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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...

Saturday, February 27, 2021


They are measuring our productivity in "throughput," a word I didn't even know last year. Basically, now many semester credit hours we teach per faculty member.  

Jaccottet poem, loose translation after the Spanish of Rafael-José Díaz

The older I get, the greater my ignorance,

the longer I've lived, the less I possess, the less I'm in charge.

All I have is a space snowy

and bright by turns, but never lived in. 

Where is the provider, guide, the guardian?

I keep to my room and for the moment say nothing 

(the silence, like a servant, comes to tidy up),

and wait for the lies to leave one by one.

What's left? What does the one dying still have

that doesn't let him die? What force

makes him still speak between his four walls?


«Cuanto más envejezco, más crezco en ignorancia,
cuanto más he vivido, menos poseo y menos reino.
Todo lo que tengo es un espacio alternativamente
nevado o brillante, pero nunca habitado.
¿Dónde está el dador, el guía, el guardián?
Permanezco en mi cuarto y de momento me callo
(el silencio, como un sirviente, viene a poner un poco de orden),
y espero a que las mentiras se aparten una a una:
¿qué queda? ¿Qué le queda a quien muere
que le impide morir? ¿Qué fuerza
le hace hablar aún entre sus cuatro paredes?»


Plus je vieillis et plus je croîs en ignorance,

plus j'ai vécu, moins je possède et moins je règne.

Tout ce que j'ai, c'est un espace tour à tour

enneigé ou brillant, mais jamais habité.

Où est le donateur, le guide, le gardien?

Je me tiens dans ma chambre et d'abord je me tais

(le silence entre en serviteur mettre un peu d'ordre),

et j'attends qu'un à un les mensonges s'écartent :

que reste-t-il? que reste-t-il à ce mourant

qui l'empêche si bien de mourir?
Quelle force

le fait encor parler entre ses quatre murs?

Pourrais-je le savoir, moi l'ignare et l'inquiet?

Mais je l'entends vraiment qui parle, et sa parole

pénètre avec le jour, encore que bien vague :

Comme le feu, l'amour n'établit sa clarté

que sur la faute et la beauté des bois en cendres... »

100 thousand billion pantoums

 So my idea is to take a poem and write ten variants of each line, like Queneau did in Cent mille milliards de poemes, a sonnet with 10 to 14th power of possible versions. I will begin with Ashbery's "Pantoum":

Eyes shining without mystery

Footprints eager for the past

Through the vague snow of many clay pipes

And what is in store? 

For every line, there will be 10 variants. 

So for "eyes shining without mystery" I might say

The guardian's blank stare / A landscape with no enigmas / etc... 

So the first stanza of the first one would be 

The guardian's blank stare

Venom on the window sill

In an imprecise landscape of salt

What birds emerge in the fog? 

There are 14 lines, so the total number of variants would be a hundred thousand billion. 

Friday, February 26, 2021

No Confidence

 There was a straw poll of no confidence in the chancellor and provost in the faculty senate yesterday. Only 5 voted that they would be ready to vote yes on this (with 20 something voting that they would not). I was listening to the meeting on my computer, am not on the senate now. So that's a non-starter. The senate is institutionally weak anyway. We need to unionize. The Senate is set up to be cooperative with the administration, without any real power, since the KBOR (board of Regents) can set policy unilaterally and give whatever powers it wants to the CEO (the chancellor), including apparently the power to suspend tenure even without declaring a financial exigency. 

Latin American studies will be merged into International Program or Global Studies, or whatever, and thus lose its distinctive mission and identity. This is obviously very bad for Hispanism here, since even though I am personally not a Latin Americanist, I know that Spanish departments thrive when there are strong Latin American interdisciplinary programs. Our own department is a strong component of Lat Am studies, with a critical mass of the faculty. It would be hard to apply for Title VI funds next time around, or recruit faculty to the dept. All humanities research is interdisciplinary now... 

Poem that doesn't end to soon

 I'd like to learn the trick of going on, 

Not ending the poem too soon in a fit of impatience

or fear, like I always do. But what am I afraid of 

anyway?  Making a mistake? Too late for that.

"Outwearing my welcome"? But we're all on borrowed time. 

Alice Notley say fearlessness is the key to the poetic voice.

That and a sense of the live presence of the person on the page,

a rare thing almost nobody gets or even thinks about. 

