Saturday, April 03, 2010

Someone in Woodinville (just north of Seattle)
is putting the folk into folk art

Friday, April 02, 2010

Some great photos of William Carlos Williams
in Yale’s Beinecke collection
are coming online

Robert Grenier, Charles Bernstein, Bob Perelman & Al Filreis
close reading William Carlos Williams

Larry Eigner & the news

Eigner’s sensibility

Jill Magi: Notes for Labor

Talking with Susan Howe

Poetry reviews: What’s the point?

In which I am lumped together with William Logan

Ron Silliman is definitely a nerd”

CFP: The Alphabeta symposium on the poem

Remembering Lucille Clifton

The gothic castle that is the new HQ for the Poetry Foundation

Talking with Geoffrey Gatza

Aimé Césaire’s “Mississippi”

Peter Porter’s Better than God

Philly verses the world

CA Conrad: Poetry in commotion

In Ashbery’s attic

May 1st @ St. Marks in NYC,
Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror for 6 voices

The trill is gone

“The truth is that poetry gets
way more coverage

than any other art…”

Wired on Christian Bök

Bök & the Butthole Surfers

The Xenotext Experiment

Syllable sestinas

Talking with Gerard Malanga
(part two) (part three)

Gerard Malanga at Pierre Menard

Close reading a blurb

Gurlesque: What it isn’t

A Room of One’s Own
turns 35

Authors’ accessories

Why Twitter is Gertrude Stein

“Dover Beach” & Anthony Hecht

Talking with Alice Walker

Jonathan Lethem: “Crazy Friend”

Philip Whalen & the great printers

Talking with Pierre Joris

Edith Grossman: Quixotic

Olson in Worcester

& in Vancouver

Kōji Yasui, translated by Eric Selland

California Book Award nominations:
Rachel Loden & 4 quietists

Rachel Loden’s Hotel Imperium

Librarians learn by osmosis

Anthology of Russian Minimalist & Miniature Poems:
Part I, The Silver Age

Epigraphs will kick your butt

Marie Ponsot:
“70 is great, but 80 is terrific”

Cognitive theory in literature

creativity may reside
on a continuum with psychopathology”

Reciting your own poems is for supernerds,
or the worst project of my life

New Poets for Peace

Don’t loiter in paradise.

Moonstone Marathon:
14th annual Poetry Ink reading in Philadelphia, April 11
140 poets reading!

Alice Oswald wins the Ted Hughes prize

The archives of
The Joe Milford Poetry Show
is an impressive collection of audio casts

Marjorie Perloff picks Road Runner’s Scorpion Prize

Carl Adamshick has won the Walt Whitman Award

Talking with Marilyn Nelson

Canadian poets with far-away roots

More on Cyril Dabydeen

Montgomery County (PA)’s poet laureate
is Grant Clauser

Talking with Dorothea Grossman

The healing power of Jane Austen

Talking with Brad Liening

Another Poultry Month torment

Poetry Super Highway’s
6th annual
E-book Free-for-All

The influence of Lycidas

Frost & Hughes

Minding: Feeling, Form & Meaning
in the Creation of Poetic Iconicity

The prophetic Delmore Schwartz

New ebooks from
Tom Clark, Annie Finch & Jack Foley
@ the Ahadada ebook site

Nick Montfort on
the University of North Dakota Writers Conference

“It’s not your grandmother’s poetry

Your grandmother’s poetry
is exactly what you’ll find on PBS

Helen Dunmore wins National Poetry Competition

Talking with Celia Gilbert

Vonnegut library gets a home

Elsewhere in Indiana,
samplings from the Mid-East

A big Don DeLillo sale

Telling a book by its cover
when ebooks don’t have one

The Book Cover Archive

Gallimard suing Google

Apple iPad has Amazon & B&N at its mercy

Apple tells publishers how much to charge

Is Amazon a bully?

Penguin & Amazon: no deal

David Pogue on the iPad

Self-published ebooks
to make it to the iPad

What this article on the value of
print on demand vs. e-books
doesn’t tell you is how much store space
Paige M. Gutenborg takes up – it’s huge!

