Over the past two weeks, I have been working on a chapbook of poems (or maybe poetic compositions would be more accurate) which deal with my feelings and thoughts about September 11th, 2001 on this tenth anniversary in a way that I hope is both artful and tasteful.

I’ve written an introduction and posted the three (somewhat incomplete) parts of the chapbook up at Gnoetry Daily over the past three days under my alter ego username eRoGK7, so I’ll stop introducing the thing here. Know that there will be more of the Gnoetry section (Part 2) going up for a while still.

I hope you enjoy it, and that it makes you think about and reflect upon various important things.

All Posts for ]] and Other 9/11 Works

I’ve started to watch episodes of Art21 on Hulu Plus now through my PS3. Seems you can watch all of the episodes on the PBS Art21 website. I’ve always been fascinated with all kinds of art: music, visual art, literature, dance, film. I’ve also liked to listen to interviews with artists, which I often find much more stimulating than interviews with writers. They usually seem so much more passionate, intense, and wrapped up in what they’re talking about, what they’re working on. It’s this mentality I would like to bring to my poetry, to my projects and what I am doing with language. Some of my favorite poets sound more like abstract visual artists describing a display than writers talking about a poem or the situation that it arose from. Writers like Jackson Mac Low, bpNichol, Gertrude Stein, Leslie Scalapino and Christian Bök that continue to engage my curiosity and respect after repeat engagements with their work and thought. It is not really so much an idea of an avant garde that I want to connect with. Instead, there is a curiosity and openness to their work that is constantly (constantly did) re-emerg(e)ing throughout their careers, a necessity to change the approach, the materials, the aesthetic of their projects as new focal points emerged. And the concepts, perspectives, states of mind, spaces that their works engage with and recreate for readers are a pleasure am undeniably thankful for. This is how I would like my past present and future works to be. If there is a poembassy to bomb, it is in my mind, and I will continue to build it up, blow it up, and build it back. Or maybe stretch out a bit in its hollow shell and look around.

I love Google Reader. It’s Google (and Blogger) integration make it very easy to locate a lot of interesting blogs that I was never aware of, and the folders are great for keeping things organized.

I’ve decided that I need to get update on “the scene” of poet blogs out there. I’m feeling really out of the loop, like Rip Van Winkle out of the loop almost. So I’m working on subscribing to the blogs of some poets I like. I’ve followed some of their blogs before, but others I’ve only just seen or heard about from some friends.

If you have any suggestions for other poet blogs I might read, let me know.

POET BLOGS AND POETRY BLOGS

Google Reader generated a public page with updating posts from all of these pages. Here it is.

I guess for my first foray into relating the impact of Language Poets on my own sense of poetry, it will be fine to start with how they have affected my teaching of poetry at the college level. Charles Bernstein in particularly has been someone whose pedagogy I have used as a model to guide how I shape my own courses on poetry as literature and as an art form.

Skimming through some the of chapters of Bernstein’s new book, Attack of the Difficult Poems (I’m able to read it online through my University’s library website as an ebook, but I think it’s stupid that I can’t just download the thing and print it out, or transfer it to my Kindle–I’ll have to work on that [o]: ), I’m surprised at some similarities to what I’ve been doing with my literature classes over the past few years. I’ve experimented with using writing activities in a literature course before, particularly the Introduction to Poetry course I taught last year at Purdue University. I think it is one of the best ways for students unacquainted with poetry and its language activity My subtitle for the course, which I plan to use again, is “Poetry as a Second Language,” which Bernstein’s echoes in his chapter on “Creative Wreading & Aesthetic Judgement:”

My response to this chronic poetic aporia (CPA) is to provide intensive poetry immersion courses, something like teaching poetry as a second language. That means I try to immerse the class in a wide yet distinct variety of poetic forms, sounds, dictions, and logics.

I had connected with that same concept of poetry as a second language via Kenneth Koch’s excellent book on teaching poetry, Making Your Own Days. Koch was referring I think to something Paul Valery had said about poetry being present as a second language within any given language, so that the language of poetry, while dwelling solidly within any given spoken/written language, exists on a somewhat different plane, behaving in different and strange ways in relation to its home language. I took from this that to really teach someone what poetry was it would be necessary to show them how it behaves by its own set of codes nestled within our language’s more instrumental set of signs.

Bernstein seems to describe a set of activities which he uses to run an alternative to the standard “creative writing” workshop for undergrads. I’m a fan of Kenneth Goldsmith’s “uncreative writing” activities, too, as well as other forms of appropriative, generative, or otherwise methods of writing poetry (Google Sculpting, Gnoetry). I’ve taken a lot from other teachers, especially writers who teach.

