Once master the machinery of Symbolic Logic, and you have a mental occupation always at hand, of absorbing interest, and one that will be of real use to you in any subject you may take up. It will give you clearness of thought - the ability to see your way through a puzzle - the habit of arranging your ideas in an orderly and get-at-able form - and, more valuable than all, the power to detect fallacies, and to tear to pieces the flimsy illogical arguments, which you will so continually encounter in books, in newspapers, in speeches, and even in sermons, and which so easily delude those who have never taken the trouble to master this fascinating Art.
-- Lewis Carroll

1
All babies are illogical.
Nobody is despised who can manage a crocodile
Illogical persons are despised.

2
None of the unnoticed things, met with at sea, are mermaids.
Things entered in the log, as met with at sea, are sure to be worth remembering
I have never met with anything worth remembering, when on a voyage.
Things met with at sea, that are noticed, are sure to be recorded in the log

3
No interesting poems are unpopular among people of real taste.
No modern poetry is free from affectation.
All your poems are on the subject of soap-bubbles.
No affected poetry is popular among people of real taste
No ancient poem is on the subject of soap-bubbles.

4
My saucepans are the only things I have that are made of tin.
I find all your presents very useful.
None of my saucepans are of the slightest use.

5
No potatoes of mine, that are new, have been boiled.
All my potatoes in this dish are fit to eat.
No unboiled potatoes of mine are fit to eat.

6
No ducks waltz.
No officers ever decline to waltz.
All my poultry are ducks.

7
Every one who is sane can do Logic.
No lunatics are fit to serve on a jury.
None of your sons can do logic.

8
No experienced person is incompetent.
Jenkins is always blundering.
No competent person is always blundering.

9
All puddings are nice.
This dish is a pudding.
No nice things are wholesome.

10
No one takes in the Times, unless he is well educated.
No hedgehogs can read.
Those who cannot read are not well educated.

11
All the old articles in this cupboard are cracked.
No jug in this cupboard is new.
Nothing in this cupboard, that is cracked, will hold water.

12
All unripe fruit is unwholesome.
All these apples are wholesome.
No fruit, grown in the shade, is ripe

13
All hummingbirds are reichly colored.
No large birds live on honey.
Birds that do not live on honey are dull in color.

14
Colored flowers are always scented.
I dislike flowers that are not grown in the open air.
No flowers grown in the open air are colorless.

15
All my sons are slim.
No child of mine is healthy who takes no exercise.
All gluttons, who are children of mine, are fat.
No daughter of mine takes any exercise.

16
Things sold in the street are of no great value.
Nothing but rubbish can be had for a song.
Eggs of the Great Auk are very valuable.
It is only what is sold in the street that is really rubbish.

17
No birds, except ostriches, are 9 feet high.
There are no birds in this aviary that belong to anyone but me.
No ostrich lives on mince pies.
I have no birds less than 9 feet high.

18
No boys under 12 are admitted to this school as boarders.
All the industrious boys have red hair.
None of the dayboys learn Greek.
None but those under 12 are idle.

19
The only articles of food, that my doctor allows me, are such as are not very rich.
Nothing that agrees with me is unsuitable for supper.
Wedding cake is always very rich.
My doctor allows me all articles of food that are suitable for supper.

20
The only books in this library, that I do not recommend for reading, are unhealthy in tone.
The bound books are all well written.
All the romances are healthy in tone.
I do not recommend you to read any of the unbound books.

21
All writers, who understand human nature, are clever.
No one is a true poet unless he can stir the hearts of men.
Shakespeare wrote “Hamlet”.
No writer, who does not understand human nature, can stir the hearts of men.
None but a true poet could have written “Hamlet”.

22
Promise breakers are untrustworthy.
Wine drinkers are very communicative.
A man who keeps his promises is honest.
No teetotalers are pawnbrokers.
One can always trust a very communicative person.

23
I despise anything that cannot be used as a bridge.
Everything, that is worth writing an ode to, would be a welcome gift to me.
A rainbow will not bear the weight of a wheelbarrow.
Whatever can be used as a bridge will bear the weight of a wheelbarrow.
I would not take, as a gift, a thing that I despise.

24
No kitten, that loves fish, is unteachable.
No kitten without a tail will play with a gorilla.
Kittens with whiskers always love fish.
No teachable kitten has green eyes.
No kittens have tails unless they have whiskers.

25
Animals, that do not kick, are always unexcitable.
Donkeys have no horns.
A buffalo can always toss one over a gate.
No animals that kick are easy to swallow.
No hornless animal can toss one over a gate.
All animals are excitable, except buffaloes.

26
No shark ever doubts that he is well fitted out.
A fish, that cannot dance a minuet, is contemptible.
No fish is quite certain that it is well fitted out, unless it has three rows of teeth.
All fishes, except sharks, are kind to children.
No heavy fish can dance a minuet.
A fish with three rows of teeth is not to be despised

27
No one, who is going to a party, ever fails to brush his hair.
No one looks fascinating, if he is untidy.
Opium eaters have no self-command.
Everyone, who has brushed his hair, looks fascinating.
No one wears white kid gloves, unless he is going to a party.
A man is always untidy, if he has no self-command.

28
The only animals in this house are cats.
Every animal is suitable for a pet, that loves to gaze at the moon.
When I detest an animal, I avoid it.
No animals are carnivorous, unless they prowl at night.
No cat fails to kill mice.
No animals ever take to me, except what are in this house.
Kangaroos are not suitable for pets.
None but carnivora kill mice.
I detest animals that do not take to me.
Animals, that prowl at night, always love to gaze at the moon.

NOTE. Carroll, “surrealist in nonsense” (thus: André Breton), was also a professor of mathematics & logic at Oxford University. In the foregoing, a series of faux-syllogisms, he draws on & distorts source examples found in standard textbooks of logic. The resemblance in both method & result to David Antin’s “Stanzas,” 150 years later, is serendipitous but may still be worth noting. E.g.: “no one who can manage a crocodile is despised / children are illogical / illogical persons are despised / illogical persons cannot manage a crocodile.” (D. Antin, from Meditations, Black Sparrow Press, 1971) In a recent reading for Poems for the Millennium, volume 3, Antin was confident enough to take credit for his belated influence on Carroll.

