Saturday, September 08, 2007
A history of lighght
The Grand Piano
countering the antibuzz
a non-existent journal
after Virginia Tech
A sober assessment
of the “crisis”
in newspaper book reviews
practicalities of blogging
(on not all of which
An obit for
Mary Rising Higgins
Even tho he was a right winger,
Kerouac drives The New Criterion crazy!
Who owns the rights
Beckett & Ionesco?
Just saying no
Auden’s lost poems
There’s going to be
a conference on
Serializing your novel
to the max!
Friday, September 07, 2007
Angela Ball, Night Clerk at the Hotel of Both Worlds, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh 2007
Gary Barwin & derek beaulieu, frogments from the frag pool: haiku after bashō, The Mercury Press,
Jack Collom, In the Wind: Busking Poetry on the Downtown Boulder Mall, Summer 2006, Baksún Books, Boulder 2007
Brenda Coultas, The Marvelous Bones of Time: Excavations and Explanations, Coffee House Press, Minneapolis 2007
Thomas Devaney, A Series of Small Boxes, Fish Drum, New York 2007
Jim Harrison, Letters to Yesenin, Copper Canyon, Port
Helen Losse, Paper Snowflakes, Southern Hum Press,
Justin Marks, [Summer Insular], Horse Less Press, Providence 2007
Garry Thomas Morse, Transversals for Orpheus & The Untitled 1-13, Line Books,
Michael Nicoloff, Punks, Taxt, Oakland 2007
Ron Padgett, How to be Perfect, Coffee House Press, Minneapolis 2007
President of the United Hearts, The Big Melt, Factory School, no location given, 2007
Martha Ronk, Vertigo, Coffee House Press, Minneapolis 2007
John Sakkis, The Moveable Ones, Transmission Press, San Francisco 2007
Mathias Svalina, Why I am White, Kitchen Press, New York 2007
Andrew Schelling, Caribou & Others, Track & Field,
Morgan Lucas Schuldt, Otherhow, Kitchen Press, New York 2007
Laura Solomon, Blue and Red Things, Ugly Duckling Presse,
Catherine Wagner, Everyone in the Room is a Representative of the World at Large, Bonfire Press, Fort Collins, CO 2007
Barrett Watten, Plasma / Parallèles / «X», translated by Martin Richet, Le Quartanier, Montréal 2007
The Wisdom Anthology of North American Buddhist Poetry, edited by Andrew Schelling, Wisdom, Boston 2007. Includes Will Alexander, Tsering Wangmo Dhompa, Diane Di Prima, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Norman Fischer, Sam Hamill, Jane Hirschfield, Lawson Fusao Inada, Robert Kelly, Joanne Kyger, Michael McClure, Harryette Mullen, Hoa Nguyen, Shin Yu Pai, Pat Reed, Janet Rodney, Leslie Scalapino, Gary Snyder, Arthur Sze, Nathaniel Tarn, Cecilia Vicuña, Philip Whalen, more.
Stephen Burt, The Forms of Youth: 20th-Century Poetry and Adolescence,
C.T. Funkhouser, Prehistoric Digital Poetry: An Archaeology of Forms, 1959-1995, The
Jack Kerouac, On the Road: The Original Scroll, Viking, New York 2007
Jack Kerouac, Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954, Penguin, New York 2007
Jennifer Moxley, The Middle Room, Subpress,
Charles Potts, Valga Krusa, A Memoir of Berkeley, Vol. 1, The Yellow Christ, Green Panda Press, Cleveland Heights, OH 2007
Charles Potts, Valga Krusa, A Memoir of Berkeley, Vol. 2, Laffing Water, Green Panda Press, Cleveland Heights, OH 2007
Selah Saterstrom, The Meat and Spirit Plan, Coffee House Press, Minneapolis 2007
Viktor Shklovsky, Energy of Delusion: A Book on Plot, Dalkey Archive,
Christian Wiman, Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet, Copper Canyon, Port
MiPoesias, Vol. 21, No. 4, September 2007,
The New Review of Literature, Vol. 5, No. 1, Fall 2007,
The Tiny no. 3,
All items received since August 21
Labels: Recently Received
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
“It was the sentences”
On the Road
is doing a week of articles
has several articles
On the Road
& the attention of
The Jack Kerouac Quiz
new collections page
A big birthday bash
The Boston Globe
on Ashbery & MTV
how to read
Samuel R. Delany’s
The poet as specialist
Finding Charles Simic
Plus a profile
of the new laureate
A room of one’s own,
wrote half his poems
The prison poet
The legend of
Poet of the Underworld,
The writer as recluse
”Dylan is a poet”
one more time
while another bookstore
A profile of
Don “Cookie” Collup
Poetry in emotion
The Clive James phenomenon
to Alison Croggon
(with more Clive James)
with David Kirby
Rona Jaffe Prize
A profile of
A profile of
The “Artful” Edit
Do publishers matter?
