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9.29.2003

more from click click

mother witch
against I throw my voice
and jump from the water to attack you
from the water with my hands
or my mouth froze
the shock test guy
thinks we need too

the shock guy on the floor
concealed from the worker
the underage have sex in cars
miasma in the general vicinity of the teal
countertops, the face travels the many
abandoned rooms of the party
only to be made naked for the video cameras
it is midaugust, my desire for you
has swollen into a miniature John Ashbery

9.28.2003

Hey all! Sorry it's been so long. I've been a bit busy writing a paper for the Zukofsky conference on Halloween (my costume is Reznikoff if his costume was Niedecker!). I'm also trying to finish an introduction for the Lytle Shaw reading on Wed.

So many great things have been going on! Scalapino visited last week and read her paper on Jalal Toufic's "Forthcoming." In her essay "Fiction's Present" she writes, "Dropping a distinction between fiction and poetry as types of language is indicitave of the current change also reflected in writers dropping the distinction between art of language and discursive language" (3). I've been thinking of this same distinction for some time now (see my post awhile back on Watten) ever since Eli Drabman and I had a VERY long and drunken talk about whether discursive language could do the work of the poetic and vice versa. Scalapino's answer was super interesting: "One CAN NOT do the work of the other"! Holy cow! I specifically asked this question, because even as she switches between genres, and even as the genre utilizes discursive, prosaic, and poetic language, SHE IS STILL SWITCHING BETWEEN THE TWO. That is, if one language could do the work of the other, why not just use A LANGUAGE to write your essays and poems??! I wasn't prepared for her answer...

Also, Stan Brakhage film festival last Friday at the Squeaky Wheel. The poets came out in droves for an hour of really amazing shorts. Some people starting feeling pretty nauseous after awile, though, as the frames switch quickly and the motion of the light at times creates a sort of strobelight effect! What a great event, though, especially to watch the transition between his early films to those he was making right before his death.

Book finds(!): John Ashbery and Alex Katz's "Fragment" on Black Sparrow (first edition, 1966) $6! Peter Gizzi's "Music for Films" $5! Spicer's Collected (for a friend) $1.50!!!

And finally, a poem from click click:

witch dispatching her animals
into a world like birthdays
its money balloons
isn't this world
its yellow heart borders
and candles from the patches on my dress
where have the animals denned winter to leap upon us for our cake?
because the witch must birthday from the paper
she's a'million, her sophisticated
feminine monsters of second avenue
Lisa Jarnot, this is apostrophe
there must be a New York with cold walls for you
are an animal too, when will I find you sleeping in my cake?

9.15.2003

from click click

rider before an obstacle
light before the rider left the fern'd post on time
that mouth was gassed in the far seat
a rubber where I work instead
not long for blood in the ears where found
the tincture using legs to the subway

covered my mouth from the gas to the seat
used legs I work not long from the blood
the rider over the log weight
forward on her stead

9.13.2003

Wesley Willis is Dead

Long Live Wesley Willis

9.12.2003

Has everyone heard the news about the first annual "Jack Spicer Prize"?

See here: www.tougherdisguises.com

The deadline has been pushed back
JOHNNY CASH IS DEAD

LONG LIVE JOHNNY CASH
So then the important literary thinking is being done.
Who does it.
I do it.
Oh yes I do it.


Stein, The Geographical History of America

9.10.2003

from click click:

three heads
your outside crippled, apple
you nervous dogs
may not leashward star my writing hand
it is warm enough to mate near the road
for traffic cops mean nothing
it is only a certain comely
I, an attractive shade,
can be attractive for the heavily armed blinking in the traffic
these yellow rods that first I've noticed
three heads(attractive)it is customary now to be sensitive for the streetsit is comely for youlet's say you didn't know how to exit the burning vehicle on the streetthat is the problem with poetsin each head is another smaller head staring at a screenis the problem with poetsmy eyes are black with shingles, I can be attractivethis is the first time I've let the pretty youthas if my agenda weren't easy for the three headsthey see my silver suckingfrom the mouth its handsome shape

