Couture/Critical Links (Reprise)

This catalogue originally appeared on Fieled's Miscellaneous in April '12. I thought it might be nifty to reprise it here as of December '14.

“Disturb the Universe: The Collected Essays of Adam Fieled” in PDF form on the Argotist Online:

“Wordsworth @ McDonald’s” in Jacket 28:

Review of Jordan Stempleman’s “Facings” in Jacket 35:

Peter Philpott's evaluation of the American avant-garde poetry scene from the UK, with block-quotes and feature-space for me and others:

Peter Philpott's catalogue of journals, presses, and forums for international avant-garde poetry, including a brief write-up on PFS Post and Stoning the Devil:

Tears in the Fence #s 47 and 49, which contain four "Waxing Hot" dialogues (with Steve Halle, Amy King, Barry Schwabsky, and Robert Archambeau), can be purchased here:

“Century XX after Four Quartets” on the Argotist Online:

“On the Necessity of Bad Reviews” on the Argotist Online:

“The Conspiracy against Poems” on the Argotist Online:

“The Decay of Spirituality in Poetry” in Word For/ Word #17:

My "Waxing Hot" dialogue with Gabriel Gudding from PFS Post linked on Gudding's Wikipedia page:

My review of Karen Volkman's nomina from Stoning the Devil linked on Volkman's Wikipedia page:

“Anything with an Edge: Rethinking Post-Avant” on Stoning the Devil:

“Post-Avant: A Meta-Narrative” on Internet Archive:

“Stress Fractures” (print, containing “Post-Avant: A Meta-Narrative”) for sale in the UK:

Charlotte Newman’s review of “Stress Fractures” in Horizon Magazine:

“Stress Fractures” for sale in the US:

David Kennedy’s review of “Stress Fractures” in Stride Magazine:

"On the Possibilities of Multi-Media Readings" in Otoliths:

“Contextualists and Dissidents: Talking Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons” in Cordite:

“Contextualists and Dissidents” reprinted on Michael Blackburn’s blog:

“Composite Ideologies” in the Argotist:

Interview with me by Jeffrey Side in the Argotist about online publishing:

“Benjamin’s Desktop: Unpacking the Phenomenon of Literature Online” on Internet Archive:

Vanessa Vaile's repository page for "Benjamin's Desktop..." on the poets and writers picnic blog:

“Twenty-First Century Poetry and Poetics” on Internet Archive:

“Loving the Alien” in Word For/ Word #9:

“Pleasures of the Post-Avant Text” in Word For/ Word #11:

“Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Abstract Morality in Post-Avant Poetry” in Cordite:

“Twenty-First Century Poetry and Poetics” originally appeared in print in Poetry Salzburg Review #18.

The Band: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

Keats and the Prosody Meter

Having committed myself very willingly to a position that ranks Keats’ lyrical gift (for melopoeia, prosody, etc) above all others in the history of the English language, I have now gotten around to configuring what I call a Prosody Meter to posit other rankings. It begins with the supposition that Keats’ gift supersedes all other competitors, and the 100% of the scale is the 100% of Keats’ prosodic achievements. On the level of 75-80%, I would place (at their respective prosodic pinnacles) Donne, Wordsworth, and Shakespeare, all of whom create and sustain exquisite poetic music, but lack Keats’ edge of fulsome solidity, of loading lines from every angle with ore. When Keats, for example, offers “mortality/ Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,” the effect of assonant sounds repeated so that almost every word in the line is included has no echo in Donne, Wordsworth, and Shakespeare. At the level of 66.66% I place myself and Shelley. “Clustering,” as I call my prosodic method, has the advantage of clearing up narrative-thematic ground so that I am not chained to my own music at the expense of narrative or intellectual interests, but also loosens a chunk of what could be formally golden into a purgatorial realm where what sticks, sticks and what is lost cannot be retrieved. Shelley I deign (as Keats did) to be a competent but rather lazy craftsman, who falls (despite a substantial lyrical gift) into lazy phrases and inappropriate repetitions: no one who reads the Romantics seriously can quite forgive “I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!” and its like. The lowest, 50% rung of the Prosody Meter has on it a cluster of poets habitually formally lazy enough that “ore,” in the Keatsian sense for them, is always over or under-employed: Byron, Tennyson, Browning, Swinburne, Yeats, and Eliot. All of these poets can be “jingly,” facile the wrong way round, and prosodic bells ring perfunctorily.

