Tomorrow is the day celebrated as the anniversary of John the Baptist's beheading. Also the day Atahuallpa (last ruler of the Incas) was executed by the Conquistadors.

But today is the 40th anniversary of the original March on Washington, and Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, which should be heard in its entirety. I was 11 years old at the time, not really aware of what was going on outside of Hopkins, MN (until JFK was assassinated a few months later).

Tomorrow I'll be flying out to Minneapolis for a few days (on NW flight 1963, as a matter of fact).

The trouble with language poetry is, that by denying narrative coherence, it denies the "story" part of history, the drama. The historian Taylor Branch put it pretty well on the Peter Jennings show tonight: "People don't realize that the King speech at the Lincoln Memorial was a founding father's speech; to this day Americans don't realize that their founding fathers are black" (quoting as close as I can from memory).

Anyway, Happy Trails (until next week), & O Happy Day.
"visionary repose". . . Hart Crane, sometimes. "Repose of Rivers"; "Royal Palm". . .

also his poetics in general, balancing old & new.

motionless speed : a spinning top.
Sort of an illustration (old poem from Way Stations):

                  Summer was ocean, a deep gift,
incubation of Joshua, solstitial parakeet.
And earth was borne into heaven,
vaulted into heaven on boats of reeds.

And this May light in the neighborhoods,
where a flowering clematis mantles the porch
in curls of shade, is preparation -
enjoins old bones to climb the coruscating tree.
On the Nature of Quietude

Pondering on my walk to work this "quietude" & what it is. In context of currently reading Edgar Wind's great book (Pagan Mysteries of the Renaissance) about the Neoplatonic fellows of the Florentine Academy (15th cent.) - Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, et al. (Interested to see that Nicolas Cusanus emerges at the end.)

Anyway, Ron Silliman has laid out his various expositions based on a taunt by Edgar Poe at the reigning fireside magazine verse of his time. Ron's is a heroic narrative, in which the stodgy furniture & debased aesthetics of traditionalist establishment popular/elitist "verse" are gradually dismantled & swept away by the enlarged & vivifying renewals of the ever-resistant oppositiional avant-garde.

Was remarking yesterday, in comments on BK Stefans' review of Robert Lowell's oeuvre, on the lack of repose characteristic of the so-called mainstream eminences of the last mid-century (Lowell, Berryman etc). One way of looking at this would I guess be historicist : these poets were teetering on the brink of the revolutionary changes of the 60s, and their unease reflected that moment before the storm.

But you can't reduce poetry to history, nor these particular poets' work to a simple expression of angst or unease.

In fact you can't reduce poetry to sociology or ideology either.

As I mentioned, I'm pondering in the context of Wind's exposition of the neoplatonic humanists' philosophizing on the nature of humankind and God. So I'm thinking in terms of their ubiquitous triads, from Apollo's tripod up to the Holy Trinity. One of them had to do with the equilibrium of the good life stemming from a balance of three aspects of the soul: contemplation, activity, pleasure (intellectual, irascible, sensual; Saturn, Jove/Mars, Venus; etc. etc.).

It intrigues me to think of the wings of blogpoetics as tending to emphasize one or another of these aspects. Thus the NY School tends toward an epicurean pleasure principle & a light mockery of seriousness in any of its obvious forms.

The langpo-avant-gardists tend toward the vita activa, the irascible principle : art is a "movement" loosely aligned with social liberation & political correctness, struggling against the oppressive decadence of a debased commercialized mainstream. The irascible principle naturally seeks & finds its antagonist(s), the current ectomorph of which is the "School of Quietude".

The problem with this dialectic is that the irascible ones conflate the contemplative faculty with the complacent attitude. Intent, in their irascible fashion, upon reading literature politically & ideologically, they are deaf and blind to what is probably the most basic function of poetic harmonics : to lead the reader/listener to a recognition of inherent & beautiful equilibrium, to a visionary repose where contemplation, activity & pleasure reflect some kind of perennial life-principle, Dante's ben del intelletto.


Poetry, it is one, involuted something, it is. . .

"He who cannot attract Pan approaches Proteus in vain." - Pico della Mirandola

For through the Janus of a joke
The candid psychopompos spoke.
- WH Auden

Come on, come on! and where you go,
So interweave the curious knot,
As ev'n the observer scarce may know
Which lines are Pleasure's, and which not.
- Ben Jonson
Ron Silliman, a 21st-Century Canon, sees poetry in the involuted dance of duality: cooked/raw, quietude/oppositional. . .

a complex dithryamb with mirrors, where the raw is really more cooked than the cooked, and the Hegemon-That-Will-Not-Speak-Its-Name is flanked by ambiguous liminal guardians, like M.Moore & K.Shapiro. . .

all a new iteration in the tango of hegemonic Authority : made plain in his claim that Quietude is really a subset of the larger set Poetry, for which, in contrast, the raw/oppositional is the true, the representative, bearer of the torch. . .

