Sunday, April 30, 2006
Location: Cato's Ale House
3891 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, CA View Map
When: Sunday, May 7, 2:00pm
Our all-volunteer last class/end of semester party is happening at Cato's next Sunday and you're invited. Discuss Ashbery and O'Hara over ale; cantos over catatoes; modernism over margaritas. Hope to see you for at least a little while that afternoon. From c. 2:30 to 3:10 we'll have Anna and Emily lead a discussion on the New York School, the rest of the afternoon is just for fun. Feel free to bring poetry-loving friends, family, or significant others. Try to come--you've earned it!
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Though the references here portray crass heterosexual definitions, I think that this poem has underlying homosexual references that enlighten and enliven Spicer's relationship to poetry. To over look the codes in his poems is to ignore the overwhelming sarcasm in his work as well as a tradition of poetry being a medium for "outsider" philosophies and sexualities. This also ties into Duncan's essay "The Homosexual in Society," and his (Duncan's) chastising of these "outsider" codes.
If you are still not convinced after pondering the above link, I direct you to the first line of Spicer's poem, "Coming at an end." Which reads as an allusion to anal sex....
There is a lot of juicy sexuality that did not have a place in the class, yet I feel is integral to Spicer and Duncan and anyone who still reads the blog after class is over may have some interesting rereadings of these poets.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
elka and i are geared up and rearing for tuesday, look out...
we'd like you all to pay particular attention to "often i am permitted to return to a meadow" and "poem beginning with a line..." (duncan) and "ballad of the little girl who invented the universe" (spicer)
for those interested in hearing Robert Creeley's lecture on Duncan and
go here for part 1
here for part 2
go here to hear duncan
here for PDF of Duncan's HD book (rare and fantastic)
here to read an excerpt from Lisa Jarnot's soon-to-be released biography on Duncan
here for fun...
m & e
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Here are the Baraka readings for this week:
"Somebody Blew Up America"
"I Will Not Apologize, I Will Not Resign", 10/02/02
"A Conversation with Baraka" (1998)
For the intrepid:
Biographical & Historical Context
Blues for Allen, Baraka on Ginsberg
Baraka reading "In Walked Bud" (rec. 2005)
Jennifer and Susan, feel free to post any other relevant information, questions, thoughts, rambles, etc. on Baraka as they occur to you. Kerouac & Ginsberg links to come ...
Thursday, April 13, 2006
From the desk of Lizette:
Just one further note about Creeley’s abbreviated writing style. I see that many folks tended to connect the “shorthand” with the typewriter, or felt that castings such as “sd” and “yr” evoked a typewriter idea. My take on this is different only because traditional shorthand (someone else had raised this inquiry about shorthand), such as the old Gregg style, was written in cursive, frequently in steno or yellow legal pads. When I said that I found this part of Creeley’s work to be nostalgic, part of the nostalgia was that this shorthand was in huge demand during pre-PC, pre-fax days. Of course, one would later transcribe the cursive on a Wheelwriter, IBM Selectric or Smith-Corona typewriter, but the print would not be abbreviated. Only the handwriting would.
So Creeley’s poetry reminds me of handwriting rather than the typewriter. And I still compose stories (not nonfiction or papers, just fiction) in longhand, which is another reason for waxing nostalgic. I don’t know too many colleagues these days who write fiction in notebooks and turn to the computer only at the end of the composition process.
QUESTION FROM RODNEY: Any thoughts from people on how the physical process of writing--longhand, typewriter, computer, etc.--influences your poetics? How does your medium shape your message? Just curious.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
There's a 10,000 Maniacs song entitled "Hey Jack Kerouac", which also gives mention to his buddies Allen (Ginsberg) & Billy (William Burroughs, whose most famous book Naked Lunch, is funnier than hell), and to their old San Francisco haunts. I do have the song (though I'll admit I find it a bit irritating). Here's a link to the lyrics.
Of course, there's Kerouac alley, between Chinatown and North Beach:
(I took this picture in November 05 from the Chinatown side).
And word on the street is that Ginsberg used to hang at The Mediterranean, a cafe on Telegraph: Alice in Wonderland on the inside, vagrants with joints and pitbulls on the outside. Apparently he worked on "Howl" there over a cup'o'joe (and, knowing him, probably a joint he bummed from the guys outside).
