San Diego Poetry Guild

notes on guild, poetry, and San Diego


Field Report #1: Fait Accompli

They say that one of the problems with reading off a screen (vs. from a page) is that one has a tendency to forget to blink. Quite literally, the screen reader puts the blink reflex on hold, stunned into stasis like the proverbial deer in the headlights.

I have a similar experience when reading Nick Piombino's Fait Accompli, but in this case, I forget to breathe. The normally reflexive habits of in- and ex-halation for some reason lapse. I can blink alright, but breathing requires a bit of concentration, an act of will almost.

There may be a simple explanation for this, and it may lie in the notion of "fait accompli" itself. As a thing done and now past arguing against or altering, the fait accompli by definition takes no prisoners, chokes off response, and leaves nothing in its wake but aftermath, spoilage. One can recover from the fait accompli, but there is little hope for altering its course, and no reason to try.

The fait accompli is inherently self-contained, sealing itself off against all recursion. It presents as something doubly accomplished. Not only is it a done deal, but there is no negotiating its done-ness. The simple act, by contrast, may end as a kind of beginning, but the fait accompli enacts an end even unto itself. As with a rockslide or avalanche, there is no returning the "fait" to the fait accompli.

So it seems fitting that from the beginning Fait Accompli has worked, in part, as an exercise in recursion and retroactivity. The naming of interests and obligations in its margins (debts to other bloggers, writers living and dead, current friends) acts like a glue or mortar holding together the primary work of assembling a patchwork of past and present writings.

Most recently, the dig into past work (1976, 1966) employs the "done-ness" trope to excess, and this move alone may help explain the loss of air, the attention held fast by strings of text, longish excursions back into the doing of writing, now the thing done and recreated as document, record.

June 20, 2003, is a good day to check in:


appealing- appalling
L effront

hi erogenous glyph

language language
linkage languish
langw age
lang- which
uw a EU S
use-age use (u's)
use- more than one
still u (you)

"Still, I want to talk to you about it"

"I didn't mind"

Self-confessed "trime travel" and "spellbound speculations," Fait Accompli nonetheless stays right here in the moment and works its magic by insisting on its own style of repetitions, never the same on two different days, but also never one for surprises. The spell, maybe, lies in this rhythmic and reliable approach to writing as a thing to be done and un-done at each turn, at each return to the post window.

So the fait accompli may prove, in fact, to be the last laugh of this blogger's art: Ever open, the blog (in general) rarely accomplishes anything, even while getting so much done in the interim.

I go back regularly for what I hope to learn (about poetry, writing, time, speculation), and there's plenty to play with:

I am most inside my mind critically
when I am most outside my mind
critically. The same. Pain is diminishing
the way the sea subsides. I watched it
from outside. I reach outside myself
not so desperately as before. Allowing
myself to regress uncritically but
quietly bringing myself back again.

The poetic journal and the "day book" have rich histories. To recycle one's older writings (a popular practice lately on this and other blogs) enacts a form of remediation by which new technologies recast older technologies in, as it were, a new light. The dusty writing journal lives again, backlit and perpetually refreshed in digital wonderland.

But remediation matters most, of course, where both senses of the term apply. The Web reuses TV in fascinating formal ways (and, in reverse, TV now takes on a Webified look), but the Web also remediates older broadcast technologies in the pedagogical sense of "fixing" or "curing" their woes. The Web brings TV up to speed in so far as viewers become now actors (in some cases literally) in shaping the mode of delivery and presentation. For some, the appeal of the Web (and the digital in general) lies strictly in this capacity to both refashion and reform other (older) technologies. In short: networked computer as assembly machine, and remediation as a learning experience.

Fait Accompli likewise re-mediates old writing, it seems, to affect a cure, to remedy the past by means of (re)assembly in the present. The task may be part therapeutic, part aesthetic, part pedagogical, with plenty of wiggle room between each of these three layers of attention.

