Friday, April 30, 2004

Good poems. Need a bit more time to comment intelligently on them. Ran across this this morning and it looks interesting enough to pass on. I don't know much about this guy. If you click on the name of the movie in the article, you can watch the trailer. Bon weekend. Not Moulin Rouge

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Great picks Nate. I'm especially curious about what folks think of Karen Volkman's work in prose. I've met her a few times, and I've heard her read some, too, but for some reason it was really hard for me to appreciate what she was doing. Recently, though, I was reading Spar again and I finally found the rhythms of her poems, which are exquisite.

In terms of the rhythmic freedoms and possibilities of the prose poem, I think Volkman does it very well. They fluctuate and vary on themselves: sometimes the beat is extremely strong and varies with a strange sort of regularity (or is that just frequency?), but sometimes the rhythms are very subtle and nuanced.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Here are some prose poems which, if nothing else, subvert the narrative tendency in interesting ways. I neglected work by Tate, Edson, Hass and Ashbery, which I imagine we're mostly familiar with. Other work worth checking out which I didn't feel like typing are: Hejinian's My Life, Mary Ruefle's prose poems (scattered randomly throughout her books, though she told me she might put them together as one collection soon--something to look forward to!), Bernadette Mayers' work, O'Hara's "Meditations in an Emergency," and the wealth of great French prose poets, including especially (as far as I'm concerned) Jacob, Ponge, Reverdy, Char, Roubaud's Something Black (available in a decent English translation) and Micheaux's bizarre-ass narratives.

I've withheld comment on these, but please, let's do get into it!



A single climb to a line, a straight exchange to a cane, a desperate adventure and courage and a clock, all this which is a system, which has feeling, which has resignation and success, all makes an attractive black silver.

Stein, from Tender Buttons

Some fifteen years we'll say I served this friend, was his valet, nurse, physician, fool and master: nothing too menial, to say the least. Enough of that: so.
Stand aside while they pass. This is what they found in the rock when it was cracked open: this fingernail. Hide your face among the lower leaves, here's a meeting should have led to better things but--it is only one branch out of the forest and night pressing you for an answer! Velvet night weighing upon your eye-balls with gentle insistence; calling you away: Come with me, now, tonight! Come with me! now tonight...

WCW, from Kora in Hell


Short walk through fields to soft-drink stand where boats wait--all aboard! Creak of rope oarlock. One man pulls the sing oar, another poles, a third steers, a fourth stands by to relieve the firs. High-up shrine, bamboo glade. Woodland a cherry tree still in bloom punctuates like gun-smoke. Egret flying upstream, neck cocked. Entering the (very gentle) rapids everyone gasps with pleasure. The little waves break backwards, nostalgia con moto, a drop of fresh water thrills the cheek. And then? Woodland, bamboo glade, high-up shrine. Years of this have tanned and shriveled the boatmen. For after all, the truly exhilarating bits

were few, far between
--boulders goaded past, dumb beasts
mantled in glass-green

gush--and patently
led where but to the landing,
the bridge, the crowds. We

step ashore, in our clumsiness hoping not to spill these brief impressions.

James Merrill, from "Prose of Departures"


My Mickey Mouse ears are nothing like sonar. Colorado is far less rusty than Walt's lyric riddles. If sorrow is wintergreen, well then Walt's breakdancers are dunderheads. If hoecakes are Wonder Bras, blond Wonder Bras grow on Walt's hornytoad. I have seen roadkill damaged, riddled and wintergreen, but no such roadkill see I in Walt's checkbook. And in some purchases there is more deliberation than in the bargains that my Mickey Mouse redeems. I love to herd Walt's sheep, yet well I know that muskrats have far more platonic sonogram. I grant I never saw a googolplex groan. My Mickey Mouse, when Walt waddles, trips on garbanzos. And yet, by halogen-light, I think my loneliness as reckless as any souvenir bought with free coupons.

Harryette Mullen, from Sleeping with the Dictionary


It could be a bird that says summer, that says gather no late failing harvest in a wealth of arms. Lost weed, still you remember, in a storm-suit, the sky came down to walk among us, oh to talk. Such grey conviction, cracked calculus, chasm. Black earth repeating, I was never him, and so many green words of schism, that and this. If a tree could say, if a tree could say, what are you? to my dim attention, to my wayward random shape. Suit, suit, you're a cold suit, your stitched rain shivers and splinters, what web is this? Unnumbered mesh of other, kill, kiss.

