Ptarmigan

a grouse with completely feathered feet

3/31/2004

Nothing Changes; or, Why Thoreau Never Started a Zine

A tiny break from the fiction side of things. Via Pseudopodium and from the essay "Antebellum literary culture and the evolution of American magazines" by Heather A. Haveman:

A new occupation--the magazinist, a term coined by Edgar Allan Poe--emerged as the practice of paying writers spread and as the idea of author as professional displaced the earlier conception of author as gentleman-scholar. By the early 1840s, the magazinist occupation had achieved considerable acceptance. Its legitimacy is evident in Horace Greeley ’s advice in 1843 to Henry David Thoreau, urging him to publish his work in mass-market magazines rather than in small-circulation periodicals...:

This is the best kind of advertisement for you. Though you may write with an angel’s pen yet your work will have no mercantile value unless you are known as an author. Emerson would be twice as well known if he had written for the magazines a little just to let common people know of his existence.

3/30/2004

Home of the (part 3 of 6; read part 1 and part 2 below)

Then one day, the woman who always gawked and dawdled at his storefront came in. She wore a red mask and carried a burlap bag. She cradled it like someone else's child. At first she stayed near the vestibule, eyeing the crystal unicorns in their dusty case. Business could have used some work. The lease was rising. Some of his most loyal customers were in custody. Their collections were deemed terrorist threats. Mostly they collected books, with the occasional purchase of figurines "tied in" to those books. The woman had smooth, pale hands and wore tall black galoshes that didn't fit nor become her, in his opinion. But then again it was raining. She could have just thrown them on. She was agitated. The failure mall--he hated the term, which was written into his lien--was build on the site of the old Union Station. Once, he cracked open the plasterboard covering a door in the back of his establishment, revealing most of the station intact, albeit unused. He fell asleep in the old waiting room, on a hard bench, underneath a DEPARTURES sign. It reminded him of childhood. When he woke up he didn't know where he was. The next week the plasterboard was sealed again. An inside job. He never figured out how that came to pass.

Can I help you? he asked the woman.

She was sheepish. She didn't acknowledge that he said anything at first, but instead fingered a synthetic jade Buddha on a shelf in the middle of the store. On the bottom of the Buddha was a disclaimer from the mayor's office: the statuette should not be used or construed as an actual deity. Federal compliance. He waited with his arms behind his back. He was hungry. The nearest non-Wal-mart restaurant was two miles away. He had a hotplate behind the counter that was currently cold. Suddenly she approached the counter, and took off her mask. Her eyes were blue and empirical.

Yes, she said, coming to, I'm wondering if you make purchases of collections.

It depends on the collection, he said. While he was thinking: I am wasting my time and dishonoring my lack of cash by even speaking to her. Is there a reason for this? Aside from the fact that she is the first person I've talked to today? Why are her eyes like that.

Well, I'll show you what I have then, she said. She set the burlap bag on the counter. Dust rabbits arose. She opened the bag, and with care she took out a chess board. And then each piece, the white pieces first.

The black queen is missing, she said. I apologize for that. I never had it. I inherited this from my mother. I'm sure the lack of a valuable piece will depreciate the entire ensemble.

He wanted to sit down from shock. Instead he said, let me look at this more closely.

Do you play, the woman said.

The man shook his head. Once, but... He swallowed. She was clearly disappointed. He opened a combination safe behind the counter and removed a magnifying glass, one he had used for his insect collection, before entymology had become obsolete. He took the white queen in his hand and peered at this queen. Her features were iconic but nuanced. A little pouty and come-hither. The piece was heavy, even though the material suggested lightness.

May I ask why you're selling this? he asked.

It's that--

She coughed.

The factory near my house is expanding operations. Claiming the rest of my block in a seizure. I need something for a bribe.

He knew she meant the black cat factory. No other factory was experiencing boom. He had visited it once as a teenager, when looking for a summer job, but didn't remember much about it. He fell into seeing the pieces. Sight made real things seem less realistic. The pieces were made of bone. The white pieces were a natural off-white. The black pieces were lacquered with a deep red stain. It might as well have been black. She raised her eyebrows at him when he didn't say anything for a long time. He hadn't played chess in years. Decades. Do you play, he asked her.

She shook her head. I never learned how. Other people learned around me. Her fingers twitched.

What's your name, he asked her.

Pepin, she said. He startled without exactly knowing why.

Well, Pepin, considering the craftsmanship, and the age of the pieces, I'm thinking that not only would this set make a handsome bribe, it might very well allow you to buy a factory.

She was breathless and said: Oh, I had hoped and hoped that this was the case!

However, I can't buy it myself.

She was crestfallen. Why not?

It's worth more than the entire store, Pepin. I can try to find a buyer for you, though. Out of the city, most likely.

She shuffled her feet. How do you know how old it is? And how old is it?

Early 18th century, late 17th. The pieces are in the French regency style. The flumes with the stylized heads at the top. They often used this style with ceramic. It was rare that someone could lathe and carve bone in such fine detail.

It must have been quite rare, Pepin said, folding her hands and pursing her lips. She was offended so easily!

He took one of the pawns and squinted at it. He didn't want to fetishize dead bone. The pawns had tiny child heads. Their eyes were wide.

And there's the fact, he added, pressing his word-luck, that all of these faces look so angry.

Anger's an emotion, Pepin said. Her face grew red.

The man held out his hands. It was no criticism. I swear.

Pepin's shoulder's sagged. I apologize, she said. Of course. If you could find a buyer... She trailed off.

I can certainly try, he said, setting the pawn down. He had forgotten many of his favorite openings. Not the moves themselves, which were easy enough to memorize, but their temperments. I'd like to borrow the set overnight, he said. To take photographs for potential buyers. It's standard.

Her eyes grew dim. Out of the question, she said. Pepin scooped the pieces back into the bag. She left the board, since they both knew it was probably worthless.

Call on me if you find anyone. She gave her number and turned away. He was too stunned by her teeter totter moods to say anything, except: if you want a truer sale, then try to find the black queen. She didn't appear to hear him. The black queen might have been irretreivable. He locked the front door and retreated to the cot in the back room. He lay there for a few hours, saying Pepin, Pepin. He imagined her hovering over him. He couldn't make himself come all the same. Erotic satisfaction could not be achieved by looking at a blurry photocopy of a photograph of a naked woman. He rose eventually. He unlocked the door again. Open for business. Not that it mattered. In a few hours, business hours were over. He could hear the cold drag races down on lower Sassafras. The drag races were free. The failure mall locked him in for the evening. He was supposed to have access codes for free passage, but the lords changed the codes with great ease and regularity. Even if he could leave, where could he go. He didn't have martial papers. He wondered what it must have been like to raise a family in the Assyrian Empire. Surely someone in the Assyrian empire felt love, it wasn't 24/7 beheadings. Maybe it was. Children had to work or die. What must have love been like when no one would remember you and no one would write about love. Because no one could read or write, practically. He used to be Catholic until the Church changed their mass back to Latin, and cosponsored the drag races with the Pentecostals, and founded the Benevolent Union of Saint Antonin. Any one of those changes pushed him. He didn't know any way to push back. Figurines never pushed.

