Thursday, February 28, 2013

"One of the striking novelties of quantum theory is the notion of entanglement.  When two distinct particles enter into a state of quantum entanglement, they lose their individual identities and act as a unified system.  Any change to one of them will immediately be felt by the other, even if they are light-years apart.There is nothing analogous to this in classical physics.  When quantum entanglement occurs, the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts.  This is so radically at odds with our everyday way of viewing the world that Einstein himself pronounced it 'spooky.'"

--Jim Holt, Why Does the World Exist: An Existential Detective Story  (195)

What I kept thinking about after reading this passage is how the "notion of entanglement" could serve as a standard for artistic collaboration--a collaboration, that is, succeeds to the extent that the participants' work becomes entangled.  The more thoroughgoing the entanglement, the more successful the work.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

4 posts, I think, below this one the inimitable Jim McCrary posted the following in the comment section:

"I cannot think about my poetics. If I do I destroy it. The only way I seem to be able to 'protect' what I write is to 'forget' about it. Could that be what makes me so bitter? But but seems the difficulties (sorry about that) are what keep me going. Out."
As the putative author of a selected poems called Unprotected Texts I can't not respond to Jim's lucid remark.  

But how to respond?

I don't think we all have to feel the same way about writing.  I don't believe that poetry is one immutable thing.  

For myself, poetry and poetics are so deeply intertwined that it makes no sense to pretend otherwise.  That being said, that's not to say that there isn't a lot of fuzzy feedback in between the two or twelve of them.

And that's one of the difficulties for me, Jim.

I can't not question what I'm doing.  I can't not think about all the ways I'm not getting things right.  

"To be is to be the value of a variable."
--Willard Van Orman Quine

Impossible Objects

Impossible Objects

What does
A mirror
Projected in-
To one.


What if
There's nothing
Nothing behind


What is
To whom
Can the
Mirror confide?


What is
The name
The Subject?
What in
The world?


Shadows shout
At a
Mirror in
A cave.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I've been thinking about the comments(3 of them so far) attached to  my previous post.  I'm hoping for more.

My sense of poetry as an innovative art is that it is epistemologically driven.  What one learns through the practice of art often can't be learned any other way.  Poetry as practice oscillates between science and religion (or, in my case, philosophy).  One writes to find what one can.  One writes to find out what one can do.  One writes to surprise oneself.

Limits run through everyone, everything.  I've often been dismayed by what I've done or didn't do.


Wittgenstein was the great philosopher of limits.  "The limits of my language," etc.  He was hugely preoccupied with his inability to attain certainty.

I am certain of my uncertainty. I'm unsure of my ontological status.

I'm sometimes curtains ruffled by the wind, sometimes currants being eaten by a monkey.

Whatever writing I do may only matter to me.

Monday, February 25, 2013

I'm thinking about Alan Turing's famous remark: "Science is a differential equation.  Religion is a boundary condition."  If one accepts those statements then a kind of continuum is created.  Where does poetry come into the picture?  Please talk about this among yourselves and let me know what you think.  If you feel like it.

I, for one, have often thought that poetry is nothing but a preoccupation with limits.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Listening to Keb' Mo' and not thinking about the writing projects I'm not working on and the guitar I'm not wrestling with.  Happy to be listening to Keb' Mo'.  Happy that I just read the first couple of poems in Rae Armantrout's new book Just Saying.  

This morning I printed out a copy of Punti Evanescenti di Somiglianza, Anny Ballardini's translation into Italian of my chapbook Vanishing Points of Resemblance (VPoR).

VPoR was originally published by John Byrum's Generator Press in 2004.  Later it was included in my selected poems: Unprotected Texts.

VPoR  was an absolutely pivotal text for me.  The writing of it and the publishing of it were visceral experiences.  The writing because it helped me to make sense of and walk away from a near suicidal state of mind.  The publication because it confirmed for me that this writing, however ragged, was capable of provoking engagement with others.  Which I needed desperately.

Anny's translation was moving to me on a number of levels--particularly as an act of friendship and  of critical response.  My nickname for Anny is La Bella, the beautiful one.  And I mean that in every possible way.  She is one of the bloggers I would most love to sit down with in the real world.