9.09.2003

On Stein Criticism


Identity:

Bernstein suggests that Stein’s identity is an “acting out rather than as an inner state; externally animated, not innately fixed” (Bernstein 141). That is, Stein’s writing practice holds identity (social, political, sexual) in abeyance by the very nature of its “excited meaning.” Piombino, Bernstein, and (seemingly) Stein make a distinction between self and identity, in which “self belongs to human nature and identity to human mind” (142) (I’m not yet convinced that Stein separates self from identity, but see The Geographical History of America or The Relation of Human Nature to the Human Mind for more on the nature/mind split). In short, “Stein celebrates her suspensions of identity, this holding off naming to see what otherwise emerges” (144).

Realism (Spatial and Atemporal):

Hejinian points out a similar dichotomy when quoting from Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas: “(Poetry and Prose) should consist of an exact reproduction of either an outer or an inner reality” (Hejinian 89). In Hejinian, though, the “externally animated” is consumed with phenomenological concerns. It is a realism charged with identifying the “real” essences of phenomena, or as Hejinian would have it “Putting ‘essences back into existence’...” (98). For Hejinian, Stein’s representation of thought is atemporal and spatial, as it fills the “landscape of the page.” It is a realism that constitutes thought’s verbal equivalent as it experiences phenomena, and the page is the data of the encounter. This is perhaps most true in Stein’s Geographical History, as the book itself is a spatial ordering or geographical landscape.

Quartermain:

Scraps from “A Narrative of Undermine”: Gertrude Stein’s Multiplicity, a lexicon of criticism (taken out of context at random):

...sheer mischief...destabilises the act of reading...continual disturbance of our expectations...subverts not only our sense of what we do when we read...subversion of expectations...renouncing linguistic patterns...Stein’s writing assaults clarity...clarity is itself an assault upon and hence a violation of the sheer complexity and richness of a sensory world...violating the context...Stein’s sentence violates the presumed contract...the sentence is fragmentary...a declarative sentence that undermines its own declarativeness...rendering inaccessible to the reader the customary contract with the author...Stein’s attack on notions of clarity radically undermines our notions of knowledge...itself indeterminate...the difficulties...the poem assaults the standard interpretive notion of meaning...a relationship that is “illicit”...withholds them from the reader...cryptic style...encodes certain references...to make it inaccessible to the reader...the poem makes no concession to the reader...dislocated referentiality...difficult of access... refusal... difficult... impossible... obscures... arbitrary... inconsistent... blur...exploited...thrown of balance...blur of indeterminancy...defamiliarises...exploits it...impossible to pin down...the contradictions (the last thirteen can be found on the same page: 31)... destabilise... impossible to fix...hindrance...nonconventional grammatical uses...opaque...covertly...brought up short...attack on the authoritarian power of conventional, Anglocentric, and male literary values... unpredictability...deconstruction...demolishes...impossible to decode...inappropriate...difficulty in this writing...devoid...utterly reliant...impossible to decide...refuses conclusions...of course inadequate...unable to move outside the limits of the text...problematises...a radical attack on certainty...I simply cannot tell...

Consumption and Depression:

“’Human nature’ attaches itself to the father in order to assure its ‘natural’ identity” (Carson 53).

Experience as Event:

Ziarek discusses representation in terms of “the event.” He writes, “My reading reinterprets this connection between sexuality and textuality in terms of Stein’s poetics of the event, that is her refiguration of the everyday as a fluid nexus of events whose historicity calls into question the ideal of the stability and transparency of representational and grammatical structures” (152). Or, “Since Stein’s texts, through their various forms of textuality and language, reinvent experiences as an event, they foreground the fashion in which avant-garde writing reworks the relation between aesthetics and experience” (154). For Ziarek, there is no chasm between “modernist textual practices and formal innovations” and “feminist writing with its critique of cultural formations, sexuality, and politics” (151). The representation of identity and textual innovation are never mutually exclusive; in fact, in order to represent the radical politics of the self, we need “a special way of writing” (Hejinian 88).

