Friday, September 26, 2003

The Drugged Balloonist

I don't know why this vast quantity of white space is appearing above my posts. But it fits nicely with the first plenary lecture of the conference last evening, "Modernism in Midair." Steven Connor made lots of interesting points about the treatment of air by various canonical modernists (Lewis, Woolf, H.D., and Eliot) as something that can be shaped and sculpted yet is often ignored in its omnipresence. I could tell you more but I seem to have mislaid my notebook; I'm hoping it's back at the B&B I'm staying at, which has tiny but comfortable rooms. It's a fair distance from the city center, so that and jet lag means I've missed the first two panels of the day, and now it's already lunchtime. When I come back I think I'll go to a panel called "Modernism, Beasts and Bestiality" which offers the first of several papers being delivered on Lawrence: "Becoming Fox, Becoming-Fascist: D.H. Lawrence and the Great War." Lawrence's critical stock may be on the rebound; this paper is by a fellow from the University of Iowa, and at the reception last night I met a Japanese scholar who has some interesting things to say about radio and cinema as they are featured in Lady Chatterley's Lover.

I don't feel entirely at home at this conference. Partly that's because it already seems to have broken up into groups that know each other from previous such events; but mostly it's because I'm still not wholly comfortable in my scholarly skin. I was much more relaxed at AWP as a poet among poets. Then again, I also knew lots of people there. So perhaps my anxiety is purely social. I kind of wish I were delivering my own paper a bit sooner because then I might feel that my credentials had been established. Then again, I've been realizing lately that so much of the power that we might attribute to "credentials"--publications, a job title, or anything else associated with an impressive c.v.--is literally so much air. The people who speak with confidence about what interests them are always the most impressive, and that confidence doesn't necessarily have anything to do with how established or powerful they are or are perceived to be. Of course establishment helps, as does the attitude of sparse, sincere rebellion that I've observed from some graduate students. In neither camp as usual I float along, like the drugged balloonist, amnesiac but with his reasoning powers intact, that Bertrand Russell used as an example of someone who, deprived of preconceptions, would be better able to understand Einstein's theories than an ordinary person. Conroy began his lecture with this, but right now I feel it's something I'm living, though my preconceptions aren't gone so much as getting further and further away in this strange place of sleep deprivation.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Birmingham is exploding with energy but jet-lagged me is not. Plus the computer I'm using—free e-mail terminals at the central library—is about to disconnect me. So all I can say right now is:
- Aisle seats seem like a good idea but on international flights but they're not, because everybody going by to the bathroom brushes against you or bangs your elbow and keeps you awake.

- Burton Hatlan, who used to edit Sagetrieb and is here in part to announce the rebirth of Paideuma as a magazine dedicated to modernist poetry generally and not just Ezra Pound, sat across the ailse from me and probably discovered the same thing.

- Ben Friedlander is also here and I hope to make his acquaintance.

- Barrett Watten is here and I plan to attend a panel that he's co-chairing.

- Birmingham is exciting and young and very cosmopolitan feeling. I look forward to exploring it.

- Did I mention the jet lag?
There you have it. More updates to follow.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

That link to Octopus, if you're as slow as I am, is at left. And though I don't have any work up there just yet why not check out Chimera Review while you're at it.

Wish me bon voyage—tomorrow I fly to the Brum. I hope there's a good movie on the plane. And I'll tell you the news from Blighty when I can.

Monday, September 22, 2003

A nice little chunk of Fourier Series is now up at muse apprentice guild.

The paper's done; now I have to chop it down into something I can present in twenty minutes. Can't quite believe I'm getting on a plane in 48 hours. I don't even have a guidebook yet. Most likely after the conference ends on Sunday I'll head up toward Edinburgh. Maybe I should pay the obligatory pilgrimage to Stratford first. I'm taking suggestions. The blog will most likely be dormant while I'm gone (until October 5), not that it's been so very active lately. But if I do find an Internet connection that's not too expensive I'll post a little travel piece for y'all.

Actually used to say "y'all" when I lived in New Orleans. Lost the habit now, but it's a very useful pronoun. Kind of a more intimate plural, as if the connotations of "tu" and "vous" in French were reversed.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Deeply belated link to Octopus Magazine now at right.

No hurricane but it's been breezy and rainy. And Dopey. The other four dwarfs are nowhere in sight. Wait... is that Grumpy?

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

D.H. Lawrence has eaten my brain. I've written dozens of pages and thought about this for months and only today did I realize that the basic intuition I've been working on points in a blindingly obvious direction. Stein repeats the rose and so does Lawrence. Stein gets all the attention for repeating it and transforming its intensity, it possible planes of reference, in a single line. But Lawrence repeats the rose (in one case, a particular breed, the Gloire de Dijon) in the titles of five poems and achieves something very similar. Both of them, I argue, are trying to transform the relationship the poet normally has with the beloved of lyric, and they do this by turning the typical trope of lyric love, the rose, into something rich and strange, the better to realize their own strangeness as subjects. Or something like that. I've been working on this too long. And one week from Sunday I'll be reading an extract of this to a more or less international group of academics in some room in a hotel in Birmingham, U.K. Eek.

