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Thursday, March 04, 2004


Notes Toward a Surreal: So Jonathan Mayhew and Tony Tost have been discussing Charles Simic, and I would post to their discussion, but Tony's archives are all screwed up, thereby making me weep blue tears onto my keyboard. A short circuit should ensue. Shortly. I gather Jonathan's beef with Simic (they were discussing his book "The World Doesn't End,") is that while the poems are narratively surreal, Simic never takes a chance with the language, or grammar, or syntax being surreal. The form doesn't follow the function.

I feel like that about some of the Calamities; maybe I should be taking more chances with the form...I find it very hard not to write a poem that has perfect, English-teacher-gold-star grammar. Non-grammatical sentences, weird inversions, the sudden appearance of bizarre words, quotations, apparently extraneous and random material doesn't bug me in other people's work (at least, in small doses), but I can't seem to generate it in my own. My brain has to be tricked into producing weirdness on a formal level. I can invent stories with weird particulars all you please, but I must tell them in an orthodox manner, from beginning to end, cutting out irrelevance, and using complete sentences.

Or the English weasels will come. And they will choke me to death on periods, and hook commas into my eyes. Or something. I think this means it's time for drastic measures...such as translating poems out of languages I don't actually know!

Here's an example. I found, online, translations of some of Sylvia Plath's poetry into Portuguese. I translated one, "Mushrooms," back out of Portuguese into English. I'd never read the English before, and didn't look at it here. Trouble is, I don't know Portuguese. I know Spanish, which means I know just enough Portuguese to completely screw it up. I don't think I've done much to let go of syntax here; I'm still writing in sentences, but I have a narrative that holds together much more loosely than my usual.

The Concealments

Manning the night with
Branches, with bravery,
in absolute silence.

From artery to nose-tip
We are bundled in silver
And the scent of aquisition.

No one warns us
Detains us, rips into us.
We evade those worries

With smooth fists, insist
On brandishing absences
The deep recesses

Tied to our sandals,
Our hammers, our shakers.
We ring out, forgotten,

From the voice of loyalty
Declaring, as girls do,
"This shadow binds our knuckles." We

Live on a drop of water
In flea-bites of darkness;
Only affidavits from the fashionable

Keep questioning our little nothing.
They'll have all of us!
They'll have us all!

Though we are leftovers, though we are
tableland, humid and low --
we are as we are

With trunks and branches
Dragged under our bodies.
We are a species of growth,

Manhandled skins we have
Herded all over this planet.
And the door that leads inside it is ours.

posted by Reen |link| ...talkety...0 comments

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Poets, you bore me! I feel blah, have felt so for a while, poetically, and was musing on my blahness, when I came across this at Cahiers de Corey: "the general American loneliness which I would argue besets poets all the more strongly because they are unwilling or unable to drug themselves out of feeling it the way most folks do."

Fuck! Is my feeling of outsiderness then the strongest sign that I have become a true and real poet? Jesus Christ, no wonder we all end up killing ourselves. This is a mental illness, people. And we revel in our sickness.

You realize, though, that even as I write this, I'm pondering revisions on a poem I wrote yesterday? Oh verily, I say, I am one of you.

posted by Reen |link| ...talkety...0 comments

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Tuesday, March 02, 2004


Sentence (or line, maybe) that's caught in my head: "When they call her statuesque, they mean she tends to hold a pose."

posted by Reen |link| ...talkety...0 comments

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Hobbits aren't the only magical thing you'll find in New Zealand. Apparently, the mailboxes recite poetry to you there. Via Ivy is here.

posted by Reen |link| ...talkety...0 comments

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I'm fasting. The first side-effect has been . . . writing a short story. It reads like the repurposed plot of an X-Files, and I wouldn't be surprised if somebody told me the plot was from an actual X-Files. I enjoyed writing it though; I last tried writing fiction when I was thirteen, it was something of a disaster. A complete inability to form a plot cut my writing short. I also stopped writing poetry around then, saddened by the fact that the poetry I wrote sounded like poetry written by a thirteen year old girl (which it was, and which I could already recognize as being a problem). I took poetry back up in college. Maybe I could do the same for fiction? An interesting possibility.

I need to get some submissions out. And work on a sonnet. Rhyme and meter 4-EVA! I don't mean that. Ok, yes I do.

posted by Reen |link| ...talkety...0 comments

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Monday, March 01, 2004


Went to Segue on Saturday; heard Jo Ann Wasserman and Kathleen Fraser, who Mr. Silliman's been on about, here, here, and here.

Jo Ann read sestinas; long-lined ones, I guess, as the repetitions of words seemed to come few and far between. The ones she read were, I gathered, mostly about the death of her mother. She also read from a new long poem called "John's America."

Kathleen read from a poem about being among Italians at Easter, which has been published as a chapbook, lyric poems that form part of a larger new prose piece she is working on, and work from her new book, "Discrete Categories Forced Into Coupling." I distinctly recall her talking about the blue lines in a notebook forming "continous blue horizons below which I can sink, above which I can rise." I think I remember them because I work out of a blue-lined notebook. I spend a lot of time writing sideways, against the lines, though.

posted by Reen |link| ...talkety...0 comments

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I was reading something the other day wherein the author claimed that most "war poetry" is about the bravery and glory of war. I must be reading different war poetry. When I think of "war poetry," what comes to mind is "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner," "i sing of olaf," "Naming of Parts, "Base Details," "Dulce et Decorum est," "The Lost Pilot," and "War is Kind."

Hardly bravery and glory. Thinking harder, the only two poems I could think of that even wavered in that direction were "In Flanders Fields" and "The Charge of the Light Brigade," and even they're hardly, "Hurrah, hurrah, and an artillery round"-type fare. They're more about doing your duty than revelling in the bloodshed.

Maybe the writer was thinking of the Illiad?

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