I'm heading out of town & away from computer for a week - will be back around Oct. 2.

Tentatively scheduled to play some music then, with Jim & Colette, after the Kent Johnson/Kasey Mohammad reading in Providence (Oct. 4th). Looking forward to meeting Kasey, seeing KJ le poet maudit again.

[here's what I sound like when goofing around on my own. but then I'm actually just Colette & Jim's sideman.]

See y'all.
well, what do you think. whacko stuff, that last bit, huh? makes me think of a wind tunnel, or distortion of some kind, fuzz pedal, wah-wah, phaser. makes you long for something simple, clear, serene.

something spinning on its own axis : curled around a wave, like the word "narcissist".

Nabokov saw colors in letters. I hear strange things in syllables.
some more old hurricane music from Grassblade Light:


Limping, climbing like a Lazarus
from the well of amor, you wave goodby.
Stigmatized and astigmatic, she.
Passing beyond alarums, carnivals

in the distance, Mardi Gras
in the bent mirror, marvelous,
far-off now, larmes
des choses

your worn shoes.
Hand waves.

A valentine arrives from prison:
a feather; a blue iris
enveloped in glass;
a tiny lead pellet. Anon.

The thickness of the lens slows light:
ask Lena how it's done, Einstein.
Absolute zero, swimming, sun.
Blackstone here – was all for nought.

Like an arrow like a grain of sand
through your heart, you carry it
and live (livid, limpid, lit,
littoral, ghost). Like a wave

in your hand, the eye turns inward,
a wave diving into itself; and a gnomon
recedes toward noon, toward
everyone. You keep your word.


Astigmatism of a reading Mary
reddening, in green – a Magdalen's
uncontrollable waving, here anointing
knighthood's sword herself-to-be.

A black twig shaken by the early wind.
You hear the sound rustling
in the tumbling sky-tumulus
to come a two-man canoe wounded

in the womb tum-tum she comes
– so you heft her like a harlot's
chaplet of quintuplets' fifty-
two year-old foals – flagrant sums,

fulgent, horsing across Mongolia
– down tomorrow's lanes.
Only thin lines –
until angels in a J cry gloria.

Toward noon in Miami –
when eye, reflection, shadow
merge in heisted iceberg. Slow
light - seeping, sleeping. We.

Solid, airy teatime, Alice!
Parallelogrammar's cookies two-
in-wonder! I – whew!
Mad – limey – delicious!

Think you? Yes!
Thanks be! And here's More
come from an alcove to borrow
your precipice – this time on ice –


Her eye can wave good boy in fingerpoint
so straighten up, Sun of No One, soon –
her father's very weathery (monsoon
ready or not). Ash-wedded Lent

was Poe – spent like a moth
rolling murky balls in Baltimore.
His silver adversary swore
to ratify his vein, his troth, forsooth –

of the elect, and ineluctable. Inedible,
for money. Mammy's eyes he was.
Iced blue. J-crosted, crust-fried
satin western chicken butt, indelible.

A pencil on an island
in the shade.
Well-mud –
crucified, battered, solid

sand. Spidered through a skull
of mouldered glass – your
basement story – sour, sure –
ours, bare. Pulled off the hull.

A blarnicle. By friction.
Heavy work of art, held high
by doom – by mordant glue.
Mortal dew. Suction

cup of tiny tears, for hours and hours
dropping slow – less balm than woe.
That's gravity for you! That gravity for you.
That grave. That you. Yours. Her.


There's a Mardi Gras in the distance, Maggie –
let's go. Wave goodby now, honeychile.
Goodby now, land. Goodby, lamb. Girl,
I'm empty-handed now. Goodby.

A grain of sand in your throat
or dregs in the tea, some crumbs –
and you come up for air all thumbs
and stuttering - a heavy Joseph coat

over your shoulders – sopping wet.
Doubled-over, the bend's heartburn
stings your eyes – mustard bean
pole-vaulted chicken crutch-in-a-net or

weightlifting waiter-for-life –
how can I explain
a level plain?
Noon light – a cautious knife's

blackout. Ore, blue, rampant, lion
down – moniker black, milk
Levite sky, with Moloch,
kneaded, whining
warped, in chain

or Bluejay (fletched at cardinal point).
He shakes his head – yells –
seven heavens, seventeen hells
debouch – with camel, embonpoint.

