Because of the interview last week, I was unable to put up any more new blog links to the sidebar. I’ve noticed that several blogs now link to Luminations, so I will of course return the favor and link back! The first is Tramspark. I have no idea who the author of this blog is, but I have to say that the blogs arranged by time zone is really cool! The blog is a darn good read too. The second is Corpse Poetics (Formerly Wine Poetics) from Eileen Tabios. If I’m not mistaken, Eileen married poetry a year or so ago. I wish I could have gone to the wedding. If I’m also not mistaken, Eileen worked in the finance industry before turning to poetry. Though not working directly in that industry myself, I am in contact with it on a daily basis. I always hope that one day I will stumble across a poet/ trader. Eileen gives me hope! More tomorrow.. P.s. Has anyone noticed that blogger is easier to manage on Windows than on Mac? What's up with that blogger???

A Bar from Wittgenstein

It’s been a long time since I last read Wittgenstein. In fact, when I did it was for a class on Analytic Philosophy and so was just a tad bored. Analytic Philosophy does have some useful aspects (verifiability, falsification etc.) but they are probably also the worst grouping of writers philosophy has ever seen. Apparently, ol’ Wittgenstein wasn’t so bad (actually, I never thought he was bad), and even thought in music! At any rate, I originally read this on the North American Center for Interdisciplinary Poetics. Since I couldn’t get the link to work, I’ll send you to the original source.


A: Before we begin today I wanted to add a little to my comments yesterday. Q: Sure. What did you want to say? A: One thing was that I didn’t want to argue the case that indigenous people are the only ones disenfranchised by bureaucracy and so on. Disenfranchisement is a complex issue and it’s really quite disingenuous to single out white middle-class men as the ones who benefit from bureaucracy. In fact, no one benefits. People can manipulate it though, pervert it. Discrepancies are obvious too. For example, when a US-born Filipino friend wanted to move back to the US with his Japanese wife, the application and process was more drawn out and made more complicated than is usual for whites. There was nothing illegal about the extra interviews he and his wife had to attend, and racism would be hard to prove, but at the same time one has to ask why his application was delayed (it took more than 6 months) while other white Americans’ applications take about half the time. I don’t know the history of bureaucracy for other groups. The indigenous people of the US, at any rate, is one in which bureaucracy was the next brutality after force. In my family, we experienced this in the form of the “blood registration” at the turn of the 20th century.. And then there is the risible Cherokee Nation, the Lilliput of Washington-style politics… Q: Well, I was actually going to follow up on this a little. I did some checking up on your name last night. “Basan” is either Turkish or Hebrew, I can’t work out which. A: I’m sticking by Milton on this and will assert that the name is from modern day Jordan. But the name is Hebrew, yes, my father was raised Jewish. Q: Milton? A: Yes, in Paradise Lost the town of Basan is one of those dominated by Moloch. It’s still on the map. Q: You’ve spoken a lot about indigenous Americans, but looking at you, you look much more, err, Jewish. A: Good point. If we start measuring blood like Nazi’s you’ll find me to be 1/2 Hebrew (Jewish relates to a religion) and just a miniscule 1/16 Cherokee, with the remaining bits being mostly Macedonian with a trace of Scotch. If you’re out for binging, I’d make a lousy drink! Q: So why.. A: Why all the talk about Cherokees? I don't know. I’ve always had a hard time identifying with the Jewish side of things. One reason is that the religion never featured in my life. My mother is a devoted Christian, I am an atheist. The whole Israel question further complicates things. Also, my sister and I were quite close to my grandfather on the Cherokee side.. Anyway, I’m bored with this topic. This is the last day, can we move on? Q: Sure. I wanted to ask about your current projects. What are you working on? What do you have planned? A: This’ll probably take up the rest of the interview! As you know, I’ve spent a good part of the year preparing my Ph.D. application, because of this I haven’t been able to do much in the way of real writing, aside from reams of notes made here and there in transit. That said, I did write quite a bit on Gins and Arakawa at the beginning of the year, culminating in a kind of crappy review of their book “The Architectural Body”. I’m going to go back to that as soon as I can. Madeline sent me a review copy so I really owe her one. I also started the year writing about 100 post-card instructions – poems to be constructed by someone else I another place. I want to do something with them, but soon after I finished the first batch, the Iraq war broke out and I felt the cards were somehow superfluous or fatuous. So I started writing a project I called “A Modest Proposal Revisited” in which I make Swiftian suggestions concerning the Middle East in the business presentation genre, with ppt. Slides and everything. Again, this is half done partly because I wanted to put it online and I don’t have the technical ability to do something like that. The other reason was that other obligations prevented me from finishing. Since then, I lost the ppt slides in the same computer crash that destroyed the sound script you found yesterday. At least I have most of the script in my notebook (mead notebook that is). Those are the two major projects I plan to finish around March next year. I still have some poems and bric-a-brac I need to polish up. I pretty much finished one called “Brancusi’s Car” the other day. I like experimenting with reducing and cutting away words as part of the process of the poem, as well as with patterning. “Brancusi’s Car” is like that. It’s inspired from a John Cage quote in which he says that the car alarms in NYC remind him of a Brancusi (I think he had the sinusoidal wave in mind there). Then there is the question of what to do with hours of taped noises. I had to do a lot of travel around Tokyo this summer doing interviews etc. so when I got the chance I’d take out my tape player and record anything really. I started putting those together, but I need to find some better software. I have a copy of Acid Pro, but I have no idea how good it is. Basically, I want to layer the sounds with music (especially a couple of Nono pieces) that features silence. Then there is the question of my sound scores. Either I need to get people together to read them or I’ll use the same software to do it all myself. Err. But first I have to find them all. Q: You aren’t the most organized of people, are you? A: No, although not usually this bad. It’s just that I work a lot and have the application to think about. That is my number one priority right now. I need community, poetry and arts community, and I see it in the US. Also, my studies feel like “unfinished business”. If I don’t go back, some abstract study mobster is going to put a severed horse head in my bed. I’ll know I made the wrong decision. Q: we need to finish.. A: Yes. Well, thanks for allowing me on the blog.


