Friday, September 30, 2005


Down with Higgledy-Piggledy-isms!

Down with the My Black Hen-esqueries of critical gaping!

Down with the squeezed-out perfectionism of egg-laying!

Down with Gentlemen in snot-color’d cravats!

(Down with the all allusive dew on the boatman’s brow!)

(Down with contraband dog!)



Hickety, pickety, my black hen,
She lays eggs for gentlemen;
Gentlemen come every day
To see what my black hen doth lay.

(Higgledy, piggledy, my black hen,
She lays eggs for gentlemen.
Sometimes nine, sometimes ten—
Higgledy, piggledy, my black hen.)

André Breton: “Poetry is the attempt to represent, or to restore, through screams, tears . . . those things or that thing which articulate language obscurely tries to express.”

Steve McQueen, “Deadpan,” 1997, video still

Greil Marcus: “. . . the mask is what in the nineteenth century came to be called the deadpan, the poker face: precisely what the coachman wipes off the rider’s face.”

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Oscar Wilde, ever aphoristic and nudging, there in the lily-lit gloaming, offers up: “The only difference between a caprice and a life-long passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.”

(How Turgenev, late in life, fell in love with Maria Savina, “a vivacious young actress with bohemian habits”—love, “only in the sloppiest sense of the word” is how Robert Dessaix puts it (Twilight of Love: Travels with Turgenev.) The famous story of th’arrangement Turgenev made to join Savina in her compartment on the train as she passed near Turgenev’s Spasskoye estate on her way from Moscow to Odessa. How he boarded in Mtsensk, (the railway station where Chekhov had a cup of coffee he claim’d tasted of smoked fish) and descend’d one hour later at Oryol. Voilà les histoires d’amour, incalculably bête et futile, inutile and comprehensible to God or no one, c’est tout.)

Turgenev, of course, dismissed the idea of God. Dessaix: “To be fair, what he dismissed was the existence of Bog. (Actually pronounced ‘bawkh,’ this is the word Russians use for the Christian ‘God.’ It was meticulously spelt with a small ‘b’ throughout the Soviet period, as if this might somehow call the deity’s bluff . . .)”

Elsewhere (History of Criticism) George Saintsbury: “Ancient without Modern is a stumbling block, Modern without Ancient is foolishness utter and irremediable.” (There’s a lot of that going around lately.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Odd constellation flung up into a sky coming undone. Cloud tatters nail’d to officious blue planking.

I trundled off (dogging the current crop of sublime—or coy—ironists) to find Friedrich Schlegel and encounter’d Arno Schmidt, Scenes from the Life of a Faun:
The moon’s bald Mongolian skull slowly shoved its way toward me. (The sole value of discussions is: all those good ideas that occur to you afterwards.)
Must one follow through on good intentions, or is it sufficient just to formulate them?!
Color blindness is rare: art blindness the rule . . . There is even an ancient Sanskrit proverb that says, most people give off sparks only when you land a fist in their eye!: and so, painter, paint! writer, write! with your fist! (For they have to be awakened someway or other, all those semi-people living on the other side of the boundary line: so go ahead and let yourselves be cursed as “ruffians” by the fainthearted; and as “arsonists” by the firemen; and let the sleepy-heads accuse you of “breaking in”: they should thank the appropriate gods that somebody has finally roused them!)

Faint accruals of Schlegelismus? Ja. Maybe. Poetic enthusiasm (making) versus ironic skepticism (destroying). Schlegel:
“The most intense passion is eager to wound itself, if only to act and to discharge its excessive power.”
This self-infliction is not inaptitude, but deliberate impetuousness, overflowing vitality, and often has a positive, stimulating effect, since illusion can never be fully destroyed. Intense agility must act, even destroy; if it does not find an external object, it reacts against a beloved one, against itself, its own creation. This agility then injures in order to provoke, not to destroy.”
Against irony: wit (see Dr. Johnson’s sketch: the “combination of dissimilar images, or discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike,” or “the most heterogeneous ideas . . . yoked by violence together.” Schlegel calls wit “an explosion of the compound spirit.”) That dialectic / shudder / wobble: the attempt to thrust things together, to assert new formal pliabilities, to combine (inexhaustibly, abundantly) whilst irony disassembles, claims unattainability. Schlegel’s irony is “the only entirely involuntary and nevertheless completely conscious dissimulation. It is equally impossible to attain it artificially or to betray it. . . . It is a good sign if the harmonious dullards fail to understand this constant self-parody, if over and over again they believe and disbelieve until they become giddy and consider jest to be seriousness and seriousness to be jest.”

