... & so the mysterious Xmas guest Gabriel Gudding heads back (in his little blue car) into the flat deep skyland of the midwest. It was great to see him, compagnevolo of him to come calling. Usually we seem to agree to disagree. I too adore Simone Weil - but not for her rejections...
Here, then, for Christmas, is the philosophical groundwork for the School of Cool Quietude - the school which basically surpasses and replaces the Language School, the Post-Avant School, the New York School, the Black Mountain School, Nathan Bishop Middle School, Harley Hopkins Elementary School, and all the other contemporary schools. Aristotle laid out the understanding by which we recognize that state that Charles Olson so avidly pursued in his mumbo-jumbo way (& ironically dismissed the Greeks for missing) : that reality is inherently intelligible : there is no Cartesian-modern duality of mind and matter : Intellect is the identity, the coincidence of the knower and the known. C. Moev again :

"...the heritage that is Plato reworked by Aristotle reworked by Plotinus, all reworked again by Aristotle redivivus in the thirteenth century, and all sharpened in the light of Christian meditation. From our discussion of Aristotle, we may distill that understanding into three fundamental principles, which were to become the foundation of the medieval understanding of reality.

1. God, as pure being or actuality or form, is the reflexivity of pure awareness (intellect itself), which is nothing (not a thing), but the active power to be everything and nothing. [viz. Nicolas Cusanus's name for God : the Possest, the "Is-Power"]

2. Each thing that exists, exists only as a qualification of or participation in Intellect-Being. As determinations or limitations of being, things are radically other than the principle of Being itself (Aquinas would say they participate only in 'common' or 'created' being), yet if they were not in, of, through or from God, they would not be. In an absolute sense, only God is; all else shares. [note the prefigurement here of the Romantic poets' synthetic awareness - contemplation of the All in all things, in quietude]

3. Human awareness (the rational soul) is a special case, a special sharing in or affinity with the ultimate ontological principle. Hence its (at least potential) immortality, freedom in and from space and time, immunity to the power of any created thing (freedom of the will), and potential for what was variously called contemplative rapture (alienatio mentis, ek-stasis), deification (deificatio), or divine union (unio mystica). [ie., quietude]

"Our particular concern is the third principle, because it in fact subsumes the first two, and because it is the principle that underlies the pilgrim Dante's journey, his claims to have visited the Empyrean..." [Moev, p. 58]
Found the book I was looking for for Gabriel
(though my edition has a different cover). (see previous post)
ten years ago
Another special spiel over at Latta-day today. I do have a copy of Feathers to Iron; will have to go have a look at it again.

The homerish-homelessness of the poet, sneaking past the ziggurats of abstract systems, yet searching, puzzling along...

Aristotle & Dante, of course, is all system... here's Moev (The Metaphysics of Dante's Comedy, pp. 54-55): "Here we see that various aspects of Aristotle's philosophy fit together, as they are wont to do. Aristotle's stress on the fact that the rational soul "comes from outside", is divine, in some respect immortal, and that it presupposes no organ or body, is all to say that it is not subject to generation, corruption, or any natural process. The intellective soul does not rely on body or the world because it is ontologically prior to it, which is to say that it is related to the ultimate reality (pure form or actuality) iin which all things consist. The Christians were to express the same point by saying that the rational soul depends on (is produced by) only God, and is thus immortal. Moreover, it no longer seems arbitrary for Aristotle to claim that the Unmoved Mover moves all things as final cause, as their goal or object of desire and love; or that all things have "something divine in them"... that consciously or unconsciously moves them toward happiness or fulfillment, an impulse that grounds the human notion of the good, and whose ultimate goal is the Unmoved Mover... The Prime Mover is pure form, the principle of intelligence-intelligibility-being through which every being is; it is the principle that becomes manifest, and conscious of itself, as form becomes immaterial. To aspire upward in the hierarchy of being is to aspire to a greater range of existence, and ultimately to be unbound by any particular mode of existence : to be the power to be anything. It is, ultimately, for things to aspire to be what gives them being : form itself, which is nous. This is the ultimate consequence of Aristotle's rejection of Platonic Forms and dualism : intelligence-intelligibility-being must then be intrinsic to things, the being of their being, which is why the world is knowable."

