Thursday, December 24, 2009

What Kinds of Resolutions

What kinds! Here in the windy gap between birthday and new year, I'm conjuring all kinds of low-key resolutions in a coffee shop. It's a sort of slip-in-time, a no-man's zone, these 6 days I have before the new year comes & knocks, and says its time to go. It's not yet.

How shall I resolve? Plan ahead, & know your enemy, that other self. Know him through compassion. Forgive the past. Gather up your many creaturely guests, & love them unabashedly.

I've been resolved at the smaller end of my twenties -- the twenties are a cone, taking you in, minimizing, stabilizing, simplifying. The sheep has been shorn. The sheep has been taken to Sacrificial Hill, and nearly killed -- but at the last moment, spared! Left alone on the killing block, naked and trembling. Alive. Glad for it. Confused. Whose whole purpose was to die, and now? Now, what kinds of resolutions!

You're not dead, Alice. Look in the mirror and see that mad-cap other world; Dorian, and see what you've become. Medusa.

Narcissus, lift your pallid mug up from the lake, and look! The wide world, the real world. The world of your thirties: smaller, dryer. Smaller and dryer than the will.

Which, in this case, is a word of hope. That you ought to have died, and did not die, and now your will is that of any creature: enough to fuel movement, outwardly.

By the law of the quiet room, the quieted heart, stand then upright in the world of wind & light.

So: Narcissus, the door. If "I is another" as Rimbaud says, then leave him to his juvenile lake-lapping, and go find a sunlit clearing, a lovely wood-nymph, something else! Something. Else.

All that awaits those who overstay their welcome in the land of self-reflection is convention or worse.

What kinds of resolutions, then? To leave this coffee shop. To never come back.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Meditation on Rain

I’ve decided to remind myself
that I’m going to die. It seems appropriate
given the fact I’m turning thirty this year
and my life still shows of continuity.
Like something that can end. Besides,
it’s been raining all morning, silver fits
that fall for twenty minutes
then blow away completely, and isn’t that
a little morbid? Light falls between.
Last night at dinner, three friends
spoke of consciousness over dumplings
and I kept silent, imagining a thin wire
roped around a rosy-cheeked version of myself
and spooling out through time and space.
It carried one particular wavelength,
one long, continuous note, like generations passing.
My grandfather wasn’t afraid of death.
He saw his mind extending into God’s light,
lifting up through perfect blue sky—
to all of us below it grew bright, then vaporized.


Further proof, as if I needed further proof, that I am a vain man: I received back my Gre Lit scores, and they weren't awful -- not nearly as awful as I imagined they would be -- and suddenly today I'm able to do my work 100 percent better. Not because the decent scores will help me get into the programs I want to get into -- they won't really, as most of the programs I'm applying to don't want to see the Lit test scores anyway -- but just because I've been affirmed in a small way. I feel smart again. My ability to work hard, apparently, stands in a parallel relationship to how special I feel. I want to feel special.

Looking out at the rain hitting the pavement, I'm filled with a desire to describe it in an extraordinary way. I want my descriptions of it to be as extraordinary as Robert Hass' poems felt last night, when I was reading from his new book. My favorite of the poems is called "Consciousness." It makes me love myself again, in the un-vain way-- a love that is born in the overflow of wonder at being alive. A love that wants to describe the rain, but not just to be heard-- instead to share the wonder of it's beauty with someone else. These two impulses, a desire to share in wonder and a desire to be special, have done a confusing little dance within me since I was a boy.

Now, I say: I don't want to feel special. I want to love you. If you find yourself close to me, and I seem awkward, or I seem reserved, or whatever the hell I seem, know that I want to love you. And I don't know how to do it. As I watch people engaged in loving each other every day, badly usually, but then in some lucky moments, spectacularly well, I feel a terrible loneliness and wonderful gladness.

I'm about to turn thirty, and as it seems like a perfectly cliche time to reflect upon my life so far, I'll recall to myself again the fact that 15 years ago I wrote on a little slip of paper that the goal of my life was to share with other people the hope and wonder that are in the world, in existence. I've not escaped the diction of my adolescent self. It's still true: I want to write in a way that makes people feel as wonderstruck as I feel when the rain comes and then goes, making way for a little light, which falls and gives to the shiny asphalt and suburban trees a sudden gladness.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thoughts in a Peet's Coffeehouse

Everyone is alike: we all use language (sometimes timidly and sometimes obnoxiously) to feel out our existence, our relationship to our world and to others. We act, and measure the effects and meaning of those actions through language. What has the world said about what I do, and how has it made my actions meaningful?, we ask. Here I am, awake in the language debris that's washing through a coffeehouse. Washy, washy. A poet, almost thirty, a woman who is so cold, a man who calms a cold woman quietly as he hands her a steaming tea, and a tattooed coffee-man, offering commentary on the Shawshank Redemption, keeping up an airy banter with the other less-articulate coffee-man, whom I can't hear very well.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Two Kinds of Love, pt. 2

Even this second love-- a love that’s died
and been reborn, a love that’s refused to look away--
even this love rises every day to clouds or sun,
coffee and a bowl of cereal. Both loves
meet their blear-eyed loved ones in the hallway,
at the kitchen counter half-asleep, mumbling
their love. Familiar morning meetings
when nothing comes to mind, none of the nights
spent sullenly, none of the grave-digging
or rebirth -- all forgotten. Even this love
whose name is Resurrection must wait
as the coffee drips. When the days are just normal,
when we don’t remember death. It isn’t hiding,
and maybe it’s okay. It’s what we have.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Two Kinds of Love, pt. 1

There is a love that hides behind illusion.
That love is good— it’s tender, it always wants
the best for the one who’s loved. That love
wouldn’t dream of tearing down the gentle nets
we’ve tied around ourselves, between ourselves,
to catch our falling. A fall like Adam took,
who was so happy while he still maintained
his innocent love of Eve, who was so happy
while she still had Adam free of Adam’s future.
It was good, God said, that simple life they lead
before they knew what life was, or could be after
much pain. Before they knew the kind of love
that’s been killed— a love that’s shown itself,
that doesn’t hide, that has kept on looking.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Who's Afraid of the Wolf?

At a Quaker meeting house a few years back, I picked up a little pamphlet-- it gave a frank defense of Quaker practices. Amidst a list of reasons for their movement away from mainstream Protestant traditions, the pamphlet said this:

"Most Protestant groups attributed to [the Bible's] words a finality & infallibility that more thoughtful examination would have rejected. The common desire for an external authoritative standard was too strong."

And so, the pamphlet argued, the Religious Society of Friends has developed a set of practices more suited to the humble state which creatures without an infallible guide find themselves in.

Having striven for a few years to walk away from various umbrellas of authority, I'm wondering now about living in "ignorance." Wendell Berry, who serves as one of my interim authority figures, said this to me (in a book of his):

"The question of how to act in ignorance is paramount."

Indeed. If you are alive, and don't claim to suck from the teet of infallibility, then you are left with the mess of words that the world buries you in, and with your own presence-in-the-world. When one begins to despair of being able to pull the pin-sized "true-way" out of the haystack, one begins to recognize that truth doesn't reside in words. One turns exclusively to one's presence-in-the-world. But it doesn't speak-- it just is.

And one begins to wonder how to act in this state of being-- one in which the designation of "truth" has been given to that which is disclosed to us in moments outside of everyday distraction, when we are aware of our own presence-in-the-world. I don't mean to say that people in this state find truth in experience-- when people claim to be empiricists, I think, they are connecting themselves to a certain authoritative standard, a certain way of talking about being. "Truth" for them is akin to scientific law. They don't think of themselves as ignorant, unless they recognize the fallibility of that way-of-speaking too.

The Specter of Ignorance then begins to rise. We are left with the realization that knowing is a way of operating in the world, and truth is what comes from being-in-the-world. Certainty is just foolishness.

I suppose that this is what they call enlightenment. But what do you do once you've been enlightened? They say that Buddha, upon achieving "enlightenment," ate some rice pudding. No special significance in that--he was just hungry.

Edward Albee wrote the play "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," and meant by the title (and through the conversation of the play's characters) to ask: Who is afraid of recognizing our ignorance? Except, I suppose he would put it this way: Who is afraid of letting go of illusions? After letting go of knowing, fear of the unknown has more space to fill.

Regardless of the fallibility of any authority, we do have presence-in-the-world. And it's something-- more than something. I think presence-as-a-worldview is a way to live. It seems to me it would be something like this: 1. One recognizes one's fallibility, 2. One recognizes that one exists, 3. One recognizes that one will cease to exist, 4. One recognizes that other Beings are existing-in-the-world too, and that co-existence is what we have, 5. One recognizes that co-existence implies a meaning, a place (in the loose sense of the word) of being, and finally 6. One acts in ways that with perpetuate this co-existence-with-awareness.

That idea is enough to live on, albeit in a very humble fashion. I think a meeting of people who live in this knowledge would look something like the way the Friend's meetings go: a lot of silence, a lot of sitting there absorbing the light of meaningful presence.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

An old poem...

