Tuesday, February 27, 2007


JH: Is it the poem or the poetic that is the foundation? Does one point to the other - the poem pointing to the poetic or the poetic pointing to the poem? Are philosophical, personal, and historical/literary issues incidental or fundamental? I see the poem as pointing to the poetic, with language pulling in the incidental. Language is something other than the poetic, but is inseparable from the poem. Words point to things outside themselves, but the poem points to the poetic, which is integral to the poem. The poetic cannot be seen outside the poem. Is to invent more of the empyrean to bring it closer, by giving it more words that can interact with words given to quotidian matters, or is it to push the empyrean further away by allowing more of the unattainable? John M. Bennett is a challenging and excellent poet, as is Allen Bramhall. Here is a poem by Allen Bramhall called "les plaisirs des Smurfs":

cha cha requisition disorder
consternation among panelists
pumpkin popularity conflicts
strict Miami Vice probation
ocular nob button funny stuff
A Passage to India gnomes forensic site
kacking sounds debate
comical entropy
underwater festoon rebate
Hamptons payback lawn sprinkler
botulism for girls
late night irrigated etui
spondees amidst mayhem
burglar suppositories
left to write
ontological umpire budget
traditional moon rock
rosewater les meubles
boom fractal marmalade
estimated silly birch bark
dullard tonsil spot
ruminated onion duck
Spiderman lump lament
chuckling with cheese
pseudo suede fuss cancer
caustic underwear hovering

.. and when rentfree Fu Manchu finally established his realm, it beggared the mind. Who are these troops aligned on the mountain ridge bordering the snow field, tending toward downcast? What are hordes in favour of? When does a poem rise? Do they even read in the wind? Fu Manchu, that is a tyrant anywhere, presents a poem on the spot. The spot loses all geography, like Nepal and Tibet. The idea behind the spot that says it is a poem seems to fail. It needs a look. We aren't afraid. The English stand for 'something'. Sir Denis Nayland-Smith knows arch enemies when he sees them. Dr Petrie smokes out the last bumbling evidence. The east came west with as much as can be pretended. After that, something carefully idyllic: Sir Denis smoking his pipe.


I love the pairing of lineated and prose poetry. The lineated poetry gives me one rhythm, and the prose poetry opens up another, with the rhythm of the former informing this new realm (and the mentions of "poem" both self-referential and referring to the lineated part above -- a self-referentiality outside the sentence, and passage, that does the referring). A theme appears of location, of geography, and of perhaps-unanswerable questions. Could you write something about this poem, please?

AHB: You're right, sez I, the poetic points to the poem. A poem doesn't make, it is made. And it is our astonishment at that making that is poetic. that statement is amazingly crucial to me. Because I don't feel naturally 'poetic'. Not, at least, in the sense of ease in the parlance. Which I assume some people have. I brought up John Bennett because there's a functioning vision to his work, an integrity of inquiry concerning words. He wears weird glasses that see something in words that most of us barely grasp. Regarding my own poemization, I was abed and phrases started appearing in my mind. When I got up, I remembered a few and wrote more. And this whole Fu Manchu thing seems to be nearby. I don't want to sound like a dull explainer, so I will just note the respect I have for these incomings. Why write about Fu Manchu? Why am I so stark about Nepal and Tibet? So the energy was simple, random phrases collated, then a prosy change. Your own poem, posted today on Wryting-L, which I will quote in full anon, presents a useful thought: "ah sweet content, where is thy mild abode". these 'things' come to us, seem important, but what are we holding????? your poem is called The Recital. It seems situated, um, somewhere—Latin names for one thing, and Virginia—and possesses an enveloping energy.

Appius told Minutius ah sweet content, where is thy mild abode
Minutius told Calphurnia we ask and ask - thou smilest and art still
Calphurnia told Corbulo loathsome and foul with hideous leprosy
Corbulo told Horatio do never appear but in the dark or night
Horatio told Icilius my lost delights, now clean from sight of land
Icilius told Numitorius how many thoughts of what entombéd hopes
Numitorius told Virginia and at thy growing virtues fret their spleen
Icilius told Virginia now the black planet shadowed Arctic snows
Horatio told Virginia the world shall find this miracle in me
Corbulo told Virginia restless through Fortune's mingled scenes I went
Calphurnia told Virginia ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate
Minutius told Virginia some prescience of thee with the blossoms white
Appius told Virginia each hour a day each day a year did seem
Virginia told Appius as white their bark, so white this lady's hours

I don't now whence these Latin names come from. You need not be a Latin scholar but the feel is quite solid here. Your Virginia is a manyness, and fascinating from the many angles. The tension is philosophical. The interconnection of some 'then' and 'now', literarily speaking, is fascinating and compelling. Do speak further.

