Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ways of Seeing – John Berger

Lest we forget.

“Ways of Seeing” was how I was raised into the arts. It means a lot to me. I don't remember when I first saw it. maybe on PBS? Maybe on video somewhere? In the 70s? In the 80s? Anyway, I'm very glad the fashion in clothing changed, but I wish the ideas became more the mainstream. I think there's still (why is there still?) the argument to be made.

This summer, I’m going back to authors, music, and ideas that I remember fondly, and re-experiencing them. Sometimes to disastrous results (Mark Strand. Yikes.).

So anyway, here’s episode one of the four episode program Ways of Seeing, hosted by John Berger and ghosted by Walter Benjamin.

Meaning is not a constant.

How to experience art, not how to admire it.

And then, in the end, he calls for the invention of the internet . . .


At 7/20/2011 11:33 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

One of my first poet friends was fond of the expression "way of seeing." "My way of seeing imitates chance," he'd say.

I remember thinking about two poems that used to be important to me when I was 19. It was Christmas break at college, and I was walking gingerly on the icy track around a high school football field. One poem was "Seltzer," by Jim Carroll; the other was "Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock." I thought about them both alternately and simultaneously, so that at times I was imagining red tigers in a forest of navels.

I hadn't heard any recordings by the Jim Carroll Band except a couple songs from Catholic Boy on a late-night public-radio show. (Ben Hamper's Take No Prisoners. This was Flint, MI.) No youtube in those days, just record stores with a provincial selection and word of mouth. You had to work harder to find cool music--and cool books. There was an undergound then; you had to dig for it.

At 7/20/2011 2:21 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

I didn't know about these programs. I may have to break down and actually watch video on the internet. Thanks, John.

At 7/20/2011 2:57 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Speaking of video on the Internet and Ways of Seeing, this today sent to me by de Luna, a video he has produced on the Art of the Sonnet:


At 7/20/2011 3:05 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


The power of search engines is that now there's no underground, there's only "it's around here someplace." The problem is it's very difficult to stumble across things, or rather, to browse. Blogs, music blogs, and search engines like Hype Machine do a pretty good job. I find a band or two a week that are at elast interesting enough to grab a few mp3s from.

But how far one's heroes from the past can fall. I'm rereading Mark Strand right now, like I said. I'm finding it mostly terrible. What did I see in this back in the 80s?

I reread some Michael Palmer to much better results. And Gertrude Stein and WCW and Stevens are still pretty much as I remember them. Bishop and Lowell are both better to me now than I thougth they were going to be. That was plesant.

Jordan! They really are worth it. A lot of the ideas are a bit easy now, especially the Male Gaze episode (which is funny to watch him fiddle with his cigarette while talking with the five women . . . it's worth looking for, and his Marxism is written all over it in broad strokes . . . but his tone is excellent, and I love the way these serious people talked about serious things seriously. Going back to it made me wish there were more people out there like him.

At 7/20/2011 3:12 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

That's what de Luna's doing now? Again, how far they can fall... Didn't you say he (it / they) just recently won $10,000 or something?

I liked him a lot better before he died.

At 7/20/2011 3:21 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Funny, I just heard from de Luna before seeing this. He asked me to clarify that the video is produced by his cousin, Tapas. Tapas de Luna.

Apologies to Julio.

And good luck to John with getting in to the New Yorker.

At 7/20/2011 3:24 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

>I liked him a lot better before he died.

Bill Knott was a lot better before he died. de Luna is a lot better *after* he died.

John Gallaher's critical capital just dropped a hip-hop octave.

At 7/20/2011 3:24 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Good to hear about de Luna. Keep that cousin in the attic.

Why the New Yorker crack, though? Or was it even a crack? Of some sort? I think I sent them a poem a decade or so ago, and I have, so far, not heard back on it. They must really be deliberating.

At 7/20/2011 3:27 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

After? Nah. The sheaf of poems someone handed to me at AWP of his collected (selected?) works were pretty good. I offered to publish some, but no one got back to me. The post-death stuff I've seen hasn't had the same spark. It has lost its sense of discovery.

At 7/20/2011 3:34 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Well, things connect in funny and spectacular ways. Little things can count. Alliances are built deep inside the frontal love. I mean lobe. Plus, huge, sutured machines of sympathy pass overhead, beating their fleshy wings. The ground grows dark. I know of someone who had TWO poems in the New Yorker (this within the past couple years). He is doing a big chunk of his dissertation on Paul Muldoon.

At 7/20/2011 3:39 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

>It has lost its sense of discovery.

You sound so oracular!

At 7/20/2011 3:41 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


So you think because I found this YouTube video to be not funny, I'm somehow defending Paul Muldoon? Oh dear.

