To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Monday, April 30, 2012

Jerome Rothenberg: Seven Flag Poems

please note. a list of postings after january 12, 2012 can be found here

La Primavera

salute, compadres,
the flag of the great
            mother of us all
the goddess of america
raised high
salute her puffy
& parched cheeks, her banners,
nipples on the rise,
the ever benign crocuses that mark
the triumph of spring
in the beauty of the word primavera,
the day is terminal,
the goddess appearing for the party
stumbles & retreats,
she sends a spray into the air
& lets it fall,
sad & dependable,
the civic band plays up
the stars & stripes

Flag Poem One

sad flag     fat girl
straddles a pump
her knees under her breasts
into each life a little
solitude     the juice
of energies seeps through
“Make love beneath it”
sighs my heart
the red eye of her vulva
staring back

Flag Poem Two

the mystery behind
the weave     a star in place
right where the eye should be
blazons the prayer
the patriot wears over his heart
& shows the world
america in moonlight
tiny dervishes
how sticky are their tongues
tonight     how bright
their spangles

Flag Poem Three

the barber is a proud man

in his hand
a flag moves, driven
by the wind

 the children of the lower states
cry out

o patriots’ dreams
o alabaster cities

Flag Poem Four

over the city sleeps
the goddess
over the goddess
sleep the stars
& stripes
the universal flag
flaps on, the monstrous voice
resumes old energies
wrapped in the cosmic wind

 Flag Poem Five

flag mother sits
atop the hill
her cigar is a wandering star
her breasts balloons
with wavy stripes
up her abutments
red & white
they cover her body in the sky
like blood & milk
a baby patriot
plops from her womb

Flag Poem Six

“release the flag”
they tell him
“no” he roars     retreating
to the farmhouse
he holds the varmints off
his fickle eye against the siding
“I repeat my stance
“I howl for ye
“proud little sisters, little stars
the evening slinks away
the cowboy stands
kneedeep in banners

Flag Poem Seven

the time called
hour of the flag
has struck     how bright
& fortunate
the crowd now can advance
with shiny shoes
their eyes
like the eyes of children
or like the eyes of dogs
they are a faithful crowd
& each one
waves its tiny flag
the sign of their admission
to this crowd

A Note on the Preceding.  When in 2008 I fused two books of mine, Poland/1931 and Khurbn, and added to those a third, The Burning Babe, to make a single volume (Triptych) for New Directions, I inadvertently let the “other poems” in the original Khurbn & Other Poems go effectively out of print.  Looking back at those now in the course of preparing a large reader of my work for Black Widow Press, I feel a strong desire to reclaim at least some of them & bring them into some form of contemporary circulation.  The small series, above, which goes back to a Reaganesque period of patriotic flag waving, seems to me to be a kind of poem I would continue to write today – the national disease to which it speaks still with us, still calling forth an old poetics of disgust (T. Tzara) in answer.  The year of a new presidentiad (2012) – with its attendant tea party clamors & patriotic bromides – seems like a perfect time to try it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Outsider Poems, a Mini-Anthology in Progress (36): Uncle Jake Carpenter, from Deaths on Three-Mile Creek 1841-1915

please note. a list of postings after january 12, 2012 can be found here

An Anthology of Death
                                                 Photo of Uncle Jake by Lenoir Franklin

