Saturday, March 29, 2008

the death of Jonathan Williams got me thinking. I never really studied him, in that sense of literary imperative. I met his work in the early 70s, when I read New American Poetry. I enjoyed Elite/Elate, and a couple of short later books. I'm not trying to place him in the poetry pantheon, just indicating my acquaintance. when artists die, exquisite documents of effect appear. those documents tend to work from template and are not, finally, useful. not having met JW, I cannot count coup on his memory in that way, either. it occurred to me that I have no iconic heroes left alive. I think the possibility of iconic hero has burnt off, in fact. Charles Olson affected me as a writer perhaps more than any other, tho I will say that the 1st writer that I emulated was probably Robert Benchley, he also of Worcester, Mass). I did not hear about Olson until as much as a year after his death, so he could hardly fulfill the role for me that Pound and Dahlberg did for O. but I did follow his indications. I read much of those writers associated, however accurately, with Black Mountain. sought out the historians that he touted, Sauer and Harrison, and the ancients. etc. it made sense to me, following this course, and still does. having said that, I recognize that Olson was nuts. Guy Davenport has a terrific essay in which he tries to find someone, among Olson's partisans and peers, who actually got what the Big O was talking about. good luck on that. nothing wrong with that bizarre sort of murk. I would say Jung, for instance, was pretty arcane as well. the caution is simply not to take it all too gullibly or systematically. the Olson Now conference that I attended last year couldn't quite shake free from slavish respect, tho Ben Friedlander for one posed some useful and sharp questions regarding Olson (an unvoiced anti-Semitism). Olson's body has lain mould'ring in the grave for nearly 40 years so the common grief of knowing him should have worn off. for that matter, the equal and opposite re-evaluation should have toned down too, but I do not think it has. I'm reading The Poem of a Life by Mark Scroggins, about Zukofsky. I may not finish it any time soon, my time is focused elsewhere, but it is a fine book about a fascinating character (don't miss the picture of Zukofsky posing on a motorcycle with a couple of friends). there's an urge to study these people that seems both useful and damaging. I have not yet read Scroggins' account of the relationship of the 3 Zukofskys with Lorine Niedecker but know enough that it was muddled and probably not quite as everyone may have said it was. I mean, this sort of thing is context, but also distraction. I learned a lot from Robert Creeley but I essentially stopped reading him 30 years ago. my attention turned elsewhere, which should not be taken as final judgment. I had a dynamic response to the LANGUAGE poets--I should be more specific and not use the damning lump module: Silliman, Bernstein, Hejinian, Perelman, Susan Howe--but they never were larger than life. Kenner identifying a Pound Era is reasonable, but the poetic landscape that I see (in the direction that I am looking) might be called post-LANGUAGE, but only in a dispirited way. CAConrad eulogizes Jonathan Williams with a hail to the positive energy that JW supplied to the poetry world. Conrad kinda deflates that by mentioning the cat and bat in JW's home, personal attributes that I the reader never partook of. Conrad had the opportunity to meet JW but poetry cannot be contingent on such meetings. such personal assertions are distracting, tho I understand the loss. we can look at Olson and see his Dahlberg daddy, his Pound daddy, even his Creeley daddy, as well as his Creeley son. truth is there, but it also follows a literary line to insist too strongly on these dimensions. we have got to keep our eye on the work itself. I guess that's the bottom line I was heading towards when I began this ramble.
just a quick mench of a kitty Kodak moment. said kitty passed thru the house with imperative. upon investigation (an imperative on our part) we discovered that he had a mouse in his mouth. he seemed rather proud of his catch but suddenly, he dropped it. the cat and the 3 of us studied under the furniture for the escapee till finally mousie scampered forth. our cat, Mowgli, put up a good effort in chasing the mouse till the mouse got wise and climbed a bookcase. Mowgli did not think vertically. the mouse remained there so I easily placed a handy mug over it, a piece of cardboard slipped under that, then I transported it to the porch. I placed the mug on the table, and lifted it. mouse took a moment to get its bearings then hopped onto the bannister then leapt a full 6' horizontally while also dropping 6'. and scampered off. Mowgli has finished off mice but admittedly he isn't a great hunter. when he was still kittenish he chased a mouse into a corner. I wanted to capture the mouse so I got close, with glass in hand. well that mouse had some fight in him, he lunged forward and both Mowgli and I lurched back, and mouse escaped. and one more hunting adventure: I saw that a previous cat, who was an effective hunter, caught a chipmunk. I went out and put my hand on the cat to convince him to release the chipmunk. he did. before skipping off, the chipmunk actually swatted the cat on the nose. it was a Chip 'n Dale moment that really pissed the cat off.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

a few notes before I do other things with the day. as an early birthday present we gave Erin a hotel room for last night, so that he could spend more time at Anime Boston. he took the bus in early yesterday. we went in in the afternoon with his bag and because the hotel needed to see the credit card personally. his room was on the 28th floor, with a view of the Charles, upon which sailboats darted like tropical fish. and the Prudential Building looming above. it actually gave me vertigo to approach the window. we spent a little while in the lobby, which of course was busy, with a fair share of anime fans in costume. Erin was dressed simply, with furry ears and a long tail, representing I dunno what. the ears match his hair colour, and with his Olsonian proportions, he makes quite a spectacle. which he likes. people really get into the cosplay stuff. many clearly have practiced their poses, wielding their weapon, wand or whatever prop just so. it is fun to watch. I saw an older guy, in the mall outside the convention centre, wolfishly approach a small group of costumed teens. he looked pervy in his rush towards them. I didn't notice him wearing a convention tag, and he didn't look like someone who would attend. just hanging around looking for photo ops. creepy. there are some nice costumes, that took a lot of effort, and money, to make. sometimes it seems some of the kids are overly committed to the dress up, seemingly too earnest in the statement, but mostly it is just fun. when we got home we watched Balls of Fury. I'll say right off, it was pretty decent. it belongs in that widening genre of flicks ruled by Jack Black and will Ferrell. in fact, the star, whose name I just this moment forgot (never heard of him before) could easily replace Black in Black's movies. same slobby appeal, tho I find him sweeter than JB, whose humour is pretty passive-aggressive. which wears on me. the movie was written and produced by Thomas Lennon, who is behind Reno 911, and some sketch comedies that I've seen. the plot concerns a ping pong wunderkind whose career crumbles when his father is killed. then, as an adult, is coaxed back into the game so that he can get access to this criminal overlord, the same one who killed his father. etc, that sort of plot. in the Ferrell movies that I've seen, and in Nacho Libre, the plot got in the way, but didn't seem to with Balls of Fury. there's a truism, comedies need less plot, not more. having said that, I was taken aback when the female lead suddenly becomes love interest. I didn't notice the turning point when her initial antipathy towards him melted. I guess you need to connect a few of the dots. I think the star's name is Dan Fogler, and maybe if I would have kept up with reading People or Rolling Stone, I'd know more about him. the best thing about the movie was James Hong and Christopher Walken. Hong has been in zillions of movies, Hollywood's go to Asian. within that imposed limit, he's a terrific character actor. in B of F, he has the Mr Miyagi role, and has lots of fun with it. Walken is simply a weirdo. in this movie he gets to ham it up, but there's always something twisty in his characters. and he has that same way of giving odd readings to his lines that Brando had. the movie sustained its pace, which is something the other entries in the genre have failed to do. so anyway, I guess I should check to see if there's anything behind this big rock over here.