Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Wits by the List, a Found Poem


The Academy of Complements Wits Recreations
The Card of Courtship The Harmony of the Muses
Wits Interpreter The Marrow of Complements
Musarum Deliciæ Wit and Drollery
Parnassus Biceps Sportive Wit Choyce Drollery
The Mysteries of Love and Eloquence Wit Restor'd
J. Cleaveland Revived Le Prince d'Amour
An Antidote Against Melancholy Folly in Print
The New Academy of Complements
A Jovial Garland Oxford Drollery Westminster Drollery
Covent Garden Drollery New Court-Songs Windsor Drollery
Holborn Drollery London Drollery
Wit at a Venture A New Collection
A Perfect Collection of the Several Songs now in Mode
Mock Songs and Joking Poems
The Wits Academy The Last and Best Edition of New Songs
Grammatical Drollery Wit and Mirth
Methinks the Poor Town has been troubled too long

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

For Kent Johnson


an AK for KJ

Would not in the early morning
my mind start toward the East.
There are white domes somewhere
under that blue and emptied sky, white domes, white domes,
therefore even the cream

is burnished safest yellow.
Cream it is and better than lemon
in the first tea at breakfast.

I think of tigers as eating the sun
and drinking lemons.

These teabags come from a green grocer,
not the long blue miles to Ceylon.
The herring boats set out
toward the red shoals.

Klaatu, araki!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Higgs

Long ago, back in 1994, I wrote a piece starring the Higgs Boson. I still hold by its assertions, despite today's announcements. It forms part of my long text 'The Ghost Machine' (and, yes, I had that title back in 1994 too) and can be found entire at  Here's the Higgs:



(A quiet glade in the Outer Realms. Hilarius Hilaricon floats peacefully over the stream of nothingness, meditating on abstruse tangles of being. Something sparkles on the nothing-stream.)

H.H. - Hello there, who are you?
H.B. - One who is tormented with existence, harried like a hare by the dogs of knowledge. My name is Boson, Higgs Boson.
H.H. - My friend, what is your problem?
H.B. - Until but a few years ago - how long it all seems now — I was happy, at peace and non-existent - I had no problems then - but then the Higgs appeared and forced me into name and the scar I bear to this very day.
H.H. - Are you telling me it was your father?
H.B. - Father, creator, inventor, discoverer - it’s all alike to me. It prised me from the contentedness of nothingness, weighed me with gravity, squeezed mass from my cries, discontented me into content.
H.H. - But that’s being born. We all must endure it.
H.B. - Not if you do not exist. And I don’t. Yet I am forced to be. I am but a simple particle, my friend, my needs are few, my resources little, yet the Higgs and its kind would entangle me with everything, from the birth of the Universe to the surface of sandwiches. I am not made for this. I haven’t the strength to bear it.
H.H.- So the Higgs turned you from a simple Boson to a particle in great demand?
H.B.- Even the Boson came with the Higgs.
H.H.- But why? Why are you persecuted so?
H.B.- For explanations.
H.H.- Ah, I see.
H.B.- They have plans for me, you know. I feel so - so - hunted. I can sense them at every turn, they’re looking everywhere for me, they’re out to get me.
H.H. -Please, please, take a hold of yourself.
H.B. - I can’t, I don’t exist.
H.H. -You’re beginning to sound paranoid.