...that has special relevance again today, after taking the GRE Lit test.


Standardized Tests

Finding that one does not have
a high hook
to hang one's hat on
(having guessed it already).

Finding that a single movement
unravels the knot you've fretted over
with trembling fingertips.

Finding that you are precisely
a man (nothing more,
nothing less).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Henrik Ibsen

This here wildly bearded fellow is Henrik Ibsen, whose name I'd heard many a time without complete recognition. Now I've just finished reading about him, and about his major plays. His characters are already having an effect on me. The Wild Duck is about a home, a family, that continues its existence by ignoring all the secrets and problems it hides below its daily distraction. A man takes it upon himself to shed the light of frank truth into the home, and this ultimately destroys the family. One character, a doctor who helped the family maintain its lies, apparently, before the truth-seeker came to town--I really shouldn't be writing about this without having read it, but momentum drives me onward--says this:

"Deprive the average human being of his life-lie, and you rob him of his happiness.”

Many similar proclamations have been made, especially around the turn of the century--philosophers, psychologists, writers, characters. And yet, they would say, to expose the life-lie is our regrettable duty.

Somehow this line, this notion of the duty to disillusion ourselves, to draw things out of shadowy fantasy, is breaking my little heart this afternoon. It is a little heart, mine. It sits on one edge of history's crater, and gapes, childishly.

Because I can't figure which end is up, which door is disillusionment. If being here were like being a child playing in a box. How to exit the box. Language, a useful tool, is utterly confusing as a compass. Which way of speaking about life isn't a fabrication? Don't words always represent life? A representation isn't the thing itself. And what is a thing other than a entity so named because of its participation in a system of being?

There are two moments when I really feel truth: in the moment of epiphany, and in the moment that so often accompanies epiphany, which is really the original meaning of epiphany--manifestation: when I become aware of myself as present, as a being here. When an object is manifested as not-objective, but as present. It feels like truth. My lamp in front of me, disclosing its being to me.

But I am a child, using the toys of other children to act out the world, inside my box.

Language causes to flow over me fluctuating waves of euphoria and humility.

Subject verb verb phrase prep phrase participial phrase as d/o prep phrase conjunction noun.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


During Friday's class, liposuction came up--(now I'm imagining the word "lipsuction" in comical white block-letters floating up to the surface of a pool)-- as we were talking about pop culture, and the ways in which "image" pushes it, pop culture, along. I told them about the billboard I see everyday, which I will describe now: in standard san-serif 5 foot tall font is written "Forever Young" above an almost nude and obviously late-teen female body.

What I can't figure out is this: why don't we tear this shit down? You might say: because Americans are stupid, can't think for themselves, and believe whatever Blaxmart sticks through their eyes. And I say to that this:

You're wrong, but I can't figure out why. To be as definitive as possible. And this is why I'm perplexed-- I've read the papers of a few hundred regular-joe American students (from all our cultural enclaves--or those at least in so-Cal and the NW), and what I find in them is a lot wisdom, albeit sound-byte wisdom. It's humbling to read the paper of one of my supposedly stupid students and find a generations-old truth, and feel small, feel like I'm being taught. It happens, it's in their papers. And they seem to understand it.

There must be some... failure of communication between our brains and hearts. If we're dividing the human into meat chunks. Soul and spirit if we're making metaphysical distinctions. However we say it, blatantly false and entirely vapid advertising seems to work on us. If I have fat vacuumed out in clots, I'll look like a nymphet. A lolita.

And people like myself are complicit whether we want the legs of a fairy queen or not-- we take the Adamal bait: wife/girlfriend has legs sucked by Blaxmart the snake, while I learn a liking for licks from the lolita pop. Despite whatever well-polished truths have tumbled down the Heraclitean river of time to me.

My body has acclimated to the fog, and my mind switches off at the heart's fading.

Shall we rouse ourselves? Even Green Day is saying, "Yes, we should." Or so it seemed they were in the song I heard on the radio the other day. Even pop radio is demanding that we rise from the toxic slums of the corporate-driven post-christian image-obsessed apathy we've been been driven into, despite knowing better. We know better. My students do, in their papers.

Oh truth, you greener snake, sitting on the branch opposite the other snake. The same tree.

We're all going to die! Isn't that the most fascinating thing in the world?!

It is. My mind tells me this. My mind speaks in little aphoristic fragments. It says: love, and think about death. Let the love of those around you make the thought of death less... incapacitating... and then try to answer the question.

Which question? The one begged by a meaningful and sometimes-beautiful world wherein love happens, wherein there is consciousness of death, wherein there is a lack of specific knowledge about what will come after the utterly individual death each of us will find ourselves experiencing very soon.

And if we turn into fertilizer only... Shall I go down in a blaze of glory? Or shall I try to make the soil I will become a dirt that's free of mind-numbingly stupid chemicals? A living soil.

If my mind blinks out permanently. But I have stories in my heart that say otherwise.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

All these things

After another night of the new insomnia-- the new one being different than the old in that it is, in fact, insomnia, rather than a bachelor's hypochondriacal attempt at creating drama-- I feel crusty around my eyes. I'm waiting for my heart to rouse. Which is why I am listening to Sigur Ros' untitled track # 3, with the oscillating tower of piano, with the kind of steady escalation that unfailingly makes me feel like I'm lifting slowly into an autumn sky, or flying on the back of that dog-dragon in The NeverEnding Story.

I'm grading this morning, and thinking about vocabulary, and the failure to have one, both on the part of this poor student whose paper is prostrate before me, begging for mercy, and on my own part. Are there -- this is a question-- are there ways of learning to have more words more presently at my disposal, more eagerly waiting for my witty, authorial deployment? I find myself constructing sentences for the words I can remember. In fact, I can feel, if I turn up the right knob of sensibility, I can feel that little poot of disappointment every time I'm forced to adjust syntax in order to use a less precise word. Not the word I wanted, not the word I know is out there in the crowd, pushing toward the front. The one obscured by all the daily cliches, leaping hands-raised over the lost faces of the ones I want. I'm the Rockstar, dang it, looking for my love, and this ugly pre-teen adjective keeps forcing her sweaty ill-formed body up into my face.

Well, an hour and half has passed since I rose from my "sleep," my "slumber," my "sheep-counting," my "rocking back and forth like a man in agony," my "snoozapalooza," and I'm feeling the papers calling, the ones made of words, for which I am finding an increasingly keen ability to critique as a language mechanic. Unfortunately, I'm still like the apprentice at the shop, the thin-necked barb-wired-bicep punk who greets you at the door and makes you lose all hope of having your car's issues correctly diagnosed. But be patient, he may know something. Maybe he's learning. Maybe he'll be able to help. He wants to. He wants to.

Repetition equals sincerity. Writing is difficult. To write gracefully, to pitch it rhetorically, to say something meaningful.

Before I go: last night I was driving home from a rousing game of Solar Quest with my sister and brother-in-law (see "bachelor" above), and just as I was pulling off the freeway, this dude inside my head started reasoning with me about my responsibility to go through with an English PhD. I was glumly listening (we do this often) and it dawned on me again (this too) that he was wrong. There is no responsibility, to myself or to anyone else. My body, my nubbins of being, will go the way of any organic thing, and who knows what kind of being may come next to make me, and how. But certainly whether or not I had a PhD, or owned all the properties in Jupiter's orbit, which is what finally won the game for my sister, will not make a speck of difference to my otherly self, to the self I feel prophesied to me when I listen to this album. I'll say my piece to you as well (yes, head-dude, even to you): you're going to die, and what matters isn't what you accomplish, but how. Learn then to have loving presence, to be lovingly present, and all these things will be added unto to you.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Underwear Sonnet

Mother, after thirty years of mothering,
after thirty years of washing our underwear
five times a week (at least), you’ve suddenly
found yourself in a new predicament:
you’re underwear-less. That is, you’ve got your pair,
but ours, all four of ours, reside now elsewhere,
in other drawers. My streaky whites still roam,
nomads looking for a home, the ugly ducks
of the underwear clan— even they have gone
and left the nest. At last. The youngest bum
is married off, and your washer sits idle,
no longer needed. And you? What about you?
You’ve just begun. Our clothes were morning clouds
and they’re pulling away. Now comes the sun.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

When to Her Lute Corinna Sings

That's the lovely tetrameter line (by Thomas Campion) I've been repeating all day, after my morning flashcard session. I found out I can hold index cards against the steering wheel while I commute, and peep down for momentary GRE tidbits-- long enough to see a word or two of information. Recite the rest from memory.

Not poems, mind you. Little bits of info. Who Grendel was. What Sir Russell ate. The Kings and Queens of England, and the poets who flattered them (or seemed to flatter them, meanwhile secretly waylaying them with insults). I don't think I'd personally ever write a sonnet (ironic or otherwise) for our own dignitary, Mr. President Obama-- at least, not in his current, cool-headed temperament. If he were more like the Kings and Queens of England, regularly dismembering his subjects (i.e. potentially me and mine), I suppose I might. Something jazzy.

