Monday, February 27, 2006

Hi, Standard Schaefer here. Don’t know all of you too well and some not at all, but Laura invited me to blog with you guys. I’ve been thinking of Laura’s use of the “a tonalist” group. I like it. I like the idea of literary groups that don’t neccessarily become brands, that can’t really become brands because there’s nothing really at stake in “a tonalism,” no territory to claim. I’m actually pretty blog averse. I think they’ve created a level of visibility for certain poetries that leads rather intractably toward the super-jokey and exhibitionism. And while I do like to write quite silly things from time to time, it’s not where my heart is at most of the time or what I really seek out when I read poetry.

Anyway I’ve attached an excerpt from a book length manuscript I’ve written. It’s largely a response to the work of poet Dennis Phillips but happens to have been written while I was thinking about Laura’s work, and what I think she calls “lyrical correspondence” (though now I’m wondering if I didn’t encounter the phrase in Rob Kaufman’s essays). At any rate I’m offering it as an introduction to me and to what I’ve been thinking of as “a tonalism” at least for me personally.


My companion in the skies of death, a cuckoo…

A picture is formed of pictures smaller than the eye
and behaving as if

Belief is required

Thumps of shadow cancel the flim-flam

The hurly-burly of the surface faces its slit
and finds another surface
fastened to the hips of signals fading

A boy with a bat swings at a clump of shade.

And eye to eye with the rooster’s absence
receptors steady back to blare

Half the lake beneath the bottomless
against the high end of beyond
with its pineal accompaniments
an explosion of single events
nouns as huge as them rare surprises

A lyrical correspondence
carries the echo past the boundary stones


In my understanding of purgatory, it is filled with all the books you were not aware of.

There is primarily looking.

This is what brings on the talons. Ascension perhaps follows.

It is a place where dead writers from different eras go to correspond.

The clock works one bird at a time, swept out to sea—a parabola
where romance had been bald appetite.

A form of information discredited through encroachment.

It was represented by the one small bird still in place, the one with the voice of the child found beneath the pattern of stars distinct to that end of the park.


Covered in a shallow sea, unfettered static

Wet shoes against a steel mirror

Purgatory’s perimeter is limbo’s palpitations.

Something more distant than the external world
or watching the film you receive your instructions.

Even bees have a code

What escapes are the edges and folds of the skin, actually just their twittering


But you persist— there is no skin, only scrolls,
and the light an atavism

Elegies breathe through the ears
and gradually a figure along the rim of some caldera

Whereupon the book fell to sleep and the glass eye on the mantel
wobbled the length and wave of the unseasonable center of the porch—

A raging stillness there.

And yet there is an amusing neutrality rampant among even the favored catastrophes.

Long enough to go unnoticed.


I was in a meadow, but it was made of cloud forms. There was a small sun without music. So it was early later crossing the hills waltzing the elements in that classical style of bees. But they weren’t bees. They were small suns. Things were slowing down. I was coming out of the bushes where I’d been curled up until there was suddenly too much light between the covers of the book I’d been reading in my sleep.

Left foot to left square, right to etcetera


There is a ceiling, but it is no guarantee of sleep

Whatever is etched is etched in the dark.
Powder is what’s left of the dark parts

Where it had been oceanic
It is now militant, flammable.

And what had been worth traveling at night
Is now a chore borne out in tactile qualities, irrecusable enigmas.

And by other words and other arrangements
Out of earshot the sun’s scars.

How waxy the rain is
Written in the long stalk.
Spun into thread.
Against the figurative and the abstract.


A bird’s wings turn into a letter.
The field is invaded by words.
Light is its gesture.
Time is what accounts for motion.
Propellers glom the skyline.
Ruins run through it.


They endeavor to build a conspiracy on an agreed to beforehand set of “no”s.

The buildings are brushed by soft flames, leaves fall.

There is talk of it all too often being a matter of degrees.

But we, said the hostess, are not against intellectuals.

We just favor the life of the mind.

No, that is incorrect.

