San Diego Poetry Guild

notes on guild, poetry, and San Diego


Escaping the Garret

Problem: Autonomy, Solitude, and the Modernist Scene of Writing

Solution: Be not afraid of the vacuum into which all blog entries go.

Solution: Ignore rankings, evaluations, assessments of merit, and classification systems sponsored by those who claim to know the difference between the 'good' and the 'bad.'

Solution: Give up the dream of the finished work.

Solution: Shoulder the burden of prose, with its tireless rejection of closure.

Solution: Learn to recognize where the "Scene" survives, in what forms, and by what forces, and be prepared to point to it and say "Aha!"

Solution: Embrace all definitions as equally valid but unequally important in their consequences.

Solution: Stop waiting for that ever-deferred moment when the real work will begin.

Solution: Be sure that whatever you are doing now is relevant to an emerging Poetics, or the same: be sure that your emerging Poetics is relevant to whatever you are doing now.

Solution: Stop publishing; start distributing, and variously.

Solution: Snarl when your spouse, partner, loved one, or well-meaning friend advises you to engage in concerted acts of 'self-promotion.'

Solution: Revise only when necessary.

Solution: Get used to the idea that writing is not creative but situational.

Solution: Risk permanent uncertainty and uncertain permanence.

Solution: Read what others have to say about you knowing that there was never an original context out of which they have taken you.

Solution: Cling to solutions, if only temporarily.

Solution: Collaborate even when moved to condemn.


F.C.C. R.I.P.

Rushing as we are toward the eventual gutting of the FCC, one has to wonder: Why listen? Why watch? Why read? Why try?

The greatest farce in all of this has to be the way the word "diversity" gets kicked around -- kind of like "community" on the other side of the debate.

It works like this, sort of: Media consolidation promotes program "diversity" since in the absence of real competition producers need not pander to middle markets to capture share and can therefore offer a wider array of product. On the other hand: Media consolidation hurts "community" because local interests are of little interest to corporate execs running the show from New York or Paris and therefore community issues/politics fall under the Viacom, e.g., radar.

The poetry here, need I say, is perfect: Do you love diversity because it:

A. Gives you more options?
B. Kills off community?
C. Makes communities more diverse?
D. Makes diversity more communal?

The corporate media blackout on the issue of corporate media consolidation makes sense, of course, but should not distract us from the irony (the dramatic kind, I believe) implicit to the gesture:

What better proof do people need that corporate consolidation leads to a shortage of available information than the fact that so little is available on the issue of information shortage with regard to this issue, let alone on the issue itself?

Logically, that's a little off, but you get the point: The absence of coverage disappears into its own absence, thereby becoming present in (by virtue of) its own absence. And thankfully we don't really need Derrida to see the humor in all of this.

People are writing in to object, no doubt, thanks to and others. But most experts agree, the fix is in, the deal's pretty much done.

The trickery and thievery endemic to business-as-usual in this countery [sic] never ceases to astonish [sicken] me.

More than that, though, I find myself wondering about all that stuff we won't ever find out about ("we" in the larger "we the people" sense) precisely because the powers of United Media will not only cease to recognize it but will cease to recognize it as stuff to be recognized in the first place.

In other words, if the worst case evolves even close to the worst-case scenarios dreamed up by opponents, we won't know what hit us precisely because we won't be hit (and won't know we've never been hit). The blow will never come. The blow-by-blow will hover perpetually in the ether of no-wind, of no news. This is indeed a new kind of silence.

The pending (June 2) FCC decision, therefore, is not news, is not an issue, which is a slightly different thing than being a non-issue. Gone are the days, in fact, of non-issues, which at least in their negative relation to issues had a place in the information world. Not-an-issue has no place in the world, doesn't exist in that pure way that escapes qualification, even in the negative.

Silence is an issue, obviously, and maybe that's one angle of attack that might work in the remaining days -- that is, mobilizing voices against silence. It's true we haven't been asked our opinions, which is normal, but even worse we haven't even been given our opinions (i.e., in the guise of poll-projections on behalf of the American People).

Anyway, there are longterm tricks being played on us here that remain, sadly, in the realm of no news and not-an-issue.

We can wait all day for news that the news won't come, but then again we won't know what we're waiting for.


Annotating the Obvious

I'd like to think that blogs can be useful, but I'm not sure what that use should be.

I know that perpetual diary mode, while titillating at first, ultimately fatigues.

I also suspect that the running mini-commentary, a sort of self-styled advice column in which one responds to one's own tortured questions, misses the point of the blog while still, admittedly, making good use of it.

