Happy Halloween, everyone. I don't personally celebrate this holiday as I am allergic to salt. However, my black cat, Pushkin, is in protective custody, thank you for asking, everyone. & I mean everyone, you literary mutts out there included.

I thought this might be an appropriate time & place to post an interview I did with Ron Duluth, of Duluth, MN, back in the early 70s, which was also, as some of us are old enough to recall, a time of stress and crisis, especially for cats. It was published in the little magazine Little Duluth Magazine in 1975. I reprint here without permission from Ron, because he was always borrowing my toothbrush anyway, yecck. Happy Halloween to you too, Ron.

RD : Welcome to Duluth, Henry.

HG : Thanks, Ron. Are you speaking geographically or personally?

RD : Excuse me?

HG : I mean, do you mean by that, Welcome to (Ron) Duluth, ie. welcome into my personal presence, or, do you mean, Welcome to Duluth, my home town?

RD : Let's move on. Welcome, period, Henry. And I mean that.

HG : Thanks. You're welcome, too.

RD : OK. [takes sip of Doobie-Duluth, a local brew] I'd like to start by asking you about the portable chess board you carry around with you on reading tours. Can you tell us something about this? It's rather unusual. I wish I could print an image of it here, for future blog readers, but unfortunately, it's only 1975, and we'll both soon be in the nursing home if not Duluth Frozen People's Cemetery.

HG : Geez, Ron, you talk like it was Halloween, or something. Let's cut the gloom & doom. I don't really care if it's 1975 or 1597; in either case, neither of us knows Shakespeare on a first-name basis.

RD : That's true. Though I did pour him a brewskie last week over at Glug-Glugg's.

HG : He is some writer, huh? Have you had a close look at my chessboard? Check the pieces.

RD : How do you tell them apart? They all look like. . . kind of chunky pawns.

HG : It's a cheese board, Ron. Pawns, cheddar; rooks, swiss; knights, havarti; bishops, provolone, what else; queen, emmenthaler; king, blue cheese, it goes without saying.

RD : Do you actually know anything about cheese, Henry? There are more distinctive cheeses out there.

HG : I find that these standard grocery-store breeds have longer shelf-life, or board-life, if you will. Chess is a slow, stinkin' bloody war game.

RD : Don't I know it. It's how we get through the long winters here in northern Vermont.

HG : I thought we were in Duluth. Minnesota.

RD : Let's move on. I read a poem of yours about a year ago in Hoppers Bizarre, the one Lindy Spelling edits out of Grasshopper, ND. The last line has stuck with me over the 7 or 8 years since I read it:

"I spread my word around, mingled with wine and cheese."

Now on the surface, this is a very bland, slightly stupid sentence, if you don't mind my saying. But it refused to be ejected from the rooming house of my brain, for some reason, even though the rent came due long before I was even born. I thought of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, sending darting glances of animal heat across the Reading Room at Doddery House, Cambridge : poetry mingling with cocktail snacks, poetry moving out of its ivory tower into its ebony bower, into its limousine, into its chopper. What you seem to be saying, in this ultimate, rather than penultimate, line, is that poetry is not an arcane autonomous pursuit, like chess, for instance, but something far more complexly (new word, for me!) implicated (big word, for me!) in everyday emotional give-and-take of love-burnt lovebirds everywhere.

HG : Gotta hand it to you, Duluth; you must have labored over these questions all night long.

RD : Are you implying something about Cindy & me?

HG : Cindy spent the night at my hotel, Ron.

RD : Whaaa???

HG : - but not with me. There was a chess tournament in Duluth this week, didn't she tell you? Cindy is now a Grand Master; she's been invited to San Clemente to play Richard Nixon & that crazy guy Gary Kasper the Friendly Ghost next month. I'm surprised she didn't mention this to you.

RD : She knows how I feel about chess.

HG : Yeah, I know. She beat me too, yesterday. I'm just a Little Master now. This cheese board is just a novelty trick; I don't have the ruthless reptilian aggressive chromosome you really need for this game.

RD : Let's move on. Is poetry political, in your view?

HG : Does the Pope drive a Popomobile?

RD : What are your implying by that statement?

HG : Are you questioning my religious beliefs?

RD : I'm questioning everything. This is an interview. You're supposed to be answering.

HG : Is poetry political? Let me tell a little fable about that. Once, long ago & far away, in the kingdom of Shnoz, the masses were enamoured of Rex Regal & Regatta Special, their very own King & Queen. Rex & Regatta were not only good-looking, they were also well-mannered and well-spoken in any situation. Rex was, moreover, an excellent water-skiier. Regatta was raised in Humble Circumstances, a village not far from Capital, the capital of their nation (Capita); but she knew she could handle the jui-jitsu of social climbing; she put on her velveteen hiking boots and lo & behold became queen of her fair land. There was a poor ugly soft-muscled man in Capita, whose name was Lex Verbosity. He had become the Offical Man of Letters after winning the spelling bee in Capita Junior High three years in a row, an unprecedented achievement for someone with such poor handwriting. Well, Lex decided to become a poet. But in order to do so, he had to win the hand of the Princess of the Dark Wood, whose name was Circe Circuitous (really!). This was just the way they did things in that fair land known to this day as Capita. Well, to make a long story short, Ron, Lex succeeded. He lived in the forest with Circe for 35 years, only to emerge as Pig Laureate 35 years after that. Rex, King of Capita, was mightily alarmed; he sent his entire chessboard into the Dark Wood to capture Circe, but a short time later his army came running & squealing back home, curling their little piggly tails behind them.

RD : Henry, is this somehow related to your poetics?

HG : Did you note the word "chessboard" which appeared in my little fable just related?

RD : I did.

HG : Did you note what happened to the chessboard, Ron?

RD : I did.

HG : What conclusions can you draw from this story? Who is your favorite character, and why? Do you think that Lex did the right thing in marrying the Princess of the Dark Forest? How would you have become a poet differently?

RD : I don't know, to tell the truth.

