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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...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Finding shit

Going through ancient files. Found my essay on Lorca's "Ode to Walt Whitman," with the rejection letter and reports from PMLA. I think it is a twenty-year old essay worthy of publishing now, in its present form (with updated bibliography, of course). I found old letters from friends, my college diploma, and many other things of greater or lesser import. Poems from college days.

I need a research assistant very badly.


When my students are commenting on what they like about one another's translations, the criterion they return to most is flow. This is a rhythmic consideration (Rhuthmos / rhein = flow). This criterion is closely related to their goals for their Spanish (fluency). Prosody, then, is paramount in their thinking about language. Speech or writing without "flow" is halting, hesitant. It does not flow.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Coleman Hawkins. The bebop years

This is slightly out of order, but it is what I am listening today. It is a four cd box set of Hawkins that I bought on the cheap, including a lot of things that are not bebop at all, of course. That thump on the floor of the bass drum on all four beats in a lot of jazz of this period is really noticeable. The pulse is really fat with the rhythm guitar and walking bass strumming on those beats too. It makes the music square up without being "square." Hawkins hits notes squarely on the beats too, without that behind the beat feel introduced by Lester Young.


I've been a tenure track professor for 24 years, which I almost half my life (I am 53). If you count the fact that I was teaching college level courses since 1982 in some capacity or another, then it more than half. Of course, I was in training to be a professor since I was about 11, so there's that.

The Motivated Sign

I scored 8 out of 10 on this quiz. I knew none of these words before, so I was just going by how appropriate the sounds were to the sense.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Apocryphal Lorca

How I missed this apocryphal Lorca poem I don't know. Perhaps this poet was not on my radar (well, not perhaps, he wasn't).


La guitarra

Empieza el llanto
de la guitarra.
Se rompen las copas
de la madrugada.
Empieza el llanto
de la guitarra.
Es inútil
Es imposible
Llora monótona
como llora el agua,
como llora el viento
sobre la nevada.
Es imposible
Llora por cosas
Arena del Sur caliente
que pide camelias blancas.
Llora flecha sin blanco,
la tarde sin mañana,
y el primer pájaro muerto
sobre la rama.
¡Oh guitarra!
Corazón malherido
por cinco espadas.

Translate, but without the letter "e." Good luck.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Dante, writing about 1304, said there were three Romance languages: French, Occitan, and Italian. So most Iberian tongues (Castilian, Portuguese) were still back-water languages at that time, off the map of the best educated Italians (for example). He calls Occitan "Hispanic" at some points in his essay and probably would have considered Catalan a mere variant of Langue D'Oc. I don't know what he would have thought of Berceo against Arnaut Daniel.


Prueba: Identify the authors WITHOUT GOOGLING: choose from among Machado (any of the three Machados) Salinas, Guillén, and Gamoneda. Explain your answers. Scoring: 0-2: francamente mal; 3: mediocre; 4-5: experto.


Aunque el deseo precipita un culto
Que es tropel absorto, da un rodeo
Y en reverencia cambia su tumulto,
Sin cesar renaciente del deseo.

Sobre su cima la hermosura espera,
Y entregándose todo se recata
Lejos--cómo idea y verdadera?
Tan improbable aún y ya inmediata.


Ahora, aquí, frente a ti, todo arrobado,
aprendo lo que soy: soy un momento
de esa larga mirada que te ojea,
desde ayer, desde hoy, desde mañana,
paralela del tiempo...


Como si te posases en mi corazón y hubiese luz dentro de mis venas y yo enloqueciese dulcemente; todo es cierto en tu claridad;

has posado en mi corazón,

hay luz dentro de mis venas,

he enloquecido dulcemente.


Dices que me quieres mucho,
y es mentira, que me engañas:
en un corazón tan chico
no pueden caber dos almas.


Este noble poeta, que ha escuchado
los ecos de la tarde y los violines
del otoño en Verlaine, y que ha cortado
las rosas de Ronsard en los jardines
de Francia, hoy, peregrino
de un Ultramar de sol, nos trae el oro
de su verbo divino...