Ben got called out to do a few interviews about 10 mins after I arrived. After waiting 45 minutes for those to finish and then for him to go out and get an aloe drink, I’m a little tired. At least I had time to read Stephen Vincent’s excellent piece on Wounded Screams ant Walter Road. I also rummaged through his bag and found a sound score that he thought he had lost in a computer crash. He was looking pretty grumpy before I declared the find, but now he is decidedly confused. Apparently, he can’t remember which program he used to make the score, so at the moment, it’s a crumpled bit of paper Q: Glad I could have been of assistance. A: You shouldn’t have been in my bag, but I am grateful. Now how long is it going to take me to remember how I made this. I’m pretty sure I used photoshop… Q: We should really get back to the questions. A: OK Q: Yesterday we finished with you talking about identity. Today is Thanksgiving. Do you have any feelings about that? A: First, I guess I should say that one side of my family is Cherokee on my mothers side. Considering the mass murder (genocide is to accept o term) committed against American Indian, at one point in my life I found the holiday to be like having a Krystallnacht holiday in Germany. I’ve come to accept Thanksgiving and Christmas as simply necessary family holidays. I no longer worry about the history of them. People need holidays and rites of passage, it’s a time to release excess tension etc.{pause} I do worry about the history, but not in relation to the holidays. The history of the indigenous people in the Americas over the last 500 years has been particularly brutal. Bureaucracy is our new brutality - I recently saw Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, which is an excellent depiction of this point – and the North American Indians still suffer from it… Q: You’re sermonizing. Judging from all the notes, notebooks, and scribbled-on things in your bag, you do a lot of writing, don't you? How to you come to poetry and writing? A: This is one of the few questions I like answering. I always enjoyed poetry and tended to make much more of an effort writing poetry than other creative activities at school. I remember writing a book of poems for my little sister once. I wish I could find them. I think they were in haiku. I only remember spending a lot of time writing them neatly because my handwriting was and is so hard to read. I developed a real interest in poetry at around the age of 13 when my father decided that I would like all his old Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Herman Hesse books. As I remember, I was reading quite a few horror novels at the time, like Steven King, and voiced my boredom with the genre, so my father just dropped these books on my bed. There was a book he gave me, The Revenge of the Lawn, I liked that a lot. You can’t deaden an interest in poetry. It’s worse than a wildfire. I’ve finished relationships over it, started relationships because of it, sadly less frequently than the former. I started writing about the same time that I started reading. Until I left university, I wrote pretty standard stuff. Sonnets, villanelles, sestina’s etc. all on pretty common topics. I was always pretty bored with the British poetry I had access to. It was after I discovered dada and then all the language poets and poets doing something interesting that really catalyzed my writing. Oh. We’re way over time. Tomorrow’s the last day, right? Q: Ok, yes that’s right.


