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, May 16, 2024

Randomness, disorder, and creativity

Some of my shelves are in order; others are random. Here we see a book by Perloff, a novel by Murakami, Creeley's Words. An orange collection of poetry by Ceravolo over to the left. We have Ashbery, Eigner, Notley, Sapir, a book on Lorca by Honig, Invisible Cities by Calvino, and some other stuff that isn't evident from the photo. The randomness reflects my reading habits as well as my habit of not putting books back where I first found them. The disadvantage is that I don't know always know where my books are, individually. But I would argue that randomness in reading and in shelving creates creative juxtapositions.  I just found a book by Calasso on how to arrange a library.  I will re-read it.  

Here's another shelf that's all Lorca (although it is not all the Lorca material I have, and it is not very well-ordered with respect to itself):      


Wednesday, May 15, 2024


 So I am disorganized.  I have had a successful career, but would have done more if I had been organized. 

But what if the inefficiency created by disorganization were actually an advantage?  

On the other hand, I am organized when I have to be, or organized *enough* to have had career.  

I can imagine focussing on organization and then suddenly becoming very productive again. 

Imagine having one defect so major that it affects everything else. Like those advice columns where we read that the person's partner is perfect, "I love him/her... except for one small problem..."  which always turns out to be something seriously abusive.  Everything ELSE is fine, so why can't I look past that ONE issue.  

Friday, May 10, 2024


 The New York poets, O'Hara, Schuyler, Ashbery, Koch, Guest, were very important to me.  Three gay men and then Koch, every bit as much a part of the group, and Guest, who seemed marginal to the rest of them. David Lehman leaves her out of his study of the group. David Shapiro and Ron Padgett leave her out of one of the first two anthologies.  She was accused of being too "precious."  

Then the 2nd generation of these poets. We have Shapiro, Padgett, Berrigan, Ceravolo. These also important to me.  They come out to O'Hara and Koch, but with their own nuances.  

Then, the women associated with this movement: Myles, Notley, Mayer.  Now, some of the same poetic principles found in Berrigan or Padgett get used for other purposes. Think of a poem by Koch, "Some General Instructions," kind of pseudo-Horatian kind of art of living (from the book The Art of Love (1975). When Alice Notley writes a similar poem ("The Prophet" [1981]) of facetious yet serious advice, the result is very different, because she is a different person. The structure is more or less equivalent: advice pulled together in somewhat haphazard ways.  

Of course, gender comes into play. A movement mostly male and influenced by French surrealism and American modernists becomes this wonderful feminist postmodern thing.   

My own taste is not particularly relevant, except that it allows me entry into a tradition because I had already trained myself on it. I am not as open to Ann Waldman, for some reason, and didn't like her performance style when she came here once to read, but I have been fortunate to be a reader of Notley and others proximate to this way of thinking about poetry.  

Oddly satisfying

 I had two library books that had been lost; very difficult to locate among my own books. While cleaning out my bookshelves at home, I found one of them. It is white, very thin (think slender volume of verse) and lacking any print or image on spine or cover. It was at the very bottom right hand side of a bookshelf that I had searched before. I brought it back to the library and they are going to give me my $75 replacement fee back. 

Today, I came into the office on campus, and vowed to find the other one. I did, in about 10 minutes, simply by looking through my main collection of Spanish poetry. It was easy for it to hide from me here, because, as I've always said, the most difficult thing is not finding a needle in a haystack, but finding a piece of hay in a haystack.  I mean, one specific piece of hay. It is easy to find a piece of hay, but not to find the very one you are looking for.  

Thursday, May 9, 2024


 My local newspaper growing up, the Davis Enterprise, had a column by Bob Dunning, mostly on sports and community news. He is a good writer, with a wonderful sense of humor, and a local presence.  I remember a community tennis tournament in which he was in the finals; he was a good player, but inconsistent, and would smash volleys into the net with some frequency.  Today I learned that the Enterprise fired him, after 55 years, just in an email saying they were letting him go. It is reported that his column, The Wary 1, has the longest run of any column of its type in an American newspaper.     

Local newspapers are like the glue for small towns, and Dunning has been at the center of the paper, through longevity, but also just because he was good from the outset. He now will have a substack.   

Notley on O'Hara

 Alice Notley, writing about Frank O'Hara, says that poetry "exists to communicate with this entity" [a secret self]. "Its thoughts have the shape of speaking, but it doesn't have to explain to itself as much as one does to another person: it doesn't, e.g., think in prose fiction sentences at all. It sees while it thinks, self-observes often, constructs scenarios of triumph out of vulnerability, etc... etc... that it melts in and out of."

Now this surprises me because it is what I think too, but I don't think my (our) conception of poetry is widely held, necessarily. It is specific to New York School poetics. Not that other poetries don't do this in their own way, get in touch with a secret self and channel a kind of stream of consciousness.  It is odd that people misname O'Hara's poetics as a kind of casualness, something easy to achieve even though it is not. Look at how Notley's own prose imitates that tentative search for a definition.  She isn't writing those "prose fiction sentences.'  

The phrase "prose fiction sentences" is hilarious, because I can picture exactly those kind of sentences. Sometimes I narrate my life to myself in those sentences, imitating the cadence of a New Yorker short story, and they could make up an ironical poem.    

I don't know how other people see poetry. Maybe it's a kind of object to be crafted, or a serious message dressed up in poetical garb. Often, people write trying to make something sound like a poem, which is what you have to do, of course, but they go about it in the opposite way.  In other words, it should sound like a poem (not just prose!), but not in a "poetic" way as conventionally conceived, with the shimmering shards of light. Prosaic and colloquial elements enter for their oddness or jarring quality, not just as a default because the writer doesn't know any better.