Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Anthology of constraint-based writing

The /n/oulipian Analects

Edited by Matias Viegener and Christine Wertheim

Les Figues Press

From :

"The /n/oulipian Analects
is an alphabetical survey of constrained writing in modern English. Editors Wertheim and Viegener gathered and arranged critical and creative pieces from some of the most prominent and influential constraint-based writers—Caroline Bergvall, Christian Bök, Johanna Drucker, Paul Fournel, Jen Hofer, Tan Lin, Bernadette Mayer, Ian Monk, Joseph Mosconi, Harryette Mullen, Doug Nufer, Vanessa Place, Janet Sarbanes, Juliana Spahr, Brian Kim Stefans, Rodrigo Toscano, Matias Viegener, Christine Wertheim, Rob Wittig, Stephanie Young—adding the unknown variable n to the great legacy of Oulipo. The result: an excellent mix of introductory basics for those new to constraint-based writing, blended with in-depth exposition and critique for those already avid readers and writers."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Barbara Guest -- poems and poetics

Just published:

The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest
Wesleyan UP, 2008

Here are some excerpts from essays on poetics by Guest:

From "Mysteriously Defining the Mysterious," HOW(ever) (1986):

"In whatever guise reality becomes visible, the poet withdraws from it into invisibility."
(see Guest's EPC page)

From "Invisible Architecture" on Guest's EPC page:

"By whom or by what agency is the behavior of the poem suggested, by what invisible architecture, we ask, is the poem developed. The Surrealists taught us to wander freely on the page, releasing mechanical birds, if we so desire, to nest in the invisible handwriting of composition. There is always something within poetry that desires the invisible."

From "Wounded Joy" in American Poetry Review (2002):

"Do you ever notice as you write that no matter what there is on the written page something appears to be in back of everything that is said, a little ghost. I judge that this ghost is there to remind us there is always more, an elsewhere, a hiddenness, a secondary form of speech, an eye blink." (see Guest's EPC page).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Versed, new book
of poems by
Rae Armantrout
February 2009
from Wesleyan UP

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Bernadette Mayer experiments list

Ideas for our email project?

Here is a link to Bernadette Mayer's list of journal and experiment ideas. It's from her page at the Electronic Poetry Centre site.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

appropriative writing

From a discussion on the Poetics List, here's a link to an essay on appropriative writing, ie. writing that "steals" from other writing. The essay ends with a list of examples from Lautreamont's Les Chants de Maldoror to John Ashbery's Wakefulness.

Monday, October 27, 2008


From Fascicle 2 (winter '05 - '06), here's an excerpt from a collaborative poem by Anne Tardos and Lyn Hejinian; method is announced in the first stanza. (There are other collaborations in the same issue)


I will write two lines, knowing that you will insert a third line between them
Late one afternoon in a café. I'll offer you a sequence and you won't foresee the consequence—
Therefore my second line's connection to my first will depend largely on you

And that will be the poetry we make. Music will intervene, but we won't complain
About interventions, but accept what happens happily, while hoping
That non-sequiturs don't make any sense. When I write, I'll attach my lines

To whatever music these strings will form—we won't complain
About the things we can't control (aggressive friends, traffic jams, the neighbor's dog);
The other speaker, who could be me, will intersperse her thoughts with mine

Just as laughter wafts through tragedy. I'm not referring to the nervous giggles,
The repressed hysteria, beads of sweat, and the twitching bladder contractions
I used to get when my shell-shocked uncle shed tears recounting the horrors of war.


Friday, October 17, 2008

anthology of collaborative poetry

Blurb from

>2: An Anthology of New Collaborative Poetry brings together a broad and varied selection of vital and stimulating textual projects involving one or more writers working together to create new, co-written compositions. Poets included in this volume represent North America, Europe, Australia, and Japan. Most of the work included in this volume is new, having been created after the year 2000. Writing with another person resembles chamber music, a delicate process that brings into being often intricate and sometimes direct, pure, simple music. > 2 offers a wide array of compositions ranging from short, occasional or one-time efforts that constitute an invigorating exercise, to excerpts from extended projects comprising long-term (even life-long) projects.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

passionate barf

"Passion in writing or art—or in a lover—can make you overlook a lot of flaws. Passion is underrated. I think we should all produce work with the urgency of outsider artists, panting and jerking off to our kinky private obsessions. Sophistication is conformist, deadening. Let's get rid of it."

