Monday, June 30, 2003

The last thing on my mind this afternoon is an essay by Murat Nemen-Nejat that I've been mulling over—it's at (in? around?) August Highland's muse apprentice guild. I was struck by his assertion of the importance of "accent" in writing and his attack on Derrida and Jabès for choosing an accentless assimilation into the French language (and by extension French culture and imperial power). He and Ammiel Alcalay have done a lot to broaden and problematize my sense of the meaning of Jewishness beyond the Ashkenazi cultural emblems that I was raised with, as summed up in this list from Nemen-Nejat's essay: "poems containing chicken soup and Matzo balls (gemutlich), tailors and the Shtetl (Isaac Bashevis Singer and "Fiddler On The Roof"), Lewis Warsh's wonderful poem about the movement from the Lower East Side to the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, pre-war European poems in translation about the conflict between the Yiddish and goyish cultures, and translations of haunting Holocaust poems by Primo Levi." Thinking of what Alcalay likes to call "the Levant" as a possible epicenter of Jewish culture reorients me from my inherited sense of the Jewish "old countries" of Poland and Hungary and Russia's Pale of Settlement (I was always fascinated by that phrase when I was younger—"pale" is a funny word in that it can refer both to coloring, to a geographical region, and to a kind of cognac, aka Very Special Old Pale).

Alcalay's book After Jews and Arabs is something I'd really like to read if I ever get a break from Kant, Virgil, Adorno, and other exam readings that I'm supposed to be doing. Of course he opens the book with two epigraphs from Derrida and Jabès (the famous lines in which they equate Jewishness with writing), the favored culture heroes of the postmodern set that Nemen-Nejat wants to take down a peg. According to him, Jabès is Derrida's creature, and the language that they are estranged from isnot French but the Arabic of the countries (Algeria for Derrida, Egypt for Jabès) that they left behind them as young men. "Jabès's Jewish mystical theme, I believe, is a mask covering a political theme, his choice to leave the third world of Egypt and Arabic behind. Seen from this angle, Jabès's 'Jewishness' has a strong 'Western,' colonialist dimension, as Paul de Mans's pure, 'non-political' deconstructionism, the American intellectuals such as Harold Bloom have discovered to their horror, has Nazi roots." This rings true for me on the level of the American reception of Jabès, though I think it's a little unfair to the man himself (I don't have the text here, but there's a moment in The Book of Questions where the speaker is assailed for not being Jewish enough by a group of his fellows—"My head is cut off" he says to himself—and you could imagine him similarly answering Nemen-Nejat's accusation of his not being "Arab" enough). I'm generally appreciative of Nemen-Nejat's reimagination or articulation of what it means to be a Jewish writer now—a Jewishness that is neither disaporic-assimilationist nor aggressively Zionist. It's worth quoting this paragraph from his essay in full:
VII. A Jew With Accent: Ambiguity Towards Power, the Fate of the Un-assimilated Jew

Ambiguity towards power is, in my opinion, the contemporary Jewish theme, what every Jewish writer, consciously or not, willingly or not, must face. This ambiguity is embedded in Jewish history, in Jewish identity, in the conflict between its myths and history. Despite its protestations, the Torah is history written by the powerful, a nation chosen by God, taking somebody else's land to make its own. On the other hand, the history of the diaspora is the history of the victim, the dispossessed, the Galut, the progroms, the Holocaust. Where does the Jew's allegiance belong? Does the contemporary Jew ally himself with the powerful or the victim? Though this conflict has become explicit after the birth of Israel, it was implicit, as Jews embraced assimilation and moved physically out of the Ghetto, in the Diaspora also. Often, economically, Jews belonged to the privileged class; but culturally, and linguistically, they were the outsiders, the underprivileged. As Jews, Derrida and Jabes erase, ignore, escape this ambiguity. Their choices are absolute, on the side of power. Jabes's and Derrida's writings are accentless, unambiguously French. They represent a Jewish style of assimilation, identification with power. They hide, and their American admirers overlook, the political dimension of their writings.
Nemen-Nejat's notion of the accent is what "embodies, rather than erases, this ambiguity towards power," with Kafka's writing being the first major European exemplar. (Nemen-Nejat's "accent" sounds analogous to or rather constitutive of the "minor literature" that Deleuze and Guattari describe in their book on Kafka.) I'm interested in what the accent might look like in my own poetry, given that I am, unlike Nemen-Nejat, a native speaker of the language, American English, that nonetheless no one, as he claims, is truly a "native speaker" of (we in American have no "mother tongue"). Perhaps it manifests to some degree in my manuscript The Nature Theater of Oklahoma (the title comes from the last chapter of Kafka's Amerika, to which Nemen-Nejat makes reference in his article)—certainly I think some of the poems explore what he refers to as Kafka's "synthesis between the powerful and the victim." Anyway, it's getting busy at the store and I should get back to work, but I'm glad to have these prickly contradictions of Jewishness and Jewish ethics in writing brought back to my attention. Perhaps eventually I'll find a role for these ideas in my thinking about latter-day pastoral.
Another fine reading in Jane Sprague's West End Reading Series took place Saturday night, although the heat and the noise from the necessary fans made the first poet, Edmund Berrigan, a bit hard to hear. They turned off the fans for Karen Weiser's reading, but we were all wilting by the end. A quick break and back inside for Anselm Berrigan who read hilarious and angry things from his books Zero Star Hotel and Integrity & Dramatic Life, as well as some newer work. I'll be reading next time (last Saturday in July, the 26th) along with Fred Muratori and another poet whose name I didn't quite catch (apologies). It should be really hot then—a good "warm up" (sorry) for the many readings I plan on doing once my book comes out at the end of September. One thing I noticed about this reading was how both Karen and Anselm referred at different points to writing "toward" something, as opposed to "about" or "on" a given topic or theme. It made me think about how one could introduce students to a new attitude toward the content/narratives in their writing simply by shifting the preposition. Write toward your childhood, or through another poet's poem, or at your geographical background, or under the history of South Africa, or whatever. Maybe narrative isn't the problem (I am coming around to a belief in the importance reclaiming narrative from those who would render it with a false and metaphysical transparency), just, quite literally, the subject or speaker's (pre)position from which s/he relates to that narrative. Food for thought, or maybe just food for powder, as Falstaff would say.

