Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Eels - End Times

Eels – Little Bird

from the album End Times, due out in January

What a way to start the new year off… Well, there’s a matter-of-factness to Eels that I feel almost comforted by. I somehow missed him/them until recently. I’m now making amends. And you can too by downloading the song for free.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bill Johnson is home for Christmas

My cousin, Bill Johnson, is going to be home for Christmas. It’s a good day. I’ve gotten word that he’s now back in Minnesota. I keep things on my blog away from the personal, mostly, but I'm just so happy about this I wanted to post it. It's been a long few weeks for the family. Here’s the news story from this afternoon:

MINNEAPOLIS - At one point, Bill Johnson, Sr. thought he would never see his family again. He called Tuesday's reunion a Christmas miracle.

Little Gabi Schaeffer couldn't wait to welcome home grandpa. Either could her sister, nor the entire extended Johnson family, gathered in a waiting room at Hennepin County Medical Center for what 3 1/2 weeks ago seemed like an impossibility.

It was the day after Thanksgiving when Bill Johnson, Sr. was in the cockpit of a cargo plane that crashed on takeoff, killing three of his friends and crew members. Now the call had finally come that the patriarch of the family was back in Minnesota on his way to the hospital.

Excitement built with every second on the clock for a moment that will be retold at Johnson family Christmases for years to come.

Johnson credits his wife, and a colleague who pulled him from the burning wreckage, for his survival.

“He was literally pulled out of the wreckage by one of the other guys on the plane,” explained his son, Bill Jr. of Minnetonka last week. “He’s pretty darn tough to have survived an accident like this. He is a very strong person."

He doesn't know what went wrong that November Day. Johnson suffered fractured vertebrae, broken ribs and potentially devastating damage to his lungs in the fiery crash. At first, his family did not know if he had survived.

But now, Johnson can handle the weight of grandchildren on his lap and can even walk with a little help from his kids.

"I thought I lost my family," Johnson said. "They thought they lost me. God played a part in giving me another chance."

It's unclear how long Johnson will be in the hospital, but what's important is that he's here and there's a very special Christmas to celebrate.

"The Christmas miracle was when I made it home today," Johnson said. "It's most special for our family because they thought they lost their dad and grandpa. They didn't know."

This is actually the second plane crash Bill Johnson, Sr. has walked away from. Years ago, he safely landed a plane with his family onboard when the landing gear wouldn't deploy. The 61-year-old said Tuesday he thinks his piloting career is over.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Copycat Blues! (Or Another Drive Down the Crybaby Highway)

OK, so I know that ideas for things like book covers and such aren’t, well, what’s the word for it? Proprietary? Is that it? Maybe this is no big deal, but I’m seriously hacked off that Tony Hoagland’s new book, due out in February looks the way it does (below). No crime has been committed, I know. There’s no one to complain to, so I’ll just rant a bit about it here, as Amy Freels did a superb job on the cover of Map of the Folded World (above). I hate the fact that it has to share the artwork of Amy Casey with Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty. Was there even a Honda Dynasty? That's a joke, right? Some joke on the fact that Hondas were cheap cars and were once plentiful? And it does kind of sound like one of the dynasties? And having Americana houses strung together does help bridge the Honda Dynasty into the American decline. Yes, but.

It’s like a cosmic joke on me for criticizing his essays and comments about other poets, to have this happen. I can see the humor in that, but currently I am not laughing. Grrr. In fact.

When I was working with Martha Rhodes at Four Way Books on the cover for The Little Book of Guesses, we had an idea for a bit on a wonderful image of one of those photographs of falling houses. I was so hopeful that would be the cover, until Martha told me that she saw a book with another of those photographs on it a couple years earlier. She said it would be in bad taste to go ahead with that idea, and I agreed.

So here I am looking at the cover of Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty (below) feeling disturbed. Am I making too much of this? The fact that he’s relatively well-known and I’m relatively unknown makes me think that in the future people will remember his cover and then if they see mine, they’ll think mine was the copycat. I’m making too much of this I’m sure, but right now I’m just highly irritated and ranting to the dogs who just look up at me mournfully and trusting. Aargh. I think I’ll go out and throw them a ball now.

OK, I think maybe I'm over it now. But I still think they should have gone with a different cover.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Three Books from Copper Canyon Press that I like

I’ve ordered these three books, and they’re currently sitting at my house, but I’m at work, so I’m going to use the copy form the Copper Canyon brochure:

Ed Skoog
Mister Skylight

“I write it because we are in the dark, years later, and I want to tell you”

from West Coast

Mike’s up from Noe Valley one Friday
and we go out to Copper Gate
in Ballard with his in-laws, for pickled
herring and strange Danish cheeses.
Decorating the restaurant bathroom
hang light boxes displaying nude
women posing in black-and-white,
and men who are dressed like women.
This used to be a sailor’s bar, and what
remains is this form of their loneliness,
and it becomes mine for a few hours,
reminding my body of its lusts
for close skin and how different from light
skin is, more like glass, or the breathing
of a horse in a dark, sodden field.

Mark Bibbins
The Dance of No Hard Feelings

“There isn’t a school or movement I consider myself a part of, though others may have me figured out—I haven’t asked. Music, pop culture, politics, and what some might call ‘love’ are all in my book—often in the same poem.”

from A Perfect Day

Finally all the verbs gave up,
agreeing to throw their
weight behind to be. Everything

turned fashionably Zen-like, like
a picnic in early autumn.
Of course you say for someone

somewhere there is no autumn so
it is wasted, but be
quiet now. [This is how you try

to hobble everyone and we’ve had it.]
The others will weigh in soon,
from the watery edges

of their dosages,
from the straight scars
of their days.

Brenda Shaughnessy
Human Dark with Sugar

“My first book was filthy. My parents were mortified. They’d say, ‘Yes our daughter wrote a book, but we don’t have a copy.’ My next book is filthy, too.”

from Why Is the Color of Snow?

It’s true that snow takes on gold from sunset
and red from rearlights. But that’s occasional.
What is constant is white,

or is that only sight, a reflection of eyewhites
and light? Because snow reflects only itself,
self upon self upon self,

is a blanket used for smothering, for sleeping.
For not seeing the naked, flawed body.
Concealing it from the lover curious, ever curious!

Who won’t stop looking.
White for privacy.
Millions of privacies to bless us with snow.

