Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain
On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me
Remembering again that I shall die
And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks
For washing me cleaner than I have been
Since I was born into this solitude.
Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon:
But here I pray that none whom once I loved
Is dying tonight or lying still awake
Solitary, listening to the rain,
Either in pain or thus in sympathy
Helpless among the living and the dead,
Like a cold water among broken reeds,
Myriads of broken reeds all still and stiff,
Like me who have no love which this wild rain
Has not dissolved except the love of death,
If love it be for what is perfect and
Cannot, the tempest tells me, disappoint.
Who said: "there seems to be a desire for austerity and bareness, a striving towards structure and away from the messiness and confusion of nature and natural things."
a. Richard Howard
b. Adam Kirsch
c. T. E. Hulme
d. T. S. Eliot
e. Philip Whalen
Who said: "Poetry will flourish - in terminal capitalism as in terminating communism - only when it is harder to find, when it is perceived as a valuable and virtually disallowed production that must be sought by need and by desire."
a. Geoffrey Hill
b. T. E. Hulme
c. August Kleinzahler
d. Richard Howard
e. Frederick Seidel
Who said: "All poetry is an affair of the body – that is, to be real it must affect the body."
a. T. E. Hulme
b. Alan Ginsberg
c. Robert Pinsky
d. James Dickey
e. Robert Howard
Next Week: The thrilling conclusion to QUOTE QUIZ! All will be answered!
Here's that Updike poem I was thinking about.
In Love’s rubber armor I come to you;
from Midpoint and other poems by John Updike, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1969
The 2009 AWP Annual Conference (with links!)
From Chocolate to Chi: DC Poets in Chicago
Thursday, February 12 at 7:00 pm
Poetry reading by Sarah Browning, Regie Cabico, Sage Morgan Hubbard, John Murillo, Kim Roberts, and Melissa Tuckey at Insight Arts, 1545 W. Morse Ave., Chicago, IL (773) 973-1521, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Admission is free. Open mic as well as the featured readers.
Insight Arts is in Roger's Park on Chicago's Northside, near Northwestern and Loyola Universities, half a block from the Morse redline stop.
Book Signing by Kim Roberts, author of The Kimnama
Saturday, February 14, 10:30 am
720 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL
Book Fair Table #309 (the Split This Rock table)
For Those Of You Who Don’t Know
Kim Roberts is the editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly and author of two books of poems, The Kimnama (Vrzhu Press, 2007) and The Wishbone Galaxy (Washington Writers Publishing House, 1994). She is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the DC Commission on the Arts, and the Humanities Council of Washington. She was awarded a 2008 Independent Voice Award from the Capital BookFest.
Here’s an excerpt from The Kimnama
At Birla House, the Gandhi
you can see the great man’s bedroll,
his glasses, his cane, watch,
books and shoes.
You can follow his footsteps
to the back yard shrine
to the place he was shot
and see the stone monument
and the mural. Inside, dioramas
tell the story of his life
in crude miniature.
A group of elderly ladies
in saris arrive as I do,
staring openly at me
and smelling strongly of urine,
one of the five sacred gifts
by which life is sustained,
given to man by cows.
There is milk and curd
(for food), ghee (for cooking
and pujas and cremation fires),
dung (for fuel),
and yellow urine,
which heals disease,
seals the bricks of new houses,
and repels insects.
And here’s some praise of The Kimnama:
"Roberts's work calls to mind Whitman's 'Song of Myself' in its expansive celebration of life in all its physicality. That Roberts infuses her work with humor makes it all the more engaging." —Kimberly L. Becker, Ghoti
"Kim Roberts transports us swiftly to India where...gentle lines give us a sense of dream places that wake us to marvels. Lapidary verses vary with brisk evocation of streets, shops, and voices. Roberts devotes her lean book to vast India not only from her vantage point as traveler but from the eyes, ears, and tongues of Indians; their timeless spirit shines despite imperial edicts or raids by sacred cows." —Ethan Fischer, Montserrat Review
But Wait, Friends And Neighbors, That’s Not All!
