In my blogger profile, it says how many words I've written on a particular blog. What I want it to do is to show how many words are mine, and how many are quoted from other people. I mean, get with it, blogger.
"The myth must be understood--but it is inadequate for POETRY. The poem is vaster than mere myth and reaches its purity, not when it furnishes new myths, but when it exceeds myth." --Robert Duncan, letter to Jack Spicer
Is mythopoetics a dead-end? Ellipses, the fairie queen in the sweat shop, direct transference of upper middle class aspirations to subvert particulars but only in particular untoward fashion. Rococco comedy of manners/errors to veil self-advancement in the face of grit and disparity. Archetypes, the new sincerity. Symbolist yearnings, the way to bifurcate (a) forward into the 1890s (stratifications and all) and (b) backwards into the arms of the proper contract.
How to end the dead end? Trashing myth isn't enough. Well, it might be as a purely initial step. But more consistently, the mythopoetic urge has to be dense with a project in order to get anywhere. It has to be laden with bewilderment, tonal estrangement; more than the faux transgressions of content, but a deliberate plumbing of whether a myth has ever saved anyone, much less a story from its own flawed self. Otherwise, it's just killing leisure time.
The Grail is as common as rats or seaweed
Not lost but misplaced.
(Jack Spicer, The Holy Grail, "The Book of Galahad")
Leonie Adams is one of my favorite 20th c. American poets:
I turned as new resigned:
A summer gleaned, my business was within,
My charge the sober mind,
My care the wintry bin.
And found the boughs in stain,
Past-promise-hued. O not
Before, earnest as rich was yet so plain;
A harvest was ungot.
Beech drenching down my pathway goldenheart,
Ash, pensive light-cheek rose,
Both pluck the thought apart,
And meant you, heart, to close?
So fell the doomed farewells;
So, so looked forth a thing:
Regret, reproach, what else
Must baffle, vex, beguile this severing.
There are so many books forgotten from 1900-1950. So many poets once famous now nothing on the public library shelf & in boxes. Most of it is indeed bland, hoary, cliche ridden, "official verse culture" if there ever was one. But there's always something about Adams's work that draws me back. For her, language was molten and molting, skating on the edge of insensibility, in a manner not dissimilar to Prynne.
"When the stakes are high, one should be cautious, but excessive caution leads to hardened positions and paranoia about 'erosion'. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem, as they say. Beware the thin edge of the wedge, the slippery slope. If you give them an inch, they'll take a mile. Caution can also lead to a sort of unwitting self-caricature, however. In their zeal to protect something precious, people sometimes decide to dig the moat too far out, thinking that it is safer to defend too much than risk defending too little. The result is that they end up trying to defend the indefensible, clinging to an extreme position that is actually vulnerable only because of its exaggeration. Absolutism is an occupational hazard in philosophy in any case, since radical, hard-edged positions are easier to define clearly, are more memorable, and tend to attract more attention. Nobody ever became a famous philosopher by being a champion of ecumenical hybridism." --"A Hearing for Libertarianism", Daniel C. Dennett (the article's title is coyly ironic, btw)
My problem with many poetry contests isn't as much the friends publishing friends aspect--in small communities, that's bound to happen; in the case of Cindra's chapbook that I published, I wanted her to have a book! (Well, chapbook.) And didn't think anyone else was going to do it. So I did it. (Incidentally, I "paid" her by giving her a large percentage of the print run, for her to keep and to sell on her own. That worked out pretty well.)
But the economics of the contests often drive me batty. Josh has a good post about it--one of the corrolaries to his fine point that, it's not valueless at all to figure that my $60 to a press for entry fees is helping subsidize a press, to put out these great books. But what if that $60 were spent on poetry books instead of contest fees? Then the physical object comes into play. Then you can lend a book. You can't lend a failure to win a contest to a friend.
Contests in poetry are not going to go away. But would we be better served if there were no massive prize payouts but smaller (or nonexistent) entry fees, and/or giving the winning book in exchange for the entry fee? I think so. The economics become much more tenable with a Few Simple Modifications (which some presses already do). It would at least be a start towards developing "fair trade" principles with the economics of poetry.
But still, I think that the contest mill has helped to cause the decline of the poetry readership, simply because there's only so much money to go around. Playing the first book contest mill is expensive, and you have to make a choice, if you want to play that game, to play it HARD, ruthlessly, and to win in that contested space. (And if people have plenty disposable income to do BOTH, then that in itself is limiting the field according to predicatable class-based lines).
