Thursday, November 29, 2012

I don't think the spouse is too pleased with my having acquired the new guitar.  It doesn't quite fit with the poet nerd thing cultivated over the last 37 years or so (I know).  I'm not trying to be a "guitar hero".  It's more a matter of trying to do a little bit of something I never thought I could do.

I like the acoustic guitar.  I love how the electric sustains the notes--the extension of sound.

Here's what the new axe looks like.  It's cheap, but sweet like me.

New from Otoliths!

Now out from Otoliths

Márton Koppány
7.5" x 7.5"
56 pages, full color
Otoliths, 2012
ISBN: 978- 0-9872010-6-5
$24.95 + p&h

Guitar Shorty?

My acoustic guitar now has a shorter, brasher sibling.  Today I followed a classified ad down a country road to a Hofner shorty travel guitar and a Fender Frontman 15 B amp and purchased both used for what seemed to be a reasonable price.  Then I went to a music store I haven't been to before and bought a guitar cable and some more picks.

I called the spouse at work to tell her about something she received in the mail--roses from our daughter and her husband--and said "By the way, I bought myself an early Christmas present today..."

Her response?  "Am I going to need ear plugs?"

"Yeah," I said, "I bought that electric guitar I saw in the paper."

Her response?  "Oh, shit."

So far I haven't done much more than tune it and noodle a little.

When I was at the music store I discussed guitar lessons with the owner.  He was very nice and I'm thinking about it.  Trying to decide if I can afford $80 a month.  I've been spending money lately as if I have it to spend.

Stay tuned. (Now when I use that expression I have a whole different appreciation for what it means.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The spouse will be returning tomorrow.  I miss her intelligence, warmth and love, but I'm glad she was there for our daughter and her new child.  Especially because of her intelligence, warmth and love.

I had a couple of good guitar moments today.  I was experimenting with using my index finger as a slide and improvising with the plectrum--strumming and hitting notes.  I got to a different, freer place.

Was lonely this afternoon so walked downtown for a snack--calamari and wine.  Had a good conversation with the restaurant owner, one of his managers, a bartender and a waitperson.  Reminisced a bit.  This is a place I've been in and out of for 40 years.  It felt good.

I've been getting too isolated lately.  Not getting out enough, not talking to people enough.  It's a problem.  I can see it.

I'm slowly adding to Appearances.  I can't help but wonder what David Bromige would have made of this manuscript.  He always had a penchant for showing the mechanics behind a piece, revealing the Wizard behind the curtain, going meta but with a wink.

As I get older and come to understand that my work is probably going to be lost when I'm gone, I vacillate between  extremes of emotion.

Between is the keyword of the day.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Earlier this afternoon I walked a little over a mile in the cold.  I was wearing my scuffed leather jacket, ripped jeans and a cap that my youngest daughter knitted for me a couple of years ago.   It was good to be out and moving.  Moving briskly against a brisk wind.

I'm almost finished reading Neil Young's memoir Waging Serious Peace.  It's a loopy book.  I mean that in the best sense.  It meanders as conversation does, as anecdotes and memories do.  I like that Neil actually wrote it himself, that it wasn't ghosted (though it is obviously haunted).  It has all the perfections and imperfections of an intimate conversation with a friend.

As I am writing this I am listening to Young sing 4 Dead in Ohio.  It is, of course, a song about events that happened in the town I've lived in for the last 40 years.  Watching Neil Young's Journeys, Jonathan Demme's documentary about Young's solo concert in Ontario, I sob like a baby when he does this song--especially in the parts paired with May 4th footage.

I haven't been able to make progress with Appearances for weeks.  Finally today I had an insight that allowed me to go back and make some changes and also to begin a new section.  My plan at the beginning of the year had been to have a rough draft by the end of the year.  If I'm lucky I'll have at least half of a rough draft by the end of the year.  If I'm lucky.

James Joyce spent twenty years working on Finnegan's Wake.  I need to think about that level of commitment.  Except that I don't think I'm going to live that long.  And except that I know I'm no James Joyce.

Who and what am I?  Too late to ask 8 months away from 60?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A constellation
Of keywords
Comes between
Us, comes
Between me
And you.