Don’t we melt it?
Aren’t we human dark with sugar hot to melt it?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ron Padgett Take Two

So I liked Ron Padgett’s How to Be Perfect so much I went looking for his other books (I went through a similar thing with John Koethe after reading Ninety-fifth Street, which I also adore), and have just finished (I had to put the Ashbery aside for a bit, but I’m looking forward to greatly to getting back to it) You Never Know, which came out in 2001.

Here are three more tries (plus one) to make you into a Padgett fan. Three poems that I think trace out the contours of his work (all from You Never Know, Coffee House Press, 2001):


Who is here with me?
My mother and an Indian man.
(I am writing this in the past.)
The Indian man is not a man,
but a wooden statue just outside
the limits of wood. My mother
is made of mother. She touches
the wood with her eyes and the eyes
of the statue turn to hers, that is,
become hers. (I am not dreaming.
I haven’t even been born yet.)
There is a cloud in the sky.
My father is inside the cloud,
asleep. When he wakes up, he
will want coffee and a smoke.
My mother will set fire
to the Indian and from deep inside
her body I will tell her
to start the coffee, for even now
I feel my father’s breathing change.

The Abyss

We skid to a stop at the edge of what we realize is a cliff and our breath goes out over it and falls slowly into the abyss. The abyss is so hungry that it will accept even breath—it sends back a deep, hollow “thank you”—the abyss so empty of everything but sorrow. We put the car in neutral, get out, and shove it over the cliff. This time the abyss burps back its satisfaction. We empty our pockets, take off our clothes, and hurl everything over the edge. But we do not hurl ourselves. We will never do that, because nothing that falls into the abyss ever hits bottom.

Small Pond

As a child
I wanted to have a boat
and row
around a room
filled with money
the way
Scrooge McDuck
did, but I didn’t
want to be
stingy or light
a cigar with
a twenty. I
just wanted to
see the coins
and bills fly
sparkling up
as oar and oar
went dipping
and churning.

[My daughter Natalie, who just turned eight last month, after I read the above poem to her, said, “This is a cute, and sweet, and weird poem.” I liked that and would hope that Padgett would like it too, though I know nothing about him except his connection to New York. One more, just because why not?]

How to Become a Tree in Sweden

I look up ahead and see
the trees of Sweden waving at me

Gently they wave their bending heads
The light goes dim above the land

And down below the lights come on
And Swedish people one by one

Come out to shop and say hello
as crisply as a Swedish cracker that

fresh out of the package goes snap
And soon the air is full of snaps

And schnapps and weimaraners and
me, my various selves united,

for a moment Swedish, a tree myself,
waving and lost among the others

Monday, December 14, 2009

Contemporary Poetry as Fan Culture?

I’m not much for superheroes, but I find this bit from Stephen Burt’s "Poems about Superheroes," from the Fall issue of Michigan Quarterly Review that will be up on Tuesday on Poetry Daily’s news page interesting:

We read comics when we are ten, or twelve, or sixteen, and discover that our peers, at some point, expect us to set them aside; we write poetry, for ourselves and for our friends and for our classmates and teachers in poetry workshops, through college—and then we discover that the adult world has much less room for it. Contemporary poetry, in other words, looks now (it never looked quite this way to Jarrell, nor to Bowers) like a subculture, or a fan culture, pursued in adult life by devoted amateurs and struggling professionals who know that most people, most serious readers (of literary novels) find little time and less use for it in their adult lives."


I went to a Sci-fi convention once, and, come to think of it, it did remind me a little of AWP. Hmm. Maybe Burt's got something?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

December Playlists One

Bon Iver – Skinny Love

Neko Case – This Tornado Loves You

Monsters of Folk – Baby Boomer

Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard – One Fast Move or I’m Gone

Saturday, December 12, 2009

John Ashbery - Planisphere

Planisphere is one of the best looking books of poetry I own. They did such a good job in the presentation. Not only that, but it matches Ashbery’s work better than any previous Ashbery book. From the star charts matching the title, to the turned over frame with the cartoons.

Such a presentation amplifies the work.

And the work itself is John Ashbery. There’s really nothing to say other than that. You get what you expect to get, though, of course this getting is that Ashbery has long ago found a way to be most things all at once . . . and where is there to go after that? Well, following the logic of the last twenty years, if you’re Ashbery, that means you continue to delimit the language project. Fidelity of vision, I suppose you could call it. Or fidelity of process. Or maybe it’s both. Anyway, it’s my contention (and the contention of others as well, I’m not the first to say this) that John Ashbery is the critical contemporary American poet, the one that we should all have a working understanding of.

So, what Ashbery should everyone own?

I believe that every poet must own something by Ashbery, not just read it, but own it, whether you accept him or resist him. I suppose that book should be the first Selected Poems. After that, perhaps the second selected poems (Notes on Air), I guess. Those two would seem critical texts for all poets and readers of poetry.

After that, if you find yourself in opposition, you might as well stop. But if you find yourself in sympathy, you should pick up Planisphere. It’s a thick book, and, as I said, wonderfully produced.

Here’s the opening poem.


Is it possible that spring could be
once more approaching? We forget each time
what a mindless business it is, porous like sleep,
adrift on the horizon, refusing to take sides, “mugwump
of the final hour,” lest as agenda—horrors!—be imputed to it,
and the whole point of its being spring collapse
like a hole dug in sand. It’s breathy, though,
you have to say that for it.

And should further seasons coagulate
into years, like spilled, dried paint, why,
who’s to say we weren’t provident? We indeed
looked out for others as though they mattered, and they,
catching the spirit, came home with us, spent the night
in an alcove from which their breathing could be heard clearly.
But it’s not over yet. Terrible incidents happen
daily. That’s how we get around obstacles.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Things I thought about while reading what I read

Things I Thought About while Reading what I Read

Q: In art, is it really possible to miss the point?
A: Yes.

When we say it’s risky, what precisely is at risk? Experimental, as well.

The idea that everyone must be devoted to something, and not just that something, but an aspect of it. Like not just painting, but a special care of backgrounds, for instance.

That you should like something else nearly as much as you like whatever you’ve devoted your life to. These become ancillary muscles.

The solace of art is the same as the solace of religion, as inside of each there are no emergencies.

A sentence is a series. A word is a series. So what was the question again?

Are we talking about objects in space or effects in time?

Environmental activities (what’s going on) can’t ruin something if it’s open to the activities of the environment. That’s a very John Cage idea.

