America is essentially the greatest poem.

There must be a map of hearing hidden here
somewhere. If we can only find the map,
we can find the lost explorer (someone
vanishes in jungle - jungle disappears

in her). That relic of remotest realm,
abandoned sapphire of the forest (Oz,
Atlantis) spurred the quest; now whose inroads
(squalid short-cuts) devastate the dream?

The map in the mirror, a matter of leaves
of shade above tree rings. Where your limbs,
Mack, truck with the garden, slumberous
(a Walter waltzing to the sound of Z).

Oro Pendula whispers, suspends. The weaver-
bird, she whistles while she works (a spell).
An alphabet of pilot, river, and Capella
("ship") : O fluent unison, tuned to deliverance!

Thanksgiving, hallelujahs in the hold.
And as the mast is to the vessel, so
the song is to the wilderness : an Orpheo
reformer (row, row, row...), a capillary

chantry, bold as old is young as blood.
Heartsblood, churning (stoked, steadily,
below). And now the pilot dances giddily
athwart the loggy junk his fingers (pre-skid)

understood : the current is his candor,
and the source is coursing through himself.
The map was a given, apparently : the vessel,
certainly, a coracle (an old box called Pandora).
I see I did indeed sort of mis-speak, in earlier post, linking art & understatement & nostalgia. I got sidelined, I didn't quite get it right.

It's not so much or only nostalgia - though of course that's there, in a lot of writing.

The link between art & understatement is something that stems from the ongoing relation (or dialectic-synthesis) between art & experience. By experience I mean what the Russians call byt : ordinary day-to-day life, those experiences we muddle through in various turns of anxiety, guile, ennui, fear, hope, courage, disillusionment, resignation, etc. etc.

& maybe the midwest has a certain distinctive style of shaping this relation, which emphasizes modesty & understatement (& maybe purposeful evasion).

& the point I was originally trying to make is this : the important thing is that direct unmediated ongoing living relationship between art and experience, beauty and the byt. The study & sale of same is a secondary sideline, a mass of distracting epiphenomena.
... and there's another, harder, higher way to think about this "sphere of art."

It's when you consider that aforementioned need as a kind of ethical command. A mysterious moral absolute.

This, to me, is what distinguishes "professional writers" from those who think writing means being part of some kind of special, challenged "community". Certainly, writers are part of the commonweal, and speak for it, and to it; but this implies that the speaking is not simply an end in itself. Goodby forever, poetry clubs & committees.

The "commerce" of art & writing is not a quantifiable mass or entity; it's a spiritual or moral quality. It's a demand on the writer - a force of conscience - impelling him or her to address, and condemn, some moral danger, challenge, extremity, debasement : or, on the other hand, it's an undeniable impulse to praise and celebrate some good thing in life & reality.

These moral acts of conscience are what separate and individuate - utterly, indubitably - because they are the substance of the work, its motive - each piece of writing, and each writer's specific "job of work", inspiration, calling. & this element of the whole business is what makes me cast my famously sceptical eye on literary group activities. It's not that I consider myself more correct or moral or effective - I do not, in any way; it's that I'm pointing out an aspect which I recognize & believe exists in the larger phenomenon of writing as a whole.
Another vast curricular discourse from Ron Silliman, the Great Expatiator, makes me want to talk back, which I haven't felt like doing in a long time.

With Ron there is always this immense unexplored poetry turf, just waiting there, underneath the Quietude shrubbery, waiting for the Next Generation of Too Many Poets who Don't Know Enough. It's a curriculum for becoming Informed, in order to Know What Is Going On.

I think I come from a cultural background which is sort of midwestern-stoic, a culture which emphasizes understatement & brevity (believe it or not - & it may be hard to believe, considering the giant Blather-Bank which is HG Poetics). Say what you have to say, no more no less. Keep it brief.

This culture offers, in many ways, an inimical environment for the audacious flora which is Poetry. Yet it has its points. It produces great terse quiet writers like Willa Cather, Sherwood Anderson.

I think much beautiful art arises out of nostalgia for an imagined, remembered, childhood-fostered unity of culture. The reactionary tendencies of TS Eliot or Pound draw on it, but other arty characters, like Proust, for example, draw on it too. What is it, exactly? Montale points toward what I'm thinking about with his notions of "dilettantism" and "the second life of art." A certain vivid graceful place where art and life mutually enhance each other, without a lot of explanatory Cliff Notes.

My notion of midwestern understatement seems to chime with this other concept; that is, art makes itself manifest & speaks of and for those who really need it. It's a kind of (pseudo? super?) natural phenomenon, which in some sense renders anxieties about readership or transmission or canonicity or whatever - all these "middleman" issues - truly academic.

I'm sure I can be accused now of anti-intellectualism & know-nothingism. OK. But I believe art gets made by those with the talent to make it, out of their need to make it; and it is discovered & enjoyed by those who really need to discover it; and that this process begins not in grad school or even high school but in childhood - it's transmitted by the people who read & sing songs & tell stories to their children. I also don't think it's managed or controlled by intellectuals & academics, because the process of making and responding to art and poetry operates on its own level between producers and receivers.

I'm probably not expressing at all what I set out to try to express. I'm thinking of the place of poetry in life as something different, humbler, from that imagined by its intellectual supervisors in the academies & the publishing houses & outlaw-wannabee subcultures. Not that it's anti-intellectual, not at all : but it's a place, a sphere of activities, which is simply maintained (unsystematically, freely, adventitiously), in shared fashion, by those who know it & love it.
Read-Along-with Rest Note, poem #7 :

7.1 : "May day, memorious..." - echoes opening of poem #1. Date of composition is Memorial Day. "the old soldier" - we're back with Teddy Roosevelt, making his Bull Moose comeback attempt with a big speech in Madison Square Garden. He had just survived an assassination attempt in the midwest a day or so before, and was walking around with the bullet still in his chest.

7.2 : "rich men..." etc. Some vocabulary from Richard II, another politician on his way out.

7.3 : "Stern was the sterling word..." etc. - public rhetoric, political rhetoric, takes on a tincture from the Iron Age (the world of power and violence) which it addresses.

7.4 : "oak tree... bantering manteau" - out hidden in the country, beyond sequestered rural wealth, a tree furls (hides) in a cloak of whispering leaves. Image of reserved, persistent presence of poetic speech, powerful in its sphere, yet distinguished from political rhetoric per se. May 29, the date of composition, is Oak Tree Day in England, or Restoration Day : a celebration of the young Charles II's successful escape (hiding in an oak tree) from the roundheads. May 29 was Charles 2nd's birthday - also this poet's birthday. Contrast of Charles II (strong successful monarch) with Richard II (weak falling monarch).

