Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Charles Bell, Gumball Fragment #1 (1976)
In PN Review, Jeremy Noel-Tod on Ron Silliman’s “Definite Sentences”:
Silliman’s new sentences tend to a kind of literary Photorealism: focused description of a fragment of the modern American city—‘Types of pipe atop rooftops’, Tjantiing—the very vividness of which calls attention to the artifice of its realism (here, through close alliteration and rhyme, and also that slightly archaic put precisely prepositional ‘atop’, one of Silliman’s trademark words). Like the American Photorealist painter Charles Bell, who spent hours arranging coloured gumballs in the dispensers he then portrayed with exaggerated Kodak, clarity, half of Silliman’s art is in the editorial composition of small, concrete pieces into larger, more enigmatic masses.
Remarks, too, amongst much else, on Silliman’s Blog’s “neglect of other poetries in English” besides “Stateside poetry.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Fishing for the moon (1907)
First line: A dreamy little youngster lived beside a quiet lake
Chorus: He went fishing for the moon
Unrelenting the gaiety here. Result of Johnson’s Dictionary. The latest rubbernecker:
to fi´•shify. To turn to fish: a cant word.
                              Here comes Romeo
—Without his roe, like a dried herring:
O flesh, flesh, how art thou fishified!
                      —Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.
African American woman, seated on ground, fishing, at the Tidal Basin, Washington, D.C. (Toni Frissell, 1957)
Mark Scroggins noted my growling scurrility, growing vasty and unrebuff’d. It’s an age of animosity and overkill. Age of high idiocy and hyperbole. I think Robert Archambeau level’d a charge of New Georgeanism, at it, the age, the period, the style. Some indications: flabby thinking, accolades unsupport’d, gnomic pronouncements, adolescent japery, goosestepping stylisticks, terminal irony terminally defer’d, the gauzy, the untemper’d (bent), th’abstract (shallow), the mildly rehash’d surrealism of the video set. I could name names. In lieu of that, a series of plausible samples (of the age):

1) stile

2) gauze

3) goosestepping


Young woman holding a fish on a fishing line, sitting in a rowboat in a body of water with two other women. (1928)
Sontag, on ‘becoming an individual’: “One way . . . is through accretion, composition, fabrication, creation. The other way . . . is through dissolution, unraveling, interment.”

“You spend so much time . . . protesting against banality. Your life is a museum of counter-banality . . . what’s so wrong with banality?”

The notion of being ‘shocked’ as “a dullard’s substitute for the pleasures of the imagination.”

Grief, death-grief: “I felt as if I had gotten loose in my skin. My armholes, the legholes, the hole for my head, eluded me.
        I made a list of ways of dying . . . Death by hanging, death by guillotine, death by peas up the nose, icicles through the groin, falling down an elevator shaft, crucifixion, the parachute that doesn’t open, gangrene, jumping out of the dentist’s window, arsenic in the onion soup, being run over by a trolley car, snake bite, the hydrogen bomb, Scylla and / or Charybdis, a broken heart, the stake, Russian roulette, syphilis, being tossed out of a roller-coaster, careless surgery, drowning, an airplane crash, sleeping pills, automobile fumes, boredom, tightrope walking, hari-kiri, rape by a shark, lynching, ultimatums, hunger, flying without wings, flying with wings (without a plane)—
        Oh, how frail we are.”

“You are a great comic fragment.”

“It is the possession of a role which provides the impetus to go out in the world, to act at all. The more numerous the roles, the greater the number of excursions.”

Boxer Jack Dempsey holding a fishing pole and fishing, on a narrow dock jutting out into a body of water. (1919)
Gilbert Adair, Love and Death on Long Island: “Little by little, in part because of intrinsic qualities that were great and durable enough to survive any lengthy period of neglect, in part because the passions of the two previous decades had quite cooled down, and in most part because of the subtle but indisputable nimbus of rarefaction that enhaloed my work, the cachet that will ever be attached to an artist fallen silent in his prime and whose silence fascinates as an impertinent shunning of the world and the blandishments it holds out to those it deigns to regard as gifted, I returned to fashion.”

Monday, November 28, 2005

Sub rosa

Men watch a boxing match at Woods Saloon in Turret, (Chaffee County), Colorado. The referee stands between the boxers; they wear trunks and gloves and are poised to begin fighting. (1905)
Finish’d Hitchings’s Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary. Raw notes:
‘Obsession’ is explained as ‘the act of besieging’ or ‘the first attack of Satan, antecedent to possession’—

In a footnote: Ambrose Bierce defines ‘logomachy’ as ‘a war in which the weapons are words and the wounds punctures in the swim-bladder of self-esteem’—

The sonnet: ‘is not very suitable to the English language’—

And, later, in Life of Milton: ‘the fabric of a sonnet, however adapted to the Italian language, has never succeeded in ours’—

Johnson’s picayune and fragmentary natural world: the seal: ‘in make and growth not unlike a pig, ugly faced, and footed like a moldwarp’—

Mole ‘a little beast that works under-ground’

And of the tarantula: ‘an insect whose bite is only cured by music,’ quoting Locke—‘He that uses the word tarantula, without having any idea of what it stands for, means nothing at all by it.’

