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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...

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Read and ruminate

 The rhythm for reading poetry is to read a short time and then ruminating much longer. It is different from the rhythm of prose fiction which is getting lost in a long flow, being absorbed in a different reality. 


 When did books of poetry

start having 70 pages?

or 67?  You know what I mean

Who decided that? 

Who reads one


Not a student

unless forced to  


 A bookshelf is an autobiography. The books there and their order have private meanings. Books seemingly out of place have a reason for being next to strange bedfellows. I've apparently lost a few books that belong to the library, perhaps caught up in the chaos of my own collections and irretrievable.  


 I remember thinking of Ted Berrigan as just an O'Hara imitator. Then I got into his work more and discovered that there was more there, partly through her connection to Alice Notley, a poet I admire also. 

Berrigan didn't realize when O'Hara wrote "It is 12:53" or something like that that he was narrating an episode in the past. Berrigan would look at the clock and write down the time it actually was. So what is seemingly the same technique becomes different in the "imitation." 

I'm reading some Anselm Hollo. I purchased the $55 dollar collected poem for myself for my birthday. I ordered it from a local bookstore and they gave me a discount  because the spine looked a bit weak, but what could you expect from a book of eleven hundred pages? I'm reminded of this because one of the sons of Ted and Alice is Anselm, also a very good poet. Hollo was Finnish and came to the US and knew Creeley and other US poets. I'm enjoying getting into a poet I hardly knew (knew mostly by name) for many years. 

You can't really regret lapses in your past taste. If you didn't like someone when you were younger, that was just you being you. Or if you over-estimated a writer due to your inexperience, that's the same thing. I think it is bad to pretend to like what you don't. You can  be polite, but just going along with the crowd... no... 

Dream of job offer

A black woman was recruiting me for a job. It would pay $100,000 more a year in private industry. Why I was qualified, or what the job actually was, was rather vague. We ended up in an apartment complex, as if to say, this is what you could afford on this salary. The furnishings in the apartment were nice, with a high top table. It was suggested we watch some old movies together. Then the dream morphed into other vague, unmemorable events... 


 María Asunción Mateo married the poet Rafael Alberti after his return to Spain from a long exile. (He was born in 1902, she in 1944.) She clashed with young group of poets who wanted to use Alberti for their own purposes. Things got very ugly. Now she's coming out with a book outlining the events. Alberti erased the García Montero group from his memoirs. He had bugged Alberti for a prologue to a book, and Alberti finally said that he (LGM) could write it himself and Alberti would sign off on it. Of course, he would write something great about himself! Alberti said that he wouldn't even say those kind of things about Neruda.  




Gossip aside, it is clear that there is no respect for the LGM group. I've always felt that skewering mediocrity is kind of sacred duty.  I've always been uncomfortable with the emperor's new clothes situation, where everyone knows the truth but nobody wants to say it. 

Mateo cuenta que "al haberle pedido insistentemente un prólogo para un poemario suyo" García Montero a Alberti, éste "que no disponía de tiempo ni tampoco de ganas, le dijo que se lo escribiese él mismo utilizando su nombre, con pleno permiso. El entonces muchacho, solapado de falsa bondad, contaba con su afecto y con determinado respeto por su actividad intelectual, aunque no así por su poesía, de la que en privado comentaba que 'le faltaba temblor' (Rafael siempre sostuvo que el mejor poeta de ese grupo, con abisal diferencia, era el malogrado Javier Egea)".

"Una vez acabado el prólogo, vino a casa -la de Madrid- para leérselo. Rafael se quedó atónito al escucharlo, casi sin saber qué decirle y salvó la difícil situación con una sonrisa irónica, exclamando: ¡Caray! ¡Qué barbaridad! ¡Eso no lo he dicho yo ni de Neruda!".


Wednesday, August 30, 2023


 I've found some more things with Bodas de sangre. 

*There was another runaway bride, in Córdoba, in 1928. 

*The second Madrid production featured more "surreal" designs for scenery. 


 I got turned off from Levertov's poetry by a few things. A friend of mine gave a scathing critique of one her books, Candles in Babylon, and I kind of agreed with it. The professor was a friend of hers and didn't like my friend's critique. 

She turned increasingly devotional and political in the later work: I preferred her earlier work by far. Whereas Creeley welcomed the language poets and was generous to younger voices generally, Levertov tried to nix Perloff's appointment at Stanford, distributing a letter to all the faculty of the English department, in part because she championed the language group. Perloff got the job, but the letter seemed nasty to me. We all (the grad students) saw it as well. 

That being said, I did sincerely like her earlier poems of the 50s and 60s, and I'm going to go back and read some of those earlier books. She was an enormously talented writer in the WCW vein, and I think she has fallen out of fashion somewhat, where Ronald Johnson and others once on the fringes of the Black Mountain group are in ascendence. Perhaps the religiosity got in people's way. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

I feel sorry

 I feel sorry for people abducted by aliens

in the Middle Ages.

No science fiction to help them 

frame their understanding

of the sheer terror, 

only Lives of the Saints, maybe, 

witchcraft, or Scholasticism. 

They wouldn't have thought

of medical experiments,

space voyages centuries in the future-- 

everything they thought they knew

irrelevant, useless, inane. 

So it is with us. 

What we think we know

isn't much help. 


Sunday, August 27, 2023

Clear concrete images

 Pretty much, in a "good poem," the easiest short cut is to use a lot of concrete, visualizable images. The Ginsberg poem in the post a few days ago illustrates that. Notice how the "I" of the poem is placed to one side, through the use of colloquialism. We know the subject is obligatory in English, but we can elide it colloquially, as in "found an old coffee poet" or "hid my marijuana." He achieves two things: a colloquial tone and the elision of the subject in order to throw emphasis onto the objective reality. 