Benighted with stars and stripped
for tussles with an angel, he –
he pencils in – see?
See! Another dantesque Danish whip.



Jonathan likes to cogitate upon the conundrum of literary schools & conventions. & I'll grant that in every time period forms of writing reproduce a kind of basic introductory Acceptable Style, and an established Constellation of Authoritative Authors who are the acknowledged Prestigious Ones.

But what does it mean to say this, or criticize the situation? Not much. If you don't specify the particular Snipe - if you don't investigate & evaluate specific works of art - you're not doing a critical job of work.

Here's a popular Double-Yr-Money Shell Game which you can watch on the streets of New York:

The Gamester displays 3 shells :

1. Official Verse Culture
2. Rebel Verse Culture
3. Border Verse Culture (oscillating between #1 & 2)

The penny or nugget is Poetic Value, which the gamester/rhetorician shifts rapidly from one shell to the other.

The Gamester can play this game for hours, without ever applying Poetic Value judgements to a single work of art. We're playing it right now!!!
Gabe Gudding, like many personalities of comic bent, has an alter ego - the scold, the judgemental moralist. His recent & much-noted post on the dynamics of Narcissism is insightful, but maybe it doesn't go far enough.

Proust is more radical. In the Recherche, self-regard (taken to comic extremes) is not so much a personality trait as a symptom of social dynamics generally - entire societies devoted to pecking orders & vanity. The narcissist is not merely acting out in an autonomous isolation chamber. S/he plays a community role, as representative clown, victim - as an exaggeration of what is the norm.

"All is vanity, & a striving after wind," spake the Preacher.


I wonder if Chas. Olson ever read Fawcett's book.

Geography, archaic civilizations, Mayas, tectonic plates, etc.

the Yanqui beak has a tropical tilt : Stevens, Crane, Olson, Bishop... Hemingway.... Melville... ?
Col. Fawcett's memoir, compiled by his son (Exploration Fawcett, see below), aside from its terrific descriptions of Amazon & Andes environments, shows an odd mixture of racist & humane attitudes. He debunks a lot of the local myths about the native ["savage"] tribes, praises them, befriends them; yet he echoes some of the typical racialist/colonialist biases of time.

There's also the familiar spiritualist/mythological/speculative gumbo (Ignatius Donnelly-like) about Atlantis, lost worlds, etc. Certain theosophical/speculative themes seem to come as a mythological package, you often find them grouped together.

I want to read Eliz. Bishop's old Time-Life country study of Brazil now, & some other writings.

Heard her read at Brown many years ago (early 70s). We stood face-to-face very close for quite a while at the packed after-reading party. She was very short! Friendly, not a bit pretentious - though as usual I was at a loss for anything to say. (Partly, I think, because I had been a little disappointed in the reading. I should have studied up more beforehand. She recited in such a quiet monotone - had trouble following it.)


watched an old film tonight, Darling, with the ravishing Julie Christie. Dirk Bogarde plays a melancholy literary great dane (by the name of Robert Gould).

you can get a pretty good image of Providence (& a very different one from mine) from Mairead. She hasn't lived here very long, but in a way, she's a native. She reminds me of the community organizers I used to work with, except she keeps odd notes & writes poems.


