April 2011

Live Giants 12: Noelle Kocott, Matthew Rohrer, Anthony McCann

You missed the live reading but you can still get in on the nice deal Wave is offering on their books, $10 each.

Noelle Kocot’s The Bigger World

Matthew Rohrer’s Destroyer and Preserver

Anthony McCann’s I Heart Your Fate

Web Hype / 9 Comments
April 28th, 2011 / 8:52 pm

Seventy-one years ago today, John Cage debuted his prepared piano on stage at Seattle’s Repertory Playhouse. In honor, edit an old story of yours by adding a few new nouns.

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Collectors versus Aesthetes

I’ve been reading, finally, The Orchid Thief, the first third of which, at least, is about a collector and other collectors like him. Of orchids. These collectors have this life- and body- and marriage-overtaking urge to hunt for the most, the weirdest, the most unusual, the most hidden. When a hurricane hits Florida, some orchid lovers there think hardly about the devastation and wonder instead what seeds have blown in from the tropics, what odd variety will bloom next in some remote corner of a swamp, and will they be able to find it first. The main guy in the book, John LaRoche, first collected turtles with the same ardor, dropped those, and started something new until he finally arrived at orchids.

If I had a garden (and I do), it could be filled with the commonest things as long as it were beautiful.

For I’m not a collector and I never will be, not of anything tangible, though on many days I wish I were. Collecting requires zeal for something so great that endless, mostly fruitless tedium can be endured in its pursuit. Collecting requires the acquisition of so much knowledge–it is after all not for the novitiate to know what is rare–so much that thinking of it makes my eyes hurt. There is a kind of ruthlessness, too, that I find whenever I read or hear about great collectors, whether it’s orchid thieves who will kill or be killed rather than surrender their finds, or used-book dealers elbowing and scratching one another when they spot a rare jewel at a book sale. I lack the zeal, the thirst, the ferocity.

I’m missing out. Walter Benjamin, a more famous collector than LaRoche, writes, “How many cities have revealed themselves to me in the marches I undertook in the pursuit of books!” Whereas if you wander aimlessly, with no object in mind, everything remains misted, hidden and dull. The best things don’t happen when you least expect them; the best things happen when you are stalking some other prey.

There’s no prey that taunts me that hasn’t already been shot down. This is why I can’t be a literary scholar. For what would I say? I love all the writers whom so many others already love. I couldn’t endure navigating some lesser, less-known terrain. So, mightn’t I find a new angle? This isn’t possible either: what I love about Austen and Nabokov and Woolf is what others love about them. It’s just that I think my love overpowers theirs.

This is what separates collectors from aesthetes. [Confession: I’m adapting/expanding this whole post, and especially the following two sentences, from something I posted on twitter last night.] Collectors prize what’s rare, and convince themselves that the rare is beautiful. Whereas aesthetes prize what’s beautiful, and convince themselves that their love is rare. I mean this last clause in two senses: they believe their love=the beloved is rare, in that sense of “as any she belied with false compare,” and they also believe the quality of their love=their own feeling for the beloved is rare, as in, more potent than the feeling of their rivals.

Both, of course, are softly deceiving themselves (ourselves) [see photo], and I would hazard that each has reason to envy, miserably, the other. I can’t know for sure, as it’s always near-impossible to find the enviable in one’s own sorry state.

Random / 26 Comments
April 28th, 2011 / 12:15 pm

A Fear of Weather

Spring is coming. Spring is here. It’s raining and the grass is once again buoyant. Speaking of rain: weather scares me.

Growing up, my parents taught me that if I get rain on my head and I don’t immediately shower to clean it off, I’ll get sick.

This makes very little sense. Rain ought to be clean. It ought to be a pure – if not the purest – form of water. Certainly, it ought to be cleaner than the water I get from my green showerhead, which is still city-treated water, gone through further treatments via the showerhead.