It's really there, says Ron, this hegemonic coagulation called Quietude : even though it hides behind namelessness, and the branding of its subsidiary spin-offs. . .

What Ron doesn't tell you is that if there weren't a "quietude" formation, there would be no need for an "oppositional" avant-garde formation. . . "quietude" is the essential building-block of "experiment". . .

presto bingo-bongo, it's all in your mind. . . in the 21st century "experiment" will replace "quietude"! Zazaam !!!
From "Palm Sunday" (chapter 3 of Grassblade Light):


A wave within a wave, a wavelet.
Curves and curves over a grain of friction.
Swirls – a mussy Pushkin cushion
numbering each hairlet, starlet.

Peaks, combs. Nautical particles
combine en masse, become
kindred tribology – the summer
summit of the sum (from little trickles).

Anointed with his Joseph coatings
(a ruddy surface) weary of his nano-cosmos
Michael designates his runs-in-place
with a broken log (lost jettings, leavings).

Maps going blind. He limps
toward the coon-brake, shadows
himself with a Cherokee cross.
Strange turbine figurehead. Lamps

flare black coals, tongues nostril smoke
floodwatered swirled away from touch
lobbed under riverbanks, scotched
scorched. Sixteen marble pieces (in one rock).

Totem for Henry Clay Club, or
52 pick-up. All they must admire.
And circulate its image – where
all this is written in full, every stone apse.

After the ship goes down (all hands)
only the wooden scar remains.
A three-way Tyre of purple runes'
knot of names (Makushki) in the dunes.

Drowned wooden image. Flatboat
Mike's on deck – only shadow of a sailor
now. His lead must figure (somehow)
while I must bail em out, sd Johnnie Profit.

Surface tension of a heedless figurehead.
Sail on through, she said.
Through the wavering shade. Red
circles circling your oddest eye (your sty, Sinbad).

Where the pressure of the swirl grows
stronger. Massive darkness,
leering mother-heart – swells, stress sails –
your orbiting shame (so Levantine) sows

mustered seeds – your crime-
leashed hand on board
end – the weird herd
of the word-hoard climbs

No One's

tailed solidified train-
trail Turk's Head tri-poly-
murmur of a moldy-holy
Son-song gone insane –

nascent no sound gnshd ossfrruss
rodent post – stopped rigd
oath-red odic ballead
blockhouse. Ravenous.



A limpid Mike Crow padded from Triangle Park
to rundown Seven Corners. A neon rodeo light there
sped through trysted rope – so slow, corpuscular,
night-light, crepuscular. Light growing dark.

His hood swirled on his hair. Black cone,
asturban – alien almond-pitted crown – unseen
strange tripod head of spiral jasmine
Melkanhonshi trumpeter-chauffeur carmen

(coalmined, incarnadine). Snuffed out
a sound of singing, somewhere – where the prim
deejay was welded – 1, 2, 3 – and wielded him
one bronze horn out of astricues – a deserted

dervish hut squared from paralensic
Tripoli voltimeters. Toward the wisecracks
of dawn marked a crossgrainhouse runtlet
bow-taut. Tongue-tied. Strung for the rackets.


Something heavy in the swirl – the pattern grows light.
There (on the veridical viridian chromosomatic
verge) your heaven parallents will go inside-ecstatic.
Dervish wish-swish struck-out Mighty Mite

disintegrated welded whirled and wind-blue J-
flown shofar – sure as Walter's witty fox tract or
– reversing soil – flash (shadow overheard) – your
own saloon-man, sister C – J.D. Deejay –

been framed out of a double-cross to be forever
so, it seems – one love fits all, she sang!
Where the spanner spun, wreath waving –
and rose, wheeled, solemn, gradual. . . sheer

sweetness at the door, the entryway –
lie back, lilacs, and blow, you delta air-
borne flights! We'll go there, Maggie,
to the Mardi Gras – today, today!
BK Stefans includes an interesting canonizing review of Robert Lowell's recent Collected. The following passage is characteristic:

"One can't help, reading through this massive, spellbinding volume, mourning some of what has been lost in American poetry since Partisan Review crowd was in the ascendant: an earnestness about writing (and rewriting) poetry in a bid for immortality (Berryman's narcissism may have killed any frank courting of this instinct), an intellectual aggressiveness that was more ethical than theoretic in nature (like Auden, Lowell's pacifist politics were often transparent, and he was a conscientious objector in WWII), an imagistic impulse that was best typified by Lowell's unerring sense of visual detail ("...octagonal red tiles, / sweaty with a secret dank, crummy with ant-stale; / a Rocky Mountain chaise lounge, / its legs, shellacked saplings." [162]) and an embodied, phantasmagoric sense of history and geography, highlighting that generation's greater chronological proximity to Pound and, before him, Robert Browning (and the Victorian habit of comparing one's "age" with a prior historical epoch, especially that of the Roman Empire). "

Berryman often came under attack from his own generation for "bad writing" (Louise Bogan probably the most salient example of this). Here Stefans juxtaposes Berryman & Lowell : Berryman's narcissism vs. Lowell's earnest bid for immortality through careful (re)writing.

