[I've removed a rather bilious late-night post from yesterday.]

Today is the saint's day of Guillem de Gellone, who began appearing somewhat to my own surprise toward the end of the longy-long poem Forth of July. He pops up in some of the shorter poems too lately.

He was a military officer under Charlemagne, who later took holy orders and founded a monastic community in southern France, on the coast near Narbonne (Gellone). His real &/or legendary exploits in Charlemagne's Spanish campaigns turn up in several of the early chansons de geste. I like to think that he's an (extremely distant) ancestor (which was traced through my maternal grandmother's family by a genealogist on the web).

This is also the anniversary of William Blackstone's burial at his Study Hill, in Cumberland.

Tomorrow's the 551st anniversary of the fall of Constantinople (1453). I'm going down to NYC to see the Byzantium show at the Met tomorrow, for my 52nd birthday (5/29).



Spiral, whirlpool, maelstrom, Medusa’s
hair – these metaphors of curvature
(like paint dust afloat from Siena’s
nearby mural) only remind you where
you are: in Hell. The sordid images
(once disgust subsides) become pure
pathos, after all. Where desire rages
sympathy begins, and as desire is
mother to the deed, the deed rampages
in the shadow of your own hot fire,
Dante. The flame, your Beatrice says,
travels in a circle on its wire

and where that scintillating comet goes
you follow, wheeling (as the wind blows).
The Magpie on the Gallows

Bruegel willed his last work to his wife.
We look down a slope of leafing trees
toward a weatherbeaten gallows, where
a small black-white magpie has alighted.
A group of cheerful peasants goof and
tumble waltzing down the hill, merge
with the background (sketchy, indistinct).
Beyond the rickety gray wooden frame
a May-time vista opens wide (vast, mild,
serene) to mountains, sunlit castles, sky.

Everything returns at last to the wife,
the bride, the mother in the landscape.
Mendelssohn – a dream my mother had
(her miniature oils were its expression,
the world I recognize is their reflection).
Out of summers buried deep, the longing
streams: the tripod of the firmament
rests on a point of irrational blind
balance: the magpie rumors – wars,
scandals – skitter across an icy surface.

Bruegel’s image seems to say, the world
outlives our quarrels with our dying;
our quarrels and our dying flit away
enfolded in a subtler nature (one
we cannot fathom yet, but witness
here – peering into the limpid curve,
the tender distances, the calm horizon).
Remnants of an ancient controversy
teeter on the hillside... but the magpie
(casual now, indifferent) soon vanishes.


This was probably the third sonnet I'd written. I had just been reading James Wright's selected poems, sort of browsing through it. It occurred to me that his voice sounded something like an old bear, and at that moment, I opened the book to a poem about bear cubs in springtime. So I wrote this sonnet. I know it's a little ponderous... oh well, it was an early effort.


A voice moves in a heart fallen asleep,
murmuring there like a thawing rivulet.
I heard your voice, fluent in the deep
sweetness of the land, compassionate;
flowing beneath our cold, intemperate
harshness, the icebound lake of our death.
Meekness, only; poverty in spirit;
and over the abandoned towns, a breath
of life... When you placed a simple wreath
of memory upon this common ground,
I heard a wholly other spring, beneath
these grasslands, waiting to be found –

a vernal undertaking. We might bear
from hibernation something we can share.
So we pass through 2 decades of "postmodern" poetry (see JL's continuing reflections). & then comes along Franz Wright, carrying around some of the traditional charismatic baggage of the poet-figure (lost son of famous lost poet, confessional survivor, with psychic limp) we were supposed to have left behind. A sort of diminished echo effect of the "traditional office".

Yet maybe diminished is not the right word. His poems are quite effective; you can hear that same sound of rueful emotional directness, the strong feeling and simplicity (I identify this with the midwest) in some of his father's poetry.
Paula's iambic pentameter - smooth, adept, capacious.
Listened to Franz Wright interviewed on NPR this morning ("The Connection"). Enjoyed the poems he read very much. Synthesizes "wit" or pithy statement, with something like his father's "deep image" - the patient, sensitive evocation of an image of nature suffused with feeling. I like the way such images sort of hover, half-autonomously, within the flow of the poem's discourse. This was one of the things which initially attracted me to Mandelstam, too. I think this effect goes way, way back, linked both to the riddle and the folk song.