Better in many cases to publish a book yourself, make it look like a "real" book, design it well, use a good font, and built something amongst the barrels of tea thrown in the harbor. Too expensive? Use publishing on demand--NOT the ripoff faux-vanity presses like iuniverse, but something (like Lightning Source; although I've never used it myself, so I can't wholeheartedly attest to its use) that uses POD as a technology--one that coaxes niche projects into being. And like it or not, poetry is a niche project. POD and poetry are pretty much made for each other, but sadly the only press that I've seen that uses POD also puts a contest scheme overlay into their press! Just sad. So with a POD book, say, printed one-by-one from Lightning Source, with a poetry press that uses it, you'd have: no prizes, open submission periods, no entry fees, modest royalties, but a pretty decent looking book at normal poetry-book price, plus availability through Ingram, availability on Amazon, etc. And the rest would be up to the press, or the writer, in terms of review copies, readings and the like. This is the future.
The funny thing is--what attendant benefits are afforded onto a big winning book? Distribution in lots and lots of bookstores in the country? Er, no. This of course, is not to deny that good books DO get published through this system of contests. If anything, it makes it even more criminal that the distro system has shrunk as it has, and that getting a good book published by a "good" press doesn't mean that that press has the means to muscle into places where it's needed. It means that this book will probably be just as forgotten in 5 years as a self-published book that has no prize aura to it. Here's another way to look at it: what if a winning writer fed that $1000 or $2000 or whatever into promoting the book, getting the word out through all sorts of sundry means, trying to drive a sliver of a wedge into popular consciousness through poetry? Ah, the winning writer might say, but I need the prize to make up what I lost through paying 20 other contest fees! And so it goes.
The only question is when the present system will collapse under its own weight, not if. There is going to be, at some point, a price point crossed in contest fees that the ephebes and new writers will turn back from (could you fathom paying $40 for a contest fee and getting nothing in return? Just wait until 2008!). And then it's over, 's been nice knowing you. This might be done by something as simple as the rising cost of paper creating a domino effect, with the cost passed to the "consumer" (that is, the submittor). From that wreckage, there will be a vortex in press-collapse. And it's not as if arts funding is going to get any easier over the next decade! The contest mill seems great now, and even seems necessary and perfectly reasonable, but it's, at best, a stop gap measure that somehow morphed into the only game in town (or one of the few).
American poetry deserves better.
I love watching GAC (a clever acronym for "God Awful Country")--not because of its "music" but because of the ceaseless amazement as to how a supposedly widely available cable channel looks like it was produced on cable access at 3am in a teenager's basement. (And for the record, I watched a good bit of CMT in the mid-90s when it had a nice run of promoting Dwight Yoakam, the Mavericks, the Tractors, even Joe Ely--a long dead era.)
Dime Moon in a Quarter's Town
I lost a lot of swords as my brother
then I lost my ox and the address of the
then walking again
walking into the graf
walking into the swiss
with a LITTLE money in my argyles
then I'm numero uno again
though who is the wise walker
through TELLER hordes
with tough thoughts WITHSTOOD
then I left the sperm bank
then I felt darth ox really said free me
and then I WILL be thine
The Stevens Square Center for the Arts (SSCA) is planning to host a zine
fair and exhibition later this summer, with an opening night party on
Friday, July 24, followed by tabling, zine trading, readings and live music
on Saturday, July 25. The exhibit would be on display at the SSCA for four
weeks, closing in mid-August. The SSCA is a new neighborhood arts
organization located near downtown Minneapolis. For more information visit
The Minneapolis Zine Festival be held July 24-25 at the Stevens Square
Center for the Arts, 1905 Third Ave. S. The zine fest will include zines
for sale, live music, readings, and workshops. Also opening on July 24, and
running through August 21, will be a Zine and Flyer Art Exhibit. Organizers
are seeking submissions for the exhibit and zines to sell on consignment.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.zinefest.org.
A Tightness in the Charm
I caught a little bird
and built a cage from a MEGADETH BOX SET
And who doesn't want little birds
freeing up their lives
and writing little theses on house music
for cool uncle bird
A pity the bird flies into
a little SLAYER
No one that's who
This is much better. I couldn't resist.
Pull Down the Fun
The best thing about the New Blogger is imaginary profiles.
