Friday, December 22, 2006

A Poetics: Notes Toward a Supreme Friction

Notes Toward a Supreme Friction

The only fact I see about contemporary American poetry is that it has no center.

That is the site of contention, as the myth of history demands.

Describe and discuss the current Official Verse Culture, using specific examples from the text. Is such a thing possible in 2007? Are we in a period of everything, all-at-once? If so, how long have we been in this period? Forever? 1911? 1949? 1968?

All poets are derivative poets. So? Isn’t it through appropriation and re-contextualization that “new” happens? Once we have read the poems we cannot unread them. It is the new context, and the addition of moods, that causes the new poetry to be indescribable through the old poetry. Which causes it to be re-described by the new poetry. Wallace Stevens is a very different poet after Ashbery than he was before. The 1976 Stevens is very different from the 1955 Stevens.

“Cause and effect” is less interesting, and less useful a proposition in describing what is the case, than is “chance.”

Life is highly ambiguous. Art that does not know this does not exist contemporaneously with life. The way the arbitrary is a kind of thinking. The way chance is a form of knowledge. A forming of knowledge. A way to a situation. If a poem yields itself to a rational reading, it isn’t a very successful poem.

The literary problem of the manifesto. The “Ars Poetica.” A poetics. To look at them for where they move toward and where they react against. And where they break down. It is the great mirror which shows something essential about living in the world, but cannot say what it is. Which is the whole point. Which is that it says nothing as it applies to nothing in particular.

That some things aren’t explainable. Art is an enactment of that economy.

Poets of differing moods live in different worlds, as they see through the lens of differing moods. So they, as anyone, will fundamentally misunderstand each other. But a misreading is still a reading.

What would the world be like if your conceptions of the world were the world? It would be like the world.

A poetics is like a theory of ethics, at some point it posits one “ought” to do something. Which is an empty assertion coming from a mood into a blank space. Being an absolute, it can have no factual basis, and therefore can not be posited logically.

New Criticism should have known better.

A poetics is therapy. It purports that through its enacting, thoughts are put in order in the poem, are at peace. Are a stable economy.

Habits of thinking interfere with the reception of art. Which is why new art is a shock. until the new art becomes the new habit of thinking. The world is the way we tend to think. Welcome to the new world, exclaims the new poem. For which we are packed or not packed.

It is the familiar that is the gravest danger to the poet. That some things are taken for granted, is why poems are necessary.

A poetics of a group tendency is half an artificial difference, and half an artificial unity.

A poetics becomes a lens that sits between the reader and the poem. It, in the end, only describes itself. It is the description of a process, not a product. A poetics is destroyed by examples.

The fact of grammar makes talk of differing poetics problematic.

Poetics cannot predict what will happen in the next poem, as what will occur is beyond a poetics, in the swirl of further texts. A poetics is only able to describe the site of a stance.

If a poetics were to be predictive, all poems would disappear.

A Poetics Addendum

Yes, but all things depend upon their staging. One can say all one wants to say about the production of a line, image, or poem, but one has no control over the site of reception. All poetics, therefore, are premature.

Thoughts are not in language form. So intentionality does not produce what the thinker was thinking, and having an idea for the poem is not something that the poem can accomplish. What a poet meant in writing a poem is interesting, but no more interesting, or helpful, than what a reader receives from the poem.

If the poem does not contradict itself, how can it be said to enact a reality? The fact of other people?

As the poem is languaged, it is a game. An imagined space, as in any use of language (at its base). But the poem heightens this as it purports to foreground its otherness, its distance from unconscious taken-for-granted language games where word and that to which it is agreed upon the word refers inhabit. In this way, poetry is a move into consciousness, in both world and world of language.

Meaning is not something that can be fixed in place, either denotation or connotation, as each new application re-contextualizes the space of language’s habitation.

As a writer of poems, you go on nerve, yes, but more, you go on continuing to go. In going, you find your way. Not by first planning the way. Art objects, on some level, are unplanable. They can be studied toward. Practiced for.

