Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I ♥ the New Yorker

'In the movies, we are taught that if something bad happens to someone, somebody better-looking will learn from it. In "Pearl Harbor", the sight of struggling sailors, drowning below-decks, serves as a useful reminder to Ben Affleck of how he ought to feel about Kate Beckinsale.' (Adam Gopnik, NYer, 25/10/10, p. 32)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tony Tost as an Assuring Male Poet

I just came across an outrageous distortion of Tony Tost's Invisible Bride, perpetrated by Stephanie Cleveland (who I don't know who is, I'll admit). In "The Myth of Women’s Masochism", she writes as follows:

In “The Great Submarine Race,” Mathew Rohrer describes penises as metaphorical submarines (that is, warships) which slumber in the bloodstreams of all men. These “submarines” want desperately to “burble [i.e. shoot off] in shallow slips.” Erection and ejaculation are the primary focus; the woman’s vagina becomes passive, a port where the poet docs his sub:
A man in the square nudged his wife/and told her they were Mammary clouds. Everyone’s bloodstream burbled faintly./ The wife loved the lumpy clouds, the man’s submarine slipped its mooring/and nosed her coral arches. Simultaneously, all the world’s submarines exhaled and plunged deep into the shifting water, with their little engines racing (65)
Men fuck women as a collective entity, bonding through what Tony Tost has aptly poeticized as “the ancient male ritual of penetrating” (49). Some envision themselves as charming submarines who “enter her” magnanimously. For women, to reject this image of being plunged or parted by a man’s ship is to hurt men’s feelings, to risk making a male partner feel less substantial, less like a man, and potentially less willing to stick around. Every one else is fucking this way, every other woman in the world waits eagerly to be nudged by her partner’s penis; the male poet assures us this is so; every woman is happiest in her natural role of passive port directed were to look by an erection-wielding husband.

But anyone who reads the poem on page 49 will immediately see that Tony was not talking about a ritual of penetrating per se. Rather, he has “Agnes”, who recurs in the book as “the otherworldly force that silently and insistently explains [his] reason for being” and also “theorizes about the sanctity of airports" (8), say something completely different. I'll quote it here along with the set-up.

When I was ten I broke into my father's office to steal some money and there he was digitally stimulating my mother and talking on the phone. Agnes said I have spent my life's capital perpetually sneaking into my father's office, then telling myself I was a trespasser of the unknown.

"The ancient male ritual of penetrating the public sphere only to stumble upon a penetration of the private one," she said.

Cleveland, the "female poet", if you will, lops off the clauses that give a sense to "penetrating" and now assures us that this is a poem about how “men fuck women as a collective entity, bonding”. Very assuring, indeed.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Far Too Canadian

Many years ago when I was living in Canada there was a song called "Far Too Canadian" by a band called Spirit of the West. Today, I read the following about Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, in the Economist:

Last year he raised eyebrows by choosing to inaugurate a doughnut-innovation centre rather than attend the UN General Assembly. (16/10/10, p. 54)

It's one of those facts through which reality outdoes the parody.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Reverse Notation

Here' s a nice little poem by the Danish poet Henrik Nordbrandt. It appears in a book called called The Hand's Tremor in November, here in my own translation:

You, whom I love, and who thinks that I love another. I love you so intensely these days because I have fallen for another.

An interesting idea, to be sure. Today, I had a series of experiences that made me feel something of what Pound noted down in his "In A Station of the Metro" (which, as I have noted before, is an anagram of "Of Another Tostian Item", but I digress...). What I felt can perhaps best be described with a poem that inverts, almost completely, Nordbrandt's notation:

You, who loves me, and I know can't love another. I fell for every girl I saw today because you love me so intensely.

Not a work, I will grant, of first intensity. But noted down, in any case, for future reference.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Weather is Broken

Today it is so foggy outside that the weather appears to be malfunctioning. One wants to call the weather company and hear the customer service representative say that they're "working on it", that they hope to have it "up and running" later today.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Notes Toward the Meaning of Justice

In the "The Meaning of Truth", William James says,

Distance ... is made abstract by emptying out whatever is particular in the concrete intervals—it is reduced thus to a sole 'difference,' a difference of 'place', which is a logical ... distinction, a so-called 'pure relation.'

The same is true of the relation called 'knowing,' which may connect an idea with a reality. ... I say that we know an object by means of an idea ..."

Here's a pangrammatical transposition of this passage, converting it from a statement about knowledge to one about power (here, as we shall see, "mastery"):

Duration ... is made concrete by filling in whatever is universal in the abstract termini—it is ramified thus to a mass 'identity,' an identity of 'way', which is a passionate ... equivalence, a so-called 'brute position.'

The same may be said of the position called 'mastering,' which may divorce a reality from an idea. ... I say that we master a subject by means of a reality ..."

Not bad, eh?

Saturday, October 02, 2010


"In other words, the intermediaries which in their concrete particularity form a bridge, evaporate ideally into an empty interval to cross and then, the relation of the end-terms having became saltatory, the hocus-pocus of erkenntnisstheorie begins, and goes on unrestrained by further concrete considerations." (William James)

"Hoc est corpus meum." (Jesus Christ)


We want reality to be opaque. There should be nothing behind it.

We want ideas to be transparent. There should be nothing to them.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Major and Minor Forms

A distinguished novelist complained that no directions for major form were given in How to Read.
In apology: It is a waste of time to listen to people talking of things they have not understood sufficiently to perform. (Ezra Pound, ABC, p. 76)

Pound ultimately didn't even exhibit "major form" in the Cantos. As Kearns points out,

He never got around to theorizing about major form, nor did he impose one on the Cantos. As he added to the poem or he came across new materials that interested him, he allowed them to find a place in the expanding code, trusting principally that a dynamic magnetism would hold everything together by the quality of the poet's affections. (29)

This is exactly the opposite of what I want to allow, and what I can trust, in Composure. My notes will cohere, I want to say, even if It/I don't (cf. Canto CXVI). That's what the project is about.

I want a major form to emerge from the pieces (the pjecer that have been translated as Kierkegaard's "fragments"). 51 pieces, say, one of which is my body ("This is my body"). Where it at all coheres. The form will not be imposed; it will be built. Hand crafted.