Which uncommon harrumphings somehow brought me (involuntary) to Rodrigo Toscano’s To Leveling Swerve (Krupskaya, 2004) A dervish in feldspar is something like “Axionometric Manhattenings.” Fits the Schlegel wit / irony mash-up to a T:
Somebody lost to endeavoring.

Jumped out in front.

Seriously unserious about it—everything.

Acute receptivity.

At the base of a scaffold elevator at the exterior of the beamwork perspective.

Site, terrifically gnarled spot-welding on the way up.

Beauty, achieved, leads to.

Aesthetic ideals.

Serious qualitative cloaca.

Somebody lost in endeavoring.

Somebody else rams smack into it.

That to the front (jumping) is to be more exposed than to the back (jumping).

Poetic practicality.

Unserious about core issues, a hyper-serious core heating up.

Lives that happen one by one that cling by twos and threes.

. . .
Enacts and illustrates (and, with it under the skin of one’s imaginary, is “about”) Schlegelismus. Ja-maybe.

Irony in the note that the ghost of Belle Starr that initiate’d the fandango, that brilliant post is gone, lasso’d neatly and haul’d down, strainlessly (only the musical “strain” is left behind).

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


What’s the source of my crab-persnickety feeling about D’Oyly Carte-ism, the Hurokesque, impresario-rutting, Diaghilev-ism. Self-satisfy’d nonstop poetry boosterism, who needs it?

Here’s what we mean by life: all the rules are rescinded except the ones that keep things standing, and it’s bigger and whip-like, uncoiling with a snap that flicks the quivering cigarette out of the lovely actress’s mouth so she can go back to licking and being licked. Sometimes it just slides in and out like a mink through the boards at the base of a barn wet with snow melt. Here’s what we mean by life: I want to be the street. Because some things are immortal in keeping with the personal, it offers each one more access to the rest. It tells each beading mystery with chalky fingers.

Ed Barrett, Rub Out, (Pressed Wafer, 2003)


Note: Isaiah Berlin, Russian Thinkers
E. H. Carr, The Romantic Exiles

Monday, September 26, 2005


What is is thought itself,
as well as what is thought of.

You will not find thought apart from being,
to which it is betrothed.

In the same way, time
is not—and is not going to become—
something other than and separate from being.

Being’s share of being
holds being motionless and whole . . .

Parmenides, trans. Robert Bringhurst in Carving the Elements: A Companion to the Fragments of Parmenides by Robert Bringhurst, Dan Carr, Peggy Gotthold, Daniel E. Kelm, Peter Koch, Christopher Stinehour, and Richard Wagener. (Editions Koch, 2005). A book about making a book, The Fragments of Parmenides & an English translation, by Robert Bringhurst, illustrated by Richard Wagener (Editions Koch, 2004)

A wood engraving by Richard Wagener.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Opera mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot’s St. Petersburg dressing room theatricks circa 1843: “There in the softly lit, heated room beneath the stage she would receive Turgenev and his three fervent rivals, seating each of them on one paw of the magnificent bearskin they’d brought her, the bear’s claws now replaced with claws of gold. As Virginia Woolf cruelly remarked, this paw was to become his permanent lodging. Viardot herself seems to have sat somewhere in the middle in a white lace peignoir . . .”

Viardot: “her fiery, hooded eyes, sooty black, her large mouth and her shiny black hair, drawn back severely in a part from her high, white forehead.”

Heinrich Heine (and nearly everybody) thought Viardot ugly: “‘but with the kind of ugliness which is noble.’ When she opens her large mouth to sing he wrote, ‘we feel as if the most monstrous plants and animals from India and Africa are about to appear before our eyes, giant palms festooned with thousands of blossoming lianas,’ leopards, giraffes, ‘even a herd of young elephants.’