The practicality of the workshop system has me nervous. The word “practicality,” when it appears anywhere near art, has me nervous. Poems are not chairs.

The poem can neither be outside of language (really IN the world), nor remove itself from being tied to the mutually agreed upon referent. Those who step outside of this economy do not really step outside of this economy. The attempt only produces elegies of the poet’s inability to do so. Perhaps this is the hidden final subject of all poems.

Poetry is a family of cases: As poetry does not have uncoverable foundations (through causal investigation) or distinct borders, all poems bear family resemblances.

A poetics, then, to some degree, is nothing more than brand loyalty.

Indefensible Statements:

Causal explanations for things are of no help when dealing with art objects.

The meaning of the poem is a mood that is always immanent.

Poems are inventing time down a page.

Poems do not communicate, they haunt.

The poem is a site of something that was never there.

The way out of Modernism’s failure is a Modernist project.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Joshua Marie Wilkinson

I just heard today that Tupolo Press will be publishing Joshua Marie Wilkinson's The Book of Whispering in the Projection Booth. This is wonderful news, and continues his John Wayne run . . .

Joshua Marie Wilkinson’s first collection, Suspension of a Secret in Abandoned Rooms was published by Pinball Press in 2005, and Lug Your Careless Body Out of the Careful Dusk won the 2005 Iowa Poetry Prize and was published by U. Iowa Press in 2006. New Michigan Press published his chapbook, A Ghost as King of the Rabbits.

Whew . . .

What Were Your Favorite Books of Poetry in 2006?

Some 2006 poetry lists:

From Jordan Davis at Equanimity

From Joel Brouwer at NBCC

I like year-end lists. One of the things I find is that I've completely missed many, many books. I missed the John Yau. I've never even seen a copy. I had no idea Gerald Stern had a new book in 2006. Paul Muldoon, whose work I've enjoyed in the past, had a new book out that I completely missed. I know if I'd've seen it, I would have liked it very much. Etc. And many others on these two lists I've never heard of . . .

So, two lists then: A list of books one has read and enjoyed, and then a list of things one never saw . . . which is somewhat of a difficult list to write, consisting, as it does, to quote Rumsfeld (the only time I'll ever do that): "There are known unknowns, and unknown unknowns."


Monday, December 18, 2006

The Books of Poetry I Returned to Most Often

I made this list a couple weeks ago, but every time I return to it, I change it up a bit. Here's what I think is my final list of the books that for whatever reason have stayed with me, in my thoughts and off the bookshelf.

2006 was a fantastic year for new books of poetry, and 2007 is looking like it will be as well, with new books I'm looking forward to by Bin Ramke, Rae Armantrout, Martha Ronk, Donald Revell, Cole Swensen, Reginald Shepherd, Christopher Arigo, Joshua Kryah, Hadara Bar-Nadav, Albert Goldbarth, Jaswinder Bolina, G.C. Waldrep, Mary Biddinger, Zachary Schomburg, and the Four Way Books Spring Collection. And on.

If you're looking for some last minute gift ideas, for yourself or for others, there are some very interesting, very sure bets here.

Mark Strand, Man and Camel
Louise Glück, Averno
Charles Wright, Scar Tissue
Jon Woodward, Rain
Sarah Manguso, Siste Viator
Dara Wier, Remnants of Hannah
Paul Hoover, Edge and Fold
Richard Meier, Shelley Gave Jane a Guitar
Joshua Marie Wilkinson, lug your careless body out of the careful dusk
Matthew Zapruder, The Pajamaist
Scott Minar, Palace of Reasons
Wayne Miller, Only the Senses Sleep
Eric Schwerer, The Saint of Withdrawal
Ryan Murphy, Down with the Ship
Alice Notley, Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems, 1970–2005
Deborah Bernhardt, Echolalia
Stan Sanvel Rubin, Hidden Sequel
Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, I Love Artists: New and Selected Poems
Anthony McCann, Moon Garden
Frederick Seidel, OOGA BOOGA
Lisa Sewell, Name Withheld
Noelle Kocot, Poem for the End of Time and Other Poems
Mary Ruefle, A Little White Shadow
Jean-Paul Pequeur, The Case Against Happiness
Joshua Clover, The Totality for Kids
Martha Collins, Blue Front
Brian Henry, Quarantine
Christina Davis, Forth a Raven
Catherine Bowman, Notarikon
Ashley Capps, God Bless Our Crop-dusted Wedding Cake
Aaron McCollough, Little Ease

