Ephemeris June 2012
June 30, 2012: I was in all innocence parked on the 'bratwurst' terrasse at around the supper hour, yesterday. In the wonderful shade of some maples. D— n near a pagan grotto. You can imagine then that I was taken aback when one of the two young poets in whose company I happened to be broke into a full-throated recitation of Geoffrey Hill's Ovid in the Third Reich and then said, "I love the poem, but I'm not sure what it means." "Well, I think I do," I heard myself answer, talking through my hat in full-out bluster, and, in continuance: "it's one of those poems one writes when language otherwise fails one." Whatever that means. Even so, it seems I rang a bell or two with the pronouncement, which only emboldened the creature and his poet buddy to further recitations. By heart, mind you, and out of memory. Pound, Stevens, Berryman, and, good God, even Ashbery. Who would have thought that even Ashbery has had his innings - in something called, if I remember correctly, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror? At some point in the course of the very same evening I wound up in the deeps of Verdun - at the apartment of yet another young poet. Just how many young poets are there in this burg? The thing is, he along with his blessed other, was about to vacate his digs so as to pursue his sentimental education at the U of T, Toronto. Lamentable, I have to say. I commiserated with the fellow as best I could. Toronto the good. Yeah, right. But then I know people there who have managed to have lives even so, so I will endeavour to put Young Poet onto them so as to help him keep body and soul of a piece while he labours to get that piece of paper that says he is cleared to con his way into the world with something like legitimacy—It so happened that, in the course of that very, very, very same evening which was evening the last, Black Mountain poetry got discussed; and what I like about these young poets is that they appear to be impervious not only to the blandishments of the worst of come hither post-modernism, they are also quite capable of taking something like a dispassionate view of the Black Mountain opus; and they did say something like great theory, not much by way of follow through. Could not have said it better myself. At yet another point, also in the course of said evening, some brave heart threatened to break into a recitation of Trakl, but I put a stop to such nonsense—What, and have people think we were somehow something other than rank savages?
June 29, 2012: It does seem politically significant, what transpired yesterday with the SCOTUS vote, a 5-4 decision on American healthcare. But in what way the result truly signifies remains to be seen. A Pyrrhic victory for Current President? A watershed moment for liberalism? A hot Republican electoral talking point, or that now the party has something to organize around besides the economy? In any case, enough people have been saying all along that the legislation, as it stands now in its ratified state, does not actually do all that much to get the country something like universal health care; and it does not diminish all that much the capacity for private health insurers to turn a buck without having to pay out all that much insurance. In other words, if you're really sick, you're in tough. London Lunar does not regard Mose Allison as much of a singer though he may be a higher order of creature than a lounge lizard or cocktail pianist. If I were selling fantasies, I'd be a millionaire. / I am not down-hearted, I am not downhearted.... but I am getting there. I have been neglecting some of my reading so as to get deeper into Appian's The Civil Wars and the interminable ups and downs of the affair that was Octavian's and Mark Antony's. On again, off again love-hate fest involving all those legions, the senate, J Caesar's assassins and Cicero. I say 'love-hate' with some tongue in cheek. It seems to have been hate at first blush but that now and then political expedience necessitated a show of comity. More and more I come to believe there are certain events in history from which there is no getting out from under, ever. I fully intend the prepositional overkill so as to make a point. Or that the fact of J Caesar, and certainly his assassination, was one such event that threw everyone and everything in a tizzy to the extent that all of life, as it were, was a second-guessed business; all of life from the venal deliberations of the senate to the baying bread and circus crowd; and the long, fairly calm years of rule that made up Augustus Caesar's governance was only a kind of veneer. One wonders if Bush vs Gore 2000 is another such event. George, Nikas owner-cook, claims to have scored a goal in his career like the one the Mohawked Balotelli scored against Germany yesterday—I recognize in George the melancholy of a true jock inasmuch as it has turned out that here he is cooking, not footballing, and that, whatever the truth of his assertion, he will never score another—
June 28, 2012: A friend has written me to say he has been recently in receipt of an 'automated response'. Ah, the acme of post-structuralism. It is a particularly galling automated response inasmuch as it follows upon a query he had occasion to put to a literary agent. The response indicated that, if he so chose, he could go ahead and indulge his paranoia. As what we're saying is don't effing call us again you no-talent useless sh-t for brains unless in a rash moment we should decide you are after all marketable. By the way, how good are your legs? Your on-camera skills? None of the above has anything to do with anything that I would ever feel motivated enough to remark upon; just that, yesterday, I had another session with Guitar Teach who, no doubt, so far as it comes to music, regards me as having sh-t for brains, and would that I had a picking hand that could actually pick its way out of a paper bag; just that, in light of the 'automated response' and in light of the guitar session, it seems to me that at least one of those two life scenarios has going for it a certain modicum of life-sustaining intimacy, however harrowing for the apprentice. One individual is required to have doings with the qualities or lack of them in another, and even if the noble cause of art has come to be but a risible item, at least one of the two parties can hope to pay his rent. But what is going on in the world when something as humdrum as a guitar lesson can suddenly acquire all the characteristics of an act of subversion? It has gotten to be a sort of world in which anyone without a button to push is sh-t for brains and anyone without a wedding party to bomb by way of drones is not only sh-t for brains, they are on history's wrong side. Moreover, Guitar Teach, when patience wears thin and exasperation attains critical mass, will grab one's hand and force one's fingers to do his bidding, and, you know, it is not virtual on his part. It is to say the man is, so far as I can tell, dedicated to the guitar and to his belief that there is a proper way to approach the instrument. Be he right, be he wrong, it is passion of a kind, one that I have rarely come across in a literary realm the denizens of which were born writing best-sellers out of a can, and if not, there was always going to be workshopping the can. (Peculiarly enough, paradoxically enough, writing that produces the greatest amount of intimacy in the hearts and minds of readers is written in isolation; that the workshop kills this quality in the long run, even if, in the short term, one has gotten one's little bit of attention in the company of one's fellow wannabe queen bees.) Well yes, I hold a great part of the art world and how it conducts its 'business' in near absolute contempt. Call it a system, call it a nexus, call it an accretion of RNA molecules looking for its Cambrian moment, it simply does not recognize any individual other than those individuals predisposed to accommodating said system and its imperatives. In other words, Sh-t For Brains used to submit a manuscript to this or that venue, and even though there was never going to be any hope in hell of the thing ever seeing the light of day, he or she was thanked for it, even so. The system was obliged to acknowledge the individual. What obtains now does not even rate all the buzz that was the breakthrough of serfdom. The system no longer looks for worth; it simply states this is worth and then scouts for personages who fit the bill, who can help carry off the pretence, the Wizard of Oz extravaganza. Because I have been struck over the course of the past couple of decades or so by the number of young-ish writers I meet who seem incapable of thinking a thought other than those thoughts which will advance their suit. I have wondered if it has remained possible to compartmentalize oneself to the extent that there might exist a private self of thoughts, no matter what grovelling one is doing on some arts stage, and that, accordingly, the private, or the 'real' artist or author might still actually manifest in his or her work. In other words, the writing of ad jingles for a living did not necessarily preclude the writing of a good book—And I have to say, from what I have seen, and I perhaps do not get out as much as I should, that this miracle does not seem to occur as often as it should. It is as if something in this world is stipulating that unless the artist or writer sports a certain plumage, he or she will not 'compute', period, and the 'species' will not advance. I used to think it all so much 'committee think', something for which I have little patience, but that it was a necessity, however irksome. I believe now I was deeply mistaken. Or that committee think is one thing; this other thing, this unthinking embrace of I must bend over even more and spread my cheeks even wider so that some surveillance cam will pick me up and go bingo here's one for our profit margins is, to put it mildly, pernicious. There was never anything special about being an artist and yet, there always was; and until this little contradiction is properly appreciated, not much of anything can be said that has any use to the noble cause of art and the maintenance of artists who once upon a time, you know, used to have something to say. Now they just issue press releases, and even when copulating, so one suspects.
