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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, February 28, 2019


I got this crazy idea of writing a non-specialist book on Lorca. I would call it something like "six lectures on Lorca." The idea would be to sit down and explain everything I know, but in 6 hour long presentations. The idea would be to follow the model of the speaker invited to give a series of lectures someplace, rather than just the standard one lecture.  I would write exactly 36,000 words.

We think of the lecture as a boring format, but that was Lorca's own format (not the written essay). Though, of course, he wrote them.

Since I've given lectures on Lorca, the idea would be to write some more and revise some I've already given and create a coherent shape to it.


A particularly idiotic person came up to me during the conference and said, "yes, now can we transmit the duende to Americans in translation; it is impossible."  But, of course, I had said the opposite, that communicating about Lorca is just as difficult in Spain itself.  There are idiotic Spaniards (like this guy) just as there are idiots in the US.  My idea would be a little bit like: "Lorca for non-idiots."

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Chilling Words

I don't know why I was thinking of this quote by a well-known Spanish scholar, one José-Carlos Mainer; probably because I was just in Spain, and was discussing with my students about how instruction in literature has to be dialogic. Critical thinking only develops through dialogue, never just through a one-sided format: 

"Mire: el saber es jerárquico; sencillamente, yo sé más que mis alumnos, ¿por qué debo discutir el temario con ellos?"

[Look: knowledge is hierarchical; simply put, I know more than my students. Why should I discuss / debate the material with them?]. 

I remembered enough of the quote to be able to find it on google, because when I first read it it made my heart sink. I didn't remember the word "temario." But anyone who thinks of his subject matter as a "temario" is a cretin.  

Do I know more than my students? Yes. But how can they ever learn to think if I have that attitude? Teaching is about catching them in the act of generating an idea and then pointing  out to them that they are thinking.  

Monday, February 25, 2019


When I complimented our grad student leader on what he had done with the organization, he said that it was team work, not just him. But, of course, the good leader gives credit to the team rather than to himself. Again, I'm finding that life can be good.


The musicologists at the Lorca conference all gave talks that are completely irrelevant to what I'm doing. There are good researchers, in the sense of digging up raw information, but there is no critical thought going on at all. The research question in one case was what concerts Lorca might have gone to in Madrid in the 1920s.

So I guess my research project is going to be an original one. My main idea actually is this one: to approach to corpus with some degree of critical thought.  Everything else results from this initial attitude.  


 I used the think the awe of simply being alive and aware of being alive was it.

(The reason for having poetry at all.)

Then I thought it was imaginative freedom:

The ability to strip away arbitrary labels and classifications

to see other possibilities in reality itself.

Now, I think this clarity of vision is it 

as the result of this freedom to imagine.

You might have a different idea of what it is.

Maybe the mystery of the push and pull of time.

Maybe for you there is no it at all!

The worst thing, though, would be for you to accept some definition of mine.

Then you will have missed the whole point of the exercise.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Classic Anxiety / Prestige Dream

I had the classic anxiety / prestige dream.  I was at an academic conference and was mistaken for someone else. A French guy said to me: "Ah, Ud. es el experto americano en estudios miguelinos." I said, "pues, es cierto que he mencionado a Miguel de Molinos en un par de artículos, pero..." The other said guy said, "Incluso he coincidido con Ud. en otro congreso..." I wasn't sure whether I was the guy he meant or not. Later Jacques Derrida showed up. I'm not sure why we were speaking Spanish, but I guess my French isn't good enough to dream in.

Earlier I had realized that I was supposed to give my talk with a piano. I realized I hadn't memorized "Las tres morillas de Jaén," though someone else it my department had just played in perfectly (someone who in real life doesn't even play piano.).

Lorca Concert

Just got off the phone with my cousin, Michael Barrett, who was an assistant to Leonard Bernstein.  He and another colleague have a New York Festival of Song where they give concerts of art songs, and they are doing a Lorca concert in April. They were asking for my expertise, though they knew of some things that I hadn't discovered yet.  Anyway, can life get any better?

