3.04.2005

Here's a dictionary in which words are defined using limericks.
Jonathan, I'm sorry if I give the impression of feeling neglected by other bloggers!

No, bloggers treat me just fine. Here's my True Chart of Henry Neglect:

Sphere of Activity : Neglect Level

Blogworld : None

Po-Biz : Neglected, scorned, shunned, ignored

Literary World in General : Unknown

p.s. I used to pay so much more attention to the Po-Biz sphere. Blogworld helped wean me away from all that moronic nonsense. I have moved on, thankfully, to other forms of idiocy.
Fascinating (& concise) article on "Music & Poetry" in the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry & Poetics. Can Henry reunite his split personalities? Stay tuned.
I grew up in the 50s in a little section between Hopkins & Edina (MN) called Mendelssohn, named so by some young settlers (1870s?) who were professional musicians with the Minnesota Symphony. I've written a children's story & a novella, both (in part) celebrations of that musical neighborhood. Both sadly unpublished. Any children's book people or fiction publishers out there, hey, get in touch with me!
The combination of a bad cold & a music bent has kept me from HG Poetics. But it's curious how blogging gets to be part of your extended self. The word blog sounds vaguely biological.

Like many, or more than most, I've had my difficulties integrating various interests & ambitions. Music remains an undeveloped talent, and writing an unfulfilled ambition. The new technologies, however, seem to encourage or empower amateurs like me.

This can be seen as both positive & negative, I guess. Sometimes we want roughness & authenticity & immediacy, rather than the cult of "clean, tight" music, the seamless, impenetrable aura of professionalism. Then again, sometimes we want that perfection & power, the refinement which comes from a lifelong nurture of talent.

I started piano lessons when I was 6 years old. This was about a year after I started begging my parents for lessons. My mother played piano & flute; my father has a good singing voice. I took lessons til I was 14, and went pretty far with it. I won 3rd place in a state competition when I was 13. Then I started losing interest, to the chagrin of Mrs. Elledge, my teacher.

I started playing guitar when I was 15. I started in on harmonica at 17. I was playing in bands my senior year in high school. Then in college, I pretty much dropped it again - until I dropped out of college, & hit the road, connecting with old high school bandmates & others. Ended up playing on the streets & elsewhere in San Francisco, Denver, NYC (this was in the mid-70s). Went over to England to apply for the opening with the Rolling Stones (Mick Taylor's former spot). (I've told that story before!), played in little coffeehouse bands around London for a few months.

Then when all that came to an end I went back to school. Dropped music again for almost 10 years. Was encouraged by fellow library worker (Jim Chapin) to take up harmonica again, and have played in various jug/blues/country bands with him since then (late 80s). Am learning about "podcasting" partly in order to advance the recording of what we do (the "K.C. Moaners" - Jim, Colette & me). Jim is a very fine musician, a kind of homegrown Hank Williams, who can play & sing hundreds of traditional tunes.

- But I see now how so much of what I've been able to do, in writing and music, is based on those 7 years with Mrs. Elledge - that hour every day practicing at the piano. Tone & tempo, expression & pacing... learning to write is as much a matter of training the ear, as it is learning grammar & hermeneutics.

3.03.2005

Home again with a heavy-duty cold. But I did have the harmonic fortitude to put up another song over that the other blog. A new (old) song, which used to have about 4 verses. (I can only remember one.) Had a heck of a time trying to record 2 tracks.

3.02.2005

I'm sure I'll be back to HG Poetics soon, dear friends. Just having a music fit. Soon I'll be homesick again for Time Flowers, etc.

Today I was messing around on the piano - thinking about how a certain chord made me feel "distance, grasslands"... - and a bird joined in, very appropriately.

2.28.2005

some nice, nice new stuff over at the lil' Sparrow. I'm crossin' over, folks.
Here's the actual feed link for downloading from Go Little Sparrow. At least I think I've got this right!

(Now I'll have to record some more music... those songs are from an 8-yr-old tape.)

2.27.2005


Back at India Pt. Park. In the distance, in front of the oil storage tanks, is the former Soviet submarine Julietta 484 (used in the film K-19). "submarine Julietta 484" : good shorthand description of structure of Forth of July Posted by Hello
Go Little Sparrow is a new blog I've started in order to experiment with "podcasting". Don't really know what I'm doing with it yet. Was up til 2 in the morning last night, formatting some primitive old recordings into some music editing & podcast software. Wonder if I've set it up right for mp3 access (feedback is welcome on that, since I don't have an mp3 player!).

2.25.2005


the alchemical bus tunnel into the depths of Providence Posted by Hello

me again, with cousin Julie, and sister Cara ('68 or so)
I seem to remember reading once that many archaic peoples recognized some kind of special occult relationship between a person & their maternal uncle. That's certainly true as regards the development of Forth of July. My uncle James Ravlin was an unusual character. Born in Saskatchewan in the winter of 1912, where his father (my grandfather) was on a building project. Jim Ravlin was very handsome, a Navy officer in WW 2. Became a lawyer, went east, worked for the tobacco companies, married into high society, shed his midwestern accent for a kind of high WASP drawl. Wrote Finneganesque letters to everyone (my grandfather's grandfather had come to the US from Dublin). Moved family to SF; left his wife; daughter Juliet jumped off Golden Gate Bridge, on his birthday; lived with his mistress, an important music agent in NYC; spent his last years with her in apartment overlooking Lincoln Center. Was a friend of poet James Merrill. The poem posted previously today was a kind of (lesser) echo of this one, which really got Stubborn rolling (toward my cousin Juliet!). It's an elegy for my uncle. (I know I've posted it before - sorry!)

