Tuesday, November 29, 2011

the PROTECT IP Act (S. 968) is BAD POLICY

I just received the following email from Daily Kos and thought it was worth sharing:
[P]lease take a moment to email your senators and ask them to oppose the so-called "Protect IP Act." 
Protect IP is legislation that would -- no exaggeration -- destroy the social web as we know it. In short, this proposed law would allow corporate copyright holders the ability to cut off funding and compel the government to shut down websites they deem infringing, without the need of a court order. (See here for more information on this devastating bill.) 
This poorly conceived piece of legislation has been rushed through Congress without proper debate, with only Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon standing between it and the president's desk. Pro-censorship forces have spent over $90 million to get this bill passed, we have, well, social media to fight back.
If you value Daily Kos, or Facebook, or Twitter, or any website which invites your participation, please take a moment to contact your senator. 
Markos Moulitsas
Publisher, Daily Kos

Alarmist? I don't know, but after reading the email, I searched the internet and found the following petition: Stop Censorship. After you've finished contacting your senators, it might be a good idea to click on that link and add your name.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Deconstructing the Right-Wing Alternate Reality (redux)

David Frum, via Kevin Drum:
....The thought leaders on talk radio and Fox do more than shape opinion. Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics. Outside this alternative reality, the United States is a country dominated by a strong Christian religiosity. Within it, Christians are a persecuted minority. Outside the system, President Obama—whatever his policy errors—is a figure of imposing intellect and dignity. Within the system, he’s a pitiful nothing, unable to speak without a teleprompter, an affirmative-action phony doomed to inevitable defeat. Outside the system, social scientists worry that the U.S. is hardening into one of the most rigid class societies in the Western world, in which the children of the poor have less chance of escape than in France, Germany, or even England. Inside the system, the U.S. remains (to borrow the words of Senator Marco Rubio) "the only place in the world where it doesn’t matter who your parents were or where you came from."
Some might ask, who is David Frum? A typical leftie bashing the conservative right? Actually, no. He's a well-known conservative writer (for the Weekly Standard, National Review, Wall Street Journal, and others); former fellow of the ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute; and a former special assistant to President George W. Bush--all of which will be evident if you take the time to read his very thoughtful article in the link below.

So, do you want to read more? Here's the link: When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?

Also, here's a link to Kevin Drum's blog from which I stole this post's title and opening quote: Deconstructing the Right-Wing Alternate Reality

And ... here's one more quote from Frum: "We used to say 'You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.' Now we are all entitled to our own facts, and conservative media use this right to immerse their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information."

Of course, there's an old word for this kind of activity. It's called "propaganda." We need to see through it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Meanwhile, over on Wall Street ...

And here's this quote from the NY Times:

A line of police officers surged into the crowd, shoving protestors to the sidewalk, grabbing some and hurling them to the ground, and using long batons to strike others with overhand blows. Officers then walked up Beaver Street pushing the crowd back. Many of the protestors moved around the corner joining another group sitting in a circle, at the intersection of William Street and Exchange Place.

I just can't say how inspiring this is, that regular people are willing to stand up, take a beating, and refuse to stop demanding economic justice in a cock-eyed world that defines "liberty" entirely as an issue of property rights and unfettered commerce. I only wish I could be at the intersection of William and Exchange right now. But for those who are, you have my undying respect and admiration.

Something I'm really looking forward to ....

Big Dance Theater's production of Supernatural Wife, tonight at the Walker Art Center (in Minneapolis), for which my wife and I have front row tickets.

If you're not familiar with this multimedia theater/dance company, here's a you tube clip from a different production:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Caught up in things

the mind wanders

out through our eyes, a thing
amongst things / at the command

of words / blind to itself / it radiates

from a self / this world
of immanence
& ideality / its upheavals & turbulence

become ciphers
of the visible / a texture
of Being

// exhaled //

inside a space / of vision
& movement

of humans who speak
from a pre-spatial / world, intertwined

in the roots of being
this texture
between a hand / & another hand

not contained / a spectacle
of nothing
moving / but self-moving
it ignores

what is unknown / & we awaken
to an echo of bodies

the voices of light, soil
beneath our feet / shifting

& repeating

"we are the inside / of the outside / touching"


as a question
not of lines (there is no border
visible in itself) but the mind

enters these lines
as they pass / through us

& surround us / we see / but there is
no actual awakening
to hold / suspended / transformed

in a thought

this world
that demands things / of things

that are not in themselves / things
the plural x
of our operations / to substantiate

we enter into a reversibility
of dimensions

into a cultural regime / a thickness
of meaning

reduced to a set / of techniques
& data / a plane
that cannot be assigned


radiates onto a map
of the visible / transforms

a world / into things
where there is neither truth
nor falsehood

& no enigma
but that of the blinding
light / of visibility

forming shadows / a reflection / opened up
& so quickly closed

"the mind is an instrument that moves itself”

a metaphysics / of depth
that our eyes & hands
cannot discover

Thursday, October 13, 2011

from Poemas y Antipoemas

Travel Notes
by Nicanor Parra (trans. W.S. Merwin)

I managed to stay away from my job for years.
I devoted myself to traveling, to exchanging impressions with the people I talked to.
I devoted myself to sleeping.
But the scenes I had lived through at other times kept coming to mind.
While I was dancing I would think of ridiculous things:
I would think of lettuces I had noticed the day before
As I was passing the kitchen,
I would think of innumerable fantastic things to do with my family;
Meanwhile the boat had entered the river,
It was forcing its way through a shoal of jellyfish.
These photographic scenes affected my reason,
They obliged me to shut myself in my cabin;
I had to force myself to eat, I rebelled against myself,
I was a permanent menace on board,
Since at any moment I might come out with some nonsense.

I have nothing to say ...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I Zimbra (Talking Heads, 1983)

a musical adaptation of Hugo Ball's Gadji Beri Bimba.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mama Keita

I have no idea who these people are or what their nationality might be, but the music is fabulous.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Djúpavík (Elsa Lefebvre, a.rawlings, Philip V. & Freyja the dog)

Does sound carry meaning in the absence of language? What is "meaning"? Does it even matter? How should we react when confronted with a performance like the one documented in the video above? Does a question that begins with "how should" have anything to do with it?

My own impressions are pretty simple: I enjoy this stuff but I can't say for certain why. As a poet, I'm always conscious of the sound words make through their syntactical interactions, but I've never worked with sound as a pure material that doesn't rely on language.

In the latest edition of Jacket2, a. rawlings asks some questions of her own, and they're quite a bit different:
Are there women who self-identify as sound poets? Who are the female practitioners of sound poetry? Where do female practitioners using this term live? Why don’t more women utilize this term? Why is the term so popular with male practitioners? Is work by women, or the rare mention of their work, a tokenist gesture so the field doesn’t seem quite so androcentric? Is there a reason why the term “sound poetry” is not an accessible, acceptable, comfortable, reasonable term for female practitioners? Is the term overly masculine somehow?

Is “sound poetry” an overly North American or English-language category? How does an English-language, Canadian and/or American sound poetry differ from klankpoëzie, klangpoesie, poesie sonore, lettrisme, parole in liberta, zaum, lautgedichte …? How do we navigate the definitional differences between North American-style “sound poetry,” twentieth-century “sound poetry,” and a more general category that attempts to include historic, ethnopoetic, and pan-cultural works using elements of sound and language?