HG : It's fairly simple. In this country, the United States, Dylan Thomas represents King Rex. Marianne Moore represents Queen Regatta. Sylvia Plath can play Circe. But who is Lex Verbosity? This depends upon how you view the impact of modern art and 20th-century history on poetic productive forces. For most American poets, poetry is a force for retirement, despite the impression, created quite premeditatively, of Wild Boy & Girl romanticism fostered by the likes of Rick Temblor, jing-a-ling poet-cowboy, & the like. But for an extremely astute & rigid avant-garde, the productive forces of poetry have been marshalled for the manufacture of a new and better world, represented by ee cummings, mm eekings, the Doodle Sisters of Paris, France, Ernie Hummingbird, TB Shott, Nozra Bash, and so on. These are the antennae of the rat, if you will, and the alert young minds of our generation - I mean those who dare to resist the cantankerous imposition of middling classy mores throughout the suburban hell which is our world - these young people are standing up together for freedom, and saying We Are The Pepsi Generation! in terms of verse.

RD : And you? Where do you stand, Henry Gould?

HG : I usually sit. But thanks for asking.


Since I have nothing better to do than juggle 45 boxes of cheese-flavored cheerios with my feet while translating Mandelstam into pig Latin, I thought I'd paste in here a portion of a letter written many many years ago to Agatha Trillenta, who was living at the time over a bicycle shop run by a collective of Italian film-makers (the year was 1947) in Rome:

Cara Agatha,

You ask about my poetics. Well, this is a subject dear (as in "expensive") to my heart, as I spent many years during World War 2 fighting a certain amalgam of abstract flotillae ranged against me in that epistemological episteme, or steam-pit, as it were, then.

Generally, or "kernelly", as we say in midwestern corn country, I think it may be said, and I think it has been said, by several thinkers in the range of nations between the 15th and 17th Parallels, and not only by myself, I might add (sorry for the prolixity here), that my approach, or, as it were, technique, in poetry, involves treading a narrow middle path between fromagitude on the one bank, and the avant-gouda on the rocks t'other side o'me. To begin with, I think it is fairly obvious, I never, at least to my knowledge, and I should know, I think, if anyone should, that, in the main, in my writing, I never, for the most part, or should I say, ever, in fact, use, usually, commas, or, to put it plainly, in laymen's terms, but perhaps more precisely, I, that is, me, here, now, and also then, whenever, tend, most often, to, at least most of the time, anyway, avoid, you know, cara amica, subordinate, as they are called, phrases, if, and this is a very, in fact, huge, large, if, possible, that is, if, in other words, it, what I say, is, duh duh ain't it obvious, can, like, be, y'know, done.

This kind of writing, this avoidance of the necessary along with the unnecessary foci of syntactical abrasion, has gotten me in lots of trouble with the gatekeepers of literary decorum, I mean, the slop-happy statisticians of the jail yard, like, I mean all of Boston, most of Buffalo, 99 percent of San Francisco, and NY faggeddabaddit. Rhode Island is a wee very tiny small state; and why, you ask? my dear & extremely radiant charisma-saturated poet of Italia? Why, well, because we have no GATES here; all the stuffing of Rhode-Island goes runnin' through the sluices, skippin' trew the rye, hoppin' down the bunny path, smack into the Gates of dem other States, whammo!! That's why we is small and that's why we is an island that is no island, that's why, I tell you that's why [sing to tune of "Well Drop My Rrrrrs Blues"].

Agatha, my pet, molte molte grazie for sending the Lambrusco-soaked pettini; I will return the favor as soon as my corn bread rises and the cheese is duly somnolent. Until then, arriv', baby!!!
young John Latta in poetry class. Weren't the word Charles Wright were looking for prolific? Happy medium between profligate & productive, Prof. [uh, was this a Hotel Point quiz, maybe?]
poem about doves by CK Williams in this week's New Yorker. didn't really grab me. (now perhaps if he'd written about Cheese. . .)

wish I could see the Philip Guston retrospective at the Met, though.
A friend emailed to say how much he liked my awkward comments earlier this week about the anonymous, "un-literary" dimension of poetry's presence in the world. It reminded me somewhat of Kent Johnson's forthright criticism, in various places, of the merely theoretical-academic politicization of poetics. The distinction he draws between theory and actual civic-political realities is a sane & healthy one, I think.

The email also reminded me of this old poem, a little different from my usual. The last two lines say what I meant better than the blog comments did.


in memoriam W.W.

Walking over the bridge to the post office, the wind
raking trash against the steel fences, I saw a carpenter
hoist on a nonchalant frame of ropes and wood – intent,
healing a wounded wall, a gash of red bricks
curved like a crazy smile beneath an empty window.

Maybe this carpenter is cruel – rough, cold
to his children, beating his wife. Maybe cheats
on his taxes, scams his customers; maybe
he harries gays and poets and femmes like me
in order to prove he can still get stiff,
or get those lingering rumors off his back
about his adolescence. . . maybe this man is evil,
in all the ways an old sinner like me can imagine.

The wind smashes newspapers, election notices
across the road, over the bridge wall. The world
rages in throes of death and thirst echoing
over the tough skin of the rooftops – the scream
of an orangutan, stuffing a broken body up the shaft.

Scant light from a failing sun penetrates the clouds,
glows a little against the face of the wall.
Unexpected beauty, like this faint light
holds firm that workman on his floating planks.
Unheralded, unglorified, the earth is secret.
Mundane eloquence, whispered every day.


This letter arrived yesterday in the midst of a torrential downpour (I gave the poor mailwoman a slice of provolone) from Agatha Trillenta, the exiled poet of Istria. I publish here with her distinct permission.

"Caro Enrico,

It is a matter of indifference to me, now, after so many long months living in solitude here in the quaint, depopulated, and fundamentally desolate town of Ciopinnara, on the island of Istria, in the middle of the Mediterranean, on the tragic planet now known as Earth (in the Universe commonly understood as, "the Universe"). It is a matter of indifference that my public no longer asks of me, no longer remembers my name, the name of the most beautiful and intelligent poet of the Western World. It is a matter of indifference to me that my books have fallen into the seventh circle of the Second Hand Book Stores throughout Europe, and needless to say have never even been published in America (despite your gallant & tireless efforts, amico - I know, I know!!!).

