What am I reading these days?

books by & about Nicolaus Cusanus
books about history, architecture, etc. of Aleppo (Syria)
books about Hitchcock film, Vertigo

You tell me!


not really a poem, just a quick sketch today, from Dove Street. Do you have people like this, where you live?


i.m. Richard L. Champlin

He came to rest (meek one) in an abandoned orchard
alongside a stone wall in Foster in the dog-days
of August his hand atop a sapling a full box
of peaches at his side
the perfected naturalist

come (ripened) to his hour out-of-doors
and maybe the orchard harbored apple trees
like Blackstone’s Yellow Sweeting: he would know
having discovered a red-flowered Spicebush

(Lindera benzoin forma rubra R.L. Champlin)
and the national champion Pussy Willow
maintained records of notable trees
exceptionally astute and persistent observer

birds, turtles, and butterflies very good storyteller
diligent keeper of written records (daily journals
amounted to 35 vols.) companion to most
of the old Yankees from northwestern Rhode Island

local lore and cultural history locations of springs,
Native American mortar stones, threshing rocks,
charcoal mounds reverent, modest, and private man

Redwood Library director botany, ornithology,

mycology, entomology, malacology, ecology
so you might sketch a quick landscape
beneath Yellow Mountain with the tiny figure
of the scholar hidden there contemplative

eye beholding mirrored beheld now in your eye
the absent shadow of your twin your spouse
(Blackstone for Guillem Eurydice for Orpheus)
(apples in a cloistered garden sister-dove)


*Note: lines in italics from obituary by Peter Lockwood, published in Rhode Island Naturalist,
v. 10 n. 2 (Nov. 2003).


Still thinking on millionaire Mel & his Mad-Max Jesus.

I guess my irritation stems in part from a sense of identification. Gibson's "Passion" is his own; this vast expense of expensive spirit stems, as passions will (as Dante knew) from a listening, hearing, reading experience; somewhere in his (or his strange father's) biography there was a response to, & some kind of identification with, the Biblical Word.

In the summer of 1973 I was working on a ranch, haybaling, with my brother, in a remote & beautiful part of Wyoming (Cora, WY, pop. 3). After work, in the bunkhouse, with Jim & the rancher's cocky 14-yr-old son, who wore a cowboy hat & liked to shoot gophers with his .22, & liked to bug Jim & me with his sarcastic comments on whatever we mature 19-21 yr olds talked about, with his twangy "well, wowzee-wowzee-woo-woo!"), I lay there reading the Revised Standard Version from beginning to end.

Why was I reading the Bible? I can't remember exactly when it started. But my biography was no less weird & eccentric than anyone else's. I think I was reading the Bible in an attempt to ground myself more securely, in a literary-historical sense, as a response to psychological shock. Because I really was in shock & mental torment at that time.

I had finished 3 years of college. I had written lots of adolescent poems, but had no concept of a practical future. I had played the fool in numberless ways trying to relate to my female compatriots. & I had read Shakespeare's Sonnets, & received the ineradicable impression that Mr. Shakespeare was addressing me, personally, from some extra-chronological dimension. This experience added to my deep fear & justified concern that I might be out of my mind, to put it euphemistically; ie. insane.

The Bible, basically, in a time of personal crisis, took me out of myself, into its epic & social & deeply practical/political/worldly-ironic atmosphere. It must have been that fusion of worldly knowledge and intense theological articulation - added to the fact that I had been brought up & confirmed in & fallen away from a church-oriented family - which utterly overpowered me.

Imagine a reading experience, at that age, which works steadily through the Mosaic books, the histories, the Psalms, the prophets, the wisdom books, the proverbs - this immense cultural epic - & concludes in the crosshairs of the "New Testament" : a kind of panopticon, or multimedia-dramatic grand finale to the consecutive narrative of the "Old Testament". You can't imagine this, actually, unless in some hidden or not-so-hidden corner of your experience you've been through it yourself, & heard the prophetic & not-so-prophetic messages.