Whereas the man who hits
the gong dis-
proves it, in all its
________________Even so the attempt
makes for triumph, in
Likewise in love I
am not foolish or in-
competent. My method is not a
tenderness, but hope
(The underline before "Even so..." is my add, to stay true to Creeley's original spacing, b/c the damn blog wouldn't let me indent otherwise)
You cannot write a single line w/out a cosmology
laid out, before all eyes
there is no part of yourself you can separate out
saying, this is memory, this is sensation
this is the work I care about, this is how I
make a living
it is whole, it is a whole, it always was whole
you do not "make" it so
there is nothing to integrate, you are a presence
you are an appendage of the work, the work stems from
hangs from the heaven you create
every man / every woman carries a firmament inside
& the stars in it are not the stars in the sky
w/out imagination there is no memory
w/out imagination there is no sensation
w/out imagination there is no will, desire
history is a living weapon in yr hand
& you have imagined it, it is thus that you
"find out for yourself"
history is the dream of what can be, it is
the relation between things in a continuum
what you find out for yourself is what you select
out of an infinite sea of possibility
no one can inhabit yr world
yet it is not lonely,
the ground of imagination is fearlessness
discourse is video tape of a movie of a shadow play
but the puppets are in yr hand
your counters in a multidimensional chess
which is divination
the war that matters is the war against the imagination
all other wars are subsumed in it.
the ultimate famine is the starvation
of the imagination
it is death to be sure, but the undead
seek to inhabit someone else's world
the ultimate claustrophobia is the syllogism
the ultimate claustrophobia is "it all adds up"
nothing adds up & nothing stands in for
THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST
THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST
THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST
ALL OTHER WARS ARE SUBSUMED IN IT
There is no way out of a spiritual battle
There is no way you can avoid taking sides
There is no way you can not have a poetics
no matter what you do: plumber, baker, teacher
you do it in the consciousness of making
or not making yr world
you have a poetics: you step into the world
like a suit of readymade clothes
or you etch in light
your firmament spills into the shape of your room
the shape of the poem, of yr body, of yr loves
A woman's life / a man's life is an allegory
There is no way out of the spiritual battle
the war is the war against the imagination
you can't sign up as a conscientious objector
the war of the worlds hangs here, right now, in the balance
it is a war for this world, to keep it
a vale of soul-making
the taste in all our mouths is the taste of power
and it is bitter as death
bring yr self home to yrself, enter the garden
the guy at the gate w/ the flaming sword is yrself
the war is the war for the human imagination
and no one can fight it but you/ & no one can fight it for you
The imagination is not only holy, it is precise
it is not only fierce, it is practical
men die everyday for the lack of it,
it is vast & elegant
intellectus means "light of the mind"
it is not discourse it is not even language
the inner sun
the polis is constellated around the sun
the fire is central
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Since I’m sick tonight (and I’m pretty certain you’ll appreciate my not being with you physically), I wanted to share a few thoughts and links on Olson (right) and Creeley in our virtual classroom.
Three themes really struck me about Olson and Creeley:
Musical analogies: Williams wanted his poetry to capture the musical rhythms of everyday speech, Zukofsky actually composed poetry as music, and with Olson, again, there’s a connection between the linear art of poetry and the rhythms and sounds the words make in our heads. I imagined reading his work to the accompaniment of a typewriter, with that lovely staccato sound – fast, slow, then fast again – that one makes when the typewriter and your thoughts become one. (Well, for me, it’s a keyboard, but I can remember a typewriter’s sounds.)
What made the most impact on me was to combine Olson’s thoughts on poetry as a musical form of composition and his belief that poetry transfers energy from the poet, through the poem, to the reader. Music is also a transfer of energy – the way you tap your foot or join the rhythms of a really great song. The set of poems that really exemplified this concept of poetry as both music and energy, to me, was the La Chute I, II, and III. To me, these seemed to be the music of Modernism. I saw the remains of Pound and H.D. in them (the bases of the trees that were felled), with wonderfully descriptive words that carry their own “sounds” to the reader’s ear – lusty, wrought, pulsations, lute, fallen. There was also just enough repetition for that, too, to create a musical quality to me.
