Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Other voices.

It has been a long absence from Karga. So many other things, and
to be truthful I haven't been thinking about the poem as obsessively
as usual. There was the aborted manuscript post, which was in many
ways a very bad idea. No matter.

I'll do something I haven't been a proponent of with blogging. A post which
is an admission of sorts.

I have the contemptible habit of scattering my creative energies to the
winds with a zeal that would spell success provided I corral those same
energies to one purpose. It is detrimental, but I had a thought today.
I spend an equal amount of time toying with essays, outlines and songs
as with verse. Why write a song, especially when one has no intention
of putting it out into the world? Because some themes can only be
done justice with melody. Some things are only worthy of a page essay.
Some things demand an exhaustive study and lengthy manuscript.

Then there is the issue of poetry.

As much as I enjoy Dugan and Bukowski, there is something lacking in
a poetry of realism. At least realism as it applies to everyday life. One
could argue that both Dugan and Bukowski are in their own ways proponents
of a sort of magical realism or are making a statement beyond the barstool
and into the whole bloody operation. So it is not their work I am referring
to when I speak of everyday realism.

It is the cumulative work of those who don't seem in the least interested
with the world outside of the author. Beating this page's dead horse in my
return, I know.

This sort of confessional poetry is only worthwhile when the larger world
is not only a part but the actual topic. In much of today's verse, it doesn't
seem to be. So when I approach the poem, the sounds of Piers Ploughman
and the Kalevala are everpresent. Poetry should be shamanistic magical
language. Anyone who fails should try again, but not be read. Or write prose.
Of course, I fail nine times out of ten. Ten times out of ten if you ask some
people. I'll fail a thousand times. I'd imagine everyone-- including Mr. Bunting--
has, did, does and will.

Those that don't often write "good" poems. They are the cheap beer of the
literary culture. As the kind folks at Warsteiner would tell you: life is indeed
too short. No attempts, no failure tonight. Just prose. And bad prose at that.

Nostrovia.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

From The Flying Aspidistra, thought I'd share on two sites.

For those of you inclined to tow the Rumsfeld line
about insurgents not being insurgent, here is a definition
provided in that apocryphal text known to us insiders as"The Dictionary."

insurgent: a [L. insurgens (-entis), ppr. of insurgere, to rise up,
rise up against; in, in, upon, and surgere, to rise.] rising in
opposition to governmental or political authority;
insubordinate; as, insurgent provinces.

insurgent: n. an insurgent person.

So what exactly is the administration's beef with this term,
other than it is an accurate depiction of precisely the type of
person causing our military headaches in Iraq?

Words matter. They know this. Linguistics give way to ideas,
and you shouldn't need George Orwell to tell you that when
you forfeit your language your freedom soon follows.

We'll see how obedient the media is with the term "rejectionist"
(a word suspiciously absent in Webster's New UniversalUnabridged
Dictionary) in lieu of "insurgent" the right proper word for the
person they're attempting to describe.The results, if you're keeping
score, could be doubleplusungood.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Hit these letters with yr. mouse!

And read Alexander Cockburn's last 3
entries on The Meat Eating History of the
West.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Folk versus Hoch und Blogger's Defense

An ever recurring area of interest for the crow has
been the relationship between what societies in the
twentieth and twenty-first centuries consider "High
Art Poetry" and "Folk Poetry" and just what distinctions
one might draw.

As a template, I'll cite an example from the United States
as well as one from Turkey. In the U.S., it would be fair
to say that we consider a chap like Ezra Pound a
High Art author and Woody Guthrie falls into the
Folk category. The distinctions were blurred a bit
in the 1960's it seems, and to this day it is hard to
come across a Boomer who doesn't see Dylan as the
poet of his or her generation. (Lyrics to the current
adaptation of the classic "Oxford Town" will be posted presently.)
In the States, a linguistic bastard that has never
thought kindly upon intellectual elitism, the experience
of the times seems to dictate title. No question that
without Woody, Dylan's career would be in impossibility.
With Mr. Guthrie, it became an inevitability.

Further, one sees a parallel between Ginsberg and Pound
in the hospital and Woody and Bob... was it in the
hospital? (As an aside, Hugh Kenner has a great
book on the subject of seeking out one's influences
and the benefits of such an encounter.) Things appear
to go topsy turvy in the States, with the disciple of
the Folk Poet becoming the heir apparent for
"meaningful" poetry and the disciple of the High Art
Poet becoming a sort of folk hero.

One thing Ginsberg must have inherited from Pound
and his writings (see: Guide to Kulchur and ABC of
Reading) is the historical assertion that any line
drawn between the two groups is a social demarcation,
not an artistic one. In some respects, written verse
is an artificial construct. Pound's obsession with the
French troubadours leads us to this road map of poet as
oral tribal historian meeting at a crossroad with wandering
minstrel. Poetry, like history, can be viewed through
a number of lenses. If one prefers Howard Zinn to
Will Durant, it is likely because of point of view rather
than the pacing of prose.

Poets of the Anglo-Saxon strain have always had an
important role in the recitation of history. It could
be "big picture" history, such as Whitman; "personal"
history from the lens of the monied class, such as
Sexton and Lowell; "personal" history from other
classes, as in Bukowski and Dugan; or, one of a
number of combinations. There is hardly a Folk
Poet that doesn't work both in the field of woo and
in the hard streets of social and economic criticism.
We could break it down even more by maintaining
that when it comes right down to it, our goal as a
species is the same as any other: eating and fucking.
The relationship of our larynx to the rest of us allows
us the tradition of poetic self-importance.

Back to Ginsy.

My relationship with Allen Ginsberg has been a rocky
one. I must admit that at first I was not enthusiastic
about President Ginsberg. I wasn't a fan of Howl, and
as a rule preferred the short line, and anything generally
unWhitmanian. My wife, on the other hand, loves Ginsy.
Not being one to exercise all-out literary fascism,
it was standard to give the gift of Ginsberg to her on a
regular basis. Naturally, as I became more acquainted
with his oeuvre, I liked him more and more. The turning
point came not in an early, more Poundian poem (though
that started the walk) but in the form of song.

It wasn't long after I gave my wife the boxed set
Holy Soul, Jelly Roll that I found myself taking
it over. Mainly the Ashes & Blues disc. This convinced
me, in a moment somewhat like Celalludin Rumi's
donkey fall when encountering Shams. "Allen Ginsberg,"
one could find me yelling at the bar, "is the only
important American poet since 1950!" High Art
Poets do what they do, but writing a blues? Of course,
Langston Hughes was adept at this. (An additional side
note: can anyone cite an example of a poetic invention
of such genius as African American song in the nineteenth
and twentieth centuries? Yes, we deal with woo and
history, but to transmit a hidden history disguised
as woo and beyond that sacrament?) Ginsberg's blues
are decidedly off-kilter, but they stand out as having
an honesty necessary to pull the form off.

It illustrates the primary argument of my chosen
aesthetic: the poem derives from the song, and one
can dress it up with any amount of High Art trappings
he so chooses... it remains that the minstrel, the shaman
and the griot (in many cases one in the same) are the
very bloodline of poetry. Whether the poet is the
University dandy, fresh off spending mum's trust
fund, or the street-drunkard playing for coins, the
complete poet has to realize all of his relationships.
This is why an aesthetic such as mine, one that is
openly hostile all things academic, could put a fellow
like Ted Hughes at a lofty perch. Ted was one of the
very best because his writing was informed by
voluminous study but never lost sight of the shaman
from whom we descend. It is also why a fellow like
Robert Johnson captures our attention. It is quite
common to salute a songster for shades of sophistication.
It is even more likely that a page poet will suffer
needless derision for slumming about in the world
of the coal mine, the factory, the field.

I was first made aware of the "New Urbanism" movement
by watching "The End of Suburbia." I might borrow
from the architectural aesthetic to define my poetic
position as "Old Ruralism." In short, try not to forget
that there are parts of the anatomy (even the anatomy
of today's poet!) below the neck.

Now, on to Turkey.

Though I could argue my point for days within the
perameters of Anglo-Saxon tradition, other socio-
linguistic groups aren't so neatly packaged.

We may use the examples of two men whose work is
linked to your left: Asik Veysel Satiroglu and Orhan
Veli Kanik.

One of the strongest memories of my times in Istanbul
is the discussion of this very topic. As a musician, I was
immediately drawn to the Asiks, their skillful saz
playing and the obvious similarities to American blues.
For example, it is quite common to find blindness in
an Asik. Naturally, the economics of Anatolia
are very similar to those of the Old Deep South.
Lots of rain, lots of cotton, &c. When one is stricken
with blindness, the life of a minstrel is almost thrust
upon him.

Though there are very practical reasons for Asik
Veysel and Blind Willie Johnson (both religious
mystics as well as brilliant folk songsters) sharing
an ailment, it isn't suitably romantic for the crow.
I like to see it as a cosmological continuum.

One distinguishing trait is that Veysel's compositions
are far more complex than most blues singers.
"Kara Toprak" is one example. (A translation will hopefully
follow.) Lyrically, Veysel hasn't a peer. Oddly,
the history and culture of Turkey seem to marginalize
Veysel as a simple folk poet, and not in the same
class as Hikmet, Kanik, et al. (A VERY IMPORTANT
NOTE ON THE PREVIOUS STATEMENT: "Marginalize"
should in no way be construed as a lack of
appreciation. If you go looking for a person in
Turkey who doesn't consider Veysel a national
treasure and a bit of a hero, you will have a very
long search. Still, this categorization exists in Turkey
as it does in any country or language family.)

