Archive for the ‘poetics’ Tag

OULIPO now and then

1-LUTygRS_E5EI_AOvFTHaaw

“Oulipo turns 60, but given how much we hear about it these days, it feels more like 150″ says George Murray at Bookninja. To some of us, it seems much older.

For my part, I learned about the OULIPO and composition by means of a generative device in the early nineties, thanks to Joseph Conte’s goldmine of a study, Infinite Design: The Forms of Postmodern Poetry. Not that long after (or so it seems this morning), Christian Bök’s Eunoia appeared to equal acclaim and, well, annoyance (a book, for those who don’t know, is composed by means of a generative device, after the OULIPO).

For me, the controversy was tiresome, having read Conte’s work and, more importantly, Ernst Robert Curtius’s classic oeuvre, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, which details ancient and medieval modes of composition which quickly dispel any illusions the OULIPO and its epigones are avant garde. (Though I do know that matter is more complex than I allow for here).

I expressed my impatience with the whole matter, boiling Curtius’ excurses into the following poem from Ladonian Magnitudes, one among several that got up the nose of that book’s most notorious reviewer. The poem is four quatrains and a concluding line, despite WordPress’ formatting constraints…

 

Liposuction & Related Procedures in Antiquity

 

Lasus Pindar’s master made a poem sans σ and a millennium later

Nestor of Laranda in Lycia wrote an Iliad each book less a letter Tryphrodorus Aegyptus did the Odyssey

So from Baroque Spain via Peter Rega

From Fabius Planciades Fulgentius’ De aetatibus mundi et hominis λειπoγραμματoς

 

Hucbald’s Charles the Bald eclogue beginning every word with C one-hundred and forty six lines

Late Roman grammarians’ παρόμoιoν

O Tite, tute, Tati, tibi tanta, tyranne, tulisti a scolia for a Caracalla’s Banquet

where as Aelius Spartianus has it from his brother Geta every dish alliterated

 

The so-called “figure poems” τεχνoπαίγνια in the Greek Anthology

Porfyrius Optatianus rendered in Constantine’s Latin

Alcuin, Raban Maur, Sixteenth Century Hellenism followed

Pre-Alexandrian Persian lines in trees and parasols

 

Eusonius follows Plato’s for the Sophists logodaedalia in his Technopaegnion

Each line of one poem starting and finishing with one syllable and the last word’s the next’s first

Catalogues of single syllable limbs, gods, foods, questions “yes” or “no”

A myth crib every line turning on one syllable

Grammatomastix’s monosyllables amputated prefixes lifted from Ennius and Virgil

 

The “versos de cabo roto” Urganda chants before “…a certain village in La Mancha…”

Writing on and conversations with Bruce Andrews and Amiri Baraka

IMG_2950Back in  2008 (!), I had the good fortune to meet (among others) a then-younger scholar of Amerikanistik, Dennis Büscher-Ulbrich.

Now, the rest of us are lucky enough to get to know his work:  the Electronic Poetry Center has made available as a PDF download his dissertation on American post-avant poet Bruce Andrews, Dissensual Operations:  Bruce Andrews and the Problem of Political Subjectivity in Post-Avant-Garde Aesthetic Politics and Praxis, you can download and read, here.

Admittedly, reading through a theoretically state-of-the-art dissertation on a notoriously difficult poet can be a challenge. Interested readers can jump straight to a wide-ranging and penetrating interview that is appended to the dissertation, here.

Büscher-Ulbrich also conducted one the last interviews with Amiri Baraka, one no less lively, you can read, here.

 

Praise the algorithm! Plunging into the silliness: Andrew Lloyd’s career as an Instagram poet

Thanks to real poet Michael Boughn for sharing Andrew Lloyd’s article from Vice “I Faked My Way as an Instagram Poet, and It Went Bizarrely Well”—a fortuitous addendum to my last post, “Synchronicitious Critique”.

Corpus Sample: Materializations II: “Gloze”

Last week’s “materialization” sought to concretize the language by collaging snippets of decontextualized conversation. This week’s tightens the knot, making “the language speak” about the language itself.

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is remembered for remarking that “meaning is use.” Taking this maxim literally, I collaged together examples of every use of the word ‘gloze’ drawn from the examples supplied by the Oxford English dictionary under the word’s entry. The word is thereby lexically if not semantically “emptied out” in a cubist fashion, putting Wittgenstein’s contention to an ironic test. The poem is further self-reflexive, because the word means to glare or inspect closely; therefore, the title can be taken to be the imperative tense, instructing the reader to gloze, gloss (another meaning), or otherwise attend to the word itself. The word has the added bonus, aside from its polysemy, of being a pun on the plural of the substantive ‘glow’ and the third person singular conjugation of the verb ‘to glow’ among other things. Attentive readers will also note the poem is a chance fourteen lines….

