Monday, January 31, 2005
n. an automobile left unattended and running in cold weather. This term
appears to be specific to Colorado. Categories: Automotive. Colorado.
--Colorado adds to our cultural vocabulary. Car-jacking gangs have taken to roaming neighborhoods in Denver in search of puffers, which they immediately steal. They proceed to commit felonies with the stolen cars or simply take them for a spin before a quick stripping. Though warming-up engines does not necessarily improve a car's performance, it does thaw the ice. In my neighborhood, the majority of residents are Mexican immigrants--families longtime locals tend to refer to as Mexicanos. This can be a good thing, or it can be a slur. Seems to depend on whether a person desires to be called Hispanic; but that's another story. Many are forced to live in relative secrecy because of oppressive US immigration policies and a thick, racist environment. (Wayne Allard, Tom Tancredo, and Marilyn Musgrave call Colorado home. The first two want to militarize the southern border of the US and the latter, in addition, believes homosexuality leads to bestiality and pedophilia.) Anyway, many of my neighbors have no garages and drive old clunker chryslers and pontiacs. Their cars freeze at night; they need a good thaw. Unfortunately, they leave puffers waiting to be stolen. Once such puffer, a late-sixties model Ford pickup, ended up against a tree in our front yard last year after a thief popped the clutch and shot the car, in reverse, up the street.
It's sad. Each car is needed by the adults in each household to support the families living therein. But they know their puffers will eventually be stolen. They do not call the police. So, for this story to have made it nation-wide, for the langauge folks to reference Colorado must mean that many more dozens of cars are stolen than are reported.
Might explain Denver's other auto problem. By my count, almost 3 out of every 5 cars in West Denver alone, have no tags. The trouble with doing anything about the thefts, the fake or missing tags, and the fake licenses (recently a DMV ring busted; selling driver's licenses for 1,000 bucks a pop; tell me the state didn't know) is that folks have to work. These people have to be there on time, at multiple jobs, across a sprawling urban and suburban city, or they are simply tossed. One form of crime points to another. One form of theft exposes many forms of oppression.
Sunday, January 30, 2005
keys of post pleasure, roaming
rooms of dirt leisure, flagging
mounds of hard pasture, failing
(to mention something
to the tune of ditch.)
I was in my mask gasp alpha and gamma,
what have you:
They swear to sink it.
They ask you to seal it.
You make a general call.
You sit still.
stink when they
what they ate last night; their detergent.
We become bigger not bloated,
simply more sure
A flight in glue:
elbows like pulleys
attached to jello
We sign the line--
the same name.
turn the round thing seared
to the rough thing shoved
to that box thing aimed
at turning a wide, heavy, long
schools of fish
I fed my fish too much.
They bloat like float
He said to do it
I brought the motor
You want it to come on,
hum all pretty
churn out evens not odds
not a wrench
and they let us go
One ran into a wall it didn't see.
There are no windows. Signs.
Just points like periods.
refuse to curve.
I want to give credit to several authors who urge me to reflect and write about the writerly craft, our community, and our place within it; the craft and the market; language and thought. The discourse about craft--call it a rhetoric for poetics, if you like--endures many lines of flight and each flight changes the whole conversation. Many agreements and disagreements but always a moving forward together. Thank you.
fait accompli (Nick Piombino)
the unquiet grave (Tony Tost)
cahiers de corey (Josh Corey)
bemsha swing (Jonathan Mayhew)
bad with titles (Jay Thomas)
the pangrammaticon (Thomas Basboll)
ecritures bleu (Laura Carter)
hotel point (John Latta)
HG poetics (Henry Gould)
silliman's blog (Ron Silliman)
limetree (K Silem Mohammad)
the delay (Chris Vitiello)
Saturday, January 29, 2005
This might explain my tendency to get involved with debates about "poetry and the market" and "poetry and politics." Though I am open to the divergent possibilities/directions poetics takes (that word needs unpacking,) I do think we tend to limit poetics to a narrow project that increasingly dissembles its ability to reach vital resources socially and politically. The requirements for poetry to adhere to a look or to function as a gaze conceal its revelatory potential to shape social character and habit. Reasons for dissembling are often valid as poets attempt to answer for their own satisfaction important questions: How do I survive as a poet? Who am I willing to associate myself with? Where can I write from? I write more prose than poetry, but I think of prose as a poetic project, not subordinate to poetics but informing language with it. (Remind me to share with you the problems I face when I confront writers who are encouraged to sell a product rather than to work on the craft. Mainstream prose practice hurts the practice of poetics; we should look at this; we should expect much more from our writers; we shouldn't hoard the pleasures in poetics.)
Poetry has a unique relationship to specific landscapes--geography influences the poet's thought, landscape versifies geography (like poetry versifies prose,) language shapes thought--and through that unique relationship a topography for doing poetry develops, maintains, influences, constructs, and renovates. This list is important. Let me explain.
Renovate is a better word than restore. Renovate offers a means rather than an end. First, we must admit that the poetic function of language is not restricted to poetry. This may be the only norm I am willing to accept right now. For if I am willing to find a vocation in poetry, then poetry needs to be vital for others (other than poets) and other vocations. Indeed, the poetic function of language must be a vital and accessible part of everyday language. In other words, poets cannot own the function as if it is there to be used to manufacture a commodity called a poem to be used in exchange for something, in turn, more valuable. On the other hand, poets should own the burden of poetic work. I often read poet-critics who harmfully insist young writers and non-poets should bear the burden of poetic work in order to prove something like allegiance or worth. They treat poetics as a training ground, a form of boot camp. Poetry and Poetics belongs to nobody, and is nothing if limited to a few.
I use to renovate, then, because we write poetry to develop a poetic function in language and to better represent thought as it is in-formed by poetic language; and to learn how to bear this with others. We find others writing poetry. Only after we figure (this word is important) a method to maintain the writing itself--in its time, in its place, in its form--can we begin to influence other writers to pick up ourtools--belonging to me, to us, to them before they recognize them as tools and pick them up--to further shape the craft. Thus, influence leads to construction. As more writers learn to master the craft and a community develops, craft is renovated as it is constructed, practiced, and discussed. The renovating itself restores to an earlier condition not the poetic product but the poetic function: to develop a means to do poetry at all in the first and last place always as poetry.
Yet, poets, to distinguish themselves over against others, tend to move beyond this primary process, this vital means mechanism--developing, maintaining, influencing, constructing, and renovating--to a secondary end. The move from a means to invigorate poetic discourse through renovating poetic function is a desire to achieve a more comfortable and convenient end in self-promotion. (I am not at all making the claim that success in the market is convenient, simply that it is encouraged to seek this end, and through such encouragement it is ready-at-hand, probably because it serves the market and the individual both.) Self-promotion refers to the poet who enters the market in order to sell poems. Call it poetry-as-business. Such writers have as their goal a long term investment in maximizing their value by selling goods (poems) and services (appearances & lectures). Such poets must self-promote. I am not criticizing the move as much as illustrating the results.
If a poet's vocation is an important question that a poetics community must consider through its discourse, we must recognize poets choose how to participate in a (the) poetic process. Can I shape my celebrity and still attend to the community? I hear this from certain colleagues. I am glad they suffer the possible answers. The question is not meant to limit a poet, or to offer a backhanded insult to poet-celebrity (wouldn't it be nice); the question illustrates the problem. I do not like either/or scenarios. Regardless, the market sorts issues through a mechanism that distinguishes between wants and needs. We often choose between meeting the demands of our wants or of our needs. The former allows us a bit more privacy because the latter requires us to consider others.
EITHER, in the form of a question:
Should a poet self-promote and choose a vocation that must primarily meet market demands based on the scarcity of specific kinds of popular poetic forms?
OR, in the form of a question:
Should a poet eschew market demands in pursuit of a poet's vocation culled from other liminal resources.
While both questions require an ethical response that will force an author, program, and community to consider many important norms, only this choice of questions allows poets to consider something like the role of an "oppositional" poetics.
I think "liminal" is a significant word: I use it for its reference to a threshold. To eschew market concerns is to allow a poet to choose to cross a threshold or to recognize the choice not to cross a threshold. Crossing a threshold allows a poet to reach the initial stage of an important process in poetics. That initial stage, I claim, is to renovate. A poet must work towards the capacity to renovate. However talented a poet may become, each engaged poet should be recognized as possessing the potential renovative energy to develop to maintain to influence to construct to further renovate.
