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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...

Friday, September 30, 2016

Broke computer keyboard

Comuter is broke at home, with some missing letters o the keyboard. Auto correct will fill i some of it. My ame is ow Ôoatha

But anyway, I wont let that stop me. I just had a brilliat idea for my December article. A refutation of Lawrence VeutiæS review of my book, disguised as a article about traslatio theory. My idea is that his idea of traslatio as hermeutics excludes oetics, but that Ezra s idea of traslatio is a hermeeutics of form, ot mere bellestrism. Le voilà.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Things get better

Bone-crushing loneliness
A Republic of Fear

"Salt Peanuts"

A freshly made bed
A letter from home

A wreath of myrtle and thyme
An invitation to spend the night

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

fan mail

Got email

I did a short presentation on the first chapter of Apocryphal Lorca in a seminar today and just wanted to thank you for writing such a clear introduction to Lorca's work and reception in the United States. The content, organization, and argumentation of your writing made this an enjoyable, rewarding assignment, so I wanted to let you know that you have one very appreciative reader in xxx

Hope you are having a great fall semester so far!

días del abandono

My Italian is getting good enough that I can read and not only guess at the plot of a novel, but actually follow it closely. I am reading a book by the Italian novelist Elena Ferrante, who is all the rage I guess. It is called the days of abandonment, not part of her Neapolitan tetralogy but a stand-alone novel.

A woman, Olga (though we don't learn her name for 50 pages) is abandoned by her husband Mario, after 15 years of marriage, with two children. She is devastated, but we never learn what she actually loves about Mario. The characterization of him is weak, and we mostly hear Olga's endless whining. I almost gave up because not much was happening. Olga prides herself on being calm and soft-spoken, but now all bets are off. She begins to swear, she comes across her husband and his new lover in a public place and beats him up. She poisons the ants that have invaded her house, then goes downstairs to sleep with an unattractive musician whom she doesn't even like, then wakes up the next morning to find out their dog, Otto, is also poisoned by the insecticide, along with her son. She tries to get help but her phone is dead (it has been for a while but she's been unable to do anything). The the lock on the door doesn't work and she can't get out of the flat to get help... That's as far as I've gotten.

Anyway, it is not great literature. It is fairly straight realism in the first person without much going on in terms of novelistic technique. The flashbacks are to a neighbor woman abandoned by her husband during Olga's childhood, who people called "la poverella." The idea is that Olga is repeating the story of the hapless woman despite her self. Olga is supposedly a writer, but hasn't written anything yet in her life, at age 38. Completely self-absorbed, she lacks any real insight into her self or others. For example, we never get an idea of what her children are really like.

I'm sure I'm the worst kind of reader for this kind of novel, but it is good for my Italian so I am going to force myself to finish it.

A weird productivity

I have been in a weird space in which I am more productive than ever in my life, but seeming to do nothing. I you followed me around for a day you would think I do nothing at all, yet I am on track to write an article or chapter a month and have just written, in late summer, two books of baddish poetry. At some point I will return to my guide to poetry which I have had to postpone because of other commitments. I am working on a bridge to another song...

If you watched me for a day, you would see me grade papers, learn Italian on duolingo, write bad poems and make fun of other people's poetry...

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

More bad stuff

In another context, when I wasn't even looking for bad poetry, I came across a book with lines like this:

"At the dawn of sorrow,
I drop a tear
and sob."


"I am one with the vast universe."

Published by a University Press!

I couldn't even write "At the dawn of sorrow" in a poem meant to be bad on purpose.

Monday, September 26, 2016

jazz piano

I took a jazz piano lesson. I have to figure out voicings for "There will never be another you." It is not that hard, really, though it takes time. Practice tip: use a metronome and practice will be more efficient, less time and faster.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Body Parts

The waist of the ocean...

Her throat, where is it?

Where is the sea's elbow?


Mateo has set me another one:

Skywinds of autumn

Skyrains of spring...

Aren't all winds from the sky?

Aren't all rains of the sky?

If you think like that, my friend,

You will never taste the orange from the orange tree

Skywinds of autumn

Skyrains of spring...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Theme Bait

I went to a poetry reading once (many times) in which the poet depended on the themes of his work. He would explain eloquently what his poetry was about and then read a poem in which none of that was really happening.

You have to do it in the poem.