I never intended to make language my field. To, um, plow those rows. To hoe those fertile sentences, to harvest a bumpercrop of meaning. Drop the metaphor, Justin.

But there, unwilling to let it drop, stands Piers Plowman, of William Langland's "dream vision" fame. He's standing before a field of folk. He sees a multitude of people spread across England's bonny landscape, like ripened ears of corn. People and their lively discourses, undifferentiated, up from the pungent soil. Unsure of how to go about this unique bit of farming, how to see through the rangy, spreading discourse to the people it covers. If that's possible. Whether people and language are the same thing, almost. Organically intertwined, he thinks. Leaning on the hoe, thinking. Till suddenly, there comes a tap on the shoulder: It's a man in a black hood, and not one of Chaucer's 29 merry pilgrims.

"I'll take it from here," he rasps, a gleaming sickle ready by his side.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Occasional corridors, hallways, that we come upon; these moments when we're meant to choose a door. As in the game shows: Door number 1, Door number 2, or mystery box. That darn mystery box, somehow so tempting.

I'm looking for an apartment. A small one is all I need. And so, this woman working for Apartment Corporation X called awhile ago, asking if I was still interested in their 1 bedroom deal in Oregon City. I wasn't. "I'm going in a different direction," I told her.

The direction I was going, at that moment, was a studio apartment in Tualatin. One of those open rooms, with a kitchenette on one wall, and a bathroom through the little door, and that's it. A musty made-in-the-70s smell. The stove looked like it belonged to a travel trailer from the 50s. "See, it's really nice for one person who doesn't want a lot of space," said Brenda, my tour guide.

The shells that we live in, exist through. Bodies, Cars, Homes. Concentric spheres of being, radiating out from a moving center.

Which isn't what I told Brenda. I told her I'd think about it. And I am, sort of. I'm feeling that special bubble of existential anxiety, of having to choose in the face of absurdity, and ...

Quiet, little heart. It's already okay.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Runnin' on Love

The little lyric that's been running through my head these last few weeks:

Needs another body:
First the one to live through,
then the one to hold to.

I'm sitting here baffled, again, by life. Wonderstruck, again. I've given myself a goal for the next few years, but the little voices in my blood are keeping me aware of how arbitrary are the hooks upon which goals are hung. Ephemeral hooks, made to seem solid by rhetoric. All that I'm doing in all of this is living my little human life; surviving, eating food, etc.

I think it was Chesterton who said that only one thing makes life's weird and brief days wonderful: love. Ideas too, yes, but these ideas gain their loveliness through community; that is, all mental representation of our animal life hinges upon discourse, and discourse is a kind of love. My students at SBC and I spoke of this yesterday: the passage of mental representation from one head to another. Discourse, communication, speech. Love.

Everybody needs another body. First the one to exist through; to speak through, to move through, to do through. Then another body: one to speak to, mean with, hold to. Love seems to amplify our mind into something more than a survival mechanism, and without this amplification... well, maybe it wouldn't be so bad. Less weird. Maybe less luminous. Or, maybe just as luminous, but we'd lack the ability to contemplate the light.

Actually, I think love is just one kind of discourse, and not the one that makes us more philosophical than the woodpeckers or the star-nosed moles. The star-nosed moles participate in the discourse of love. They couple, they feed their children, they nuzzle the earth.

Our love is a different breed. I'm speaking into the void of the internet. Why don't the chimpanzees have internet? Are they wiser without it?

As I stare at this screen, and try to feel my own presence in the little room I'm in, I'm thinking about Wendell Berry's dislike of screens: computer, television. Anything that takes him away from his life, which is his presence. I think.

Do the chimpanzees not feel enlightenment? Epiphany? Do the random, sundry facts of livingness not suddenly cohere into a luminous knowledge of being, for them? And why not?

I wrote a paper, back at Biola, about how speech leads to self awareness. It sounds like a psychology paper, but it wasn't, quite; it didn't know what it was. At any rate, it took into account the fact that animals could communicate. It's primary example was the tail slapping of beavers. But the paper's contention was that beavers didn't dialogue, didn't engage in Platonic dialectic, didn't wax eloquent back and forth during their tail-slappery, and this was why they didn't know themselves.

"And when the soul is buried in a sort of barbaric bog, dialectic gently pulls it out, and leads it upward," says Plato via Socrates, in the Republic. Dialectic: dia- between, legein- to speak. Two bodies, passing words back and forth, passing meaning back and forth. Passing a enlightened look of the world we are being in together, back and forth. The human light, different than chimpanzee light. They have their lights, and we have ours. Ours has produced the internet. For better or worse. The internet, which is caught up in the realm of human being, human meaning, the which I'm currently using to make a bodiless being for myself. A pretentious, overly-wordy bodiless being for myself.

Strange that these words (and the person that they carry) may very well be here after I am gone away. After my presence ceases to happen through this body, and the world through which it moves and means. After death seals my individuality, thereby ending it.

When I die (oh well of lofty emotions!) have someone that I love standing by, to point at my dying self and say: see, he really was his own man. And then to kiss me, to kiss the thing that used to make my being, for what it was, possible.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Land We've Gotten Ourselves To

Assessing the land we've gotten ourselves to, he says, not particularly wanting to speak in plural, but feeling a little self-conscious about saying something like that in the singular first.

As I've said before, I like the figure of life as a journey. Which probably has something to do with all of the journeys, allegorical and literal, that are taken in the Bible. Children of Israel from Egypt, Christ through the Wilderness, Yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow, etc. Going somewhere, sometimes with a place in mind, sometimes without. One place I'm journeying towards is my own death-- and where else? We are quick to say that each one must live up to his potential, in life. Therefore, another potential journey would be toward Best-Justin.

Luckily, it's not true. Sojourners we are, and sojourners we will be whether we do well in the land of our sojourn or not, whether we find a way to make the population think us brave and good, and find a way to take advantage of conventions, or whether we do not.

I say: realize the sojourn. Which sounds phenomenally pop savvy. All these conventions that we fulfill along the way to make ourselves feel as though we've done well, in order to effect ourselves a livelihood: contigent swirls of being we've fallen into, in with. Best-Justin is a chimera of these contigent swirls.

The real pleasure is the falling, and the knowing of it. The falling through temporary cultural vapor. The deeper and slower vapors: earth, plant, flesh.

We are through being. Which can mean in three ways, though one's not true, yet.

The first two: It's who we are, and how we have our being. And when we're through with it, when we've gotten through it all, and there's nothing next, then after that, what kind of being will rise up, out of the abyss, to welcome us?

The saying of it easily slips into sentimentalism, and yet I can feel my own presence, if I stop typing for a moment. And it drives me to speak.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

When We Talk About Love

For the last 20 minutes, my dad has been in the kitchen frying up some slabs of mahi mahi, my mom's been in and out of doors, doing little tasks, and I've been leaning back on a patio chair, next to the tinkling wind chimes, reading Raymond Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love."

The ending of which makes me sputter, spit, nearly weep with a ridiculous kind of happiness. Why?

What a lovely story. Geez. Let me go on. I will go on. Saying nothing apparently. I love that story.

It puts my mind on so many different people I've known. All of them people I've loved, whose idiosyncracies have wedged themselves lovingly, permanently, into my mind.

It gets better every time I read it. I realize a little more each time the wink that Carver wrote behind each character, meanwhile leaving room for himself to outpace the winks in the very end, and let it be love he means to talk about, not irony. He lets the story end in a moment of love.

To do THAT through my writing. To make little epiphanic moments of sputtering, human happiness.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Death, Thy Sting

In 1st Corinthians, Paul quotes a passage from Hosea, as he explains the gospel. Where, O Death, is thy sting?, he asks. The prophet Hosea wasn't channeling a particularly hopeful message; it seems that God was frustrated with his disobedient children, and at that point in the book he's almost mocking them, via this morbid apostrophe. A slightly ironic beckoning of Death and his thorny powers.

Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol?, asks the Almighty. The answer in Hosea Chapter 13 seems to be no.

Sheol, as David describes it in the Psalms, is a place of no memory; the wordless place we go when we die. David asks God if he might be spared from a seemingly precipitant death, and as he barters with God, he points out that we can't praise God when we're dead. If God wants any praise, he'd better leave us live.

No one remembers you after they're dead.

Paul turns Hosea's message on its head: the hopeless, ironic calling of the Reaper and his deathly sickle becomes a rather passionate, triumphant near-condemnation of death. The same tone and fervor of Mr. Donne, in the famous sonnet:

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee, 5
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell, 10
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

So, according to Donne, even death dies; after only one short stay in the sleepy grip of death, we wake to a new life. Paul agrees. Or, Donne with Paul agrees, and what Paul says is that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, because Christ first tasted death for us, because we have died with him, somehow, while we are alive-- the magic of the gospel-- therefore, when we do die, we are laid into the ground dead, and moments later (?) raised into a self, a body, that cannot die. We are "sown a perishable body," (this vegetable love of mine, like a tuber in the ground), and "raised an imperishable body."

