Looking Outside(r)

Somewhere out there, in the equal parts beauty and terror of the multifarious realm of postcolonial studies, there should be an explanation for my fascination for Bruce Springsteen. I’m thinking (hoping?) for an argument that doesn’t merely dismiss my liking as colonial mentality, especially if any attempt at critical self-interrogation is short-circuited. This is something that seems to me an easy consequence of perspectives that capitalize and essentialize nation and culture into, well, Nation and Culture.

Springsteen strikes me, you see, as performing America(na), something that is either symptomatic of or the root cause of how he performs authenticity. When I think of Springsteen, and this may be a holdover from Greil Marcus, I’m reminded of epic drama:

This guy can’t be real, I tell myself, and it’s that which fascinates me. He’s larger-than-life, mythic even, but I kind of see him reaching out for that state and that both undercuts and emphasizes his, er, grandeur.

(I haven’t read this book, but I’m willing to explore the idea that Springsteen sings the American nation-state.)

I feel I’m writing myself into a corner here though, and all this was really just meant to be mere prologue to how I also like it when a non-Filipino talks about Philippine culture without adulation, with affection that doesn’t shrink from criticism. Your Honor? Ladies and gentlemen of the jury?

Exhibit A: David Byrne and the experiences that helped him with Here Lies Love.

Exhibit B: Author Robin Hemley, whose Dispatches from Manila show him more fully assimilated than Byrne, but–and this is crucial–never completely so.

Wonderful pieces, all of these, and reading them is being on the inside looking from the outside at the inside. Utterly vertiginous, and delightful precisely because of that.

“Where I’m From”

I’ve enclosed those three words in quotation marks–conspicuously missing from the Permalink–because I’m not going to talk about where I’m from, at least not here/now.

I will, however, talk about this poem as a writing assignment. It is a rather enjoyable experience, even if (more so?) one were to do it in a fashion that’s somewhat schematic.

My teacher used Pat Schneider’s Writing Alone and With Others, but I’m not sure my efforts, fun as they are, supports the claim that this exercise “has produced gorgeous pieces from the entire workshop with almost unfailing consistency.” My work seems to belong to that zone marked by “almost.”

I suspect a significant part of this is rooted in the unresolved simultaneity of my fascination for and my suspicion of the poet’s I, but there’s also the aversion I feel towards writing poems about my childhood (which could be traced back to issues that would give a Freudian fits, or simply my having listened to this at a formative age).

Or maybe I should just be a little more focused. I should really do a bout of intensely concentrated writing, rather than the lazy scribbling I’ve been doing, similar to the way I doodle when, say, over the phone. And I should really open the work to the exacting tasks and demands in what I’ve been reading lately (and not-so-recently).

Still, I suspect that my resolve to focus on craft might be a ploy to shift the emphasis away from something else.

Nick Cave on Love Songs

I’ve just caught up on some recent discussions about Cave. In light of the sometimes-heated exchanges that have taken place, many of which I agree with despite being a big fan, perhaps now is not the time to shift the focus away from those substantial discussions in favor of Cave’s remarks on the love song.

Still, here it is as a lecture, a version that contains slightly more typographical errors than its more polished reappearance in The Guardian (parts one and two). I so want this, almost as much as I want to see his Gladiator 2 screenplay filmed.

Lists and Conjunctions: Some Reminders

For some as-yet unknown reason, I feel compelled to post the following here, because I might forget these ideas just when I’ll be needing them:

William H. Gass:

Lists, then, are for those who savor, who revel and wallow, who embrace, not only the whole of things, but all of its accounts, histories, descriptions, justifications. … Even the jeremiad is a list, and full of joy, for damnations are delightful. Lists are finally for those who love language, the vowel-swollen cheek, the lilting, dancing tongue, because lists are fields full of words, and roving bands of “and.”

The polysyndeton: the ands justify what they mean. The asyndeton: when the ands end.

Hendiadys: Not so much when two become one as when one becomes two. Or do those two refer to one thing?


I first heard about this poetic form after I read Neil Gaiman’s “Vampire Sestina” ages ago (and I’m pleasantly surprised to know that his is not the only example from SF/F/H). I’ve never actually tried it myself, but I’m not alone in being attracted to it in some way. It can quite delightful:


I’d like to meet James Longenbach someday to thank him for writing The Resistance to Poetry. I’ve just finished reading the book, but each of its nine essays bursts with so much insight that I don’t think I’ll ever really finish “reading” it.

As a sample: the opening salvo that gives the book its title and general thrust.

And to think I was already so impressed with his The Art of the Poetic Line, which I read before The Resistance to Poetry. (Saying that reading the former led me to the latter is only half-true: Chad Davidson mentions Resistance… in “Got Punked: Rebellious Verse.”)

I struggle with the line, so reading The Art… was quite mind-expanding, too. Anyway, more about Longenbach in this interview, showcasing his sensitivity to the materiality of language and, by consequence, poetry.

Three Unrelated Essays

Still part of my ongoing “organization” of the numerous browser tabs I’ve had open for a month or so now, three more links to essays I find interesting:

  1. “Zombie Economy” by Ben Woodard (originally written with the following subtitle: “Understanding Capitalism, Ideology and Desire through the Zombic text”)
  2. “Honeymoon in Disneyland” by Mark Fisher (moves from Philip K. Dick to Eurodisney to Michael Jackson)
  3. “What You’ve Done to My World” by Mark Greif (on Fugazi’s self-titled debut EP but also about the punk rock experience)

Poems: Reading and “Research”

The question of our respective and prospective thesis topics in my Poetics course was suddenly raised, pop-quiz style, last Wednesday. I babbled a bit about fragmentation and Chad Davidson calling poetry “the rebellion of language against the tyranny of meaning,” but all it did was remind me about how far I needed to go to think this through.

(I also thought about–but decided not to mention–Theodor Adorno, his suspicion of “identity thinking and instrumental reason,” his championing of art as “non-identity,” his decision to go aphoristic in Minima Moralia, his views on punctuation, etc.)

Continue reading

Ian Bogost

Great interview with Ian Bogost, who I think I’ll concisely refer to as someone engaged, in the broadest and fullest sense of the term, with videogaming. (He’s also appeared on The Colbert Report.)

His background in philosophy and literary studies is married to his work as a videogame developer; married is the operative term, as these interests are brought together in the spirit of not interdisciplinarity but love*.

He’s written about reading online and Facebook, and his recent reflections on an as-yet hypothetical metaphysics videogame are so insightful that they almost read like pieces on the metaphysics of videogames.

I wish I could have more to say about these things I’ve been coming across lately, instead of just sharing links here and there. But I really need to do some mental reshuffling these days, with the help of these things I turn up here and there.


* Different context, but Marjorie Perloff also has an interesting article that, among other things, criticizes the unthinking manner in which the term “interdisciplinary” is often used these days.

Five Online Essays

…whose tabs I’ve now closed on my browser, though I still have to read them:

  1. “Kristeva and Poetry as Shattered Signification” by Calvin Bedient
  2. Philosophical Aphorisms: Critical Encounters with Heidegger and Nietzsche by Daniel Fidel Ferrer
  3. “Zarathustra and the Children of Abraham” by James Luchte
  4. “The Wreckage of Stars: Nietzsche and the Ecstasy of Poetry” by James Luchte
  5. “Confessionalography: A GNAT (Grossly Non-Academic Talk) on the ‘I’ in Poetry” by Rachel Zucker