Friday, February 22, 2019

Last day of conference

There were three talks in the morning, of variable quality.  Spanish scholars seem to think the thing to do is to dump a lot of information on you as fast as possible, with little or no argument. The Italian scholar gave a pretty good talk, then we had some drinks at the Cervecería Italiana.  Leaving tomorrow at 11:30, should get home around 8:30 in the evening if all goes well.


Today people were arguing over the beefed up, completed version of the Comedia sin título we saw last night. I think anyone who thinks he can finish an incomplete work by Lorca, by making a pastiche from Lorca poems, should be punished (in the least violent way possible, of course).


I walked to Plaza mayor, bought a hat, went to Callao again and ran into a grad student from the conference in a bookstore. I showed him a copy of the Spanish translation of Spicer's After Lorca and explained to him what it was. He ended up buying the book. Then I walked all the way from there to the Resi, via Hortaleza, Genova, and the Castellana. It took a while to walk this far; it is 65 degree but feels about 70 to me.    

Word Game Dream

In my dream there was a word game, in which you had to use only words formed out of a finite set of letters. The letter we had been given this time did not offer many possibilities, but we could still do it. Apparently we had played several times before, using these words to talk about Lorca.


Then there was the idea of going to a restaurant that we had been too in previous seasons. We decided to go again. There was a context of having been before: a memory within the dream of previous occasions.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Day 5

Ian Gibson appeared on Spanish tv last night talking about the exhumation of Franco. He was a bad parody of himself. He said that removing Franco from the Valle de los Caídos would make Spain a great country.  Well, no. I am in favor of removing him from there, but that is not the main obstacle for Spain to be a great nation, and doing so won't be some automatic vehicle to becoming great.

After insulting Rajoy, he went on to talk about how there should be an insult-free political culture, and went on about how everyone should have Antonio Machado's exact attitude of liberalism and tolerance. It was an embarrassing display of a lack of self-awareness.


The morning session was good. Mario Hernández, one of the classic Lorquistas, and a good talk about Lorca's drawings. We went to have beers, then back to the Resi where I was talking to ASO over lunch.


Evening was a Lorca play rewritten and expanded by someone else. My friend Melissa talked about how the whole play was shouted out rather than modulated. I objected to the intromission of other Lorca texts, from other poems and plays, into the play.


Afterwords we had some beers and tapas and a good conversation about the state of Lorca studies. I got back around midnight. The conference has been exhausting but in a good way, mostly.

Bass Lines

Because I can't play piano this week, I have been composing bass lines in my head as I go to sleep, or as I am sleeping. I watched an hour long video on bass lines on the piano, and I think I have most of it down conceptually.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Day 4

I slept ok, with a brief spell of wakefulness between 3 and 5.  Some work emails to ponder upon awakening. For some reason when I wake up in the middle of the night I want to memorize "Canto del caminar."


Morning session was good, with A. Soria Olmedo and two musicologists. I still wish there were more critical talks, and fewer ones that presented a mass of information. Lunch with Melissa Dinverno and Andrés Soria Olmedo. We talked about Ian Gibson a bit and about the "Bones of Contention" movie that none of us liked. When I am with them I don't feel like a real Lorquista any more. One is married to Lorca's niece and has a father who also published articles on Lorca; the other studied under one of the main Lorquistas and has done mostly Lorca studies in her career.  This is a good corrective because I live and breathe Lorca, but still have much to learn.


I went on a walk after lunch.  I set the timer for 40 minutes and got exactly to the street I use to live on, Hernán Cortés.


Evening was a concert. The idea was to play music that Federico would have heard or played himself.  The piano player was very good, playing Beethoven, Debussy, Chopin, Albéniz, and Falla. I was sitting very close to him. I guess my bias would have been to hear music based on his work rather than a piece by Debussy he might have liked.  We asked the pianist later what he thought of the piano. He said that if he had come across it elsewhere, he would have thought of it as an old, bad piano, but that it worked well in this particular space, having a particular magic. Oh well.  I thought it was a good piano.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

3rd day of Lorca conference

Each day is held in a different place, so today we went down to an old university building on San Bernardo. The quality has been so-so, so far. People seem to think that a talk consists of a list of things that you go through one by one, rather than an argument that you support through evidence. One of the talks was ok, a most and very complete, competent survey of themes and styles in Libro de poemas. It stood out because the others were not very good. I should be learning things of significance, because although I am a specialist you can always learn. But I haven't been. Extreme specialization leads to a focus on very small, insignificant details.  Those details are only imaginatively realized if they are in support of an argument.