What are the other poets trying for, even? 

Trying to be deemed worthy of being read in the first place, 

getting published with that imprimatur and thus worthy 

of being published that exact place? And maybe even read? 

Achieving a legitimacy that already have (or don't have)... 

The trick of going on, anyway, is to get to the middle. 

Here we have been going on for a bit and feeling comfortable

if not fearless. The anxiety of beginning has dissipated, and

we are still far off from the necessity of concluding, or even

thinking about preparing for the ending. Here one is comfortably in the 

beginning of the middle, not even worried about the middle of the middle

or the beginning of the end. Here, themes can be developed, even themes

unrelated to the main subject. The earnest work of being unafraid can begin... 

Thursday, February 25, 2021


I went to the wetlands around 4. There were Canadian geese, other black birds in a tree that I couldn't identify. A Harris's sparrow, I think, on top of a bird house. It occurred to me that I know less about  birds than the average person. 

Bar exam

 I was taking the bar exam. I wasn't nervous, because I hadn't studied (or gone to law school for that matter). Nothing seemed to depend on my passing it. I had my fountain pens ready, and was somewhat concerned the paper being used was to glossy to be written on with this pen. Somehow the process got interrupted. I took the exam and mailed it in on the way downstairs, even though I hadn't written anything on it, not even my name. 


Later, we were doing some international espionage on behalf of some billionaire, but he never seemed able to pay us. At the end, he tried paying us in vegetables and we concluded that he was a scammer of some kind. 

At one point, we infiltrated a Mexican restaurant. The bodyguard tried to hit me, but he was laughably bad at boxing and I avoided his punches very easily. I argued that I should be the bodyguard. (This was before we discovered the scam).  In the whole sequence of dreams I was with other, unidentified people, a kind of team whose other members never came into focus for me.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Blind NIghtingale

 I had forgotten this: in the essay "Arquitectura del cante jondo," Lorca refers to the genre as a "ruiseñor ciego," without much visual imagery. His own tribute to the music, though, does incorporate the landscape. Then, we have a poetics oriented toward the visual (in Lorca's modernism) but also the evocation of another musical poetics not oriented toward the visual at all. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Fred Astaire


Old Poem

 Te vulnero en sueños, gato equivocado de lugar

Para contar mis desdichas bastan unas ínfulas insulsas, insulares

Me afeito con espuma del mar, desde un interior insondable, selvático


I used to write these poems in Spanish. Not sure why I thought of them today. Oh yes, I want to post on on a facebook page where people put their poem with drawings. I do not draw or write by hand well so that will be fun. 

[In dreams I wound you, cat in the wrong place / To recount my misfortunes, insipid, insular affectations would suffice / I shave with sea foam, from an unfathomable interior of a jungle.]


Why is Amanda Gorman's superbowl poem a "poem" and Bruce Springsteen's Jeep commercial not a "poem"? (I don't know who wrote the commercial, but it is better written than the Gorman piece, arguably.) We have things that we call "poems," setting them apart from other texts. Gorman's rhymes, but that seems a bit odd as a criterion, since most poems do not rhyme anymore. (The belief that that is the criterion seems a bit third grade to me.) 

Setting off the text as a poem is inviting a kind of scrutiny of it, then. If I used the phrase "nutritional supplement" in a poem, then I would hear its sound and rhythm. Its polysyllabical lightness would be  dactylic now. We would see the phrase itself as a little bit sill. You'd expect it to be used with a sense of irony, producing an intersection between poetic language and real life uses of the phrase nutritional supplement. 

The word educator in the Gorman poem is case in point. I've never referred to myself as an educator because it sounds like a pretentious euphemism for teacher


I read something saying that the Jeep commercial is implicitly white supremacist. There's that, too. To me, that's overthinking it a bit. My first reaction was being puzzled at what it was a commercial for. I didn't even recognize Springsteen til someone I was watching the game with pointed it out.  It just seemed like decontextualized political rhetoric. Then, Jeep somehow epitomizes these values. Then Jeep pulled the commercial because of Bruce's DWI. 


 "I don't teach modulation until March"

The crowded frying pan....

A sad remnant of humanity

In the bathroom mirror 

The crowded frying pan-- 

easily remedied 

in the bathroom mirror.

A jeering crowd

easily remedied

by feigned deafness. 

A jeering crowd

after decades of neglect. 