and a few chapbooks:

Joy Katz, The Garden Room
Rae Armantrout, Fetch
Jennifer Militello, Anchor Chain, Open Sail
Amy Newman, The BirdGirl Handbook

I'm sure I've missed some good books. I know in the past I have. (Some that spring to mind are books by Lucie Brock-Broido, David Dodd Lee, Kathleen Ossip, Louise Mathias, Richard Meier, and the list goes on, with apologies . . .)

Advice to publishers:

1. Please publish the first books of Jennifer Militello & Dan Kaplan.

2. Where is there a good list of all the books of poetry published each year?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Story - Jake Adam York

Jake Adam York, from H_NGN_N:

There is always a story. And a story. And a story. And a song. A disagreement about what happened and a disagreement about what happened. They rhyme with each other. They intertwine. One story prevents another, stalls another, music enters in, people stop to eat, to clarify, the story maybe never ends. But all these turns, turning against the story’s drive, direction, the maybes maybenots their own counterpoint their own story.

There is always a story. And another. Always a narrative in which music nests. Then the eggs are hatched and the birds spread in each direction. Or we are eating and there are birds in our mouth.

A Poetics?

Of course, "A Poetics" is a concept that is easy to renegotiate. What is it? What do we mean when we say it?

Andrew Shields is thinking about this in profitable ways.

So what do I think of when I hear "a poetics"? To me, "a poetics" sounds complete. Sonds after.

I think of a poet having “a poetics” while writing, the same as having a destination while taking a stroll. Destinations tend to destroy the idea of the stroll. Ammons said that. Or something like that. The stroll does, indeed, end (one would hope). But that’s not the point.

I understand I’m getting dangerously close to singing “stop and smell the roses . . . “

I think of it as a form of literalizing theory. Literalizing theory is always a reductive endeavor, as it, even in a radical theory, reduces the aspects of the art that do not conform to the theory. Some might consider this a good thing, a move to unity, but it can also be too successfully a move to unity. Both during and after the fact of composition.

Theories always blunt the objects they attempt to explain. Anything worthy of a theory is thereby damaged by that theory.

There’s a wonderful little story by Orson Scott Card, a little scifi story called, if I remember correctly, “Unaccompanied Sonata.” I read it years ago, but it fried itself into my brain. It's more about influence than a poetics, but it comes to mind.

David Dodd Lee - Pulse


Abrupt Rural. David Dodd Lee.


Like the wing of a butterfly there was the river

that walked every night there was the blood in your wrist
the window and the solitary white pine in the rain

there was the white bird

there were seeds in a soup can and the bag of potatoes
a black widow dangling in her web between the used-up brooms

there was the man holding his hat in his hand
looking for the cemetery

there was the dog crossing the cornfield
a pile of stumps burning in a ditch by the side of the road

in the middle of the night
an apple core drying in the breezeway

a dinner bell rings far off
an owl flies out the barn door

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Alice Notley Is My Hero

Silliman writes:

There is a wonderful, fascinating, even funny moment in the September/October issue of Poets & Writers when Alice Notley, in the midst of her profile, says,

"I don’t have a poetics. I think that’s bullshit… I change my style all the time. I change the forms I use. The whole thing is in flux. I think that poetics is an industry."