6
i.m. James Ravlin, 1912-1997


Light quick mosquitoes speed flitter
and slide at latter-day angle easily
mounting every corniced ingle and
fuming, spuming, better, better and better.


Mosquitoes there were in Saskatchewan,
where you were born, between
Granddad's grain
elevators, Grandma's steel-eyed span.


Those clever, clever lips hovered
in camel smoke
like a Cheshire hookah, smiled.
And tumbled out an accent stranger


and stranger. What flute
troubled earth to bear him?
The bare tongue-footed ague of him?
The sweet-eyed flourish, the high note


of his Viennese liner? Where now,
sailor man, handsome PT-boat boy-o?
He sleeps in his long canoe. He is
scattered... a late Minnesota snow.


Unmoored from the height of land,
drifting from Lawrentian divide,
blueberry, pine, air-filled
cliff, the taste of iron.


The cherry trees and the dogwood
bloom now in this sinner-town.
Pale green sprays tender
over the graveyard.


Soon come the clever mosquitoes,
the new swarms. I inch along.
A snail, with prairie on my tongue.
Hesitant, grieving, stubborn grew, the rose.
Yeats is a very hard act to follow, forgive me. Here's some more alchemy (Grassblade Light). Sort of addresses my grandfather, my uncle, myself, at the same time. An elegy for my uncle (Juliet's father) really started the flow of Stubborn Grew. My grandfather built grain elevators & dockyards in the midwest & Saskatchewan. "Balthasar" has to do with a painting by Bruegel ("Adoration of the Magi"), which popped up early in Stubborn.


26



There is nothing but cold and dark,
as at the bottom of the sea.
As winter in Saskatchewan would be,
eventually. And so castles made of sand... sink,


now, into this infinite sea, handsome
sailor boy-o... drift, now,
drift... with Minnesota snow...
flow... let go the oars,


drop from the transom, the huge
flat outline of your grain elevators
now, old man... old man. Sow
the wild grave prairie with your centrifuge,


separate the waters from the waters,
night from day; and from the regal span
of life’s love-surge, constrain one
standing sound... your daughter’s


laughter, once again. Once more.
Now droning cicadas in July
exhale one body – sigh
toward the vault... soar


together, merge – a water music, as
your mother’s father’s sun moves down the Thames,
an evening lightship, borne upon the flames
of flowing water. Balthasar prepares


his final epiphane: out from his naval green-
gold golem draws a ruddy gem. His glittering
eyes reflect each burning facet floating in
his hand as he presents one gleaming human soul.



1.5.99
those great & famous lines, from "The Tower"

And I declare my faith:
I mock Plotinus' thought
And cry in Plato's teeth,
Death and life were not
Till man made up the whole,
Made lock, stock and barrel
Out of his bitter soul,
Aye, sun and moon and star, all,
And further add to that
That, being dead, we rise,
Dream and so create
Translunar Paradise.

(this is really aligned right up with Nicolaus Cusanus & dear old Bishop Berkeley)
There are certain words one ought to use with care, or better yet, not at all. Like "soul".

This mysterious entity... sometimes I think that the gospel sayings about the kingdom of heaven actually refer to the soul itself. Like, "the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure a man buried in a field. Then he went and sold all he had, and bought that field." [quoting from memory]

Or all the precepts about giving up the world and saving one's soul. "What shall a man give for his soul?" etc.

Reading Yourcenar's Abyss got me on this trend of thought (if you can call it that).

This elusive treasure... a person's vital, originary essence... (thus the blind glibness begins...) I wrote here on the blog once, "life is pioneering". Maybe life is the soul's pioneering.

The furtive sense of a perimeter, or the circumference of one's proper being... of being at home there... (or is it all vanity, delusion, complacency? That too.)

Religious faith perhaps is the inward acknowledgement of the soul's origin in some kind of metaphysical gift. "We know that all good and perfect things are from above, from the Father of Lights..." (Epistle of James, roughly, from memory).

Remember all those literary debates over the status of the self in poetry? Even the notion of a "school of quietude" implies various & contrary attitudes toward "the soul", toward individuality. If the soul exists... the architecture of modern notions of personhood would have to be revised.

Yeats, for one, gives the impression of a fiery intelligence - like a visionary semi-angelic being, trapped in a sort of infernal denial at some deep level (amid all the beautiful affirmations). He delves down & back - like Blake - to the creative, titanic origins of reality - occulted in the powers of the human self & soul. But his historical-theosophical-visionary structures (in A Vision, etc.) - those "amazing" gyres - somehow sidestep or seek to replace the Redemption. It's ambiguous, though - very. Yeats was playing with spiritual fire; but I don't want to typecast him according to some kind of dogmatic hypothesis. (how does it go, that ecstatic little poem about blessing & being blessed?)