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Translation from Japanese by Hiromi Ito & Jerome Rothenberg

It was Sugaru of the Little Boy Clan who was the chancellor of the Emperor Yuryoku, as vital to him as his heart and liver. One day when when the Emperor was residing at Iware-no-Miya palace and was having sex there with his wife, Sugaru burst into the chamber and the Emperor, feeling shame, broke off his foreplay. At that moment they heard thunder and the Emperor told Sugaru: Go forth now and send a summons to the God of Thunder. Sugaru replied that he would go. The Emperor then proclaimed: Go forth and send a summons to the God of Thunder. Following his sovereign’s orders Sugaru set forth. He left the palace, wreathed his head with garlands, raised a lance from which a red flag flew, and started out on horseback. As he rode between Toyura Temple and the Abë fields he reached the sacred Tsuji crossroads, where he cried out in a loud voice to the sky: O you celestial God of Thunder our Emperor has summoned you to him. And having spoken so, he came back to the road where he had started, thinking: When the Emperor once speaks, even a god can’t spurn his summons. And so, somewhere between Toyura Temple and I-Oka hill, Sugaru found the God of thunder who had come to earth. He summoned the shrine’s guardians, who brought a palanquin on which they sat the God of Thunder, and they bore him to the Palace. Sugaru told the Emperor: I’ve brought the God of Thunder for you. At that the God of Thunder radiated gobs of light, at sight of which the Emperor felt shock and awe. He offered him a wealth of goods and had his people bring him to the place where he had come to earth, which to this day we call the Hill of Thunder.

Years passed and Sugaru grew old and died. The Emperor had his body laid in state for seven days and seven nights, and all that time he mourned his loyal chancellor. He made a grave for Sugaru there where the God of Thunder came to earth and carved a monument on which he wrote: This is the grave of Sugaru who caught the God of Thunder. But the God of Thunder raged on hearing this. He danced around it, kicking, trampling it until he broke the monument in two, which closed around him trapping him again. The Emperor when he heard of it released him, but the God of Thunder was bereft. For seven days and nights he lay there senseless. Then the Emperor sent forth an emissary to that place and had the monument restored. And on its side he wrote once more: This is the grave of Sugaru who caught the God of Thunder both alive and dead.

This is the story of the place called Hill of Thunder.

NOTE. The preceding is an attempt by Hiromi Ito and me to translate the first of the curious pre-Buddhist narratives gathered by the Buddhist monk Kyokai in a three volume work, Nihonkoku genpo zen'aku ryoiki (Miraculous Stories of Karmic Retribution of Good and Evil in Japan), dating between A.D. 810 and 823. Writes Helene Bowen Raddeker in the Journal of Religious History (Vol.22 No.2,June 1998, pp.246-248): “The very modest Kyokai could not have imagined that the ‘future generations’ for whom he so painstakingly recorded these miraculous tales from Japan's oral tradition would extend so far into the future. … One reason for the later recognition of the importance of Kyokai's Nihon ryoiki has been its contribution to an understanding of religious belief and practice in early Japan. Even in the title of his work, Kyokai made quite clear the didactic intent of his project, which was to convince his contemporaries of the Buddhist maxim that ‘good and evil cause karmic retribution [in this or in subsequent lives] as a figure causes its shadow, and suffering and pleasure follow such deeds as an echo follows a sound in the valley’ (preface to vol. 1, 101).”

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For David Meltzer, a Pre-Face

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 6:24 AM 0 comments
[Written originally for David’s Copy: Selected Poems (Penguin Books,2005) & republished in my Poetics & Polemics (University of Alabama Press, 2008)]

I first became aware of David Meltzer – as many of us did – with the publication in 1960 of Donald Allen’s anthology, The New American Poetry, that celebrated the emergence over the previous decade of a new & radical generation of American poets. Those included ranged in age from Charles Olson, already fifty, to David Meltzer, then in his early twenties. Meltzer’s four poems were all short, filling up most of three pages, & displayed a surefooted use of the kind of demotic language & pop referentiality that was cooking up in poetry as much as it was in painting. His lead-off poem mixed traditional Japanese references with more contemporary ones to Kirin Beer & Havatampa cigars, but there was otherwise no indication of a wider or deeper field of reference – as in the work, say, of older contemporaries such as Olson & Robert Duncan, or of Ezra Pound or William Carlos Williams or Louis Zukofsky before them. Like many of our generation his aim was not to appear too literary; as in the conclusion of his biographical note: “I have decided to work my way thru poetry & find my voice & the stance I must take in order to continue my journey. Poetry is NOT my life. It is an essential PART of my life.”

It took another decade of journeying for Meltzer to emerge as a poet with a “special view” & with a hoard of sources & resources that he would mine tenaciously & would transform into unique poetic configurations. For me the sense of him had changed & deepened some years before I got to know him as a friend & fellow traveler. The realization – as happens with poets – came to me through the books that he was writing & publishing & that I was getting to read – on the run, so to speak, like so many others. In The Dark Continent, a gathering of poems from 1967, I found him moving in a direction that few had moved in – or that few had moved in as he did. The “transformation,” as I thought of it, appeared about a quarter of the way into the book – a subset of poems called The Golem Wheel, in which the idiom & setting remained beautifully vernacular but the frame of reference opened, authoratatively I thought, into new or untried worlds.

The most striking of those worlds was that of Jewish lore & mysticism, starting with the Prague-based legend of Rabbi Judah Loew & his Frankensteinian creation (the “golem” as such), incorporating a panoply of specific Hebrew words & names along with kabbalistic & talmudic references & their counterparts in a variety of popular contexts (Frankenstein, The Mummy, Harry Bauer in the 1930s Golem movie, language here & there from comic strips, etc.). It was clear too that the judaizing here – to call it that – was something that went well beyond any kind of ethnic nostalgia., that he was tapping in fact into an ancient & sometimes occulted stream of poetry, while moving backward & forward between “then” & “now.” In an accompanyhing subset, Chthonic Fragments, a part of it presented in the present volume, he expanded his view into gnostic, apocryphal Christian, & pagan areas that left their mark, as a kind of catalyst, even when he swung back to the mundane 1960s world: the “dark continent” of wars & riots, the funky sounds of blues & rock & roll, the domestic pull of family & home.

I mention this as a recollection of my own very personal coming to Meltzer & to the recognition that he was, like any major artist, building a special world: a meltzer-universe in this case that spoke to some of us in terms of our own works & aspirations. (“The Jew in me is the ghost of me,” began one stanza in The Golem Wheel, & I was smitten.) His pursuit of origins of all sorts was otherwise relentless – not only in his poems but with a magazine & a press that also took as their point of departure or entry the hidden worlds of Jewish kabbalists & mystics. The magazine was called Tree (etz hayyim, the tree of life, in Hebrew) & was connected as well to a series of anthologies of his devising (Birth; Death; The Secret Garden: An Anthology of the Kabbalah), alongside chronicles of jazz writing & jazz reading & of poetry – Beat & other – that had emerged or was emerging from the place in California where he lived & worked.

