. . . as the poems of Joe Ceravolo being one poem, being "Joe Ceravolo", the poem itself a variation on "Joe Ceravolo" standing still, being Joe Ceravolo, listening, the poem essentially a variation, or turn/trope/conceit, that is, of Joe Ceravolo turns a poem out of "Joe Ceravolo", which will always be Joe Ceravolo being always, a million years old, like stars in the sky, the complete Joe Ceravolo.

or Emily D. or Wally S. or Ariosto, so.

or Louise at the bakery.

the feeling you have sometimes of being a million years old.

fossil layers of memory in the limestone.
reading: Eric Ambler, Epitaph for a Spy
Sayyid Qtub, Milestones
(stopped reading Kwinter also)

thinking of novel to be called Chronicle of Jehan.

Thinking there must be more to be thought about origin of poetry at the threshold of adulthood, when childhood is already a memory, & fictions are subject to disenchantment. Moment of premonition. intimations of (im)mortality.

sense that the artist has one song, subject to endless variation. inimitable. not so much a style as a moment of stillness, awareness, premonition. not mechanical surrealism ("fancy"), but still off the edge because emerging from so far down in the brain or heart. hobo song. duende.

song as swelling of the heart & premonition of death. feeling of fate. amor fatum(?) nothing to be done, only celebrate what you sense to the end. Auden's inner landscape that every poet carries around.

ultimate disenchantment. time only a moment & every person a world. the singer standing there singing, while fictions crumble & dissolve.


Robert Frost (today his birthday) prophesies rap music in 1959, over at Laurable.
previous post reminded me of this old hg poem:


"I want to stay -"
he cries, the willows
rattle and play and the voice
is carried far away downstream.

Downstream, in autumn,
the bums are coughing, and smoke
for the wisps that rise
and cool; they stay awhile.

They lie and cough,
the willows play, the sun
is red - rattle rattle
go away, go away.

The story is for winter
to forget, when woods are dark
and snow is lightest in the darkness
- and that light is deep.
Anastasios, I agree with you that there are powerful cultural & political forces on the Right in the US that employ, both consciously & unconsciously, forms of mythological thinking that overlap a kind of literal-magical sense of scriptural Christianity, with obedience to the state (in this case right-wing Republicans who manipulate those very mythologies).

On the other hand I don't agree with you that these forces simply "run" America, nor that they are uniform & merely simplistic in their attitudes themselves (I mean the fundamentalists). In a real sense the left-academic worldview is out of touch with religious AND political culture in the US, & suffers from mythologies of its own.

One of them being that Bush et al. (because they are capitalist fundamentalists) MUST have an evil plan for world domination, that we are simply repeating the Vietnam War in Iraq, that all the anti-war propaganda is the moral high ground, etc.etc.

It's a hopeless task trying to formulate the perfect political position, because perfection is actually getting away from it all, perfection is going into the mountains & fleeing the beehive & the anthill, perfection is becoming a hobo, perfection is returning to childhood, when you understood instinctively the surrounding nest & neighborhood, & the outside world (mediated by tales of adventure & images of rough reality) was only a dream you imagined, before you grew up & walked eyes closed toward your image of adventure.

My sense of poetry, I think, comes from this experience of a happy & boring & too-secure suburban childhood, which, while you still inhabited it, instilled in you (through fleeting images & fiction & stories) a thirst & a desire to go out into the rougher, wilder, more real world : and then your discovery a little later that fictions & representations were artificial creations too, that the "real world" was rougher & more chaotic & painful than those images of adventure had been. Then poetry made its appearance. & this is why Hart Crane's formulation of the Bridge symbol seems so apt to me - poetry encapsulates a surrender to wildness & the unknown WITHIN words. But not a total surrender - it's both a surrender & a report from that region, thus a bridging action. Poetry is impulsive speech, like a glossolalia, like a response to unbearable pressure - pressure too strong for the constructs of ideology or the plotted atmosphere & stage-craft of fiction.

So poetry is a kind of charismatic or epileptic or orgasmic response to the failure of artificial fictions of the world. This is an aspect of poetry that strikes me in poets like Whitman, Dickinson, Crane, Mandelstam. Of course poetry has its Apollonian side too, the aspect of wit, harmony & intellectual elegance. But the Dionysian element is just as powerful, & it plays against prose of all kinds.

Among other effects, this is what underlies the appeal of really good descriptive poetry. You are getting a symbiosis of effects : Dionysian escape combined with the pure joy of questing into a larger landscape of the real world. Crane was right : the hobo has the key.

(p.s. I reckon the Taoist & Zen poets of East Asia knew something about this.)


. . . he says, sitting in judgement, parochial type that he is.

I don't believe in a man-made utopia; I don't lobby for The Way Things Are either. I just want to see more perception, more complexity, more specificity, more carefulness, more disinterested consideration. Less ideological jabbering & knee-jerk "critique" & sophomoric cardboard pettiness.
Jordan. . . I guess it's not the dream part that bothers me, it's the Dismantle. As I contemplate the dust storm of poetry list & blog political talk, I see mostly sterile, self-righteous, ignorant condemnations, by people who don't recognize or understand the values that sustain our own culture. It's a closed spiral of capitalism, globalism, militarism, Americanism, according to them : and they themselves are the flip side of the Rush Limbaugh US-right-or-wrong spouters. Both apply a utopian perfectionism in order to sit in judgement - one says America is always right, the other America is always wrong. It's a kind of rigid thinking. Unable to comprehend that politics is the art of the possible, and that we have to also look at societies laterally, comparatively, not just from a vertical superior position.

I'm part of a study group at my church. We're looking at Papal encyclicals on social life over the last 100 yrs or so. There are several consistent principles or themes over time, centering around the inherent dignity of the human being. Some of the economic principles struck me : such as the idea that labor & capital need each other, and need to find common ground; also the idea that the right to own property is a basic right & a social good, though it is a right that is qualified by the common good and by the responsibilities of stewardship. These are deep & pervasive global ideas, which the superficial anti-capitalist conspiracy mentality cannot understand.

Most of the so-called conscientious protest I read on the poetry sites strikes me as mental ignorance & complacency. It's a kind of glorying in marginality, and the irony is that those who spend their hours & years in fussy ressentiment, rather than doing something useful for themselves or their world, are the most parochial types of all.
They are like people under attack who close their eyes & hope the badness will go away, while shouting imprecations at their own defenders.

They are like people thundering "Wait! We know better! Dismantle this society & remake it according to my dreams!"


p.s. to first post of today (below):

Zaccheus' brother Jeremy left Massachusetts for Newport with Anne Hutchinson's group. His eldest son Thomas owned a small island in Narragansett Bay (still called "Gould Island"). For a few years Thomas Gould rented a parcel there to Roger Williams, for growing hay.

