Commentaries - February 2012

Paul Blackburn on the 1960 World Series

Paul Blackburn performed his poem “7th Game : 1960 Series,” written in 1960, on or near the first day of the 1971 baseball season, during a reading he gave at SUNY Cortland. The poem was later republished in Blackburn’s Collected Poems [PDF].

Recipe for writing a New York School poem

The following exercise was generated for the course I am teaching this semester at School of Visual Arts, which concerns “composition through orality,” or if you prefer Creative Speaking.

It is a “recipe” or constraint of sorts for writing a New York School poem (my class read James Schuyler, Bernadette Mayer, Charles Bernstein, and Dorothea Lasky—a heterodox selection, I realize; and listened to Eileen Myles, Schuyler, Robert Creeley, and Ron Padgett via PennSound).

Students were encouraged to use as many of the following "ingredients" as possible: 

  1. at least one addressee (to which you may or may not wish to dedicate your poem)
  2. use of specific place names and dates (time, day, month, year)--especially the names of places in and around New York City
  3. prolific use of proper names
  4. at least one reminiscence, aside, digression, or anecdote
  5. one or more quotations, especially from things people have said in conversation or through the media
  6. a moment where you call into question at least one thing you have said or proposed throughout your poem so far
  7. something that sounds amazing even if it doesn’t make any sense to you
  8. pop cultural references
  9. consumer goods/services
  10. mention of natural phenomena (in which natural phenomena do not appear ‘natural’)

Minha canção hemisférica

My hemispheric song

céu da palavra from brunovianna on Vimeo.

The Beacon from Ari Kalinowski's "Occupy the Light"

It may be that only cannibalism unites us, as Oswald insisted, socially, economically, philosophically. (“Só a antropofogia nos une. Socialmente. Economicamente. Philosophicamente.”) But what about geographically? It's winter in earnest up north (so I hear, some places) while in Rio we're readying for Carnaval at the height of summer. Listening to Lenine's “A Ponte/Embolada” (from his 1997 album O Dia Em Que Faremos Contato), I got to thinking about hemispheric exchange.

CCP and eco-poetics

Some listenings

Photo credit: Ariel Goldberger
Photo credit: Ariel Goldberger

 “Nature” is the unconscious.

The sense of this statement is often more immediately clear to sculptors, to painters, and to other artists who work with physical materials, than it is to writers – or to scientists.

As one carves the stone or fashions the wood what one desired or feared comes gradually into view, unknowns are realized in the emerging form, an ambient mystery is for that moment determinate, the non-human is realized in its naissance. To speak of birth is already to anthropomorphize, the image at risk of becoming more and more obvious to the extent we begin to mold it to our image. As opposed to an idea of Nature as the given, I want to identify the non-self identical with “Nature” in order to help me distance it from the definition of Nature that would put it in contrast to History.

Nature is the unconscious. Which is to say that when one picks up materials and begins to tinker with them in a certain way: when one picks up language and begins to fiddle with it, as it were absent-mindedly, or by way of automatic writing, or by chance operations, or by working from the black of the page, the unconscious begins to come into view. What was in the dark comes into the arena of humanly generated light. What was coiled in the unconscious enters the social.

This distinction is not the same as that between subjective and objective, or inside and outside: it is closer to that between wilderness and civilization. In other words, I am referring to a distinction that has been abrogated on earth. Wilderness no longer exists in some pure form, not since the invention of the atom bomb: all present forms of wilderness are dependent on a contingent human choice to go on, to resist the death drive as it were, and therefore, are not independent of human choice. “Nature" is where what we know of ourselves as humans leaves off, where what we don’t know of ourselves as human begins, and yet where something is all the same encountered.

Constraint is not silent nor at rest

Reading Larry Eigner's 'Areas Lights Heights' ten years later

Photo of Larry Eigner © Alastair Johnston
Photo of Larry Eigner © Alastair Johnston

Like an audio feed, I read you close, was your feelings tones, breath struggles, how this becomes our body


Too easy to forget, all the lines little deaths, no author knows, typing with their toes


Really though there is no death, just you transmit the trees two feet of dirt around you, this is what it means to live


To not escape into those particulars, to make them universalize the nostalgia for anything not seen out your window, not heard on NPR