OK ... so now I've re-recorded the poems I let Alex do. I've done
them in my own human voice ... the one I was tired of listening to and
so let Alex take on. It really was a comfort to let Alex do it ...
highlight the text and click. But now I'm back. I wonder how I might
work up a duet with Alex. That would be something.
You may or mayn't be "noticing" that "I" have been "saying" poems at plainer. In fact, as you've guessed, the saying is being done by Alex, a Mac computer voice. I'm intrigued by Alex because "he" contains just enough of my own vocal tone to give one (i.e. me) pause ... to listen ... to wonder Is that me? (pause) No, it's Alex. My next project is to teach myself to speak like him. You will like me better when I do.
You may also notice at plainer that I've placed one of these little GCast players in the sidebar. So any new things I or Alex speak will automatically appear there without needing a whole new post.
Alex and I will be happy to receive whatever comments you care to give.
Recording of the three most recent poems at plainer. My voice is kind of whispery not because I'm trying to be dramatic but because I'm not sure of the acoustics here ... and don't want to wake or distract any of my compatriots. This was an experiment to see what I could do from here in SA.
: All of which is not to say that there are not honest and legitimate negative reactions to dung. Dung is after all disgusting. But serious grave and moral and national and political and rural issues arise once what is Physically Disgusting is not understood as something merely physically disgusting, but is instead confused with the aesthetically, morally, and nationally reprehensible.
: Prissies believe they are about law and order, when in fact they are merely trying to plant feeble colonies of disgust in inappropriate regions. These prissies are dolts. (That is one class of prissy: the dolt prissy.)
and such. So now at noon + 47 it's a bit brighter but the air is still white with patient snow and the ground is still wet not white.
(4:14 farther on and the snow's trying to amount to a maturity of snow but not yet. And getting darker more naturally for this time of day. What's for dinner?)
So having given any number of hours today to this project—reading "The System" by John Ashbery, which is the second of three poems in his book Three Poems and which are all prose—and trying to read it all in one sitting but finding that just impossible because however much I can ignore the phone I just can't ignore a bladder full of coffee forever, I find myself thinking that one can't say much about "The System" by John Ashbery because he has already said it or set the rule, the tone, the limit by which anything can be said—or at least said about it ("The System" by John Ashbery).
Here in my tortured syntax you see the effect of several hours of reading "The System" whose syntax is not tortured but generous and surprisingly lucid. The sentence ...
Thus, in a half-baked kind of way, this cosmic welter of attractions was coming to stand for the real thing, which has to be colorless and featureless if it is to be the true reflection of the primeval energy from which it issued forth, once a salient force capable of assuming the shape of any of the great impulses struggling to accomplish the universal task, but now bogged down in a single aspect of these to the detriment of the others, which begin to dwindle, jejeune, etiolated, as though not really essential, as though someone had devised them for the mere pleasure of complicating the already complicated texture of the byways and torments through which we have to stray, plagued by thorns, chased by wild beasts, as though it were not commonly known from the beginning that not one of these tendrils of the tree of humanity could be bruised without endangering the whole vast waving mass; that that gorgeous, motley organism would tumble or die out unless each particle of its well-being were conserved as preciously as the idea of the whole.
And now I'm finished with "The System" in which John Ashbery has acted something like the owner of an old and well-loved jacket who has finally pulled out the lining to see what might have been hidden in there between itself and the outer material of cloth or leather or some new synthetic oil-based fabric. And what has been hidden? Just the nature of life, thought, expression or the nature of how anyone can know and exist among some such. It must be that John Ashbery has considered it all—if not in fact finally explained it all. He's been as much our own Lucretius in this as we could ever have had. And did we know it? No, not then, but now we do.
It all? Well, poetry and the mind that makes poetry in its own time. As one site has Contemporary Literary Criticism saying of Three Poems, "The middle poem, "The System," is among Ashbery's most important linguistic experiments in which he reflects on the living, open-ended qualities of poetry and posits that in the elusive malleability of language inheres the foundation for love, understanding, and interpersonal connectivity." Gee, that's well said.