2.24.2005

- here's something slightly alchemical, from Blackstone's Day-Book (the last chapter of Forth of July):

 4



Ultramarine being the diamond of all colors
a glazing pigment out of lapis lazuli
(background painted with dust and clay
become a lively cornerstone, elect and precious)


applied to the low prison cell, with pale
moonlight through the barred grill
over the old bruised boxer's skull
as he wonders at the releasing angel


obliged to use pure Naples yellow and
vermilion for the lights upon the nailheads
of the door
(asphaltum from the Dead
Sea region or American Bottomland)


and directly below the cross in the lower
left corner stands a dark vessel with
shroud-like cloth – Bishop Berkeley's
oily tar and water, or mercurial


salamander vegetating in the fire
(sulfur).
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.
And a pale green shamrock gracefully
resolves... into a little Indian red or


vermilion and lake, deepened by black
.
You must have observed the difference in
lustre between silks woven from different-
colored threads... luce di dentro. Mark


how that heavy angel moves the stone door
with downward cross laid over his shoulder.
And he will walk into stone-shrouded Rome
and bear – (lilied footpad, Troyes mummer).


4.20.2000
Reading Marguerite Yourcenar's The Abyss. By centering the story on Zeno, an alchemist with a single-minded scientific passion to know & to free himself, who delves into the hermetic secrets of the 4 elements within nature & his own body, Yourcenar gives very rich & vivid shape to a distant time (1500s Europe). The novel somewhat reflects Zeno's own fascination with the human microcosm, becoming a literary microcosm.

Funny how yesterday I was sidelining "hermeticism", since this novel reminded me (this morning) how important the alchemical-hermetic aspect is to the U.S. long poem. Both Paterson ("the giant, Paterson"; "a man = a city") & Maximus are structured largely as literary-alchemical transmutations (the epic questor becomes "Everyman", the image/bearer/creator of a cosmos). I've noticed before an odd thing about alchemical notions (the 4 elements, the transmutation of metals, etc.): once you take note of them in literature, they seem to crop up everywhere. I guess you may say that writing itself can be read alchemically.

Kenneth Warren, in his little mag House Organ, has published a serialized study of Charles Olson & Maximus ("The Emperor's New Code") which is steeped in alchemical-theosophical lore.

(However, let's be clear: alchemy, hermeticism, literary obscurity, trobar clus... these are not all the same thing. In other words I would still disagree with Ron S. when he suggests that a kind of secret writing for adepts represents authorial respect for the intelligence of the reader, or that trobar clus-like poetry is or will be the engine of literary change & advance. Yourcenar (or Nabokov, for another example, or Shakespeare) is a great writer because, among other things, she is master of a clear, precise, and capacious style - capable of absorbing and reflecting realities on many different levels.)

2.23.2005

oh, that sharp-eyed, skreaking skimmer-tern
p.s. I don't want to oversimplify in turn ("absorption"). It's true that literary styles often develop in dialectical fashion. Witness the transformation of 20th-cent. Italian poetry, through a rejection (led by Montale & others) of D'Annunzio's heroic-romantic melodrama. At the same time, though, this was undertaken by poets who drew upon other stylistic currents - preceding &/or contemporary with D'Annunzio. The process is never simple. The same goes for the changes in American poetry during the 50s & 60s.

But I doubt that future developments will be led by another hermetic vanguard (as in the heroic romance of Language Poetry). Future developments will be built on those basic literary values previously mentioned : they will be applied in new ways.
I have to contest Ron Silliman's version of poetics & literary history again.

Yesterday he offered his favorite dichotomies: 1. between establishment (School of Quietude) and experimental (New Americans); 2. between hermetic (trobar clus) and popular/vulgar.

The New Americans are figures in a heroic melodrama.

What is obscured here is that the relation between art and audience is an ever-present, unresolved challenge. Neither did the supposed establishment poets entirely fail, nor do the supposed experimentalists entirely succeed. The two idioms or approaches - if we want to grant, for the sake of argument, such a simplistic dichotomy - are more alike than different. The New Americans opened up some new avenues for making and presenting poetry; in the process, they closed many other avenues. This is not to deny that there are historical periods of extraordinary artistic flowering; but these usually happen through processes of absorption, osmosis, and adaptation - not the simple rejection of one school or adherence to another.

The second dichotomy represents a huge error. Hermeticism is a minor aspect of poetry in general, not the pivot of historical change, not a central measure of quality. Silliman uses trobar clus to set up another hierarchy : his hierarchies and groupings are useful if you are in the business of promoting large swaths of mediocre poetry.

The major poetry of most eras emphasizes clarity, simplicity, capaciousness : firm literary values upon which the poet can build those chordal layers of connotative meaning and feeling which are capable of moving an audience.

2.22.2005

9

in Siena


The world ground onward in a cube of salt.
Salt was the law and salty was the sea.
The enthroned king, the striving peasantry,
maidens in a ring - salt was their vault.


A campanile rose in a stony square.
Below, horsemen in leopard skins dissolved
from shade to shadow - into beasts resolved.
Their eager cries raced upward, into air.


He found a corner in that crowded town.
Within the square confinement of a frame
the lawless world within his compass came.
Salt was the law. The sweat was all his own.
I'm feeling a lot of ambivalence these days about continuing this. It could end any day now. HG Poetics has been fun, squeezed into the corners of the workday; but maybe it's gotten too easy to flatter myself with your kind attention. I don't know. I'm trying to pull together an ability to write something worthwhile. My capacities seem curious & ever more elusive. Blogging feels like a distraction or a dissipation, sometimes. (I'm admiring Anne Winters lately, someone who's seemingly done it right. Authentic social/individual poetry, by its inherent balance & integrity, seems to render most of the febrile discussions & maneuverings in blogworld - including my own - irrelevant.)

My ambivalence is reflected in my feelings about this section of the poem I'm working on. I'm going to put it back up, with a slight change, despite my qualms. I don't really know why I'm doing this. I guess I need to feel like going on with a process, rather than endlessly stalled.

