Tuesday, September 20, 2005

When I went to buy Ted Mathys' book, Forge, over at SPD, the girl who took the book from me to scan the barcode looked at the cover, said hmmm, turned it over, looked at his author photo and said, "wow, he's really hot." But where the vaguely counter-cultural piercings, and where the penumbra of nudity?!

Poets in the movies! O'Hara would be proud of Jarnot.

Some serious intake/output imbalances here, which this short post is unlikely to remedy. Reading, reading, reading. Reading the reading of reading, text welling in every available interstice, a feeling for the most part enjoyable if I follow these tips.

I like Jane's notion of an emergent poetics, and do indeed prefer the term to the unavoidable "avant-garde." There's a humility, and a tentative, provisional character to the former that forestalls the concretizing, institutionalizing nature of the term "a-g" which is, to my mind, not at all a-g. I also like the connotation of emergency, a state of crisis in which a previous set of laws and institutions are annulled and in which new--perhaps better, perhaps more efficiently vicious--dynamics can be set up. Of course, I have to consider the ways in which the current regime, and the more intractable machinations it sits on the surface of, has used a perpetual, slo-mo emergency as a excuse to do all sorts of things that would , perhaps, be otherwise intolerable. But the scrambled space post-emergency does seem to allow the possibility for positive change. Or call me an idealist.

I think Josh is correct in his suspicion that to identify an emergent formation is to sap it of some of its destabilizing power, to relegate it to the noun-farm of the past. Coincidentally, I just read the Williams book for class ("the leisure of the theory class)", and it's worth noting that what Williams refers to as "structure of feeling" is, technically, pre-emergent, part of a present that continually outpaces our ability to describe and represent it. Or at least that's the implication. He's unclear about whether such structures can be truly recognized in the present, inventing as they do the terms for their own recognition. Maybe that's why Jane refuses to speculate on the historical significance of the god-term in recent poetry. But that doesn't make me any less curious about the historical and physical and cultural, etc., conditions that would provoke a turn to a God-concept as Jane sees it, not a mediator between me-and-you-and-everyone-we-know but some other kind of otherwordly thing. Are we in the realm of a personal God? Would this be an attempt to counter the bland, blind whatever-happen-happens God of Bush and Co.?

Do let's go there. Tell me your thoughts on this.

Oh, and a reminder. Do come to this--

Wednesday September 21Holloway: Mark McMorris8 p.m., Maude Fife Room(315 on the 3rd floorof Wheeler Hallon the UC Berkeley campus)

and this--

Tuesday September 27Mills College:Claudia Rankine5:30, Mills Hall Living RoomFREEparty after reading

Monday, September 12, 2005

Thoughts on Affect, or, feelings in the form of a thought

I’m way late in getting back to this, but Jordan was kind of enough to respond to my request for a little explication of his ideas about affect, or perhaps in keeping with his spirit, his feelings on affect. Here’s what he says, if you didn’t catch it in the comment box:
     Basically? affect spreads. All art transmits affect; the language arts get affect over      with very little interference.      Narrative is a masking agent, an affect-delivery retarder - it can extend the affect      buzz, and it definitely makes it easier for the affect to be transmitted from one      recipient to the next, but it also degrades the feeling, makes it so less feeling comes      through.     I understand why it's so difficult for socialized individuals to communicate feelings.      Feelings sell. And I'd hate to be any part of fomenting a dogma. I'm no dogma      fomenter.      But as Paul Valery said, poetry isn't made of ideas (or feelings), it's made of words.

I’m willing to admit I’ve been too often getting on the wrong bus—the one marked Whatever, Man—and lo!, thinking that the ultimate goal all along was the production of IDEAS, or thoughts or even pretty pictures, when ideas are, in fact, overrated, and well, pay shit, and are less productive and useful than feelings, which people can employ in manners various and sundry with little claim to my responsibility thereto, even if this is, touché, also an idea. I see now that boredom is my enemy and yours as much as or more than stupidity or bad faith. Boredom can lead to an experience of others’ misery as entertainment. I see this so very clearly, and I haven’t been bored, really, in months. This increases my capacity for outrage. But those feeling almost always come attached, in the language arts, to some kind of semantics, to grammars of me and you and then and now and no and yes, and so I feel the need to pay attention to that, too. I’m not saying that Jordan doesn’t do this; he’s one of my favorite reviewers, and I really appreciate the way he reads. (Aside: I’m very, very sad that I missed his show in Ithaca—with devastatingly brilliant Ange Mlinko— and that I’ll have to wait until it comes to CA or finds a home on TV or the web).

