9.30.2004

Walking home from work last night, thinking of Jordan's comments on reading Raworth, did I have a minor epiphany, or just another wobble of opinion? But it did occur to me, that lambasting "langpo" for highlighting the signifier is a hopeless endeavor. Why? Because leaning on the signifier is so integral to all poetry; and, despite the wheedling mutilations of "Theory" which some "language poets" use to justify their mediocre verse, they, along with all poets, are just as wrapped up with, enamoured of, the youthful geste of the word-for-its-own-sake: the poet's most basic assertion of independence, which is to have fun with words, no matter how irrelevant & insignificant & socially-disengaged that activity may be, no matter what the consequences. So underlying their opportunist theorizing is a more basic & shared impulse toward (literary) freedom, liberation.

So that perhaps even the "highest", the most ambitious, profound, engaged, meaningful, relevant, knowing, great, etc., poetry is - at some hermetic & inaccessible level - grounded on fun - and if not, it rings tinny, ponderous, hypocritical, phony, etc.

*

Extra-nice & precise over at Hotel this morning. Still, I would say, there is a place for the "objective", for observation. All Proust's qualifiers & refinements (the inward experiential accuracy of impressionism) nevertheless require it. & without basic perception, the stylistic excesses fall just as bloatedly in the other direction.

9.28.2004

I'm listening to AB, see. De effin' gee w-hizz jive kums, muh mn, when, oh (y'know), pee-lostopherz quashtion thuh simple trut' of a Tex', (U C). Veeringly Way Say (Until U), X-peshially, Y - "Z".

Now where was I.

Recognizing the special pizzazz of some Language Poetries & Language Poets, their contributions to variety & interest. . . yet I would say it has its downside. It for me is like unto the Special Relationship between Mobster A and Poliktican B, whereby they both agree to discount the value of Representation. The enforced solipsism of Post-structuralism & Deconstruction (words dissipate & dissolve their authorial motivations, yet they are all we have) became both a justification & a compositional tool for poets, a style. A style of singling out & separating individual words from any particular context, "highlighting" the signifier. (Zukofsky was a pioneer, here.) This process simply amplifies what ordinary poetry does in a more limited and integrated way (integrated with other functions of language). In a similar way, advertising singles out & amplifies particular reductive-persuasive functions of speech.

Possibly it's an irony that Language Poetry succeeds as poetry, to the extent that words, language, cannot be completely streamlined - in truly deconstructive fashion, language escapes the best-laid plans of mice & langpos. Because carried to its limit - an unmotivated slather of words without conscious or unconscious design or purpose - the result would be too boring. Langpo is not quite too boring.

& now I know I'm being boring, since I done said it all before.
The Ron Chronicles ongo. Robert Duncan wasn't up to the historical sea-change of postmodern Theory, which some newcomer poets (ie. I guess the Langpos) were. Up to.

I don't know much about Duncan, but I tend to agree with his juxtaposition of poetry vs. rationalism (reason is something else again). (Kent & I talked about this in the Jacket interview.)

This doesn't mean I go for the mystical-magical. I simply agree that reason requires imagination. Reason acknowledges mystery & the unknown; rationalism, on the other hand, mystifies the power of discursive Explanation. Poetry doesn't have to explain, at least not in obvious ways.

Henry's Postmodern Theory Course (In Five Easy Lessons)

1. Language is all we know.
2. Language refers only to itself; there's nuttin' outside Language.
3. Because Postmodern Theory acknowledges this, it can modify discourse & philosophy into a sort of Poetry.
4. Language Poetry, because it acknowledges Theory, is a sort of poetry of Theory, which is itself a sort of Poetry. Whoo-eee.
5. There is a special word for #1-4 above. The word is "baloney". "Baloney" (the word, "baloney") is a sort of theoretical word in this context, and as such, this "baloney" is, so to speak, a sort of poetry.
this just in :

I got The Phone Call : I've been awarded the prestigious McDuffie "Genes" Award for 2004. The McDuffie, chosen by a secret anonymous network of highly-intelligent rhesus monkeys, goes to the Creative Human Being "Most Likely To Have Been A Very Smart Monkey, If". No cash involved, but I get a year's supply of. . . those yellow things monkeys eat, I forget(????).

9.27.2004

I'm always starting over. something from a new Time Flowers:


1

Late September light in the backyard garden.
My voice faded, the garden fading,
and the light is mild and mellow, flickering
through curled-up dogwood leaves, reddening

to plum. Across the ridge, not far away,
Prospect Park leans outward, over the town. . .
how shall I fix your image? (Blackstone
garnered apples, Yellow Sweetings, in this air

– and nearby, too.) In some Sign of Jonah,
precipitating doom and mercy from on high?
Or might one improvise a fresco-tapestry –
those dancing maidens, languid Peace (Siena)?

