Sunday, March 24, 2013

John Ashbery

John Ashbery [pic courtesy of This Recording]

Those Lacustrine Cities

These lacustrine cities grew out of loathing
Into something forgetful, although angry with history.
They are the product of an idea: that man is horrible, for instance,
Though this is only one example.

They emerged until a tower
Controlled the sky, and with artifice dipped back
Into the past for swans and tapering branches,
Burning, until all that hate was transformed into useless love.

Then you are left with an idea of yourself
And the feeling of ascending emptiness of the afternoon
Which must be charged to the embarrassment of others
Who fly by you like beacons.

The night is a sentinel.
Much of your time has been occupied by creative games
Until now, but we have all-inclusive plans for you.
We had thought, for instance, of sending you to the middle of the desert,

To a violent sea, or of having the closeness of others be air
To you, pressing you back into a startled dream
As sea-breezes greet a child’s face.
But the past is already here, and you are nursing some private project.

The worst is not over, yet I know
You will be happy here. Because of the logic
Of your situation, which is something no climate can outsmart.
Tender and insouciant by turns, you see

You have built a mountain of something,
Thoughtfully pouring all your energy into this single monument,
Whose wind is desire starching a petal,
Whose disappointment broke into a rainbow of tears.

what a simmeringly angry, threatening poem — we’ll make you Jesus fucking Christ!

Nor can one take short extracts from a given Ashbery poem . . . and treat these extracts as containing within themselves the "meaning" of the poem in question. . . .

in Ashbery's poetry, it is usually impossible to identify the citation, and, even when we do, such identification doesn't necessarily help us to understand the poem. . . . Indeed, in Ashbery, almost everything sounds like a citation, sounds like something we've heard before or read somewhere--but where? And that is of course one of the main features of Ashbery's poetic: living at a moment when one's language is so wholly permeated by the discourses that endlessly impinge on it . . .

vintage Ashbery in its refusal to make clear whether its "theme" is serious or comic or both. And that, the poet--a poet whose skepticism is finally much more radical than was Eliot's-- suggests is how life is. . . .

Bishop's drive . . . toward meaningful statement is characteristic of modernism in its late phase. But Ashbery's poem is doing something else — establishing, for one thing, a different relationship between writer and reader, a relationship that looks ahead to the poetics of "embodiment" as practiced by such later poets as Charles Bernstein and Bruce Andrews, Maggie O'Sullivan and Karen MacCormack.

Civilization and Its Discontents [excerpt]

There is no longer any use in harping on
The incredible principle of daylong silence, the dark sunlight
As only the grass is beginning to know it,
The wreath of the north pole,
Festoons for the late return, the shy pensioners
Agasp on the lamplit air. What is agreeable
Is to hold your hand. The gravel
Underfoot. The time is for coming close. Useless
Verbs shooting the other words far away.
I had already swallowed the poison
And could only gaze into the distance at my life
Like a saint’s with each day distinct.
No heaviness in the upland pastures. Nothing
In the forest. Only life under the huge trees
Like a coat that has grown too big, moving far away,
Cutting swamps for men like lapdogs, holding its own,
Performing once again, for you and for me.

The discipline of the apostate is often stricter than the observance of the faithful, and Emerson is a case in point. There was a chastity about his intellectual style, and [Oliver Wendell] Holmes [Jr] emulated it. This is a side of the young Holmes’s personality it has proved easy to miss. Wendell Holmes was, of course, a child of privilege, and he was not a prig. He was sociable and well connected; he liked to banter; in later life, he made much of his taste for pretty women and for drink. But it is a mistake to discount — even when he was still a student — the severity of his character as an intellectual. Holmes was an unusually compartmentalized personality. He knew when to work and when to play, and he never mixed his occasions. Socially, he exhibited the gregariousness of his father; in thought, he cultivated the solitariness of his hero. Even at seventeen, he was a bookish young man who wrote poetry, collected prints, and debated philosophical issues with his father at the dinner table. And he treated those issues with a rare gravity. He felt his father much too disposed to split the difference between opposing views, or to fall back on conventional wisdom; he considered most of his teachers hidebound traditionlists. He was, in the context of his times, a student radical. . . .

