Friday, October 31, 2003

Got up early (noon) went to Hungarian Pastry Shop, wrote a poem, walked to the Met to see the new El Greco exhibit. I still don't know if i get El Greco. I will never think about Pollock (especially the early work) in the same way again after seeing his El Greco sketches. Also spent some serious time with "Washington Crossing The Delaware," it's the first time i've looked at it since I've seen the Larry Rivers painting of the same name--really affected me very deeply in some way that's hard to articulate--reading the former thru the latter--i dunno.

Life in general is wild and exacerbating in ways that i'd rather not talk about. Yeasssss.
Saw Bernstein and A. Berrigan last night at the new school. I don't like Bernstein's poem "Thank You For Saying Thank You" very much, it's too obvious a self parody to be very interesting i guess. The long one Bernstein read I do like, but i've heard it several times already. I really liked Anselm's new poems, and "To A Broken Surface" from Zero Star Hotel has been a favorite for a while.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I'm glad i'm not the only one who thinks The Strokes kinda blow. (Thanks to Equanimity for the link)

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Reading Paterson all the way thru for some desperate-ish reason. Far and away, I love WCW more than any of the other American modernist poets, I think. So much more grounded in the ordinary, i guess.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Costume parties are never as good as they seem when yr deciding to go to one.

I've been fairly worthless all weekend--trying desperately to find a focus, in more ways than one.

Friday, October 24, 2003

I'm reading one of those horribly condescending science books for the layman called "The Language Instinct" by Steven Pinker, at Michael Golston's urging. It still hasn't sold me on it's case against linguistic determinism yet, but definitely making me think more about the issue--as Golston asked me, what happens to claims about the political efficacy of poetry if you abandon the (antiquated?) Wittgensteinian claim that Bernstein makes in "Thought's Measure," "Language is the material of both thinking and writing"?

This is a huge question for avant-garde poetics and one which i think could lead to an important reevaluation of the politics of poetic form--Bernstein's claim seems somewhat radical, but it is actually one of the gospel truths that underlies a number of leftist interpretive modes--where would a more nuanced evaluation of the connection between thought and language lead us? Perhaps in a more discursive poetic direction? How dependent is Bernstein's poetics on the "language as thought" model?

Poking thru a number of things to try and find some answers, including Chomsky (Donny, you are out of your element!). Gonna make a trip back to the old Cognitive Psych department as well. More to follow...

Thursday, October 23, 2003

The Eliott Smith marathon is still running at WBAR (Speaking of fucked up. Trying not to think too hard about it honestly; what an amazing songwriter to have lost)
Everyone go read Nick's comments on Vallejo and then go and read Trilce; it will fuck you up for at least three months.
My tastes in country music have been becoming progressively trashier, but i sort of don't mind. Right now i'm reading Stephen Fredman's Poet's Prose and listening to Alan Jackson's Greatest Hits. He (Fredman) has an interesting claim that American poetry is necessarily a poetry in crisis, always having to justify its own project. Jackson is not burdened by any such anxiety:

Chasin that neon rainbow
Livin that honky tonk dream
Cause all i ever wanted
Was to pick this gui-tar and sing

"Thus I spend my days,
waiting for my friends to die"...

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

"After nine centuries have passed in my lifetime, when I am no longer beware of the dog stars, with my communion of lead wafers behind me, I am glad to have your ear. It pains the planet Earth to hear your lies, and were it but for the man who comes along eventually and throws you in jail, the sun would leave the whole iced-over shebang as a calling card. When was the last time you passed on a secret specific to sighs and gasps, a pleasure so exquisite you identify yourself by the memory of it?" --John Godfrey, from "Identifying Marks" (Midnight on Your Left)

Feeling Godfreyesque; in a good way.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Ahhhhh the reading is over. I get so nervous about events i organize; its way more pressure then just reading in many ways. But we had a great event! Thanks to everyone who came and everyone who read! Everyone who knows Logan Kass needs to ask him to see his long poem "Reproduction Has Changed." I was fairly happy with my reading but reading always reminds me of what an art it is in some ways, being a good reader/performer. Not that i really want my stuff to be "performative" in a theatrical (pedantic?) sense. But still. People say i read too fast.


