... & so the mysterious Xmas guest Gabriel Gudding heads back (in his little blue car) into the flat deep skyland of the midwest. It was great to see him, compagnevolo of him to come calling. Usually we seem to agree to disagree. I too adore Simone Weil - but not for her rejections...
Here, then, for Christmas, is the philosophical groundwork for the School of Cool Quietude - the school which basically surpasses and replaces the Language School, the Post-Avant School, the New York School, the Black Mountain School, Nathan Bishop Middle School, Harley Hopkins Elementary School, and all the other contemporary schools. Aristotle laid out the understanding by which we recognize that state that Charles Olson so avidly pursued in his mumbo-jumbo way (& ironically dismissed the Greeks for missing) : that reality is inherently intelligible : there is no Cartesian-modern duality of mind and matter : Intellect is the identity, the coincidence of the knower and the known. C. Moev again :

"...the heritage that is Plato reworked by Aristotle reworked by Plotinus, all reworked again by Aristotle redivivus in the thirteenth century, and all sharpened in the light of Christian meditation. From our discussion of Aristotle, we may distill that understanding into three fundamental principles, which were to become the foundation of the medieval understanding of reality.

1. God, as pure being or actuality or form, is the reflexivity of pure awareness (intellect itself), which is nothing (not a thing), but the active power to be everything and nothing. [viz. Nicolas Cusanus's name for God : the Possest, the "Is-Power"]

2. Each thing that exists, exists only as a qualification of or participation in Intellect-Being. As determinations or limitations of being, things are radically other than the principle of Being itself (Aquinas would say they participate only in 'common' or 'created' being), yet if they were not in, of, through or from God, they would not be. In an absolute sense, only God is; all else shares. [note the prefigurement here of the Romantic poets' synthetic awareness - contemplation of the All in all things, in quietude]

3. Human awareness (the rational soul) is a special case, a special sharing in or affinity with the ultimate ontological principle. Hence its (at least potential) immortality, freedom in and from space and time, immunity to the power of any created thing (freedom of the will), and potential for what was variously called contemplative rapture (alienatio mentis, ek-stasis), deification (deificatio), or divine union (unio mystica). [ie., quietude]

"Our particular concern is the third principle, because it in fact subsumes the first two, and because it is the principle that underlies the pilgrim Dante's journey, his claims to have visited the Empyrean..." [Moev, p. 58]
Found the book I was looking for for Gabriel
(though my edition has a different cover). (see previous post)
ten years ago
Another special spiel over at Latta-day today. I do have a copy of Feathers to Iron; will have to go have a look at it again.

The homerish-homelessness of the poet, sneaking past the ziggurats of abstract systems, yet searching, puzzling along...

Aristotle & Dante, of course, is all system... here's Moev (The Metaphysics of Dante's Comedy, pp. 54-55): "Here we see that various aspects of Aristotle's philosophy fit together, as they are wont to do. Aristotle's stress on the fact that the rational soul "comes from outside", is divine, in some respect immortal, and that it presupposes no organ or body, is all to say that it is not subject to generation, corruption, or any natural process. The intellective soul does not rely on body or the world because it is ontologically prior to it, which is to say that it is related to the ultimate reality (pure form or actuality) iin which all things consist. The Christians were to express the same point by saying that the rational soul depends on (is produced by) only God, and is thus immortal. Moreover, it no longer seems arbitrary for Aristotle to claim that the Unmoved Mover moves all things as final cause, as their goal or object of desire and love; or that all things have "something divine in them"... that consciously or unconsciously moves them toward happiness or fulfillment, an impulse that grounds the human notion of the good, and whose ultimate goal is the Unmoved Mover... The Prime Mover is pure form, the principle of intelligence-intelligibility-being through which every being is; it is the principle that becomes manifest, and conscious of itself, as form becomes immaterial. To aspire upward in the hierarchy of being is to aspire to a greater range of existence, and ultimately to be unbound by any particular mode of existence : to be the power to be anything. It is, ultimately, for things to aspire to be what gives them being : form itself, which is nous. This is the ultimate consequence of Aristotle's rejection of Platonic Forms and dualism : intelligence-intelligibility-being must then be intrinsic to things, the being of their being, which is why the world is knowable."

OK. "To aspire upward in the hierarchy of being..." Now think of all those loping obscure tricky illegible prickly-proud expansive derelict long life-poems, which Latta is talking about... those searching-wandering poems, trying to absorb and be everything, Olson, Jack Clarke, Pound, WCW, Zukofsky, & all... those material-local-historical jumble-bags...

Here's the fundamental axiom which might be the key to their "form" : the way upward is the way down. In order to aspire to the Empyrean the poet must descend compassionately to the most material, the most particular, the most obscure, local, abject, ignored... down among the abandoned ones, down into the rag-&-bone shop, down Desolation Row... in order to become everything the poet must become nothing...

(cf. Joseph Brodsky's moving poem "Nature Morte")

... thus I might want to argue that the locus classicus, the perfect exemplar of this modern poetic form-effort, is none other than David Jones's Anathemata and his other works... because, 1st of all, he united the most particular, the most abject, the most historical flotsam & jetsam with an intelligible aesthetic form : the old notion that the pagan myths and ancient histories were all types and prefigurings of the historical kenosis-descent-crucifixion of Christ is what gives shape to his mythos & his narratives. No one has so thoroughly rendered the actuality, the local feel & color of an excruciating place : whether it's the trenches of WW I or the battlements of an outpost of the Roman empire, he was there...

In this way history and the poem, in parallel, reflect the compassionate kenosis - the descent, the self-humbling - of the divine. In this way the history of the modern long poem reflects, unknowingly, the acts of the sacrificial lamb.

This is just one way of looking at it.
see Daniel Green's comments on literary formalism, in his posts of Dec. 12 and 13.

The aesthetic sense : free intellectual capability to absorb information (facts, ideas, arguments, opinions, sensations), and then to encompass same within a sense of form, order, beauty. A formal (and holistic) response to beauty in works of art.

I might have more to say about "form" after I finish this interesting book on Dante by Christian Moev. He describes the subtleties of Aristotle's central concepts - ie. the relation between form (as the substantial reality of things in the hierarchy of nature or "chain of being") and the intellect (the free power of the soul to apprehend real things).

(This sounds awfully vague, I know.)

When you know the form of something, you grasp its identity. Matter, strictly speaking, doesn't exist : it's the potentiality of form. & form fulfills potentiality in acts of creative intellect (the Prime Mover for Nature; the human intellect for art).

But what is it to say that something has (primarily) an aesthetic form? Maybe Aristotle would say something like this : an aesthetic form is an object structured in such a way as to reflect the sense of beauty which resides in the (complementary) inner form of the soul.


THE POETRY of earth is never dead:  
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper’s — he takes the lead
In summer luxury, — he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.

December 30, 1816.
Gabriel, who is in town for a few days, told me last night he was working on a poem in praise of the sun. I remembered a poem by Greek poet Odysseas Elytes; went upstairs to look for it on my shelves & couldn't find it. Today I searched the library stacks; when I get home I'll dig around some more for that yellow paperback (I think it was called "The Sovereign Sun"...).

Now I realize I'm doing this on the shortest day of the year.
OK, enough whinin' & moanin' & groanin'. I just go over here & get a 2nd wind. (though I ain't so enthused about what I've seen of Mr. Thomas IQ Pynchon. Seems like a Joyce wannabee, over-ambitious, splenetic fussbudget. Like me.)

A nocturnall upon S. Lucies day,
Being the shortest day

TIS the yeares midnight, and it is the dayes,
Lucies, who scarce seaven houres herself unmaskes,
The Sunne is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rayes;
The worlds whole sap is sunke:
The generall balme th'hydroptique earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the beds-feet, life is shrunke,
Dead and enterr'd; yet all these seeme to laugh,
Compar'd with mee, who am their Epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers bee
At the next world, that is, at the next Spring:
For I am every dead thing,
In whom love wrought new Alchimie.
For his art did expresse
A quintessence even from nothingnesse,
From dull privations, and leane emptinesse:
He ruin'd mee, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darknesse, death; things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soule, forme, spirit, whence they beeing have;
I, by loves limbecke, am the grave
Of all, that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have wee two wept, and so
Drownd the whole world, us two; oft did we grow
To be two Chaosses, when we did show
Care to ought else; and often absences
Withdrew our soules, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death, (which word wrongs her)
Of the first nothing, the Elixer grown;
Were I a man, that I were one,
I needs must know; I should preferre,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; Yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love; All, all some properties invest;
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.

But I am None; nor will my Sunne renew.
You lovers, for whose sake, the lesser Sunne
At this time to the Goat is runne
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all;
Since shee enjoyes her long nights festivall,
Let mee prepare towards her, and let mee call
This houre her Vigill, and her Eve, since this
Both the yeares, and the dayes deep midnight is.
- John Donne


I wonder if there are still places where people approach poems together - comfortable spaces - where people approach poems as verbal-emotive-intellectual objects, having different dimensions -

sort of informal philological symposia (in Mandelstam's sense) -

places where whole poems are apprehended, experienced, evaluated - in an atmosphere of collegial craftsmanship & shared insights -

not as part of any poet's or critic's personal ambition or agenda, but focusing together on the artistic object itself -

far away from personality promotions and demotions - a place of intellectual and aesthetic objectivity -

the dream of the Petersburg Acmeists -
Still in early chapters of Moev book on Dante mentioned previously. Also reading Russian novel by Vasily Grossman, Life & Fate. In english.