And surely I know that blogs, like this one, that regularly introduce the topic of blogs -- for the sake of confession and atonement, I guess -- eventually disappear into their own capacious navels.

Anyway, the sky is the limit and who cares. The NYTimes had an article this past weekend on photo blogs, which heralds nothing if not the revenge of the web page on blogging. It always comes back to the image.

Two months ago, poets were "leading antiwar protests." Where have all the poets gone, now that the war is "over"?

I feel like crying, and there's little this blog can do about that.

Tantamount to the directionlessness with which I am now preoccupied is a corollary resistance to all things definitive. Which means I can open the door but I can't walk through it.

How hopelessly useless.

But really, sitting down with my "post" window open I had no intention of singing this sad-sap song. It just came to me, unannounced, like a headache or a bad piece of international policy. It arises like a 'fiction' and so I think there is something to the idea of trying on personae or identities in this space that differs, somehow, from what goes on in chatrooms, MUDs, and disc-lists.

Like (in pursuit of direction now) the autobiographical push of text blogging has less to do with the person blogging than with the attendant wishful-thinking he or she might nurture like a pot of basil on the window sill.

I wish I had an audience, for example.

I wish I had never said what I said in third grade.

I wish GW had lost that fight back in college. Etc.

The great draw, though, is obviously in the rhetoric of "posting." You don't write a blog, you post an entry. Consider that sentence closely. There's a particularly inviting shine to the "post" feature in blogs that makes you want to spend the night or maybe move in for good.

It's not so much: you can't tear away from it, as: what use being anywhere else?

More sad-sap. Apologies.

The tremolo of ego evidently knows no bounds.


Plagiarism File (#7)

Thinking beyond a move in the wrong direction?

How many words evolve into a teaching about how to write?

I'm satisfied that American English constructs pedagogy, aesthetic schema. But it's the life that makes someone a teacher.

Again, , am I moving in the wrong direction?

Dead poets, why do certain names come to mind, and others?

One can spectulate that these strategies -- not just in Poetics -- decreased what could be called "feedback," as if poems were no longer understood as executed into a living, palpable world, but were, rather, some myriad proliferating discourse concerning a text stream unresponsive to "outside."

A pious avant-garde and its traditions had settled in, and naturally the artist against the gray scales of the given could find no place.

Plagiarism File (#6)

Melissa, a first-year student at the University of Maryland, stared desirously at the text now before her.

"Control," she thought, her fingers hesitating over the keyboard.

In so thinking she had silently named what her teacher, two miles and twenty minutes away, had earlier that week assumed in front of her and her peers.

"Control C," she thought again, and then did so.

Minutes later, with windows opened like variously cascading dominoes, she pasted herself into a corner, never to look back.

Her fingers trembled, but that was the least of her problems. She had loved (if differently) before, but this was the real thing, she could feel it, and the vespers whispered trillfully as if in an erratic state of despond.

"Not right," she thought still. "There are other ways. Or am I just weak? And is this the nothing-to-it that Kim [her first-rate and 'bestest' peer] promised yesterday in classifying sins of this order. I mean,” and here Melissa felt somehow altered, transformed, “what is it that makes the one who writes likewise the one who must be written? Where is that written, I'd like to know."

Knowing was indeed the all of it, the utopian post-partum into which, if lucky, she would disappear of a fortnight, post-submission, post-grading. Her teacher, a meek designer post-doc with a penchant for Fluxus and fan-zines, had made it clear: ...tolerate...your own...but...not... -- clear to the teacher but not, Melissa now realized, to her.

The work had begun, in short. The work of tantalizing in the wake of temptation. That later, after a "tear-filled" session with Professor Clemens (for that was his chosen name), she would be asked to (a) rewrite, (b) take a "C" in the course, and (c) pronounce her guilt before a sea of incoming students -- seemed less than relevant to Melissa now. The windows, now prescient with darkened text (the fruit of her move), beckoned with the hearty call of the moose-hunter who nonetheless knows the kill is beyond him [sic].

Melissa woke up.

"Stop it," she said aloud. "And stop your silly second guessing. As if I were the only one doing this, or had invented this thing in the first place." She was pointing at the screen, but she meant the whole thing, the machine, the datalink, the system, the dean's office.

"I'm just GOING for it, after all," she said finally, hushing herself, for Sasha in the other room would surely rat if she knew what Melissa was doing right now in the quiet of the Maryland midnight.

And she (Melissa) was doing it gladly, without remorse, tickled in fact by the sensation of something new, something poignantly beyond, something grand in the grandest of schemes.

The world, backlit, came together in an instant, and all futures held no trump.