And all
Around the
Words between
Us are
Other words
Out of
Reach and
Not available
For use.

Words are
What are
In or
Out of
Reach of
A you’s
Or an
I’s use.

It may
Be that
Use is
The least
Of what
Words are.

It may
Be that
You and
I are
Only of
Use to
One another
When keywords
Fall away.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The spouse is on the East coast with my daughter and the new baby.  I'm in Ohio holding down the home front.

Yesterday the weather was beautiful.  Today it's cold and there are predictions of snow showers later this evening and for the next few days.

When I haven't been doing family related things or household chores I've been reading or practicing guitar.

Writing doesn't seem possible lately.  I have less and less the sense that there is an audience for the work I want to do.

"Everything is
not connected"

but any
thing is

connected to
some other

thing, is
it not?

I had Thanksgiving dinner with my youngest daughter and her family.  It was a nice visit, but I'm allergic to animal dander so am suffering a bit today.

I enjoyed interacting with my two grandsons.  The older one, Andy (he's 6), asked me how time was invented.  What a great question.  I responded that it probably came about when people observed that different things happened at different parts of the day--that it got light and dark-- and that there are seasons. Andy said "Oh, but how do you make a clock?'

I had to respond that I didn't know.  What I probably should have said is that he should ask his father who is a mechanical engineer.

Hmm.  I like questions.  Sometimes kids ask the best ones.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I am the father of two daughters.  This morning my oldest daughter gave birth to her first child, a girl.

A few moments ago I finished reading Kate Zambreno's Heroines.  It's a fierce and inspiring book.

So girls are on my mind.

I am not writing my daughter or her baby's name and particulars because that is my daughter's desire.  She wishes privacy in these matters.

Zambreno's Heroines is about writing the mess of personhood, about making the private public.  I think it is a book which will find a large audience over the course of time.  Its sincerity and grace are undeniable.  It's a book which is particularly addressed to women but which I truly hope men will read because I think it has a lot to say to us.

In flipping back and forth between notes about my daughter and KZ I'm not making comparisons.  I fiercely love my daughter and her baby melts my heart.  My daughter, by the way, is a genius in her own way.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed."

This morning I found this Chesterton passage in Zizek's Less Than Nothing:

"Truths turn into dogmas the instant that they are disputed.  Thus every man who utters a doubt defines a religion.  And the scepticism of our time does not really destroy the beliefs, rather it creates them; gives them their limits and their plain and defiant shape.  We who are Liberals once held Liberalism lightly as a truism.  Now it has been disputed, and we hold it fiercely as a faith.  We who believe in patriotism once thought patriotism to be reasonable, and thought little more about it.  Now we know it to be unreasonable, and know it to be right.  We who are Christians never knew the great philosophic common sense which inheres in that mystery until the anti-Christian writers pointed it out to us.  The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied.  Everything will become a creed.  It is a reasonable position to deny the stones in the street; it will be a religious dogma to assert them."

That bit was from G.K. Chesterton's Heretics (John Lane, 1905).  It has great explanatory force in today's political environment, no?


My wish for the world is that we spend less time trying to be right and more time practicing kindness.  Crazy, eh?

That being said, sometimes it is important to say no.  To say it emphatically, even.  But that, too, can be an act of kindness on occasion.  Be kind.  But don't be stupid.


I bought the new volume of David Foster Wallace essays, Both Flesh and Not.  It was an extravagant purchase to the extent that I only wanted it for one of the essays, "The Empty Plenum: David Markson's Wittgenstein's Mistress."  Markson is a writer that I love.  As is Wittgenstein.  I was curious to see how the amped and wordy Wallace would approach both Markson and Ludwig W.  Truth  be told, he connects everything up brilliantly.  Hopefully I'll post something more about it at some point.  Fascinating to me how philosophy, fiction and poetry bleed into one another at times.