June 27, 2012: Morning. Nikas. That there is no coffee on strikes me as a serious affront to civilized values. What can Alexandra the waitress be thinking as she mutilates that gob of gum in her mouth? What affronts P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator to the south of here, is the fact of the congressional Republicans who are, to coin a verb, obstreperating everything in sight, especially that which might actually render life worth getting up for. In any case, Literary Thug is deep in some Philippines outback. Forgotten mountain cities. Pigs and goats are slaughtered in his honour everywhere he goes. I see sunlight glinting off a conquistadorial helmet. In a single hombre I see Pissaro and Marx divvying up the spoils. How will the rational Canadian in him fare in the face of such this-worldly other-worldliness, Filipinos being, from what I understand, an intensely religious and communal people? And now the Moesian has discovered J Swift's A Modest Proposal. Yes, what shall prove more deadly to the benign Canadian mind-set in which, theoretically, at least, there should be no such animal as the one who would ritualistically carve up a fellow human being and yet, this sort of thing does seem to be happening with some frequency, of late? Again, who or what shall prove to pack the most punch? The savage goat god? Swift in the marrow of one's bones?
June 26, 2012: Labrosse and I took in two more episodes of Deadwood, last evening, and I wondered if what we were viewing might possibly depict what it was like to inhabit a world in which the ologies were not around monitoring one's every move? To be sure, at roughly that time in the 1870s, while the American frontier was beginning to subside into civilized values, the ologies were a getting a foothold in Europe and humankind there might consider itself as having gotten for itself another breakthrough in derring-do. Labrosse did not know. He however did seem to be genuinely shocked when Wild Bill got his brains blown to Kingdom Come there in the saloon, in the poker parlour; and though we kept theoretical discussion of violence down to a dull roar, Labrosse offered to suppose that intimidation did always seem to be a prominent feature of the American way of life, the sort of intimidation that extends in all directions. I cannot say if Labrosse was quietly being cheeky with me or if he was reflecting on his experience as a man of the business world, of corporate jetting hither and yon. Neither can I tell you what he made of Calamity J's gutter mouth, even if cobra-eyed Swearengen did render her swagger somewhat jelly-like, the little limey evil streak in him that monumentally efficacious, Clockwork Orange just around the corner. E, however, was AWOL from our simple gathering. She has put spurs on, of late, and is her own liturgy, forever riding off into the sunset, having forever won the day every day for us lesser mortals who just have no idea how the universe is shaping up to unfold and who it aims to empower next. Words like c—t and c—ksucker do not roll off her tongue every two minutes or so, let alone once a week, but she is, on the other hand, consumed head to toe by a constant stream of verbiage such as like, you know, man, like, you know, cool, it's so happening, it's so at this very moment so, like, groovy—The sound of a human nail dragged across the chalkboard of the psyche—
June 25, 2012: I was always taught that the Romans had a great deal of regard for the law, perhaps because it was more their purview than it was the purview of Jupiter Best and Brightest. And sometimes it seems that even with the more naked power grabs such as one reads about in their history, be it on the part of a Sulla or a J Caesar or Octavian, far from surmounting legality, and more than just appearing to have the sanction of the law, it must be the soul of legality itself. Or else those ancient historians, Appian included, simply got a kick out of putting in the mouths of their leading players so many finely reasoned arguments as to why they should go against the senate or march their legions across half the continent—I mull through the above words in light of the political spectacle to the south of here and because the Supreme Court is about to rule on healthcare legislation, even if the ruling shall pertain to so much more than the scope of a presidential proposal; it shall pertain to the very nature of existence itself. London Lunar reports that he has just seen on BBC the best J Caesar ever, and done with South African Townshipese. He quotes this passage from the play: "How many ages hence shall this our lofty scene be acted o'er, in states unborn and accents yet unknown!" The italics are definitely his. Last evening, Labrosse and I started in on Deadwood, that HBO depiction of American growing pains which London Lunar considers an artistic dud inasmuch as it fails to live up to what it seems to promise; though he says that the weaselly innkeeper (Mr Farnum, I believe he means) is a 'fool figure', purely Shakespearean. I keep expecting Wild Bill Hickock to break out into one of Hamlet's soliloquies, and failing that, to provide Schopenhauer a model for some musing pessimist. Labrosse said that he had not much of a feel for American frontier heroes such as Hickock but that his Francophone father certainly had—
June 24, 2012: Labrosse had a little story for me, last evening, at 'bratwurst'. It is a story that deserves a poem rather than the lame prose to follow. But it seems his mother loved to swim, and summertime, and she was always in the lake by the family cottage. One day, however, and in the course of her swim, she loses her wedding ring. Well, her husband winds up grilling her as to the likely path her swim took. He marks it off with stakes. For the next two months, with rowboat and shovel, he is out there. He would swim down to the lake bottom with the shovel and scoop up soil on a line consistent with the 'route' she claimed she took, and, back on the surface, sift through it all. At some point in the month of August, and he is at the dinner table, flashing the errant ring which he is wearing next to his. He is waiting for her to notice. "They were a couple," Labrosse observed, "who between them always had the warmest of affections. But talk about persistence. He was going to dig up the entire lake until he found that thing." Sounds like one of those tales out of Joseph Campbell's bag of myths by which ordinary mortals, assigned a series of tasks that they must undertake and complete, become 'individuated' heroes. Or so I was going to say, but that I bit my tongue lest the pedagogue in me interject a false note into Labrosse's reverie—It was a pleasant evening, the humidity of the past few days down to a dull roar. As Labrosse was telling his tale, auntie Flora, who had lost an item of jewellery off her necklace, looked high and low for it all over the terrasse and inside the cafe. Uncle Jamal, the rotter, could have cared less— "Eiyahhh," is what he had to say, coupled with a gesture or two at obscure deities. Even so, in Labrosse's view, auntie Flora and uncle Jamal do hold each other in warm esteem. This sort of thing seems to be very much on Labrosse's mind, of late, never mind the 'situation'. In regards to which, Tupelo advises me that an Italian told him how, in 2004, Greece won the Euro Cup and promptly went into recession. 2008, and Spain wins the cup and goes into recession. This time around, you see, the Germans simply have to win, those numbers crunching fools—