I’ll show you the dusty photo. In the dove-light
of early autumn. Blind, washed-out eyes
open again (Easter, Epiphany). . . epiphanies.
Borne in broken-hearted vessel (Mournful-Bright).


2

Who has found the words for natural grace,
for love that goes to work in the world, humble,
invisible – accountable, uncounted – trembling
to serve that which it finds adorable (the universe)?

Love the Creator of all things lovable, thus
of life itself (the love we feed on, incalculable
mystery of infinite charity). . . thus am I unable
(like the rest) to represent such tenderness.

Nevertheless, I will attempt another fresco
(as Song of Songs, Cantiga de San Juan)
for the sake of sister-dove – for the only one
who can ease my trouble (troubadour-amigo).

9.27.04
in poetry we hear the echo or flicker of something. . . thus Pushkin calls poets the children of "Harmony".

Joyce saw history through the lens of messed-up family relations, the tragicomedy of mingled affection & indifference, perception & blind insensitivity. . . "love's old sweet song"
Haven't perused Josh's most-recent report on the Z conference yet. But thinking of the focus on Zukofsky long-poem & gender questions.

*

The critic, the interpreter, seeks out a logical architecture (this leads from that). Necessary even for full aesthetic appreciation of a work.

*

Each poet's personal "tradition" hinges on those affinities with other poets, whose work inspired immediate love & admiration & desire to imitate. But perhaps underlying this process, lies something infused more tightly with both psychology & the character of poetry in general : ie., maybe what we love in the predecessor or the model, is the flicker or intimation of Paradise-Utopia, the lost equilibrium or childhood or Heaven or ecstatic state or spiritual beatitude or Peace at heart or Jubilee. . . & this is the charismatic or the perfect goal or quiddity hidden in poetry or faintly echoed or represented by poetry.

*

The epic is a literary game, representing the ultimate "return home". . . thus Joyce's Ulysses points emphatically to Homer; and underneath "Bloomsday" is a kind of apocalypse - a World-Day in which time stops & turns toward Joyce's particular image of happiness, blessedness.

*

It needs no repeating, that my "tradition" seems like Mandelstam closely joined by Hart Crane & Joyce. . . thus, for Joycean example, Forth of July hinges on many signal dates, and a particular date (4/7). . . aiming toward Jubilee. . .

*

& the logical architecture - if you want to read this 1000-pp poem as a nice short poem? 4 books in 2 Parts:
1. Stubborn Grew
2. The Rose;

or, dying & rebirth;
& built on what? Family dynamics. . . gender relations. . . ie. tragicomic love song (Orpheus).

The figure of Elena Shvarts as incarnation of the Russian Mandelstam-model;
the figure of Juliet as poetry ghost-bride of a lost-&-found (native) America;

- these are like variations on a theme, the theme of the abandoned Orpheus-poet harping on his losses & mistakes & dreaming of a vast reunion.

& this logical architecture in turn, to repeat, intimates or stems from or allegorizes the general action or character of poetry per se, poetry as a phenomenon (the flicker of a Paradisal state).
The prancy-trippy literati trot hoarsely around the Names
& past the garlicky Comment Boxes
& by the Bing Rig,
around & around as
the circus master cracks
the Cracker Jack Code &
is History, at last

oh yeah, & how could I forget the poet a.k.a. "Anita Rust". Not to mention the hidden KD didder, & Ed Honig. He's still around; writer of long poems too (Four Springs). These 3 are better writers than any poet-blogger out there. It's a different landscape below the Woonasquatucket.
It's good to have a friend in Massachusetts. There are 4 or 5 living poets in the forests of New England : AB, Canonicus, Wm. Blackstone, Lydia Sansterre, & the poet formerly known as Hank Gould. We meet for wampum & cornpone once in a blue moon at Sachuest Point, near Berkeley's Rock.


I haven't been able to write much in a while, & it's driving me nuts.

9.24.2004

Hotelman notes a Roger Williams take-off by Brendan Galvin, which I also happened upon somewhere or other. It's a nice poem, nicely done, but involves a kind of versickal smoothing & tempering, bringing RW lingo up to the contemporary pleasant magazine verse standard (not unlike the efforts of Restoration poets to improve upon Shakspr). Recommend dipping into the 2-vol collected correspondence. RW a torrential writer and a very seasoned practical (experienced in worldly affairs) person at the same time - rare combination. With a genuine taste - gusto - for the original coinage & the baroque term. His polemical rants are overlong, crabbed, tiresome - but all in all his writing's a headier brew (in large part because of Williams' political genius, visionary principles, & plain orneriness, which centered him in the midst of tremendous conflict & drama - with Massachusetts, with London, with the Quakers, with the Narragansetts & Pequots, with his neighbors. . .).

9.23.2004

Zukofsky (via Josh) & "objectification" - aesthetic principle of rest, finish, completion, fulness, equilibrium, self-sufficiency (beauty/pleasure), being related to utopia, Paradise, Shabbat (sabbath).