What stands out for me anyway about that circle of "establishment" American male poets from mid-century is the enormous weight of stress & torment. The lyrical balance of some of Schwartz's poems contrasts with his miserable neurotic personal life. Berryman & Lowell's work is remarkable for its lack of repose.

I think Berryman actually captured the historical flavor of his times, through his manic self-obsessed disintegration & the schizoid undertone of "black talk", than Lowell did with all his earnest & Olympian historicism. America & the West are a racial-ideological construct on certain levels, and in Berryman we begin to hear the unsettling African undertone of that deeper seismic-historical resonance.


Another section from toward the end of July :


Cornered in a crossweave of very pianissimo
scales tumbling down terraces I learned
a lot from him I learned little things
that mean so much in music get the little

things together the way you build a house
and then the whole structure will stand up

get the patient on her feet and Presto
dancing the minimum the minutest

waltzing bee across a waft so fa so fine
handwoven llama threads all manual
cowpuncho Nilon Ship's Clothing the map
a tiny honey palm-lamp now within a fable

of the feeblest roost or nest beneath a
river of Egyptian stars one lone nut
(almond, acorn) tunneled in the rivulet
of a silky milky nebulae blanket

and sheets of big muddy scarab sound
or terraces of rainbows out of the cosmos
of her sorrow 44 stitches to the cinch
of a single googol [coined by a child]

squared off on a grid of linked unchains
twirling toward mid-April Washington
or Lafayette leftover in a Thursday rain
vale, Jo it's a map of. . . from a distance

shielded ink kenosi-shrouded crossroad
or galaxy of frailest grassblown wind
a quantum myrrh held in a widow-
pain a microscopic dust sirocco

gleams there dead ahead and green
kayak in a rocket in a yippie eye O kayak
pi A-grid a-wool manually-done and a.k.a.
Mplmnde. Mojomemo Lt. Col. Greenègresham

Have been reading Edgar Wind's classic study, Pagan Mysteries of the Renaissance. What the neo-Platonists of the Florentine School (Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola) had to say about "vision" vs. "joy", or the threefold aims of the soul (contemplation, activity, pleasure - Saturn, Jupiter, Venus - there are a lot of variations on this), seems relevant to what I was trying to say yesterday about "vision" vs. "minor poetry".

Ficino, for example, valued joy & pleasure over the intellectual search for truth; pleasure in itself was not to be condemned, only it was to be acknowledged that earthly pleasure was limited by time. However, the whole Platonic & Neoplatonic concept of pleasure was derived within the pattern of a divine cosmos - "love is blind" because at the deepest level, the soul intuits its relation with divine Love without needing to "see" it; at some point the distinction between intellectual insight & spiritual love is no more.

So also maybe at some point the distinction between playful pleasing poetry & exalted visions of Reality also disappears.


At the end of previous post, I contrasted both bohemian poetics & postmodernism with the poetic capacity of the "visionary".

It may be that the meaning of visionary here hinges on a concept of philosophy, and on how we conceive the relation between poetry & philosophy.

Postmodernism generally seems to posit a kind of Dionysian or Nietzschean "irreality" which de-centers both reality itself, and the philosophical language which aims to delineate it.

Olsonian-derived Projectivism seems to represent a genuine effort to "envision" reality in a holistic way, but it's accompanied by a kind of magico-mysterium hierophantic attitude which tends toward elitism & obscurantism.

"New American" poetry generally seems derived from a poetics more than a unified philosophy : a poetics of expressive free engagement rather than traditionalist formalities, codes & idioms.

A "serious" poetics as opposed to a "minor" poetics would maybe be grounded in some form of realism, by which I mean the assumption by both Plato & Aristotle, both the philosopher of formal beauty & the philosopher of natural energeia, that there exists an objective Reality which humans can and should aim to interpret as rightly as possible.