So I do not need a filmic resume which dully & brutally pounds upon my head a literalist dogma about a deterministic scapegoat-atonement. I do not need Mel Gibson's version of "right reading". I've read the Word. It's alive, more than any film adaptation; & I'm still reading with it.
& so today's illustration (Dove Street):


A washed-out February light winter floating away slowly
and the sound of a mourning dove one one-one
mingled with elisions of an iron brake life’s nonsense
and my notes cars on the road

a world gone quiet in my mind (preparation
for annunciation) spring’s in the womb
of sister-dove: limping slowly on the barren earth
she goes as if she had a stone in her shoe

maybe a stone fallen from heaven
landed in a camel-canopy Abram’s otfe
out of Ur for good across the sandy waste
under the fringed silk she sits in shadow

cooing to the warriors urging them on to the end
of their beginnings all the way to Jordan
or Jerusalem where they guard the black stone
of the scapegoat (father, son and intervening angel)

another stone too heavy for heaven and buried deep
in your corrupted heart, O horseman, knight:
love is reason and reason is love, she coos
and this equality brings Jubilee, she whispers

where seven iron rings circle the sacred city
each ring manacled to its own unbreakability
(like weapons of mass destruction guarding
weapons of mass destruction) from the days of John

until now the Kingdom has come with violence
violent men take it by force but it shall not be so
with you
murmurs the fragile enshrouded bird
(grey wing buried in grey stone furled in black)

Article in Providence Journal relating local clergy & rabbi responses to Gibson film. The minister, countering rabbi's wish for more emphasis on Jesus' teachings & good works, says that the important thing is the "theological statement". Quoting Isaiah ("by his stripes we are healed") he offers the standard atonement version ("it was God's will that Jesus suffer & die. That's why he was born," etc.).

The language of theology is not simple or reducible to sound bites. But this narrow "atonement" perspective troubles me. If the suffering & death were all part of God's Plan, then human free will, & the human choice to commit sin & evil, are thereby negated. This is a murky kind of absolution, a sloughing of responsibility in the name of divinely-ordained fate.

I don't think it was ever God's will that Jesus be crucified, just as it was never God's will that Cain or anyone after him commit murder. Rather, Jesus may have willingly undergone the ultimate assault of human evil (murder, represented by the Roman crucifix), trusting in God's will nevertheless, in spite of all and in the face of the end.

No, I think God's will was that Christ, enduring, defeat death and evil, a victory represented in the Resurrection. God did not design the universe as a total scapegoat process, or mechanism, in which the death of one liberates the rest of us. It's the spirit that liberates, and we are called upon to "work out our salvation" in that light.
The passion according to Mel opens in 2800 theaters. There's that number again. (Number of the beast!)

Myth wrapped in myth wrapped in dogma wrapped in myth.

I wonder how Rene Girard would interpret this. Iconic scapegoating serving a congruent, broader scapegoating? The Biblical message as a whole (according to Girard, anyway) demythologizes, unveils, & liberates us from the scapegoat trap (the paradigmatic action : the angel prohibits Abraham from sacrificing his own son). In the film, on the other hand, "Atonement" is once again reified into ritual mechanism, releasing waves of ill-feeling & false consciousness.

The actor playing the crucified Christ "doesn't really get killed", as children would say. Macabre travesty. "It is as it was," as the Pope says. Hmm.
I wonder if Wallace Stevens was familiar with Nicolaus Cusanus. There's a paper there for you, kids.

You must become an ignorant man again
And see the sun again with an ignorant eye
And see it clearly in the idea of it.

Stevens' "makings of the sun" & Cusanus' "conjectural", human-hypothetical, world. Probably some differing conclusions, but also some clear affinities of interest & vocabulary.
Reading The Tale of the 1002nd Night, by Joseph Roth.

And some interesting studies on Nicolaus Cusanus.

Working on Dove Street, the poem. Idea of the epic which ends in state of contemplation. Conjunction of date of Wm. Blackstone's burial & Guillem de Gellone's saint's day (5/28). Gellone & Cloisters Museum in the Bronx. Cloister & metropolis. Thought & action. Soldier & monk. Narratives of epic quest (ie. Odysseus, Orpheus) as subplots of, or figures for, a more fundamental redemptive plot (Everyman "hooked" out of mortality into "kingdom of God"). The dove that floats upon two wings (reason & love). (Emblem for poetry, too).
I've decided to give up being boring for Lent.

This is not going to be easy, folks. Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.