We wish a rich inner life.

A conjugation of the body.

An abeyance delayed.

Until you’ve come to think as much, my task remains

Pleas and temperature, numbers and pleasures doled out and abandoned to your afflicted powers.

Pleats in the weakening place.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Last night, being Feburary of the 22nd, at Moe’s Books on Telegraph Ave. in the tent city of Berkeley, Geraldine Monk & Alan Halsey gave one of the more memorable poetry readings I can pull to mind. I’d even consider it one of a small handful in my poetry-reading-packed life that managed to engage and mesmerize from start to finish.

As likable as her poems are on the page, Geraldine’s Sheffield accent and world-weary resignation really seals the deal during the live version. Not just in the poems either, since she has all the energy and presence of a really fabulous stage performer, and her between-poem comments are provocative &/or hilarious down the line. Just a few of the many I might badly paraphrase: “Bloody hell! That’s my political comment for the night,” “Why am I reading this? Who wants to relive that? It was awful the first time around,” “Now I’m going to go have a cigarette and leave you in peace.” I feel like somewhere there is a gay community missing their diva.

It’s easy to see why Escafeld Hangings, which Geraldine read a lot from, comes with a CD where she performs the work--but that’s not to say the work isn’t smashing on the page. The attitude carries over and through and into the poems, with all their colloquial plays, their straining against the limitations of mute print, the assonance and typographic acrobatics. Some lines that have stayed with me: “many men / no fish,” “a city with no humor cannot be serious” and the rather spicerian “I walk through walls / I walk through walls / I walk through walls”…

Normally after being through a reading like that, it’s sort of over for me—I figure my limited attention is spent, and now somebody is supposed to follow? Unlikely. But Alan, in part because of his relative placidity, but mostly because of the fierce intellectual concentration and demand of his work, kept me present. In the car later on, David Brazil called Alan a “dictionary poet”--by which he means a poet who knows the full etymological significance, & often the social and political history, of each word and phrase used. His example was when Alan used the word distempered, which David had coincidently discovered that day to be related to a medieval theory of rising and falling blood, and then a line later Alan used the word “globin.” Whether David’s idea of this esoteric connection is right or not in this particular case hardly matters, because that’s still the kind of bookish depth you feel emanating from the work.

Alan read mostly from Marginalien, his recent & valuable selected. Did I say he has an English accent too? Well, like a lot of English, he does--not as pronounced as Geraldine’s, but sonorous, con gravitas. As the reading went on it was clear he has no lack of performative intensity & sense of aural architecture either. To me Alan’s work strives for a compression that I miss in a lot of contemporary American poets, who are maybe too afraid of being taken for modernists with such a tack? Anyways, I kept thinking “that’d make a great epigraph for somebody’s whole book,” then a few lines later I’d think, “well, that too,” and etc. etc. Some Halsey lines from the night still kicking around my mind: “sing or else,” “a passable order never quite / settles on the things men buy” and the terrifically succinct and perfectly current “the effect is energetic though the cause / is forgotten.” I also misheard his line “debt stifles debate” as “death stifles debate”—well, those’re both fine, but hey Alan, isn't mine swell too?

Last but not least: if anyone within the sound of this blog wishes to hear something extremely splendid, I hope they’ll find Alan and ask for an encore of his spirited reading of “Abiezer Coppe In Parenthesis.” A few bookstore shoppers came down the stairs during the reading of it, and truthfully I feared for them, for yea I saw the whiteness of their faces. While it’s a fragmented and paratactic poem Alan read it with a linear and discursive fire that an outsider could only have mistaken for madness. And it was madness, I felt. Part of a beautiful two-hour crack in rational time.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

'A shows
and reads
the words'

From Memory Screen, Alan Halsey

Attention Bay Areans

Geraldine Monk & Alan Halsey
read at Moe's Books
Tuesday February 21 at 7:30
2476 Telegraph Avenue Berkeley


Monk & Halsey also read
in the Mills Hall living room
Thursday February 23 at 7:30
Mills College in Oakland