Every other Thursday they would have an execution at the drag race. Or an excommunication. A killing one bird with two stones kind of deal. He remembered how youth used to be different. Races were different. There were no sensory cowls to follow the coverage and feel crashes. He went to a drag race with his uncle when he was 9 or 10. In some ways things were not much better then. His uncle had worked at Hammermill and had lost two fingers and a thumb in a paper cutter. The noise was noisy. Few had jobs. He, young, had bought a button of his favorite car, #8. A black car with red trim. He didn't know why this was his favorite. It made as much sense to him as driving so fast that one needed a parachute to slow down. His uncle died of a brain tumor ten years later, before everything started happening. That didn't make much sense either. He went to high school in the basement of Erie's cathedral. On the way to the cafeteria he could pass by the dead bishop crypt. A windowless, pious room filled with minor dioscesan relics. The school excelled at football and harboring pedophiles. Academics was a distant third. He wore his clipon tie on the first day of school. His mother picked it out for him. Their family eschewed vacations so that they could earn enough indulence for the cathedral school. That first day, the clouds from the paper mill took a wrong turn and the city smelled like brokendown fish. Within ten minutes of school a senior ripped off his tie. He joined the chess club, which provided him a small measure of exquisite carnage. Other castoffs would hide in the boiler room and play. No one was sure whether those victories meant anything, because at some point, they had to go home again, eat supper, and start homeroom in the morning.

As he slept that night, night slept next to him. He could hear the sound of worms eating books across the city. He ate usual ramen that night, which didn't sit well. He would have been old enough for Social Security, if there was such a thing as security for his non-winning ilk. He didn't know where the worms or the books came from. Before sleeping he encrypted a description of the chess set, through a Senegalese server. Precautions had to be made. In the morning, one prospect was insistent. He double checked his library and made sure there were no worms there. He called Pepin and arranged a meeting. She didn't want to meet at the store again. He entertained the thought that perhaps she was a spy. Ridiculous. But then again he was desperate for contact. She had to work that day. Presque Isle, she suggested. The last remaining public beach. All right. Tomorrow. Wonderful. See you then. See you. That night he dreamed of vomiting chess pieces. The tiny faces of the chess pieces also vomited out smaller chess pieces. And so on. At the appointed time, he met with Pepin at the appointed place. Old Lighthouse Beach. The lighthouse was uprooted some time ago. The hole was covered. Tall walls separated this beach from the others, which were used for either private residential and/or military purposes. He wore a sky blue tie. She had no way of seeing the tie because of the containment suit, but it made him feel better. Egyptian peacekeepers landed here less than five years before. They didn't get far. The gun towers towered over them. They gleamed even though there was no sunlight. War kites soared above them. The winds lacerated. The beach was empty. Past the breakwalls, the flotillas held guard on the lake. People who wanted supreme protection lived there. One had to have means to live there, of course. The flotillas had no libraries. On the beach, Pepin was pensive. She said things to imply that he was pensive too.

For example, she said: Don't worry, the turrets can't hear us. On account of the wind.

And: Even if someone accosts us, and I'm not saying they will, we can pretend we're lovers. Having an affair. We might have to pay a fine, but we won't be stoned.

Wonderful, he replied. He tried not to think of their meeting as a date. He couldn't help it, though. He thought, maybe she's the black queen. Did you come here often before everything started happening? he asked, wanting his talk to be as small as doormice.

She laughed. That's complicated. I work at a Wal-Mart, she said.

Who doesn't, he said, suddenly sullen. It was hard, with the wind, smoke, and sand, to actually complete thoughts.

She grabbed his hand. No, what I mean is, I know how to cut corners, squirrel away, range free without persecution. But listen. At the bowling alley, I'm trying to teach one of the robots to play chess. How great is that. I have two robots but one is slightly newer and therefore smarter than the other. It has potential. I've taken it home.

He didn't know tedium and non-sequitirs could be so thrilling. He couldn't feel her skin on account of their mittens, which were retrofitted oven mitts.

Let me tell you about the potential buyer, he said. It's a woman not far from here. Cambridge Springs. 30 miles south of here.

He knew that the greatest tournament ever on American soil took place in Cambridge Springs. 1904. A long time ago. Many grandmasters played at that tournment. He didn't want to bore Pepin with the details. Cambridge Springs was halfway between New York and Chicago. A refueling stop for the bullet trains. None of the sulfuric springs were left. His handling fee would be worth the entire inventory of his store.

Who is this woman?

She is a collector of chess sets. I've dealt with her in the past. Incredibly reliable, A plus plus plus.

The woman in question--he wasn't really even sure whether she was a woman--demanded that he tell Pepin this.

How much will she offer?

Like I said, enough to buy a factory. Anything. Live in the flotilla if you want. A sky fortress. Health insurance. Fairy dust money.

Pepin moved towards the green surf. Salamander water danced along her galoshes. I worry about what's inside of me sometimes, she said. Whether I'm a dauschund in a world of giraffes. She then stopped and stared at a point in the sand. As if she wanted to turn it into glass. He stood next to her and wanted to kiss her. He leaned towards her, and smelled her perfume, which was a man's cologne.

Pepin?

No, she said, pressing her fists against her temples. I've changed my mind. I don't want to lose you!

It wasn't entirely clear who she was speaking to. It clearly wasn't him, however. She ran up the beach head back to the road, towards his kidney bean car. A far cry from black #8. Town criers told him it was his own fault for not succeeding. She didn't have a car. Buses were infrequent. He'd still give her a lift if she wanted one. They could smooth over their differences. He could moor her, buy her coffee from a vending machine. He tried to follow. She was fast. He smelled cinder and powderkeg. At the road, she turned around to say: I'm sorry, but the chess set is not for sale.

What? Why? No, you can't leave-- You cannot leave me.

I want to learn how to play, she said. That's all. I'm sorry. She hesitated, then told him that she lived on the peninsula once, and she needed to root around the old stomping ground, so she'd better be going.