I wrote an article in Spanish and the only corrections I got (aside from obvious typos) was that I was writing "en este respecto" instead of "a este respecto." I guess I really did not know that, but once it's pointed out it becomes obvious. I am fairly confident of my writing, more than I used to be, but everyone is entitled to a few mistakes. I was already writing a dissertation when someone pointed out to me that the word was substitute and and not subsitute.

Contra los homenajes

El homenaje es un género vacío de contenido. Acabo de sacar unos libros de homenaje a Montejo de la biblioteca y no nos dicen ná del poeta y su obra. Aprendemos que es buena persona, etc... Cuánto pastiche...


Lino Cervantes, a heteronym of Eugenio Montejo, invented a genre called the coligram.

Here is an example:

Me alumbro a solas con una estrella arcaica

Malumbro sol cunestrel cáicara

Mumbo cuntrel cáicar

Mumbro trelaica

Mutaica brol




So the rules are:

1st line, a "poetic" or lyrical line of verse with no fixed syllable count:

I light myself up alone with an archaic star

The next line, a reduction of this line, with portmanteau words. "Me alumbro" = malumbro or "con una estrella" = cunestrel.

And so on. The last three line have one word each, culminating in a monosyllable. The number of lines can vary between 7 and 9, I think. Alliteration is almost always a feature:

La eternidad tan lenta con sus horas de nieve

Lernidad lenta coras nieve

Lidad len cros nieve

Dalenta crosieve

Téntada crieve





[Eternity so slow with its hours of snow.]

Of course Montejo's conventional poetry is also good, but this seems more interesting. Try reading them backwards too!

Let's try doing one in English

My father was not beaten as a child

Myfa wasn otbeata sachild

yfawno beast chil

fawnob eastchi

awnobe astchi



Something like that.

Getting serious

I've decided to do an article or chapter a month for the foreseeable future. I turned in one in September on Ullán. In October I will write one for a volume on teaching Latin American poetry, in November, my chapter on Pound and Lorca. For December, I don't know yet.

Sept. Ullán
Oct. Article on poetic literacy.
Nov. Pound / Lorca
Dec. ????

Monday, September 19, 2016

Poema en prosa

Durante unos largos minutos perdí la palabra "colibrí"--justamente después de ver un colibrí en un jardín de la Florida. Vino a mi conciencia, de forma insistente, otro pájaro, nada parecido, la codorniz. La palabra la recuperé sin esfuerzo, pero solo penando en el colibrí de Lorca.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Q: Oh lipstick girls of summer

In winter where are you?

A: Poet of paradox

We were not what you thought



I got this book on jazz keyboard voicings, and it has you do everything in fourths instead of thirds. It does have an open, Mcoy Tyner-type sound when you play like that, but a maj7 chords turns into a 6/9. The problem is that the 7 is the tone you really want. The author makes fun of voicing using 3rds, calling them "third city" and other derogatory nicknames. He has you play the 5th, which I rarely do, and suggests that the same combination of notes can be two different chords, depending on how it is interpreted. Granted, I don't usually play harmony with both hands in the first place, because I need to play the melody too.

I'm sure I'll get something out of this book if I persist. Fourths sound cool and "open." Nevertheless, as a comprehensive guide to keyboard voicing it leaves much to be desired. It never puts these in the context of an actual song. In the internet era, this kind of presentation of the material, with no audio aids, seems a bit dated.

An experiment

I begin every seminar with a quiz. This week, I had a six or seven texts and had them see if you could tell whether the author was peninsular or Spanish American. The result was that nobody could tell the difference between the lyrical language of Spain and that of Latin America. Sure, people guessed right once in a while, but with no confidence in their judgment and not at a rate larger than chance. In cases where virtually the whole class agreed, they were just as likely to be wrong as right, as in the case of a Cintio Vintier sonnet that everyone thought had to have been written in Spain.

This depended on not choosing any poem that was well known, or any that had regional variants in an explicit way that would give it away. But on the other hand it wasn't hard to find language that was more neutral (geographically speaking). I found my examples in about 15 minutes, or less than 2 minutes per example. I even stuck one of my own poems in the mix (they thought it was either from Spain or Spanish America, in equal numbers).