Thursday, February 16, 2006

"The poem's concealed autobiography. A memoir of itself which is released as it becomes a presence existing in time." Barbara Guest, "Shifting Persona,"
Forces of the Imagination

Barbara Guest 1920-2006

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

As I was saying to Alli and Suzanne and Laura last Monday nite at Moe’s Books, the discussion about Duncan recently sent me down to my cellar to retrieve a barely legible xerox of a xerox of The Truth and Life of Myth, Duncan's “essay in essential autobiography” (his subtitle), something I had buried years ago. I remember straining to grasp its ideas in my early twenties, and my xerox copy bears all the marks of that effort, which I probably thought of as a rite. I wanted to apprentice myself to Duncan so badly back then and I must’ve read The Opening of the Field a hundred times when I was 22. It’s taken me a while to understand why Duncan was the first poet I read like that.

Spicer was barely a rumor to me then—somehow he’d been cast as the bad and hateful poet who wrecked things—and I hadn’t read a single poem of his. Even if I had, I’m sure I would have rejected him in the same way I had rejected the punk rockers in high school who disturbed the adolescent hippy thing I had going. As far as I was concerned, Duncan was pure and he wrote of the Source; Spicer was tainted, and could only contaminate it. (I often wonder what it would have been like to have made the passionate attachment to Spicer first…and in my fantasy, I actually imagine having been spared a lot of pain.)

No doubt I had deified the idea of Duncan’s “wisdom.” More importantly (I mean secretly and "essentially") I think I was nourishing myself on the chaste eroticism of the poems—so platonic, so virginal, they promised no need for fucking!—at least I read them that way because this corresponded with the only kind of erotic life I could imagine for myself then, I was so ashamed of my desire for boys. But my longing to access Duncan’s figure of “the dance”—whatever that might have meant—would soon begin to make me a little queasy, if not embarrassed.

It’s strange to realize now that my desired “apprenticeship” was motivated by shame, and my later abandonment of Duncan may have been similarly motivated. In any case, I knew at a certain point that I would have to move away from his poetry if I wanted to get beyond my own essentialized autobiographical rut. Hence, the basement, where I buried The Truth and Life of Myth.

But the repressed always returns, as it must if it’s to be transformed. And the material of this particular return—that of Duncan’s poetics—is startling me. This is something I hope I can share here soon in the way of a few notes I've been taking as I make my way back thru this book.

For now, I’m attaching a poem Laura asked me to post (for its A Tonalist stance?). After this recent reengagement with Duncan—thanks to the discussion here—I tagged the first piece of this sequence with an epigraph from “The Structure of Rime,” which has helped me to understand this project a little better.

* * *


Let me give you an illusion of not grieving.


[the place of future action
— being choked inside a tube]

being a question of place, and it always is—

so vehicular and roomy where my feet are
tanks arrived inside this way of picturing
tall things go on lurching — limbs macerate
in parks, counter the impossible tense

of our own white floors imputing unrelated
bodies extracted by the thousands, amassing
in a vault — margins being full-time occupation
these precedents bulk, our binding theme

occurs there being no such place as this at all
the imputation having been determined
so many erroneous self-images — skins
the hair and nails, our missing mortar shells

here we feel pressing — the loss of woodland
‘scenery’ sinking under national, our transmission goes

just bellies up and dies, goading future publics
modular blocks — becoming girders, building
frozen speech, unrecognized as the material
beneath which all the stone, the wall and white

spreading over something — under the influence of
let’s just say ‘the sum of human resources’
that gutted corpse uncounted, and being one among
these things careening into tall & standing others

now let’s fall-out into truth, lob anything that throws
the desiderata of remembering the present, or some
example of being — sampling my latex hose for pores
evidentiary leaks, where it all appears likeminded

to withstand so virulent a strain use knives & spoons
we stapled to our chests like armor, the sickly streams
all bleached, a shrill though fatal thud suppressed
a patch of hair or anything to stand on, standing in