I studied Italian  in college. It was both a serious passion and a path not taken. I took all the courses in Italian offered at Kent State.  My professor wanted me to go to grad school and be his TA, teach intro courses.  I just couldn't see myself as a teacher.  I didn't feel like I knew enough to teach anything.  And I wanted to do something to better the world.  Ha!  What if, I wonder sometimes.

I still can't read Canto 5 of Dante's Inferno without shivering as I think about how Dr. B. read it to our class.


I've switched from Keb' Mo' over to Jeff Beck.


Virtually every day I wonder if this is the time to end this blog.  And virtually every day I think that if I do that's the end of blogging for me.  So...onward...

Friday, February 22, 2013

I've been thinking about parallel universes--the idea, that is, that all possible worlds exist.   In this world I am an ungainly, graceless, graying male poet.  Perhaps in another world I am a lithesome, desirable courtesan.  And in another world I might be a sentient shadow.  Or a rock.  Or a musical instrument.  Or a hunk of cheese.  A rose.  A scurrying mouse.  A laundered sheet flapping on a clothes line.

OK, you object: All possible worlds, Tom.  To which I say: If something's conceivable, is it possible or not? I like the idea of being as a sort of kaleidoscope of multidimensional possibility.  That we are all at once pond scum, quasars, dumpy old man, sexy woman, avatar and angel.


"A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: 'What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.' The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever,' said the old lady.'But it's turtles all the way down!"'

--Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time


I just found a treasured pocket notebook which I'd thought I'd lost.  Whew.


"That which, for itself, depends on nothing, is an absolute.  That which nothing completes in itself is a fragment.  Being or existence is an absolute fragment.  To exist: the happenstance of an absolute fragment."

--Jean-Luc Nancy, The Sense of the World


In another world my first  name is Jean-Luc.

In another world my first name is Maria.


From the newly recovered notebook:

crime scene--
skein rhyme.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013


"Paintings have always been made of more things than humans. They have been made of paint, which is powdered crystals in some medium such as egg white or oil. Now when you put the painting on the wall, it also relates to the wall. A fly lands on it. Dust settles on it. Slowly the pigment changes despite your artistic intentions. We could think of all these nonhuman interventions as themselves a kind of art or design. Then we realize that nonhumans are also doing art all the time, it’s just that we call it causality. But when calcium crystals coat a Paleolithic cave painting, they are also designing, also painting. Quite simply then, the aesthetic dimension is the causal dimension, which in turn means that it is also the vast nonlocal mesh that floats “in front of” objects (ontologically, not physically 'in front of')."

--Timothy Morton, Realist Magic

There is an infinity of points between A and B.  One is cognizant of little in the great scheme of things.  Some, of course, more than others; but that is made too much of (one's hot and another's doodly-squat, etc).  This is to say, among other things, that any narrative line is but a thread from a fabric that can never in its entirety be known.  All experience is a part of and apart from an unknowable whole.

There is an infinity of points between B and C.  Humans have always been made of more things than paintings.

There is an infinity of points between C and D.  Humans have always made points and been made of an aggregate of points also.

There is an infinity of points between D and E.  Now when one points one's finger at a wall, it also relates to all of the points between the finger and the wall that one cannot perceive.

There is an infinity of points between E and F.  A fly buzzes over dust settling over the changing figments of one's intentions.

There is an infinity of points between F and G.   One could think of any kind of intervention as art.

There is an infinity of points between G and H.  It's just that we call it clausal.

Last night I dreamt that a cash register and a commode fell from the sky through the roof of our house.

Friday, February 15, 2013

"Sensual things are elegies to the disappearance of objects."

--Timothy Morton, Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality (link is to pdf.)


No truth
Explains itself.

I am engaged,
By turns,

In my
Own assembly.

In my
Disassembly also.

An axiom
Is an anthem.

An anthem
Is a hatchet.


Slowly climbing back to my normal state of abnormality.  It's been a low key week.  Lots of day time tv and coughing, lots of page turner books and sneezing.  And tea.  Lots of tea.  And I'm really not a tea person.  Though I often do sign myself T.

Monday, February 11, 2013

I haven't been to Florida since the Summer of '69, just before my 16th birthday.  Yesterday I was supposed to return for an ocean side visit with assorted family but had to cancel the non-refundable flight.

I'm sick.  Sicker than the proverbial dog.  And I don't want to infect my elderly parents or anyone else (all those years of public health training).