Friday, February 23, 2007


JH: "Poems are aggregates of percepts" is an apt definition of poems. What is the difference between a poem's line that says "It's a sunny day" and a line saying "We should be nice to each other"? Where does reportage and opinion enter in a poem? As to aggregation, what is the difference between a disjunctive poem and a more linear poem? Does a disjunctive poem neglect much of its language's (such as English) resources, or does it emphasize them (or can any distinction be made)? To progress via syntax involves memory and anticipation. Is there memory and anticipation from one end of a word to another, or simply identification, or ignorance, of the word? If there is memory and anticipation within the word, is a group of words (phrase, sentence, line) itself a poem? Could a poet devise a manner of reading a letter (whether that letter stood alone or with other letters to form a word) - for example, reading the progression of points from one end of a line in a letter to another? This would require an essay, or content within the poem, to instruct the reader on the alphabet and grammar of the letters. Once read, this explanatory material could be imposed on any text that used the outward form of the letters in this poem (there are comparable examples such as the recognition of iambic pentameter).

AHB: where reportage and opinion enter the poem is the battleground. A poem is neither opinion or reportage because, ahem, opinion is opinion and reportage is reportage. And yet, these can inform a poem. A poem transmutes these into a realm that isn't just flat, straight lines. That sounds fluffy, but I think we have to lean on something. Poems make use of statements and descriptions but their perimeter extends beyond these small antics. Disjunction allows the reader to make leaps and extensions. The syntactical gaps are filled by the play of the reader's mind. It's a slap of immediacy. Disjunction is a sort of calming strangeness because it allows us readers to fashion our path amidst the tensions of the words involved. A group of words... IS a poem. It is, at least, if the Reader is there. John Bennett's work comes to mind because he puts seemingly common stuff of language thru a demanding prism. He has an eye for wonder that challenges readers. We see John's work daily, on the Wryting list (he's incredibly prolific),. I can't respond to all the questions you pose, you suggest a world of excitement. Our dreams of a straight, direct language—I infer a human need here—is a wish towards some empyrean that needs more inventing. Poetry proposes the intensity of the words, the letter, the shape of something on the edge of or near each word. I actually dislike statements such as I am making, and yet, what are we worrying about? It is a sign of age, if not growth, that I see Poetry as a philosophical entity. It is an inquiry. It is not, itself, a pleasure, tho it can broaden the eye in a pleasing way.


JH: A negative influence is a fascinating idea! Is an after-image of the unappealing contained in avoidance, or is this not an after-image/memory, but the unappealing revealing itself as unavoidable? Something visible is meant to be seen, by definition of "visible" rather than "meant" as synonym of "fated". To turn a blind eye is selection, whether visceral or analytical. I agree that more than a flash and trail of a meteorite is needed for a poem, but why is the flash, or trail, not enough for a poem? Is a poem defined as "idea + X"? What is X? Writing? Writing as converting perception into words is not enough for a poem - what is enough? Or is it that perception alone has too much to include poetry, but there are some perceptions with something missing that poetry tries to supply? Or is what is missing from such a perception specifically a poem? We have yet to speak about the English language and its relation to poetry. What do you think are some characteristics of English that are favorable to poetry? Do you think English is more favorable to prose or poetry?