Robert Dessaix, Twilight of Love: Travels with Turgenev (Shoemaker & Hoard, 2005)


(Note: Shoemaker & Hoard’s forthcoming Forrest Gander essays, A Faithful Existence.)


The ci-gît is an unruly white lie, a contre-verity of itself. A here marker envelopes a now that is irrefutably absent, a never-here. A monstrous restlessness measures the way one proceeds “down.” A songe (revery) enraptures every mensonge (lie).

Th’irascible Edward Dahlberg, who hated everything and everybody, turns up eponymously in Jonathan Lethem’s The Disappointment Artist (Doubleday, 2005). Out of The Sorrows of Priapus, “a kooky,” according to Lethem, “diatribe against the human body and sexual desire”:
The phallus is a slovenly bag created without intellect or ontological purpose or design, and as long as the human being has this hanging worm appended to his middle, which is not good for anything except passing urine and getting a few, miserable irritations, for which he forsakes his mother, his father, and his friends, he will never comprehend the Cosmos.
A man may want to study Mark or Paracelsus, or go on an errand to do a kindness to an aging woman, but this tyrant wants to discharge itself either because the etesian gales are acerb or a wench has just stooped over to gather her laundry . . . the head is so obtuse as to go absolutely crazy over a pair of hunkers, which is no more than a chine of beef.

Lost is the basic slant craft’d beatitude of making it up out of whiled away swaths of afternoon sloth. Replaced by teem and oratorio, loud manumissions, Latinate urges, a broth.

Lost the gall-big leaf, the inky cap smear, the spore-dusky slip of a moth in trouble. Operatic noises disengaging, metaphoric bluster as puerility itself.

Lost the manner of irresolute thinking laid down, sliced together. Thought daub’d over with vocabulary.


Note: Tom Stoppard, The Coast of Utopia

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Some of Darwin’s pigeons: “Tumblers, trumpeters, laughers, fantails, pouters, polands, runts, dragons, scandaroons.”


“The classic barnacle is an animal with the body plan of a volcano: a cone with a crater at the top. It colonizes rocks, docks, and ships’ hulls. Every day when the tide rolls in, each barnacle pokes out of its crater a long foot like a feather duster and gathers food. When the tide goes out, each barnacle pulls in the feather duster and clamps its crater closed with an operculum—a shelly lid. To mate, a barnacle sticks a long penis out of its crater and thrusts it down the crater of a neighbor. Since every barnacle in the colony is both male and female, this is not as chancy as it sounds.”

Jonathan Weiner, The Beak of the Finch (Vintage, 1995)


“Taxonomists can be classified into splitters and lumpers.”

Faced with the diversity of contemporary American poetries, some splitters recognize dozens and dozens of genera, hundreds and hundred of species and subspecies. Some of the sillier lumpers go so far as to believe it possible subsume all poetry under two distinct species.

What solicitors offer Wisconsin dairy farmers (“There’s salesmen everywhere . . . Whole countries made of salesmen.”): “Protein lick, calf booster, ivermectin, steroid tags, lactose, dehorners, lice powder—you name it.”

Sam Shepard, The God of Hell (Vintage, 2005)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Reed (Broken)

Donald Sultan, “Lemons,” Set of four aquatints. Black and white. Edition of fourteen. 64 x 48 1/2 inches. 1987.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Dr. Johnson:

Essay. A loose sally of the mind; an irregular indigested piece; not a regular and orderly composition.

Sally. Escape; levity; extravagant flight; frolick; wild gaiety; exorbitance.

Escape. Sally; flight; irregularity.

Thousand ’scapes of wit,
Make thee the father of their idle dreams,
And rack thee in their fancies.
         Shakespeare. Measure for Measure.

Loose ’scapes of love.

Irregularity. 1. Neglect of method and order.

As these vast heaps of mountains are thrown together with so much irregularity and confusion, they form a great variety of hollow bottoms.
         Addison on Italy.

Irregularity. 2. Inordinate practice; vice.

Vice. The course of action opposite to virtue; depravity of manners; inordinate life.

