...thus the appeal for me of Hart Crane, Anna Akhmatova, Mandelstam, some Stevens, some Yeats - as opposed to the jump-cut edginess of much modernism, post-modernism.

adagios of islands.

sunny sublimity.

the gesture, the understated signal, toward the vast, the calm.
Woke up around 2 a.m. last night, was thinking about some comments in the Vico book (by Mazzotta), having to do with memory. Mazzotta writes something about the nature of memory, as the sign of a break or fracture between present & past. Memory registers the separation or distance between them.

This seems fairly obvious, but it got me thinking about my poetry ("memory, mother of the muses"), and about memory and space.

It might have something to do with having lived my adult life half a continent away from where I grew up. My sense of memory is always connected with distance in space as well as time.

I think about Proust's (heroic & mock-heroic) rendering of memory. Not that I'm a Proust expert, but I have the idea that with Proust, the action of memory is a kind of bridging & retrieval, an absorption in a past state, which sort of blossoms on its own.

My own sense of memory's action feels more like a distancing : as if one were closing one's eyes & going up in a balloon, or gaining some kind of bird's eye view of oneself, from far away, in a landscape or vast context (of time/space).

This is all rather vague, & maybe I should try to work up an essay or something. But as these notions were occurring to me last night, I also thought of Jonathan's comment of 11/26 :

"So much of reading poetry--and writing it--is ruminative and fragmented. An anxious, frustrating searching through books and magazines. The attention flags. There is not that unitary 6-hour experience of reading a novel, or the novelist's feeling of writing through a certain portion of the narrative."

I'm not sure what he means by "ruminative" here. But I understand the sense of a kind of jumpy or fragmented response to short poems & etc.

& I'm hoping that my own poetry somewhat works against or counters that kind of experience. I mean that these books & sequences of mine aim for a more sustained impression - of vastness - space & memory.

The first (& one of the only) reviews my poetry has received, was in a Brown U. student newspaper, written by an undergrad about my 1st book, Stone. I don't have it in front of me (this was almost 30 yrs ago), but she started it out with something like : "Henry Gould takes his time. He waits until the poem is ready." What she meant, I think, was that I composed slowly & quietly; the poems are sort of calm, without flash, bells & whistles.

I still like those little comments very much, & I think they relate to what I've tried to do.

[p.s. Vico himself might demur from such an individualistic notion of memory. For him memory & history & anthropology are all combined somehow.]


In going Lulu, I was following Anny Ballardini's example (via William Allegrezza & Moria). For that I'm very grateful.
I'm trying to stay calm about my new publications.

But it's difficult, I'm having trouble working at the desk.

We are experiencing a new poetry print culture, which is a lot like the old culture (Whitman or Donne or Dickinson, passing around their homemade pamphlets) except... except... it's massively available.

I have nothing against the regular publishing structures, nothing whatsoever. Never was very successful in those venues - but I didn't try very hard, either. Not out of laziness, though!

As with many others, with me writing poetry involves a lot of specific gravity. Plus I have something of an obsessive manic depressive oblique personality. It's all or nothing.

Moreover, the minor skills I picked up editing Nedge & Edwin Honig's mss. make it easier for me to publish meself.

I'm repeating what I wrote a few years ago, when I went into the XLibris mode... my apologies, friends. But I have the feeling this Lulu loop-de-loop is going to work : is going to be a lulu, in fact.

Giddy-up Ol' Mangy. We're a-comin' to your town.
Still reading G. Mazzotta on Giambattista Vico.

Someone could write something interesting on Chas. Olson & Vico, if they haven't already. Olson would have found him agreeable.

Vico disputed both Plato & Aristotle on the nature of poetry. For V., poetry is essentially history. Memory's recollections, imaginations & inventions are inseparable from the drives & passions of peoples, and writing (poetry) records (or adumbrates) the distance or dissociation which is memory itself.

Vico against poetry as "craft", or as something having to do with philosophy or the critical intelligence. He sounds berry much like a Longinian-sublime Romantic.

cf. Mazzotta p. 150 or so.
TWO new books up at Lulu : Dove Street and Chapel Hill.

Have books, will travel. Soon I will get Old Mangy out of the barn & start my World Tour.


I used to feel frustrated that my poems were not available to readers, or available in not-so-good editions. But that may be a problem of the past. If you go to Lulu, you'll find new, less-expensive editions of some of my books. You can download electronic versions, or buy the paperback.

