This little blog will be 1 year old on Jan. 4th. I'll be away until Jan. 5th, so y'all come on back around then, hear?

Have been flued out for some time. Advantages of illness : wrote my first children's story. People have been telling me to do that for years. Look out, Madonna.

Rumor has it the Schooner of Quietude will try for a comeback next year. A flotilla of iamboids was sighted off Chesapeake Bay last week. Word circulating (anonymous Topper) a sonnet mole has penetrated Buffalo. Gangs of Strong Monsieurs heckling Lang Pos reported in San Jose, of all places. Peace, O my people.

Live it up & party down (cough, cough) - Happy New Year, where'er ye be!


Still bugged out with bad virus. No whiskified egg nog for me, thanks [sigh].

Watched PBS magical-mystical program last night on origin of 3 Kings. Magi may have been Zoroastrian astrologers from Babylon & environs. On April 17, BC 6, there was an eclipse of Jupiter by the moon in the constellation of the Ram (which signified Israel). Gold : royalty; frankincense : holiness, priesthood; myrrh : death & burial. Lo & behold, there on the program as one of the commentators was William Dalrymple, whose book I mentioned here a few days ago (From the Holy Mountain).

Here's a very old HG poem :


I give you the parables as I received them -
my mother's voice, the nursery rhymes,
the memorized rhetoric and the anthem
leading us like sheep to death sometimes.

The mystery ringing in our ears,
the noise of the cultivated howl
of ubiquitous unknown lusts and fears,
the music of monkey, wolf and owl.

In silence before music and the word,
a voice already prepared to save
delivers you into a pastoral world,
out of the dank and bestial cave.

A cadence I cannot repeat just right -
the pristine choir of many morning birds,
or the patience of children in the dancing light
performing the ritual of careful words.

Looking around at home, I found these curious precursors of the long river-poem (Forth of July). Sections of a poem called "Octaves":


Is it the sea or is it a voice,
or is it a sea-voice (rocked
by heartbeats long ago docked
in petrified wave-lengths, ice-

water)? Or the wind in a tree.
That one, rising like a broken delta.
Speaks through me.
Rafted away now... Huckleberry. Selah


Mississippi, Mississippi...
Gravel and silt slide down the stream.
Mississippi, Mississippi...
Spell it out, spell out your dream.

Why should I spell it out for you
(New York - D.C. - California)?
I hit the road before you do.
(Minnesota... Alabama...)

& finally, here's an couple of odd (as usual) bits of something for the day, from The Grassblade Light:


The snow covered the ground like the shoulders
of his white bull, only colder, colder; he saw a cloud
of ice breath, chill between warm heartbeats. Old
Blackstone, in clear December light, ponders, ponders.

Some penetrating sound, a loon-call through the aether,
or... some answer to a riddle, rectifying denouement,
perfect solution... some snow-crystalline all right,
like the moon sailing across deep soothing black... or...

Good King Wenceslas looked out
on the feast of Stephen
when the snow lay round about
deep and fresh and even

High clear children's voices above the dark
tops of pine trees, as they make their way
through snow from house to house. Gradually,
slowly, peacefully (in the cold night). Hark

the herald angels sing
... He looked out toward the mangers
of the world. There... on the outside of the inns...
in the cold, among animals, straw, the thin
coverings, the sparse walls... the hungers, the dangers.

And like Balthasar astride his mule (riding west
and staring east) old Blackstone thought:
what One is this? - as, bright-wrought,
an arc of moonlight moored above that nest

(a lowly nef, berthed under a lofty shell).
An airship, or some hovering bell... it shed
a sweet, translucent music overhead. And
music changes everything (as Wenceslas could tell).



In December, in the snow, in the clear cold air,
everything grows double, everything is allegorical,
like those distant crows, high over the Bruegel
valley, and the hunters turning home, bare

bodkins, empty-handed; a half-moon, small
and delicate, glows through a haze,
and the stiletto of one star beside it says:
behold tight-woven final acts of good and evil

here now passing... upon theatrical soil.
Here simplest things are full of profundity:
hungry wayfarers, winecellars of reality...
gypsies, flocks, shepherds... an angel

Meanwhile, under the dome, the black stone
of Isaac waits. And gathering specific gravity,
to the city - through Stephen's Gate - comes Jubilee,
like spring streams down from Zechariah's canyon.

And he will stage these holograms of Incarnation
(strange attractors, gathering wise men toward one
star's dark matter)... cask them, roll them on board,
until the ark of Wenceslas is full, and Stephen's crown

goes round again, millennial - in those meadows
where Time does not run down, but circles...
where May Goulding conceived, and Stephen's bulls
are papal, Romany... where Blackstone throws

his final boomerang : a child is born,
and everything is changed. Come down,
you shepherds, to the manger now, come down,
behold - how God is cradling Isaac like a son.


Wishing you holiday cheer & lights - *


HG down with respiratory bug past few days.

reading My Name Is Red, by Orhan Pamuk. I like his style, have read most of his novels.

also immersed in tomes from library about medieval Aleppo & Islamic history. Aleppo, I love that name. Comes from arabic word for "milk"; legend has it Abraham stopped there on his way from Ur, & offered goat's milk to his neighbors. Many ancient shrines to Abraham in the area.

"That in Aleppo Once..." - short story by Nabokov. (A quote from finale of Othello.) Birthday of Nabokov & Shakespeare : April 23rd, St. George's Day. Patron saint of Russia & England. St. George a curious mythical figure : related in Islamic culture to the mysterious saint Al-Khidr, or "Green" : figure of strength & vitality, spring fertility (St. George & the Dragon). Shrines to Al-Khidr in Aleppo too.

"Milk", MLK, Melchizedek, Melchior. . . a motif in my poetry (Island Road, Stubborn etc.).

Happy solstice. It starts to get lighter today. (Just so you know. Prof. Hinkel told me.)


& speaking of heaven, I just finished Wm. Dalrymple's travel book, From the Holy Mountain (Owl Bks, 1997). He retraces the steps of 6th century peripatetic Byzantine monk named John Moschos, who kept a journal of his own (The Spiritual Meadow). Dalrymple's book is a remarkably vivid 1st-hand report on the fading (or maybe surviving - some of these hermit monks are amazingly resilient) remnants of various strands of ancient eastern Christianity still hanging on in monasteries scattered through Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel & Egypt. A unique lens on the Middle East.
Mairead Byrne's blog Heaven has been added to my list of links, which is hardly universal & rarely used by me. But I noticed over at the Buffalo poetics pen (where there's a "Keep Henry Out" sign) that she felt left out of the blogland link whirl. So there you are, Mairead. Merry Christmas, ho ho ho, from the highly-networked blog-Santa club.


It's been a quiet day in blogland, but I couldn't resist furthering the knowledge and love of cheese among poets & poetry/cheese lovers everywhere, with this quote from today's AP wire services, courtesy NY Times:

Back in Connecticut at the Abbey of Regina Laudis, 
nuns raise sheep, work the fields and sing Gregorian chants
eight times a day. Marcellino, who is also an accomplished
vocalist, was assigned to make cheese. The scientific interest
came later.

In the 1990s, Marcellino won a Fulbright scholarship
to study in France. She eventually spent four years
here studying cheese fungus, going from farm to farm
collecting samples. Her fame grew, and she was profiled
in a documentary that coined her nickname: ``The Cheese Nun.''

The complete article can be found at the Times site (for which you might have to register), here.


Jordan keeping up on cheese situation. There appears to have been a drop in interest in cheese poetics of late, both here and in Limburg. I attribute this to the recent focus on V-neck sweaters (I mean in the archival sense, of course : the V-shape being an ancient symbol of many things, including early "holding & lifting" tools, such as the Akkadian steamshovel). Prof. Hinkel's recent study, Molten Hermeneutics : Melted Cheese Metaphors in the Life & Work of Amalia Lamia (Left Overbie Univ. Press, 2004) should bring the recent dropsic malaise or aphasic lassitude in cheese poetics to an abrupt (top-broiled) end. Happy Holidays, Prof. Hinkel!
Mike & Jonathan continue good dialogue on fiction/poetry and the relative merits of Yeats & Milton.

Seems to me that Mike's demurrals might apply more aptly to the whole late Romantic/Symbolist poetic ethos, of which Yeats is probably the best exemplar. That is, the supposed weaknesses he sees in Yeats are representative of a larger phenomenon.

The advent of fiction signalled a split between poetry & prose. It's no accident that "Romanticism" referred originally to a return to medieval poetic romances which were analyzed, parodied, mourned & mocked in the greatest "modern" novel, Don Quixote.

Cervantes inaugurated the role of novel as analytical instrument, and with the progress of the social novel, marginalized poets began to see a parallel between the disenchantment of life brought on by science & industrialization and the dominance of "prosaic" values in literature. In a manner somewhat comparable to the development of abstraction in painting, poets began to emphasize their social role as avatars of pure imagination. The fact that, as Mike mentions, Milton had finally to choose between scriptural revelation and the book of nature for a "true" poetic representation of cosmic reality anticipates the Romantic attitude.

The core of the Romantic argument was, that prosaic, analytical description, whether in literature or science, actually fails as mimesis, is somehow untrue to the Real, because dull prose could never represent the ecstatic, mystical wholeness & beauty of Creation : only the inspired imagination could foster the images of innocence, sympathy, synthesis & unity, worthy of that ultimate reality.