It's been awhile since I've read a lot of the writers discussed, evoked and transfigured in Kate Zambreno's Heroines.  I'm thinking of Jane Bowles, Henry Miller, Kate Chopin,Bataille, Laure, Plath, Sexton,Anais Nin, Jean Rhys, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald,Breton and his Nadja,  Flaubert and his Bovary and many more.  (I'm highlighting figures I have a particular history with. There are a lot more that come into play in this wonderful book.)  KZ's making me want to re-read it all and I can't.  I have too much else I need to do at the moment, before I run out of time. But...

The work Zambreno's doing is essential. And very moving to me.  She's found a way to make "the wives" of modernism present and for them to speak through her almost parallel existence.  It's an intensely realized tightrope walk through many genres in which the real and the virtual are deeply intertwined.  I love this book.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

In today's mail: Derrida: A Biography by Benoit Peeters  (Polity Press, 2012)   I'm anxious to read it.


I'm not writing lately but my mind is reeling in a number of directions.  I'm reading like a mad man.


My guitar work is stalled at the moment.  I have six notes down pretty well but I'm having difficulty understanding some musical concepts on my own. And the only way I can play accurately is to play slowly.  So, I hit notes but am not doing tempo/rhythm.  I am learning, but very slowly indeed.  I've only nibbled at chords.  They intimidate me so far.


 I truly don't understand "certainty".  Doubt enters into everything for me.  I have principles.  There are places I won't go; but reality is porous and sometimes decisions must be made from among an array of grays.  One just often doesn't know enough about anything.

If I could promote one principle above any other it would be curiosity.  If I ask you a question, it is because I really want to know what you think.  And, I think, that is a path that matters.


I'm a rather unglamorous person.  No one is clamoring to have me read for them or much of anything else.  Still, I plan to continue until I no longer can.

Am loving this footnote in Zizek's Less than Nothing:

"The ideological aspect of ecology should also be denounced in relation to architecture.  Architecture should be in harmony with its natural environment?  But architecture is by definition anti-nature, an act of delimitation against nature: one draws a line separating inside from outside, clearly stating to nature: 'Stay outside!  The inside is a domain from which you are excluded!'--the Inside is a de-naturalized space to be filled with artifacts.  The effort to harmonize architecture with the rhythms of nature is a secondary phenomenon, an attempt to obliterate the traces of the original founding crime."  (373)

Just finished reading this fascinating book, The Fate of Rural Hell: Asceticism and Desire in Buddhist Thailand by Benedict Anderson (Seagull Books, 2012).  It's about an extraordinary sculpture garden at a huge temple complex called Wat Phai Rong Wua in rural Thailand.

The sculpture garden attempts to portray what hell is like.  It features an assortment of naked figures being tortured for their sins.  Typically there is explanatory writing on the figure. On the belly of the figure depicted above, an inscription reads:  "He did not fear sin."

The images are all life size or larger.  Often disturbing.  Sometimes erotic.  This site shows a number of images from the temple.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"...content is always content for some entity.  Normally we do not notice this in our own lives, since we take ourselves for granted and assume that merely by opening our eyes we see everything exactly as it is.  We are normally unaware of the contortions imposed on the things by our own limitations and even our own gifts.  For this reason, we do not usually experience the tension between ourselves and our experiences, any more than we usually notice the tension between an apple and its real or sensual qualities.  For this to happen, we need to endure a breakdown of the usual situation in which perceptions and meanings simply lie before us as obvious facts, or in which we stalk through life in quasi-robotic union with the empty words we utter and the learned habitual gestures that have come to seem like natural extensions of ourselves."

--Graham Harman, Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy (258)

Philosophy and poetics combine in the above passage in ways that are of deep interest to me.  Poetry writing at its best is very often a deep disordering of the "usual situation in which perceptions and meanings lie before us as obvious facts."  That Rimbaud called for a disordering of the senses, that Coolidge, Mac Low and Cage embraced aleatory methods, that Charles Bernstein and so many other innovative writers have engaged in homophonic translations, only serves to underscore the point.

The real is never well-served by paraphrase.  The real is always being reinvented.

Monday, November 12, 2012

" is
the negative
that wears
the trousers."
--J.L. Austin, Sense and Sensibilia


I am wanting
dress and address.


"Location, location, location"
is repeated
often in my poetry.


