in the halls and getting whipped at Cooper Elementary in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Like a pulling I felt it then and now: a true vocation. Only lately have I learned a bit of humility that goes like this: The vocation may be a given, but nothing else is deserved. In other words, I have chosen to be not-rich and to be always-learning because I am answering a call that is a liberation from the demands of materialist existence. I cannot turn around and use it as a tool for sympathy or as an excuse for privilege.

Reading, then. What to read? I read when I was a kid, New American Poetry by accident. I connected with it. Who know how or why? Who cares. But who should I read now? I seem to recall learning more browsing and interacting with what was there, not considering the social politics of how it got there to be read. Most of graduate school is about legitimizing "How IT got here and What should keep IT around." I am more and more earnestly shying away from such nonsense.

Quite frankly, I get tired of sitting with my friends a listening to them argue about this name is better than that name because of this concept or that one. The ideas worth talking about involving writing itself are where it's at, not the useless chatter about the act of writing as we're allowed to read it. RESOURCES. It doesn't matter if everything written were able to be published: resources would still determine in what manner. In our market, publishing is not in any form connected to writing itself rather connected to the spectacle of the act of writing.

I can find a way to talk to any of my fellow human beings about any concept no matter how complex without referring to a book in which I can find the concept lilting in verse stupidly like the sunset bouncing on the horizon as it always does just before darkness falls.

my morning rant in lieu of coffee, thanks jc

I'd like to know why Josh Corey finds it appalling that so many people do not read beyond the canon. I am not curious because I disagree with his response.

My first response, in the mid-nineties was to shun my fellow students who looked no further than the prescribed book.
My second response, when I began at University of Denver, was to criticize their professors, who are often more interested in their own longevity to admit the ever-increasing outwardly-expanding concentric network of possible readings is worth attempting to read at all.

My current response is to find the response not-reading-beyond-the-usual-suspects an apt response, a practical one, rather than a normal or infuriating one. Josh, you and Greenfield & Co, for example, happened to become--as in becoming--situated in a time and place that has ended up benefiting the best of you wonderfully. If you had become situated in a place other than where you were, with or without your hard work and great talent, you may not have achieved anything beyond a degree.

Richard and I are currently debating this--and it isn't a nice argument either. He wholeheartedly believes that it is solely his hard work that got him where he is at. I argue that it is his hard work plus talent and then an unreliable other variable. It would look like this: (HW+T)UV=result. You see, I hope, that the closer the unknown variable gets to zero, the less the result. I insist that contradictions in such an elitist notion--I succeed alone--erupt into the writerly community by the time a writer settles down and teaches (I know, just one of many typical ways for a writer to make a scholarly living.)

We never have nor never will be published solely on our own merits. I think this goes without saying. That is: unless we, each of us, as writers, subsume publishing itself into writing itself. Not the act of writing, but writing itself. In other words, Richard's comments, that the writer is successful because of his own work and nothing much else, would make sense if writing itself came into being only after the unspecified duration of any act of writing were marked by the beginning of writing a document and capstoned by a public display within the market as a text for sale sold or not. This is strictly not the case.

What does this have to do with bemoaning the reading habits of fellow writers and scholars? Richard's comments are well-intended: he worked hard to get where he is at. The problem is that so many of his contemporaries have worked as hard to get where he is at. For example, me. Unpublished, but there next to him. I ask myself, in front of him during our debates, "Is it because my work isn't the quality of yours that DU brought me to work together with you and that your book being published is a sign of whose work is worth more to us and others?" Richard, offended, offers, "No." "Of course, not," I say. We are not brought together because of the act of writing but because of our relationship to the phenomenon of writing itself.

Still, smart ass and elitist snobs wander academic halls giving smug speeches about who is worth reading. "Have you read...?" "Have you met...?" "So and so is editing...?" It is to the point that when guests come to our school, some of them will mention that they ran into a student in Denver who gave them a copy of a book from which they borrowed a title but won't mention the University itself, or the students with whom they spent time. Writer-students, we all are aren't we, still enjoy pissing contests, forming exclusive groups they call communities. But healthy communities are not, in fact, populated by self-same entities. Competition is great, but when it arrives at the cost of original social difference exchanged for feigned popular similarity, as I will continue to argue, it is no wonder students do not bother to read outside the boundaries.

