Friday, December 30, 2022
Thursday, December 29, 2022
There was a box and we found a book there. A blank book that I had titled ART, filling the pages with poems, aphorisms, photos, collages, and drawings. The date was 1987. I was showing it to my daughter, who wasn't impressed at all by it. I wasn't either. The contents were haphazard, the images without any impact. There was ambition behind it but no execution.
The moon had a sticker of Mickey Mouse on it. It wasn't literally on the moon, but just positioned so that it looked that way from our particular vantage point. There was another cardboard cutout of Mickey Mouse close to the moon, that looked as though it were right next to it though of course it was much closer.
Wednesday, December 28, 2022
My dad was alive again in this dream. No surprise there, because I have had this dream for years. He was sitting in his study and we were talking. I even discussed the dreams with him, telling him I knew he must be alive since I had been dreaming it all these years. This did not feel like a dream because it had been several days that he was back, I felt. I was tears, not really even happy, just puzzled a bit. He had the exact appearance, voice and intonation of himself so I had no doubt about his identity, and made a mental note of this fact. He made some comment about a book. There was a complete works of Thomas Jefferson in the room, and I wondered about how much history you could learn just by reading everything like this.
I tried to get an explanation of it from my mom; she told me some story about "Uncle Jake" (I don't have an uncle by that name). Being away someplace for 20 years or so doesn't make much sense. We were in the car. We went to some memorial service for someone (not my dad, I guess, but someone of his generation) in someone's house. They were all members of a certain organization. I had the new dog Heidi on the leash (that's another story) and she took a cushion near the front next to some other dogs. I found an armchair, but an elderly gentleman came down and said it was his chair. I moved to the other side of the room. People keep coming in. Nobody I knew at all. I realized I had no pants on, but was covered by a blanket. I reached down to pull up my pants, which I found easily enough.
Tuesday, December 27, 2022
There was a short story workshop going on. A guy ended his story like this:
"Nos casamos a los dos meses. No fue una buena buena idea ni para Ana ni para mí. Pero así es la vida."
[We married two months later. It was not a good idea either for Ana or for me. But that's life.]
At leases my unconscious Spanish grammar is fine. Before, in the story, someone had made an unsatisfactory soup with tomato purée and some other ingredients. Somehow this mediocre soup was connected to the mediocre marriage these people were going to have.
There were several other exchanges of idea going on through zoom channels. Nothing was very clear for the rest of the night.
Monday, December 26, 2022
I was in a library reference room, and found an issue of a journal called Berkeley Poetry Review. It was a special feature on Lawrence zen poetry, and a picture of me and my ex-wife and daughter, looking like a young family, on the cover. I was featured with a few poems and an essay on zen poetry. I was puzzled because this was done without my knowledge / permission. I tried to check out the magazine to bring home with me, but was told that reference materials could not be checked out. A tall individual wanted to look at it, so I let him. I was leaving, and realized I had left my coat with my keys and phone in it. I tried out several coats but could not find my own.
The poems were rather silly ones, though I don't remember what they were, exactly. I don't really believe in zen poetry, per se.
Sunday, December 25, 2022
Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera has a book out which seems to repeat an argument he made in a Chronicle of Higher Education piece, about decolonializing the teaching of Spanish in the US. It has a blurb from Mignolo. It came up in my Iberian Studies group on facebook. I'm not going to say anything there. I'm the founder and administrator of the group and I don't use that role to promote my own agenda, but I think his argument is misguided. What is taught in the US is mostly Latin American Spanish, not peninsular Spanish.
Thursday, December 22, 2022
I was on some bus or train... arguing with some Spaniard who admired a poet of whom I am the sworn enemy. He took issue with me when I said said poet was a mediocrity.
Later, reading some essay / memoir thing in which the most important part was left out. That missing part showed that the entire premise of what we had read was wrong. Unfortunately, details cannot be retrieved in waking life.
Friday, December 16, 2022
Tuesday, December 13, 2022
I found an article abstract from a reputable journal that ended like this: "...and that's why Sylvania Fernández's work is so terrible." I was delighted by the unacademic directness and laughed out loud, and immediately started showing people, including a reader of this blog who happened to be there. I knew the name was wrong in the abstract; it was really supposed to be R***** S*****, a woman from Granada in LGM's circle.
It is too bad we can't write like that in academia. We have to say an argument is unconvincing, or unsupported by the evidence. It's not just "terrible," even if really is.
Monday, December 12, 2022
Friday, December 9, 2022
I think I was the only US Hispanist to oppose the poetry of experience. Several reasons: there weren't many of use even studying contemporary Spanish poetry. The idea of being against something, of really doing criticism in the evaluation mode, is not part of this part of the academic world. Usually, you choose what you want to write on (something you like or are interested in) and you don't argue for its value: that is assumed in the fact that you have chosen it.
Friends, and students, would sometime have one chapter on Luis García Montero in a dissertation, but he wasn't the focus of the work of any really good scholar. It was a woman from Argentina, Laura Scarano (who had been a student of ours at Ohio State many years ago, and who would always send me her books over the years), who became the big García Montero scholar, mostly just echoing his own positions and being close friends with him and Almudena. Scarano is smart, but I simply disagree with her in this case. I don't believe in hagiography. Even when I write on Valente I am implicitly critical of certain aspects of his work.
I was instrumental in another dissertation on LGM, written in Spain, but from a perspective critical of him. The student came for a semester to work with me, and then I flew to Spain to be on her Doctoral Defense in Santiago.