No spirit more gross to love
Vice for itself.

afreet, Azazel, Bacalou, Belial, cacodaemon, Eblis, energumen, hob, jinnee, Keelut, Lucifer, mojo jojo, Mokoi, Puck, sorceress, tokoloshe.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Equine Prayer

“How long shall we nourish and keepe this fiery Asse in vaine?”


“Rampant and inconsiderable cock-of-the-walk-ism.”


“. . . a cancer of a book, grotesquely verbose, its cargo of brilliant ideas borne aloft by a tone of viscous solemnity and by ghastly repetitiveness.”

Susan Sontag on Saint Genet


“Visciously solemn.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


“A pluvial Tuesday.”


“Natural selection is supposed to scrutinize the slightest variations in nature, ‘daily and hourly.’”

“Black mutants conquered the Continent too. In 1867 a pair of them were caught copulating on an elm tree in the Netherlands, in the province of North Brabant.”

Stories of rapid evolutionary darkening in Carbonaria, a kind of moth, against the “unparliamentary” soot of the Industrial Revolution. Subsequent lightening.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Voice-print of the distant antic. Cat-prowl and shirrings out. Cirrus lashings. Th’under husky. Canny lackadaisical capable of unleashing fury. A fine laughter. That word Nabokov claim’d hid in slaughter. Just a rasp-sassy hint of Mariel Hemingway: “I never say anything f-filthy.”

A tizzy of turnings here, bridled. Shoe-leather burning and wind-tunnel.

“What are men anyway but balloons on legs, a lot of blown-up bladders? Flies, that’s what we are. No, not even flies. Flies have something inside. But a man’s a bubble, all air, nothing else.”

Petronius, trans. William Arrowsmith, The Satyricon, (Meridian, [1959], 1994)


Charting the categories and assignments of the droll astrologer (Petronius):

Aries (The Ram): “owns heaps of sheep and lots of wool” “head is hard, forehead like brass, horns like swords” “many professors and also muttonheads”

Taurus (The Bull): “bullies and cowboys and people who lie down in soft pastures”

Gemini (The Twins): “two-horse teams, yokes of oxen, lechers who are led around by their balls, and two-faced politicians”

Cancer (The Crab): “walks on many legs” “possessions stretch over land and sea” “at home in both elements”

Leo (The Lion): “gluttons and big shots”

Virgo (The Virgin): “useless women, deserters, and those who wear chains on their ankles, fetters for men, bracelets for women”

Scorpio (The Stinger): “poisoners and murderers”

Sagittarius (The Archer): “cross-eyed thieves who cock an eye at the beets but snitch the ham”

Capricorn (The Goat-Horn): “because it means goat-horn, come men who have horns or corns; corn-men are workers who sweat for their wages and horn-men are cuckolds all.

Aquarius (The Water-Carrier): “innkeepers who water the wine and people who are all wet.”

Pisces (The Fish): “the fishier types of men: gape-mouthed lawyers or just plain fish peddlers.”


“That’s why things are as they are.”

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Got a haircut, poor man’s miniature Lyle Lovett style.


Why the upsurge of fetishizing writing “spaces”? I write anywhere. Everywhere.

Early morning mostly silent conversation with the Drosophila who work my bowl of bananas. Maybe eight or nine or so. I peer closely, my big blue human eyes, trying to determine eye-colors. Red, mostly. (Opposing white.) I note how one fly trails another—never gaining, never falling behind, never taking wing, running along on legs that pure insect speed makes invisible.