Book Signing by [upcoming Vrzhu Press author] Carol Guess, author of Tinderbox Lawn
Friday, February 13, 10:00 am
720 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL
Book Fair Table #441 (the Rose Metal Press table)
For Those Of You Who Don’t Know
Carol Guess is the author of two novels, Seeing Dell (Cleis Press, 1996) and Switch (Calyx Books,1998); a memoir, Gaslight (Odd Girls Press, 2001); and a collection of poetry, Femme’s Dictionary (Calyx Books, 2004). Forthcoming titles include a poetry collection, Love Is A Map I Must Not Set On Fire (VRZHU Press) and a novel, Homeschooling (PS Publishing). She is an associate professor of English at Western Washington University, and lives on the Washington coast with her spouse, writer Elizabeth Colen.
Here’s some praise for Carol Guess
“Carol Guess’s poems are sexy, intuitive, angry, and hopeful. These lyrical narratives measure the impossibly small distance between love and fear. They are a reminder that we’re all vulnerable little vessels filled by the people who can break us.” — Zachary Schomburg, author of The Man Suit
As A Stage Whisper Aside
Vrzhu Press has a HUGE crush on Rose Metal Press, but is too shy to say so. Can someone pass RMP a note “Check ___ if you like us. Check ___ if we make you barf.”
Part of the mission statement here at the Vrzhu Research Bureau (a wholly imaginary subsidiary of Vrzhu Press) is to “research, develop, market and promulgate products, techniques and technologies that will increase poetry’s share of the public’s attention, and expand poetic awareness in same.”
Recent results of surveys, covert psychological testing, probability and stochastic analysis, and observation have further refined some of our previous findings on why poetry fails to reaches a larger target audience, and what the obstacles are to a wider diffusion of poetic awareness in specific demographics.
To put it in layman’s terms, a large part of the problem with poetry’s lack of market share and popularity is its appearance. In an increasingly visualified world, modes of communication must maximize their retinal impact to be effective and to spread. Poetry is woefully lacking in this area. Horizontal lines of symbols, uniformly black, distributed in rudimental groupings on a white matrix is pretty much the nadir of visual interest. Even when poetry has tried to foreground the visual aspects of its art (so called concrete poetry) the results have almost entirely been about as stimulating as looking at, well, concrete. Some of these attempts are even easily misconstrued as formal errors: misspelling, scribbling, etc.
Unfortunately, real progress won’t be made in this area until some or all of poetry’s essential elements can be radically transformed and recontextualized into mandatory, stimulating visual apparatus.
But the current situation is far from hopeless.
It’s possible to up poetry’s pizzazz quotient through linkages with purely visual information. Though detachable from the essential poemness of the poem, these visual quanta can enter into a dialectic with the poem-content and attach to the basic experience of the poem as it enters consciousness.
This is nothing new. But up until now these efforts were less than rigorous and left up to chance, and--worse--to the whims of “creative” types, artists, writers, collaborators.
But we here at the VRB are taking the first small next step in the evolution of poetry enhancement. Using algorithms developed from the data we’ve collected, the VRB has constructed several prototypes of a Poetic-Retinal Integrator.
When perfected the PRI will seamlessly interweave textual and highly stimulating visual elements into a poem that will grab and hold the attention of almost anyone, no matter how eye-jaded.
But talk is cheap. To give you an idea of what the future may hold, we present an example of one of our early envisualed poems. Remember this a “1.0” version of a manufacturing technique undergoing continuous refinement. But we believe we’re headed in one of the right possible directions.
The Darkling Thrush
I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.
The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
At once a voice arose among
So little cause for carolings
This post is going up at 7:04 AM, 21 December 2008, the moment when the sun is at its furthest angular distance on the other side of the equatorial plane from us. Winter Solstice. From the Latin solstitium, "The point at which the sun seems to stand still." From this point on it climbs higher and higher in the sky, more and more light being shed on us here everyday.
