Saturday, February 25, 2006

Also wanted to say, I'll be giving a reading at SUNY-Purchase (in Westchester) Monday night, 7 I think.

And that this reading is worth mentioning, worth going to (info from here):

Brenda Shaughnessy, Craig Morgan Teicher, Thomas Hummell

Sunday 2/26 7:30 PM

The Fall Cafe
Smith Street near the corner of Union
Carroll Gardens
Take F or G trains to Carroll Street
Exit at the back of the train (if coming from manhattan)
take a left out the exit, walk half a block, cross street and there you are.

Tom Hummell worked with me on the chapbook at the PSA, and he is a great poet as well (no small part of the happiness I feel regarding the PSA is that it is populated with talented poets, no surprise I suppose but there it is.) Not to mention his reading-mates here, of course. I'd go to the reading, but I have to prepare myself for Monday, so can but suggest it to you instead, and suggest it I will.

I've been absent, I know, from here. I've been so . . . busy. With nothing. Well, almost nothing. A tired man's consolation. Lazy consolation.

I've been meaning to write up my thoughts on a bunch of chapbooks, I will soon, in serial. I'll start now with a quick mention of how truly good Tony Tost's World Jelly is; you may have heard it elsewhere, and it's true. Pick it up and read it; I don't care if you have a hard time understanding difficult poetries (let alone if you'd classify this chapbook as difficult); however you conceive of the this/that thing in our country--it doesn't matter where you stand. Pick it up and read it, and then go read almost anything else (but spare yourself the disappointment of reading your own, unless you really want to take yourself to school), it will be slack; you'll see. Talent, and dedication, integrity (poetic, that is), all show in his poetry to great effect. I still maintain something I posted around a year (?) ago regarding Invisible Bride, that TT gets away with a startling amount of --sentimentality?-- that emotion is a strong base for what he does, not intellect (though intellect of the first order, and they play off each other so well--that might be one sort of talent, one I like very much). And it proves a broad enough base to support a number of motifs -- of influence, of creation, of chaos, of desire -- in good proportion to each other (and themselves).

I know I'm making little sense here, all I mean to say is that I don't have the necessary superlatives at hand (if challenged, I may find them, or at least a more precise analysis), except to suggest you read it.

Friday, February 24, 2006


Whose Flow

Later on, just as sleep finds out
words, and words for words, and narrates
me out of consciousness with whatever words
my waking will be the not-remembering of
I’ll remember nothing but with my body, all tension
will loosen, leap earthward—oh world,
if these large words whose arc my eyes grow dark to
could remember to be silent
in their motion, gracious enough to be
articulate beyond one random spasm
through my leg, a flutter like kicking off the deep end—
what do I hope to save, dividing myself thus
and jumping back and forth—
a drowning man each time? What is the story
I tell both ways, what are these fluent words
I always interrupt [hear], never remember,
which divide me, inundate me,
am I anything other than two
different kinds of sleep?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

But if Marley's fans are cheesy and annoying, at least in this country, so are Pablo Neruda's, and no one holds that against him.

Friday, February 17, 2006

I've been meaning to mention: have you read "The Age of Bronze" (the Iliad rendered as an archeologically-accurate series of 7 graphic novels)? I just finished the first one, "A Thousand Ships" on the recommendation of a friend and found it wildly effective. The artist makes a few decisions I felt a little leery of, such as abandoning the familiar in medias res opening of Achilles & Agamemnon arguing and instead setting it all chronological--so the first scene is Paris farming (or was it hunting?) with his adoptive (though he doesn't know it yet) dad. But after the first twenty pages or so, I found myself really getting drawn in.

Maybe it's because I'm *so* familiar with the characters and the story, but I found seeing the various actions portrayed graphically emotionally gripping. For example, the scene where Odysseus is sowing salt so Agamemnon doesn't draft him off to war. Just seeing Odysseus rendered as a living person, with an expression on his face: thrilling, I was drawn in. It helps that the artist is very able to bring scenes to life, and makes everyone look real, with singular physical characteristics; and while there's an individual personality for each character, there is also a shared personality which exists throughout the line (I suppose one could call that culture if one wanted, or expressive of 'the arranger', the term Joyceans use for the unifying narrative principles of "Ulysses").

When you think about it, these people (Achilles etc) are kind of the earliest recorded (outside of Lascaux, I mean) superheroes; where better to locate them and their dramas than in a comic book? Very well proportioned to the medium; I couldn't recommend it highly enough.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I wasn't feeling well, but now I'm feeling better. Better's better.

& check this out. New Blakes turn up, and they go . . . up for sale! The funny thing is, if you read the article, they disappeared because the publisher who commisioned Blake to make them was "impressed by Blake's watercolors, [but] he felt that the artist's style of engraving was not commercial enough."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Nice space, visual and verbal, in this post from Kate Greenstreet, no?

Her chapbook, btw, has a similarly attractive interest in proportion and elision, relationship and distance, and is very excellent. I highly recommend it. (& hope to say more when I find the time.)

Friday, February 10, 2006

I write things down half-asleep. At their worst they sound Dedalean-deadly (Stephen, that is). But I still like them. Here's some more:

All an ocean, self-consciousness a region long-traveling swells pass through—perception the region of shallowing limnality, the breakers what we call words. Called words. Those swells, what we choose to fill our consciousness, when choice is an element, which it always is. Which is where my metaphor breaks down; but for that, we are what swells pass through, on their way to words, which wash back through, under and into, away.