Jeremy returned to England in the 1660s or '70s, at the age of 90. He died in his hometown in Herefordshire (Hemel Hempstead, I think), and was buried under "John Gould's Oak".
another section from July:


Across the wide ms. River shedding dough
and papyrus and leaping from junk
to junk the lincoln logs nudge
through dislodged snow driftwood

and balsam leaves and patches
of wet birch scrolled by heartworms
glowing under the bark the storm-
blown shells of beaver's feverish scrap-

muddled shields this is the stripped
taiga icebreaking in early spring
not unlike what you glimpsed
through the frozen window pressed

against the glass across rays of evening
through the black oak limbs peace
of horizon after century and seeping century
of sleeping centurions a last bronze shell given

away like a gong, Grandpa for distant Florence
swaddled in the haze of Voronezh hills
as the cardinal heart of a wood-dove swells
under the wooden ribs under their rough-

riffled sheath or shield of Grandma's
steel-eyed span the bird like a grain
of wheat (hidden there in Grandad's
elevator beneath remorse of guards)

piano thread of Pushkin-pizzicato violins
at the end indeed given not for the dead
but for the living a small knot of dried
clover out of mortgaged left field

shared by forty fingers in quartet
(thundering from empty oildrum of
Caesar's steel band's josh rolled-out)
a stalwart convalescent sweet Q-root

How to answer the theocrats.

A Christian perspective : God the creator provided humankind (made in God's image) with the capacity for self-governance, conscience, good will. Human will restored from corruption by the intervention of the Word of God (considered as beginning with call to Abraham). Origin of the "law & grace" distinction : when human good will is restored, need for patriarchal, authoritarian, punitive law fades away. Thus Isaiah says "I will write my laws on their own hearts", and the Psalmist describes how as he meditates on the Law in his mind it is sweeter than honey. Democracy has its roots in faith in human nature, & in governance (& self-governance) as a benign, inherent aspect of God-given creation.

Faith in human nature a reflection of understanding of divine nature (mercy, kindness, forgiveness, understanding, love).

Qutb's version of Islam (at least from the magazine summary : I want to look at his writings) seems to imagine a conqueror-God who installs his theocracy on earth. The attributes of this God are said to be compassionate & all-merciful, but the actions seem to reflect authoritarian control, a mistrust or belittling of his creatures, requiring strict & brutal punishments, and an all-seeing totalitarian eye, on the lookout for any non-conformity in thought or deed. "Freedom" in this context is freedom only to obey. But the notion of separation of church & state is predicated on the sense that, while the state & civil authorities may write laws for the protection of civil order, God's greatest spiritual gift is actually liberty of conscience - the capacity of the soul to think, judge, and act independently, as it sees fit. (Reason. Another name for the Holy Spirit is : the Truth.)
Unable to focus on poetry.

Forsythia budding against wall on Prospect St. outside Rochambeau House.

Fascinating NY Times mag article on Sayyid Qutb, Islamic thinker/revolutionary, influence on Al Qaeda et al. According to Qutb one of the roots of Western corruption is separation of religion & state. I live in Providence, home of "separation of church & state" (Roger Williams). Some of my Gould ancestors came here in 1630s, with Anne Hutchinson, driven out by Boston theocracy. Others were Quakers. Gr-gr-etc-grandpa Zaccheus Gould, expelled from his Massachusetts church for "harboring Indians & Quakers" (one was his nephew). When he was finally re-admitted, he sat in his pew with his back to the pulpit.


the ends never justify the means.

the means have to have their own justification.

especially when there is an acceptance of killing for the sake of some end.

someone will have to look very clearly, disinterestedly, not polemically or politically, at the occasions, motivations, & necessities of this war.

it may be justified. but it's hard to draw that conclusion without evidence of imminent threat. it's being justified as part of a long-term plan for dismantling of terrorism & state-sponsored terror. but will those ends ever really justify these means? we shall see.

another element in the equation up for judgement : the inherent extreme violence of the current Iraqi regime - whether it has forfeited its right to remain in power.

I don't think that reactive nay-saying is justified either. the moral thing is to search actively for ways to cooperate toward good ends, rather than taking cheap & conceited shots at our "enemies", rather than passing around partisan blanket condemnations. blah, blah, blah. there's enough of that vulgar crap on all the poetry listserves & blogs.

the famous Eisenhower M-I complex quote. what ends are served by maintaining this colossal technological war capability? mere domination? "security?" can we control or change those purposes? can we change world socio-political conditions, can we adapt more peaceable ways of thinking & behaving, can we dismantle this junk?
"Time as the permission to have an imagination."

There you go, Jordan !

re-write Ezra: "Make it Time."
"I will say it once more : the poem is an Egyptian barge of the dead, loaded with everything necessary for life." - Mandelstam
(In other words the language of poetry is seeded with death - but only in this way is it capable of bearing everything. . .)
Time, if it's a living entity of some kind, would have to trump death - because that appears to be the obvious terminus. Maybe time is a game we're playing - a play (it would have to be a miracle play).
How does it go? Emily D.:

"I dwell in Possibility"
The Kwinter paragraph (see below) sorta stopped me too, Jordan (post of today), though perhaps for different reasons. I mean it seems very schematic, would have to be fleshed out before I "get" it.

His description of the possible as a kind of diagram of the real - the traditional way we think of an idea or theory becoming a mirror of what we accept as reality - and the shortcomings of this idea : and how he opposes it to this more dynamic or unpredictable concept of how real things happen -

anyway I get the feeling this is an echo of old philosophical debates between immanence & immanentists versus transcendence & transcendentalists. . . Bergson's time-vitalism has had sort of a recurrent vogue for artists. . . for me time has to include both stillness & movement somehow, vitality, change - it's not one OR the other. . . but I will be curious to see how Kwinter develops all this.

John Irwin's book about Borges & Poe (Mystery to a Solution) comes to mind. When is a poem NOW but not simply a flash in the pan? According to Irwin, Poe & Borges figured out how to write mysteries we'd want to come back to and READ AGAIN (even though we already know the answer to the whodunit). Here's a question for poetics : what values sustain a poem in its own NOW??? & transport that now into different time-environments?
Happy Spring in Blogland.

* * *

Time now for the trees to shroud the earth
with their dark branches, time
when the wind dies down,
and over the still mirror
a faded voice is whispering.

Time again to climb into the old
music-box in the forest,
and wind the iron spring -

it is letter by letter,
line by line.
Quick thoughts on Sanford Kwinter, Architectures of Time (thanks, Jordan), which I just started reading.

Kind of a neo-Bergsonian perspective. Consideration of modernist, postmodern aesthetics & design principles, by way of re-conception of Time (as a kind of living entity).

What if poets didn't immediately translate "the New" into "new writing styles"? What if they understood "the new" as an aspect - the nature of which we don't quite grasp - of time itself? Of course on the level of the obvious that is, obviously, the definition of "novelty". But for Kwinter that's merely obvious because we don't really understand time.

I would try to relate same to my notions of the connection between tradition & "nowness" (see blog entries for 1/28-1/31). The metaform of the poet is a unique correlation of Now. (Tradition = characteristic activity = poet making Now.)