I am in no way an expert on the complexities of
Turkish or Ottoman poetry. My very grasp of
the language is at best elementary. That being
said, the song form is to my eyes every bit as
relevant and challenging in any language or
culture as any piece of modernist verse.

In short, it seems to me (my total lack of
qualification to speak on Turkish verse being
stipulated) that just as we can expect and
academic poet singing the praises, should they
do any singing at all, of Lowell and even owning
the collected recordings of Big Bill Broonzy, s/he
probably wouldn't condescend to comparison of the
two as poets.

To draw a line, while an erudite speaker of
Turkish can appreciate Veysel and Kanik
alike, there is little debate as to who is the superior
poet.

I cannot help but think that the biggest distinction
between the two men, whether it is in the States
or in Turkey, is location and economics. Where
Veysel's true love is the dark soil on the banks
of Kizilirmak, Orhan Veli's is the city of Istanbul.
The songster is of the country, of the soil.
The poet is of the city.

I will close with the assertion that the two are
artificial in many regards, not the least of which
being that poetry is a human enterprise
that aims to do one of three things: woo the
opposite sex; recall a history; and/or, celebrate
an idol whether it be a metropolis, a field, or a
god. The importance of emotive reaction
from the reader/listener cannot be overstated.
They are, to paraphrase Auden, the words of dead
men modified in the guts of the living.

And now for something not completely
different:

In a recent post, the thought of Blogger Agonistes
came to mind. I feel that I must defend this
preoccupation, which today has been an hour
or more of time, five cigarettes and one pot of
coffee.

A.D.'s thought was what put it into its most
proper context.

I live in a town that has its share of poets, one
notable can be found on Silliman's link area.
I have conversed and read with others in the
area, mainly Kansas City. The problem with
almost all things local (I don't have the advantage
of a city such as New York, Istanbul or London)
is that I have yet to find another with which I could
get along on a protracted basis. There are
various sorts and conditions among the poets
in the area. One is the self-aware hipster, likely
to be more of a live reading type. Another is
the university poet, whose talents display themselves
in being smug and self-aggrandizing. Another is
most like myself, drinking at home and quite
disinterested in what the previous two fuckers
are up to. (I might pass one or both of the first
two at a coffee shop on my way to get
a growler of oatmeal stout
and some documentaries at Liberty Hall.)

I would love to sit around drinking with A.D.
and Alberto, being true to the oral tradition.
What this form of internet publishing serves
isn't really "publishing" at all. They aren't
essays, as much as arguments. There is the
problem of being saved "in print" to some
degree, but without it I wouldn't have come
across those two guys, and I'd be stuck with
the other two fuckers at the coffee shop...
not for long. I'm sure all feelings are mutual.

In the original post I joked about Vic Contoski
not returning my calls. Seemed funny at the time,
but last year he did indeed meet me, give me words
of encouragement and read some of my stuff.
Hell, he's a busy guy. The Kenner book, by the way,
is The Elsewhere Community.

Serefe.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Ranting, Raving, generally Kaw!ing about Perre Shelton.

As you'll see in the post below this one, I can
be easily irritated by print. Especially when the
leading luminaries of the lexicon and their editors
can allow such sloppiness. (This is one of the
virtues of being a humble internetista, as the standards
for Karga are reasonably low!)

So I thought I'd note some positive things I've come
across:

1. Perre Shelton.
I love this kid. I am not one for Slam or Youth poetry...
hell, I don't even like going to readings! But his appearance
on Def Poetry (yes, I don't get out much) this weekend
was enthralling. From initial research he is seventeen
years of age, and it was great to see him blow Sharon
Olds right off the stage! The only info I've been able to
dig up on the lad is from his high school, where he inexplicably
took second place in the school's poetry competition. (If this
is the case, I suggest we send our budding MFAers to
Northwest Indiana to enroll in that high school's Lit courses.)

Perre, give us a web page! Most talent I've seen (and certainly
heard) in a long time.

2. At the library today perusing and stumbled into Winter
Pollen. Not news, just a nice benefit for yrs.

3. Same library has recently acquired the twentieth century
epic to stand beside (who knows, above?) Pound's Cantos:
Human Landscapes from my Country by Nazim Hikmet.
Beautiful thing about public libraries: in a few months someone
will stumble upon this and be enriched by it.

A Polite Nostrovia to you all.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

A Note From Abe Simpson's buddy Jasper... Or, "The Old Grey Mare."

Maybe the thought arose because it is Sunday.

I cannot help thinking of Abe Simpson's grey-bearded
(the "e" is admittedly an affectation, one which I intends
ta' keep) companero Jasper dancing a jig and singing
"The Old Grey Mare, she
ain't what she useda' be,
ain't what she useda' be,
ain't what she useda' be."

This is the only image I can muster wading through my
Sunday Times Book Review and Travel sections.

Exhibit A:
Heather Timmons has apparently escaped her A.P. English
Class to party with the Swingers in the "very gay" resort
area of Mykonos. One can follow the link above to the
story. Please read the closing. Don't worry about starting
with the close, because as you'll see it could easily
be plugged into any other paragraph in the piece.
Should you like to be saved some time and effort, though,
I can excerpt a few quality sentences to illustrate my
irritation:

Paragraph 8, Sentence 1:
"On the far side of the harbor, under Mykonos's
trademark windmills, and with candle-lighted tables
set just near the water's edge, the restaurant is a jewel-
like setting for dinner, although the crowd can sometimes
be jarring." (Emphasis mine.)

Paragraph 12, Sentence 1:
"The mix can be jarring."

While in Mykonos, Miss Timmons would have done
well to consult that Greek classic "The Thesaurus."

There, she might find words such as "harsh,
grating, rough, strident, stridulent" or, if you like,
"stridulous."

Exhibit B:
Brad Leithauser, who in his defense is kindly employing
his brother Mark, reviews Ted Kooser's Flying at Night.
I will say this for auld Brad: he is the first guy to make
me stand in a room and sing Kooser's praises. Not that
I don't like Ted. I like his poetry quite a lot, though I
am not necessarily enamored of the underlying aesthetic.

I don't have the time or patience to go into an analysis of
just what Leithauser's review lacks in understanding the
Great Plains. (God help you if I did, Leithauser!) I'll just
go out on a limb and say the guy has never seen an ear
of corn that hasn't been transited by way of his local Food
Lion or Safeway, depending upon the Coast he lives on.
I could, as they say, fill a book with everything he obviously
doesn't know about my part of the country.

That isn't my real beef. In the closing paragraph of his
review (which, I feel compelled to mention again, ran in
the Sunday Times!!!) he.... well, I'll quote the offending
lines and let you draw your own conclusion:

"If at the end of the day Kooser's poetic aesthetic
is not mine (I prefer a thicker mix of language, a more
complicated architecture)"

Thanks, fucko. I was wondering the whole time just
what butters your parsnips.

Nosfuckin'strovia.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Music Update

Just because popular music is at a level so
dismal sometimes we need a check of things
going on...

Here are 3 albums (technically four, for the
vinylphile) that will make up for most of it:

Ali Farka Toure: Red & Green
a re-release of the great Lp's from the
late 1970's & 1980's.

Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate: In the Heart of the Moon
Scheduled for September 13, 2005.
This should be the constant companion of anyone
driving to Chicago for Farm Aid.

and

Teenage Fanclub: Man-Made (link above)
Our favourite Glaswegians are back with another
solid album for lovers of solid pop music absent
the pretenses of certain bands whose names end in
"head." Though Bandwagonesque and Grand Prix
still stand out as the best of the Fanclub offerings,
this album is wonderful for summer. The thing I
like best about these guys is their knack for writing
songs as though English were a second language (which
is arguable in Scotland)... a fitting match to
the simplicity of their musical arrangements.
Anymore, releases by Fanclub & Neil Young are about the only
"rock" albums I can see running out to get.
And if you think what Blake, Love & McGinley do
is easy, try sustaining 16 years on approximately
9 chords and keeping cynical fuckers such as myself
on board.

Slainte.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Canon Fodder

The person whose mind I admire most has recently
voiced his bemusement with my return to the crow.
"I refuse them categorically," was his comment regarding
this form of Internet Publishing.

He is a reasonable man...

But here I go again, spouting off and putting rambling
thoughts onto the "public" space of the Internet.

Proposal for New Canon:

(apologies, Mr. Bloom, but the bloom is off of your'n)

Ministers of Prose: Graham Greene & George Orwell.

Ministers of Verse: Ted Hughes, Nazim Hikmet & Ernesto Cardenal.

Woody Guthrie Memorial Troubadour Division:
Neil Young, Phil Ochs, Willie King Abdullah, Billy Bragg.

Short Story Secretary: Sait Faik.

Walt Whitman Memorial Secretary of Letters:
President Ginsberg.

Ministers of Imbibery: Shane MacGowan, Brendan Behan,
Willie Nelson.

Division of Social Sciences: John Dos Passos.