Yeats' fascination with George Berkeley (the Irish idealist philosopher), and with the effect of imaginative symbols, are attributes of the "classic" Romantic stance. The Romantic poet registers a protest against the falsity of objective description : "we murder to dissect". This is fundamentally a religious attitude, which asserts the sacredness of reality against the profanation of (a scientific-Faustian) detached objectivity. & in my view this confrontation between poetic imagination and "objectivity", between prose & poetry, is not yet completely played out. Some of Wallace Stevens' gnomic aphorisms (about the "poetry of reality") still speak very tellingly to this issue.


LOCKE sank into a swoon;
The Garden died;
God took the spinning-jenny
Out of his side.


Where got I that truth?
Out of a medium’s mouth.
Out of nothing it came,
Out of the forest loam,
Out of dark night where lay
The crowns of Nineveh.
On Saturday morning I had an odd premonition, thinking "They're going to find Saddam before Christmas." Turns out they were finding him at the time.

Here's some semi-doggerel formality, from Way Stations, on the general theme of falling kings:

         Ballade Royale

"The enemy is seething at the gates
and all our stratagems so sorely tried
have surely failed, and rebels – ingrates! –
spit at us, and slink away, deep-dyed
in treachery." So courtiers sighed
and muttered dreadful news, in sheer
despair. The king was full of foolish pride.
All eyes filled with dismay – each heart with fear.

"Let's go unto the king – it's not too late,
perhaps..." So down stone corridors they glide
sharing the doom-filled business of the state,
to find their king... lolling, side by side
with his luxurious and mocking bride.
His eyes feign drowsiness as they draw near.
He snores – or mumbles something crass and snide.
All eyes filled with dismay – each heart with fear.

The great king disentangled from his mate
and leaning on one elbow hoarsely cried –
"Bring me my harp, O cowards that I hate!"
The instrument appeared. His fingers plied,
and with his long arm's curve struck, chord
on chord, such harmonies! – so sweet, so clear,
his servants melted... floated on a cloud...
All eyes filled with dismay – each heart with fear.

"Miserable souls – your anguish I deride!
When I am gone to rest – upon my bier –
you'll curse your God I ever lived – or died!"
All eyes filled with dismay – each heart with fear.


Good blog day. See Bemsha & the Sonnetarium in debate. I like this from Yeats:

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.
& on Beauty & Form, me sez (in "The Granary"):

         We were twelve-year-old friends
When I became your apprentice –
Careless for numb noon,
Caught up in steady response
To crafty forms and riddling shades.
Jonathan yesterday, on "tolerance." & speaking of Beauty & Tolerance, the flap in Paris over Muslim veils in school will surely be one for the history books. Si francais! A thousand Mata Haris, au centre d'haute couture, using their coy Oriental veils as a wedge for political Islam!

Tolerance in governance, oh, it must be the key. A public space of universal equal rights requires, paradoxically, a generous hospitable attitude toward ethnic pride. Finding the balance between group interests and the interest of each & all : civilization - life itself - based on wisdom & mutual acceptance among "others".
& in regard re-finding the past, see interesting comments on Baxter Hathaway & Lyn Hejinian at Cornell, over hyere at the Hotel.
Form is discovering beauty as fate.

The plot of a poem is the beautiful resolution of its form.


Intellectual Form is moving : logos reveals that pathos
is ethos, and vice versa. (This is the Theorem of Integral Beauty,
the Golden Section, the Goulden Rule).
We love words
and "form" is simply having fun with words.

Thus my Mandelstam obsession
is merely an expression of "nightingale fever"
(ie. the joy of speech for its own sake).

Ovid (et al.) frames the meaning of politics & social life
within a context of happy babbling.
That's what poets do.

". . . for lack of what is found there."

The great forms
are great imitations
of greater forms
(like fern leaves).
Kasey writes about the dumbing-down of poetic syntax & thinning-out of tradition among contemporary poets.

In terms of getting a perspective on the contemporary scene, these phenomena (along with, I would add, the loss of "depiction" or mimesis among the post-avants, which I've been harping on here) seem more important than the supposed divide between mainstream/experimental or Quietude/quirkitude.

But I'm not proposing another critique based on badmouthing. Let's look for the poets who do rediscover & synthesize great "finds" from previous poetic eras.

It's not a matter of stylistics alone. It's recreating & reliving something perennial, having to do with the immediacy/presence/role of poetry in human experience (both individual & collective).

Am reading John Latta's & Dale Smith's engaging table-talk in conjunction with these pronunciamentos.


another little bit from "My Byzantium", written late 90s.


The crowd was moving beyond the guardrail
and surging up and down in gleaming escalators
between the two unmatched exhibits

I was in the crowd and with the crowd
memories between the tracks of the trekking pilgrimage
statuesque in lived postures of waiting and looking.

At the eastern pole of the great museum lay
Mondrian. There was a tree in a Dutch backyard;
branchlets billowed a crisscross scandal until

with the lantern of his lifelong devotion
a surprise habit was to kiss Mrs. Ernst unlike
a monk, erring, earnest, in the back of a NY cab;

while at the western pole was to be beheld
the family album of Alfred Stieglitz –
not Venus not Diana emerging black and white

beside the dock in skinwet bathing suit,
or the two dignified old dames a-walk
down a country lane away from the horizon.

Choose: your home movie extracted lovingly
undamaged from the real? Or the concrete circumflex
of a node of apposite contraries?

What are we looking for in glasses?
"there is always something deeper, a little deeper,
in the waste places, along the roadsides"

It was a crystallization
of hope longed for, one

one, what was the number
of the archway


flit, still
as, as
if re



which mayhap brings me back to Byzantium & "walking through the pictures". This is from "My Byzantium" (you may have seen it before. . .):


On Valentine's Day on my lunch break
I walked down the hill to the School of Design
to see the Crucifixion with Two Thieves
by the Master of the Providence Crucifixion (Dutch, circa

After 500 years the colors still bright as a dream.
Jerusalem in the background, strange towers of mauve, beige,
violet, the high walls flecked with scrawny trees
(no goldfinch near), the line of horsemen
in blue Martian armor (or Flemish 1400's) appearing
out of a crevice in the pale
green, springlike fields

and surrounding the crosses,
crowding the stage, the gray horses, their necks
like tensile steel with unknowing beast grins,
the fop soldiers and gawking onlookers, the boy
(or dwarf?) reining in the horses for the lords
staring in gratified excitement
at the three hung men, a swordsman
(realistic touch) ready to hack at the calves
of the thief on the left - the three men
of exactly the same build, only
Jesus more deathly pale, calm, as if asleep.

In the foreground Mary faints, weeping
(like the women outside the execution arena
in Afghanistan today, NY Times 2.14.96),
her arms hollowing, ready to become
a bronze Pietà; two of the soldiers
peer sidelong out of the picture frame,
but John and the Magdalen look you in the eye
out of hell, still, out of 1450.

Beside the Crucifixion a little gilded wooden niche -
relic, even older (Italian, 1250 or so, hand
of Lippo Memmi) – a blonde in a red cloak,
sky-blue undergarment, holds a little casket
(myrrh-box? urn?) and gazes with almond eyes
from under her hood at me,
the blush on her cheeks still faintly there,
her look still veiled and distant, yet looking, still


(A little further down the hill below the museum
you in the yellow t-shirt under a black sweatshirt
circle the gargantuan monolithic pile of the Supreme
Courthouse in a banged-up Falcon only
to look through the corner window
behind the iron bars hoping
to catch a glimpse
of a certain Irish cop
– like a goldfinch
tethered to the law.)

Snow is falling today on Providence,
it comes down gradually from cloud to ground;
soon Mardi Gras, then Lent, a drop of ash
on seared forehead; and through the
mirror of a dusky glance I see
one green-eyed almond Magdalen –
a chalice in her hands, she holds
this dying light in pale green fields,
while snow falls slowly over Providence.

My affinities (based in "optimism") may also imply certain resistances to various idioms of disaffection & resistance among my contemporaries.
Mandelstam & Crane, in Henry's mind. Very old news to some of my blog & poetry-list interlocutors. Must seem like tunnel vision, combined with backward-looking reification/idolatry of a couple of Modern Masters.

But the summary here today is just that, a simplification of my perspective, & I make no apologies. Myriad paths crisscross in poetry land. The era can be read with different lenses : feminist, multicultural (shorthand for many perspectives). I've been drawn to & inspired by scores, hundreds maybe, of other 20th-cent. writers.

I'm writing here, rather, about a couple of 20th-cent. poets who (along with Akhmatova, Berryman, Berrigan, Shvarts, Honig, Stevens, Montale, Celan, Brodsky - a few others) exerted a special guiding or pivotal or modelling or inspirational effect on my own writing.

& why or how did they do that? By means of a fusion/combination of worldview & poetic expression. Poetry remakes - reinterprets - the world with its discoveries & commitments. & our homemade "pantheons" have motives & consequences.
the most thorough study of Mandelstam's critical writings that I know of, is Mandelshtam's Poetics, by Elena Corrigan. her book doesn't deal with M's famous tribulations under Stalin, or his poetry per se, but focuses on his theoretical prose and its relationship with contemporary poetics (postmodernism).
I guess my glibness is back.

How do I understand the perspective that informs my "affinities"?

I'm a sort of melancholic optimist, that's how I see it. A metaphysical optimist, due to engagement with religious ideas & experiences. A political optimist, due perhaps in part to happy childhood in the exact middle of 50s Middle America (plus naivete or complacency? you be the judge). Melancholic also by nature & experience.

Perhaps a religious perspective not that far from Eliot fills me (in contrast to him, it seems) with metaphysical optimism. Which partly explains my fascination with Hart Crane's response to Eliot (as opposed to WC Williams'). (Williams strikes me as a kind of populist-empiricist. Crane more like a visionary-idealist. Crane's idealism has religious connotations which I don't find in Williams.)