Was struck by his comments in response to a caller, in which Wright underlined how important to him were values of clarity and accessibility. Said something like, if his poem didn't seem accessible to just about any reader in the world, then he felt there was probably something wrong with it. What a contrast to the claims for "post-avant" experiment vs. mainstream, etc.



The City under siege
the Sultan bearing down
two mighty armies rage
around the sacred town

Our walls are under-manned
the hard-pressed Captain cries
without some helping hand
tonight the Empire dies...

O Lord, let it be me!
the sleeping hermit said
as (rousing fitfully) he
gripped his wooden bed.
"Anita's" other blog. Belated happy discovery.


How many of you have visited this?

(She was much-published in Nedge, years ago, which was an honor for Nedge.)

(p.s. "Anita Rust" is an anagram.)


my favorite blog.


We note the perfect discord of line #8. ("He'll teach them to sing out what we hold dear.") This line, despite its iambic-pentameter basis, is a metrical disaster.
There, I've simplified the syntax now, it's better. The poem pivots on lines 7-9. I think it's OK... The opening octet focuses on the (only half-believed) "logic" of supposedly "winning over" the torture victims (making them sing in unison). The sextet discounts all that, replacing it with the more basic goal of squeezing out useful information. The final couplet underlines the greater folly, the more egregious illogic, of the whole process.

This idea of making prisoners "sing" is sort of a Hieronymous-Boschian parody of the "attunement", the spiritual "octave", alluded to in previous poems (posted here over the last few weeks & months).
"Torture Logic" should maybe be titled "Tortured Language". Too much of a leap to the sextet ("Be that as may be..."). This is hard to do smoothly. The sonnet doesn't really work without awareness of Frost's model. But maybe that's OK. (Closet readers will note the almost-circular logic of the end-rhymes, etc.)

I wonder who reads my blog (I know you do). Feel as if I've gone off on my own track now, no longer have much affinity with the other poetry bloggers, nor do I sense they do with me.


another slight revision to sonnet posted previously.

where except in blogland could you do something like this? (I read Jonathan's reading of Frost's sonnet first.) In German poetry it's called widerruf, or widderruf - a parody or drastic recasting of another poem. (Celan is my context here.)

(To squeal is to sing, and the torturer (like Eve, in a way...) is teaching them to sing.)

He will insist, and can almost believe
that if these surly, scrawny, naked men
absorb the special lessons they receive
their time together in the holding pen
(the soakings, burnings, beatings, and the rest –
the stench, shame, hunger, sleeplessness and fear)
will not have been in vain, as some have guessed.
He’ll teach them to sing out what we hold dear.
Be that as may be, he is in their face:
whoever they are, whatever game they play
he’ll screw loose information, leave no trace.
As for the stubborn... always another day!
We don’t know yet who’s causing us such grief
but causing pain will surely bring relief.


Jonathan offered a fine reading of Frost sonnet yesterday (5/18) ("Never Again Would the Birds' Song Be the Same").

Just got an email from Elena Shvarts : singing bird-clock arrived safely in St. Petersburg.


Greetings from Minnesota. Took a walk today along Mississippi; saw 3 scarlet tanagers.

The birch & poplar leaves just coming out up north; faint light green very pretty against white bark, blue sky. Russia.

Upper midwest seems so spacious, a little sleepy, calm, moving toward brief summer. Tugboat pushing double barges down still green Mississippi, blue heron passing overhead.

Back in Providence on Thursday.



For now we see as through a glass darkly; but then face to face.

There were two of them, always there
every season, on the Mendelssohn border:
in summer, we fished for primitive life forms;
in winter, with blonde Heidi and Holly, we
skated figure eights from end to end. A
curved ridge covered with spindly apple trees
shaped their frame, sent gradual shadows
across their length at dawn, dusk; the wind
ruffled their surface, scattering in quick squalls
miniature images of clouds, sky, trees. Nature
formed those natural mirrors; now (after half
a century) I’m holding their image in my mind.

Here in the old backyard, the flowers, ferns
and groundcover are swelling from below;
bees and other buzzing bugs maintain their
hum of collective industry. Mendelssohn
was much the same: a hive, nest, bursting
with dreams: with love and desire,
with respect and emulation, with pride
and skill and ambition, with joy, hope,
laughter, boredom, gossip, pettiness,
bigotry, fear, sorrow
... all somehow
interpenetrating, fused in seamless
neighborhood (of time, place, world).

