Saturday, October 28, 2006


JH: How, figuratively speaking, could a knitter prove authorship, that is to say, direct human agency, if the machine is programmed to blow a stitch (and does so randomly, so that machine-made products aren't identified by having the blown stitch locatable in the same spot)? Could the poet prove authorship via commentary outside the poem? This commentary could be machine-made, or a fiction, a person's description/myth of how the machine text was made by a human. In Antic View 96 we've discussed the unprovability of emotional response/association, how about the unprovability of the imagination? Unprovability, of the emotional, the imaginative, or, to sum up, the mental, could be an indication of the integrity/self-sufficiency of the poem (especially when considered as a finished, written object). What is recognizable in a poem are the words. The reader can prove recognition of the definitions of a given word in the poem, but how can one prove one has understood any part of the poem (including a given word in the context of the poem, which could render previous definitions useless)? The reader is as self-sufficient as the poem. Where's the bridge? Is this bridge, if it exists, across anything other than space? If not, what's under the bridge? If one crossed over to the poem, could one ever come back (whether a complete return or visitations)? Is this part of the fascination some have with the quote unquote mad poet (if so, a reader who is not a poet could as easily go to the poem, whether as a face-(oh, what a face this must be!)-to-face meeting or as an area to occupy, only the reader, unless a writer or a writer's subject, is unsung and thus unknown. And the reader could only go to another's poem, perhaps), that the poem this poet pictures does permit any other pictures, such as those of the world once held in common with non-poets? Does this happen on a less legendary scale with any poet, with any reader?

AHB: tempted more than once to answer I dunno and throw it back to you. but that could be wrong. the only proof of understanding would be some version of the Dickinson test, i. e. blowing your top hat or in some way getting a enlivening reaction. and sometimes the proof of understanding is a bunch of questions, that you got enough of he poem to realize you don't get it, that it has proved vaster than your first inkling, and your second. the knitter proves authorship thru nerve, or even the body electric. one senses the liveness. or is that just made up? I don't know if I could tell if a machine made the sweater, or notice my grandmother's thrown stitch. I liked the sweaters and scarves my grandmother knit me because she made them, not because I have a lively scale for knitted items. there may be no there there, regarding the poem. in the sense that a point in space can be triangulated but not measured. is that clear? a poem exists but it isn't a collection of words, it is um a monolith? an integrated unit. that is, words, any words, can be empowered to poemness. those same words can be in George Bush's last speech (not a poem). some poems look like poems, but George Bush's last speech could be lineated to look that way. we concede that some poems just plain suck. that is, we first concede that the piece in question satisfies certain definitions we have of poetry, but its engine is a little weak, it burns oil, etc. but I might just say a work is a poem if it gets to me, period. somewhat against my will I'm discovering more poems by Allen Ginsberg that I like than I previously suspected. due to my ability to receive. what weren't poems now are. as you say, the reader is as self-sufficient as the poem. but it is funny to think of the poem that I wrote, because I may still have this thing, the primal poem, within me, this primal poem being the instigation or spirit of what finally got written. the thing I wrote imitates or transfigures that primal poem.

Friday, October 27, 2006


JH: Thanks! "Babylon is falling to rise no more" is my favorite of my prose poems. I intend to write more prose poems, but this poem is not part of a series. The lacunae may come from the reader's keeping an eye out for progression. The three sentences are re-phrasals of each other, with any detail added not adding to the action but to what the reader lacks in omniscience. The reader doesn't know what the narrator will witness (in the sense of speaking, as well as observing) until the third sentence, or why the narrator is a lamb until the second sentence. More sentences could be added to supply what is lacking in knowledge: is the lamb meant figuratively or literally? was the narrator always a lamb? is Babylon the historical Babylon? why and how exactly did it fall?, etc. The two sentences indicate that the first sentence is not inclusive of all it purports to say.