Should poetry, like Wittgenstein's philosophy "lead words home?" Should it do more? Less? Why is it that those three words seem to mean so much to me?

Friday, October 17, 2003

ALEX'S WEEK IN READING (a highlight reel)

(Such a passage, posting concepts together that point in so many untaken directions, may, I know, be distracting, I post them, beyond orientation for myself, for readers who have a certain taste in signs[...])

Stanley Cavell, This New Yet Unapproachable America: Lectures after Emerson after Wittgenstein (Living Batch Press, 1989)

from "The Week Falls Apart"

Men in twisted suits wind stragglers into their mist
Everyone's looking for an egg
Fallen bees are spotted on the plain
Men twist over the drain pile and strangle suitors in their mitts
Careful at approach, they kill bees, I hear
They zap them from proclamatory range
The range you can yell from, so you yell,

Wednesday's disembodied.

from Cori Copp's Sometimes Inspired by Marguerite (Open 24 Hours, 2003)

I was once more forced to admire the way in which everything fits together with a sleepwalker's precision: the desire of most people for a comfortable life, their tendency to believe the speakers on raised platforms and the men in white coats; the addiction to harmony and the fear of contradiction of the many seem to correspond to the arrogance and hunger for power, the dedication to profit, unscrupulous inquisitiveness, and self-infatuation of the few. So what was it that didn't add up in this equation?

Christa Wolf, Accident: A Day's News trans. Schwarzbauer and Takvorian (Chicago UP 2001)

Sometimes it feels like Wittgenstein has written the armature of the century in his quicksand notebooks.

Clark Coolidge, Words (in the Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry ed. Hoover)

"My lady," he said, "let me be!
I have no desire to love you.
I've served the king for a long time;
I don't want to betray my faith to him.
Never, for you or for your love,
will I do anything to harm my lord."
The queen got angry;
in her wrath, she insulted him:
"Lanval," she said, "I am sure
you don't care for such pleasure;
people have often told me
that you have no interest in women.
You have fine looking boys
with whom you enjoy yourself. [...]
"Lady," he said, "of that activity
I know nothing [...]"

Lanval, Marie de France (12th Century Breton) in The Longman Anthology of British Lit. volume 1A

Thursday, October 16, 2003

"The interest on the part of the so-called L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets in conceptualizing the poetic process as part of their poetic practice has always impressed and energized me."
--From Nick Piombino's Interview with Lewis Lacook on Sidereality

This is a very precise way of saying something i've been trying to articulate for a long time about what i take from Language Poetry.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Busying myself with publicizing the reading, reading stuff i'm not horribly interested in etc. Went to the Barbara Guest thing at St. Mark's last night--i really liked the poem on Miro that James Sherry read, as well as the later "talk" poems read by Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge--i hope the latter get published soon.

I saw Kill Bill--I really don't know what to think of it. It's all about the highly sexualized girl on girl violence--but what i can't figure out if its trying to make its audience feel creeped out by their role as voyeurs, or just gleefully showing them their fantasy expressed in the most extreme (and intoxicating) visual terms possible. A lot of people would point to Tarantino's use of highly stylized violence etc and say that he's trying to make you uncomfortable--and their were certainly some stomach turning scenes in this flick, but i would say the general trajectory of the film is one that moves from representations of violence that make you feel sick towards one that are beautiful in that Kurusawa kind of way. By the end of the film i had stopped wanting to cover my eyes; I was horrified by the first image of a man beating the pregnant protagonist; I was mesmorized with the image of the antagonist's scalp flying off of her exposed brain and landing in the snow of a zen garden in the final combat scene.

Not to be a snob, but I think the film's enormous box-office success should be enough to convince critics that Tarantino isn't doing anything but providing the ultimate object for America's hungry male gaze.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Still don't have very much time on my hands--I have been reading Schuyler's "Freely Espousing," its the first time i've spent a considerable amount of time with his work--i like it a lot--some how it avoids being overly serious without using irony, which I appreciate. I think i like him for the same reasons i like Ceravalo. The title poem is especially great. Also read Cori Copp's new chapbook--also great, everyone should come see her and Nick Piombino @ BPC on Sat. the 18th at 4 pm.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Been bogged down writing a paper on Balzac, helping out at the project, drinking and pontificating with friends until 7 AM, blah blah blah.