Here's a quote from Kwinter:

"The so-called emergence and evolution of forms will no longer follow the classical eidetic pathway determined by the possible and the real. Rather, it will follow the dynamic and uncertain processes that characterize the schema that links a virtual component to an actual one. What is most important to understand here is that unlike the previous schema where the "possible" had no reality (before emerging), here the virtual, though it may yet have no actuality, is nonetheless already fully real. It exists, one might say, as a free difference or singularity, not yet combined with other differences into a complete ensemble or salient form. What this means is that the virtual does not have to be realized, but only actualized (activated and integrated); its adventure involves a developmental passage from one state to another. The virtual is gathered, selected - let us say incarnated - it passes from one moment-event (or complex) in order to emerge - differently, uniquely - within another. Indeed the actual does not resemble the virtual, as something preformed or preexisting itself. The relation of the virtual to the actual is not therefore one of resemblance but rather of difference, innovation, or creation (every complex, or moment-event, is new). Thus the following should be clear: realization (of a possible) and creation (through actualization-differentiation) are two intrinsically distinct and irreducible processes. The first programmatically reproduces what was already there, formed and given in advance; while the other invents through a continuous, positive and dynamic process of transmission, differentiation, and evolution.

"The crux lies here: Actualization occurs in time and with time, whereas realization, by limiting itself to the mere unfolding of what preexists, actually destroys and annihilates time." (pp.9-10)

[p.s. deepest apology for turgid head-trip on 1st day of SPRING]

This reminds me of a book by another Sanford, Sanford Budick:

Dividing Muse : images of sacred disjunction in Milton's Paradise Lost (which looks at Philo's concept of the Logos as a differentiating principle, & how Milton adapted that).

So in order to make "new" poetry - in relation to what has already been made - "tradition" - the poet might need to grasp a new notion of time & "nowness" itself. Rather than relying on simple contrast of old & worn-out versus shiny & brand-new.


something more from toward the end of July :


The little green house at the corner (132)
of Sixth and Rooster floats a silhouette
like an allegorical cut-glass tessellation
of a burly Flemish bull's-eye (some urnic

ox marks the spot) where the force
of your green-fused stupidity flowed
through the flowers so eminently flawed
with pickled contingency the surf

of an unspoken spidery silver web
that fibrillates this yet deeper grain
of your sure-gesso'd scenes
(full-staffed and bottomfished)

where you offended one whose forebearance
yet fares forward sans your maladjusted
dike of unclad guesses at the banquet sans
your make-amendments robed in fortitude.

Lent this salt of scented losing
this light ill-starred epiphany
take from my hands this paltry gift
of dead bees of honey into sun.

A tiny clover vesica stern as the crossroad
where Saint Loser's moldy Nilbred swims
bare into the starry brine of promised land
mend your way before a last crux of sorrow

calls from your long-distant home because
this green equation of the evening light
this liminal cupola te deum tiled
with grief is proven miniscule stone aspic

molded for each heart's red huffer like
the widow's mite the coral verdigris the
piper's penny paid each humble harvester
each able baby linking alms in a cloverleaf

The strange sense of a world gone mad, but not in the way most poets & bloggers see it. . .

It's hard to read the present reality, the moral course is not obvious. The only sure thing is that innocent victims will die and soldiers' families will mourn. The world is once again subject to Chance & War.

I spoke bluntly in post of yesterday, supporting Blair & Bush, partly out of perverse desire to affront the anti-war poets.

The war motives are murky; the aggression is plain; the conspiracy theories are everywhere (Cheney, oil, Vietnam-era warmongering, US hegemonic ambitions). But the anti-war factions suppress two elements: 1) the world's prior complicity with both Saddam tyranny and sanctions suffering; 2) the fact that the Bush War on Terror is, in part, a PROTEST against the conditions which allowed 9/11 to happen, and a global effort to change those conditions.

I have written repeatedly here that war & violence will not really improve those conditions. But the reality of the Saddam/Ba'ath regime in Iraq has been a prior & present condition of CHRONIC WAR & VIOLENCE. This in itself changes the moral implications of the UN sanctions impasse, as well as the US decision to enforce Iraq's disarmament.

We will see, perhaps quite soon, whether Saddam was telling the truth to the UN or not.


But then : "Let your Yes be Yes and your No No, all the rest cometh from Evil."

& yes, Gabriel, I like Sir Thomas Browne too ! see here. . .
I'm with Blair & Bush on this one. There should be a new standard of governance in the world so that terrorism & WMDs are outlawed. Saddam Hussein, the dictator, has flouted agreements regarding same. Police action is justified. There will be tragedy & comedy & the limitations of cultural myopia & of military force alone will become obvious. But it is time for Saddam & his torture-repression mafia to go.

However, the US must learn that achieving this new standard of governance will take more than "security actions". We ought to confront our own complicity in the global production & sale of the weapons of war & mass death.

(& nevertheless I wrote a pretty good anti-war poem, if I do say so myself (see blog entry for 3/12). What does this say about poetry, if anything? This poem is a simple statement of empathy with anyone, civilian or soldier, caught in the middle. Maybe the lesson here is the moral ambiguity of "simple statements".)


Just a thought in response to Gabriel ("Conchology") Gudding's long essay "From Petit to Langpo", which appears on his blog (& in an earlier version? in Flashpoint magazine).

The essay shows how democratic pedagogical principles like "everybody can write" could lead to "everybody has an inner poet waiting to get out" and "poetry is the lyrical record of personal experiences". With such truisms you can see how opposition might grow, from modernists ("poetry is the extinction of personality", "make it new", "a poem is a machine made of words") to New Critics ("a poem is an autotelic self-enclosed object"). One can see how the wave could swing back from New Critical rules to the ragged edges of biography & personality (the Confessionals, the Beats). Or how the NY School might opt out stylishly (while borrowing) from both.

It's ironic that Creative Writing schools would focus on the "craft" of empowering, squeezing out & purveying personal experience, rather than on the art of poetry itself. But I suspect Gabriel's history is a little one-sided : you could probably find offhand quotes from his same set of late 20th-cent. poets on the pedagogy of poetry, which emphasize (instead) the impersonal "craft" aspects. (I'm just guessing, though, not making a case here.)

The issue of solipsism or individualism in art cuts deeper than pedagogy & the professionalization of poetry. As I've been saying in various places on this blog, the nature, the ontological status, of the human person is a deepening mystery; how that mystery gets radiated through the modes of story & poetics creates what we call genres. (hey, who do I think I am, Northrop Frye?)


I see that at around 7 am on Sunday 3.2.03, Gabriel Gudding (see Conchology link) was tanking the car at the Cumberland Farms 3 blocks from my house.

I will try to keep a journal of my walk to work next week (if I still have a job). It's about a mile - quite a trip for a Rhode Islander. Stay tuned. The world is going to Sheol in a shoebox, but Gabriel & I, I & Gabriel, Gabriel & me, me & Gabriel & I, we will keep reporting.

