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.

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from “Clamor and Quiet” by Ange Mlinko

From “Clamor and Quiet” by Ange Mlinko:

There’s a tingle of delight when suddenly, emerging from the free play of thought, all the harmonics of a word resound at once, producing its ghostly overtone. That delight is no mere idea: it is a physical spark.

 

This is from Mlinko’s review of books by Robert Pinsky and Mary Kinzie. Pinsky’s a poet I have ambivalent feelings about; Kinzie was unfamiliar to me, until I read Mlinko’s review. Now, I’m interested in Kinzie, very interested.

“The Poems I Am Not Writing” is the hybrid of prose and verse that Mlinko considers the centerpiece of Kinzie’s California Sorrow. “Learning To Bear” is also a good read, a more conventional but no less insightful essay by Kinzie on poet Louise Bogan‘s “Zone.”

 

Lexicon Devils

A sestina that uses “Mina Loy” as one of its end-words will certainly intrigue me. So when Stephen Burt discusses its first stanza in the essay I mentioned in my last entry, I just have to go on Google to find the rest of Joanna Fuhrman’s “Stable-Self Blues.” That led me to The Germ, which also contains the following germs gems:

  1. “Means of Entry” by Joanna Fuhrman
  2. “Stairway to Heaven (1946)” by Brandon Downing
  3. “The Spy Game” by James Tate
  4. “The Intrigues” by Ange Mlinko
  5. “Mock On, Mock On, Jakobson, Lacan” by Chris Stroffolino

This is just a sample of works. There are many more online, and each of the above poets has more than one piece.

(“Gimme gimme this, gimme gimme thaaaaaaaat…”)

Five for Today

  1. Remember that old opposition set up between word and image? The Visual Thesaurus mentioned here makes it easy to say goodbye to it. Even better is the VisuWords graphic dictionary, which has the benefit of being free.
  2. Not only does the name of The Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild sound Python-esque, so do the products it sells. These include Post Structural-Its sticky notes, Freudian slippers, and Nietzsche’s Will to Power Bars (“When your Wille zur Macht is a-flagging or you’re just a little tired of transvaluating all values, try these!”).
  3. Singapore-born poet Jee Leong Koh, now living in New York, writes a sequence of ghazals entitled “A Lover’s Recourse,” which, as its title suggests, responds to Roland Barthes. Superlative work, and my own recent interest in the ghazal (thanks to my reading of “Newlywed Ghazal” in a powerful poetry collection by another Asian poet) suddenly seems burdened by the anxiety of influence(s). Still, talk about eclecticism being “the degree zero of contemporary general culture”! (Ah, salut once more, M. Barthes.)
  4. William H. Sherman’s “How to Make Anything Signify Anything” is a fantastic article about Francis Bacon’s development of the “biliteral cipher,” generating a code that ends up culminating in a photograph of people who, by turning their heads in certain ways, themselves become an encoded message. Holy McLuhan, Batman! The sender is the medium is the message!
  5. Ange Mlinko writes about Robert Duncan writing about H.D. in “Duncan’s Divagations.” I like Mlinko, I like Duncan, I like HD, so that’s a triple whammy. One of the many gems: “The poet, in order to find the real, must look under the surface of the world to its hidden core of perdurance. The figure for one’s pantheon of masters is not, properly, a ‘canon,’ as it is in English departments. It is, per the ancient tarot pack, an arcana.” Beautiful.

 

Postscript: Mlinko’s “The Everyday Oblique”, one of my favorite articles, also dealt with codes and is yet another example of her concise yet substantial brand of criticism. Her other articles for The Nation often make for compelling reading, too, exhibiting the same qualities.

To whit, she lauds John Ashbery for having discovered that “the ideal poetry for the Information Age is a poetry of no information” and reads country music in Graham Foust‘s poems, based on how country “typically mines the quotidian and refines it into an elegy you’ve been hearing on the radio all your life.” Again, beautiful.