Finished novel (novella?) today. It's about war & peace, only shorter. Calling it Chapel Hill. Now wez muh agent.


This just in : cowpoke Kent Johnson , ol' pal of legendary Jack Spandrift, applies once more for re-entry to Buffalo Poetics List. Application denied.

History : in every American's 3rd left rib there is a tiny crystal Buffalo named Tony. Don't try to pet him : he's ornery, he's contrary.
What is history but Faust writ large & messy?

A play about the man who sold his eternal soul for today's Mammon Power & Glory. It takes a lot of guile & insolence & devil-may-care to be a tool of Hell's minions.

What is history but the manifestation of the Man of Sin, the Antichrist - a moral reality, essentially - on the plane of historical time? The conclusion of Paradise Lost dramatizes this reality.

Of course, that's the negative side of the story. On the positive we have the patience of the saints and the redemption of the earth & de Day ob Jubilee.
You go to "Shakespeare's Head" for originality, for origination, for rosy-fingered Dawn : since all the world's a stage, and all the men & women merely players, acting out their roles taken from the influential Gibbon-Ecco Introduction to History (666th ed.).
Investigativeness in Stubborn Grew:

you could argue it's not there.

the poem relates quite a lot of local history. it moves from "lyric I" notations at the beginning, to a third-person fiction about "Henry & Bluejay", to a mock-epic disintegration of Poundian poetics (the latter half of the book narrating an epic journey over the space of about 10 blocks in Providence as taking place in the mind of the narrator at a coffee shop in Fox Point).

But the "investigative" or reportorial is wrapped in layers of the "literary" and shaped by a geometry of person-as-microcosm, stumbling & falling (from Wm Blackstone, the 1st settler, to Henry; from Christmas to Good Friday).

Layers of literary, like "Shakespeare's Head" (the building in Prov. where the history begins - but also Shakespeare's microcosmic globe, thematized in the 2nd chapter's trip to London - "I think he will carry this island home in his pocket & give it to his son for an apple"). Or like the Orpheus myth & Dante's Inferno retold through a NW Coast Indian journey-to-the-dead tale ("Bluejay"). Or the fact that the 2nd half of Stubborn is bracketed by parodies of Pound & Joyce respectively (in the Pound section, American & RI history are viewed through the lens of Ignatius Donnelly - populist politician, Shakespeare cryptographer, Atlantis theorist - Pound-Donnelly's "Atlantis" tying back into another literary frame for the poem's overall style, Hart Crane).

But few in the "post-avant" community seem interested in my literary strategies, or a perspective on history which colors it with fiction and local context, rather than with irony-via-juxtaposition, the prevalent collage technique. This technique is what I parodied in the Ig. Donnelly section of Stubborn - historico-political snippets & fragments, framed through the bifocals of a populist Shakespeare/Atlantis crackpot, set into rhymed quatrains.
History is a textbook titled Introduction to History from which I am trying to awake.
"Investigative poetics" is attractive because one wants poets to take on, and be granted, the mantle of the histor : to step beyond personal narrative and begin to interpret and give meaning to social reality. Artifacts and documents glow with impersonal mana. Ezra Pound, Susan Howe, many others excavate the archives (or steal from current news bulletins) for sudden brightnesses of recovered actuality.

One of the dangers (Scylla, or Charibdis?) lurking in the detective-collagiste method is that while juggling the dry bones of others' reports, the poet may enervate their own capacity for direct description, original narration, reportage per se. I guess this is one reason why travel poetry and epic multicultural odysseys will never go out of style.

Another complication is that ordinary journalistic neutrality, objective reportage, is about as distant from poetry as any writing can be. Maybe this is one reason a postmodern rhizomatic "poetics of relation" seems appealing. Journalistic objectivity is reinforced by traditions in praxis which try in good faith to leave the work of interpretation strictly in the hands of the reader (after fulfilling the "who what why where when"). A poem on the other hand is from the outset an interpretation. But if the poet, with a comparable vow of idealistic good faith, can follow the path of rhizomatic errancy & self-dissorbtion into otherness, the result will be a new postmodern multivalent "objectivity" (or I should say "non-Subjectivity").

One can say, without getting Derridean about it, that history and texts are symbiotic, intertwined, because so much of human social and historical activity ("agency") is about acting out ideological conceptions, which had their origin in texts and verbal-rhetorical formulations. This is another reason for the appeal of "investigative poetics" : if the poet can just juggle & juxtapose the Poundian "nuggets" in the most exacting way, the reward for the reader will be a historico-literary epiphany : the poet will have succeeded in pre-digesting history itself and offering this golden gruel like a mother hen to the whole brood or tribe. Herein lies the mana of investigative-poetic bricolage.
Back to Josh Corey's remarks on "poetics of relation" etc.

