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.

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Down The Line And What I Found There

I can no longer recall what I was searching for when I came across Dana Gioia’s “Thirteen Ways of Thinking About the Poetic Line,” but that somehow led me to…

…John Gallaher’s notes on the line, a blog entry occasioned by his having read an issue of Center that featured a “symposium on the line” (time to get a copy!). I’m not sure how I got here though, because oddly, Gallaher doesn’t mention Gioia at all. He does mention…

Annie Finch, whose “Grails and Legacies: Thoughts on the Line” I read. (She mentions Gioia, by the way, but only how he scans “Red Wheelbarrow” as two lines of iambic pentameter broken into lines.) Looking up Annie Finch made me fall in love with a book she co-edited. I hope to order An Exaltation of Forms soon.

Going back to Gallaher, he keeps referring to Michael Palmer’s “Notes for Echo Lake 4” as “the (emblematic) poem of our age.” I’m not sure I’d go as far as he does, but it’s certainly a fantastic poem.

I really like Michael Palmer a lot. I don’t claim to understand everything he does, but he’s brilliant as 123 in his poems, and even essays where he talks about, say, Robert Duncan (I’m trying to look for a way to bridge Language poetry and Robert Duncan, who was a harsh critic of it).

And Duncan has been very inspirational, especially when he talks about how

the artist of abundancies delites in puns, interlocking and separating figures, plays of things missing or things appearing “out of order” that remind us that all orders have their justification in an order of orders only our faith as we work addresses.

I loved reading all of these things, though truth be told, I’m not sure how they helped me complete my poem for tomorrow’s workshop. I feel absolutely certain they played some sort of part in the procedure though.

I feel good now, which I didn’t when I re-read “Subduing the reader” early this morning. I’m always disturbed by the warning it makes about “need[ing] always to be alert to writers who claim that good poetry must be difficult, accessible only to the educated few, and see this claim for what it is–fascist.”

I figure it’s the “must” that gets to Laurie Smith. I too have a problem with such unwavering imperatives, but unlike her, I want to assert that there is much room in poetry for difficulty.

First Five (or So) Books for 2011?

resolve plan to not only read but finish more books this year, and I hope this includes some novel-length fiction. God knows how I plan to get this done, given how the holiday break from school and work has ended (not that I read much during Christmas vacation). In addition, not only do I need to worry about the regular work that has resumed and needs to be done, I also have to review and prepare for my foreign language exam.

Still, this is what I have on my plate at the moment. Having several books to read in one go is going to be either a good idea or a counter-productive one:

  1. The Keep by Jennifer Egan: It’s not the first time I’ve mentioned Egan here, but with A Visit from the Goon Squad still unavailable here, I’m pleased to have found a copy of her previous novel in the meantime.
  2. Doctor Who and Philosophy: Bigger on the Inside, edited by Courtland Lewis and Paula Smithka: I claim it’s for class, but it’s really more for fun. My own take for the Doctor Who course I’m teaching, which is not as impressive as this by the way, is closer to…
  3. Triumph of a Time Lord: Regenerating Doctor Who in the Twenty-First Century by Matt Hills, which uses a Foucauldian discursive approach to discuss my own pet issues surrounding the program in particular and television studies in general.
  4. Unending Design: The Forms of Postmodern Poetry by Joseph M. Conte: It’s my first time in a long time to check out a library book, and I’m hoping this one can help me prepare for my thesis, in which I’m going to try a long poem.
  5. The H.D. Book by Robert Duncan: I want to know more about these two poets, so discovering this, given its recent reissue, is more than welcome. That said, I’m broke now, so I’m reading this version.

Irritatingly, only one of those books is a novel. I guess I should also mention that I’m trying to get into Hart Crane. I don’t presume to understand his poems well, but I love reading them aloud. Again, because I’m too broke to pick up the Library of America edition of his works, I’m working with this older collection.