Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sleep Is Critical

The one lucid thought I had last night: Poetry-as-landscape is perhaps always poetry teasing landscape, or being teased by it.


Poetry, then, remains a defined enough activity that we can play with the conceit of its being something else. This is impossible, and thus endlessly fascinating. Take Clark Coolidge's, or anybody's, poetry-as-music. Then take the strangeness of the moments in Nathaniel Mackey's poetry where poetry-as-music becomes poetry-as-description-of poetry-as-music. From "Andoumboulouous Brush":
                 . . ."Mouth that
           moved my mouth,"
     soughed, hummed it,
        made it buzz . . . Hummed,
  hoped glass would break,
walls fall. Sang thru
            cracks a croaking
        to end all song . . .

Or the way a brief passage by Barbara Guest can, in a complex and gorgeous irony, all at once tease and be teased by the terms of (abstract-expressionist) art, art-criticism, and music. From "Musicality":
                                    two trees leaning forward
the thick new-made emptiness


              Hanging apples               half-notes
in the rhythmic        ceiling        red flagged
rag clefs

                     notational margins
Where it is the very "notational margins" that emphasize and bind together "notational margins" and "Naturalism"; where anything is Naturalism if and where you say it is—as though a painter daubed on a patch of naturalism near the middle of the canvas; where the notational spacing of poetry gets wilfully mixed up with the literalness of musical notes which are also apples; where words require, like paintings, the material quality of their material: "the thick new-made emptiness," "red flagged / rag clefs."


Maybe this is all obvious and only seems worth repeating because it came in through half sleep. A little later towards morning I became interested in the phenomenon of the descriptive poem-title, as in: "Poem Described by Its Title." "Poem Anxious to Begin." "Poem with Some Dogshit on It." "Exit, Pursued by Words."

Now I'm awake, it looks like spring, and the last thing I'm going to have is another idea.


Rich J said...

I'm so bummed because I totally posted.

And, it's gone.

Rich J said...

I rattled on for a bit about my grandfather, my ideology, soft peaks and landscape.



O but it ended like this:

teaser: hero burning house


To Be Cont'd ...

Rich J said...

in the morning it seems possible to recall more of the words that came last night and without so much frustration for having lost them

they were something like these:

something like 1) an appreciation of the post : the interest in lang scape

some allusion to tease: as with hair

something about a question like:

is there any poem that is not a map?

and then, even if that is so, do we have to talk about that right now?

and, then, what if we forget (to remember) that every poem is a map

every map ( I guess ) a part of the place where forms correspond to forms in another part of the place

and so, if that is not what we are talking about right now

and when it seems forgotten

the urge to remind the conversation of what it is missing: is ideology?

my grampa was a tease. a tickler
until you cried or pissed or kicked him in the face

always a joke
always a topless hula dancer in the vacation slide show
always how did that get it in there?

teasing, like testing, a little fake sample, a feint, a provocation

the spatula pulls the cream into soft peaks

loved the samples. 'specially the Guest.

Sam Lohmann said...

Hey Rich, thanks for the sweet comments. I'm intrigued by the hero burning. I think the gift of sleep was really the word "tease" which in all the senses you got at is a suddenly useful word for talking about poetry, I think. Not least teased hair.

Then there's that fragment of Holderlin, c. 1800 (?), that mostly consists of just a long list of place-names ranging wildly over earth-surface and page-surface (though without any clear correspondence between graphic and geographic space)—which of course we insist on reading as "a poem," teasing the limits of poem as map.


Barbara Guest just gets more and more exciting. There's a whopping Collected Poems coming out this spring.

Rich J said...


It seems you have luck on your side.

Jacques Ranciere, one of the world's leading analysts of this thing called ideology has come to speak in PDX tonight, here: e

Maybe he knows what it is. I am not sure. I think it means like, "the rules of your game."

In my note I was playing with the notion the "the rules" become apparent in those situations where one feels like all the people talking have taken something for granted, like that the word 'here' on a page tags a strange kind of portable or fluid place maybe like a very elastic Klein bottle.

Sam Lohmann said...

Oh, I get it. I'm a little slow. Yes, absolutely, ideology!

I hope I get to see Ranciere—the tickets are all gone, but we're gonna try for last-minute will-call.

I was thinking of that "Naturalism" as a kind of black hole on the page sucking up any possible naturalism that mind find its way into the poem. But a Klein bottle is more interesting.