Clearly there are other things going on here as well: a laying bear of oneself through material exposure, offering up a kind of drama of explanation inscribed in the re-collection of past agendas, former critical biases, and now lapsed (perhaps) literary commitments. Plus, the ongoing dialogs with other (living) bloggers whose fates (and faits) are somehow tied to the fait accompli.

But at heart, in the middle, underneath (the space of remediation is difficult to manage), the steady return to moments of writing through now written into the domain of Fait Accompli. Offered up as a done deal, the site is nonetheless always recreating itself, dealing again, perhaps just in time to figure things out:

In a rush, it feels like
you have turned time's spigot
all the way. You are grabbing
time by the handfull, using
vast amounts of time to
attend to details- giving
time over to working things out with
or for other people.

Working things out -- perhaps to be done with it -- but never done with the deed, and in the midst, "other people." I take that away, in fact, as my blogging lesson learned for today (thanks to Piombino and Fait Accompli): Where blogging remediates, it also reimagines the nature of writing in and among people, as always that presence of action in interaction (in language). The paper day book or journal can't do that really, but perhaps the meeting of minds in blogging (as here, in the deliberate resurrection of past states of mind) is at heart an effort to remake that formerly self-oriented act in the guise of real-time "working things out with / or for other people." In that sense the potential "cure" of remediation seems obvious, and well worth the effort.

{{{{{{{ Others Take On Fait Accompli }}}}}}}

"A consistency impugns me" is a line that spontaneously popped up after reading awhile down the column of your often wonderful blog entries. And I wonder why say that - is it a critique of your practice? No, I think that fishing back into older pieces and journals is a kind of surreal means to break the seeming "consistency", redundancy, boredom, etc. that too often accounts for the conservative predictability of accumulating years. (The partner that says, "You know how many times you have told me this story?) The back flashes invade, startle, interrupt, violate and/or please - to absolve & relieve the "impugning" force from the scald of stasis. An interesting astronomical discovery about the nature of time. Courtesy of the most advanced telescopes, the eye can now see several thousands of light years out to the edge of the constantly emergent universe. In effect the whole history of the universe is a continuously concurrent and present event. On a human level - if I can reduce - our births and our histories (as contained, say, in your journal) are continuously simultaneous with our present.

But nothing seems to make your "old" journal poems and other entries either dead or less than fresh. It's the the quality of the telescope - your pen and clarity on any given day - that sharpens the focus and makes us say, "what is" is still fresh. The way people have been reconnecting with Ted Berrigan's work. Or the way Marcel - at the end of Rememberance - is able to simultaneously hear Madame Guermantes false teeth rattle and in the same time spontaneously (involuntarily) re- invoke the precise texture, color and sound of his first childhood meeting with her. Yet it is the divergences of memory around a particular event that make for the juice of (critical) conversation. Why one poem encapsulates a "time" and another "less so". & why clarity keeps reinterpreting "a time" over generations. Keeping us human instead of permanent. Anyway, keep startling yourself & us. Equally - instead of compulsively trying to establish "the new" I think your work opens passages "back into the present" for the rest of us. {Stephen Vincent}

Dear Nick,

I really enjoy your poetry. I am intrigued by the variation in dates - and by how seamless the 'narrative' of your blog is even though the poems you post come from different times in your life. Do you revise them before posting, or choose them based on their relevance to your experience now? It's funny reading them, I look (as readers always do) through them to try to glimpse the author (or the 'figure of the author') but am stumped by the a-chronology. I like this effect very much.

It reminds me a little of what Del Cross is doing with his anachronism poems - maybe Stephanie has told you about them? He is combing old diaries, and going through them in sequence, shaping poems based on the entries that exist at the intersection of the diary time and the present time of writing. I am fascinated to see what might happen if these dates grow so near that they eventually collide - I hope he keeps writing the anachronisms.

Your process seems somewhat different, and it would be great to hear more about it when I meet you? {Cassie Lewis}


Blog Field Reports: A Proposal

The blogs I read are often riffing on other blogs, and I've been swirling around the Blog Circuit of late trying, among other things, to get a sense of the larger conversations people are having.