The apartment's looking better and better. Emily went to New York this weekend and got a massive dose of urban culture: Hairspray, a play called The Last Sunday in June that the boyfriend of her friend Cary wrote, a Leonard Cohen tribute concert featuring Rufus Wainwright and Laurie Anderson, restaurants galore. She brought back a New York state of mind and some really nice hooks and switchplates and things to dress up our new place. We need to spend a little quality time together that doesn't involve decorating, though. Maybe we can take the wine tour around Seneca Lake this weekend. It ain't Napa, but it's a beautiful lake nonetheless.

I dig Kasey's icon for my blog, though I wish the image were large enough to read exactly what kind of <> he's found to represent me. I also really like the icons for Joe Duemer's Reading and Writing (shades of Get Your War On!—there's an interesting interview with the guy behind those comix in the new issue of The Believer), Tim Yu's tympan (is that what one of those looks like?), Eileen Tabios's overheated CorpsePoetics (I'm still calling it WinePoetics in my links out of sheer laziness), the cavorting whatever-it-is that stands for Malcolm Davidson's Eeksy-Peeksy, and of course the classic images (it only takes about two days of continuous prior existence for something to become classic in the blogosphere) accompanying Catherine Meng's Porthole Redux and Ji(s)m Behrle's Monkey. They're all great, though. How do y'all manage to put all those images and animations on your blogs, anyhow? I'm way behind the curve.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Many fine-looking books are now on the shelf behind and to the left of my station at The Bookery: Susan Howe's The Midnight, Jennifer Moxley's The Sense Record, Lee Ann Brown's The Sleep That Changed Everything, and others that I'm dying to peruse or would be if I weren't sunk in Kant. (I'm always sunk in cant, but that's another issue altogether.) But the book I scooped casually off the shelf is the one blowing me away at the moment, although its blurbists—Thomas Lux, Molly Peacock, and Gerald Stern—would probably be considered members in good standing of the School of Quietude, and although the poet is an Iowa grad who has mainly published in APR, Hayden's Fery Review, Plougshares, and other mostly middlebrow mags. Her name is Alessandra Lynch and her diction is ravishing. I've only had time to read three poems and they all seem eminently postable, but here's just one:
What the Meadow Said Afterwards

meadow said spring
meadow could not hear itself think for all the bells ringing
meadow could not look to see whether the sun had turned blue
or the cloud became gold—meadow could not taste guttered wheel
nor sludge-barrow, nor sullen hill, nor blood-licked tin
that lanced asters to sorrel and lace to loam

meadow could not receive footfall
it could only feel rain and inward it turned
on itself for not having known

meadow said drown daisies drown
their obedient necks sodden green
their ridiculous twist-off faces
their petals falling like poor hats

meadow said:
be dead, heart
be the raft cracked
don't function as door
spill like salt, effortless, daft,
white-faced, aghast

choose the city in lieu, lying
removed, stiff with lights, crippled by wire, over
the sweet, dying blossoms, the stalks terrified
of their thorn.
Probably this poem attacts me because I feel like it's trying to work out some of the same pastoral problems I'm conscious of in my own poetry: this poem seems very consciously to be questioning its own thoroughly irresponsible impulse to reduce its world to a zone of natural beauty that stands apart from modernity and one's fellow human beings. If instead of "meadow" (shades of Duncan) she used "lawn" I'd feel even more certain that there's a rigorous self-interrogation going on here of the poet's own privilege—or more precisely, a recognition of the contingency of that privilege, the awful sacrifices required to maintain it ("drown daisies drown"), and what really might be required of the poet's dead heart: to be a raft instead of a door, bearing a fuller and less innocent kind of knowledge away from the pleasures of pastoral into the city "stiff with lights, crippled by wire." But is the cost too high—must the poet choose self-mutilation to enter "the city in lieu" and give up the particular sensitivities that make her a poet? An urgent question. The book is called Sails the Wind Left Behind, which is a little cute, and glancing through it I wonder if her lyricism, or more accurately her Romanticism, is generally as smartly self-critical in the other poems as it is in this one. Well, as evidence in favor I find the opening lines of a poem called "What We Impart": "So, you vaulted the back of a deer as it plunged into the river. / Was that a confession?" I like that.
So I've finally updated my links a little bit. I should probably expand them but it's too much of a pain. Apologies to those who feel neglected—if you want me to link to your blog, say so!

Got my copy of the Poetry Project Newsletter with the exchange on Daniel Davidson and Haryette Mullen between Kasey and myself in it. It looks so...published. Not at all what I expected. The tone of my posts isn't particularly casual, so it really reads like an essay—if it wasn't for Kasey's intervention (and I don't mean at all to imply that he was being unserious or unscholarly, 'cause he wasn't) it would look like something from one of your more staid literary reviews. Jeez. Maybe I do need, as has recently been suggested to me, to start turning that "review" energy outward (that is, to try and start publishing book reviews) so my blog can be more bloglike. On the other hand, I was looking through an old issue of Sagetrieb yesterday and there was an article by Ron Silliman on the "longpoem" and it read pretty much exactly like his blog entries do. Though he has loosened up a bit of late. I guess the bloggiest thing about the Poetry Project thing is that it's attributed to "Josh Corey," whereas I've always published poems under "Joshua Corey." I hope everyone will realize we're the same person. Or are there advantages to their not realizing that?

Particularly enjoying the blogs of Catherine Meng and Deborah Pattilo (see links at left!) lately. I wish all my fellow Montanans would start telling me about their adventures with skateboarding, teaching eight year-olds, etc. Richard Greenfield and Nils Michals, among others, are hereby instructed to get off of their butts.

