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Poetry foundation on Cummings:  Cummings decided to become a poet when he was still a child. Between the ages of eight and twenty-two, he ...

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

I used to think

I used to think that the divergence of perspective among readers was a problem for any theory of poetry that stressed its intrinsic value.

Yet now I see that this is a feature, not a bug. We wouldn't expect two great poets to be similar to each other. Part of what we think of as greatness is not being interchangeable with some other writer. So why should two great readers not diverge as much?

If you read Rilke all the time and I have my problems with him, it doesn't mean anything very significant. We are just different readers.

This insight frees me up to write the anti-textbook of poetry without trying to make my reader commit to any particular set of poets.

Am I discovering something that everyone already knew expect me: de gustibus non est disputandum?  I think my insight here is a more nuanced one. I still think my tastes are the correct ones, and that I could argue for them, and the you have to defend yours.  But there is a space for general principles that doesn't depend on those differences.


Monday, February 27, 2017

"Wayne is ok!"

I found a yellow post-it note near the laundry room, stuck up on the glass that said "Thursday / Wayne is OK! I put him in the trees along the creek.  Cyndy."

This seems to call for some textual analysis. First of all, "Wayne" and the pronoun "him" suggest a male. Wayne, in the first instance, seems to be the name of a person, but what kind of person would one put in the trees? An able-bodied adult would not need to be put anywhere.  An infant or small child, or disabled or elderly adult, is not someone you would place in the woods either, and then confess to on a post-it note.

Wayne could be the name of an animal. We only give names to domesticated animals, generally speaking, but Wayne is somehow too human-sounding a name for a dog or cat. You wouldn't leave a dog or cat out in the woods either. There are leash laws. And if one was concerned about the welfare of this dog named Wayne, who may have been lost or "not ok" at some point, then leaving him in the trees would not be a logical act. Then maybe he would be no longer "ok," if some harm came to him there. With another kind of domesticated animal, leaving him in the woods makes no sense--a hamster or iguana or snake say. How could one ever find Wayne again?

The communicative implicatures here convey a shared concern with the well-being of "Wayne." Cyndy is reassuring the recipient of the note that Wayne is not harmed, or no longer ill, with an explanation mark  conveying some sense of relief.  But couldn't some new harm come to Wayne in the trees by the creek? The helplessness implied by needing to be taken to the trees seems in contradiction with the ability to survive a stay in the woods. (There are some woods near by, in fact.) Maybe, by now, Wayne is no longer ok.

Cyndy is the name of our apartment manager, though I don't remember if she spells it that way. The note was stuck to the glass near the door where one goes down to do laundry. It has been there several days but I only was curious enough to read it today. I could ask Cyndy (if it is the same Cyndy) if Wayne is really ok, but that seems foolish. The intended recipient of the note may or may not have read it, since it is still in public view. (Today it is Monday and the note says Thursday.) Maybe the message of reassurance was conveyed some other way as well.

There must be some other explanation that I am not seeing. If Wayne were the name of a plant, one could plant him in the woods, but that does not explain the message of reassurance and the implied danger. We can probably rule out inanimate objects.  

The most elegant explanation, perhaps, is that the verb "put" should really be "found."  That Cyndy miswrote the verb, for some reason.  Wayne, presumably an animal, has been found. You wouldn't use a post-it note to talk about the finding of human infant or elderly person in the woods. There are people here whose language is not English, most Chinese, but they do not have dogs and would be unlikely to name them "Wayne" if they did.




The Thing That I Study

The thing that I study, poetry, is something that, for me, occupies the highest scale of value. In other words, it is valuable for its own sake, not because it props up something else more valuable than that. So the argument that reading poetry makes you a better citizen if fine. If you want to make that argument, go ahead, I think it is fine, though I might not agree (it would depend on how you frame it and how well you argue it.) But the fallacy here is that we need poetry to serve some other end before we accept is as valid, when actually poetry already occupies the highest tier, since it is a supreme exercise of the human intelligence and imagination. Citizenship is also a fine thing, one that occupies the highest tier as well, but it can do that with or without the support of any particular art form.

Once I realized that, I was able to devote myself more wholeheartedly to what I do. It doesn't matter to me much whether other people share this high estimation of poetry. Many won't. But when I am this enthusiastic then something rubs off on the students.

Re-imagining

Many things can be re-imagined. For example, we eat meals at certain time, and have implicit rules for what to eat for what meals. As long as it does no annoyance to anyone else, why not have omelets for dinner? Oatmeal for lunch? You can eat one meal a day or five.

You might notice you have little rules for yourself that don't really have any real reason. Why do your socks have to match, for example? Do you always have to take the same route to get the same place?  Does a paper you assign for a class have to be a textual analysis, every single time? Do you walk around looking at the ground and avoid eye contact with people you pass by?

Now some of the rules and habits you might want to keep, or at least follow most of the time. There may be negative consequences for not following a rule, or you may have **good reason**, even if it is only that by following a rule you don't have to make up your mind every time anew about some trivial thing. So I say yes to article refereeing and no to book reviews most of the time.

A lot of things, though, are simply arbitrary. You could be preventing yourself from doing something valuable simply because you have a rule that you don't even know that you have. Maybe you don't read outside **your field** because you feel you can't even keep up in your own field. Maybe you define your field arbitrarily: British prose after 1750.  Well, what stops you from going before 1750?

***

I was reading a book recently that claimed that the reasons we give for what we do are arbitrary (bullshit was the term he used.).  If someone asks us why we did something, we come up with a reason to satisfy the person, but that reason probably has nothing to do with anything except for being the most satisfying answer in a social situation. We just have to satisfy the question, as a social convention. It's not necessarily false, but most events do not have singular reasons. They are invented after the fact. So if I come five minutes late to class, I can say "Oh, I was answering an email and lost track of the time." But in fact that is not the reason. Since I never do come 5 minutes late to class, if I did it would be because coming to class early was not a priority for me. So my reason is kind of irrelevant. I might as well say I came late because it's not important to me. That's why I tune out when a student says they missed class because of x. All the matters, really, is that they missed class.

***

**Your field** is kind of a bullshit concept too. I understand that your department hires you with the idea that you will do something relevant to the academic mission of the department, and that they have an interest in you doing more or less what you were hired to do. But there is no reason why you can't shift a bit and have a more expansive view.

***

When you write a book about an author or a subject, you often are following implicit rules that you haven't even thought about. You could do it in a much different way, but you only see certain paradigms and think those are the only ones. Of course, your unconventional book might be harder to sell, or have other problems, but those aren't very good reasons.