Vice President: No canon is complete without Ernest Hemingway,
and naturally he will be loyal to the President:

Mark Twain, the alpha and omega of all American literature.

It has come to my attention that I have not mentioned
Mrs. Olds, Mr. Pamuk, Frank "Star Dust" Bidart or Bobby
"Star Bucks" Dylan... Sorry, Frank.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Kaw

Can't seem to kill this crow.

Incidentally, if you can only read one book this summer,
it should certainly be Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
by John Perkins. Mind-blowing.

Soon to follow: Handy Tips for the Poetry Reading, another
in the Writing Tips series.

Slainte.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Is this the future of Poetry?

I guess we'll see if someone gets published.

Everyone should submit.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Peter Campion Rides the Sea Camel

A few days back, the Corvus posted a
rather mean-spirited polemic aimed at
a portion of the Peter Campion essay in
POETRY. I have to admit that I hadn't
given his essay a moment to sink in
before pulling out the dagger and stabbing
at the wind.

It took me about a day to pull it. After
sleeping on it, it seemed foolish of me to
post such a thing. Not that I would necessarily
retract any statements... just that I had
liked the majority of the essay and profoundly
disliked his take on the poetry blog world.

What I found most objectionable was the
treatment of bloggers as a monolith, citing
one example (albeit a rather hilarious one)
from C. Dale's blog and interpreting it (retroactively
to boot) into the larger world of poetry blogs.

It seemed quite insulting that he would use
his position to take shots at the whole of us, most
of us not having nearly the kind of sway
he or his chosen target exhibit. Especially intimating
that this type of web-publishing facilitates
Pro Poetry careerism. This bothers me because
the blog format (and here's my first agreement
with Campion: it is a very ugly word, even in
an Old English sort of way) is precisely the
kind of web publishing that could serve to
democratize the "guild system" Campion laments.

Unlike the pages of POETRY or Ploughshares,
there is no resume requirement for maintaining
a site on blogger.com. One can post his/her poems,
ideas, criticism, &c. and have it undergo a sort
of peer review independent of a middle man. This
is a godsend in an environment of ass kissing ladder
climbing.

Though it has all the potential in the world, it does
fall short. Kind of like the Internet writ large.

I was very slow to join in on both. My initial thought
was that the "tech" world wasn't interested in
anything literary or "important" but rather was a
sort of wireless Star Trek convention and a
virtual white noise nothingness. After my first
phone bill in Mexico, I got hip. While signing up
for a Yahoo! e-mail account (this was 1998) it
shocked me quite a lot that the account names
"tarr" and "buckmulligan" had been taken.
It didn't take long to see the potential in the Internet,
even for someone who was interested only
in things literary. But, as the joke goes, "I bought
a new laptop... now I have a $3000 porno
magazine."

My point being that though there is limitless
potential for valuable information dissemination,
the primary use of the Internet has been
mercantile. (Notable exceptions abound, not the
least of which being the phenomenal archive.org.)
And like the technology that breeds it, the poetry
blogosphere is more like Campion's observation
than comfort allows.

Though I still find it contemptible for someone
on such a lofty perch should accuse the common
man, as it were, of fomenting careerism (again,
I maintain innocence on this, as I have no career
to speak of) it is hard to fault Campion on his
logic. Truth be told, there is as much in the way
of bootlicking out here in cyberspace as one might
find in an Iowa City coffee shop. And while we
all have the opportunity to utilize in the best
ways possible (See: Ana's blog) the vast majority
of "poetry blogs" seem to carry the same gravitas
as just plain auld blogs. (An exercise: visit a
poetry blog at random from Silliman's site, making
sure it is a dot-blogspot one, and hit that "next
blog" button on the top right of the screen...
judge the artistic merits of a. versus b.)

I have the uneasy feeling that Campion is quite
right that "anything's better" from an artistic
perspective. Quite a few of us have come to
that conclusion. As with everything, there is a
gray lurking between the black of the blog and the
white of Campion's cozy world. That being the
uncomfortable fact that while Campion is welcome
to pen essays for journals such as POETRY, I am
most assuredly not.

Blogging could be the best way to follow Biafra's
advice and "become the media." It is essential
that the literary magazines as they exist do not
dictate aesthetic fashion from an Ivy Tower.
It is necessary to take writing back from
the academic world. In order for poetry to
flourish... it will exist in one form or another
no matter what... the outside perspective of
people like A.D. Thomas, Alberto Romero Bermo,
and even Ron Silliman must be constantly
charging the gates. If it happens that you are
outside with only a pair of coconut shells to
feign the stampede of your barbarian invasion,
make it work. And Christina Pugh will likely
taunt you again. No matter.

"Becoming the media" has earned dividends
throughout the history of poetry. To cite
distinctly American examples: Whitman;
Pound's BLAST!; hell, even Naropa to
some extent.

I do not know if this format was intended to
be used in this manner. I am becoming more
and more convinced that it is
ill-equipped for such a task.

He'll never see the original post, but for the
sake of form: Campion, I take it back. I wish
that you'd visited a plurality of blogs and witnessed
the crying out for aesthetic virtue over
MF(A) and workshop bullshit.

42%.

Check and mate.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Any port side cabin will do.

Anyone for sonnets and shuffleboard? -- Blogoview

RE: Charles Jensen's Blogoview

After much deliberation, the decision is
quite simple: The QE2.

How could it get any better than that?
At sea all year, but not cleaning a galley!
Besides, most of the runners up were on
the Turkish, Scottish, Icelandic, Norwegian
or Italian coasts.

Ah, the QE2. Comfort and viking.
(Ya' know, Nahm, the word "weekend"
comes from "viking" because they used
to go pillaging and such on Saturdays.)

Monday, May 23, 2005

Pork Barrel Poetics?

I should just put a permanent link to Peter's
site, as it is getting all the action these days!

As to the memorization "bees" I think it would
be useful to limit finalists to Shakespeare's
Sonnets and sudden-death to best rendition
of Twain's Ode to Stephen Dowling Botts.

Someone had misgivings about all the competitions
being an East Coast thing. In the NPR story,
Levine (I think it was him) commented on
the uselessness of studying why people in
Amarillo don't read (I can't remember the
poet he used as an example, but let's say)
Komunyakaa.

Well, shucks (drawing circles in fresh topsoil
with three year old shoes) I guess that
we ain't much for fancy booklearnin' out
here West of the Hudson. If'n we was,
we wouldn't'a said no what to all that
money we was'a promised by them thar
folks from the Poetry Foundation thang.
Is Conway Twitty in New Letters
this month?

I must take issue with him that brung me
into the sphere in the first place (sorry, I know
that isn't fair to out you on your role
bringing evil into the blogworld!) for this comment:

"It's not a matter of marketing or raising awareness,
it's one of developing a literary culture. Poetry is
perhaps losing because its value is understated or
ignored within our culture, not because poets or
publishers are doing anything wrong. "

Et tu, A.D.?

To paraphrase Cioran's take on Claudel:
"That is enough to wake the Sillimanist
sleeping inside every man."

(Sorry, I can't resist a Cioran reference!)

I'm with you up to a point, but poets and
publishers have a disconnect with the public
in part because of things like the Amarillo
comment. FS & G could put a little more into
pushing poetry, as could just about every
large house. Seems to me that: a) poetry occupies
the same territory in publishing as news
does with the networks... a loss-leader that
they feel is compulsory due to historical
precedent; b) unlike prose authors, poets tend
to view the universe in an academicentric
manner. Again and again I say it, what is there
to relate to?

I was talking to the editor of a poetry journal
on a radio show some months back, and
she seemed to be completely oblivious to the
existence of Alan Dugan. He's only won
the NBA, Yale Younger Poets, &c. and happens
to be one of the few relevant big ticket
poets out there. I would suggest that if the
Nick Flynns and Alan Dugans of the world
were representatives of poetry in the States,
people would be reading a lot more of it.
Frankly, many of the most recognized writers
of verse are a bore.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

This quiz I liked

After discovering that I was Iceland,
Catch-22 and Camus, Peter's blog led
me to my favorite (and likely most
accurate, concerning temperament)
result:


S. T. Coleridge
You are Samuel Taylor Coleridge! The infamous
"archangel a little damaged!" You
took drugs and talked for hours, it's true, but
you also made a conscious choice to cultivate
the image of the deranged poet in a frenzy of
genius. You claimed you wrote "Kubla
Khan" in an afternoon after a laudanum,
when you pretty manifestly did no such thing.
You and your flashing eyes and floating hair.
And your brilliant scholarship and obvious
genius.


Which Major Romantic Poet Would You Be (if You Were a Major Romantic Poet)?
brought to you by Quizilla

Friday, May 20, 2005

A Sick Feeling

Fucking dial-up.

After finally getting May's POETRY and
attempting to post a reaction, which was
around forty paragraphs and included
various takes on class issues, Cornell West,
academic reform, the NEA's soldier-poet
project, the dearth of variety in the prestigious
publication in contrast to the perceived
aesthetic free-for-all which some letters
lamented, and also how that relates to
the class status of MF(A) Poets and
city reporters (which included what I thought
to be a rather witty "Bob Novak served
in the Civil War" quip) I hit the "save" button
and received a white "Page cannot be
displayed" page.

Lost.

Fucking dial-up. The venomous outpouring
of profanity has caused rain in my house.