I read in the Times, as you probably have too, about the 74-yr-old nun, advocate & environmentalist, who was shot in the Amazon jungle. How it was her habit, when confronted with threats or violence, to pull out her Bible and just start reading aloud. I found her story very moving.

8


Sister Dorothy Stang (1930-2005)


Overhead, the shady trees were towering.
Behind, the brooding Amazon, flowing.
They drew their guns (to Mammon bowing
down). You drew your book of Eden, flowering.


They hewed your coffin from abandoned wood
and took you, wailing, to the bartered ground.
A salty meal, kissed dry, was passed around -
your bread of dying (for a forsworn good).


A stone grinds sharp between God and Mammon
despite the yeast of well-fed prophecy,
and rotten meal's donated to the sea
to fatten sharks, when all the yeast is gone.


Between our tight-squeezed Bible belts,
on some old-fashioned farm, lost in Ohio,
some long-lived family (with simple sorrow)
reads your will (while lake ice slowly melts).
A young aspiring author named Cliff Hanger emailed me, Chinover Minny III, to ask:

          Say what's with the future of poetry?  
Say what do you see happening
in the next 3-4 generations with it?


I always like these kinds of letters because they trigger my future-modeling software automatically. I simply click onto "FTR-X MODULE" & see what's going to happen. Here's the current report:

2.22.05 Future of Poetry Next 20-70 Yrs. The current model of top-down hierarchy in poetry will be replaced by Trobar Clus Redondo model. TCR is based on a system component through Linux which is freeware available to all poets. It allows the individual poet to design AI-superintel poetry, equal to him-herself brainpower at top capacity, readable by any equal or better brain (language optional). "Talking-down" type intelligibility [sp?], formerly prevalent in Soviet Realism style American SOQ PAP poetics, which was designed in those days to reach the average "Joe Dumbest of the Dumb" type poetry reader, is automatically deleted by default talk-down delete filter. This is handy for those of us still prone to DNA-snob hierarchical reaction phases in our writing praxis (ie., practice). TCR capability is also enhanced by a special green PO-Elimato Button, which, when pressed with vigor, instantly phases out 85% or 300,000 (whichever is larger) poets of marginal political instinct-DNA functionability; thus we have an optimal area-wide functionality of 3-4 TCR Special Poets, in total cohort compatibility. These will be the new generation of stakeholders in the poetry aggregant. They talk, we listen - but no Talk-Down! A significant unforeseen adaptation, which, once in place, makes one ("one" = 35) wonder ("wonder" = 35-der) why nobody never thunk it before. It will be called the Poetics of Unintelligibility (just for fun). Poems will be meaningless, in a throat-catchingly pow'ful manner, because they will use TCR advanced enhancements to create difficulty where there wan't none before. Talk-Up Difficulty will be the new meaning of meaninglessness, which we expect to flavor current environments in Poetics within the next 4-5 centuries. Bleep.

2.21.2005

Found 2 books by Anne Winters in the library - The Key to the City (1986), The Displaced of Capital (2004).

I like what I've read so far. The kind of writing that justifies poetry, makes the whole thing worthwhile.
Interested poetry review in Sunday Times book section. Anne Winters. Sounds (at least from the bits in the review) like someone who has found a way to write a poetry of social observation & engagement.

2.19.2005


5-finger exercises Posted by Hello
Time for another 2-finger exercise for Time Flowers:

7


The silver underleaves of an autumn olive
muttered in Russian, or an unknown tongue;
their moonlit, glittery palaver sprung
from shady root (Armenian cave).


The moon was hidden in a cloud. He watched
the dancing glossolalia fade, as when a season
spirals into frozen glass, and someone
skates across the leaves' graveyard - detached,


heedless. Soon glass will melt
into the rippling stream (a metamorphosis
of mountain springs) and Everyman knows this:
those leaves will quiver in Orion's belt.

2.18.2005

I understand I think why chelovek Rm Service was bored by Merwin/Brown Mandlestam Selected Poems. There are many 70s Merwin mishaps there; it's never entirely pleased me either. There are better translations. But it was a good project at the time. Some of them are beautiful. Clarence Brown wrote a very good monograph-biography of M.

It would be a pity not to see (through 20-20 hindsight) through the weaknesses & bowdlerizing. The miracle of these little poems' even reaching the light of day is one of THE great tales of 20th century civilization (cf. Hope Against Hope, etc.).

353


What has held out against oxidation
and adulteration, burns like feminine silver,
and quiet labor silvers the iron plow
and the poet's voice.

"feminine silver" = MERCURY

357


Once a line of verse, in disgrace, father unknown,
fell from the sky like a stone, waking the earth somewhere.
No supplication can alter the poet's invention.
It can only be what it is. No one will judge it.

"father unknown"

[trans. by Brown/Merwin. written in 1937, the year OM died in exile. The poems want to be read in context, as much context as possible. The context is suffering, hunger, exile & persecution. & a scribbling, muttering compositor.]

He's always looking off into the distance, at the forest, the steppe, the taiga.

351


Oh the horizon steals my breath and takes it nowhere -
I'm choked with space!
I get my breath back, there's the horizon again.
I want something to cover my eyes.


I'd have liked the sand better - a life in layers
along the sawing shores of the river.
I'd have clung to the sleeves of the shy current,
to eddies, hollows, shallows.