Moev's book hinges on the argument that Dante's (& medieval) conception of reality differs fundamentally from modern, & we need to try to grasp that conception if we want to make sense of Divina Commedia. His description of the Platonic-Aristotelian-Dantean world-picture reminded me of George Berkeley's writings. Matter is not a "thing". It is substantial, but not in our materialist sense of a solid substratum. Matter is not any where or what : it is an expression of a (dramatic?) concept. The substance of reality originates in the creative act of the divine mind.

We do find this world-view extremely remote, hard to comprehend. Yet some would argue it's closer to the quantum-relativity cosmos of contemporary science, as opposed to traditional-modern materialist notions.

In the chapter of Stubborn Grew called "Once in Paradise", I tried to ground that narrative in something similar, by playing with the story of George Berkeley's 3-yr residence in the "Paradise" section of Newport, Rhode Island, in the early 18th century.

Here are a couple relevant passages :


Irish iconoclast, waiting for the money to come through
under his cardboard loans, waving his good arm
toward Bermuda; heeling to leeward on charm
only – the world can understand. Sand fills his shoe.

English, French, European, utilitarian,
rationing out creation, one coffeespoon, one puff
of philosophical smoke – and it's enough
for the Modern Diner – these eggs are vegetarian!

Queue up for the doubledecker sandwich island,
individuals! Invisible hands prepare your steaks –
Chicago machine-made diesel-chuckle-X shakes!
Lock the white sex bullpen – key's in your hand...

Berkeley was a chip off the old wayward block.
Yahwehward – subject to Johnsonian hard knock.
Yet stone synecdoche the builders reject

becomes a wander in RI.
Chip, chip, chip away... yet chippewater will
return – a continuous whippoorwill
in marginal field. Aye.


Aloft there on shale shelf, in cave mouth,
Berkeley's eyes drifted out to sea.
A pair of dicey gypsy barks
gambling on the shepherding waves.

You have your materialist peasants
nattering pedantically along with your
libertine idle blank-eyed statuettes O
London – and this jovial pleasant

noncholeric collared Irish bookish Dean
waves the Vico key in your face. And waits.
Waits for your double crosscheck, mates –
your doubloon that never comes – keening,

why have you forsaken me? In RI? Heaven's
not some dull neuteronian mechanical.
It's providential – and recreational!
A dream, again! – again! – Bermudian!

Am busy these days trying to set up a lecture series for church on some of these basic issues of "worldview". Going to invite various scholars & religious people & atheists etc. "God for Beginners" "Intro to God 101". something like that. & don't worry : there will be a section on civil liberties, freedom of conscience, separation of church & state, etc. This is Rhode Island, after all. If I can figure out how to podcast the lectures, I will.

(that's me on harp at a concert on Redeemer lawn last summer)


Back from Mpls comes Henry. Him daughter is all graduated (hip hoo-ray) & on her way to distant deserts with her Mom, to visit Peace Corps pal. Him blogland bud Gabe Gudd coming manana to crash on couch (while in Prov to visit him daughter). Him wife ask him to ask him Gabe not to talk about it on him blog. Him agree. Henry has no poesie to speak of, he im pow'rful down blooey & bored with all sundry & self him, he.


Don't mind me. I like some poetry I read in magazines and books. Really. & they have meant much to me at various points in time & space. I even edited a little magazine myself for a while.

It seems I'm a chap who probably needs to make some changes.

Now I'm off to the Great Mid-West, for my daughter's college graduation. Back in Providence on Monday. This blog will be 4 years old in about 3 weeks. I will be turning 4,000 this year. Maybe it's time.

Sorry, just ruminatin'. Have a good week.
....then again, why even try? This blog is perpetually winding down. I don't have a vested interest in writing scholarly briefs. Blog-posting poems is a dead-end disguised as a short-cut. But then again, who wants to read poetry magazines? or poems in magazines? New Spleen Today, issue #414.

Reading about the nature of Dante's Primo Mobile (in Moev book mentioned previously). The fastest of the heavenly circles, it is basically potentiality and motion. Lives "right next" to God's Mind. Spin.

This coincided with article in NY Times Sunday magazine about new design for surveillance aircraft : basically it's all wing, sort of a perpetual-motion boomerang which spins so fast that the whole thing (not just the rotor, as on a helicopter) is invisible.

Helen Vendler profile in NYTBR last Sunday as well. Her dislike for fashionable emphasis on drafts, posthumous disjecta literaria. Discrimination, "classics".

I can sort of appreciate that. But my way of writing poetry now involves a perpetual spin-motion (quatrain toy train) which causes itself to disappear from everyone's literary horizon. See ya.


My prof & proto-prof blog friends are almost done grading papers, & now they have time to tell us about the ethics of poetic pleasure, and the pleasure of poetic ethics, and so on etc... I'd like to agree with Eric Selinger's clear distinction between morality and aesthetics - it clears away so much sophistry - & yet I have doubts about an epistemology(?) which makes of "pleasure" a distinct and separate entity, something we can analyze for ever & ever with complaisance & delight...

walk in fear of abstractions...

Poetry is a (pleasant) conjunction of contradictions. A fulfillment of a particular poet's very personal, subconscious need (perhaps very specific, private); yet also a dispassionate, disinterested, aesthetically-resolved end in itself. I guess in that self-determining end lies its power of fulfillment. It's that unique, autonomous aesthetic quality (um, let's call it "beauty") which makes poetry so desirable as a means to other ends (ethical, intellectual, ideological, political, utilitarian, etc...).

Dante considered the Divina Commedia a didactic poem with a moral lesson. But we recognize that its power as lesson depends on its integrity as art work. On the other hand, perhaps this recognition reveals the limits of our worldview. As long as we keep searching for Ethics in Aesthetics, we remain merely aesthetes. (Ethy ain't here, people. She lef Athy bout 6 yr ago f'nother fella, move to DEtroit.)

From an ethical standpoint, art is merely a means to an end (the good life, the justified life, the right action at the right time, the heroic exemplars of truth & virtue... the edification of humanity).

From an aesthetic standpoint, ethics (in the abstract) is merely an occasion for comedy (and tragedy) : since the power of experience - the mimesis of particulars - gives art an overwhelming advantage over any other form of discourse.

Deal with it...


(... that's "Pax", reclining there, from Ambrogio Lorenzetti's "Good Government" fresco in Siena.)

Texts that have made life difficult for me over the years :

The Bible
"Cowboy Bob" series from Hopkins Public Library (that dates me)
Shakespeare's Sonnets
60s NY School anthology (red cover)
Vlad Nabokov books
Most of the paperback novels of the 60s
... in fact whut has been seriously discussed in various litwawy salons as the "mainstreaming" of "difficult" "avant-garde" "texts" in our "poetic culture" is really just the manifestation - the bulbous exposure - of the "professional" "serious" and "influential-successful" communing & commingling together of one or more of the mutual heads of Hackdom. It was there in the genes from Day One.
Let's face it : 99% of all writers are hacks, and the other 1 percent are also hacky 99% of the time. You have your commercial (generic) hacks, your arty-farty (academic) hacks, your vaunted-garde high-nosed (revoleptic) hacks... all three of 'em close kithin-kin brethren, a-slurpin' o' the turbid inkwell.

Behold them three conjoined heads, a-yammerin' down the track o' the Hackbeast Trifecta ! Now there's some writin' for yaz !
Trying to follow & enjoying the conversation on varieties of pleasurable reading experience, started by Josh Corey & et al. Nota :

There's probably something like "inherent difficulty", which gets around Robt. Archambeau's relativizing the notion. Understanding a difficult text has to involve more than just learning the lingo - no matter how arcane (socially, pedagogically) the lingo may be. Difficulty is not just an aspect of verbal encryption - a puzzle to be worked out - nor is it, on the other hand, just an aspect of textual ambiguity, undecideability.

I'd say "inherent difficulty" is present in any literary work which tries to represent/interpret the unknown, the mysterious, and the real - all of these together. What we think of as cheap thrills, escapist novels, easy reading - the pleasure we take in them - and the reason we think of them this way - is that they have little or no originality. There is no apprehension of anything really new - no exploration. They are "generic" - they fulfill generic expectations - there is no break in the seamless machinery of entertainment, because the author is not confronting anything mysterious. There is no "mystery" in these mysteries.

Silliman & many others would like to analyze this difference in goals by way of differences on the level of diction, syntax, etc. But the use of different styles and literary idioms doesn't guarantee the "inherent difficulty" I'm getting at. In fact we are familiar with the phenomenon of supposedly "difficult" texts which simply mimic and parrot the received or prestigious exempla for "difficulty". In fact we see so much of this, that many of us have to turn to cheap thrills fiction just to escape the hypocrisy of it all.

Where do writers like Jane Austen, Malcolm Lowry, Shakespeare, Nabokov, fit here? Nabokov is someone who tried to bridge the popular read and the extreme-cryptic-arcane. Lowry's Under the Volcano is layered like an onion. (is there pleasure by way of onions?)


Deleted some posts from yesterday. My apologies (sincere) to those who commented on them. I'm just too old for these games. Will probably have to delete this post too eventually.
J. Latta, everlasting Gracehoper. (I think I'm more of a left-handed Ondt.) Today's post transmits both downsides & upsides of "hobo-ing", by way of Pynchon. (& vicarious same.) Have a generation of poets been systematically "kicked to the curb", viz. Amiri Baraka? Seems more like the poets just reflect the trends at large. Settling into your computer cubicle & checking your investments. But he & John L. keep pointing to something outside ("old weird America").