What was extraordinary here was the lighthearted seriousness of the project – a freewheeling scholarship in the service of poetry – & his ability to cast an esoteric content in a non-academic format & language. In this he shared ideas & influences with a range of contemporary artists & poets – notably the great west coast collagist Wallace Berman, whose appropriations of the Hebrew alphabet as magic signs & symbols led directly to what Meltzer, borrowing a phrase from Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, called Bop Kabbalah. It was also in that California ambience that he made contact with older poets like Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer, & Kenneth Rexroth, & with younger ones like Jack Hirschman, engaged like him in the search for old & new beginnings. In circumstances where everything suddenly seemed possible, he joined with his wife Tina (as singer) & with fellow poet Clark Coolidge (as drummer) to form a rock performance group called Serpent Power – the name itself an echo of ancient yogic & tantric practice.

The totality of Meltzer’s work will wait for another occasion – a Meltzer Reader perhaps or a collected Meltzer – in which all of it can be mirrored. For now – & not for the first time – he has condensed his nearly half century of poetry into the pages of this book. As such it is a reflection of where he has worked & lived, often with great intensity – first in polyglot New York (Brooklyn to be exact) & later (most of his life in fact) in California. He has never been a great traveler, in the literal sense, but his mind has traveled, metaphorically, into multiple worlds. In the process he has drawn from a multiplicty of times & places & set them against his own immediate experience. His attitude is that of a born collagist, a poet with a taste for “pilfering,” he tells us, or, paraphrasing Robert Duncan: “Poets are like magpies: they grab at anything bright, and they take it back to their nest, and they’ll use it sooner or later.” And he adds, speaking for himself: “I use everything, everything that shone for me.”

The range of the work itself follows from another dictum: “Poems come from everywhere.” As such, the focus moves from the quotidian, the everyday, to the historical &, where it fits, the transcendental. The mundane stands out, for example, in a poem like “It’s Simple,” though not without its underlyhing “mystery.” Thus, in its opening stanza (the whole poem elsewhere in this book):

It’s simple.
One morning
Wake up ready
For new work.
Pet the dog,
Dog’s not there.
Rise & shine
Sun’s not there.
Take a deep breath.
No air.

If the presentation here gives the appearance of simplicity – something like what Meltzer calls “the casual poem” – we can also remember his warning, that “art clarifies, it doesn’t simplify,” that his intent as a poet is, further, “to write of mysteries in language as translucent and inviting as a mirror.”

Mystery or “the potential of mystery” is a term that turns up often in Meltzer’s poetics – his talking about the poetry he & others make. It is no less so where the poem is family chronicle than where it draws on ancient myth or lore: the fearful presence in "The Golem Wheel


. . . returning home to a hovel
to find table & a chair
wrecked by the Golem’s fist


or the celebration & lamenting of the parents in “The Eyes, the Blood:

my father was a clown,
my mother a harpist . . .


There is a twofold process in much of what he does here: a demythologizing & a remythologizing, to use his words for it. In this sense what is imagined or fabulous is brought into the mundane present, while what is mundane is shown to possess that portion of the marvelous that many of us have been seeking from Blake’s time to our own.

David’s Copy is full of such wonders, many of them excerpts from longer works that show a kind of epic disposition – in the sense at least of the long poem as a gathering of fragments/segments/image-&-data-clusters. Watch him at work, full blast, in the two excerpts from Chthonic Fragments or in the “Hero” & “Lil” excerpts from what was originally his long poem, “Hero/Lil,” in which he draws the Lil of the poem (= Lilith, Adam’s first wife; later: the mother of demon babes) into the depths of post-exilic life:

She-demon deity
lies on the sofa
stretching like a cat.
Small hot breasts.
Miles breathes Blackbird.
She accepts
the hash and grass joint.
Cool fingers
Dive under my pants
ka! ka! ka!
Screech of all
Lil’s hungry babies
caged-up next door
.

Or again:

She wants words only at dawn.
I touch her mouth with language
then afterwards move against her.

In other serial works the touch is lighter, where he observes or playfully takes the role – totem-like – of magical yet ordinary animal beings: the dog in Bark: A Polemic, say:

Bark is what us dogs do here in Dogtown
also shit on sidewalks door mats proches trails
wherever new shoes walk fearless.
Bark is what us dogs do here in Dogtown
it’s a dog’s life
we can’t live without you.
Mirror you we are you.
Beneath your foot or on the garage roof.
You teach us speech bark bark
for biscuits we dance for you.
You push us thru hoops
& see our eyes as your eyes
but you got the guns the gas the poison
all of it.
Bark is what us dogs do here in Dogtown.


Or the Monkey in the singular poem of that name – both pseudo-orthodox (“bruised before Yahweh”) & quasi-stylish (“suave in my tux”).

These are the marks of a poet who has worked over a span of time, to pursue interests near & dear to him. To cite another instance, music – the full range of it for Meltzer – comes into a large portion of the poems, a reflection of his own musical strivings inherited in part from his harpist mother & cellist father, celebrated in the long poem or poem series, Harps, itself a section from a much longer ongoing work called Asaph, one intention of which is to use music, he tells us, “as a form of autobiography.” Of such musically engaged works the great example is his recent booklength poem for Lester Young, No Eyes, from which he has generously selected for the present volume. Add to that another big work, Bolero (also a part of Asaph), & short poems or references to Hank Williams (the “lamentation” for him), Billie Holiday (“Darn that Dream”), & Thelonious Monk, among recurrent others. Later too, when he becomes a chronicler (Beat Thing the most recent & most telling example), the music of the time, like its poetry & loads of pop debris & rubble, has a place at center.

I would cite Beat Thing in particular as both his newest book as of this writing & as something more & special: a harbinger perhaps of things to come. As recollection & politics, it is Meltzer’s truly epic poem – an engagement with once recent history (the 1950s) & his own participatory & witnessing presence. If the title at first suggests a nostalgic romp through a 1950s-style “beat scene,” it doesn’t take long before mid-twentieth-century America’s urban pastoralism comes apart in all its phases & merges with the final solutions of death camps & death bombs from the preceding decade. This is collage raised to a higher power – a tough-grained & meticulously detailed poetry – "without check with original energy," as Whitman wrote – & very much what’s needed now.

