I am Wallace Stevens. Oh, yeah. Sing the praises of your versical lawyer brethren, my people! Quiz via Poetry Hut.
I feel like I'm reading Welsh.
Here's the scenario: Mike exhumes to the winds a convo. with Jonathan. Jonathan sniffs, then perries. Kasey thinks Jonathan's being too poncey about the whole thing, goes in with the Panzer unit. Mike nevertheless keeps above the fray, and references two defenders of his approach, here and here.
I'll put in my two cents. I have a blog; that's what it's there for. I spent some time last year working on formalist verse. I gravitated more toward Anglo-Saxon heroic couplets than sonnets, but I have a couple of those under my belt, and in fact, have one on my revision pile right now. I don't think formalist verse has to be stuffy or demeaning to the reader's intellect. But, it can be stuffy and demeaning, just like anything can be. Maybe it even has a tendency to be: perhaps because it is the realm of greeting-card verse and little homilies suitable for cross-stitching on pillows. That's the ghetto into which the formal finds itself stuffed by the modern world. But I don't think it has to be that way.
That said, I didn't like either the Nemerov or the Espaillat poem. They were both pretty blah to me. They sank, heavily, to their bottoms. But I don't like poetry that's extreme in the other direction, either. Really disjointed langpo doesn't suit me -- doesn't make me wake up to the "music" of English, or feel somehow free to create my own response to the work. It makes me think, wow, you can use assonance and alliteration. Big whoop-de-do. I'll go read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, thank you very much. Or, no, I won't. I'll go watch Trading Spaces. Mmm...tv. The friend that does the playing for you.
But what bothers me most is that, although he's since retreated on this position, Mike wrote that he didn't think poems should surprise him intellectually. I guess, when he talks about poetry as a vehicle for human feeling, he means that what he really requires is that the poem surprise him emotionally. But neither of these poems produces either type of surprise. About the Espaillat, the only thing that surprised me was the juxtaposition of "chips and beers" and "dead these eighteen years," which was funny, in a grotesque fashion. So maybe I'm wrong; it did surprise me, but in an "ugh, this is that crappy ghost story told with very unrealistic diction?" kind of way. I don't know about the larger cycle the poem is supposed to be part of. Is the pairing of the party food with the langorous dialogue of the host supposed to be funny? If the appearance of "chips and beers" is solely due to needing the rhyme, well, ick. That's just bad. Try again.
The seven braids of the Koran
Hang in the ranchhand's shadow.
O, indubitable Koran, kingdom
Of deposed husbands, of slippers
Of pearl, of David, and all the singers
Of Judea! Green milk flows
From the guava, from the bread tree, and
Your truth arrives years before its time,
Clothed in red and in saffron.
Tributes flow over a hundred mountains,
Through the valleys, from the four
Kingdoms of the sea. Their kings strike
Coins in rare metals, their queens
Seek the clear depth, their horses
Run on without fault, pursuing
This greatest prize: O, glory over glory,
The seven braids of the Koran,
Now hung from the ranchhand's shadow!
I also like the word "lax." Lax!
Update: And yet, he has permalinks. His problem is a lack of self-confidence.
Although I am your ISP,
I can't get past your PGP.
Why do you guard your privacy?
Let's get together -- P2P.
I watched Cremaster 3-5 at the Visions cinema in D.C. last year. Marcus Aurelius's cheshire-cat-like brother, Mister Christopher, bid us join him in this effort. Gotta say it was all a little much for me; my immediate response was to ban Mister Christopher from my list of people from whom movie suggestions may be accepted. Visually, however, it was all stunning.. I like the flame-haired tap-dancing goat man from Cremaster 4. He's my little friend.
It means to speak out freely. You're forgiven if you thought it referred to a medical procedure.
"Crepuscular." Almost impossible to use well in English. Unless you need it to rhyme with "muscular." In which case it's funny.
"Hermeneutics." This is a word whose meaning I can never remember. When I look up its meaning, I immediately pronounce the word useless. Its only use is in the following sentence: "Hermeneutics precedes exegesis." And who wants to say that?
Portuguese is the new Russian!
BTW, go see Shanna's write-up of yesterday's Frequency reading. She says it all. And we did storm the stage for Jaime Corbacho's chapbook. I'm still working through it; my roommate's cat decided to sit on it once I brought it home, and when I finally wrested it from under 30 pounds of sleeping feline, it was all warm from being sat on. I couldn't tell if this was homey and cozy or freaky. Still deciding.
Continuing with my translatory and transformatory parlor tricks, I rewrote the poem replacing each word or line with synonyms.