Collective Connectivity:

Spahr points out that Modernist critics have a tendency to focus on avant-garde poetry as a defenestration of, or attack on, standardized forms and practices (see Quartermain above). Instead, she argues that Stein’s work “connect(s) with readers...(it) den(ies) authorial authority and instead encourage(s) readers to be their own authors” (Spahr 41). She continues, “what is most resonant about Stein’s work is not its radical experimentalism but rather how she, with her attention to reading’s autonomy, aligns her work with immigrant and other nonstandard Englishes” (Spahr 22). I like the idea of Stein’s “difficulty” recast in terms of connectivity and simplicity. That is, “her words are intentionally common, simple, and never esoteric” (41). It is important to think about Stein’s writing as a primordial “landscape” of common communication, where reading is more about experiencing and less about interpreting. The “event” in Stein is the reading of Stein; many readers experience difficulty and alienation as a direct result of how they read. The disjunctive elements in Stein’s prose/poetry are apparent in simply looking at the text. What is less apparent, and what deserves more attention, is how Stein’s texts are infinitely generative and generous.

Works Cited

Bernstein, Charles. My Way: Speeches and Poems. University of Chicago Press, 1999.
Carson, Luke. Consumption and Depression in Stein, Zukofsky, and Pound. St. Martin’s, 1999.
Hejinian, Lyn. The Language of Inquiry. University of California Press, 2000.
Quartermain, Peter. Disjunctive Poetics: from Gertrude Stein and Louis Zukofsky to Susan Howe.
Cambridge, 1992.
Spahr, Juliana. Everybody’s Autonomy: Connective Reading and Collective Identity. Alabama, 2001.
Ziarek, Krzysztof. The Historicity of Experience: Modernity, the Avant-garde, and the Event.
Northwestern, 2001.



Oh my WOW! Today I received Kasey and Noah's new books!!! My first thoughts: Noah looks nothing like I imagined (I was picturing something much more book-ish, perhaps with alligator embroidered polo and indie-boy-bang-cut!), in fact, he looks very much like Trevor (weird). And flaps!! The mark of success is a flapped book! I am very excited to read both, as I have heard nothing but lunatic raving from the poets on the street.

Props to James and his tough disguise for putting out books that ought to be put out, and making them look so good!!
Krzysztof Ziarek is coming to teach at Buffalo in the Spring! See his "The Historicity of Experience: Modernity, the Avant-garde, and the Event" (This book is part of Northwestern's "Avant-garde and Modernism Studies" series; Christian Bok's amazing "'Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imaginary Science" was released by the same press).
If only I had done more lifting...
Go see the other Michael Cross:
http://www.menmagazine.com/issues/M0107/M0107_michael_cross.asp


Yesterday, K. and I found a seagull drowning in the Nigara River. We were walking down a long concrete path that cuts parrallel to the Niagara and perpendicular to the Peace Bridge (into Canada). The seagull was drowning because it had fish hooks lodged in numerous places in its body; it could not remove its head from its wing. We borrowed a pair of wire cutters from a local fisherman and spent well over an hour performing surgery on the bird. The hook in the wing was easy enough to remove; the hard part was removing a three pronged hook that was inside the seagull's mouth alternately attached to the inside of the nostril and through the bottom of its beak. It couldn't really open its mouth, which made it difficult to cut the hook, so we had to wrestle with it a bit to dislodge it. This was a very hard thing to do, as the bird was totally conscious and in a great deal of pain. We stopped numerous times to debate whether it was more humane to drown the bird, as the hook was deeply lodged, and leaving the hook in the beak would surely mean starvation. After some hardcore surgery, we finally dislodged the hook, and though it was pretty beat up, the bird dried off and began to regain health. We sat around awhile to make sure "he" was improving, and then left the water park traumatized but happy. We returned a couple hours later to see if he was still around (K. brought granola, bread, and a spoon(?!)) but he was gone, which is a good sign (he had to have flown away as there was little room to get around on foot). I am now a seagull advocate.

