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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...

Monday, January 31, 2022


 The Lorca and real life book refers to Bodas de sangre as a "thriller." Seriously?  

Victorian Poetics

 When I was coming of age, ca. 1975, the poets looming largest were Olson, Auden, Lowell, Plath, etc... Ashbery if you leaned in that direction.  But now we are in 2022, unbelievably, and are 100 years past the modernists. Let's think of early 20s publications like Ulysses, Harmonium, Spring and All, Tulips and Chimneys. Or Lorca's Poema del cante jondo, written 100 years ago. To the Lighthouse is 1927.  

So in the 1920s, people were not debating Victorian poetics, worrying about Longfellow and Tennyson. My relation to the current moment is like that of a Victorian to a modernist. 

Sunday, January 30, 2022


 The book, Lorca, basado en los hechos reales has arrived. It's almost dumber than I expected. He goes on an on about a worker's strike that inspired "Romance de la guardia civil española," but the poem never mentions any strike at all. It is simply assumed that the repression of this strike must have inspired the poem. It is not just a lack of sensitivity or capability for reading literature, but almost an active hostility to fictionality. There is absolutely no insight into any text, and not even an effort in this direction.   

So I guess Lorca "dressed up" or adorned real life, as though making real life into literature were simply a cosmetic process. I keep coming back to Aristotle and the idea that if you versify Herodotus, it is still history, not poetry. 

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Then the next day...

 The next day the defender of Olson's honor has another post where he apologizes for using the word "lackey" in an argument with someone. Then people can praise him for his humility in admitting to making a mistake. Really, if you want to call someone a lackey, go ahead. It's kind of stupid to do it, and then to make a big deal of apologizing for it as well.  

Friday, January 28, 2022


 Olson is not a "santo de mi devoción." I find "projective verse" rather derivative and pretentious. I also don't like that solemn tone and sense of self-importance. It is a luxury I have, since I'm in Spanish, not to have to deal with poets who don't appeal to me.  

That being said, many people I respect revere him. That is fine. 

But I wonder if it is a bit of a cult. There is extreme defensiveness around any critique of him, with open letters and stern denunciations. From my perspective now, I think of him as being important in mid-to-late 20th century circles, peaking about 40 years ago, but not as culturally central now to American poetics. Maybe this group of people cannot abide his (relative) eclipse? Demographically, I am talking about white men (but not only white) my age and older.  There was a "gruppo" which formed to defend him, including Baraka. I haven't seen any women jump in to defend him, nor people younger than me. So it is people who fell under his sway when they were young and he was at the height of his prestige.  

Really, it's fine for an influential figure to recede at times. It happens all the time. This does not mean his influence was for naught, but simply that his moment was in the past. I mean, even the language poets are in their 70s now.  They don't hold excitement for me, even those I like the best. 

O'Hara and Koch stand up better, but maybe because I always liked them more. I'm in that demographic too so I cannot cling to hard to my older opinions.    

The attack on Yépez ends with this weird paragraph, like seriously, WTF:   

"In a final historical irony, if you do a little bit of genealogical digging, you’ll discover that the Yépez name was granted to the family in 1492. That was one of the Occxidant’s/Christendom’s very big years. The name was a gift bestowed on them by a grateful King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella on the triumphant Christian return to Spain after 300 years of exile. It came with the village of the same name which was the site where the newly minted Yépez family had defended Christendom and the Occ(x)ident and helped drive the Moors out of Iberia and back into the benighted Orient from which they had crawled. Maybe that’s why he is so fascinated with Oxident."

There wasn't a triumphant return to Spain by the Christians in 1492. There wasn't 300 years of exile. Who exactly awash in exile? And attacking Yépez for his last name?

Thursday, January 27, 2022


 Now he is stoking meaningless resentment against Heriberto Yépez, for a book written about Olson a relatively long time ago, El imperio de la neomemoria.  I didn't know we had to defend Olson against all comers. Even if you don't like what Yépez says, it is not particularly relevant now.  


This same person on FB drumming up old gossip about Olson and Bishop also writes to wonder why X is not valued among post-avant poets. Well, because most poets are neglected by most people most of the time. I spend most of my days neglecting most poets.  