At the poetry reading the other night I began to compose my own poems in my head. One was going to be titled "The future is a foreign country." It was about how the future had a spurious clarity to it, and would send back simplistic messages to our shifting, shiftless present. How the main flaw of the future was its reverence for the crappy wisdom of a past more distant than our present, a past which, after all, in its own time had only been a shiftless present of its own. There is more to it than that, various twists on the relation between past, present, and future, that I could reconstruct if I wanted, though in a different configuration. I do remember the phrase "shifting, shiftless present," which I was quite proud of at the time. I liked how those two adjectives seemed to both negate and complement each other.

The second poem was about how I could weave fictions of my own while listening to a superb poet read her work, but that these fabrications would dissipate once the reading was over. I would never write these poems. The electrifying creativity I would experience was a form of resistant listening, that would never have been possible without that poet's voice. The third poem I have forgotten.

I thought afterwards that I should have turned off that counter-narrative, listening only to the voice of the poet I was there to hear, rather than weaving my own poems in and out of hers. It was a failure of reception. Or maybe not. Maybe mine was the proper response. Would I want my listeners to turn off their mental monologues and attend only to my insistent voice? I don't think so.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


My daughter Julia starts college today. 1st day of classes at Northwestern, where she will study music performance (trumpet). I feel old. I was a professor for seven years before she was even born. That means I have been professing for a quarter century.


Kate Greenstreet came to read last night. She reminded me that I published a poem of hers long ago, here.


Deep in my own green element,
I met a friend—
my double, my dearest.

pulled me out of the sea,
placed me

in this pan of water,
added salt,
and taught me to eat bread.
Lorca on patriotism:

Siempre hemos entendido desde niños al patriotismo como un sentimiento que tiene por espíritu a un trapo de colores… Hay que ir contra esas exhibiciones (la música militar), llenas de lástima y con los oídos del alma tapados como Ulises se tapó los suyos para no caer en la tentación de las hadas del mar... ¿De qué se valen las congregaciones religiosas sino de la fastuosidad y de la riqueza para atraer a la multitud? Saben muy bien que la masa es muy impresionable y le hacen postrarse ante el brillo del oro... Es preciso acabar con lo inútil de las ideas patrióticas. El patriotismo es uno de los grandes crímenes de la humanidad porque de sus senos podridos por el mal surgen los monstruos de la guerra…

New Blog

I have a new blog for my course on translation, with the name Tumulto de acordes. You can find it here. I was teaching Guillén's "Más allá" in my other course and used the phrase "tumult of chords" from the last line of that poem as the title of the blog. My idea is that advanced students should be able to translate effectively from the Spanish, that publishing their work is valuable, and that they should be able to see what the rest of the class is doing, rather than turning their work in just to me at the end of the semester.

My first impression is that they are doing an amazing job. Keep in mind these students are not poets or creative writers, not professional translators. This is their first stab at it, and I haven't edited their work at all. It can only get better from here.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hard Copy

I found, while cleaning out some things, a hard copy of a paper I wrote and never published. I am very happy. It is a good paper and I tried to publish it in PMLA, but I think I could re-think it and place it somewhere else. This is like from 15 years ago, but it is a relatively "timeless" theme. I will dust it off and start work at some point. It has the rather dull title: "Redundancy: A Problem in Poetic Form."

Bill Evans: New Jazz Conceptions

This 1956 Riverside album is Evans's debut as a leader and thus has historical interest though it is not the Evans I return to most often. He was already playing with Paul Motian on drums. His "Waltz for Debbie" only lasts about 1:18, so it is not as satisfying as other versions.

The answers!


Mistranslations: cauce is channel or riverbed, not source. Shine for inundar [to flood]

Failure to observe syntactic parallelisms: se quede sin ....

Added material: blind / deprived. Introduces semantic material not in original, or only implicit.

Ennoblement / expansion: glitter and shine for brillen. Glistening for fresca.

Wrestling and writhing with noon is very effective without being overly literal.

Resisto = I can stand. Shows a good understanding of semantics of Spanish verb resistir.

Y los arcos rotos donde sufre el tiempo = and the ruined archways of suffering time.
Ok, but changes active verb to participle. Less dynamic?

