Never suppose an inventing mind as source
Of this idea nor for that mind compose
A voluminous master folded in his fire

He was on board ship, sailing from Byzantium
when the moment of illumination came, a flash
of light that staggered him (as happened to Paul
on the Damascus road): when he understood
there can be no ratio, no means of comparison,
no middle term, between the finite and the infinite
Thus, since God is infinite, we have no means
of knowing Him (invisible, incommensurate); so,
as Paul says, If any man thinks he knows anything,
he has not yet known as he ought to know
It follows then, for Nicholas (De Docta Ignorantia)
our proper study is, to understand our ignorance.

I think of him in Constantinople, looking up
into that limpid sphere, that massive cupola,
Hagia Sophia: gazing back at those gigantic eyes:
Christos Pantokrator, hovering there, magnificent
in lapis lazuli, translucent marble. He would
have known that, even then, all-conquering armies
of the Pasha were encroaching on the city gates;
had swept away, already, the last flimsy shreds
of once-almighty Christian Rome – history itself
grown incompatible with that triumphant
image glaring down.

I cannot know You
as You are
. But when I think of you
I think of Bruegel panoramas: there’s Mankind
(a little, furry, muddy, peasant thing – yet
at home upon the earth – its caretaker – self-
conscious, quick – inventive builder, gardener –
blind governor – your tarnished mirror);
and, as he painted in The Road to Calvary,
you hide amongst us, suffering servant, near
the center of our troubles: buried in the crowd:
one of the roughs (disguised, in camouflage,


Jonathan is lifting quatrains. Careful, JM, it's addictive. I am just now recovering from LQPS (Long Quatrain Poem Syndrome), with the help of LSM&WA (no, that's not a railroad, hobos - it's Little Sonnet Men & Women Anonymous).

I am in recoverevery. I have written 12 short poems in 2 weeks, & have posted them all here, for your delectation, dear Desdemona (et al.). I like blogs. If I publish a book someday, so be it, it will be your nickel. For now, I am here, an inexplicable anomaly on the fringe of the inter-planetary system, like Abolone, only more quietuded, dudes & duendas.
School of Phlogiston. I like it!

There should be as many schools of poetry as there are schools of thought.

School of Aptitude Testing
School of Bismarck, ND
School of Schadenfreude
School of Cassandra-Like Madness & Insight
School of Tired
School of Insincerity
School of Total Guilt (Anti-Confessional School)
School of Former Athletic Program Directors
School of Admiration for Kipling & the Canadian Mounties
School of Angry Web Nerd Po-Ethics
School of Ill-Defined Lust, Vanity, etc.
School of Dress-Up
School of Amateur Poets Who Have Admirable Vocations In Other Areas of Social Amelioration
School of Lovers of Folk Music and Howard Dean Who Are Not Bald Or Gray (3 people maximum)
School of Arts Management Professionals
School of I Wish I Had a Better Apartment Poetics
School of School

O Domine, suavitas omnis dulcedinis
posuisti in libertate mea, ut sim, si
voluero mei ipsius
.** – Nicolaus Cusanus

This tale depicts a young man named Borges,
terminally ill, slowly going blind, unable to
decide how to spend his last day. Should
he go outside before the sun goes down,
and lie in the sweet grass one more time,
and gaze up at clouds, passing slowly
across the face of the sky? Or should he
open the book he’s been meaning to read
(the green volume, waiting so patiently
there by his bed)? He begins to read.
The tale depicts a young man named
Borges, lying on his deathbed, unable to
decide whether to go outside, or continue
reading. Finally, the young man sets
aside his book, unfinished. The light is
going dim, golden. Trees are murmuring.
Soft air moves the curtains by the open
hospital window, next to his bed. Borges’
eyes are tired; he can no longer see... so
he shifts himself, slowly, aching, from bed
to wheelchair, forces the wheels to turn,
and rolls (wobbling, slowly) toward the door

* In the Spring 1943 issue of the Buenos Aires literary quarterly Jovanista,
a letter, purportedly written by J.L. Borges, signed “Julio Ciego”, referred
sarcastically to an unwritten (oral?) Borges parody, titled “An Unfinished
Tale by Borges,” performed one evening at the popular CafĂ© Manana by
the poet Ricardo Cesped.

** O Lord, the sweetness of all sweetness, you have given me freedom
to belong to myself, if I will.
yes, I'm very stubborn; not yet ready to give up on this Johnny Milton thing. here's a revised edition.


the government shall be upon his shoulder
– Isaiah

His statue steps off a cliff at Prospect Park
into the bow of an uncarved canoe –
invisible ship of state, that will embark
buoyant from here, to shape the world anew.
One civil concord, one unswerving keel,
one course whose wake’s dead reckoning is true:
beyond temporal things – in the eternal Real –
the Lord alone will judge: no human lords will do

Political tyrants, pious hypocrites,
religious fabricators, fog machines,
here magnanimity outruns your wits,
here freedom’s lantern plumb line wins
the day. Away with your burnt offerings;
speak truth, do right: these only shall please
deleted sonnet posted earlier. old-fashioned, bombastic.



The purple crocus with the golden cross
my wife uncovered on a cloudy Sunday
raking off the winter leaves, is tiny:
its petals are translucent baby-flesh,
the infant of the season. As the clouds
roll on, uneasy, overhead, as chilly
air shuffles off dried-up debris,
this little fellow, like a piping clover
(bird, song, flower) feeds on sunlight.

A trunk line rumbles just around the corner.
You hear the thunder herd of SUVs,
truck honks, the slow-but-steady roar
of fossil fuels (piped from Saudi sands)
closeting the planet in an overheated,
stuffy greenhouse. And it seems to me
Detroit and Riyadh aren’t so far apart:
one full of young men burning up the earth,
the other, with the same, burning for heaven.

Oases' rich mirages lure you, prince:
whether you’re the bad son of the West
or Sinbad of the East, the same vague form
(reclining figure, in a flying cave –
pure lustrous Paradise, or golden car)
embodies your untouchable desire,
unlimited, immaculate... and guides
you down the subtle, crooked corridors
where guns and butter (slippery) coincide.

Daydreams of the desert, smoking wheels
of would-be cowboys, fantasizing sheiks,
complacencies of conquest, opulence...
strangely, I sense the weather changing
at the pivot of the earth (cold passing).
Sad that so much innocence must die
before all crocuses and careful gardeners
(meek tenders at the mortal junction –
earth and heaven) come into their own.
this was originally written in a comment box over at Kasey's, but I repost it here in honor of AWP :

The learned felines settled in their cribs,
and sniffed the weighty tomes, all catnip-scented,
and flipped the pages with their five-clawed nibs,
and purred in praise, or growlingly dissented,
but mostly yawned and stretched their flexive limbs
or curled into tight balls, and snoozed away:
so went the Conference on Cat Prose & Poems
for several nights (they slept right through the day).

