Why do I think it's not beautiful?

Matisse's much maligned 'Woman with a Hat'

     "The first question I ask myself when something doesn't seem to be beautiful is 'why do I think it's not beautiful?' And very shortly you discover that there is no reason.
     "If we can conquer that dislike, or begin to like what we did dislike, then the world is more open. That path, of increasing one's enjoyment of life, is the path I think we'd all best take. To use art not as self-expression but as self-alteration. To become more open."
          - John Cage.


The Price of Worthlessness

Here are a couple amusing quotes from intro to Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus, written in 1942:

     "It may be said of poets that while their systematic thought is now nearly worthless, their detached insights are priceless."

     "In this first half of the 20th century we have acquired a high regard for commentaries, so busying ourselves with what someone else has to say about a work of art that we have no insight left to look upon the work itself."


Words Pose As Language

What is the meaning of that paisley suit!

     "For years, I've been working toward a situation like the one we find ourselves in now; one where language is purely formal and concrete; like language itself, this essay ["Postlude: I Love Speech" in The Sound of Poetry / The Poetry of Sound (eds. Perloff, Dworkin) is both meaningful and meaningless at the same time. The page is now thick with words posing as language."
     -Kenneth Goldsmith


Is Kim Davis really Yi-Fen Chou?

        Photograph of individual thought to be Yi-Fen Chou (nom de plume of Michael Derrick Hudson, itself the nom de plume of Yi-Fen Chou, itself the nom de plume of Michael Derrick Hudson, itself the nom de plume of ...)


poem koan

Question mark.
     "The koan is neither a riddle nor a witty remark. It has a most definite objective, the arousing of doubt and pushing it to its furthest limits ... Here lies the value of the zen discipline, as it gives birth to the unshakable conviction that there is something indeed going on beyond mere intellection."
     - D.T. Suzuki.
     Can what is said of the koan be said of the poem?



     "Everyday-life is more interesting than forms of celebration, when we become aware of it. That when is when our intentions go down to zero. Then suddenly you notice that the world is magical
     - John Cage.

4' 33"

     leaf blower car passes rain car passes leaf blower car passes car passes leaf blower rain car passes passes passes leaf blower rain car passes laughter leaf blower rain rain rain car passes rain voices car passes laughter rain plane car passes plane car passes rain voices plane jack hammer plane car passes laughter jack hammer car passes cough voices blender car passes laughter jack hammer car passes plane laughter car passes car passes car passes applause


A Single Word or Sentiment

subject/author relationship?
Kenneth Goldsmith's FaceBook post following his Brown University reading:

     The Body of Michael Brown
     In the tradition of my previous book Seven American Deaths and Disasters, I took a publicly available document from an American tragedy that was witnessed first-hand (in this case by the doctor performing the autopsy) and simply read it. Like Seven American Deaths and Disasters, I did not editorialize; I simply read it without commentary or additional editorializing. Many of you have heard me read from Seven American Deaths and Disasters. This reading was identical in tone and intention. This, in fact, could have been the eighth American death and disaster. The document I read from is powerful. My reading of it was powerful. How could it be otherwise? Such is my long-standing practice of conceptual writing: like Seven American Deaths and Disasters, the document speaks for itself in ways that an interpretation cannot. It is a horrific American document, but then again it was a horrific American death.
     I altered the text for poetic effect; I translated into plain English many obscure medical terms that would have stopped the flow of the text; I narrativized it in ways that made the text less didactic and more literary. I indeed stated at the beginning of my reading that this was a poem called “The Body of Michael Brown”; I never stated, “I am going to read the autopsy report of Michael Brown.” But then again, this is what I did in Seven Deaths and Disasters. I always massage dry texts to transform them into literature, for that is what they are when I read them. That said, I didn’t add or alter a single word or sentiment that did not preexist in the original text, for to do so would be go against my nearly three decades’ practice of conceptual writing, one that states that a writer need not write any new texts but rather reframe those that already exist in the world to greater effect than any subjective interpretation could lend. Perhaps people feel uncomfortable with my uncreative writing, but for me, this is the writing that is able to tell the truth in the strongest and clearest way possible.
     Ecce homo. Behold the man.


Happy Accident (du mal)

Baudelaire sans les mains.

     "From the very beginning I perceived I was not only far from my mysterious and brilliant model [Gaspard de la Nuit by Aloysius Bertrand], but was, indeed, doing something (if it can be called something) singularly different, an accident which anyone else would glory in, no doubt, but which can only deeply humiliate a mind convinced that the greatest honor for a poet is to succeed in doing exactly what he set out to do."
          - Baudelaire on his prose poems (in the intro to Paris Spleen).


Singing Cement

Dumb, speaking, or singing?
     "Paul Valery divided buildings thus: into those that were dumb, and therefore would be, on my account soulless, dead; those that spoke, and would be, on my account, solid citizens and a worthy norm, provided their speech was clear and honest and unaffected; and those that sang, for those found in themselves their own end, and arose like Shelley's lark, through the heaviest atmosphere."


A Quiet Crackle of Popping Pods

     "Daudet was walking through a field of broom. All around him there was the soft background noise of seed pods exploding. Our lives, he had concluded, amount to no more than this: just a quiet crackle of popping pods."
     -Julian Barnes in intro to Daudet's In the Land of Pain.


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)