& the jungle, the jungle. the stunning array of poisonous, malevolent, preternaturally malicious creatures - insects, spiders, fish, snakes, bats, crocodiles, on & on... the weather. the forest. the constant fear of poison-arrow "savages" (whom Fawcett, unlike the rubber-boomers, gold-hounds & slavers, is able to befriend, it seems, without too much trouble). the unbelievable "life is cheap" attitude, self-punishing, despairing, drunken, fevered (Fawcett depicts over & over) of exploiters & exploited... his own unquenchable hunger to go back there, again & again. 1906-1925. Werner Herzog's movie "Aguirre, Wrath of God" catches a bit of it.
Exploration Fawcett [clearly, from the evidence of this link, there's also a whacko fringe Fawcett-cult] - I can't put it down. Imagine Poe's Pym novel, except in real life, with a great deal more of detailed description & episodes, & the wisdom of experience & humane spirit. It ends with Fawcett's disappearance in the depths of the Amazon jungle. Notebooks compiled by his son - who is looking out his office window in the railroad yard in Lima Peru at the very railroad car his father was riding into the Andes (on his first expedition) the day he (his son) was born, back in London. Very Poe/Borgesian touch, there.

The Amazon (along with Vallejo & the Andes) creeps into the final passages of Forth of July - mingled strangely with The Countess from Minneapolis (ps. that cover image is a painting of Hennepin Ave) & Pushkin's short story "The Queen of Spades".

"...by the shores of great rivers" (Mandelstam)

I felt bad that I had been so belligerent in comment box here. It's because (I emailed) I have been rather strung out lately. Received a very kind reply. wish all well.


Jane Dark has a very structured & programmatic way of addressing questions (in which one of my comments on the politics of poetics gets described as "absurd"). I can't say I've thought things through as systematically, but off the top of my head, responding:

in the outline she draws here of history & poetry, and Marxist criticism, she is careful not to predetermine any commitments that might be (falsely) assumed to follow from a Marxist-critical starting point. Nevertheless, she is at the same time careful to posit the basic underpinnings of the approach : 1) "history" determines the meaning of particulars (events) : ie. history is the primary & adequate frame of reference for interpretation; 2) consciousness is determined by social forces which also "make" history (consciously or not); and 3) if we identify "emergent poetics", we are bringing to awareness the mode of poetics which is aligned or at least recognizes the forces of changing contemporary history, as opposed to "residual" or backward-looking or traditionalist poetics.

The underlying assumption here is that history itself is determined by economics (ie. class struggle) : what we call the frame of history is colored by the struggle for economic dominion (ie. control of resources & means of production).

The absurd point(s) I was trying to make, and would like to reiterate, is that it seems to me that, first of all, history itself is producing a narrative which contradicts Marx in many respects; for example, the struggle between labor & capital does not seem to shape & define social relations & power structures in the determinist manner which Marx predicted. Social relations, social power, & social development are defined by communities which are not simply determined, in turn, solely by their status as bourgeoisie or working class. What this means is, that even if we choose "history" as the ultimate interpretive frame, history itself is not necessarily defined accurately in Marxist terms.

Secondly, it seems to follow from this that if we are imposing a false (let's say, "materialist") notion of historical causality, we will come up with a skewed image of literature. Rather than assent to a particular theory of history, which then colors our view of literary phenomena, I would argue that "history" is a human work-in-progress - an unresolved, intellectually improvisatory phenomenon, resulting from the interrelation of the workings of time & nature (a reality outside total human control) with human consciousness. We make & write history - and these activities change as new knowledge is gained (& in some cases old knowledge lost). In other words, we have no complete & authoritative version of either history or history-making which we can simply apply to our theory of literature or poetics.

& if this is the case, then it seems irrational to apply a theory of history - since it will be either false or incomplete - as a means toward the "explanation" of literature. It's a case of overburdening criticism with unexplained or unexplainable or inapplicable levels of abstraction.

Criticism & poetics is in the position of devising its own interpretive frameworks. As long as these are laid out clearly, the reader is enabled to recognize the assumptions & assertions undergirding these interpretations. The reader may or may not agree with the provisional outline of history or literature which the critic supplies; but the reader will be in a position to evaluate not only the preliminary assumptions, but their applications as part of the critic's (or the artist's) whole method & approach to specific works of art.