I've been sleeping a lot and having lots of fever dreams.  Here's one dream fragment I've retained:

                                                       I'm squatting naked
                                                       in the woods
                                                       pooping mirrors.

And they weren't small mirrors.  It's a gross yet arresting image.

I feel like shit.  What's new with you?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Still hard to get through playing a few bars of something without making mistakes.  And those are  just the mistakes I'm aware of making!

Playing the acoustic makes me think in one way.  Playing the electric makes me think in another.


Fighting a cold.


Last week was a pretty good week for writing.  This week has been horrible. Until, that is, this morning when I added two new fragments to the novel.  I'm just about halfway through a first draft.  It's only taken about 13 and a half months to get to this point.


Woke up around 2:30 AM today--sneezing and having to pee at the same time.  Not a good combination.  But it was kind of funny.


Listening to jazz (Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnnette).


I'm going to make homemade chicken soup for dinner.  Stock from the freezer with lots of meaty chunks from the roaster I made with olive oil and tarragon a couple weeks back. Vegetables and orzo are going to find their way into the mix too.


I want to read the interview with Susan Howe in the Winter edition of the Paris Review but haven't been able to find a copy in any of the stores I visit.  Is it actually out?


Saw a book in a store today that I eventually want to read: Guitar Zero:The New Musician and the Science of Learning  by Gary Marcus.  Marcus is a cognitive psychologist who taught himself to play guitar around the time he turned 40.  Apparently the book's about  the cognitive challenges and benefits of learning music at any age.  It sounds intriguing.


Trying to write Appearances, my novel-in-fragments-in-progress, is an edgy medication,  I mean mediation--or maybe meditation.  Know what I mean?

I'm learning things I hadn't expected to.  I'm learning to fail differently than I have before.  And, trust me, I have a deep knowledge of failure.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013


I does not
equal this.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Friday, February 1, 2013


Earlier today I read Eileen Tabios' latest book The Awakening in 4 gulps.  4 gulps with breaks in between for thoughtful chewing and a little mental flossing.

As you may have guessed, The Awakening is comprised of 4 parts: 3 long poems and a brief fragment on Ms Tabios' poetics.

Each piece of the book is substantial and deserving of sustained attention but I want to focus here on the lead-off piece, a twenty page poem called "The Erotic Life of Art: A S√©ance With William Carlos Williams.”

“The Erotic Life of Art” is a marvelous meditation on art, artists and sex.  Its cast of characters is large and its range of reference is wide.  Van Gogh, Gauguin, Michelangelo, Pope Julius II, Da Vinci, Cellini, Dr. Williams, Titian, Jose Garcia Villa, Rembrandt, Li-Young Lee, Goya, Rodin, Delacroix, Jackson Pollock, Rimbaud, Wayne Thiebaud, Renoir, Seurat, Madeleine Knobloch (Seurat’s mistress who was anonymous until after his death), Tabios’ husband, Degas, Ezra Pound, Gainsborough, John Ruskin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Modigliani, Eluard, Duchamp, the Baroness, Dali, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and others constellate in its pages.

“The Erotic Life of Art” is a long associative poem of quick shifts, but there is nothing gratuitous about it.  It’s incisive, sometimes humorous, and it bristles with energy and intelligence. 

It’s written in couplets.  Here’s a taste for a flavor of the way it moves:

                              “Our good doctor,
William Carlos Williams, remembers one Finnish

word taught by a family servant: Hamahakquivergo.
I raise this dissonance because, truth to tell,

I am wondering if I have written all these words
so far only to manifest the one Finnish word

Dr. Williams knows: Hamahakquivergo means Cobweb.
Would it be awful to have spent years writing a poem only

to discover it is over a cobweb?  I intended to write on
the tangled skeins of transmissions from sexual acts (I in-

tended to pluck from the narrative of Nigel Cawthorne’s
amusing and amused book, SEX LIVES of the GREAT

ARTISTS.)  But haven’t we all noticed by now that history
may be a circular matter rather than a linear progression?

Cobweb. Hamahakquivergo.  Well, let’s clear the throat
and continue:  I like what I hear about Titian as a lover

for he seemed kind.  Have we all not been children once?
Why is Kindness such an underrated virtue?”  (4-5)

Why indeed?

“The Erotic Life of Art” is an extraordinary vortex of concerns, an impeccable “Pow-em.”  I would encourage you to enter it and linger as long as you can.