Monday, October 05, 2009


Actually, that's very far from what I am, as teacher and family man. And Facebook keeps me well in touch with a wide range of peeps. That said, I have increasingly fewer impulses of the sort that lead me to blog here, leading to an endless succession of posts about how little I'm blogging here.

Still I'm not quite prepared to retire the old Cahiers. If nothing else it archives the growth of one poet's mind over more than half-a-decade, which some readers have valued. And every now and again I am moved to communicate something without the mediation of a magazine or editor, and this blog makes that possible.

What I'm not so interested in these days are the teapot-tossing tempests that for so long were the life of this blog and poetics blogging in general. Arguments about flarf or conceptual writing or the freakin' School of Quietude just aren't doing it for me these days. Having a child clarifies time, like butter, into something rich that you don't want to waste. I still absorb ephemera, as it were thoughtlessly, but I don't have to produce it.

On my mind: how to bring my teaching life in better concord with my writing life. Last semester I found something of a modus scribendi, keeping up with my classes and grading and still having something left over for at least half-an-hour every evening. Then over the summer I had acres of time to spend and misspend. Now the shock of autumn has made it hard to find my way back to daily writing, which leaves the novel tossing and turning like a fitful sleeper trying to get back to his dream. I'm not too worried about it--there's enough momentum at this point that I feel that the story, or stories, are always there. But it nags at me all the same.

At least I'm writing poems again after a considerable hiatus—poems of a different stripe than my Ithaca diary, and wilder and more shaggy than the Severance Songs, which I'll keep tinkering with right up to the moment Tupelo finally demands the manuscript. Sent a few poems out the other day after not doing that for a long while.

Somehow to bring writing and teaching into closer accord, so that one isn't stealing from the other. To be able to bring my interests of the moment into the classroom. And I've been inspired by my students too--the especially bright and ambitious ones that clustered around my door for a while last spring were instrumental in moving me to try fiction again. They helped me recapture a little of the old ingenuousness, while still being smart as hell.

I've been sick post-birthday, and today I took down off the shelf the sort of monstrous theoretical tome that I used to read for pleasure--something I'd acquired in my Ithaca days and never opened--Geoff Waite's Nietzsche's Corps/e. Published in 1996 it feels at once like the product of another era and also completely relevant to my desire to find the doorway out of postmodernism. Badiou seemed to offer one way but I'm starting to think that he's an idealist at heart, in spite of all his talk about radical secularization. That pushes me back toward Marx, and trying to understand my own anti-Marx/bourgeois/romantic impulses. Waite has written a wide-ranging and scathing polemic on what he insists on calling Nietzsche/anism; his hyperbolic claim, quoting Georges Bataille, is that "Nietzsche's position is the only one outside of communism." It's a fervent attack on left Nietzscheanism (i.e., post-structuralism) without being reactionary, as most such attacks usually constitute themselves. Probably out of date. But it's fun to re-immerse myself in such an intellectually penetrating yet wide-ranging text, stylistically reminiscent of a more serious Zizek, and more pleasurable than Badiou by a long shot. It's also hooking me up again with my Frankfurt School-formed self after a summer dawdling in the mires of mathematics.

Also reading:

- José Saramago's The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, the first Saramago I've read—I've been turned off by the descriptions of books like Blindness, which made them sound schematic, but this is lush and atmospheric, a treat.

- Jennifer Firestone and Dana Teen Lomax, editors, Letters to Poets. The kind of refreshment I used to go to blogs for: candid, searching, often breathtakingly smart letters between older and younger poets on how to survive and perpetuate the writing life. So far I've been particularly moved by exchanges between Brenda Coultas & Victor Hernandez Cruz, Truoung Tran & Wanda Coleman, and Jennifer Firestone & Eileen Myles. Highly recommended.

I thought there was more but there ain't. No poetry to speak of except of what I get glancingly out of Poetry (which by and large continues to be dismayingly anodyne in its actual poem choices, though the prose discussions are lively) and the latest Denver Quarterly (which has the opposite problem: an exciting house style that becomes too insistently recognizable after a while).

And so ends this latest ramble. Blogging begets blogging, but in this case it may beget more silence, exile, and cunning—the powers of concentration that I need if I'm to restore writing to its rightful place in my day.

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