And all was well, until cats A and B
(I shan't reveal their names) began to yowl
in heat of anger (not the other kind);
they spilled right out of the C.C.P.P.
and took their catfight, cheek by jowl,
into the alley... oh... never mind.



It is because of the inexpressible
in the end, that the world is resolved
(or resolves itself) into poetry;

only the large mirror (or the small)
is chaste, is just enough. Disinterested
as gray pebble, humble word,

like a child chasing after his father,
gazing up at her mother, guilelessly
the poem rhymes with its theme.

So you attune yourself to sound
and imagery, just as you stand
before a Bruegel panorama:

just as Bruegel too stood motionless
while horsehair flickered (lightly,
across canvas) a world to life.

And these twin mirrors form a node
or square of light – a vanishing point –
where your heart goes out

to the intrepid harmony (Rostropovich
alone, at night, in the cold basilica
in Vezelay. Wooden cello,

catgut strings, horsehair bow... and
Bach sails up into the stony choirs
forever and ever – inexpressible

communion, woven
of earth and heaven, laced – a unison
of heartfelt fingers, with – infinity) –

Once again I've revised a line in a poem posted on March 23rd ("A Rest Note"). Back again to an earlier draft. I think this is a pretty interesting poem, despite some weak spots. A good example of nostalgic echoing of obsolete styles, as Ron would say.


wonder-word from Falstaff : kickshaws - meaning "trifles". From the french, quelques choses.

Meanwhile, up at the Hotel, JL reads a Christian Book.
Reading Henry IV (1 & 2) past couple days. Following up on yesterday's comment:

Shakespeare is intent on thematizing the inescapable riddles & conundrums of lived experience. Thus these plays I'm reading hinge throughout on surprise, the overturning of expectation (most prominently, Prince Hal's overturning his playboy reputation, "to mock the expectation of the world").

His deep contemplation of experience renders his plays close to infinitely interpretable, infinitely accessible. Thus if there are any secret or hidden aspects to them - hermetic in the true sense - these are quite minor effects (topical references hidden, say, out of political caution), compared to the larger, thematic moral mysteries which his characters enact.

I don't think there's a hermetic (in the sense of trobar clus) bone - nay, fingernail, sirrah - in his body.


Ron Silliman argues that the originality of the more original "post-avant" poets wears the mantle of trobar clus - total "engagement", poesie der poesie, as opposed to more watered-down or populist efforts. He's saying that the really good poets perform the really hot stuff for their peers, for the cognoscenti; no one else will get it.

Nice responses in the comment box from Larry Sawyer & Michael Peverett, who brought up Parzival.

My motto is : Ars Est Celare Artem (Art Is To Hide Art). Poetry can exhibit complexities of communication and motive, but hermeticism is not a requirement for their accomplishment.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there is a direct and reciprocal relationship between originality (&/or technical innovation) and reaching wide audiences. Sometimes. Not always - think of Gongora or Mallarme. But sometimes. Think Whitman, Shakespeare, Dante...



Beside a spring pond
limpid as Corot
waiting, I found
oak, birch, willow
fed heart grown fond.

Some blind bond
drowned long ago;
some old wound
whispering low
in branches, wind.

(Signals they send
we don't understand.
Seedlings, sounding
every season's end.)

Over flat land
spry flocks row;
under hard ground
small seeds pry
off stiff shells, rend

frozen sedge, wend
green stems through.
In an endless round
I'd lose myself (so
into a circle bend).
Mike, here's Wallace Stevens on the elusive "graininess" (vs. English euphony) I was speaking of the other day:

There would still remain the never-resting mind,
So that one would want to escape, come back
To what had been so long composed.
The imperfect is our paradise.
Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
Since the imperfect is so hot in us,
Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.

(from "The Poems of Our Climate") In fact this seems a "perfect" (& perfectly ambiguous) comment on the free/form discussion.



Pale sunlight through a dusty windowpane,
where I look out into the yard again
and see the clutter of autumn’s debris –
dead limbs, dead leaves, the trash-gray lees
of winter’s end. Neglected garden, we
(you and I) might be allowed, eventually
to join an orchestral cacophony –
tuning scratchy instruments, to play
(in March) a movement of Spring Symphony.

Progress is measured with a marching score
(more goods, more jobs, more money, more, more)
twirling beneath peak presto movements -
start-ups, mergers, acquisitions, rents,
growth and health, longevity and youth,
success, celebrity, sway, sexiness and couth.
Yet while a jumpy world sings On the Go
nature still murmurs its adagio –
the tuning of a sphere, stately and slow.

How human nature’s own modes of delay
– aloof indifference, arrogant display –
jar (so dismally) with hopeful sounds!
So heedless nouveau riche playgrounds
putresce in battered, grimy neighborhoods,
and senators engraft fake common goods
to feed the fancies of pet lobbyists,
and contrite truth upon a scaffold twists
while hatred simmers and the Lie insists.

Across the chilly and ramshackle soil
spring stumbles, tentative (a limping girl
- Siberian, perhaps). Slowly, slowly,
dandelion and skunk cabbage, lowly
grasses, meek and tender buds, emerge.
At night, above some vast, dark verge
of regal evergreens, a new moon floats;
you hear a rainfall, there, of slower notes;
and stillness in the creaking of the boats.


just saw falcon floating outside my window.
This one's a little better, maybe. [To illustrate earlier comments today: note how (not really so) archaic setting plays into archaizing style.]


Dispatched to save a fruitful farming town
resembling those of our own lovely shires
assaulted by fierce nomads, like to drown
their dry-baked jealousies in others' tears
I sent for reinforcements to its chief
who answered me, “Thy master is delayed
(by falconry) from bringing swift relief:
I can do nought: may God come to thine aid!”

Now raging shadows all around my tent
merge with my shadow and the nightly dark
and terror and indifference are blent
in my own blood. Lordly denials dent
my helmet, and the skull beneath... O mark
thee, saint and infidel – here’s devil’s work!
"Aha!" I said, thinking I could write
a sonnet in no time. How wrong
can you get! I knew it wasn't right
to start this way! Time's passing,
too - I have to finish this before night-
fall, I guess - that's the hard part - thing
is, it's getting worse by the minute!
This is terrible! Wait - phone's ring-

ing - "Hello? Mike? Jonathan? Who is -"
hung up. Somebody trying to interrupt
my sonnet, here - hup - now the cat's
whining - sorry, got to go and let
her in - let the warm cat (overheated)
in! And now my lovely song's completed.

(6 utterly wasted min.)
Think, for further example, of the fey use of traditional form & diction in Ashbery, occasionally, or Jennifer Moxley, for that matter. One could look at this as an option chosen by poets for whom neither obvious traditionalism nor forthright modernist statement quite meet the desired social & political stance. But one could as well imagine the older forms being reworked for the achievement of quite different themes, quite different effects of tone & attitude.