Quid aliud, domine, est videre tuum, quando me pietatis oculo respicis, quam a me videre? - Nicolaus Cusanus

[What else, O Lord, is your seeing, when you look upon me with the eye of mercy, than your being seen by me?]
The Redeemable Players, theater group at my church (Redeemer) across the street, puts on its first production tomorrow night : Les Aveugles (The Blind Men), by Michel de Ghelderode. The one-act brings to life a painting of the same title by Bruegel. Appropriate Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras) material. I'm directing.


watched documentary again last night - Let's Get Lost, about Chet Baker. Gifted like Mozart, a natural. wasted his talent; a prodigy who fed (the talent) (off others) like a worm. . . something uncanny about his music. Essence of "lovesickness". Actually, essence of music-sickness. A trumpet-Orpheus, coming up trumps. (Then I found out today my wife had a bunch of her father's old Gerry Mulligan quartet records from early 50s.) In another life I want to play trumpet. From an old poem (In RI):

         This is the voice of nobody, rambling, mumbling.
And it's hard to imagine the God of Descartes,
of the Deists,
a solitary supreme being, remote, Master
Clockmaker, Big Brother in the sky.
But language
is a joint project, a choral endeavor,
and if thinking is thinking with,
and perception
a common inheritance, and under the masks
of skin color and race and tribe flash
subtle unspoken
communications, and if nature displays
asymmetries of inconceivable
intricacy... then
it's not impossible thought might
outrun matter, and mind might be beyond
the visible frame,
and speech might be the mere flower
of reality, like a morning glory
or the trumpet
of an aging poet - the whole body becoming
a trumpet (wavering, fading) - the life
an indelible sign.

also watched vol. I of Russian epic version of "War & Peace". I'm starting to understand the Russian, hey. das vidanya.
more Dove Street:

Omnia enim universalia, generalia atque specialia in
te Iuliano iulianizant [All universals, generalities, and
specifics julianize in you, Giuliano]
– Nicolaus Cusanus

A faint gray pencil-sketch my mother made decades ago
floats in a blue corner: two redhead brothers like twins
almost an octave Guillem & Giacomo sit parallel
each sketching (right-handed) intent upon blank white

& Gong Xian abandoned the field and the fugue of war
(a change of ancient dynasties Ming for Shang)
trailing retreat transmuting each desire
(only flickers of black horsehair)

the Yellow Mountain was left to your imagination
in grey-black flecks and war and peace the blank
spaces the crooked lightning paths left up to you
(your willing hand your loving heart your sight)

Leonardo drew (lefty, mancino) the faintest of red lines
beneath the leaning eyes of Mary bending down
(seraphic) toward the babe: his notes
a kind of mirror-writing (all’ebraico) with “tired hand”

And in the wintry womb the gray-black limbs
iterate (tired, crooked) against the snow a backward trail
or trial a coiled, cold metal spring or trapper’s guile
(elusive prey grey shadow fleeting glimmering)

low cooing from a frozen eave or looking-glass
intones an octave twinned in unison (some mournful-
silver marriage rite): a thread of golden lightning
through an ocarina to a painted ear (and scandalized)

announces stormy weather thunderstorms and thaw
across the mountains where waterfalls rush
past banks of cedars, reeds (your brush with
fate by horsehair led you here)



Dove Street, cont.:

From your node of dove-grey granite   nestled in the Hudson bluffs
above the hustling metropolis my saint Guillem
where the convalescent painter painting so patiently
slows time to sweetness and lights into the depths I thought

I saw it might be something like this:
three young ballerinas in feathery pink and gold peering
curious and tremulous around the curtain on tiptoe
with unconscious grace (Degas, the Guggenheim)

and the young crowd’s eager faces peering curious
and tremulous on tiptoe with unconscious grace
into the frame: there in the feminine mirror an iteration
of a golden measure or benevolent universe

the play’s the thing for melancholy Dane or Orpheus
hooked by the furrowed shadow of an empty heart;
time slows and lost is action to the name, unspeakable
and grey (like the shimmer of Law in the dolphin-depths)

all’s figures cries the street-wise idiot
when the heartbroken hero descends into the grave:
for the one who went before already lifts him free
in the slivered glint of every new year’s day

and O what mighty wooden O is this resting on a Sabbath-ship
a ring-dance ringed around a painted pose a pause
or cloistered clustering around a single coiled spring
a noon where an ink-brush runs a stream upstream

to a sunny mountain: what gives which gives who gives
and gives and flows perpetuum mobile continuum’s
heart’s blood O hearty sacrificium full, complete and
with unconscious grace (inflected law of every lovely feat)



this is how new things start, possibly (always a maybe). from Dove Street draft:

Close your eyes   and step into my summer garden
(empty, small, forlorn) come into my cloister
built of whispers among chunks of dove-grey stone
from Guillem-le-Desert and listen, now

to the cicada-continuum hidden in leafy shade overhead
a droning one-one-one of winged heartbeats eyes
closed the threads of sound proliferate and
lose themselves and then (returning) come around again

and where the small courtyard (behind your eyelids)
contains the world a heavy heart spreads canvas sails,
takes flight like a gray brush-stroke toward Yellow Mountain
or as a fiddlehead uncurls in chilly mud toward the sun

In the abandoned cloister your gnomon leads the way
toward noon thus at the vanishing point of appearances
a warmth exudes light flashes in a spring wounded, unwound
there and gathering the earth and all its dusty paths

into a balance graceful, just barely there
afloat like gnats in the evening over a wide river
the particulars of every dream that ever was
were there with you empty-hearted Orpheus

waiting for the light-fall the wing-beat
bringing word of your beloved
from the grave of winter embedded
in the purling spring a sign (J-fragment

from a fiddlehead) the only sign
shrouded in murmurs of mourning dove
or some Shoshone June ghost-dance
here in the empty garden (at the entrance)



Curious affinities. I've never felt particularly affined with William Carlos Williams, but his long poem Paterson is echoed in my longy one in a couple places... first of all in his focus on Bruegel, & in particular the nativity painting (Adoration of the Kings), secondly in his poem's concluding focus on the Unicorn Tapestries at the Cloisters Museum, in NY: I discovered in NY this weekend that one of the garden courts at the Cloisters is filled with statuary from Guillem-le-Desert, a remote monastery near Narbonne, in southern France. This monastery was founded by knight-turned-monk-become-saint Guillem de Gellone, or Guillem d'Orange, a hero in the cycle of early French chansons de geste, and one of my remote ancestors (one of Charlemagne's relatives and lieutenants, he is considered by at least one historian to be a descendant of Jews from Baghdad). Guillem figures strongly at the close of Forth of July; his saint's day coincides with the burial in RI of William Blackstone (5/28), the date on which the poem was finished.

Someday when I get my head together I will write an essay about the tradition of the long poem beginning with Whitman in relation to the notion of continuum, going back to the endless ring-structure of the Homeric cycles. Continuum and closure as two symbiotic principles, representing the traditional joining of "heaven & earth" or time & eternity, in the continuous Now of the poem. The unity of these two principles which the long poem, or Whitman's continuous single life-poem, represents.
Cosmipoetics. From an article in Tuesday's NY Times science section:

As they try to figure out how this strange behavior could be happening to 
the universe today, astronomers say the ultimate prize from all the new observing
projects could be as simple as a single number.
That number, known as w, is the ratio between the pressure and density of
dark energy. . .

You could say that Stubborn Grew (or at least Bluejay's presence in) is about the pressure and density of dark energy. Here's Bluejay, intimating to unknowing Henry what he's about:

Hey!  C'mon Bluejay!  Live ain't over yet!  Let's go -
up to the Terrace! There's old Roger himself, up there!
Bluejay turned SE to see. Yeah, I see the ol bear.
He got up and shook himself - blood to flow

into his phosphoric, porous feet and hands -
and said: you know what you doin, Henry m'man?
You know you zigshaggin? Raven an zigshaggin
a sweetblack rizebury W, man - donch U? Unnerstan?

A what? Sho.

& then the letter "W" takes on a multivalent quality in many sections of the poem : a shorthand for Whitman or William Blackstone, a reflection of "M" (both Mandelstam & Dante's stellar icon for Justice in the Paradiso), & other things. Here's something toward the end of Forth of July as a whole:


We are coming to the end of Henry
Navigator's long voyage, Elena –
circling around an elephant ear (Abul
Abaz, or Barnum's Jumbo) – see

how everything grows simpler,
more harsh, more true. Still
the well is always there (and will
be) – like the man standing here

beside it in the dark courtyard
(strange blooming out-of-season
almond branch). A stone,
a star, a well. A cup of water

from a rainbarrel (or Tartar
wine). A circling dragon-boat
or scrap of origami writ
folded to float so lightly... there.