We'd have worked well together, for a moment,
a century. I've wanted rapids like those.
I'd have laid my ear under the bark of drifting logs
to hear the rings marching outward.


- Voronezh ("raven-knife"), 16 Jan. 1937


Here he seems to be talking to me. The river design mediates the vast empty plains of exile, and elegant St. Petersburg, his architectural tinker-toy native home. Yes, the last stanza I interpret as being about my poem July.

Archival photo of Top Gun, remote-controlling Post-Avant Magic Bus from somewhere in Philly
My real name is Chinover Minny III. At least that's what it says on the smudged birth certificate from Boston, dated 1934, which I have before me. I didn't learn this until I was 35 years old, and living as Henry Gould, in Galveston, TX (I worked there as a post-avant oil-rigger for many years, before an iambic injury to my left foot left me penta-traumatized). I spent my early childhood in an orphanage near Glencoe, IL. In my seventh year, I was adopted by a dysfunctional School of Quietude family, a large chaotic household of carefully-numbered "stanzas" (play-rooms & cribs) watched over by the Gould couple, my "parents", who, I learned, many dismal years later, had taken me in for only two reasons : 1) the money, and 2) the captive audience. Love had nothing to do with it : they wanted me to listen to them recite reams of repressed brainless Quietuditties. You know what I'm talking about : all those "lyric poems", all those "personal confessions", all those "free-verse implosions", all those bathetic I-centered "sonnets"... ghghgaaaahhh... ! Those people never attended a political rally in their lives. They never questioned the underlying post-structural hierarchies of hegemony or the rhetorical sleight-of-hand and slabs-of-meat which maintain the corrupt system in all its flourishing false consciousness. They never went to St. Mark's in the Bowery or St. Pete's by the Bay; they never listened to the live-chicken New Americans (forerunners of the contemporary spasm of genius and intellectual probity which today we name "post-avant in its generations"); they never knew what hit them in the magazine rack until it fell, literally, over their repressed little Quietude hats. Plus, they never studied linguistics, so, unlike those of us who have "been around the block", they tried to listen to poetry and language "directly", whatever that means!

This is the sordid and pinched environment in which I struggled to grow as a person and a social function of identity-otherness. Lucky for me, I was pulled up from my dessicated literary roots literally by my hair, one day : one fateful afternoon in San Francisco. I was walking down Telegraph, with my meek balding little Prufrock head stuck in a book of poems by Waldo Princk (an early Joyride Migraine imitator, I gather), when I was struck by an airborne vehicle (a blue sedan of unknown provenance). I must have been unconscious for a mere 15.4 seconds, but when I awoke, I found myself on a "joy ride" across southern California and the Baja with a group of amazing poets called The New American Post-Avants. They were led electronically from a workstation in Philadelphia by one Ron Silliman, their "guru" (though he prefers to be known as Top Gun in post-av circles, at least).

The p-a Magic Bus Tour, needless to say, changed my entire life and literary orientation. I became intelligent and intellectual, for one thing : I learned, eventually (after many years of study with Top Gun), that there is a linguistic basis to poetics, and that words don't necessarily refer to what the letters stand for (especially in the Boston Globe, for some reason).

How this adventure instigated my literary investigations and divagations down the long winding trail to discovering my true name and genealogical tree (the Minny Family were Old School of Quietude aristocracy since before the Sunflower landed in Paterson NJ)... well, that's a tale for another blog-dog day.


India Point Park
I guess my late-night comments of yesterday were pretty sub-literary, sub-critical. Good thing this is only a blog! (Some people keep blog diaries, some keep blog magazines. HG Poetics is a continuous digital blog-reading, or "bleading" - that is, something between a poetry reading, and bleeding, and bleating.)

What am I getting at with this "prophetic" bit? What in the world was "humble" about TS Eliot?

Perhaps in a way similar to philosophers, some poets attempt to design and formulate a common language of shared understanding, an ordinary speech, ordinate. They enfold the particular pleasures of literature within another level of creative intelligibility, of shaping truths. Sometimes these truths are ones that the public finds harsh or exaggerated (much of the Hebrew prophets & Jesus' commandments are in this tradition of sharp-edged hyperbole and irony). But a poet's capacity to formulate social and existential truths and unknowns is the substance of the bond between poetry and a general cultural audience or public. This capability shapes the thematic music which underlies the narrative interest of plot in drama and epic.
Interesting reportage from Dr. Bramhall this morning. It seems like every decade produces new crystallizations, new vocabularies of dogmatism. The desire for certainty, and irresolvable quandaries, resulting in simple formulas.

Keith Ward's books go into these fraught issues of beliefs, traditions, scriptures. Reason & faith, science & religion, spirit & letter. He puts his own Anglican perspective in the context of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Enlightenment rationalism, etc.

2.17.2005

I'm sorry to trivialize Dante & the prophetic quality of poetry with my little photos.

Sometime a poet will come along, not so enamoured of words, but with a big heart, able to outlast everything. Whitman & Dickinson showed that quality, to a degree.

They have the poetic talent, perfected; yet it's not enough - they have heart & discernment too. They give it all up. & their surrender wins the day. TS Eliot has that quality, strangely enough : a form of simplicity and humility.

