Sunday, February 26, 2006

Happy to hear that Pavement Saw is going to bring out Josh's chapbook Composition Marble (f.k.a. "Kiosk/Stylus"). It's a truly exquisite poem, and I hope that many people order copies. Definitely my favorite piece of writing by one of my favorite writers.

Monday, February 20, 2006

"Mommy is mommy. That's funny."

The pleasures of tautology in an age of contradiction.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

R.I.P. Barbara Guest

The Minus Ones

She submitted a few stories she called The Minus Ones.

They came to her as short signals, as if they lived on her roof top. They rolled off the roof of her mouth climbed there from memory or from a table where empty cups glistened with tearfulness. Also menu-like out of her stung heart came surprising plots: Spanish women and high shoes, stories of valleys and boatless seas no cargoes. Rocks similar to the porpoises in her marine story appeared. They were made of coal hard yet they chipped flakes of coal dust blew off them soiling her clothes.

From her reading she borrowed a lake bottomless and a body without gravity flying over it. This appropriation brought on a serious malaise; she became plotless and her stories were bound without the usual wrapping of ribbon.

Seasons became important, ivy on green trees and the mournful rhododendron, icicles appeared more frequently. And meadows with horses. She neglected to include the rituals of contemporary life and the Scenario Department complained. When she wrote of wood burning she said the devils inside the fire were excited.

The fire scene destroyed any chance she had for her new stories to be accepted. They told her they liked real fires and not those of the imagination. Imagination was harmful and always messed up the set.

--from The Confetti Trees

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

What's a Poet?

I agree that the tendency to construct a person out of words, and to interpolate into these words whatever we know about a poet--Josh plays D and D, Jordan likes Anime, some of us are parents, some aren't--is probably to some degree inevitable, and indeed I don't think there's anything wrong with this kind of reading practice, as long as it's one practice among many.

But there's a big difference between missing the words for the poet, looking past the page to the life, and seeing the poet as words, as an authorial intention emanating not from an apartment in D.C. or Oakland but from the particular arrangement of verbal references language allows. So much of the poetry that I value frustrates any other kind of experience. And although I know that the part of me that seeks to predict the behavior of others will always construct some kind of intention, there is poetry that reminds me of what a fictional intention this is--and thank god.

I'm very sympathetic to the desire to recuperate terms like personality and sensibility for poetry criticism. But, for me, it's important to know what I'm talking about.

"What makes my image of him into an image of him. Not its looking like him!"

Otherwise, aren't we just playing Oprahs to The Tiny's Freys and James? As Jane reminded us awhile back--a comment that Ron reiterated--most of the cultural forms with "wide circulation" love the idea of poetry, the idea of the poet, the life of the poet, but they don't want to do the hard work of actually reading a poem.

And this is one of the ways Kasey's category 2 turns into category 1. This is the way we start working for Sales rather than R&D.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Oh yeah, and on the subject of Legislating Danger I was just talking to someone yesterday who pleaded with the editors (in many e-mails, apparently) to change the title, or at least the subtitle. But they wouldn't budge. And so he refused to put his poems in. Wasn't the only one either, I guess.

Being clueless to how things might read is one thing. I'm sure I'm guilty of this from time to time. But having it explained to you and then insisting on remaining oblivious, well, that's another thing altogether. They probably could've taken a simple poll. Does this sound creepy and Orwellian or just plain bad?45 out of 50 poets choose yes.

Kasey gets to have all the fun . . .

My double-header tomorrow is Helene Cixous in the morning and Bernadette Mayer at night. Not quite SWAT Teams and Vagina Monologues, but hey. . .

On the subject of the absurd, I was sort of hoping that somebody besides Tony would provide a general rebuttal of the Hoy piece in Jacket, but I guess its asininity was fairly transparent, and fairly clearly not worth the effort.

A more nuanced, astute and less ad hominem consideration of the technologization of the poetry world--and the changes (good, bad, indifferent) it might augur is worth asking for. But I don't think Hoi Polloi's our guy. It's hard to not detect the smell of vendetta on his keyboard stomp-dancing. It seemed pretty, well, lame that someone who takes such obvious pains to carefully and level-headedly explain where he stands--agree with it or not--should be the target of a basically personal attack.

I certainly don't have any doubts that it's only a matter of time before Google calls in its loans--you, me, everyone. But by that time, man, it might be either too late or too early. Anne Boyer will have let the squirrels loose. . . There might not be any way to get them back into their cages. Don't Be Evil? OK: Don't Be a Publicly Traded Corporation.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Be as I may a subsidiary and fleshly annex of Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Google and Microsoft, "addicted to oil," I aver now that the poetry of mild comfort doesn't stand a chance against the wonder trio of Kasey, Anne and Steve Evans.

It's worth adding that, of course, all those travelers reaching into the bedside table for a copy of the tedious verselets in Poetry magazine will be depressed more quickly than you can say "biopower twins activate." And the dollars spill back into Eli-Lilly.