We’ve shared lots of links to poets reading their own works, and I wanted to do likewise with Olson. Here are links to:
A variety of Olson’s recordings, mostly short files (sadly, nothing we read for class, but lots of Maximus!)
A Vancouver 1963 book reading by Olson (very long file – nearly 1.7 megs, or 90 minutes, if you’re interested to download)
Not a sound file, but another blog all about Olson
Post-modern life: The second theme that struck me was how integral the aftermath of World War II is to these two poets. Unlike H.D., who told a story of redemption and rebirth following the destruction of the war, Olson and Creeley seem to express the hopelessness, horror, and senselessness of this War, where America (and the Allies) were on the side of Right, but yet, there was – and we also caused – total and utter destruction. Kingfisher was especially moving to me, and while I’m not sure if my read of it is “right,” what I took away was this sense of post-WWII horror. The sense of having witnessed the absolute worst of humanity, knowing that the price of righteousness was more violence, and just … deep down in your bones … wondering if it was worth it.
with what violence benevolence is bought
what cost in gesture justice brings
what wrongs domestic rights involve
Likewise, and with an altogether different tone but similar theme, Creeley in I Know A Man captures the wonderful societal desire in the 50s to simply cover up the horror that we collectively witnessed with a new Chevrolet. As if living a “normal” life and buying a new car will somehow erase the memories.
… the darkness su-
rrounds us …
… why not, buy a goddamn big car.
christ’s sake, look
out where yr going.
How beautifully put: Look out where you’re going. Very 50s, and it almost seems that this poem couldn’t have been written at any other time in history BUT the 50s.
The eternal now: Lastly, commenting on Olson and Creeley’s letters, it seemed to me that Olson was talking about breaking through the myth of time to the eternal “now.” That history teaches us, that it illuminates the present, and that, ultimately, time is just a fabric that folds back over itself – and there is no moment but now, with history co-existing at the same time.
Plus, I just love the mental picture of Ezra with a beak.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
In cold hell, in thicket, how
abstract (as high mind, as not lust, as love is) how
strong (as strut or wing, as polytope, as things are
strung, how cold
can a man stay (can men) confronted
All things are made bitter, words even
are made to taste like paper, wars get tossed up
like lead soldiers used to be
(in a child's attic) lined up
to be knocked down, as I am,
by firings from a spit-hardened fort, fronted
as we are, here, from where we must go
God, that man, as his acts must, as there is always
a thing he can do, he can raise himself, he raises
on a reed he raises his
Or, if it is me, what
he has to say
What has he to say?
In hell it is not easy
to know the traceries, the markings
(the canals, the pits, the mountings by which space
declares herself, arched, as she is, the sister,
awkward stars drawn for teats to pleasure him, the brother
who lies in stasis under her, at ease as any monarch or
a happy man
How shall he who is not happy, who has been so made unclear,
who is no longer privileged to be at ease, who, in this brush, stands
reluctant, imageless, unpleasured, caught in a sort of hell, how
shall he convert this underbrush, how turn this unbidden place
how trace and arch again
the necessary goddess?
The branches made against the sky are not of use, are
already done, like snow-flakes, do not, cannot service
him who has to raise (Who puts this on, ths damning of his flesh?)
he can, but how far, how sufficiently far can he raise the thickets of
How can he change, his question is
these black and silvered knivings, these
How can he make these blood-points into panels, into sides
for a king's for his own
for a wagon, for a sleigh, for the beak of, the running sides of
a vessel fit for
How can he make out, he asks,
of this low eye-view,
And archings traced and picked enough to hold
to stay, as she does, as he, the brother, when,
here where the mud is, he is frozen, not daring
where the grass grows, to move his feet from fear
he'll trespass on his own dissolving bones, here
where there is altogether too much remembrance?