Glissant's ideas, as summarized by K. Prevallet, have been in the air generally for quite a some time, no? - the notion of errancy as a path into connection & otherness, the de-centered openness to marginalized voices and perspectives, the emphasis on the "rhizomatic" as opposed to the "rooted", the centralized, the hegemonic. . .

In fact it seems pretty obvious that experimental poetics of many flavors have invested themselves in the general postmodern trend of these concepts, no?

Maybe the hinge factor here is the "relation" between this cluster of ideas on the on hand, and the idea of the poet as reporter and investigator and documentarian, on the other. There is something interesting here which connects the notion of repertorial independence & objectivity with the sidelining of the poet's own self-presentation & ego; an appealing idea, but booby-trapped - since "objectivity" invests the narrator-histor with simply a transmogrified Authority, the centrality of the scriptor having simply shed one skin & donned another.

Poetry, objectivity, Ouroboros. . .

more later maybe.


Josh Corey made an excellent comeback to my flippid comments on "poetics of relation". I just haven't had time to think about it since.

"Investigative poetics" - fascinating dimension. Something deeply satisfying in the dream of combining roles of poet and historian/investigator. Pound's & Olson's & Dorn's charge.

A poet could spend a lifetime creating a style that combines these contrasting elements & impulses in a new way.


Indian pipes for Eileen Tabios. I saw a pair of them in Parker Woodland last weekend. They're tiny.
Fluid dynamics. Courtesy of NY Times science section today, interesting article.

Leonardo da Vinci started it. he seems to be lurking everywhere these days, or is it just me. reading Leo Steinberg's wonderful book, Leonardo's Incessant Last Supper. I think he missed one thing, though (while perceptively noting a million others). Leonardo not only caught duration & "sfumato" of multiple meanings in a gesture (in his "Last Supper") - but he also "preserved the unities", saved the appearances. It is an instant of time captured, rather than only a blurred spread of implications. It's both. That is, Christ's right hand, recoiling from the dish : it's not simply both or either recoiling from the dish and reaching for the eucharistic cup. It's rendered at the exact moment after his saying "one of you will betray me - he whose hand is in the dish with mine" - from which both Christ & Judas recoil - and also after he has just said "take, eat, this is my body, this is my blood of the new covenant", etc. His hand is still recoiling from the first statement; his left hand is moving toward the bread; his right hand will soon follow toward the wine. The disciples are responding, each in his own fashion, to both statements. The simultaneiity of this moment is memorialized, in a sense, as Steinberg notes, in 1 Cor. 11:23 : "the Lord Jesus the same night he was betrayed took bread and said, 'Take, eat : this is my body'" - which perhaps was Leonardo's pivotal reference.

But look at Peter, Judas & John. Some mysteries there that Steinberg doesn't deal with, & I'm not going to talk about now anyway. Much more to this painting than "meets the eye" of cursory attention.

Fluid dynamics. There's a lot of water in Minnesota : 10,000 lakes, Lake Superior, Mississippi. I'm doing 2nd chapter of my novel, tentatively titled On River Road (that will probably change).


. . . but Drew Gardner is writing good reviews.
Josh Corey on "relational poetics". I haven't read the Fence issue, but I ask this :

Isn't this a time-honored crutch for good old bad writing : to turn "social relevance" into a theme or a technique or an ideal ??? It's a "branding" method.

The "others" are always subjective in a fallible way. "We" are relevant & "social" in an original, critical way.

But I guess I should read what he's talking about. This is starting to sound like I'm carping !!!
then of course there's the flip side, the problems for sense & sensibility & living created by T*H*O*U*G*H*T*S. . .

TS Eliot's turn of the screw (Metaphysical poetry exhibited fusion of thought & feeling, everything downhill from there).

Comes back to the fact that poetry is as Mandelstam put it


thought/feeling/action/word/deed - compacted into small feather-winged container

flying NOW
My old checkers moves from Buffalo Poetics listwars.

Not the New, but the Now.

The Now is not emerging from the School of Carpitude.

Next I'll take on the NY School gen. 300.

Have the vision & ambition to be midstream.

This is one way to approach it.

Topic for discussion :
is this the choice - either find a way to turn poetry into a game - or be eaten alive by it ?

Deep game needs - the need to isolate the space so you can live in the larger world too; the desire NOT to be Poet 24/7. How this scrapes against or interacts with poetry club culture.

The problem for free thought created by club culture, the culture of poetry as S*E*N*S*A*T*I*O*N*A*L.

I was a poet in high school. I was a writer in junior high. I didn't need or want acceptance - I wanted publication.
Yes, I was probably being negative & stentorian the other day.

The crux for me : what constellation of beliefs & attitudes underlies the School of Carpitude?