A very old notion - much speculated upon by Byzantine theologians (Hexaemera - meditations & sermons on the 6 "days" of Creation).

Poetry's special relation to the word as good-in-itself.

Comes out in Forth of July via imagery of the ark, the covenant, Jonah ("dove"-prophet-spirit), Jerusalem, Jubilee, time-travel.

I sought "finish" & objectification in my own way. The patterns of numbers, seasons, festival days - the "occasional poem" elements. (5.28) The formal crystallization of the 3-vols. + Coda. The numerical extensions of the abba quatrain; numerology. The symmetry of the 3 vols (over 900 pp.) centered on a single 7-line poem (#28) at center of Grassblade Light, which itself in turn pivots on a single line. Then the thematic rhymes, the Russian puns, the "delta" element, the Orpheus-Bluejay-Ojibwa layers. . . the central puns (Julius, Juliet, July, Jewel-eye, Jubilee. . .)

Plus a lot of great Minnesota stuff!!!!!!!!!! whoopie!!! loon calls!!!!!!! Put up yer dukes, Zuks!!!
Spinoza something of a pantheist, no? Identification of God & (created) Nature. Simultaneous linking of God with Love.

Keith Ward comes out of Aristotle-Aquinas philosophical tradition - but challenges the determinism of causal-logic explanation (this is the cause of that) when it comes to cosmology and reality as a whole. This is very hard for the mind brought up on positivism & scepticism to grasp : the notion that God is self-revealing, that divine revelation is real (though blurred & imperfect) filtered through the lenses of different, yet authentic religious traditions. (Ward doesn't hold that all religions are equal, or that their truths are interchangeable; but he grants insights to each of the major religions which can further enlighten each other).

Granting the possibility of revelation immediately confronts one with the mystery of God's nature per se.

I love Ward's analyses because he emphasizes the link between the actual cosmos and creative (divine) will. There is no causal determinism because the universe we experience is a creation - possibly one of many. Again, hard to grasp, immediately, outside of a considered theological orientation. But I think it is something poets & artists can identify with (a shared "process").
Josh mentions Jonathan Ivry's paper on "Zukofsky's Quincunx". I hope Ivry noted the classic literary source on this subject, Sir Thos. Browne's essay The Garden of Cyrus.
Terrific, fascinating posts on the Zukofsky conference from Josh Corey. Thank you, Josh.

Aristotle, Aquinas, Spinoza. . . the effort to confront & describe the nature of God per se within the context of the definition of world & nature.

Theologian Keith Ward, as I mentioned a week or so ago, has been a great help to me lately in this area (three books: Religion and Relevation, Religion and Creation, Religion and Community).
speaking so friendly of the big poem arena, Allen Bramhall rightly points to Rachel Blau du Plessis. There are many others missing from my list - hoovers I should know better. How could I leave out Susan Howe's historical collage-researches, for example.

Maybe that's why I had one of my occasional poetry dreams last night. In this one, a young blonde poet named Debbie(! - no relation to actual person that I know of) shows me her work, cut from some magazines like coupons. In fact, a couple of the poems incorporate coupon-phrases.

In this kind of dream which I have now & then, I read actual poems. I see them close up, line by line. "Debbie's" were so clever, witty, tender, brimming with sheer playful joy & verbal verve - I felt humbled & awkward offering my praise. I woke up wondering what remote & now inaccessible brain-region evoked all this.

9.22.2004

. . . but speaking of utopian city-poems, I have yet to write the poem of Providence Now. I've written Providence Then already (read In RI in Anny B's italian translation - when it gets published!).

But I'm working on Providence Now. (That's why I'm reading about 14th-cent. Siena!)
If you want to compare what I done to that other stack, start with the gnomic brief poems in Way Stations, & the Midwest Elegies, & the dream-vision "Grain Elevator". Spread from there to the Island Road sonnet sequence, and from thence to Stubborn Grew + sequels (Forth of July). Read the poem "All Clear" in Fulcrum #2. Read the poem "Dove Street" in The Hat (if they decide to take it!). It's a Mississippi Gulf cosmos, with a little Rhode Island Red floating down on a raft.
Forth of July moved the long poem from the coast to the interior. Gunslinger is over there to the left, in the arroyo, being weird. Atlantis/Utopia = Day ob' Jubilee.
for me, the quatrain became a "line" as Dale Smith describes it. it became second-nature expressive. whether it can be so again is my question to myself.
The Cantos
The Bridge
Paterson
The Maximus Poems
"A"

- here's a stack of them. How, how well, do they represent social/city life? How well do they evoke "utopia"? quick notes:

Cantos have a sort of tragic grandeur, as well as a hectic energeia which sometimes captures the quick rough quiddity of experience, the plunging violent unpredictability of urban reality. Also a practiced lyrical-cantando-enchantment, esp. describing nature, feminine allure. Still, as Olson pointed out long ago, the backward-looking antiquarian preciosity, as well as the authoritarian politics, push the Cantos toward a sort of ever-living obsolescence.