The verb ‘to worm’ means ‘to deprive a dog of something, nobody knows what, under his tongue, which is said to prevent him, nobody knows why, from running mad’—

So . . . an ‘amatorculist’ is ‘a little insignificant lover’—

‘Sciomachy’ is ‘battle with a shadow’—

The letter R ‘is called the canine letter, because it is uttered with some resemblance to the growl or snarl of a cur’

Orgasm defined as ‘Sudden vehemence’
And how Charles Lamb term’d books imprimatur’d with ‘a certain appeal for audacious readers,’ howsoever they ‘lack the essential bookish quality of actually being readable,’‘biblia abiblia’—perfect yakkety-yak lip-blubber. (A lot of that going around.)

Vernon Arena, Wolgast-Rivers boxing match (ca. 1912)
Out of Susan Sontag’s The Benefactor:
I found my heart empty of personal ambition. Ambition if it feeds at all, does so on the ambition of others. I did not come into this sort of relation, part conspiratorial and part envious, with my peers.

I don’t dream. I find intolerable the slow leakage of my substance in dreams, so I have staged my life to incorporate the energy that is usually diverted in dreaming. My writing forces from me the dream-substance, prolongs it, plays with it.

I am no artist . . . I have no inner burden which I wish to unload upon a passive audience. I do not wish to contribute one jot to the fund of public fantasy.

You have character, like an American temperance tract or the great unfinished cathedral in Barcelona.

I came to understand that words coerce the feelings they attempt to embody. Words are not the proper vehicle for a general upheaval which destroys the old accumulation of feeling.

I feared that the effort of assuming the identity of a writer might deprive her of the scant realism about herself which she possessed.

. . . sexuality, like crime, is an imperishable resource of the impersonal. Properly performed, these acts do blunt the sense of self. It is, I think, because the end is fixed: in sexuality, the orgasm; in crime, the punishment. One becomes free precisely through those acts which have an inescapable end.
An unidentified, lightweight boxer poses with one arm extended and the other drawn back, Denver, Colorado. He wears a tank shirt with leggings, laced boxing shoes, and half gloves. (ca. 1910-1920)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Some brusque random fidelios out of Viktor Shklovsky’s Zoo, haphazard, retrograde, and toxic:
I might swim up to one of those suckers and say: “Dear comrade, please suck out of me the 20,000 devils of love which are ensconced in my soul.”

Frank Chance, Cubs baseball player, standing with a person dressed in a devil's costume on the field of the West Side baseball grounds (ca. 1907)
I’m very sentimental . . . That’s because I take life seriously. Maybe the whole world is sentimental—that world whose address I know. It doesn’t dance the foxtrot.

Pie eating contest during a field day held by the 87th Regiment of the Tenth Mountain Division, on July 4, 1945, near Caporreto, Italy.
Words, and the relationships between words, thought and the irony of thought, their divergence—these are the content of art. Art, if it can be compared to a window at all, is only a sketched window.


My hands are freezing.
And some bodice-ripping out of Alexander Kluge’s The Devil’s Blind Spot:

In the wastes of the cosmos the little dog Laika, a stray Moscow mongrel bitch of great robustness, circled the globe for a time.


It was one of Walter Benjamin’s characteristics . . . that he would abandon himself totally to a source, an idea, and always with complete partiality. He had the disposition of a bat. It doesn’t hear the sounds it itself is emitting, but the echo of these sounds, which the wall throws back.

She-devils of the Kabbalists: “Lilith is said to have at her command more than 480 troops of evil spirits, Mashkith more than 478. Less frequently mentioned is Iggareth.” Nobody knows the name and character of the fourth, the hidden one.

The Dance on Dun-Can, out of a print by Thomas Rowlandson, 1786.
Boswell: “Though we had passed over not less than four & twenty Miles of very rugged Ground & had a Highland Dance on the top of DUN-CAN, the Highest Mountain in the Island, we returned in the Evening not at all fatigued.”
In Henry Hitchings’s Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary is noted that Johnson, a diffident etymologist, “states that ‘curmudgeon’ is a corruption of the French coeur méchant, on the strength of a letter from ‘an unknown correspondent’—a statement which caused a later lexicographer, John Ash, to claim the word came from coeur (‘unknown’) and méchant (‘correspondent’).