She crossed the road and entered a trailhead opposite the beach shore that he hadn't noticed before. A thicket with a narrow sidewalk running through it. A straight line into the peninsula. He tried to remember the trail--he had lived in Erie his entire life--and couldn't for the life of him. He was about to follow her when he started laughing and said to himself, fuck it, she's a loon, she's a dauschund. He sat down on a mossy picnic table, shaking his head. He was a little sad at how softly and quickly--when his life was in danger of rupturing with change-- everything turned back to the way it already was. He knew he would never talk to her again. He remembered watching videos in biology class about Africa. When a person in the rain forest had an infection, that person would let maggots crawl into the wound and eat the infected tissue. Then they would fly away once flies. She disappeared, towards marshes and miseries. The trees were leafless and scarred with knives' marks and acid initials. Then he realized she never asked for his name, not once.



Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.


(to be continued...)

3/24/2004

Home of the (part 2 of 6; read part 1 below)

Erie was founded in 1697 by French Cathars. Religious persecution was rampant at the time. Seven canoes launched from Quebec City in September, when water was most tumultuous. Lake Erie was the shallowest of the Great Lakes, and the one most likely to storm. The boats were: the Asphodel, the Asphaedel, the Asfodel, the Aesphadel, the Asfaedel, the Aesfodel, and the Asfaedel. They were named as such to confuse the shipwrights and dockmasters of New France. No one really noticed their depature; if anyone did, they probably would have been pleased. Yvain led them, but he was quiet for a long time. His wife Nicollette was also quiet. They landed on what would later become Beach 11, the swimmer killer. Sleeping under constellations, the 21 colonists all wondered what fateful wind brought them to those finely sanded beaches. There were no breakwalls to prevent beach erosion at that time. Clearly, their kingdom was at hand.

On the first morning, when the Cathars woke, they sacrificed a goat specifically brought for this purpose. They broke fast over organs. Gulls fought over the red sand. When they moved inland, to construct their city of black brass--the city that some of them, at least, wanted to construct--they found themselves at another body of water, a bay. They reasoned that a city either could be found or founded. Their landing place was actually part of a peninsula, an almost island, jutting out from the mainland like an ichor finger. They walked the presque isle, discovered several deadened marshes and ponds, tidepools, hardwood forests. A little of everything. On the peninsula, the world was a pocket sized encyclopedia, every step was a catalogue. They felt bountiful. They slew butterflies and foxes. They looked for caves and in which to consecrate themselves to God. To become perfect. Finding none, they decided to move inland and utilize the bay as the natural harbor for a city. If there were no grottoes or caves, they would have to be built. They brought their boats through the channel and landed on what would later become the foot of East Avenue. They missed State Street, which was the center of the American town for many decades, by a good mile or two. They built huts using thatch and smooth antler-shaped driftwood. They dug sandy holes that filled with underwater after a few feet. So much for the caves. To pass the time, they wrote long letters to their compatriots around the globe: France, of course, and also England, Paraguay, Belgium, Guinea. There was no means of delivery, but few would have answered anyways. The letters were hard to read exhortations. They dreamed of panthers and leopards, which didn't make sense.

After fall's leaves dying, their first winter came. Snow so cold it felt hot against the skin. They caught rabbits. Some they kept as pets. They prayed, not only for food, but that the French would not find them. Particularly the Jesuits and Dominicans. The Cathars remembered what happened to their spiritual ancestors. In the first year a few children were born. None were sacrificed. Lost bears wandered to the lake shores, onto Presque Isle, wandered back. Frostbite clarified thought. In spring, construction began on a temple. French voyageurs were killed. The women lured them, hoisting high their dresses on the shores. The canoes slowed. The women had muskets tucked in their sleeves. They were not against eating human flesh, as a matter of principle, but they didn't feel that the times called for it. They realized this was against Cathar edicts, in a way, but in another way all flesh was abject, unworthy of long contemplation and self-entreaty. The women were skilled with guns. The Iroquois, who had exterminated the Eriez Indians a few decades before, left the colony alone for the most part. The Cathars cared not. Hearing what happened to their brethren, a few trappers asked to join in the first summer. These trappers later were revealed to be a troupe of Russian jugglers who had lost favor with the Czarina. They were initiated and received perfection. A few in their ranks were born many times over. The Eriez were also known as the Cat People. For them, the cat was a skunk. 300 years before, 8,000 Cathars were slaughtered in one day by one of their former protectors. They actually didn't call themselves Cathars to begin with, which was a name designed by a mad German prince. Many Christians thought the Cathar initiation ceremony involved kissing a cat's ass. The branding and identity campaign against the Cathars, as evidenced by their near-extermination, was a well-received success.

Berries came in summer, in thickets. They built a lookout tower on the tip of Presque Isle, where the Coast Guard station would later appear. Lashing logs together. They wanted to build a giant chain across the channel into the bay, as was done in Constantinople. That had protected the Byzantines for a time. They didn't have the funds or the smelting proficiency for such a project. They had a master woodworker and bone lather in their company. Babies ate magnaminous berries. Streets were laid, sloping up from the shore. Straight lines and grids. What was once a morass of bodies, undistinguishable from each other, began to take upon hierarchy. For a few months they felt they didn't have to have any single person deciding anything for the rest. That it lasted so long was remarkable. Yvain, before his expulsion from the University of Paris, took a class in classical geometry. He plumbed sight lines. He began courting allies. His wife Nicollette wasn't content with discretion and quietude. Everything they were taught in school turned out to be true: Yvain ended up leading because he financed the colony. Still, France seemed a long way away. The surf had no conch shells, no naiad bones. Zebra mussels would not be introduced into the ecosystem for almost 300 years. They all except for Yvain came from the lower yeomanry. They were adrift from the small villages of their birth, always amongst wolves. They wanted to stumble to their own village, as one would from a tavern towards home late at night. The night was late in their minds. The wolves were at the door. Don't open the door! No court, nor mare liberum, could weave heraldics close enough to ensnare. Griffin, bull, bulldogs, kings--all mythologies, glad tidings on bloody ears. The summer wheat was not successful. Waterspouts touched down on the lake and they prayed to be spared. The berries turned black in soups and cremes. Yvain wanted to build a cathedral, of sorts, on Presque Isle, inside the dead marshes. A contemplative building made of local stone. At times, he really did seem peaceful. This in addition to the temple on the mainland. More converts came, this time from Saint Augustine. The irony was lost on no one. Yvain wanted the second temple in the marshes to demonstrate a mind as wide as thought. Nicollette disagreed. She was a kleptomaniac, which was a hard compulsion to honor on the edge of God's world. She played chess. She always beat Yvain. She always played white and Yvain black. Yvain took a few builders to the swamps in the center of Presque Isle and started to cut down cottonwood trees. To clear a space. Then he changed his mind and decided that wasn't an ideal location. They painted the stumps black. The bog didn't help. The temple's foundation kept sinking.