Thus the true echo or the harmonic ring resounds, back into the past. There are many poets, but only a few of them are the salt of the earth.

where we used to walk Posted by Hello

wharf-stumps Posted by Hello

at the park Posted by Hello

a freighter christened Amazon Posted by Hello
a passage from mostly failed poem, India Point (not impersonal enough):

  29


An autumn harbor had become like home,
a womb for Orpheus the hobo. Vessel
for vessels too – Providence (the bumble-
bee), Kriti River, Rosevean – all handsome


figureheads for voyageuring – back to her:
source or star of his desire for justice,
Marian image or magnetic matrix,
measure of all happiness, harmonious


Polaris out of Mendelssohn. The locus
was a consolation prize – yet place itself
was not the consolation. Percival,
bereft, looks up transfixèd into clouds,


into a sheepish flock (of cloudy speech)
shaping a vanishing point (just out of reach)


*


and on stone-heavy shoulders of a church
leaving a light snowfall (whispering, watch).


Under the Bruegel-skies of late November
a hobo stumbles on, hunched-over, broken-
down, his fortunate misfortune taking on
a common nature – weathered, as it were.


He goes into the snow, anonymous.
Loses himself in night's immensity.
Above, the pole star, shining steadily.
Then (on the Feast of St. Lucy) it flowers.


Just as the almond tree in midwinter
ignites each calcine-rigid human heart
framed on the hexagon - so the fire star
crowns (blazing toward Jubilee). Enter.


11.24.02

Passage to India Posted by Hello

Providence through library glass (fibrillating) Posted by Hello

Dante sees his shadow. Spring on the way. Posted by Hello
Divina Commedia is a didactic poem, according to Dante, concerned with civic morality. Thought of that while reading Keith Ward again on coffee break (Religion and Community). I've mentioned this author before - in my opinion, a great Anglican theologian and philosopher. Tremendous insight, and clarity of presentation, of old and basic issues. Ward was writing about "natural law", and the conjunctions & differences between how a "naturalist" and a "theist" might understand it. (Natural law being an expression of the normative or the common good.) So this made me think of what Dante was doing.

(Ward is so good, in a good old Anglican way, at seeing patterns of mercy, wisdom and humanity - rather than scriptural absolutism (literalism) or dogmatism - within, underneath, or around the edges of ancient tradition.)

Also, was ordering a bunch of Italian books this morning. Just hearing the sound of that language is like sunshine.
I walk under the severe look of this hippy dude with the wreath every morning going to work. But belike he doesn't even see me - absorbed in his medieval thought-world.

2.16.2005

Another winter bulb for Time Flowers:

6


Evening shades of gray, the crowded rooftops,
shambles of February snow, sticks, leaves.
He moves more slowly now, the ground receives
men every day like him (old Pops,


old Everyman). The earth wheels onward
in the usual way, light and darkness
slope through coils of passion and distress
(only a dream someone was having, lured


toward lucre or the sword, some fluffy
rotating wrestler's bed, lit by the glare
of expensive underwear). Someone familiar
was in the mirror - his tubby, puffy


doppelganger, stuffed tight and masked
for Mardi Gras; while over his shoulder
Prince Charming, Atlas, Orpheus, Baldur
- some younger self - shouldered his task:


hefting the planet toward a purling spring
(pure water, washing the dust away,
purging desolate grief from every eye).
Everyman remembers everything.
so... this trans-historical potlatch... I'm the last of the "modern"! - remnant, ghosty, ghouled. "Millions of strange shadows." With Whitman lurking near the center, at the delta. (this from July - written on JFK dying-day. Poem (Forth of July) circles calendrically around his b-day - 5.29).

 – some star – like the articulate
ghost of my fathers and of yours, who
could not speak in life, but in the owlish
afterlife – Ba, Ka, Crow, Lamb... tracked


upstream to Ethiopia, the truth of it –
manuscripted messenger, papyrus
Pappy or Osiris sire, Moses ripened
in the wilderness). Mountain oak-tree.


Cedar. Pitch-black tar (for
mordant). Bebi, General of the Asiatics.
Quick-runner, wasp. Pharaoh’s taxi-
driver. He Who Controls the Rat-


God’s Offspring. Latecomer,
fast-talker. Journalist for Delta
Crescent. Walker of the tiled
ink-paths, typesetter. Market-


rent-collector, solitaire, free-
speaker. Literal, exact, exacting
horsetrading slavestealing tax-
gathering figure of a reefer-


man, fearful, a-feared.
Goes down ghost-trails
under live-oak lairs
of rattlesnakes... adrift


in jagged eddies of nude alphabets.
Murmuring to himself, saliva-
white, spume-frothing blanched
avalanche easily frozen, baffled, back-


stabbed – easily beloved, won-over.
And adhesive through the crane bone
into the gravity waves (nacreous
mob of carnelian nouveaux


baubles all around the funereal
sunken canopy of maudit covenants,
rumors, glittering knives –
ressentiment scripted into feral runes).


A crossroad of aluminum tubing in the swamp.
Ping from outer space, deflecting the rays.
Silence, alligators, flamingos. Yarns
and picayune lagniappe – pommes


de terreurs
– spooks and voodoo queens
if you’re scared of the dark – a muttering
broom delta, the sowing of the tombs
beneath the Gulf. Steal, sneak


away now, Jim – Julius is sound asleep.
We’re going down the inky path
toward a kid wrapped up in llama
tarp and catnap tape, tripwired – peels loose


at midnight – watch! While my ghosts
of keen-mauled, kill-skinned, tree-masted
River-Sixties gather steam upstream
like a money-caulked coot of wood-


stuck crocodiles, bobbing at the dawn levee.
Watch – there go the shadows of the swallows!
Soon the sun arrives, lifting over the lousy
prism-blocks (Angola, Ethiopia veiled, unveiled).