My confusion? I’m not sure I understand how the term “affect” really describes the device or reading experience that thwarts the omnipresent boredom and emptiness and sterility of life. Affect seems to me to miss the important intellectual component to the poems I value, poems that allow the reader a space in which she can play, by thinking and feeling her way through a landscape sufficiently various and complicated that one can’t step into the same feeling twice. Feelings sell ideas right? And it’s hard to get those ideas out of the poem; people might even hide their ideas inside of your poem.

Affect, also, seems to suggest something singular, like boo-hoo or ha-ha or yeah, when in fact the poems I enjoy the most create these strange, grainy, chunky affect-scapes of boo-hoo yeah! and ouch ha-ha! and whee oh shit!  My suspicion is that we’re bumping up against Eliot’s claim about the Cartesian splitting of thoughts and feelings after the Metaphysicals. At best, to think is to feel, to feel is to think, and the term for this is something like spirit. There are thoughts behind them feelings, and feelings behind them thoughts, or at least that’s the movie they’re showing on the psychoanalytic ceilings.  Poetry? Some kind of feelingthought--which Jordan may of may not mean by the term affect—which outpaces our ability to describe it, and perhaps invents the conditions and feelings necessary for its experience.


Friday, September 09, 2005

Horrifying, this report (via Josh) from New Orleans. I'm having difficulty thinking of anything uglier than a scared racist with a badge and weapon. OK,"scared racist" is redundant: all racists are scared, I know.

My wish: that the government kicks down, that the Notional Guards get everyone out and settled, sparing no expense. And after that: a good investigation, a trial, and despite all my anarchist compunctions, jail. Or some nice neighborly vigilantism, whichever comes first. As my friend Karl Parker puts it in his version of the liar's paradox: "prisons should be outlawed." Prisons are for those who believe in prison.

Would that this wakes the country up to the essential automation and ice-hearted nature of Bush and Co., or AOWC as Drew Gardner --you can see it, clear as day, all over his slack cipher of a face. He just don't give a fuck. He has the serenity of a man whose faith in the design of fate is absolute. This is just theater for the believers, just a sign, a wonder. [string of expletives removed by authority of the FCC]

I'm being shrill, I know. Apologies. Over and out.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"We have to flush the system," Nagin said.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

When I said "I don't like it," I was not referring to Josh's recipe, but the world, or at least that part of the world reflected in the small, glassy eyes of our commander-in-chief when he utters phrases like "zero-tolerance." The urge to leap into the television and throttle him is almost unbearable. Be cruel, Josh. Stick to your guns. Poor taste may be the only taste left us.

A cruel, true cocktail from Josh this morning.

And then behind that inadequate sedative, there's a bridge over the Tigris, which has somehow been diverted into the Mississippi. I don't like it.

Tried to read all of Midwinter Day yesterday while going to class, taking Noah to the marina, buying fruit at the best produce market in the entire world, cooking dinner and avoiding the news. Had about twenty pages left this morning, and then typed up my presentation for Lyn Hejinian's course on the long poem. What an unbelievably vertiginous, pliant and commodious piece of writing, as close maybe as words can come to writing life as quickly as it happens, before while-it-happens happens. "Walk on water, daddy, walk on water!" he kept saying, while looking through the pier railings at the sharky, choppy baywaters. "Splash it!" In his uninflected pure grammar, the imperative slides into the indicative and back again. Every command is a description. Every description commands.

To my surprise, the shift from teacher to student hasn't resulted in awkward pridebound seat-squirming. I'm enjoying it. I might talk too much, but I've always done that.

This isn't school, really. More like advanced playtime. School was this rat's nest of breezeways and stucco bungalows and big haired boys and girls I occasionally saw flickering, miragelike, through purple bongplastic. I haven't been back since 1992.