Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Monday, June 29, 2020
Sunday, June 28, 2020
Friday, June 26, 2020
Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Monday, June 22, 2020
Sunday, June 21, 2020
Saturday, June 20, 2020
"Embattled faculty colleagues:
We write at this late hour disappointed, disheartened, and frustrated. After what we perceived as genuine progress toward the ideal of shared and collaborative governance, after what we hoped were strides toward building trust among the faculty and the administration, and after being assured a seat at the table, we were taken aback to learn—almost as you did—the scope and nature of pending salary cuts.
You have already spoken clearly to us: You feel this is outrageous and unfair. You think the rationale of the salary cuts is neither apparent nor equitable. You are being asked to risk your health for the financial well-being of the university. You are being asked to put forth extraordinary and uncompensated effort to redesign and rethink and redevelop your courses. At a minimum, you should have been fully consulted before you were asked to add a severe pay cut to your already great sacrifices for the university.
We are acting fast to respond properly to this development, we will be heard, and we hope to count on your continued trust and support."
I've become a big fan of art song since I began this project. As with everything else, there are mediocre ones, too. I don't even know enough to tell the difference, always, so I have to rely on instincts.
I get out some pico de gallo I made two days before
and put it on the potato and egg on my plate
Friday, June 19, 2020
For you I would enlist in armed regiments, desert, turn myself in, and serve time in the brig eating that thin gruel.
But you would not have me do this; your only wish for me is contentment and ease.
For you I would reverse time to meet you earlier in my life
Today, the most significant poetry, though not perhaps the best by older standards, is no longer created for the printed page. As in the days before the city and the alphabet, poetry has become once again an art of direct communication, one person speaking or singing directly to others. Along with this change has come, in the words of the poems themselves, a constant, relentless, thoroughgoing criticism of all the values of industrial, commercial civilization. Poetry today is people poetry as it was in tribal society and it performs the same function in a worldwide counterculture. It is the most important single factor in the unity of that counterculture and takes the place of ideologies and constitutions, even of religious principles. As such those whose lives are identified past recall with the older dominant culture certainly are justified in seeing it as profoundly subversive. Where is this poetry? It is in the lyrics of rock singers, protest singers, folk singers, and the singers of gathering places like the French cafés chantants now spread all over the world.
Thursday, June 18, 2020
As a consequence, I am most probably wrong about things that I haven't investigated in more depth. Pretending to know about a lot of things is not for me, because I have enough experience to know when I am likely to be ignorant, which is the majority of the time.
Socratic ignorance, where you start off by presuming you don't know anything, is the only intellectually honest position to take. Depth in scholarship is the goal, but you must start out with the depth of ignorance. Simply not knowing in advance what you might find. It can't be faked ignorance, where you pretend you don't know but you actually have a dogmatic position.
In my facebook group people were debating whether Spain was a "slave society." I didn't know much about this, but people provided some references that schooled me a bit on the issue. Some Spaniards in the group, one in particular, got defensive. But if you simply think that the issue is slave labor in peninsular Spain, then I think you are wrong. Spain was an empire, and as such began to importation of Africans into the New World, and also enslaved indigenous people. So if Spain held Cuba as a colony, and Cuba had slaves, then Spain is a society based on slavery, to the exact extent that it drew wealth from this source. Spain had abolitionists too, many of them the women writers of the romantic period. This is also good to know. It wouldn't have had abolitionists if it wasn't a society based on slavery to some extent.
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
Then Borges renounced the avant-garde. He thought that you couldn't invent new metaphors. The only valid ones are those that were universal. He began writing a lot of sonnets instead of the free verse of Fervor de Buenos Aires.
But in his prose, both his short essays and his stories, he became something else: an avant-garde writer of a different sort, in a way more imaginative than the simple search for new poetic images. He was a hero for the postmodernists and poststructuralists. He is an important translation theorist as well.
But at the same time, he never stopped being the conservative poet who had rejected the avant-garde. He wasn't two separate writers, but a single one. All the Argentine costumbrismo and the universal cosmopolitanism seemed coherent, somehow. The way for him to become one of the most original writers of all time was to embrace a theory that denies spurious notions of originality.
That is why readings of "Pierre Menard" are wrong. In actuality, the two identical texts from Cervantes are indeed identical.
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
Of course, you could think of this as picking on low-hanging fruit, but Grandes publishes novel after novel with respected publishers.