How it works

Fallen books


YouTube’s response to the © fight

Cecil Touchon:
vispo in Fort Worth

A history of blue

Who will save the arts in Detroit?

Pennsylvania Arts Advocacy Rally, April 26

Humanities doe make money

Looking for Nicole Peyrafitte in Trump Tower

Remembering Running Fence
(slide show)

2 views of Twyla Tharp

Henry & June

Dirk Bogarde Season

Jean-Luc Nancy on Faust

Allen Ginsberg vs. Spalding Gray

Talking with Marty Erlich

William Schuman, American muse

Talking with Laurie Anderson

Tom Clark’s Jim Carroll

Another rocker turns to poetry
(Thank you, thank you, thank you)

Bangkok is ringing

Sam Sadigursky on The Words Project

Derrida: “Waging war against myself”

E.M. Cioran & the blessings of insomnia

The Meaning of Meaning

Gay men in history,
day by day

Thursday, April 01, 2010

is the National Poultry Month
so why so many turkeys
in the month of April?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Caprica City looks suspicuously like Vancouver on a bad hair day,
right down to the mountains in the background

While half of our household has been watching the new series of Caprica – which completed its first half-season last Friday – the other half, having abstained from six years of Battlestar Galactica, is finally starting to catch up, watching the first season of that series. So in the week since Caprica wound up, I had a chance to watch a couple of episodes of the earlier series at roughly the same point of development as the new prequel. The comparison convinced me that my son Jesse is basically right – thus far BSG is much better, even if it is being written by the same people. Over & over again throughout the first eight episodes, we are spoonfed voiceovers to remind us of where we are in an increasingly bewildering multilayer narrative. If you go back to BSG, there is almost none of that, even when certain characters are multiple instances of the same cylon template. The voiceovers for the most part are dramatic monologs & are quite different from the miniature flashbacks Amanda Graystone has of her long-dead brother who appears to have wandered in from The Sixth Sense to haunt her.

From a television producers perspective, the problem with BSG was that its story was so complex that if you missed an episode, you were pretty much never able to get back in synch with what was happening. That meant that the audience could really only dwindle over time. Now, normally, the knee-jerk response of the network suits is to demand stories that are episodic & contained with in a single hour, so you join in anywhere, viz. CSI, NCIS or countless other TV dramas. And when a show violates that code of modularity & gets yanked back into the fold (viz., West Wing or even the second season of Twin Peaks), it’s almost invariably a disaster. But the folks at SyFy (then Sci-Fi) did something different in letting it play out, seeing the show as having a natural arc & a termination point set more by narrative than ratings. The result was the best narrative TV I’ve ever seen, and it wasn’t even on HBO.

So what isn’t working & why with Caprica? It’s not a sudden loss of ambition. If anything, executive producer Ronald Moore has upped the wager markedly. The problem is that he & his writers have more story arcs going than Twin Peaks ever had, just eight weeks into the first season, and it’s obviously more than they know how to keep in the air at once. That old saying about Never catch a falling knife goes for master jugglers as well, and I fear that what might get cut ultimately is this ambitious, ambiguous experiment.

Consider, by way of contrast, BSG. Midway through their first season, the 50,000 survivors of the 12 nuked colonies had figured out that cylons had evolved, had made it for the most part off of Caprica & were even being prepared by the reconstituted government to start on a quest for the mythic planet Earth. The problem of identifying cylons that no longer looked like “toasters” was a serious issue & while we sense some divisions between certain cylons, we don’t spend a lot of time with them, nor on the other ships in the hastely thrown together fleet that has gathered around the museum-grade battlestar for safety. A show might focus on Admiral Adama, on viper pilot Starbuck & on Gaius Baltar’s relationship with the hallucinatory cylon Six, plus on Boomer’s relationship with the Chief (and a second Boomer’s relationship with another Galactica officer on Caprica). Plenty for a 42-minute episode.

