Speaking of collaboration and my pal Kent Johnson. Just received a copy of his Lyric Poetry after Auschwitz, sent me by Scott Pierce. Thanks, Scott.
I got this in my regular mail after posting my poem to Gary, with comments on collaboration and KJ, below. So coincidence. So,
Included among the book's "eleven submissions to the war" is one collaboration I worked on with KJ and, last time he and I talked, was set to appear in the final issue of Skanky Possum. That's not happened, and I guess with Kent's publishing the piece it's not going to. So,
Why in any decent vector of friendship and cooperation would Kent not ask my ok to have our collaboration included in his book? Failing a request, why not a pro forma heads-up from Kent that it would appear?
Also, while I'm at it: I find KJ's diatribe against Charles Bernstein in the afterword of Lyric Poetry after Auschwitz absurdly reasoned and bullying. It's offensive. I condemn it.
Gary Sullivan opened his comp process to the public, inviting comment focused particularly on the editing of his 'fakebook' of poetry. Responses to his invitation will be part of Gary's compilation process in gathering material. There is the additional enticement of Gary's possibly including some commentary from others within the fakebook, a socializing gesture which in a way reminds me of Kent Johnson's recent solicitation of over thirty poets to write 'blurbs' for a manuscript and concatenating these into an ironic preface of jokeful abandon and mild praise.
The externalizing of collaborative procedures is very much now, in both these instances, and returning to Gary for the moment, I'd like to contribute something I call To a Fakebook.
Your poetry is so preliminary I reserve comment
Don't get above wrong There's below to talk about
I remember those breasts
Geometry that respects the brain, Fred Astaire kind of shit.
Somebody feel like a piggyback We just drove all the way
From Michigan? Saul Bellow proves Uncreatured narcosis aggregates
Drifting toward our lives Classizing the senses
Just before you shave. I'm
Sitting on your blanket. I'm Over you now. I'm half-awake
Falling asleep in its presence. It's deeper than that really.
We infrequently see war chronicles migrating to literature. Moreover, political ire is hardly the most promising surface motive for sustaining the language and procedures of contemporary poetry. At once crowd pleasing and momentarily cathartic as it is to trash social scientists in today's Washington, in particular, the ones in charge of torture and murder, topical rant over time virtually never enjoys the staying power of a good read, much less of a good book of poems. Carol Mirakove's first book-length collection breaks precedent by piling on one outrage after another (there are plenty to choose), deploying plain semantics to make a poetry that deplores constitutional debasement through which politicos are "cooking the books to a crisp...no checks. no balance." a poetry that is foundational and daring by idealizing democracy in its lack of practice and emphasizing the poet's role in it as "living in public is a full time job."
Occupied is divided into three sections, Afghanistan, Iraq, and New Order, reportage that reorders events and consequences with utmost post-language efficiency: "I spotted / 'unimaginable' children, who looked to be / 'deeds' the age of twelve / like a catnap. locked up." The Iraq section shifts tempos, speeding along via juxtaposition in the poem self-knowingly titled "I remember" -- "unleashing waiting chemicals or be invaded" -- and slowing down to a crawl of full stops to ponder the nearly obvious -- "Chile, deadened by apathy by two decades of dictatorship. AUGUSTO / PINOCHET. what will happen to us. has happened. is. active." Mirakove reserves the last section, New Order, for a mélange of more personal cum public furies in which compassion is mocked as so much "pixie dust"; the writer's role is reduced to "denial," "long-winded change :: conceit of moral mudflaps // if your culture is broke :: extrapolate"; and a collective complicity is decried in consumerist terms, "the boy died because / filthy shelf-life keeps us from the files."
