Monday, January 31, 2005

All Sleek and Skimming

I can now tell you that my partner, Lisa, has found a home for the anthology she's been working on for a few years now, which is tentatively entitled All Sleek and Skimming.* That home is Orca books. The anthology will combine stories written expressly for the young adult market and stories written with adults in mind but with teen appeal. Lisa hopes to encourage people and institutions to associate young adult literature with adult lit. rather than with children's. Makes sense, I think. But I'm biased.

Authors will include Sheila Heti, Derek McCormack, Lee Henderson, Gary Barwin, Tim Wynne-Jones, and Arthur Slade.

* The title is from a story by Susannah M. Smith.

Friday, January 28, 2005


Have meant to mention that I'm right into the fronticepiece of Hugh Thomas's chapbook, Mutations (BookThug 2004), which is based on a Tamari lattice. As a note in the back explains, "Tamari lattices arise in mathematics to describe various combinatorial object such as the triangulations of a polygon or, as here, the possible bracketings of [the string "why didn't you tell me," for example, "why (didn't (you (tell me)))"]. Wittgenstein's "In a sentence a word can be felt as belonging first with one word and then with another" leaps to mind.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Wednesday evening poem blogging

Ah, tired (and properly so)

Tread on me.
"That's fresh string,"
crooned Kenny Rogers
on that ol' shanty from
the sea, you know
the one about photocopiers?
I think it might be called
'AND architecture,' or
'if silver wants to be gold
will it turn green?'
Or maybe it was
'Captain Marmaduke
and the Pirates' Cove.'

Critical Tour

Bustle up and hustle a russ
the thistle that takes is a dance
bushward for cosmetics, free us
or let us die an original cake before
a farewell fleet of copies

Jason Christie, from The Bells (Wood & Coal, 2005)

From Excerpts from an Ongoing Narrative of Some Length


is as fizzy does, a bear on the other
side of the mountain, bitterly disappointed.
I'm not convinced these candidates exist,
let alone deserve Secret Service protection.
Long way to go. Just flip coins at forks in the road,
You Big Dope. Yeah, I've kept your promise right here.
Candidate sexist. Marmalade delicious. "Marmaduke"
still in the papers! Years later! Still stupid!
Not as good as "The Lockhorns," also
still there.

from 84.

You have taken all the fun from statistical
analysis with your constant harping upon the feral
children of Oregon. None of this gore will satisfy the audience
nor will this goon know what's good for it, feeding ore
unceasingly into the machine that refines it into equilateral
triangles. Grit and pluck will get you to Cleveland. Leave enough
fruit on the ground for the elves to survive another
purge. Peg the president hard, cover him with jelly, remove
the eyes and candy them for company. Pay up, no, mop more,
these linoleum floors are where our ancestors perished
so that we might be entertained. Train the pups to want you.
Hey, make mine thistle and strawberry, hold the sprinkles.
Know your trick's kink by the cut of his seersucker. Reek
of the wrong food. You will want to do good,
will want to help the world be all that it can
Be, an army of one big onion soup mix suddenly
available through the agency of World Bank-sponsored micro-loans.

Kevin Davies, in Tolling Elves no. 23

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Best Lex yet

Okay, they keep getting better. I expect at least one case of spontaneous combustion at the February event.

A memory-challenged report about Tuesday night:

Emily Schultz: Schultz began by reading from her own poems, the first of which was a response to a Charles Simic piece. All of her poetry, which I hadn't encountered before, seemed to locate itself in the region of Simic's surrealist-tinged lyricism. She followed with a selection from the anonymously authored Pocket Canon series, which she edits. This was a slightly shocking but, because of its friendly humour, ultimately charming piece about a priest having anal sex with a confessor. She closed with a reading, sans context, of the final page of her forthcoming novel, which tied up all loose ends nicely and brought us all back to the year 1990, one of my favourites and also the year I became a vegetarian. Or maybe it was 1989, which was the year I puked 11 pints of Guinness and a complementary Beam Me Up, Scotty all over the Poacher's sign.

Jordan Scott: Probably the most viscerally engaging reading I've ever heard, especially the latter half. Scott, a practitioner of the poetics of the stutter, seemed to form his words audibly and thereby gave us a glimpse of the space where body and language meet. As a fan of poetry that reveals its material support, I am a fan. He began with a reading from his New Star book, Silt, and then treated us to a sampling of his current work, which delighted in words that are difficult for him to pronounce.