AG is married to Luis GM, a Spanish poet whose work I think is mediocre. He is not fond of me either. I've never met her, but I am prejudiced against her simply because of this connection. She dedicates the novel to him. She has a Galdosian reference, in the form of a poem by Cernuda about Galdós, as the epigraph. The device of the young intellectual up against forces of reaction is stolen from Galdos's Doña Perfecta. There is a scene where the young intellectual, a psychiatrist named Velázquez, puts his foot in his mouth in an encounter with a priest, that makes you think of Pepe Rey. But Almudena is no Galdós.
I've read every single novel by Galdós, except a few of the episodes nacionales in the fourth and fifth series. This is thousands of pages of reading. Some of them I've read several times; I've taught him in classes too and was even married to a Galdosista, so I know of what I speak.
The writing is repetitious and banal (in Grandes). The effort to achieve poetic effects is ludicrous. The narrator returns to Spain and sees his sister for the first time in many years. He is struck by her beauty and describes her as not merely pretty, but beautiful in the way reserved for truly happy people. Her beauty radiates in her teeth and hair from the deepest interior to the furthest extremities of her body. She is both skinnier and fatter than he expected, with the new fat in all the right places. They embrace... Then the sister disappears for hundreds of pages. It's not that I wanted an incest plot, but this is just weird as narrative technique.
The earnest moralizing is not to be believed. It is a novela de tesis in the Galdosian sense. One target of critique seems to be eugenics. We are told numerous times in the first hundred pages that "the ends don't justify the means." The other target is Franco's Spain. We get a nice parody of Francoist ideology, but it's not something we don't already know if we've read Delibes novels like La sombra del ciprés es alargada or Cinco horas con Mario. The worst part is that my kindle (iPad) underlines passages that other readers have highlighted, and these tend to be the set pieces of ideological preaching. At one point, it is pointed out that the insane asylum where the novel takes place is a microcosm of the Francoist society. Well duh!!!
The characters are poorly drawn. The novel is constantly telling and not showing. We get those "this was the most decisive moment of my life" statements that savvier narrators might present more subtly.
Nothing rings true to me. It is pure cardboard sky. The narrative premise has enormous potential, as Clarissa points out, but the novel is going nowhere (so far). I haven't even gotten to the anti-Semitic parts she refers to...
... to be continued.
I learned yesterday that one of the main translators of Hafez just makes up the poems. He doesn't even translate. It's all apocryphal. So the pseudo-mystical claptrap in your Instagram account or your wedding vows or tattooed on your forearm is just some bullshit dreamed up by a middle-aged white guy with a beard in the contemporary US. I don't believe in shunning people for their writing, but this is orientalism at its worst. There oughta be a law. There's no copyright that applies, and its not even plagiarism, but something possibly even worse. This is even worse than what Kent Johnson would do.
Then, the most popular Rumi translator, Coleman Barks, doesn't make the stuff up, but pretty much rids it of its Islamic content. He was first given a copy of Rumi by .... Robt. Bly. Neither Barks nor Ladinsky knows any Persian. You know, you can study a language if you are interested. It is not impossible to learn Persian. If I were going to devote my entire career to translating a poet, I would want to learn something about the poet, the original language, culture, or religion.
So yes, I will defend my right to criticize Bly. The guy who accuses me of criticizing Bly too harshly does not actually defend the translations to show me I am wrong. Bly once translated the word "quimera" [chimera] in a Machado poem as "mythological beast." It is as though he looked up the word in a dictionary and found the definition "a mythological beast" and put it in his translation without thinking about it too much.
Monday, June 15, 2020
Thursday, June 11, 2020
For you, I'd give up recycling and statistics
For you, I'd give up arugula, spare tires
a month's rent, shaving soap
For you, I renounce Neruda and salt,
icicles, strawberries, and even more more salt
If necessary, I'd abjure and disavow
whatever else I love or don't love
What is the temperature of death?
We know the temperature of ice,
not so much the temperature of sand.
If we ask, what is the temperature?
We are talking about the temperature of the air.
The temperature of a book never changes that much--
Not like metal, colder than ice and hotter than flames.
I'm speaking literally here.
We know that temperature is a metaphor for so much else.