—Dodie Bellamy, from Barf Manifesto

Bellamy's blog:

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Poetry by Ronald Johnson

A link to Johnson's The Book of the Green Man (link on Silliman's blog today). Painting by Basil King (in book).

Excerpt from Summer section:

What the Leaf Told Me

Today I saw the word written on the poplar leaves.

It was 'dazzle'. The dazzle of the poplars.

As a leaf startles out

from an undifferentiated mass of foliage,

so the word did form a leaf

A Mirage Of The Delicate Polyglot

inventing itself as cipher.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Book of contemporary sonnets

This book looks great (see contributor list). Image and blurb are from Reality Street Editions website. There's a link on the site to the editor's introduction.


Contributors: Robert Adamson, Jeremy Adler, Tim Atkins, Ted Berrigan, Jen Bervin, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Christian Bök, Sean Bonney, Ebbe Borregaard, Jonathan Brannen, Pam Brown, Laynie Browne, Thomas A Clark, Adrian Clarke, John Clarke, Bob Cobbing, Clark Coolidge, Kelvin Corcoran, Beverly Dahlen, Ian Davidson, Edwin Denby, Laurie Duggan, Paul Dutton, Ken Edwards, Michael Farrell, Allen Fisher, Kathleen Fraser, William Fuller, John Gibbens, Harry Gilonis, Giles Goodland, Bill Griffiths, Alan Halsey, Robert Hampson, Jeff Hilson, Anselm Hollo, Lyn Hejinian, Piers Hugill, Peter Jaeger, Elizabeth James, Lisa Jarnot, Keith Jebb, Justin Katko, John Kinsella, Philip Kuhn, Michelle Leggott, Tony Lopez, Chris McCabe, Steve McCaffery, Jackson Mac Low, Richard Makin, Peter Manson, Brian Marley, Bernadette Mayer, Jay Millar, David Miller, Peter Minter, Geraldine Monk, Harryette Mullen, Philip Nikolayev, Alice Notley, Abigail Oborne, Ron Padgett, Bern Porter, Frances Presley, John A Scott, Tom Raworth, Peter Riley, Sophie Robinson, Stephen Rodefer, Maurice Scully, Gavin Selerie, Robert Sheppard, Aaron Shurin, Eléni Sikélianòs, Simon Smith, Mary Ellen Solt, Juliana Spahr, Lawrence Upton, Carol Watts, Ian Wedde, John Welch, Johan de Wit, Geoffrey Young.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Elegy by Mary Jo Bangs

Mary Jo Bangs' recent book Elegy is one of my new favourites. Here's a link to a video of the poet reading from it, from a nifty website with links to many such videos: Rabbit Light Movies: a bi-annual journal of poemfilms

As well, here's a review of the book, which can be found on the Graywolf Press website:

“The loss of a child—especially an only child who is in the prime of life—is one of the most painful experiences anyone can have and one, common sense tells us, almost impossible to render in an age of sensory overload. But Mary Jo Bangs' Elegy is the grand exception. In its insistence on “the inexhaustible / Need to be accurate,” Elegy is wholly absorbing. Avoiding all self-pity, false comfort, sentimentality or finger pointing, Bang’s terse, oblique poems anatomize grief, guilt, and mourning in pitiless detail. Do things ‘improve’ by the end of the year whose progress this heartbreaking book charts? Not really, but the reader is transformed. I know of no contemporary elegy that has its power.” —Marjorie Perloff

Friday, August 8, 2008

two new books

I've just received two books on poetics, which I hope to read this month:

Michael Palmer, Active Boundaries: Selected Essays and Talks (New Directions, 2008)

Rae Armantrout, Collected Prose (Singing Horse Press, 2007)

Armantrout has an essay on Emily Dickinson's and her own poetics entitled "Cheshire Poetics"--perfect title!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

More on Spicer's poetics

Here is the first para from an essay on Jack Spicer's poetics. (cf Crackt blog of July 24/08).