Hidden away, somewhere in our midst,
a spiritual Sabbath, Sunday by the lake:
where the mind dove down to its muddy
origin, the murky bottom of the pallid,
chilly pond. Here was the free soul’s
habitat: among tadpoles, bass and
carp, lurking along the very bottom.
Out of deep dreams, unconsciousness
your motivation stems – to grow, to be...
to measure every separate deed and thing
by means of that same scrolled snail shell,
that early foreignness, that ur-estrangement

– so you burst from the freezing water. Now
Mirror Lakes reflect a new reality: the old
one, seen anew. It is a wheel of seasoned
light, turning around a rooted tree (apple
or almond, oak, pine) whose branches
are a candelabra, spinning sweet
brevity of mortal play to mold
for eternity: a wakeful courtyard
where servant-bees already gather
to attend their tasks - unheralded,
unproclaimed (– lovers too, intuitive,
becoming those servants thoughtlessly).

I’m holding an image in my mind: Heidi
and Holly, skating across clear ice like
dancers. As the sunflower grows
by golden degrees, so the dying world
(so teeming full) casts forth its beams
of radiant being: the profile of the ridge
that shaped those lakes remains (like the smile
of a skater, hovering in the mind long after dark).
well, of course, on the other hand, art has to be for art's sake in order to be for Pete's sake, for heaven's sakes! [sigh. so complicated]
Art is not for art's sake. Art, for Pete's sake, is a response to particulars of experience otherwise deflected, packaged, ignored, misunderstood. Inevitably runs up against inimical authorities, if there are any; inevitably outlives those conflicts; ineluctably represents crises of moral choice and vocation.

I'm getting this from Shattuck's book about Proust (who was, he says, often lumped, wrongly, with the purists).

If you're not an aesthete, does this mean you have to dumb down your rhetoric and vocabulary, write for someone other than yourself, become "accessible"? No; but by the same token, take care that your ornamentation, your felicities of style, are not merely designed to impress a coterie. They're not worth the trouble.
HG Poetics : is this my version of "silence, exile, cunning"?

Maybe I should get a site counter after all...

wondering at how distant what I'm doing is from the mainstream fringe.

But I'd better quit wondering & get back to it.

(This is a pea for under-sanding!)

Tomorrow I go to Minnesota for a few days, until the 20th. Up to the woods north of Duluth. Will report back on any readings given to loons, tree-frog conferences, bears, etc.


Have been reading much about Netherlandish art lately. Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden. Startled by how closely the images from Abu Graibh prison, with their grinning, leering guards and piles of naked prisoners, resemble pictures by Bosch and Bruegel (see The Mockery of Christ, for example).

A decision was made (at high levels, it seems) that the circumstances of the war on terror justify dehumanization of the enemy, the abrogation of human rights. Now it's beginning to have unforeseen consequences.
writing a lot today.


Spring plays slow scales, waltzes toward July.
The leaves obscure the branches, and the shade
obscures the leaves. Time’s intricate fa├žade
a busy undergrowth that blurs the eye.

Footnotes and erasures cannot clear away
her dense disguise, your camouflage.
Only a few piano chords, a forlorn page...
we’re magnifying figures in some Book of J.

This limpid morning belongs to the flowering dogwood
drifting white petals stained with a gash of purple
to the center of the sleepy backyard garden.
Hidden somewhere beyond chattering sparrows and
yodeling robins, a solitary mourning dove fingers
an ocarina, like a version (in minor key) of the Angel
with Flaming Sword, at the Garden gate.
So Mendelssohn
would become his composition: a furtive green island
seen as light through water, as fingers extend
to the muted bell-tone
of a final octave.
So I would travel back
aboard the swift smooth chariot of a single note
to where the ghost of a charitable father turns
to the image of a faithful son, in pure
by deep foundations of the sea
lifted from the grave, as was decreed
before the waters were divided from themselves:
when the soul of every man (Mary, Eurydice,
...) emerges from the sepulchre to meet
the gardener again. And now a heavy lilac scents
the air, like limpid light through water; as if
to say
you must translate and be translated,
the pillar of smoke and the pillar of flame
become your own: for the only sign
is the sign of a mourning dove
at the edge of the garden


Today marks the anniversary of the founding of Constantinople in 330 A.D. But more importantly, my daughter Phoebe turns 21 today.
sketching, sketching...


