Monday, January 31, 2011

Reading Notes

Graham Harman's Circus Philosophicus is one of the most interesting books of philosophy I've read in some time. Each chapter develops a different myth to illuminate the author's object-oriented philosophy.

The first chapter describes a ferris wheel which is miles in diameter. It carries many, many objects far above the earth and far beneath it. Relations are established between its occupants and its observers.

In chapter two: a bridge from which things are dropped and a series of "show trials" of pre-Socratic philosophers.

In chapter three: calliope as animalcule --circus music does Leibnizian metaphysics.

Fourth chapter: offshore drilling rig as reductive deity.

Chapter 5: a haunted boat in the waters near Hiroshima "is the basis not only of aesthetic experience, but of physical causation as well..."

Final chapter: "a theory of relationless entities" under the sign of a sleeping zebra.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

"All real objects of every size now have the power to interact with all other things, at the price of turning them into images. The entire cosmos is in fact a dystopia filled with trillions of miniature deities, each of them a platform in a hurricane-infested gulf."

--Graham Harman, from Circus Philosophicus (Zero Books, 2010)



I'm packed into a murmuring crowd of people somewhere, perhaps a bar queue. Someone cops a lingering feel/grope of my ass. It is an arousing experience. I turn to find myself alone in a cavernous room, staring at my reflection in a mirror.


Friday, January 28, 2011


I am
putatively male

-- an inverse
universe of representations
and alibis --

a symbolic entity.

Just sayin'...

In the full
-length mirror

I don't feel

as naked
as I appear.

is insufficient.

It's the little
deaths which
presage resurrection.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"Thus we must stress that the Nietzschean 'neutrality of life' is not some wide, blossoming meadow in which, so to speak, every cow is black, and we can joyfully jump around in any direction we please. It looks much more like the edge of a sheet of paper, separating and, at the same time, holding together the two surfaces. This neutrality is not some kind of grounding or basis, the background of differences and distinctions; it is located in the very midst of these distinctions as the stuff from which these distinctions are made -- meaning that it exists only as an edge. This is also why the points of breaking, rapture, or crisis are often the points where, one could say, this 'stuff' becomes visible, perceptible. And, of course, it is also why anyone who wants to be up to (the task of) this 'middle' has to have the skill, concentration, strength, and light, nimble ease of a tightrope walker."

--Alenka Zupancic, from The Shortest Shadow
Early this morning I drove 60 plus miles West of Kent to visit Jessica Grim in Oberlin, Ohio. We met at a coffee house and spent a few hours talking. Jessica and I, these days, tend to only see one another once or twice a year. But when we get together it's not awkward; we seamlessly pick up where we left off. Our conversations are ranging, punctuated with laughter, and invariably leave me feeling a little better about the world.I've known her since she first moved to Ohio from NYC over 20 years ago. She's my one true poet friend in Ohio. But's she's much more than that: she's truly a good friend in a grander sense. I don't think there is much that we couldn't talk about with each other.


My youngest daughter, Claire, turns 27 on Monday. Geeze. Jessica reminded me of a visit to our house when Claire was little. Jessica said, on that particular occasion, Claire was convinced that she could teach her pet guinea pig to talk. I didn't remember that, but I do have fond memories of when Claire used to put that same guinea pig in her pink Barbie Corvette and tool it around the living room.


The Ask/Tell blog is going to take awhile to get off the ground, but feelers are going out in multiple directions and I'm confident that by and by the work will get done. In the meantime, I need to return to some unresolved texts of my own which I've been neglecting. Onward!


Friday, January 21, 2011


Maria Damon has kindly volunteered to co-curate ASK/TELL.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Just Sent This As An E-mail, Now I'm Sending It To All Of You Whose E-addresses I'm Too Lazy To Look For Now

Dear Friend of Poetry, Dear Lover of the Arts of Engagement:

I’m starting a new blog of interviews/exchanges/engagements. You may recall my earlier outing with E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S (, a site which presented in-depth interviews with contemporary innovative poets.
The new blog, ASK/TELL ( ,hopes to build and expand upon that previous project by encouraging exchanges about poetics and the poetics of experience in a variety of formats. I am particularly interested in cross-disciplinary conversations/exchanges. Imagine a poet and a philosopher talking. Or a poet and an ecologist. Imagine exchanges that stretch what it means to interrogate reality. Imagine exchanges which change the ways in which we think about poetics. I’m looking for work that takes some risks.

I’m open to proposals for projects and I’m interested in taking on a motivated co-curator.

Hoping to hear from you soon.

Tom Beckett

PS: Please feel free to circulate this message.
I've deleted ANDSWERVING, the blog in which I was attempting answers to "Questions at Ohio State." The piece wasn't working. So it goes.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I've gotten sidetracked from other projects by a new poem that I'm 5 pages into so far with no end in sight.