That is about one quarter of what one gets into a comparable episode of Caprica. William Graystone, Faust by way of Bill Gates, is struggling to keep his corporation alive and deliver the military robot – he has coined the term cylon for cybernetic life form node – while dealing with the fact that his operating system was stolen from a Tauron corporation whose head is playing hardball to expose Graystone as ultimately responsible for two scientists slain in the theft. When she’s not seeing images of her dead brother, his psychiatrically fragile wife Amanda is in a deep depression triggered by the death of their daughter Zoe by a terrorist bombing (initiated, in fact, by Zoe’s boyfriend), while being courted by Clarice, the headmistress of Zoe’s school, who just happens to be the head of a cell of Soldiers of the One (STO), an off-world gang of monotheists, your basic Christian militia, out to carry out God’s Will. Meanwhile Zoe may be dead, but it hasn’t slowed her down all that much. Her avatar or apotheosis – the show has used both terms – was downloaded from a hacked version of something akin to SecondLife that was the source of Graystone’s fortune (he invented the holodeck band, basically virtual-reality glasses that every teenager on Caprica has to have) & by accident Zoe has gotten stuck, as it were, inside the prototype cylon robot, her life dependent on its hard drive. The only creatures that know this seem to be her dog (it barks at the cylon & wants to play fetch) and her best friend Lacey. (Her father suspects she's in there, but between a child and a profit, well, he knows where his loyalty lies.) She has convinced Lacey to help her complete the mission that she, Zoe & the train bomber Ben originally had set out on, to meet up with the STO on the planet Gemenon. Since stealing a one ton, eight-foot robot & getting it to another planet is not something your average high school girl is going to be able to do inconspicuously, she has had join a separate, rogue STO cell, run by Barnabus (think Dickens’ Fagin mixed with Charlie Manson, or perhaps Cinque of the Symbionese Liberation Army). Now I have not even mentioned Joseph Adams / Yusef Adama’s quest to find the avatar of his daughter, a teen likewise killed in the train explosion, [his surviving son (who will grow up to be the Edward James Olmos character in BSG, the only link thus far to the characters of the other series),] who has likewise been set loose in the hacked-realm of the V-world, where she has become the most dangerous lady in New Cap City, a game in which getting “killed” means your character cannot come back, but which doesn’t work on her since there is no original player with a holodeck sourcing her role. She is, in her words, a "ghost." Nor have I mentioned the ongoing thread of the FBI investigation into the bombing, the attempt by the Tauron corporation to make Graystone sell his Pyramid team, Adama’s brother Sam, a hit man in the Tauron variation of the mafia, but happily married to a guy named Larry.

That is all a bit much to fit into that same 42-minute time slot, but they’re trying, while also trying to keep folks oriented as best they can with all these cringy voiceovers. There are some unexplained details – such as how did Adama’s legal secretary know how to reach the dead daughter Tara in New Cap City – and potentially important figures who have already been killed off. In the last seconds of the eighth episode, one character is being driven in a limo that has been sabotaged with a large bomb, sees another character about to jump off a bridge & steps out of the car just in time to be away from it when it explodes while the escaping robot – it has fled to avoid hard drive wiped & reinstalled sans Zoe – crashes through a military barricade while one high school girl decides to save her self & her boyfriend by willingly killing her teacher. All of this happens in less than one minute. Just as the first foot of the jumper leaves the bridge we see the bomb go off. What happens next, Buck Rodgers?

The confluence of fortunate (or un-) coincidences at the end of the eighth episode were so overdone that Jesse & I were laughing our heads off as cars crashed & bombs exploded – not, I suspect, the intended effect. And not one that BSG gave rise to, even as some of its episodes are jaw dropping in their levels of allusion – there is an ongoing underlayer of topicality to BSG that Caprica thus far has only skimmed. Mostly, I think the creators of the new series, emboldened no doubt by reconceiving & rewriting the entire end of the series during the writers strike midway through the final season(Wasn’t that verboten?) are daring themselves to see just how much narrative trouble they can get themselves into in hopes that they can get it all to fit rubik-cubelike together later on. I did note two references in one of the early BSG episodes to elements of life on Caprica (“a pickup game of pyramid,” Adama describes his father as a “civil liberties lawyer”) which are spot on to the prequel seven years later. Maybe they can pull this off when the show returns in the fall. But for now, to deliberately mash up a metaphor, their narrative chutzpah is eating them alive.