It is a matter of indifference. And why, you may ask? Because I know that in the depths of the cosmos, where the shades of Michelangelo, David & Monticelli share vino e pane with Dante Alighieri (if he's in a good mood, you never know - & how well I know this, amico!!), I assert that there, in that eternity promised to the way-farer faring forth, my dear "W.H." - there, there, indeed, the lasting & eternal odor of Fromagitude reeks in its beloved nest, among the fervent flock (ever fit, ever few)!

Remember me with lilacs & muenster - as I, in turn, behold your image in the ancient cheese tray, mio companero!

- Fragrantly,
your Agatha T.
Watched the happy-go-lucky PBS show on cosmology last night (Elegant Universe). I could identify with the neglected string theorists & their rejection slips from science journals hither & yon.

Over the weekend the true impulse returned & I went back to my template quatrains & I think it will work. Some excerpts below from the new version Dove Street.

  It begins like this, on a dark autumn day.
The wind is blowing, you don't know
where it leads. Pussy-willow, dogwood
wave their last leaves. The lead-gray sky

shrouds the universe in its camouflage
of sleep and melancholy. Ravens
mark your place in the book of dying
and being born. Goldfinch paces his cage.


In Bruegel's The Dark Day, the herdsmen
follow a ridge in the foreground, drawing on
their oxen, charcoal outlines seemingly stolen
from the Lascaux caves. In the distance

storms lash a somber, mountainous coast
helmeted with desolate castle;
shipwrecks ornament the entrance
to the harbor. A wintry violence

looms in murk above muted ruddiness,
ramshackle roofs of valley and village;
Bruegel grins in the teeth of all this rage,
shepherding home his cataclysmic canvas.


Every leaf bears an image of the tree
(as when the underside of an autumn olive
stands upright, tall - a tiny silver cypress).
Every book bears an image of the Book To Be

and every child bears an image of the singer
(almond-eyed) who left a humming shadow
in the neighborhood - that summer cicada
shrunk to autumn cricket (fading, lingering).


Cosmologists are gathering in conference rooms
with maps and diagrams and arguments;
Anthropic Principle, String Theory, Branes,
Dark Energy vents, dents - various dawns, dooms.

I walk down Dove Street almost every day
to watch the silver-gray autumnal sky
mirror the shifting moire of the bay
(soothing my heart this way).

Orpheus fingered the space between the strings
of his imaginary lyre (he'd thrown the real one
in the river, after Eurydice had gone).

Only a pearl-gray shadow (lightening).


What mutters and broods in an undertone,
the doves and pigeons underfoot, gray
wing upon gray stone. What flits off
at your lumbering step, O ponderous one -

through a gap in the trees in your heart,
under your eyelids, beyond memory,
beneath, behind. Dazed now, you see
but can't explain: home again - Dove Street.


As if childhood were Bruegel
panorama - tiny almond eye
planted (hidden) at the center.
And the passionate quest - trial's

puzzle of yearning loneliness
only subplot, type, analogy
(ink-path echo - shady
image - singular ingress).



Read yesterday & today, new book:

This Much : selected poems 1970-2000, by David Cashman. Catskill Press, 2003. David used to edit The Providence Review with Mark Halliday. I met him back in the 70s and then didn't see him for 30 years, until I started going to church across the street from my house & found him there. He's an excellent poet, & I admire & envy this book. Makes our blogger's games look like so much trivial pursuit.

(Poetry happens, sometimes, on a different level, unbeknownst, anonymous almost, closer to ordinary non-literary life, without losing any of its authority, integrity, freedom, "literariness".) (I'm being somewhat more inarticulate than usual this morning.) (The ambitious & the professional can lose touch with it. I am speaking for myself here, others may identify. This may be some kind of natural or moral cycle, leading perhaps to re-discovery.)


Gabriel Gudding might be interested in the following, if he doesn't already know about it. I just ordered a rare book from Scotland for the library, titled A Conchologist's Text-book, by Captain Thomas Brown, published in Glasgow in 1833.

In doing so I noticed that the library already owned the following, "published for the author by Haswell, Barrington & Haswell" in Philadelphia, in 1839 : The conchologist's first book; or, A system of testaceous melacology, arranged expressly for the use of schools, in which the animals, according to Cuvier, are given with the shells, a great number of new species added, and the whole brought up, as accurately as possible, to the present condition of the science. The said author is listed as EDGAR ALLAN POE. A note to the library record : "Stated by R.W. Griswold, in the International Monthly Magazine, Oct. 1850, to be a copy nearly verbatim, of the text-book of conchology by Captain Thomas Brown, printed in Glasgow in 1833."

Was one of Eddy's heteronyms a certain Captain Brown?
I want to apologize to my faithful hip-booted blogsloggers for neglecting the important issue in poetics lately : the differing notions of metonymy/metophany held by the School of Fromagitude on the one hand, and the Avant-Gouda on the other hand (or in the other hand, I should say). Considering the avalanche of commentary - a veritable landslide of cheese - which accompanied my last foray into that aromatic arena, I look forward to another big helping of the same.

Now today's lecture will consist of an in-depth consideration of metophany from the perspective of goat cheese aesthetics. Metophany, as we all know (or we all should know, if we have read our Johann Schlimmen carefully, and I mean you, Gertrude, friend of Louise in Scottsdale), as we all know, is a blend of metonymy & catachresis (the rhetorical manuever involving the use of very thin slices of provolone in a frisbee-like mimetic "toss" motion). [More info on catachresis can be found at the Schlimmen memorial website, http://meinminnyminyyminischulekittykittykatistzookute.com] Catachresis is not limited to poetry about the moon, cats, or cheese; far from it! The trope shows up all over the joint, as the old Bogart line has it. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of Fromagitude poets (and my comment is not mere fly-swatting, but is based on the statistical work of the Cheez Whiz Commune, a group of avant-gouda poet-statisticians based in Madison, Wissenschaftsconsin) apply catachresis solely in their works about cheese, reflecting a preternatural bias toward established dairy vendors centered in the Chicago trucking distribution poetry scene.