At any rate, death is no meanly masked ghoul. We all toward death do tend today, and no one knows what dreams may come. Death might be different than anyone supposed, and luckier.

And even if it isn't.

O Love, be thou my balm if soon will come a death whose sting is not remembering. Be thou bright, for now, and clear.

O Sheol, what has Christ done to you?

When you come to pull the black coat over my eyes, I hope you'll find the name of Love on my lips.

Christian Panentheism

"In Him we live and move and have our being," says Paul to the Athenians, quoting one of their poets. Pan-en-theism means "all in God," rather than "God is all," which would be Pan-theism. In God, says Panentheism, everything is. All take part in the being of God, though all are not identical with God's being.

Which isn't quite the God of the old testament, who seems locational; his sphere of being does not seem to encompass all that is, regardless of whether he played a role in the creation of it.

All that is "is" because it takes part in some system of being, some sphere of being. My mug of Panera coffee is a mug of panera coffee because it takes part in a system of being, of beings plural, of which I am a part and apart from in as much as I am being individually from it. If by death, then by death; if by spirit, then by spirit.

Certainly much of my being is made for me.

And you Christian, who do you say God is? A ghost, whose chalky white shape might on some hallowed eve be seen wandering over graveyards? No, says Christian, he is not. A vapor, or a substance of any sort? No, says Christian, he is a Spirit. What is a Spirit?

If I cut off your arm, Christian, is your arm "you" as much as the rest of you? No, says Christian, my arm is not me. How much of you, Christian, would I need to remove before I removed you? You cannot remove me, says Christian, for I am not my body. What are you, Christian? I am my soul, says Christian. What is your soul, Christian? It is spirit, says Christian.

What is a spirit? The spirit of a team is the relationship that they share, the thing that is caused by their togetherness, in purpose and action and being. It is the being they share. The team's being is through the players, but the players are not identical with the team, its spirit.

What if all human being were to suddenly disappear? Atomic fallout, let's say, or global warming. My Panera mug of coffee left sitting on this stucco sill. It would no longer be a mug of Panera coffee, as it would no longer be caught up in human being, through which it has achieved that being. Do we believe it would be here at all? Yes, says Christian. Yes, says Atheist.

How would it be? It would still take part in a system, a physical system. An Is-ness. It would be a field of energy upon which forces would continue to play their role.

What does that mean? Nothing more or less than God.

Surely I've misspoken, somewhere.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Seagull

Just watched a BBC production of Chekhov's first major play. I'd never read or seen any Chekhov prior to this, and the only thing I knew of Chekhov at all was what Michael Ryan used to say about his loaded guns, and Dickinson a master of this principle.

Well, the play, the production, was as moving as it was slow. It looked a little like a soap opera--the lighting, the portrait-shots pulled in very close, the kneeling and begging for love-- but it had so much emotional force as to be incomparable. His craft in arranging the coming and going of characters throughout the 4 acts, their well-placed, well written lines-- the complexity of the relationships throughout-- is what came clearly forward to me, what seemed to me to be his gift. Reading his quotes now on various adware infested quote sites, I find he was very conscious of the difficulty of writing about ordinary people, and the value in it.

I've been studying for the GRE, so that I've had on my mind Chaucer and his miraculous conversion of Aristocratic Italian forms to a varied English verse and prose that highlighted a cross-section slice of all demographical layers. Thinking now of people, of Konstantin's and my own obsession with ideas, of what Konstantin says: that he has become cold and lifeless-- at the age of 27!--for lack of love.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Different Kind of Being

Reading and enjoying Heidegger's Being and Time. Getting mind alternately blown and bemused. Smiling often, and looking down at my hand and saying things like "Being" and "Hand," very slowly.

If philosophy excites you to the least degree, the experience of coming into a new idea is identical to a cliche pot high, lifting every mundane fact of the world to the order of "Woah."

I've turned in my Master's thesis, and Faultline Journal is at the printers, and I'm in the mood for conceptualizing the past three years as a unit, and sighing.

Sigh. I find myself apologizing to myself frequently, teasingly, that I haven't more fully adopted the lifestyle of those from whom I come: family. I'm heading back to the world they are being in, and will be again with them, in their care, for awhile.

Conceptualizing myself and my others does cause a bad mood in me, Heidegger. You, without whose body can no longer be. You who can, however, still be named: Heidegger. Heidegger. Hand.

I suspect that I will find a way to overcome my forgetfulness enough to do what it is that seems right to me to do, considering my approaching death. No one can consider my death quite like I can. I'm not dying, but (in a manner of speaking) I am heading for it. A pioneer, on the Trail to Death.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

My Interest

Stanley Cavell, an American philosopher who draws from the works of Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard, and Heidegger, and who authored The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy (which was published the year I was born), said this:

"My interest, it could be said, lies in finding out what my beliefs mean, and learning the particular ground they occupy. This is not the same as providing evidence for them. One could say it is a matter of making them evident."

Precisely. I'm beginning to see the absurdity of squabbling over the things we say-- that is, squabbling over the "truth" of these sayings. All any of us have is our experience of existing, plus the power to see that experience through language, to speak it out, and therefore, my questions is this: why would anyone ever make a claim that a single perspective is the whole experience? This isn't an argument for relativism. It's merely a claim that anything you say will be from your perspective, which rather seems to me to be some sort of realist claim-- that the world is there, we can't escape the proto-logical belief that we exist in it, and when we talk about it, it is for use, and not for "truth." Truth is in the experience of it.

That itself was a string of (potentially incoherent) abstract claims, so I'll stop. I'll go and excercise this strange organic thing I am being. It wants it. Happy Cinco de Mayo.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Eleven Addresses to the Lord

by John Berryman
from Love & Fame


Master of beauty, craftsman of the snowflake,
inimitable contriver,
endower of Earth so gorgeous & different from the boring Moon,
thank you for such as it is my gift.

I have made up a morning prayer to you
containing with precision everything that most matters.
'According to Thy will' the thing begins.
It took me off & on two days. It does not aim at eloquence.

You have come to my rescue again & again
in my impassable, sometimes despairing years.
You have allowed my brilliant friends to destroy themselves
and I am still here, severely damaged, but functioning.

Unknowable, as I am unknown to my guinea pigs:
how can I 'love' you?
I only as far as gratitude & awe
confidently & absolutely go.

I have no idea whether we live again.
It doesn't seem likely
from either the scientific or philosophical point of view
but certainly all things are possible to you,

and I believe as fixedly in the Resurrection-appearances to Peter & to Paul
as I believe I sit this blue chair.
Only that may have been a special case
to establish their initiatory faith.

Whatever your end may be, accept my amazement.
May I stand until death forever at attention
for any your least instruction or enlightenment.
I even feel sure you will assist me again, Master of insight & beauty.

Lamp and Animal

I've been waiting for awhile now to know, to discover, a meaning for the series of poems I wrote late in 2006-- Dialogue with Animal. A single poem composed from a collection of ten fragments, Dialogue received the humiliation it deserved during workshop; it was sloppy, and didn't heed conventions or care for its audience. But I knew it was important-- I knew that what it had to say was beyond my understanding.
A note on that: I've long held this two-fold conception of my own consciousness, though I've only recently considered the "shadow" my observing eye may cast on its own consciousness, the perceptual distortion that this observation may cause; the difficulty of considering my own consideration. But this is what I've believed, how I've spoken of it to myself: that my mind has its music both in and under language-- that language brings thought into light, but that there is unlit thought happening out-of-view. Animal thought, perhaps. I recognize that there are all kinds of problems with this belief, yet I can't help but persist in it. And so I consider poetry a means of bringing the unlit into the light when I don't have the language to consciously do so-- bringing the thought my mind is making into language, into view, via images, figures, incantations. I don't mean to make this into a religious phenomenon-- I don't believe it is, at least not any more so than anything else. The belief is simply that there is thought under language, outside of communication. And the reason I believe this is because I feel as though I've observed it in myself.
Anyway, in Dialogue there are two characters-- a lamp and an animal. They live together in a coffin, which is a figure of a human body-- at least that's how I've interpreted it. I've held the lamp/animal division to be simple Cartesian dualism, for the most part: the lamp is the "soul" and the animal is the "flesh," though my view of it also carried a Pauline dichotomy-- flesh-as-sinfulness and spirit-as-godliness. I held this view of the poem, but knew that it wasn't entirely correct, not complete, especially considering how the poem ends (the lamp and animal devise a method of both "rising from the dead" by tying themselves together with a red cord, thereby tricking Death. Angry, he repays them by tying them so tightly together with the red cord that they become one. I wasn't sure what it might mean for the "soul" and "body" to be fused together by Death.)
But I've been reading Heidegger, and his problem with Cartesian dualism-- what he sees as its shortcoming. He argues that it uncritically assumes the thinking subject, the I; that "the question of the kind of Being which belongs to the knowing subject is left entirely unasked." Heidegger sees his task as one of destroying Descartes' dogmatic cogito Sum, and the conception of the ego as a non-extending soul-substance, thinking-substance, different than extended, earthy-substance. Heidegger wants to destroy the idea of man as a two-natured creature, res cogitans and res extensa, and the attending idea of man's subject/object relationship with the world, and he wants to replace it with what I am still having trouble comprehending: man as Being-in-the-world. Man's essence is in his existence, rather than in his knowing of an outside world. Knowing is a way of being.
Death too plays a role in Heidegger's philosophy. It is through a correct conception of one's own death, in Being-towards-death [death is one's "ownmost potentiality-for-being, non-relational, and not to be outstripped], that our individual self is cleared out, and we have angst in the face of finite Being-in-the-world. It is through this death-given individuation that Dasein is allowed to want to be its Self, and it is through this death-given individuation that Dasein can be open to discovering truth, and having a meaningful resoluteness of action.
And I begin to feel a foggy inkling of what the poem may have been striving to report.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Often the only books I can turn to in a tired evening, when my heads feels like a hot medicine ball, are Mr. Berryman's-- his diction, his rhythms, and the absurd theatricality of his speaker, somehow managing to communicate an acute sincerity, are vivid enough for my mind to track. Only his last few books of poetry-- Love & Fame; Delusions, Etc.; and Henry's Fate (a posthumous collection of unpublished work)-- are there. At times these poems read like desperate (or wildly bored) journal entries, and sometimes they read like the Dreamsongs, but always marked by the presence, immediate, of his very near-to-your-ear voice.