7.5 : poetry is both "sheltering" and a kind of riposte ("ripe post") to political conflict. "The octave..." etc. - the poetic word discovers the sameness or harmony or equality hidden beneath class differences ("squire" and "hand"). "rest note" - in musical terms, a rest note is a silent note : a pause between sounds.

7.6 : "young seal" - cf. previous comments on the "seal" motif.

7.7 : "speechless limbs" - the silent-speaking tree, the "seal" which speaks only silently or symbolically (as animal or as image). Yet the "retort" is a gesture, part of a real test, game, agon. The contest originates in the "racing heart" itself.



...and he found an old map of the Amapa :
9-foot granite blocks, in a jagged circle,
measuring the winter solstice
. Oro
Pendula wove aviaries overhead.

Daring souls drag freedom by the arms,
prong fandangos on the knife of the abyss.
Let prudent beards go mumble otherwheres -
these follow out their hunches, finger charms,

face down their fear. So Fawcett plunged
into the Amazon. Lost Civilizations
inaccessible, as usual - ruins
cached behind a mental door (unhinged

maybe). There were two mappemundes :
the paper chart (a tactic of the hunt)
and then that bosky planetarium (bent
above pellucid cranium) that fronds

its stars across a secret sky. Of what
be the substance of celestial cascades?
Which treasury (purled deep in Hades)
lured these earthy spirits from the plot

of placid precincts? Archaeology
of buon governo? Blind vainglory,
gildered dust? A just-plausible story
to relate, if they return (all Argo-eyed)?

On and on (into an onion of hermetic
union) go the seekers. Ominous hours
ravel their desires... garlands, lairs
of labyrinth (cthonic Parthenon).


Josh Corey comments today on Mark Halliday's recent review in Pleiades.

The issues around paraphrase and "paraphrasable meaning" seem very complicated. Are we talking about the poem's style or rhetoric, or about its subject-matter, its themes, its logopeia?

A poem's style would be impossible to paraphrase (cf. Mandelstam's comment : "if a poem can be paraphrased, the Muse has not spent the night, has not ruffled the bedsheets" - or something to that effect).

On the other hand, a poem may have many layers of intelligibility - which might be open to successive layers (like an onion) of interpretive unpacking : which is similar to paraphrase, but not exactly the same thing.

Halliday's remarks about paraphrase were what spurred me to offer the successive "read-alongs" here, of the ongoing poem Rest Note. His essay reminded me of Wallace Stevens' repeated forays in this direction, & thus I felt licensed to give it a try.

Hopefully, the poems have not been rendered completely transparent - which would close off their future, to some extent (cf. Josh's comments on understandability). Probably impossible, considering my obscurities.
The put-down boys are out in force today. Venting their meanness by calling others mean. I'm one of the targets, maybe the main one in this round. Be happy, fellas. Find a spleen extractor, or something.

I learned in school that some people will take a disliking to you, they will bad-mouth. It just happens. I'm not going to defend myself today. Too happy writing again, after a long drought.
Moving on now into a second section of Rest Note. This one will be a little different (that is the plan, anyway). The "scene" (if you can call it that) is the office of Brian Fawcett, son of Col. Percy Fawcett & editor of his papers.


A wandering gull makes random tracery
over the borderlands of Lima. I hear
the railcars shunting in the lonesome yard.
Here's my office : chart heroic errancy,

retrace Dad's folio. Peruse the maps,
the journals, clues, evidence; pursue
the path until it vanishes from view
into some cul-de-sac east of Peru. Perhaps

find what he sought. The maps unfold
(bug-spotted origami) – refold again;
the chase for lost primeval Azatlan
reverts to search for Leif the Bold

(himself). Into the elements explorers go;
into the capital's unspooled complexity
slip knotty guardians of verity
(gnarled snarlers in unruly limbo).

Desire for golden leaves on the lapels
shoulders aside a copula's rotundity,
its ruby wheel. Rabid ambiguity
shrivels into nonsense; truth repels.

Below, a ruined rock still squeezes
rust from its accordion (the rose
of its accord). Ungainly willows
anchor the tired swing's oscillations.

The scrap, the dented implements,
skewed directives, waterlogged books...
here's where Mark spots the X – looks
like a 9-stringed lute! – makes no sense...


I've added #11-19 of Rest Note over at Alephoebooks. Also attached these sections to the first post (so now you can follow #1-19 in sequence, if you like).

This is the complete 1st part of the poem.

[NOTE 5.11.07 : Rest Note was deleted from Alephoebooks. Now available here.]


& so, with this odd couple (#18 and 19), the first part of Rest Note is (draftily) complete. Tomorrow, if all goes well, I will amalgamate #11-19 over at Alephoebooks, & continue with the parallel philological forensic frenzy.


The rain keeps raining, softly, toward July.
And we were born in rain, and we may die
in rain; this is our rain (mutter of sighs
and tears). So grumbled Jonah, at the sky.

The contrite heart is as a broken swing;
its rickety creaking is a cricket-sound
in lonesome summer. The iron wound
of spring, uncoiled... you hear it conjuring,

cajoling (questioning). And so set forth
upon July, a pilgrimage of chums - hobos -
toward the source (one lazy Russian O
revolves... some undulating Volga-moth).

Suddenly (across red velvet veldt)
an Abyssinian abbess comes to call.
Her abecedarius (of questionable
providence) gesticulate, and felt.

The mud-flats of the Amazon form an inverted V.
Teddy could hardly bear it (jagged with rage,
you are half a swingset - mean with extreme
persiflage). And it was hard to see.

Only the treetops fingered royal blue.
There, a jay of the jungle translated :
stale shovels can't bury her; checkmated
tyros swing like hoarse cicada glue.

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity
suborned the rain. Clear at the source,
a subtler sort of V, victorious;
the rest, a snoring Jubilee (Z... Z).


Persistence wins the day. Jonathan Mayhew has done it! & so he shall receive one of our many cuckoo Lulu publications. Congratulations, Mr. Mayhew!

"The seal's wide spindrift gaze toward paradise." Final line of the second part of Crane's poem, "Voyages".

(As noted previously, I was reminded of this line only after groping through various images of "the seal" - punning on TR's childhood experience with a baby seal (the animal), with Hamlet's (father's) royal seal, etc. The recall of this line struck me so forcefully because the poem originated & is in part structured on a (calendrical, thematic) conjunction of Crane & Teddy Roosevelt. So coming on this line again, relatively late in the game, was a joy.)

But stay, here come the gardeners.
Let's step into the shadow of these trees.

I remember my brave setting-out. How suddenly
the heart lifts, when some El Dorado comes in view!
A martial exercise. Across a jangled spur
we rode - the wilderness (green, bushy

perturbation) down below. To the right,
a short-cut - limpid grottos, toxic, sheltered
(globule mimic of the Golden Shore).
To the left, a rabid knothole (termite-

ridden, caterpillar-swamped) : ur-forest,
eaten by the trees. And yet a third path
for the indisposed - a trail boreal, wreathed
with arctic poppy (sweetest this was, shortest).