Wednesday, June 10, 2020
I've always found this a bit much, ever since I read a Spanish translation in La alegría de los náufragos several years ago. Prévert may be the French Rod McKuen, or something close to that, but Houllebeq, whose name I can never spell for some reason, is just an asshole.
Tuesday, June 9, 2020
If people do excellent work, I don't feel jealous. I feel good for the field. With work I don't think is good, I feel bad for the field as well as for myself if they cite me but without understanding. I don't feel as personally insulted as I used to, particularly by a guy who would say he got an idea from me, and then not cite me for it.
I used to get quite angry when I read positive reviews of bad books. Now I just shrug my shoulders.
Sunday, June 7, 2020
Saturday, June 6, 2020
My July workshop will be "Creativity in Scholarship." It will be open to "the public" and I'll advertise it on facebook. The price will be whatever you want to pay, donated to your local food bank or similar org. I will limit participants to 15 and donate $20 per participant myself as well.
Irrational causes of hating my own playing: I had accidentally set the dynamic control so that that I could not control dynamics any more. I played without noticing it, but finally it dawned on me. Once I restored the setting I like, it automatically sounded better.
Hearing people play better than me. Irrational because of course pro players will be better than me. I have no right to expect anything different. I should be inspired rather than intimidated.
Not thinking I have improved enough; not giving myself credit for improvement.
You can argue against the causes of depression, but not against the feeling itself. That is simply real.
Thursday, June 4, 2020
As you read, certain ideas will occur to you. You must learn to listen to them as they come up, distinguishing between what is interesting and what is not.
As I read poetry, I cannot not have ideas.
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
2) Uncreative interpretations. Make a list of "standard interpretations." That is, way in which people habitually interpret certain texts. This would be like Flaubert's dictionary of received ideas. Here the idea is not to interpret texts creatively, but to explore what the standard interpretations are. Once you get a feel for those, then you know what you are up against. These interpretations aren't necessarily wrong, but they have become a bit stale.
3) Clichés. Along a similar line, think of clichés of literary criticism, like the idea that there is "anxiety" about something and texts are symptomatic of this anxiety. Is there a way of making something creative out of this, or some other, cliché? Invent your own cliché. What if the common method of interpreting were astrological. What would result in overturning this habit.
4) Comparison. Compare two texts that don't seem to have anything in common. The furthest apart they [seemingly] are, the better.
5) Make up your own. Make up your own exercise. Make sure it doesn't duplicate one of mine. That would be uncreative.
II. So creativity in scholarship--what is it, exactly? My first idea is that it might be the kind of insight into the creative work that a creator might have. So a musical creator might have insight into the work by virtue of being a composer, that the mere analyst does not have. This does not make the scholarship necessarily creative in its insights. It would depend on whether the composer knew how to formulate insights in this way. Maybe yes, maybe no. Just being a creative writer doesn't make you a creative thinker. It would depend on the quality of your thought. Still, a skilled practitiioner would now certain things.
III. My second idea is that we know uncreative scholarship when we see it. We call it "plodding. "It belabors obvious points; analyzes in detail with no sense of purpose; provides a lot of information without telling us why it is meaningful; fails to follow up on potentially more interesting points; we read it and don't learn very much of interest. From this sort of unimaginative practice, we can deduce what we mean by creativity.
[IV. But there is another kind of scholarship that tries to be creative, but seems creative in the wrong way (to me!). It is not dull or plodding; it is flashy. It has extravagant interpretations, a shimmering critical metalanguage. It does have a certain excitement about it, but we won't necessarily accept its conclusions and interpretations. It doesn't seem rooted in deep understanding, but in a kind of superficial use of exciting-sounding buzzwords.]
V. So we can reverse the definition of the "uncreative" without falling into the trap of being creative in the wrong ways. Instead of belaboring the obvious, it uses obvious points to set up the more interesting ones; it distinguishes between information and insight; the critic has a nose for what my be interesting and pursues it. He or she would make connections among things that are ordinarily seen as disconnected, or distinguish between things that are falsely seen as the same things, question arbitrary classifications. The originality is based on mastery of the field, and not on bullshit.
VI. I don't know how to teach this. The student is or is not creative? But perhaps I could have a series of exercises on scholarly creativity.
I guess the upshot here is that, instead of viewing declamation as a slightly corny and mostly irrelevant aspect, I can consider it as part of the music.