Back to Keats: if I do pick nits with some of Keats’ sonnets, it is because, by the time he begins writing the major ones in 1816, his “chops” are so developed that, in his innocent delight with his own magnificent technical facility, he sometimes undercooks his voltas (the volta in a sonnet occurs around line 9, which is supposed to turn or torque the narrative of the opening octave.) Keats’ early voltas can be “auto-pilot” contrivances:

O Solitude! If I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep—
Nature’s observatory— whence the dell,
Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
‘Mongst boughs pavilioned, where the deer’s swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the foxglove bell.
But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thoughts refined,
Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of humankind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.

The volta here undercuts, weakens the octave, by making the protagonist seem irresolute, and also unimaginative; in other words, it would have been more challenging for Keats to find in his solitude some objective correlative in nature to express what he wanted to express, rather than giving us the affective data nose on the face. It is, in American MFA parlance again, “telling” rather than “showing.” The irony of American MFA-land is that American poetry before me displays so little prosodic heft that American poetry gamers should worship the ground Keats walks on; but, in American MFA programs, the Romantics are little touched on. American poetry until now has been written uniformly by cretins. The gifted poets in the American canon are none. But back to Keats and his voltas: his more successful sonnets have structural dynamics that make the major turn interesting:

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripened grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starred face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the fairy power
Of unreflecting love!- then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

The double crescendo here— the revelation of Fanny Brawne, and Keats’ deeply felt passion for her, and then the plummet into the visionary locale of “the shore of the wide world” where Keats is confronted by his own powerlessness in the face of mortality (Keats’ Scorpionic courage in confronting extinction being one of his great poetic strengths), take us, with the requisite magisterial music (assonances like “of unreflecting love” backed/solidified by strong end-rhymes, and anaphora from “of” as well), to a place of complete, totalized textual fulfillment, where an extreme gift is made to serve genuine narrative-thematic gravitas. That is genius in major high art consonant poetry.

Apparition Poems: Ambient Ghettos of North Philly Pt. 2

North Philly is about, not only the charm of dilapidation, but the eerie charm of the desolate. One reason Apparition Poems got its title is that, between the spatiality of different sectors of Philly and its ornate architectural elegance, one gets the sense of ghosts, specters, and apparitions here, hanging in the air in a way that some find intoxicating, some do not. Like I said about Temple University and the Eris Temple, those who find an interest in attraction/repulsion circuits (things, ocular vistas or otherwise, which attract and repel at the same time) will have much to ponder as they walk Philly streets. Attraction/repulsion also leads, circuitously, to thoughts of salvation and damnation; and who the saved and who the damned are is another pertinent PFS subtext, in our art and in our lives. If Philly has an interesting relationship (also) to philosophy, it is because the relationship of our architectural constructs to the sky, the heavens, and to a widely disparate scene on the ground, lends a sense of transcendentalism to the city, and to attempts to forge higher worlds, aesthetic and otherwise, from it. This is all leading to this Apparition Poem:

There are gusty showers
in Philadelphia, showers
that beat up empty lots,

down in sooty Kensington,
you could almost believe
what the books say about

being-in-the-world, I mean
being in a damned world, it
really does seem that day

on greasy days in Philadelphia.