The battles between philosophy & poetry I think about in terms of the Western integration of "Hellenism" & "Hebraism". Hellenism asserts the human capacity to objectify the True & the Real in philosophical/scientific signs. Hebraism emphasizes the underlying & mysterious subjectivity of phenomena, grounded in a Creation which is the artifice of a divine Nature which is itself imaged in human beings (as the "faces" or facets of a geometrical figure approach the continuum of the circle). This subjectivity I align with the poetic (as differentiated from the discursive-philosophic) tradition of the Psalmist & the prophets. Poetry asserts a certain vividness of expression which is more truly mimetic of the ultimate Reality than discursive reasoning can achieve. So these two are always in creative rivalry, the one tending toward irrational magic & superstition, the other tending toward dry & dehumanized rationalism.


Nota re a map of bloggosphere poetics.

Quiet muggy Friday I feel like tooting a horn.

In the poetics of bloggosphere, I see 2 large general blogislands or tendencies stemming from branches of 20th-cent. unofficial experimental poetry.

1) stemming from NY School, mostly. The underlying stance seems to be a kind of modesty regarding the place of poetry in culture at large. Poetry is deeply playful & unserious; it is an aesthetic response to the world of experience, which knowingly knows its ephemerality; we respond to it as art within the world of art; yet this playfulness paradoxically & tangentially colors reality too, so eventually it becomes seriously unserious or a committed stance toward life as a whole in some sense - a poetic response to experience. . .

2) stemming from Modern/Projectivist/Langpo, mostly. The underlying stance seems to pivot on a faith in an "avant-garde project" which is not simply a playful response to existence but a determination to change socio-political circumstances; art is seen in the context of social reality, which has a kind of immediacy & forcefulness - a challenge to commit oneself - which encourages what could be called revolutionary attitudes toward both art and society.

& where do I, HG Poet, stand with regard to these islands?

It will be objected that I am reducing these tendencies to cartoon stereotypes; that there is a basic aesthetic component to the # 2 stance, as well as underlying social commitments to # 1.

Well, I have learned from & been attracted to both tendencies. But I am sceptical.

If I think of the "minor style" of the NY School, I am, on the one hand, reminded of the Great Works of Art looking ironically over my shoulder; and on the other hand I think that choosing a stance of informality, ephemerality, can, in a strange way, pre-program the poetry : whereas I think the effort of poets should be to escape any kind short-circuiting offered by style idioms. If I'm being unfair here, it's not directed at the genuine poetry (New York is essentially a great poem), but at the notion of poetry as bohemian club life.

If I think of the "serious-critical social attitude" of the avant-garde, I am sceptical again. My experience or encounter with poetry over the last 30 years seems rooted in a concept of poetic language which is in dialectical opposition not simply with "prose" but with the mechanistic, disenchanted worldview for which poetry is the perennial alternative. But this notion of poetic language is predicated on a somewhat idealistic/Platonic notion of the relation between mind & reality : playful & tricksterish in its own way, and obdurately opposed to political formations which masquerade as aesthetic activity. (This is not to say that poetry cannot speak to politics. Far from it. But first it must be poetry.)

[p.s. please not to misunderstand. I'm not against parties & having fun, even though I'm basically a bookish homebody. I play harmonica, guitar, keyboards. The little jug band I'm in has a party gig tonight. I'm just against confusing poetry with socializing. I respect & admire the improvisational performance-oriented fun & funny poetry emanating from NY School & elsewhere; it's just that my own area of interest, I guess, hovers around certain visionary capacities of writing. The visionary (as I understand it) is also devalued or dismissed by the sophisticated obscurantism of various strands of postmodernism.]

A gentle descent along a
long downscale slide
of sad night leads
into the seed go all the

she said with him
to the end Puesto que un nino
veo ahora, nino ciempiés,
snail thrum

Instante redondo,
familiar que ya nadie
siente ni ama!

Redundant stand

again by the green-eyed
myrrh-box where you
entered the whirl
long ago nègre

and naked
a freak of Nature
squalling across
all Africa (an

earful in D)
as an enormous ark
breaks down crass
brass cyst's M-den

of sleep amar D grass
amor Degas a
mère de G
a Notre D

a welldeep fylfot
hung-there Goody-
Frigdeed G-whiz
JL u-turning left



& another one (I like the way this transmits the original typesetting, thanks Mike Snider):

         29    An Icon

woke up this mornin' with my mind
set on freedom. . .

I wanted to make you happy with another poem,
& as the star of a nation droops low
in the great NW sky I wanted to flood you
with fishbaskets from Rome, Byzantium

& as the voice of Marian Anderson
ricochets off the Memorial (& over the
heads of the D.A.R.) I wanted the star
(with its consort of muffled organ)
to surface – and plumb the mansions of heaven

& these desires of mine
hung there pendulous like fireworks,
or all the other & Various Works of Man –
waiting, waiting (like sheepdogs – wandering barks)
for the miracle of your ink-black inspiration
Yet another old sonnet from Island Road:


near Norwich, by the Thames

Trees merge with the darkness coral, camouflaged
above the river, quiet, smooth and ceaseless.
Hidden by nightfall, stars, arranged
in the heavens, drift reflected there.