I found similar "major chords", a similar optimism, in Mandelstam. Not a superficial but a profound saying YES, different atmosphere from Eliot.

Pound also has some grand & wonderful major chords. Along with an almost total mis-reading of religious & humane values in history. Or, should I say: Pound seems to display quite thoroughly & openly how passionate humane impulses are twisted & destroyed by a combination of aristocratic snobbery & wolfish aggressive (un)realpolitik.
Pleasantly snowed-in here for a few days.

I guess people reading my entries about Byzantium, Mandelstam, etc. would have to overcome a sense of obscurity, incoherence, hobbyhorse-ism.

Someday maybe I'll write a My Mandelstam, like Tsvetaeva's My Pushkin or Howe's My Emily Dickinson, & try to render some coherence to it all.

In poetry, I do two main things, I guess. Under certain favorable circumstances, I write poems. Otherwise, I think in "poetics", which is a jumble including my own taste in reading & my response to other writers & traditions (not just an aesthetic response but a personal response, which includes aesthetics, politics, "world-view", a sense of kinship, etc.).

This is how it is for most poets, I figure.

I've probably absorbed as much of the general assumptions of my time & generation as everybody else. Thinking about it off the top of my head this morning, I think I tend to orient myself as part of an era or a century - and an era which is either ending or transmogrifying into something else. This era began around World War I ("the real, not the calendar, 20th century" - Akhmatova), and was characterized by a new kind of self-consciousness, perhaps a sort of apocalyptic thinking, which simultaneously recognizes its alienation from the previous age, and tries to comprehend or interpret or summarize it in a new synthesis, for a new era (ie., Modernism).

In the atmosphere created by the modernist poets & those who followed (up to our own time) I guess I make certain choices & elect certain affinities or models, like everybody else.

to be continued, maybe. . .


I grind the crystals of copper carbonate, the azurite or verditer, the famous mountain blue of the receding planes of aerial perspective, and paint my way, blue by blue, up to the distant sea, where my ship lies waiting.

- Michael Frayn, Headlong
. . . & the difference between Byzantium & US being, of course, Roger Williams of Rhode Island (theocracy vs. church/state separation). it circles around like that in my poetry (around the snoozing head of Wm. Blackstone).
. . . then again, of course, in my poetry, the Byzantium effect is a subset of the Russian theme. . . with me everything begins, & begins again, with Mandelstam.
the thrill at the heart of Wallace Stevens' "first idea" : that's what this art/nature oscillation is all about. . .
My longstanding haggle with Language Poetry & post-avantism (admittedly a form of shadow-boxing with my own peculiar version of those amorphous phenomena). . .

a crux there being that a kind of littery literalism of the letter became a cliche or dogma over the 80s & 90s. . . & one of its affects being that the trope of self-conscious literalism (even as irony) tends to disrupt representation or mimesis. . .

so there is no "walking through the pictures" anywhere. . .

which seems to attack or cancel out perhaps the most interesting aspect of art in general, which is the oscillation between art & nature - the mimicry & confusion of the two. . . & the theological mystery at the root of this oscillation (what is "creation from nothing"?).

so it's interesting to me anyway that the theme of "Byzantium" runs through much of my writing in the late 90s (both in a political sense of US being a latter-day or parodic Byzantium, and in the sense that the old Byzantine aesthetic/theological issue of iconoclasm/iconophilia is so fascinating in itself). . .

I think of the post-avants & the postmodern theorists as iconoclasts (in the Byzantine sense). . .

& the aesthetic values which got sidelined during this period of iconoclasm included representation, mimesis, "thick description", direct presentation, narrative, etc. . . things I've been interested in. . .

(- just a little horn-tootin' polemics, for a Friday afternoon in frozen Blogland. . .)
Odd (or just repetitive) how plot of both Stubborn Grew & long dream-poem "Grain Elevator" pivot on a "spirit guide" of some kind (Bluejay, my grandfather's ghost) leading narrator Henry through & into a painting (30s prairie storm picture in the latter; Renaissance Magdalen miniature in former).

See also 2nd "chapter" of Stubborn ("Ancient Light") : the whole thing is about interaction between people & artworks (in London).

         "Leave it for lost!  It's gone for good!
Come on, come with me! Move, move
And walk – walk through the phony frame!"
Am reading the entertaining Headlong, by Michael Frayn, about a fellow who discovers a missing Bruegel masterpiece in a very Bruegelish out-of-the-way English rundown manor. I see the protagonist is doing just what I do! ("Bruegelizing" what he sees.)

It's about to start snowing. . .
Old poem from Way Stations :

         The Granary

for J.P.

There were huge comfortable rooms,
dusty with archaeological bric-a-brac,
brass rubbings of the Black Prince,
and a photograph of your tiny sister
smiling, holding a shard in a trench.

I loved the cozy smells of your house,
perfumed with antiquity and your mother's
potato cooking, her high throaty
European sparrow voice, calling Johnny!
Johnny! Dinner's on the table, boys!

Your father a kindly cultivated man,
modest, his speech dry and bright
like a cello – questioning us
at the table with witty attention –
a doctor who treated Guillaume Barré.

We were twelve-year-old friends
when I became your apprentice –
careless for numb noon,
caught up in steady response
to crafty forms and riddling shades.

You inhabited a cloudy solitude
like a meditative Leonardo, yet you
marshalled all the armies of Europe
in brilliant colors for us to survey,
clashing and surging across the floor.

And all history lay buried in the big
Egyptian attic, that family granary
of Time, steaming through the deep quiet
sustained chord of Minnesota summer,
the dense last hours of childhood.

All except for the room set aside
for your older brother, with the bright
football pennants and the trophies –
a father's eldest son, whom I never
met, who never came home from Vietnam.
Me, Bartleby?

Emotional realization yesterday : I don't have much going in the world other than poetry. Better lay off the chess for a while.


Noted here a few weeks ago that Anny Ballardini, mysterious unmet angel over yonder Italy-way, had taken it upon herself to translate my bk-long poem In RI into her native tonggue.

Any publisher out there who might be interested in doing a bilingual ed. of a long documentary sort of poem (vaguely Patersonish) about New England 1630-1640s, with Rog Williams, Key Into Language of America, Canonicus, Miantonomi & Narragansetts, w/divagations on Salem witch trials & King Philip's War, Anne Hutchinson, church/state separation & liberty of conscience, founding of RI, RI/Boston rivalries, RW & Milton, etc. etc. (poem written in early 1990s, now transmogrified into lingua di Dante)? Well, my email is listed on this blog. Otherwise we will probably self-do it, Nedge-style.


Not feeling very inspired nor glib toward the blog these days.

Poetry seems distant.

I read novels, plan prose projects, play online chess (when I'm not working).

Hope poetry comes back (it may).

Perhaps I'm going through a long-term natural (d)(r)evolution.

Seems to be no "context" for what I've done or haven't done, in the neighborhood. (I'm sure this is a familiar feeling.)

The battlefield is empty. A field seething with wind & crickets.

Disconnected from EVERY scene (except yours).


Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow (& today), everyone, from Henry & Bluejay & Blackstone & Prof. Hinkel too. In the morning we fly to Minnysota, where this turkey cames from. Here's my canonical (for now) T-poem, from Grassblade Light chapter "The Lost Notebooks":


A little rain on Thanksgiving. Then moist air,
light clouds flowing under a luminous half-
moon. I walk along wet streets (whiff
of turkey floating with me) to the curved corner

guarded by an old, elaborate iron gate
into the playground, quiet tonight,
where we brought them long ago. Light
patter on the fallen leaves. The distance.

Yours, theirs... my own. The infinite
abandoned garden. I shall not drink with you again.
Until. Henry in his cardboard coracle (man
overboard), and Blackstone, carving in granite

the gnarled character for hollowness,
and Bluejay, waiting on the empty table,
pilgrim-servant-scavenger – the whole stable
gathering together by the empty sofa, sees

her, coming aboard – the day of Jubilee.
Across the empty plate of prairie
where the wind is born, and, ghostly,
elevates a clay-bowl memory (into eternity).

Because every feast's Thanksgiving, after all –
a shared-out superflux, unto the Peaceful One;
and every woman's Indian, and every man
is rubicund – ruddied by the blessings of the fall;

and while we walk beneath the twilight sphere
in gradual harmony, an excess love extends
its kelson overhead – the cosmos sends
a simple letter, momentary sentence: Join me here.

from a section of Grassblade Light, called "Letters to Elena":


i.m. Armand Schwerner

Padre Soler is on the radio...
heart be ashamed of heart, blent
with life's foundations
. The listing, bent-
over, heeling, keening keel's – gone solo.

Pianissimo now, catamaran. Akhmatova
besieged in Petersburg – heart is irate,
Assyrian, on fire – a Q? Decipher it.
Leave it for burnt notebooks – clamor

of the throng. The slow leavings erase
themselves – float off with what you see
each day, as a tree in a square of squares
is branching. Fire-tong or supergrass –

farmed-out – superfluous and quadrilateral.
These half-notes, half-seen...
autumn's fall, cuneiform incision:
each heavy blade a W, left in the wall.

Axehead for all. But you...you will remember
the way it crystallized at last, fleet
flower: only a promise, the way sweet
slow wings emerge beneath your tenderness

the blackened score a dove cupped there
between prow and stern, amidships,
in the ribs. Undecipherable, your lips
lifting my fingers. Hush – beware.

Dust rises like your fingers to my lips,
like dew before the sun. Like the tracks
of man or wolf, in the blue snow,
by the deer licks. No one sees us go.