I've edited, corrected and re-formatted these books. I'm waiting to receive my own copies, and will report back on the quality, but I think they are going to be a big improvement. Here's what's up so far:

Way Stations (shorter poems, 1985-1997)
Island Road (the sonnet sequence)
The Rose (sequel to Stubborn Grew. I hope to publish a new edition of Stubborn in a few weeks)

There are also cd versions of my blog music on Go Little Sparrow. (I don't recommend buying these unless you are a real music nut. This is archival "practice" music. The sound quality is not great, and the loudness varies a lot from song to song.)

My poetry books do not come with award statements, big-name publisher logos, or blurbs. But my poems were built to last. American Po-Biz will just have to come to terms with me, sooner or later. Yup.

[p.s. Lulu's international distribution service includes a set-up fee to authors, which, unfortunately, I can't afford right now. So if you're outside the US, you may not be able to buy these directly, online. Hopefully I can add that service before too long.]


little joe gould has lost his teeth and doesn't know where to find them (and found a secondhand set with a click) little gould used to amputate his appetite with bad brittle candy but just (nude eel) now little joe lives on air Harvard Brevis Est for Handkerchief read Papernapkin no laundry bills like People preferring Negroes Indians Youse n.b. ye twang of little joe (yankee) gould irketh sundry who are trying to find their minds (but never had any to lose) and a myth is as good as a smile but little joe gould's quote oral history unquote might (publishers note) be entitled a wraith's progress or mainly awash while chiefly submerged or an amoral morality sort-of-aliveing by innumerable kind-of-deaths (Amrique Je T'Aime and it may be fun to be fooled but it's more fun to be more to be fun to be little joe gould)

-- e.e. cummings

HAPPY Turnkey Day!
the delusions of grandeur. Gould had a joke about that, which I've put in the header, above.

the massive unavailable History.

I've written more Poetry than anyone in blogland. so there.
Sarah down with stomach bug. We watched video, Joe Gould's Secret. I had to go & read the book (by Joseph Mitchell), which we happened to have in the house, since it was a favorite of Sarah's father (born in Manhattan) (Up in the Old Hotel).

Gould is definitely a relative, though I can't seem to trace him on Google genealogy. He told Mitchell his family settled near Boston in 1635 (likewise); "the Goulds were the Goulds when the Cabots & the Lodges were clamdiggers."

Interesting Mitchell/Joyce connections (Mitchell's fascination with bars, and with Finnegans Wake, which according to the intro, he read "at least six times").

I recognize a number of personality traits. Both in Joe Gould, & in the Gould world (New England crusty) he left behind.

His phantom Oral History. Much of local Stubborn Grew grew out of, & refers to, an oral history project I did in the old Af-Am section of Providence, along Benefit St. (the first thing oral history prof. Allen Smith asked me was, "are you related to Joe Gould?")

Bluejay leads Henry there, as part of their catabasis.

& the bookends in FW, basically.

Pound mentioned Gould as an unknown "native hickory". He was a friend of EE Cummings & Aaron Siskind. Apparently Siskind's Village studio was one of the repositories for Gould's strange notebooks.

It's got me wondering whether Siskind allowed a photo of his to grace my first book (Stone) because of my name.

p.s. Is McSorley's Ale House still in business?


Multi-dimensional Anny Ballardini has a new book.
Vico's Autobiography opens with a description of how he fell head-first onto a stone floor as a child and was unconscious for some time; how the doctor predicted he would either die or grow up "stolido" (slow, retarded). Instead he became a scholar & intellectual. Mazzotta reads this as a comment on the temptations of determinism in science.
Vico (via Mazzotta) juxtaposes science's lust for power over nature (Bacon's New Atlantis), and its mechanical determinism of causation, with the collective "wisdom" of humanities, jurisprudence, political science. Because political science is not "exact", it has to make room for human freedom & unpredictability, the dynamics of debate & consensus.

His lectures on the role of universities in fostering multi-vocal, encyclopedic conception of knowledge : sometimes countering, analyzing, criticizing (Socratic tradition) established political authority.

The self-conscious historical sense. Poetry, unlike science, does not exert control over nature, but rather, through its linguistic shapes & etymologies, unfolds history (the productions of memory).

But I'm conscious of the disconnections, the inability to engage in dialogue. Rationalist, polemical academics who don't understand or appreciate their own cultures; on the other hand, obscurantist philistines, promoting a new dark age of magic formulae & superstition.