I think it's a form of belief analogous to religion in Hellenistic times, when you had Christianity & Judaism & Gnosticism & neo-Platonism and so on.

The School of Carpitude (perhaps we could call it an emanation of the "post-avant period" of Language Poetry?) seems a little like Gnosticism & neo-Platonism, except its dual cosmos is "materialist" rather than idealist.

There is a better world over yonder, where spiritual phantoms have been dissipated, nationalism and militarism and imperialism and sexism and capitalism have been demolished, class and social relations have been justified, and life is free, groovy, bohemian & "material" (see Marx).

The polarity between Mainstream & Avant, between Quietude & Carpitude, is an echo effect of this more basic chasm, between Here & Yonder.

Another basic belief of the School of Carpitude is that Modernism was & is truly revolutionary, part of the engine of social revolution, through its enlightened disaffection from bourgeois conditions, leading us to Yonder. (This is reflected, for example, in the Carpitudists special interest in Russian Formalism & the Futurists, in tandem with their disinterest in the role & fate of the Russian Acmeists & their theoretical commitments.)

These basic Carpitude attitudes color their understanding of traditional poetics, of the role of the poet in the public sphere, of the relation between poetry & politics, and of the nature of language in general.

But it seems pretty apparent that the Quietude/Carpitude polarity, this intellectual construct, renders problematic or difficult any poetics which is built on a unitary model of the relations between the poet's role in society, and poetic speech. (In contrast to the supposed gains which might result from a "critical" or revolutionary concept of the role of poetry.)


Enjoying the commentary from 6 or 7 bloghouses on Quietude Theory. I haven't been able to work out a response, due to work & projects (on a sedate parallel with JK, perhaps, I'm writing a novel beginning with a 12-yr-old named "Henry") & the fact that this topic is hard for me to grasp.

My animus & vitriol toward the Silliman Quietude Theory is due I'm sure in part to the fact that I share some attitudes with the "experimental" crowd. The rumbling spiritual uproar of Poetic Nowness - reflected in microcosm every time we are moved & granted insight by a work of literary art - has a certain anarchic center of gravity which does not coincide automatically with Career in any sense. Career is built on the prudence, hope, practical planning, brainwork and moxie of individuals : Nowness is an uncontrollable communal snowball of literary criticism, response, persuasion, recognition, as well as that thing that happens when in our solitary cenacles[?] we read something really good. And the professionalization/care & feeding/curatorship of Creative Writing in the academy creates a certain incestuous, solipsistic dynamic (or I should say stasis) - somewhat like the patronage system in municipal politics - which sends "Tradition" through a kind of parallax distortion (with the of course proviso that there is plenty of genuine and valuable scholarship & teaching & criticism carried out there by poets who are also teachers, and by scholars who are genuine critics). Reading for school is not the same as reading for fun, as I learned (perhaps in deep mistakenness) back in 3rd grade.

But it would be a mistake to reduce this issue to the "poetry in academia" debate, since, for one thing, both Nowness & the supposed Quietude take place not only in the academy, but also, as Ron points out repeatedly, in the networks of literary Publication & its epiphenomena. &, for another thing, the most interesting aspect of the issue hovers around more strictly lit-crit areas, having to do with the development of modern poetics, the relation of innovation to tradition in art & poetry, the reflection of social reality in literature, etc.

Every poet brings a unique perspective to these questions, and they can be quite diverse, obviously. Some will consider poetry to be, essentially, a difficult craft, a genre of writing, which you practice in school and evolve in the context of contemporary literary magazine writing. Others will emphasize the osmosis of literary models and avatars, will pursue the literary history of modernism (Eliot, Pound, Stein, Stevens, and all their generations, etc. etc.) for keys to their own efforts, and as windows on the contemporary (this seems to have been my own bent for the last couple decades). Others will be enthusiastically attuned to the subversive youthful essence of poetry, its criticism of sleep & stasis & philistinism emanating from the garrets & clubs of romantic vital revolt (I know this sounds funny, but there it is). Others will use poetry as a kind of political language, a means of expressing a critique or alienation from capitalism, imperialism, mass culture, the middle class, etc.

What troubles me about the Quietude Theory (along with many similar formulas and attitudes emanating from the post-avant set) is that it reifies vast and various ranges of past poetries into a clump of Quietude, Mainstream, Official Verse Culture. It is this act of reification - a reductive conceptualization - which is the founding move creating ANOTHER clump : the post-avant camp itself. Suddenly there is a set of literary progressives, avant-gardists, who consider themselves both different and more enlightened than the mainstream "others". Within their subculture, they wallow in the vaunted minutiae of "neglected" poets, they excoriate the benighted taste AND politics of the "mainstream" : and in this very process they neglect the essential duty of the poet, whether from within the academy or outside it : to direct the poetic language of the present time - at its highest pitch of clarity, originality, complexity, simplicity, variety, social relevance, intellectual acuity, and aesthetic integrity - to the attention of the general public, the ordinary reader, the extraordinary reader : and NOT to abide (full of insolence, hypocrisy, and intellectual disgrace) in the cozy, incestuous, flabby, and musty nests of their own parochial nit-picking snob societies. The tradition of poetry is a perennial high-energy Now extending back to the bards and prophets of ancient Athens & Jerusalem & before, up to the contemporary "pressure of the time"; it will not be bottled & labeled by the reified, self-serving pigeonholes of the "post-avant", or the "Neo"-formalists, or the denizens of MFA snooze groves.