Actually Nicollette was quite beautiful. She had long black hair. She excelled at writing sestinas. No training or schooling could account for this. End words to the lines came to her with succinct ease. Most of the time they rhymed. She would rarely show her compositions to her husband. Paper was precious. She took to carving sestinas on trees. Yvain didn't approve of poetry or lending his knife. The summer heat came. The eldest colonist swore he saw, while scything hay, a giant panther charging from the south. The panther had six eyes! And a tongue like a cat o' nine tails! And had constellation markings on its fur! And spoke Basque! This was collaborated by others, although the language was debated. Fissures crept into the colony. Centipede-slow spoilings of their bread stores occured. They were hungry but not thirsty. They prayed together less. An English caravel wandered close to their lookout. The English were only in transit. The Union Jack shone. The Cathars wished they had cannons. Two weeks later, a French caravel landed on the point of the peninsula closest to the mainland. The thinnest land. Two Jesuits, several marines. The Cathars lost three and had five wounded. Yvain lost a pinky. But they gained many supplies and weapons. They dropped the weighted soldiers into the moors. The priests they kept with the rabbits. Nicollette slept with a settler less than half her age. No one remembered his name, not even Nicollette.

Yvain had a dream about this involving those pesky panthers. The panthers had some worthwhile pillow talk. They dragged him by the collar to their cave with their teeth. But they also had hands with opposable thumbs. Yvain was not afraid. Inside the cave was a glass box, human-sized, with a star inside of it. The star was too bright to look at; he asked them to cover it, and remarkably, they covered the box with a purple cloth. They told him everything. From inside the box--Yvain covered his eyes--the cats pulled out paintings of his wife's transgressions, in glades. They told him that God's work would emanate from him long after he died. When he woke, he didn't know how long he could keep up his façade, his scaffolding. It turned out to be approximately three days, when he killed the boy with his favorite knife and took the corpse, along with the captured priests and 10 colonists, to the peninsula. A splinter. Two colonies, two architectures. Nicollette wondered how the quickness happened so quickly. How she came to this. She reasoned that she was sacrificing the great for the greater good. Or maybe it was the good for the greater great. It was hard to tell. She started drinking coffee, stolen from the French soldiers. Yvain began plans for a lighter-than-air craft as August and its skies came upon them. Skies arrived on the tips of her fingers. Most, including all of the Russians, stayed close to her. They guarded her sleep. In fact, Yvain and his cohorts did eat the young man who had slept with Nicollette. They saved his bones. Yvain realized at a young age that he was named after a famous epic, one important to French natural identity. The unit of French poetry is not the accent but the syllable. Yvain wasn't able to get the balloon off the ground, but they certainly tried. They tried the fumes of quicksilver, the smoke of burning foxes. They didn't possess profound amounts of scientific acumen. Except for geometry. And theology, which was considered a science in those days. As it would later be.

With Yvain on the peninsula, the city planning on the mainland floundered. Little huts became the norm again. Dreams died, thrown against the rocks and burned in firepits. The peninsula temple was completed as the fall colors turned. Nicollette didn't grieve. Yvain's temple was consecrated with a lacqure made of blackberries and Jesuit blood. One of the Russians, of his own accord, secreted to Presque Isle and humbly asked for a little of that blood. Just a dollop for the mainland village. Yvain told him that it didn't work like that. The Russian was allowed to return. These sudden kindneses made Nicollette angry. She wasn't sure why she slept with the boy after all. Maybe it was a sense of sorrow. Love stories lay around in the furs next to the campfire. Belief that the world was ephemera necessitated a belief in God's permanence and justice, kind of. Most of the Cathars really didn't see it that way. However, the 200 French soldiers who pushed towards the settlement from the newly founded Fort LeBeouf did see it that way. Fort LeBeouf was about 20 miles south. It was on French Creek, which flowed into the Allegheny, which flowed into the Ohio, which flowed into the Mississippi. A road from LeBeouf to Lake Erie would allow for powerful movements. The soldiers came across Nicollette bathing outside. The Cathars didn't expect trouble from the thicketed south. Nicollette regularly bathed with the other colonists. They were all naked. The wind was Indian summer. Yvain called his temple Usine de Chat Noirs. Nicollette and the others had a few minutes to flee. Everyone was rather startled. The Cathars crammed into boats. A few were killed. The dead were pushed overboard. The French horses buckled. The Jesuit in the soldiers' party forbade them from pursuit until the temple was destroyed and the ground reconsecrated. They did so. The smoke alerted an English sloop docking along the shore about 10 miles away. Yvain didn't welcome Nicollette and the others with open arms, exactly. But close enough. They gathered on the lookout tower and the temple roof with their arquebuses and muskets. They waited. The soldiers didn't come until vespers. The French had engaged in a tough firefight with the English sloop. The Jesuit was killed. The Jesuits couldn't seem to get any luck. The sloop burned eventually. Bayonets blazed. The hotter-than-air balloon wasn't invented until 150 years later.

The Cathars watched and prayed. This had similarities with the demise of many, if not most, other Cathars. They had kept quiet for centuries in Toulouse and its highlands, becoming perfect in secret. They saw the New World as their tabula rasa. Waiting, they played chess and cards. Yvain held Nicollette's hand. The French battalion came toward the temple slowly. They looked for traps, blinds, snipers, and feints. There were none. When they came upon the temple, arquebuses recoiled. The Cathars, with a sense of déjà vu, pounced down to end their history, rapt in dark curtains of gunfire.

When reinforcements came in the spring, there were no signs of a previous human settlement. The French were confused, to say the least, but nevertheless began establishment of a fort at the tip of Presque Isle. Garrison commanders over time assumed that reports of a previous colony were fabricated. The year was 1699. Skunks found egg nests. Deer ate crops. There were absolutely no panther sightings. Cathars would not come to Erie for another 200 years. In a way they weren't even really Cathars. No one important ever came from Erie for the most part. Rainclouds were not considered people by most people. The peninsula shifted eastward every year by a few inches. At a few points in its history, the land bridge had flooded, making it an actual island and not an almost island. Burnt firmaments settled but did not rest. Before dawn, Yvain dug a hole in the sandy loam and placed the chess pieces in a moleskin bag. He filled the hole and smoothed it over. He hurried back to his tiny black temple, which was only wood painted black and mostly a dream. He could hear the French soldiers braying, approaching the heretics. No one could have pinpointed the exact moment when things started getting out of hand and small. It was better, Yvain reasoned, not to even try. Seeing him return, Nicollette thought: words about this ought to be put down, like strays.


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.


(to be continued...)