But don’t show your nakedness, clean
Interrupts rhythmic flow with the comma.

Let me go on fearing dark planets.
It seems blander than the original.

Overall. Not bad. I would give it a B+ if you did something like this for my course. The most critizable aspects are ennoblement and expansion. I think an English-speaking reader would find it an effective poem in English.


A mixture of strategies. Sometimes very literal and sometimes the freest of versions. The lack of punctuation is possibly effective. Does the poem really need punctuation?

Domestication: ballad for ghazal.

Mistranslations: arcos = rainbows?

Free translation: star clusters for oscuros planetas.

River / bed. That puts the relation between agua and cauce in a way understandable for English only readers. (Compare Honig: water / source.)

Failure to observe syntactic continuity of first four lines.

And the yellows give a complete colour to silk
Here the poet has interpreted Lorca’s line, imagining that yellow dye penetrate a piece of silk, dyeing it completely. The line is awkward and strange in English. Several of you noticed the British spelling of colour, but Spicer is as American as they come.

Spicer’s understanding of the original may be faulty. His approach does not seem consistent. He avoids ennoblement and expansion. I wouldn’t assign this a grade but ask what the intent behind the translation was and ask the student to rethink some choices. (As it happens, Spicer had unique ideas about translation and wasn’t aiming for a conventinally good version.)


By conventional standards, an excellent translation. Endure for resisto is excellent. I might make some other choices, like noon for mid-day. I’m not fond of embroiled.

Failure to observe syntactic parallels in first four lines, but “to be free of” is good, direct version of “se quede sin...”

I would give an A to this translation, but would ask the student to rethink punctuation. Semi-colons are ugly!


Ghazal is actually the correct English translation of the Arabic poetic form Lorca was using, the gacela in Spanish.

Mistranslations: Let the water do without a place to settle. Water flows through a cauce; it doesn’t settle there. You can’t fuck around with a poet’s metaphors, since those are the most “translatable” parts.

bueyes = steers. Techinically this is ok, but most translators go for oxen. I resist sounds literal for resisto, but the verb in this context really means stand / endure / tolerate.

but do not teach me the ways of your cool waist.
Here the translator has apparently taken enseñar to mean teach when it really means show. As a consequence he has introduced an expansion / rationalization: you can’t teach a waist so his solution is the ways of your waist. Yuck. Does that even make sense?

In a poem it matters who is speaking. The poet’s desire is expressed through the verb Yo quiero... The translation say “Let...” and introduces the poetic “I” later on. Why?

This was a version preferred by several students in the class. As long as you gave reasons, I didn’t take points off for preferring it, even though it is among the worst (in my opinion).

I would give this a C+ or B- for my course. Some choices are defensible: an arch is collapsed. Twilight carries some of the connotations of ocaso. The translator has done some things right, but the missteps are hard to justify. This would be a good “teachable moment,” since the translator is finding some solutions that are better than the best translation, Archer, yet falling on his face more directly too.

My ranking: Archer / Spicer / Honig / Bonta
Or possibly Archer / Honig / Spicer / Bonta
If you ranked Bonta highly you might have been responding to some of the things he does well. If you liked Honig, you probably are accepting of some degree of ennoblement. It sounds the most “poetic” in conventional terms among the four. If you liked Spicer, you probably don’t mind a mixture of strategies and some real strangeness.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

No Room at the Top / Room Only at the Top

I was looking at the MLA job list. The only job for which I could apply (and not be a department chair) is to (essentially) replace Brad Epps at Harvard, since he went to Cambridge recently. Virginia and Cornell are looking for senior Latin Americanists (not me) and Berkeley for a Luso-Brazilian specialist (also not me). Baylor is looking for a chair, but I could be chair at Kansas at some point so why would I want to move to a Baptist school in Texas where I know nobody (no offense). The head of languages at Notre Dame would be an applied linguist (again, not me). There are very few Comp Lit jobs, none of which I am qualified for. There is also an internal job I will apply for. No moving expenses that way.

So only very top-tier places even advertise for fulls. You have to be a star (perhaps, again, not me) to move at all. There will be some shuffling of top Latin Americanists to Cornell, Virginia.

