Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Links

When I changed this page after signing into
New! Blogger (my Blogger has commentary
by Tom Wolfe) I somehow lost my links.

Didn't lose them, really, but they are waiting
patiently in a Word document. I've been
thinking of resurrecting them, much like I've
been contemplating the crow Kawing on a more
regular basis.

If any past linkee is on the page, wouldn't want
him/her to think that I've dropped it for
any particular reason save laziness.

In any event, the title is a link for a new (to me)
page. The guy likes Crane and Carver and
dislikes Billy Logan. I think we'd get along.

***

To be fair, I seem to recall that Logan did
something somewhere that caused me to speak
in very laudatory tones about him. It was
probably aired out on this page somewhere...
somewhere... I'll have to look into it, but the
NYTBR piece may be a RED CARD situation.

***

The whole episode engendered an affection
for Franz Wright. Well, that and his great
"fuck you" to POETRY after receiving that
all-too-familiar standard rejection "letter."
That, and the fact the guy seems to be ready
to go at the drop of a hat. I love that spirit.

Wondering... if I write to Franz Wright, what
are the Vegas odds that I get any sort of
response? Double down by speculating whether
he'd tell me he'd knock me out if he got the
chance. And if so, where and when? Hell, even
if a big P winner gets the better of you, it might
move a few pieces. Who knows?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

An Early Contender for Enmity of the Year. (Ask Franz Wright)

"Not being a seagoing breed, poets rarely die by water--"

This gem appears in the first paragraph of the New York
Times Book Review hit on Hart Crane. Your mechanic,
ladies & gentlemen, Mr. William Logan.

That the Book Review gave two full pages (counting the
large picture of Crane) to a review of the new Complete
Poems and Selected Letters (an immense 849 pp!) is
cause for celebration. To paraphrase Saint Ron, of all
people to do the review, why Logan?

While reading the piece, I had to stop and light around
four cigarettes, fuming at the arrogant upper middle
class attitude that was dripping so heavily off the page
the ink ran. I have no idea how many (or how few) folks
read this page... especially since going on a long blogging
sabbatical, you see, folks who don't inhabit asylums
for obsequious idlers can take vacations from things
as well... and I am aware that this exercise is mostly
therapeutic... but as well as an exercise I must exorcise
the ulcer Logan would no doubt create if someone
somewhere didn't shout out his window regarding this
trifling piece of prose.

Let's begin with the seagoing part. Poets not being a
seagoing breed? Really? Aside from the small detail
that the very beginning of Anglo-Saxon poetry can be
traced back to "The Seafarer," I seem to recall that
a number of poets were called by the sea. No doubt
Logan views the sealtyĆ¾a gelac as those high streams
of consciousness emanating from behind desks from
Iowa City to Gainesville. From the outset, it is clear that
there is bound to be a good deal of Crane that is
inaccessible to Logan's bourgeois verse aesthetic.

"Crane dreamed of being a poet much more often
than he sat at his desk and wrote poems; and he was
forever complaining in letters that he had no time to
write, though he found plenty of time to drink."

This comes a few paragraphs after a useful bit of
biography: "Most of Crane's short life was spent
scuffling for money."

That the two would not connect clearly for Logan is
no surprise. Lemme 'splain something to you, Mr.
Logan. When a person is short on money, or has to
cobble together a living doing odd jobs in order to
subsidize his writing (while, of course, begging
people for cash) it takes a toll on desk time. Further,
a drinker will drink, often to serenade the muse...
more often to turn the bleeding voices off. I'll put it
in terms a chap like Logan can understand clearly:
for some poets, a night out drinking is like teaching
a class. It is something they do while being them, and
it does take away from writing time, but it is how they
get by.
No doubt many of the great minds history will record
from our contemporary scene (there could even be
an American poet in this group) could've created so
much more if it weren't for that damned survey. We all
have crosses to take up.

As for doing more dreaming than writing? I'd dare say
that today's poets could stand to do a hell of a lot more
dreaming before setting fingers to laptops. Give me
ten spectacular failures whose life work is one slim
volume premised on dreams as lofty as the Romantics
to every single pragmatic craftsman churning out
forgettable, competent stabs at academic verisimilitude.

Actually, the reader could be saved an arduous journey
into Logan's weird world with a simple two sentence
review.

"Hart Crane had plenty of time to drink, but complained of
no time to write. His work is untrained, and as such, of little
value." Throw in "his idea of a revolutionary aesthetic
repels me and I will take it out in a review of the long dead
beauty" and you've pretty much got it.