We hesitated, at that triple fork.
Abysmal memory of past mis-steps
led to a halt there (under pensive lamps
of Solomon's-seal : overhung, green, dark).

Rondon dismounted, crowned his head with grass.
What is it, friend? I asked (disordered springs
unwound so many -) : "only the King's
old handkerchief," he laughed. "For Lazarus,

or Nebuchadnezzar, lunch." You would have wept,
Edith, plaited your brow with rue, to hear
this rude marvel of a gardener, this leveler,
pruning the precious commonwealth he kept!

With giant arm, he raised a shining scythe
(his iron divining rod, ruled with a rare
dolphin-device) - and with a single shear
unveiled a river (stately, steady) underneath.


OK, moving along with our turgid pilgrimage, here's the Read-Along-with-Rest Note, for Poem # 6 (for those of you who are new to this, I am providing some mini-Cliff Notes to the ongoing poem, which you can read in installments there). Maybe these helpful hints will allow Jonathan or some other wanderer in Gould blog-jungle to solve the puzzler posted previously.

6.1 : "House of Ice" - see here for hysterical background. "We were married there..." - ie. we were (complacently) a part of this social construct, rooted in autocratic fantasy & whim.

6.2 : "Dreams are hash" etc. - one of Wallace Stevens' gnomic aphorisms. Combined with Hamlet, it sets up an amalgam of poet-prophet, one who flings jeremiads. "Something rotten in the state of Denmark."

6.3 : "table set amidst mine enemies" - this is a line from one of the Psalms, praising God for "setting up" the Psalmist in security among his foes. Here employed ironically, considering the "table" where Hamlet reached its poisoned denouement, as well as the table of the Last Supper. "Courland" - the little duchy ruled by Empress Anna's new husband. "Cour" - ie. heart-land : another glance at Hamlet, who at some point mentions the tables of the covenant written on his heart, which he must uphold. "A cup and signet seal" - the seal - his father's royal seal - which Hamlet used (on board ship) to foil his uncle's plan to have him executed. That seal is covenantal, "promissory".

6.4 : "we hushed ourselves, behind a hedge of speech". The poets, in general, fail to fulfill their prophetic, critical social role. "The Empress collected..." - because of this critical failure, society continues to move along in its fantastic clockwork fashion, leading to soldiery and war at the end.

6.5 : Both earth and sun wait for expiation (brooding, drowning, wayward). "the earth (formed long ago for everyone)" - something primordial countering the rigid, frozen social structures created by human beings.
Jonathan Mayhew, one of my very fit though sweltering though very few readers, came all the way back from Spain to work on the Rest Note puzzler. & he's almost there. Anybody else want to catch this train? You have to name the poet, the poem, & the particular line.

Big clue : remember, this is a poem which began on April 26th, the day Teddy Roosevelt emerged alive from the Amazon jungle, & also the day Hart Crane disappeared into the Caribbean. And Teddy, in his memoirs, credits his lifelong interest in natural history to seeing a certain baby aquatic animal on the NYC fish market docks.


Very busy here at work today. Would like to Read-Along on poem #6, but probably won't have time today. However, I want to mention an extraordinary experience I had while writing #17, just posted. Synchronicity, I guess.

Let it be a riddle for you.

It has to do with the long post here, on 6/16. While writing the most recent section (#17) last night, I realized there was a single line, in a particular poem, by a certain poet, which aligned beautifully with one of the motifs of Rest Note (mentioned in that post on June 16th). So in #17 there are clues planted everywhere with regard to that single line.

To the 1st person who names the poet, the poem, and the particular line, I'll send a book.


I like how the Met & the NY Times came along & joined me on this trip. Hope to go see the Mayan show - that jade head with obsidian eyes.

The city below the terrace groaned with the roar
of many engines, and sometimes Hobo grew
confused. Were there many birds, or only a few,
or one? Or none at all - only the anger

of the wind, tripping a rippling mimicry
in the branches? The roar was alien, inhuman...
or was it he himself who had lost some touch
of companionable union, some - democracy?

Yet... it felt O.K. to be absent, sometimes.
He could watch the cubiform city ratchet upward
into turbulent rondure... and he wondered
at things, as they rose to their occasions,

like slanting cranes, with unselfconscious grace.
(Sometimes, lifted over itself, the forest rested
for a while : a cresting, counterpointed
sarabande, trailing a surf of firs.)

The spindle in the trees turned silver, a last
bright flare (vortex of each hobo passage).
Just as Teddy arose at the end (the adage
of the jade tree on his brow) and cast

an eye toward his unbalanced friend. He felt
how much they had suspended from each other
(as Ulysses S. must have, in the memoir-
shiver of his battles won). Lionheart

he was, and dungeon too - a Lazarus
among the tombs, attentive to the zone
buried in that nutty chest of his (someone's
cicada, cricketing). It muttered, Paradise.
I'm working up to a review of John Latta's Breeze.
Jordan bespeaks about Mark Halliday's essay in recent Pleiades. My copy is at home, & I am at work, & I read it a couple weeks ago... but I'd say I was more convinced by Halliday's arguments than Jordan is.

Paraphraseable meaning doesn't have to be "earnest". In my view it adds depth to the ruffled surfaces. & it's part of communication. Unless the hegemonic post-argument of Cindy Fickle still stands (ie. poetry doesn't "mean", doesn't "communicate", doesn't "say", doesn't "point", doesn't "fill in the blank").


On we go with the mystifoggy Rest Note Read-Along :

Poem # 5 :

In conformity with the principle of variation outlined previously, we're back with "Hobo" at the cliffside in Prospect Park, Providence (see postcard above, in HG Poetics header).

5.2 : "wordy backbone" - Hobo is on the "spine" of the ridge which runs down the old section of Providence. & he's thinking "cosmologically" about verbalizing a concept of the universe.

5.3 : "Bramble, Tennessee" - vague subtext here, word-games. Hobo is linked with both Lazarus & Teddy Roosevelt (on his "amble" through the jungle, or the "brambles"). & as Moses heard God in the burning bush, Lazarus heard a voice which drew him out of the crypt. "Tennessee" - pun on "see ten". Why? Clementine, on the edge of the cliff - like the "chestnut tree" that Hobo talks to (see stanza 5.5) - is a figure for a sort of muse or Beatrice (Dante : "Beatrice is a nine"), who leads the poet through the nine rings of hell to the earthly paradise. It's part of a narrative structure, too - this poem (Rest Note) is built in part on series of nine sections - which are actually (hidden) tens. Ie. "see ten". If you look at Rest Note # 10, it is actually a section of double length. Each larger part of Rest Note is to contain 19 sections, in the pattern 9-1-9 : but the center section (ie. #10) is double. Therefore each part actually has 20 poems ("see tens").