Full essay can be found at the blog Harriet at the Poetry Foundation, July 24/08:


Reginald Shepherd

Taking Dictation from a Martian Muse

Jack Spicer’s notion of poetry as dictation is hardly original (and originality is a notion Spicer would quarrel with in any case), but Spicer acknowledges its sources and rings his own changes on them: Yeats’ spooks bringing him metaphors for his poetry, or Cocteau’s Orphée writing down poems broadcast on the ghost radio. That the idea of dictation can itself be read as dictated makes perfect sense. Part of the point of Spicer’s poetics is that everything comes from the outside; there’s no romantic interiority generating poems in the sensitive soul. This is a useful corrective to the fetishization of personal creativity, proposing instead what Robin Blaser calls the practice of outside. As Spicer writes of his posthumous collaboration with Garcia Lorca, “It was a game made out of summer and freedom and a need for a poetry that would be more than the expression of my hatreds and desires. It was a game like Yeats’ spooks or Blake’s sexless seraphim” (After Lorca).

. . . cont.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Another poetics blogsite, another book

Jerome Rothenberg, one of the editors of Poems for the Millennium, Vols 1 & 2, has an interesting blog: "Poems and Poetics" He has posted an excerpt from the Prologue to Vol. 3 of Poems for the Millennium, forthcoming in January 2009 from U of California Press.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Spicer's ghost

Steven's post has inspired me--

I am intrigued by Jack Spicer's spooky poetics--see my posting below--so I'm glad to see this volume of his poetry coming out next month. (From posting on Silliman's blog).

My Vocabulary Did This to Me
The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer
Jack Spicer; Peter Gizzi, ed.; Kevin Killian, ed.

Wesleyan Poetry Series
Wesleyan University Press

August 2008


Ron Silliman's blog, Mon Dec 1/08

Some years ago I was writing an essay on Robin Blaser's poetics, and drew upon Jack Spicer's Vancouver Lectures. (Excerpts can be found in Allen and Tallman, Poetics of the New American Poetry, 1973.) In the lectures Spicer presents an anti-intentional view of composition, a poetics of dictation, "something from the outside coming in." This is not a new view of poetry, of course, poetry as inspiration, a "spiritual exercise," and the poet as an "empty vessel" (Spicer's words). But it's one that resonates for me. In another metaphor Spicer uses, the poem is a house one builds and language is the furniture. But it's nothing until one has set a table and opened it up to a guest. This process can be frightening--hence the locks, bolts, and peepholes on people's front doors. Spicer says of Denise Levertov, "The poems I like of hers are all poems that have scared her and that she didn't really want to have written." (Unfortunately he doesn't give the titles of those poems!)

This reminds me of a point made in an essay I posted a link to, a few entries back, an essay on Bernadette Mayer's experimental poetics. Referring to Burroughs as well as Mayer, Peter Baker refers to risk or danger as characterizing experimental, anti-intentional writing: "We are returned . . . to one of the root meanings of Experiment: that of peril or danger. Inherent in any Experimental Work . . . is what I like to call a giving up of individual or authorial control, the potential consequences of which are always marked by some kind of psychic danger."

Fearing that danger, we can lock the door against the guest and decide what the poem is all about and write it from that idea. But when I do that I feel huge and clumsy, like Alice in the White Rabbit's little house. I'm a fairly fearful person in everyday life and the poem is one area (the other is travelling alone) where I can open the door, at least a crack, to the guest. Or ghost. Who can pass through the wall, anyway.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

David Malouf Says:

In the Fall 2007 issue of BOMB, David Malouf is interviewed by Colm Toibin. In response to a question about Malouf's knowledge of opera and classical music, he says:
" . . .music has always been important to me. In the writing, when I revise, often I'm trying to get a word right, but as often as not what I'm trying to get right is the music. When there's a word I want, an adjective, or even another noun, I'll jot it down in long and in short, like poetry . . . yeah, scansion notation . . . I often do that, partly because the music seems to me to contain whatever it is I want to get into the writing. It often happens in the books, that people who don't entirely catch the sense of what someone is saying, are catching at the emotion of it, becausde they're catching the tune."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

New book of poetry from Meredith Quartermain

This one I'm going to order. See link to a few of her poems, back in May.