This person who shall not be named spends all his time and energy with old resentments. He even had a site called "dispatches from the poetry wars." Long ago I severed contact with this toxic individual. I see his FB posts only because he tags people in them that are also my FB friends. I don't say anything on FB about it, because that would just be stoking the fires of ressentiment. 

Even my objecting to this behavior is just my own manifestation of mala leche.  

A mondegreen and some dreams

 In the lyrics to the song "Solitude," many of the sites cite the second line as 

"In my solitude you haunt me

with dreadful ease of days gone by"

The correct word is "reveries." What is surprising is that mistake is on several different sites. It is hard for dread to be easeful.  


I dreamt I had been appointed interim chancellor.  It didn't seem that strange to me, and I thought about the extra money it would be bring me. I wanted to start have people call me by my title rather than my first name. So power, money, and status all tied up in an efficient package. 


I was throwing several old bras belonging to X away in the alley. The dumpster was no longer there, so I saw where people had stacked plastic garbage bags in various places. I opted to throw away the bras in the pit where the dumpster had been. I doubted my decision, but then decided it was ok because they were biodegradable and that X would not criticize my decision.  


The rest of the night was spent dreaming of technological issues in the classroom.  

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Prologue to a Book of Dreams

 I do not revere the wisdom of dreams.

Absurd, fragmentary, sexually 'inappropriate,"

they do not form cute little surrealist parables--

at most they are inane allegories of failure. 

Writing them down, though,

with no apologies for these inadequacies, 

as mere evidence of having slept in early hours

of the morning, I find they constitute, 

over time, a chronicle of fruitful misunderstandings,

where error serves clear purposes if looked at

with a squint. Last night, for example, I dreamed

I had grown two inches in a week. taking pride

in my new height, until I awoke, not even disappointed

when I remembered this, my stature unaltered. 

It is no hypocrisy, then, to write a book of dreams

while despising the dreams of other people, the whole damned

genre. The mistake is to look for beauty, coherence,

symmetry, the clarity of waking hours, 

when their value lies in precisely the opposite.   


Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Dream of Colony

 There was some kind of writing colony or academic conference thing; there were many of us in a room together. The participants were not people I knew from real life, but in the dream they were sharply differentiated, with distinctive features. Men and women in about equal numbers. 

Gradually, I came to realize I was dreaming. At that point I knew I could do anything I wanted...  

The wealth of detail in this dream was extraordinary.  

Monday, January 24, 2022

Plácido Domingo sobre Pablo Neruda y Federico García Lorca

Who cares?

 Someone on facebook was drumming up outrage because someone else had posted a story about something that Charles Olson and Elizabeth Bishop were arguing about in the 1940s (supposedly). I have a hard time caring about some minor disagreement 20 years before I was born. We are all supposed to rush to Olson's defense? I started wondering whether poets 100 years ago would worry about some minor Victorian gossip.  But, really, the true game here is the faux outrage. Get people riled up about something. I really would give up facebook except for the Iberian Studies group I founded.  

Dream of Writing Workshop

 I was in an auditorium, in the audience. It was some kind of writing class and the teacher was an Asian woman with short hair. She recognized me and said something like "now that Jonathan is here..." She read aloud a poem by me, written circa 1977. It was in the Deep Image style, and it wasn't bad. Then she handed me a sheaf of papers, from about the epoch. Writings by me that I recognized somehow. The date on one page was 1847, but I realized it should really have been 1974. 


I was in my house in Davis. When I left and came back a few minutes laters I realized that I had time travelled back to a few years earlier. She had a different hair and glasses and looked more youthful. I tried to tell my mom what would happen in the future, about the coming pandemic, but she just laughed in my face. Every time I saw her again her hair was different. 


I had some take-out ribs. While transferring them to another container to be taken home I spilled something on the kitchen counter. There was some disagreement about that.  A guy who was there was going to take some of my ribs, and I was ok with that, but then he called me an asshole. I called him out. "You took some of my ribs?"  {Equivocal answer.] "You took some of my ribs?"  {Equivocal answer.] We went back and forth, I was getting fake mad, wanting to call him out. "Peter, you took some of my ribs and then called me an asshole." Now I was genuinely angry.  