The in-inclusiveness (uninclusiveness) is unavoidable, as the first sentence is not linguistically obscure. More sentences could be added, without increase of this indication. Each sentence in this prose poem is uninclusive: whence the cat? is the cat literal or figural? is "a cat may look at a king" a quotation of the folk saying commonly phrased in just those words? how many towers before the last tower? These are not unanswerable questions, they are unaskable questions, as the poem cannot possibly provide them answers in its present form, though were that form altered answers could be provided them. Were every conceivable question answered, would it still be a poem, prose poem or otherwise? What makes this a prose poem - what about it is prose? The term "poem in prose" is a synonym for "poem" since all written poems are written in prose. I feel that if "Babylon is falling to rise no more" were longer, it would cease to be a poem, and turn into prose. The indication of uninclusiveness with words containing their basic meanings is what makes this a poem. Additional sentences that provide detail explanatory of previous sentences without increase of indication, or additional sentences that do not provide this explanatory detail, would be extraneous to the poem. But could one not have a poem with a long prose tail indistinguishable in appearance from the heading poem, or a prose-appearing poem in any area of the prose? Would the poem be corrupted by this adjacent or surrounding prose? We see how poetry is already and constantly challenged by prose that is not even on the same page or in the same book. A poem's title, being in prose (or is it always in prose? If not, is it a separate poem acting as an epigraph and thus a quotation and thus prose?), threatens the poem. Is a poem what is threatened, by the reader, by the poet, and by all that is not the poem, including poetry?

AHB: Some years ago I reached a point when the lessons of my reading got too weighty. reading commentary, particularly that of the LANGUAGE poets, was useful but it forced rules on me (a poem is this). so finally I just let constraint go and allowed that prose could be poetry, and prose was comfortable for me. but is it that easy? there is this tension of the word, to turn from 'ordinary usage' to poetry. this shows especially when language is appropriated. the use of search engines to create works is one means of appropriation, and there are lots of other ways, as well. the following is a find-and-replace job I did yesterday.


An electronic poetics has a sexual innuendo and has a poetry-sensitive "rhyme scheme" surrounding the sexual innuendo. Areas on the "rhyme scheme" are designated for controls used to operate the electronic poetics. Visual guides corresponding to the controls are sexual innuendoed on the sexual innuendo adjacent the areas of the "rhyme scheme" designated for the controls. poetry data is generated by the "rhyme scheme" when a user poetries an area of the "rhyme scheme". The poetics determines which of the controls has been selected based on which designated area is associated with the poetry data from the "rhyme scheme". The poetics then initiates the determined control. The poetics can have a sensor for determining the orientation of the poetics. Based on the orientation, the poetics can alter the areas designated on the "rhyme scheme" for the controls and can alter the location of the visual guides for the sexual innuendo so that they match the altered areas on the "rhyme scheme".
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I suppose it may 'mean' something to the reader to know that the source text is the abstract to the patent for the iPod. but this is a poem because... why? 1) I said so. 2) the tension between its structure and its meaning. that is, the stiff dry language of the original remains in the background, at odds with the replaced words and my 'poetic intent'. I should mention that someone suggested that I misspell rhyme one time, a glitch to throw off the sense of the mechanical (in the way that knitters are supposed to blow a stitch, to show that the work isn't by a machine). poetry is threatened, yes, and poetry threatens right back. I think poetry IS the tension thus created. I think our minds constantly perform the boolean as we read: we look at writing as one or tother. of course it could be both, but that may be too much to wrap around.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


