Tuesday, July 20, 2010

course texts

Yeah, the memo said book orders were due June 19th; and yeah, I got mine in yesterday (July 19). So sue me. I could present my orders a year in advance to the campus bookstore at Our Fair University & they'd still get something wrong, or be unable to find some small-press thing.

In case you're wondering (I know that throngs have been on the edges of their seats awaiting this information), here's what I'm teaching from:

In the undergraduate Milton course (as I've discussed before), I'll be using the newish Modern Library edition of The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose, ed. William Kerrigan, John Rumrich, & Stephen M. Fallon.

(Which reminds me – I was conversing earlier this evening with an old friend of J.'s, currently house guest here by the ocean, about the 19th-c. American novel course I did last Fall, & I remarked that every book on the syllabus, Hawthorne Melville Alcott Stowe James Twain & Chopin – with the partial exceptions of Chopin & Twain [Connecticut Yankee, it was] – was written in something I call "19th-century novelese." You know, complex sentence constructions, big unfamiliar words, a bit of stylistic stilt-standing, etc. And most of my students had a pretty damned hard time with it. And then I thought, Jumpin' Jesus on a Pogo Stick!, I'm teaching Milton's controversial prose this Fall. What kind of a bloody masochist am I, anyway?)

In my graduate poetry workshop, we'll be spending time with the following:
•Louis Zukofsky, Selected Poems (yes, I know, New Directions will be shortly releasing new [corrected!] editions of Complete Short Poetry and "A" – but for the nonce, this is all that's in print)

•Lorine Niedecker, The Granite Pail: The Selected Poems

•Martin Corless-Smith, Swallows

•Eric Baus, The To Sound

•Janet Holmes, The Ms of M Y Kin

•Brenda Iijima, If Not Metamorphic

•Lisa Robertson, Lisa Robertson's Magenta Soul Whip

•Liz Waldner, Trust
A rollicking good time will be had by all. Really.

Monday, July 19, 2010

vacation, minor grumbles & anonymity

So I'm back to blogging, for what it's worth. Word on the street – which means word on Facebook & Twitter & all those other micro-statement-instant-response-gratification venues – is that blogging is dead, that nobody wants to read anything longer than 140 characters. Who knows? It's not like I have a serious case of logorrhea, or need to write an essay every week or so, but it's nice to stretch out. So what if I know every single person who's visiting? It's not like I'm selling anything, after all.

When I visit a site like Acadamnit, I get the urge to vent – about the state of writing, about my chosen – ahem – profession, about the shitty little hoops they have us jumping thru. (Cf. last post, for instance – "cf.," by the way, is short for the Latin confer, meaning "compare" or "check this out": just another instance of the kind of verbal sclerosis you start to suffer from when you spend too much time in the academy.) But if I wanted to vent about silliness going on in my own department – that "if" being a total hypothetical, mind you – I wouldn't, because after all this isn't an anonymous blog, like Acadamnit or Academic Cog or Not of General Interest, some other academic blogs I really admire.

Any way, unlike say Bob Archambeau, whose mini-essays on Samizdat I take it all circle around the big-ass book he's got cooking in the laboratory, little I've written here over the past year or so has much relation to whatever I'm "officially" writing. That's okay. And I'm on vacation, after all, so I can't be expected to be doing much real thinking.

Speaking of vacation: We're on Fire Island, as I probably mentioned. Not the party-till-you-drop section, or the Oz-on-the-beach bits popularized by Frank O'Hara & WH Auden, but a rather sedate, old-fashioned "family" community. No cars, just bicycles; no streets, just boardwalks. No restaurants, just a general store where everything is twice as expensive as it is in Manhattan.

We've been pretty much dividing the weeks between the Island & Manhattan, trying to cram in kultur & friend-meeting over the weekends, then kicking back and listening to the surf during the weeks. But of course it's not working out that way: we see friends & shows & go to museums on the weekends, then try to write on the Island. J. has a juggler's plenty of projects she's working on; there are library books all over the beach house. Me, I'm trying to focus on a single big essay – so I've brought almost nothing not directly related thereto. Mirabile dictu (that's not academese – that's high school Latin), in the interstices of working on my suntan (I have this theory that fat guys look thinner when they've got a good tan) I've managed to crank out more than a few thousand words, most of them arranged in sentences I'm not deeply embarassed by.