Bad poets tend to telegraph the emotion instead of allowing it to emerge from the concrete particulars. Ginsberg doesn't say it was so tedious, or so satisfying, to fix the toilet. We have to infer whatever the emotion might be. The tottering fence, the weeds and vines around the house, the broken toilet, suggest the the cottage is not in good shape, but the poem ends with satisfaction. The more overtly positive emotion only emerges at the end. Imagine if the elements were reversed. An angel rewarded me with plums... after a hard day's work fixing up this decrepit cottage. 

Here's a Spanish poet who telegraphs the emotion:

Luna llena que vas serenamente

haciendo tu camino por el cielo de agosto,

cuánto consuelo al corazón me traes,

qué alivio siento al contemplarte hoy

sobre este mar tan mío... (Eloy Sánchez Rosillo) [serenely, consolation, relief] 

We don't really visualize the moon, because the statement of emotion gets in the way. The image becomes is an excuse for the poet to emote. Note the insistence on the self in "este mar tan mío." There are certain echoes of the poetry of Claudio Rodríguez, who tends to ask those rhetorical questions and place modifiers in odd places: "tan mío." [so much mine]. We know we won't find anything original in a poem of ESR. He is one of the poets who doesn't even try to be original, out of some pseudo-Borgesian scruple.  

 In a workshop, Ginsberg once criticized a poem for being too abstract. I can't find it right now on the Allen Ginsberg project website, but he points out that a lot of people have a good "ear," but fewer can write concretely. 

We don't really need to have "pictorial" elements. For example, we don't need a description of the coffee pot or plumber's diagram of the toilet. What makes it sounds original is that these are not images from stock photographs, like sunsets, moons, swans, roses, or oceans that are already seen as poetical.  

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Ginsberg. A Strange new cottage in Berkeley

  All afternoon cutting bramble blackberries off a tottering brown

     under a low branch with its rotten old apricots miscellaneous under
the leaves,
     fixing the drip in the intricate gut machinery of a new toilet;
     found a good coffeepot in the vines by the porch, rolled a big tire out
of the scarlet bushes, hid my marijuana;
     wet the flowers, playing the sunlit water each to each, returning for 
godly extra drops for the stringbeans and daisies;
     three times walked round the grass and sighed absently:
     my reward, when the garden fed me its plums from the form of a
small tree in the corner,
     an angel thoughtful of my stomach, and my dry and lovelorn tongue.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023


 Te duchabas mil veces, te ponías

fijador en el pelo, y la esperabas

impaciente en la puerta del colegio.

Luego ibais a sentaros a aquel banco

del bulevar, o a casa de tus padres.

Pasó el tiempo. La magia de la cita

te llenó la cabeza de ilusiones. 

"Estoy enamorado" comentabas, 

orgulloso y feliz, a tus amigos. 

Let's look at this again.  It scans perfectly well as 11-syllables lines. The first line, for example, has accents on 3, 6, and 10, a perfectly acceptable combination:  

Te duCHAbas mil VEces, te POnías... 

Why, then, does it sound so wooden?  Maybe because it has a prose feel. The lines are enjambed (nothing wrong with that) but the enjambment isn't really doing anything. It would be fine as a paragraph of prose:  

Te duchabas mil veces, te ponías fijador en el pelo, y la esperabas impaciente en la puerta del colegio. Luego ibais a sentaros a aquel banco del bulevar, o a casa de tus padres. Pasó el tiempo. La magia de la cita te llenó la cabeza de ilusiones. "Estoy enamorado" comentabas, orgulloso y feliz, a tus amigos. 

But it isn't well written prose. Even literary prose, as in a typical novel, has more metaphors or other tropes than this, is less pedestrian. Has at least some wit or edge to it. It is the banality of what the words are saying and the arbitrariness of the phrasing that makes the poetry so unmusical, not the actual sounds of the words, though I would say "Luego ibais a sentaros a aquel banco" is unmelodious, for example. 

Here's a slightly better poet, no genius, but one who at least understands you have to try a little harder: 

AHORA, juntos, vivimos la hermosura

de esta tarde de junio,

el fulgor de las horas en que nos entregamos

al conocimiento de la verdad del amor,

a la gran llamarada del encuentro.

It's still cliché-ridden, but it's poetic cliché, not mere prosaic cliché. We understand the "el fulgor de las horas" [the radiance of the hours] is more "poetic" than "la magia de la cita." These poets pride themselves on being easy to understand. We understand that the beauty of the June afternoon is beautiful, like the knowledge of truth of love or the great flame of the encounter. 

I was often criticized as being dogmatic for not liking this sort of thing.     

They said a bird

 They said a bird

wasn't really the blue color 

it looked like to the eye

it was an effect of the light

but I said

that's what color is 


The way a crow

Shook down on me

The dust of snow

From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart

A change of mood

And saved some part

Of a day I had rued.

There are four possibilities: no modifier, definite article, indefinite article, some other quantitative or possessive adjective like some or my. The task would be to explain why each option occurs here the way it does.  In other words, Frost does not write: "A way the crow shook down on the me a dust of the snow from the hemlock tree..." Imagine it as a Chinese poem: "Crow shook down snow hemlock / heart change part day regret." A speaker of a language without articles would not find it intuitive to place the articles in the right place.   