Plagiarism File (#5)

There is no easy way to think through this idea of having someone else overhear you in your effort to think past them. So, in the absence of a recognizable formula or chemical breakdown, I proceed as if from the standpoint of right and privilege, though that is hardly the best way to go about things.

A literal or figurative breach or, somehow, both.

Consider that the propertied in American letters have never once sold either themselves or their documentarian neighbors short on the sheer amount of lettric property they might claim in the principled erection of monuments to cultural capital.

That sense -- of holding on or holding onto holdings -- begins in the inspired realm of being self-same in one's demeanor, of having consummated the liberal adventure of truth-speak against the dominant fiction, which propagates losers.

A brief review: LexisNexis. An even briefer view: education.

Which is not to say that, barring geological disaster via low-level nuclear fallout, a new epoch does not assert itself in the infolding of powerful ideas (original or otherwise). Simply, who can know, or cares to ask?
No, there is not a corporate solution to the problem of liberal democracy. Okay, rather: there is no corporate solution to the gardener's dilemma of having to free the beans to climb their respective poles while still keeping the pumpkin vines trained in the right direction. Historical materials are greedy for posting.

In defense of the Internet: You cannot call something a "personal desktop" and then expect people to pay rent on it.

Causes include: "desperation," "academic culture," "family," and the "speed" at which society works these days. Imagine the president of the united states getting an "F" for faulty citations. Imagine.

The story always begins in reference to its ending -- the beginning (once) always implicates an ending (a time) -- and there are reasons to believe that in the softly corroding days that mark the end of the age of progress, the same might hold true for knowledge: words and ideas begin in reference to their ending, their subsequent absorption, their 'ingestion' in the largely salvageable rhetoric of classical rhetoric.

The lines one must cross to write a sensical sentence are fat with stolen references.

I like what you are saying.

Plagiarism File (#4)


Plagiarism File (#3)

I know I must not appropriate the words of the other.

On the other hand, that's what we always do, anyways.

I'd like to borrow words, think them in my own terms, make them mine while respecting their absolute difference.

You may tell me, and perhaps correctly, that I am about to quote something else, that it does not have anything to do with you, "yes and no".

But this is not how I wish I did not wish she did read it, here.

But to her with her, as if It weren't me (because it isn't), but here, being me, in these words, I'd like to.

But how can we stay alive when there's the danger. How can I return if when you're far away from me you have nothing palpable to help me recall in the here and now the touch of infinity, wrapped up in the intangible absence, how can we continue to live? How keep ourselves absorbed once again in language? From being embodied as mourning to speak to each so that we can embrace. I am surely remembering you. But so much has been said of us, that separates.

Plagiarism File (#2)

sort of a sad song of perpetually interrupted time -- poetry is invariably comparative -- TIMEX -- at the end of the act the rehearsal ended temporarily -- an addiction -- can never find the right candle to fit the right holder -- official and unofficial histories that vie with one another -- remembering nothing of what i read in last Sunday's NYTimes -- an appeal to lower order thinking -- i think there's nothing worse than writing a sentence and calling it new -- you have to know that in our current "hysteria" over proprietary language use and the institutional training of young minds for success in the marketplace the world's leading detection service "roots out" suspicious cases by combing the web for "high value words" -- Melissa, which is not her name, promised she would never do it again -- "You're an android," he said to the harness bull. "Like Miss Luft." -- waiting for the rinse cycle to end, see the light -- managerial strategies in higher education -- eloping with the gardener -- instances of hate crimes, on the rise, speak to a larger problem of all around basic hate -- software now enlisted in the man's drive to rid the world -- detection, as a form of prevention, is just another word for preemptive strike -- take Duke -- i can imagine lesser crimes; then again, i can operate a buzz saw -- Neither one a trance really -- the world (all 3 of them) is better off untranslated -- an effort to make literary minded friends visible across great distances, including those typically reserved for the new student center -- stress injury = computer's revenge on writers -- learn to distinguish distinctive prose styles, for the specialized is common to those who specialize -- an electric dream decanter -- like tears in rain, or integer

Plagiarism File (#1)

Part One

Translation thinks another culture-language is going to consist of colonialism. But the inherited ideology is very dangerous. We need to show not how a first tongue is a second one, but how the attitude of a translator would be modified.

Part Two

Remembering one space,
each feeling I look back. That
moment. I told a story and
I got drunk on my anger, etc.
Many pictures emerge,
Every moment has a disclosure,
a destiny and quality all its own.The
genuinely experienced future gaps
between your private

Part Three

When uttered the heart is crucial to understanding what's wrong with a term like Silliman's shorthand - especially in work by people. A couple found in the new Antennae, deserve some mention. When the question put to poetics was no less than a copy of talk up here. So, if ideas in thingness, how to compose a thing (itself - and)? As this was a preoccupation of Schwitters, others I trust would fall under my generation to harness the difficulty of that question.