IT Poet

Do you read Entertainment Weekly? This week they're manufacturing news in the form of "The IT List" (I keep wanting to read that as "The Information Technology List"), which is supposed to be a list of "The 100 Most Creative People in Entertainment." Hugh Jackman, aka Wolverine (he looks kind of terrible on the cover) leads the list along with such luminaries as Mandy Moore, Queen Latifah, and other celebrities who haven't quite made it to the A-list yet. Waaay in the back there's a book section, and I paged through it, astonished at the hipness (or is appearing in EW an index of extreme lack of hipness? look at the acronym!) of folks I'm used to encountering in the literary context: Heidi Julavits of The Believer (which is actually a damn good magazine; I've been reading the latest issue at work), my fellow Stanfordite and definite IT girl ZZ Packer, and to my astonishment, an IT Poet: Tim Donnelly. Not a bad choice, really, but I'm still flabbergasted to find that EW has actually gone out and named a poet one of the 100 most creative people in entertainment. Here is the text in full:
Age34 Why Him? His debut collection, Twenty-seven Props for a Production of Eine Lebenszeit, is a helluva lot more accessible than its funky title (eine lebenszeit: German for "a lifetime"). The Brooklyn poet has a knack for buried aphorisms ("What are the traits that delineate the human?/Leave me alone") and Byronic satire ("Fowler's mother's byzantine neuroticism/and her father's reluctance to address her directly/cast a pall over every minute of her youth...") Biggest Misconception About Poetry "That poetry is a delicate and nostaligc pastime with little cultural relevance, like needlepoint." Influences "My imagination is just as likely to be fed by Wilco, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or a David Lynch movie as it is by [poets] John Ashbery or Paul Muldoon." Worst Jobs "My summer at a Dunkin' Donuts outside Providence. The wall of doughnuts disoriented and embarrassed me; I more or less stopped eating altogether. Also, an internship at a rare-books library in New York. When millions of dollars of illuminated manuscripts were hesited from a vault, I was suspected of the crime and had to deal with the FBI." Best Advice "Poetry should be at least as interesting as television." Worst Advice "Less is more."
I have a complicated response to all this. The first thing I think is, Way to go, Tim! I like his work (and am definitely ordering his book for the Bookery tonight, maybe two or three copies, even) and in his capacity as poetry editor of Boston Review he's liked my work a few times. And I have a lot of sympathy with the sentiments behind that line about poetry being at least as interesting as television. But this also reminds me of my debate with Kasey, and how my attachment to melopoeia might be preventing me from fully embracing a more strictly logopoetic kind of writing—the dense, difficult work (I almost put "difficult" in scare quotes like Silliman does, but then I thought nah, it really is difficult, at least for me) that will never appear in the pages of The New Yorker, let alone an ultramainstream mag like EW. And I also find myself wondering about who writes EW's books section and how they encountered Tim's work in the first place. Someone on the staff there is clearly a reader of poetry, enough so to have mastered bits of blurb-speak like "buried aphorisms" and "Byronic satire." Is this person's position somewhat analogous to my own at the Bookery, where I'm being allowed to do as I like with the poetry section because nobody else cares as much?

Despite some reservations (the adjective "accessible" when applied to poetry always raises my hackles) I think this is probably a Good Thing. I certainly hope it sells a few more copies of Tim's book.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Another reason to get the fine new issue of Fence beyond my little poem is the poem of my friend and fellow Cornellian Karen Anderson (Karen L. Anderson is her nom de plume—the L stands for Leona. My girflriend Emily Grayson's middle initial is also L, for Lenore. Coincidence? No doubt). Karen has given me permission to reproduce her contribution here. Her title somewhat pre-empts mine and Richard Greenfield's plans for a collaborative project to be called "Journal of Energetic Materials":
Journal of Arid Environments

Sweet in the tea to cover the salt,
the equal seethings of sand and water,
dark green leaves dominion all
over Georgia. The bacon in the pan
heaves like something almost dead,
past the walk-on-water index, extraneous
gravity, density, length. Insects surface
everywhere around the camp, this
sameness. Enough leaf, liquid, heat.
Meat and bread. Legs, arms, head,
blood, feet. To do and see things.
A garden of bristlecones is a word
and a word and a word and a word.
Sun to make water everywhere and
your daily exercise: walk with the lord.
Kind of feels like something I could have written; or more accurately, like something I wish I'd written. It would fit seamlessly into the Severance Songs if you knocked a line off of it.

Henry Gould knocks the whole relational poetics idea that I mentioned earlier; I can't really defend Glissant because I haven't read the book yet. Henry's suspicion of elevating (sinking?) "'social relevance' into a theme or a technique or an ideal" that validates the "we" and invalidates "others" strikes me as understandable; but I think (I imagine) what Glissant is getting at is far less reductive than that, and not at all about creating camps of righteousness. To simplistically reduce a text I haven't read, Glissant's message seems to be: write in such a way as to expand both the writer's and reader's consciousness of the social-historical context of the poem. This way is the way of errancy. Here's the relevant paragraph from Prevallet's piece:
Édouard Glissant is a poet, translator, and philosopher from Martinique whose recent book Poetics of Relation provides a useful example of shifting the focus of Investigative Poetics onto a broader terrain. To Glissant, the word relation incorporates both "relative" and "related." Glissant locates his ideas within the colonial history of the Caribbean, where people were forced to adapt their native languages to those of the colonizer (in this case, the French), and consequently to define new relationships to the interplay between language, culture, and social organization. Beginning with Deleuze and Guattari's image of the rhizome, Glissant discusses what a Poetics of Relation might look like: an enmeshed root system that is strong not because it is a singular stock that nourishes only itself by appropriating all the nutrients around it, but because it is "a network spreading either in the ground or in theair, with no predatory rootstock taking over permanently" (11). Glissant sees the traditional image of "roots" as a metaphor to be avoided because of its centrality to the colonial mind-frame. "Most of the nations that gained freedom from colonization have tended to form around the idea of power—the totalitarian drive of a single unique root—rather than around a fundametal relationship with the Other" (14). To Glissant, this relationship with the Other can be shaped through the poet's acceptance of "errancy" (wandering, polylingualism, multiplicity), in his or her thinking and interactions with the world. Poetry is an arrow that paradoxically has no clear trajectory [a very Kantian notion, don't you think? purposiveness w/o purpose?--Ed.], that leads from periphery to periphery, that makes every peripher into a center but at the same time "abolishes the very notion of center and periphery" (29). Glissant cites numerous African and Caribbean writers, including Leon Damas, Cheik Diop, and Segalen, as well as European and American writers such as Rimbaud, Faulkner, and Saint-John Perse, as manifesting this Relational position. If poetry (or prose, for that matter) is "relational" it is not because it appropriates sources as conquered territories, forcing them into the logic of the new text or subordinating them to some notion of perfection or "totality." Rather, Relational poetics looks at texts as being themsleves in a constant state of motion, dispersion, and permeability that is inseparable not only from the shifting social and political context, but from the cycles of the earth and the diversity of nature.
Prevallet goes on to cite Ammiel Alcalay's book from the warring factions, a book I've made appreciative mention of in the past, as a good example of a recent work of relational/investigative poetics. In practical terms, this kind of writing seems to involve a) a great deal of research and b) a deliberate absorption or subsumption of the "author's voice" into the chorus of voices or texts that he or she has constellated around the thing being investigated (in Alcalay's case the massacre at Srebenica but also U.S. politics, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the poetry of Percy Shelley, etc.). It's the extension of Pound's "poem including history" into a full-fledged poetics, without Pound's nostalgic/fascist totalization of that history. In a marvelous phrase of Muriel Rukeyeser's (a poet I've never given a moment's thought to whom Prevallet resurrects as a precursor of investigative women poets like Susan Howe, Anne Waldman, and Diane di Prima), "Poetry can extend the document."