Quartermain, Meredith
$20 / PA / 72 pp.
Book Thug 2008
ISBN: 978-1-897388-18-1


What if words evolved in species and genera just like birds and dinosaurs? What if you classified them in kingdomsand families? Made a phylogenetic tree with orders of Space, Matter, or Intellect. Gravity and Levity as classes of MATTER.With Density, Rarity, Pungency, Ululation. Would this matter taxonomy speak of the out-there, the non-human? Or the in-here--the human mind, the sorting,reasoning human--homo linguis the word maker, the world maker? Formally innovative, Matter explores Roget's taxonomy, rummaging its taint of globalism and social Darwinism, unearthing relations between humans, language and the planet. Matter asks what if words are so many
birds, chirping and chattering? What is thought? What is knowledge? What's your life-list of words?

Meredith Quartermain was born in Toronto but grew up in rural British Columbia, on the north end of Kootenay Lake. Botany, Latin, Math, Philosophy and Ecology intrigued her at UBC. She is the author of Terms of Sale (1996), Wanders [with Robin Blaser] (2002), A Thousand Mornings (2002), The Eye-Shift of Surface (2001), and Vancouver Walking (2005), winner of the BC Book Awards Poetry Prize. She lives in Vancouver where she runs Nomados Literary Publishers with husband Peter Quartermain.

Friday, July 4, 2008

experimental poetry and risk

Here's a link (from Silliman's blog) to a short paper on Bernadette Mayer's experimental poetry, risk, and the ambivalence of authorship.
Title: "Becoming Bernadette"

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Listed on Silliman's blog today, July 2/05

Wave Books is publisher of Laynie Browne's The Scented Fox.

State of the Union
50 Political Poems

Edited by Wave Books
Release Date: September 1, 2008

Blurb from Wave Books website:

From the front lines of American poetics

William Carlos Williams wrote, It is difficult/to get the news from poems/ yet men die miserably every day/ for lack/ of what is found there. State of the Union brings together 50 American poets whose work boldly illustrates the urgency of Williams?s forewarning.

Contributors Include:
John Ashbery, James Tate, Fanny Howe, Anselm Berrigan, Eileen Myles, Terrance Hayes, Albert Goldbarth, Cathy Wagner, Tao Lin, Michael Palmer, Lucille Clifton, Joe Wenderoth, John Yau, Richard Siken, CAConrad, Rebecca Wolff, Peter Gizzi, Juliana Spahr, Wang Ping and many more.

ISBN #9781933517339
Poetry Anthology, $14.00 paper (5.75x7.5 144pp)

Monday, June 23, 2008

New book on a poet we've read


Author: Johnson, Ronald
Pub Date: 01 May 2008
Publisher: National Poetry Foundation
ISBN: 978-0-943373-75-1
Price: $34.95

Description from Small Press website:

Poetry. "I count Ronald Johnson as one of the defining peers of my own imagined company of poets, ageless and yet insistently specific to all one's life might seem to be here and now. The very title of his major long poem cycle, ARK--with its determining echoes, its senses of a contiguous, innumerable event, its measure of heart and time, all the wondrous, intimate, particularizing reflection and record--proposes the character of this work I so value"--Robert Creeley. "I have always thought Ron Johnson a terrific poet: everything he has written has surprised and delighted me"--Thom Gunn. "Poetry with a passion for exact, even scientific scrutiny"--Guy Davenport.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ghostly poetics, cont.

Here's a poem by Rae Armantrout appearing in latest issue of Poetry (USA). (Any copyright issues?)


Haunted, they say, believing
the soft, shifty
dunes are made up
of false promises.

Many believe
whatever happens
is the other half
of a conversation.

Many whisper
white lies
to the dead.

