Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Two of the main resources available to the poet writing in meter are the tension between the line and the sentence (this is available to the poet writing in free verse, but what poet and critic John Hollander calls the metrical contract of, say, the iambic pentameter line foregrounds the reader’s expectations of the shape of the line and thus also foregrounds violations of those expectations and deviations from that shape), and the tension between the meter and the speech rhythm (this is a resource that is largely lost to the poet writing in free verse).

Reginald Shepherd on Shakespeare's Sonnet 129

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Saturday Night Main Event

John Giorno reads.

Monday, July 23, 2007

now playing: Rene Scheys

War Letters//Mechanical Translation

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Remember when the Republican-led Congress went on every television and radio program in outrage over the then Democratic minority's filibuster of Bush's 10 ultraconservative judicial nominees, and theatrened to use the nuclear option to remove the minority's right to fight against majority abuse? Remember Bill Frist and Tom Delay chanting "just let us vote!" over and over and over? Well, I remember that, and, well, ah, ahem...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saturday Night Main Event

A young Saul Williams, from the film Slam

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Why am I always the last to know...

...about things like The Nietzsche Family Circus?

"Whenever I climb I am followed by a dog called 'Ego'."

It randomly pairs a Family Circus cartoon (where I personally get all of my politics) with a quote from the works of Nietzsche. Awesome.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Dmitry Prigov, 1940-2007

Dmitry Prigov passed away this week. He's pretty unknown here, but very well known in Russia.

My favorite language geek has posted his own translations of a few poems.

By the way, quit fearing. We've got some great poems to show you, starting later this week. You're going to love this.

The mission stencil story

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Saturday Night Main Event

Anne Sexton reads "Her Kind."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Recommended Reading

Coctails -- Poems by D.A. Powell

D.A. Powell is a master of using overt sexuality to mask an even more masterful underlying subtext. It's amazing how someone can toy with language in such a way a refrain can seem present within a poem were words and phrases do not repeat. Coctails shows the mundane and shocking complexity of everyday for a gay man in a city of brick and blue collar. Whereas Tea was a eulogy, a book of AIDS and loss and the lives claimed, Coctails is its opposite, its Whitmanesque singing. His approach to the line as fresh as we've come to expect, a breath both extended and stuttered all at once. Powell is a poet of the body, both its gritty reality and its Platonic ideal. He juxtaposes the voice of the poem with outside voices, song lyrics, and the occasional clip from a John Waters film. Coctails becomes D.A. Powell's Song of Myself, the perfect end-stop to his trilogy in verse.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Beating A Dead Elephant

Regular readers of Idiolexicon know my grandfather raised me as a cross between an Franklin Roosevelt Democrat and a Teddy Roosevelt Republican. Regular readers also know I have a weird obsession with Sasquatch, but we'll get to that later. I was reading some of Dwight Eisehowers letters to his brother (I seriously do this, which I guess explains why I don't have a social life) during his Presidency and came across this gem. At the time he wrote it, he was a Republican, and considered a moderate. I know Eisenhower was far from perfect, but if a politician put this out today, they'd be labeled a "liberal wing nut" or some such thing, a far cry from the middle of the road it actually represents:

November 8, 1954
From a letter to Edgar Newton Eisenhower

"Now it is true that I believe this country is following a dangerous trend when it permits too great a degree of centralization of governmental functions. I oppose this--in some instances the fight is a rather desperate one. But to attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything--even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon "moderation" in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

-- Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States

Monday, July 09, 2007

Recommended Reading

Tonight's The Night -- Poems By Catherine Meng

Meng’s poetry is a work of research and collage, originality and history. A biography committed to music, and then back to the page. On the surface, her work seems to exist as fugue, imitative counterpoint, but a deeper meaning and music emerges as the line, breath, and constant refrain of "Tonight’s The Night” carry the movement forward into a place of grand collision.

Meng uses repetition as hook and line, as a bar and scale for language. Bach appears at first seemingly as himself, but soon becomes sign and symbol for Bach the artist and Bach the man, and eventually as fugue itself, a constant reminder of the falsehood inherent in the very fact of Bach.

The repetitive word beat and syllable flow serve to highlight the music and image of her poetry, especially as she moves from an extended breath across several lines, to something more Oppen, a tight snippet of thought stilting the breath and slowing the eye. As the fugue and collage dance and collide into something new, something wonderful happens within the poetry. The new language art becomes self aware, new life self referencing the music and narrative poetry of its own creation.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Reading in Berkeley tonight

Tonight, as in actually tonight. Saturday night.

In reverse alphabetical order:

Mike Young
Logan Ryan Smith
Elliot Harmon

Pegasus Books in Berkeley, 7:30 PM

Saturday Night Main Event

Jeffrey McDaniel reads "The Foxhole Manifesto."

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Grievences Against King George

On the way home from the cookout I was at last night, I got to thinking about America winning back the world hot dog-eating championship. I also got to thinking about the Declaration of Independence and the list of grievances against King George listed within it. I started mentally X-ing out 1776 and writing in 2007, to see how many of those reasons for revolution you could apply to our current regime in Washington. This blogs for you, America:

"The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury."

Off the top of my head, there were only three things the Declaration of Independence accused King George of, that George W. Bush and the Republican Party aren't also guilty of -- and those three things are explicitly prohibited by the Constitution. In linking Bush's parallels to King George, I didn't even get to touch on half the conspicuous things I heard today alone on news radio. While we grill and knock back a beer and two, we need to keep in mind the history that got us here, and to remember as Thomas Paine said, "The greatest tyrannies are always perpetrated in the name of the noblest causes," and as Thomas Jefferson did, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free ... it expects what never was and never will be."

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Special Comment

Happy Independence Day.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Recommended Reading

Bewitched Playground -- Poems by David Rivard

David Rivards's poems are wonderful dances between humor and sincerity, stark Emersonian observation, and tongue in cheek Schuyleresque introspection. He transforms the actual world into sign and symbol of itself. A woman or lamp is there in literal fact, but also sign for hundreds of different impressions and connotations. His thoughts are clear extended breaths, wrapping across several lines and waterfalling down the page, yet never meandering.

Bewitched Playground is a wonderfully American collection of verse. Rivard speaks to fatherhood, to Bob Dylan, to eulogy, to Sears and bottled water, to dozens of people in dozens of cultural settings, to the American landscape as it moves through the seasons. His voice is constant and quick, even as he moves across form and stanza, altering line structure and playing with modes. There is politic within the book, but it is subtextual, tied into indoor pools, boxing rings, and the scattering of children's bath toys.

Rivard may be guilty of occasionally dipping into sap or extended rhetoric, but who among us hasn't? Within the context of a northeastern poetics of fatherhood, it is seamless and funny. A quip about his wife's bumper sticker in one poem gives way to a philosophical extraction of Jung and gender the next. Rivard is Bruce Springstein at his best, and Frank O'Hara at his brightest. Rivard is the poet's cool uncle who plays guitar and seems to know something the other uncles don't, but he's not all smug about it.


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