(I'm a-goin' to write a comic novel in ol-wild-America fashion, about a salesman traveling through Harper's Ferry who gets taken hostage by a big fat Civil War re-enactor, in order so that the latter can publicize his belief that Abe Lincoln, as a crypto-Native American, deliberately selected the world's worst generals for the Federal side, so as to carry out a spiritual command to wreak Divine Judgement, fully, on both sides in the Civil War. It's a theory. hereby copyrighted @ Henry H. Gould.)


... another little putt at Nicky de Cusa's Mini-Golf (ie. Autumn Door) :


A sparkling of snow, the air grown featherweight.
This is the earth, we may see no other.
A ball bobbled in a children's game, somewhere
suspended... pendant, over-under the infinite...

An anxious bluejay squawks contingent plans
for now. But we will revolve, you and I,
on this trim pivot that upholds our sky -
drawn as we were out of the bookish plains

toward one transparent parapet, a ziggurat
of smiles. Its coil retracts to vertiginous heights;
its labyrinth of particolored slates
a nowhere-palimpsest (at zero climate)

and with such pitch the crusted compost-mound
disintegrates in layers... flaked limestone
streaked with articulate foam, Shoshone
medicine bones, plate tectonics ground

up and moving in infant array - earth's
loyal dust-mote children - early, early, eagerly
engaged in morning, honoring seared ugliness
beguilingly, half-grasping each pennyworth

incalculate and prodigal - innocent idolators
plunging tenacious fingers into frangible soil.
A scarab rolls its microcosm toward the Nile
(fragrant little lifeboat buried in funeral barges)

as the thought of you rotates beside the kiln
where the sun growls and the stars gesticulate
and the thought gestates, a guest of state...
(eyes bent toward snow along a windowsill).


The previous poem is not meant to be simply a melancholy reflection, an elegy for someone far away. The idea that "the autumn door leads nowhere" has another side to it also. Relates to this concept of "the empyrean", which I'm getting from the book about Dante noted earlier here (by Moev). It is not "anywhere"; it is an intellectual, non-physical space - the beginning, the origin of space. The "uncreated".

Slow to glob (I mean blog), slow to write these days. I love my new little poem, hope it keeps going... but everything like this takes a big mental effort on my part. There are many distractions as well as obligations on my time.

I have to get into a state of mind. Poetry for me is very different from talk or prose. I know that doesn't hold for everyone, obviously. That's OK.



The little autumn door leads nowhere.
Set against a hillside in a fresco
fading on a wall. Tiny square of yellow
flame, a single leaf. Twilight atmosphere.

It was you who brought me here
(by way of a passion for obscure painters
from Siena - by way of the black-iron fritillary
in the campus gate). Here to nowhere.

Nothing behind the supernal colors
on the wall. Nowhere to turn. Send back
the Antikythera Mechanism
hunches no help now). Somewhere,

through some word-hole, we wormed across
between empire and empyrean, making the sign
of black sheep on a parallel (dim gnomon of
lulled hearts, importunate (with )).

That blackened wooden frame around the icon
was the smile around your lips. Which was
your arm across my shoulder. Which was...
which was. Like Russian dolls (infinite

recession. Fine recess). The little door
flames in its woodwork (limpid, desolate).
Simple primary colors. Light green, involute
pine-needle blue, sand, solitude. No more.

[p.s. for the "Antikythera Mechanism", see today's NY Times article (by John Noble Wilford). Coincidentally, also came upon this today, in Chapt. 1 of Moev book mentioned previously : "Hipparchus's discovery of the precession of the equinoxes about 129 B.C. implied that the motion of the sphere of fixed stars too was complex (there was a slight west-east slippage in its daily east-west rotation), and so an invisible ninth heaven, 'which many call Crystalline, that is, diaphanous or completely transparent' (Convivio 2.3.7.), was posited..." (Metaphysics of Dante's Comedy, p. 16)]
Pretty amazing book by Christian Moevs, The metaphysics of Dante's Comedy (Oxford Univ. Press, 2005).

(Seems to ground, explain, clarify some of my neo-medieval notions about "two-tiered cosmos" and "contemplation" in "Value of Quietude and the Need for Roots"...)



There is an evergreen in Providence
whose needle wins the duel with every leaf
in the library. Her spine an arrow-sheaf
of thorns. Her grim patient taproot rends

the granite. Meanwhile the library, collegial,
collects the congealed logic of the leaf-pile
conscientiously. Bright-eyed scholar-cowboys
squirrel it away (homey arrangement, intellectual

corral). And bookworm-servant, in the sub-
sub-basement, reads on her side. The hole
in her heart gives back the cavernous whole
the word makes in the world (dub-dub-

scriptoria). The outline of a forearm
lifted to prop a sleepy brow shifts
into the dream itself. The arm grows stiff,
turns spiny, subdued, arctic, aquamarine...

and what the dream unfolds for turning worm
is picture of a little tree, foiled in milky air
and rain – tree lush with frail leafage, shuddering,
stuttering – green tree, evergreen, ever-warm...


(p.s. for the "palimpsest of voluminous vellum", see article by Felicia Lee in the Arts section of today's NY Times)
So begins a new turn for the old worm...



This November day, saturated with rain and twilight.
In the backyard, a cardinal, almost camouflaged
by moldering leaves. A little breeze emerges
from the other side of thought.



In Nicholas of Cusa's Game of Spheres
each toss of the ball might bring you closer to the center
of the nine... but maybe not. Enter
the game. See how your cautious throw veers

(slightly askew) in the plotted direction...
Its track traces the outline of a satellite's
ellipse – like Kepler's polygon (not quite
your omnipresent sphere without circumference –
but near).


I know you're able to read me like a book.
Enlighten me, then, with those almond eyes.
My abject secret, everywhere despised,
you decipher with a single glance – look,

there's nowhere I can hide. My riddle game
a round dance from Siena (oblong and
infinitely long) – and when you recognize
its cryptic meaning, you'll translate my shame.

So this ovoid sphere (shaped like a pear
almost drawn out of shape) in its unending round
begins to resemble those autumnal browns
glinting with green highlights... (please don't stare).


A worm inches toward hibernation-life.
A worm in the cold womb, Lazarus
of compost. And womb and worm coalesce
in an almond shape – bent spiral, winter glyph.

When the two make one, when the canoe
from Twin Lakes portages eternity...
wearing the wedding weeds (borrowed plenty
from burrow-boroughs), piping a tuba, anew, anew...

Like that palimpsest of voluminous vellum
from Byzantium scraped clear of its cleaner
scraps – peelings peeled back to one keen
peal of Athenian demos-voice (deep hum).

So the astigmatism of servant time
serves at the will of earth's upturnings.
These mumblings of double vision – rings
of wedding vows... (still curve at well's rim).
This was written 10 yrs ago today. But people would rather keep talking about Ted Berrigan, I guess.
I'm also reading Thos. Pynchon, as it happens. After spooky experience of watching PBS documentary on Nazi scientists & Wernher von Braun, thinking of Gravity's Rainbow (which I've never read), then, immediately after, seeing GR on shelf in hallway, opening book to find it starts with quote from Wernher von Braun... anyway, so I'm reading Gravity's Rainbow. Haven't read Pynchon before. (As commentators have noted, I am usually about 35 yrs behind the times.)

Curious to discover that one of Slothrop's subconscious trances re: "American race relations" (cf. around pp. 65-70) sound a lot like the "underground" scene with Bluejay and the railroad tunnel in Stubborn Grew. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

Having sort of a schizoid reaction to the book (maybe I shouldn't be surprised). Intrigued by thick intricate fabric of history and pseudo-history, the "info", the obsessions, the jokes. & yet surprised to find myself sort of bored on the "sonic" level. These paratactic strings of phrases, each ending with suspension dot dot dots...... seems like Pynchon is very carefully channeling a triangulation of Joyce, Celine and Kerouac through his set-piece fuzzbox. The sentence structure is sort of repetitive, I think that's what is boring me. Maybe it's sposed to be that way, obsessive run-on paranoid etc. But that doesn't mean I is going to like it entirely. Oh well. I just started it.


I seem to be entering hibernation mode. May be it for a while, or ever. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone -


removed post about John Barr, Poetry magazine debate over poetry & academia, etc. etc. sorry. just tired of this kind of chit-chat. tired of the whole scene (ie. my part in it). bored with it all. get me out of po-bizland. (too late, Hank.)


sometimes reading my posts of the day before gives me a hangover. (blah, blah. delete, delete.)


Interesting article by William Dalrymple ("Homer in India") in this week's New Yorker about persistent survival of oral epic poetry among some regions and castes of India. Traveling bard-shamans, dedicated to and invoking the power of a particular Hindu god, memorize poems thousands of lines long, and perform them in all-night sessions which can last for days or weeks.

A few years before Milman Parry went to Yugoslavia, recorded hundreds of hours of surviving epic performances, and basically invented an entire scholarly discipline, American anthropologists were recording the myths and songs of Native Americans. Much of my own (unknown) 700+pp. poem, Forth of July, draws on that material, from the character of "Bluejay" & the stories he tells, to the "ring-structured" passages (centered on the Mississippi River and the Ojibwa culture of the upper midwest) in the two sequels to Stubborn Grew (Grassblade Light and July).