You fold Andromeda into a W,
a mountain range back into M.
You cup them in your palm
to make a diamond, or double-

diamond – cat's eyes, Pushkinian.
Delicate Blue Morpho wings
woven with microscopic strings
of quipu thread (gentian-

gentle, violet, and red). A knit
crossroad, then – red, white –
streams into Cassiopeia's
mother-night (at last).


(Cassiopeia being a constellation in the form of a "W", and linked mythologically with Ethiopia - another thread in the poem - source of Nile, "dark energy", Ark of Covenant legends, etc.).


have been in Big Apple for weekend. Saw fine Russian movie, "The Return". Back to Minnesota roots (it's about fathers & sons & brothers & the worst fishing trip of all time). so sad, so deep, so Rus. The ending is pure Viking. Beautiful film.


I'll be away for the weekend, so happy Valentine's Day to you!
from this day 4 yrs ago, doing July:


i.m. Tom Fleming*

You would have been glad to be here today
Fleming to read the Sunday funnies
Aaugh! as Lucy lifts the 12-millionth football
and Charlie Brown flips for the 13th time Bonk!

a little sad too the way the everlasting ends
this evening light limping so slowly only lent
limpid toward the vague rim of tonight's Milky
Way Sparky's wavery quickness trembling

only lent now Good grief! While it's raining the
Doctor is [IN] and you are uncommonly
weird like a Red Baron's flying mach-lemon
in the mind of a pup and the rain it raineth

every day like frogs pummeling our foolish blind
shopping carts ah for I am sick of love he
cried running down the street in Lisbon
that twines with a tiny pulse a nub

like the distant crown of Shakespeare's head
a curvature this pause or sigh this dome
between waves or salient mud-caked
seed so small set adrift (centuries

surrounded with fire your burning bones, Tom
a greenish Copernican flame in the marrow
planted amid the avarice of the pilots the raw
and envious violence of Ahab a mote

that will grow limpid) you know there are women
limping with this cenacle (like myrrh afloat
upon tears) (chambered in the upper tiers)
(up the stairs) helical of their wombs

unknown to us but only a promise
when the last full measure is poured out
beside the shores of great rivers the trumpet
sounds into the depths of that prairie siempre


*[Tom Fleming, old Minnesota pal since childhood, died of AIDS about 12 yrs ago.]
Op-Ed piece in Times on personality traits of the U.S. generals who did, or did not, become Presidents. Explains a lot (if not all) about my troubles in po-biz land.

The also-rans (Winfield Scott, George McClellan, Wes Clark, etc.) wore their ambition on their sleeves, were stand-offish, took themselves SERIOUSLY. The winners (Grant, Eisenhower, etc.) were modest, easy-going, had the common touch, put their jobs (not themselves) first.

Maybe the main problem is that I identify with these generals at all. Here's my gr-gr-grand uncle Gen. Delos Sackett, with Abe Lincoln, at Antietam. He's the burly guy at the end of the row. (Also-ran McClellan was there as well. He's the nappy little Hotspur in the middle.)
& a very happy birthday to Jordan's Mom, too, here, at the last minute! I wrote a good entry about the beautiful article in this week's New Yorker by Peter Hessler, "Oracle Bones", which also (along with G. Packer's piece) concludes with Walt Whitman. Must have something to do with Lincoln's birthday.

but blogspot deleted it somehow, or maybe I did. anyway. read the Hessler piece, pozhalista! a raison d'etre for the NYkr.