There is a neurochemistry of battle. For the men who fought at the Bloody Angle the universe must have reduced itself that day to a place in which killing and being killed were the only things that made sense, a world in which any other kind of behavior lay outside the boundaries of the thinkable.

I hope Ashbery — that man is horrible, for instance — would mock Menand for that testosterone-soaked melodramatic bullshit.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Henri Michaux

haruspicate: prophesy by reading animal entrails

no title, 1961 [pic courtesy of Galerie Van de Loo Projekte]

from Untitled Passages by Henri Michaux, ed. Catherine de Zegher, 2000:

the tree without end, the tree of life that is a source, that is, dotted with words and images and propounding riddles, the flow that, without interruption, even for one single second, passes through man [sic] from the very first moment of his [sic] life right up to the last, stream of sandglass, that only stops when life stops . . .

Is a statement really necessary? Isn’t it obvious that I paint so as to leave words behind, to put an end to the irritating question of how and why? Could it really be that I draw because I see so clearly this thing or that thing? Not at all. Quite the contrary. I do it to be perplexed again. And I am delighted if there are traps. I look for surprises. To know always would bore me. It would upset me. Must I at least be aware of what’s been going on? Not even. . . .

When it comes to countries, the more one distrusts them the better. . . .

A man and his face, it’s a little as if they were constantly devouring each other. . . .

I don’t think much about influences. You enjoy listening to people’s voices in the street, but they don’t solve your problem for you. When something is good it distracts you from your problem. . . .

No longer to imitate, but to signify nature. By strokes darts, dashes.
Ascesis of the immediate, of the lightning bolt. . . .

Like nature, the Chinese language does not draw any conclusion of its own, but lets itself be read . . .
Characters open onto several directions at once.
Point of pure equilibrium . . .
Calligraphy in its role as mediator between communion and abeyance . . .
Calligraphy around which — quite simply — one might abide as next to a tree, or a rock, or a source. . . .

Vibrant certainty
its touch so fine, making a sign
peak, abyss on the same line. . . .

Henri Michaux [pic courtesy of Isola di Rifiuti]

In a black mood [after his wife’s death of burns] I start, having grabbed one, to cover it with a few dark colors and sullenly to squirt water onto it at random, not in order to do anything in particular, and certainly not a painting. I have nothing to do, I have only to undo. To undo the world of confused, conflicting things in which I am plunged. . . . 

They were gestures, interior gestures, the ones with which we don’t have limbs but desires for limbs, stretching, impulsive movements and all this with living ligaments that are never thick, never big with flesh nor enclosed in skin . . . What an experience it will be when the time is ripe at last and, having got into the habit of thinking in signs, we are able to exchange secrets with a few natural strokes like a handful of twigs.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

20 mar 2013

antinomianism: from the Greek ἀντί, "against" + νόμος, "law", a belief [originating in Christian theology] that faith alone, not obedience to [religious] law, is necessary for salvation

Paul Bowles [pic courtesy of Literary Kicks]

I hope you'll read (better yet, reread) one of my favorite stories of all time: 

How eerily pertinent to my recently departed life.

No more fiendish punishment could be devised, were such a thing physically possible, than that one should be turned loose in society and remain absolutely unnoticed by all the members thereof. If no one turned around when we entered, answered when we spoke, or minded what we did, but if every person we met “cut us dead,” and acted as if we were non-existent things, a kind of rage and impotent despair would before long well up in us, from which the cruellest bodily torture would be a relief.

Susan Howe [pic by Charles Bernstein]

Susan Howe:

PaulValéry once said, “The mollusk does not know its shell until it lives it,” so I curl up inside and work and wait. In my shell are books from all worlds.

Monday, March 18, 2013

18 mar 2013

she likes to hear stories told again & again

why she took her bowl from my house to her house for a little while
that today she brought it back

she tells me the story in her words
she asks me to tell the same story in my words

we say “that’s right” to each other

then she says “why?” 
& I say “why not?” 
& she says “why yes!”

