2003-08-27

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I was going to start serializing a piece called the Poverty of Poetry (well, when I say serialize I mean burden blogger with my lunchtime notes towards an essay of such a title). Somehow, it isn’t in me today. Watch this space, though, it will come. Because there are many Povery’s of .. I’m sure someone has already written something with the same title. The title does have an interesting history, actually. Marx wrote a paper (which I downloaded on Kazaa Lite!) entitled “The poverty of philosophy” in response to Proudhon’s “The philosophy of poverty” . I haven’t read either piece (though I instinctively side with “Property is theft” etc) so I can’t be much help on the contents. Nevertheless, Marx’s title is crafted in direct opposition to Proudhon, thus “The Poverty of..” carries an oppositional sense. The poverty of poetry is simply an argument against typical “colonizing” measures of poetry. By this I mean that poetry tends to appropriate vocabularies or even describe other disciplines but rarely attempts to enter the practice itself. Stein did manage this to an extent with her use of grammar as a poetic response to Cubism. An example I came across recently is a piece by Christina Kubisch in which she takes lines from 18th and 19th century poetry that highlight the effect of silence and prints them onto translucent glass. The glass was then placed in the desolate enclaves in a dilapidated castle and above it is a kind of ultra-violet light that makes the words visible – kind of like those watermark readers they use to prevent counterfeiting. The light also highlights the decaying walls around them. This to me is poetry occupying a vital space. It emphasizes not just silence, which is the theme of her piece, but also the context of reading and the space in which we occupy to read. There is also the comment about decay and sound etc. In short, this is a beautiful poetry that the page cannot do. Perhaps my aspirations for poetry are too architectural, that I want poems not just boxed in books and memory but in every movement around us. I want the failing car to sputter poems. For poems to act in the shaping of buildings and streets, the hum from which is also poetry. My phone rings poems.. I don’t have to dial them up, they are in the dialing.. I leave you today on that.

2003-08-21

I encountered quite a big glitch in my Mina Loy paper last night so I spent my trip to work making even more notes and annotations to the Love Songs. The papers main contention is that the concepts of noise and audition inform the Love Songs and that to consider them in purely literary terms is only a half-seeing approach. So I’ve gone through and demonstrated how sound works in terms of content (that is, the images and events that take place in the poem), but now I’m looking at sound/ noise itself. I’ve limited myself somewhat by trying to see her noise in terms of Russoloian language noise – that is, the noise of consonants. I think consonantal noise is present, but there is more that is harder to quantify, such as the short /i/ sound. She certainly never goes the direction of Stein with an ever present sonority, but still what are those rattlings and shaking tin walls? Why are they there??? I’ll work it out, I’m sure. Otherwise… Office poetry is a beating keyboard and the monotonous hum of hard-drives etc. He’s taken good songs, that’s all Dub dubbing Eto What are you watching Laugh phone ring Noise Jyu ichi nin
This’ll have to be brief if anything is capitalized or punctuated it’s because my hands were working well or word did it for me I am super rushed but wanted to get some things down before I don't smile So ive been traveling with doug messerlis big fat anthology all week cuz I couldn't stand going without poetry any longer this is my fear of academia all over again you no longer read works but dissect them like frog in 9th grade science class poor things I don't think things will be that way once I get out of this miserable job and actually have time to do something when im not in a rush or half asleep Well, for the bfb big fat book ohh a comma thanks hands the bfb ive been reading mr charles olsen ive read him before but anyway what struck me is how much of a modernist he still was of course the localism of this place called glouchester not England I presume thanks for the caps word removes him a bit but not much what was on my mind this morning was his use of myth I was once a great myth-man my dog rip was called bucephalus after alexanders horse and even my son is amateras after Japanese myth is myth an exclusion western myths are themselves known to have been appropriated from the Indian and Persian but his references to man I can’t remember which myth,, whatever, I felt was rather exclusive limiting his poetry somewhat from the global not that one would write to be global necessarily but is it important??? Also sometimes olsen is compared to pound and these writers LOVE to discuss his visits to st. elizabeths etc etc but really I think there is one very crucial difference.. olsen is not musical I may be wrong since ive only read several selections of his but I have barely detected an ear he tells wonderfully embellished stories and has some great lines like:
it is not bad to be pissed off
Anyhow im outta time

