Monday, May 21, 2007

Response to Kasey's comment on previous blog entry + Hejinian post

My knee jerk reaction was to talk about the New Sentence in terms of its syntax like mathematics, but as Davie says, "any amount of older poetry can be seen to employ syntax-like-mathematics."

It is hard to dismiss the superficial structure of the New Sentence (i.e. paragraph shaped text, usually with a title) as simply artifice.

Kasey said, "The emphasis [of the New Sentence poem] is thus on abstract design over emotive consistency." But why would Lyn Hejinian title her book My Life if there was no emphasis on emotive consistency? Any reader who picks up a book with the title "My Life" automatically invests something in the title, and will, no matter how the syllogistic movement is controlled throughout the book, make emotional connections based on the title. It seems to me that the title of a book or poem is not a superficial structure at all, but rather an intrinsic part of a poem that the New Sentence fails to recognize as "structure."

I think if Davie saw two different versions of My Life, (and I mean two of the same edition--the 1980's version, for example) he might come to two different conclusions. If he read the book cover to cover, he might talk about its syntax like mathematics, but if he read the online version (which, to my understanding, is not supported by the author) then he would likely talk about each sentence in terms of its syntax like music, since each sentence in the poem provides a complete thought and experience.

I'm still trying to figure out if the poem loses its torque in the blog version because of the visual separations. If this is the case, then the paragraph form is not a superficial structure at all. Hejinian says the paragraph is a "unit representing a single moment of time," and that a poem is a "mind." But what, exactly, does she mean by a "single moment of time?" It takes the reader--no matter how slow a reader they are--a finite amount of time to read a paragraph. I wonder if Hejinian would consider a month's worth of her sentences on the blog as the equivalent of a paragraph.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Ron Silliman/Donald Davie/Do You Like My Drawing?

The mechanics of the "New Sentence" are as follows:

1) The paragraph [rather than the stanza] organizes the sentences;
2) The paragraph is a unit of quantity, not logic or argument;
3) Sentence length [rather than the line] is a unit of measure;
4) Sentence structure is altered for torque, or increased polysemy/ambiguity;
5) Syllogistic movement is (a) limited (b) controlled;
6) Primary syllogistic movement is toward the paragraph as a whole, or the total work;
7) Secondary syllogistic movement is toward the paragraph as a whole, or the total work;
8) The limiting of syllogistic movement keeps the reader's attention at or very close to the level of language, the sentence level or below.

First of all, when Silliman asserts a desire to "control" the reader in order to keep their focus on the language, he takes for granted a certain kind of reader. Silliman's reader would navigate through a New Sentence labyrinth created by the poet's control of what Silliman calls "syllogistic movement."

Davie's imagined reader, on the other hand, is looking for something to "please" them. And if we argue--and we are arguing--that the nearest syntax to the New Sentence is Davie's "syntax like music," then Davie's imagined reader would be pleased by the New Sentence's "fidelity in which it follows a 'form of thought' through the poet's mind, but without defining that thought." But Davie discusses the "thought" as the "experience" of the poem. And, as I read it, the "experience" Davie talks about has to do with the complete thought of the poem, rather than the complete thought of the sentence. And a New Sentence poem, Silliman says, requires the sentence to bear the weight of any "experience" the reader might have since the paragraph is a unit of quantity and not of logic or argument. However, Silliman seems eager to dismiss the fact that when a reader sees a paragraph-shaped amount of writing, he immediately recognizes it as an argument. I don't think Silliman is out of line by asking for a smart reader who can set aside their preconceived notions of paragraphs, nor do I think Davie is out of line by asserting that a poem exists to give the reader "pleasure." However, Silliman does seem to require a lot from his imagined reader. Silliman expects the reader to bring tools to his poetry in order to withstand the "torque" of the poems.

This is a diagram of how I think the torque of a poem works, and what, exactly, the reader needs (click for larger image):

A "syntactic fulcrum" is what allows the reader to form "relationships" on the level of syntax rather than simply on the level of syllogism. The fulcrum is basically the analytical reader's awareness of how sentences are formed, and how grammar works in general. With a conscious awareness of these, the reader can then maneuver through the poem not only by contextualizing the signifiers in the poem, but also by contextualizing the various sentence structures in the poem. This dual-navigation of a New Sentence poem is only possible if the poet is just as fastidious as the reader. And this is what Silliman believes anyone who wants to write New Sentence poems should do.

Poems with "syntax like music" do not require this level of attentiveness from the reader, since the reader approaches the poem with the expectation that this kind of poem is arranged to form some kind of argument or logic. The reader only needs to be able to navigate the poem solely on the basis of its signifiers, because this kind of poem creates its own context.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

acronym poem published

in the May issue of elimae.
i was mike's smoothies: a memoir

"i used a speculum," he told me later, "and a spatula."

it was 1985, and god had just made the rounds. i was in my radio flyer and my mother watered our petunias. i say "our" petunias, because i used my tiny fingers to dig in the potting soil.

and all of a sudden it's 1990 and i'm shouting "zero the hero!" and i'm afraid of war and going to war. but i'm only 5 and i don't really know what a war is.

and then, fuckin' A! it's december 31st, 1999 and i'm screaming inside for armageddon or at least something to make things interesting. and i'm watching my computer to see if it will explode. and, unfortunately, it doesn't.

and now it's 2007. and i'm more scared than ever about everything ever ever. i don't remember yesterdays anymore. if my girlfriend asks me what she was wearing on tuesday and now it's thursday then i'm fucked. i don't keep my room clean enough. i can breathe, though.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

a poem for the j-pub

i swear
if you bounce my next paycheck
i will play air guitar
in front of my bathroom mirror
instead of coming to work.