June 23, 2012: Morning. Nikas. I got it wrong, yesterday, when I said that Eddie the cook, Greek-Albanian, would be pulling for Greece over Germany, Euro Cup, 2012. No romantic, he. He was all for the German squad whose political masters are all numbers crunching. I asked Alexandra the waitress if she and Eddie were still managing to talk with one another. She thought it a legitimate question to have put to her. As in the American parlance, Germany laid a thumping on Greece. Only BBC, of the various sports venues I heard reporting on the match, remarked on the symbolism of the game, given the current economic crisis. Numbers of apparent rectitude (the German economy and banks) versus all those under the table numbers of the Greek getting-by. And yes, it would seem the BBC does do symbolism when it is not presenting the scores with a smile—In any case, it is difficult to the slam the machinery of war into reverse once that machinery gets rolling, as per Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August. Orders for mobilization are announced in Teutonland, and: Instantly converted from Marx to Mars, people cheered wildly—The Germans are making optimal use of their railways which they view as key to the winning of any war on the continent; have it timed to the nth second when the last set of axles should cross over any bridge you care to name —Even so, the Kaiser is losing his nerve, but that certain of his generals are not about to have themselves embarrassed by a stoppage of play and their Grand Design be thrown into unsightly disarray. I suppose I am laying it on a little thick. In Appian's The Civil Wars, Mark Antony and Octavian are gradually using up all their escape clauses in their slog to the inevitable. London Lunar reports that a certain individual whom he has had occasion to meet in times past, who was in a position to protect people from various hostilities, has been booted out of Syria, and that his eviction will leave a great many people to the tender mercies of the regime—
June 22, 2012: In regards to the post previous and the mention of Russia's rapid literary development and how, perhaps, it was somewhat attributable to so much madness in the national soul, if there be such a beast, I read in Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August that 'everyone in Russia was a little mad'. The quote was meant to account for the nitwits of the Russian ruling class, civilian or military, in the years leading up to WWI. Those hyper-Bourbons. I was so impressed with this particular epithet that I went and cobbled together a piece of guitar music with it for a title—Otherwise, yesterday, it was Christly hot, and I endeavoured not to move about too much, and wound up catching a part of an old Peter Sellers flick offered on TV: The Party. It almost made an important observation in light of the fact that one dislikes numbers crunchers and all the mentality that goes with such hombres and hombresses; the observation being that 'street theatre', especially of a political kind, rarely accomplishes anything more than a speaking to the converted, than an indulgence of moral ascendancy which only creates in the minds of those 'others' reason to feel smug and superior; that what is required to embarrass or even bring a 'system' down is a thorough-going misfit in that system, a fish out of water, an idiot, Parsifal, holy fool, or someone who simply cannot be corrupted by the terms of the system in question even if that someone would like to be corrupted. Indeed, such a coup cannot be planned, let alone plotted; it can only just 'happen'. Whereas the demented, drunken waiter in the flick, as hilarious as his antics are, is only funny, the Sellers character is pure mayhem, but then—Enough. The song scene in which an aspiring actress would audition for a little notice from the industry seems to wander off-key from the flick's apparent intention, the Sellers character predictably smitten by her; and yet, this fact seems to reinforce my case that the man is only a quite ordinary klutz - he is no Samson pulling down the temple; and should you say Tati to him, he would not effing know what you were on about. A new power drink? And yes, even literature has its numbers crunchers and all the horrors that go with the lot. In the evening, something like a breeze got up, and I gravitated to the 'bratwurst 'terrasse'. What of Balzac's more provincial, somewhat small of soul characters, shop owners, perhaps, who might be nice enough people but are a little embittered underneath, as if they expected the world to have owed them more? Strange what occurs to one, glam and glitz on the satellite TV in the corner of one's eye, and one's interlocutors would have you know they are cool with everything, in the loop—Morning. Nikas. Eddie the cook advises me of the upcoming Greece-Germany match. Euro Cup 2012. He attempts philosophy: "We'll see," he says, "you know, we'll see." I take from his words the inference that he would like to see Greece prevail, as would I. Let us not give numbers crunchers any more reason to gloat than they already have. I come across, in Anne Wilkinson's Collected Poems, 1968, a few poems I would not scruple to write; but it does not diminish the pleasure I get from her verses. Interesting critical dilemma. I have travelled in circles that would have her shot for what used to be perceived as so much accumulated bourgeois foofara. That such circles have basically foofara'd their own perceived greatness of mind over the years generally goes unremarked—
June 21, 2012: I neglected to mention in the post previous that the Moesian brought over Anne Wilkinson's Collected Poems, The MacMillan Company of Canada Limited, 1968, some pages of which I have sampled. What is evident from the get-go, at least in those verses I have so far read, is the clarity of line, the intelligence on the part of the poet poetic and otherwise, and the unabashed lyricism that does not cloy, and for which no apologies are required. I wonder what explains it? That is to say, are such happy results attributable to her talent alone, or is there also something generational here, something in her education that might have moved her to take greater care than would generally be the case in this particular moment? Well, I am not looking to say that the woman was some great genius and we should all hail and genuflect. But she was clearly a 'good' poet who may or may not have written and published some dogs that she might have had cause to regret. And I am not looking to speak to yet another way in which our civilization is in its death throes, but I do suspect that, with exceptions - there are always exceptions - there has been a precipitous falling off in the quality of verse that is currently produced; and perhaps, in the long scheme of things it does not much matter, just that it has always seemed to me that a people who are not starving and otherwise hard-pressed, but who do not value 'art' do not value much of anything beyond the immediate gratification of their appetites. "Why," I always ask, and I did put it to the Moesian, "did Russian literature seemingly come out of nowhere and so fast and so brilliantly, and Canadian literature, with all the help in the world - but—?" The Moesian figured it had something to do with madness in the Russian character. They were all demented loons, if passionate ones; and perhaps, just perhaps, there was a titch more generosity of a true kind in the culture that had nothing to do with I'll scratch your back and you'll do me, too, and—But this is hard to believe, seeing as there is not much in life that escapes the cold operations of quid pro quo, the wizards of our universe who have got their clutches on your money liking it that way. They call it realism. Mr Abulafia's book of history The Great Sea has gotten itself into a fairly grim patch, what with the plague decimating not only Europe but North Africa and Asia, as well; only that, hey, great news, and unlike it was at the tail-end of the Roman empire, an earlier edition of the plague doing its worst, this round of pestilence did not lead to wholesale economic melt-down. Why? Beats me. In Appian's The Civil Wars both the young Octavian and the more seasoned Mark Antony have got their knickers in a twist vis a vis one another. The relationship between them was quite plausibly represented in the HBO Rome series. Theirs was a relationship or stand-off that I instinctively understand even if I cannot articulate its particulars in so many words, perhaps because I am not overly fond of bullies who also practice art speak. I suppose that, between the two, it was an unavoidable antipathy comprised of distrust, a little jealousy and overweening pride, but that, as mean as Antony was, Octavian was a whole lot meaner, which is probably why he prevailed. A mention of leaflets (Octavian attempting to attach Antony's soldiers to his own cause) strikes a curiously modern note—
June 19, 2012: The Moesian swung by, last evening, for dinner, conversazione and wine. He had questions to ask in respect to the 'writing life' and how, for instance, to make best use of his writing time. "Ah," I said, "finally: a question I can answer. It's simple. Write." (Well, if I do not mean to kid the man here, still I cannot resist doing so.) He had not much good to say for Mr Mulcair, the new NDP head of party, just that he may be the best of a bad lot of options. And he figures that, to the south of here, people are looking for an excuse, any excuse, not to vote for Mr Obama, even if it is clear enough to that voting public what sort of operator the opposition is and that he is far from palatable scumbaggery. "Can you imagine," the Moesian put it to me, "a Romney-Harper twosome running this continent?" As warm an evening as it was, a thorough-going chill went through me. We had dined in Nikas. We had moved to the 'bratwurst' terrasse where Labrosse joined us, happy to have a twilight whiskey and a talk. A discussion was launched that would compare how Americans and Canadians go about discrediting any troublesome senior official, any so-called 'whistleblower', anyone who may have an objection or two to the prevailing daily orders. Perhaps there were no significant differences on which to remark. They do not necessarily disappear you; you are expected to disappear yourself. And it bears some resemblance to the old days of the Caesars when, if you crossed one of those august personages in any way, it was assumed you would draw a correct inference; would discreetly go and draw yourself a hot bath and open your veins; that is, if you were high enough up on the food chain. Otherwise, there were more grisly forms of death in the offing. I think it fair to say that Labrosse, no pie-eyed radical by any stretch, is increasingly disturbed by the rightward drift of things here, there and everywhere. He made his point and took his leave, pleading his case that he is an 'old man' and not quite the marathon man he used to be. Which left the field to the Moesian and I, and we took to my back porch and its vista of wonderful maples such as had nothing to do with what my guest had going in his brain just then; or that, speaking generally, of course, always generally, Canadian writers are so adept at self-censorship, and it must be that this skill is inculcated in them at birth, how else explain it? He had other choice things to say which, alas, have slipped my mind, perhaps accidentally-on-purpose. It is a fragile eco-system of writer, grant, prize, and plug, and one minds what one says, unless, one is, like myself, demented and beyond the pale. Even so, the Moesian further noted, and I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the observation, that that Harper fellow has every intention of pulling the rug out from under Literature-in-Academe (by stinting on funds); and while it might clear the air to some extent of frauds, it is also saying that the only studies worth having are those that will make money for the state-corporate nexus. What have Aristotle or Virginia Woolf done for profit margins lately? The Moesian wondered if he might not be better off as a writer living abroad, and I answered that I did not know; there are good arguments pro and con to make; just that, over the years, I have noted that some Canadian-born writers living abroad, not all of them, perhaps, but some have been penalized for doing so, and continue to pay a price for their treachery; and yet if someone on the order of a Lowry goes and writes a few paragraphs of his celebrated novel in some Dollarton shack, why, you know, and even if he had been one of those dreaded Brits, suddenly he had become one of us and we are always pleased to gloat.
June 18, 2012: I was invited to participate in a private reading, last evening. It remains to be seen whether I will be invited back. Even so, I had been curious to see how it would all pan out. There were 10 or so readers who read for roughly 5 minutes each, or until the hook was applied; who were serious without being stodgy about it; who may not have been free of 'ego' for future considerations but who were mercifully light on the over-long and elaborate introductions and CVs; and who did seem remarkably devoid of what I have been prone to call postmodernism and the attendant sham and cowardice of all that at the risk of showing myself hopelessly out of date. The quality of the poetry did not magically improve in a 'civilian' setting, but I found myself unaccountably enjoying even the awfully mawkish and ham-handed stuff; and I cannot tell you why that was. Perhaps, what was for me the novelty of the situation failed to ignite such customary Pavlovian responses to dreaded poetry readings as I generally undergo. The participants were all 'young', I the designated old fart, elder statesman of God Only Knows What, and yet I was not made to wash floors or perform other menial labours. Of course, that could change in an instant. For last evening, at least, good company. The odd 'flash' here and there of someone actually having encountered life as opposed to mangling and mutilating the thing for the sake of a grant or a book title or what some poor fool of an anarchist might have characterized once upon a time as lickspittle prize-mongering. I was pleased to inform one of the persons there in the vale of St Henri that the bad news consisted of this news: that he is, in fact, a poet, and the bad news is only going to get worse. Whether or not he will prove to be a good or a crummy or merely an indifferent poet, he is, nonetheless, a 'poet'. The mark is upon him. There is no hope of escape.