Our arguments about the market may never extend beyond our drive to achieve a relatively comfortable material existence. In other words, when we foreground market concerns and background all others, we consider creature comforts and weigh such comforts against our physical needs--if we are lucky, our communitys' needs. I need to eat, I need to work, I need to dress. However, our market is necessarily insensitive to our shared values based in such needs. Our market is want-regarding: I want an IPod, I want a Saturn, I want a new pen, I want candied almonds, I want to lose weight. We sell ideas and images as wants: I want to be X and I want to know Y. I don't really want to participate in a poetics based on a want-regarding market. I certainly do not know of any poets writing poems as a result of consumer demand. I do not foresee Poetry Package Stores in our future. "I'll take a pack of Pall Mall Lights, a Snickers, and that new Jennifer Moxley over there."
Poetry is needed. Not like junk, mind you, or alcohol, but like language needs a sound, jazz an improvisation. How do we remind citizens they need poetry? We might begin by reminding poets they need a living poetics--one in which they are educated, in which they know form, in which they are encouraged to project, in which they actively revise, in which they renovate the form they know, in order to further project. The word innovate is wonderful, too. But we don't teach writers that way. "Hey, you know, innovate." "Go out there and do some creating." That is like giving a sixteen-year-old a brick to teach civil disobedience. "Go out there, kiddo, and let them know what you think." We cannot just invoke the word "create." We need to imbue our discourse with the will to revise and to renovate.
I titled this post "Oppositional Poetics" after Anne Waldman's essay. (Is a list of questions an essay; maybe "inquiry" is more accurate?) Her work is currently anthologized in Vow to Poetry, a collection of her "Essays, Interviews, & Manifestos." I just received a copy in the mail, a generous gift copy, from CoffeHouse Press (2001). Waldman begins "Oppositional Poetics" with Holderlin's famous question from "Bread & Wine":
What is the use of poets in a bereft time?
She shapes the question, it irrupts into contemporary cultural discourse; she asks a list of questions shaping its scope to a decidedly political end. She begins with "How do we navigate a new chaos of possibility?" She mentions Turtle Island, holocausts, spiritual poetics, planetary infinitude, sickness, starvation, Crips, Bloods, her niece's run-in with the right wing. She asks, "As writers what's the task?" Her answer: You must go against the grain for the benefit of others. After her answer, she recounts the Muse to Hilda Doolittle, "Write, write, or die."
Nevermind the explicit threat. I could never produce under that kind of pressure or do I only produce under that kind of pressure? Maybe more on this later...
I want to address the translation of Holderlin for moment. In German, the line is "wozu Dichter in durftiger Zeit?" (Pardon the lack of umlaut in durftiger and Holderlin.) Not that I disagree with the translation; it is a simple question. I wonder about the sense (mood?) of durftiger. Bereft means to be robbed of, to be deprived of; rarely, it refers to bereavement. The useful sense is a removal from. In other words, to be bereft is to be left impoverished, to be made a pauper, or to be left to live poorly in the absence of that place, entity, or thing that made one rich/healthy. (Werner Herzog's The Heart of Glass is a fine example of a durftiger Zeit.)
Poetry in this sense isn't what we have lost or are losing but that thing which we should use in this bereft time. How should we use poetry? Waldman offers a possiible solution. Her search for the possibility of an oppositional poetics is an attempt to urge a transformation and so to create space for utility to be fashioned out of opposition to those oppressive forces that cause our bereavement. But are we to act, as Lytton writes, as "shepherds to thy bereaven flock"? (I gleaned the Lytton from the OED.)
In leadership roles we always oppose when we direct, no matter what form our discourse takes. But do we do it for them or with them? I am affirmed in my convictions: I will do it with them. I may live as an example at best, but I listen and live with them better. I cannot know my benefit for others.
What is the use of poetry in a bereft time? Time-being how? Time-bereft of what? Waldman's list of questions compose a time in abundance of life and death. Her list offers readers plenty to consider, not any sign of a bereft time. This is not a disagreement with nor a complaint directed at Waldman's message. Her list's abundance illustrates how, when we face loss (of freedom, of humanity, of life, of wealth,) we face each other. When we face ourselves alone, we may feel bereft of others (places, things, and entities; other alternatives, other choices, other opportunities.) We must learn to ask each other questions, which is a form of going against the grain because it moves discourse outside of the marketplace. And this move is for the benefit of others. But she has done nothing for others. We must face her and return her gesture in kind. Instead of stepping-up, she steps-down; her stepping-down encourages others to participate in kind. Her stepping-down is not a vertical descent, it is a horizontal dissent that moves her more in media res than decreases her legitimacy.
I quite like this.
So, the Muse whispers, "Write, write or die." HD's writing is not associated with my death. Her life and death are bound together inseparably. She equates writing and life. Here, going against the grain means going somewhere between life and death. I don't know if the Muse cares for others. If we all write or die, we do write alongside the other.
Consider Thoreau. We may write to become the other. We may write to observe the other. We may go against the grain as others go with the flow. But always with, never for, the benefit of others in mind. We often forget Thoreau's confession: how he ended up in the woods. He did not fit in, he lost his job, he was not allowed to practice what he had chosen to practice. He was ("felt" at least) outside of society. Going against the grain led him to work with others, in nature, his brute neighbors, his imaginary friends, the loons, and moved him into the midst of things. Unlike Emerson who insists that the poet is like an angel who fixes our broken image of the world, Thoreau through his act of leaving in order to show by example didn't end up circumferencing society to show us who we really are. He stepped further into the middle of things.
How do I "go against the grain for others" and get them to come with me, get them to understand what I understand, get them to see what I see, and challenge the status quo that nourishes a bereft time? When it comes to public discourse, I wholeheartedly disagree with anybody doing anything for me. I always want to work with you. Social welfare may be a necessity in terms of food, clothing, shelter, and material community needs. Communities need to care for those in need for their own selfish survival if for no other reason. At any rate, we typically care for one another because we feel it is the thing to do. We need to. I need to do things for others who cannot do things for themselves because their health is my health. On the other hand, I cannot educate any student. They must learn. I cannot participate in democracy with others by doing for them.
The prepositional choices are important: to, for, with, against. First, I am not so sure I am willing to assume I know the benefit for others in any (nevermind every) circumstance. (Close readers will recognize I am not endorsing cultural relativism.) Second, when I do anything for others, I simply instruct at/to/against them and may act only on my own in front of them. Unfortunately, I limit my engagement with a community to performing examples in front of them. Think of a reader who is unaware of his or her audience. The freedom they possess after the (f)act is the freedom to choose to attempt to act after the my fashion.
If we go against the grain with others, we lose the need to conceptualize the benefit itself. This is a valuable revision because the benefit signifies enlightenment and power. Benefits often only mask oppressive ideological apparatus with a tingling menthylatum. Folks settle for benefits. "Well, we may be losing valuable forest but the benefit is more employment." Or, "We may not be able to reach those kids, but at least they read Pound." Feels like something is working, but the problem still persists long after the tingling feeling ends. In this manner, benefits often repress the actual problem by illustrating a spectacular distraction. "Never forget!" Great, but can we work together to do something about genocide? Let's protest "the war." Great, but can we change the culture that inevitably returns to war to solve its social and economic problems? We have Poetry as therapy; Poetry as radical politics; Poetry as social critique. Where is poetry? And not an ideal form, just poetry that is doing poetry.
Presently, such work is criticized as too-complex, meaningless, self-involved, and formless. Or, it is backward-looking, it is criticized as High Modern or irrelevant, or simply past its prime. I do this injustice by limiting the critiques to a narrow list. They do outnumber even the viable works. They are their own industry and often self-replicate.
HD's line, "Write, Write or die," says what it means. Write or die. If we read the line with its comma and period, it revises a significant and simple mantra. Write, she writes. She revises her initial urge to write limiting the for. Write. Comma [What for?]. Write or die. Well, I am no longer going to ask what for. Her what for is certainly significant for me and you, for us all; yet it doesn't extend to me or my community any benefits that I should expect in the same manner a warranty extends benefits for my participation in an exchange.