This is what I mean by the unpredictability (& subtlety) of individual practice.
& another thing. Tim argues that when free verse & modernism "happened", the role & function of traditional forms - their presence in literary culture - was irrevocably altered. I agree with this. But I think that if you accept this argument, you must also accept the possibility that, out of boredom with free verse & experimentalism, older forms & form itself might make a comeback (elliptical, dialectical, unexpected). This too, it follows, might fundamentally alter the role and function of modernist style.
Very well-thought-out contribution to the formalism debate from Tim Yu. I agree with much of what he says; but a problem, it seems to me, with much of the debate is that individual practice will always outrun general critical frameworks.

An assumption behind Tim's assessment is that formal verse (sonnet for example) is always an expression of high culture, high seriousness - thus the main effect of Lowell's work is seen as the ironic juxtaposition of low contemporary squalor & the exalted old forms which can no longer contain or express it. But individual poets use form in poetry - from its most basic elements to its most highly-articulated specific types - in ways that are extremely unpredictable. As Jonathan pointed out, Frost, for example, can interpolate colloquial speech into strict forms without any appearance of straining after meter. Modernists might claim that his project - to democratize & "Americanize" forms - to make them popular and relevant in a way parallel to the project of Keats & Wordsworth a century before - failed. Yet Pound's "historical consciousness" (in Tim's sense), and the free verse that followed, has proved to be quite dated as well. What I'm trying to get at is that there simply is no particular "right" way to use or not use traditional forms. And it is impossible simply to consign them to the pile of obsolete machinery, because the present and future use to which they may be put is unpredictable.


How strange to read about old classmate Al Franken in the NY Times Magazine. The whole article structured on the theme of wrestling (didn't they do that with Rummy, & Jesse Ventura too, a while back?). I wrote them a letter about it.

name, grad. class     weight class

Jim Gould, '71 95
Henry Gould, '70 112
Al Franken, '69 120
Chris Kraemer, '70 133

Jim & Chris were the really good wrestlers.

What bothers me about the liberal talk radio schtick is that it imitates Rush Limbaugh's project : macho-aggressive- ressentiment-parlayed-into-political-influence. & which reminds me of the role of hate radio in the Rwandan genocide. (I guess I shouldn't take it so seriously.)


Hey but. . . ain't America - ain't it just - Sublime?
Is America about to REPEAT, on a Gigantic (& perhaps Farcical?) scale, the "cleaning up", the smoothing out, the "correcting", of Elizabethan/Metaphysical poetics, by the Augustans of the Restoration period?

This could be very. . .

or is an empowered (comic-book) FLARF going to take it to the enemy? Or become the enemy? Go for it, Kasey. Be there, Kent!

I will stick with the stutter - too old to change.
Mike Snider defends against the charge that new formalists confuse versifying with poetry. At least some of the examples he provides are more interesting than the prosaic sonnet which triggered that debate. Charles Martin's poem on Modernism neatly encapsulates the polemic situation.

I think formalism in these terms could become the new boilerplate poetry, as free verse was for about 12-15 yrs in the 70s and 80s. There's a facile, glib, bum-te-tum quality about it - why is that?

Well, I ALMOST agree with Ron Silliman that, deep down, we're talking about a divide between the US and English tradition. The problem with Ron's pigeonholes is that both sides of the (US/England or Avant/Quietude) divide are symbiotic, depend upon each other. In my view, this is a good thing: I can see a future for formalist-traditional experimentalism and experimental avant-garde neo-traditional formalism. What I don't really like are the thin poetries on either side of the divide, which don't see or can't hear the other. That there is the really un-historical position, because the experiments of the Americans exist, and have always existed, in dialectical symbiosis with their dance partners over the water.

Modernism (per Charles Martin, it seems, at least) is now part of the dustbin of history. But underlying US modernism is something older. I would call it an inherent, characteristic Americanness, going back to Whitman, and earlier - back to Edward Taylor & Emerson (and to their cultural sources, to a very large extent - the Hebrew prophets & the King James Bible). There is an essential graininess there - gnarled, idiosyncratic, contrary, eccentric - which I associate with Hesiod as opposed to Homer or the Alexandrians. It runs through Whitman & Dickinson & Melville & even Robinson, it adds salt to Frost, it reappears with a vengeance (& dialectically, impurely) in Eliot & Pound; even in Stevens' smooth pentameters there's a very curious designedly-amateur, originary quality, which is hard to pin down (not to mention Niedecker, Zukofsky, and...), but which will never be absorbed or equalled by the Audenesque jingles of neo-formalism (unless formalism itself learns to reckon with the great prophetic Oddballs of American poetry).

There's a stone in my shoe, she said, limping down the road.

The snow melts,
the weather clears,
fresh winds blow;
spring draws nigh.

The shadow of
this broken blade
(from my old sword)
melts too, each day.

unsheathing it,
in far-off woods
it melds with night.


By stony hills
I battled, once,
the bitter storms
of infidels.

But enmity,
venal delay
here tether me
against my will:

remains afar,
captive yet
to useless war.


I am stilled
as this sundial.
As rusty swords
pursue my shade

into dark woods,
I’ll follow them
(blind pilgrim, so)
to vernal tomb.
textual note on poem posted yesterday : a "hermaphrodite" is a type of brig (which is a type of 2-masted sailing ship).
Enjoying the back & forth on sonnets & formalism with Mike, Jonathan, Kasey, Tim, et al. Impressed with the displayed skill at ex tempore versifying. Clearly they've read & absorbed a lot of sonnets. Clever, adept, that's the word(s) for it.

I think however that the puzzle about belatedness &/or contemporary relevance of sonnets, etc. and traditional techniques in general, has not yet been "solved" (& can probably only be resolved by example, or many examples, anyway). Two side issues may need to be dealt with before addressing it:

1) the difference between versifying & poetry. One person's hack versifier may be another person's excellent poet; what are the grounds for distinguishing authentic poetry from mere versifying? Jonathan seemed to be starting to get at this question, but more could be said.

2) the prevalent mediocrity of contemporary poetry. Time after time, when someone quotes this or that poet to defend this or that traditionalist or experimental position, I have the nagging thought : "Is this the best they can do?" I mean, are we finding the best examples out there to argue this or that point? To put it another way : the polemicists for both sides of the question, of whether or not traditional forms are still viable, seem to rest their arguments on faulty evidence (basically, crappy poems).



