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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...

Thursday, August 31, 2017


I recorded myself at the library today. I will send you a CD for free if you want, but you must promise to donate [however much you want] to hurricane relief. Send me your address and I will get one in the mail to you.

If you've heard me play, you will know that I'm no professional. I'm highly critical of my own playing. But this CD is superior to the last, done two years ago. For one thing, I used the pedal a bit more so it's not so annoyingly staccato.  All compositions are my own, and you might put it in the category of dinner music.

You might donate to the relief effort anyway, even if my compositions hold no interest for you.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Picard in his attack on Barthes says that using the language of a discipline without practicing this discipline is reducing this critical language to a set of metaphors (with reference to psychoanalysis). Is this not the entire problem with the edifice of literary theory? Starting with structuralist linguistics as the supposed basis of a scientific structuralism applied to literature.

We find this elsewhere too: any metaphorical, non-rigorous use of the terms of another discipline...

Similarly, any reference to "zen," to "relativity" used outside the contest of actual zen practice, actual physics...

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


I had this idea for paper once. I'll probably never do it, but it was to collect every off-hand remark in a poetry textbook or anthology or fragment of a critical work about "The Red Wheelbarrow." I had a whole list somewhere. Some were quite dismissive, of course. I would collect all of them and that would be the paper, essentially. It would write itself based on what I actually would find.

You're welcome.


There was a cartoon
of the Tower of Babel

furious activity and singing
bright colors, seen on our family's first color tv

I've never been able to find it as an adult
I remember too the NBC peacock

opening its multi-colored feathers
to that three-note melody

a symbol meaningless
on a black and white screen

This is just to say

The red wheel

is not

all we know is its


People say they are "humbled" when they win a prize

Something the opposite of humbling since it should make them justly proud

of their accomplishments

I think what they are doing is hedging their bets a bit

by going for the opposite emotion

or maybe they really are "humbled" in a way I don't fully understand


A good poem should be visual

Lorca knew this and Allen Ginsberg

Pere Gimferrer thought so too

Not to mention William Carlos Williams

with the red wheelbarrow and white chickens

and the purple striped nightgowns imagined by Wallace Stevens

I think Baudelaire had a strong visual imagination too

But I do not


A good poem must have a penumbra

an evocative or haunting aura

suggesting something not present in the

things mentioned in the poem itself

unlike this poem that just sits

flatly on the page

Monday, August 28, 2017

Ron Padgett Poem

I'd like to write a poem like the ones Ron Padgett wrote

for Jim Jarmusch's movie Paterson

If I get it right, there'll be a certain satisfaction in the imitation

If not, then it will be something of mine, original

If not necessarily very good


I read an avalanche of books today...

Not exactly...

It wasn't today, it was over the course of my lifetime

and they fell on me gradually

not like a sudden avalanche

and were they really books, after all?

They certainly weren't rocks.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The second 25 books

Ours Selves


One Crossed Out

Loose Canons

Poems from the Floating World

Salarios del impío / Carta a mi madre


La perseverancia del desaparecido

The Vermont Notebook

glad stone children


Notes from Irrelevance

The Red Gaze

Rocks on a Platter


Rocks, Solitary apparition


Tienda de fieltro

La civilización del espectáculo

La invención de Morel

El gaucho insufrible




Antigona furiosa


The idea (found this article via Clarissa's blog) is that:   

When white men do more service, women and people of color will have more time to engage in research. We do not have to level the playing field by asking people of color and women to act more like white men. We can level the playing field by asking white men to engage in their share of service, too.

This is from a faculty member where I teach, so I am a little embarrassed at how simplistic this sounds.  On the face of it, it seems logical, right?  There is a finite amount of service, a finite amount of time each person has, so if we shift the burden we will have more research from one demographic.

I am trying to imagine, though, a scenario in which we white men could do more service and magically make our non-white-male colleagues produce more research.  It doesn't work like this. My female colleagues who produce ample amounts of research are also stars in service. A man from my department who has always done a lot of service, while also excelling research and teaching, is now a vice-chancellor, probably perpetuating the white male hegemony in administration in the process.

People who excel typically do so by excelling in more than one area. If those who excel are white men, then of course we should ask people of color and women to do the same thing. In my experience service is valued more in those who also do research, and much less in those who load up on service in order to have an excuse not to get their research done.

Look at the cv of her dissertation advisor.  Should he have done even more service than he has done in his life? Would that have made some other person of a different race and gender into a distinguished professor?  

[Update:  Also, this takes away agency from those who would presumably benefit. Women and POC would have to wait around for the white men to start doing more service.]

Thursday, August 24, 2017

On the Side

The benefits of any side project are likely to be unexpected, side benefits.  As I was cleaning my apartment I thought of the word nettoyage.  Now Racine never uses this word I'm sure, so it only popped into my head because I was thinking in French after reading some things about Racine. So I might learn about the theater in general, about French academic politics, the French language itself, etc... on the side, without any purposiveness.

Now I have to ask myself why I value things with no explicit purpose.  It might be because the results of any such activity will not be predictable. That random quality is valuable in and of itself. I also need to prevent intellectual stagnation.

In Juan Goytisolo's memoir, I remember him talking about some college friends, and the topics they were discussing. Goytisolo goes away for a while, and encounters these friends a few years later... and they are discussing the exact same things. JG had moved on, and they were stuck in holding pattern.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


My Racine project is wholly gratuitous and has no logical purpose. It will lead me wherever it leads me, and not connect with anything else.  I read an article by Pere Gimferrer about him and now am reading Barthes's Sur Racine, which postulates Racine as the zero degree of criticism: the classic author who is simply blank and thus susceptible to any kind of critical metalanguage. Gimferrer treats  Barthes simply as an anomaly.  I'm half way through Brittanicus now. Then I'll re-read Phèdre and go on to the other plays.

Barthes also has an interesting point about the way Racine is spoken in the theater. This ties in with my interest in the performance of poetry. I don't follow what Barthes says completely.

Maybe I'm looking for the antithesis of Lorca?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


After someone has died we see his life in a conciliatory light. His life appears to us with outlines softened by a haze. There is no softening for him, though. his life was jagged and incomplete. For him there was no reconciliation; his life is naked and wretched. (Culture and Value, 46)

The 1st 25 books

The Collected Works of Billy the Kid

The Year as Catches

80 Poems

Times Alone

There is no road

Selected Poems of Machado

A Preface to Translation

El movimiento de las flores

The Torches

Una poética para Antonio Machado

Solitudes, Galleries

The Best of It

Some Spanish Ballads

Some Trees

Areas lights heights

The Fighting Spirit of the Walnut

La recepción literaria de San Juan de la Cruz

The Poems of St. John of the Cross

Acercamientos a Juan Gelman

The Poems of Saint John of the Cross

The Poet and the Mystic

100 Poems

Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

Counting on Planet Zero

Short poems

--There's nothing to do

--So do it


"Western Civilization?

It would be a good idea"

But what if Gandhi never said it?


Monday, August 21, 2017


It turned out I had books by Schuyler everywhere. His art criticism, letters, novels, diaries, and books of poems. So for this reading project I am becoming an accidental expert on him.  I guess I already was.  Re-reading A Nest of Ninnies now.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


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


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.


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.


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. 


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.  



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.


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 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?


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)


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


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.


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.


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.


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?


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