Ron Silliman has a nice post about Armand Schwerner today.


HGpoetics was begun last January. Life somewhat in transition (for me) means in 2004 I may not be babbling on here so much. May be leaving the library, at least temporarily, to work on a different project.

So I am already focused on those changes, & have not been writing much poetry either. & Poe-tree is something that has to be fed & watered (though I think sometimes, for some people, it's good to let it go for a while).

Me 51 years old. I've gabbed at length here about my poems & opinions, but it struck me today how I haven't actually been able to relate or describe the essential oddity of it all (or maybe I have). or conveyed what may be called the meanings of that oddness & outness.

There once was a poem I wrote called "Chant Royal", which included these lines:

         Now wholly lost, feet wandered where they would
on past imperial esplanades and palaces
down alleyways into the poorest neighborhood
where whitened maps and broken compasses
lay scattered through immeasurable garbage heaps.
There a translucent, anonymous rabbi sleeps.
Almost invisible, a shadow form.
He sleeps (eternally turning in his dream).
I enter there. In costume – as a clown.
He frowns. . . as though enduring a minor storm.
And that shell of a man was wearing a golden crown.

"I enter there. In costume - as a clown."

That line pretty much says it all.

If I try to think in the 3rd person about HG & his interaction with the world of "literature", the first thing I think of is my crisis in 1973, when somehow manicness & the ghost of Shakespeare & the Sonnets & the Bible & violence & dying & rebirth altogether took me by the scruff of the neck & practically shook the life out of me.

That was the gate, the pivot of everything. I was already well on my way to being a Young Literatus when it happened : had been writing poems since age 14 or so. But that experience changed my orientation completely, and its reverberations are with me continually. Since then I've always had the sense of coming at it (poetry, literature) from a somewhat different region or state of mind. It can be given a psychoanalytic spin, for sure; but I am guessing its "meaning" is mostly literary (what I mean, it's "explanation" might be drawn directly from a "theory" of what literature, writing, is in the world).

The Clown who juggles tradition through the hoop of a charismatic-liminal event - throwing "the Bible & Shakespeare" onto a somewhat uncanny anachronistic comic (absurd) stage, & thereby oddly working up another rendition of "tradition" - that's the literary Person you see/hear before you through these harangues, salvos, poems immense & minute, jags & dronings of the last year.
I am troubled by the apparent narcissism in the game known as Bingo.


I will be away for a few days as I am going to New Jersey. In the meantime, please try to finish your assignments for Prof. Hinkel. Pretty please. Back on Tuesday if not before.

40 years ago tomorrow I was in "chapel" when the school principal (Mr. Runkel) rushed in with the news & we were all sent to our home rooms & then home. I was eleven. JFK & I shared the same birthday & I took it personally.

5/29 is RI Statehood Day. my poems are one big RI sandbox litterbox.


and no one knows who killed the King
or the two princes by his side –
the talent that is death to hide
cannot un-Gordian anything.
Times are evil. Redeem the day –
that day he sat at Hammersmith
and merged the Peace Corps with the myth:
a green American sunray.

[Hammersmith Farm : Kennedy home in southern Rhode Island. JFK & Jackie were married in Newport.]

I know I've already told you this, but Prof. Hinkel wants you to memorize it so you can recite it back to him in 2043.

from "Midwest Elegy":

         On infinite plains,
Among seedy barns leaning
On edges of small groves of oaks
Just off the quiet roads, there
Everyone knows, serious life
Is elsewhere. War simmers
On the east coast, Dream
Shimmers on the west, the rites
Were unbelievably successful –
We fell in love with Marilyn
And Jack before their time,
They gave their lives, articulate
In the labyrinth – a consummation.
My lecture today concerns the life & times & work & life of the poet Gilroy Deathstar. Deathstar, born in 1984, lived in Oceania for a number of unnumbered years, years remarkable only for the trace of reminiscences of the trace of his presence in the margins of archival correspondence of fellow poets; this trace, repeatedly, refers to a particular odor, which emanated from Deathstar, apparently unbeknownst to him. It was an odor defined by its unmistakeable undefinability, both attractive and repellent (witness the number of reading invitations he received from prestigious and not-so-smelly outfits, based solely on the rumored impact of the odor).

Upon moving to Rhode Island, Deathstar immediately engrossed himself in the study of P.K. Bleffling, a local fictado of dubious reputation (Bleffing "sightings" are a seasonal pastime in that locale). According to Isabella Quintado, a close friend, Deathstar was obsessed with locating and tabulating the occurrence of his own name (Deathstar) in the works of Bleffling, to the detriment of his own creative labors. Quintado cites this obsessional pastime as the principal cause of Deathstar's general status as "ignota" in literary circles; but it is my purpose in the lecture at hand (which I will soon transmit from hand to voice to brains of Comp Lit 101 at John-John Univy Versity) to propose an alternative hypothesis, to wit: Deathstar's contemporary reception - between the years 1984 and 1984 - was determined solely by the indescribable, unmentionable (except in the marginal literary record) odor, which I have previously described (or mentioned, previously).

Solely, you say? Solely? And yet, how can anything solely be determined? When a literary personage enters a crowded reception room, with mirandas tinkling and martinis twinkling, and suddenly all heads turn in perplexed quizzicality (or should I say, quizzical perspicuity), and noses lift imperceptibly into the aether, and sniffs are erupting silently throughout the reception space - what have we here? Old socks? Could anything so banal serve as motive for metaphor? Or is the odor merely a sign of a social reprehension, an instinctual repulsion/attraction, which in ancient times led to "the crown that lies uneasy on the head bears"?

But I digress. Shakespeare & Deathstar, Deathstar & Shakespeare, we could spend the whole semestre incarcerated with these twins of doublet dubiety. And - hmmm. . . what's that. . . that. . . that. . . smell. . .does anyone else. . . c-c-class d-d-dism-m-missed! It's - DEATHSTAR!!! Arrrghghgh!!
me received (in exchange) : Buck Downs, Marijuana Soft Drink (Edge Bks 1999). thanks, Buck.


Jonathan, re psychoanalytic theory & humanities : see 1st chapter of new book, Violence and Modernism : Ibsen, Joyce and Woolf, by William A. Johnsen. Discusses Frye, Rene Girard & 20th-cent. (unfinished) project of a total theory of literature. Interesting, to me anyway. He specifically discusses limitations of psychoanalytic theories, along with those of structuralism & post-s.
         Go ye to ye documents, note
there, how little ye know.
Stories only scratch the skin, a kingfisher
flickering, tilted
toward the banks. For an argument, to achieve
an effect. What is this white surface of
recycled newsprint, scratched
by a scion, a scion of certain Puritans?
(Endicott's farm was adjacent to Zaccheus Gould's.)
A little more from an old "documentary" (In RI).

         RW stayed in London several more months.
The battle was on full tilt for Separation or
State Religion.
Cotton's tract The Keyes of the Kingdom of Heaven
became the Bible of national church forces.
Then on July 15th
appeared RW's The Bloody Tenent of Persecution
for Cause of Conscience
, his most far-reaching tract.
Defending freedom of religion,
he outlined a political philosophy
in which government was not divinely engineered,
but man-made
to suit the purposes of civilization -
the common peace and welfare of the people:
civic virtue
was a natural attainment, available to all,
and not an attribute of theological ordinance.
Spiritual achievement, soul
, was something yet again, far beyond the reach
of civil authorities to promote or require, except
through tolerance.

Since government was by nature humane and civil, "it must
consequently be of a humane and Civill operation." Secular
authorities were bound to promote civic virtue, but it was an
abomination if they confused good citizenship with religious
sanctification. Magistrates or rulers were not stewards of the
Lord but civil servants of the people; their duty toward religion
was to protect the right of the citizen to freedom of worship,
not to determine whether the citizen's religion was true or false.
These demands for a secular state Williams grounded solidly on
his deep faith in the common man and the power of reason in a
free people; and on page after page he drove home the
revolutionary democratic doctrine that governments derived
their powers solely from consent of the governed: "From this
Grant I infer...that the Soveraigne, originall, and foundation of
civill power lies in the people... And if so, that a People may
erect and establish what forme of Government seemes to them
most meete for their civill condition: It is evident that such
Governments as are by them erected and established, have no
more power, nor for no longer time, then the civill power or people
consenting and agreeing shall betrust them with. This is cleere
not only in Reason, but in the experience of all commonweales,
where the people are not deprived of their naturall freedome
by the power of Tyrants."
- Brockunier, Irrepressible Democrat

On September 17th (Constitution Day)
1644 RW disembarked (boldly)
in Boston,
and presented the magistrates with a letter
signed by prominent lords and commoners
(Northumberland, St. John,
Masham, Barrington, etc.) praising RW's
"Indian labours" and expressing sorrow
over the disagreements
with the Bay colonists. RW requested
safe passage to the border;
it was granted.
At Seekonk, fourteen canoes
full of friends from Providence
escorted RW,
"hemmed in the middle", across
to home. With him from London came
Gregory Dexter,
the radical printer from Stationer's Hall.
Condemned by censors in parliament
for certain tracts,
he followed RW overseas. His final
London publication:

Almanack for Providence Plantations in New England for 1644.