— for or against, such breathtaking disproportion
— a sense of this can’t be gathered up in scales

and in all these faces, the stills turn dark side up
crushed to sand, the pink opaque erasing every sign

of local need, the question of place remains beyond
recognition — there being no foundation for the thing
to come, flooding tens of thousands, respectable merchants
all doing capital business when the awful news dissolves

exchange, alluvial folds, our degraded interiors
— shaping mutual alleviation, strains of want

diminishing, what you hear is the erosion
— of sound, this decay of tone

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I wrote this report on the Tookie Williams execution back in December, but didn't really know what to do with it. Andrew's report on the Bush protests, and also the thoughts here about Duncan and the intersection of poetry and politics, brought it back to mind, so it feels proper to post it here. Hope it relates &/or interests. --Brent.

++ Killing Stanley Tookie Williams ++

A little after 9pm, December 12, 2005, I was reading online about the approaching execution of Stanley Tookie Williams. I felt unable to concentrate knowing the minutes of a person’s life were ticking down, and not so very far away. At that point the news sites said less than 200 people were in front of San Quentin protesting and holding a vigil.

Out of a desire to be among a few other people who felt the same sadness, incomprehension and anger at the turn of events, I got in my car and drove over the Richmond bridge and took the San Quentin offramp. I arrived about 10:30pm. Police officers were directing traffic, and I was surprised to see lots of people walking up the road that leads to the east entrance of the prison. The national news later guessed more than 1,000 people showed up, while guessed 2,000 or more.

Along with many other cars I drove in the direction the people were coming from. I followed a steady stream of people for about two miles before reaching an area with auto malls and a Home Depot and available parking spaces. Naturally the prison is not set up with parking lots for mass arrival of protesters. I parked in the lot of a dentist’s office. It was a long, cold walk, but there were many others with me, some with candles, generally quiet. Three or four helicopters were flying overhead. It was possible to see the yellowish towers and walls of the prison over the hill.

Most people were going towards the prison, but a scattering were leaving. A woman came alongside me and asked “Why are people going in the other direction? It’s not until 12:01 right?” I said I thought that, yes, the execution was scheduled for 12:01, but that perhaps they were protesting all day or just had to leave for some reason. I pointed out that it wasn’t like a concert that started at a certain time. I said it kindly, but I was already noticing the way the scene did have a lot in common with a concert: late night, specific start time, streams of people, parking issues, cops directing traffic, crowd control, etc. The woman ended up stopping someone and asking why they were going in the other direction. “Because we’re leaving,” they said. We walked on and she said, “Now I feel like an asshole."

The road to the east gate had eucalyptus trees on the left; beyond them was the bay, calm and dark. On the right of the road was a large hill. There were a few houses the last 200 yards before the gate of the prison, and their owners were out with flashlights, looking a bit nervous about the crowd. More and more people, some standing quietly in small groups, some sitting on the ground, more groups with candles. I passed the last cross-street, which goes up just a few hundred yards to the right. At the corner a large group had gathered around a man whom I later learned comes to all the executions. He is in favor of the executions, says he comes “to represent the victims”. His sign said something about biblical retribution, and he had a bullhorn and was shouting things about Williams burning in hell and all of the people at the vigil burning in hell. People were pressing in on him and shouting back at him aggressively.

I was still a hundred yards from the makeshift stage that they had set up not far from the gate. It wasn’t possible to go much farther forward because people were packed from one side of the street to the other.

Thus far I had felt like the whole thing was more circus-like than I had expected, and I had expected a circus. The media had trucks parked on both sides of the street. They had obviously rented out the houses of the residents in some cases. Media people were inside people’s living rooms with small television screens and impromptu command centers. Many folks with news cameras were weaving through the crowd. To me the camera operators seemed to have a marked preference for footage of African Americans, especially if they seemed to be crying or praying. Later I watched one very weepy black woman whose friends asked no less than four camera people to stop filming her. I also saw a black woman on her knees praying and being swarmed by photographers.

On the way up the street I had kept an eye out for the two Los Angeles “shock jocks” who, according to SF Gate, had been broadcasting from near the gate and yelling things like “Kill Tookie” and creating a lot of anger from protesters, but I didn’t see them. After I had passed the religious zealot the people were quieter, but still it was a curious mix indeed. There were largely white Christian groups carrying thin crosses and signs that said things like “End state-sponsored death: no executions, no abortion, no war.” Up on one hill were about 30 anarchists in black sweatshirts waving a desecrated U.S. flag and holding signs about native american rights (they later started burning the flag briefly and this caused a vociferous argument in which their status as indigenous people came up a lot). Near the gate about 30 or 40 particularly energetic people, mostly younger black men, were standing on the top of a trailer. They later started a “Fuck the Police” chant. But by and large it was quite peaceful for so many people. When people realized they weren’t going to get much closer to the stage, they generally just stopped and stood around, looking a little dazed or sad. People had all kinds of digital cameras of course, along with the media cameras, and there was a lot of picture taking.

I ended up in front of a blue painted sign that said, “Arnold: Would You Put an Austrian To Death?” The word Austrian was the largest word on the banner. It was a large banner, and two women were holding it. After a few minutes one of them left, and the remaining woman looked directly at me and asked, “Can anybody help hold one end of this sign?” I can’t say I was quite on board for the sentiment, which seemed a little off somehow, but I agreed and ended up holding one end of the sign for awhile. The woman said, “Hold it tight so they can read it. I want the Austrian media to see it.”

I held it for awhile but felt increasingly strange about not quite getting it in some way (I actually think Arnold would put an Austrian to death, for instance). I finally gave back the pole to her and wished her luck, and went over and stood near a fellow tall guy at the edge of the street.

I was just close enough to hear bits of the speeches if the speakers were loud. It was a strange group of speakers and reinforced that sense that the “big tent” of the left leads to some odd bedfellowing. So one guy was up there and said “I’m a hip hop entertainer” and was promoting his web site, and saying that Tookie’s cause of redemption was also hip hop’s cause, which seemed an uncomfortable stretch to me and I think to others. Other people were trying to connect Tookie to causes like the war, which to me was sometimes done ok and other times seemed disturbingly grafted on. There were readings from Tookie’s children’s books but I couldn’t hear them very well. Actually the preachers were usually the best speakers: passionate but directed, eloquent, with a clear context, and practiced.

Along with the feeling I had that many of the speakers were not leading very well (in the sense that they couldn’t seem to get a sense of the crowd or really zero in on what needed to be said) there was also, I felt, a lack of cohesion about what to sing or chant, and perhaps about what kind of event it was in the first place. Natural for a diverse crowd, maybe. Joan Baez had been by and sang Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, and that seemed a choice everyone could relate to, and appropriate given what we had in front of us. But then there were the more religious people singing religious hymns that the non-religious didn’t seem to want any part of. There were many people singing John Lennon, especially Imagine, but that seemed kind of light and somehow far afield to me, and I got the sense that others were also wondering if it was due to the recent 25th anniversary of Lennon’s death or something. This added to my sense from previous participations, such as during marches against the Iraq war, that there is a protester culture that just goes from event to event and often doesn’t know what the event is. A few drummers were in the audience and they seemed well tolerated. One fellow was playing the saxophone, jazz riffs. For awhile there were a few people trying to get some hip hop sing-a-long thing going, not to much success as one might imagine. At one point a group of about 25 started singing, for some reason, Lean on Me, which caught on a bit, but then died when the full irrelevance of the lyrics became plain.

Of course there’s the question why sing at all, but many people did seem to feel that something along those lines should be enacted. Others, probably the majority, clearly felt silence was best. But the search for the right songs reinforced, for me, how splintered and without shared foundations our culture really is. Maybe that’s good in some ways. I found myself thinking a lot about the Irish and Black slave culture and other cultures with strong, clear traditions of ballads and shared songs.

When 12:01am rolled around everyone got very, very quiet. Tookie was not actually declared dead at 12:35am, but those near the gate, including me, didn’t even know for sure that the process had begun. The media people and some others had earphones presumably connected to some updates on the situation, but everyone else just stood there. Unlike a lot of other events, I noticed that no one seemed to ask one another questions of the “Do you know anything?” variety. A pallor of inevitability and pointlessness to such questions maybe. At 12:01 some blew out their candles, some cried. The only noise was the drummers, who didn’t pause or stop.

About a quarter past midnight an African American man, maybe in his late 20s, came pushing through the crowd with a few people behind him. Twenty feet from me he started yelling at the crowd and berating it. He kept yelling as he went down the street, for about five or six minutes. He was saying, “You bring your motherfucking candles? You come to watch a nigger die? Niggers is dying every damn day. Niggers dying in the ghetto every damn day. You know what? Fuck your pity. Fuck you motherfucking white liberals with your motherfucking candles. You want to see a nigger die? Come to the fucking ghetto. Come to the motherfucking ghetto then you’ll see. You white liberals are the same as Bush. You are Bush. You come here with your motherfucking candles? Fuck your motherfucking candles.”

No one said anything back to him. He went on and on. Honestly an incredible invective in terms of sustained energy. We could hear him still yelling some fifty yards past us. Once he had passed pretty much beyond earshot, a woman near me said to her friend, “You know, he’s right too.”

I don’t know if he is right, or if rightness is really the question. But certainly it affected me. It’s probably why I’m writing this now.

About 15 minutes after that, it must have been announced that Tookie was officially declared dead. People started to leave in very large numbers. Within ten minutes I was able to walk up to the stage fairly easily. There wasn’t much to see. A low police fence was set up about 100 feet from the actual gate of the prison. It looked like no one had crossed it. On the other side of the gate three men stood with their hands gently on the bars, looking out at the crowd, two in suits, one a guard. I noticed how many wires were on the ground, running from media trucks and crossing the street and everywhere. Lots of people must have been standing on them.

I started to walk back. At one point I stopped to watch a man give a report into a camera. The report was in Italian. I caught the names Sean Penn, Jesse Jackson, and Joan Baez. He stopped giving his report and he talked to the cameraman and a woman about deciding to come up, when he decided, what it’s like being based in L.A. He had a way of speaking that demonstrated great incisiveness of intelligence, great accuracy, and a lot of years of going to media events of this sort. I think he was American. If he was Italian his English was perfect.

On the long walk back to my car, the road passed near the freeway. A car on the freeway had pulled over, and some men had a sign they were holding out of the window, but I couldn’t read it. I later read on the news that pro-death penalty people mostly drove their cars on the freeway and held signs from there, rather than get near the crowds of protesters. I was walking in a group of about 15 people, and these guys were yelling down at us. They were saying, “Shave Tookie!” Maybe that’s what their sign said too. A lot of the signs at the protest had read Save Tookie. They said: “Shave Tookie. Get it? Save Tookie…Shave Tookie.” They laughed and kept yelling it.

It is my general position that nothing should be forbidden to humor. I’ll joke about things that are sacred, especially. I almost never feel any joke or topic should be off limits. Tookie had a pretty full beard. “Shave Tookie” isn’t all that bad of a pun. If it had been on the Daily Show I might have laughed. But: context. It wasn’t funny there. It wasn’t at all funny. I felt a lot of hatred for those guys.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

We revise the State

Suzanne Stein, Alli Warren & Laura Moriarty

"Here is the axiomatic triumverate of we revise the State starting in our own neurology:

First, that we can replace the either/or world with a both/and world.

Second, 'every intellect is capable of assuming every shape'

[omnis intellectus est omniformis]

Third, whatever the spirit can imagine, it can also realize"

From Suzanne Stein’s chapbook Tout va bien [Everything’s Fine], a print reproduction of a site-specific performance that took place on September 29, 2005, in the theater at New Langton Arts, San Francisco.