3/21/2004

Home of the (part 1 of 6)

Cleo was completely happy and devoid of hope. At night she dreamed of photocopiers left on in an office building overnight. On Sunday she'd walk to her church and pray outside of it, for those not inside. Bullet trains passed by. She always waved. They didn't stop. She contemplated what steps she would have to take to make the trains stop. By the time Erie's churches let out, she was back home, watching the minister on TV. No one called on her. Her house was red stucco, painted blue. Which defeated the purpose of stucco. Her mother had painted the house blue in her late middle ages. Her mother bequeathed the house to Cleo. Cleo relented. She was penitent without exactly knowing why. The house was on a cul de sac on the East Side, Dunn Boulevard, between Saint Anne's and the bay. Behind her lot was a cemetery, and across the street from her lot was the black cat factory. Of the two, the cemetery was by far the most interesting. For starters, she was conceived there, in the groundskeeper's shed, which didn't exist anymore. Her mother had an affair with the groundskeeper, who was from western Kansas. Nearly all care had abandoned the cemetery and the headstones inside. There were a few Revolutionary War veterans buried there. Cleo would have loved to celebrate this. Few people left flowers or wreaths. Obelisks tilted. People in general were leaving Erie at a fast clip. There were less dying people left. Faithful people often were left behind. The church, which had fed the cemetery for a century, burned to the ground a decade before. The congregation didn't reconvene, for lack of funds and municipal edicts. No one caught the arsonists. The members joined other churches, more theocratic churches, or turned their faces from God entirely, and took up drag races on Saturday nights and hunting on Sunday mornings. Or they died, which didn't have anything to do with church. Even in winter, Cleo would visit the foundations, the ash square set in the ground jutting against the railroad tracks. There were no deer to hunt anymore, and few small mammals and birds. Generally there were only people left.

She was the only one left alive on her block, aside from the cats and the foreman, who didn't count. Her hair was black with a few gray strands. She resisted dyes. She resisted many things, including the need to smile or laugh at comedic movies at the theater. Movies were small hearted, and easy to coast through, like fog puffs. Movies ended with a public service announcement from a tribunal. Of some sort. A tribunal was a collection of citizens on the lookout for citizens' interests. They declared these interests, which usually involved enemies. Everybody always left right after the shiny heads stopped talking—cameras in the projection room watched the viewing—and right before the credits rolled. People were tired. But Cleo liked to stay and watch the references to gaffer, puppet master, and key grip. She thought that befriending a key grip might have been interesting fodder. She would take the bus to the failure mall downtown. She knew her worth. The bus had issues. Groaning escalators leading to empty shop fronts on the second floor. Abandoned kiosks with scotch tape half-torn off the counters. Huffer cans in the corners. The only open establishments, besides the dollar theater, were the adult bookstore, the tobacconist, and the store that sold nothing but pewter figurines. The store was called Pewter There. The last store made her sad. No one ever entered. She was like the train passing by a strange woman making waving motions. The proprietor wore a white, tight fitting mask and fretted with his hands. As noted previously, she didn't stop to inquire. She wasn't in the mood for small, pewter figurines of dragons and unicorns. Miniatures were not powerful. The house wouldn't have approved. The house was mindful, and resisted paraphernalia. Knickknacks that Cleo bought would disappear shortly after acquisition. Paintings of burning barns she purchased from starving artists sales, a smiley-face clock she resuscitated from the break room, all gone. So she gave up. She didn't like giving up. She took the bus back. Its hood usually smoked.

On rain days, which came often in the summer, spring, and autumn, she liked to walk the East Side. Umbrellas could conceal cylindrical bombs and were thus frowned upon. Tribunals would warn against bomb-like people, who required eagle eyes at all times. Evil truly was wicked, and could quiver to life after any misstep. That was what her betters said. The dealers on the corner of Buffalo and Downing didn't bother her, nor the gyrovagues parading on 10th and Parade. She knew the hoarse ghosts of those boulevards were more terrifying than 16 year olds with post-heroin and .44s. Most sidewalks resembled narrow gravel roads from the despair. She wore beautiful galoshes. They were black with small fleur-de-Frenches along the upper trim. Her mother gave her the boots before she died. Before her mother died, not Cleo. After Cleo tried them on, her mother noted that she pulled them off a dead woman, a homeless woman with no hair in the bus station. Before Cleo could recoil, her mother said, no, sorry, I was only joking. It was a good story though, wasn't it? Cleo liked the boots anyways. They made her look taller. The litter and wind would collaborate on sculptures along chain link fences. Some of the plastic litter was positively antique. Rivulets roared into drains underneath. The drains emptied into sewer tunnels which coarsed toward the bay. The water carried delirium. Mercury could also be called quicksilver. Stray cats died underground. In chain-link fields, cranes built to hoist up rusted cars with magnetic forces rusted. Art was everywhere. It wasn't good art. The city was a non-museum. These were not stories in their entirety, but rather stories that a person would be reading out loud to friends in a bar, and then the bartender would tap the reader's shoulder and say, your house is on fire. Your mother's dead. No one loves you, not really. One of those types of responses. No one read anymore, out loud or silently. Heliotropes flew overhead, shouting bulletins (all point) to precinct commadantes who might have been listening. Hand signals projected onto the cloudbanks. Heliotropes lived in milder climes. Cleo covered her ears. Once there was a boy who loved her, her age, but he fought in California and she never heard from him again. He had delicate fingers and ankles. He was an apostate, though neither of them really felt what that meant. She imagined him in prison--a converted gymnasium holding thousands of bunks, snipers in every nook, spies and assassins enforcing 2nd amendment zones, itching to penknife livers. Cleo wondered if it was better to home he was alive or dead. His emails were in a bankers box somewhere in the cellar, amidst a tangle of potato roots. She often wondered what his penmanship was like, but never had the chance to ask. She was 35 years of age in the thirteenth year of our Lord.