Thirdly, & finally, I would question the simple application of the category of history to the category literature. In a fundamental way, art interprets reality - shows it back to us - by means & methods, and with goals, which rival, & differ from, those used in the narrative/interpretive activity we call history.


if I'm not mistaken, 8 years ago today I started writing Stubborn Grew. (please ask Tod Thilleman to re-issue!)
I wrote much about N'Orleans back then (more from Grassblade Light):


Into the double-blind sea-swell
of Venetian loam. Hand-
moving, in the clay – behind
the stern wake, stunned, indivisible.

Nine day's journey, Alma –
out of the land of ye men, into
a marryless land. Through
firewater, an anthole

gauntlet lambada-limbo crouch
(way backward) – a nine-
moon labor pang. Sign
here, sailor, if you want to join – ouch!

The pen tightens – doubles you
up in one humus humvee – while
you emulate a taut-unison chorale
ascending in five-moth double Eu-

bie Blake entwinements of the keys
to a greenhouse kiss in a hexagon...
where petals drift like snow – sun-
dappled dogwood chariots, magnolias...

magnanimous. In May.
And married like a jeweled bumblebee
to their drifting, flowery labor, you will be
saying Nein to the cyclopean neighing

nay-saying Goliaths in your path,
and Ja like J. of Ark did come one July,
and rose steely, more than 0, tall Michael's
scrimshaw – lifted on a lion's back (sans wrath).



So into a black milk-weave of blindness
the light of a steady moth star steers you,
ruddy penny – toward your amygdaloid's eye-
opener errand road – your high so-phoenixness

crying, I think icon, I think icon... – so fly,
Sophie, benign little boatie! – and say
Noah to chilled rains, aswim idly
up to their yes in idolatries!

Water's clear now – all the way
to Rorrim the Clown's harbor
borealis, and yon lil blue engineer
that could climb the mountain. Hey

ey yo
, Santa Griot – egg of Rio, G-dis-
railer of the dragon – yo, milky, dizzy
danglo-dangler – he done diz it, see?
In yon marbled-arbor – muh herb, a Iz-

reel... caa, caa, si? Noah way, man!
I stump ya yeti? Caa-caa see Canonicus,
son? From diz angle? Beak again! Suss?
Fly, lil snowflake – dew faster in sun!

Ain't gonna herd you none, hear?
Let him on go, Unc – red him his.
For the load of the level church est
right out of your chest, dovey dear –

the ur-church worship – the chip-dip and
swing-slippy can-do-U-can-you ca-new-new!
Rainbowled over and rovered... a blue-
red wing of humanbird-rainbearing El Atland!


i.m. Judge J.M. Wisdom

"The criterion is the relevancy of color to a
legitimate government purpose."

America, the beautiful weaves of... grain
upon grain. In the eye of mountainous
storms. You, endebted dust. Let's
jam, JM... ravin ravelin man.

Made of Orleans jazz, yesterday –
and tomorrow too, Bluejay - Ol'
Man Wisdom – your birthday.
Ol' brown muddy vacation, missus –

weepy today – into the clay.
Scythe cometh – while we blow
these windy horns. But you know,
he done be beautiful. That color-boy,

he done it. LA-forged rainbee affirmation.
All-Franciscan cut-the-bull franchise.
Out go the guardian ingenuous devices,
the Donnelly-brooks – all the commotion

of cantilevered cannot knots – he done it.
Wisdom & Stone – that Jewish blood
gone filtered through the 'hood.
Delta land. The swamp. To-wit,

... – soul river, Bluejay says.
Where Blackstone reddened the blue-
stockaded labored lawbook – where you
read, down to the rushing streaming clays.