Personal history contextualized can also form a solid basis for relational poetry, according to Prevallet, and I'm interested in the possibility of getting my students this fall to try and treat the autobiography that will inevitably form the content of their first writings as history. How can I get them to engage with the contexts that go beyond their high school and immediate family? The imperative for poets of color to do this is a little more obvious, but it wouldn't do poetry any harm if the next whiteboy to come along would make an attempt to locate the historical convergences that have made his privilege possible. Hell, simply awakening a white male student to consciousness of his privilege would be an achievement. On a conservative campus, in a conservative time when the Supreme Court only narrowly votes to preserve one of the only means we've found as a society to repair centuries of racial injustice, we need to stop talking resentfully about schools of resentment and figure out what we have and how best to use it.
The apartment's coming together. My study is practically finished--curtains, spare bed done up as daybed with lots of pillows (the dog has taken to nesting in them), my old kitchen table as a worktable (_so_ nice to have a place to read and take notes without a monitor staring you in the face), good lighting. And this morning we had a sofa and cozy chair delivered for the living room. If we can just get all the garbage and collapsed boxes hauled out it will look like a home. My mind is finally coming unstuck enough to start reading and thinking again, at least a little bit. A couple of other grad students and one of my former profs, Tracy McNulty, have formed a reading group for Kant's Critique of the Power of Judgment and we met for the first time last night to discuss its two introductions. I think we mostly succeeded in confusing one another before succumbing to the lure of academic gossip, but I have high hopes for moving beyond the intro into the text itself. This week we'll read the Analytic of the Beautiful and then move on to the Analytic of the Sublime—they look much less difficult than the intros, which seem to require a mastery of or at least a high familiarity with the first two Critiques. So far I'm most intrigued by the notion of how pleasure may be the result when the subject is confronted by an object for which he or she has no adequate concept. Are we very far here from Keat's negative capability?

My mug appears in the latest Poets & Writers just above a picture of my teacher and nemesis Eavan Boland. The irony of this can only be fully appreciated in silence.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Hello blogland. We have internet access in the new house now. It's big and full of boxes. My study is half set up, with a desk and the spare bed on one wall and all my books lining the other, plus two huge windows looking out on the street and another one facing the neighbors. It feels like it's going to take weeks to get completely settled, but Emily and I hope to accomplish a lot this weekend.

Got my contributor's copy of Fence on Wednesday and I've been perusing it. There's some excellent poetry in there by Martin Corless-Smith, Jason Zuzga, Eugene Ostashevsky (I love this guy! Who is he?), Eleni Sikelianos, Sarah Gambito, our own Jim Behrle, J. Eric Schwerer, and others I haven't read yet. What really makes the issue worthwhile is the essay by Kristin Prevallet (who impressed me with her intelligence and passion as a member of the translation panel I attended at AWP), "Writing Is Never by Itself Alone: Six Mini-Essays on Relational Investigative Poetics." Among other things, this essay has persuaded me to seek out and read Glissant's book on relational poetics; it's also made me think that this issue of Fence might make a good textbook for my creative writing class this fall. It would expose them to some of the kinds of things that are being written right now, and it would also force them to rethink any preconceptions they might have about poetry as inspiration/metaphysical autobiography/etc. Also useful along these lines are the little essays they've collected from various writers and artists under the title" "'Oldthinkers unbellyfeel Newspeak': Reclaiming Rhetoric and What Artists Can Do Now" in which the respondents were asked to talk about the role of the artist in the face of media hegemony and collusion with the forces of empire. Some of it is quite provocative, some of it is smart, some of it is dumb, but it would again serve to show students that there's more to "creative writing" than mere self-expression. Q: Is it wrong of me to force upon my students a magazine in which one of my own poems appears? A: I don't think so. It might make poetry look more like something real people can actually do as opposed to something only found in anthologies.

I'm working again tonight at the Bookery; Fridays are slow so I may have more to post then.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Oh man, I forgot to say how much I love the Cthulhu dolls, Kasey! I want one.
The following titles are coming soon to the shelves of The Bookery:

Fanny Howe, Indivisible
Fanny Howe, Economics
Carole Maso, Break Every Rule: Essays on Language
Carole Maso, Ava
Mahmoud Darwish, Unfortunately, It Was Paradise
Jane Cooper, The Flashboat
Ted Berrigan, So Going Around Cities: New and Selected Poems
Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Endocrinology
David Bromige, As in T as in Tether
Patricia Carlin, Original Green
Lisa Fishman, Dear, Read
Joanna Fuhrman, Ugh Ugh Ocean
Melissa Hotchkiss, Storm Damage
Gerrit Lansing, A February Sheaf
Aaron McCollough, Welkin
Dave Morice, Poetry Comics: An Animated Anthology
Donald Revell, My Mojave
Michael Earl Craig, Can You Relax in My House?
Elizabeth Robinson, Harrow
George Stanley, A Tall, Serious Girl: Selected Poems 1957-2000
Hannah Weiner, Page
Elizabeth Willis, Turneresque
Harry Mathews, The Case of the Persevering Maltese

Some of these were suggestions, others were picked at semi-random from the SPD catalog. I could order more, but I want to make sure I'm not going to get into trouble. Pretty cool, though—on a night like tonight there's no one in the store, I can read whatever I like. So hopefully I'll get a chance to read a little bit in all of those books. Tonight I'm too tired to handle poetry, though—I spent all day lugging my stuff around in a truck in hundred percent humidity. Tomorrow I'll pack up my clothes and what's in the fridge and do a little cleaning and the great move-in with Emily will be complete. In the meantime I'm just awake enough to enjoy an anthology of Harvey Pekar's American Splendor (a major motion picture, as they say). He has a blog now—ought to be a natural medium for him. I love how some of the pieces just end—how he finds the narrative arc in the most trivial activities and makes them fascinating. It's a less fictionalized, less nostalgic variation on the kind of poker-faced storytelling that goes on in Ben Katchor's great series Julius Knipl: Real Estate Photographer.