Karen Volkman, from Spar

hope no-one's already made this point, but the thing that i like about the prose poem (sort of moving outside of the discussion of meter and line break v. lack thereof) is the sense of compression. the visual density combined with the narrative density result in a sense of the world as modular but very much full of dimension and depth. it's as if, in a prose poem, a world is suddenly smacked into being and just as quickly smacked shut—like an eye blinking. that may be said of lyrical poetry also, but i mean it more in the sense that when we open our eyes, there's a certain completeness to what we see that we can process immediately after we close our them up again. when i read tate's prose poetry, it's the experience of complete superficial understanding of narrative and character and setting that gets followed up by a mulling over of theme and meaning. i suppose the sort of conceptual distinction i'm making is between the gaze and the glance, the prose poem being the latter. the glance makes certain sense of the world in its immediacy whereas the gaze is necessary for what's a little less clear. i reserve my prose poems (perhaps too obviously) for the poems that have the clearest narrative arch. line-broken poems are used for the more abstracted, "i'm still trying to figure this out" stuff.

Wow, sorry about that triple posting thing. All fixed.

Does anyone get the feeling that Jorge says the same thing over and over again? :-)

Vicky, send Nikki another invite.

"The linear, often transparent functions of utilitarian prose are completely subverted and instead we find ourselves riding lyrical waves without the comfort provided by the shores of lineation." Well put Nate. I like this idea, be it Tate's or your paraphrasing. It turns the prose poem into something daring, even dangerous. To keep with the metaphor, one is unmoored. Perhaps I'll have a run at one and report back. I'll call it "Damn you and your good points Nate" Do you think you (or anyone else) could dig up a particularity metrically regular prose poem (or one that is doing interesting rhythmic whatnot) that we could put on the operating table?

Jorge, I too wonder about how conscious we are about these kinds of tiny matters. Even when reading those fine lines by Harevy, I'm unlikely, early on, to have those kinds of thoughts. I'm more likely to just enjoy them and perhaps look more closely later to find out why. But in writing/revising a poem, these are precisly the thoughts that occur and need to be grappeled with. As for non-poet readers, I can't help thinking that if the reader isn't looking for conscious effect, they must have an unconscious one. Something is happening in the half-second when the brain is truned on and the eyes are shifting back to the margin for the next word. There is at least the mild shock of having your expectations (and we don't even know what these are sometimes) met or not. The prose poem as an "ambush" I also like quite alot.

Joe, thanks for the Ashbery, "like the way one's consciousness is surrounded by one's thoughts." He always gets to say all the good things.

You're right Nate: stress/meter exists in prose and poetry alike, but I guess I was taking for granted that I was just referring to lineated poetry. When I think about it, I rely on the many different effects that the line break can produce, and I probably rely on them too much. Chad illustrated the semantic weight of line breaks very well. I must admit, though, that sometimes I wonder how much line break effects work with non-poet readers. Consider the opening lines of Matthea Harvey's "Bird Transfer"

Unfasten the crows & the clouds
come crashing down.

Does that line break really surprise people? Assuming people initially think, "Oh, 'unfasten' is an imperative," do they then really say "Uh-oh, it's not." Okay, so this might be a bad example. I'm thinking of the subtler effects of the line break, the one's that don't shift meaning or sense, and instead that cause short-circuits or oil slicks that the reader may not, necessarily, be able to make sense of. Hmm. . . . I need to find a good example of what I mean.

The ambush of the prose poem I think is a real phenomenon, even among people aware of the trickiness or unpredictability of an encounter with a prose poem.


Okay, so this one final time I'm going to advertise the benefit I'm helping with tonight:

April Fools for Love
the annual Reverie Theatre Benefit
Izzo/Jones Art Gallery
1806 West Cuyler
(one block north of Irving Park Road, one west of Ravenswood)

Time: 7pm

Tickets: $20 (includes a free drink and all the food you can eat).

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The thing to remember is that meter (or stress) exists in prose as well as verse lines (the good ones), so there's no logical way of drawing a distinction there. The thing we lose in prose is a beginning and an end to the rhythmic pattern. It's the difference between a river and an ocean, but the ripples are still there. Stress can still serve its most effective, poetic ends: it adds expressive substance (music) to thought and ideas.

I find this contradiction (poetic stress or meter in prose) to be one of the marvelous features of good prose poetry. We're confronted with a formal paradox, a paradox which, rather than knotting things up in a tight little system, has the capacity to explode the genre entirely.

Prose also functions as a sort of Trojan Horse. Tate said somewhere that a reader encounters prose as an innocuous bit of writing, nothing to be afraid of, a little piece of everyday life. But lo! the reader steps inside and boom, what happens? The linear, often transparent functions of utilitarian prose are completely subverted and instead we find ourselves riding lyrical waves without the comfort provided by the shores of lineation.

Chad makes a good case for lines, though, in his attentive readings of semantic differences--which are also usually a product of where stress lands (i.e. the beginning or end of a line). I would never suggest turning ones back on lineation, anyway. Nonetheless, the contradictory formal nature of prose poetry offers an array of fascinating possibilities. Don't be afraid, step inside and be washed away by the obliterating chaos that is lyric prose!

