Saturday, September 30, 2006

Best American Poetry 2005 isn't the type of anthology I like. one poem per poet doesn't work for me. I would prefer depth over breadth. BAP is not, Pinksy's blurb to the contrary, a comprehensive overview of contemporary poetry, the context is too blurry. this anthology makes me feel rushed, try this try this try this. Bay Poetics doesn't feel so, partly, I think, because of the local connection, it does feel like one gets a glimpse of the scene out west. plus most of the poets represented have several poems included. it's kinda weird with BAP that 30% of the book isn't poetry, it's all the back matter/front matter stuff. I know I'm late to the party in bashing BAP, I don't really mean to bash. I can see reading the book straight thru, make an evening of it. there are writers I like here, and forgetable writers (mostly the latter). I haven't looked at America A Prophecy, edited by some combination of George Quasha, Armand Schwerner and Jerome Rothenberg, in some time but I consider that a pretty good model for an anthology. much more adventuresome. that's true of all the anthologies I've seen the above involved with. overview anthologies are always going to have huge holes in them, they just gotta. another saving grace of Bay Poetics is Stephanie Young's aesthetics. definitely she makes Bay Poetics. this BAP, and I'll bet the rest too, has a middle of the road dynamic that doesn't inspire me. with such small sampling from each writer, stylistic differences diminish. the poems start to sound the same. but wait, check out this sentence from the blurb to Mark Doty's book:

"In a style chastened by loss into plainness but still capable of unforgettable lyricism, Doty searches for affirmation in the midst of suffering while at the same time refusing the cheap solace of any affirmation that would diminish the irreplaceable value of those we love."

must credit Alan Shapiro as the perp who wrote that nuggest, which caught my eye as I bethought BAP. it's such a preposterously fluffed up hopefulness on display, that poetry could get involved with solace and affirmation. I believe in that solace and affirmation, but it doesn't come out of a machine. I mean, is James Tate excited when he writes another poem? poem, that is, that is little different from previous and to come. I assume someone handed Doty a list of adjecives and urged him, perhaps on pain of death (!!!) to use them all. what bothers me with the poetry here, Doty and BAP, is that the skill set for writing it is pretty vague and unconditioned. I enjoyed some poems in BAP, not yet with Doty, but I don't get an idea from either as to what a good poem might be or entail. it is hard to say what makes these works poems. what the hell is a poem? it's not so much the point to answer that question, perhaps it shouldn't even be answered. but the question should be pondered headlong by anyone trying to write one. let's say that the question of what a poem is should be implicit in every poem. it doesn't wash to say a poem is a poem because it sounds like one, uses poem language, agrees exactingly with models of yore, etc. complacent acceptance of the norm aint poetry. it aint interesting either.
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Friday, September 29, 2006

quick visit to the library where, in the new books enticement shelves, I copped a book by Mark Doty, one by Frank Bidart, and BAP 2005. I feel like reviewing them, sight unseen. you know, I predict a poem in which, blah blah blah. I don't love poems. poetry, if the distinction holds, means more to me than the little shacks devised as poems. when I was younger, I read widely in the world of poetry. in my hoary dotage, I don't want to read a lot of poetry. it is bootless to say I want to read only good poetry, I can't know it is good till I present my eyes with the word, but I have less patience with what strikes me as culled from the past. I read a short poem by Doty, and laughed aloud. voici:

Shahid's Couplet

Your old kitchen, dear, on Bleecker: sugar, dates, black tea.
Your house, then ours. Anyone's now. Memory's furious land.

Bleecker, that's got a permanent footnote attached. it's so Greenwichy. that kitchen boiled down to magical three. intended to evoke but the details seem so random. my kitchen boasts the same, but that don't relate me to Doty. the 2nd sentence and 3rd telescope relationship into barest nothing. meat of the poem. couldn't it have been a single sentence? yes and yes. last sentence, very boiled down but with the stupid and excessive adjective. he has received fellowships and is a professor. it's like he didn't quite get Pound's Metro. minimalism is not a trick, but Doty tries t make magic. I think of Tom Beckett, who (I assume) pares and pares. not, that is, just a matter of stopping or cutting out, but intensifying into the very (few) words. or Grenier, who is simply amazed by every word. Doty's yanking our chain, using a trick or gambit. his details have no grasp. there's no specificity in his selection, only the word dear gives any emotional energey. the fury of memory's land is not indicated by anything in the poem. all seems pretty ho hum. professor offers this lalala to HarperCollins, and HC foments the revolution upon the pome-buying public. an exercise in lameness. national book critics circle award for poetry. I'm too tired to wrassle properly with this sort of clunk.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