Jason Christie and Frances Kruk: The Calgary tag team, perhaps prompted by the debate arising from derek bealieu's Speakeasy talk on the small press, presented the notion of the gift and in fact took turns handing out gift boxes. They began with a duet meditation and then broke off into solo pieces, with Christie reading some of his characteristically disjunctive, incisive and well-disposed work and Kruk performing some edgy-sensuous spoken word.

Open Michelle participants: Charlie Huisken (read from an author I didn't know but should have: Allan Kaprow?), Neil Hennessy (reenactment of his interview with William S. Burroughs, with Burroughs played by a sock puppet, then a reading of Jesse Huisken's work), Jay MillAr (a stunning new poem of his own followed by a bpNichol bedtime reading), Sandra Alland (a manipulation of a Beckett text and a slang translation thereof), Kyle Buckley (what did he read? his own work? some invented poet? Jesse Huisken? it was good anyway), Aaron Giovannone (a Pier Giorgio Di Cicco poem and then his own).

Highlights: Definitely the heckling, which became at times a veritable symphony of jabs and eggings on by Kyle Buckley (brass), Neil Hennessy (strings), and co-host Bill Kennedy (timpani). Oh yeah, and Branson Missouri vs. A Yankee Discovers Australia.

Check out John Barlow's review and Sharon Harris's photos and videos. Also, Karen Sohne's photos.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

But of course we are all toast.
Then again, it's possible to choose not to die.
In the symmetrical environment of the 70-foot long cylindrical Architectural Body entitled Ubiquitous Site (1992-1994), now an essential part of the Nagi Museum of Contemporary Art in Japan, the central notion, once again, is the possibility for the proprioperceptive self to supplant identity (189) as the visitor who enters the symmetrically organized cylindrical building--having lost its balance and traditional bearings--is invited to cast the little that remains of its identity as a person, outside itself, thereby coordinating with an architectural body that seems to exist both within and outside the bounds of subjectivity (since for Arakawa and Gins the body of a visitor cannot be separated from the space occupied by it). Such a notion becomes directed towards the blurring of boundaries between traditional divisions between past, present and future, as well as between self and community ('Beginning,' 'past,' 'future,' 'I,' 'me,' and 'you,' the artists write, are all words that have no place in this process. They are superfluous [189]) and, ultimately, life and death as the avowed desire of the artists is to escape the mortal condition [LINEBREAK interview]).

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Visual grammar

I guess what strikes me about Geof Huth's post on visual grammar is that, contrary to my focus, it deals with a visual representation of grammar: tense, and so time, is transposed to a visual plane. While I tend to think of grammar spatially, I usually think in terms of the space immanent to the material text itself: for instance, I've developed a small obsession with the appositive because I see it is a point where grammar and the material bleed together: the grammatical parallel is mirrored by a material besideness: "Mary, my sister, is...." I am also, to give more examples, fascinated by the repulsion the a's in the "mistake" "a answer" enact and by the attraction that nouns and verbs have on each other even when separated by other words. I think, by contrast, Huth's poem moves toward finding a grammar of space (in which, for instance, left becomes past). The inversion this encourages (the grammar of space instead of the space of grammar) feels a bit like an opening door to me. It makes me wonder what other inversions are out there waiting.

Lexiconjury Tonight

I'm thinking about Geof Huth's post on visual grammar. Maybe I'll write something about it soon (too cold to think now). But first, from the desk of Angela Rawlings:

get ready to stoke your inner fires and snuggle in for a night you won't forget, folks. tonight's lex is hott (yes, with two t's). we've got the smokin' emily schultz, who's been warming up her muscles so she can teach the calgary contingent how a viennese waltz is REALLY done. we've got jordan scott, who's flabbergasted by the toronto mountains; he had no idea we have mountains in toronto!! and then there's jason christie and frances kruk, who are planning a charming rendition of "A Very Merry Unbirthday To You."

so grab your loved ones and head down to the cameron house (408 queen st. w., backroom) around 8pm where we'll get our collective freaks on.


Saturday, January 15, 2005


By "bend" I mean "lean back." Sorry for any confusion.

Friday, January 14, 2005

An important hygiene tip for non-confessional poets

It is important to rinse your navel each time you shower. It's amazing how quickly soap residue will collect there, especially if you use that pure glycerin stuff from the Big Carrot. In order to rise properly, you may have to bend slightly, or, if you're lucky enough to have a "telephone" showerhead, you can direct the spray as needed. Just standing there will not cut it.

