Saturday, June 28, 2003

 
Blogger has yet to address the "Big Post Error" problem. Indeed, as of this morning, none of my "error report messages" to Blogger have even been reviewed. It is hard to believe that Blogger has become even less professional since being acquired by Google, but this would appear to be the case. When you do a rollout of a new version, you have people fielding the incoming error messages a.s.a.p. I had a problem back in March I reported that is, as of today, "waiting on a dependency," meaning, I think, when they fix something else, that original problem will go away. My note below took, when I first assembled it in Word, just a single page. Is a single page too much to post?


 

I was being flip when, in mentioning Lanny Quarle’s weblog, ::(solipsis)//:phaneronoemikon:: – there’s that colonitis again – I commented that since “Google doesn’t find an instance of the word, presumably Greek, phaneronoemikon, that doesn’t link back to Lanny’s site, I can’t tell you what it means either.”

 

That led to two responses, both worth noting.

 

Lanny himself sent me an email, which later became the core of a note he posted to his own blog. It is definitely worth clicking over to his site to follow the etymological links he’s posted for each element of this constructed noun, but the net of it, as he explains, might be read as:

 

an emblem/figure (matrix of ikon and noema) which represents (ikon and noema) the contents of consciousness (phaneron) at any given moment in time (noema and phaneron).

 

Shortly thereafter, Jeffrey Jullich, whom I had the great treat of meeting apparently for the second time on Tuesday, sent me the following missive:



 

Ron,

 

Lanny, when he hears that your question is out there, will probably provide his own translation of "phaneronoemikon", but:

 

The first half, "phanero-", could've been obvious to you from Sappho's best-known poem, often left titled in the Greek even with English translations, the "Phainetai moi". Liddell and Scott's Lexicon gives "phanero-", the root of that title, as recognized Greek, as used in Aristotle's "phaneromisos", "openly hating." "phanero-"/"phaneros" means "open to sight, visible, manifest, evident"; it has the sense of "it appears (to)".

 

I've always — I think mistakenly, now that you call closer attention to the Quarles — thought the last half of it was "-oemikon"; I thought his "pun" was on the "-oemikon" one sees at the end of the Gk. for "economy," so it would've been a sort of "economy of appearances."

 

— But, now that you're brought it under the microscope, I see that I'd blind-spotted the "-n-" in the middle; and now the "-noemikon" half of it looks like a derivative of "noema", in Liddell as "that which is perceived, a perception, thought," "a thought, purpose, design," "like . . . understanding", and I realize, I think, that it should've been familiar to me from Husserl's famous terms, the "noema" and "the noemata."

 

The final "-ikon" suffix seems to be the same sort used in Susan Howe's "Eikon Basilikon", for a large work on a subject (with some trace of icon, perhaps).

 

— So, that yields something like "the appearance of thoughts".



Friday, June 27, 2003

 
I can tell that I'm going to have to break this one down into multiple posts as well. My patience with Blogger is definitely becoming limited. If this isn't "all well" by the time I come back from the West Coast at the end of next month, I can see that I may need to look at some other option, be it Radio Userland or Moveable Type, Bloki or Live Journal.


 

For what still might be characterized as a “student publication,” Kiosk 2 continues to demonstrate just how the editing of a journal should go. The issue has 22 contributors divided among its 292 pages, assuring that ample room is accorded to each, even with its somewhat unusual page size (8½” wide, 7” high).

 

Of its 22 contributors, only two are new to me – Ofelia Pérez Sepúlvida & Carla Faesler, both Mexican poets translated by Jen Hofer. The first of Sepúlvida’s two poems, excerpts from a series entitled “Infected the Heart,” immediately makes Hofer’s implicit argument that the quality of poetry in Mexico is comparable to anything occurring on this side of the border:



 

 

Star

Concept

Originating

Directed

System

In the gaze

Circuit of the years

Vast darkness

Pain I hem in

I touch between my temples

Star

On the paper

Inferno

Allegory

 

A publication like this is an opportunity to check on old friends &, for me at least, invariably brings up lots of question as I ponder everybody’s work in turn, e.g.

 

What does it mean if the reader doesn’t catch the allusion?  As in

 

Aaaaaalll night

he was a Young Hegelian.

