Saturday, April 30, 2011

A perfect placement of words

By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast—a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines—

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches—

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind—

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf

One by one objects are defined—
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance—Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted they
grip down and begin to awaken
William Carlos Williams
from Spring and All 1923

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Aussie Way ...

or, getting your priorities right.
A group in NSW's southwest ignored a man who'd fallen off the back of their ute but they stopped to pick up alcohol that also fell out of the vehicle.

The 31-year-old man, from Rochester in Victoria, died after striking his head on the road when he fell from the vehicle as it turned from Maude Road into Nap Nap Road at the town of Maude, in the early hours of this morning.

The man was one of several passengers in the rear of the ute at the time.

The ute's driver and other passengers did nothing to help him.

But they did stop to pick up cartons of alcohol, which had also fallen from the vehicle, before driving off, police told reporters.
The Herald Sun, 4/24/11

Updated police release, 6 hours later
The driver of the utility, a 26-year-old woman, got out and assisted along with a number of other persons in performing CPR on the injured man. Emergency services personnel were contacted, however, the man died at the scene.

The Toyota Landcruiser utility, which was driven away by unknown people at the time of the incident, has since been seized for forensic and mechanical examination.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

"Hand swinging the loops of paint ..."

A small smile. Watching a game of rugby union from New Zealand on cable yesterday evening. One of the two assistant referees (= line judges) was named Jackson, the other was named Pollock. :-)

& though one team was the Blues, there were, as far as I could tell, no Poles in the opposing side.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Two Ladies

At the beginning of the 1960s, I was employed for several years as a member of the consular staff of the Embassy of Japan in Wellington. The obvious evidence of my place of work showed up at home in the ukiyo-e prints by Utamaro & Hiroshige & the Sengai sumi-e calendars that hung on my walls, the Kirin & Sapporo beer I offered visitors. The not-so-obvious evidence could be found on my bookshelves.

Certainly there was a reasonable amount of Japanese literature on those shelves, some bought before I started working at the Embassy—novels by Shōhei Ōoka, Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, Yasunari Kawabata, Yukio Mishima; Arthur Waley's translations of The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon & The Tale of Genji; anthologies by Donald M. Keene & Kenneth Rexroth; D. T. Suzuki's books on Zen Buddhism—& some acquired during my time there—a delightful illustrated edition of Basho's The Narrow Road to the North, & R. H. Blyth's outstanding four volume Haiku.

But also there were a number of non-Japanese books, which I never would have been able to acquire if I hadn't been working at the Embassy. New Zealand, at that time, had not only a rather long list of banned books but also severe restrictions on foreign currency for private citizens.

Working at the Embassy allowed me to get around both things. Not only could I obtain a large number of U.S.-based small press publications & subscriptions to journals such as Evergreen Review, but I could also bring in as much of the Olympia Press catalog as I wanted to. So, also on those shelves were books by Jean Genet, Henry Miller, The Marquis de Sade, Laurence Durrell, J.P. Donleavy, Alexander Trocchi, Terry Southern, & William S. Burroughs. The Japanese books may have informed my aesthetics & my philosophies, but the imported books informed my writing style.

During this same period, in 1964, I came across an article by Burroughs, The Literary Techniques of Lady Sutton-Smith, published in the Times Literary Supplement, in which he elaborated on his cut-up technique. It made a huge impact on me, though it was many years before I started experimenting along the lines he laid out.

He wrote of a fictional character, Lady Sutton-Smith, who keeps a journal which she divides into three daily columns. In the first is what she intends to do each day, the second is given over to what she actually did, & in the third are the thoughts she had & the observations she made during the day. Once the day was over, she would transcribe her entries into another book, but she would work across the page, ignoring the column breaks, as she transcribed it, so that she ended up with a non-linear but related narrative. (It's a long time since I read this piece, so my recollections of it may be imprecise.)

My take on Genji owes as much to Lady Sutton-Smith as it does to Lady Murasaki, though conceived as a confluence of streams rather than a reading across of columns.

The first stream is The Tale of Genji itself. It is the sine qua non, providing structure, sequence, characters, situations & quotes; slices of life of a particular time & place. But Genji is a timeless & universal book. Reading it a millenium after it was written means its interpretation can be affected by anything that has happened anywhere in those intervening years &, especially, by what is happening now. So the second stream—sometimes a multiple stream—is derived from results that flow from stochastically crawling through a search engine such as Google. The third stream is a recording of what's going on around you—cooking dinner, froghopping through YouTube—& what you're thinking about as a result of these multiple provocations—Eastern vs Western philosophy, the gender disparity evident in Genji & how much has it really changed, the presence or absence of the arts in our daily lives.

There is no template for how the individual poems draw on the streams, which one they start from, or how much of each is used. The only constant is that a reference to the corresponding chapter of Genji appears within the poem. As to how much of Genji remains, let me repeat the quote from Samuel R. Delany that I used as an epigraph to the collection:
And if you cut it in half again, it gets fuzzier still. But even if you have a square centimeter of the original hologram, you still have the whole image—unrecognizable, but complete.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011



what Walter Benjamin had in mind?

