In which microcosm pops up, of course, Ignatius Donnelly, searching for Shakespeare while "Henry" searches for Pushkin the cat.

"I think he will take this island home in his pocket & give it to his son for an apple."
- Wm. Shakespeare, The Tempest
& then Henry wrote a fictional Providence microcosm [concluding in a Finneganesque infinity on Good Friday] about a character named "Henry" who was begotten in the orgone box of John Berryman, who jumped off the bridge down the road from the house his (Henry's) grandfather built, on River Road, by the Mississippi (John H. Ravlin, who was born on January 6 (Epiphany), the day that Georg Cantor died).
Last Sunday was Kurt Godel's birthday (Cantor's successor).
[correction : Monday. April 28. The day I was posting about Faith & Reason to Anastasios. At 1:32 pm, same time as this post. 132 : the number of Stubborn Grew. (Why? Long story. I used to live at 132 6th St. It's the number of a waltz (a 1-3-2. . .). It's the number of Beethoven's most beautiful quartet. It's the number of rooms in the White House. It's the number of acres in N. Main Cemetery. It's the # of square ft in Grace Church, downtown Providence. Add "one" and it's the secretive number of Finnegans Wake (1132).]

Creation like a mobius strip, because:
there exists no set which contains everything (since a subset of this set would be the set itself, and it would take a yet larger set to contain the set which contains everything). Cantor equated this vanishing pt. with God, the Absolute.

Poor Cantor ended his days in an asylum, alternating between the riddle of transfinite numbers, and trying to prove that Bacon was Shakespeare. Maybe he was reading Ignatius Donnelly, who also turned to the Shakespeare puzzle when his career (politician, in this case) was hitting the rocks. Great orgone boxes think alike.

Mysteries of the infinite continua of the line.

((Rudy. Georg Cantor, a persecuted Jewish mathematician, who showed that infinite dimensions were contained in a 1-dimensional line, who was grief-stricken at the early death of an only son, named Rudy :: Leopold Bloom, a persecuted Jewish Irish fictional character, contained within the lines of a microcosmic verbal Dublin, who was grief-stricken at the early death of an only son, named))


. . . so I guess if you wanted to play with the analogy between the Cantorian infinite-dimensional (geometric) line, and the Mandelshtamian infinitely dense (poetic) line - and you thought of writing in general as a compression of dimensions - and you thought of Time as one of the dimensions. . .

then you could imagine a technical basis for the notion that poetry is this sort of distinct perennial activity-in-Nowness, as I tried to outline earlier in the archives. . . Mandelstam [paraphrasing]: "we don't want the text of Ovidius Naso, we want the living breathing Ovid!" - and - "only the moment of recognition is sweet to us". . .

- thinking of when I read the Sonnets at age 19 and had the uncanny sense that Shakespeare was talking directly to me from another dimension. . . and then Ecclesiastes dropped by ("vanity, vanity. . ."). . .

Time dimensions encrypted in sentences. Someone speaking to you, face to face.
funny Nada for 4/29.
Jordan blogues:

"Not for the righteous but for the sinners: a preacher on the A platform at 125 last Friday (Greek Good Friday) likened faith in God to the certainty when above the surface of the water that we will be able to breathe."

Baptism. Water & Fire. The Spanish name for the Mississippi River was Rio del Espiritu Santo. (In July, Bluejay at the nadir of the delta pulls Henry out of a well & puts a paper hat/boat on his head.)
Reading an interesting book about the mathematician Georg Cantor, of infinity & set theory fame. Proved that any point, numbered on a grid of any dimension (2, 3, 4, 5 dimensions...), can also be located on a line (1 dimension). Not sure why this was so shocking and revolutionary back in the 1880s, since a point is defined as dimensionless, hence you could locate infinite points anywhere. But I'm not a mathematician.

But it makes me think of poetics of Mandelstam & Joyce. Mandelstam describing poetry as an art whose humble exterior disguises a multidimensional reality of "terrifying density". Omry Ronen, in his book Approach to Mandelstam, took him at his word, and in a huge book analyzing just two poems, gives them an image of allusive INFINITY : each LINE bearing so much weight of fused & transmuted literary echoes & other references. Joyce does something similar in the prose of Ulysses & FW.

And of course verbal art in general is a process of compressing multidimensional reality into a near-dimensionless medium.
Across my desk :

new 2-vol selected poems by Elena Shvarts, published in Petersburg by Pushkin Publ. Wish I could read it more easily ! But it will be good practice.
You could start almost anywhere with Simone Weil, Anastasios. Her extremism is seemingly inseparable from her genius, she's one of the most moving & powerful writers I've ever read. There are some essays which are in the form of devotional meditations - I think some are collected in Waiting for God. Also the very curious tract The Need for Roots deals with this question of an inherent thirst for God, in the context of a kind of neo-medieval social vision. My favorite works are the 2-vol. Notebooks, a posthumous collection, a grand mish-mash of theological/scientific/philosophical/gnostic/aesthetic notes & plans for essays, also Intimations of Christianity Among the Ancient Greeks, where her extensive knowledge of mathematics is brought to bear on some very beautiful theological speculations.

Simone Weil was deeply troubled & divided about established religion. Though a devout Catholic on an intellectual level, she refused to participate in the institution of the Church; though Jewish, her notebooks are filled with antagonism toward Old Testament Hebrew religion (she equates the Hebrews with the Romans as forms of totalitarian society). Perhaps there was an element of self-hatred at work. I'm not that familiar with the details of her biography, except that she died in a London hospital during WW 2, exiled from France, essentially of starvation, in solidarity with the French people. She loved the Greeks & she loved France. And she had a compassionate awareness of, and participation in, human suffering, which radiates through everything she wrote (and did).


an old poem from Way Stations

Between the parchment of an ending testament
and tongue-tied shadows crowded in a dream -
between blind feelers urgent in the city
and useless talent lodged in bitter syllables -

hanging, balanced on a grim little hill
among thieves and huddled followers, the Word
consents to dying in an empty theater -
to match the futile world with an empty tomb.

I spent the afternoon on Orthodox Easter raking up 16 bags of leaves from the church yard. Then I finished making some stew & took it over to the monthly discussion pot luck (I live across the street from Church of the Redeemer, a pretty little Episcopal church on Hope St.). Our topic was Reason & Faith - how we reconcile/differentiate/hold them in suspension in our own lives.

Redeemer reminds me of the church I was brought up in in Minneapolis. Old stucco & woodwork, faintly Tudor I guess.

I said that while the relations between Reason & Faith are a hot topic these days, what with all the "clash of cultures", Western democracy & Islam - and it's fascinating in its own right - it seems to me that the role of Christ in the world - his action - occurs on a more basic level, so basic it's below intellectual radar. Christ is "the lamb of God who takes away sin" : essentially a priestly role, a very specific action, which is the forgiveness of sin & thereby the healing & redemption of souls. Just as the soul is found at some core level where intellect, emotion & spirit are fused together in the Self, the Person - so this is where Christ's action takes place. It's deep below or within history, time, argument, debate, etc. It appears, when it appears to consciousness, as an awareness of sin - Joyce's "agenbite of inwit" - the awareness of being in a state of sin in need of redemption. This is why Christ in the Gospels says, "I came not for the righteous, but for sinners". We're talking about a spiritual reality somewhat on a different plane from the intellectual debates about whether God exists etc., the relations between secular & sacred, philosophy & theology, etc. Dante's Divina Commedia illustrates this distinction marvelously. The poet-pilgrim takes an encyclopedic journey through all history & all social roles - but the spiritual states of sin which condemn individuals to hell or assign them to purgatory or deliver them to heaven have nothing to do with their social status or their worldly prestige.

I've been interested in Roger Williams' perspective, as described in some of the biographies. In his letters & writings he argued consistently, as is well known, for the separation of church & state. Less well known perhaps is his background worldview which gave rise to these positions. Williams considered global civil society as ordained, established by God, the Holy Spirit (or "Spirit of Truth"). He liked to remind English folk that the Narragansetts & the Turks & the Chinese & lots of other cultures often showed themselves more civilized, more kindly, more wise than those denizens of "Christian" nations. The knowledge of right and wrong, of justice, of natural law, has been implanted in all people & every culture. Christianity, rightly understood, does not act on this plane : rather, it's an activity of salvation on the plane of the eternal soul, a different dimension from civil society, though its effects (of sin & grace) can be visible there, on a social level. Williams: "Eternity, O Eternity ! That is our Business."

Westerners, as inheritors of this tradition of the separation of church & state, can show bias & complacency toward Islam, for example (ie. as an example of a religion which blurs the separation of religion & politics). But in doing so, secular society divorces itself from an essential aspect of human identity : the soul's thirst for God, which is reflected in all genuine philosophy & religion. Simone Weil, for one, wrote feelingly about this essential thirst.


