newest Lanthanum. Happy Memorial Day.

Lincoln with his generals, at the battle of Antietam. Big guy at the end is my gr-gr-grand-uncle, Genl. Delos Sackett.



new Lanthanum ( you never know).


Adios for now

I think I'm going to "go quiet" here at HG Poetics for a while. Will probably be back eventually. Feel the need to change the way I do things. Thanks for visiting, friends.


Off to a wedding in Minneapolis - be back on Tuesday the 19th. Adios, friends.


I withdrew Lanthanum Road blog. Lanthanum still up there. The former I don't think is salvageable; the latter is going dormant for a while, probably.


Late Stevens

Reading BJ Leggett's excellent (& nice & short) Late Stevens. I really liked one of his earlier books, Wallace Stevens and Poetic Theory. He has a way of correcting (gently) the Stevens big shots, Bloom & Vendler et al.

Stevens, in a statement on "Auroras of Autumn" : "There are many poems relating to the interactions between reality and imagination, which are to be regarded as marginal to the central theme... [which is] the possibility of a supreme fiction, recognized as a fiction, in which men could propose to themselves a fulfillment." (quoted by Leggett on p.1). & from the epigraph to 1st chapter : "The exquisite truth is to know that it is a fiction and that you believe in it willingly." (from Stevens' Adagia)

Leggett's argument (which I'm just getting going with) is that many of Stevens' later poems (in The Rock, etc.) are intertextually aligned with "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction" and other, earlier poems on this "central" theme. & (to paraphrase) Leggett summarizes Stevens' focus on this theme, as a meditation on the idea that the fiction of reality is the generating dream of an inhuman mind - sagacious, inventive, changing, unaccountable, inexplicable... yet - as an imagination - showing a likeness to our own imagination. Leggett attends closely to some lines in the opening poem in The Rock, "An Old Man Asleep" :

The two worlds are asleep, are sleeping, now.
A dumb sense possesses them in a kind of solemnity.

The self and the earth - your thoughts, your feelings,
Your beliefs and disbeliefs, your whole peculiar plot.

The redness of your reddish chestnut trees,
The river motion, the drowsy motion of the river R.

He shows how these lines imply that the river & the chestnut trees are the thoughts of one of the "two worlds" (the earth) - that is, that the things of the earth, the "outside", are fictions of a greater, "inhuman" dreamer; & the "two worlds" are mingled together here, ambiguously joined.

So it seems the "supreme fiction" is a new expression of a very old idea... of the fictiveness (the "made" quality) of reality.


Gateway of dream

I had an odd experience two mornings ago. I woke up thinking about the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO.

Why? I have absolutely no idea. I have never given that particular monument, designed by Eero Saarinen, a moment's thought. I have never visited St. Louis (though the 19th-cent. city of Twain & Melville does show up in a chapter toward the end of the long poem, Forth of July).

In any case, the dream may have set me off in a whole new direction. I am thinking a lot about the relation between poetry & architecture right now. Hoping it will offer me a new way to approach "objectivity". Saarinen's catenary arc (a recurrent image in Forth of July) might offer a model for other things - an example (adjustable, adaptable) of how to "place", integrate or infiltrate poetry in a public world.

Architecture wakes me up. There are a lot of architectonic elements in my poetry over the last 20 yrs. I'm a builder - it runs in the family.


Posted something new(?) over at the Plumbline.



more beginner's speculation on Gillian Rose

Over-simplified version of one major theme in Gillian Rose (at least as far as I can make out) : humanity formulates ideals for itself, and then fails to live up to them. This is the record of history. The "diremption" (violent severance) of ethics from political institutions. The way idealistic intentions lead to their contraries (unintended consequences). Exotic but familiar American examples (my own) : the counter-cultural love-commune becomes the totalitarian death-cult. 19th-cent. Russian egalitarianism becomes 20th-century Stalinism.

The frustrated rage this failure produces, leads in turn to new crystallizations of (pseudo-moral) absolutist or evasive theories & ideologies. (See, in various ways : Derrida, Foucault, Levinas...). Rose demands a closer, harder look at the actualities of the chasm between the stated ideals of modern civil society and the technocratic-statist political mechanisms by which it is upheld and administered. But not on behalf of some new totalizing revolution : rather to make us more aware of this Janus-faced crisis of our civil institutions (our law), so that perhaps we can ameliorate the inescapable conflicts that result (a recognition of the reality of the "broken middle" is the first step toward forms of mediation).

The human tragicomedy of errors should lead to a sense of moral implication, mutuality, recognition, forgiveness, mercy. & comedy. Rose situates herself at the boundary between post-Enlightenment modernity and a more ancient religious conception of human nature - its correlation with & dependence on "Spirit" (Hegelian-Kierkegaardian/Judeo-Christian, I think...).

I may be way off the mark here. Rose is a very difficult writer. Forgive (&/or correct) my mistakes & bowdlerization, you who know better.

G. Rose, G. Hill

Reading more Gillian Rose. What a brilliant thinker. Talk about massive erudition. But it's the path she's treading that interests me most. Between ancient & modern, Athens & Jerusalem (& Rome), faith & reason, law &... Great perceptive insight into the problems with various modern & postmodern philo-socio-anthropological critiques. Has got me very curious to pursue further her indications toward the nature & meaning of "law". Currently reading Judaism & Modernity, a book of essays.

Geoffrey Hill's persistent theme of poetry as irrevocably implicated in the "judicial" context of historical crises, violence, & the "human predicament" (my cliche) seems parallel... I can see why I got clued into Gillian Rose by way of a single reference in one of his closing essays (in the Collected volume).