Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I studied Marx in college and all I got was this stupid T-shirt

As eerie as it is that Wittgenstein refers to his anti-metaphysical theory in the Tractatus as a "final solution" to philosophy's ills, I can't but help feel that it would be nice if Blogger had some kind of program that would remind certain bloggers of the meaninglessness of general, axiomatic or universal claims about poetry. Show don't tell--oops, I did it again. Better: I'll show you mine if you show me yours. As Foucault did it.

The writers who I most admire out there in The Blog are those who convey their aesthetic positions by way of desciption, observation, response, evaluation--sex-- rather than the programmatic filing of land-claims with the po authorities--death. Of course, 'tis also fun to read over-the-top manifestoes, when the ridiculousness of large, blanketing claims becomes, in and of itself, a source of pleasure and part of the game. Like coastal fog.

Likely, then, that I won't be able to convince Jordan to elaborate on his sense of the primacy of affect. But it's worth asking.

Am I crazy to hear the angel of death in the last line of the Tractatus? Lamb's blood sign of the anti-metaphysical, and the unsaid out of Egypt?

Friday, August 26, 2005

For those of you who can bear to add another site to your digital perambulations, check out Boyd Spahr's 440 days of order & decorum, a daily whose every poem references a current member of the House of Representatives, either in the body of the poem, title or some kind of note. It will run until the 2006 elections. I'm up today, yesterday there was a fantastic poem by Alli Warren, and lots of people I have and have not heard of will follow.

I have long suspected that the "occasional" poem is one good measure of a poet's skills. Who among us could write a poem for a wedding that is not embarrassingly mawkish and cloying and also, at the same time, doesn't cause those being "honored" to scowl, cringe or fling wine? How about a Bar Mitzvah, a funeral? I'm not talking about your friends who have a good sense of humor and appreciate poetry, but, like, a non-literary and perhaps even rectitudinous relative. . . Of course, just by guessing, there's some poets I admire very much who probably couldn't or wouldn't do it. There are others who would have no problem at all. Me? Not so much.

Let me rephrase: here we're dealing less with a measure of poetic excellence than a poetic task that could be, for some, inordinately difficult, even impossible. So I've given myself an assignment: before you die, write an occasional poem that is both hair-raisingly thrilling and that does not call forth a hail of foodstuffs.

Meaning: get poetry past the sensation censors.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Went to the UC Berkeley library yesterday to check out my first book, The Arcades Project. Surprised to find it available, since I am told that it often occurs that books are read at this university, for reasons of compunction and professional standing and even, yes, pleasure or edification. For someone who hasn't had borrowing privileges at a good library in over four years (InterLibrary Loan is great and all, but not the same as finding it on the shelves yourself), this was a romantic experience, even if you discount the fact that the stacks are gorgeously designed, a terraced, open floorplan with wells of sunlight doing a marvelous job of convincing me that I was not, in fact, underground. Someday I'll make a trip to Seattle and check out the Rem Koolhaas library but for now this one will do just fine.

Is all of this a longwinded way of saying that I find myself swooming over Ange's poems of reading and of libraries in Starred Wire (hear "start wire," as in start yer engines)? Well, yes:

The papercut's open, but we leave the library
as if it were a hotel in pale sun's off-season.

Nymphs and zephys are still working on the landscape,
ears are open loggias, enchantments defoliate;

but inside the library are year-round temperate climates
whose forests are like an afterlife of forests.

Money is changed often like the first metaphor
that's really more an afterlife of metaphor; or,

the library of botany crosses the library of demons.
A universe convenient to itself would not want opposite ends

to stay there, or a woman impregnated by a book
would never bear a real baby, as we have read.