So many good comments over at the Possum Pouch on the Houlihan controversy. Catherine's response is one of my favorites; there's something touching about how she uses Houlihan's first name, a certain surprising intimacy that helps me pity her more than I'm angered by her closed little mind. I mean, to claim to love poetry and to then almost certainly shut yourself off from so much that is great in it. Like Bernadette Mayer for instance. To take a break from Lawrence and Stein I've been reading my copy of ABernadette Mayer Reader, which I picked up somewhere years ago and never actually read. Jeez but she's terrific (though it's true many of the poems don't help me forget Stein. I do think my students will be looking at a couple of her poems out of the Hoover Postmodern Poetry anthology, which I happen to think is really good. Next time I teach I may just make my students buy the whole thing.

Tonight's the night... at the Bookery.

Friday, September 12, 2003

I'm writing my paper. In the meantime, go read lime tree.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I'm coming out for Howard Dean. Except for the gun thing he's a candidate I can stand (behind). A Dean-Clark candidacy is the most powerful Democratic ticket I can imagine, with Clark's southernness and generalness making up nicely for Dean's northernness and unmilitariness.

Plus my grandfather's name is Howard.
Jonathan Mayhew has defended the tactic of pointing the finger at Ms. Houlihan's poems well enough that I don't have to. But I will simply add that Houlihan defines herself as a poet and her poetry is therefore fair game. I even think we're obligated to consider her poetry in this case, because it's something that we can demonstably show that a) we know where to "locate" her work in a way she doesn't know how to locate the work she criticizes; b) we can show that even by what we presume are her own standards it's just not that good.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Joan Houlihan, a somewhat more intelligent and less self-impressed version of conservative critic William Logan, has been getting a fair amount of attention in blogland lately. But I find her criticism more irritating and less entertaining than Logan's, and her habit of choosing the poems or lines of poems as representative (as the Skeptic has pointed out) destroys, in my mind, whatever authority she presumes to create. The proof is in the pudding, folks: check out her own poems. I don't dislike all of them and she has an ear; but she's plowing a narrow, narrow stretch of the wide open field that is poetry, and it's sheer temerity on her part to expect the rest of us to do the same.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Very excited about the convergences of Gould, Bach, Young, and especially Meng over at Portholes Redux. Tonight's the Night!

Friday, September 05, 2003

I haven't gotten anywhere near being up to listing my own personal top ten list, as so many other bloggers are doing. It was hard enough to come up with my "staff pick" for the store. Caught between the desire to choose something from my own personal canon (which is nebulous) and the desire to promote something reasonably cool, I grabbed Karen Volkman's Spar, which has many thing I admire in it. Also admirable is Tina Brown Celona's The Real Moon of Poetry which I read in its entirety during my shift this evening. I have to confess to a vague suspicion of a book that can be consumed in one sitting, but I found its strange and somewhat sinister whimsy, and her foregrounding of the problem of preserving the Romantic impulse in the form of poetry (Romance surviving the rainbow of its will, so to speak), quite compelling. Another Fencebooks book, Joyelle McSweeney's The Red Bird, also held my attention for a while; I'll want to read some more of it next Friday.
     "Only—pardon me—I do not quite comprehend you. You see, never has it fallen to my lot to acquire the brilliant polish which is, so to speak, manifest in your every movement. Nor have I ever been able to attain the art of expressing myself well. Consequently, although there is a possibility that in the—er—utterances which have just fallen from your lips there may lie something else concealed, it may equally be that—er—you have been pleased so to express yourself for the sake of the beauty of the terms wherein that expression found shape?"
     "Oh, no," asserted Chichikov. "I mean what I say and no more. My reference to such of your pleasant souls as are dead was intended to be taken literally."

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

I've been pretty much absorbed with teaching (c.f. the new blog) and my paper (after a lot of kerfuffle I've decided to go back to the original impetus for it, which was the odd similarity between Gertrude Stein's rose and D.H. Lawrence's; I've decided that they both were doing interesting things with the rose [which I also treat as a metonym for lyric itself] that provide an alternative modernism-ation of lyric to the models proposed by Pound and Eliot [all that hardness and impersonality] and exemplified, in my view, by Williams' "The rose is obsolete" from Spring and All). I've also decided with slight misgivings to take a class, though I wasn't planning on it: a course on Adorno's Aesthetic Theory. I'm reading it anyway for my 'A' exam so I might as well. When is that exam? I've got to deal with that, but it's not going to happen until I get back from England, where all my thoughts begin to bend.

There was a party last night at the A.D. White house to welcome the new English department grad students. I was astonished to run into Evan Winet, a guy I used to hang out with at Vassar whom I haven't seen for almost exactly ten years. He's a visiting prof in the drama department and specializes in Indonesian theater. The world is both small and round.

Closing time in twenty minutes and I'm not in the poetry section, alas. So back to Dialectic of Enlightenment....
For Bacon as for Luther, "knowledge that tendeth but to satisfaction, is but as a courtesan, which is for pleasure, and not for fruit or generation." Its concern is not "satisfaction, which men call truth," but "operation," the effective procedure. The "true end, scope or office of knowledge" does not conssit in any plausible, delectable, reverend or admired discourse, or any satisfactory arguments, but in effecting and working, and in discovery of particulars not revealed before, for the better endowment and help of man's life." There shall be neither mystery nor any desire to reveal mystery.
Adorno's pessimism (I know, he was really a secret optimist, but I'm talking about tone) is so bracing. He's at his best in this vein in Minima Moralia, of course. It's damn refreshing to read him in a bookstore where anyone at any moment might ask me if we have a copy of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (and It's All Small Stuff). He has a capacity for taking himself seriously that I find as admirable and perplexing as I do Jorie Graham's.
No surprises here....

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Sixth Level of Hell - The City of Dis!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)High
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test

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