I've been thinking about next year, about where I'll go now that I've finished this Irvine stint, and happened upon this one, from Henry's Fate:


Young men (young women) ask about my 'roots,'
as if I were a plant. Yeats said to me,
with some preteniousness, I felt even then,
'London is useful, but I always go back

to Ireland, where my roots are.' Mr. Eliot
too, worried about his roots
whether beside the uncontrollable river
the Mississippi, or the Thames, or elsewhere.

I can't see it. Many are wanderers,
both Lawrences, Byron, & the better for it.
Many stay home forever: Hardy: fine.
Bother these bastards with their preconceptions.

The hell with it. Whether to go or stay
be Fate's, or mine, or matter.
Exile is in our time like blood. Depend on
interior journeys taken anywhere.

I'd rather live in Venice or Kyoto,
except for the languages, but
O really I don't care where I live or have lived.
Wherever I am, young Sir, my wits about me,

memory blazing, I'll cope & make do.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Day's Poem, Good Friday

This is the penultimate poem in Berryman's "Delusions, Etc.", a collection he completed just before he jumped to his death from the Washington Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis. The poem reminds me, in its passion, in its unhinged-ness, of Pascal's "Memorial." It's not great poetry, though the diction & rhythm are still active in that trademark Berryman way, with surprising turns and explosive uses of colloquial language-- but even if it isn't great poetry, the intensity of emotion, the all-soul-bared Confessional style in which it is written, uncovers in me a powerful feeling, appropriate to this day.

The Facts & The Issues
by John Berryman

I really believe He's here all over this room
in a motor hotel in Wallace Stevens' town.
I admit it's weird; and could--or could it?--not be so;
but frankly I don't think there's a molecular chance of that.
It doesn't seem hypothesis. Thank heavens
millions agree with me, or mostly do,
and have done ages of our human time,
among whom were & still are some very sharp cookies.
I don't exactly feel missionary about it,
though it's very true I wonder if I should.
I regard the boys who don't buy this as deluded.
Of course they regard me no doubt as deluded.
Okay with me! And not the hell with them
at all--no!--I feel dubious on Hell--
it's here, all right, but elsewhere, after? Screw that,
I feel pretty sure that evil simply ends
for the doer (having wiped him out,
but the way, usually) where good does on,
or good may drop dead too: I don't think so:
I can't say I have hopes in that department
myself, I lack ambition just just there,
I know that Presence says it's mild, and it's mild,
but being what I am I wouldn't care
to dare go nearer. Happy to be here
and to have been here, with such lovely ones
so infinitely better, but to me
even in their suffering infinitely kind
& blessing. I am a greedy man, of course,
but I wouldn't want that kind of luck continued,--
or even increased (for Christ's sake), & forever?
Let me be clear about this. It is plain to me
Christ underwent man & treachery & socks
& lashes, thirst, exhaustion, the bit, for my pathetic &
disgusting vices,

to make this filthy fact of paticular, long-after,
faraway, five-foot-ten & moribund
human being happy. Well, he has!
I am so happy I could scream!
It's enough! I can't BEAR ANY MORE.
Let this be it. I've had it. I can't wait.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Day's Poem, Day 21

You and I Saw Hawks Exchanging the Prey
by James Wright

They did the deed of darkness
In their own mid-light.

He plucked a gray field-mouse
Suddenly in the wind.

The small dead fly alive
Helplessly in his beak,

His cold pride, helpless.
All she receives is life.

They are terrified. They touch.
Life is too much.

She flies away sorrowing.
Sorrowing, she goes alone.

Then her small falcon, gone,
Will not rise here again.

Smaller than she, he goes
Claw beneath claw beneath
Needles and leaning boughs,

While she, the lovelier
Of these brief differing two,
Floats away sorrowing,

Tall as my love for you,

And almost lonelier.

Delighted in the delighting,
I love you in mid-air,
I love myself to the ground.

The great wings sing nothing.
Lightly. Lightly fall.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Day's Poem, 20

(in response to Frost's "The Draft Horse"-- posted below)
Lines to Mr. Frost
by John Berryman

Felled in my tracks by your tremendous horse
slain in its tracks by the angel of good God,
I wonder toward your marvellous tall art
warning away maybe in that same morning

you squandered afternoon of your great age
on my good gravid wife & me, with tales
gay of your cunning & colossal fame
& awful character, and--Christ--I see

I know & can do nothing, and don't mind--
you're talking about American power and how
somehow we've got to be got to give it up--
so help me, in my poverty-stricken way

I said the same goddamn thing yesterday
to my thirty kids, so I was almost ready
to hear you from the grave with these passionate grave
last words, and frankly Sir you fill me with joy.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Day's Poem, 19

If only we'd have listened to the likes of Hopkins and Wordsworth over whether we ought to think of urban growth as "progress" or not. Here is Hopkin's lesser known indictment (lesser known, that is, than Wordsworth's famous sonnets that mourn the expansion of urban life).



ON ear and ear two noises too old to end
Trench—right, the tide that ramps against the shore;
With a flood or a fall, low lull-off or all roar,
Frequenting there while moon shall wear and wend.

Left hand, off land, I hear the lark ascend,
His rash-fresh re-winded new-skeinèd score
In crisps of curl off wild winch whirl, and pour
And pelt music, till none ’s to spill nor spend.

How these two shame this shallow and frail town!
How ring right out our sordid turbid time,
Being pure! We, life’s pride and cared-for crown,

Have lost that cheer and charm of earth’s past prime:
Our make and making break, are breaking, down
To man’s last dust, drain fast towards man’s first slime.

Come Round Again, Day's Poem, 18

Sometimes a turn on the cycle of life takes longer than you might expect-- it feels like lingering in a zero-gravity moment, the way you do on a roller-coaster coming down its steepest slope, or grinding its sharpest corner. You hang there, timelessly, pressed against the back or side of the seat, no breath in your mouth. No word.

Anamnesis-- remembering what you've forgotten. Like passing through a dim valley only to surface again, and feel the light fall warm against your face, fill up the empty cistern inside.

After reading Hopkins last night (a good friend called his name to mind), I feel this way, and I thought I'd post some of his lyrics instead of the promised Berryman, which will still come.

This one is in honor of Spring, and in honor of the Mockingbirds that are filling the trees around here with laser-fire.



Nothing is so beautiful as Spring --
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber dpes so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him and sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have their fair fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. -- Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid's child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Day's Poem, 17

I'm going to post a few from "Delusions, Etc." -- John Berryman's final book of poems, printed posthumously. I'll do a series of these I think, as it seems clear they've never garnered the praise they deserve. But first, a couple of Frost poems-- because the first poem I'll post from Berryman's book is a response to the second of these.


"Acquainted With the Night" - Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain - and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

"The Draft Horse" - Robert Frost

With a lantern that wouldn't burn
In too frail a buggy we drove
Behind too heavy a horse
Through a pitch-dark limitless grove.

And a man came out of the trees
And took our horse by the head
And reaching back to his ribs
Deliberately stabbed him dead.

The ponderous beast went down
With a crack of a broken shaft.
And the night drew through the trees
In one long invidious draft.