2003-08-18

I couldn’t take another day of it poemless and theoretical deluged by the theory of practice so this mornging I emptied my bag of Capra’s The Web of Life , Creeley’s Windows, and even the copy of Sawako’s Hockey Love Letters (That’s where I put it!) and put in the great tome Messerli’s From the Other Side of the Century. I even went to the effort to take along an aging Nono tape and earphones to prevent myself from listening in on other people’s conversations and sounds. Once I got a seat on the unusually busy post-Obon Yamanote-line, there was no question, open to John Taggart. I ‘discovered’ Taggart a few months ago when in a similar mood I pulled out Poems for the Millennium 2 before bed. I was so enthralled – the poem in PotM 2 read like the poets rendition of In C – I even read it to my wife, who, as usual was uncaptivated but flattered that I thought she might like to hear it. Taggart is an extraordinary poet. One of the few modern poets who has really attempted to reach music but hasn’t shied away from actual feeling as well. In fact, he is able to use these generalisable abstract words, like “pain”, without bathos. Ah, great, some of his poetry is available on the web! Here is an excerpt from the Slow Song for Mark Rothko (the poem anthologized in PotM2):
To breathe and stretch one's arms again to breathe through the mouth to breathe to breathe through the mouth to utter in the most quiet way not to whisper not to whisper to breathe through the mouth in the most quiet way to breathe to sing to breathe to sing to breathe to sing the most quiet way. To sing to light the most quiet light in darkness radiantia radiantia singing light in darkness. To sing as the host sings in his house.
The repitition recalls Stein somewhat, though it is more deliberately musical. I read that Terry Riley was very much influenced by Stein, thus the connection is hardly surprising. Still, as I was saying, a poem in which the wonderfully sensitive line “to light the most quiet light in darkness” can become part of this musically minimalist framework bespeaks the strength of writing. Damn out of time..

2003-08-15

Ok. I WILL do this today, finally, a Friday. It’s just been a very very busy week AGAIN. In the poetry world, it seems Mr Silliman has had yet another pointless spat with another poet. This time it involves some pseudo-movement called New Brutalism – is this the Bruitists? Seems like this fella got under Silliman’s wick for saying L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry favors theory over emotion. Woo! Am I alone in thinking that this debate is pointless? Since I’m not shy of crudity, who the fuck cares? It seems that the general characteristic separating poets and other artists is that the exhuming and constant revision – rather like Freudian mourning, going over a lost object – is the poor lot of these full-blooded literary types, whereas artists are generally happy to let the critics wrangle while they move on and develop new ideas, sometimes correcting the critics in their folly. I wonder if this is in any way related to a question posed several months ago asking why artists go through phases (like Picasso’s Blue Phase) while poets are generally considered more singularly. It is partly for this reason that I dread becoming involved in such a musty literary world. My other reasons being: • Dread of national poetry and stigmatization (I still get shudders hearing Charles Bernstein say “I prefer ‘Walter Benjamin’ [Anglicized pronunciation] the American way since he was so poorly treated by his own country” .. even when he says “American poet” blurrgh!). To be called an “American/Canadian/Finnish/ British etc” poet is the greatest insult. • Being in any way aligned with these so-called defenders of young poets like Jim Behrle, Jo Massey etc. Please Jim, don't defend me against Darth Silliman. I don’t know these guys, so I may be being unfair, but I’m not impressed by their public gestures. It seems to me like it may be time for another Futurism – at least the energy.

