Peter Gizzi

Peter Gizzi‘s name mentioned in a meeting I had with my thesis adviser (hi, sir!): did it really happen, or did I just imagine it?

Can’t verify with a brain still fried from grading final requirements, but if my adviser did mention Gizzi, asking me if I knew the poet, I’m pretty sure I would have said, “Yes, I’ve read some of Gizzi’s poems here and there, but I mostly know him for having co-edited the collected Jack Spicer.”

Kevin Killian, the other editor of My Vocabulary Did This To Me, seems, to me, a “louder” and more outrageous figure. He’s long had my attention with two collections of poetry, one of which is centered on Kylie Minogue and the other on Dario Argento.

Still, Peter Gizzi seems to have been humming in the background all this time.  Humming like a current of electricity, humming like an undercurrent of song. To whit:

“Poetry At The Threshold: Peter Gizzi Interviewed By Ben Lerner”:

Singing is a perilous business. What does it mean to be next to oneself, seeing and/or singing one’s self in time as a rhetorical figure, disembodied and refigured as an embodied line of verse? To be spoken not just in the act of writing, but to be spoken and present and remain intimately embodied in some posthumous time as well—to accept this haunted occupation of poetry?

Publisher’s copy: “The poems in Threshold Songs tune us to the microtonal music of speaking and being spoken.” [emphasis mine]

Aside from some great comments about punk (” I can hear Dickinson’s spiky, haunted, rebellious, and eerie tunes as punk” and “What’s “punk” in all this is the DIY reality of the homemade, the raw voice, with its asymmetries, its reaching, and its limits,” to cite just two) , the BOMBLOG interview with Gizzi also has him say

I think of poetry always as a territory and imagine sound as a sculptural element, in the sense of being held in an abstract or aural environment, as when one is listening to a piece of music. So it’s the same with the music of the poem, whether it be a kind of inspired talk or a richly coded lyrical run. It’s a sound, after all, and so you can return to your place in the world, or better yet, discover your place in the world, within the music of the poem, and that only happens in the act of listening. It’s dynamic. It clears a path for me to go deeper into my own interiority and to light every corridor and chamber and discover what’s there.

From the older jubilat interview with Gizzi:

  • “I like the word bewilderment because it has both be and wild in it, and I can imagine also wilderness inside it as well.”
  • “Again, I’m not only interested in a history of the lyric but in a more ontologically complex reality of lyric history.”

And still further back to 1998, Burning Deck’s publication of Gizzi’s Artificial Heart is accompanied by the following remarks, which seem to me a good description of what I’m trying to do in my own work:

Formally the collection is a sampling of lyric history from the troubadours to post- industrial punk: it sustains the haunting quality of a song heard from a distance, overlayed with playground noise, lovers’ oaths and cries of loss.

From the Rain Taxi review of Artificial Heart:

One telltale aspect of Gizzi’s heart is his love of music. This shines, surely, in the content of the poems: “New Picnic Time” is named for a Pere Ubu album, and “Fear of Music” after one by Talking Heads; both poems “sample” the lyrics of these band’s songwriters in seamless and engaging ways, turning their punk postmodernism to his more archly crafted ends. But more importantly, Gizzi’s impeccable sense of line and of stanza create a fine and delicate music throughout.

Gizzi’s gorgeous musicality marries his abstractly conjured imagery in a wedding of non-linear bliss, once again demonstrating that the heart of poetry, artificial though it may be, veers away from sense and always toward beauty.

Marjorie Perloff’s review of Artificial Heart has her talking about “a tantalizing new lyric mode” in Gizzi’s post-Language poetics (is she really talking about the Third Way?!) and also has her invoking Hart Crane (who tends to critically “belong” to Harold Bloom) and saying:

…the notion throughout Artificial Heart that the lyric poet is once again writing trobar clus–the allusive, oblique, hermetic lyric of the troubadours–a poetry of secrecy.

Also: Perloff’s introduction to Young American Poets, also from 1998, has her talking about Gizzi and several other poets, including Cole Swensen, in the context of “an exciting moment for lyric poetry.”