You tugged your sweater close around your dress
& let me wrap an arm across your shoulder as
the last of summer pulled us both downstream,
so adamant, so casual, unvarying, and calm.

Those fingers lifted to my shivering lips
were hidden in the darkness too & now
my heartbeat mimics you
& stained with all this darkness, steps
toward some anonymous London afterlife,
incognito (the ache of universal grief).

[p.s. that's Norwich, CT]
In Stubborn Grew et al. I occasionally mention something mysterious called the "path P", which came originally from an old Rhode Island document signed by the Narragansett sachem King Philip - "P his Mark", but in my business also referred to the "path Pushkin" (following the lost black cat) or "path Petersburg" or, in July, the "path Phoebe".

Curious to find in Sachs book that (according to Sachs anyway) letter "P" in Melville's private Moby Dick code symbolizes "Word", and in Greek "P" is the letter rho (ie. "Little Rhody")..
Old poem from Island Road:

68    Henry's Sleep Report

I saw a needle of strange fortitude
bolt through the vault, like a mosquito farming
the blue or unstable sable-yellow feathered
hornet's trumpet vine's metamaterial barnstorming –

an M an S whirled – miles over that tangled isle
like a bull's-eye of assassinated justice
in the court of angels, or long-lost medal
of stolen honor, or incarnadine boomerang of unbound bliss –

& this tiny cantilevered carriage pricked the skies
across a verdant constellation – binding the said
sad impress, blessing with mourning eyes
& pity, spanning, spinning across with ruby thread –

& so your guileless disguise prevailed on high, as
you unwound your own 4th of July


I read lately :

Game of Creation by Viola Sachs. Riveting study of Melville's ciphered language in Moby Dick. Puns, gematria, magic squares. . . the book is an eccentric combination of amazingly acute deciphering & intuitive thinking, with a pretty simplistic, reductive set of conclusions. Maybe faced with the labyrinth of Moby, one is tempted to resolve its meaning(s) too quickly. But I love this book. I would buy a copy, but it's very hard to find.

I've read it before. There's a lot of Melville in Stubborn Grew et al.


Somethin' from the poem July:


We looked for you little Sheba
at the source of the Nile up the coptic
streambed running rusty and we peeked
quintessence is a very ghostly thing (bashful)

Dr. Lykken said This is starting to look
like real physics
and what to do
with the other six dimensions?
The extra dimensions in the Berkeley

theory stringy forces and the ability of
quintessence to flip a particularly bizarre
and bedeviling prediction del heno rubio
a él en la flexion a ella en condicion aumentativa

wriggling incredibly tiny superstrings
Y exclamo entonces, sin cesar ni uno
De qué deslumbramiento ofono, tinto,
se ejecuta el cantar de los cantares!

a low D-tone drones weak field
of energy normally exists in a

humdrum, unsurprising attractive mode
It sort of shadows the behavior
of the other matter reverberating
tenuous diploid dum-dee-doom-dum

downward repulsive quintessence
accelerating the diaphanous design
like a J-drill spiralling jade or gneiss
pinpointed through permafrost a sequin

gone from gold to green to the hidden
den in the well of do-well as peers
pierce the d-d-depth a spear of
delight all manner of (shall hind be fond)



Anny Ballardini tells me that today is a Roman holiday : Ferragosto. Turn off the lights. Lie under a silver olive tree.
(from: The Egyptians, however, never reduced their writing to an alphabet by discarding the multiconsonant signs; rather, they retained clearly the form of the original words. When doubts occurred, as in the case of the three signs for the frequent consonant series m + r (the hoe, , the chisel, , and the pyramid, ), the plurality was used to make clear distinctions between words: all derivations from the stem mr "to love" were written with the hoe; those from the stem mr "to be ill," with the chisel; and those words related to pyramids with the sign for pyramid.)
Here's another short chunk of In RI (from the chapter which appeared in Apex of the M):


The earth is sacred because fragile,
frangible, delicate
as feeling is
delicate, the way eyes move along
the ridge of an old stone wall,
or you hear
the murmuring flow in the pattern
of light beams playing across
blocks of granite, or
marble. By the waters of Babylon,
there we hung up our lyres
and wept, O
Jerusalem. By the waters,
under a pendulum of vine and
ziggurat. Seething

Turbulent flow, un-
mappable. Reflexive
mrmrmrmr -
A pyramid
Roman aroma,
O senora,
Armor (cotton shield).