When it was sunny, and she didn't have to wear her containment mask (red, like the stucco underneath her blue house), she worked at Wal-Mart. There was one five blocks from her. People shopped indoors when it was sunny. This too was encouraged. Retractable roofs unless they were broken. Nearly everyone who worked worked in a Wal-Mart. Her Wal-Mart was a bowling alley. The greeter always snarled at her, even though they were on the same team. He'd lost his heart in one of the wars. Because her bowling alley was a Wal-Mart, it was a non-failure establishment. She cleaned the robots that cleaned the lanes and stocked the shoes. Her blue smock smelled like burnt hot dogs. Nearly everyone bowled in solitary fashion. Bowling in duos or trios wasn't banned, per se, but it was certainly frowned upon, and there was an extra tariff per head. The robots usually didn't complain, but they belched silicates. They were already oldish. She loved them, in her fashion, even though she couldn't tell them apart. That happened a lot. They were both blonde. The TVs in the snack bar fixated on victories, which were hard to tell apart from failures. The greeter would tap his plastic chest, where his bonobo heart beat. Personalities tended to be unfortunate, even on sunny days. She worked hard. Her smock had one yellow smiling face and one red, white, and blue smiling face. The robots didn't like the buttons. It sounded crazy, even to her, but she could just sense this. Every month the regional hieresarch would visit and play a frame or two. The lanes had to be calibrated to ensure he bowled at least a 250. But he didn't want a 300 either, for that would have been hubris. Her mother hated bowling because the sport could not exist solely in one's mind. Those visits were horrible for Cleo. She would have nightmares in the days leading up to the inspection, involving her robots defecating on the well-oiled lanes, prompting her quick termination. After his frames there was usually bible study. Cleo would sit quietly through Corinthians, sipping luke warm tea. Revelations scared her. After shaking everyone's hand too firmly, he would depart for the damask domes of Cambridge Springs, where the wife would just be returning from the market with their children, Abercrombie and Fitch, and she would offer a towel to her demonstrative, balding husband, a God-shepherd, and he would wash his hands of the helots' stench. That was how she thought, at least. Once when he bowled a 248 he shook everyone's hand except Cleo's. She cried all that night, though she did not want to. On her ten minute lunch breaks, the sun would play on her face in the break room and the ether from above would settle on the vending machines in a fine film. The break room was a tent outside the bowling alley. She had to be alert to the possibility of white phosphorous falling, in which case there was a plastic tarp for extra protection. Enemy manna. Her shoulders didn't sag. No one would talk to her ever. She wanted to be an action gardener, garden in one of the sky fortresses. Peonies on the battlements. She heard about that job when watching the Sky Fortress Channel. There was one gardener for the entire fortress system. Let luck work! the public service announcements told her. On occasion she contemplated immigrating to India. She couldn't afford passage. She also wanted to keep an eye on the house and cemetery, and she didn't like traveling too far too often. Once in high school her class took a trip to Antarctica. At the south pole, they didn't stray out of the Super 8 much, except to look at the penguin wax museum. The vending machines down their hall had a brand of Burmese cola they'd never seen before. That local color excited her classmates. The south pole bored her, except for their flight away from it, when she saw two service workers make out behind the McDonalds on the Ross Ice Shelf--what was left of it--their mouths frozen to each other. She could see what the attraction was. Their fiberoptic mittens touched and no doubt they sent love mail to each other. No doubt. Cleo's plane kept flying, over glaciers, over floes. The lovers kept getting smaller. They flew over the greenhouses larger than Rhode Island. They harvested kelp and krill inside. When she returned she wanted nothing more than a kiss like that. A year later her mother died. Her graduation ceremony came in a box. College was out of the question. Her grades were Erie good but not actually good. Her few girlfriends saw marriage and conversion as a proper and just path. Her guidance counselor wanted her to become a Baptist. The complexes on upper Peach had excellent career placement networks. She declined. The guidance counselor never communicated with her again. The mayor was assistant pastor at Church of Christworld. He complied.

She wondered sometimes if the world was flammable.

Often she tried to think of her father's face. He loved crocuses and jumbo puzzle variety books. Invisible ink puzzles. Her face was thin, like pictures of him. No one was perfect. He left for the moon with the furries when he found out about mother's affair with the gardener. He won the lottery. How lucky was that. Cleo hid underneath the garbage disposal to hear his teary farewell. It smelled like disposed garbage. She remembered her mother's burgundy silence. Her mother was a failed chess champion and didn't like to talk about it. Her father milled around the house to say goodbye to Cleo, looking without really looking, but gave up after five minutes or so. She didn't want to reveal her hiding place. He was wewaring his fluffy skunk costume. Her parents had met when her mother called his number as a wrong one. Cleo imagined life in space. She would land on the station. She was in the deep for six months, orbiting Triton. She needed supplies or else!

What do you want, the general store manager on the station would ask her. He wore an old-time bowler hat.

A view of Earth, a great view of Earth, she said. The greatest demand she could think of.

You have it! Look portside! She looked portside, and it was there. She could see America underneath cumulus. She knew it was just a holograph of Earth, but she wasn't going to spoil her own illusions.

What else, the proprietor would ask.

Carrots, raisins straight from the vine, pumpkins.

We have those!

Great, said Cleo, lay them on me!

The fruits floated to her.

Eat these.

Okay, Cleo said. Wow, these are great!

They give superhuman strength and fertility.

Why do you think I need fertility. And where are you hiding my father.

Then she awoke from waking, a can of wrench spray in her hand. It was time to go home. The clock told her this. The clock worked; it smiled; it had a job. The robots brayed as they were sheperded into their pens. They, too, could see the futile machinations of the clock. To keep time. Clocks had agendas all right. On her way home the sun obscured itself. Winds began to stir from Presque Isle Bay, carrying danders and debris. The wind held her still for a few seconds in front of the black cat factory. The foreman steeped his tea in the tower office, as he tended to. He waved. He didn't live there. Cleo didn't wave back. The man turned back to his tea and shook his head. The wind let her go. She ran away from the manufacturing unit, as fast as she could. The sky turned teak. She passed the laughter inside the factory, the bull horns far away. Everything was far away. In her book, the less thought about the foreman, the better.

She entered the house and locked the door, to prevent October from entering. From the kitchen window she saw an entire copse of trees sway. A few of them were sick, but she didn't trust tree doctors. Talk about agendas. No one was hanging around or hanging there. On the To Do notepad on her Frigidaire she had written: I am proofing the book of the living against the book of the dead. They are concurrent, for the most part. Sort of. A few typos. Cleo used a permanent marker. The paper had butterflies. She hadn't seen a butterfly in thirteen years. The ukulele fixed to the wall fell down. Her mother had won the ukulele in a tournament. Her mother gave her an admonition: never touch the ukelele under any circumstances. She left it where it fell. In fact she really didn't want to look at it. Sirens and claxons rose a few blocks away. Which didn't really mean anything.

She then drew a bath. She slept in the tub. She heard the cats opening their books across the street, though that couldn't be. She dreamed this time of the photocopier display reading: TONE LOW. A red light blinked, illuminating the entire copy room with emergency. Cleo cried and then floated through the rest of the dream without complications nor reproductions. The absences were pleasurable. She awoke at dawn in a cold sweat, still in the tub. There was a knock on the door. Cleo had no idea who she could be.


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(to be continued...)