Here's one of my favorite poems. There are lines in this that never fail to choke me up. And, for a poem that has almost as much nothing in it as King Lear ("nothing will come of nothing," and does it ever), it ends on the basic statement of being, the copula. That which connects also brings into being, even as we do.
A Nocturnal upon Saint Lucy's Day
'TIS the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks ;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays ;
The world's whole sap is sunk ;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.
Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring ;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness ;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death—things which are not.
All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have ;
I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
Of all, that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two ; oft did we grow,
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else ; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.
But I am by her death—which word wrongs her—
Of the first nothing the elixir grown ;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know ; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means ; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love ; all, all some properties invest.
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.
But I am none ; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night's festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's and the day's deep midnight is.
Although the Vrzhu Research Bureau is busy these days with theoretical pursuits, the VRB still has time to provide useful advice for today’s consumer. With the holiday gifting season upon us, the VRB’s Consumer Affairs Advocacy Division is passing on the following information to members of the general public.
With Christmas just around the corner, you may have discovered a poet of some kind on that wish list that your children keep reminding you about. Right now may be the last time you are able to think rationally about this situation, so now is the best time to decide if this wish is one that is going to be fulfilled or not. If you are thinking about adding a poet to your family, it’s best to learn about the needs of different types of poets to find one that will best suit your lifestyle, since returning a poet is usually not an option and reselling the poet is not only hard on your children and you its not really a picnic for the poet either.
Each type of poet is different in terms of care, feeding, behavior, cost, housing and demands on your time. If you know what you’re getting into, you’ll be more likely to have a marginally happy poet, a good relationship with your poet, and an easier time dealing with any challenges that might arise.
Here are some things to think about as you consider what type of poet to get:
What type of poet is the best fit for your home? Lyric? Post-Avant? Beat? Will you be able to live with the wear-and-tear caused by poets?
Because the actual purchase of the poet and necessary supplies can run into quite a bit of money, you must decide if you're ready financially to support a poet, making sure to take into consideration liquor bills, housing, nutritional needs, grooming needs, liquor bills.
If you have children, how will having a poet affect them? Will everyone in your
home welcome a poet? And will this poet cause reactions in anyone in the family? You can test this by visiting people with the same type of poet you are considering.
How much space do you have inside and outside your home? The amount of space you have is also a factor. Is there room in your household for a poet? Some require minimal space, while others require lots of space. You need to decide if you have sufficient room for the poet that your hearts are irrationally yearning for.
If you are renting, does your landlord permit poets and will he require an extra deposit to cover the poet? Please check this out ahead of time - sneaking the poet in is not fair to anyone and will only cause heartache in the end.
How much time do you have to spend with a poet? You need to determine whether or not you have time for a poet. This means not only do the children have time, but also do YOU have time. Once the newness of a poet wears off, someone is still going to have a time commitment toward it. Unlike the toy that got broken or the jeans that are soon out grown, a new poet is going to require attention for a lot longer.
What is your tolerance level for poetry?
But the best overall thing you can do is first check out what poets are like. Attend readings, workshops and poetry societies to get hands-on experience with an actual poet to see if you are going to be comfortable with him or her.
Finally, it really is better to wait until after Christmas before acquiring a poet. There are only a couple of benefits for getting the poet and giving it Christmas morning, while there is a whole list of reasons why its better to wait.
Giving A Poet Christmas Day:
Giving A Poet After Christmas:
Remember - NEVER spontaneously decide to purchase a poet - its not fair to anyone involved.
This the Vrzhu Research Bureau’s Consumer Affairs Advocacy Division, and that’s…Something to Think About.
The Avant-Garde in fiction and poetry
In a recent New York Review of Books, Zadie Smith discusses two novels on either side of a fissure in fiction writing. On one side is what Smith calls Lyric Realism. On the other, well, whatever doesn’t want to be that.