Well, shit, then. I'll be concise, as my spirit
has capsized.

1. I think I would win a humor contest with
Franz Wright. (See: Wright's letter to POETRY
and my "Perfect Submission Letter" entry.
Though I'd argue mine had more humor,
his was, to be fair, a lot funnier.)

2. What is the deal with Atsuro Riley?
Could someone please explain his overwhelming
appeal to the editors?

I'm going to compose on the typewriter now.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Unrevised, &c. Poem 18

On the Grave of Theo Van Gogh

Fearlessness is an attribute
We value too much.

When engaged in struggle,
A tenet of Islamic fatalism is that
One cannot kill a man who doesn't fear death.

When engaged in struggle,
A tenet of Parliamentary procedure is that
Any press is good press.
And films can win elections,
And allow a candidate to speak.

When confronted with these,
You will be swallowed.

But the Muslims who do not fear death are dying in droves
And the Parliamentarians are chanting eulogies
And your fearlessness in the service of Our Lady of the BBC
Is rewarded with blades scewering skin,
Eating the heart like vultures.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Newspeak Continued

Alright. I was in a bit of a rush this morning.

Following up, the Studio 360 program (or
programme, if you prefer) was replete with
yet more hipster banalities. One wonders if
Miss Wilson is an actress playing the part of
the "GenX sarcastic slacker." Someone said
that all bad poetry is sincere. If this is the
determinating factor, I suggest Wilson take
up poetry. She is in no danger of penning
anything wrought with sincerity.

This came on the heels of the recent Newspea....
I mean, Newsweek, retraction.
It would almost be humorous, were it not for
the fact that the claims of an "unreliable unnamed
source" didn't sound so identical to the
backpeddling in reportage of the Abu
Ghraib torture cases. All over NPR one could
hear the question-and-answer volleys
about whether or not people in the Muslim
world believed the allegations vis a vis the
Guantanamo Qu'Ran flushing scandal.

People in the Muslim World???

This is to say that Westerners had any reservations
regarding this scandalous behavior. With verified
tales of female officers mocking menstrual blood
and smearing it on the faces of Muslim men
in captivity as a tool of dehabilitation, it is hard
to imagine that holy books weren't desecrated.
That would be a story.

The two are more related than this Corvus could
possibly put into words.

On the one hand we have Cintra Wilson (and just
about any novelist going around these days, excepting
the old guard) and on the other the mainstream
media. In the case of cultural writing, which is
run by around five multinational conglomerates,
we have individuals so immersed in solipsism,
banality and pop-Kulcher that American fiction
has been rendered.... well, I suppose it is best
to say that it has been rendered. This novelistic
Alpo is reviewed by the major media outlets, who,
to be fair, are owned by as many as five multinational
conglomerates, and then moves on to the next page.

And what is on the next page?

Currency crises in Ecuador.

Oh. Wait.

The rendering of further prison abuse as a non-
story. I'll bet the brass at Newsweek is facing
east and washing feet in hopes that no one at
the concentration ca.... I mean, detention centers,
was using one of those rare picture capturing
cel phones! That's how Abu Ghraib happened,
after all.

Sixty Minutes recently featured Dr. Frankfurt,
who has attained best-seller status for
On Bullshit. There doesn't seem to be a time
in recent memory more worthy of calling
bullshit on television, publishing or the
university. Let us read from Network,
Chapter 3 Verse 19,
"I'm Mad as hell..."


Well, here's one for today:

"I call Bullshit."

Calling all Writers Educated in Newspeak.... A Prelude

If you didn't get a chance to hear Bill Moyers
(my wife and I pronounce it "Moy yae") at the
Media Reform convention in St. Louis, link above
and stream away! You won't regret it. For an
analogue vibe, I caught it on CSPAN 2, though
I don't know whether or not it will be on again.

That Moyers speech bookended my day. I listened
to it in the car at 9 AM and finished with the
video version from 11:10 to 12:15. Nutshell:
PBS is fucked. Consolidation is close to complete.
In this airwave version of Risk, all the red men
are lined up surrounding our (by "our" I mean
residents of the U.S. regardless of political
affiliation) humble troop in Brazil... and they've
four sets of dice.

In-between these gasps of fresh air was
more of the usual. NPR's Studio 360 featured
the opinions of "writer" Cintra Wilson.

Anyone that heard it may know well what I'm
talking about. If you've seen the Simpsons with
Hullabalooza, you know precisely the irritating
intonation patterns ("This guy's cool."
"Really, or are you being sarcastic?"
"I don't even know anymore.") Miss Wilson
seems so obsessed with appearing hipper than
thou that she seems to forget how bloody
irritating it is to listen to her.

More to follow on Wilson, Moyers and
the omnipresent conglomerates. At the moment,
I am late in picking up my 1952 Olympia
from the shop. If I run late, I may be compelled
into typing on this tunnel vision machine
for another week.

Nostrovia.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Thanks, Jeff

I am now a big Jeff Bahr fan. Adopting Ted Hughes.
Huzzah.

BUT ROBERT GRAVES IS STUCK IN THE
FOSTER CARE COLLECTIVE! NO ONE TO
ADOPT THIS BOUNCING BUNDLE OF
MYTHOS? (Hey, I spent my $30 on stir fry,
Kirin Ichiban, truffles from Andre's and a
cigar. Priorities.)

AND MY MAIN MAN ERNESTO CARDENAL
ISN'T EVEN ON THE "FIND A POET"
LIST. WHAT, POETS.ORG, IS THERE NO
ROOM FOR THE NICARAGUANS? I DIDN'T
SEE DARIO EITHER. I SEE HOW YOU ARE,
ACADEMY.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Relevance

Yesterday I composed an entry based on something
that I find very amusing. The premise, in essence,
is that of a heavyweight bout for the title of poetry.

Not in the sense of "greatest poet" or "wittiest wordplays"
or any of that business... The battle proposed was one
where the two primary camps of modern poetry
have a representative square off in prosodic pugilism.
My example was Ernesto Cardenal vs. Ted Kooser.

It seems to me that today's poetry (in English as well
as most European tongues) is divided into two
groups better illustrated by their social policy leanings
than by stylistic trappings. They seem to be traceable
to a reverence for or an acrimony towards Mr. Ezra Pound.

The Pro-Pound, or Protoimagist if you will, is best displayed
by Cardenal. The Nicaraguan priest seems the obvious
evolution of the Poundian aesthetic. From With Walker in
Nicaragua to Cosmic Canticle, he has evolved a distinctive
writing style that reminds one very much of Auld Ez.
The commitment to verse as a vehicle of historic
transmission and social welfare may not have started with
the lanky Idahoan, but one could make the case that
in our century he is the place to start.

The Non-Pound, or Tosser, can be found in practically
every American university. Billy Collins and Ted Kooser
are certainly UnPound. This is not to disparage either
man's work (though I'll admit the Tosser title is a cheap
shot) or to single out Poet Laureates, though that is
a nice bonus. Simply put, the SoQ have both feet
firmly planted in the soil of Iowa City or Cambridge.

After reading Kooser's Poetry Home Repair Manual,
the thing that stayed with me from the minute I
laid eyes on it was the declaration that "poems are
triggered by catchy twists of language or little glimpses
of life. The poet's ideas might emerge while he or she
is playfully writing about, say, the appearance of a
stack of storm windows lying in the grass or the way
in which a praying mantis turns her head to look
at the mate she's about to eat." What is with the
fucking storm windows and barn planks?!?

Confession: I have composed many poems which
were inspired by the actions of insects and
arachnids. I will come back to my perceived
difference in due course.

Getting back to Ted, then.

That first sentence sounded an awfully lot like
some sort of quietudenal code. "Twists of
language" and "glimpses of life" signify to this
reader the bigger by smaller aesthetic. The
world-weary hipsterism (though I have not
seen Kooser documented wearing either a
large belt buckle nor a snap-button shirt from
Urban Outfitters.... I think Collins read in that
outfit once in Santa Cruz, though) is, I suppose,
the root of our UnPound types. It says to me
that "bombs dropping on hundreds of thousands
of innocent civilians for the purpose of lining
the pockets of the Multinationals that run
the U.S. and by extension the U.K. are too
obvious. The true poet is beyond this,
and by focusing on the little things, he or she
shows the expansiveness of his or her versifyin'
mind."

This focus on the small seems to have taken
over the American poetry scene. The only American
poet I know of speaking with the force of even
Les Murray is Dugan, and Dugan's been around
quite some time.

The argument between "schools" or more precisely
the very definition of poetry harkens once again
to the Epic vs. Mundane debate. I would posit
that the Protoimagist school is progeny of
The Kalevala, Gilgamesh, Homer, Villon and later
Pound, Ginsberg, Cardenal and even Graves.
The role of the poet in this mindset resembles that
of the first satirists in the line of Bion or the West
African griot. That role is the transmitter of history,
mythos, the singer of battles and the Complete
Mind. Seems far more demanding a job description
than that of the focused student of writing.

Possibly SoQ (or MFA) is a deficient bastard. The
people we see debating poetry's audience, popularity
and relevance with the most hand wringing are these
men and women. I don't see where the confusion comes
from. Could it be that most Americans couldn't care
less about the triste trysts of Sharon Olds?
I plead guilty to broken record, but what precisely
does anyone outside of Loaf, Iowa, &c. share with
those inside? They eat, shit, sleep and fuck.
But most people don't have the time or inclination
(thankfully) to attempt art out of that. The solipsistic
urge displayed borders on nauseating.