I guess Minnesota might win both the hockey & b-ball championships this year. Timberwolves vs. Lakers - the old MN team (Minneapolis - City of Lakes).
I guess this must be Orthodox Holy Saturday, right, Astanasios ? - Renhy

from toward the end of Stubborn Grew (finished on Good Friday):

In time it was. For his bird-day was springing
toward the last para-trump, and was it time? In
time it was. Trump April last - for the twin
springing was daddy-bird his, for birthdaying!

For twelve is a happy numby, and April
a pleasant isthmus, all gold together nicily
though in Minersoda ice frizzy somedaytimely!
Them twinners were pretty cities, Will -

still are they! Arise then, and gold -
we shall pellmell pilgrummage our wheaty
way homeward now, and celebeatify
the drum for he is raisin hupahole hold

fulla goldbroth and cisterns! He is raisin,
thought the vinelady - gripin abit at the pall - but
wheelbarrow it an iron it an roost it an itwill all
comb outa gain in the washingtons. Jeffersin?

Me? Not know - right left wrought lift rut loft
all the siamese twines will process us cheese us
milk us bore us bier us berry us cream us
dream us as Oswego along the rusty rus trailaloft

the bearing straitened circumnavastints
in the Pete's sacreblueship toward the originatal
redman - a dimeforhis name? - is omegal
too one zero and we shall meet him in the quint-

existenting tonight on the old campground
on our way now to Indian Point. Himalayatied out
yet? Not yet? Then pint your ompeter toward at
land - tissue almondjoy yet? Stormepetrelbound?

(O Petrasbornagains, O svleet Musk-
ovyntights - all Meldamshtombletamed!
Who Akhmeldovatend, who Tsvetavelvattuned,
whocoowhorldinalbatrysted, frosencaroltruthedusk.)
71 years ago today, at noon, Hart Crane leapt to his death from the S.S. Orizaba into the Caribbean, near Cuba.

here's one of his poems:


For Grace Hart Crane

Green rustlings, more-than-regal charities
Drift coolly from that tower of whispered light.
Amid the noontide's blazed asperities
I watched the sun's most gracious anchorite

Climb up as by communings, year on year
Uneaten of the earth or aught earth holds,
And the grey trunk, that's elephantine, rear
Its frondings sighing in aetherial folds.

Forever fruitless, and beyond that yield
Of sweat the jungle presses with hot love
And tendril till our deathward breath is sealed -
It grazes the horizons, launched above

Mortality - ascending emerald-bright,
A fountain at salute, a crown in view -
Unshackled, casual of its azured height
As though it soared suchwise through heaven too.

An old mini-pseudo-manifesto:


The annual Conference of Literary and Academic Professionals (a major undertaking which attracts each year approximately 12.5 million scholars from every corner of the globe) took place in Providence, Rhode Island last April, and as I had arrived a day early, with time to kill, I rang up a local poet named Henry Gould (at the immense library where he is employed), and we agreed to meet for coffee nearby.

Gould seemed at home in the seedy (art-student/slacker) ambience of the place, with his unkempt hair hung low over a frayed lumberjack shirt and his nervous fingers and lips playing with an unlit cigarette. I sensed immediately the irritable guardedness often remarked upon in the narrow subculture of ephemeral poets in which he has been supposed – or at least had been until a few years ago – to circulate in a certain sluggish, reserved and hesitant fashion. Little did I foresee how many hours I would remain there, facing him across a crumby & coffee-smudged formica counter, soaking up his theory of poetry, which he defines simply as: “Pushkinism”. Rather than try to paraphrase, blend, or homogenize Gould’s words, I will present my notes, in which I transcribed his statements as accurately as I could manage after returning to my hotel room (Marriott, room #132).


Pushkinism is literary professionalism. The poet is an author and the author is a free man or woman and the poet’s work lacks the slightest whiff of necessity, force, uncertainty, guile, venality, apprenticeship, imitation, vanity, trickery, cajolery, laziness, stupidity, vulgarity, ignorance, naivete, provincialism, snobbery, falsehood, malice, envy, boredom, academicism, self-indulgence, arrogance, indifference, corruption, effeteness, boasting… Pushkinism is pure in heart.

Pushkinism recognizes an irreducible distance between everyday life and the making of poetry – a distance measured by two processes in symbiosis: the presence of the muse and an extreme state of intellectual effort and concentration. Populists, seducers and entertainers who are unwilling to acknowledge this distance need to find another hobby.

Pushkinism denounces and avoids literary subcultures. To put it more strongly: Pushkinism asserts that literary creation – that awesome work of Nature – is a process of transcending, reversing, defeating, and destroying every literary clique, program, subculture, and sinecure in the entire universe.

Pushkinism is Romany violins. Pushkinism is rare. Pushkinism is a gift of God. Pushkinism is nativity and incarnation. Pushkinism is Mendelssohn.

Pushkinism is pure escape, pure aesthetic indifference, pure freedom, pure joy. Thus Pushkinism is the discovery of God (mediated by the muse) through art, in whose company pure escape is transfigured into unending labor, humble servanthood, complete sacrifice, clear mystery, mysterious clarity.

Pushkinism is humanism: the force of the charismatic ordinary person bringing State and Ideology to their knees. Democracy and common sense and the common good and universality and individuality and life everlasting and the grace of God. The Captain’s Daughter and The Bronze Horseman and The Queen of Spades and Boris Godunov and Eugene Onegin.

Pushkinism understands that art is a force of nature, an expression of a time and a people, a correlation and reflection of the same. Art is time being redeemed: do not think of it as consolation, hobby, clubhouse, personal possession, or rebellion. No one owns it, no one configures it, no one encapsulates it, no one contains it: it belongs to people, they find it for themselves.

Pushkinism is the brilliance of human knowledge given back, humbly returned, to the superhuman sources of beauty which both frame and transcend it. This is the power of melody, harmony, and rhythm (instilled by the muse).

Pushkinism is the meekness of Pegasus rearing his head, first in this land, then in that land… Pushkinism is a band of Scythian horsemen, bringing (as Mandelstam wrote) the young ones safely to their wedding… Pushkinism is the steady drone of cicadas scattered high in the cottonwoods.

Pushkinism is the recognition of art’s perennial quality - that which runs deeper than change or fashion in the melody of a line or the balancing of passages or the denouement of a tale. Pushkinism is the welling-up of a Breugel-spring: earth’s everlasting variety and renewal.

Pushkinism is classicism – as understood by Mandelstam and Celan: ie., not experiment, but the fulfillment of a vow; not an appeal, but a faithful return of what was freely given.


The hour was getting late, and I was due to present my paper early the following morning (the complete paper, titled “Scrambled Eggs and Exactitude : a Reconsideration of Diner Literature from 20th-Century New England”, can be found at my website, www.profproof.com), so I bid my provincial poet farewell, with an encouraging slap on the shoulder (to which he responded with a characteristic squint and a drag on his depleted cigarette), and headed up and outward to the street.


At dusk, in early Springtime, as you approach the margins of Blog, your rubbers squelching with a soft "schmuck-schmuck" in the saturated peat scurf, you will hear a high-pitched, cacaphonous white noise in the distance (or is it nearby now?). . . it's the piping of countless peepers, floating half-submerged across a vast green muddy membrane, seeping as one into approaching night. [click here for National Geographic Special Peeper-Op]
Rhode Island state motto : "Hope".

[State seal : an anchor. state bird : rooster (Rhode Island Red). Statehood Day : May 29th.]

Providence Renaissance notes : after the fall of Vincent "Buddy" Cianci, & the election of new, activist mayor & governor, politics is getting behind the "Cities Count" project, devised by NGOs, to counter the disequilibrium between wealthy suburbs & impoverished ghetto-cities (Providence, Central Falls, Pawtucket, Woonsocket).
Theme of "domestic hellenism" in Mandelstam's essays. Poetics of celebration of mankind "at home" in this world - ecology of civilization.

Eden Again.

from India Point


The winter mist, the angles of rooftops,
the shadowy academies, the swoop
of wren between the dripping
trees. Odysseus, wrestling Cyclops

far from home, remembers the kitchen stove.
From the low barn in the farmyard
starting out and returning, a star-word
points the bricks toward unbounded love

and the subtle flicker of a snakeskin
(in and out of the muddy ground) portends
another springtime (umbilical, endless).
A morris-dance in every Troy-town

coils around its secret law. A cold iron
ring (forged in starlight) turns molten gold.


You turn your face toward the truth
like a grandmother gazing at the hearth.