The most unquestioning pair
That ever accepted fate
And the least disposed to ascribe
Any more than we had to hate,

We assumed that the man himself
Or someone he had to obey
Wanted us to get down
And walk the rest of the way.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Day's Poem, 16

And finally, one last poem by WCW. One of my favorites out of "Pictures from Brueghel and other poems."



a burst of iris so that
come down for

we searched through the
rooms for

sweetest odor and at
first could not
find its

source then a blue as
of the sea

startling us from among
those trumpeting

Monday, March 23, 2009

Day's Poem, 15

Packing 'em on; some more by my boy WCW



You slapped my face
oh but so gently
I smiled
at the caress


The rose fades
and is renewed again
by its seed, naturally
but where

save in the poem
shall it go
to suffer no diminution
of its splendor

Day's Poem, 14

Selections from "Some Simple Measures in the American Idiom and the Variable Foot" by William Carlos Williams



There is

the whale
this is


It crouched
just before the take-off

in the cinematograph--

in motion
of the mind wings

just set to spread a
flash a

blue curse
a memory of you

my friend
shrieked at me

--serving art
as usual


My pleasant soul
we may not be destined to
survive our guts
let's celebrate

what we eject
with greatest fervor
I hear it

also from the ladies' room
what ho!
the source
of all delicious salads


The calves of
the young girls legs
when they are well made

lithely built
in their summer clothes

show them
predisposed toward flight
or the dance

the magenta flower
of the
moth-mullen balanced

tilting her weight
from one foot

to the other
to avoid looking at me

on my way to
mail a letter
smiling to a friend


What I got out of women
was difficult
to assess Flossie

not you
you lived with me
many years you remember

that year
we had the magnificent
stand of peonies

how happy we were
with them
but one night

they were stolen
we shared the
loss together thinking

of nothing else for
a whole day
nothing could have

brought us closer
we had been
married ten years

Day's Poem, 13

Lucky number thirteen. Took, therefore, more than its share of days to post.


Two traditional poems of the Chippewa Tribe:

Song Sung Over A Dying Person

You are a spirit,
I am making you a spirit,
In the place where I sit
I am making you a spirit.

A Woman's Song

You are walking around
Trying to remember
What you promised,
But you can't remember.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Day's Poem, 12

Here's another classic Frost, for the West Coast.
Once by the Pacific
by Robert Frost

The shattered water made a misty din.
Great waves looked over others coming in,
And thought of doing something to the shore
That water never did to land before.
The clouds were low and hairy in the skies,
Like locks blown forward in the gleam of eyes.
You could not tell, and yet it looked as if
The shore was lucky in being backed by cliff,
The cliff in being backed by continent;
It looked as if a night of dark intent
Was coming, and not only a night, an age.
Someone had better be prepared for rage.
There would be more than ocean-water broken
Before God's last 'Put out the Light' was spoken.

Day's Poem, 11

Read at JFK's inauguration...
The Gift Outright
by Robert Frost

The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Day's Poem, 10

Take the I Out
by Sharon Olds

But I love the I, steel I-beam
that my father sold. They poured the pig iron
into the mold, and it fed out slowly,
a bending jelly in the bath, and it hardened,
Bessemer, blister, crucible, alloy, and he
marketed it, and bought bourbon, and Cream
of Wheat, its curl of butter right
in the middle of its forehead, he paid for our dresses
with his metal sweat, sweet in the morning
and sour in the evening. I love the I,
frail between its flitches, its hard ground
and hard sky, it soars between them
like the soul that rushes, back and forth,
between the mother and father. What if they had loved each other,
how would it have felt to be the strut
joining the floor and roof of the truss?
I have seen, on his shirt-cardboard, years
in her desk, the night they made me, the penciled
slope of her temperature rising, and on
the peak of the hill, first soldier to reach
the crest, the Roman numeral I--
I, I, I, I,
girders of identity, head on,
embedded in the poem. I love the I
for its premise of existence--our I--when I was
born, part gelid, I lay with you
on the cooling table, we were all there, a
forest of felled iron. The I is a pine,
resinous, flammable root to crown,
which throws its cones as far as it can in a fire.

Day's Poem, 9

by Mary Jo Bang

What is desire
But the hard wire argument given
To the mind's unstoppable mouth.

Inside the braincase, it's I
Want that fills every blank. And then the hand
Reaches for the pleasure

The plastic snake offers. Someone says, Yes,
It will all be fine in some future soon.
Definitely. I've conjured a body

In the chair before me. Be yourself, I tell it.
Here memory makes you
Unchangeable: that shirt, those summer pants.

That beautiful face.
That tragic beautiful mind.
That mind's ravenous mouth

That told you, This isn't poison
At all but just what the machine needs. And then,
The mouth closes on its hunger.

The heart stops.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Day's Poem, 8

A poem of aphorisms about poetry, for my friend at Makino Lake.


The New Poetry Handbook
by Mark Strand

1 If a man understands a poem,
he shall have troubles.

2 If a man lives with a poem,
he shall die lonely.

3 If a man lives with two poems,
he shall be unfaithful to one.

4 If a man conceives of a poem,
he shall have one less child.

5 If a man conceives of two poems,
he shall have two children less.

6 If a man wears a crown on his head as he writes,
he shall be found out.

7 If a man wears no crown on his head as he writes,
he shall deceive no one but himself.

8 If a man gets angry at a poem,
he shall be scorned by men.

9 If a man continues to be angry at a poem,
he shall be scorned by women.

10 If a man publicly denounces poetry,
his shoes will fill with urine.

11 If a man gives up poetry for power,
he shall have lots of power.

12 If a man brags about his poems,
he shall be loved by fools.

13 If a man brags about his poems and loves fools,
he shall write no more.

14 If a man craves attention because of his poems,
he shall be like a jackass in moonlight.

15 If a man writes a poem and praises the poem of a fellow,
he shall have a beautiful mistress.

16 If a man writes a poem and praises the poem of a fellow overly,
he shall drive his mistress away.

17 If a man claims the poem of another,
his heart shall double in size.

18 If a man lets his poems go naked,
he shall fear death.

19 If a man fears death,
he shall be saved by his poems.

20 If a man does not fear death,
he may or may not be saved by his poems.

21 If a man finishes a poem,
he shall bathe in the blank wake of his passion
and be kissed by white paper.

Day's Poem, 7

The Routine Things Around the House
by Stephen Dunn

When Mother died
I thought: now I’ll have a death poem.
That was unforgivable

yet I’ve since forgiven myself
as sons are able to do
who’ve been loved by their mothers.

I stared into the coffin
knowing how long she’d live,
how many lifetimes there are

in the sweet revisions of memory.
It’s hard to know exactly
how we ease ourselves back from sadness,

but I remembered when I was twelve,
1951, before the world
unbuttoned its blouse.

I had asked my mother (I was trembling)
if I could see her breasts
and she took me into her room

without embarrassment or coyness
and I stared at them,
afraid to ask for more.

Now, years later, someone tells me
Cancers who’ve never had mother love
are doomed and I, a Cancer,

feel blessed again. What luck
to have had a mother
who showed me her breasts

when girls my age were developing
their separated countries,
what luck

she didn’t doom me
with too much or too little.
Had I asked to touch,

perhaps to suck them,
what would she have done?
Mother, dead woman

who I think permits me
to love women easily,
this poem

is dedicated to where
we stopped, to the incompleteness
that was sufficient

and to how you buttoned up,
began doing the routine things
around the house.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Day's Poem, 6

This Morning
by Charles Simic

Enter without knocking, hard-working ant.
I'm just sitting here mulling over
What to do this dark, overcast day?
It was a night of the radio turned down low,
Fitful sleep, vague, troubling dreams.
I woke up lovesick and confused.
I thought I heard Estella in the garden singing
And some bird answering her,
But it was the rain. Dark tree tops swaying
And whispering. "Come to me my desire,"
I said. And she came to me by and by,
Her breath smelling of mint, her tongue
Wetting my cheek, and then she vanished.
Slowly day came, a gray streak of daylight
To bathe my hands and face in.
Hours passed, and then you crawled
Under the door, and stopped before me.
You visit the same tailors the mourners do,
Mr. Ant. I like the silence between us,
The quiet--that holy state even the rain
Knows about. Listen to her begin to fall,
As if with eyes closed,
Muting each drop in her wild-beating heart.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Day's Poem, 5

This is the poem that made me first love poetry:
Trying to Tell You Something
Robert Penn Warren

All things lean at you, and some are
Trying to tell you something, though of some

The heart is too full for speech. On a hill, the oak,
Immense, older than Jamestown or God, splitting

With its own weight at the great inverted
Crotch, air-spread and ice-hung, ringed with iron

Like barrel-hoops, only heavier, massive rods
Running through and bolted, and higher, the cables,

Which in summer are hidden by green leaves—the oak,
It is trying to tell you something. It wants,

In its fullness of years, to describe to you
What happens on a December night when

It stands alone in a world of whiteness. The moon is full.
You can hear the stars crackle in their high brightness.

It is ten below zero, and the iron
Of hoops and reinforcement rods is continuing to contract.