Not that there isn't a place for the biographical
poet. Graham and Larkin would defy a claim
to the contrary. Put simply, though: if you choose
to make yourself the primary subject of
your work, do us the favor of living a life
worth telling us all about. Boiled down even more:
I don't give a shit about your yard, even if there's
a dead wren lying amongst the storm windows.

How could this be avoided, considering the
push towards creative writing programs
(proudly alien in Britain, I might add) and
how does poetry become relevant in the States?

A few suggestions:
1. Though it is desirable for poets to be
treated like rock stars, it isn't a good thing
at all to start thinking like them;
2. If the university system urges you to
get that narcissistic bugger of a writing
degree, don't let your schooling get in the
way of your education;
3.The best poetry is universal. This means
a bigger audience and possibly even more
money. (I stress "possibly.") It isn't a
mystical sect of the initiated gathering in
groups over sixteen ounce Americanos
laughing derisively at the expense of
that mythical "Red State Voter."
Alienation breeds contempt, and Professional
Poets of America limit the scope of
their audience further by suggesting that
the scope of their audience is limited
as a result of the intellectual deficiency of
the public at large. I can't say whether or
not an American Zero Hour would be picked
up by FSG or even City Lights. I will guarantee,
however, that it would outsell every other
book of poems released this decade.

Bold as it may be, my prediction is that
American poetry has the option of coming
home to Pound or dying on the vine. Verse
in the twenty first century needs to be
larger in scale than that of the latter half of
the twentieth.

Historians, Prophets and Madmen only need
apply.

Follow-up: I still take umbrage with the
mantis bit, though I focus largely on the
insect, reptile, arachnid world, &c. It seems
to me that focusing on, say, an ant when
viewed with Cartesian beer goggles is
derivative while viewing the plight of
that ant in respect to ahimsa is in line
with larger themes. The concept of
other animals existing solely for the the
purpose of metaphor seems again to
be a small and self-centered way to view
the poem or the world. The problem is that
it is not necessarily looking outward, but
incessantly inward. A good piece of advice
I got from Vic Contoski was to take out
every "I" in one of my poems. This seems to
extend well beyond that individual capital
letter.

Cheers.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Matter of fact, I want you to find me TWO horses....

So, this is how David E. Kelley feels every couple of years!

Well, the humble grackel has been forced into temporary
hiatus due to some... hmm... let's say issues related
to moving. Does anyone know why setting up DSL for
an in-town move takes so bloody long? I crunched the
numbers, and there's no amount of video downloading
that could make up for the initial week allowed for
setup, or the following two due to general apathy.

The upside being that I've done odd things like taking
walks and finishing books. It is difficult to quantify
the amount of time one can dedicate to reading when
the tele and internet are not interfering.

Among numerous others, read Kooser's home repair
manual (yes, there are thoughts to follow on that,
Smithers) and On Bullshit, a PhD. type book whose
principle virtue is that it is in itself the epitome
of bullshit. Mr. Frankfurt has a well-developed
sense of humor. I'm still deciding whether the
punchline was worth the set-up.

Highest recommendations on Mrs. Shafak's
Saint of Insipient Insanities (Araf) though the
ending is lacking. It is still a wonderful insight on
a certain type of immigrant life in the States.
I could pick and discuss a few other weaknesses,
but I will give this Turkish author a pass. Nearly
every book has flaws unless your name happens
to be Sam Clemens, but few released lately are
worth the time. This one was for me, though I
have the contemptible habit of reading half a
book and letting it breathe for a month or two
before finishing it.

Phony Tony won again. On behalf of the
People of the United States, I'd like to welcome
our bitch back. Don't step outta' line 'less
you want five cross the head, girl.

Bis Spater.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

That Perfect Submission Letter

File Under: Handy Writing Tip.

Few aspects of the poetry game are as
daunting as that pesky submission letter.
Should one make an effort to personalize
it? What information should I include or
leave out? Well, it just so happens that your
humble crow has been in correspondence
with various editors at The New Yorker,
The Atlantic and POETRY. Each publication
has its own preferences... I've taken the trouble
to gel together elements from their
suggestions thus producing the ideal
submission letter.

(A note on the text: due to my own limitations
with the format, I am not able to block out
the sheet and provide sufficient letterhead.
Obviously, the submission letter should be
on a 3 X 4 or so sheet of stationery. One's own
letterhead is of course a matter of taste.)


The Submission Letter to End All Submission Letters
(of yours being considered by an editor of verse)

Bryan Newbury
Established 1977
Thank you for considering my poetry.
Due to my large number of submissions
lately, I am unable to pen a submission
letter to each individual publication. Given
my small staff (which is, as it turns out,
myself) and the numerous simultaneous
submissions of mine out there, no doubt
you'll understand. I can assure you that
I have personally affixed each stamp,
and that I have taken great pains to
workshop and revise each poem herein.
I thank you for your continued support.


The beauty of this format is that you can
take it to the local printer and run off a few
hundred. Should a new publication arise,
you needn't research the names or titles
of potential readers. An added benefit is
that this is most surely a professional
way to handle it. Starting your own publication
is a huge plus, as you can plug special
National Poetry Month subscription rates
to the reader.
As a consideration to the author, please
wait about six to eight weeks before
employing this SuperLetter. I have three
poems floating around using it.
Serefe.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Good, The Bad, And The "Awww Jesus, They Didn't Did They?"

Alright. The one thing one can find in April
5's election here in Kansas that comes somewhat
close to resembling a silver lining is the
duality. (This is from the perspective of
Lawrence. The rest of the state... I just
don't know.)

Yes, Kansans that bothered to vote on this
off-year April ballot overwhelmingly passed
an amendment to the state constitution
that NOT ONLY banned gay marriage
(wish someone would have thought to get
a civil union law put on the books!) but
also threw in NO civil unions, NO legal
protections, and pretty much legalized
bigotry. Canonized it, actually.

Naturally, Douglas County (Lawrence, &c.)
voted overwhelmingly against this
religious horseshit. We also kept a Progressive
majority on the council, for what that's worth...

Oregon, are you accepting
applications for Lawrence to
be part of your state? There's
a commute issue, but we'd be
like your Hawaii! We will NOT
change the basketball mascot
to a Rainbow Warrior, though.

So, my state of birth and residence has
yet another black mark on it, thanks to
a group of religious fuckwits. By that,
I mean the leadership. Let me provide
an anecdote as illustration:

Today I was in the yard playing my mandolin.
A stunning rendition of "Darling Cora" as I
remember. My neighbor, a darling man of
87 years, surfaced in his yard. It had just
rained, so gardening work would have to
wait. (He has a thumb greener than my
politics and is very giving with produce.)

On two occasions he'd queried my wife and
I on our relationship with Jesus. These two
included a Baptist minister. (I love the
guy, and anyone who would judge him for
this is in the same camp as the aforementioned
fuckwits; however, this was a bit
unsettling when one considers the signed
"Cosmopolitan Greetings" print front and
center in the living room and the numerous
Buddhas and Kuan Yins hanging out in the
house. Further thought: for anything
pertaining to religious conversions by
those close to you please refer to THE
GOURDS and their wonderful song "Lament.")

An understanding was reached, and though
Christianity is bound to enter conversations,
there is no prodding from him one way
or the other.

Fundamentally (pardon the pun) he is a great
person and a wonderful illustration of what
Christianity should look like.

I'll be moving soon, so I thought it'd be a
nice thing to sit down and visit with him
while I'm still in this house. Played a few
reels on the mandolin and we talked about
The Dust Bowl, farming, what size our new
garden would be, life on the other side
of the river and such. After an hour or two
I had to go.

As I tied up my WhiteonWhite Chucks, I
saw his car on the garage had a bumper
sticker on it. It was an endorsement for
the Kansas marriage amendment.

At first, there was some sense of betrayal.
"God, I know the guy. Never pegged him
for a bigot."

Upon further rumination, I found that the
reason I hadn't was because he wasn't. What
he was was a parishoner at a Baptist church.
In a year of knowing him, we've never
discussed anything political. For this one issue,
he has a bumper sticker no doubt provided
at his church, or at least from it.

I don't know exactly how many times this
story could be repeated across the state, but
I'd wager the number is large. The
churches are influencing (steering, really)
public policy. Rather blatantly at that.

So, my friends, I propose that it is well past
time we tax religion, and tax it heavily.
Who's with me on this?

There's the bad and the "Awww, Jesus."
(Cue whistle from spaghetti western.)

Now, the good: I got free hockey tickets
for myself and some friends. Free.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Nowadays It Does Pay To Be A Good Ol' Boy

Some excitement. Steve Earle is gracing
the Liberty Hall stage in humble
Lawrence, Kansas. (I am beginning a
campaign locally to enact the official
slogan: Lawrence, Kansas -- Good Vibes
Capital of the World!)

This occurs while being uprooted to some
extent. Usually we move from, say, Aroostook
County, Maine to Morgan County, Georgia.
Or Lincoln to Carlsbad, &c. But there's something
about Lawrence. So now we find ourselves
crossing the Bridge and heading into
East Larry, only a few blocks from the
aforementioned Liberty Hall. I may accidentally
develop something resembling a social
life. I shall attempt not to, but people are
gregarious here.