Robert Currie & Anne Carson [pic by Paul Engstrom]

Sunday, March 17, 2013

17 mar 2013

Elena Fanailova [pic by Valerij Ledenev]


I want to live like a snail, wrapped in gauze,
To preserve this decrepit body,
Like a Christmas tree ornament
Nestled in a case of beaded glass,
Life would lay off me,
Stop quivering in the tiers of fiery air.

I want to sleep in that soft velvet case,
Like some forgotten trinket from the theater,
A tiny bead or a lost glove.
I will talk to you at night,
Shining on the telephone in my dreams.

I have grown cunning, quiet. I love to keep silent,
And to guard the thin-walled, fragile things
I save in cigarette papers.

Pyromania, pyrotechnics, flash.
The fire that turns all things to ash.


Better this way: it’s you with nothing to hold on to,
Only you (in a taxicab, in darkness), only you.
Quick, like poison running through water, distorting out of tenderness
The undefined features of a face.

O, don’t wait in the thicket above my soul or behind my back,
Order up some oblivion, some sleepwalking paradise.
I’ll launch a little ship and send gold fish through my veins
In search of sweet daydreams, of wind-up heavens, of the seven seas.

Like it or not, my heart will stay in one piece.
Vodka shines its dry light like a gypsy.
How blinding it all is: the winter solstice,
These unimaginable, inhuman words,
This other fate, the triumph of verse.

A Woman’s Jataka [excerpt]

For Aleksandr Anashevich,
author of a text with this title


Yoko Ono wrote in her diary:
His i.d. cards are in my glove compartment
A hand fixed on the trigger
My finger paused in that round space
Together we’ll still sing some karaoke
Let it be and similar immortal verses
A Double will resound in his head
The nations attack one another in war
I will become his hangover syndrome, his drugstore,
In a word, I must see that man

She is a lady, a beauty and a yellow ape,
A goddess without flaw.
A performance artist and a young pioneer,
Like Kulik today,
They always close the little door behind him.
He’s famed for that.

John Lennon draws obscene little pictures
On the back pages of sheet music,
Giving no thought to battle,
To a factory set up as a co-op,
He doesn’t read Foreign Lit,
Or Woman in the Dunes.
He gets laid in his socks,
He’s Mozart, he’s a child of nature
He’s an arrogant plebe, a mangy stud,
A young sparrow, a matchless playboy,
An unknown hero, a real cowboy,
He hasn’t a clue, who will serve him next

Afterwards, quiet descends
After the heavy spiked port-wine.
His wife is a white fish,
A fool with a belly that’s been cut open

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rachel Blau duPlessis

Rachel Blau DuPlessis [pic by Tom Orange]

Draft 4: In

Walks thru the daily
to write the dead

of living

every day, chopping
every day, a changing, enlarge and isolate, o.

to dangle small specks over the cribside
surds    harmonics dang     odd
ratios    fishing an
anarchist page.

Oaten paper like bread,
ink of the living waves,
light billows in the grain,

Scritto, scribe. crotty
fine fast lines and thick in-
ky turnings

fingerthin mountains
down to the narrow plain,
a pretty pass.

Creamy cup of tea
cool moon night
neighbor window light.
Unrolls accelerating

into the kine and pith
of basis.

How white “all color” the color
of luminous death
whose light
San Francisco    Provence    Paestum

is the color of my vivisection
in the world. The world!
the wheaty, milky world.

Whose years?
and what beg-
articulate a blank blanked space, a dotted dotty line?

Just here . . . a draft, a stroke, a kind of fear.

The composted grids, earth lines
this hand shakes.
Late summer carnation pods dessicate in
spiky columns, blue grey green, each line is an
inter; there is no action, it is an inter,
(although it was genius to isolate
one action
and make it larger)
there is no story or poem

Every day a little sweeping back, a little digging
a change
enlarging or diminishing can change.

Inside the paper of the page
the iris watermark I suck.

A pen, a hand, an inching haibun,
riddle and edges:
tinted flings of ink wherein
inflection singing
bends time’s minute sounds.