What do we mean when we use the term “sound poetry”?

To be honest, I was surprised. I'd never considered sound poetry to be a gender-specific practice, nor had I though of it as referring specifically to English-speaking poets. Instead, I'm led to wonder about terms like meaning, or to think about the meanings we receive from non-verbal human vocalizations. Do they run deeper than "mere" affect? And what does a term like affect really mean to a human subject that uses language as a foundation for thought?

Over the next few months, Jacket2 has invited rawlings to conduct a series of conversations with a number of "North American and European poets whose work and interests often explore the materiality of language." These include Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl, Cris Costa, Maja Jantar, Oana Avasilichioaei, Leevi Lehto, Carmel Purkis, Jaap Blonk, Gary Barwin, Caroline Bergvall and Rozalie Hirs.

It should be a fascinating series and I can't wait to see what develops.

Update: Here's a link to the first installment--Sound I polypoetry: Maja Jantar in conversation with Oana Avasilichioaei

Friday, September 23, 2011

A perfect bedlam

About. About me. About something.
About the gas lamps. A cabman.

A cold gloomy. Across the road. Afterwards.
Against. A gloomy evening.

All day. All night. All over.
All soaked with rain. All the sciences.

All this month. All up. Almost menacing.
Almost suddenly. And.

And a comfortable arm-chair. And all the problems. And almost ceased.
And answered. And a sort of stream.

And began thinking. And began watching. And beginning.
And between them. And called me.

And crossing themselves. And do you know. And forget them.
And go as they will. And had been spending.

And have been going. And he had. And he too.
And how many. And I do not know it.

And if it had happened. And I have known it. And I know that.
And I let them come. And I recall them now.

And I remember. And I remember that. And it amused them.
And it had been. And it is just now.

And it was after that. And it was still. And just.
And kept crying. And lay trembling.

And loathed it. And make evident. And no doubt.
And not so much. And only.

And playing stones. And poor. And poor as I was.
And put it down. And rushed headlong.

And she. And shouted. And shuddering.
And so. And so.

And that. And there was. And there was scarcely.
And the youngest child. And two other friends.

And was followed. And went on. And what I resented.
And why. And would not.

An idea. An unmistakable. Any.
Anyone. Anything at all.

Appeared there. A retired curtain. As it was.
As I was looking. As I was thinking.

As much to them. As one could. As old as old.
A splendid revolver. As ridiculous.

A stare. As though. A table with books.
At eleven o'clock. At first I fancied.

At her. A thin little. A thought.
At me. At me.

At seeming ridiculous. At the sky. At the table.
At the table. At the table.

At the university. A whole candle. Became cooler.
Because she was shivering. Because that stare.

Before me. Between ten and eleven. Black patches.
Both she and her children. But afterwards.

But a wretched little dress. But clasping. But how much longer.
But I gave up. But I never care.

But I noticed. But not. But now.
But of the good. But one could.

But she ran. But she was. But since I grew.
But strange to say. But suddenly abandoned.

But that. But that it had only seemed. But the full realisation.
But they did not. But they laughed.

But they won't understand. But through affection. But twelve months.
But was. By a horrible.

By day. By that time. By the elbow.
By the elbow. By the hair.

Came last year. Caring about anything. Certainly be.
Colder and damper. Covered.

Crying out. Dampness. Dear to me.
Determined to do so. Did not.

Dinner that day. Disappeared. Distinctly seen.
Doing nothing. Don't even think.

Down. Drinking vodka. Each other.
Engaged in dragging. Even in.

Even physically. Even when they laugh at me. Every instant since.
Every night. Everyone always laughed.

Every year. Evidently. Existed only to prove.
Existing. Facing her.

Fathomless. Flew from me to him. For.
For a long time. For certain.

For instance. For some unknown reason. For that little girl.
For the last three days. For the last year.

For them. For the right moment. For twelve months.
From being lost. From every.

From every stone. From everything. From fright.
From the fear. From the first.

From the very beginning. Gave me a thought. Gentlemen of doubtful.
Given up thinking. Give way and confess.

Gloomier. Grew and strengthened. Had a sort of fit.
Had been falling. Had been put out.

Had been there also. Had existed in the past. Had given me.
Had passed. Had scarcely.

Half a dozen. Has been here. Has caused me.
Her hands. Her mother.

Her wet broken shoes. His behavior. How much they shout.
I am a ridiculous person. I am telling this.

I asked myself. I began to feel. I believe that.
I bored them. I bought.

I cannot tell. I could join in their laughter. I could see that.
I cut. I decided.

Identically. I did not. I did not go.
I didn't know. I do not resent it.

I don't remember. If all the street lamps. I fancy.
If at least. If I did not feel.

If it had not been. If it were not. If one looked.
I guessed that. I had.

I had almost. I had an impulse. I had firmly.
I had long had an inkling. I had solved.

I have. I have always been ridiculous. I have a room.
I have a sofa. I have of course tried.

I kept waiting. I knew. I knew I was ridiculous.
I know for a fact. I know that sound.

I learnt the truth. I made up my mind. I mounted up.
In abject terror. In a flat.

Indeed. Indifferent. Induced me to tell.
In every relation. In frightened children,

In her voice. In his cab. In me with the years.
In my armchair. In my early youth.

In old days. In one of these dark patches. In the distance.
In the end. In the future.

In their eyes as before. In the past. In there.
In the room. In the shape.

In the street. In the street. In the street I looked.
In thought. Into the lodgings.

Into them. Into the service. I only read.
I remember. I sat down.

I sat down quietly. I sat silent. I say 'unknown.'
Is burnt each night. I should go on sitting.

I should have blown out my brains. I should have shot myself. I sit up all night.
I sit up all night. I spoke without any.

I stamped my foot. I stay awake. Is that so.
I studied. I suddenly felt.

I suddenly said. It. It did not.
It did not matter. It had been going on.

It intently. It is. It lightened.
It stopped. I thought it would.

I thought that. I told her first. It to anyone.
I turned. It was. It was a child of eight.

It was myself. It was the same with life. It would have been.
I understood. I used.

I used to be miserable. I was born. I was going home.
I was seven years old. I was so proud.

I was so utterly. I went to school. Left on a visit.
Last November. Leave me.

Less cheerless. Lit the candle. Little by little I guessed.
Lived there. Lodger in the flat.

Lying in my drawer. Made a show. Made one's heart.
Mammy, Mammy. Mankind.

Mattered. Matter to me. Me.
Means despair. More deeply.

More fully. Most of all. My awful characteristic.
My friends, I said. My problems.

My room is small. Myself that night. Next to mine.
No annoyance. Nor how many.

Not exactly at myself. No they won't. Nothing mattered.
Not of reproach. Not seeming but being.

Now they call me. Now this stare. Of annoyance.
Of being. Of being angry.

Of it. Of the curtain. Of the curtain.
Of them there are. Of the partition.

Of the ridiculous figure. Oh how hard it is. Oh how I suffered.
Oh I had not settled. Old-fashioned shapes.

One man on earth. One of the gloomiest. One of them.
One of them knew. One other.

One way or the other. On her head. On it.
On like that. On the contrary.

On the third of November. Or guessed. Or that something of the sort.
Or whether there had never been. Other lodgers.

Out. Over it. Particularly.
Particularly. People in the prospect.

Perhaps from the hour. Perhaps from the time. Perhaps it was.
Possible evenings. Properly.