I was going to just skip out in the afternoon after my siesta, but as I was leaving the Resi to take a walk someone offered me a share of their taxi ride down to San B., so I got in and went: it was a session of poets reading Lorca poems as well as their own poems, bad Lorca pastiches.

Afterwards, a guy asked me about references for a dissertation he wanted to write on Lorca and theology.  He didn't have much ideas about theology or what he wanted to do. I told him to go from the explicit to the implicit, to have a solid base in actually palpable things. Another guy button-holed me to take about something else I wasn't interested in.

Then I went down to Callao and to the Central bookstore.  Walking into the poetry room there always gives me a thrill. There is so much, and I felt my elation surge as I entered. Of course, I only bought two books after all that. I've been to 3 bookstores and acquired 6 books, 2 each place.

Tomorrow we stay in the Resi, which means I have still have to take a walk somewhere else.  The major Lorca scholar from Granada came today, we had lunch along with other fairly good speaker from today.


[UPDATE] Dinner with Laura García Lorca, (Lorca's niece) and her husband, the major scholar from Granada.  It was great to talk about my project on musical adaptations of Lorca with people who know these things from the inside.

Monday, February 18, 2019

2nd day of Lorca conference

At dinner last night there was a larger group of younger people, kind of loud. After they left the head waiter complained about them to the rest of us eating there, mostly older people like me. I guess that's why they call it the "Residencia de Estudiantes," he said. I wasn't bothered so much though I wasn't sorry to see them leave.


Slept ok: jet lag usually affects me more the second night. Still no signs of Lorquistas at breakfast.

I walked down to Hiperión in the morning, a bookstore selling mostly poetry.  It is not being kept up well, and I only found a few books I wanted, including a selection of the Venezuelan poet Gerbasi. The Central down by the Reina Sofía is much better.

 On the other side of Recoletos from Hiperión is the historic Café Gijón. I had a coffee there; asked to play the piano and of course the waiter said no, and not in a very sympathetic way. It would have just as easy to say no with a smile, but I'm very used to the antipático style of Madrid. A bit of piano withdrawal here. I didn't stay as long in Gijón as I would have if the waiter had been a bit less gruff.

I notice from the program that the conference is international because of scholars from 3 nations: Spain itself, the US, and Italy.  There is one other woman from the US, Melissa Dinverno from Indiana U, me, and an Italian guy.  Tomorrow we will be in the Complutense, and on Wed. we stay in the Resi itself. I'm wondering whether the Spanish participants will show up for their own day and then go home again.


Talk went well. Didn't have many questions.  Reconnected with a Lorquista from the U. of Indiana, who gave the talk right before mine. Had a beer with Don Wellman, Gamoneda's translator, then dinner with the Indiana Lorquista and a Spanish guy whose book I had once reviewed (favorably, which was good.) I ended up walking 20,741 steps today, since I walked back from the Reina Sofía.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Lorca Conference Chronicle

I got up early on Saturday; it had snowed heavily on Friday but the roads were clear and Beth got me to the airport in time for my flight to Chicago; everything was on time. On the flight to Spain (Iberia) I saw two films, one a bad revenge film and the other something called "Juliet Naked," about a British woman whose boyfriend is obsessed by a singer-singer writer (played by Ethan Hawke), whom the woman herself eventually becomes involved with through her boyfriend's fan site. It was ok. I slept a bit between the two movies.