Got that? Awful turgid, huh?

The rest of this poem is pretty self-explanatory.

5.6-7 : "As every living being..." - Hobo talking to trees in the park, Lazarus listening to a compelling voice from within the grave... these are metaphors for the structural relationship between person & word, poet & poem.

5.7 : "western rim" - from Prospect Park, you can see the western ridge, like the rim of a bowl, on the other side of downtown Providence.
Philip Nikolayev, poet & co-editor of Fulcrum, reads this week in Brookline :

Philip Nikolayev
June 22, 7 p.m.
The Plaza Room
The New England Institute of Art
10 Brookline Place West
Brookline, MA 02445

Mne ochin nravitse yezdit tuda...



...they placed the mask in a tomb and left it there,
probably assuming that it would never be seen again by
human eyes. That didn't matter. Its energy would pulse
away in the dark, endlessly germinating
- NY Times, 6.16.06

In his dream, Lazarus smelled the earth again.
With the cricket sound, and the slow mourning dove.
Only a faint scent - grass, wildflowers, clover.
It was like a memory from long ago, a sign.

The voice he thought he had heard outside,
in the light of the cave-door - gentle, jocular,
supplicating, sweet - now (in camera obscura)
- as if he were the cave - whispered inside.

As if the whole earth were a memory,
a lost tune. Mnemonic tones, crooned
below the dove (camouflaged in its moan)
came from the planet's axis - reliquary,

rounding, regulant. Washed in the stream,
Vermilion. Now, overhead stood the sun;
Lazarus emerged. Everyone
stretched up to him (to hobble him home).

Such was the dream of Lazarus, asleep in clover.
His eyes (obsidian) glazed from figments
of jade - his face like a tree (blue-green,
light pine, darkened to jasper, riverine.)

Only a mask - a mask of listening.
The ear to the ground - under the ground.
For the hum in the mirror, the hurtling bond
in the words : I am here (echoing, anchoring).

The pledge extended foliage of quiet shade.
The scent (of jonquilled soil) was tender, too.
An evening dove, atop a stony portico
of grim façade (totem of arcane crusade).


I'm probably losing people with the murkiness of these last 2 entries (#14 and 15). & my explications don't explick much, either. But #15 is sort of an allegorical sketch or illustration of some underlying elements of #14.

The argument is, to put it very sketchily, that relationship & mutuality are substantial, fundamental, inescapable aspects of existence, reality, however you want to put it. There is the saying of Heraclitus, something to the effect of "living each other's death, dying each other's life." & this mutuality - this reciprocity - has consequences for the way we use language. All kinds of covenants and verbal bonds are examples of situations in which we must come to terms in order to live together.

The example in poem #15 of "drawing straws" in order to choose an individual to bear a certain inescapable burden is just a sketch of one such (implied) situation.

In other words, the world is not simply our (philosophical) oyster, an object made to order for our contemplation. Or, anyway, perhaps it's not only that. We are engaged in an ethical conversation, in which the shared burdens of life are under negotiation and tested - & we are tested, as part of this process.

It's a question of - what is justice?

Just rambling...

When I, hopefully, get to the end of this part of Rest Note (#19), I will add #11-19 to the others over at Alephoebooks. & maybe by the time I get to the Read-Along for these latter sections, some of this will make more sense. & meanwhile, maybe some people are becoming more attuned to my lingo, & can interpret for themselves.

Hobo on a promontory, talking to the trees.
Hedged in by oaks, on the cliffside - ruby
infant leaves, clinging tenaciously
to the chestnut. A fleet of tough extremities.

He mumbles toward her, as toward the figure
of an absent friend - a representative,
a token of regret. Tentative
gestures of a shaken leaf accent his verbal

burr. We was surrounded, honey - runnin
hard. Somebody had to jump the wall.
We drawed straws - I tuck the damn fall.
We each made the vow - now come the doin

From the ridge-spine, Providence, like a foggy lake
of shimmery concrete. The tree-murmur
his covenant now - magnetic susurrus,
uncharted wilderness. Words left their wake -

shorn calibrations, ex-commonwealth;
vectors of prescience; gabled reproof.
9-storied sorties toward that aloof
pride of lions - your bespoken tithe.

A trickle of honey, under the locust beans,
in the shade of the heat of the day. Kingfisher
diving like a naval jay; the sky, cloudier
today; a sober stillness in the evergreens.

Hobo turns his face in the breeze of his mind.
In order to lose it there, to loosen it.
Yet the ineradicable echo of the chestnut,
anchoring, remains - the tears in the blind.


Read-along-with Rest Note :

Poem # 4 :

I'll be brief, because the article in today's NY Times Weekend arts section, about the Maya exhibit at the Met, is a better companion to this poem.

4.1 : Readers might want to check out another Times article, from the Science section of May 16th, "On Ancient Walls a New Maya Epoch", for more info. "gaunt John" - ie. John of Gaunt, character in Richard II. "Quatrefoil" - 4-leaf clover. See image of open-mouthed god sculpture surrounded by quatrefoil ornament in the 5.16 Maya article.

4.2 : "Dogwoods... ridge" - specific place, Prospect Park in Providence, where old man/hobo is on bench (cf. other sections).

4.3 : "one vine short" etc. - see Psalm 80, about the vine that spreads to the borders of the land.

4.4 : "I am a stranger..." - line from Richard II. Lazarus-hobo is still waking up, orienting himself.

4.6 : "Dr. Saturno" - see Times 5.16 article. Dr. Saturno is an archaeologist.
I'm ex-plaining many a thing, for better or worse...
I've been offering Rest Note read-alongs, so I thought I'd add some emergency obscurity relief comments on the section just posted (#14).

In line with the alternation/ABA/ring-structure I described in previous read-alongs, there's a link between # 14 and a previous section, # 6 (posted here previously, & also over at Alephoebooks).

The ideas cluster around the word "seal". In poem #6, there's an allusion to the royal seal which Hamlet used, on board ship, to outwit his uncle's plan to have him executed. The first stanza of #14 (see below) is a fairly literal description of the Minnesota State Seal (a farmer, plowing, looks over shoulder at Sioux horseman, galloping away). In the background here, too, is Stevens' great late poem, "An Old Man Asleep" - "...the redness of the River R").

Teddy Roosevelt, as recounted in the C. Millard book, dated his own powerful interest in natural history to a childhood visit to the NYC fish market, where he saw a dead baby seal on a plank (I think I've got that right).

So I'm punning on seal - as natural fact, curiosity - and as insignia, representation of authority. Nature (natural law) & custom (positive law).

I understand this is a huge stretch - I mean more in my head than in the poem, as yet.