The Bridge, in my view anyway, succeeds pretty well in blending lyric proportion, emblematic history, and Gotham immediacy (the Joycean day's dream-journey of the narrator) - so that the reading experience itself reproduces its locale (how shall I put this: when you read The Bridge, you have the pleasant sensation of being-in-NYC-reading-The Bridge. Sort of Borgesian, that way). Its technique, however, is refined and ironic - so that much is left out which its competitors here try to include (there's a study on puns in The Bridge, though, which argues that a lot of that excluded mundaneity comes back in by the back door. Paul Giles, Hart Crane : the contexts of The Bridge). Crane's trans-chronological "Atlantis" is a sort of poetic summation of 1920s "Our America" idealism. Still beautiful & hopeful.

Paterson is best of these in evoking city as a collective-psychic organism, where drab dailiness overlays historical-geological fragments & dreams, an arena of contingencies & possibilities. WCW's sharp eye & humor help, but for me the language is too flat & derivative to be very moving, & his cautious analytical bent doesn't do much for me, though others will savor the stringent-sour critical awareness of this social & egalitarian poet. His empathy often strikes me as tepid & careful, the attitude of the professional medical man (many will disagree). He also tries too hard & too obviously to remodel his models (Eliot, Pound).

Maximus Poems. When Olson tries to improve on his masters - Pound, WCW - he often does so. He's a genius at turning the obscure historical footnote into both vivid fragment and portentous psychic extrusion-symbol. Better than the rest is the feel for working-class poverty, necessity, & odd moments of liberation. Olson really does succeed at turning a literary mask into an emblem of some vast cosmic order. Where he loses me, most of the time, is with his actual language use. The personality that comes across sometimes - overbearing, pompous, pretentious, eccentric, sneering, vulgar - seems like a weird oedipal reaction to Pound & Literature - an effect like a bad habit, rather than a genuine reflection of Olson the better man. But it's off-putting, and for me, gives sign of minor rather than major poetry. Olson was a kind of hero, in a heroic & lonely struggle for origination & powerful mantic speech - but I wonder if he was up to the battle he chose.

"A" - I haven't read this carefully enough to say much. Zukofsky has an incredible ear for rhythm & sound on the syllabic level. Using it, he takes the civic and the utopian experience and - taking direction from Pound & Joyce & going much further - internalizes, subjectifies those experiences. A sort of quasi-Orphic process, I think: reality is completely absorbed into A-Z's limping, limpid, familial-household mumbling. What bothers me about it is precisely what made Z. appeal to the postmoderns : the turn to pure sound, the recherche Mallarmean-Symbolist aestheticism. Its action is almost diametrically reverse to that of The Bridge : whereas the latter incorporates the reader into an imaginary NYC-America, the former absorbs all things - the world, the reader - into Zukofsky-sound.
Let's gab some more about long poems, OK Hen? OK.

Both Warren & Dale Smith, in that issue of House Organ, point toward the messianic/utopian. Smith, in asserting a bond between the poet's line & the actual (natural/cultural) locus poeticus or environment. Warren, more specifically, seems to judge the "messianic" as a sort of aggressive ethos-formation or ideology, formed in conscious or unconscious conflict with deeper psychosocial forces (patriarchy, anti-semitism, anti-Catholicism). (I think Warren displays sort of a Catholic-Jungian syncretism, in which apocalypse, messianism, utopianism are "outer" phenomena, which fall short of a more complete & substantial inner integration or paradisal state. But I'm sort of guessing here, having given his essays only a cursory & intermittent reading.)

The long poem, with its collective & holistic ambitions, applies itself especially to utopian aims.

Seems to me that in order to approach such aims, any such work would have to have:

1. some kind of cosmological worldview, social-scientific philosophy, or religious base.

2. some kind of holistic or encyclopedic representation of social life.

(Northrop Frye & others have written a lot about such generic requirements.)

How do the American examples stack up in this regard? More in a minute.
Olson, Zukofsky. . . the epic boys are in the weather.

Very curious how Olson is still a living psychopomp in some circles: Kenneth Warren, at least, keeps the "drama" of Maximus Poems compelling, wherein the encounters of Maximus & his agonisti are mythic, iconic Kultur-ectomorphs.

Kent points toward some of the wider rings - Dale Smith, Stephen Ellis, Ed Dorn. . .

Zukofsky too, in his way, as the centennial celebration shows. Ron Silliman's post of yesterday begs the question : is the big-poem-epic deal a men's preserve?