Tenure Denial

 I don't really get the Cornel West thing at all. Why would you go to Harvard without tenure in the first place if you are Cornel West? He apparently did that in 2016. They are offering him a 10 year contract, and he is around retirement age already. I don't understand, either, why Harvard is not offering tenure to someone who is of that stature. I'm not particularly a fan of his, but there is something we are not being told here. 

Monday, February 22, 2021


 Not a dream exactly: Sometimes when I am fully awake but still in bed I get an image in my mind. This was of a the text of a book printed in small print on both sides of a normal sized interior door.  I guess you could do this by taking the pages of a book and pasting them in order on a door...  Why you would want to is not clear.  

Saturday, February 20, 2021

When administrators fall back on this kind of jargon to justify firing people...

 "As “outsiders within,” our decisions are guided by an authenticity that calls upon not only our deep experience in higher education but also our life experience in a society that marginalizes and devalues BIPOC women. Particularly in our leadership roles, the intersectionality of our identities and our experience negotiating predominantly white environments means that we conceptualize change in holistic ways that include the possibility of interrogating systems of established power to make real space for individuals from all walks of life to thrive. Because one of our strategic planning goals is to be a national model for colleges committed to the values of diversity, equity and inclusion, achieving this goal is important to us and a constant consideration in our decision-making process."


 Female cardinal visited balcony in the morning. Three large crows on Michigan St. Many sparrows in a tree on Illinois St.  Hooting of owl by the river. (Binoculars came in the mail yesterday.) 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Walk on path behind hospital

 I know little of birds. Today on my walk I didn't see much--middle of the day. One bird had a flute-like timbre, singing four notes in succession on the same pitch. Small, nondescript birds flying from tree to tree are hard to identify.  

Whiteness and Longfellow

 I read today someone (in LA Review of Books) trying to show Longfellow as a key figure in establishing "whiteness" in American literature. Then I remembered I had a book half-thought out on translation of Spanish poetry before the 20th century, in which Longfellow plays a significant role.  Longfellow was amazingly multi-cultural for his day, and one of the main translators from romance languages (including Spanish) into English, instrumental in the history of my own discipline in the US. 

Do I love Longfellow's poetry? That is beside the point. I do have a fond spot for a few things of his, and dislike others. What I wanted to do in this abandoned book was to look at this earlier culture of translation and contrast it to the one that emerged in the twentieth century, which began with Pound, but then abandoned Poundian poetics quickly after that. I am interested in that break between metrical translation and free verse translation. 

I wish I was two people, because I cannot write this book and also write the Lorca and music book. After I write the latter, I'm not sure I'll want to return to this other topic, on which I did enough research to come to interesting ideas. 

In a literary ambience in which whiteness simply was the water in which almost everyone was swimming, it doesn't make sense to make some lame anachronistic argument about his promotion of whiteness per se. These are the same two people who have made an argument about Amanda Gorman being an important moment in poetry in the US, so this is strike 2 for them. 

Thursday, February 18, 2021


There's a pair (male and female) of cardinals that I see often on the apartment grounds. On one of the coldest days of the year there were three or four fat bluejays on the branch of the oak tree near my balcony. Also, I've seen house bunting and black-capped chickadee, and a mourning dove.    


 I was an extra in a Tarantino film. I was on a bus with the actors. There was Kevin Costner, and Brad Pitt, and some other big stars. I remember thinking it was remarkable that Tarantino had been able to hire these actors, since the movie wasn't a "vehicle" for any one of them. I was wondering how he was able to do this despite their egos. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

music and words

 In renaissance and late medieval Spain, according to Frenk, the music was better than the words. Musicians were middle class professionals paid a salary, the text could be any old text, something anonymous written by an aristocratic courtier. 

These are complex questions, like teasing out the differences between learned and popular lyrics of the time, and everything in between. The cultured songbooks were once place where folksongs were preserved, because they became fashionable. 


In the cultured poetry of the time, there is not imagery, no nature. It's just conceptual play. That is the main reason why it falls so flat.  


 If you thought of poems as records of states of mind, accurate as no other kind of record, then thinking of them be good or bad would be beside the point. You would strive for an accurate rendering, nothing less or more than that. You could revise not to take out a bad line, but to correct a detail. 

Accuracy implies the real, but this is a genre of fiction, after all. You can't define what that real thing is, not a set of facts, but almost the equivalent of that. 


