Thursday, January 31, 2013

One of the things I've been reading today is Monogamy by Adam Phillips.

How I discovered it?  Sheila Heti referred to it in a book review in last Sunday's New York Times Book Review.

Phillips is a British psychotherapist with a strong philosophical bent. Monogamy takes the form of 121 aphorisms.  Here's the one Heti quoted in the Times:

"A couple is a conspiracy in search of a crime.  Sex is often the closest they can get."  (21)

Here's another one that I like:

"Suspicion is a philosophy of hope.  It makes us believe that there is something to know and something worth    knowing.  It makes us believe there is something rather than nothing.  In this sense, sexual jealousy is a form of optimism, if only for philosophers."  (41)

A very thoughtful book.


Guitar progress...So I have an octave worth of notes and a couple of chords and a mix of discipline and play.  I know I'm doing a lot of things wrong but I'm starting to make some connections on the first three strings, in particular.  And I'm playing for nobody but myself.  I'm telling you about it though because maybe you're guitar curious.


Three books arrived in today's mail which I'm hoping to give myself over to soon:  The Awakening by Eileen R. Tabios, Still Lifes by Eric Selland (Hank's Original Loose Gravel Press) and Exodus by Lars Iyer.


Listening to Jeff Beck performing this week...Live at Ronnie Scott's.  I've both the CD and the DVD but I've linked to the DVD because it contains cuts that aren't on the CD.  The DVD is great too for the interaction between the band members.  Australian bassist Tal Wilkenfeld is a wonder.  Anyway, it is fabulous.  If I had to rank the top 5 greatest live albums of all time it would be a three way tie for first between this one, The Who's Live at Leeds  and Keith Jarrett's Koln Concerts.  But that's just me.


Otoliths 28!

 the summer, 2013 issue of Otoliths—#28—has just gone live, with work from Alexander Jorgensen, Paul Dickey, Felino A. Soriano, Alexandra Yurkovsky, Jim Meirose, Simon Perchik, nick-e melville, Tim Suermondt, Mark Melnicove, Adam Aitken, bruno neiva, Philip Byron Oakes, Dane Karnick, Howie Good, Walter Ruhlmann, John Crouse, M. Pfaff, John M. Bennett, William Garvin, Michael Farrell, Willie Smith, Jack Galmitz, Craig Scott, Raymond Farr, Carlyle Baker, Patrick James Dunagan, Sheila E. Murphy, Reed Altemus, Micah Cavaleri, Tom Beckett, Tony Brinkley, Bobbi Lurie, Tom Pescatore, Cecelia Chapman, Tony Beyer, Lakey Comess, George McKim, Steven D. Stark, Orchid Tierney, David Dick, Colin Herd, Michael Caylo-Baradi, Lee Slonimsky, Chris D'Errico, Susan Gangel & Terry Turrentine, Catherine Vidler, John Pursch, Stephen Nelson, Leigh Herrick, Jeff Harrison, Volodymyr Bilyk, Charles Freeland & Rosaire Appel, Márton Koppány, Alyson Miller, sean burn, Donna Fleischer, Bogdan Puslenghea, Paul Pfleuger, Jr., Joel Chace, Bob Heman, Scott Metz, Ed Baker, J. D. Nelson, Nicolette Wong, Michael Brandonisio, Lance Newman, Sam Moginie, Kit Kennedy, Samit Roy, Sam Langer, Aditya Bahl, Cherie Hunter Day, Shazia Hafiz Ramji, & Michael Gottlieb.

I'm excited to have an excerpt from my Appearances project in this issue.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

There was an opossum skulking around our back porch this afternoon.  Yes.  It was skulking.

These creatures are nocturnal, so what's up?  I got to thinking that that marsupial (opossums are the only marsupials native to North America) might be the advance agent of Mark Young's invasive kangaroos.

I don't know.  I'm just sayin'.

Monday, January 28, 2013

I changed my sex today
and I'll change it again tomorrow.

I walk in the space of a sound
that can't be easily limned.

I talk in a made-up language
of chords and conundrums.


Appearances  proceeds slowly, painfully.  I'm working on fragment 175.  Another 190  "fragments" to go.


After a little more than a year of working on Appearances, my "novel", I've been slowly starting to think poetry again.

I hadn't anticipated how much doing this insane prose thing--if that is what it is--would inhibit my doing what I'd done before/how I'd taught myself to think--over the course of the last 35 years or so.


Writing, on any level, is a kind of epistemology.  A kind of philosophy of knowing.  That being said, one doesn't always discover one's own sense of things right away.