What purpose does an oppositonal poetics serve? Does it keep death removed? No. Write or Die? No. Write (for others) or (our democracy will) die? Such a limit to poetics changes poetry. What is poetry? It isn't the thing we can point at. It isn't what that poet is doing at her desk over there. It is that thing we do with one another between writing a poem and reading poems. Is it ever oppositional?
Oh damn. I was supposed to be doing something else today. And I have been directed somewhere else.
Friday, January 28, 2005
I consider myself a student of phenomenology. And I mean student. From what I have read, I have learned the field is a life-long project. I am comfortable reading and reflecting; I am not in the mood to tell it like it is or defend a thesis. The reading in the German tradition, Heidegger's Being and Time for example, only makes me feel like I have read nothing. And I have read that monster twice. When I finish a Heidegger essay, I need to begin again because I feel I have lost much of it. (I feel this way with Williams and Olson, too. Maximus kills me.) And now I am reading the French--Janicaud, Henry, Marion. Too much for me. So, what do I say to my students?
You might think I would have found it long ago; this web site has helped me help my students--students who are typically never going to come back to such inquiry. Phenomenology Online does a good job of categorizing approaches to inuiry and writing. There are a handful of links that no longer work; but the site is several years old and it appears it was moved. Might need a little maintenance.
Check it out. It has helped me focus my points in lectures and given me a place to send the curious student. This way, I don't say something foolish about befindlichkeit or one of the many kinds of reduction.
What I like most about the site: the maps.
"IPod and user form a cybernetic unit," said [Markus] Giesler. "We're always talking about cyborgs in the context of cultural theory and sci-fi literature, but this is an excellent example that they're out there in the marketplace.... I have seen the future, and it is called the cyborg consumer."
I love the "I have seen the future" bit. Has Wired never read the dozens of theorists who have addressed this subject?--Donna Haraway, Jean Baudrillard, Paul Virilio, Brian Massumi, to name four I'd place on a list of many who write about technology. Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto is monumental. Nevermind the artists who incorporate the concept into their works. In addition, Giesler's vision has been the regular topic of panels at pop culture conferences for many years.
"Apple understood this," Giesler said. "It's selling a hybrid entertainment matrix -- iPod, computer and music store. The iPod is important, but it's only really useful when it's interconnected. It becomes great when it is interconnected."
I don't know what Apple knows, but I do know about academics who glean their more cogent ideas from others without due props. I also know many authors who know less about what they write than their subjects (and readers) do.
I am running on here, but I get annoyed with this. Figures someone from Management would come along and promote himself through a trendy genre magazine as if he had the idea. It's so scripted. After all, the article is less about the idea than it is about marketing Markus Giesler.
His site is a celebration of many things. What of?
From his index page:
We are living in a technologically advanced and increasingly globalized world in which everything is connected but nothing adds up.
Thankfully, not everything can be counted and organized according to the count.
In such a world, how can managers win future entertainment markets?
Oh. How can we win? Though Wired sells him as a theorist, Giesler is a salesman. He has a pitch; he intends to use copy freely. Ideas are commodities in-formation. No wonder he has something to say about the IPod and praise for Apple's marketing move. He is selling himself. And his egomaniacal project is winning future markets in spite of the resistance culture offers management.
Through extensive ethnographic and sociological analyses, I get at some surprising answers. To learn more about my findings, please follow the threads on this research homepage.
Do follow his threads. A particularly frightening image anchored in his Teaching Page: dozens of men and women in suits looking up into the lens of a camera, arms locked toghether, they form a large people dot.
He isn't researching to explore the problems technology presents culture formation, he researches to find out how to better and more efficiently manipulate culture for the benefit of technology.
I know we shouldn't practice lookism, but look at the photo on his Biography Page.
A former record producer and label owner, Markus has produced over 300 records and served various Fortune 500 companies, including Sony, Procter & Gamble, 3M, BMW, Bertelsmann, McDonald’s, and many others. Professor Giesler's research explores entertainment marketing and the complex interrelationship among consumption, culture, and technology. He has written and published on file-sharing, consumer resistance, and entertainment culture.
He said it...consumer resistance. Gives me the shivers.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Aggressively Christian virgin values
curb teen-sex Iraq tattoos,
recommend programs to dissuade:
King George spends his coronation,
at least promised parents support.
This newspaper still refers to:
a clarion call,
What birds? what bees? ping asp
virgin sex video
torrent chapel president:
Supernova after all. Openly
Christian support of same-sex religion
but what do American teens think?
You're gay or lesbian based on Christian values:
kicks, suicide linked;
the recent clearinghouse.
Christianity is corrupt.
Here is a post I sent to a mailing list. I thought it fit into Dagzine's "populations" category.
Ken writes: "One of the progressive ways of handling Christians is education... about
their own tradition."
Showing Christians, progressively, their own tradition will not work, does not work. As I will conclude, Christians are not interested in being Christian, they are interested in being Right. In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, the saint adressed this back in the day; and still nobody listens.
Selections from Paul's first letter to the Corintians (my emphases):
1.4-7 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind--just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you--so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift gift as you wait for the revealing of your Lord Jesus Christ.
1.13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (I cut the parts with Paul proclaiming whom he baptized; ie, not all of Corinth.) 1.17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.
1.18-21 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,/"I will destroy the wisdom of/ the wise,/ and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."/ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.
1.25 For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.
1.27-29 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothings things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.
I think Paul's letter appropriately portrays the attitude of the American evangelical mind--both a grotesque and deficient understanding of Christianity. I use "evangelical" here to represent those who proclaim and manipulate. Proclaiming exists in many forms: pamphlets, preaching, op-ed pieces, prayer, crusading, etc. Manipulating exists in many forms: the sunday bus, faith-based initiatives, protest, political activity, etc. I could list more for both. My point with the short lists is to show that not every element should be treated in the pejorative: folks should be permitted to speak, to protest, to pray.
When you are a member of an organization that sends its youth to Africa or Russia only after showing them misleading videos about paganism, sexuality, politics, and heritage or a member of a Church that threatens political affiliation change if your congregation's demands are not met by the state, the proclaiming and manipulating cease being Christian attitudes and acts aimed at proclaiming and become purely political acts aimed at empowering. I don't know if I have worked out the true sense of my point very well; so, I'll ask a question: Is Christianity a political party? The idea is not: Christians shouldn't be political. I firmly believe the personal is political. But when does a community cease being an identifiably religious community and become an identifiably political community? In addition, when does a society cease being democratic and become theocratic?
I was raised Catholic; Paul was important. The following notes certainly represent why I "left"--more importantly how the Christian Right purposefully abuses their spiritual text for cultural profit.
The first letter to the Corinthians signifies our humbling not our empowerment. Paul's claims are daily warped. Within this letter, Paul argues that the logos of the cross represents a crossing of foolishness(es)--ours and God's. God's foolishness is represented by our humanity. He permitted it after all. Our foolishness is represented by God's strength.
We lose, through translation, the subtle discourse about knowledge and language. It is irresponsible to interpret this letter as a reassurance, a claim, that Christians should boast, that Christians have knowledge, that Christians are more accurate. Nevertheless, we can see how folks might lead themselves and their congregations into willfully misinterpreting Paul.
1. Misinterpreting "my," "for," "you," and "every" in 1.4-7. --Paul's highly stylized introduction might very well lead a reader unaware of, or unconcerned with, rhetoric to hear Paul patronizing Corinthians. People might read the opening lines in this manner: HE is there, in fact, to let them know THEY are blessed. Implicit: HE is already blessed, always already blessed. HE is obligated to share the blessing.
2. 1.17, being sent to proclaim. --If Christians should use the New Testament as a model for living: in other words, in a common way, if Christians read it, meditate with it, and interpret the meaning of their daily actions through it, one might get the impression that one's duty is to simply proclaim without eloquence. In ordinary American speech: the learning (scholarship; from the intellectual domain, the theology) should be lacking; or, the learned are uppity. The sacrament of baptism, the baptizing, is not the thing; the proclamation is the thing. Ritual performance of sacred rites, consensus as a community before acting in public, practicing religion, or studying theology each become less important than saying what you are. But this is not the point. Paul admits he can only proclaim in a way that cannot empty the cross of its power. In other words, he does not know the way or the answer. He can simply proclaim his faith. He is no better than that utterance, I suppose. It grants him little power, if any. And he does not earn any right.
