Archive for 2010

Before The Move


27 Oct

This growl the fatherland we first stalked,
this scowl the mother lode we first imagined—
solid day duties hurried past gene-spotted nights.
            We did not invent this theme.

Film on the fives. Ancient mutterings slow to neutralize.

Hearing the herd, my dear, splashing past muddled urges. But death
in sacred surges singing its skilled and perfect pitch
the cold seize of an extinct sturgeon's Adriatic strain
spoiling the forgotten flesh inked in drama,
this drama of Bolington's wet stream.

Spoiled ugly miner's eye growing green, slowly gone...
The poet choked. The painting dried.

Against the gray ash folded hills his Virginia sky grew black,
chasing spit, there was nothing that lived that night that caught
that's it, so much as a breath of slack.

We reconcile the concept of withering time
racing faster in toil than we ever swore it to be,
against the yellow years of a faster tomorrow
no relic found can improve lost liberty.

[2010, Lovettsville, VA ]

Louis Zukofsky, Poet


24 Oct

Zukofsky

Poet Louis Zukofsky (1904-1978)

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Published on October 24, 2010

LOUIS ZUKOFSKY IS AN important American poet. Why? Because I said, so, naturally, and even though the bulk of this essay is snitched from other sources, I have split my sandwiches with this poet in question on many a toil. All italics mine. His book, A, dominated my thought back in the late 1980s, when I was still chasing a reason to be poet after already having written what I consider my best work, until I rode my elephant sling shot straight into punk rock, fickle women, and cheap booze, and friends who never knew where I was coming from much less where I was aiming to sink a mark, if any. This is my story.

The son of immigrant Russian Jews, he was born into the Jewish ghetto of the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1904. What a headstart he had. I was raised by intelligent but socially illiterate, lingusitically stunted, financially crippled parents with little historical awareness of places and predicaments in a tiny town in SE Georgia, and I don't mean the Caucasion state in Asia. Zukofsky's conception of himself as a poet was indebted to Kaballistic Judaism, with both its emphasis on the magically transforming power of language and its division of the world into a tiny circle of initiates and a great mass of ignorant outsiders.

If Zukofsky was a New York Jewish poet, responsive to the cacophonous voice of the cosmopolitan city and determined to find a place for himself in the world beyond the ghetto, I was the epitome of plain white bread sandwich Tom Sawyer—with the crusted edges still attached. Zukofsky's route out of his festering ghetto was poetry. Mine was the result of that ever diminishing highschool diploma and the vital scream for liberty and exile I found in the wet sack and subsequent scattering of seed called making my way into the world without a clue. Leaving home within a month following a pirate's blue and gold graduation, I soon married a woman twice my age, with three kids nearly my own age, and a religion I was never built to suffer. But suffer I did for three years almost to the day under the yoke of the Jehovah's Witnesses, once removed, and a family I was ill-prepared to feed, clothe, or diminish that ridiculous notion that shibboleth shell games were all that mattered in a book so heavily translated and re-translated that no pretty monkey could ever come clean with the notion of theological typing again. Anxious for something else altogether, I hungered after something of a higher or lower caliber; it didn't matter, so Jehovah God (her phrasing) and I parted company for those three years as I sunk into a calculated misery with an initial declination of 180.

Rather the objectivists wanted, as Zukofsky declared in his Poetry essay "Sincerity and Objectification," to see the "poem as object," calling attention to itself by, for example, deliberate syntactic fragmentation and by line breaks that disrupt normal speech rhythm.
In his brief Autobiography Zukofsky reported how he began to appropriate the heritage of Western literature, first in Yiddish and then in English: "My first exposure to letters at the age of four was thru the Yiddish theaters.... By the age of nine I had seen a good deal of Shakespeare, Ibsen, Strindberg and Tolstoy performed—all in Yiddish. Even Longfellow's Hiawatha was to begin with read by me in Yiddish, as was Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound.... By eleven I was writing poetry in English, as yet not 'American English.'"

At age sixteen, Zukofsky entered Columbia University, where he wrote for and helped edit various student literary magazines. He identified with the literary avant garde (as represented especially by James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and T.S. Eliot) that saw itself as an elite committed to a revolutionary assault upon a dead bourgeois culture.

Zukofsky's first major poetic work, "Poem Beginning 'The,'" written in 1926 and published in Exile in 1928, demonstrates his commitment to a modernist poetic. "The poem's obvious predecessor," said Barry Ahearn in Zukofsky's "A": An Introduction, "is T. S. Eliot's 'The Waste Land.' In an attempt to surpass Eliot, Zukofsky pushes formal details to an excessive, but liberating, limit." "Poem Beginning 'The'" cultivates a tone of Eliot-like irony, as the poet tries to mediate between the insistently alien, Jewish particulars of his experience and an aspiration toward a broader American, "English," vaguely Christian culture.

poet

Zukofsky, as usual

If "Poem Beginning 'The'" resonates with echoes of Eliot, Zukofsky soon abandoned Eliot for Ezra Pound, who was at once more approachable and more overpowering. Pound's warm response to "Poem Beginning 'The'" led to a flurry of letters between the two men, and Zukofsky eventually visited Pound at his home in Rapallo, Italy. Pound gave Zukofsky's poetic career an important boost by urging Poetry editor Harriet Monroe to appoint the young New Yorker as guest editor of a special issue devoted to new English and American poets.

For this Poetry issue Zukofsky invented the name "objectivists" to describe himself and the other poets—including Charles Reznikoff, George Oppen, Carl Rakosi, and Basil Bunting whose work he liked. (Zukofsky, however, never used the term "objectivism" and never claimed to be the leader of a movement named "objectivism.") Most of these objectivists also appeared in Zukofsky's An "Objectivists" Anthology, where they were joined by Pound and even Eliot.

The core group of Zukofsky, Reznikoff, Bunting, Oppen, Rakosi, and Niedecker eventually cohered into something approaching a movement, with Zukofsky established as both the principal theorist and—until World War II—the most diligent critic of and advocate for the poetry of his friends.

Objectivist verse owed a great deal to imagism. Indeed, in his preface to An "Objectivists" Anthology Zukofsky quoted Pound's 1912 Imagist credo: "direct treatment of the 'thing' whether subjective or objective." But in two respects objectivist poetry went beyond imagism. First, unlike such imagists as Amy Lowell, most of the objectivists were unwilling to treat the poem simply as a transparent window through which one could perceive the objects of the world.

Rather the objectivists wanted, as Zukofsky declared in his Poetry essay "Sincerity and Objectification," to see the "poem as object," calling attention to itself by, for example, deliberate syntactic fragmentation and by line breaks that disrupt normal speech rhythm.

Second, following Pound's poetic practice of the 1920s, the objectivist poets were at least as much interested in historic particulars as they were in immediate sensory images. All the objectivists shared Pound's aspiration to create a "poem containing history"; and Pound's incorporation into his Cantos of various historic documents showed these poets a way of incorporating history into their poems without violating the principle of objectivity.

Read it all.

Centrist Yarn, Threatening Wintry Mix With Three Sticks, And Two Carrots


24 Oct

You bellow peace. I whisper war. You spit war. I mumble
peace. Is there REALLY any difference between your interpretation
of the less staggering conjugations of life, and mine?

This transmission is/was/will be interrupted
by Augustine's phlegm-covered book hurling
across the fuzzy horizon from where we stood,
starving, naked, hysterical, corner to corner,
nose to nose, sexual chunks in our well-picked pockets,
and I'm sure we lost a freckle or two banking the surprise
sunrise coasting along the tallest of the Yankee isles,
no man's land to thee.

All good I believe, I believe I think
this is the perilous spot, the one drop
where I lost him, or he lost me. Getting tossed
in the pronouns especially during a bumper crop
is such a sad waste of preventative vocabulary. All
the world's taking medicine to the next level,
or back to the previous stage. I knew better
before I knew good and well

what was the very best for the rest of us...

Communism versus Capitalism: haven't my wife
and I risked the bounty all so many times before,
decreed to charity in the dankest of times, worked
as the most generous of slaves when required
where required to snap the chains off ourselves,
others, and still, after still waters rose,
they receded like tsunami, while we struggle
gently to manifest to spotlight a simple life
without fear of collapse, I swoon al dente,
my central nervous system freakishly frazzled
down to the toes, right through to the freckled skin,
my skin electric, dry, unsuitable for
pickin' cotton or wearin' it.

There should be enough cheese and chocolate to go around.

Whom am I to pick winners and losers? Why should there
even be losers if there are no winners? I have
known many losers. Most have forgotten the sweat of the brow,
but few have ever worn a suit and tie for more than a day or two
in succession. Am I racist, sexist, populist, taking a job
from someone less qualified, less able, more needy,
half as lily but not nearly as dark as I am,
and is there any crossover effect
when I simply walk away and refuse
to take some pitiful but hardworking
wage slave's slot, and keep to myself
my own vision of things created
but unreceived?

Who owns the already money and how do I win some,
just enough, not a stick more, a zero sum, a river I swum—
an unabashed shame between God, the chastiser and myself? How do I win
without making a loser out of someone else? How do I lose
and thus pace the grace to transcend myself, a winner,
in zen mode as the ubiquitous Nazarene put it,
thus finally attaining...

the most unquestionable of statures?

Submarine munitions officer sunk the philosopher's horn
long ago knee deep in red soil, a lava flow. Nobody died,
but eventually a spoiler, the next generation died,
hanging their profits on a baseline thorn
called the Hitchens' apprehension,
a low rider he supplied
for those of us
quiet, alone, violently, or
painfully pleased, as we learned
that static heroes are not always
the best guide.

White Hat Way


24 Oct

pacing-victory

Victory Without Violence In Corpus Christi

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Maybe it's just the way we were brought up to respect the sacrifice our forefathers have made on our behalf in the service of liberty and freedom of conscience that I wouldn't change a word of the remark I recently came across. Fools, indeed. My friend and agile compatriot in the nascent anti-jihad resistance, young Chris Logan, made this churlish but spot on remark, "America, arming the Islamic world. Afghanistan, Bosnia, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, the Saudis, Turkey and Uzbekistan. At one time or another we have given, or are still giving these countries military aid. There are probably many more, but this is all being done on the hope that the "moderate" Islamic world rises up. We are led by fools."

True, as I say, fools indeed, but perhaps this is their white hat way of one day fighting a fair fight. Remember the old west movies where a gunslinger would toss a pistol at his next victim saying he could never shoot an unarmed man. Not that I agree with this policy of arming the whole damned world, Chris, just making a sarcastic observation.

The Premise


24 Oct

Project Scenewash has been heard to decree
the awful battleground where art and politics plea,
beat and battered each other up, none to agree,
and few are they who seemed the wiser...

Painting the fabric civilization vain
must wear to spare itself the critical pain
crude slavery unjust must follow
profane, the closed closet eye
torn against brash sky too soon
no rain, this wrecking ball
heart next to nix over noon
a vanishing dead stain,
the wretched call sign
of the blood red moon...

and that, of course,
is a course made plain,
fussy labors in vain no single man
can reign, by every account his plan
suffers the curse, his hopes lost too,
to the shallow gray range,
the eagle, the lion,
the bitter cold change.

SAMPLEX Originalis


17 Oct

dancemaid

"Dancemaid" by Gabriel Thy

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SAMPLEX IS THE NAME of the street zine I created and distributed among a certain fan base of Washington DC provocateurs and poseurs in the region's seminal punk and harDCore music scene of 1984-1985. This ludicrous body of half-wit scoundrels, pontificants and prevaricators worked the clubs between Seventh & E Streets and Ninth Street, from "d.c. space" to the "9:30 Club" where fame was chased and fame was made. The 'zine ran eight issues, individually themed, issues which were filled not with the usual confabulated local band lore and raw music sycophancy, but WS Burroughs-inspired cut-ups and collage, cartoons, and other riffs and ripoffs mostly poking fun at the scene itself right from the center of all its purported mayhem, and only the occasional invented or imaginary interview. Each issue consisted of 8-12 pages of tri-folded & heavily stapled panels printed on both sides of 8.5"x14" paper, and xeroxed wherever I could "borrow" a copying machine to print out 50-100 copies each issue. That's a lot of FREE or nearly free xeroxing.

This SAMPLEX blog is in honor of those earliest days of brutal self-punishing self-publishing. New stripes, but the sound, the fury, the beat go on...

PS: Look for reproductions of some of the original SAMPLEX pages here, later, as we post them.

The Critique


17 Oct

experience

Experience

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THAT'S A KEEN INSIGHT into the poetics of good metaphor, Paige, by insisting the "tree" is neither happy" or "unhappy", but rather merely exists within the framework of its own inanimate kind.

However, as if I were Ezra Pound dancing with a pronoun and you were Thomas Sterns Eliot sipping a cup of Earl Grey, might I suggest, without airs but in an uncompetitive spirit of respect, changing the rather inactive choice of "Withstanding" which is repetitive of the earlier uses of "standing" to the deeper, richer word "weathering the elements" if the poet's style insists upon a common vernacular. And in that sense, one might also write:

              Yet there it still stands
              Rain or shine, sheet or snow,
              an ornament to the elements.

Or better yet, a rebuke to the elements:

              Yet there it still stands
              Rain or shine, sheet, or snow
              a rebuke to the elements.

Thus avoiding a third usage of "stand" in so few syllables. And adds a function to the existence of the tree.

But it's a wonderful poem, Paige. Just take my comments as a persnickety old poet who himself is constantly seeking a more compelling poetics from which to put matters that strike a chord in himself, or better yet, in others, as well.

The tree, a noun, of course, is a living thing, unlike a firelog, so a better choice of words than "inanimate" would have served the argument better, but sense the difference between using an adjective like "happy" or "unhappy" and the device of the active verb "rebuke" to better reflect the context of the "thing" in its apparently subdued and hampered existence.

Gabriel

Let's Not Get Carried Away


01 Sep

I enter this tent
baring arms to the thief,
charting threads representing fresh marks of superiority,
a knotty fugitive, sparing no friend, no city,
nosing for booty, until its nose is bent.

Gritty bitter but better nerves down,
this soldier grows bolder whisper by whisper,
proving with scientific uncertainty,
this early 21st Century gown,
unravels from his master's spool,
a dark-eyed blue clown.

Obama the handpicked emperor,
wobbling village sector nefarious
smudges past ink spillage of his own 1980s
still feeling like yesterday will never arrive.

Ignoring the Reagan Years
except when hurling rocks against them
clowns, one show at a time, the Baltic seasons
drew nexus from the hidden years themselves
bunched among hallowed groundswells
of odd manners
like putrid oranges on dirty carpets
sickly sweet among the street gross
standards of contemporary
inspection and high alert.

Fortunately, this old branding
knuckled us the gist and viscera
to strike through any earlier bromide kills
the long dead rope of imagination collapsing
youthful nights churning on digital promise
sealed haircut pretense looking for the quick thrill,
that ample insight, this sudden urge.

Live not a judgement call, but a hard fast slider
licking the dusty ranges of home plate,
we, swinging for the fences
(those few of us who had both
earned the right
and still revered the mighty
and ubiquitous American sports metaphor
generally missing among the tragically hip).

Damn that! Yes Almighty, we the poseurs.
cheering art world outliers. Punk of the year,
bored, drunk, fagged, foul, frank and disorderly,
many of us by nature, others by chance, a few
by intelligent design. We had copped
to the idea that we were nothing
but youth wasting on the bones
of youth. Many would perish
like cunning sundown poets
hurling soup kitchen lines
past the eager and the vaguely forewarned.

Nothing is more rooted in uncertainty
than the brash certainty of youth. Torn oscillating spirit
between nature and nurture, the driven scorn
and the sluggard worn, we dare now, after all
these scantily clad years to remember, not
that we ever forgot, but that we were born,
as generations are born, to stride onward
synthetic, owning the lucid task,
framing imperfect the flaccid context,
alienation the fallen piazza.

Flower power and victimology 101,
the vain hope, the crude struggles for distinction
generating enough peer memory to matter
somewhere somehow something like that
because precisely one proud
and princely thing was certain (recalling our
prior words just now) back then, and that was
we knew we had our bright eyes sullen
and our frank fists founded
on some fair future with all its revelations
ripened to emerge.
And in these trenches
where junior jackboots coughing
and lacy fetish brassieres bumping begged to differ,
on our tongues the frequent riddle
of turnabout is fair play, we also spoke
to a society still girded and burdened in spades.
The poem, the street sheet, an army of one
to come. First bounce in black magic
marker calligraphy on pink
bathroom wall
in Corpus Christi, Tay Hass, we
again whistled a sudden work of literature
within days of that fog-inspired scrawling.

A broken beast, velocity learned,
alternate receiver comes limping but dangerous
into our ancillary cage snapping all records
for glory and shame. Such was and is still
my quantum luck with immutable timing.

[ 2010, Washington DC ]

Everyone Needs To Think, So Why Snip Off


27 May

bow

Body of Workers

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On 27 May 2010, at 09:33, Billy Asperger wrote:

I follow you regarding the craps hinted in the previous message. It's true that "you can lead todays lefties around by their dreadlock hair-extensions with the smallest tug". But at the same time we easily can admit that most of the people (doesn't matter whether they are lefties or whatever) really don't give a damn about the revolution a bunch of US had been theorizing (here or there).

I think what disconcerts me about the statement above is that it seems to take for granted a division between those who can "theorize" and the working class. If you are feeling a gap it isn't an intelligence gap it's a class gap; it's not about support for radical change it's over trust and sincerity in those who claim to know better what is good and bad and their good intentions to realize it. It's not because ordinary people do not or can not understand the workings and evils of the system it's because they know them much better: "intellectuals" more than often lack real knowledge of just what it is like to be born into trapped, exploited, cheated and abused neighbourhoods.

I'm working class and all the people I work with are working class (in fact at the moment every last one of them is black working class) and I can tell you a clear and certain fact—that I have heard more genuine insight, shrewdness and sincerity from the mouths of common people than from the pens of middle class and academic "vanguards of the working class", or from the white-people-with-dreadlocks brigade who are rooted nowhere and ultimately committed to nothing as a result.

But there is nothing wrong or pointless about "theorizing", though it's a word I do not find helpful. Discussion ought to take place to try and deepen understanding of how everything works. Those who can do it should do it—and take a clearer perception of conditions back to the communities in which they live and work. Everyone needs to think, so why snip off the activity of thinking, call it theorizing and divorce it ideologically and socially from its application in daily life?

I need to add though that not a lot of what takes place on lists like this, or seminars in colleges or in all the other supposedly intellectual theatres where this "theorization" is supposedly taking place...is anything of the kind. On the contrary it seems to be a battleground where people hone and refine the very things they claim to be against; find new excuses to obscure the truth and divert others from coalescing around it. It is class war over the spectacle. It would be nice to have genuine discussion once in a while but in the absence of true common roots or listserv mediation it isn't very common.

Asperger: "People are enchanted and mesmerized by "the apparent" of the spectacle and that fucking pseudo(?) "objectivity" is good and is enough from their point of view. They feel comfortable being trapped inside the great show of appealing-consuming-producing-exploiting and so on. The spectacular society is reassuring for their simple and mechanical minds."

I can't begin to tell you just how condescending and spectacular a cliché that is. Instead I'll say something potentially more interesting. Human existence is existential: there must be something to fill the void and to structure everyday life, and there must be an ideological framework, a worldview, only within which all words, phenomena, values and beliefs acquire a place and a meaning and a value. Worldview, and all the habits that stream forth from it, is as fundamental and material a necessity as food water and air. It's the way we are made.
Therefore ultimately there is no complete distinction possible between what is spectacle and what is situation; or what is recuperation and what is detournement and so on. There are only inherited models from which to construct models. Very little truth, if any, is ahistorical; all ideas, appearances, meanings and values must exist in a perpetual war over ideas, appearances, meanings and values.

What is eternal is the wisdom of good conduct—of seeing and revealing the truth in all its partiality, of understanding the common interest of fairness and distributing needs and opportunities with equity. What is eternal also seems to be that which I call "original sin" -- the tendency to imitate and repeat evils and errors, to reiterate imperfect worlds from imperfect worlds; bad habits of mind and behaviour that not having been perceived for what they are cannot be rooted out: "karma". Thus life is not really composed of true and false images nor even right and wrong values so much as right and wrong choices. From the existential point of view, to be free means to be condemned to choose between the good and the evil within alternative possible actions—endlessly. No wonder they fall back into the provided routines, spectacles and social clichés: it is so much easier to have something that tells you what to do than to have to face each and every moment in a cosmic abyss of uncertainty.

And these "theorizations" you're referring to are simultaneously an attempt to defend an Ideology of distorted self-serving de/perceptions at war with the attempt to add and revise it with new understandings of the truth. The fact is, the "Left" (whose name itself is as spectacular a piece of nonsense as you could ever hope for) has been struggling with the contradiction between its moral outrage for the world's underdogs and the fact that the underdogs will not meekly back them up in return ever since it robbed the working class of its politics, at about the same time it started robbing rastafarians of their hair-dos, the genuinely homeless of their squatters movements and so on. All the class rhetoric and fashionware and shrunken heads by which today's radicals identify themselves have been stolen from somebody else—as if by possessing their tattoos and music, hairstyles and footwear you could somehow take power over their souls and legitimize yourselves.

But white men can't sing the blues.

k

S A M P L E X

"Ignorance and virtue suck on the same straw. Souls grow on bones, but die beneath bankers' hours.""


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