Unbending law under a dogwood branch
swaying in the early wind of March.
Bead on the level. Night-watch
on horizon-line. Gyro (unchangeable) -

what seemed fatal (Time's unfolding,
imperturbable). Donated to chance,
equilibrium - beyond remonstrance
seemingly - Darwinian - til holding

only held (mold or death-mask) -
far light outlining final shape.
Oval of your murmuring lips,
a lofty, graceful arabesque.

I'm reading you, Anastasios. (& Pantaloons & the Hessian & UluNada & Burly & ManyanUdder, as I have time.)
Jonathan writes:
"We can't say we are getting to what the Greeks were really about: we can only
substitute another representation of Greekness for one we see as outmoded or

But see Peter Murphy's essay cited below. Ionian polis/poiesis architecture, stemming from Hippodamus and others:
1) designed new city spaces (colonies) which allowed mingling of heterogeneous populations of strangers, because they were based on the universal "justice", or mathematical proportions, of the cosmos - creating the artifice of civilized life;
2) followed nature (phusis) not by simple imitation but by creative estrangement - the "truthful lie" - the lie that reveals both its genealogy & its dependence on something more fundamental than genealogy (these same cosmic proportions). The example here is civic architecture, in which marble pillars & other architectural forms are meant to resemble, without copying exactly, the elements of the simple wooden hut or original dwelling.

Basically Murphy argues that all the nationalistic & historicist neo-Classical revivals of the 19th century missed the point, both by asserting the tribe or nation as opposed to the civic & cosmopolitan, and by thinking that appropriating Greek style was a "historical" process, when the Greeks themselves showed that the Classical is an imitation of nature itself on a more basic level, the image of universal proportion evoked from opposing forces. The essay explores how the loss of "polis"-design has consequences for political formations (when politics devolves from free participation & creative collaboration into various forms of patronage & anomie ).

Anyway, the implications of the essay are that it MIGHT be possible, in a way, to get at what the Greeks were really about - because they were getting at aspects of civilization & civic life which are truly universal (in a sort of "physical", scientific, "urban planning" sense).

Jonathan's comment is, on the one hand, true in the Greek sense (of producing a "truthful lie" for a different historical era); on the other hand, if we produce a "truthful lie" based on universal creative design in nature, we ARE getting at what the Greeks were really about. Both and.


Powered by audblogaudblog audio post Island Road # 11 and 12. My wife says it doesn't sound like me. That's all right. Hippodamus designed cities for playful strangers, according to the phusis(nature) of the cosmos; principles of universal proportion & mediation that so fascinated Simone Weil. (See the fine essay by Peter Murphy, "Architectonics", in Agon , Logos, Polis : the Greek achievement and its aftermath, ed. by Murphy & Arnason, Steiner Verlag, 2001.)
Hart Crane's Atlantis.
Paterson, Dogtown.
Brodsky : "Mankind was put on this earth for one purpose : to make civilization."
Mandelstam's definition of his poetics (Acmeism): "nostalgia for world culture".
& on the other hand, Akhmatova, transmuting Leningrad (& Russia) into herself.

The idea that every human being has a rightful place in a Kosmopolis, before which both the imperial metropolis and the colonial backwater are ephemeral parochialisms, fleeting fashions of human behavior, passing away.

World-city, evoked most forcefully by those who miss it the most - the exiled homeless hobo poet, Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva, Walt Whitman wandering around ("W.W. is his name crowned here & gone").
Haven't had much time to blog lately.

Readers probably put off by my para-religious discourse sometimes. I can't help it, sorry : it's part of me, ever since religio-psychological crisis here at old Brunonia in 1973, when I thought Shakespeare & Jesus were hovering around my dorm room.

My work in poetry a scrap heap of hesitant forays. Line from which the title came :
"Hesitant, grieving, stubborn grew, the rose."

Have been reading a lot about the ancient Greeks. Am interested in POETICS as an exploration of the borderline between different kinds of knowledge : philosophy, science, history, poetry. & poetry as means of presenting states of feeling & experience that are elusive, not so easily subject to definition & categorical discourse. Talking about this some in the Jacket interview with Kent Johnson.

No, this blog post is not a resume, sorry.
No David H., I'm not a "projectivist". Too much magic thinking & mumbo-jumbo, not enough art.

But I AM recurrently interested, very much so, in the concepts circling around poetry and "polis", or city-making. It's a steady theme in Pound, WCW, Olson, Crane's long poems. It's something I've generally taken an interest in, having an M.A. & experience in neighborhood organizing, living in a little city-state, etc. No this is not a resume, sorry.

Poetry is not rational discourse. But it's not necessarily irrational. Wallace Stevens was so interested in this issue. It's not rational because underlying its organicness (sound & sense synthesis, animality) is a kind of a priori AFFIRMATION, prior to dialectics or discussion. It's an enunciation all by itself that creates a roundedness, a sense of pleroma, fulness. That a priori emphatic phatic speech - is that what worried the philosopher (Plato)?

Funny doubleness of poetry : dangerously solipsistic on the one hand; amazingly responsive to direct immediate particular reality, nature, thingness, emotion, experience, on the other. Consequence of the impulse to make sounds, prior to their "correctness", appropriateness (Dante ends Divina Commedia with imitation of baby talk).

Yet the art is about fitness & finish. Which also represent or reflect ethical qualities. Place in good poetry where technique, theme, inspiration coalesce. Cannot be willed or faked. Also often domesticated into permanent Boredom-world (I too dislike it).

Orphism represented "soul search" in Greek world of power-polis. World poetry, poetry in English, American poetry, New American subcultures - what a universe of Babble ! But poetry is an unaccountable synthesis, an appearance of talent, a rarity. & we sicken ourselves on rich food.

Here's an old poem (I know, I posted this back in Jan.):

at noon

Orpheus sings alone,
his lyre left in the wind
moaning in elliptical harmony.

Persephone sleeps, her head
hidden in her arms, and shadows
of clouds passing over her hair.

And John, in his prison, hears
dance music in the rooms above,
and the sound of an axe on stone.


I wrote too much here yesterday.


Thank you, Jordan. Me & Ceravolo! I was reading him with joy in 1970. I too believe in the resurrection as imminent historical event : I just think it might feel like a good reading experience (say, Finnegans Wake or Pale Fire).
Let's say the shadow of secularism is mechanism - materialist, amoral, in a mechanical void. The shadow of theism is totalitarianism - cult of personality combined with mind-control (sounds a lot like a war between them, in the vicinity of Ur of the Chaldees). Let's say the light of secularism is humanism, out of Athens : the notion of the divine as a principle of balance, about which no individual mortal or group can claim to formulate anything absolutely authoritative. Origins of democracy. Let's say the light of theism is a covenantal God of Love, out of Jerusalem : a kind of antithetical trickster-Yahweh, patched together out of Abraham's familial daemon & Moses' slave-liberator God - antithetical because a critical mirror-image of the authoritarian sacred kingship of the Middle East.

Both Greek humanism & Hebrew theism, then, can be said to integrate strictly human power & capability with an intervening divine principle (balance, Nature, justice, on the one hand; creator-Yahweh on the other). Greek tragedy images the choral nature of humanism : not a single voice, but many, in a wheel of nature. Hebrew prophets exemplify the poetic response - the lyric formulation - of the human relationship with divine justice.

If we think of divinity as an unaccountable conjunction of opposing forces - the Person & the Principle, maybe we can begin to grasp this notion of mediation that so fascinated Simone Weil. The Logos-Word-Person mediates between binaries, the many & the one. Weil (& Plato) calls this mediator "Love".

Think of democracy as a means of establishing the principle of balance among opposing interests (demos & oligarchy, private & public) - in other words, as a practical response to crisis, stasis ("conflict" to the Greeks), the dis-ordering of authority. Then think of the Christian Passion narrative in political terms : the crucifixion of a mock-king of Israel between an incited mob, a self-interested oligarchy, and an imperial power. This is a theatrical presentation of the collapse, or carnivalization almost, of political authority. Then think again of the characterization of Hebrew religion as a lyric-prophetic voicing of the human/divine relation ("covenant") : sacred song, song-authority. Then think of some earlier posts in this blog, back in the archives, where I was pondering the psychological impulse behind lyric poetry - as maybe originating in the crisis of late adolescence - the gap between the time of childhood (under parental authority) & adulthood - the time of "hieros gamos", sexuality, marriage. Of poetry as breakdown, epileptic fit, charismatic reaction to the shift of authority. Then think that the ordering principles of both "polis" & "theos" were formulated & systematized by men. Then think of the women - Mary, the Magdalen, Beatrice - waiting in the wings. Then think of the trickster-Yahweh & his Word as the iconoclastic knife-line between collective formulations of justice (words, icons, images) - formulated by men - in love with his equally-unaccountable Bride. Think again of the conjunction of opposites (many & one, image & imageless, male & female, yin & yang, law & liberty, demos & individual, private & public). Then go read a little Nicholas Cusanus (Of Learned Ignorance). Keep thinking.
I guess my poem "Lousanna" (blogged here on Friday) ends with a little Picardy 3rd.
"Picardy Third" : when a composition in a minor key ends with a shift to a major chord.