Though this compositional procedure held promise, I exploited it only two more times, to write the poem “Gnarled Box” (along with “Gloze” included in Grand Gnostic Central) and a longer, much more complex, intertextual work that develops a passage from Lautreamont’s Poesies fittingly entitled “Poesies”.

‘Gloze’ is also the name of the first, self-published chapbook, that served as my calling card in Germany during my first European tour in 1996. And, like “Elenium” it inspired a videopoem by Ty “Jake the Dog” Hochban, viewable after the poem.

Gloze

 

Gloze

 

No more men maye glosen withouten text

Than bylde materles.  With fals talkyng

Many gloses are made.  With Retorike,

Ne glosed eloquence, some to opteyn

Favour will flatter and glose, with new Glozes

Tainte the Text, and vnto you a fayned

Tale will gloze.  Give a good glose from thy strain’d

Goggle eye, peep from the watry Humour,

And glow upon any word you may gloze,

The parasite glozes with sweet speeches,

With the tongue of flattery glozing deeds,

Known only to those who have glozed over

An illusory glozing of light dismally

Glimmering, glosing with the glory of day.

 

 

 

Corpus Sample: Materializations I: “Elenium”

elenium

Ironically, at a time when text is at its most material (as something to be cut and pasted, or mindlessly composed or translated by software) it is at the same time most invisible, the sign a mere window onto its meaning, disposable as a paper coffee cup once the latté is finished. Poets have, understandably, especially in recent decades, worked against this trend.

“Elenium” (aside from the elusiveness of its title) slows down the too-ready consumption of the language by complicating its logic. The poem collages overheard bits of conversation without any indication of which words belong to which speakers or even how many speakers there are. However old (and it is very old) this device is, it caused no little consternation to the most vociferous of the reviewers of Ladonian Magnitudes (see the “Product Description” at the book’s page at Amazon.ca) from which this poem is taken.

Happily, the poem inspired a video interpretation (by Ty “Jake the Dog” Hochban), viewable after the poem itself.

 

Elenium

The isle is full of voices

 

a tiny little yellow oval pill

Judy Garland ravaged by her phantoms

it’ll all be alright

 

they’re all pretty full—one’s puffed up

hashish, port, and In Memoriam

we must have some music, some more to drink

 

and then we are ready for “Shades of Callimachus…”

late night calls for coke are disturbing and boring

I always bring him something from Holland

 

what have we done yet? —I can see

the flower in the bud—and she is a bud!

let’s remember hysteria was thought to be a migrating uterus

 

you having sex would never look good

a colony mongrel hand-me-down genes

yet eyes are the guides of love still

 

that must have given you a twitch or two

with the Xanax I don’t feel like I need a cigarette

though you wouldn’t say you have beaten out your exile

 

 

 

Corpus Sample: “A Visitor from Jerry-Land”

Last week I shared a poem a little more complex and elusive than what I’m wont to compose of late. Whatever difficulty it presented was more logical than anything.

However, a more persistent concern with no less complex consequences for that linguistic art whose medium is essentially public has been a struggle with how to maintain individuality in the face of all the forces that would liquidate it. During my undergraduate studies, “the Death of the Subject” was a hot topic. Today, the Subject is, again, dissolved in various identities, whether gender, race, class, or something other, or, even more gravely, as mere data, profiling a pattern of consumption.

singularity

 

In this poem, from Ladonian Magnitudes, that most public of things, language and text, is folded around the singularity of intertextuality and personal allusion to create a space for individual thought and, paradoxically, dialogue and expression. “A Visitor from Jerry-Land” answers an unpublished poem by the dedicatee (though included as an appendix to Ladonian Magnitudes). To further complicate things, its field of reference is unapologetically personal. Nevertheless, in this nearly hermetic space, it remains possible to engage urgent poetical, ethical, political, and existential matters at the site where they all in fact come into play, the individual person.

 

A Visitor from Jerry-Land

to Daniel O’Leary

“The makar must a wanderer be”

 

The chance

97% in my favour,

as even the hooligans

who stoned blind

Homer knew,

is the nether lands’

weather is variable

as the garden’s flowers’ colours’

pleasures under its lights.

 

Sloth, sallow, must swallow

its name’s root’s in Sanskrit

He-Who-Causes-To-Fail

 

Ferret out and squirrel away

what you can quoth

Master Ant smugly

even before his widescreen TV

where the Albanians’ Lada

is shot to shit and first one

on the scene’s no medic but

a cameraman focussed

on the slumped driver

his passenger’s shock-eyed begging.

 

The gravy, this meat’s juices

heat-pressed by kinetic attention.

We drove here in a Peugeot,

right away downed two Stoli shots,

and now, hours later, one makes

it up as he cooks supper while

the other scribbles his version

at the dining table. The sheer volume

of spirits swallowed and inspiring here

prevent the endless end of ill-fare.—

 

Look: the light waxes every morning

and night argues its obfuscations so

we might see its numbers plain.