Oof, my body's stiffening up from lifting heavy things. Back to Harvey. I may be blogging a bit more sporadically for a while because I'm not sure we've got internet access at the new place just yet.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

I really ought to be packing, but I wanted to send a beam of empathy in Tim's direction, while also thinking about the Ange MlinkoChris Lott contretemps. My education was very similar to Tim's, except I didn't have a friendly grad student to introduce me to experimental writing in what sounds like a patiently systematic way. Instead it was a gradual process that is still ongoing, because my mind and ear for poetry were permanently wired for sound when I was about 15 with Shakespeare and Bishop and Berryman: I can understand and sympathize with the projects of poets like Dan Davidson but it's hard to imagine ever writing the stuff myself. There were certainly people who introduced me to individual writers, but I went stumbling from OVC Poetry magazine stuff and 70s Deep Imagists to slightly more daring but essentially similar poets like Robert Hass and Jane Miller to hipsters like Joshua Clover and Mark Levine (a teacher of mine) to finally the people that those hipsters had been reading: Creeley and Olson and Duncan, et al. I never had any kind of systematic introduction to the avant garde: they were and continue to be completely off of the radar of most of the otherwise literate people I hang out with here in academia, and so it's difficult for me to get into the headspace that sees Silliman, the Howe sisters, Bruce Andrews, etc., as an establishment that must be overthrown. But poets who had a less mainstream (or should I say less eccentric?) education in poetry than I obviously do feel that way, and probably poets just four or five years younger than me feel very strongly that there's some kind of post-avant mafia running all the cool magazines (a generation that has barely heard of Ploughshares or The Paris Review) which they will either have to join or violently refuse. I'm not sure if I would be considered a made guy in that mafia or if my benediction from Robert Pinsky leaves me uneasily straddling two worlds, like the Irish-Italian Henry Hill played by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas.

One thing that doesn't get talked about very much in blogland, I've noticed, is the gender-affiliation or genderstyles that post-avant writing seems partly comprised of. For years now I've found that the most interesting experimental writing from my generation is being written by women: pick anybody off of Jim Behrle's latest crush list for an example. I think I have a sense that a) there's something to the idea of écriture feminine and b) the Languagey strategies of Fanny Howe, Katherine Fraser, etc., take on an additional resonance, seem more important, when construed as attempts at non-phallic writing (grandma Stein and "Patriarchal Poetry" stands behind all of this work. A woman has a more intimately political justification for writing which attempts to counter the mainstream tradition than your average heterosexual white male does: he may have to do more theoretical heavy lifting (a la Barrett Watten) or be more consciously immersed in an alternative tradition (Black Mountain, New York School, etc.) to justify writing otherwise to himself and to others. Of course just because you're a woman and you're trying to not write like Sharon Olds or Louise Gluck doesn't make you a radical. The langue feminine strategies of a Stein or a Hejinian can serve as a kind of umbrella for the narrower, more tactical stance of gurlesque, "postfeminist" writers, the ones who are willing to show a little skin to the boys (and girls) while they deconstruct the patriarchy. Hm, maybe I'm talking not so much about gender in post-avant writing as sex itself. Joe Wenderoth's Letters to Wendys seem a little punchier, a little more urgent, than competing volumes of prose poetry (the tired Edsonesque mistreat-an-animal stuff) because of their mix of humor and libidinousness.

Does all this sound superficial? Is sex the sugar-coating for writing that, if it were more daring and originary, more your father's (mother's?) avant-Oldsmobile, would do more intellectual heavy-lifting? Is sex what crosses the line between avant and post-avant: that which returns the reader to a comfortably titillating telos? Perhaps. But I don't want to sound like I'm condemning this tendency: I still want and need a little eros in my poetry, even if it's only an eros of the ear (only! what else could there be in a poem?). What viscerally sickens me about a lot of OVC writing is what I think are its roots in Eliot at his most thantatoptic. I've always thought of The Waste Land as a kind of song of the death drive, a wish for things to just end that manifests as an insistence that they've already ended. This is Grossman's poetry of closure, or Bloom's belatedness, and it is literally a dead end. For me I guess that's political justification enough for writing in the other tradition, which is not well-described by the term "post-avant." It is a tradition, or an openness to traditions, that is fundamentally Emersonian, that says, Write here! Write now! It's not necessarily "radical." But it taps into the energy of life, while demanding the combination of skepticism and open-heartedness that nerdy academics at their best usually possess.

Writing as reading with a whiff of sex. That's what holds my attention at the moment.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

I am packing my library, yes I am. At first when you pack books you do it slowly, lingeringly, picking up volumes that you haven't read for a long time or perhaps haven't read at all and trying to extract a little whiff of their essence—just a sentence or two that will help you contextualize the book for you. Then you begin to panic at the size of the task and the books become cargo, shoved indiscriminately in cardboard boxes that bear the simple label "BOOKS." A bleak democracy that goes beyond anything dreamed of by the Dewey Decimal System. Of course I plan when I unpack to reorganize everything better than I had before; it will help that there are two rows of built-in bookshelves in the new apartment. Maybe I can stop double-stacking them for a while.

"If I were to define poetry, it is that art of language that demands the most of me, both as a reader and as a writer." Thank you, Ron Silliman, for this definition (found in his December response to a letter from Daisy Fried. This is going to be very helpful to me in framing what I want for and from my students in the class I'll be teaching this fall.

Reading has largely fallen by the wayside but for much of the past week and a half I've been enjoying reading the selected letters of D.H. Lawrence and The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin side by side. They were writing at exactly the same time and so I can get two very different perspectives on, say, 1916. From Lawrence mad despair about the war and dreams of a utopian island and lots of thoughts about the purpose of marriage, which was truly a sacrament for Lawrence, though not a Christian one (this is the period of The Rainbow, which I am also nearly finished reading, and Women in Love). Benjamin's letters are more difficult because I know less about the context; up until the war begins he writes mostly about the internal fissures in the Young Student Movement, along with some gorgeous descriptions of mountainous scenery in Switzerland, Italy, and Austria. He's younger than Lawrence, and very German and formal in his self-expression. Lawrence's ideas can seem very German—he was married to a German woman and greatly influenced by what he'd read of the German Romantics as well as having powerful reactions to Freud; I see a lot of Heidegger in his thinking, too. But his prose style is very English, sometimes funny, and often beautiful—I think Lawrence is a finer stylist in his letters than he is in the novels, which can seem purple and overwrought especially when a passage is read out of context.