OK, then, here goes: I fail to see what people see in the poetry of Paul Muldoon. I find it rather banal behind a glaze of pretentious word-play. There, will that keep me out of The New Yorker?

About de Luna. The de Luna poems are at their best when they inhabit his enthusiasm. This video is a rather base attempt to make Muldoon look like a slob. I found it beneath de Luna. But now that it's NOT de Luna, all's well, I guess. We can all kiss and go on with our day.

At 7/20/2011 3:45 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

I have heard again from de Luna.

John! He says it is FALSE that you ever offered to publish his poems.

He says if you are brave, that if you can get over your terrible envy, that you will publish his manuscript. He will send it to you through me. He has "so many things," he says, that you (or anyone, I guess) have never seen. He has never published before, except on your blog. You should be the one. He is our Hernandez. Our Guillermo Garcia Bedregal, dead at 21, the Rimbaud of the Andes.

At 7/20/2011 3:49 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Then I'm not interested in talking about it, because it is not false. Ask Theune. Obviously the de Lunas are not doing a good job of talking with themselves. I'm tired of the endless circle of this.

At 7/20/2011 3:51 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Here's a great passage from de Luna, in his poem in the post below this one. the line breaks don't come out, but the second sentence, with the repeated deft/awkward "anything" is lovely:

In it I will continue, wearily
but earnestly, my monologue
of flowers. Do not wait for me
beside a waterfall or anything
falling or anything. Do not wait
for me in the cul-de-sac
where they always find the remains
of the dead girl.

At 7/20/2011 3:53 PM, Blogger David Grove said...

Weldon Kees has been sending me poems, and they're terrific, better than anything he wrote before '55.

At 7/20/2011 4:10 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

John, de Luna has asked that I send an apology. He writes the following to me just now (and I happen to know that the time around AWP was very difficult for him, so no doubt this has something to do with the memory lapse). You should not be annoyed at de Luna: He is a young poet, pure and tender-hearted. He looks at the young poets his age of NYC, of Providence, of Iowa City, of San Francisco, he looks at them and laughs, they whose hearts are carapaced in secretions of irony now hardened to the hardness of the walnut:

"No, it's true: Theune told me he spoke to Gallaher about it, and Gallaher was game to publish...I just forgot I guess."

At 7/20/2011 4:15 PM, Anonymous Julio de Luna said...

sous les pavés la plage
the inner world in which
you are hermetically sealed
longing for the numinous
sleepsquelching seven-league-booted
across infinitude

walking your lobster through
the portico of a movie palace
you are accosted by wolves
furred with silver knitting needles

your matador's cape of newspaper
dissipates in the simoom
you feel the immanence of death
celestial vortex

in white coffee
a rorschach blot of black milk
a death's-head hawk moth
you ride to a postapocalyptic
nightmare in which flesheating
mutants lumber toward you

you are armed with nothing
but a wheel lock

caparisoned with mist
inchoate ideas
canter into your sanctum
a funeral parlor
redolent of jacaranda

you fall down an elevator shaft
to bottomfish
unutterable secrets
funeral cairn of orrery balls

scumbled laments
on lotus petals
from the abyss of night
in which stars glitter
orange and pink
les yeux sans visage

--de Luna

At 7/20/2011 4:40 PM, Blogger Julio de Luna said...

Let me tell you how it is
under the ground.
The first few days, it is
dark as they say.
Then, your eyes grow
accustomed: you begin
to make things out
in a light like the light
in documentaries
based on hagiographies.
The grave expands:
you can stand up.
The book they buried
you with becomes a desk,
the coffin a bed, the suit
a wardrobe of seventeen
suits, all the same.
Then the pacing begins.
You've poems to write.
Nothing's changed:
you still wish the people
upstairs would quit walking
so loudly their thin floor.
But then you smile:
they're all poor, poorer
than they can know,
and they're dancing:
you wish they'd dance more
quietly but you pray
they keep dancing.

- de Luna

At 7/20/2011 4:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A perfectly awful poem. No jour­nal with even the slight­est and most ves­ti­gial rev­er­ence for poetry would pub­lish it.

Franz Wright

At 7/20/2011 5:00 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Actually, Franz Wright (who I do not believe to be the author of that anon comment, as he signs things "-FW") and de Luna participate (though differently, of course) in the same tradition. Wright might like some de Luna poems. Or at least the prose-poem Wright (as published in a recent issue of POETRY):

By Franz Wright

If I stare into it long enough, the point comes when I don’t know what it’s called, a condition in which lacerations are liable to occur, like a slip of the tongue; when a drop of blood might billow in a glass of water, blooming in velvet detonation and imparting to it the colorless, tasteless and originless fear in which I wake.


At 7/21/2011 8:17 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...