More later : I must run to the kitchen for a moment.


Ron has emailed me to say that he did not delete my comment to his blog posting of today. I have asked him to re-instate it if possible. How it disappeared no one seems to know.

I have deleted some previous messages triggered by my over-sensitive censorship antenna.
If, as John Latta suggested yesterday, writing under a pseudonym or fictive persona sometimes enables free (or freer) expression, then it seems possible that feeling & emotion in poetry might sometimes take authentic form through a "heteronym".

If, in addition, we grant that all language is an artificial construct, a kind of shorthand "dress-up" for an irreducible reality, then, paradoxically, the "truest" expression - what corresponds to the situation most closely - might be such a "fiction of a fiction".

Halloween is coming, oh boy (put on costume; get candy). Curious how a masking ritual precedes the feast-day celebrating community as a symbolic whole (All Souls, All Saints Day).


I've never been too interested in Kent Johnson's obsession, the problematic nature of authorship. But reading through the latter part of his interview in Vert makes me wonder if there's a connection between his idee fixe & the version of negative capability[?] I wrote about earlier here - the idea that the emotional ground of a poem is where both author & audience connect, and that this emotional area is outside the author's control. (On some level, is every poem written by Anonymous, then? That's stretching it. But neither is "identity" in a simple identifiable state at the moment of composition.)

This might also have some relation to the notion of sincerity which Kent also discusses. Edwin Honig was always concerned with distinguishing between the authentic poem and rhetoric : he would often slash away at whole stanzas of others' poems, saying "you don't need this, it's just rhetoric". Perhaps what he was getting at was the difference between authentic emotion in poetry & the rhetorical manipulation of a phantom emotion. (Honig also once proposed an anthology made up entirely of poems by Anonymous. Not incidentally is he one of the leading Pessoa scholars.)
grey-eyed Athena.

the bay down at India Point was lead-gray this morning. melancolia : plumb.

I seem to be looking for the emotional key for another writing project.
Gray is a shade of grey, or vice-versa, I'm not sure which.
Thinking about the color grey lately.

Sort of an indeterminate blend of two already-absent shades. Grey sea, grey clouds, grey stone, grey pigeons, grey whales, grey dolphins. The old grey Manxman in Moby Dick.

Grey is the servant of the other colors.

On a walk over the weekend in South County, passed a greenish silver-grey tree with scarlet berries, which I thought was some kind of willow, but Sarah said it was probably an autumn olive, an invasive species on the East Coast, almost indistinguishable from the Russian olive.
I've deleted a previous post, which was waxing sarcastic.

As a would-be poet with a blog, I'd rather not participate in clique politics of flattery/exclusion. Most of us experienced enough of that in junior high.

There are better things to do with writing talent in this world.


I'm a little embarrassed to tell this personal story, but what are blogs for, anyway? When I read something enjoyable or compelling, I hold a little awards ceremony for the book or blog or whatever. I have a special bronze, silver, or gold medallion (cast in the form of a Havarti Moon surmounted by twin leaping Guernseys) fashioned by my friend and personal sculptor Guido Lunasco, who lives in a little hilltop studio overlooking the Arnosuch River in Tuscany; then I invite a few select companions (apologies to anyone accidentally left out) to my own study here in Luigilottodusto, and over a few bottles of choice champagne, we toast the winning volume (url site, whatever) and, suspending the medallion directly over the center of the award-winning object from a length of gold chain, by oscillating it slowly back and forth, I hypnotize everyone present and throw the award-winning volume about 10 feet in the air, whereupon my assistant, Fianciuletta Fellini, catches it in mid-air and places upon its surface a ceremonial baccio (kiss). Immediately afterward, with a snap of the fingers, I awaken the assembled entourage, and, strange as it may seem, the hypnotic spell convinces each and every participant that he or she has actually read the award-winning work in question.

Congratulations, award-winners !


Kent Johnson interview. Expand your mind.
Shanna Compton, whose endearing blog is new to me, and who must be deeply caught up in the incredibly rich and flavorful ongoing debate between the School of Fromagitude and the Avant-Gouda, forwarded me this important poem:

Ode on the Mammoth Cheese
Weighing over 7,000 pounds

We have seen the, queen of cheese,
Lying quietly at your ease,
Gently fanned by evening breeze,
Thy fair form no flies dare seize.

All gaily dressed soon you’ll go
To the great Provincial show,
To be admired by many a beau
In the city of Toronto.

Cows numerous as a swarm of bees,
Or as the leaves upon the trees,
It did require to make thee please,
And stand unrivalled, queen of cheese.

May you not receive a scare as
We have heard that Mr. Harris
Intends to send you off as far as
The great world’s show at Paris.

Of the youth beware of these,
For some of them might rudely squeeze
And bite your cheek, then songs or glees
We could not sing, oh! queen of cheese.

We’rt thou suspended from balloon,
You’d case a shade even at noon
Folks would think it was the moon
About to fall and crush them soon.

James McIntyre (1827-1906)

Somehow I feel the soft texture & delicate aroma of this poem will have an appetizing effect on the whole prix fixe perplexity.
Attended RI Philharmonic last night. (knew Phil Harmonic & his brother Fred in high school. yeah.) Music by Berlioz, Prokofiev, Barber, Respighi.

Stirred by the emotional keys, later one of those thoughts occurred to me, the kind of thing we don't like to admit:

that our frenetic debates about poetics have missed something essential, which is that good poetry is emotionally expressive & expansive, in a way that touches the crowd, touches Everyperson, and that this elusive something is not measurable in terms of a political or aesthetic "position" nor by the minutiae of stylistic dissection. Thus the successful poets for the most part are elusive, evasive, noncommittal, &/or terse about "poetics", since it's a matter of an imponderable faculty outside the poet's control.

