Wednesday, June 23, 2004

PinoyPoetics, which includes an essay of mine on Jose Garcia Villa, is now set for a fall release. Well done, Eileen and Nick! Details below...

PinoyPoetics: A Collection of Autobiographical and Critical Essays on Filipino and Filipino American Poetics
Editor Nick Carbo
No. of Pages: 416
Price: $28.00
ISBN: 0970917937
Publisher: Meritage Press (St. Helena and San Francisco)

Meritage Press is pleased to announce the release of Pinoy Poetics, edited by Nick Carbo. This collection of poetics essays (with sample poems) is the line drawn in the sand by poets of Filipino heritage who have been historically ignored and made invisible by the United States of America and its literary, cultural, and academic institutions. Philippine poets represented in this volume range from distinguished professors of English from the University of the Philippines, Manila Book Critics Circle National Book Award winners, and journalists that were detained and tortured during the Marcos dictatorship. The Filipino American poets range from a former San Francisco City sanitation worker, an activist high school teacher, to poets who have won fellowships in poetry from the N. E. A. 

The poetics contained in this important book show once and for all what is unique to Filipino poetics. Among the important issues raised in these essays are responses to American imperialism, the postcolonial and diasporic Filipino experience, questions about historical narrative, and the uses and abuses of language imposed by colonizers. Public and academic libraries, as well as personal collections with interests in Poetry, Creative Writing, Asian American Studies, Cultural Studies, Ethnic Studies, Identity Poetics, Filipino American Literature, and Philippine Literature will find this book indispensable.

Guggenheim Awardee and scholar Vicente L. Rafael (University of Washington) notes about this historic project:

“Pinoy Poetics is an ambitious project for it is no less than an archeology of the invisible. As editor Nick Carbo points out, the task of excavating the shards of Filipino poetry in English in the vast graveyard of U.S. memory is never ending. Along with Eileen R. Tabios, he has compiled an antitode to this imperial amnesia in the form of essays by Filipino and Filipino American poets reflecting on the techniques and trajectories of their work. These essays respond to the question of Pinoy invisibility by bringing forth the history and energy of their presence, but one which, to paraphrase another poet, locates the 'imperfect' as 'our paradise,' where 'delight...lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.' The soundings of Pinoy Poetics are the ghostly keenings that have haunted American poetry, and Philippine, too. Perhaps one day they will begin to take on more flesh and blood. This collection certainly offers that hope."

As of Fall 2004, Pinoy Poetics will be available through selected bookstores across the United States,, as well as its distributor Small Press Distribution ( More information about Pinoy Poetics is available at the Publisher's web site at:
Waitress, Bookclerk, Bagger
for Alli Warren

So then the jar ships with the bees inside and there is something like a forest of berries, taught how to buzz by a reversion. Swill bucktooth. Imagine music without holy and dirty. There’s a tongue stuck through with a finger. It’s a wish for blame, a house party moon hanging just over the weathered bow.

Four head. You can’t whup what’s not there. The bottom is damp, then sagging, then ideas are spilling all over the place and the dog is lapping them up without moving its teeth. An overcoat of shag. Inside is a stalk of celery and forty-eight million kilts.

Run your finger over each spine until nothing happens. The fingertip vanishes and is replaced by a paper clip or deadbolt. Pulled seam. If there is a Tennessee it will be here behind the cardboard curtain.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

This just in from Summi Kaipa:

Howdy folks! Just wanted to let you know that I have organized an event that explores book arts and features work by local and national practitioners of this nebulous (but satisfying) artform.

In the gallery, we will have work for sale by over forty artists, including:
Jo Jackson, Jen Bervin, Will Yackulic, Nikki Thompson, Marcia Weisbrot, Pang Hui Lim, Hannah Cox, Amanda Davidson, Marisa Jahn, Kirthi Nath, Jody Alexander, Patricia Wakida & Garret Izumi, Darrin Klein, Mary Burger, David Larsen, Jennie Hincliff, Tauba Auerbach, Sara Jaffe, Liz Worthy, Micah Ballard, Keith Shein, Emily Abendroth, Kristin Palm, Eileen Tabios, John Yau & Archie Rand, Tinfish Press, Angry Dog Midget Press, Tim Yu & Cassie Lewis, Rachel Daley, and Etherdome Press.

There will also be performances by local literary legends:
Amanda Davidson, Mary Burger, and David Larsen

Musical performances by
Sara Jaffe and Sort of Invisible

Tuesday, June 29, 8pm
New Langton Arts
1246 Folsom St
San Francisco
5-10 sliding scale

Friday, June 18, 2004

Poked Hambone
for Alli Warren

Deliver van quip toodle oo. Heart above foot. Nose neck strung hale like sugar high. Eggcrate popper fork over cover. Stop stop no really stop. More like one week plus count zero. Ends built means.

Lapped up pin. Right left right left. Kind of culled then whupped by delving recess understood. Transmit curve past shaft of sunlight rock dome hard. Thick irregular.

Crank filling crank terrace crank every one. Rent cowpoke lest whim villain out. Lipstick reversion wigs big but calls procedure flesh. Cannon father empty oiled.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Hello again, California. Having been chased from Chicago by a violent storm, it's strange to recall what it was like to live in this land of relentlessly changeless weather.