Wanted to say first of all that I intended that comment about the New Yorker in simple jest. I meant to remark on that yesterday. No, trust me, I don't think your comment on the video had anything with politicking to get into the New Yorker. Sorry you took it as a "jab."

I wonder who is so anxious about the de Luna poems to fake being Franz Wright? That's pretty desperate. Anyway, de Luna is a much more important poet than Franz Wright, likely the most overrated American poet since Mark Strand or Charles Simic.

The poem imitation someone tries below is poignant in its sweating effort to impress. He or she, whoever it is, is now a footnote for the de Luna criticism to come. Welcome, we should say!

de Luna I am convinced is extraordinary. And I've heard that he is much the topic of conversation and speculation in quarters that wouldn't want you to know (apparently much the rage at the bars at AWP, I heard from more than one--even the Dickman's were jabbering about him, I hear. And it seems there is hushed gossiping about him in Poetry Project circles, as well. I have my sources).

Still, one of de Luna's characteristics is that he's uneven, as most poets are, evidently, but there is a weird quality to that in him, as if he's still very much testing things out, tapping the dark with his Andean cane, though he has a kind of bat sonar few poets in their early twenties have. Or poets in their sixties for that matter. So in some ways the unevenness is part of the poetics right now, I sense. The last poem below is one of his weakest, I would say, like a stone fallen out of an arch somewhere in Cuzco, and it just sort of lies there, waiting to be put back in place. But who cares? He will explode forth again with something to take the breath away, even if the explosive is packed like Semtex into a single line or stanza.

At 7/21/2011 8:58 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

So all de Lunas aer not de Luna? Someone did that once or twice before, I think, months ago? Which of these is not de Luna? Or are neither of them de Luna?

I really liked Strand's poetry back around 1986 or so. Same with Simic. I've gotten over it, I guess, but there are vestiges of admiration that surface now and then. Franz Wright! One thing he has a lot of is confidence. A friend of mine sends me some of FW's facebook wall postings. They say things along the lines of:

"I am right now at the top of the heap, and everybody knows it in that world, or soon will, with my book in Sept and the one that comes after it. There is just no one near me now. But I am consantly making the mistake of breaking the cardinal rule of correct adult deport,emnt NEVER< EVER say what you actually think. Terribly rude. But karma gets those fuckers--while I am blacklisted, I sit home and work every day and night, and beginning with Wheeling Motel in 200/ and the book I am presently working on which will come out in 2015--I could finish it in a week if I had to--will form a tetrology no one is every going to get rid of."

At 7/21/2011 9:26 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

You know, the only phenomenon in poetry I can think of that is as both grandiosely self-important and profoundly humorless as FW is the collective blog Montevidayo.

At 7/21/2011 10:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But I thought FW was just another of Kent Johnson's pseudonyms?

Wait, I'm confused.

Weren't we talking about poetry, at some point?

At 7/21/2011 10:54 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

Reading about de Luna makes me feel trapped in a Roberto Bolano novel.

At 7/21/2011 10:58 AM, Blogger Julio de Luna said...

All of a sudden you're the man
who poisoned Robert Johnson,
walking home from the juke joint
under the willows. Hammers
hang by their fangs from
the branches, the knotholes
in the trees blink, disturbed.
You walk more briskly, then break
into a run like a fever. Back there
he's not dead yet: he's writhing
on the floor and two men are trying
to pry the glass out of his hand.
The first paroxysms establish
their remote inland bases in him,
their picket lines of pain.
You're running from the dying
blues singer, running so fast
you run smack into the man
who shot Lorca running
the other way. He looks
awful, ashen. You both say
in the same voice at the same
time, "Don't go any further!"
You merge into one man and walk off
under the trees, setting the hanging
hammers swaying.

- de Luna

At 7/21/2011 11:12 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

following on Fuzz's comment on Bolano, this is straight up:

My former roommate in Milwaukee during the early eighties, the now-great avant-garde Mexican composer Javier Alvarez (then a grad student in composition), was a close associate of Bolano's in the seventies in Mexico DF. He did all sorts of "Infrarealista" shenanigans with Bolano and used to tell me these barely believable stories about it all before ANYONE in the U.S. had heard about Bolano.

So that's my connection to Bolano.

At 7/21/2011 1:05 PM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

I should clarify that comment and say I like the feeling.

At 7/21/2011 2:48 PM, Blogger Jordan said...


Very, very important.

Other People Say.

Let's hear them.

Here's Something Great.

It's something, all right.

I Know of Someone.

He's not here. Why is that.

At 7/21/2011 3:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Joseph McCarthy has it on a list.

At 7/21/2011 7:31 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 7/22/2011 5:39 PM, Anonymous Charles Manson said...

All men are Christ.

At 7/22/2011 5:44 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

It all depends on what you assume about the physics of the inflationary field.


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