– so we moved along the bank upstream,
and where the river bent in a broken circle
to the left, beheld a busy municipium:
welter of gleaming glass and flickering steel
resembling vast shuttlings of water bugs
(chaotic, breaking apart the smooth still
surface into myriad coarse shags
of garish noise). Then my eyes shifted
to the river itself, and picked out a brig
there – hermaphrodite, trim, she drifted
with peculiar motion, perpendicular
to the flow. At prow and stern were lofted
pennants (princely St. George at the fore,
and aft, a black-green, jumbled image
fusing, it seemed, some fasces with a star).
Upon the poop, a gaunt man in a rage
stood, yapping imprecations toward the bow,
whereat a lank chap, dignified with age,
responded languidly (voice diffident and low).
Apparently, they each commanded wheels,
and piloted the ship as if to go
both ways at once – causing the luckless keels’
erratic laterality (crosscurrent,
at cross purposes). I turned to him, whom eagle’s
perspicacity once lifted to the firmament
on high. Stern and melancholy then
he gazing, spoke. “Throughout the Occident
once reigned supreme in poetry, these men –
their tandem sway the ultimate authority.
In talent matchless, their forceful mien
bore down all before them. Yet, perdie,
an overweening awe for ordered rule
(drawn, I blush to say, from De Monarchia!)
caused them to miss that inlet whence the whole
sweet cataract of liberty descends;
and so you see them, netted in such moil
of turbid aimlessness.” “And yet,” contends
me – “if there be contempt for duty,
honor, justice, loyalty – neither high lands
nor low – no fear of that sublimity
called holy – what remains, but feud and die?
What path leads out of universal enmity –
that peevish self-engorged impiety
which desolates the vernal countryside
with fattened castles – that blighted antipathy
to common good, which makes the cities bleed?”
My dear guide, pensive, murmured then:
“Remember this (your elder teacher’s screed
of long ago): Freedom builds within,
or breaks your bones
.” And on that note
I glanced upriver – glimpsed the leonine
white crown, the heavy shoulders, the stout
birch staff, the hiking boots – the veteran’s
cap, askew – the slouching, musing gait –
pioneering through cane reeds, alone –

* ["Freedom builds within,", etc. : from a poem by Edwin Honig titled "Cuba in Mind"]



In the melancholy film,
a gawky cowboy, collop
of clodhopper, awkward,
wants to be Art Star, but
unsure where to start.

In the ineluctable film,
the son of some Jack or
Jock drips a drop or
accidentally drops drips
off the edge of abstraction

into documentation. A
relentless film crowns
him painted into a corner
of his myth, his theme
dribbled out on a limb

on film – an endless
film – him flinging
himself down and
away (careering
hubbub of fiery

fame). In the sad film,
after too many beers
and ribs (a scared
Icarus now) his
fearsome car flies...

flips out of the picture
(melancholy frame-
up – the film of him,
the art star – startling,
starting over somewhere).
Jonathan, with some interesting comments on one of Shakespeare's sonnets. (He's always thinking up productive & well-defined poetry self-edification projects.)

I would interpret the poem slightly differently, I think (it's complicated!). Yes, narcissism is not self-love per se; it's merely one symptom of it, one form it takes. But the speaker is not "lying", because he's not accusing himself of narcissism : he's accusing himself of overweening self-love. This excess is none other than original sin, which fills "every part"and is "grounded" in his inward heart. When he sees his aging image in the glass, he's reminded of his mortality & human frailty, and recognizes that he's been projecting his inescapably excessive self-love - in narcissistic fashion - on his admired young friend. The glimpse of his aging image in the mirror is not a narcissistic moment, but a moment of truth.

Why is overweening self-love "original sin", inescapable? Well, it's grounded in our "god-like" subjectivity and self-consciousness. I love this sentence from Nicolaus Cusanus : "Omnia enim universalia, generalia atque specialia in te Iuliano iulianizant." [All universals, generalities, and specifics julianize in you, Giuliano.]

We are each a little creative world, a microcosm : a situation which has both its glories & its dangers, which is why we love to - and must - keep looking into (& through) various kinds of "glasses".
I've deleted previous negative comments. It's a mistake for me to disparage critical grids or ordering patterns, since I've done it plenty of times myself, and also since the massive amount of contemporary poetry makes this kind of mapping very understandable - though I do think there's a danger in reductive labels.

My own typical past tendencies in making judgements often involved an exaggerated desire to preserve or delineate some lost path of tradition, or the accomplishment & technical dazzle of former days. Reading in Wallace Stevens lately, and re-reading BJ Leggett's excellent book, Wallace Stevens and Poetic Theory, is maybe providing me a somewhat altered perspective.

Stevens - as opposed to the entire Eliot/New Critical school, and as opposed to Harold Bloom (a critic obsessed in his own fashion with Stevens) - put strong & repeated emphasis on uniqueness, individual expression, originality, and multiplicity. He anticipated Bloom's position long before, and mocked the idea of anxiety of influence & continuity of Tradition (saying something to the effect that, if we're all compounded of other poets, and never distinctly ourselves, then why not simply have one poet - Hesiod would do well).

I think this notion of uniqueness & multiplicity may be the strongest antidote to binary team poetics such as the Silliman formation. These lines of Stevens encapsulate the attitude:

And out of what one sees and hears and out
Of what one feels, who could have thought to make
So many selves, so many sensuous worlds,
As if the air, the mid-day air, was swarming
With the metaphysical changes that occur,
Merely in living as and where we live.

Sheer multiplicity, variety, oddity, distinctive originality - these are probably the most impressive qualities presented by American poetry in the last 100 years.


Saw the film Pollock on video. Tom Waitts song at the credits:

"On his hand, he wore the ring of another.
The world keeps turning, the world keeps turning."

sad, sad movie. (but this song was even sadder.) great how he tried to re-enact the painting.

a film about the painter being filmed in the act of painting. yes. (Everyman is the vanishing point of every Scripture.)

A little weird to watch, in that Ed Harris in this film looks exactly like my brother Bill, and acts a little like my brother Mike. (see here Mike's cover for Nedge #5, which I think is a little masterpiece.) (while we're at it, here's his cover for #2. not bad either, Clem)
I finish the architecture poem about the synagogue. I open the paper (Providence Journal), and there's a big photo of a cantor & a choir, singing, under a dome. It's the Temple Emanu-El Choral Club, doing a benefit for South Prov. Neighborhood Ministries. Headline : "With One Voice".

The thing is, does anybody know how to read this kind of poem? I don't care. I actually know how good it is.
This building is up the street (Morris Ave.) from the site of the poem posted yesterday.


Unlike the capitol’s bold marble, rivaling Rome,
your simple curve (amid rooftop vernacular)
peeks from the hillside; through tender air
morning sunlight sketches in your dome.

A line is only a figure for perfection;
Immeasurability need call nowhere home;
yet light crowns your six-sided honeycomb
as if to meld the bleakest contradiction.

Labor dresses, lightly, weighty stone.
Liberty’s the child of constant care.
This gold almond (hovering hive-sphere,
so modest) evens odds to unison.

The burden of the Law goes singing, here;
mankind, infinitude, through droning time
fused in heart’s foundation, frame a rhyme:
scenting ascents (attunement) everywhere.