“You’re idiots! Manipulated! You believe the newspapers! Yes! Inhale! Yes! I’m telling you that the Americans sacrificed several thousand of their citizens so they could attack the Taliban trash. Whether it’s oil or some other crap they’re after, I don’t know. But it’s not a battle for the freedom of some oppressed women, I’m sure of that. You’re surprised the Americans sacrificed their own people. Americans? Yes indeed, ladies and gentlemen! So whose lives should they sacrifice? Hungarians? . . . What on earth do I have to do with ‘them’? What on earth do the Taliban women have to do with the Americans? Nothing, but in fact they do. I, daughter of the I-hope-late Z>ivko, and a fucked-up Taliban woman with headwear, we’re the same. So is the American who takes little slippers off Taliban women’s little feet in the middle of nowhere. Someone is plying a game in our name. The chador is being removed for our good. But, my blind friends, what you don’t get is that we’re all under the chador. The fucking Taliban women are under the chador. The deceased Americans from the twin towers are under the chador, so are the living Americans in godforsaken Indiana and Afghanistan and Iraq and Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina and Guatemala and the Philippines and in Italy. I’m under the chador, and so are you assholes who don’t understand a fucking thing. Is there anyone who’s not covered, I hear you yelling full of hope. There are. In the world there are perhaps a hundred or a hundred and fifty sons of bitches whose heads aren’t covered and who hold our lives in their hands. The entire world is being fucked by five corporations, ones like Coca-Cola. The rest of us are Taliban women.”

Vedrana Rudan, trans. Celia Hawkesworth, Night, (Dalkey Archive, 2004)


Friday, September 16, 2005


Sought: a way to reverse Kertészian “emotional atrophying.”

“I am entangling her, tying her to myself, turning, swirling like two brightly colored, agile circus performers, who, in the end, take their bows, deathly pale and empty-handed before a malicious spectator—before failure . . . yes, indeed, one has to, at least, strive for failure, says . . . because failure and failure alone remains as the one single accomplishable experience, say I. Thus, I, too, am striving for failure, if strive I must, and I must because I live and write and both are strives, life a rather blind one, writing more of a seeing strive and as such a different striving from life. Perhaps the strive in writing is striving to see what life’s strive is, and for that reason, since it can’t do any differently, it retells life, repeats life as if it were life as well, even though it is not, quite fundamentally, quite incomparably it is not, and as such its failure is fundamentally assured as soon as we begin to write and write of life.”

Imre Kertész, trans. Christopher C. Wilson and Katharina M. Wilson, Kaddish for a Child Not Born (Northwestern University Press, 1997)


Post midnight, with G. tossing restless, too excited to sleep (he’s off with ’s violin teacher to Itzhak Perlman in concert with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra today), I think: “Wee Sleekit, couring, timorous beastie,” for a small animal.

B. B. King is eighty. Recalling a hot Sunday afternoon in Washington, D.C. circa 1968-9, opening act: Chairmen of the Board. Some flipped out cat wild windmill-dancing up on stage, and dragged off by cops. Nothin’ bother’d B. B.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


The two of us stepping out into a startlingly fresh morning at the new place, and G. announcing: “The air smells happy.”

“No,” I said immediately and forthwith, without hesitation and spontaneously, so to say, for it is quite obvious that our instincts actually work against our instincts, so that, so to say, our anti-instincts act instead of, or even as, our instincts . . . So go my witticisms, if indeed these can be considered witticisms, that is, if naked, miserable truth can be considered a witticism. Thus I expound to the philosopher walking along with me after he and I both halted to catch our breath because of dieting, or sickness, or perhaps consumption in the midst of an almost audibly gasping oak forest, or glade, whatever you call it: I admit, I’m rather ignorant when it comes to trees; all I immediately recognize is the pine because of its needles, and the plantain because I like it, and what I like—even today—I recognize even by anti-instinct. I recognize it even if it is not by the same striking, stomach-gripping, ready to jump, in one word, inspired sort of recognition with which I recognize those things that I hate.”

Imre Kertész, trans. Christopher C. Wilson and Katharina M. Wilson, Kaddish for a Child Not Born (Northwestern University Press, 1997)


Jon Leon, author of the “Diphasic Rumors” series and editor of the swift new journal “Wherever We Put Our Hats”: My Maserati.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


“Life flows in staccato pieces belonging to different systems.
Only our clothing, not the body, joins together the disparate moments of life.”

Viktor Shklovsky, A Sentimental Journey

“. . . others said that the twentieth century began when it was discovered that people come from apes and some people said they were less related to apes because they had developed more quickly. Then people started comparing languages and speculating about who had the most advanced language and who had moved furthest along the path of civilization. The majority thought it was the French because all sorts of interesting things happened in France and the French knew how to converse and used conjunctives and the pluperfect conditional and smiled at women seductively and women danced the cancan and painters invented impressions. But the Germans said that genuine civilization had to be simple and close to the people and that they had invented Romanticism and lots of German poets had written about love, and about the valleys where there lay mists. The Germans said they were the natural upholders of European civilization because they knew how to make war and carry on trade, and also to organize convivial entertainments. And they said the French were vain and the English were haughty and the Slavs did not have a proper language and language is the soul of a nation and Slavs did not need any nation or state because it would only confuse them.”