Q: Right, where were we? A: {cough} Q: Yes, who are you? I mean, not a lot of people know who you are, wouldn’t you like to tell us a little about yourself? A: I don’t enjoy talking about myself, but I’ll try. I am quite strongly placeless. I mean many people have a hometown or a home region, or a home country, but I can’t say clearly that I have any of these. I was born in Oklahoma, spent most of my younger years in Texas, my adolescence in England (where I found closer friendships with Africans and Europeans), and now several adult years in Japan. My passport says I’m American, were is not for this piece of bureaucracy, I wouldn’t easily identify myself as American. Q: So you are American? A: I recently watched a Monty Python skit in which Picasso was doing a cross-country painting on his bicycle. As a mock sports event other painters on bicycles raced passed John Cleese, the man on the beat. Last coming through was Kurt Schwitters. Cleese calls him something like, “ the great British Kurt Schwitters”. A spectator (Eric Idol dressed in drag) points out that Schwitters is German. Cleese retorts “he died ‘ere! That makes ‘im Bri’ish enough”. The point is, I guess, that place isn't important. Space certainly is important and the function of place in space is important.. Sorry, I’ve got to finish today. A: OK. Thanks for the latte.


This Week: An Interview with Me

Exclusive to Luminations

Interviews are something like ego massages for the interviewees and voyeurism for the viewer. I need both an ego massage and to be viewed, returning from a housebound 3 day weekend. Q: Aside from flogging your name and wares around a bit, you are essentially unknown. Do you feel like an ass keeping a public blog when nobody knows who you are? A: hmm. Well, don’t waste time with pleasantries! {long pause} To answer your question, yes, I do feel like an ass. There are highly visible poets and writers out there keeping nicely written, reasonably well-considered blogs. Mine is completely the opposite. Since it’s written during my lunch break from a place where I like to keep my interests secret, careful consideration and attention to detail is virtually impossible. Still, the blog is a place for potential visibility and I do my best to put something up that might be of interest to someone somewhere. That said, I don’t usually try to communicate myself through the blog. Aside from the occasional lapse into criticism, I often use various ‘voices’ and guises. In part the voices and guises are an experiment, no doubt they also function as a type of escapism from the work environment. Q: Do you like work? A: You’ll notice my blog does not have my name on it.. that is because it is being written on company property and, although I appreciate visibility, I don’t want to be visible to my colleagues (in more ways than one, I assure you). As for work as an abstract condition (I think we’ve decided there is no such thing as real work anymore), no, I don’t like working. That said, everyone should try it, it’s good practice for the real world. Once one enters the world of poetry, I think the memory of work will remain an idle fantasy. Q: Hmm. If I can move on… A: Please.. Q: Who are you? {phone rings} A: Hello? {pause} no, I can’t, but did you know that {pause} ok. Look I’m in the middle of an interview and I think the interviewer is getting a little impatient. I mean how much time do you think he has? {pause} alright, thanks for calling, bye. {looks at me quizzically} Q: Who are you? A: Oh, that was my little boy. He loves Peter and the Wolf and was explaining that the wolf is represented by four French horns rather than the three claimed on the box. Can we finish this for today? I’ve got to get back to work. Q: OK. Are you in tomorrow? A: It’s in the contract..