The 'light hand' of Mirakove's lyricism 'of the moment,' evident in an earlier, pre-Iraqi Freedom chap book, temporary tattoos, takes on graver times of intense turmoil and disagreement about the sources of evil planet-wide. The resonant patterns of sampled phrases for the chap book concerning pets, e-commerce, fantasy love life, and other workaday discourse re-emerge here in black garb: "I am so deeply ashamed to be at work today." There is far less fusion of daydream as fact. War does that to you. In Mirakove's case, war occasions reconditioned response -- "journalists asked 1,200 U.S. citizens how many Iraqis were among the 9/11 hijackers & only 17% answered correctly: ZERO" -- as well as application of "CPR to our blackened memory." Through her writing on warfare, Mirakove maintains her allegiances to poetic practices that are largely epistemological in that they can "make tonight another day" when (which?) "american women married" even though "i am a monster…i can contribute & bemoan. my options dotted lines. they call it 'cell damage,' / or learning as i go."
I can't afford to compose a new poem, because still I am translated Crockodile. Akuh is my teacher but he's now with me. I had never seen with person who lied. Much fun. You know what? It's searing in Korea. It's nice I have a pile of maps from Akuh sitting in the cafeteria. Really. The bookshelves are lined up and nearly bare. Send bank routing number and please. And account info.
The current paucity of flamboyant yet impressionable personalities among poets, on one hand, is a hallmark of the so-called silver age we Americans appear to be slipping and stumbling goofily into. I prefer, Moses said, that the fast-speaking and acid-addicted dwellers of mag scenes of the 70s and well into the 80s (it was all such a bullet train, for a while) are lightening up and toning down their inner ruddy imps, in love with their integrity, enjoining others against acquisition of capital and real estate. (I say good riddance to the old guys even though I'm one. I suppose. And, sure, I miss open markets in fresh sex and poetic influence. But it's still out there if you look for it. I get mine on the internet.)
After Loy, after Creeley, after Ashbery, after Helen Adam for goodness sake, among today's attention getters, what passes for poetry-outrage forces one down on one's knees begging it to please stop just for an hour, a couple of minutes, for a second, just stop, stop it. Stop and read back to what's not negotiable. That is, begging it if one noticed. This is not the age of taking note or notice, more a time for being noticed, woof, or being definitively noted. And it's a time for coveted linkage to, rather than taking notice of, others who are linked too, co-equality, I believe, of information circuitry and control-C that's cool. Hey, there are genuine breakthroughs in performance and text but far less of the dialogic mind swap among practitioners that leads to love and betrayal. Less personism to invest.
On the other hand, there is no personality, so why beat anyone up? We can read back but never go back to reconstruct the innocent-seeming turrets and loggias, the ones built on foreign capital, say, overlooking the exciting first days of liberating Presbyterianism. Or the balconies in New York, after Harvard, filling with oratorios based on love letters About our sexual habits in the early 1950s. It wasn't that these stories weren't true, Only that a different kind of work Of the imagination had grown up around them, taller Than the redwoods, and not Wanting to embarrass them, effaced itself To the extent that a colossus could, and so you looked And saw nothing, but suddenly felt better Without wondering why.
Effacing personality for a colossus. That's really cool.
Personality organized around the principle "a different kind of work of the imagination." Quality surreal?
If I were foolish, I would describe our "age," for quality assurance and training purposes, as the one just before the death of death. We are approaching New Venice. So far, our 'reports' and poetry are about the food and beaches. Lovely but. The cross-hatching which allowed our ancestors to exchange certain genetic traits for others...has just about run out of steam, and has left us wondering, once more, what there is about this plush solitude that makes us think we will ever get out, or even want to. It's nice to finally be able to put a face to the humiliating nickname.
1-800-Flowers Robert Fitterman porci con le ali 2005
Despairing of dead-ended self-regard, "the self-valuable word" embedded in instrumental discourse, Bob Perlman ("Words Detached from the Old Song and Dance") points to sources, mapping, among other things, Quintillian's rhetoric, noting key components, meaning, clarity and tasteful adornment or decoration.
Meaning and clarity are no problem for Robert Fitterman: "weeds we may not always / have emptied this meaning for / a top-growth peel-back of another."