Something was given to Richard not given to others and that something which many may deserve is only available to a few, not because of talent but because of resources. And we depend on writers absolutely and willingly denying this fact. And when we focus young students' attentions--the BAs, the MFAs, even some younger PhD candidates--on "the prize", knowing full-well that the majority of them will not achieve its reward, only a certain kind of writer will be read in the present. According to this dilemma, we should be able to map the kind of writer who will be read in the future, as well. Hence, boring arguments about the relevance of Fence. Nevermind, all the work--the actual labor--that goes into putting together a journal compounded by the actual labor that goes into writing a poem or story, we are supposed to care about who cares about the project in its abstract Value to a community nobody really belongs to.

We have purposefully conflated the fascination and possible celebrity that comes with the act of writing, a category that is strictly spectacular because it includes a writer's lifestyle outside of the writing itself. We have confused the act of writing with writing itself.

I am depressed I have little time to read as much as I want. But I have life to live and writing to be. Publishing, which is the market phenomenon that makes the act of writing a public spectacle, has almost nothing to do with writing itself. (Other than my marketability at MLA.)

I find nothing wrong with the student who is perfectly satisfied with reading and loving no poet beyond let's say Ginsburg or Lowell, just to pick randomly--somebody he or she was allowed to read in high school and as an undergraduate. If folks are reading poetry, then they read poetry, just like I do.

And this isn't a populist notion. This is a purposeful and necessary giving-up of the nominal. The reaction, sometimes abject, from literate scholars of disgust concerning the reading habits of others is a sign of their own lack of knowledge but their sincere desire for more

Pound is ultimately meaningless outside of a lustrum--the classroom or library or quiet studio--unless Pound is involved, folded in, to the writing itself that we do. To simply apply Pound as an ingredient in prosody or other theory is to beg for his use-value, which is concrete, to be exchanged for his abstract value and that is quite frankly disposable because it has nothing to do with him or the his writing rather his Value is all wrapped up in the inferences imposed upon his corpus Pound, his texts, made by readers. Pound and Olson...there's a relationship! I can point to it. I can take it or leave it. It's there in Olson's poetry and letters. Not for me but with me and then possibly through me. Not suggesting anything need be done about it at all.

The idea that I should read anywhere or anything, outside or inside of something, is ludicrous.

But we know how folks get published. And so the reading inside a specific tradition and not outside of it is a healthy abject response to a maturity with its apotheosis brings knowledge that "I am not going to be permitted to go much further so I'll stay right here for now."

You see them
I do
Standing still everywhere hoping
not doing

I am running to teach right now. Am reminded of Stevens's reminding us of the essential gaudiness of poetry and how most of our contemporaries are so concerned with the reality of language, attempting to strip the gaudy from gaudiness. Am reminded of Creeley's "So There", to do it while we can
let's do it
let's have fun

and I am wearing
red shoes

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

new blog

Lisa Jarnot does think anyone will read her blog but that Thoreau would have dug the idea--of blogs, not of anyone not reading Lisa's blog.

Lisablog already good reading.

... ... ...

Well, since they at fait accompli have mentioned the summer slump, and what are we here for, all of us together, but to keep each other going, even though that going may not be motive except through reading, which may be the only motivation possible through thick humidity or heavy, summer smog or simply dry heat, at any rate the slow haze of longer days slips by, since fait accompli mentions this aid we provide, then why not spread the daze motivation.

Thanks Josh Corey--Pound may not need to be read, as we have read folks arguing about, but what Pound did needs to be considered, and more than a simple scholarly lustrum--at Cahiers de Corey.

Thanks Ernesto Priego--Never Neutral for the music, theory and thoughts.

Thanks Aaron McCollough--PowerPearls is the title of the powerpop collection I was telling you about in Brooklyn; it's only available on vinyl. Detroit will win, too. Aaron is at Flower's that Glide.

John Latta, too, at Hotel Point has had my ear. All that on O'Hara, one of my earliest poet crushes. Good reading.

I read all the blogs on my roll (as I have mentioned before,) I am not going to put the list up of my faves, enough to say that those I add to my blogroll are important to my daily reading.

Which, by the way, is daily hindered by scholarship. I cannot wait until September--comps will be finished. I am so behind in reading and cannot remember when I spent more than a few hours a week working on my own writing. Not that I feel that I should read all the current prose and verse, but I would like to get my head out of the dank library shelves for time enough to listen to what my contemporaries are on about.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Monody, v.2

Monody for the King of the Cadillac Queens of Welfare

Who sings for the man? They listen. Who sings?

They will forget his cracks chuck rain from

               (both an omen forward-looking
     response back-clapping) whirling
          clouds over eight-year-old's Tulsa,
     over thirty-three year-old's somewhere,

          out there points
moves to          (o)
ward the other, gone,     p u l l s   .