(As I may have mentioned on occasion, all of this unknown long poem is available in print, as well as in inexpensive downloadable pdf format. Disclaimer : I do not possess an MFA in Creative Writing, nor am I associated with any academic Writing Program. I am, furthermore, not affiliated with the "New York", "Language", "post-avant", "New American", or any other "school" of poetry.)


Orhan Pamuk gave a reading here last night, as part of a conference on writers & civil liberties. I was sorry to miss it (it was my son's birthday). I've read most of his books - still reading the most recent one (Istanbul).

Our head librarian was invited to a dinner for him, hosted by the university. I was asked to round up new copies of his books, so she could have him sign them. While I was busy doing that, a little light went on. I ran home & got one of my old homemade chapbooks, the one with the photo of the Hagia-Sophia-like dome in London (actually a chapter from Stubborn Grew, called Ancient Light). (The poem is about a visit to London, but it has a few slanting references to his home town.) I inscribed it, to Pamuk.

There are not many copies around of this chapbook. It is very rare. The Brown Library has one. Now Orhan Pamuk has my last personal copy. (This seems like a minor episode from a Pamuk novel. Which reminds me that his recent near-arrest for "insulting the Turkish state" seemed like a major episode from same.)

Though I never spoke directly to our head librarian about it, she did indeed present it to him last night. Nice to think that my obscure verses might just end up on a shelf in Pamuk's Istanbul.


Intellectual disdain for democracy is always in fashion in some circles. One of the best antidotes is a careful reading of the Gettysburg Address.
Still reading Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. I think I first read it as sophomore in college, 1971 or so. It made a strong impression.

Around that time there was, I seem to recall, quite a Rilke vogue. I got annoyed with some of his portentous poetique mannerisms, how they chimed with 70s New-Ageyness, literary "spirituality". (People my age might remember what I'm talking about.)

But this was all just Rilke in American pop translation.

He was drawn to Russia & Russian poets (friend & correspondent with Tsvetaeva, who hero-worshipped him).

& I'm just being superficial, journalistic myself here.

Rilke offers a suave, cultivated, aristocratic image : but there's a clear hardness and independence to his writing too. A sort of old-fashioned 19th-cent. stoic "peasant" awareness of the facts of life and death.

In Malte he dwells on poverty and suffering. Sometimes it seems unflinching, sometimes it veers toward the edge of literary voyeurism (slumming), but mostly it offers a stream of eloquent sympathy, compassion. (Many passages in Malte should be required reading in medical or nursing school.) Bearing witness to the gradual moldering of strange old European culture, the imminent end of a certain historical era.
Poetry seems to have been kidnapped by poets. This kafkaesque situation is going to be difficult to unravel. The only solution I can think of, at the moment, is for people to stop writing their "works", or better yet, stop writing altogether for the forseeable future. Let poetry be. It's as if the environment has become saturated with kudzu or some other invasive plant.

Poetry needs some time to estrange itself from estrangement.

Leave it alone for a while, write anonymously in unpublished notebooks. Hide your talent under a bushel. Stop going to readings, conferences, publication parties. Quit reading blogs, including this one.

Disclaimer : my writer's block demon has not approved this message.


Every poem is a leap of faith.
...interested in religion because always bemused & curious about Reality, the riddle of it all... searching for answers since in the depths of adolescent misery, & maybe before... & things happened to me, subjective evidence perhaps. Every poet also expresses some theodicy, mine probably rather more odd, weird & feminist than any formal philosophical or theological formulae could formulate... hence my feeling of admiration for & kinship with Joyce, his wild Irish cosmos... & the tangy taste of words, which is what poetry's all about... I'm the iconic poet of the American boomer generation, Ron et al. just don't know it yet...


Poets & literary arty people don't want to hear about rational arguments for God & all that. "they'll figure it out at the Sorbonne someday". All that "irritable searching after fact & reason", or however it goes (Keats). Art feeds the appetite for love & beauty, the palpable textures of experience n' all that. I suppose where artists reside on Yeats's gyres of personal character puts them forever at odds with formal discursive argumentation & reasoning. Since soon after the Romantics, even the vague notion of the "universal Spirit" gradually dimmed beyond the ken of the intellect of the day. Now everyone feels (rightly) oppressed & bothered by aggressive fundamentalist hobgoblins.

Which, from my perspective, makes a rational evaluation of the possible existence & nature of God, paradoxically, important again for general culture (it's always been important for individuals).


As part of my escape from poetry, am re-reading Rilke's Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Rilke moved to Paris in August 1902, into an apartment at 11, rue Tollier (Ironworker Street?).

The book begins with this inscription : September 11th, rue Tollier.

Here are the first few sentences, trans. by Stephen Mitchell :

"So this is where people come to live; I would have thought it is a city to die in. I have been out. I saw : hospitals. I saw a man who staggered and fell. A crowd formed around him and I was spared the rest."



Re-reading Swinburne's thesis, I do what comes naturally, which is play devil's advocate. This is simply a way of testing arguments, I guess.

Swinburne proposes that there are three options : scientific explanation, personal explanation, or no explanation at all. Science is limited in that it cannot explain why things exist, or why they are so coincidentally ordered & unified. As he goes on to show, personal explanation - extrapolated to a supreme being - provides (amazingly) a pretty strong explanation for the nature of the universe.

But what has been playing in the back of my mind is a notion, perhaps akin to that of Eastern religion : that there might be another mode of explanation, which we could call the impersonal.

What if the ultimate characteristic of the universe of objects and things is, indeed, not chaos, but order? What if the artificial ordered creations that conscious beings (humans) produce - works of art, technology, etc. - are not so much analogous to the acts of a divine Maker, but rather simply acts of alignment, on a smaller scale, with the original, universal Order? "Conforming with the Tao", so to speak?

This also seems akin to some recent physics theory (I can't remember the name of the author) about the "algorithmic" nature of reality. The universe shuttling automatically into new formal formations.

One might then expect the philosophical alternative to a "new theism" would be a counter-movement - toward a "new Taoism", or something like that.

I don't happen to agree with this view, but I can see its appeal. I think that, aside from the "cosmological" or "design" arguments for theism, the evidence from consciousness and "personhood" weighs the scale on the side of theism, as opposed to this sort of spiritualized materialism or impersonal Way. (I do believe in "the Way", or universal law : but I also believe in the Person as its original and ultimate expression.)

(Between the unknowing of the intellect faced with God, and the following of the everlasting Way, there is probably a lot of complimentary common ground. But they are not the same. The belief that the ultimate ground of reality is impersonal is... rather impersonal, I guess.)

p.s. & I wouldn't be surprised if somebody like Swinburne could look more closely at the evidentiary logic of chaotic things and events, vs. the vast prevalence of order, and suggest that my "impersonal" explanation is simply the same as the "no explanation" option. What is the probability of a universe self-ordering itself, by chance (because if it is not by chance, then you have to accept a motivation of some kind - which brings God back into the picture)? In fact, the analogy, between conscious intention producing small-scale forms of order, on the one hand, with cosmic intentionality, on the other - ie. small-scale ordering acts as examples or replications of a universal-metaphysical act - remains pretty persuasive to me...
Here's a brief summary of Swinburne's thesis. It doesn't provide much of the flavor of his writing, or the cumulative strength of the arguments - but it's the basic outline.


Swinburne published a revised, shortened version of The Existence of God, titled Is there a God? (1996) - less technical, more accessible to general readership.

I'll get back to poetry one of these days.


Richard Swinburne's book (The Existence of God) is like a well-built, deep-drafted seagoing vessel. His command of the logic of evidence, probability - "confirmation theory" - allows him to re-open old arguments toward God's existence - from cosmology, from design, from "Providence", etc. - in new and remarkable directions. His discussion of the kind of universe a good God would create (the chapter on Providence) - one which allows for conscious beings with a capacity for freedom of choice of good and evil, intellectual and moral growth - I found quite moving. Nor does he sidestep the "problem of evil" or the presence of suffering and death.

The rational investigation of the possible existence and nature of God seems to me to be one of the most important cultural developments of any society, because it allows for the possibility of reasoning about and "reasoning-with" a reasonable God. It is an exercise in free thought. It counters the text-idolatry and intellectual tyranny of the fundamentalist and "traditionalist" attitudes, present in all three of the monotheistic faiths.


Slogging through some turgid & pedantic chapters in Richard Swinburne's The Existence of God. When philosophers decided, about 100 yrs ago, that they should sound like scientists, and put all their reasoning into logico-symbolic equations ("where event E is folded into hypothesis H via prior knowledge K we get probability P divided by..." blah blah)... this was a huge mistake. It's worse than the most dried-up medieval scholasticism. All this stuff should be in the footnotes at the back.

& yet the book's stylistic weaknesses are rendered just about moot by the fabulous logical intelligence at work here.

We have a general mythical-historical notion of a gradual dimming away, in the West, of rational belief in an omnipotent creator-God. This book is perhaps the best evidence that such an historical picture is mistaken. Swinburne walks in no fear of Kant or Hume. & his arguments are cumulative and very strong.

p.s. & I should say that most of Swinburne's book is clear, simple & direct. (He apologizes for the symbology in the intro.)


Have you ever pondered the question : does God exist, or not?

A simple enough question, burdened with emotional and historical and ideological and hysterical doubts, fears, myths, fantasies, evasions, dogmatisms, etc. etc. Such coercive pressure, at many levels of society, applied to force people to take positions (regardless of free will or free thought).

Anyway, here are two books which I would use if I were setting up a course on this subject (which I may just do):

Richard Swinburne : The existence of God. 2nd ed. Oxford UP, 1991 (includes a brief rebuttal of arguments in Mackie's book, as follows).