We speak our philosophies not knowing what we speak. However well-considered our thoughts.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Years ago I spent a stretch of time with a therapist who would give me a bit of shit whenever I said "I don't know."

I understand that she saw that as an evasive strategy on my part.  And at times, in context,  it was.

However, "I don't know" is one of my default positions.

I distrust certainty.  In myself and others.

Anything I "know" is open to question.  And, of course, that creates problems from time to time.

To admit the possibility that one might be wrong is to display weakness.  In the abstract that's not a problem for me.  In reality it can be a big problem.  There are people who want to take advantage of any perceived vulnerability.

I'm totally open to being wrong and reconciled to failing more often than I'd like.  Still, I don't trust anyone to understand that.

The only thing I'm certain of is that most people are misunderstood.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I'm thinking about how disappointment figures in the practice of art.  And how it figures in the communications between artists.  There's a lot that could be said about this. It's a mine field that runs through the map of contemporary poetry for sure.  I've been tripped up by more than one IPED (Improvised Poetic Expletive Device).

Friday, January 25, 2013

I'm musically troubled

I might be a midget in a giant's frame

The Chairman spoke but the wheel rolled on

Fucking snow

Can ecstasy be deliberate
or is it always an accident?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Just in case

Just in case you've thought about purchasing and reading my selected poems, Unprotected Texts, and have yet to do so, perhaps one of the reviews listed below (lifted from my beloved publisher's website) will encourage you to do so.  It's available at Small Press Distribution and Amazon.  Here goes:

UNPROTECTED TEXTS: SELECTED POEMS (1978-2006) by Tom Beckett (2006)
Meritage Press Link HERE.

Reviews & Engagements:
At Boog City, 2008, by John Mercuri Dooley
At dbqp: visualizing poetics, Oct. 18, 2006, by Geof Huth 
At Jacket Magazine 33, July 2007 by Carlos Hiraldo
At Jacket Magazine 34,October 2007, "The Poetry of Questions" by Thomas Fink 
At Jacket Magazine 25, February 2004, Conversation with Richard Lopez
reading report at dbqp: visualizing poetics, Nov. 5, 2007 by Geof Huth
At Shanna Compton's Blog, Nov. 27, 2006 
At Galatea Resurrects No. 8 by Ernesto Priego
At Galatea Resurrects No. 5 by John Bloomberg-Rissman
At Galatea Resurrects No. 4 by Nicholas Manning
At Galatea Resurrects No. 4 by Fionna Doney Simmonds
At Galatea Resurrects No. 4 by Beatriz Tabios
At Pantaloons Blog, Nov. 8, 2007 by Jack Kimball

system of
signs can't resign.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Friday, January 18, 2013


And you and I
And there and them
And who and how
And whatever and something
And a chord and a noise
And a person and a ghost
And a consonant and a note
And a rhyme and a reason
And a time and the lease
And a figure and a ligature
And a thought and a semblance
And on and with
And stories and aporias
And whose and was
And peoples and parsons
And apologies and epistemologies
And rivers and rivets
And lists and eyelids
And louvers and lungs
And traffic and kisses
And metaphors and meat
And division and sight
And quartered and dimed
And halved and had
And sung and sanguine
And past and repast
And feast and fist
And wrong and rung
And nigh and night
And so on and noone
And the news and a vowel
And avoidance and an abyss
And a hole and a hologram
And a poet and a post
And an order and another
And a sum and a seam
And the dark and the rake
And the sky and a skein
And an object and an objection
And a cymbal and an archetype
And a preface and a totem
And an and and an ore
And a hand and a hallucination
And an utterance and a shadow
And an anxiousness and a caress
And an Exhibit A and bees
And a clause and an affect
And a trap and a trip
And a flip and a fish
And a garage and an orange
And numbness and a part of speech
And a tent and an alphabet
And an intention and a sentence
And a conjunction and death
And a paragraph and a swimmer
And forever and ever
And foraging and getting older
And poetry and truth
And questions and remarks
And remainders and reminders
And synonyms and cinnamon
And a yes and a cloud burst
And traction and addition

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Earlier today I finished The Uncanny but the uncanny isn't finished with me.  Or The Uncanny for that matter.  There are some wonderful things in Mr. Royle's book.  I recommend it.  One of the things I learned from it is a term from rhetoric: hendiadys.  It's "(f)rom the Greek hen dia dyoin, literally 'one through two.'"  Royle writes that George T. Wright has described a hendiadys as "the use of two substantives, joined by a conjunction to express a single but complex idea."  One example that Royle goes on to offer from everyday English is the expression "house and home." All of this is roiling in my brain.  I think the seed has been planted for a list poem.