Young Hegelian!

 



 

Being one stanza from Louis Cabri’s “Salon, salon.” What if the reader isn’t immediately transformed into rhythm of the chorus of David Bowie’s song? Since so much of my own poetry carries on precisely this kind of dialog with pop culture, I worry about this more than a little.

 

Are Abigail Child’s poems, which here as elsewhere follow a prosody that can be traced historically back to Stein, inherently more optimistic than her films? Does she use different media for different moods? [At the Drawing Center on Tuesday I asked her & she replied that it had obviously been a long time since I’d seen one of her films. ]

 

Why do the works from K. Silem Mohammad’s Deer Dead Nation have nine elements of punctuation in front of every line? In “false / Vodoun Democracy,” it’s nine consecutive colons (:::::::::), while in “Mars Needs Terrorists” – a title that Spicer would have envied – each line has a block that includes five colons alternating with 4 periods (:.:.:.:.:). I’m working hard here to avoid all kinds of colonitis puns.

 

Is Rachel Blau DuPlessisDraft 56: Bildungsgedicht with Apple the shortest section of Drafts to date, or is than an optical allusion created by the “landscape” orientation of Kiosk’s page? Also, how is it that DuPlessis is managing to get more productive every year? It’s the literary equivalent of watching the careers of Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire – they already had established themselves as baseball superstars when each suddenly just blossomed into power hitters on some transcendental level.

 



 

How can you think or talk about Leslie Scalapino’s work without confronting the problem of genre? Her piece in Kiosk, as is so often the case with her writing, invokes two in its title, Dahlia’s Iris – Secret Autobiography and fiction. Genre has, as much as anything, to do with the reader’s expectation & the writer’s social responsibility to recognize that dynamic. Nobody does more to explore & confound an easy boundaries of reactive presumption than Scalapino. But I would love to be able to articulately explain what I think is going on here. I’m nowhere near being able to do so today.

 

Secondly, in order to adequately discuss her work, you (I) would have to also understand the function of syntax in Scalapino’s writing. There are so many sentences like this one:

 

Verbally savagely assaulting but as the means of now indicating one is a servant only (inherently) yet the same person one has been, when how had this come to be?

 

I don’t know that I’ve ever come across the construction “when how” before & yet my mind adapts to it instantly. Reading sentences like this, I sense my self coming into focus – into a sense of my own presence – repeatedly during the evolution of the syntax. In any sentence like the one above, there can be no word more stark than only.

 

I really like how Pat Durgin approaches Hannah Weiner’s work in his essay on her piece – and that Kiosk also prints Hannah’s proto-essay “Awareness and Communication” as part of Durgin’s project here.

 

Finally there is a series of pieces in memory of Leslie Fiedler who passed away last year, written by Robert Creeley, Raymond Federman & Bill Sylvester, all colleagues at Buffalo. I only met Fiedler once, when I was invited to his house for a Fourth of July party in 1970. He reminded me instantly of Yosemite Sam & my one other memory of that occasion, beyond the tie-dye flag that towered over the neighborhood from Fiedler’s rooftop, was seeing John Barth wearing, I swear, a dashiki. Fiedler’s own critical writing isn’t read as much as it should be these days. For all of his cantankerousness, Fiedler proved to be an important critical balance especially within the academy during the 1950s & ‘60s, demonstrating a possible critical vision for writing outside of the one proffered by the “specialized readers” of New Criticism.



Thursday, June 26, 2003

 
So how inelegant is this? In order to avoid the "Big Post Error" in the new Blogger software, I had to break today's belated blog into four separate posts (see below).


 

One of the historic weaknesses of poetry that relies heavily on spatial position on the page is that, too often, that is all the poet appears to be doing. That it doesn’t have to be this way – that you can utilize space and still pay total attention to the writing itself – is proven beyond reasonable doubt by Pornograph, a forthcoming book from Jonathon Wilcke, a Canadian poet who has recently spent some time in Japan.

