Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Reading James Schuyler

Reading James Schuyler just now, a poet I usually admire, and finding myself terribly disappointed that I'm terribly disappointed. Where would he be without the weather? Where would we all? I just have this horrible feeling he might have been just as happy (not writing poetry) if he had been allowed to do the weather in a colorful manner for New York, to just sit before a microphone and reel off imaginative adjectives largely confected from his concrete experience as an art critic (intentional art critic or no). Probably I just landed on the wrong poems. Because lines from his poems come to me all the time. Which means I find him useful in processing reality. So I should probably be more grateful. But he is persnickety as often as he is perceant. What is one to expect of one of the tawkiest of the New York School's tawkers, right? Then I switched to a more "experimental" contemporary poet and read a bunch of poetry that used to thrill me by this fellow, and that just bottomed out like a glacier. It wore its grandiosity like a Hermes scarf. Okay, it was a smart grandiosity. But it was still grandiose. Somehow he had become a grandee. A hidalgo or something. So I went to Oppen, a poet who I had been happy to revisit earlier this week, and he was the least disappointing of the three--more knuckle and less rings. (I had just had an encounter with wild deer and this had put me in mind of Oppen's "Psalm"--though I realize that poem's probably as much about poets and other grass-rooters as it is about deer.)  Oppen is prosy, prosoid at times. I guess there's a virtue in that, in that at least it's grounded (like Reznikoff). Even if it does tend towards the journalistic at times. But Oppen can make these wild swerves around a single word, and that word suddenly appears newborn in the English language--though the word is maybe five hundred years, seven hundred years, old. And one can't help but be impressed that Oppen's Collected is only 256 pages and still manages to create an interesting dialogue with the culture which (presumably) engendered it. I'm reminded of Szymborska's funny quip when asked why her Collected was so slim: "I have a trash receptacle in my house." I guess there are poets who are hoarders and poets who are not. You can visualize Oppen's garage (if he ever owned one) and Szymborska's kitchen. Scrubbed, clean lines.


  1. Hellers, Bill (I think that's Antarctican for hello). Cogent post. As always. Oppen, though, did have the whole gave-up-poetry-for-twenty-years thing going on. If he had been practicing, as they say, during that time his collected might be as big as Ashbery's will be.


    But a good 500pp maybe.

    None of this changes yr point.

    I just wanted to say hellers.

    And make the Ashbery joke I didn't know I was going to make.

    Oh, and deer always make me think of Oppen, too. (And that six-word poem by Igor Winters, because that's like my attention span.) I even used the deer -> Oppen thing in a poem last week. Gimme some dap!

  2. ::daps::

    That went through my head, Scott, the almost-frightening silence that of course was Oppen's political silence, with energies directed elsewhere. But still a little frightening that he could just disbelieve so.

    But then I was never keen on "Discrete Series." I think it's just bad writing and always considered it juvenilia, no matter what age he was when he wrote that.

    I'm glad you said hellers.

    I don't know the Winters poem (Igor? Yvor? how many poets are there lol!!) or yours but I'll look for both now. Maybe I did once and forgot. That not infrequently happens lol.

    I don't know why I kvetch like I do, instead of just focusing on what I like in poetry.

    But I guess critical thinking--although probably meaningless when compared to the heft and "corrections" of the future's direction(s), technological, ethical, aesthetic, etc.--is still part of being human.

    It's nice to know I'm not always talking to myself, although even if I am I don't have enough ego or amour-propre to stop doing it. I think ego is responsible for self-censorship more than people give it credit for. I think ego is often afraid to err or to admit taste, gerrymander reality or aesthetics. Probably because ego usually has a career. So that "modesty" is an appurtenance. I don't have a career. I just career. Or careen. Something anyway.

    Probably more like 5,000 pages of Ashbery.

    I'm sure it's a personal problem that I could never see Ashbery as "major," since virtually everyone else does. But many of those people seem to have read him much less than I have, which leaves me feeling doubly embarrassed somehow. Why am I always the guilty party? I do think he's a very good poet though. There are some wonderful swerves in all that text. His rather brutal assessment of his oeuvre in public statements/intervews (the huge doubts) strikes me as a monumentally rare thing. He knows he's hugely beloved. And he knows that's a wonderful thing. And he's achieve so damn much outside of his own aesthetic self-interest. His is a generous, funny, brilliant mind.

    But I think you can be all those things and still be overrated.

    Maybe it's a cheap way to feel self-importance, to think or talk about artists who are famous. But I'll say I can't help it. It's a guilty pleasure. And if you read, how can you not form judgments. What kind of reading is that?