The reader of David’s Copy will find in the more recent poems that end it a sense of timelines amidst the timelessness that poetry is often said to offer – Beat Thing clearly but also Feds v Reds, Tech, or even Shema 2 with its linking of judaic supplications & koranic language in the wake, I would imagine, of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The political engagement – embedded in the poetry itself – is both real & heedful of his earlier remarks that looked down at the “onedimensionalizing” of so much political poetry (“a tendency to supply people with conclusions, but you don’t give them process”) in contrast to which “a certain kind of pornography was what I wanted to do as politics.” And that in fact was something that he also did – a genre of novel writing that he called “agit-smut” and described as “a way for me to vent my rage and politicize … a way of talking about power.”

Elsewhere, in speaking about himself, he tells us that when he was very young, he wanted to write a long poem called The History of Everything. It was an ambition shared, maybe unknowingly, with a number of other young poets – the sense of what Clayton Eshleman called “a poetry that attempts to become responsible for all the poet knows about himself and his world.” Then as now it ran into a contrary directive: to think small or to write in ignorance of what had come before or in deference to critic-masters who were themselves, most often, non-practitioners & non-seekers. By contrast, as is evident throughout this book, Meltzer allied himself with those poets of his time & place (Beats & San Francisco Renaissance & others) who were both international in their range & the true carriers or creators of traditions new & old.

It was at this juncture that I met him, & his companionship added immeasurably to my own work as a poet. I continue not only to prize him but to read his poems with the greatest pleasure.

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To celebrate the publication of Radical Poetics and Secular Jewish Culture, edited by Stephen Paul Miller and Daniel Morris in the University of Alabama Press’s Modern and Contemporary Poetics Series, the following was the opening section of my own contribution:

Every time I appear in a Jewish anthology – except those of my own devising – something goes wrong. Lines are omitted or placed out of sequence, prose is set as verse or verse as prose, and footnotes are used that represent an editor’s imagining of what a word might mean or a place-name represent. I believe that the God of the Jews has something to do with this – a punishment for my deliberate withdrawal from Him or Her or It. Or else, to be more Jewish about it in the manner of a writer whom I admire and have even drawn from, it is as if one of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s imps or demons had been there to gum up my works – not when I’m being a Jew on my own terms but when I give in to temptation and let myself be part of somebody else’s order or communion.[1]
_________________________________________________________________
[1] Made-up but inaccurate footnotes in Norton Anthology of Jewish-American Literature; prose changed to verse in Princeton University Library Chronicle (Jewish-American issue, gathered by C.K. Williams); poem truncated & missing part added to another poem, in Steven J. Rubin, Telling and Remembering: A Century of American Jewish Poetry.
_________________________________________________________________
I will speak, then, on my own terms [my own grounds], though with continuing doubts as to whether there is any particular “radical poetic practice” that can be viewed as distinctively Jewish. That isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of Jews (however defined) who have been active in avant-garde [or twenteth- and twenty-first-century] poetics, still less to deny that many [perhaps too many] Jewish poets have actively engaged in a Jewish version of identity writing, though I don’t think that that’s what “radical practice” is intended to mean in the present context. I would also say, in my own case at least, that I would be willing to construct a connection between aspects of traditional Jewish linguistic practice (much of it religious or mystical rather than secular) and current [modernist] forms of poetic [i.e. language] experimentation. I have in fact done this at some length, along with a proposition that Jewish history has been marked as well by an ongoing and more obvious resistance, by the Great Refusal, as I once put it, to the lie of church and state. [Include here synagogue as well – at least for some of us.] That resistance may not have been secular in the first instance, but it carried the mark of outsider or outrider traditions (to use Anne Waldman’s word); or that was how it felt to me when I first turned to it.

It was in the sense of such an outsiderness – and placing it clearly in “this most Christian of worlds” – that Marina Tsvetayeva spoke of all poets as Jews [much like Norman Mailer’s “White Negro” of the 1950s]. That was in her poem “Poem of the End,” later quoted by Paul Celan in the cyrillic epigraph to his own poem “Und mit dem Buch aus Tarussa” and by me in A Big Jewish Book, where it became a central proposition of the stand I was then taking. My argument here wasn’t for some kind of Jewish exclusiveness but toward a recognition that such resistances existed both there and elsewhere and that my address, in Tsvetayeva’s sense, was to “all poets” or to all poets who share the outrider stance or to all, poets and others, who resist the rule of totalizing states and constrictive religions. I saw myself – then as now – not writing in a specifically Jewish context for a Jewish audience as such, but opening the Jewish mysteries to all who wanted them. And I dramatized some of that in the dream that opens A Big Jewish Book:

There was a dream that came before the book, & I might as well tell it. I was in a house identified by someone as THE HOUSE 0F JEWS, where there were many friends gathered, maybe everyone I knew. Whether they were Jews or not was unimportant: I was & because I was I had to lead them through it. But we were halted at the entrance to a room, not a room really, more like a great black hole in space. I was frightened & exhilarated, both at once, but like the others I held back before that darkness. The question came to be the room's name, as if to give the room a name would open it. I knew that, & I strained my eyes & body to get near the room, where I could feel, as though a voice was whispering to me, creation going on inside it. And I said that it was called CREATION.

I now recognize that dream as central to my life, an event & mystery that has dogged me from the start. I know that there are other mysteries – for others, or for myself at other times, more central – & that they may or may not be the same. But CREATION – poesis writ large – appeared to me first in that house, for I was aware then, & even more so now, that there are Jewish mysteries that one confronts in a place no less dangerous or real than that abyss of the Aztecs
:

. . . a difficult, a dangerous place, a deathly place: it is dark, it is light. . .

& with a sense too that this space must be bridged, this door opened as well – the door made just for you, says the guardian in Kafka's story. Yet Kafka, like so many of us, poses the other question also: “What have I in common with Jews? I have hardly anything in common with myself …”

That last, of course, is an extraordinarily Jewish statement.

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[The first part of "The Infestation of Bodies by Tongues" appeared in Poems and Poetics on March 13, 2010.]

The object of Litteral Poetics is the infestation of bodies by tongues. Its method: using shifts in a language to track changes in some body, i.e., some phenomenal realm. Probably different languages are better at tracking some bodies and shifts rather than others. Whilst Lucretius used Latin to track the way material bodies morph into each other, the great 19th century fou litteraire, Jean-Pierre Brisset, used French to study the intertwined history of sex and language. For Brisset the burning question was how sex could emerge after language if in the beginning there is only The Word. In French one sound frogs make is “quoi,” a word meaning “what.” In the 19th century frogs were also widely believed hermaphrodites. Thus, for Brisset, frogs are the first speaking creatures, and the word “sex” must be derived from other more primitive sounds made by frogs. In his formulation it is derived from the repeated primitive “ai? ai? ai? eh! eh! eh! ai que? ai que? ai que? eque, eque, eque…” An abbreviation of the full series, which passes through “qu'est-ce que,” a synonymn for quoi, is:

Ai ? eh? Ai que ? éque ou ce. Ai que ce ? Exe, sais que ce ? ce éque-ce, ce exe, sexe,
< http://jp-brisset.skyrock.com/ >

Whilst primarily tracking the emergence of the word for sex, this sequence also shows how the sexual organs of the animal gradually emerge as a surprising excess.