 It is 3 degrees out. 

Why are Farinheit temperature so meaningless? 

What does zero mark anyway? I wonder 

How do you even spell Farenheit?  

From the balcony I see quite large birds, first one, now three of them

or maybe four now in oak branches 

with brilliant blue backs, white bellies  

black hats 


 I noticed in our poetry reading group how we value mediation, metapoetic reflection and reference to translation. I am the same way in this group, and in fact we all seem to think along the same lines, with only slight disagreements. The poetry we choose is in the same "school" of cont. Spanish. I am not complaining in the least. I respond well to the earnest metapoetry too. 

But... my own aesthetic is much more oriented toward the immediate. Something that cuts through all the bullshit, as in a Ron Padgett poem.  (Still reading Notley's book, read an essay on Kyger and now am on Padgett. 

Pool Players

 Pool players all have nicknames

like Earl the Pearl (formerly little Earl), The Black Widow, The Sledgehammer

I do not have a nickname

and am not a pool player

Breaking ice

 Sometimes you will read something that just makes the ice break. All of sudden, someone will say something that cuts through layers of crap. Today, I was reading Alice Notley's Coming After, a book that had been hiding from in a bookshelf and revealed itself to me as I was searching for another, unrelated book. At the same time, I was thinking of Margit Frenk's work on the popular lyric. I discovered that she is still alive and has published something as recently as 2018. She was born in 1925.  She points out that the anonymous lyric tradition has female lyric speakers (singers) who don't follow the social norms of the time. Putting this together with Notley, I got the feeling that yes, this is what I am always looking for. The first essay on Frank O'Hara is one of the best things I've read in 2021:

"It isn't choosing one stance, or attitude, as most poetry does, it's choosing several at once, in the way my mind seems to work, but without making a stance out of multiplicity itself. The last thing an O'Hara poem is is stanceless. The stance is in the very existence of the voice in what I've called its fearlessness. Never afraid or hesitant to speak... Why shouldn't 'I' speak." 

All the crappy things people think about O'Hara just drop away when you read this. Her response is genuine; she is seeing it in a direct way, as a reader. The freshness of O'Hara's voice comes through. A line like "slowly thinking of becoming a stalk of asparagus for hallowe'en" is the whole reason I decided to study poetry in the first place. 

I also think of that time about 60 years ago as the beginning of my time (quite literally as I am 60). This is a period I go back to again and again, even in my Lorca work which often comes to rest again circa 1960. 

Cancionero poetry

 Learnèd cancionero poetry of the period before Garcilaso seems a bit sterile to modern taste (my own at least). But the popular songs (folk songs) that sometimes appear in the musical cancioneros is wonderfully vibrant. At the time, the aristocratic poetry would have seemed superior to the vulgarity of the peasant poetry. Now, the terms are reversed. It's almost as though we could pick out the popular songs simply because they are better in certain specific ways. 


 Obvious reasons why opera is hard to study.

There are likely to be few or no recordings of a less famous opera. To really know an opera you have to see it, at least on video. Staging an opera is complex & expensive, whereas an art song only requires a piano and a singer.  

The scores are harder to find as well, for less than famous ones. 

The opera is long and complex as a form, and the relation between the original play (or the libretto in some cases) is a complex one as well. Opera takes an already total art form (theater) and makes it even more so, with more complex music. 

Saturday, February 13, 2021


 I got the CD for the Villa-Lobos opera. It has no printed material; it's just two cds without even a case. The recording is not of high quality and the words are difficult to understand. I have an easier time with a German opera I have, and I don't speak German. Indiana and Berkeley have the score, but I don't like the music much anyway, and I'm not a great score reader. What am I really going to have to say about it?  

Fragments from "The Book of Weeping"

 This city is well-designed for weeping. It has many abandoned buildings and park benches. Many people live alone in small spaces, and can weep "behind closed doors," as it were. There are no clubs or associations devoted to weeping, per se, but weeping does arise spontaneously in certain meetings and at semi-private or public events, even at certain "celebrations of life." Certain rituals and cultural events also lend themselves to outpourings of grief. The genre of cinema called the "weepie" or the "tear-jerker" comes to mind. 

