Clownery in Poetry

Culturally insensitive white male in clownface.
     Interesting article about artistic license, artistic responsibility, censorship, political correctness, etc. here: Clowns.


What is a What is a What is a train?

DuChamp's Jeune homme triste dans un train 

     "... avant-garde works must remain wild and never neglect an opportunity to attack their trainers; above all, it is the hand that feeds them which must be repeatedly bitten. They have to continue to do what the avant-garde is supposed to do: shatter stereotypes, shake things up, and keep things moving; offer fresh possibilities to a jaded understanding; encourage a new consciousness; revitalize the creative spirit of the medium; and, above all, challenge the skills and ambitions of every practitioner. Such a pure avant-garde must not only emphasize the formal elements of its art (recognizing that these elements are its art); its outside interests must be in very long-term - if not permanent - problems. It may have to say no to Cash, to Flag, to Man, to God, to Being itself. It cannot be satisfied merely to complain of the frivolities of a king's court or to count the crimes of capitalism or to castigate the middle class for its persistent vulgarity. The avant-garde's ultimate purpose is to return the art to itself, not as if the art could be cordoned off from the world and kept uncontaminated, but in order to remind it of its nature (a creator of forms in the profoundest sense) - a nature that should not be allowed to dissolve into what are, after all, measly moments of society."
     -Gass (from "The Vicissitudes of the Avant-Garde")


The Useless Useful

The Soup and the Clouds

     "There are few vocations (like the practice of poetry or the profession of philosophy) that are so uncalled for by the world, so unremunerative by any ordinary standards, so inherently difficult, so undefined, that to choose them suggests that more lies behind the choice than a little encouraging talent and a few romantic ideals.
     "To persevere in such a severe and unrewarding course requires the mobilization of the entire personality - each weakness as well as every strength, each quirk as well as every normality."
          -Gass from "At Death's Door: Wittgenstein"


Murder Your Darlings

King actually threw away his draft of Carrie. His wife found it in the garbage can.
Murder your darlings, yes, but not the truly darling darlings.

     "Try any goddamn thing you like, no matter how boringly normal or outrageous. If it works, fine. If it doesn't, toss it. Toss it even if you love it. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch once said, 'Murder your darlings', and he was right."
          -Stephen King (On Writing)


Issue VII!

Anne Petty, Sara and Her Dog
     PageBoy Magazine Issue VII 15 is now out and features work by Chris Ashby, Amaranth Borsuk, Sarah Erickson, Andy Fitch, Richard Froude, Catherine Karlak, Rauan Klassnik, Ed Skoog, and Jeanine Walker. Artwork by and interview with Anne Petty.


Richard Hugo Says Nothing

Large Mouth Bass Bites Large Mouth Poet's Short Stubby Fingers At Colorless Lake
"Say nothing and just make music and you'll find plenty to say."
          -Richard Hugo in The Triggering Town.


The Polite Drivel of Perfectly Predictable Music

Cocteau's vision of Stravinsky composing The Rite.

     "Without artists like Stravinsky who compulsively make everything new, our sense of sound would become increasingly narrow. Music would lose its essential uncertainty. Dopamine would cease to flow. As a result, the feeling would be slowly drained out of the notes, the polite drivel of perfectly predictable music. Works like The Rite of Spring jolt us out of this complacency. They keep us literally open-minded. If not for the difficulty of the avant-garde, we would worship nothing but that which we already know."
          - Jonah Lehrer in Proust Was a Neuroscientist.


Cezanne's admonition for the matriculated student

Cezanne's head, like his paintings, frequently let the bare canvas show.

     "Teachers are all castrated bastards and assholes. They have no guts."
              -Cezanne on his painting instructors.    



Fine art by R. Mutt.
     "I had got it backward all along. Not 'seeing is believing', you ninny, but 'believing is seeing', for Modern Art has become completely literary: the painting and other works exist only to illustrate the text."
     -Tom Wolfe in The Painted Word.
     This is Wolfe's epiphany. He finally figured out why he wasn't "getting" Modern Art ... namely because you have to be familiar with the theory behind the painting first. The painting merely illustrates the theory, and is not necessarily meant to be pleasurable, not meant to be whole. It is not the point, but points to the point.
     The same can be said of a large swath of modern poetry as well, where the reader/listener feels as if he/she's walked into the room at the end of a rather boring theoretical conversation. Uh, okay?
     Here is Wolfe's advice (from the same book, which is a must read) for such encounters, he warns:
     "To be against what is new is not to be modern. Not to be modern is to write yourself out of the scene. Not to be in the scene is to be nowhere. No, in an age of avant-gardism the only possible strategy to counter a new style which you detest is to leapfrog it."