But anyway, the number of books in which I am the only US Hispanist cited is quite large. Since I write in English, mostly, I cannot aspire to be more of a part of the conversation, but Laura will never cite me, I fear.
Thursday, December 8, 2022
I tended not to put a lot of energy into promoting or even thinking about my book The Twilight of the Avant-Garde. I spent a lot of time working on it, and a lot of mental energy against the "poetry of experience." Now, re-reading all of this, instead of regretting it, I think I am still right! If anything, LGM is worse than I thought, in every dimension. Even one of his closest collaborators from the early years came out with a diatribe against him.
I was about to give a lecture. The speaker before me was done, and I had to go the bathroom. I woke up and went to the bathroom, and then when I went to sleep again I couldn't recover the topic of the lecture. I was then teaching through a "rebus" method of some kind, connecting ideas one after the other.
Wednesday, December 7, 2022
The Althusserian Granadine professor Juan Carlos Rodríguez. I find him unreadable. I just found out today he was married to Angeles Mora, another poet of the group. Reading him is like a black hole, where you read and never get to the point. He starts off, always, with propositions like "literature has not always existed," and insists always on the historicity of everything. But trying to pin him down on the consequences of what he is saying. He is incredibly prolix.
Someone in my university had died, who happened to have the same last and first name as my father, Leon Mayhew. I was at the funeral, and didn't know whether to mention the "coincidence" to anyone there. I wasn't sure why I was there, since I wasn't related to him, and didn't even know him. There was a display of books that had belonged to him. One was Doña Inés. I couldn't see whether it was in English or Spanish.
I noticed that my nephew and some other family members were at the funeral. I started talking to him. I asked him whether he had noticed that the deceased had the same name as his grandfather. I said I was going to see him in a few weeks (thinking of my trip to California, though he lives in Michigan and I won't see him on this trip.). He told me my daughter and her husband were buying a house. I didn't know that and felt out of touch.
When I woke up, I realized of course that the deceased person in the dream was my father, in that it was my dream, and part of a series of death of father dreams. I had told people in the dream that my father had died 10 years ago (actually 22 years).
Tuesday, December 6, 2022
Monday, December 5, 2022
What is the most average, normal idea of a lyric poem? A 1st-person speaker who is a more or less sincere persona in relation to the poet / implied author. An idealized version of the self. That is pretty much the paradigm behind the "poetry of experience" of the Granada. There was a claim that this was supposedly Marxist. [!!!]
Sunday, December 4, 2022
LGM's line "tú me llamas, amor, yo cojo un taxi" is a kind of anti-touchstone. It was singled out by Mainer ("aquel prodigioso endecasílabo...") and then pilloried by Blanca Andreu, Mayhew, Álvaro Salvador, and José Antonio Fortes. Mainer compared it to Quevedo: "polvo serán, mas polvo enamorado."
Saturday, December 3, 2022
Brecht is an avant-garde writer. The Verfremdungseffekt is derived from Shklovsky, a Russian formalist. Distancing techniques are essentially meta-theatrical, like the breaking of the 4th wall. Of course, anti-realist techniques are not inherently avant-garde, in the sense that other forms of theater (from Asia, for example), are not avant-garde per se. Placed in a European context, however, they become anti-naturalistic.
Distancing that doesn't serve a didactic function is not Brechtian. In other words, you could use those techniques simply for their entertainment or surprise value.
So you need three things: a set of techniques, a cultural context where those techniques would be seen as distancing (not simply the normal practice of a non-naturalistic theater) and a social intent.
Lorca uses metatheater in the work formerly known as "Comedia sin título." I saw a version that combined this play with a new second act, full of Lorquian kitsch. Grrrr.
Thursday, December 1, 2022
They guy who sued Luis García Montero for libel (and won) is this insane communist of the old style. I mean this in the best possible way. He has a rhetoric of invective that reminds me of that old Maoist style. Tremendously repetitive. He doesn't like Lorca because Lorca doesn't put the jornaleros in his rural plays. It is actually a good point. But, he has LGM down pat. He puts me in the bibliography as "Mayhem," but doesn't refer to me as far as I can tell in the book itself.
Ok. I'm almost done with the article taking down LGM one more time. It probably is unpublishable because it takes on significantly powerful people.
Some important points that gelled in my mind this morning as I showered and had coffee and drove to work:
1. The poetry of experience abandons Marxism very quickly. But it is a Marxist formalism in the first place, without any content. For example, you cannot have Brechtian estrangement just because; it has to be in the service of something concrete. This is why right-wing poets can also write poetry of experience.
2. It is this abandonment of Marxism that allows them to pursue power in a society which is de-ideologized. They start out in the Communist party, but the PCE loses voters with every election, becoming Izquierda Unida, also abandoning Leninist principles. The PSOE declares itself socialist, but not Marxist, and Spain joins NATO. They convert poetry, essentially, into an ideological state apparatus (Althusser). This is not only non-Marxist, but anti-Marxist. [rimshot].
This group has pursued institutional power relentlessly. LGM is on every prize committee for 40 years. He gets paid each time, I'm assuming. He is the director of the Cervantes institute. He writes for the El país. He runs for political office. He has imitators and lackeys. The experiencia group has its own publishers (VISOR, Valparaíso).
3. A populism without any social commitment is simply a form of mercantilism. Whatever sells the most copies is the best. This leads to a sponsorship of the Rupi Kaur type poets.