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August 8, 2013
January 28, 2010
(In memory of Jeanne Alderton Watten Agnew, 19 April 1926–28 January 1990.)
January 21, 2010
My resolve for this website project, at least at the outset, has been to post “something” once a day. But what counts as something? One of David Letterman’s fugitive routines suggests a standard for judgment: “Is it something, or is it nothing?” Not remembering the correct title for the routine, I searched the internet and came up with a number of philosophy sites that had used the line as a cue—but nothing like a record of Letterman’s usage.
The last post is an example. As the time frame for posting “something” on January 20 neared its end, due to the lateness of the hour and the difficulty of the day, I was starting to draw a blank. That in itself could be “something,” properly framed. I searched the internet for traces of “something” and, following the faintest of threads, came up with a 90-minute video I had not previously seen, a virtual screen test from the ontological bunker of aesthetic theory.
This was truly “something,” and suggested an idea for my next post: an account of David Letterman’s routine, were I able to substantiate it. Perhaps it was entirely ephemeral, made up—but the ghost of its effects in the larger culture remain. Chris Vitiello, on Facebook, posted a random entry that showed the way: “Who the **** is Jay Leno?” This may have been the origin of the routine, as I have never understood what Jay Leno is about, if anything.
January 17, 2010
I am reminded by Rod Smith’s move to Iowa City of my own arrival in January 1970. I had driven a driveaway Buick from California with several other students; stopped over in Iowa City to drop off my things and just miss an encounter with Alice Notley, then moving to New York; and brought the car to its owner near Kosciusko Boulevard in Chicago, returning by bus. That first night in Iowa City I slept in the car in front of the Johnson County Courthouse, a building renowned for its stolid but eerie architecture. In the morning, when I awoke, I saw farmers dragging fox carcasses up the stairs of the courthouse for bounty. … More
January 16, 2010
Like many who identified with the epochal chasm between The New American Poetry and mainstream verse of the 50s and 60s (whose benchmark anthology was Hall, Pack, and Simpson’s New Poets of England and America), I have been skeptical about Sylvia Plath; the cult of her suicide; the Plath, Sexton, Lowell, Berryman quadriviate; and any kind of confessionalism. As mainstays of workshop writing, these figures set in place terms for the personal lyric that is as close to a norm for verse culture as we have had—to the point that it becomes a cultural norm. But in the period since Plath’s mainstream and feminist reception in the 60s and 70s, much has changed. Lyric poetry has come under pressure from Language writing, and revisionist contextual and gendered readings have opened up Plath’s poetics, allowing one to see her negativity as critical and cultural, not simply formal and expressive.
January 15, 2010
- At various points in my lectures on Laura (Riding) Jackson last November, I suggested that her work could be compared to the literal monument that the LRJ Home Preservation Project had displaced and transported from its original site in Wabasso, across the Intercoastal Waterway to Orchid Island. (Riding) Jackson’s work on language suggests an overarching project of meaning as “site,” with the act of rational definition, perhaps, plotting its contours. … More