AHB: by negative influence I'm thinking of Harold Bloom's idea of misreading. That some writers repel rather than compel our work in a direction. I think conflict can be useful as a means of discovery. You are right to suggest that this is the unappealing revealing itself as unavoidable. That flash or trail is enough for a poem. That is, a poem can be a meditative state. One can access poems one has read, or might write, when neither reading or writing, when musing, say. These poems are not percepts but some manner of working with percepts. Poems are aggregates of percepts????? maybe so. As a musical language English appears to offer much variety. French is the only other language I have written in, simple French, so I cannot make great comparatives. English offers a vast palette for anyone wanting to write in metre and rhyme. I don't know what it is like to read ideograms. Does one really see the picture as one reads? If so, that would present an aspect that English doesn't really have. A least not so directly. I do make word choices based on etymology, id est, the (semi) hidden. But I cannot claim scholarly skill in that way, nor do I do it all the time. I use a lot of English spellings, which suggests other accents even if I do not pronounce differently from American spelling. English is possibly more adapted for prose than poetry because of the etymological distance that I mentioned. I've seen literal translations of Japanese and Chinese poetic, where the immediacy of the words presides over syntax. If that is the experience in the languages themselves, that seems more poetic than what English can do. I'm amazed that I mentioned Harold Bloom, who always seems like a grey mass of obfuscation.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


JH: Antic View questions result from your questions and answers, together with my recent musings about poetics. In writing poetry, I can no longer tell the question from the deed; to write poetry, for me, is to inquisitively repeat what I've heard in my head so as to ascertain what I've heard, but I receive no confirmation. The poem is overheard by me, but the poem does not hear me as far as I know. Is a poet's history part of writing poetry? One may speculate on the ego-lessness of writing, but if a poet did not know a language there could not be any poems. Language forms the individual, the individual forms poems. Past reading, writing, and thinking comes into play. Is it easier to inform one's reading than to inform one's writing? Reading may be broadened by experience in writing as well as past reading, but may writing be broadened by reading experience without much writing experience? What of someone who listens to poetry, and composes poetry, but cannot read or write? Does an illiterate poet have an advantage over a literate poet in being less literary? How much of the literary is available to one who cannot read or write? Does the literary need to be read, or only seen? An illiterate person sees writing and can define it as something that cannot be read except by some other people: is, then, there such as thing as illiteracy? Such a reading is very literary, as all of writing and reading is seen on the surface, instead of reading the word "cat" and defining it as a specific animal. Poems come to a poet without writing, and are, if the poet is able, written down. Often in the act of writing more of the poem arrives, or more of what is presented by the poet as the poem. If a poet has a lot of experience reading and writing, does the poem, instantly upon arrival in the mind, become literary? Does the poem have a lot of experience reading and writing? Poems have unseen origins, do they also have unseen pasts (aside from drafts, and aside from their poet's history)?

AHB: informing one's reading is natural: you read more, and consider. to inform one's writing entails... what...? seems like you need to jump away from what you've done and what you've read. a receptivity to sharp turns. there's a sort of egolessness there, where you try not to become entrenched in previous assumptions, however brilliant those assumptions might have been. poems, as you say, come to poets without writing. poets transfer these poems into a readable medium. that's a sort of mundane transformation of a philosophical act of understanding. part of a poet's mind in action becomes a poem. makes me think of the idea of being an artist. we all take it seriously. even those who don't appreciate art have an awe, if perhaps a sardonic one, of artists. artists devote themselves to art. how much time do you or I spend a day writing? less time, perhaps, than working, watching television, reading, walking the dog, sleeping, eating, etc. yet writing is a way that we understand the entire world. it is our lens but it is also our guidance. writing is not just what we do but an intrinsic component to our living. we meet with poems daily, maybe “all the time”. I mean there's a way to see poetry, or any art form, as an entertainment, something to fill time with interest. but as artists we've taken a worldview. little does my dog know that when I walk him, I do so as a poet. there's that common statement artists tend to make, that they couldn't live without their art. there's a sense where that's not true, if your life's terms weren't available to doing art. yet people make art in prison camps. art presents itself. the poem wants to be written, or at least acknowledged. I can't write all the poems that come to me. it's like meteorites flashing by. sometimes I see more than the flash and trail. I see the poem's life, its history, its reading. I have acknowledged influences, which can include negative ones (I surely won't write like that poet). but poems make themselves known that I can't ascribe a history to in that way. almost a chance intersection. the sky, you might imagine, is full of these poems.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


