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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Friday, December 31, 2021


One of my biggest regrets is that I have not collaborated on an article. I can't say that I am committed to collaboration, because the fact I haven't done it means that I am not yet committed to it (yet). The barrier is a lack of imagination, I guess. I would have to come up with the right combination of a project and a collaborator. I would not tolerate an unequal collaboration, or one in which I did the intellectual lifting and someone else did the grunt work. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Theory Course

 I'm doing the theory course again. I do classic structuralism, Benveniste, Gadamer, translation theory. I'm doing some Rita Felski, the critique of critique and all that. I have the students choose their own readings. It only took a few hours to update the syllabus, putting the proper dates in for this year. That was my task for the day. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Interview dream

 We were interviewing a candidate for our position. I asked him a softball question about his research. He did ok with it, but then began to weep. One of our colleagues was trying to quiet a small child; that could have distracted the candidate. Now we were trying to reassure him so he could go on...  

Monday, December 27, 2021


 I took my phone out of its case to clean the case. The phone, out of the case, is sleek and attractive, fairly light and not too bulky. Inside its ugly case, the phone is ugly and bulky, and tends to get grime on it from the case itself. 

So I rarely get to enjoy how my phone looks, because, although sleek, it is also very fragile. If not kept in its case, it would break the next time I drop it, in a week or two.  

Design Flaws

 My mom's stovetop.  It is flat and white; any time the stove is used, any residue on the bottom of a pot or pan creates a horrible stain that must be scrubbed. Even an apparently clean bottom will create a stain. 

A rechargeable computer mouse. The cable for recharging goes into the bottom of the mouse; therefore the mouse cannot be used while recharging.  

My computer informs me my disk is full, but there is not a window to open that tells me how much of my disk is full, or where the stuff is that is taking all that room. After a morning of deleting stuff, I don't know how much progress I've made. I delete some more stuff, and now I have less room than before, 4.9 gigabytes instead of 6. 

Dream of student

 There was a fairly intense dream about a grad student presenting his/her work in a way that didn't make sense. The idea was that the four parts of the dissertation could be read in any order: 1234, 4321, 1324, etc... That wasn't the objectionable part of it, but that the dissertation had no content: it wasn't going to be "about" anything at all, and had no title. I was arguing with the student and with a colleague, who thought the plan was fine, and then told me student had pancreatic cancer...  When I woke up, I realized that the student I thought I was dreaming of did have a valid topic... 

Sunday, December 26, 2021


 Pound point out rather basic things, such as, the strophe exists so that you can repeat the same melody over and over. Imagine setting to music a text not in strophic form; it would have to be through-composed. 

Even more basically, metrical poetry is designed to be sung. The most basic structural device is repetition. That is the basis of rhythm itself. The most important musical notation is this:   ||:      :||    

Thursday, December 23, 2021

To summarize

 Castellano is an alternate name for the Spanish language. There are (and were) several romance languages spoken on the Iberian peninsula.  Castellano arose in Castilla, Castile, the land of castles (castillos), a large central region of Spain. The alternate name for language is used to contrast with other languages ¿Hablas catalán en casa o castellano? Or, in some Spanish-American countries, it is preferred name for Spanish, especially in academic contexts. 

A book of poetry by Blas de Otero:  En castellano. Meaning, in plain language. Like "en román paladino," in clear language, according to Berceo: " Quiero fer una prosa en román paladino / en el qual suele el pueblo fablar a su veçino..."  It is a bit like asking your doctor to speak in English to you when he or she gives you medical jargon. 

Romance meant Latin, but then it came to mean the vernacular derived from Latin. From this we get the word for a novel (in French and German, Román), genres called romances (ballads or prose tales), and romanticism itself.  

Usually, when we talk about Spanish in contrast to other languages outside of Iberia, we talk about español.  

Castilian, in English, is is the name of a dialect of Spanish, spoken mostly North of Madrid. If you go to article on Castilian language on wikipedia, and switch languages to Spanish, you will find an article on "dialectos castellanos septentrionales."