The minister yesterday talking about how the Gospel of Mark ends starkly with three women fleeing from the empty tomb, "for they were afraid." Later a more upbeat epilogue was tacked on, with the disciples meeting Jesus in Galilee (as the "young man in white" at the empty tomb predicts they would, earlier in Mark). Said this epilogue acts as a sort of "Picardy Third".

The earlier, very stark & abrupt ending (after the "young man" promises they'd find him in Galilee) sends the reader back to the beginning of that Gospel, to Jesus' origins in Galilee. So in a sense the sharpness of the ending is a literary maneuver, encouraging the reader to re-read : a "circular text" phenomenon.

As I was listening to the sermon I was reminded of John Irwin's Mystery to a Solution (a wonderful book), which discusses how Borges & Poe got around the problem of the ephemeral nature of mystery tales, ie. how do you get people to RE-read a tale that works somewhat mechanically to solve a puzzle? Why would a reader re-read a mystery if they already know the meaning of the "clues"? Very Borgesian, the idea of a circling text, endlessly re-read.

Was also thinking as he spoke of the article in Saturday NY Times by Edward Rothstein, about current interest among some theologians (including the new Archbishop of Canterbury) in the "productive ambiguity" of the resurrection texts. The Big Mystery : where's the Body? "Where the body lies, there the eagles (or vultures) will gather."

That the earliest gospel might work as a "circular" text would seem to be of special interest to writers. If the empty tomb scene is not one of triumphalism but of fear & trembling, & while sending the disciples back to a literal Galilee, sends the reader back to the beginning of the narrative, to a literary Galilee - this would seem to appeal to a certain sense that writers have, of the interpenetration of text & "life". That is, writers would find, or re-discover, the "Resurrected Life" particularly in the written record, the recounting, the news of that life's beginning actions.

But this sense of "re-reading" reality has consequences for our notions of time & history, immanence & transcendence. Eternity & transcendence & resurrection might interpenetrate time & mortality & history in a way analogous to the way we "read" reality in texts : as though everything is there, in front of us, but hidden, until we're able to "read" it right. Reading as perception (listening).


Here's a poem from around 1978. This is the only poem I can recall writing in my sleep. It was coming to me as I was just waking up, & I grabbed some nearby writing utensils (I was on a futon on the floor at the time) & got it down. It's based on fact: around '77 or '78, due to some kind of issue with the Police Dept, city officials in New Orleans were considering cancelling Mardi Gras celebrations.


Indignant policemen arrest
a stalled Mardi Gras -
spring rolls in, a carnival
in a private shadow
of the vast land of sleep.

Tuesday is fat. This
is a display of weakness -
certain necks turn red.
Honorable generals
arrange a state funeral.

Lent comes too fast.
The democratic party's over.
Texas bouncers, cold
as metal, rusted Romans,
prepare the sacrifice:

let us honor the thin blade,
the man-made clock,
the traditional feast,
the secret society, and
also the undertaker's guild.

Then this masquerade
for an illusory season,
martial feast, flimsy
holiday on ice, is lost
in chords of Easter guitars.


What I've written here about Island Road applies equally if not more so to Stubborn Grew. In this poem, fictional Berryman's "Henry" carnivalizes epic poetry, underlines its immediacy (the narrative revolves around itself, is "personalized", on a table in a coffeeshop in Fox Point). The final 25-pp section - the "end" of "Henry" (a summa or Viconian ricorso of the previous sections, the entire book translated into FinneWakean) - was finished in the early hours of Good Friday, 1999. ie. "Henry" absorbs/resurrects Finnegan on the cardinal "last day". Thus poetry records presence - grafts a literary Eternal to a particular date & time, a "now":

Stub born
grew the
OK David, I will try to spell it out, since I'm not making myself clear. I will try to be concise & not repeat earlier bloggings too much.

You write, "No more speaking for us." By this I suppose you mean, making general statements about poetry. But making general statements is not inherently wrong; & I can't "speak for us" unless my general statements are accepted as true to some degree. It's perhaps unusual to make general statements; but a main element of my "poetics" is the claim that making poetry is a distinctive activity, distinctive from "writing", distinctive from prose, distinctive from other kinds of discourse. & I'm claiming that this distinctive activity is characteristic of poetry in general.

OK. The root distinction between poetry & other language usage is that poetry originates and remains inalienable from SONG. The core of poetry is the fusion of sound & sense, each of them given equal value (where as in prose, sound is made a transparent vehicle for sense. I'm speaking of the prose function & the poetic function : I'm not denying that some prose has poetic qualities & vice versa). This fusion of sound & sense stems from song itself.

But what is music, what is song, what is the "fusion of sound & sense"? They are incomprehensible without a particular sense of time : that is, time in its immediacy, in its PRESENCE, in its now. In prose of all kinds we project our thoughts & responses into the otherness of a conceptual or fictional elsewhere. Even the poetic evocation of a reality, experienced in the "now" of our reading of a novel, is the experience of another time and place. Not so in poetry - even if these "prose" aspects are part of it (say in epic or narrative or even lyric reminiscence) : poetry is a recitation, a performance, which has an immediacy, an embodied presence lacking in other genres. Even as we read a poetic text from a long-dead poet, this immediacy is implied (it is a score for oral recitation).

Finally, what I'm saying is that this modal, generic quality, this distinctive effect of poetry, spills over into its techniques, themes, subject-matter, and colors all of them. Which brings me back to the general statement I started with : poetry-making has the effect of bringing time past and future into Now, into contemporaneity. & this in turn is an effect of its descent from song. Poetry embodies & incarnates Presence, insofar as we experience presence in verbal art (there are other ways to experience it, of course).

& I think these general qualities have consequences for more particular aspects of style, worldview, and so on. Because for me anyway, "presence" implies the presence of a person, of an individual. & this implication runs contrary to massive intellectual/artistic forces of the last few decades. Person, personality : critics elide them with an "ism" (individualism). But this elision loses. . . me. & as I tried to show in earlier post, Island Road exemplifies this whole process in a particular way. In Island Road, Shakespeare is now, dead Berryman's dead fictional "Henry" is now, again. It's a kind of literary resurrection into NOW. & this "presence" is a parodic, burlesque parable, "through a glass darkly", of the divine Imago, the Person, in the eternal Now.
Yet more dismissive comments from David Hess:

"No more Henry, no more of these explanations that mean not much.

"Poetry tries to present a special kind of immediacy, or contemporaneity, which
absorbs the past into the Now."

No more please, no more speaking for us.

Poetry as the "Special Kind." Then make it so."

David, I don't think you are interested, so why comment? If you want to know more about what I'm trying to describe, take a look at the posts from around 1/24 and previous, where I talk about the difference between prose fiction & poetry. How fictions thematize this Now, which poetry, on the other hand, performs or enacts (the classic example: Proust's enormous novel built around the re-absorption of a timeless forgotten moment into Now. Fiction memorializes the moment of poetry.)

My advice, David : just ignore me. This is what seems to work for the "Now" of most of the edgy avant-garde. p.s.: I'm not speaking for "us" - you're welcome to speak for yourself. I'm speaking for myself, to anyone interested.
The experience of making Island Road was, for me anyway, a demonstration of this concept of tradition/"Nowness". Writing this sonnet sequence had its roots over 20 years before, in a "strange encounter" I had with Shakespeare's Sonnets - a sense of the author's "presence" which precipitated sort of a nervous breakdown. (I've written about this in an essay in the Edwin Honig festschrift, A Glass of Green Tea.)

Part of what I was doing was asking myself, how would one write a sonnet sequence today? Every poet who tries, finds their own answer to this. In my case, I wanted to re-experience Shakespeare's sonnets - re-write them. At the same time, I had more contemporary models to hand - Ted Berrigan's, John Berryman's (he wrote a set of sonnets before the Dream Songs) were the ones that intrigued me. I tried to apply Berrigan's jumpy, scattered syntax; I also developed sort of a Berryman's "Henry" (from the Dream Songs) to frame an indirect narrative, a journey through winter darkness to spring, to an encounter with both Shakespeare & the "dark lady". In the penultimate section, "To the Green Constellation", I implicated or imbricated allusions to individual Shakespeare sonnets in a systematic way, based on a study of the calendrical-numerical architecture of the Sonnets by Alastair Fowler (Silent Poetry) : Shakespeare's "day" becomes my "year". The numerical design is noted in the prose opening to this section:

"61 Henry's Dream

In my dream, Everywoman was an icon. We were at a conference on the malaria epidemic. Urban locale--refined, old European (Siberia?). We walked past the coffeeshop at 99 19th Street, around the block, past the museum at 145 10th Avenue, & entered the Birch Tree Grotto (126 Verde Triangle)."