Pulling at me. Rain. Rain I can remember.
Really care. Regimental.

Reputation. Rousing and suddenly. Sad because they can not know.
Sadder because. Say a word.

Simply because. She called out. She had run.
She ran beside me. She suddenly pulled me.

She was in terror. She was not weeping. Shoot myself.
Shoot myself. Since they came.

Sir, Sir. Sobbing and gasping. So completely.
So far. Some passerby.

Sometimes stops. Some words. So sad as I hear them.
So that it seemed. Spasmodically.

Spite. Stoned. Studied at the university.
Suddenly. Suddenly I noticed.

Suddenly occurred. Tattered clouds. Than anybody else.
Than any other. Than the rain.

That. That curtain. That had come upon me.
That her mother. That I allowed myself.

That I came home. That I do not even hear. That I found out.
That if there were. That I might.

That I remain. That I should shoot. That is I shall.
That it should. That it was all the same.

That I was absurd. That I was ridiculous. That I was ridiculous.
That I was ridiculous. That many.

That night. That night. That note.
That nothing. That nothing in the world.

That something. That's why. That the curtain.
That theory. That there was nothing.

That there would be nothing. That they are. That very day.
That was. That was because.

That was growing. That would be. The evening.
The evening could not be. The landlady.

Them. The more I learned. The more thoroughly.
Then. The night before.

Then I left. The other side. There had been a fight.
There never had been anything. There was only.

There were. The same consciousness. The same evening.
The sky. The stares gave me.

The street. The thought I don't know. The truth.
The truth. The words I understood.

They are all dear to me now. They caught my eye. They did not know.
They got excited. They saw it.

They talked of something. They were not offended. They won't take him.
This little girl. This pride grew.

This showed itself. Though I realised. Though she did not articulate.
Through something. Through the partition.

Till daybreak. To anyone. To a policeman.
To avoid his acquaintance. To be precise.

To be seen. To be the only one. To call someone.
To confess. To drive her away.

To find something. To go. To help.
To kill myself. To knock against people.

To manhood. To me. To me.
To me. To me as I went.

To me that. To my fifth drink. To my school mates.
To notice them. Took me.

Took out the revolver. Too petrified. To them.
To the terrible misery. To think about.

To this day. Two chairs. Two lives before.
Two of them had been. Trifles.

Understand it. Up at the sky. Wall.
Wander through my mind. Wanted to complain.

Was bored. Was dying. Was empty.
Was going on. Was happening.

Was horribly. Was my own fault. Was rising.
Was sleeping. Was that.

Was the conviction. Wearing nothing. Were in mortal fear.
What had I. When I had put it down.

Whether the world existed. Where there are. Which.
Which could not utter. Which was of more consequence.

Who had been taken ill. Who knew better. Who knows the truth.
Why. Why it was.

With a garret window. With a kerchief. With all my sorrow.
With American leather. With an angle.

With complete conviction. With every year. With her.
With me. With old furniture.

With people. With science. With two little children.
Would have never. You can not care.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Filtering the light through a system

I. What it will do

We are in danger of forgetting.
Analysis of the sound.
Driven away as violently as from our bodies.
We answered that we entirely agree.
The framework of poetics.
Into the text as into the world.
As of something limitless, unbounded.
A dominant that can be defined.
To strengthen by repeating.
The magic of illusion.
Its mandatory and inalienable constant.
The equivalent of destiny, to confuse.
Facing a self-inflicted death.
Not an invisible portion.

II. On the verge of being discovered

"We cannot fall out of this world."
An indispensable device.
La nouvelle de l'ancien.
Feeling of an indissoluble bond.
The role and structure of other components.
An arid millennial ground.
More certain than this feeling.
The art of a given epoch.
To foresee the unforeseeable.
To maintain clear and sharp lines.
Viewed as a particular.
Like music, our stream of phantasms.
Subject to disturbance.
Artistically focused.

III. A passionate and precise interrogation

From the beginning.
Criteria and its composition.
Extraordinarily rich and inventive.
The analogies might be too remote.
Proclaiming self-sufficiency.
Prolonged by a production of forms.
The more general problem of preservation.
Words in and for themselves.
Each stage of rapture inscribing.
A destruction of the memory-trace.
The referential function.
So full of luminous torrents.
Dovetailed into a jumble.
The exclusively aesthetic function.

IV. These waves, these floods, these outbursts

Things that are unimaginable.
Not unchangeable.
Kept in the dark about themselves.
Historical sequence in spatial terms.
The hierarchy.
The fantastic tumult of drives.
It has only one justification.
A more infinite relationship.
Resisting death.
In pictorial terms.
Precisely toward the sign.
Enough to take the edge off.
It bows to the objection.
A question of disappearance.

V. An oblate consideration

In no sense preserved.
Subsidiary and optional.
Once the eyes have shuttered.
A city is a priori.
The most artistic of all devises.
Intact unto themselves.
The thymus gland and childhood.
Monolithic, more synthetic.
In the trembling equilibrium.
Until it has attained form.
A scrutiny of transitional regions.
Confined to the narrow room.
To represent this phenomenon.
An instability of boundaries.

VI. The territory is black

For the past to be preserved.
Letters, diaries, notebooks, and travelogues.
We might fail.
This feeling of infantile helplessness.
Atonal complex of values.
Internalized as horror.
Which constitutes the ideational content.
Continual shifts in the system.
The infamous logic.
By withdrawing from the world.
Our alleged carelessness.
We see a physiological basis.
Our lovely mouths.
Their rhythms and their styles.

VII. Regression to the primordial

Our blood flows and we extend.
The non-canonical version.
Trances and ecstasies.
Not afraid of lacking.
Reinstated, rehabilitated and recognized.
The riddles of this world.
Omitted, brushed aside at the scene.
As erroneous and shabby.
Placated by our signs of remorse.
The opposition.
A name in the realist canon.
One would like to mix among their ranks.
Confounded with the history of reason.
And condemned.

VIII. To address ourselves without meaning

The privileged alibi.
Corresponding to our requirements.
An intoxicating substance.
For there have been failures.
Our liberation has promoted.
The idea of life having a purpose.
At odds with tradition.
Contemporaneous masters.
At loggerheads with the world.
Harrowing explosions.
The prevalent sound of this epoch.
Withdrawn from contracts.
A radical mutation of things.
Temporarily suppressed.

IX. From the external word we rage

Every structure is for a moment.
Important impulses toward overcoming.
The pressure of these possibilities.
That never hung their heads.
On chronological cross sections.
A suffering which comes from elsewhere.
Indispensable ruptures and transformations.
A visible awareness.
Recommended by the various schools.
Returning to the body.
To novelty as a deviation.
Put into practice by the uncanny stranger.
A determined refusal.
And other methods.

X. Access to our native strength

Of the contraband.
Against the sufferings which may come.
Which have been kept under seal.
Repeated attempts to shift.
A happiness which can be archived.
A place reserved for the guilty.
Episodic and anecdotal gestures.
An attack against nature.
Those who must urgently learn to speak.
Without elucidation.
To be intimately bound up.
Without a body, dumb and blind.
Obscured by questions.
To influence their own retentions.