I think I started to have an emotion earlier this morning, but then I realized that in the new environment of challenged narrativity and questionable subjectivity and the new tone being set by the New Tonalists, I probably wasn't feeling anything, and actually "I" probably wasn't there at the time, though I may have been nearby. There's a McDonald's across the street and this is a sentence.
Untitled Little Old Emotional Poem

                                   in RI

No one will blame me
on the whispering shore
for lingering so long
near your small rose island.

Bees' slow honey
is the measure of summer;
morning and sundown,
by that rose double-arch.

And my tongue's dark island
leaves a late russet shadow –
dry relic of the voyage,
our lips' broken compass.
Mille grazie, Eileen.

Here's Anny's (preliminary) version :


New England, ottobre. La terra si fa antica.
Le foglie cadono e noi con loro,
lenti, galleggiamo quasi.
Sotto cieli di peltro, le piccole foglie gialle
dei platani si intensificano dorate.
Classico. Le strade
affollate sono quiete, introspettive. Le foglie
s’accumulano, appiattite in bassi rilievi attraverso
il buio; intriso di pioggia
il selciato.

Un che di europeo. Una Parigi
immaginaria. Studentesse intellettuali abbracciano i libri,
camminano sotto alte
oscure cuspidi di sasso, cantando
dall’eternità. Tremore di un vecchio
giovane amore.

E quando la vidi di nuovo,
muoversi davanti a me su per la via, dal piede varo, un po’
lenta, esitante, con addosso uno scialle
autunnale. Camminava sola,
al corso d’italiano.
Anny Ballardini (here is a poetry site she hosts) has translated my local history poem In RI into Italian. & I didn't even ask her. This is great - it sounds better in Italian. Funny how it opens with a scene of someone walking to Italian class. Very emotional in a narratively-oppressive & logocentric way. A chapter was published in Apex of the M way back when. It opens like this (thanks to Michael Snider for advice on indents; I still haven't got it completely right, but. . .):


         New England October.  The earth grows ancient.
Leaves fall, and we fall with them,
slowly, almost floating.
Under pewter skies, the small yellow leaves
of the plane trees blaze more golden.
Classical. The crowded
streets are quiet, introspective. Leaves
cluster, flattened in low relief across
dark, rain-soaked

Something European. An imaginary
Paris. Intellectual schoolgirls, hugging books,
walking under the high
somber stone spires, singing
out of eternity. Tremor of old
young love.

And then I saw her again,
moving ahead of me up the street, pigeon-
toed, a little
slowly, tentative, wearing some autumnal
shawl. Walking alone, toward
Italian class.


Champollion deciphered the wrinkled granite hieroglyphics. But there is no Champollion to decipher the Egypt of every man's and every being's face. . . If then, Sir William Jones, who read in thirty languages, could not read the simplest peasant's face in its profounder and more subtle meanings, how may unlettered Ishmael hope to read the awful Chaldee of the Sperm Whale's brow? I but put that brow before you. Read it if you can.
Kasey writes, interestingly :

What connotations, resonances, moods do the patterns evoke? We are veering, or threatening to veer, back to the realm of the referential and the conative (and maybe the emotive itself), but the added element here is something like a belief in, or a wish for, a kind of magic: for the transformation of mere phonemes and syllables into transcendental conveying devices, Cloudy Symbols of a High Romance. It is this romantic valuation that is anathema to the theory behind much Language Poetry, and that is still a beguiling beacon for James, with his New Brutalist’s heart pumping pure Keatsian nectar instead of blood.

So maybe when it is objected that Language Poetry is unemotional, what is really meant is that it forecloses the possibility of using emotions as a portal to a privileged perspective outside materiality. A poetics that wants to take issue with such a foreclosure, moreover, has its work cut out it for it (if it proposes to take issue in a public forum among which there are Language Poets and other materialists, at any rate). Or, coming at the same problem from another angle, how does the New Brutalism propose to answer the inevitable charges of escapism, mystification, naive romanticism, etc.? Or will it ignore these charges and their attending sociopolitical imperatives entirely, content to pursue a pastoral ideal of sweet mad hedonist piping in the polluted garden of contemporary life? The world watches and waits.

One question for Kasey : why must the emotive function, ravelled into the poetic as he describes, be necessarily otherworldly-Romantic? It seems to me that the poetic expression of emotion is often very this-worldly, situational : one of poetry's fantastic capabilities is to evoke a tense dramatic human situation through understatement, thus playing upon deeply mixed emotions (both the emotions deriving from the immediacy of a critical situation, as well as those deriving from an ironic or retrospective distance from those events).

It seems to me that foregrounding this opposition between idealist & materialist ideology is exactly the "argument" of Language poetry - an argument which elides these other potential capabilities & engagements.