POEM FOUND SCRAWLED IN THE BACK BLANK PAGES OF CLARK COOLIDGE'S SOLUTION PASSAGE


Who will eat this roadside carrion?

The movement of the cymbal to quiet the hand

That's how my synapses like to fire

Customs opaque to the outsider.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Dullness

We might think of some texts as dull, or boring, but boredom is a capacity (or lack of capacity!) of the human mind, not an attribute of texts.  It is a judgment we make about a text, but it really is a rather artibrary statement about the self doing the judging, of our position vis-a-vis something else.  At best it is a statement of the relation, or lack of relation, between two things.

It would be a little like saying, as an attribute of a particular woman, that I am not in love with her.  If that is a characteristic of this woman, then so is the fact that many others are not in love with her either!  Innumerable people do not love her.  We can say two people are not in love, but that is a statement about a relationship, not about the characteristics of either person.

If you and I agree that something is dull or interesting, that still doesn't get us much further.  Our relation to text x is parallel, somehow; we have chosen to line up in a parallel position. That is as meaningful as saying we are both facing East right now.  

The meanings we assign to our relationships to people, things, and texts are just that: meanings we assign. We are free to assign other meanings to all of this, whenever we want to. It may seem as though those meanings were constrained, but they are not.  Not that it is easy to perceive this arbitrary quality, but once you do, it will change your life.

To perceive it, I recommend taking an issue that you don't care about, and thinking how ridiculous it is for others to care about it.  Say, the question of who will win a golf tournament. Now think that something you care about will be as silly from someone else's perspective.


Architect

So supposed you hired an architect to design your perfect office.  You could have a generous budget way, so you could have any kind of of windows, lighting, rugs, spatial disposition, you wanted.  Any kind of talismanic object and the best kind of desk and chair...

Now let's imagine you are the architect of your own week.  You need to have your "temporal office," which is much more important than your spatial one.  You don't have to hire anyone because you can realize it yourself at no extra cost.

You need to schedule in your sleep.  That's 56 of your 168 hours.  Let's give yourself 70 to account for the hour before and after you go to bed.  So you now have 98 hours to design.  It's a work week, say, so you need to work during some of that, but let's say you need to design that work time as carefully as the non-work time. You have a job with some autonomy so you don't have to do everything at one particular time.

Give yourself the imaginative freedom to design it how you like.  You can have a template that works for most weeks, or you can reimagine the week every week.  I never follow my own plans, so that's fine.  I think just imagining it in this way will be helpful.

Be sure to schedule the 5 hours of working on your most important project during this 98 hours.  It seems so obvious, but how many times have I, the time management expert, failed precisely by not doing so?  Duh...

"That time in the semester"

A student at my workshop on productivity this afternoon asked about what you do about "that time in the semester."  You know, when there is more grading to be done, or extra meetings, etc...

It is about finding 5 hours among the 168 in a week to write. The fallacy here is that some people can't seem to find those 5 hours even when they are on sabbatical or otherwise with fewer duties.  When you are bit busier it is actually easier to locate those 5 hours somewhere. To expect all weeks to be equally free of extra responsibilities is a bit silly.




My Course on Lorca

I'm designing a course on Lorca that will be "El mundo de Federico" or "Federico y su mundo."

The idea is to go from Lorca backwards, toward his sources, and forward, toward people he has influenced, as well as sideways, toward his own contemporaries.  We will need to read some Lorca texts along the way too!

 It will be for seniors, basically, it is our colloquium.  We have 15 weeks so here are the topics, leaving space for the last week and exams, etc...

1. The tradition of the popular song, using Frenk's Lírica española de tipo popular.

2. Flamenco, using FGL's essay on the Cante jondo, lyrics collected by Machado y Alvarez, and music by Falla. We'll take a side journey toward Debussy.

3. The ballads, using a standard anthology of 15th century ballads, read along with Romancero gitano.

4. Experimental theater, using Pirandello, Unamuno, and Comedia sin título.

5.  FGL and the visual arts. His ode to Dalí. His drawings.

6. Lorca and surrealism: his drawings; poetry of Neruda & Aleixandre.

7. Musical adaptations of Lorca: Classical

8.  Musical adaptation of Lorca: Flamenco & others.

9. Elegies for Lorca: Spanish

10. Elegies for Lorca: English and other languages

11. Stagings of Lorca: his plays

12. Plays about Lorca.

13. Duende poetics. Spicer, etc...

14. Translating Lorca.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

New aestheticism?


I guess the new aestheticism is not that exiting:  It tends toward a Kantian / Adornian approach and a clunky prose style.  I've underlined some verbiage that a graceful writer might have avoided.  


The works of Wyndham Lewis provide us with a case study for the application of this view of criticism to the understanding of artistic productions. Lewis’s work has been subjected to the same range of assessments as most other authors, from the classic description of it in terms of certain types of basic writing patterns to the relation of it to psychoanalytic or Marxist categories If we turn to the novels of Lewis from a Kantian direction, however, we can see the vital character of his work as consisting precisely in its negotiation with the characteristics of life itself.  

DON'T WRITE LIKE THIS, PLEASE! The pay-off after these three sentences is the striking idea that Lewis's work is about life.  Imagine that!  Does it add anything to say the "characteristics of life itself"?

I find it interesting that "aestheticism" does not seems to have anything to do with the aesthetics of critical prose.  I imagine the "description ... in terms of certain types of basic writing patterns" to be the analysis of narrative and stylistic techniques, so why not say so.  I imagine the relation between this work and psychoanalytic and Marxist categories to be just ...  Marxist and Freudian readings.  

The New Aestheticism

Although I was unaware that it existed until today, I think that I am part of this larger movement called "new aestheticism" in literary criticism.  Of course, I have no idea whether they are doing it interestingly or well (those who use that term). I think this arose because I always needed to think that the study of literature has to be invested in literariness in some sense, not in strip-mining works for their political content.

One piece of the puzzle is Felski's critique of critique. Another is simply my own investment in avant-garde words in which you can't just take the content out and ignore the writing itself.

One point Felski makes in a chapter called "Context Stinks" is the crudity of thinking of contest like a box. You put the work in a box and everything else in that box is part of its "context."

Of course, the rap on aestheticism was that it was thought to be right wing.  But why cede aesthetics to the right wing in the first place? Isn't that a carry over from Stalinist social realist doctrine?  It now seems wholly artificial.