XI. Entirely lost for words

Ground, sky and language.
Achievements of the concept.
Suffering from a sharp sensation.
Governed by the phallus.
The idea of mechanical agglomeration.
Intimately bound.
Phenomenal chains are not sufficient.
Those which speak in the masculine.
The easy liberation.
An existing norm.
The margin or the margin of margins.
So highly prized as a benefit.
Isolating the former from the latter.
Never simple or linear.

XII. Interdependence of the external

Its immanent laws.
Imperceptibly touched.
The satisfaction of a controlled impulse.
To explain the tempo.
A relationship to our voices.
In the case of inhibition.
An analysis of correction.
"She writes in white ink."
Of forbidden things.
Submitted to investigation.
A metaphor, necessary and sufficient.
The displacement of libido.
Methodologically fatal.
Curtailed no more than the relation.

XIII. In giving the fantasy body

A unique solution, the question.
What touches you.
The intensity is mild.
More productive than agreeing.
It arrives, vibrantly.
Special dispositions and gifts.
Problems of the crucial chasm.
Histories and intersections.
The furnishing procedure.
Clearer today than it was tomorrow.
Simultaneity in several places.
Development of the bleak sensation.
Primarily from the official voice print.
In thought, in every practice.

XIV. To carry out

Entitled to the leading position.
The staggering alteration.
Reality as the sole enemy.
Problems in the verbal structure.
An enticement machine.
Reality is too strong.
An integral part of linguistics.
Theorized, enclosed, coded.
Like a paranoic.
Into music, ballet, graphic art.
By peripheral figures.
Classed among the mass-delusions.
Transgressing the frame.
They hesitate to admit or deny.

XV. The path on which we first encountered

Between a world and the word of concerns.
A possibility or the pertinence of distinction.
Based on the value of love.
To sing out of key with logicians.
Undoing the work of death.
Under which things are felt as beautiful.
Based on a current but erroneous interjection.
Only from the living boundaries.
This aesthetic attitude.
A close correspondence, and much closer.
In a sequence of struggle and repulsion.
Nature and the origin of beauty.
An influence from the emblem.
Of theorized castration.

XVI. Attributes of the sexual object

As its focal point.
Not enclosed in a false theater.
A problem of hermeneutics.
Has remained vital or has been reviewed.
Each object located in ‘self.’
The nature of our talents.
Experienced by the present.
Manifest and insistent.
As a last technique of living.
Not to be confused with light.
A great shadow from the scepter.
The pleasurable yield.
Concerned only with wages.
The old pattern firmly anchored.

XVII. Into a mass-delusion

A series of successive descriptions.
Their desire for reality.
Of God's inscrutable decrees.
A system of connected subcodes.
If they fall apart on discovery.
We have been given an answer.
Protean, fluctuating phenomena.
“She's beautiful and she's laughing.”
The reacquisition that adjusts.
A brilliance of imprecision.
The two lobes differ slightly.
An attitude of changed definition.
The emphatic disavowal.
To be associated.

XVII. A piece of unconquerable death

A radical experiment in reduction.
Yet to be written.
We come upon a contention.
In all the variety of its functions.
Infinite and mobile hostility.
This strange attitude.
Factors of any speech event.
It is not about possibility.
Neurotic because we cannot tolerate.
The message requires destination.
Abrupt and gradual awakenings.
A return to context.
A different function of language.
Timorous and too soon.

XVIII. It is unnecessary to enumerate

An impression of emotion.
Blindly yielding.
Is not the only precondition.
Laid bare by interjections.
We invent the impregnable.
The voice of pessimistic creation.
From the standpoint of information.
Surrounded by a vascular plexis.
It is difficult and barren.
We cannot restrict the notion.
The very idea of pronouncing.
This method of looking at things.
An angry or ironic margin.
Stops short before the word.

XIX. A victim of inquisition

Phonemic and in the emotive.
Sweeping away syntax.
Describes the whole sum.
Mere variants of one and the same.
A force unleashed.
It has no hesitation.
As the animal reaches its form.
Flying in the face of language.
All activities and every resource.
The same elliptic sentence.
A language to crawl inside of.
A gigantic force for our disposal.
All such emotive cues.
To internalize or manipulate.

XX. In the photographic chaos

Not liable to a truth test.
Hidden worlds.
We can feel at great distances.
The imperative not to be challenged.
The agents of incidence.
A voice from an absent person.
Inferred from the triadic model.
After women and birds.
He first appeared as a feeble animal.
Composed of a central mass.
Jumbling the order of space.
Embodied in his gods.
To conjoin our continued attention.
A gesture that cuts.

XXI. A kind of prosthetic God

Dialogues of a minor import.
The differentiated puncture.
In this field of civilization.
Degenerating into tiny islands.
Volcanic, as it is written.
Cultivated and planted.
Where emotion is faithfully rendered.
In order to smash everything.
To repudiate the first demand.
Acquisition of a mother tongue.
An obstinate future.
Far from exhausting these demands.
The sole function of verbal art.
A taste of free air.

XXII. We are astonished to learn

Attempts to reduce the sphere.
A movement of moral indignation.
Tissues of the fragment.
Promoting signs of the palpable sign.
Adventures into anonymity.
Laid down once and for all.
Focused on the third person.
A whole composed of parts that are wholes.
Known as fractures.
Stress is always assumed.
Changing ensembles, a mechanized cheer.
Beauty, cleanliness, and order.
A sequence inside the equation.
Our anatomy.

XXIII. Demanded of us by the structure of hygiene

Delimited boundaries.
Inscribed by these words.
Ideas of a possible perfection.
Latent manifestations of the function.
Discerning contours.
The motive force of human relation.
Raised to law.
Ephemeral and passionate sojourns.
Broken in favor of the individual.
The same figure of meaning.
Passed into infinity.
This final outcome is compulsory.
Our primary essence.
Inactive because of transmutation.

XXIV. Justice demands that no one escape

Entirely within our competence.
The flying colors, leaves, and rivers.
The simple task of observing.
Superimposed upon the other functions.
Sand, coral, seaweed, tides.
We have been careful.
Effected by sections of the sequence.
Of any same, or any other.
Synonymous with perfection.
An indispensable occurrence.
Dragged into the chain of substitutions.
Which lead to a different moment.
The number of syllables in an upbeat.
That still invisible other.

XXV. It lay in its own hands

Distributed among the successors.
An ablation, so they say.
Superimposed on the iterative pixel.
Commemorated by desire.
Great powers were cooperating.
Prepared with a high degree of profitability.
Grayish pink in hue.
Joined by connective tissue.
The inertia of the unstressed.
Living means wanting.
A recognition of love.
Gratification from the unexpected.
Still impressed by our brief commotions.

XXVI. A small unraveling

We are inclined to disambiguate.
A second zone within the margin.
Evenly suspended, steadfast.
To say that conspirators are tried.
The oldest of political farces.
Civilization loses its ambiguity.
We ourselves become metrical rules.
A virtuous debasement.
Retarding and restraining influence.
Far from an abstract scheme.
Outside the theoretical.
We are connected to difficult tasks.
The slightest infringement.
A precise link in the chain.

XXVII. The expedient distribution

Insignificant clamor.
Classified into species.
Effecting both women and men.
A system outside of language.
To make love, to invent.
To deal with sequentials.
Arriving over and over repeatedly.
Inconvenient to describe.
To unhoard.
From our intentional avoidance.
Stultifying the strange.
An intonational constant.
The history of life.
Somewhere else we hope.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wild Night in El Reno (George Kuchar)

A short 1977 film by George Kuchar who died Tuesday at the age of 69.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The uncertainty principal

Writing about creative ideas in general, Marianne English at Discovery News discusses a study released by Cornell University that examines a common bias arising from subconscious motivations to reduce feelings of uncertainty when confronted by the results of unconventional thinking: "In essence, feeling uncertain seemed to stifle people's ability to recognize creativity."