Bill Evans, Jazz Showcase

This is simply a compilation of Evans's Riverside period, his first albums as a leader produced with Orrin Keepnews. It is a valuable period of his development, as he is already playing with people like Paul Motian and had already written "Waltz for Debbie."

Keepnews was a great impetus for this crucial period of jazz, recording Evans and Monk, among many others. I listened to some video podcasts of Keepnews a few years back, and then acquired a lot of the records he was talking about. I never regretted that.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

An assignment

Federico García Lorca

Gacela de la terrible presencia

Yo quiero que el agua se quede sin cauce.

Yo quiero que el viento se quede sin valles.

Quiero que la noche se quede sin ojos 

y mi corazón sin la flor del oro.

Que los bueyes hablen con las grandes hojas 

y que la lombriz se muera de sombra.

Que brillen los dientes de la calavera

y los amarillos inunden la seda.

Puedo ver el duelo de la noche herida 

luchando enroscada con el mediodía.

Resisto un ocaso de verde veneno 

y los arcos rotos donde sufre el tiempo.

Pero no me enseñes tu limpio desnudo 

como un negro cactus abierto en los juncos.

Déjame en un ansia de oscuros planetas,

¡pero no me enseñes tu cintura fresca!


Tarea dos: Evalúe las sigientes traducciones de este poema de Lorca en 300-400 palabras. ¿Cuál es mejor / peor? Utlicen el documento “¿Cómo leer una traducción?” como guía.

Fecha de entrega. 17 de septiembre.

Edwin Honig:

Gacela of the Terrible Presence

I want water left blind to its sources.
I want wind left blind to the valleys.

I want night deprived of its eyes
and my heart of its flower of gold.

Let oxen speak with the huge leaves
and earthworms die of the darkness.

Let teeth in the skull glitter and shine
and the yellows shine through the silk.

I can watch wounded night in its duel,
wrestling and writhing with noon.

I can stand in a poison-green sunset
and the ruined archways of suffering time.

But don’t show your nakedness, clean
as black cactus alive in the reeds.

Let me go on fearing dark planets
but don’t show me your glistening waist.

Jack Spicer

Ballad of the Terrible Presence

I want the river lost from its bed
I want the wind lost from its valleys

I want the night to be there without eyes
and my heart without the golden flower

So that oxen talk with big leaves
And the earthworm is dead in shadow

So that the teeth of the skull glisten
And the yellows give a complete colour to silk

I can look at the agony of wounded night
Struggling, twisted up against noontime

I can stand all the sunsets of green poison
And the wornout rainbows that time suffers

But don’t make your clean body too visible
Like a black cactus opened out among rushes

Let me go in an anguish of star clusters
Lose me. But don’t show me that cool flesh.

Paul Archer

Gacela: The Terrible Presence

I want water to be free of channels, 

I want the wind to be free of valleys.

I want the night to be without eyes

and my heart without a golden flower;

for the oxen to talk to the giant leaves

and the earthworm to die of darkness;

for the skull's teeth to gleam 

and yellows flood through silk.

I can see the duel of wounded night

wrestling embroiled with mid-day.

I can endure the sunset's green poison

and the broken arches where time suffers.

But don’t reveal your clean nakedness

like a black cactus out in the rushes.

Leave me longing for the dark planets,

but don’t show me your cool waist.

David Bonta


Let the water do without a place to settle;

let the wind do without valleys.

Let the night do without eyes

and my heart without its flower of gold.

I want the steers to talk with the large leaves

and the earthworm to die of shadow.

I want the teeth gleaming in the skull

and the silks drowning in yellow.

I can see the duel between the wounded night

and noon, how they twist and tangle.

I resist a twilight of green venom

and collapsed arches where time suffers on.

But don’t illuminate this limpid nude of yours

like some black cactus open in the bulrushes.

Leave me in an agony of longing for dark planets,

but do not teach me the ways of your cool waist.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Everybody Digs Bill Evans

Here is 1959 trio outing with Bill Evans and Sam Jones (b), Philly Joe Jones (d). It is his second album as a leader, with a fairly straight-ahead feel, lots of block chords. I really like Jones's warm drum sound on this. It came out on Riverside when Keepknews was putting out some marvelous sides.