Do it before it’s done.

We should try to get ourselves to a point where something we love to do is impossible, then it’s worth doing.

John Cage wonders if perhaps money is the true subject of music. The true subject of poetry, then, is what? TV?

Anything we are saying has this problem of audience to consider.

All problems are social problems.

That something is true or not should be of concern.

Some say art is more about asking questions than finding answers. If we don’t want to know the answers, asking questions is risky.

Words regarding the inability of words to communicate are going to be difficult.

With nothing to paraphrase, an experience can still have meaning in the way that weather can be said to have meaning.

To be appropriate to one’s circumstance seems a worthwhile goal for art.

It is important to always have three ideas, four is even better, and one of them to be academic (craft), one to be social (content), and one to be chance (the real). The fourth can be silence.

The rotating point of view is that there’s something going on over there too.

In the world of 10,000 things there’s the possibility of 10,000 disappearances.

Often things come out of things one wasn’t working on. Teflon and the polio vaccine come to mind (unless I’m misremembering High School).

I imagine people who like sonnets would like five-paragraph themes.

Remarks one makes in conversation are the best sort of autobiography.

The things one denies in art, once they are denied, it’s important to find out all one can about them.

What’s the new trick with the old sauce? There’s always one. And sometimes, like when they put a little cumin in it, it really can feel like we’ve gotten to something. But we still call it red sauce. And there still are tomatoes in it.

It’s worth it to know something about art.

The more you come to know about what you do, the more imperative it is to have questions.

One goal for art that I rather like is to create a thing you feel you understand, but if you would try to put it in words it would sound silly.

If art points, then the question is also, does art contain the finger pointing?

Must one really learn the rules in order to break them?

We have to find ourselves back to what is actually interesting, not what we’ve been conditioned into thinking is interesting.

It’s a problem of what is interesting to people.

All things are done on the back of other things.

A goal can be to get to a place where there is no evaluation going on, when things simply are, and being there is being there.

When I was young, my parents had two books of poetry in the house, one was Wings of Silver, the other was Apples of Gold. I hated those books.

Ideas: We just keep going on until we realize an idea happened. Oh, good, we were hoping for one.

Some of what we do must be fixed and some must be open.

“Recollections in tranquility” and “look back in anger” are the same thing.

Civilization might or might not.

Controversies in aesthetics are neighborhood feuds, and look really silly from a couple streets away.

As everything is changing, do we or don’t we need to try to change?

There is an implied YES in anything written. That is always a problem. A political problem.

The only thing I know about John Ashbery that I don’t see mentioned is that he’s left-handed.

We’re not dealing with things, we’re dealing with people.

Change brings about change and we’re living in change itself.

I was relieved to find out there doesn’t have to be a meaning in things for there to be a meaning in my relationship to things.

There’s always another volcano to throw oneself into.

Invention becomes convention or it becomes nothing at all.

“The trees here are all wrong.”

Everything that happens to us has a cognate in everyone else. Alas.

Everything has a threshold. And what then?

Perhaps this is just idle talk. Perhaps all art is chit-chat. But isn’t it wonderful anyway?

Chat is French for cat.

All of one’s problems become social.

I don’t know what I want from my students. If I knew, I hope I would be smart enough not to ask for it.

“Where would you go if you were going?”

What happens when all our entertainment becomes dependent on electricity?

“Subjects” seems so narrow.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kate Greenstreet Is Indispensable

Kate Greenstreet
The Last Four Things

Everyone must have a copy of this book. If you don’t yet, you must order it immediately. There is something indispensable about Kate Greenstreet’s work. Here are four examples on what I think it is.

from The Last 4 Things

I was going to drive a train across the country.
And then a ship, across the sea.
She came to see me off. It was a little caboose
that I was driving. She asked me what was wrong.

I told her
that I’d had a dream. The ship was going to sink.
She said: “Remember—when you were a boy?
And we used to do the Magic of Believing?”


First I was setting fire to the house, but we didn’t want the authorities to know. So I was setting small fires. Setting the blue rug in the living room on fire in several spots. I asked my mother, should we try to save anything?

We can begin with the projection.

—What would illustrations of the inner life tell?
—It was forbidden, but there was no wall.


from 56 Days

22 December

It begins in trouble, like all romance. There’s a bad guy, a good guy, a handsome kid, some beautiful young women, there’s a dog—the thing about dreams is, there’s a plot. Full of sex, antibiotics. In the middle of a comeback, safe as ghosts.

Her horse lay down beside her. That’s what my horse would do.

6 January

First, you have a little sea inside you. A little sea and a little fish, in the sea. Just a tiny fish but then it grows, it starts to move around. It wants to get out. The sea can’t stay inside you—it has to come out. And the little fish comes with it.

And then you have the little being. The little being in the world. Everybody loves their little baby. It’s a lot of work, yes, but you’re in a trance—you’re in a trance of love. You get sick of it, sure—but you’re still in the trance. Unless you hate the baby for some reason. But that didn’t happen to me.

—Would you call these nightmares?
—No, they’re just regular dreams. Afterwards, you forget.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Christian Bök Is Always Interesting

From The Poetry Foundation’s harriet blog, I’m finding out that Christian Bök is being fascinating again, responding during a Q&A session at Kelly Writers House, UPenn, November 18, 2009:

[I]t seems to me that among the poets that I know, many are very lazy and very dumb. I always joke with my students that poetry couldn’t possibly be as hard as they think it is, because if it were as hard as they thought it was, poets wouldn’t do it.

Really, they’re the laziest, stupidest people I know. They became poets in part because they were demoted to that job, right? You should never tell your students to write what they know because, of course, they know nothing: they’re poets! If they knew something, they’d be in that discipline actually doing it: they’d be in history or physics or math or business or whatever it is where they could excel.

I find this very distressing that the challenge of being a poet in effect to showcase something wondrous or uncanny, if not sublime, about the use of language itself, that we tend to think that because we’re conditioned to use language every day as part of a social contract, we should all be incipient poets, when in fact people have actually dedicated years or decades of their lives to this kind of practice in order to become adept at it and I think that craft and technique are part of that.

If poetry weren’t informed by models of craft then nobody would need take a creative writing course. I joke with my students again that if it was simply a matter of saying, “You know you’ve written a good poem just because; you’ll know it was a good poem when it happens.” To me, that’s tantamount to telling your students that “You should just use the force, Luke” in order to write a poem. I don’t think it’s very helpful. But to be able to say “Here’s a series of rules of thumb that always work under all circumstances and if you adopt them slavishly, blindly, you can always be assured of writing something, producing something of merit.” I think it’s important that students are at least reassured that there are some technical aptitudes that they can adopt.