Rubs east into west.
IT into aged cracked dried skin
     tarped     a cover     . Cedar closets, bathtubs, no basements.
Our games began just the same,
dirt-clods chucked twice,
a knee-cap stabbed once.


(((Poor kids earn nothing more than their parents inherit)
                                      a campy father-figure)
                                      a patriot dropping dope float  ing signifiers))):

     Mothers cry
     Sons die
     Daughters try
     Fathers sky

For example:
A Spielberg housewife faints when her son dies,
                 daughter cries when she slaps her father,
falls apart here     (one afternoon four teams huddle
in a drainage ditch, lightning drenched

          too-heavy falling clouds,
     empty upward-electricity, friction, weight,
rolling shame all that manifest afternoon flash-
flood forecast tis of thee;

game was called)

     working-dad disappears into obscured Hopper horizons.
Got it.
Always with Dreyfuss,
1989          big R leaves behind
only his geo-touch     a legacy
Spielberg had to move on to war
     back to war
fighting sons . dads take more modifying.

   Maybe a story:
my dad took us cruising post flash-floods and tornados,
     chased green pea skies or red bean clouds--
     the Arkansas thick with nothing, a sore gash
cut through
southward plain
   to low Oklahoma,
a red river before Texas, or thick with dirty, bean water
like to dry into cement to fill my mouth
with anti-words
    my mother gave me to sing.

OK, so it was in a station wagon bought new but beat bad before it was used,
          before the children claimed it,
          before we drove it:

I hung unto the roof rack tight while you drove mad into the division.

We ate free cheese yellow milk culture.
We took WIC vouchers.
We rationed food stamps.
We wore used protestant clothes. We agreed

     he was a terrible actor. We know
     he hated his last film, his best film.

He authored a Schwarzenegger ascendency
Broken-Arrow-bound in a lo-riding cadillac, shaved legs,
all girly-soft, comfort-top, secret scent, racing river
          bankside blind called for the mean rains
to drown our neighbors in their (not quite) middle-class snore
          --we politely submit "aspirations"--working or not;

his memories contra our memories:

All the hateful politics his everyman muscle squeezes still, suckled
from the His Democrat, nourished via a slow trickle along a flaccid sac.

Casket-side they weep for the mother he isn't of bringing us all together.
A president turned inside out, dangles.
A precedent stuck into history, rots.

Gnats, sticky
over-grown flies,
eat the bird     slowly
from our planter:
not old enough to fly
self-thrown from its nest,
bootstraps and all,
spread-eagle beneath
the Black-eyed Susans.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

one of many to come, excerpts from Harry's notebooks

Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

Harry keeps a journal for his text on CA in his notebooks that Sammy criticizes regularly for its overall lack of focus. Sammy says he doesn't give a damn what Harry thinks and points out the cracks in the ceiling dust on the floor jumble of wires mess under the TV stand. He says his mouth tastes like aluminum. Harry just rides the bus.

Fifteen minutes late never early running behind sitting down. I am one person among many wage-earners. I like the ride road houses yard by yard, the crooked line of parked cars and fences chimneys trees—small shopping bags stuck whipping in the wind. I like noting day-to-day changes on each block. Got the trip down by turns. Yesterday at Conifer and Pine, a rusting Corvair disappeared and with it the purple bunny on its dashboard. Its curbside space remains vacant—a dusty rectangle inhabited by two crushed Black Label beer cans and a dirty diaper. I dreamt driving westward out of town in a three-lane expressway empty of cars clouds of dust from past snow sandings and tarantellas on the am radio and now could see it being towed east through cracked streets circumferencing the lower downton district. I watched a sunken man in dickie coveralls place it on a lift to be stripped. It would be crushed.

Last year I began carrying a small bag with me. I now carry a legal pad, two pens, a paperback dictionary, eye drops, lip balm, and an old copy of Robinson Crusoe. I keep notes on the pad. I wet my eyes as they dry and keep my lips moist for comfort. I haven’t read the book. I don’t have time for it. Not since I began practicing. I really don’t recommend using the bus to get around. But if you must ride, pretend to be a cultural anthropologist.

It doesn’t take much to anthropologize. There are a few simple ground rules. First, you must make lists. Second, you must recognize common patterns in random events. Third, you must draw your conclusions based upon the patterns not the detail. The last rule is the most important because, should anyone ever read your research, they are more likely to believe what you have written if they can easily relate it to their own experience. I imagine some cultural anthropologists feel a good observer should become invisible while in the field. His subjects should forget that he is there. Nevertheless, I have found it hard to meet this requirement. I like to be recognized, show the people what I do.