                                    A SIMPLE FRIENDSHIP

H.B. - I know they’re after me, I’ve seen them. I am not, but am becoming.
H.H. - So why do you not go to the Higgs and its kind, speak to them, try to come to an agreement, to make a pact on your emptiness.
H.B. - Because I do not exist.
H.H. - But the Higgs and its allies plot to make you material?
H.B. - Yes, yes, I never was and they will make me be. I was thinner than the rarest air, less than the shadow of a molecule, slighter than the skimpiest verse, more negligible than the dressings of economists. I can’t, I can’t take the weight of it all. The Higgs and its creatures want to hurl things at me underground, where others cannot see their crimes, to prove their equations, to make me count - I, who have no knowledge of mathematics - shooting their numbers ever faster towards infinity and me, until I am forced out of nothing by the bombardment.
H.H. - That sounds very painful but ....
H.B. - Have you ever been hit with a hadron?
H.H. - No, but I think the only thing you can do is wait until you exist and then talk to them. Surely they want to understand?
H.B.- Talk? I shall do more than talk. I shall change into a wave. I shall drown them with in-existence, I shall submerge them in apparitions.
(Hilarius Hilaricon brightens at the last word and floats higher in the air. Interest animates his voice.)
H.H.- Apparitions?
H.B.- Yes, my friend.
H.H.- Call me Hilarius. You mentioned apparitions?
H.B.- Yes, Hilarius, my friend, I too am a ghost. You are the ghost of the living, I am the ghost of an idea. You are the haunted, I, the hunted.
H.H.- We shall talk further on these matters.

(As the darkness falls on the page, they merge into the thickening nothing, entering its non-existent folds, like shepherds plodding homeward, into the brotherhood of a void bucolic.)

Monday, 2 July 2012

Does Poetry Exist?

and are Spain the best football team ever? I prefer the 1970 Brazilians but picture reception was less reliable then. I also believe in Hamlet but as some other clouds have been stirred lately perhaps some might want to consider Vanessa Place's already notorious (note, notorious, meaning) essay, from as long ago on the digital watch as last April,  'Poetry is Dead, I Killed It'

while I have seen Perloff's 'Poetry on the Brink' cited in tandem:

  It could be that poetry is  having a market crisis but I like the wit in Place's paragraph below, while in my darker moments I might suggest that a slight variation, 'Poetry is Dead and I Killed It' should be the mandatory title of all new collections of 'verse'. Unless proved otherwise.
  In a court of law :)

"Drucker’s central thesis is that conceptualism is a symptom of a smooth-faced crisis of the Zeit, in which systems exist to perpetuate themselves as systems rather than servants. Where we are we only as bits of webbing used to tat more networks that work to no other end but their own endless extension. This seems correct in a general sense and what of it? For, in a general sense, given that all we are are more or less attractive DNA delivery devices, why should our souls be any less utilitarian or bent towards something other than a dumb repetition? As Hegel noted, “Spirit is a bone.” Or, as Craig Dworkin has illustrated, the Man Booker Prize is awarded yearly to singularly unoriginal work, much like the pages of most poetry anthologies go tête à bête with their faithful readers. Too, it is too easy to note that the majority of poetry that is produced is produced as reams of subjectivity, and that the ability to sell one’s innermost and/or ethos is the call to market for many an MFA. Or that poetry is largely a cottage industry of the university, and like other university discourses, is the hand that feeds it. Or that much political poetry presumes that the moo-faced masses must be written at in order to be written for. But Drucker’s argument falls most apart in its particulars, from its belief that aesthetic movements follow each other like right and left feet, to its daisy chain of false predicates and caged assumptions. To wit: (valid) art is about opposition; opposition is about critique; (valid) politics is about critique; thus (valid) poetics is about (valid) politics; critique is about apartness; conceptualism is sameness; thus conceptualism is not critique; thus conceptualism is neither valid politics nor valid poetics. However, each semi-colon should serve as question mark, for each point betrays its own faulty presumption. To be equally reductive/reactive: art is about nothing but art, poetry is pointless except as poetry, and The Matrix was a very good movie indeed. Drucker wants to believe that once an aesthetic gesture has become institutionalized, it loses its critical cachet, which is its only avant ace. And she wants to believe this while also asserting the postmodern maxim that we are but culture products and producers, and while acknowledging the commonplace of cultural critique in a post-Institutional Critique culture of production, in which we are but producers, etc. But if we can agree that we may function critically not from the conceit of extramural critique, which is essentially a postmodern argument, but rather from a relational perspective, which is the more conceptualist approach, we can avoid the temptation to fall into the sweet satisfactions of self—including a sorrowful self that has seen it all before. The best minds of my generation are servile, but it is service with a purpose. We take it and dish it out and leave its rumination to other minds. For, as Marjorie Perloff argues, the genius of conceptualism is in the plating"