An argument happens
in a spot
is spreading.


This is
what it will
never be.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Beautiful sunny day in the low 50’s.  Went for a long walk this afternoon.  Inspite of my sore knee, tight hamstring.  Resisted the urge for some fried crawfish.  Now wish that I hadn’t.  The Cuyahoga is swollen and running fast.  My friend the heron wasn’t out.  I miss it.  Look for it whenever I’m by the river.
Earlier today I read a review of a biography of  Ferdinand de Saussure in the new London Review of Books (Saussure by John Joseph).  It’s sounds like a good book.
I’m really interested in intellectual history. Sometimes ideas aren’t as interesting to me, in themselves, as how they came about.  Which has something to do, I suppose, with why I have a fascination with interviews and poetics, politics and collage.
 Slow progress with the guitar.  I’m learning to play notes, but…
Guitar and piano are the instruments which most particularly haunt me.  Oh, I love other instruments  too—Miles’ trumpet, Coltrane’s sax, Trombone Shorty’s , uhh, trombone, innumerable violins and drums, and on and on… but there’s something about Monk’s and Jarrett’s pianos piecing their ways through various partings and parsings which never fails to move me.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

“…madness: its most succinct definition is that of a direct harmony between universality and its accidents, of a cancellation of the gap that separates the two—for the madman, the object which is his impossible stand-in within objectal reality loses its virtual character and becomes a fully integral part of that reality.  In contrast to madness, habit avoids this trap of direct identification thanks to its virtual character: the subject’s identification with a habit is not a direct identification with some positive feature, but an identification with a disposition, with a virtuality.  Habit is the outcome of a struggle for hegemony: it is an accident elevated to an ‘essence,’ to universal necessity, made to fill in its empty place.”

Zizek, from Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (358)

This bit from Z. resonates.  My ongoing, currently stuck, project (Appearances: A Novel in 365 Fragments) is very much about the Virtual and the Real.  In fact, the Virtual and the Real are both characters in that wannabe book.  In Appearances, phenomena and noumena dance together in public.  And a recurring iteration of a Chalk Outline character makes orphic pronouncements in fulfillment of Vaudeville without Organs' collective dreams.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Speaking of the President, I really love this In Performance at the White House blues concert.  Check it out. It has some stellar moments.

U.S. political culture is an increasingly schizy thing.  Part of the divide is along religious and secular lines.  Part of the divide is along male and female lines.  Part of the divide is along North/South, East/West  lines.  Part of the divide is along social and economic status lines.  Part of the divide is decidedly racial.

It cracks me up that the right has characterized Obama as a socialist demon.  He's a pragmatic left-leaning centrist.  For me he's not progressive enough, but he's certainly a good man who is trying to take this complicated, sprawling country into a better future.  And he's certainly navigating an incredible series of obstacles which are daunting at best.

I wish President Obama well, but I have few illusions.  The next 4 years are going to be rocky.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Page: 1
Of 1.
Words: 0.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Vote on Tuesday!

(click on image to enlarge)

Friday, November 2, 2012

This morning a couple of links were added to the Sonny Rae Tempest interview at Ask/Tell.  In the comment  section of the post just below this one, John Bloomberg-Rissman has also provided a link to an interesting Sonny Rae Tempest collaboration with Chris Funkhauser.


I've been in a funk this week.  Writing's not going well.  And I seem to have hit a wall with the guitar.


I like the interviews that have been posted to Ask/Tell so far.  But I'm disappointed that more interviews haven't been completed.  The premise of the site is to try and encourage cross-disciplinary conversations.  I'd welcome proposals.  I'm looking for in-depth, serious interviews. Not monologues.

The interviews I did with Graham Harman and Tim Morton turned out well, but I've had a number of attempts with others which didn't come to fruition.  Such is the nature of the beast I guess.

But, again, I'd welcome suggestions, proposals.  I want to think outside my usual parameters with people I might not otherwise have the opportunity to communicate with.  And I want others to do the same.

Think about stretching yourself in the direction of doing an interview for Ask/Tell.

Ask not what you can do for yourself.  Get others to tell you what they know.


Thursday, November 1, 2012