J.L. Mackie : The miracle of theism. Oxford UP, 1982 (a response, from an atheist position, to 1st ed. of Swinburne's book - as well as a clear presentation of the various arguments for & against theism).
OK, I will stop saying what poetry "should be". At least for the moment.

Language is powerful. I throw rhetorical counter-weights against the facile, the clever, the affable blather. Let poetry be hard-won. Or totally unwilled. One or the other. Not this willed verbosity of the glib (my own included).


Yesterday, from somewhere in seedy old brain, had one of those faint involuntary memories. Vagueness of 8 yrs old, outside, somewhere near lake. Smell of pond, docks, marsh muck... childhood sensorium. Feeling of uncertain alertness, of being in strange or new place. Vividness of childhood reality. Of being child-size in dislocated landscape - someone else's property or agenda... in-betweenness, in transit, not in control...

as if I had been dreaming now of the sort of dreamy sense of reality a child has... mingling two dream-states.


I'm a typical Minnesotan : happy-go-lunky.


Poetry should be both oracular and true. (there are always plenty of fake oracles)
Six months ago today I started Rest Note, thinking it would be the 1st of 4 books. I did all those "read-along" interpretations of it, here. Now I have the feeling it won't go any further. I wrote 3 sections of Rest Note 2 (posted here a few days ago). But I suspect it might be all done. Last of my Mandel-Cranian quatrains. Maybe.

Pondering in new directions(?). Dissatisfied with my own poetry (though - please don't misunderstand - happy enough with Rest Note, for what it is), & with poetry in general... or just tired, maybe.

The advantage of never getting very far in Poetry World : you start to think harder about what you really might like to read. Or what possibly someone else really might want to read.

The Glut problem is many-dimensional. One consequence of the illusory ease of our writing/publishing technologies now : we take poetry for granted. We lack taste and discrimination.

Making it should be like breathing at the North Pole : very difficult, very cold.

There should be many, many, many obstacles. This is what helps make its eventual appearance so precious. At least that's how it was in the old days (in my mythology, anyway).

Poetry should be the utter opposite of chit-chat.

It should be steeped in absolutely decisive affirmations and refusals. It should be aged and ripened, refined to the utmost. (I'm not talking about academic or intellectual (or even social) refinement, but rather experiential, existential, artistic refinement.)


I think I may have come to the end of my Quatrain Period : the era which began about ten years ago, when I decided to try "sounding like" Osip Mandelstam's Voronezh poems, and ended up writing hundreds & hundreds of pages...

Ready for a change, maybe. Something seems to be percolating (though I've experienced these mirages before). We'll see...


Attended Meredith & Peter Quartermain reading on Saturday at Bowery Poetry Club (yes, friends, occasionally I do leave the library. It's about an 8-yr cycle). Glad I went. Well-organized, sparsely attended. Charles Bernstein was there, along with Nada Gordon & Gary Sullivan, the emcees. Some NYU students.

M. Q. read from Vancouver Walking, a book she said was influenced by Pound's Cantos historical grab-bag, which she was reading at the time. Also Charles Olson's passion for local news, & Zukofsky-Niedecker word-precision. (She is a very good reader. Every word spoken clearly & distinctly, yet without a lot of mannerism. Perfectly matching her style.) Now I'd like to read this book, though the poems were almost too dry and world-ironic for my taste. A long satire on the subliminal influence of Queen Elizabeth II on Canadian culture - seemed a subject not worth attacking, exactly. But that's just me. Overall it was fascinating to hear someone contemporary carrying on a certain vein of 20th-cent. poetry in an honest, authentic way. (Plus I was in Vancouver once. Can't think of a better city for walking.)

P.Q. read a chapter from work-in-progress, a memoir. An early passage, relating adventures as the youngest boy (age 7) in parochial British boarding school. Very charming, entertaining. I spoke with him briefly after - asked whether he simply had good recall for those days, or whether it came back to him during the writing. He said the project started when he & a friend decided, as a joke, to write some of each others' autobiography (sounds like a Brit schoolboy thing, to me). Soon after, he was flooded with childhood memories, & started writing it in earnest.

He told me he set some firm rules of style beforehand (in order to avoid memoir-boredom) : ie., no subordinate clauses. I said "the Hemingway approach?" He said he hated Hemingway, but, yes. It worked - became fast-moving, a "page-turner", in his words.


I actually GOT OUT OF The Library this weekend. Attended Segue Series reading, by Vancouver poets Meredith & Peter Quartermain at the Bowery Poetry Club.

[Edited out the diaristic elements of this post this morning (10/23). Sorry, no can do. 2nd thoughts.]


Quieter than usual here in the library today. Raining outside.

I'm going to NYC tomorrow for a day or so. Hope to attend Segue reading at Bowery Poetry Club on Sat. (Meredith & Peter Quartermain)


We know about beauty in nature & art, somewhat. Shape, colors, sounds, proportion, elegance, truth, & so on.

A beautiful thing is in proportion to itself. It has limits - it has form, shape. Even though the prevalent approach, recently, has been to emphasize extensions, fragments, extras, border-crossings.

Poetry is the art of words. Strangely drawing a boundary around words (these usually useful packets of transmitted info). & so fostering a zone of magnetism, gravity, weight...

Melville was perhaps the last, maybe the only, American writer to work with genres the way ancient and renaissance writers did. Along with grammar and style, there were generic patterns and modes which demanded adaptation and fulfillment. The Confidence-Man is a tour-de-force of such generic techniques & parodies. Moby-Dick is a serious epic.

Once artistic literature was seen under the aegis of something called "the wheel of Virgil". Virgil set the pattern for authors : first lyric & elegiac short poems; then georgic/didactic discursive modes; then epic, the attempt to represent a cosmos, an encyclopedic totality.

Running the gauntlet of these difficult, high-mandarin disciplines, the poet approached "authority" - a role through which a social community (a nation, a people) found its values mirrored in literary art.

Dramatic poetry offered a different, sometimes rival path (the debate over the authority of Homeric epic vs. tragedy is very old).

Writing & poetry no longer seem to have much of this magic aura (at least in our part of the world). Maybe this is a good thing. But sometimes contemporary poets seem rather lost without these old trails.

Poetry is still "different", different from ordinary speech behavior - but not in the same ways. Reading & writing seem to have sort of blurred into the vast, vague category of "talk".

The old disciplines perhaps assisted writers in finding a certain useful remoteness from the ordinary day-to-day. Contemplative, productive space in which to articulate those deep connections, which they notice on the underside of every leaf.

(Now I'm reminded of Mark Scroggins' comments on differing British & American approaches to the "formalities" of art and ordinary speech.)


Anny Ballardini was interviewed today in the Italian newspaper "Alto Adige", about translating my history poem In RI.

Mille grazie, Anny.


I'm very conscious of the fact that in the context of our political life today my poetry is at best irrelevant, and at worst self-indulgent, deluded. I'm getting there, I'm getting there (I hope). Someday.

Auden, "September, 1939". Vallejo, "Spain, Take this Cup from Me" (or how it goes).

We live in a time of verbal-ideological-utilitarian-Machiavellian pyrotechnics (rhetoric). So my poetry affords me a space to be simply myself - free, simple, stupid. I have a system of knowledge & belief which I will gladly share - it has to do with the 7th Day of Creation. Hobo Frank is interested.

Am reading Ernst Kantorowicz's (1931 publ.) bizarre (Hitlerian?) symphonic hero-worshipping biography of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (St. Francis' contemporary and strange alter ego).

My poem Grassblade Light (part of Forth of July) was designed numerically on one of Fred's castles in southern Italy. Huh.

What were we talkin' about?
More unusual mutations from Rest Note (II)...


The poem is the fruit of Burgundian largesse;
it seeps from flagrant dogwood leaves
that scatter anarchic caravel-carpets
(maroon canoes) around my feet. Excess

is the sign of the season. Flushed cheeks
on a florid emperor. These tiers
of flaming trees, magnifying the jeers
of sardonic scrappy starlings (cynical geeks

of ravening frost). So the season flaunts
its doom, a mocking diadem (last fling
amid withered shreds of everything
once green). So Hobo grumbles (haunted

house). Here the weather is a voice,
the wind a messenger (thinly, thinly).
Screed of starlings' raucous prophecy -
the rasp of a gasping hasp in an iron vice.

Occasional cry in the distance. Late at night
I hear the freight train's single plangent hoot.
Silver disintegration, formal hail (precipitate).
It is the star in the hexagon (right

eyelid of the king, left there to melt. See?)
or the black hole in the hollow of a pupil
reading late into November. Universal
sailor, say - Ulysses - drifting out to sea.

To see how things sound in the campanile
in San Francisco, or Jerusalem. Emperor
or saint, hobo Fred or Frank - forever
rounding on the perihelion (its catenary smile).


Semi-following with delight the various trails of bloggies

John Latta
Robert Archambeau
Mark Scroggins.

Though I think Robert's carefully-grounded essay on the New Criticism nonetheless balances too much on the loaded-vague term "autonomy".

There is a science of criticism which attempts to root itself in strictly Aristotelian regard for the specificity of the material under review. This is something RS Crane & his Chicago School tried to follow (& I try to point out in my lil' essays). As distinct from questions of art-or-poetry's political-ethical import or relevance - which are indeed central - there is the question of critical method. An Aristotelian regard for the "quiddity" of the entity under evaluation does not necessarily lead to a-political and a-moral American-technocratic suprematism. In fact it can lead, paradoxically, to the recognition that a work of art can simultaneously reflect both ethical and aesthetic integrity and pith (cf. plays of... Shakespeare... or... poems of John Donne... or various others...).

