Saturday, August 29, 2009

sometimes you hafta

sometimes you just hafta to say what the fuck, and when you get done getting mad at everyone else around you, you turn around and see what it is you got spinning on the karma wheel and somehow somehow somehow begin to get the joke that is your life, when compared to the ideal image you formed of it when your were ten years old.

so you're one of these thousands of creative souls who decided to believe the hype about the pursuit of happiness and in the meantime took odd jobs and grabbed hold of bits and ends of the roots of the tree of life or even quite luckily saw the great sweet million-colored blossom way up there in the canopy and began the climb and after exhaustion and a million scratches reached up and looked in and there in the petal cup was a pool of dried sap and all these dead scraggy bees and flies, and all the nectar gone baby gone.

and when you realize you have this kind of woodsman dimension to yourself but you're not very handy with the saw or bow and that you're far too inattentive to the here and now to ever make devoted love offerings to the various gorgeous kind women who love you in ways that say to you both stay near and here i lay out sweet decades of surety and security, except for the fact that your watusi and merengue are good enough for a few passes across the ballroom parquet but there's this little tremble in your step and you seem exhausted these days straight from the getgo, i mean, really, brother.

the former landlady won't release the deposit and the cheapest place to live looks good but puts you way out in the suburbs and nobody reminds you of anybody you used to know, and you have to learn your own language all over again plus two or three others that you know nothing about, and everyone's asking "are you a city person?" and "are you a city person?" and you try to say "yes yes of course" even though you feel like a sailboat out on wide sargasso seas of just you, a seagull, a sunset, a porpoise and a bit of kelp, well, then you think about what a good time it would be to have just a fifth of whiskey and some easy horny women with come hither manners in a relatively free loving zone for a day or two at least.

and your most beloved beloved one won't let you make big dinners for her anymore and you want to hold her close in the thunderstorm and see what she had to say about the fog-shrouded mega-opolis blinking a mile from a fifth-story roof where you're holding hands and you can hear her heart beating fast in sweet expectation and you just said the most amazing words of devotion, but then you get hit with this sharp-toothed "you're smothering me" childhood hangup overdrive that makes you wish you were a merman and had a secret underwater hangout with cool glow-globes and every time you wanted you could just jump in any body of water or toilet and swim there, where all the rest of your friendly sea-monster family and friends were waiting with delicious mango-juices and nothing but funny jokes and everybody just tickling each other's ribs.

But no, there's this drag of time and you sense yourself instead of a light easygoing child of intricate and hilarious diversion a poor struggling poet with a bit of a chip on his shoulder and lowest common denominator expectations because even you yourself had let people down, and then they, the people you loved, let you down, and then you realized nobody was as strong as you thought they were, and it makes it harder to trust and love someone unconditionally, but you were even on top of that supposed to, like, atone for all their crimes as well as your own, you said: WOAH, what is this? and perhaps just want to hum a single syllable for three days as a way of making sure something would persist and stop for just a few restorative minutes to give you a breathing space instead of the constant wailing deafening stereo music weapons or even actual weapons, and you stop wondering what they seem to be fighting over because they simply just like to fight and it fits the weird evolutionary jinx they want to fantasize about and gives them something to be proud of since all the good seats have been mooched. OUCH, you say, and then they say "well, just get used to it" so that something positive comes of it anyway, maybe. and even though they aren't always worth trusting you just love 'em though from a sort of window seat and not fully up close enough to get the full smell of it, life and sweat, and they're just as likely to turn their backs on you as surprise you with sweet attention and loving cupcake devotion after all.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Two Books by Jerome Rothenberg

Poems For The Millennium Volume Three: The University of California Book of Romantic & Postromantic Poetry. Edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Jeffrey C. Robinson. 928 pp. 2009.

Jerome Rothenberg. Poetics & Polemics 1980-2005. essays and interviews. Co-edited with Steven Clay. University of Alabama Press. 2008.

Jerome Rothenberg’s commitment to literary and ritual traditions is both conflictual and creative. One the one hand, his scores of literary anthologies, which he calls “manifesto-anthologies” (influenced by the groundbreaking book The New American Poetry of 1960), have been published with regularity over the past forty years. Each book indicates his desire to break up conventional and neatly-packaged historical eras that usually come down to us as textbook summaries of entire bodies of thought. He does this in what he considers one of his central tasks as a poet—to gather, edit, and comment on arrangements of poems into “Galleries,” “Books,” “Preludes” and “Manifestos” in order to show us the still-unknown multitudes of cultural poetic forms (ritual, theatrical, musical and scientific) which do not typically qualify as poems for us. For Rothenberg, a poem is a work of writing more comprehensive than our specialized, compartmentalized ideas about a work of art: it something that gives us, in compact form, information and insight on the endeavors and emotions of entire societies. On the other hand, Rothenberg views the collection, editing, and presentation of historical authors as a revolutionary act—which means bridging the distances separating languages, by translating into English many passionate & expressive forms specific to single groups and places (even nations) and counteracting the deteriorating effects of time with the invocation of the creative act—foundational acts (as ever-repeatable dramas) that serve as origins. This is a revolution of relations: showing the reader how a sequence of poems/poetic texts reflects a continuum of practices that are akin as well as kind to one another.