3. Purposefully misrepresenting the point about "those who are being saved." --It isn't that those who are not saved are foolish. Foolishness has everything to do with being human. We are all foolish. In fact, God is foolish. Our humanity is His foolishness and it crosses Him; His power as represented in the crucifixion is our foolishness and it crosses us. Typical of mainstream "born again" Christian practice, only those lines in scripture that serve a ready-made and convenient preparation for "being saved" are used to justify public behavior. Actually, Paul teaches that our wisdom is thwarted through being saved. What does this leave to proclaim? Maybe my baptism. Maybe my faith. Nothing else. Its simplicity is sublime.
4. "God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe." --Our proclamation is a sign of our foolishness not our righteousness. If it signified being saved, then we would be the source for our potential power, not God; it would then become our power to save ourselves without God. It would be our choice. Our whim. God saves, Paul teaches. Who baptized you means nothing. Apparently, we use it to signify faith in being saved; in spite of our doubts. The evangelical perspective is warped. To reiterate, Paul teaches that our proclamations are signs of our foolishness not signs of God's work for us, with us, or in us. Because fools proclaim, they must be saved.
5. What is it in Christian America that seeks power in politics? If one considers biblical instruction, one confronts the power of God as a social force who turns somethings into nothings. How does a Christian conclude that he or she knows God's purpose other than to cross human foolishness so that "no one might boast in the presence of God"? Any talking-head from Scarborough Country will boast of righteous knowledge and condemn others at will. Paul wants to know, "Why do you argue about who is better baptized? Why is it paramount to know who is more or less foolish?" Though Christianity is a mission--a testimonial to and for itself--it is also a crossing of itself. Paul wants to know who, among all of us, should boast? His answer: Nobody. Because nobody can. That is our state--moving from "are" to "are not." We are always to-be-emptied, never to-be-(ful)filled.
That, Ken, is one way I approach this matter. Not only is mainstream Christianity detrimental to our society as a whole (it disrupts open discourse, restricts learning, poisons the public sphere, and prohibits diversity,) mainstream Christianity actively turns against itself. It seeks self-destruction.
I see this as a return-of-the-repressed. Christian neurosis, if you will, is that active ignorance of the foolishness of human being. We pretend that God has not crossed US. Its symptoms are visible in the discourses of Hate and Right with which so many are engaged. But they are blind, ignorant, self-satisfied, and power-hungry. In the New Testament, God levels social organization to a horizontal projection--a singularity; we are many but one. The social ladder is dismissed, it is turned into wood for the cross, so to speak, and through that crucifixion, all is supposedly changed. We are saved, Paul says. (Passive voice; no agency; not our breath.)
What is left? A line. A projection. The hierarchy is simplified: God knows.
All else is politics. Public Christians, evangelicals, are on a crusade to gather political power, to control economy and education, to run the city hall, to possess the key to the prisons; they want the WMDs. God's foolishness or folly, according to Paul, is our civil society; it is not His business.
"Does that work for Christians? No." ["that" refers to "ecucating Christians about their own tradition."]
Saturday, January 22, 2005
James Dobson and Co claim Nile Rodgers, "We are Family" fame, and SpongeBob SquarePants have teamed up to brainwash children into enjoying multiculturalism and hanging with the gay set.
A rep for Focus on our Families claims that the We are Family Foundation's video, popular cartoon characters singing "We are Family," is "insidious."
We all know that insidious is right-wing code for "It's so gay!"
Ethics Reminder: Denver ought to womp Col Springs' ass every once in a while. We should tailgate it down there and burn that building down. Just when you think Focus on the Family is really going to go broke, the exit sign on I-25 reappears and the conservative lights burn brightly on the southern horizon.
Meanwhile, Bush children hailed Satan at the "America's Future Rocks" concert with the den leader W:
Friday, January 21, 2005
Ok, Mike, before my ramble: At what place and at what time was there ever an active poetic discourse that lacked coterie, and therefore the language of coterie, hence academic coterie--I am assuming such scholarship must be the indoctrination.
A. Are you a conservative pundit trapped in the body of a bearded poet guy?
B. Language of a coterie? You surely do not mean "language"; you mean confidence, jargon maybe, discourse, the rhetoric colleagues share' possibly, you disaparage the notion of a public sphere for it appears that you see only a possibility for the public sphere. You do seem to run into the whole very American, the many and the one problem; and you seem uncomfortable with the result. You want the one way--surely this is signified in your attacks on anything you fail to comprehend. And since what is scarce in the market is what you demand, and what you find distasteful is in surplus, well you find yourself with quite a lot to say when addressing "language", the language of poets.
C. Language of coterie? And if so, then how could you disparage it? You couldn't speak it or use it as an outsider without becoming an insider first. And, Mike, you wouldn't intentionally disparage yourself. You wouldn't pose merely to pursue ad hominen critique? I mean nobody listens to those outcast by the coterie. Have you been fired? Were you thrown off the island. Or does it just feel that way? Don't you think we should have a reality show for struggling poets? American Poet. No, it would be pathetic. What it boils down to is that we can take Shelley or Coleridge or Keats or Robinson or Carson or Hejinian or Howe, either Howe, and we could see similarities in their work as poets if and only if we understand Form and Voice in verse. When we leave the surface of prosodic labor alone and look to what poetry projects and ob-jects, then we hear what is there to be seen no matter what else can be said about structure. (I am not saying there aren't pretenders, mimics, frauds, hooligans, or no-talents out here. I am recognizing that Mike's criticisms are typically laid at the feet of the modestly successful non-traditional, for lack of a better generalization, poets.)
D. I am not even responding to the notion that Robinson is a bad poet. Who says? Is that a point worth making? Can you tell me what is "bad" in her writing without referring to your personal taste. That would be outside of the oh so buttoned-tight Snider Coterie? I make use of Mary Robinson's poetry regardless of my taste for it likeness to my poet-ideal. Some poems more than others. Most of her poetry doesn't mean a thing to me. But I was able to take her poems "The Poet's Garret" and "The Camp" and teach myself something about how fancy is useful in verse--useful in a manner that is often overlooked in a rigid Romantic discourse too typically marked by an imposed masculinist ideological appratus for restraining and utilizing the imagination and faculty of sight. I wrote an essay which I will be presenting at conference this Spring on what I call the "poetry of fancy-at-work." I juxtapose her use of fancy with Wordsworth's critique in his Preface. A simple concept, but practical I think.
E. I need not waste my time wondering whether or not Robinson is good. I can come to terms with a few accurate reasons she is marginalized as a poet--all of which have nothing to do with talent--and use those terms to grow as an author. Such participatory discourse is much more liberating and democratic than your trumped-up charges concerning an "academic coterie."
You disparage the clique and its grip on language that only it gets, or its grip that reduces a concept to a facile joke. Yet, your posts about aesthetics and poetics are all about carving the fat, chucking the public and its academy, for your very narrow vision of a discourse in poetics. Your vision cultivates a rigidly defined coterie.
F. Btw, though many post-avant cum language cum experimental cum whomever you are thinking of (though many of these folks are severe and vocal critics and many are very powerful presences in the poetics community,) what exactly is it about them that makes their group--if one exists--a coterie? And what is wrong with an author knowing with whom she is associated and then cultivating the relationship should it work?
Allow me room here to reflect a bit more.
1. Your critique vilifies the coterie--any coterie that uses a language of coterie including but not limited to an academic coterie. A coterie is a small group of friends or associates. It seems a poor word to represent your intent. Maybe clique is pejorative enough for you. As in only those friends who we assume are also associated in some public way use language, if not in a wholly new manner, at least in a way that alienates all other speakers and writers.
2. But that is the point of association in public discourse: to go out and find community members who understand Form and are working and walking along similar paths, already, before you find or found them. They help you direct your voice, hone it, utilize it, hear it.
2.a. The use of coterie referring to a club has been obsolete for centuries. The prevalent use has everything to do with distinguishing a group of associates from others--other individuals and other groups similar or not. In the OED, in definition 2b the word clique is used.