Towards the end of the essay, Smith says something that reminded me of a similar predicament within the poetry world.
I like the idea that the two sides have a crossroads, a meeting place where certain writers fit into *both* categories, the lyrical realists and the experimentalists. This is clearly not a “third way” kind of argument, since the crossroads don’t exist independently of the roads that meet there. Or maybe it’s that, if you’re good enough, you both contain and transcend both kinds of writing, in the same way that a crossroads is made up of two roads, and also categorically different from what roads are. A crossroads does something different than what a road does.
And it certainly also true in the poetry business that there are poets claimed by both "sides," such as Ashbery, Oppen, and Spicer.
By the way, Zadie Smith a terrific essayist on writers, fiction and writing. She’s ultra-smart and incisive, and exciting to read. Take a look here.
The Avant-Garde in Poetry and Film
I was going to seg from Zadie Smith to some veiled and abstract discussion on the status of the avant-garde in the various arts, but really I was thinking about a particular thing. So I decided to just say what I was thinking.
I always enjoy reading what Ron Silliman has to say on his blog, and I sometimes agree with what he has to say. But there are times when he irks me, and I can't let it go.
One of those irks I may have mentioned before, was the assertion that poetry of necessity has moved beyond narrative, but that movies are still allowed to have narrative, and traditional structure. Or that poems that imply a narrative are not good, while movies with narratives are ok because movies have taken on that role while poetry has divested itself of it.
I guess this bothers me because it seems like special pleading for both poetry and films, and I think this position is untenable, as a position.
"The dilution or rejection of conventional narrative and straighforward realism is the predominant tendency of contemporary art. The multi-faceted, fluid nature of reality can no longer be subsumed in the certainities of of linear narrative structures."
and later in the same chapter:
"Film, the most modern of arts, has not remained exempt from these new developments. Nonetheless, Hollywood still hankers after nineteenth-century style, stories and type-cast stars; after all Gone With The Wind, The Sound Of Music and Love Story sell the largest number of tickets.
But both independent avant-garde and the serious 35-mm directors have been profoundly affected."
Does this not sound quite similar to the argument for using the broad brush of "School of Quietude" on a large swathe of poetries?
This is not to say I want Ron to stop reviewing movies. There are many bloggers/reviewers I wish would stop whatever it is they're doing (no, not *you*), but I enjoy Mr. Silliman's posts, even the movie reviews. I just want to reserve my right to snipe at them like the flea that I am.
I does seem, though, that experimental (for lack of a better word) films [and novels] are harder to find than so-called post-avant poetry books. This clearly due in part to the differing distribution systems: bookstores versus movieplexes. Poetry takes up less shelf space than novels, and the money gap between poetry books that sell and poetry books that don't sell is a lot way smaller than between best-selling novels and novels that sit on the shelf prestigiously.
There are probably filmmakers, as there are poets and novelists, claimed by both sides--crossroaders--in the film world. This is from a while back but Jordan Belson concocted some of the special effects in The RIght Stuff, and Brackhage's technique of scratching or otherwise altering the film stock itself shows up in Irma Vep.
Oh, and the Vogel book is an amazing resource. Vogel was teaching at the University of Pennsylvania when it came out and so ran a film series to go along with it. *That* was amazing. Anecdote: On what I guess was Parent's Day (Homecoming?, Orientation?) at the U of P, Vogel gave a lecture for parents going over what he taught in his classes. The lecture itself was very much in the academic mode and talked a lot about historical context, technique, science, the evolution of film art. At the end of the lecture, Vogel played a film clip to illustrate his prospectus: The memorable scene from Five Easy Pieces with Jack Nicholson and Sally Struthers, at the end of which JN reveals the logo on the only clothes worn in the scene, his T-shirt. It says "Triumph."