These numbers refer to specific sonnets, which are markers in the pyramidal design Fowler describes.

So what is the point of all these compositional details? I'm showing how the poetry-making process is an activity of producing Now out of time & tradition. My attempt to fuse Shakespeare with a "Henry-redivivus" - a fictional character out of a dead poet's oeuvre - is a process of making Now anew.


David Hess, in a controversial mood, writ:
"I don't think what you said was that foolish but, like I said, these struggles for the
definition of poetry give me a belly-ache. Sometimes they are necessary, but more
often seem superfluous to any engagement with historical context -- what Josh is
partly interested in -- and the complexity of the art."

David, it wasn't exactly a definition I was looking for. I was trying to characterize the distinctive process or activity of making poetry, and how it synthesizes the pre-verbal & the verbal. Earlier back in Jan. or Feb. on this blog I wrote a lot more about this. My notion of "tradition" is bound up with the idea that poetry-making is a distinct activity which not only has not changed much, essentially, over the centuries - moreover, it's an activity with a special relationship to time itself : that is, poetry tries to present a special kind of immediacy, or contemporaneity, which absorbs the past into the Now. This aspect actually changes how you "define" Tradition : ie., if poetry-making is a special attachment to Nowness, as well as a somewhat perennial, unchanging, distinctive activity, then, in some sense, Tradition must be Now, or it's not Tradition, either.
p.s. to below: I think Stevens' exact words (one of his "Adagia") are: "A poem is a pheasant."
Joe Duemer responding to my grumpy snarls, as if they were aimed at him. Joe, I never think of you in relation to "easy rhetoric". You create dialogue through articulate thoughtfulness, a philosophical approach.
David, OK, I'm laughing. . . but I'm probably much bigger than you so be careful around the Rock.

I recognize that, as you say, Josh is pretty much responsible for setting the words/imagination dichotomy in motion. But you wuz so busy beLITTLing me that you wuz unwilling to take an interest in the particular description of the imagination/words relation I was providing. Maybe there is a big foolishness in saying what "poetry is. . .", but how do my attempts differ from Stevens's, except in being too prolix (which I admit is a gigantic difference)? Stevens said "Poetry is a pheasant." That's good enough for me.

You wrote:
" Okay, since you seem to want to argue this point further, let's take a look at the
history of this edgy debate. Josh Corey was responding to a post in which I wrote:

"I've always admired this phrase from Stevens -- 'the morality of the right
sensation' -- with which he ended a talk on poetry. I don't think there's anything
by Stevens I've read that I didn't like, even when it bored me.

Any writer who honors the imagination, the sensuality of the mind and perception,
as much as him -- Wilde, Lorca, Williams, Benjamin, some Stein, Nietzsche, Jimi
Hendrix, to shout out some names -- has my undying devotion.

Why I find the continual emphasis on language, the politics of language,

I do not see any definitions in that post, except the one implied by Stevens'
words*. From this Josh extrapolates that I believe that all poetry -- and notice
that I mention not only a few writers who mostly wrote prose but also a musician
-- comes from the imagination. I don't know where it comes from and maybe, like
Jennifer Moxley, don't care or would rather not know. I am merely stating my love
for poets and artists of a certain type -- not a definition of what poetry is or isn't.
Hence my anger over Josh's practice of "talking past," in this case, me, as he likes
to put it.

Notice also, please, the 'for us'. Last year of living for us, whoever that may be. It
will be many people. As usual.

Laugh, Henry, or I will hunt you down in the caverns of the Rockefeller and the
Hay and calmly kill you.

* These words I heard on a cassette I have of Stevens reading (can't find it right
now), in either '54 or '55 right before his death -- reading his poems and speaking
on his belief in poetry. I don't recall him staking any universalizing claims for what
poetry is or is made of in order to counter other claims. 'A morality of the right
sensation' accurately evokes his own style. Stevens produced pages of aphoristic
and essayistic definitions of poetry. It's clear that poetics, as an activity, was for
him also a work of imagination and not reducible to any discourse."
posted by David at 3:53 PM
I take back what I said in previous post. I don't care what other poets or celebrities do, they can protest all they like, all power to them.

If I protest, it will be as a citizen, not as a poet. Poetry will go where it will - maybe to protest too; but it's on its own.


Equanimity. Whereas many of the poets seem to feel their job is to express their political position these days. . . aren't a lot of these positions sort of like cultural habits? I mean you're on the "left" or the "right" since you were in diapers, you express "where you come from" etc. Parochialism. What if the job instead is to penetrate into a complex reality, without taking sides so much as to illuminate the dynamics? Not only a political reality but a purely poetic reality at the same time. I feel like a lot of the easy rhetoric actually does a disservice to poetry, all these poets against the war, it's like celebrities against the war, riding on something that doesn't belong to them. Not that they're not citizens : it's that they take their ART for granted, their artist status. Meanwhile poetry has gone off somewhere else.
David the Ess writes:

"Just laughing, not putting you down, my man. Anyone who attempts to define
poetry once and for all makes me laugh. Okay, with Josh I got pissed when I
should've laughed.

Thank you, you say many intelligent things. I'm sure something has been resolved
-- did I really make a dichotomy on your floor, I'm sorry (wagging tail) -- but I'd
rather laugh, for as Gabe and Mysterious Author Man reminded us a few days ago
this is the last year of living for us."

OK, perhaps I was being ponderous, as per. But you & Josh were also in the definition business, all over your own floor. So I hope you can laugh at yourself too, while you clean up.

Why is this the last year of living? Edgy is boring, there's too much everywhere. Calm, serene, confident - wouldn't that be nice.
I knew I was taking a chance getting into a conversation with put-down prince David Hess. But what else is there to do, now that Jordan's out of town.

Go ahead and act dismissive, shmaht boy. You & Josh were verbalizing on an old & probably illusory dichotomy; what I posted is the resolution, simple as it may be.

I don't know what's wrong with your media player, Dave - sorry you can't hear. It's not wicked or dangerous; just Clint Eastwood trying to read something characteristic, & some old music.
Responding to David & Josh : is poetry "words" or "imagination"? I think people get caught in such debates because poetry is a unique amalgam, a fusion, a monstrous birth.

First of all, poetry begins, not as words, but as "speech". Speech, language, as Wilhelm von Humboldt argued back in the 19th century, is made of sentence-streams, not individual words. It's essentially MOTIVATED, impulsive - motivated by sense-experience, visions, desires-impulses which are pre-verbal or meta-verbal.

But in the process of becoming poetry, this speech-impulse does indeed become ALL WORDS : poetry has a fundamental ordering or aesthetic motor which rounds out or includes or shapes all these impulses into a coherent, finished work of art. The finished product, like Keats' urn or Eliot's chinese vase, is a magical verbal container for the initial impulse(s). Maybe it could be conceived as a kind of energy-transfer packet.

The langpos mocked the "uncritical" speech-motivation of mainstream poetics, with their technique of isolating the verbal texture from any clear motivation. But this scrambling was obviously symbiotic/parasitical with that which it criticized; elliptical langpo was folded, doubled over "straight" poetics. Moreover, langpo's impulse to discourse was just as "motivated" as the ordinary poetic impulse - though it was an impulse of reaction or negation or separation or alienation or distinction : it's just that the speech-impulse was programmatically scrambled.

In my view individual words themselves are bundles of potential motivation, potential energy. The imagination is a kind of binding capability, inherent in the mind - creating vision, order, coherence, awareness, clarity, observation, etc. When the receptive faculties of the imagination are motivated to respond, to articulate, to give back - then we have the poetic impulse.

Mandelstam, in his theoretical writings, talked about poetry as the intertwining of two strands : the verbal material and the impulse. I think a poetics ought to keep both in mind, & recognize how the impulse creates verbal coherences or contained "light", in the finished work. Ultimately this dual sense of poetry, it seems to me anyway, has more relevance for the social-political role of poetry in a culture at large, than a dialectical spin on the verbal material alone (as in langpo).