It's this simultaneous clarity political punch & aesthetic elegance which is rather lacking in the products of much "post-pavane" Ameriqian poetical theory, I would say... perhaps because, as Mark Scroggins points out, they haven't actually read much poetry in the English language... or they haven't the literary zip & curiosity of Latta-day's Rexroth...

...maybe why I most oftenly find the vaunted poetical excerpts offered up by Mr. Silliman so basically boring... drab diction etc...


more from Rest Note (Book 2) :


What I know is waywardness. My eyes
linger in the roadside sumac and the locust
leaves. Desire to lose myself is just
the way it is - no need to summarize

the summer haze. I long for this.
I lengthen into absent vacant lots.
One Crane equals a thousand Eliots.
One Henry swings his chariot of bliss

into Rock Candy Mountain Paradise.
Here Hobo turns suspicion into cellophane
(queer questings into knotholes, via pristine
phlogiston of embattled campfires). Nice. Ice.

He seeks to save a face, it seems.
Not his own, anymore (too late for that);
somebody he knew once - maybe just a cat.
Pushkin's in the grave now, suddenly (dreaming).

I buried him the other day, still warm
and silky-plush. Nine lives
numbered (under grass). Restive
iteration toward sundown. (Inchworm).

In the elliptical pattern of nine orbits
love reverts upon itself. It shines
in the candle-power of a what millions
of whatnesses
. Or witnesses. It fits -

this hollowness (a mirror-pond). The face
Hobo longs for hovers in an afterglow...
nowhere to lay his head. An undertow,
a bent reality (of love misplaced).


Beginning Rest Note Book II :


A warm day in the middle of October;
a carnival of starlings in the maple trees
whistle among themselves; their gleeful squeals
captivate a lapsing Hobo (not so sober).

Deep russet of the dogwood overhead
is autumn's canopy. A stand-in for the season.
The sun plays hide and seek - light-clouded
blason - dimwit paramour of drowsy Red.

So Hobo sought a whistle of his own,
his very own. Somewhere in the light-
edged clouds, or beneath a moonlit freight-
train's shunting accordion-chord. Unknown

before, because forgotten once. Dismissed,
abandoned. Only the echo reckons harmony,
the two made one (so the blind begin to see,
the old made new again). Come back then,

Muse, mistress of my distress
, he whispers.
Zephyr of a cipher, ring me round
as in that rusty phantom of Siena-town

(good riddance to nine hundred lonesome vespers).

Where brother Lorenzetti flickers horsehair
in the silence of the popular palazzo.
Whistle unheard, sign unseen, yet natural
as is the rhyme of evening and year.

The nine girls float into a ring, a tambourine
embellishing. The tinkling swish of iron limns
a sound like starlings in frail, flaking limbs.
Hobo hears trombones in the aquamarine.



Had a wonderful evening at this roundtable in Somerville, a Pawtucket-like extension of Boston. Thanks to Peter Marquez & the artists. Even though the best-laid plans of this mouse came to nought. I should have brought a translation of the M. poem (noted below). Of Mice and Men. M. Mmmmm.

Almost read F. O'H's poem "Why I am Not a Painter". Almost read Nicolas Cusanus. Almost read a few of my 3000 poems. I ended up reading an extended excerpt in trans. from OM's essay "Word & Culture" (on "domestic hellenism").


Someday my poetry, which builds on Crane, will help justify his work. Reviews like Kirsch's - despite his many positive & perceptive comments - are still designed on a logic of dismissal. Crane's work & life were not perfect, but that shouldn't be the main issue.

I would suggest going back to look at Crane's own logic & epic argument. Langdon Hammer's critical studies help in that direction. Crane's argument with Eliot's pessimism (about the world, about America) parallels the positions of WCW and Stevens, yet with a difference.

I look at Crane through the lenses of Mandelstam's practice - his elliptical, evocative imagery - as well as his debate with Russian Symbolism. The commitments of what the Russians called "Acmeism" (as practiced by Mandelstam, Gumilev, Akhmatova) had to do with an optimism about the earth and world, a grateful attitude toward temporal things, which opposed itself to the otherworldliness, pessimism & withdrawal of Symbolism, and offered grounds for epic-celebratory modes, which Crane also explored.


Review of Hart Crane volume from Library of America by Adam Kirsch in this week's New Yorker. Oddly parallels some themes in Milan Kundera essay in same issue ("What is a novelist"?). (Among other things, a novelist is a grown-up, whereas a poet's role, basically, is to express adolescent lyrical self-absorption. The novel = growing out of poetry. Aside from this he has a lot of sparkling, though not exactly new, things to say.)

Kirsch seems to be a master at refurbishing received opinion. On my quick 1st reading (hafta go back again), I would summarize his argument as : Yvor Winters & Allen Tate were ultimately correct, even though their analyses were on faulty grounds. Crane is indeed an adorable grand failure. Not because he didn't have talent, but because American culture itself was too thin to bear the weight of his literary-nationalist aspirations (out of Waldo Frank's Our America).

Taking these two articles as (meager) evidence, we must be living in a very anti-romantic, rationalistic, prose-centered era these days.

Kirsch writes that the fact that Library of America had to pad the volume with lots of Crane's letters, thereby emphasizing the bio over the work, only underlines the reality of failure, since Crane's goal was to be an exemplar of Modern epic & mythic-social objectivity. This is not a very good argument, though, since Crane's output was relatively small, and the letters are of great critical interest.

There will be more to be said about the gift of Crane's poetry, and its relation to America's developing culture. Eliot, Winters, Tate, Poetry magazine, & now Kirsch haven't boxed & bottled him yet.


I'm off to the nation's capital for the long weekend. Will be giving readings at Library of Congress, White House, Lincoln Memorial, Patent Office, & Smithsonian Museum of the Walley Pike.

er, um, maybe. see you-all next week.


Hard-hitting analysis by Gabriel Gudding today. But one might add a corollary : "All dogmatic generalizations tend toward the formation of interest groups."
I suppose Asian arts & poetry have explored "understatement" more than we have in the West. Don't know much about it.

To make a prairie, it takes a clover and a bee -
one clover, and a bee,
and reverie.
The reverie alone will do
if bees are few.

(- E.D.)


There are various ways of thinking about what is beautiful in poems.

It's possible that in our present climate we fail to recognize the role of understatement, evocation.

A self-effacing description evokes a scene, creates atmosphere.

(The kind of sensorium we sometimes associate with autumn.)

Words that fade into an imaginative impression : say an experience in which a setting - a particular place or time - seems to combine with a state of feeling, or with a particular situation, or state of mind.

Words perhaps share with music (to a degree, anyway) a certain capacity to vanish behind (or dissolve before) the state of mind they evoke.

Something elusive about this. There may be a name for it...


The painter Grace Ravlin was my grandfather's cousin. They grew up together in Kanesville, Illinois. She was quite active back in the early decades of the last century : Morocco, Tunisia, France, the southwest etc. The government of France owns several of her paintings. There's a nice one of a Red Cross parade down 5th Ave. during WW I.

Occurs to me I could present a version of that Mandelstam poem at the Somatic Mirror event.
Tom Clark wrote me once to tell me that this was his favorite passage from Stubborn Grew :

Causes you malingerin luster glimmerstill inna shadow. 
An miss th'marrowed missers an misters, foes ever.
An this bodily weak by weakerness seam to sever
th'po from th'opuss an th'bit o'honey from th'O-bow.

An the po thing – the lil figurino in muh hand –
the lil man o'flush – the lil piss biscuit –
the lil foolghoul – the lil fiery missit –
the lil wastrelily – the lil white dry dachshund –

getta blame for blame, an lame for lame –
the peepers needa close call on some body other
wise no body node the how-to trouble-eye mother
forkin crybooby gonna fine the pad to came

an gone all ready to travail an labor updown a gain
O nuns O lossa marriageers ovum the privateers an
weed all rank the general woe buttween them tears
inna sheets inna draindrop drown byenbyenbyebyears.

(I think he was putting me down.)
Joe Latta's Scratched memento from Tom Clark reminded me of this adolescent Osip Mandelstam effusion (trans. by James Greene):

What shall I do with the body I've been given,
So much at one with me, so much my own?

For the quiet happiness of breathing, being able
To be alive, tell me to whom I should be grateful?

I am gardener, flower too, and not alone
In the world's dungeon.

My warmth, my exhalation, one can already see
On the window-pane of eternity.

The pattern printed in my breathing here
Has not been seen before.

Let the moment's condensation vanish without trace:
The cherished pattern no one can efface.

August 1909

(Later I'll try translating this myself. I'm curious to see the original.)


John Ashbery is reading Providence on Wednesday. Last time I heard him read was at an Ivy League College in Northampton Mass. in 1971. The reading was loudly heckled by a member of the jazz-fusion band which had opened for Ashbery, a tall Af-Am sax player in a dashiki, who accused him of escapist effete a-political out-of-touchness. Ashbery responded that he didn't think he was required to write in any particular way. Heckler finally walked out, & I followed him down to the basement cafeteria where he was hanging out with the other band members. Engaged him in some conversation, defended Ashbery etc. in a friendly way. He accused me of being a rich preppy honky who didn't know anything (in a friendly way). We left on good terms. I went back to the reading, & spoke to Ashbery about it, who invited me & a couple friends (who had traveled with me up from Providence) to a party afterward. We went to the party. I remember we sat tongue-tied & in awe at his feet for a while, then he said he had to go make a phone call, & we didn't see him after that.

