Featured Post


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, October 6, 2022


 There was an article in the New York Times, an interview with a conservative Christian therapist. The comments were 

*Didn't read the article, but therapists shouldn't be conservative.

*Politics shouldn't enter into therapy the first place (and therapists shouldn't be conservative).

*Healthy eating is a classist concept. Same with "resilience." 

*Conservatives have no empathy, therefore shouldn't be therapists. 

*But Trump! January 6! White privilege! Conservatives want a therapist to tell them their world view is correct. Reality has a liberal bias. 

*We liberals are nuanced and complex, not like those simple minded people who think in terms of us and them.  

A few people had a different take, and thought the woman in question had something of value to offer. The number of people, though, who seemed to lack all self-awareness, was astounding. The willingness to say that basic human concepts, like making good use of one's time, do not apply to poor people, is absolutely condescending. Some of my friends understand that we cannot be so smug. 

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Dream of Karma

 I was going to a prostitute, but without much enthusiasm. I had no desire for her, and was unsure what would happen, since I had heard that prostitutes did not kiss on the mouth. We lay down together very briefly, and it turned out that it was some way of getting information about me. There was a small square at the corner of the box we we lying in that was associated with eccentric local artist WP.  It was felt that this square contaminated our local group of meditators. Then it turned out that W had joined our group, and that his presence was accepted, not a contaminating element at all. [We define karma as kind of the rough edges of individuality that get evened out in the group, so someone who does not fit in as well is actually good for the health of the overall group.]. The dream went on from there, very vaguely... 

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Dream of Story

I  had written a story with some erotic twist with the title "The Q of the Queue."  I was surprised to see it was ranked #1 on a particular website called *********, since I did not remember having uploaded it there.  I was trying to read the comments on the story, but I couldn't find them. 

Monday, September 26, 2022

Dream of Art Tatum

 A child of mine or younger sibling was playing exact transcriptions of Art Tatum's recording of "Dardenella." I was envious of this. Waking up, I realized that I did know every note of this in my head, even though I cannot play it. 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

A combo

 Combine the found ms. trope and the apocryphal translation trope in DQ. That is a powerful device. Does Cervantes also invent the unreliable narrator, when he questions Cide Hamete's perspective? When he says that the Arab author might be lying because he is an Arab? Would that perspective been taken ironically, or at face value, in the 17th century?  

Saturday, September 17, 2022

The found manuscript trope

 I was thinking of this with the Quijote, which purports to be a translation of a found manuscript written in Arabic.  Where did this trope come from? Was Cervantes the first to use it?

Well, it is actually a feature of the novels Cervantes was parodying, like Amadís de Gaula. I should have thought of this first. But, by parodying this trope, rather than using it in earnest, Cervantes was the first in using it to highlight rather than diminish fictionality. His is the first metafictional use of the device, then. 

I'm probably wrong about this, since I haven't read Amadís.  

Dream of magical editor

 This dream was quite long and involved, about trying to track down a magical editor, who had the capacity to see your work for what it was and offer just the right comment about it, even in rejection. The editor was also a kind of writing guru, and at the end we were taking a workshop from him. 

(There were other stages in the search. One person who we thought it might be was William Something, and the woman I was working with on the search met with someone of the same name under false pretenses, pretending there was a scholarship opportunity.  It turned out to be someone else of the same name as this editor. At times in the dream, I myself was this woman, or was seeing things from her perspective.)

There were several exercises in the workshop. One was thinking of something disgusting, and then retaining that image in the mind for a few seconds. Mine had to do with chewing gum, something I do find disgusting. At the end of the dream, I was holding forth about how I wanted to pursue insight or intuition in my writing, not style.  That you could never just take all you had learned from past writing and then produce a new poem out of it (a bag of tricks) but had to start afresh with each new poem. Of course, you can use techniques or stylistic devices you've practiced, or used before, but you cannot just rely on those completely.   

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Here's my original "Delusions of Mediocrity Poem"

 Delusions of mediocrity 



I turn 55 in the summer of 2015. My friend the poet Ken Irby dies. 


I’ve been to Argentina that summer and start running when I get back. 


I am no longer President of the University Senate. 


Pet-sitting at my girlfriend’s house while she is on a trip (dog, chickens)


I begin to fool around on her electric piano. I’ve heard there’s something


called a tri-tone substitution, so I try it out. Also, that you can replace


the tonic with the iii chord. Using these simple ideas, I write my first song.


I can hardly play piano—lessons as a kid and all that—but I know elementary


concepts of music theory (apparently). I write a few more songs 


on a cheap keyboard I have in my own apartment. I’m playing every day


by now. My songs all sound similar to one another, because I am exploring 


a few ideas, but I learn more keys and gradually branch out. My lyrics are 


not good. “Like stars emerging on a cloudless night / We got together and


it felt so right. / Let’s live a life together, / in sweet harmony.” I struggle to 


write down the music using free music notation software. (It’s hard to use


that phrase in a poem, isn’t it?). In September I run my first 5k.