("Flowers Grow Out of the Cracks in the Stacks")

I appreciate that The New Yorker decided to mention some poetry worth reading. Maybe they'll start publishing more of it, too, although who even sends poems to The New Yorker. Occasionally, after reading over one of my own poems that I'm very dissatisfied with, I'll think, so as to assuage, "well, maybe The New Yorker would want it." So I'm appreciative, but I don't really hear O'Hara in this book, unless by O'Hara they mean poems that occasionally take place in an urban environment and have very little truck with misery. Or, poems that find in aesthetic experience something more than this week's vocabulary exercises. That is, poems that can have an aesthetic experience. No, I hear Moore and, perhaps, Ashbery as well. O'Hara probably wouldn't have turned around and went back into the library. Maybe early O'Hara. But instead, here, patience encircling the poets' bouts of restlessness, an attention to the small and obscure and hyper-specific, and to description as a way of enlarging sensation, these are a few of the admirable traits that set this poetry apart from the equally admirable forward-moving exuberance of O'Hara. Luckily, I have a few months to consider with more leisure how this quirky, rice-grain precise, buoyant, learned but not pretentious poetry does what it does when it does it--for I shall review it for an upcoming issue of Xantippe.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Oh boy: Anna tells me I was talking in my sleep last night, of hula-hoops, in British accent. It must be that book Starred Wire. I have no accent abilities to speak of, but that's what happen when you read brilliant poetry before going to bed.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Took BART--I'm always tempted to say "the" BART, announcing myself as an intruding Ephraimite-- across the bay yesterday (my first trip to SF since arriving) to check out SHAMPOO's 5th anniversary extravaganza reading in a commodious gallery with mediocre art in, of all places, a shopping mall. Everyone read for five minutes or so, often not long enough to get a real sense of a poet's work, especially in the case of those with whom I'm not very familiar. "Has trouble listening" was a frequent remark on my childhood report cards. But from about the third line on, Alli Warren had me hooked. It always gets me when someone starts the poem before starting the poem, in the middle of introductory remarks or without any introductory remarks, as it almost never happens that I'm reading idly along in, say, New American Writing and then suddenly exclaim, to no-one in particular, "oh, this must be a poem!" This should happen more often in life. Not sure if she wrote the poem for this particular occasion, but she had this uncanny way of referring not only to the physical location of the reading--The Embarcadero--but also the act of reading or speaking itself. This made it feel as if I knew exactly what she was talking about, even when I had no idea what she was talking about, as in a dream phrases like "the logical hands of the positive clock" shine with an mundane transparency that fades upon waking.

I liked Ronald Palmer, too, and Kevin Killian, who moved his hips suggestively during the reading. By the time Stephanie Young came on, I was feeling skittery and sitting off to the side on a wobbly stool and squinting one eye to push the lighting around the room, like something liquid in a tube.

Feeling shy and very hungry, so I didn't introduce myself to anyone, just headed up into North Beach for some undercooked rigatoni.


Been drawing with Noah lately: "momma" and "baby" are his favorite subjects, a bramble or tumbleweed of lines, and then as an afterthought, "daddy," a kind of not-to-code rollercoaster. I especially like his double-fisted technique--green in one hand and blue in the other. It's very AbEx, very baby.

Noah hasn't figured out pronouns yet--refers to himself as "Noah" or "Baby." But we're doing three and four-word sentences-- noun-adjective-noun or noun-verb-noun noun, and even comparison. He's got the idea that describing the impossible is funny. Now, what would give him that impression?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

How good is L. Robertson's Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture? I do not think we have this adjective, nor that I am up to the task of inventing one. I'm tempted, now, to think that occasional pieces such as these, that so transcend their occasions and contexts, may be the most durable kind of language.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

OK, but what's not so obvious from Jonathan's post here is whether or not he enjoys Sarah Manguso's poems. Or has the term avant-garde become--as some of us suspected during the latest flare-up of the AG wars--simply a fancy evaluative term. I will say that Manguso's poetry is distinctive and original, and really, truly funny--as much as it belongs to a tradition less associated with the typical lineages than the aphoristic/parablesque traditions of Nietschze, Kafka, Russell Edson, early James Tate, etc. (When we all have the same parents, it's called incest! Or religion.) There are lots of people working in this mode today, and few are as good, or have as much range, as Manguso. She's better than recent Tate, much better than Dean Young, and as good as Mary Ruefle. And for me--now I'm getting into trouble--she points out what's missing (speed, range, knives) in younger writers like Arielle Greenberg and Sabrina Orah Mark.

