Sunday, August 31, 2008

Yearbook (8.6)

That pear I was carrying around for 2 weeks maybe in the pocket of my backpack finally ripened—I ate it today before plant lab, in a hurry.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Recent Reading (like, July and August)

Playing catch-up, so commentary will be spotty. And saving chapbooks for another occasion.
Peter Gizzi, Some Values of Landscape and Weather. For the third or fourth time.
Robert Duncan, Letters. For the second time. Beautiful Flood Editions reprint.
Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception. 
Michael O'Brien, Sleeping and Waking.
From "Another Autumn":
the brick of meaning, the brick of money, you want to muss up their hair
if he says Do not hasten to bid me adieu he's not a cowboy 
And from "Ghosts":
Wrapped in
It means
Robert Duncan, The Opening of the Field. For maybe the third time.
From "After Reading Barely and Widely":
Poetry, that must touch the string
for music's service
is of violence and obedience a delicate balancing.
And from "The inbinding mirrors a process . . .":
My heart despairs. For the poem
beyond all poetry I have actually heard
has words as natural and expendable
as a cold stream of the first water
thru which rocks of my resistant life
yield to light cleavages of what seems true,
white heights and green deeps.
And from "The Structure of Rime XII":
The structure of rime is in the rigorous trees repeated that take on the swirl visible in the coast winds and the outcroppings, the upraised and bared granites that define sentences of force and instrument.
Jennifer Bartlett, Derivative of the Moving Image.
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition. I can't stop puzzling over her very peculiar version of what politics is—or rather was, since she more or less restricts the phenomenon to classical Athens and directly opposes it to any socioeconomic, legislative modern activity. "Politics" means showing off, goofing off, making speeches, making sure you get stories told about you after you die, but not necessarily changing anything. The closest I think I've come in my own experience were at a hippie summer camp in my early teens, and at various summer-camp-like indie-rock fests. I've never been to a poetry conference, but I suspect it's the same vibe. I'm not quite comfortable with these examples, or with Arendt's nostalgia, but her politics of self-revelation do very helpful to me for thinking about Agamben's deal with the politics of gesture, and various poets' stated desire to make cities with their poems (Olson, Blaser, Spicer, Oppen.)
Still puzzling.
Michael Palmer, First Figure.
Eléna Rivera, Unknowne Land.
Robert Kelly, Her Body Against Time.
Michael Palmer, Notes for Echo Lake. For the second time.
"Alogon" (5):
These feelings
are imaginary.
These feelings
are images
of things.
These things
are felt
as real.
These things
are imagined
as real,
"head and
neck, face
and eyes,
arms, fingers,
nipples and
hips." These
imaginings contain
no ideas.
David Rattray, Opening the Eyelid. This guy was amazing! I'm very grateful to David Abel for giving me a copy of this book, which he published in 1990 when Rattray was still alive (and working for Reader's Digest!).
From "A Division of Water":
The hebrew word araphel means
"thick darkness, secret or high place."
But there is no such thing as obscure
poetry. The objects of a poem
are as bright and clear as can be.
The boast that its
words come from the heart
is true of each real poem, each
word written in blood.
Who wants to look at a color 
so bright it hurts the eyes?
With an elevated serum nitrogen level
at above 12,000 feet,
Tibet favors a mix of
bright reds and yellows.
Red stands for raging energy,
yellow for light.
. . .
On the Williamsburg
at 1:15 of an afternoon on Sunday,
April 17th, a sunny day,
60 degrees with a light breeze,
I counted fourteen flattened
Prince's Plastic Weld glue tubes;
two syringes, one with
and one without a point;
countless broken pints, Smirnoff, Ron Rico, etc.;
plus an intact Wild Irish Rose empty.
Michael Palmer, Active Boundaries: Selected Essays and Talks.
Michael Palmer, Sun. For the second time.
John Cowper Powys, A Glastonbury Romance. 
And the voice replied to him again and it was now so low and yet so searching that it was like a wind stirring the horns of snails and touching the hairs on the throats of night-jars, and moving the antennae of butterflies, and lifting the gold-dust from the cracks of puff-balls, and blowing the grey dust from the droppings of weasels, and rippling the brown rain-fall in the cups of fungi, and fretting the light scurf on the brittle skulls of the newborn, and the rheum-drops on the eyelids of extreme age, and the sweat-drops on the forehead of death.
The man knew his way around a hyphen. I was pleased to carry this dark blue brick around all summer for sentences like that.