(February 4 - I'm thinking of Naguib Mahfouz
in a Cairo hospital, with a neck wound -
and Sheik Rahman
on trial for bombing New York - and Egypt
fissuring, decaying
between imperial strings,
and a secular state full of rich mafiosi,
and priestly politicians
tyrannizing the slums -



I'm glad I sound so much like Matthew Arnold. Especially when I'm trying to sound like Joyce.
Gee(w)z, I come back from dawdling on break in the bookstacks reading Rene Girard on mimetic rivalry. . . only to find myself parodied by Jonathan Mayhew. it's been a long day. Jonathan, you've been reading way too much Robert Lowell in your spare time. Plus, where are the doggerel rhymes? This am't parody, it's travesty. I'm shocked, shocked.
A little more from In RI. (The poem was written some years before Rosmarie Waldrop published her "take" on Roger Williams' Key Into the Language of America.)

         Waves sonorous against the prow,
flowing astern quietly, softly.
Lay the feather down,
NETOP. WEQUANTIG. Candle, light.
UNHAPPO KOSH? Is your father
Let us make a fire. NOTE,
NOTAWESE, little
fire. AWAUO? Who is at home?
over the water.
How doth your wife? ASPAUMPMAUNTAM
COMMITTAMUS? I came from far,
glad you are well. Eyes. WUSKEESQUASH.
Where are your eyes?
WUNNICHEKE. Hand. I am tired.
sleep here. NOTE.
KP's essay provoked in me a sort of nostalgia for the fascination I felt for the "investigative" poetics of Pound/WCW et al., about 15 years ago.

A rush of energy from the mere practice of collage/documentation - the inclusive "grab-bag" technique which allows the immediacy (or the illusion of immediacy) of events to break into the poem.

But to think that poets have some privileged insight into politics or history as a consequence of these techniques. . . or to think that such poetry grants a privileged insight to others. . . these claims are questionable.

I am put off by the easy contrast of "faith" (equated with fundamentalism) and "investigation", which is linked in the essay to a whiff of intellectual pride (as in the rhetorical exaggeration of the opening sentences, where KP says that these days simply being critically intellectual is an act of defiance; echoed in the ambiguous citation of paranoid conspiracy theories).

& it seems to me that there is an Achilles' heel in an approach which vaunts investigative journalism as the implied substance of poetry. In a sense, both faith & the purpose of poetry are useless & unproveable, in parallel ways; a poetics which devalues them becomes, in the end, only journalism.

Prevallet's essay doesn't go that far. But I'm raising questions, because I see parallels between the "post-avant" formulations of, say, Ron Silliman, and the politically-correct version of "rhizomatic" poetry/journalism proposed by KP. For both, poetic technique and political viewpoint are mutually-reinforcing. This may be all well and good for those who admire both the technique & the politics; but for skeptics, such simple equations often produce empty generalizations & blind spots.
At Josh Corey's suggestion, re-read Kristen Prevallet's essay on "investigative poetics".

Progress is happening toward italian bilingual publication of "history poem" In RI. KP published part of it in Apex of the M years ago.

Boston had no case against Miantonomi, so
they released him to Uncas; shortly thereafter,
while leading him

down a path, one of Uncas' men drove
a hatchet into Miantonomi's skull.

It's dark out now. But the lights are on again.
Narragansett Electric at work on the lines,
or the generator.

For me to narrate? Delving in
hell for the details?




The New Year arrived. . . babbling in the drink.
No one but no one was ready for the flood,
the jovial frenzy was times squared -
even a moving Titanic had no time to sink!

Henry was homebound again in Providence,
supine with a backache on his favorite couch;
tabled at foot level - a little clay conch,
a toy fisherman's coracle - his mother's hands

fecit. Lucky, christened on the bow.
A contemplative, maybe pickled pescatore,
casting his rod in the unmoulded mare.
Lucky - lucky to come up with. . . zero.

from Stubborn Grew [written in 2000, after millennial Jan 1.]

[nota: Lucky, a little clay fishing boat docked on Fisher St. in Providence, as opposed to Sophie, the little wooden bathtub boat my mother also made, which sits (to this day, I hope) on a windowsill in Elena Shvarts's apartment in Petersburg.]
Poe, mirror-master, doppelganger-haunted ("William Wilson", Poe+Poe), is the poet of the number 2;
Whitman ("doubleyou-doubleyou"), singer of cosmic Unity, is the poet of the number 1;
Dickinson, of course, at the vanishing-point (Eternity/Zero Hour), is the poet of. . .
Finishing up John Irwin's splendid Mystery to a Solution. It occurred to me over the weekend that there's perhaps a certain blind spot in this study of blind spots.

Irwin investigates Borges' labyrinthine project of doubling/alternating Poe's trio of detective stories. Both writers reveal an intense fascination with the "reflexive" capacity of reflection - its tendency toward infinite regression/progression (the way a "complete" map located in a certain landscape would have to include an image of itself in that landscape). Irwin thematizes this aspect of reflection as inherent in the nature of self-consciousness : how we cannot "think" of ourselves without in some way splitting/doubling ourselves; how this binariness is incorporated in our physical structure (the 2 mirrored "halves" of the body); how the reflexiveness of art is epitomized by the mystery story, and can be traced back to, among other sources, Greek tragedy : ie., the double story of Oedipus - as the hero who proceeds from divining the Sphinx's riddle (the solution to which is "human being"), to becoming, due to the inherent blind spot of reflexivity, both the detective and the criminal he seeks.

Irwin shows how masterfully Poe incorporates reflexivity - the double-fold of "stories about themselves" - in "Purloined Letter" & "Murders in the Rue Morgue" - by (among a multitude of other means) reference to mathematics & the game of "even & odd". Just as the detective plays a guessing game with the criminal, the author plays a guessing game with the reader (a race between the reader & the detective to solve the mystery). Irwin traces how Poe elaborates "odd and even", "simple and odd", into an oscillation between the numbers 3 and 4, geometrized in a square "letter" folded once in half on the diagonal (thus a 4-cornered square becomes a 3-pointed triangle) : a diagonal which is an irrational number, a number which thematizes the incommensurability - the vertigo of infinity - in reflexivity itself. (David Foster Wallace has just published an enormous tome on Cantor's systematization of the infinite math involved here).

The sense one gathers from Irwin's presentation is of an art of infinite regression, ambiguity & recurrence, based on an irresolvable oscillation between self and other, even & odd, 1 and 2, 3 and 4 : an infinite which adds endless complexity and echo to every representation.

What occurred to me over the weekend, however, is that there is something missing from the math here. Something so simple, so obvious, so "hidden in plain sight" (like the purloined letter) - yet something which can't be left out of the cosmic literary design : ie. zero, nothingness.

The difference between zero and one, between nothingness and something, trumps the difference between 1 & 2. The difference between nothing and something is greater than the difference between a thing and its image.

Strangely, it's on this most basic difference that identity - self-identity - finds its ground. & one might say that the deepest verbal "reflection" - the Bible, the Book of Genesis - is grounded on this difference : both in terms of the question of creation from nothing, and in terms of the prohibitions against graven images.

One might also extrapolate a theory of Incarnation on this same basis. The doubleness of human being in a sense contains both "fallenness/salvation" since being made "an image of God" is inherently contradictory. How can you have an image of the imageless? You can, if human being is inherently both fallen (a "mere image") and redeemed (an integral, unknowable, unimaginable self-like-god, a "one"-where-there-was-nothing).

Thus the self can be understood as integral rather than "simply" split & doubled : but only on the ground of unknowable creation-from-nothing, and only in relation to an "imageless", unknowable numero uno.

[p.s. addendum : I guess I'm being somewhat contradictory myself in closing sentences here, re the doubleness/integral(?) character of the self. What I'm trying to say is that the mind/body problem, or the doubleness of fallenness/salvation, or the mirror-like bilateral symmetry of the body - all this "doubleness" is resolved or trumped by the notion of creation-from-nothing. In other words, again, the difference between zero and one is greater than the difference between 1 and 2 or self and other. I see I have doubled a previous statement here (I see I have doubled a previous statement here).]


When I have time, in another life, when I am the Auguste Dupin of literature, I want to write an essay on the curious affinities between EP & EP, Poe & Pound, 2 po's. Time has somewhat obscur'd what a voracious, clamorous, devious, ambitious, many-minded chap-of-letters Poe was. Irwin's book (Mystery to a Solution) brings this out to some extent, emphasizing Poe's acquaintance with the intricacies of Parisian science/math/politics of his time.

(Whitman, one of the few to show up at his funeral.)

(Bluejay, in Stubborn Grew, has his own wacky theories about EP & EP.)


As I've always said, out loud, and I think Prof. Hinkel will agree with me, there's something essentially utopian/Platonic/gnostic about the general notion of Language Poetry. I am referefering to the "general notion", not individual language poets (individuals don't exist in language poetry theory, anyhow).

It's a product of an intellectual function, a procedure. Excise that pesky "speech" of "idealized Subjects" (people) and you will liberate "writing" to reflect a liberated consciousness in an un-liberated society.

The trouble is, that repressed self, that ego, that person, always returns (often in the form of individual Poets, those conceited Jabs of Gab). Je est un Auteur, ("I is an Author", quoting Rimbaudelaise) : inescapable.

I is in favor of Bruegelian Personism. ("I" said that. Hinkel too.)
This just in from AP wire services: Moon Does Not Have Expanses of Ice

The most exacting analysis yet of the moon's

mysterious polar craters found no sign of the vast
expanses of ice that scientists had hoped future
lunar colonists could someday mine for precious,
life-sustaining water.

The findings do not mean there is no ice in the
permanently shaded craters. But if there is ice,
it is probably mixed into the lunar soil in widely
scattered flecks or in thin layers.

``It certainly would have been nice to find some
sort of lunar skating rink, or thick layers of ice, but
it looks like it's just not there,'' said Bruce Campbell
of the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Earth
and Planetary Studies.