    I know you didn't say anything that should make me apologize, but it seems I'm always apologizing. It's a kneejerk reaction in people who have inflicted damage all their lives, I suppose. Small damage, mosquito damage, but still...lol...

    What do I know? I watch Lifetime Movie Network fulltime, no matter what else I'm doing. I think I used to be a writer, but now I just like to look at things. ;-)

  3. Oh, and I enjoy the poems you're posting at Reticent Nerve. I like those ultimate condensation poems, Grenier, Aram Saroyan, a lot of the catalogue of Running Spoon Press (some great surprises there!) Or those wonderful Creeley books of tiny poems with Bobby's xeroxial art. Your sensibility yours though, off on a more visceral wavelength at times, grist and grit and sex and flickering film snippets of consciousness abstracted from itself. Of course, being a day long paranoid, I thought any nasty poem was a portrait of me. That's why I don't read poetry blogs. Not because I'm not interested. I am. Just a totally paranoid android. I'm sure you've seen my typical meltdowns. Don't think it's ego. That everything is about me. Trust me, I'd rather have none of it be about me. It's only my paranoia that tells me it is. One of the things I hate most about my existence: totally irrational paranoia. I guess I'm getting to the point where I almost no longer care even if it is about me. Why care? People are monkeys and do monkey things. I've done enough monkey things (probably all day today too) to not get too worried about anyone else's monkiness. Is that a word lol? Joy to the world, death has come to clarify everybody's thinking.

  4. Thanks. As you say, it's nice to not just be posting into the void, though the posting goes on nonetheless.

    Yeah, Yvor Winters, I was trying to be funny. I think he may have turned into an Igor as he got older. Here is his poem Deer (I didn't want to mis-remember a word last night):

    The trees rose in the dawn.

    It's one of his early, Imagist-inspired poems, but I like it for it's, um, meaningful indeterminacy?

    Sorry, no poems about you on RN. (The insult ones were definitely not directed at you, or anyone really.) I did have a sarcastic post once on the Nobody blog called Dear Bill, but it was "for" a different poet Bill.

    My post this morning about the "thing" in "quotes" was inspired by this blog, but not in any spiteful, negative way. Just one of my usual superficial floating thoughts.

    And oh, I can't judge anyone for watching Lifetime. I watch football for crying out loud. WTF is up with that?!?

  5. Thanks for finding that. The YW. Oddly enough, I couldn't find that poem last night through Google. I was crashing though. Yvor I always associate with Hart. And certain very old anthologies that were just old when I was young. But now they're very old. I like the poem. The inversion thang. I love short poems too, your haynaku (sp?) and other stuff. Cid Corman wrote some of my favorites. "The Tortoise." aw gawrsh what a great poem. Love lot of the shorties in the Greek Anthology. My favorite there "Drinking together in the evening, we are human. At dawn, animals, we rise up against each other." But I was a drunkard then so of course I liked that poem best. Stein in Tender Buttons. Short, delicious. Yoko Ono in Grapefruit, short delicious. But Yoko Ono reinvented poetry I think...she's one of the few poets I consider a conceptualist and a great poet at the same time. Most are just "conceptualist poets." Minus the great lol. That's cute stuff though, writing the weather or the New York Times or something else programmatic and easy...i make programmatic art sometimes (example Lego stuff) and I know it's fun. But I don't overprize it. It's like the difference between most conceptualist poetry and most poetry that just happens to have great concepts (example, Stevens) is like the difference between design and art. Design quotes and borrows from extant languages, conventions, easy principles. Art invents its own language. Anyway, that's what I've been thinking as I study the great artists of today on Flickr. It's like MOMA if you know where to look on there...or just stumble around like I do....papilloner....je papillone...."superficial, floating" as you say,,,which is good....the universe seems pretty cursory lol...apart from this consciousness thang....glad I'm not the target. The only target in my poems is me. I used to think I was talking about other people (way back) but then I realized it was all projection and was happy when I realized I was only talking about myself.I enjoy being scathing towards myself. Maybe it's masochism Lite. Easier than getting messy with the "real thing." Words clean up much more easily than what? spaghetti smeared in a face? cream pies? i'm out of touch with that "sector" of porn lol. Happy we're friends and not frenemies. I'm too old and too stupid for those. I don't realize when I'm being insulted and I think I am when I'm not. How's that for a recipe for disaster in potential friendship? I live across from a football stadium (just walked around it know clicking my cam-a-rah) so I "live with football." I'm thinking of that James Wright poem now, with the boys suicidally galloping into each other. It's about that time here. Rollers take the state championship like virtually every year.