If you are a fisherperson (not a fisherspooner), please be careful to dispose of your hooks safely. And if you want to smoke weed at the waterfront, please do a better job of disguising yourself in the shrubbery. You'll recognize me by my wirecutters, and the single tear swelling in my eye...

9.05.2003

Before moving to Buffalo, I heard MANY, MANY rumors of the demise of the Poetics Program. People are smoking crack. There are SO MANY hot shit poets in Buffalo it makes me want to pee my pants. For example: Thom Donovan, Barbara Cole, Kristen Gallagher, Gregg Biglieri, Myung Mi Kim, Susan Howe (still here! perhaps for a long while...), Gordon Hadfield, Sasha Steensen, Kyle Schlesinger, Nathan Austin, Lori Emerson, etc.etc.etc. If you are not familiar with these names, you ought to be!! Not only are they big time thinkers, but they can dress!! And there are so many poetry related events, it is like living in the Bay again (except you don't have to cross the bridge!). This Fall we are pleased to welcome L. Scalapino, Lytle Shaw, Bernadette Mayer, Rachel Blau Duplessis, Andrew Levy (to name but a few). AND there will be a Bottom festival in October (featuring Bob Perelman, Louis Cabri, Biglieri, Donovan). I feel more immersed in poetry than ever before! AND it is absolutely beautiful in Buffalo right now (and I'm even excited for the snow!). AND we are starting a hiring search for the Gray Chair (to replace Berstein), and the potential hires are making me giddy!


In short, don't believe the hype. The poetics program is way too fucking interesting and important to fall apart. With Myung, Howe, the potential hire (that will make headlines!), including all the heads that don't make press but are fucking big time thinkers (Ma, Tim Dean, Scott Evans), this IS the place to be!


Oh, and I'm here too. Did I mention me??

Holy Cow! I figured out links!!! I've only got the preliminaries up. Don't be scurd...

9.03.2003

I will never figure out how to links.
Until I figure out how to do links, here is my email address: michaelthomascross@hotmail.com. Drop a line. And talk about me on your blog.
How many people knew that Casual T is Trevor's hip hop name??! I prefer Causal T...
Negativity: a Constellative “Model”
(Or, Reading Report: Barrett Watten, Rust Belt Books, Friday, August 29, 2003)

Negativity: “part of a system that cannot be represented positively” (Watten), actualized by internal semantic shifts within the text.

Frederic Jameson: “That modern thought of experience is somehow ‘fragmentary’ might be an instructive feature of yet another Kulturkritik of modern times, but only if fragmentation is seen as the situation and the dilemma to which modern thought responds, not as one of its general qualities or properties...” (Jameson 50-51).

Working between discourses as discursive models offers “generated meanings that are fabricated” (Watten).

Q: What is the difference btw. conceptual speech and ethical speech? Does Watten make the claim that it is our “ethical” responsibility to invest in negativity, as our language is social? When does poetry inhabit a conceptual framework if “Thinking things the world” (Bernstein 71)? That is, poetry is always already conceptual and social.

Hejinian:
“The resulting praxis is addressed to phenomenological & epistemological concerns. But it is also a denotatively social and therefore political practice” (Hejinian 2).

Bernstein again:
“’Thinking’ as the conceptual basis of literary production suggests the possibilities for leaps, jumps, fissures, repetition, bridges, schisms, colloquialisms, trains of associations, and memory; as a literary mode it would rely on concepts related to spontaneity, free association, and improvisation” (Bernstein 63).

Adorno:
“With a peasant cunning that justifies itself as primordiality, it refuses to honor the obligations of conceptual thought, to which, however, it had subscribed when it used concepts in its propositions and judgements” (Adorno 7).