This is not a metaphor. I mean it straight up.
"The line is the means to focus, ... says 'how' we are to weight the various things we are told." Thought voiced and/or in the mind.

Creeley quoted in Eigner, "Arrowhead of Meaning" (emphasis in original)

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Just realizing that my post on lit blogs below is in places clearly the product of a sleep-deprived mind. A warning to readers: I am a chronic insomniac.

Rob Read reads

Rob Read's and Anthony Metiver's performance last night was truly troubadouric in its realization of Read's revisiting and revisioning of the lyric in 18 Full English Breakfasts. Read read with an impressive mix of earnestness and humour, straightbacked and clear voiced, while Metiver played a distorted guitar, sometimes with a slightly Baroque* flourish and occasionally accompanying himself on bongos. A highlight for me was a nearly full-on metal rendition of the cuckoo translation below. I say "nearly full-on" because from where I was sitting the mix of guitar and voice was balanced perfectly for a reading, with vocals clear and just in the forefront, though at one point an audience member perhaps not as well seated got up to fiddle with the knobs on Read's amp. Except for one exceedingly long intro (intentional judging by the smiles Read and Metiver exchanged) the pacing was perfect to allow the listener a moment to think between pieces, while maintaining momentum. The duo also treated the audience to samples of Read's Treated Spam project.

Most, I was struck by what I perceived as Read's and Metiver's awareness of history, both its continuities and discontinuities. I enjoyed the reading tremendously.

In the audience (is this ethical? an invasion of privacy? a useful form of documentation?): John Barlow, Neil Hennessy, Marshall Hryciuk, Karen Sohne(?), Paul Dutton, Steve McCaffery, Karen Mac Cormack, among about 20 others.

* Correct me if I'm wrong; I am no music historian.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Lit blogs

On the day I first encounter mention of an "A-list of lit bloggers," I also happen upon the following in Josh Corey's response to Houlihan's latest swipe:

Those who get enough of [the education necessary to read an organic poem, i.e., a poem in which all of the parts are subordinated to the whole] by luck or diligence or fortunate class position (a few people are still privileged enough to get genuine liberal arts educations in this country) might then be satisfied with the pleasure they are able to obtain from organic poems whose range of reference (or again context or whatever) they are now equipped to interact with. It's a smaller minority still who continue their education into the greater difficulties (and more sophisticated pleasures) of the nonorganic, and who have the corresponding willingness to "be modern," which means to accede to their limited and limiting position in a culture which marginalizes and represses any practice capable of putting that culture's values into serious question.
I see an incredible and wide-ranging effort from Silliman on down to disseminate the education of desire, to teach, to turn against all odds their privately obtained education back into the public thing, the res publica, that it was always meant to be. That's why there's such a strong emphasis on community among post-avant writers and that's why poets-as-teachers* is a positive good and not something to be lamented. And that's why I celebrate blogging as a means not only of providing more direct access to writers for more people than has ever been possible before, but as means of narrowing the gap between "reader" (one who passively receives) and "writer" (who thinks/creates). As I've said before, my utopia of poetry is a world where EVERYONE is a poet, in which all voluntarily assume the pains and pleasures that come with the highest possible sensitivity to language.

Beautiful. (The rest of the response is good reading, too.) So, I ask somewhat rhetorically, why the need for an A-list?

* Corey doesn't mention the idea that the teachers are learning as well, that this part of the blogosphere seems to function at its best as a kind of open, self-directed seminar (or, better, a group of interlinked ones), but I imagine he would agree.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Kenneth Goldsmith on boredom

Check this out if you haven't already. If you have, I guess you'll find this post boring. Boring boring.

Notes on Some Mariners

As I begin Stacy Szymaszek's Some Mariners, some impressions:

James: Interesting that while James is a character in the referential sense, his name also appears as an acrostic and below some of the book's translations. An explicit distribution of identity through various elements of language — referential, material, intertextual — including the author.

Sound: Each poem a drama of sound:

spirited tars brawl sunward

one holds a reptile egg

who is too pretty to smack

holds the egg to the sun's

thermal bottom

One or more L's characterize (at least for me) each line but one, which ends with the poem's only k, a moment of violence.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Destroyer's* Your Blues: early Portastatic meets Andrew Lloyd Webber? Aggh. Googled, and it's been said before. Well, the Webber bit anyway.

*Relaunch Radio 3 and then look at the menu.