Today: Abe Lincoln & my redhead brother Bill. Happy birthday, fellas.
from July, this time 4 tears ago:


The river moves so slowly lentamente
abrazo over the infinite flatness
of the plains and this salient leaf
of silence this Mile Long (mental

Minnesota) Bridge is flat as the water
spreading in lagoons of silt and sand
lateral swamps where mosquitoes dance
in vast eddies their wheezy route

of squeaky violins a muted accompaniment
between yesterday's birthday (when
a little redhead railsplitter's new
crown came crowning a little Quito seed

of egalité a level plain fieldworker's hidden
purl of water-born horizon-bounding
corazón or knot of clover-lava revery
unraveling into reverèd silver undone

yet all done to be to be lent
to the current the way a catenary
arching smile curves up reticulate
from my muttering clay a talent

worth exactly one penny no more
mustered from the bottom of the well
to bend from the flat surface of the wall
into a sheep-Ravenna or a Roman

adequate flowering returning what was owed
the debt of a lifetime buried in the depths
of lye from the ashes for washing pith
drifting from an almond shell a dowry-

dhow returned for a broken vow)
and a yet deeper pulse: that green child
awaiting recompense on the linchpin
of tomorrow's valentine (crumbled Wovoka)

See John Latta's circumspections & link to Dale Smith's reviews for what's happening now.

In both Jarnot & Foust, minimalism seems to enhance "embodiment."

I have my own peculiar take on the "incarnational" nature of poetry.

The figure in the landscape. The hero in the not-so-sacred wood. The word in the woodwork. The curse at the crossroad. Woden hanging from the world-ash-tree.


recent mumble from Dove Street:

Those doves balanced on a winter branch
burble a dialect I can't follow. Yet
somehow this is where it starts -
everything (somehow). My hunch relies

on a gray triad - wing, sound, breadcrumb.
Wing (which never shed its shadow).
Flute-sound (grieving, loving, low).
Abject breadcrumb (absent swallow).

Interesting article in this week's New Yorker on foreign policy, by George Packer. Challenge of fundamentalism as an ideology (rather than terrorism as a tactic), and the different (& inadequate) responses of Republicans & Democrats. Takes historical look at liberalism & postwar reconstruction efforts (since WW 2), limitations of current outlook of both parties.

[p.s. in his conclusion, he cites Walt Whitman.]


Am reading a long Dutch novel called The Discovery of Heaven, by Harry Mulisch. Does this mean I am working on a long Dutch poem? No.


I met Joseph Brodsky once back in the early 80s, after a reading. I spoke to him about my interest in the Russians, and my tepid feeling about American poetry. His advice was, "Read Auden."

Now one can judge this the typical comment of a literary conservative. But I'm using it simply to underline (for emphasis) my previous post. In Auden, I think Brodsky recognized a literary professional in the Pushkinian/Petersburg mode.
I'm sorry, but the culture of poets seems a total bore to me. It's as if we were supposed to be a devoted fan club for some obscure chess association, and required to be up to speed on the personal lives, gossip, awards ceremonies, funeral orations, etc., and that this somehow was the substance of the way of life. . .

& ironically the professed avant or post-avant wing of that society was supposedly dedicated to a depersonalized, politically-critical, collective notion of the role of the art form, against all that decadent & mealy-mouthed artsy narcissistic solipsism of the academicized mainstream. Their "collectivity" is nothing but a farm school or adjunct sub-college or self-help support group for league careers in that same greeny grove.

Something essential is missing when you domesticize & acclimate poetry to its own (sub)-culture. What's missing is its own otherness, its capacity for criticizing, transcending, metamorphosing the social and aesthetic conditions which produced it. This is its originality, and its social function. But now a fake otherness - paralleling "rebel" social behavior in pop culture - an ersatz otherness pawns itself off as the very medium of literary exchange. Poetry subcultures are built upon modes of talking or writing in special ways, distinct side-of-the-mouth idioms, like in-house passwords.

The real challenge is to find a middle ground, a mode of address to human political, social, aesthetic and philosophical issues outside the poetry sphere. W.H. Auden was very interested in a kind of "objective" mode of address, beginning with his leftist sympathies during the 30s, and complicated later by his religious convictions (which permit a kind of general address to the human condition) and by his deep interest in the social & satirical poetry of the Restoration era.

Something is missing, folks. The real radical poet is not the denizen of an idiom-club or the successful careerist. It's the one whose "middle voice" touches a chord in the public at large : an effect of, rather than a betrayal of, originality. This is the continual challenge to the authentic literary professional, not the card-carrying clubhouse member, frittering away time with gladhanding pals & weeping crocodile tears on every occasion. Because poetry does not belong to individuals : it happens to them & changes them.

