Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Prose Instructions

The little guy remembered a day in the city, just feeling the pace of the space, and the Moment when the Whole Vision, large as it was in his life and mind, had to be spilled out into the ear of an overtaxed, distracted Person with Resources while they were together in an elevator. Yet he was unable to speak at first, burdened by an accumulated history of debt, unpaid bills, scraps of paper with momentary worries scrawled on them, little accounts of dollars of the days when there was no flow. But now there could be flow. The Scouts had scouted, the Puffers had puffed, and the Agents of Talent, now scouted and puffed, were out there in the thick of it, representing his agency in the offices and hot tubs of the Decision Makers.

Please rewrite this sentence to include more concrete details.

Maggie Johnson had gone to Pine Hillock Community Players' Hall to see Mike Peasely perform in "Harry Pothead and the Quisling Unicorn". After the performance she went backstage, via her connection to the Theater Director, with a proposition for Peasely and his parents: she wanted to schedule Mike's audition with Harvey Grapejuice of Trillium Films for the upcoming Rachel Lodestone movie Suburban Shark Tank. Peasely and his parents became very excited about this chance for success. Dreams of adoring audiences, endless travel, good food, new technologies and fantastic interesting and wealthy friends to jaunt about with were now projecting themselves onto the silver screen of the Peasely Family imagination. These magnificent images began their parade the instant Johnson uttered the words "eighty thousand dollars to sign". The next day Johnson went to see Aaron Billings, Grapejuice's secretary and casting director. They met in his office. They talked. Aaron had met Maggie before and enjoyed their witty conversations about other casting directors and talent agents, especially Julia Richmond, that bitch, and Jerry Clinkslip, the biggest whipped poodle Billings had ever met, you know, that one time, at the industry convention in Las Vegas. After lunch (they hit it off that well) at Khan Dogs, when the waiter dropped the bill onto the table and Johnson elegantly swooped it away, Billings gave the exact hour, minute and date for Mike Peasely's audition with Grapejuice.

This sentence has a lot more detail, but it still doesn't have what people really want: the engagement of the senses. Please rewrite this entire scene in order to engage the senses.

The little guy sensed things, but couldn't give them much attention. Only this: now that the landlord had finally turned on the heat, the piles of clothes sitting on the radiator had dried and begun to fry. This caused the otherwise airless room to fill with a smell somewhere between cooked cotton, burnt armpit, and melting plastic.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy 99th Birthday, Kennth Patchen

Born in 1911 on December 13 in Youngstown, Ohio.


Kenneth, you are an old soul. I think of you not at all dead in 1972, but still here, three years older than my grandmother (who died this past August at age 96), continuing to make picture poems for social causes and protests across the globe.

I'm sure you continue to draw new word-animals across all the bounding walls of heaven, and William Blake stops by now and then--to comment, approve, criticize or applaud.

Your heavenward drawings peep out, wiggle to life, sit down with you and all the assembled company to share big plates of tumbling, saucy spaghetti.

The poem below is the concluding section of "Childhood of the Hero" from Patchen's book Orchards, Thrones and Caravans. Patchen published this book with his friend, and brief roommate, David Ruff in 1952. Ruff was Holly Beye's partner, and they had just recently moved from Greenwich Village to San Francisco, and encouraged the Patchens to move there as well. He lived at this time in the North Beach section the city, where he met and mentored Lawrence Ferlinghetti, convincing the young poet to use his full name on all his work (and not "Lawrence Ferling"), and gave him two big books of types to use with his soon-to-be City Lights press (did Patchen get these from Laughlin's New Directions shed in Old Lyme, CT?). It was the dark age of McCarthyism, then. The picture poem above is from the famous portfolio Glory Never Guesses silk screened by Frank Bacher and colored by Patchen in 1955, also called "Handwritings for the Wall"

--

IX

Childhood's days passed in their headlong sparsity, like hundredforapenny balloons.

Yes, childhood! Opinions might divide around it, like scoffing ancient water around a new-made boulder, still would it be necessary to remember the bit-of-thisness, -thatness of it.

When things are going unblemishedly, much can be borne. On the nightstand beside his little bunk, festooned by the shadow-ribboned hair of first one candle then by its replacement's, reposed, in a battered, fly-embroidered frame, a photograph casually torn from a newspaper. Every evening the hero addressed himself to the monastic countenance of the gaunt, ink-faded horse therein depicted:

"Morning, Senator. How be ye this day, eh?" It is true that the answering voice was almost totally lacking in modulation and resonance; but nevertheless it did manage to convey a certain underlying heartiness as it replied: "Get me out of here! Get me the hell out of here!"


(Collected Poems, 436)


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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Video Failure

Hi.

I tried posting some short films here, but they wouldn't load.

Local news: I'm writing a play. Reviews of Ed Sanders' recent 2 volumes of selected poetic works have appeared in Boog City #66, a New York City poetry newspaper. How many poetry newspapers are there in the world?

I will continue to try loading these films.

Works for Celery Flute: The Kenneth Patchen Newsletter are strongly encouraged, especially serious, analytical, thinking with eyes and mind attuned writings about poetry and painting. Poetry and visual art. On December 13, Kenneth Patchen (d. 1972) will turn 99 years old. It is hoped that next year events can be organized for a Centennial--in New York City, Warren, OH, Cleveland, OH, San Francisco and Santa Cruz. You can email me all questions, works, thoughts at inksaudible@gmail.com

I'm asking patience from those who have sent me work, essays, images and poems for the Newsletter. I will soon respond, edit, and set up issue 5. With the cold weather, I will be working more on some delayed projects. I'm also begging Patchen Collectors out there to send unpublished images, manuscripts or letters for publication.

anyone for a poem? New poem! My poem.

Poem

Explanation was its own reward
this secret fact of the text
to effect a capture by way of undress

slight shame that was exhibition
soft inner core of the crisp exterior
the washing machine an apt view

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Mozart, 1935" by Wallace Stevens


From Ideas of Order (1936)

Poet, be seated at the piano.
Play the present, its hoo-hoo-hoo,
Its shoo-shoo-shoo, its ric-a-nic,
Its envious cachinnation.

If they throw stones upon the roof
While you practice arpeggios,
It is because they carry down the stairs
A body in rags.
Be seated at the piano.

That lucid souvenir of the past,
The divertimento;
That airy dream of the future,
The unclouded concerto . . .
The snow is falling.
Strike the piercing chord.

Be thou the voice,
Not you. Be thou, be thou
The voice of angry fear,
The voice of this besieging pain.

Be thou that wintry sound
As of a great wind howling,
By which sorrow is released,
Dismissed, absolved
In a starry placating.

We may return to Mozart.
He was young, and we, we are old.
The snow is falling
And the streets are full of cries.
Be seated, thou.


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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Some Words on Wallace Stevens at Big Other

I had the pleasure of writing about Wallace Stevens when Greg Gerke asked for "something, anything" about his poetry (or prose). You can read that, and many other reflections and musings about Stevens by going to the Big Other literary website. Scroll down to find the page.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New Edition of _Roofing and Siding_ Available Soon


Here is the new cover for the third edition of my first full-length book from 2005. It should be available for purchase here at this blog in just a few weeks. Let me know what you think of this design. I think it looks great, myself. I'm actively seeking a publisher for my second book, now titled A Normal Line of Work. If you have seen any versions of this poem (now housed here under a different title, in the Feb. 2010 archive), like it, and can think of a good press to publish it, please tell me! I toyed with using POD for a while, but there are some amazing small presses that might want to take on the project.

After almost a year of some pretty unsettling changes, I think this Fall & Winter look to be a very promising one for my press, giving readings, and promoting LSP poets.

I've been told that Miriam Atkin's book is a radically exuberant laser-sharp poetic masterpiece. Please order one!--only Seven dollars postage paid! So little for something so beautiful, you'll want it near you always, as a talisman. That is, if you don't have one.