I'm going to see the Magnetic Fields on May 7 in Northampton, MA.

On the subject of prose poems, I've been poring through Ashbery interviews for a paper I'm writing on "The Tennis Court Oath," and Ashbery had this to say about prose poems in '72:

NYQ: What criteria do you use in deciding between writing a free verse or a prose poem?

JA: I don't think I have any criteria. It's what seems suitable at the moment and I can't say any more than that. The prose is something quite new; I had written one or two prose poems many years ago and not found it to be a particularly interesting form and then it began to creep into a couple of poems in THE DOUBLE DREAM OF SPRING and then suddenly the idea of it occurred to me as something new in which the arbitrary division of poems into lines would be abolished. One wouldn't have to have these interfering and scanning the process of one's thought as one was writing; the poetic form would be dissolved, in solution, and therefore create a much more--I hate to say environmental because it's a bad word--but more of a surrounding thing like the way one's consciousness is surrounded by one's thoughts.

Glad to see everyone's taken to this blogging thing. I'm glad Nate's convinced Jorge to give Eternal Sunshine a second chance. Isn't that something we all deserve? Er, yea.

Anyway, I also need to give props to Roberto who first directed me to that article about poets being the youngest of the writing crowd to kick the bucket. Wait, is that P.C.? Am I supposed to be? If so no one told me.

Hi Winder or should I call you Jason? I won't get into that story...anyway, welcome to the blog. Does anyone know the whereabouts of Nikki? It'd be nice not to be the only girl on this thing...

For those of you who are in the Chicagoland area, the Magnetic Fields are playing at the Old Town School of Folk Music in June. Also, the Pixies are playing several shows in November! Go Pixies!

sancho just informed me about this blog. at first i thought a blog was a rogue character from george lucas' crappy new star wars movies, then i realized i read the news on a regular basis and knew what a blog really was. blog blog blog. it's kind of fun to say.

well, hello all.

holy canoly, a hot girl just walked past my window. my god, she's walking into my building. i've never seen her before. who is this woman? i will investigate and report back later.

i'm still in a.a. (the town not the recovery group though some would suggest something here). i'm trying to get a job and move back to chicago or move back to chicago and get a job. currently working on a new book now that the semester's over and the student papers are nearly completely graded, not that the first book is published or anything...jerks. i hesitate to say what it is yet, but trust me, it's abnormal.

i haven't quite caught up on your conversation thus far, but will try and keep up now that i'm a blogger. i feel as though getting a bunch of poets together in a forum of rambling is a bit dangerous and could potentially hijack a lot of server space. am i the only one with this concern? happy tales to all of you. i hope to be in touch often, potentially biblically (this means you hund, you magnificant bastard. you're an adonis—did i spell adonis correctly?). go cubs.

I’m glad to see such a lively discussion starting up. This is what this damn ‘blog thing was supposed to do.

Although, I do share many of the views Chad and Nate have put forward, I’m going to complicate things, I think. My time at Michigan has made me pay closer attention to form and meter. Although I do not think that meter defines poetry, I think that my interest/obsession with what meter can do (or can be stretched to do) has sent me in the opposite direction. I agree with Joe that once the meteric=poetry definition is abandoned, no real definition of poetry can be used as a key (i.e., it fits the definition, therefore it’s poetry, etc.). At least none that I can think of. And I think I’ve been driven to screw with meter specifically because, like you, Joe, I’m never quite sure I can justify that the things I write are, in fact, poems. I’m not sure I really understand the prose poem impulse or prose poetics at all.

I rarely write prose poems: the only two I’ve written in the last four years were poems that I could never figure out how to lineate.

I think, ultimately, it might be less of a definitive distinction and more of a topographical question (stay with me here). That is, poems can certainly tell stories, but a long-ish prose poem that is heavily narrative becomes indistinguishable from what we call short fiction, no? And what if we have a novel-length work that doesn’t really assert a continuous or coherent narrative at all, but instead is a loosely strung collection of vignettes (here’s that word again), recollections (real or imagined or a little of both), descriptions or meditations, all more or less lyrical? Insert line-breaks and you have a long, long poem? Hold the line-breaks and what do you have? Although these questions are possible points of departure for discussion, I think they illustrate the “topographicality” of my perspective. Outside of the literature which takes no “formal” risks, I think the best we can do nowadays is approximate and delineatory (“This poem is mostly lyrical with a faint narrative thread” or “This story, while having long stretches of very interesting and seemingly disconnected dialogue, still possesses a definite narrative arc and flow.” or “This prose piece is definitely poetic (i.e. lyrical?)”)

I don’t know. Now I’ve just confused myself.