11.22.99
... and as I wrote yesterday, this "Acmeist" trans-historical response has been what it's all about for me (see Alephoebooks). Another reason I was drawn to Hart Crane's The Bridge. He took a sort of Platonic-Dionysian concept from Nietzsche et al. (eternal return - of Atlantis). Thus the Island Road sonnets are a blend of Berryman, Berrigan, & Shakespeare. Thus Stubborn Grew is an amalgam of echoes from several American long poems (esp. The Bridge, but also Maximus & the Cantos), Mandelshtam's Voronezh quatrains, Finnegans Wake, Dante.


Jasper Johns, Hart Crane (Periscope)
Curious resemblance between my expressed motives for doing long poems (see previous post) and Josh's comments on Claudia Rankine. But the methods are so different. There are a lot of poets who use collage and documentary material - it sounds like Rankine does so pretty effectively (I've only read an excerpt at one of the links Josh provides). I did some collage in the In RI poem. Less so in Stubborn Grew & sequels (there, anyway, it's hidden, melded with the quatrains).

The problem for me with Pound's "rag-bag" methods, and their recent extensions into "multimedia", is that the form of the poetry tends to get sort of distended and slack. That's how it comes across for me, anyway. It slides into prose & other forms of communication. For some, this is exciting.

I like the otherness of poetic speech, the strangeness which comes with versification, rhyme, lineation. I guess it is most effective when it oscillates back and forth over the border with prose & everyday vernacular.

The otherness creates a sort of magic circle around the language, accentuates the formal impression and makes for intensity.

I feel this "poetry magic" is inseparable from the vocational path of poets, which I sort of sketched in previous post yesterday. Every new generation, every new poem, erases the past, blocks it out of our attention to some extent. At the same time, every new generation has the capability - various capabilities - to respond to and re-create what was done before.

Why is this important? Well, on one level, it's simply natural. There's a natural fascination in the reading of ancient texts, or the hearing of ancient poems, which still work. The process creates living bonds with what is normative and profound in experience - precisely through the "poetic" process of discovering analogies or resemblances between distant and different things. The plays of Shakespeare or Sophocles come in strange and archaic costume, yet we find ourselves caught up in the crises they present.

I guess this is a sort of prosaic version of one aspect of Mandelshtam's Acmeism. Poetry the vital remnant, a link across time and eras.

2.15.2005

I've been posting some images of poets here lately. I did a google image search on Ezra Pound, but didn't find a copy of the little postage-stamp photo of him which I found in my 2nd-hand copy of the Cantos. I don't know where it came from; it looks like an original (though that's unlikely!). Should have it checked, I guess. It's EP in old age, sitting on a rock, holding a white cane.

A lot of my poetry writing during the 1990s was shaped by the notion that the "long poem" is a distinct genre, one I was very curious about. The variety & expansiveness of the models intrigued me. I was drawn to the special kind of seriousness & authority they (& the lives devoted to them) seemed to emanate (mana, charisma). I liked the way patterns or layers appeared - Pound's "palimpsest" - with various generations (Olson/Zukofsky/David Jones, et al.; Pound/Crane/Joyce, et al.; Whitman... and then back to the old epics).

The long poem seemed like a way to engage with public, social & historical issues, to step beyond the seemingly inherent solitude & solipsism of poetry, to try something with different parts of the composing personality (aside from "music", which has always exerted a strong tug on my negatively-capable dream-life).

I wrote a bunch of them in the 1990s. Most of them are in little chapbooks in the Brown Library.

Memorial Day
Spring Quartet
In RI
(still in manuscript)
Forth of July (which includes Stubborn Grew)

These projects focused a lot of my energy. In between I wrote some shorter poems.

We each hear and interpret the poetry before us and around us differently; we live each in our own imaginative conception of the po-sphere. But the literary tradition, like history itself, is both objective and subjective; personal and collective; changeless and changeable. At the high points of my travels through these long poem projects, sometimes I felt like I was finding a theme or an idiom which created a genuine aura of interaction or dialogue with what had been done before. In other words the experiments I was doing seemed meaningful in relation to the previous experiments of those poets who had "broken through" (into literary tradition). This, in part I guess, was what I was working for in the first place.

I think I had several motives for taking this sort of roundabout route or method of composition. For one thing, I wanted to frame a conception of reality in poetry which included history as a form or frame of Time itself. This sounds very vague & portentous, I guess. I was looking at Dante, Milton, & Pound & Olson, as poets who tried to set their own cultures within historical frames, which themselves were framed by philosophical or metaphysical conceptions. & I wanted to do something like that. I wanted to do something holistic. Because I had my own puzzled, inchoate notion of history, which differed from these others'. Where it came from I suppose is in part explained by the travails I went through in the 70s, as described sketchily over at AlephoeBooks.

2.14.2005

Yes, blogs are oddly distant, alienated, anti-social. But then again, most people you meet in person these days are on the phone.


                     in RI


No one will blame me
on the whispering shore
for lingering so long
near your small rose island.


Bees' slow honey
is the measure of summer;
morning and sundown,
by that rose double-arch.


And my tongue's dark island
leaves a late russet shadow –
dry relic of the voyage,
our lips' broken compass.

2.11.2005

Poe's last photo(?). Taken at the Providence Atheneum (see above), approx. 15 steps down the hill from my computer. (p.s. that lamppost is a replica of the ones EAP probably hugged as he swayed sousedly home to his hotel.)