Actually, I'm being unfair. To be honest, I have roughly the
same take on "The Bridge" as Logan does, though I certainly
think it is a work undeserving of the poisoned jabs thrown at
it in this review. Again, brevity being the soul of wit, Logan
could have left it at one of his own sentences when talking
about "The Bridge" which was pretty on-the-money:
"We have no long poems this close to being great that are
greater failures." Attention, New York Times: stop
paying contributors to the book review by volume!
Had he left it there, that bile taste Logan is known for
inducing in readers and poets alike would have been at
usual dosage.

But Logan cannot resist his impulses. He is like Alexander
Pope... except not in the same league wit-wise (or even
the same sport or species) and, of course, hasn't created
an eternal work like "The Dunciad" and... mm... Pope was
always entertaining. But in the field of bile, I think the
bitter little Pointdexter matches the whole Pope/Swift
scene.

The final blow which Logan could not resist? I'll quote
one last time. "[W]e are lucky he left nothing of his
projected epic on the Aztecs." A bit presumptuous,
wouldn't you say? It is extreme even in a piece which
relies much more on character assassination (though
for rogues such as myself, a great drinker is certainly
more praiseworthy than a fastidious craftsman) than
actual consideration of the poetry. Auden is rolling
over. Bunting is too stern to roll, but might when he
feels the need to break the silence of the congregation.

Lucky he left nothing of his projected epic on the Aztecs?
Well, it makes sense, when you think about it. I mean,
just like poets being known for lack of adventure and
clinging to the safety of the shore, there has never been
an example of an ambitious poet endeavoring to
revolutionize the medium finally getting where he was
looking to go after a few false starts. Never.

Besides, Crane didn't have an MF(A). He couldn't
have crafted the thing if he'd tried.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Un

This thought of the 21st Century being an exception
to history... dangerous and foolish and everything
we've come to expect from Western man.

As it relates to literature, it seems that the postmods
and their heirs are more content with wordgames
and performance art than with writing. I can
understand the impulse, as the exponents of
conventional verse and prose tend to be dreadful
bores... but does it seem odd to anyone else that
those who would "evolve" the art choose a
method closer to Nash during the schizophrenic years
than, say, Whitman or Jones as an inspirational
influence? (Or a number of others... I'd just prefer
for poets they be poets or at least writers of
some sort.)

Hell, look what Logue is doing with Homer. Homer,
for Chrissake. Is it hopelessly anachronistic to
ask the vanguard to focus at least as much on
writing something worth reading as they do on
parlor tricks?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Year of The Underdog

A dash of fire. A bit of positive yang. The willingness
to make broad generalizations about life and art as a
result of a sporting competition.

As of 18 February, 2007 will become year of the pig.
We're still in the dog year, and it is time that 2007
is declared Year of the Underdog no matter what means
of divination one prefers.

I wasn't quite sure what to make of this new year until
last night. There was a good deal of optimism from half
of the house guests at the New Year's Eve boozer. The other
half seemed... not despondent, but less optimistic.
Even into 1 January, my personal inventory left
me with a weighted feeling. I have always been one
to stay outside of the system, relying on a vague notion
that a person could accomplish a good deal through
strength of personality, character, or work. (I'll get around
to one of them eventually.) As the New Year's inventory
was being compiled, though, I started to get the feeling
that the system would crush me after all. Indeed, it
had crushed me and any thoughts I had to the contrary
were pure delusion.

While watching the Rose Bowl at a cigar lounge with a few
friends, I'd made clear my singular sports wish for the
year. Namely, that Boise State would dispatch Oklahoma
with extreme prejudice. They scoffed. "I'll go one further,"
I told one of them, "I will personally stake my year on
the result of the Boise State-Oklahoma game."

I've never been to Boise. I don't crochet. Nevertheless,
their rise in collegiate football means a lot to me on a
symbolic level. It illustrates the hope many of us have.
Here is a group of people who weren't given much of a
chance by anyone other than their peers (in the WAC)
and were presented by the Establishment with a token
opportunity. "Once they're vanquished," the Establishment
thought, "we can get on with things as planned."

Boise had those three strengths. They proved that not
only did they deserve a chance to compete against the
legacy team with a Warbucks daddy and a better resume...
they proved that they were better.

I think this is a lesson for all of us. All of us, that is, who
aren't blessed with a large trust fund, who didn't
attend the big name schools, who have no one outside
of their peer group to rely on for support.

In the interest of this particular blog site, I'll extend it
to literature. The literature scene, especially poetry,
is about as rigged a game as the BCS. Take heart,
friends. If you're not plugged into the system, you
probably won't get a nod for The Big Prize-- the
title game as it were.

If you prove you are better than those that do, they
can only ignore you for so long. Add a fourth
strength to the aforementioned list: patience. Today's
muse inspiration is Ian Johnson.

Now, where can I get one of those hats?

OKLAHOMA: 42
BOISE STATE: 43