You can watch all eight episodes of Caprica on Syfy Rewind.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An outfit by Emilio Sosa using a print of his own design

At the start of last week’s Project Runway, with seven of the original 16 contestants still remaining, I told Krishna that I thought I could tell who the final four should be, but not necessarily the final three. The seventh season of PR has a strong group of designers, much more so than in the show’s rocky & unsatisfying sixth round, the lone season filmed in LA rather than Manhattan. I’m not certain that any of last season’s designers would still be around if dropped into the current pool of wannabe Alexander McQueens & Stella McCartneys. Conversely, there were at least eight designers in the current group who, had they been in the Season Six mix, should have ended up in the top three, the numbers we are told who show in Bryant Park. What we are told, because of the narrative requirements of the TV series, now in its second season on Lifetime after six on Bravo, is not what people see in the tents of Fashion Week. In order to keep from revealing who has been eliminated before it is actually shown on television, PR has had to show work from some contestants no longer in the running. Because of ragged timing created by the move from Bravo to Lifetime (and the accompanying suits between the two networks), this season’s runway show actually took place when there were still ten contestants. The buzz I had heard from the Runway fan blogs was that people in the tent had actually liked the work of Anthony Williams best. And I had him down as one of my Final Four, along with Emilio Sosa, Seth Aaron Henderson & Mila Hermanovski.

So imagine my surprise Thursday night when Anthony Williams was eliminated.

It’s a shame, not because Williams is the strongest designer in the world – he’s not – but he is great TV. In a tradition that began with Jay McCarroll, Austin Scarlett & Wendy Pepper in Runway’s first season & has continued with Santino Rice & his thermonuclear ego, Andrae Gonzalo, Chris March, & Christian Soriano in more recent years, PR has had a steady stream of personalities that just blossom in front of a camera. Williams, an African American from Birmingham, Alabama, dresses modestly but verbally is ever so flamboyant & undyingly an optimist. After he was “auf’d” by show host Heidi Klum, Anthony went around cheering up everyone else who was feeling blue about his departure. I can imagine him doing a glorious red-carpet fashion police commentary on E! some day.

Nor is Williams is the first eliminated contestant whom many commentators thought had the strongest runway show at Bryant Park. Scarlett, who finished fourth in the first season, not only got similar commentary, but has gone on to be one of Runway’s most successful alums professionally. The other really successful alum has been Kara Saun, whose client roster of A-list celebs starts with Heidi Klum.

So now the series is down to just six of the original 16 contestants, and Anthony’s departure has changed my thinking about the final three. For one thing, I don’t think it’s a contest for the final three spots. Rather, I think it’s two parallel contests, with two slots going to male designers, one going to one of the two remaining women. On a level playing field, it’s conceivable that there would be no women among the finalists, but, having moved the show from the “gay channel” to the “women’s channel,” I can’t imagine that the shows producers would be so tone deaf as to let that happen.

The two male finalists should certainly be Emilio, the Dominican-born, Harlem raised designer who has won the most challenges thus far into the season, and Seth Aaron, a San Diego native who practices his punk-flavored work from Vancouver, Washington (a suburb of Portland). It’s not that Jay Sario, the Philippine-born, San Francisco-based, or Jonathan Peters of Providence, aren’t talented. But Seth Aaron & Emilio have generally stood out all season long, tho Emilio also survived perhaps the worst single outfit any designer has ever attempted to send down the runway, a “one piece bikini” made up of washers bought in a hardware store that left his model more or less naked on the runway. Seth Aaron has only once had a piece that was in the lower scores from which the eliminations occur, and his look is consistent & has an edge that the Runway judges have tended to like a lot over the years. Right now I think Seth Aaron is a slight favorite to win the whole shebang.