More on contranyms

Karl Abel (1884) quoted in Freud's "The Antithetical Meaning of Primal Words":

Now in the Egyptian language, this sole relic of a primitive world, there are a fair number of words with two meanings, one of which is the exact opposite of the other. Let us suppose, if such an obvious piece of nonsense can be imagined, that in German the word “strong” meant both “strong” and “weak”; that in Berlin the noun “light” was used to mean both “light,” and "darkness"; that one Munich citizen called beer “beer,” while another used the same word to speak of water.
But Egypt was anything but a home of nonsense. On the contrary, it was one of the cradles of the development of human reason.

Okay, let's cleave to this idea for a minute.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Tomorrow: back to poetry.

Big music day

Lisa blew the gift certificate she got from her dad and picked up

Destroyer, Your Blues
A.C. Newman, The Slow Wonder
Neko Case, The Tigers Have Spoken
Stereolab, Margerine Eclipse

She is letting me listen, and so far I'm digging Destroyer and A.C. Newman. We haven't gotten around to Stereolab, and I'm not sure about Neko Case.

Since I've been right into Peter Brotzmann's Die Like a Dog Quartet, I figured I should check out Albert Ayler Live in Greenwich Village. Yes.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Saturday afternoon poem blogging

This Form

This form expresses now.
At other times other forms.
Now, this form.
This form seems effective now.
It is monotonous, crude.
It may be called "primitive."
A primitive form.
No form, a lack of form.
Nevertheless, it expresses.
It is expressive now.
At other times other forms.
This form now. Expressive now.

W.W.E. Ross (1930)

Saturday morning poem blogging

I know this is the poem from Rob Read's 18 Full English Breakfasts (Wood & Coal 2004) that everyone talks about, but I want to share it with you in case you haven't had a chance to read it. It's a translation of an anonymous Middle English lyric.

Summer's comin'
lewd cuckoo
grow up seeds & bloodweed
and spring up rude new.
Sing cuckoo.

Awe beats after lamb
lewd after calf cow
bull starts up; buckfart.
Movie song cuckoo
cuckoo cuckoo
well-singed cuckoo;
Newsweek is never new.

Apologies for the wide leading. I'm still figuring this HTML stuff out.

Rob will be reading with musical accompaniment at the Timothy's at Bay and College this Wednesday, the 12th, at 7:30.

This poem also appears in Jay MillAr's and Jon Paul Fiorentino's answer to the Breathing Fire anthology, Pissing Ice (BookThug 2004).

More on 18 Full English Breakfasts soon.

Friday, January 07, 2005

The kinetics internal to the sentence or phrase. The spaces opened or closed. The referring back and forth. The valuing of these dynamics themselves.

Later: And valuing their tendency to disrupt.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

How much is enough?

In his essay "Dilemmas by Their Horns," Larry Eigner writes, "Enough and few enough words from how many," placing his minimalist approach in the context of the language around him, in the context of the social. "There's enough language around (me) so listening gets harder and harder and then impossible, quite a barrier to being adequate," a difficulty Eigner experienced urgently and acutely due to his cerebral palsy (attention difficulties are often associated with CP).

This reminds me of Bill Kennedy's Word essay a while ago in which, if I'm remembering correctly, he suggests that one of poetry's contemporary roles might be to allow a space for focus in this age of rapidly multiplying information.

I've suspected for a while that all poetry is to some degree "found." I think Lee Ann Brown talks somewhere about looking at a dictionary and thinking about all the poems in it.* Of course finding these poems involves much cutting away, much discarding of potential material. Is it possible, then, to think of writing as a negative art and about minimalism** as an extreme form of this?

* One of the things about Christian Bök's Eunoia that I find most interesting is its predetermined lexicon, the fact that it identifies its material as a subset of available words and thus consciously acts out what all writers do unconsciously through their necessarily limited vocabularies.

**Okay, so maybe I'm starting to accept this label I've been stuck with. No.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

People seem to be ending up here as a result of the Coach House mass e-mailing. If you've come directly from Silliman's blogroll and are looking for the review, it's here.
Take Two

Sometimes it's difficult — or impossible — to say anything, to get beyond the very materiality of language. And that's not a complaint. Maybe it's a description of a form of joy.

If only it were that easy

Which is not to say that perception is uncomplicated or that it isn't determined by one's reading strategies (which are of necessity, and maybe thankfully, limited). Or that it isn't useful to subject a book to readings that it doesn't explicitly solicit.