“Internet users represented a new type of citizen, which they called a hypercitizen. The hypercitizen was the first supranational and totally free citizen in history and anyone could become one if they managed to stop thinking the old way and started to think differently, because in the coming world order, labor and capital and raw materials would no longer play any role. And parliamentary democracy would give way to hypercivic democracy and each hypercitizen would be equal to every other hypercitizen and everyone would live interactively. And every week one language and 35,000 hectares of forest expired on average. And 96% of the world’s population spoke 240 languages, while 4% spoke 5,821 languages and 51 languages were spoken by only one person. And in 1996, the United Nations launched a program called UNIVERSAL NETWORK LANGUAGE, and many Anarchists studied Esperanto and in 1910 a handbook was published in Esperanto explaining how to assassinate political leaders.”

Patrik Ouředník, trans. Gerald Turner, Europeana: a Brief History of the Twentieth Century (Dalkey Archive, 2005)


Ouředník in an interview: “Is it possible to express a period of time, a specific historical time, without using traditional narrative means, however direct or allusive they are, such as a historical novel or an intimist narrative? To find a form that would enable the narrator—like History itself—to be terribly banal, while pretending to be original.”

And: “Of course, we would like to get rid of this stupid century. However, I don’t think that people have decided to do so.

In any case, my goal was not to conceive of the twentieth century as a theme—not even in the sense of a “reflection theme”—but as a literary figure. The primary question wasn’t to know what events, what episodes were characteristic of the twentieth century, but which syntax, which rhetoric, which expressiveness belonged to it, in what sense was it redundant, etc.

I could simplify this: what were the key words of the twentieth century? Undoubtedly, haste (rather than “chaos,” which is no more appropriate to the twentieth century than to any another). This meant, let’s try to write a hurried text. Another peculiarity of the twentieth century, I think, is infantilism—with everything that it implies, from the romantic-commercial image of juvenility to the refusal of taking the full responsibility of one’s acts and words. Let’s try then to write a childish text, a text that could have been told by a kid reciting his lesson or by the village idiot. Thirdly, this century has been explicitly scientific. This meant, let’s use a vocabulary more or less scientific, with all its contradictions and, if possible, with all its vacuity. These are the elements that gave birth to the form and content of the book.”


Missing: catalpas, Carmen, correspondances.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


“Some ingenuous souls, including a few guardians of left-wing orthodoxy and the odd mischief-maker, declared that rehabilitating a Falangist writer was vindicating (or laying the ground work to vindicate) Falangism itself. The truth was exactly the opposite: rehabilitating a Falangist writer was just rehabilitating a writer; or more precisely, it was vindicating themselves as writers by rehabilitating a good writer. I mean that the fashion arose, in the best cases (the worst aren’t worth mentioning), from the natural need all writers have to invent their own tradition, from a certain urge to be provocative, from the problematic certainty that literature is one thing and life another and that it was therefore possible to be a good writer at the same time as being a terrible person (or a person who supports and foments terrible causes) from the conviction that we were being literarily unfair to certain Falangist writers, who, to use Andrés Trapiello’s phrase, had won the war but lost literature.”

On Falangist writer Rafael Sánchez Mazas:

“He always had an impertinent, haughty, brittle and melancholic genius . . . He was a romantic after all, would he not have judged deep down all victory to be contaminated by unworthiness, and the first thing he noticed upon arriving in paradise,—albeit that illusory bourgeois paradise of leisure, chintz and slippers that, like a needy travesty of old privileges, hierarchies and securities, he constructed in his last years—was that he could live there, but not write, because writing and plenitude are incompatible.”