Made to feel quite white (and rightly so) by Gwendolyn Brooks ...
(Modern Poetry is reading the excellent Ms. Brooks this week.)
Early-nineties. In the presence of Ms. Brooks and one of my students, I said something ... a comment on skin-tone distinctions w/in the black community ("yellow" more valued than "black") ... and received the most withering over-the-top-of-the-eyeglasses glance I'd ever care to receive from anyone. As in "really? and who are you?" And all my liberal white-guy defenses kicked in. And I shut up. It struck me that some people think that some people don't really have The Right to say anything about certain things. And it struck me that they are right to think so.
"There is indeed a new black today. He [sic] is different from any the world has known. He's a tall-walker. Almost firm. By many of his own brothers he is not understood. And he is understood by no white. Not the wise white; not the Schooled white; not the Kind white. Your least pre-requisite toward an understanding of the new black is an exceptional Doctorate which can be conferred only upon those with the proper properties of bitter birth and intrinsic sorrow. I know this is infuriating, especially to those professional Negro-understanders, some of them so very kind, with special portfolio, special savvy. But I cannot say anything other, because nothing other is the truth." ("The New Black")
It struck me that - given her many travels to schools throughout the state as poet laureate - she must have run into "my kind" before. I got that in the glance. I silently protested ... But I'm not like that ... you don't know me ...
Context ain't everything ... but it comes pretty close sometimes. What was hers, mine, and ours in that early-nineties moment? What was hers and theirs in 1972?
Race has always made everything impossible. When it is present as text or subtext in any relation, it precludes trust ... and demands that impossible game of explaining that I'm not thinking what you think I'm thinking just because I look like the kind of person who would be thinking what you think I'm thinking. And such. Yech. Makes one cry. You don't know me. And yes. I don't know you. So. There must not be anything we can say to each other.
But. From the page. From off your pages, I hear you. And. May I understand. That.
Even though it may not have been written for me to read. Accidental interloper. Better stand in these shadows. But I hear you.
And the condition for the possibility of my beginning to understand. Exists. Does exist.
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night ...
Allen Ginsberg was just Other ... everything we weren't and were too innocent to fear we'd ever become ... out here in the plain sane (as we imagined it) drugless sexless middle ... 1960s ... of my youth. I remember hearing his name sometime during high school years, but doubt I could've found anything to read if I'd tried. In fact, I can't remember when I first read Howl. Was it in college or sometime after '73? Whenever it was, I must have been so sunk in my own cool pseudo-bohemian pose that it rolled right through me w/ the fewest coolest ripples.
Howl's a litany of wreckage ... an embrace of the holy (I think this must be taken as literal) within the wreckage ... of "the best minds" who "were expelled ... cowered ... got busted ... chained themselves ... sank all night ... talked continuously ... vanished ... wandered ... lit cigarettes ..." By the time I read it I must have known some of that.
Tonight the poem sounds like a blessed surrender ... to all the death in life ... which turns out to be no surrender and a perverse (and necessary) resistance. Of course, you could say there's nothing holy about all this degradation. And if the world were just as we constructed it out here in the '60s, there wouldn't be anything holy about it. There would be good people and bad people. Ginsberg's best minds would've fallen way off the far end of that scale.
It's easy to read Howl as a period piece. It kind of is, but the language and the concept save the day, keep it fresher. I don't just mean the dirty words; I mean the poetry
who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse & the tanked-up clatter of the iron regiments of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinister intelligent editors, or were run down by the drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality ...
And I mean the concept ... G. needs America to acknowledge Poetry for the blur it casts upon our individual and collective edges ... it's in those fuzzy gutters we find what we need. It's a Romantic thing. The confirmation of all middle-class fears & the lifting up of heretofore-invisible beat urban extremity as valid spiritual practice. Life as G. found it and shaped it.
How desperately "the flower of the World" still needs saving from Moloch.
A question of the soul. And the injured losing their injury in their innocence — a cock, a cross, an excellence of love.