The question, the fear he raises up himself against
(against the same each act is proffered, under the eyes
each fix, the town of the earth over, is managed) is: Who
Who am I but by a fix, and another,
a particle, and the congery of particles carefully picked one by another,
as in this thicket, each
smallest branch, plant, fern, root
---roots lie, on the surface, as nerves laid open---
must now (the bitterness of the taste of her) be
isolated, observed, picked over, measured, raised
as though a word, an accuracy were a pincer!
is the abstract, this
is the cold doing, this
is the almost impossible
So shall you blame those
who give it up, those who say
it isn't worth the struggle?
Or a death as going over to--shot by yr own forces--to
a greener place?
By fixes only (not even any more by shamans)
can the traceries
be brought out
ya, selva oscura, but hell now
is not exterior, is not to be got out of, is
the coat of your own self, the beasts
emblazoned on you And who
can turn this total thing, invert
and let the ragged sleeves be seen
by any bitch or common character? Who
can endure it where it is, where the beasts are met,
where yourself is, your beloved is, where she
who is separate from you, is not separate, is not
goddess, is, as your core is,
the making of one hell
where she moves off, where she is
no longer arch
(this is why he of whom we speak does not move, why
he stands so awkward where he is, why
his feet are held, like some ragged crane's
off the nearest next ground, even from
the beauty of the rotting fern his eye
knows, as he looks down, as,
in utmost pain if cold can be so called,
he looks around this battlefield, this
rotted place where men did die, where boys
and immigrants have fallen, where nature
(the years that she's took over)
does not matter, where
that men killed, do kill, that woman kills
is part, too, of his question
That it is simple, what the difference is---
that a man, men, are now their own wood
and thus their own hell and paradise
that they are, in hell or in happiness, merely
something to be wrought, to be shaped, to be carved, for use, for
does not in the least lessen his, this unhappy man's
He shall step, he
will shape, he
is already also
into the soil, on to his own bones
he will cross
(there is always a field,
for the strong there is always
But a field
is not a choice, is
as dangerous as a prayer, as a death, as any
He will cross
And is bound to enter (as she is)
a later wilderness.
what he does here, what he raises up
(he must, the stakes are such
this at least
is a certainty, this
is a law, is not one of the questions, this
is what was talked of as
---what was it called, demand?)
He will do what he now does, as she will, do
as even the branches,
even in this dark place, the twigs
even the brow
of what was once to him a beautiful face
as even the snow-flakes waver in the light's eye
as even forever wavers (gutters
in the wind of loss)
even as he will forever waver
precise as hell is, precise
as any words, or wagon,
can be made
---Charles Olson (1950)
What does not change / is the will to change
He woke, fully clothed, in his bed. He
remembered only one thing, the birds, how
when he came in, he had gone around the rooms
and got them back in their cage, the green one first,
she with the bad leg, and then the blue,
the one they had hoped was a male
Otherwise? Yes, Fernand, who had talked lispingly of Albers & Angkor Vat.
He had left the party without a word. How he got up, got into his coat,
I do not know. When I saw him, he was at the door, but it did not moatter,
he was already sliding along the wall of the night, losing himself
in some crack of the ruins. That it should have been he who said, "The kingfishers!
for their feathers
His last words had been, "The pool is slime." Suddenly everyone,
ceasing their talk, sat in a row around him, watched
they did not so much hear, or pay attention, they
wondered and looked at each other, smirked, but listened,
he repeated and repeated, could not go beyond his thought
"The pool the kingfishers' feathers were wealth why
did the export stop?"
It was then he left.
I thought of the E on the stone, and of what Mao said
but the kingfisher
but the kingfisher flew west
est devant nous!
he got the color of his breast
from the heat of the setting sun!
The features are, the feebleness of the feet (syndactylism of the 3rd & 4th digit)
the bill, serrated, sometimes a pronounced beak, the wings
where the color is, short and round, the tail
But not these things were the factors. Not the birds.
The legends are
legends. Dead, hung up indoors, the kingfisher
will not indicate a favoring wind,
or avert the thunderbolt. Nor, by its nesting,
still the waters, with the new year, for seven days.
It is true, it does nest with the opening year, but not on the waters.
It nests at the end of a tunnel bored by itself in a bank. There,
six or eight white and translucent eggs are laid, on fishbones
not on bare clay, on bones thrown up in pellets by the birds.