I go running on campus one day, though, and have asthma attack. In October 


my friend loses use of both arms in bicycle accident, temporarily.  


I help to nurse her back to health.


 I take her 


to Davis to celebrate my mom’s 80th birthday in November, and to Austin


in January. My sister has Semantic Dementia and lives in Davis too.


She is musician and poet too, but cannot read, or read music, any more. 


She has lost many words, especially nouns and proper names. 


She does not know my name any more.  


Cared for by my mother and by Norbie, she is cheerful. Norbie,


her husband, my new brother-in-law, has loved her for years and 


pokes gentle fun at me, calling me Professor Mayhew and 


exaggerating the importance of my Senate Presidency.       



In 2016 I play piano every day except when traveling. We go


to Austin (as I’ve already mentioned), Tallahassee, and Cuba. Getting back


to my songs, I write more, back from Cuba. One uses the chord changes 


to “Bemsha Swing,” by Thelonious Monk. Another two use the progression to


“Hit the Road Jack,” the so-called “Flamenco cadence.” I have recorded 


some songs at the studio in the public library. My playing is terrible, 


hesitant, too staccato, dynamically insensitive, but I suffer from “delusions


of mediocrity.” The idea that I could play as well as amateurs playing 


in local bars and coffee shops. Those guys are actually good though, 


and I am not, though writing these songs gives me an odd feeling 


that for too long I have blocked myself off from the wellsprings of my own


creativity. That sounds awkward in a poem too. It is too explanatory and 


discursive. Creativity has become a management consultant buzzword 


so all the cool poets now are being deliberately unoriginal. Good thing


I’m not one of them. Anyway, my songs are inspired by Bill Evans-type


sonorities. They are harmonically complex by now, full of colors I find


fascinating. Since I’ve been listening to jazz all my life I seem to have


a lot of good ideas for songs. Now I finally understand Lorca’s love of 


Debussy and Falla. The nuanced chromaticism of his Suites, so different


from stereotypical notions of Lorca as poet of duende and 


Andalusian Kitsch.  I set a few Lorca poems to music. 


I take voice lessons all spring.  I play in front 


of the hardware store where they have a piano where everyone can play.


Record heat and humidity render it unplayable, though, by mid-summer.


Also, in the student union, where there is a grand piano whose keys also


begin to stick. 


                        I realize I’ve been playing drums, too, for 20 years but rarely in public,


typical for my isolated and bookish existence, typical


of all the ways I get in my own way, sabotaging my own 


happiness through cowardice and asinine, egotistical stoicism. 




It is summer of 2016 now, as you might have guessed. My short un-


successful musical career is almost a year old.  We commemorate a year


of Ken’s dying and I offer to play a song called “Elegy for Ken Irby” 


at Judy’s house. (I once called it “Italian Movie Theme” before I realized


that it was an elegy for him.)  Meanwhile my so-called creativity


is at a high point. I don’t even care that my poems are bad 


and write bad poems on purpose that everyone loves, including this one


that I conceive of in my head this morning as I run five kilometers. 


People like my songs too. Between pride and embarrassment, I settle for


a kind of homespun enthusiasm, the way anyone should be enthusiastic


about their hobbies, things that make them happy to do from day to day. 


That seems better than wondering every day whether I am talented


or just a fuck-up.  I am happy and in love with life itself, despite


intermittent depression that makes it hard to get through the days, 


sometimes. I love my friends and family too, some “hid in death’s dateless 


night” but most still living, and of course I love Beth, the 


woman I wrote those songs for. Life seems uneventful, at times, but is 


actually crammed full of events, good, bad, small, momentous, 


I realize. I realize that the next year might be eventful too and 


decide to keep my radio dials tuned to as many stations 


as possible to see what might happen.    


I dislike your inspirational quotes

though I don't dislike you 

I dislike your facile memes

your taste for abstraction and sentimentality 

"creativity" won't save anyone

from desperation and rage

on a bad day 

a song might be written 

a painting painted

it's still a bad day 



 It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

It was Mary Oliver's birthday yesterday. Here is an example of an attitude I don't identify with. If this is your attitude toward creativity, then you will aspire to write that kind of poem, with pretty, pseudo-profound ideas. I mean, solitude is good, but maybe the interruption will bring its own stimulus. And who wants certainty?   


 I don't have a name for it, but when there is a particular beat or horn figure in popular music, with associations from television sit-com theme songs, or top 40 songs from a particular epoch, and they are used for setting to music the poetry of Miguel Hernández, there is a bit of a jolt of disjunction. I want to say "no, no, no, that's not right."  

So musical forms have particular meanings, right? If an opera singer is singing "Anda jaleo," in the style she is accustomed to, that has a meaning, an association. You can like, or not like, anything, but some things seems stylistically incompatible.  

It is hard to theorize, because one's personal reactions are getting in the way. Yet those reactions are the antennae that show me that something is wrong.  