But, Tom of St Louis will recork : it's not the poet's emotions, it's the emotion expressed.

In other words, bladderdash, sorry, gotta go.

There is only one number; the rest are just repetition. & that number is. . .

knot to. Quipu.
The Poet qua (quack) Poet has 2 genuine emotions. I am about to detail them in detail forthwith, if you will just control yourself, you whippersnappers & snappywhippers, for just just one unemotional moment, please:

1. Frustration (when the Poet quack Poet is unable to express the fleeting ghostly surges of response triggered by unaccountable uncorralled. . .)

2. Gratitude (this is actually an emotion, and it is actually felt when yawp = op, at least in a mystical sense anyway, which I will explain frothworth).
Jonathan's been doing crosswords. I've been playing online chess. May be more socially-responsible than debating poetics.


Responding to JK (of today, 8/7) :

it seems like there is a basic difference between:
1) this text means [. . .] to me
2) in this text, the author is communicating [. . .].

A text will trigger all kinds of thoughts & insights in a reader; but this is a little different activity from that of trying to "hear" exactly what the author is communicating.

It's possible that Gary's "mis"-translation is actually an effort to convey more exactly what the poet is saying in the original. I suppose there are as many ways to do this as there are languages (or more).
The Now, the Eternal. A moment of awareness in the past, perhaps in childhood. Something in the present triggers a recollection of that prior awareness. This present puts that moment in a new context of perception. The twinning or overlapping of two moments in time creates a sense of liberation or adds a new dimension to the simple unidirectional passage of time. Theme of Proust, Nabokov, Four Quartets. Dante spoke about the denizens of Inferno being separated forever from the ben del intelletto, the "good of the intellect"; maybe this experience represents an analogous (aesthetic) "good of perception". Prose (or poetry) designed with such hidden overlapping patterns creates a reading experience which re-enacts the same process. We read along in a forward motion but are given pause by these "time-rhymes". Perhaps all art encourages these moments of contemplative stillness.

Thinking of my own long poems : the re-enactment (through writing) of a reading experience - reading Hart Crane or Mandelstam or the Cantos or Finnegans Wake - which in part is what Stubborn Grew is (since the plot of a "search for the lost cat Pushkin" is a kind of thematizing of the Mandelstam-mimicry process) - triggered my own memory-poiesis in its sequels : the spooky coming-forth of cousin Juliet (the "Forth of July").
I remember very clearly listening to my mother once, back in the late 60s, sitting on the couch saying "I don't believe in Time". She was a big Nabokov reader in those days.
Speaking of present tense, have been reading an interesting study by Vladimir Alexandrov, called Nabokov's Otherworld. About the nature of VN's "metaphysics" & its influence on his art. Although Alexandrov emphasizes the novelist's originality, he mentions Proust's fiction as showing some similarities in their presentations of time, eternity, nature, the afterlife. That "the present" is not what it seems in an everyday sense, as neither are life nor death, and that art gives an image or a form to a reality of mystery, "simultaneity".


JK asking about empiricism (reasoning from experience?).

What if observation & theory are actually the same thing. (As "nature" is a synonym of "artifice".) In both we see patterns & interpret them. & what if both are always "conjectural" (as in Nicholas Cusanus, or Karl Popper).

So maybe a poem is an observation-theory.

Say that again? A poem is. . .

"I work hard, I work long, on a body of words until it grants me complete possession and pleasure. If the reader has to work in his turn - so much the better. Art is difficult. Easy art is what you see at modern exhibitions of things and doodles." - Vladimir Nabokov
I think it was Mandelstam who wrote "I want to live in the future perfect conditional". Or something like that. (I would have liked to be able to quote more exactly.)

If. . . then I will have been happy. (?)
Jordan writes:

The resistance pressure I tend to overcome by throwing grappling hooks to the immediate environment. The continuous present/peasant. A post-Apollinaire method. Where the accepted Anglo tendency is Wordsworth's recollection -- the bias in the Anglo-American mainstream is toward that honey-thick congealed deep time mode. The kind Chris Lydon was asking Jim about, and was confused about what kind of poetry the bloggers were writing -- or rather, revealed his certainty that it was not a kind he recognized.

What's my suspicion of that mode -- do I have a bias that present witness is somehow more authentic?

If it's a bias, is it a stylistic bias? I mean NY School poetics seems to emanate this general stance. On the other hand, recollection can also be a present-tense activity - searching for something lost. Yes, Arcadia-childhood-recollection is an oppressively cliched "mode". Romanticism looking for lost felicity-divinity. On the other hand, the "it's all here now - be happy!" manner of bambini-poetics is just as limited.