On these rejectamenta
(as they accumulate they form a cup-shaped structure) the young are born.
And, as they are fed and grow, this nest of excrement and decayed fish becomes
a dripping, fetid mass
When the attentions change / the jungle
even the stones are split
that other conqueror we more naturally recognize
he so resembles ourselves
But the E
cut so rudely on that oldest stone
was differently heard
as, in another time, were treasures used:
(and later, much later, a fine ear thought
a scarlet coat)
"of green feathers feet, beaks and eyes
"a large wheel, gold, with figures of unknon four-foots,
and worked with tufts of leaves, weight
3, 800 ounces
"last, two birds, of thread and featherwork, the quills
gold, the feet
gold, the two birds perched on two reeds
gold, the reeds arising from two embroidered mounds,
one yellow, the other
"And from each reed hung
seven feathered tassels.
In this instance, the priests
(in dark cotton robes, and dirty,
their dishevelled hari matted with blood, and flowing wildly
over their shoulders)
rush in among the people, calling on them
to protect their gods
And all now is war
where so lately there was peace,
and the sweet brotherhood, the use
of tilled fields.
Not one death but many,
not accumulation but change, the feed-back proves, the feed-back is
Into the same river no man steps twice
When fire dies air dies
No one remains, nor is, one
Around an appearance, one common model, we grow up
many. Else how is it,
if we remain the same,
we take pleasure now
in what we did not take pleasure before? love
contrary objects? admire and/or find fault? use
other words, feel other passions, have
nor figure, appearance, dispositin, tissue
To be in different states without a change
is not a possibility
We can be precise. The factors are
in the animal and/or machine the factors are
communication and/or control, both involve
the message. And what is the message? The message is
a discrete or continuous sequence of measurable events distributed in time
is the birth of air, is
the birth of water, is
a state between
the origin and
the end, between
birth and the beginning of
another fetid nest
is change, presents
no more than itself
And the too strong grasping of it,
when it is pressed together and condensed,
This very thing you are
They buried their dead in a sitting posture
serpent cane razor ray of the sun
And she sprinkled water on the head of the child, crying
with her face to the west
Where the bones are found, in each personal heap
with what each enjoyed, there is always
the Mongolian louse
The light is in the east. Yes. And we must rise, act. Yet
in the west, despite the apparent darkness (the whiteness
which covers all), if you look, if you can bear, if you can, long enough
as long as it was necessary for him, my guide
to look into the yellow of that longest-lasting rose
so you must, and, in that whiteness, into that face, with what candor, look
and, considering the dryness of the place
the long absence of an adequate race
(of the two who came first, each a conquistador, one healed, the other
tore the eastern idols down, toppled
the temple walls, which, says the excuser
were black from human gore)
hear, where the dry blood talks
where the old appetite walks
la piu saportia et migliore
che si possa truovar al mondo
where it hides, look
in the eye how it runs
in the flesh / chalk
but under these petals
in the emptiness
regard the light, contemplate
whence it arose
with what violence benevolence is bought
what cost in gesture justice brings
what wrongs domestic rights involve
what pudor pejorocracy affonts
how awe, night-rest and neighborhood can rot
what breeds where dirtiness is law
I am no Greek, hath not th'advantage.
And of course, no Roman:
he can take no risk that matters,
the risk of beauty least of all.
But I have my kin, if for no other reason than
(as he said, next of kin) I commit myself, and,
given my freedom, I'd be a cad
if I didn't. Which is most true.
It works out this way, despite the disadvantage.
I offer, in explanation, a quote:
si j'ai du gout, ce n'est gueres
que pour la terre et les pierres.
Despite the discrepancy (an ocean courage age)
this is also true: if I have any taste
it is only because I have interested myself
in what was slain in the sun
I pose yur question:
shall you uncover your honey / where maggots are?
I hunt among stones
The mother, the pleasure. To return is
to advance, to ravin, to hunt
is more than the beginning, to enter
is more than the womb
is the present descent, the hell
is the guilty present, the descent
is not to the past, the descent is
the pursuit, the desire and the door
For the door is the second birth
the crime none no longer dare
not the advance by the womb of the mother
the advance by the mother's hair
If you would go down to the dead
to retrieve my drum and lute
a word for you, take my word
I offer you directions
Do not wear a clean garment
they below will dirty you
they will mark you
as if you were a stranger
Nor rub yourself with oil
the finest oil from the cruse.