LOVE IS ALL AROUND YOU
LIKE ALL THE MAD ENDLESS SIRENS OF BROOKLYN
AND ALWAYS OPEN

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Will Teach For Food, Call Me Today! (dance number here)



Poetry and Literature courses help strengthen the mind, open the senses and heal the heart so that one can easily confront, outwit and address with eloquence life's many problems and dilemmas. They also allow us have some noisy fun along the way! Literature is an aid to thinking, remembering and resolving--and the study of poetry as a musical/visual speech-act can become a constant throughout one's life, lending its vivid and subtle benefits to all the other basic arts that are our work. Knowing, studying and practicing an art allows us to demonstrate a skill in all that we do, and provides unquantifiable benefits and lasting returns at every stage of life's grand drama. My arts are, in no particular order, teaching, poetry and writing-at-large. I have long wrestled with the idea of commercializing, packaging and PR-ing these arts for a long time, seeing the beauty of being, on the one hand, a "pure" academic in sharpening/shaping the minds of scholars and thinkers, and on the other, of providing tantalizing delights for the strollers of the arcades. But I know, well know, many immortal poets who have taken up their trade in other occupations that don't look like poetry--building, house cleaning, computer modeling demographic studies for product manufacturers, and even grant writing and consulting.

Though I would prefer to be fully, happily, healthily employed utilizing my degree as a scholar and educator, I am now willing to edit all kinds of documents, ghost-write your memoirs, type memos, etc. In fact, I would be glad to do any manner of work that will provide a secure income. Katie Daley would clean your house and write a poem about it! Me too! Of course, I cherish my affiliations with colleges, universities, poets, book artists and publishers, and will be once again applying for full-time positions at universities this Fall, but I admit that I don't have that fresh minty taste in my mouth such as I did when my literary history/visual art/ethics and aesthetics dissertation was just completed, and the world of American poetries from 1930-1975, the philosophy of materiality and ethics, romanticism and literature about animals was only just beginning to open up for me in my work, and my life as a poet and thinker seemed barely begun. In recent years, though, frustration, dogged persistence and overdoses of bewilderment have also been regular companions, the kind I'd love to send packing as soon as possible, so I can perhaps publish more magazines, write some cool books, and promote the poetry of my peers and contemporaries.

So here again are the courses I'm prepared to teach TOMORROW if you'd like to learn about them. And my approach will be one of impeccable decorum and deep wisdom, naturally.

The following list incorporates available courses I am prepared to teach, individually or collaboratively, autonomously at free schools & schools of the future, or according to departmental guidelines at schools, colleges, seminaries & yeshivas, workers' cooperatives, universities and polytechnical institutions. Each course is designed to present a field of inquiry and discovery, and to develop writing, critical thinking and research skills.

There are three basic groupings to my teaching practices: developmental, American Literature, and Poetics and Aesthetics. Please email me at inksaudible at gmail dot com for full course description. Please indicate a course format (semester course, workshop, seminar, number of sessions) for a more detailed description. I am based in the greater New York City area.

Developmental Courses:

Writer/Poet in the Schools. Ideally suited for children ages 6-12. Writing models developed through the Writers in Education programs, and more specifically, exercises based on the work of Kenneth Koch and Ron Padgett.

Composition/The Art of the Essay. Process-based writing moving from diaristic/journalling, to expository prose, to critical analysis.

Introduction to Poetry

Introduction to Prose

Thematic Writing Courses:
Readings in Civil Rights
Writing at the Human-Animal Borderlands
Identity and Body-Image
Travel Writing and the Literature of Encounter
Literature of the Ecstatic

American Literature:

Surveys:
American Literature 1490-1864
American Literature 1865-present
Nineteenth-Century American Literature
American Poetry 1950-present
Multicultural American Literature 1900-present

Focused Study:
The Gilded Age
Realism
Naturalism
Modernism
The Beat Generation and the Black Mountain School
American Cultural Studies
American Literature on Animal Life
Literature and the Working Class
Hispanic American Literature
African American Literature
Asian American Literature
Language Poetries from Stein to Conceptualism
Kenneth Patchen

Poetics and Aesthetics:

Writing Poetry
Writing Prose
Poetry, Philosophy and Ethics
Introduction to Literary Criticism
Art and Literature
Poetry and Philosophy
Poetry and Painting
Visual-Verbal Poetry
Poetry and Theater
Prosody and the Poetics of Sound
Visual Literary Genres
Poetry and the Public Sphere
The Practice of Everyday L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E
Textuality
The History of the Book
Literature and Linguistic Cognitive Models
Poetics and Ethnology (Cross-Cultural Poetics)
Poetry of the Avant-Garde
Small Press Revolutions
Poetry and Documentary
Romanticism
William Blake


Please contact me by phone: 716-240-8792
or by email: inksaudible at gmail dot com and get one of these syllabi into your hands!! Since I can't seem to copyright any of this stuff (its against the unwritten teacher's ethical code of honor), please inquire about coursework only if seriously wishing to engage me in a stint or a long-term-marriage kind of negotiation. But call or write if you can impart any of your wisdom on me so I can spend less time chewing my fingernails down into bones, and getting the goods to all the good people!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you for visiting. I am still looking forward to working with you! Or just working period!!!!

Douglas Manson

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Jose Marti

"The formation of new social conditions makes the struggle to earn a living uncertain and hampers the fulfillment of daily duties that, not finding broad roads, change form and direction at every instant, spurred on by the fear that arises from the probability and proximity of poverty. With the spirit thus divided among contradictory and intranquil loves, and the concept of literature shaken at every moment by some new gospel, with all the images that were once revered now naked and discredited while the future's images are as yet unknown, in this bewilderment of the mind, this restless life without fixed course, definite character or certain conclusion, in the biting fear of our own impoverishment and the varied and apprehensive labors we undertake to escape it, it is no longer possible to produce those long and patient works, those expansive tales in verse, those zealous imitations of Latin men that were written with great deliberation, year by year, in the repose of the monk's cell or amid the pleasant leisures of the ambitious courtier, seated in his ample chair of richly worked cordovan with studs of fine gold, in the beatific spiritual calm produced by the certainty that the good Indian was kneading the bread, the good king decreeing the laws, and the Mother Church giving shelter and sepulcher. Only in an era of stable elements, a general and established literary type, and well-known and established channels, when individual tranquillity is possible, is it easy to produce those massive works of ingenuity that, without exception, require such a conjunction of favorable conditions."

Jose Marti wrote the above as the prologue to Poem of Niagara by Jose Maria de Heredia.

I used this high-toned statement as the back cover for the 50 or so copies of Overherd at the River's Hip I put together two years ago. As I work on two new books for little scratch pad, his words ring just as true to my ear today, though the references to 19th century Spanish Colonies would need to be changed slightly to make sense of the feeling of stability he describes as lost. And after a little deliberation, I have to admit to myself what kinds of wealth I do have, and the kinds of pressures and uncertainties Marti is talking about above.

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sad News :: More Bike Lanes Needed

While I didn't know Bob Bowen, I'm horrified by what happened two weeks ago, and that a creative, talented person has died because he was hit while riding his bike in Manhattan.

Story here: Community Mourns Musician

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Angels of Summer

Socrates Sculpture Garden

This past Thursday we were experiencing a day of perfect weather here in our fair city, so a friend and I headed out from Bay Ridge by train and bicycle to visit the Socrates Sculpture Garden in Long Island City, Queens.

But before I rave about the park, I have to get something off my chest.

One thing I depend on are the bike lanes in New York City. Of course there are many streets that do not have them, but those that do provide a navigable space for a single bike make my living here a possible joy for me, and a possibility, period. I am one of those people who cannot foresee car ownership in the near future and doesn’t like having to haul his ashes from one borough to the next, day in and day out, by train and bus and his own rubber soles. And I especially appreciate the flavor of the many unique New York neighborhoods that are best discovered by bicycle. Riding a bike from Bay Ridge to Astoria isn’t easy. The volume and aggressiveness of car traffic in this city is legendary, but so is the history of bicyclists standing up for their rights on the road. Believe me when I say it: the bike lanes that do exist here are cherished, but there are too few of them. They are too often ignored by some drivers, and these drivers make bike riding a harrowing experience.