Exit, Stage Left
Her speech arrives like a curtain, crept
over by songs known only through the singer's sex-life,
and he's a man imagining the drama clothed
in a wash of bourbon -- he plays the fool. The theater
stifles, the curtain calls shuffle against each other,
quick-handing actors arrive en scene,
are sickened, dead, are alive again, yet
miserable enough to start the process anew,
opening with blossoms: ignored both by insects,
and the broken statutes in the background.
A gauze-wrapped spot beams down --
a ship whistling, ringing out the bells with
A reverberate cry, and the idea of fission
rounds with it. And so the sets freeze up,
as if the actors could escape only
by the rotations of a chair or desk and not
also through soft speech, as it first moves
inward, and then blows itself out.
I gotta say, I don't like the way this race is shaping up. Bush does indeed look like a monkey, but Kerry looks like he's carved of wood. He really needs to get a lighting expert to help with his campaign. The harsh lights they use whenever he is on tv throw the deep lines of his face into such forbidding shadow that I can almost hear Caravaggio turning in his grave and reaching for his brushes in order to capture this gold-mine of chiaroscuro. Link via Spitting Image.
The reading had originally been advertised as a celebration of International Women's Day, which is one of those holidays that capitalists do not recognize. Seriously, the first time I heard about it was in a class on Soviet history. I was interested in the reading mainly because of the idea of feminist or woman-centered poetics. It intrigues me: the poem from a female voice. I think of my own voice as gender-neutral; at least, when I write, I am not consciously doing so from a female perspective. Much more narrow than that. I am writing from the me perspective. Me is a holistic concept; it cannot, it shall not be divided into its parts: a female perspective, a white perspective, a middle class perspective, a college-educated perspective. I'm a bit self-absorbed that way. But I know other readers are consciously trying to bring an element, like femaleness, to the fore, which automatically forces them to define it. That interests me.
But somehow, the reading became a women on war reading. Women, apparently, have only one point of view on war. They think it is bad. This quickly became annoying, seeing as how the reading featured around 15 individual poets saying that war is bad. It is not that I think war is good; it is that "war is bad" just doesn't advance the conversation very far. Moreover, it's so one-sided as to seem disingenous, or self-indulgent. It raises far more questions than it answers. What if you think war is bad, but the other guy thinks its very good indeed? How do you feel about the failure to address root causes of war? Does the fact that a war could have been prevented relieve you of the obligation to fight it?
Partly my pique is because I come from a military family. Literature that relies for its heft on the supposed sinister machinations of generals whose aviator glasses, like Himmler's monocle in the caricature, reflect hangmen, simply doesn't convince me. Plus, I think, "e.e. cummings did this first, and far better." The two world wars resulted in a wealth of convincing, genuine, and alarming anti-war poetry that impresses me more than anything I heard at this reading.
Not that the reading was wholly bad. Individual readings were very good indeed. Many of the poets opted not to read their own work, but to read poems from an anthology called "Women on War." One of my favorites of these poems was one by Al-Hansa, a pre-Islamic Arabian poet, who complains to Death, saying, "you take the valiant ones, most deserving of life, and leave blunderers behind."
I'm still parsing my reasons for not being overjoyed by this reading. Coming from a military family, yes, the relative simplicity --wall-like and unnegotiated-- of the message, yes, and maybe, to some extent, this feeling of self-indulgence: let's all read about how war is bad, and none of us believe in it, and let's feel a manufactured solidarity with the experiences of others whose experiences we cannot hope to understand -- whether soldiers, victims, or both. Some of the poets indeed understood this gap, and understood the lack of legitimacy a well-bred western woman has in speaking of the pain of third-world wars, of decrying soldiers when the only soldiers they've known existed in newsreel footage. Alicia Ostriker read a poem that spoke to this, and some of the poets had actually lost husbands, brothers, etc due to war and so had a real and genuine connection.
It's not that I think you must experience something to write about it, far from it, but there has to be some greater attempt at understanding an experience, a historical artifact, as sordidly common as war. It cannot merely be turned away with a poem stating your distaste for weapons or for the men who wield them. There is an attitude, almost universal, that wars can be prevented. It is obvious, from looking around, that we are miserably bad at preventing them. So, sitting around in a dark coffee house giving one another approving nods as you take the mike, one by one, to say just how "awful" you think it all is seems rather horrible: insufficient to the task, if you've really set yourself up as a pacifist, and almost a mockery of the real questions that must be confronted, and of the real work there is to do.
I understand that many of these women were wholehearted "peace activists," as they called themselves. But I still found the reading left a bad taste in my mouth. But like I said, still parsing.