The students in this graduate course are from Spanish speaking countries (Spain and Colombia, Argentina, Mexico) and from the US. Students from any particular place did not do any better. Once in a while someone had plausible sounding reason for their guess, and it turned out to be correct. These are future Spanish professors so you can't argue that they simply are smart enough yet to know the difference. I doubt I could pass my own test unless I happened to recognize a particular poet.

This leads me to reflect on that idiot in CHE a while back who wrote that the teaching of peninsular Spanish in US universities was so colonialist, that having a lot of people with peninsular Spanish on the faculty was such a bad thing.

Canción de Gesta

Canción de Gesta

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


I tried to take songwriting lessons but the guy told me I was better off taking jazz piano lessons and that both my playing in my songwriting would improve. That is pretty good advice which I'm going to follow.


I will only allow blurbs that say how bad my poetry is from (n)ow o(n). (missig some keys o(n) my keyboard so my apologies.

That is not it

I missed this the first time. She has the idea that Lorca has anessence and American culture another essence. That is not it at all.

The Day My Bad Poems Merged With My Other, Not So Bad Poems

I was (am!) a mediocre poet; had published a few here and there but lacked ambition

and the "poet's ego": the belief that my words have any special claim on "the reader"

(though not lacking in ego in other aspects of my life!).

One day I began to write deliberately bad poems, and wrote many quite quickly;

some were translations from imaginary Latin American poets

(which curiously enough was the subject of my first published poem, titled "Poem"

that I wrote when I was 18 or so

and is related to the book of literary criticism for which I am best known in the academic world,

Apocryphal Lorca.)
My latest discovery is that my so called bad poems

are actually my poems, the ones I am meant to write. Now when I write I simply

write without worrying whether it's any good and without even trying to make it bad on purpose.

Trying to write badly and well are both exercises of the ego that are increasingly irrelevant to me.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Here's a bad poem

Hear is PN writing a bad poem (in my view) against the Cubans who had written a letter denouncing him on Fidel's orders. This is just using verse to express a message, in a ham-fisted and plodding what. I refuse to translate it. Even the literary devices are badly used. He appended it to a book he'd written for the Cuban revolution.

Bear in mind I'm not taking sides with anyone here. I agree more with Neruda in this particular case but that doesn't stop me from seeing the poem as regrettable for a poetic perspective. Neruda had been a staunch Stalinist but had seen the damage that the cult of personality did and was fearful of the same. He didn't really like Che or Fidel very much and they distrusted him too.

Against Fernández Retamar he says "Another one, so 'retamar' that / deprived of his 'fernandez' he is worth nothing." What does that even mean? Nicolás Guillén he calls a "cynical black man." This isn't going well, Pablo.

Si hay en la duración de los dolores
una sofocación, un entretanto
que nos lleva y nos trae de temores
hasta llenar la copa del espanto,
hay en lo que hace el hombre y sus victorias
una rama de puro desencanto
y ésta crece sin pájaros ni pétalos:
no la riega la lluvia sino el llanto.

Este libro, primero entre los libros
que propagaron la intención cubana,
esta Canción de Gesta que no tuvo
otro destino sino la esperanza
fue agredido por tristes escritores
que en Cuba nunca liberaron nada
sino sus presupuestos defendidos
por la chaqueta revolucionaria.

A uno conocí, cínico negro,
disfrazado hasta el fin de camarada;
éste de cabaret en cabaret
ganó en París las últimas batallas
para llegar campante como siempre
a cobrar sus laureles en La Habana.

Y a otro conocí neutral eterno,
que huyendo de los nazis como rata
se portó silencioso como un héroe
cuando era su voz más necesaria.

Y otro tan retamar que despojado
de su fernández ya no vale nada
sino lo que le cuesta a los cubanos
vendiendo elogios y comprando fama.

Ay Cuba! tu fulgor de estrella dura
lo defiende tu pueblo con sus armas!

Mientras Miami propala sus gusanos
tus propios escritores te socavan
y uno que se da cuenta de las cosas
y participa en la común batalla
distingue a los que luchan frente a frente
contra la ira norteamericana
de los que gastan tinta de su pueblo
manchando la centella solidaria.

Pero sabemos que a través del tiempo
a la envidia que escribe enmascarada
se le cae su rostro de combate
y se le ve la piel aminorada,
se le ve la mentira en la estatura
y se le ven las manos mercenarias.

En esa hora nos veremos todos.