(Initially I wrote: “Imagine literature as a town with lots of neighborhoods: once profoundly segregated and ghettoized, it now has neighborhoods whose delineations are fluid. Most literature is still in the usual places: stuffy, ultra-intellectual stuff in posh, Victorian digs, but there’s also work that resides just on the border . . .” but I think this extended metaphor is contrived and stupid. Thoughts?)

As for opening remarks, excellent prose is often called poetic. Prosaic poetry, depending on who you talk to, if often called a failure. I would say that a prose poem is made a poem by its context, entirely. A prose poem in a book of short stories is called a short short (not to be confused with short shorts, huzza!); in a book of poems, it’s called a poem. I’m thinking especially of the excellent tiny bits in “Coast of Chicago” by Mr. Dybek. And the poem in Jim Galvin’s collected that is also a vignette (is this another can of worms?) in The Meadow. I also think of Jim’s poems (and those of many others) that let the sentence wrap around the page only to start the next sentence a line down.
Like this. (I can't get it to look right in the post!Like should line up with the period after "down". "It's" should line up with the period after "this")
It’s a kind of prose poem that has been pulled on from the top and bottom margins. It makes the period a line break and there’s no reason to ever think of it as prose because it looks like a poem. He’s maybe having his prose poem cake and eating it too? But these are just distinctions. I don’t think they are so different and care less about the differences than I do about the quality. Good’s good, no?

But the choice, or lack of, that you’re talking about it quite interesting and more to the point. I rarely write prose because it makes me feel almost opposite of what you’ve described. I feel more self-conscious, less free, less natural with the prose. Your instinct seems right. One needs to overcompensate with everything the language can do to make the prose sing. I think of the stretches of iambs in Moby Dick. Writing in prose must get the prose poem writer out of his/her mind long enough for bursts of language that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. But perhaps yoga, or a motorcycle ride, or lighting candles could do the same thing. Form’s then, maybe, a way of feeling about yourself and your capabilities.

I feel often naked writing prose. I guess we’re finally talking about how important the line break is and without the line break I feel I’m losing a great ally, especially when one wants to talk about rhythms of speech, which I think are less renderable without breaks. So what is a line break then? A complete mystery. They are perhaps what make poetry so re-readable. They are little vacuums that suck everything up at the end of a line. They are like punctuation, though less stable. They misbehave when you turn your back. They are agents of meaning as much as words are.

But to back up, I have been especially interested in the past two years in expressions, bits of idiomatic residue and their ability to usher in a context even more quickly than metaphor. A test case then: “I know you are but what am I” delivers one instantly to a time and place; petty, weak, though emphatic and mean. You’re at the schoolyard maybe or with a sibling. You’re young and ill equipped. And we can hear the natural cadence of the words at a glimpse (sing-songey, monosyllabic, slight pause between “are” and “but”). Some variations: “I know you are / but what am I” is most natural; I’d think it’s the way it gets said, though one could make an argument for the rapid fire line of prose in this case. However: “I know you are but / what am I?” implicates the self much more, brings an adult sensibility and well, hell, it’s existential. “I know you / are but what / am I?” stress on the “am” more emphatic, angrier; the you is written off right away. “I know / you are but what am / I?” there’s barely a self in this one. One could go on and on, the point being that I think no matter what, you read, even broken, the phrase as a whole. The line breaks make recommendations on how one is to feel in undertaking the utterance. If they don’t make meaning themselves, they fine-tune it. I see now I’ve been defending the line break rather than explaining the prose poem. In any case, without the line break, I feel less able to function poetically. I feel crippled form the get go (ha, ha). Perhaps, it is for someone else to defend the medium.

Luckily Nate your prose poems turn out well and it’s no surprise given the “rules” you’ve set for yourself in writing them, but I’d agree with Joe that there are a lot of bad ones because the poets feel opposite to you in writing them. They feel, I’d imagine, that they are “free” to be less poetic. A straightforward, lineated poem with simple diction and syntax can be saved from becoming prose by the line break (Heather McHugh,What He Thought, all things / move) In your case, it seems that you’re contorting yourself into a form while being conscious that it can’t always do what you want it to? To which I’d say, I wouldn’t want to crab walk to work, but a race down the beach is a hell of a thing.

Is it true Chris? Let’s see some of those.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Interesting topic, Nate.

I think once we decide meter is not the distinguishing characteristic of verse, it becomes almost impossible to make any sort of adequate distinction. In fact, in the recent past, fiction has very often been more metrical than poetry. I think this is more a question of convention than any thing else. If you call it verse it's verse, if you call it prose it's prose. If you call it prose verse you confuse the hell out of everybody but fortunately everyone is too embarrassed to say anything.