"The boys are doing really well."

Some think
nothing is so
until it has been witnessed.

They believe
the bits are iffy;

the forces that bind them,

Monday, June 16, 2008

tugging against closure

Hilary, just so you know that you are not blogging away into the void, see my post re: Jailbreaks.
Further to your thoughts re: Guest's thought on composition and poetics. Perhaps her "embracing an echo" is akin to your "tugging against closure."

Interesting that she talks about the "force majeure," a poem as force of nature that directs and connects all living things. This is what i was trying to do in Boreal Surreal. love the physicality of her description of how a poem emerges.
Wet and whining.. good poems insinuates themselves
into the (sub)conscious and onto the page,
demanding attention
demanding to be fed, nurtured

The phantoms are ideas that emerge out of ether, mist, air.
we know not where. but also in tandem with a memory, a word, an object:
"a knife a rope a book
on anatomy."

The poem . the movement, charge, energy - that makes it zing - is a fragile thing. It can easily be undone in over polishing. I agree with muscular control, not sure about fastidiousness.

Timing, stuggle, risk, yes.. yes, and sometimes the poem hurries the poet.. then there is nothing to do but take the chance, follow the lead. The steps can be practiced later.

Monday, June 9, 2008

My thoughts on a few of Guest's lines (last post, June 2):

"-a stasis and / pull in the composition physical-"

Composition involves a pulling-in by the developing thing--the forming thing--a centripetal force--what the form demands (fetal), from one line or block or layer to the next, one moment to the next

"a stasis"--the moment before movement?

"remember, a contradictory tug phantom-like– / upon the environs of the poem–"

But there is also something beyond this inward-pulling thing. Her choice of "phantom-like" to evoke this other indicates a ghostly side to the process of composition. This aspect is a "contradictory tug"--it pulls from the uncanny edges of the poem--from the unsaid around the poem. "upon the environs" -- coming from beyond the immediate environs, like starlight. It contradicts the forming thing, it says, "Not yet, not yet" and tugs against closure.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Barbara Guest --poetics

I am mired in revisions for an academic essay, and badly in need a poetry break.

Here is an intriguing "statement" of poetics that Barbara Guest apparently presented in 1998 at Naropa. It is reprinted in How2:

How about some posts on her ideas?

A Reverie on the Making of a Poem, June 1998

Arrived at the terrain of her sensibility

–a stasis and

pull in the composition physical–
remember, a contradictory tug phantom-like–
upon the environs of the poem–;

think of poem going through these stages
balance and non-movement
always an inert force in poem to try to bring it back and force this on the
surface of poem


darkening of the page and then withdrawal
of darkening:gradually the page lightens,
the invisible heavinesslifted itself.


this elevation.

With no warning (from inside the text,

mind attached to the text)

method to elevate poem from surface


and attacked by dizziness of atmosphere!

In the attack of suspense; a masterful

development of plot and erasure.


The echo the words grant us on page and off!
sound of the last few words–;
they will be abolished and this new movement
embracing an echo,

only discovered here the poem
sustains marginality



the timing of this substitution one ideafor another
Countdown!knuckle on the hand
illustrates itselftames–

the sentence covering it

with a fist, held loftily–

muscular control . . . fastidiousness

continual restiveness, also

timing supplant strong attack

struggle necessary–but not to let go



a blissful discontinuity
orders this estrangement of each

available word and the disinclination to advance (at
that point in time) or desiretohurry toward an abrupt

rushing or spectacular jumps over the hurdles–

as in conversation
do not hurry the poem

but take chances

motion, movement in poem


an advanced punctuation bursting from vases

into an arena of sound
the aroma continues as a cloud of invisibility shelters

ghost exiting

there from center right:solid objects merciless.


what else can poem perform in its arena

of possibilities

the phantom of possible ideas


(maneuvering inside a volume)

a force majeure to shred the atmosphere
this fist its imprint almost

poet in charge


and all the whilemovement coalescing
with the strict idea

Startling these maneuvers!

of idea and erasure.

not to lose sight of the ideas, and movement they must meet

not to tell all possible choices in poem