Another anecdote

Shortly after I found Digressions, I all of sudden thought I should look for a book I needed on my shelves that I had lost track of. I recently began cleaning out my office but haven't made sure all the books are on the shelf where they need to be. So I decided to begin at the upper left hand corner of the shelf that houses my main research collection on Spanish poetry. Can you guess where the book was?

I had almost thought I should just get it sent to me from the library. That could have been less effort than trying to find it. Yet I found it a second after I began my search.


I lay down on my office floor around 10 a.m. and closed my eyes for a few minutes. When I opened them, I looked straight up and saw a book that I recognized as Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O'Hara. I had just been writing about the James Dean poems by O'Hara, so I wondered if Joe LeSeuer had commented on them. Of course he had, as my uncertain memory had hinted to me. I ended up getting some good quotes for that chapter: Frank writes, “if one is going to start being embarrassed about one’s work I don’t know where it would stop, or rather it would stop” (Quoted in LeSeuer, 64).

Productivity works in mysterious ways. If I hadn't been tired and laying on my floor, I wouldn't have seen this book.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Benny Carter / 3-4-5 The Verve Small Group Sessions

This is probably the best that small group swing ever gets, with Carter (as) and people like Teddy Wilson on piano and Jo Jones on drums. Benny Carter plays beautifully, fluently, throughout, even on the kitschy "The Birth of the Blues."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Twenty Best of Artie Shaw

This is one of those junky compilations that are useful for me with artists I don't know very well. "A Foggy Day" has a hip seven-measure intro that brings me up short every time. You expect the phrase to end in that 8th measure and instead another phrase begins. The arrangments are very hip for their time, as on "Stardust."

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Artistry of Pepper

Another album that is not particularly famous but comes highly recommended (by me). Art Pepper plays typical cool jazz with various sidemen, like the great drummer Mel Lewis.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I just spent 2 1/2 hours proctoring PhD exam and figured out how to finish my book by the end of March. I will very slowly finish one Chapter in what is left of Sept. I only have a few lines to go, but I need to track down references, finish translations, and change everything to U of Chicago Style. Then I have another chapter to write in October, etc... I realized I was giving myself a month to do a very simple task (complete a chapter I had already written, really) so I condensed here, expanded there, and came up with a plan. I realize now I am pretty much done with a lot of it, despite my slacking in the summer.

If I don't follow the plan I still have to extra months in the school year to work. At this point it is important to concentrate on getting things in their final form, rather than working randomly on everything at once.

Proctoring forces me to sit still and get work done.

Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section (1957)

The Rhythm Section is that of the Miles Davis quintet. The section of Red Garland (p), Paul Chambers (b), and Philly Joe (d). I like the knowingness of the title! Art is fluent and meshes well with this section. They play Dizzy's "Tin Tin Deo," some standards and some straight-ahead blues.

All my albums have been clustering in the late 50s and early 60s so far.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Paris Jam Session

Art Blakey's Paris Jam Session features the legendary drummer with Wayne Shorter and Lee Morgan. Bud Powell appears, brilliantly, on two tracks, "Dance of the Infidels" and "Bouncing With Bud." Recorded 1959. What stands out here is Powell and Shorter playing a fairly straight-ahead bop style. I've owned this for many years and played it endlessly at one point.

The Best of the Complete Pablo Solo Masterpieces / Complete Capitol Recordings of Art Tatum

These two compilations from Art Tatum give you enough Art Tatum, about 48 songs, for almost everyone. I'm partial to the Capitol sides, because they were my introduction to Tatum.

Chess & Computers

I'd like to see a computer that could design a human good enough to beat it at chess.

So I remarked in a comment. Mark Liberman kindly responded: "Excellent premise for a story. There could be a prize involved: the Mayhew Prize."

In other words, the whole premise of "computers are getting better than humans" at something is flawed. Of course you can make a computer better than a human at almost any given task.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I Noticed Something

The general level of argument people use is fairly low. Looking that the Chronicle of Higher Education comment threads, I notice people will make arguments like this. (Irrespective of whether I happen to agree with the perspective: obviously it is easier to spot fallacies when you are looking to discount a particular point of view, but I find people I agree with can be equally fallacious.)