People like Charles Bernstein and his collaborators on Close Listening do not pay a lot of attention to music per se, even though their subject is poetry as "performed word." But what if declamation and singing were simply two forms of performance? There are musical style, in fact, that are more declamatory: sprechstimme, recitative... A composer can write the instruction parlando in the score. These chanting, declaiming styles are common in Lorca adaptations.
Think of Zukofksy: Lower limit speech / Upper limit music. So poetry can be speech, but not merely speech, and music, but also "speaking music."
Tuesday, June 2, 2020
(A third position is to like Lorca because he is folkloric.)
But studying Lorca and music, I can't exactly make that separation. Musicians gravitate toward him because of his investment in anonymous lyric traditions. So the sophistication of the approach is in the adaptation of folklore to something that, by definition, cannot be folklore any more. And that is precisely what Lorca himself did.
I've thought of teaching as transactional in this sense: you don't lecture the students, but engage. You can't just say what you had planned to say, because the faces looking at you make you change your plans. Their comments and questions influence you. This might be a better model than adaptation: the idea that you take an original work and adapt it, so the critic has to study the two things in contrast to each other. That works for a lot of things, like movie adaptations of novels, translations, song settings, parodies... But to bring the transactional into it would emphasize the dynamic quality of the interchange.
What Fredman ways is true of some poets; I know of others who don't seem that way to me at all. I'm not sure it lines up with the avant-garde or non avant-garde division, exactly, though Fredman is in the avant-garde camp. He begins the book with a contrast between Duncan and Antin, and brings Creeley in quickly too. I suspect even the poets whose work I find boring have a lot of interesting intellectual passions.
People remembered the music wrote and wrote it down. They aren't written down by Lorca himself.
Now I realize what Germaine Montero is singing is Lorca's own music. So this explains somewhat why Lorca became such a musical figure. It's not just the poems, but the plays. Specifically, the song from the plays. Lorca meant these songs to be sung, and composed (or adapted) the music for them.
So now, there are two factors I had known about but underestimated by a country mile: Lorca as composer / Lorca as playwright. Now a lot of things are making more sense. My original orientation was toward music other people wrote, and toward settings of the lyric poems more than the plays.
This does not change anything I've already written, it just makes the book more rounded and complete.
Monday, June 1, 2020
We estimate an overall mortality rate of about 1.8 per 100,000 for men between the ages of 25 y and 29 y. This ranks police use of force as one of the leading causes of death for young men. Between these ages, police violence trails accidents (which include drug overdoses, motor vehicle traffic deaths, and other accidental fatalities) at 76.6 deaths per 100,000, suicide (26.7 deaths per 100,000), other homicides (22.0 deaths per 100,000), heart disease (7.0 deaths per 100,000), and cancer (6.3 deaths per 100,000) as a leading cause of death.
So what the hell? What does "one of the leading causes" mean here? It is ten times less than "other homicides." More than one third less than heart disease. Who the hell dies of heart disease before they are 29? If I gave you a chart with these numbers:
What would you think of the most significant numbers here? I would be more worried about the 3 leading causes.
1) They aren't exclusively Andalusian. Lorca was interested in collecting songs from the entire peninsula. That's why he wrote song-like poems in Galician, etc... Some are Andalusian, but some are not.
2) They are diverse in their style; heterogeneous in their historical origins. They aren't all from one century. There are songs and ballads. Yet performance styles tend to homogenize them, in the sense that a classical singer will do them all as art songs, or a flamenco singer as all flamenco. In fact, they lend themselves to many treatments of diverse sorts. Folk songs are not all created equal. This is not even considering the texts...
3) La Argentinita doesn't sing them in a "folkloric" or flamenco style. We read sometimes that she was a flamenco singer. Not true. She has an operatic-style voice. We can't go back and listen to her for any kind of "authenticity." This is just once style among many. Lorca plays piano behind them and not guitar, so they belong to a kind of parlor music.
4) I'm still trying to figure out when La Tarara got added to them? And it is often said that there were 5 records, but shouldn't there be 6, with 12 songs total? I'm embarrassed to ask a real Lorca scholar the answer to this question, but it's hard to do research with the library closed.
5) The arrangements were not written down by Lorca, but transcribed.
6) Blackburn translates some was though they were Lorca poems, and that practice is continued when performers and composers mix Lorca's own poems with the poems he collected.
etc... I think I almost have enough for an article.