One can never, in an American context, dismiss the abiding presence, the inspired mastery, and the sometimes explosive relevance, of the obscure, the long-neglected, the marginal, the eccentric, the modest, the quiet, the experimental. But the reification which, in the schools of the post-avant, grants an automatic positive aura to some figures & works, and a corresponding negative aura to others, simply on the basis of "mainstreamity" (say, from among many possible examples, Olson & Lowell), is a specious exercise, an intellectual and aesthetic short-circuit, which obscures what actually has been accomplished in our poetry.


Tim's reading me. There's hope for the geezer. Now if Jimby will post a naked photo of me on HIS blog, I might make the "social" grade. Political, that's another thing. I will have to be run over by Ron's Buffalo Dodge 4-w KathunderKalliope for that to happen. Happy B-day, J. There. Social as a cutworm.
So let's, for a moment, underline the inimitable individuality of certain poetic exemplars. Let's shake the tin walls of Carpitude a little. The binaries get biffly when you remember the influence of the King James Bible & Shakespeare & the Romantics on Whitman & Dickinson; or the politically-alert careers of Quietudists Whittier & Wm Vaugn Moody; or the technical brilliance of Longfellow's innovations; or Poe (the anti-Quietudist)'s "traditional" metrics; or say, the career of radical Modernist, Pound disciple, Poe imitator, avatar of the New Critics, and Ashbery model, TS Eliot; or the street politics of Quietudist conscientious objector Robert Lowell; or the unpigeonholeable poetics of his friend Eliz. Bishop; or the bizarre "quietude" of scholar-poet John Berryman (have you read his essays - or his poems - or is he just another running dog of the quiet establishment?), which made it to the cover of Time, or hey, the career of quietudist establishment academic anarchist FBI McCarthy-tailed WW 2 Vet Portuguese translator poet Edwin Honig, etc.and so on. In fact, if the Critic will lift his eyes for only a moment from the venal obsession with Influence, Publication and Politics, or IPPocrisy, he might discover a constellation of actual poets writing actual poetry. . . amazing, isn't it?
Once again, Ron Silliman is elaborating his binary scheme of US poetics history, what might be called the "team schema" of literature, which is actually pretty traditional in its own right, going back to the battles between Establishment & Radical poets of mid-century, and back before that to the Modernists & the Georgians, and back before that to the experimenters (Whitman, Dickinson, Hopkins) & the rest of the Victorians. . . where would criticism be without these teams, these Quietudes & these Carpitudes? It makes you wonder whether American culture has actually produced ANY fully-developed poets in the last few generations, since the distinction of a fully-formed artist is to absorb & transcend such cliches & group phenomena. Where would Ron's radical Carpitude poets be without a Quietude to diss? Let's face it, 99% of experimental post-avant carpitude poetry is utterly forgettable mediocre braying (same percentage goes for Quietude ranks). & if that's the case, why the obsession with these camps? What critical value do we have in endlessly underlining the magical divide between Rads & Straights, decade after decade, if 99% of the work in both camps is crap? Aren't we just using dung beetle technology to build two huge a-symmetrical mounds of crap? Upon which Ron will sit (the Carpitude pile, to the left) & dish out his extravagant encomia (O brilliant, Mike Magee! just to cite one recent example [not that I have anything against Magee's parodic riffs on Emily Dickinson. My beef is with Silliman's critical scale of values, which transmutes the clever into the pathbreaking, etc.]. . .)


Classic oppositional poetics statement by Ange Mlinko over at Ron's blog today.

O Buffalo, O Brown, O little clubhouses everywhere!

Oppositionalism is simply politics. It's motivated by a political desire to feel important, relevant to something larger than oneself, empowered; you could translate these attitudes into ANY professional field of endeavor and apply them seamlessly. Ironically, the us/them divide merely allows "us" to wallow in complacency, to create whole idioms & theoretical systems to support "marginality" at all cost & with all hypocrisy, to disregard many techniques of social poetry simply because they turn the mode & target of address away from the clique itself.

Ange Mlinko plays these themes on a simple oaten flute; Ron Silliman with full orchestra & pipe organ.