Right brain sandwich left brain sandwich.

     "Rearranging a vertical list of items horizontally makes the relationship of the parts to the whole more difficult to perceive. For example, telephone directories would be nearly impossible to use if the names were arranged across the page. A person scanning vertically can appreciate spatial relationships all at once; horizontal scanning is better for tracking time - one thing after another.
     "Perusing all the elements of a vertical row is primarily a right-brain function; following a horizontal line is primarily a left-brain function."
     - Leonard Shlain in The Alphabet vs. The Goddess.


Contempt for Prettiness

     "The peculiar quality of Chinese and Japanese art that is influenced by Zen is that it is able to suggest what cannot be said, and, by using a bare minimum of form, to awaken us to the formless. Zen painting tells us just enough to alert us to what is not and is nevertheless right there. Zen calligraphy, by its peculiar suppleness, dynamism, abandon, contempt for 'prettiness' and for formal style, reveals to us something of the freedom which is not transcendent in some abstract and intellectual sense, but which employs a minimum of form without being attached to it, and is therefore free from it."
     - Thomas Merton (in Zen and the Birds of Appetite)


Straight is the Gate

El Payaso Porchia

"Following straight lines shortens distances, and also life."
    -Antonio Porchia


Honor the Maggot

action painting
     Honor the maggot,
     supreme catalyst:
he spurs the rate of change:
(all scavengers are honorable: I love them
will scribble hard as I can for them)

          -Ammons (from "Catalyst")


Roethke (pron: 'freaky deaky')

Roethke cracking up.

     A few quotes from Roethke's book On Poetry and Craft (Copper Canyon Press):
     "If a thing fails rhythmically, it's nothing."
     "Art is our defense against hysteria and madness."
     "Inspiration? The important thing in life is to have the right kind of frustration."


Alien Reader

Mandelstam with third eye and elephant ears.

     'Exchanging signals with the planet Mars ... is a task worthy of a lyric poet.'"
          - Osip Mandelstam on who a poet's audience should be.


What Is Progress?

...that the whole progress of humanity proceeds.
     "It is by the steady elimination of everything which is ugly - thoughts and words no less than tangible objects - and by the substitution of things of true and lasting beauty that the whole progress of humanity proceeds."
     - Anna Pavlova


An Imagined Post

Hugo with imagined bourbon on the rocks.
     "...an imagined town is at least as real as an actual town. If it isn't, you may be in the wrong business. Our words come from obsessions we must submit to, whatever the social cost. It can be hard. It can be worse forty years from now if you feel you could have done it and didn't. It is narcissistic, vain, egotistical, unrealistic, selfish, and hateful to assume emotional ownership of a town or a word. It is also essential."
          -Richard Hugo


as best we can

Berryman with windswept beard (looking rather bloated with mutter)

"mutter we all must as well as we can"
     - J.B. (Dream Song 219)


AWP Hangover

AWP (Where's Waldo Wittgenstein?)
     If you're still feeling a bit hungover from AWP, or perhaps that you weren't able to accomplish all your literary/self-promotional goals, it might help to remember Wittgenstein's feelings toward the end of his life (as he regretted not having committed suicide years before):
     "I ought to have become a star in the sky ... but instead I've remained stuck on the earth."
     You see, Wittgenstein too failed at AWP.

     And for those of you who did triumph, congratulations! Lao Tsu says it best:
     "Triumph is not beautiful
     He who thinks triumph is beautiful
     Is one with a will to kill
     Conduct your triumph as a funeral"


Welcome AWP (and AWT)