And: Johnson’s somewhat addle’d etymology of ‘spider’: ‘May not spider be spy dor, the insect that watches the dor?’


Johnson’s maladies: trouble with eyes, trouble with lungs, insomnia, asthma, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, dropsy, emphysema, one fainting fit, malignant tumour (left testicle), profound melancholy periodically surging toward madness, flatulence.

Johnson’s remedies: opium, oil of terebinth, valerian, ipecacuanha, dried orange peel in hot red port, salts of hartshorn, musk, dried squills, Spanish fly, frequent ‘bleeding,’ work.



In hummock, penetrable, anomie
The dart angles its
Shiv. It may be
Fate or noun, or
Rhythm pleural on loquat.

Grey-wolf, Indian policeman, Crow Indian Reservation, near Pryor, Montana
                                    . . . their story written left,
They die; but in their room, as they forewarn,
Wolves shall succeed for teachers grievous Wolves,
Who all the sacred mysteries of Heav’n
To their own vile advantages shall turn
Of lucre and ambition, and the truth
With superstitions and traditions taint,
Left only in those written Records pure . . .


Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Virgil Thomson writing to Briggs Buchanan (Paris, 15 March 1927), with “vaguely stirring” European “culture news” lowdown:
The apparent future of painting lies with a Russian, Pavel Tchelitcheff, and a Frenchman, Christian Bérard . . . Picasso, from lack of competition, has become a public monument. One by one, his rivals have faded to obscurity. Matisse, Derain, Braque, Picabia. (Juan Gris, “the perfect painter,” remains just that.) Music is carried on by me and George Antheil. (Stravinsky shares Picasso’s fate, with Satie dead and Germany not a serious rival, even in New York.) Letters remain in the older generation, because there are still two figures to make a polarity. No youngster can do anything till something happens to either Gertrude Stein or James Joyce. And I doubt if anything will, short of either’s death. There are strong because they don’t do each other’s stuff. Gertrude is occupied with compositon; Joyce with reporting.

Christian Bérard’s “On the Beach (Double Self-Portrait)” (1933)
        Bérard, Joyce, and Antheil stand for representation, depiction, emotion, the “true to life” effect. Their shapes are borrowed. Tchelitcheff and Gertrude and I represent play, construction, interest centered in the material, nonsense, magic, and automatic writing. The issue is clear. Between knowledge and wisdom. Between the tabloid newspaper and Mother Goose. Between culture and anarchy. The law and the prophets. Kant and Spinoza. Duty and pleasure. The stage and the home.
        . . . Cocteau is about. At his usual work of ruining young artists . . . Pound and Eliot remain respectively 2nd- and 3rd-rate poets and 3rd- and 2nd-rate editors. Ezra’s magazine Exile is pretty dumb. transition has appeared with a 1st installment of the new Joyce. It turns out to be like Ulysses only more so.
Later Thomson asks for “more tabloids”—“They please me.” Beyond the gumption of th’assessments (great flinging of wildflowers, &c., casual dismissal easily match’d by glib brouhaha’d certainty, Christian Bérard, who he?—a penny for the old guy, why do I think of that dreadful Bernard Buffet, scourge of the ’fifties?), what’s notable here is range. And say-so willingness.

Pete Anderson cleaning fish near Forty Mile, (Canada, ca. 1938)
Of course, a couple hours plus tard, it all looks suspect, me, Virgil, Virgil, me. Fatigue-o-matic schlock. Do it ever come down that—full of bullion and bumptious—one of you prints out a passle of such bloggery talk, essential “stuff” come down out of the zone blogique, harry’d by its muchness, “happy at the thought,” though gummed out taut on tenterhooks to read it all, and you—oh, The World itself gets its gumption up to demand something of you and that revery-look you wear so affably, and, well, you don’t get back to them pages blogeoises for, oh, a few days? It does me, and it undoes me. I find myself full of kittle and contempt, bilious at the perusal, fanning through the pages like a sneer-wind, worse it is than yesterday’s news in yesterday’s newspapers. (For those, the common consent is, can at least serve for the wrapping up of the post-repast fish bones . . . or the pre-prandial fish guts . . . or the lousy book by Stanley Fish you.) Is it sensible to write junk day after day? Or pour over the books of wayward saints for pre-chewables, quotes and queries for th’international short attention span? Maybe it’s not.