I am also much less interested in judging things than I once was. You can basically have your mainstream poets who don't speak to me and I'll keep mine. Being non-judgmental (up to a point) is tremendously freeing, because now I don't even have to defend work I think is valuable.

Epigrams

Epic

I am epic poet

of the short form

***

Mise en abîme

Inside our kiss

is a world where people kiss

inside that world

we are one of the couples kissing

Painted Lips

No coffee tastes as good

as coffee smells

No painted lips taste as good

as they look

except for yours

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

JM's Writing Experiments

I wanted to see if these were still alive on the internet somewhere.

Here's more complete list:

1. Make a list of writing experiments.
2. Write a poem in which you include some reference, explicit or implicit, to everyone you know who has committed suicide.
3. Write poems designed for a particular magazine (a la Jack Spicer), even if this magazine doesn’t publish poetry. Send the poems to the magazine as you write them until they either publish you or tell you to stop.
4. If you are an academic, give an academic paper composed entirely of heroic couplets. Don’t tell anyone what you are doing.
5. “Ghost-write” poems for politicians or celebrities.
6. Write non-stop for 6 months, in every waking hour not devoted to any other necessary activity.
7. Compose a poem employing as many metaphors or examples as possible derived from Wittegenstein’s Philosophical Investigations.
8. Read only poetry written before 1800 for a year. See if your writing has changed. If it has changed for the better, do the same with 1700.
9. Take a book of poetry by someone else and compose poetic responses to every single poem. Try this with a poet you hate and then with a poet you love. Try writing your poems directly in the book, if you can stand to deface it.
10. Invent “heteronimos” a la Pessoa.
11. Compose a “Japanese Poetic Diary”
12. Write an autobiography, but including only events having to do with particular “subjects” (cooking, jazz, landlords, shoes).
13. Write the eleventh “Duino Elegy.”
14. Write a book of poetry in which the letter B never appears. See if anyone notices.
15. Parody your own style.
16. Stage elaborate contests (sestina contests, memorizing contests, rhyming contests).
17. Invent multiple ways of “gambling” on poetry (e.g. on the contests devised above).
18. Create a “neo-classical” style that is as regular and normative as Racine. The vocabulary should be fairly limited, the syntax limpid, the versification utterly smooth. Use this style as your normal mode of communication as much as you can get away with.
19. Try to get non-poets to collaborate with you on grandiose poetic projects. Test your persuasive powers.
20. Convince famous painters to illustrate your work or paint your portrait, or composers to set your poems to music.
21. Practice thinking in complete sentences. Do not write these down.
22. Be a Platonic “name-giver” of the type described in the Cratylus. Work at giving things their exact or “proper” names. Then practice with “misnomers.”
23. See if Wittgenstein was right: try to invent a “private language” for your sensations.
24. Adopt a variety of social “identities” in your writing (race, ethnicity, class, sexual identity). However, avoid any explicit “identifying” reference in the poem itself (e.g. don’t use the word “barrio” in your chicano poems).
25. Invent a private slang (a la Lester Young); attempt to get as many people as you can to use the words you coin. Don’t use these words in your writing; rather, conceive of the invention of this language as an independent poetic activity.
26. Write “vocalese lyrics” to a recorded jazz solo.
27. Practice speaking in blank verse as “naturally” as possible.
28. Create your own avant-garde movement; make sure you officially dissolve the movement after 6 months or a year.
29. Invent an imaginary city, complete with geography, history, architecture, prominent citizens, etc… Keep a sort of “bible” of all the information you compile. Then write poems set in this city.
30. Write nothing but sestinas and pantoums for a month. Then “cannabilize” them, using the best lines to write other poems.

When we say we don't understand a poet

There are poets I don't understand. By this I don't mean not understanding the words of poem, or being not able to interpret the meaning of the words. It's more that I don't get what the poet is trying to do, or why they are writing the way they do. I have this problem with contemporary British poets often. I just don't get it. I'm sure many have felt this way about Creeley as well. It is an understanding of the aesthetic intention. In this sense poets teach us how to read them: we have to just keep reading until we have learned.

Another thing is not liking a poet in one's own group. Say, if one liked all the New York School poets but didn't get one or to of them.  Or a poet one is supposed to like, but doesn't.

How To Live


I've been sent this previously unpublished poem by Mateo del Olmo.  He'll probably be insulted when I call it a bad poem, but so be it.  

How To Live

Sleep refreshes

Food nourishes

Dreams confuse but reconstruct the mind



Meditation sorts things out

Kissing makes Goddesses of women and fools of men

Sex is a demon, but who can despise it?



In a dream a problem is never solved

but it is

Poetry confuses the intellect but then doesn't



Spices alert the palate

A man's beard grows to remind him he is alive

Music soothes or excites



Salt is a metaphor for what isn't insipid

Melancholy heightens the appreciation of beauty like Keats's

"sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud"



Sunlight cheers and invigorates

There are those who claim it has a fragrance but it doesn't

Exercise rejuvenates and will not confuse the palate



Surrealism turned out to be a false path

It did not teach men to live

It confused the confusion of the dream with the reconstruction of the fragrance of sunlight



It did not even try to teach women how to live

The alcohol of surrealism is not the spice of melancholy

or even a slow-growing beard



Meditations actually are useful "in an emergency" though you wouldn't think it

The confusion of beards with weeping clouds does not occur in dreams

Spices have fragrance, but we do not know what it is for  




I hate the physical world

I hate the physical world

how it chaps your lips

and skins your knees

Monday, February 20, 2017

Poem With a Comma or Two

I can't fathom those Rilkean distances

hierarchies of shouting matches

I must take my sublimities in other shapes

compressed and obdurate drinking song

botanicals, mineral resistances

A perfumer's nose, but with the soul of a weightlifter

Exercise



Here's some strengths and weaknesses I wrote out.  You can see the left hand column under the + has harmony and rhythm, knowledge of chords, harmony, song structure, and, generally a strong work ethic and the analytic ability that makes me want to make this kind of list in the first place.

The right hand side has weaknesses: piano technique, ability to improvise, lyric writing, my ear (in ability to play things I hear), and knowledge of recording techniques.

What this does is to give me some clarity.  Almost everything in the + column has to do with composing, and in the - column with performing.

Bass Notes

I am going to try to learn a standard by listening to the bass notes, to get the chord progression.  I think I will start with "I cover the Waterfront."