Most times I'm witness to only half of it. I don't follow links that often (though I probably should), and so I miss out on what the other half said. Sometimes three or four are in on the joke, and the blog obviously continues a conversation, or picks up on a theme, first introduced elsewhere, at a reading, for example. I should perhaps get on the road more often, too.

An appeal from a lonely blogger? Hardly.

In my travels around the Blog Circuit (by the way, I'm a big fan of back-channel contact and link exchange, so please let me know if I haven't seen your blog and should), I've started to pay closer attention not just to what people are writing (always interesting) but also to the emerging and developing themes and conditions of each domain. In some cases, bloggers act deliberately. In others, themes and conditions emerge slowly and, perhaps, accidently, and the blogging basically generates its own unique ecosystem.

I think it's time for these themes and conditions (maybe predilections, approaches, guises, tropes, values, forms, etc.) to be documented in some way, pressed into the record.

Things change (proof of that right here), but I do think many in the Circuit (and elsewhere) have invested broadly in setting up -- or at least nurturing -- a certain *regime* for their blogs, making choices that reveal likes, dislikes, and sensibilities.

More importantly, a sense-of-things emerges that becomes particularized, specialized, the mark maybe of a given literary activity really only possible within a given blog domain as assembled by its assembler.

So what's the proposal? A series of "field reports" documenting blog works to be written this summer by anyone interested, then collected somehow (print or web, which I'll take care of) for some form of distribution.

The analog of course would be the book review, although in this case the last pages of these "books" have not been written, time is an uncertain variable, and conventional authoring functions both are and are not relevant. Getting "around" each blog for something like a review would in effect be one of the challenges.

And clearly, just what a blog "field report" might look like is indeed part of the experiment, the game. We'll figure out the rules (and the outcome, the object) as we go along. To start: I personally don't want to theorize individual blogs so much as document their uses over time in relation to a set of emerging themes or approaches or questions.

For example, why is Ernesto never neutral? What has Fait Accompli accomplished over the last few months? Why does Jism, well, do just that? Define prrrowess. What does it take to Nether? Why do we need a well-nourished moon?

I'd like to do a few of these myself, obviously, but I thought I'd throw it out here in advance to see if there are others beginning to get interested in the way smaller pieces fit into larger puzzles.

So, consider this a call to all would-be blog field reporters. Contact me back-channel with questions or concerns, or just starting writing and we'll take it from there.


Everything I Needed to Know

I'm facing an "exam" tomorrow, but it's a done deal, foregone.

I tried to explain this to my six-year-old. She said, "Don't worry, Dad. If you get a bad grade, we'll still love you."

"No," I said. "I've already passed -- it's kind of weird, I know, but no grades, bad or otherwise."

"Okay," she said. "But don't worry, we'll still love you if you get a bad grade."

Public school, I'm convinced, makes us all unreasonable.


Action w/ Poetics

This from Free Space Comix:

"Circulars had a poetics implicit in its multi-authored-ness, its admixture of text and image, its being a product of a small branch of the international poetry community, etc. Of course, the title also suggests that this website has some relationship to a poem, but perhaps as a non-site of poetry as it is a non-site for war, even a non-site for activism itself, where real-world effects don't occur. But my point for now is that the fragmentary artifacts of a politicized investigation into culture Gramsci's Prison Notebooks for example -- has an implicit poetics to it, but standing opposite to what we normally call a poem. This suggests roles that poets can play in the world quite divorced from merely writing poetry (or even prose, though it was the idea that poets could contribute prose to the anti-war cause - as speech writers or journalists, perhaps - that initially inspired the site."

Right on.

A tour of the blog circuit today shows that people are still thinking about it. There's an element of calm, sure, as the clouds of the first storm recede (impression of such, at least) and while folks take a few deep-cleansing breaths, anticipating future rounds.

BKS's call for "action with a poetics" makes a lot of sense, basically, as long as the bombs fall, which now seems always. The Guild respectively appropriates that phrase for our masthead.

Circulation is a kind of action, methinks. Bravo.