Was very sorry to miss Kent Johnson's reading a few other blocks from here last night. I had a vestry meeting, and I am T.S. Eliot.
Not on strike, yet anyway. Another shot from toward the end of July:


The Negus is king at the sources of the Nile
and as you watched the last light
glimmer through the black oaks and the steel
span glinted (through the wavering lines

of cigarette smoke spiralling idly
from the mou of a Petersburg Pawnee)
down the River Road wan bishops
and white knights looked on amazed lady

as the smoke stirred like steam
over a winter font and thick curtains
of the god of chance obscured your tracks
but today I know what you want: the massed

bells toll faintly distant across the river
their high Sophie argot a glassy lalala
in the frozen box of myrrh Lena
your magna vox my stem of reverie

is Hope anchored in a tiny throaty clef of
clay overalls an infancy cup-map of those
all-human hills so clear in Tuscany so the
Lenten font is tenderly wrapt in a cloverleaf

with the fiery lightweight tongues of the nef
of bluedom's Jonah azure aquamarine
and the beginnings of a North Star's requiem
are yoked with lastful measure in the marshy fen

where an arcing Yule of lincoln logs emblazons
a Jubilee return-ship rocked in Armenian
cupolas and a myrrh-leaf catches the singing ray
re-framed refraining reigning in your eye-of-palm

centennial and Florentine the man with you
resists and wins the trophy of the solitary vigil
his the power to oppose to the burning-glass
that blinds the pawns your gaze of steel


[p.s. my maternal grandmother's maiden name was Negus]
Boy, Ron Silliman tries to cover a lot of polemical-poetical turf in his post of today (March 14). I don't have time to write a dissertation : I may be on strike in a couple hours, God forbid. Just a few angelically odd responses.

The situation of the anti-war reading in Amherst, so overdetermined ! Here is an event where poetry is already being put to immediate political tasks. Ron questions the wisdom of excluding a poem which because of its obscurity or "difficulty" came across as irrelevant to the purpose of the reading. So Ron is saying that the excluders, by being political in a local sense, were being a-political (allied to the "school of quietude") in a larger sense.

In order to ratify avant-garde radical credentials, as I pointed out in the early days of this blog, an oppositional, us vs. them scenario must always be invoked.

I may be on strike in a few hours so I must keep this brief.

Ron makes his stand on the "difficulty" front. There are conformist anti-intellectual forces which constantly dumb down & standardize & gentilify. This is a hoary a-g argument, actually, easily applicable to all times & places.

What Ron et al. always evade is the fact that there are strictly aesthetic values &/or techniques, which may certainly involve complex highly-difficult feats of compositional synthesis, but which may energetically reach out to the reader with a conceptually clear & articulate & transparent & engaging surface : "deceptively simple", or layered with depth. & by the same token, obscurity & difficulty are not ALWAYS the ticket to aesthetic value or authenticity. Ron wants always to romanticize the odd & the marginal, & in doing so he presents his own stereotypical notion of the audience : that great American audience open to any old kind of quirkiness from "Leaving the Atocha Station" to Jerry Rubin to Seinfeld blah blah blah. Somehow critical distinctions & aesthetic values get blurred when you start blending all the arts with culture in general. The particular values getting blurred here have little to do with the binary politicized polemic of the oppositional school of poetics. The poetry of description, cognition, articulation, communication, & rhetoric need not highlight its elliptical or markedly marginal status - confirming the stereotype of the postmodern "artist" - in order to be effective as poetry.

[art is to hide art]

I remember carrying on these same arguments on the Buff List years ago, with the same people. The outsiders also have their "outside". You Are Here.


the glare is getting to me. new name for a blog (or a disease) : "bloggoblind".

"oh, he's gone bloggo, bumping into things."
. . . & then again I'm probably just taking Heriberto Y's comments out of context. Secondhand from Jonathan's brief.


& later:
Jonathan (hello over there), if that's what Heriberto was saying, I have no beef with that, he's right, you're right. & you didn't misrepresent, I probably just misread & prodedissjected (that's early Latinok).
Unless you want to say (& you could) that EVERYTHING is a mental projection, including the way we "raise" children. Would "children" exist if they were shipped to Lord o'the Flies Island at birth? To be "child" perhaps is to be human at a certain age in a familial relation (relativity).

"Unless ye turn & become as little children ye shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

[Is this about acknowledging a relationship? Personism, O ye of lil kiddy faith.]
Have to disagree with Jonathan on two points:

1) No, he's not getting dumber (that was just a Borgesian take-off on Ron Padgett): he's getting smarter & more scintillant as he blogs along.

2) No, my comments do not provide an example of Heriberto's point. One person's "ideological projection" is another person's empirical observation. Sure, there's continuity between the child you & me & the adult you & me; but there's a difference too. As Jordan pointed out, the difference is dependence (economic, social, psychological). It's a relationship which changes the terms of its balance as the child becomes the independent adult (& perhaps a parent in turn).

If I view this through a theological kaleidoscope, this does not mean its basis in empirical reality is cancelled out. The child/parent relation is there : it's not an ideological projection (though my theological corollary, on the other hand, might be).

Heriberto saying there's no such thing as childhood strikes me as a kind of sophism (nominalism?).



I suppose you could call me a human shield:
I prevented a bullet from hitting a wall.
I got in the way searching for water.
It wasn't my game plan at all.

I got in the way of so many things:
empire, democracy, dictatorship
diplomacy, policy, propaganda

(somebody's ego-trip).

I lie in a dusty Baghdad street.
Bosses drive over, wave after wave.
Here is the cradle of civilization.
Here is my early grave.

another section toward the end of July. (as usual there are missing spacings between some phrases. when the Opus Commodificopious is published, hopefully all will be corrected):


And when you forgive us our passion trees
as we forgive passing trees
planted o.k. steering
centered in the streaming Sophie

we will continue downriver
into the heart of the aleph into
the elephant ear the twin E
of summer Delphi a raven-ravined

mouth of dark lady's delta
the Southern Cross and
acorn of Africa scored
for thumb piano in delicate

palm of leaves of papyrus
we will float south upstream
toward Shebaa's sudden and mist-
wisteria'd swampland super-

saturated with seedlings and
Balthasar's handsome shadowy
handover to an infant she washed
and watched as she washed listen

for the cue of the alph-baton
in her vale of Captain Verde
an apple orchard unrevealed
where the fiduciary tablet of

the future lies in jewels of jade
and we will journey there again
ineffable, still unbaffled nugget
resting in the ruffled rustle of J-

shade beyond coppery way-rust
gone mossy Mississippi delta'd
into the Gulf and in Antarctica
everything turns left

In the NY Times science section, yesterday, an interesting article about how the universe is shaped like a multidimensional torus, or donut. Take a fast spaceship in the direction of the constellation Virgo; you'll emerge into the universe coming in the same direction from behind you.

Yeats, a few decades earlier: "Michael Robartes called the universe a great egg that turns inside-out perpetually without breaking its shell." Yeats also wrote that he considered the cosmos as "a rotating four-dimensional sphere".