***

It struck me that you ought to approach learning to play music the way you do learning a language, or  vice versa.  When I tried to teach myself to draw a few years back I remember thinking: oh, that sounds incredibly hard or time-consuming (when looking at particular instructions). Well yes, that is because these things are hard to do.

You can learn a lot of Italian or a little Italian.  You can learn a little piano or a lot of it. In either case a little bit won't get you a lot.  When I am frustrated by my progress on the piano I realize it is because I am not putting in enough work of the right kind.  Instead of thinking "I just need to know enough to play my own songs," I should have been thinking: I need to play a lot of piano, not just enough for bare adequacy, because then my songs will sound bad.  I am a long ways from there, but I get better gradually.  While I am frustrated, it is a good frustration, because I use it to my advantage.  I really have not had a bad experience when playing, since I resumed a year and a half ago.



Sunday, February 19, 2017

More Language Learning Tips

Why do you want to learn a language?

Travel.  Well, you can get by with very little foreign language to travel, since people in hospitality industry are most likely to speak English.  Travel is great, but I've known a guy who is a great traveler to Cuba, knows the country well with many Cuban friends, whose Spanish is almost non-existent.

Reading. If you want to read, then you can read. You can read very well and not have a basic traveler's knowledge.  That's fine too.

Teaching.  If you want to teach, you have to be a step ahead of where your students are.  You also want to be good role model.

Pronunciation.  You might always speak the language with your own accent.  If I heard a tape of myself speaking Spanish I could have a hundred quibbles. That is the gold standard, in the sense that someone native will always sound native, and you and I might never. But think that Joseph Conrad might never had passed for a native speaker of English...


Friday, February 17, 2017

How to Learn a Language

How do you learn a language?  I will tell the first thing I did was to learn the pronunciation rules in Spanish. You know how to pronounce a word simply by seeing it written, once you know those rules.  It is a good idea to read aloud from texts for hours at a time in order to practice. I may not have always had a perfect accent, but I never said hambre for hombre, because I knew that the o never has the sound of ah.... You should at least pronounce the phonemes correctly that you have in your own damn language, right?

My students even at the senior level still say dificil instead of difícil.

You need to listen to the language a lot.  Fortunately there is the Youtube.  There are free lectures in Spanish at the Fundación Juan March, that you can download, many of them an hour long or longer.  As with reading, you need to just listen and not worry if you understand.  Eventually, you will start understanding more and more, and you will also get the intonation in your head.

You need to exaggerate the intonation, which is usually ignored in teaching. Pretend you are mocking the speaker of the language by using the exact pitch pattern she uses.   If you cannot hear it then try to sing or chant it. Speak English with a cartoon-French accent.  That is actually what you want to get... in French.

Learn the grammar thoroughly. Just learn it so it has virtually no mistakes in it when you write it. You can communicate fine in bad grammar (sometimes!), but if you just communicate and never learn the grammar, you will be creating an artificial limit for yourself on how well you know the language after your fluency increases.  Grammar will not make you fluent, but you should enjoy it for its own sake, for its ability to express nuance. Learning grammar is not the same as acquiring it.  You can learn it and still flub up when you try to speak, because humans make mistakes when learning new skills.

Another thing is reading. Reading alone will never teach you to speak the language, but it enlarges the vocabulary immensely, and it is the only way to do this rapidly.  I recommend not looking up words in the dictionary, because that will slow you down.  Only if you keep seeing a word and have a burning curiosity about it.  You might look up words and then still not remember them. That is because you need repetition for memory, not a one-off look up of a wordl  Without extensive reading, your vocabulary will always be artificially limited, because the vocabulary in most everyday interactions you have a traveler will never match the actual vocabulary as a literate speaker of the language. Once again, you can be ok and get by as a traveler without having ever read a book in the language, but you are missing out on a lot.

Also, it might seem obvious, but reading reinforces what you already know as well.  You will be pounding in, constantly, the most common words of the language, because they will be present on every page. Also, the most frequent combinations of words, a sense of what is idiomatic in a language.

What to read?  Novels.  You can follow the plot without understanding every word.  You can just fill in the blanks with your own imagination. Novels have more and different kinds of words than academic articles about literature.

Pronunciation, listeninggrammar, reading for a bigger lexicon.  Those are parts of the language base.  To actually speak it, you must use it in real life, non-classroom settings. The classroom is part of the base, but is not sufficient.

One thing I find myself doing is to prepare for situations in advance.  So if I am going to the cell phone store in France, I am going to think of what I'm going to say before. When I'm constantly doing that, then I'm generating sentences in my head all the time, not merely when I'm actually in a conversational situation. Then you will be thinking in the language. Even after reading Italian for an hour I find myself thinking in my miserable Italian.

If you are at a college (or wherever) you need to find speakers of the language and befriend them, always speaking to them.  If you are in the country whose language you want to learn, you are going to want to avoid speakers of your own language.  The reason is that a conversation will often default to the easier language, which will be the language you already know.  

Apps like duolingua are fine.  They won't give you everything, but you can learn vocabulary and some grammar and pronunciation. Don't pay for expensive language-learning programs like Rosetta stone.

Don't expect someone to teach you a language: you have to take ownership and learn it. A good teacher is wonderful, but a highly motivated student is even better than wonderful.

 



In / Out

If you study poetry in the academy, you always yearn for a "non-academic" approach. I suppose a sociologist never feels this? That there is a real sociology taking place that might be better than sociology as an academic dictionary? No, because sociology was born and will die as an academic discipline. That's what it is, for better or worse.  

Conversely, from outside the academy, you might crave the knowledge that you think professors have about poetry.  I always thought that I could be a professor and come up with the real knowledge, but also using my actual poetic knowledge to that end. When I say that I knew things about poetry at age 14 that many professors do not know, I am not at all exaggerating.

The accoutrements of scholarship, the formats and conventions, are external to the object of study. But then they get confused with the real thing. I know a poet who wants to justify everything he does in academic, theoretical ways, as though writing poems like Keats did were not sufficient.

What if you had Mozart in your music department.  Oh, professor Mozart, he doesn't have a PhD!  He just writes the stuff; he's not a scholar. Yet if a poet in an English department happens to be a mediocrity, then we won't think in that way. Or if a Spaniard in your department writes a mediocre (actually maybe a bad) novel and gets it published through connections, as has happened, not in my department but in other cases I know. You wouldn't call him Professor Lorca.