Well, what do they expect? The moon is a refrigerator, not a freezer. They need to look on the Lower Southeast Quadrant Shelf near the Lunar Kitchen Window, and they need to be looking for cheese, not ice.

Jonathan takes issue with this article on Language Poetry (by Oren Izenberg) in Critical Inquiry. Maybe I'll get back to it.

Note to myself : subtract "I" & "voice." Add "text." Try to do before Fri.


I think I got to the main issue in my comment to Ron's WC Williams post of yesterday, which was that Williams' true antagonist there was Eliot, and Eliot's notion of tradition. Perhaps my word for that notion, "love-clasp", was a bit baroque.

The notion is that poetic tradition is profoundly anachronistic, working against time & succession. The reason for this is that the poet is as much a listener & reader, as speaker & writer, responding to the music as well as making it.

The idea of the Classic is loaded, controversial in our era. But the best way I can imagine understanding it is to think of poetry - to try to remember how I responded to it as an adolescent, when ordinary life on the one hand had a certain wholeness to it (books & intellectual things only part of a general effervescence), while on the other hand "books", "poems", were things: distant, solid, heavenly objects, rather than blips or word-streams in an all-consuming Library of information & commentary.

I'm not describing this as well as I'd like.

In this adolescent context - when literature is a healthy Otherness and paperback books are strange cherished objects - think of the Classic as a kind of representative formulation of a distant time & culture. Ie. whether it's Homer or Dickinson or Sappho or Rimbaud, what the adolescent reader sniffs & senses is an affinity for the wholly human within a wholly-different time & place. & that affinity - that blend of identification, curiosity, exploration, & desire to imitate - is the substance of the communication, the correspondence, and the source of the pleasure & excitement of reading.

Again I'm really expressing this poorly, but the presence of the Classic-as-affinity is the very - the essential - thing which draws out or draws toward the representative "abstract" (Stevens' sense) in our own efforts.
More thinking on C. Wright's comments quoted at Hotel Point.

What is good poetry?

It's possible that the fundamental aspects of poetic structure & form have been summarized permanently, say in Jan Mukarovsky's On Poetic Language, where he says, agreeing with Wright, that the line (in counterpoint to the phrase) establishes the basic music/rhythm underlying (heightened, intensified) poetic speech. Perhaps making debates & polemics out of these basic elements is no longer relevant (as it was in last mid-century).

What the poet does with them (in terms of diction, style, subject-matter) is maybe where analysis (poetics) begins, now.

Have to run, more later, maybe. Looking for Mukarovsky's name in my own hgpoetics archives (I was trying to remember it). Sheesh, what a gabber I've been.
some comments on Silliman's WCW etc. over at Hotel Point. "Form is finite, structure is infinite." (Charles Wright) I like that.

34. Imagine two similar oblogs (I have a cold) or ellipses, intersecting at points A & B. Let us call them oblogs O and 0 (zero). Let us let oblog O represent "poetry", and oblog 0, "poetics". Color in the intersecting area (a muted colorado or vermilion will do well; your choice), and call this area Q. Now apply your Ziescchen microscope so that the focal area corresponds to the center portion of area Q. Look closely. You will see, standing there at approximate lat/long 35'/18', with one hand in a gray raincoat & the other clutching his pipe, none other than - Friedrich Hinkel, Prof. Emeritus.
Feels a little like Japan, or maybe Paris, here, today. Shibui.

Parasol, parapluie. Wet, black bough.
Dark moist November morning, not too cold. Lovecraft doing his Poe imitations over in Swan Point Cemetery. Must leave off chess & get back to Dove St. Peace & muttering, not war & gameboards.


here's another section from My Byzantium (actually this was swiped from a brochure about a state park in southern MN). (poem appeared in Way Stations)


The quartzite ridge you are now standing on
is about 23 miles long, 800 feet wide, and rises
some 100 to 300 feet above the nearby
agricultural fields.

The hard, red-to-pink Sioux
quartzite exposed here is one of the oldest
bedrock formations in Minnesota and was deposited
originally as red sand

all the glyphs at the Jeffers
site were produced by pecking with a pointed rock
held in the fist and used as a punch
struck with a hammerstone

carvings that resemble
bird tracks can be found

turtles, geometric designs,
bison figures, stylized thunderbirds,
and birds in flight

a long-legged animal glyph
which could represent a horse

Dragonfly and linked circles.
The dragonfly is a common Dakota motif,
and the linked circles were often
used. . . to depict the passage of time.
from My Byzantium, a poem written around 1997.


Byzantium falls like a sour apple,
and light falls softly on the eyes
of the young girl in Vermeer's
most august gaze – in the blue
turban, turning to look, or
turning away. One pearl
gleams in her ear.

On Veteran's Day
the yellow leaves fall from black trunks,
a hollow sound empties the capital,
the train moves slowly, Citizen Cain
is jealous of his rival's powers
of enunciation, he wants to sit up front
on Airforce One and talk to the
Stones, he vows to cast his seed
every which way, the way rich men everywhere
anchor their arks on air, namecalling,
mudslinging – bagmen, bag ladies,
their lot cast on the periphery
of the supermarket, are invisible
until they begin spitting crosshairs,
and the whole city turns,
slowly, pinned
on a gargantuan
the intentions
of the rabid millenarians
remain unknown –

Headshot. Cut to flashback.
– targeting, on television,
the brain of a rabbi – Jack
Oswald Ruby, the look
of a trapped rabbit fading
in the hallways of the Hermitage –


Beneath the layers of detached leaves
there is always something older, deeper, more hidden:
under the piles of grounded macintosh turned
brown, a trace of Blackstone's yellow sweeting –
the first American apple, planted
by a shy Anglican hermit
on the slopes of Study Hill (in Cumberland,
near the graveyard of the first American
shopping center).

The day dies, the year
dies, a conjunction of evening star
with star; a dim light
through the lilac dusk fibrillates
on the sickbay window into
countless tiny paths, meandering
threads – how many
stranded together
to form the small island
of a painted smile? The waiting
eyes, beckoning, withdrawing, innocent
beneath the blue turban?

On Veteran's Day
I recognized your insignia,
but underneath lies another
trinity, another constellation
gathers in the looming dark.
Apples mouldered in the shadows
of the traces of the Byes'
abandoned farm; that bird I
looked for, hidden in the shiny
fur of the Hermitage, warbled
a death-song, kind,
perfect; I wanted to curl up
and sleep under the falling snow,
sleep with all the peaceful shapes
in the stillness of Vermeer's studio, under
the frosted glint of a single pearl;
sleep with the whole world falling asleep
in the snowbanks, on the shortest day,
sleep in the grave where John Donne sleeps,
in the oldest graveyard, in the drift of wheat,
numb, senile, a drowsy despot, nestling,
eyes closed with snow-white lime,
with the scent of snow-topped
apples. . .

Never again
to face those insignia
of the real, the unbooked
war – in the weariness
of imperial dusk, where veterans
share their dying with speechlessness,
between Crusader and Saracen,
crescent and cross mingling one
ruby drop of blood from the chest
of a hermit thrush.

But there is always something deeper, a little deeper,
in the waste places, along the roadsides
of abandoned barns and factories,
persisting, faintly; trying
to come back –
among the bent
roadsigns left behind,
waiting, subsisting, imagining
eyes that penetrate
through the petrified
screens –


Maze/garden/chessboard. Thos. Browne, Borges, Lewis Carroll, Poe. (Not to mention Nabokov, & "The Tempest".)

Ah, bear in mind this garden was enchanted! - E. Poe, "To Helen" (Helen Whitman, who lived on Benefit St., down the hill from here.)

"Poe. . . a minor poet. . . who engendered Baudelaire, who engendered Mallarme, who engendered Valery, who engendered Monsieur Teste." (Borges)
The same cunning Daedalus who planned the labyrinth. . . was said to have made a dance for Ariadne, daughter of Minos. . . When Theseus landed with Ariadne in Delos on his return from Crete, he and the young companions whom he had rescued from the Minotaur are said to have danced a mazy dance in imitation of the intricate windings of the labyrinth; on account of its sinous turns the dance was called "the Crane". - Frazer, The Golden Bough

(Beatrice a sort of Ariadne for Dante, threading through the intricate classical-medieval maze.)
Vagueness, talking-around, indirection, irony, dissimulation. A slide rule has a variety of applications.
If you want a model for engaged poetics, why keep looking at Olson & the grandfathers? Why not look at Sophocles? If you look at Sophocles long enough, you might see some interesting poets working NOW that you missed before.
Jordan & Ron on "vagueness". I commented to Ron, but I don't think I got it right either. Poetry is not "more primitive than politics". One can intepret or intuit the political aspect of any experience or situation.

I guess what always bothers me is the equation "moral high ground = poetic innovation". Morality always seems easy for the moralists; therefore it can become a function of style, the sword & shield of whole literary movements.

Undoubtedly the state of a culture - its educational & moral values & standards - will be reflected in its literary styles. But these are HARD TO READ in contemporary circumstances. How much harder to invest & bind them into literary-progressive movements.

Art & poetry are always being marshalled into somebody's scheme for world improvement. But to create an original work of art is a different & more difficult undertaking, because the work is a kind of end in itself : and AS AN END IN ITSELF it makes a statement about the nature of experience which jars with programmatic or politically-correct (in anybody's system) this-leads-to-that projects for world improvement.