June 17, 2012: Just as some women have a horror of men who wear hats at the dinner table, I have a horror of clever, shtick-driven poetry. The programmatic, in other words. (But, to be fair, what else was Virgil doing in the Georgics but milking a theme for all he was worth?) In any case, 3 poets read, last evening, at Argo Books. The little bookstore that can, even when oppressively hot. And it was a steam-bath in the shop, poetry lovers at close quarters, the door nailed shut so as to keep Ste Catherine's somewhat at bay and to keep suitors in - no chance of escape. Like that scene in the Odyssey when Odysseus and Telemachus indulge themselves in a slaughter of their delinquent guests. Yes, I am kidding. Still, what appeared at first blush to be the least promising of the poets is probably the one who, push come to shove, is going to wind up saying something genuine one of these days, and with something like true wit. Otherwise, evolution seemed to lend the one poet a kind of validity, a respectability of intent as he flogged the fact of evolution until it was a dead horse. I did not know that jet lag could pass muster as a theme, but there it was and there you go: it mustered. Of course, one can write a poem about anything, anything at all; and that is the way it ought to be, just that, in the end, should one incline to thoughtfulness, odds are one will eventually circle back on sex, death and taxes, that sort of gamut. In the real world - is there such a place? - and the real world was the street outside and the search for a breeze - what was on the minds of most passersby out on the town was sex and success in no particular order, and failing that, who knows? homicide, other mayhem? Is poetry a world more real than the real world, again, if there is such an item? For all that, I believe I can safely observe that the more 'real' poetry tries to be the less real it gets. And the more 'unreal' it tries to be the more it succeeds in that peculiar quest. It remains a mystery to me why some poems have about them an overpowering air of inevitability, and other poems are merely forgettable. The rest of the evening at Grumpy's turned out pleasant enough, and poetry lovers at close quarters on the terrasse were treated to an on-going display of student protest, gendarmes at their rear; and a debate ensued as to whether what one took in by way of one's astonished peepers was a parody of dissent or the thing itself. It has always been a problem in human evolution: what to do with the newly rich. Where slot them in the pecking order, especially as it is quite likely they will have less than polished manners at the dinner table, having devoted all their time to a certain agenda, or the acquisition of filthy lucre?—
June 16, 2012: I sat a while, yesterday, with Labrosse on the 'bratwurst' terrasse, it being a fine afternoon for it. And to idly pass the time, I suppose, he started in about the 'situation', meaning Greece; and how the country is between a rock and a hard place no matter how it votes, tomorrow, his tone of voice indicating that Greeks are ripe to receive a great many consoling noises, poor effers. And that the Spanish are next up, to be followed by the Italians. Moreover, the impotence of the UN in conjunction with all the economic troubles here, there and in a lot of places, reminds him of the Great Depression era and the League of Nations that was a joke, though I do not think Labrosse is prepared to go so far as to characterize the present moment as 'fascist'; even if something like fascism, if not the thing itself, is unmistakably on the up tick here, there and in a lot of places. China will continue looking outward, he said, as it must, and it will wind up owning Africa, for all that other countries will start pulling in their horns—Well, could be. Here I was beginning to tune out even as I marvelled yet again as to how human perversity will always find a way to get its eureka moment. A portion of the history with which The Great Sea treats continues complicated throughout the 1200s and into the next century, so many rivalries for a trading edge; and yet, the game overall was probably less rigged than it is now, and everyone took their chances, no such animal as guaranteed profit-taking. Too many variables obtained: plain luck, right weather, right supposition and choice - or not, that is, none of the above. Free markets? In any case, I am no economist and have no business commenting on such matters; just that, as I read the book it is a little like watching a game of baseball unfold; or that, while some results are entirely predictable, others seem to stem from deep left field, as it were, out of the blue, and who would have thought that So-and-So would have such a lacklustre season?—On the one hand, I am quite prepared to admit I have no idea of what is going on in the world and have been living in profound error for years; and, on the other hand, this sense I have that everything is in full bore drift and awaits its destiny with the next immovable object in the road, whether impact takes place tomorrow or in 50 years time, is daily reinforced by the vacuous chatter I receive from the media, which it is a lot of people of all sorts of persuasions and viewpoints trying to convince themselves that they have a handle on reality and ought to be taken seriously. I note that Labrosse used to argue like that, but has been doing so much less frequently, of late, and he seems the better man for it. Otherwise, one mystery, among others, that consumes my thoughts is just how consummate a politician was Marcus Antoninus who is sometimes portrayed as not much more than a debauched hoser, if a good general, and yet, in Appian's The Civil Wars, he does come off pretty strategic to me when it comes to a game of city politics, and for all that he is generally regarded as having been outclassed in that department by the less temperamental Octavian—
June 15, 2012: The 1200s, and the Muslim grip on the Mediterranean is loosening, and the Italians (Venetians, for example, and Genoese) benefit; and Barcelona is on the rise as a major mercantile force; and the odd mystic or two is attempting to advise Jew, Christian and Muslim that, in essence, each worships the same deity. Sicily does not know whether it is coming or going, and Saladin is a man with whom to reckon, most definitely. Otherwise, the history is too complicated to paraphrase in a sentence. The Great Sea - as per Mr Abulafia, one of whose distant forebears may have been one of those mystics mentioned above—Myself, I am one of those who believe that we have been too cavalier in respect to aesthetics in general, or that we are wanting in that department; just that one can certainly go overboard in respect to the same, a shining example of a case in point: how, just prior to the hostilities of WWI, and the more enlightened French militarists could not persuade their more conservative colleagues that the wearing of bright red trousers kind of made a soldier stand out, made him more susceptible to catch a bullet. But no, can't have those horridly drab greys—On the other hand, drone warfare, and the fellows or femmes at the toggery might as well wear whatever garb each is pleased to wear, as they never have to countenance the whites of a target's eyes—Morning. Nikas. Labrosse has been lost to Francofolies that come around this time every year. It would seem the student protests did not manage to disrupt much. Miss J in the Vale considers whether to write her history of the region, her forebears part of a minor diaspora, as when certain Puritans came north out of Massachuesetts so as to get shy of the American revolution. Her research indicates that, perhaps, the offical census records of the time mislead, and that there was more, not less active human presence in the immediate area. And the mysterious dam-like structure on Jones's creek just up the creek from MH's and my cabin remains a mystery, and your Abenaki is as good a possible cause as that person's Viking or much earlier Celt. For all that, the cabin does, indeed, seem to sit on ancient ceremonial Indian ground—