Becoming the exceptional learning community

 It strikes me that the title of this email from the provost is grammatically incorrect. It should be an exceptional learning community.  I wouldn't say, I want to be the exceptional professor of Spanish.* Also, what is exceptional about professing the exact same values as every other university? Nobody else talks about being excellent, right?  We are the exception! Of course, I realize this is aspirational.  No administrator is going to talk about how mediocre the school is. At least we're not West Virginia or SUNY Albany.  


*Maybe, though, it's like saying "becoming the complete musician," the ideal Platonic form of something?  

Union busting podcast with land acknowledgment and pronouns


Monday, August 21, 2023


 The relationships among the characters in Bodas de sangre do not correspond to those in the "original events." 

Leonardo is married, with a child, and mother-in-law living with them. His wife is a cousin of the nova. 

The Novia is an only child. 

In the original crime, the Novia's sister and brother-in-law are the ones committing the attack, not her fiancee, who is not killed. 

The cousin the Novia escapes with is not married. 

Literally, every family relation is different in the play, and, I would argue, it is a play about such relations. 


 The movie about Bernstein features Bradley Cooper with a huge prosthetic nose. What makes it look weird is that it doesn't match the actor's face and seems larger than LB's nose. It is fine to have a non-Jewish actor play the role of Leonard  Bernstein, but the effect here is caricature.   


 I got a book in the mail from amazon prime, at my office, sent to me by someone I have not yet identified. It is another attack on the poetry of experience, articles from the 90s but only published as a book now. The first article is an attack on a book by Luis Alberto de Cuenca. The first poem cited has these lines:

Te duchabas mil veces, te ponías

fijador en el pelo, y la esperabas

impaciente en la puerta del colegio.

Luego ibais a sentaros a aquel banco

del bulevar, o a casa de tus padres.

Pasó el tiempo. La magia de la cita

te llenó la cabeza de ilusiones. 

"Estoy enamorado" comentabas, 

orgulloso y feliz, a tus amigos. 

[You would shower a thousand time, put on hair spray, and wait for her impaciently and the door to the school. Then you would go sit on a bench on the boulevard or at your parents' house. Time passed. The magic of the date filled your head with illusions. "I am in love," you would say, proud and happy, to your friends.]. 

Anywhere, it is a hilarious hatchet job.  Very enjoyable.  It is a book of poems so bad that just quoting from it is condemnation.  

Sunday, August 20, 2023


 People being abducted by aliens... I was thinking of this the other day: the idea depends on familiarity with a literary genre, science fiction. That is the only thing that makes the concept intelligible. What I mean is, there are no alien abductions in medieval times. It has to be in fiction first, and the fiction has to extrapolate from existing technology to other forms of technology not yet existent. 

 Suppose, now that alien abductions are real. Then they probably would have occurred in ancient or medieval times as well, but there was no language to conceptualize what was happening. It would be Zeus snatching up somebody and making them a constellation in the sky, or some other explanation consonant with a particular world view. 


 I was listening to a song by Sarah Vaughn in the car. The voice is of incredible richness, of course, but she also uses a variety of timbres and "tones of voice," whether serious, sassy, whimsical. The low notes do not have the same timbre as the high or medium registers. The vibrato is very interesting, because the speed of the vibrato varies: a long note the starts with no vibrato, then a vibrato that accelerates, then disappears at the very end. Normally, singers want a consistent timbre without breaks between registers, but not her. Also, with the vowel sounds, typically singers will alter them to create a more cohesive effect, but she goes all out and makes them sound different from one another. (The distinctive quality of a vowel is its timbre, after all. That's what makes one vowel different from another in the first place.) 

{It is odd, but with some songs that are not very good songs, she is unable to make them sound good. She can sound strangely awful and in bad taste especially if the arrangement is corny too.} 

Variations in intonation are very deliberate, as are melodic alterations. She also could play piano and knew the harmonies. With some other jazz singers, like Abbey Lincoln, I've always felt that the variations of phrasing and intonation were just ... out of synch and out of tune. I know Abbey Lincoln is an icon for many reasons, but it just not the same thing as my top female jazz singers, in no particular order, and hardly very original:  

Sarah Vaughn

Ella Fitzgerald

Billie Holiday 

Dinah Washington 

Decluttering email


For a few weeks, I've been unsubscribing to almost everything. I go through my inbox and junk mail folders and actively do this rather than doing what I normally would, which is just deleting everything whenever I see it.  It is working; I often wake up to nothing in the junk folder, and only actual messages in the inbox.  

Friday, August 18, 2023

Banality of evil

 "I do not think that the GDR population attached as much importance to the Staatssicherheit as is claimed in hindsight. Did people really experience it, or did they read somewhere that they could have done so? It’s all a bit different to what’s said today."

This is the last leader of the GDR talking, Egon Krenz. Just for some perspective. The Stasi had files on a 30% of the citizens, and themselves were 3% of the population. They drove many people to suicide through intense campaigns of psychological warfare, breaking into people's houses and rearranging things to make them think they were crazy. Their friends and family members informed on them, so this meant that more than 30% were affected. If your spouse is informing on you (because of implicit threat: if you don't inform you become a target too), then your spouse is also morally compromised.  

We see in the answer that he is still gaslighting. It didn't really happen; people just read a book about it and thought they might have been victims of it. 

He doesn't want to call it the Stasi, because that creates an equivalence with the Gestapo, so he has to call it by its complete name. 

Left wing totalitarian systems get a pass, because the only genuine threat can come from the right.  

But the banality come in small things, with Krenz's idea that the reason for the collapse of his country was that people wanted to travel. Well, why didn't he let them travel, then?  

