San Diego Poetry Guild

notes on guild, poetry, and San Diego


Special Sessions of the Modern Language Appropriation {San Diego, Dec 31 - Jan 1}

American Airlines Literatures
Anachronistic Literatures
Bargain Bin Literatures
Battered Literatures
Comparative Studies in Moribund Literatures
Comparative Studies in Shotgun Literatures
Comparative Studies in Tangible Literatures
Comparative Studies in Voluntary Literatures
Contagious Literatures
Deer Head Literatures
Early Homophonic Literatures
English Literature In Frustration
The Friends of Literature
German Literature Up To But Not Including 1700
Gesturo-Haptic Literatures
Language and the Giant Peach
Language Short-Changed
Language Unplugged
Late Twenty-First Century Literatures
Literary Convention Centers
Literary Toppings
Literature and Auto Repair
Literature and Other Lies My Teacher Told Me
Literature and Socially Responsible Investment
Literatures in Lines
Literatures Past Curfew
Literatures in Prose
Literatures Less Than 1900 And Greater Than 1901
Literatures on the Grassy Knoll
Literatures Without Visas
Methods of Literary Classification
Mexperimental Poetries
Poetry As/Is Poetry
Punctured Literatures
Risqué Literatures
Self-Serve Literatures
Studies in Comparative Influence
Teaching as a Confession
The American Quixotic Period
The Best Literatures Money Can Buy
The Draconian Period
The Many Ends of Literature
The Right Way to Pronounce 'Literature'
Tonsorial Literatures
Trashcan Literatures
Verse Versus Virus
Weathered Literatures
Well-Nourished Literatures
Wigged Literature



Some words about the Guild and my part in it -- now on Luminations.

And here are some pix from the "Hotels/Motels" exhibit last weekend -- mentioned in the interview.



Dickens' A Christmas Carol seeps into today's Dead Letter Game.


I third Tympan's seconding of Bemsha Swing.



Happy to find "Long Nose Pinnochio Bitch" in my mailbox today.

Thanks Stephanie, Tim, Kasey, and Russel-via-Jonathan.

Of course, my favorite bit was the stuff about the "squirrel puppet."


I second Tympan.


End Fall Quarter 03

End Communication as a Social Force

Final Score:

Market: 14
Public Sphere: 7


Software paraphrases sentences

We paraphrase all the time, often without thinking about it. Try to give a computer the means to reword a sentence, however, and it becomes apparent that figuring out how to say it differently is complicated.

Researchers at Cornell University have tapped a pair of unlike sources -- on-line journalism and computational biology -- to make it possible to automatically paraphrase whole sentences. The researchers used gene comparison techniques to identify word patterns from different news sources that described the same event.

The method could eventually allow computers to more easily process natural language, produce paraphrases that could be used in machine translation, and help people who have trouble reading certain types of sentences.


Performance Publishing

I finally got around to reading issue 4 of Tripwire (on "WORK") and that put me in the mood this month to work on some poems.

Writing poems is all "work," obviously, and a particular kind of work that I've affectionately decided to label "the work of generating poems." It's a very guild-like way of talking about poetry, and I'm sure some of my more visionary friends (in the guild even) will balk at the idea, but let me explain (and defend) it first by calling up something a poet recently said to me about the status of poetry book publishing in the U.S. these days.

He said, to paraphrase, that most poetry books don't sell, let alone garner much interest, beyond the first year after release. Poetry books, he argued, enjoy a marginal shelf (or half) life of about 6-12 months during which they are buoyed by the cult of the newest/latest -- assuming the book attracts any attention at all -- before sinking into obscurity. There are exceptions, to be sure -- hot tickets that hold their initial heat for a few years or more, becoming perhaps mini-classics in a world generally devoid of such things. But in most cases, this poet argued, the poetry book is a temporary holding pattern and starts to look more and more like a single issue of a journal or magazine -- a locus of attention (if lucky, acclaim) ever shifting in response to the emergence of new books, new "issues," new installments in the series.

Anyone who grew "into" rather "up with" computers and the Internet will probably admit to harboring a certain faith in the artifactual authenticity of the printed text. We like to think that to author a book is to enter the stream of literary output and, as they say, to contribute a verse to the long-winded song of the codex. I even suspect that most post-web Gen Y-ers, while keen on the emerging efficiencies (not to mention aesthetic advantages) of digital production and distribution, still hold out for the thrill of binding, acid-free paper, and three-tone color covers. Their understandable (and much appreciated) eagerness to hand over crisp new copies of their latest books suggests that this faith is alive and well.