The New York Avant-Garde(ish)
Another blog (Don Share's) had a post up about the An Anthology of New York Poets, edited by Ron Padgett and David Shapiro. I picked up a copy a decade or so ago for a couple bucks. Apparently, it's out of print (you can find used copies through various bookfinders online, for what that's worth), though it is an essential and scintillating anthology. RP and DS picked the poets in it, both had to agree (Fight!) on them, and then--this is a v. nice touch--let the poets chose what poems to put in and in what order, because part of being a poet is knowing which poems are worth their salt. Great idea, and it makes you look at the poems in a different light, somehow.
Another thing that grabbed me in AAONYP were the poets I wasn't familiar with: Kenward Elmslie, Tom Veitch, Lewis MacAdams, Frank Lima, Jim Brodey, John Perreault, Michael Brownstein, Peter Schjeldahl, Dick Gallup. None these poets have disappeared off the face of the earth, a lot of them are still publishing and writing. It's not that they're unknown, it's that I'm not that knowledgable. Schjeldahl, for instance, is an art critic of renown, and was/is the art critic for the New Yorker. He was even tarred and feathered in the New York Sun!
But he also, he says, was abandoned by poetry sometime in the early 80's, when he was somewhere in his early 40's. Here's a poem from the anthology by Schjeldahl:
To the National Arts Council
Hello America, let’s tell the truth!
Robert Lowell is the least distinguished poet alive.
And that’s just a sample
Of what it’s going to be like now that us poets are in charge
Of poetry, at last (it’s all we ever wanted, really,
But nobody would believe it), and from now on if
You want literature you’ll have to come to us
And ask for it, nicely, and with a ready checkbook,
And even so we may “not wish to be disturbed”—
Inconvenient, you bet, but then literature
Has always been an inconvenient business, especially
Since the 18th Century, and even in America
Our favorite country! It’s true, we like it here,
So don’t tell us to go back to Russia
Or Parnassus—those places mean nothing to us.
We’d prefer even Gary, or Mississippi, or
The Mojave Desert, where at least there are people
Speaking, seven days a week, the language we propose
To glorify; and, if you like that, fine!
But you won’t, or not much, because we reserve the right
To be the “conscience” of America, without (mind
You) being overly anguished about it, which means
We’ll say embarrassing things habitually, not giving
A shit for “national unity” (the only “national unity” for us
Is the national unity of poetry, which is meaningless
But only us poets know in what way meaningless).
So you’d best get set to like it or lump it when I tell you,
Fellow Americans, that we are citizens of the stupidest
“Imperial Power” in all history, still fighting that mean
And furtive little war for the Philippine Islands.
How can you ever get over, Americans,
That Aquinaldo once thought we were wonderful?
He couldn’t believe it when we started butchering his men,
And now the whole world believes it only too well!
And only us American poets still see the pure heart
That beats in America, and profess it
While having none of its blockhead “policies.” We’re tired
Of being schizophrenic! Let America be schizophrenic for a change!
And if this nation should go down in flames, that’s
Terrible! But there in the rubble you’d find us, not
Learning Chinese, but correcting our American cadences,
And if that isn’t patriotism, America, what is?
from David Shapiro of New York Poets, ed. &
BUT (The Old Guard Avant-Garde)
Back in print, crazily enough, is Robert Bly's little diatribe with illustrative poems, Leaping Poetry. It's not an anthology per se, so it would be unfair to compare it to An Anthology of New York Poets (An Anthology of New York Poets is better), but it made an impression on me when it came out way back when, when what I knew about poetry would have fit in an absinthe spoon. I think it would make an interesting adjunct textbook for introducing high school attendees to poetry. Does anyone know if it's been used in that way? Anyone know the story behind it back being in print?
1. Apply to the desire of poetry to be politically efficacious.
2. Apply to Prospero in the Tempest as an examplar.
I love that phrase, the specific gravity of English words.
Every time I'm ready to give up on Robert Graves, I find something like this. Also, though it has a killer opening line, I'm beginning to think that To Juan at the Winter Solstice is overrated.