Saturday, September 10, 2022

A modern prejudice

 A modern prejudice, peculiarly modern, that sees song lyrics and lyric poetry as separate genres, and the setting of a poem to music as an unusual "hybrid" of two separate art forms. Since my prejudice skews in the opposite direction, I sometimes exaggerate the prevalence of the view of song as a unitary art form, of music as song even when instrumental, and of poetry as musical in quite literal ways. 


I hate pretention

I tell myself

but do I? 

In other people, sure

I root it out in myself

too, won't say certain words

the pretentious ones

but is that enough?   

More revisions

If think of revising as "polishing," then are you thinking the poem as a shiny metal object or a pair of shoes? What if you chose another metaphor, like "weathering," exposing the poem to the elements to make it look a bit weather beaten? My point is that we have a choice of how to think of it. You are not stuck with one metaphor, "polishing."

I don't revise much, and a friend said yeah, but that's because you write those Frank O'Hara type poems. Thanks a lot, friend. I realized that you can't make a fetish out of not revising. The way you originally thought to phrase something might be quirky, and you might like that quality of quirkiness, so you keep that phrasing. Or not. You could just write the poem down from memory again and there would be changes. "I know I said I don't revise much but it is also true: / nothing remains the same." 

I am working on poems that just change shape as I add more things to them. I could sit down and write, repeating things (imperfectly) from memory from previous versions. Long poems would seem to work from accretion. Material is added, but also some layers of sediment are compacted or eroded, though a "weathering" process.   

Friday, September 9, 2022

2nd epilogue to "Delusions of Mediocrity"

I think it is Oscar Pettiford playing bass

on this album of Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh.

Later I'll look it up, and change it if I am wrong. 

I had this LP as a kid 

and studied the liner notes with a certain earnestness; 

the song is called "Don't Squawk." 

When the song came on I was reading 

sound of wave in channel 

by Stephen Ratcliffe, and earlier today

I was reading his book about Campion and song

in a coffee shop, after reading a few weeks ago

his letters to and from New York School poet Barbara Guest. 

I am thinking of my poem recently completed

called "Delusions of Mediocrity," and wondering

if I can keep up this vein of flat writing

any more. This diary of uninteresting things

happening, but written in dull language too! But

people liked my poem, the one about how bacon

makes a noise that I didn't quite fathom 

and other things of equal banality;  

other things, too, my distaste for epiphanies  

and phrases like "man's search for meaning," 

redolent of a time when I was young

and people actually talked like that.  


Thursday, September 8, 2022

Lirio or limo?

 There's a line from a Lorca sonnet: "en doble lirio de caliente espuma."  Early edition had "limo" [slime] instead of "lirio" lily.  We can visualize how the ri can look like an m.  Double lily of hot foam [semen?].  Or double slime [silt] of hot foam? I prefer lirio here. The poet is taking about a lot of white things, like snow, lilies, whiteness itself [blancura]. Limo is more like mud, usually, not white.  

There is a whole poetic trope of white on white, or black on black. Riffaterre talks about it.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2022


 I was wondering about the sizzle of bacon

but that is just the sound that kind of thing makes

no more mysterious than any other

just like green plants reflects light

that looks green to us

that's our name for that kind of chromatic "sizzle" in our brains

I was hearing people's "vocal fry"

and "up talk" on the radio 

then some nasal person being interviewed too

and judging them for those qualities 

in their voices

I probably shouldn't do that

even if I don't like it 

it will be ok 

it's like judging the odors of herbs when I come in the house

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Blue Note

 The guy who did all the iconic Blue Note covers was not a fan of jazz. Somehow that doesn't bother me. 

Monday, September 5, 2022


 Chilean voters emphatically rejected an ultra-progressive constitution, enumerating 100 rights. The constitution was drafted in a process in which conservative voices were not needed. So now Chile is stuck with its Pinochet-era constitution.  80% of Chileans voted in an earlier election (2 years ago) that they want a new constitution, but this is not exactly what they wanted, I guess. Maybe a run-of-mill centrist constitution would be better than either the Pinochet constitution or the pie-in-the-sky progressive wish list. All the great stuff in the rejected document, the abortion rights and recognition of indigenous rights, will now have to wait until they can get their act together.  

Delusions of Mediocrity

 I remember when I wrote my poem

"Delusions of Mediocrity." It was rejected by several

fine magazines. It was part of my "bad poem" project

so the editors were not wrong. They could have realized 

that it was bad-on-purpose, not bad because I couldn't do 

any better--or not--but it didn't matter. They were

right either way.

                  I don't care anyway for

"fine writing" or lyric epiphanies, and have poor

powers of observation. I can't carry a notebook around

and observe interesting things. That's 

not how my mind works. Mostly in poems, I've found,

the interesting things in life don't fit, they get left out

along with the boring stuff that holds everything together.

For example, I suffered from horrible "earworm" as a kid, with

the line from a translation of Breton, "Jersey Guernsey 

in sombre and illustrious weather." And with the opening of 

Pound's "Seafarer": "May I for my own self / song's truth reckon /

journey's jargon." The suffering was intense 

and persistent, but I had nobody to complain to

since it was of my own doing. (Now this example,

I don't know if it is interesting or dull,

or whether it belongs in this poem at all.) 