Another thing that I did earlier today was to write a paragraph at the request of Eileen Tabios.  I would (tip of the hat to Bob Newhart) eat bees for Ms. Tabios.


I know what I want to have happen soon in Appearances but am having a hard time figuring out some transitional things.  It's an interesting problem.


My love affair with Neil Young's CD Psychedelic Pill continues unabated.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It's been a busy day--writing and household chores in the morning.  Then a trek out into the country to hang with daughter Claire.  We took Ryan to preschool and then drove into Canton for lunch at an interesting Italian place.  We did some other stuff too.  It was nice visiting and talking a bit.  My daughters are really different, really interesting people.


I'm at a point in Appearances where some fascinating--to me--things are happening.  It's funny, before I'd written a word of this project--before I had a glimmer of a idea where it might be going--I knew that the book would have to be called Appearances.  That it is subtitled " a novel in 365 fragments" is truly unimportant except as a goad to spur  me on-- a goal line.  So far I've completed 166 fragments and I have, at the moment , a strong sense of what to do next.


I'm listening to a cd of songs covered by Norah Jones.  Her voice always makes me think about the power that comes from holding back a little--the elegance of just enough emphasis.  Not an easy balance to achieve.  Willy Nelson has something of that quality too.


I read a lot everyday.  Currently there are 6 books in the mix: the Zizek I'm frequently quoting here, Royle's The Uncanny, a bio of Claude Levi Strauss, Chris Beckett's (no relation) Dark Eden, and Heidegger's Country Path Conversations.

It's a heady mix and there are a lot of intriguing cross-currents for me, especially between the Zizek, Royle and Heidegger.


While I'm feeling somewhat isolated these days, at this particular moment I'm feeling fairly productive.  So, that's good, no?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Some Notes

"...the kiss is an answer to the 'question that eludes the power of language,' which is nothing other than what Lacan calls 'Che vuoi?' (What do you want?), the question which concerns the abyss of the Other's desire, the abyss opened up by speech but for which every word fails.  A kiss is a clumsy and desperate measure to pacify this abyss by way of closing off its source through a direct intervention into the bodily Real. 'Shut up! Let my closeness to you close the gap which threatens to ruin our relationship!'  This is  the truth in the cliche about prostitutes who allow their customers to penetrate them but not to kiss them on the mouth--a signal that they do not want to surrender the abyss of their subjectivity to the closeness of a stranger."

--Slavoj Zizek, Less than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism  (542)

I've often confused poems with kisses and the other way around.  Similarly I've often confused strangers with friends and the other way around.

"Clumsy and desperate."  I know all about that.  It's my modus.

Thank "God" for caller ID.

There's some truth in every cliche.

Che vuoi?  Io vorrei che tu e Lappo ed io...

Wanting to be swept away while one is standing still.


Practicing both guitars today and thinking about the difference in the sound, feel and action of each instrument.


If one touches oneself what is one touching.  There's a abyss there too, no?


Making music isn't easy.  Consuming it is way too easy.


What really seduced me in Wittgenstein's philosophy was his absolute agony over his inability to be certain about anything.  That's the mark of an honest man.


I'm leery of the figure of an abyss.  I'm equally afraid of becoming one.


As I've often written, in various contexts: Poetry, in terms of risk, is like an unsolicited kiss. Read smudge on a mirror.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

This morning I completed a homemade miniature book for Eileen Tabios' Chairs project.  It's in an envelope in a mail box now.  She should have it later this week.  Let's hope it arrives OK because it is an edition of one.  It's called The Chairman Speaks.  It's pretty short and maybe a little outrageous. It's comprised of a cropped photocopy of a drawing from one of my notebooks and a poem.   I like it, but now it's out of my hands.


I am one of those people who still subscribe to "hard copy" magazines.  One of the magazines I subscribe to is Artforum.  In the current issue there's a nice piece on Frances Stark, an artist who is new to me but who I was glad to be alerted to.

One of Stark's projects is a video called My Best Thing.  In the film, a "man" and a "woman" are represented by playmobil-like avatars.  The dialogue between these figures has its roots in real life online sex chats.  The exchanges are about way more than sex though.  And the distancing mechanism of the avatars makes some difficult exchanges easier.

Stark is someone I'm just beginning to learn about.  I can see already though that hers is a body of work I'm going to want to get to know.

I'm idly wondering if she'd be open to an interview.  But I'd want to do more homework before I tried to find out.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Listening to Neil Young and Crazy Horse (Psychedelic Pill).  Feeling enormously frustrated about any number of things, but am back to making slow, steady progress with Appearances: A Novel in 365 Fragments (only about 200 fragments to go).