3. A clique, though, is a "narrow coterie." I think this is an important distinction. First, when we get a more accurate word into your claims, then a proper tone is produced. Yours sounds spiteful and angry. How come?
4. What space should we allow a group of poets, self-associated though they may be, to work on their revising of the poetic craft? The more narrow the coterie the possibly more ludicrous, insidious, or obscene its actions may become, and the more like a clique the group in fact is. A coterie is an association that works in public at distinguishing itself through publicizing in some ways its differences--for poets these differences are works. A clique is a strictly exclusive group of people who leave the public out and tend to work in coded or secretive ways. At any rate, the product from a clique is always reactive if it is made public.
5. What other options do we have for associating with our fellow writers? Are we to have one magnanimous yet un-named entity that/who allows all discourse about poetics enough space so every poet can participate freely in discourse about poetry and the work created within this public sphere valued using a rigid yet pragmatic metrical structure. Bring in the poem. "Does it adhere to the old ways?" "Yes, it seems so." "Pass!" Or "No, it appears to be forming its own language within a narrow coterie!" "Fail."
6. I laugh.
7. It is maniacal but that is a result of 1)lack of sleep and 2) your insistence that you are right simply because you understand how to count and troubled yourself to memorize the traditional verse forms.
8. And a dog begins barking in the alley as the alarm clock rings in my dream and I look into a mirror and into your eyes.
9. And you're simply stoned. Go figure. And I am unraveling a bit and winding down. Pardon the errors in syntax.
Poetry was written within small groups: in that sense, for small groups. Jonathan is not wrong, Mike. How about one example. A small group is a small group no matter how popular they may have been. The Della Cruscans not only wrote within a small (tho' bustling and popular) group, they often wrote poems explicitly for one another. Check out Mary Robinson's DC work. Moreover, the DCs wrote poetry considered then (Wordsworth famously in his Preface) and now (by many Romantics students/scholars) to be pretentious, affected, and rhetorically ornate. --Mike, it's the kind of poetry you praise at every opportunity.
Don't look now.
I have spent at least one week with them all and I am impressed. Is it because I'm not teaching comp? Very liberating. I have time to read. I have time to write. I have time to prepare lectures. Teaching comp is a constant burden. It is rewarding only infrequently. Always 80 pages of essays that nobody really wanted to write waitng to be graded. I was sick of just this circumstance. I tried so many different methods for getting them to write engaging prose. But the classes are required, and that alone, above all else really, kills their engagement. The class as commodity is not valued for its use-value rather for its exchange-value.
My writing students are reading, patient and trusting students they are, Magdalena Tulli's Dreams and Stones, and probably pulling their hairs out, one by one. Do I get pleasure out of frustrating them? Absolutely. (smile) Nothing like a good Being, shaken out of consumer daze, to brighten up a class discussion. Their first writing exercises...600 word Royal We, 300 word No Ideas, But in Things, 600 word story that ends with another author's sentence (9 endings to choose from.) The exercises this term are all based on constraints. good stuff.
I lost the password to their blog...ugh. I am so tired today: dj on Thursday nights, get to bed at 3am, teach at 8am. Anyway for those of you looking forward to peeking-in on my class through their blog, they are looking forward to "it": the blogging and the comments. Hopefully, they'll keep up the enthusiasm.
grad student org meeting at four;
grad reading (Julie Doxsee and Greg Howard) at seven;
bed by ten?
I just remembered
Monday, January 17, 2005
I have opened The Blog of Disquiet, once again, for my writing students. I activate the comments function and invite you to peek-in on our class discussions. The blog is a place for the writers--40, at the moment--to discuss class, readings, writing--the craft and critique. Though many students reject public writing wholeheartedly, many will embrace the blog project. I learned last year that those students who enjoy posting also enjoy reading comments from folks outside our classroom community. It empowers them and is often a first-experience with public discourse. No matter what you think and wish to say, do remember that the authors are undergraduates who may not have taken the leap, may not know what that leap means, or are finding the faith to make a first attempt. I think the Care (and, consequently, the honesty) we often reject for ourselves and our colleagues is called for on their blog.
A link is available in the sidebar and [here]. Those of you who had (or still have) a link to Blog of Disquiet from last year, I did change the URL.
Listening to: McClusky, "WhiteliberalonWhiteliberal action"; and now Denise James...
Sunday, January 16, 2005
I am certainly no fan of the DNC as a working alternative to the RNC. They are both morally bankrupt and tend to move middle. The far right is losing its grip--if it ever had anything other than a spectacular, phantastic hold--and Bush is really aiming for the middle through compromise. His admin pushes the far-right ideology and then compromises in the same way that the DNC pushes a liberal agenda only to compromise. And middle-American is a dank place to be: sexist, racist, classist, theocratic, pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstrap suckers. Just drive down the I-70 corridor, through Missouri and Kansas, or scan the radio dial while driving through Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. Country songs with jingoist slogans, Godtalk radio, and Ted Nugent. Real crap. Family Values.
They are all liberals--in the sense that they all wish to work within the current system to change things for their construction of "the better place." Even the far right, by definition are liberals rather than conservatives. And conservatives are grotesque idealists. I am talking politics not economics.
On my most pessimistic days, I don't understand how anyone with a soul could claim to be conservative. As if change isn't called for. Spectacle worship at its worst. The machine works on its own. We can ignore it. We cannot break it. Actually, the status quo is only valuable in that it is always there to resist. And this is where my optimism comes in--to teach is to resist...but that is another story.
Some yahoo (Brad DeLong, you can look up his blog on your own) posted a claim that republican senator Wayne Allard is a Leninist. Moronic. Are we still calling folks who hurt a so-called "American Way" communists? I am a Coloradan; we know what a bigot freak Wayne Allard is, but he is no Leftist. He is a fascist, maybe. He wants to militarize and corporatize. He is right out of the Mussolini handbook for political power. Nevertheless, he is the kind of politician the Republican party uses to bring up a far right idea. The RNC always wishes to achieve something more or less 45 degrees to the left of its extremists. I wish we had a few powerful leftists in national American politics. But none exist beyond the local level.
The statistics might show that the poorest states tend to be red states. (Now a handful of "purple" states, too, maybe a shift??? And Vermont is one notable, blue exception.) No matter who receives the most tax revenue, the poorest red states are always the most hard hit by Republican cuts, which supposedly allow us to "downsizing government." The real issue is that both parties are stand-ins for corporate interests. Smart corporations send money to both parties. They may send more to the RNC than to the DNC or to the DNC than to the RNC, but that shouldn't matter. Any party willing to govern with an ear to the corporate will does not have citizens interests in mind. And, in a grotesque manner (in reverse,) is regulating business, which is a bad thing for even capitalism.
See my last post on the proposal to virtaully scrap HUD. The program that Bush wants to eliminate? Rural Housing and Economic Development. The republicans more than the democrats are the party for the metropolis. See Bloomberg.
As a fan of the road trip, I suggest we take another trip through rural America (or your first one)--real rural America--to see what happens to towns that have historically witnessed the federal government turning its back on those that support it the most. Just a suggestion--plenty to see in South Carolina and Georgia, Oklahoma and Idaho. What I found on my trips in the early nineties--besides rabid, right-wing propaganda, God, and poverty--was an American landscape that most Americans only pretend to understand. The United States cops to a knowledge of "America." You all know this already...I am probably preaching to the choir.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
See this Washington Post article.
Repubs will likely claim, to protect the Administration's interests, that the HUD programs are being farmed out to other Fed offices: labor and commerce depts, for example. I do not think those depts are going to receive the money that funded the HUD programs. HUD will be virtually eliminated. A few of the programs re-assigned under the proposal: Community Development Block Grant; Youthbuild USA, highschool dropout outreach (so much for leaving NO child behind); Empowerment Zones and Renewal Community.
Take Youthbuild USA, which is being moved to the Dept of Labor. According to the Office of Management and Budget, its annual budget is/was $62 million. Will the Bush admin allocate an amount of at least that amount to be use solely for this important program? What do you think?
Most shameful: the Rural Housing and Economic Development program will simply be eliminated. If you aren't upper middle-class to wealthy living in the sprawling 'burbs, you aren't part of this president's ideal society. And he was elected (i know, i know) by the middle-class. Fools.