I first met John Ashbery in 1965, in a laundry room in Louisville, KY. He was short, dark, with a pronounced limp in both legs, & he spoke with a pronounced Canadian accent, probably due to his years in Saskatchewan as a member of the Canadian Mounties. It was only five years later, after I had already published my first seven books of poetry, that I learned that the John Ashbery I had known all those years was not the John Ashbery, the famous poet. My John Ashbery used to vilify the School of Quietude into the wee hours of the morning, while drinking glass after glass of strong Turkish coffee laced with creme de cacao (the only liqueur left in the storage room of the bunkhouse, located down a slope of jack pines, behind the warehouse, just before you reach the storage room). Why my JA had taken such a visceral, vivisectory attitude toward a group of poets who, in all innocence, had never become conscious of their debt to English-Continental traditional versification and social attitudes (though you wonder why the implications of the jodhpurs & smoking jackets & Sherlock Holmes-style smoking caps and longjohns & periwinkles & hobnobberies & gaiters & socks & fleabag hotels in seedy Birmingham never occurred to them) is a question I have for long striven & stroven to answer to my own satisfaction, without success. The recent developments & improvements in poetry education in America, due to the deluge of New American methods of reading (outlined in a recent New Yorker article on the other John Ashbery, and further amplified here) have fortunately put to rest a certain amiable, droll, amateurish, sacre-bleu, bon-vivant, recherche, de rigueur, dibbly-dabbly, tadpole methodology which has saturated the literary atmosphere of the world for nigh on 4 decades now, ever since Firkham Punctilious published the inaugural issue of his Littler Magazine, wherein the Old American school of poetry attempted one last stand, dressing up as Gordon Lord George at Khartoum, swords drawn, facing the rabid mob of trolls. How this brand of syncopated antiquity ever came to dominate the poetry scene of our world is a puzzle for future literary historians to unravel, I will leave it to them, but I will say : we are truly fortunate to obtain habitation in a time period of such lush growth of New American poetry, because now, as we know, reading is a very special and the toast is ready, as they say, in the School of Jumping Gophers, of which we are proudly each a member.


Am reading G. Mazzotta's study of Giambattista Vico, The New Map of the World. Mazzotta emphasizes Vico's alignment with "epic wholeness" & history, vs. "irony", scepticism, & Cartesian (a-historical) subjectivity. Vico was in conflict with the Macchiavellian-Cartesian (political) science of his day.

What does this have to do with you & me.

The baroque interlinked storytelling of the long-poem streak in 20th-cent. literature. Pound, Olson, David Jones, et al. Olson's Herodotus (histor). Geography & change, development. The "middle voice", as Olson has it.

Vico puts imaginative poiesis at the center of human history.

Joyce's fascination with all this.


Darwinism, "intelligent design", science, literary darwinism...

the phenomena will evolve some gripping essay-toes, I'm sure.

A poet's perspective : somewhere in between. There IS a science culture, which has non-scientific influence on thought-worlds in general, just as religious ideology has ideological, not only religious, impact.

Science now seems lighter, quicker, sexier, than it did when I was growing up (50s-70s) : then it was somehow heavy & sad, like the industrial architecture & the lab coats - more like 1984 than moon-walks for me.

My steady view on the subject is that there is a specifically poetic discourse, which represents truths of the actual as no other discourse can. (see Giuseppe Mazzotta, Dante, poet of the desert, & other books.)

& behind it is a version of Christian humanism, I guess. What is the "humanism" part? That's the part which poses a challenge for scientific positivism and scepticism, as well as for narrow religious dogmatism (really, versions of imposed superstition). It's not "secular". It's grounded in the fundamental notion of "imago Dei".

That is, to translate : our life is fundamentally personal. When we apprehend & recognize a person, an individual, in the clearest, sharpest, deepest way - we are also getting a glimpse of God. God is the invisible supra-personal Person. & life is essentially dramatic.

I link this conception to Osip Mandelstam's Acmeism. Acmeism was a kind of rough-draft poetic ideology, which he sketched out in several essays written around 1912-1920. One of Acmeism's basic tenets held that poetry, along with other arts and crafts, humanizes the earth : helps mankind feel at home on earth, gives confidence & hope. Mandelstam summed it up in a few lines :

Let the names of imperial cities
caress the ears with brief meaning.
It's not Rome the city that lives on,
it's man's place in the universe.

The project of humanizing the earth, of giving people - especially young people, perhaps - a vision of life as person-centered, and earth as metaphysical "home" : obviously, such has philosophical implications : consequences for both scientific & religious education.


Various and sundry people who probably don't visit here much are having an interesting debate on the riots in France.

I don't think you need to reach as far as to Hobbes in order to dispute the romanticization of political violence. It's precisely that romanticizing - indulged in by armchair idealists, stationed at a distance from the events themselves - which crosses the boundary from necessity to disorder.