So what do I mean by the "seal"? It's the "character" - the "type" (as in typesetting) forged by Vulcan (volcanic) fire. It's nature's mortal seal on the particularity of each living creature. Thus the subdued allusions in #14 to Hart Crane's poem "Emblems of Conduct", as well as to Wordsworth's great brief poem which begins "A slumber did my spirit seal". These are in the background here.

Lurking on another level are allusions to Mandelstam & his "emblematic" encounter with Stalin ("wolf-meal" - links an Old English lament & Mandelstam poem about exile; "'star' for star", etc.). The "House of Ice" in #6 is a kind of satire on tyranny as traditional political status quo. Nabokov also lurks in the poem posted previously - #13 (see if you can find him). What I'm groping toward, actually, is a rather Nabokovian notion of a spiritual otherworld, which balances "this" world by means of enigmatic, emblematic, writerly tokens, insignia (cf. that other Hamletian Stephen Dedalus, in Ulysses - "signatures of all things I am here to read", or so it goes, something like that...) (p.s Happy Bloomsday, JayJay, & H.C. Everybody).

(This Nabokov thing runs very deep in me. It comes, I think, from his strong influence on my reading when I was around 13-14. There is a kind of subconscious melding of the vocation of writer with the spirit of Nabokov in my mind : & that, perhaps, is the ghostly imprint of his "character". But I digress...)

There is a sort of continuum being set up between social power (the freight train & its long echo imprinted on the night), TR's presidency as a social symbol, and Crane's symbolic death (becoming "one with the fishes") - going back to the conjunction noted between the date of TR's emergence from the jungle, & the date of Crane's death.

The vague notion presented in these lines is that of a duality between the "body left with Calypso" and, on the other hand, the homing spirit of Ulysses. What remains of the body is an emblem (the "jasper bandolier") - which in turn echoes the "banderole" - the symbolic curtain dividing heaven & earth - mentioned (& noted in the notes) in the opening poem (#1).

It's obvious from these notes that I'm describing an ongoing process of symbolization, which hopefully will become more exact & clear in sections to come... then again, much of the iceberg, in my particular house of ice, remains underwater, implicit - & that's as it should be.


One of the more obscure sections, I guess...


The hollow hoot of the freight train sets it seal
on a limitless night. Plowman leans on a line,
glancing over his shoulder (fleeting scene
of red-tipped feathers - Red's farewell).

Spirits shuttle to the shady gates (engulfed
in fanes of wheedling arms) and Vulcan sets
the type with rugged characters - Calypso,
Circe; the scalds, the scars. Wolf-

meals, in the blue forest; a rustic war
of mirror-brethren, fixed in their Medusa-
headrest. Slumber's their insignia :
engravings of engraving, "star" for star.


As you move toward sleep, the leavings of the loom
loom over the deep... over the speechless
limbs. A boy who wanted to play with dolphins
feeds the sharks (its name, its doom).

He frets your opulent asides, the festal
trumpetings, the wails of whales; you feel
closer to home, Ulysses, as you steal
a green wink from the morbid burial's

abiding score. You left his earthy body
on Calypso's shore, and for Penelope
you clipped his jasper bandolier (she
toys with it in the grass... tombs it away).
this obituary for John Tagliabue first appeared in the Providence Journal:

John Tagliabue, 82, of Providence, a well-loved American poet, died at Miriam Hospital on May 31st, of complications from pancreatic cancer. He passed away quietly, while listening to family read his poems aloud.

Mr. Tagliabue was a gifted, inspired person, from whom poetry seemed to pour forth with natural grace and gaiety. As his daughter Francesca remarked, "he wrote poems the way other people breathe." Over six decades, he published over 1700 poems, in scores of journals and anthologies. He was the author of six books of poetry, the most recent being a volume of 600 selected poems from the National Poetry Foundation. Mr. Tagliabue's muse was not confessional, but contemplative and world-embracing. He grasped Walt Whitman's magnanimous vision, and set out to bring it to fruition in his own way. As Fulbright lecturer and traveling scholar, he taught and gave readings in Italy, China, Indonesia, Lebanon and Japan; in Greece, Spain and Brazil; at schools, libraries, bookstores and galleries across the United States; and at the Library of Congress. He was deeply engaged with the culture and arts of Asia, spending two years in Japan and seven months in China; many of his poems and theater pieces reflect those influences. His roots also ran deep in the region of his birth, northern Italy. As he wrote : "I cannot help but think / that we Lombards are related to the ancient Chinese / I see it in the face of old peasants / and in their love of rice. . ." Mr. Tagliabue's art, as many writers and former students will testify, does what only great and vital poems do : it performs a metamorphosis. It celebrates the beautiful variety manifest in the universe - and the currents of love and playfulness surging through it. Praise - the central calling of the poet - was the keynote. As poet Amy Clampitt wrote : "John Tagliabue writes out of a deeply sacramental sense of nature and history… It comes to this reader, poem by poem, as a Franciscan act of courtesy and praise." Here is one of his briefest poems, in its entirety:


Damp stone
moss covered

if quietly you listen closely enough
you will hear its song

John Anthony Tagliabue was born July 1, 1923, in Cantù, Italy (a small city near Lake Como), to Battista and Adelaide (Boghi) Tagliabue. In 1927, he and his mother joined his father in Jersey City, N.J., where he attended school. He graduated with an M.A. from Columbia University in 1945. In 1946, he married Grace Ten Eyck, of Schenectady, N.Y. He then taught English and American literature at the American University in Beirut (Lebanon) and Alfred University, N.Y., followed by a tenured position at the English Department of Bates College in Lewiston, Maine (1953 to 1989). He retired from Bates as Professor Emeritus. Grace and he moved to Providence in 1998. Mr. Tagliabue also lectured at Tokyo University in Japan, 1958-60; at Fudan University in Shanghai, China in 1984; Jakarta, Indonesia in 1993. His books include : Poems (Harper & Bros., 1959), A Japanese Journal (Kayak Press, 1966) and The Buddha Uproar (Kayak, 1970), The Great Day (Alembic Press, 1984), and New and Selected Poems, 1942-1997 (National Poetry Foundation, 1997). His works also encompass over 30 travel journals, essays, puppet plays, children's books - and, in a lifelong collaboration with his wife, a number of beautiful prints, watercolors and broadsides, in which poems and visual images are married.

Mr. Tagliabue is survived by Grace, his wife of 60 years; a sister, Erica Dorf, of New York City; two daughters, Francesca, of Providence, and Dina, of Torino, Italy; and four grandchildren (Juniper, Tera, Alexander and Phoebe). In lieu of flowers, the family requests the sharing of his poetry. As he said at the very end of his life, "If you are looking for me, you will find me in my poems."
I'm reading Breeze these days.

A real smooth tonic to my own slob-dominant.