Joyce had a similar notion in Finnegans Wake. See Margaret Solomon's study, Eternal Geomater : the sexual universe of Finnegans Wake (So. IL Univ Press, 1969).
Today will try to record some thoughts on poetics, my poetics, hgpoetics, which came on coffee break on Thayer St. this morning; drawing on some threads from nearby bloggers, without being too prolix I hope. Inchoate ideas. Because I may be on strike (I hope not) in a day or so, & blogging may not be so easy after that.

David Hess is asking for a definition of "post-avant", an adjective applied by Ron Silliman. Interpreting Ron's perspective (hypothetically): he's referring to contemporary young poets coming after the Language Poetry phenomenon. He thinks perhaps of langpo as an American terminus (language/writing brought to a certain limit) for avant-garde literary energies of the 20th century. After the terminus, that energy has waned & new demands, new cultural forces & imperatives, have yet to crystallize.

Jordan & Jonathan meanwhile, wrote a little this week about childhood - what it means. Which reminds me of what I wrote on this blog in various places about the status of the Person in poetics; and the comment I made yesterday about Frank O'Hara's tongue-in-cheek manifesto on "Personism" (in the context of various worldview-scaffoldings which help undergird modernist poetics & technique).

I know this DOES sound prolix & rambling; please bear with me.

In an essay in Mudlark, I wrote about how the Byzantine-Christian anthropology of humankind as imago Dei underlies Western art & the poetics of Mandelstam. We are talking about ultimate worldviews or scaffoldings. I would like to consider childhood as a theological category. How so? The child - as opposed to the adult - persists in a particular relation to the parent. Consider the child/parent relation as a symbol of the human person's relation to God. Consider it before dismissing it : think of it as an image of an image, a fractal corollary.

God as parent : how ridiculous! But only if taken literally. And about God we can take nothing literally.

The poetics of the modernist & postmodern 20th century can be regarded as a culmination of the Renaissance concept of Man. The Renaissance concept placed the human intellect at the center. The Medieval concept (stemming from Byzantium), on the other hand, developed a trinitarian anthropology : body, soul, spirit. The soul is like the somatic mirror of the body in another dimension (eternity). The spirit is like the intellectual light which unites body & soul in insight & discernment.

These three, of course, correspond to the divine Trinity : Father, Son, Spirit.

The character of any poetics of the Person would be determined by its underlying anthropology. How do we know & respond to experience through this particular lens?

Consider Charles Olson's Jungian "Maximus" projection as a counter-weight/imitation of Yeats & Pound's sense of the history-transcendent uber-Self (at the vortex of the decks of cards playing out the personae of both A Vision and The Cantos). (Kenneth Warren in his magazine House Organ has mused on this extensively.)

I look upon Jung & Olson as fascinating, searching. . . heresiarchs. Gnostics of poetry. Look instead at THIS Maximus (from Byzantium) :

Thunberg, Lars
Microcosm and mediator : the theological anthropology of Maximus the Confessor
Chicago: Open Court, 1995

(I call them heresiarchs in no dogmatic sense! Only in the sense of Nicholas Cusanus and his doctrine of "Learned Ignorance". These metaphorical-theological-conceptual scaffoldings are metaphors for religious & spiritual insights - experience at the borders where words fail & vision goes dark.)

A post-avant poetics of the Person would interpret our experience of time, the earth, the universe, science & art, good & evil, mortality, love & knowledge through a post-Renaissance lens. Such a lens would offer no prescriptions for technical developments in art : but it might change the way we perceive the role of art in the life of the person, and by extension, the role of the poet in the life of the culture. Such things have stylistic & literary-generic repercussions.


Thus the theory of description matters most.
It is the theory of the word for those
For whom the word is the making of the world,
The buzzing world and lisping firmament.
It is the world of words to the end of it,
In which nothing solid is its solid self.

- Wallace Stevens, "Description without Place"
More on poetry as embodiment: think of Joyce's concept of "epiphany" (the particular thing seen in its "quiddity", an intellectual light). Pound's heavy acorn of light.

Think of poet & muse: Orpheus/Eurydice, Dante/Beatrice, Henry/"J" (see me being pretentious!). The child-bearer vortex - Venus, Virgin Mary, Magdalen - and her absent (ghostly) presence. & the imperfection of formulae - the vanishing point of recognitions. The embodied absent one, the story, the index. M, W, mother-night, Cassiopeia.

The black-haired young woman in the dark green skirt walking ahead of me in Fox Point (a slim stringed instrument, heft tuned to her gait).

"Heavy-hearted woodlands."
"Poetry is the scholar's art." - Wallace Stevens
I myself am not that ideal critic, of course.
Ron is more responsive than I am:
I can't read the stuff most of the time, it makes me feel sick.
Give me an old Eric Ambler pulp any day.
I'm just another glib pretentious poet, and this is my blog, hgpoetics.
No, Ron Silliman, you cannot purvey Great New Poetry to me every three days. I don't buy your economy of millions of Great Poets kept down by a conspiracy of mainstream schools of quietude. I don't care if it's impossible to read everything being published. A critic can have standards even if the view is restricted.

There is something to be said for running the gauntlet of mainstream publication : it enforces necessary solitude & purpose.

The standard may be something finicky & whimsical on the surface. But it will allow the poet time to win the critic over despite the strictest judgement.

Even if poetry is blooming everywhere, I still want the critic to find it rare, profound, substantial, absolutely convincing. I want the critic to be tough to win over, knowledgeable, sensible, responsive.

I want poetry to go & hide somewhere, in some old abandoned shack in Hungary maybe, to get away from all these glib, pretentious poets.

This gets back to Jordan's comment about the "yucky" feeling of doing reviews.
Thus maybe the encyclopedic or didactic aspects of epic (the catalog of ships; Pound's lectures; Dante's or Joyce's grids of correspondences) are secondary to, or subsumed by, a PLOT, a personal story, the shadow of the hero or the anti-hero or the poet. Why? because poetry is a voracious force-field, a conjunction of opposites, a conjunction of word & flesh, knowing & being. This is the telos or aim of its powerful energies : embodiment.

This vortex or vanishing point of poetry, where knowing & being, soul & body meet in the pleroma of the word.

& the epic becomes the "personal epic", the tale of the tribe becomes the mirror of the person, the microcosm, the reader.

What is the paradigm for this literary shape? It is "incarnational". The paradigm is the Gospels, where the telos of history is the Person, and God incarnate returns like Odysseus as the alpha-omega of the entire Scriptural-historical process.
. . . but then, isn't poetry where, through speech, we try to fuse "knowing" & "being"?

Which is a futile vain Quixotic effort. & we end up representing human nature through failure.

Comic gargantuan example : Charles Olson. His "Maximus" gains from its ungainliness. The reader's imagination is swayed by the image of the fat man in squalid little apartment in Maximus-town, trying to "say" the Great Unsayable. The mundane seeps in around the edges & gives the would-be Ezra color & humanity.