OK. "To aspire upward in the hierarchy of being..." Now think of all those loping obscure tricky illegible prickly-proud expansive derelict long life-poems, which Latta is talking about... those searching-wandering poems, trying to absorb and be everything, Olson, Jack Clarke, Pound, WCW, Zukofsky, & all... those material-local-historical jumble-bags...

Here's the fundamental axiom which might be the key to their "form" : the way upward is the way down. In order to aspire to the Empyrean the poet must descend compassionately to the most material, the most particular, the most obscure, local, abject, ignored... down among the abandoned ones, down into the rag-&-bone shop, down Desolation Row... in order to become everything the poet must become nothing...

(cf. Joseph Brodsky's moving poem "Nature Morte")

... thus I might want to argue that the locus classicus, the perfect exemplar of this modern poetic form-effort, is none other than David Jones's Anathemata and his other works... because, 1st of all, he united the most particular, the most abject, the most historical flotsam & jetsam with an intelligible aesthetic form : the old notion that the pagan myths and ancient histories were all types and prefigurings of the historical kenosis-descent-crucifixion of Christ is what gives shape to his mythos & his narratives. No one has so thoroughly rendered the actuality, the local feel & color of an excruciating place : whether it's the trenches of WW I or the battlements of an outpost of the Roman empire, he was there...

In this way history and the poem, in parallel, reflect the compassionate kenosis - the descent, the self-humbling - of the divine. In this way the history of the modern long poem reflects, unknowingly, the acts of the sacrificial lamb.

This is just one way of looking at it.
see Daniel Green's comments on literary formalism, in his posts of Dec. 12 and 13.

The aesthetic sense : free intellectual capability to absorb information (facts, ideas, arguments, opinions, sensations), and then to encompass same within a sense of form, order, beauty. A formal (and holistic) response to beauty in works of art.

I might have more to say about "form" after I finish this interesting book on Dante by Christian Moev. He describes the subtleties of Aristotle's central concepts - ie. the relation between form (as the substantial reality of things in the hierarchy of nature or "chain of being") and the intellect (the free power of the soul to apprehend real things).

(This sounds awfully vague, I know.)

When you know the form of something, you grasp its identity. Matter, strictly speaking, doesn't exist : it's the potentiality of form. & form fulfills potentiality in acts of creative intellect (the Prime Mover for Nature; the human intellect for art).

But what is it to say that something has (primarily) an aesthetic form? Maybe Aristotle would say something like this : an aesthetic form is an object structured in such a way as to reflect the sense of beauty which resides in the (complementary) inner form of the soul.


THE POETRY of earth is never dead:  
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper’s — he takes the lead
In summer luxury, — he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.

December 30, 1816.
Gabriel, who is in town for a few days, told me last night he was working on a poem in praise of the sun. I remembered a poem by Greek poet Odysseas Elytes; went upstairs to look for it on my shelves & couldn't find it. Today I searched the library stacks; when I get home I'll dig around some more for that yellow paperback (I think it was called "The Sovereign Sun"...).

Now I realize I'm doing this on the shortest day of the year.
OK, enough whinin' & moanin' & groanin'. I just go over here & get a 2nd wind. (though I ain't so enthused about what I've seen of Mr. Thomas IQ Pynchon. Seems like a Joyce wannabee, over-ambitious, splenetic fussbudget. Like me.)

A nocturnall upon S. Lucies day,
Being the shortest day

TIS the yeares midnight, and it is the dayes,
Lucies, who scarce seaven houres herself unmaskes,
The Sunne is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rayes;
The worlds whole sap is sunke:
The generall balme th'hydroptique earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the beds-feet, life is shrunke,
Dead and enterr'd; yet all these seeme to laugh,
Compar'd with mee, who am their Epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers bee
At the next world, that is, at the next Spring:
For I am every dead thing,
In whom love wrought new Alchimie.
For his art did expresse
A quintessence even from nothingnesse,
From dull privations, and leane emptinesse:
He ruin'd mee, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darknesse, death; things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soule, forme, spirit, whence they beeing have;
I, by loves limbecke, am the grave
Of all, that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have wee two wept, and so
Drownd the whole world, us two; oft did we grow
To be two Chaosses, when we did show
Care to ought else; and often absences
Withdrew our soules, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death, (which word wrongs her)
Of the first nothing, the Elixer grown;
Were I a man, that I were one,
I needs must know; I should preferre,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; Yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love; All, all some properties invest;
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.