So you'd like to have an approach to poetry that takes it seriously, but part of that would be making those value judgments that the academy has a hard time with.  We legitimate our work through peer review, but there is not a consensus about what a good poem might be. So we have this whole category of work that is not taken seriously (translation too)...  but to take it seriously would also mean that it wouldn't count at all if it were self-indulgently shitty.

***

Being smart about poetry is even more rare than being a poet.  As Pope said about "Ten censure wrong for one who writes amiss" or something like that. All this scholarship that just goes through the motions is profoundly depressing.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

February

It was your hatred for February that first endeared you to me, old friend

What you called its impertinent brevity, its indecisiveness and squalor

Though the heart of winter, it lacked all conviction



Now it is February again and I wonder if you were speaking in earnest

Perhaps there was something else under your skin that you couldn't openly confess

Something colder even than the biting wind of that month you despised


Conviction

There's a way that Oscar Peterson phrases the beginning of the melody of the tune "Easy Does It" with such utter conviction. It is done with the right hand and is not a complex melody at all--very repetitive. If I could just do that a little bit in some context, in whatever art form I am working in.

I used to not even like OP very much. All those glissandos.  But whatever his excesses of bad taste when he was tasty he was very good.

Bad habits

Bad habits are the result of mistaken beliefs, and also contribute to them.  For example, I felt I needed to check my email constantly, or leave it on in the background while I am working on my computer.

The mistaken belief in this case was that I needed to respond immediately to whatever I was asked, and that some great opportunity was going to come my way by way email at any moment. In truth, I do get such opportunities, but they do not require immediate action on my part.  I could read email twice a day and do just fine.

The habit is self-reinforcing, in that I get anxious when I don't check. So I get to soothe my anxiety by checking, but actually it would be more soothing rarely to check at all during the course of a day.

Taking the bus rather than walking 10 minutes is also a bad habit. It seems to save time, but I have to be out at least three minutes (for fear of missing it) and then ride it for four minutes, so I am really saving only three minutes, and missing a chance to walk and think more. I have waited for the bus for as long as 8 minutes (if I am early and it is late). If it is very cold I could take the bus, though often times it is a pleasant temperature any way.

Checking stats on my blog is a bad habit. I like the fact that they are rising, so that I can get 10,000 hits a month, so there is a little ego boost that comes with that.  I don't see why I need to do that every day, though.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lovers

And what of lovers?

They are easier to find than enemies.

Not people to got to bed with

(Though there's that too!)

Or set up domestic arrangements

But anyone who will love you for a moment or two

Or deeply and long

Monday, February 13, 2017

Bags

I seldom carry a bag to school. I have numerous bags, but I tend to not carry them back and forth. I can work on the computer either place, with google docs or dropbox. I have my textbooks or whatever to work with on campus. Once in a while a book will migrate from home to campus and viceversa, but I have little need to take work home, aside from the work that already is home.

I'm trying to go as paperless as I can. Most of office mess is either papers or books, and the books are enough. I'd love never to have to touch a loose piece of paper again in my life, if it isn't a grocery list.

The Conquest of Sleep

For February I have some other things on the agenda. I plan to re-conquer sleep, to make it my friend again.  I will consolidate gains in other areas: not checking email compulsively, for example. I'm re-adding push-ups and walking 10,000 steps a day.

The Duplications

I've decided to revive my on-line journal of poetry The Duplications.

Evaluating

I have been evaluating things, and I have to say that just not being crap will already put you in the position to get published. Things that are crappy are pretty obviously crappy from the first sentence. Do no do this, and you will be more likely to get published.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Enemies

I find the idea of having enemies silly

Where would I find one?

In alleyways of grief?

In forgotten childhood toolshed of twisted intentions?

Why would I do with an enemy if I had one?

What enemy could harm me more than I have harmed myself?




Perhaps it is a flaw of mine

to find my own ideas more interesting than those of other people. I'd like to be receptive, and I am to some extent, but I'm reading Rita Felski's The Uses of Literature. While admiring the stance she's taking, and agreeing with it, I just don't find it scintillating the way I do the company of my own ideas. Perhaps that's the problem of using "theory" today, where theory is often reduced to a few catch-phrases. I'd like to be excited by those phrases, but there's often little substance there, at least in the application to literary works.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Words and Music

In a dream or half-wakened state it was explained to me why the words could never match the music: melody was already its own poem.

I was on the receiving end of this, but of course I was the dreamer, so this is my idea.

What is Poetry?

I've come up with some ideas about poetry, over the years.

*A defense against mediocrity.

*It kicks you in the ass with its transformative power.

*One of the supreme exercises of the human intelligence.

*The conquest of imaginative freedom.

I'm assuming, in these definitions, that we know that it does all this through language.  There are other defenses against mediocrity, other ways of exercising the human intelligence or conquering the freedom of the imagination, that do not use this particular medium.  There are forms of literature in which the language used seems secondary, rather than poetic. There is even poetry that puts language in a secondary plain, though I tend to not think of that as poetry at all.  Those literary forms might also do some of what poetry does through language.

The other objection is that a lot of poetry is mediocre, or unimaginative or unintelligent. It is hard to say that it is a defense against mediocrity, then.


Characters

We think of characters as being flat or rounded-out, but to have a complex character we really only need two traits. Already in the interaction of those two we have complexity built in, without any particular need for nuance or detail.  Say laziness and ambition, or a gap between self-concept and reality.  I suppose everyone else already knew this but I discovered it the day before yesterday.

Friday, February 10, 2017

If poetry...

If poetry is the "conquest of imaginative freedom"

I'm sure you won't even agree with that but

If that's what poetry is, then

Why won't that phrase even fit in the poem?

What would it take for that phrase to fit in a line

To imagine saying it so openly?


And actual poems, in all their usual misery

So far from any possible "freedom of the imagination"

As though to deflate that pretention, cruelly.  

Yet in poems I have felt that freedom.



In a dream...

During a week of spectacularly imaginative and theatrical protests and demonstrations across campus, my younger colleague X was taking the lead, staging one brilliant idea after the other. One involved standing on successively on squares in which the 10 amendments of the Bill of Rights were engraved. We never knew what he would do next, and I felt admiration and even envy for the generative power of his mind.

Upon awakening I realized that all these ideas had sprung from my own mind: I was the dreamer, after all! My colleague, in waking life, does nothing at all like the things that I had ascribed to him, and his talks on campus tend to be abstractly theoretical. Though I feel generously toward him, as these dreams indicate, it is unclear why I needed to give him credit for my own imagination.  

