Saturday, March 26, 2005

"Phew!" I said. "It's so hard being a parent." Being apparent? The problem, apparently, is m more perilous than it seemed at first.

Tost signed off, then ecritures bleues,
then Brennen Wyssong. But is the
world as full as screens were full, of them?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ah, I just waking up to the fresh scent of nostalgia for a world that never existed!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A smart and accurate diagnosis of the new neo-surrealist American mainstream over at Coreyville. I would add, however, that when a particular poet is not "tapping into an unconscious larger than his or her own," then what they are channeling is not the "unconscious," nor is the product surrealism in its uncorrupted, non-commodified definition. As I read psychoanalysis and its practice in surrealism, a true, explosive derepression will almost always be disavowed, a not-me, radically other, and if it seems to belong to" someone", then it is probably largely a construct of the conscious mind and its repressive mechanisms. This is my problem with a good deal of surrealism-lite, with the late, defanged and sleepy James Tate and the goofier version of Dean Young, both poets whose early books--Viper Jazz and Strike Anywhere--I admire greatly. I need to distinguish between clever, contrived mock-surrealism and the truly monstrous products of abreaction. Lara Glenum's "Manifesto of the Anti-Real" does exactly this, identifying surrealism with what I am calling surrealism-lite, a poetry whose dream-logics and conceits merely entertain, have become quaint and obsolete, and so represent the aftereffects of the containing, bounding force of the conscious mind with its feints and false wishes. I'm not sure that there can be any pure contact with the unconscious in language, since the conscious mind is always selecting, limiting and bounding what arises, but there are degrees of mediation, and something that isn't threatening, that doesn't discomfit like the poems of, say, Gabe Gudding do, misses the point of early surrealist experiments.

I'm not sure how much I believe in the notion of a collective unconscious. I find Jung's ideas somewhat terrifying, with the fascist overtones that come with "racial memory." Certainly, there are unconscious wishes encoded in cultural artifacts (just watch any advertisement), so perhaps a social unconscious better describes what I believe in. I'm loathe to locate an unconscious in the physical body, which is why I find Chomsky's generative grammar (as irrefutable as it apparently is) kind of scary. I'm scared of anything essentialist. It's a dicey topic, since these categories conscious/unconscious are static words that refer to a process and action--the unconscious becomes so through the repressive mechanisms of the conscious mind and our social superego, our inner Madison Avenue, and so the calcified structures to which Corey refers don't really belong to the unconscious proper; they are a byproduct of repression. I guess, in this sense, I'm somewhat Deleuzian--although his and Guattari's lionizing of the schizophrenic seems irresponsible and occasionally ridiculous to say the least. I believe that it's repression, largely, that makes the unconscious so nasty, that turns what is really a wish to escape the prison of the self, to become and enter into a compact with the other, into that terrifying blend of Thanatos-Eros we must acknowledge, or continue to suffer unto ourselves.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Each new Administration nomination/appointment becomes so much more patently absurd, I wouldn't be surpised if Bush's first Supreme Court nomination were Kenneth Lay. It's as if Bush (metonymy for the machine) thinks an undertaker is the ideal job background for the post of Surgeon General.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

I've met so many fascinating individuals in the last week that I fear that were I to systematically detail my California adventures I might sound like a repugnant namedropper. I will say that I am very excited for the books that California plans to bring out next year--two long-awaited collections from Joshua Clover and Mark Levine, as well as a New and Selected from Mei-Mei B. (othographophobia here).

On other fronts, Stanford's department runneth over with interesting junior faculty working on poetry. I was particularly impressed with Sianne Ngai, whose book Ugly Feelings I perused while drinking coffee among the overachiever set in the Stanford bookstore. I couldn't justify thirty dollars, but plan to read it through ILL as soon as I get back. Her project is to provide us with a new aesthetic and affective vocabulary for contemporary and modern poetry. She develops terms like "stuplimity," a mixture of awe and blah, to chronicle our post-sublime, post-modern affective moment. Her interest, I've surmised, is in the neglected or underrepresented affects--the zany, the glamorous, the bored--that constitute so much of modern life (at least where I am now) after the earth from space is so much footage, after after. I'll stop before I grossly misrepresent a book the full scope of which still eludes me. In any case, she's a fascinating critic with whom I'd be delighted to work. And Robert Kaufman's work also sounds fascinating. All in all, Stanford has a good deal going for it poetry-wise these days, even with Perloff retired. I'd been told that it was a very conservative department, but that doesn't really appear to be the case now. I didn't meet Yvor Winters anywhere, not even in the Rare Books Collection, where I read the following in the errata to a serialized version of Ulysses: pg. 23 [delete fullstop after law.] Yes yes.

What else? Cal Bedient--whose third collection, hurray, is finished--gave me a copy of Volt, a magazine the existence of which I've often doubted, and which features a dizzyingly brilliant poem, "The Animal Parliament Speaks of Warre" by my friend and fellow Ithaca poet Karen Anderson. Lots of great stuff in this issue, which I'm still making my way through--blogger par excellence Josh has some of his Fourier Series in there, a sequence I find more and more compelling each time I come across it. I'm excited for its release from Spineless.

Everyone I talked to about Don't Let Me Be Lonely recommended Juliana Spahr's new This Connection of Everyone with Lungs, a book I'm enjoying and about which I should have more to say at a later date. I feel a review coming on. Where's my third book? If only I had someone who was committed to printing the review. . .

I fly to Oakland tonight, and Ithaca tomorrow. It's a shame I missed Elizabeth Willis and Peter Gizzi. Josh is right--Turneresque is just deadly good.

The road's partly washed out here in the canyon, and my father keeps extending his Gehryesque overelaboration of a house deeper and deeper into the burred possible.