But I am None; nor will my Sunne renew.
You lovers, for whose sake, the lesser Sunne
At this time to the Goat is runne
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all;
Since shee enjoyes her long nights festivall,
Let mee prepare towards her, and let mee call
This houre her Vigill, and her Eve, since this
Both the yeares, and the dayes deep midnight is.
- John Donne


I wonder if there are still places where people approach poems together - comfortable spaces - where people approach poems as verbal-emotive-intellectual objects, having different dimensions -

sort of informal philological symposia (in Mandelstam's sense) -

places where whole poems are apprehended, experienced, evaluated - in an atmosphere of collegial craftsmanship & shared insights -

not as part of any poet's or critic's personal ambition or agenda, but focusing together on the artistic object itself -

far away from personality promotions and demotions - a place of intellectual and aesthetic objectivity -

the dream of the Petersburg Acmeists -
Still in early chapters of Moev book on Dante mentioned previously. Also reading Russian novel by Vasily Grossman, Life & Fate. In english.

Moev's book hinges on the argument that Dante's (& medieval) conception of reality differs fundamentally from modern, & we need to try to grasp that conception if we want to make sense of Divina Commedia. His description of the Platonic-Aristotelian-Dantean world-picture reminded me of George Berkeley's writings. Matter is not a "thing". It is substantial, but not in our materialist sense of a solid substratum. Matter is not any where or what : it is an expression of a (dramatic?) concept. The substance of reality originates in the creative act of the divine mind.

We do find this world-view extremely remote, hard to comprehend. Yet some would argue it's closer to the quantum-relativity cosmos of contemporary science, as opposed to traditional-modern materialist notions.

In the chapter of Stubborn Grew called "Once in Paradise", I tried to ground that narrative in something similar, by playing with the story of George Berkeley's 3-yr residence in the "Paradise" section of Newport, Rhode Island, in the early 18th century.

Here are a couple relevant passages :


Irish iconoclast, waiting for the money to come through
under his cardboard loans, waving his good arm
toward Bermuda; heeling to leeward on charm
only – the world can understand. Sand fills his shoe.

English, French, European, utilitarian,
rationing out creation, one coffeespoon, one puff
of philosophical smoke – and it's enough
for the Modern Diner – these eggs are vegetarian!

Queue up for the doubledecker sandwich island,
individuals! Invisible hands prepare your steaks –
Chicago machine-made diesel-chuckle-X shakes!
Lock the white sex bullpen – key's in your hand...

Berkeley was a chip off the old wayward block.
Yahwehward – subject to Johnsonian hard knock.
Yet stone synecdoche the builders reject

becomes a wander in RI.
Chip, chip, chip away... yet chippewater will
return – a continuous whippoorwill
in marginal field. Aye.


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

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

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

why have you forsaken me? In RI? Heaven's
not some dull neuteronian mechanical.
It's providential – and recreational!
A dream, again! – again! – Bermudian!

Am busy these days trying to set up a lecture series for church on some of these basic issues of "worldview". Going to invite various scholars & religious people & atheists etc. "God for Beginners" "Intro to God 101". something like that. & don't worry : there will be a section on civil liberties, freedom of conscience, separation of church & state, etc. This is Rhode Island, after all. If I can figure out how to podcast the lectures, I will.

(that's me on harp at a concert on Redeemer lawn last summer)


Back from Mpls comes Henry. Him daughter is all graduated (hip hoo-ray) & on her way to distant deserts with her Mom, to visit Peace Corps pal. Him blogland bud Gabe Gudd coming manana to crash on couch (while in Prov to visit him daughter). Him wife ask him to ask him Gabe not to talk about it on him blog. Him agree. Henry has no poesie to speak of, he im pow'rful down blooey & bored with all sundry & self him, he.


Don't mind me. I like some poetry I read in magazines and books. Really. & they have meant much to me at various points in time & space. I even edited a little magazine myself for a while.

It seems I'm a chap who probably needs to make some changes.

Now I'm off to the Great Mid-West, for my daughter's college graduation. Back in Providence on Monday. This blog will be 4 years old in about 3 weeks. I will be turning 4,000 this year. Maybe it's time.