But the person who I think has the best chance of sneaking in & winning it all is 22-year-old Maya Luz, the lone contestant who, to this point in Season Seven, has never once won a week’s challenge. She has also never been in the low group facing elimination. In a sense, her season has run parallel to that of Jay McCarroll, who won the first season without ever first winning a challenge for any of the weeks leading up to the finale. McCarroll’s post-Runway struggles have been documented – literally, in the superb film 11 Minutes – especially when contrasted with the success of Scarlett (who won two of the individual challenges that season) & Saun (who won four). If Maya gets all the way to the final three without winning a single challenge, this might hurt her with the judges later on.

Mila was the person I thought was most likely to win earlier in the season – her sharply tailored suits generally look terrific. But she has been among those facing elimination for three consecutive weeks & seems to have lost her way. Also, her absence among the finalists would mean that everyone in the televised portion of Bryat Park is at least 38-years old, which is probably not the age bracket that Lifetime is hoping to attract.

The one big variable I can’t foretell is the impact of the Bryant Park shows themselves. Given some time to produce an actual collection – and not being told that they have $50 and one day to produce something from materials found in a hardware store – some contestants shine whereas others have tended to stray. Kara Saun’s final collection in Season 1 proved too safe, a charge nobody has ever made about Jay McCarroll. In Season 2, Daniel Vosovic won five of the 11 weekly challenges – still the PR record (& only Kara Saun has won 4) – but lost out to the more experienced Chloe Dao who had a better sense of how best to construct an entire show. And experiece definitely helps. Of the eight original contests this season who were in their twenties, six are already gone. Of those age 30 & above, half of the original eight still remain.

At this point in Season 7, Emilio has won 3 challenges, Seth Aaron & Jay have won 2 each (a total that includes a week when Emilio & Seth both won a team challenge, the first time PR has declared co-winners), Jonathan & Mila one apiece, Maya none. That should make Emilio a slight favorite, but I don’t have as strong a sense of an overall aesthetic from him as I do from Seth Aaron, but as I say my inclinations at this moment aren’t super strong. Nobody stands out as strong as, say, Christian Soriano did in Season 4 (tho Christian won just three of the weekly challenges). Which means that we’re at the woulda, coulda, shoulda stage. There are at least four contestants remaining who would be credible winners, maybe three who conceivably could win, but nobody ultimately who flat out should.

Project Runway’s ancillary spin-off, Models of the Runway has also benefited from the move back to New York. Or, maybe, midway into the new series’ second season, the producers have finally figured out how to get into the young women & make them seem more three-dimensional. Still, it is evident that none of these women gave up a career as a surgeon to walk the runway, and it’s questionable how many of them really hear – even as Heidi Klum & some of the other famous models who turn up on this series reiterate it over & over – the lesson that the most successful models are not the most beautiful, nor the thinnest nor the tallest, but the hardest working & most prepared. Nor is the model who “wins” by being paired with the winning designer apt to be the best, either. In fact, that certainly won’t happen since Holly Ridings, easily the best of this season’s lot, was eliminated a couple of weeks back when Emilio Sosa switched to another model (Klum glowered at Sosa, dumbfounded by his decision). The remaining models knew it too. Their lot in some ways is harder even than the overworked, stressed out designers with whom they’re working, in that they can be sent more or less literally bare-assed down the runway & end up being “auf’d” because they were paired up with a clueless clothier. If the essence of Project Runway’s success is letting creative people be creative – a remarkably untested idea in the world of television – a season of Models of the Runway ought to persuade any impressionable viewer that this can be a grueling & unfair profession. I’d rather load trucks in a warehouse.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hissa Hilal & “oil money flowering into verse”
Can Hissa Hilal win it all?
She stands her ground
Amy King on
The What Else of Queer Poetry
The Rae Armantrout trading card
The accessibility of Rae Armantrout
How many constants should there be?
Rae Armantrout’s quasi-scientific methodology
“a Chesire poetics”
The meaning of Keith Waldrop & Rae Armantrout
winning “major” awards
Mexican poets tour London in April
Charles Olson nears 100
Potential form & Hank Lazer’s Portions

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jean-Luc Godard’s homage to Eric Rohmer