If there is one topic talked about here, or at least among the people I know in New York City, just as frequently as food, sex, living spaces and art, it’s about getting from one place to another. Combined, these five topics form the core experiences of our urban lives. Each one is otherwise a relatively simple, usually unconsciously-perceived basic human condition; yet to live the good life, each requires a highly developed skill unto itself, which must be cultivated. Once a New Yorker achieves a certain level of facility with these five topics, he or she is ready to talk about the only really interesting thing about him or herself, the only thing that matters, the one that gives him or her the authentic mark of personhood: everyone she knows who is either famous, powerful or rich. While I am being sarcastic in that last point, it's important to remember just how much of the day we spend trying to get somewhere; and getting there by bike, while it does entail some level of risk, is often a lot more fun, and faster, than other modes.

As more and more people turn to bicycles for their own health, cost savings, a reduction of car traffic on the streets and non-renewable energy depletion, it would be a good idea to have more bike lanes around the city. And how about letting bikes onto the Verranzano bridge? Why not build some continuous, uninterrupted parkways and expressways with grade crossings for bicycles and foot traffic? It seems clear there are only going to be more bicycles on the streets, and not fewer, so that the commitment of resources to the long-term planning for this form of transportation needs to be increased.

And now to our longed-for haven and destination . . .

As my friend and I walked into the Socrates Sculpture Garden, I wondered where exactly I was. The “park” looked more like a construction site than anything else. First, we dodged a large crane bearing down on us, carrying something heavy and awkward, and then I saw a rutted & upturned miscellaneously embowered yard full of folks in hard hats and reflective vests, little plots demarcated by stakes tied with yellow ribbons, an elegantly dressed woman in heels marching back and forth with an expensive-looking camera and a lot of determination, as well as the in-process construction of various whatsits going on in little groupings here and there. We quickly headed toward the back of the lot, which was also the area closest to the waters of Hell’s Gate, passing through a grassy, tree-shaded area peppered with what looked at first like large blobs of poured white stone, and on closer inspection turned out to be casts of concrete that looked like snow angels in reverse. When we finally found the lone park bench at the end of an uneven walkway, in a shady angle between a lopsided chain link fence and some crooked railing guarding the banks of the river, my friend and I were approached by a man expressing his amazement over the green grass of the park. He had just returned from his home town of Washington D.C., and didn’t know that, for the past four days--Sunday through Wednesday--the city had been soaked, drenched and misted by a steady rain. He couldn’t understand why the brown and dry grasses which had once cradled his heavenly creations were now surging forth with a renewed, green vigor.

He walked away. He came back. He explained that he had watered the grass again and again, for months, even, trying to realize his vision of a green sward, but to no avail. “There must be something in the rain that did this to the grass,” he mused aloud, and then: “I thought New York City water was supposed to be famous.” We talked for a while, and Dan explained how he had built his huge sand-box, where interested park goers could lie down to create the forms of sand angels, which he would then fill in with concrete, creating the 40 or so “Cast Angels” that reposed over the quarter-acre or so of his site.

Sculptor Dan is on the left, Eggplant-face on right

We talked about the sand, the water, the angels and the grass while I savored a giant eggplant parmesan hero sandwich and a refreshing, illicit beer. Finally he mentioned the signal dilemma facing the sculptors of the Socrates Garden: at the end of the season, works that have not been sold, placed, donated or otherwise hauled off-site are destroyed. While some artists, sculptors especially, work within the idea of a specific, delimited timeframe and site for the work to exist, after which it is no more (and here I think of the Guggenheim’s recent purchase of a performance sculpture by Tino Sehgal), most artists, and again, sculptors especially, have an idea of the endurance of their efforts. “You see that dumpster over there,” Dan said, pointing towards the studio lots near Vernon Boulevard, where I saw a huge green construction dumpster. “That’s where the sculptures go if they’re left behind.”

a dumpster, but not the huge one

Artists-in-residence are given the space, tools and time to work, which are all obvious and necessary goods, certainly—but the works themselves must be sold or donated by season’s end—or else. As we discovered, many works do end up in the dumpster. While the park has a significant staff of directors, programmers, interns and laborers, it would seem there is not enough thought or planning given to the fate of the works that are made there. It would be useful for someone, perhaps the Garden’s marketing and public relations director, to develop a system or guide for artists to better help them find lasting homes for their works. For Dan, at least, there is a growing frustration and anxiety over the fact that his dearly loved and labored-over angels may end up dumpstered, just like the “u.s.s. deadhorse”, pictured above.

I liked Dan’s sculptures for a number of different reasons—his direct engagement with residents and park goers, whom he invites into the sandbox to play and model the angels, and whose impressions he uses; the conceptual reversal of snow-angels in both form and season; as well as the humor of seeing them strewn about on the sward, as though the remains of a dramatic denouement of an angry god who’s just gotten done with some serious downsizing of the heavenly hosts.

One of the angels was unique for having a face, and as Dan explained it to me, the model insisted on laying face-down in the sandbox for his angel. Since all the other casts, when hardened and sited, were face-down themselves, suggesting defeat, at least his would be looking up. Rising.

I couldn’t help trying out a few of the angels for size, pretending to be one of the cast-down angels, or one who’d left the stony husk of his heavenly side behind him. I was glad I could get up afterward and walk away. Sometimes I think my soul is made of vulcanized rubber. It's that Akron thing, maybe. DEVO. The Beatles.


P.S. At random, I opened up Jeffrey C. Robinson's The Walk: Notes on a Romantic Image (U of Oklahoma P, 1989) and found these lines: "Does Baudelaire, this poet of the cities, do anything fundamentally different from the rural idealists? He shows what happens when the Romantic walker/poet loses his halo. The city takes it from him. He discovers that his halo, his mark as an individual, with a utopianizing soul, was more a burden than a consolation and a strength. Yet the ideology of souls and beauty does not leave him. No one around him cares as he slips in the mud and enjoys it except, perhaps, those of similar 'superior' cast who may walk like him and who will read him: mon semblable! mon frere!" (98)

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RANDOM NOTES AND POSTSCRIPTS:

There were a lot of connections, people, poets, places and histories that came to mind as I was trying to write this little Nyarcadian tale.

In the 1920s through the 1940s, during what seems a heyday of parks creation and alteration in New York, there were two competing paradigms at work guiding the transformation of city parks. Of course, Frederick Law Olmstead holds an important historical place in the history and ideas of the urban park, and as an advocate of open space; yet it is the work of Robert Moses that irrevocably altered the nature of the city’s parks and playgrounds into the forms we now most often experience them. These two ideas are recreation and conservation (preservation is another legal classification that concerns a cultural legacy that would apply to sculptures and structures, since the fate of public sculptures largely falls into the preservation category).
While I am sure there are better and more detailed studies of the dilemma facing NYC’s parks from 1920-1950, Robert Caro’s enormous book, The Power Broker, lays down an affective narrative of the stakes in the opposing views:

Central Park, Prospect Park, Van Cortland Park, Kissena Park and Alley Pond are (or were) not just open space, but open space within a city—within a city in which open space was becoming terribly scarce…What was it most important for these big parks to give the city? The city’s facilities for active recreation were laughably inadequate. Therefore the park must provide them. They must be filled with baseball diamonds and football fields, tennis and handball and basketball courts, skating rinks and swimming pools. …Yet open space—quiet open space, natural settings in which city dwellers could find relief from grey concrete and congestion and noise—were precious in New York now. Parks must provide that, too. If they did not, there would soon be no place within the great city in which these values could be found… Robert Moses’ restrictive policies had made it difficult for the city’s poor, who did not have access to private automobiles, to reach his Long Island parks [and at first he built bridges too low to allow busses to pass under them and reach the parks]…Moses himself had been uninterested in a park’s “natural” functions. His mind saw people in the mass, running, jumping, swinging tennis rackets and baseball bats…his vision never focused on the individual wandering alone through a forest or on the family sprawling in solitude in a meadow; in thinking of parks he did not, except incidentally, think of them as places of forests or meadows or solitude. To him a park was not open space. (481-482)

The fight to get a park created is a difficult one, and in a city of this size and density, the use of available space is always and inevitably contested. The Socrates Sculpture Garden is the results of the efforts of sculptor Mark di Suvero, b. 1933, who was living in Long Island City and had a dream for a small wedge of land that was a former Marine Terminal, and when he found it, a dumping ground. di Suvero is famous for his works using steel girders. One thing pointed out to me on Thursday is that large-scale sculptors seem to be a tough, active, outdoorsy people. I’m not sure how far that idea goes, but there is a certain ruggedness to this 2002 di Suvero piece, “Chonk On”.