Still from “Reflections on Black,” by Stan Brakhage
Or one stumbles into a lovely thing out of Stan Brakhage’s “My Eye,” and all the mockery and crabbiness looks untoward and discardable, so goeth our unheaven’dly and redeemable days. Brakhage:
I am stating my given ability, prize of all above pursuing, to transform the light sculptured shapes of an almost blackened room to the rainbow hued patterns of light without any scientific paraphernalia.
Makes me want to hunt up Ronald Johnson’s perfectly square’d paragraph about the eye.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Finding Gary Sullivan’s bustle and flurry of determination to delimit quite soberly the meaning of the term “flarf” to some originary ludic mayhem amongst a select few, uh, rather alarming. Turf-staking poetics is always a sight. Ain’t we poets here just to roil the language up, to pet its fine coat tail to nape? The idea that one’d attempt to control the usage of that mess vis-à-vis a word that apparently calls for inappropriate behaviour, seems, uh, inappropriate. (I am tempt’d to think the whole massy Elsewhere discourse of late, just another flarfer’s ramping up to a grand ha-ha, ’cepting the over-earnest Sillimaniac slope of it.)

Uh, as to the Google-pruning devices, whether they’s a part of “flarp” or not—I got the same itchy reaction I got to various reports regarding the n/Oulipo conference that kept pointing to “the problem of the blank page.” And I want’d to push my broken nose up in there and say (helium-inhale’d squeakify’d): “Uh, Doc, what problem is that?” Meaning, only problem I see is—“the problem of the full page.” It’s sort of like: if you got to go, you got to go. Point. Google-pruning: why that’d be just like using a suppository under some false-consciousness diatribe “production” consideration that one’s got to be regular, no? (Recall what the good Dr. Johnson bloviate’d—snitelessly: “It is strange that there should be so little reading in the world, and so much writing.”)

More “personally,” (is getting good, isn’t it?) I ain’t sure what them technorati-generated numbers mean, however, I do seriously doubt that the term “flarf” (or any of its Cagneys) ’s ever trotted its horse across the dry arroyo of my brainpan’s gulch even a scrub-hundred times. Say nothin’ about five hundred and twenty-five. Say nothin’ about exit’d the leaking wound of my writin’ hand. Thass juss plarpy.

Out of Michael Allin’s Zarafa: A Giraffe’s True Story, from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris, being the story of a giraffe’s being transport’d, in 1827, out of the Ethiopian highlands, down the Blue Nile to Khartoum, “down the entire length of the Nile, nearly 2,000 miles to Cairo and Alexandria,” and, on foot, after crossing the Mediterranean, the distance between Marseille and Paris, “a royal gift from Muhammad Ali, the Ottoman viceroy of Egypt, to King Charles X of France”:
Giraffe, girafe, giraffa (English, French, Italian)—all derive from the Arabic zerafa, a phonetic variant of zarafa, which means “charming” or “lovely one.”
Children playing in the parks of Paris bought snacks of gingerbread giraffes. Their mothers wore their hair à la Girafe, coiffured so high that they had to ride on the floors of their carriages. That summer the Journal of Women and Fashion reported the chic of “a necklace à la Girafe, a narrow ribbon from which is suspended a pink heart or better yet a small locket of the seraglio in the form of the amulet seen around the neck of the giraffe at le Jardin du Roi.”
        The most stylish colors of that year’s fashion season were “belly of Giraffe,” “Giraffe in love,” “Giraffe in exile.” Men wore “Giraffic” hats and ties, and a magazine of the day diagrammed instructions for tying a gentleman’s cravat à la Girafe.
        Zarafamania was everywhere—in textiles and wallpaper, crockery and knickknacks, soap, furniture, topiary—anywhere her distinctive spots or long-necked shape could be employed. The recently invented claviharp was renamed the “piano-giraffe.” That winter’s influenza was “Giraffe flu”; and people inquired of the sick, “How goes the Giraffe?”
Tall Horse puppet, collaborative puppetry between South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company and the Sogolon Puppet Troupe of Mali
Please consider, in a couple of succinct pages, the relationship between “flarf” and “Zarafamania.” Essay a determination of th’exact hue of the color “Giraffe in love.”

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Mzimkhulu / Natal Drakensberg, Bushman paintings, White Horse Cave