AWT 2013 (Boston)
     On the eve of AWP, some words of encouragement from Don Marquis:
     "Publishing a book of verse is like dropping a rose petal in the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo."
     Coincidentally, AWT (The Association of Writers with Tourettes) will also be having its annual conference next week. This event is sure to include many of the exciting phenomena AWT has become famous for: coprolalia (spontaneous cursing), echolalia (repeating the words of others), and palilalia (repeating one's own words). There will be a veritable epidemic of readers, all of whom will be mostly talking to themselves surrounded by others also mostly talking to themselves. You may find yourself unknowingly involved in one of their readings, as they will be taking place at innumerable restaurants and bars throughout the city. If you find yourself having a relaxing dinner one minute, only to be surrounded by raving lunatics the next, do not panic! While stopping, dropping, and rolling may be  effective, quietly removing yourself from the situation is probably best. Do not give them money! as this will only encourage their behavior.
     To be sure you won't find yourself in such a situation (or if you are curious to see them in action), we've provided a link to their list of events here: AWT.
     At no point in the history of the human race have there been more writers and writing programs in existence than at present. Enjoy the show!


To jump or to fly?

     "...the author who attempts to organize space while neglecting time is venturing into a field in which materials and the tools - paint, canvas, stone, metal, wood, and camera lens - are more effective than language. He is working in two or three dimensions instead of four and is thus evading what seems to me a more difficult challenge and a greater opportunity for innovation."
     This is Malcom Cowley's (one of Malcom Cowley's) attacks on the avant-garde, and specifically Robbe-Grillet's idea of the "new novel" and Andy Warhol's a in Cowley's essay A Defense of Storytelling.
     It seems to me that he has a point, though a decidedly conservative one - for after all, a writer must be able to write whatever a writer wants to write, right?
     But it's true, one must admit, that one advantage writing has over, say, painting, sculpture, music even, is time. The writer has the ability to lead the reader through maze after maze, the seeing forest and the hearing field, across the street and up the stairs, to open the door, to enter the room, to walk over to the window, to open the window, to step out onto the ledge, to look down, to sigh, and then, perhaps, to go back in or to jump or to fly.


Sacco and Vanzetti and Rexroth

                                          Many men, a long time.


Writing Is Wrought

the proper way to light a pipe
     "I am an artisan. I need to work with my hands. I would like to carve my novel in a piece of wood."
          - Georges Joseph Christian Simenon


Walled In

Thoreau moments after losing his mustache in the woods.

     "It is a ridiculous demand which England and America make, that you shall speak so they can understand you."
          - Thoreau (in Walden) offering a comment on (the intelligence of) his readership.


The Singing Truth

Cuetzpaltzin after having his poems misunderstood by Cortes.

He goes his way singing, offering flowers
And his words ring down
Like jade and quetzal plumes
Is this what pleases the Giver of Life
Is that the only truth on Earth?

          - Ayocuan Cuetzpaltzin (Nahuatl poet, 15th century)
     The tlamatinime people of precolonial Mexico suggested that immutable truth is by its nature beyond human experience. Their philosophers believed that, because we are mortal, we cannot know Truth. If we cannot grasp eternity, then we cannot grasp eternal truth.
     The passage above is a kind of poetics solution to this riddle. We cannot know truth, but we can sing the things around us. And through singing gain access to truth.
     The poet continues:

          From whence come the flowers that enrapture man
          The songs that intoxicate, the lovely songs?
          Only from the innermost part of heaven.

     Through art we access grace, or other, or truth. Perhaps this seems obvious, or cliche now. But it strikes me that this was a realization of an early 15th century poet from subtropical north america, one of millions doomed by the fast approach of material Europe.


Poet as Chicken

     "The man who has fed the chicken every day throughout its life, one day wrings its neck instead, showing that more refined views as to the uniformity of nature would have been useful to the chicken."
          -Bertrand Russel


Issue VI Now Available!

Arreguin's The Bull Got Into the Flower Garden

     Issue VI is now available via this website (see "Buy a Copy" button), with work by Jeff Encke, Annie Chou, Greg Bachar, Nadine Maestas, Fred Sasaki, Rachel Kessler, Greg Bem, Marissa F. Baum, and Simone Sachs. Art by Alfredo Arreguin.
     Please buy a copy! All proceeds go to the next issue of struggling literary magazines based in Seattle that rhyme with 'crazed goy.' You're gonna love it!


Neglection Slip

Ms. Rich
     When Adrienne Rich was editing The Best American Poetry (1996), she chose a couple poets who she could not locate. She mentioned them in her introduction, even though - without their permission -  she had no choice but to leave them out of the anthology. When the book came out, at least one of them wrote back, upset by seeing her name in the introduction, yet not being included in the anthology.
     Rich responded:
     "A poem often becomes a kind of commodity in the competitive literary world of curriculum vitae, though I deplore the fact. I would be very sorry if either this mischance, or your numerous recognitions, were to get between you and the life of poetry, which is an art, not a competition, an art demanding self-discipline and apprenticeship, often through very unencouraging circumstances, for stakes which have nothing to do with the market."