June 14, 2012: I think it implausible, and I am not certain that P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator to the south of here, even regards it as a possibility, but he wrote yesterday that, perhaps, Mr Jeb Bush would wind up saving the party that his presidential brother destroyed and thereby salvage a two-party system, the one debacle of a political party dragging the other down. It has seemed to me that the Bush family, more than most families, has done a great deal to render the two-party system irrelevant to its own methodology and so, to the extent that Mr J Bush is concerned for the well-being of his party (that it has become too off the rails for a Reagan or a Nixon) may speak to something like sincerity; or he is only priming the pump for his slingshot grab at the brass ring, 2016. I queried Mr Carpenter as to his thoughts on this matter, asking him to explain himself, and he responded by saying that: "Well, it's the $64, 000 question, isn't it?" As Mr Carpenter is a man who sets pragmatism above principles, I suggested to him that, to his north, principles, as such, were not likely to get in the way of the exercise of parliamentary muscle; but as for pragmatism, or what I assume is Mr Carpenter's notion of enlightened problem-solving, it strikes me that everywhere in the western world, Iceland, perhaps, excepted, sheer madness obtains, from the pointy tip of a rotten pyramid to the squalor of its base—I quote, without comment, some bits of the prose section in Gabriel Levin's To These Dark Steps, Anvil Press, 2012: "When the man of iron beats them / the Muses sing louder." The companion piece to "The Trowel" reverses the saying "when the cannons thunder the Muses are silent", calling attention to our own covert pleasure - "with blackened eyes / they adore him like bitches" - our own coy submissiveness to the powers that be in mean-spirited times: "Their buttocks twitch with pain. / Their thighs with lust." And so forth and so on—
June 13, 2012: Morning. Nikas. I ask Alexandra the waitress about the big vote coming up in Greece. She answers that she has not much hope for Greece, that things were better when the drachma obtained. I was out in the Townships for a couple of days, cabining. At one point I had a conversation with Miss J in her kitchen. She quoted Robertson Davies as having said that the two books everyone should read were the bible and 'Shakespeare'. She put it to me that I had once said to her of the bible that the Old Testament was tribalism and the New Testament was 'me-ism'. This had set her off on a round of reading to do with the bible and ancient history. Did I recall ever making the observation to her? I did not recall, and even if I had said as much the notion was surely not original to me; I must have read it somewhere. As if to clear everything up, however, and put things in proper perspective, later that evening, there was a magnificent sky of huge stars and fireflies everywhere flitting about with Shakespearean gusto. Midsummer Night's Dream—I managed to read more deeply in Appian's The Civil Wars, but here I will only remark that the assassination of J Caesar made for an almost farcically complicated political situation such as took years to sort out; and it got sorted out to some extent, at the cost of a lot of carnage—Certain parties are attempting to nudge me into commentary on the latest Griffin Prize award. I do not pay much attention to this sort of thing. I have little to say for the particulars of the current goings-on; just that, in general, and bearing in mind there are always exceptions - as when recipient, merit and award do not exist in three separate universes - and speaking of prize-giving overall, it is more on the order of a political appointment than on the recognition of true achievement, or else it is something that is allotted as per some quota system—In any case, I am told by Tupelo that one hears foreign national poets abroad scheming as to how to get their impoverished hands on that cold Canadian cash—I have been reading Gabriel Levin's To These Dark Steps, a collection of poems, Anvil, 2012. One is struck by the evocation of the Mediterranean's deep past and then, midway through the book, the sudden and brutal irruption of the present into that illusion of serene 'timelessness'. I once tried to see the unfolding of history as a consequence of 'impersonal forces' that, once understood and properly manipulated, would redound to the improvement of the human lot; as when, on the right, one has a Schlieffen (as per Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August) writing position papers on the noble necessity of war; and then, on the left, you get a Mao going on about power stemming from the barrel of a gun. And can paradise be far away? The American hubris of the past 10 years does not strike me as all that different from that of the Germans in the lead up to WWI and their paranoia about 'encirclement'—
June 9, 2012: The nature of the conversation was such as I have not heard in a long while. Said New Neighbour to MH: "There's a difference between how rich people play and how the lumpenproles play." He was not talking downtime on some Cuban beach. He was not talking Las Vegas, Bangkok, or the Hamptons. He was talking art. How the rich play at art. How the poor play at art when they are feeling frisky. He was also thereby intimating that much of what passes for art in the 'art world' has nothing to do with art and everything to do with how gifted one might be with such skills as renders one presentable on or off camera in a media scrum or some other 'presentation' scenario. He was suggesting that the Bread and Puppet Theatre, Vermont, is the standard against which one might measure one's integrity—The conversation grew out of an earlier conversation to do with the student protests, now a full-blown crisis here in Quebec, and whether or not it is strictly a 'French' thing; but that it is now something comprised of more than just students, be those students spoiled middle-class spawn or not; but that also we were now too old for a world ginning up to keep in line and punish, if necessary, younger generations of trouble-makers. Which means, more or less, that we are free to say what we please, as who is paying us any mind, anyway?—Even so, I said that I thought a crackdown was imminent here, there and everywhere. Yes? Well, when? Soon enough. To be sure, I was being vague, and yet it is quite palpable, like a change in barometric pressure. There is this feeling that it has to come, just as what goes up will come down, as per Newton's siesta-cum epiphany. Otherwise, I did not know that 'admiral', as a word, started out in life as a Sicilian-Arabic word born of Mediterranean realities during the time of the Crusades, and that the best saffron in the world was to be had in the 'many-towered' town of San Gimignano where I have had it in my memory that I saw the great della Francesca painting of the resurrected Christ, only that it was in Sansepolcro where I fell to pieces at the sight of thing. One of a handful of paintings that has that effect on me, all of them 'ancient' works, and not all of them 'Christian'. In more modern times, only the paintings of MH, Hopper, and the odd piece by Cezanne and a few other painters whose names just now escape me, has wreaked similar devastation—
June 7, 2012: Quite apart from its veracity or lack thereof, Appian's account of the assassination of J Caesar in the senate house depicts a most unprofessional lot of assassins, all of them wildly hacking away at their target, stabbing each other in the process, something like guilt already taking hold of their minds, Caesar not yet dead; and then the subsequent unease, as if perhaps they had just committed a grievous error in judgment, wrong-footed themselves in a way that was going to dog them for the rest of their lives. As is now being considered in the curious case of the attempt in Wisconsin by the unions and their allies to recall a union-busting governor. Tactical error? Jarring juxtapositions of imagery is commonplace in our culture, but every once in a while such a juxtaposition bowls one over, perhaps because one is in a receptive frame of mind. And there I was in the metro, yesterday, waiting for the train, and before I even realized I was being idly gobsmacked, my eyes had already been fixated a while on a poster ad for Les Grand Ballets - Princesse de la Luna. A grandly golden moon was prominent in the imagery. Hard beside it: another poster ad, this one of Double Pizza with its moon-round pie, what looked to be salami and green peppers the toppings. And there is violence in this of a kind, and we like to pretend it has no consequence for us; and though I have no wish to live in a world all salon, all pristine aesthetic (as it would be a dead world), one does tire of the one thing cancelling the other out at every turn. A better balance could not hurt us. Eventually, I wound up in a fast food outlet next to the Square St Louis park, French CBC in the sound system speakers, Mozart, I supposed, and Haydn, to the accompaniment of a reek of fries and oil. A woman at rest on her bicycle beneath the boughs of a maple put me in mind of my Heidelberg childhood and how I practically lived on my bike. Long daily jaunts through the forests and farm fields. It was the spokes sparkling in the sun what done it, inciting the memory of forgotten pleasures—I was on my way to Guitar Teach and a lesson and a looming aesthetic dilemma, he beginning to suggest to me I cannot have it both ways: that John Fahey world of the guitar and all the wrong ways in which to play the instrument, and his world, or the proper way to play the thing. He saddled me with some new fiendish exercise and spoke of how much he liked being in Russia when he was there. And he had more favourable things to say for Germans than I ever dreamed was possible. Brits on a binge in places like Prague was what got his back up. Thistle reports on the rise of fascism everywhere, but that, even so, he intends to take in as much Euro 2012 as a socialist can. Whereas London Lunar speaks of how badly he has misread the current regime in Syria; that he did not think the son could prove as bad as the father, but that it is looking like the apple has not fallen far from the tree—