When it comes to adornment, which involves making sense of / sense in any alteration of literal expression (via figures, montage or other prosodic devices), Fitterman is a decorator's decorator.
With 1-800-Flowers, Fitterman smartly "updates" sources for Louis Zukofsky's last completed poem 80 Flowers, a construct that "takes to new extremes of density Zukofsky's methods of composition by quotation, transliteration, and compression" (Mark Scroggins, Louis Zukofsky and the Poetry of Knowledge). Fitterman's update is one that details and in ways deconstructs these extremes by establishing compositional processes and more specifically an inventory of strategies as its topics and meta-topics; it seems less concentrated on first-order phenomena than the original, absorbing and commenting on more variations in sampled material, as well as imposing a socio-historical import to "the montage of borrowed texts." In this regard, Fitterman is correct, I think, inferring a "complex" and "compassionate emotion" on the part of Zukofsky. Fitterman's evidence for this turns at once general -- citing Zukofsky's "love of language his / consciousness of word combinations" -- and then returns as a wildly particular conflation of fate, the personal and the botanical, offering that Zukofsky compiles text and thus, like Walter Benjamin, "whims earth copulating with / itself ... bunkered ... [a] cloistered...monastery like refuge / every lawn gets winter kill / I'm an ex-chemical-fertilizer junkie go / Ask Fran... // Sometimes I feel like my / lawn is calling the shots."
Fitterman decorates with inventory of similarly conflated devices, writing in two sections "About" and "Through" Zukofsky's work. He frames Zukofsky's text as "constrictive verse" that gets "driven" by inventory, while his own lyric comprises mixed inventories within a discourse hybrid, an essay in verse, substantiation of Fitterman's exemplary reading, that is, his generatively engaging Zukofsky, as Ron Sillman observes (ronsillman.blogspot.com [7/11/05]). More splendid, Fitterman fulfills the half-audible invitation within Zukofsky's poetry and poetics, joining the firm Zukofsky & Son whose décor ethos is "precise information... thinking with the things as they exist" inside a recontextualized (if not continuous) present in which Fitterman fixes "new meanings of word against word" (Prepositions).
The update follows the formal constraints of 80 Flowers. Each page of 1-800-Flowers presents a single 8-line verse, each line limited to, yet overflowing with, 5 words (against words), new meanings for Fitterman's wider range of quotidian intersections, frequently represented with visual acuity. The verse "Toll Free" shows "mechanicalism in / the high fog ... now you can turn off / the sprinkler free lions in / the mist." Also from the second section "Through," the verse "1-800-End-Edit" begins, "Rains grammar private floral varieties," a ricochet of sorts from a poem in the first section "About" that asks how methodology "add[s] up meaning the sum of the montage."
Thinking through and about 1-800-Flowers I feel some of the pleasures for a reader-writer -- Fitterman -- who focuses on another's -- Zukofsky's -- vision, which on the page is usually unrequited, propositional. The surprise is the collaboration comes off as altogether foreseeable, both their poetries feeding and spreading into one another like a lawn "calling the shots."
A failure on all parts. Got no itch to bed a woman who strokes my cheek and writes about it as ballistic foreplay. The love-war para-metaphor hurts, kills, so don't read or be read into its smaller but smarter reinstatements. Hey, breadwinner, we're breathing in moonlight.
(a) Hermitage and freedom combine, so humane-hold-em hideaways work!
(b) The hashish of space.
(c) Focusing on accountability!
(d) Governing these days sweet Jesus is like exposing all your skeletons to gain a hilltop on seamless mannerism, or maybe it's sort of more like modifying your memories in an oblique self-interrogation where you can share your conventions and broker a plan!
(e) The Darwinian environment is a robust lifestyle of illuminating the other day when you were reading a pile of old emails that do not become a solid thing -- just impossible! -- like cutting into the same birthday cake twice and seeing blood drizzle out.
News from London translates into there's no turning back from more of the same. I feel sorry for us, for the people of the UK, for speakers of English everywhere, as well as for the language whose grimness-bearing semantics will be further enriched.