Meaning as Poverty

What Sontag means by having her photograph taken in a doorway is that... what she is trying to say is... Oh! and by wearing her hair down, well that is obviously a nod toward... And the leather jacket! Anyone can see that by rocking the leather jacket she is making a statement about... 
     "Interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art. Even more, it is the revenge of the intellect upon the world. To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world - in order to set up a shadow world of 'meanings'."
     - Sontag (from "Against Interpretation," which is required reading!)



Phoebe Annie Oakley Mozee

     Just thought you'd like to see how happy Annie Oakley could be.


singing and dancing and talking about it too

Rodin's Poet and Critic.
     Here are a few quotes from A.R. Ammons re critics and art making. They are taken from his introduction to The Best American Poetry 1994. The entire introduction is worth reading yes.

     "There is no reason ever in the world for the critic and poet to be at odds, and for the following reason: the primary motion of the poet is to put things together and touch a source that feels like life, at times even more powerful than life. It is a synthesis of analogies and associations that promotes, in the best hands, and even when disjunctive, a sense of renewed vitality. That is what one feels. That is a fact whether noticed by poet or critic. The critic makes another kind of synthesis; his or her synthesis comes as a result of what can be added up after taking things apart. What is added up, as in dissertations and works of critical discourse, is thought to be subtler and finer than the work that gave rise to it. But that cannot be, because the two modes of thought, the creative and the analytical, are not comparable; they are apples and oranges."

     "Thousands of papers may be written about Rodin and many of them may know more about Rodin than Rodin did but they will not resemble sculpture. Rodin made the sculpture. No one else did."

     "We will dance and sing. Sometime later we will talk about singing and dancing, and in that effort, we will need all the help we can get from the critics or anyone else."


Poetry's Dead And Jazz Ain't Cool

Jazz may not be cool, but that pink tie is.
     Here's a link to Nicholas Payton's blog and his poem on why jazz ain't cool: necrophilia. Some of his thoughts can be applied to poetry as well ... right?


Dead Letter Text

     "The logos of a bad writer throws words together in no order at all, perhaps beginning at the point where it should end and wholly ignorant of organic sequence. You can enter this logos at any point and find it saying the same thing. Once it is written down it continues to say that same thing forever over and over within itself, over and over in time. As communication, such a text is a dead letter."
     Anne Carson (in Eros the Bittersweet)


Baudelaire's Doggie Bag

Baudelaire with dog hidden in shirt.
     Here's Baudelaire's "The Dog and the Scent Bottle"

     Come here, my dear, good, beautiful doggie, and smell this excellent perfume from the best perfumer of Paris.
     And the dog, wagging his tail, which I believe is that poor creature's way of laughing and smiling, came up and put his nose to the uncorked bottle. Then, suddenly, backed away in terror, barking at me reproachfully.
     "Ah miserable dog, if I'd offered you a bag of shit you would have sniffed at it with delight and perhaps devoured it. In this you're like the public, which should never be offered delicate perfumes that infuriate them, but only carefully selected garbage."


Lips or roots?

whose lips as fat as roots
     "I love the world of wind and foliage / I can't distinguish lips from roots"


Lizard Eyes

Still with eyes.
"I came into this world with eyes / And I'll leave without them."


Love Lavished

The thick smear of a blue spot.
     "The true sexuality in literature - sex as a positive aesthetic quality - lies not in any scene and subject nor in the mere appearance of a vulgar word, not in the thick smear of a blue spot, but in the consequences on the page of love well made - made to the medium which is the writer's own, for he - for she - has only these little shapes and sounds to work with, the same saliva surrounds them all, every word is equally a squiggle or a noise, an abstract designation and a crowd of meanings as randomly connected by time and use as a child connects his tinkertoys. On this basis, not a single thing will distinguish 'fuck' from 'frais du bois'; 'blue' and 'triangle' are equally abstract; and what counts is not which lascivious sights your loins can tie to your thoughts like Lucky is to Pozzo, but love lavished on speech of any kind, regardless of content and intention."
     - William Gass


The Flesh made Gass.