There is an exact parallel between said romanticization and the rhetorical exaggeration of "state violence".

Injustice in government is evil. Violence is evil. Neither one justifies the other. When injustice convinces people that they have no other recourse but violence toward the achievement of justice, then you have an obvious symptom of social injustice and a need for reform. There is no need to justify violence in order to address the injustice which is at its root.


the beginning of July:


Gray skies on a late spring day. A start.
In the parking lot. Pawtucket? Cumberland.
Sound of someone hammering – what?
Iron. Waiting for my daughter there,

her tennis lessons. Nowhere. Somewhere.
Out in the open. Gray skies, hollow
hammering. A hole. A whole
world (of lonesome rune-moss).

Armor. Wheel. Hubcap. Sky-
scraper. Redmen in moccasins
on rooftops – cashmere
lamb's quarters and yaks –

kayaks – stitched all around again?
Like a lake in a corral – your
coracle – row, row, row
we go. I'd like to... snag

you, elbow room. A Huckleberry
getaway somewhere. Wide grass
where the hurt surges – surges
like active vitamin – Buick

in high gear. I leaned back
against the health club wall.
Low sub-suburb, lawless.
Clouds moving, carboniferous.

Spaces for eyes. Flag in yard
beside white aluminum siding.
Farmhouse hemmed inside
clutter. Derelict, dreary.

But that hammering was happy.
I was going into the meadows
again – lose myself for good.
So long, Julius. So long, Pap.

7.15.99 (St. Henry's Day)


Upstream from Egypt or New Orleans,
north or south. Colors on a raft
blend – snow, or Afro-cat.
Coffin for Ishmael. Snore awhile

on board, then wake with another start
or vociferous snort – was it a dream?
Blackstone, with feet in cow-merde
of New World – slow golden apple-taster –

or Berkeley, testing all ten toes
on reality stones – and the air so
gentle, and the noise so seldom – soar,
dream... no machine, but a knotted

meeting, under the apple trees and
sweet grape vines. Arbor day behind
the cottage where LaFarge, Degas
hibernated – downstream, tender

colors merging, a harmony
of many at the brown delta, singing.
A Niger of negritude,
or tunes of an old rhyme nomad –

tapping feet while they waited there
for the beginning and the end.
Laden ship in the Nile den-
mouth – moon-moth wreath –

so diaphanous, yet overlaid
like a tablet of the future law
or tables carven in the wall
of every hut. Love-dreidle,

homespun doodle. A shadow
gouache from treelimbs all at once:
a see-saw operation of the sun
or evening ocean on a beachhead.

If something you were building or installing wasn't level, or wasn't angled right, Bill would say - "it's cattywompus".
the Spanish name for the Mississippi was Rio del Espiritu Santo.

the downtown - mostly empty. s'long, N'Orleans. Hey, you right. Posted by Picasa

The house sported an old saloon-style (nail-hammer) piano, very dirty but amazingly in tune. Late at night, after the others had gone back to Baton Rouge & I was there by myself, I played the famous song "Can It BePosted by Picasa

Chapel of the Holy Spirit, next door. a miracle of 60's architecture Posted by Picasa

I cleared the metal shed behind the house of a mountain of moldy junk. Someone in the congregation was in the habit of collecting tightly packed bundles of old wet newspapers, among other things. Posted by Picasa

Bill & Micky, my heroes. Carpentry, plumbing, gas & electric, spiritual renewal : they can do it all. They brought so many tools that you could barely see the floor. We spent most of the week in the crawl space under the house. Before climbing under, Bill would yell : "Go on, snakes!" (water moccasins). But the only animals I saw all week were two cats. Posted by Picasa

The kids from Vail, Colorado. Posted by Picasa

Putting in a shower. Posted by Picasa

the "shotgun house" we worked on. 3 resident Tulane students had to evacuate 4 days after arrival. We were renovating this to house 8-10 volunteers. (it was not really knocked on its side : I just can't seem to rotate the photo.) Posted by Picasa

Carrollton St., on the way to Zimpel (& Chapel of the Holy Spirit, adjacent to Tulane campus) Posted by Picasa

Fleeting glimpse of damage on the way in. Posted by Picasa

Fog in MS. Posted by Picasa

Crossing Lake Ponchartrain, N.O. in distance. Posted by Picasa

In Mississippi a couple days later. Note damaged pines. Posted by Picasa

Driving through Connecticut Posted by Picasa


The profile on John Ashbery in this week's New Yorker.