Mendelssohn: a playpen,
a grass-green child-rearing
zoo. Rows of pastel ranches
pasted on remnants
of farmland, speckled
with fading apple trees.

Everything designed
for us: big yards, swing-
sets, sandboxes, baseball
diamonds... Little
League, Girl Scouts...
the enchanted island

ordained by the Bible
(Dr. Spock). We
watched much TV,
played “army” every
day, suffered shame
and sibling rivalry;

we did the picnics,
the infinite Sunday
afternoons (listening
to the four of them
– Mom, Dad, Grandma,
Grandpa – chortling

quietly over the bridge
table)... so much
you know already.
But you might miss
the careful oils
my mother made:

glowing grass; kids
akimbo (playing
“statue” under
the sprinkler); dark-
leaved oak trees
swaying overhead.


Reading Roger Shattuck's book about Proust (again). Kerouac's contradictions (alluded to in previous post) echoed in Proust's everlasting dialectic between art/idolatry and experience/suffering. That is, Kerouac's suspicion of "poetry" is similar to Proust's ambivalence about art & its aesthetes. Art is the lure, the drug of the inauthentic; the false fulfillment of envious ambition; etc.

Unless the art is true. He goes into his cork-lined room for 14 years.

I would walk out of Mendelssohn westward
along parallel dirt tracks around the swamp
through Ghost Woods, up the sandy slope
to the ridge that lay between trees and
cemetery. From there, standing in chest-
high weeds, I could see all Mendelssohn,
and beyond, the tall skyscrapers downtown
where my father worked. It was summer;
no chores or school; only that high lookout
between graveyard and neighborhood.

There’s an old war between generations:
between children, trusting all in play
and grown-ups trusting only in money:
children knowing nothing of hardship
and grown-ups, forgetting what joy is.
A battle tiresome and intense by turns:
adults impatient with insipid offspring,
children scornful of parental blindness...
time itself the substance of their quarrel.

Across a blank page I retrace those steps
since somehow walking through woods
to a vantage over tombstones (where both
parties cease their play at last) eases the
bitterness – settles for a while that strife
of labor and delight (thinking of my father
in his far-off gray tower, and of myself
smudging a white page with gray marks).
Time steeps labor in forgetfulness. The
only coin in memory is understanding.
JL again, on Harvey Shapiro's review at the time of publication of the (Donald Allen) New American Poets anthology:

He calls particular attention to the poets of the New York School, noting James Schuyler’s insistence on “the connection between the New Poetry and the ideas behind abstract-expressionist art”: the canvas / page as a space “in which to act,” the painting / poem as (he is quoting from Harold Rosenberg’s essay “The American Action Painters”) an “act inseparable from the biography of the artist.”

(- you could consider my poetry a special branch, an offshoot of that direction. see, for example, sections from Dove Street in the archives for 2.20 & 2.21.04)
the guy with the big shades - that's me in Paris, a few (uh, no, more than a few) years ago.
I keep enjoying John Latta's historical reflections on recent American poetry. Great details & documentation.

At the end of today's post he puts this:

"Late nights with Kerouac’s Vanity of Duluoz: An Adventurous Education, 1935-46. Which bursts into lyricism, bravely defying its own somber bitterness: “I was coming back home to Lowell. It was November, it was cold, it was woodsmoke, it was swift waters in the wink of silver glare with its rose headband out yander where Eve Star (some call it Venus, some call it Lucifer) stoppered up her drooling propensities and tried to contain itself in one delimited throb of boiling light.”

And you know Kerouac just stepped out of himself and time for a moment there. (As he admits, chagrin’d, new paragraph: “Ah poetic.” Why the American propensity to thwart that outburst, to mistrust it?"

Seems that Kerouac's writing here, & his own reaction to it, contain the tendencies of both the "New Americans" and their New Critic critics. Americans tend to be Protestant Rebels, which means they are iconoclastic - image-rejecting - while at the same time rebelling vociferously (emotionally, imagistically, self-centeredly) against their culture's puritanical strictures. A stance with inherent contradictions.


Rev. Jo-Ann Drake made this comment in her sermon this morning:

the actions at the Abu Graibh prison have appalled everyone, with their flouting of basic respect for human diginity; and they are indeed appalling. But last year's photos of Saddam having his tongue & throat inspected - the humiliation of the dictator-prisoner which made the world laugh - from Pres. Bush on down - these images, & the world's response to them, were also appalling, for the same reason.