Chinese Horse, Lascaux

The Uffington White Horse

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Michael Parker
Read my copain Michael Parker’s latest humdinger of a novel, If You Want Me to Stay, oddly twinned in my brainpan now with Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, happenstance of chronology. Kids growing up with soul music for solace, is that a genre? In Parker’s novel, it’s “Joel Junior” Dunn, who—“mama run off” ’s “learned how not to love,” whose daddy’s “gone off,” who’s trying to do right by’s younger brother Tank. He’s down in the coastal plain of North Carolina, he’s not in pre-gentrify’d Brooklyn. (One point in a list of “THINGS I NEED TO TEACH TANK”—“Difference between Stax/Volt and Motown.”) Parker (“Joel Junior”):
I sometimes, left to my own half-formed judgment, strayed . . . like my brief flirtation with Motown, a label my daddy didn’t much care for because, he said . . . it made black music palatable to white people, lightening it up so it would cross over to the pop charts. My daddy when he was on could be an I-got-there-first snob. He could lecture for hours on the production quality of Motown versus anything out of Memphis or Muscle Shoals, the former being slick and given to the latest technology and the latter being sloppy in the way that perfect things just naturally are—filled with human error, the fuckups there to honor not Allah like the imperfection in the carpet but Jesus-I-don’t-think-so, though if anyone ever came close to convincing me I was bygod Mavis callin’ Mercy . . .
Marvin Gaye
Or, earlier:
We all three knew the story about Al Green’s girlfriend dumping a pot of boiling grits in his lap. We knew he survived and found Jesus in his heart. We knew about Sam Cooke getting shot in a motel by the woman worked behind the counter who he thought was hiding some girl he wanted to get with who had run off from his room when he’d tried to pull her dress off, taking his pants with her . . . We knew that Marvin Gaye had been shot by his very own daddy, and that he, like our own daddy, was prone to going off. (That one got away with me the worst, a gone-off genius getting shot by someone who like as not took care of him and protected him and loved him when nobody else would . . .)
Patti Smith
And somehow the refusal of guilt and redemption is where one always returns, Patti Smith’s “Babelogue” moving straight on into “Rock ’n’ Roll Nigger”:
I haven't fucked much with the past, but I've fucked plenty with the future . . . In heart I am Moslem, in heart I'm an American artist, and I have no guilt. I seek pleasure. I seek the nerves under your skin. The narrow archway, the layers, the scroll . . . We worship the flaw, the belly, the belly, the mole on the belly of an exquisite whore. I have not sold myself to God.

Joe Orton
Scoop’d up at the Friends of the Library—The Orton Diaries, edited by John Lahr. Noted one signature bound in upside-down, good excuse to read publickly, book-invert’d, Elisha Cooke-style, next to the potted palm, no? Random entry of Thursday 6 July 1967:
Weather hot, muggy. Spent the whole day typing the first act of What the Butler Saw. P. Willes rang. ‘Who was that other gentleman sitting with you and Kenneth Williams last night?’ he said. ‘A lorry driver,’ I said. ‘He didn’t look like a lorry driver,’ Willes said, tartly. ‘No,’ I said, he’s given it up and has taken to selling second-hand clothes.’ ‘Are you ever going to wash that tee-shirt of yours?’ Willes said. ‘You’ve been wearing it for ages.’ ‘I let the sweat collect,’ I said, ‘and then when I pick someone up it gives them a kinky thrill.’ Willes rang off after a chat. . . .
        Henry Budgen rang. He said sex in Cyprus is difficult. ‘It’s difficult anywhere if your name is Henry Budgen,’ K. H. said.

Friday, November 18, 2005


Guillaume Apollinaire (1917)
Zukofsky, after quoting lines “L’orange dont la saveur est / Un merveilleux feu d’artifice” (“The orange whose flavor is / A marvelous firework”) in The Writing of Guillaume Apollinaire:
The affect of intelligence is inevitable plasticity. That is constant.
A flooded arroyo, New Mexico
Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men):
I know they’s a lots of things in a family history that just plain aint so. Any family. The stories gets passed on and the truth gets passed over. As the sayin goes. Which I reckon some would take as meanin that the truth cant compete. But I dont believe that. I think that when the lies are all told and forgot the truth will be there yet. It dont move about from place to place and it dont change from time to time. You cant corrupt it any more that you can salt salt. You cant corrupt it because that’s what it is. It’s the thing you’re talkin about.
Solari Hotel, Indian Gulch, Mariposa County, California
Jeremy Prynne, out of Poems (Freemantle Arts Centre Press / Bloodaxe Books, 2005), a book dedicated “For Edward Dorn / his brilliant luminous shade”:

Noble in the sound which

marks the pale case

of their dreams, they ride

the bel canto of our

time: the patient en-

circlement of Narcissus &

as he pines I too

am wan with fever,

have fears which set

the vanished child above

reproach. Cry as you

will, take what you

need, the night is young

and limitless our greed.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

First Snow

Soldiers of the 343rd Infantry throwing snow during a snow fight at Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois, Chicago Daily News photographer (1918)

Snow plow and large piles of snow, Chicago Daily News photographer (1929)