I think I'll have more to say about Lawrence later, but I've got to get packing again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

I've started packing for the final move this Saturday. Came across a page of notes from my Stanford days that I thought might be worth preserving; I can't date it exactly but judging from the Amichai reference it would most probably have been written in September or October of 2000:
I'm becoming more and more frustrated with what I'm starting to see as not the self-imposed limitations of most poets but the limitations of poetry itself. Reading Levi-Strauss on the distance between the medium of poetry—signs—and the medium of science and philosophy—concepts—is beginning to clarify that for me. (Of course as a good postmodernist I have serious doubts about the possibility of liberating the concept from the word, but never mind.) I stumble about, making gestures toward surrealism, abstraction, and literary theory because I'm frustrated with the chains of historical meaning that imprison each word—chains which unresisted lead to poems like that Amichai poem in the new Atlantic—superbly well-written reifications of utterly conventional thought.

Through my numerous impurities and guises and puns I'm striving desperately for a purer [I first misread my handwriting as "poorer" and I think that's almost better--Ed.] poetry—something very close to the pure apprehension of emotional concepts—though I recognize that this may be a hopeless task in my chosen medium. If I don't feel soon the possibility of breaking through this wall, I may well abandon poetry for philosophy.
I think that last had more about my frustration with the Stanford workshop than it did with my feelings about poetry. But I do wonder exactly what a poet is supposed to do with his or her inevitable frustration with the clumsiness and inadequacy of words. The most typical strategy these days seems to be the thematization of that frustration—or, in what amounts to the same maneuver, reveling in that clumsiness, that crudeness. It's all a bit lofty and disconnected from particular poetic problems, though. When I get a spare hour I'd like to sit down with Allen Grossman's Summa Lyrica, which I think I was trying to read at the time I wrote the above, and see if I get more out of it now. I was reminded of it by Richard Greenfield, who called me the other night looking for a quote on the meaning of Grossman's terms "aperture" and "closure." Fairly useful terms, actually. Here's the text I quoted for him for your consideration:
from p. 330:

Closure is associated with the culture of immortality considered as infinite past and infinite future. Aperture proposes a culture of immortality considered as present.

from p. 331:

Closure (the frame) identifies the central practice of English poetry, the self-characterization of the speaking person as a finite center of dramatic gestures of infinite implication. The world in closure derives its structure from the structure of the subject-consciousness. In Blake's terms closure is "seeing WITH the eye." In terms of the paradox of sociability (Scholium at 28) closure represents the dominance of individuation over participation. Closure is the enabling structure of aesthetic humanism. In closure, the poem is characterized as an interior, the relationship of which to the rest of being, or other being, is as an interior to an exterior.... Hence, in closure, other being is transcendent to the self-who-speaks-in-the-poem, and the poem as a structure is an image or allegory of the monadic self which produces world-descriptions in accordance with its nature.

from pp. 332-333:

Aperture (the window) identifies the contrary strategy, the (perhaps unactual) alternative possibility. In aperture, the self is characterized as identical or "flowing with" the world. In Blake's terms aperture is "seeing through the eye," where the self derives its structure from the nature of the object. The speaker becomes the Beloved or divine utterer whose creative resource is not difference but participation. As the characteristic trope of closure is metaphor, the characteristic trope of aperture is metonymy (see Jakobson). The defining grammatical structures of aperture seem to be--the central example is Whitman--paratactic (additive, this plus that plus that...) by contrast to hypotactic grammars which characterize closure.

Scholium on aperture, priority, and cultural lateness. The sentiment of lateness (Bloom's "belatedness") arises in the poetics of closure in part because the separated self obsessively thematizes the conditions of its visibility which involve the dialectics of difference. In aperture, the poet claims immediacy or earliness. The poet's singing is not at the horizons but from the midst of things. The poet disappears in the stream of things and regards himself as the starting-point of dynasties rather than the epigone or inheritor from whom time is continually alienating the source. Closure predicts that death will be the enemy of the heart, whereas aperture incorporates death. The closural poet is at war with the Collective on which the poet depends for the continuity of utterance against time. The poet in aperture represents the Collecitve and lets go of the individuality of which the Collectivity is the contradiction.

English poetic culture is peculiarly preoccupied by lateness, because its sources are outside its nation and language, and because its master poet (Shakespeare) is a social master whose persons practice the dialectics of difference as a principle of their being. Hence, the poetry of aperture when it arises (as in Crashaw, Traherne, Taylor, Whitman, Williams, Stevens) normally has a marginal status from a stylistic point of view which corresponds to its marginal status in relation [end page 332, start page 333] to national cultural process. English poetry is also the poetry of a modern language, which witnesses interior to itself the loss of participatory relationships, since its own history is coterminous with the individuating soico-cultural developments of modernity. The poetry of aperture, therefore, which produces originality not as a reference to another founding culture (as to the mythologies of Greece and Rome, or the poetic forms of Italy and France) but as an assertion of natural privilege, a claim which requires no sponsorshipm, has a novelty which is revolutionary in an abnormal sense. The strategies toward novelty of aperture are, in fact, antecultural in the sense in which we normally speak of nature as prior to culture or the ground as prior to the inscription. The closural poem thematizes reduction. The poem in aperture thematizes amplification. The strategies for renewal of the closural poet are atavistic, leading to mythologies of distance and its mastery; the stategies for renewal of the poet in aperture are perceptual, leading to mythologies of immediacy.

In contrasting closure and aperture we can see the difference between totality (the consequence of totalization, the finite set which comes to stand for the whole as a result of composition, the discovery of the right relationship of its parts) and universality or inclusion, the whole as participated. The poems of Yeats are closural, achieving totalization through finitization and symbol. The poems of Whitman and Stevens are inclusive (poems in aperture), achieving infinite reference through the equivocation of terminal indiciations, and the minimalization of symbolic discourse which by its nature repeats the totalization process.
Aperture and closure strike me as being somewhat more specific terms for what generally more simply called the objective and subjective (respectively) in poetry. One could adapt Grossman's language to what Altieri writes about the Objectivists and re-name them the Aperturists. This doesn't quite do justice to their strategies for getting the Romantic "I" out of the way, but what I find most interesting about the comparison is the way that a truly visionary poet like Blake—or one who, in Emerson's terms, demands an original relation to the universe—enters the field of Objectivism, and vice-versa. To choose one's own historical moment as significant, as non-empty time, is also of course very Benjaminian. This is all going to stitch itself together into a dissertation, I just know it.