I've just added Kasey Mohammad's Limetree to the sidebar. Kasey always has interesting things to say, even when they're boring. He was my favorite poster on the Poetics list for the longest time, but sadly he rarely contributes these days. He's recently been in 'a bit of bother' about some comments he made about a California poet... and indeed the comments were a little insensitive, though some of the attacks on Kasey's blunder were wholly disproportionate and injudicious. Kasey is very aware of pop culture as his post today attests (Britney Spears in Middle English). How I wish I could keep up as he does, were I not such an insufferable snob... Warm welcome to the sidebar, Lime Tree!
I’m going to be taking a bit of a blogbreak for the next few days, at least until Tuesday Japan time. Perhaps it’s obvious, but between working 12 hour days, getting together my Ph.D. application, and dealing with an overly emotional family life I haven’t got much time for, well, anything.
Finally read Jack Spicer last night… am humbled


Who is this Billy Collins? Quite happy this week that a colleague came back from San Fran with $70 worth of books including In the American Tree and the Robin Blaser Jack Spicer anthology AND some John Taggart AND some Carla Harryman AND FULCRUM I’ve been looking forward to Fulcrum since the issue was announced on the POETICS list some time back. Who is this newcomer? A Sulphur for the 21st century. Unfortunately not. There are some great articles and poems in there; I enjoyed the Bernstein/Perloff interview; but a lot of the poetry is just plain unmusical and awkward (Pat Herron is looking good though). But to top everything off is this one BAD poem from a guy called Billy Collins and an equally DULL interview. Billy Collins is new to me, really. I’ve heard his name, and wish it were only that. I understand that he is a bit of a celebrity in the US.. but then they have Fox news there too… The problem with the Collins poem in Fulcrum is that it has lines and verses that have no rhythm, no meter and visually the lines don’t even contribute to the poem. They just are in the way the gold shit sits atop the Asahi building (the difference being that the shit has become a landmark and one can’t even remember one line from the poem). Moreover, the last verse is just some quirky twist like the poems on those pastel colored poetry sites for teens. I read with bewilderment that Collins spends 7 or 8 hours a day writing. I wonder what he does with that time? And as for the interview itself, Collins and the interviewer come off as rather toffee-nosed. Aside from Collins’ odd comment about writing for such an amount of time, he also drops this peculiar off the cuff remark about Emily Dickenson. The interviewer compares Collins’ and Dickenson’s penchant for writing at home and Collins responds by saying something along the lines of, “ yeah, I’m like that, except I don’t wear the dress”. Que? This is a humor too sophisticated for me. Finally, I don’t understand Collins’ comment about there being too much serious poetry. The only serious poetry I’ve ever read was Celan, and even Celan’s writing has some humor.
I'm gradually adding links to the side bar of blogs I like for one reason or another. Today I put up Stephen Vincent's. I don't know much about him, but his prose is invariably mellifluous, even when he's cranky. Check out his blog!