Mandelstam actually wrote several poems which address this conundrum of the "dream beyond reason" from various angles. From "Octets" (Moscow, 1934):

And Schubert on the water, and Mozart in the uproar of the birds,
and Goethe whistling on the winding path,
and Hamlet, thinking with fearful steps,
all felt the crowd's pulse and believed the crowd.
Perhaps my whisper was already borne before my lips,
the leaves whirled round in treelessness
and those to whom we dedicate our life's experience
before experience acquired their traits.

(trans. by David McDuff). this poem something like a Zen koan, to me anyway.


This is one of those late Mandelstam poems - one among so many - which come through for me even in translation.

He can still remember the wear and tear on his shoes,
and the worn grandeur of my soles.
I, in turn, remember him : his many voices,
his black hair, how close he lived to Mount David.

The pistachio-green houses on the foxhole streets
have been renovated with whitewash or white of egg;
balconies incline, horseshoes shine, horse - balcony,
the little oaks, the plane trees, the slow elms.

The feminine chain of curly letters
is intoxicating for eyes enveloped in light.
The city is so excessive and goes off into the timbered forest
and into the young-looking, aging summer.

Mandelstam, exiled in Voronezh, is remembering a fellow poet & Tiblisi, the capital of Georgia (near Mount David). (Resonates oddly for me, since John Tagliabue & his family lived a block down the hill from Mount David, a little hill in Lewiston, Maine.) The ordinariness of these lines is suffused with melancholy & loving memory. (Translated by Richard & Elizabeth McKane, from the Bloodaxe Bks edition of Voronezh Notebooks.)


I've repaired & updated my blog links. Sorry it's taken so long, folks : I forgot they were there. I don't use them much, on my own blog or other people's. I use the "favorites" bookmarks. My list is not inclusive or conclusive or representative, it's merely an "ive" list of links.

In the 1960s I started writing poetry, & liked the NY School poets a lot.

In the 1970s I had religious experiences & long wild wanderings & played a lot of music.

In the late 70s & early 80s I did community organizing & started ever-so-slowly getting back into poetry. I wrote very short, cautious, spacy, inhibited, somewhat imitative poems. I was in love with Osip Mandelstam & his wife, his poetry, their story.

In the 1980s I got more involved with other poets, like Edwin Honig & others in the RI area, & John Tagliabue, my then-father-in-law, who was (& is) a very enthusiastic writer, reciter, & interpreter of poetry. I read more widely, working to try to expand my range. I got interested in the long poem as a way of bringing in more things. I got very interested in Eugenio Montale's & Hart Crane's poetry.

In the late 80s & early 90s I started writing longer poems - influenced by Montale, Anglo-Saxon poetry, Crane, Pound, Olson, Williams, & of course Mandelstam. I wrote several of these long extended poems, & also experimented with traditional forms.

In the late 80s & 90s I helped edit a literary magazine, Nedge, and was quite active in organizing readings at local galleries, coffee shops, etc. under the auspices of a nonprofit group called the Poetry Mission.

Also in the 90s I spent a ton of time co-editing a big anthology in honor of Edwin Honig, titled A Glass of Green Tea - With Honig, which came out very well (still available from Fordham Univ. Press). Also succeeded in getting Honig's Collected poems edited & published after years of work (Time & Again, available from XLibris). This is something I am proud of.

In the late 90s I wrote Island Road, a sonnet sequence, where for the first time I felt I was integrating something of my very early fascination with the NY School & my interest in Shakespeare's sonnets.

In the very late 90s I started writing my 3rd or 4th very long poem, which ended up being almost a 1000 pp long, called Forth of July. Some of it was published as Stubborn Grew; the sequels were self-published.

Also in the late 90s I got involved with discussions & controversies on the Buffalo Poetics internet list. I started turning my sense of dislocation with the prevailing modes of experimental poetry into a kind of polemic.

These polemics often drove me to a dialectical position-taking which was somewhat extreme, so that I began defending the notion of the poet's absolute independence from collectivities or social influences.

However, my deepest commitment goes to the notion that art is a means by which the imagination builds models of social relations and communities. I get the feeling that the source of my difficulties with the "experimental" community is twofold: first of all, I do not share the notion that avant-garde art and left-wing politics are simply 2 halves of a positive "progressive" phenomenon; secondly, I think perhaps I simply "hear" poetry - the poetry of the past & the near-present - in a different way; as something that has to be fully absorbed & appreciated before it can ever be tweaked, twisted, parodied or displaced. These two sources of my "difference" probably mean only one thing : I am simply more conservative than the poets whose milieu I attempt to invade.
I'm startled to find how much interest & controversy the mere listing of the Limburger Biennale finalists has provoked. We live in a terribly competitive culture; I long for the era of the potlatch, when communities of poets sat around the bubbling fondue kettle & shared their epic & romantic adventures with milk & other dairy products.


I am not going to post the list of finalists for the National Book Award in Poetry here. You can find this information at several blogs & news outlets. I can't cover everything in the world of What Is Poetry!! I try my best. Okay, I will list the finalists in the Limburger Biennale Selecte for Poesie (held every odd year in Limburg, CS):

Celeste Jaquin, for The Moon : Reflections in a Cheese Shredder

Barry Berry, for I Am Saying Cheese, Mother

Blythe Sparrow, for Cheese Wheel Dreams

Bob LeBoeuf, for Letting You Know Beforehand : Cheese Poems and Odors
. . ."History", as we know it, being a procession of illusory short-cuts which prove to be characteristic sins (& thus delays on Dante's road). Characteristic of the 20th century : the notion that since morality is merely an illusion, it could be made to serve (servant of force in the realm of action, & of innovation in the realm of ideas). Its trinity : Lenin, Stalin, Hitler.

Characteristic of the 21st century (so far) : my physical & economic well-being is the earthly paradise; as long as I behave myself, I don't need to worry about those other people. (Maybe this is every century.)
& I want to thank Kent Johnson for once again guarding the marches of freedom over there in Ron's comment box. I am completely bemused by the way this question of exclusion keeps coming back to haunt me from Buffalo. The world is as small as the buffalos in it.
Good morning, everyone. I am standing on my head as I type this. Thank you, thank you, please hold your applause, thank you.