None of these formulas (mine included) get it right, because we want to hear it straight from the work of art itself; we want the voice saying YES or NO to come from the poet & the poem, not the commentator. Criticism & comment are dogged by this inherent irrelevance, always talking AROUND something not yet achieved. I suppose someone has noted this constitutive flaw (in fact the deconstructionists did : but their mistake was to think that such flawed theoretical discourse was all there is).


late late Fri night (harvest moon) reading J. Irwin's great & marvelous book, Mystery to a Solution. . . about the function of the mirror labyrinth double axe design of nature (the two halves of the body & their disequilibria) & Jorge Luis Borges. . . has anyone noticed the Minotaurean-monstrous (a)symmetry of Borges' own name? I'm sure.

"The idea of a house built so that people could become lost in it is perhaps more unusual than that of a man with a bull's head, but both ideas go well together and the image of the labyrinth fits with the image of the Minotaur. It is equally fitting that in the center of a monstrous house there be a monstrous inhabitant." (Borges)

Irwin describes how Borges' ambition for a South American literary origin shaped his design, his ambivalence/attraction to Poe, a fellow "Southerner"/military/alien from the "North" - yet a Northern (American) rival. . .

the amazing thing is the finesse & subtlety with which Borges played these games. . . & Irwin's ability to discern them. . .

my own affinities (as a North-Easterner from old New England North Star State military family) despite these glories tend toward Walt Whitman and Abe Lincoln. . .

but No-body in Maliceville will notice.

- 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).

- from July


Shooter & Chutes & Sons is coming out with a gigantic anthology titled Generic Poems. This ambitious project aims to include 99% of poems published previously in the United States. The book is expected to cover an area the size of Texas (though most of the New England States - Rhode Island excepted - are bidding to have it "dumped" somewhere along their shared coastline, maintained afloat on the ocean surface by a string of wind turbines). Poems will be grouped randomly, as the editors have concluded that, according to Beckham Biggs, Generalissimo Editorissimo, "actually, most of these poems sound a lot like other poems. The echo effect is excruciatingly painful." (New England's strong suit is their argument that shoreline white noise will dramatically reduce the expected damage to acoustical membranes by close proximity to this echo. However, the fact that the book will be larger, perhaps much larger than the state of Texas, has forced Texas to file a plea for restraining order with the Soup Court of Texas.)

Despite these and other issues, the project is moving forward, according to unnameable sources. 7 million "pre-read" blurbs have been collected on CD-Rom from all the known poets of Boston, New York and Cleveland, Michigan. President Bush has weighed in, suggesting that "collecting all the. . . poems, or whatever. . . in one place will allow our forces to keep them penned up & out of harm's way." Howard Dean, in a rare moment of geometric congruence, agreed. "We're looking for votes from confederate flags and poets!" he said (to me, really, I'm not kidding).

Generic Poems is expected to change history. Whales will be used to imitate each poem, and whale-song cd's based on these recitals will be published in their tens of thousands. No one will want to listen to these, so it is widely expected they will be thrown to the sharks, in order to make them sharks violently ill.
kindergarten class in Fox Point playground sounds like a flock of starlings.

(who started it?)
Across my desk : Lorine Niedecker : Paean To Place (Woodland Pattern/Light & Dust, 2003). Autograph edition published in celebration of poet's 100th birthday. Nice, very nice pictures on cover. The poems printed in (her) handwriting : restful to screen-toss'd eyes. Edited by Cid Corman, afterword by Karl Young.

(& I happen to know the place she's talking about, that's nice too.)
Coffeeshop, on break, reading John Irwin Mystery to a Solution, on differential mirroring of opposites in chess (Borges strategy of mirroring Poe detective stories). The room cleared out, only two customers left, facing each other, reading, making notes, not looking at each other: Henry & CD Wright. (As I type this my department supervisor says with a chuckle to her supervisor, "I know I'm just a pawn in the chess game.")
I found a postcard of an old photo (the last taken) of E.A. Poe, stuck inside the special edition Raven from Berlin. Now it presides over my cubicle (which I may be leaving soon).

As if on the wrong side of the mirror,
He yielded, solitary, to his rich
Fate of fabricating nightmares. Perhaps,

On the wrong side of death, solitary
And unyielding, he devises more
Magnificent and atrocious marvels still.

- Borges, "Edgar Allan Poe"
Prof. Hinkel, in his latter days at Mt. Holyoke, when he was oft o'erthrown by the sherry bottle, was wont to say:

"Literature, my dears, is an eternal dreary chess game between Talent and Prestige. Both go down to defeat : the only winner (or perhaps loser, I should say) is the Chaste & Virgin Reader."
Thank-a you Chris Murray, for kindly & helpfrying comments on my a-blog.

Did you know that Fogman is a character in "Bluejay" stories from NW Coast tribes? You can look it up, I kid you not.

& in response to your pertinent & timely query, yes, I have indeed seriously considered changing my name. I've been thinking of changing it to Robert Frost, actually, but my lawyer tells me there is already a poet by that name. These lawyers! you pay through the nozh for their nit-picky trifles. I am seriously weighing my options on a scale of 1 to 10 and I do indeed include in those aforesaid options firing H. Cheliberate Phelps III of Hahvahd Law (finally!) & making my own decisions (for once!). Dude, where's my nickname?


As I was putting on my jacket, weak & weary, to leave the building for the night, Sam from Special Collections brought over one more book to process:

The Raven, by E.A. Poe. limited edition published in Berlin.
Saw kingfisher at India Point today. Very unusual (along with the usual doves, pigeons, gulls, starlings, coromorants, & swans). Halcyon.
. . . So, this Edgar Poe, while playing White Knight against the "school of Quietude", was at the same time playing Author of a British conchology textbook.

In chess, "where the pieces have different and bizarre motions, with various and variable values, what is only complex is mistaken. . . for what is profound." - "Auguste Dupin", in The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

. . . An here come his whiteface
double, po ol Poe! 1848 slidin like a dyin worm
down Benefit, shoes achin, head achin widda storm
a Whitman onna brain - yeah, the coal lady in lace!

Burnin coal, waitin by the window, lookin down
from the broken wall - one helluva Helen firin him!
Afloat in his mind he wander up to th'Atheneum,
gets his blacknwhite ticklelily icon taken

with a crown to his brow an his eyes awry, forever
an ever. He was damned an good at them posterior
analytics - helluva chilly mathematical germcarrier,
Poe. Black n' white everthing goes t'him - steer

for the po-po-Pole, amen! I mean, Dorr's dyin
bloated an blighted down in jail fo the franchise,
an Poe's upstairs brushin his teeth, realize -
dig Helen in the whitey semperequal sepulcryin

shame, man! She comin back like a ghost,
lil muddy, but o'clay! Cistern in the grounsoon!
Yeah, he play one limpin' aristocat, that one -
that only lonely Poe, po man - evbody get lost.

- Stubborn Grew

weird how Bluejay was predicting here the orpheosic return of Julie in the latter vols. of Forth of July. "The death of a young woman is poetry's supreme subject." (or something like that. . .) - EP
Gabriel!!!! (you're not reading my BLOG!!!!) The Conchologist's Text-Book, 1833, by Cap'n Thomas Brown, which I ordered for the Library a few weeks ago, has arrived!!! This is the Volume that someone calling himself "Edgar Allan Poe" (re)published in Philadelphia, giving Himself as Author!!!!

I quote from page 48:

Helix arbustorum - The Grove Helix.  Plate IX. 
fig.22. Sub-glubose, sub-pellucid, with five volutions; mottled
with ash-colour, and streaked with deep chestnut zigzag lines;
a single deep brown band commences at the edge of the outer
lip, and continues round the middle of the body and the
volutions to the apex; 3/4ths of an inch in diameter.
Inhabits groves in Britain.

EAP clearly ripped off the sexiest book in the English language.
Prof. Hinkel's middle name is, oddly enough, Vladimirovich.
The philosophical "paint-myself-into-a-corner" problem shows up in chess games all the time. The critic-polemicist enters the game as White Knight. Of course the ultimate checkmate is to tip over the board itself : but this is another form of one-upmanship. . . Ultimate Pacheesi. Prof. Hinkel, by by the way way, has written extensively (extenenenenensively. . .) about the cheese/chess oscillation conundrum. See his article in Amazing A-Mazes, "Cheddar Man in Petersburg : Prehistoric White Night?"

The player, too, is captive of caprice
(the sentence is Omar's) on another ground
crisscrossed with black nights and white days.

God moves the player, he, in turn, the piece.
But what god beyond God begins the round
of dust and time and dream and agonies?

- JL Borges, "Chess"
Once again malice gets the last word. The tongue is a wheel of fire, who can control it?
Dynamic symmetry, images of infinity based on self-reflexive designs : the whole which includes a part which contains the whole which includes a part which contains. . .

one recognizes this is the "paint myself into a corner" problem writ large (& small).

Over the years of my steady-erratic badmouth attack on the binary design of oppositionalism (starting with the Buffalo Poetics List around 1997) I have experienced in my flesh the scapegoat patter-pattern of ritualized literary malice. I have painted myself into the shady corner of infinite giggle-bytes.
Jonathan's cute comment is a mild & funny version of something I descibed yesterday as "malice constitutes the game of oppositions":

This got me thinking again about an idea I had several weeks ago: avant-garde eye for the mainstream poet: A team of four or five post-avant bloggers descend on the hapless straight man and start telling him to lose the blurb from Robert Pinsky, straighten out his similes. I think this could work. Any volunteers?

I've been talking about this phenomenon since the beginning of HGpoetics & long before; actually it's been my way of participating in the literary malice game.