Here's the abstract from the study:
People often reject creative ideas even when espousing creativity as a desired goal. To explain this paradox, we propose that people can hold a bias against creativity that is not necessarily overt, and which is activated when people experience a motivation to reduce uncertainty. In two studies, we measure and manipulate uncertainty using different methods including: discrete uncertainty feelings, and an uncertainty reduction prime. The results of both studies demonstrated a negative bias toward creativity (relative to practicality) when participants experienced uncertainty. Furthermore, the bias against creativity interfered with participants’ability to recognize a creative idea. These results reveal a concealed barrier that creative actors may face as they attempt to gain acceptance for their novel ideas.
The study itself dealt with practical applications of creative thought, e.g. product design, but it seems like it might also apply to unconventional poetry, i.e. when confronted with a "difficult" or highly innovative poem that relies more on conceptual structure (or creative reference to external concepts) than a sense of traditional aesthetics, many readers and critics disregard the creative attributes of what they've encountered and judge the poem to be without merit--even though they've neglected to seriously engage the criteria by which the poem has been created.

In other words, the discomfort that some feel when confronted with uncertainty becomes a basis for a negative aesthetic judgment, regardless of the potential "quality" of a poem that--in its unconventional approach--builds from a challenge to ordinary concepts of meaning, language, or aesthetic inquiry. In this sense, we could say that "difficult poems" are rejected not because they lack quality but because they are difficult and unsettling. We don't know what they mean so we label them as meaningless or poorly written and judge them accordingly. The problem, of course, is when a judgment utterly disregards the creative (even dynamic) attributes of a poem only because it doesn't fit a predetermined model of what a poem should be.

Frequently, the relative inaccessibility of some contemporary forms of poetry is cited as evidence of poetry's popular and aesthetic decline. I can accept this as an explanation for a limited audience when it comes to some types of poetry--difficult poems require inquisitive readers who are willing to think creatively about what they encounter--but is a judgment of poor quality (i.e. a lack of aesthetic or literary merit) valid if that judgment arises from a subconscious distaste for radical innovation that prevents a reader or a critic from seriously examining (or even recognizing) the criteria by which the poem was created?

Anyways, its something to think about.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

To plunge (irresistibly forward)

"Every moment of our life belongs to the present only for a moment"
--Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Vanity of Existence

Every evening we are poorer
by a day

We would perhaps
grow frantic

at the sight of this ebbing


of our short


of time

were we not
secretly conscious

in the profoundest

of our being that we share

in the inexhaustible

of eternity

out of which
we can forever draw

new life

Monday, August 15, 2011

Megitza Quartet

Yesterday, my wife and I saw this band perform at an outdoor festival on the Minneapolis river front and were completely blown away. These You Tube clips don't really do their music justice but, even so, here's another one ...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Last kind words (Geechie Wiley)

Johannes posted this over at Montevidayo (which has become one of my favorite blogs).

Did the song grab your interest? Then go ahead and read the essay that accompanied it: The “Corpse Language” of Geechie Wiley, Ezra Pound and HP Lovecraft (or The Necro-Media of the Image)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hard times come again no more (Kate & Anna McGarrigle & Friends)

Kate & Anna McGarrigle and friends:
Rufus Wainwright (son of Kate)
Emmylou Harris
Mary Black
Karen Matheson
Rod Paterson

Monday, August 1, 2011

Corps d'esprit

Being substantially different.
How could either domain be said
to cause changes in the other?
Now: examine the disjunction
between mind & body. The penis
swells because the male amygdala
is located in the corpus cavernosum.
The penis swells because her lips
are moist & her eyes are smiling.
The penis is not a person but we call
him Dick. Look! There's the scrambled
man from line 24. His eyes his eyes return
to form, thinking, if I touched her breast
it would be just like stepping into a pool
of skin-deep water. ("Bone up" is a phrase
we can wrap our mind around.) The word
"en-masse" was late for mass, but the diva
delivered her ass. Dipping her brain
in a flute of champagne. The body
lurking there within a dainty skull
unfurls. A thick cloud of battered spirit
fried in boiling grease might prove
as doubtless. The ailment of alimentary
fools. Governor Squirt & his ex-rat
from Mafia Corners: "Who sucked the blood
from my blood-sucking toads?" Along these
lines, tumors come to mind. Craniectomy.
(It don't mean Beijing if it ain't got that bling.)
"Mange, ceci est mon corps, mon corps
d'esprit." Soup du jour? "Primordial." Stiff
as a dick, as old as ass. Hermeneutics
of the rational omniverse. "Foreigners,
countrymen, lend me your nipples."
Wealth & vacuity, stealth & annuities.
(One thing we can always count on.)
The coins the coins reigning from the sky
of mind: a map of our neural pathways.
"She had a dead squirrel / I saw it twirl."
We reasoned with her until she came
in brilliance, crying, "cogito ergo sum!"
(Do wop do wop do wop do wop do wop etc.)
In other words, don't touch me there,
touch me "there." Inkstained multitudes.
This is your bed. "You can lead a horse
to slaughter but you can't make it blink."

Mallarme is Dead (David Michael Walach)

Text and image by David Michael Wolach.
Audio by David Michael Wolach and Tyler Bennett.
Translated from Tyler Bennet, "People of the Book," Slightly West, 2008.
Translation of translation, "To Jabes," first appearing in Crit: A Journal of Poetry, 2008

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wild and Strange Language: can a word do more than carry meaning?

A panel discussion with Lyn Hejinian, Ron Padgett, Carl Phillips, and Kay Ryan.

This is only a small part of the discussion, but it seems to get right to the heart of the subject at hand: is experimentation with language (as a multi-faceted object of sound, emotion and meaning) justified as a poetic end in and of itself; does it need to be contextualized within a more conventional sense of poetics; or are conventional semantics more important (and, hence, vital to poetry) because words, first and foremost, are units of meaning?

On a fairly regular basis, I run into people who criticize poems they don't understand or comprehend, and frequently this criticism seems to stem more from an unwillingness to appreciate a use of language that moves outside a restrictive, traditionally meaningful norm. Such an opinion might assert that poems of this sort are incapable of being understood, and that they violate the norms of language in a way that diminishes, rather than expands, the potential of poetry, i.e. they don't mean anything so they are of considerably less value as a poem.

But, on the other hand, meaning can also be said to derive from experience, and the meaning of sound is not restricted to lexical potential alone. For instance, instrumental music can be very meaningful in the complete absence of vocal language. The cry of an eagle, or the sound of trickling water, or wind through the trees, can be equally powerful. In fact, onomatopoetic language has a long history of suggesting sense to the human mind rather than reason.

So, if a poem can be created that avoids lexical meaning yet manages to overflow with a sense of non-rational experiential meaning (at least for those who are open to this potential) wouldn't that be quite an accomplishment? And wouldn't it be worth noting that not only has it been done before, but it is also a practice worth continuing? Or that 'quality' in poetry is not necessarily limited to the accomplished use of rhetoric, narrative, or lyrical imagery?