The lives of
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Is there any dynamic in the construction of meaning more powerful than the parsimony principle? The principle, which is derived from the linguistics work of Paul Kay, states that the reader, viewer, listener, consumer will – or perhaps should – incorporate the fewest extraneous details needed for the creation of coherence. It does this by presuming, to use the formula I first employed in a discussion of Joe Ceravolo & Rae Armantrout in my book The New Sentence, that
whenever it is possible to integrate two separate schema into a single larger frame-structure by imagining them as sharing a common participant the reader will do so. (ital. in the original)
The example I give in that book is of a section of Armantrout’s poem “Grace”:
a spring there
where his entry must be made
signals him on
Whenever I’ve asked students to “tell me what this means,” whether at San Francisco State in 1981 or at Naropa as recently as last summer, I’ve been offered a variety of narratives – I mention three in the book that were given at SF State, two of which I’ve come across repeatedly over the years, one being the idea of a diver in that instant leaving the board before the arc & splash of the event, the other that of the “step into character” that comes over an actor or actress as they make their entrance from backstage. Never in 26 years has a student offered the narrative Armantrout herself gave me when asked, that of vaginal lubrication.
But this doesn’t make any of these narrative scaffolds wrong. All three, in fact, line up the key terms in this passage into roughly the same configuration, tho Armantrout’s own version is the most intimate. New Criticism, wild child of 1930s academia, insisted on something akin to a Lou Dobbs approach to the parsimony principle – Brooks, Wellek, Warren, Tate, Ransom, Jarrell et al hoped to build a border wall around the text that would keep all of those migrant nuances on the far side. They had about as much success as Dobbs is going to have with his wall against undocumented Latin American workers.
Thus by the 1950s poets were already playing with the possibilities of just this dimension of reading: Creeley’s famous “I Know a Man” derives much of its power from precisely the fact that the reader situates the key verb, drive, into two possible contexts, one in which the word belongs to the narrator, the other in which the word belongs to John “which was not his / name.” Creeley himself said that the former was his original intent, but even he had to acknowledge that readers everywhere could hear both. The ambiguity in the term drive ties right back into the two narrative figures of compulsivity – “because I am / always talking” and this journey through the dark, which somehow is not now occurring in the necessary “goddamn big car” – rendering this a text about primal need in an existential universe, one hell of a lot to get into just 12 lines.
I saw a really interesting use of the parsimony principle while I was vacationing in a recent film by Jim Jarmusch, Broken Flowers. In the narrative, retired computer exec Don Johnston (played by Bill Murray doing his best Buster Keaton impression) has his live-in girlfriend (Julie Delpy) walk out on him just as he receives an unsigned letter from a prior one informing him that he has a teenage son who may be on a road trip trying to find him. Thanks to the machinations of his next door neighbor (Jeffrey Wright), an amateur sleuth,
That Jarmusch knows he is doing this, and wants you to pay attention as well, is underscored by the use of names in the film. Everyone Don Johnston meets thinks it’s funny that he has the same name as the star of
The scene on the biker farm is where the use of the parsimony principle reared up for me.
I’m not going to tell you how Jarmusch resolves this conundrum, or even if he does, but one detail that I picked up during the DVD’s extras that fit right in – besides Jarmusch’s claim that he’s not responsible for the meaning of his films, that’s the audience’s job – is the fact that Jarmusch had each of his major women characters, in rehearsal, write the original pink note, in character, to Murray, and then combined elements from all of them in the final version. Which is to say that every key actress was led to believe that she was the mother & thus played her scenes with this back story somewhere in her head. Never were the silences between characters so pregnant.