I think your idea of it being freer is intriguing, although I wonder if it's merely an illusion. Still if it's an illusion that helps you, all the better. If you were setting out to write in prose, perhaps it would feel freer to write in verse. And, in fact, line breaks have made their way into fiction as well. I think it probably has more to do with how you want to approach tradition tahn anything else. I've never written any prose poems, although I never consciously set out not to. I think I haven't done it because I feel like I have a hard enough time convincing anyone that what I'm writing is poetry anyway so I better at least have line breaks.

Do you think that its universal that prose poems come out more lyrical? Maybe that's only true for you. I feel like with a lot of the bad prose poems out there, being in prose makes them more flat.

Jorge, thanks for the kind words. I've been working in prose quite a bit since last fall.

I'd been wanting to propose a topic to the group to discuss, and I suppose since we've sort of stumbled onto it, the prose-verse question might be a good place to start. I was hoping we could open up a sort of forum on a topic proposed by a blogmember every week or so. What do you all think? Those who would propose a topic could get the ball rolling by posing a few provoking questions related to a general issue related to poetry, and then perhaps offer some initial thoughts on the topic...

I'll give it a try with the long-standing prose-verse issue:

How do you perceive of the verse-prose distinction? Do prose and verse occupy opposite ends of a binary or a dialectic? or at this historical moment are they merely loose and somewhat irrelevant categories of writing which overlap and interact? What makes a prose poem a poem? How is it different from poetic prose? Finally, from the perspective of a poet, what makes you chose to put one poem in prose and another in verse (if you ever do indeed make this choice!)?

Here are some of my uncollected thoughts: I turn to prose because it gives me a freer, less-self conscious space--I'm not as inclined to second guess myself, I'm more willing to "let things flow," or to try to adapt to more natural, "organic" rhythms of speech and language. This is a dangerous freedom, however, as they all tend to be; so in reaction to the increased likelihood of work that's even flatter than the flattest free verse (that plague of MFA programs!), I try to infuse my prose with as much musicality as it will take. When I started a series of prose poems last fall, my initial intent was to do something like Berryman's Dream Songs in prose. A stupid idea, I realize, but nonetheless it helped my keep the language tight and intense. I feel that in prose poems we become more aware of punctuation and its potential rhythmic effects, so I try to experiment with ludicrous amounts of comas and dashes and/or run-ons or fragments, etc. Oddly enough, my prose poems are hardly ever narrative (as one might assume is the tendency in prose). They instead tend to be more lyrical, less grounded, often relatively abstract and/or conceptual.

This doesn't answer any of my questions. I'll try to post on them later. I'd rather let everyone else have a hack at it (especially Chad who, I happen to know, almost never writes in prose--and Chris, (where have you been?) who has recently been experimenting more and more in the bastard genre).


On an unrelated side-note, it looks like a new Cure album is on its way. As usual, I have a reserved feeling of excitement. After all, some dude from Korn is producing it!

Nate, nice poems in Crazyhorse.

For those of you who haven't seen the issue yet, they are a fine trio of prose poems. Anyone else wrestling with that odd little creature, the prose poem, lately?

Hello all, Welcome to this week
Nate and I went and saw "the fog of war," a documentary about Robert McNamara which was pretty amazing and errily timely. In that vein, I ran into this essay, it's abridged I think, by Umberto Eco on Fascism. Yikes!

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Nate, just based on that assessment of the film, I will give Eternal Sunshine another shot.

So, I was thinking, has anyone ever heard of a poetry webcast? Let's say I buy an iSight webcam for my computer, set it up and decide that I'll read a couple of poems live every other Thursday. Totally lame? Has this been done? I think it would actually be pretty cool (plus it would justify me getting DSL) and would be yet another way that poets could turn to the internet (as with this nifty blog stuff) to reach a wider audience (as Nate speculated was the reason why so many poets are blogging).

(Why am I so hung up on using and misusing parantheses?)

Friday, April 23, 2004

Jorge, I see your point about Eternal Sunshine, but in the end I didn't feel that Kaufman was emphasizing the mean-spiritedness of humanity or human nature. The characters behaved erratically, regretfully, stupidly, all of which I find truthful, but the film ends on a hopeful note--the two lovers are helplessly interested in each other and thus willing to risk that entire mess again. Human nature wants to keep trying even if that sense of hope is arrived at after going through an absurd circle cruelty. I certainly agree with your weariness of Kaufman, though. He's done the same movie three times. I simply feel that in this version he got it right.

Joe, that bathtub poem is weird and hilarious. Poets in the bath! Hey, can't I get any peace and quiet in here? What a subject. What do y'all make of all the empty (or not so empty) receptacles in the poem? (cistern, turtle shell, snake skin[not really a receptacle, but it's in the same vein])

Nate, I know what you mean about the lower case stuff. I was suspicious, too, and I think that aspect of Loncar's work is ridiculous. And I don't really see the similarity to Nikki Giovanni since she and Loncar draw from such different cultures with the big-top of American pop culture. Loncar's stuff is edgy, funny and poignant, which is what I really like about it.