Thursday, August 17, 2023


 I cringed a bit in Chairs and Directors meeting one of the deans started talking about diversity as a quality of a person, as though certain ethnic groups were diverse and others were not. Like "retaining a diverse faculty member" Diversity is a quality of a group of people. A group of 10 people of the same ethnicity is not diverse, even if they are all black or latino. I understand how this shorthand usage arose, but I think it is more than a pedantic point to correct it. (Of course, I said nothing.). If we assume a white majority, then undiverse = all white, and the non-whites are those who add diversity, therefore they are the diverse ones.  

Fake Indians

We seem to have some possible Pretendians in my University.  Many people claim Native American heritage, and then it is discovered they are just white people after all. The university isn't really doing anything, since there is no policy here that says you can't lie about your identity.  


Wednesday, August 16, 2023

On being interesting

 When I was thinking about what makes someone interesting, I started coming up with a list, like knowing languages, playing instruments, traveling, but then I realized I was making a list of what I value in my own life. Doing one thing really well doesn't foster a great deal of interestingness. For example, Paco de Lucía, I heard an interview with him. He was not dull, but he mainly played the guitar in his room from the age of 9 or 10. Didn't go to school after that. It is a tremendous depth but a narrow channel. That's how tennis players are. 

I am not particularly interesting though, because I lack one key ingredient: varied life experience. 

I  do think I have an interesting mind, but once again, I am am biased because I am interested in what I am interested in.  

From my own perspective, I find a lack of intellectual curiosity in some of my earlier development. Maybe it's that narrowness of youth. 


 Trying to decide what kind of chair to be. It's only for a semester as interim.  

Answer emails promptly, but well. Be firm, direct, and exceedingly polite. Consult with relevant on anything major, just follow best policies on minor issues. Project confidence. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2023


 People like the canon. For the elite, it is good as a reinforcement of elite education. For the middle-brow taste, it is aspirational. So think of Harold Bloom's books on the canon, marketed to a middle-brow public. 

The canon brings familiarity: people prefer the familiar to the unfamiliar. The fact that it is popular increases its popularity even more, because people like things that they know other people like already. It provides for easy social connection.  It is like liking Patrick Mahomes where I live. It is pretty safe, because if I meet a stranger, the fact we both like him creates a bond (even if we both just say we like him because that is expected.) 

People can claim not to prefer canonical or popular things, but then they are usually choosing the most popular thing of a given subculture, so a metal fan will like the most popular metal bands. 

I'm not being judgmental.  I don't think there is anything wrong with following these urges toward canonicity, familiarity, and popularity. It's a little like Yogi Berra's joke: "Nobody goes there, it's too crowded."  

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Cifuentes reviews Francisco GL


Entre tantos retratos acabados, la figura de Federico resulta dispersa, de perfiles menos definidos o más difíciles, o acaso de una complejidad menos abarcable para alguien tan próximo como un hermano. Francisco llega a incurrir en contradicciones (o en imprecisiones que lo parecen): en la página 139 Federico "hubiese sido incapaz de leer un libro de filosofía, incluso el más accesible a un hombre de cultura media"; en la página 99, "Federico estaba entusiasmado con los Diálogos de Platón, que leía en ediciones de la biblioteca del propio don Fernando [de los Ríos]"; en la 161, "no es de extrañar que su inspiración reflejase entonces algunas lecturas de filosofía india, que se cruzaban con otras de místicos españoles". Francisco cree en un momento determinado que Federico "nunca se vio a sí mismo con humor" (p. 159), pero recuerda más tarde que era una de sus cualidades "saber reírse a tiempo de la propia imagen" (p 248) Con todo en el desarrollo de las memorias, estas contradicciones, si no pasan desapercibidas no llegan a sorprender como descuidos ni menos aún afectan a la verosimilitud del relato. 


 The origin of metafiction is in the spurious truth claims about the "truth" of the made up story. In other words, the tropes that try to convince us that the story is real are metafictional, like the found manuscript. Once this trope (or anything like it) is laid bare or parodied, metafiction is born. 

So it isn't fictionality that is highlighted, but truthiness. 

Saturday, August 12, 2023


 I found this novel, Masks, by Fumiko Enchi, at B's house. It seems typical of Japanese novels to use Japanese high culture as a metaphorical system to weave an incestuous plot. Here is it No drama and Tales of the Genji.  Murakami, who seems an un-Japanese type of writer, does this in Kafka on the Shore. Kawabata does it too, in Beauty and Sadness, where he uses the tea ceremony.  

There are two generations. A creepy woman of the older generation sets in motion a plot in which the younger generation is manipulated. It seems ripe for a structuralist analysis. 


 I made eggplant parmesan the other day. Then I had an epiphany.  I had layered some slices of tomato on top, and then topped with last layers of cheese. The combination of tomato slices and cheese was great, so I invented another dish, which is slices of tomato topped with crusty parmesan and mozzarella and fresh basil. Think of it as a crustless pizza. I am staying at B's house to take care of her animals and she has a basic plant that is producing abundantly, along with tomatoes I already had.  

You could put any other pizza type topping on it, or serve is as a side dish.  

Friday, August 11, 2023

Another sighting

 There is also this. I did not invent this idea of the importance of "Mil Federicos."

And this

Mil Federicos

 The motif of the multiple Federicos occurs in prose texts (letters and prologues) not in poems and plays. These are more likely to be texts in which the poet declares an intention. 

It indicates a pluralistic sense for the creative self, the generator of poems and plays.

Also for the personal self, the biographical subject. 

We can see it in Lorca's own thought.

And we can read apply it to our own reception of Lorca. 