I've circled around these little problems all my life. But sitting out in the backyard, reading a tanned paperback of an old Eric Ambler novel (ca. 1937: Background to Danger), it occurred to me once again, that I've never changed, I've always been a slightly effete bookworm, a reader, not a doer, while my whole family is predicated on doing, doing, doing, and this is, in fact, the secret of a mens sano corpore whatever.

Hamlet & A La Recherche du Temps Perdu (did I get that right?) & Don Quixote - perhaps the greatest literary works of all. & what are they about? Sickly writer types, who "lose the name of action". Frustrated dreamers.

Dynamic symmetry, golden section... the new spring growth of Nature... applies to this narcissism-mirror-problem too.

Mim-mim-mim-Mom & Sis-mimesis. the ultimate st-st-stutter.
I had to interrupt the previous blogosition to let Pushkin the cat outside (it is nice evening here, & he was whining).
My God, my God, my whole weird life has pivoted on this hair's-breadth. I am not kidding, nay, not one bit.

The poetry of Shakespeare & the Bible drove me out of college into the wilderness. The poetry of the NY School got me into college (Ted Berrigan imitations : he grew up a couple miles from my alma mater).

Zen & the Art of Information Maintenance.


Gospel: Jesus (the Nazir - not the "Nazarene", but the Nazir, the ecstatic singer-prophet) - speaking of the future, says, offhandedly: "Knowledge shall increase." Oh, heart/mind. Logos/pathos/ethos. Mimesis vs. analysis.

One of the best books I've ever received was a gift from a carpenter-photographer high school friend, who dropped out of college in the early 70s & came to NY to get into the art scene: The Nazarene : Studies in New Testament Exegesis, by Eugenio Zolli, Univ. of Rome (publ. Herder, 1950). On the Hebrew/Aramaic context of the poetics of the parables.
In my blunt statement about poetry & academia, I neglected to mention a third (& mediating) factor: the enthusiasm for knowledge, the pleasure involved, shared alike by teacher, student, poet. "Poetry is the scholar's art." (right, Wally. He also said that academic poets were "kept men".)

Yet knowledge & poetry ain't the same, eggzackly (as JL, whose comments instigated this thread, points out). The original NY School can be understood as a sophisticated effort to do an end run around the professionalization of poetry, which was promoted by Eliot, Allen Tate (whose style strikes me immediately as that of a canny academic imitation of Hart Crane) & the New Critics (Janus Face of Modernism, an excellent study of the Crane/Tate dynamic & its aftermath: I forget the author's name, unfortunately...).
Poetry is the sabbath-day of consciousness. Pleasure & rest & fluent bright activity all at once. The only thing didactic about it is what is didactic about every thing : every thing teaches by example.
So what's all this about the relations between the academy & poetry writing?

Seems like the academy is one of the sources of socially-sponsored, officially-accredited writing. It gets this authority, obviously, due to its assignment to teach the young. Teaching requires books & knowledge; a school is, for one thing, a publishing (book-sponsoring) & book-collecting center.

Poets also make books, & teach too, in a way. So you can see how a symbiotic relationship occurs there.

I suppose a major element in the development of a meaningful artistic style involves finding a way to avoid, overturn, deny such authorization. Why? Because formal education is one thing, and the school of hod nicks is another. These two also have a symbiotic relationship. Teachers bring to school what they learn on the outside: if they didn't, school would be even more boring than it is. Poetry has to come from outside, too.
Excised fussy whine from previous post. Probably too late: sorry, dear bloggoner [sigh].


Catalogue of Comedic Novelties : a good title for 20th-cent. poetics. I've met Lev Rubinstein a few times, & heard him perform at the Hoboken conferences (Russ-Amer poetry). He's quite slight, like a baby bird, about 5 ' tall. Elena Shvarts' twin, actually. (They don't eat enough over there, sadly, & they smoke too much.) Remember the two of them walking together up the NJ sidewalk in close conversation, like a couple of pigeons.

As Shvarts & Rubinstein, so Acmeism & Futurism. Not one without the other. (Stravinsky & Shostakovich?)

When I practiced piano on the old upright in the ancient blue-green living room, my back was directly facing the screen door (mentioned in previous poem). Heidi Johnson (blonde daughter of chicken farmer Dale) would usually be practicing too, across the street: sometimes we sent each other musical signals.