I have an appetite for writing that picks up from Gertrude Stein. Her nature is "to express things ... as they are when one sees them without remembering having looked at them" and then to chew the scenery, committed as she must be to formal blocking in stagecraft, maintaining an indomitable temperament. Climax evaporates, a textual refuge where the natural draws our attention as an ironic condition, a peripheral attraction. (I've said this before.) Writing that points to what this means. To be objective and lack will.
A driven writer like Brossard distinguishes herself taming the other and the other-directedness that she (writer) and he (reader) share.
The signature concern is a reader's experience. It's peculiarly nepotistic, however, that so many writers simultaneously figure out reader expectations, whether through prosody, flashy enjambment, polyvalanced metaphor, whack-job disjunction, or through super-flexed process- or, better, project-wise composition that wholly affords reader, critic, cherry-picked categories to grasp the project and ambient prosody within multiple, extra-literary contexts, politics, cultural construction, performance theory, and the like.
A writer's guess as to what the reader craves is a byproduct of turning herself into a reader. One writer rarely reads alone, and that's part of the saga of simultaneity. She and others pick up similar texts, comparable projects, snowballs start flying. When a writer thinks in public about what she's reading, she's taken aim and will be likely aimed at in turn. This is the yarn of opinion acclimatization, and it's hardly superfluous.
But snowballing is tedious, like any other festivity. "I want this evening to be special for both of us," a salutary howl that might characterize one friend's read (reinforcement) of another. Counter: "I hope your prostate flares up."
If this persists, the modicum of argument may emerge, as relevant to the present as a manual for Lotus 1-2-3.
I don't want festivity so much as a writer's investigation into her own iconoclasm. It would be abetting deeper juxtaposition to confront approaches to writing that bracket a readership's amusement, and explore the alarm and vacuity the writer has previously not known. How does she know? How does she improvise? What is improvisation on improvisation? What timing(s) is(are) required? How does she account for a received notion like 'being in the present'? What is present?
Just getting to the May-June PP Newsletter, sporting both tragedy and comedy masks in the last issue edited by Marcella Durand. Outstreched pieces, Kim Lyons on Ruth Altmann, Alan Davies on Brenda Iijima, Joe Elliot on Merry Fortune, Ange Mlinko on James Schuyler's letters, among the pleasures. Reviewing John Ashbery, Macgregor Card fixes half-humorously on Ashbery's connection with Caspar David Friedrich, and in Card's last parargraph he heats up over Friedrich's birthplace, Griefswald, which he translates as grief's wood. Card closes with a pratfall: "Care for a dance [in grief's wood]? 'Would I?' says Caspar. 'Wood eye?' says John." Comedy's opposing forces seem to have taken over elsewhere, tho. Michael Gottlieb on Ted Greenwald strikes an ars longa vita brevis theme that bounces around other pieces, as well. Gottlieb sees a need to pay attention to poets of a generation pushing 60 that includes Greenwald and himself. (The PP does this, right?) There's a most serious weary-seeming short poem by 62-year-old Ron Padgett made from cliches. It appears at the end of a q&a with Edmund Berrigan. Padgett admits in his interview he's "wary of doing the 'Ron Padgett thing.'" That means: "Not being mercurial and witty." Ok, Nicole Brossard, appears to say, and picks up this idea and runs with it, unparodically, questioning "if we lie when a typing mistake occurs and we choose the 'mistake' in order to produce a better effect." Her line of questioning is based on original intent, undefined. Her thought is contradicted by Evelyn Reilly's review of Brossard's Intimate Journal in which Reilly regards Brossard's "approach to writing" as "cognitive-improv... at the root of Brossard's insistence on being a writer 'of the present.' Which present?
Concerning the Novel, Including My Own
Some thoughts on the novel, a form of writing that somehow perplexes me. I have written (what I call) novels but haven’t really thought of the effort as nove...