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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...

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Thébaïde

I read my first Racine, an early work reputed to be be weak called Thébaïde.  (I've read Phedre before too, but I mean with my new Racine project.) My idea is to be a silent expert on Racine. In other words, just do everything an expert would do except write about it (except on this blog).

I guess I'll have to read other neoclassical dramas, since a Racine specialist would have done this. The logical first step though would be to read the primary texts in chronological order, then figure out what Racine scholars think about it.

The characters just sit there and talk. They argue their positions. Everyone dies in the end, ignoring the incidents in Sophocles's Antigone. The women pursue peace (Jocasta, Antigone); the men war.  Creon is in love with Antigone and kills himself after she kills herself, so all the major characters are gone.  Not an elegant solution, since then you can't write another play in which Antigone tries to bury Polynices.

The vocabulary is easy. Everything is pretty clear and self-evident.

Friday, August 11, 2017

sorta

In a long interview DeBoer uses "sort of" as conversational hedge / filler more times that I can count. He is otherwise articulate, never at a loss for words, confident of his opinions. The hedge doesn't really hedge anything, since its distribution seems random; it doesn't fill time, since it is spoken very rapidly and if taken out would not reduce the duration of the utterance in any significant way. He doesn't seem nervous, so that's not the explanation. He has a few more "uh..." "right?" but they aren't intrusive like the omnipresent "sortofs."

It must be very hard to get rid of a verbal tic like that. My students, when speaking Spanish, put in the word like (in English!) constantly, without even any awareness that they are doing it.

Reading

I will read hundreds of books while writing one. Most will not not even relevant to the one I am writing. I am not complaining about this ratio: it seems correct to me.

Writing is time-consuming and intensive. I only expect to write two more books after turning in Lorca II. Seven books is a respectable career, but someone writing those will have read thousands of other books.  

Today I came across a quote by James Schuyler about Lorca's "tedious lament for a dead bullfighter, whose every second line is 'a las cinco de la tarde.'" This is hilarious to me. At least one American poet could find Lorca tedious.  What a relief!  Of course I wish I had come across the quote earlier, since it was in a book I owned the whole time I was working on Lorca's impact on American poets.  I think I'll have to worm it in somewhere in another book.


AMBITION

To say of the young man he is ambitious...

Yet none is able to say what those ambitions are...

Virtue as a contest

I was listening to a recent FIRE podcast, an interview with Freddy DeBoer.  DeBoer makes the point that virtue is competitive in social media. To compete with others to arrive at a more virtuous position involves evolving to ever more "ridiculous" positions. One example he uses is the idea that the phrase "I see what you mean" is "ableist" in its exclusion of blind people.

If virtue is a competition, it is a competition for social status. DeBoer also points out that contemporary "intersectionality" on college campuses tends to leave out class. Why? Because these are people who are in a privileged, largely upper-middle class cocoon.  

Another point he makes is that the university administrator's cause is not social justice, but the avoidance of conflict and legal liability. Thus the administrator might give in the social justice demands, but usually for the wrong reason.

It is refreshing because many defenses of free inquiry have been coming from the right, recently. We need to insist that freedom of speech is a left-wing cause. What good does it do to censor pro-Trump views on campus when Trump is actually the fucking president?  

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Google thyself

I guess I missed this book by Stephen Kessler when it came out.  I should check out this book from the library:

Like Frida Kahlo, a perfectly good painter turned into amarketing gimmick for t-shirts, co ee mugs and other kitschytchotchkes, García Lorca—as Mayhew demonstrates—has been diminished and caricatured through his conversion into a domestic American icon, reduced to a duende-driven folksy Gypsy Negrophilic primitive hipster gay surrealist whom various factions and individuals jump to exploit at their convenience for their own sectarian and personal purposes. Lorca the actual poet and his work, meanwhile, remain unplumbed even as they are appropriated tirelessly by their admirers. While I was read-ing Mayhew’s book a journal arrived in the mail, the Coe Review,a student-edited publication from Coe College in Iowa, which included a poem by Lyn Lifshin—a prolific  small-press poet published widely over the last four decades—called “Sleeping with Lorca,” which begins: “It’s not true, he never chose women. / I ought to know. It was Grenada [sic] and / the sun falling behind the Alhambra was / aming lava...” The poem goes onto recycle “green I want you green” and “5 o’clock in the af-ternoon” and various other now-cliché Lorquismos including“gored bull” metaphors for sex, as if to illustrate the half-baked stereotypical Lorca exploitation Mayhew spends much of hisbook exposing, and which, as Lifshin proves, continues. 

Lyn Lifshin used to send us a packet of poems every week, when I was a student on the editorial board of my college literary journal, California Quarterly.  


For me, however, Mayhew’s identi cation of Frank O’Hara as perhaps the truest American avatar of Lorca—not so much in the poetry itself as in their “kinship” as charismatic, mercu- rial, gay, jazz-infused, risk-taking, elegiac, prematurely mortal personalities each at the center of a vibrant creative scene—is one of his shrewdest observations. This kind of intuitive leap makes for the liveliest and riskiest criticism. One of Mayhew’s strengths is that he’s not afraid to be wrong; he has a distinct point of view and acknowledges his personal angle of vision. For all his deeply felt conviction, he makes no Harold Bloomian or Helen Vendleroid pronouncements from the peak of Parnas- sus. His style is refreshingly free of intellectual pomposity or jargon. Not least important, for someone interested as I am in the subject, his book is fun to read. 