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Ciaran Carson

These are by no means the only places online where one may find poems written by Ciaran Carson, but it’s a start. First, the “official” pages:

Carson has translated Irish epic poems, from the traditional heroics of The Táin to the erotic farce of The Midnight Court, as well as Dante‘s Inferno.  He has also “adapted” sonnets by Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, and Stephane Mallarme in The Alexandrine Plan (and used the same Alexandrine line for his own book-lengh sonnet sequence The Twelfth of Never). It seems appropriate then for his work to be translated as well in:

  • a Spanish-language essay on “the quotidian violence” in Carson’s work that contain the English texts and Spanish translations of “Belfast Confetti,” “Night Out,” “Campaign,” and “Ambition”
  • an Italian-language essay on Carson’s “poetic maps and stories of Belfast” that feature the English texts and Italian translations of “Turn Again,” “Loaf,” “Punctuation,” the celebrated “Dresden” (as well as, once again, “Belfast Confetti” and “Campaign”), “Smithfield Market,” “Travellers,”  and “Slate Street School”
Here are two big-name periodicals with one poem each:

Finally, two other sources:

  • a discussion thread on The Blue Dragon has two moving poems of love and potential loss: “Pas De Deux” and “The Story of Madame Chevalier”
  • an unpublished personal anthology of favorite poems from 2000 B.C. to 2000 A.D. include three poems by Carson: “Bagpipe Music,” “Dresden” once again, and “Hamlet.”

David Shapiro

I brought a few poetry collections to work today. Three of them (Spicer, Stevens, Palmer) are omnibus volumes, “meta-collections” gathering collections that were previously published as separate books. The Lauterbach is a selection culled across several volumes, none of which are represented in its entirety, with a possible exception being the 1997-2000 poems in the section entitled The Call, which were gathered here in If In Time for the first time, as far as I know.

Foreground: four books from the personal canon. Background: lots of other significant stuff.

While I already have my hands/head/heart full with these writers (hands…literally!), there’s another book I meant to bring today but forgot to grab before I left. It’s a single collection, the only one I have by David Shapiro, and it’s ironic to think and write about this absent book when its title is After A Lost Original.

I first found out about Shapiro when a Google search for either “Ezra Pound” or “John Berryman” led me to this piece about difficult poetry collections, with The Sonnets of Ted Berrigan (onetwothreefour!) now joining The Cantos and The Dream Songs. The comments were even more helpful by pointing to poets I was already familiarizing myself with (Hart Crane, Louis Zukofsky, Basil Bunting) and Shapiro, who I only found out about through a comment that “nominated” A Burning Interior.  Another Google search, for Shapiro and his “difficult” collection this time, led me to a fantastic set of articles and interviews on Jacket.

I’m fond of quoting lines from After A Lost Original, such as the last two lines/sentences that end, um, “Sentences,” which I’ve always found heart-tugging in its evocation of a link between author and reader, one based on an experience not founded on understanding and knowledge:

The reader loses his way richly, but it is not certain that the reader loses.
Nevertheless, you found your way about, though I do not know you. (31)

I also like Shapiro’s “Prayer For My Son,” a response to (parody of, rewrite of) Yeats that offers advice like:

Be concealed
Like a conceptual tree
And when you need to be explicit, be (18)

and (cited here)

Forget what you have earned
Learn to know what you have not yet learned
Until you confuse the good
With the beautiful
Don’t seek out the wise, be wise
Never abandon the beloved
Just close your eyes
To the world and open your eyes. (ibid.)

In fact, and this is why I’m a bit irritated about not having my copy of After A Lost Original at hand, I like the lines Michael Leddy cites in his review, such as this one from “You Are The You” (the 8th poem in the Broken Objects, Discarded Landscape section):

To look up into your face
Is like looking into the devastated stars (33)

and, from the third stanza of “Dido To Aeneas” (4th in the same sequence):

I am a city and a statue and a wall and a revenge
It is a recent cut like an accident in a forest. (29)

and, from “The Mistranslation,” the third poem in the sequence entitled Voice:

The mountain hears bright shadows shine.
A mountain brightens; shadows shine.
I hear the mountains; bright shadows shine. (57)

I’m moved by how seemingly ordinary language in lines becme dramatized by a line break that turns a verb into an imperative (again, from “You Are The You”)

To whom does the you in your poem
Refer (33)

I wish I could say something more coherent about Shapiro’s collection, but I’ll just leave it to William Keckler who blogs about Shapiro’s After A Lost Original here and also includes “You Are The You,” the source of the last lines I’ve just quoted. And over here, Keckler has Shapiro’s “A Night Of Criticism,” another one I often plunder for lines to cite.

Here’s a PDF of Thomas Fink’s critical essay on Shapiro’s New And Selected Poems, which I’d go ahead and order if I wasn’t so fixated on buying each of Shapiro’s other collections, so as to get as much of his poems in my hands/head/heart.

I’ve linked to Joanna Fuhrman‘s interview with Shapiro before, but here it is again. I just enjoy reading it now and again. From its evocative title (“pluralist music” sounds like something that calls to me as an ideal to aspire for in my own writing) to so many gems and insights, it’s well worth reading again and again. If I had a hard copy of it, I’d be highlighting most of the text.

Finally, here are some aphorisms from Shapiro that dance around how he “makes it new — with stickers.” I’m not as skilled in that kind of papercraft, but here’s something to look at and think about:

Heavy meta mayhem!

W.S.

WordStars, word processors:

Wallace Stevens
W.S. Di Piero
W.S. Graham
W.S. Merwin
W.S. Gilbert
W.S. Rendra

Word Stew. Warning Sign.

The Spoils: February 2012

I didn’t realize I forgot to post the list of books I bought last month. Seven more books bought in February brings the year’s total so far to twelve. Still a “very good number,” I think; I’m still adding to my shelves but “responsibly,” with minimal spree spending.

  1. My Vocabulary Did This To MeThe Collected Poetry Of Jack Spicer
  2. Necessary Stranger by Graham Foust (click click click)
  3. A Mouth In California by Graham Foust
  4. Trance Archive: New And Selected Poems by Andrew Joron
  5. Madoc: A Mystery by Paul Muldoon
  6. The Waste Land And Other Poems by John Beer
  7. The Errancy by Jorie Graham

This month, I think I’ll be buying several Oxford’s World Classics, including but not limited to the “Major Works” volumes of HopkinsKeats, and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Rhythms Of Richard Cureton, Shapes Of Keats

I met with my thesis adviser today, and in one of the moments during consultation when we were talking about music, meter, and rhythm, he told me to look up Richard Cureton. His wasn’t a name I heard before, unlike some others mentioned (Philip Hobsbaum and Derek Attridge, for instance), so I looked up Cureton online and found this:

“Cureton’s may be the most convincing and comprehensive treatment we have of rhythm in English verse.”

a set of abstracts of books he may have already written:

and his paper “Rhythm and Linguistic Form: Toward a Temporal Theory of Poetic Language.” It’s got charts and tables (I like those a lot), so I hope it makes sense to me, and also to my thesis.
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On an unrelated note: although “To Autumn” isn’t my personal favorite of Keats’s 1819 odes, it’s hard to deny its mastery. The PoemShape blog I recently discovered and am really enjoying has entries on the poem’s form and imagery. (There’s also a discussion of “Bright Star” that makes me wish there were more of Keats’s sonnets there.)
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EDIT: Oh-ho! The Spring 1996 issue of Poetics Today (“Metrics Today II”) hosts a discussion between Cureton and Attridge. I took a quick look and failed to understand a thing. Still, a slower and more careful reading should be more helpful, I hope.

Keats and Fancy, Lauterbach and Choice

From Stanley Plumly’s “Between Things: On The Ode,” an essay from Graywolf Press’s Radiant Lyre: Essays On Lyric Poetry (emphasis mine):

John Keats perfects the instrument of the ode and in doing so creates the modern lyric, the poem that both acts out and contemplates itself–“the form of lyric debate that moves actively toward drama,” as Walter Jackson Bate puts it in his great critical biography of Keats. By drama I think Bate means literally a form of theater–a soliloquy perhaps, but more likely an internal dialogue with self involving a third thing: a bird, a goddess, a Grecian urn–a distracting object*.    …

What happens in Keats is that he takes the assumed energy and capacity of the mind and heart of the classic ode and refocuses its appeal to structure, balance, and gesture toward something more like texture, compression, reiteration. Keats fills out–or fills in–density; he transcends structure through the senses. As if structure were invisible, “form transparent before its subject,” as Bate puts it. The length of the ode in Keats is in its depth, its richness, its thickness, its concentration. Keats, in his way, invents the vertical reading of poetry, its interiority of music and meditation. (114-115)

From a discussion of Coleridge on fancy from “The Introduction Of Fancy Into Hopkins’ Poetry” (emphasis mine):

Coleridge sets imagination and the human subject above fancy and the object in Chapter 13 of Biographia Literaria. While imagination concerns the active mind, will and reason to fuse the object, fancy concerns the fixity of the object and understanding:

‘Fancy, on the contrary, has no other counters to play with, but fixities and definites. The Fancy is indeed no other than a mode of Memory emancipated from the order of time and space; and blended with, and modified by that empirical phenomenon of the will, which we express by the word CHOICE‘. ( BL I 305)

Ann Lauterbach on art and choice:

All artworks are, at the most basic level, simply an accrual of relationships that are the result of choices: this, not that

When we are moved by an aesthetic object, a poem or a piece of music or a painting, we experience a dual gladness: that the artist has made these choices and, by extension and analogy, that we, too, are capable of making choices…

Art serves no practical purpose, but to engage with it fully is to acknowledge the (pleasurable, if often difficult) consequences of choice at the crux of human agency. I want to suggest that artworks can disrupt the degradation of choice as the site of, and synonymous with, commodification (consumer preference) and (re)align it with the rewards of independent determinations of value—processes of aesthetic discernment and critique seen as part of a continuum across individual, social, political terrain. Choice confined to the marketplace endangers the very core of participatory democratic processes. (7)