Taking a Line Break

I'm halfway through Rodrigo Toscano's The Disparities and figure it's a good time to say something about lines in poetry.

I think most lines are pretty good. I did a few when I was in college and for the most part liked the way it made me feel, until the next day. Clothes lines, I think, are an amazing invention, so simple and yet such an efficient and inexpensive way to dry your pants, especially in San Diego. Last week, I saw a community theater production of The Sound of Music and was rather impressed with the way the lead (Mary) delivered her lines. I think she was a professional actor, or had been once, and it was a real treat.

Other lines I guess aren't all that good. The lines of cars and people at the border make me wonder constantly about the progressive missions of "modern" societies. Fault lines make me nervous and a bit more willing to believe in God, especially under the overpass at the junction of 8 and 805.

Okay, lines in "poetry" are a different matter, true. But maybe not. You look at a page of poetry and you think – LINES!! – and almost by magic the poem reveals itself as poetry. This is both a good and a bad thing.

Good because in a "modern" world where so much (misery, injustice, inequity) is rendered invisible, it's nice to see in the world of print literature the attempt to make empty space visible via the cutting of language into lines. Good writing always amounts to a form of falling off, of dying, of lapsing into impenetrable sleep, of forgetting, of falling mute. That words in a lineated poem simply by structural/formal fiat register this experience of "falling" is, for the most part, pretty cool.

Bad because the unfortunate consequence of writing in lines (alotta poets do this often, perhaps while eating toast in the morning) is that too often the energy spent in purposefully fracturing the right margin would perhaps be better spent thinking about what the writing itself is doing in the first place. In a moment of exchange almost mercilessly exploitative of the "magic" by which the poetic line evokes that experience of "falling off," the writer relying on lines comes to assert a certain authority in relation to language that really has nothing to do with the authoring of language.

This authority – assumed in the aftermath of tearing words from the right margin – has little, finally, to do with poetry (as if poetry had anything to do with "lines" in the first place), but has everything to do with the appearance of poetry and the meaningless cooptation of strategic forms.

Which brings me back to Toscano's Disparities. In which: What great fucking lines!

I'll open to a page randomly, and check it out:

wrenched from

also wrenches

Not bad, eh? And even where the appearance of delineation speaks to a quasi-exploitative invocation of magical falling off, the push of the magic is lefterly, to the “near” side of the page, which, dense and nearly corrosive, leads one into the foreground of poetry:

ARDOR. Perfect Union. Withdrawn daughter from pope
In stages. The language of an older brother
Stump, stump block, sure site where wood gets re-split, again
Ma comes in with ice to melt, sap to seal cold cracks

and so on. Not even my favorite passage, but who cares. The point being: These lines don't kill the line. They don't break maybe is one way of putting it. Which leads me to believe that the biggest problem with lines is not the lines themselves but the breaks toward which the writing poet has leaned so religiously – sometimes comically – in search of the perfect margin.

Stop making lines break. Start making lines. Or better yet, ignore the impulse to write in lines. Forgive the gravity of a visible, textured, emptiness. Give language some breathing room, sure, but don't choke it off in the interest of looking smart for the interview.

It's all about falling, anyway
so what it looks like doesn't matter.


Butterfly: A Parable

One day I'll translate all of these blog entries and then I'll know what it was I was trying to say.

I'll translate them first into Spanish, then ASCII, then Latin, then Coppergate Gothic Light. In the shadows of a backlit font, I'll make sense of it all, finally.

In the meantime, the plan is to add a link to a new blog (new for me) every time I sit down to write, which works out to about once a week, often on a Monday, which seems to be the only day (these days) I have time to do this kind of thing.

Time between work, studies (reading), web stuff (Factory School), Guild games, cleaning dishes, picking up kids.

I really like this time and wish I had more of it.

These new blog links (on the left) won't mean much to the folks who read this blog (anyone still out there?), since I harvest these links from your blog sites.

Six degrees of appropriation (duplication?).

Recent anxieties about assembling myself as a writer have given way to healthier questions (I think) about organizing group projects, like Guild conferences and F.S. internships. There's a party at Mark Weiss's house too this weekend, and we've convinced the girls (my kids) that a lot of "famous writers" will be there.

So much for "component parts."

Okay, enough bio-graph-esis. (Touring a few blogs today, I discovered that I've been writing these things all wrong. Yeah, yeah, I know -- there's no right way to write a blog, but all the same I've been doing it, me myself, all wrong: too much mimetic perambulatory assaying, not enough cathartic associationist meandering.