That’s one point that can be made. But there are others. Bök, for me, makes the same mistake nearly everyone makes (including me) when talking about art. It’s a call to the collective, which is, that people keep wanting to find some way to project outward the conversation of art making, when the truth is that’s a craft issue, not an art issue. Art is a projection inward. If it helps an artist to think in craft terms, that’s fine. But I also posit that a poet could write as good of poems by following slavishly the “use the force, Luke” approach.

It’s terribly presumptuous to imagine, “If poetry weren’t informed by models of craft then nobody would need take a creative writing course.” Sure, it’s a true statement. There is and will always be craft in what an artist does, but there’s a bucketful of hedging in “informed by,” that also leaves open huge fields of what one might mean by “craft.” “Practice” would be a better word. As in what one does as well as the need to repeat things. Even Luke Skywalker had to practice. And he had a practice he followed. There was craft in that.

What matters, in the end, is not the artist’s conception of what is being done, while it’s being done, but by what in fact is left behind. The artifact. The project is beside the point. That said, it is interesting and fruitful to see what others see in the making of art. Such things have an impact on the art’s reception, which can be enlightening, and dangerous to art (as when art gets conflated into pesonality).

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

John Lennon Live Concert at Madison Square Garden (New York, NY) Aug 30, 1972 - WolfgangsVault.com

John Lennon Live Concert at Madison Square Garden (New York, NY) Aug 30, 1972 - WolfgangsVault.com

Posted using ShareThis


So it was 29 years ago, December 8, 1980. I was in High School.

It's a short concert. You have to create a log in, but it's worth it as Wolfgang's Vault has really good sounding shows. A lot of shows, mostly from the 70s.

NPR All Songs Considered Top 50 Albums of 2009

Here's the NPR list as supposedly voted on by listeners, but the list that people could vote for didn't have several albums (The Flaming Lips, Cracker, Neil Young, Yo La Tengo, and many others) that I thought were worth listening to, so take the following list with a boulder of salt. And somehow Dark Night of the Soul got on there twice. All in all, not a very difinitive-looking list to me. Anyway, here it is:

Ballot Results: All Songs Considered Listeners Pick The Year's Best Music
by Robin Hilton

After a week of voting, the results are in: We've got the top 25 albums of 2009, as selected by NPR listeners in our online ballot, listed now on All Songs Considered. You can hear songs from each album and some brief comments from host Bob Boilen.

Here are some extended results from the ballot:

01. Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest
02. Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion
03. Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
04. Neko Case: Middle Cyclone
05. Andrew Bird: Noble Beast
06. The Decemberists: Hazzards Of Love
07. Wilco: Wilco (The Album)
08. Bon Iver: Blood Bank
09. The Avett Brothers: I And Love And You
10. St. Vincent: Actor
11. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: It's Blitz!
12. Regina Spektor: Far
13. M. Ward: Hold Time
14. The Swell Season: Strict Joy
15. Monsters Of Folk: Monsters of Folk
16. The Dirty Projectors: Bitte Orca
17. Passion Pit: Manners18.
Various: Dark Was The Night
19. Camera Obscura: My Maudlin Career
20. Metric: Fantasies
21. Beirut: March of the Zapotec
22. The xx: XX
23. Bat For Lashes: Two Suns
24. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: Up From Below
25. Modest Mouse: No One's First, And You're Next
26. The Dead Weather: Horehound
27. U2: No Line On The Horizon
28. Norah Jones: The Fall
29. Pearl Jam: Back Spacer
30. Lily Allen: It's Not Me, It's You
31. The Low Anthem: Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
32. Conor Oberst And The Mystic Valley Band: Outer South
33. Fever Ray: Fever Ray
34. The Antlers: Hospice
35. Bob Dylan: Together Through Life
36. Heartless Bastards: Mountain
37. Patrick Watson: Wooden Arms
38. Sonic Youth: The Eternal
39. Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse: Dark Night Of The Soul
40. Girls: Album
41. Jay-Z: The Blueprint III
42. K'Naan: Troubadour
43. Silversun PIckups: Swoon
44. Antony and the Johnsons: Crying Light
45. Moby: Wait For Me
46. Mos Def: The Ecstatic
47. Franz Ferdinand: Tonight
48. Noah And The Whale: First Days Of Spring
49. Dan Auerbach: Keep It Hid
50. Fanfarlo: Reservoir

Next week, Bob Boilen, Monitor Mix blogger Carrie Brownstein, NPR Music editor Stephen Thompson and I will look at some of the year's biggest surprises, best new artists, biggest letdowns and more. That show will go up Monday, Dec. 14.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Best Albums of 2009!

The Best Albums of 2009 (If I were the one to give out awards and such, all these would get awards)

1. Monsters of Folk, Monsters of Folk (“Baby Boomer,” “Temazcal,” “Say Please,” “The Sandman…”)
2. Neko Case, Middle Cyclone (“People Got a Lotta Nerve,” “This Tornado Loves You,” “Middle Cyclone”)
3. Andrew Bird, Noble Beast (“Oh No,” “Souverian,” “Fitz and the Dizzyspells”)
4. Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard, One Fast Move or I’m Gone (“California Zephyr,” “One Fast Move or I’m Gone,” “Big Sur,” “These Roads Don’t Move,” “Low Life Kingdom”)
5. The Flaming Lips, Embryonic [with a few deletions and additions from non-album tracks] (“Watching the Planets,” “What Does it Mean,” “Convinced of the Hex”)
6. Clem Snide, Hungry Bird (“Born a Man,” “Pray,” “Hum,” “Me No”)
7. Son Volt, American Central Dust (“No Turning Back,” “When the Wheels Don’t Move,” “Roll On,” “Down to the Wire”)
8. Jason Lytle, Yours Truly, The Commuter (“Brand New Sun,” “Flying Through Canyons,” “Rollin’ Home Alone”)
9. A Camp, Colonia (“Stronger than Jesus,” “The Crowning”)
10. A.A. Bondy, When the Devil’s Loose (“A Slow Parade,” “To the Morning,” “I Can See the Pines Are Dancing”)
11. Noah and the Whale, The First Days of Spring (“Blue Skies,” “The First Days of Spring”)
12. Cracker, Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey (“Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out with Me,” “Yalla Yalla”)
13. Elizabeth & The Catapult, Taller Children (“Rainiest Day of Summer,” “Taller Children”)
14. Jill Sobule, California Years (“Spiderman,” “Palm Springs,” “San Francisco”)
15. Mark Olson and Gary Louris, Ready for the Flood (“Turn Your Pretty Name Around”)
16. Dave Rawlings Machine, A Friend of a Friend (“Ruby,” “Bells of Harlem,” “How’s About You”)
17. Great Lake Swimmers, Lost Channels (“Palmistry,” “Everything Is Moving So Fast,”)
18. Dangermouse & Sparklehorse, Dark Night of the Soul (“Jaykub,” “Star Eyes,” “Revenge,” “Everytime I’m with You,” “Daddy’s Gone,” “Dark Night of the Soul”)
19. Volcano Choir, Unmap (“Island, IS,” “Still”)

I also got albums from Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Wilco, A Fine Frenzy, Animal Collective, Coconut Records, Erin McKeown, Ian Hunter, M. Ward, Bonnie Prince Billy, and Throw Me the Statue, and a few others here and there came and went. All had things that were good about them, but in the end, I don’t go back to them much.

Wilco is a good example. “Bull Black Nova” is an excellent song, but most of the rest of the album sounds more twee than Tweedy to me. I’m really amazed that so many people are fawning over this album, rather than despairing for how far things have fallen from the amazing run of Being There, Summerteeth, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot . . . the last two Wilco albums, especially, are a dramatic falling off in every respect but their playing. Wilco remains a wonderful band, but they’re really run out of ideas. And this Tweedy media saturation this fall all about finding humor and a spiritual center just feeds the cult of personality over song quality. That’s my little Wilco rant.

And then an Animal Collective rant: I really didn’t see what was interesting about this album. I’ve forced myself to listen to it several times, but it continues to just irritate me. It grates on my nerves.

Also, the following all came out this year as well, and I spent a LOT of time listening to them, but they seemed not to qualify for the list, as they were, well, less new. The Beatles, especially, sounded great, but in the end these are all songs I’ve been listing to for 40 years, you know? I grew up with them. they’re a part of the air now.

Leonard Cohen, Live in London
Bon Iver,
Blood Bank (as it was an EP [and one of the songs was a reworking of a song from the Volcano Choir album])
Neil Young, Dreamin' Man (Live ’92)
Neil Young Archives Vol 1
The Beatles Remasters
Philip Glass,
The Orange Mountain Music (Philip Glass Sampler Vol I)

Elizabeth & The Catapult, “Perfectly Perfect”

New Old Neil Young Solo Live Album Streaming

Thrasher’s Wheat, a blog devoted to all things Neil Young is streaming Dreamin’ Man, the live Neil Young album that will be available next Tuesday. It was recorded in 1992 just before the release of Harvest Moon, and it’s a solo live version of the songs from that album. The problem with Harvest Moon, in my estimation, is that the production is too overdone, or saturated with background vocals, especially on songs such as “Such a Woman,” “Dreamin’ Man,” “Natural Beauty,” and “War of Man.”

This album fixes that, roughs it up a bit, brings it back to the core of the songs. Check it out:

EXCLUSIVE: Streamin' Dreamin' Man

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Two Books by Emmanuel Hocquard

Two people (Kathleen Peirce and Rosetta Ballew, to be exact) suggested the same thing to me at the same time, that I should read something by Hocquard. One must take such things as signs.

Now I’ve read the two books I could get hold of:

Theory of Tables (trans. Michael Palmer)1992 0-blek editions
A Test of Solitude (trans. Rosmarie Waldrop) 2000 Burning Deck

Here are a few poems to give you a bit of the flavor. The way he bends the lyric, the way he moves from fracture to the colloquial remind me very much of the work of his two translators (and then I see that he’s translated Palmer). Affinities abound.

from Theory of Tables


Brown, green & black

Don’t say the fragments of glass are the words
or are like the words of the poem

Dear B., forget the words
don’t count the years

Don’t think you’re holding in your hand
the pieces of the poem, time

Don’t write that color contains history

These pebbles don’t say Aegean Sea
on envelopes

These shards aren’t syllables
these envelopes don’t contain letters

Don’t dream that you suffocate each night


Who and what
who is he and who is she?

Evening Jo, put down the revolver
here’s your key
how did you find me?
yesterday this neighborhood still didn’t exist

The sky is full of glass
start a cypress fire with crates

Neither music nor dance
the wave is minus a domino
cry out the gulls

She says I wish I were a nasturtium or a peony

When the wave is minus a goat
cry out the gulls
a trail of stones and clouds flanks the puddles


You say I and you say
who does what?

Two statues have removed their coat

Why have those two verdigris brothers
so long dead
been invited to dinner?

You say things are always
orderly in photographs

You dream you are crossing a field of solid water

Detach two sheets of paper
you and another you
this road neither rises nor descends

Come in, welcome
go join those talking in the other room
pink light across the large curve

from A Test of Solitude

Book II.

Viviane or the secret list.
No sentence is any help.
The Wittgenstein list or by-path.
No sentence allows us to go from the canale to
the burnt stump, but a by-path.
Viviane is Viviane has found its place on the list
of secrets for me.
Or Theory of Secrets.
We said we named things to show what
separates them.
Phrasing shows how to reunite them.
A class photograph is not a sentence is this list
this story without beginning or end this snap-


Only uncertain propositions should be attributed.
One proper name per uncertainty.
What sense would it have to sign a tautology?
Viviane is Viviane signed Emmanuel Hocquard
would be really insane.
But it can also furnish information of the type
on the label there is written: “Gift of E.H. to
The black list of ravens arranged by increasing
or decreasing size in the cases of the Museum of
Natural History,
the cultivation of labels in the Botanical garden
in winter,
the list of errands and museums . . .


The fifth façade would
have the form of drained off.
The list of ponds how they communicate by
water or eyes.
Putting the pieces end to end
one would get neither a sentence.
Like the moles from one point to another
a list separates the canale from the burnt stump.
The list of obstacles
or list of names
of the permanent objects.
The unprogrammed spaces having devolved
on the dream,
put off doing something.

Friday, December 04, 2009

What is the future of Lit Journals?

Journals old and new. Or, I’ve seen the future of literary journals, and I like it just fine.

So this is what I think the future of literary journals looks like:

Example #1. The Colorado Review. The new issue came out just recently, and it’s here on my desk, so it’s going to stand for all those journals out there (FIELD, Denver Quarterly, etc) that I like very much. This issue of CR (fall/winter 2009 Vo 36 No 2) is beautifully put together. A generous 180 pages. Edited by Stephanie G’Schwind, with the poetry of this issue (they have revolving poetry editors) edited by Matthew Cooperman.

The genres are broken out in sections: Fiction (three stories, close to 60 pages), poetry (20 poets, close to 60 pages), and nonfiction (two essays, 20-something pages), and book notes (nine reviews, 30 or so pages).

I’ve broken it down this way, rather than just going on about how excellent the work is (which it is, by the way, with some of my favorite authors (Rosmarie Waldrop, Martha Ronk, Michael Burkard, and on) represented, because I think it’s the editorial vision that’s important. The way CR uses its space, the way it forms, is its lasting value. I think there will always be a place for this sort of literary journal. But of course the work is also excellent, so go buy a copy. They make great Christmas gifts for your writer and reader friends (and/or yourself)!

Example #2. Recently I’ve come across two online journals that are showing a bit of what can be done, that I’m finding to be innovative and forward-thinking. You can see what I mean right away by going to them:

Booth: A Journal

Connotation Press

Booth has a great idea: You can download it as a PDF or you can view it in a very nice Internet interface (the same interface that Blue Hour Press used for my chapbook Guidebook).

Connotation Press mixes several things in a tabloid format, that’s quite attractive. John Hoppenthaler has a “Poetry Congeries” that is a nice mix of things.

It’s a good future. Check it out.

To close, here’s a short self-interview (kind of) that I did for the Poetry Congeries a couple months back (John Gallaher - Poetry with Q&A):

This interview was conducted in late September, 2009, in the Gallaher family living room, a comfortable room with large windows overlooking the front yard and street, in rural Missouri. It was 59 degrees at 9:00 a.m., when the interview started. Later, the temperature rose to around 78 degrees, with full sun. Overall, a very pleasant day. This was going to be a self-interview, but luckily for me, I had a couple questions from Amy Unsworth for the website Pages Rustle, which she allowed me to incorporate, so I didn’t have to just talk to myself, which, to be honest, wasn’t getting me very far.

How you would classify your poetry, and what interests you in contemporary poetry (lyric, narrative, language, sound, etc)?

I wish I knew how to classify my poetry. I feel things would be a lot easier for me if I could. When I was first publishing, back in the 1990s, I had very little luck. My work didn’t begin to be published with any frequency until 1998, when I had poems in Sulfur and Denver Quarterly. And so, looking at the poems around mine in those issues, I thought that’s what I must write like. And perhaps I do. At least some of the time. If that’s much of an answer.

So do you think of yourself as writing differently at different times, or in different situations?

Maybe. It’s just that I suppose we all do . . . and, well, there are times where I think I’m doing something radically different than something else I’ve done, and then someone sees it and says, “that looks just like a John Gallaher poem.” So I’m learning to keep my assertions tentative.

And what interests you in contemporary poetry?

I like when a poem surprises me, when it does something I don’t expect it to do, but not just to be surprising, or unexpected. There’s always a danger when one goes for a kind of surrealism, maybe, or a relationship with the absurd, and is looking for surprise, that the poem will just kind of spiral out into confetti. Still, a little confetti now and then never hurt anyone . . . We’ll all survive the experience. I like art to be a little shifty. Like life.

Are you describing what Tony Hoagland calls, negatively, the “skittery poem of our times”?

Or something like that. But Hoagland does a pretty poor job describing it. And he critiques a lot of poets for writing that way, but he also praises a lot of poets (Dean Young, famously, but also younger poets like Dobby Gibson) who write in the way I think he’s critiquing . . . so who knows. Styles and modes and methods come and go. And they come around again. So for now, I feel the post-confessional autobiographical mode is exhausted, but that doesn’t mean it will remain so. And now this mode that Hoagland is noticing (that others have been noticing for close to two decades) is perhaps at its zenith and will start to be supplanted. At least there are current essays out there to that effect, one by Stephen Burt in a recent issue of Boston Review.

Changing tracks a little bit, who did you study under?

Kathleen Peirce, Wayne Dodd, and, for a short time, Mark Halliday.

“For a short time”?

Well, by the time I studied with Mark Halliday, I was finished with my classes and working on my dissertation. Mostly we just disagreed on things, which turned out to be quite valuable, in its way.


Well, with Kathleen Peirce and Wayne Dodd, I had two wonderful thinkers and teachers who were very much on my side, encouraging me. They were both saying things like “more!” and “go further.” Mark Halliday came along with a big STOP sign. Or maybe a YIELD sign. DANGEROUS CURVES AHEAD, maybe. It was healthy. It made me defend myself to a skeptical audience.

What sorts of things did you disagree on?

Oh, the usual. Which poems were good and which weren’t. But such things are to be expected. It’s good to disagree. We’re supposed to have the force of our opinions. And different styles of poems reflect different opinions and desires of what wants to enact in a poem, and desire in the poems one reads. He asks questions about what a poem means, and I, well, I’m less interested in that approach.

Do you subscribe, then, to McLeish’s idea that “a poem should Be/ not mean”?

Wayne Dodd used to say that a poem should “mean AND be.” I always liked that formulation, and would like to, as he would say, associate myself with those remarks. But I feel like that might be hedging, to leave it at that. I am drawn to moments where meaning is deferred, knowing that meaning is inevitable, as our lives contain meaning, or embody meaning. So yes, I would side with the “Be” if such a choice were demanded, but only if I could remind myself that there’s a lot of meaning tucked away in that “Be.” I guess what I’m trying to say is that a poem should be thought of more like a tree than like a newspaper.

People, when talking about your work, often mention the influence of John Ashbery, but there’s also the mark of Wallace Stevens there as well. Would you consider Wallace Stevens and the Modernists to be a major influence on your writing? Or do you look more towards the New York School poets?

The only two Library of America editions that I’ve purchased are the Wallace Stevens and John Ashbery ones. I know their work better than I know anyone else’s. So, if that might be evidence, I suppose the answer would have to be that I have a foot in each world. But, truth to tell, I read the poetry of Rae Armantrout, Michael Palmer, Martha Ronk, and Charles Wright, as well as numerous others, nearly as much. There’s such a large world of reading out there, and I adore so much of it, I’d hate to narrow myself to one (or even two) writers. And that’s just poetry. I’m also very interested in painting. That’s probably had as much (or maybe even more) influence on the way I see things, or attend to things as poetry has had.

You maintain a blog. How did you get started doing that, and what do you think of blogs in general? Do you see them changing the way we talk about poetry?

I started my blog a few years ago because I was, well, lonely, mostly. I live in rural Missouri, and I don’t get to see or talk to many poets. The Internet seemed a good way to, as they say, “reach out and touch someone.” The Internet has changed the way we think. It’s changed the way we value information. It used to be that information had value if it was hard to get. You had to go to the library. You had to buy a book or magazine. Information was valuable. Now, it’s turned completely upside-down. If information is valuable, it’s available in seconds on the Internet. It’s only things that are devalued that are not there. I’m probably overstating it, but certainly there are things that are not there that should be there. We’ve lost a lot of things from the past. Blogs are crazy places. Things go viral for a few days then crash. And the comments stream remains. When the history of our age is written, I think it’ll be seen as one of high clamor. There’s a lot of noise out there.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Morton Feldman & A New Poetry Series, David Dodd Lee, editor

First up, Morton Feldman. I’m not sure if I’ve convinced anyone of Feldman’s worth or not, but I’ve convinced myself. So, to close off my reading of his highly interesting Give My Regards to Eight Street, here are a few final shots across the bow:


There is a marvelous story about Duchamp and an art student in San Francisco many years ago. Duchamp goes to this art school and he sees this kind of tough, macho San Francisco painter and Duchamp looks at this picture he doesn’t know. He says to the fellow, “What are you doing?” And the painter says, “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.” Duchamp pats him on the back and says, “Keep up the good work!”

I remember once I heard a marvelous discussion with very famous abstract painters at the Artists’ Club and the discussion was, when is a work of art finished? Wonderful discussion. And none of them had any formal answer. De Kooning said the last stroke finishes it; Philip Guston said when he walks away from it, that’s when it’s finished; and each one had a different attitude about it. For me it was very influential in my life because what the painters taught me, essentially, was to ask. Oh, I ask many questions when I’m working. If I would have to say which I would put on top, I would say: “What is needed in this piece? How much do I take out? What’s needed? What’s needed?”

[T]he artist has this incredible problem. Especially if they are young and they are growing up because everything is right. Bach is right and his kinder are right. Gluck is right, Palestrina is right, Karlheinz is right, everybody is right. The confusion of a young artist growing up is not the confusion that everybody is wrong and I’m right, the confusion is that everybody is right. Am I wrong? So, you’re intimidated, because every system works . . . . Hegel works, Kierkegaard works.

Craft is something you do in the light, skill is something you do in the dark.

Ideas are given. Concepts are given, everything is given. How do you orchestrate it? That’s not given. That’s not in the books. We must make that decision. That’s the only decision.

Instruments are the answer to the cul-de-sac, not ideas.

[T]he instrument doesn’t have any ideas, the instrument is ready to play . . . . That’s the trouble with my students. They say, “How can you write anything for the piano in 1978? How could you write anything for the piano?” I said, “Leave the piano alone, it’s not the piano’s fault. It’s what people write for the piano. There is nothing wrong with the piano.”

One of the problems with variation in twentieth-century music is that they make the variation too obvious.

[T]hinking . . . with a lot of my students in Buffalo and the postmodernism and things like that which were always indicated by style, not by facility. And I was getting a little upset about that—the whole idea of just identifying things stylistically and not really thinking too much about what goes into it.

I came across this remark by Mies van der Rohe which I agree with completely. It’s really . . . I couldn’t, no one could say it better. He said, “I don’t want to be interesting, I want to be good.”

One must distinguish between craft and technique. If a composer talks of craft in his work, it is almost certain he is talking about someone else’s craft.

Music seems to be understood best by its proximity to other music that is more familiar. We do not hear what we hear . . . only what we remember.

The only time an artist gives up his ideas is when a better past comes along.

Some make no journey. We have a word for them. Modernists. They make a virtue of being of their own time. They are content with the fact that while the goals may be remote, the means are always practical.

The irrationality of being an artist is that it’s too rational, art is too rational . . . too rational! All this aura of freedom. Yet it is self-evident that art is the antithesis of freedom.


And second, David Dodd Lee. He a friend of mine, and I’ve admired his work and valued his thinking for several years now. I just got word that fills me with pleasure, and I trust something very good is going to come of it:

Wolfson Press Poetry
Lester M. Wolfson Poetry Award Guidelines


Judge: David Dodd Lee, Series Editor

The Lester M. Wolfson Poetry Award is being created in an effort to bring fresh and original voices to the poetry reading public. The prize will be offered annually to any poet writing in English, including poets who have never published a full length book as well as poets who have published several. New and Selected collections of poems are also welcome. The winning poet will receive $1,000 and publication of his or her book. The winner will also be invited to give a reading at Indiana University South Bend as part of the release of the book. Finalists, other than the prize-winning manuscript, will be considered for publication. The final selection will be made by the Series Editor. Current or former students or employees of Indiana University South Bend, as well as friends of the Series Editor or other Wolfson Press staff, are not eligible for the prize. There is a $25, non-refundable, entry fee, made payable to Wolfson Press. There is no limit on the number of entries an author may submit. Simultaneous submissions are fine, in fact they are encouraged, but please withdraw your manuscript if it is taken for publication elsewhere. Please include a SASE with each entry. Please include a self-addressed postage paid postcard if you desire confirmation of manuscript receipt. No manuscripts will be returned. Entries sent by e-mail or fax are not permitted; they will be disqualified. On your cover sheet include name, address, phone number, and e-mail. The manuscript should be paginated and include a table of contents and acknowledgments page. Manuscripts will be accepted starting December 1, 2009, and ending deadline will be March 1, 2010.

Manuscripts received prior to December 1, or postmarked after March 1, will be recycled and the entry fee returned. The winner will receive 50 copies of his or her book. With questions e-mail Davdlee@iusb.edu.

