Saturday, May 24, 2003

Another in an on-going series…
This was written ten days ago but I forgot to post it.

Sabado (el veinte seis de abril) por la noche

As with other readings over the course of the weekend at MIT, it took a few minutes & a few poems to begin to *hear* what was happening in Deirdre Kovac's poems. It was at some point in the middle of “” (or perhaps “Alt Dot Country”) that I began to hear. The poem was fluently alliterative & associative. {Quite a bit of what follows appeared earlier in the week in a different form.} Some months past Ron Silliman’s blog included an email from Chris Stroffolino in which Chris said/asked something about the equivalent of rock guitar in poetry.

I’m both dubious of & drawn to music analogies for poetry. Music is, after all, the upper limit—but a limit nevertheless. Onomatopoeia—“whambam” and “la-la-la” and “chitty-chitty-bang-bang” were found w/ in the stream of “”—isn’t quite what I’ve been thinking about as an equivalent of the zig-zag guitar but wrote something to that effect (or wrote the question) while listening to Deirdre Kovac's poems a few Saturdays back.

I’ve thought about the analogy since…I’m interested in the kind of kinetic-digressive rock guitar that seems to burst over a steady bass-drum beat, &, like a squirrel crossing the street, head this way then that—beautiful improvisational zig zag freak-out—before leaping on a tree & leaving only a shaking branch behind. Who among us poets—and poets of the past—has propulsive bass-drum & zig-zag guitar w/ perfect timing, knowing just when to have a go, make-a-break-for-it, rupturing (but also intensifying) sound & sense?

Bass-drum virtuosity is necessary. Guitar-hero shenanigans are counter-productive to such a poetry project. (In fact keys and/or vocals sometimes achieve a similar effect.) Caveat: For God’s sake don’t forsake the driving beat when seeking guitar-vocal-keyboard intensification. No one will be able to hear it. Without the “rock” it’d just sound like noise! W/o percussive propulsion it’ll just be noodling. Don’t noodle. Rock & write when no other act is possible (cf Creeley). And whatever you do as you zag across the street, don’t turn around to tell the on-rushing car that you won the 1992 Mr. Silver Lake Talent Show for your rendition of “Silent Lucidity.”

{Added 5/24: Phrases from Kovac more like zig-zag guitar: “soda jerk this,” “switch and sin like me,” “local lawman gags on ‘Nam.” I also wrote admiringly that Kovac wrote “fluent” poetry that was also capable of “slog[ging]” along when needed. To recreate the effect extralinguistically, I might go sit by the Annisquam River on this windy fifty degree day after throwing back some Nyquil. I’ll hunt down some of her poems instead… Found “Red Hook” in Pressed Wafer 2. Had a different effect. Versatility.}

Douglas Rothchild closed out Saturday’s bill by attempting to bring the Zinc Bar (NYC) to Boston. In his verbal recreation of the Zinc Bar both inside & out, I played the taxi cabs.


Recently, Douglas spent some time writing down language—both spoken & written—observed outside the Zinc Bar. He wrote down phrases uttered by passersby; writing on busses; words seen from the northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest corners; and writing of cabs including license numbers, adverts, and fares. He then had audience members read these phrases while he read his poems. The piece succeeded in making the verbal overload of citylife audible. In the din, the clarity & coherence of Douglas’ poetry seemed both overwhelmed & heroic. (Fragile saxifrage comes to mind.) Conversely, when, for example, others' taxi phrases—“unwire your world,” “$.50 Night Surcharge,” etc.— could be picked out of the ambient noise, my mind's ear was aroused but unsatisfied. The poetry—itself about the city—satisfied by making something amidst the noise.

I raise my early evening cup of coffee to readings that make something happen.

slan leat,

Friday, May 23, 2003

Polis needs more eyes.
Email comments for and about this weblog to
This from Brenda Iijima, correspondent in the field (so to speak):

Thanks for mentioning my (portion) reading. Words do (due) lead (elude) (exude). The seduction is met with the stark reality of language as exchange--firstly anonymous, without the spark of connection until the connection is made. Our inheritance, this language. Or something containing too, sinister intent as Bourdieu would have it (it). Much can grow of it. The weed and the fine coiled vine. Both can align and both are lush. There is interspersion. The language is tumescent, swollen like a seed in spring waiting to burst forth (with its contained, embedded feeling ((towards the reader, for the reader, for the words themselves, for the message, for the shell of the writer who becomes seed, seedling)) but still can't be obvious. The mirror-quality is real. As you say, one's own doubt or hesitation reflects back but then (in a buoyant, generous situation) is engulfed and re-absorbed. After all, we aren't out to write billboard messages. The various colorized messages billow and give and billow and give and continue to call and hopefully respond as well. The well. The deep recessed (fecund) well where water is to be had. Off-spring. Connection. The bountiful leaping from sense to sense, form to sense. This interplay between idea and the flow, the music as you say. Stark apparent idea so keen in our human minds and then the music.