Keep on Readin'-Along-with Rest Note :

Poem #3 :

Pretty simple & straightforward.

3.1 : "Walk with me..." - the "turtle-dove" invoked in poem #1, here (maybe), replies, with a command to the speaker. (Lazarus still "dead to the world.")

3.2 : "empty sounds" - see C. Millard on the sudden crashing noises of the jungle (jolting, scary). Likened here to a walk through poetry.

3.3 : "tock-tock" - the woodpecker reminds the speaker of (crucifying) nails being driven in at the "crossroad". The speaker is a bit unnerved, in the forest. "Nature was judgement." : nature itself crucifies (we are mortal creatures). "Truth - very particular" : cf. phrase in next stanza : "everything got everything else".

3.4 : "torture chamber" : again, see Millard on the Darwinian ferocity of rainforest ecology. "everything got everything else" : the voracious gourmet organisms are very particular. The two senses of "got" - knowledge ("I get it") and acquisition ("I eat it") represent the jungle as ultimate post-Edenic cul de sac. The tree of knowledge has become a poisonous wilderness. Suffering is the sum (the crossroads).

: "Back, forth..." - represents the "turn" of the (poetic) story. Contrast the arcadian image of the back-forth swingset, its equilibrium. Maybe the goal of the Lazarus-Ulysses journey (home, on earth).

3.6 : "sound was sound" - the same word oscillates (like a swing) between its two meanings, and in doing so, confirms its own "soundness". A sort of provisional answer to the anxieties in #1 & 2 about poetic solipsism - even if it's an unproven assertion. [cf. A = A : Mandelstam's "Acmeist" law of identity - vs. anxious, otherworldly Symbolism.]

3.7 : the murmured assertion of the "voice" - what "might be said" - leads onward to hopeful concluding stanza...
Bachelardette on Christopher Middleton. She quotes an interesting example. He backs into that seashore poem like a horseshoe crab.



The jungle was a mutiny of limbs.
He couldn't tell his fingers from the worms.
Each hypertrope's unctuous display deformed
itself incorporating prey. Screams

magnified muteness. Death was comedy.
He vowed - distended in extremity -
if I return once more to the limpid city
of the living
... he would renounce all vanity :

habits of monkeys, haughty beastliness,
stubborn querulous gaudy fraudulence,
the bent for quarreling, the indolence,
the time's idolatries... the tide's excess

The jaguar (half animal, half jungle) (or
its spotted shadow) listened. A chrysalis
hung from an almond tree : a pendulous
appendage (cicada, drowsy bugler).

Fevered, his father seemed oaken volume,
valid redeemer; his mother, the almond tree;
and a wind (where there was none) breezed
his crown with their features, like a pendulum

of heart-beats. Bored, then, jaguar padded off.
The former president was bloated cask.
Ground smooth, grown fretted basilisk
of weedy breath. The planet was enough,

he seemed to be chanting, over, over and over.
As if the jaguar and he had parceled out
the river in a double game of go - absolute
checkmate. And he wore a crown of jungle clover.
Read-along-with-Rest Note :

Poem # 2 :

I'm sort of worn out today (stayed up too late). So comments brief. A way to think about Rest Note structure : it's built on the most basic form of design, simple variation, back-&-forth, turning & returning. Software binaries : 1/0/1/0... a/b/a/b/a... night/day/night/day... That's the first level. The second is : return, recursion, reflection : a to b and back to a. It's in the rhyme-stanza scheme (ABBA). The third level : such returns or recursions are expansive, or exponential : a/b/a, A/B/A, A/B/A... in other words, the ring structures are reflected up from the smallest to the largest units.

There's a thematic aspect to this shuttling back & forth - but maybe I'll get into that another time. With respect to poem # 2, the variation goes from the 3rd person description of poem #1, to the 1st person soliloquy of poem #2. It's TR, feverish, in the jungle, addressing his wife, Edith, back in the USA.

2. (epigraph) : "In Xanadu", etc. - from Coleridge's famous dream-poem, which his companions said TR was muttering obsessively, over & over, during his fever-delirium.

2.1 : pretty clear... "pinhole star-swarm" - glance back at the camera obscura of #1. TR is also Lazarus.

2.2-3 - Again, see Candice Millard's book River of Doubt for insight on the eco-biology of rainforest. "my demise... undo myself" - echoes of Shakespeare's Richard II. Shakespeare's Richard is something of a narcissist as well as sacred king (ie. something of a poet). Mixing here the "hero" representative figurings - TR, Richard, Lazarus, poet. (Selva oscura.) Chaucer was a courtier in Richard's reign. Setting up relations between these figures.

2.4 : center stanza establishes image of arch-swing-tree for first time, on its smallest scale (the inch worm). So the imagery, in spreading & growing, will echo, to some extent (improvisationally) the structure of the poem as previously described. & eventually (hopefully) images & structure will fold into certain ideas or themes.

2.5-7 : TR's expressions of discouragement & despair. Part of the same alternating variation : thus the hopeful image of the inchworm (a "little little worm" - cf. Richard's "little little grave") is shrouded in gloom. And the tone of #2 - rather hopeless - contrasts with the tones of the adjacent sections (#1 - sort of apprehensive, wary; #3 - more hopeful, forward-looking).



I heard some crickets planted here and there
in a wayside meadow. Lying on my back
in the shade of an iron pier, where tracks
of the Soo Line leapt a moody river.

You might recall, too. I start to remember
something familiar (half-gone memory)
whenever I notice the crickets' skree, skree.
It penetrates, easily, adamant layers

of daydreams (vague, swollen, viscous, slow).
So time attempts a mask of gravity,
unsheathes its blade : mirrored peripety
(grave) revolving to a tune the crickets know.


The echo of the railroad's ruthlessness
blends like thunder into thirsty plains.
An overarching, regal blue remains -
an edict in the heart (its hollowness).

Relinquish them (the pride, the contumely)
the way a peevish king divests his crown.
Yon imperturbable (unplumbed, unknown)
shuffles the weights, invents a remedy.

And the wind trestles the urgent stream.
And the formidable iron swingset
restates its formula, in triplicate :
back, forth, back, forth (life, dream).
Read-along-with-Rest Note:

Poem #1:

The combined imagery of this section puts springtime, birdsong, "Lazarus" coming out of grave, and Teddy Roosevelt in the jungle on parallel tracks, in a sense. Here are some notes by individual stanzas:

1.1 - "An April day" - allusion to opening of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales ("When that Aprill..."). We are starting out; we are going on a journey.
"in camera obscura" - Lazarus in the crypt compared to the inverted shadow-box (with its pinhole of light) of the proto-photo camera.
- "Clay lips" : birdsong reminds Lazarus-poet of living speech ("infant words"). Phrase is an allusion to Stubborn Grew's opening line ("Time flowers on the lips of whispered clay"). We are going to reflect back on that (lost?) epic poem.