---

There are assuredly more than just these two on this continent, but I appreciate, or am maybe boasting, when I declare I’ve been to two wildly disparate sculpture gardens in the past year: one in Seattle, Washington, and the other in Astoria, Queens. They’re on opposite sides of North America. (Dan, the sculptor of the Cast Angels, remarked that the sculptures in Washington D.C. are “A lot of men on horses.”) These two parks are 2,863 miles apart (by car). Google’s “Get Directions” feature also tells me that a walk from the Olympic Sculpture Park to the Socrates Sculpture Garden would only be 2,807 miles, and is a route that includes a ferry, a border crossing, and tolls. Tolls for walking? Yes indeed. The time to travel by car is listed as 46 hours, while the walk would take 37.5 days. You would have to walk continuously to get there that fast—which would be impossible. In two days, by car, Seattle and New York City would form a sequence of art, travel, and art. You might be able to walk from Seattle to New York City in 150 days. What would that be like? Art, stillness, motion, and stillness (repeat 150 times), and art. My mother was always a fan of the man who wrote Walk Across America, where he did just that. Is Paul Virillo’s critical-philosophical science about speed called vroomology? Of course there is nomadology, and there is even a field of study called teratology—but is there a phenomenological science and field of philosophic speculation and skepticism for walking? Or is that pedagogy? If so, then I am a proponent, researcher and advocate of radical pedagogy. It is more consistent than some spurious, made-up science that could be called pedalogy.

My last notes here are for the poets: CA Conrad has been hosting readings of favorite poets in open spaces for two years now in a series he calls the Urchin Series. I like the roving nature of these readings, and that he’s held them in gardens (like the Jonathan Williams reading) .

Currently, ecopoet Jonathan Skinner is traveling by train to parks designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, which he is chronicling in a series of dispatches he calls Spoils of the Park. I suppose if I were to concoct a project about the legacy of Robert Moses in NYC I’d call it “Go DOWN Moses.” After 800 pages of Caro’s book, I can only describe my commitment to learning the Moses story as a sick fascination. I’m hoping Jane Jacobs’ book The Death and Life of Great American Cities will be the right antidote.

And the S.S.P. has a site of their own here. The NYC Department of Parks includes this paragraph about the history of the site: “Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, this narrow strait between Astoria and Wards Island was infamous for treacherous navigational conditions caused by powerful tides and dangerous rock outcroppings. The 1780 shipwreck of the British ship Hussar and numerous other marine tragedies which occurred in this channel necessitated an 1876 effort by the Army Corps of Engineers to blast away much of the dangerous ledge. Unfortunately, in the years preceding 1985, the long-abandoned Marine Terminal had become desecrated with illegal dumping and graffiti, its panoramic vista inaccessible to citizens of Astoria and Long Island City.”

The first sculpture park I fell in love with was the Griffis Sculpture Park, outside of Buffalo, NY.

If you are further interested in the convergence of poets, sculpture and parks/gardens, please do find out more about Ian Hamilton Finlay's postmodernist landscape, which he called Little Sparta. And go visit Marfa, Texas, too.

This is not Marfa, Texas. These are Alpacas, in Ohio

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Friday, August 6, 2010

From the Desk of Santos L. Halper

I'm writing this blog post over against another piece of writing I need to be working on (though it may not be as important as this).

In the era of socialized media (and not a socialized society) via the internet, I find I tune in on poetry news quite a bit. Poetry groups are very interesting subcultures to both be a member of and to try to understand from an objective distance. Tuning-in on poetry news is fun because poets are very talkative about what is upsetting them, at least the ones who write about such things. Poets have a need to speak. I am one of them, simply because I've felt that speaking well, after I learned the basics of the language at age .5, is a very difficult thing to accomplish. When reading, writing, learning about and telling other people about poetry became the number one activity in my working life (and I'd also say the larger activity of writing, reading literature are there, but poetry seems to be the center of the whole activity), after a while the way poetry saved my life and how my liberation came to me through poetry & the way poetry is such a goddam fun way to play became harder and harder to locate in the daily dark woods of life where my environment, employment, interpersonal responsibilities and needs all shaped my life differently, vastly differently from those three semesters I had in college when the tuition was paid, I easily made enough money to eat, buy clothes, pay the rent, and all I wanted to do was read, write, listen and learn. People talk about leaving poetry, or that poetry left them, but what it really amounts to is a recognition that making poetry the grounding for society (one's community) is not a very good idea. Because, for better or worse, the idea that poetry-making-in-concert-with-others can gain (and provide) a more cohesive perspective of the larger, mixed, multitudinous society we live in, and form the ideal community, is to fail to see just how plainly poetry is only one of the colored pixels in the great vidscreen of our bespectacled/beleagured society. To be a poet doesn't require one to live poetically. By the nature of the art, most poets who are dedicated and not children of the wealthy are working very hard at teaching or any number of other writerly and unwriterly jobs that have very little to do with poetic composition, honing an aesthetics, practicing the poem's performance, making sure the magazine looks good and keeping track of all the poems. A very small number of poets can do this. Of course, I hope to be one of them, and have lived on a very fragile economic margin in order to maybe do so. But I don't feel that I'm at all culturally marginal. I am so happy when I see poetic manifestations (attention to language, its slippage, its accidental profundity, its deliberate intervention into the humdrum or status quo) showing up all over the place, when I can recognize that we are poetry people, that people are poetic by nature, culture or what have you, that thought has gone into the way words work, can be broken, and how we can read things closely or haphazardly depending on what we're looking for.

To expect poets to be more perceptive, kind, caring, receptive, smarter or more interesting than other people is, I think, a huge mistake. Serious, accomplished poets can do something truly amazing--they can make serious, accomplished poems, and say brilliant things in and about language. But to ask them to do more than that--solve gross inequalities in the social sphere, end exploitation, return us to a culture of trust and gifts, and any number of other very noble and worthwhile things--is to ask too much. Poets aren't more pure than anybody else, and whether they make a point of poetically acting crude and foolish or bravely standing up to tyrants and slaveholders isn't going to make their poems any better. It may make their poems historically important, but it might not make their writings interesting moments/epochs in the language, the mind, or even our feelings. I have seen truly beautiful and humanitarian poetic innovations crudely co-opted by the worst human impulses and ideologies: used. To think that poets won't be idiotically sarcastic, cruel or sadistic--driven by ridiculously crude motives of self interest to see other people as a means rather than ends in themselves--is to think we live somewhere else, at some other time. I know a poet who would say "we must hold the poets accountable for societal decay more than others, because they have a deep obligation and unquantifiable stake and responsibility for the health of the common psyche," and I would agree with him to the extent that the artist and poet does understand the potentials for the imaginative, flexible, resilient response to life's ever-erupting catastrophes (microbial, individual and collective)--but that I must introject that poets are often poorly-trained helmspeople. Poets are 99.9% just part of the stream: not the cybernos or antennae or live wire in the current. The ones who have pointed us the ways out often had no idea they were doing so. The ones who appointed themselves as guides and guardians often lost their chips, if not their ships.