But this junk is not even worth talking about. I'm sure it will be turned into blog-hash for days now.


. . . the battle, in art, essentially, being between the imperial and the empyreal:

the contemplative (Mary's better portion) and the active (Martha's):

a spiritual battle in the soul between the whole Creation & partial goods (greed, lust, pride, anger);

("since the coming of John until now the Kingdom of Heaven has come by violence, and violent men take it by force; but it shall not be so among you. Verily I say unto you, the least of those in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John" - Gospel)

the 9 daughters of Mnemosyne (memory) being grandchildren of Zeus;

this is the subtext of July (Julius Caesar to Jubilee).
Here's the text in translation:

All three of my peaks glance upward;
a gentle triocular cupola is crowned;
and in sharp-edged empyreal beams
someone rotates around.

They are like three wells. . . and water
will suddenly swim to the brink of mutiny;
whenever a pail is lowered in, it must be
very carefully, very tenderly.

(I liked the way "empyreal" puns on "imperial", since this is, in a sense - if I'm right about the Streltsy theory - a meditation on the Moscow/Petersburg relationship : Petersburg the imperial western outpost, Moscow the mother-city, the home of the old religion : all of this enCAPsulated in the microcosm of the poet's trinitarian scalp. It fits well with the employment of the word "mutiny" in the 2nd stanza; also with Shvarts' famous tendency to mingle the spiritual/personal/erotic : the last stanza is somewhat "Greek" (Orthodox) in its Sapphic-erotic & concise undertones.)

"circumference" (ED via Shkspr's Head)
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My amateur translation, published in Nedge #4 (translation issue). When I was working on this I was reading a biography of Peter the Great. The image of "someone rotates around" brought to mind the mutiny of the Streltsy, Muscovite elite soldiers who rebelled against Peter in favor of his sister, and who were executed by hanging outside her (home confinement) bay windows. I learned later that the "three peaks" referred to the three swirls, or widow's peaks (rather unusual) in ES's own hair - which she relates to contemplative Trinitarian "eyes" in the top of her head, a cupola (Byzantine architecture, curve of eyes & eyebrows very prominent in Mandelstam's oeuvre). cf. earlier blog notes on circumference, microcosm, "Shakespeare's Head".
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Untitled octet by Elena Shvarts (her name means "shining black" in Grk-Ger-Rus-Indo : insignia of her native city, the yellow-black eagle flag, the white nights), read very amateurishly by c'est moi. 1994, from her book "Birdsongs from the Golden Sea"(?) published by Pushkin House in 1995.
Vladimir Nabokov was born on April 23rd, Shakespeare's birthday, just 100 years after Pushkin's birth (April 23 is also St. George's Day, St. George being the traditional patron saint of both Russia and England). The first language he learned to read & write was English, though Russian was the spoken language. This background casts a curious light on his last novel in Russian, Invitation to a Beheading, a surreal tale about an artist-figure imprisoned in a fake totalitarian world which employs a hermetic token language, allowing no deviations, by means of which each person already "understands" what is being said, even before the "words" are spoken.

Nabokov's fiction often displays or plays up themes of alien intrusion or the clashing of disjunctive worlds.

There was a period, during the 60s, when my mother was slightly obsessed with Nabokov. She named a favorite campsite in the north woods (the north woods of Minnesota - of birch trees & pine, much like Siberia) "Mnemosyne Point", using one of the novelist's key words. The obsession spread to me; the last short story I wrote in high school was a Nabokovian pastiche of school memories & word games.

My absorption with Mandelstam was probably an echo of that earlier experience. The elegiac "ring" I attempted to close in the poem in memory of Joseph Brodsky (see hgpoetics archives for 1.9.03) - the ring of elegies beginning with Auden's for Yeats, echoed by Brodsky's for Eliot - was actually a revision of an earlier poem in which I recounted my adolescent effort to "become" Nabokov. The 3rd part of that poem - about the boy and the moth - fuses the two: it's based on a Brodsky poem on the same subject, which in turn was drawn from a Nabokov short story.

I haven't been blogging much lately because I'm trying to work on a novel - & reading Nabokov again. I feel sometimes like a character in some Nabokov parody of American life - or a smudged mirror-image of that Russian, who carried around an alien infusion of English since childhood. In the "post-avant" world of subcultural poetics, sometimes I feel like the protagonist (Cincinnatus) in Invitation to a Beheading.

The "plot", you may recall, of Stubborn Grew, is triggered by a search for a lost black cat named Pushkin, & leads to a "CATabasis", or journey to the underworld - the underworld of American "POEtics".


I am a prairie dog. Early poem written by young prairie dog:


Why are the plains like memory,
and the sea like a daydream
where the sun breaks in pieces
of old musicals, blind summers?