La Mancha is part of Castile, but the Spanish of La Mancha has some characteristics of the Southern dialects, spoken in Andalusia, Murcia, parts of Extramadura. Madrid is a special case, because nobody is from there.  There are a lot of Andalusians but also a lot of Castilians. For that matter, non-Catalan residents of Barcelona are likely to be Andalusians in origin.  

Castilla La Vieja was Northern. Castilla La Nueva, Southern. After the constitution of 1978 these became Castilla-León and Castilla-La Mancha, with Madrid, formerly part of New Castile, squeezed between the two. Northern Castile was "old" because of the Southward movement of the reconquest.  

Wednesday, December 22, 2021


 As my students were giving presentations. One student had to log off the computer, then the next one had to log on again, then open their email to retrieve their presentation, emailed to self. Then, when playing a video, switch from power point to a web browser, sometimes do a search for the video they want, because the video won't play directly from the power point.  What if instructional technology could be seamless?  

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Castellano / Castilian

 In Spanish "castellano" means what we call the Spanish language, in English. The word is used in certain countries more, like Argentina and Spain. In Spain, it is used to contrast with other national languages, but it includes non-Northern dialects like Andalusian.  

In English, "Castilian" or "Castilian Spanish" refers to the dialects of Spanish spoken in Northern Spain.  It has the theta sound. So people are always asking me about "Castilian Spanish." The presence of this sound is not a "lisp." That would be like saying that someone who pronounces "math" as "math" rather than as "mass" is speaking with a lisp!   

Spanish in the New World took the Southern Spanish dialects as its basis, so the theta is unknown.  Aspiration of d (intervocalic or terminal) is common both in Andalusia and the Caribbean. So "to" and "na" instead of "todo" and "nada." Also aspiration of s before a vowel or in terminal position. ¿Cómoetáuté? There are other phonetic differences, like "yeísmo," the pronunciation of ll as y.  

There are 500 million speakers of Spanish, and the language has quite a global reach. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

3 stages

 You can drown in your own prose, unable to to achieve basic clarity and competence. The academic language is still something you aspire toward. That is stage one.  

Or, in a second stage, you are evenly matched with your prose. You can say what you want to, more or less, but you fall into stiff clichés. Little or your own personality or vision enters, because you are always saying "in this article I will argue that..."  It's serviceable, without being pretty. 

In the third stage, the words are doing what you want them to. Your prose is expressive, elegant, elastic, without affectation. This is not necessarily perfection. You could still write a bad sentence or two, but you are in control of the tone, the lexicon.  Your own personality can emerge because you don't fall back into predictable patterns. You can be solemn or humorous, but it is your choice. 


 People right out of the gate look better than people who have been a few years in. New PhDs are pure promise, with not that much wrong with them. Their recommendations are glowing, of course. They haven't published much, maybe, but that is not bad because they are newly minted PhDs and we don't expect much of them yet.  

A more advanced, Associate Professor... Well, they should have published more.  Or what they have published should have been better. What about that stretch when they weren't doing so much... ? 

I was the brilliant assistant and also the mediocre associate. Many of us have been. It is an optical illusion, somewhat like being cute little kids and then awkward looking adolescents, or dashing young men and then balding slobs. If you make it past associate malaise then you can be brilliant again as a full professor. Still rumpled and balding, but a bit more distinguished now.  

Wednesday, December 15, 2021


Bly died. I used to think it was paradoxical that the worst translator of that generation was also the must famous and popular. But it could be that he made translation easy, and hence more accessible to other practioners. Maybe he is the progenitor of Coleman Barks and Daniel Landinsky! You didn't need to know languages, or even work with someone who did.

I was a reviewer (pre-publication) of a book of translations of Miguel Hernández many years ago. I noticed that (among the many translators) Bly was the worst. When I did the first Lorca book, I also noticed he and Belitt were the worst translators of Lorca. 

Someone who came out with another book on Lorca and translation who criticized me for being to harsh with Bly, but he couldn't defend Bly's translations in positive terms. He just thought I was too mean.  

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Research Interests

Music and literature; jazz; flamenco; literature and the visual arts; reception and adaptation studies; poetry and poetics; the performance of poetry; Federico García Lorca; jazz and poetry; The New York School of Poetry; modern and contemporary Spanish and Spanish American poetry; Jorge Luis Borges; Fernando Pessoa; translation studies; scholarly prose; creative writing; Ludwig Wittgenstein; Samuel Beckett; Raymond Roussel. 

Monday, December 13, 2021

You can't know the answer ahead of time

 In a trial, or in a scholarly investigation, you can't know the answer ahead of time. You have to have things play out at they will. That's why you can't be too invested in a certain result before that result is demonstrated. It can be difficult because the original purpose of our scholarship might be to prove certain things. I would submit, though, that the truth is usually more interesting than the preconceived prejudice. 

In humanism, of course, we have many prejudices, and we want them to be true. Usually, we can prove our points, because our disciplines aren't objective in the first place. We don't have data, but rather cherry-pick our examples to prove what we had in mind in the first place. Even here, though, I would say that we should be open to being proven wrong. I think our results will be more interesting that way. 


 The Quijote is a translation from the Arabic. Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese purports to be ... from the Portuguese. There is, of course, Ossian.  The Cartas marruecas. Pretending that a work is found manuscript is a common metafictional device, that both adds and subtracts verisimilitude. Adding, because it explains how the work comes into being, subtracting because it points to the contrivance itself. Saying the work is also translated adds another layer to this device. 

The part of the Q that Borges / Menard reproduces comes write after the introduction to the Cide Hamete device.  "La historia, madre de la verdad."  

Two American poets have translated Hafiz and Rumi without knowing Persian. One of them simply invents the poems, not even bothering to adapt existing translation.  He has a book, Love poems from God, in which all the poems are fake. He has poems purporting to be by Saint Teresa and Saint John of the Cross, but that sound exactly like his non-translations from Rumi. People eat this shit up, I kid you not. The other one reworks existing translation, eliminating the Islamic elements and translating everything into New Age woo-speak. 

This is the degradation of Spicer's poetics of dictation and Koch's poetics of parody. What is helpful is to realize that apocryphal translations run the gamut, from deliberate metafiction to romantic and postmodern hoax. 

Friday, December 10, 2021


 What I study is cultural refraction, the way one culture sees another. My work is intersectional to the core, in that I am always looking at identifications and failures of identification across languages and cultures. The two most powerful kind of refractions I have found are translation and musical text setting.  I came to both of these through my study of Lorca, since he is one of most frequently translated and musicalized poet. 


I despise performative "wokeness." Listing of one's pronouns. "Land acknowledgments." The word "Latinx." I guess the definition of this would be a verbal act that is the equivalent of a bogus check, with no funds in the bank to back it up.  So, to take the example of a land acknowledgment, we can imagine a college president solemnly stating at every official event that the campus is on land stolen from a certain tribe. Every concert and play performed at the college must include an announcement of stolen land. 

Then the college president gets a letter from the tribe's attorneys. "Hey, we are going to bill you for rent, since you acknowledge that the land is ours. You owe us millions of dollars." How will she respond? She would have to say that she didn't really mean it, that is was a performative gesture.    

The whole phenomenon of acknowledging the land is stolen is based on the supposition that it won't be given back, that the people it is stolen from have no legal standing. We know that if there were an actual legal dispute about who the land belongs to, that the president could never acknowledge that the land was stolen! 


So why do I like intersectionality in my own work, but can't stand calling Cervantes "latinx" or Lorca "LGBTQ"?  I am a specialist in a gay writer, but will never put my pronouns in my email signature? I don't think this is a contradiction at all.   

Thursday, December 9, 2021

An exchange

"I am currently shopping for a class. I am not a doctoral student. I am simply working on a dual credit certificate. As you can see, I am a full-time teacher at XX in YYY. Therefore, I do not have time to work on research papers like you have listed in your course description. 