JH: Reading is distinct from interpretation, if interpretation is seen as wholly creative. But definitions, as in dictionary definitions, play a part in both reading and interpretation. How do the poem and dictionary definitions interact during the reading of a poem? Is there a picture, created by the poem, or that is the poem, first and foremost before the words are defined clearly (if so, is the first reading of a poem ever retained?)? A definition is the introduction of other words to the word it defines. Where do words outside the poem belong during the reading of the poem? Do words outside the poem come to resemble the poem, or resemble the act of reading the poem? Is poetry, once in the world, a method of reading that can only be used for poems or whatever words are in the poem's ambit? Reading is viewing; how is reading different from non-literary seeing? Interpretation is focusing on definitions and other outside words. A synonym of "meaninglessness" is "uselessness". But since anything at all can be interpreted, and almost anything can be read, how is a poem useless, if it can be used by reading and interpretation? Does a poem exist for anything other than reading and interpretation? Can a poem be used for anything other than reading and interpretation?

AHB: reading and interpretation go hand in hand, of course. one can read in such a way that forces an interpretation, based on bias or presupposition. like a dislike for avant-garde, or feminist writing, whatever any of that might be, or a love for New York or Language Poetry, likewise whatever. Small Press Distribution puts books into categories in their catalogue, as a means to sell. seeing Allen Ginsberg in the Gay category shook me. the wideness of his interests and vastness of his appeal gets lost in squeezing him into the one box. but the reader can and does do that, with a reading based on assumption or closemindedness. reading finds the parts of the machine and interpretation sees the machine at work. I want to turn from your questions, before I get too stupid, and look at the questioning itself. it seems like the poem inhabits a space that we readers infer, the space, that is. and we infer the poem itself. this resembles physics, where we infer the invisible from visible processes. our certainty bases on assumptions of connection and process. I've read where such scientists as Newton, Mendel and Pasteur fudged results of their experiments to bring forth the results they predicted, the “right” results. don't we readers do that as well, and we writers too? we assume limits to words and limits to poems, defining each by their boundaries. what initiates your questions? I spent a long time in my writer life not asking or answering questions. I bumped away from work that didn't engage me, with which I couldn't engage, and toward that which compelled me. I now feel I should be more cognizant, yet the murk is unsettling. do you work within the effects of the questions you ask?

Sunday, February 04, 2007


JH: If one does not realize that lists are being used in F1: GRANDUNCLES OF THE CATTLETRADE, what to make of the progression of words? If one knows of the schema of GRANDUNCLES OF THE CATTLETRADE, one may suppose the words are related. But if not, what then? None of the poem disappears, but a part of the reading does. In reading any poem, anyone misses out on lists and schema -- though one may speculate on the mystery of getting from one word or line to another, there is the suspicion, indistinguishable from certainty, that there are unnameable and imperceptible enigmas poetic, literary, and linguistic; inability to speculate on these enigmas impairs theory; inability to know these things as unenigmatic impairs the reading of a poem. Do these inabilities impair the writing of a poem? If so, is this impairment consistent? Would making a judgment for or against such impairment of writing poems be defined as a reading? Though unspecific, can the abstract be read, or only perceived?

AHB: I'll start with a quote from Jung: “Interpretations are only for those who don't understand; it is only the things we don't understand that have any meaning. Man woke up in a world he did not understand, and that is why he tries to interpret it .” an inability to speculate on enigmas is a reading, albeit (perhaps) not satisfying. or it is not a reading at all, like if you didn't even bother to look at the words. a geologist can get excited by a rock that someone else will registers as no more grey thing. confusion, annoyance, bafflement all can be part of a reading. I think reading is relationship, and it need not be a 'good' relationship. I've had all these attitudinal reflexes to work thru. when I 1st read Pound, and faced that jumble of languages that he throws at the reader, I felt dismay. why can't he just write in English? sometimes with Dickinson, I mean even now, I have felt similarly in trying to worry out her syntax. with Pound, it was all new to me, this sort of possibility. with Dickinson, I already 'got' her, trusted her, yet the how to read this feeling set me on my heels. I think the abstract can be read. some writing baffles yet engages me. I think I'm reading not 'perceiving'. aesthetics is a limiting function, assuming levels of effect. yet every work has an effect, and the hierarchy of that can only, I think, be seen as adjunctive, added on. what the hell could meaninglessness possibly mean?