I say this for inspirational purposes: we also
found a place with twice the space for less
money. This is quite the renting coup in our
real estate landscape.

Also, found a great copy of POETRY from
January of 1959 (The Indian issue, kicked
off by Rabindranath Tagore) at the library
book sale. And a copy of "mishaps, perhaps"
by Carl Solomon for all off $0.75.

Satisfaction level high.

I am still disillusioned with what is transpiring
within the American verse world. But, as they
say, fuck it. No need to look for a complaint.

Considering it is snowing on A.D., I haven't
any complaints. Dogwood allergies are
a small price to pay!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

To C. Dale

C. Dale,

Commentary has been disabled.
I suppose I will post it here,
re: "...Bitterness"
(A.D., where would you like the
punctuation? Ah, yes)

.

C. Dale, Odd dichotomy. I suppose I am in the "bitter"
category to some extent, but it is because of the careerism.
To me, it goes back (actually to Juvenal -- we'll keep it
English) to Pope and Swift, Colley Cibber and Prose
Run Mad.

One can accuse people like me of being a quaint
romantic anachronism. I am often comforted by
fantasies of the nineteenth century. It is arguably the
birth of American culture. The Trinity being Lincoln,
Twain and Whitman. By the standards of the time none
of them had a "formal" education. The poetic
temperament seems ill-served by it being comfortable
with institutions. The personality traits that lead me to
the written word as way of life were the same ones
that caused me to despise the university.

This gets into the discussion about "greatness."
Lately, it has been all over the sphere and in the
pages of all sorts of publications, not the least of
which being POETRY. One conclusion arising
from the conversation is that today's Professional
Poet is far more likely to desire some type of
upward mobility within the poetry world at the
expense of any poetic ambition. Thus, they crank
out good poetry, but nothing likely to be "for the ages."

So, to the "bitterness." I am aware that you are
speaking largely of this Future "Proet" class
within the academies. My bitterness resides in
having spent the last nine years with the sole
preoccupation of (pardon the New Agist sound of it)
being poetry. I've certainly read much more than
I've written. My sole purpose on earth has been
the metaphysical ecstasies of the written word.
The more I study, the less I write. I submit very little,
because the measuring devices for "good" poetry
are deadly serious.

I've given my life to words, and as a result
I've volunteered myself into a very low tax
bracket. My disgust with the poetry landscape
lies in the widely held misconception that if one
doesn't hold an advanced degree, he is a dilettante
who picked up a few phrases from Whitman with
no understanding of the Classical elements,
archetypes and tonal relationships
integral to the art form.

What's missing in today's poetry scene is the
wisdom of a man like Yeats, who famously
stated of the young Pound that he made
many errors, but at least they were vigorous errors.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Sticky Wicket

Ana passed the stick. Quite nice of her,
I must say.

you're stuck inside fahrenheit 451, which
book do you want to be?

"Ham on Rye" by Bukowski. (I figure that
way I'd burn quicker -- all the booze --
so it would be more humane.)

have you ever had a crush on a fictional
character?

Which ones have I not had a crush on?
Ophelia, for sure. Lady MacBeth a little bit.
And Kate and Bianca.
Plus, most of the Orwell heroines to a certain
extent -- and certainly Hamsun's lasses in
"Pan" and "Hunger".

the last book you bought is:

"Complete Poems" Ernest Hemingway.

the last book you read:

"Collected Poems" Donald Justice.

what are you currently reading?

"The Saint of Incipient Insanities" Elif Shafak
&
"More Collected Poems" Hugh MacDiarmid.

five books you would take to a deserted island:

1. The Yale Shakespeare
2. "Collected Poems" Ted Hughes
3. "The Cantos" Ezra Pound
4. The Unabridged Mark Twain
5. The Mathnawi of Celalludin Rumi

(at any time Attar's "...Birds" may be a
replacement pick in the top 5.)

I'll trust A.D.'s contention that the baton has
passed the finish line. I'll introduce it to
three "offliners" or otherwise non-blgrs.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Handy Writing Tips I've Heard (Or Made Up)

Well, it seems that the hot new trend is
quitting, or at least suspending, one's weblog.

It is a tough topic to tackle, so I'll leave it
dormant for the time-being. The difficulty
is that of the four or five that have recently
been pulled by their authors, two are from
people I like, the other three... not so much.
And were I to sharpen the quill for an invective
on the three, I run the risk of inadvertently
associating the ones I like with them. (Here,
I would love to stream audio so I could cough
names out without the solidity of print.)
So, anyway... next subject.

FIVE HANDY TIPS FOR WRITING.

C. Dale Young has been posting (off and on)
handy publishing tips. As he said, and as
has been oft-repeated, writing and publishing
aren't the same thing. So, I've decided to
share some tips for writing, with a few
publication angles.

1. Quit your day job.

I can't relate how important this is! If you
haven't noticed, the majority of authors
published since the printing press have had
either large trusts and leisurely lifestyles
allowing them to write productively or
chosen abject poverty (see: Knut Hamsun)
in order to liberate themselves from the
eight hours of mind numbing subjugation
of work. Some have even (like Sait Faik,
whom we'll discuss later) opted for both,
denouncing their privilege and living with
the folks. In any event, the only writer
worth a fuck that has maintained his
daily drudgery was Kafka. This was also
a man who decided to become a vegetarian
in early twentieth century Prague -- a city
that makes Chicago look like Eugene, Oregon
in terms of meat consumption. This was
a man who ate less than his household rodents
and died on the daylight side of forty.
His writing discipline was admirable, but
seems a more self-destructive path. (Hamsun,
we'll recall, lived to be 92.)

2. Never Revise

The common mythology that has been
bandied about in writing circles is one of
self-obsessive crafting. Editors have
urged that one not send out work
"still dripping with inspiration." Bollocks.
The aforementioned Faik, widely acknowledged
as one of Turkey's best modern writers,
often responded to assignments by penning
a piece and stuffing it in the envelope
with the ink still wet, let alone the inspiration!
It is debated whether these tales of Sait
were a form of self-mythologizing... to which,
I'll only say, "Good Form, man!"
In terms of poetry: If you look at a poem
long enough, every single deficiency will
scream out loud at you and none will
be worthy of the journal you wish to publish
in. This revision process is a form of
neurosis. Besides, the whole thing is a
crapshoot. One is no more likely to earn
the praises of an editor after workshopping
a piece into the ground than if he sends
in the "wet" piece. Also, if you're not one
of the SoQ minions, it is best to not try
and write like them. You will be discovered
as a fraud, without that elbowpatch and
ivy background and will have gained nothing
of it save failing to emulate little men and
women when you could have been ripping
off more worthy stenographers.

First thought, best thought.

3. Experience the other, non-canonical
Great Poets.

We all remember the Honorable Professor
Bloom's Western Canon. Though I tend
to agree with many of Harry's (can I call ya'
Harry? Thanks.) choices, I do take issue
with the heavy dose of Proust (from Ed
Abbey: " 'The mind is everything,' wrote
Proust. No doubt true, when you're dead from
the neck down." or, "Proust again: One can
only wish that a man with such powers of
total recall had led a less tedious life, moved
among somewhat livelier circles....") and
the exclusion of some great wits.
Randy Newman, for example. He is by
a long stretch our best satirist. I would
also include Shane MacGowan in a
must-read category. There's also Ted
Rall. Judging from someone's (I'll not
mention names, being a gentleman) new
"film noir verse novel" it seems Tom
Waits has made his way into the back
pages of POETRY. I salute this development,
just wish Waits was given the proper
credit.

4. Don't read the publications to
which you are submitting.

You've quit your job, remember?
You aren't made of money! And if you
were, you would've joined an MF(A)
program and met the editors anyway!
Pick up POETRY and Hustler. That
should suffice.

5. Drink yourself stupid and
act A Fool.

Hey, it has worked for writers from
the dawn of time! A quick refresher:
Li Po, Ernest Hemingway, Rudaki,
Omar Khayyam, Ed Abbey, W. H.
Auden, Rabelais, Charles Bukowski,
Villon, Hart Crane, Faulkner, Chaucer...
feel free to add at will. I recommend
whiskey or absinthe. Gin is nice,
but one must buy a special keyboard
with five by five inch keys. Also,
one will write (and say) things on a
whiskey drunk that he wouldn't
otherwise have written or said.
This is also true of gin, but as a general
rule the song of whiskey tends to
be more true. Strong drink is the
food of the author. Other chemical
preoccupations are to be generally
avoided. With that other fine intoxicant
we all know so well, the tendency is
to begin a project updating Goethe's
Faust and ending with a disco opera
about Tony Danza. Stick with the
sauce and you'll be alright, kid.



Wednesday, March 09, 2005

An Observation

Seems that Hart Crane had boundless
expectations for The Bridge. I can't
recall the quote, but it ended in the
assertion that if he put it down, no such
dancing would have ever been recorded
on paper.

The observation being: reading that
poem, it is quite obvious that he failed
in what he set out to do, but this is a
different "risk" category, if you will.
Crane failed at upstaging Whitman, but
if one didn't know the lofty goals he'd
put up for himself he'd no doubt declare
The Bridge a triumph. Here we have
that elusive risk, which seems to be the
common thread in all really great writing:
attempting something beyond your power
which results in something better than
you would have produced with more common
goals.