Y desde ahora toco las campanas
para el Juicio Final de la conciencia.

Yo llegaré con mi conciencia clara.

Yo llegaré con la canción que tengo:
con lo que mi partido me enseñara:
llegaré con los mismos ojos lentos,
la misma voz, y con la misma cara,
a defender frente al insulto muerto,
Cuba, tu gesta revolucionaria.

poem with semicolons

My body awakes me; wants sustenance or to relieve itself;

relief from cold or heat; or it simply knows that the day is here.

Pleasure-seeking, it wakes me for that:

lustful, averse to discomfort, stupid,

addicted, over-nourished, badly designed.

It is soft but durable, though spare parts are hard to find

and harder still to install!

Symmetrical, it wears its redundancy on its sleeve;

craving sleep; yet it wakes me every damn time.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Working Method

What I think I do when I research and write might not be what I really do. Here's what I think I do:

I think that I first start with a topic, a particular thing I want to study, and then generate ideas about it. I probably need at least 10 or 15 ideas that are specific to this topic. I have to have a critical mass.

The second stage is to know that I have enough ideas to write an article or chapter with. Why so many? Well, some of these ideas are going to be significant and others will be sub-categories of other, more significant ideas. Some will be discarded or put into footnotes, or used for other projects.

A third stage is writing it all out, a process of sorting through and seeing what ideas are going to be the predominant ones. Imagine you have 10 ideas and you could write them all out, in a number list. That wouldn't be an essay, just a list of ideas. But you need to know what order to treat those ideas, and what their interrelations are.

The final stage is to make sure the bibliography and references are complete enough so that the essay will be accorded academic legitimacy.

I find I don't have to worry at the stage of idea-generation which of the ideas are important, or what their relationships are going to be. That's what writing is for. I realize too that I use scholarship to legitimate my intuitions, after the fact, rather than using it as the basis for my work.


For example, something I'm doing now on Pound and Lorca. I want to show what elements of their early work they share by virtue of being imagistic modernists of a certain sort. So I can make a list of elements of Pound's poetics and develop ideas of how these relate to Lorca's work. How did Pound and Lorca understand melopoeia, for example? Simply by looking at the material I generate ideas, and if I use enough precision in the analysis the conclusions will flow out of that process. There's always the stage of doubt, if the ideas seem weak or insufficient in quantity to support a whole article or chapter.


There was a rather well-known Beckett scholar at my undergraduate institution. I took a course on modern drama and she had us write papers by taking a theme, and then studying it in three separate plays, in a kind of mechanical way. I later realized that she used this uncreative method in her own work. I was kind of shocked, because this did not allow for the organic development of ideas. She was erudite and well-respected in her field, but I could already tell she had a second-rate mind. Now I reflect back and think that I was being arrogant in thinking this at the time, but it was a sincere arrogance.

Stylistic exercise

We made out, then made love.

We kissed and later screwed.

We stood under the mistletoe before going upstairs to shag.

Your lipstick get smeared, then we played hump the hostess.

You stuck your tongue down my throat; I slowly entered you.

After snogging for a time, we slipped between the sheets.

I explored one orifice, then another.

We parked under the moonlight... That night we went all the way.

It was more than just a peck, and I could tell you were in the mood for some hanky-panky.

You showed me what you could do with your lips, then showed me how good you were in the sack.

I was surprised when you frenched me, and more so when you took me to your bed to fuck my brains out.

You said you didn't bite, but you nibbled my lips and then bit my ear as we had intercourse.

Our mouths met and things progressed from there until we were having sexual relations.

We taught each other some oral techniques, as prelude to the dirty deed.

Necking for a while, I started to give it to you on the couch.

I reached first base, and second, and third. I scored.

I drank you in, the evening we slept together.

That day we read no more...

#%@%#,: @&*(.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Who Brings Money to A Dream


Sorry I didn't tip you but

it was a dream and

who brings money to tip with

to a dream?

Ullán Notes & Bibliography


Percibimos, con una intensidad microscópica y milimétrica, retazos, segmentos, que nos estallan desde la página en los ojos y los oídos con la presión excesiva de una palabra subyugante; pero la historia no es aquí el dibujo de un tapiz, sino el puro proceso mental de una inteligencia única, agudísima, operando en el vacío abstracto de las palabras. ¿Qué ocurrió, por qué ocurrió? Ocurrieron unas palabras, imantadas por los polos complementarios de las máximas de maquiavelismo o la precisión sensorial externa. Todo existió para ser palabra y, por la palabra, concepto o imagen nítida.