I admire the "Petersburg" notion of these things (Pushkin, Blok, Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva [honorary member], Gumilev, Mandelstam, Brodsky). Pushkin started it. The human being possesses social dignity as inalienable right. The poet, as poet, possesses a particular social prestige or status as a consequence of fame for producing authentic works of art. One should defend the former with one's life, and treat the latter with professional detachment.

My sermon for today. (I know you can all think of contemporary poets, young & old, who do not fit my stereotype or deserve my diatribe.)



HGPoetics and its incorporeal sponsors disclaim any responsibility for the origination or purported accuracy of the cavalier/roundhead designations outlined below. HGPoetics hails (Hail! Taxi! Say what?) the successful migration of a long-forgotten (in the space of time and mist) American poetry subculture to the 17th century.
WB Yeats : roundhead poet wants to be cavalier so bad he actually becomes one (stays poet)
Pound : guy who wants to be person (no luck) - so human predicament!!
Eliot : roundhead who becomes cavalier (accent, London flat riv. vw. incl.)
Wallace Stevens : who the hell cares! Yam what I yam, fellas (roundhead lemmings)
WC Williams : well-spoken roundhead with cavalier connections (dammit all, I yam the Peeps!)


Dude, where's my hoss?

Robert Lowell : roundhead playing cavalier badly (crabby)
Hart Crane : cavalier playing roundhead badly (fails)
Elizabeth Bishop : roundhead given cavalier bequest, makes most of it (likes opera, won't sing)
Marianne Moore : roundhead overthrowing cavalier for hell of it (in cavalier hat - wants to be cavalier)
John Ashbery : blase roundhead easily mimicking cavalier
John Berryman : revolutionary Finn Lapp; pox on both your houses
Ron Silliman : roundhead
Jordan Davis : cavalier
NY School : cavaliers pretending to be roundheads (O'Hara) or roundheads pretending to be cavaliers (Berrigan) or cavaliers being cavaliers (Koch)
Language Poets : roundheads pretending to be poets
John Latta : roundhead who has achieved cavalierdom
Susan Howe : cavalieresse
Fanny Howe : cavalieresse pretending to be roundheadianne
Bernadette Mayer : cavalieresse who likes the idea of being roundheadianne
Kent Johnson : roundhead deserter with cavalier background & tendencies (esp. heteronyms)
Henry Gould : cavalier with roundhead DNA (roundhead lowbrow)
SoQ : roundheads pretending to be cavalier poets
post-avant : cavaliers pretending to be roundheads (cf. Kristen Prevallet, Lisa Jarnot, Eleni Sikelianos, etc.)
John Donne ; victory through dying early
John Milton : defeat through dying late
Shakespeare : poet pretending to be liberal roundhead cavalier (successfully)



possibly the only other non-Russian poet comparably preoccupied with Mandelstam was Paul Celan.

note "Magdalen" reference in Voronezh poem quoted ("For Natasha Shtempel").

mandel (almond), magdala, amygdala (seat of memory in the brain?)

almond tree : ancient emblem of Jewish people

mandelstam - "almond branch" (blooms in January)

little tree (cf. Forth of July, various places, & this from Island Road)

David (poet-king), Messiah : "the branch"


For me anyway, the interesting thing about the Superbowl, besides the game itself, was that the profile on the Patriot helmet logo looks a lot like John Kerry. Check out my special JFK conspiracy blog (under construction sub rosa as we huddle) for more on this.
HGpoetics just had its 700,000th visitor! His name is Glubby and he is a 300-yr-old turtle from a small island near the remote island nation of New Zealand! Welcome, Glubby!*

*for the record: hgpoetics utilizes the authorized S-W (sand-wind) Method of calculation developed by Nicolaus Cusanus in 1445 & explained in his treatise De Ludi Glubbi.
my gizmo chariot for some time was an abba quatrain. this is not an abba quatrain, but it is a short poem. (Orfy on his way, down & under.)

Bees dance above closed lips:
in the clear shadow of the oak
wherever they turn their heads
they follow the bright pattern.

Quietly, by the granite cistern
under a crowded canopy of reds,
in the cool wind a broken spoke
sways whichever way it slips.

