Tuesday, June 30, 2009

José Manuel Prieto’s Nocturnal Butterflies of the Russian Empire



Summer dusk. Rusty hinge noises of a pheasant, that
and a long train’s unscrolling blow,
                                                                  enormous and bent
back against itself like a tragedy, or a comedic
bout of punch-
                            ups, bluster of fisticuffs, fighters turning
in concomitant candor the color of rain.
                                                                            That summer
I read Shakespeare “without qualms,”
                                                                        my thumb stuck out
to dodge Dorset rain-
                                        showers, aiming nowhere in particular,
bumping up against a statuesque Drake in Tavistock, done.
A caduceus with its entwined snakes and wing’d staff,

flightiness doctor’d, entrapped by a quarrel, isn’t that what
one’s uncivil cahoots (call it writing) amounts to,
up in an untamper’d clamor of torn allegiances, denigrating
“the stupidity of the populace,”
                                                          elbowing out the serial
miscreants, singing mid-bounce like a goldfinch?
the bloke who offer’d a lift in a Jaguar,
slid a fatty paw off-shift leg-bound (my
leg), ask’d sweetly if I had a big cock.
Why yesyes and blow and enormous and bent

every postmortem’s a verbum perfectum,
                                                                              a reply in lieu
of what I did mutter, something about how that’s
a hard thing to determine,
                                                  unlike the axe handle
whose haft is pattern and blade is means, exactly
there at hand,
                            cock’s perfect model’s not at beck
or call, an unheft’d snoot accoutrement.
                                                                            He drove off,
huff’d with “the flesh of a constantly repeated permanence.”
That word-
                      luscious summer I scooter’d to Corfu, allow’d
that “the unselected nature of the material” might prevail.

Oh, one is wont to say, dear. Against the sprawl and scrawl of the writing hand, one measures oneself out in a finicky iterant register, moving a word here, no, here, the sort of thing that finally allows the plucky to leap up shouting out that “All art is arbitrary.” The way José Manuel Prieto in Nocturnal Butterflies of the Russian Empire(Grove Press, 2000)—the epigraph, by Ignatius de Loyola, reads “In the hands of my superior I must be malleable wax, to be shaped to any form, whether to write letters or to receive them”—noting the body’s “unselected” suasions, its mighty dérives, is suddenly launch’d out of the narrating rôle: “Like when you’re sitting in an armchair at home and suddenly feel like you’re in a pasture in Inner Mongolia, all the same physical sensations, wind bending the tall grass, small ponies grazing. I would really like to find an explanation for this phenomenon.” Later Prieto refers to “Jamblico, the Alexandrian philosopher” and “bilocation, the simultaneous appearance of one person in two different places”:
      This is what Jamblico says, in brief: that a certain divine cause can temporarily sever the real quantitative connection that a person’s body has to a particular place, spiritualizing it (modulating it, I’d say, but explanations later) in a certain way so that the body can be seen in far-off places. There is no contradiction in this. The existence and nonexistence of a body in the same place would be contradictory, but that’s not what he’s talking about. His is a different relation: the existence of corporeal substance in one place and extensions in another, simultaneously, a phenomenon common to the gods.
      I was not a god. Nor was I an exile, I don’t like that word (I prefer an older one, from before 1917 and even 1789). I was just a traveler. But the state of a traveler emulates that of a god, because it goes everywhere. Therefore: what is true of a divine body is also true of a traveler’s.
Or, one nudges, a writer’s. Prieto’s protagonist—known in the novel as J.—is an opportunist / smuggler in and around post-Soviet Russia and the European capitals, engaged in selling off contraband night-vision goggles, or underwater pistols, or Hasselblad cameras, or silent air guns, mostly truck shook out of the diminish’d Soviet armies. J. argues—all very Nabokovian the book, particularly in its bending of time itself to consciousness, think of Nabokov’s lines out of Transparent Things
When we concentrate on a material object, whatever its situation, the very act of attention may lead to our involuntarily sinking into the history of that object. Novices must learn to skim over matter if they want matter to stay at the exact level of the moment. Transparent things, through which the past shines!
      Man-made objects, or natural ones, inert in themselves but much used by careless life (you are thinking, and quite rightly so, of a hillside stone over which a multitude of small animals have scurried in the course of incalculable seasons) are particularly difficult to keep in surface focus: novices fall through the surface, humming happily to themselves, and are soon reveling with childish abandon in the story of this stone, of that heath. I shall explain. A thin veneer of immediate reality is spread over natural and artificial matter, and whoever wishes to remain in the now, with the now, on the now, should please not break its tension film. Otherwise the inexperienced miracle-worker will find himself no longer walking on water but descending upright among staring fish. More in a moment.
—that since “there’s high-grade redundancy in the physical frame and the fluids running though it . . . technically, it’s perfectly feasible to cut the atomic unit in half without decreasing physical or spatial presence.” So that (J. argues) “I could be like a television signal that travels around the world and is reincorporated (or made visible) in a receiving device. I was the original, or One, no question, but I’d crossed over some cities (again and again) and formed chance connections and at last I saw.” Consciousness splay’d, broke, fragment’d, what makes time remain “at the level of the moment”—sheer presence—allows, too, bilocation. Prieto:
I’d left bits of my consciousness, bits of myself on so many customs’ screens, a copy of me could easily have been formed from those samples, a me composed of fifty percent of my person. Not a clone, but the same signal divided in two. Along the same lines as frequency modulation, the process by which a radio signal is divided into two packages of waves, one for the left canal (or ear) and one for the right canal (or ear).
Born in Cuba in 1962, Prieto’s lived in Mexico City since 1995—though he’s currently a Fellow at the New York Public Library’s Center for Scholars and Writers. Translator of Russian: Akhmatova, Brodsky, Mayakovsky, Nabokov, amongst others. The American edition title, Nocturnal Butterflies of the Russian Empire (the original Spanish is call’d Livadia, refers to a book J. uses—“Diurnal and Nocturnal Butterflies of the Russian Empire, by V. V. Sirin,” a book whose descriptions of individual species is “less ‘psychological,’ more nineteenth century.” V. V. Sirin: the pseudonym under which Nabokov publish’d Russian novels in Berlin. The ‘psychological’ likely a joke regarding Nabokov’s routine mockery of Freud, “the Viennese quack.”

José Manuel Prieto

Monday, June 29, 2009

Henri Michaux’s Ideograms in China

Some Clouds


Accumulating the measly
burrs and conceits
of voyage, seeings
gel’d by sequence,
miasmic and congeal’d,
notes scrawl’d out
liquid and tell-
tale of most
usual hardships, redundancies,
trajectories struck out,
or tick’d off.
The whole story
of the unpracticed
self—append’d replica
of some unnumber’d
slumb’ry of selves
nurtured by mimickry,
tracers of routes
innumerable and fey—
one tears off
in a direction
just to go
somewhere. And arrives
looking a little
limp and orchidaceous,
a satellite to
the other, breezier
autochthons lining up
to cradle democracy
or fondle some
dang bell, mind-
wreck’d by movement
and anticipatory chasms.
Home to sleep
the sleep of
the coin pittoresque
by Atget, desuetude
and encumbrance, green
(meaning irregular, variegated,
tintinnabulating) fertility and
decay. A multitude,
part of a
multitude (all of
us sleeping), photograph
of a photograph.

Odd to travel and try to keep the writing writing. “Few survived, or none.” A jaunt east—“Allegheny, Tuscarora, Kittatinny, Blue Mountain” is how the Pennsylvania tunnels go—and back, with stops. One arranges one’s “valise” (I like the word) flat with books, Elias Khoury, F. O. Matthiessen, Peter Levi’s The Noise Made by Poems (“We can recognize reality only by articulating it, a gasp is not enough. I do not myself believe that even thought is independent of language. Therefore sobriety and articulate discourse are among the most important obligations of human beings. Like it or not we are doomed to rationality, and we are equally doomed to those intense experiments which are the crucible and self-crucible or rationality.”), Adonis, José Manuel Prieto’s Nocturnal Butterflies of the Russian Empire. And it is the latter that I succumb to, in moments mostly stol’n, before rocketing into permis de conduire-deprived sleeps. My brother tells me, carry only a single book, the others accumulate along the way, and though I find the stricture impossible, they do: Hugh Kenner’s latish hotch-potch Mazes, Kenner’s 1961 Samuel Beckett, Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital: A Walk Around the M25, and a tiny book by Henri Michaux, Ideograms in China, translated by Gustaf Sobin, with an essay call’d “Signs in Action: Michaux / Pound” by Richard Sieburth append’d. Diving in and out of used book emporia.

Lines out of context, scribbled down out of the Michaux (though one notes, without insistence, that Michaux’s “argument” is conjectural, fluid, floody, acontextual):
      To abstract means to free oneself, to come disentangled.

      The destiny that awaited Chinese was utter weightlessness.