The sound of certain musical instruments mimics the sound of weeping. Guitars and violins, and certain sounds make by high-pitched brass and woodwinds. It is harder to evoke weeping through lower pitched instruments. A snare drum cannot weep, a piano can. A double bass can in its upper register, when played with a bow rather than pizzicato. People hearing imitation weeping usually do not weep themselves, but they easily recognize the intent. The experience of "being moved" is pleasurable, although this movement is almost always in the direction of grief.  

Most seem to regard weeping as a spontaneous and involuntary act, even when the weeper has taken deliberate steps to make weeping more likely, such as attending a celebration or a "weepie," or choosing to talk about "precious friends hid in death's dateless night." The gesture of almost weeping, or deliberately refraining from weeping, is quite common. It is as though grief were somehow contained. Weeping is seen to make grief somehow exterior to the person shedding tears, though the grief does not actually leave the body in any real sense. 


The weeping of a small infant is not induced by grief, but by fear, distress, hunger, or mere discomfort. Nor do infants contain their weeping in the sense described above.   


"If your eyes tear up when you cut onions

you can try doing it underwater."

"I don't think I can hold my breath that long."  


Tears cleanse the eyes and also provide them with necessary moisture. Those functions do not seem related to weeping per se, where the quantity of liquid is in excess of what is needed for cleansing and lubrication. 


The Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío did not write a treatise on weeping, but implicit in his thought are four situations: weeping involuntarily, and attempting to weep and not being able to. Those are the two he mentions. In both cases, weeping does not seem subject to the commands of the will. The other two are weeping when one wants to, and refraining from weeping when one doesn't want to weep. Here weeping (or not weeping) become intentional acts. Refraining from weeping is easy when there is not urge to weep in the first place. The issue does not come up. It is a bit more difficult when the urge is indeed present, but when one wants the grief to be "contained." (See above). Attempting to weep is a bit paradoxical. If the urge is not present, one must induce an artificial emotion first (perhaps through a kind of "method acting." If the urge is present, then it seems odd to attempt it. Yet we know that this occurs: the emotion precedent to weeping is present, but for whatever reason the weeping does not happen. Perhaps the person in this case is too accustomed to internal grief and not as practiced in its externalization. (See above.)


A jazz musician I admired died. On hearing of this I wept, but not for very long. Once I recognized what I was doing, the urge to weep disappeared. After a few seconds, weeping for a famous person I did not know in real life seemed more like self-pity than genuine grief. If your grief for someone you know is genuine, then you will weep for a longer time. 


The poet Claudio Rodríguez wrote a poem titled "Lágrima." He isolates a particular tear, at a particular moment in time, and analyzes how it is both inside and outside at the same time, his and not his any longer. It takes a while to dry on his cheek. The poem is sad (unsurprisingly) but it does not make the reader sad. We are interested in it, instead. If we start thinking about grief then we are no longer weeping, but doing something else with the grief. This treatise, for example, is not particularly lachrymose, even though its explicit subject is weeping. 


Shakespeare's sonnet (cited above) is not about the spontaneous expression of grief, but about deliberately putting oneself in a mental state in which grief (for past, not present losses) is likely to occur. He has already recovered from loss and grief ("long since cancelled woes") but is choosing to explore them again. This is not a bad thing, but here it is a rhetorical device to set up the concluding couplet. To leave this state of self-imposed sorrow, all he has to do is think of the young man of the sonnets, whom he has not yet lost. 

Friday, February 12, 2021


 There was a time when Vicente Aleixandre was it. He had won the Nobel, and was being widely translated into English. His poetry fit in with the idea that the most significant Spanish-language poetry was surrealist. In Spain, he was mentor to successive generations. Bousoño, the most influential critic of the time, canonized him, calling one of his weakest postwar works a masterpiece. I myself thought of him as great and would included him in every class and reading list. 

It's not that he isn't an impressive poet, but the perspective has shifted. His poetry doesn't offer as much to criticism any more, at least until someone comes up with something original to say about it. 

I feel the same about Cernuda. There was a certain narrative about why Cernuda was important, and more influential than Lorca himself. But time has not borne that out very well. The side of Cernuda that was influential is not as good. Maybe Alberti is going to be seen as more interesting, ultimately.  

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Short Poem

 Your knuckles smell of salt

if salt had an odor

my whisky breath wrote this poem

el quinto regimiento

 There is a famous Spanish civl war song, El quinto regimiento.  Pete Seeger sang it, among many others. Anyway, I noticed today that some versions say that "El 18 de julio / en el patio de un convento / el pueblo madrileño / formó el quinto regimiento."  Other versions say "el partido comunista / formó el quinto regimiento." 