Sweetly Now

Walking home,
head full of gloom
(my own woes muddled
with those of the world) –

noticed (on the sidewalk)
cheerful letters in pink chalk
(rounded, girlish – cursive script,
broken off – author skipped?) –

(signed, in a heart-shape) CLIO

the Muse of History : as if to say
I’m starting over – here, today.
It can be argued that the age of science, enlightenment, & rationalism set poetry free to enter its proper sphere of pure play. & if you accept that play is a central & "serious" human activity, there is some truth to this. But if play/poetry/childhood is framed as part of a duality in which work/seriousness/reality-principle is the more important or essential half, then poetry has been assigned to a play-pen & will be coddled, tolerated, & held in fond contempt.

I would realign these relations, with the claim that science & rationalism cannot, & will never, provide an adequate description of reality. Philosophy reaches a little closer, but its discursive abstractions are still inadequately communicative. Only the arts provide a sufficiently vivid affective-intellectual image of experience & reality. Poetry can span the distance between philosophical concepts on the one hand, and dramatic immediacy & actuality on the other. (Philosophy for its part aspires toward the condition of dialogue & drama.)

I offer these admittedly unoriginal notions to follow up on previous posts. How can poetry assume its full powers, then? I would think one critical measure in this regard would be a poetry's expressive wholeness - its willingness to patiently present & clearly "argue" - or logically defend - its sensuous, affective, or experiential subject-matter & the underlying rhetoric of same. This is what I see, for example, in the tightly-knotted & expressive sentence-structures of Keats' sonnets and odes : these poems display a striking, a startling, fusion of song & statement. Expressive logic or wholeness - as opposed to the poetry of half-statement, deflection, intimation, pose, predetermined attitude, rhetorical inflation-for-effect.

Closer to our time, Wallace Stevens reaches in this direction, with his fusion of philosophical reflection & rhetorical play. Robert Lowell simultaneously argues & suffers with contemporary history. But these are just 2 examples among many, not meant as representative figures; my purpose is to focus on a way of interpreting poetic value.


This is what I was arguing with the Buffalo crowd about, for a few years there, in the late 90s.

Not "tradition" vs. "experiment", or "rhyme & meter" vs. "new sentence" : but about unity vs. deflection.
. . . but where else can poetry happen? It seems to me that everything else is deflection, evasion. If you accept "dissociation", you opt for surrealism, subconsciousness, autonomous emotion, Rebel Beat Romanticism, rhetorical expression of sentiment. . . or the Heroique image of the Infernal Intellect (Milton's Satan, Descartes, Nietzsche, Grand Inquisitor, Stalin, etc.). One or the other. Hell of a choice.

Thus we come back to a concept of Poetry which claims a sisterhood not only with Painting (the logic of feeling, sensation and emotion), but also with Philosophy (the logic of reason, communication. . . logic itself).
One could look at the whole logic of postmodernism as a quarrel with Eliot's notion. To conceive & uphold the idea of a "unified sensibility" - whether romantic-individualist or social-cultural-mythological - is definitely an act of faith.
There's something so important in Eliot's notion of "dissociation of sensibility". I'm not exactly sure what it is, yet. The way someone places a historical marker for where it supposedly begins, is basic cultural myth-making, like the Serbian concept of the Field of the Raven.

Eliot puts it after the "metaphysicals" - and links it to a loss of the medieval synthesis. But the medieval synthesis was mythological. He should read Cusanus : a renascent-metaphysic to beat the nostalgia of metaphysical poetry (Donne's elegy for that synthesis basically scripted Eliot's notion). Cusanus "enfolded" the dualities of what was to come (reality/imagination, faith/scepticism, superstition/science, philosophy/praxis) in a creative intellectual synthesis which bears comparison to Leonardo da Vinci's in the realm of art/science.

I would put the "dissociation" much later. Keats & Milton represent still (& marvelously) synthetic unities of reason/imagination. Their poetry combines feeling and argument, image & discourse.

With the progress of science, Enlightenment, humanism, journalism, telecommunications. . . poetry was forced into a corner marked by indirection. American poetry offers the same picture in colonial miniature : a progress of deflection (Keats to imagism = Whitman to imagism).

The history of poetry in English since 1800 (after the Romantic-Sentimental revolt against Augustan-Enlightenment uber-rationalism) is a progress of deflection - away from the union of logic & song (thus we have Black Dog Songs, as I described them the other day).

Part of my fascination with Language Poetry in the early 90s (when I became aware of it) was my sense that it represented a literary-historical terminus of this process.
Have been spending a lot of time the last few days with an old (but not too old) Oxford Anthology of English Poetry, 1250-1950 (ed. Helen Gardner), and a study of same period by Douglas Bush (English Poetry, publ. the year I was born, 1952).

Absorbing, humbling, curious. Sort of like sortes virgilianae or throwing the I Ching (dim memories of earlier readings).


I have to admit, also, that

      . . .as if the
random pain of lizard heads
on sticks were prettier to eat

is not simple. it gets at the horror at the heart of power politics - whether Elizabethan (heads on poles on London Bridge) or American (Saddam, Noriega, & collateral).

I guess the sadness saddens me. That a poet would have to imagine a lizard as the metaphorical vehicle of shared humanity. The estrangement.

Shakespeare did the same, though, in the dark tragedies. Only Shakespeare didn't couch it all in fey faux-simplicitie (he had other kinds of camouflage).
the rhetoric of "songs" (innocence, experience...). faux simplicitie. faux folks. (then again, Wyatt & Campion can teach you things about meter, music. . .)
On the other hand, one can admire & love the strange elegiac feeling of "Swamp Formalism", and imagine Lisa Jarnot actually responding with rueful self-disgust to the "poetic" improvisatory talent (like her own, the unacknowledged legislator) of Rumsfeld-in-action (at the news conferences). (I think the feeling is similar in "Land of Lincoln"; maybe I'm fooling myself.)

What bothers me is the dumbing-down of speech into a special idiom. All poetry is a special idiom, but if it's too obvious, you show your hand - ie. it becomes rhetoric. (Ron Silliman's pretentious syllable-counting only underlines - unintentionally - the artificiality, the mannerism, of the technique.) Incantantory, neo-romantic, poetical. . . & overly rhetorical. (Gabe Gudding - who believes that poetry is rhetoric - would disagree.)
So what occurs to me, thinking about "Swamp Formalism"?

The reiterations ("as if. . .") - a Whitman technique, drawn originally from Biblical Psalms & prophetic books.

The concept of Donald Rumsfeld as a proponent of "swamp formalism" - the general idea of repressive/oppressive/repressed Order or (patriarchal - "men") Establishment, evolving into this Darwinian epitome (Rumsfeld) the "poet" of War news conferences. (Along with a glancing jab at all the "forms" of glaciated & crystallized & neo-conservative traditionalist or reactionary Poetry.)

This concept, combined with the neo-Romantic/Beat stance of Poet as apolitical Dreamer or anti-Establishment Rousseauiste innocent (Blakean-Ginsbergian) - which requires an identification with all things - including Rumsfeld : hence the (somewhat convenient, & perhaps hypocritical) ambiguity of the Odyssean-Edenic scenario. (ie. the speaker can imagine Rumsfeld only as a primitive lizard-aggressor - but the act of imagining is, at the same time, an ethical act, an expression of empathy - & thus a recognition of "common humanity": sinful, mortal - the "main dust").