Friday, January 21, 2022


 Castilian. An article by Leslie Bary, friend of this blog.  

Dream of Blue Period of Frank O'Hara

 I was on some kind of panel discussion about Frank O'Hara's self-portraits. They were hanging on the wall behind me, so I had to keep turning around. They were a light, but very vivid blue color, similar to that of Picasso's blue period. Someone else was talking about his wide palette of colors, but I only saw a few colors. One painting had a row of men in a café sitting with their back to the wall, one of whom was Frank. The paintings were animated, like animated cartoons, with the men smiling at times.  


A dream is first of all the dream itself, as experienced by the sleeping mind. Then the awake mind must remember it and figure out how to conceptualize it, how much detail is significant. Then the write-up is a selective verbal representation of that. The memory of the dream fades, so a year later, when I read about a dream, I have only the words to go by, with nothing of the original experience.  

Wednesday, January 19, 2022


 The interim vice-provost for DEIB has resigned because he plagiarized in his MLK day email to all of us.  

Dream of kitten

A kitten had followed someone from our household home. It very cute, with an almost human demeanor. Since it was too young to have been vaccinated, we had to keep it apart from one member of the household who was vulnerable. I was trying to do research to find its owner. There was some kind of name associated with it, and I thought we could start searching for people with this particular last name. I kept trying even after waking up and realizing that it was all a dream.  I would fall asleep and continue the search.  

Tuesday, January 18, 2022


 One of the colleagues I like the most is one of the least "literary" in formation / research.  Also one of the most committed to anti-racism, in a genuine way, not merely performative. It's more of a gut-level feeling of whom to trust. 

We get put in factions without even wanting to. It is a question of elective affinities.  

An odd bifurcation

Studying language could simply be studying "the language." Yet we have a tradition of making literature the focus of the MLA.  The idea might be that literature is the best language, that it provides exempla to be imitated.  Now, being able to read literature does not mean that you can speak the language. On the other hand, a communicative approach with no literature does not mean that all students will learn to speak well either.  Literature, even if it is not the "best," still carries prestige or honorific value, and increases vocabulary, and familiarity with basic vocabulary. You will see the 2,000 most common words over and over. 

Nowadays, most young scholars are not writing on literature for their dissertations. There may be some novels involved, but only for their historical content. Poetry is pretty rare, now.  

We still teach literature to undergraduates, but on a lesser scale. A few classes for the major.  It's not a major that someone would go into because they like to read, per se.  

Serious interest in linguistics is even more rare.  Most people don't think that way about language.  

So the odd bifurcation is that the field still thinks of itself in two, largely non-overlapping categories. There is literary study and teaching, and mostly historical research with a very minimal literary aspect to it.   

Some Dreams

 Someone had written a scathing review of my book, saying that it was "un libro sin ton ni son."  [without rhyme or reason]. I was planning my response. I wasn't particularly upset about it and was seeing the humor in the situation.  

I was looking forward to a concert by Keith Jarrett.  But walking out of the concert, I realized I had not heard a note he played.  Had I slept through it? (Literally, I had, since I was dreaming.) As we were walking out I said something about how brilliant he was, and then realized he was stranding right there. He was talking to us about a Pat Matheny concert that would happen in the evening, but there was some doubt about it, because of some legal issue. 

I was supposed to read some poems aloud, but I didn't have any with me, so I decided to write a new one. It began: "My life is so disgusting / it makes me want to throw up." I thought that was a good start. People sitting next to me were practicing a country-music type song with guitars and I ask them to be quiet so I could write.  I didn't have anything to write on, so I thought of asking someone for a piece of paper.  

My niece had exploded a bomb in the closet of my Mom's house (her grandmother). It didn't do much damage, and I was trying to help her cover up the crime, by saying things like "I'm sure the police will be dusting for prints..."  She did not seem overly concerned, though, and it seemed like my Mom was not going to call the police any way. There was no motive for the bomb, and no explanation of why it exploded but did no damage.  


Theme: the mind finding creative solutions to malaise.  