On the 18th of July / in the patio of convent / the people of Madrid [the communist party] / formed the fifth regiment. 

Even if you are sympathetic to communism, it just sounds better to have the people establish it rather than the party. 


 I kind of hate colorized picture of Lorca. Photos originally in black and white and now colorized. I know this is my typical gate-keeping personality coming out, and that it is not a life-and-death issue of any importance, but I feel strangely strong on this.  

What if?

 What if hats were cheaper than combs?

What if the sun never came up?

What if the world ended tomorrow?

Let's have a drink tonight. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Master class

 I like watching masterclasses about instruments I do not play. It's just such a wonderful thing to see a master teaching, bringing the student up to the next level.  I wish we had something like that in poetry. 

Full of Shit


This is what I think of the Amanda Gorman kind of poet. Nobody ever gave her a critique of her writing. She spent her whole life in private school and Harvard hearing how great she was. My colleagues on facebook gush about her awful writing. 


 I had been thinking that serialist composers were less interested in Lorca than those in the more French / Spanish camp, like Ohana. But maybe that is not true. There are Nono and Fortner, and Maderna, too... 

A thesis about the use of atonal music for Lorca: it lends a certain tragic austerity, moving away from the folkloric, even when it incorporates folkloric music in a surreptitious way. Anyway, to a non-musicologist, the modernists who aren't serialists still sound more or less atonal.  


I found out the Coltrane's "Olé" uses the melody from "El vito," a song associated with "Anda jaleo' in the song of the quinto regimiento.  

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Impact statement (2)

 When I wrote my impact statement, I realized that the pandemic did have an impact on me in many ways, not all of them negative. I probably wrote more, networked on facebook rather than in person, did extra things to help the graduate students, zoomed in on events in foreign countries. My teaching changed. I bought more books and cds, relying less on library. I wasted more time on some things and less on others. I did a lot of reading in Italian. My book got longer in its projection. 

Dream of Wildlife Therapy

 There was a lot of wildlife around my therapist's house. I saw a small monkey on the back porch. A vole ran across the floor of the house at lightning speed, more than once. I suggested he get a cat. He said a cat could never catch something so fast. I was explaining to him how cats catch mice, etc..., lying in wait and pouncing. Then the monkey was inside and catching the vole, letting it go, catching it again. We went to his kitchen to watch... I was thinking it wasn't a good use of my therapy session, which had been overtaken by these animals.  

Saturday, February 6, 2021


 Nobody studies just literature any more. It's always literature and... In my case, it's music, right now. What matters, always, is the quality of that and. That is, the way in which you are interdisciplinary. Nothing is worse than bad sociological, musicological, anthropological, psychological, philosophical approaches. 

Friday, February 5, 2021

Thoughts during a walk a in the wetland

 There is a continuum between various sorts of non-singing vocal techniques, various kinds of declamations, found both in classical music and popular genres. Any vocal performance of the text is already musical, but it often forms part of a musical work, with "background" instrumentation. So you can have music + singing, music + speaking / performative declamations or:  performative declamations without other music, music without words, to accompany dance or pantomime... Any combination of voice and instrument, or either alone, is possible, 

So, what this means is that the paradigm of song (words sung to music) is far too narrow. That's just one kind of work. An opera can use spoken dialogue, recitative, aria, and also purely instrumental interludes. There's a Lorca / Coltrane ballet, with a ballet to Coltrane's music pantomiming the action of Bernarda Alba. Coltrane wasn't setting Lorca to music when he recorded this track. 


 I think my pitch is not too great. But... I recorded myself singing a song of my own composition, giving myself no reference point, and I nailed it completely. I only sing and play this song in one key, so it is more likely to start on the right note than any other pitch.  

Thursday, February 4, 2021


 Is it pretentious to call my current project my magnum opus? (Asking for a friend).  