This is fine. But my main thought, here in the main dust, is as follows:
That in a democratic culture, there is, in the poetry world anyway, a kind of unintentionally comic coincidentia oppositorum. Rebel pop avant-garde New American poetics becomes as mandarin-effete (an exact mirror-image) as the high-culture traditionalist poetry that it once rebelled against. How so? Just as with the arch-aestheticism & art-for-art's-sake of the Symbolists & Pre-Raphaelites 125 years ago, there is now an autonomous, pseudo- or semi-professional poetry culture, which requires a special dialect (a special poetic diction) of political-spiritual-social opposition. Within this subculture, it is not necessary anymore to come to terms with ethical, political, or philosophical dilemmas - to work them out, logically and rhetorically - by means of a lingua franca et jocundissima or vulgar tonggue. In other words, one need not "reason" with the public, or with the enemy : neo-post-romantic-postmodernism merely requires that the poet find a rhetorical "subjective correlative" - a Blakean baby-riff.
What do I think of this poem by Lisa Jarnot?

I read most of Black Dog Songs (though quickly, at work), and was impressed with the technique. The artful dumbing-down of "poetic diction" (to a kind of amalgam of Blake, baby-talk, and pop songs). I've also heard Jarnot read, & again, was impressed with the fluent musicality of her poems in performance. I've read (or tried to read) her book Some Other Kind of Mission (Burning Deck Press), an early effort from her Providence days. Wondering if the title was a jab at the Poetry Mission, a local literary group (doubt it).

Her poem reminded me of this old poem of mine (published in the mag A Fine Madness in 1985):

Land of Lincoln

It is enough to be with them,
the children like shy seedlings,
and the newspaper shedding its phrases
to the sleepy music in the squares.
It is enough to step out,
wind dusting ashes from the sill,
workmen hauling everything away,
furniture, knicknacks, loveletters
written in robin's egg, and spidery
aquamarine. A parade, they said,
is a mild form of chaos,
and so we marched, eyes closed,
to the somnolent trumpets and drums -
around the familiar four corners,
the sad mothers fainting, and dizzy
children, dazzled by flags and ice cream.
The mayor spoke under the statue
erected over the slain brigade. A breeze
touched every bowed head, leading us
to the flag-draped coffin of our lord.
Impossible to step away from summer -
the raft the river carries under us,
and the canoe of the silent ferryman,
lifting his hand for a copper penny.
Startling to read Ron Silliman's encomium for Lisa Jarnot's poem, "Swamp Formalism", dedicated to Donald Rumsfeld, and then to listen to NPR's report on a new cd of "art songs" composed to the text of a tongue-in-cheek but faithful volume of the "poetry of Donald Rumsfeld" (an assemblage of his press conference statements, versified). (I don't recall the name of either compositor or composer, sorry.)

Here is the Jarnot poem:

Swamp Formalism

for Donald Rumsfeld

As if they were not men,
amphibious, gill-like, with
wings, as if they were
sunning on the rocks, in a
new day, with their flickered
lizard tongues, as if they were
tiny and biting and black,
as if I was a hero or they were,
as if the they and these us that
arrived, out of the same blue
ground bogs, as if from my
bog that I saw the sun and
swam up to the surface, as if
the surface was shining, like a
lizard to embrace, as if the
random pain of lizard heads
on sticks were prettier to eat,
as if I didn’t kill the plants, the
water, and the air, as if the
fruit and the sheep were all
diamond shaped and melted,
allowing in the sun, underground,
crowned, in shadows, in the
main dust, from the self same
main dust spring.
Kasey comments on a new anthology of 20th-century American poetics.

Ron Silliman's claim that the "us vs them", the postmod vs. premod, or, in his terms, Quietude vs Post-Avant, clash is a fact of (literary) history, does not tell us much about its actual importance. Teams of dogmatists & partisans, in the various realms of human foolishness, can often be found bickering about things for which neither side actually has a real affinity.

Aggressive literary partisans and polemicists obscure the fact that a living role for poetry in a culture (just as in the case of science or philosophy or religion or economics or politics) is bound up with a set of deep and substantial and sometimes deceptively simple questions, which every culture addresses in the process of historical change. Any good general literary history - of poetry in English, say - makes this crystal clear. Poets "represent" both general-cultural and individual responses to these questions.

The polemicists will stridently claim that it is precisely because of the seriousness with which they take these larger questions, that they are able to distinguish the good from the bad, the new from the old hat, etc. But poets themselves are usually not so aggressive : they are too busy grappling, in their poems, with the unanswered questions per se. & the partisans assiduously avoid the fact that good poetry, and its reading public, do not need their help in sorting these cultural questions into pat categorical pigeonholes & critical cliches.


John Latta at the Hotel on Abstract Expressionists, Zukofsky's object-at-rest. I just finished reading N. Cusanus's Compendium, so offer his simple four-foldity :

point / line / plane / solid object
letter / syllable / word / sentence

(& more obscurely : Capability / Equality / Unity / Similarity - which I suppose could be figured as:

Power = point/letter
Equality = line/syllable
Unity = surface/word
Representation = object/sentence

Cusanus writes : any shape - a line, a circle, a sphere - is an image formed of equality.
Emerged from my musty cave last night to attend reading downtown (at new spare restaurant-bar, Tazza) by visiting Nada Gordon & Gary Sullivan. Funny, exuberant, bawdy, silly. Politics, art, sex, religion - all the serious stuff - are fodder for satire. Enjoy life, be free. Great singing (a complex aria set to some industrial engineering magazine?) by the startlingly pale Nada. Poe would have approved. High points for me were their version of the Book of Revelation (set to an antique novelty-items catalog), Gordon's take-off on Whitman (Song of My OwnSelf), Sullivan's long Kerouacky epistolary piece. Their performance style reminded me, oddly, of the atmosphere at the coffeehouse sketched in Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red.

The evening was hosted by two Mikes w/microphone (Gizzi & Magee). Mairead Byrne was there too. This is Providence, reporting.


Kent J. tyalkin' about heteronyms.

I've noticed that puttin' on a mask & speaking through it is basic for fiction. (I'm writin' a novel in the voice of an old college roommate, and a short story in the voice of a goofy film-maker.) Not sure how it relates to poetry, though. Makes me nervous.

Kent, what's the connection between masking and remembering?

I mean perhaps the best way to remember the 60s, for example, is to play a role, take on a voice. Get into the part. Method Acting.
It works like high school.

There are judges, but they judge in secret (Senior Room).

Nothing will offend; everything will divert.

Consensus rules.

Embers of glowing phosphorus, and rings, and vows, and seals.

Prom Queens and Jocks.