JH: Does disjointed narrative offer only layers, and no linearity? Diagrammatically, the disjointed narrative goes down (and up), but not across? The reader can read the movement from end to end of each line or section, and how much traveling time is needed for a coherent narrative? Emotional content here is important, as emotions have their own time which the poem can borrow. Emotions call up associations: how do emotional associations differ from literary associations, that is to say, allusions? Literary, in the previous question, includes the historical - anything received from a text. Literary allusions, to me, are as personal as emotional associations. Is it, then, appropriate to treat literary allusions and emotional associations as two things? Or is the nature of allusion/association emotional? Is it literary, as we have no evidence of association outside of literature (the earliest record of allusion is just that, a record, a written document - this hypothetical and legendary earliest recorded instance of allusion. By extension, or regression, association goes no earlier than the first poem/song - perhaps association, in the form of metaphor?, was the impetus of this first poem.)? Association cannot be proved to another person; association is indistinguishable in speech or writing from invention. Allusion can be proved by comparison with a prior text. Texts that mention emotional responses can be consulted to give credence (or doubt) to someone's claim of emotional response. We have learned to love allusion, hence the emotion in emotional associations?
AHB: I see disjunction going across (to the reader) in packets, chunks, phrases. not as a kit but as an assembly. that sounds like a rocky metaphor. I'm trying to intimate the immediacy possible with disjunction. rather than taking each step toward a place of meaning, one teleports. I don't know how emotional and literary associations differ,except that the seed of literary allusion is shared, however the resultant impression grows, whereas emotional, personal allusion begin singularly. I suppose it's the diff between collective unconscious and unconscious, tho I don't want to throw a Jungian (or any) veil over the discussion. one sees that interpretations to an artwork situate in a neighbourhood, that people at least tend to see roughly the same work, tho there are degrees of similarity, and some people are in left field (with Manny Ramirez!!!). (somewhat personal allusion). what I mean is, there is a core something that travels between us, however much we personalize the meaning. the word meaning, ach, it's a troublesome word. I think an artist doesn't so much give meaning as process. shifting the governance of one's mind to another way to understand. less direct, more enveloping... I think of my own writing, the act of, and it doesn't feel like I try to convey meaning as much as open a door or light a path. that the thing made conveys, but I only have so much control of the conveyance. a poem of yours, posted to Wryting-L, yclept “Babylon is falling to rise no more” shows the lack of control (I wot):

A lamb, am I, to witness Babylon is falling to rise no more; a lamb to witness as a cat may look at a king; with the descent of Her last tower Babylon, I'll claim, disappeared hugely with such a burst my ear has a wolf's pang for its like again.

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I love these little prose snatches that you write. did I say prose? I infer a larger work of which this is intimation. not really, insofar as I don't know whether or not such a larger work exists. but allusions arise in this work, and lacunae exist that I (the reader) wish or need to fill. my thesis here is that you present this text (however you created it) to the reader with the idea that the reader would (or would have to) fill in the gaps.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


JH: Poetry "is the vast question mark addressed to language" - yes! A glyph attached to words, confronting words - words on one end and indefinable space on the other end. Perhaps a poet can push through the glyph and write on that blank space, but that doesn't change the depth, only the surface. To add to a surface would create more depth, would it not? Then again, to hover above a surface a few inches or many miles would alter the depth perceptually. Does the work of the poet consist in burying deeper what is in the depths? To further conceal (that is, to add more weight to what covers the depths) or to pile the depth higher, this is the work of the poet? Poetry may want to obscure human depths or human perception of depths in order to bring more attention to itself. Narrative has come a long way in obscuring things - religion, politics, science, social mores, and complicated emotions have evolved much by means of rhetoric, fictional story (fables, theatre, film), history, popular words and phrases, and writing. Poetry partakes of narrative, and may have been the first means of sustained narrative (or so poetry would have us believe). Poetry is something that evolves alongside, and not with, language. Does poetry reside in communication, or does it need the space that language provides? "Stop!" or "Come here" have no poetry outside of a description of context (and any given description does not necessarily make poetry).

AHB: the question of poetry as communication is a tough one. in one sense, poetry is so mysterious and personal that to say it communicates it to overstate the process. but poetry makes a place, and shares it, and that sharing is communication. there is an aesthetic of poetry, and all the arts, really, that urges statement, recapitulation, copy. I think of the sort of passage from a novel that one might quote, consisting of lush (overblown) descriptors—so beautiful!--but that's just simplification. the arts challenge context, maybe. green is just green until applied exactingly, and so too with every word. poetry certainly is an artform in which every word had ought to have that necessity, whereas plays and novels probably don't (and by this definition, Finnegans Wake might be a poem, but I don't really care to work he taxonomic register right now). the idea that narrative obscures is well charged. narrative suggests a simple linear path, yet that path is layered. we know that Moby Dick is about a whale hunt, and we ALSO know it is about Ahab's path of self-destruction, his monomania, and all the other things critics ave said. the narrative is never just one such path. I think of my own writing as much to do with narrative, partly because I use often sentences, which themselves suggest a narrative development, also because of the inter-collisions I employ. those inter-collisions include humour, sadness, anger, the way they bundle. they also include the combination of low and high that exists in my writing. even writing more disjointed than mine presumes a narrative, if you think of a rope cut up, the rope's length is still implied (Baudelaire said something similar in his intro to his Poèmes en Prose, tho he spoke of a snake).