      The characters that evolved were better suited than their archaic predecessors in terms of speed, agility, deftness of gesture. A certain kind of Chinese landscape painting demands speed, can only be executed with the same sudden release as the paw of a springing tiger. (For which one must first be concentrated, self-contained and, at the same time, relaxed.)
And one thinks of Barbara Guest and her “utterly weightless” imitators, the lyric abstract, the sprawl of negligibility, the over-production of textual frippery. In a note to “concentrated, self-contained”: the insistence that “Meditation . . . before a given landscape, might last twenty hours and the execution of the painting no more than twenty or thirty minutes.” (One might write little for a quarter of a century of seemingly dilatory vague study, charging, and burn up one’s hand—Michaux on the empty “hand” that “should no way hinder what’s flowing into it”: “Should be ready for the latest sensation as well as the most violent. A bearer of influx, of effluvia.” See Jack Spicer’s radio—in late vociferating dismay.) (There’s a reason the workshops love that word “earned,” though it be deploy’d in a bastard sense: gestural disentanglement is a point of nigh-equilibrium unattain’d by fatuous replicas of replicas, one book after another.) Michaux, too, in a kind of redress against the accumulus of study, on the spontaneity of the hand (calligraphy), how it “runs, sometimes, to the point of shattering”:
      No longer to imitate, but signify nature. By strokes, darts, dashes.
      Ascesis of the immediate, of the lightning bolt.

      The sign in Chinese, today, which is no longer in any way mimetic, has the grace of its own impatience. It has drawn from nature its flight, its diversity, its inimitable way of knowing how to bend, rebound, redress itself.
Is it because I wrote by hand (“my execrable scrawl”) in a tiny notebook for the last ten days that I find Michaux’s meanderings so right? That moment, writing, of pure physical excess, the hand itself (“my signifying monstrance”) making its own way untrammel’d by anything beyond, well, what? Song? Some compelling muscular tune? I don’t know. I know that “to the point of shattering” is perfectly just. Hand-ecstatic and veering out of control in an excess of “writing.” (Every piece ends in a satisfyingly illegible scribble.) (See Robert Grenier’s late scrawls for a “study’d”—meaning inauthentic, and finally more or less decorative, who switches color’d pencil or brush mid-spasm?—version of such impatience.)

And Sieburth, putting the romp to the notion of the purely “new” (with a nod to Guy Davenport, who report’d that Pound in the late tempus tacendi nevertheless contemplated a translation of Michaux’s Idéogrammes en Chine):
Pound’s paratactic disposition of seemingly unrelated particulars has of course been frequently compared to modernist practices of collage or assemblage, but it’s worth emphasizing that he conceived of his poetic method not only in the context of avant-garde experiment, but as a recovery of something profoundly traditional or archaic—after all, both the compound graphic and semantic structure of the Chinese character and the perfected parataxis of classical Chinese poetry seemed proof enough that other languages, other grammars of art were indeed possible. Sergei Eisenstein, for one, came to similar conclusions about the unexplored linguistic possibilities of cinematic montage after studying Chinese ideograms, as witnessed by the title of his 1929 essay, “The Cinematographic Principle and the Ideograph,” a text roughly contemporary with Michaux’s first graphic experiments with those imaginary alphabets or rebuses he would later term “ideogram compositions” or “cinematic drawings.”
      Pound, Eisenstein, Michaux—a critical ideogram comprised of three names working in three different media, here assembled merely to indicate the extent to which the Chinese character, from the time of Leibniz all the way up to Sollers, has tended to speak primarily to Western eyes (and this despite the fact that 90% of Chinese characters are in fact phonetic compounds). The Imagist Pound was delighted to find in Chinese a language of signs so pictorially suggestive that his friend the French sculptor Gaudier-Brzeska could pick up a Chinese dictionary and effortlessly read the forms of many radicals at sight. Pound’s mentor Fenollosa, steeped as he was in the American Transcendentalist tradition, encouraged his conviction that Chinese was a perfect natural language since it represented not sounds, but rather the “visible hieroglyphics” of Nature itself.
I begin to suspect every word Sieburth writes is something to attend to.

Henri Michaux, 1899-1984

Henri Michaux, Ink, 1961
(The Tate Modern)

Henri Michaux, Ink, 1960
(The Museum of Modern Art)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

“Some Pedlarly Fardles”



How talc-soapy
the rolling papers,
how blackly tar-
stuck the hashish!
‘Opes the palace
of eternity.’ Oops.
I love Emerson’s
pre-mechanical, mock-
querying voice dipping
into the basso
hinterlands, black
bottom style: ‘In
the distemper known
to physicians as
chorea, the patient
turns round and
continues to spin
slowly on one
spot. Is egotism
a metaphysical variety
of this malady?’
Coy finitude in
lieu of quibble
activity, that’s one
way metaphorical vehicles
arrange a load
and strike off
a rhumb line
(or a rumba
line) oblique to
the meridianal base.
So one strikes
out into buggy,
unbreezed night, lank
weight’d pressure drop
indicating a storm,
the incumbent skittering
swifts at work
early, scissoring up
the lower parcels,
a German shepherd
named Desirée dawdling
home, finicky and
submissive. The high
gods love tragedy,
and horn arrangements
with mutes, three
black girls doing
a rubbishy scat
number, all sinews
and ropes unloos’d.
If time, that
jejune babe, be
product of insipid
relentlessness, that prat-
fall and constant
preening’s never going
to be enough:
do the work.

Admittedly lazy, though up and out early, the gris-de-France sky, the crows acting like roustabouts, lipping off to one another, the bicycle speeding through the wet streets. Off tomorrow to points east, Pennsylvania, and likely absent for a week or so. Oil-changed, new air filter, sack of books in the offing. “But do your work, and I shall know you.” Debating how echo-y to make that line. Reading last night F. O. Matthiessen’s American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman (1941), full of terrific detail in the casual sentence: “When Henry James, Jr., wrote about him half a dozen years after his death, he took it as a sign of Emerson’s ‘singular power’ that he was ‘a striking exception to the general rule that writing live in the last resort by their form.’” Marvelous: for making tangible the proximity of James to Emerson, for turning attention to Emersonian form (or lack thereof), and for capturing James’s own (who’d of thunk it?) (somewhat debatable) formal premise. Or to consider how removed one is a hundred and seventy or so years out of Emerson’s world (or de Tocqueville’s): “Writing of the America that was just about to produce Emerson’s work, the French critic began his chapter, ‘Of Individualism in Democratic Countries,’ by remarking, ‘Individualism is a novel expression, to which a novel idea has given birth.’” Footnoted by Matthiessen thus:
The first English translator of Democracy in America (1840), which was based on Tocqueville’s visit to this country in 1831-32, commented on this word: ‘I adopt the expression of the original, however strange it many seem to the English ear, partly because it illustrates . . . the introduction of general terms into democratic language . . . and partly because I know of no English word exactly equivalent.’ This is the first usage recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary.
(I note, now, one earlier usage recorded: Leman Thomas Rede’s 1827 The Road to the Stage announces, rather mysteriously in the a-contextual light: “I beg to disclaim, in these observations, any individualism; several talented persons may be found connected with such establishments.” Presumably regarding an acting troupe. Though, Rede mentions, too, how one—presumably highly individualist—actor contract’d in writing that he never be ask’d “to blacken his face or to descend a trap door.”)

(Somewhere in the brain-box, in some mouse-turd’d corner reserved for the mealiest-mouth’d scurrilities, is this: “The whole notion of the poet as a solitary practitioner—the splendid isolato—is so out of touch with reality as to be bizarre. Sure there are poets who eschew the companionship of their peers—but there is a reason for it. These are poets with issues.” La Silliman’s insinuating that individualism is something of an aberrance, even—load’d word, “issues”—a mental illness. Note, too, how he blatantly uses the death of one individual, Victoria Rathbun—“a fine young poet who hung with the Actualists in the late 1970s”—in a cynical attempt to bolster—“I don’t know why Victoria Rathbun didn’t publish more in other post-Actualist contexts,” he says, mock-innocently, though the answer (she somehow fail’d at “the phenomenon of groupness”) is at the ready—another argument for careerist groupuscular formation. The sign of how little hoot Silliman gives to poetry itself: there is no Rathbun poem provided, she’s a mere marker in a sociological argument, mere marker in a theory of “groupness.” Silliman himself’s clearly become a casualty of trademark Sillimanick rhetorical bludgeoning, too many hours logged marketing is what produces a line like: “the fate of poetry in a managerial society such as the United States.” Gone is any sense of how individual perception might battle the coveys (convoys) of mere opinion-mongers, or how poetry’s (and a poet’s) aim ought be, wholly, yea recklessly, to counter the speciousness of the Doxa, to defeat the managers by extravagance, rebuttal, daring, jest, and scorn. And exile. What Silliman proposes is precisely the opposite: managerial poetry for a managerial society.)

Emerson (on the managerial hordes): “the great always introduce us to facts; small men introduce us always to themselves.” Matthiessen draws, too, a fine parallel between Coleridge’s lines —
My opinion is this: that deep thinking is attainable only by a man of deep feeling, and all truth is a species of revelation . . . It is insolent to differ from the public opinion in opinion, if it be only opinion. It is sticking up little i by itself, i against the whole alphabet. But one word with meaning in it is worth the whole alphabet together. Such is a sound argument, an incon¬trovertible fact.
That, and Emerson’s sense of the mind’s fatal integrity, the distinction between unwill’d (unmanageable) “perception” and the repeatedly will’d “notion”:
Every man discriminates between the voluntary acts of his mind, and his involuntary perceptions, and knows that to his involuntary perceptions a perfect faith is due. He may err in the expression of them, but he knows that these things are so, like day and night, not to be disputed. My willful actions and acquisitions are but roving; the idlest reverie, the faintest native emotion, command my curiosity and respect. Thoughtless people contradict as readily the statement of perceptions as of opinions, or rather much more readily; for, they do not distinguish between perception and notion. They fancy that I choose to see this or that thing. But perception is not whimsical, but fatal.
The term “notion-peddling” comes up: the notions seller—one of a number of haberdashers of the trivial, band’d together in a guild (Du., G. geld, money, “to pay, to contribute”), an association for temporal mutuality and benefice. Marvelous: how the structure of the Silliman’s endlessly proposed “guilds” of notions sellers, those essentially trivial bands, mimick the alphabet, its heapness incontrovertible, inert without perception, or individual effort. I remain (and “i by itself” remains), “insolent to differ.