A second film that I saw just last night at the local art house in Phoenixville – the same theater that appears in the cinema scene of The Blob – is John Carney’s Irish indie musical Once, starring Glen Hansard, the lead singer of The Flames, and Markéta Irglová. Personally, I abhor musicals & am not a big fan of the sweet little romance genre either, but this film is an almost perfect argument for what can be done with these. It won an award this year at Sundance & totally deserved it. While it doesn’t have any of the meta-narrative shenanigans that Jarmusch loves, Once does make superb use of the parsimony principle in how it lets out details about the girl’s life over the course of the film. Who she is and what is possible between the two main characters transforms dramatically over the length of this film (just 96 minutes) – if we knew everything we understand at the end at the very beginning, there would be almost no dramatic tension, so the elaboration of details about her is every bit as much the narrative of this story as is the tale of two kids, the busker & the maid, and how they got together & made a demo disk of their music.
Monday, September 03, 2007
and book promotion
of gay lit
in the Village
While I was away,
both Grace Paley
Mary Rising Higgins
Sunday, September 02, 2007
It’s worth thinking about this, five years later:
I have never thought of myself as an experimental writer, but this project is clearly a step into un- (or at least under-)charted territory. My idea is to write briefly from time to time mostly about my writing and whatever I might be thinking about poetry at the moment. Other subjects (music, politics, etc.) may enter in, as they do in life.
Blogs have been around for awhile now, but to date I haven't seen a genuinely good one devoted to contemporary poetry, so it may prove that there is no audience for such an endeavor. But this project isn't about audience. The fact that the blog has the potential to carry forward the best elements of a journal and seems inherently prone to digressive, if not absolutely plotless, prose gives me hope that this form might prove amenable to critical thinking.
That was my first blog,
Five years hence, the audience question appears to have been answered – by the size of my blogroll more than the number of visits I’ve had here. It’s no longer even remotely possible for me to keep my list of other blogs up-to-date. My presumptions – that this format was conducive for critical thought and (not clearly stated above, I see now) that there was a hunger among poets for the ability to discuss craft, books, trends, politics, whatever, outside of the funneling framework that is the academy – were correct.
Another unstated presumption – that I would be able to do what I wanted in notes no longer than the one above – has proven shakier, to say the least. I had during the previous year tried a few such notes, modeled after Adorno’s Minima Moralia, a book that’s haunted me for 25 years, but my sense of the “finished” essay had me polishing single paragraphs for weeks. Few were ever completed & I never published any of them, even here. The looser, more ad hoc template of blogging proved far readier to get across what I was after.
My world in 2002 was very different. My twins were just ten years old, for example, and we could vacation in a two-room cabin, a considerable change from the five-bedroom manse we had last week in North Carolina. Gil Ott, Robert Creeley & Jackson Mac Low were all around. All were poets whose wisdom I looked to as a guide for my own actions. The Iraq War referred to something that happened during Bush I. Bush II was saying bellicose things about the government of
Blogging, it turns out, has changed the world of poetry in ways that I don’t think we fully realize just yet. There are poets who have begun their careers through blogging, at least one literary genre – flarf – that has its roots there, more than a few collections of physical books that have grown out of blogs. Blogging embodies, more than any other phenomenon I know, the web’s ability to erase or otherwise transform the limits of geography. Poets are linking up on the basis of mutual interests, which is a great thing, especially if you live somewhere other than
Of the various concepts and phrases I’ve come up with here over the past five years, none has generated more wrath than the School of Quietude. Perhaps the two most common complaints are that the idea is too simplistic and that it describes poetry as it existed at some moment in the past, but not now. Both criticisms are largely correct. There is a project – one for which I have no stomach, personally – filling in a far more adequate mapping of the conservative tradition(s) of poetry, first in the
I will, of course, continue to note the depredations of the School of Quietude where they seem apparent – every single American poet laureate, with the sole exception of William Carlos Williams in 1952 (who was appointed but never served, largely for reasons of health), has been a member of this same small coterie dating back to its creation as the poetry consultant to the Library of Congress in 1937, endowed by Archer Huntington, the semi-legitimate heir to Collis Huntington, one of the railroad barons of the 19th century. That sort of institutional oligarchy may not be as prevalent as it was, say, in the 1950s, but it has hardly disappeared. On the other hand,
¹ With the sole exception of 2001, the year he hit 73 home runs, Bonds’ numbers from 1993 through 2004 are absolutely consistent. The idea that Bonds suddenly “got powerful” outside of that one year is a fiction.
² Some other guides suggest a value as high as $5 million.