It's something to think about.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Who's stealing your money? (short thoughts on two different approaches to healthcare reform)

I know there are more pressing political issues going on right now than healthcare reform (i.e. the debt ceiling crisis created by House Republicans), but I think it's interesting to consider a major (and rarely discussed) difference between Democratic initiatives in the Affordable Care Act and Republican initiatives as exemplified by Paul Ryan's plan for Medicare reform, aka privatization via a direct voucher system.

In the case of the ACA, Democrats are seeking (among other things) to bring a large pool of relatively healthy people (i.e. those who are between the ages of 18 and 30) into the private health insurance system via a mandate for individual coverage. Conceivably, this brings more revenue into the private healthcare system while at the same time creating public subsidies for those who (due to our wonderful free enterprise system) cannot afford insurance.

Conversely, in the case of Ryan's plan for Medicare, Republicans are seeking to dismantle a popular government-run single payer system and transfer the entire population of elderly Americans onto the private health insurance system while, over time, decreasing the size of vouchers relative to actual premium costs, thus pushing more of the premium onto "medicare" recipients. But only for those who are currently under 55. (Disclaimer: I'm 51 years old and this bothers me to a fairly extreme degree.)

Now, I realize that these are essentially two different issues, but think about it: if your private insurance company begins to insure a portion of the costliest demographic (i.e. those who are between the ages of 65 and, um, death) and you pay premiums into this privatized pool, do you think your rates will go up or down? Conversely, if a private insurance company begins receiving premiums from a considerably healthier segment of the population (i.e. the young, many of whom are currently holding out for a job that might provide health insurance), how do you think that would effect your premiums?

Now, think a little further: the highest paid CEO in Minnesota (my home state) is Stephen Hemsley - top executive at UnitedHealth Group Inc. In the last two years (2009, 2010), his total compensation exceeded $150 million. If total costs for UnitedHealth go up (due to providing coverage for a pool of seniors who had previously been covered under Medicare), do you think he (or his well-paid board) will let executive compensation from salary, bonus, and stock options decline? Or do you think (just maybe) that UnitedHealth would be more inclined to raise premiums for all their customers? Granted, they would still have to be "competitive," but presumably most private insurers will be subject to the same pressure: covering medical bills for seniors who had previously been covered by Medicare.

Incidentally, beginning in 2013, the Affordable Care Act will limit the deductibility of remuneration paid to officers, directors, and employees of health insurance issuers to $500,000 -- which sounds pretty reasonable to me. Why? Maybe because I have a high deductible plan (Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota) that runs nearly $300 a month and I'm currently selling plasma to help pay for a $1200 medical bill that the plan did not cover. Do you think I think compensation for Stephen Hemsley should be considered a deductible expense for doing business? Of course not. I resent my own bills, and I resent Hemsley's salary - even if I'm not a customer of UnitedHealth.

So, I might also add that Patrick Geraghty, the CEO at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, was paid more than $1.5 million in 2009. That's certainly not high by UnitedHealth standards, but still: wouldn't 500 grand be plenty? After all, I'm paying $300 a month for an insurance plan administered by Geraghty that sticks me with a $1200 medical bill. Further, everyone is accustomed to this: it's "normal." And I hate this concept of normal. I think we need a new normal.

Single-payer Medicare-for-all would have been a good option, don't you think? Well, maybe you don't -- and, unfortunately, it's never been seriously considered. But, for the sake of comparison, how much do you think Donald Berwick -- Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid -- gets paid every year? After doing a little research, it appears he's paid at Level 1 of Salary Table No. 2011-Ex (Salary and Wages, U.S. Office of Personnel Management), or $199,700. That's a healthy salary, to be sure, but by UnitedHealth standards? I don't think he'd even be allowed into the executive washroom. And he certainly doesn't get any stock options.

Of course, this is an over-simplified analysis on my part. But when it comes to healthcare reform, I think I'm more inclined to trust the Democrats than the Republicans. And, if you consider the current insanity over the deficit ceiling, I really don't think the GOP can be trusted at all. Especially when they want to overturn the ACA first and then follow up by dismantling Medicare. So, think about this additional tidbit: if the ACA does away with the practice of denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, how many seniors under Ryan's "medicare" plan would struggle to even find coverage? How many would even be able to afford it? Do you think Republicans will seriously address that problem? [Hint: they haven't yet.]

The bottom line is that we should all be thinking about this stuff. And you know $tephen Hem$ley is.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Strange Things Begin to Happen when a Meteor Crashes in the Arizona Desert

Music by Mark Engebretson
Words by Michael Basinski
Images by Wendy Collin Sorin

Recording from a live performance by Janice Misurell-Mitchell
at the 2010 UNCG New Music Festival.

Plus, here's a link to an interesting review of Basinski's book by Tom Hibbard in Jacket Magazine.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A map of anything

1. Depiction of the real

a bliss
at the edge of displacement
almost touching

beside the fire or in the cupboard
closeted meanings
cramped & feinting
disposable pale irrelevant

2. Flowers & faces

in fused unison
it started with a buzz
listening to voyeurs
(not quite immoral)
pills & coughing
some random image or thought
splicing the distance
(there is no agonist)
the strain of words
where everything is thin
& waif-like

3. Wit & enunciation

the city
of marketing research
like a holy proposal
I don't disappoint / need / enjoy
gun-toting structures
breeding their precepts
as far as the head can spin
an ad hoc conjunction

4. Far removed from the context

A cluster of beliefs.
All order and explication is deployed.
And they allow ... flowers.

Considered by other texts.

Everyone is involved.

History does not have a goal.

In complete contrast:
Is it really impossible that its leaves quiver when there is no wind?
It rises above the rays of a black sun.
Its relation is to the world.

Ongkarn Chang Nam

(Proclamation Cursing the Water)

She has just finished drinking something.
Studying the inside of life.
Styles & movements.

"... taking off a mask finding a mask ..."

"... the land of dreams / the far side of the sky."

The circle of houses and temples.
The drawings are clearly connected.

"Their foolish eyes."

The lyric speaker and the far flung hyperbole.
The monarch described as an avatar.
The phenomenon explained by a hypothesis.

5. The author's self within the work

The standard of perfection.
To present something "as it is in itself."
To some transcendent Reality.
To substantiate the canonical mystery.
Which accords primacy.
Which has been set in advance.

6. Fluent Gibberish

First psychology
Years the intensification
And many by argument
As that wake by wake
As introduced generation only according
Others are in followed market quoting
Thus in composition intended to question
Wrote again

7. Dat gaat niet

the simplest solution
(admit defeat)

8. Noinimod

Home come and war the win to is
wants man fighting the what that know folks
show. / Merry forever, ferries of fleet a. / Remanded
sorrows the, sanded are feet clay the / one
by one. "Expressive as off come to shout
to have didn't you days those in." Beside
steps / two, over steps three hobbles surgeon dream
the / decoration by bludgeoned, harmony by / braced. Home
slaughter the of ponies / circus the -- distraction demands dominion.