Chapter 10 in Marx's Kapital is called "Co-Operation." Marx admired the way capital worked, especially the concept of co-operation. Without it capitalism cannot work. Marx was writing about the relationship between employers and employees at factories, of course, the fact that we willingly sell our labor for less than it is worth and that the employer, in return, maintains the jobs and the profitability, etc. In a post-manufacturing economy, which we are headed towards, co-operation becomes more importantly a relationship between citizen and government. Employers could care less about their employees and no longer attempt to cooperate. In a relationship constructed out of cooperation between citizen and government, citizens should be the employers and the government is the employee.
Read Ludwig von Mises on the Sovereignty of the Consumer in his work on the market; apply his idealistic notions of the power consumers have to the real power (real politik) that our government officials use. I don't think I am stretching it at all. (For all you readers of economic theory, I disagree with Mises wholeheartedly. I think Wal-Mart is proof that business owners need not care about consumers. And Mises claims that labor is not significant to worry about.)
anway...what gets me most about the Post article is that some in the senate think Bush will use the HUD cuts to find a way to fund a Mars Mission and permanent tax cuts.
Friday, January 14, 2005
K Silem Mohammad:
my utopia is one in which there must intrude a little conscious insensitivity to (organic) language: some "pleasures" must be acknowledged as painful once they can begin to be used to inhibit the exercise of the uncorroded imaginative faculties. And maybe not EVERYONE can participate in this angry utopia; maybe in order for the commonwealth to function at all the organicists will need to be marked as non-poets.
I like the way this works.
Tho I wd write:
some pains must be acknowledged as pleasures.
That sore and loose tooth the kid won't leave alone,
You know, the grabbing at it,
pushing it into the gums; tasting
basic blood, moving
it with the tongue
lolling out back a slow green yard.
Us sitting there, talking about who is and isn't
Pains are pleasing occurences that inhibit the blah blah blah.
In the Blue and Brown books,
Mr Nobody is in the room
and not asked for
but hanging out with the smokers
and talking indie music.
The sore tooth again.
Writers are pained to find each other, pleased to find themselves--
You in this case means me.
we said in prose here try this stupid.
The Coast Guard Lighthouse.
They would wave at you.
I did not know how to sail.
I took the Sunfish out anyway--
into the wind.
THIS is what I saw.
If you violate the 180 degree rule,
in the distance,
you can almost see a brown sliver,
the beaches on the Thames.
Always the white houses, grey roofs.
I was drifting not quite towards Long Island.
I whimpered until I learned
how to steer using rudder and sail.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
I get a bit frustrated when the journals I respect publish their editors' work.
I know not everyone agrees, but I find something wrong with the practice. And so I am dismayed that American Letters & Commentary published Eric Darton's work. Good writer though he may be, Darton is the fiction editor; must have been a tough choice for him to choose his new work. Not only did they print his work, they printed it in a "special features" section. Very special. I actually don't see a problem with publishing your colleagues' work or your friends' work; nothing wrong with taking care of each other. However, when they publish their own work in their journal that accepts unsolicited submissions you have to wonder what the editors are saying about themselves, their place in the community, and their readers/writers.
Editorial ethics aside, I really do like their product and the majority of the work in the 2004 issue is engaging (esp the artwork.) Mark Irwin's "Joy" and the four poems by Fanny Howe getting most of my attention. Amy Newman's "To Assume an Expression of Disappointment: His Face Fell" is wonderful, too.
Finally, I am getting to the book reviews...I am writing four...I am a bit behind...wouldn't you say(?)
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
The education of one's desire for the pleasures of poetry does indeed resemble a process of initiation, which makes Houlihan's metaphor a reasonably sound one. And it makes sense that she, a practicing poet, a grown-up for heaven's sakes, wouldn't want to assume the posture of submission demanded of initiates. Young people and students are generally more able to muster the necessary humility to receive knowledge from elders and Those In The Know, eventually becoming one of those elders capable of bestowing intitations themselves. The rebellious and those who have already educated their tastes to a considerable degree will balk at this, and it's hard to blame them. But while many poets actively embrace the model of initiation (Robert Duncan is the most famous example) and many more passively practice it, I prefer my own model of public vs. private property. It's more secular, and it also turns the moral equation around—so that avant-garde poets, instead of appearing as a privileged priesthood that anyone with democratic instincts would want to throw rocks at, appear as private citizens seizing the cultural birthright that has been denied them, and all of us.
Yeh, yeh, Josh. I'll be a bad boy and balk at the mentorship program. And I really agree with the heart of your post: the public v private angle. H may be a practicing poet, but it's all that cozying-up to a good read with tea and burping up a bit of acidic bile upon finding a challenge that annoys me. Anthologies never capture what they seek to capture, and the BAP must really offend readers as a result. I don't read them. But I do get the feeling that our practicing poet, H, would have been less tempted to criticize had its editors loaded it with nature poems of Montana and Wyoming or sonnets and sestinas.
In addition, we don't have a cultural birthright.
I suspect that now we are moving into a space even within the traditions that trace their heritage back to the New American poetries & to the Pound-Williams-Stein-Zukofsky tradition before that are themselves evolving into different traditions that go well beyond merely sometimes contentious literary tendencies. They are (we are) gradually transforming into multiple genres of verse.
I am not sure about all of the attacks heaped on Silliman. I do read quite a bit in blogland and have noticed that for every Silliman opinion there is, at least, ten vicious retorts.
I wonder, though, about the who involved in who is actively recording the transformation(s). If it isn't all simply a line of flight for each new poem, each new poem now changing the nature of verse, recognized or not for its flight, then the who recording the appearance of perfections--Silliman's use of Williams from Spring and All--deserves the most critically trained eye. The who recording the transformation are the men, and sometimes women, who are always already changed. They are not the ones actively perfecting new forms. They are always on the outside looking in. And this must be a painful fact of aging. But coming to terms with it must become an acceptable term for dying well. (I am speaking of the place in the public sphere not of physically passing; although, we are all aware that the two are unfortunately linked. I do write this politely as I feel the loss personally when a meaningful author for my development passes away.)
Because we live in a culture that praises great men, and sometimes women, we live in a culture super-focused on the past. We are haunted by Pound more than shaped by him. The regret for a hoped-for past that is now lost becomes attempts to locate what once was in what now is. And for this, Williams' desire for any new moment (and his confession that he didn't think we were possible of it,) any additions to nature, is often purposefully overlooked as a result of the return of the repressed--something from the past erupting in the present in the form of a misguided critique of an other--or as a result of the narcissism in nostalgia for the past--another form of the return, an irruption rather than eruption.
If Silliman is right that "they are (we are) gradually transforming into multiple genres of verse," then the transformation needs nourishment and Care. What I read, especially in blogland, is mostly attacks and condemnation on the one hand and severe self-adulation on the other. How do "the additions to nature" stand a chance in the shadows of the giants of the past tossing about in their sick beds and the critics of the present shitting on every attempt to revel in the new? (As to the latter, see anything Joan Houlihan writes.)
Monday, January 10, 2005
Houlihan: the anthology called The Best American Poetry continues to be the equivalent of a fruitcake for all the poets on your list: traditional, made by hand, full of unidentifiable nuggets, and largely inedible.
Fruitcakes and Anthologies certainly have at least this much in common at any given time. They are both traditional, full of nuggets, and largely inedible.
Houlihan: I chose these two poems randomly...
To mention how one chooses what one chooses within a critique is an implicit confession that there was absolutely nothing random about the choices made.
Houlihan: Basic standards relating to the craft of writing in general, such as non-clichéd phrases, use of momentum and pacing, lack of unintentional ambiguities and other grammatical problems, as well as evidence of an organizing intelligence, a sense of inevitability, a convincing and/or compelling style and voice and so forth are at least available to the reader in, for lack of a better word, the “mainstream” poem. Poetry, as Pound observed rightly, should be at least as well-written as prose. Further, it bears reflection that while Pound could improve Eliot's poems through application of standards of craft, no such improvement can take place for either of the poems I've excerpted, simply because there is no way to discern any purpose or aim.