"Oppositional poetics", built on a structural us/them division, is, in essence, a way of short-circuiting thought, a way of not talking about poetry, a way of avoiding substantial literary opportunities or challenges, a way of deleting reference to outsider audiences (outside the coterie) or general/anonymous audiences, a way of dumbing-down/negating literary history, a way of. . .

It's been the modus operandi of language-&-related school ("post-avant") polemics for years now. (It goes back before that to the hoopla around the New Americans, the debates about Paleface/Redskin, raw/cooked poetry; it goes back before that to the polemics of Moderns vs. Victorians, traditionalists vs. experimentalists, WC Williams vs. Eliot, & before that to Americans vs. British. . .) & I've been badmouthing it for years. It's been fun. Prof. Hinkel has even written a book about it : it's called The Garden of Forking Paths : My Journey into the Labyrinth of Mirrors Known As "The Garden of Forking Paths : My Journey Into the Labyrinth of Mirrors Known As The Garden of Forking Paths : My Journey. . ."


Lack-a-day, Providence has declared a fog emergency.
Fogman, what you doin'?

Walt Whitman stopp'd by, said to say hello.

I just thought I'd write this so malice didn't get the last word.

I am now leaving the building (to you, Agatha Trillenta : most beautiful and intelligent poet in the Western World, bar none).
malice constitutes the game of oppositions. Rene Girard.
from toward the end of July


A halting freedom hesitant, grieving
draws her on she's limping
on the empty earth
toward a last vagrant

flowering the way the Yenisei flows north
more slowly under the rustling ice
and the crackling of timbers
the way a clay wheel rotates

more slowly after your hands have
gone away the way he walks
(the greenish iron of a broken
spring Hans the yurodivy

lifted to his lips) the last ecstasy
blooming so invisibly but sounding
there diminished minor A
15th Quartet staggers so

delicately drawing on does not want
to end it or to leave the weeping women
there behind as his wind-dragged
accomplices (heart's magma Opus 1-3-2)

so in the myrrh within her casket of acacia
a pair of stones breathe from-the-depths
where two lines of their footsteps
meet and her wooden pine-box

makes an ark as Julius sees her
yurodive (steel spoke di-ditched)
a J-stroke (C-B fl. Shostakovich)
from the C and sown so recedes

(just a kinetic holey furled seashell)
into the mirror once again (an easy-
does-it Yenisei or seizure-salaud)
(let us pray for them sailing away)



George W. Bush is using language to topple the Tower of Babel in your backyard. This from a recent study by Elwood Latitude of the Latitude Leeway Foundation. Because he is President he thinks he can fool us with bomber jackets he bought at Job Lot, thinks he's cool. We know better, nyah nyah Georgie-Porgie! I will vote for Delbert Deal because he is a good deal better than his brother Fred Deal, who was an all-around Bad Deal. George uses language as if it were sticks and stones, but names will never hurt me, I am going home now for my mother calls me home from the flock with the flock, here little flock come with me for I am the good little Shepherd Boy.


Answer the following to the best of your ability, then call your pet in from outside and fill his/her pet bowl with it HAUTE CLAMANS:

1. George W. Bush is a:
a) President
b) form of raft
c) a type of fishing fly

2. My Favorite Blogger is:
a) me
b) you
c) the other one

3. If I had a Choice, I Would Order:
a) caviar
b) hot dog
c) none of the above (vegetarian)

4. To Me, Sex Is:
a) a dialogue of the deaf
b) better than cheese
c) both of the above (vegetarian)

5. Poetry Is:
a) better than cheese
b) the same as cheese
c) deeply intertwined with cheese at all levels
d) different from cheese
e) like cheese, sorta
f) a mode of cheese "language"
g) dissonant, yet, somewhat cheesy
h) political in the same way as cheese
i) more/less important than cheese
j) cheese, the last time I checked. shine, shine, shine!!

When you have completed this quiz, place your pencil on your desk at 90 degree angle from this quiz, and lay your head on the desk, and sleep, sleep. You have done well, good and faithful servant.
Why Josh & Jonathan are perturbed about Language Poetry I cannot fathom. Prof. Hinkel cleared all that up in his lecture yesterday.

Language Poetry conforms to the trope known as hypneropophatela (no relation to mortadella, which is pretty good with provolone), ie. "the use of a word as if it were a word", for ex. if I say "Give me that brick" in a language poem, this means precisely "Give me that brick" in a context wherein "bricks", "me", and "give" refer strictly to each other in equilateral congruence, ie. brick = me, me = give, and give = brick. Linguists believe this usage developed among children playing "rock scissors paper", a competitive form of an more "primitive" game called "mud puppy dwink".
I love this weather, not too cold, cloudy, moist, yellow leaves, or none, or few.

Sun Returns to Womb.

Driving through Jersey wastelands near Newark Airport over the weekend, had old recurrent impulse to dig cave in abandoned area (say near freeway off-ramp), start fire, live there. Kind of escapism. Poetics of hobo-ism (as distinct from homelessness).

Island Road begins in this weather. The "structured" meanings of this sequence have yet to be explored. Reading a poetic text re-enacts death/rebirth. The time-design, the seasonal "year" of Island Road, culminates in the Shakespearean "year"-echo in the section called "To the Green Constellation" (based partly on Fowler's numerological readings of The Sonnets). Sonnet-rebirth; Shakespeare-Now.

But you already knew that, and so does Prof. Hinkel.
Have been reading John T. Irwin again (Mystery to a Solution). In the intro he says he's working on a book about Crane.

Cloudy November day, chance of showers. Wear your headdress & golden slippers. Men, carry shields.


What I did today : smelled my socks before waking up, had nightmare, regressed to Zone 3 Sleep, heard chicken crossing road very loudly & woke up with start, smelled socks again, got very depressed, rolled over, decided to get up & eat breakfast, sleepwalked into kitchen smashing head on corner of fridge, opened fridge door, smelled socks again, realized I was still dreaming, smacked myself upside the head & finally awakened, smelled coffee at first but then decided it was socks, ran out door screaming, ran back in put clothes on ran out door screaming, walked in nonchalant fashion to coffeeshop (Jimby's), had 7-League-Boots Kenyan with 17 truckloads of sugar and a diverted-river's-worth of half & half, thinking this would do the trick, fell asleep at counter before paying, was ejected spiritually and intellectually from coffeeshop by Bruno, very politely, went to chiropractor for dislocated body, left chiropractor without paying (they are all quacks), was chased by chiropractor back to my house, went in house & barricaded door, realized I had not been dreaming & immediately fell into deep blissful slumber, troubled only by images of gigantic pincers reaching for my refrigerator (no problem, they can have it), slept for rest of day (that's all I can remember - is it tomorrow yet, or still yesterday?).
HGPoetics has been a blog for 10 months. The world has changed much since I began; new hairdos have appeared; people are predicting things which happened, as well as the obverse (things have happened which people will predict), otherwise, things have been pretty much going along as per. I have reported dutifully on everything I noticed along the way, including the high proportion, in comparison with previous decads of months, according to the Julian calendar, of poems about cheese which made their presence felt in the spectacular and mind-goggling literary whirl which is our fate. Thank you, merci beaucoup, dear readers, for accompanying me on our journey of change and growth; I hope to be with you for many more decads of months in the coming days & years.
I myself have always considered Duluth cheese superior.
Hello again, people of the world. I greet you from the mountaintop off-centered in the vale which is Providence, former armpit of New England, now fragrantly deodorized.

My lecture this morning centers on Language. Language, the thing, the poetry Movement, the something something.

In recent decades "Language" has been re-conceptualized for us by a looseleaf-bound collective of poet-thinkers, who around the mid-70s discovered the comic potential of tautology and self-reflexivity, if you "know" you know what I "mean" mean. How do we know we know? Since in "knowing" ourselves we enact a fission of subjectivity, producing a knower/known dichotomy where once was a single "identity" (I put "identity" in quotes in case someone tries to hit me)?

Let me ask again, "?"

Ron Duluth foresaw the cul-de-sac of "language" about "language" several years before language poetry came to the fore (perhaps intuiting the epistemological conundra by way of his own name, often implicated in a radically unstable way with the third largest city in Minnesota, at the apex (or nadir, if you will) of the largest freshwater body of water in the world, Lake Superior. Duluth, twinned with the town of Superior, Wisconsin, has as a result been "subjected" to an inferior "position" (since Superior, Wisconsin will always be "superior"), and Ron Duluth, unavoidably linked with his namesake city, Duluth (the dual "u"s in Duluth undulating with reinforced abjectivity), is himself consequently abjectified within a form of urban "inferiority complex", resulting in an emotional shading of surface phenomena denying meaning to itself, in itself (& for itself, obviously).

Thus in this sociological complex we recognize by analogy a structure of hierarchical power relations, whereby "poetry" - already abjectified as "inferior" to utilitarian prose (which does things with itself) - when identified with Language-As-Language, reverses these power relations by instaurating them in formal actualization. In doing so, however, "language poetry" attaches to itself a permanent Achilles heel, a wound or scar, the mark of Cain or ritual victimization, just as "Duluth" (Ron, I mean) by the very fact of identity of name-and-(inferior)-city, is immoveably positioned in his victim status (as inferior to Superior, Wisconsin). Thus we see how the tautology of self-reflexivity has come full circle : the abjectivity of poetry, having been granted a "name" ("Language"), is now confirmed in a kind of official academic-ceremonial status-granting ceremony (indicated by my lecture, which you are "reading" at this moment (I think so, anyway, unless you're slurping some coffee all over your keyboard instead)).

This week's assignment : re-read the Collected Completely Long Poems of Ron Duluth, and "write" an essay based on your "responses" to his "work". Due Friday; no excuses.

- Professor Hinkel