3/19/2004

There's always, of course, this problem to deal with:
Europeans first appeared off the coast of India in 1498, after the Portuguese discovered the route around the Cape of Good Hope. Instead of the fabled Christian king Prester John, they found Turks and Arabs and Arabians there ahead of them. The first Portuguese to land in Calicut was taken to meet two Spanish-speaking Tunisians, who asked him "What brought you here?" (from Firearms: A Global History to 1700, Kenneth Chase)

No matter where you want to venture, in all likelihood someone has beaten you to the punch. The trick is to not do what the Portuguese subsequently did--batter the sea ports with their naval armaments, blockade the princes who disagree with you, with nary a venture into the interior. You have to risk anabasis.

3/18/2004

A hometown shoutout to XCP's Streetnotes project.

Can another poet/poetaster in the Twin Cities please start a blog? Anyone? Unfortunately, the Dinghy seems dead. You just couldn't go wrong with the blog that regularly had Vin Deisel cameoing ("Vin Diesel has suggested to me that any person who instructs his beloved pet to behave in such a manner is pathologically insufficient and, most probably, illiterate.")

3/17/2004

"Ken Irby, who I saw last weekend, remarked how Robert Duncan read everything from the most obtuse metaphysics to the trashiest novels. So it seems a theory of language, which somehow, when you break it down, leaves the self exposed in that process of perception and transmission, runs into problems the social can't always deal with, nor should it. At the same time, just because you?ve thought about language and realize all this transcendent stuff, it doesn?t give you the right (or ability) to step out of this world of grease and pop stars. The one thing though that never seems to go away, for me, is that thin divide between what we know and don't." (Dale Smith, in interview with Alan Gilbert, interview on Possum Pouch)

"Unkingd by affection? One exchanges the empire of ones desire for the anarchy of pleasures. But pleasures themselves one finds are not domesticated. And the troubles of the soul cast jewel-like reflections upon the daily surfaces. One has moved only to a world where the devoted household commonplaces cast shadows that are empires..." (Robert Duncan)

"Surrender, but don't give yourself away." (Cheap Trick)

3/16/2004

41

One of my goals in life is to write a book about singles that reached #41 on the Billboard charts, particularly with bands that never went any higher. Almost-hits, not quites. I've always loved the numerology of popular music; when I was in 8th grade I'd keep a compendium of #1s week by week (I did this even into 1988-1990, nearly all the way through high school, even when I moved to alternative radio. Glam metal ruled in Erie and on most days I thought no one else in the world liked the Replacements). Information was scarce and spotty, particularly outside the realm of top 10. There was something about watching the rise and fall of songs like skipping rocks and watching them sink at the Peninsula. I'd watch the songs--like ideas in America's mind--percolate up and reach an X point when they'd teeter and collapse. It was all a complex system of ephemera. I'm not sure if things are the same anymore. Scenes are themselves aching to self-typecast. It's the whole thing with identity politics, whether it's the product placement of Sprite or "I know this band and you don't" ministrations of the fuckyouarati. Of course, this probably has always happened, and my utter teenage isolation merely meant I wasn't taking part in this mini-branding. But something else changed. At some point (the year of the FCC deregulation?), pop died, and with it, grand heartland gestures. Now we have microshires. Radio conglomeration no doubt played a larger part, but the response as a whole has been retreat from the masses and food courts. Distribution will obviously be a problem--but the difference is, I get the sense that many bands don't aspire, even, to the popular, subversive center. (I really think Alex Chilton and Chris Bell really wanted to be, well, big stars--it's just that they were dealing with jackanapes from their record company). This is the same impulse that makes me want to create a nonprofit that sets up poetry kiosks in malls. Anyway, we're all #41s in a way, aren't we?

3/15/2004

The CIA has a rewards program! Can I get my cashback on my discover? Be sure to also join Ginger the furry's adventures on the CIA for Kids homepage!

3/12/2004

Can anyone answer this man's question about PKD and Jack Spicer? (Apart from the fact that they ran in the same crowds back in the day.) Alex? Matt?

3/11/2004

An interesting corollary to Ron's test would be to remove the names of blurbers and the poetry books being blurbed (the content or quality of the books being immaterial in this instance, some of which chosen are pretty good, some of which are pretty bad):

A.
The proper response to a poem, we are told, is another poem, not this disjointed mumbling I'm offering--but what I want to say is simply--Behold! Attend to the dangerous dance happening here in these pages, the way words entangle themselves, the way they weave a fine mesh, a net cast as if by Hephaestus to catch the net of desires created by other words...the erotic myth has been subsumed in the body of Woman, sufficient.

B.
A physicist of syllables, a mesmerizing singer of near-apocalyptic lullabies, a rememberer, a forgetter, a reinventer, a destroyer--a philosopher of disappearances, an architect of mutabilities--this poet actually sees the new world we are emerging into--from the fission of subatomic matter to its cataclysmic effects on the deserts of both our planet and our inner lives.

C.
In X, Y finds and propounds the courage to hold himself accountable for the unaccountable consequences of Attention, of Vision. Thus, his is a law without bounds and an unconditional mercy. The Sublime is always inappropriate, and Y delights in sublimity without shame. Honor him.

D.
These poems are healing beads against grief and terror. The person imbued with them will stand a better chance to save himself from a territory even smaller than time. Yet the place where Z's poetry will open up salvation does not exist as a place, will not be in time. The subversive darkness and lucidity of his poems know about this: they have the power to mutate the species, prepare it to survive in previously unimaginable worlds.
____

What kinds of poetries are being discussed in each of these blurbs?

...feel free to email me more of your favorite anonymous blurbkraft and I'll post it.



3/08/2004

I wrote this long, detailed post about Carolingian graverobbin' and relic grabbin'. But when I tried to post my little image, the whole post got erased. I just thought I'd say that. Maybe when the scars heal (and oh boy, am I scarred now for losing that), I'll try to reconstitute a cogent thought.

Anyway, here's the fucking culprit:


3/05/2004

I have really mixed feelings about Ruminator Books, a local "institution" of an independent bookstore (they have, incidentally, withdrawn their public stock offering). On one hand, there have been some great booksellers there--who are actively interested, e.g., in zines and little magazines, and have tried to actively promote good books and magazines and a healthy literary culture (in a metro area where such a thing, while it exists, is often patchwork).

On the other hand...I've had a fair amount of anecdotal evidence of just miserable service there. My wife, trying to do the right thing and all, special ordered a book from Ruminator. About a week later, she got a call that the book had arrived. She went out of her way, driving wise, to pick up the book. Lo and behold, the book wasn't there. It hadn't arrived yet. Kristin tried to get an answer, any answer, from the staff person there, who was disinterested at best. Other friends of mine have had bizarre and off-putting experiences of the same ilk. Also, much of the stock leaves something to be desired. In the five years that I've been in the Twin Cities, the poetry section has really deteriorated. It's hard to find even vaguely off-beat poetry books there. The books are often shelved sloppily. The science fiction and fantasy section is embarassing--rather than try to do something creative with it and push more towards the innovative end of the spectrum, there's the mostly tired, ratted usual suspects. The layout of the store is cavernous and confusing. Finally, some (although not all) of the staff leans towards the actively unhelpful, a sense that the customer is somehow an embargo to what the workplace is supposed to be all about.