Where's William? (Hint: Gass)
    "It's not the word made flesh we want in writing, in poetry and fiction, but the flesh made word."
          -William H. Gass.


Mr. Ed.

Who knows why or should
     "How can the poem and the stink and the grating noise - the quality of light, the tone, the habit and the dream - be set down alive?"
          - Steinbeck

     Steinbeck goes on to answer this question in his introduction to Cannery Row. But what good are answers? (If you're curious, find it in the Bantam edition [1947]). We all have to all of us be grateful for the question.
     Of course the book itself, Cannery Row, is an attempt to answer the question. What isn't?

     ... Incidentally, Steinbeck waxes Steinian in the same edition when he dedicates the book (without punctuation):

                 Ed Ricketts
                 who knows why or should


Douglas Miller's Ars

     Here's a link to PageBoy contributor Douglas Miller's Ars Poetica (warning: brief nudity [hands], viewer discretion is advised):


The Thoroughly Dead

The Thoroughly Dead
     "The trouble with most people is that they are thoroughly dead and do not want to be resuscitated."
          -Daisetz Suzuki


Serious Humor

The, um, frosting on the cake. aka 'Looking Inwardly Serious.'

     "If it is with outer seriousness, it must be with inner humor. If it is with outer humor, it must be with inner seriousness. Neither one alone without the other under it will do."
          -Robert Frost.
     But then again, either one alone with the other over it will do as well. As will one or both with the other under it, or over it. And neither one not alone without the other under (or over) it. Any of these is fine ... seriously.


The Ungood and the Unbad

Nietzsche, moments after God shouted "Nietzsche is dead!"
     "...because in our time Nietzsche shouted 'God is dead' there are no generally accepted values, no universally valid systems, no publicly meaningful hierarchies. Without them all experience becomes equally serious or equally ludicrous."
         -Robert Corrigan in Comedy; Meaning and Form.
     One might add equally 'good' or equally 'bad,' in that there is no longer one accepted perspective to judge these things by. This is, of course, both a good and a bad thing. In relation to poetry, this is why nothing is no damn good nomore and everything is often always bad. And if you think otherwise well then you're right too!



Sartre seeing against himself.
     Sartre says (among other things) "I think against myself." By this he attempts to avoid falling into patterns, stasis, sterility. He is trying to outthink himself, to be larger than himself, or to be alive in himself.
     If you apply the same approach to writing, you get "I write against myself." If you are suspicious of that which comes easily, too easily, you might arrive at something outside yourself, larger than yourself. You might. You might not, but you might.
     It's recognizable at readings when a poet/writer is comfortable writing in some certain way. The poems are difficult to distinguish from each other, difficult to distinguish from the poems he/she read at their last reading, or perhaps they've been reading the same poems at successive readings, for successive (gulp) years even. Not only is this a creative bog for the writer, but it's also a wriggling morass for an audience, who can't possibly be expected to be surprised by the same thing again and again and again ad nauseum.
    Or, as Frost says: "No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader."


Interview Re Issue V

Magritte's little known painting, Thinking Moustache.

     The venerable documentarian Paul E. Nelson has graciously posted an interview with myself and Sierra Nelson re the magazine. You may find it here: Yellow Snow.


Stranger Review

     Reading PageBoy might make your face do this! It might transport you to exotic climes (or wherever he is)! So loosen your tie, and put on a pair of (special-spy-issue-unscrambling) sun glasses and read child read!
     If you're still unsure, you can find Mr. Constant's review here: Please Amy, Use Lube.


Oh Beautiful Useless

Gautier: Beautiful or Ugly?
     "Only that which serves no end is beautiful; everything useful is ugly."
          - Theophile Gautier.


Issue V Release Party Pics/Vid

     Some photos from the Issue V release party:
the seeing fields and the hearing forest
the four hoarse men harassing 
Paul Nelson playing 'I Spy Pim'
Bill Carty impersonating Bill Carty
George Ciardi casting an analog spell
Alex Bleecker reading five poems at once
Sarah Galvin in Sarah Galvin wig
Jeremy Springsteed cropping his fingers off
Sierra Nelson has published more books than she has hands
The Editor drank so much wine his hands, even, were blurry 
     And if pictures aren't enough, video has been posted here: Wow. Enjoy!