Language poetry shouldn't be singled out in isolation, though. There's a much broader stream running from Pound through Williams & the Objectivists & others which tries to avoid the "lyric subject" through inclusion of chance items, found objects, documentary material, reportage. Elizabeth Willis's essay on Lorine Niedecker (linked here a few days ago) deals interestingly with this.


Powered by audblogaudblog audio post - the harmonica part.
Powered by audblogaudblog audio post Another old rough n'ready HG musical experience. The subtext for this song, titled "Go Little Sparrow", is the story told (in the Venerable Bede, I think) of the first conversion to Christianity of the British king. The king said to the missionary, "Our life is as when, on a cold winter night, a sparrow flits through a window into the warm feast hall, and then out again. If your God can give me confidence in what comes after, I will believe." [or something like that]

Once again the 2-min. limit means I've had to split the song proper & the harmonica coda into 2 separate posts.
Island Road moves slowly, zigzaggedly, from autumn to spring, from despair to hope, from cynicism to love. When I listened to the recording of my awkward Reaganesque/Clint-Eastwoodian whisper through the whole 99 "sonnets", I re-experienced, recognized again the EFFORT that is part of giving birth to a new poem. It's an "incarnational" poetics - & perhaps hearing these mutterings, while reading along, is one consequence. "Entering" the form of the sonnet (I almost wrote sinnet), answering Shakespeare & Berrigan & Berryman - it was a physical, embodied encounter, represented by the "muse" figure - the figure of Spring or Persephone or Dark Lady - right from the beginning, in sonnet # 1. It felt like an encounter, a MEETING - and indeed it was.

Whether the awkwardness is finally a sign of artistic defeat - well, I hope not. Listening to the whole thing felt like listening to some big untidy Cantos getting underway. I wish someone else, some smooth actor, could read it FOR me : but it's better this way.
Powered by audblogaudblog audio post Island Road # 9 and 10.

Bear with me, dear listener-reader: it was a painful labor. "In flawed words and stubborn sounds." [Stevens]
Powered by audblogaudblog audio post Island Road # 8.
Powered by audblogaudblog audio post Island Road # 7.


I haven't read much George Oppen. But on the radio I heard Harvey Shapiro read a war poem by Oppen, from his (Shapiro's) anthology of WW 2 poetry. It was good - simple, understated, a little off to one side.
Powered by audblogaudblog audio post Island Road # 5 and 6.
Powered by audblogaudblog audio post Island Road # 3 and 4.

Island Road begins gloomy & melancholy. But the poem is seasonal: it lurches toward spring.


Another old poem for my father. Can be interpreted for at least a fewfold allegory. Too simple for the avant-garde.


Papa was always working on the house,
his long shadow bent across the sill
like a letter in an unknown alphabet,
his hoe or hammer making their steady
marks across the vagabond afternoons,
the deep summer water we lived through
holding our breath, our lungs tight
with promises, danger, laughing gas.

And when we grew older, more serious
and dangerous, Papa was always working
late at the office. For all we knew
he was a drone of the dread Pharaoh,
one of the caretakers of the Sphinx,
late into the night composing riddles,
subtle passwords and husky undertones
which opened the secret granary doors.

And it was only later, as we watched
his dry wooden boat slip underground,
that we understood the clean framing
of intention, the straight crossbeams
of its execution, that house of his
a kind of sounding board for praise.
Working across the tightrope of the
roofline was his way of walking on air.
Powered by audblogaudblog audio post : Island Road, # 1 and 2.

I am going to try to post audio blogs of Island Road in serial fashion, a few each week. If you'd like to listen & read along, just follow the links. (Actually I'm not sure if this can be done simultaneously, but if so, it would be kind of a neat new way to read poetry.)

Island Road is my attempt at a contemporary sonnet sequence. There's a little more of an intro to it, in the Author's Note at Mudlark (Island Road is issue #6).


Powered by audblogaudblog audio post

Oh, this is fun! Soon you'll be able to read along the entire 99-sonnet Island Road, with that annoying Minnesota mosquito twang in the background! But while you wait, here's another old tune of mine.
Hey, I can hear myself! Sounds like I need to blow my nose. Anyway, here's the transcription:


Every morning my father followed
the dusty freeway rings - a welter
of iron circles, a maze of wheels
dodging beneath the vertical
shelter of the concrete law.

And he jousted with the cold
steel cables of the elevators;
he stood before the judges,
spearing a wet dollar each day
in the rockbound pool of possession.

Somewhere between the inventive silence
of the shop, and the hollow hunger
of the labyrinth, he traveled out
with a ball of legal twine, ready
for turbid blades in the gripping dream -

and at the end of December,
the two of us, the rusty brothers,
trailing those roads again
in your rattling clunker,
remembering the dance steps

of the breakdowns, the power,
the glory, for ever and ever.
A mystery man goes on ahead of us,
on through the green light,
into the lake-blue sky -

(and there's a charitable shadow
in the norway spruce tonight, a star
already hidden in the thunderhead;
there's all the peaceful sleep
we never knew, winging over the highway).
Powered by audblogaudblog audio post

My father turns 76 tomorrow. Born 4/12/27, in Minneapolis, near the Mississippi River. He lives a couple blocks from there today.

I wrote this poem with him in mind, several years ago. (published in Way Stations.)
Across my desk, published in Providence:

Turneresque, by Elizabeth Willis
(Burning Deck Press, 2003)

beautiful poems, funny prose poems.
here's one of her essays -
Bloggers: ignore all that personal stuff in previous post. It's mere special pleading. Go back to your book.
Jordan feeling feisty this morning.

I have the best of both worlds: make real arguments, experience eerie silence.

I see different critical talents, here & there in blogworld. Ability to characterize with precision & understanding, sometimes. Articulate. Not so partisan, clubbish; not so ready to spray cliches & beery nostrums from the political Bladder. Readers with real ears.

This split between mainstream & oppositional bugs me. Too many abstract counters, categories, pigeonholes. Seems to short-circuit synthetic energies necessary for solid critical perception; thus it stymies reception to some extent. Why not just fageddabaddit, & read the things on their own terms, & respond to them on your own terms, personally, as if you picked them up in a 2nd-hand bkstore in Tashkent.

So I create this imaginary St. Petersburg, where Gumilev & Akhmatova & Mandelstam & Tsvetaeva & Pasternak discover how to make past poetries their own (individual craft); speak about their traditions (education); engage in polemics while recognizing talent in the other's camp (culture). Russian ark.

& I can empathize with Mandelstam's notion that we write for an imaginary interlocutor from the future. (In fact I must say I sometimes I feel like a figment of his imagination in that sense.) Have I reduced a great Russian poet to the status of a reverse image of my own "professional" nonentity, by removing him from his proper context (his contemporary Russian audience)? So that he serves as sort of an icon/imaginary friend on the mantle for Everyman-Nobodypoet? That's part of it, I suppose. My context is this small city in Rhode Island, where I live & screw up & leave behind a sort of hodge-podge of inscriptions stored in the John Hay Library archives. When I'm underground over there in the 132 acres of North Main Cemetery, my poems will assume a different tincture, as the paper dries & the ink fades.

I want to write more topical report poems, up-to-the-minute Audenesque, & have them published in the New Yorker & in the paper of record in St. Petersburg, Florida.

& of course I could always read more poetry myself. . .


Powered by audblogaudblog audio post

& here's the harmonica part at the end. Hope it all sounds OK.
Powered by audblogaudblog audio post

OK, here's the same song, in its entirety. Only I've had to divide it into 2 segments, as this audblog only allows 2-minute takes. This is the 1st part, up to the harmonica close.


Powered by audblogaudblog audio post

I decided to attempt the one-minute free trial audio blog. So this is only a slice of a short song by Henry Hankovitch, con guitar & harmonica. This was played directly into my telephone from a boom box on top of the fridge, so I hope it sounds ok (I haven't figured out how to listen to sound on my computer yet). I may sign on, so I can relay the song in its euphonious entirety. Recorded almost 10 yrs ago in my kitchen.
Shakespeare out of mystery plays performed on carts from village to village. Ethos. Poet & power : Westminster & Globe Theatre. (West Wig)

David, Bathsheba & the prophet's curse.

Stalin & Mandelstam :

("His decrees like horseshoes
flung at the head & the neck"

or something like that - the poem that got him sent to Siberia)
Greek epics & Bible radiate ethos (communal values).

Tragedy, Iliad, Odyssey - hubris & selfishness are actions/consequences which are transparent, in a certain sense : like forces of nature to the disinterested observer.

Solon translates ethos into democratic politics.

Ethos = mutual aid = balance = sobornost = peace & prosperity.

(Athens/Jerusalem) - ancient symbol of psychic wholeness. (AlephoeBooks : name of my "publishing house" : after the kids, Alex & Phoebe.) Human/divine coordination.
Article in Times about bombing of supposed Hussein meeting place in Mansour neighborhood. Military expressing satisfaction in bombing only 45 min. after receipt of intelligence. Mother of girl dismembered in the blast weeping in the rubble, vomiting.

Jon Anderson article in New Yorker about Baghdad wounded. Meeting with sheiks from NE Iraq who had arrived to receive payment from Hussein regime in return for their support. Saying they would chop up any US & Brit soldiers & feed them to their animals.

Tie up the beast.
The garden of Eden was in Iraq[?].
Very interesting comments on pastoral & utopia by Josh Corey here.


"Mammon Lujius", in FW: MMLJ, Matthew Mark Luke John. "Lujius" an inversion (as is rhyme-scheme in Forth of July a.k.a. Stubborn Grew/The Rose book 3, July) - an inversion of "Julius". July begins on 7/15 - St. Henry's Day or St. Swithins' - the date on which in 1099 the crusaders entered the Holy Sepulchre. 33 years later (age of Christ): 1132, Joyce's motif date in FW : birthdate of Joachim of Fiore, theorist of the Age of the Holy Spirit. Christ-Finnegan wakes from the sepulchre (time-age reversal) after 33 years (1132). July plays verbally & thematically with inversion of Caesar & Caesarism throughout - going from July 15 toward Ides of March & April 15 (death of CESAR Vallejo & Abraham Lincoln on Good Friday). Julius to Jewel-eye to (trickster) jew-lie to J-muse. Recapitulation/inversion of western history.

(note recurrent motif of "132" in Stubborn & sequels: 1-3-2, the waltz-step. Number of rooms in the white house. Number of acres in North Main Cemetery (Providence). Square footage of Grace Church (center of downtown Providence). Number of Beethoven's greatest string quartet. Address of Francesca Tagliabue. a-one and a. . . )
& speaking of modern epics, look at the dazzling, astonishing re-creation of Roman-Christian-early Britain-Wales historical reality in the work of David Jones. Not to mention his great war prose poem[?] In Parenthesis. Finnegan re-wakes indeed.

The past is not even past. [see FW: 1132-556-(Silent.)-556-1132.] In Stubborn Grew I "apply" Joyce to surround Pound/Olson et al. (it's a military maneuver) & sink epic into the microcosm of Everyman (HCE). Then he pops up again chasing Julie in The Rose (of Rhode Island). Forth of Julie, jewel-eye; reversal of Julius Sieger. (I talked about this earlier in hgpoetics.)
Reading: Agon, Logos, Polis : the Greek achievement and its aftermath, ed. by Johann Arnason (Steiner, 2001).

In ancient Greece, for reasons people are still trying to figure out, the oikos or household sense of communal responsibility got translated into democracy : the idea that within the small island or mountain polis everyone (male, anyway!), both rich & poor, baron & farmhand (excepting slaves!) had a SAY in the common good. The ethos of Homer Hesiod & the tragedies showed how individual hubris & greed brought on oppression, revolution, civil wars & destruction, by a kind of natural law of selfishness & irresponsibility. Solon was inspired to codify this ethos & establish political well-being on the "middle way" of the common good, the equanimity of barons & plebs both. Interestingly at the core of his lawmaking was the concept of release from debt - the same notion that underlies the Hebrew institution of Jubilee.

All around Greek democracy lay the authoritarian monoliths - divine kingship, monotheisms. History developed into a confrontation between Asian tyranny & Western democracy; this development overtaken by the Roman synthesis of Republican values & imperial ambition; this development overtaken in turn by the confrontation between Rome & Jerusalem, imperial authority confronting divine authority. Hebrew culture can be considered another kind of synthesis, of monothestic, Middle Eastern authority with the unaccountable, trickster-like behavior of Yahweh - a kind of anti-Emperor, intent on liberation from slavery & a government of Law rather than divine monarchy.
The Christian development of a new kind of oikos, the Church, dedicated to counter-imperial values (love of neighbor, servanthood, dignity of poverty), a religious-cultural development which changed Roman imperialism even as it was synthesized with it in turn (Constantine; Roman Papal authority).

These specifically political developments & historical turns are still with us: "the past is not even past". With respect to poetry, witness the epic variations of Pound, Zukofsky, Williams, & Olson (with his intense focus - not always egalitarian by any means - on polis & localism). With respect to contemporary conditions, just look at the debate over America's role in the world. I think the critics of Bush policy should begin to look at the threads connecting both authoritarian & opportunist strains in the administration to decisions made about post-war governance in Iraq. Is there collusion, among advisers to a President brought to power in a flawed election, to benefit from connections with the regime to be installed in custody of Iraq? How will Iraqis themselves decide who governs them?

How do we as poets in our cities re-invent & apply the "core values" we have inherited? How do we express them in our poetry? This need not simply echo Olson's tendencies. Auden is just as interesting as a political poet. Olson made a fascinating opening around these issues at the beginning of Maximus, but perhaps he got consequently lost in a mytho-ego-poetics. Perhaps my "epic" efforts exhibit some of the same problems & tendencies: Stubborn Grew does try to present a sort of time- & space- crosscutting of poet & "polis" : then it takes a deep & obscure dive into inner-orphic space, riding William Blackstone's bull into the green constellation. Maybe if such is ever to find a place among the American makings, I will have to work my way back to the "polis" myself.


Gotta run : going to see movie "Russian Ark" tonight !
[p.s. note to previous post/link: Green Constellation was a basic model Sears typewriter; Francesca Tagliabue gave me hers, it's next to my desk here.]
And for me, beneath all the archaeology & romance-disaster & sedimentation of Providence, lies another layer altogether, much deeper, sadder, distant, out in the midwest.
Blogging along for the past three months, I've been able to reflect back along the trail that began around 1965. I'm writing this from a place other blogriders will probably recognize, a tiny dusty cluttered corner room, with a big bulletin board, a 2-drawer file cabinet with a postcard of Ezra Pound's "Poet out of a Job" want-ad, ceiling-high books. I cleaned out the file cabinet a little this morning, a task which provides a special perspective on the tip-of-the-iceberg nature of a writer's public (me, public?) persona : all those old half-baked derivative sleepy weak poems, rejection notes, news clippings, records of little forays projects & endeavors, charming old letters, children's art work. . . the sweet derelicta of others' gestures, which I never acknowledged or loved enough, mixed in with my own.

It's been nice to mingle poems & precepts & so on, kind of a correlation of unrealized efforts; things I haven't mentioned, but might sometime, like what it meant to edit a micro-magazine (Nedge), or work on the Poetry Mission; the effervescence of the Green Tea project, with Susan & Tom (a high point : my son the 12-yr old composer, setting a poem of Edwin's to music, & then being able to perform it with the Grace Church children's choir at the book party, & publish the score); the abiding presence of Edwin Honig, and in a very different way my children's grandfather, John Tagliabue.

Shem the Penman makes a fuzzy, feeble scratch, a Hen-scratch in the spring mud-midden. I'd like to bury him in the midst of his fritterations, the proven dunce in his local Providence, between the cluttered study & the job at the library: 1132, 132, 11 Fisher. . . following

the signs that mock me as I go


This section of Stubborn was written in 1998. Henry & his "spirit buddy" Bluejay are sitting in the backyard behind Shakespeare's Head, a historic building in Providence.


There was silence in the starlit backyard.
Far below the spine of the ridge, the bawling
of worn-out Rovers, Jeep Harpooneers, trawling
the iron highway. The white noise of the herd.

The moon shed a parched light, through the beech
trees and the maples, down onto Bluejay's arm.
Henry squinted. Images began to form
before his eyes or in the back of his head - each

indentation whorling, interlacing, a curlicue
of narrow formations, a lake of clay-coated
muscle-shored black sailor's pearl-moted talki-
talkitalki cueduetlicueduetli dumbshowlodrumsolo

strung minarets. The red tongue silent,
the palms aswaying, the stars askew.
Henry stared down tattoo avenue, until
the whole of Shakespeare's backyard bent

into a dusty parallax (black, white, gray).
Sudden - Olympian thunder rent the airwaves.
A missing Tailcat lunged into the grooves
of ice - Witch Country swells the day -

Dust Bowl football suddenly Game to Play!
Smart missiles artifically enhanced
for endless penetration danced
toward Dad's golf bags - hip houris

scuttled for shelter (squired under the square
air-raid shelters screwed shut by sultry sheiks)
just in time before the pool cue speared the steaks
- and I ran (unfertile myself) into the queer

crescent, deserted by storm, rapped on the head
by a load of unbending luscious Grecian pillars
ironed by a missing Nelson in Trafalgar's
wasteland (protected by a titanium toolshed).
Stubborn Grew is, among other things, a populist poem with quite a bit of direct political commentary. Kent Johnson, Ron Silliman, Eliot Weinberger, et al. are busy burbling about the political content of post-langpo blah blah blah.

My book has never been reviewed (nada, Nada).
Jordan, you are right, of course.

The barons are still in charge.

Maybe the difference is that I think social justice through democracy is possible.

Maybe you think so, too.

I am tired of pessimism that is too close to complacency; of conspiracy theories that are just lazy thinking; of resentments based on ignorance; of self-righteousness rooted in abstract utopianism.

The cultural divide in this country might be addressed by means of some hopeful self-criticism, rather than by self-pity & despair. That is, coasters on the left might share the goal of social justice with "Middle America", if they look beyond their own bogeymen (rabid fundamentalists & scheming plutocrats).


179] To the right worll the Governor Council & Assistants and the rest of
the generall Court now assembled (8) 7.1640.

The humble peticion of ZACHEUS GOULD of Lynne husbandman in behalfe of
himselfe and all other husbandmen of the Country

Showeth that whereas husbandry and tillage much concerne the good of this
Commonwealth and yor peticioners have undertaken the managing & tillage of
divers ffarmes in the Country & sowing of English corne their servants are
oftentimes drawne from their worke to trayne in seed time hay tyme &
harvest to the great discouragement & dammage of yor peticioner the said
Zacheus Gould for himself saith that for one days trayning this yeare he
was much damnnfyed in his hay. And fforsmuch as fishermen upon just
grounds are exempted from trayning because their trade is also for the
Common wealth, Yor peticioners humbly pray that this Court will be pleased
to take the premises into their grave Consideration and thereupon to give
order for the incouragement of yor peticioners who are husbandmen imployed
about English graine that they & their servants may be exempted from
ordinary traynings in seed time hay tyme & harvest And yor peticioners
shall as their duty bynds them pray &c.
No Jordan, you give ME an alternative analysis !

OK, democracy, this democracy, is nowhere near perfect.

So your alternative is to say : it doesn't matter, everyone will sink back into apathy anyway?

this is what I call cynicism. & your interpretation of it strikes me as standard left : the treadmill is created by repressive elites.

OK. it's not standard left. . .then what is it? If the alternative is not collective state control of the economy, what is your alternative?

how do you propose human beings live together? how should they establish government, if at all?

I, for my part, am in favor of Business; I'm in favor of Government; I'm in favor of Popular Sovereignty & the rule of enlightened public opinion (note the word enlightened); I'm in favor of protecting property rights as a cushion against tyranny, but not as an absolute right trumping the common good.

call it boring, OK. But your pessimism & cynicism have political consequences too. You run down the way things are, but when challenged, you get "bored".

All right I am done for today.
C'mon Jordan, I'm responding to what you said. & you were responding to me. When I said, in the context of talking about democracy, popular sovereignty, that I was interested in how Iraqis would judge the overthrow of Saddam,
you responded that they would feel like most people, falling back into treadmill of apathy (but maybe less of a treadmill than here in the US, because there "there isn't as much at stake to keep them controlled".)

I said that was too cynical, an example of jaundiced left thinking, which can't distinguish between government systems (or perhaps has an interest in blurring such distinctions). Yes, the left wants you to think that it's all capitalist repression & conspiracy coercion, because they have an interest in attacking private property as a right of the individual (see Papal encyclicals); the logical outcome is statism ala Stalin, Saddam's idol.

That's the "Jordan" I was responding to.
There's a treadmill. It's called life. But if it's across cultures, then the U.S. didn't create it.

Are you saying, Jordan, that because there's a general happiness/unhappiness curve, there's no difference between systems of government? I'd rather not live in North Korea right now, thanks. I'll take South.

The jaundiced left goes back to the Cold War. & to the Great Depression before that. Maybe we need to go back to the Progressive Era. Go visit Hull House in Chicago, & take heart.
re: the treadmill : you are too cynical, Jordan. there is a difference between a free society & a tyranny. this seems like the essence of what the jaundiced left does not comprehend.
No Jordan, I don't think democracy is a shell game for elites. We see what we want to see, & what strikes me now is just how much the left wants to see "bad".

As for democracy in this situation, I will be very interested to see how the majority of the Iraqi people feel about the overthrow of Saddam in a year or so.

Nor is domestic & global policy a completely seamless web of conspiracy, no matter how much this war is convenient for Bush, no matter how much I hate Bush domestic policy. This war was a gamble. Bush's "show your cards" remark was exactly appropriate to the current situation. US, Europe, Saddam, Middle East, Al Qaeda - all are being forced to show their hand. & this is a good thing in my opinion.

In the long span of time, US domination will be seen as a historical blip. The tragedy is the death of innocents, innocent civilians, innocent soldiers, anonymous small blips inside a horror. They will loom larger in the hearts of their families than any passing historico-political phenomena. But I hold Saddam accountable for this war. This war is the grand finale of his choices throughout his political career, beginning with the murder of his associates & relatives. & I believe that the political atmosphere after it's over will be far better for the Iraqi people - even if it begins with much bitterness toward the US.


from Grassblade Light:


Those flowerets burst forth and sheathe the axle
of the cherry tree. My gnomon-body spun
like a humming halcyon in a Sperry-
gyro wind to pinnacle - can Henry write it?

Only puffed and drifting, down toward the couch
of clay, shrouded, in April rain. Downward,
fluted. . . a rivulet, a sod
ocarina faucet, a floating pouch

full of raven-chalk. Staring into the blue
toward the far-off buzz - a copper ovenbird
or piepan violin - some Nahua brouhaha -
hovered and soared where time came through

a gap in the mountain - teeth bucked
down a ravine at a red moonlit sundog
- mirage shimmering deep - haggard
crux or suffering middle C caw caw

way way
the wake of your black line looped
across both wings down the divide (Michal-
Melchizedek) as a melancholy, milky
melody for two palms groped

toward an octave - then contracted to
arpeggio one trilling escapade and
so solder together the broken
glittering continuum once more

where a black round stone springs open
and squares the garden with a living
Lazarus grassblade, quivering
in the cold. Thighbones, my darling

leached from the Santa Rosa Canyon
after 13,000 years - a J-cub's angle
written all over the chest of Guadalupe
lifted from the axis of the earth to say: the sun.

Have been reading lengthy entries on Islam in my old Enc. Britannica.

Curious analogies drifting through on coffee break. Poets up in arms over war. Muhammad (founder of Islam) like the ultimate "acknowledged legislator". Surahs of Q'uran came to him from Allah transmitted by angel Gabriel while he was in a sweat-trance. Analogy (very distant) to previous speculations here about poetry as epileptic response to crisis - main crisis being transition from adolescence to adulthood ("mystical wedding").

Analogies between Muhammad & David (poet-warrior) & prophets (bearers of God's Word) & Messiah. "a sword issued from his mouth". Islam emerging out of, & distinguishing itself from, Judaism & Christianity.

Monotheism as opposed to pagan polytheism. Like a lens in the desert coming into focus. How it becomes (in the prophetic word) a governing principle or gyroscopic mechanism. Governance of crisis & charismatic poetic "ejaculation". Governance. Mandelstam & Akhmatova on the counter-authority of poetry. Akhmatova & Stalin die on the same day (March 5th). (Dostoevsky both epileptic & prophetic.)

Epilepsy or charismatic possession. Power transferred to or emanating from divinity, rather than humanity. Religio = "binding". Black Stone of Mecca; black stone in Jerusalem where Abraham bound Isaac & where Muhammad ascended into heaven (leaving his footprint).

Meteoric stone carried in small covered "ark" on the back of a camel in pre-Islamic Arabia. Possible origin of tablets of the law in Ark of the Covenant. Theme of William Blackstone & the pebble-boomerang in Forth of July.

Henry & Bluejay in the garden behind Shakespeare's Head. Images of Gulf War & Presidency in Stubborn Grew.


"The poem is a stone fallen from heaven.
No one will judge it."

Adolescence and paternal authority. Song & Dionysius & panic. in the "bull's eye". (Blackstone & his white bull.)

Islam faced questions about human reason & autonomy from the beginning. The Sunni emphasis on peaceful consensus was in part a reaction against earlier developments; & the Wahhabite radical purism (akin to Qutb & Al Qaeda ideology) had its precursors from very early on. Dynamics internal to Islam.

William Blackstone, upon leaving his Boston home & going into Rhode Island: "I left England to get from under the power of the Lord Bishops, & here I am fallen into the hands of the ministers."

Roger Williams & "soul liberty".