Stubborn Grew (2000) is situated - thematically, stylistically - in between, or in the midst of, The Bridge, Cantos, Paterson, Maximus, Ulysses/Finnegans Wake, Moby Dick, Maximus, "A". & draws them to its own end. But the supposed avant-garde has shown no interest. Jim Behrle writes, Poetry is : ignoring Henry Gould. The builders builded better than they knew.
What bearing does this have on poetics? If you accept the existence of something we can call the universal, as expressed in the many-in-one, then there is no such thing as an autonomous, self-referential artifact; everything persists in relationship, a circumstance which has moral implications. You cannot avoid the communicative function, the cognitive aspect, the social relationship, of the artwork. This may sound like I'm contradicting earlier comments here; but what I railed against before were forms of poetics theory & criticism which stem from a politics already riven with a pre-existing duality (basically, us vs. them), a partisan commitment to, let's call it, class struggle. Instead I asserted a unity of humane values, a "tree of life", from which stem both an ethical way of life in the world and artistic activity. That this "tree of life" is under attack by forms of greed, complacency, epicureanism, misguided ideologies, authoritarianism, and violence does not mean one necessarily must assent to a manichean world view which identifies evil with capital and good with labor; evil with dull mainstream inter-communication vs. good avant-garde artifact-production. This notion I have of art which communicates universal values is actually a challenge to invite poetry to engage with the fully-human existential & political & social problems facing the world.
I suppose the existence of many-in-one is what allows for the possibility of the beautiful.

& if you grant the existence of many-in-one, you necessarily grant the existence of one.

Perhaps the tendency toward the many is creation, while the tendency toward the one is (in Simone Weil's terms) decreation.

But I would say that behind these abstractions there is always. . . someone.
Kasey quotes Mukarovsky's On Poetic Language, an excellent book.

Mukarovsky admits a duality between artifact & communication, but leans toward the self-referential pole (he is also writing this at the height of the modernist era).

I wrote earlier this week that if the poem doesn't work as art, its sociopolitical "communications" are meaningless.

Nevertheless I am leaning & pushing in these blogpolemics toward the communicative pole.

Because, I guess, I believe in "universals", or some ground of truth (thinking of Chas. Peirce here). & for me a corollary of universals is that if they exist, they must exist in some kind of dialectic or duality with partial truths, differentiation of languages, etc. The problem of the many & the one.

How does this relate to poetics? Well, if you accept the notion of universality, then there is a problem with the purely self-referential, the autonomous artifact. Because everything exists in context & relation to general, universal truth. You cannot avoid communication, even if the emphasis may reside in pure aesthetic effects. (Of course, postmodernism already made this critique of modernism, but on behalf of a relativity so complete, so aleatory, it makes communication a moot issue. Postmodernism exploded the self-enclosed artifact & left smaller artifacts bobbling & wandering through "mass culture".)

& frankly I think it's intriguing to consider the hypothesis that there is a motivating situation underlying the supposed divide between "mainstream" & "experimental" (as we know them now, that is in their contemporary versions) : the situation in which the collapse of shared universal narratives pressures art to build these self-referential models, sort of compensatory utopias.


Abolone has the sound.
Cloudy, misty, muggy in Providence. Back from lunchbreak dawdle down to India Point harbor.

Pondering personal writing dilemmas & conundra.

Enjoyed reading Hopkins poem at Chris Murray blog. Obligatory demurral of "single God" mentality. Hopkins' argument encapsulated in final lines of Divina Commedia : the light penetrates, and then shines, flares, blooms - reflected back in the joyful things of creation.

Not so simply single, though simple nevertheless. Imago, imago, imago. My Byzantium. Ancient Light. Triad & waltz. See Nicolas de Cusa for complete explication. Human approximations of the Infinite-Eternal, artefacts of a human cosmos; yet touched (at the limit, at the vortex, at the vanishing pt., at the matrix, at the center of the Last Supper) by redemption. The sign of Jonah is the only sign.

Musing again about difference between prose-narrative and poetry-lyric. Curious mimetic Now of representation (Proust & his Moment of recall), and on the other hand, the immediate Now of lyric recital, which gathers time into its enactment. Homer at the limit (poem/narrative). Bible (chronicle & psalm, or jeremiad).

The contemporary lyric artefact, unhinged from any "master" mastering mastered narrative, any plot, any story. The syntax-logic of an assertion, an argument, is also a mini-story. What do you bring to tell us? What good news?

What is it to read? What is a book? A splinter from the dark wood, from the forest of shades. A ship-message in a bottle thrown to the absent interlocutor. Since you're not here, I'll write it down. A borderland between here & there, life & death.

Eurydice, your absence takes on a mortal coloring. Time stops in your shade.