More than Lucretius Brisset privileges the sounds of words and letters over their graphic counterparts. But the principle is the same; the recognition that just as matter morphs and changes dramatically according to the rearrangement of its atomic elements (by whatever force, chemical, mechanical, metabolic, galvanic, etc.) so meaning morphs and changes when its atomic elements are rearranged (by whatever force, historical, sociological, political, psychological, etc.) Furthermore, with Brisset we see the full implications of the Litteral view, that the realm of meaning is not constituted by a set of points, however related, but by a contiunuum in which we can move from any (apparently) stable word-compound to any other by a series of micro-shifts. (The implication, that the inability to get to some word-compound indicates its disconnection from the continuum, will be explored later.)

By tracking these micro-shifts in meaning within a particular tongue we arrive at a form of understanding. For Lucretius, exploring Latin enabled an understanding of general atomics. (Students of this theory should see The Third Policeman by Flan O’Brien, for an articulation of its full material consequences.) For Brisset, French enables an understanding of the story of the intertwined emergenc-y of language and sexuality. Thus, Litteral Poetics is a form of poetics in the ancient sense that it shows how bodies are endowed with meaning. It enables us to trace the chains of meaning inhering in the transformations of bodies across time and space. An argument can be made that just as with Epic Poetry Litteral Poetics creates meaning rather than discovers it. But this distinction between discovery and invention is as foreign to the litteralist as it was to the Greeks, who rightly believed that poetic recitation can dis-cover the real effects of transgressing social laws, and that only poetry reveals the meanings and purposes in what would otherwise be pointless historical series. This is what poetry is—the “meaning” in/of events. Poetry, or at least its Litteral branch, is thus a form of constructive revelation in which meaning is dis-covered via the constitution of poetic chains which make known the purposes, principles, reasons, intentions, functions, senses, rationales of what drives organized bodies--of events, relations, practices, flesh, etc. I propose that a Litteral exploration of English can help us better understand the drives or th-e-motions in the relations between gender and generation in contemporary society.

The basis for this hypothesis is the fact that in English a phrase meaning singularity, “this One,” easily morphs into a phrase for the masculine child, “the Son.” Combining these gives us the compound term “thsOne.” Likewise, a phrase meaning multiplicity or multitude “the many others,” easily morphs into a phrase for the female parent “the Mothers.” This last phrase also means a collective Otherness, “them-Others.” Combining these gives the compound “the-M-(any)-Others.” Thus, gender and generation, singularity and multiplicity, I and Other are completely (con)fused in the English tongue… and I would argue, in any social body infested with such an organ. These two (pro)positions operate in all social fields, not just within the institutions of family and sexual identity. And any body may take either position depending on the situation. For instance, in relation to my students I can adopt the (pro)position of being one of theMothers if I focus my attention on helping them achieve their goals. Or I may become thsOne if I choose to play the charismatic performer who rehearses my knowledge as enigmatic spectacle. Moving to the realm of politics we see that in most contemporary cases the national leader is thsOne and the populace is the-M-(any)-Others who are expected to gaze in narcissistic admiration of the him, whatever he does. No doubt many will say that the familial analogue of a leader is not thsOne, but the Father. To this I can only say that in English the word “father” no longer has any meaning, because there are no longer any micro-linguistic chains through which it can be related to other familial terms. Such chains do exist between “thsOne” and “the-M-(any)-Others,” though they pass through the relation of negation;

the-M-(any)-Others are precisely those which are NOT One*.

<>

This is what Litteral Poetics shows and Donald Barthelme, in “The Dead Father,” long ago agreed. *(For more on this subject see “+’me’S-pace,” Les Figues Press, 2007.) (Passing from one term to another through negation shows that the continuum of the English Tongue is not smooth, but is also infested with kNOTs.)

Thus, a litteral investigation of a phenomenal realm not only shows the rich connectedness of its chosen object. It also shows what has become dis-connected in that realm. It can enable us to see that what may once have been intimately related, is now cut off. My litteral investigations show that, at least for bodies infested with an English Tongue, “father” no longer symbolizes an absence enabling thsOne to distinguish and separate itself from the-M-(any)-Others. It is simply an old fashioned word remaining in the lexicon, as meaningless as “ether” or “phlogiston”. And this because, (the word for), “father” has become disconnected from the continuum of the English Tongue. (For more on this subject see Alice Jardine’s “Gynesis.”) What exactly this means socially, how exactly this disconnection plays out in material bodies and institutions, are complex questions needing much investigation. For now, let us look at one further proposition:

<>

If the-M-(any)-Others are defined as the negation of thsOne, there is still the problem of how their material parts, especially their voices are experienced by the sons. The above formulation shows that, even if a son can distinguish/separate itself from some aspect of theMothers through an act of negation, this is not entirely successful, leaving all sorts of Mother-parts still clinging, sometimes to an overwhelming or smothering degree. And all this simply because mother slides so easily into both mouth(er) and smother, and voice so easily slips into the void/s…………



ON OBJECTIONS TO THE ABOVE DESCRIPTION OF A METHOD


Two hypotheses are involved in Litteral Poetics:
1)- that in English fantastic propositions about human relations can be made.
2)- that these propositions tell us something about “real” human relations.
Hypothesis 1 is undeniable. You can do this with English, at least I can.

Hypothesis 2 is dubious, which sense of dubiousness can be expressed in the following ways:

a)- the author of this …. can think whatever she likes, but I’m not having a bar of it.

b)- the author of this … may have a valid point in that contemporary human relations may usefully be formulated in this way, but the poetic potencyal of English offers no evidence of this, let alone a “proof.”

c)- the author of this … has a valid point in that contemporary human relations can usefully be formulated in this way, but the English tongue offers no “proof.” Rather, the poetic potencyal of English is simply the means through which this author is able to communicate what she has observed through other means, but cannot express in other ways.

