Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I've been involved with PoemTalk, an initiative of Al Filreis. It is now officially launched:

For each episode of PoemTalk four friends and colleagues in the world of poetry and poetics convene to collaborate on a close (but not too close) reading of a single poem. We talk through and around the poem, sometimes beyond it, often disagreeing, always excited by what we discover as we talk, and perhaps after twenty-five minutes we've opened up the verse to a few new possibilities and have gained for a poem that interests us some new readers and listeners.
I was alert and engaged when talking about Williams and Adrienne Rich, but for the George Oppen show, I felt a little spaced out, having just returned from Iceland the day before, but since we had Rachel Blau DuPlessis, everything turned out fine. Tomorrow, Al, Randall Couch, Erica Kaufman and I will discuss Ted Berrigan's "Three Pages." Since it's dedicated to Jack Collom, I even called Jack yesterday to ask him a few questions.

Recently, Nicholas Manning stirred up some ill-tempered debate when he complained about the "rambling, annotative style" of Dale Smith's Black Stone, which he traced to "late American Confessionalism (no less than Lowell and Plath) and a slightly tired current of the New York School." "O’Hara knew how to turn such annotation to poetic effect," but not Dale Smith, according to Manning. While acknowledging Smith's "substantial lyrical gifts," Manning doubted if they served any "poetic ends." I haven't read Black Stone, so I don't know if Manning's verdict has currency, but it seems to me that many "I do this, I do that" poems rely on heteroglossia to seduce the readers at first. In able hands, this textural excitement is also interlarded with sharp insights, sly jokes and poignant aphorisms. Berrigan was a precursor of this method, but the grand master, then as now, is John Ashbery.

Berrigan's "Three Pages" is also a list poem. Here's a wonderful list by a fifty-year-old actor found dead in his bathtub, "strangled by a rope, which wound around his neck, was looped over a sliding door, and was tied to his left wrist and ankle":

Hot wax brushed on nipples and genitals
Several 2-inch flat lathes or short whips
Shaving the genitals
Nipple rings, ear, nose, and penis
Teasing with feathers
The box with the hole for the head
The collar suspended from the ceiling
The buttocks as a pin cushion
Tied by the neck to a tree
Legs spread, hands behind, she sitting on the mouth of her slave
The sexual degrading and abusing of the slave
Directive to masturbate controlled by the whip
Forcing the victim to tie himself
The admission of surrender and acknowledging the mistress by a signature
The taboo and the kneeling
Kissing and sucking the cunt
Put in frame with buttocks as target
Painted in bizarre designs
Walk through the street tied and naked, except for a raincoat
Chained by neck and hand

[from "Illustrative Bondage Deaths" by Robert E. Lipman, included in Amok Journal, edited by Stuart Swezey (Los Angeles: Amok, 1995)


joebanford said...

Per this list, I am convinced passion is alive and well.

joebanford said...

the inner fragmentation/destruction triumphs over lives which end up in rooms to die more so than heal, especially at the back wings, a mock freedom of soul, where "nothing/ will grow" and "cinders lie" -- ashes to ashes dust to dust -- a mirror of industrial us, perhaps -- a snapshot of the imagination


Bouncer, Janus, Bellhop