This quoting of Jean-Luc Godard -- referencing performance, demonstration and changing the world -- seems timely in relation to Andrew's post. The images, from Suzanne's collage of the movie in her performance & book, are strangely contemporary.

“What is art? Form becoming style. But the style is the man. Therefore art is the humanizing of forms.” The narrator comments in Two or Three Things I Know About Her (Godard, 1967).

I missed Suzanne's performance last fall, but the chapbook she put out was given to me recently by Alli Warren who was very enthusiastic about it. When I read it I was reminded of section of Duncan’s The Truth & Life of Myth I had just read so I typed the passage into an email and sent it to Suzanne and Alli.

Alli let me read your recent chapbook (which I liked a lot) and it made me think of something by Duncan I was reading recently. There seems to be a connection between this page of Tout va bien and the lines from Duncan I have typed in below -- though he wrote them almost 40 years ago. What is the nature (or source) of the commonality here I wonder? (Alli, do you have a thought about this as well?)

From Duncan:

It has never seemed to me that the true form of a poem was a convention or an ideal of form, but, as in life, a form having its information in the language of our human experience, as our bodies have their information in the life-code of the species, and our spirits in the creative will. The individual poem stirs in our minds, an event in our language, as the individual embryonic cell stirs in every area of my consciousness, for the DNA code it will use toward its incarnation is a code of resources my life pattern itself carries; not only thought and feeling but all the nervous and visceral and muscular intelligences of the body are moved. Awakening-- listening, seeing, sensing -- to work with the moving weights and durations of syllables, the equlibrations of patterns, the liberations of new possibilities of movement; to cooperate in the aroused process. Attending. From the first inspiration, breathing with the new breath. Man's myths move in his poetry as they move in his history, as in the morphology of his body all his ancient evolution is rehearsed and individualized; all of vetebrate imagination move to create itself anew in his spine..." Robert Duncan, The Truth & Life of Myth, 1968

Suzanne responded:

I didn't know this text by robert duncan, but I was reading a lot of him a few yrs ago & what especially made profound impact on me at that time is the way the structure of rime writings leap book to book--- I didn't much care & don't remember what they SAID---i was thinking a lot about what that leap did for the internal, 4-dimensional geometry or geology of the brain, thinking about it forwards & back in time & space [real, physical spatiality] btwn the books, both the writing of, the reading of,---I wonder if I can articulate that that time I started to think about the real, absent object & its real, present effect on the body thus the brain or vice-versa.[also, thus the spirit] is that present in those books? i'm forgetful of the specifics. Also because I have a long history thinking about the plastic arts, for example installation work in particular is relevant here; also my own sense of absolute space [for ex., i "could" rebuild the spd office exactly from memory---but text-less, i wouldn't remember titles of the books lying around unless i knew them already by size/color]; also the easy fact of architecture on the psychology, thus on the body, thus on the brain--- So, one part of thinking about this whole spatial 3-dimensional in writing, specifically poetry, was informed a little bit [or maybe a lot] by those 3 books of RD. I don't know the rest of his writing much at all.

the commonality, NATURE, and source of an a-literal connection to energetic sense of Duncan---ie, well beyond reading experience---would be first Norma---I don't think it's possible to be in contact of any kind w/ norma & fail to begin to have a sense of the possible arriving out of what is not possible. and also my friendship & long conversation w/ robert kocik, who probably was the person who gave me language to say what i already felt, that the impossibility or improbability of something is exactly what makes it possible & factual. I'm not sure if this is clear---I just mean that these are two people whose conversation & brains have had profound effect on the shape of mine, & they each had and have particular & intimate relationship to RD & his work…

the difference btwn my text & what duncan writes here is that he is speaking about experience or apprehension, and I am acting. Or, he is indicating; I am indicating and actualizing. perhaps just the simple difference btwn what manifests as "poetry" & what manifests as "prose".

