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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


I'm going to be out for a while: my daughter's graduation this weekend and then a month in Argentina.  I have plenty of time to post from there, but I just want to take a break just because I don't want to be on the internet at all except for my teaching.  I'll read your comments in my email but I won't answer them on the blog.

I'll be back on the blog by late July.


I found this encyclopedia of literary translation.  The list of authors provides a kind of approximation of the corpus someone (like me) would study. A few major omissions: Teresa de Ávila, Luis de León, Garcilaso de la Vega,  The romancero.  Pedro Salinas.


I bought this notebook to keep track of what I was reading. Of course, the act of keeping track of this changes the activity being tracked, since it makes me more likely to read and finish books.

Bee Webs

Bees weave webs of silk
trapping unwary sailors
"drunk and asleep."
Oh, you thought it was spiders

trapping unwarranted sailors
with salt in their veins?
Oh, you thought it was spiral
but the staircase was a straight shot down.

With saltpetre in their veins
they shat on virtue,
but the strums were straight thoughts.
Thus the gods of flamenco decreed.

They shat on virtual lawns,
bees warning of webelo stirs.
Thus goons of Flanders repealed,
drunk in their boots.

Monday, June 12, 2017

More virtue signaling

When the president of Evergreen began a statement by saying "I am George.  I use he / him pronouns" it rang false with me. If he is not trans, and a cis-gendered guy, then he doesn't really need to tell people what to call him. And if he uses those pronouns, why does he say "I"?  Shouldn't he say "He am George"? Don't people talking to him use "you"?

He continues the talk by mentioning how the land of Evergreen State was stolen from the Indians. Yes, and so is the apartment complex I live in. It's not like he's taking steps to give it back to them, so it's an empty gesture of virtue signaling. He said he would say this at the beginning of all his speeches.

The Human Sensory Apparatus

I came across this article on the human sense of smell. It is pretty phenomenal, almost dog-like.

This got me to thinking about other human senses, in light of the Lorquian ideas that the poet should be "profesor en los cinco sentidos corporales."  

Vision: Our vision is intensely chromatic.  We make very fine distinctions between very small variations in color.  We have a very developed ability for secondary visual representation, beginning with the cave paintings and whatever came before that. We can extend and correct vision mechanically, and we can use the part of the brain devoted to vision to "see" with other senses, as I read about recently in the New Yorker. Vision can be used as vehicle for language (reading and writing) and even for musical notation.

Hearing: We have ability to hear with great specificity, and can train the ear to recognize relative pitches. We can process extremely complex semiotic systems (language) through what we hear. A dog can hear higher frequencies, but so what? We don't pine after those frequencies far above the soprano range (I don't at least.)

Taste:  I don't know much about this one yet.  Sorry.

Touch: I don't know much about that either.

A couple of things are key: the senses are cognitively, aesthetically, and affectively rich. We can talk about small gradations of difference because they matter to us. They are the entryway for information necessary for cognition.

There are secondary cognitive tasks that take sensory information as their foundation. The way an architect designs a building for example, through manipulating space in the head. This is a visual task, but it is not mere seeing (if there is such a thing).

Even the deprivation / repression of the senses is cognitively interesting.  The ascetic poet must still talk of "mil gracias derramando."

The senses are the realm of poetry in all its cognitive, affective, and aesthetic richness. We cannot separate out these three aspects from one another. The human sensory apparatus is the base of the anthropology of aesthetics.

Procrastination as Askesis

Another interpretation:

By procrastinating, you are depriving yourself of the pleasure and satisfaction of getting something accomplished. It could be a small pleasure, like that of having a clean stove top, or a very significant one, like publishing an article.

So procrastination is a way of punishing yourself. You do not deserve such satisfactions, in your mind.

The pleasures of dolce far niente are also real ones, but can they be fully enjoyed when tinged with the askesis of procrastination?