Traditional literature in general was a men's preserve for a long time, obviously. How much is the mode of heroic culture-quest even more so? There are elements of "Iron John" role-modelling involved. Zukofsky clearly modelled his work on Joyce & Pound, as ephebe-challenger.

This is not necessarily bad. I suppose what's sexy today is the inquiry into what slanting illuminations or criticisms these heroic (& anti-heroic satirical) works bring to gender dynamics.
The latest issue of House Organ arrived yesterday, including another chapter in editor Kenneth Warren's ongoing Olson research, "The Emperor's New Code", and a little defense of the vitality of "the line" (& rebuttal of Ron Silliman) by Dale Smith. Also some nice late-summer poems.

Warren's effort is unusual. He has a mercurial, intuitive capacity for interpretation, which is a perfect lens for Olson's psychological-historical-occult mentality; he brings a vast store of Jungian-astrological-mythological-sociological knowledge to bear, combined with a critical sense (which is not about "promoting" Olson, but opening up both the dark & light aspects of his epic ambition). This issue's chapter is a fascinating look at the Olson/Ferrini constellation, in which the "ferrous"-iron Ferrini stands for "Red Knight"/Mediterranean/Jewish/feminine qualities, which Aryan/masculinist/German-idealist Olson must challenge. (Here's a Warren review of Ferrini, drawn from another House Organ issue, which gives a sense of what he's getting at.)

p.s. Kent Johnson appended a good comment to this post, please click the box below(even if it shows "0 comments!").

9.20.2004

- thinking of previous post, remembered this from the last poem in Way Stations, "My Byzantium" (1996):

7

Not the flower, but the whistling stem,
the stump still sprouting
desire from pain, pain from desire –
a homeless voice, roadside day-
lily in rearview mirrors,
unstemmed longing, infinite,
to the barren node of the
horizon.
Not for itself,
but in response, a choral thorn-
crown for harvest of black-
eyed Susans tempered
by drought – the keening
proud repentance
of Appalachian eyes.

From the fissure, a breath
of warm air – the frozen flower (touched
by a human hum) blooms.

In cliffside cave or hermitage,
a prehistorian, unfrozen now, draws
out Nativity from spring charcoal:
under the modal drone of mountain
banjo, streambed clay (glance
of a goldfinch) rose infant lips
are moving (do, re, mi. . .)
A big shipment of new poetry books for the library from SPD crossed my desk today. High arty, low arty, avant, etc. I took a look at most of them. Only one of them caught my attention, moved me to continue reading:

Kettle Bottom, by Diane Gilliam Fisher
Florence, MA: Perugia Press, 2004

History poems in different voices focusing on the West Virginia mine wars of 1920-21.

Fisher seems to aim for a middle ground between poetry & colloquial speech, music & history. The bio note points to family background in Appalachia; the poetry shows a clear affinity. Achieves a certain readable-not-glib objectivity of feeling, perception, expression. Looks like a fine piece of work.

9.18.2004


7. Rite of Spring Posted by Hello

6. Giants in the Earth Posted by Hello

5. Of W.B. Posted by Hello

4. Ghost Dance (caption under photo reads: "Henry Thunder Winnebago, recording songs in a grove")Posted by Hello

3. Palm Sunday (collage by J. Lesselbaum) Posted by Hello

2. Letters to Elena. (Top right: Petersburg poet Elena Shvarts. Lower right: yours truly, with polar bear. Left: London, Greek neighborhood. Orthodox church in background. Street sign reads: "St. Petersburgh Mews") Posted by Hello

The first version of Grassblade Light was in the form of 7 chapbooks, one for each chapter. Here's the cover art. Chapt. 1. The Lost Notebooks (click the image to enlarge). (top right: William Blackstone. lower left, front cover: Blackstone astride his famous white bull, reading a book. caption under lower right image: "Old English rose such as Blackstone probably cultivated".)

These extremely rare and valuable texts are currently archived in the poetry libraries at Buffalo & Brown, and in the private collections of a very few fortunate individuals in remote corners of the universe.Posted by Hello
Reading fine book, Sienese Painting, by Timothy Hyman (a painter himself). The miniature narrative images - saints' lives, journey of Dante, Virgil & Beatrice - resemble graphic novels of today. In one scene, reading from left to right, you'll see a figure in three different actions (falling sick, visited by angel, cured...), like a cartoon.

Siena loved the Divina Commedia (maybe partly because Dante was so hard on his home town Florence). Public readings were given outdoors on feast days.

9.17.2004

today is Constitution Day. & sister Cara's birthday. that's her on the tricycle.
long poems, epics, the writing & reading of same - a way of overcoming the jadedness referred to earlier? By absorbing all forms of discourse & narrative - a voracious counter-pressure. Turning knowledge to account & back toward lyric state.
Days of hectic. Yet must I drone, drone I must.