She also has the distinction of being utterly committed to her vision, such that every time I read some of her prose I feel it has very little to do with the particular writer or subject she's ostensibly writing about, and everything to do with Manguso. I mean, I'm always furiously shaking my head and writing letters-to-the-editor. I find her sort-of conservative and close-minded in her way, but no less reactionary than some of the people on "the other side" of the fence, whom she accuses of writing "encrypted banalities." But she has the courage of her convictions, and unless it's a very small party, she's not towing any kind of line. Plus, umm, the poems are good! I didn't love all of The Captain Lands in Paradise with its overlays of Romantic cliches of discovery/invention and occasionally Casio-quality dream-effects. But everything I've seen of hers since has pretty much blown me away. The recent poems are more committed to poignant acts-of-thought, rangier in diction and mood, and brimming with intriguing situations. I like the custody arrangement/rapprochement she's worked out in the bitter divorce between narrative and image; it's not something many are doing. For my money, her poems in The Hat were some of the stand-outs in a compendium of stand-outs.

I'll give Jonathan the Kasey Mohammed item. Yes, genius. Always? Who cares.

Well, Jane wanted to hear what some of us really think. Get yer hackles up!

This will conclude our monthly test of the Emergency Honesty System. Bye.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

My HWS e-mail account is down, perhaps permanently. Messages sent there in the last couple of days may be adrift in the ether forever. Please forward any correspondence to the address at the right.

Gonna' have to start multi-tasking while pages load; the Berkeley network is tin-can-and-string slow.

Went to SPD to pick up the Robertson book yesterday; they actually let you wander the wondrously disorganized catacombs and BROWSE, like the first day out of prison or something, candy-store-in-a-kid, dazed among the strange new forms. Thought that it might be nice if you could just download all of that print into my gray matter, but then I'd lose the pleasure of actually reading it. No way out of the traffic-patterns of time, I suppose.

Managed to escape for under $40: Jarnot's Black Dog Songs; Moxley's Often Capital and Gordon's The Area of Sound Called the Subtone. But now, as I lie in bed at night, less than a mile from the headwaters of so much crashing and churning thought, I'll have to listen to that seductive sucking sound in my pocket: read me, read me, please.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

So Jordan and Josh already have copies of Ange's Starred Wire in hand. I'm jealous, and consoled only by the fact that I live less than a mile from Small Press Distribution, and can now pick up books in person, and without packaging other than paper and ink itself. I'll go soon to pick up Lisa Robertson's Occasional Poems and . . ., which I've been burning to read, for reasons obvious and not so obvious. Lara Glenum's Hounds of No should arrive soon, too, and lots of other ripping titles this fall. When, by the way, can we expect The Return of Millions Poems?

I'm sure the monitiors over at National Foetry Agency will accuse me of a cliquish tendency to read books by other bloggers, but can I help it if these people happen to be good, even great, poets?


Installing--er, mounting--shelves in our new apartment, it occurred to me that when The Encyclopedia of the New Erotics gets written, certainly some space will have to be devoted to a discussion of weight-bearing studs and stud detectors, the need for which grows as does the thin, evermore fragile nature of the walls which partition our daily life:

"Hearing her biological clock strike the eleventh hour, our accountant's acupuncturist's lawyer, whom we had gladly not yet met, ran out into the serotoninish twilight armed only with a stud-detector and some nebulous compunctions about flooring. The rest is, well, terribly depressing and therefore too exciting to relate."

Ah, narrative. . .


Playlist Personae

I'll fly away
I'm a soul man
I'm coming over
I'm not an addict
I ain't no joke
I am there while you choke on me
I and I survie
I bleed
I can-Japan
I don't blame you
I don't want to grow up
I fought the law (and the law won)
I fought the law (and I won)
I fought the law
I hate the way you love
I hope that I don't fall in love
I just don't know what to do
I let a song go out of my hear
I like the way you move
I luv I jah
I might be wrong
I put a spell on you
I shot the sheriff
I stay away
I wanna be sedated
I want you
I would for you
Ice cream for crow

Saturday, August 06, 2005

This Is My Body, This Is My Tax Shelter

The corporate culture of Christ? A little bit of etymological prestidigitation here, I'd say, from corpus to corporation. It's not like J.C. evicted the labor organizers from the temple. Ah, the transparency of blind, everyday evil: difficult to find a better example of the patent spiritual hypocrisy (Christian Capitalism) for which the 'zeros may be remembered. If you're a CEO and a Christian, fine, I won't begrudge you your contradictions if you'll accept mine. Just please don't theorize about it.