Got to the Residencia de Estudiantes, where Lorca lived and where they are putting us up, at around 9 on Sunday. Of course they didn't have my room ready until 11. I had a coffee and read the paper: a story about Machado in Colliure.  Nothing yet about our conference on Lorca! I slept a bit then went down to the dining room at 2.  Didn't know anyone.  I had pea soup, veal, and a glass of wine. Went downtown and bought a few books at FNAC. A collection of Isla Correyero, a book of essays by Jorde Doce.

When I came back a guy was playing the piano, and a woman was singing some Lorca songs: 'La Tarara" and a version of "Romance sonámbulo." There were good and the sound of the piano was marvelous (earlier they had not let me play it when I asked and had two hours to kill.). There was a group of people listening and drinking coffee. When I asked they said they weren't here for the Lorca conference that starts today. Which raises the question of where my people are? Now I have to wait until dinner starts at 10, two and a half more hours. Of course, since my talk is tomorrow, I had to get here today, a day early. Everyone else is probably coming tomorrow.  I think I will practice my talk now.    

Friday, February 15, 2019


Because I take poetry seriously I cannot take myself seriously as a poet. I have to go in through the back door, through bad poetry and parody.

In a paper I wrote once as a grad student, I argued that this is what Kenneth Koch does. Later I learned that he took himself more far seriously than I gave him credit for. I learned that from his assistant, Jordan Davis, who became a friend of mine.

What do you do when your best friends are John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, and James Schuyler! You have to be somewhat modest about your own abilities, I reasoned. But you also have to put it on the line, to call yourself a poet without embarrassment and to make a claim for your own work.

I feel a certain shame in not having published a book of poetry. Yet that seems an illusory measure. Bad books are published every day and kind of crappy poetry wins prizes. My poetry is as good, or bad, as it actually is, by whoever's judging it, irrespective of externalities. Occupying the role of poet implies a certain resumé that I don't have, but who cares? I'm very glad that my academic position doesn't depend on creative writing resumé.

A Dream of God

In this dream I was talking to someone about God. I said that I would believe in God if I felt God was real like a person I knew. Not physically seeing the person, necessarily, but feeling the person as real in an undeniably real sense. This was a powerful dream. Not that I woke up as a religious believer, but that I understood why someone could be such a believer for the first time.


I reasoned later, after I was awake, that some people must feel that way, and hence view atheism as absurd. It would be like speculating about whether your wife actually existed.

Yet this argument is not made very much, so it follows that religious believers don't actually feel the divine presence in a palpable way.  If they did, they would use that argument instead of the more speculative sort of reasoning in all the famous arguments for God. Pascal's bet and all the rest are really atheistic arguments, because they concede the possibility of non-existence from the very beginning. You can't feel it but it's there anyway, hypothetically, and you must take a leap of faith to posit its existence.

It would be pointless to argue with someone who felt the presence directly.  It would be like trying to convince someone their husband wasn't real. On the other hand, if someone doesn't feel it already they are already vulnerable to losing their faith. They can only offer abstruse reasons why they think their spouse exists.

Variations on a Theme By Wallace Stevens

Oh thin men of Haddam
Why do you imagine golden birds?


Oh thin men of Haddam,
How did you lose all that weight?


Oh thin men of Haddam,
Involuntary symbols
Of austerity and inanition,
Let nobody condescend to you!
Who better to dream at night
Of the "silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun"?


Oh thin men of Haddam,
Do you remember Pontiacs and park benches?
Do your sons and daughters have rock bands
In your garages?
Has the opioid epidemic reached your town?

Thursday, February 14, 2019


I don't feel defensive about potential weak aspects of my poetic and critical heroes. I can see how Barthes can feel brittle and dated, how Creeley has dull moments. To feel defensive would be to be have too much as stake in the identification, almost an "attachment" in the Buddhist sense.  I probably wouldn't get up in arms today about Simic's uncomprehending review of Creeley in the NYRB.  I would still disagree with him (and I do) and think of him as an idiot, but it wouldn't let it get to me any more.