The circular nature of the poem around Philadelphia-as-topos gives it an air of being self-enclosed, self-completed, a whole, round circuit. The circle has to do with time, temporality, which has as one of its more graceful manifestations the temporal circle, where (in whatever context) you finish where you started. One of the grand subtexts of Philadelphia— architecture versus time/the temporal, is mirrored here, as the scaffolding of the poem creates a square around the circle of the poem’s temporal conceit. The “gusty showers” and “greasy days” of North Philly depend, if we posit some aesthetic satisfaction in them, on a broadening of viewpoints towards a recognition that surfaces belie interiors, and what looks damned might actually be saved, and vice versa. This is Baudelairian territory— salvation and damnation are not up the alley of the Romantics that much— and the Philadelphian Prowler may well be more, in his/her Noir orientation, simpatico with the Symbolists then with those consonant with the replenishing powers of trees, birds, and flowers. To be forced into a kind of Purgatory, against century XX, by architecture— such is the fate (through PFS and otherwise) of Philadelphia in 2014. Yet I am no poet maudit; and inscribed in this Apparition Poem is the sense of hidden depths filling in spaces which surfaces cannot.

The Posit Trilogy: Ambient Ghettos of North Philly

Connoisseurs of urban areas and urban life know: dilapidation, in urban contexts, has its own kind of glamour and ambience. There is a richness and a decadent glamour to dilapidated neighborhoods simply from the sense of solid time, decades and even centuries, passing through them, hollowing things out towards a kind of perfection; especially if the architecture is interesting. North Philly is mostly ghettos, mostly dilapidation: but the nicer bits of North Philly are so potent with ambience that, for PFS, North Philly would always be one of our Ops. Part of the PFS vibe was a certain kind of laissez faire around where we would go in Philly, which was anywhere, at any time. We were not hemmed in by fear, because Aughts Philly was not a fearful place. So that, when my friends Radio Eris set up shop at 52nd and Cedar in the mid-Aughts, smack in the middle of a North-West Philly ghetto, and called their shared, co-op abode The Eris Temple, it became natural for my routes to begin to include The Temple and its environs. The Eris Temple is where the two Apparition Poems videos were shot; and the site of endless readings, performances, and adventures. It’s not like the violent undercurrents of that particular ‘hood were invisible to us; but we moved within the charmed circle of a germane time which subsisted for flaneurs, art-heads, and misfits. I also have to say that the glamorous dilapidation of North Philly (and West Philly, too) supersedes the closest NYC analogue, which is Brooklyn, most of which is merely hideously ugly, sans the elegant architecture which distinguishes almost all of Philly, for all time, from other cities. This poem from The Posit Trilogy, “Tranny Dream,” catches the sense I have that, as the Aughts wore into the Teens, impending doom in the form of a Sword of Damocles hung over all of our heads here, even as I did not manage to write/publish this until 2013:

I find myself in bed with a woman
with a man’s crotch, & find this
unacceptable, & so excuse myself
into an autumn evening in North
Philadelphia, looking for a train
station, finding more nudie bars.
I get trapped in an enclosed space
with a stripper, done with her work
for the night, who counsels me
against taking the train home, that
I can sleep with her backstage at
her bar. I push past, into the night
again, & am assailed on all sides.

The first person orientation of the poem aligns it with, not only the original Posit, but Opera Bufa; what is even more important, on a narrative-thematic level, is the association with autumn, and its harbinger of winter, which amounts to a confrontation with mortality. As in, the way North Philly subsists in 2014, even for all its ambience (which includes also, a sense of the spectral or apparitional), has become unmanageable for those of us who remember the frisson of being there pre-Great Recession. I wrote the poem from a dream, and from the ‘burbs; pining, as usual these days, for a precious era which is now past. I will always be haunted by what Philly was both for me, and for all of my friends and lovers in the Aughts, and by the sense that we managed to capture, from Philly, another, higher world out of the ambience and architecture here. The second poem I would like to share is more nose on the face about the sort of goings-on which transpired at The Eris Temple in the Aughts, is a sonnet, and bears the simple moniker “Eris Temple”:

That night I got raped by a brunette
chanteuse, I lay on the linoleum floor
of the front room sans blanket, & thought

I could hack it among the raw subalterns
of the Eris Temple, who could never
include me in their ranks, owing to my

posh education; outside, on Cedar Street,
October gave a last breath of heat before
the homeless had to hit rock bottom again, &

as Natalie lay next to me I calculated
my chances of surviving at the dive bar
directly across from the Temple for the

length of a Jack & Coke, North Philly
concrete mixed into it like so many notes—

As to what the “notes” here are or might constitute, that there was a raucous charm even to the violent undercurrents which create North Philly’s ambience, and the “concrete” of man’s desire to kill, maim, and dismember man, was never far from my thoughts while I patronized the Temple at any time. Speaking of Temples, Temple University, where I held the University Fellowship from 2006 to 2011, is a North Philadelphia establishment, and is every bit as garishly lurid as the Temple is. What you can see from Anderson Building, where the English Department is located, is quite frightening in its stark attraction-repulsion circuit. To be on campus all day was to be challenged by a harsh landscape to find charm in a fracas, and to embrace a kind of alienation built into what Temple had to offer on ocular levels. Why it should be that this dynamic, attraction-repulsion, is so important to an appreciation of the ambient ghettos of North Philly, is that it takes a certain kind of sensibility to be magnetized by sites that are simultaneously attractive and repulsive; and PFS, especially the painting branch of PFS, were all heads for this kind of contradictory approach to the city we lived in, and loved.

The Posit Trilogy: Dracula on Literature

As of late 2014, I am, in some ways, in a relatively fortunate position: more than half of what I would like to be widely in print circulation and/or officially released on a high level is. Nonetheless, only patience can make it so that all the books find the right home (hopefully) at the right time. The Posit Trilogy, which begins with Posit and was completed in 2013, and also consolidated into this year’s e-book Two Teens Trilogies, has its own unique identity as (like Equations) a possible dialectic in poetry/literature. I am looking into the way that Deposit and Re-Posit complete the Trilogy, and attempting to discern whether or not the dialectical form of discourse (thesis/antithesis/synthesis) is properly fulfilled. One thing I will say about The Posit Trilogy is that, in its fanciful sense of characterization and levels of imagination, it reads to me like a more advanced, subtler version of Opera Bufa. For instance, the absurdist chiasmus between Saint Augustine and Dracula as propelling the Trilogy forward; and that the manner in which Dracula, who is allowed air-time in precisely two persona poems which end (respectively) Deposit and Re-Posit, girds himself around with rhetorical heft against both Augustine, purity, and confession, and then the purity and potential transparency of major high art consonant literature, demonstrates that The Posit Trilogy is playing games both with pop culture, with poetry-as-theater and texts as “staged,” with intellectual seriousness being balanced with playful vistas opening, and with a deconstructive interrogation of literary seriousness itself, on guard against overrating texts and textuality. Here is how Dracula closes The Posit Trilogy, as though onstage:

You can’t tell me
you don’t feed on
the mysterious disappearance

of the need to do this—
that raw life & blood
would suffice to

satisfy, & gird you
against the grinding
towards sphere-music

you fancy you make.
I’ve lived a thousand
years among human

souls, all in need of
blood, little else, and
words are no blood

at all— what suffices
for such as you is
(as you say) a

simulacrum of blood,
with limited flow-
potential, & as such

I counsel you (if
you ask) to feed on
something more wholesome-

don’t scoff— wholesome
is not relative
for the human species,

& your words are dirt,
feeding no one directly,
& those who feed are

suspect, chilled by
exposure to terminal
frosts, unable to bite

what might suffice in the end…

We may or may not choose to take Dracula’s critique seriously; The Posit Trilogy in steeped in investigations of subjectivity, and Dracula’s “I,” his sense of himself, is manifestly abased. There is also the sense that the ironies of us, a human audience, reckoning a vampire who hopes to convince us of the obsolescence of textuality, are potent ones: Dracula can stand in, however whimsical he seems, for mechanistic, brutish, repetitive, materialistic society, as a kind of door slamming shut, warning us not to take the textual action here too seriously, that menacing forces hover behind even what texts are germane to us. That, ultimately, Dracula (and those masses he is a synecdoche for) is an “anti-I,” and thus the greatest threat to the poetic “I” when properly employed, is another subtext beneath the whimsy. However, I must admit that it will take many more readings for me to fully plumb the textual depths of The Posit Trilogy, to discover if the dialectical form is seriously at work in it. Equations goes out of its way to make its essential dialectic explicit, which bodes well for its surface-level popularity at all times; The Posit Trilogy is more shadowy, and until I investigate and/or interrogate all the shadows as fully as possible, I cannot fully refute Dracula the way I would like to. When Dracula wins, in a context like this, it may be a sign of the times.

Meta-Notes (Bold Format) Part 2 (youblisher)

Meta-Notes (Bold Format ) Part 2

Equations and Cheltenham Elegies

Translation is another key issue my body of work needs to face. The truth is simple: prose tends to translate better than poetry. That is why, on a world level, Flaubert is read more than Baudelaire; musical language, melopoeia, etc, which animates poetry, infuses it with vital life, tends to be at least partially lost in translation, while prose remains intact. So, if you cannot read The Flowers of Evil in French, there would seem to be no reason to read it; while reading Madame Bovary in translation may be as edifying as reading it in its original dialect. One advantage Equations has in my canon is this (and it is shared by Letters To Dead Masters); another is that Equations, through ending on an affirmative note, may be more companionable than Apparition Poems and Cheltenham, with their philosophical musings, conundrums, and elegiac remembrances. Equations affirms, in its precise dialectic, that human relationships are worth investing time and energy in, that love is real and a powerful force for good among the human race, and that sex need not be the only issue on the table for men and women (or men and men, or women and women). Oddly, the protagonist of Equations ends the narrative in a state of solitude:

When you get in a train, you transcend an entire life you leave
behind. Yet every human life has to balance stasis and movement. It’s
something Trish never learned— how to move and not move
simultaneously. Trish demands absolutes— absolute movements, absolute
stillness. I have learned that the only absolute in the universe is existence
itself— something will always exist. I don’t pretend to know how, or
what, or why. I’ve left all the shot-glasses out; Jade forgot her cigarettes,
American Spirits. I fish one out of her pack and light it.

With the memory of Jade still strong in his mind, he is free to affirm, rather than negate, all the sensory data he sees before him, and his responses are free to be warm and lively. Opera Bufa and When You Bit also end on comparative, affirmative high notes; all are steeped in dynamic energy around human growth and progress towards different forms of enlightenment— about love, sex, the body, art, and textuality itself. Equations has the advantage over the other two of being heavily prose-based; thus, a text which can translate into other cultures and do other dances in other (or Other) contexts. Against the triumphant solitude of the Equations protagonist by the end of the book is this Cheltenham Elegy, and the tragic interaction it recollects in visionary tranquility:

Huddled in the back of a red
Jetta, I thought we were in a
Springsteen song. But there are
no backstreets in Cheltenham.
It’s only the strip-mall to house
and back circuit. Anyone could’ve
seen us. It wasn’t a full consummation—
for want of a graceful phrase, we
were too smart to fuck. There was
no playing hero for me. Nor did I
force you to confess. What could you say?
Cheltenham was soft, and all too infested.

Whether the deeper truth is latent in the Equations or in the Cheltenham Elegies brings to the surface what the ultimate nature of humanity as a whole is. Equations artfully affirms, and the Cheltenham Elegies artfully deny. As the composer of both, I predict that the numbers will always lean towards Equations, both for its being (mostly) prose and for its being affirmative; even as I know that the more profound and terrible truths hidden in the Elegies will draw in those brave enough to face the darkness and the emptiness of raw humanity at its very worst.