Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Be After C

Hello, peeble. I've more or less got the poetry set for the first issue of BafterC, the magazine I'm editing with Jay. This will likely be a bit of a solo issue editing-wise (not content-wise), because everyone wants to be Ace Frehley at least once.

While the poetry is there, I'm still looking for reviews, notes, essays, book lists, other lists, rants, questions, etc. If you've got something or if you can cook something up, please let me know. I'd like the mag to contribute to some form of dialogue.

Also, send visual work to DfB.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Another reason to think the people running our province are idiots.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Going on a field trip for a few days. We'll see about posting.

Stay cool.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

I've been tightening up my review riposte, which I admit I fired off in a bit of a fury. Please reread it if you found it confusing intially. It probably makes a little more sense, especially paragraphs 2 and 3. Now that I've had time to think, this has been a great opportunity to get some things down.

And the review raises a few honest and general questions. For instance: What would be wrong with doodling anyway?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The following from Mel Bochner's review of Donald Judd's Complete Writings reminds me of some recent murmurs in the poetry community:
Oddly enough, at a time that witnesses an almost blind fetishism of the art of the late '60s and early '70s, there seems to be a general agreement that little remains worth arguing about. The trough is big enough for all the hogs.

But even if the increase in the number of artists and opportunities makes it seem like that there is plenty to go around, something still seems to be missing. One can hear it in all the verbal hand-wringing about the state of contemporary art. Is it only nostalgia for the "good old days," or does so much that is being done now lack either passion or purpose? The old guys (and I guess that means me, too) may have been cranky, but at least we went at it tooth and nail, as if our lives depended on it. Something real was at stake.
And this bit is pretty funny:
A good many of the reviewers of that time came from literary backgrounds, usually the New York School of poetry, which showed up in their exaggerated claims and overripe metaphors. In art school in the late '50s, we played a game, reading reviews aloud from the latest issue of Art News and trying to guess who the subject was. I can still remember one: "X dumps live chunks of landscape steaming hot into the gallery." (Give up? Helen Frankenthaler.)
In related news and on the other hand, there's an interesting discussion in the comments field of Ron Silliman's latest post, the latter which, incidentally, mentions Rob Read's Daily Treated Spam.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

If there is any doubt that Jon Paul Fiorentino and I are really the same person, this should dispel it. We got the first bad reviews of our current books on (roughly) the same day, and they're close to home: his in his hometown newspaper and mine on a website bearing the name of the closest major street to where I live.

I don't feel too bad about this review. The reviewer, John Baglow, clearly has a blind spot, and it's a common one: he seems to think that the point of a poem should necessarily be outside it, that the language itself isn't part of the world in which poems participate. The first sign of this problem is in his sloppiness in transcribing my poetry (and I'm assuming he's the one who did it; apologies if this isn't true): The poem "Fuck" has a capital letter at the beginning and a period at the end; that is, it is marked as a sentence, and it alludes to, among other things, sentences and their grammar. In fact, the poem engages a special kind of sentence. In the construction it employs, the "is" isn't a verb but is in fact a "copula" (from the Latin for "fasten," which, yes, is the root of our "copulate"). I don't expect the reader to know this, but I think the term is somewhat descriptive, and a reader who pays attention to the language and how it's functioning, to this strange sentence as a sentence, will be able to sense this: two somewhat self-problematizing terms are being joined by what looks like a verb but in fact isn't (there's a little joke in there somewhere). Moreover, and I suspect Baglow realizes this (and I suspect that this is the reason for his dismissing the poem), the sentence is fucked: the two terms as they stand can't comfortably be equated (but of course they can be equated, as this poem shows, thanks to the copula and because language is a strange thing).

And I don't mean this poem to be some hermetic word puzzle. I think there are further implications, but, ultimately (for me at least), the poem points through its disfuntion to the strangeness and violence of a common grammatical construction, one that is likely at the root of much of our experience of our world.

Part of why I'm describing the thinking behind this poem is that, for reasons that will be clear to any warm-blooded being, it's the one I'm asked about most often. It's not my favourite in the book, largely because it's not quite as obvious as others. I do think though that with sufficient attention and sensitivity, anyone can get something from it. (I like to think that, in succession, the short poems in the book teach or encourage a mode of reading that pays close attention to language's material and grammatical aspects.) The two "so so so" poems ("Untitled" and "Feels") are obvious: they're about number, repetition and difference (and we're not talking Deleuze). Take a look at what's on the page and go from there. Or take a look at my favourite ("Wave": "Yeah each way was still lit.") and contrast the patterns of the letters with how you say the poem out loud. Then think and, yes, feel.

I don't have hard feelings toward Baglow. I have blind spots too. Mythology, for instance: most allusions are completely lost on me. I am a little annoyed by his referring to my short poems as "doodles" (all but a few of them involved a lot of thought and time, and I at least consider them finished works), and I think hanging so much on the jacket blurbs is a little cheap. But, to be honest, I think he's tried pretty hard to be fair to a book he didn't like all that much. Hey, not every book is going to please everyone.

I've heard it's bad form to respond to a review, but this is a blog and so in some sense a journal, and I've made a decision recently to make this thing more personal. These are the thoughts that are occupying me at the moment. Apologies for any discomfort.

Oh yeah, and please humour my vanity: click the "about the book" links on my info page for accounts that are a little more in harmony with what I think the book is up to. Keep my Google profile positive!

Hang in there, JPF.

Back to regular, good-natured programming tomorrow.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Just back from beer with Julia, Dan, Jill, and Paul. Had a beer called something or other "fog." Who wouldn't drink fog given the chance?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I realized yesterday that one of the reasons I've felt so unanchored these past eight or so months is that I've given up my customary approach to reading. I tend to read extremely slowly. I'll read a poem or a small group of them over and over for a period of days or even weeks. For me, half of reading is spending time with the text somewhere in the back of my mind while I let my thoughts wander or while I engage in various tasks. This might mean reading a small bit for an hour and then taking a long walk or vacuuming or something and then coming back. Then I might eat and read the bit again. Sleep. Eat, go to work, take out the recycling, etc, read the same bit. Watch TV. Write. Read. You get the idea. Not so much crystallization as an attempt toward embodiment or a pulling through life. A living-with in any case.

Lately, though, I've been trying to plow through stuff in order to cover more ground. I've got great stuff on the go by Jordan Scott, Kemeny Babineau, and Stacy Szymaszek in addition to a long-term look at Zukofsky. Now I've got books by Thomas A. Clark (thanks, Ron) and Andrew Suknaski (thanks, Kemeny) out of the library and waiting. I want to read all of them (and a hell of a lot more). Each needs time though. I figure I owe this stuff all the attention and inattention I can give it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

We're decamping to a secret location for the next few days. Went to the library and stocked up on books. Hope to meet up with some cool friends met last fall and some librarians (cool too). We'll see how Internet connections go. Maybe I'll post some secret messages. In code.

Monday, June 13, 2005

And another new blog. This one a return to blogging by an original Toronto po-blogger.
And now, a poetry interlude:

Hi, Hot-and-Humid

That June she's a lush

Marshmushing, frog bickering
moon pooling, green gripping

keep cool

—Lorine Niedecker

To the library tomorrow to track down this Suknaski dude, thanks to KB.
The aforementioned Daniel f. Bradley now has a blog. Watch out.

Friday, June 10, 2005

It's too hot to blog.

Steven Malcamus. Sven Malkimitt:

What do you think?

Pitchfork says he's back. I say someone has stolen his Scrabble board. I think I wish he'd do some electo-acoustic.

Still making up my mind.

This post brought to you by Lee Bul. Because sometimes pop music is all about imagining someone else is listening to the same thing.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Went to Daniel f. Bradley's launch yesterday. It was fun, even with the abuse. Do check out his book. His stuff is dense, grainy and jagged with embodied emotion and on-the-ground local and literary politics. His signature move seems to be a kind of a disjunctive association. (Yeah, I think that involves a contradiction.)

Also got the latest issue of John Barlow's Psychic Rotunda, which is the most personable lit mag you can imagine. The guy publishes his dad. The highlights for me so far are Spencer Selby's and Frances Kruk's visual pieces on facing pages and the vibrations between them (actually, I'm won over by all of Kruk's work in the issue). Behold as well Lynn McClory's publishing debut, which I think she's pretty excited about.

Also went to Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer's and Dawne McFarlane's Speakeasy talk. I'm ashamed to admit I was so preoccupied with thoughts about my subway reading that I wasn't their most attentive audience member. Interesting, what I heard. And they sure can pronounce their t's.
Starting to work on BafterC. "It's about time," you say? Yeah, well. Sorry. I hope the wait will be worth it. Just reread an essay by Julia Williams that should start a bit of a discussion. Anyway, I think it will be good. First though I have to finish some comments for this Toronto Public Library poetry contest I'm judging.

I know I've mentioned this before, but I love Nadia Halim's perambulatory takes on our fair city on her most excellent blog, Squiddity. Phantom child brides! Go look!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Having recited lines from their movies and records on the playground as a tyke (I think I could do all of "Let's Make a Dope Deal"), I finally caught a bit of Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke last night.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

One of the things I've enjoyed about doing readings has been the opportunity to hear and learn from other people's takes on my poems, which of course often differ—sometimes significantly—from my own. Occasionally though someone's impression jibes almost exactly with my hopes for the stuff, which reassures me that I actually do have some idea of what I'm up to. Stacy Szymaszek's introduction to my Milwaukee reading nailed it so well it left me almost dumbfounded.