Webern is not one of my heroes, because I simply haven't devoted much attention to him, but when a student in class responded very negatively to something I played by Webern, I felt a bit miffed. Not because of my non-existent attachment to Webern, but because it just seemed pointless. A reaction that negative is also evidence of an "attachment"--to one's own sense of taste and comfort. So, too, my resistance to Mary Oliver and Billy Collins is ego-driven, in a sense. That people like their poetry often seems intolerable to me, as though something were at stake for me personally. It is quite absurd, because the middle-brow poetry of the NPR-listening crowd has to like that, logically. Someone's work had to fit that sensibility the way theirs does.


Another writer I ought to admire more is Ramón Gómez de la Serna.  He is an interesting and attractive figure, you could argue,, as one of the first vanguard writers in Spain, and a master of the short form, which I ought to admire. Yet his achievement doesn't add up to what it ought to be. His writing ends up being a bit thin, especially at greater lengths. His novelas de la nebulosa are an interesting concept, though a bit derivative of Unamuno's Niebla. Try reading one of them, though. He just can't sustain a plot or novelistic structure. El novelista is an early example of metafiction, but ends up being tedious, as I discovered when I assigned it to students. In one novel, Rebeca, the main character invents an imaginary girlfriend to get out of an awkward question, and then spends the rest of the novel looking for her in real life. Of course it's written from a male perspective and leaves itself wide open to a feminist critique, like a lot of his work. I would defend it, except that it ends up being a bit tedious. He isn't a great prose stylist, despite the fact that his claim to fame is the invention of a stylistic device: the surprising and humorous metaphor he called the greguería.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Writers I ought to like more than I actually do

Lezama Lima 

I was hugely into Lezama at one time; I know I'm supposed to think he's great. But I now realize that Lezama only takes me so far.  I like the idea of being baroque like he is more than the actual reality. If I never work on Lezama, it will be fine. I can still die happy.

María Zambrano 

I ought to like her because people in my circle generally think she's great.  Me, not so much. What's even worse than María Zambrano is people who go on and on about her but without saying anything that contextualizes her in a meaningful way. Reading endless things about her that all say the same thing but never tackle problematic areas of her thought is sheer torture. I do have one article about her, and that is enough. The bottom line, I realized when I did a translation of her someone asked me to do, is that she just isn't a good writer; and her contribution to philosophy is very thin.

Robert Duncan 

I've always felt ill at ease with one major dimension of his work: its self-congratulatory and self-canonizing impulse.

Minor Language Poets.

I like the language poets as a whole, but some of them are just all that good. Endless talking about "syntax" when you question, sometimes, whether they know what syntax really is.  I was hugely into the whole group at one time, and some are superb writers like Susan Howe or Ron Silliman at his best, and I will defend them against dumb, ignorant attacks any time, but in retrospect there is not enough critical writing that separates the best achievements from the mediocrity of the lesser figures.


Who are your writers you ought to like more than you actually do? I resent the group-think that makes everyone in a certain clique have to like the same writers. People I admire immensely are big fans of Lezama, Zambrano, Duncan, etc... I am not doubting their sincerity. I just don't have to go along unless I really am feeling it for myself. If you like what I dislike you are not wrong. What is wrong is spending years trying to like something that will never really convince you.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Serial Poem


1. Rye.

2. Wheat.

3. Oats.


Rice Crispies. Cheerios. Cream of Wheat. Oatmeal.

Shredded Wheat. Postum. Barley Flakes. Chex.



Poetry Reading

We had a poetry reading yesterday as a benefit for the Zen Center, which two poet friends of mine run. All the usual suspects read, but I am not particularly crazy about how people read their poems aloud. Nobody had the dreaded "poet voice," and one or two other readers were good, but generally I just don't like poetry readings. I got a good response because I have a sense of timing, of how to get a poem across rhythmically.  A little bit of comic timing.  My poem "dough, some bread, I'll spend on you / Ray, my cousin Raymond's name / MI, the state of Michigan / Fa, a nonsense syllable / Sol, the Spanish word for sun / Law, what we must all obey / Tee,  on which the golf ball sits" got some laughs.  I'm not saying all poetry has to be comic like mine, but...