Point c is valid. The author agrees. Two responses:

1)- the phenomena expressed by the author in the form of a Litteral Poetics can be observed independently of language. However,
2)- a language, i.e., a tongue, is one of our Sensory organs, one of the organizational filters through which we process data coming from the external world, like eyes, ears, cultural traditions, etc. As one of our Sensory filters it aids in the processing of data. Some people are more sensitive to the aural paths through which information in trafficked to us from the external world. Some people are more attuned to the visual. Or the symbolic. Or the poetic. Or the historical. Or the anecdotal, etc., etc. This author is peculiarly sensitive to discriminations in the linguistic sense. This sensitivity does not invalidate the information ingested through her tongue. The point for the litteralist is simply that the tongue is not just one organ amongst the many we all use. It is the most important.

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Judah L. Magnes Museum , Berkeley, October 30, 2005

Adapted by Anna Muza and Moira Roth from texts by Moira Roth
Directed by Anna Muza
Performed by Anna Muza and Moira Roth

Anna Muza: Rachel Marker
Moira Roth: Moira Roth/Moira Marker

1. A Train Trip, October 2005
2. Berlin, Summer 2001
3. Rachel Marker, Berlin
4. Moira Roth, Rose Hacker and Alice Sommer
5. Alice Sommer's Century
6. Rachel Marker, Prague
7. Moira Marker, Prague, April 23, 2005
8. "The Blind Woman and Rachel Marker"
9. Rachel Marker and Her Book of Shadows
10, Alice Sommer and Rose Hacker, The Cyber Theater of Mneme and Melete, London, December 2002
11. "Rachel Marker and Her Book of Shadows"

Beginning:

ANNA AND MOIRA GO TO STAGE, STAND BY THEIR STOOLS AT THE TABLE, PICK UP THE TWO NEWSPAPERS, GERMAN AND BOSNIAN, HOLD THEM IN FRONT OF THEIR FACES AND READ - UNTIL THEY HEAR THE SOUND OF WATER (DANUBE), then LOWER NEWSPAPERS, AND SIT ON STOOLS.

Play begins …

Then later: **IMAGE #44: "RACHEL MARKER IN PRAGUE"

Note: show following three images – silent -- until Anna begins to speak with #47

**IMAGE #45: ROTHENBERGS IN SQUARE, PRAGUE

**IMAGE #46: DIANE ROTHENBERG LOOKING AT SCUPTURE, CHARLES BRIDGE

**IMAGE #47:CLOSEUP OF THE "WINDOW" DETAIL OF THE CHARLES BRIDGE SCULPTURE

ANNA:
In Prague's Old Town, Rachel Marker wrote each day at the same table by the far window - the waiter always guarded this space for her.

It was at this table on June 12th , 1924, the day after Kafka's funeral, that she began to write her daily letters to Kafka.

Each evening the waiter would collect these, storing them in a suitcase that had once belonged to Kafka.

Years later she had sat by this window for the last time on the day after war was declared on September 3rd of 1939.

**IMAGE #48: PRAGUE JEWISH CEMETERY

In her letter to Kafka of that day, she told him that "Two days before, the Nazis had invaded Poland, and today war has been declared on Germany by Britain and France. I have decided to leave Prague.

"In this last letter that she was ever to write to Kafka, she included the draft of the play that she had just started to write about the Golem and the Angel of Death.

She told him too that she had always been inspired by something he had once stated:

"Writing is a form of prayer. Even if no redemption comes, I still want to be worthy of every moment."

MOIRA:
"Writing is a form of prayer. Even if no redemption comes, I still want to be worthy of every moment."

**IMAGE #49: "MOIRA MARKER, PRAGUE, APRIL 23, 2005"

I, Moira Marker, now sit at Rachel Marker's table in Prague's Old Town nd write.

Now I look out of the window of the café, instead of her.

It is Saturday morning, April 23rd, 2005, and I have brought a small faded photograph to the café, together with a magnifying glass that once (I am told) had belonged to Rachel Marker.

Anna and Moira

Anna picks up photo of Rose and father, holds it up for Moira…Moira picks up the magnifying glass.

**IMAGE #50: 'ROSE HACKER AND HER FATHER, BERLIN, 1929

A fashionable couple, a young woman and an older man, are walking in a city.

He is wearing a bowler hat, and his hands are in his pockets, and she is in a tightly fitting, 1920s hat, and fur-collared, loose coat.

On the back of the faded photograph, in elegant handwriting, the caption reads "Me and My Father, Berlin, 1929.

"Two Czech Jews in Berlin in 1929.

Sitting in this Prague café in 2005, I begin to write a story, "The Blind Woman and Rachel Marker."

NOTE. In an introduction to the project as a whole, Moira Roth writes: “Begun in 2001, ‘Through the Eyes of Rachel Marker’ is a fragmented narrative about a fictional Czech Jew, a poet and playwright, who lives through the 20th century. After the 1924 death of the Czech writer Franz Kafka, Rachel Marker writes to him daily about her own writings, experiences and thoughts, and describes to him events in current European history, especially the rise of fascism. In the fall of 1939, she flees to Paris after the German invasion of Prague, and finally turns up in Berlin after World War II, where she takes photographs every day of the city’s shadows.” The work has continued to the present in both performance & narrative versions, some of which can be found on her web site at moiraroth.com.

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Bob Perelman: for Emma Bernstein

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 7:06 AM 0 comments
1

They say
the mind can keep sense alive
for about seven seconds

and that we can register at most
seven things, coins, pebbles, apples,
or six, five

almost nothing.


2

Maybe that's why
we invented the present
as a place to live, to keep the things we do know,

know so exactly, keep them exactly, keep
all of them, keep what we know

near, at hand, alive in our minds:
Emma.


3

It's hard to remember what,
exactly what, the light looked like
all that time ago, what it was saying in such detail, so instantly, hard
to count
all the blackbirds in that pie, the extra-special one, four and
twenty they said it was, but we only see the
released flock, single flying mass
of bodies, each one the only one, the first and only birth.


4

Such a small set of seconds
to set everything down in,

especially since not everything is here that we love,
which makes it impossible not to want the small set to be utterly
different,
the flock to have swooped right instead of left then up and back,
to have landed in any other tree

than that one.


5

Not the look of the light, which is clear and vertical,
or soft and childlike, or whatever else our seven seconds dictate, here,
wherever that is,
but how fast it shows us how to read it
and to know in an instant
that it's showing us exactly what is here, and what is not,
that's what makes the seven seconds
so endlessly hard.


6

Still we see our light, are in it so instantly
that seeing won't let us remember
what it looked like, before

sight turned hard as stone
which barely remembers
its own birth
let alone any of ours.


7

It is our privilege alone
to disappear,
to never forget that we do,
never forget to set down what must be set down
so that it not be forgotten,
not be lost in all this time:
Emma.