Arguments from anecdote or limited information, with no empirical foundation. This happened to me, so this must be typical. "My grandfather smoked everyday and lived to be 90."

Arguments from self-interest. Tenure is a good thing... because I have tenure!

Arguments from what "studies show," or from what a particular study showed that I read about recently, heard about on NPR or in the CHE, or from a press release from my Uni.

Overgeneralization from studies with very limited, barely significant findings. A 5% variance becomes an absolute. If men are 5% more likely to do x than women, that means "men do it and women don't."

Arguments from received wisdom or prejudice. Of course tenured professors are not going to be good teachers, because they do research. Everyone knows this already.

Arguments from the fallibility of science. Of course, you can't believe these scientific studies, because... Hitler used scientists to his ends.

Arguments from the infallibility of science. I am right because ... science! (Even when it is merely a limited form of social science of limited validity.)

Various other kinds of lazy thinking. Tenure protects academic freedom (yes, sure but is that what it mainly does in today's climate? does it really protect freedom all that well, who benefits from that type of argument?; does that mean the untenured should have no freedom?) The military protects "freedom," (but is a militarized society generally more "free"? I don't think so.)

Anthony Braxton, Seven Standards Vol 1, 1985

This is the first jazz cd I got, when making the transition between vinyl and cds. It has Victor Lewis, Rufus Reid, Hank Jones. I knew Braxton as an avant-garde player: here he starts off with standard statement of theme, and then gets gradually more out-there in successive choruses, bringing it back to the melody again at the end. This isn't a famous album that everyone already knows, but is worth checking out.

Moanin' / A Night at Birdland

Art Blakey's 1958 Moanin' is the classic hard bop album. It has Benny Golson (ts), Lee Morgan (t), Bobby Timmons (p), and Jymie Merritt (b). This is probably essential listening just for being most typical of a particular style or mode.


A Night at Birdland (1954), though, is even better. It has Clifford Brown, Horace Silver, and Lou Donaldson, and is in a more boppish mode, with "Night in Tunisia."

This list will amount to a discography of essential jazz music, with some omissions and biases, of course.


Smokestack is from '66, but recorded earlier. Still Blue Note, still Andrew Hill. It has Roy Haynes and Richard Davis, plus another bassist, Eddie Khan. No horns. The use of two basses is a bit unusual, though not unheard of for a more experimental period. It makes the music bottom-heavy. Haynes is brilliant on this album. That does it for Andrew Hill. I have another one I don't like quite as much, Spiral, that didn't make the cut.

Point of Departure

Andrew Hill's Point of Departure is roughly equivalent to Black Fire, with Hill originals, Richard Davis on bass, and Henderson, but adding Eric Dolphy and Kenny Dorham. It has a more avant-garde feeling because of Dolphy's playing. Tony Williams on drums gives a different feel than Roy Haynes, but it is hard to prefer one to the other. Williams's cymbal sound is the best there is, and he is more fluid, less "jerky," than Haynes. More ride-cymbal and less hats.

Richard Davis, I discover, is a professor at U of Wisconsin. He is certainly one of the best bass players of the 60s (and much beyond).

I like the feeling of consistency from Hill's music. It all sounds like him. It is excellent music to think to, as you might dance to other music. But it is a dance-like thinking.

Black Fire

I am starting on a series of posts on the best jazz albums I have in my possession, using my itunes library as a guide. I am going alphabetically by first name of artist and title of album. My only choice will be whether to include an album or no, and will be arbitrary. I won't skip over a masterpiece, but might be selective with artists of whom I have more than five albums.

Andrew Hill's Black Fire came out in 1964, with Richard Davis (b), Joe Henderson (ts), Roy Haynes (d). The tunes are all (or mostly) by pianist, composer Hill. I love the sound of Blue Note jazz from this period. My itunes tells me I have played each of these songs many times, though often I have done so as background while working.

This is an album you could listen to just to hear Roy Haynes's drums, if you were so inclined.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Language Log

Very good post here quoting Lanham.