Friday, September 28, 2007


Nada Gordon has posted a set of "Anti-Rules of Poetry Blogging" – things, that is, one should probably avoid doing – &, by golly, I seem to have been guilty of late of a whole bunch of them:
Avoid any mention of poetry altogether.

There is no such thing as irrelevant content: found text, recipes, videos, random observations – all good.

Especially, do not ever ever “engage current debate.”

Use gimmicks: a flickr badge and a label cloud are signs of a “quality blog.”

Don't set yourself up as an authority on anything.

Blog as frequently or as infrequently as you please: you owe no one anything.

You may use your blog as a catalogue of pet peeves if you like.
So I'll try to be a trifle more "on task" (as we used to say of the sighthound who was best at following the "rabbit" at the coursing events) in the future. Like, maybe even actually writing about poetry for a change, rather than the irritations of sloppy editing or the outrages of textbook publishers. But not quite yet...
I suppose you lucky souls in more northerly latitudes (something redundant there) are beginning to enjoy the symptoms of fall in the air. Here we've had 4 days of more or less constant, desperate rain, which has only stopped today: visually, a beautiful day, tho it bodes to hit the high 80s, & the mosquitos are out like Eliot's hooded hordes.
Like everybody else, I keep reading Ron S day after day, & my naturally phlegmatic temperament only gets me het up when I read something like this:
asking for source data on a 900 page manuscript like The Alphabet is not so far from inviting a 2,000 page response. I suppose some day some enterprising grad student is going to comb through Ketjak and identify just how many sentences there were lifted directly from Quine – it could be done. But I’m not in the slightest inclined to think that doing so would tell you any more about the poem. In that same vein, the various annotations for works like Ulysses, The Cantos or Finnegans Wake always strike me as telling me a little about what the author may have been thinking about around the time of composition, but they are almost mute on what the works themselves actually say. Annotating, reading & interpreting are, after all, three different acts. Everyone who has ever written about 2197 has done so with a sense of a science fiction framework & what that might mean to those texts. I can’t think of anyone who has as yet noticed that the number is 13 cubed, which means that it represents the total of sentences in the work. From the perspective of reading, does that matter? I suspect not.
Leaving aside the stunningly presumptious anticipation of some "enterprising grad student"'s future attentions, the lumping together of the very different annotative enterprises directed at Ulysses, The Cantos, & Finnegans Wake strikes me as just plain sloppy. What's being annotated in each case is strikingly different (for Ulysses, there're great stretches that simply explain 1904 Dublin culture & geography for a 21st-c. reader; for The Cantos, it's mostly sourcing of quotations & translating of foreign phrases, as well as – not yet nearly enough – background historical context; for Finnegans Wake, it's largely philology). And while everybody's entitled to read however they see fit, & while I'd never downplay the value of a "cold" reading of a difficult, referential text (that was what got me into, & thru, Maximus the first time around), any reader who values authorial intention (old-fashioned, yes, but take it or leave it) is going to have to come around to the annotations at some point. Sure, "annotating, reading & interpreting are, after all, three different acts," but it's pretty damned theoretically slippery to separate the latter two in such a briskly cavalier fashion. (Plug here for Jeff Twitchell's Zukofsky exemplary annotations site.)
A fascinating piece in the Times' Magazine's "College" issue on New St. Andrews College in Idaho, a experiment in turning out "medieval Protestants" – hardcore evangelicals with rigorous classical educations. Aside from the rigors of Latin & Greek (the latter of which I regret never having undergone), it's just as wingnut as the next evangelical institution. Still, you gotta love that the coffeehouse is called "Bucer's."
From John Latta's "Rag-bag islet" yesterday, a graceful & exemplary meditation (aided by André Furlani) on Lu Chi, Guy Davenport, & wasps. (John, how the hell do you get permalinks for single entries??)
Two additions to the blogroll: Nada Gordon (long overdue) & Mark Wallace, an old interlocutor from my DC days – another life, it seems, but grand to see him taking up the weblog medium.


John Latta said...


Easy. Wave a cursor around in the lower left corner (just above the previous day's date) and a

# posted by John Latta

appears. Click that #. The permalink is then found up in the address box.

(How it got that way involves a story of days of excruciating trial and error à la perruque, wigging out at the "office."


Nicholas Manning said...

Thanks so much Mark for the link to Jeff Twitchell's Zuk site. Invaluable . . .

Don Share said...

There's also Simon DeDeo's rules for poetry bloggers!