Anyways, that I see a lot of poets seriously finding it impossible to make poems (and myself, too, a lot of the time) means that what a poem was, for them & me, has to change--as it has for me--and that the idea of continuously ongoing productivity is the kind of myth we're better off getting disillusioned about at some point. I am glad to read about the bellyaches of Mark Nowak, Jessica Smith, Daniel Nestor, Aaron Lowinger, Ron Silliman, Jim Behrle etc., etc.--not because I at all want people to feel hurt and upset, but that we have the means to communicate these things, that we have a right of complaint, and we can complain so eloquently.

Literary culture & all its many related social ties and tie-ups is fucking fucked up!

Though each one has LOVE printed all caps on its side, Cupid is indeed shooting fucking ARROWS.

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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Whupped



I am a less seasoned communicator (aka schmoozer) than I would like to be. It's one reason I write so much, publish so little. On the other hand, I haven't yet built my Watts Towers, or written my Ark.

I think in my hypothetical "li'l list o'fixations," the lead item is that I am predisposed to think I am being misunderstood by everyone. I leave many a conversation thinking I didn't really get my point across, when it seemed so simple to begin with.

Then again, this 'tude may simply be my pretext for wheedling. To wheedle is, pace Woody, to do unto others as you'd loathe they do unto you. Wheedle is power, backassward.

Item: I am not going to Boston this weekend to read for eight minutes in a 90-person poetry lineup called a "Tea Party". I do want to go to Boston, because I love Boston. The Charles River is great. I love the crowds, I love the fact that I once bought a cassette tape in Boston called "Dilka Doctor" and forced Mike Basinski, Eileen and Theresa to listen to it on the car ride all the way from Boston to Buffalo. I kept singing "Dildo Doctor" during the title track, and Mike kept playing rare & hallucinogenic Jimi Hendrix spoken-word pieces. (We went to Boston for William Howe III's SoundVision/VisionSound III art show, where, at one point, we all stole John Bennett's too big pants, and Chris Fritton made a huge mess of things he shot at us with rubber bands).

Okay, if anyone who reads this has a car, and wants to pick me up in Brooklyn, then drive to Boston tonight (Thurs.) or tomorrow (friday) and find a Co-op house or Hostel or otherwise free crash pad, then hang out at some place called "Outpost 186" on Saturday, then call me ASAP. That's the sitch. Otherwise, my Boston trip is too much for me to do in a very full midsummer weekend, which includes writing the most difficult essay I've ever attempted.

Nonetheless, the Boston Poets Tea Party readings will be amazing. I'm certain of it. The lineup is stellar. And I am sad I won't be able to go (unless miracles take place). I envisioned my 8 minutes to be a reading from To Becoming Normal. So, if you'd like, go look at my February postings and read that poem for 8 minutes. Start at any point.

lots.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

To Red Hook from Yellow Hook

To Red Hook from Yellow Hook
the wind is very strong, please hold the handle
statue of a doughboy
seathemed jetsam-covered shanty
labyrinthine sparkly store
brick warehouses with black shutters
cranes and ikeas
shorebirds and tugboats
pearlescence of diamonds on the oily harbor waters
twenty-dollar entrees
may you forever sparkle and forever shine
may you dance dance
a black leotard trance
the double canals
Gowanus below Gowanus above
Gowan ‘n’ peddle yuh pehpahs


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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Courses, Workshops and Seminars Offered

The following list incorporates available courses I am prepared to teach, individually or collaboratively, autonomously at free schools & schools of the future, or according to departmental guidelines at schools, colleges, yeshivas, universities and polytechnical institutions. Each course is designed to present a field of inquiry and discovery, and to develop writing, critical thinking and research skills. The courses are priced on a sliding scale, so that a 14 or 15-week university course meeting three times a week will cost $10,000 (or more depending on location and level of study), while a two-week workshop could cost as little as $700 or payment in kind. Please allow 30 days from our initial engagement to the commencement of the first session, in order to allow for course development. Some courses will require an initial payment to facilitate course design, secure course materials and resources, and assist in enrollment. Many of the courses offered have been taught successfully at universities and colleges, while others are critical specialties forming the background of the instructor's own writing practice and research.

There are three basic groupings to my teaching practices: developmental, American Literature, and Poetics and Aesthetics. Please email me at inksaudible at gmail dot com for full course description. Please indicate a course format (semester course, workshop, seminar, number of sessions) for a more detailed description. I am based in the greater New York City area, and all requests for courses outside of this area will require a transportation, lodging or relocation fee.

Developmental Courses:

Writer/Poet in the Schools. Ideally suited for children ages 6-12. Writing models developed through the Writers in Education programs, and more specifically, exercises based on the work of Kenneth Koch and Ron Padgett.

Composition/The Art of the Essay. Process-based writing moving from diaristic/journalling, to expository prose, to critical analysis.

Introduction to Poetry

Introduction to Prose

Thematic Writing Courses:
Readings in Civil Rights
Writing at the Human-Animal Borderlands
Identity and Body-Image
Travel Writing and the Literature of Encounter
Literature of the Ecstatic

American Literature:

Surveys:
American Literature 1490-1864
American Literature 1865-present
Nineteenth-Century American Literature
American Poetry 1950-present
Multicultural American Literature 1900-present

Focused Study:
The Gilded Age
Realism
Naturalism
Modernism
The Beat Generation and the Black Mountain School
American Cultural Studies
Literature and the Working Class
Hispanic American Literature
African American Literature
Asian American Literature
Language Poetries from Stein to Conceptualism
Kenneth Patchen

Poetics and Aesthetics:

Writing Poetry
Writing Prose
Introduction to Literary Criticism
Art and Literature
Poetry and Philosophy
Poetry and Painting
Visual-Verbal Poetry
Poetry and Theater
Prosody and the Poetics of Sound
Visual Literary Genres
Poetry and the Public Sphere
The Practice of Everyday L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E
Textuality
The History of the Book
Literature and Linguistic Cognitive Models
Poetics and Ethnology (Cross-Cultural Poetics)
Poetry of the Avant-Garde
Small Press Revolutions
Poetry and Documentary
Romanticism
William Blake


Please contact me by phone: 716-240-8792
or by email: inksaudible at gmail dot com

Thank you for visiting. I look forward to working along with you!

Douglas Manson

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Friday, July 16, 2010

The Origin of Baseball, by Kenneth Patchen

Don't forget the big time Douglas Manson poetry reading in Boston, Massachusetts, along with 89, yup, that's Eighty-Nine, other poets. And maybe more??

July 31.
Outpost 186.
2:32 p.m.
Cambridge, Mass.


The Origin of Baseball

Someone had been walking in and out
Of the world without coming
To much decision about anything.
The sun seemed too hot most of the time.
There weren't enough birds around
And the hills had a silly look
When he got on top of one.
The girls in heaven, however, thought
Nothing of asking to see his watch
Like you would want someone to tell
A joke--"Time," they'd say, "what's
That mean--time?", laughing with the edges
Of their white mouths, like a flutter of paper
In a madhouse. And he'd stumble over
General Sherman or Elizabeth B.
Browning, muttering, "Can't you keep
Your big wings out of the aisle?" But down
Again, there'd be millions of people without
Enough to eat and men with guns just
Standing there shooting each other.

So he wanted to throw something
And he picked up a baseball.



This is one of my favorite Patchen poems, and one of the most re-published, too. It first appeared in the book The Teeth of the Lion a pamphlet published in the New Directions "Poet of the Month" series for October 1942. 500 of these were published in boards for $1.00 (by William Candlewood at the George Grady Press in NYC) and 2500 in paper published for 50 cents. It was next published in An Astonished Eye Looks Out Of The Air, a work produced by Kemper Nomland, Jr. at the Untide Press (a conscientious objectors' camp in Oregon, known as The Franklin Press), in 1946. Then in Outlaw of the Lowest Planet, the first book by Patchen to appear in England, in 1946. The Selected Poems of Kenneth Patchen (1946, 1957 and 1964) and the City Lights book Poems of Humor and Protest (1954), The Collected Poems (1968). You can hear him read it on the Folkways Album Kenneth Patchen Reads His Selected Poems recorded in 1959, and I believe now available through the Smithsonian.