These two new volumes continue his own personal traditions while playing his grand game of mind expansion and historical reframing: the anthology (co-edited with poet and Romantic scholar Jeffrey C. Robinson of the University of Colorado) is a refreshment of poets who define our sense of the Romantic: Goethe, Shelley, Lord Byron, Wordsworth, Hugo and Nerval. Included with these poets are sections of Asian poets, Outsider poets, poets questioning and redramatising the creation of the world or its loss of divinity, and aesthetic/political manifestos. The editors’ choices from famous poets aren’t based at all on the “canon” of key texts; they have searched through the full collections of the author’s writings in order to find more experimental forms; the kind of writing that, in the twentieth century, moved from a kind of marginal, discredited status to the center of serious critical and intellectual study. While there are expected excerpts from major authors, like Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” there are also examples from diaries, daily journals and notes, poems suppressed or unpublished by their authors, and the kind of poems that reflect the noisy, violent, sexually explicit, ridiculously fantastic and hallucinatory side of romanticism. As a presentation of Romantic literature, Rothenberg and Robinson’s unique itinerary through the nineteenth century serves as a kind of pre-face (or “book of origins”) to the modernist and postmodernist poetry that appeared in the first two volumes of Poems for the Millenium (published in 1995 and 1998), in which the avant-garde movements of the twentieth century, from Dada and Surrealism to Concrete and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry, are covered.

Rothenberg’s new volume of essays covers twenty-five years of his critical and editorial writing after 1980. As he says in an interview: “The impulses of what we do as poets and artists go back to ancient sources in religion and ritual.” If the poets he promotes take their “impulses” from these sources, we can see that his collaborations with other editors have enabled a kind of unique synthesis of the radical dimension of western poetry in the first two “big” Poems for the Millennium books of modern/postmodern poetry with his own life-long project in worldwide ethnopoetics and comparative religion. Poetics & Polemics features many public lectures and essays that explain these two central activities: to present to English readers the works of other cultures’ poetic ritual, storytelling and comedic arts, and to rethink the kind of knowledge readers gain through poetry by creating collections of enormous scope and variety. As he states in an interview: “What Pierre Joris and I valued most in the poetry of our time had been almost systematically omitted from, or marginalized in, the anthologies and literary histories then current. The mix of poetry and poetics was something we worked to bring out—and the sense of poetry being the center of a program, a proposition or a set of propositions working in the public sphere.”

Given the broad disclosures in his Poetics & Polemics, readers will better understand Rothenberg’s bent for the startlingly unfamiliar and noncanonical side of Romanticism, one that embraces tribal, athiest, street-level and antinomian inflections. Since the 1950s, academic romanticism has been walled in by ideas such as “the man of feeling,” “romantic suicide”, “the fatal woman”, and “the metaphysical quester”; and then, when pushed through the 1970s meatgrinder of theory, further dehydrated by supplementarity, substitution, metaphysical closure, paradoxical foldings and force-fields of textuality and ideology. While we still have a hangover from those earlier times in our notion of “the outsider”, Rothenberg remains a critical editor suspicious of such ideas, since it is on the outside of literature where “the bulk of poetry is written—or spoken & memorized—or where works of language are created that do what poetry does but without a claim to being poetry as such.” Rothenberg’s anthologies are critically important for readers today because they strain incessantly against what an anthology is typically designed to produce: a compact closure of an era, identity, locale or spirit within an editorial framework of cold analysis and partiality. Rothenberg and Jeffrey C. Robinson’s romanticism is instead as anxious for the twentieth century as George Lucas’ last three Star Wars films were anxious for what happened before them in our history, but took place after them in their history. In poetry-land this means the first two volumes of Poems for the Millennium: “from Fin-de-Si├Ęcle to Negritude” and “From Postwar to Millenium”. The patchwork rattletrap Millennium Falcon is once again on a new mercenary voyage from outworld to outworld, harrassing the Dark Empire with it cargo of exotic spices and glimmers of vast occulted traditions. Buy this book. Read the poems. Skim through these brief interludes, and watch the stars blur like retinal burns every time you turn the page. Listen closely enough, and after each little excerpt newly unearthed from the archives of this or that iconic or neglected figure, you may almost hear: “Punch it, Chewie!!”

