Sunday, October 30, 2005

I wasn't a fan of Everything Is Illuminated's schmaltzy magical realism, but I might just have to see the movie now for the sake of Eugene Hartz, whose Gogol Bordello has Noah and I dancing a poor but exuberant mazurka in the kitchen! Immigrant Punk! I don't even know what a mazurka is!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Replace you with me.

Already a Blogger

Noah has taken to appending "everybody" to his sentences. As in: "Noah is going to eat some cereal EVERYBODY."

Everybody: sometimes known as mommy.

He's started to toilet train himself. But whenever he decides to interject the scatological into conversations, I can't understand what he's talking about in the slightest. He makes absolutely no sense, which is pretty rare for him.

Parenting will turn you into a psychoanalyst, just as working will turn you into a Marxist.

Reading poems will turn you into a poet.

My feelings about a particular kind of book:

Naivete is fine; I have been known to call myself naive, in an attempt to preempt other people calling me naive first. You can't call yourself humble either, or a liar.

But naivete plus didacticism? It doesn't matter how many neo-Boschian gel filters you plaster to my eyes-- I still want to know you know you don't know some things.

If you don't want to question your assumptions, hide them better.

Get as ethical as you want, it's still tourism.


Reading Cole Swensen's 125-poem metonym The Book of a Hundred Hands. Astounding, some are:

As what will not relent: The felting delta mapped in the mind

with its boundless arboretum of neural withins:
the witness: to insist it
is equally infinite out there in its fingers
a port city in a blizzard.

Great pun/image--"felting deltas"--in the first line. Very much do I admire Swensen's relentless push to give graspable qualities to everything immaterial in life: language, thought, desire. Who doesn't like materialism, even if only as a break from the vagaries of everything you already know we know you know? But I've already bumped into the same poem more than a couple of times, and I'm wondering if I won't feel exhausted by the time I get to the end. The deeply tranquil, occasionaly mournful, meditative tone of the poems, although good at inducing in me a feeling of reverence might make me long, after page 125, for a little ir-reverence in the form of a Kevin Davies or his like. But an enjoyable book so far.


If you're looking for the illustrated Adorno, or theory with more vitality, Alexander Kluge's your guy. Reading Case Histories right now, and I'm looking forward to picking up The Devil's Blindspot when it comes out in paperback.


Saturday, October 22, 2005

Evidently there's some kind of immortal soul warning system out there. Sitting down to read a little Bataille before a much-needed nap, the doorbell. Jehovah's Witnesses. Their publication's name: Awake! Maybe later.


Noah is learning to count. He can get to eleven, but then, because it sounds so much like seven, he follows it with eight: 8, 9, 10, 11, 8, 9, 10, 11, 8 . . . Better to avoid the teens.


He has an imaginary friend named Diaperhead.

Round One of the Post-Season: League of North American Poets (Lo-NAP)

courtesy of J. Davis's anthology

Utopians----- 2
Apocalyptics --- 1

Sincerists---- 1
Ironists--- 2

Post-Humans--- 2
Primitives--- 1

Flarfists--- 2
Ted Kooser--- 1

Ange Mlinko--- 2
Everyone Else-- 1

Eros-- Game cancelled

Money--- 2
"Money"--- 1

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I should be writing about West's The Day of the Locust, but I'm seduced back into The Borg by the discussion about poetry and philosophy Ange spurred here, here and here.

Most of what I wanted to say has been said already, but there are a couple of points that I think are worth making. Like everyone else, it seems, I'm intrigued by the idea (er, non-idea) of doing Plato one back, and kicking him out of the Republic. A life without ideas, life perhaps become its own best idea, sound nice right about now. But I waver, here, too. At the risk of sounding like I'm feeing poetry to the dogs of philosophical ideation, (and noting that this is probably a variation on Jane's point), I'm not sure it's really possible to get away, ever, from ideas, although I admire a good philophical escape-artist as much as any other kind of artist. Even when O'Hara writes, in the most quotable manifesto of all time, "when I get lofty enough I've stopped thinking and that's when refreshment arrives" we certainly all of us agree, and cheer, and perhaps feel relieved from the burden of making good sense, and good citizens, but this is an idea, too, an idea that poetry results is the termination of ideas, of thinking. It's just not an idea that's all that portable; it needs to be performed in the poems themselves, as Ange does in certain poems from Starred Wire like "Imaginary Standard Distance" and "Poetry as Scholarship," where she tenderly pokes fun at the attempt to proceed from axioms or make "life . . . a thesis." Stressing sense and affect and the jouissance of the text is an idea, it's just one that poetry is probably better suited to convey than certain philosophical modes--which is why some of the best idea-workers--Nietsczhe, Barthes, Kierkegaard, Benjamin, etc.--are poets in their own right. So, I think Chris is correct in saying that the distinction needs to be refined: looking at the different kinds of questions posed/arguments conducted in poetry and philosophy is one way, but I also think we could distinguish between methods--poetry is much more likely to perform or enact an argument rather than communicate it, and much more likely to take the fight to the streets, literalize it, think it through in sense-data and affects and experience. Form, I guess, is the difference: philosophy is much less likely to think in form, and when it does I become tempted not only to admire it more but to call it poetry.

Of course, Ange's right--I myself reserve the right to be a sophist, to contradict myself, to refuse systems, and summaries and paraphrases, to choose questions over answers. But then, again, so do many thinkers. Choosing to be a sophist is itself an idea about ideas, about their relevance, their proper place in the scheme of things. . . This is, I think, what Ange was getting at with her remarks about risk the other day (which sound like, umm, Nietschze?)--ideas as theatre, as sketchy provisos, tentative and expedient means to an end but no ends-in-and-of themselves.

So even though I like to write about poetry and think about it thinking aboutlessly, this is where a reviewer might go wrong in assigning the relationship between poetry and ideas, expecting to find a portable or didactic or disembodied idea in a poem or book of poems. With something like Fourier Series, which clearly puts so much energy into form, and formal thinking, it's a real mistake to critique its "message" or "argument" without checking that content against the more "sedimented content" of the form. Fourier Series, to my mind, with its grids and sections and lyrical juxtapositions, is all about dialectic and a certain dialectical irony. I would be hesistant to accuse any section of imperialist rhetoric without seeing how such rhetoric might be ironized or undone by an adjacent moment. Perhaps that's what McSweeney meant, that she wanted to see these ironies made clearer or more vivid. That's a fair request. But it did sound from her as if she wanted Josh to put a little note at the bottom stating his political sentiments vis-a-vis "manifest destiny" as it is embodied by Wayne and westerns.

It may be a bad idea to ask poetry to tell us what to think. But poetry can allow a rich occasion, a rich site, for thought. In the end, that's why something that's orientalist or imperialist or sexist or whatnot has a place in poetry that it doesn't really have elsewhere--poems allow us the opportunity to think through these things ourselves. If McSweeney felt she didn't get to do much thinking through of ideas, just idea-listening, fine; that's an OK critique. I, on the other hand, did a good deal of thinking and feeling and sensing, and sometimes all three at once.