Sunday, October 29, 2006

Towards an Index of Invisible Bride

Agnes, 8, 21, 28, 30, 47, 49
Arkansas, 19
assassin, 21, 22

Dylan, Bob, 49

eternity, 17, 23, 45

fire, 1, 33, 53

identity, 3, 33, 48

knife, 1, 31

pain, 1, 37

shoulder, 21, 31

Texas, 57

war, 2
weeping, (of animals) 13, (of mothers) 35
winter, 13-15

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Of Another Tostian Item

The way these faces look in the crowd:
Leaves on a wet, black branch.

"Of another Tostian item" is an anagram of "in a station of the metro". Riding the Copenhagen Metro today I found the faces as striking as I imagine Pound did in 1913 in Paris. I found his little poem very useful too. I spent a long time thinking about whether there really is a missing "like" between the first and second line, or whether there needs to be. I.e., whether or not it is an implicit simile. I found it most useful simply to imagine the experience of the faces followed by the experience with the petals.

To hold the bough up to those faces, as it were.

The apparition of those faces is not just a thing of beauty (though it is that too). There is something disturbing about it. And Pound's poem helps us to deal with it. So do the poems in books like Invisible Bride, The Lichtenberg Figures, The Hounds of No, and Petroleum Hat.

These are (often little) poems that help us to manage what Tony once called "pivots", a Poundian notion in its own right. Pound puts it this way: "I dare say it is meaningless unless one has drifted into a certain vein of thought. In a poem of this sort one is trying to record the precise instant when a thing outward and objective transforms itself, or darts into a thing inward and subjective."

Tony puts it this way: "I find myself wanting to recreate or find pivot-points in my own poems: a pivot from image to aphorism, from emotion to trivia."

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Department of Philosophy and Poetry

Googling the phrase "department of poetry" does not come up completely empty, but it doesn't give us anything like the institutional support for "department of philosophy". This is an interesting grammatical asymmetry between "poetry" and "philosophy" (i.e., a difference in the way we use these words). Studies of poetry are normally hidden in departments that deal with particular languages or groups of languages. Philosophy departments, of course, have their various regional biases, but they don't generally explicate them in terms of national literatures.

I'm not sure what the right way to go is. (I don't think anything very substantial will be achieved by carving up academic fields of study differently.) Sometimes I think we should see works of philosophy simply as contributions to broader (and even national) literary traditions. Sometimes I think the study of literature would benefit greatly from being dissociated from its often less than implicit nationalism and even patriotism.

I think a Department of Philosophy and Poetry would be an excellent idea. Like many much needed excellent ideas it has zero hits.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Radical Silence Model

A woman's silence is a prelude to another more radical model: zero infinity.

The relationship between van Lamsweerde and Matadin and Kate Moss is one of such radical silence, for example.

For fifteen of these women, language does not mirror an unbearable appeal.

Like Saussure, they work with the strongest and most therapeutic of Puškin’s Boris Godunovs in dialogue.

Experiences and actions are now thought of as objects that are accessible only through posture.

This requires the invention of new idioms, but the upshot is to set the "social" over against the "verbal", and

the refusal of all activities of art, i.e., the standardizing of all opinions about women.

Fixing the country's failed social integration, the motherfucker has chosen to stand.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Close Reading Assignment

Hang a Cosimo Tura beside a Carlo Dolci. Compare and contrast my recent flarf effort "Blowjob" with Leonard Cohen's "Celebration" (see below). Compare your comparison with a comparison of Drew Gardner's "Money" (see below) and Dana Gioia's. Then compare your comparison with a comparison of Tony Tost's "I Am Not the Pilot" and David Jason Blocker's "The Poet".

(Leonard Cohen)

When you kneel below me
and in both your hands
hold my manhood like a sceptre,

When you wrap your tongue
about the amber jewel
and urge my blessing.

I understand those Roman girls
who danced around a shaft of stone
and kissed it till the stone was warm.

Kneel, love, a thousand feet below me,
so far I can barely see your mouth and hands
perform the ceremony,

Kneel till I topple to your back
with a groan, like those gods on the roof
that Samson pulled down.

(Drew Gardner)
Money is a kind of lettucy Stegner Fellow.
-Wallace Stevens

Money, the long pink scorpion semaphores,
cash, stash, Charman Mao, extra sharp cheddar
getting hard just listening to Terry Gross.
I just killed the Pillsbury dough boy.

Chock it up, fluff it all over yr own self,
Shelly Duvall it out. Watch it
burn holes through the argon gophers.

To be made of it! To have it
to slumber on in the frightening alien metal disk-things!
Greenbacks, Mike Schmidts,
twelve point bucks arguing with Minnie Driver.

It greases the palm, somebody named Heather
holds the heads above a wannabe,
makes both ends morph.

Money breeds with leather instructional manuals.
Gathering questionable options, pounding on Dan Rather
Always in circulation.

Money. You don't know why it's floating in front of you,
but you put it where your mouth put it.
And it talks to itself.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Mit einem Gedicht von Leonard Cohen.
Ja, ein Gedicht, kein Song!

When you kneel on the bench
in both cities, I have heard suburbanites
hold my manhood as I ran.

When you wrap your lips
about the amber code
and urge my elected representatives,

I understand those who have said please,
who danced around and slashed
and kissed it, making him suck.

Kneel, love, between your serves.
So far I had only seen dicks in magazines
perform the ceremony.

Kneel until I come to Being
with a groan that reached the ears of this blond
that Samson really did slay.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Water Swimming

"Op art" is a pleonasm, said Albers. Like "water swimming". Like "language poetry", no doubt. Like "seeming to disappear".

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Wittgenstein and Albers

Can you tell where Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations (Part II, xi, p. 193) leaves off and Albers' Interaction of Color (Chapter II, p. 5) picks up?

I contemplate a face, and then suddenly notice its likeness to another. I see that it has not changed; and yet I see it differently. I call this experience "noticing an aspect".

Its causes are of interest to psychologists.

We are interested in the concept and its place among the concepts of experience.

Equally, a factual identification of colors within a given painting
has nothing to do with sensitive seeing
nor with an understanding of the color action within the painting.

Our study of color differs fundamentally from a study which anatomically
dissects colorants (pigments) and physical qualities (wave length).

Our concern is the interaction of color; that is, seeing
what happens between colors.
There is an obvious similarity of temperament here.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Usage and Usury

The Danish word for debt (gæld) is the German word for money (Geld). The OED alleges that the origin of guilt is unknown, but offers the Old English gylt as a possibility. The Danish gæld (debt), meanwhile, can be traced back to the English g(i)eldan, meaning "to pay", and leading eventually to the modern "yield". The double sense, of both "return as fruit" and "give up, surrender" (and all the way to "hold back", i.e., "allowing another the right of way", i.e., deference), is very telling. It shows how deep the ethos of double-entry book keeping runs in our culture. We are spiritually cut off from nature's increase by our currency.

Today, governments and citizens accumulate all manner of debt and guilt, while corporations shamelessly harvest the fruit. We are all born into a system of ownership, which is ultimately simply a sense of being indebted. There are some poems, however, that seem to have done away with this guilty feeling. At the root of all power is the ability to determine the difference between what one owns and what one owes. This play on words, this grammar, provides us with a clue to the ethos of the "major poets". As Pound put it, "They have not wished for property."