NOTE. Bob Perelman of course is one of the major poets to have emerged as part of the Language Poetry movement of the 1970s. His over 15 volumes of poetry include Ten to One: Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1999) & more recently Iflife (Roof Books, 2006) & Playing Bodies, in collaboration with painter Francie Shaw (Granary Books, 2004); & his key critical works are The Marginalization of Poetry: Language Writing and Literary History (Princeton University Press, 1996) & The Trouble With Genius: Reading Pound, Joyce, Stein, and Zukofsky (California UP, 1994). He has also edited Writing/Talks (Southern Illinois University Press), a collection of talks by poets.

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The following is the full program for an eight-part series on Poems for the Millennium, volume 3, The University of California Book of Romantic & Pre-Romantic Poetry, prepared by Jack Foley for presentation on Cover to Cover, his longrunning program on KPFA-FM (Pacifica Radio) in San Francisco. Show times are Wednesdays from 3:00 to 3:30 p.m. beginning on April 14, barring occasional changes or preemptions.

April 14
Today’s is the first show in an eight-part series based on Poems for the Millennium Volume 3: The University of California Book of Romantic and Postromantic Poetry, edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Jeffrey C. Robinson. Today’s show, a prequel, features Jack Foley reading “Hamlet, Keats, and La Conscience de Soi.”

April 21
Poems for the Millennium Volume 3 continued. Today’s show features excerpts from William Bolcom’s setting of Blake’s Songs of Innocence & Experience; Katherine Hastings on Poems for the Millennium; Leslie Scalapino reading from Rousseau, “Reveries of the Solitary Walker” and, in its entirety, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan.”

April 28
Poems for the Millennium.
Interview with co-editor Jerome Rothenberg.

May 5
Poems for the Millennium.
Michael Palmer reading: Ernest Jones, “The Song of the Low”; Christina Rossetti, “My Dream.” Two poems by Michael Palmer: “Bridge of Bones” and “Traumgedicht (Dream Poem).”

Diane di Prima reading: Lewis Carroll, the first of “3 Syllogisms”; Edward Lear, “How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear!”; from Washington Matthews, “The Navajo Night Chant”; Walt Whitman, “I Sing the Body Electric,” Part Two;
William Blake, “London.”
Jack Foley reading: “Blind Raftery”; Rilke, “An Archaic Statue of Apollo.”

[FUND DRIVE: MAY 11 – MAY 27]

June 2
Poems for the Millennium.
Katherine Hastings reading: Mary Shelley, “The King of Cats”; Adah Isaacs Menken, “Sale of Souls.”

Michael McClure reading: Keats, “Dream and Dream Sonnet: Paolo & Francesca”; Shelley, “Lift Not the Painted Veil.”

Bill Berkson reading: Keats, “Sonnet on Fame”; Coleridge, “Urine”; Selections from Rimbaud, “The Drunken Boat”; (Ted Berrigan translation); Robert Burns, “A Red, Red Rose”

The Cast performing two songs by Robert Burns: “Ye Banks & Braes” and “Auld Lang Syne” (original tune).

June 9
Poems for the Millennium.
E.E. Cummings reading: Wordsworth, “Ode on Intimations of Immortality” (1952).

Jack & Adelle Foley reading: Baudelaire, “Litanies of Satan.”

Serge Bouzouki & Patrick Janvier reading with music: Baudelaire, “L’Etranger.”

June 16
Poems for the Millennium.
Jerome Rothenberg reading: Goethe, “Mignon’s Song”; Vuk Karadzic, “A Poem for the Goddess”; Mikhail Lermontov, “New Year’s Poem”; Cyprian Norwid, “Chopin’s Piano”; from Rimbaud, “Second Delirium: Alchemy of the Word”; Adah Isaacs Menken, “Judith.”

Jack & Adelle Foley reading: Shelley, “Ode to the West Wind.”

June 23
Poems for the Millennium (concluding show in the series).
Jack Foley reading: Fernando Pessoa’s attack on Romanticism (from The Book of Disquiet); two passages from Thomas De Quincey.

Julie Harris as Emily Dickinson (from The Belle of Amherst).

The voices of Alfred Lord Tennyson & Walt Whitman

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THINGS DONE FOR THEMSELVES

for Susan



1

We walk together like a field of fireflies.

It gives the ear back to itself.

Hard to beat being heard.

No word for this thing between us, feeling afield.



Mark the opening eye.

The words I leave out rip me apart.

The mystery is the core violating itself, blurted the absent voice.



Reading poetry suffers it to speak.



2

Things done for themselves are the only things done for all.



Just walking by she multiplies in futures [flash].

I’m the one in the middle longing to be the many.

Put eye inside the empty letter and she looks back at you.

Voyeurism's the illusion I'm not looking at myself.



Exhaust the wisdom impulse before it exhausts paradise.



3

Today's the day I rewrite my biography.

Pen slips on the slopes of sorrow.

I can't help believing in one thing after another.

Sounds good to me sounds true enough.

And then. And then.



4

A blurt's a site of first breath.

This only sounds this way.

We wave through each other to approach.

And flex and flex.



Optimal includes bottom.



The world's singing to itself again through our dog.

The tremor in the voice lets the knower out.

Poetry is the state stating.

Says: Say what keeps saying what it is.



5

You didn't know it but it let you know it.

A form is what knows to take place before you.

It gives the eye back to itself.

Seeing marks.



Let’s meet in the dark where you read through yourself.

Juliet, the verbal scent.



Names get a life to be spoken.

And so I makes my ascent into present.

Poetry says it better than it sounds.

If I don't mean what I say at least it means me back.



The only things done for all are the ones done once for themselves.



6

I barely feel myself hanging together.

She knows to call me by my calling.

It takes a life to be known.

To tone.

Like things fall free alike.



The underline rhythmic is over and out. Over and out.



7

Hearing marks.

Speak in the first person on earth.



She sets my system on merge.

Meanwhile I call from a verge, Don't strand me on the grounds of sound.

I can say nothing I can't hear.



The vision’s the body seeing through itself.

The poem even now is hearing itself.



Frog pond in the dark’s bounding across from here.