                                Meditation cured my earworm

many years later. There are still tunes and phrases 

rattling in the rafters, but I don't fear them

anymore. Perhaps the syndrome is the fear of catchy 

musical and verbal cadences, not the words, 

harmless in themselves.

Regret for the past is pointless, I decided 

in a fit of insomnia last night. Regret implies that 

we can do better now--something far from certain. 

We should "regret" only the present, but try to change it 

at the same time, by making it better, somehow. 

Does that make any sense to you?

                      So much introspection is without value, 

anyway, like keeping score

for a game no longer being played, moving pointless 

mental tokens from one column to another, then never being able

to come up with the same count on successive attempts. 

You get the idea. 

                I spend years introspecting in the wrong way

without gaining much insight into myself or others. 

                                                    Insomnia too 

is a name for something not bad in and of itself. (Sleep

comes as a relief, sure, but we never experience 

that relief, waking up groggy much later.) After all,

insomnia gave birth to this poem, "Delusions of Mediocrity," a second

attempt to write a poem with this brilliant title. 

                                                       Once I read

an article about how not to be a mediocre jazz pianist, but

since "mediocre" means average, then for me 

that would be a vast improvement, right? 

                                    A Chopin waltz 

lies abandoned on the music stand, 

then it is not, as I come back to it again. It is not 

difficult, maybe, but it is unforgiving. Why do my fingers

fly, improvising over "Bemsha Swing" but stumble over themselves

here? Yet I can't play those bebop clichés that sound so good

when other people play them.  

                          I think of my childhood fantasies. 

I wanted to play jazz piano, publish poems 

in magazines (see above), and have a wife who wore lipstick. 

Nothing too ambitious; most of that I've done, though

not exactly in the way I thought it would work out.

None of those things is really what I thought it was

going to be. They are subtly different, but in a way that 

robs them of some portion of their inherent joy

and satisfaction.   

Sometimes I wonder, too, why bacon

sizzles in the pan. I know sound is vibration

but what is vibrating here, the grease? I understand

how a drum makes noise, two drum heads vibrating 

sympathetically and making the air inside 

hum too (when struck with stick), and then

sound waves emanating from there.

                                     The bacon, though,

I do not understand, I'd really like to know, but

it seems dumb to ask.   


Sunday, September 4, 2022

Song: Some Hypotheses

1. The first model is that the song is a single entity, with words and music essentially inseparable. 

2. Second idea: a single song (words and music together, as in the first model) can be adapted, harmonized, performed, in multiple styles. A folksong becomes a Lied, or is sung in the flamenco style. Every iteration is different, occurs in a new context. A new context of performance/recording and a new context of reception.   

3. A third conception. There is a poetic text, that may or may not have characteristics of the popular song tradition (however that is defined). Someone sets that text to music, in a style that may or may not refer to any particular style associated with that kind of text.  Song is an artistic hybrid, the combination of two artistic media. The music overrides the original text, supplants it. 

4. Should we then view the transformations of (2) as instances of (3)? Changes in the performance / reception of the song introduce a kind of analytic separation into the union of music and words. The song is no longer organically vernacular once it enters into all these other channels of reception.  

I wonder

I wonder what came first, the words or the music? Did someone

"set" the words to music, or was the tune always there? It seems

dumb to ask, but I'd really like to know.

                                            I wonder

why bacon sizzles in the pan. I understand how the drumstick

hits the drum head, causing the air inside the drum

to move, the other dream head vibrating sympathetically 

and the air around the drum carrying the sounds waves, but

I don't know what vibrates in the pan. Is it the grease? 

(I decide not to worry about the "flat' language

of my poems, not to worry about my poor

powers of observation. I hate epiphanies

anyway and "fine writing.") 

                        Why do we need a theory only

of difficult things? Zen cured my ear worm, I might say. 

Tunes still rattle in the rafters, but I don't care about them. 

Other emotions, too, ebb and flow, dread, regret, rancor. 

Joy even. 

        Insomnia is just the fear of insomnia, nobody says they 

have insomnia at 11 in the morning, after all. Earworm is just

the fear of the persistent tune, not the tune itself.    

Thursday, September 1, 2022


Adding: seeing where something is missing, something needs to be expanded.

Subtracting: seeing where you've gone on too long on a topic, or expressed something in too many words.

Reorganizing: seeing where the parts are not in proper order.  

Rewriting: seeing ideas that need to be better expressed. Clearing up confusion. Giving paragraphs a proper shape. Smoothing transitions. 

I get to do another search committee

 I agreed to chair the next search committee, this time for a VAP [visiting asst. prof]. I wanted a small committee, to make it easier to manage, but then we have to have each interest group represented, then they'll probably ask for additional volunteers, so the committee will be half the department once again. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Why does bacon sizzle

 "We don't have a theory of something being easy to do or of things going according to plan, things working out. Theory means something is difficult."

            "I wonder why bacon sizzles in the pan. What is it that's vibrating? I understand why the drum head vibrates and moves the air inside, but not the bacon." 

                            "There is a theory of poetic language, it might be wrong or right, but there is a theory of it, or several. But we have no theory of language not being poetic, the absence of whatever that is that is 'poetic."

                            "Why do we need that? We only need to know about the difficult cases, like the bacon. I literally do not know why it sizzles, yet it seems dumb to ask. When we understand, we move on, or so I'd thought."

                    "That what I'm saying, we have it wrong. Easiness is difficult to understand. We don't know how those easy things occur."


Monday, August 29, 2022

You're boring

 I saw a video where they asked some tennis players what the most interesting thing about them was. These were the top people, like Nadal.  They couldn't come up with anything. It's because they are famous for one thing, being able to to hit a tennis ball with a tennis racket, and I guess running to get to the next ball they have to hit. Without that, you wouldn't know who they are in the first place. They aren't interesting; they didn't go to college, or if they did, they went to play tennis. Their outside interests aren't likely to be very well developed either. 

Maybe being interesting, then, is a bit overrated.  That single-minded passion of hitting a ball with a stick or club might be enough.  The other stuff, even if interesting, seems like a self-indulgence.  


 I'm eager to see if fancy university who recruited me to apply last year hired anyone for the position. So far, their web site doesn't have anyone new. Senior searches often are not successful; people have a hard time deciding on candidates, or the person chosen does not choose to accept.  I guess I'll feel semi-vindicated if they end up with nobody at all.  

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Favorite word

Chopin waltz abandoned on music stand

until it is not: I return to it. I wonder why

my fingers feel free playing "Bemsha Swing" but not 


            If you ask someone their favorite word

they will say love, not their favorite word 

at all (if you ask me) but some pet idea

they will never say naif or another

word quirky or fun to pronounce. 

The same with sentences, they will 

offer you a sentence that they endorse

but not one that has an interesting ring to it

like Beckett's "Je dors peu, et le peu que je dors,

je le dors le jour."

                                The idea that

if you could just adopt the proper attitude

toward everything, find not just terminology

but the right tone of voice to say those words,

that would settle things. Tweak your damn verbiage 

and you'll do fine! 

                    A recitation of a poem 

is a musical performance, I read in a book on

Arabic Poetics. If so, what bad musicians you are,

poets and literary critics, actors.  


Zen cured my earworm: there are still tunes

rattling around in the rafters, but they aren't

bothersome. Anxiety, too,

is just a normal emotion waxing 

and waning. An anxiety

disorder is just giving too much importance to these

ebbs and flows. Is insomnia just

the fear of insomnia? Nothing in itself?  

The relief at falling asleep can only be felt 

on waking up, refreshed,

if even then: often the waking will be groggy. 

Often, I'll only know I've slept

if I have also dreamt. That is my measuring rod. 


I think of the absurdly detailed instruction manual

for the new water bottle, in several languages. My instruction

would be "fill, drink."  


Why does prosaic mean dull? Where does my fear

of "flat" language come from? Why does bacon

sizzle in the pan? 


I don't like those little "lyrical moments" but often I have wondered

why bacon sizzles in the pan. What is vibrating, exactly? I understand 

the vibrating drum head, how it moves the air, but not

the bacon, yet it seems dumb to ask.   


why I don't like most poetry I read. I wait for packages to arrive,

books I've ordered myself. Many are disappointments,

nobody's fault.

                My observational skills aren't great,

I've noticed. I don't have little epiphany puffs

just sometimes a funny phrase will pop into my head.   




Chopin waltz abandoned on music stand

until it is not: I return to it. I wonder why

my fingers feel free playing "Bemsha Swing" but not 


        Sound of Wave in Channel by Stephen Ratcliffe 

arrives today. Package left outside a door I rarely use

but they send me photo of this half-assed delivery

and I go down and get the package, on top of someone's 

delivery of tissues:




Friday, August 26, 2022


Ian Gibson resumes his attack on the Lorca family. He calls Laura García Lorca "Laura García de los Ríos," not the name she has always used, and pleads with her to tell us where the poet is buried, evoking the specter of the far right, as though they would gain more votes somehow if his side in the controversy does not prevail. He resurrects theory that the family conspired with Franco to exhume the body and bury it somewhere else. Supposedly, they know where Lorca is, then. There is no evidence for this theory; it's just sort of word-of-mouth gossip, so I'm not buying into it. I don't think even Gibson believes; he just wants to continue the feud with the Lorcas. 

Using the wrong name is not "passive aggressive," as I first wanted to write, but aggressive aggressive. Laura's mother was Laura de los Ríos, daughter of Fernando de los Ríos, so by conventional naming rules she would be "Laura García de los Ríos," but she has always chosen to be García Lorca.   


Zen cured my earworm: there are still tunes

rattling around in the rafters, but they aren't

bothersome. Anxiety, too,

is just a normal emotion waxing 

and waning. An anxiety

disorder is just giving too much importance to these

ebbs and flows. Is insomnia just

the fear of insomnia? Nothing in itself?  

Why does prosaic mean dull? Where does my fear

of "flat" language come from? Why does bacon

sizzle in the pan? 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

The Relief

The relief at falling asleep can only be felt 

on waking up, refreshed,

if even then: often the waking will be groggy. 

Often, I'll only know I've slept

if I have also dreamt. That is my measuring rod.   


I think of the absurdly detailed instruction manual

for the new water bottle, in several languages. 

If I could cut through that bullshit, then maybe

other kinds, too, would be vulnerable 

to my keen intelligence? Alas, no.   


I've been reading some letters and poems

 I've been reading some letters and poems exchanged between Barbara Guest and Stephen Ratcliffe. It's a delightful book, just out from Chax books, and it's inspiring me to write a new kind of poem. By mistake they first sent me the Selected poems of Rachel Blau DuPlessis. Also a wonderful poet, but a kind of writing I don't relate to personally in the same way.  They generously allowed me to keep that book too.  

I think the way Ratcliffe writes allows certain things to get into the poem that I am not allowing into my poems.  I won't imitate his style or procedure, those being unique to him; even less his tone of voice. 

I don't like those little "lyrical moments" but often I have wondered

why bacon sizzles in the pan. What is vibrating, exactly? I understand 

the vibrating drum head, how it moves the air, but not

the bacon, yet it seems dumb to ask.   


why I don't like most things I read. I wait for packages to arrive,

things I've ordered myself. Many are disappointments,

nobody's fault.

                My observational skills aren't great,

I've noticed. I don't have little epiphany puffs

just sometimes a funny phrase will pop into my head.   

Acting White

 Someone on the department's DEAI survey wrote that people in our department "act white." This was defined as being friendly and professional, and then back-stabbing. Of course, I'm going to act white, because I don't have much choice in the matter, aside from pretending to be someone I'm not, or being unfriendly / unprofessional on purpose.  Of course, the survey is going to increase, rather than decrease divisions.  Of course, we are a crew of prickly people, as I am too, I am sure.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2022


 Fill with water


Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Who is stealing your lunch?

 Some state AGs are suing because the Biden administration is ruling that states that don't adopt the new definition of Title IX won't get federal money for school lunches.  

Left wing media say that states want to deny lunches to gay kids.  

Right wing media say Biden is denying school lunches to kids.  

Title IX will now cover gender identity, so a state that didn't allow trans girls to compete on girls sports teams, for example, could run afoul of title IX. It seems to me that we should debate that issue, who gets to play on the girls' team, rather than making the false statement that these states want to deny lunch to gay and trans kids.  If Biden takes away school lunches from an entire state, then nobody gets fed, gay or straight. 

Sunday, August 7, 2022

10 Touchstones for Lorca and Music

These are the ones that I came up with. Not necessarily the best music associated with Lorca (though some is), but rather the points of reference that most indispensable.  

1) The Concurso del cante jondo, Granada, 1922. Lorca was part of the instigation for the event. He gave a lecture, wrote his first poetic masterpiece in connection with this event.   

2) Canciones españolas antiguas, recorded by Lorca and Argentinita in 1931. People constantly go back to these 10 songs, and to a few others associated with Lorca but not included in the 10. 

3) Silvestre Revueltas, Homenaje a FGL, 1937.  The first musical homage to Lorca after his death. Performed in Spain during the Civil War. Sets a precedent for instrumental works involving Lorca. It is also an amazing piece of music.  

4) The entire career of Germaine Montero, the person who did most to promote Lorca in Spain and record both Lorca material and Spanish folksongs.  

5) George Crumb, the composer most devoted to Lorca. His early song cycles like Ancient Voices of Children

6) Paco Ibáñez's Lorca/Góngora record, established Lorca in the singer-songwriter genre.  

7) Camarón's La leyenda del tiempo, the album that established Lorca in "new flamenco."  

8) Leonard Cohen's Take this Waltz, a song that inspired Enrique Morente to look Lorca's New York poetry.  

9) Morente's Omega.  Reincorporates Cohen into the Spanish flamenco tradition.  Opens Lorca up to hybrid musical approaches. 

10) I don't know about #10.  I think you have to leave a "listener's choice."  Then, if someone accuses you of leaving something out, you just have them add it themselves.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Verde que te quiero verde in Carmen?

 I am watching a DVD of Carmen, in a production by the Antonio Gades company. (Gades is not in it, since it is his company, but after his death.) Most of Bizet's music disappears, ceding to flamenco guitar. It is more Mérimée than Bizet, then; it is a ballet, not an opera.  

What I thought was interesting was putting Lorca's "Romance sonámbulo" in this work. The "verde que te quiero verde" motif appears at more than one moment.  

Gades was a protegé of Pilar López Júlvez, who is the younger sister of Encarnación (Encarna, "La Argentinita."). I'm sure Pilar instilled in him a good degree of Lorquismo.  Bodas de sangre is one of the things that Gades is best known for, in the Saura film version.  

The Gades company also has a version of Aynadamar, by Golijov, added to the repertory after Gades's death. 

I'm kind of coming to a thesis about the ubiquity of musical homages to Lorca. They feel almost compulsory.  I still haven't seen the Fuenteovejuna DVD that came with the set I purchased. I wouldn't be surprised if there were some Lorca smuggled in there too.

Now I realized I hadn't heard Carmen [the opera] all the way through, so I have to listen to that too. Of course it is all recognizable, but I don't really know the opera as a whole.  


 I  bought a CD on the Gran Vía of Granada because it was recorded on Lorca's guitar. Luckily, it was on my carry-on luggage, since Iberia lost my suitcase on the way back. !!%#@#!  I don't know who the worse fetishist is, me for buying it, or the guitar player, Samuel Diz, who recorded it. Everyone who goes through Lorca's house, Huerta de san Vicente, like Bob Dylan, etc... gets to play it (if you are famous, I guess).

 Seriously, the album is dedicated to María Teresa León and is pretty cool.  

The fetishism, though, to know every house Lorca lived in, worship his guitar and piano, is something key to Lorca studies. I spent the mornings in Granada in the Lorca library, spent 4 evenings attending concerts featuring Lorca's poetry, and parts of weekends visiting Lorca shrines, the places where he was imprisoned and killed, his houses in Valderrama and Fuente Vaqueros, iconic sites in Granada itself.  At night I dreamed of Lorca too, how could I not?  

La guitarra de Lorca vuelve a sonar: El País (2020)

Monday, July 25, 2022

Last day in library at Granada

My last day at the the library of the Centro FGL in Granada... 

 It's not the first book on Lorca and music, because there are several others, though of much more limited scope. It's not the definitive book, either, because it leaves things out. I would say it is the first more or less complete attempt to lay out the territory. Someone else could come along and do it more completely, or even better. 

I like saying that it is a medium sized book on a vast subject. 

So it is with scholarship. You are rarely the first to do something: you are almost always joining an ongoing discussion. If you are the last, that means that nobody else will even discuss what you have done. You want your work to inspire others, not be a dead end. You want to write something substantial (not too short) but at the same time not [necessarily] exhaustive. 

A lot of detail is good, but if the reader feels you are tellings them everything you found, without any selectivity, then the risk is a certain triviality. "Trivial" details are meaningful to me, as researcher, as a way of getting at the granularity of the subject matter, but a profusion of them in the text produces a sensation of excess, as though. The iceberg theory says that you should not reveal everything you know. Your writing has depth through a process of omission. 

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Saw this last night


Saturday, July 23, 2022

Friday, July 22, 2022


 As we were leaving the apartment a middle-aged British woman asked us why we are staying in our particular Airbnb in Granada. She lives in the neighborhood and thought it was horrible to hear English in the street (she was talking to us in English, of course). It was great when there were no tourists in the past few years. 

She turned out to be Helen Rodgers, author of the book City of Illusions: A History of Granada.  We had a nice conversation. We ended up having a nice conversation. The name Ian Gibson was mentioned. 

Without tourists, though, Granada would not thrive. I don't know what percentage of their economy depends on tourism, but it has to be high. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022


 It turns out my research is more buying CDS (I went to one store on Gran Vía in Granada en found 5 Lorca CDs, most unknown to me previously, and attending concerts and exhibitions, than reading stuff at the library.  I didn't think much about the fact that my 2022 research trip coincides with the centenary of the 1922 Canto jondo festival.  They have an exhibit at the Alhambra, for example, and many concerts.  

Monday, July 18, 2022


 We saw this movie last night, Persuasion.  All Jane Austen is the same plot: the most intelligent woman in her social setting, who can't figure out how to marry the one she ought to. So she is clever about everything except the one thing (in this particular setting) that actually matters. Being smart and practical is marrying for love. 

The move has the fashionable color-blind casting. It is fine for this kind of light entertainment, full of other blatant anachronisms, like people talking about "self-care" and rating physical attractiveness on a 1-10 scale.   

Monday, July 11, 2022

Music in the Edad de Plata, or What I learned last week and today reading at the Centro FGL

 The cultural status of music in Spain in the 20s and 30, through the end of the Republic, seems ultra healthy. Composers begin to see themselves as intellectuals. Falla, Esplá, Pedrell, Adolfo Salazar. The group of 8 in Madrid and the corresponding group in Barcelona, with composers like Mompou. 

Stravinsky and Poulenc pass through several times. The Ballets Russes leaves the US and goes to Spain during the First World War.  Falla, in France, returns to Spain during the War too. The connections between French and Spanish music are strong. Debussy and Ravel like Spanish music. Mompou spends time in France too. 

There is a dislike or romanticism and Germanic music. Musical nationalism, impressionism, and neoclassicism are the dominant trends.  

Lorca is in the middle of this, as friend of Falla and Salazar. Falla and literary intellectuals like Lorca promote cante jondo. 

A lot of this is invisible (inaudible?) because Spanish music is not widely known. Also, the Spanish civil war puts an end to this mini-renaissance. Even the utra-Catholic Falla goes into exile. It could be that none of the composers manages to get to that elite, genius level, aside from Federico Mompou (in my opinion). 

Spanish music has a tremendous cultural capital, but it tends to be valued for its nationalism, its connection to folklore. The modernizing impulse of the music of the Edad de Plata, then, is going to be poorly appreciated. The prestige of Spanish music tends to be channeled into Lorca himself, given his proximity to all of these movements.    

Sunday, July 10, 2022

The end of 1Q84. !!

 I finished 1Q84.  It was a heroic effort (on my part).  I now officially hate the Catalan language.*  Now I realize I only read half of Killing Commendatore.  I'm not likely to finish it. What I've read so far is so tedious and  half-hearted. As one of the amazon reviews said, there is probably a good 300 page novel in these 1,300 pages.  

I'm reading Livro de dessasego, in Portuguese.  

*Not really, but "En Tengo va fer no amb el cap" seems like a long-winded way of saying "Tengo shook his head."  

Saturday, July 9, 2022

AOC Gets a Manicure

I have tried to like AOC. Her appeal to young people to write postcards in order to save the postal service was widely mocked. Her performatively narcissistic manicure, though, is something she won't recover from quickly.  


 Lévi-Straus interprets the Oedipus myth as a conflict between two theories about where babies come from: by birth, in the normal way, or arising directly from the earth. 

We see in Murakami's novel a constant questioning of parentage.  All the major characters have difficult relations with their parents, disinheritance or questionable parentage, and there emerges an alternate form of reproduction, in which copies of women or young girls emerge out of cocoon-like structures. These women do not menstruate. The novel-within-the-novel describes this, and then it begins to happen in the fictional world of the novel itself. 

Pregnancy occurs without sexual intercourse, etc... Tengo finally sees a photo of his mother and finds that she looks like his own, older married lover. All of this is quite on the surface: the novel presents everything very redundantly and obviously. Each of the characters is figuring it out individually, so we have to follow the thought processes of each one of them, in a rather tedious way.  

The title of the novel seems to refer to Orwell, so there is a dystopian aspect to it. I'm thinking of the assassination of Abe, yesterday, where the perpetrator perhaps is resentful about some weird religious sect right out of Murakami's imagination.  It is a bit strange because Japan is a society with almost non-existent homicide rate, about .25 versus 5 for US (per 100,000 population). For example, 1 person in 2021 was killed in Japan by gun violence, as opposed to 45,000 in the US in the same year.   

Friday, July 8, 2022


 I finished streaming Damnation, Tony Tost's series set in the 1930s. It is intense and violent, and very good. I learned of the existence of the Black Legion, a right-wing and racist militia with its origins in the KKK. When I watched the show I was wondering why the KKK was dressed in black instead of white, and with a different name, but then I looked it up. I am a little embarrassed by my ignorance. !! Humphrey Bogart was in a movie about them. The 30s are interesting because liberal democracy was so precarious, unsure of itself. Right and Left knew exactly what they stood for, but "the best lacked all conviction." 

The plotting and writing is excellent. The characterization is complex; even though it is a good vs. evil melodrama the main characters all have significant nuances to them. As a consequence, the actors are able to make very good performances: they were given a lot to work with. The female characters, while in the minority, are among the best developed. The preacher's wife Amelia.  

The newspaper reporter, DL, plays the role of the literary figure, the Dreiser or Steinbeck who will chronicle the period.  

Thursday, July 7, 2022


I'm in Granada.  I am working in a different gear. 9:30 to 1:15 in the library of the Centro Federico García Lorca. AC and lights were off today, but it wasn't too hot and I had natural light with which to see.  

After that, I just walk around town, and look at the library catalog for the next day's books. Today I read a very interesting book about the Ballets Russes in Spain during WWI. I only got a few quotes for my book, but the significant thing is not speed, but persistence. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Torres vs. Torre

 There was a mini-controversy.  Lorca called Manuel Torre "Torres").  Torres is a common last name; Torre, in the singular, is a nickname, an artistic name. But, as Maurer points out, many people called him "Torres." That name appears on announcements, and so it was not Lorca alone who made that mistake. 

One person uses Lorca's mistake as a reason for arguing that Lorca was not that familiar with the flamenco world, in which Torre / Torres was well-known. But, since everyone else seemed to make that mistake, almost randomly, it not a good argument. Something I read today points out at "Torres" / "Torre" are pronounced almost the same in some Andalusian Spanish dialects. So you could hear someone say "Torre" and assume they were saying Torres but dropping the s.  This last person spent 3 pages on this, even though he admits that it is a trivial issue, and here I am blogging about it myself.   


People I know call anything right wing "Fascist." If it's not already fascist, it's leading there, or it's fascist-adjacent. But then the word just comes to mean right wing generally.  It has no more information to it any more. Is modern rightwingism bad because it is bad in an of itself, as I believe, or because it might lead us to some 1920s version of rightwingism? Maybe think about what's happening now? The label has no analytic content; it is just being used for its stigma.