2003-08-10

I can’t remember what it was that I wanted to add to the last blog. Perhaps why identity is an issue in the first place?? That seems highly uninteresting though.. hmm. It’s worth asking anyway. Basically, I’m not sure exactly why it became necessary to remove the artist from the production of the work. I assume some of it has to do with the popular conception of the artist somehow expressing his/ her woes through art. It is really highly offensive to suggest that a piece of art really ‘expresses’ anything. If it does then it is bound to be rather poor. One always needs some amount of distance to do any piece of art. Art is not necessarily representation (as Mr. Warhol taught us it is also reproduction), but does work with symbols. Now it would be rather absurd to say that the ‘symbols’ actually had a corollary in the ‘real world’ (absurd but not unheard of); symbols are, the world.. that is to say that they exist not in relation to things but in relation to themselves and context etc. Thus art is a manipulation of symbols, when art becomes expressive, that is when someone creates with the intention of expressing what is after all, symbolic, the result is almost always poor.. I realize this is a silly argument, I’m just entertaining ideas. In fact I understand the phenomenon differently. To create simply requires a psychological distance otherwise the piece becomes overcharges with mass generalizations. Such is the result of most teenage art and writing, as well as Harold Pinter’s poetry. (Sadly, even intelligent artists think of poetry as this odd empty vessel into which the excrement of their ‘emotions’ can be dumped.). Er. Yes, so, this may be one reason. The other may be partly psychological. Most people have come to understand that the self is a unity of convenience, that is, “I” is a multiplicity. “I” is another as Rimbaud said. Taking the “I” out a work presumably allows the other into it. I’m not sure to what extent the above psychological conditions link to sociological conditions -- i.e. these are post-modern, fragmented times, fragmented by capitalistic schizophrenic pluralism – for artists. This seems to me always a half-truth and an approach only beleaguered Marxists would take. Capitalism thrives, it is true, through the appearance of unity to cover its monstrous chaos, a chaos that could lead us to believe that the ‘I’ is even more fragmented. I think in this respect capitalism is not new. Every ‘order’ is the semblance of unity. The difference is that now the chaos is on a global scale.. Where writers especially, are falling short these days, incidentally, is the failure to recognize internationalism. Though not a writer, I was quite amused at a PhD. Student’s resume that stated something along the lines of :”Because my university is near to the Canadian border, I am also aware of Canadian poetries, such as Steve McCaffery and Christian Bok.” Whooo! I guess it’s thinking like this that earns a 4 GPA!