Dream of Doctoral Student

 A student from Spain wanted to work with me a year in Kansas to do his PhD dissertation, but without enrolling in our program. He explained that it was a "doctorado ???."  I couldn't catch the last words, and he explained that it was a "doctorado EB," where the student did course work first and then went abroad to work with a professor. This seemed normal to me, since a student did come once from Spain to work independently with me, and another one is now applying for a Fulbright to do the same. This guy's dissertation, though, was on the novel, and our interests didn't seem to mesh very well. I mentioned Vicente Luis Mora to him, and he called him "ignorante." I began to school the student on the virtues of VLM's novel Centroeuropa, the historical research that had gone into it and also the very rigorous process of writing Vicente had followed. He also couldn't name any Spanish poets. I also doubted whether this student could write the entire thesis in year. He said not to worry, since he had already written four books... 

As I was waking up, I  realized it was dream, but only gradually through a process of reasoning it out. It had to be a dream because it had happened at night when I was sleeping. The dream shows ambivalence. On the one hand, I do like it when people want to work with me, but on the other hand this guy was arrogant as well as out of my field, quite unlike the two women who actually have wanted to work with me without being students in our department. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021


 I'm listening to a German opera on Bodas de sangre. While my German is not particularly good, I can follow the first couple scenes pretty well. The diction of the singers is excellent, in the recitative and spoken parts, and I know the Spanish text very well, needless to say. "Dein Vater... Blut..."  "Das Madschen ist gut, nicht war?" "Niemals."  Ganz alein.   "Leonardo Félix"  "Felix?!!" 

The second scene, I don't understand as well. There are two women, so it must be La mujer y la suegra de Leonardo. Now I am hearing the lullaby. "Mein Kind..."  Now Leonardo enters. Very strong, masculine baritone. "My cousin..." [Leonardo's wife and La Novia are cousins]. 

This is really a comp lit project!  Earlier today I was listening to something in Italian. Unfortunately I am not an opera guy. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021


 I decided to give Villa-Lobos's opera a chance. I found a copy of the CV very cheap, just through a little extra searching. I still don't know where to put it in the book. Does that mean I have to include another opera or two?  Or maybe I can get away with making it a marginal part of some other chapter. 

The Paradox of Narrative Music

 I'm coming across this paradox: works of narrative music, say, that follow the story of a Lorca play, but do so mostly wordlessly. The paradox (if you want to call it that) is that the music itself (often) lacks narrative. In other words, you could play it for someone and they wouldn't be able to tell you what is happening. 

I'm coming across more and more instrumental music, and it is difficult to talk about because you don't have the anchor of the text, as you do with a song setting. Or rather, you do have that anchor, but the listener is not seeing the text.  

It's a bit like Bodas de sangre of Saura, where the only words performed are some of the "arias," if you like; none of the dialogue. Dance, or pantomime, takes the place of dialogue. 

Dream of Incompetence / Dream of lachrymose song

 I was trying to use an electric coffee maker and couldn't figure out where to pour the water. I poured cold water from the sink directly into the filter holder with coffee already in it. A typical dream of anxiety over competence.

Later, I was in a song-writer's workshop. Nobody knew I was there and so it was kind of a clandestine thing. I was lying in a sleeping bag on the floor and heard someone's song. I used the word "lachrymose" to myself. I sat up and applauded, even though I had found the song not particularly compelling. We were later sitting around, and someone asked me what wine I wanted. I got a glass of red wine filled almost to the top. 

A guy named Ted or Teddy was there, that we didn't like (me and unidentified woman with whom I was somehow in league. Teddy was there just to stalk us, so when he passed out we put him out on the deck. Then there was some weird seance sort of thing... We were worried about whether Teddy had harmed someone but a spirit told us that this person would live until 108 years old.

Monday, February 1, 2021

There is no I in team

 There is no I in team

but there is me, am,

ma, maam, mamma

mate, meme, tame, tam,

Matt, matte, mat

Meta is is team., too,

met, meat, meet, teem, tem

Ama, amat, Latin verbs for love

are in team,  but not I

I is not in team. Am not there. 


Impact statement

 We are required to submit a statement on how the pandemic has affected our work. And now the administration has the power to terminate unproductive people. Putting those two things together, it would be unwise to point to one's lack of productivity in a "Covid impact statement." This is the problem with the supposedly benevolent will of the institution. They have to take into account what you say in your statement for the annual evaluation, so they could go easy on you for that, but still fire you.  

The constant drumbeat of DEIB (with "belonging" the new term here) is also at cross-purposes to the new power of dismissal. Wouldn't the dismissal of a single tenured person in a protected category severely undermine all pretense of caring about diversity?