Prosody

Counting syllables is one way of keeping track.

Some care whether you skip a beat or not.  

There are treatises.  

Others talk endlessly of measure

But don't seem to keep tally of amounts or quantities.  

Mythopoetics

MYTHOPOETICS

I never needed mythopoetics.

It wasn't that the myths weren't real;

What's real, after all?

But that it was hard enough to believe in the reality of a shoe.

Still, I clung to the messages of dreams.




DUMP

We "take a dump" but it seems more like leaving something behind.

So does language betray.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Lawn Mower


The lawn has no purpose, but the mower does.

Usefulness is a convenient fiction to hold up

The value of otherwise useless objects.

Simply by reading

Simply by reading, one can develop a secondary field. For example, I could become a Balzac expert, and all it would take is reading Balzac as my primary reading interest for a few years. I could get through a lot of novels that way, and then read the secondary literature.

I recommend finding something that is not directly relevant to your field. Otherwise it is just an extension of what you should be doing anyway. It should be a different genre, language, or period from your normal tendency in reading. The time to do this should be taken from time otherwise spent binge-watching Netflix, or whatever else you do to kill time.

The purpose?  You won't know in advance what the purpose is. You need to listen to a voice inside yourself that tells you what you need to be studying as your hobby-author.  The purpose will be revealed much later, if at all.  But the larger precept here is to be intellectually curious outside your normal zone of comfort. (It is the same idea as sleeping on the other side of the bed, as Clarissa suggested.)

The beauty of it is that all you need to do is read. If you are already reading, then you just have to redirect your reading in a particular direction, with a purpose in mind. You can get through all the plays of Racine in a year, easily, or whatever it is you want to master. Once you've read the primary texts and some secondary literature, you know about it.  You can think about it and generate ideas.

I'm going to have to think about what author to read in depth.  I think it's got to be one whom I don't know much about, in French because that is the language that I can work on most easily.  It should not be a poet, and it shouldn't be from 20th century.  

  

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

IS


Is is how we verb it

But what is is?

There never was an is in the history of being.

There wasn't even a was.



Monday, August 7, 2017

Not a paradox

Here’s the paradox. Most of the consistently productive scholars I’ve known in my more than 30 years as a professor, at three different universities, have also been caring teachers and active in academic service work. And, you guessed it: Most of the angry, embittered, and problematic colleagues I’ve known have been toxically stalled writers.

Of course, this is correct, the only incorrect thing about it is that the writer frames it as a paradox. In what other profession do we assume that people must trade competence for one part of the job for competence in some other part of the job?

SUMMATION

We think time is a sum, that getting to a higher number is somehow better.

Low numbers are "tragic" and high ones fulfillment

(Of what we'll never know).

Better to think of it as subtraction.

The result, though, in the end, is the same.


False Poems of Bronk (ii)

SPELLING

We hire proofreaders and copy editors;

Spelling things right is important, though somehow

things are never spelled right in the end...

Enough of them are, maybe.

Enough for government work.


They care about it, getting it right, and we do,

But it doesn't care, and never will.

Friday, August 4, 2017

A curious thing happened...

In Chicago in September I bought a notebook. I began recording all the books I read, and this, coinciding with my absence from other activities like aimlessly surfing the net, led to my reading far more books than I would normally read. I am arranging my books at home and at the office in some semblance of order and thus, of course, taking down more books from the shelves to read.

 I have finished over 80 books since the latter part of April. It is an extraordinary thing because it is unleashing a kind of controlled mania. Some of the books are extremely short books of poetry, but still it seems a dangerously high number. I'm not sure what the end result of this process will be. Perhaps a form of madness, if this hasn't set in already.

False Poems of Bronk

SCOREBOARD


In book after book, poem after poem,

many of them very short, Bronk reminds us

the ways we have to keep score don't count for much.

He doesn't call them foolish; he doesn't have to.




DEGREES


I think I understand, but if my understanding of Bronk

is a few degrees off, say 10 in a circle of 360,

these poems will not be false poems of Bronk

but real ones of Mayhew.



AFTER


Many of these poems are not great, awkwardly written

and not memorable in themselves; there are a great many of them

and they seem to be saying the same thing over and over.

Yet someone pointing this out to us would be regarded as dumb.

Whatever Bronk was after, it is not what this person thinks.



THE HUMAN CONDITION

If there were such a thing as "the human condition"

you'd think we'd be in a good position to understand something about.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

What if we thought of music as the imperfect imitation of other kinds of noise

Dick van Dyck

The Dick van Dyck show is an imitation of the reality we might call the Allen Brady show. Yet the Dick van Dyck show exists and the Allen Brady show does not.
 Words create a mental image in the mind. The words are real but the images fake. Why then do we call these words imitations of reality?

Porno

Pornography is not fake sex imitating the real but real sex
acts mimicking fantasies of what they might be

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Middle Earth

Where does the represented world of the fiction exist?  In the reader's mind and nowhere else.  The is where Middle Earth is.

The Limits of my Curiosity

The first time I lived in Buenos Aires it was on Borges Street

The second time, two years later, on Lafinur

I didn't even know Lafinur was a poet

Until I came back home

and read Borges's sonnet dedicated to him