The farmhouse far from the ocean
carries my death on waves of wheat,
and bears a heavy childhood too,
bearing a heavy child, my fields -
where we look away to
when the tools are put down
and our hands are free.

When the head leans on the doorpost
and the arms are folded, almost waiting,
the mind could become a river flowing south
and shaking with that human sound.


Tim & David are talking about the definitions of "social poet".

Responding to Tim : 20th cent. lit is more than modernist anti-mass culture struggles. Think of Nabokov or Thos. Mann. Beneath the idea that there is no synthesizing of elite & mass culture is the assumption that there is no viable or culturally normative middle class.

It might be better to focus on the characteristics of poetry per se rather than trying to identify character traits or allegiances of individual poets. Because poetry-making is inherently social, and at the same time, social issues are irrelevant. How so? Because poetry-making is like other kinds of art-making : it involves a "primitive", childish kind of fetishization of objects. The poem for the poet is a fetishized object, a container for impulses of love & fascination. This is true regardless of the poet's social background, cultural assumptions, political ideals, intellectual allegiances, etc. So in a way poetry-making is a hobby, an obsession, a meeting-ground, A PLAY SPACE, where social categories lose their seriousness to some degree. & in this very un-seriousness resides its most important social function.


My poems are a river, and my Poem is ABOUT the river beside which I was born & raised. Get used to it, folks : I AM the "mainstream"!
Perhaps a brief & partial literary timeline will reveal to some extent why I feel puzzled & alienated by the epiphenomena of New American jumbo shrimp, leading to various collisions of the late 90s on the Buffalo Poetics List.

HG Timeline

5.29.1952 - born in Minneapolis. Spends 1st year & a half in grandparents' apt. on Oak St., near U of M campus on Mississippi River.

ca. 1956 - recites first poem, for (workaholic) father, who writes it down on a key tag. Mother saves it:

Play, play,
it's time to play!
Play all day,
that's what I say!
Your work is done,
come out in the sun!
Play, play, play!

(He never abandoned the themes or the late 19th-cent. "pseudo-limerick" style of this early work.)

1957 - suffers from severe case of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare form of polio. Paralyzed up to neck for 2 months. Photo in Mpls Star Trib. upon recovery, in wheelchair, holding life-size Curious George monkey.

1959 - writes 1st short story, after hike in woods with Jamie Freeman & his older sister Mary. Short-story writing continues into high school.

1959-1969 - INTENSE, CONTINUAL reading of fiction. Favorites include Nabokov, Grass, Catch-22, many many. . .

1964 - Recites "Charge of the Light Brigade" from memory for 6th grade English class.

1966 - Reads "For a Gift of Watermelon Pickle", a popular poetry anthology. Memorizes ee cummings' "In Just- Spring"

1969-70 - edits high school lit magazine, Talisman. Inspired by Padgett/Shapiro NY School anthology, begins writing imitations of Berrigan, Ashbery, et al. Many many favorites. Transfers childhood fascination/fetishization with toy soldiers to these poetic objects.

1969 - applies for C.O. draft status; takes student deferment.

1970 - for Senior Speech in high school, recites narrative poem in the persona of an anti-war protestor. During long ride to March on Washington, protagonist is seduced by "Dark Lady" in the back of the bus; ends up as aging hippie guru isolated in Rocky Mountains, his children having become successful businesspeople.

1970 - Berrigan imitations & soccer playing win admission to Brown University (rejected by several other colleges).

early 70s - takes full advantage of Brown "New Curriculum" by pursuing creative writing courses as much as possible. Wins 3 poetry awards in sophomore year.

1972 - depression after suicide of cousin Juliet Ravlin. (Blurry photo of Henry, Julie & sister Cara, ca. 1968, here.) Vocational uncertainties, social disorientations.

Late 1972 - reads Shakespeare's Sonnets. Uncanny sense that the Bard is addressing him directly. Frightened by this, changes major to history, renounces writing.

Summer 1973 - reads Bible while working on ranch in Wyoming.

Fall 1973 to 1976 - During 1st days of senior year at Brown, re-reads Sonnets. Has sudden manic breakdown when ghost of Shakespeare again seems to be "present" in the room. Initiates week of spiritual turmoil, soul at war between Bible & Shakespeare, paranoia about literary fame conspiracy & demonic possession, purchases gun, throws gun in Seekonk River. (Story told more fully in Glass of Green Tea - With Honig). Goes home to recuperate for a week (while there, shows complex new narrative poem about A. Hamilton & Aaron Burr to psychiatrist. Psychiatrist says he may not be able to respond very objectively since he's a direct descendant of Aaron Burr). Returns to Brown; drops out one month later. Becomes wandering solitary "Jesus freak", working odd jobs, playing guitar, reading, meditating, occasionally writing, Providence-Minneapolis-Cora, Wyo.-Denver-Los Angeles-S.F.-New York-London-Providence.

