Ptarmigan

a grouse with completely feathered feet

10/30/2004

But, blessedly, the community redeems itself with this post.. Because we're not humorless cyborgs after all.

From the Ptarmigan classic files (2 years ago!), a little post about our finding of a Halloween turkey.

Doing my best to concentrate on the election of Kerry, and to steer clear of the sanctimony of places like this, which was once one of my favorite online homes. Now it's self-righteousness this, I-know-better that. It's the usual m.o. of the Annoying Left. God love them, confusing the political for the individual at every conceivable opportunity! The usual "point the finger with one hand and pat oneself on the back with the other" routine. Mistaking consensual aggrendation of political interests and compromise for a game of "spot the sellout"--which I think was exhausted with Pearl Jam in 1995 or something. Which itself has been honed for the last 15 years, aggressively, by the very marketing juggernauts one would seek to overthrow. But keep sneering at your lessors! Keep at it. It allows one to continue the same passive-aggressive relationships to division itself. Where devisiveness itself becomes a political commodity that the Republicans rely on as a kind of baseline. My center-left leanings, god knows, are often inarticulate, clumsy, tied to geography and demography. And perhaps my positions are mushy, unmemorable. But I try, at least, to try to understand when and how my positions and discourse are forged in the here-and-now and when they're just subconscious anxieties that have almost nothing to do with politics, bubbling up into a costume, a knee jerking, a theatre in the round. But no one's listening to the latter, not really--and it's better that way.

10/28/2004

've been scarce lately...doing such things as: finally doing the overhaul of Taverner's Koans (very very rough, watch your step, but feel free to check out the rough template. So far. I'm also off the wagon (or on it, depending on how you look at it) with Sever Decay. I'd just needed a breather. Also Tiptree reading, which has been extremely rewarding.

I'll leave this quote from Jake Berry (from Juxta 1):
The poem and poet call one another to a common ground of being, where they
constitute a single entity. To be more specific, a poet is an individual
poetic entity biologically appearing. It speaks, it bodies forth being,
participates in the theater of objects. What might be the essential nature of
such a pansubstantial creature can only be discovered through direct
confrontation and mutual dissolution with in the shared domain, the
anitpersonal dynamic this union cultivates. We are speaking then of the
phenomenology of the open field.

10/22/2004

Here's a speculative poetry writing exercise.

Think about how an early 21st century writer can take in, sift through, and refract a 16th century form like a Petrarchan sonnet (as written by someone like Thomas Wyatt). Bernadette Mayer or Jennifer Moxley might be a good example of this. Now imagine yourself as a 26th century poet who has however incomplete it may have become. And, yes, imagine a society that is beyond post-industrial capitalism. It doesn't have to be utopic or distopic; rather, in a fabric where the processing of material conditions takes into account capitalism's (as we know it) ultimate ephemerality.

Then write a poem from the 26th century that takes in, sifts through, and refracts our 21st century traditions (or countertraditions).

10/21/2004

Now I've lost two posts in a row. So I give up.

10/18/2004

Notes on Speculative Poetry; or, Dreams Beyond the Unified Field

"But the diffusive energy being withdrawn, and the reaction having commenced in furtherance of the ultimate design -- that of the utmost possible Relation -- this design is now in danger of being frustrated, in detail, by reason of that very tendency to return which is to effect its accomplishment in general. Multiplicity is the object; but there is nothing to prevent proximate atoms, from lapsing at once, through the now satisfiable tendency -- before the fulfilment of any ends proposed in multiplicity -- into absolute oneness among themselves: -- there is nothing to impede the aggregation of various unique masses, at various points of space: -- in other words, nothing to interfere with the accumulation of various masses, each absolutely One." Edgar Allan Poe, Eureka