1.2 - "woodwork" : a synthesis of birds in the woods, poetic "wordwork", and (proleptically) toward TR in Amazon forest.
- "gleam... trumpets" : sort of a synaesthesia - Lazarus sees the pinhole of light in his crypt as a gleam - like a trumpet-call. But distorted, off-key - as if a "parallax" (light bent through water).

1.3 - "the spring breeze shifts" : sort of a self-reflexive mirror-moment, here. "the breeze" is the poetic afflatus itself, shifting as the poem shifts (rhetorically) from stanza to stanza : the shifting is like the shuttling or theme & variation of weaving. So the light is sound, the birds are trumpets, the trumpet shape is a tree-shape, the word is wood. Lazarus - wound in a banderole - is "rewinding" (as in a "winding horn").
- "banderole" - a kind of cloth used in medieval depictions of Christ, saints & emperors - it was a formal border between the visible and the invisible, between the earthly and the heavenly realm.

1.4 - "it was... sighs". Here begins play on notions of poetry's reflexivity as self-enclosed solipsism, narcissism, self-destruction.
- "But the President...tribe" : - the previous countered immediately by a political-epic problem, the "lost President". 1st of series of representations of Teddy Roosevelt's famous, excruciating, near-fatal expedition on "River of Doubt" in Brazilian Amazon. Poet-Laz's self-doubts echo here. Also I'm returning to river themes of Stubborn Grew & its sequels (Mississippi, in that case).
- "his doubtful wish" - Hamlet, narcissism, death-wish in this & next lines.

1.5 - "devoutly" : ie. Hamlet's soliloquy ("devoutly to be wished"). This stanza represents TR's feverish state. "Scavenging insects... pity" : malignant, competitive jungle ecology (cf. Candice Millard's book River of Doubt) compared to poet's situation.

1.6 - "jaguar" : brute power of nature, reality. "Flags..." - ironic allusion to line in Hart Crane's "Repose of Rivers". On emerging from jungle to meet his rescuers on April 26th, TR saw American flag flying. Crane died on this date 20 yrs later.

1.7 - the melodramatic "action" of this section is shaken off by "Lazarus's" own "shift", his physical re-action. He is waking up. "Turtle-dove..." : almost every longish poem opens with an invocation...
Chris Murray alerts me to interesting Dale Smith essay & discussion in Jacket 30. Will want to read this. I got a lot out of an earlier book by Jeffrey Walker, Bardic ethos and the American epic poem.


I agree pretty much with Mark Halliday (in his review in Pleiades), when he says that every good poem can be paraphrased. As long as you admit that there's always a better, deeper reading down the line : the one even the poets themselves missed. "The builders builded better than they knew."

Thinking of Wallace Stevens' letters (they might have been emails) where he explicates every stanza. So I might try to do something like that with Rest Note. Read along with me (follow the bouncing ball).

June in the jungle, rain upon the ruins,
sweeping across, doubling back. Two lines
of riverbanks, but only a single line
for the racehorses, where the race begins

and ends. A bugle set the broncos off.
Sweet gold upstream whets the appetite;
well-wrought, remote, plucked at night
from piranha beds : a treasure-trove.

A Hawkwood hosted in the King's own house
is the result. Rain falls on the mercenaries,
merciless, on the just, unjust : last
evenings tremble on the lips of stars.

The forest makes a melancholy lithograph,
sandstone and muddy sentences, the river's
drone. A cataract in the center wears
down a blind whorl : each palm's a cenotaph.

Tangled knolls (the gardener's long gone).
A shrouded cloudbank between earth and sky
stippled with fool's gold for the jubilee.
Holy steeps (lightheaded Magdalen).

Between the prudent and the prodigal,
prodigious perspicacity in the minstrel -
in the duck-blind, hunting through hell
with a pilgrim bell (sings well, after all!).

Such were snortings that the jaguar heard.
Sortilege, for some, some summer eve.
Yet the lantern swung in the wind, a sieve
for fireflies; the jungle reckoned every word.

Because it's a quiet day at the library (students gone). Because it's not easy to read (this poem). Because only 12 people a month visit this blog any more - most of them from Mars (because I've lost interest in febrile wrangling?).

Why am I writing this poem, which is so recalcitrant? The sameness of structure & syntax - the vagueness of reference...

Well, I'm just getting into it, myself. But with every step I have to try to increase the resistance.

Who are these people - Lazarus, Hobo, Edith, Teddy Roosevelt? Figures, I guess, representing renewal. Renewal in a sort of all-encompassing sense. Renewal as a concept.

Art, well, it seems to be self-reflexive, if that's the right term. Folds back on itself, renews & extends itself through echo-effects. Implication.

So a poetry will try to renew itself by writing about renewal. Lazarus will sing himself out of the grave. With help.

This basic image (Lazarus) is meant to represent aspects of reality in general. "Lazarus", in a sense, puts a person - a particular image of the person - near the center of one's imaginative image of (cosmic) order.

& philosophical consequences result from that ordering choice. What they are I am only beginning to be able to articulate & defend.


Besides - does the poem so far really exhibit sameness, etc.? Well, maybe so... I seem to have a taste, a habit, an appetite, for the sound of it - at least for my own way of sounding. Maybe no one else hears it that way.

But, as mentioned, I want to make things difficult for myself, to find the resistance (which is related to reflexivity). So the aim would be to move toward a betterment of style. In some ways the serial mode helps allow for that possibility, along with many more negative outcomes (logorrhea, graphomania...). ("...he that of repetition is most master.")

That's part of the aim, & part of the difficulty. As one can tell from the nervous blur of the openings of Rest Note, I'm anxious about it. I've had too many false starts, & too much resistance (in myself & my life) toward writing anything at all.

OK, now I've probably gone & jinxed myself.
I realize the majority of people & literate bloggos are not up for reading my obscure poem-in-progress online. Just bleep over it, friends. The daily post helps me keep track of it. Sort of an archive. Maybe I'll set up an extra blog for Rest Note, eventually.


The restless Rest Note keeps a-tumbling on. There's kind of a plan, sort of a pattern...


The wave of a smile curves around a cup
of tea, or stony rooftop in Byzantium.
The figure of refreshment is the same:
a logic of enchantment, welling up

to flight. And where the oscillating stream
unrolls its mesmerizing equilibrium,
and where the venerable broken limb
crosses the field of vision with a beam

of motionlessness... there, in wilderness,
a path begins. We found ourselves in jungle
as in a vagrant viper's glose. Angel
or jaguar, Eve or Jonah in distress –

a riddle curled nine times around the brain
which left us haunted at the boundary, or
hunted in the deep – mocked in our quandary
by monkeys in a tree (paean to pain).

I'll be buried in the King's highway,
mumbled the President. He tore his robes
on thorns. In spite of everything, the globe's
my home
(he muttered on) – another day.

The tragic dénouement was understood,
foretold from the beginning. Son, my son.
"For joy they set out then, self-knowledge won
and Eden, lost and found again, for blood."

This was a span that spun itself, around
the fire, tiers lofting sharply side to side,
behind the dark – a little brook of tidings
riveting those pilgrims (lost, star-bound).


... and over the vapid, frozen void.
Unexpected extremities arose
for arrant voyagers – harsh lozenges,
alien cones – acres of celluloid

cindered to the stump. Lucky Lincoln
had a major war
, he groaned in green;
here, all I can afford are byzantine
piss-ants, Brazilian mosquito drone.

... cat-scent cut him short.
Janus-face of the forest, grim balance
of forces. Azure echoes? Second chances?
Primitive injustice (quick unnatural dart).

Sounds... resound. Keep looking, looking,
drooping (droppings show). The way. Humble
servant : your hand : knotty, Sheba rumbles,
from far; abstracted, you will find him – wakeful,

seeking, near at. Zee. Not far behind –
ahead. You hear the sound of it – a wash,
awash, a waterfall. And we are there, by gosh.
We made it
– we, the deaf, the blind.

They'll tot him up someday. The bravo rings,
the smoke, marvels. Kid Saturn in underwear
– so saturnine (behind the curtain there,
in Oz). Antiphonal, just balancing.

As a single star, unmoving, at the crown,
sheds a blue light, encompassing; as a union
of two sets foot, revolving, toward a sun;
as the tale spun, as a voice began.


Odd how this stanza from #7 (posted 5/29) parallels, somewhat, some of Ron Silliman's recent comments on Olson (the Olsonian portentous innards, mustachio'd).

Begin, then, with the perilous retort
of speechless limbs. What marks the man
from the also-ran. The game in Yucatan,
the racing heart – iris of the jungle (smart).
More from Rest Note. Don't ask me what I'm doing. "Edith" refers to the wife of TR, among others.


Raindrops curve in their multitudes across
the windowpane. And on the retina,
the image of your tears. Camera obscura,
lonely room, long watch – the crumbling moss

of manuscripts. Lazarus almost
turns back (dragged by iron ball, silence).
Heavy toes tromp gaily toward an intense
yet empty canyon (some coyote jest).

There are lead mines in the Amazon. Teddy
resolved to be a bear for bravery.
It was not El Dorado, but compunctions
of the scullery, upwelled his sanguine eye.

Horse-sense, in a sense. The jockeying
knights joculant. A chivalrous dominion.
Character, my son, my son! Spent millions
magnify the milling around a ring

of blue spontaneous corncobs (in Kentucky).
Hobo remembers, Lazarus too renumbers:
the squads of backs of letters, the gang members
along a tarred and faltering highway.

Someone swings a scythe, opulent shadow.
Draconian sway – the way a chameleon
mimics a lemon (soft – a round someone
in the sweep of your eye, under a windrow).

I'm freezing, Edith, in this fever place.
The stars don't go together, and the mail
is slow. Just wave your arm, smile.
Be a nine, San Juan. Draw tight your trace.
David Hess back, with some intelligent, informed readings.

For me, though, there is an element of literary demagoguery, or journalistic opportunism, in the constant harping on catastrophe.

There is suffering, there is injustice, there is cultural dessication, there is, yes, moral catastophe. So look for solutions, answers - don't just sit there moaning & piling dust on your brow.

I suppose that's what they told Jeremiah, too.


Reminder (tomorrow night) :

June 7, Wednesday, 6-8 pm.

hosted by Andrey Gritsman (www.interpoezia.net)

Celebrate the release of an anthology of translations of
Mandelstam edited by Ilya Bernstein for Ugly Duckling Presse.


Come hear translations of the Russian twentieth-century
poet Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938) read by many translators.

Cornelia Street, off Bleecker (in NYC)
Enjoyed Mark Halliday's review of Helen Vendler book in Pleiades. He's got a light touch & a logical mind.

Also the M. Theune essay on poetic structure & "the turn". However, his point seemed rather feebly argued. Theune is onto something : but if he's going to talk about structure vs. current notions of (surface) "form", he needs a broader range of evidence. The "turn" is just one aspect, I would think.
Have been dealing with family repercussions this week. Someday perhaps I'll write something more considered about John Tagliabue. Hard to maintain "critical distance" in this case.

A few days ago (before he died) I was digging around my books, looking for something, & came upon an edition of Pound's translations from the Confucian anthology (early classic Chinese lyrics), which I hadn't remembered, or ever looked into. Then I noticed it was inscribed, from John, for me.

One of the last things he said was, "If you're looking for me, you'll find me in my poems." This was an allusion to Whitman's Song of Myself ("look for me under your bootsoles").


American poet John Tagliabue passed away yesterday, on Walt Whitman's birthday.

Tagliabue learned much from Whitman, but he took what he learned and went far beyond, into the world and into his own singing world. In fact it would be more accurate to say that he, like Whitman, was inspired by a certain very pure note of spiritual joy.

You would have to go back to the Psalmist for a real comparison. This is not saying too much. Tagliabue's theme was life itself, and all it contains - time, space, suffering, love, joy, beauty & grace, freedom. From the beginning - from his earliest poems from the '40s & '50s - he discovered that in affirmation - in singing a resounding yes to experience - through the artful yes of poetry - his affirmation is doubled, is magnified, redounds on itself, finds its own balance, symmetry and grace. His fellowship is with Blake, Whitman, Keats, Dickinson, Hopkins, Shakespeare, St. Francis, Marianne Moore, & all the Chinese & Japanese poets he knew & loved... (I hope & expect he is with them right now).

He was born in 1923, in Cantu, a northern Italian town near Lake Como. His first language was Italian; he & his mother rejoined his father a few years later in Jersey City, where his father worked as a chauffeur & eventually ran a restaurant. (Tagliabue later attended Columbia, where he was a student of Mark van Doren.)

I point this out in order to emphasize that there was, in this American poet, something very ancient, a kind of spiritual hilarity. From an early age, Tagliabue was always dancing : his first ambition was to be a ballet dancer. I remember him in his late 60s, prancing around the room to some Indian ragas with his delighted grandchildren. Tagliabue most likely would have felt right at home with those serene, smiling people who emerge from the Etruscan sculpture of his native region. The sweet hilarity & refined exhaltation of his poems is infectious - that is their purpose. He was devoted every day of his life to praise.

In a land obsessed with physical sports (his cousin Paul, by the way, was commissioner of the NFL), this spiritual athlete, with his Italo-Chaplinesque quirks & laughter - with his daily devotion to poetry, meditation & correspondence - was the best of all.