One day I was too tired to get out of bed. My cat really didn’t want to move anyway. While lying on my back hands clasped on my chest, I stared at the ceiling. I tried very hard to empty my head. I took in and let out short breaths through my nose. All I wanted to see and think was ceiling—flat white cool plaster close to concrete not moving not distant but just out of reach. At four twenty-five, I stretched my arms up trying to pull it all down in a series of strong dramatic grasps. Unsuccessful, I took a shower and went back to bed.

The sky was empty the next morning. Not a cloud in sight. No cars sped by leaving vapor and sand. No birds. I stood hands against my pant legs staring straight ahead. The telephone pole across the street was anchored at a slight angle. The street sidewalk yards and homes seemed to have torqued that pole as if the whole block were using it as a crutch. I wondered when it would break flinging my neighbors’ homes hurly burly into the horizon. The bus startled me as the driver stopped it—door precisely at my feet.

Silence burst in two hydraulic gasps. I walked to the back seats affected. I heard the word love smelled aftershave breathmints perspiration urine peppermint booze. My vision blurred. My hands shook. My heart broke. I remembered Carlene, a black girl from Summer camp who wandered the grounds and lake after lights out with me talking politics—two eye dots against the dark trees and purple water. Your folks are bigots, she said and kissed me. That Fall she sent me a picture of her in a cheerleader’s outfit with a short letter explaining her desire for us to move in together in a small bungalow outside of Muskogee. We both had a fondness for the Arkansas River, flash floods, and hail storms. I never wrote back.

I was overcome. I rode to the end of the line and hid behind the bus while the driver smoked a cigarette. He stared at me through his mirror all the way home.

I walked to the library and browsed the shelves like I always do. I walked through the aisles looking for something that would catch my eye. I dragged my fingers across the books, thwacked my way through row after row. I found a book written by a cultural anthropologist from some New York university about how people talk about their jobs. It was mostly interviews mixed with very detailed descriptions of how the subjects behaved at work and home. Each chapter was named after a subject and ended with the author’s conclusions. She arrived at her conclusions by comparing her descriptions with their statements.

One memorable story was about a guy named Tim to protect his anonymity. Tim drank malt liquor and wore the same pants every day. He struggled to make cell phone payments and spent hot summer days at the OTB with his pals Smarty and Pete. While Tim yelled at his girl Cheri and swatted flies, he related tales of a mis-spent youth (he was still only twenty-two) and truancy as he spoke about the economy. Eventually, Tim took a job at McDonald’s. He complained about lack of fulfillment and funds. The author wrote that Tim was depressed. Because of our consumer culture, he cannot afford his appetite for living. She found him attractive yet repulsive.

The next day I boarded the bus with pad and pencil. I often get carried away while taking notes. I gasp or laugh. I have cried on occasion. I read about how to conduct field research and have tried to become invisible a wallflower just part of the background.

One day I showed up in brown. I ironed my old Dickie’s coveralls the night before. I wore my Browns baseball cap. I thought I would blend in with some color. I thought I would go unnoticed. Unfortunately, the riders stared at me. So, now I dress like I always did like a guy like me always does. And when I write I chew on my pen cap suck on the collecting spit make educated moans and beam with delight.

I create names for the different kinds of people I observe. I have never seen a person I was not able to parcel away into one category or another. Some of my recent notes include the following categories: The Ritually Unclean, Obese Riders, Public Masturbators, Baby Sensationalists, Driver Talkers, Lingoists, Fashion Fans, Foot-tappers, Bible Readers, Lady-lookers, and Spontaneous Conversationalists. I have had to chronologically organize my notes within files grouped according to category. A typical day provides substantial opportunity for revision.

I board (Birch and Walnut), quickly show ID, and take a seat in the middle of things. I always make a show of taking out my tools. I open my bag allowing the Velcro fasteners to slowly rip apart. The tearing noise claws at the air and quiets things for a moment. The riders look at me (I do this everyday) and I look at them. This sets a mood. I look around smiling and open my notebook. I shake my head in affirmation to show them I am working.