***

Earlier in this sequence of dreams, we had been in a car in the countryside with another female colleague. We were parked by the edge of a stream when I saw that an enormous torrent of water was about to come down on us from upstream. I exited the car (a convertible), scrambled up a hill, and yelled from them to join me on higher ground. They ignored me for a few minutes but finally saw what was happening and jumped out of the car to join me. The water came, causing great injury and destruction and setting my colleague's convertible on fire. We began to make our way home, having to take a series trains or buses beginning in the next town over. It was unclear to us whether this event had actually happened, or whether in fact he had parked his car at one of the train or bus stations.  The flood might have been a dream.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Energy > Time

Having personal energy to do what you want to do is more important than time.  I can demonstrate this simplistically.  Suppose you tell me you don't have time for something. Then I suggest that you get up two hours earlier, or wake your self up at 3 a.m. to work for two hours. Or that you simply devoted two hours after dinner to something.  You will likely say you are too tired to take my suggestion.

I am not recommending less sleep, or any other biologically questionable solution.  What I am saying is that your problem is likely to be energy, not time. Writing intensely on your project for 2 hours requires sustained, concentrated energetic work. It is likely that you don't achieve that often enough.

Some likely causes:

*The research is really your last priority. You do everything else before that. Then, surprise surprise, when you finally turn to it you are at a low energy part of the day--a time better spent in activities that don't require that amount of energy.

*Generally, you are living your life in a way that does not maximize energy.

Now it could really be that you are too busy, that your busy life does not allow you to do research.  In this case you must re-prioritize.  Look at your work-week analytically.  For me, for example, I find that I need up to one hour to prepare one hour of class and otherwise attend to everything having to do with that class. I teach five hours a week, so I need 10 hours of prep / grading / administration, so that is 15.  That leaves me with 25 hours a week for everything else.  Service is supposed to be 4 hours, so now I have 21. I should be able to fit in 10 hours of writing, including blogging, and 11 of reading, working 40 hours a week and still taking weekends and evenings off. If I really did this all the tie, I would be publishing much more than I do, even. But I am a low energy person....




Wednesday, February 8, 2017

I have resumed work on my anti-textbook

I have resumed work on my anti-textbook of poetry, and am coming up with a list of thirty poets whose work I recommend. It turns out that about 10 of them belong to the so-called New York School of Poetry.

Now, of course, the reason is that I don't see their work as all that similar to one another: I'm not going to confuse a poem by Barbara Guest for one of Joseph Ceravolo or Clark Coolidge or David Shapiro. There are shared values, but I see them as sharply individuated.

Now the problem is that when I look at mainstream poetry, it seems much less individuated by style. But this seems to be a cognitive distortion: it is because I am looking from outside that I am able to clump it into larger clumps. I still think that I am right, in some sense, but I need to take into account this distorting bias.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Design your perfect day

Ok.  The Nobel committee calls you.  You've won!

Seriously, I'm asking that you design the perfect day that's actually realistic, while you're teaching and ordinary life is going on.  How would you design it?

8:30: Wake up.  Make bed.  Shower, s***, shave.
9: Pie at favorite diner.
9:30: Blogging and working.
11:30: Meditation.
12:30: Lunch.
1-3:30: practice piano.
3:45-4:30: piano lesson.
Free time. Listen to music.
7: Dinner with girlfriend, watch Netflix, etc...

The point is, you can design many days like that.  Not all, but at least a few a month.








Clark Coolidge

An an outgrowth of my self-improvement, etc... I am becoming an expert in the poet Clark Coolidge. I already knew a lot about him, but a very simplistic idea occurred to me: to be an expert on CC, all I'd have to do is to read all he's written (he is very prolific). That would automatically put me ahead of anyone who hasn't read very much of him, or has read him sporadically. I own maybe 16 of his books, there are many others in the library, including the rare book room. I can also read everything written about him, since he is not the most studied poet on the planet. I share his interest in Thelonious Monk and jazz drumming, so there's that. I can listen to all his readings at the EPC.

What makes this possible is reading his works aloud to myself. While that seems an impossible way to approach the work of someone who's written thousands of pages, it turns out to be perfect. All I need to do is to spend some time every day reading his poetry aloud to myself.  Otherwise, the process would be much less clear-cut: I would take down books and read things randomly without full attention to anything in particular.  I'd never know what I had really read.

productivity notes (from a workshop)

Give yourself “the gift of undivided attention”:

*This applies not only to your work, but to everything you do in your life. You are usually better off doing one thing at a time. By doing this with everything you do, you will improve your concentration for your work as well. You want to do everything in increments of however long you need for the particular tasks.

*Don’t multi-task. Nobody is actually very good at it, even people who think they. Think about it this way: dividing your attention between two sources of attention is the very definition of distraction.

*Once you’ve given yourself that gift, the concentration will follow from that. In other words, you don’t have to wait until you are in a “concentrated mood”; just reserve the time for concentration and it will follow from there. Just by not multi-tasking you will have won most of the battle.

*Schedule your time: M-F. 1-3 hours of writing. Treat your work hours as seriously as you would a class that you are teaching.  You need to show up for your dissertation, the same way you show up for teaching your class. You might want to schedule all of your time during both night and day, but at the very least schedule your work day. Five hours on five separate days a week, Monday through Friday, is better than six hours divided between Tuesday and Thursday. The reason is that the best hour of work is the first one, so that six hours on two days gives you two good hours, and five hours on five days gives you five good hours.

*You think your problem is time, but it is actually energy. You have enough time to do the work, so if you’re not getting it done, you either aren’t sitting down and doing it in scheduled time, or you are working at an extremely low energy level when you are. Maybe you making it your last priority and working only on it when you are exhausted. 

*Don’t rush / don’t burn out.  If you give yourself enough time, you don’t have to rush through your writing session. (The Pomodoro timer of 25 minutes is probably too short.) By the same token, trying to write for five hours a day can easily lead to burn-out. If you establish good work / time management habits, you won’t actually have to spend more than a few hours a day actually writing. You can even have weeends and evenings free.

*It’s a good idea to stop writing while you are still writing well. That way you can start the next day freshly. 

*Once exception to the rule: ocasionally you will want to do an encerrona, take a day in which you spend most of the day just delving into one section of the project, in order to jumpstart the process. (This is different from trying to avoid work all week and then spending the weekend trying to catch up, or cramming deep into the night before a deadline.)    

*Write first, research later. Obviously you need to do your reading / research before you write your chapter, but every day you should begin by writing a few pages. As you work, take note of what you need to research for the next day’s writing, then do that research later in the day.   
           