Another example : Montale. He was very aware of being the voice of the "man in the middle", between transcendent glory and human pettiness. His poems build on the contradiction.

You end up with a doubleness : a sort of incarnate word (poetic language - full, packed, weighted, embodied - Keats), & the shadowy feeble negatively-capable poet who utters it.


In an email, David Hess replied to the previous posting here to say that his distinction between knowing/being was partly an echo of DH Lawrence's Studies in Classic American Literature. He said he was thinking more of the way some Modernists set themselves up (say in epic forms) as guides to general knowledge (Pound, Olson), in a way that poets of "being" (say, Oppen, Celan) never would.

I responded to say that there might be some validity in this distinction; but that some strains of postmodernism, drawing from Heidegger & Derrida among others, make such a distincton impossible, since the status of both knowledge & being becomes "illegible". & that this might be one reason that, as DH wrote on his blog, the language poets, for example, couldn't decide between "system" & "anti-system".

It seems like down the ages very few poets have had the capability to articulate, in their own poetry, its epistemological status in relation to other forms of knowledge. How is poetry a form of knowing, if it is? One of the most interesting books I've read on this issue is Jerusalem & Albion, by Harold Fisch (Schocken Books, 1964). It might be that reflection on this issue (which is also the question of the nature of poetic speech) would be productive - lead to new understandings of the poet's role.

Of course, meditating on the nature of poetry has also been the yeast & the grist for everlasting cliches & sentimentalizations : what's unusual is a poet who can think philosophically or scientifically while writing poetry.
David Hess blogs nimbly among the concepts, & creates some critical synergy out of comments by Ron, Nada, Jack Kimball, et al. He writes:

"O'Hara's poems always seemed very contemplative to me even though they were
full of what you might call 'action'. It strikes me how (taboo word acoming)
accessible they are despite their range of cultural knowledge/materials. Pound
reassured the reader that they needn't know Greek or Italian to understand his
poetry as he himself believed he didn't need to know Chinese to understand its
ideograms. But since he positions himself as a bestower of culture -- culture as a
repository of knowledge that can just be passed around like a hot potato, like
money really -- one must know it.

In O'Hara expressiveness and contemplativeness are not mutually exclusive.
Thinking is not equated with knowing. You do not need to have heard which
symphony he's talking about to "get it." Poets of knowledge, Eliot and Pound, and
poets of being, O'Hara or Oppen or Reznikoff or Celan. I believe the language
poets, to make a sweeping generalization, never knew which kind they wanted to
become. To be systematizers or anti-systematizers -- the dilemma is at the core
of the question of the avant-garde."

Let's take this dichotomy between knowledge/being, system/anti-system, & think about it for a minute. A poem is basically a set of gestures, speech acts, words, united in some kind of aesthetic system (or form of beauty). Because the system is not always obvious to us doesn't mean it isn't there. (sounds like a quote from Zap Comics) But our perception or response to anything is a response to system or organization or pattern.

O'Hara's presentation of fact & knowledge may seem more accessible than Pound's, precisely because he doesn't have Pound's Olympian-didactic angle of approach. But this doesn't make his poetry less of a "system of knowledge" : it's just less overt. Proust has a system : but his work may be the most successful modernist evocation of "being" of all. These aesthetic systems are just different from discursive or philosophical or scientific systems : their consistency is one of style, leading to wholeness or complexity of presentation.

The crack-up & revolutions & wars of the turn of the 20th century brought an end to many a narrative form. This break-up provided an opportunity for poets: modernist & postmodernist technique provided a lever for poetry to challenge the hegemony of prose fiction. & who emerged as the avatar of poetic knowledge? The uber-systematizer : Dante. Dante's "scaffolding" lies behind Pound's grab-bag and behind Eliot's Christian poetics (the poetics of religious transcendence providing another convenient lever of cultural authority against the fiction writers). Both Joyce & Pound balanced Homer against Dante, recapitulating the conceptual movement of the Renaissance in general : all this recapitulation a sign of the end of the age which began with the Renaissance.

With this sketch of literary history, look again at Hess's concluding sentence. Postmodernism is often juxtaposed with modernism as anti-system against system. Both make claims to represent the future (the avant-garde) - the whole spectrum, from Eliot to Dada. But maybe the real issue is, what follows from the scaffoldings erected in the early 20th-century in response to the opportunity offered by chaos (the end of 19th-century/Renaissance/Enlightenment narrative certainties)? because the scaffoldings were only the overt systems. Joyce himself showed this with Finnegans Wake - here he out-systemed his own systems, & showed that chaos & system were the same thing.

The power of aesthetic effect of any particular work of art is limited & variable - that is, it depends on the power of apprehension by the audience, as well as on the author's own discernment & ability to build complexity into those same limitations (the "implicate universe" of David Bohm). Thus it may take decades, or centuries even, for the implications of an aesthetic system to work their effects, their magic. (As an example, Mandelstam emphasized the future-oriented quality of Dante's poem.) These centuries may develop new constellations of perception & value, so that, for example, O'Hara's cute notion of "Personism" may not be so simple after all : it may be appreciated as an element of an aesthetic system, a worldview, a metaform.

The New doesn't go away : only time-bound versions of the new, scaffoldings & fashionable systematizations, get old. The perpetual death of the "avant-garde" is simply the continual obsolescence of literary fashions which were flimsy surface phenomena to begin with. There is no simple dichotomy of knowledge & being : only genuine, original aesthetic systems (of perception, of expression) vs. hack work & rhetorical sleights-of-hand.

Perhaps the "new" system of critical valuation to be applied to the "post-avant" generation will depend from somewhere between Bakhtin & Mandelstam. It will apprehend the dialogic appropriation of prior poetries, the overlay of thought, feeling, and expression borrowed from previous poets, for the aesthetic necessities of a new person & a new time. It will respond to the individuality of this new voice, rather than hurry to place it within some group regime or political stance. It will measure the range, originality, pitch, loudness, & specific gravity of the individual voice on its own terms, before applying simplistic comparisons.


Henry's Two-Step Program for Escaping the Cardboard Box of Poepastry Clubhouse:

1. Literary Absolute
2. Metaform

Henry's Explanation of Two-Step Program:

I've been reading Donna Tartt's novel The Little Friend. She worked on it ten years & created a world.

I wrote about "metaform" on this blog around 1/23-1/24 or so. Instead of talking to each other so much like a pack of barhound weasels, why not think about the aspects of world & society, the different languages or discourses, which a poet is able to reflect intelligently & curiously in their work? What real or imagined wholenesses of a world are they able to bring to bear & bring to music? That, along with perfect pitch, seems like a useful measure of value, if you have to even think about it. As far as the valueless - making lists of what you don't like - how anal can you get?