June 6, 2012: Labrosse was well-shod, last evening, wearing his best $600 hoofers. He had the look of a man about to engage in a little corporate raiding. Mehdi the trucker was also dressed to the 9s, his long salt and pepper hair neatly pony-tailed, jewellery gleaming, though, as he suffers from chronic pain in his 'clutch' leg, his face was set in a perpetual grimace. I managed to throw on a tie; and off we went to the funeral home to pay our respects to DW, a fair-sized crowd already gathered there. It turns out the effer had slit his wrists. Which it is a statement of sorts, and the three of us, at least, were not impervious to the implications. We had been dismayed to hear of it. DW will have had his reasons, but he was a man of spirit and fight, and he was equipped with a better than adequate sense of humour. And then, as Labrosse put it, what sort of message does his suicide leave with the grade school kids for whom he cared so much? Otherwise, I have on my mind the fact of the failure in the state of Wisconsin to recall the union-busting governor and what this may or may not signify for the country and the current presidential campaign. The failure on the part of the Democrats seems to speak to the role of money - out of state money, at that - to provide succour to bad actors, given that the governor had large amounts of it at his disposal, and it was legal, whereas his rival had not the same pleasure, as it would have been against the law. (It appears to be the case; I cannot state it as objective truth.) I have it on my mind how chilling it will prove should a certain Mr R prevail in his bid for presidential office. I have not before entertained the prospect as it would threaten what little remains to me of my sanity; and I can see why I have heretofore kept such thoughts at bay. Could be DW saw something coming; and it is something we would certainly be kicking around in conversation over a beer at 'bratwurst' were he still in the mix. Could be I am just in a mood. For all that, I am having at a bit of Spanish guitar. Very ham-handedly, of course. Just that 3 months of hammer-on and other exercises seem to be paying off, knock wood. It has been an unrealizable ambition of mine to somehow bring together the guitar notions of a John Fahey (North America) and those of another itinerant - Barrios, for instance (South America). And one of these days, I may yet write another poem, but who's to say?
June 5, 2012: J Caesar, in Appian's The Civil Wars, mops up in Spain. He is tying up the loose ends of a civil war. He is receiving the heads of enemy commanders on the wrong side of history, even if there is no such thing as the wrong side of history - there is only history; and he will hasten back to Rome so as to deal with all the loose talk there, the misunderstanding that he has wanted to be king. 'Dictator for life' will do him fine. In any case, he will lose the argument and his life; and Servilia's boy will have had a hand in it, and perhaps Caesar was the boy's father, after all. London Lunar is of the opinion that Prince Charles will never be king in the way the queen has been the queen; that this jubilee truly does mark the end of something; but that the comedians participating in the celebration have failed to crack even a few decent witticisms; that even the queen will suffer a joke or two at her expense. Mr Hedges (Pulitzer prize-winning journalist) writing for Truthdig, suggests that he is all for the student protests in these parts (Quebec), and that they are part and parcel of a larger phenomenon in the world; but that he fears the movement (and all the other movements currently underway here and there on this earth) will eventually surrender the high moral ground to more radical elements, as looks to be happening in Syria. There is every likelihood of a truly vicious civil war breaking out there. Mr Hedges considers that there is less and less time available for reasonable discussions between the authorities that be and those in dissent on matters of X, Y and Z, and there will be hell to pay. (He even goes so far as to quote Yeats in his Truthdig piece, the centre cannot hold, and all that—Goodness. I never understood how two intelligent men, poets to boot - Yeats and Pound - could believe they had found some traction in fascism, a way out of an impasse, but ever since the rise of the financiers and the clout they have in the corridors of power, and the advent of The Decider or GWB, I can at least appreciate how it is one might wish to put distance between themselves and something perceived as irretrievably rotten.) Last evening in Nikas, I sat a while with Labrosse. He told me he cannot get it out of his head: DW dying like he did, and that, in a sense, here had been a man doing battle where it matters most, dealing with the fallout of broken families under the auspices of a flawed educational system: unloved and much damaged young minds. Labrosse, for the most part, has lived his life trusting the system, inasmuch as any system can be trusted, and I am unable to blame a man for this sort of trust, especially one who, for the sake of general principles, has acted in good faith; just that the 'trust' of which he would speak is increasingly being put to severe tests. For DW the system was a perpetual obstacle to his carrying out what he saw as his task: to actually educate somebody. And for me, the system has done little to allay my skeptical nature; is always providing me with an excuse to reinvent my pessimism and worse—
June 4, 2012: I had not intended to post anything, today. Perhaps the spectacle on the Thames, the queen and her longevity trumping all her enemies, was looking to have the last word, in any case. I missed the Cornish fishermen and their sea shanties, but caught more than I might have wished of the somewhat unctuous and triumphalist Mansbridge TV coverage, even if I was not quite sure what exactly was it that was up for the extolling—But late, last evening, and I receive strange communications from Labrosse. Would I meet him in 5 minutes at Nikas? What, had he advance notice of the end of the world? So I went to see what the mystery was, saw that E was on shift and already mopping the floor so as to make a prompt get-away from the premises at the stroke of 11. Which is when she becomes a civilian again, at the head of her class. The cook was securing the kitchen. Then Labrosse showed, news of grave import on his countenance. If it was not news of the end of the world, it was bad enough: that a boon companion to what Labrosse was pleased to call AHT (or Animal House Table) some years ago, had 'passed', and before his time, at the tender age of 56. He is known in these posts as DW. He was a dedicated teacher to grade-schoolers in Montreal's toughest district, the kids all damaged goods, seriously so. He was a traveller and something of an Arabist, the love of which culture he got, so he told me, from his grandmother who was a Bostonian. He was part American, part French, part Montreal-NDGer, and one of those Quebeckers who just are not possible anywhere else in this fair nation-state, and he was very much left of centre in his politics. His family had been split apart by the Vietnam war, his father having started out a liberal and winding up as one of those right-wing survivalists on his American acres, his brother having been special ops in that war and quietly trying to live it down somewhere in New Hampshire—DW will be missed. We sat there in an empty restaurant, Labrosse and I, a couple of fatalists for the nonce, the 'news' sinking in. On the TV a sports program was reviewing the sports events of the day, and it was all beside the point. Said Labrosse: "We all of us hang by a thin thread." E then had the look on her face of what does that mean? Labrosse had a look on his face of do you mean I have to explain it? A plan was formulated whereby we would meet up at some appointed hour at the funeral home just down the street, although the other look on E's face suggested we ought not count on her presence. After all, she hardly knew the guy—