BBC Radio four has a program called Desert Island Disks that involves inviting a celebrity or cultural vulture to talk about the music they would take with them on a desert island etc etc. It’s usually an extraordinarily droll affair with “best of” celebrities listing “best of” music. I think they once had Phillip Glass on, but that is hearsay. Anyhow, since I have something else to get on with today, here’s my list of desert island books in no particular order: Mechanism of Meaning – Gins & Arakawa I would have chosen Architectural Body, but it is not quite as practical as MoM. MoM is like a manual in consciousness. It’s a wonder to me how they could have actually produced something after this book… But they did, and it’s even better and many times larger. Cantos – Ezra Pound For me Pound’s Cantos are more than a book of poetry, they are a textbook in culture (or Kulchur). My breath still gets shallow when I read “And then went down to ship..” No one can write an “and” like Pound. Last Lunar Baedeker – Mina Loy I haven’t been able to part with this book since I bought it. ‘nuff said? Helen Keller or Arakawa – Madeline Gins O.k. two Gins books, so what? HK/A defies description, that’s why I call it poetry. A novel/non-fiction/philosophical tract etc etc. If one plans to write a book, reading Gins is essential because the immense complexity and planning etc that must go into her writing makes one blush armed only with these spontaneous word games. Eunoia – Christian Bok A Phenomenal Book! What can I say?.. The only problem is that I need a dictionary to read it. Collins Gem Dictionary See above… I love this dictionary because they use IPA symbols for the pronunciation key. I can’t get my head around those funny oo symbols in Websters.. From the other side of the Century – Douglas Messerli This is a great anthology (thank you Catherine!). My only difficulty with it has been that a lot of the authors I like in there are no longer in print! John Taggart to name one, ?? Godfrey to name another. Hence, this anthology is essential. Poems for the Millenium Vols. 1 & 2 Comments as “From the other side..” with the added benefit of having a truly international selection. Rothenberg and Joris really needed a 3 volume set though. The omissions are glaring, especially from more recent writers. I think in addition to this one needs to rip out the poetry from the Chicago Reviews German Writing… Two words: Ulrike Dresdner (in German is even better!). – I’m cheating, btw, there isn't a link between these books.


It's the weekend. What the hell am I doing here?? Just reading through the blog I noticed the word "laconic" (do a search with apple+f or ctrl+f) and realized that apparently I MISUSED it. And I have been misusing it for 10 years! As it was explained to me way back when in ardent discussions of the Peloponnesian war, 'lacon' referred to the idiotic simplicity of the Spartans (actually, it just means Spartan). Thus, I have always used the word to mean "moronically simple" (I distrust simple). Now I find that through some bizarre and unjust shift in use, laconic has come to mean 'terse or concise'. The Spartans must be getting a laugh out of that one... if they laugh.


Hey! Check out Sawako's The Ongoing Show to see her performance writing.


I wonder what S. is up to in Paris? We didn't really have a chance to speak before she left for a one or two month trip, so I actually had no idea where she was going. Paris, after a brief US tour. As I remember, she gets a lot of her inspiration there, so I hope it works out and she has loads of stuff to show for it. Never having made the short trip to Paris (from London), I have no idea the affect the place has on ones senses. Tokyo is certainly an overload and has given me more to write than London. In fact, London is like a huge enervating cesspit. Were I to live in the countryside anywhere on the planet I would probably take to quaffing huge amounts of beer (and growing huge amounts of marijuana), I love nature but need excessive inebriation to live in it... and would write very little between stupors. New York City makes me feel thoroughly Steve Reich and early Phillip Glass, which is a good thing.. really. 10 years ago, Athens was also a good place in which to write, though I was a classicist type at the time; Delphi, too, had some inspiring charm. The Greek islands had the same effect. (I'm very curious about the differing affects of place and space on poetic production. That is, I wonder if the ideas we bring to a place (like Delphi, the navel of the world) override or work with the space itself. It would seem most natural that they would work simultaneously.) Generally I like to write in overloaded environments, like Tokyo. Throngs of people pushing on and off of trains, Obasans darting at seats, the unplanned mass of mostly white, pink, and brick-colored concrete, flashing lights, Korean 'massage' parlors, orange-tanned men with lonsilverer hair in suits, etc etc. Speculatively, the love of such chaotic places has to do with imposing an order on the chaos, finding patterns and frequencies that are hidden under the noise. But then this doesn't really account for Rhodes, where the chaos is the transient migrations of those little red mopeds. Though frightening at times, not particularly chaotic. K?ln and Düsseldorf are wonderful places to write, if you can stay awake. I believe the Meistermenschen are real; they might write for you, if you can catch one. There's a parade ground in Die Altstadt near the river in Düsseldorf that's great for catching odd bits of continental life, like obese men with long, bushy moustaches in pastel-colored clothes, and American tourists looking for the 'right kind of mustard' to go with their hotdog. Yawn!