2003-08-07

Hoax’s and authorship In a recent correspondence between Kent Johnson and Brian Kim Steffens (among others) about Conceptual Literature the issue of authorship viz-a-viz Yasusada came up, for me unexpectedly. I have always maintained support for Johnson, even though the implication could be that he is the author, and Yasusada (who doesn’t exist) because of the various challenges it presents to the areas of authenticity and the unified literary persona. I should unpack these ideas a bit before going on. It is assumed in literature that the art object is an expression of, or is in some way related to, the authenticity of feeling or intellection on the part of the artist. Of course, in the 20th Century people like Duchamps & MacLow attempted to remove themselves from the production of art objects, though certainly failed in removing themselves from the ‘signified’ piece. That is, Duchamp ‘made’ the Standard Stoppages without taking part in their making (though people debate this), but we still know the piece as his and not “No Man’s” (No Man is still a very powerful image and theme). With the cult of personality being all pervasive, even in these post-Pollack days, the Duchamp is A Duchamp. The authenticity of the piece is never doubted. If you see the Standard Stoppages at the Tate in London, the friendly placard will inform you of Duchamp’s intentions, so too in other exhibits will you learn about his alter-ego Rose Selavy. In the case of a hoax, if ‘hoax’ can be used even if authenticity is never uncovered, we have a different ‘take’ on the same idea. The artist has given up hope of removing him/herself from the production of the work since, as we know, it is impossible, and instead has taken his/herself out of the reception of the work. This is a very important move in my opinion. In the case of Yasusada, moreover, the whole fa├žade goes further than former models in actually subverting culturally held beliefs in relation to authorship and also to the cultural “other”. (I might add at this point that this particular hoax has induced in me a certain amount of shadenfreude, a pleasure that for some is guilty, especially from Ron Silliman’s initial response to Yasusada. Now that Mr. Silliman has his own blog, presumably scared off the POETICS List since his early misguided Leninist war mongering after the World Trade Center fell, I can get regular doses of this less acceptable pleasure.) Well, the lunch break is over, so I’ll have to continue this Monday.. It’s back to Noise and Loy for the weekend.
I take most of it back. Creeley isn’t so bad. I’ve made my way to some of the later poems and have been more impressed. Poems like this one, Window, irked me somewhat: The window had /been half /opened and the /door also /opened, and the /world then/ invited, waited/ and we /entered One of my objections to the poem is simply that he is still harping on about that old poets malaise, the world and me, subject – object, as though they aren’t problematic. From my own point of view, these aren’t really problems at all they just don’t exist. This is a poetry that is still relying too much on the eye and as a friend mentioned just yesterday, to privilege a sense is anti-thetical to world making, it is an abstraction of the world which in no way tries to enter it.. Before I digress, I’d also like to include a poem I liked. Was it thunk suck of sound an insistent outside into the patient abstract waited was lost in such simple flesh ou sont les motherand father so tall the green hills echoed .. That’s as much as I’ll quote since I’m at work. Obviously, what I like about this is the sound. There’s also the suggestion here that sound can potentially “suck” one into “simple flesh”, though that may be a complete misreading. There is still that “insistent outside” that irked me about “Window”..The poem is actually dedicated to Jasper Johns, who I know little about. The poem probably functions on quite another level for someone who knows about Johns. In fact, I think I’ll print out a little about him before leaving the office today and see what all I can find out.

2003-08-04

Ah! Back and with a new name; hope you like it. I’m kind of browsing through a number of books right now. My mood is so changeable, sticking to one or two just isn’t feasible. Rob Creeley’s Windows has got to be the biggest disappointment of them all though. I very much like the poem of his, Anger, anthologized in Poems for the Millennium 2, but I have read little else with a pulse. In fact, I started reading the book earlier this year and started actually ‘correcting’ whole stanzas. I’d never done this before (good exercise though) and eventually got frustrated.. So what’s the problem? His rhythms can be interesting at times, granted; it’s the content. Dedications, death, the small things in life, etc etc. He no longer has faith in other ways of seeing (as Anger most definitely did with anger compared to trucks smashing into a wall – this is from a faint memory), he just wants us to see as everybody assumes to see.. On the topic of Mr. Creeley, any idea why has received so much recognition from the experimental writers? Oppen wrote very similar, though less musical, poetry and even lived the ideal life of dropping out of poetry to exile himself in Mexico during the McCarthy years.. O.K. I’m not a big Objectivist fan, Oppen and to some extent Olsen are a little too frontiersman for me.. and WCW, who seems to be their predecessor, well, when I was at university, his step-shapes poems fascinated my eye but eluded my ear, but his verse always paled next to Pound’s, and froze next to Schwitters’ & Stein’s. Now, I was going to make the link with the above, but avoided it to prevent too much vitriol against Oppen, Creeley etc. One of the things that bugs me about many of the above is their trite Americanism; nationalism is a virus among poets even today. Hear Bernstein talk about American Poets, for example, college courses dedicated to American poetry. Goodness, you’d a thought that they’re still wearing Quaker hats! WCW wrote this stinker called “In the American Grain”, that arouses quite a lot of anger (there’s that truck crashing again) in me. It’s not that poetry isn’t local - it is always local and we can’t help composing in space (and time) – but such ideas are not just wrought in locality but in ideality (I only half intend these asinine assonances). Many of us would discount religion and God because it presupposes a force and resignation beyond the human and worldly, why make the exception for a country. Belief in a country is the same to me as belief in God… We’ll that’s the end of my vitriolic (sorry) lunch break. I promise something more positive tomorrow.