As a note, I want to include a passage from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh (1856):

"Who judges prophets, and can tell true seers
From conjurers? That child, there? Would you leave
That child to wander in a battle-field
And push his innocent smile against the guns?"
(book 1, lines 772-5)

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Watching the Boring Colored Paint Drip

Big time Douglas Manson poetry reading: Saturday, July 31 at 2:32 p.m. I will read for 8 minutes.

Where?

OUTPOST 186
186 1/2 Hampshire St., Inman Square, Cambridge (Boston, Mass.)

I guess this video is Rated R. And Jim's my label-mate! C U in Boston! 90 poets, 90 bucks (if you live in NYC).

JIM BEHRLE FOR POETEEVEE from A. Lee Abelson on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Tale of Two Bartlebys

photo by Geoffrey Gatza


Bartleby, the Sportscaster A Novella by Ted Pelton. Boulder, Colo.: Subito Press, 2010. 73 pp.
buy it here. (SPD)

The precious gift of a few hours free from parenting, working, cleaning up the spilt milk, fretting over love’s delicate fibers and the looming necessity of home repair: this is the time I use to sit down for a visit with Herman Melville. Bartleby the Scrivener: A Tale of Wall Street, is one of those fictions Phillip Lopate calls a “work that refuses to resolve the inexplicable.” Melville’s 1853 novella is a haunting text whose main character is remarkable because he’s not really or effectively there. Bartleby is a story that has persisted as an American classic because it is in many ways prescient of our modernity. Index of the segregated masculine mind, domain and oikos (Greek for “household”), it humorously teaches us about New York City’s financial and legal professions, the strange life of its sector, and it manages to place a “supreme enigma” at its heart. It is one of the best fictions ever written about the disruption of the ideal bourgeois subject, that jargonish term for white collar and professional workers living in, as we now say, corporate culture.

Nothing is ideal about Melville’s story, however. Strained as you may find Melville’s prose, especially in contrast to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s elegant flow, he is the master of irony. I bring up (and will indulge in) Melville’s style because I want to address the importance it holds in comparison with Ted Pelton’s newest novella Bartleby, The Sportscaster, which I want to praise, even as I parse. Where it takes Melville 170 words to describe his narrator's public role as a Master of Chancery, it takes Pelton about 10 to give us the goods on Ray Yarzejski. A Master of Chancery must be, I first thought, something like the 1850s equivalent of a derivatives trader (who, as we have learned, were recently inflating their bank accounts by betting on companies to fail, while telling their investors the companies were growing), but I now understand it is a Clerk of a particular branch of the Courts, dealing with land, inheritances and some other odd cases.


Okay, I need to stop this so-called review right now. There is something ridiculous in what I am about to do. But it fits. It’s fitting. I wonder: do things really happen to us by chance? Or, if we look realistically at all the shit we have to wade through, we may conclude that, if we don’t master situations and instead let them have their way with us, and it seems readily apparent to all who know us that we haven’t mastered them, then the gratuitous parading of our powerlessness can only set our old enemies to chuckling. We may even do further harm to ourselves thinking that they will somehow be comforted in feeling that, in their view, all is indeed right in the universe. We might, in a bizarre fit of dissociation and misplaced identification, come to believe that our misery is a significant cause of someone else’s happiness.


With this in mind, there is something else we need to keep in front of us if we’re ever going to get a handle on the Bartleby Enigma as taken up by Ted Pelton, and that’s the baseball metaphor. It’s the game of life, right? Though I’ve long since given it away, I do remember the Lakoff and Johnson book Metaphors We Live By, published thirty years ago, in which the most pervasive tropes in the American psyche are examined and given a kind of philosophical honor: the road of life—the sunshine of your love—eating one’s own words. The list goes on and on. But what is important about this metaphor—the game of life—is that it demonstrates effectively how much a particular, limited, distinct activity stands in for much more general areas of experience. It certainly does so for August Wilson’s iconic figure, Troy Maxson, in his play Fences. Troy faces off with his children, wife, friends and death itself as if he were standing in the batter’s box. In a more recent turn, this Spring sculptor David Adamo has created a parquet floor of Louisville Slugger baseball bats in one room of MoMA’s P.S. 1 Art Museum, so that the clean blonde wood of all these toy weapons will slowly darken and soil as visitors walk over them. Here, the baseball metaphor undergirds our experience. We walk over it. “I don’t think you’re supposed to do that,” my friend told me as I stepped into the room. “But I was instructed to do so by The New York Times!” I cried. That good grey lady is my most constant book of instruction. I would help the artist complete his metaphor. As much as we are capable of inhabiting such metaphors, the more satisfying and fitting our lives will be for us. Sadly, Bartleby doesn’t fit any of them, and the concept he offers us in response, refusal by preference, infectiously leads us nowhere pretty damn fast.


On June 4, 2010, David Markson died. He was a very important fiction writer who lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In The Last Novel, which was in truth his last novel, and he announced it as such, he builds a narrative out of quotations. One of these quotes is: “Baseball is what we were, Football is what we have become” (Mary McGrory). She doesn’t mean the World Cup, which is the focus of some works currently up at Apexart in TriBeCa called “Men With Balls” (until July 11). But even these connections—baseball as what we were, football as what we have become, are now, it would seem, unsettled. Football is not what we are now, and is also what soccer has become, in America. So, what will we now call our most championed American game? Pigskin?


I am taking a long, circuitous route around my purposes here, because I am trying to find the constellation that best suits, accentuates, and sets off this novella: Bartleby the Sportscaster. After I finished reading this literary curiosity, I went for a walk to the end of my street, where a wide path of foot-pleasing, rounded hexagonal cobblestones stretches out in both directions, and is set with many many benches, one whereupon I sat myself down with my New York Times and looked beyond the low iron fence and down the rise into the baseball field below, where a game of softball was taking place. It’s easy, I thought, to not have to think about baseball at all. It’s everywhere. Beyond this field (and a fence) is the Shore Parkway with its zooming impatience, and then, after another fence, the paved strip of a bikepath, more benches, a sidewalk, and then yet another fence guarding the populace from the rocks forming the bank of the Narrows. To the right is New York Harbor and Lady Liberty, the lower tip of Manhattan. Just across the Narrows is the landing for the Staten Island Ferry and of course, the Island itself. And as it was nearing dusk, who can leave out mention of the soft, billowy cumulonimbus clouds framing a huge orange sun like a supercilious brow, the hazy beams cast upwards by their shadows stroking the infinite blue-white sky above it? Melville is infectious.


My general subject, peripherally, as well as the novella’s ostensible subject, is baseball. But of course it should be clear by now that forgetting about the ball, and getting on with the game is the real subject of my efforts. Sometimes I get a jolt of vertigo when I think about just how far I have to take my eyes off the ball in order to get started. David Markson, in the same videotaped reading I alluded to above, repeats a short set of words two or three times over the course of his forty minutes: “Old. Tired. Sick. Poor. Alone.” How could a man just under half his age, and in the prime of his life, feel such painful kinship with this plaintive certainty, a feeling that almost screams as it glares out quietly from within and reaches so far beyond those simple words? What does one do when a writer abandons the pretense of distance and objectivity like that? Who supercedes decorum and all sugary literary artifice just to ruin our pleasant and consoling hours of reading with such an accurate indictment of our aloof, blinkered hearts?


Something in the “inexplicable”, queer and singular case of Bartleby makes his story, and each retelling of it, less and less singular and queer the better and better you can work out its problems, indictments, and refusals. And when Ted Pelton, the author, decides to insert a chapter of autobiography into his novella, we realize that he, too, is not interested in keeping any veneer or bouyant artifice intact. But we should well know by now that this kind of interruption of the tale is nothing new or disturbing in fiction, and is instead integral to its mode. It rubs a little life into its achey limbs.