Which is their right, I guess--but why should there be this sense of entitlement for Ruminator's very existence, when at face value it's only a slightly better than average bookstore? Obviously, having a strong flagship independent bookstore in the Twin Cities is more than important; it's crucial to the literary health of a community. And equally obviously, the chains have had some detrimental effect. But I've seen nothing especially innovative in really solving their problems that don't involve smokescreens, or at best stopgap measures to stave the bleeding. Selling the Hungry Mind name? Having famous authors donate their accoutrements? "Public stock" offerings? These aren't real solutions to get people to buy books. (How about decent customer service? That would be a start.)

That's what kills me: Ruminator is so necessary and yet so oddly passive--from a business standpoint--about its impending demise. Do something about it, rather than hand-wring and try to play off people's guilt. Don't mask your failures in sanctimony and don't rely on handouts. Earn our business.

3/04/2004

Much good material on the early history of chess. This article on Chessbase provides a good starting point. As its genesis was likely conceived in an area where our current administration has carried out no small amount of oil-piqued adventurism, understanding the earliest war games might give some insight into our current geopolitical concerns (as the latter has always informed the former as well).

Of particular interest is this paper by Gerhard Josten: "Chess--a living fossil". The chess game never existed in an early pure form, but was rather a hybrid of several different gameplay techniques (and, actually, the rules we know today weren't really hammered down until the 19th century; castling in particular had some regional idiosyncracies that hung around for awhile).

The game has always become more technologically "advanced"--particularly with Western European rule changes to make the game "faster". With the advent of fast computers not only dictating the speed and power of the game, but also the lines of thought, we can see the game's character and timelessness also change.

No matter how intricately tied chess is to war--in a way, it is a virtual weapons system--and has been buffeted by various agencies in terms of ideology, chess still can be, in the right hands, a form of poetry. That's the paradox--chess is fundamentally political but at the same time, specific politics slides off it within the games itself. Perhaps straddling the fence between pure mathematics and poetics. (Hm, maybe needs a little salt.)

One can be faced with the creepily whimsical chess imagery in this 1999 Taliban stamp...(you'd hardly, in sending a correspondence game, consider the affixer to be privy to the blowing up of Buddhas, but then again it's just a stamp)..


Or this recently forged chess set depicting GWB and Blair as King and Queen of White, and Osama as the black king...(Similar sets forged by the Soviets, Revolutionary War-era Americans, whomever needed to put the world in black and white terms)

And yet none of this posturing prevents the mind dreaming at the board...You can still use pebbles to represent the pieces...

3/03/2004

Great post on grandtextauto (still the best name for a weblog ever) on how copyright infringement is the "new obscenity." Interestingly, poetry has been existing on the shadows of copyright enforcement for some time now, primarily for its (usual) brevity and transferability (poetry--great on tombstones and subways!) and the fact that, well, there's no money in it. But it's a compelling realignment for poetry's place in the midst of draconian copyright enforcement. Reviewers in little magazines and weblogs have no compunctions about reprinting poems in their entirety from other sources. I know that Amazon.com recently removed poetry books from its "Search Inside the Box" feature, but I can't remember any instance in which people were worried about people using poetry in the public sphere.

And maybe that's it--the fact that there is just the tiniest vestige left of poetry's jongleur roots. That's its able to, with some efficiency, slip away from the "first amendment zoning" (of which recent copyright law is the hammer for) of the country. Maybe that will be an important "use" of poetry in the upcoming decade--to be impermissible.

The picaresque is a form of novel in which a man and woman have many adventures that do not involve car crashes.

3/02/2004

My precinct caucus was led by a high school senior. Very disorganized but worked out perfectly fine. I need to get to bed.

A little bit of inside baseball to the poetic blogosphere. The people who whine about blogs on the Poetics list are some funny folks. (To those non-poets out there in the audience, this in itself might be instructive as regards to the hermetic heraldics in some in the poetry community). It's not the shouting and useless arguments that drives me bat shit crazy (as it does Tim, although the shouting isn't exactly pleasurable)--it's the continual backchannel requests, the ziploc-sealed clubbiness right on display. It's public show-ponying in many cases, I imagine, that you just need to contact famous poet xyz, but in private, over a matter of no small importance. (Hint: Google, Yahoo people search, and university directories do wonders!)

Right, but that's all about the "public square."

As opposed to links. (Like this one, to Nick's response on the whole non-issue.)

On another note, considering changing the novellette I wrote into a blank verse epic poem. Ok, really really need to go to bed.

May I direct your attention to My Reading Rainbow in the scrolldown of this weblog. Butterfly in the s k y!

3/01/2004

from the comments of this entry of John & Belle Have a Blog:

"The rich philistinism emanating from advertisements is due not to their exaggerating (or inventing) the glory of this or that serviceable article but to suggesting that the acme of human happiness is purchasable and that its purchase somehow ennobles the purchaser. Of course, the world they create is pretty harmless in itself because everybody knows that it is made up by the seller with the understanding that the buyer will join in the make-believe. The amusing part is not that it is a world where nothing spiritual remains except the ecstatic smiles of people serving or eating celestial cereals, or a world where the game of the senses is played according to bourgeois rules, but that it is a kid of satellite shadow world in the actual existence of which neither sellers nor buyers really believe in their heart of hearts - especially in this wise quiet country. (Nabokov, "Philistines and Philistinism", Lectures on Russian Literature)
Advertising as a giant shared world anthology, an everquest. And maybe that's what makes me want to critique the insularity of writing fictions of pure entertainment. It isn't TV or the movies that have taken over the role of entertainment (particularly the supplanting of the short story) in our culture--it's the 30-second spot. Madison Ave. has friendstered all of us, and there's no way to exist solely in that diversionary realm and do pure entertainment better than advertising. Better to drop out and break the nondisclosures.

Picked up Some Versions of Pastoral after bookhunting with our friend David in Stillwater. There are gaps in my reading that one could drive Hummers through; worse, I don't even know what is a useful gap or not. Anyway, there's some interesting material therein about pastoralia and class, as well as Lewis Carroll; maybe I'll give a report on my reading, although I don't think it's necessarily ever a case of textual wizardry on my part when I talk about books I like. (re: The first year of Ptarmigan, where I avoided the questions altogether, in favor of an elaborate puppet show, which I still look back on kinda fondly.)