Sunday, January 16, 2022


Lydia Davis points out that the French cognate of "superstitious" can mean: “excess of exactitude, obsessive preoccupation." I think that this what Borges means when he says an excessive investment in the style of writing is a superstition.  I mean, literally he doesn't mean something like a fear or black cats or the number 13.  I can see the connection between the two meanings: irrational investment in something that really makes no difference. The faux amis are countless. 

Of course, there is an irony in that Borges is himself an unsurpassed stylist.  


Friday, January 14, 2022


 With a poet I like ok, like Rae Armantrout, but do not think is as brilliant as some people say. I don't think she's in the category of Wallace Stevens or Lorine Niedecker. It's just very good, not something that knocks you over. I'm not even trying to knock her, but she is all over the NYRB and places like that now.  

I tend not to want to say anything. Another poet on FB is saying how they re ignored, when it is obvious the person is a moderately successful person, good at self-promotion, who is probably exactly as famous as she ought to be within the limited small-press poetry world. On Jeopardy contestants know the atomic number of iron or the capital of Surinam but probably couldn't name a living poet.  


 They give a diversity training due on the first day of the semester, according to an email. When you log on there, though, it says that the training is due "any time." So which is it? Of course, the training doesn't work for me in either safari or chrome. I email them and get back a "ticket number." 

It's ambiguous whether it is required or not. The first message in late 2021 said that we were "invited" to do it. The second message had a deadline, which implied it is obligatory. I am curious to do it since I want to know whether it employs compelled speech. In other words, whether it obliges you to choose the correct answer, whatever your actual opinions are. 

I applied to a job this year at a place that has one of the worst free speech ratings, but is academically more prestigious than KU.  (I didn't get the job, but that's another story.) That institution had a training in which you had to give the "right answer." 

It occurred to me that you couldn't have a free speech training, because then you would be free to say anything you wanted. You could even say you are against free speech in certain cases. 

 Get over thyself.  

Thursday, January 13, 2022

More bad design

 A crock pot with locking lid. But the instructions say you do not lock the lid while cooking, since the lid might crack. Presumably the lid is only for taking the pot to a potluck, but if you don't read the instructions... 

A carpet cleaner in a spray bottle. You will inevitably want to spray down onto the stain on your carpet, but the bottle only sprays if held vertically (spraying horizontally and not straight down). 

You cannot use every slot in a power strip / surge protector thing because of issues with the shape of the plugs, angles of adaptors.  There should be larger spaces between the outlets. 

The lightbulb in an oven is attached by screws. You need to unscrew it with screwdriver to change it instead of just changing lightbulb.  

There should be a charging basket. You just place all your devices in the basket, at no special angle, and they will charge.  Instead, each item has its own proprietary charger and must be plugged in.  

A pair of scissors comes in a package of hard plastic that can only be opened safely with ...  a pair of scissors.  

A website for graduate admissions that is cumbersome to use, and doesn't permit you to download files. 

Once standard features, like headphone jacks or places for cd, no longer appear in new generations of computers, phones. 

A menu on a computer program that includes endless options that I do not need. There ought be be a way to customize the menus. I only "insert" page numbers, comments, and page breaks in Microsoft word.  

A diversity training on line that doesn't work without modifying setting on browser in some unspecified way.  

Monday, January 10, 2022

Bad Readers

 Bad readers take things too literally-- or else they try to make something into a wild allegory about something else. They are literal-minded when they should be thinking of figurative language, but they also don't realize it when the poem is naming something very basic. 

According to one critic, the "cuatro palomas" of a certain Lorca poem are the four gospels.  Why? because there are four of them. Nothing else in the poem justifies that, but everything must be made into a symbol of something else.  

So symbol-mongering and literal-mindedness are not opposites: they are both the same mentality, with the same inability to distinguish between the literal and the metaphorical.  

I had to order the book about the "hechos reales." I hope a good article can come out of it.  I reject the idea that "Paca la Coja" from the province of Almería is the "real bride" of Bodas de sangre.  I don't even see it as Lorca transforming some sordid reality into poetry. That's a pretty vulgar theory of literature.  It would be like talking about Wallace Stevens's "real blackbirds."  

Banally, yes, writers do take things from what they know, experience, and think about, but they are creators of fictions. 