quick visit to Barnes and Noble, whereat I found no copies of Best American Poetry. somebody has dropped the ball. NOR had they copies of Principles of Mathematics by Sir Isaac Newton. the B&N warehouse contains the book, calling it a textbook so that it can be priced at 90 fuckin bucks. cripes, Newton must've signed a hell of a royalty deal.
poking thru my library's for sale books, I found one called Kaddish by Leon Wieseltier. I don't know why it attracted me, except that it's been a kaddishy couple of weeks. I grew up in the Unitarian church, where rituals and ceremonies are half-hearted at best. I know little about the ritual of Kaddish, if ritual is the proper word. this book is an attempt by the author to come to grips with his father's death, and to understand more about Kaddish itself. the book, then, is a journal of his reading and study, and ruminations. a map of his discovery, I guess. I haven't read much but like what I've read. I particularly admire the way it jumps around, as thoughts jump. like any journal, it can be read by skimming, opening any page and reading there. it occurred to me that that's what my book Days Poem does. it spans out, flakes out, leaps about. with Wieseltier's book, you don't know what any page might have on it, because his curiosity shifts his direction all the time. this made me think of Eileen Tabios' big brick of a book I Take Thee, English, For My Beloved. her book is like a Tabios anthology, with interviews, criticism, theory as well as poems. what holds it together, and what I think holds together my book, along with Wieseltier's, is a dogged insistence of attention. what is Kaddish but a ceremonial remembrance. which itelf is a process of understanding. Wieseltier's book goes more than 500 pages, as does Eileen's. I didn't mean to write a defense of big books but, again, taking the freedom to use as much space as you need for a book is a good thing. and I'll reiterate the idea of not knowing where the author is going, how this is a good thing.
here is the Demolicious website. this sunday is Brenda Iiijima, which I hope I spell correctly (just one 'r' in Brrenda?) and Mark Pawlak. I read in April with Alan Davies. yes, that's Alan and Allen. and yes, that means my promotional machine will be working constantly for 6 effing months. enjoy!!!
I don't know why critics makes statements such as this except for a crowning need to reveal their own foolishness. in adapting Lynch's words, Basbol may just be throwing out a maybe, but Lynch isn't. and I don't even accept Basbol's maybe. I don't accept the premise that certain means of expression can't be profound. oooo, profound. what is profundity, by the bye? such statements indicate limitation and resistance. what inherent aspect of collage, or flarf, rules out this profundity? one again, the rules commitee skids offtrack. rather than accept the blockade, try scrutinizing the resistance.

Monday, September 25, 2006

k, so what I've writ about reading this sunday is no longer viable. adjustment of schedules, prison sentences, that sort of thing. Brenda Ijima and Mark Pawlak read this sunday at 2pm, Cambridge (one and only) Mass. I read in April. when the schedule is firm, it has danced in fluidity, I'll post it. Boston area poetry scene needn't be shitty. unfortunately, the stasis that is Harvard University leans a heavy burden on those pushing the sides of the box. that is not to say that NYC and SF and all those other ratcheted places haven't their own issues of frozen stiff. the point everyanywhere is determining a stride and path other than. the pain of which, etc. watch and see if I don't manage to kick out the jams.
Eileen Tabios speaks of long poetry books. my Days Poem seems gaudily long at 800 pages in manuscript. too long, even, so that I have been reluctant to offer it. I'd sent Meritage another, shorter manuscript, and simply mentioned Days Poem as an oh by the way. luckily, long piques Eileen's interest (ahem) and she asked to see it. the manuscript, that is. printing it out for her was the 1st time I'd printed the whole megilla. I started the poem under the influence of Jim Leftwich's Doubt, a 500 page tour-de-force published by Potes & Poets Press. I loved his surging dense language but also that extent. the 1st few pages that I wrote, I probably sound like Leftwich. but then I started onto my own path. and the work developed its own necessity. part of which necessity consisted of writing in the work every day. so I wrote on my wedding day, I wrote on the Christmas of the solar eclipse, I wrote everyday at Children's Hospital during our 9 day stay there when Erin broke his leg, I wrote during our travels, I wrote and wrote. after 14 months, the work told me it was done. I appreciate a publisher willing to bring out such a long work. the operative point here isn't about the length, but that the work is allowed its fullness. believe me, I grok the economics. I'd've brought it out myself, if the financials were feasible. this way I luck out with Eileen's eminently supportive presence, which is the greatest gift. if I'd thought small, I'd be scuttling my work toward magazines, anthologies and neat 80 page books. which are fine venues, but, you know, this 800 page poem wouldn't fit there. and I would hate to think I was tailoring my work to the size of such venues. the excitement of Jack Kimball's Post~Twyla, to offer a for instance, feeds off ofthe venture of Jack writing to the work's full extent. you could cut 80 pages out of P~T and have a good read, but that would amount to saying, hey, great arm! it should be noted that print on demand looks like a saving grace, a way of softening the economic blow. anyway, I am full thankful to Eileen and super wow excited that Days Poem will see light.
Erin and I attended another Magic Card tournament, this time at an exurban location. front desk directed us thru the courtyard. this route sent us practically thru an Indian wedding ceremony. wow, that was eyepopping. almost everyone, including the many children, wore fabulously colourful clothing. the courtyard features lots of plants and fountainns (this was at a Holiday Inn), as well as the pool. great setting, and terrifically decorated. Erin and I proceeded to get lost, ended up circumnavigating the building. at the entrance to the tournament hall, and pardon what seems like a cliche, odour of body was pronounced. I saw a few there who fit the figment, who look like their diet consists of pizza and Mountain Dew and that they don't see the sun very often, but mostly you can't really peg a Magic Card enthusiast by any easy fieldmarks. tho there is a consistly eager and intent look on Magic Card players when game is on, and players, not playas, are generously represented by the male sex. I won't say I don't get it, because Magic cards are both a complex and ever-evolving game AND a collectible, I just lack the aesthetic to appreciate. I don't enjoy games generally. Erin and I hung out, waiting for his flight to begin. once it did, I wandered off in search of food and adventure. well, no adventure. the food was a snack machine. I got a few items to keep Erin's strength up (not Dew). just down the hall the wedding guests were partaking of a feast of Indian food, which wasn't fair. by that time the childen were ready to run around. a few represetatives from the Magic Hall of Fame were in attendance. these were players who'd won a lot of tournaments. for a fee you could play these guys. as I sat there, I saw one guy come back to his friends after his flight ended and said, I just got beat by an actual retard. his friend asked for details, but I couldn't hear. probably the retard simply outthunk him. Erin lost in his flight. to play, everyone is given an unopened deck of random Magic cards to play with, so there's luck as well as skill involved. it all looks sorta fun but expensive if you let it. I should mench, just to prove that there's something to the image, that pizza deliveries were continuous.