Watten, somewhere in Opera-Works:

In the picture postcard nothing comes about
I know that, I am tight
I bought almonds

Q: “Why work in criticism instead of poetry” (Watten)? And if it is true that one can do the work of the other, why do both? Doesn’t fragmentation in prose, especially fragmentation that slips from discursive writing to poetry (or the other way around), only make tangible that poetry cannot do the work of criticism, and vice versa? Isn’t the “unwritten” discipline the “negative” that one ought to be writing?

Katja Geldhof, in the our car, after the Watten talk:
“ I think it would be impossible to live in a place like Detroit and not write about it.”

Or Oakland, or Buffalo. The Negative (what is not said): “White Flight” in the 60’s, gentrification in Oakland pushing the population of color to the Coliseum (East), gentrification in Buffalo (?) pushing the population of color to the airport (East). The virtual collapse of industry (Oakland, Buffalo, Detroit) as negative undercurrent to EVERY urban narrative within city limits.

Olson:
“I take space to be the central fact to man born in America, from Folsom cave to now. I spell it large b/c/ it comes large here. Large and w/o mercy” (Call Me Ishmael).

Lorca:
“The duende is at his most impressive in the bullfight, for he must fight both death, which can destroy him, and geometry—measurement, the very basis of the festival” (In Search of Duende, italics mine).

Watten somewhere in Opera-Works:

the troops are departing by boat
I can see them
but think of myself
as better than nature

Olson:
“It is built as pyramids were built...There is space here, and objects big enough to contest space” (Ibid.).

The constellative of the immediate environment effects the outcome of (and the act of) the essay. The negative of my immediate writing act: “Native Americans should not benefit from extra help” and “Black contractors always have work, thanks to the government” (overheard dialogue). This is the essay, to which all writing hence has been negative. The negative of my immediate writing act: as I read about the illumination of ideas, the porch lights (attracting a multitude of insects) turned off. This is the essay, to which all writing hence has been negative.

Negativity: “refusal of a community?” social negation? self-negation?

Q: In what ways does writing the negative create social change, especially as the negative “cannot be represented positively”? A presentation of any negative is from an endemic point of view, necessarily limiting the range of representation of the negative. That is, which negative to choose??

Scalapino:
“The camera lens of writing is the split between oneself and reality. Which one sees first—view of dying and life—is inside, looking out into untroubled ‘experience’” (“A Note on My Writing”).

“Maya”—infinite multiplicities of illusion as reality (from a notebook, written near “How Phenomena Appear to Unfold” notes—Scalapino??).

Watten’s negative presented as an objective point of view? How do we make a distinction between the negative and what we perceive to be a negative? That is, the social ramifications of the negative are ultimately arbitrary, as they rely on a single agent to “decide” which narrative ought to be salvaged.

Camille Martin (notes from talk on Cognitive Science, Small Press Traffic, April 5, 2002):

*Subjective experience can be explained empirically.

*“The naive boundary between me and the outside is my skin.”

*Radically question dichotomies (supposed): narrative, construction of self/other, perception, centralization, dialogue w/ emptiness.

Susan Howe (from Bed Hangings):

Ownership and ownership it
is a maxim of logic the double
of the object is that I desire it

Works Cited

Adorno, Theodor. Notes to Literature.
Bernstein, Charles. Content’s Dream. Sun and Moon Press.
Hejinian, Lyn. The Language of Inquiry. University of California Press.
Howe, Susan. The Midnight. New Directions.
Jameson, Frederic. Late Marxism: Adorno or the Persistence of the Dialectic. Verso.
Lorca, Federico Garcia. In Search of Duende. New Directions.
Olson, Charles. Call Me Ishmael. New Directions.
Scalapino, Leslie. How Phenomena Appear to Unfold. Potes and Poets.
Watten, Barrett. Frame. Sun and Moon Press.



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