Sunday, August 23, 2009

signal :: breaking up :: at any point :: sound ages

breaking sudden broadcast
amend propose and wed
deep analytic need
from all (to fail
to all due regard
in geste where
the pain crackled
temple to temple
i read there
notes on p.o.d
positive enjoyment
that lichen
sprung from a hole
or wholes
stitched up in listing
monostichic tonal drifts
in snowy deeps
our own black trails
betoken linear frays
to set the self abash
in tides or tricks
of the velcro eye
to catch at the always
stream of cast off
washing through and blue
their ostensibly generous minds


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

volts in molds make tinny trades amongst molecules

a kind of sugary ooze slicks these midaugust dense-sweat agonized self-shoeboxing summer grease is the word wallows, one that only a burning beam refracted from an all-concrete environ melting dead desires into complete jello failures of all formely-working vocabularies and appeals could appreciate. Out of this wispy pudding of joyless crumb-scatter some kind of acetate spore has percolated into my emails and is haunting a blind man's larynx way way out on a mossy pier, and not having any other way to answer to it, I send it your way. It's a song that a friend of my nephew's babysitter wrote. If you listen to it, you might envision a room in a bland building with 95 degree fahrenheit smog permeating every corner and pore of its windowless sound booth. At least that's what I think of when I hear it. Some kind of wolf-of-bitter-disposition tearing at a dead rabbit's heart. Or no, maybe not: you might think its the most beautiful sunset you've ever heard crashing headlong into a glitter factory.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Poetics

There is one element of poetry that I see has remained unchanged over the past thirty years, and that is fundamentally important to my writing and other activities as a poet. There is a confluence, one that may be hotly contested, of the receptivity that goes by the name of the humanist, creative and writerly activity, and the experimental modes of avant-garde poetics that work by formal invention. In Poetry, and particularly in my own work, this confluence appears more and more in terms of various developments of conceit. I mean by conceit that poetry is result of a mental activity, in addition to the writer and reader’s sense that a poem is an elaborately figurative form of cultural communication.

Whether that conceit has to do with, on the one hand, an image of the poet's subjectivity and deep epiphanic evocation, or is an announcement and foregrounding of the artificiality, discursive privilege and tyranny of language over individual intentions on the other, the making of the poem nevertheless retains conceited notions of its specific activity, makes for itself a distinct function and purpose in the more diffuse life of the language(s) it participates in. Even if the poem's intention or performance is to quicken the crisis of representation, thwart its assumed transparency, or exist at the level of disarticulated language-substance, it cannot shake off its status as art. It can be accidental just as much as it is architectural, but the poem, through all of its special stagings, techniques and introductory fanfare, makes its designations and amplifications felt by way of the distinct attention it draws to modes of communicability. This is an aspect of its medium, of it mediums (humming), and its mediations of our recognition, our ability to recognize and desire. It functions, operates, and inquires by use of the conceit: the cilia of antennae that test the receptivity and communicability of various modes of figurative perception. It bugs us.

I sense that a lot of the fineness in poetry's evaluative overtures are lost in the abrasive and pornographic gratification that overwhelms our public word-transport systems (of which Flarf poetry is one form of protest-by-glut and oversaturation). Poetry tests the social axioms (of economy, of truth-conditions, or acceptable modes of speech) for flexibility and integration, and as it reconfigures points of convergence or levels of perceptual capability, it determines the degree of the community's openness and responsiveness by these very permutations of truth-conditions and economies. The necessity of furtive travel in dark alleyways and altering of terrain by way of conceit doesn't necessitate the building of an exotic Poetry Preserve in which to house the menagerie of wordy evolution's fantastic creations, or by which to corral its wildness for the big-game sharpshooters of editing and criticism, but the fact that poets and poetic activity exist in tenuous relationships with large subsidized institutions and other philanthropic entities doesn't diagnose the artform as too weak for an "open" market, but reveals the paucity of the "market-friendly" forms of activity permissible to our regulated communities.

Once upon a time I attempted to use the conceits of mobility, motility, and the machinic, in the attempt to convey a certain dismay with the culture of the sports/utility vehicle, and to address the urgent demand for new desiring iconographies and spatialities, our access to them, and the movement into and between them. This was a vehicle for the use of language, in its going out, its coming and returning--seeing exactly where a fascination with high-speed mobility, rapacious consummation/abandonment and the territorial consumerism so central to my upbringing and society met the desire for an end to strip-mall convenience and urban expansion. This resulted in certain disinvestments of the "open-road" philosophy, without giving up the joy of the stroll, the amble, and forgotten qualities of the abiding. Poetry shouldn't have to make new roads: it should grow new feet. Since then, along my zig-zag travels, I have been obsessed by sleep, waking and the necessity of house and home:

where o where does one lay this weary burden down,

and who will build me up anew come morning.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Of Place

a note to announce that the press has moved to brooklyn new york after many many years in buffalo. hello brooklyn!! of course, i don't have an actual letterpress, or a mimeo machine, but i do have two computers, a scanner and a black and white printer. as the huge cloud of dust raised by the move has yet to settle, it will be a few weeks before any new writing, publishing and other worthwhile activity will get underway. and i've pulled a few of my more recent posts after realizing they were a bit backhandedly whiney, along with some photos of myself that i think were less flattering than cool. i'll be teaching classes this fall, which will be a very welcome change and afford me a great chance to make a new start.

coming up in September i'll be taking part in the ever-growing Welcome to Boog City annual reading and small press book fair at Unnameable Books, where i hope to meet lots and lots of writers and publishers. right now the schedule is huge and not yet posted in full, so I'll send more details in a few days. it was this very event last year that sparked the idea, and stoked the fires, that eventually encouraged me to move here. O my. what a great place!