Tactical Revisions (press release)

Had some time on my hands this week, so decided to revamp. I'm not one for fancy templates (obviously) so I hope no one minds the goth-minimalist look I've settled on.

One thing the world of blogging always needs is more blogs, so I also took advantage of free time and started a new one, Dead Letter Game, which I figure it wouldn't hurt to say a few words about.

First, it doesn't replace this one but maybe fills in what's missing. Read it -- if you want -- as the back side of the page this blog (here) is written on, as a recoding, maybe a transcription, of what happens or has happened here.

Not so much an anti-blog as a blog held up to the light, so the text printed on the back becomes readable, if backwards.

Otherwise, I'm having a good time on the blog circuit familiarizing myself with everyone's latest projects.

Lime Tree I like for its refreshing take on all sorts of things. Texturl doesn't text or url as much as I'd like him too, but I enjoy checking in, all the same. Jism is hilarious. Equanimity gives me just that, if not the peaceful kind; witty and newsworthy. I'd like to know more about where Squish is coming from; maybe I'm missing something, but I kind of like being clueless in this case. Never Neutral seems to be the up and coming blogger's blog, for good reason. Elsewhere uses one of the nicer templates, and I'm digging the dialogical stuff. Nether has that good journal-like feel without trying too hard or shouting too loud. Conchology's "notebook" is great documentarian stuff. Fait Accompli always keeps me guessing, in a good way.

That's not the whole circuit but a good chunk of it, for what it's worth.

For reasons I'm not sure of, I feel like ending with an essay question:

Blogs are tactical, websites strategic. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Anyway, SDPG (the blog) is now officially back open, so please adjust your links accordingly.


SDPG (the blog) is currently closed for remodeling.

DEAD LETTER GAME is my new blog.


Confessions (out the door)

1. I don't believe at least 30% of what I write here and believe the rest only temporarily and contingently.

2. Much of what is posted here was first written by someone else.

3. Reading through other blogs, I devote at least some of my time to mining for recognizable references, including refs to this blog.

4. My blog actually belongs to several people, although they don't know it or know it only partially.

5. I keep a blog in partial fulfillment of a promise made to myself and others years and, in some cases, months ago.

6. The idea that others might read this makes me nervous.

7. The blog appeals to me primarily (if not entirely) because I am fundamentally committed to presenting myself as 'a writer.'

8. I have a hard time with blog-writers who choose to make fun of, ridicule, or berate other blog-writers, even in retaliation, but mostly because I'd rather not be on the receiving end of that sort of thing.

9. Of all the blogs I read, only two are generated by people I've met F2F.

10. My blog suffers from frequent lapses in focus, and I consider this a bad thing (today).

11. I think blogging generally suffers from either a lack or an over-abundance of critical self-reflexivity.

12. I started out as a writer using writing as a means of keeping track of myself, continued writing as a means of keeping track of others, and my blog has evolved the same way only in reverse.

13. The name of this blog -- -- was a mistake.

14. I am currently too preoccupied with blogging and sense an emerging addiction.

15. I am writing this confession in a well-lit room while those around me discuss gender, fantasy, and history.

16. 'Bill Marsh' both is and is not 'SDPG.'

17. I started this blog not knowing where it would lead and now wonder how (if) it will ever end.

18. Some of these entries are composed elsewhere (like this one [in ink]), then translated into this space.

19. I have decided since #14 that it's time to end this blog and start another.

20. I use 'reverse chronology' as both a strategy and an excuse.

21. I link only to those blogs that remind me the least of my own.

22. Confession #21 is not true, at least not anymore.


Convivial Productivity

The Web can be pretty unfriendly at times – cool in its heaping of judgments disguised as managerial protocol or, worse, aesthetic experimentation. And the Web is really just the latest metaphor for human productivity in industrialized worlds. If not a metaphor, then maybe the latest front, the newest face, recognized for its old-world imperialist features.

