The seat of the soul is where the inner world and the outer world meet. Where they overlap, it is in every point of the overlap. - Novalis

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On Abstraction

Kirk Varnedoe

This is a great book. Don't miss it. Also the audio of the lectures can be found HERE 
- sadly of course without the pictures, but very much worth hearing his delivery. A real treasure.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Canon

It would do me a lot of good to understand more clearly what it is about certain kinds of Authority that I have found so compelling for so long. It has really been a terrible constraint on my life. I am thinking particularly about literary & intellectual authority. Why Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Nietzsche? Why did they (and Others) seem to me to harbor Truths that I had to understand in order to live my life? Was it the seriousness? The "profundity"? The difficulty? Perhaps partly it stems from a desire to have someone tell you the best way to live your life rather than having to figure it out on your own and probably get it ALL WRONG.

These and related questions are directly relevant to any discussion of the authority of a sacred text - its orthodox reading versus the "heretical," mystical and creative readings that stand so often in opposition to the institutionally approved readings. Much of my attraction to Henry Corbin stems from his understanding of these dynamics. In any case thinking about Corbin brings all these various threads together. 

And in this context its hard to ignore Harold Bloom, who is a big fan of Corbin, and whose books I have long disliked precisely because of and in spite of their arrogant AUTHORITY.

Here are a couple of nice commentaries noted today on Ron Silliman's ever-useful blog:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

On Sabrina Dalla Valle

I'm way out ahead of myself on this since I haven't actually read this book - which I am about to order - but I like what has been said about it here and what she says about her work here and here. Surely worth some scrutiny.

"In early history, philosophy and poetry were one and the same: the Veda Sutras, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Homeric Epics, the Bible, the Kalevala, the I Ching… others that I cannot list right now. Here, the entire notion of modes of ‘deliverance’ and ‘intent’ is wrapped up with guides for how to live a sane life within an unpredictable and mysterious world. These are written as puzzles, narratives, songs, psalms, verses ~ all uses of language that are more ceremonial gazing into a mythical/pre-historical sense of the world. This interdependence between state of awareness and rhetorical modality is sacrosanct to me. But also, maybe because of translations and difference in our historical awareness, these works are chaotic. As we become more modern, the author’s voice (philosopher and poet) becomes more self-reflective, less focused on the mythical legacy of the wild universe and more attentive to the scattered wilderness of the soul."

Friday, March 21, 2014


I grew up in the 60's and by the time I left home for college the rather large bottom drawer of my dresser was full of back issues of Rolling Stone and Zap! comix and scattered other underground periodicals. Robert Crumb was unavoidable. Sadly they are all long gone - my mother must have found them and thrown them out. Lord knows what she thought. I just watched Zwigoff's documentary

which I just happened upon in the amazon instant video collection. It's both profoundly depressing and strangely uplifting. I'm extremely glad I saw it. You might be too. Or perhaps not. He remains productive and interesting. He even has a website: R Crumb

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

On the "New York School"

"If we are all postmodernists, we are none of us avant-garde,
for postmodernism is the institutionalization of the avant-garde."

I'm finding this pretty exciting stuff. How did I not know any of this?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


i used to think of this

or this

but i would have been SO much better off
if i had known of the really great stuff
long long ago:

buy it now, before you get older and something bad happens to you,

Monday, February 24, 2014

thanks ron...

So I am in the middle of my Alice Notley Period and reading Reason & Other Women, slowly and with some astonishment. In a break from the poetry, while riding the bus to Boston, I was reading her essay on Ron Padgett in Coming After. I thought "this guy sounds pretty cool & I've never heard of him" ... The next day we were in the Trident Bookstore on Newbury Street and there he was:

So I took a look inside. Though there is much here that puzzles me, it all works on me somehow & I have to second these remarks by Anne Waldman:

“Ron Padgett’s poems are essential and Ron Padgett is a genius. His poetry is masterful for its panoramic humanity and mind-stopping verbal wit, its breathtaking power and beauty. We want to stay with the person in these poems all day long, to be changed by the possibilities palpitating from the smallest increments of our existence to the most sublime as they as they leap from Padgett’s brain onto the page. This inspiring tome is the transcendent friend.”

If you have any doubt, get inside the book on amazon here, get to the table of contents and find pg 114 - Ode to Stupidity and read THAT! I am reading the whole book straight through - making more blue skies in my life as i go...

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Jacob Bronowski & The Principle of Tolerance

Like Critchley, I was profoundly affected by The Ascent of Man. I was 21 in 1973. I saw the whole series and loved it. I will never forget watching Episode 11. It has remained seared in my soul ever since. There's a quote from this segment in one of my books. I am very glad to see Bronowski brought to the front page of the New York Times for a new generation.

Monday, February 3, 2014

"there might be recovered some sense of what the mind was like before Homer, before the world went haywire & women were denied participation in the design & making of it. Perhaps someone might discover that original mind inside herself right now, in these times. Anyone might." - Alice Notley, "Homer's Art"

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bruce Andrews' Strange Attractors

I haven't (yet) actually read Bruce Andrews, but this piece by Rasula helped me quite a bit in my disorganized and sporadic attempts to figure out what has been going on in avant garde American poetry for the last several decades. So, worth noting... And as an erstwhile student of dynamical systems theories I like Rasula's appeal to those metaphors... such appeals are often not useful - here I think it works.

We Are Batwa Trailer from Ben Rodkin on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

some links on poetry and politics...

some things i have been paying attention to lately-

which led to this
both of which seemed to me worth engaging with - &
both by Juliana Spahr (and others), an editor of Chain Links
the publisher of The Empire of Neomemory 
which I had just read a couple weeks ago because of Rothenberg,
after which I found Il Gruppo, which lead me to read Alcalay's book A Little History 
pointed to by Joris

Friday, January 10, 2014

Writing a poem is like trying to describe a totemic column which passes right through and beyond the world. We see it, but its existence is elsewhere.” - Stanley Diamond, here.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

"It's strange to me, but clear to me, that I can give my attention only to something not worthy of it. Because everything worthy of my attention makes me inattentive - doubly so: first, because it stuns me, and second because it gives rise to reflections that distract me from observing it in detail. But I am happy with this trait of mine, and would not want to live otherwise." - Boris Pasternak, 1928, Letter to Vsevolod Meyerhold.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

"Art is magical. Poetry changes the way we think, it changes the way our brains work as we read it." - Alice Notley