Random / 5 Comments
April 28th, 2011 / 9:37 am

Patience, an Asterisk, or the Kitchen

Not so Young today, eh Mike? Happy birthday to our gang’s torch-bearer. In truth if I could see it like any other I think it’d be like Mike Young. No one understands the elasticity of words like he does. No one births knowledge within me with the Other words like Mike. He tells me what I already know in such a way that I didn’t know I knew it. That’s how he usurps my brain. He makes me dumber and smarter while I thought I was looking for a spanking machine. He giggles a high titter. Until midnight tonight you can celebrate old boy’s birth with PGP by getting his poem book for just $6 which is $300 less than the perceived value of the poem “Let’s Build the Last Song and Sneak Away While Everyone Else Is Listening,” $100 of which you can watch below the fold.


Behind the Scenes / 7 Comments
April 28th, 2011 / 8:51 am

Gopher gaze

This is what I know about sex, there is a hole, there is a stick, and it all works out in the end, and occasionally “in the end,” if you know what I mean. And duh, sometimes two sticks and/or two holes can get along just fine, I went to college. The idea of penetration can only exist because we feel outside of things, but what if we are put inside, a gopher hole maybe, or in a gallery peaking into a room made to make us feel inside a hole. What if aesthetics is humanity’s commercial, something to seem better than it is. Duchamp’s cunt is shaved because Courbet’s used up all the hair. We all know about the male gaze, but the gopher gaze didn’t get a thesis written about it, until now, well not exactly.


Film / 10 Comments
April 27th, 2011 / 7:31 pm

loaded with tufts like a dogwood or 14 critics

12. Fucking A! Aimee Bender is interviewed about women and drinking.

It was a surprise for me after college to realize I didn’t hate beer, which I had assumed I hated, which cut off a lot of options.

9. Roger Ebert is a badass and just won New Yorker caption contest.

9. Bullet in the Brain is online here. It has typos but who gives a fuck. It has many technical flourishes. It has “moves.” You should read it and then pass it on or disrespect it or yawn or make some comment about critics. I am working a theme here, all crow, etc.


“I made a mistake in writing an essay called ‘The Pleasures of the Difficult,'” Mr. Baumbach said.

13. At the store, do you prefer self-checkout, self-bagging, or is it ethically wrong? What exactly made the dandelion an enemy flower? Why do weathermen despair the rain? You can learn to talk wisely about a nice house or you can learn to build a house. Red Bull makes you an individual, except for the drinking Red Bull thing. Do you aim while peeing? Who chose what would one day be labeled white noise?

14. On the issue:

I’ve always felt those articles somehow reveal more about the writers than they do about me.

Marilyn Monroe.

Random / 30 Comments
April 27th, 2011 / 6:30 pm


Matthew Henriksen’s Ordinary Sun

“The great painter Degas often repeated to me a very true and simple remark by Mallarmé. . . . One day he said to Mallarmé: ‘Yours is a hellish craft. I can’t manage to say what I want, and yet I’m full of ideas. . . .’ And Mallarmé answered: ‘My dear Degas, one does not make poetry with ideas, but with words’.”

Paul Valéry in “Poetry and Abstract Thought” from The Art of Poetry, which is an essay I was supposed to read in college but didn’t. It’s good though, and Valéry is using this anecdote on the way to illustrating a distinction between poetry and “purposive language” such that the latter is akin to walking to a destination while poetry, by contrast, is dancing.

I’m reading Valéry now as fodder for a conversation I’m having with my mom, in which I hope to justify Matthew Henriksen’s abstruse but beautiful book, Ordinary Sun, out now from Black Ocean. It was a valuable challenge to have Mom read these poems to me because her disinterestedness problematized the book. She’s not willing to see the poems as incommunicative but lovely because she is only interested in this “purposive language.”

I emailed her and argued that clearly Henriksen cares about what he’s writing, “so these poems are a good place to start exploring the ineffable. Language — words on their own, without communicative meaning — is one of the essential things about being human,” and she agreed, saying that “yes, words ARE one of the essential things of being human, but it is so they do make sense/meaning with each other, in contrast to nonsense.” So take that, Henriksen. I don’t think my mom likes your book.


April 27th, 2011 / 10:49 am