The other one continues... which one is more interesting? I am nearing 3.000 words for each

 The first instance of this motif in Lorca’s critical reception is in the introduction to the first edition of Poema del cante jondo (1931), “Palabras de los editores”:  

Federico García Lorca ha hecho teatro recientemente; se ha asomado a la vorágine neoyorquina; ha sido repetidamente conferenciante—de un tipo, naturalmente, personalísimo—. Sus actividades tienen cada día mayor multiplicidad; por eso su poesía—sentido y norma—es una y varia. Lo mismo que el poeta que, a diario, se desmembra en cuatro o cinco Federicos García Lorca, urbanos, tránsfugas, cosmopolitas, indolentes, sensuales, tristes o cerebrales, siempre dentro de la piel morena del Federico García Lorca visible…

The idea of a multi-faceted creator in several genres corresponds to a multifaceted sense of the personal self, described by a series of seven almost random adjectives, all contained within a single physical person. Although not signed by Lorca himself, this editorial note is consistent with the poet’s desire to emphasize the multiple facets both of his personality and of his literary accomplishments. It echoes the prologue to Impresiones y paisajes (“es preciso ser uno y mil / “es una y varia”). The literary directors of Ulises, where this volume appeared, were Julio Gómez de la Serna and César M. Arconada, both intellectuals of Lorca’s own “Generation of 1927.” (Julio was the younger brother of Ramón Gómez de la Serna, who had given the inaugural lecture at the Concurso del Cante Jondo in Granada, in 1922, an event also mentioned in the editorial note.) Presumably one (or both) of these editors would have written this prologue, whether with the direct input of Lorca or not. The implication is they travel in the same circles as these four or five “Federicos” and have perhaps attended lectures by the poet. 

Last lines of "Puñal de claveles"

 Necesitaban dominarse para retener el impulso de sus corazones ansiosos de latir unidos, pero era preciso apresurar aquella carrera, de la que dependia toda su vida.

Solo respiraron al comprender que llevaban ya delantera bastante para poder escapar hacia otro continente, hacia la promesa de una vida nueva, olvidados de todo, cegados de luz, en una ingratitud suprema para el pasado y envueltos en la ola de aquella pasi6n duplicada por el triunfo sobre todos los convencionalismos por el puñal afilado del aroma de los claveles. 

They needed to control themselves in order to hold back the impulse of their hearts to beat together, but it was necessary to rush along that road, from which all their lives depended. They could only breathe once they understood that they had enough of a head start to be able to escape to another continent, to the promise of a new life, forgetting everything, blinded by the light, with a supreme ingratitude toward the past and wrapped up in the wave of that passion duplicated by a triumph over all conventionalism and by the sharpened dagger of the aroma of the carnations.  

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Exuberant kitsch

 Nothing in the criticism I read about Burgos prepared me for her style:  

Esto distingue á las gentes honradas de las que no lo son. La mujer

casada ya no tiene que agradar á nadie, y desde

el día siguiente de la boda la cabellera, lisa y tirante,

se oculta bajo el pañuelo moruno, en vez de

lucir trenzas, flores y rizos, como hacía Dolores.

¡Cualquiera se atrevía á decirle algo! ¡Había

echado unos humos! Como que su Víctor la mimaba

igual que á una niña y no le importaba cuanto

murmurasen. Sus manos, cuidadas y finas, eran

blancas, como harina de flor. En su casa no se acababa

en todo el año el pan de trigo y las cuerdas

de longaniza y de jamones. No tenían que decir de

dónde les venía el dinero; Víctor no trabajaba ni

había salido á Orán, á pesar del acotamiento. Era,

sin duda, el contrabando lo que alimentaba aquel

lujo; y el odio de las vecinas, envidiosas de Dolores,

hallaba con esto ocasión de desatarse. ¡Qué

mujeres, que tuvieran valor de exponer así á su

‘hombre al presidio ó á un balazo por llevar lujo!


 I was never impressed with bow-tie wearing Gordon Gee. He has no scholarly achievements of his own, but somehow thinks of himself as educational leader. He was our president at Ohio State for a while, when I was there, and then moved on, as he has several times. He just moves from one job to another. Now he is at West Virginia and is eliminating all language departments. 

Carmen de Burgos

 I read some articles on Carmen de Burgos, including some by emerita from my dept. Roberta J, claiming she was a modernist. She says that Los inadaptados is a rural tragedy, but doesn't mention Puñal de claveles   Now I have to go read Los inadaptados.  

Puñal de claveles (1931)

 There another book supposedly based on the Crimen de Níjar, by Carmen de Burgos, a sentimental costumbrista novel. The novel has little in common with Bodas de sangre, and only a small relation to the original event.  In the novel, the young lovers escape; there is no killing. Two men, Antonio and José, are friends, and José of them gives flowers to Pura, the bride, saying that they are from Antonio (the groom).  Then he steals the bride away from his friend the night before the wedding, with the aroma of the flowers being a kind of aphrodisiac.  In this picture from the cover we see Pura with carnations.  

The word puñal means dagger, but one of its archaic meaning is "handful." The puño is the fist. Puñado would be a more modern version of the word puñal in its archaic meaning. 

The novel takes place in Níjar, but the main plot mechanisms are the invention of Burgos: the flowers, the friendship between the two men, the beauty of Pura. 

It continues...

