Saturday, June 06, 2009


Continuing unseasonable coolness but
sunny this morning—glanced right
coming down South Hill and the creek was blazing
like the horse turds in a James Wright
poem. Left the computer at home so
doing this the old-fashioned way in a
notebook, which helps me keep the lines
the right length, having about five
and a half inches to work with. Most
poems I write this way: first
the notebook, then they sit there for a while
(baking? braising?) until I
remember them and type them out
on the computer, doing revisions then.
Then they won’t change again until or unless
they wind up in a manuscript or
I read one to an audience and decide to swap
“under” for “beneath” (differently sinister
prepositions) or add or subtract
a few lines. But rewriting’s a bit foreign
to the spirit of this diary so I’ll challenge myself
simply to transcribe this later today
and a couple days later it will go on the blog
and that will be the end of it. They found
more plane wreckage off the Brazilian coast
and Obama made his speech to the Muslim world
in Cairo while we in the western hemisphere slept—
his listeners want deeds not words, so
sayeth the Times, but that’s not true
of everybody, some of us have been waiting
for the right words an awfully long time
so that a speech can be a deed in the sense
of staking a claim, lighting out for territory—
not in an imperialist way but in a shared
discursive domain. Yesterday I got
more interested in Ammons and his Whitmanic inclusivity
in longer works like The Snow Poems and Garbage—
I’ll read those and see where I stand—
also having lunch today with my old prof
Roger Gilbert, Ammons’ biographer
and friend. He’ll have some ideas for me
and will likely seek to bridle or at least point out
my avant-gardiste impetuosity—he likes
poets I find dull but can also read and appreciate
a pretty wide aesthetic swath much to his credit
plus I hear he plays a mean jazz piano
though I’ve never heard him. We’re
meeting at Asia Cuisine, which makes divine
garlic chicken—I haven’t found its like
in Chicago, which in so many other ways
has Ithaca beat for culture, energy, diversity, even
beauty—for some may say that a gorge split
by a waterfall adorned with emerald greenery
is the most beautiful sight that dark
earth offers, yet I say
the Chicago skyline like the bristles of a
fabulous silver hairbrush or
the cerulean sea-like shores
of Lake Michigan are as beautiful—whatever
it is one doth love most. My wife’s long fingers
and toes, Sadie Gray’s serious gray eyes
breaking into delight when struck funny—
something usually does—shall these things
be reft from me? You know some things
but are too shy to make a sign, even to yourself.
The sun is bright and texturing the ivy
on the garage, that yesterday seemed made
of iron. Ammons awaits, but—my idea of a good time—
I’ve also got Badiou’s Being and Event
to puzzle on, purchased yesterday at the Cornell Store
along with some bargain books—one on Bookchin
and social ecology, a selected Muriel Rukeyeser,
and an unclassifiable tome by Jacques Roubaud,
The Great Fire of London, which perhaps
stands in the same relation to his heart-
rending poems for his dead wife, Some
Thing Black as Juliana Spahr’s The
Transformation stands to This Connection
of Everyone with Lungs. What does it take
to convert elegy into action, if not
consolation? Badiou might say, fidelity
to the event. In this case I try
to show fidelity to the accident of Ithaca,
of time-traveling back each morning to
a time before Emily, before Sadie, before
my own identity beyond a mania
for the page and its inclusions.

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