This is a little lecture to the younger set. After this I'm not talking to you. I'm interested in the unknown reader, not you louts. Behold Donna Tartt, & be afraid. She might turn her cool & creepy & cultured & satirical measuring rod on you someday.
from toward the conclusion of Forth of July (imagine some spacings between some phrases, which I can't manage in this system):


It's a narrow ford across the Jordan
a small cupola of water-light
and all our knowledge but a pond
a snoring frogpond madjayanine

when I go kigamanin I will give you
gocu surely gabizikamun what
you will wear widjiwiyun my courting
child if you go with me (the intervals

were sung glissando the metric is slow
and not rigidly maintained all the
Chippewa love songs somewhat rubato)
your little cuppa midway drum-waltz

to the clouds your mighty copper penny
is bronze s.o.s. unfolding as the bent
pole-stirrer of the clay my wee tugboat
alight musters that Julian draconian

taconite turning to caritas seed-jewel
before our eyes and if the bluish cloud
palm-shade Elijah's ravine-dulcimer
or Ezekiel's exact X-catenary wheels

are reels ambitious mother
then lucky Sophie dance!
And do a handstand
now with theremin

and soda (Scotch)
through golden Appalachia
flying the sunny disarray
(a coupla stingy wasps

are fighting bumblebees) (the bee
already master) where the yawning
oreship spreads dove-wings (yon Noah-
Jonah-craft) pshmwly (buzzing in Siberia)



more prehistoric Henry (mid-1970s):


It is enough to be with them,
the children like shy seedlings,
and the newspaper shedding its phrases
to the sleepy music in the squares.
It is enough to step out,
wind dusting ashes from the sill,
workmen hauling everything away,
furniture, knicknacks, loveletters
written in robin's egg, and spidery
aquamarine. A parade, they said,
is a mild form of chaos,
and so we marched, eyes closed,
to the somnolent trumpets and drums -
around the familiar four corners,
the sad mothers fainting, and dizzy
children, dazzled by flags and ice cream.
The mayor spoke under the statue
erected over the slain brigade. A breeze
touched every bowed head, leading us
to the flag-draped coffin of our lord.
Impossible to step away from summer -
the raft the river carries under us,
and the canoe of the silent ferryman,
lifting his hand for a copper penny.


written around 1200 by Ibn al-Marzuban:
Book of the Superiority of Dogs Over Many of Those Who Wear Clothes
So, in honor of this cardinal day, 3/5 Akhmatova, here is the conclusion to July (3rd volume of Forth of July) (some of the spacings between words do not show in this format):


Outside it was now broad daylight; the sun stood some distance up in the sky, looking down on a desolate earth. It was going to be cold today, Per Hansa noticed; clouds of frosty mist like huge writhing serpents curled over the surface of the purplish-yellow plain. The sunbeams plunging into them kindled a weird light. He tingled with cold. . .
. . . How remarkable - the child had been born with the helmet on!. . .He quickened his pace; in a moment he was running

- O.E. Rolvaag, Giants in the Earth

A breezy Sunday in March clouds
crossing the sunlight and in the clay
birdhouse my mother made (knocked
down when its iron wires went slack)

we found a grass birdnest (we can fix
the wire put the birdhouse back up
in the pussy willow it will keep
for another winter extra nef

for another chickadee) Mardi Gras
is coming then comes Lent
Sam Patch in scrambled quilt
crazy Pawtucket from Cumberland

goes into river leaping drifting far and
circling home again so long, Patch
and Julius big Roman E fading chap
a few notes only left left only a ray

of dark matter from the marina or
quintessence of Wimpzilla Pinochet
pinned up with mule's ears by Tin Pan
Blind Tom ineffable inexplicable fingers

of grace out of servitude a fleece
of sound from beneath bronze shield
J's seedy C from Caesar's ceded
sea so see-saw Mediterranean 4-leafy

whorled and loftward bound for the E
in Philadelphy out of Penn's woods
in love with a certain pithy sound
smoked from a tripod's Apollonian thief

of yellow sweetings fading downstream
Lenten crossroad of ash forehead
singing singing brow-bow a drifter-
figurehead mirror-matter's mystery

this waltz become a rivereeee
fox trot of bumblebeeee
my clovery prayer รจ mobile
crost eft so ftgleeee

and figuratively gone home again
to the little greenhouse at the corner
of 6th and Rooster 132 reconnoitered
an encounter once an image now

no more quoth he but limping
convalescent like the missing

leg upon the earth
my sweet shadow
of summer shade
of luminous ruth

comes faithfully to that tomb
where Lazarus lies with Hope

and cannot live without you and the E
in a dark nest of iron ages tighter
curls a little spiral wrought
of steel-eyed thief

a little spring
a tiny e

milky from
hive of Zebedee

a q-querned stone from Quito
drawn into straight queue for you
emancipation equality euphoria
come phosphorescent nocturnal

urned forever for eternity
Andean-wound pain-cup become just
Jubilee at last limping staggering
like a wounded jaguar from a winter well

and now in union convalescent
spring of healing hurts the earth
in unison lifts out of deep iron there
these bells droning slow equivalence

surfacing from the depths
bronze dragonship a shield
become light-well delicious
gold poncho sped round

a 1-3-2 we danced easy
we danced easy at the end
around the chestnut tree ding
fet fecit finixt see?

a little grass birdnest hidden
in coracle-circle hidden in
green-leafed oak den
come forth then (Edith)

(E) come forth (J-lee)
I dove dove after you
come forth love-neft
Love joyfully come fly. . .


[p.s. there are 4 large sections at the conclusion of July. Each one is keyed to the letter standing for one of four musical notes sounded by Russian bells. The tone here is "E".]
More foreshadowings from pre-Cambrian Henry era (circa 1971):


you can do anything you want.

the baby here is trying to decide

about growing up human: he's rubbing

his double chin, he's a serious kid.

a cap pistol is sitting on a desk

in the bedroom upstairs with the yellow

walls. according to the kid here,

it's supposedly waiting

for the little green men.

the sky gets closer

as it gets more blue,

and you can recall

the 4th of July

all the heat

and all those little flags
dear reader,

you will be thrilled to know that you are the 7.54 millionth visitor to this site. all previous visitors have signed the Rhodian Manifesto and will receive a Special Rhodian Membership Card which can be attached to earlobe or keychain. There will be a Rhodian Member's Pow-Wow on the Isle of Rhodes at 3:15 pm tomorrow. Try to make it, please. We'd love to meet you.

[for the record: 7.54 millionth is a rough but likely guesstimate, since Rhodians reject on principle the use of website visitor censi.]
It's a rainy Wednesday in March, and I'm doing boring blogging talk about. March 5th marches forth. On this date both Stalin and Anna Akhmatova died. Unacknowledged Tatar queen of Russia.

& to continue the boring vain of talk about, here's a silly old manifesto:


'I wonder why in Rhodes they tie up their cats with string. I saw one attached to a front door-knob this morning.'
- Lawrence Durrell, Reflections on a Marine Venus



The Rhodians are an association of poets who do not live on the Island of Rhodes, but might like to. (The Island of Rhodes is not to be confused with Rhode Island, a small state in the USA.)