I have to admit, I was not a fan of Eternal Sunshine, perhaps because I had difficulty identifying with most of the characters most of the time. It seemed somewhat mean-spirited; humanity doesn't come out to well in this one, but then again it never does in Charlie Kaufman movies. It was visually beautiful, though; I was stunned, moved and captivated by the visuals. Especially anything involving a book, for some reason. I'd give Human Nature a chance, but I'm wary (and weary) of Charlie Kaufman at this point. I really wanted to like it, and I definitely appreciate the artistry of it, but in the end Eternal Sunshine is not a movie I'd like to see again.

Chad, that's a hell of a poem. Very, very good.

Also, I'm going to be the Official Poet of the Evening at a benefit for the Reverie Theater Company on Wednesday, April 28, 7 pm. Any Chicagoans interested? If so, I'll check the cost and exact address and get back to you.

Hey Vicky, yeah it seems they didn't go out of their way to make the article scientific in any way. It's a bit silly but pretty funny. I thought enternal sunshine was fantastic and that the time stuff, which has become a cliche, was saved by the sincerity and deep sadness of the rest of the movie. I like the other movies too, but think that this one makes the others instantly obsolete. Lot of the same subject matter, lot of the same thinking (solitary males, revision as a theme, catastrophic misjudgement). I'm curious to see whats next. He should be careful, change gears. He definatly flips my nickle tho.

and nate. I said I'd find you this poem by yehuda amachi, recently dead isreali poet.

The Diameter of the Bomb

by Yehuda Amichai. trans. Chana Bloch & Stephen Mitchell

The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.
And I won't even mention the howl of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making
a circle with no end and no God.

Hi Chad, a friend of mine referred that same article to me when this blog was formally started. It was amusing considering the cause of death was not studied and only the age of death as compared to other writers (novelists, playwrights, non-fiction writers, etc). How do y'all feel about this?

I must say I really enjoyed Eternal Sunshine. I have not seen Gondry's first movie Human Nature but I do think the circular time was one of the movie's most interesting devices. Although, the realization occurs to everyone at a different time, it provides an "ah ha" moment. You've all had those moments... I'm a fan of Kaufman's writing, especially Adaptation (but I need to watch Being John Malkovich again) but I think Eternal Sunshine was a notch better. Questions, comment, concerns?

Poets Beware

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Though I'm skeptical of anyone who publishes their name in lowercase, I trust Jorge's judgement enough to be interested. I've never heard of this guy, but I managed to dig up this review which, as usual, says a lot without saying anything. But at least there are some parts of poems with it. The review mentions cummings, so now I see where Jorge is coming from. But it also mentions Nikki Giovanni, which makes me go uh-oh.

The link to the Godmablog is fixed, Joe.

And Happy Birthday.

I think I know what you mean about Teig's book being a little too easy. The poem's aren't as taut as they could be. Sure, they're short and compact but they could be tighter, punchier. But god knows you could say that about my work. I still like it though. Anyone else out there read Loncar's 66 galaxie? I declare it the first "One Book, One Newgard" selection!

Thanks for all the birthday wishes.

Vicky, I agree Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was very good. For only his second full-length movie, Michel Gondry did a great job of directing. His first movie Human Nature (also a Charlie Kaufman script) was also quite good, and the DVD of his music videos is excellent. One thig that did bother me about Sunshine though, was the circular time thing. It was handled somewhat subtly--I think it was probably Gondry's idea since he has a penchant for it in the music videos as well--but it seems pretty gimmicky even still. On the other hand, I'm glad to see Kaufman being a little less clever and a little more sincere.
--OH, could you fix the link on the side--theres no "the" in the url so it goes o someone else's blog.

Jorge, maybe I'm just backlashing because he's so well loved in umassland, but I wasn't very impressed with Tieg's book. It wasn't so much that I thought it was bad, it just seemed a little too easy. I do have to abmit there's something very fresh about his poems though.

Speaking of books, though it's not very new, I really liked Hoagland's last book What Narcissism Means to Me. There's certainly some poems that completely fail, but some are amazing. I really like "Two Trains." I don't really understand how he does it. There doesn't seem to be much going on language-wise or even imagery-wise for the most part. It seems like they should be sentimental (and sometimes they are), but usually they're not.

Oh so here's a Wheelwright poem. It's really short because I didn't feel like typing a long one:


Away in this chambered secret, I'll draw sound
out of its cistern, pavement sealed, and drink
life water from rivuleted water life
of here excluded wind and sun. Intrude
your person, knock, or voice without a message
of great joy or doom,--I'll answer your sweet rattle
with unfond silence, or present at your fond touch
a hollow turtle shell, or vacant snake skin.