9. Titles are a means of control

The fire of his own confliction,
Echoes, parentheses, hush'd whispers, fear-stalk, steel-thread, brow and sweat,
His hesitation and conception, the pounding in his temples, the parsing
              of stones and blood in his silence,
The cracking of dry bones and broken bones, and of the sky and bright-lit
              monoliths, and of coins in the coffer,
The chill of the dead lips of his voice o'erwhelmed by the commotion of smiling,
A few dry kisses, a limp embrace, a remission of sins,
The sour of his breath and rot on his words as niceties dumbly wane,
Sorrow alone or in the cold-stare of populations, or in the almighty
              shadow of glass-clad towers,
The tight fist of discomfort, the full-sun blazing, the funereal dirge of no one
              flailing or fleeing.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"The Menage" by Carl Rakosi

Poem by Carl Rakosi
Reading & Pictures by Anne Waldman & Ed Bowes
with Elizabeth Reddin & a song by Jean Redpath

Open Book (Vito Acconci)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tinariwen, or the Curse of Not Paying Enough Attention to Upcoming Events

There aren't many bands that I get very excited about anymore - at least not enough to actually get off my ass, buy a ticket and catch a performance. Tinariwen is a notable exception. So, imagine my joy yesterday when I found out they were coming to Minneapolis sometime in July.

Of course, this morning, while trying to get more details, I found out that the show was last Friday and I missed it completely. Again.

Anyway, here's a youtube clip from last year's show (which I also missed):

Update (you can file this one under "WTF?"): Tinariwen denied entry visa for two different Canadian folk festivals

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Decontextualized Barthes Quote

a x 4
all x 2
and x 2
are x 1
as x 1
be x 1
but x 2
by x 1
drawn x 1
field x 1
from x 1
he x 1
holds x 1
in x 3
is x 9
its x 2
lies x 1
lost x 1
made x 1
make x 1
not x 2
of x 4
on x 1
one x 1
place x 2
said x 1
space x 1
text x 2
text's x 1
that x 3
the x 9
them x 1
there x 1
this x 2
thus x 1
up x 1
was x 1
where x 1
which x 2
who x 1
yet x 1

any x 2
author x 1
being x 1
cannot x 1
cultures x 1
focused x 1
inscribed x 1
into x 1
longer x 1
many x 1
reader x 3
revealed x 1
simply x 1
single x 1
someone x 1
total x 1
traces x 1
without x 2
written x 1
writing x 2
writings x 1

dialogue x 1
entering x 1
existence x 1
history x 1
hitherto x 1
multiple x 1
mutual x 1
origin x 1
parody x 1
personal x 1
quotations x 1
relations x 1
together x 1
unity x 1

biography x 1
constituted x 1
contestation x 1
destination x 2
psychology x 1

multiplicity x 1

--Roland Barthes, "La Mort de l'auteur"

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Does it wake us up?

Over the past few months, I've pretty much fallen away from all things "poetic." I'm trying to get back on track, but I've been immersed in an addictive relationship to political blogs while trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with the American public. As in, why is this country so DYSFUNCTIONAL and downright INSANE?

Or is it only me? In an effort to break out of this funk, I've been catching up with a few poetry blogs. Imagine how happy I was to find this bit of wisdom over at Lemon Hound:
Life is complicated. If you’re looking for doily making, contemporary poetry is no place for you. In order to write poetry one has to be immersed, and then pull back.
Well, okay. I've been immersed in the complications of contemporary life and I'm currently in the process of trying to pull back. Because I need to find a FOCUS if I'm going to make any sense of this world and write some poetry that reflects that sense. But--assuming that I'll be successful (eventually)--what do I want this poetry to look or feel like? Lemon Hound has an answer for that too:
Over on the CBC Canada Reads book talk the other day a poet said that contemporary poetry “terrified” her students. Wow, I thought, what is she reading? I want some of that. Because I don’t think there’s enough poetry out there terrifying us. Or making us feel, or think.
For my part, I guess it comes back to a question of thinking. Is the poem offering us a way to think about something? Does it wake us up? Because it seems to me, that’s one of poetry’s great tasks.
As far as I'm concerned, that just about sums it up.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Who made Grover Norquist President?

As of Thursday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Republican Senate Whip Jon Kyl have abandoned bipartisan negotiations to raise the Federal Debt limit and prevent the United States government from defaulting on its obligations.

Negotiations wouldn't even be necessary except that the House of Representatives, under Republican control, refuses to raise the debt limit unless serious progress is made to reduce long-term deficits. Never mind that a large portion of the national debt arose from Republican legislation passed during the Bush years (two wars, two major tax cuts, Medicare part D), with Cantor and Kyl voting "yea" on each, adding $4.6 trillion of unfunded debt.

Democrats are committed to reducing the deficit via a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, but Republicans refuse to consider revenue as an important part of that equation. Former Reagan official Bruce Bartlett lays out a pretty good case that the current Republican position is just plain ignorant.

Meanwhile, Kyle and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have released a statement that reads in part:
“President Obama needs to decide between his goal of higher taxes, or a bipartisan plan to address our deficit,” Mr. McConnell and Mr. Kyl said in a joint statement. “He can’t have both. But we need to hear from him.”
Steve Benens at the Washington Monthly has a good response to their intransigence here.

Apparently Republican legislators don't know what the word "bipartisan" means, nor do they appear to be interested in 1) reducing the Federal deficit, or 2) preventing the U.S. from defaulting on its obligations. Instead, they've walked out. Quit. Vamoose.

Why? Take a good look at Grover Norquist's "Taxpayer Protection Pledge." Read it closely then look at the list of those who are committed to uphold it. Toward the bottom, you'll notice that only 13 Republican legislators (out of 290) have--so far--refused to sign.

So I ask you, who made Grover Norquist president?

[Update: Apparently Mitt Romney just signed on too. Imagine that!]

[Additional update: Bruce Bartlett weighs in again with an excellent FACT-BASED article: Will Higher Taxes Tank the Economy? ]

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Page, the Spoken Word, and "Presence"

"Poetry does not reside in either page or oracular form"

Joe Weil, writing for The The poetry blog, recently grabbed my attention with that statement, as well as the opening paragraph in which it occurred:
I always think that a poem “off the page” becomes an “act” of language rather than a poem, a thing made out of words. As such, its visual appeal (or lack thereof) is lost, but its actions are magnified—how it moves within the act of being uttered. It is no longer a poem, but an act of language. By this way of thinking, even a modernist or post modernist poem—fully constructed for its visual as well [as] verbal appeal, even a poem as a “made thing” becomes an “act of language” when read aloud. Such poems often suffer when translated from the realm of the page to that of the heard text. They were not meant to be heard. They are of the cognitive brain, and their affective, animal body is absent except as a structure of intelligence. This does not mean they become bad poems, but it does mean they are at least, flawed acts of langauge. They have a paucity of repetition, rhetoric, and tone. They have little or no mimetic force. The page poem is not poetry. Rather it is a construct in which poesis may or may not occur. By the same token, neither is the uttered poem poetry. Poetry does not reside in either page or oracular form; poetry resides in something both caused by and beyond its words and this is true even when the poem is fully on the page as words. I call this something presence.
So, what is he saying? "Poetry" is not contained in either the written or the spoken word? And where then does it "reside"? According to Weil, it resides within an occurrence, which is to say that poetry - when it is successful - does something. More precisely, an effective poem creates an experience that can be conceptual, emotional, affective, paradoxical - or god knows what, or in what combination - but it does something that can't always be neatly summarized or reduced to a product of its technical details.