My Ashbery adventure of 35 yrs ago. That was when he was still The Greatest in my eyes.
I'll be part of the roundtable discussion at this gallery exhibit in Somerville on Oct. 12th. How I got to be an authority in this area, along with Jacques Lacan & other Giants of Intellect, is a surprise to me. (Apparently the curator read an essay of mine published in Mudlark about 10 years ago.)


Sounds like M. Perloff has been reading my blog (he flatters himself).

Perloff & Latta are both right to some extent. Sure, as JL says, there is culture & poetic material everywhere, let's not be backward, stodgy & elitist. Then again, it would be nice, it seems to me, if poets took a sharper interest in the purely literary & poetic effects & origins of their metier. "Language" is indeed everywhere... but not always real solid intense true poetry.
I suppose a good poetry critic would be something like a botanist or ecologist.

It's a strange helpless sort of flora that grows out of strange helpless sorts of people. You have to be patient & look at it carefully, give it time to express its little self.

With the propagation & wide distribution of so much free verse, these little sentences of prose divided into lines, without the armor of much in the way of rhythm, rhyme or sound effects, seem even more fragile. (Not that I'm against free verse, if it can manage to survive & flourish.)

A good poetry reader : part botanist, part bee.


I'm here if anybody's looking for me.


the trouble with not-blogging is : what am I going to do with the down time at work?

JL's post cheered me up today. He's right.


I'll probably be blogging less for a while. The thought of Poetry World and my (non)place in it only makes me depressed. There are things I want to work on in private, hopefully I will find ways to do that.


... the previous is clearly, to some extent, a silly blogger's compensatory dream of cultural sway, a substitute for failures & neglects.

The real poets today are recalcitrant isolatos, absorbed in their art-world at the expense of any other responsibilities. Bohemians, hobos, drunk on their own mumbling. Not wanting or seeking cultural power.

That too is a false image...

Aside from consequences of personal character, my own biography is a working-out of the logic of poetry, such as it is - I mean the consequence of a vocation. Somewhere in between these two stereotypes. And I'd rather have these false images of the poet than the lukewarm "groups" and "careers" we seem to be stuck with.
The irrefragable John Latta quoted Viktor Shklovsky & some other interesting Russkies yesterday. Shklovsky presents what seems to be the classic "defamiliarization" argument for art's necessary independence from "life".

Somehow though it sounds very 20th-cent. I mean "defam" doesn't seem to "work" anymore. It's insufficient for originality. Our world relentlessly colonizes art, by way of parasitical forms of academic & "media" professionalism (or semi-professionalism), as well as popular "rebel" attitudinizing.

I'd like to imagine a poetry which "pushes back" against the violence & banality of that world. But it can only do that by its own forms of colonizing - ie. by absorbing and transmuting the other powerful & worldly-wise discourses of science, philosophy, law, theology, politics, ideology, etc. As well as emulating and transmitting the amalgamated achievements of past eras (when poets were also novelists, journalists, cultural critics, playwrights, etc. - there are lots of examples).

It relates to the question of what social "role" the poet wants to play. Are poets content to publish a few books, teach younger people "how to write" in colleges, publish little poems in the New Yorker, etc.? Is that it? Society would love poets to just stay there & be happy & not cause any trouble. And by trouble I don't mean the usual "rebel" role-playing : what would really trouble society is a poet who is intelligent, discursive, and fully engaged with the public debates of the day.

And that question begs the further question : where does poetry stand in relation to the general cultural traditions and transmissions (or disconnects) of the USA, the West, the world?

What if poets started by asking themselves these questions, rather than (self-servingly) jumping on the bandwagons of whatever are the hot political debates-du-jour (war in Iraq, the various "isms" they learned in school)?


Swamped at work, & in not much of a bloggin' mood these days. Hope to be back soon.

Saw the Twins-Red Sox game at Fenway on Tuesday. I haven't seen a Twins game since I was 12 yrs old or so. This seems to be their year. Look out, Yanks.


It appears that Pushkin actually started writing Eugene Onegin on May 9th, rather than May 28th, as I previously wrote here. Here's Nabokov :

"I have studied a reproduction of Pushkin's draft of the first stanza, and (as was conclusively shown in 1910 by P. Shchyogolev) the initial date should be taken to be "May 9" not "May 28 [as written below it, with both words underscored] at night". Furthermore, Pushkin himself in his recapitulation (Sept. 26, 1830) noted that he had begun EO on May 9, 1823." (- from Nabokov's intro to his 4-vol. annotated translation)

Curious about the underscored note, though.


Reading (ie., trying to read) Pushkin's Eugene Onegin in Russian, with help from a couple translations (including Nabokov's).

Learned that Pushkin began writing it in Kishinev in the 1820s, on a May 28th. A very important date in the longy-long poem Stubborn Grew/The Rose - for one thing, the poem was finished on May 28th. (Stubborn's story begins with a Halloween search for a lost cat named Pushkin, and the 3rd main vol. (July) peters out with allusions to Pushkin's story The Queen of Spades.)


reading James Billington, The Icon and the Axe (cultural history of Russia). He goes on about the importance of the forest in the origins of Russian society.

(Occurred to me that Minnesota landscape is a mini-version of Russia. We have our vast lakes, our little lakes, our "twin cities", our Scandinavian "invasion", our rivers, our flat prairie, our immense swamps, our bears, our wolves, and most of all, our little Siberia, the dense cold pine-birch-tamarack forest.) (Not to mention me, the Russian poet from Minneapolis.)


re: "cosmic consciousness"... I want to write a memoir or something around this topic. Tend to think (erroneously, I'm sure) all poetry is idealist. I mean that it stems from a hunch or contrarian notion that the universe is permeated with mind, sentience, consciousness.

I remember walking down a dirt road in the north woods near Canadian border, one sunny day back in the 60s, brooding over a thin Penguin paperback I was reading at the time, the author & title of which I am trying desperately to remember - something about consciousnessness and the universe - riddle of mind, etc. Written by a scientist, I think... & trying to explain it to my friend Tom (who died of AIDS 20 years later).

Also remember my grandfather's older brother Paul, who died around age 20, of tuberculosis, back around 1915. Paul was something of a poet & mystic. On the family farm in Illinois he collected the latest spiritualist, Buddhist & "cosmic consciousness" pamphlets, which were circulating through the midwest in those days. He wrote Keatsian nature poems, developed a kind of private "zoo" on the farm, & kept massive journals (in heavy hardbound ruled notebooks) of increasingly wayward mystical speculation in an increasingly crabbed and illegible hand.

The adolescent speculations were also stimulated by Nabokov, whose books I was addicted to in those days. Jonathan pokes fun at my harping on the Russians : but it's something that's been with me all of my "writing" life.

(The Brodsky elegy noted below was adapted from an earlier autobiographical poem about my early Nabokov obsession. The 3rd section of the poem assimilates both a Nabokov short story and a poem Brodsky wrote based on that story. I know I've mentioned that before...)

In my mind, Russia, Petersburg, the Mandelstams, Nabokov, Brodsky, Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, and Elena Shvarts are not - pace Jonathan - merely polemical measuring sticks I use to beat up on American poetry. They are my "cosmic doors", so to speak. They help me synthesize poetry per se with thought in general. (See Brian Boyd's studies - his book on Pale Fire in particular - for an insightful approach to Nabokov.)
New issues of the journal Ars Interpres are coming online. An elegy for Brodsky (written 10 years ago - a sort of literary round-robin, modeled on Brodsky's elegy for Eliot, which was modeled on Auden's for Yeats) - is here, in issue #6. (With thanks again to Alan Shaw - and the editor, Alexander Deriev.)
Walt Whitman, the ur-poet, the American hero, the good gray poet, the heartwarming Civil War mourner & healer, the genial bard... but Walt comes in for a sharp critique in Jeffrey Walker's book Bardic ethos. The dark side of Whitman - Walt the cynic, the trumpeter of a "sacerdotal" bardic elite, the sour nay-sayer, the progenitor of the Pound-Williams-Olson strain of eccentric tinpot authoritarian-populist negativity...

(For anybody who's ever interested, there's a kind of parody or satire (& elegy) on "crackpot" populism in Stubborn Grew.)

Walker examines how Pound, Williams and Crane were influenced by Whitman's turn-of-the-century mystical "cosmic consciousness" disciples, especially R.M. Bucke - and how such thought merged with early 20th-century trends which called for an American anti-business artistic-spiritual elite - a sort of intellectual aristocracy - to return America to its mystical-agrarian high destiny.

Walker seems unfair to Crane (just as his picture of Whitman is one-sided - though a necessary addition). He extrapolates from Crane's mystical thinking a wholesale commitment on his part to the elitist-authoritarian stances of various literary ideologues - a supposed commitment for which he gives very little evidence (the elitist-populist-anti-capitalist potboiling - fascism or proto-fascism, basically - is much more evident in Pound & Williams).


I have little time these days for blogging. Busy, busy at work.

Re-reading (3rd time in 15 yrs?) Jeffrey Walker's book Bardic ethos and the American long poem.

Trying to collect myself for another Rest Note climb. Or something completely different.


Edwin Honig turns 87 today. Here's a review of his collected poems.
Deep into Geoffrey Hill. It will take me months, if not years, to come up with an adequate written response, if ever.