Saturday, January 8, 2022

Another howler

 The Criada in Bernarda Alba is complaining about sexual abuse by Bernarda's husband, who has just died. When the other characters enter, she puts on a false display of grief. The author of the book on Lorca in real life interprets this as a sincere expression of grief, when it is clearly staged for the benefit of Bernarda. This is not even a subtle effect.  

If you don't understand metaphor and irony, you have no business here.  


There is pretty funny mistake pointed out in the review cited above. The author of the book on Lorca's "real life" inspiration talks about Leonardo's family being "matadores." The author of the book thinks that this means bullfighters, when in context it means simply "killers." Leonardo's family members have killed the father and older brother of the Bridegroom's family.  Since this is a crucial part of the plot, it is hard to see how you can trust someone who doesn't understand the play itself. In the "real life" incident behind BdS, there is not a family feud like this in the first place. I'm thinking of writing something about literalism in Lorca interpretation. But then I would have to get this fucking book. 

"en Bodas de sangre, a la madre del Novio se le envenena el alma al enterarse de que Leonardo, antiguo novio de la prometida de su único hijo, pertenece a la familia de 'los matadores' (o sea, de los asesinos) de su marido y de su primogénito, en tanto que Caballero parece entenderlo en clave taurina, cuando escribe que era 'miembro de una familia de matadores, elemento costumbrista, casi cliché desde entonces'"

Friday, January 7, 2022


 Once I wanted to do an MFA workshop on translation here, but, aside from other bureaucratic problems, it turned out that not enough students knew any languages.  Universities are eliminating many languages, and turning classics into "classical studies" with no Greek or Latin. 


I've been reading Lydia Davis's essay (part 2), mostly on translation. She also talks about learning some Spanish and Dutch, etc... She has some really great observations about translation in general, and about Proust in particular.  Her essays confirm to me her brilliance over all as a writer. It's not just the same banal thing every translator says. It is a very pragmatic approach, not theoretical in the sense you might be thinking, but not naive or unintelligent either. Her approach to learning Spanish was to read Tom Sawyer, in Spanish. This is an approach I use sometimes: choose a fairly simple or straightforward text in the language you want to learn, and just read without looking up words in the dictionary. It's better to read 100 pages without understanding every single word than to decipher 10 pages completely, with perfect understanding of every word.  


You could say most people don't need languages, and you could have education narrowly tailored to what people need. You had an idea of classical education, then, an idea of liberal education with at least some second language as part of it, then an idea of liberal education with nothing particularly difficult left in it.  For a PhD, you used to need a language because scholarship was done in languages other than English, but that is less and less true. Scientists don't need German any more.  


"... creo que los panoramas literarios en los que la pulsión inventiva o imaginativa es la predominante producen mejores obras que aquellos donde la creación entendida en un sentido mínimo estrecha hasta la asfixia las posibilidades, generando una estética reconocible y normalizadora."

--Vicente Luis Mora

Here is a book about how Lorca was inspired by real life:  Lorca: basado en hechos reales (Los sucesos que inspiraron sus obras)


I don't know why people don't understand that literature is fictive.  

Sunday, January 2, 2022

More collab

 In scientific fields collaboration is the norm. There are distinct roles aside from the principal investigator, like, I suppose, the person who does the stats, everyone who performs the experiments physically.  

In the humanities, the model is much more that you do your own work. There is no lab; there may be a working group. It is much more the model of the arts, where one person writes a symphony or a novel (typically). You don't imagine Proust writing a novel with a friend of his. There are collaborative poem, but they tend to be lighter in nature, and often fail even then.   


I had an idea for an article / chapter when I was still lying in bed, before arising. "Lorca's Musical Theater." I could be my next Lorca lecture. The idea is to look at the music in the book Las canciones del teatro de Federico García Lorca and then branch out from there, with the thesis being that this music makes its way into films, other musical works, etc..., or is transformed /rewritten in various ways that have not emerged in the scholarship.  This would be ideal for collaboration with musicologist.  

I sent a trumpet fanfare from the book to my daughter to be recorded. She said it would be playable, though it is strangely notated.  That might be a good addition when I'm giving a lecture. It is a "toque de trompeta floreada y comiquísima." [ornate and very comic]