Which caused Jonathan Mayhew to write:

There is/are only poetics, there is not "a poetic" of this or that. There are emphases within this, or statements of where one is "at" at a particular time. That's why a blog might state a different poetics every day, but in an evolving series. It's temporal and ongoing. You can't have a poetics, in the sense of possession; you can only participate in it. It's thinking I understood something the day before yesterday, but realizing it's only a partial understanding. That is why Alice is right to call poetics bullshit. It is an inherently provisional enterprise. (This is different from someone who never thinks about poetics in the first place.)

Poetics in the neoclassical sense of prescription, how boring is that? Poetics can only be descriptive, in the sense that linguistics is descriptive. Describing what good poets already do, not telling someone what to do. Or worse, what NOT to do.


I like these formulations. I've always disliked "a poetics." A poetics is a backward looking formulation. To know where one is at, to know "a poetics," seems reduced, reductive, to me. Am I missing something?

A poetics is only really visible looking back. To say one has a poetics in the present tense, in the way that one may have a cold (as I do this morning), and then to be able to speak it, is a lessening of possibility.

I suppose one might say one has a compositional method, as Ashbery does, but even that becomes to feel a little prescribed. One might say "usual compositional practices," but to me the idea of a poetics is best left to someone other than a practicing poet.

Or is this just a way to let a poet out of answering an important question, that if the poet would force him/herself to answer, the poet and the questioner would learn something about the art?

Anyway, Alice Notley's new book is Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems, 1970-2005. We should all go out and buy several copies.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Joshua Marie Wilkinson / Kelly Link / MLA

To Do List: MLA

So, who is going to MLA, and what interesting events are going on? Are there some poetry readings?

I will be there Thursday and Friday.

(For those of you keeping count, here are this year's stats: 401 posts matching MLA Philadelphia are out there in the blog world this morning.)


One of the books from 2006 that I keep going back to is Joshua Marie Wilkinson's Lug Your Careless Body Out of the Careful Dusk, winner of the 2005 Iowa Poetry Prize.

There's a good interview of Wilkinson at dislocate magazine.

Here's a tiny snippet:

Q: Are there any "words of wisdom" that linger in your head when you're writing? Any advice that has stayed with you?

A: I like Davis McCombs's response from Charles Wright. I never studied with Charles Wright, but I like the idea of writing not from a place of knowing, but from a place of un-knowing..."I'm Nobody! Who are you?"


Also, Wilkinson mentions Kelly Link, which is always good.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Spam Poetics

I’ve been receiving an inordinately large amount of spam lately, with wonderful subject lines like Alarm Opera. Alarm Opera, isn’t that gorgeous? So of course I had to write a poem called “Alarm Opera.” But that was yesterday. This is today.

And this means, therefore, that I’m involved in a spam poetics. Well, all this junk has to be put to some use. To that end, here are some lines from spam emails that I’ve received over the last week or so. All gussied up into a spam collage poem. Who’s the author? To whom should the email be addressed? Why were these things sent to me in the first place?

Hide and Seek Kids Get Into the Darndest Places

Forward in time: Zen and the Art of Doing Things Poorly
Previously: Love's Labor, Return to Crunchable

As soon as I came home from the exhibition
I took a close look at my own archives. This is most clearly evident
from the richly decorated facade and the imposing entrance,
which makes for a solemn transition.

Welcome home, they cheered.

I have made a large image available,
so that you can enjoy it for yourself.

X-rays support this assumption
by demonstrating that the underlying layers are built up.

There are some small things you need to pay attention to
when entering, but their doubts were mainly caused by the sculpture
a few yards from her house.

The piece presumably depicts the Dutch Saint Bavo,
and it has the convincing oscillation between the precise
and the spontaneous.

You are feeding them what they want, you know.
It’s like any entering. Any leaving. They like it this way.

So when it comes to the new year, there are many things
we should look out for. The Eldest Daughters of M.,
for example, inspired by the highest mountain in the world,
Mont Everest, in Nepal.

I’m joining a host of others that have miles to go.

X-ray studies bear this out, again,
by showing us that the old man's head was on top of another head
that appears in several of those years,
progressively younger.

Sweden, for instance, has a wonderful design
and an exceptional support.
Or is it the princess?
And the wish to climb it - soon.

The hide and seek kids are on a journey north.

The area is very mountainous, and the colors in the mist
look just like artwork. In spite of this
they went fast.

You need only to choose the route of the journey,
take your seat in a comfortable tram-car,
and enjoy your cognitive trip,
looking for sunsets and workshops near you.

Colorful simplicity in art as in life . . . to work in simple shapes
and bright colors,
even when you see the coloring books.
Or through each other
and through our time talking. It just goes
from here to there.

My family and I are fine.
We’re back. It was what it was.

Or are we part of a story about our time and our lives
in which there is no limit or appreciation?

Is this a better day?

This is not a problem that you have to solve.
Like when it rains and there is a flood,
even the rain comes drop by drop.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What's in a Name?

Game of the Day:

My Jedi name is: Galjo Sugre
My Jedi 2.0 name is: Gallajo Sugre
My Jedi alt name is: Galjo Sucal
My Jedi 2.0 alt name is: Gallajo Sucal
My soap opera name is: Jerome Caltech
My porn star name is: Spooky Sullivan

What's your name, sugar?

Find out and get back to me:

Confession of the Day:

I just stole Mary Biddinger's clock. Forgive me.


Drive By Truckers

Show you can listen to or download, from NPR. Free.

Thank you NPR.


Galjo Sugre

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Elegy for My Notebook

I've just filled up another little notebook

I prefer the MEAD 3 X 5 hard plastic notebooks. They fit in pockets, pouches, nearly everywhere, and the hard plastic cover keeps them from falling apart.

Today, my sea-blue one is retired.

Tomorrow, I think I have a sunset-gray/purple one starting.

The last thing I was working on was an attempt to think about John Ashbery's poetry in some way that isn't reductive. The last thing written on the last page is:

"It's the genius of unendingness."

Ah, lovely irony.

Anyway, what are your composition habits? Do you fill up little notebooks as well? Tell me I'm not alone.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Question of the Day

A helpful compositional aid, but perhaps a question for any time:

"What would grace look like in this situation?"

MAR Is on the Hunt!

This, from Karen Craigo. I like it when editors include something from thier journal that they like:

Hello from Mid-American Review!

So ... what's going on around here? Well, we recently finished our new issue, which features some intriguing work by many newcomers to MAR. Some of my favorite works in this issue include the winning works in our annual Fineline Competition (congratulations to Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis for her winning prose entry, "Fish-Eye"), as well as our latest poetry chapbook section, this time by Erin Gay of Syracuse, New York. Here's a snippet of her poem, "Portrait of My Love as a Baguette":

We had more bread than we could eat. We had enough bread to build a house and then stack a wall around it so that the neighbors could not see our lovemaking. We had so much bread that we walked around town and gave every beggar a loaf, and when there was still bread left in our bag, we tore it into pieces to feed the funny-looking gulls, and after the gulls were full we carved the loaves into little boats that drifted off into the bay. ...

It's compelling work, I think, and a good example of the type of intriguing prose and poetry to be found in our current issue. For more excerpts, please visit our website,


Craigo's addition of the snippet has done its work on me. I'm interested now in seeing the rest of the poem. I like its light touch. I like that it follows an imaginative arc . . . and how it lets itself have its lightness with the speaker's afternoon with an overpacked picnic.

This gets me to thinking, about how we decide to read imagined poetry. The way this poem imagines around a strong center. The subject is maintained. The poem goes to surreal, absurd lengths, but the focus is clear. It reminds me of the poetry of Claire Bateman in this way.

On the other hand, there's the imagined poetry of someone like John Ashbery (well, I must talk about Ashbery at least once a month or I'll be kicked out of the club) which is famous for its perceived discontinuity. I say perceived because it’s not always as discontinuous as some readers would have it seem. But that argument is for another day.

Why is it that some readers can sign on for the obvious flights of a poem like this, but won’t go with a poet like Ashbery, or say, Richard Meier, whose wonderful shelly gave jane a guitar (Wave, 2006) I’m currently rereading?

The opening poem is called “The Schedule”:

The Schedule

In the brush I found an oak, and sat beneath a chair.
The wife without the sign was in my mind,
the difference between being and having
has always plagued me, and the capillary action
of the air lifting darkness from the grasses.
The light doesn’t change; it is defeated.
At the end of a long vagina, the constellations
tell their secrets. I’m stupid with seasons,
as the seasons are stupid with snow or flowers
or seeds in November, whatever they’re given. The hair shirt
of love or power greets the day’s razor
to stimulate the clouds. The test is scheduled
for every last bucket, with the last time they parted, the words and the lips,
so we could watch our going. Walking backwards is monstrous
and enormous you told me, long ago, before I knew you.

For me, this is enormously profitable play with all things Romantic Poetry, and the idea of love poetry . . . in much the way that Erin Gay seems to be playing with (from a snippet it's hard to tell) the afternoon semi-pastoral "I did this / I did that" poem.

I’m not placing this poem here to compare it with Erin Gay's snipped from MAR, but it’s just that looking at the light surrealism of “Portrait of My Love as a Baguette,” got me to thinking about the arc of contemporary American poetry. Why some poets are published in Volt and not in Mid-American Review. Why some poets are published in New Letters and some in jubilat. This is not a new thought, nor a deep thought. But there’s this feeling I’m having this morning about poetry, that there’s remarkable value in the things some of us aren’t seeing if we only read a couple journals.

This is why I usually don’t like Poetry Magazine. They rarely deviate from a certain kind of poem (but when they do it's quite welcome, and many of my friends and favorite writers have published in Poetry, I'm not knocking its inclusions, just its exclusions). That seems reductive to me. That is why I maintain that Field is the best journal in America, because it publishes a wider range of poets that most any other journal. Even if one of my favorite poets, Michael Palmer, is not represented in that number (that I know of . . . I could be wrong).

So anyway, all this just gets us back to the email from Karen Craigo, and MAR:

In other news ...

Submissions Wanted

Our next issue, the spring 2007 issue, is due out in March, and submissions are currently being considered. Now is a great time to send work, as our printing deadlines are approaching and we still have many pages to fill. Note that MAR's editors read year-round, and we welcome simultaneous submissions. We would really appreciate your submissions, if you can find some time during your busy holiday season to send.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Big Duel This Spring

By the way, there's a big duel brewing. New CDs from Son Volt & Wilco will hit within a month of each other. Two bands I like very much, fronted by a couple guys who rather dislike each other.

I don't know much about the Wilco disc, other than they're mixing it now and it will be out in April, but the Son Volt disc sounds interesting. I'm guardedly optimistic. I like the idea of the piano here, but the horns make me nervous. Reminds me of some of the less intersting Farrar solo stuff. But at 14 tracks, there's plenty of room for a few missed bets, and for it still to be a great one.

Press release from Son Volt:

'The Search' in stores March 6
Album Marks Farrar's and Son Volt's Most Diverse Record Yet

'The Search,' the intriguing new album from Son Volt, is set for release on March 6 on Transmit Sound/Legacy, and it's by far the band's most daring and diverse album yet. The follow-up to 2005's acclaimed 'Okemah and the Melody of Riot,' 'The Search' is a startlingly powerful and inspiring departure from the band's alt-country laden records, employing an exceptional variety of sounds, melodies, and arrangements.

"Instrumentally, the electric guitar was the focus of the last record 'Okemah', but for 'The Search' we wanted to try something new, " says songwriter Jay Farrar. "This time, we utilized different instrumentation to fit each song -- from guitar pedal loops to various keyboard sounds to horns."

The piano of 'Okemah's' gorgeous closing ballad "World Waits For You" returns here to open 'The Search' with the beautifully haunting processional "Slow Hearse." Laced with Eastern-style electric guitar and Farrar's signature vocals, the tune fades out to silence only to dive into 'The Picture,' a track that features an upbeat Memphis-style horn section combined with stirring lyrics that reflect on the current and future state of things, "when war is profit and profit is war."

There's the buzzing, Zeppelin-esque guitar of "Action"; the hypnotic, other-worldly riff of "Circadian Rhythm"; the vocal harmonizing of chanteuse Shannon McNally on "Highways and Cigarettes"; and the Big Brother commentary of title track "The Search," a solid rock song delivered as only Son Volt can.

'The Search' features Jay Farrar (vocal, guitar, piano), Dave Bryson (drums), Derry DeBorja (keyboards), Andrew Duplantis (bass, backing vocals) and Brad Rice (guitar).

Jay Farrar, who is currently wrapping up a run of dates with Anders Parker as part of their side-band Gob Iron in support of the duo's debut 'Death Songs For The Living,' will hit the road with Son Volt for a national tour in March.

"THE SEARCH" Track Listing
1. Slow Hearse
2. The Picture
3. Action
4. Underground Dream
5. Circadian Rhythm
6. Beacon Soul
7. The Search
8. Adrenaline and Heresy
9. Satellite
10. Automatic Society
11. Methamphetamine
12. L Train
13. Highways and Cigarettes
14. Phosphate Skin

Friday, December 08, 2006

One of the Things I Love

OK, so rejection happens often to poets. Cultural rejection. Rejections in bars. Etc. But today I'm thinking about the rejections that come in the mail. The little slips of paper that we've all gotten so used to.

Of course, now it looks like journals are starting to find it better to go to the online submission: The Kenyon Review, Fence, and others. I think jubilat is moving to that as well?

Do you like this move? Have you had a nice exchange with the submission engine? I'm ambivalent about it. But I haven't yet had much experience with it so far. There seems so little room for a human to respond to one . . . they don't even have to lick an envelope . . .

What I'm thinking about is the paper rejections that keep the postal system in business. What an interesting exchange. One sends poems to Journal X, and then in several months one gets the "Thank you, but" note. Or perhaps a smiley-face drawing.

Today I recieved what I consider the best rejection I've ever gotten. Here's the note:

"Real talent here. I
find them a little
detached in tone, though.

I share this, not because there's the nice nod to talent (one so likes to be called talented!), but to the way that the editor (whom I've met and respect) is honest and specific. I can tell by this, two things:

1) I value detachment. Excellent! (All those Louise Gluck books I've read have finally started paying off, it seems.)

2) My poetry will most likely not ever do well at this journal.

So, what is your favorite rejection, and why? (Please support your answer with specific examples from the text. )

Thursday, December 07, 2006

One of the Things I Hate

I just had an email exchange with a poet whom I've never met in person but with whom I've been exchanging emails for quite a while now (OK, it's David Dodd Lee), which gets me to thinking AGAIN about the fate of poets in America.

One of the many things I hate about the fate of poets in America is that we now have these mid-level jobs in far away places. Every little college has a poet (or maybe even TWO!).

It's a good system in that it allows more poets to pursue poetry (without the academic havens for poets, there would be drastically fewer poets [which some might say is a good thing, but not me, I like the idea of an army of poets . . . it increases the variability]), but it also forces us away from each other.

I feel as if we've somehow been divided and conquered. I like having a job. And a fulfilling job, mostly. So this is not a physical complaint. But I don’t get the opportunity to sit at the tables of poets and have those “tables with poets” conversations that my fantasy tells me happens in places like New York and Chicago . . .

Do those conversations happen? Are there “poetry communities” somewhere?