“. . . a Chilean lost in Europe who would be smoking, his eyes clouded, standing back a little and very serious, watching us dance a paso doble beside Miralles’ grave just as one night years before he’d seen Miralles and Luz dance to another paso doble under the awning of a trailer in the Estrella de Mar campsite, seeing it and wondering if maybe that paso doble and this one were in fact the same, wondering without expecting an answer, because he already knew that the only answer is that there is no answer, the only answer is a sort of secret or unfathomable joy, something verging on cruelty, something that resists reason, but nor is it instinct: something that remains there with the same blind stubbornness with which blood persists in its course and the earth in its immovable orbit and all beings in their obstinate condition of being, something that eludes words the way the water in the stream eludes stone, because words are only made for saying to each other, for saying the sayable, when the sayable is everything except what rules us or makes us live or matters or what we are . . .”

(The Chilean being novelist Roberto Bolaño.)

Javier Cercas, trans. Anne McLean, Soldiers of Salamis (Bloomsbury, 2003)


Unhappie is the man for evirmaire
That teils the sand and sawis in the aire;
Bot twyse unhappier is he, I lairn,
That feidis in his hairt a mad desyre,
And follows on a woman throw the fyre,
Led be a blind and teichit be a bairn.

Monday, September 12, 2005

A Name

“The imbalances stalking us show up everywhere, but I think the most horrible one is the imbalance between the names of things and the things themselves. Things have started slipping out of their names like peas from a dry pod. So far names had clung close to things in an inseparable whole, just as the atoms of hydrogen and oxygen formed the molecule of water. And when man managed to separate the hydrogen atoms from the oxygen atoms, incredible energy was released. Imagine that energy multiplied a million times and you’ll get an idea what will befall us when names are finally separated from things. I think there will be no explosion, but rather something much more horrid. I will not give it a name for the time being. Because the names create the named.

We must talk only in allegories.”


“I knew that different flowers opened up at different times of the day. I spent two years searching botanical books and meadows; I roamed the fields for days on end. I wanted to find the appropriate flowers and, planting them in a circle, to create a natural clock. A clock with a natural mechanism. Asked what the time was, people would no loner answer ‘3 P.M.’ but ‘tulip.’ I was proud of my idea. And then, two days before the planting of the flowers I had already collected, I happened, just happened to read in the trivia section of a newspaper the following note: ‘Carl Linnaeus, the father of botany, knowing the precision of botanical cycles, planted in the sections of a circle flowers that opened up at specific times of the day.’”


“If you want to write a Natural Novel, you must watch the visible world closely. You must find resemblances. Each autumn the cabbages mock the raised-collar style from the time of Marie Antoinette. Or Marie Antoinette had an eye for cabbages. Who can say whether history is influenced by botany or vice versa? The Novel of Natural History makes no such distinctions. Yesterday the market was full of decapitated Antoinettes.”

Georgi Gospodinov, trans. Zornitsa Hristova, Natural Novel (Dalkey Archive, 2005)


Thumbing through the new Fence and spying the first line of Jorie Graham’s “Disenchantment,” thinking it reads:
I shit my self . . .
(For “shift.”)

Friday, September 09, 2005

A Desert


“. . . I went on writing reviews for the newspaper, and critical articles crying out for a different approach to culture, as even the most inattentive reader could hardly fail to notice if he scratched the surface a little, critical articles crying out, indeed begging, for a return to the Greek and Latin greats, to the Troubadours, to the dolce stil nuovo and the classics of Spain, France and England, more culture! more culture! read Whitman and Pound and Eliot, read Neruda and Borges and Vallejo, read Victor Hugo, for God’s sake, and Tolstoy, and proudly I cried myself hoarse in the desert, but my vociferations and on occasions my howling could only be heard by those who were able to scratch the surface of my writings with the nails of their index fingers, and they were not many, but enough for me, and life went on and on and on, like a necklace of rice grains, on each grain of which a landscape had been painted, tiny grains and microscopic landscapes, and I knew that everyone was putting that necklace on and wearing it, but no one had the patience or the strength or the courage to take it off and look at it closely and decipher each landscape grain by grain, partly because to do so required the vision of a lynx or an eagle, and partly because the landscapes usually turned out to contain unpleasant surprises like coffins, makeshift cemeteries, ghost towns, the void and the horror, the smallness of being and its ridiculous will . . .”