Baby Sensationalist (Pine and Conifer). BS holds daughter high above her left shoulder aisle-side hoping people will recognize her holding baby skylarks for attention. baby cries because she is shaken too hard and doesn’t like her little tummy forced up and down against mother’s shoulder. BS lets her baby down upon her thighs and talks to her in baby talk how’s my little fatty puss snuggle honey and baby still cries embarrassed probably and passengers smile in an effort to make BS stop but she won’t because she does it every morning for twenty minutes between Conifer and Deciduous.

You have to keep notes quick and sort it all out later because the most important thing for a cultural anthropologist is to respect the performance. You must recognize the performer and offer encouragement with affirmational gestures. I wink at the mother when she looks behind her. She giggles at her fellow riders because of her baby’s fuss. I wink at her, slightly nod, and smile warmly; I acknowledge her effort. I learned this from the girl behind the counter at Skaggs. She quickly turns around—back to her baby.

Before I write, I tap my pad three times and clear my throat.

Yes. Quietly, meaningfully, professionally. It is my only word on the bus. Yes. The rest is sounds. Hmmmm tap tap tap Yes clear my throat chew on the cap write.

The bus groans creaks rocks shakes bumps hops pops vibrates breathes and drives. I lean my head on the window glass and rest my eyes. The bus massages my scalp, rubs my brain, quiets my mind. As my solid thoughts begin to loosen, I begin to drift and daydream. I often dream of buses.

I have many recurring dreams. In “My Mother the Vampire,” I am out killing bloodsuckers with my friends. We kill them with lilies. Larger than actual lilies, their petals rise and curve long and white with blackish not green veins. They are sticky and pregnant with yellow pollen. Getting a vampire to take a flower that will ultimately kill him isn’t as easy as it sounds. Vampires are suspicious of gifts. I always return to my childhood home (East 17th St) at the end of the day and find my mother in her floral nightgown on our old couch. She lies quite peacefully on its green cushions like she is taking a nap. Her small, even breaths are soothing. I can hear my brothers in the bedroom down the hall. There is a turntable in the room. A scratchy copy of The Beach Boys “Wouldn’t it be Nice?” is playing. A-side, Capitol Records. She slowly sits up and asks for a hug. I wake up.

There are other dreams like “Rest Stop Stall,” “Walking around School Naked,” and “All My Teeth are Falling Out.” I keep notes about dreams, too. My most recent recurring dream is “The Quiet Bus.” I get on a silver bus, like one of those mobile homes but more rectangular, and sit in the back. There is no sound. The bus glides around sharp corners and slides across treacherous potholes. There are large windows on the sides and in back to provide wonderful views. The bus never takes a red light and always accelerates. The driver wears thick, workman’s gloves and has to furiously turn the steering wheel with both hands—hand over hand over hand—to keep us on course. As my body succumbs to the increasing speed, I try to warn the five or six other passengers about possible dangers. My voice is so quiet. Whisper whisper whisper like scratching and thin, crumpling paper as we take on a hill. At its crest the bus leaves the ground. Silently floating across a city park, the driver announces a number of destinations: Bathroom, Toilet, Faucet, Paper, Whicker Hamper, Floor.

Buses are never really silent, though.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Feels good to be writing and reading, again, and nothing much else.

I read my blogroll each day, more than once some days.

NP at fait accompli has my most attention, I must confess. If you haven't checked into his blog lately, do.


My favorite Ray Charles record has always been Live in Berlin, 1962.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

... ... ...

Monody for the King of the Cadillac Queens of Welfare

Who sings for the man? They listen. Who sings?

      -- re - enforced us and them--
will forget what he said about my family and neighbors
                                              our mothers and fathers
                                              our students
                                              our multiplicity.

His cracks chuck rain from    (both an omen forward-looking
          response back-clapping) whirling
     clouds over eight-year-old's Tulsa,
                    over thirty-three year-old's somewhere,

          out there points
moves to          (o)
ward the other, gone,     p u l l ing   .

Or, rubbing east into west.
Or, rubbing IT in aged cracked dried skin tarped     a cover     .
Our games started with name-calling just the same,
led to fist-tackling punches and smears hmm hmm hmm,
dirt-clod chucking twice and a stabbed knee-cap once.