It takes that combination of sheer audacity
and a library large enough to solidify a
rightful self-consciousness to do what Crane
did.

I know very little of Donald Justice as a person
or creative force. I don't know how he works,
or what his ambition is when he picks up his
pen. Reading his Collected Poems makes me
glad he is out there, and can teach a writer
quite well the auld Poundism (though he
adopted it, I can only think of Pound when I
utter it) Dichtung = Condensare. (Or thereabouts.)
Justice seems to have a discipline that is
lacking in most of today's vanguard. (Economy
of language isn't the phrase one thinks of
thumbing through most quarterlies.) If one
judges from the body of work, the man's
picture and his bio, it would be hard to imagine
Justice having that streak of romanticist
self-destructiveness. It would be hard to see
him saying "This will change the course of
literature." It seems rather absurd, actually.

Dugan, yes.

His oeuvre is replete with grand failures. There
is a tone to each of his Poems that reminds
the reader of those wild-eyed poets, the poet
fixed in the popular imagination of most
outside the publishing industry/MF(A) circles.
The kind of guy a person would love to get
drunk with and swing sticks madly at passers-
by. Naturally, I see most of Dugan's poems
as brilliant -- but I'm sure he'd tell you different,
probably about the best ones. He seems the
natural progression past Bukowski, who may have
worshipped Hemingway to the point that
advancing past a certain point in poetry was
made impossible.

I recently engaged in a correspondence with a
fellow wild-eyed romantic who declared all of
his work to be "drafts." I don't know if this
was because of self-doubt, but in reading one
of these "drafts" I was struck by the fact that
it was indeed better than most of what is being
produced in the quarterly market. My guess
is that he is actively pursuing something great,
if not a new thing under the sun at least a
shake-up of the poetry hierarchy that seems
to be bookended by "Proets" whose work
is workshopped to impotency (I miss that word!)
and langpos who tend to display a "postmodern"
(a word I wouldn't miss if it were to be hurled
into a great chasm of word-death) hipness that
doesn't resemble poetry at all. (I am not saying
the work is without value, but for those of us
who revel in our romantic anachronism it is
just too coy.)

In this one page "draft" I feel more comfortable
about the future of poetry than I have in some
time. I am certain that those from the two
opposed schools feel a return to transcendental
or romantic verse is beyond anachronism and
into the territory of second-rate modes of thought,
something one decides upon because s/he hasn't
read enough contemporary verse, or refuses to
step into the 21st century... Well, I've seen about all
I need to of the 21st century as it is (a continuation
of the twentieth with a few nightmare twists)
and I'd wager the two schools will be outmoded
quicker than you can say "Wordsworth, Whitman,
Keats" three times quickly.

Neruda is a hell of a model for the New 21st.
South America is the global bright spot. There
is hope on the one continent actually ambling
into democracy. Big Hope is the only antidote
to the poisonous atmosphere of fear and repression
we see in, well, everywhere else. Neruda maintained
that type of Hope through very dark days for
Chile. Did he see a Chavez, a Lula coming? Maybe.
The two schools are an "is" type of equation.
The new poetry landscape, should people like
that friend of mine continue to write and not
jump off of anything high anytime soon, will again
be that of "what should be." I can tell you
"is" all bloody day. In third person. Big fucking
deal. We're through the looking glass where
"objective" writing is the most narcissistic.
Imagine the solipsistic weltanschaung of a writer
whose goal is strictly portraying "is" through
his own glasses, actually pretending to have
objectivity. It is a pessimistic way to do things,
and art (especially poetry) should be a
vaccine against the shit this criminal enterprise
of a Western World throws at us.

I DECLARE THE POPULACE TO HAVE A
SOUL. AN ACTUAL SOUL, COLLECTIVE
AND INDIVIDUAL.

Maybe this will fail. Maybe South America
will fall again. And maybe those of us who
think like nineteenth century outcasts are
going to be scorned or ignored.

As Hart Crane might tell you, that grand
failure is better than any measured success.

Monday, March 07, 2005


"All the Federalis say/ they could've had him any day/ they only let him slip away. Out of Kindness, I suppose.

Turnstyled, Junkpiled

"Railroaded, too."

Today, March 7, commemorates the birthdate
of The Late Great Townes Van Zandt. I would
join Steve Earle naked in cowboy boots on
Bob Dylan's dining room table to bear witness
to Townes being the greatest American folk
song writer since Woody Guthrie.

I missed the fifth, which found Gabriel Garcia
Marquez celebrating his birthday, along with
Lou Reed on the second. I suppose the lesson
here is that the Fish reigns supreme. (We are
the oldest souls, you know.)

Townes has been one of those profound influences,
the kind that has caused me to follow -- sometimes
to my detriment.

The first person to act upon me in this fashion
was Joseph Conrad. I was so full of Conrad,
I joined the Navy. Thanks, Joe!

Blind Willie McTell and Tampa Red influenced
time in Georgia.

I was in Lincoln, Nebraska when I really got into
Townes. I was driving a 1983 Cadillac Coupe de Ville
(still my favorite car) with a cassette deck, rotating
Woody, Lyle Lovett (Ensenada) and Townes.
Every night after work we'd have a pickin' session,
as they say, usually culminating in either "White
Freightliner Blues" or "Heavenly Houseboat Blues."

It wasn't long before the Caddy was loaded up,
broken down ("No Deal" hadn't any influence on that,
just bad luck) and the wife and I found ourselves
in Wise County, Texas. This was just a few miles
from Mr. Van Zandt's final resting place in Dido.
No small coincidence there. I wasn't aware of the
whole "dry county" phenomenon (even though I'd
lived in Bowling Green, Kentucky which is surrounded
by perpetual drouth -- but I worked at a liquor store,
after all!) and was not pleased when I finally broke
down and asked a gas station attendant where in the
hell I could get a twelve pack of beer. (This was while
gassing up the U Haul!) He told me "Lindsey."

"Alright, how do I get to Lindsay Street?"

"No, Lindsey's about twenty miles thataway."

Never has the phrase "You have got to be fucking
kidding me" rang more truthfully.

Well, one advantage was that I made it a habit to
do my beer run in "good ol' Denton" Texas (the
Right Oner capital of the low plains) which was
a cultural island from the whole DFW metromess
and footwashin' rural atmosphere. The road
I took went through Sanger, and from what evidence
I can gather, by the motel in which Townes wrote
"Pancho and Lefty." At this time in life the only
thing in my Ford Festiva (yes, if you're wondering,
the de Ville to the Festiva will adjust one's driving
habits significantly) was a copy of "The Late,
Great Townes Van Zandt" (Side A) and "High,
Low and In Between" (B).

Enough of the personal stories, now to the man
himself.

Townes is special for a number of reasons. His
distinctive voice, his skillful guitar playing, and
most of all his gift for songwriting. There are only
a few songwriters who have been given the title
"Poet" not only by fans and peers, but those
outside folk circles. Woody, of course. (He is our
Robert Burns, after all.) Many say Dylan. I'll
accept that. Guy Clark, surely.

But what separates Townes is the way he wrote.
Take a song like "She Came and She Touched Me."
There are precious few who would put such an
adventurous scheme in a love song. (If you could
ever call one of his songs such.) Simply put, Townes
scans better than any other songwriter this nation
has produced.

Further, he forged his own mythology. The holy
writ of Townes Van Zandt can be found in
Our Mother The Mountain. There is a mysticism
that runs throughout. A Comanche Sufi lamenting
fast women and in turn consoling them; bridging
the sacred and the profane throughout (see: "St.
John the Gambler" for the primary surah); and
the power and spirit of nature in the mountains
themselves. Townes was an American of two
citizenships. Steve Earle would pardon me for
asserting that he was both a Texan and a
Colorado mountain prophet.

Recently, Townes has been receiving more
attention. Though purists tend to bemoan
the popularization of "one of their own"
(myself included in this: I finally landed
a copy of the once vinyl-only two lp
Live at the Old Quarter, the best live
album ever made, for what it's worth...
two years later they release the damn thing
on CD! Now that's just cheating!) Townes
deserves his place on the turntable of any
serious fan of music or poetry.

So, if you haven't come to know the Tao
of Townes, I'd suggest running to the nearest
record store and acquainting yourself, and
joining us "purists" in March 7 festivities from
here on out. If you are already a devotee,
pour a big glass of jug wine and drink one to
him. Pick a guitar, get a friend with a fiddle or
mandolin, and don't forget to end the night with
this, remembering the C run at the end:

"I'm goin' out on the highway,
listen to them big trucks whine
I'm goin' out on the highway,
listen to them big trucks whi-hine.
White Freightliner won't you haul away my mind.

Bad news from Houston,
half my friends are dying.
Bad news from Houston,
half my friends are dying
White Freightliner won't you haul away my mind.

New Mexico ain't bad, lord
the people there they treat you fine.
New Mexico ain't bad
the people there they treat you fine
White Freightliner won't you haul away my mind.

Lord, I'm gonna' ramble 'til I
get back from where I came.
Lord, I'm gonna ramble 'til I
get back from where I came
White Freightliner, won't you haul away my brain.