*But don’t be too rigid either. If you miss your appointment with yourself to write, don’t use that as an excuse not to write that day. If your attention is distracted, don’t conclude that your writing session will be futile. Just keep on doing it. If a particular day looks impossible, then spend just 15 minutes, rather than losing the forward continuity. 15 minutes is enough to look at a paragraph and tweak a few sentences.    

*Accept the law of averages. To complete a forty page chapter will take between 30 and 40 work days. If you do well on a particular day and write three pages, then that is good, but that is not really the point; if another day you write only half a page, that is equally good, because what matters is the continuity of effort. It will all average out to a steady pace, so you don’t have to worry about individual days.    

*The goal of research is to put yourself in the position in which you can do more research, or at least in a position where your expertise and intellectual development can be put to good use. Since the main goal of research is intrinsic, the dissertation is not a hurdle to get past, but something valuable for its own sake. If you treat the dissertation with the value that it has, then it will be easier not to look past it.  There will never be a time in your life where you will be able to read and learn so much. This is the stage where a large part of your intellectual growth takes place.  

*If you are on a M-F schedule, spend part of Sunday on a planning session. Map out what you want to accomplish during the next week. 

Beardscapes (I, II, III)

Beardscapes

I.

There are landscapes and seascapes, yes

but are there mindscapes, gutscapes?

smellscapes for the dog's wondrous nose?

are there beardscapes?

Scapes of stubble and skin?

II.

My hand checks the imperfection of my shave

It feels the slight variances, rough spots

Moving with and against the grain

Better even than my imperfect eye

III.

The blade is sharp

Though encased in a mechanism to ensure "safety"

I scrape it against my face

In the shower, without a mirror

An exercise in proprioception

Or stupidity

On the stove

The Water is boiling

Variation on a Theme By Jonathan Mayhew

"On the Stove / The Water is boiling"

i.

"On the stove
the water is boiling"

Where else did you expect it to boil?

ii.

"The water is boiling"

"The blackbird must be flying"


iii.

The water is boiling

Not much else is going on

iv.

I understand why the kettle whistles

I grasp that mechanism

But not why the bacon sizzles

v.

The kettle is whistling

Why are we symmetrical?

February Notes


Scolds hate beauty.

***

"A Buddha by Billy Strayhorn" (Coolidge) ??

***

My epic poem "Beardscapes"

Grows by small increments.

Monday, February 6, 2017

What to do with a poem once you have memorized it

You can recite it in public or private situations, of course.  You can study it in your head and think about it, cite from it from memory when the subject comes up in conversation (which tends to be rarely). Waking up with some Keats in your head is a good thing. I like speaking it in the shower. If I wake up at night I can have a poem to recite to myself, or as I am trying to fall asleep.  Some phrase of it might resonate through a poem you are writing, or even in a translation from another language.

How to Memorize a Poem

First, read the poem out loud carefully to yourself.

Now, read a line, keep it in your mind, close your eyes, and repeat it to yourself three times.  Repeat with every line of the poem.

Now, do the same again, but this time keep in mind the first phrase of the subsequent line for each line.

So you would be saying: "But when the melancholy fit shall fall / Sudden from heaven..." You also know the line is "Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud," but you are concentrating now on the transition from line to line.

Now you want to look at chunks of the poem, look at them, close your eyes, and repeat them three times.

Now you will want to begin at the first line and see how far you get. Do that a few times.  Then start at another point in the poem and do the same thing.  You don't want to always start at the beginning because then you'll know the beginning really well and always get stuck later on. Practice the end of the poem more than any other part.  

Now you'll want to wait a day or so and try to recite the poem from memory. Re-learn the parts the you've forgotten.  Do this several days in a row.  For example, I forgot one line of Keats's "Ode to Melancholy" completely.  Another was missing several words.

twelfth sense

4. Describe a sense that is not currently defined as part of humanity's repertoire of sense perceptions, or part of the repertoire of "psychic" senses like ESP. It must be a plausible possibility. We know that human have smell, touch, hearing, sight, and taste; that in addition we have proprioception, an ability to feel our internal organs, balance, and the ability to feel pain, heat, and cold.  What is missing from this list?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

ish

I got an issue of Bon Appetit that promised to talk about "healthy-ish" food. That's great, in a way.  Even unhealthy food can by healthy-ish, right?

Yet when I evaluate my own capabilities, I find them mostly either strongish or weakish. Nothing is an absolute strength or weakness, but everything is on a continuum.  You have to work on things that are weakish, but also on things that are strongish.  It's just some arbitrary level where you think a particular dimension becomes an asset rather than a liability.

So 49% vs. 51%.

You are also free to define anything you want as strongish or weakish.  It is amazing that we accept other people's definitions about things in our own lives.

Letting go of problems

Letting go of problems means not classifying something in your life as a problem, any more.  Make a list of problems you have, and then just decide which ones are things you don't really have to worry about.  Don't try to eliminate all of them in one day, just decide on one, for today, that you will let go of.  For example, I could worry about many things, including:

*Social awkwardness
*Not making enough money
*Owing too much on credit card
*Losing hair
*Whether my book gets accepted by Routledge.
*Whether I can learn piano good enough to play in public.
*Whether I am a good poet.
*... etc

Now I might be socially awkward, but I have enough friends who I don't have to worry about being awkward with, so I don't have to worry too much.  So I could just renounce that as a problem.  It doesn't mean I am socially suave, all of a sudden, but that I just don't care as much. Not caring actually makes it easier, because 90% of the awkwardness is in caring too much about being smooth or not. Wise people care more about whether you are kind and polite, more than if every move you have is smooth as silk.

Many people are more socially adept than I am, and many others are less so. It could be something to work on, but it is not going to be an existential problem I need to lose sleep over. If people see me as awkward, then it might be good for them: they can feel that they are less awkward than me and feel better about themselves.  That would be great. If they see me as not awkward, then there is no problem.  I am helping them to be less awkward,  maybe, so either way it turns out great for everyone.

***

Many of my friends and relations are older people, older than me. One thing you can do as you age, gracefully or not, is to not worry any longer about certain things that might have troubled you earlier. But you can start the process of not worrying about shit at any age.

Think of a problem that troubled you in youth, but that now you think of as trivial.  Now see if your older, wiser self would tell you the same thing about a problem you have now.