Where Bluejay goes, JD – into Jerusalem.
Washed along down the Mississippi, all
my integral calculus. A circuit of fifths. Will
be for you – these minor chords, my hummin hymn.


the eccentric Col. Percy H. Fawcett


After the walls of Byzantium tumble
and Captain Gago crashes – after
Percy among the jungle cats
writes his last letter – in autumn,

after a six turns out to be nine
and Labor Day is done –
you will come into your own.
The way a Pope goes home again,

or in a rusted iron cemetery
people find their poetry at last:
the way Pushkin-cat (after a feast
of ghosts) returns limping and weary

but (for the ninth time) still alive –
the way a buried sun (like an innocent
in jail) shines, and the dark is darkened
to an utmost day of judgement – weave,

then, birthright song, like a final dance
which is secretly beginning: deus
exam out of a columbarium – rose-
dust mandala-magnetism – salience

of clay mourning-dove, or an ocarina
crooning out of silence – begin then,
sundance: welded gate of Stephen
into Jerusalem's birth-labor day

of summer sun-heart – you double-
squared orthogonal octagon of em-
braces, circling toward a rustic M
of iron-risen Rublev-gongs – rubl-...


(- from Forth of July, v. 2 - The Grassblade Light. see line 3 above. ***now how the heck did I know that, then??)
readin': Stephen Prickett, Words and The Word (again. book about languages of poetry & religion)

Brian Fawcett, Expedition Fawcett (an old Arrow Books paperback from 1963. found it in the stacks. following trail of terrific article in this week's New Yorker, by [?] Grann, about search for Colonel Percy H. Fawcett, the eccentric explorer who disappeared in Amazon in 1925) (now that me & the Mississippi have done our evil [evil epic] thing down there in N'Orleans, I'm moving on to the Amazon)

continuing with Sukenick book on Wally Stee.


[deleted. you don't need to know about all my little problems]

... also found in stacks : Ecology of Power, by Michael Heckenberger, the anthropologist whom Grann met (after many traveling travails) in the jungle near where Fawcett disappeared. I note on p. 180 : "His last letter, dated May 29[oh-oh], 1925, was from "Dead Horse camp", where his horse had died and he turned back in 1920... It was here, on the border of the Xinguano lands, that the Western dream of lost civilizations in the southern Amazon died as well."

There's that date again. Forth of July flowed around it.


sent ms. Chapel Hill to a publisher last week. Novella, short story, poems. Has a certain plot. But the poems are not new (to me). & the whole thing was finished over 2 yrs ago.
... thus, the poem as art-work. the art-work as entity, organism, a specific thing with its quiddity, etc.

What gives the poem as artwork its particular form? beginnings & endings... narrative a subset of dramatic form? (identification, crisis, denouement...)

underlying this focus on the poem as "sculpture" is a formal shape. perhaps it's the form of drama (unfolding plot-flower, flowerpot). or perhaps my obsession with this is just a symptom of the librarian's disease : to see everything in terms of closure between the covers of a book. summa everythingumologica.

that's what I want, though : the drama in the book. the Great American Hovel.
Seem to be going through a phase of inner tumult.

Perhaps because of that, the notion of looking at poetry as "construction" or sculpture appeals to me. To think of the poem as a special kind of object with its own 3- or 4-dimensional character. In this thing, "history" or facts or (auto)biography or description or rhetoric or vocabulary or style or sound or etc... all these things are building materials for something which absorbs them & turns them into something else, something sui generis.

This kind of poetry is the antithesis and the antidote to contemporary forms of attention-deficient scatterbrained distracted intellectual/aesthetic feeding-frenzy, which seems to be the current mode of mental collage-logorrhea.

You can't flake things off from this kind of construction : it's all of a piece, and infinitely self-reflexive & resonant.

(but such a thing would be a bore if simply autotelic, self-contained. the poem would have to be thematically relevant, moving... & yet multiplex, multivalent, multifarious.)


Thanks so much, Mark - but if I'm back at all it's a very shaky back.

In my view the Sukenick book only seems lackluster because it is so workmanlike. He has no oversize thesis-axe to grind. He does paraphrases - which (understandably) many poets would consider the "murder-to-dissect" method.