F. O. Matthiessen, 1902-1950

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mark Rudman’s The Book of Samuel

Some Clouds, with Tinges


Con of the formal bunch
with its gung ho comedy
of the newly logo’d self,
gang regulatory, anti-snafu’d, un-
deject’d. They (they they they)
“rock.” One boy in government-
issue duds is a tonsorial
disaster. Used to burning rain-
coats off wetbacks, he’s gummed
up collegial now, a convulsive
soldier of the comb’d out
post-singular communal gaseousness, yeah.
Issueless that crew, meaning Tinker
to Evers to Chance again
and again in a loop
begat by God and terminally
un-siring, concomitant to itself.
My druthers: stoickal boobdom, aimless
weinery, a frenzy of inimical
jamming, just one outlaw sleeping
upright in the saddle, my
my, unequip’d and quipping in
a ornery stupor of solitary
plumage, avoiding any asinine cut
of cloth, mocking that ‘prison-
uniform of the party to
which we adhere.’ No charity-
boy, no cherub-commodity, no
mob genius apt to service
itself for the froth’d mediocrity-
lather of the howling “band.”
Cum my majestickal indifference frank’d.

My sense of Mark Rudman is cloudy, tinged with skepticism, though how that assessment arrived, aucune idée. However, my wont is to examine things, and in Rudman’s new The Book of Samuel: Essays on Poetry and Imagination (Northwestern University Press, 2009), that examining points to a trove of aperçu-rich joineries, writ with seemingly nimble style, ranging swiftly, vibratory, unhesitant, askitter. Rudman’s style here is notational, interspersing personal recollect with audacious (exploratory) assertings nigh-aphoristic. (Rudman begins one number’d section of a piece with the James Wright-echoing title of “Reading T. S. Eliot on My Cousin’s Farm in the Gatineau” with: “You have to look at the Bhagavad Gita to find a book that expresses the conflict of being and nonbeing as well as Eliot does in Four Quartets”—a sentence that recalls with uncanny muster the type of supposedly “catchy” exaggeration Ron Silliman routinely indulges in—though here, in Rudman’s case, one suspects he’s at least poked around in the Hindu text.) Look, though, to some lines about Williams. After quoting Williams’s (rather tenuously balanced, just as liable to fly to pieces as to meet) lines “A new world / is only a new mind. / And the mind and the poem / are all apiece,” Rudman writes:
Williams’s way of breaking things down, of atomizing the particular, has an explosive quality . . . It is with an admission of “defective means” that he allows himself the imperfection that will let him make the mistakes out of which he will compose his epic: Paterson.
A dissonance
in the valence of Uranium
led to the discovery

(if you are interested)
leads to discovery

—to dissect away
the block and leave
a separate metal:

the flame, helium the
pregnant ash
If we think of his strategy as that of a scientist, then his words have an altered potency. He regards his discoveries in verse technique as part of an evolutionary process. He is nothing if not, to cadge the phrase Matthew Arnold used to define Homer, “rapid.” No wonder he’s captivated by the rapids! His method misleads some to see his words writ small. He diffuses his own process as he tries to keep a step ahead of a chain reaction.

The rhythm of the human gait is the beginning of prosody and, as Mandelstam asserted, “standing still is a variety of accumulated motion.” [Rudman makes big mention of Mandelstam, particularly “Conversations About Dante”—suggesting, even, that “American poetry might have taken a different turn had Mandelstam’s rousing and profound essay been available in English . . . in the years when Charles Olson’s “Projective Verse” . . . became the poetic credo for poets desperate to have their developing methods dignified by something authoritative to counter the consummate brilliance of the New Critics,” whom Rudman, in abrupt next-sentence turnaround, labels, too, “almost constrictive, closure-crazed, hostile to the new.”] And during this legendary walk in the third book of Paterson, Williams also reaches an impasse, which he incorporates into the open structure he’s devised.
                (Make a song out of that: concretely.)
If Williams could be blocked, perhaps I can be allowed to backtrack and not be guilty of overlooking the obvious, that Paterson also evolves out of the falls. He uses this massive but local energy source as a vehicle through which to probe the creative and the destructive aspects of power and its sources. If there is a villain in this tale, it is none other than Alexander Hamilton.
There’s a sense of Rudman swinging a little wildly here (and elsewhere: at what point does a parataxical copula’d—and, and, and—style become a mere heap of vagaries?): one anchors with some relief to the factual summary succeeding: “The first move toward harnessing the energy of the Passaic Great Falls was set into action by Alexander Hamilton in 1791, to create a Society for Establishing Useful Manufacturing. “Useful” would prove a profitable qualifier, since a mere forty years later Samuel Colt was able to open a factory where he could manufacture his patented Colt 45 revolver—featuring mother-of-pearl handles—and other “repeating weapons essential in securing the American frontier.” (Recalling, perhaps, Rudman’s lines of a few pages earlier, how “Williams’s outrageousness is so affecting, bringing attention to things that go unnoticed in daily life and certainly in poetry until he appeared on the scene. And he never tires of reiteration. “It is a principle of music / to repeat the theme. / Repeat and / and repeat again, / as the pace mounts.” There is no getting used to a world that is atomized in quite this way.”)

What’s odd about Rudman’s Williams—fulfilling my initial tinge of skepticism, mayhaps, as I careen around the essay, “William Carlos Williams in America” (others consider D. H. Lawrence, Hart Crane and Malcolm Lowry, Milosz, Nicanor Parra)—is how late Rudman must’ve come to Williams, how he seems to write for an audience of laggards and pre-modern Williams skeptics. He mentions Lowell’s seeing in Williams an example—“racy colloquial free verse with its seamless blending of high and low diction” contributing to the “breakthrough in Life Studies and beyond.” And [with my editorial incursions]:
It is worth repeating that several of the finest minds [echoing Howl] that have existed on American shores were all in step with Williams’s beat [or Vachel Lindsay’s The Congo? is it the odd diction—“existed on American shores”—or the register shift—“in step with”—that is staticky here?]. Some of the flaws they had the good sense to see as growing pains. But why is it that Marianne Moore and Wallace Stevens could see his wild originality, his genius, which knew what it wanted and went after it [“genius” reduced to carpe diem “Go for it!” exhortatory?]—“O brave new world that has such people in’t”—while today’s poets and critics whose exemplars are Moore and Stevens have no use at all for Williams? If Helen Vendler leaves Williams out of an anthology of twentieth-century American poetry (Oppen and Zukofsky too, but that follows as the night the day), I can only think of one response: blow it off [“racy,” “colloquial,” and “free”]. We can’t disallow people their blind spots and compulsion to adopt a position for or against, and there is no longer a consensus with regard to who the real poets are. Anything but.
Murf. I used to argue that setting type by hand uncover’d all kinds of faults of prose or poetickal construction. I suspect retyping a thing is capable of that too. (A way to explain or justify how directly my estimation of Rudman’s essaying plummets . . .) One sees a kind of post-partisan waffling here—Rudman, sensing the loss of some previously perceived “consensus” regard “real poets”—mrrauugh—rather stealthily repositioning (repeating, for the benight’d, the old arguments), all the while honoring one’s prior commitments (hence the over-compensatory chump talk of “blow it off”). This, too, is call’d “hybridity.”

Mark Rudman

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pinch’d Off

“Embedded Citizen”


Scythed the longer
monocotyledons off (some
early unbloom’d leafy
bergamots—bee balm,
Oswego tea—caught
by the blade,
and one awkward
chop hock’d up
a divot, sent
it flying into
the fence). I
reduced the weedy
lot to stubble,
to acquit of
tangle, sheer and
exempt’d like a
cowlick’d radiant kid,
one humbug’d by
a tendency to
indirection and circuitry—
announced by occasional
momentary catatonia—never
entirely capable of
thinking of any
word independently, poor
sod, Catawba’d up
in bunches, succumbing
to the way
any uncard’d woof
aims to snarl
up a sturdy
weft. To be
adroit with diction
plain, the unmark’d
case, immeasurably innocuous
like the devenom’d
bourgeoisie, with deft
procedural remedies against
thwart’d semantic sting-
operations, or buck-
ups for rife
syntactical dismay—a
moral claw, say,
liable to snag
whatever ‘fivffe and
tynty yardes of
tywlle,’ black twill
descends to smudge
the rude plaint.
I scythe away,
I chop, I
bother, pinch’d off,
meagre, spoilt, unabating.

Measure of a jumble. A couple of things—quotables—whilst I muster my ranging confusions. Out of E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel (1927): “Time, all the way through, is to be our enemy. We are to visualize the English novelists not as floating down that stream which bears all its sons away unless they are careful, but as seated together in a room, a circular room, a sort of British Museum reading room—all writing their novels simultaneously.” Thinking, anti-historicist, imperialist, mannish and mawkish, or kin to Pound’s “all ages are contemporaneous”? (I uncover’d the lines in Adina Hoffman’s book about Taha Muhammad Ali and the forced emptying of the Galilee Palestine town of Saffuriyya during al Nakba, My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness (Yale University Press, 2009) where Forster’s words delineate and complement the makeshift ways of the poor and studious autodidact—for whom any scrap of Arabic text is of use.) And, too, Jean Genet quoted by Mohamed Choukri in Jean Genet in Tangier: “I’ve always been writing, even before I ever tried to write anything. The career of a writer doesn’t begin at the moment he begins to write. The career and the writing may coincide earlier or later.” That need to write that is palpable even in its undeliver’d state.

Another of Taha Muhammad Ali’s poems—out of Never Mind (Ibis Editions, 2000), translated by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, and Gabriel Levin, or the expand’d edition print’d by Copper Canyon Press, So What: New and Selected Poems, 1971-2005, including the Arabic en face

The street is empty
as a monk’s memory,
and faces explode in the flames
like acorns—
and the dead crowd the horizon
and doorways.
No vein can bleed
more than it already has,
no scream will rise
higher than it’s already risen.
We will not leave!
Everyone outside is waiting
for the trucks and the cars
loaded with honey and hostages.
We will not leave!
The shields of light are breaking apart
before the rout and the siege;
outside, everyone wants us to leave.
But we will not leave!

Ivory white brides
trail their veils
in captivity’s glare, waiting,
and everyone outside wants us to leave,
but we will not leave!
The big guns pound the jujube groves,
destroying the dreams of the violets,
extinguishing the bread, killing the salt,
unleashing thirst
and parching lips and souls.
And everyone outside is saying:
“What are we waiting for?
Warmth we’re denied,
the air itself has been seized—
Why aren’t we leaving?”

Masks fill the pulpits and brothels,
the places of ablution.
Masks cross-eyed with utter amazement;
they do not believe what is now so clear,
and fall, astonished
and writhing like worms or like tongues.

We will not leave!
Are we in this inside only to leave?
Leaving is just for the masks, for the pulpits
and conferences.
Leaving is just
for the siege-that-comes-from-within,
the siege that comes from the Bedouin’s loins,
the siege of the brethren
inflicted by the taste of the sword’s blade
and the stink of crows.
We will not leave!

Outside they’re blocking the exits
and offering their blessings
to the imposter,
praying, petitioning
Almighty God for our deaths.


Taha Muhammad Ali
(Photographs by Lynn Saville)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gilbert Sorrentino’s Lunar Follies

Dog Study


Out of the void
a thin blue aerogramme
writ off the material
spoils of one muggy
day in Paris, 1973.
‘I wol persevere, I
nam nat precius.’ Chaucer,
mouth buggy with gum.
What to do with
lunar measures elapsed, remorseless
and wan: such is
the nature of my
query. That warring post-
modifier of current unprincipled
Time’s stark’st unforeseeable moves.
Lug of rucksack through
the quartier asiatique, Porte
d’Italie. Lacquer’d duck. Verve
of a tyro gossip-
monger in the first
deux chevaux that stop’d.
The tiny historical slot
of longhair camaraderie gone
foul. Milosz to Alexander
Wat, a man who
scorn’d the unobstruct’d rude
foolishness of literature seen
through the bars of
prison: ‘History is for
grown-ups.’ Form makes
nothing stately without lying.
The story of X,
the Iranian painter who,
harass’d constantly, he claim’d,
by Savak agents, hung
himself off the sky-
light in the chambre
de bonne
he inhabit’d,
rue Oberkampf. He left
a single black canvas
with one word scratch’d
into it: engagée or
enragée, scrawl’d, asinine, bereft.

Tom Clark’s Vanitas-post’d lines recently under the title “Postconceptualism” (who amongst “us” isn’t heaving a “ginormous” sigh of relief at that news?), the lines—“I like breathing better than wireless ideation / But strange is the human meat / When it is ripped out of the atmosphere / And arrows are shot into it”—coincided with my late perusal of Gilbert Sorrentino’s Lunar Follies (Coffee House, 2005), a funny and mordant collection of mock reviews, each apparently named for a geographical “jut” of the moon. Under the plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (or plus there’s a possibility to rake in some serious change) rubric, here’s “Carpathians”:
Most serious gallery-goers of the seventies pretend to remember Moss Kuth, one of the early practitioners—some would the avatar—of Exoconceptualism. This, his first exhibition in almost fifteen years, gathers well-known, to some revered, devices, and what the artist calls “plannings,” those strangely occulted, iconoclastic conglomerates that heralded the end of the stasis imposed upon the art of the fifties and sixties by market-corrupted confections of pop art, op art, numero art, subway art, and the moribund rigidities of a humorless politico-expressionism. There are included, too, some recent, surprisingly sunny (though no less pointed) constructions. Moss and his wife, Magda, have been living quietly in their small farmhouse in Provence, venturing only as far as Paris once or twice a year to stock up on books, visit the galleries, and spend a convivial evening or two with such old ghosts as Matisse, Picasso, and Gris, “quarreling” as Magda smilingly puts it, “the night away.” In the large and breathtaking photo by Dan Ray that dominates the gallery’s south wall, Moss, Magda, and their Irish wolfhound, Lummox, are revealed, all three dressed in hip, severe black, amid the prize-winning roses that have endeared Magda to the world of horticulture, as that word is grotesquely understood in the very seat of Gallic culture. The show itself is simple, austere, elegant: a collection of letters from friends and enemies; wide-ranging commentary—favorable, vicious, perceptive, stupid, toadying—on certain apssages in the letters, from over twenty years worth of Kuthian studies and criticism; the criticism, in full, itself; Kuth’s remarks on the studies, the criticism, and the commentary of the commentary on the letters; a jumbled display of Kuth’s tattered notebooks, containing alternative commentary on the commentary on the letters; a blank notebook, its pages fanned out, provocatively perched upon a ream of cheap white paper; and a small black-and-white snapshot of Magda, playfully sucking Moss off under the pines at Yaddo, often called “the Yaddo pines.” Located at the extreme edges of the display are letters from both Kuth and Magda to each other, stained with what appears to be dog shit, agreeing with all the negative commentary on Kuth’s work, and wholly composed in crude, ungrammatical, trite and shrewdly misspelled English, an English, as Magda has impishly noted, “that is hours all own.”
Ah, ConCo®, we hardly knew ye!

John Tranter’s munificently included a tranche de vie, excerpting several days in May, out of Isola di Rifiuti, amongst the marvellous signs and wonders of Jacket. My sincerest appreciation.

Gilbert Sorrentino, 1929-2006
(Photograph by Vivian Ortiz)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Two Books by Hoa Nguyen


Two books out lately by Hoa Nguyen: Hecate Lochia (Hot Whiskey Press, 2009) and the terrifically titled chapbook, Kiss a Bomb Tattoo (Effing, 2009). (I love running interpretive end-arounds on that—result of too many kid-huddles where the quarterback announced: “Everybody go long and I’ll throw the bomb”—I get intertwined echoes of “kiss a bomb goodbye,” the urban semantic of “kiss a terrific-looking tattoo,” the literalist’s “kiss somebody’s tattoo of (depicting) a bomb,” all the fine affinity-clusters such language-shrapnel allows.) There’s a smallish overlap between the two collections. Not found in the Hot Whiskey volume, is the fine final poem of Kiss a Bomb Tattoo:
Post Hurricane Ike
      Almost Equinox

Stained by blood
                                  blood stains
on the bed sheets
    your palm with jizz & blood

maps swirl               Torpor for air
We a throbbing ear

The buzzing “juh” is not symbolized:


Moist wind blew the door open
Nguyen’s work is sparse (sprawl’d), notational, constellatory, measured. Too, it is uncensoring, all-encompassing, both domestic (“Wipe poop,” “Grackles in the hackberry” “Bendy vegetables in the drawer”) and liable to jut off anywhere (“Levittown goes ‘green’ / Oil at $100 a barrel,” “Cupid rides a goddam dolphin / at the hand of Venus”). “Post Hurricane Ike” is seemingly construct’d of two competing sets of variations, one predominantly visual, the other aural. First, the repeat’d blood images—stain somewhere unspecify’d, sheet, “palm with jizz”—a kind of blunt-sight’d post-coital assessment that pivots in the languorous lines “Heavenly / maps swirl” (I read the “swirl” there as a magnificent vertigo-inducing scale-change directly related to the “palm” with its whorls, its galaxies of prints, its nebulae of “jizz & blood”)—pivots to the sonic receptor of “torpor” and the “throbbing ear.” Whatever diffuse consciousness (“post-hurricane,” the title participating with just the right amount of reticence in the sexual act and its aftermath) remains—in an act of regaining something like “composure” (language) makes a list of some subtleties of the “buzzing ‘juh’” (a phrase that sonically revisits “jizz”). The words containing that “juh” (“Measure / Pleasure / Leisure / Fissure”) themselves by now’ve become referents of a wholly sexualized language, and there’s a pure pleasure in running through the changes, the “buzz” hardening for “Leisure” or relenting a little for “Fissure.” The moist wind blowing the “door open” signals a kind of return to the world. The condensery spill’d open, a semantic—not exhaustion, but fullness, reveal’d.

I read so densely into the poem because I think it’s easy to mistake Nguyen’s seemingly casual jottings—and the quick variousness of the turns here, quotidian detritus, news reports, stray conversational gambits, syntactical goofs, myth-hints East and West—for “mere” verbal manifestations of dailiness, its root unstructuredness. In Hecate Lochia (the title refers both to the early Greek earth goddess, often represent’d with three faces—one lovely line out of The Oxford Classical Dictionary reports that “she is more at home on the fringes than in the centre of Greek polytheism. Intrinsically ambivalent and polymorphous, she straddles conventional boundaries and eludes definition”—associated with borders, doorways, a liminal rather than purely marginal figure, and (lochia) to the post-partum vaginal discharge of blood, mucus, placenta tissue)—there’s plenty of evidence of such a restlessness / ambivalence. See the short poem “Cherries”:
Cherries related to rose
Round and sweet like Bing
Purple-red flesh

Truck rumbles past

I couldn’t stay in the orchard that was really a church
in the name of poetry

You can call the daughter the mother
and the mother the child and the old people
“Big Tree Vine”
Which is, I think, concern’d with lineage (rose, cherry; mother; daughter) and expectations. The flat (and complete) statement—somewhat rare in Nguyen’s work—“I couldn’t stay in the orchard that was really a church in the name of poetry”: isn’t that, too, a refusal of expect’d poetic lineage? (I think unavoidably of St.-Marks-in-the-Bowery.)

The obvious precursors for Nguyen’s work include Bernadette Mayer, Alice Notley, Frank O’Hara, Philip Whalen, Jack Kerouac, Tom Clark—all these mention’d in Hecate Lochia in epigraphs or dedicatory lines or homage (perfect ’thousands rebuttal: “Hard to be born             live variously / and have a job”). Too, though, there’s a push toward myth and ritual that seems on the verge of intervening / disrupting the quotidian notational. In “Blackberries”: “Spirits taught me to write / Countless spirits” and “Grind                   write the dead.” In “I Like Being Lucky,” a piece that seems full of imprecise longing to reject one’s own time: “stepping on the undead / the suburb-surviving zombies // I spear the bloody head onto the fence post // Trumpet / The Flood Next Time”—torque-ing the spiritual James Baldwin took: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign, no more water the fire next time.” In “Another Stabbing Boldface,” Nguyen writes “Ranging             I have the head / and hands of an insect // whether “Lady Bee” or “Lady Butterfly” / Wings like a double-axe” and playfully names herself “Lady of the Wild Things.” (Regarding the use of myth, I keep thinking of H. D.: Nguyen, though, is hardly so stern-earnest and insular (Greek), Nguyen’s poems range far afield culturally—“goody goody Apollo” up against “Diep             means Yellow Butterfly.” In “Eurasiacan,” Nguyen runs through the classic illustration of how the pitch’d tones in Chinese determine (alter) a single syllable’s meaning: “Ma = horse / Ma = rice seedling / Ma = graveyard / Ma = horse” and talks of “Ground deer meatballs / Mixed in my mutt hands.” Try to picture H. D. using “mutt.”)

The disjunct register shifts (juxtaposed and uncomment’d) in Nguyen’s work compare favorably with (and occasionally out-do) similar moves in Rae Armantrout’s late work. In “Pusa,” Nguyen combines the etymological “Old English           pusa           “bag” / Something soft and cuddly,” the Edward Lear refrain out of “The Owl and the Pussy-Cat”—“What a beautiful pussy you are             you are             you are,” a strange toy-monstrous vagina dentata image of “2 parabolic jaws / to eat fruit-flavored gummy teeth           Dracula style” and a terrific bit of popular high art psychological profiling:
Of Mona Lisa’s smile
emotion recognition programs determine
83% happy           9% disgusted           6% fearful           2% angry
One final piece out of Hecate Lochia, terrific and moving:
What Was in Her Ash-Wood Box

There are alwoa centers
and “heavy boundaries”

A pit I can’t peel &
you want to keep your ampersands

Could vomit snakes
into a bucket
taking three minutes to find a pen

My front tooth                   I offer this dead
tooth       rattle it in a bulbous gourd I grew

The baby figure has three fingers
grain of rice sized

No more babies for me

Hoa Nguyen


Actual things being perceived unaccompany’d
by any conjoint whim or
continuity (a hazardous plank stretch’d
between contraries and semblances alike)
offer up plausibilities unobstruct’d: jig-
saw’d out of the wiles
of seeing, a thing is
gloss to a temporary stasis,
unit and baluster supporting of
no rail, nothing to pull
oneself up with ascending, or
mount for descent. Truth is,
I remain ominously unsettled half-
way up (or down) stairs
of no blush consensus, caught
in a high-sounding draft of
literary disequilibrium, rather as if
Henry James’d popped a porpoise-
like snout through a porthole
and bellow’d “Dejeunons?” only to
demur in the essentials, meaning
(German, essen) food. One grows
exalt’d by the structure of
a thing (it is hardly
a thing) like a poem
because it is construct’d top-
down, air-suffused and grace-
finger’d, and through its lattice-
work one sees a curious
world-quality with a degree
of finish adequate to continuing:
lunch in the offing or
no. The play of propinquity
is positively lustrous. The orioles
call in the trees beyond
the gazebo where a table
is draped in the whitest
linen starch’d. Blue indigo napkinry
origami’d into floral puffs dots
the expanse. Apparemment on mange.
Unaccompany’d thus, he found himself
saying: “The doyenne of the
ham is bringing a ham.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Melancholia and Drift



Deo volente I
fly up, member
of the bee-

squadron, a tempest-
heckler, calumniator, nudge:
no Castor-train’d

rescuer of men
me. If, distract’d,
some straggler of

the post-signifying
word-bereft kingdom
flops a gamey

“limb” out between
the blue ice-
ravish’d lips of

that Death-Girl
Walking Upside Down,
it’s sheer Polydeuces,

isn’t it? It’s
the twenty-first
century, and nobody’s

getting any any-
more, that’s just
how “things” go.

I hate putting
it that way,
like a post-

moronic Dionysiac or
a wolf churning
in a frenzy’d

circle, bit continuously
by dogs. I
fly out of

here tomorrow, me
and the oat-
fed commander, no

doubt a man
of Archilochus’s kind,
a donkey-hung

word-soldier buoy’d
by beer, snagged
by envy for

the way Death’s
fig-burst beckoning
“maketh me come.”

Took, the way any melancholic is, by a line “about” melancholy (though it hardly is) in Eliot Weinberger’s essay “Photography and Anthropology” (in Oranges & Peanuts for Sale): “Both preoccupied with time: Photography as an art, perhaps the only art, that always reaches us in the past tense, the record of a moment that will not return; an art that is inextricable from nostalgia, and one that has particularly appealed to melancholics.”

And, scanning the horizon for a sign, by the lines out of Weinberger’s “Louis-Auguste Blanqui as Copied Out by Walter Benjamin” (in An Elemental Thing): “At bottom, this eternity of the human being among the stars is a melancholy thing, and this sequestering of kindred worlds by the inexorable barrier of space is even more sad. So many identical populations pass away without suspecting one another’s existence!”

Out of Weinberger’s “The Vortex” (An Elemental Thing): “The first description of a waterspout in English appears in 1697, in William Dampier’s A New Voyage Around the World. Dampier, a poor farmer with insatiable curiosity, decided early on that the way to see the world was to become a pirate. He circumnavigated the globe three times hoarding his journals instead of booty. He was the first Englishman to land on Australia and report on its aborigines; he rescued Alexander Selkirk, who became Robinson Crusoe, and separately, the unnamed Miskito Indian who became Friday. Darwin consulted his books; Coleridge admired his prose; he introduced the words ‘barbecue,’ ‘chopsticks,’ ‘posse,’ and ‘rambling’ as an adjective into the language. He was the first in English to describe an avocado.”

William Dampier’s waterspout:
        A Spout is a small ragged piece, or part of a Cloud, hanging down about a yard, seemingly from the blackest part thereof. Commonly it hangs down sloping from thence, or sometimes appearing with a small bending, or elbow in the middle. I never saw any hang perpendicularly down. It is small at the lower end, seeming no bigger than ones Arm, but ‘tis fuller towards the Cloud, from whence it proceeds.
        When the surface of the Sea begins to work, you shall see the Water, for about 100 paces in circumference, foam and move gently round till the whirling motion increases: and then it flies upward in a pillar, about 100 paces in compass at the bottom, but lessening gradually upwards to the smallness of the Spout it self, there where it reacheth the lower end of the Spout; through which the rising Sea-water seems to be conveyed into the Clouds. This visibly appears by the Clouds increasing in bulk and blackness. Then you shall presently see the Cloud drive along, although before it seemed to be without any motion; the Spout also keeping the same course with the Cloud, and still sucking up the Water as it goes along, and they make a Wind as they go. Thus it continues for the space of half an hour, more or less, until the sucking is spent, and then breaking off, all the Water which was below the Spout, or pendulous piece of Cloud, falls down again into the Sea, making a great noise with its fall, and clashing motion in the Sea.
        It is very dangerous for a Ship to be under a Spout when it breaks, therefore we always endeavoured to shun it, by keeping at a distance, if possibly we can. But for want of Wind to carry us away, we are often in great fear and danger; for it is usually calm when Spouts are at work, except only just where they are. Therefore men at Sea, when they see a Spout coming, and know not how to avoid it, do sometimes fire shot out of their great Guns into it, to give it air or vent, that so it may break; but I did never hear that it proved to be of any benefit.
The exact title of William Dampier’s book: A new voyage round the world describing particularly the isthmus of America, several coasts and islands in the West Indies, the isles of Cape Verd, the passage by Terra del Fuego, the South Sea coasts of Chili, Peru and Mexico, the isle of Guam one of the Ladrones, Mindanao, and other Philippine and East-India islands near Cambodia, China, Formosa, Luconia, Celebes, &c., New Holland, Sumatra, Nicobar Isles, the Cape of Good Hope, and Santa Hellena: their soil, rivers, harbours, plants, fruits, animals, and inhabitants: their customs, religion, government, trade, &c. I tend to associate melancholia with a tendency to “completism,” forgetting that such lengthy titles mark a seventeenth century convention. Melancholy in Dampier’s book belongs to the native inhabitants of the “Bay of Campeachy”:
All the Indians that I have been acquainted with, who are under the Spaniards, seem to be more melancholy than other Indians that are free; and at these publick Meetings, when they are in the greatest of their jollity, their mirth seems to be rather forced than real. Their Songs are very melancholy and doleful; so is their Musick: but whether it be natural to the Indians to be thus melancholy, or the effect of their Slavery, I am not certain.
Or, momentarily to pelicans (“large flat-footed Fowls”):
They are a very heavy Bird, and seldom fly far, or very high from the Water: They commonly sit on Rocks at some distance from the shore, where they may look about them. They seem to be very melancholly Fowls, by their perching all alone: They sit as if they were sleeping, holding their Heads upright, and resting the ends of their Bills on their Breasts; they are better Meat than Boobies or Men-of-War-Birds.
Pound: “The proper METHOD for studying poetry and good letters is the method of contemporary biologists, that is careful first-hand examination of the matter, and continual COMPARISON of one ‘slide’ or specimen with another.” And thus the anecdote of Agassiz and the fish.

Guy Davenport: “Agassiz’s masterpiece was to have been the Contributions to the Natural History of the United States. Its four handsome volumes remain as a triumph of thought and scholarship. So carefully do they begin, holding entire libraries of fact in perfect balance with original research that the mind marvels at the inconceivably fine book the finished work would have been; for in 1,600 pages Agassiz has but described the embryology of the North American turtles and the anatomy of the most elusive and perishable of creatures, the jellyfish and his kin. “Jellyfish” a transcendentalist once asked Agassiz. “It seems to be little more than organized water.” Like a waterspout.

Weinberger notes in “Where the Kaluli Live” (An Elemental Thing) how the Kaluli (of Papua New Guinea) sing and finish singing (“The songs are in the first person; the singer is alone after the death of a family member, or is traveling away from home. They describe a journey, each place-name bringing up nostalgic associations . . .”):
A great singer has a voice like a Pink-spotted Fruitdove or an Orange-bellied Fruitdove. The singer is a bird at the top of a waterfall, and the structure of a song is a waterfall. Songs that are poorly done have too much ledge before the water drops, or too much splashing, or they linger too long in the pool before moving on. A successful song is like water rushing over the rocks, and is one where the water keeps flowing far beyond where one can see.
There is mention of nostalgia in William Dampier’s book. He does, at the approaching (with “such a leisurely and dreadful solemnity”) prospect of “unorganized” water (“our little Ark in danger to be swallowed by every Wave”), an enormous oceanic storm on its way, lose, momentarily, courage:
. . . here I had a lingring view of approaching death, and little or no hopes of escaping it; and I must confess that my courage, which I had hitherto kept up, failed me here; and I made very sad reflections on my former Life, and lookt back with horrour and detestation, on actions which before I disliked, but now I trembled at the remembrance of. I had long before this repented me of that roving course of life, but never with such concern as now.
“Rambling” as an adjective. Trying to make a worthy thing with the materials to hand. Robert Burton, running through the watery tropes of Imagination, how “most especially it rageth in melancholy persons in keeping the species of obiects so long, mistaking, amplifying them by continuall and strong meditation, vntill at the length it produceth reall effects, and causeth this and many other maladies”:
Avicenna speakes of one that could cast himselfe into a palsie when hee list, and some can imitate the tunes of Birds and Beasts, that they can hardly be discerned. Dagobertus and Sr Frances scarres and wounds, like to those of Christs, (if at the least any such were) Agrippa supposeth to haue happened by force of Imagination: that some are turned to Wolues, from Men to Women, and Women againe to Men (which is constantly beleeued) to the same Imagination; or from Men to Asses, Dogges, or any other shapes. Wierus ascribes all those famous transformations to Imagination, that in Hydrophobia they seeme to see the picture of a Dog, still in their water, that melancholy men, and sicke men conceaue so many phantasticall visions, apparitions to themselues, and haue so many absurd suppositions, as that they are Kings, Lords, Cocks, Beares, Apes, Owles, that they are heavy, light, transparent, great and little, sencelesse and dead (as shall bee shewed more at large in our Sections of Symptomes) can be imputed to naught else but to a corrupt and false Imagination.

William Dampier, 1652-1715

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Jean Cocteau’s “Indirect Criticism”



Aelianus, in On the Traits
of Animals,
trumps the nay-
sayers of “verity poetickal” by
maintaining that if Anacreon’s got
keroesses (“antler’d”) modifying “doe,” none
ought mump the anomaly or
insist eroesses (“lovely”) the better
fit. I, John Latta, differ.
The poets I know interbreed
cow with cruller, dogma with
Dostoevsky. All about the sublime
quiddity of the referent un-
doable, or the unmull’d hazard
of the quoit thrown point-
blank at the abolitionist they
be, and only a few
know the animal kingdom’s precarious
fit in the sudden un-
plaiting of history. Anacreon wrote:
“I am mad and I
am not mad!” and “Eros
bang’d me up, and hammer’d
me with a smithy’s tool,
plunged me in cold water!”
Species of one he is,
taxon of whatever fuckin’ binomial
comes down the pike—biblical
giant, tawny moor, words inexact
click into the musical slot.

In Eliot Weinberger’s terrific essay “Susan Howe’s My Emily Dickinson” (out of Oranges & Peanuts for Sale)—a piece that first appear’d in the New Directions 2007 reprint of Howe’s book and, as such, likely got overlook’d by a number of “us” who’d read the original 1985 North Atlantic Books edition—I find mention of Jean Cocteau and what he call’d “Indirect Criticism,” what Weinberger, rounding up an extremely small herd of horses similar to Howe’s “avant-gardist criticism” in the Dickinson book—the bets put up for “Lawrence’s Studies, Olson’s Ishmael, Williams’ American Grain, Duncan’s still-uncollected The H. D. Book, Simone Weil’s The Iliad, or the Poem of Force, H. D.’s Tribute to Freud, Zukofsky’s Bottom: On Shakespeare—calls “a lost cousin of some of Howe’s work in prose.” Being a sleuth-cormorantickal, I dive (rather shallowly, it turns out) into the stacks and find—not in the “first New Directions anthology” (1936) that Weinberger points to (unlocated, presumably missing)—a 1964 issue of the Weiss’s Quarterly Review of Literature devoted to Cocteau’s “An Essay of Indirect Criticism,” translated by Arno Karlen.

(Two things occur to me: Cocteau’d just died in 1963—is the essay a reprinting of the New Directions item (no sign of it, if so). Too, QRL is headquarter’d at Bard in 1964: what if it’d remain’d there, and forsook the tony Princeton “air” of its later years? One notes that the Weiss’s print’d several poems by Robert Duncan in the “era”—though the effect of putting Duncan next to Horace Gregory’s version of Ovid or a Louis Simpson piece (“The Prince of Monaco / Was sick of English ladies”) is predominantly one of making the Duncan resemble its surroundings (“The lady in the shade of the boughs / held a dove in her two hands, / let it fly up from the bowl she made / as if a word had left her lips.”))

(What—still avoiding the Cocteau essay—Weinberger does in the Dickinson essay is a brilliant limning of Dickinson’s reception by (largely) the New American Poets (and its lineage). So, one learns that “D. H. Lawrence doesn’t mention her in Studies in Classic American Literature (1923). Ezra Pound found room for John Geeenleaf Whittier and James Whitcomb Riley in his anthology From Confucius to Cummings (1958), but did not include her.” And: “Olson refers to her only once, in an early draft of Call Me Ishmael (1947): ‘Dickinson loved Christ but jilted Him and married Death. Her stretch and yawn for the grave strained her nature, poisoned it.’” And: “Robert Creeley and Louis Zukofsky, though fellow masters of compression, did not write about her. (Zukofsky wanted three poems for his 1948 anthology, A Test of Poetry, but thought the permissions fee too high: $25.) Kenneth Rexroth declared that Dickinson ‘is the equal of any woman poet of the century except Christina Rossetti and the Brontë sisters.’” It’s a roundly damning catalogue—only Robert Duncan (in a 1960 letter to Denise Levertov) seems to see Dickinson’s greatness unqualifiedly:
Have you seen the new edition of Emily Dickinson’s poems, restoring her punctuation? So that we see she was nearer akin than we might have suspected. The dashes (are spaces) articulate the line. And what a lovely measure, what an immediate thing comes out!
Levertov answers that “actually those dashes bother me—it seems to give a monotony of tone” and admits that “ever and again one feels (or I do)—‘Jesus, what a bitchy little spinster.’” Weinberger’s comb’d the archives (there are innumerable other stray responses). One wonders if the reception of Dickinson by the Hall-Simpson-Pack pack would register as equally miserable. One wonders how many of the (male) canon-worthy hopefuls of Howe’s own generation’ve written about Dickinson.)

Cocteau’s essay is divided into two parts, “The Secular Mystery” (1928) and—spinning off De Quincey’s “Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts”—“The Fine Arts Considered as a Murder” (c. 1932). He proceeds by aphorism, anecdote, rhetorical oratory, impression, never particularly defining what is meant by “indirect criticism.” The concern at hand: the paintings (and writings) of Giorgio di Chirico, and (somewhat less) of Picasso. Early:
        Chirico’s paternal family: mad uncle and aunt. The uncle used to push a chair in front of him to keep from falling over a precipice. Aunt Olympia undid her hair, kneeled before a couch and rolled her head on it till she was bald. Such antecedents contribute to clearing all picturesque character from Chirico’s work.
        A man who falls from a window is a man who dwindles and brutally stops dwindling, in a mannikin pose. A man who recedes in the distance is a man who falls softly and, instead of being crushed, evaporates like a mist. All of Chirico’s perspectives are falls.

*         *         *

        An automobile accident, a train wreck, are the masterpieces of the unforeseen. One would like to see in slow motion the speed and immobility twisting the iron with a modiste’s fingers.
Admittedly, I am less attract’d by the specifics of Cocteau’s argument for di Chirico that I am by the method, the style, its source and its descendents. (In some sense, Cocteau is denying method, denying the possibility of criticism. He writes: “The new criticism will demand the use of the heart; which is to say that it will become a less facile business and end by disappearing.” And, syllogistically (and strangely): “The aesthetics of God escapes judgment. . . . Man is in the image of God. When an artist whom I admire perplexes me, it is a matter of performing an act of faith.”) One source possibility: Nietzsche. Cocteau points to one aphorism in Beyond Good and Evil wherein, he says, “Nietzsche smells out the jackpot”: the aphorism (254) apparently argues for a small (and secret) “elite of taste”—a “France of taste”—
He who belongs to it keeps himself well concealed—they may be a small number in whom it lives and is embodied, besides perhaps being men who do not stand upon the strongest legs, in part fatalists, hypochondriacs, invalids, in part persons over-indulged, over-refined, such as have the AMBITION to conceal themselves. They have all something in common: they keep their ears closed in presence of the delirious folly and noisy spouting of the democratic BOURGEOIS.
Refinement, secrecy, difficulty, indulgence, heart, purity: there’s something terribly precious here (Cocteau remarks at one point: “Nietzsche, Baudelaire, are preoccupied with hygiene”) and it wars with a counter-pulse of inexactitude and audacity, mess (“A great artist is inhuman, vegetal, bestial. If he tries to speak, his attempts throw us into confusion.”) Cocteau is arguing—like Blake’s “I am hid”—for a glance-hermeticism, an art that conceals itself (against the rabble) and whose greatness is only slowly reveal’d (in opposition, one suspects, to the predictable stout vagary of this year’s model). Cocteau: “The picture, inoffensive at first glance, worked on the optic center by the agency of a mirrored armoire whose complicity turned certain forms head over heels and stripped them of all shame.” Or consider how apt to 2000-2007 the following is: “Audacity takes shape in the wake of the audacious. A man is thought audacious if he prolongs an old audacity. Everyone thought himself superior between 1920 and 1927 because obscure art was entering its rococo period.”

Is the Pound of A B C of Reading (1934), its assured exhorting, coming out of Cocteau? Pound: in a 1937 issue of The Criterion (“D’Artagnan Twenty Years After”), complaining (rather cryptically) about the lack of anything new, refer’d to the first part of “The Essay of Indirect Criticism,” presumably he read it in French, perhaps between 1928 and 1934: “Cocteau in the Mystère Laïc years later gave us the silk-fine web of indirect criticism. Nothing is new and all good is renewal.” Isn’t the tonal jump-cutting similar to Cocteau’s in something like:
        Wordsworth got rid of a lot of trimmings, but there are vast stretches of deadness in his writing. Artists are the antennae of the race. Wordsworth vibrates to a very limited range of stimuli, and he was not conscious of the full problem of writing.

        The problem of sentence structure was undeniably discussed during several centuries.

        ‘A carpenter can put boards together, but a good carpenter would know seasoned wood from green.’
Swinging between the obvious and the oratorical, the bluntly assertive and the impressionistic. (Is Frank O’Hara’s art criticism in the lineage of Cocteau’s indirect criticism?)

A little Cocteauvian chrestomathy:
        Poetry is exactitude, number. But people find inexactitude poetic, romantic. The crowd adores inexactitude that has the air of truth. I wonder if scandal sheets relate inexact facts because they learn them fourth hand or if they warp the truth out of a profound knowledge of public taste . . .

. . .

        Brevity, precision, promptitude, contour, these are the reasons why we are taken for hermetic writers.

*         *         *

        People demand to have poetry explained to them. They aren’t aware that poetry is a closed world where one receives very few, where it even chances that one receives not at all.

. . .

Baudelaire’s best poem is outmoded to just the degree that Baudelaire was working with the avant-garde, approved by it. Rimbaud’s best poem remains young because he was working against the avant-garde.

*         *         *

        A permitted thing cannot be pure.

. . .

        True realism consists of showing surprising things which habit hides beneath a dust-cover and prevents us from seeing. Our name no longer has human form. None of us hears it. Sometimes a postman who wakes us by shouting it in a hotel corridor, a cashier who asks us for it, students who make fun of it in class, tear off the wraps and brusquely expose this name, detached from us, solitary and singular as an unknown object. A Louis XVI chair chained on the sidewalk outside an antique shop, like a dog, strikes us. Some dog! It’s a Louis XVI chair. In a salon you wouldn’t have seen it.

. . .


        Title of a cotillion figure which I found in an old book on the dress ball. Perfect definition of a masterpiece. You see the gilt chairs, the bare-shouldered muses, decked with diamonds, mad with laughter, the poor critic in the middle on all fours.

*         *         *

        It is, in the end, to discover a method enabling one to pick up the difficult object to pick up that I am writing this book.

. . .

        The poet stops his ears with wax and ties himself to the mast; he dreads the sirens that ravish his epoch. The strangest part is that the sirens sing a song they owe to him, perfected by their sorcery to seduce the crew.

*         *         *

        When I was little I thought foreigners spoke no language at all, only pretending among themselves to speak one. That’s what the public thinks when faced with us.

Jean Cocteau, c. 1930
(Photograph by George Hoyningen-Huene)

Monday, June 08, 2009

Eliot Weinberger’s Oranges & Peanuts for Sale



Up out of
the suppurating vocabulary
and monosyllabic wad-

rancor of dunghills
literary and down
into the dulcet

moiling accruals of
the natural world,
oh yuh. Petulant

Charles Mingus, bolster-
big and tired
of a hammer’d

suburban drunk’s haranguing
commands, thrusts it
out like Sisyphus,

the bull stanchion
of the bass:
“You play it.”

And isn’t writing’s
work a little
like that? No.

Cur and ass,
ass and cur,
cure that sass

with vinegar,
how one rhyme
goeth. And I—

rudely-tonsured, tough,
with bulgy anchor-
brand’d Popeye arms

like a leaf-
green mantis—I
who amiably harrumphs

and mutters misconstruals
without ceasing (“I
is disgustipated”

a ‘foul stigmatic’
unwarn’d, caught by
the unleverag’d broth

of continual days
that drips down
out of (register

change) the great
IV bag of
the incurable heavens—

I is no
lyric comedy, no
“I yam what

I yam”
simpleton’s abecedarian ignorance
pluck’d with single-

minded impertinence, is
a unit of
utterance, improbable, fit.

Ah, the impetuous dispersals (unfocus’d) of the weekend—like tossing seed into the wind (good for the consequent prosperity of the species). (Refreshment arrives with its inamorata of high rhetoric—these cheesy lung-emptying outbursts about nothing in particular.) I finish’d La Sontag’s journal, skimpy though it be. Sontag deigns insert the Sontag brand of elitism even into the sex acts of others: “American idea of sex as hard breathing (passion). They’re indicating, not doing. They think less breathing = less passion, coldness.” (I love the nearby idea, however, of a writing that “indicates” writing in lieu of writing, a faked writing. The motions of a late style. “(Pages of illustrations.)”) I read several essays in Eliot Weinberger’s new Oranges & Peanuts for Sale (New Directions, 2009). In a piece originally written to review the recent reprinting of A. C. Graham’s Poems of the Late T’ang (NYRB, 2008), Weinberger talks about the poet Li Ho (791-817), “who did not fit any of the traditional categories assumed for Chinese poets”:
He was neither a Confucian civil servant restoring meaning to language nor a Taoist adept out in nature, neither a libertine nor a Buddhist monk. He was a Crazy Poet—the Chinese refer to him as the “ghostly genius”—who rode his donkey all day and wrote scattered lines that he tossed into a bag. At night, he emptied out the bag and put the lines together as poems, which he threw into another bag and forgot. His mother complained that “this boy will spit his heart out,” which he did at age twenty-six.
(Graham himself notes how seeing the “peculiar qualities” of Li Ho’s poetry—“recently rediscovered after long neglect”—required “the breakdown of traditional literary standards in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”) The story of the bag of lines recalls the Wittgenstein of Zettel (the book of fragments wherein one finds, amongst others: “Do not forget that a poem, although it is composed in the language of information, is not used in the language-game of giving information.”) and the Marcel Duchamp of “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Green Box)”—full of Duchamp’s notes and scraps, verbal compliment if not “explication” of what it’s made to accompany: “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass).” Or—Jonathan Edwards. The ineffable Jonathan Edwards of Susan Howe’s Souls of the Labadie Tract:
As an idea occurred to him, he pinned a small piece of paper on his clothing, fixing in his mind an association between the location of the paper and the particular insight. On his return home, he unpinned each slip and wrote down its associated thought according to location.
How I love that! Here’s a Li Ho poem out of the Graham anthology:
Dawn in Stone City

The moon has set above High Dike,
From their perch on the parapet crows fly up.
Fine dew damps the rounded crimson
And the cold scene clears of last night’s drunkenness.
Woman and herdboy have crossed the River of Heaven,
Mist in the willows fills the corners of the wall.
The favoured guest snaps off his tassel for a pledge:
Two eyebrows, smudges of green, knit.