The link didn't work for some reason. But I found it here.

apparently dead people draped in flags are fine for political ads, but for newspapers? That's just going too far. Here's a link to the picture:

Chad, thanks for the poem. Beauty is for amateurs, that's why I practice pain!

On another note, check out this fascist crap. Some guy lost his job 'cause his wife photographed military coffins! I love how they spin the pentagon's policy as a matter of respect for the families. As if they give two shits!

Sorry, I don't mean to turn this blog into a political rant, but, well, there it is.

I've been liking Mattea Harvey's new book "Sad Little Breating Machine" Coy, Funky, funny. And a steady diet of Dreamsongs. Thye seem to rearrange themselves the second I turn my back on them. Also Collected Poems (a missleading title) of William Matthews, one of which I can't help but post:

A Night at the Opera

“The tenor’s too fat,” the beautiful young
woman complains, “and the soprano
dowdy and old.” But what if Otello’s
not black, if Rigoletto’s hump lists,
if airy Gilda and her entourage
of flesh outweigh the cello section?

In fairy tales the prince has a good heart,
and so as an outward and visible
sign of an inward, invisible grace,
his face is not creased, nor are his limbs gnarled.
Our tenor holds in his liver-spotted
hands the soprano’s broad, burgeoning face.

Their combined age is ninety-seven; there’s
spittle in both pinches of her mouth;
a vein in his temple twitches like a worm.
Their faces are a foot apart. His eyes
widen with fear as he climbs to the high
B-flat he’ll have to hit and hold for five

dire seconds. And then they’ll stay in their stalled
hug for as long as we applaud. Franco
Corelli once bit Brigit Nillson’s ear
in just such a command embrace because
he felt she’d upstaged him. Their costumes weigh
fifteen pounds apiece; they’re poached in sweat

and smell like fermenting pigs; their voices rise
and twine not from beauty, nor from the lack
of it, but from the hope for accuracy
and passion, both. They have to hit the note
and the emotion, both, with the one poor
arrow of the voice. Beauty’s for amateurs.

I realized almost immediately after I posted that Wheelwright was one of the oddballs in Ashbery's book. Ashbery has these choice words about him:

"Even where I can not finally grasp his meaning, which is much of the time, I remain convinced by the extraordinary power of his language as it flashes by on its way from somewhere to somewhere else. At times it seems like higher mathematics; I can sense the 'elegance' of his solutions without being able to follow the steps by which he arrives at them."

That's fantastic, as far as I'm concerned. A nice way to think of poems, or certain poems--language flashing by on its way from somewhere to somewhere else.

Joe, do us a favor and post a Wheelwright poem if you have time. And happy birthday birthday boy.

Hi all! Let me first say, "Happy Birthday, Joe!".

I cannot contribute any book titles that I've read mostly because I buy 10 books at a time read through half of them and then abandon them for something new. What can I saw I have a short attention span. Plus, they are not usually books of poetry or fiction.

Has anyone seen "Eternal Sunshine"? Great movie, seen it twice. I highly recommend it.

You probably do remember his name from Ashbery. If you've ever read Other Traditions, he's one of the authors he talks about there. He was a Bostonian, pretty much a high modernist. Ashbery and others think he's been overlooked, but Wheelright did die very young and only published three books. Actually on the bck of the book Ashbery says he considers Wheelright "one of the major poets of the century, on a level with Crane, Williams, Stevens." That seems a bit excessive. From what I've read so far, the long poems are excellent, but the short ones aren't very exciting and sometimes even plain bad.

Nate: I think, maybe, that what makes John Wheelwright sounds familiar is that Ashbery (?) said that John O'Hara's death "was the biggest loss to American poetry since John Wheelwright was killed." It could've been Koch, or someone else of course. It's on the back of a book.

I've read Michael Teig's book Big Back Yard, and I found it to be one of those books that makes me really excited about writing again. But the king of Really Excited Again is still m loncar's 66 galaxie. Get it. It is awesome.

Nate: I think, maybe, that what makes John Wheelwright sounds familiar is that Ashbery (?) said that John O'Hara's death "was the biggest loss to American poetry since John Wheelwright was killed." It could've been Koch, or someone else of course. It's on the back of a book.

I've read Michael Teig's book Big Back Yard and really liked it. It was one of those kinds of books that makes me get excited about writing again. The king of Getting Excited About Writing Again is still M. Loncar's 66 galaxie . Grab it. Read it. Love it. Let it make your work explode.

Hi Joe! It's good to see everyone popping up here. The most interesting books I've read lately are: Reginald Gibbons' It's Time -- lame title, but good stuff there, quite musical; Hejinian's new one, The Fatalist; and Mary Ruefle's new one, Tristamania. One of your UMass boys was out here recently, Michael Teig, or something like that. His reading was kind of boring, but the poems didn't seem terrible. Who's John Wheelright? Sounds familiar and I feel like I should know him...