What did Pound mean when he made (t)his famous claim? As it is used, Pound's claim is a cliche. The citation depends on readers' shared knowledge of a context that simply does not exist (and most likely never did.) Moreover, Houlihan misses the nuance in Pound's logic and wit. If poetry should be at least as well-written as prose, then well-written poetry should be better written than well-written prose. In other words, good poetry is better than good prose. Whatever this claim was intended to mean, it is at best a ribbing and at worst snobbery. Houlihan is much too serious to be kidding, so...
Citing the claim out of context of Pound's utterance at-the-time empties it of any useful meaning. On the other hand, if Pound did reference the state-of-affairs or welfare of poetry at-that- and at-all- times, then his claim might mean nothing more than One should be able to interpret whether or not a poem is as good as good prose for one's self. Pound knew what Pound liked about Poetry. We certainly know what Houlihan likes. But that is not what Poetry is. Poetry is not what I like about it.
Houlihan's critique claims to be a critique of purpose. We could ask: What purpose does Pound's poetry serve? Take a single Canto, maybe one of the Pisan Cantos. What does it mean? Simply, nothing. What is its aim? Nowhere. Alone, they are isolatos. His poems mean something only once we read several together--together in all its meanings. And then they begin to signify a poet teaching us how to read his poetry using his voice. This is true for any author no matter what value any single writer or group of writers, readers, and/or critics place on that author's product. Poetry does not incorporate the kind of factical meaning that, say, a tsunami does. Its mechanism is much more subtle, though not necessarily less powerful. Poetry's significance is only present in the relationship between--as in a transference--(reader and author) at the most private level and [(reader and author) and (discourse community)] at the most public level.
Houlihan cites: "Stacked circles (rain down) say green it releases nothing."
--Mark Bibbins, “from Blasted Fields of Clover Bring Harrowing and Regretful Sighs”
Houlihan claims this line lacks any discernable purpose and aim. Whatever can be said for Bibbins' work, Houlihan's critique is without a doubt purposefully misleading. Whether or not I get the complete meaning of the sentence as Bibbins intends, I can discern meaning. The choice to discern is my own. Houlihan is talking recognizable not discernable. She cannot recognize meaning in Bibbins' work. Fine. The problem is that she wants to see meaning and not listen for it. She wants a visible meaning, we might call it artifice, to already have been revealed before the appearance of the poem itself. Such an articifice would dictate the manner in which a poem is constructed and read. This makes the poetry comfortable and cozy, like a nice cup of tea. A reader can sip, recognize, and agree. Pretty fucking chill. Chill and choked of breath.
Some people appreciate such poetry. But to say that Bibbins' and others' verse lacks aim and purpose is strange. Let us consider syntax alone. I don't want to get into the linguistics more than is necessary to make my point. Bibbins' line has an identifiable syntax, a meaningful syntax, with aim and purpose. At worst--by this I mean, the most convenient complaint--the line appears to be a fused sentence, but more about that in a moment. In the line above, the nouns are nouns; the verbs are verbs; and the modifiers modify. When read without resisting its strange appearance, a pace and momentum develops. And I hear a grammatical sentence. I hear meaningful sounds. Meaning, at this point, begins to develop in different manner than during ordinary utilitarian speech.
If syntax describes the way in which words are used to form a grammatical sentence, then good job. In fact, good or excellent or proper syntax is tradition bound and that tradition is tied to many oft-unexamined ideological apparatuses. If a poet were to insist on challenging the way I read a line, then violating my sense of proper syntax is an effective and efficient method to get my attention. I must work to recreate meaning as I come to understand the revised syntax in the line in order to create meaning for myself in the presence of the poet, or in conjunction with the poet and other readers.
In addition, if the sentence is fused, then we can creatively read it in at least two ways: [stacked circles (rain down)] + [say green] + [it releases nothing]; [stacked circles (rain down) say green] + [it releases nothing]. It doesn't take much more thought to see a few more transformations.
The line itself is meaningful. In fact, it has an abundance of meaning in spite of its reliance on traditional syntax. Whether I like the looks of it or not, the line means more than I have to offer it. And I must recover something of myself and it to move forward with it rather than for it or against it. Though meaning is not immediately apparent, the line has purpose because it says something and is quite self-conscious about its own saying. For example, the parenthetical fragment "rain down" is a self-conscious gesture.
The line's aim may become more apparent as we consider syntax; morevover, the poet offers an overt attempt to say something at the level of "its" saying: the line's, or what is revealed to Bibbins and readers in saying it. And furthermore, in that it appears in conjunction with other lines that we can compare it to or contrast it from. The conjunction may be like a jump-cut in a film, disrupting the logic of time and narrative rather than cultivating or preserving it, but as the jump-cut does for the director, such a line helps a writer unsettle the reader for any number of reasons that need not be explicitly stated in the fabric of the poem.
Houlihan may not like the effect. But, then, she probably has a favorite brand of tea, too. She read the introduction to the anthology and sipped tea. Imagine she prefers Lady Grey. We certainly haven't read her latest column berating Kroger for its generic rendition of Lady Grey; or of Celestial Seasonings for its powder-in-a-bag sold as tea. But that is the kind of material one can point to and say, "That is not what it claims to be." Poetry resists this type of pointing-to and calling-out. Poetry is a projection. It is not manufactured to taste. It is not a taste of but the taste itself. Many critics just don't get it. We don't determine what good poetry is simply by reading it and recognizing it; we must endure the poet.
Unfortunately, we must endure the houlihan. So, we might ask, "What purpose does Houlihan's criticism serve?" Yes, it is discernable: "I don't like it." And it is certainly getting repetitive. I don't understand why Web-del-Sol continues to print her series. We get crappy one-liners and a monolithic perspective on Poetics.
I suppose the silver lining is her continued support of the dialogue--though she appears only capable of pot-shots in response--and that many of us get our asses in gear and respond.
(me cheesey me)
@ the Red Room
(Colfax: between Logan and Grant Sts,)
(mod, garage, r&b, soul, & lounge oddities)
for J Houlihan's sake:
this is not a poem; nevertheless, it should denature something (her choice.)
Sunday, January 09, 2005
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Sunday, January 02, 2005
I found Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Twelve far more pleasing than Ocean's Eleven. Brings out all the best themes from old caper films and throws in fresh improvisation to boot. It drops the focus on story-telling and plays with style. Soderbergh and Co are self-conscious enough to realize the film's absurdities yet are not afraid to flaunt them all. The result is a very relaxed and well-paced film, which is hard to pull off with all the technique involved; therefore, fun and much warmer than the first effort.
I thought the only weak point was the laser-dance episode: good example of the serious spoof scene gone wrong. As a satire challenging American stereotypes for French men, it works in its own way...I guess.
Ocean's Twleve works for all the reasons that Solaris doesn't. Don't know if that makes sense to everyone, but think about it in terms of ironic homage. Soderbergh's Solaris is haunted by Tarkovsky's 1972 film. In addition, Soderbergh interprets Lem's novel regardless of Tarkovsky's work. The somber mood in the film feels like its own uncertainty of itself rather than a serious meditation on the subject-at-hand. Ocean's Twelve, on the other hand, uses everything that it translates--a strange amalgamation of hip-Hollywood caper, Italian pulp, French noir, and Euro-trash cinema--without bothering to re-interpret it. It is a film about a genre (and all its sub-genres) with all their strengths and weakeness technically intact. The chummy actors bring to their work their work: the actors are allowed a duality that only works in farce. Incredible events are not explained and spontaneity is celebrated. Music and fashion become characters as singificant as any human. And the editing is used not only to create mood and to determine logic but to realize a catalog of aesthetically pleasing moments that need not hang together in the order they are spliced together: everybody can have a favorite scene independent of other audience members' recollections of the story. The film is a hyperactive accumulation of improvised moments; the soundtrack is a uniform study in Euro soundtracks (Piero Umiliani, an Italian composer, makes an appearance.)
I have read folks complaints: it is pointless or it is confusing...well, it is pointless in an American sense: it is not itself. American audiences often complain about films not making sense when they fail to recognize reference. If a movie is about baseball and relationships--The Natural or Bull Durham--no matter how cheap the metaphors come, the movie is a hit. Unfortunately, most Americans are completely ignorant of cinema itself. We are encouraged to turn off while we look at film. So, we are trained primarily in the spectacle. If we watch film uncritically, we permit ourselves to recollect only the last and greatest spectacle. For new films to work, directors are cornered into out-doing themselves. Even our most successful directors are beginning to suffer from this (i.e., Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.)