El papel de la visualidad en la poesía recuerdo que me lo explicó muy bien Cabral de Melo, cuando estaba en Barcelona. Hizo que me fijara en los poetas primitivos, en Berceo, o en La Chanson de Roland y no digamos y a en Villon. Jamás explican nada que no fuera posible imaginar visualmente, a pesar de que se tratara de hechos fantásticos. Nunca hay en su poesía un concepto no visualizable. La pura comunicación de conceptos abstractos no es poesía. Desde entonces siempre lo he aplicado así, incluso quizás de forma excesivamente rigurosa. La operación poética consiste en explicitar en imágenes una cosa que no existiría en ningún otro caso. Es lo mismo que la teoría del correlato objetivo de Eliot. Por eso Goethe decía que el poeta es un hombre que piensa en imágenes. Octavio Paz es otro ejemplo de que la poesía es imagen.

La "musicalidad" de la poesía, por ejemplo, puede parecernos bastante pobre--si la comparamos con la musicalidad de la música misma. Precisamente por eso utilizamos una metáfora sacada de otra forma de creación artística para referirnos a . Sin embargo, hay, de hecho, algo musical en la poesía que no es meramente metafórica. No se puede identificar con la interpretación más obvia: las estructras

De igual modo, la visualidad en la poesía es fuerte, pero ...

Lo que no es: no es literalmente, pintura en la página.

La phanopoeia de Pound no suele ser descriptiva.

La ecfrasis, por ejemplo, suele centrarse en los aspectos más literarios, y menos visuales, de la pintura. Es el caso de "Las hilanderas de espaldas", de Claudio Rodríguez, donde muy pocos elementos pictóricos entran de forma directa. Es un poema que interpreta

La tipografía y el diseño gráfico.

En Manchadas nombradas, no obstante, Ullán se enfrenta con la pintura abstracta. Por lo tanto, se trata de una negación de la negación.

Obras citadas

Casado, Miguel, ed. Las voces inestables: sobre la poesía de José-Miguel Ullán. Madrid: Círculo de Bellas Artes, 2011.

McGann, Jerome. Black Riders: The Visible Language of Modernism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Mayhew, Jonathan. “De la luminosa opacidad de los signos: el texto visual de José-Miguel Ullán.” En Casado, ed. Las voces inestables, 197-207.

Ullán, José-Miguel. Agrafismos (Ondulaciones). Mérida. Escuela de Arte de Mérida / Instituto Cervantes, 2008.

--- . Manchas nombradas. Prólogo de Antonio Saura. Madrid: Editora Nacional, 1984

--- . Ondulaciones. Edición de Miguel Casado. Barcelona: Galaxia Gutenberg / Círculo de lectores, 2008.

Zumthor, Paul. Introduction à la poesie orale. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1983.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Remembrance of Things Past

Probably misinterpreting something my father told me once (or he could have had it wrong in his head as well) but I grew up thinking that Proust was thinking of Shakespeare's sonnet when he called his saga Remembrance of Things Past. I knew the literal translation of the title is the pedestrian "In search of lost time." It sounds great in French, but I was sure he was anticipating an intelligent translator knowing that he was alluding to Shakespeare.

I'm going to have to get to the bottom of this. Surely "recherche" is more resonant than "search" because of the prefix. It is looking for something again.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Here's some bad writing

I came across this recently. I've redacted it a bit and changed some words to anonymize it sufficiently, but you get the idea:

"One interesting feature of this work is yet another example of intertextuality – the reference to [proper name deleted]. This, among other recognizably postmodernist aspects of the text, have also been previously studied."

That was an entire paragraph.

Pound / Cummings / Lorca

“Is Lorca any good? I mean have you any of him. prefb. in orig?” (181). (Ezra to EE.)

Cummings dismissed Lorca in his reply by quoting his wife “M” (presumably his wife Marion?) to the effect that Lorca was a

“‘good kumrad’ & there the matter ends,for me who am(I trust)taking no plugged nickel with heads-snob slob-tails” (182).

[From the Pound / Cummings correspondence, edited by Barry Ahern]