There are key cultural/political (not to mention career) advantages to book production, of course, and my poet friend, while never acknowledging these advantages directly, would have to admit that the theory of poetry book half-life tells only half the story. Humans are notoriously bad at giving up old habits even when the evidence (of early-onset obscurity, for example) is so strong. We don't always (or always willingly) do the work of post-millennial production/distribution just because the technology says we can. We invest in a much broader production narrative whose plotline we've inherited nearly whole from those who have come before us. We may tweak an event in the story here or there, but for the most part the larger arc stays the same. The book, for most, is the best way to "make it" -- literally and figuratively -- as a poet.

If we're experiencing something of a "transition" lately from one economy to another, then the story of poetry book production is a rather sad one if my poet friend's theory has any truth to it. Raised on the myth of book publication as a process of cultural authentication, we face (in most cases) the rapid erasure or displacement of that authentication in the progressive renewal of poetry objects. In other words, the myth of "making it" meets the radical competition of "outdoing" each other in the collective project of authentication. Poets do "survive" their poetry books in ways that trouble the basic thesis here, but I think my poet friend nonetheless had it right with regard to the books themselves. Books are one-hit wonders, high-water marks, mementos, keep-sakes, or calling cards, and while some (in the past especially) enjoy an after-life in the museum of canonical accreditation, most drift willy-nilly on the winds of casual taste and passing trends. The most popular books at any given time might thus suffer the most misfortune in the observable loss of status. Held aloft for a time they must sooner or later give up their perch to the newly-duly-noted. The less or un- popular, on the other hand, stay on the ground, untroubled by delusions of perpetuity, blissfully decomposing.

The work of generating poems, then, begins with a question about the nature and purpose of the work with regard to an anticipated publishing outcome. I can't speak for others, but I'll say that in generating my own poems -- using, in each case, very deliberate and time-honored protocols for working out the details of material production -- I had in mind the idea that, far from potential components in a larger poetic work (or book), these poems would function collectively as phase-indicators for a poetic activity going on, in many real ways, elsewhere from the locus of activity defined by the individual poem. Much like business cards or informational pamphlets, these poems would point to a wider array of discursive practices whose range is only sampled in the textual records evident on the printed page. The poems, quite simply, would function as evidence for a more elusive poetic regimen only vaguely recognizable in the actual material "poem."

My "anticipated outcome," therefore, began to look like a managed reversal of what poetry writing had been, for me, in the past. I had and still have every intention of sending these poems out to magazines and, perhaps eventually, compiling them in a book of poems. However, I have few illusions about the object-status of these works (this work) regardless of whether or not (or especially IF) they are ultimately published in a magazine or book. I see the magazine/journal, in fact, as a higher-order instance of the phenomenon described above. If poetry books function at best "like" magazine/journal publications, then the magazine/journal publication (in print or online, I would think) enjoys an even more dubious status in the realm of literary performance.

As performance, in fact, the magazine/journal starts to look more like an occasion for the collection and interpolation of scattered poetry actors vying for rights to limited air-time. I love poetry journals (and books), don't get me wrong. I have a vested interest -- like most of my friends -- in that economy and recognize several good reasons (many I've neglected to include here for sake of rhetorical effect) for engaging in all sorts of print-publishing activity. But I also like this idea of publication-as-performance, which may in fact suggest a way out of what seems a rather desperate and discouraging state of affairs. If books are instantly obsolete, disposable mementos, and journals/zines a sort of record or document charting the course of planned obsolescence and disposability, then why not embrace the artifice and etiquette of poetry "generation" as a calculated reinvestment (from the other side of the abyss, as it were) in publishing in the so-called "late age" of print.

In fact, I'm convinced there are ways in which a poetics of planned obsolescence can save a poetry publishing world stuck in the mud of inherited habits. I wouldn't be so foolish as to name names, but there are some already leading the way in publishing not "books" and "poems" but something like serialized "splash-pages" (in ink) whose frazzled, kinetic energies self-consume at the moment of distribution. Some writers as well have taken the hint and deliberately (and beautifully) built obsolescence into the frameworks of their books. These products are easy to recognize, since the result is an astounding loss of status (as artifacts) but a profound emergence (perhaps entrenchment) in the conditions of their own un-doing. Documents like these bear the red-shift mark of infinite regress, but they are in fact more "approachable" than their blue-shift cousins. Assuming their own half-life, they burn a little brighter. To catch one is to experience a startling collision with light.