 Bodas de sangre is perhaps the best test case of the fictionality of Lorca’s plays. La casa de Bernarda Alba would also be worthy of discussion in this regard, but it has a different relationship to its “real life” characters and events that merits separate treatment. Briefly, I believe that Bernarda is a fictional character too—modelled on a real person in the same way that occurs in many plays and novels, but fictional nonetheless, despite the note that the play is a “documental fotográfico.” The subtitle, “Drama de mujeres en los pueblos de España,” indicates an aspiration to depict representative characters, such as might be found in any village in Spain. Bernarda is a stylized caricature like Galdos’s Doña Perfecta. Adela’s suicide, the final event in the play and the most significant, is the author’s invention. Without this ending, the tension building up over the three acts would have no satisfactory dramatic resolution. 

Some have suggested models for the characters and events in Romancero gitano as well. My view, however, is that these ballads are situated in a fictive, semi-mythic Andalusian landscape of the poet’s own imagining. It is no more a work of literary realism than Suites or Diván del Tamarit. Indeed, Lorca’s poetics reflect the anti-mimetic ethos of literary modernism. To read Lorca poems as direct reflections of reality is, in some sense, not to read them as poems in the first place. Of course, one of the central currents of “Lorca studies” is the reading his entire poetic production (and even his drama) as a direct reflection of his own life. A sensible approach, in my view, is to continue study the author’s biography in a nuanced way, but also to be cautious about putting forth readings that do not recognize that he is, above all, a creator of literary fictions. Since Lorca’s life is intrinsically interesting, the idea of ignoring his biography is not all that appealing.                


 There is no doubt the source of Lorca’s idea for Bodas de sangre is a newspaper report on the so-called “Crimen de Níjar.” The issue here is a more nuanced one: in what sense does this source have any explanatory value or direct relevance for interpreting the play itself? Does more information about the crime bring us closer or farther from the play?    

They can't take that away

 I've been listening to my songs in order, starting at a random place. On the way back from taking B to airport, I was on "These Foolish Things." I have quite a few of those, Monk and Sarah Vaughan among others. I love that lyric "The winds of March that make my heart a dancer / A telephone that rings, but who's to answer?"  

Then, when I got to "They can't take that away from me," I noticed something very interesting: I don't have any instrumental versions of it. For some reason it didn't become a standard for blowing over, just for vocalists (and I know you'll say that there are some instrumental versions, too, but my jazz library on iTunes is, just say, sizable, and I will have Body and Soul by Sinatra, Ella, Armstrong, Coltrane, Lester, etc...). There is not reason why you couldn't improvise over the changes, and people do when accompanying singers. There are other songs that are sung often not played as jazz standards otherwise. 

Both of these lyrics are essentially lists.  Things that rhyme remind me of you; things that rhyme they can't take those away from me.  So you could write new lyrics to either one: 

The way you don't complain 

The way we went to Spain

The memory of all that 

They can't take that away from me.


A country fair with rural lads and lasses

A nerdy teacher with those horned-rimmed glasses

A hornet's nasty stings

These foolish things

Remind me of you... 

Doing this makes me realize it is easier to fit the metrical pattern of "They can't take that away" than of "These foolish things." 

Wednesday, August 9, 2023


 A smart phone today is a small computer. With apps, its functionality is equal to several expensive devices (with some inexpensive devices, too) of, say, 1990:




Digital camera & video camera 

Tape recorder 


Metronome & tuner 




Music player 

Phone (and video phone) 

Identifier of bird species by song 


Alarm clock and timer 

Whatever other apps you want for games / entertainment... or for your own hobbies. 

This could easily be in excess of 1000 dollars if purchased separately, and there is a convenience factor of not having to have separate devices. 

Seen this way, I will never buy a metronome or camera unless I get more seriously into certain hobbies. Nobody buys a GPS anymore if they have a phone. 

It is true that my phone is not a hat, a microwave oven, a piano (though it can mimic instruments in garage band). It is not a shovel or hoe or firearm; not a coffee grinder or espresso maker.  

(This is wonderful, except that it often gets replaced in favor of a newer model, so it is not quite as inexpensive as it sounds. Also, you must have computer too. And I also have a smart watch.)     


 I went down one of those rabbit holes. I was trying to remember Guillén or Salinas being against intentionality at an early stage of their careers, like Anglo modernists Eliot or Woolf. So I looked up Salinas and remembered his affair with Katherine, who inspired La voz a ti debida. And then I discovered that she had studied at KU, where I have made most of my career. Here is her PhD dissertation:  


Tuesday, August 8, 2023


 He is a very good writer:

"The members of the English Church had ingenuously imagined up to that moment that it was possible to contain, in a frame of words, the subtle essence of their complicated doctrinal system, involving the mysteries of the Eternal and the Infinite on the one hand, and the elaborate adjustments of temporal government on the other. They did not understand that verbal definitions in such a case will only perform their functions so long as there is no dispute about the matters which they are intended to define: that is to say, so long as there is no need for them. For generations this had been the case with the Thirty-nine Articles. Their drift was clear enough; and nobody bothered over their exact meaning. But directly someone found it important to give them a new and untraditional interpretation, it appeared that they were a mass of ambiguity, and might be twisted into meaning very nearly anything that anybody liked."

Eminent Victorians (p. 12). Kindle Edition. 

Choice of vocabulary is excellent. There is a wit to it, as well, a particular kind of humor. The sentences are long and stately, but with some relief in the brief phrases: "Their drift was clear enough..." 

I'm by no means interested in the subject matter here, except as it reflects a keen appreciation for the limits of language and interpretation.  


I think everyone serious is an autodidact. You cannot learn enough simply from the materials presented in classes. You have to read 100 times more than that.  I didn't learn a lot from most professors I've had. It's not necessarily a knock on them, though. I still don't think I have read enough.  

Monday, August 7, 2023

Being Chair

 I've been interim chair for a week.  It's not horrible, though not my favorite gig either. I get copied on a lot of emails, but I don't have to respond to all of them. 