 

While it was the Projectivists who first proposed the page as a field, Duncan & Olson seldom actually took advantage of the spatial implications of that idea, Olson principally in his palimpsest spirals in Maximus, Duncan really only in his great poem against the weapons of mass destruction, the use of napalm in Vietnam, “The Fire           Passages 13.” Wilcke on the other hand uses the page almost the way a baseball pitcher will use the strike zone – perfectly justified paragraphs can appear top, bottom, left, right or center. Type sizes vary tho rarely on the same page. The deepest the graphemic pyrotechnics get is when traditional stanzas overlap prose paragraphs, each crowding the other’s interlinear leading.

 

Overall, tho, Wilcke uses the spatial with a relatively conservative hand – he doesn’t want the reader to get lost in graphics. Which is all to the good, since it is the texts that are not conservative. They are mostly a delight, utilizing a general sense of prurience, an ear for dialog & found language, plus a sense of humor that could have attended the New York School:



 

 

bambi on parole says prick pestilents

by the dollar. ooh

porn is it porn porn porn

ooh dirty. and the cent. makes plenty of sense

that capitalism works to pull wool cover eyes with spoons

isn’t white a color did i say the wrong thing doesn’t wool

come from sheep wouldn’t that be a lie i have a wool sweater.

did he sound white? is that cell phone authentic?

i’ll have your brother for dinner but i’m expecting a man.

a brother. a white man. a white brother.

it’s good to have family.



 

 

or the simple two-liner:

 

                   In Canada,

I can’t find my pants.

 

printed high & to the right alone on its page.

 

There are moments in these texts when it feels as if John Wieners & Joe Brainard have melded into one, tho the eros of it all is broader in fact than that suggests, more of a post-Burroughs, post-Acker pansexuality with a glimmer of optimism:



 

In this prostrate carry legs, but the word, compose legs, in thisness, you say, that’s my leg, says mouth, quit the club when my leg fell off, chicken in a biscuit, and television models talking out their asses selling food that sells, and, thus, this, is the best way to what, waht, hah! sperm activates aeeuh aeeuh aeeuh aeeuh aeeuh thwack thwack thwack! the naked truth will wear your gonch and you’ll say what’s that, and no one’ll hear out of the mouth from sync out of the arms from swung over the legs of chairs and all those dictums about keeping legs closed in public, conflate the seeing into one big flatulent hearing, and end this one a fart word, well, whoopee.

 

Canadian poetry is obviously undergoing a renaissance these days & Jonathon Wilcke is happily in the thick of it. I don’t know if this represents the burgeoning of several communities simultaneously, or if the advent of the net has just made it easier for Canadian poets to get their work out more widely. Either way, readers benefit as well as writers. Whoopee.

 

 

 



 
Blogger's new software has been creating havoc with my site and my ability to post. When I get it figured out, I will be back.


Tuesday, June 24, 2003

 

There was a time when all the poets whose work I liked and whom I’d hoped to meet and hear read were older than I was. Now, it’s just the opposite. It’s the younger poets who suddenly seem to be turning up, brilliant & fully formed & mysterious.

 

One poet whom I’m absolutely looking forward to meeting & hear read for the first time later today at the Drawing Center in NYC is Jean Donnelly. Donnelly’s book Anthem was a winner of the National Poetry Series competition in 2000, selected by Charles Bernstein, and published by Sun & Moon. I remember realizing when the book came out that I needed to be paying more attention. Somehow somebody had arrived as a significant poet with interests that I obviously shared, but of whom I’d not been previously aware.

 

I’m not going to review the book here – there is a short review by Catherine Daly that can be found on the website of the rather amorphous Sidereality & a much more in-depth one by Brian Henry, located in Jacket 21. It would hardly be surprising for me to be pleased to see a work that its author characterizes as “an alphabet,” entitled “Legend,” especially when it’s well written:

 

Ss

 

it’s elective

prey as

object small

birds at

the throat

of twilight

in sight of

the little king

warning it’s

you dear

you stingy

ideal

imitating

the horizon

 

But the poem that has intrigued me most is the title piece, “Anthem,” a serial poem containing 50 untitled sections, all written in couplets, each of which at some point names a different state of the union. Here is one:

 

I heard O Canada

for the first time

 

in South Dakota

or at the World

 

Series which

prevents me

 

from easily

correcting

 

the national

glossary method

 

an American

lion is

 

weeping

with chastity

 

absent his

brother absent

 

the metaphysical

poetry of his

 

former tribe

while an arithmetic

 

of honest

reason

 

pleasures

the prairie

 

Other sections can be found here.