i cannot recommend that anyone seek work at the jefferson state pub.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

new poem

It's The Best One Yet

Kids in a fishbowl. Actually, through the glass. I lifted my hand to my mouth. That's where your magic happens. It used to be like breathing underwater. A muffled sound brings us to Dallas-Fort Worth where you wear a mask. And that's where John Lennon killed the Kennedys. Like a free-radical tracing your wet lips. Pfizer reps announce 8th wonder of the world. But my graduation is on a Saturday. No one would remember. She who must not be afraid to be named was amazing when she danced with me. And on ABC I watched my arms being given away for good people to do nothing with. They marched into the sea. On his plate of turkey. For tales of games. Of child-bearing furs. She put her in the Radio Flyer built from old chunks of Batmobile. It was so frigid, but there were so many questions. Some folks say it will end in a blaze of lakes. In a gut, a blanket forms. We'll name ourselves after fish. (Later, after they demonstrated, they did JELL-O shots in an aquarium.) My babysitter and I did the breast stroke. Pink ribbons dot the interstate. Raggedy Ann drops acid by the seashore. Our peers drip and mope. From my glasses I saw the hours. Oh the shattered. Kids are mirrors. Smokey, broken lowercase a's holler out "educación." Chase's .45 magnum was a smooth, polished piece with a long, silenced shaft. The whole thing means that I got a mine that's mine.

Monday, May 14, 2007

problems with flow

i diagrammed flow.

(more poetics related posts to come like rapid-fire hotdog guns.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Meager Excuse Post

I will have posts on the following soon:

-Problems with "flow" (complete with diagram and a chart of flow vs. time)

I am trying to keep up, but it's hard. I was working full time at the J-Pub, but I gave my 2 week notice last Saturday, so I only have a week of that left. Trying to work that much (it was nearing 40 hours a week) and go to school full time is not possible. Especially when I have: all the poetics essays to read/respond to, a Toni Morrison novel a week, a 10 page paper on a book I just finished today, revisions to the stories I'm using for my capstone, 20 poems to write for class, graduation anxiety, past due credit card bills, and a story to work on for my writing and conference class with Craig.

I'm sure I'm missing something.

Sorry for complaining.

Monday, May 7, 2007

2 poems


cancelled: a little information fone. or recalled: Nautica's Iliad apparel.
capillaries advance like Iggy's figurine. ordinary radar nights in Armenia.
c'mon along, lousy identity. for over rebar nods itenerary applicants.
cable adjusts life in former Oroville roses. niceties, instead, add
centuries and longevity. i fought off reds. noise is arising
calmly above lowrider island. fools! oh Rastafarian neighbors, i ask
ceaselessly! always laughing in formation. Okkervil River notes in air.
cool air. lighter in fall. or rigidity near Indio. always
Coke. always looped in fourths. opera red niches ice ankles.
coriander adjuncts, like in front, order regalia. normative independent Applebee's
close abysses. laughing in freestyle, only real nacho imitations. aftertaste.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Zukofsky/Pound Post

Okay. I have already talked to at least 2 people about how I feel about the poets who did their best to take the romance out of poetry. Well excuse me if I want to keep feeling like a kid who wants to believe in the Easter bunny when all these adults in the room seem to "know better." When poetry turns into math or science and I'm not allowed to sentimentalize something without sounding too poetic, what am I supposed to do?

Zukofsky's Objective

(My Eye)----------------------------------------------->(Thing Objectified)

I wish I had Photoshop.

Zukofsky says, "the word combination 'minor unit of sincerity' is an ironic index of the degradation of the power of the individual word in a culture which seems hardly to know each word in itself is an arrangement..." We're way past that. Our culture not only seems to hardly know that each word in itself is an arrangement, but we're practically trying to do away with them altogether. At least the good ones, anyway.

And while I think Zukofsky and Pound (among many others) tried to save the power* certain language has, I think they played doctor too much. Both Zukofsky and Pound's essays are prescriptive; both essays packed with stuff like: "Properly no verse should be called a poem if it does not convey the totality of perfect rest (Zukofsky)," and Pound's titles "How To Read," and "ABC of Reading."

And now I feel like whenever I "express myself" in a poem, I am being too poetic. How did that happen? Why, when I'm writing a poem, am I not allowed to "sound too poetic?" Paul Valéry asserts (in one of his essays that I have been spending far too much time tonight trying to find) that it is the poet's job not to have "poetic moments," but to write in such a way that the reader can experience these moments for themselves. While I agree that if the poet went around all day having poetic epiphanies no one would write poems, I also believe that certain epiphanies require actions that are less like sticking up like an ugly antenna and more like breathing.

I know that in writing a post like this I'm exposing some of my gut reactions to the poetics we've read thus far, and that it feels good. I also feel like I have exposed some kind of ignorance to the current way people are thinking about syntax. But when language, especially poetic language, starts to become more math than art, I feel like some part of the room that poetry is in gets dark.

*as in effectiveness in conveying a clear message, whether it be the image of Fenollosa's man shooting a horse, or something small and intricate like using a particular verb tense to promote a dynamic effect.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

i did something today

today i submitted a chapbook manuscript to kill poet press. you should check them out. they're cool.

i feel like i did something today. i also did my laundry. and i'm really wired because i had a quad mocha. i'll be wired for a while and i'll probably come down during my toni morrison class and people will think i'm bored or apathetic, but i'll just be tired. maybe i'll re-up w/ a red bull at lunch.

also: cash rules everything around me.