I'm cooking a stew now, sipping wine, listening to music, flipping back and forth between a few books and making notes.


If you haven't ordered a copy of The Wide Road by Carla Harryman and Lyn Hejinian from Belladonna yet, what are you waiting for? It's a freaking gorgeous picaresque adventure. Here's a taste:

"This was our dream: We are standing, we see ourself do this, ankle-
deep on a vast beach of irridescent pearl sand over which a sheet
of shining water lies motionless, like a vast and penetrable mirror
tilted very slightly toward the sea. We look down into the water
and see reflected there what's between our legs. Reluctant to
distort the perfect view of what is otherwise so difficult to see, we
lean forward. Slowly we sink closer, down into the cold water and
the warm sand below, to suck up the pink and dark object of our
study, until the water hangs around our thighs. People on the beach
can see us from what would be distance except for a quiver in the
air that has flattened and immobilized both near and far in a single
plane of diffuse light. A scent before our eyes. We inhale as a large
wave washes the rosy shell away."

Isn't that marvelous. It's an incredible collaboration by two of our best innovative poets.

"The whole difficulty lies in the question of if and how it is possible to say 'No' to this suffocating Superego imperative of enjoyment. Here we could recall the joke about John, who decides
to pay a visit to a psychiatrist because he wets his bed every night. He explains to the doctor that every night, a dwarf appears in his dream, saying to him: 'And now, dear John, we are going to pee.' And John duly pees in his bed. The psychiatrist advises him to respond to the dwarf's invitation with a determined 'NO!' John goes home, but returns the next day. 'I followed your advice,' he says to the doctor. 'When the dwarf appeared, and encouraged me to pee, I firmly said NO! But then the dwarf replied: Very well then, in that case, we are going to shit.'"

--Alenka Zupancic, from The Shortest Shadow: Nietzsche's Philosophy of the Two

Saturday, January 15, 2011


is a kind

of poison.

Fuck templates.

Fuck stencils.

Fuck me.

(The always misunderstood

grammars of personhood.)

Every thing's

a question.

What can

be known?

Who wants

to know?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Singers count

to find

their points

of entry.
What I'm reading now:

Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage by Kenneth Silverman. Thoroughly enjoying this. A nice feature is that key musical tracks discussed in the book can be listened to at the publisher's website:

The Passages of H.M. by Jay Parini. This is a lovely novel about the life of Herman Melville.

The Shortest Shadow: Nietzsche's Philosophy of the Two by Alenka Zupancic. "...Freud was startled to realize that the intruder was his own reflection displayed in the mirror hanging on the open door. Freud emphasizes that he thoroughly disliked the appearance of this man in front of him, and that, rather than being frightened by this 'double,' he failed to recognize it as such. And if he finally realized that he was looking at himself, it was not on account of the image he saw in front of him, on account of noticing the resemblance and recognizing it; he identified the elderly man as himself only because he realized that there was a mirror attached to the door."

Correspondence Course: An Epistolary History of Carolee Schneemann and Her Circle edited by Kristine Stiles.


What I'm thinking about now:

Possible retirement in the coming year and significantly reduced economic circumstances. Much about my job is becoming untenable. Come June 1 I'll have been with the Department for thirty-four years. I'm close to having reached my physical and emotional limits.

Wondering what I still have in me to write. Wondering if the time left to me will be adequate to do that work. Wondering if I am adequate to the task.


What I've been feeling lately:

Pretty depressed, for a variety of reasons. Bright spots: Crag Hill's and Rebecca Loudon's brilliant interactions with my question piece; and, of course, music, and books.


What I've been listening to lately:

John Cage (particularly his 1958 25-Year Retrospective Concert at Town Hall, New York),

Mavis Staples (with Jeff Tweedy)

Norah Jones' new CD of duets. I particularly love her version of Baby It's Cold Outside with Willie Nelson

Sheryl Crow

Keith Jarrett

Buddy Guy

Rolling Stones


B.B. King

Robert Randolph and the Family Band

Booker Ervin


What I'm sipping now:



Friday, January 7, 2011

I'm thinking about, making notes toward, sending out a mass e-mail/announcement about the new interview blog, trying to clarify the involvements I'm hoping for. Sigh. I'm looking for serendipitous engagements, looking to get lucky...


I'm working, too, at gradually expanding my responses at ANDSWERVING.


I took this afternoon off because of:

( a) a spiritual deficit related to my job

(b) being a slacker

(c) a desire to create engaging art

(d) none or all of the above



Sunday, January 2, 2011

We saw Black Swan yesterday. Loved it. Still a little haunted by it, too. It's a great study in the othering that art is.