***

You can also take your biggest problem.  You don't have to release it yet, but decide what your biggest problem is. I've found that if something is a BIG problem, it is part of your identity, in a way. It is something that would cost you a great deal to release, because you would be giving something up, some illusion necessary for your sense of self. You must be aware that you are giving something up by releasing the problem. So by all means treasure and appreciate your problem if it is important to you.

An example:

If I am not a good poet, then I am a fraud, I might think.  So I have to keep that as a problem for myself: to prove to myself or others that my work is good, that I have some underlying talent.  If I embrace my poetic mediocrity, though, then the problem is no longer there. Or rather, it becomes a wholly different sort of problem: how to write better. That is amenable to many avenues of approach. I can have fun and write different kinds of poems, and really never have another bad moment as a poet, just as I never have a bad moment playing the piano, even when playing badly. What I've given up is the idea of myself as a poetic genius, but this seems faintly risible in retrospect, though it was a part of my self-concept even in negative form.






Friday, February 3, 2017

What is imaginative freedom?

In my poetry I want to have imaginative freedom.  What is this?

There should be no no arbitrary restrictions in place.  Those are rules that are simply conventions of the genre, as might be practiced in one particular place or time, but that aren't really "rules." Or they are prejudices that many people might share at any given time.  Take rhyme. If you are imaginatively free then you can rhyme or not rhyme.  It doesn't make any difference. You can choose, imaginatively, to impose constraints on your writing, but that will be a free choice as well.

You give yourself permission to do what you want.  So if you think you can't be confessional, or sentimental, or prosaic, you have to realize that that restriction comes from you, not anyone else. You are the one denying permission to yourself, even if it seems like it's someone else.

You really shouldn't have a style.  That is to say, you shouldn't have to decide what your poetry is like and then impose that as a restriction.  (You can for individual poems or books, but that is another question.). Of course, it will sound like you anyway even if you try to avoid your stylistic tics.  Very few poets have the freedom to do whatever they really might want.  But at least in theory you can leave yourself open to any possibility.

The problem is that poets learn enough licks to be able to write ok, and then they stop. They have enough tools and clichés and can have their work considered good. There was on in the 70s I remember: poets would write the line "for hours" or "for years," which had a certain built-in poignancy. Like:  "I washed the dishes / for years." Or they would use certain words like silence, dark, and stone that they thought had an inherently lyrical quality.

The bad poetry I was writing since the summer, I realize now, is just the key to the gate of imaginative freedom.  Because if you do something in a bad poem, and it works, then you've found something that works.

At the same time, you have to have some self-awareness not to write something bad and not even know that it's bad.  There was a bad Chilean poet who had a foundation set up for him that will essentially pay people to translate or write about his work.  I thought it would be easy money so I checked his books out of the library one year, but it was crappy stuff, and I couldn't bring myself to translate it. It was over-clever and without redeeming social value. The fact they needed to pay people to even approach it is fairly appropriate.

***

This is a life hack not just a poetry hack because it is applicable to other situations in which you might need imaginative freedom to free up your life. Say to yourself: I cannot imagine not >>>>>  Then imagine not doing it.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Short piece of music

3. Here is the idea is to write the shortest possible piece of music.  So you give up all the advantages that length gives you (repetition, development, contrasting sections, etc..).  You can conceive it either as a time-limit exercise (five seconds) or as a way of getting as short as possible, to the limits of human hearing.

A sequence of two or three chords, but each very complex and multilayered, would be one approach. You be basically substituting the vertical dimension for the horizontal one. Another would be to take a piece and mechanically speed it up so that it fits the time frame. A lot can happen in 5 seconds at 600 bpm.



Ear

In a crossword puzzle the answer for "musical ability," three letters, was "ear."  (Another day the clue was "musical talent "and the answer was supposed to be "chops," but "chops" is not talent at all but merely technical prowess!) So we call it ear because musicians know that hearing, listening is more important than producing the sound. We call the capacity to write in verse, in a poet, an ear as well. So we know that the poet hears the verse. The painter sees, she or he has an eye. The chef tastes better than other people, the perfumer has a better nose.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

It used to bother me...

It used to bother me that I was teaching literature to people who weren't in school to learn literature.

I decided to let that go as a problem in my life.  Now what I think is this: I am giving some future physician, lawyer, or accountant one experience of thinking about literature that they wouldn't have had otherwise. I am it for that person, as far as literature is concerned (along with my other extremely meritorious colleagues, of course).  If someone is interested in literature, then they can learn from me.  If someone is moderately interested in it, open to it in some way, likewise.  If they aren't interested, then  they get to see someone who is.

One student who was into Spanish for the linguistics and teaching angle and wasn't too enthused wrote me later to apologize, because it took her until later, when she was in graduate school for linguistics, to understand what I was doing.  But it was actually fine. I loved it that she wrote to me, but she didn't need to apologize.


On not caring how good my poems are / whether they are good at all

I could care about whether other people think my poems are good.  I have little control (none to be exact) on other people's judgment of them.  I guess I could try to write poems that I think other people might like, but my insight into what other people's taste is limited.  I know they are different from one another and that many more people like Mary Oliver's poems than Ceravolo or Mayer. Even poetry I ought to like (written by experimental folks) is often dull to my taste.

I have zero interest in mimicking some period style that would get me published more easily.  Between 100 and 400 people look at my blog every day, so people who want to find my poems will do so.  No tenure or external legitimation or salary increase depends on the quality of my poems.

I could care whether my poems are good in some absolute sense, irrespective of any reader.  But what does that mean? There is no poetry god in the sky to whom one can appeal. So one judgment would be to not ask if someone likes it, but whether someone, me or you or her, for example, might think it would meet the approval of some theoretical poetry deities? This is surely a fool's errand.

So I can really only care about whether my poems are good for me.  What does this mean?  That is satisfies the poetry itch I feel.  To do this the poem must have some quality I value, so it is not "anything goes." What I am striving for now in my work is a kind of imaginative freedom, where I can do anything I want with no fear of badness per se.  I can be as confessional or MaryOliverish even, without it being even parodic. I will collect Rod McKuen's books. I know some my aesthetic flaws already: excessive reticence, the recording of trivial observations that mean nothing to anyone else. Those flaws are likely to be mitigated if I don't care if it's good in some pretentious sense.



A Slip of Paper

A slip of paper on which chords symbols are written

Abmaj7 9 b5 / C-7 9 / F7 9 #5

Used as a bookmark in Clark Coolidge's Selected Poems

Published in 2017 so evidence would suggest I've survived that long

The latest recorded year in human history, so far