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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...

Friday, June 28, 2024


 Crews died. I enjoyed his polemics in the pages of The New York Review of Books. The way he answered critics was masterful. I went back and read today his exchange on alien abductions. It is a master class in critical thinking.  

He single-handedly (not really, there were others too) took down Freud. His last book on Freud from 2017 was tiresome, and I couldn't get through the whole thing. It just was too relentless and long, though for that reason it is utterly convincing.  I just didn't need more convincing at that point.  

I began by rooting for the Freudians to be able to answer Crews with better arguments. Surely, there had to be some better arguments, but no, apparently not.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2024


 I don't really get Walsh's "Lorca in English" Book.  It's just like, a more pedestrian version of what I had already done in Apocryphal Lorca! I think I behaved ethically in not reviewing it for the press. Nor will I write a review (as I have refused also to do reviews of Noel Valis's book). At some point, I am too close to the subject matter to be fair.  

Walsh is generous with me, and only disagrees with my critique of Bly, which he calls vitriolic and personal.  But he doesn't actually defend Bly by citing his actual translations.  

farmer's market eggs

 I didn't feel like going to the store, so for dinner I had two fried eggs with everything sautéed I had from my weekly vegetable subscription: onion, red potato, basil, onion, carrot. A hot pepper from the garden where I am house sitting. Nine ingredients, counting the salt and olive oil. It takes a lot of stuff to make a minimalist meal, just like my nada pasta.  10 if you count the beer I drank.  I couldn't include berries, cucumbers, and apples.  

[The eggs are part of the subscription too; house where I am pet / house sitting has chickens, but they don't lay anymore.] 

Tuesday, June 25, 2024


 One of the most puzzling critique of my work has been the idea that I shouldn't have positive knowledge about Lorca to judge translations of him.  My expertise is treated as a handicap: "That Mayhew thinks there is a 'real' Lorca!" My efforts to present a reasonable view of what Lorca is about is treated as professional dogmatism of some kind. 

But translation is inherently comparative: we look at two things side by side. If item A is unknowable, in some existential sense, then why isn't item B also unknowable? How can we compare anything to anything?  

My position was that I knew Lorca, and also knew American poetics. I understand what Spicer is about, or O'Hara, or Koch, or Creeley. It was putting these two knowledges together that made AL a valuable project. You not only have to know Creeley, but know what makes him different from O'Hara; you have to know Sorrentino's sarcasm as well as Ginsberg's exuberant sense of humor. For example, if you just thought O'Hara wrote casual "lunch poems" and wasn't a serious artist, you wouldn't understand his cagey engagement with FGL.    

I go out of my way carefully to present my view of Lorca as simply the best one I can muster, provisional.  "If Lorca is a modernist poet... then ..."  But however provisional, contingent, apologetic, or qualified, there must be some view. The poet being translated cannot be a tabula rasa. Otherwise, literally nothing happens

Of course, I can be wrong about Lorca!  I have been wrong.  But you have to say why I am wrong, and why your view is better.  You have to beat me in the argument. Which you won't do unless your name is Andrew Anderson or Christopher Maurer, etc...   

(It's even an argument from authority. The authority comes from the receipts you have, not from the identity of the person who has the receipts in their file.)     


 I had the student do a critique of her own pronunciation skills, using her own podcast.  She really only picked up on a few things,  like putting accents on the wrong syllables of words.  Yes, she does that, but she missed many things, like: 


"eye-dentificarr" and "ouchu." 

R in Spanish is either a tap, almost a "d," silent in Andalusian, or rolled. It is never the prolonged errrr of American rhotic English.  The diphthong ou barely exists.  Usually people end up saying Busoño, not Bousoño, for the poet.  

The hilarious thing was a poet with a non-rhotic American accent pronouncing Lo-car for Lorca.  

So anyway, certain things are correctable, on principle.  

The "eye" of identificar is mistake based on orthography and the English cognate. We have the sound in the word "see" that is pretty close to the word "si."  Just say "sea" and making it more clipped and pure, without the slight "uh" that you might have. The diphthong "eye' also exists, in the word "ay."  

Other stuff can be worked: p, k, and t sounds are not aspirated. You can put an ess before p and you will see that the puff of air is minimized.  Now try it without the ess.  

The voiced z intervocalic: doesn't exist.  The sound of zebra is only in words like mismo, but it is barely voiced if at all.  

Try saying eff with your two lips, rather than upper teeth and lower lip.  It is subtly different. It's not something that really creates a new phoneme, but it will get you into the psychological head space you want. 

I watched part of an episode of Velvet, on Netflix.  It seems quite bad, but the accents are canonical Madrid.  You should be able to identify / analyze why this is so.  

The goal is not perfection, but getting to about 85%.  That's a reasonable Spanish-major goal.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Nada pasta

 The NYT cooking talked about "nada pasta," where you make a minimalist pasta dish with whatever is on hand.  I had some squash and fresh basil, so I sautéed those with olive oil and garlic, added black pepper, some olives, a splash of red wine; then of course, topped it with parmesan.    

So my minimalist dish ended up having 8 ingredients.  It was tasty, but a bit more than nada.  

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

A revelation

 A student I thought had a bad accent... and it turned out she didn't want to present as someone imitating a native accent--when that is exactly what you have to do.  Once she realized it was ok, I realized that she had the right accent inside of herself--a student otherwise multilingual with English and another native language learned in the home. She ended up showing us (me and the rest of the class) a much better accent IMMEDIATELY.   

I had approached this before as either, some students don't have a good ear, or you just have to explain what the sounds are in Spanish. No I am seeing that this student (and maybe others), is not wanting to sound inauthentic by taking on an accent not their own.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Shouldn't be a surprise

 I am a peninsular specialist (Spain) but I was thinking last night that Latin American literature is actually more interesting.  I feel no need to be defensive about my field. It would be easier to put together a course in 20th century Latin American literature with Borges and Cortázar, Vallejo and Neruda, Paz, Pizarnik, Bioy Casares, Gelman, García Márquez, Puig, Montejo.  Latin American fiction is clearly better than peninsular. The poetry is comparable, but I'd still give a 60/40 split in favor of Latin America, and even that is evidence of my own investment in Valente. For example, the antipoesía (Parra) is more interesting than Gil de Biedma and Ángel González. Valera and Pizarnik are perhaps more interesting than Valente.  

You wouldn't even have to go to the more second-rate boom writers. Fuentes is still better than Marsé, etc...

It doesn't hurt that I am having these thoughts south of the equator, in BA Argentina.  Two colleagues are leaving, so I will be teaching LAT AM the rest of the my career at least 75%.