Students of a University of Chicago Department of Botany Field Ecology class coming down a snow field, Mt. Rainier, Washington (1920)
Coleridge (Notebooks): “The Metapothecaries always kicking out at the Mathematicians, the Mattermaticians on the other hand aiming the same asinine Flings at the Metaphysicians. But real Metaphysicians and Mathematicians are Friends, and Lovers; always look at each other respect and welcome, and often walk arm in arm.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Seer, Sere

Not Ron Silliman (Ray Kroc)
I see th’indefatigable Ron Silliman’s toeing heartily to the Krocean line first noted at th’Hotel somewheres (something about the way th’arches used to spell out 99 Billion Served). Now it’s product placement charts. Outpost upsprings in the distant outbacks of Gdansk and Kokkola, just the thing for the year-end corporate glossies. Keeping the shareholders happy. Myself, I look forward fondly to the moment the technology reports a Silliman “hit” originating smack dab off the middle of the Champs Elysées. Ah, th’imperial city! (In the vicinity: reports of French-Maghreb youth brandishing roll’d up print-outs of recent Jane Dark’s Sugar High! posts . . .)


Amused in Lowry’s Under the Volcano by some minor character’s brouhaha about “modern Vancouver,” (circa 1938-9) and how it’s got:
. . . a kind of Pango Pango quality mingled with sausage and mash and generally a rather Puritan atmosphere. Everyone fast asleep and when you prick them a Union Jack flows out of the hole. But no one in a certain sense lives there. They merely as it were pass through. Mine the country and quit. Blast the land to pieces, knock down the trees and send them rolling down Burrard Inlet . . . As for drinking, by the way, that is beset . . . everywhere beset by perhaps favourable difficulties. No bars, only beer parlors so uncomfortable and cold that serve beer so weak no self-respecting drunkard would show his nose in them. You have to drink at home, and when you run short it’s too far to get a bottle—
My late-blooming enchantment with Vancouver variously and fitfully fuel’d by reports by Christopher Brayshaw, and Peter Culley, and Sina Queyras.

The ventriloquism of Cormac McCarthy’s sheriff in No Country for Old Men, absolutely convincing:
What do you say to a man that by his own admission has no soul? Why would you say anything? I’ve thought about it a good deal. But he wasnt nothin compared to what was comin down the pike.
       They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. I dont know what them eyes was the windows to and I guess I’d as soon not know. But there is another view of the world out there and other eyes to see it and that’s where this is goin. It has done brought me to a place in my life I would not of thought I’d of come to . . . I always knew that you had to be wlliin to die to even do this job. That was always true. Not to sound glorious about it or nothin but you do. If you aint they’ll know it. They’ll see it in a heartbeat. I think it is more like what you are willin to become. And I think a man would have to put his soul at hazard. And I wont do that . . .
Entirely fickle reading habits. Stuck in McCarthy’s Texan county of Judge Roy Bean (Formed from the Pecos, Kinney, and Crockett counties, Val Verde officially became a county in 1885 and is 3,242 square miles in area—which is three times the size of Rhode Island. Election records from that year show that Langtry citizen Roy Bean was elected to serve as Justice of the Peace. Legend has it that Bean so greatly admired the English actress Lillie Langtry that he took her last name for the name of his town, and he named his saloon after her nickname, “Jersey Lily.” Unfortunately, a sign painter misspelled “Lily” and the sign still reads “The Jersey Lilly.”) and stay’d up half the blame night reading it.

Not Ron Silliman (Roy Bean)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Charles Burchfield
Struck by something the Dark Clover put down here—comparing the rather banal mass-consumption one summer of a few reels of retrograde celluloid (Star Wars) to what he sees as “a mass political action” (the recent French “riots”). That nobody registers oneself as participant in history (or in “a singular historic event cycle”)—(that’s, apparently, left to trans-Atlantic instructors like himself). That’s not what struck me, though. What did is how exactly Clover’s report of the “summer of Star Wars compares with Jonathan Lethem’s in The Disappointment Artist, (though I think he,—being a novelist, viddy’d it some ghastly number like twenty-one showings—against Clover’s mere “six or seven”). For the record, I think I caught parts of it some years later, telly’d.


Pound (Guide to Kulchur): “Does any really good mind ever ‘get a kick’ out of studying stuff that has been put into water-tight compartments and hermetically sealed?”