There is the rhythm of a slow throb, like pain. The wind,
Northwest, is steady, and in the wind, the cables,

In a thin-honed and disinfectant purity, like
A dentist’s drill, sing. They sing

Of truth, and its beauty. The oak
Wants to declare this to you, so that you

Will not be unprepared when, some December night,
You stand on a hill, in a world of whiteness, and

Stare into the crackling absoluteness of the sky. The oak
Wants to tell you because, at that moment,

In your own head, the cables will sing
With a thin-honed and disinfectant purity,

And no one can predict the consequences

Monday, March 09, 2009

Day's Poem, 4

Waiting and Finding

While he was in kindergarten, everybody wanted to play
the tomtoms when it came time for that. You had to
run in order to get there first, and he would not.
So he always had a triangle. He does not remember
how they played the tomtoms, but he sees clearly
their Chinese look. Red with orange dragons front and back
and gold studs around that held the drumhead tight.
If you had a triangle, you didn't really make music.
You mostly waited while the tambourines and tomtoms
went on a long time. Until there was a signal for all
triangle people to hit them right away. Usually once.
Then it was tomtoms and waiting some more. But what
he remembers is the sound of the triangle. A perfect,
shimmering sound that has lasted all his long life.
Fading out and coming again after a while. Getting lost
and the waiting for it to come again. Waiting meaning
without things. Meaning love sometimes dying out,
sometimes being taken away. Meaning that often he lives
silent in the middle of the world's music. Waiting
for the best to come again. Beginning to hear the silence
as he waits. Beginning to like the silence maybe too much.

--Jack Gilbert (from the most recent New Yorker)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Poem a day, poem 3

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

by Albert Goldbarth

"...miles to go before I sleep," says Frost,
as if at last, at night,
the eyes shut, and the mind shuts,
and the journey halts. Of course

that's wrong. All day and into the dusklight
at this flyway stop, the waterfowl
--as plump as pillows, some of them; and other
small and sleek-- have settled, abob

in the wash of the river; and here,
by the hundred, they've tucked their heads
inside a wing: inside that dark
and private sky. The outward flying is done

for now, and the inward flying begins.
All one, to the odometer.

from New Letters

A poem for yesterday

Do Unto Others

by Daniel Johnson

How many rocks would I stack
on my brother's chest? A rock
for his beauty, a rock for his trust,

and two for lips redder
than a boy's should be.
Granite for his love

of birds; a chunk of quartz
shot through with pink.
For singing on car tips,

hiding in the dryer, and flouncing
down Oak Street in my mother's dress:
limestone, shale, sandstone, flint,

limestone, shale, sandstone, flint.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Poem a day, for Lent

by Seamus Heaney

Our shells clacked on the plates.
My tongue was a filling estuary,
My palate hung with starlight:
As I tasted the salty Pleiades
Orion dipped his foot into the water.

Alive and violated
The lay on their beds of ice:
Bivalves: the split bulb
And philandering sigh of ocean.
Millions of them ripped and shucked and scattered.

We had driven to that coast
Through flowers and limestone
And there we were, toasting friendship,
Laying down a perfect memory
In the cool of thatch and crockery.

Over the Alps, packed deep in hay and snow,
The Romans hauled their oysters south to Rome:
I saw damp panniers disgorge
The frond-lipped, brine-stung
Glut of privilege

And was angry that my trust could not repose
In the clear light, like poetry or freedom
leaning in from sea. I ate the day
Deliberately, that its tang
Might quicken me all into verb, pure verb.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Having finished the first draft of a paper on the enthymeme, I'm taking the day off, mostly. Besides, it's Valentine's Day, and without love the world's but a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

I'm staring at the centuries on my wall. Right now, my scribbled timeline spans 6 centuries, 13th till the 19th, Genghis Kahn till Emily Dickinson. St. Francis to Van Gogh. Magna Carta to the Emancipation Proclamation.

15th and 16th centuries seem, as I stare at them, disproportionately important-- simple revisionism by way of a sloppy pen, and undergraduate memories mostly-- I get the feeling that Gutenberg and his printing press really did have a dramatic effect on ... ideas. Disseminating them, obviously, but also what that dissemination must have quickly lead to: sudden exponential growth in the organic intertwining of random thoughts and systematic treatises, all melding, adapting to one another, birthing weird new hybrids. Regardless of how much of the growth and change was due to the easy reproduction of texts, its clear that those 150 years were important: Renaissance, Reformation, Beginnings of Modern Philosophy, Beginnings of Modern Science, Shakespeare, Bacon, Cervantes, Copernicus, Luther, Montaigne, Galileo, Age of Discovery, Columbus, Magellan, First Flush Toilet (!!).

The spinning wheel.

Sack of Rome by Charles V. And Descartes, Da Vinci, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Queen Elizabeth... all the things they sacked...

All culminating in the formation of the Jamestown Colony in 1607. That's what my timeline says. That's what the scribbly revisionist in me says. Add four hundred and two years to that, subtract three months, and you've got me, sitting here, product of all the masterminds and mistressminds who came before me. All the servantminds, and petminds, and townfoolminds. All the whippingboyminds.

I could say the same of the ceramic cup on my desk. Or the cell phone next to it-- which always reminds me of a Transformer. Of whom it could also be said.

Now I'm looking at a picture of myself on the other wall, not the timeline wall but the picture wall, and the picture, a polaroid, is of my Mom in a beige sweater vest propping my squirmy Sailor-suited body up. I'm smiling. I was a cutie.

I think you're a cutie too, cutie. And you ceramic cup.

As the NT says: "A Great Cloud of Witnesses" -- I feel them buoying beneath us, the many minds, the many dead, whose thoughts produced the ways I think, and what I've (just now) said.

Friday, January 30, 2009

H.L. Mencken

I saw this quote this morning, via Google quotes:

"We are here and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine."
- H. L. Mencken

I want to ask myself honestly what is wrong with admitting this fact that so often now my heart wants to admit. Clearly, to admit it would be to downgrade our status in our own eyes, as we have largely absorbed the belief that Knowledge is Power. To say that most of our knowledge, and therefore most of our power, is moonshine, probably wouldn't come as a shock to any of us, but once it sunk in, we'd likely all be in a bit of an existential wonderfunk for a few days/weeks/years, who knows.

But my contention is that this small belief, that "we are here and it is now," is a seed from which all the knowledge we need can be grown. Beliefs such as, "There is a here," and, "There was a then." Certainly the ground of all scientific experimentation lies in these beliefs.

Funny the way that different sorts of people attract our admiration as we get older. Mencken, a journalist, essayist, and acerbic critic of American life, would not have impressed me years ago. Now his quotations make me feel a sort of tender respect for him.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

One Another

So we’ve come to this—
where you and I will meet
across time

and I'll agree to the idea
of your presence

and you'll agree to mine.

What can I offer you?,
except to say
I’m here,

and not for service—
I’m here in the other sense:

160 pounds,
relatively hot

and pressing down
on a rotating chair.

If I kept only one belief
and I do

it's that you and I
could have held each other—

instead, in you
my written line

by your choice
comes, and leaves

If there is a what,
I’d want it to be this:

that you and I agree
the world I’m in exists

in which we could hold,
or could have,

one another.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reading Russell Again

As I claimed I would do this past summer, I'm attempting a reading (again) of Russell's "History of Western Philosophy," though approaching it this time without an agenda, or a plan.

The sort of philosophy he advocates is still the brand that I can't fully grasp, and not because it's various principles elude me -- I have difficulty conceptually approaching it. That's twice now I've used the figure of approach. Which is alright, as it underscores what makes me happy in all of this: regardless of whether I can conceive of his notions easily or not, I am willing to try without a predetermined animosity.

He's really quite funny. His occasional ironic lauding of the medieval Church is hilarious, even if it's unfair.

Liberated Objectivity

"After one has abandoned belief in god," says Wallace Stevens in his Opus Posthumous, "poetry is that essence which takes its place as life's redemption."

As I read through some old essays, I'm reminded that, yes, I've always been gnawing the same old bones. My drawn-out journey through Academia has so far proven to afford me with only one thing: the capacity to better state the same old questions, and then only slightly better. The difference lies now mostly in my consciousness of the particular words I'm choosing, and their meanings; important, yes, but as one of the great rhetoricians put it (I forget whether it was Cicero or Quintillian) great oratory strives for the persuasiveness and natural eloquence of the layman consumed by virtuous passion. Not to say I was particularly virtuous, but I certainly was passionate, and it allowed for a kind of confident lyricism.

And now that I have this (slightly) improved perspective on history, in that I've seen from many perspectives, having had my naivete made painfully obvious to me, and having asked for the bread of knowledge, and having received instead the burden of understanding the limits of language, I hardly want to speak at all. I want to be silent, and at the same time to have it spoken; to have all of it gathered up, this cloud of meaning risen around the academic parade that has passed by me in my few years of study, and have it condensed down to the smallness of the feeling inside my gut. Take away the parade, leave the smoke. Let me ramble on melodramatically. Let me not speak.

If there is redemption in poetry, then there is redemption, and it is not in poetry. If there is redemption in God, then there is redemption, and it is not in "God" -- the picture you might hold of "Him," whom you picture. And you who would like redemption to have no face, or to have god's face be the face of your feeling, whatever it will allow -- all of you who aren't nihilists, who feel the meaning of their life -- or if not their life, then of a particular moment -- who feel part of a world, who believe their senses -- you must know for yourself already that redemption is there, that meaning is there, and you can't undo it with your words, and you can't make it, either, however you might try -- because upon speaking, you locate yourself in a kosmos -- you show a perspective. That there is perspective. You make known your belief in objects, regardless of how or if you believe it is, any of it, out there.