Also in a landscape of varying height.

Drove up to Berkeley and hit a huge traffic jam on 880, which was almost fun until we passed the half-dozen ambulances and fire trucks just past the Coliseum.

A poetry-swap convening tomorrow morning; Del says bring nine copies of my poem. Yikes! Sounds like a tough room.

Monday, June 07, 2004

I could not help but be moved last night that as a contribution to our national mourning, TBS aired that great tribute to the Reagan era, Pretty in Pink.
EARNEST YOUNG WHITE MAN WITH CLIPBOARD AND "NADER 2004" BASEBALL CAP AND BUTTON AND OTHER PARAPHENALIA: Would you like to sign a petition to put Ralph Nader on the presidental ballot in Illinois?

ME: No, thank you.

E.Y.W.M. [as I am passing out of earshot]: But this is just to get his name on the ballot. It doesn't mean that you have to agree with him or support him or vote for him--

ME: Yeah, I understand. No.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Sun Raise Bulb
for Alli Warren

All day four in the morning window concluding. Oblivion stories. Flick off bacon outbound and then head stand cover. Lap top sleep around.

Twelve-tenths law. Paper box two pounds paper one pound. Hurry deaf double stack and cunning stunt. Keen pray kidney ears. Thick doom impedance after which pleased to have goring. O comp blows mirror equipment out traverse sheep.

Due payment play. Knock down heart. Paul south and sissy rows. Hot dog half pocket and side savage. Bar space rises scratched on sugar. Foster walls.

Insures of bevel. Count look each phrase then fall seizure what jest glares homeward. Junior miss. Reverse date help and sever creamy stretched beyond oeuvre. Autochthonic beverage like blunt spoon lever then shut down heart wise long.
Jonathan Mayhew on the Pound question:

If the question were about Frank O'Hara and someone said, "I don't care about about Frank O'Hara" I wouldn't have a heart attack, even though I think someone ignoring Frank O'Hara is unlikely to write poetry I'm interested in. Even this reaction is premature: Someone ignoring Frank O'Hara might come up with something wonderful and fresh, simply because she or he has traveled a different route to get there.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

I honestly don't get what the big deal is if Jim Behrle or anybody else says that they don't read Ezra Pound. I read a lot of Pound. I have the big new Library of America volume and the new Pisan Cantos book sitting on my desk. Good for me. But my telling you that isn't going to make my poems any better, or Jim's any worse.

It's kind of funny, actually, that this level of piety to a Great Writer should characterize the "post-avant," whose spirit you would think would be more like "fuck your heroes" than revere them. The discussion on Tony Tost's blog has a dispiriting element of "these kids today don't know their Pound," with hushed references to craft and The Tradition, that makes me want to scream. (Pound would have been the last poet who demanded to be read purely on the basis of his reputation and stature.)

Maybe this is all beside the point, anyway. The question of "influence" is, as I think Jim suggested, more a game for critics than poets. There's more than one way to put this, but since Eliot came up let's put it Eliotically: the "tradition" is not a question of having read all the right books in English 10 but of having the tradition "in your bones"--in other words, of having absorbed it in an almost organic fashion. And it may be that the most interesting moments in a contemporary poem are, as Eliot puts it, those where "the dead poets...assert their immortality most vigorously." But this doesn't demand that contemporary poets consciously display their knowledge of Dead Poet X or Y; a poem larded with allusions to Pound and Eliot and Stevens is as likely to be horrible as sublime. The recognition of those dead poets--of influence--is a task not so much for the poet as for us as readers; those readers for whom Pound is central will gravitate toward those poets in whom Pound echoes the loudest--or, conversely, will see the hand of Pound everywhere in poems they love.

And if Pound is really so central to the modernist or post-avant or whatever tradition, then any poet working effectively in that tradition is de facto working under the influence of Pound, even if said poet has never read a word of Pound; otherwise we could not recognize that poet as working that tradition. (That some new formalists take as their axiom "Pound was wrong" should suggest to us that pretty much all non-new formalist American poetry--and that's a lot--is based on the unspoken assumption that Pound was right.) If Pound is so central, then everyone writes under his sign whether they know it or not.

In short, when I read a new poem I don't know, or care, whether the author has or hasn't read Pound or O'Hara or Shakespeare or whatever. I'll make a judgment about that poem, and my liking or disliking it may have something to do with how I can fit it in with other poems that I have read and liked--which may add up to a "tradition," which may mean that contemporary poems I think are good have something in common with poems by Pound I think are good.

Is it really possible to write poetry while gleefully ignoring Ezra Pound, or relegating him to cartoon?

Well, there's no way to know until we try.

Finally, the question of Pound's politics that opened this whole discussion. Do I think Pound wrote great poetry? Yes. Was he a crank, a racist, anti-Semite, and fascist? Yes. These things can't be separated; for Pound maybe more than any other modern writer, form is politics, and Pound's drive for historical totality and coherence in the Cantos is part and parcel of his attraction to the self-mythologizing Mussolini. The irony is that Pound may have become useable to us only insofar as he failed--insofar as the Cantos becomes a collection of fragments, a vast field of culture as opposed to a single and total vision.