[note: broken chariot wheel, Virgilian bees]
Legend has it : when Roger Williams disembarked in Providence after being exiled from Beantown, he was greeted by his Narragansett hosts with, "What cheer, Netop?" [netop = friend]
some very old old quatrains from little HG :

My countrymen, dreaming and drinking down
the livelong day in your smooth Cadillacs,
Americans made of nostalgia, playing the clown
on roads past the high school railroad tracks -

go on, play the radio, shoot for the moon;
your little boy up from grasslands not for hire
is building a tricycle in the backyard, and soon
he'll step inside a brand new chariot of fire.

[my father being a patent lawyer (& someone still fascinated with games & gizmos), I grew up in an atmosphere in which inventions were important. I remember my brothers and I (1960 or so) floating the first prototype of the "frisbee" around the yard.]


It could be argued that my own obsession with debating with Ron, proves (1) I am connected with the establishment in the same way he is, and (2) his beef with said establishment has merit.

But even if that were true, it's not the main issue. The point is that it's a waste of time trying to massage & spin these things in a socio-political way. It only establishes new establishments no different from the old establishments, because, really, it has nothing to do with poetry (& everything to do with careers & self-advancement). Only poetry itself, & valid, work-specific criticism, help poetry take its natural & rightful place in the world. Lots of so-called mainstream writers & critics have done as much or more of that than the non-mainstream ones.

Meanwhile, until you're published by Library of America, blog on, baby.
. . . finally (& I know I'm repeating myself from many a previous blog entry), I think the pseudo-battles represented so well by Ron Silliman tend to obscure the harder questions about what constitutes literary value in poetry. In other words, while it may be true that much or most mainstream poetry is absurdly & glaringly poor-quality, undeserving of a real mainstream audience, I assert that much or most non-mainstream poetry is equally fake, elitist & coterie because it's easier to write that way. It's non-mainstream because it lacks the values - intensity, inspiration, originality, scope, relevance - which would deserve & eventually win a wide audience (& I'm not referring here to "accessibility" or "marketability" or other such merely cynical measures of taste).
Jonathan may have a valid argument here. Sometimes I don't have the energy or focus to deal with this stuff.

Yet it seems to me that it may be a good thing that non-mainstream poetry remains non-mainstream; that it's not aimed at a general audience anyway; that the mainstream often has insightful & appropriate things to say about non-mainstream writing (ie. the review of E. Pound's new Library of America anthology in yesterday's NYTRB), which would not be said if naturally "marginal" work were forced into the mainstream; that most non-mainstream writing - even the "high quality" sophisticated stuff - does not deserve a mainstream audience (because it's tailored to a coterie elite); that comparing non-mainstream poetry to poetry which has achieved mainstream or canonical status - whether good or bad - is like comparing apples and oranges; that the attacks on a "cabal" of SoQ literary mavens ignores the fact that literary establishments naturally reflect achieved mainstream examples of mainstream taste - that is, this is not a conspiracy but an effect of publishing per se; that multitudinous avenues of exploration are open to any reader willing to venture beyond the mainstream; that non-mainstream writing often does enter the mainstream, through the efforts of its promoters, but that no realignment of the "system" will (or should) make this an automatic process; & so on.

I myself am not satisfied with elite or coterie audiences for my own or others' poetry. What I believe in, is the fortitude of those who do take up the advocacy & promotion of writers & works of talent, which eventually can lead works worthy of a mainstream audience, to same. That this does not happen automatically or with perfect justice does not mean the system should be replaced by a team or categorical approach to literary prestige, some kind of anti-SoQ counter-establishment. I don't think Ron Silliman or anyone else is in a position to set standards for taste on such a universal basis. This would only mirror the current establishment in a much more corroded form.
General basic structure of Forth of July:

Stubborn Grew : burial
The Grassblade Light : resurrection or (re)birth
July : flight (or flow)
Blackstone's Day-Book : light (summarizing or encompassing the 3 previous aspects)
I guess while most people were watching the Superbowl, Ron Silliman was watching an old Oppositional-School of Quietude rerun (see his 1st note to his post today). Why do I sense both match-ups smell strongly of the locker room? Maybe it's because whenever I read SoQ I hear "socks".

He doesn't realize that his obsession with & resentment about literary pecking orders signals his connection with the establishment. An establishment in which poetry actually plays no part whatsoever. This may sound like zen but it's just basic literary criticism.