I'm totally over Bill Maher. Is there some rule that the more time you spend in front of a camera the more conservative you become? Maybe the whole soul-stealing superstition has some merit to it. . . . There goes my acting career. I coulda been a pretender.

Rei Terada is the nicest person in the world.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Some difficulty locating wireless access, as well as time for blogging, and can now hardly remember all of the things I wanted to blather on about. All of my campus visits, without exception, have been really wonderful; each school seems like it would be a fine place study. I did, however, really, really fall in love with Berkeley, where the students dispelled everything negative I'd heard about the place--that it's cut-throat, that they thresh the chaff from each entering class, breakdowns in the halls, dissertation catastrophes, etc. And it seems, in all respects, a place where being a poet is not only tolerated but, in fact, encouraged; not seen as a quaint sideline but a vital part of some students' critical endeavors. In fact, they think of themselves as a place that offers the study of creative writing within and under the aegis of the PhD. Who would have known? I went to a really fantastic extraganza reading at the library there--Poems against the War--where Bob Hass, Brenda Hillman, Geoffrey G. O'Brien, Peter Dale Scott, and others read war and anti-war poems by others and by themselves. One of the highlights was Jennifer Scappettone, who's finishing up her diss. at Berkeley. I was really excited to discover her echoic, high-velocity, pun -and -sound-driven riffs on themes aesthetic and political.

I'll post another installment soon. It's a bit crazy here with niece and nephew and sister and brother-in-law et. al.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Google [hearts] Oulipo

Not sure if I could make this work, but it's an interesting exercise. Maybe I'll give it to my students.

Yeah, yeah, belatedness, bleat, bleat. I'm thinking that Jordan is probably right that anxiety is a byproduct of privilege, fear submerged to become that reef upon which our little bark founders. For me, the only answer is the cultivation of humility as opposed to humiliation (fr. humus, earth, i.e., to be down to earth or ground down to earth), not easy for me, let alone I. I get to read the books, to take part in all this gorgeousness and stumblewonder, regardless of whether or not I actually wrote the book. Reading Noah Eli Gordon's The Frequencies, a poem whose thematics and subject-matter are a great deal like the title poem from The-Manuscript-Formerly-Known-as-Interference. Chalk it up to zeitgeist, to Radiohead, radio in all its anachronism a perfect metaphor for the informatic surge in the air, the spammy, occasionally lovely (hello, bloggers) dissemination which produces both alienation, fragmentation and the hope that one can cobble together from the self-scraps some new, rhizomatic place to stand and sing. If I get honest, his poem's better, and I'm glad that I can read it both from the inside and the outside.

I've ordered Sikelianos' The California Poem and Keving Young's Black Maria through InterLibrary Loan, and I look forward to finding out how much of my Los Angeles Poem they obviate. Large chunks of it (mine) play at noir, strain the frame and its fatals, as the Young poems I've seen in journals so deftly do, and although Sikelianos seems to have a pastoral strain in her poem, indubitably she's engaging in some kind of critique of Californian dreamin' of the urban sort, the pastoral as counterpoint to the hyperreal and hyporeal of The Angles. I'll have more to say later. I do wonder how Knopf can charge $25.00 for the Young book. Assignment: use Knopf as a verb. To Knopf (yiddish):__________.

It's not easy to get down to the city these days, parenthood and all, but I absolutely must, must, must see the Cy Twombly show at The Whitney, as well as Tim Hawkinson (whose piece I remember as basically the only interesting thing at the Biennial of four years back; this last one was much better). I plan to write on Twombly during my coming years in The Poet Protection Program. Many years back, during daydreams, I imagined a piece from his Letter of Resignation as the cover for Interference. Maybe it would still work.

I leave for the Californias North and South on Wednesday. A busy trip but I should get the opportunity to sit down somewhere with free internet and good coffee and fill you in on the various occasions for wine, cheese and social anxiety.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Ten Poems

I've been trying to think up a suitable analogy for this exercise: picking your ten favorite poems is like is like is like picking ten people to join you for an extended vacation on a locked ward--regrets and regardlessness whichevereachway. Nevertheless, these be mine--

1) "The Fact is the place . . ." (Ello es que el lugar. . .)--Cesar Vallejo
2) "Rivers and Mountains" title poem, Ashbery
3) section II "Voyages" Hart Crane
4) "Industrious /mineral resources" Celan
5) "Mont Blanc" Shelley
6) "Four Tress - upon a Solitary Acre" Dickinson
7) "Those Various Scalpels" Marianne Moore
8) "Coal" Audre Lorde
9) "Respondez" Walt Whitman
10) This space reserved for unknown participant

Friday, March 04, 2005


In my poetry writing workshop yesterday, we were looking at a selection from Philosophical Investigations, my bright stoner-type student punctuating the discussion with wows and oh-man's, when another student said, "I'm so tired of Wittgenstein. He's not that interesting or new. It's obvious. So what, language fails. It doesn't do what we want it to, or what we think it does. Why can't we read Barthes or Benjamin? I mean, people have been pushing this stuff on me since high school. Why does everybody think he's so great?"

She may be wrong, in my opinion, but the best kind of wrong, the right kind of wrong. Is this what teaching's like in the Republic of Slovenia?

Thursday, March 03, 2005


From one of Anna's student's short stories: "William immediately recognized the foreign woman's accident."

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Reading Rats, an account of the life of these most despised of animals. A rat can have sex up to twenty times a day. A tide of rats crossing the Volga at some point in the eighteenth century. Highly interesting and creepy. I need a little easy non-fiction to disentangle the synapses after teaching Baraka on "the pretensions of consiousness."

I'm imagining an answer to T.S. Eliot's Cats here. Rats= star, arts, tars, tsar, tras(h), Sart(re).