*

"What poetry can do, however, that no other field can do so well, is to offer new modes of language, different ways of writing one's engagement with the world, not a field of study but a way of living and writing that can never be contained by the dynamics of fields and their struggles. Poetry cannot always change the world. But it can, sometimes, show us what a changed world might look like." --Mark Wallace, "Looking Beyond the Fields of Poetry"

*

"The child attempts to relate inner sensations to a verbal code which is quite separate in origins. In order to first learn the meaning of the word "anger" you have to imagine someone else's body, undergoing such an emotion, and relate that image to what is happening inside you in moments of what you may later on call "anger". This "someone else's body", where shared meanings are stored and stabilized, appears in many forms in art. Language acquisition occurs as an instrumental help in a much deeper activity, that of intuiting other people's (i.e. primarily the rest of your family's) feelings and intentions; someone, even a young child, quite unable to do this, lacks the faculty which makes them a human being. We can see that the proposition "no ideas but in things" is the exact reverse of the truth; things don't have ideas. This "virtual body" makes possible the genre of Allegory; the 16th C Complaynte of Scotland shows a much distressed woman wandering the land weeping, who is also the country Scotland; the "small space" of this woman's body is a sensuous equivalent for the "large space" of Scotland, too large to be seen. Allegory is an archaic figure, which yet recalls the pathways of association by which we build up abstract and large-scale concepts from the data which reach us only through our senses, i.e. through our body." -- Andrew Duncan on John Wilkinson

*

As Prynne does...not scientific determinism but science as the shadow puppeteer of historiography, which is the creation of bunny ears or talking dogs on the blank walls of our lives. Poetry is the tracing of the shapes on the walls with a pencil or penknife.

*

And yet paradoxically, to disengage poetic revolution from the idea of the scientific revolution.

*

With frailty frontloaded as our cosmic precondition, how can narrativity be toxic, or subjectivity corrosive. Or narrativity subjectivity?

more later.

10/07/2004

More on J. J. Gibson and "Informational Pickup Theory":

"Gibson proposes that the environment consists of affordances (such terrain, water, vegetation, etc.) which provide the clues necessary for perception. Furthermore, the ambient array includes invariants such as shadows, texture, color, convergence, symmetry and layout that determine what is perceived. According to Gibson, perception is a direct consequence of the properties of the environment and does not involve any form of sensory processing."

Having not yet begun to process this; I can't count on whether this still has scientific traction, but I can certainly see it having poetic traction.

10/06/2004

(J. J. Gibson) “To perceive the world is to coperceive oneself
....The optical information to specify the self ...accompanies the optical
information to specify the environment ...The supposedly separate realms
of the subjective and the objective are actually only poles of attention.”

and, many, many centuries before:

(Tien Tai) "The wisdom of all kinds is called the real knowledge
* The eye of enlightenment (Buddha) is called the real vision
* The wisdom of the various different paths is called the provisional knowledge.
* The eye of spirituality (Dharma) is called the provisional vision..."

"Hear the Buddha's soft and gentle sound. It is deep, far reaching and very subtle. It is based on both the beginning and end of the word. [my emphasis] I recognize that this is the real wisdom."

The key is discerning "the wisdom of all kinds" from "the wisdom of the various different paths". Somewhere in between the two is the time that we perceive. Our lives are inflections of both the real and the provisional. Duration measured (or, more properly, sensed) by the beginnings and ends of words. I think the deadening of time that Nick blogs poignantly about, forced upon by static/statist powers, involves configuring people's lives so they don't begin words in the first place.

More tomorrow.

10/05/2004

Michael amongst the sharp comments left by many below: "there are times when i'm unsure whether an idea i have is really poetry or just a notion about poetry that would be better held by a fictitious poet in a madeup society in a story i need to write. i recommend, therefore, that aspiring writers begin by inventing MORE THAN ONE poet-avatar/poetic movement; & have them interact through mutually-incompatible aspects of their work..."