I agree that a poem on the page is received quite a bit differently than it is as spoken word (and this is where Weil's post eventually heads) but I'm not sure if I can agree that "a poem 'off the page' becomes an 'act' of language rather than a poem." Granted, to speak is a language act, but, in a way, so is the process of composing or reading a poem. The only difference is that the experience of a poem received from the page, i.e. read not heard, is an act that occurs in the radical absence of its author. To my mind, this gets right to the heart of that something that a good poem does: the language act specific to poetry springs from a particular contextualization (of words, sounds, and meanings) that does not require an author's presence to remain effective or dynamic.

And when I say "dynamic" I mean that a poem acts of its own accord, even if this act can only occur in the presence of a consciousness that can understand its words and appreciate the structure in which these words have been contextualized, i.e. a poem always requires someone's presence - a consciousness in which it might act - but it does not require the presence of its author in order to act.

Then again, any good piece of writing is effective in the absence of its author. So, what is this something in which Weil says "poetry" resides? Well, for reasons I'm not entirely sure of, he focuses on the specific nature of hearing a poem rather than reading it silently to oneself; and he notes the affective, animalistic attributes of spoken word poetry as opposed to the presumably more conceptual attributes of works written for the page. So, when he identifies this something as presence, I find it interesting that he focuses on the spoken word - as spoken by a poem's AUTHOR - as a way of exploring his notion of presence.

Much of Weil's post is spent examining one of his own poems in an effort to understand why an audience member who is already familiar with this poem "on the page" would hear it in an entirely new and unfamiliar light at a reading. After an analysis of the sound and semantic details of the poem's opening lines, he concludes that "there is nothing in this poem so far that makes it spoken word friendly."

I couldn't entirely agree. Here are the lines he cites:
The world takes us at its leisure
by increments of infamy
or “virtue.”
Contrary to his own analysis, it appears to me that the strength of these lines build from an integrated pattern of stresses, long and short vowel sounds, regular beats, assonance, near and internal rhymes, and a few strong words placed at emphasized positions within the poem's rhythm. In other words, I find these lines to be anything but unfriendly to a spoken word performance. It's not slam poetry, but it doesn't need to be; these lines are both wonderful to speak (and, presumably, to hear) even though visual elements are necessarily absent in a reading.

Still, this is Weil's take on his own poem. Assuming that there really is nothing here that would stand out at an author's reading - and Weil states quite clearly that he only reads a poem aloud, he does not 'perform' it - he concludes these thoughts by saying (among other things) "If I had to think what makes audiences like this poem, it is probably the presence of a consciousness moving from thing to thing ..."

Yeah, okay. He goes on to say:
So why would my voice, a voice that is reading, not performing, win over an audience. I don’t think the answer lies on either the page or in the performance. I think it lies in presence. Presence is of a body—a form. I become my poem or my poem becomes me, and this thing of the body transcends either entertainment in performance or the sight of the poem on the page. This is the magic of the conversational lyric.
That statement starts out interesting, but, in the end, it sounds like gibberish to me. I think he's missing a more relevant question, i.e. how does "presence" find itself being generated from a well-written poem (whether silently read or heard aloud) even (or especially) in the radical absence of its author? In other words, what is this mysterious something that makes a poem "poetry"? Reading a poem and hearing it read are indeed two entirely different ways of apprehending a text, but many poems manage to draw from different strengths and shine in both situations. They do this for any number of different reasons, but the point is that a poem (not its author) acts within the consciousness of those who apprehend it.

Further, when Weil states that a poem's "visual appeal ... is lost" in the act of reading aloud to an audience, but that in this situation its "actions are magnified," he is referring to the supposed "affective, animal body" of the spoken word or speech act - the sensation of language rather than its intellectual absorption. What I want to know is why he assumes visual elements don't also act on an audience in an affective, animalistic manner during the act of reading? If a person is really concerned about where "poetry resides" (which I'm not even sure is a particularly relevant question, e.g. its like asking where does color reside?) Weil's particular take seems to miss the mark entirely. For me, the question is: why is poetry "poetry" and how does it manage to act even in the absence of a consciousness of its own?

That's a structural question, but it "resides" within a poststructural context - poetry acts within a collective environment that is conditioned to appreciate specific attributes of language within an elaborately structured context that is simultaneously conceptual and affective. It's also a question of semiotics, linguistics, literary theory, aesthetics, and any other relevant field of study you might care to come up with. It's a question that asks how a structured piece of language can exhibit dynamic tendencies in the presence of an activating consciousness that is not its author. I could go on and on.

Still, "Joe Weil is a lecturer at SUNY Binghmaton [sic] and has several collections of poetry out there," while I'm a less-than-marginal poet who happens to write a blog. But I have to wonder: isn't "poetry" something more than a charismatic script that makes a poet shine at a reading?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

This liquid thing

this liquid thing
from adhesion to adhesion
I made for you
feels undetermined
like the way you recline
at an autopsy
distasteful but true

not much is legal
a delicate hole
a sky made from glass
almost like tomorrow
owl cores & flint chips
signs so faint
the pond freezes over

what was it I found
that crushes mountains?

if we were gods
only twice
two lines in the snow
a stark light
an oddity unworshipped
secretly in cahoots
a replacement for / sequence
no matter what anyone says
in public, like this
from giant rock piles
& I'm thinking lump sums
beneath the cushions
if there's an ocean
of theory & diagnostics &
linseed oil
my extraction

eventually someone found it
double double double
(one of us wept there)
as true as Gogol’s name
years passed
just behind his teeth
a werewolf in Moscow
drinking from an inappropriate
silver tankard, no doubt

on account of the weather

it has to do with the sea
these rumors
the troubles to come
I've seen things
if you're in the mood
the sky is getting heavier
with burlap & feathers
the jiggling proletariat
filleted & full of questions

since then I got better
like the reason behind the circumstances

a delicate aroma
wearing a towel
under the couch cushion
the movements / of our feet
the rest of us in the same boat
playing dead
a still life
for which we apologized
& flattered your long, slender legs
standing there on the back step
a laced nostalgia
with no scars or sackcloth
no poems or assets
for speaking lies to power
what does it mean?

not where but how & later
lazy, dripping
wrapped in fly paper
so careless about returning
a bumper crop
too heavy for grief

even though there was no policy
the ocean the ocean
why are you lingering in a churchyard
leaving cities
to your friends fed to fishes


in the middle
uprooted, in haste

fuels of unhappiness

lit up
in the mouth
& brain
a yellow moon
a few pieces of pumpkin
the scent of smoke
narrowed eyes

it was no big secret
shirt tails tucked out
on a trail marked with garbage
tall buildings
our fortunes & our sacred
pea brains / cheap plastic
except of course
when I look back from my counting
to the field full of cats
on the projector screen

I am waiting to discover

soup in a fishbowl
a fresh ballot
a welcome mat
of waste & of waste's god
moving parts

but they don't mix
sexophone orange lace flannel
that follows you
to reunite
in the bathroom
through the turnstile
the mover said
over there
leaving no trail
behind / in the watershed

it's the moment that we're living
with distinction
the wrong kind of dirt
too many cars
shit & a feeling
of wide open speciousness

a wordless / dawn
into a fishy host

their lips in chorus
across the watery plain

two pennies
the everlasting dyad

the jumbotron
of strange commitments

on my hands
& knees
a languid fix, the future

i am more or less susceptible
a nice little locality
science fiction
the load reduced
a handshake
a formal note
cognitive dissonance
the last of the bread crumbs
a more rigid form of reprobation
but that's a whole different story