Agony in the parking lot.


I hope my friendly Reader will forgive all my impatience & irascibility.

Clearly there's no simple or inherent Problem with "the scene" as such. I'm not a Hater.

Reading Nicolaus Cusanus brings to mind certain things. Such as the incomprehensibility & otherness of God. the coincidentia oppositorum. the "Posse ipsum" (the 'to be able' itself, or the Capability). (which reminded me of the Gospel apothegm about "& you will see the Son of Man coming at the right hand of Power").

His idea that the supreme achievement of vision is to see beyond what vision is, in itself, capable of comprehending. Love draws you into the wild over yonder. (Yet he's a great philosopher because he never gives up trying, beautifully, to the very end, to define more accurately, precisely, elegant too.)

I think of the capability of poetry as a kind of symbolic uniting or unison with "whatness-in-itself," because poetry, more than any other discourse, is united with itself. This, I realize, rhymes with some things in Cusanus.

Why am I prating on in this vein? To defend my agonistic attitude toward any established scene whatsoever, I guess, whether independent social network or professional-mandarin establishment. O joy!

I don't fit in, because thought runs too quickly past its stylization? Oh yeah? Also, because I'm an ignorant klutz, and my poems are inedible. Preposterous coincidentia oppositorum.
Trying to think again a little (& not getting very far this morning) about poetry & the political.

How it seems to come down to who is left out of the picture - whether it's women in Afghanistan, or low-wage workers in the U.S. This is also what it comes down to on a local level. Here in RI, as the national election season gets going, the state legislative session & budget process also gets underway. One of the contentious issues is zoning for low-income housing development. RI is one of the most crowded states, with the lowest rate of new housing development, & the highest rents, etc. Major problem.

A law went into effect which would have made it easier for developers to build low-income housing outside the metro ghetto, in the well-off suburbs. It was immediately stymied by court action & now the legislature is trying to work out a compromise.

What it seems to come down to, as usual (I'm simplifying for emphasis), is : are you going to make room for the poor in your world? Between the rich & well-off in RI, and the corrupt and grabby politicians & special interests (state employees, labor & business all together), the poor get short-changed, & suffer for it, & thus the general culture & quality of life are degraded too.

Of course whether you're talking personally, locally, nationally, or internationally, political issues are not simply objects of moral platitudes, but practical problems, subject to inventive solutions.

Neither the anti-government individualism of the Republicans nor the self-righteous patronizing attitude of pro-government Democrats is good enough. One leads to laissez-faire injustice; the other to onerous & often inhumane bureaucracies. But I lean toward reform & positive government efforts, collective public action for the common good. So I guess that makes me more of a Democrat (in the current definition of such, anyway). I don't see government as inevitably bad.

What does this have to do with poetry? Not much, I guess.

Poets will always be alert to the drama of history, small & large. The interlocking webs of mutuality. & will find ways of making verbal music out of this.

The frustration for me involves not even making a dent in the US subculture of poetry, much less reaching any kind of general audience. & what the heck, I'm hardly writing it at all these days. & I've learned to be irritated & disillusioned with the subculture in almost all its manifestations. For most it's enough simply to decry capitalism & demonize Bush & there you are. I think the US is a mess because we haven't come to terms on the social contract, but self-righteous honkings on left or right are pretty boring and unoriginal, not to mention unhelpful in any way. Very oddly & interestingly enough, we will have to re-learn this - the terms of the social contract - along with China.

(I should remember that my particular literary frustrations are not political at all, & that becoming involved in a helpful way does not necessarily have anything to do with writing. )

I imagine a poetry that doesn't purvey political stereotypes to its captive audience, but presents a complex image of "reality" through the medium of various traditions, modes, forms.

this is probably the last "political" poem I wrote (published a while ago in Fulcrum). A section from "All Clear". Note the figure of the abject, or the left-out; the dove; the "succession". I guess I tend to repeat myself (including blogging this poem before).

(p.s. note date of composition, with echoes of this.)


Christmas is coming but here in sleepy-febrile Florida
tied at the neck under stage lights one big brother
wrestles with another and when this battle is over
who will wear the crown?
as a gospel voice in the rotunda

croons in my ear and as reporters cluster by the grave
of Robert Trout (“Iron Man of the Blitz”) and you perceive,
ephebe, the idiom of this intervention (requiem
for a midnight sun or century) and through the nave

today they bore a body to the columbarium
(rotund profundity beneath nine bells) only him
(Brown, William Wallace, Jr.) a homeless man
and blind who stopped the wheels of the imperium

one day right on the street asking the father of
George W. please pray for me and he paused there
(the President) and said come along with me
to St. John’s we’ll pray together

the music of what happens when no man is
and the bell tolls for thee like Janis Joplin’s
high note who will wear the crown? your doom
Kosmos a little world curls into bronze

and sounds from the 132 rms of a pallid prize
to the 132 acres of N. Main Cemetery (Providence)
where you’ll find me (here now there then) mourning
a vagabonded end of century where a dove strays

from San Francisco down to Florida an unknown
hobo Noman left behind his leaf gone brown
is your redemption (sleepy time and railroad
nation) W.W. is his name crowned here and gone



OK, let's really be annoyed today. I'm annoyed with:

reviews & reviewers
literary retreats, camps, conferences, etc.
MFA programs
work, jobs, etc.
cars, trucks, roads & stores

(I still like books, though, for some reason. paintings. also pine trees, woods, lakes - in moderation)
annoyance of the day:

writers describing what they have written as "work", as in "my work", or "new work".

I say, yuck to that.
there seems a certain Rotundity to the free circuitous yet individuate circuitry of ye Blogland [?] here you are there I am again


Wallace Stevens' poetry is sometimes orotund, coinciding with the general repleteness & rotundity of WS, as in similar modus William Shakespeare offers a mighty graceful Globe;

and as WS oftentimes mentions the poetry to be found in philosophers,

so, I recommend Nicolaus Cusanus, or Nicholas of Cusa, whose interest in roundness surpasseth all others;

quotes to follow -

Therefore the edge of the world is not composed of points, but its edge
is roundness [rotunditas], which consists in one point.

Roundness cannot be composed out of points for, since a point is indivisible
and does not have quantity or parts or a front and back or other differences,
it cannot be joined to another point.

Only length and width can be seen. But in roundness nothing is long or wide
or straight. Roundness is a kind of circumference, a certain convexity led
around from point to point whose top is everywhere. And its top is the atom,
invisible because of its tininess.