Brief kultur notes:
•"Dream Machine," the Brion Gysin show at the New Museum on the Bowery, is a must-see for those interested in performance poetry, cut-ups, & general drugginess. And they've got a first-rate bookstore.
•On the roof of the Met, Doug & Mike Starn have erected a massive labyrinth of bamboo trunks tied together with climbing rope. It's worth seeing, tho I wonder if Bloomberg (which underwrote the thing) got the doper reference in the title: "Big Bambú." (And hey, the Met is always worth visiting, if only for the Balthuses, which never get old.)
•At the theater at Hunter College we saw a sublime performance of The Magic Flute, which the girls sat thru entranced – even the second act, what I like to refer to as "The Sublime Allegory of Enlightenment Meets All that Masonic Shit."
•The Pierpont Morgan has a wonderful exhibition on Romanticism & gardening/landscape, as well as a bunch of small but tasty mini-shows – Albrecht Dürer, Sumerian seals, Palladio (that latter not so small).

Sunday, July 18, 2010

my adventures as a blind referee

"I’m also in the midst of… my annual report to the university on what I’ve been publishing – the strange answer is nothing. You see, nothing counts but “refereed” material. My three books of the last two years, and my five coming up in the press, these count for nothing, and scads of essays and reviews – scrap paper. Periodically I’m cautioned by the Dean for underachievement."
–Guy Davenport to Nicholas Kilmer, 16 November 1980

True Stories from the Annals of Blind Refereeing

Part I: So I got a request from Leading Journal in my Field the other day to serve as a referee for an essay on Major Semi-Canonical Poet. Okay, thought I, I am without doubt one of the 2 or 3 "authorities" on M. S-C. P., & I make an effort at keeping up with the criticism, so I'll do it. I read Critic X's paper, & on a 1st read found it – well – excellent. But I was a trifle peeved that Critic X managed to write 30-odd pages on M. S-C. P., including lots of biographical references, without once citing my work. Grrrr. 2 possibilities suggest themselves: Critic X doesn't like me, for whatever reason; or Critic X doesn't like my work. I don't know which makes me sadder, but I suppose I'll go ahead & recommend publication.

Part II: Hard on the heels of that request, Preeminent Journal Not Just in My Field But in the Whole Bloody Discipline asks me to be the tie-breaking blind referee for Critic Y's essay on Major Canonized Poet & Semi-Major Semi-Canonized Composer. These folks are efficient: not merely do they send the request, but they attach the essay, the readers' guidelines, & the 2 previous reports (not, by the way, anonymously – so I know who writ 'em). Reader B says "let's get Critic Y to rewrite & reconsider; there's good stuff here." Reader A rejects the essay outright. Principal reason? Critic Y has failed to take account of Reader A's own essay on M. C. P. & S-M. S-C. C., included oh-so-recently in a collection of essays published by a UK press very few of whose books, I suspect, make it across the Atlantic.

Discuss, drawing yr own conclusions.
Hey, we've finally got the DSL & the wifi set up here on Fire Island, & I feel once again as tho I'm plugged into the whole buzzing world of people vicariously living their lives online. To hell with the beach, the bay, & the boardwalks! I'm blogging again!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

fish are jumpin'

Okay, so here’s how the summer is going so far: we’re taking long weekends (Thursday thru Sunday) in Manhattan, and spending the rest of the week on Fire Island, where I’m doing my damnedest to get some “work” done. Yeah, I know, that’s not the point of vacation, is it? But I can count my blessings in that “work,” for me, is often equivalent to “really solid & deeply satisfying intellectual labor – as is the case with this particular piece I’m working on. Stay tuned.

Time seems to stand still on the Island. We’ve been here since Sunday afternoon, but it seems like we’ve never been anywhere else. There’s no internet connection in the house, so checking e-mail or Facebook is something we do by walking the laptop down to the community library, which has free wireless. But who wants to actually get up from one’s chair in the shade, where you can hear the surf in the distance, watch the folks walk or bike by on the boardwalk “streets,” & lovingly nurse that 2nd cup of coffee (or that 3rd Scotch & soda)?

Been reading a good deal of poetry, most recently Elizabeth Robinson’s Apprehend and Janet Holmes’s F2F.

The next to the last thing I knocked out before leaving Florida, my review of Charles Bernstein’s All the Whiskey in Heaven, is now up at The Rumpus. Do drop by and read, if you like. Caution: This review is pitched quite intentionally for the non-Bernoscenti, so don’t expect a hyper-theoretical post facto analysis of the anti-hegemonic tendencies of Language Poetry in general – it’s a vade mecum for those who might not otherwise have encountered Charles’s work. As I said to myself about the LZ bio, somebody’s got to write it, & why not me?