            Wm Davis       age 100.8        dide oc 5            1841

                wars old soldier in rev ware         and got his

                        thie brok in last fire at Kinge’s monte

                     he wars farmer             and made brandy

                          and never had Drunker in famly


Franky Davis his wife         age 87             dide Sep 10         1842

            she had nirve fite wolves all nite at shogar camp

                    to save her caff          throde fier chonks

                        the camp wars half mile from home

                noe she must have nirv to fite wolf all nite


  Charley Kiney             age 72           dide may 10               1852

        wars farmer live in mt on bluey rige at kiney gap

                   he had 4 wimmin cors marid to one

                                    rest live on farme

            all went to felde                work to mak grain

                        all wen to crib for ther bread

                    all went smok hous for there mete

                he cilde bote 75 to 80 hoges every yere

               and wimen never had wordes bout him

                             haven so many wimin

                        if he wod be living this times

                                 wod be hare pulde

                 thar wars 42 children blong to him

                  they all wento preching togethern

   nothing sed                des aver body go long smoth

                                    help one nother

                                  never had any foes

                        got along smoth with avery bodi

                                            I nod him

Written down by uncle jake carpenter of Three-Mile Creek, Avery County, in the western mountains of North Carolina.  The impulse to poetry in these “obituaries” – some written long after the actual deaths – may not be much different from that in Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology & other elegies.  Now known as “Uncle Jake Carpenter’s Anthology of Death,” the title by his own reference was to his “Son-of-a-Gun Book” or his “Jot-em-down- Book” – a red-backed account ledger in which he recorded the deaths of many of his fellow citizens over a seventy-year span.  The work also enters contemporary American poetry through Jonathan Williams’s poem “From Uncle Jake Carpenter’s Anthology of Death on Three-Mile Creek.”

Monday, April 23, 2012

Charles Bernstein: The Truth in Pudding

Imagine poetry as a series of terraces, some vast, some no bigger than a pinprick, overlooking the city of language. The sound and light show begins in the dark: sentences dart by, one by one, forming wave after wave of the rag and boneshop of the quotidian, events passing before our eyes like the faint glimmer of consciousness in an alcoholic stupor. Facts, facts everywhere but not a drop to drink.

Now it is dawn, now night, now noon, now morning. It’s as if the day never ends, it just keeps coming back for more.

Language is an event of the world, just as, for language users, the world is an event of language. Even the world is a word.

Speak truth to truth.

In the viscosity of process, the end never arrives.

Poetry shows the ink the way out of the inkbottle.

Don’t let the Proper Name horse lead the active thinking cart.

A thing of beauty is annoyed forever.

Poetry’s social function is not to express but rather to explore the possibilities for expression.

Poetry is difficulty that stays difficult.
[Hank Lazer via Pound/Williams]

Slivers of reason make amends.

Connect the knots.

Blaming others for your own failings is inevitable; getting others to do it for you is unforgivable.

Fate makes us who we are
Just as we make it what it is
But the sadness overwhelms.

I don’t want interdisciplinarity but nondisciplinarity.

Something there is that doesn’t love a frame
That wants it laid bare.

Before I made a frame I'd ask to know
What I was framing in or framing out.

Two frames diverged on the common road
& I, I could not choose the one for the other
So stood, astounded, in place.

For frames are what we are inside of.

Two frames are better than one
Three's the thicket.

Today I am worried about Professor B, who worries about whether his worrying is run-of-the-mill worry or worrisome worry and this worrying about his worry worries him the most, turning his worrying into the kind of worrisome worry he worries about.

“Is the best you can do really the best you can do?”

Does the work frame the interpretation or the interpretation frame the text? Or is a text a work without a frame?

Poetry starts in the present but immediately takes you to its many pasts, through its many paths.

What is missing from bird's eye view is plain to see on the ground.

Not incoherent, coherent by other means. By any means necessary.

Not the flow of consciousness but the flow of perception.

"It is not a thought, finished and complete, that seeks expression in a beautiful form. It is thought's struggle, what is in and below the thoughts; it is the things and all things behind them, the life-material, expressed in our perception, that we should render in aesthetic creation." [Gunnar Bjorling, tr. Fredrik Hertzberg]

What's the difference between narrative and story? What's the difference between stories told and untold? What's the difference between a story told once, a story told twice, and a story told many times? Does a story have to find its own way of telling itself or does the teller tell it? How can you tell the told from the tale?

A fact is a frozen state of affairs. If I had to stipulate the facts of the poem I would say there are no facts other than the words and the words are not facts at all but what makes facts possible. The poem is the fact of its own making. The poet is the extension of the fact of the poem.

 “It is what it is. It swings.”
[Paul Anka]

In the 1990s, it was common in Russia to find stores with empty shelves, but one was stripped to bare walls. It was a shelf store.