I enjoyed the McCaffrey reading, altho I was shocked at how much his style had changed since Panopticon and Carnival, the only two of his works I've really looked at. The longer piece he read last had several Language-poet-inside-jokes in it--it seems like a lot of people are doing this lately--it sort of bores me. Just say no to witticisms about Wittgenstein.

I'm organizing a last minute poetry reading on Sunday the 19th 3-5 due to a cancellation at Bowery--tentatively featuring Logan Kass, Simona Schneider, Lindsay Edgecombe, (Davey Volner? Katya Apekina?) and myself. Be there or be as square as a clever Derrida reference.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Reconsidering a few of the thoughts I was going over in the last two entries...
for instance, perhaps "decontextualized" isn't the best way to describe the sort of disembodied nature of poetic communities on the web...i dunno. Still thinking about it.

I have a ton of reading to do. I really want to read all of Emerson's essays (I haven't) but i can't find time.

Friday, October 03, 2003

I see there's a link to my blog on fait accompli that starts off "get a horse!" so i think i better finish things up before things get wild. (This sort of instantaneous exchange is what makes the internet great tho, you see).

So anyway. Before I pick up where my idealistic rhetorical question left off, let me just say that my first paragraph wasn't meant to imply that i don't think poems on the internet are of any value, but simply that the new medium, with its massive amount of information available at any one time, may lend itself to a reading method that's more ambient than attentive, if that makes sense. I remember Bernstein, in his seminar, encouraging us to experiment in experiencing language poetry thru ambient listening--turn on Lyn Hejinian while yr making dinner or something--why not ambient reading, while yr multitasking on yr PC? I'm not saying my inattentiveness in scanning people's blog poetry is neccesarily a bad thing--altho i do explore some potential problems with the decontextualized nature of digital poetic communties as i continue.

So. Back to the idealistic question. As a 21 year old who student i'm in a pretty convenient place to ask these questions, i'm well aware, but, putting this fact aside, my argument definitely has a sort of utopian tone that anyone with very serious Marxist leanings would take issue with. Without getting into a very long discussion of Marxism and agency (admittedly a discussion i am not well-equipped to have), I guess i'll just briefly say that I am very struck by the idea that radical poetic form is an important means of critiquing hegemony, but i do not believe the social responsibility of a poet should stop there, by any stretch of the imagination. I still have some vague faith in the idea of the avant-garde as it was originally conceived--as a progressive artistic vanguard of individuals involved in a correspondingly progressive social movement. Impossible? Maybe. But impossible in the right way.

Gotta go--i'd love for someone to take me to task on this

I have a horrible confession: I almost never read a whole poem if it appears on a blog, or even in an online magazine. I think some of the only poems that i've read very intently over a considerable amount of time on a blog were Brian's "skids" poems because I heard him read some of them at the BPC first.
I scan, pick up lines here and there, notice things i like--but its almost like a totally different process to reading a poem in a book. Is this just a quirk of my personality or is this symptomatic of something inherent about the medium? There was a great article in Spin last month by a columnist whose name I can't recall--arguing that the process of downloading tunes on the internet (the process of viewing poetry on the internet?) would change the nature of music forever because you weren't investing limited resources in an artist, the process of downloading (the act of visiting a blog?) becomes more important than the actual music--so people's musical tastes become more ecclectic, but there is no loyalty to a particular movement or style at all--the music you had was totally seperated from anything else having to do with yr lifestyle.

I think it's easy to see that a similar thing happening to poetry--the online poetic and paratextual community goes far beyond Language Poetry's derision of the importance of "The lifestyle element" (that phrase always seemed absurd to me) and allows readers and writers to know each other's work without knowing anything else about them.

Oppositional poetic communities of the 20th century, organized spatially instead of digitally, were collaborators not only in terms of poetics, but in terms of their form of life--I use Wittgenstein's term because it seems to have so much more potency than the yuppyish "lifestyle." I understand (post) Language Poetry's critique of Bohemianism, and ultimately we can only consider the experiments in alternative community (even that phrase seems ostentatious) enacted by Black Mountain or St. Mark's as noble failures.