1975 - London. Works under the table at odd jobs. Plays guitar & harmonica in pub band. Applies for Mick Taylor's former job w/Rolling Stones. Discusses Bible & Wm. Blake with Keith Richards; attempted employment & attempted conversion of K. Richards both unsuccessful.

1976 - returns from London upon illness of grandfather; re-enters Brown & finishes B.A.

1977 - discovers poetry of Mandelstam (in translation). Reads Nadezhda Mandelstam memoirs (Hope Against Hope, Hope Abandoned). Begins slow process of recovering poetic capability independent of religious fervor.

1978 - Organizes/manages Kneecap Food Coop, a storefront food coop. Manages CETA project construction of community solar greenhouse based on geometry of "vesica" designs, found in John Michell's popular studies of prehistoric architecture & numerology of "New Jerusalem". (Site eventually torn down by Brown University for housing project.)

1979 - Marries Francesca Tagliabue, daughter of Maine poet John Tagliabue.

1980-83 - works as VISTA volunteer for various Providence community organizations. Continues attempts at writing; deepens interest in 20th-century moderns Hart Crane, Ezra Pound, Eugenio Montale, et al. Sustained study of Mandelstam's style, poetics, worldview as counter-weight to American traditions.

- to be continued (maybe) -

1983 - After partial dismantling of the VISTA program by the Reagan Admin., spent 10 mos. working as a "professional resume writer". Fired after not charging enough for resumes. Finds job at Brown U. Library (Door Guard). Begins posthumous literary life.

- to be continued again (???)
That young Ron in the 60s would see publication by a trade publisher of a book by Joe Ceravolo as evidence of some kind of cultural conspiracy seems paradigmatic for his later perspectives (the Manichean divide between Quietude & Carpitude, the war between NY School & Langpo, etc). It also seems inevitable given the mental constellation of "New American Poetry" : an approach which ab ovo shapes its poets as in struggle. No one is simply an American poet : one is a "NEW American poet, battling conformism, neglect, establishment poetics, and world politico-economic Evil". Maybe the effects are analogous to the way partisan loyalties obscure democracy per se.
Good blog-in by Ron today. Food for thought. The scramble for authority among different New American Poetry mullahs in 60s & 70s. Like a sport with fans & partisans. How can anybody write under these conditions? The desperate search for the right model among young wannabes. "Projectionism" should be the name for it. But of course it was exciting.

One of the best environments for poetry I ever encountered was a small group of poets who met off & on for a couple of years at Sylvia Moubayed's house in Providence. Edwin Honig, several local poets. It was not exactly a workshop; more like a round table. We'd take turns reading new poems & then comment on them. It wasn't perfect; but it was healthy. The poem is a toy, a self-contained work of art, an effort : it is symbiotic & inalienable both from the living poet who stands there & presents it, and also inalienable from the sympathetic, engaged, critical audience which listens & responds. The poem may have a history & a set of poetic choices & a projected ambition - but these remain in the background when it goes forth & has to stand up for itself & justify itself artistically in the presence of others.


HGpoiesis. A Marsden-Hartleyan, feline-Pushkinian, topogenetic, geometrical landscaping, elaborated in >Stubborn Grew & The Rose (ie. Forth of July). Here's the math problem:

Florida, the St. P. of America, drips Seaman HHC, spread-eagled, off S.S. Orizaba into Vortex near Cube. His body, recovered by Herman the Merman, is delivered to WW in the Delta (under the sigla MM, Bride of J). The coffdropped one miraculously swims upstream & is nursed back to health by Seaman HHG at Lake Itasca, aboard the S.S. Abbazero. Can you square this circle, using only one honeycomb? You may have to consult a Russian chess whiz.
What does all this have to do with "The Matrix"? (haven't seen it) Build a fake real using pomo white holes?

No thanks - I have my own spiral jetty.
Go directly to J via St. Pete hidden @ P the G's florid navel. Do not stop at Go
Nada on subjective formalism vs. mathematical. She's right to counterbalance the model-making head trips with a more centered "mimesis" (the "canons" of Leonardo & predecessors - squaring the circle on the human microcosm - were centered on genitals or navel). But math is everywhere. Nada herself did some division (Nada divided by Ron = Ada with remain d'Or). Gaze into your navel you'll see a very physical umbilical cord back to nautilus spiral seashell.
We don't have this notion of "lasting monument" at the forefront of techne these days, though it's deep in the traditional "mysteries".
Reading Rykwert on break. More interesting stuff from Aristotle & Plato's Sophist.

Thinks the term poiesis might have changed in late 7th cent. BC when poets started charging for their services & refining their techne (the main purpose being to create a monument to fame more lasting than marble - not their own fame, but their patron's - cf. Pindar). Poiesis before meant "making" more generally.