The round world is not that roundness itself than which no roundness can be
greater, but that roundness than which nothing can actually be greater.
Absolute roundness is not of the nature of the roundness of the world, but is its
cause and exemplar; the absolute roundness of which the roundness of the world is
the image. I see the image of eternity in a circle where there is neither a beginning
nor an end since there is no point in which it would be the beginning rather than
the end. [italics mine]

Listen to this subtlety :

Moreover unity is more perfect and simple to the degree that it is more uniting.
Hence the Trinity, which is one in such a way that it is also in three persons, each of
which is one, is more perfect. And unity would not be most perfect in any other way.

similarly :

Consequently you must open up the gaze of your mind, and you will see that God
is in all multitude because he is in the number one, and in every magnitude because he
is in the point. From this it is established that divine simplicity is more subtle than the
number one and the point which gives the unfolding power of multitude and magnitude.
Hence God is a greater enfolding power than that enfolding power of the number one
or of a point.

Edward J. Butterworth (rotund moniker) has a perfectly succinct essay in the book Nicholas of Cusa in Search of God and Wisdom (Brill, 1991), clarifying these concepts & relating them to the earlier Alan of Lille, who wrote : Deus est spaera intelligibilis, cuius centrum ubique, circumferentia nusquam. Moreover, Lille :

The creature is called the center because, as time, compared to eternity, is thought
a fleeting motion, so the creature, compared to God, is a central point. Therefore, the
immensity of God is said to be the circumference, because it disposes all things in
such a way that it encompasses them and enfolds all things within its immensity.

It's possible to find only word games & rhetorical sleight of hand here. But not if you take into account Cusanus' commitment to the (negative-theological) absolute otherness of God. Mathematical terms are applied to simplicity, while concrete (physical) terms are applied to multiplicity (as in Alan of Lille). Yet otherness and the physical universe are joined, related to one another, by shared geometrical terms & analogies (in a relation of material actuality, on the one hand, and ineffable, invisible & infinite (yet intelligible) perfection, on the other). Alan of Lille's "Intelligible Sphere".

Leading (Butterworth illuminates, partly via Einstein) (& around again) to Cusanus' limpid, rotund contradiction :
Therefore the edge of the world is not composed of points,
but its edge is roundness, which consists in one point.
(All Cusanus quotes from
De Ludo Globi (The Game of Spheres))

what's that Dickinson line? "My circuit is circumference" [?]
Busy working on a novel these days. Mother is the invention of necessity. Don't really want to go back to the library, mine exquisite golden cage. & haven't, or haven't applied, any other socially-useful skills lately (like teaching). Wish to write myself out of a hole, or try. It's silly & hopeless, but heck, I can't think of anything else at the moment.

Tempted to talk about it, but afraid to give away secrets of the craft. A story is a gizmo.


Arguments over blogs at the Buffalo Poetics List? Huh.

I think I won an argument with a turnip last night.
Literary phenomena & succession of time-periods. "Who shall have the succession?" (Cantos)

Trying to explain a worldview which emits Stubborn Grew & its sequels, so you might get into it more.

Having Maximus & "A" & Gunslinger before me, and Mandelstam & The Bridge & Ulysses & Finnegans Wake & Cantos & Paterson before me too, slightly further back, and Melville & Dickinson & Whitman a little further back, & Dante & Milton & Homer & Virgil & Ovid & Shakespeare & Bible further further back... not seeing them as "challenges" but simply as absorbing-authentic literary models of reality & totality.

seeing how each new work of necessity "blocks the view" of previous books & simultaneously stands in their shadows. Harold Bloom turns this into a psycho-melodrama-tragicomedy, but in my experience it's more a question of shades of taste... thus I feel what's missing from the style of Olson, say, when I sense the presence, still there, of something earlier & better (stronger, richer, deeper), & yet also see how Olson felt history differently than did some of his overweening or over-confident predecessors...

Anyway, the picture of people and the city & history that I try to present in Stubborn Grew, or the wild directions the poem takes after that, should be recognized as written in the light still emanating from these other books. So for example in the latter half of Stubborn you can recognize when the aegis of the Cantos shifts over to the aegis of Finnegans Wake, and why that might be happening, based on the recognitions undergone by the narrator-protagonist. & these "aegiae"[?] are forms of acknowledgement & also opposing arguments (theirs & my own) about "reality" as I feel it emanating from these writers - Crane & Mandelstam & Vallejo & Pushkin & Shvarts et al. coming forward as kinds of framing "style-testimonies" - some of these writers' influences more pervasive than others'. My own poem's capaciousness having certain architectonic nodes where its own arguments are marked & underlined, in its own strange way.

I still think I found a sort of unusual door through the long poem. It's been hard for me to write poetry at all since then, for the last 2-3 years, but I have hopes for Dove Street as a possibly authentic outgrowth, if I can keep focused (while other projects are underway).


Bluejay & Henry's nekuia, or descent into hell, in Stubborn Grew :

the presence of the rejected, the abject, the detritus, which, curiously, is essential element of a true picture of "America" : that which was evaded, elided, or avoided by aesthetics of "EP + EP" (Poe & Pound).

Bluejay a sort of amalgam of abject or "persecutable" qualities.
Every subculture begins with an act of demarcation, a drawing of boundaries : us vs. them.

But when writers do this, they simultaneously erase the more compelling boundary line : writing vs. world.


James & John go up to Jesus privately & ask, politely, if they can, in his Kingdom, when it comes, sit at his right hand and his left.

Jesus tells them it's not for him to decide. But he says that although in the kingdoms of the world, men seek glory from one another, it won't be so in his kingdom. There, "the greatest amongst you shall be your servant." & he tells them to give alms only in secret, so that "the Father who sees in secret" will reward them.
Reading about social structure of city of Aleppo in 18th century.

Society is... omigod. Society is collective survival by... omigod. In society, in general, what is the status of the literary person? What is the status of the religious mystic or the prophet? What is status, and honor, and prestige, and wealth, and power? Omigod.

Life's continuity... wisdom... smarts... family... luck... talent, skill... charity & love... independence, integrity... omigod. It's all over my head. But you know, this is one of the things that interests me : the direct "confrontation" of poet (or writer, generally) & society-at-large.

The egalitarian otherness of "creation" & "creator" - and the social drive for power, status, dominion, survival (the devil & all his works? not exactly. there's such a thing as good will & loving empathy. Humanity is the animale compagnevole).

Literary subcultures are miniature societies. They don't really address the issue. Only literature itself, in its raw state... maybe the substance of literature is that confrontation.
No, I don't agree with his politics most of the time, but there was an op-ed piece by William Safire in the NY Times today about the Gibson film which was right on the mark.
I often go to Heaven. It's so nearby.
Sitting in miniature cluttered backyard on mellow March 1st coming in like lamb. Yellow-gray pussy willow branch. A downy woodpecker, making a very confident "tock" for such a shrimp.

I look up and say the words vremeni and time (russian & english) a few times, slowly, under my breath. The branches are quiet & the light is soft & opalescent. It's nice not to be at work at this hour. I feel simultaneously like Proust & the madeleine. This is hard to explain. I mean I feel my mortal flesh pronouncing the words for "time", slowly, low & quiet, while that same time passes, slowly, low & quiet.

A sad feeling, something like Ecclesiastes.

I think, "this is something like a poetry reading".