So much depends on what you mean by failure, what you want from success, and what you imagine poems do. Insofar as a poem is successful, it fails to fail, but, in failing to fail, it also succeeds at failing. That's a lose-lose scenario (which in the alchemy of poetry we imagine as win-win).

Some praise the beauty of a poem and the exactness of its images. Maybe this is what least I like. The poem’s polish makes a glossy surface in which I see myself staring, barred from making it to the other side. Here we find the hymen of voyeurism intact. So here the poetics is compulsory autoeroticism. I have several names for what went wrong: tone constrained, ending boned, syntax pulled thin over box-like frame, then teaspoon
used for stirring in feeling.

Either you have talent or we’ll buy you some.

Better a four-legged dog than a three-legged cat.

The time is not far off, or maybe it has already come to pass, when computers will be able to write better poems than we can. So we must now add to logopoeia, phanopoeia, and melopoeia: algorhythmia.

Good poets make analogies, great poets make analogies between analogies.

Computers will never replace poets because computers won’t take that much abuse.

Is the diachronic robustness more valuable than synchronic flickering?

The work of art always exceeds its material embodiment as well as its ideal form: physical or digital instantiations, anterior codes or algorithms, experience while reading or viewing, interpretations, contexts of publication or appearance, historical connections – all these have an affinity, clustering around an empty center.

Three types of fragmentation, or three aspects of any fragment: disjunction, ellipsis, constellation.

Serial frames, each displacing but not replacing one another.

In modular or serial essay form, each of the interchanging parts relate tangentially to the next, forming a cluster around a projected but unstated series of possible motifs. In this way, different aspects of the imaginary are addressed, as if they were the interlocking faces on the surface of a crystal.  Juxtaposing disparate, if related, material, forms an array or constellation within an environment.

“… we attain to but brief and indeterminate glimpses.” [E. A. Poe, The Poetic Principle]

Words falter then fail, love and care persist.

Love falls away, cares betrayed, words remain.

Better last night’s salami than this morning’s baloney.

Are poetry and poetics at odds? Are poetics and scholarship opposing? Is innovation a matter of aesthetics or of applied research?

Poetry is to the classroom what a body is to a cemetery.

Poetics and innovation are the Scylla and Charybdis, or possibly Mutt and Jeff, or then again dog and bone, or possibly singer and song, or is it doctor and patient, or inner and outer, or hook, line, and sinker?, of the politics of poetic form.

If reading poetry is not directed to the goal of deciphering a fixed, graspable meaning, but rather encourages performing and responding to overlapping meanings, then difficulty is transformed from obstacle to opening.

“It is a puzzle. I am not puzzled but it is a puzzle. … I am not puzzled but it is very puzzling.” [Gertrude Stein, The Mother of Us All]

everybody talks about the fall of the humanities
but few make the effort to get up.
in other words, does the past have a future?

"The ladder urges us beyond ourselves. Hence its importance. But in a void, where do we place it?" [Edmond Jabes, tr. by Rosmarie Waldrop]

Information is born free but is everywhere in chains.

Poetry is metadata without code, free-base tagging, cascading style sheets with undefined markers.

The role of teaching poetry, or of poetry criticism, is not to overrule difficulty, as in a court of law, but to sustain it – to recognize the ways that resistance to easy assimilation might sustain our engagement with the poem and in the process provide aesthetic pleasure and intellectual challenge.

Are we scholars and teachers and artists or academetricians?

The crucial distinction, in our poetics, is not only between presenting and representing, enacting and expressing, but also grasping and pointing.

All poetics is political
All poetry is politics
All politics is poetics

What you think and $5 will get you exactly something that’s worth $2.95

Think of poetry groupings not as islands but as directions: northern or southern, open to inhabitation by different times, different populations.

Schools are made to be broken.

No where to go but on.

Yes, we have no ideology, yes we have no ideology today.

Tumble, sunder,  fake,  fall. These are not only my subjects but also practice (makes imperfect). Does the poem allow its error to lead? rupture? collapse? rapture?

