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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Freedom and Nebraska


Freedom: a great concept

but nobody knows what 

to do with it.  


Suppose there were a law

forbidding travel to Nebraska? 

That would be a bad thing,

even if you didn't want to go to Nebraska! 


Freedom is about things not yet even 

desired or imagined. The highest freedom, then, 

is the freedom of the imagination: freedom is the surreal

Nebraska, the Nebraska of undreamt dreams.  


Sunday, October 17, 2021

No niños

 'No niños en la canasta," according to my local grocery store. Ouch. People who think you can translate word for word.  

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Not selling myself short

 This phrase occurred to me the other day. I shouldn't sell myself short. I don't know the full extent of what that means, even, but immediately when I made that decision a professional opportunity presented itself to me. A coincidence.  

A non-professional example: thinking that I am not good at piano playing is an artificial constraint on getting better. Not selling myself short would mean getting as good as I can realistically--a lot better than I am now.  

I wrote in one of my false Bronk poem that we didn't really have a choice about being modest. Anybody should be able to see his or own defects, more or less, as well as a kind of cosmic insignificance. The only choice aside from modesty is a kind of foolishness, then. Within this essentially modest framework, though, there are certain gifts that should not be squandered. It is not arrogant to know one can excel in a certain area. 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Ode to Words

 I've always had a love affair with words.

I remember recondite and desuetude, I remember

when I first learned them, that is: the fuzzy feeling 

in my head and gut, much like being in love.  

I've never managed to learn the meaning 

of contumely. I look it up once in a while

and learn its meaning, but somehow it never "sticks." 

It seems like it should be an adverb but 

it is not. That may be the confusion there. 

That's a word I cannot love. 

Using words well is more vital than knowing them

in the abstract. A word misused causes a hiccup

or shiver in the universe

of words. But only through these mistakes

does language change like a vital organism.

Some think the words are mostly names of things,

objects or categories of things.  But this is 

not true. Who has seen a therefore or an at 

lying in the street? Who has seen a why?  

No, words are not names (though some are!)

But functions, ways of doing things

like writing a poem or asking for help.  

You would think poets would be good with words.

Some are, indeed, and those that aren't aren't really

poets, are they?  

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Bad art friend

 Two women are locked into a legal battle. The first, Dawn Dorland, donates a kidney, not to a family member but to the general pool of recipients. She documents this process on a private group on facebook. She asks the second woman, Sonya Larson, why she (second woman) doesn't "like" her posts. DD wants to not only be this heroic person, but also to receive adulation for it, which is not forthcoming from her Facebook friend SL. Dawn thinks that they are friends, but they are really not, according to Sonya. 

Both women are writers, though Dawn hasn't published much of anything. Sonya L, who has a Chinese father, writes a story satirizing Dawn D as a "white savior." In doing so, she takes a letter from the kidney donor to the donee, posted on the Facebook group. In later drafts of the story, the letter would be altered so it is no longer plagiarized, but in easier drafts she simply used the letter. In later drafts she also changes the name "Dawn" to something else. Clearly, Dawn is the inspiration for the story, and not in a good way. 

Dawn gets increasingly angry, and starts to interfere with Sonya's career by writing letters to people about being plagiarized. They sue each other, for the plagiarism and for the career interference. In the discovery process, Sonya's mean group texts about Dawn come out. 


How you view this story will depend on the framework with which you come to it. Do you see it as a matter of intellectual property? (plagiarism).  As the white woman "Karen" wreaking havoc? As what any artist would do, take real life and making it into something else? As the betrayal of a friendship? 

Viewing it purely from the plagiarism angle, the status of the original letter comes into play. If it has no literary value in and of itself, then is Sonya free to use it? If you alter it enough, then is it no longer plagiarized? I guess if earlier drafts had not circulated, then the plagiarism would be harder to prove. Is changing the wording of the letter evidence of innocence or guilt?  I'm posing these ideas as questions because, while I have opinions, I cannot see the answers very clearly.  

Monday, October 11, 2021


The idea that "forms of copying are foundational to creativity" is one of those deeply confusing ways of defending plagiarism. Here's why. What is really a whole lot more "foundational to creativity" is not copying. Note, also the weaselly way this is stated: "forms of copying."  If he were to write "copying is foundational to creativity" it would be obviously false. 

Of course we see imitative, derivative work as less creative, because it is, and copying something verbatim is even less "creative." That why we call conceptual writing that copies other texts verbatim "uncreative writing."   

Most poets will be imitative, not wholly original, and that is to be expected. If you can't tell one poet from another, because they all write the same way, we call that being unoriginal. We know that originality is possible because some poets write in a distinctive voice, and we can tell them apart from others. 

Now, none of this implies any sort of deep romantic belief in "creativity," etc... It works the same for any kind of writing. We can just look at how similar or different it is from other forms of writing that came before, or at around the same time. For example, John Donne comes before romanticism was invented, but he has a distinctive poetic voice.   

A whole range of imitative practices, from parody to translation, are also interesting and have their own value. Also, imitating a model is good practice to learn how to write, etc... None of this is new. 


 I've spent a bit of time with Barbara Guest's poetry. There's a bit of preciosity there. I still like enough of it to keep going. I realize that I don't really like the poetry or poetics of Charles Olson. I realize you are supposed to like him, but I just don't respond well to his earnest self-importance. Duncan is also precious, self-indulgent, self-important, etc... I'm not in that camp.  I find Zukofsky stiff and uninspiring. I love Creeley's work in many ways, but the part that comes out of Zukofsky and Olson, not so much. 

I've defended the language poets. Some are rather dull, though. I'm more interested in the individual talent of those I like than in the group project, based on iffy interpretations of literary theory and linguistics.  

A poet I like can write a bad book, or change directions in a way I don't like too much. You almost never find any rigorous critique of poetry from within the avant-garde camp. Everyone is supposed to admire everything the same, it seems. I'm not saying my opinion is the last word, but that the debate almost never happens, except in private.