June 3, 2012: Live long enough, and history is irony. There was a time, as written up by Mr Abulafia in his book The Great Sea, when Muslim prosperity floated Jewish boats; when Jewish intellectual life was having something of a Golden Age in the person of Maimonides, for instance; when Christianity, as such, was not doing Jewry any particular favours. Otherwise, my morning reading of quasi-journalistic venues continues depressing; and even if I can contrive all sorts of ways of challenging the validity of much of what I read, the where there's smoke there's fire sort of truth is ominous enough. For it looks like we are busy re-inventing all kinds of piratical behaviour; availing ourselves of the equivalencies of Viking raids; finding swashbuckling cachet in special ops; and all of it will bring about real death in real people, and not just in remote corners of the world. But enough, or I shall have to upload myself as some sort of prophetic video into the NeverNeverLand of what some are pleased to call virtual reality. London Lunar goes on about the helicopters in the skies of London, the queen on her barge, the Thames the Nile, and that it is likely to be the last such spectacle ever, the ducks, in any case, thinking what the f—k?; that some kind of austerity not an attempt by financiers to commandeer the resources of the state will preclude any further outbreaks of quaint pageantry. MH, a woman rarely given to verbal excess, described to me her nightmare scenario, yesterday afternoon; and it consisted of people everywhere completely subsumed by their political grievances and passions at the expense of reason; and, as I have intimated in a previous post, I never figured I would find myself defending 'reason' inasmuch as I have seen over and over what carnage the rational mind is capable of unleashing; that it is only the odd spell now and then of un-reason that lets one see how it is life is, in fact, pretty much an organic whole—But enough of that, too. We are wary of mysticism because it is so easily cheapened by those who think some random disturbance of a stray nerve-ending is a religious experience. We only do gossip here. We have a horror of oracles. We do not pretend to better anyone's thinking with the latest buzz as would pass itself off as a breakthrough in some arena of the intellect—Of madness there were two kinds; one produced by human infirmity, the other . . . a divine release of the soul from the yoke of custom and convention—words that Plato had Socrates speak in Phaedrus. And then, Augustine in his City of God: Every man prefers to grieve in a sane mind, rather than to be glad in madness—I do not think the man saw us coming—
June 2, 2012: MH, who does not often praise, yesterday had her 'thumbs up' for the writer Clark Blaise. What she seems to like about his writing is the intimacy he is capable of establishing between himself and the reader. Easy to say, hard to do, and perhaps it is one of those things with which one is born, that is not workshoppable. Myself, I do not know whether to regard the man as a Canadian or an American writer or none of the above. Perhaps, somewhere, a departmental chair has been organized so as to treat with this sort of thing. Otherwise MH spoke of student protests and dirty tricks and grisly murders (local) and the lettuce season out there in the Townships, all in pretty much a single breath, following the various paths her reasoning takes one of my pleasures in life. P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator to the south of here, keeps banging the same drum - slowly, sometimes, sometimes with tempo: the Republicans, the Republicans, the Republicans. They are the besetting problem. Buckley must be turning over in his sanctified grave. The ghost of Burke must somewhere be pining for a little materiality, as he would know what to do with it. Even Marx, starched collar and all, might have recourse to the epithet bonehead. I have had little to say for Mr Abulafia's The Great Sea, A Human History of the Mediterranean (as opposed to a history of lichen); just that he paints a pretty picture of the flow of goods around the Roman lake, now a Muslim lake, getting to be rather Frankish; how Muslim and Christian, when they were not at each other's throats, got on well enough; that one preferred a Genoese pilot when it came to a sea voyage; but that, should you die en route, the pilot had first dibs on all your earthly possessions. How I regard music, always a large part of my life, as I am sure is the case for you, has, nonetheless, undergone a sea change. On the guitar one keeps plunking away at a rather structurally simple song - like Rev. Gary Davis's Candy Man, for instance. One, until the giggles set in, finds oneself appertaining to the cosmic drift about one; as much so as when one is being washed over by Bach or one of Mahler's more listenable passages, a symbolist's rose one's reward for hanging in there. One discovers in oneself a penchant for tone poems. One is in deep trouble. One had thought to have left a lot of such party favour metaphysics behind with Beatnik poetry. How Corso managed to get himself buried in the Protestant Cemetery (Rome) beats me—
June 1, 2012: P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator to the south of here, is so exasperated with things he has taken to stealing from Aristophanes (Cloud Cuckoo-Land and all that good stuff) in order to loan to Bozo the Clown or the Joker or Alfred E Neuman-Newman each their two cents of air time for the pleasure of remarking on the on-going insanities. And I had thought I would never see the day when I would begin to plead reason's case, being a poet and all, best leave reason to the heavy hitters of the intelligentsia-types high on tenure—And we have not even gotten around to drone surveillance and drone war and just how creepy any of that imperial shadow is, above and beyond the fray that is a culture war and an election campaign in your neighbourhood. Someone is going to fling realism in my face and enjoin me to cease and desist from my romanticism, or that drones are cheaper than hand to hand combat and besides, we do love our gadgets. They help us to flatter ourselves. Just that the more powerful we believe they make us, the more we surrender our autonomy to a plug. You mean I am mistaken in this and the plug is forever, ubiquitous? There were a number of things I intended to go on about, but intellectual coherence was beyond me yesterday and the day before, and will be again tomorrow. Moreover, I am unable to resist boiling down all that gist piling up to a single-worded conclusion, or - as ever - doom. The only way it is not doom; the only way to put a happy spin on what looks to be panning out is if one simply refrains from placing any further value on a notion of justice and equality before the law; on any sort of sane relationship with the land and its other critturs (you know, nature); and perhaps you might not want to get me started on aesthetics and the arts, one's attitudes toward which is always a fairly decent indication of where one is politically and spiritually. Spiritual suicide is a parlour sport. Always has been; always will be. It has not necessarily meant the end of the species (though it might, some day); but it does suggest that we will, at long last, realize a cherished dream, or that we will be just one weed, among others, on this planet, but with less ability to tell ourselves amusing tales of what our weed-dom signifies, and what those other weeds are up to, all the while predator weeds keep us in line until time for them to harvest us. I suppose I am trying to say that a collective lobotomy is not the best way of solving the dilemma that having the sort of brains we have poses for us, or that nothing kills like success. Had a go at Leadbelly's Gallis Pole, yesterday, on the 12 string. Cannot persuade my thumb to move as that man had his moving. Even so, as I sang the verses over and over that are centuries old, it seemed to me I was beginning to inhabit a universal truth - to the extent that there is any such thing: friends, did you bring me silver / friends, did you bring me gold / to keep me from the gallows' pole—London Lunar is appalled to discover that, in some instances, should you wish to get published, you need to pony up and pay the publisher for the perk to your CV. In any case, so it is being said now, Andromeda the galaxy will eventually swallow up the home front - or the Milky Way. Any bets that it would make one jot of difference to what obtains, say, in Palestine?