Sorry, just ruminatin'. Have a good week.
....then again, why even try? This blog is perpetually winding down. I don't have a vested interest in writing scholarly briefs. Blog-posting poems is a dead-end disguised as a short-cut. But then again, who wants to read poetry magazines? or poems in magazines? New Spleen Today, issue #414.

Reading about the nature of Dante's Primo Mobile (in Moev book mentioned previously). The fastest of the heavenly circles, it is basically potentiality and motion. Lives "right next" to God's Mind. Spin.

This coincided with article in NY Times Sunday magazine about new design for surveillance aircraft : basically it's all wing, sort of a perpetual-motion boomerang which spins so fast that the whole thing (not just the rotor, as on a helicopter) is invisible.

Helen Vendler profile in NYTBR last Sunday as well. Her dislike for fashionable emphasis on drafts, posthumous disjecta literaria. Discrimination, "classics".

I can sort of appreciate that. But my way of writing poetry now involves a perpetual spin-motion (quatrain toy train) which causes itself to disappear from everyone's literary horizon. See ya.


My prof & proto-prof blog friends are almost done grading papers, & now they have time to tell us about the ethics of poetic pleasure, and the pleasure of poetic ethics, and so on etc... I'd like to agree with Eric Selinger's clear distinction between morality and aesthetics - it clears away so much sophistry - & yet I have doubts about an epistemology(?) which makes of "pleasure" a distinct and separate entity, something we can analyze for ever & ever with complaisance & delight...

walk in fear of abstractions...

Poetry is a (pleasant) conjunction of contradictions. A fulfillment of a particular poet's very personal, subconscious need (perhaps very specific, private); yet also a dispassionate, disinterested, aesthetically-resolved end in itself. I guess in that self-determining end lies its power of fulfillment. It's that unique, autonomous aesthetic quality (um, let's call it "beauty") which makes poetry so desirable as a means to other ends (ethical, intellectual, ideological, political, utilitarian, etc...).

Dante considered the Divina Commedia a didactic poem with a moral lesson. But we recognize that its power as lesson depends on its integrity as art work. On the other hand, perhaps this recognition reveals the limits of our worldview. As long as we keep searching for Ethics in Aesthetics, we remain merely aesthetes. (Ethy ain't here, people. She lef Athy bout 6 yr ago f'nother fella, move to DEtroit.)

From an ethical standpoint, art is merely a means to an end (the good life, the justified life, the right action at the right time, the heroic exemplars of truth & virtue... the edification of humanity).

From an aesthetic standpoint, ethics (in the abstract) is merely an occasion for comedy (and tragedy) : since the power of experience - the mimesis of particulars - gives art an overwhelming advantage over any other form of discourse.

Deal with it...


(... that's "Pax", reclining there, from Ambrogio Lorenzetti's "Good Government" fresco in Siena.)

Texts that have made life difficult for me over the years :

The Bible
"Cowboy Bob" series from Hopkins Public Library (that dates me)
Shakespeare's Sonnets
60s NY School anthology (red cover)
Vlad Nabokov books
Most of the paperback novels of the 60s
... in fact whut has been seriously discussed in various litwawy salons as the "mainstreaming" of "difficult" "avant-garde" "texts" in our "poetic culture" is really just the manifestation - the bulbous exposure - of the "professional" "serious" and "influential-successful" communing & commingling together of one or more of the mutual heads of Hackdom. It was there in the genes from Day One.
Let's face it : 99% of all writers are hacks, and the other 1 percent are also hacky 99% of the time. You have your commercial (generic) hacks, your arty-farty (academic) hacks, your vaunted-garde high-nosed (revoleptic) hacks... all three of 'em close kithin-kin brethren, a-slurpin' o' the turbid inkwell.

Behold them three conjoined heads, a-yammerin' down the track o' the Hackbeast Trifecta ! Now there's some writin' for yaz !
Trying to follow & enjoying the conversation on varieties of pleasurable reading experience, started by Josh Corey & et al. Nota :

There's probably something like "inherent difficulty", which gets around Robt. Archambeau's relativizing the notion. Understanding a difficult text has to involve more than just learning the lingo - no matter how arcane (socially, pedagogically) the lingo may be. Difficulty is not just an aspect of verbal encryption - a puzzle to be worked out - nor is it, on the other hand, just an aspect of textual ambiguity, undecideability.