Distinctions between acquisitive techne - hunting, fishing, fighting - and productive techne - agriculture, shipbuilding, architecture, etc. Also distinctions between productive mimesis (the carpenter builds this table based on the concept "table") and imitative mimesis (the painter paints a copy of carpenter's "this" table).

acquisitive techne = rhetoric, sophism ?
productive techne = poiesis ?

(tendencies or sharp distinctions?)
name for blog : globlog ?

"blog" a sort of anagram of "globe". Should I change mine to "Bloge"? Sounds unpleasant.

Thoreau's etymological meditation on the "lobes" of leaves & sand markings on a riverbank.
I guess I'm on the wheel of carpitude this morning myself.

Reading Joseph Rykwert, The Dancing Column. about architecture.

He writes that mimesis to the Greeks didn't mean "imitation" as in reflection in a mirror. More like construction on the pattern or in the manner of nature. Aristotle said art (in the widest sense) & nature operate toward goals in the same manner. Poiesis meant "making" in general : architecture, ship-building, poetry.

Maybe the estrangement of poets has something to do with the fact that they are undertaking a constructive project, a fabulative building. It's not rhetorical in essence (designed to sway others, influence others) : it's model-building. In order to stand it has to have an integrity or autonomy or center of gravity, a wholeness. Makes me think of the old (medieval) term for the guilds or craft skills : the skills of the carpenter, etc. were a particular "mystery".

This is odd because language is so outward-oriented, so oriented toward rhetoric & active purpose, toward moving to action. Poetic speech is aimed more at a contemplative telos, like music : music contains all kinds of emotive triggers, but its end is to be a pleasing/moving whole - an end in itself.

Dangerous to the polis because language is so powerful - creating an alternate world-view or whole - the way Shakespeare's "Globe" (the sum of his plays) stood there in sort of ambiguous relation to the actual royals & Macchiavellis he was entertaining.

More from Rykwert : "canon" comes from rule, measure. Leonardo da Vinci provided a kind of quintessence of "canon" in his drawing of a man arms outstretched squaring the circle. It wasn't a new idea at all, but his drawing brought it to a new precision & finesse. The canon of design based on the proportions of the human body as microcosm.

What did Emily Dickinson say about "my purpose[?] is circumference"? wish I could remember the exact wording.

Physiognomy. The globe of "Shakespeare's Head" (building in Providence) making a circuit of cosmos. Epigraph to chapter 2 of Stubborn Grew (from Tempest): "I think he will take this island home in his pocket and give it to his son for an apple"
Ron's the Pope of the School of Carpitude. Always griping, always canonizing.

Draw a large circle of 132" diameter. Call it "X", or "Fame & Influence". Place all poets published by standard presses, receptors of standard awards, etc. in this circle. On the perimeter of this circle draw a small circle, "Y", called "Sub-Fame & Opposition". Place all poets not published by standard presses, not recipients of standard awards, etc. in this circle.

Place yourself in the center of circle "Y". As loud as possible, begin grousing about circle "X". Create a Heroic Historical Narrative of circle "Y", which endows its poets with Moral & Political Authority & General Romantic Sexiness & Youthful Radical Originality & Cool Tattoos & the Elixir of Eternal Youth & Alternative Canonicity & Total Post-Avant-Garde Credentials. Turn Circle "X" into the Foil or Shadow of Circle "Y", allowing the latter to Shine with all the more Brilliance in the eyes of your Alternative Post-Avant Oppositional Morally Superior Aesthetically Savvy Subculture. Hubba hubba.

O grinding binaries of Carpitude!


Parallels between writing a poem, having self-consciousness, and Nicolas Cusanus' theory of "learned ignorance".

The idea that, because our ideas about God & Reality are always (even if only slightly) incommensurate with those things in themselves, it follows that we inhabit a human universe, in which all knowledge is metaphorical & creative, human-produced, including our metaphors for God. Absolute knowledge is a delusion; art alone creates an authentic model (because it's only a model), because the model makes allowance for the unknown, because the creative model is an imitation of divine free creation. (The Incarnation is the only "hard evidence" of the specifically human meaning of the universe.)

But one doesn't NEED such justifications (any more than one needs a poem).


Thinking of JD walking around Hanoi being depressed & ecstatic ("great capacity for joy").
Clearly I moved my awfully extremely accurate foot from soccer to metrics & music.
"This man is a. . . foot."
Clearly an athlete's foot.
Pn dar. (whew!)
Nada asks why she wrote "hummingbird fever".

My guess is she was thinking of the book Nightingale Fever, a study of Mandelstam (who originated the phrase), Akhmatova & Pasternak (? or Tsvetaeva), by British poet & translator D.M. Thomas.

Or it could be coincidence.