Reading about Sienese painting, history. Sounds abstruse? Not really. Democracy, civic values, religion, art, Black Death.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti's frescos of Good/Bad Government in Palazzo Pubblico. Probably influence on Bruegel. Exploratory, panoramic improvisation.

Providence I am reading your local papers. Same issues - gov't overburdened with inertia, selfish interests, bureaucracy. Various levels & types of apartheid longstanding ("suburban golf protection racket" as Stubborn puts it). But hopeful civic efforts underway everywhere - creative projects of betterments.

Lorenzetti read Divina Commedia and was one of first - maybe the first pictor of Dante.

*

Walking about today with fleeting quarter-thoughts in between work. Mild, muggy.

Stevens' Adagia - the ones where he holds "poetry" and "poetry of life" in each hand. Maybe no other way to apprehend it??

Poetry is a sense. Not words, really. We have to feel our way into it again, blindly - into the sense of it we had in our youth, man' decades ago.

I mean poetry in its psychological/experiential context. . . what am I saying? When you ponder the vast variety of human capabilities, personality bents, individual experiences - such ground the vast differences in taste, apprehension, appreciation, valuation. & often I think we literary leeches are the most blind - through jaded appetite. We no longer respond as we did, to a new world speaking to us from the page.

But my own argument here excludes the word "we" to some extent (talkin about myself, I guess). Nothing is determined or set in stone in this regard. We may again find ourselves caught up in a new literary charm, a new discovery, a new love.

Poetry is a sense. A sense of reality-as-poetry. A premonition.

I have a literary reputation as odd, eccentric. Also boring, conventional, traditionalist. Actually I am Super-Normal Standard Poet. My literary memory is an echo chamber. I keep alive certain normal ways of speakin'.

9.16.2004

Here's the path I take to India Point, over the freeway bridge (cf. poems posted recently). From a photojournal produced by Donald Tetto.
Thank you, Allen. You make my day, today. Generosity. (& Kent, ever alert & compagnevole.)

(On this day in 1999 I started the sequel to Stubborn G.)
I've started a new blog called AlephoeBooks, linked at left. Not meant to be a daily thing, but sort of a display case for HG publications. The links there provide a handy map of my scriptorial fabricattoria (new word). Since I'm hoping to release some new, revised, cheaper editions of previous efforts, AlephoeBooks is where I'll explain what they are, & how to import them into your cosmos.

9.15.2004

This just in (Pravda) : Allen Bramhall reading Stubborn Grew

Allen - word of advice from the Author Position. Do not begin to feel that reading it is work, or that you are guilty, inadequate. I Author have ofttimes done my Readers (& Author-Self) a disservice by harping on the deep complexity and High Postoffice-Modern Seriousness-Quality of my Work.

Remember : the Poem was written by a (drunken/sleeping) snail (Dung-Beetle) trying to munch his way into Providence. It should be read in that Spirit as well. It was written for fun, fun, fun and is meant to be fun, fun, fun - a true Leisure Time Activity brought to you by Prof. Leisure Time himself.

I have found that the best way to read my Work is in the Tub, out loud, while your Significant Author pours buckets of warm Water over your head. This tends to bring out the real "Ocean State" flavor (or material status) of the Verse.

9.14.2004

Kent Johnson informs me there are few mosquitos in La Paz! (see previous poem posted here). The man is not only well-informed & -traveled - he can read Henrybrew!

9.11.2004

But the fit though very few who read to the very deep end of Forth of July may traverse a thin quipu-bridge to The Countess from Minneapolis, by Barbara Guest (all mixd up with the Queen of Spades in Pushkin's sht stry) (logorithm: guest-geist-ghost-ghoul-gould) published in Providence by Burning Deck Press. to wit (from the Hebrew):

17

There are mzqtz in La Pz
nd at Crgdero we lst a hrs
to a jgr btfly mggt in the ml's
rs fr shr nd the Cntss zps

hr lps th rfinmt ov wht's spcl
tks plc btwn th mt nd th bn,
n'est-ce pas? sd Sgnr Rbnri
th lngthy slw ckng ov th Chldrn's

Op. "Lntls" Th puma wz nthr stry.
Io Zagreus! Th puma, th lnx, Actn, Xn. . .
sldrs, mchn gns, drg dgs snffng lgg. . .
Hrmn hs gn md hz n Wrd 17

fr a bd actn lk Npln r Jls Czr
hz flc wz fxt t th pnpt
b th ghst he trpt upn
th ghst ov th Cntss rzr-

shrp shp lght nd frry eye
th Cntss n hr cnrty hs smth mst
wshng hrslf nkd n th strm-strm
fr tht th fthr v hz cntry (Yoi W)

sht thru wth hr frtvfr
ovrt th clft he gs bncng lk
a yoi-yoi fr lkng
nlwfly n awfly cldly frtvly

twrd the Cntss cvrd wth mzqtz
thr nr Qto whr th mngld gld
ov lmn nd wmbn r = sgns r gthrd
tgthr in th bk ov hr mrkbx (qtzlctlq)
I'm a better poet than Osama Bin Laden, and always will be.
a little more from India Point. (passage to more!)