Color me

a pedantic old fart, but how can you convince people that literacy &, in this case, numeracy skills are important when they're confronted by such things as a Top 50 list that contains more than 50 items.
"Sydney's Quay restaurant has moved up one slot to become the 26th best restaurant in the world. The three other Australian restaurants on this year's S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list were Sydney's Tetsuya's at 58 and Marque at 70, and Melbourne's Attica at 53."
Nobody fails anymore. Instead, they're given a D or an E or an F or even a ZZZZ pass.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The headline

to the "story" reads

Wave of rising costs sends Queensland families to the brink

& it's a nice stock pic

but I still can't work out the relevance of artichoke globes & white asparagus to a story on how families are doing it tough.

Does it mean to imply that these are things they can no longer buy, or that this is what they are forced to eat these days, or what the fuck?

once they are rulers they belong to the ruling class

"There are only two kinds of governmental institutions, those which provide for a change of the government without bloodshed and those which do not. But if the government cannot be changed without bloodshed, it cannot, in most cases, be removed at all. We need not quarrel about words, and about such pseudo problems as the true or essential meaning of the word 'democracy.' You can choose whatever name you like for the two types of government. I personally prefer to call the type of government which can be removed without violence 'democracy,' and the other 'tyranny.' But, as I said, this is not a quarrel about words, but an important distinction between two types of institutions."
Karl Popper: Prediction and Prophecy in the Social Sciences
(an address delivered to the Plenary Session of the Tenth International Congress of Philosophy, Amsterdam, 1948)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

part error message, part hay(na)ku

"There are too many spelling &
grammar errors for Microsoft Word
to continue displaying them."


out long
ago that poetry

tends to upset
Bill Gates'

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The valleys cry out
as they flee the
mountains. Fear. &
from the mountains
anger, always anger.
Yiminishuqilibi Khan. (d. 645(?) CE)

included in: Rivalling The Six Dynasties: Poems from the Eastern Turkish Khaganate selected & translated by Umberto Allegrezza; The Uzbekistan Historical Society; Bukhara, 2000.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Out from Otoliths — Spider Face, stories by Kevin Rabas

Spider Face
Kevin Rabas
56 pages
Otoliths, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-9808785-1-6
$11.75 + p&h

Kevin Rabas' language flits between narrative and poetry to bring these characters—and their struggles with youth, love and identity—to life. Sweet and heartbreaking at the same time, the stories in Spider Face leave indelible images long after you close the book. —Jen McConnell, author of Welcome Anybody

Spider Face is a collection of true images that linger in the place between memories and dreams. Kevin Rabas dresses the dramas of mental health and sensuality, self-destruction and loyalty, grief and social status, in a veil of constant discoveries that dance translucent around each story. These are all moments of heat and passion, whether that is passion of belief, passion of music or passion of flesh, that are concentrated examples of how everyday experiences create who a person is, and, in turn, how a person creates themselves through those same events. —Matthew Porubsky, author of voyeur poems

That Kevin Rabas is a fierce new talent was already clear from his two previous books of poetry. Now, in this collection of short fiction, he reveals himself a writer of great breadth and ability. These brief tales reveal an accomplished poet’s eye in images that startle with their beauty and precision and a storyteller’s sense for character and dramatic arc. In mimimal, sometimes snapshot-like stories that dazzle like flashbulbs with their sudden radiance, Rabas explores the tumults of sex and youth, love and the body, violence and art. His range of artistic gifts as a poet, photographer and jazz musician serve him—and his readers—well, and establish him as a writer of fiction to watch and enjoy. —Tasha Haas, author of Certain Dawn, Inevitable Dawn
The full catalog of Otoliths books can be found at The Otoliths Storefront.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

geographies: Nicosia

Negotiations have been
going well. Gift of a
door handle. Confidence-
building. Jumpstarts the
metabolically matched
diet plan of calamari
& scallop dishes. Aspi-
rational. National
treasure. Bears no
maker's mark. Wheelchair
access is now available.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Coming to a cigarette store

near me, next year.

& haven't the tobacco companies got their knickers in a knot over it.
"We have to defend our intellectual property in court."

"The price of cigarettes goes down because it's the only competition point left, & then cheaper cigarettes [become] more accessible to younger people: smoking rates go up."

"Plain packaging will also make it easier to sell counterfeit cigarettes because fakes will be harder to spot."

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Godzilla come home,

we've made up your room the way you like it.
"Japan has started dumping more than 10,000 tonnes of radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific."
ABC News 4/5/11

Saturday, April 02, 2011

InterNaPwoWriMo IV,

the fourth incarnation of International Pwoermd Writing Month, the brainchild—or, perhaps, as I sometimes think of it when I'm struggling to come up with a new pwoermd, the bastard child—of Geof Huth, began yesterday. A record number of participants—all linked to at INTERNAPWOWRIMO—is taking part this year.

I participated last year, but, for some reason or other, continued on after the month was up. & continued on, & on, & am now in my second year of daily pwoermd posts at won des laits. No idea why. The only explanation I can offer is similar to that of a guy I used to work with, who read the obituaries each morning to see if he was still alive.

The quality of my posts fluctuates wildly, but I've posted below some of my favorites from my output of the past year.