Roberto Bolaño, trans. Chris Andrews, By Night in Chile (New Directions, 2003)


Ornamental Piety

My clayey

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A Different Story

Topple’d by one’s “own born poetry.” (Whitman)


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Book

Sometimes, trembling with cold, I would go to a soda fountain and order a Bilz. I would sit on a bar stool and gaze all misty-eyed at the droplets running down the surface of the bottle, while somewhere inside me, a bitter voice was preparing me for the unlikely spectacle of a droplet climbing up the glass, against the laws of nature, all the way up to the mouth of the bottle.

. . .

It was around that time that I met Mr Raef and, a little later, Mr Etah . . . I think they had a clam-tinning plant and shipped the tinned clams to Germany and France.

. . .

Pigs suffer too, I said to myself. And immediately I regretted that thought.

Roberto Bolaño, trans. Chris Andrews, By Night in Chile (New Directions, 2003)


If ye guttes be fallen on ye ground yt it be foule / thanne lay it in warm gootys mylke / & clense it therin / & than put it agayne in to ye belly.


The mannys yarde is a plowman of the nature of mankynd / and is also a waye of the vryne / & is made of skynne / musclus / vaynes / senowes / and grosse stryngys / and it is plantyd vpon the bone Pectinis / and ye bondys com from the bone Sacris / or holy bone. In the yarde be. ii. pryncypall wayes or pypes / the one for the sede / and the other for the vryn. The ende of the yarde is namyd Ballanum & the hole is namyd mitra. The fyrst ouergoynge skynne of the yarde is prepucium / and the yarde is commonly. viii. or. ix. fynger brede longe / and must be of resonable bygnes / accordynge to the quantyte of the matrix or moder. Permenium or Peritonium is the place betwene the ars and the yarde / the whiche is a seme that foloweth the lyne of the yarde.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Lytell Brekynge of a Brayne Panne.


           I've maistert mysel therr,

I've stappit

                           the hass o my sangs

                                                                       wi my ain pen.

Mayakovsky, translated by Edwin Morgan

Thursday, September 01, 2005

A Category

Glen Baxter: “I prefer the fantasy where everyday objects can suddenly become more interesting. I really like that aspect of it. I am in agreement with Breton’s definition of ‘marvelous’: ‘The marvelous has never been better defined than as being in complete contrast to the fantastic.’ In my work I present the impossible happening in a world where impossibility is the rule (as opposed to works of fantasy, where we see the impossible happening in a world where impossibility is outlawed).”

Interview’d by Bill Zavatsky in 1976 (Out of Sun, Vol. V. No. 1, 1983)

A category in Justin O’Brien’s Journals of André Gide: “Detached Pages.” Insert’d at the end of each year. Being, presumably, undated, stray, bereft. And not, unstain’d, unspotted, gouache’d up. Unchain’d melodies. My detached pages.

Gide is so completely wrong about most things it’s a grutch-pother to read him. The New Sincerity crowd could make him a mascot:
When one has begun to write, the hardest thing is to be sincere. Essential to mull over that idea and to define artistic sincerity. Meanwhile, I hit upon this: the word must never precede the idea. Or else: the word must always be necessitated by the idea. It must be irresistible and inevitable: and the same is true of the sentence, of the whole work of art. And for the artist’s whole life, since his vocation must be irresistible. He must be incapable of not writing (I should prefer him to resist himself in the beginning and to suffer therefore).
[On rappellera l’anecdote qui met en scène le peintre Degas et le poète Mallarmé, telle que la rapporte Paul Valéry in Degas danse dessin. Degas déplore : « Je ne parviens pas à écrire. Ce ne sont pourtant pas les idées qui me manquent ». Mallarmé réplique : « Mais, Degas, ce n’est pas avec des idées que l’on écrit, c’est avec des mots ».]

Edgar “No Shortage of Ideas” Degas versus Stéphane “Word’ry” Mallarmé.

A poet needs flee ideas.


Olivier Cadiot in “Invented Lives”:

“The incessant sound of waves breaking against iron”


Fog-stymied catalpas.


To work.