What to make of a poem that works deliberately to defy its own status as a poem? How read (and why publish) a poem (or a book) that sets out on that course of self-acknowledged self-erasure? Can anyone tell the difference, finally, between a poem written to function as a poem and one generated to "point" elsewhere, beyond the boundaries of the page, the zine, the book -- beyond its own inevitable obsolescence? Is there really any difference, after all, between generating a poem and just plain writing one?

It's all work, anyway, and maybe I'm trying to figure out a way to play the market for the sake of that work at the heart of that poem, if not that "poem" itself. Otherwise, much ado... and time to go home.


Bad Student Essays, Vol. 1

On M. Bakhtin's Art & Answerability

I'm pretty sure this work is positioned somewhere between Russian Formalism and Neo-Kantian metapsychology. Bakhtin distinguishes his project from R.F., for example, by way of a clear emphasis on material aesthetics, finding the Formalist doctrine of defamiliarization limited and limiting. He proposes that material in art should not be foregrounded but "overwhelmed," surpassed, worked on-beyond.

Like Blanchot, Bakhtin sees the material body of a work as something lived in the reader/writer coproduction of an "aesthetic object" -- a kind of hypertext (?) fashioned in the correspondence of work and perceiver. Also, note the functionalist or utilitarian emphasis on perception as an act of using. Bakhtin goes further in discriminating between simple acts of cognition, by which lived experience assumes an integrated appearance (architectonic), and acts of aesthetic consummation whereby the object/other transcends the cognitive plane and becomes art, beyond use.

The consummation of the other is a form of aesthetic completion: the act of reading (the other, the outer) becomes an act of formulation.

Consummation I read in part as an act of compensation, the self "adding what is necessary" to be complete. Compare the reader who invests a work with the activity of dedicated interest, atonement, "internment." Consummation, then, is a kind of performance (I confront in order to see). Material (as art) "helps" me do this, according to Bakhtin.

On Karen McCormick's Quirks & Quillets and Sheila Murphy's Teth

Short prose snippets (quillets?) of the new sentence variety, re-/cross-readings, the way a word, placed thus, and thus, can redirect a sentence, and then, again, and then, by chance?

A word has a certain bearing within or against a field of other words, and here the writing is a kind of purposive violation of a word's bearing. To enlist a word free of its bearing is to suggest bearing negatively.

Each use of a word nudges the word in its drift toward bearing. To read is to induce a kind of trouble-shooting, to hear the word fit its bearing. To move along and match the shift (little red bouncing ball). Then completion stops at provisional gatherings / totals bracketed as a new habit of reading.

High-pitched meditative scanning and the appeal of method enacted (as described). The first night that discloses (ablanchedhot). The concept consummated by its contrary (blech).

The idea, basically, that "sleep" and "death" foreground the death of the American lyric -- a way of avoiding that real death which comes as mystery.

This is all evidence, I think, of the quirk-iness at the heart of this writing. I take it literally as aberration, and seriously as evidence of a different kind of literary experimentation.

On Rachel Blau DuPlessis's Tabula Rosa

She who writes / underwrites / rewrites history. She who...and few do...harmonize dissonance.

I think it's best where the isolation of a single letter has the double effect of bringing up figure and sound.

The sense of argument in this book moves me, but argument via alternative methods of persuasion, suggestion. But suggestive in the sense that reappraisal is suggestive. We cannot "look again" without "looking differently." Abomination from which motivation is born.

Her repeated use of the word "tuning" : perhaps to locate frequency, to align dissonances, to fashion a music that orients. Self/other : the choric tune.

And my favorite line: "what cannot be said / will get wept."

Here, the force of disclosure, rewritings that recount the missing term.

On Valéry's The Outlook for Intelligence

I'm struck by the insights, foresights.

It's ironic that while one of Valéry's primary concepts is the unpredictability of futures, so much of his writing anticipates late 20th century America. In particular his "we end by needing it." Perhaps the end is needing it; need supplants desire. As long as needs are filled like prescriptions, who needs desire?

I'm also charmed by the mood of resistance in The Outlook. At one point V. calls for a recovery of mind, values, thinking, within "a few years." At heart, he strikes me as a traditionalist seduced by the fantasy of hasty repair.

Today we thrive by "needing" it, and the horror lies in our unfamiliarity with desire, which we so hastily traded in for need. We're addicts who know the dangers of the drug, who sense our own immiment destruction, but who willingly yield to the seduction.

If we're at all different from Valéry and his generation then it must be in our willingness to yield to our needs, forgetting desire, even while desire, after all, has not forgotten us.

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