Not sure there's a distinction there, but I'll keep trying.)

This is one of those blog entries that goes nowhere. With a vengeance.

My youngest daughter Maya is an artist – at six, better than I was at twenty-six – and recently she was selected among her classmates to represent her first grade classroom in the upcoming "Kid's Art Show." The teacher, meaning well, selected as my daughter’s representative artwork an assembled “butterfly” scene that she, Maya, had put together in class a few days prior composed of glued together multi-colored construction paper. Everyone in the class had built a similar “butterfly” scene, and when the teacher showed me, one day last week after school, the one Maya had done and which would later (this week) be sent to the show, naturally I couldn’t tell the difference between the one I held in my hand (Maya’s) and the ones done by the other kids, all of which had been mounted above the windows around the room, and all of which (including Maya’s) were composed of the same colored paper and evidently fabricated with the same butterfly templates. Now, I know my kid’s work. I know what she can do. At three, she put together a functioning, fully articulated dog using newspaper scraps and scotch tape at the joints. Last month she built a bird house out of a shoe box and scrap materials I’d left laying around the yard. Granted, nothing too astonishing, but pretty good for a little kid all the same, and she had done similar things for class on other days, for other assignments. The point is, of course, it was the generic, scripted “butterfly” assembly, not any of her other more "original" works, that her teacher picked for the show. Obviously I’m happy that Maya will get some deserved credit for her artistic ability. I wonder, though, what it might mean to her later when she remembers that, after half a lifetime of self-motivated, risky artistic wandering, her first shot at stardom came only after plodding her way through reproducible assembly line production.

This story helps me begin the process of translation promised at the beginning of this entry, and in it I find an appropriate lesson for all writers trying to find their respective ways in the land of cut-and-paste butterflies.


Assembling the Writer

What I'm after these days is a new way to assemble the writer. It's a familiar problem, Aristotelian I guess in its operating at the intersection of poesis, praxis, and theoria.

To assemble the writer is almost the same as assembling writing. But the challenges for writing, at least formally, are nearly obvious (multiple media experimentation, site reading, recognition of multiple, hybrid literacies).

Strategies for assembling the writer, however, are not quite so straight-forward. Collaboration, for one, is a keen utopia, almost gratuitous; the fact that written works are co-labored is avoidable only via certain rationalist denials of world and practice. Selective targets like 'poet' are equally nice but, as covered earlier, are culturally over-burdened, sacks of flour split open in the street under a pouring rain.

And the novelist, the web artist, etc. -- I've heard that these distinctions make little sense elsewhere (e.g., Mexico, that famous elsewhere). But in specialized economies of the first-best order (read George's world), the sins of Fordism and Taylorism still go unchecked. We're trained to be good specialists, efficient in a given skill, self-contained (and reliant), comfortable in our roles, happy in our boxes. Resistance (holistic practice) is futile, unless (maybe) you're a writer, for whom multiple approaches become assets over time -- that is, if you're paying attention and willing to pay the price.

That price, by the way, is roughly equivalent to the price of freedom, of liberty, and is all-inclusive: obligation and opportunity cost nothing extra.

The point is that writers should assemble themselves deliberately and be explicit -- and unapologetic -- about it. These assemblies should materialize regularly and readily, can be modified of course over time, but must be nonetheless overt, conscientious, intentional and dramatic. Component parts should be chosen with care, and the fact that one has chosen, is choosing constantly, should be celebrated and, most importantly, never denied.

The solitary writer, alone in the "garret," has been a hopelessly clever and artful dodger, denying assembly outright in the guise of the penitent sinner whose rewards are doled out in some later, deferred paradise.

And the myth, with its denial, persists. For too many out there, the writer in them either just happens (as calling, for example) or the first assembly in its infancy is hardened for all time. The life of the writer in this case becomes a series of denials, struggles on the cusp of transition. To be "a writer," I'm afraid, is in this scenario the true sin. To claim that distinction is to implode into oneself for want of cyclic self-revision. Anyone who claims to be "a writer" seals him/herself in a box. Box becomes coffin. Assembly stops. End of story.

The writer for my purposes (now) is part bird-watcher, part driver, part dishwasher, part reporter, part architect, part singer, part lecturer, part victim, part actor, part dreamer, part sadist, part gardener, part student, part manager, part mole, part senator, part cook, part gearshift, part animal, part windsock.

These are gestures of assembly -- idiosyncratic, nonexclusive, partial, and all mine. I'm pretty sure the writer begins there.

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