I happen to need these paraphrases, because I am so dim, often miss the obvious. & by providing a rational structure to Stevens' meta-flora, Sukenick illuminates a terrain of composition which can be useful to other poets (me). I happen to need new themes, new somethings. My old approach seems to be finished.


from July :


A wash of evening colors the swerving crowds
around the statue with its own Code Noir
as, lifting three steeples out of its groin
over the fracas, squat St. Louis works

toward the sky. Evening outward,
spread flat past the levées, the river’s
tongues flow swirling – a severance
larger, wider than our herd can understand,

soldered as it is behind its masks
within a masque, like a quick-drying
dying mudpie funneled through ridiculous
morning - after tubes of – scams

and slippery make-ups – repartee
for fast departures – old recipes for
sleep. On the twenty-eighth of August
at the hour of midnight
a latteen sail

was visible in the direction of Cat Island
And Edna was awakening or was it
only a weakening? The cords loosening
into a catenary arc one (naked) isolato

stares toward the Gulf beginning
to dilate and to end within her own
breast heaving-ho now
solitaire (au secours!) nigredo Flood

tears from inside outwards
to the white majestic peaks of a mirage
Andes her own melting Jeremiah’s
daughter-dryad vaporizing into drought

(– these waters and these feral masks
crowding the square, emerging to merge
magnetized like iron – glimmering germ
of bronze ribcage – Julius the Czar).

Whose woods these are I think I know where
an outline sags into swamp into the Nile
a vernal undertaking or snaking line
of some royal blue J’s funeral Erewhwhwhw...

My little horse must think it queer the shakes
of harness bells undersea or under the skin
outline gone a coracle of hardened mud and ink
drifts or swims upside-down flesh succotash

Cawtantowwit Coatlicue the way an eye
swims in Bluejay’s hand like a Natchez
match for a Red Clay bridle’s channel
of loose rains swims your way

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
Snow now soon for sure on the rooftops
of Florence and the Negus peaks of
Ethiopia upstream, down perpendicular

like a grid or crossroad And miles to go
into a Danish interior, Edna of melted wax
and a half-ring carnelian of cat paternity
(missing the rest of the tale, O Solomon)

before I sleep and the drugged blood
dissipates with age and complacent cork
bobs wine-spilled Queen to Rook
my flesh will stand before you double-

You O Thou Hand of bubbled light
(through the depth-charge of the Gulf’s
ink Sanskrit and Rosetta-Stone glyph)
because this mud-cap is one reddish tile

atop that kingdom’s Dome (aerie
of kingdom come) between the
woods and frozen lake The
darkest evening of the year

Erupts a droning man or infant burning
between truth and desire forever and
must stand by his word (revolving
referee with heavy revolver like a nub

weighted with lead through the hole
in the candyman’s lifesaver) coffin drop
for the throat of muddy earth poured
out upon the ground red-wreathd Lo

the millennial Moi of gypsy water
(tumbleweed-spine node) doubling over
You wracked reverberating
telegraphic Thou – Tereuuuu...

as Hamlet reverses course O prodigal
homing binding the ring to the promise
and the arm to the sword as Ophelia
droops into the flowery dewlap

of that Minotaur of starry tarry Nay,
water (O Nevermore
velocity beneath the sea your venerable
remorse my son, my rat-bitten son)

And only the eye swims in the muddy
coracle of your hand, messy messenger.
Bluejay, funereal, crowing. Seminal
guardian of the drownèd doomed.

Our W hand lifted in blessing and savage
saving. Listening Crane twitched his long-
necked crown toward the scree (a lone
emissary note his own wing-bone gave).

Circles swims over the parallactic
tables the spirals graven
in his brain (wake of one vagrant
blood-vessel’s burst moonship calipers).

Thus the featherweighted drunken coracle
rimmed around the rooftop with an arc
of sloping copper (burnished barge
or burning car of king’s collected bones within)

slipped out into a Gulf
of merging clays and
colored sands.
One fibrillated leaf

of green Ophelia Coatlicue
asleep upon her coat of faded blue.
One penny in the deep. One lobe
of an ear of Natchez corn

one bee one W into Y (our) G
Ophelia your shapely L O U
splintered spar O U R L
hove-to O U curling J (B2) F...