I imagine they exist in many graduate writing programs. I felt a little of that when I was a student in a couple graduate writing programs. Some fights. Some agreements that felt like a revolution. But what happens after one graduates, and then, if that person decides to go into teaching, one slogs as an adjunct for a few years, and then gets a job in Where Is That Again, Nebraska? Or Wheresis, MN . . . or MO?

It seems to me that for an artist to develop, that artist must be challenged (and supported) not just by a living wage (which is primary, don’t get me wrong), but by real conversation. A searching conversation across the table from another poet (or poets). A real live conversation.

Please tell me those happen somewhere. Where they trot out the books they’re reading:

JOHN: I’ve just gotten through Richard Meier’s Shelley Gave Jane a Guitar, and I loved it.

OTHER POET: I haven’t seen it. What’s it like?

JOHN: He writes with an amazing mix of the readily available imagination, and a clear eye and focus. It has all the energy of the most antic poets, but with a persuasive vision of the realness of what he’s talking about.

And then what? The other poet reads a Meier poem and agrees perhaps? Or disagrees? Or says “huh?”

When the artist is forced to be an isolato (which is the fate of all artists, I know I know, but we don't have to FORCE the issue, you know?), there’s a futility that can so easily seep into the poet’s vision. I suppose all artistic visions can be said to be futile anyway, but without care and feeding, the poor little plant of the artist might get all withered up, and the poet might find him/herself several years later, tenured and staring out at the youth of tomorrow having forgotten why. And bitter, but without a direction to point the bitterness. Remembering, when passing the bookshelf one day, that s/he once liked that book by that poet Meier.

Is this why so many poets have blogs? Why do so many poets have blogs?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Coming Soon to The Laurel Review

And now a word from our sponsor:

Coming Soon to The Laurel Review,

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Rae Armantrout, Wendy Barker, Juda Bennett, Molly Brodak, J.D. Chapman, Melissa Dickey, Michelle Disler, Jehanne Dubrow, Albert Goldbarth, Mark Halliday, Jerry Harp, Gretchen E. Henderson, Noelle Kocot, Susanne Kort, Jay Ladin, David Dodd Lee, Rachel Loden, Erin Malone, Holaday Mason, Clay Matthews, Jennifer Militello, Kathleen Ossip, Anne Panning, Chad Parmenter, Emily Perez, Kathleen Peirce, Stephany Prodromides, Stan Sanvel Rubin, Reginald Shepherd, Kevin Stein, Mathias Svalina, Bradford Gray Telford, Amanda Traxler, Dara Wier, Ryan Wells, Jon Woodward, Dean Young, among others . . .

And in summer 2007:

Linda Gregerson, Richard Kenney, Carl Phillips, Kathy Fagan, Linda Bierds, David Baker, Angie Estes, Thomas Heise, Cat Jones, Sally Keith, Matt Mason, Jeanne Stauffer-Merle, Emily Rosko, Chad Simpson, Daniel T. Smith, Mark Spitzer, Paula Closson Buck, Richard Meier, and others to be named later . . .

If you email me at

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Monday, December 04, 2006

A Degree of Surface Clarity

A Degree of Surface Clarity . . . while keeping oneself open to the variability of the day.

In preperation for 2007, I'm reading through all the books that came my way in 2006, thinking about what I like about the ones I like.

The poets who balance NECESSITY and ENERGY. The poets who grapple with the inherent mystery in all things, but who also see the tangible, cohabitant return of THINGS.

Which is, what is the PLAN, and where is the unplanned. . . . poems about chance which read and sound un-chanced, de-chanced, do not speak persuasively to me.

And really perhaps that is the question, the reason to return to poems, not just because they are competent or even well-made, but because there is something about them that feels persuasive, as if perception were an argument (which it, at least partially, is), and poems were then arguments of a way of being in the world. Ontological bits and drams.

Friday, December 01, 2006

What to Do with One's Time 2

One could watch Jerome Murat:

Is it a metaphor for the current American president?

Other Things to Do with One's Time 1

One could always become a blender tester: