Tuesday, May 06, 2003

{Long Overdue}
S . A . T . U . R . D . A . Y NIGHT
at sixty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(for Dan Bouchard)

I spent Saturday afternoon grading utopian/dystopian fiction written by Gloucester High School juniors. (Some of it was quite good.) But as a result I missed the late morning and afternoon readings. All apologies to the readers. I have heard from the afternoon attendees that I missed some great stuff. Those same attendees plan to send me a few words about the Saturday Day readings. I'll post 'em as soon as I get 'em.
Nick Moudry, a resident {I've heard} of the sleepy west of the woody east, batted leadoff Saturday night. His poems reminded me of the exquisite corpses the staff of my college lit mag {Gangsters in Concrete} used to write at meetings. Nick's corpses were consistently more interesting though. Something conversational would be followed by something surreal. A $.50 word would be followed by "huh" or "ha ha". There were self-conscious moments like "Gee does that sound sappy/Yes it does." And elsewhere a few variations upon "I miss your pussy" (which I'd like to spell "I miss yr pussy"). Bric-a-brac like "high around 50" {weather} & Seinfeldian observations like "there's no market on Market Street" also found their way into these speech based corpses. Let it also be said that Nick's introduction was met with thunderous applause.

Christina Strong hit in the number two spot Saturday night. {I've always been partial to players who hit in this spot in the lineup. As a kid Marty Barrett, who played second & hit second, was my favorite on the Red Sox. #17 often finished high in the league in sacrifice bunts, a big plus for a player in the two spot.} I wrote so much about Xtina's reading I'm not sure where to begin. I know ... I'll begin with sincerity.

On Friday night, Jack Kimball commented on Mark Lamoureux's earnestness. From "earnestness" I began to think of something along the lines of the American Heritage definition "showing deep sincerity or seriousness". This got me thinking about Pound's gloss on the Chinese ideogram for sincerity : "the sun´s lance coming to rest on the precise spot verbally." This led me back to thinking about Mark's work in which there is play but a play that is never its own end. There is always--it seems to me--something he is trying to get at, a truth dare I say but one which is fleeting {arrived at but then moved away from}. This description is not completely satisfying (certainly not finished) but it recreates a bit of my thinking about "earnestness" and Mark's work. {For the sake of accuracy I should say that I believe Jack Kimball's comment to and about Mark was in reference to his reading style not his poetry.}

Back to Saturday night: When Christina read "I hate having to say what's true" and then "would it still survive irony or pretention [?]" My mind leapt back to the question of "earnestness" and "sincerity" in post-post-language/post-post-post-Black Mt.?/X Generation NY School work.

Christina's poem with the passage "we got knocked down to yellow" {as in "ELEVATED: Significant risk of terrorist attacks} "and I don't look good in yellow" seemed to offer an important critique of the current mitilarized-consumerist ethos in the US. The passage quoted is, of course, ironic but the effect of the irony heightens the power of the critique instead of diffusing it. Much contemporary irony--in poetry & out--tends to function as meiosis or "lessening" {see Gerrit Lansing's essay in A February Sheaf on Tom Clark's Olson biography The Allegory of a Poet's Life}. Meaning & critique are often undercut or lessened by irony: the ironic use of pop culture, the ironic juxtaposition of the banal & pseudo-sublime, the ironic juxtaposition of outrageous & boring statements, etc. I don't want to criticize what I don't understand, so I'd like to let the observation stand: irony & sincerity work in Christina's poems; there is an accumulation of sense, say, in her poems. But I'd also encourage other bloggers & emailists to take on the question of the meiotic function of irony in contemporary poetry & the culture at large. I'll keep at it too.

"Batting third, playing thirdbase, number three...Mitch Highfill...Mitch Highfill": Late Sunday morning while waiting for the readings to begin, I met Mitch in the smoker's courtyard just outside the reading room at MIT. After a time the conversation turned to poets we were surprised to either enjoy or learn something from. After Chris Rizzo brought up learning a bit of prosody from Auden after being forced to read W.H.A. {a member of Derek Walcott's pantheon} while at B.U., Mitch talked about reading & enjoying Auden's plays. I plan to dig in sometime this summer.

In his reading the night before Blaise Cendrars--far from Auden--seemed to be Mitch's muse. "War is the perfect shovel" is a sentence that stood out & demanded noting in the li'l green book. I was also interested in hearing some "flarf" poetry. Mitch obliged. The "flarf" work seemed to be of a kind with his presumably non-flarf work. The poems seemed interested in exploring different combinations of the evocative, the odd, & the cliched & in exploring different combinations of syntactical units. One wordstream from a non-flarf poem went "verb; adj-noun-verb; adj-noun; interjection," etc. {Halfway through the reading I became interested in recording the parts of speech rather than the words.}

Phrasing (as opposed to--or as a midpoint between {?}--both "feet" & "lineation") has been bouncing around in my head since reading Gerrit's essay (also from A February Sheaf) about translations of Nerval's Les Chimeres. Duncan's translations succeed on the level of the phrase. I could go on here about what Gerrit says about this and what I've thought about this (and have tried to do with this while translating Lorca's "Suite de los Espejos") but I'll leave the work (Nerval's Les Chimeres, Duncan's translations, and Gerrit's essay) to speak for itself. Just think "phrases" while rereading.

Tracey McTague batted clean up in the first superset Saturday evening. I found it interesting to hear Tracey's work after Mitch's because Tracey's strings of syntax and logic seemed a bit longer than Mitch's. {Is this a place for a meiotic [or tapinotic] joke to lessen [or demean] the seriousness of the observation? Doesn't the blog form nearly oblige me to joke--or to be aware of not joking--here. As you can tell I'm not very funny.} Memorable were punchlines such as "bad timing is everything" & the inverted "lockdown for the grid." Even more memorable was the language poem for her canines--"Come" "Go" "Give me that stick" etc.--that compelled Tracey's dog to meet Dan Bouchard, the same Dan Bouchard whose email compelled me to get back to posting on the blog.

Saturday night part two will have to wait until later. My bus is leaving in fifteen minutes & the Gloucester High School is about ten minutes from where I catch the bus.