Yearbook (8.5)

It was a symptom of your whole relation with certain household items never before so clearly seen. The bicyclists vanished silently around the corner—the way something darts to escape transcription. Why do those later Roman busts have their eyes rolled up in their heads? Rocks, caught in cement, listen. Mouth of thaw drawing. Outside was moonlit Africa, or a map of Africa with lots of “old” unfamiliar country names like “Togoan Malay.” Montana names: Petroleum County, Cat Creek, Hungry Horse, Happy’s Inn, Biddle, Sumatra, Crow Agency, Pompey’s Pillar, Treasure County, Musselshell County, Pumpkin River, Tongue River, Powder River, Cow River, Lonesome Lake, Carbon County, Crazy Peak, Coffee Creek, Milk River, Sunburst, Benchland, Checkerboard, Freezeout Lake, Big Hole River, Lost Horse Mountain.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Yearbook (8.4)

I guess I have that feeling about it too, don’t I, as if the cinema collapsed as gently as a scorched marshmallow with all of us inside it and that viscous, unmelted central kernel of interior relation we kept sacred, and tended, and called by various names—“The Hangout,” “Old Faithful,” “The Godfather,” “Doing a Little Dance,”—and always came back to, grimacing and encumbered like the knights of yore, facing up to fog? A cold shower helped for a while in the afternoon. “Point taken,” but the point never takes, the local little rain can’t soak in deep enough, the periods are sown and sprout but no true sentence ever ends. Soon as a foot knows it it crosses over, explaining to itself the old bruised street full of the dead-too-soon. (Which reminds me I should sleep.) I dreamed I was shopping at the co-op, and bought dense cookies with big fresh blueberries in them, and my cellphone had this ability to make dub versions of everything I said and every other sound it picked up, including the reggae music in the background. Soon all things are embroidery.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Satellite Telephone #2

The second issue of Robert Dewhurst's periodical Satellite Telephone arrived last week, and I read it on the train to Olympia in one happy sprint. There's work by Simon Pettet, Dorothea Lasky, Robert Dewhurst, Susie Timmons, Kyle Schlesinger, Chris Piuma, Lynn Berhendt, Rodney Koeneke, Kevin Killian, Dan Raphael, me, Hannah Sayle, Kimberly Lyons, Claire Becker, Arlo Quint, Chris Kraus, Fanny Howe and Frank Sherlock, plus lovely silkscreened white-on-peptobismol-pink cover by Goody-B. Wiseman, with a very long title. Like the first issue, this one is handset on a typewriter in the style of old-time mimeo mags, and what I'd call "perfect stapled" (I'm not up on my stapling terminology), punkly handsome. On the first page, an epigraph by Simone Weil: "This world is the closed door. It is the barrier. And at the same time it is the way through."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Yearbook (8.3)

Single beats of bass but with clicking on snare and bass to the right and cymbal hits. Here comes one among the wellbeloved stonecutters and plans with decision and science and sees the solid and beautiful forms of the future where there are now no solid forms. I am not shy, I am the future, I thrive on misspelling, and like a watercolor painting I embarrass even the wall, and seem to refer ambidextrously to a New England farmhouse and dental work, and yet I am not at all who you think, nor am I who I'd like to be, yet. I tremble lest the door be locked or open, for the door is an ununderstandable joy. Any of it revolves to involve all of it, so its final easy brutality is semantic, or, I guess so. Though I am cursive and made to be misread and heavy or light as rain. It's hard, paying attention to my own head, to tell the snot from the thought.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Yearbook (8.2)