I've said a lot of mean things about Ashbery, because he annoys me.

He looks so much like TS Eliot. Same bird type.

But I'll probably write a good essay on him one of these days, because his poetry had a mesmerizing effect on me, once upon a time, & I'm still intrigued by it all.

I note a lot of nostalgia in his writing, but maybe it's just my projection. I have a theory that the dialect of ordinariness, the overheard lingo, is actually a childhood memory of listening to his parents & grandparents talking.

Ashbery is doing a kind of sleep-prophecy, akin to Edgar Cayce. Purifying the mots of the tribu by channeling it through his tenderizer-hypno-voice.
Mississippi is to the Nile as New Orleans is to Alexandria.

This will be my first [physical] trip to Louisiana.

from The Grassblade Light:


Hallowed, evened out, Henry in the distance now,
a mote in the delta. Audacious love triangle
twirls, treeless, on its own, an RI tangle –
as dry leaves (spare delight) toward Salem go.

Autumn lightning, hurricanes. Then thunder.
A Micmac, shadowy (through wormhole t-t-tuba)
flows upstream – toward a salty spiral
in the rubber barrel. The spine goes under

(buried sunflower). Whose action is
no stranger
... pours forth from a window
parallax – against complacency, woe,
and violent paralysis. Melchiz

out of nowhere's whereabouts. Stone
vaults from mossy Mississippi lair –
arrowheaded air headed your
way, Hotspur Harry – your own

land grant, swami saint – victorious
viscous vapor eye! Yours, the rube!
Uppity now, mistletoed (up, stone tub!)
Prance Petriarchy Pizzicat Nevarious,

and regale them! – all them,
constant operator! All them all together,
veteran! For the least fool measures
the greeter amongst her – Miriam!

Miracoloco! Since Abraham Lincoln
conned he was an Indian (check,
by Jove) that showy Melchizedek
has fibrillated nature's joy, my son –

and though you rum from-toward the swine
your pain of shame – run home again now!
Earth hath need against this rage slow
lights – lights, ghost! For from brine

of Superior comes your native wrestler,
Jacob – as I sack your situation for a mini-
millennial secular thanksdiver, honey:
Massa saw! A real Ur way trestler!



Josh stands up for weak poems against all comers.

As a perpetrator/survivor of the bruising listserve wars (Buffalo, Buffalo!) I can agree that online "critique" could get very warped. It probably shares the nervous testo-frenzy of internet behavior in general.

I also think that "micro" criticism could easily get very glib & superficial. Sometimes it takes many many readings (& side-research) to appreciate a poem.

Nevertheless, I think Josh is over-reacting. For one thing, it seems to me that Jeff Bahr is exaggerating the method in order to show how it works. But more importantly, I think this kind of analysis - hopefully offered in a sympathetic & generous manner - is very useful & necessary, if it comes from someone who knows what they're talking about.

How much bad writing gets high marks from supposed mentors - for certain strategic reasons, reasons which benefit the mentor, rather than the poet? (ie. trotting through a large percentage of mediocre & bad poems actually pays the bills for MFA teachers. & you don't want to make the students feel too bad; you don't want them to lose hope for their future niche in the industry, or even drop out of the program...)

But I don't want to turn this into a slam of CW teachers, not at all. As I say - if they know what they're doing, they're actually doing a service to literature.

"Poetry should be written fairly well." - Wm. Shakespeare
Have been gleaning a little more intelligence about my trip to N'Awlins, day after tomorrow. The house I'll be helping rehab is near Tulane U. It's off by itself. It has cracked doors, windows & floors. That's about the extent of my knowledge at this point. Hoping to learn more before I hit the road.

The Triptik I got from AAA has a little note : "I-10 and I-610 through New Orleans metro area are open, but only local residents with proper identification are allowed to exit." Sounds like they REALLY value their volunteers. If you don't hear from me after the 15th, I may be a Prisoner of Big Easy.
Sitemeter tells me that HG Poetics just passed Ron Silliman on total "hits" from domestic animals. 4 legs are better than 2 (sz Mr. Ed).

Blog-grazing has become increasingly popular among farm livestock & cattle drives, according to Melba the Cow. "Visits" can last anywhere from .25 seconds (called "nips") to all-night cud-chew contests.
For those dogs & cats out there who were wearied or distressed by the recent brouhaha (miaowaha) over at lime tree... here's how to tune out.

Now they just need a station to showcase the singing mice.


Mice Also Sing

"To be persons, not scissors." - M. Paquin
old seasonal poem