What the Web needs is a dose of conviviality. I borrow the term from Illich, who used it to designate what he considered “the opposite of industrial productivity,” an “autonomous and creative” communion among persons and their environments. The dream (for Ivan) was essentially Marxist and emancipatory, the pursuit of “freedom realized in personal interdependence.”

The Blog affords convivial productivity, I guess, if we bracket the “environment” as a unit of analysis for the time being and measure the potential for autonomy/creativity against what often happens here between people, who are “interdependent” in the sense that writers often become readers of other writers, exchanging points of departure. But this is only part of the story, and again only potentially so.

Illich, most famous for his critique of schooling, historicized “education” as the new “invisible commodity” of the post-Enlightenment West that would bring forth a new “type” of human being better fitted to an environment created by “scientific magic.” Education, by this model, is alchemical, endeavoring to pull us through “successive stages of enlightenment” en route to a golden age of industrial productivity and, by extension, mass consumption.

If you want to bolster the argument that the Web (or the Blog) is conducive to convivial productivity, look to Illich: “A convivial society should be designed to allow all its members the most autonomous action by means of tools least controlled by others. People feel joy, as opposed to mere pleasure, to the extent that their activities are creative; while the growth of tools beyond a certain point increases regimentation, dependence, exploitation, and impotence.”

And here: “Convivial tools are those which give each person who uses them the greatest opportunity to enrich the environment with the fruits of his or her vision. Industrial tools deny this possibility to those who use them and they allow their designers to determine the meaning and expectations of others. Most tools today cannot be used in a convivial fashion.”

This argument could be made on behalf of “convivial” Web use (blogging or otherwise), but then there are questions of control, as well as risks of regimentation, dependence, and exploitation, that complicate the picture. The Web is a tool-rich and potentially interactive/communal domain that nonetheless has all the marks of the industrial and manipulative. The banner above is maybe one such mark, but there are times, I think, when even users themselves (you and I) as “designers” come to “determine” meaning and expectations in ways not necessarily conducive to the convivial.

“Tools foster conviviality to the extent to which they can be easily used, by anybody, as often or as seldom as desired, for the accomplishment of a purpose chosen by the user. The use of such tools by one person does not restrain another from using them equally. They do not require previous certification of the user. Their existence does not impose any obligation to use them. They allow the user to express [his/her] meaning in action.”

Who uses the Web, and how often? To what “accomplishments” do most users – from the poetics blogger to the office assistant to the porn surfer – commit themselves? What are the restraints of use and, as a kind of restraint, what does it take, really, to be certified as a Web user?

The distinction between the convivial and the manipulative, according to Ivan, is “independent of the level of technology of the tool.” Still, I ask these questions because I wonder if the case is different when the tool basically tools itself, when those using the tool are in a way engaged equally in building the tool ad interim.

The Web schools its users (true for the Blog too), so perhaps this comes down to an appeal for more convivial productivity in the realm of Web (blog) use. Writers seem pretty well fit to occupy this space, so I wonder if a kind of “magic” has not transformed us into a new type of industrial producer/consumer, playing out cycles of regimentation and dependence under the guise of liberatory creativity and “vision.” If industrial productivity is possible here, then surely convivial productivity is possible as well as a kind of “counterfoil research” (another Illichism), with writers on the front determining not only “meanings” and “expectations” but also the questions by which meanings/expectations come to be determined in the first place.

At the very least, I want to think that art and education intersect at the point of convivial productivity. Working art, as a learning activity, is perhaps the "convivial" alternative to artwork in the age of industrial tooling and schooling. The accent falls on the working and learning, the action. Art is the outcome of convivial productivity.

All of which, like most everything posted here, is offered in the spirit of inquiry and perhaps more important to SDPG than to a broader audience (a belated disclaimer, sorry). The Poetry Guild is nothing if not an attempt to bring convivial tools (real and virtual) into the hands of writers and other creatives in this particular environment (San Diego), so anyone reading this who is not part of that group or partial to its mission may want to take it in light of that deliberately self-limiting focus.

Otherwise, writers should claim their rightful place as artisans of convivial productivity, and using any technology, finally, new or old.

More Illich here, if you want.

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