Part Five of Bartleby the Sportscaster only lifts us from one fiction into another, rather than departing from fiction altogether. Melville, as one of the greatest prose writers of the 19th Century, does not do this. Melville’s tragedy is absolute. There is a sense of stability in the art he perfected that makes his fiction the highest form of literary writing in the 19th century. In the 21st century, the imposing formal edifice of those great fictions with their silent, urn-like fixity and otherness, has become too much for us to bear, perhaps simply as a result of the ubiquity of the form itself. Today the tragic is a laughable residue, the result of a systematic worldview that has only one imposing other to threaten and provide for its dissolution and destruction. Today we are blessed with hundreds of annihilating others. Today there’s a selection, and we can have a preference. No, we now recognize that the old form is unworkable: we must have melodrama, and we must be a part of it. In Jean Anouilh’s Antigone, Creon upbraids the rebellious daughter of Oedipus for what he considers a family sickness—that firm resolve to enact tragedy, when all other indications are that, with a slight bending of her will, she can enjoy all the fruits of what is, in Anouilh’s day, the modern melodrama, a tragicomedy. Ted Pelton indeed wants to have his conversation with Melville, one not unlike Creon’s with Antigone, or Melville’s narrator with his employee, for that matter, in that he simply wants his interlocutor to relent. “Give a sign!” he, we, it (the fiction) all cry. We want to shout. We beg the Bartlebys to give us some slight gesture of sympathy with us, sign up with the status quo, get everybody on the team, onto the bus. Likewise, in Ted Pelton’s melodrama we are begging, from the endearingly recalcitrant position of the one who has given up, for this other to acknowledge, even by one simple wink of the eye, that the game can go on. But we do not beg in Melville’s tragedy. The narrator does the begging. Mercifully, in Melville’s fiction there is no we. He’s way over there. Sure he sounds a lot like us, but we’re not him. It could be said that the namelessness of the Master of Chancery implicates us in his conundrum, his paradox. Instead, like the witnesses of Creon and Antigone's argument, we are given a seat at an appropriate distance from the stage so that our squirming, tears, or boredom can go on in the dark. Our time, as a matter of principle, doesn’t want to be sure there is a stage up there. We all want to act, and have that certainty of acting, without the theme getting too carried away with itself on its own. In our great fear of the body, and of losing the body, that we have lost the body, and in our enormous surprise in discovering that we might get a chance at having and living as the body, we want to make sure by repeatedly calling on it, touching it, and seducing it just enough for it to show itself. But we’re not sure it’s worked.


The Master of Chancery begs Bartleby to dispense with the law, have a taste of the good life, by giving into it. Just a little. Ted Pelton, expressing his sympathy for the narrator of Bartleby the Scrivener, does so formally (in narrative structure) just as much as he does by reproducing the Master’s voice (though now in a kind of harassed Brooklynese); just as Ray Yarzejski does when he invents a radio voice for Bartleby. Pelton includes autobiography. But what will this reviewer do? Is it both his candy and candor to set down here that echoless fact that me knew him once? And that I did meet, however briefly, in a sterile third-floor adjunct’s office, adjunct-to-adjunct, so to speak, the woman he married and eventually divorced? I’m desirous that it was in fact she who wrote Bartleby the Sportscaster! It would form a beautiful figure in our world if she had, gestate the succession of forms, however buried in the layers of narrative voicings this framed echo-chamber of postmortemism, ahem, which we now inhabit asks us to wade through in the hopeless desire to discover who speaks. And why do I feel bound by an equally difficult loyalty to also not print her name?


It isn’t as disconcerting to discuss the degree to which Bartleby articulates a social, aesthetic and philosophical crisis in Bartleby the Scrivener. By the story’s end, the Scrivener is, with Hamlet, sleeping with Kings and Counsellors. We come to realize that the narrator’s story is only the rustling of voices surrounding the body of the recently deceased. Bartleby’s revolution is, of course, the new thing, and not a simple matter of the master-slave dialectic, of bloody refusals and violent uprisings. There is only Turkey, Nippers, Ginger-Nut and himself. Bartleby’s revolution is of an American, or more accurately, capitalist reliance on the trope of preference. Readers are slowly teased along to believe that Bartleby has turned to Wall Street after a tenure in Washington D.C., working in a similarly cramped and dismal office where he was destroying, and perhaps—the narrator is almost sure of it—reading the dead letters sent to nonexistent, dead, unreachable recipients. Bartleby achieves tragic status twice over for the fact of this work: he is responsible for consigning hopes to the flames. Melodrama does no such thing. Ray Yarzejski picks up all these letters and drives out into the great rolling night. He will find the address. He will deliver the mail, no matter what.


And I’ll get on the bus, too, as I sincerely hope for the success of Pelton’s novella. These twin tales of scrivener and sportscaster have provided me an engaging diversion from my otherwise pressing household duties. I’m sending out my hopes for Bartleby, The Sportscaster in the name of Ecclesiastes Choate the one-legged wonder, and in the name of Jeff Huson, too: onetime utility player for the Montreal Expos, and now calling games for the Colorado Rockies.


Was it by chance? On my return from my meditations on the edge of the Narrows, Huson’s 1990 Upper Deck baseball card lay gingerly tipped on the edge of a sewer grate. Maybe it had fallen from the spokes of some young ballplayer’s bicycle. Putting baseball cards in the spokes is what we were. Riding along to the sweet clickity-clack of cardboard on metal, us boys once pedaled the streets and avenues in search of ice cream, a little illicit chewing tobacco, and for lovely Lisa to come play doctor and patient with us down under the bleachers.


Lord knows what we have become.


Go Cyclones!




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Douglas Manson is a writer in New York City. If you like this review, please buy Ted's book, and maybe even send Doug $10. Or ask him to become a full professor at your 4-year research institution, or to sign on as a salaried staff writer at your high-profile magazine or newspaper. And if you're beautiful and kind, go give him a hug and a kiss. He likes those, too.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Leslie Scalapino (1944-2010)

The Memorial for Leslie Scalapino on Monday at the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church was a wrenching, sad, but also incredibly loving collective expression of grief and elation. Though I never met her, she seemed to be everywhere Monday and Tuesday, especially in my thoughts, and as a kind of energy and force--so that my class today, beginning with Emily Dickinson's poem "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant--" became both a discussion and meditation about Truth, but as a truth of time and place, as I talked about the memorial and communities of poets. She was there as I announced the new, local, Queens Borough laureate, and we looked at reviews and the cover of Paolo Javier's 60 lv bo(e)mbs, which was published by the press she founded, O Books. But she was there, for me, in that I felt myself somewhere instead of nowhere. I was moved by the tributes and learned how she was both a serious Buddhist practitioner, and a dog telepath! She was a writer of inside and outside, of horizons and what they are and what they do. Inside and outside. "The poet has died, and the poems are born in the readers." --Charles Bernstein

Donations in her memory can be made to these funds :

Poets in Need, PO Box 5411, Berkeley, CA 94705; to Reed College for the Leslie Scalapino Scholarship, 3203 Southeast Woodstock Boulevard, Portland, OR 97202-8199; The AYCO Charitable Foundation, PO Box 15203, Albany, NY 12212-5203 for the Leslie Scalapino-O Books Fund to support innovative works of poetry, prose and art; or to a charitable organization of your choice.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Raucously Immoderate Blacklisted Fungal Oryx-Horn Tootles

Today is PLAY DAY. A rare moment between gigs, where I decide to cocoon it like beckham and hike the pristine Alps of all my undiscovered countries, where I regurgitate my true colors in the same way Alexander von Humboldt's pomeranian throw-pillow spits mysterious lyrics about Bulgarian bait shops. It's just like blogging from a shed in the Hudson Valley, except that now all its unlocked additional premium features are going live in real time. It's like Christmas in the Azores. It's all about getting old and bloated like 1975 Elvis and not being hot anymore. It's all about dispensing supplements rather than accepting nurturance.

Part One (for Jeff Beebe)

This one sat on the top of my stack the longest. Mir hinted that it was because the dragon-riding elf (sylph? succubus?) wasn't wearing pants, but I hadn't even noticed that fact until she did. I was happy the poet and publisher had such verisimilitudinous cojones to get all the fonts and stripes just right, and then I went all chaotic neutral on it:



As with my 18 and 19 year-old students, I had spacing issues with the poems on the inside, because Sakkis uses a lot of triple and quadruple-spacing for his 17-poem sequence. Even so, his lines, so spare, soi disant, are still funny. Teaser lines from "Gelatinous Cube": "when walking into the room/make sure to poke it with a stick/or you may end up/disgested/or maimed/with a Crip walk/like Charles Manson". For completed joke purposes, I include here the cover of the very module me and D&D pals Mir, Jaye and Atira tried to play last saturday:


As you can see, as much thought and energy went into the cover of Gary Gygax as went into the poems. Nonetheless, nostalgia and neuralgia points are awarded for making it to the top of the dogpile!!!

Part Two (for the Vandercook Snobs)

I begin to understand why visual appeal and design virtuosity make for successful book fair visits. My next offering comes from the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. The person at their table took the time to explain the amazingly complex process by which the book was made, and which I promptly forgot. I think lithography, post-raised reverse impressions and passes, and some fair amount of rubbing were used to create the drifting, cloud-like tenuousness of this cover. While the book-as-object itself sent me into a trance with its tactile, gentle feeling and modesty, the poems inside Museum Armor took me 3 to 4 readings before their chiseled subtexts bubbled forth like a clear spring of Helicon water.


Part Three (for the IO poetry journal)

This next piece is a postcard. I just picked it up off a table. I don't know if I was nice enough to talk to the person sitting at the table. My memory is vain, fickle, selective and basically crunk.

Apparently, this rare postcard (#18 of 30) is supposed to be treated in some way, given "extra-illustration" so it can appear in a chapbook. But I'm going to use it to send a request for poems to somebody named "Rootdrinker" who is also a Charles Olson fanatic. My apologies to Elsbeth. I was trying to think what a "rootdrinker" was or is, and then I decided he or she or it is a "beer drinker". Plus the book I get for sending the card to "drinker" has a poem by Hoa Nguyen in it.

Part Four (for Alice Cone)

This part is much more serious than Parts One to Three. One of the best conversations I had at the Chapbook Festival was with Alan Holder. He gave me what I think was his only copy of his book Mourning Sequence. It had some kind of oil stain radiating from the center. I left it in an unduly moist place in my house, and it was further damaged. It was published by Finishing Line Press, where my dear friend Alice published her book Shatter Blossom. I knew this was a halfway pay-to-play publishing concern, so I could see how much care was given to the text and cover by the poet himself.

A poem by Alan Holder:

NOW THAT YOU ARE GONE

Now that you are gone,
I must see for both of us
,
see leaves gallantly hanging on,
turned to gold by November's alchemy.

Now that you are gone,
I must hear for both of us,
hear the stately descending notes
at the start of the Largo in Handel's Xerxes.

Now that you are gone,
I must taste for both of us,
spoonful after spoonful of chocolate
almond ice cream, our favorite.

Now that you are gone,
I must smell and touch for both of us,
but since it is you I would smell, you I would touch,
what scent can I seek, what trace with these fingertips?

---
Part Five (for Gabrielle Bouliane)

At the end of the Chapbook Festival, a kind man at the next table gave me this book, a memoir, and it really impressed me, both in how it came into my possession, and by its completely unique narrative. I don't know if it's a sub-genre, but I'd never read a memoir by an artist/illustrator living in NYC who was into sado-masochism. I suppose I never looked very hard to find one. I appreciated the straightforward tone and the sometimes unintentionally ridiculous situations the author found herself in, but above all I came to admire the strength she showed in surviving horrible living conditions, scam artists, piecemeal and underpaid employment, and the two biggest municipal disasters of the aughts: the 9/11 attacks and hurricane Katrina.

Go Marrus!!



Come back around for Parts 6 to One Kajillion!

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Barbed and Stupid


Hi.

You are likely to be one of my 7 daily readers.

I'm probably either related to you or got all sweaty with you sometime in the near or distant past.

If you aren't one of these people, then welcome! I apologize for the sticky sweet intimacy of my greeting.

I'm tragically distractable. That's why my posts aren't as prosodically vitamin-packed and irradiated with x-ray infrared theory missiles as my confreres, peers and fellow pack-mules.

They call this an attention deficiency. I call it a tragically distractable mind.

Or maybe I have a hyper-acuity with no dissertation to write meta-order.

Wouldn't it be good to consider our distinctive pathologies meta-orders rather than a dis-orders? Maybe I write the kind of writing this text-box and the internet likes best. Or you.

I'm definitely NOT trying to sustain an elegant thought here.

Today At 4:00 p.m. a blue dodge pickup truck NY license plate DYB 1200 used a weapons-grade sound device (that really should be classified as a military weapon), in order to "honk" at a car in front of it on 3rd ave. at 77th street, while I was carrying my warm and clean towels home from the laundromat. I'm really scared that our society is in serious collapse, because some fat 20-year old dickhead can buy and install an ear-drum shattering device like that in his redneck pickup truck. As I turned the corner I looked back to see him smiling and laughing, while my eardrums felt like ripped shreds of tissue paper, and my head hurt.

Back when I thought I was going to be a life-long professor and poet, writing a book on Animals, Philosophy and Literature, a critical biography of Kenneth Patchen, maybe even a book on Ethics and Literature, I used to spend my sleepless anxiety-ridden nights wondering what was so wrong with me that I couldn't get a tenure-track position. Back then, I used to believe people when they told me, "oh, the job market is terrible right now."

It's only been in the last few months that it dawned on me that the ONLY people who would tell me this are either tenure-track or full-time professors. I sleep quite happily now. Usually. Yes, the job market is terrible, yes higher education is now exposed for the debt-and-indenture system it really is, and yes, universities gave me a purpose in life, introduced me to high literature and culture, and are the most thoroughly treasure-packed humanistic resources we have in our society.

About six weeks ago I wrote this:

"Whatever this spirit or style or mood may be, it's a good thing--something I may or may not be able to characterize in the near future. And now I'm afraid that today I'm going to be going around LOOKING for it, or something."

But really I was trying to describe the feeling of cumulative meaninglessness I experienced after speed-browsing about 50-60 poems at a book fair. When I said, "it's a good thing," I think I was just trying to be nice and accommodating. But I think what I felt was akin to what this author is trying to describe regarding "The Best" American poetry of 2009. I think I will be going around trying to AVOID it, or find something else. I think there's a meaning to meaning, even if Avital Ronell thinks "meaning" is a fascist plot.

I think I'm just feeling a little restless. Restless about a play I can and cannot write. Restless about planning and budgeting my next year as a publisher. Wondering if people can still get the kind of news from poetry that Dr. Williams was talking about. Feeling a little bit wedged between eras. My own eras, and what's wedged between my ears. What Robert Huillot-Kantor calls an emerging, "completely stupidifying situation". About the very real connections between a car horn that works like a bomb, the Eisenhower interstate system, the Gulf of Mexico turning into a tar blob puddle, and the kind of endless wars that I wish Orwell hadn't foreseen. The stupidity that I wish Kathy Acker hadn't foreseen as the way write in our era--to "write stupid," as she does so well in In Memoriam to Identity.

Okay, all I want to say is: we aren't such cheap goods. I hope you will kiss someone deeply and lovingly very soon. And I hope you will eat either dried or boiled seaweed, too. That stuff is amazing.

I promise I will wander the streets of Brooklyn and Queens all day today looking for my lost spiritual son, just like Leopold Bloom.

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