In yesterday's (10/15) comment box at Ron Silliman's clubhouse, I made some comments about poetry as a subset of an extra-poetic realm one might call Paradise or the kingdom of heaven. These occasioned some conjecturing with myself as I walked to work this morning (fine October day here in New England).

I had written that poetry offered something of a "seeming short-cut (only seeming)" to that realm. But bumbling along the street this morning, it occurred to me that this "offer" stems from a mistaken or incomplete perception. It also occurred to me that these are deep issues which are beyond me & over my head for the moment.

Anyone who doubts that these are serious issues in poetry need only read Dante's Purgatorio, where the trip to the earthly paradise takes place in large part through conversations about poetry; the love-ballads of Dante's troubadour models are sketched as seductive "pauses" (or illusory short-cuts) on the difficult road to well-being. Or read his Vita Nuova for that matter, where writing poetry moves through an adolescent phase wrapped in narcissistic "love of love", to a kind of soul-saving endeavor, the writer's only (desperate) means of articulating a response to the beloved's death, & the truth about mortal and immortal life.

Poetry, it would be hard to deny, is a "seductive" mode of speech in any context, a mode that achieves its affects through pleasure. Poetry cults are founded on the seeming short-cut (to somewhere) it thus provides. Yet perhaps it can be shown that poetry also works on its readers more stringently, in the area of Pound's logopeia. The overall beauty of a poem perhaps rests in a balance of forces, an achieved rest which holds these forces in equilibrium : poetry/not-poetry, beauty/truth. In this kind of classicism, the effect of a poem is not ultimately seductive : in fact, by renouncing rhetorical seduction, by presenting a disinterested, independent balance of forces, the poem offers a model of health & healing. It does not take the place of paradise, but models the distance to its attainment.

It's funny to be thinking these thoughts in the context of RS's next daily message (10/16), which outlines quite coherently a sobering perspective, which definitely has an earthly paradise in view, blocked by forces of economic stagnation-tyranny leading to injustice. Silliman emphasizes the power of creative iconoclasm & innovation present in artistic activity as a model for response to hegemonic (& hyper-modernizing) injustice.

In my view (this morning anyway off the top of my head) this is o.k., but there are a couple problems with it. The first is that life-experience cannot be reduced to shifts and power-plays in the realm of political economy. The refusal to participate in such reductivity is one of the prime purposes of artistic activity. In & by this refusal art reveals the complexity that politics always simplifies. The second problem is related to the first. Through the free imagination, art represents the way that moral force is manifested by human beings; by the same token, a moral act is an act of imagination. There is a categorical breakthrough here which allows the free human spirit to assert an "authority" not bound by exterior necessity, violence or force. This imaginative freedom, of course, also allows for the danger of Faustian pride or egocentric withdrawal from the struggles of life. But the freedom of the spirit is also perhaps the only way that the essence of human nature & human dignity is expressed in the world.

This is the source of the problem I have with utilitarian, sociological, political gambits for "improvement" of & through the arts. There is no technical solution, which is what Ron seems to invoke in his call for artists to harness innovation for the betterment of the world. The moral imagination is not subject to innovation : it's a matter of commitment unto death, under circumstances no one can predict.


John Latta has been nominated for the prestigious Outside Award, for "originality, intelligence, and sheer guts". The award is granted annually to poets who somehow manage to step away from their computers and actually "go outside" of their habitats, into the "outdoors". There is no cash award; however, winners receive a used parka from the Outside Building Foundation.
Memo to China : Moon Made of Cheese

[Washington, DC] NASA official Don Cheddar, in a speech here to the National Council of Space Cheese Specialists (NCSCS), offered what he described as "a timely warning, a little friendly advice" to China's burgeoning space exploration program, noting that recent analysis of moon samples have verified earlier claims that Earth's sole orbiting companion, "our pale goddess of the night sky, that familiar yet-so-mysterious round lamp in the murk known to us simply as 'the Moon'", is, indeed, a primitive form of gorgonzola.


[sigh] & the more you talk about it. . .
Josh responds to my late comments on his latest.

Stevens drew some of his material for Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction from a book by Charles Mauron called Aesthetics and Psychology (Leggett covers this in the book I mentioned earlier). I find his/their attitude on these matters pretty persuasive.

It's not that social forces, history, politics etc. must be kept out of poetry, or can be. It's that all these things are part of the world of action, and that the aesthetic impulse or feeling which inspires poetry emanates from another place, the world of contemplation : a pause in reality and its demands, a Sabbath-day in which we simply contemplate without striving to change or be changed. The originality and freedom of poetry, its synthetic power to evoke and present reality in a new light, depend ultimately on this capacity to see & feel & invent without a social demand of any kind; an originary, independent, early impulse. Aesthetic response, creative vision. & then the listener or reader sees & shares it with the artist.
HGpoetics Not Included on the new EPC Blog list. As I believe they say in France, "plus caw grunge. . ." Or as good ol' Beantown Jimby likes to say, "Poetry is : Ignoring Henry Gould".
Begin, ephebe, by perceiving the idea
Of this invention, this invented world,
The inconceivable idea of the sun.
- Stevens, Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction

Re-reading B.J. Leggett's useful book, Wallace Stevens and Poetic Theory. Interesting chapter on what Stevens may have been getting at with the title "It Must Be Abstract". How he drew upon I.A. Richards' book Coleridge on Imagination to come to a notion of how the mind - whether in perception ("the poet of reality") or imagination ("the poet of fictions") - always abstracts : that all words are imaginative abstractions, creations of thought. In this way he plays/works with the imagination/reality pairing, without getting stuck (like some of his critics) on one prong or the other.

Mandelstam somewhere: "Love the idea of the thing more than the thing itself."

Byzantine icons, Nicholas Cusanus. "God" being a human concept, a name, for something we cannot really grasp; humankind as imago dei one of its imaginative corollaries, a concept which can come to have meaning both in contemplation & action. Coleridge on the imagination as the expression of the divine "I Am". An imaginative idea of the economy of the earth. "O what a piece of Work is Man!"

Leggett shows curiously how Stevens was also heavily influenced by a biographical study of Giambattista Vico, about the same time Joyce was writing Finnegans Wake.


Ed Dorn's hyperbolic version of previous comment:

To a poet all authority
except his own
is an expression of Evil
and it is all external authority
that he expiates
this is the culmination of his traits.
Feeling a cold breeze blowing from blogland since my stance on the Houlihan brouhaha. The world is as small as the people in it. Though I was harsher than I should have been on Fence (every magazine has its mix of good & not-so-good) & on the poem Houlihan chose from it (still, sans the sarcasm, I think my evaluation of it was about right).

Josh Corey has some interesting musings on Atlantean communityhood. I am far more sceptical than he is. If membership in the true a-g requires some non-aesthetic political mutual understanding or allegiance (as per Steve Evans), that's fine, if you want to be political; but it's not worth selling out your poetry for it.

The poet, in my view, is working with an originary, primordial, anarchically free mode of speech, the special aptitude of which is to absorb & transmute everything (political, social, religious, aesthetic) that comes within its range. I'm not saying it transmutes all these things in reality : I'm saying that within its own sphere it remakes them into something else (poetry). The values of poetry that remain through time & historical change are centered in this originality : we don't value Whitman or Dickinson or WC Williams or Crane or Pound or Stevens or etc., for their political opinions or social commitments, but for the original force of their poetry, which synthesizes all the various social & ideological & intellectual & emotional elements into something rich & strange.

I've said it again & again & again & again (see especially the interview with Kent in Jacket #10). . the ideals & commitments of various social & political communities may be very noble & fine, but when they try to use these values & ideological formations to make claims on poetry, they exude, as Mandelstam put it, "the unclean goat-smell of the enemies of the Word."

[added later:] However, the notion of poetry cleansed isolated idealized iconized - as if it were a living entity and not a human creation - only sterilizes the notion of poetry & dehumanizes its cult-worshippers. What's the answer to that? The poet, as poet, expresses human feeling & thought & commitments & values through & within poetry; this process cannot be judged, channeled, manipulated, massaged, promoted, or controlled by anyone or anything outside it, without corrupting it & losing its essence. (Pantaloons, indirectly, reminded me of this.)


Not sure if it makes sense to search for orderly psychological laws of social (or literary) behavior. Did anyone read the New Yorker article this week about suicide & the Golden Gate Bridge? The public policy of San Francisco for the last 35 years in that regard seems more perverse, sad & scandalous than the suicides themselves. Similar things could be said about homeless housing policy in New York.
Jordan is thinking about pain & exclusion. So's the Vatican today. From Reuters:

"The decision not to give the Nobel Peace Prize to Pope John Paul has disappointed Vatican officials and Catholics, who felt the ailing pontiff deserved it and may not live to get another chance.

``The pope is sick exactly because of the pain that wars caused him so he should have won the Nobel Peace Prize,'' said Anna, an elderly Italian, after visiting the Vatican on Friday."

"Stubborn Grew is the most important American poem published since 2000. Also, the moon is made of cheese."

- Bishop George Berkeley, Esq. LLd., Phd., PDQ.
"Paradise comprises about one square mile of Middletown bordered by Second Beach, Paradise Avenue, Green End Avenue, and Third Beach Road."
- James L. Yarnall, John LaFarge in Paradise

from "Once in Paradise" :


Aloft there on shale shelf, in cave mouth,
Berkeley's eyes drifted out to sea.
A pair of dicey gypsy barks
gambling on the shepherding waves.

You have your materialist peasants
nattering pedantically along with your
libertine idle blank-eyed statuettes O
London - and this jovial pleasant

noncholeric Irish bookish Dean
waves the Vico key in your face. And waits.
Waits for your double crosscheck, mates -
your doubloon that never comes - keening,

why have your forsaken me? In RI? Heaven's
not some dull neuteronian mechanical.
It's providential - and recreational!
A dream, again! - again! - Bermudian!
Note to Jonathan:

And God-appointed Berkeley that proved all things a dream,
That this pragmatical, preposterous pig of a world, its
farrow that so solid seem,
Must vanish on the instant if the mind but change its theme.

--William Butler Yeats, "Blood and the Moon"

(Bishop Berkeley lived in Newport, RI for a few years, while planning his Atlantean school in Bermuda; he makes an appearance in the "Once in Paradise" chapter of Stubborn Grew.)


John Latta has a blog : Hotel Point
Good book of poems happens across my desk - As in Every Deafness, by Graham Foust (Flood Editions, 2003).
Article in NY Times (you may be able to find it here) on recent theory that cosmos is finite, & shaped like a soccer ball. Didn't Plato also say it was shaped like a dodecahedron?
Feeling out of poetry lately. (This usually means I have to go back to Mandelstam. Strange.) Anyway, here's another scrap from "Dove Street":

                  The dried-up leaf
drifts from the tree
like a sub-sub-librarian
from the bookvault. My muttering
leaves the books behind, wanders away

under the sway of the amygdala.



Form & play : thus, a book of epistolary ghazals crosses my desk (Ghazals : Rai & Sohni, by Kuldip Gill. Victoria, BC: Frog Hollow Press, 2003).
Update : Experts Report Moon Made of Cheese
Lyric forms can be modes of play, not merely discipline. I wrote the Island Road sonnets as a way of playing imaginary time-games with Shakespeare.
The moon : made of cheese, definitely. It now remains for science to determine age, flavor, consistency.


Enjoying Jonathan's Homeric versions.

Something below from a poem in progress ("Dove Street"). My life seems to have simplified (or is it just my brain), & my "technique" seems to be growing more simple & bare.

                  Sleepwalking labyrinthine Providence.
Orpheus in Hades, Odysseus on the wine-dark sea,
Penelope, Eurydice (at the vanishing-point
of their desire, at the end of the drawn-out tale).

My sister, my dove. . .
There may be cheese on the moon, after all.


Reading in & about Maximus these days.

Not Olson's poem, nor his eponymous model (an Ionian peripatetic Sophist), but the Byzantine monk & theologian (600 a.d. or so). Maximus the Confessor.

Maximus was eventually martyred for taking a theological stand in the drawn-out conflicts between developing Orthodoxy & the various dissonant models of the nature of God & the Person(s) of the Trinity.

For most people, I suppose, the deadest of dead-ends & benighted controversies.

But reading an intro to a collection of his writings by Andrew Louth (Routledge, 1996) I was struck by a passage which seemed to have curious relevance to poetics. Much of the theological debate hinged on the question "What is a Person?" Here is Louth's passage:

"What is Maximus' answer to this problem? It is guided, as will now be evident, by his 'Chalcedonian logic'. Person is contrasted to nature: it is concerned with the way we are (the mode, or tropos), not what we are (principle, or logos). When he became incarnate - when he assumed human nature - the Word became everything that we are. But he did it in his own way, because he is a person, just as we are human in our own way, because we are persons. Maximus sometimes, as we have seen, expresses this distinction of levels by distinguishing between existence (hyparxis) and being (ousia, or einai): persons exist, natures are. Whatever we share with others, we are: it belongs to our nature. But what it is to be a person is not some thing, some quality that we do not share with others - as if there were an irreducible somewhat within each one of us that makes us the unique persons we are. What is unique about each one of us is what we have made of the nature that we have: our own unique mode of existence, which is a matter of our experience in the past, our hopes for the future, the way we live out the nature that we have. What makes the Son of God the unique person he is is the eternal life of love in the Trinity in which he shares in a filial way."

What struck me here is the idea that the personal is a way of troping on the common nature that we share : a way, not a substance. If we look at poetry as "troping" a personal "way", suddenly the debates over "lyric subjectivity" et al. take on a slightly different coloring.


In my mental geography (responding to Ron today), the town of Providence lies nestled between the Crevasse of Quietude (somewhere beyond Dante St., on Federal Hill) and Mount Atlantis (to the left of the Doyle Observatory). I have always felt that the official poets situated in the Crevasse have overslept due to lack of sunlight (the Mount inhibits morning rays, even during Daylight Savings months), though perhaps it's a question of allegiance to King George (who Slept Here too, a few years before Washington Slept Here & composed his "Ode on The Second-Best Bed in the Republic" while snoring through his wooden teeth) and his stylistic anglossia tics & other bedbugs. But I digress, citizens. The Crevasse Assembly Poets have always been startling dreamers (HP Lovecraft actually dreamt his nightmares in perfect iamboid pentchompeter), yet this has not won them the universal acclaim & plaudits & laurels & ecstatic receptivity which is their unnatural due, and Sylvia (Bath-Towel) knows this, along with Helen (Book) Vendor, and I don't think that the energetic freewheeling American love-happy poets of Mount Atlantis will ever grant them the hospitality which their shadowy pathos, in other words, is their Otherness. They are dominant and hegemonic but not demonic, as some influential maggots & zines would have it. I love their work and read it constantly until my eyes begin to bleed. There is hope for the Crevasse now, since several scenesters from Boston have abandoned beloved Beantown for dear olde Providence, but I don't want to give away their names yet (for free, anyway - backchannel me about this). I live not far from there but try to walk uphill every day, into the sunlight, which I deserve more than Jasper Fledgling the current Poet Laureate will ever in a million years admit or even countenance, with such a countenance as his (it is some countenance!). Oh my freedom-lovin' people & freewheelin' bards of America! Thank You!
another inadequate sestina for Jonathan (from Way Stations):


         And once upon a time. . . she read to you,
and all at once, time was a different time.
A something you could feel – invisible,
the way a breeze (when you were feverish)
passed through the window and across your book
and touched your forehead like an animal.

The books taught you the name of every animal.
As you forgot them, they remembered you –
whispering come back, I am your favorite book
just when they began to pass their time
deriding you – the neighborhood gang (feverish
with pride – tired of being invisible).

They revealed the real world was invisible
and beast was Adam's name for animal
and there were herds of them, roaming feverish
through history, lowing, howling for you
– or for that shepherdess of fabulous time
circling like a vision through your book. . .

oh shepherdess of the smoothest book!
You see her even now (she's invisible,
but you see her) pirhouetting perfectly in time
with the concert of the world – vegetable, animal,
stones, stars, ocean, all dancing for you
beneath her shadow, a sweet and feverish

dance! And it was wisdom to be feverish!
As you drew closer, she was like a book
unfolding a microscopic world for you –
a globe of penetrating texture. . . visible
inversions. . . tendrils of an animal
unknown. . . the shell of involuted time!

. . . so it wound, oblique, around your time,
and whispered sea-foam until, feverish,
you felt immersed inside that animal,
a velvet valve, enfolded in a book.
And you grew more and more invisible,
and changed, and suffered no more – you

who (once upon a time) had read a book
while feverish boys (now all invisible,
celestial animals) called out – hey you. . .



Old HG poem.

                  The wind exhaled, this world
sprawled – a spring disaster, flocks of embraces
in the garage, under the oil refineries
hospitable sirens, waltzing on broken silver.

And night deepened around the temple,
a yellow-black wafer, crust for the swans;
and the wind circled the olives, a morning watch
all night by the Kedron, all day by Euphrates.

And we'll meet again by the wintry river
where we swaddled the sun in a double wreath,
cedar and lilac, tangled in a knot of beaten
gold – sea-roses, breathing in Jerusalem.
- I won that argument.
- Which one?
- The one about poetry.
- About what?
- Poetry.
- What about it?
- About what?
- Poetry.
- What - were we arguing?
Music notes from Little Rhody: Band practice in Woonsocket Monday night, with Bill the new keyboard player. Self-employed piano tuner. Has four pianos & an organ in one not-so-large room on 2nd floor. Plus dog & 2 flying cats. Not sure how this is done.

We talked about how quite a bit of complex-sounding music actually stems from hands finding the easiest way to make the chords. Bill's wife sang us a poem she had written about the man recently arrested in a supermarket there for licking a woman's feet.