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Idea

I came up with the central idea of the book recently: that the popular folkloric element in Lorca's work is the "object of desire" among musical adaptors while at the same time being what allows them to invest their music with greater prestige: thus the popularizing and intellectualizing impulses are actually one and the same thing.  I know that's not expressed eloquently yet, but at least I have it written down.  It has been implicit in what I'm doing for a while, but I only recently discovered what it actually is.  One central idea that allows me to sift through a lot of material and make sense of it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Imaginative Freedom

I was listening to Keith Jarret and trying to play along, at least the melody of the head. Although I cannot play like him, if I turn it off and play immediately afterward, I can imitate the rhythmic patterns.  I don't have problem finding notes to play per se.  What I notice is that what I play is very unjazzlike, square. Even though I know, at some level, what the jazz-like rhythmic patterns are, they are not what I am hearing yet as I play.

I do play what I hear in my head, but what I am playing in my head are these square patterns. If play them, they are honest at least. They reflect what I am hearing rather than being random scales.


As I work toward imaginative freedom in my poetry, I realize that I can have that honesty: to write exactly what I hear in my head. The opposite of that freedom is to write what you think people think poetry ought to be. A good poem should be honest, in the sense of not giving a shit what someone might think, rather than trying to create an ideal self for others to admire.  I don't mean honesty in terms of literal truth, though that could come in as well. The tone can be ironic, or you could say the opposite of what you mean.  You can have a persona, but it is a persona that is honestly achieved.

It takes a certain confidence, too. I have to know I am capable of a good phrase in order to come up with a good phrase, or even a phrase that is bad in an interesting way.  There is a technical work that I've done as a poet, which is highly analytical.  For example, looking at sentences like this:

"Before the flowers of friendship faded friendship faded." (G. Stein)

"Je dors peu, et le peu que je dors, je le dors le jour." (S. Beckett)

There is a "syntactical imagination," just as there is a pragmatic and a phonological imagination. You have to be involved with language itself, but not in a boring way as sometimes happens. What I like is the New York school sensibility, where the technical aspects are active, but not the whole point of the poem as in mid-career Creeley. I've spent countless hours studying Ceravolo and Coolidge, and that allows me to write poems with bad enjambement.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2019


 Ode to Mary Oliver

In a good poem, like the ones you write, nobody masturbates or stubs their toe

They only hear magic voices telling them to change their life 

There is no burnt toast, only mystic animals and boxes of darkness 

There’s no evil, your lyric speakers always think well of themselves

Going off into the woods to embrace trees 

I don’t buy it because there should be a lot more insect bites  

You say you believe in whimsy and mischief, but you don’t really 

Your bland, pious words betray you 

Maybe your sanctimonious platitudes are the bad poems after all, Mary Oliver!

I’m coming to realize this as I write this ode to you  

Maybe my terribly bad poems are not so bad after all, 

Much as I try to make them worse and worse  

Monday, February 4, 2019

Why emjambement is the worst

Leslie reminded me of something in a comment on a previous post.

Bad enjambement is the curse of bad poetry because it is the sign of verse itself: division into lines. But it is verse misunderstood: the bad poet writes in prose and then divides it into lines without quite understanding that this is not the way you do it. Or line break are exploited by sentimental value, making a key line very short.

Even non-enjambed lines can be badly lineated, but bad enjambement is the worst. Don't do it.

Or do do it, if you are going after that bad poetry effect.

Oliver vs. Baudelaire

Mary Oliver, who died recently, has a certain following. Even friends of mine, smart academics, like her work. Usually they say something like, "I'm not a poetry expert, but... "

The main feature of her work is a what we could call the aspirational subject position.  In other words, the speaker of the poem is a version of one's "best self," complete with the requisite moral earnestness. People have written that those of us who look down on her do so because her poetry is too easy to understand, or that she writes about "old-fashioned" subjects like God and nature. There is a New Yorker piece about "what Mary Oliver's critics don't get" that say this. (This article says that she writes in "blank verse," when what is meant is free verse.)  But, really, this writers doesn't get the objection to Mary Oliver at the most fundamental level.