Of Minimalism. The Rhodians accept a simple definition of poetry, ie.:
Poetry = rhythmic/measured language. The features often attributed to poetry, such as imagination, intellect, emotion, pathos, unity of affect, knowledge, communication, dream, and so forth, are understood to be features of consciousness and language in general. Poetry bears the imprint of both consciousness and language, but its distinguishing trait is rhythm, pattern, measure. The Rhodian approach precludes tendentious, apologetic or polemical appropriations of features of general consciousness into specialized definitions of what poetry should or should not be. Rhodians believe that the compositional attributes of poems are all free additions to the simple nature of poetry so defined.

Of Continuity. The Rhodians believe that poetry as an art form is distinguished by its continuity. "Poetry is avant-garde because it doesn't change much." Rhodians declare that each poet and each group of poet-friends is responsible for, and eligible to inherit, the bequest of past poetry in its entirety. Poetry as simply defined passes through the hands of its makers to its audience of hearers and other makers; it is molded by their personalities and the experience of their time on earth. It is a human art form, perhaps shared to some extent with other creatures.

Of Purpose. The Rhodians maintain that there is no particular "correct" way to make poetry. But this does not preclude the Rhodians from choosing certain principles and orientations. One such principle is that poetry-making involves a limited, but sufficient - and self-sufficient - autonomy. If the process is not valuable for its own sake it is not worth doing at all, since it makes no claim to be valuable for any other reason. (Here the Rhodians follow the orientation of fellow Rhodian, and former Cranston native, Ted Berrigan.) Another such principle is that poetic autonomy is linked with a realist approach. Rhodians reject sceptical trends which question our ability to posit the existence of a real world outside our verbal formulations (even though Rhodians would like to reside on an island). Rhodians assert their ability to make true statements about the real world, and assent to the influence of that capability on their poetry. In fact Rhodians believe that the human impulse to respond to reality, in all its consciousness and specificity, is something of an artistic opportunity for which they can be grateful. Finally, the Rhodians reject theories of poetics which devalue the communicative function, reifying denatured words upon the page. For the Rhodians, language is essentially communicative - the propositional, interrogatory, evaluative, expressive making of signs. Within the continuum of such gestures, words play a combinatory and supportive role. So, while recognizing the special quality of language in art and poetry - the "focus on message" or reflexive aspect described by Jakobson - Rhodians acknowledge the fundamental semaphoric aspect of the medium.
But that's not all I meant by the literary absolute. Sorry folks, being incoherent this morning. "Literary absolute" was a phrase I used in some poetry list conversation - what the truly obsessed & dedicated poet or writer aims for. Left out of the circus antics. Or perhaps infiltrating & overwhelming the circus with a tremendous talent.
The debate over "Creep" poets continues. David Hess makes some interesting comments today (3/5), connecting the whole thing with decadent aesthetics, and pointing out some distinctions between communities, economies, markets, and artists.

What I mean by the "literary absolute" refers to the autonomous quality of imaginative & artistic activity, the very thing that makes it possible for artists to be anti-social members of a community. I'm not saying art is only or totally autonomous; it's just one of its real & contradictory aspects.

Funny how several bloggers orbiting around this discussion are in the process of reflecting on artistic community, or a particular community. But every one comes to such a discussion with a different set of values & priorities & goals. Isn't the safest (not necessarily the best) approach to idealize the perennial activity of poetry-making and art-making in general, rather than try to define (& authorize & polemicize) specific political opinions or lifestyles or artistic styles? Even if theories & schools arise in dialectical opposition to one another, don't they appeal to a perennial unstated standard (even if they define that standard as the New or the Future)? Aren't we all cicadas in a squirrel-town? & isn't it best to factor in that universal aspect? or is that just taken for granted because it's a truism? Where is Socrates when I need him?

Lots of people hang out to yak in the bistros but there are only a few hard workers among them.

I guess I'm reiterating my earlier statements about the global tradition or universal-perennial poetic activity. & talking to myself again.


A very early Henry poem, from my Shapiro-Padgett anthology/Apollinaire phase. Funny how the intimations become the obsessions of latter days.

...the letters add to the elegance of a structure, even if
their meaning is hidden from those not familiar with the language.
Here, they tell how a piece of the true Cross was obtained at
Constantinople in 1034 and enshrined in the Chapel, where
each night prayers were to be said until Christ came again.
About half of the Chapel has collapsed, the interior yawning
hollowly in the direction of the Soviet Union.

- Horizon Magazine (Winter 1971)


the well is always there
a decade of water
just a well
the soldiers pass by
and today the girls are among the clowns
each hiding an arm or wearing a red dance
standing around the well always there
I'm probably barking up the wrong tree myself.

The beautiful the true, shimmering in the well of memory & perception.
the well of wellness. where all shall be well
& all mannere of thinge shall be.
Beware the circus barkers of poetics.

It's useful to the circus barkers to present poetry as a state of continual permanent upheaval revolution orgasm thrill ride. It's useful to import from philosophy notions which question the ontology of the individual, and broadcast them over the literary field, trumpeting collaboration, downplaying the distinctive. It's useful to bellow "We Are Family!" and blur aesthetic values.

Without a sense of the literary absolute, the game is not worth playing.


found 2 more Shvarts translations (the first one seems like a commentary on my note this morning). (Russian-readers, forgive my errors please!)

from Zapadno-Vostochni Veter, p. 26-27


With spiritual abstinence I guide my age,
with radiant intellect. But often I get drunk.
A bird suddenly rushes and falls,
a cold blue eye hangs over nothing.
I go through nigredo - my soul awakens:
again the bird sprouts wings on the wall,
her candescent flight flaring in the gloom.
She is within - where her light is hidden.
She fills my soul (a rounded retort)
with fiery matter - but she won't
give birth. Both angel and devil, she
herself was born to experience miracles.


Blinded, these northern nights
look down into a courtyard well,
drag slowly from the depths
a pail. . . and chi vedra,
they carry it off to the heights:
Petersburg dust at the bottom,
three-day-old fish, books, mice,
an ancient janitor's axe.
They gaze at candles in people's
windows, hundreds of them:
luminous quiet multitudes
in the city left empty.


[This image of the pail from the well recurs in other poems; makes me think of the Voronezh lyric of Mandelstam which begins "I was washing up in the courtyard"]
Angels considered as projected images of the soul.
A little flighty firebird, elusive.
Your quiddity.
That we live in a Byzantine, wooden-icon reality?

Here's an untitled poem by Elena Shvarts, translated (probably mistakenly) by me :

Why, here in this dust,
don't I say "you" and "I"?
A bit of flint given life
gleams dimly out of death.
When light blazed near
I might have dared the sun,
crying - Burn me, dear!
You - my body! Here I am!

But I'm no windmill
and he's grinding me already -
my landlord, shrouded
beneath this decaying shell.


[I remember her telling me in Hoboken once how interested she was in Baudelaire.]