1

Autumn gathers everything together.
The ache of Orpheus rhymes with the atmosphere.
The air makes an arc of cold, toward Halloween
or Veteran's Day. Lovesongs are no more.

On the bench at the Point, he waits for the ships.
Oil tankers, long lean hammerheads (Rosevean,
maybe, or Providence - a windy microcosm slips
anchor, skims across skipping waves –). . . lips

whisper a hollow sound, through a dry reed:
surrender the romance of enunciation,
Now
. The form was broken on the Golden
Gate, forever. From shady earthbound seed

(soft pussy willow bud) came the desiccated
husks. Yet he'll behold his Beatrice (constellate).

*

Yet she will not be the star of your design.
A changeable moon rides over the rigid pine

and her name (unspoked, unspoken-for)
won't let you croon sweet Nod, forever. . .
forlorn for nevermore
. It was never translated
(she never bothered to read it herself, either).

This then was the cruelest impasse. Crux
of dilemmas. Cul-de-sac. Unable to sing her
back into his arms. The hapless flummox
fosters laughter. . . a sadist's paradox.

The skipper's iron yawn pulls away from shore.
Something of reddish iron takes tincture
(leached, homeward, from the heart it makes);
slight leaves curl slowly toward hibernal cure.

9.16.02




2

Along the promenade at India Point, at noon.
Two kinds of blue, of sky and limbeck bay
divided merely by a sketch of land – a green
marsh (going pale) and the smooth cones

of the oil tanks (throned, expressionless).
And something leaden like a plumbline
or something iron like an anchor draws
him toward autumn (with everything else).

And autumn is an old stone church, with snow
just dusting the cornices, the slate pavement;
a cool wind out of azure sky, strewing
carnelian maple leaves. He'll hunger then

for Indian summer – ripeness, ruddy perennials,
a hearth in the heartland. Break open the seals.

*

Something iron in the dividing line, spun thin
to lightest gold, like dawn – threadbare, glassine. . .

the line between my here and now, and yours.
The difference between ghost and angel, it was
the border between a feeling and a thought,
between listening and action (granite fathers,

mica sons). As if, on the circumference
of a wheel, the shadow of another wheel
impinged (weightless trine within bronze)
at eventide (as October light declines).

And it's not the maternal muttering, May-
fair's foreground, nor glittering of stars'
cosmetic romances (in Holy Wood). Strange,
steadfast. . . must pierce to marrow's otherness.

9.17.02





3

The sound of the hurricane was not the twirl
of an old fantoche. It seeped from stony habitus
of one who is what he is: freedom in the whorl
of one infinitesimal (rudimentary) snarl.

Orpheus, left alone on the docks, leans out
toward his image, shimmering in the sea.
Shaken by her shade (it shapes his hurt)
he would not die, withal – and the fiery heart

of the whirlwind felt like a pillar of smoke
by day. Follow the lead of the plumbline
to the anchor
, summoned the sprite. Swift arc
from the prow of the Point, the line beckoned

as though a pearl gleamed there – a sunken
epiphany – consoling harmony, beyond his ken.

*

Transparent, behind your back, they rise:
the misty, vernacular academies.

Fogman, Everyman know them instantly
(rhymes or rhythms of innate identity).
Sullen, foiled, brittle antinomy, toughened
by lack of justice. Yet. . . your Book of J.

Where she curls around corners, a spy
playing hide n' seek, in Hell. Labyrinth
of concrete. Where flame flickers fitfully
and droopy Charon whines for every penny

beneath an abandoned India Jade tree
at the corner of the house. Only (after 132
heartache years) the rooster sex waltz will be
redeemed. . . by an unlikely, yearning, iron trinity.

9.18.02
prodigal today. this is from India Point, a chapter of a sequel to the sequels titled Time Flowers. will post a photo of the real India Point, soon.

9

Bands of muffled sunlight over the water
above low gray cloud banks. The Bay is
wintry today. The old man you see,
patched in ragged bundles, tottering

like Orpheus taking baby steps (she let go
her hand) looking for the key perhaps,
back to the womb (as he is, lapsed
from world-lap). Orpheus the hobo.

Autumn brings on the cold distances.
His vagrancy resembles a jumbled
freedom, aimless, trembling
since her touch withdrew. Since

then, a little touched. Head-wounded,
light-touched, sounded, he sounds.

*

Ripple of finger-water over the keys
long ago in Mendelssohn (pianissimo).