In this light

an 18th century volume

of Juvenal with French crib

beside the new reading-chair upstairs

aside the modern English

concurs.

Corpus Sample: “After a Legend of the Prior of Urfort”

My stylistic trend of recent years has been asymptoting to a “poetry degree zero”, a language stripped of overt figuration or texture, relying, instead, on metonymy, allusion, and, what in classical rhetoric might be termed, arrangement. But recently I’ve been hankering for a more complex poetry, not unlike some of that included in my first trade edition Grand Gnostic Central and other poems (1998).

One poem there that embodies what I have in mind is a slightly cheeky retelling of a story about the medieval German mystic, Meister Eckhart, awhile the Prior of Erfort. Eckhart is referred to only paraphrastically, and the spelling of Erfort is modified, as well, for, well, poetic reasons. Whether the poem achieves the sophistication of thought and expression it aspires to I leave, of course, to the reader.

Too, thematically, it touches on the concerns addressed in my last Corpus Sample, since, one way humankind has traditionally attempted to tame the chaos of the wild ride of being alive is to impose a mythic pattern or order, as we’re told the Prior of Urfort seems to, here.

mystic

 

After a Legend of the Prior of Urfort

 

No soul

Has effect

But by the body held

 

What you know

What two no one can hold

Weave in a scuffle

 

These

The plottings

The subtle wishes

 

Sung by one

An inbred family

On a mountain top

 

These in one

Divine

He said

Why the title, “Bread & Pearls”?

It has some pleasant affinities with the title of Roland Barthes’ magisterial study S/Z.

The conjoined substantives are, first, singular and plural. The initial phonemes of each are in opposition:  /b/ voiced, /p/ unvoiced. Orthographically, the consonant-vowel pattern ‘r-ea’ in ‘bread’ is reversed in ‘pearls’, ‘ea-r’. Like the initial consonants, the more-or-less terminal consonants of the pair seem to me again in phonological opposition: both /d/ and /l/ are formed by placing the tongue-tip to the palate, but the former releases the flow of breath, removing the tongue from the palate, while the latter does not.

Semantically, in one regard, the first substantive denotes something edible, while the latter does not; bread is artificial, while pearls are natural (if susceptible to being cultured); however, one sense of ‘bread’ (money) makes both terms media of exchange. The substantives allude, too, to two bible verses not without a certain rhetorical significance.

Much more, of course, could be said….

Poeticritical Serendipity

Gloria_Graham_Lyn_HejinianDonald Wellman reviews Lyn Hejinian’s The Unfollowing, describing it as follows:

Fourteen lines on each page, that’s sonnet length. Little rhyme [or] syllogism employed. No tidy conclusions. Each line as long as it needs to be. Most discontinuous with one another but not necessarily so. It seems there may not be a logic other than method in the construction of Lyn Hejinian’s The Unfollowing (Omnidawn 2016). Nothing follows, no conclusions, the title says it all.

The well-read might be circumspect about a book composed in this manner, sections riming with a sonnet’s length, parataxis the lines’ principle of arrangement, by a poet long-associated with L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry (Hejinian is included in both Silliman’s In the American Tree (1986) and Messerli’s “Language” Poetries (1987)), published in 2016.

Such readers might be prompted to further reflection over the implications of these guendercompositional characteristics of Hejinian’s book when they read in Alice A. Kuzniar’s Delayed Endings: Nonclosure in Novalis and Hölderlin about Karoline von Günderrode’s fifteen-verse “Ein apokalyptisches Fragment” (published in 1804), that “…each verse appears as a disjointed fragment in an unconnected, nonteleological series”.

I leave this juxtaposition to speak for itself, for readers with ears to hear and hearts that care to.

 

Multiversic takes on 9/11

Despite its being the fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks Sunday, I had decided to, here, pass over the event in silence. Then, The Griffin Trust website posted Fanny Howe’s “9/11”.

I was struck—as I often am—by the commentary accompanying the poem:

Is it virtually impossible to write about certain events that are too immense, too devastating, too charged on so many levels? To go into the specifics, one risks being maudlin, self-absorbed, short-sighted, too emotional. To try to broaden the discussion and perhaps recklessly try to scale something to the universal, one risks being too political, polarizing or simply missing the mark.

Howe’s poem, of course, avoids being too “self-absorbed” and “too political”—by “suggesting the heart of the event’s impact, is how it affects who and what we love.” I wonder what the commentator thinks of Shelley’s The Mask of Anarchy or Charles Reznikoff’s Testimony or Holocaust.

By way of contrast and to broaden and concretize the discussion, let me offer these two poetic texts that both fail to escape the commentator’s extremes: “The Tao of 9/11”  by Peter Dale Scott (that both goes “into specifics” and is “too political”) and one of my own, excerpted from a longer work, that, too, is “too specific,” composed, as it was, in real time.

Writing a poetry including history is no easy matter, and the question how far the “heart of the matter” escapes history’s particulars and the machinations of power no less demanding.