I know, I know, I should be packing.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Really enjoying Michael Helsem's blog lately. I loved his choice of H.P. Lovecraft as the prophet/creator of the 21st century (he claims Diderot created the 19th century and Nietzsche created the 20th). Back in my hardcore role-playing days the game Call of Cthulhu stood out from the legions of Dungeons & Dragons imitators. In most RPGs, especially their computer versions, the pleasure of the game comes from making your character more powerful as he or she accumulates new skills, magical items, etc. The best games are like living bildungsromans, in which you started a character from nothing and he or she acquired both an education and a reputation in the fictional world you and your fellow players were collectively hallucinating. Cthulhu was different: here was a game where your character (or Investigator, as they were technically called) received an education in horror that led almost inevitably to his or her madness and/or death. The pleasure of projecting yourself into Lovecraft's world was the pleasure of learning the truth of a fictionalized yet historical reality (generally New England in the 1920s), of discovering beyond a doubt that the universe is at best indifferent to humans, at worst downright hostile, and the most you could hope was to temporarily forestall the inevitable destruction of mankind that would come once the hideously evil Old Ones awakened long enough to take notice of our existence. It's certainly an interesting forecast of the Cold War mentality, though it's hard to imagine that Lovecraft wasn't most affected, writing as he did in the 20s and 30s, by the First World War and its aftermath. Titanic forces unearthed by human beings and set into world-destructive motion, and the more your Investigator learns about it, the more likely he or she will become irrevocably stark, raving mad. Every Investigator had a certain number of "Sanity Points" and you would lose them when you experienced trauma. Seeing a dead person could cost you a sanity point, and reading certain books which revealed a portion of the Truth that was Out There could cost you a bundle. If you were unfortunate enough to actually see one of the Old Ones in action, you would almost certainly go mad before they killed you. That was what was so grim, and so oddly pleasurable, about the game. Most monsters in D&D-type games have a certain number of hit points and you at least have a shot at killing them. But when you're in the presence of Cthulhu, a random number of Investigators gets eaten every turn and there's nothing you can do about it except bring a lot of cannon fodder along with you.

Ah, such beautiful memories.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Rain today, zero plus one. Emily and I have been living together for about twenty-four hours: so far, so good. I'm at the bookstore now, which is blessedly empty, cozied up with the latest Boundary 2 which is all about Benjamin's Arcades Project. Here is a choice quote:
Nothing is more characteristic than that precisely this most intimate and most mysterious affair, the working of the weather on humans, should have become the theme of their emptiest chatter. Nothing bores the ordinary man more than the cosmos (AP, D1, 3).
Can't tell if that's Benjamin himself or one of the million "correspondents" that his book (if we can call it a book) could be said to have been written by.

This makes me think about the interview between Gabriel Gudding and Kent Johnson that's up at the Possum Pouch, in which the infamous Mr. Johnson explains the strategy behind his endless disavowals of Authorship:
You give up some things to gain others, you know. And the work I’m involved with seems to have struck a chord with many, and I’ve made some pretty good relationships because of it, over the past number of years. But the logic of the kind of art I seem to get myself into—as poet, editor, translator, caretaker, what have you—is quite different from the "I Am the Author" poetry for which one goes to, say, Ploughshares or The Iowa Review, Chain or Fence: the Bizetian opera-tions of the Geraldine R. Dodge Festival kind, or, equally, now, the Glassian glissandi of late-Langpo and its post-Gulf War I elite graduate school-based offshoots. Textual ideologies aside, both tendencies are rooted in fundamentally similar and very conservative assumptions about the Poet’s contract with, and presence in, the culture… But in these times of global madness, as World War III perhaps gets underway, who really cares about Language Poetry being to the Academy of American Poets what Stravinsky is to Brahms, or what Cindy Sherman is to Edward Weston? There’s nothing wrong with it, ultimately. That’s just the nature of the culture market, and people do what they do, and there are very good and deeply talented people in all these groups. History will sort things out in the Art Museum. Those eccentrics who stubbornly refuse and remain outside will either be completely forgotten or they will change everything. Perhaps both, of course.
Johnson is opting out of "the culture market," claiming for himself the turf of "outsider" or "eccentric"—something Gudding is quick to call him on, noting that "the poetic outsider is the next greatest bet for canonization." Johnson defends himself by stating exactly what he's for, what he wants to do in or for poetry, as well as what he's against:
But it’s complicated, admittedly. I think about these things and wonder about my motivations and directions, believe me. I’m guilty, I suppose, of desiring to have a relationship to poetry outside the most widely accepted protocols and categories. That’s my vanity, and I’m an odd duck in that way, but to me it’s what being a poet is mainly about. It ’s not so much about the two-dimensional issues of whether your unit of measure is feet or sentences, whether on the page you are thematically narrative or abstract, lyrical or non-syllogistic; it’s about the four-dimensional challenges of how your self and non-self relate to poetry’s total space, to how you are going to negotiate those ritualized modes of production and branding that are regarded—by Language, Post-avant, Pittsburgh UP, Cowboy, and Performance poets alike—as more or less natural and happily ancillary to the nature of the "poem proper." So for me—and I say for me because it’s not some kind of categorical imperative—the question is: What’s a poet to do? Do you just fit yourself into the Author slot, framed and hooked and fixed with your legal self, or do you make things more interesting than that? And it just occurs to me that maybe this is what you meant earlier by the term "flickering." In that sense, yes, to poeticize the function and position of my authorship, to make it an element inside my poetry is what I am interested in. Move around, I say. There’s lots of unexplored space beyond the canvas. Otherwise, poetry becomes a mostly repetitive exercise, conceptually speaking, ID’d and ready, be it "traditional" or "experimental," for the gallery.
This is interesting stuff—the "four-dimensional challenges" of art. This is the holistic approach, as I understand it: the poet who claims that his or her position re: "poetry" is as important or more important than the poems themselves. This is akin to the school of thought which thinks that how and where a poem is published is more important than the poem: the prison of perfect binding, right? I think Gudding must be thinking somewhat along these same lines with his attempts to control the reception of his book, though he seems much less of a merry prankster, if I can use that term without belittling what Johnson does. I think what he does is really interesting, and I only question it insofar as what he's saying implies that someone like me, who has fitted himself (though not always snugly or comfortably) into the Author slot, is a less authentic artist. Or maybe that's the wrong way to put it—"authenticity" is almost certainly something that the "executor" of Doubled Flowering wants to attack. Maybe he'd only claim that what he's doing is more interesting than what I do, or potentially more effective in shaping the poetry of the future. If that's your thing.