It's unseasonably warm.  About 60 degrees F.  Last week there was close to a foot of snow on the ground.  It's melted now.  The Cuyahoga is running high.

Neil and the Horse are weaving some sonic textures that seem in sync with the day.

In re: Neil and the Horse, this live version of A Day in the Life (with Sir Paul) is a lot of fun.  Talk about shredding a guitar!


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Porous to
A world

It seeps
Into ____

(Select pronoun).
One can’t

Not walk

Of this.
Things are

Funny in
Terrifying ways.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Today's cold but sunny. Which is kind of unusual for this time of year in NE Ohio.  Winter here is typically rather grey and bleak.  It's the unrelenting grey which darkens moods.  I buy cut flowers more frequently in the cold dark months.  One needs a dash of color to keep a ray of hope.


I've mentioned before that I have a childhood history of epilepsy.  So it was with great interest that I read this passage in Nicholas Royle's The Uncanny:

"'Epilepsy' can, Freud says, take the form of 'brief periods of absence, or rapidly passing fits of vertigo or...short spaces of time during which the patient does something out of character, as though he were under the control of his unconscious'...Indeed, the sense of 'epilepsy'--like the uncanny itself--speads out, spreads back, diffusing and grafting itself everywhere.  For example, in sex: as Freud notes, 'the earliest physicians described coition as a minor epilepsy, and thus recognized in the sexual act a mitigation and adaptation of the epileptic method of discharging stimuli'... Sex: the epileptic uncanny."   (151)


I wrote another section of Appearances and am mulling what to do next.  The metaphysical stage machinery creaks exceedingly loudly in this novel.  I like that.  It's a novel of ideas expressed in a non-academic way without too much lubricant.  And, so far at least, there is no sexual content in it.  I doubt there will be.But the parts rub up against one another in interesting ways.


Friday, January 4, 2013

A tone deaf uncoordinated overly self-conscious poet trying to teach himself how to play guitar.  So?!  It gives me frustration and it gives me joy.

  Occasionally, for seconds at a time, I groove.

 Weeks ago I spent 50 cents on a piece of pvc at a Habitat for Humanity Re-Store which I use as a slide.  One of the best 50 cents I ever spent.

So far I know 6 notes and a couple of chords.  I have very little talent/apptitude  but I do have some attitude here alone in my retired guy space.

Occasionally I eke something like a basic blues and I have some lyrics I'm considering.  I'm just saying...  Don't worry.  Just be warned.

The Uncanny, etc.

I've met so many vibrant people in the blogosphere.  Some I've encountered in the physical world.  Some I may only get to know in the virtual realm.  In the latter category is my friend and on-again-off-again correspondent, Suzanne Nixon.  We've had some rich exchanges over the years.

Often we recommend books to one another.  One of Suzanne's recent gifts to me was the suggestion that I check out The Uncanny by Nicholas Royle, the first book-length study of the uncanny.  It was a great suggestion.

This morning I read this quotation in its pages:

"Suggestibility; hypnosis; entrancement; possession; inspiration; telepathy; transference; affective identification; repetition compulsions and the so-called 'death drive'.  These are the kind of things that criticism usually tries to ward off or else control, not without reason."  (84)

--Caroline Rooney from African Literature, Animism and Politics

That passage excited me because it articulated many of the elements that I'm trying to explore in Appearances:

"Suggestibility; hypnosis; entrancement; possession; inspiration; telepathy; transference; affective identification; repetition compulsions and the so-called 'death drive'."

It's interesting to me--uncanny really--that I found that utterly clear passage at a point where I was struggling to articulate to myself what I'm doing in Appearances.  And there it was.

I found another really interesting and helpful passage a little later in the day.  This time I'm drawing from Zizek's  Less than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism:

"Here one should take note of a certain paradox: it is precisely when 'I speak'--when I perceive myself as the agent of my speech--that effectively, 'the big Other speaks through me,' that I am 'spoken,' since my speech acts are totally regulated by the symbolic order in which I dwell.  And, conversely, the only way for me to bring my subjective position of enunciation into words is to let me be surprised by what I say, to experience my own words as a case of 'it speaks in/through me.'  This is what happens in the case of a symptom: in it, my true subjective position finds a way to articulate itself against my will and intention.  The opposition is thus not directly between 'I speak" and 'the Other speaks through me,' since these are the two sides of the same coin.  When 'it speaks' through me, it is not the big Other which speaks: the truth that articulates itself is the truth about the failures, gaps and inconsistencies of the big Other."  (518-519)

This passage goes to the heart of my obsession with ventriloquism, an important thread in Appearances and some preliminary projects as well.