Thinking about the multiplex ironies of American-British mutual influences & oppositions. The difficulties in interpreting "contextual" (cultural-historical) problems. Tones, motives.

Hill is like our Eliot, in reverse. Except no one is listening (as they listened to Eliot). Because we inhabit what is, for Hill, a national Romanticism - a self-enclosed universe of (poetic) discourse - Stevens on one end, Olson on another.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. & the analogy doesn't really work.

Hill is like another (Anglican) Auden who, in extremity (of alienation), has become an Eliot... (who sounds like Pound).

I'm getting way ahead of myself.
Though I don't agree with him entirely, Kasey's recent post on "quietude/disquietude" set a higher standard for critical comments on these poetry blogs. Impelled me to delete several gabby posts from Friday.

Will have to think for a while about that post, before echoing & bandying that term ("School of Q") any longer.


Socrates : the thing is, Hen, you can't make an art from an "image" of the artist. You can't get there by well-meaning abstract ideals. It's only an invitation to the next demagogue, the next 2nd-rate "voice".

Henry : so I'm just talking through my hat again?

Socrates : the poet is not the politician. The poet just happens to be there; the poet is the companion. The poem is the bloom of culture.

Henry : the poem is the poem.

Socrates : the poem is the poem.

Henry : I just said that.

Socrates : the word - the word is another thing.

Henry : now you're playing with fire.


last evening in August.
See Robert Archambeau remarks on poetry criticism. I agree, I agree, I agree. But what do you think of William Logan? Doesn't he fulfill, to some extent, Bob's demand for a positively negative criticism (or is he too sarcastic for you)? Some of the recent reviewing in Poetry seems fairly even-handed too.

There ought to be much more of same. Criticism is an art in its own right. The old binary models of the (American) 20th century no longer correspond to reality. Not that big new abstract models should be rushed forward.

Sharp criticism raises the literary stakes : it brings forward the complexity of rival styles and theories. It can be a school for writers.
Occurred to me last night while washing dishes that oftentimes I just try too hard with poetry. I push it, I push myself, when it's one of those things you can't push - it's too close, it's near, it's in your backyard or the palm of your hand... just stop striving in certain ways (or strive in a different way).

The overcompensations of seeming-failure, the inability to recognize what I really want to do. Familiar dilemma. (People who've been "following" on the web have probably known this about me for a long time!)

I want to enter a new phase. I had my NY School Era (60s-early 70s), my Jesus Freak Era (late 70s), my Mandelstam Apprenticeship (early 80s), my Formalist Period (early 90s), my Long Poem Era (mid-80s to recent times...), my Self-Publishing Era (seems like forever), my Internet-Wallowing Era (late-90s to present)... Now I want to enter a Short-Poems-In-Print Era.

Since I have the habit of getting whatever I want, this might actually happen... if I can manage to write a few poems...

Re-reading some essays in WH Auden's The Dyer's Hand.


Back from north woods, near Canadian border. Phoebe saw Bigfoot-like bear on hind legs, running. The rest of us heard it. We went the other way.

Have been back since Monday, swamped with office work.

By the perfect in poetry, I don't mean the slick, the mandarin, the pretentious, the complacent, the facile, the superficial, the remote, the archaicizing, the dull, the pedantic, the amateurish, the slack, the obfuscatory, the fake, the bathetic, the saccharine, the pontificatory, the self-righteous, the imitative, the sloppy, the portentous, the glib, the ingratiating, the garrulous, the drab, the mediocre, the demagogic, the ponderous, the vulgar (nor the "dead" either, pace Jordan).

The cultural authority of poetry (as with other art forms) depends on some original synthesis of:

- intellectual penetration (knowledge)
- empathy, humane engagement (feeling)
- beauty, style, precision (art)
- moral insight (ethics)

(their synthesis : evidence of genius, inspiration, Muse)

A critic should evaluate all these elements, and how they combine. The whole equals the poem's specific gravity - a judgement regarding its cultural value.


Jordan is happy today. And when he says, "our ugly NY/slam/beat performativity", I'm thinking, the worm has turned.

But the question of "surplus" is not resolved simply by positive attitude (though that is always appealing in itself).

My theory (for today) is that the surplus problem is resolved by a critical approach : ie., a new critical taste for perfection. By which I don't mean a license for more negative reviews, but rather a challenge to be careful & discriminating enough (and independent enough) to find the perfect.

(p.s. isn't that an old Zukofsky criterion? "the objectively perfect")
Received in trade : new book by Elizabeth Treadwell, along with an interesting chapbook by Susana Gardner. Seems to be a lot going on in Switzerland. (See also the links for Dusie book reviews.) I'm grateful to Susana for the friendly note.
I want an immaculate, difficult, Pushkinian poetry : smooth, refined, powerful, serene, limpid... and rhythmically, syntactically, lexically, rhetorically, thematically, conceptually perfect. Capable of absorbing and reflecting and refining every other social discourse. Utterly School of Quietude, certainly.

Fascinating article in New Yorker this week about the art of the conductor. (In "Conversation About Dante" Mandelstam relates poetic composition to conducting.)

I'm going to Minnesota this afternoon, until the 27th. See you all when I get back.


Haven't read much further in Riffaterre yet. But this morning his framework seems both too narrow & yet close to something... I've always been interested in the differences between prose & poetry.

Of course their regions overlap... yet generally prose (fiction) creates a "scene", a world, a time - and the narrator hides behind a curtain... whereas poetry emphasizes the presence of a speaker and the time of Now... not so much a mimesis of reality as the actuality of a speaking person, edging or counterbalancing the autonomous quality of the art werke...

Pushkin famously addressed poets as "Sons of Harmony". The poet brings music & measure to the various & contrary discourses of the social world. The poet stands in the middle of it all & transmutes it into a song... this can be dangerous, too (the poet puts him or herself on the line - the prophetic stance).

(The self-consciousness of poetry : first humanity in general created, or came to the consciousness of, language, with which to shape and define reality. Then the poet came along, to bring self-consciousness (reflective awareness) to the shaping of language itself. The word turns on a pivot - revolves there, motionless. Poets and prose writers both do this - but in very different ways.)

Such generalities might have consequences for what passes for the canon of style and aesthetic value. Perhaps it comes down to the question : what is this poet - as "speaker" - actually saying? What is the logos within the melos and the phanos?


Searching abent-mindedly today for a theory of poetry that will narrow down the focus, shut out so much extraneous para-poetic noise.

Is it only me that hears this? Is it because I'm over 50 & no longer open to new experiences (ala the NPR program on this yesterday)?

My new experiences happen in the process of improvisation within my own way of writing. Pretty narrow, I guess.

My theory may go back to Michael Riffaterre's book, Semiotics of Poetry. By defining poetry as "that which means something other than what it says" (my paraphrase), the theory allows for both 1) a serious motivation to communicate something particular, and 2) a very roundabout and various way of doing it.

Riffaterre opens his book by explaining that this is how poetry achieves its unity : by emphasizing the distinction between significance (the underlying singular communication being made) and meaning (the various mimetic representations the poem provides).

Poetry, for Riffaterre, differs from prose etc. by not trying to be mimetic - in fact "threatening" mimesis. & yet it remains a very intense form of communication : like a code.

This seems like an appropriately narrow "definition" of poetry. & suits my Rest Note Read-Alongs...
I should just try to apply some of the general propositions in my earlier (much unread) essays over there.


I know my crabby essay posted over there last week has some problems. I know. I know.

Poetry is not as messed up as I pictured it. Nor is a dismissive shrug the right attitude to take toward partisan politics. Nor is everyone going to understand society through a lense of vice, virtue and penitence.

I know, I know. But it's been a while since the po-blogworldlings listened to me, anyway. There's something wild & liberating about rejection.


Have been reading Ernst Cassirer, Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy.

Big focus on Nicholas of Cusa. Have been getting into his work a lot lately myself. He's not medieval, he's not modern... he's... amazing. Cassirer sees him as the prime "focal point" between medieval & modern eras. I'm going through him back toward the medieval myself (but not all the way back. I'd like to hang around on Cusa's farm).

Also reading a French novel, By a Slow Stream, by Philippe Claudel (trying to read the original, too - Les Ames Grises). Couldn't put it down last night. Certain things remind me of Edgar Allan Poe (very sad twisty mouse-trap plot, women with exotic names, haunting paintings...). But great characters, out of Bruegel or something. Takes place in village near trench-lines during WW I.


New proto-essay over here called The Value of Quietude and the Need for Roots.


A few quick thoughts on Mark Scroggins' comments on the Breeze review:

It's true that matching up a book of poems with its antecedent influences & echoes is not enough, does not account for originality or the unique qualities of said book. It's not enough simply to "place" a book in "tradition".

However, a couple things occur to me : first, a review - even a thorough reading - can never express or replicate the "quiddity" of its subject. That's asking too much. The reviewer is not capable of transmitting seraphically the author's "own terms" - each of us works within our own frame of reference to some extent. And some freedom of response should be allowed to the reviewer, too - within limits of fairness & truth & accuracy, that is.

Second, it seems to me that one of the roles of the reviewer is to "introduce" the new work into the literary world which already exists : and a key part of doing that is to find reference points for the new within that world.

In the Breeze review, it seems to me, I noted differences as well as similarities between John Latta's book, and the general poetic trend from which in my view it emerged - the trend for which Stevens, for me anyway, is exemplary. You can argue with the idea of singling out Stevens. But then I think you'd have to deny several of the Stevens affinities in Latta's work which I pointed out.