(((Poor kids earn nothing more than their parents inherit)
                                      a campy father-figure)
                                      a patriot dropping dope float  ing signifiers))):

   Mothers cry
   Sons die
   Daughters try
   Fathers sky

For example:
A Spielberg housewife faints when her son dies,
                 daughter cries when she slaps her father,

(falls apart here: one afternoon four teams gather in a drainage ditch,
       hide away from lightning and too-heavy falling clouds,
  cloud-mass falling upward, electricity
             the bump of friction, weight of rolling
    a shame all that westward expansion and manifest destiny

game was called)

                 working dad disappears into obscured Hopper horizons. Got it. Always with Dreyfuss, 1989, big R flying off leaving behind
only his touch   a legacy   and Spielberg had to move on to war actually back to war:
                 fighting sons . dads take more modifying. Maybe a story:

My dad took us cruising post flash floods and tornados,
     chased green pea skies or red bean clouds--
     the Arkansas thick with nothing, a sore gash
   cut through
   southward plain
   to low Oklahoma,
a red river before Texas, or thick with dirty bean water
like to dry into cement to fill my mouth with anti-words
    my mother gave me to sing.

OK, so it was in a station wagon bought new but beat bad before it was used,
          before the children claimed it,
          before we drove it:

I hung unto the roof rack tight while you drove mad into the division?

We ate free cheese yellow milk culture.
We took WIC vouchers.
We rationed food stamps.
We wore used protestant clothes.    We should remember, and
     He was a terrible actor.
     He hated his last film, his best film.

And he authored a Schwarzenegger ascendency
     --that's where he came from--
Broken-Arrow-bound in a lo-riding cadillac, shaved legs,
all girly-soft, comfort-top, secret scent, racing river
          bankside blind calling for the mean rains
to drown our neighbors in their (not quite) middle-class snoring
          --we politely submit "aspirations"--
working or not; his memories contra our memories:

All the hateful politics his everyman muscle could squeeze, suckled
from the His Democrat, nourished via a slow trickle along a flaccid sac.

Casket-side they weep for the mother he isn't of bringing us all together.

     Her absence absent: a president turned inside out
     His presence present: a precedent stuck into history

The bird I found in our planter not old enough to fly; dead, too.
Self-thrown from its nest, bootstraps and all. Gnats, sticky over-
grown flies, eating it slowly   spread eagle beneath the Black-eyed Susans.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Blog of Disquiet

Due to a few mishaps, my students and I have been unable to post at our community blog, The Blog of Disquiet. That Blog will be back soon with new students participating. I am teaching a course on "the everyday" this fall quarter. I've tentatively called it "Falling into Culture: Writing about Waking to Everyday Life"
Here's the reading list:
  • Charles Baudelaire. Paris Spleen
  • Franz Kafka. The Trial
  • Georges Bataille. The Blue of Noon
  • Albert Camus. The Fall
  • Ben Highmore. Everyday Life and Cultural Theory

I am looking forward to it.

THANKS to those of you who posted links to our page on your blogs; please look for more list activity in September. Until then, other than a template change, Blog of Disquiet may be very quiet.

Sad Tuesday Night: Sports Confessions

Just when Detroit was helping me get over Calgary losing the Cup to Tampa Bay, the Pistons throw it all away in game 2.
All that was needed was a simple arm slap of a foul and I can't stand the Lakers. Ugh. With three games in Detroit, I figure it will be 3-2 in Detroit's favor going back to LA for game six.

Red Sox come to play the Rockies next week. I will be in the right-field box--best seats for $14--hopefully, for all three games. Alas, I am but a poor doctoral candidate studying for his comps...

I am already in hockey withdrawal. And still cannot believe that the Cup will spend a year in Florida--in Tampa! awful...not the team...Tampa itself. I did see quite a few punk shows there in my youth--kids swinging steel-toes first from greased poles into the foreheads of gnarlied-virgin 7seconds fans. Orlando, Tampa/St Pete, Gainsville: 88-90. What chunky memories.

... ... ...

I melted military men.

Small strings of smoke wither upwards thickly wanting weight.
I imagine something like that going
through the mind that wrote Wonka pulling
All this pushes down,
melts away—
          have to use a putty knife
to scrape it from the floor.
Whole images shatter into words     broken sentences.
Or, get fat

          too globular
          inhuman un-
canny     more left after than came before.
At home that summer I saw her eat
a whole bag of chewy candy

     —inhaled vowels—

while sitting on the couch mulling some things into no things.
I melted plastic men from Iwa Jima into formless puddles—
all fricatives mess
Grey s q l m n r v s,
into, as much as possible,
on top of,
chewing cement and releasing a singular and substantive string
upward.     I breathed it in like memory making.
So: her fingers unwrapping my matches igniting,
candy like wax infantry men melting away
into these lines
no matter how hard I blow
they just sink, settle and stiff.

Holiday over

over easy and out and now to the thing: comps.
I am beginning with Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!. Chose to start with my period list, 1900-1950, American Modernisms.