I'd say "inherent difficulty" is present in any literary work which tries to represent/interpret the unknown, the mysterious, and the real - all of these together. What we think of as cheap thrills, escapist novels, easy reading - the pleasure we take in them - and the reason we think of them this way - is that they have little or no originality. There is no apprehension of anything really new - no exploration. They are "generic" - they fulfill generic expectations - there is no break in the seamless machinery of entertainment, because the author is not confronting anything mysterious. There is no "mystery" in these mysteries.

Silliman & many others would like to analyze this difference in goals by way of differences on the level of diction, syntax, etc. But the use of different styles and literary idioms doesn't guarantee the "inherent difficulty" I'm getting at. In fact we are familiar with the phenomenon of supposedly "difficult" texts which simply mimic and parrot the received or prestigious exempla for "difficulty". In fact we see so much of this, that many of us have to turn to cheap thrills fiction just to escape the hypocrisy of it all.

Where do writers like Jane Austen, Malcolm Lowry, Shakespeare, Nabokov, fit here? Nabokov is someone who tried to bridge the popular read and the extreme-cryptic-arcane. Lowry's Under the Volcano is layered like an onion. (is there pleasure by way of onions?)


Deleted some posts from yesterday. My apologies (sincere) to those who commented on them. I'm just too old for these games. Will probably have to delete this post too eventually.
J. Latta, everlasting Gracehoper. (I think I'm more of a left-handed Ondt.) Today's post transmits both downsides & upsides of "hobo-ing", by way of Pynchon. (& vicarious same.) Have a generation of poets been systematically "kicked to the curb", viz. Amiri Baraka? Seems more like the poets just reflect the trends at large. Settling into your computer cubicle & checking your investments. But he & John L. keep pointing to something outside ("old weird America").

(I'm a-goin' to write a comic novel in ol-wild-America fashion, about a salesman traveling through Harper's Ferry who gets taken hostage by a big fat Civil War re-enactor, in order so that the latter can publicize his belief that Abe Lincoln, as a crypto-Native American, deliberately selected the world's worst generals for the Federal side, so as to carry out a spiritual command to wreak Divine Judgement, fully, on both sides in the Civil War. It's a theory. hereby copyrighted @ Henry H. Gould.)


... another little putt at Nicky de Cusa's Mini-Golf (ie. Autumn Door) :


A sparkling of snow, the air grown featherweight.
This is the earth, we may see no other.
A ball bobbled in a children's game, somewhere
suspended... pendant, over-under the infinite...

An anxious bluejay squawks contingent plans
for now. But we will revolve, you and I,
on this trim pivot that upholds our sky -
drawn as we were out of the bookish plains

toward one transparent parapet, a ziggurat
of smiles. Its coil retracts to vertiginous heights;
its labyrinth of particolored slates
a nowhere-palimpsest (at zero climate)

and with such pitch the crusted compost-mound
disintegrates in layers... flaked limestone
streaked with articulate foam, Shoshone
medicine bones, plate tectonics ground

up and moving in infant array - earth's
loyal dust-mote children - early, early, eagerly
engaged in morning, honoring seared ugliness
beguilingly, half-grasping each pennyworth

incalculate and prodigal - innocent idolators
plunging tenacious fingers into frangible soil.
A scarab rolls its microcosm toward the Nile
(fragrant little lifeboat buried in funeral barges)

as the thought of you rotates beside the kiln
where the sun growls and the stars gesticulate
and the thought gestates, a guest of state...
(eyes bent toward snow along a windowsill).


The previous poem is not meant to be simply a melancholy reflection, an elegy for someone far away. The idea that "the autumn door leads nowhere" has another side to it also. Relates to this concept of "the empyrean", which I'm getting from the book about Dante noted earlier here (by Moev). It is not "anywhere"; it is an intellectual, non-physical space - the beginning, the origin of space. The "uncreated".

Slow to glob (I mean blog), slow to write these days. I love my new little poem, hope it keeps going... but everything like this takes a big mental effort on my part. There are many distractions as well as obligations on my time.

I have to get into a state of mind. Poetry for me is very different from talk or prose. I know that doesn't hold for everyone, obviously. That's OK.