Quadrilateral structure fanning from
your palm, a fugitive touchstone
unfurls through lightweight bone:
light-weighted simultaneous drum-

ming above chambered metronome
and spiral nautilus make homespun
harmony. Time comes undone
as prodigal Hand begins to roam

and quiver like Northern Light some
motionless afternoon, near the drone
of the river (where you tossed a stone
from shore deep into Hobo Kingdom).

10.30.02

10

Steady breeze across restless silver.
Light flickers in a hobo face. Dry
maple leaves race along the pier
(late afternoon, early November).

Oily staves, blackened lumber creak and
wobble in the wind like living creatures
bent around the dead sunflower
of sunken hull. Meek fingers

make a mask for an aging face (ark-
nave for absent child). Tired hands
recall prodigal canvas, and the keel
sets stuttered sail into empty park,

heavy prow jaywalking anchor-figurehead
(lambent pinewood, mewling abba, abba).

*

Light through crosshairs of a stringent compass.
The old man in us, Pater on path P, NW.

Snow on the shoulders of St. Michael's
coming down (All Saints, All Souls).
Autumnal magnitudes, after the spark
goes dim, after the luminous departures.

With tardy reason we remember
how the coracle urged onward toward
her shore (a circle in a wider world) –
O Orpheus-heartache, so tragic-somber!

Mendelssohn children run into the wind.
Animal nature, mother-wit descend
from heavenly lamps, bare bearings,
potter's pole. Snow-crossroad beckons.

11.2.02
something apropos, maybe.

Mississippi, below River Rd. (near border of St. Paul/Mpls.). Believe that is Berryman's fatal bridge. Posted by Hello

Poet's mother (the painter/potter), inspecting old rose near River Rd. Posted by Hello

My grandfather's tile, from Barnett & Record Co., which he put as stepping-stones in backyard (River Road) around 1927. Still there, I discovered last week. (Mentioned in "dream-vision" poem "Grain Elevator", here. )Posted by Hello

OK, I got it right side up! Posted by Hello

Lake Vermilion, in the iron range, northwest of Duluth. Posted by Hello

9.10.2004

Proust. The idea that our only real experience of Time is in the form of personal time. But art's transpersonal effect - leading us out (errantly, erroneously) into the world, and back again into ourselves - draws maker (& reader) toward a hidden self, experiencing"beyond-time".

The only real experience of Time is personal. Corollary : all time, as humanly understood, is Now (the now, that is, of a 5-act play, lasting roughly 3 score years & 10).

But this is not quite right either. Because at the same time we recognize the pastness of the past. Caesar may yet be living his "now" - but for us, his dust stops a bunghole in Neder-nederland.

Hard to grasp how these two dimensions really intertwine.
Two faces, two aspects of literature - light & heavy. Pastime - and funeral rite for past time.

Literature, memory, nostalgia, time-travel, reincarnation. . . all efforts to ameliorate Time's irrevocable power, to soften the blow. "Humankind cannot bear very much reality" (or something like that). Who wrote that history is not simply the past, but the "pastness of the past" (more Eliot?)?

But what good is the present without memory & memories (personal & collective)? Question has a bearing on my "poetics", I guess. Memories (commitments) which we share - & in so doing "redeem the time".

After the Good Friday end-stop of Stubborn Grew, the "return" of Juliet-Eurydice, the Forth of July - an expansion/acceleration/attenuation in two directions: toward a remote (& secret) personal past, and a remote (& imaginary) collective future (Jubilee). By way of the Mississippi River ("upstream, down").
Latta-day Proust.

What a mighty vast meme was early 20th-cent. "memory"! The cork-lined French chap made a Mots-Valeurian personal epic out of it.

Out of Baudelaire, Bergson, Nietzsche - "eternal return". The Future is possibility; the Past is fixed; but the Present of writing, through reflection and reiteration, turns the Past once more toward possibility - a spectral revivimummifictation.

Memory functioning like a time-analogy for the spatialization - the multidimensionality - enacted by words on a page (blossoming into imaginative vision & empathy). Bergson's "fan of phenomena" (cf. Mandelstam) enacted (paradigmatically) as the reader opening a book.

Crane's Bridge thusly miniaturized Joyce's Ulysses technique. "America" as a cinematic sleight, an entire history dreamt in a single night in Manhattan.

Eliot's elegant epitome for the whole thing, at the opening of Four Quartets :

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.


(But : see Keith Ward's book, Religion and Creation, for a discerning reconsideration of the whole traditional Platonic eternal "block time" changelessness perspective.)
This just in (Corriere della Sera): Mayhew Writes Poem About Something
Too bad about Wordsworth Bks in Cambridge, & Jim Behrle's job. Hope he lands something new & better even.

Does that make me the last reader in the Avengers series, after this guy? If so, how ironic - the effete neo-classical Samsonite brings down the roof. (But I'm sure there will be more Behrle productions.)

9.09.2004

Anny Ballardini, poet, editor & translator, has a new blog. Con bella fotografia - architettura italiana, etc.