Will you make adaptations that will meet my needs in order to be successful in your classroom? YYY is about one hour drive to Lawrance, and then it will take time to park and walk to class.  Therefore, I will be late for class, or will you be able to have me join your class by long-distance learning in Zoom?"

D"ear Mr. ZZ:

My course is not going to be a good fit for you, I’m afraid. It is a course designed for PhD-level students, pitched at a high intellectual level, and would require a significant investment in both time and effort. It is difficult even for many of our own doctoral students, and you do not express any specific interest in the content of this particular course.  


I wish you the best in all your endeavors!  




Jonathan Mayhew 

Professor of Spanish"

"Dr. Mayhew,


Thank you for your honesty. You are not up to the challenge and perhaps lack creativity in teaching handicapped students. Your response shows that you did not recommend yourself, and you did not try to recruit another student to increase the number of students in your enrollment. Student success is a reflection of the professors teaching abilities.  What do you need to improve / change to ensure more of your doctoral students understand and learn the subject matter you teach? Your email is a bad advertisement for your teaching abilaties."  

"Dear Mr. ZZ:   


I’d like to help you in any way I can.  Let me know if you want my recommendations on email etiquette.  I have to admit your messages to me struck me as rather abrupt and discourteous.  One of them was not even about my own course!  That might have made me more brusque in my own response. 




Jonathan Mayhew". 


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

I watch trials

 I like watching trials. They are slow burn dramas; the procedural stuff is dramatic in its own way, a way of setting up the rules by which the complex conversational game has to be played. I like the mastery of cross-examination, the slow, burrowing feeling.  


 I used to think that every article I wrote had to challenge a critical consensus. I thought I had to be paradoxical or counterintuitive always.  But that doesn't really make sense. 80% of scholarship should build a consensus, and 20% should work at being paradoxical. The reason is that the paradoxical mode of criticism only works if there is some kind of established base of knowledge. 

Saturday, December 4, 2021

What I'm noticing

 I've had to read a lot of things outside of my own subfield lately, for a top-secret project.  Here's what I'm noticing:

Not a lot of attention to poetry or poetics. With other genres (novel) the attention is usually on content, not on narrative technique or style. There's not a lot of attention to aesthetics. Where an aesthetic dimension enters, it enters under suspicion. 

Maybe a related factor: I'm not seeing much use of theory, either. 

I don't see much intellectual brilliance. This might be related to the lack of attention to aesthetic detail and to theory.  

I think I'm eccentric, off-center for my field. It could be a feature of when I entered the field: we were all defined as specialists in a genre (poetry, novel, drama) and wanted to be theoretical and brilliant. Many of us wrote dissertations on a single poet or novelist. 

Friday, December 3, 2021

Dream of used book

 There was a book my daughter had just acquired at a rummage sale of some kind. It was an anthology of poetry published by Grove Press or something similar. It had seven poets, including Jack Spicer. She (my daughter) had written her name in it. I looked at the book and discovered that it had once belonged to me. On another page was my distinctive signature. It was difficult to explain, but we were all in California in this dream so it could have happened. Me, seeing some books off, and then one off them finding its way to another sale. 

I went in the living room of our family house in Davis to tell my family. My father and mother were there, my sister, looking very young. I knew that it was dream, then, since the time framework was off, but still wanted to share the news with them. The book was my evidence, so I kept returning to it. If I could only keep hold of it even after I woke up... 

Wednesday, December 1, 2021


 My sister-in-law found me this book, a thesaurus of scales and melodic patterns, more than 1,000 combinations. It was apparently a favorite of Coltrane's.  

You can divide the octave into two parts, with a tritone.  Then you can also divide it into six with whole tone scale, or into three or four (anything that divides into twelve) with major or minor thirds. Coltrane changes, for example, are based on dividing the twelve notes into three major thirds, generating three tonal centers that alternate at breakneck speed. The origins of this are in Slonimsky's book.  My music theory nerd brain is about to explode.