Poe/Crane/Lovecraft : avatars of literary abjection/perfection (cf. previous post).

But I've subsumed them - & I've got them beat on the abjection score (cf. Stubborn Grew) (cf. my sub-sub-life).
If Paris hadn't stolen Edgar Allan Poe, St. Petersburg would have had to invent him. See Mandelshtam's poem in which Poe appears (you'll have to do some research about the "tickling scarf"). Poe spent his dying days chasing after a phantom beloved named Helen Whitman, a Providence poet. I walk by her home on Benefit St. on my lunch break nearly every day.

Are there no grad students in English lit willing to sacrifice their careers for this? No - they haven't read Keats yet.
Listened to some of the (NPR) radio commentary on Arthur Miller, r.i.p., after work. One of his friends had bought his house in Connecticut, where he wrote "Death of a Salesman". His friend described how he had built a special shack out in the back yard, because he felt this important work coming... he wrote the 1st act in 48 hrs straight, pacing around, mumbling to himself... it suddenly reminded me of what Siberian shamans do... (build a little hut away from it all)...

before that they played a 1995 interview with Miller, where he talked about the show he'd gone to with his mother, age 8, which taught him the power of theater...

which reminded me of Elena Shvarts' memoir, about her own theatrical baptism (Brothers Karamazov, in Kiev) (see archive a few wks ago)

see archive, "life is theater" etc.

See also archive about Anny Ballardini's trans. of In RI (the poem). About RI history & separation of church & state, etc. The people dramatized in The Crucible are my direct ancestors. The mother of the Putnam girls (who started the Salem witch craze) was Priscilla Gould, sister (daughter?) of Zaccheus, of Topsfield, my gr-etc-grandfather. Priscilla also happens to be a direct ancestor of Joseph Smith, of Mormon fame. "The pure products of America / go crazy".

Which brings me back to Providence, and Roger Williams...

and my own sub-sub-literary line of descent: Poe-Crane-Lovecraft-Gould. I'm going to write a detective story...
Yet another Marlow, while we're at it.
from The Grassblade Light:

16
in this Most Christian of Empires, poets are yids


Volare, pigeons – phrasers, fly – while I
maroon my coracle – pivoting on Marlowe’s eye.
A helicopter - inside Hagia Sophia!
scouring out the bony bowl, below.


Thus writ, Elena, me to thee –
a cut-rate Peirce or cutpurse early wizard
nested inside unfinished ploys and cluttered
correspondences – implausible, really –


an arrested coot swamped in my own so-gassy
sea. Oh how the Faustian word devolves
to fussy fustian so fast! While Washington
revolves, importentously demublican – crass


mad yesmoon and madams need a sacrifice
for all their rancid sacrifices to the golden
figurine yoked round their nooks – one
slop-happy bull-calf out of Arkansas


will have a big to-do for tedium, and all
malevolent perfectionists will drive themselves
distracted by their own fraud-warring werewolves
howling through judicial noon – hoot-owls


and ravens shaving over the Capitol – hellcats.
In the canonical inverted mirror (Marlowe’s
dying day, Walt Whitman’s birth) shows
wheel toward love’s decent hovercraft – it’s


a valentine, or dove, I do believe –
reconciled at last in a festive death-dive
through the poopdeck of muddy Mardi Gras
for the Black Pearl of Jubilee. And come up alive.



2.1.99
- Didn't mean to sound so down at the mouth, biting the hand that feeds me (what kind of figure of speech is that?). Blogging is a way for me to individuate, shipmate.

- Maybe, Moby.


Quod me nutrit me destruit.
Blogging is fun sometimes, sometimes exciting - global, quick.

Also land of empty dreams. I've seen the 3rd-best minds of my generation buzzing with internet chat-fever. I've seen the nerveless nervy Tribes of Talk filter into their mungy swamps & solidify like so much North Polemic ice and inequitsoterritorial grease.

What is a serious poet today? Somebody who wisely nurtures and refines their talent and wisely navigates the publishing waters. There's no internet shortcut to the dealing with editors, magazines, publishers. Absorbing the milieu, the background, the foreground.

It ain't me, babe. I'm just a sub-sub-sub-abject-librarian.

The poet is part bird, part professor. The bird part allows the poet to stand an equal with scientist, scholar. Professor part assists bird part. Some professor poets are missing the bird part. I be Bluejay-with-adjunct-Autodidact.

(Is everybody getting this down now? I have to go for coffee. Test later.)

2.10.2005

One of Osip Mandelshtam's late little poems. Translated by me. I know I've posted this before - just wanted to remind everybody.

                   I'll whisper it - in an outline.
Its hour has not yet come.
The chessgame of measureless heaven
is mated with sweat - and wisdom.


And under purgatory's transient sky
we grow absent-minded - forget
that lucky heaven-vault on high...
is a limber, everlasting habitat.

Dis guy may be a retired roustabout, wid a nose like a orange & fists of Vap-o-Rub, but he ain't illedgerate. I seen him go two rounds in Reno, back in '46, wid a young Turk middleweight name of Pegface Culligan. The punk earned his name all right, face to the mat. It was 2 rounds - clean, tight, & translatable into Sumo.
There is that which is down & out, abject, "infinitely tender, infinitely suffering" (Eliot), the stumble with the cross, the crown of thorns.

& then there is what is called the perfect putt, the inimitable loop-de-loop.

Sometimes they are one & the same.