Chris and Gwenda have been great editors to work with on Say.... They've given me free rein to publish more traditional poems alongside some very, very strange poems. That freedom has really piqued my interest in something that is under the surface between why I love speculative fiction and non-mainstream poetry. A grand unified theory? Well, probably not. But. The conversations a bunch of us had on the Nightshade board about poetry, as well as what magazines like Sidereality has done intrepidly in exploring the linkages between "speculative literature" and experimental poetry, have also been illuminating and made me want to take a shot at a longer project (though not necessarily a full-blown magazine).
Call for Submissions: Red Giant
Red Giant will be a one-shot chapbook, a mini-anthology, of speculative poetry and poetry informed by science fiction, with an emphasis on work from experimental and innovative practices. It will be published by the Press of the Taverner in November 2004. ...cont. hereWhat "experimental and innovative practices" are, of course, is an open question, so hopefully it will be clear that I'm taking a big tent approach to this. I think that's the only way you can. But perhaps you could boil it down to: "less 'What if?' and more 'What the hell?!?'"
Seems like the good folks at Blogger have added a commenting system for all of Blogspotland. So we'll see if this actually works or not. I'll still leave the Quicktopic up for a little bit, just in case the whole thing crashes and burns.
One other note re: meta-advertising; when a movie wins an award or is "the #1 movie in America!", splicing in film clips in commercials to celebrate this fact. This usually involves fist pumps, exhortations, and exuberations. One wonders, particularly in movies which are already in essence product placements spliced with CGI footage, whether those directors film scenes specifically for this purpose, knowing later that the marketing folks will want a few seconds of a good fist pump for the movie's 2nd week of release. This would be impossible to prove, of course, but it's easy to imagine.
Advertising cues up its metafictions with efficient ease. One in particular comes to mind. One is the record player needle falling off the record sound. You've heard it, although its overuse might render it invisible. Particularly plied in advertising situations in which, in first 10 seconds of spot, there is some idyllic, albeit misleading, usually tranquil situation. Then: *record scratch* Then: But wait, here's what the commercial is really about! The first 10 seconds were a veil of your misunderstanding! (The funny thing is, in the early use of this technique, there'd usually be a type of ironic music played ("Guys really like playing with puppies and bunnies!" (cue chipper classical music) *record scratch* (cue Korn) "Just kidding! Guys really like running over bunnies with their DENALI! So buy a DENALI or else you're a fop!"). But now they use the record scratching without any music being played at all, moving purely into an indicator of "shifting gears", if you will. The question I have then is, in those situations: what record is being played that is scratched? And is it ruined? It's bad for the record. You have to clean it with a certain type of cloth but it still might be ruined forever.
I'm horrible at remembering birthdays, in that I usually don't. It's nothing personal, really--it's my seive mind at work. Anyway, I'm trying to rectify this. Friends, please email me your birthdays and I'll add them to a birthday remindery thingy, so the travesties will not continue. And, conversely, mine is August 6, and Kristin's is yesterday, May 3. Like Mean Joe Green I'm just trying to make the world a better place, that's all I'm saying.
OMG who snuck this normal entry onto this weblog?
"Self-publishing is only for when you can't wait for your friends to put your stuff out, when you don't trust your friends to do it right, or when you simply have no friends." --David Larsen (from "Symptom of the Universe")
How great is this? I'm listening to Prince's "Pop Life" (from Around the World in a Day, reached #7 btw), and notice sometime after the second verse the slightest sliver, just for a second or two, of a disco bass line. In 1985. My God. What's the matter with your life, is the poverty bringing u down?
Need to get Tusk.
Then what of the boat?
Those things we hear
that are so high above us--
we live like mice
in a huge theater
trembling at the rumble of inconceivable voices,
tramp of unimaginable footsteps
pounding at the immense stage.
What do we know?
How little we know even how little we know.
Sometimes it's the Cynic has the sweetest tongue,
is nicest, is named
for a dog & like one
fawns on critical attention, puppies rump-up
for our O.K.
Like mice or rats we live
nice but small, energetic,
sexy, industrious, asleep.
The bruising weight of consciousness
soon shrugged off.
Then a siren wakes us
to the dangerous nature of We sleep--
how precious human life,
that triple-founded three-light thing!
The siren howls it down.
(from The Cruise of the Pynx, Robert Kelly)