There is an occurence in rhetoric, in creative speech of any kind, that unlocks this sense of ourselves in the world -- a sense of liberated objectivity. A moment of transcendence out of the lonely confines of the subject, and into epiphany -- a visceral realization of the world beyond our viscera. And it feels the way running for a glimpse of sunset feels: jogging up the hill, through shady residential streets but seeing on the tips of the tallest trees that last golden light, and knowing what will be there when you reach the crest. And you do, and all the climbing, all the foreshadowing, every glimpse of light and wash of shade, is fulfilled, and summed-up in the sunset vista.

It's philosophy happening to us, this epiphany. It's a religious reaffirmation of our primary beliefs, which seem to me to be enough. All else is humble experimentation, and never more.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Lyric Epiphany

Ever since hearing and agreeing with Dickinson's description of what the experience of poetry feels like, I've often wondered what it is about poetry, good poetry, that produces that feeling in the reader. I've wondered how best to talk about it. The feeling isn't merely that of being moved, though it's very similar. And it isn't just the feeling of assent, of judging a poem well-crafted, or of being impressed by it.

She says:
"If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?"

It's a compelling description -- particularly, to me, the second half, the lifting off of the top of her head. I can feel it, a faint coolness on the brain, and immediately recall the feeling I've had in my own experience with "poetry" -- though mine is located more in the back of my head and shoulders. I put "poetry" in quotes because I experience the feeling, the opening and cooling, when reading stories (as she apparently did as well), and occasionally when hearing a good speech. Poetry in this sense then isn't restricted to verse, or to the lyric poem; it's a quality of composition in general.

So, my question is this: what do we call this head-lifting, and what causes it? (And I mean to ask the question on a primarily literary level, though I'm sure approaching it as a psychological phenomenon would be interesting.) Paul Friedrich, professor of anthropology and linguistics at the University of Chicago, calls this response to poetry, what I take to be the same as Dickinson's, lyric epiphany.

In his paper by the same name ("Lyric Epiphany", Language in Society 30, 2001) Friedrich outlines a loose definition of lyric, and lyric epiphany, while conducting what he calls "intense analyses of four cases of linguistic epiphany in The Odyssey." That intensity most often manifests as a lack of control in his diction, and tone. Still, these sometimes hyperactive analyses of the different cases and kinds of epiphanic literature interest me, because of the fact that throughout all of them, he keeps coming back to the poetic turn, the moment of unification and compression, in the poetic text.

"Lyric epiphany," he states in the abstract, "is a subtype of generic epiphany: an intuition or revelation of truth values beyond language and empirical experience." Fortunately, I accept without too many reservations this rather loaded definition of epiphany, as he leaves his discussion of generic epiphany at that, and doesn't pause to define what "truth values" might mean. "...[T]he experience of epiphany," he says, "is terribly important." He seems naturally interested in the importance of lyric epiphany for the anthropologist and sociolinguist, but as a writer and reader, I feel justified in taking stealing what I can.

As I said, it's his concentration on the "turn" that interests me, for two reasons. 1.) I've been interested in the enthymeme, as a turn or cap or summing-up after a web of charged, value-laden oppositions, (as Jeffrey Walker puts it), and 2.) I’ve recently (in the last few years) come to see that it is usually at these junctures, these turns that I have my “poetry” experience, my lyric epiphany. I believe it was a book of loose ghazals by Robert Bly, wherein each poem takes an emotional turn in the last couplet, as the speaker shifts from a general address to a self address (at least in Bly’s case), and it feels as though the emotion of the poem is suddenly realized, brought into focus. I knew they weren’t particularly well-written, in that he allowed himself too many moments of lazy writing, of slipping into cliché, but even so, the turn managed to hook me nearly every time, and elevate me into “revelation of truth values beyond language.”

“From the formal linguistic angle,” Friedrich offers, “the shift into epiphany is like a shift from a durative, progressive, or habitual and customary sequence into a more momentary or instantaneous one.” In the opening pages, he refers to lyric epiphanies as “instants of … absolute aesthetic truth” and “ontologically profound breakout[s]” allowed by certain linguistic/literary techniques, and coming through “a heightening of emotion in the reader or hearer, be it empathy, sympathy, compassion or other kinds of involvement; vague features, in other words, of intensity and density that may resonate at any linguistic, emotional, or cultural level.”

A "heightening of emotion"; an "ontologically profound breakout" -- it sounds to me like Dickinson. I'm interested in what causes this, and specifically how and when the enthymeme causes it, as well as how this might intersect with ontology, the study of being, as Friedrich suggests. As I said, Friedrich doesn't directly address what absolute truth values are -- but the change in perspective that lyrical epiphany provides does seem to give one the feeling of momentary insight into some kind of universality. A unadulterated vision, perhaps, of the cosmos -- a moment of liberated objectivity, as I'll call it in my next post.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Enthymeme pt.2

So, I haven't actually made much progress toward an explanation of what an enthymeme is, and since that's my goal in all of this, I'll get to it.

I was mislead by my reading of Aristotle last spring. I took a course on rhetoric, and the prof made passing reference to what Aristotle calls "the body of persuasion," the enthymeme. It intrigued me, as it reminded me of some part of the process a poet goes through in constructing a poem's speech act, so I wrote a paper on it, trying to flesh it out. My assessment was that it's a truncated syllogism, the syllogism of the rhetorician, which he uses to give the sense of logical demonstration to his speech. As Aristotle says, we are most convinced when we feel like something has been demonstrated. When we've seen it with our own eyes. But the Rhetorician can't bother with the exact science of logicians and philosophers -- he's talking to common folk, and even if they could follow him, it'd be boring from the pulpit, and the incandescence of his speech would dim. Therefore, he makes these quasi-syllogisms, that rely on a knowledge of what the audience already knows: I give you a premise, perhaps, knowing you will supply the other, so that when I add the conclusion, you feel like you're in the know, and I've saved time. I don't have to chase down proofs for what you already accept as true.

And that to me sounded like poetry: the way a poet heaps up tropes together, each associated with a set of cultural values, into a syllogistic sort of form, so that by the time the poems ends, a conclusion has been reached - an ideological conclusion. The reader has been lead to find convincing a certain emotional/intellectual stance - to find themselves standing the way the poet wants them to stand, within the field of possible ideological positions on any given subject. (Most often, I think, the ideology presented to us is an earnest agnosticism, sometimes kind & wonderstruck, and sometimes cynical and biting, leaning towards nihilism.) Each cultural trope used has some approximately known meaning, so that we can weave them together like a math problem, with prosody lending the rhetoric a helping hand, so that the sum of it resonates between emotion and idea.

Then I found Jeffrey Walker's book on ancient rhetoric; he argues that most contemporaries Rhetoric-scholars have it all wrong, because of a historical misreading of Aristotle. This misreading is really at the heart of his whole treatise. It's apparently the misreading that I had.

But I think that my way of taking the enthymeme into poetry actually produced an enthymeme closer to what Walker says the Greek's version of it was. By accident. I spend a lot of time thinking about how the lack of rigor in my studies will be the death of my scholarship, and then I remember that all I've ever made well has had, in some part of its development, an accident; has been somewhere founded on an unjustified, intuitive leap. And when I'm done thinking about that, I zone out and stare at the ceiling for an hour. Or read headlines. Headlines will be the death of my scholarship, if anything.

I love the way my painted Swainson's thrush sits in the window, with a perfect arc of California sun crowning his chesnut head. He looks eager to fly. (I'm still not a good rhetorician when I'm trying to be -- I was hoping to use that little interlude there with the reference to flying in much the same way a preacher uses humor -- to release, to cleanse, to regather the troops.)

Walker argues for a different, broader understanding of the enthymeme, and argues that originally, the enthymeme, though not yet refered to as such, was the heart of Greek poetry. But this is part of his larger argument, in the second half of the book: that lyric poetry is the most basic form of poetry, "synecdoche for 'poetic' discourse in general," and that "in archaic lyric we find embodied a poetic practice that predates the conceptualization of "poetry" and "rhetoric"" and is similar to what the sophists would call "epideictic" rhetoric; in other words, "as a fundamentally rhetorical practice, archaic lyric embodies a paradigm in which "poetry" may function (and did function) as culturally and politically significant civic discourse, that is, as an epideictic argumentation that can effectively shape communal judgements about dike, or what is "right" in various circumstances, and so can effectively intervene in, intensify, or modify prevailing ideological commitments or value-heirarchies."

I'm interested in this because of what I feel is a general squeemishness in American poetry toward admitting that poems do in fact embody specific ideologies.

And, with that, some left-over vegan pizza beckons. (Walker says that our misreading of Aristotle has lead to a grammaticalized poetics, so that a decorative representation of a subjective consciousness has become the norm -- its complicated -- but I'm thinking of what he might say about blogs.)