I find having written all this that although I'm glad Johnson is out there doing his thing, I'm just as glad that I don't have to do it myself. That the vocation of "poet" is larger and less prescriptive than that. So I'm not going to bother with a tedious defense of Authorship or my claims to it. I think maybe I'm more interested in teaching the Yasusada controversy—I think what KJ does could enlarge a student's sense of what's possible. And insofar as he does that, I think I can say he's a good poet without renouncing my claims to also be, or to want to be, a good poet too.

On a different note:

Hey poetry fans! How'd you like to influence the reading habits of Ithaca, New York?

In my new capacity as clerk extraordinaire it appears that I have the ability to order books that I think ought to be on the shelves—that I can take a hand in reshaping the contents of The Bookery's poetry and poetics sections. I'm inviting you, my gentle readers, to e-mail me suggestions for books that we ought to stock. I've started out with a small but decisive opening salvo: Norma Cole's Spinoza in Her Youth will soon be making the Billy Collins volumes sweat. What should be next? You, the people, can help decide.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003


Yippee! I'm actually excited.

I should point out though that my use of "bachelor" was misleading—we're not getting married. At all. At least, not yet. We will be sharing a dog, though.

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

One bachelor day remains. (I borrow the ominous style of this from Donnie Darko, a film I found almost unwatchable while I was watching it but which stays with you.) Feeling empathetic toward Catherine on both the Newsweek and cohabitation fronts. It's only a matter of time before somebody sends me that article, which I haven't read and have no intention of reading. I don't find its existence particularly provoking—somebody is always saying poetry is dead, and then they die, and poetry continues on—but I'm all too familiar with the experience of receiving clippings from well-meaning family members who see something, anything, that mentions "poetry" in the mass media, and then they think of me. What I find more disturbing, actually, is when they send me articles whose implication is that poetry is not dead, but on life support—something about Poetry Chicago's millions or Dana Gioia, for instance. But they mean well. My dad became a member of the Academy of American Poets, which is an incredibly sweet and supportive gesture, and sends me their newsletter American Poet now and again. It's a bit of a rag, but the last one he sent me does have some interesting bits in it: what Nathaniel Mackey's been reading lately, a piece about the collaboration of Joshua Beckman and Matt Rohrer, a piece on Karen Volkman and the James Laughlin Award (for which my old teacher and friend Mary Jo Bang was one of the judges).

As for cohabitation, yikes. I too had a disastrous experience when I was younger, though at least the person I was habitating with still talks to me (and is a regular reader of this blog: hi Chris!) Yesterday Emily and I had our first look at the new apartment since the last tenants moved out and tried to have an intelligent discussion about painting—something neither of us has much experience with. It's an enormous place—if you clap your hands in the living/dining room there's an echo—and I don't know if we have time to paint it all before we move in. In the meantime, she's packing up her things to move into the apartment tomorrow; then tomorrow night she'll be moving in here with me for the ten days or so it's going to take for our landlords to fix up a few things (like the hole in the ceiling). Probably those ten days will be the hardest part—I love my apartment but it's small. Anyway. This is probably more sheer biography than you want to know. We were having dinner yesterday at this restaurant next to a couple who were like us, possibly, a couple of years hence: youngish, Jewish, her with curly hair, him with glasses, driving a Volvo (it was parked across the street)—and they had a baby named Josh, which just makes the whole thing odder. They seemed very happy and very self-involved with their little family unit. The most disturbing thing about having children, I think, is how narcissistic it makes you, even as the society at large gives you a free pass for it. And I speak as someone who likes kids and would like to have one or two of his own someday. Anyway, listening to their conversation was a little bit like reading the blog of a stranger who's nontheless familiar—they had a kind of witty banter going on between them, largely concerning the baby, whose behavior (spitting up, wandering around the sidewalk, sucking on a lamb chop bone) they found endlessly fascinating. And their fascination was intense enough to make me a little fascinated too. Or maybe it's just my own narcissism: every time they said "Josh" I couldn't help but prick up my ears.

This is sheer ramblingness. You'll have to forgive me: it's a beautiful day outside and I'm moving in with my sweetie, and the whole thing just STRESSES ME OUT. Looking forward to the other side.

Monday, June 02, 2003

Aside from a few mental breakdowns re my upcoming cohabitation with ma belle dame avec merci (only two bachelor days remain), I spent this weekend retooling Fourier Series in order to send it off to a publisher for consideration today. It's funny how you can have a deep background for a work—all this Fourier stuff, along with various asides on California and John Wayne—without really knowing how present that background will be to a reader of it. Jeffrey Jullich had a post to the Poetics list about Matthew Barney, who I don't know much about but whose massive book The Cremaster Trilogy is on display behind the counter at The Bookery and is thus subject to my persual. Jeffrey wrote about how Barney has all of this arcana, all of these analogies and explanations, in short a "personal cosmology," behind the truly weird imagery of his films. It seems to me from what he describes that a viewer might sense the presence of Barney's cosmology as one might sense the hidden mass of an iceberg without having the slightest apprehension of what it actually looks like or means. Is that hidden weight, that ballast, sufficient? Put another way: would someone who has studied Charles Fourier find my book to be of any interest, or would they not even see the connection aside from the title? (A title I'm not 100 percent happy with. I've toyed with alternatives like The Whirl [Fourier's other name for the phalanx of 1,620 people that would compose the basic population unit of his utopia)] or Nectarine [which has something to do with the notion of hybridity; I don't have a better explanation at hand—but I believe the piece that was printed in New American Writing appeared under this title].) Will any reader, in short, see the book the way I see it? Almost certainly not. Even Selah, which is a much more straightforward piece of work, is bound to be from my perspective misunderstood—though if one accounts for that misunderstanding and accepts it as a natural event, a new word is called for: disunderstood, reunderstood, something like that. Though I might feel otherwise once I start reading reviews of my work, I think all I ask for from a reader is some sympathy with the spirit of my intentions. This vague animal, "the spirit of my intentions," is the minimum I hope to communicate in poetry—beyond that I'm less interested in communication than I am in creating experiences.

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