Ocean's Twelve revels in its lack of a new spectacle. Its resolution is quite underwhelming. They stump the chump as you would in a game of cards. Not exactly a spectacular way to beat a master thief. I find that glorious. Soderbergh offers the spectacle of landscape, dialogue, and craft. But it is intelligent not cute. And so meaningful in small, rewarding ways.
The great European films are always slighted by American audiences because they are light or cute or derivative or political or simply too-smart-for-their-own-good. Nevermind that the European filmmakers we cannot live without typically pay homage to early Hollywood auteurs like Ford and Hawks, their films are everything they want to be. American directors have a hard time making a film that is what it wants to be and nothing else. (Scorsese, again.) During Ocean's Twelve, I am thinking of Truffaut, Melville, Resnais. I was confused during the film. What is it about this pulp that has me thinking of 400 Blows? I knew why I was thinking Italian cheese cinema and sex farce--the locations and the score. But we have the intellectual thief, a Frenchman, and then there are George Delerue-like themes, too. For a film so grounded in Italy farce, it is deeply rooted in France.
Ocean's Eleven was not so much a homage as it was a reinterpretation and therefore an addition. It tried to be new, to add a twist. And I found that to be extremely boring. The caper aspect of that film sucked (technical term). The relationships between the actors and the dialogue--the characters and the director--the narrative and the editor--that was engaging. And Ocean's Twelve is nothing but...to the last scene: a self-congratulatory meeting of all primaries in a backroom for a friendly game of poker.
I am teaching tomorrow. A fresh start, new students. I always get excited.
An aside on spectacle as a tool that purposefully numbs the critical urge. I am feeling guilty about something I wrote above.
I am not naive enough to make the claim that US film audiences are ignorant and other audiences are intelligent. Rash generalization. As a teacher, however, I do know we resist critical thought as a culture and embrace gesture.
"Leave no child behind." Pure gesture.
Standardized Exams. A gesture. Students are taught--are mandated to be taught--how to write a more or less grammatically correct sentence that looks like a reason and how to recognize correct answers. They are not encouraged to write meaningful sentences and derive well-explored answers based on useful questions asked.
"Mission Accomplished" was a meaningless and poorly engineered spectacle that worked for the majority of Americans simply because we refuse to ask meaningful questions about spectacular events. Morevoer, most social criticism relies on this non-critical response for the material with which to construct quips and jokes. Even activism stoops to the spectacle and never rises above the gesture. What would have happened if the majority of Americans asked each other, "What does 'Mission Accomplished' mean?" "What mission?" Question a spectacle and it vaporizes. And left with nothing, we are left with ourselves. Then we can construct meaningful statements.
No wonder, then, we cannot maturely handle catastrophes like the recent earthquake and tsunamis. Our President couldn't even attend to matters personally. He held a press conference from his private compound he calls a ranch.
As the numbers of dead pass 150,000, I am reminded of Hiroshima. We are, after all, the folks who killed 200,000 people there in a matter of seconds, instantly altering the destinies for generations of Japanese. Afterwards, we silently permitted our President to thank God for the bomb that did it.
When I see a film like Ocean's Twelve, I get in a mood like this...introspective and goofy. I was thrilled with Soderbergh maybe because his film celebrates the medium in a technically proficient manner. And it references its material. He allowed me to look beyond the fluff of farce. I think we all should look beyond the entertainment value we exchanged our money for. Otherwise, what's the point.
Tie-in to recent rejection letter from LIT: When I received the polite rejection, I didn't get upset. Most of us are used to these letters as a matter of business. I put the letter away and sat down to look at my story--the old man is reading books he read as a kid trying to find some reason for being where he is at: in a well-worn house, in a cul-de-sac--and I thought about what got me writing in the first place. I decided to write when I was a kid because of all the shit tumbling through my head, all of the voices and words. I was reading one day, I think I was twelve, and decided I should do this. You learn pretty quick when you're a kid who begins to speak like an adult with adults about rejection--all those painful hours I spent wondering about what I was doing any thinking for and who I was supposed to be doing my stuff with. So, I guess I am looking for somebody to do something with when I write. I figured the "with" aspect out about fifteen years ago. I was in the Navy, suffering a horrifying political awakening to my identity and the mistake I had helped my parents allow me to make. But I had nobody to do anything with and neither did any of my shipmates. Lots of booze and fists as a result. But I finally began thinking of writing as a project that might lead to something other than writing alone. And I can say the key to my decision was that I would write not to or for but with others. Might explain why I left the military to get a philosophy degree rather than a writing degree, which I was encouraged to do. I quit the only workshop I registered for as an undergrad.
My Marx and Phenomenology help remind me that readers at journals are looking for a look to fit a predetermined for. "Will this fit our publication?" is the question asked on a good day. "Do I like this?" is the question asked on most days. Neither will produce a useful result for 97% of the authors who send in anonymously, almost as poor a result for those of us who come recommended or with references. This designed and cultivated for--for our look--might have helped cultivate and secure radical communities in the recent past, now it serves to dilute the strength of any writerly community because there are too many publications competing for a small group of writers. Let me get it right: more submissions than ever, fewer seriously working at the craft than ever. Therefore, the market publishes the look, an easily reproducable tag, more often than work that does anything with the craft with others. I call the work "sound-alikes." Journals that publish "sound-alikes" tend to promote debate about the worth of the journal in competition with other journals in the market. The writing within becomes a sign for the value of the journal rather than a dialogue writers engage in through their craft with other writers and readers. The "sound-alikes" are more available than the journals truly engaged in cultivating and shpaing craft.
My rejection is not tied to this, it simply reminds me of the problem. Young writers who seriously engage craft tend to take their time with work and write less as a result. If I am bitter about rejection in any way, it's a self-reflective bitterness. I cannot write faster than I do. But I am seriously beginning to wonder about the value of much of the fiction and poetry in the smaller journals. Some of the work is on its face worthless beyond the publication. We have the Ben Marcus syndrome to wade through at the moment, which is similar to the David Foster Wallace syndrome. It's worse for the poets. How many of my students and colleagues write like their fave? All but one or two. We have a failure in the market that points out our refusal to distinguish between influence and copying. I do not believe the authors I have in mind are thieves, I mean that they cannot do anything with form because they have been encouraged to focuse on writing for a look. They learn a voice; if lucky, they have a bit of their own to add; yet they never get beyond content. The work all looks alike. There is no meaningful innovation. And where innovation is found, rejection is often met. Because the innovative does not sell. Now this is the circle--by publishing work that has a look and more or less adheres to a set of formal conventions, the market fashions a look from the form. Form, then, becomes static and a more efficient writing process develops where innovation need not move beyond the spectacle of content. Is the character cool? Is there any violence in it? Is there a strong yet deranged woman at hand? Is there a sexually ambiguous dude cracking wise? Is there a useful number of pop-culture references? Is he into Pound; Is she into Jarnot? etc. That we very much write for a look is a problem for writers and readers in the same way that standardized test problematize the relationship between student and teacher, for that matter, or a blockbuster presents a director and audience. The spectacle. I cannot do it. Who can? What I write comes from me with you. Nothing is invented; I represent; I testify; at worst, I simply confess. So, I get all foggy-minded thinking about my fantastic youth spent in creeks and on bikes creating stories for myself that I very much wished to share with others. We all get sappy like this. You should see my colleagues at DU. Ha!
So what I was thinking about was what gets into a guy like Soderbergh to make the films he does? Why another Ocean film? Well, I think he revised his first attempt. And I think he is adding to the body of work that includes two other caper- or noir- like films. He is toying with the form. And he gets bad reviews because he doesn't consider the content much more than for what it's worth: the look.
Which gets me to: What keeps me writing? Not publishing that's for sure. I am much happier becoming a successful teacher. (Not that I do not want to publish...but you all know what I am getting at.) I am not writing for myself. I am writing with you. All those lines you haven't seen, there regardless, with all the others. The market is what is invented; the lines are crafted and determined and not exchangeable.