Mail manuscripts to:

Lester M. Wolfson Poetry Award
Indiana University South Bend
Department of English
1700 Mishawaka Avenue
P. O. Box 7111
South Bend, IN 46634-7111

Manuscripts submitted for the Lester M. Wolfson Poetry Award should exhibit an awareness of the contemporary “voice” in American poetry, an awareness of our moment in time as poets. We are excited to receive poetry that is experimental as well as work of a more formalist bent, as long as it reflects a complexity and sophistication of thought and language. Urgency, yes; melodrama, not so much. Winners will be announced via this website, as well as through the mail. We will also announce the winner in major magazines (Poets & Writers) and blogs, including this one. The winning book, and any others chosen from the pool of entries, will be published in 2011.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

"I Love China" by Natalie

Yet another moment along the way. My daughter Natalie, eight, wrote a poem this afternoon that she just gave to me. Here it is:

I Love China
by Natalie

Whisper: I love China 1234 I love China
They make everything. And
I woke up this morning. And
I got what I wanted. And
it said China 1234 China 1234
China 1234 I love China 1234 whisper:
I love China 1234 I love China

How Many MP3s Could the Government Have Given You?

Today I saw in the paper that the price tag of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming up on the trillion dollar mark.

The most recent figures on the US population I could find were from July 2008, when the population was at 304,059,724.

A trillion dollars will buy 1,010,101,010,000 MP3s at .99 cents each.

A trillion dollars would, therefore, buy each person in the United States 3,322 MP3s.

Personally, looking at what the last eight years have gotten us in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’d rather have the 3,322 MP3s. Especially knowing that each of my children would also get 3,322 MP3s. I’m sure I could steer a few of those my way.

Best Music of 2009? Vote! And tell them what you think!

All Songs Considered

Vote Now For Your Favorite Music Of 2009

It's time for All Songs Considered listeners to pick their favorite albums of 2009. Vote now by choosing up to 10 albums from our list on the All Songs Considered blog, and feel free to write in what you don't see using the comments section. The music on our list reflects what All Songs Considered covered in 2009, plus a few more we missed. Results will be posted on Dec. 7.

+ + +
There are a LOT of things missing from their list, but they have the option of write-in candidates in the comments section, but you have to register to do so.
Anyway, I was surprised, to say the least, that albums by The Flaming Lips and Son Volt, etc., were left off.
Anyway (part 2), go and vote. And suggest more albums. I did.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Morton Feldman on Art vs. Craft (etc.)

De Kooning, Untitled XVI
Morton Feldman
Give My Regards to Eight Street

Here’s a view on the role of “craft” and “culture” and “imitators” in artistic production and reception. It’s about musical composition mostly, but it could easily be made about any artistic creation, especially, for my purposes, poetry (With a grain or several of salt.). In other essays, the “professionals” here, becomes “academic artists” or simply “academics.” If I were going to make a grand claim about the mid 50s through the early 70s, I’d say that it was the moment when the last of the Modernists (Feldman & Pollock, say) blended—often in sympathy against the reigning conservative culture—with the first of the postmodernists (Cage & Guston, perhaps). Take that, also, with grains of salt.

From The Anxiety of Art (1965)

For ten years of my life I worked in an environment committed to neither the past nor the future. We worked, that is to say, not knowing where what we did belonged, or whether it belonged anywhere at all. What we did was not in protest against the past. To rebel against history is still to be a part of it. We were simply not concerned with historical processes. We were concerned with sound itself. And sound does not know its history.

[. . .]

Our work did not have the authoritarianism, I might almost say, the terror, inherent in the teachings of Boulez, Schoenberg, and now Stockhausen.

This authoritarianism, this pressure, is required of a work of art. That is why the real tradition of twentieth-century America, a tradition evolving from the empiricism of Ives, Varèse and Cage, has been passed over as “iconoclastic”—another word for unprofessional. In music, when you do something new, something original, you’re an amateur. Your imitators—these are the professionals.

It is the imitators who are interested not in what the artist did, but the means he used to do it. This is where craft emerges as an absolute, an authoritarian position that divorces itself from the creative impulse of the originator. The imitator is the greatest enemy of originality. The “freedom” of the artist is boring to him, because in freedom he cannot reenact the role of the artist. There is, however, another role he can and does play. It is this imitator, this “professional,” that makes are into culture.

This is the man who emphasizes the historical impact of the original work of art. Who takes from it and puts to use everything that can be utilized in a collective sense. Who brings the concepts of virtue, morality, and “the general good” into it. Who brings the world into it.

Proust tells us the great mistake lies in looking for the experience in the object rather than in ourselves. He calls this a “running away from one’s own life.” How many of these “professionals” would go along with this kind of thinking about art? They give us continual examples of looking for the experience of the object—in their case, the system, the craft that forms the basis of their world.

The atmosphere of a work of art, what surrounds it, that “place” in which it exists—all this is thought a lesser thing, charming but not essential. Professionals insist on essentials. They concentrate on the things that make art. These are the things they identify with it, think of, in fact, as it—not understanding that everything we use to make art is precisely what kills it.

This is what every painter I know understands. And this is what almost no composer I know understands.

[. . .]

The painter achieves mastery by allowing what he is doing to be itself. In a way, he must step aside in order to be in control. The composer is just learning to do this. He is just beginning to learn that controls can be thought of as nothing more than accepted practice.

[. . .]

Of course, the history of music has always been involved in controls, rarely with any new sensitivity to sound.

[. . .]

The revolution is over.

[. . .]

A close and valued friend once became annoyed at my persistent admiration of Cage. “How can you feel this,” he said, “when it’s apparent that everything he stands for negates your own music?”

This was my answer: “If anyone negates my music, it is, say, Boulez. With Boulez you have all the aura of a right or righteous gesture. It looks like art, smells and feels like nothing but art, yet there is about it no creative pressure that makes a demand on me. It lulls me to sleep with its easily acquired virtues.”

[. . .]

The anxiety of art is a special condition, and actually is not an anxiety at all, though it has all the aspects of one. It comes about when art becomes separate from what we know, when it speaks with its own emotion.

Where in life we do everything we can to avoid anxiety, in art we must pursue it. This is difficult. Everything in our life and culture, regardless of our background, is dragging us away. Still, there is this sense of something immanent. And what is immanent, we find, is neither the past nor the future, but simply—the next ten minutes. The next ten minutes . . . We can go no further than that, and we need go no further. If art has its heaven, perhaps this is it. If there is a connection made with history, it is after the fact, and can be perfectly summed up in the words of de Kooning: “History doesn’t influence me. I influence it.”