Hangouts and hang-ups, or how to make it make a move. One fun thing to do is walk across a bridge at around sunset, then turn around and walk back. There have been summers before, fennel shooting up everywhere, rocks and mullein and sleeping gulls, but not enough ever for me to say “There is a man up there jumping from rock to rock,” or something else adequate to the yellow month—naiads, bikini girls, globes of Alaskan glass, selkies, seaside huts for serious alkies . . . Like Mormon crickets or Jerusalem artichokes. Only more raddled stones advance from my mouth, trail of assistances and frilly knots, of which I’m tired and go to sleep all French and dimpled. The sense leaves. When I came home on Sunday night I thought it was someone breathing, and was creeped out till I connected that faint sound in the bedroom with the more distinct sprinkler sound in the living room.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Recent Reading (June-July)

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religious Belief
Not LW’s lecture notes, but the notes of three of his Cambridge students. They sure knew how to take notes back then, and the terse, shorthand quality of the texts (with abundant ellipses, brackets around students’ objections, and footnotes where two scribes differed significantly). He’s very good on the intrinsic, unequivocal, experiential qualities of art, and the problem of description.
Very many people have the feeling: “I can make a gesture here but that’s all.” One example is that you say of a certain phrase of music that it draws a conclusion, “Though I can’t say for my life why it is a ‘therefore’!” You say in this case that it is indescribable. But this does not mean that you may not one day say that something is a description. You may one day find the word or you find a verse that fits it. “It is as though he said: ‘. . .’,” and you have a verse. And now perhaps you say: “And now I understand it.”
. . .
The mistake seems to me in the idea of description. I said before, with some people, me especially, the expression of an emotion in music, say, is a certain gesture. If I make a certain gesture . . . “It is quite obvious that you have certain kinesthetic feelings. It means to you certain kinesthetic feelings.” Which ones? How can you describe them? Except, perhaps, just by the gesture.
Suppose you said: “This phrase in music always makes me make one particular gesture.” A painter might draw this gesture. A man, instead of making a gesture, would draw a gesture. “Wittgenstein, you talk as if this phrase gave you sensations you couldn’t describe. All you get is sensations in your muscles.” This is utterly misleading. We look up muscles in a book on anatomy, we press certain parts and give these sensations names, ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ etc. All that would be needed for a piece of music would be the description ‘A,’ etc., giving the sensations in each muscle.

Jasper Bernes, Starsdown
This book is way more depressing than the new Heath Ledger movie. And often annoyingly clever, but always dead-on in its satire of the present Spectacle and its Society. His prosody, and his tendency to “load every rift with ore,” remind me of Hart Crane, or of a G. M. Hopkins in a world not “charged with the grandeur of God” (though he mentions “God’s blinking cursor”) but surcharged by the glamour of capital. I copied some lines into a notebook from “Desiderata”:
The horizon is a second skin, seeing
Sheathed by being, swallowed whole.
It kings us eye for I. It brings what
Flings us far near, an myopia, a fat
Cataract where the ocean pours over
The edge into threshing, blent serrations, scales.
From “Index”:
you can smoke anything: shoe leather
ethics, Nixon, Bastille Day, quiet.
And from “Alarum and Moral”:
Walking in Los Angeles is like dancing in wet cement.
The distances cheat. You make the city up.
Channels of light and dark symposium on squirm and offer
something glorious about to happen, a kind of art or tar
whose hardening a steady, moderate movement postpones.
Has it really gotten to the point where you can’t slice the monuments from
the moment without
taking off your fingerprints too?

Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques
A real adventure story, with piranhas and capybaras and a seven-page description of a sunset. The first sentence: “I hate traveling and explorers.”


Chris Piuma wrote a nice blog post about my new chapbook, Unless As Stone Is.  Thanks, Chris!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Yearbook (8.1)

These are the occupational hazards of the diarist. Emotional directional arrows from square 3 to square 14.