In the backward and forward are
lower and higher
drawn out, drawn on, drawn in

a fine tip pen    a brush flick of

amid which nuzzle worms and shaking dew.

Open eye buttabee.
Why the air so blue my honeyo?
Why incredulous by any change?
bud bud bud but bud bud
have turned (should some poem hesitate?)
lactate cherry words
milky spring
to hunger of incipience, perpetual.

So one is finally of it and the “parts” and configuration are
no longer accessible. Stars imperturbability
or matter’s inside Are dark. The mark is dark, the page
is the first imagination of this drawing, this drafting,
these draughts. Skims of language
scatter platters of plenty. Patterns
that hunger. A barque of silage through the sky is as layers of
translucence, transparencies
on which words could be feeding
the cow

                                          inside the ruminant middle.

read through the other, not so much over but the
simultaneous conflictual overloaded presences for which even
“palimpsest” is too structured a docket. Three dimensional
page, a page place or plage, a play space, a play splice
the flimsy drops of scrim through which they filter, shapes
and lights
                            I make the gesture
                                                              comes through me
A perfectly calm practice it is this
yet there is the tension of making a strange train. The run thru the
bi-lingual. Now a very long tunnel totally unexpected. Very dark,
and very long Entering under the whole structure of
transcendence Long drawn black
bold in relation to nature. fodder strokes
And now there is no “in” in anything? any
deeper or more intimate forage, language
any                        knowledge of the                 in is some effect I
can no longer resist. Have no idea what stop I am.
                                                            grassy drawing on white is
for me to show, to show me it, in. “The green horizon, early
winter dusk” is certainly pretty. I am not getting the force of it,
the rebuff,
this constant imperviousness laced with my pleasure.

the world. The sorde serif I call myself. Because I am inside,
am a mite in the letter
a traveller thru are, the senses of dark holes tunneling grainy paper.
Gathering all because of being in it,
I am getting the force of it, in.

                                       August — December 1987; November 1988; May 1991

16 mar 2013

[courtesy of Latuff Cartoons]

Overlooked by the New Pope, or
Torture in Argentina

young woman
young man
take off all your clothes

accept these metal clips
on your nipples, vagina
testicles, penis

accept — my pleasure —
these electric shocks

young woman
open your mouth
for these hard cocks
suck & choke & swallow

young man
bend over
for these hard cocks
rammed up your asshole

young woman
open your thighs

for this snake to slither
up your vagina
coil into your uterus
birth back out

or was it a rat
that crawled?

young man
young woman

forgive me
I have forgotten
what else

Friday, March 15, 2013

15 mar 2013

[pic courtesy of Pedal Car Planet]

Male Stance, Male Gaze

Feeling this, what should be the form
Which the ungainliness already suggested
Should take?

Louis Zukofsky, "'Mantis': An Interpretation"

I look up to see a fire truck
stopped at the curb behind us
wonder what the fire people are up to

I hand Mike the phone, push here
for the next step, I say

I look up at those firemen again
what’s going on, they say to me
I’m giving him his phone with a map
so he knows where to go

arms extended point & wave
you’re in the middle of the road, they say

I look around me — the car
snugged close to the curb, the fire truck, too
a sunny mid-morning, awfully quiet, no traffic
I look for disorder & find none

I’m giving him a map to find his way

I marvel at the tension, their energetic arms
one points, move the car into the parking lot

I’m standing beside a car on an empty road
still baffled, hearing their words, yes
but more than that, their anger — no, fury

I walk to the curb, stop one step away
stop at the bulk of the fireman's frantic wave
he reaches an arm as if to pull my arm

get out of the road, he says
as Mike drives away

I watch the firemen steaming & scowling
I say, 
your message is clear
I’m sorry for your trouble, I say

three shaking their heads
speaking to each other in lowered tones
turning back to their truck
job well done

jaywalking, I step across two lanes
I wonder, 
will they reengage?

I cross the median
then the two final lanes
make my way safely to the other side

no traffic, no disorder — oh so male
this enduring noise inside my head they’ve made