Spring curtains of flimsy cicada-wing gauze,
Spread cushions braided with gold, and a flower which hides away.
In front of the curtain light willow fluff hovers, crane’s down—
No, for spring’s passion there is no simile.
Weinberger notes in the essay how “Women in the courts of the T’ang Dynasty (618-907) painted their eyebrows green; the standard of beauty was brows as delicately curved as the antennae of moths.” Too: “Foreheads were powdered yellow with massicot, a lead oxide, for yellow was the color of vitality.” And, again, talking about horse-riding women (Weinberger’s reviewing, too, an art exhibition call’d “China: At the Court of the Emperors” at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence—“one Renaissance paying tribute to another”—the exhibit containing ceramic horses, some with riders), he notes: “(It was later, during the Sung Dynasty, that foot-binding was introduced and languorous inactivity become the feminine erotic idea; the T’ang aristocratic male apparently preferred equestrian and acrobatic women.)”

Dancer, T’ang dynasty
(Weinberger: “One of the most beautiful objects in the show is simply identified as a ‘dancer,’ but seems to be some sort of other-worldly being, thin as a mantis, wearing a strange dress that evokes both beetles and old science-fiction movies. A foot tall, her fists are clenched in front of her, with both index fingers mysteriously pointing upward. Her hair has been shaped into two enormous wheels, which the catalog unhelpfully states was ‘poetically described’—it does not say by whom—as ‘double-ring-shaped, gazing at the immortals.’”)

Friday, June 05, 2009

Elizabeth Marie Young’s Aim Straight at the Fountain and Press Vaporize

What’s immediately apparent in Elizabeth Marie Young’s Aim Straight at the Fountain and Press Vaporize (Fence Books, 2009): the revels and joys of utter excess. Thumbing through: “prose poems,” though too raggedly untidy (odd long or variably short paragraph indentations, queer titular sprawl erratics—see—
                            Up in the Lonely Heavens
          Hieroglyphic Fever Dreams
    Lament the Fate of a Grey Lock Plucked from
the Head
        of a
Long-Dead Queen
—just like that, and occasional stuff that looks, not squared off blocky, something like verse with midriff-bulge). Studious (or not) “can’t be bother’d”-ismus. The titles blare infidelity to any serious “pose” (or “poise”) whilst generally avoiding the crime of the “merely zany.” Samples: the affliction-as-ornament “Don’t Get Me Started, Pink Eye, It’s Just Part of the Décor,” the how-to “Instructions for Inhabiting a Miniature World,” the unsettlingly logical “The Orchidologist Draws Yet Another Dirty Look from the Hermaphrodite Whose Petals Fringe this Curious Old Book,” the smarm-salacious “Rimming the Pacific,” the brilliantly lift’d “Lie Quiet, Divus . . .,” the pure cultural-detritus of “Was That Your Kid Caught Photo-Flirting on a Hallmark Holiday.” Here’s—randomly select’d (Young’s arranged the pieces alphabetically by title, file-directory style, à la the Ashbery of Can You Hear, Bird)—“Counting Pebbles While the Sibyl Shrivels in Her Jar”:
          It’s unruly come mid-summer. Lovebirds quiver and ignite astride our grimly thinning shadows. The light rain is replete with the smell of belly-dancing and the sound of fingertips alive as tessellating birds in search of a peckable feast.
          How beastly (we infer) just marginalia and strings reverberating to the frolic of some daydream weaver’s frond. Reduced to joystick jubilation. Tenderness the pink of things not really even born. How colorful! I can’t go on like this outraged by every glint of the brandy drinker’s eye, swooning at the limberlost, waiting for a throng of loved ones to march in, pull the IV out and feed me to the sound of one hand clapping.
          Don’t look now, the summer bride has entered the gazebo thinking this might be a film noir ready to rewind. Swaying like a wan Noguchi, she cuts the sky in half and as bells begin to peel screams out “diaphanous!” Look how the rainbows, mesmerized, bow euphemistic heads drinking deeply of the dresses never to be worn again. But the bridesmaids just keep talking. And children, though unborn, refuse to turn the other cheek. Meanwhile, fresh-cut orchids are too opulent to speak.
      April’s cruel—that’s not a joke. The bodies scattered so pell-mell you can’t just leave the rest to science or squeegee up the pain. You try to check it for a pulse, hidden cameras go “ping” and we’re left heaving in the silence of some momentary waxwing.
Now, I am of two minds here (like a man who’s just juggled two fiery surrealists). I love the spastic anarchy of it, the ga-ga gawkinesses, the insouciant (possibly “intentional”) “errors” (“bells . . . peel”), the odd conjunct of the various alluded-to’s (Hemingway, Gene Stratton-Porter, The Waste Land, one hit wonder Gary Wright?). I like its push against the tidy, the finely-wrought, I like its ramp’d up rampant all-over energy with broken off threads (or sunken under-juttings) of random narrative. (“All narrative is random,” and I am thinking of Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, the way things (drips of paint, that is) coalesce around poles and unseen “structures” nevertheless (against the play of pouring) . . . Young is clearly in the piece as she assembles it around / under her (that is to say: she is no “preening / peering disdainfully at the untouchables through a monocle / hand lens à la The New Yorker’s Eustace Tilley” FlarfCo.® (subsidiary of ConCo.®) maiden, telecommuting ham-fingeredly in)). Or, flipping the other flaming surrealist high in the air, I think it (the poem) verges toward forcedness (“sound of fingertips alive as tessellating birds in search”). I think it too close kin to industrious beggarliness like: “The pastel bees I found in my mattress / really belong to the gravedigger. I was swallowing / my pencil down at headquarters when a meatloaf / crept out of the encyclopedia; it was shaped / like a chicken wearing a tiara but sinking in quicksand. / I hate this job, it’s murder. The profile of a horse, / even a champion, can get rabbity, if the knitting needle / slips just a little . . .” And so on: James Tate’s “Taxidermy,” out of Distance from Loved Ones (1990).

In other pieces, Young’s “mess and message” points less toward an engaged “worlding” in language and more toward a severer critique of where we find ourselves, here, now, languishing and languaging at the brute (or Google-zapped, hyperactive, info-plotz’d) beginning of a new century (in a continuum with the vicious (or inane, mediocre, shallow) ending of the old). Here’s “Ballad of a Disembodied Escapologist”:
No, you stock up on no-fuss smart food, rodent genius.
Twiggy, shoo, you’re not my inner interlocutor.
                It’s right there for the asking: a seven-headed dragon masterwork on microfiche. The “I don’t care” girl mellowing away in silent déjà vu. Kundalini prodigies, enough gobstopping let’s be honest—you’re not really double-jointed. Hold your breath, the sky turns blue and then the strobe light splits your tango into sluttish memories of a sine-wave’s landlocked sinecure. I’m sore and tired of multitasking. Yes, we need junk hauled away. But silken threads instead of tongues are wonders you once said would be the death of any kisser. And the feeling made us bold. But then electrostatic whispers peeled the paint straight off the walls and singed the master shadowlist.
                                Of course the world needs interlarding with a brainchild’s hit and run. Just watch them lick their finger bowls. But would you do that to your mother? Like wearing gold lamé in Vegas with Chernobyl left on pause. You’re, like, yelling at me and I bought all these sportsbras.
There’s a frank sassiness here that is capable of swerving suddenly to something like tenderness. In the middle of “Inside the Bleary Pyrotechnics of This Glass Menagerie” (“the fates fly down to snatch our matlepoo”), Young writes: “It will only leave you raw with googling, your freckles stitched into the fabric of a sky that shows no sign of blood. You’ll type, ‘Do German Measles itch?’ Do mute sensations hover like a jar of tsetse flies left out all night? The answer’s no. And all the loving in the world won’t make those tiny organs grow.” (What I am saying: I find Young capable of a prodigious range of “sensations” (though there is, too, perhaps, a tendency to quash some of the sterner perturbations and tumults under irony, it’s what “we” do now)—and I find a stunning “language-facility” (Young reminds of the Lisa Robertson of Debbie: An Epic in that way, and in her fearless way of choosing the exactly right adjective: “Turner’s skies, those far-fetched blues!”)

Elizabeth Marie Young is a classicist and author of a lovely chapbook of Shakespearean sonnets—titled, simply, Sonnets (Omahrahu, 2008—put together by Ryan Murphy (one sample final couplet: “Fuck hard, omnivorous and out of breath. / Outlandishly, we’ll knife the kiss of death.”) Experimental noise band background and Catullus dissertation (Berkeley), “now teaches Latin, ancient Greek and English poetry at Wellesley College”: suivre la piste du poète!

J. M. W. Turner, “Shields, on the River Tyne,” 1823


Net’d out of the word-
churn: “Contemptibly rubbed, and so,
gypped by the promissory bait”
“the popular song, its contagion”
“honey’d yips, and coked up
kids” “raw cash of capital”
“a” “the temple gash like
a seizure, like a burqa”
“prefer’d spelling: aeroplane” “my revery
pound’d by listlessness” “scooching by
unmangl’d under the buzz of
the drone” “size XXL (contains
multitudes)” “buoy’d up by feign’d
instability” “burrow’d into a hole”
“the counterfeit Madame X’s trivial
profligacy” “a gallant” “fleec’d by
the middle distance” “granary” “haymow”
“my sentimental collapse” “barber snug”
“crust of impetigo, dearth of
worm” “(voon′dərr′)” “pile” “slew” “wad”