Friday, December 30, 2005

"Level" is a palindrome. A kind of onomatopoeia of the letter.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Tabernacle, Tabernacle, Preach

Paranoia, blog rage, sanctimony. Welcome to the non-event. Please wear your (an)aesthetic identification badge at all times.

I take Jane's point, re: Foetry, about the transposition of real political anxieties, and the powerlessness that results therefrom, into the thinkable realm of poetics. This is what happens with Ron, he confuses forces and flows and market conditions with people. There's no conspiracy here. There's five billion shooters on the grassy knoll, dude. It's not like J.D. McClatchy and who-not are sitting in smoke-filled backrooms plotting their takeover of the poetry world. It's a lot of people, whom the big pictures eludes, making decisions that are for the most part based on what they think is right, and the rest of the time on their own petty needs and allegiances. Talk of a "School of Quietude" or a "Gang of Eight" is just bullshit; it hypostasizes into concrete personages and institutions things that are trans-personal and trans-institutional.

At one point, no doubt, the agonistic model--reader as enemy--of poetry writing which Ron puts forward was necessary, and it produced some great poetry, great criticism. But now it just seems like post-traumatic stress disorder; the enemy is no longer there, the last time there was an object of critique as Ron defines it was probably twenty years ago. Ron and the other poets associated with "Language" have become a dominant force in the poetry world, and so it's foolish for Ron to act as if he's still marginal. Yes, the big publishers don't, for the most part, publish their books. But in terms of cultural capital--well, which poets do you think critics are, for the most part, paying attention to. I won't say more, because I think Juliana Spahr, in her powerful piece "Spiderwasp, or literary criticism" has already made an excellent case for the obsolescence of this conflict-oriented model of thinking. As much as Tony Tost wants to revive it, and as much as it seems to produce good poetry in his case--to my mind it's time to move on. Some other kind of beast is emerging and that's where I want to look.

To Seth Abramson: most bloggers I know don't take Ron all that seriously. In fact, I only read him to make sure I'm still alive. Annoyance is one of the crucial vital signs. If you think he's the oracle at Delphi, you've gotten the wrong impression. It's not like people are saying to themselves, "oh well, Ron hasn't mentioned anything about Lara Glenum's The Hounds of No, so it must not be very good." Jim Behrle speaks for many of us, I think, with his tender and affectionate fuck-you to the kind of egoic, oracular utterances you find on Ron's blog. It's worth noting that, as far I can recall, and I'm certainly not a constant reader, this is the only time Ron has ever responded to another blogger directly. Most of the time, he's talking into dead air, despite the hundreds of links on his page. Elsewhere, you find dialogue. In Ronland there's just dialectic against a not-there. (Caveat: I have deep respect for much of Ron's work--his criticism and his poetry--but I also think he's endlessly wrong-headed in his blog.

To Franz Wright: whatever. The best response to people like that is the phrase formerly known as silence. Engaging with that kind of shit reifies its inital terms, and gives it power. There's no answer, because it's the wrong question.

To Gabe: I love you like a brother, man. But I think Franz Wright probably has plenty of insecurity and shame on his own end. He obviously doesn't need your help feeling worthless. And again--let's direct all of this wasted energy somewhere else. I propose a Flarf e-mail war on the Pentagon and the White House. Paging Brian Stefans. . .

Thursday, December 22, 2005

L(ate)M(odernism) Until

And what would we do without Ange Mlinko’s casual brilliance? Happy to note no Pound in the elements, but no Crane either. Perhaps we need a fifth element, void, for which I nominate Stein: background chatter, background grammars in front of which all of the others posit and tip-off and turn.

So, Winter (especially late winter) is Williams. Eliot Fall? Moore-Stevens Summer and Stein Spring? Hmm. . . all mythologies fail, eventually, I suppose. Is that what they’re for?

I’m excitedly waiting for Jordan’s rundown of the year in Poesy.

The New Continent

Google Earth: Now you can look at porn in one window and, in the other, make sure no-one’s going to walk through the door.

We’ll do the spying for you, W. I see London, I see France.

Capital's Punishments

Overheard on the eve of Stanley Williams’ execution.

Three crustypunks in a coffee shop in the Mission.

Citizen One (male): All I’m saying, dude, is if he’s guilty I’d want him killed.

Citizen Two (female): Yeah, but what gives some fat white guy the right to decide who lives and who dies.