I'm goin' out on the highway,
listen to them big trucks whine.
I'm goin' out on the highway
listen to them big trucks whi-hine,
White Freightliner won't you
Haul away My Mind."

Thursday, March 03, 2005

3 March 2005

William Godwin's birthday today.

Should anyone desire links to free online
versions of his timeless Enquiry Concerning
Political Justice, comment away.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

"I am wrapped in dismal thinkings."

I am about to repeat a sentiment that
virtually everyone has at one time no
doubt uttered. I think it bears repeating
from time to time.

You can't go wrong with Shakespeare.

Watched All's Well That Ends Well last
night. If measured up against most of his
plays, it is weak tea. The Countess in this
comedy provides not nearly as much comedy
as Polonius in his "advice." (I understand,
of course, this is not her function; however,
it seems that the play could have used such
a thing from someone.) Paroles isn't, as they
say, a pimple on Falstaff's arse as a character.
The Merry Wives of Windsor is far funnier
in every Act and Scene. One could go on and on.

Yet, it is an evening well spent. The King
is responsible for some great lines (such as the
title here) and the farcical capture of Paroles
is a delight. Which delivers the main point:
A lower tier play (there are no lower tier
sonnets, I'd posit) by Shakespeare is better
than the best of anything else.

The debate has raged at times as to whether
Wagner was a greater mind. My knowledge of
German leaves something to be desired (I have
grown rusty, not living in Milwaukee or Bonn)
but from the librettos a case could be made.
Add to this that Shakespeare didn't (to our
knowledge) write any of the sweeping music
that sweats out of every pore in one of Richard's
operas. That said, I still find no competition.
This may be an Anglo bias, which I will freely
admit having, but as a singular artist Shakespeare
maintains that "I know not what" -- that magical
element is ever-present. Others have moments.
Wagner has hundreds (though one could argue
that the presence of the music is an unfair
emotive advantage) and even Hasek and Heller
have that magic in certain passages.

Only our friend William manages to mystify,
to codify our collective religion as writers. The musical
element is enormous in his work. I suppose
that is the triumph above all else. The spoken
words of any Shakespeare play well-acted
contains musical elements, an otherworldly
("oceanic" to use Jung's term) sensation that
even music cannot match. That is a triumph
never before seen and never to be repeated.

If ever there was a competitor, possibly it
would be Mark Twain. I am unable to
think of another author who has defined
a country the way Twain did, or who has
been so much to so many. Wrap up all of
the Roman playwrights and collected
satirists (though we know precious little
of Bion) and you have in their collected
body about half of what Twain accomplished.
Obviously, having any writer do battle
with Shakespeare is akin to matching Jack
Johnson with the best of the lightweight
divisions. My contention is simply that
Twain may well be the only middleweight.

Alright, I have accomplished the feeling
Larry King lives with.

I shall endeavor to not follow this with
such posts as:

"Leo Kottke is a good guitar player"
"That Citizen Kane was pretty damned good"
or
"You know, Groucho Marx was funny."

Nostrovia.

Monday, February 21, 2005

A Shocking Story with Few Details

Well, it appears that the good Doctor
Thompson has been... I mean, has
committed suicide.

Almost no details, and as far as
Morning Edition is concerned
(7:41 CST) it isn't much of a story.

This leaves me with a very uncomfortable sensation.

More to follow, let's hope.

Friday, February 18, 2005

I know I screwed you over last game, but I PROMISE not to Fortify South America if you don't roll the dice against my men in Asia.

Should one be a Jensenite?

I think so.

I am calling on everyone to step up to the
edge of the cliff and take a long metrical
piss over the side! As for me,

A Planned Manuscript:

1. Start off with a poem that doesn't jump
out (that won't be hard) at an editor, that
also uses antiquated devices and begins the
first three lines with "I".

2. Use the word "beauty" twice. Per Frost's
dictum, one would have one more "beauty"
left -- now that's danger.

3. Use hate speech liberally. (In quotations,
naturally. I am a Green Social Democrat after
all.)

4. Abstraction after abstraction!
(To be fair, nothing is really an abstraction.
That is a function of a small mind. We must
consider Hamsun's comment that
Dostoyevsky's writings weren't strange at
all... he saw things like that all the time.)

5. Tell the Muse to get off her ass and do
the rewriting! I don't have time for that
shit. I gotsta go to my jobby job!

6. There are hundreds of approximate
words in a poem, actually. My manuscript
will contain at least ninety of them.

7. At least thirty-five epigraphs. Some from
guys playing chess at the corner of 12th and
Mass. Some from John Negroponte and other
war criminals.

8. And there is the "Poet's Handshake."
I will present my dick, thanks.


Thanks, Charles.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Hitler und Jensen

Two things seem quite certain:

Mr. Jensen (link at left) is this week's
Most inspiring Ploggist.

&

Ted Hitler is the best thing going for
American journalism.

Huzzah to both!

Notes

1. No more Sea-Camel. That is a disappointment.

2. I believe I have discovered the only foolproof
method to quit cigarettes: A respiratory illness!

3. Bargained with God last night to break a fever
and let me wake up at least partially relieved of a sickness.
So, all praises due to Him, as they say. Thanks.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Compartmentalizing

What is one to do?

I watched Tom and Viv last week, and soon after
got a nasty chest cold. (Coincidence, I'm sure.)

Though the portrayals in the film are surely a bit
exaggerated, one can't deny the total lack of huevos
Mr. Eliot exhibited in life.

I must note at this point that leaving Ezra Pound out
of a story that even brushes against The Waste Land
or, for that matter, Eliot's life is somewhat like telling
the story of World War II. without mentioning F.D.R.

It didn't take long at all for me to dust off Apes of God
(which goes nicely with the recent Iraqi election's
companion book The Art of Being Ruled) and look at
Lewis and the Bloomsberries in a new light.

My primary trouble is that I have always liked Lewis,
identified with him and with those who defended him.
I love the idea of a man following in the tradition of
Swift and Pope. And I suppose I have a thing for what
the zeitgeist would refer to as "fascist sympathizers."

Among my favorite authors are Pound, Lewis, Hamsun
and Celine. For most of my young adult years, one need
only add Conrad (who had received the same sort of
criticism) to round out my top five.

By now, we can see well past the political proclivities
of great artists. It wouldn't be so easy with, say, a current
Bush supporter. My, how the times change! It is hard
to imagine Pound, Lewis, Hamsun or certainly Celine
jiving with the American Crusade, but all were certainly
involved with the last major outcropping of fascism in one
way or another.

Meanwhile, the Bloomsberries (not necessarily a field of study
for me, apart from the work of their detractors) seem to
be right honorable socialists, pagans, &c. As they say at FoxNews,
Some Say Roy Campbell disliked them in large part because
of their promiscuity and anti-Christian attitude.

And here we get to the split.

One needs the devices of a literary Schrodinger to come to
terms with the divide...

The two teams:

1. The writers one likes because of their personal
and professional existences, yet fall short on
the "public morality" scale because of some rather
unfortunate political allegiances; and

2. The writers one doesn't necessarily like (nor even
make an attempt to like) even though they seem
to fit one's weltanschaung relatively well.

And I am not speaking of literary content here. Purely
based on personalities.

I cannot possibly dislike Lewis, because I identify with
the outsider, the Enemy. In some ways, the infamy of
his politics enhances this.

I don't ever see myself becoming keen on the 'berries,
because they personify cliquishness, snobbery (the social
rather than intellectual kind, which was quite the
opposite of Wyndham's -- who was rather snobbish in
his own way... one which I find appealing) and a sort
of personal decadence which is in many ways distasteful.

Of course, Burroughs and Ginsy made it easy for me, because
that generation fused aesthetics and outlook.

The historical prism shades things. In the case of the
1920's-1950's politics seems somewhat black and white,
while literature had only grays.

In these times of tumult (which are beginning to resemble
the 1930's in more ways than I care to mention) I hope
that the world of literature is provided with a worthy
antagonist such as Pound or Lewis. Indeed, the
Professionalization of writing has left us wanting for
such characters. And of course it is much less likely that
such an intellect could be born in the late twentieth
century... and that, if it has, we may never know it.

It seems that the "Beats" were exceptional in that they
served as antagonists while maintaining a political
philosophy that is in step with a good portion of the
artistic intelligentsia throughout time. Beyond them,
were I pressed to select an author that hasn't a chink
in the armor (i.e., is both a great artist and political
thinker) I would immediately offer both Neruda
and Hikmet.

Within Anglo-American society, it is hard to imagine
any of the possible combinations ascending to the
statures enjoyed by Ginsberg, Pound, Lewis, Neruda
or Hikmet.

In England, it is possible. Say, a great Poet with ties
to the National Front. (They aren't all bad, philosophically
speaking, as they at least advocate organic farming.)
In the United States, I can only envision someone like
Podhoretz.

Podhoretz could write a new Dunciad and I would be
hard-pressed to recognize it as such.

I guess one can always dream of the "Ideal Outsider."

Qualifications:
1. An immense reading list (obviously);
2. A new style that is not so new as to be LANGUAGElike;
3. A devotee of Chavez, and the Bolivarian Movement;
4. A smashing outfit.

Wait a second! Didn't Subcomandante Marcos publish
a book recently?