Monday, March 27, 2006

Norma Cole

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A tonalist citings

“She plays a utopia” (Standard Schaefer, below) might exactly describe the isolate and yet universalist sensibility of California (and of a modern lyric sensibility?) that is less utopian than it is a utopian.

“Home is heaven is hell plain granite
and doused in circles” (same)

sounded familiar and sure enough turns out to have been written by oneself in the dark summer of 1993 after Jerry Estrin's death. Standard’s version is an interesting permutation of the actual lines from The Case:

“Plain granite
Hell is heaven is home”

Sung about, in and at the dark.

The first line of that poem, in fact that book, “These plant epiphanies” evokes Brian Spring’s Spider Wars in his blog Sorry Nature .

I found a vivid Peter Gizzi chapbook, A panic that can still come upon me, at the Ugly Ducking Presse table in Austin. Having mentioned Duncan to this inveterate Spicerian, I listened to him recite a litany of his own titles that had clearly come from the work of Robert Duncan.

“if speech can free us” (Peter Gizzi, A panic that can still come upon me)

Random encounter later in a cab with a person who turns out to be the friend of a long lost friend. He says

“We’ll meet again. I always meet people twice. That’s the way it is.”

Delighted, also in Austin, to be given theory of prepositions by its publisher Cole Swensen because I knew that recent & persistent a tonalist thinking would result in a new ability to appreciate this book by Claude Royet-Journoud translated by Keith Waldrop. And sure enough

“they are at war with the human” (Royet-Journoud, “birth of prepositions”)

reflects a very plain engagement of a lyric sensibility with politics

“it’s the dismemberment of a territory” (same)

For much more than I could say about this connection see Robert Kaufman's essay "Lyric Constellation, Poetry's Radical Privilege" in Modernist Cultures. In his initial comments about lyric constellation Kaufman writes:

"The point is not merely that art and aesthetic experience are productively brought together with the sociohistorical contexts or movements that illuminate them and that they in turn may help us freshly or more powerfully to register or comprehend. It is rather that constellation itself is an irreducibly aesthetic activity inconceivable without the generative experience of art and imagination and -- what amounts to the same thing -- incapable of taking place without this aesthetic infrastructure that enable us to begin pushing toward post-aesthetic, conceptual articulation of the not-yet-conceived (a not-yet-conceived by no means always utopian, perhaps not utopian at all in any substantive sense.)"

"history is on his lips" (Royet-Journoud, "WE WILL GO THERE, WHERE COMPASSION AND REGRET ARE DISPENSED," theory of prepostions)

An advantage of being a tonalist is that you don’t need to know you are one to be one. If you are not a tonalist you will simply tend to self-identify elsewhere. It is more of an disposition (dispensation?) than a criteria -- more constellative than categorical.

Friday, March 17, 2006

I'm knee deep in a long bio of Charles Darwin, and I keep a list of words as I go so I can pretend to be writing when I'm really around in "culturally situated" histories of science. Then I stack the words up and see what happens. What happens is some faintly a/tonalist notes, now a short series I'm calling ETCHINGS FOR ALLYSSA, for my friend Allyssa Wolf, who just moved here as did her friend Jon Leon, who happens to be a very good poet, for a young leather-jacket wearing punk...anyway, some etchings...

A dress notebook yellow
worn darkly

as she wears her saxophone
waist high enamel

She plays a utopia

a knotted abacus

pigment the impulse

real lethargy
of the sort that is magic

and respects

poised intentional

a hive of mercury
attracts air


Oceans go
down the stairs

Hips go
into hands

Steel climbs
the wind



Home is heaven is hell plain granite
and doused in circles

Proof is the shift, a curtain
some say of listeners
and liable not

Corridors as cosmopolitan
as wobbles in the stained chair

Numbers, metals, rooftops of ash

Dogs and air, leaps in the grass are my bookshelves

Flickers attend, clouds

This place and time
fog phones

the same

being the background, the shelves we share
whirling shadows

beneath our plant brains

Where we keep our tempers

things to say

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Tonalist Notes

Hi All:

I've been following the posts with great interest but haven't had time to post anything lately (Is being overworked A Tonalist?). But I wanted to share a short Bertol Brecht poem that I think belongs here:


In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing
About the dark times.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Norma Cole

Monday, March 13, 2006

Poet As Critic

That whole bat grackle Southern
Festival Gothic thing opens within

The hello festival hello I say and again hello
Look it's Batman as Robin!

Les sociétés de trois, de quatre et de cinq
The man with the many wives arrives

We part as if we are all married in fact
Error is personified in that poem

By that poet he swears
I don’t believe in coincidence she replies

The panel on flash mobs was well attended
But confusing I adore the outfit

By the way but I would never use
That line I keep telling you

The word franchise means nothing to me
In this context we are just friends

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Drawing by Norma Cole

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Group Formation

The Romantic Future

When do I write you ask
In the morning and again

At night when do you write?
Is the light involved at all

Or time as I have time we say
To right something or is nothing

Made to stand again by this action?
And is it the same nothing

You know when you have written or
When you act listening

Does the action stand for
A new you or new year

More abstract and younger than you
Or I appear as if

You were a man and I
A question posed between us

Were the weeds, flowers and low scrub
Of the bulb how would we

Write or would the words
Written or blood spilled

Rewrite the lines in our palms
Changing the present into something

We don’t believe in like Romantic Futurism
Or the palms and pampas grass

Of the punk pirate paradise
Going out into the bay

Articulated earlier as being
The state one is in when

Present in this geography
From the beginning Gotardo

Piazonni, Tonalist, was in touch
With F. T. Marinetti, Futurist

But chose to paint the plaster pillars
Of California and the moons

In his head made plain and
Flatly we are not there but here

At the corner of the table with the poets in a painting by Fantin-Latour, one of the Societe de Trois as he, Legros and Whistler called themselves. “Whistler, American,” Pound bragged. Rimbaud and Verlaine are in the picture. (It is an homage to Baudelaire). The postcard is faded from hanging in the sun in our living room until you died and I moved out. It is visible also in a photo of Wallace Berman in Semina Culture -- iconographic for an extended generation of writers and artists. One poet in the picture appears to be wearing the characteristic down jacket of the seventies. I knew him. Rimbaud looks out. Verlaine is in love, his forehead like a moon above his face. I see us in disguise or it's our fate I see.

Whistler as Pan by Beardsley
Also called Enigmatic Love

The eight or five or three who formed a like-minded group of artists banding together to generate sales were not seen at the time as a movement and can only be seen now as the imaginary community that it was. Unsatisfied personal desires and professional ambition were nothing to the nonconformist ideals and despair that characterized their lives. Here is Whistler draped over an expensive chair in his exquisite Bohemian costume. We picture him together. Or you alone. “I have no time for the possibilities of success.” Duncan wrote. “Each fulfillment precludes it.” ["From A Notebook," Fictive Certainties]

Snapping out of it
The room fills with air

Where we are present
It starts up again

This never being lucky
Except when we are

It is the one day of the year when we meet in the plaza of the little hill around the corner from the gun shop. Did I tell you I am from the country you are currently idealizing? It is busy here in the café. I remember what you will say in advance about the surface of the real. I started with the cards long ago.

They are virtual now
Like yourself at this moment

An egret fills the window
Of the sky with wings

An older lady with patterns
An umbrella with rain

That is me she says of the weather
The reader finds her place on the screen

When letters are exchanged
What happens is electric

The rain collects
The reader is also a collection

She thinks of you
When she thinks of me

Let him stand for anything
She says Let him go on

Laura Moriarty
from A Tonalist, the person, the manuscript, the movement.

The painting is Un coin de Table , 1872, by Henri Fantin-Latour.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Hey folks, I went to hear David Abel read at Blue Danube the other night, saw Andrew there. I think David is maybe an A Tonalist, too. Particularly, he writes as if "Every step's on someone buried" and knowledge of this culminates in "strata of disappearance" and seems interested in what I think of as notions of place as it corresponds to the music of a poem, or a sort of "world feeling," history or memory as a place where sort of transhuman psychology takes place.

Sunset makes the windows
music    lights the sequence
so    there is a code

and a precipice--
the basin is inviting
as on a holiday

history seems poetic
but sustaining--

a soapy taste on the tongue
independent of the music
or the prospect

Anyway, I didn't know David's work until then, but I'm becoming a fan of his BLACK VALENTINE. One thing that appeals to me is that it doesn't seem like a book written for a particular audience (not that such a thing is bad), but he doesn't seem to lament being trapped in particular language games or anything, but is more interested in moments when "objects have their/ edges again."

Another thought re: A Tonalism. I'm not sure if this is Laura's intention exactly, but I'm attracted to the idea of floating a name for a concept, say, a tonalism, and then using blog space to engage in talk & exchanges of work to discover whether the "name" can make affinities become visible in work that isn't necessarily written from within a particular community already. To me, I'm not really interesting in having a "brand" exactly, but in discovering whether or not something I'm doing is akin something an otherwise very different kind of writer is doing. It seem like such a project (really too strong a word) could make visible affinities while not glossing over or excluding difference. Well, I have more thoughts on what this might mean...but maybe I'll float them later.