I accept the hokey dialogue only if everything they say is correct (Under the Volcano):
        “The Mayas,” he read aloud, “were far advanced in observational astronomy. But they did not suspect a Copernican system . . .” “Why should they? . . . What I like though are the ‘vague’ years of the old Mayans. And their ‘pseudo years,’ mustn’t overlook them! And their delicious names for the months. Pop. Uo. Zip. Zotz. Tzec. Xul. Yaxkin.”
        “Mac,” Yvonne was laughing. “Isn’t there one called Mac?”
        “There’s Yax and Zac. And Uayeb: I like that one most of all, the month that only lasts five days.’’
        “In receipt of yours dated Zip the first!—”
        “But where does it all get you in the end?”
And Consul Geoffrey Firmin, inebriated, saying “cheerfully and soberly in passing,” to “the little public scribe . . . crashing away on a giant typewriter”:
”I am taking the only way out, semicolon . . . Goodbye, full stop. Change of paragraph, change of chapter, change of worlds—”

How Samuel Palmer’s early paintings rhyme with Charles Burchfield’s (1893-1967):

Charles Burchfield, Cottage in the Trees, (1955, watercolor)
Palmer in a letter to George Richmond (Shoreham, 1828), trailing off into lines by Milton:
Forgive my spirits they sometimes haunt the caves of melancholy; ofttimes are bound in the dungeon, ofttimes in the darkness; when the chain is snapt they rush upward and revel in the temerity of their flight. What I have whisper’d in your ears I should not blaze to vulgar apprehensions: if my aspirations are very high, my depressions are very deep, yet my pinions never loved the middle air; yea I will surrender to be shut up among the dead, or in the prison of the deep, so I may sometimes bound upward; pierce the clouds; and look over the doors of bliss, and behold there ‘each blissful deity, How he beneath the thunderous throne doth lie’.
Samuel Palmer’s “Early Morning” (1825, pen and ink and wash, mixed with gum arabic, varnished)
And, against all savage meekness, against all mean means, against all topiary’d fine erectings, Palmer’s note on excess (1825):
Excess is the essential vivifying spirit, vital spark, embalming spice . . . of the finest art. Be ever saying to yourself ‘Labour after the excess of excellence.’ . . . There are many mediums in the means—none, O! not a jot, not a shadow of a jot, in the end of great art.

Monday, November 14, 2005


Expunged Sunday pulling long bitter drafts of un-revery’d sleep out of the ventositous ambuscade of the day—handbills and religious tracts sailing whitely about in the gusts. Me an unsawn board of sleep, undisturb’d, flat, noticeable for its rectitude only. That and for the diminish’d ruckus of its senses. A perfect idiot of sleep’s kingdom. See 1601 B. JONSON Poetaster:
Hora. Barmy froth, puffy, inflate, turgidous and ventositous are come vp.

Tibv. O, terrible, windie wordes!

Or waking cursorily to read “at” Malcolm Lowry’s antic Under the Volcano, that book I always intend’d (and attempt’d) to read in a grand manner back in my scuffling days, & found undoable in my drink-diminishment. One kind of reply to Lowry’s own proceedings—that only a drunk comprehends the beauty of “an old woman from Tarasco who plays dominoes at seven o’clock in the morning”:
On the edge of the table her stick, made of steel with some animal’s claw for a handle, hung like something alive. She had a little chicken on a cord which she kept under her dress over her heart. The chicken peeped out with pert, jerky, sidelong glances. She set the little chicken on a table near her where it pecked among the dominoes, uttering tiny cries. Then she replaced it, drawing her dress tenderly over it.

Out of a book—the kind of Anglophile thing I normally avoid, associating it (or its kin) with Lady Di and other “royals” necrophiliack memorabilia—acquired largely against the recognition of the “chimney’d house” logo of Moyer Bell adorning its spine, a thing call’d Literary Britain (by Frank Morley, who “shared an office with T. S. Eliot at Faber and Faber”), a report on the warring styles of Samuel Johnson and Edward Gibbon by one George Colman “the younger,” “a schoolboy of about thirteen when permitted by his father to join the guests at dinner in the Colman house in Soho Square” (‘On the day I first sat down with Johnson, in his rusty brown, and his black worsteads, Gibbon was placed opposite to me in a suit of flower’d velvet, with a bag and sword’):
Johnson’s style was grand, and Gibbon’s elegant; the stateliness of the former was sometimes pedantick, and the polish of the latter was occasionally finical. Johnson marched to kettle-drums and trumpets; Gibbon moved to flutes and haut-boys; Johnson hew’d passages through the Alps, which Gibbon levell’d walks through parks and gardens.
Morley continues:
What won the schoolboy’s heart was that Gibbon in the course of the evening talked once or twice especially with him—‘the great historian was light and playful, suiting his matter to the capacity of the boy;—but it was done more suo; still he tapp’d his snuff-box,—still he smirk’d, and smiled; and rounded his periods with the same air of good breeding, as if he were conversing with men’. Colman, recollecting that talk more than fifty years later, added a pictorial touch: ‘His mouth, mellifluous as Plato’s, was a round hole, nearly in the centre of his visage.’