* * * * * *

Of Clouds

Apprehension is more important than verbalization. Poetry is verbalization as close to apprehension as can be (or the trying for). That is, it is apprehension acceding to verbalization (grudging) or apprehension transfigured by verbalization (triumphant).

What I mean is, your soul is always whole, but if you for one reason or another think it is not, all things dependent on it (your world) will conform to, will act as if it is, the way you think it is, the way your thought massages it to be; if you like me feel you have an ache in your soul, your body and mind and acquaintances and prayers will all conform. So will your language, and so will your perception. This is what is meant by ‘free will.’

Though all these things which grow strange will tend back to the natural path, of which wholeness whole apprehension is the apprehension of. Poetry, insofar as it is visionary (aperceptive), is this tending back. It also affords for the reader participation, insofar as it is given free reign beyond the social madedness which may serve as scaffold; participation, in that individuals who share society share concerns, concerns on their one face misperceptions, on their other the working out of. The deeper the one, the deeper the other. This is what is meant by ‘group consciousness.' Without context.

(Alternately, that last sentence could read "By which I mean poetry is that without context." My handwriting can be hard to discern, so play it like mad-libs, as you like.)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Greg Perry sums up with remarkable accuracy how I feel about David Wagoner's poetry in his review of today's daily verse offerings, even coherently stating how the satisfactions of reading his poetry interact with the frustrations.

&: In the next week or two, I'm going to offer little reviews of the chapbooks I've been reading the last few weeks. (As time permits, of course.)(Or not so little.)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Jose Edmundo Reyes, who some may remember as a blogger from ~ a year ago, is part of a new anthology, one which, I think, seems named (in that it is named after the writing group which it represents) in honest proportion to what it is. Jodie writes

" . . . my writing group,
the Powow River Poets, has just come out with an
anthology of members' work. The Powow River Anthology,
edited by Alfred Nicol and with an introduction by
X.J. Kennedy, is now available from Ocean Publishing
( Here are the details:

The Powow River Anthology

ISBN 0-9767291-5-6

Ocean Publishing
P.O. Box 1080
Flagler Beach, FL 32136-1080

Office Hours Monday thru Friday 9am - 5 pm (Eastern)
(386) 517-1600 Phone
(386) 517-2564 Fax

Our members include Rhina Espaillat, Len Krisak,
Alfred Nicol, A. M. Juster (all of whom have won the
Richard Wilbur award and had books published by U. of
Evansville Press), Deborah Warren, Bill Coyle
(together both have won two of the past three New
Criterion Poetry Prizes), Richard Wollman (Gulf Coast
Prize in Poetry), and others."


James Joyce, b. today. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

One more curious excerpt from the Heather book, this time on writing for publication:

"Compared with the clarity and matter-of-factness of, say, Caesar, his [his being Sidonious, the 5th century stylist under discussion] love of showing off seemed the height of decadence. Writing at the end of the Victorian era, Sir Samuel Dill passed this judgement:

"' . . . There is little doubt that he valued his own compositions not for their substance, but for those characteristics of style which we now think most worthless or even repulsive in them . . . the torture applied to language so as to give an air of interest and distinction to the trivial commonplace of a colorless and monotonous existence . . . '

"Even in translation, Sidonious can drive you crazy with his inability to call a spade a spade, and there's no doubt he spent a lot of time trying to say things in as complicated a way as possible. One of his later letters contains a nicely illuminating comment, delivered at a moment when he thought that the literary audience he had been educated to address had gone for ever: 'I am putting together the rest of my letters in more everyday language; it is not worth embellishing phrases which may never be published.' But it is not fair to judge fifth-century style by first-century standards, and more recent commentators on late Roman Latin . . . have been less quick to condemn the stylistic complexities that were the height of artistic chic in the fourth and fifth centuries. An age that can see chain-sawed cows in preservative as art is by definition unlikely to judge other artistic endeavours by rigid universal standards." (page 376)

A startling level of self-honesty from Sidonious, no?

Moving on, I'm now reading Caesar's commentaries, one of many books I know I should have read yet haven't. What's startling is the seamlessness of the Roman Empire's end with its beginning; I left off with Roman territories being settled by migratory warbands of barbarians who had grown overly powerful along the borders of the Rhine, the Danube, and the Alps, and I open Caesar to find him preoccupied with stopping this precise thing from happening: the Helvetii want to leave their small territory north of the Alps and conquer a richer and larger one in Gaul; Caesar, for reasons of Roman border security, want no such thing to happen (among other problems he foresaw, was that if they left their territory, more warlike and fierce, and thus less-desirable-as-neighbors Germanic tribes would move into the gap). The continuity makes it more apparent that Rome fell as it rose than anything else I've read.

In any case, I'm enjoying the Caesar immensely. I bet I'd enjoy it in Latin even more. I really wish I had even some tiny natural talent for languages: it is my largest intellectual deficiency, I've never been able to pick up any language, though not for lack of trying: even Hebrew school did little for nothing; four years of French, nothing; living in Israel for five months, barely able to buy a bus ticket. My brain is just not made for more than one language, I suppose, though I find the specific words and the ways they mean, in other languages, fascinating.

That said, Jonathan Mayhew has been writing some super posts on translation recently. The idea of being able to translate is no less fantastic to me than science fiction; maybe that's why I like reading about it so much.

What I'd do to be able to read Dante in Italian.

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