But what does it mean to have an oppositional poetic community that does not in some way attempt to incorporate that project within a form of life that would also include an active oppositional politics, and a work life that, at the very least, refused to participate directly in the corporate power structure?

To be continued...

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Raworth's Ace is terrific!!!

A more complete reading to follow soon.
I've just finished reading the Vanderborg thing on Bernstein in Paratextual Communities--it was interesting, really started mining a lot of the territory that I'm interested in--I thought I'd jot down a few rough trajectories of things she points out that are interesting for those thinking about genre in Bernstein's paratexts.

Vanderborg does a great job of interrogating Bernstein's idea of "ideolect" writing-- "ideologically informed nonstandard language practice" (Bernstein, My Way, 117) by saying "the very idea of the ideolect, arguably, necessitates some complementary exegesis about the author's project. The ultimate ideolect becomes incomprehensible to anyone but the writer, a point that Bernstein concedes...when he describes Australian author Javant Biarujia inventing his own Taneraic language and writing poetry in it" (Vanderborg 99).

Interrogating Bernstein's praxis thru this concept of the ideolect suddenly gave me an easy entry point into discussing my problems with Bernstein's latest formulations for (para)textual oppositionality--is it too much too ask for an "ideologically inform[ing] nonstandard language practice"? As Vanderborg points out (but doesn't really run with), under the ideolect model, ideology and nonstandard language practice are set at odds by virtue of a relationship in which one acts upon (informs) the other.

If we are to maintain poetic practice "as a contested arena of judgment, perception, and value where artworks and essays operate not as adjudicators of fixed principles but as probes for meaning, prods of thought" (My Way 11) then I think we have to abandon the idea of "ideologically informed" poetic practice in favor a concept of an entire body of writing, poetic, expository and everything inbetween, as embodied ideological practice. In some of his moods, most notably in that essay in contents dream "The Academy in Peril," Bernstein seems to want to move in this direction. In an essay like "The Revenge of The Poet Critic", however, his poetic, (or antiabsorbtive, if you like) moments seem to function more as superfluous examples than as a functioning part of the text--(data fabricated for a foregone conclusion? not quite).

Once I was talking to John Godfrey, and he told me a story about Ted Berrigan, who Godfrey had bumped into in a park or something, reading a book written by a poet neither of them thought very highly of. Godfrey asked him why he was reading such a lousy author, and Berrigan said "because this is a great poem." Then Godfrey said something amazing--something like "Ted didn't reify poetry, he lived it." In a lot of ways, this is the model for writing I admire and believe in the most--no one could say that John Godfrey and Ted Berrigan are (were) not political engaged (tho one could certainly take issue with some aspects of Berrigan's politics), yet both of their poetries are not ideologically informed in the way that Bernstein's poetry most definitely is.

But then, something in me still believes that Bernstein's essays have done more than simply win him a larger readership than a great but relatively obscure poet like Godfrey. I know for me personally they've opened up amazing new ways of reading, and I think Bernstein is right in noting the power intrensic in critical (perhaps all expository) discourse, and the importance of not ceding that power to people we don't agree with (Content's Dream 447). Bernstein, however, in his gleefully self conscious way, is always skating on the thin ice that seperates those who opposes the status quo within a given discursive framework, and those who are absorbed by that status quo.

Please pardon my late night, charmingly unedited (untactful?) prose. I have to get up at 9:30 tomorrow to discuss Sydney's apology of poetry (smuh!). If anyone needs full citations for the stuff listed here, email me.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

A ridiculously busy week--i'm worried its a sign of things to come. The best moment so far would of had to have been Miles rolling into the poetry project at 11:30 with bloodshot eyes and the shakes only to pronounce "goooood morning gentlemen! Sorry I'm late! I didn't sleep a single hour last night!" sounding completely and unironically cheerful.

I'm reading Vanderborg's Paratextual Communities at the moment--a more complete update on that to come. Also just got a copy of Raworth's "Ace"--ah the perks of the poetry project intern.

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