Losing some weight

I'm losing some of 19 pounds of Covid weight. It wasn't 19 pounds, literally, more like going from 165ish to about 168 and threatening to go to 170. I don't remember my exact weight in 2019, but right now my mind thinks I should weigh 155 and my body thinks I should weigh 165. I'm down to 161 now, through not eating very much if any rice, potatoes, bread, pasta and similar foods. I eat oatmeal, but not every day. For point of reference, I am 68 inches tall, or five eight. I weighed 125 in 9th grade at my current height, and for a while just gained some weight every decade. The point at which I am overweight is just over 165. I am muscular but not overly so, so if I lose some fat and do more push-ups I will look good. I can do 40+. push-ups now. You can get nutrition from vegetables, fruit in moderation, and protein sources, so I can have steak and eggs with some sautéed green beans and tomatoes and do just fine. I subscribe to a vegetable farm pickup service and am buying directly from the farmers, whatever is in season. Eggplant parm is on the menu for this week, made with fresh tomatoes. 


A scholar, Federico Bonnadio, in his book Lorca: The Poetry in All Things (2022). cites me about a dozen times, and is one of the first to cite my second, lesser known book on poetry. I haven't read the book yet, just egotistically search for my own name. It kind of feels good, especially since he cites a sentence I don't remember writing in which I say that Lorca's poems are fictions, during precisely the time I am developing my theory of Lorca's fictionality, once again.   

‘a poem by Lorca is a work of fiction, not a biographical document’ [según Mayhew]

Bonaddio, Federico. Federico García Lorca: The Poetry in All Things (Icons of the Luso-Hispanic World Book 1) (p. 33). Boydell & Brewer Ltd. Kindle Edition. 

Eliot's Duende

 "... he is haunted by a demon, a demon against which he feels powerless, because in its first manifestation it has no face, no name, nothing; and the words, the poem he makes, are a kind of form of exorcism of this demon. In other words again, he going to all that trouble, not in order to communicate with anyone, but to gain relief from acute discomfort; and when the words are finally arranged in the right way--or in what he comes to accept as the best arrangement he can find--he may experience a moment of exhaustion, of appeasement, of absolution of something very near annihilation, which is in itself indescribable. And he can say to the poem: 'go away! find a place for your self in a book--and don't expect me to take and further interest in you." 

A rubric

 How to listen to musical adaptation: a rubric of a sort 


1.     Read and analyze the original text. Make note of its speaking voice, its prosody. Its relation to previously existing lyrical and musical traditions. For example, its division into strophes might reflect the common practice of singing multiple stanzas to the same tune. Is it a lyric poem, in the sense of a poem meant to be set to music? Or is it perhaps a lyric poem in the other sense: a short poem expressing the sentiments of a single speaker? How “singable” is the text? 

2.     Listen to the song to transcribe the lyrics. Is the setting of a translation or an original text? Is the text complete or fragmented, altered or integral? Are parts of the text repeated? Or is more than one original text included, as in a medley? 

3.     Now listen to the song again. Make note of its musical genre. The instrumentation. What vocal techniques is the singer using? Is there a historical connection between the musical genre being used and the style of the song? If not, how do we justify the particular choice of musical idiom? (If justification is needed: can Lorca be a country song? Why or why not?) 

4.     Now analyze the song in terms of its prosody in the second sense: the way the rhythm, the division between phrases, and the melodic movement correspond (or doesn’t) to the prosody of the original text. How does the setting treat enjambment? Other kinds of pauses? Does the setting feel “natural” or “forced,” with a kind of overt distortion of the text? Can the words be understood easily?  

5.     Now interpret the setting as an interpretation of the poem. What elements of the music select or reinforce particular meanings already present in the text? Is there some possible lack of concordance between the poem and the musical setting? For example, what if the poem in and of itself seems to convey a sense of calm, but the music sounds agitated instead? 

6.     Now go back to the composer and or performer of the work. What motivates the choice of text? What other texts have been set in a similar fashion by the same composer? What other composers have set the same poet (or the same poem) to music? Comparisons might be in order. Situate the process of musical setting of this poet in its historical context. 

7.     Go back over the questions. Which produce the most fruitful, the most productive answers? What are the best ideas you have generated? How can they be linked together to produce a meaningful analysis? You can always evaluate the setting, say whether it is good or bad, or whether you like it or not, but the point is not to give it a grade, but to understand the complexity of the process. 

8.     Now write a paper using questions 1-7, comparing two or three musical settings that have a particular point of comparison: the same poem or poet, the same composer or performer, the same musical idiom in the same era…   

The article continues

 The motif of “mil Federicos” does not occur with any great frequency in Lorca’s poetry, but it is consistent with his generally skeptical view of the unitary self. Overtly autobiographical versions of the self appear in Lorca’s work, but in many cases the speaker of the poem is virtually anonymous, as in traditional songs and ballads. Is the “Federico García” interpellated by Antoñito el Camborio the biographical author himself? Not in any real sense: he is simply the narrator of the story, not a confessional subject in any meaningful sense. The first-person singular does not appear very much in Romancero gitano or Poema del cante jondo. (“La casada infiel,” of course, is a dramatic monologue.) In Suites, the self often seems elusive or multiple. The pronoun yo sometimes seems to lose its referentiality:   

Tú tú tú tú

yo yo yo yo.