*****



A NOTE ON THE PREVERBS AND AXIAL POETICS



[While Quasha’s extended series of poems goes back a number of years now, it has remained an ongoing work into the present. In response to a recent query concerning the posting of the foregoing sampler, he wrote on 12/28/09]:



… In the last year or so I've concentrated on bringing the preverbs to a perhaps final stage, long in coming. And the over 4000 original lines have been not only pruned and often reconceived, reconfigured at every level, and continuously added to, but further "complexed" in what in fact I think of as preverb-complexes (or, simply, poem-complexes)—of which there are at this moment 29 realized, ranging from 14 to around 300 lines each, and a number of others still in process. (At other times I’ve called them “configurations” and “constellations.”) This honors a specific principle of axial organization, which I have literally had to learn over and over again how to engage, and has taken me over 12 years to bring to full articulation. They are "fields," perhaps deeply in Olson's sense but decidedly not projective—except that a line, the defining preverbial unit, may well be considered a discrete micro-projective event. But it's axial, which means that the projective force, beyond the line (or syntactic unit), is not forward but radial, and of course highly variable in reading—a processual ambi-valence. (I retain Olson's sense of field as high-energy construct, but not his sense of a primarily forward-projective dynamic in how it appears to originate or function; yet, indeed, even his compositions were often configured in an atemporal or spatial field dynamic, sometimes as collagist assemblings or, I suppose, as sort of pre-word-processing hypertexts.) Any given “close” reading is a singular event. There is no "same poem" to read twice—and obviously I know that's a play on the Heraclitian, but with a preverbial further twist: you can't step in the same river once.



So, this is a first-level take on axial poetics, which is itself a principle-based poetics with a focus of poetics of the singular. And it's consciously non-literary, where this distinction begins with the view that the poetic is (ontologically as well as historically) prior to the literary. The absence of such a distinction may have caused some to consider me as no longer writing poetry at all. I don't agree, of course, despite the fact that in a provocative mood I might have said things that sound like “this is not poetry.” (I’ve long appreciated Antin’s stance, and for me in a different way the poem comes in under the radar of the “poetic.”) Poetry, in my mind, is intrinsically axial, as "verse" is “turning,” a revving of intensity in verbal transformation by way of variability. And variability is itself variable in that it happens at varying (non-consistent and non-separate) levels: semantic, syntactic, tonal, rhythmic, narratological, rhetorical, etc. There is no consistency of method and no commitment to style. (Takes more energy to read but is accordingly the more intense.) [NB: an early attempt at exploring an axial poetics is available online at http://www.corpse.org/archives/issue_11/manifestos/quasha.html and http://beehive.temporalimage.com/content_apps51/app_g.html]



The unit in the preverbs is the line (open-middle syntactics), modeled originally on "The Proverbs of Hell," but in the end there’s no model, which of course makes it all the more “Blakean” (model as something to parody or transform). (My original title, "The Preverbs of Tell: News Torqued from Undertime,” is no longer foregrounded, and I've settled on "Preverbs."] I'm seeking a balance between the independence of preverbs/lines and a clustering force with forward flow. Each line is a small field of axial possibility; that is, there's a hidden axis that is the structural site of variability. This relates to my work in sculpture, drawing, and video, most obviously the axial stones, where the axis of balance between two stones is not apparent at a glance. [I develop this notion in Axial Stones: An Art of Precarious Balance, Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2006]. (And it relates to the practice of axial drawing in which two hands draw simultaneously from an axis at once in the center of the body and resonantly on the surface of the paper; and axial video, for which: http://vimeo.com/channels/axialvideo.) Axiality in this context may seem to be a function in the exercise of precarious balancing of possible meanings or stones—or lines, either graphic or lexical. On the principle that like attracts like, the preverb-complexes form over time, discovering their components by attraction. (Stones, like words and ideas, come into relationship, after first attracting me, by being brought to reside on my property, and in time they call me to work them to a refined state together; to do this I must be sensitive to their attractions and their “will” to conjoin, always somewhere beyond my understanding.) This includes a “poetics of service”; how we serve by listening, and how this heightens the sense of singular life. (I probably owe this to Cage, to some degree.)



A "how to read" the preverbs would be mostly a how not to read—how not to hold them to what they are not willing to be, e.g., to expect narrative, development, or any other interpretable momentum. Non-expectation instructs me in listening better, and the writing is born there. The lines, the tiny fields, attract each other in a process of continuous refinement until, as with the stones, there's a still point—where they become weightless and levitational and I can feel the intensity of their conjuncture. Then I let them sit, until they call out for more. When the whole large field (the complex, the poem) goes into its silence, I know it's done. Even after years of forming and reforming in these complexes that have been named over a dozen years, this completion process can take days or weeks of reworking, until they settle into place. The "revisioning" process—also a further listening—is always primary composition; lines fail and fall out or change, new ones arise—everything moves about until completion. The process reflects an interdependent animate nature in language, concentrated to the point of willfulness in the axial field.



So reading preverbs involves a relatively “free” (=not fixed, non-programmatic) oscillation of fields—from the line-field to the group-/stanza-field to the titled complex-field. Like a Klein Form there's no definitive “outside,” no inside/outside distinction. It's a mind field. And, to use a word from Somapoetics, gnosemic in aspiration.



I want to be clear that I make no claim on the axial as such—only the fact of focusing on it, intentionally furthering its practice—and I find axial poetics in play in many poetic works, including Rothenberg poetics pretty much all along, and going back to Deep Image. I find it of course in Blake, in G. Stein, in Joyce (esp. the Wake), in Stevens, in Robert Duncan (Structure of Rime), in Mac Low (e.g., Bloomsday), etc. Syntactic becomes synaptic. Robert Kelly has highly axial works as early as Deep Image, but especially at play in a poem like Axon Dendron Tree or Sentence. And Clark Coolidge, Franz Kamin, Charles Stein…. The latter and I have explored axiality, for instance, in Maurice Blanchot [http://www.quasha.com/writing-2/on-poetry-poetics/on-maurice-blanchot] and Gary Hill [An Art of Limina: Gary Hill’s Works and Writings, Barcelona: Ediciones Polígrafa, 2009]. Yet an axial poetics is not subject to full definition because it’s not really conceptual; it’s principle-based, and as such can only be discussed in relation to actual/singular manifestations, which, however, are never definitive.



[NOTE. Artist & poet George Quasha works across mediums to explore principles in common within language, sculpture, drawing, video, sound, installation, & performance. His axial stones & axial drawings have been exhibited at the Baumgartner Gallery & at ZONE Chelsea Center for the Arts in Chelsea (New York City) & elsewhere, & are featured in the recently published book, Axial Stones: An Art of Precarious Balance (Foreword by Carter Ratcliff) (North Atlantic Books: Berkeley). Editor & publisher of Station Hill Books, he has also produced & directed the video series, Art Is, Music Is, Poetry Is, all of which can be accessed at http://www.quasha.com/art-is & other spots on the internet. In the early 1970s he was my co-editor on America a Prophecy: A New Reading of American Poetry from Pre-Columbian Times to the Present & has remained an articulate voice for poetry over the intervening years. (J.R.)]


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