Even the Pacific Ocean has a bottom, but you’d be hard pressed to get there with even strokes.

I may be wrong, in fact I most surely am wrong, just not as wrong as you.

Two rights almost always make a wrong.

The absence of absence is not evidence of absence. (The evidence of absence is not the absence of evidence.)

What is after me is also after me. I hide in my past.

“But the world will never weary of watching that troubled soul in its progress from darkness to darkness.” [Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist]

Don’t tell me it’s time to go to bed because I just woke up.

In Portuguese, you don't count the last syllable.

As if poetry was something you give to your mother-in-law when she goes deaf.

Rabbi Eliza would always say, Which comes first, the egg or the idea? as a way to stop a conversation she felt was coming too soon to a conclusion. One very hot afternoon, Rabbi Omar asked Rabbi Eliza to trace the origins of her favorite maxim. “In a roundabout way,” Rabbi Eliza began, looking up from the passage she was studying, “it’s related to Rabbi Yukel’s so-called Rule of the Index Finger: Don’t put all your chickens in one egg, which itself is a variant of the saying, attributed to Rabbi Raj, and which we chant on the first half moon of Winter, One egg is not the world. On hearing this, Rabbi Omar loudly protested, noting that several centuries before Rabbi Raj, Rabbi Not-Enough-Sand-in-Desert-not-Enough-Water-in-the-Sea had insisted that the central question to ponder on nights-without-visible-rainbows is Which comes first the basket or the idea of the basket?. “Exactly,” Rabbi Eliza said with a triumphant laugh, “without baskets or eggs we would only have words and without words only mouths.”

Imagine poetry as a series of terraces, some vast, some no bigger than a pinprick, overlooking the city of language. The sound and light show begins in the dark: sentences dart by, one by one, forming wave after wave of the rag and boneshop of the quotidian, events passing before our eyes like the faint glimmer of consciousness in an alcoholic stupor. Facts, facts everywhere but not a drop to drink.

Now it is dawn, now night, now noon, now morning. It’s as if the day never ends, it just keeps coming back for more.

Language is an event of the world, just as, for language users, the world is an event of language. Even the world is a word.

[Originally published in NO: A Journal of the Arts #6, 2007, to reappear shortly in Recalculating, Charles Bernstein’s next book from University of Chicago Press.]

[please note. a list of postings after january 12, 2012 can be found here]

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Clayton Eshleman" "Self As Selva," a new poem from Penetralia (forthcoming)

please note. a list of postings after january 12, 2012 can be found here

It is a fine autumn Sunday and my tourniquet has just turned on.

Robert A.F. Thurman: “According to the Buddha, the reality of all things is ultimate selflessness. And this experience of turning around in the depth of the self from self-delusion and self-obsession to freedom and concern for others is the fountain of Buddhistic energy. Possessing an independent self at the core of one’s being is a delusion. Selflessness is a description of the experienceable condition of the living self, which obviously does exist, and obviously is not a static, independent, isolated, or alienated entity. Seeing through the false sense of rigid self releases a person from the imprisoning sense of alienation from the universe. The Buddha devised a host of methods and techniques to assist people to realize their own selflessness, freedom, and compassion.”

 Or as Wallace Stevens put it: “losing in self / The sense of self…”

 H.P. Lovecraft: “To know that one is no longer a definite being distinguished from other beings—that one no longer has a self—that is the nameless summit of  agony and dread.”

 William Blake: “The Spectre… is the Great Selfhood
Satan: Worshipd as God by the Mighty Ones of the Earth
Having a White Dot calld a Center from which branches out
A Circle in continual gyrations. this became a Heart
From which sprang numerous branches varying their motions
Producing many heads three or seven or ten, & hands & feet
Innumerable at will of the unfortunate contemplator
Who becomes his food such is the way of the Devouring Power”

 “I come in Self-annihilation & the grandeur of Inspiration…”

 Once we have cast off the self’s hood, are we left with pure self?

 “A dynamic unstable agglomerate of skandas that in itself posses no inherent substantiality or enduring quality and that continues in constant flux until final dissolution at death”

Ah, the selzer of self, the carbonated, carboniferous antiquity of the ever-evaporating self!