One wreading activity I had my students participate in last year which they found to be very engaging and enjoyable (I gauged this from their comments, laughter and expressions during the writing process) was for them to apply the Writing by Negation exercise (Oulipo) to two famous American poems. Here are the results:

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The first poem below is the class’s negation of Wallace Stevens’ “Anecdote of the Jar.” The second is a negation of Emily Dickenson’s “[The Brain–is wider than the Sky–].” Both poems in their entirety were decided upon by the class calling out suggestions which I then weighed as either being the most “interesting” or popular suggestions.

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Novel of Many Cans

for Wally

You retained many cans in Australia,
And square they weren’t, beneath the lake.
They destroyed the prissy palace
Lonely by the lake.

The palace sank down into it,
Poised, increasingly tame.
The cans weren’t square above the sky,
Stout and of a parking garage below the ground.

They left things well alone.
The cans were purple and gaudy.
They smelled of tuna and the beach,
Just like everything else in Australia.

[The Viscera ++ are narrower than the Ocean ++]

for Emily

The Viscera ++ are narrower than the Ocean ++
Then ++ moved them further apart ++
The many the all will exclude
With tension ++ and Eric ++ inside ++

The Viscera is shallower than the sky ++
Against ++ Release you ++ Green for Green ++
The two the same will reject ++
As Granite ++ Netting ++ doesn’t ++

The Viscera is heavier than the Devil ++
As ++ Light as ++ Dollar for Dollar ++
And we will share ++ and they won’t ++
As Multisyllabic Word from Silence ++

Collaboratively composed in class by members of ENGL 237 – 002, Purdue University

Dec. 6, 2010

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Novel of Many Cans is one of my favorite titles, I think I’ll steal it! It also has a better ending than I’ve ever written on my own. (How long has it been since I wrote something “on my own” anyways?)

Along with some of my standard writing/reading/wreading activities I might modify the collaborative writing Bernstein describes to suit my own purposes. I’ve got two projects in mind already: one is based on description and another on definition. Perhaps a third can be on subversion? They’ll each contribute a sentence a class day to any text and, by the end of the semester, we’ll have a book length collaboration, or maybe a chapbook that I can try to publish. Wouldn’t that be cool!

It’s been a rough year for me. Fifteen months now of lower back problems and sciatica have dealt a serious blow to the amount of time and energy I could devote to writing, reading and thinking about poetry, being a practicing Buddhist, a dutiful husband. This blog has suffered much from my health problems, probably more than anything else, but it’s time for me to get back to work here.

What is the work of Poembassy Bombing? To figure out what it means to be a Mother Fucking Amateur (MFA 2009) and whether this is a term to embrace or run from in shame.

What do I mean by Mother Fucking Amateur? It is the best description I have for how I have felt since I completed my MFA program in 2009. So I have this degree now and a documented (and lived) institutional educational experience. I am a pedigreed “creative writer.” So how I do I become a poet, one of the same ability and impact as those I most respect: Stein, Mac Low, Koch, Silliman, Scalapino, Mohammad, Hejinian? I had a terminal degree and the feeling that I had not even started. This is when I first felt like a mother fucking amateur.

Add to this my health issues. However clear my sense of purpose or direction may have been 16 months ago (and trust me, it was not all that clear, all though it seems otherwise now) things have changed. The Buddhism that inspired my previous title (what light already light) is no longer as solid in my mind and life as it was, partly due to my physical inability to properly practice meditation and partly due to the ideas of Stephen Batchelor (Buddhism Without Beliefs) and Slavoj Zizek. Zizek’s ideological critiques of Western Buddhism particulary, although I find them problematic (I’ll blog on this later for sure), have made me suspicious of my own motivations and desires concerning my adopted religion/philosophy. My infant poetics and aesthetic sense have also fallen into troubling times, and I find myself really needing to read, discuss and come to new and more informed conclusions about the avant-garde ideas that have been somewhere behind my decisions about my writing since I first started down that road six years ago in grad school.

There is a lot that I need to learn about poetry, and I need to develop my own approach to understanding the art and writing about it in addition to my ongoing attempts at practicing it. I’m using the blog to this end for now.