All that stuff.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


As I think about the reviews I am going to write, the following appears on Jonathan Mayhew's blog:

My strategy for reviewing is to perceive the book in as precise a way as possible rather than to praise or dispraise. The praise or dispraise, such as it is, should arise organically out of the perception.

These words are most welcome.

Some other ideals I hope to keep in mind:

1. I will try to discover the book's terms (i.e., its understanding or vision of what poetry is and how it can function) and discuss it in light of them.

2. I will remember that a review is not an entry in a consumer's guide but a discussion that hopes to contribute to understanding.

3. I will resist the impulse to use often empty terms like "good,""bad" and "well-written" and I will ensure that valuative judgments are accompanied by an explanation of the assumptions on which they are based and a justification of the appropriateness of these assumptions given the text under hand.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Wabi-Sabi London

Lisa J. (as opposed to Lisa H., who is my partner; let's get things straight) reports from London.

Happy New Year, Lisa and Thomas.

Reading list 1

Group A (one at a time)

Eigner, Larry. areas / lights / heights
Benveniste, Emile. Problems in General Linguistics
Blanchot, Maurice. The Space of Literature
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations (second attempt, after being interrupted)

Group B (ongoing in the background)

Zukofsky, Louis. "A" (reread)

Group C (finishing what I've started; one at a time)

Szymaszek, Stacy. Some Mariners
Thomas, Hugh. Mutations
Read, Rob. 18 Full English Breakfasts
MillAr, Jay. ESP: Accumulation Sonnets
Prize Budget for Boys. Spectacular Vernacular Review

Group D (for reviews; likely on days off)

Ball, Nelson. At the Edge of the Frog Pond
—. With Held
—. The Concrete Air (reread)
—. Almost Spring (reread)
—. Force Movements (reread)
—. Pre-linguistic Heights (reread)
(plus anything else by Ball that I can get my hands on)


"We are estranged from that with which we are most familiar."
Of course it's also important to remain open to calls. Case in point: Jay's ESP: Accumulation Sonnets (BookThug 2004), which I've been flipping through recently, realizing that the book relates directly (as much of Jay's work does) to some of the thinking I've been doing about form.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Yes. Maybe. Form of the site. Form of the reading plan. Form of the approach to reading. Form of reading. Form of thinking. Form of living. Form of the approach to writing.

Not necessarily in that order.

Form of the poem somewhere in there.


1. Stop the Internet. Okay, more like don't get up and surf every time I wonder what the weather's like in Milwaukee today. Make my time online more concentrated and productive.

2. Finish more books. These resolutions are all about focus. No more drifting when someone mentions a book that sounds absolutely necessary and vital. I will just add it to my list and get to it when I finish what I'm currently reading.

3. Contribute more to my community, poetic and otherwise. Go to more readings and write about them. Review books and chapbooks. Work on BafterC. Think seriously about starting a reading series. Build bridges not walls. Go to some of those dorky sounding community meetings.

4. Redesign my Web site. Make it more useful to me and to others. Integrate my blog and the book site. Use my site to plan my reading, etc., and to share it with others.

That's it. Or at least that's all I'm posting here. I figure I have a better chance of upholding my resolutions if I make a reasonable number of them.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Of course, it's also good to keep in mind the hermeneutic circle, which applies, I think, to the notion of open poetic form.

(Nothing lasts forever, sure thing, or for ages, and it's a question how much can or should anything last or occupy attention. A single line can register as a poem, monostich, the line "break" take effect from the practice of poetry.)

There doesn't have to be anything like padding anywhere at all, when there's no metre or regular rhyme, and a piece of language in verse, measured, deliberated, can really be a stretch, process of thinking, one thought really attained, in a second or longer time, leading to another, a math of everyday life, penetrating or anyway evaluative, the line (/)- or stanza (//)-break providing a means of assessment, the stress it can give in the absence of obscuring metre, a regular beat. The line is a typographical device as much as a comma or colon, after all, as is indentation, lacuna too. A thing can be overemphasized, made too much of, yet it seems that, ultimately, one is as important as any other, there's no hierarchy, so evaluation or assessment amounts to realization.

Larry Eigner, "not/forever/serious," quoted in Robert Grenier, "Realizing Things"

Also, the space in which the line appears. And, maybe, reading backwards and forwards (i.e., leaving aside payoff), the space and spaces within the line. The movements and reverberations. The role of the "break" in creating this space.

Happy New Year journaling

Lil' sister came to stay. Thursday night, saw Death from Above 1979. Friday, the Ken Lum and Emma Kay shows at the Power Plant.