Brilliant turn of phrase, and it goes beyond, say, Marilyn Hacker writing the poetry bits in Delany's Fall of the Towers when they were still together, or the poems "Hyperion" and "Fall of Hyperion" becoming source material of the eponymous novels by Dan Simmons. It pulls/tugs towards the habitation of mutually incompatible landscapes as well. And also dovetail with how madeup our own society at times seems. If one posits that speculative fiction is a form of prose poetry (at times, at least), then the allegory of geography is furthered--this would be a compelling model for exploring tectonics, continental drift, etc., of multiplicitous poetics.

I really think this could be a smart interface for drawing younger writers into interest in poetry. Is the "pure" workshop model one that has generational durability? What is it about the 60s to now (keeping in mind that it existed before; just picking some decades at random when it seemed to flourish) that makes this a useful form of pedagogy and communication?

Jonathan Lethem wrote this in this essay "The Squandered Promise of Science Fiction": "Tomorrow's readers, born in dystopian cities, educated on computers, and steeped in media recursions of SF iconography, won't notice if the novels they read are set in the future or the present. Savvy themselves, they won't care if certain characters babble technojargon and others don't. Some of those readers, though, will graduate from a craving for fictions that flatter and indulge their fantasies to that appetite for fictions that provoke, disturb, and complicate through a manipulation of those same narrative cravings."

Similarly, I think younger readers' BS detectors are pretty keen when it comes to poetry. Don't flatter them with assumptions about what "ease of use" is. This is crucial because we can't just immediately cede "innovative" poetic territory only to those able to afford liberal arts educations, and as a more particular subset have a preconceived notion of what poetic value involves, as a way to accumulate prestige. They are already on that poetry production track. This isn't a slam; hell, I was/am on that track for a long time. It's so tangled with that inner desparation to write. It being a profession. To profess that track. But I'm hopeful about the keenness of the poems that are yet to be written. Blogs have already come a long way in making more readily apparent the larger narratives about what has already happened in poetry, in all of its disjunctive panoplies. This cannot be underestimated; how many lurkers are out there reading the poetry and writing blogs and finding completely different lattitudes. And as a reader/writer myself, it's humbling and gratifying.
________

Maybe it's because I'm from the Rust Belt, and my love of abandoned places has transfered to the online world. But I love abandoned or nearly abandoned MOOs and MUDs. Of which there are plenty in 2004. (Their bandwidth requirements, being so low, being text-only, mean that they tend to stick around on university servers and elsewhere)...Discarded objects like those in pompeii...empty gardens and common areas...scripts and flags triggered at your passing, and then settling back into silence, like a library book that gets checked out once every 20 years. These places haunt, but despite the fact that they're just code, they're not ephemeral; they're suffused with past conversations and avatars, effusive prose.

I've dabbled in object-oriented programming (TADS) for interactive fiction, so I'm not an expert by any, any means...but I keep going back to the compositional process, how you start with nothing (or maybe a template) and you let the syntax dictate the generative process; similar to the DIG function in MOOs, in that the rooms created are not rooms at all but rather tricks of perception.

Everything is a verb, everything is relation. There are no exits, no sinew, unless you build it in.

Syntax as spores.

So much of what's interesting in poetry lately has to do with hacking the language.

10/03/2004

The cure is won across twice, in glitter
patches so cheap they thrill each bidder,
staring ahead to the empty room where

brightness is born and tagged; to beat
the windows of the dying year's fast
turn to a faction cut-back. Ever so

smiling at this sudden real candour,
what to shun of this set cure's topmost
retort: remember me: and now give over.

--J.H. Prynne, from Not-You

*

It was only much later that the qualities of the incandescent period became apparent, and by then it had been dead for many years. But in recalling itself it assumed its first real life.

--John Ashbery, from "The New Spirit"

*

No crooked leg, no bleared eye,
No part deformed out of kind,
Nor yet so ugly half can be
As is the inward suspicious mind.

--Queen Elizabeth I, written in her French Psalter