Speak speak. I’m totally fucking exhausted and ask myself to speak. I’m fucking hallucinating colorful trails follow anything (in)organic that moves. Fuck. Speech is markedly yours, don’t speak. Fucking identity. Don’t ask me. Certain paeans to negativity. I could be speaking or etching pinwheels in moon craters, who gives a fuck? Fuck interpenetration, we’re working on linearity right? I’m fucking tired. You’ve entered me innumerable times today, leave me the fuck alone. Choose anybody, motherfucker. Being inside you is like a Schopenhauerean porcupine. Cobwebs. Shit and the cooling fluid always sits outside you, on skin. That’s what you’re like. A pellucid gel on your thigh, a mistake.


I wonder if anyone did anything as crazy as Anal Magic between 3 and 6 New York time on the 5th of November 2003. Ahh.. I’m relieved

Remembering Bihari through assertion of homosexual friend

He said that if I were homosexual, he would score with me more frequently. Moreover, he averred, if all men were homosexual, men would all score more frequently. Considering this more closely, I realized that if all scores were homosexual, I would be more frequently. She said being warms the hearth of a woman’s pistons. Her nurse demurred at the premise; a woman’s pistons are not of the hearth. He said the hearth of pistons is not of woman, to which the homosexual warm… I said…


Selections from: Banalities from the Chinese Kurt Schwitters Flies have short legs Red currants are red The end is the beginning of every End Banality is the ornament of the Bourgeoisie The citizen is every bourgeoisie’s beginning The bourgeoisie have short flies … Every woman has an apron Every beginning has its end The world is full of clever people Clever is stupid Not all of what is called Expressionism is Impressive art …
My plan was to explain, at least a little, about the work you saw here last week. Unfortunately, some of the files I needed to upload are missing… and perhaps were never put into digital format. Let me explain. Day one was a list of quasi-aphorisms I dubbed “blaphorisms’. Since I’m writing from work etc etc. these are a personal filter on Kurt Schwitter’s “Banalities from the Chinese”. I have actually translated Schwitter’s aphorisms for my own amusement and don’t even know if they are available in English (never having read Schwitters in English). I was going to publish them here but I couldn’t find them on my HD this morning and suspect I never went beyond the pen on paper stage. If I remember, I’ll put them up tonight… The other jottings from day one were sheer madcap and I have no idea what I was doing. The rest of the week you saw my “non-events”. What is a “non-event”? (prepare for my circuitous answer) Sol Le Witt became well known for his instructional art that, as I understand, he also combined with the mail art form so that works could be created without him ever being present. Whether or not the recipients knew that he was going to send them a set of instructions is beside the point. A non-event concerns itself with the space between the instruction and the enactment of it. Simply explained, I write an instruction, which is a kind of event, but then there is the actual ‘implementation’ of the instruction: another event. Once on the screen or page, these are ‘non-events’. The non-events of last week were simple and deliberately laconic, following the theme of the week. They can become quite complex, and I think quite informative about the receptive environment of the reader. As the week progressed, I played around with these two ideas to write instructions that really weren't instructins at all. Sometimes I allowed them to veer more to the abstract, others I wanted to read like comic orders (e.g. Inhale / Expire). The major exception is Friday's fact finder about the president of the usa. In fact, I improperly called this a non-event, when it is really something else.