Upcoming projects on the blog:

  • Reading through all of the original L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E issues (@ Eclipse) and reflecting on the relevance and impact of the aesthetics and practice recorded there. I’ve been reading Bernstein’s early essays from Content’s Dream, and I want to get deeper into the writing and ideas of that formative period of the Language School, which has produced some of my favorite poetry of the 20th century.
  • A discussion of Zizek’s critique of Western Buddhism and the impact it has had on how I think about my Buddhist practice. I’m a huge fan of Zizek. I take his criticisms very seriously and think there is a lot to how he problematizes Buddhism for Western practitioners.
  • Thoughts on the writings of Leslie Scalapino. Her last two books and the recent release of the update How Phenomena Appear to Unfold have only furthered my interest in her work. I group her with Mac Low and Stein as an unabashedly eccentric, free and original thinker about what poetry is capable of. Once you can understand her prose style–the density of the ideas and the quirky use of language–there is a lot to experience that is new and strange.
  • How my further use of Creative Wreading (ala Charles Bernstein) works out with my Introduction to Poetry class this fall semester.
  • Other things I’m sure.

Well, my wife and I are in Saint Lucia for the month of May visiting her family, taking buses around the island, and regularly visiting the beaches. I learned my lesson with the sun the last two times I came, so I’m managed a tan with minimal burning so far :>

I’ve adjusted well to the climate this time around, and the mosquitoes are kept away at night by coconut oil (it works somehow) and a mosquito net over the bed. I may be living here in two years or so, so it’s good that I know I can deal with these issues. I’m learning a bit of Kweyol, too, and should problem take some lessons in French while I’m at it.

I haven’t taken many photos yet, but here are the best of what I’ve got so far.

These first two are shots of Kay’s parent’s home up Monier, Gros Islet (halfway up what they call “hills” here, but seem more like small mountains to me):

Here’s the harbor in the main city, Castries:

Some ships near Rodney Bay (the Ramp):

The waves lapping the beach (was going to make an animated gif, but I’m feeling lazy):

A view down to the sea off of Morne Fortune (I think there’s some Sandal’s resort with a golf course in the shot there):

@ Fence Books

My pain-&-disenchantment-fueled review of Nick Demske’s first book, Nick Demske, is out in print in the latest Sycamore Review 23.1. Wish it was posted up online, but the best I can do is an excerpt:

Nick Demske, I am erecting a solid bronze monument to this work, devised with warlock magic and prescription medications: a gate in the style of Dante’s Gate of Hell, wrought from the negative energies that hang in cartoon clouds above our heads. I have harnessed the anger of the millions foreclosed upon since 2008; the terror and rage of all whose family members have been shot, bombed or otherwise murdered in armed conflicts over markets, contracts or resources; the depression and anxiety of a population trapped in a bankrupt system of increasing productivity and dwindling prosperity; and the resentment and violence fed by the yawning chasm between rich and poor. The inscription on the gate reads: WHEN I SAY POST-APOCALYPTIC, I MEAN “CONTEMPORARY.”

I really got off on this tongue-in-cheek(s) work of irreverence and offensiveness. If you’re not familiar with Nick Demske’s online journal Boo: A Journal of Terrific Things, you should go read it. Then get a copy of the book.

And hey, Nick, if you read this post, I’m still waiting to hear back about my submissions. It’s been, like, six months now. Is there going to be an Issue 3? Don’t misunderstand me, I know how busy things get, but I about shit my pants for joy when I saw a journal asking for what seemed to be exactly what I had been writing for over a year. A journal of offensive things is something this country really needs. And a museum and cable television network of truly offensive things, in addition to the offensively stupid things already out there.

Alright.

Said of WikiLeaks: “Could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.” – Time Magazine

Now its a poetic tool too. Over at Gnoetry Daily, Eric Elshtain has initiated the GnoetryLeaks series, what could amount to the most transparent poetry series of all time, using individual leaked U.S. embassy cables from Cablegate @ WikiLeaks as source texts. I’ve joined the project now, and soon we plan to collaborate on several pieces Gnoetry-renga style.

It’s all so exciting!

Read the series so far: GnoetryLeaks @ Gnoetry Daily

The semester is all but over here, so I’m crawling out of my hermit cave little by little. I’ve been a moral supporter of Wikileaks since I heard of it several years ago, and this sentiment has only increased since the Afghan and Iraq releases earlier this year. Now I have to keep checking the new cables leaked every day at the Guardian in the UK in addition to keeping up with that and other news on Democracy Now. Here’s the Guardian’s US embassy cables page, if you’re curious too.

Just an opinion on the whole Assange arrest thing: it seems to be mostly a ploy to distract from the real issue of Wikileaks and its mission, but I think it’s more important to focus on the continuing leaks and their impact on the continuation of global business-politics as usual. With or without Assange, I think Wikileaks will be just fine. But then, who knows anything for sure. I don’t.