¡ni tú,

ni yo!  (259) 

The first occurrence of the motif of the “thousand selves” is in the prologue to Impresiones y paisajes (1918), Lorca’s first published book: 

Hay que vivir siempre escanciando nuestra alma sobre las cosas, viendo un algo espiritual que no existe, dando a las formas el encanto de nuestros sentimientos, es necesario ver por las plazas solitarias a las almas que pasaron por ellas, es imprescindible ser uno y ser mil para sentir las cosas en todos sus matices. Hay que ser religioso y profano. Reunir el misticismo de una severa catedral gótica con la maravilla de la Grecia pagana. Verlo todo, sentirlo todo. En la eternidad tendremos el premio de no haber tenido horizontes. (emphasis added)

In this well-known passage, with its effusively romantic tone, the young Lorca links the multiplicity of the self to a posture of aesthetic and ideological openness. The binary opposition of the “sacred and the profane” serves to refer to the entire universe of possibilities, with their implied contradictions. The horizons that Lorca would reject are artificial constraints.    

Lorca would echo this sentiment in his “Poética a viva voz para Gerardo Diego,” improvised orally for the Diego’s landmark anthology. Here, Lorca seems tentative about defining his own poetics in any defined or limited way:   

Yo comprendo todas las poéticas; podría hablar de ellas si no cambiara de opinión cada cinco minutos. No sé. Puede que algún día me guste la poesía mala muchísimo, como me gusta (nos gusta) hoy la música mala con locura. Quemaré el Partenón por la noche, para empezar a levantarlo por la mañana y no terminarlo nunca. 

The idea of multiple self does not occur here in explicit form, but Lorca presents his aesthetic preferences as malleable and contingent, including even manifestations of bad poetry and bad music. We should not take this openness to all possible poetics too literally. Like any other author, Lorca has aesthetic preferences that can be deduced from a reading of his work. For example, he tends to avoid abstraction, thinking always in concrete metaphors. But it is not for the poet himself to give his poetics a label or definition, one that will constrain his future development. 

Conventional taste (the difference between “good” and “bad” art) is another obstacle to the aesthetic openness Lorca craved. The possibility of loving bad poetry is a hyperbole of a sort, not necessarily an affirmation to be taken at face value. Lorca was also capable of denouncing kitsch in the harshest terms, especially in the theater. But he reserves the right to change his mind or to incorporate “bad taste” in his own work… where appropriate. He might have agreed with John Cage’s aphorism: “Permission granted, but not to do anything you want.”   

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Death of the Author

 T.S. Eliot prefigures Barthes's death of the author in "The Three Voices of Poetry," in 1953. He says the author needs to 'rest in peace" once the text is in the reader's hand. 

Saturday, August 5, 2023


Wars have been fought over theology.

We might as well have fist fights about the rules of chess

Or philosophical debates--

As Wittgenstein once wrote in jest--

About which coffee tastes the best.

Friday, August 4, 2023

Another intro: dueling articles

The intro!

 “Mil Federicos”: Variations on a Lorquian Theme 



Scholarship on Federico García Lorca is strongly biographical, relying on an exhaustive documentation of virtually every aspect of his life and work. Luis García Montero expresses the view that the biography of the man and the elucidation of the literary work are mutually complementary: “La biografía sirve de fondo de verdad para elaboraciones literarias y la literatura permite reconocer el significado de una vida” (Poemas de la vega 21). It is hard to disagree with such a commonsensical statement. For some readers, however, Lorca himself, as a biographical subject, remains peculiarly elusive. There is a nagging feeling that the assumption of a simple one-to-one correspondence between man and work ignores the complexity of Lorca’s presentation of the authorial self, and does not even begin to address the complexity of his own psychology.  

Luis Fernández Cifuentes, in his review of Ian Gibson’s biography, provides the most forceful—and the most widely circulated—version of the protest against mere empiricism. For this critic, Gibson does not probe into Lorca’s inner life and intimate relationships with enough depth; he fails to explore the poet’s intellectual biography; he is a naïve, atheoretical interpreter of the work itself. Fernández Cifuentes, however, does not suggest discounting biography in the fashion of the New Critics, or reading the work in a decontextualized way. Instead, he appeals to the values of the British tradition of the psychological biography pioneered by Lytton Strachey. Indeed, a non-biographical approach to Lorca would be impractical at this point, given that the prestige of his work is inextricably bound up with the enduring magnetism of his personality. Almost nobody has shown the inclination to read Lorca’s work as though it were anonymous—even though his work does draw inspiration from anonymous folk traditions.   

Psychoanalyzing Lorca, though, is probably a task best left for another day.[i] The aim here is not to explore Lorca’s depth psychology, but to elucidate his own concept of the self through a striking motif, found at various points in his work, as well as in his critical reception: the idea that the authorial subject is plural rather than singular. Some texts suggest the hyperbolic existence of “Mil Federicos”; others (not in so many words) propose an attitude of creative receptivity akin to Keats’s “Negative Capability,” decentering the unitary self. What emerges from the multiple variations on this theme is the idea that Lorca was resistant to being defined in simplistic terms: if he is an elusive authorial subject, it is by design.  

One of the most neglected questions in Lorca studies, perhaps, is the problematic definition of the self. Why am I myself rather than someone else? Or, in the words of the poet himself, “¡qué raro que me llame Federico!” (. ). Lorca’s remarkably fluid concept of the self is in tune with modernist (and postmodernist) ideas of subjectivity. In this sense, he is more similar to other modernist writers like Borges or Pessoa than he has been given credit for. In fact, seeing Lorca in this new light will help to counteract the widespread misconception that the de-centering of the self is an innovation of the postmodern period rather than a key feature of modernism. 

[i] The problem is that, in the opinion of the author of this article, psychoanalysis itself is a discipline in disarray rather than a stable source of scientific knowledge.