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

You just blink your eyes and there is a flurry of activity on the newly-formed blog. I'm glad to see very one is doing at least well enough to be talkative. As long as everyone is trading links, here is the blog for my house (by which I mean the actual building, I won't bother to explain more than that):

The Godmablog

I'm finally almost done here at UMASS. Anyone have any good poetry books to recommend? Right now I'm reading the Collected John Wheelright, which is at times great, but at other times boring as a bat (the pointy kind with wings and ears and a fuzzy tail).

You just blink your eyes and there is a flurry of activity on the newly-formed blog. I'm glad to see very one is doing at least well enough to be talkative. As long as everyone is trading links, here is the blog for my house (by which I mean the actual building). He's a very noble and complex house:

Vicky, you've done a good thing setting up this blog. I feel that we all owe you a poem of praise. I'll do my best to get it rolling:

Hale Vicky, cyberqueen, blogganator
hale, though I first typed halve
I would not halve you
unless in pieces the voice were unleashed
some spirit on the elbow
some soul on the pointer-finger
some je ne sais quoi on the quelque chose
some quelque chose floating away
quelque chose sky
quelque chose in the ether
something of another hemisphere
that other other hemisphere

wow, it's even bilingual!

Chad, Chris, you know how it's done, you were in Dean's seminar last spring...

Chad, I'm posting those Berryman letters for everyone else.

Wow. Now Chad is in on the action. I'm glad to see that this is getting out of control. Just the way I like it.

In other news, Chad, I'm trying to figure out a way to only have one job next year and not starve. The three I have right now are killing me. Otherwise, things are good. Busy, but all the activity makes me feel very productive and successful at not slacking.

New projects: a play and more fun without line breaks.

Jorge! I know Ammie. How much more incestous can mfa's be? I knew her at OSU when i was an undergrad and she was grad. I had a few conferences with her in what is now way back when. In other news, how are ya?

read 'water' in the Cesaire poem as 'blog' or 'web'!

Jorge, it's not surprising that the writers who are most frequently ignored (i.e. poets) would turn to blogs--sort of like a notebook or journal made public--where, though no one may really be listening anyway (as is usually my fear in cyberspace--it's all blather and no real listening/reading, no dialogue, etc.), they at least have the pleasure of public exposure.... Exposure... exhibitionism, goes with and against poetic tendencies, making the personal public, etc...

Since we're on the topic of poetry (imagine that!), here's a cool one I came across recently. It's by the great Martinique poet Aimée Césaire, trans. by Clayton Eshleman, better, of course, in the French!!

Sun and Water

My water won't listen
my water sings like a secret
My water does not sing
my water rejoices like a secret
My water ferments
and rejoices through every reed
to the very milk of laughter
My water is a little child
my water is a deaf man
my water is a giant holding a lion to your chest
oh wine
vast immense
owing to the basilisk of your rich complicitous gaze

Hi Chris! I am new to the blogging world, that is, I've read a lot of blogs but have never participated in my own. It's about time for a newgard blog...

I'm here, hellllloooo everybody, I'm Dr. Nick.

I've just been snooping about the Web, and I'm realizing how many writers, but especially poets, have 'Blogs. Alarming? Disturbing? Just a harmless, innocent and easy little bit of self-promotion? Thoughts, Newgardians?

I'm not sure how I feel about this.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

I don't know why the link didn't post. Don't ask me to be competent in cyberspace. Don't ask me to walk the dog from 0 to 1 and then to 1 and maybe 0 and then some inbetween nonsense like a hoola dance at a gas station in desert with lays and some loosestrife in our hair or sun, what's the difference? it's all luster, luster luster burning bright hyperlink my ass tonight!

So I stumbled upon this site--kind of interesting. Or Not. Massurrealism: no, it's not a surrealist group out of UMass, but some hybrid of mass-com-culture and surrealist aesthetics, which, as far as I'm concerned, has been present in the advertising industry's vulgar abuse of our psychological others for years. Nonetheless, a nice site to peruse.

I'd especially like Matt's take on this.

Did anyone of the Chicago contingent catch Matt Rohrer, Josh Beckman and Matt Zapruder while they were in town? They were here last night and gave a killer reading. Friendly guys, too.

Hmm . . . Nathan, what website did you come across again?

One of my favorite poet's websites (and she has a 'blog which is sometimes interestings) is Her last name is impossibly long and difficult to spell. I think it's something like Nezhukumatathil. That might be right. Or not. Her book, "Miracle Fruit" is pretty good.

In other news, might soon be going up, with an online tough program!

I don't really know how blogs work. I've heard about them, and, as with most things I hear about, I tried to ignore them at first. Alas, now here I am blogging, or rambling, or writing, or whatever you do on a blog. I came across an interesting site today, so I guess I'll post that. Cheers.