Citizen Three (male): Whatever, I think everybody should fucking die.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Reports from Storage

There’s something about the strange travels/travails of the commodity in this  Rauschenberg anecdote quoted below. Before the assemblage can be worth scads of money, it has to be first worth nothing, or more precisely, less than nothing. Not the nothing that’s worth nothing, but the nothing that’s not:
[Once he walked 30 blocks uptown with one of his so-called black paintings - canvases with expressionist black brush strokes that incorporated odd bits of detritus - and tried to sell it to a rich collector for $15. "I won't say who," Mr. Rauchenberg said impishly.
"She said she couldn't buy it so cheap," he continued. "I almost gave it to her, at the thought of walking another 30 blocks home with the painting. But I thought, well, if she couldn't afford to pay so little for it, she certainly couldn't afford to take it for nothing." ]
Noah’s second birthday on Friday. He’s still singing happy birthday to himself, and half-expecting a second round of presents. Yesterday, in the storm, the lights went off at Anna’s parents house. When they came back on, Noah yelled: party time! Pictures to follow. _______________
Relieved to have survived the semester, and to have finished my essay on Bernadette Mayer’s Midwinter Day and Vito Acconci, the Situationist International and De Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life—one of the most arduous and tricky pieces of critical writing I’ve ever done. The poem has such speed and momentum that any kind of attempt to break off a passage to work with is like wading into a fast, cold creek.  Plus, I was really outside of my ken--trying to expand it, rather--with the Acconci.
If anybody’s interested in reading it, I’d appreciate the feedback.
Reading Jalal Toufic’s Distracted (a copy of which Lyn kindly gave me). I’ve tried in the past to abuse and misquote the copyright clause in the front matter of books, but now I see it’s already been done about as well as one can. Hilarious, and absolutely true:
“Some parts of this book can be created by others and hence may be produced by them without permissions from the author and the publisher. No part of this book may be paraphrased in any form or by any means.”
Rainy, rainy here. An Elmo doll facedown in a puddle in the courtyard. But this Diplo remix of Beck’s Guero (on the album called Guerolito) is pretty great.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Thank you, Mr. Pinter

Saturday, December 03, 2005

I quite like semi-colons in poetry, and to the extent that I find them inscrutable, I also find them beautiful. I especially like archaic usages of the semi-colon, and the bizarre sentences they allow, as found in eighteenth-century prose and undergraduate papers. If semi-colons don't display "poetic" beauty, then they do allow for a precision that excites me. I think it's the most indeterminate and yet absolute of marks; it's a piece of punctuation that flouts and points up the problematic conventions of the sentence as whole thought. And as much as this is one of the jobs of poetry, to allow us to think and feel with new grammars, new relationships between things, the semi-colon belongs here, is beautiful because true: a mark of closure and yet, at the same time, openness; equivalence and difference. It does wink, as if to say it knows our secret:

[From ‘Punctuation Marks’ in Notes to Literature, Volume 1. ed. Rolf Tiedemann and trans. Shierry Weber Nicholson. Columbia University Press. 1958. pp. 96-7. ]

The writer is in a permanent predicament when it comes to punctuation marks; if one were fully aware while writing, one would sense the impossibility of ever using a mark of punctuation correctly and would give up writing altogether. For the requirements of the rules of punctuation and those of the subjective need for logic and expression are not compatible: in punctuation marks the check the writer draws on language is refused payment. The writer cannot trust in the rules which are often rigid and crude; nor can he ignore them without indulging in a kind of eccentricity and doing harm to their nature by calling attention to what is inconspicuous – and inconspicuousness is what punctuation lives by. But if, on the other hand, he is serious, he may not sacrifice any part of his aim to a universal, for no writer today can completely identify with anything universal; he does so only at the price of affecting the archaic. The conflict must be endured each time, and one needs either a lot of strength or a lot of stupidity not to lose heart. At best one can advise that punctuation marks be handled the way musicians handle forbidden chord progressions and incorrect voice leading. With every act of punctuation, like every musical cadence, one can tell whether there is an intention or whether it is pure sloppiness.


Agnes Varda's The Gleaners and I is really fantastic: a wonderfully goofy and unabashedly personal sensibility that is surprising in a documentary. If you're interested in the politics and aesthetics of trash, in its possibilities and pathos, this movie is for you.


The Squid and the Whale is also great--perfect details, perfect timing, just enough humor to make the painful feelings of embarrassment for the characters sufferable. It's the apotheosis of its form, of the "indie" family drama that I would like to see less of but that when done well reminds me where I come from, and almost even tells me why.


Working on my 75 pages--an essay about waste and The Day of the Locust, an essay about Bernadette May and performance art, and one on Wittgenstein, Michael Palmer and Rosmarie Waldrop. By the middle of the month, I should be blogging again with more regularity.