Speaking for myself, the reason I don't like her work is because it embodies more facile elements of that sort of self-improvement culture in a very sentimental way. Of course, the reader (or a certain type of reader) wants to identify with this aspirational model of selfhood. That's the whole satisfaction of her work. Even her famous poem with the lines "You do not have to be good..." is an example of this. The speaker says we don't have to be good, but is essentially congratulating herself on her moral strenuousness.  In this culture you rhetorically embrace the fact that you are imperfect, but you never actually paint yourself in a bad or ridiculous light. There are no chinks in the armor.

An exaggeratedly non-ideal self, like that appearing in Baudelaire's spleen poems, is the other extreme. I'm thinking of one in which he compares himself to a cruel prince in a rainy country. Now it might be interesting to think that both Oliver and and Baudelaire suffered from depression. Rhetorically, you can embrace the way depression makes you feel bad about yourself; or you can cover it up with a veneer of sentimentality and prettiness. Both are rhetorical strategies; neither is honest or genuine, really, but I object more to the dishonesty of Oliver's poetry. I've known people who have moral objections to Baudelaire, but he is not trying to paint himself in a good light.  You have to object to his subjectivity, because it is being presented to you already in a way that you might will to object to.  Baudelaire is also saying "you do not have to be good," but he accepts that there are consequences.

Saturday, February 2, 2019


My favorite trope is bathos

Instead of ending the poem resonantly, with a satisfying conclusion

Or epiphany

The poet pulls the rug out from under you

With an idea that's low, ridiculous, worthy of scorn

In my poems the bathos ends the poem before it's supposed to

As if in a fit of impatience

As though something more significant were waiting for me

Outside of the four walls of the poem

Really, though, I like living in here much better

I should stay put and make the poem last as long as possible


I stuck my tongue in a woman's mouth

Surprisingly, she stuck hers in mine

We lived like that for several years

I learned how a woman tastes chocolate and salt

She tasted of whisky

And the mouths of other women

Neither of us could tell the truth

With a tongue that was not our own

Now we have our tongues back

They stay put

Friday, February 1, 2019


Doing some de-cluttering.  It's something I have been wanting to do for a while, so the Marie Kondo craze is just a good pretext.  I've found about 70 books to unload, so far, between home and office. I found some dated queer theory books from the 90s and early 2000s.  Mostly I'm keeping primary texts and parts of collections or sets, getting rid of old textbooks and even some reference books, and some books I picked up on tables when other colleagues were giving them away as they left the university.

I went through most of my clothes too.  I had old navy polos I hadn't worn in seven years.

 I can do CDs after that. Then musical instruments.  

Please spare me the criticism. There are silly elements to the Marie Kondo tv show and I could only stand to watch a few episodes. I just like the basic concept of de-cluttering by categories.  That makes it more manageable than the idea of "cleaning the office," when the office itself contains books, cds, papers, instruments, and misc. Cleaning the two offices (home and campus) is not going to happen, but going through these categories will.  


I have to present this film "Bones of Contention" at the Lawrence Art Center on Saturday. I guess because it has Lorca at the center of it and I am the Lorca guy and it is presented by my own department. Not my idea.

Unfortunately, I hate the film because it is not about Lorca at all, but uses him as its fulcrum to talk about everything else. To me it comes off as an incoherent mishmash. A cringe-worthy moment came when someone says Lorca is the first LGBT victim of Franco.  

But, of course, I am the worst person to ask. My opinion is not all that relevant here.


I was walking across campus with my colleague, Stuart. My movement were guided by my consciousness of a set of invisible ropes, of varying thicknesses and tensions, stretching from my limbs diagonally to the sky. Being conscious of them made my movements fluid and unhurried. Some thinner one could break off with no adverse consequences. I thought of the word guys, as it appears in Robert Frost's poem "The Silken Tent." There was no constraint or limitation implied: the ropes did not control me. It was I who could guide my own movements gracefully according to my heightened consciousness of them.