The little forsythia in the shade of the fence
is losing its gold sheen already. The only
sign of spring in Mendelssohn: when
we tumbled through the screen door
without our coats. Light green, it glows
now in thought like an icon, beckoning.

Like ancient priests with their rituals
or primitive soldiers hypnotized for war
we were sleepwalkers – playing, playing.
The bold spring sun infused each one
with silliness, joy, anarchy – with
daring leaps, with fledgling flights.

I lounge now in the old backyard
like a dried-up husk or hollow pupa,
papery wasp's nest. The sun still
shines in Mendelssohn – awake, awake...
We were dreaming then. I’m sleepy
now (my only desire: to dream again).
An "incarnational" poetics, which is what I'm concerned with, would circle around this asymmetrical symbiosis (voice & text) - but with a different emphasis from that of the postmodernists, post-structuralists, etc. A different "reading" of the evidence of experience, a different notion of what the poet is about.
I know this sounds simplistic, polemical, unfair. It is. But these are tendencies, not sharply-drawn distinctions. & I'm just trying to resolve my own problems of composition & style.

Between ordinary speech and literary artifice : always this balancing act.
Didacticism of the Moderns (Pound, Eliot). Contemporary poets inherited from them the notion that experiment & technique are something separable and to be acquired. I think earlier poets considered these things something you learn in your apprenticeship & don't talk about too much.

Why? Because in the older sense of style, the aim was a holistic impression - a seamless unity of voice, manner, technique, subject. The complex becomes simple and the simple is complex; the poem resolves itself into a singleness, a unified impression, a whole.

Why I'm attracted to poets like Stevens & Crane, who are sceptical about the idea that technique + novelty = originality.


Sent another bird-clock to Elena Shvarts in St. Petersburg. Apparently she had a fire in her building, lost a lot of books & personal things, including the bird-clock & little blue & white wooden bathtub ocean liner, Sophie, which my mother had made 50 years ago.

[p.s. addendum, 5.18.07 : years later, my mother's wooden boat was lost forever in a major fire in Elena Shvarts' apt. Ah, Russia!]
feeling a little better about the poetry today.

perhaps I should build on those very elements that seem out of style at the moment: simplicity, clarity, ordinary speech, the lack of flashy & baroque "technique". ars est celare artem.


Profound discouragement. Must take deep breath & continue making same mistakes.
Responding to John Latta's notes on "ambiguous figures":

yes, the characteristic quality of poetry is its reflexivity (its way of being something rather than simply pointing to something); but the shortcoming of so much postmodern poetry is that it simply turns this into a dichotomy ("poetry must not be mimetic since it is reflexive, self-mirroring"). What happens then is it gets further and further from ordinary experience & feeling, accenting its function as intellectual game.

The real puzzle, it seems to me, is how poetry can be both mimetic & reflexive.
How come I never heard of the poet Susan Stewart? duh... thanks, Ron Silliman. She looks very good, from the few samples I've read on his links.
Interesting article this morning in Times science section, about film diva Hedy Lamarr. Did you know that (along with being "the most beautiful woman in the world") during WW 2, with composer-friend Georges Antheil, Lamarr developed a radio-jamming device based on randomly changing frequencies - they called it "frequency hopping" - which would utilize linked pairs of player piano scrolls - one in the ship, one in the torpedo? & that they patented this & took it to the Navy, which eventually classified it? & that the idea helped lead to aspects of internet & cellphone technology? & that Lamarr was given a Pioneer Award by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1997?


In a black mood lately. Trying to think positively about this: maybe it's the sign of a new direction. This has happened before.

The poems written in the last month, for the most part, are well-meaning & workmanlike, but also quite stuffy, stodgy, giving the impression of forced effort. With a couple weeks' distance they feel alien & clunky.

Seems like I've lived several lives in poetry already. Sometimes the mountain seems too large & cold to move.

When I'm in this mood it's better for me not to observe the "scene" at all.

It's a good thing I can play some music. Five of us now: piano, guitar, fiddle, accordion, harmonica, jaw harp, saw (yes, saw), kazoo, jug, washboard, bass (have started playing bass, finding it fun). We're sounding very jug-zydeco-afro-pop.

Though this too is just a distraction... "nobody knows the trouble I've been."