 

There is a sharpness to the line in these pieces that reminds me just a little of Michael Palmer, but with an ambition that is genuinely awesome. The idea of working around each of these curious names – there is no state whose name doesn’t carry some bizarre scar of history, whether it be a term taken from its mostly slaughtered indigenous previous tenants, looking backward on some prior place, or named for some personage – Washington, Queen Elizabeth (Virginia), or King Charles I (Carolina, North & South), not to mention Sir Thomas West, who just happened to be the Baron De La Warr. Poems built around naming aren’t many, but they’re almost always interesting. Ashbery’s use of rivers in “Into the Dusk-Charged Air,” one of the poems in Rivers and Mountains, announced that he was going to be much more than just the restrained voice one found in Some Trees. Jackson Mac Low’s 22 Light Poems, published by Black Sparrow in 1968, used the names of light as a mechanism for “familiarizing” texts that were generated through a series of chance procedures – it was the 46-year-old poet’s first book to get wide distribution, I suspect, precisely because it seemed approachable.

 

The book that comes closest in its original impulse to what Donnelly is after here is perhaps the strangest of all, Michel Butor’s Mobile:Study for a Representation of the United States, published in France in 1962 & published in translation in the U.S. in 1963 by Simon & Schuster in a translation by Richard Howard. This is a 319 page poem, far messier in all directions than Donnelly’s, with a great curious energy, ranging from its very shortest section (its first):

 

               pitch dark in

CORDOVA, ALABAMA, the Deep South,

 

to its own section on South Dakota,

 

WELCOME TO SOUTH DAKOTA

 

 

 

 

                noon in

WEBSTER, Central Time, across the southern state line.

 

Blue.

 

Wood peewees,

                  rose-breasted grosbeaks,

                                   prairie pipits,

                                                field sparrows,

                                  ovenbirds,

                  yellow palm warblers,

nighthawks.

 

In winter,

                  frozen lakes,

                                      icy wind,

                                                cold sun.

 

On Mount Rushmore, the enormous, clumsily carved faces of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

 

Eagle’s Nest Butte, “Hello, Dave!” – Across the Bix Sioux River, which flows into the Missouri River, a tributary of the Father of Waters,

 

                   WEBSTER, IOWA, the Middle West, – the Tama Indian Reservation.

 

                    The Europeans sliced up the Great Plains.

 

                    “Hello, Mrs. Webster!” Storm Lake.

 

A grasshopper sparrow, perched on a rock near a pond, in the middle of a clump of phlox subulata with red-striped pink blossoms.

 

                    BUFFALO, on the Illinois state line constituted by the Father of Waters. – Only eleven o’clock in

 

BUFFALO, SOUTH DAKOTA, Mountain Time, – Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.

 

Gray.

 

In summer,

               cracked mud bottoms of the dry lakes,

                              the sun through a haze,

                                             roasting heat.

 

Pine siskins,

               golden-crowned kinglets,

                              tree sparrows,

                                             snow buntings,

                              yellow-bellied sapsuckers,

              alder ptarmigans,

Lincoln sparrows.

 

On the highway an orange Cadillac driven by a pink-faced white man (speed limit 70 miles), “get gas at the next Sunoco Station,” –Arrowhead Butte and Antelope Butte. – When it is noon in

 

NEWARK, Central Time,

 

It’s really pretty much like this for the whole 319 pages, really daft & obsessed & fascinating, with a wide open ear & eye, and one very well employed field guide to American birds.* It makes you wonder – as do more than a few of his translations – why Howard the poet never has showed even one percent of the gumption required for a project such as this.

 

Because Butor was primarily identified as a “new novelist” & critic in France, I’ve never been able to get any sense of how, if at all, this curious booklength poem ever got integrated the poetry scene there.** It may be sitting there, unassimilated altogether, a guilty conscience nagging all those small well-made poems. Like Butor, Donnelly’s focus is specifically American & you can take your pick as to whether it is an advantage for a project like this for the author to be an insider or an outsider.