"omnis intellectus et omniformis" is Pound/first canto; whatever the spirit can imagine it can also realize is perhaps out of yoga/ sanskrit, i don't know where, & the first demand is "my own"

i've written too much, i'm sorry. but of course this is also ridiculously abbreviated.


oh, PS---i was born in 1968, same yr Truth & Life of Myth, according to below, can we PLEASE not say 'almost 40 years ago'.....37 yrs ago....

It occurs to me (Laura) to say that Godard's Tout va bien, which came out in 1972, is part of the same revolutionary milieu that Duncan was writing out of -- a sensibility that is invoked by Andrew's observation of the affective intensities of recent events.

Alli responded to Suzanne’s book and to this exchange. The quoted lines are all from Suzanne's Stein's Tout va bien.

From Alli Warren:

We begin being with placement, a placing (situating) which is immediately (already) displaced, replaced, (re)produced. To imagine a world and thus a prosody which maneuvers with and acts out its body, the fact of our being cells.

Tout va bien with its stunning maxims and syllogisms, suggesting possible outcome(s?) at which we aim in our not aiming we. An axiom is self-aiming, aims at itself, our selves. So too actions and events such that any given outcome becomes a viable one – in as much as it can be imagined as imaginable.

To return is to begin, as we are in a both/and world. In which a mirror is a structure, a guide. To make the maxim incomprehensible by maps and charts. Offering roots and then severing them. Or, making them to break them. Severed, unfathomable and full of spirit.

To posit the impossible is to make it possible: “The only thing in the universe without form (structure) is poetry.” In that it is nothing but? Or malleable? I don’t know and love that I don’t. I want to talk about it with you and you and you, and in my own work, attaining the un-pin-downable. Creating and assuring an outcome in the claiming of it. The impossible claim as “world-actuating.” Or, comprehensible in its unbelievability.

I do not believe what is most real.

The unfathomable becomes real via the maneuver. The “psycho-surgical” (poetic) one. Bodies change in the writing of the happening of it. The enacted tracing of viability.

What is I (reader) made in the reading of we? – “we to you/ that’s/ I/ and I/ and I”. Which is what a maneuver aims at / for: “to fondle the aural possibility/ of naught/ anymore. Our dead / eye milkens,” where milk is to draw out or extract from, to bring what is inside outside, from destined placed to destined place. Origin and destination as exchangeable. What would monkeys think.

The chemistry of intervention. “I want / to help you—it hurts—I want to help you—” Even in not knowing the we, we know. In the uttering of an eye there is the other, its pair.

The faciality of address A face in a dress, it hurts. One addresses oneself, one dresses. One addresses all – the psycho-surgical maneuver. The faciality of prosody. As in ethics. (This) writing enacts an ethics – the imagining is the foundational act, the moral standard.

All a way of coming to a Praxis about which I’m (we’re?) not sure how to answer an Authority’s questions – Who What Where. But the Why? : “starting at the outcome, in order to get to fathoming of it.” But also Not, how could. In the writing and the reading, in the fathoming and the beginning: “branchless, rootless, flowering and leaving”

in order to get to the there there. To assume the form and to explode it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

In San Francisco’s Union Square last night, a crowd of about 3,000 people gathered to protest Bush’s State of the Union speech. After a slow start featuring the usual (albeit welcome and necessary) oppositional rhetoric, the event suddenly and unexpectedly caught fire, practically becoming a rave: against a live-TV projection of Bush’s speech, a group of taiko drummers hit the stage and led the crowd in a series of ecstatically angry chants, drowning out Bush’s words. Can we dance our way to revolution? That’s the way it felt last night. (For the finale, a giant effigy of Bush was toppled: the culmination of delight for this Blakean "devil’s party.") Indeed, this spontaneously appearing chaos-flower of the People’s affective intensities, tribally rhythmized into a frenzy of opposition, was all that a poetics of emergency might require. On the poetic front itself, some of these same intensities were palpable at 21 Grand in Oakland last Sunday, during the high-energy readings, interspersed with projected imagery and music, given by Brandon Downing and Bruce Andrews. On the lookout for signs of a cultural-historical phase transition, I point to these two events. The system is blinking red.