In shower-standing review of the dream-mold, a “mental chuckle” at the self-caught phrase “Tremendous overweening desire for a cigarette.” First (dream-actual) incidence of heading off to purchase a box of Marlboros in ten-plus years of “quitting smoking” (an endless processual thing, apparently). The alarum sound’d before the deed completed.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


Dionysus on a boat surrounded by dolphins and grape-bearing vines. Attic Black-figure kylix by Exekias, c. 540-535 BCE

Apollo kylix, Delphi


Saturday, November 12, 2005


Samuel Palmer, A Barn with a Mossy Roof, Shoreham
Painter Samuel Palmer (1805-1881):
I believe in my very heart . . . that all the very finest original pictures and topping things in nature have a certain quaintness by which they partially affect us—not the quaintness of bungling—the queer doing of a common thought—but a curiousness in their beauty—a salt on their tails by which the imagination catches hold on them while the sublime eagles and big birds of the French academy fly up far beyond the sphere of our affections—one of the very deepest sayings I have met with in Lord Bacon seems to me to be ‘There is no excellent beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.’
Palmer on Blake:
In him you saw at once the Maker, the Inventor; one of the few in any age: a fitting companion for Dante. He was energy itself, and shed around him a kindling influence; an atmosphere of life, full of the ideal. To walk with him in the country was to perceive the soul of beauty through the forms of matter . . . He was a man without a mask; his aim single, his path straightforwards, and his wants few; so he was free, noble, and happy . . . one of the few . . . who are not in some way or other ‘double-minded’ and inconsistent with themselves; one of the very few who cannot be depressed by neglect . . .
On integrity:
If we merely ask ourselves ‘What will people say of us?’ we are rotten at the core.
Irony: after Palmer’s death, the painter’s youngest son A. H.—lesson of integrity apparently unlearn’d—in 1909—burnt—in ’s words: “a great quantity of . . . father’s handiwork—handiwork which he himself valued more than that work which the public could understand. Knowing that no one would be able to make head or tail of what I burnt; I wished to save it from a more humiliating fate . . .” The conflagration included sketchbooks, notebooks, and original works, and “lasted for days.”

Samuel Palmer, In a Shoreham Garden, (1829)
Palmer on Blake’s Virgil wood engravings (1821):
“visions of little dells, and nooks, and corners of Paradise; models of the exquisitest pitch of intense poetry . . . intense depth, solemnity, and vivid brilliancy . . . a mystic and dreamy glimmer as penetrates and kindles the inmost soul, and gives complete and unreserved delight, unlike the gaudy daylight of this world. They are . . . the drawing aside of the fleshly curtain . . .
Palmer’s insistence that the materiality of the natural world (“nature . . . sprinkled and showered with a thousand pretty eyes and buds and spires and blossoms, gemm’d with dew, and . . . clad in living green”) manifests the divine (the “thousand repetitions of little forms, which are part of its own generic perfection.”) See Blake: “it is in Particulars that Wisdom consists & Happiness too.” See Ronald Johnson.

Sophie Brzeska by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1913)
Scoop’d up a copy of H. S. Ede’s Savage Messiah,—chock full of letters between Pound sculptor Henri Gaudier and Sophie Brzeska. It’s what looks like the 1971 edition (no doubt released against plausible winnings due to the contemporaneous Ken Russell film, a scandalously romantickal revery, in all ways perfect if one were nineteen and in love that year—or thereabouts—see the chance meeting in the British Museum reading room, the loud studio under the train tracks, the thief’d cemetery (tombstone) marble and the all-night industry to sculpt a smooth shallow torso for a collector-fop . . .) Publish’d by Outerbridge & Lazard, a curiosity. The other copy I own I fetch’d one glum Sunday over the old mountains of Appalachia, ferret’d out of a big barn full of Mennonites, sun-bonnet’d ones, somewhere shy of Harrisonburg, and publish’d by something like the Literary Guild. (Bibliographical contusions—and memory contusions—abound here.) I like the “Note to Readers,” to my knowledge, only Vladimir Mayakovsky outfit’d himself with a better slew of diminutives:
Henri Gaudier refers to himself in the correspondence (and is referred to) by the following nicknames: Pickna-Zosienka, Pik, Piknis, Pikus, Pikusurinia, and Pipik. The derivation of this name is obscure. Sophie Brzeska is referred to in the correspondence under the following array of nicknames: Madka, Maman, Mamuiska, Mamus, Mamusienica, Mamusin, Manuska, Matka, Matuelenka, Matuska, Sik, Sisik, Smarkoisowi, Zosienka, Zosienkosu, Zosik, Zosikmaly, Zosisik, Zosiskoiv, Zosiulenko, Zosiulo, Zosiumo, and Zosiuno . . .
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska