BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

balls

Bad news, Brevity fans.  You aren’t going to win the lottery**, a fact made clear in Eric LeMay’s addictive essay in Diagram 11.5 and in Hannah Ensor’s appreciation of LeMay’s essay found on the Essay Daily Advent Calendar.  Here is Ensor on LeMay’s essay (which is indeed a Flash essay, but of a different kind):

LOSING THE LOTTERY … does some fancy interactive computer stuff alongside more classic essay things. It starts by asking you to choose six numbers from among floating gray lottery balls. Once you do, you enter the essay: split into two parts, the essay sections (49 in all and, besides the first, randomly presented) on the left and on the right a computer-generated simulation of lottery results: using the six numbers you chose, it simulates winnings and costs based on buying a hundred $1 Ohio Classic Lotto tickets every second. Which, for the record, would be a lot…

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Pleased to Meet You: Joshua Corey

I’m pretty sure I’ve read a blog entry from Cahiers de Corey before, but I can’t remember which. I promised myself I’d regularly catch up with the Arcadia Project Web site set up to supplement the  600-page anthology of “North American Postmodern Pastoral” Corey edited with G. C. Waldrep, but I haven’t done so. And I’ve definitely read Corey’s essay on Richard Hugo before (I’m re-reading it now), because of the sentences from it that stick:

  1. “More nakedly than any American poet I know of, Hugo writes about the task and function of poetry from a position of sheer abjection.”
  2. “…Hugo also implicates the reader in his vision of the poet as awkward failure.”
  3. “…any poet, even the most successful, is likely to feel herself an outsider in a culture where most literate people are cheerfully oblivious to poetry…”
  4. “That need, that state of abjection, is Hugo’s given, and if you take it as your own, he can teach you how to write a poetry that transcends your inadequate self.”
  5. “Read at the right angle, The Triggering Town can help bridge the gap that now yawns so wide between a poetry of subjectivity and a poetry that foregrounds the operations of language, that seeks to demonstrate the fragile constructedness of our selves and the world.”

But I’ve never actually read Corey’s poems before this morning. Big mistake.

I like how News of the Blazing World” opens with “This is the church of Aspartame,/ caffeine, nicotine, and winter through// that window, stripping branches bare,” and ends with “He imagines a world/ as a king might, scientifically// from kingdom to phylum to species,/ from general death to the life of the concrete.”

Here’s another great opening, from “A Fine Romance”:

I can explain: the sea is not ice. It is a salinity that resists
slippage, that cannot thaw or be resolved,
that will not stalk its own surface,
that can’t extratheistically transform its peculiar substance
without alluding to buggery, misconduct, pandered memory

Here’s another great ending, from “Cognitive Deficit Market”:

The skin is a glove that wrinkles as it tightens.
The cerebellum’s the same. A game
of chess between walking sticks—I mean the insects
made up to resemble wood. I say we dissemble
from photos and repetition
our stakes in these weightless names.

And here’s a great middle from “Stage Blood on the Mouths of the Eumenides” (which appears with another poem called “Dissolved Soviet”):

Press star seven seven for additional privacy.
Press star pound star to disappear utterly.

And reappear at a pinched cry from an alley—

The map unfolds in traffic.
Context requires wrinkles,
even digital context. Context
is one of the slower-deploying
airbags.

I think I’d like to pick up Severance Songs (be sure to download the PDF of the “study guide” linked on that page), his collection of quasi-sonnets. Samples can be read from that link, and there’s another here (“Yours the face aglow in the cold,/ precarious thriver in the song-stung dark./ With glance and lip you collected me.”) and here (“Put on your hat and gloves, it’s poignant out./ Carry your own chill separate from the air’s.”).

The one I like best is the one from this review, a poem alluding to Icarus, William Carlos Williams, Led Zeppelin, Walter Benjamin’s angel of history, Yucca Mountain, etc. BRILLIANT.

The Spoils: November 2012

 

  1. Poasis: Selected Poems 1986-1999 by Pierre Joris (a review, a second, a third)
  2. Best-selling Jewish Porn Films: New Poems by Wayne Koestenbaum
  3. The Two Sams by Glen Hirshberg (a reviewanothera story from the book, another that isn’t)

[B-day Giveaway] Mukhang Pera X Avalon.ph Limited Edition Field Notes Giveaway | Mukhang Pera Philippine Contests, Promos, Freebies, and more

I can’t get enough of Field Notes. And though I like the regular editions better than the limited ones, THESE colors are pretty nice.

[B-day Giveaway] Mukhang Pera X Avalon.ph Limited Edition Field Notes Giveaway | Mukhang Pera Philippine Contests, Promos, Freebies, and more.

The Spoils: October 2012

  1. A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (I’ve never really read this straight through, but this was cheap, and I liked the idea of having an old battered copy–it’s the eighteenth printing: I wonder how old this actual copy is)
  2. The Annotated Milton: Complete English Poems (my thesis adviser is big on Milton, and I’ve been meaning to get into Milton as well, given how important a figure he is; I just hope there aren’t too many other errors in this one, especially one as big  as “When I consider how my life is spent…” OH MAN)
  3. The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers (not just the first novel I bought in ages but also the first one I read and finished in around that time: my self-justification, apart from how it’s a cracking good story, was that I was doing research for my thesis since Keats, Byron and the Shelleys are in it)
  4. Gerard Manley Hopkins: The Major Works (yes, at last I’ve bought this! I’ve mentioned Hopkins several times here, so I just want to link to commentaries on “The Windhover”: Mlinko’s study guide, pieces by Kwame Dawes and Carol Rumens, and this attempt at memorizing it)
  5. Shoulder Season by Ange Mlinko (reviews of the collection, poems by Mlinko, a critical essay on language acquisition, a conversation between her and Michael Robbins)

In some ways, especially with the first two, I feel like my October purchases have to do with poets I should have studied in school but didn’t.

The Spoils: September 2012

Rather like National Poetry Month this year, I bought only a single title during “Book Fair Month.” But what a book:

Clicking on the picture takes you to the publisher’s page, which links to several reviews and interviews that don’t include the following:

  1. Eliza Gabbert’s blog entry, who identifies the speaker in the book as “a delusional loser who drinks Natty Lite and plays video games”
  2. the Frontier Psychiatrist interview with Magers where he talks about the persona, what he really feels about Billy Collins, and other matters
  3. a conversation between Magers and Farrah Field where, among other things, they draw up the formula CHAOS + LYRIC = ACCESSIBLE EXPERIMENTATION

Shabby-Old-Man Poetry, Etc.

This morning I woke up badly wanting to listen to Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman“–most likely triggered by its being the first of many wonderful tracks in the mind’s-ear-blowing playlist at the bottom of this fascinating piece on the “alternative scene” in 1990 Durban, South Africa.

Instead, I listened to “The Building” by the Mekons (and then the rest of the Lipstick Traces CD that accompanied one of my favorite books of all time, the same book Michael Robbins calls “the best book ever written about pop music”)–most likely because of how the experience in sound “O Superman” is seems to me to fit with the “sound poetry” that comprises the Lipstick Traces CD.

And then I remember discussions I’ve had with the friends I’ve made in the Creative Writing program I’m attending. Specifically, I remember talking about how my poems tend to contrast with those of my friend Shane, whose poems I feel are often intimate and quietly erotic whispering (although the two QLRS poems don’t quite demonstrate this as well as some others I’ve read).

My poems, however, I describe as the ravings of a madman on a street corner. Specifically, I’m thinking of what Greil Marcus calls in Lipstick Traces the “shabby old man with a tin whistle, standing in the rain trying to make himself heard (94)” a figure embodied in the desperation that seems about to destroy itself at the same time is is preserved in “The Building.”

Reading what Greil Marcus says about the song makes me feel both inspired and exhausted, reaching toward an ideal I can’t ever fulfill.

+++++

I’ve just discovered Brian Joseph Davis, whose most recent project is visual: The Composites, which are images of literary characters using “police sketch software.” I find that very exciting but not as much as his earlier sound-driven work, which includes a response to Marcus’s discussion of Theodor Adorno.

In Lipstick Traces, despite characterizing Adorno as “no doubt [understanding] the Sex Pistols as a return to Kristallnacht if he hadn’t been lucky enough to die in 1969 (72),” Marcus nevertheless asserts that “you can find punk between every other line of Minima Moralia (ibid.),” and that

After 1977, a spoken rant lp could have been made into an album called Big Ted Says No and it would have made perfect pop sense, and for that matter it did: listen to Metal Box by PiL, Johnny Rotten’s post-Sex Pistols band, read Minima Moralia as you listen, and see if you can tell where one leaves off and the other begins. (72-73)

Davis, in his words, “take[s] this pop wish and make[s] it come true” with four songs that use Adorno’s aphorisms as lyrics howled along to the backing of music from such songs as, say, Minor Threat’s self-titled song. Davis’s Minima Moralia is mentioned here, albeit all too briefly.

Davis’s other recordings include:

  1. Voice Over (a single track composed of 5000 movie taglines),
  2. a women’s chorale performing the End-User License Agreement on Sony/BMG’s notorious rootkit CD releases,
  3. 22 songs by the Carpenters played simultaneously as part of Greatest Hit,
  4. 10 Banned Albums Burned Then Played (from Stravinsky and Mahler to the Dead Kennedys and 2 Live Crew),
  5. passersby trying to remember the lyrics to the Beatles’ “Yesterday,”
  6. an Original Soundtrack of 20 television sets and DVD players playing the “endlessly looping musical cues” from DVD menus

Pleased to Meet You: Juliana Leslie

The joys of discovery! I’ve never heard of Juliana Leslie before I came across the following tweet from “Poetry’s Cross-Dressing Kingmaker” (I just love that)

Stephen Burt‘s recommendation didn’t disappoint. Clicking on the Everyday Genius link, I immediately fell in love with the first two lines of “Confluence,” the first of four poems by Leslie:

A patient feeling I heard you say
a patient mouth absorbs the spark of a secret train

Leslie writes great opening lines, and when I say “opening lines,” I don’t only mean this poem and the other three (“Softer More Radiant Signal,” “Two Ideas,” and “Two More Ideas in a Different Mode”). I’m talking about how all four “parts” of “Confluence” have great openings. And middles. And endings.

Let me correct myself then: Leslie writes opening great lines. More examples:

Actually, after reading the prose poems John Gallaher shares here, Leslie writes really beautifully, whether in lines or not. Rob McClennan’s review of Leslie’s debut collection offers more samples of her prose poems and lyrics, both short and long.

Now I’m itching to buy a copy of More Radiant Signal AND its follow-up, Green is for World, scheduled for release this November. In the meantime, I’m going to look for more of her poems online and will just leave you with this short video of her reading some poems.

Poetic Discursiveness and Lineated Prose: Some Questions

Though his discussions of J.V. Cunningham’s “Epigram #1” from Doctor Drink and Frank Bidart’s “Golden State” in the essay aren’t bad, I find Robert Pinsky’s “Two Examples of Poetic Discursiveness” rather unconvincing on a conceptual level. I’m not sure I can do better and perhaps the problem’s with me when I fail to understand how he proceeds

  • from identifying the contradictory senses of “discursive” in how it “describes speech of writing which is wandering and disorganized” but “can also mean ‘explanatory’–pointed, organized around a setting-forth of material (133)”
  • to reconciling those opposites by referring to the figure of “motion over terrain…going through or going over one’s subject” (to which he adds, “Such a method tends to be inclusive; it tends to be the opposite of intuitive,” which confuses me partly because I’m not too clear about the relationship he makes between “inclusive” and “intuitive”)

And I can’t quite articulate why I’m so bugged when the preceding discussion finally leads him to describe “poetic discursiveness” as:

It is speech, organized by its meaning, avoiding the distances and complications of irony on one side and the ecstatic fusion of speaker, meaning and subject on the other. The idea is to have all the virtues of prose, in addition to those qualities and degrees of precision which can be called poetic (ibid).

When I think about it, perhaps this is rooted in differences between Pinsky’s poetic and mine. The promise I see when he asserts, “Much of the work of the so-called ‘New York poets’ could be described as mock-discursive (134)” is defused when he follows that with: “Moreover, much of the memorable writing by these poets seems to emerge when there is the least amount of ‘mock’ statement, the largest element of open discourse (ibid.).”

And I guess I also had some problems of expectation. I thought Pinsky would look at something that would illuminate, say, Zukofsky having been “moved by the fact” of how Stevens’s “music thruout has not been impaired by having philosophized (97).” I also thought Pinsky might address the common problem of poems that seem more like “lineated prose,” but that doesn’t happen either.

Now if I could do it, that is, if I could go through the subject matter of poetic discursivity, to, as it were, discourse on discursivity, I’d like to look into:

  1. John Ashbery’s “Definition of Blue”
  2. portions of Frank Bidart’s “Advice to the Players” and the whole of “Young Marx” (both found near the bottom of this page)
  3. Matthea Harvey’s “I Would Have Stayed,” which lineates the sentence from Giorgio Vasari that begins with “The vinedresser of the Belvedere having found a very strange lizard…”
  4. Butterflies, Lineated,” where Jeffrey Robinson lineates a phrase from one of Keats’s letters, with other examples of such “found poems” here

I’m one of those willing to quote “without irony” from the Ashbery poem, so I think I’m missing something when I read it, as I do, with a straight face. The same goes for the prose portions of Bidart’s “Advice to the Players. “Young Marx,” however, apart from “attribution of source” at the end, does gain something from the lineation, as does Harvey’s poem and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Robinson’s lineation of Keats.

So, once again, lineation, and what it does to syntax, especially the syntax of prose. It’s also a matter of diction as well, I suppose. The result is some kind of “discursive transformation,” I guess, but what kind? And more importantly for people who write poems, how?