 

What I do recognize, though, when reading Donnelly & Anthem, is that this is somebody who doesn’t think small & who has the “chops” to execute her vision. Projecting yourself into company such as Ashbery, Mac Low & Butor is damned audacious & every minute of it is good reading. I’m looking forward to finally meeting the writer behind these poems. If you’re anywhere near Manhattan at 6:30 PM tonight, you come down to the Drawing Center at 35 Wooster & do likewise.

 

 

 

* Butor means bittern in French.

 

** Truman Capote reviewed the book in the second issue of the New York Review of Books. You can buy an electronic copy for $4 & just the first paragraph teaser by Capote is worth reading for its condescending tone toward experimental literature in general. Note that Capote misspells the name of Marc Saporta, whose 1962 “novel,” Composition No. 1 predates Bob Grenier’s box Sentences by 16 years.

 

ш         ш         ш

 

No blog mañana – I won’t get back from New York until too late in the day.



Monday, June 23, 2003

 

Ray Davis, whose Bellona Times is one of the Grand Old Blogs, thought that if I’m going to be flippant about the history of weblogs, I should at least get it right:

 

I was startled to find this in your Bloomsday post:

 

"But in 1999 relatively few people had begun to figure out the power of blogs – the most notable example at that point was Matt Drudge, impersonating the worst journalist imaginable, right down to the pork pie hat."

 

Equivalently, "Before the 1990s, by far the most powerful member of the Language Poets was Bret Easton Ellis." Drudge called himself a journalist, the world called him by a variety of names, but no one called him a weblogger. His only connection with the form is that he self-published on the web.

 

When I started my own serial in the summer of 1999, the most notable weblog was Robot Wisdom, whose author invented the term. The group of young web designers who later tended to be referred to as "the A-list" were well under way (including the coiner of "blog" and the developers of the software you use to post your own material). Among those 1999-era weblogs more focused on aesthetic issues, Alamut and NQPaOFU (both established 1998) are still going.

 

I expect that what you meant was "But in 1999 I didn't read any blogs, and Ben Friedlander probably didn't either." There's no shame in that.

 

Best,

Ray

 

I can’t say I disapprove of any impulse to reject Matt Drudge, even if I want to quibble that “publishes a daily journal” &, especially in his case, maintains a huge blogroll, might qualify Drudge under any definition I to which I might agree. Mark Glaser includes Drudge in his chart of “most influential bloggers,” the lead story at UCLA’s Online Journalism Review site.

 

In a follow-up note, Ray added:

 

If you'd like a more appropriate link than my own site, Rebecca Blood's 2000 history is still not a bad introduction, although it predates the explosive growth of insular weblogging communities outside the web-designer world (political mobs, humanities grad students, and, most recently, poets).

 

http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/weblog_history.html

 

Best,

Ray

 

 But then Ray changed his mind:

 

Curious, I did the webberly thing and searched the literature – only to find that what I'd called "revisionist history" began (as it often does) very early on as "revisionist journalism." Although Drudge himself has expressed his typical mindless hostility toward weblogs, and although I don't know of any webloggers who were sired or dammed by Drudge's site, in fact quite a few of the early mainstream articles on weblogging pointed to the Drudge Report as an example. I imagine the usual under-the-deadline fluff-up-what-you-already-know factors were at work. "A bunch of updated links? Sounds like what Drudge is doing."

 

That's understandable. Journalists crave definitions, and when a form or a genre is coalescing, definitions are hard to make sense of. For example, this May 1999 piece from Salon (written about the time I was plotting out my web magazine and realizing that my idea of a proper "web magazine" matched the new form fairly well):

 

http://www.salon.com/tech/col/rose/1999/05/28/weblogs/print.html

 

disqualifies Drudge because of his lack of a "personal voice," but keeps the pure link lists.

 

So I apologize for my reaction: you weren't being eccentric; instead, I was being too much the insider. A nasty sin for someone who sets such great store by exogamy....

 

Best,

Ray

 

That ellipsis belongs to Ray. The eccentricity is all mine.



Sunday, June 22, 2003

 

 

Line Reading

 

Rae Armantrout

Jean Donnelly

Ron Silliman

 

Tuesday, June 24

6:30 PM

 

The Drawing Room

35 Wooster Street*

New York City

 

Admission $5 / members free

 

 

*across the street from the main gallery

 

 



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