The smell of it will provoke them
they will walk round and round
Carry no stick. At least
do not raise it,
or the shades of men will tremble,
will hover before you
Pick up nothing to throw, no matter the urging.
They against whom you hurl it will crowd you,
will fly thick on you.
Go barefoot. Make no sound.
And when you meet the wife you loved
do not kiss her
nor strike the wife you hated.
Likewise your sons. Give the beloved one no kiss,
do not spit on his brother
Behave, lest the outcry shall seize you
seize you for what you have done
for her who, there, lies naked
whose body in that place is uncovered
whose breasts lie open to you and the judges
in that place
where my drum and lute are
This and the next two posts show Charles Olson (1910-1970) in 1949 working through three takes on similar themes: the mythic foundations underpinning our everyday reality; the musical legacy of Modernism (form as rhythm, "my drum"); and the meaning (or meaninglessness?) of civilization in "the guilty present," in the aftermath of the Holocaust.
Like the Objectivists, his interests look backward to the high Modernism of figures like Pound, Eliot, Williams, and H.D. (the interest in periplum, the world from where I stand, a map made while moving; myth as reality's fundamental armature; form as an aspect of content rather than a tidy, predetermined metrical shape; history as "simultaneously present, i.e. the ancient as something available for use, not something we've progressed beyond, like H.D.'s use of myth to understand WW II; the poem and page as a field of action, etc.); but also point forward to whatever that something after Modernism (literally Post-Modern) will be. What sense of that "something" do you get from these poems?
my drum, hollowed out thru the thin slit,
carved from the cedar wood, the base I took
when the tree was felled
o my lute, wrought from the tree's crown
my drum, whose lustiness
was not to be resisted
from whose pulsations
not one could turn away
are where the dead are, my drum fell
where the dead are, who
will bring it up, my lute
who will bring it up where it fell in the face of them
where they are, where my lute and drum have fallen?
--Charles Olson (1910-1970), May 1949
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Yesterday evening I attended the Northern California Book Awards sponsored by Poetry Flash. It was exciting. Like the Oscars of Nor Cal literature.
Brian Turner's book Here, Bullet won for best book of poetry. The poems are based on some of his combat experiences and he read a few of them.
The most exciting part of the night for me was hearing Diane diPrima speak and read. She was honored with the Fred Cody (of our very own Cody's bookstore) Lifetime Achievement Award. The audience gave her a standing o, and she was witty and moving. Spoke of some of her own heroes and friends like Ezra Pound, "Larry" Ferlinghetti, and Audre Lorde. The poem she read was "Rant."
I would have posted about this event beforehand, but found out about it at the last minute. Keep an eye out for these awards next year. It's a free event, and pretty fun. Lots of books for sale and authors sign them too.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Sunday, April 02, 2006
From Listening to Reading by Stephen Ratcliffe:
“the sound of a poem’s words and their visual shape on the page are interconnected: that the sounds of words is, literally, an acoustic shape (the shape of words in air), their shape literally a visual sound (letters waiting to become sound)”
“What happens when the words of a poem are put into the air by a voice or voices intoning syllables at certain precisely measured pitches held certain precisely indicated durations? And how is it that when the words of a poem are sung the result in its effect is more than either of its constituent components, its words, its music?”
“The music makes adjustment to our perception of text, what we think we hear when we read those words.”
Please leave yr inhibitions at home on Tuesday (for a variety of both legal & not-so-legal methods to this effect feel free to contact me)
Yeder mensch hot zeiner aigeneh meshugahss … er bolbet narishkeiten.
But--here is a pic of Oppen, that little rich boy, just because he looks so all-American football playerish its funny:
And, yes, we're serious. You must bring your instruments, of any sort, out of tune or not, whether you know how to play them "properly" or not. If you don't bring one you may be forced to play a baby piano or a maraca shaped liked a bumble bee. Or worse, you may have to make embarrassing noises with your mouth, or sing.