Sylph, or elf, as if fragments of self,
gaseous particles that make up that “White Dot calld a Center,”
past lives, or dream incursions, the forge of nightmare,
one’s chest as anvil on which a Muse-muzzled succubus crouches
pounding energy deposits into the helpless dreamer?
No, the dreamer is self’s help-mate, receiving, like 9 inch spikes,
these elf and sylph deposits, the souls of eaten animals,
one’s own dead, those who sip at the ofrenda feasts,
below conscious personality this trillion horde of butterflies pulsates,
a World Tree of sorts, drawing up through its fluttering trunk,
the breath of one’s dead.
                                                    Is it this conglomerate
presence/ non-presence of the dead that complexes the Self?

As I walk down the street, on different planes, in different directions,
galleys are stroking through the liquid self that makes up my being,
nebulous continuum open to incursion from the moment of conception.
Who or what has assigned specific rowers to these galleys?
Some wear wolf masks, some are headless, some I’d swear are
conscious and subconscious spliced organisms—
hybrid animal souls swirl up in dream,
swirl here, in these necro-nectar vials, these words…


Inspiration: shadow of the Samuel Greenberg falcon with Hart Crane’s nape in its talons…

What I need is a topocosmic center,
the world order of a particular place,
an ever-evolving god to withstand the merging of different cultures,
   different myths…

We no longer sacrifice bulls to Zeus, but the slanting Akashic microphone
picks up Font-de-Gaume convexities,
there are bison here as intangible as the concavities of Iraq.

The quest is always to abandon one’s starting blocks,
to set fire to the track under one’s soles,
to flip away the winner cord, eliminate the track and set forth
with all other runners into the suburbs or wilds,
searching for the birdserpent in one’s heart…

Northrop Frye: “Blake saw that as long as man lives within a hierarchical myth without really knowing it, his whole behavior will be conditioned beyond the point of resistance:
a rebellion against one hierarchy will merely set up a second one.”

Pierre Joris via Deleuze and Guattari: “The rhizome is an anti-hierarchical means of organizing knowledge and of recognizing intersections and engagements between seemingly disparate ideas and things. Botanically, the rhizome is a branching that has no ‘center.’ All segments are fertile. Any segment broken off from the rest may serve as a new starting point, a new origin of life.”

Frye again: “What is needed for creation is a new bicameral mind in which something else supplants consciousness.”

An identity in the indefinite.
Antiphonal slingshots “mixing” day and night minds.
Honeysuckle sweet worm cast perfume interlacing arctic crystalline breeze.
A self-regulatory anarchy.

Not to eliminate self (as in Nirvana) but to become an infanite in the infinite, infantrailed, permeated with the absence to come; engaging the center, farewelling the center. Minotaur wedlock. Lightning-bolt love.

Self as engine as well as brimming circumference. Self as one’s mind after and before birth: differentiated identity and the undifferentiated lower levels where specters from humanity’s past still dwell.

We emerged from a circumpolar spiritus rector, cloudy and ice-driven. The gods have animal minds. The totem pole salmon-raven-beaver-bear “folk” as DNA double helix evocation.

Self as selva, a liana matrix of twintwisted lingo.

note. The poem posted here is from a manuscript called Penetralia, which will be published by Black Widow Press in 2013. This fall, Black Widow will publish a large collection of Eshleman’s poems, notes, essays, reviews, translations, prose poems, lectures, & aphorisms, to be called The Price of Experience. Also in 2013 Ugly Duckling Press will publish his translation of Jose Antonio Mazzotti's book, Sakra Boccata, & Wesleyan University Press will publish his cotranslation with A. James Arnold of the original 1939 Notebook of a Return to the Native Land by Aimé Césaire (in conjunction with UNESCO's 2013 Year of Césaire), which has heretofore only been published in a Spanish translation in Havana (1943).  Earlier postings of Eshleman’s poems on Poems and Poetics appeared here & here, as well as a number of his translations.